2017/02/07

The Great Harry Potter Tweetstorm

Harry Potter vs. LotR

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:
  1. The epidemic of unimaginative Leftists latching on to Harry Potter memes to soothe their cognitive dissonance
  2. This article explaining the sociological implications of Rowlings books
  3. A follow up essay that George Orwell wrote as if he foresaw that he'd need to righteously own Rowling 60 years later.
Clark gives us the TL;DR version with the added bonus of a descriptive model that endeavors to show how fantasy series preference reveals political affiliation:
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 blame
I 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.
17/
i.e. Harry Potter
Harry Potter didn't create the largest crop of sociopaths known to man, but it perfectly expresses their deepest longings.
24/
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.
25/
Harry Potter is about a very powerful & respected social support system finding and recognizing talent and then telling it what to do.
26/
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 you
A reader then asks Clark how to apply this model to contemporary science fiction.
great question!
"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.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle

@BrianNiemeier

15 comments:

  1. My fear about reading all this is creating ideological scoffolding before I actually find out for myself.

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    1. Go read the books and come back. I'll wait.

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    2. It really is that simple. I'm doing the Conan books, ATM.

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  2. Dr. Jerry Pournelle is neither a modernist nor a liberal.

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    1. Good to hear.

      Do note that I wrote, and meant, capital "L" classical Liberals, whose tradition includes progressives, conservatives, and libertarians.

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  3. I enjoy all of them. I'm a freak!

    :)

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    1. Yeah. Me too. I do worry that with these emerging new literary movements like Pulp Revolution and Superversive, that they might become like those gate keepers they criticize. In the end I think the litmis test should be the quality of the work, and not the politics of the author. Especially since some authors have written both good books, and bad books. Heinlein's shifting politics doesn't really matter to me. His politics didn't make Moon is a Harsh Mistress a good book, nor did they make Stranger in a Strange Land a bad book. While the hippy themes, disrespect of religion, and heaps of promiscuity were annoying, there were also serious flaws in the story telling, the pacing, and characters. It just wasn't a good book.

      I can find Rendezvous at Ramma a good book, and 3001: The Final Odyssey a bad one.

      I can dislike Asimov's politics and his role in pushing for the secularization of SFF, but still consider Foundation a classic series. I can think Nick Cole's lauding of big business in the epilogue of Ctrl, Alt, Revolt seems paradoxical given he spent the whole of the book criticizing big government, but still at the end of the day find that Ctrl, Alt Revolt a fun yarn that delivered on it's promise of Day of the living Dead with robots.

      You can have good writers of all political stripes. And writers of all political stripes can write bad books. And even the most talented writers can still produce duds. The problem the genre is facing now is the gate keeper obsessed with keeping readers from the "wrong" authors, with the "wrong" opinions, they are making arbitrary judgments based on politics, rather than the quality of the works themselves. They tell us mediocre, or bad writers are geniuses, and that brilliant writers are bad, just because the Author didn't like the ending of Legend of Korra.
      We need to avoid becoming like those gate keepers, and judge the work of the author based on the strengths and merits of the work. If a clique writer writes a good book, I'll concede it's a good book, regardless of the author's personal politics. It just lately they haven't been able to do that.

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    2. Gatekeepers suck, but why worry about the tiger that might be hiding in the trees when wolves are actively gnawing your legs?

      Kindly read the post again. Neither Clark nor I called for gatekeeping authors based on their politics. He accurately observed that reading preferences are a reliable indicator of the reader's political leanings. That's been true since before the Futurian controversy.

      And if you're still concerned that the Pulp Revival or Superversive movements will metastasize into the kinds of ideology-driven gatekeepers who run the Big 5, let me lay your fears to rest.

      Gatekeepers are done. Amazon KDP came along and made them obsolete.

      Pulp Revolutionaries and Superversives are not and never will be gatekeepers, because they don't have the authority to decide what does and doesn't get published.

      What the PR and SSF movements are is a loose affiliation of like-minded critics and authors--who are still vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the gatekeepers' legacy media buddies.

      KDP is as close to a pure meritocracy as you're likely to see. Guys like Clark, Jon, Nathan, P. Alexander, FP, and DW are laboring to make prospective readers aware of the merits/demerits of books as they see it.

      They're not the ones telling authors what to write. They're the ones who've been told to shut up by the gatekeepers for thirty odd years.

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    3. The Legend of Korra has way more problems than just the ending, anonme. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmKaQqinWKY

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    4. I'm not worried about gatekeepers. I was just having a bit of fun. :)

      And yes, Korra is a bad show. First season started off shaky, but it only went downhill with an atrocious second season that snowballed into a "progressive" ending in a pathetic attempt to grab attention for their crappy and rightfully scorned follow-up show. If it wasn't for that ending, nobody would ever talk about it. The franchise would have been so much better off if it was never made.

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    5. @DanWolfgang

      I'm referring to the ostracization of John C Wright. Granted he was going to get crap regardless due to his religion, but his comments on Korra are used as an excuse for the attacks.

      As far as I understand it, JCW actually liked the show, aside from the politics of the ending. Which just goes to show even grand masters of science fiction can have bad taste sometimes.

      I kid. I kid.

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    6. Hope this isn't off topic, but speaking of bad shows....

      Just heard that a Castlevania tv series has been confirmed. I was initially excited, then I found this summary from when it was going to be a movie 10-ish years ago: https://www.scribd.com/document/14077952/Castlevania-Deck

      "The Speakers are in hiding because the church publically blamed them for the demon invasion in order to cover up the truth that the church itself is really responsible."

      Castlevania, a series where you use holy water and crosses to defeat the undead, made anticlerical. If that's the actual story they're going with it's going to be shite.

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    7. As if there weren't already enough reasons, time to dump Netflix.

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  4. @Brian

    Fair enough. I just worry sometimes. I have seen people saying "don't read Cambelian fiction, read pulp," which I find kind of missing the point, after people spent years saying the exact opposite.

    That said it was wrong of me to conflate an expressing of an opinion, however emphatically , with the gatekeeping as preformed, for years, by ivory towers in new york. The former is is just some people on the internet, the latter is a cabal. And for that I do apologize. Gatekeeping was the wrong word for it.

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