And now, we turn the proceedings over to @ClarkHat, who has produced another consciousness-expanding tweetstorm for our delight.
Preamble: Clark's tweets were precipitated by:
- The epidemic of unimaginative Leftists latching on to Harry Potter memes to soothe their cognitive dissonance
- This article explaining the sociological implications of Rowlings books
- A follow up essay that George Orwell wrote as if he foresaw that he'd need to righteously own Rowling 60 years later.
2/ One very interesting bit of the Orwell essay that I RT-ed as a followup to the "about Harry Potter" essay:
3/ consumption of this envious / wish fulfillment fiction is maximized neither in elites or in proles, but those who JUST missed the cutoff
4/ You don't see HS drop outs, or Harvard Law grads citing Harry Potter. You see Rutgers and Tufts English majors doing it.
5/ These people did decently on the SATs - but not great. They went to decent- but not great - schools. They got decent- but not great- jobs
6/ They feel, acutely, that they JUST BARELY missed the brass ring
Thus their anger. Unfocused anger looking for someone - anyone- to blameI think Clark's on to something, here. After all, status and influence are handy idols to fill the void left by any sense of transcendent purpose.
9/ All of these ruthlessly meritocratic institutions reject our SJW-affiliated 2nd tier kids for not being good enough.
10/ What our SJW-affiliated 2nd tier kids crave is d̶a̶d̶'̶s̶ ̶l̶o̶v̶e̶ a powerful institution that promised to protect them and DOES SO.The specter of absent/weak fathers strikes again!
16/ And thus they build a fantasy world that's like reality, only better.
Dad loved them.
Yale, not Rutgers, admitted them.
Magic is real.
i.e. Harry PotterHarry Potter didn't create the largest crop of sociopaths known to man, but it perfectly expresses their deepest longings.
Lord of Rings is about people of low social class working super-hard to do what needs to be done, even without social support systems.
Harry Potter is about a very powerful & respected social support system finding and recognizing talent and then telling it what to do.
if you trust yourself and can work hard, LOTR is for you
if you feel like royalty & want the world to acknowledge it: HP is for youA reader then asks Clark how to apply this model to contemporary science fiction.
"red" fiction is Heinlein and descendants
"blue" fiction is SJW nonsense of last 15 years
See ESR rants for more on this.My comment: Clark's identification of this particular dichotomy within current sci-fi isn't wrong. However, there's a bigger picture beyond the rim of his magnifying glass.
The categories that Clark chooses as sci-fi analogs for Tolkien and Rowling hail from the Campbellian and post-New Wave movements, respectively. While that analogy works on the micro scale, it misses the macro scale decline in both art and politics that underlie all of these developments.
Identifying Heinlein books with "red" and, say, The Fifth Season with "blue" is less apt in the long view than calling Heinlein "pink" and Jemisin "red", in the classic scale where "red" = Commie.
See this masterful essay by Jasyn Jones for the Castalia House blog. The short version: anybody who thinks that Campbell's reign was the "Golden Age" of science fiction has been sold a bill of goods.
The coming of Campbell and co. did not save or elevate the Fantasy and Science Fiction genre. Before them, it was already popular and widely read. In addition to the Pulps, there were novels, radio serials, and (eventually) cinema serials.
It took the twin assaults of Campbell and the Socialist-Libertine wing of the Futurians to turn the mainstream off of SF. And, despite periodic attempts to revive SF, it remains a ghetto today.
The Pulps were the Golden Age of F&SF. Not just because they were popular, but because Pulp writers were free from the arbitrary constraints of genre and tropes that hobbled later writers. Hence their stories were more imaginative, more varied, and more inspiring. Moreover, Pulp stories were more adventurous, more heroic, and more thrilling.
With this as the starting point, we can more clearly understand the devolution of the genre: The Pulps were the Golden Age of F&SF, Campbell was the Silver Age, New Wave the Bronze Age, and the 80’s and 90’s the Iron Age. Since 2000, we’ve entered the Clay Age, the point of maximum debasement of the genre. (Maximum debasement so far.)Amendment to what I said above: the degradation of sci-fi hasn't been a continuum from blue to red. It's been a devolution from gold to shit.
Since politics is downstream from culture, it's a given that a coincident slide has taken place down the political slope. Here, we really are left with the "blue" to "red" spectrum, though. Because SFF came about during the age of Modernism and its political arm, Liberalism. Heinlein and the SJWs are both Liberals. The latter are just the terminal stage of the disease.
To my admittedly limited knowledge, it's hard to think of a science fiction author--even going back to the venerable pulps--who wasn't some shade of Modernist/Liberal. But when you have stories with space explorers for whom a major concern is introducing extraterrestrials to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it's not hard to see that pulp authors were less affected by the rot.
In the final analysis, I'd expand Clark's already serviceable model as follows:
- Fantasy political litmus test: Tolkien vs. Rowling
- Science fiction political litmus test: Tolkien vs. Heinlein
Besides pontificating about SFF books, I also write them. And I don't let nobody put me in a genre box.