Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

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[BRIEF NOTE] Gateway literatures, gateway media

Continuing the topic of my previous post about Ringo's Ghost being a grim side indeed, I'd like to point out that Ringo also co-authored Watch on the Rhine, where a revived SS becomes Germany's defenders against the alien hordes beseiging the country. This rehabilitation of Naziism as efficient if nothing else is the exact same sort of phenomenon noted by Rosenfeld in The World Hitler Never Made, a reaction against a decadent liberalism that's incapable of defending Us against the hordes of degenerates beseiging us. If we must let our heroes transgress our society's peacetime norms in wartime, who cares? Only the people who wish us ill.

thebitterguy is right to note that this sort of mindset, most visible in Ringo, isn't limited to science fiction. I would argue that science fiction might be particularly vulnerable to being misused in this way, if only because science fiction as a genre imagines what could be if people like us controlled powers beyond our ken. Whether it's Asimov imagining the power that would accrue to people who could predict the course of history, Pohl imagining what people given abandoned alien starships could accomplish, or Barnes considering just what effect instantaneous portal-to-portal travel across interstellar distances would have on mature societies, the effects of new kinds of power on the human individual and society are key to science fiction. Brave New World's medicated and genetically-engineered future is a classic vision of science fiction.

Wildly bad writing--if not technically bad, then morally bad--is neither a defining characteristic of science fiction nor absent in other literatures. Just think of Zizek's commentary on 24, of how the cult of strength that the show supports in its heros' barely principled ruthlessness is a classic characteristic of annhilatory totalitarianisms. Why did Ringo and 24 appear at the same time? In our post-9/11 world, we're developing a pathological fear of what could become of us if we rich Westerners don't use all the power under our control to defend ourselves. This isn't the first time that a literary genre reflects, or reflects off of, politics. Hitler found inspiration for his Generalplan Ost in the Westerns of Karl May, and without the various historical-cum-political tracts that littered Yugoslavia in the 1980s the subsequent civil war would have been impossible.

It's worth tracking the unsavoury trends in popular culture, if only so we'll have advance warning of what will happen. I'm just terrified that already, people are using the literary forms and broadcast media that I love to poison the minds of others against humanity.
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