Thursday, September 22, 2022

The politics of fantasy is reactionary. I've been saying that since I was a teenager.

Determinism wins. 

Hobbits and the Hard Right

ROME — Giorgia Meloni, the hard-right leader who is likely to be the next prime minister of Italy, used to dress up as a hobbit. 

The politics of cosplay 

The writing of cosplay is speculative fiction, like John Rawls and Isaac Asimov. The writing of "literary fiction", detective fiction and romance novels, is formal and descriptive. Jane Austen described the experience of 19th century women of a specific nationality, class, and race.  Romance novels serve a function as a fantasy that readers build on. The "art" the "thick description" is after-the-fact, in the minds of the readers. Fantasy is thin by definition. 


If I believed in the primacy of ideas, I'd have a hard time figuring who did more damage to the western and then global intellectual tradition in the post war era: Tolkien, Rawls, or the inventors of Dungeons and Dragons. But in the end of course they'd all follow von Neumann.


Someone on twitter made an "alignment chart" for members of her Marx reading group and I realized I'd never looked up the origins. No surprises. [The origin of D&D in desktop military games]


When met him he read Robert Graves and worshipped the White Goddess. He never stopped being a fantasist. He's one of the reasons I went from having no interest in Dungeons and Dragons to actively hating it. [Graeber]


I say Rawls is Tolkien; Raymond Geuss says Rawls is Rand.


Conceptualism is the intellectualism of preadolescence: imagination before experience, before the influence of sex, and the knowledge of death. The philosophy of D&D is post-war rationalism seen through the eyes of the readers of L. Frank Baum. It's T.S. Eliot without despair and Borges without Nihilism. It's the pathology of cute, and the optimism of the designers of World of Warcraft.


My anger again is not directed at economics or at science in general, but at those who put the cart before the horse, who try to predict and therefore control the future without understanding their relation to the past. Great literature as great art looks backwards; it's retrospective. The mythologies that modern writers of fantasy enjoy so much and try to emulate—and which in doing so they misunderstand entirely—are not products of intention. Their stock characters are not illustrations of ideas but as James Merrill would say are like stones worn smooth by time, the stories like a reduction on a flame.

If you can't tell the difference between the 19th century and the 15th, or how one cannot be used to represent the other—if you can't tell cloying sentimentality from moral seriousness—I don't know what to tell you.

 2002. My first mention of Tolkien. I was repeating myself then

I have no particular interest in Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Harry Potter, while the author, Chris Mooney, admits to being a fan of all of them, films included. But they're all predicated on a misconception of the value of mythology and of fiction itself: that of the escape 'from' daily life and 'into' Meaning. Fantasy is made up, and the point of mythology is that it's handed down. A myth tells the story of the people who made it. The Bible is the story of its own creation and of laws, and fiction writing as an art is the description of the world and time that made it. As most novelists will tell you, the value of literature is in description, not plot. You don't create depth, you describe it. I read an essay once by a critic who was a fan of Tolkien. [It was Guy Davenport]  He talked about another well known critic who distained him. I forget the names. "He made it all up" the friend said. To my shock the writer added, "I don't know what he meant".  Fantasy writers conflate the value of the story with the plot and by trying to 'create' meaning, end with illustration. 

That was kind of fun. There's a lot more. I repeat myself, too much.

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