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Literary Themes

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  • Literary Themes

    There has been alot of dicussion over the future of Sword & sorcery and how it might be reinvented in the near future, I was wondering, what themes should be included? What social commentaries?

    Mike, what are your opinions?

  • #2
    I don't have any thoughts, really, but tend to celebrate what I see -- as with Michael Chabon's current Jewish S&S serial running in the New York Times on Sundays. Don't miss it! It's tremendously good.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      Can't believe I haven't been on here since June of last year.
      Time flies, and all...

      I didn't want to clutter up things with a new thread, so I just
      thought I'd add to this one, riffing off the original question.
      Though, I'm curious about sci-fi, as opposed to fantasy.

      I recently read your article "Starship Stormtroopers."
      Yes, I'm running a little behind.
      I was struck by the truth of how supposed "radical" sci-fi
      literature often preaches a conservative message. If not the
      message, then definetly a swapping of "Ancien Regime" power structures.

      I've read a lot of Herbert and Asimov. Some Wells. Never any Heinlein.
      Something about his "specialization is for insects" line seems glib.
      It's a non-starter.

      Given the expanse of time between now and the time you wrote
      that editorial, I was wondering if you still felt the same way
      about modern "radical" science fiction?

      And, as a follow-up, is that why so much of your body of work
      deconstructs the traditional icons and structures of power?

      Thanks,
      RCR

      Comment


      • #4
        I think the best sf has always deconstructed the traditional attitudes to power though, oddly, Wells did it more in his non-sf than his sf. Incidentally, try reading The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Time Machine, written at the very beginning of his career. There is a melancholy to the latter and Moreau is downright scarey. Most of his early work has a lyricism lacking in his later work, when he began to take himself a bit too seriously. Warlord of the Air took the notions of Edwardian liberals, like Wells, towards empire (specifically of course the British Empire) and 'intervened' in their work. Pohl and Kornbluth or Kornbluth on his own both tended to examine power from a decidedly sceptical point of view, I think. As did Dick, though Dick was definitely confused about his relationship to power, at once seeing the FBI, say, as an enemy and trying to placate that enemy by turning in people he knew -- or rather trying to turn them in! I have read comparitatively little sf since the 60s and what I have read has been like that of China Mieville (who stood as a Trotskyist candidate in the last election!). Most of the writers i've read I've either met or corresponded with and I think very few of them are of a right-wing disposition. That said, I have conservative friends and have always had conservative friends, some of whom are writers. My argument with Heinlein, I suppose, is that like many right libertarians he tended to talk about freedom but show a definite taste for paternalism and military-style structure -- John Wayne individualism, if you like. I wondered then, as I still do, why people of the left think that such writers are radical lefties, when to me they clearly aren't. Heinlein seemed confused. At one point he said he was probably a communist. I'm not sure if he meant he was an authoritarian (like most communist regimes) or whether he meant that he embraced a notion of a devolved state. I regret that I find Heinlein pretty unreadable, as I do Ayn Rand, but I don't think it's because of politics. I think it's because so much of it is dull and lacks what I'd call a common humanity. I find this in most detective stories I've read, too, which is why I read so few detective authors (Allingham, Simenon and Mosley are my favourites -- all very different, but sharing in my view a definite tendency to empathise with the majority -- thee's something humane about them). Genre writers (and this includes those who write in a standard Lit genre) almost always have a tendency to present arguments which don't confront but rather reflect the opinions of the popular press. Good genre writers generally do confront those opinions, it seems to me.

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

        Comment


        • #5
          This reminds me of an odd parallel in my life. A close friend of mine recently read a biography of Mao Zedong and now considers himself to be a "communist." However, the ideology he espouses is more along the lines of totalitarian Maoism of say, the Khmer Rouge.

          Yet, his mind is boggled by my (as Bill O'Reilly would say) "secular progressive" liberalism. But then again, communism certainly has sired its own lineage of conservatism.

          Ayn Rand. Yeah. We just discussed her in my philosophy of ethics class. The virtue of selfishness, indeed. I knew a rather liberal-feminist in college (the first time around) who adored Ayn Rand. I was sort of wrangled into reading her work then and I found "The Fountainhead" to be rather resentful of women. And not in any sort of ironic,editorial way. I also tried my hand at "Atlas Shrugged" but soon found that I disagreed with the premise that the world would be in ashes if it were not for egoist-capitalism.

          There is certainly something to be said for sci-fi as "Wagon Train in space." If you have time, I highly recommend a monograph by Jane Tompkins entitled "West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns." Tompkins explores how books and film about the mythic west reinforce conservative male power structures and the repression of women.

          Best,
          RcR
          Last edited by RCraigRobinson; 03-04-2007, 10:24 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            In my experience a great many people attracted to communism are of a messianic disposition, like fundamentalist religious people and so on, and we've probably seen enough of the 'communist experiment' to see that few of those who introduce communism to their societies are able to stop the rise of authoritarians convinced that they have the right means of solving the world's ills. Even the nicest people I know appear to have this quality of character in them -- an impatient puritanism, if you like, and a conviction that only their ideas can solve our problems. It's a lot harder to solve our problems by subtle, traditionally democratic means and indeed it might not be possible to get everyone on the same page with the same will to cope with the world's problems at the same moment. That still has to be discovered, I suppose. But we do know that so far pretty much all varieties of communism have done as much harm to the world as, say, traditional liberal humanism and at least the latter leaves room for rethinking and restructuring if things start to go, in Margt Thatcher's words, 'wonky'. Most systems depend upon simplifying the world in order to make the system work. That rejection of complexity is, as far as I'm concerned, a rejection of reality. How we embrace complexity and create a working pattern of social justice, I don't know. But I have some ideas to throw in the common pool and I know some communists who have done good work and made some excellent observations which can also go in. I don't know how long it will be before we can test ideas with computer models, though the models would no doubt have to be as complex as reality. Hmmm. Come to think of it, didn't I touch on that idea in a rather crappily written sf book called The Sundered Worlds Clearly, I don't have any new ideas....

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

            Comment

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