Thursday, June 17, 2021

Science Fiction Doesn't Exist [Part III: The Invisible Enemy]

Welcome to our third edition in this journey into the heart of Fandom's soul. This time we aren't going to be taking on a wide variety of scattershot subjects, but a single one. This is because the chapter we are going to cover is longer than the last three put together and has the most material to cover. Why the book was structured in this lopsided way, I don't know. Nonetheless, Mr. Lundwall spends an obscene amount of time on this one subject, far more than he gives anything else in this book. Probably for good reason.

So, what are we talking about this time? That would be the "other half" of the artificial Science Fiction & Fantasy dichotomy: the Nonsense half. Specifically, the definition of "Nonsense" from a 1970s Fandom perspective. It's changed quite a bit over time, but the core assertion remains the same. "Science Fiction & Fantasy" translates to "Realism & Non-Realism" and was created by materialists to categorize on OldPub bookshelves.

Even if we are discussing the subject of "Fantasy" or whatever you wish to call it, back in the 1970s it was a whole different beast to what it is considered today. For one, folks like Mr. Lundwall filed it under the "umbrella" of their makeshift "Science Fiction" category, while today most people who write in this style no longer even consider it part of the same genre. What changed? Not a whole lot except the Thor Power Tool Case which ended up putting a wealth of classics out of print overnight and leaving a busted view of what it meant to write genre fiction. You bet that the OldPub editors wasted no time taking advantage of this moment.

In other words, those who think these are separate genres today are mostly working from mistaken notions spawned from ignorance of history and shrewd editors who used their positions and legal battles to reshape the industry how they wanted. If one thinks these are "separate" genres than they have been successfully duped by Fandom taking advantage of the changing legal landscape for their own ends. There is a reason that, even despite all this ahistorical nonsense being pushed, younger audiences don't see any boundaries between the two supposed sides and will willingly sit through a story that has elements of both "halves" while older audiences continue to use their Fandom-approved chart to classify works by various levels of materialist thought ("Hard" Science Fiction, "High" Magic) conveniently framing their preferred group under preferable monikers. But this is completely dated, and never really stood on solid ground to begin with.

Ever since the Pulp Revolution started, the main kickback has always been from the older set who think it exists to erase their past when it exists for the exact opposite. The whole reason the movement sprung up was because of those who began looking into the past and were finally discovering what Fandom was actually doing was rewriting and destroying what came before. They were doing it for their own gain, chasing out anyone who wanted what they had mere years earlier. By the 1940s, if you wanted what the pulps used to give you then you would be swarmed by Fandom acolytes to stop and "update" your values and thought processes accordingly. To not do so would be very problematic! The genre supposedly about "free thought" was suddenly about nothing of the sort. I can see why one would be scared of their favorite fiction getting erased: Fandom had already done it before. And they are perfectly willing to do it again.

However, the point is to reveal the past, not obscure it. While the discovery of what was done to the pulps infuriated many, they were also just as determined to change the false perspective created around them and to cobble together works inspired by this abandoned treasure trove of storytelling. This requires saying and doing a lot of things that are against the popular narrative. If Fandom-types get hit in the crossfire then that's simply an unfortunate result of the truth. Lies will be called out as lies, no matter who they are told by. They shouldn't have been told in the first place. Books like this will be torn apart because that is what they are built on: lies.

While the title of this series is named after the very correct quote by Brian Aldiss, it also applies to the other half of the false dichotomy which we will covering today. Since the split created by Fandom isn't real, neither are the terms or definitions. "Fantasy" doesn't exist.

The next chapter in Mr. Lundwall's book shows its hand with the title: "The Magical Unreality." I don't even have to tell you what that moniker already implies. It's fairly obvious, as is what Mr. Lundwall's opinion on this.

Nevertheless, now we get into the thick of this book.

"When one comes to the type of science fiction that completely abandons the accepted idea of this universe for the benefit of another, more or less self-made one, so-called Fantasy, the question immediately arises as to which literature, properly speaking, does this branch of the genre belong, and why."

No one would have used this definition before the late 1930s. No one would use it to sell anything now, either. Because this isn't how genres are categorized.

That aside, Mr. Lundwall starts in an awkward position. Where does his above assumption come from, and by who? Why is the word "Fantasy" used over any other synonym? His statement doesn't mean anything. It's gibberish plucked out of thin air by a modernist who can't see the world any other way aside from Material vs. Immaterial and therefore can't imagine how any of this can intersect with each other. Someone who believes in such a limit is in no position to judge creativity or stories of wonder because their imagination is already stunted out of the gate.

What you are looking at are stories of the distant past, new myths, against imaginative stories of the future. That is the only thing separating most of them. None of this has anything to do with science or fantasy or any other mad lib equivalent to said terms Fandom wishes to craft. It's all, ironically, pulled out of thin air. It is an actual Fantasy.

"Fairy tales and religious allegories have existed since time immemorial, but the particular literature or point of view that we call Fantasy is, despite all eager efforts to prove the opposite, a comparably new occurrence, that appeared during the nineteenth century with works like Lewis Carroll's (Charles L. Dodgson) Alice in Wonderland (1865), The Hunting of the Snark (1876) and Frank L. Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). 

The difference between the traditional fairy tales and these works may seem slight—but there is a definite difference. We don't believe in demons, werewolves, fire-breathing dragons and the rest (well—most of us don't), but once, and this wasn't too long ago, we certainly did. Everyone knew that these creatures existed; they were not imagination, they were fact. Sometimes they were seen. The fabled creatures of ancient and not too ancient times were a lot more familiar to those people than outer space is to the average man of today. Thor lived once, and the Earth was flat; and seven crystal spheres encircled the world of man. Of course we don't believe in this today, and any work of fiction assuming that these legends are true is purely fantasy. The difference lies in that the old sagas told about things that were considered facts, while modern fantasy—is fantasy."

Do you understand the game he is playing yet, folks? Do you see where the dividing line is being drawn and how manufactured and weak it is? More importantly: do you know why he is defining the term like this? You'd have to be blind not to see it.

"Fantasy" isn't real and "Science" is, therefore they are separate genres. This is literally it. There is no other argument being made here. There is no dividing line between the mythic and the futuristic--that never even factors into it.

No, people back in the day did not believe in all of these things in the same shallow interpretation the modern world believes in things. They used myth and legends in contrast with tales of adventure and religious purpose to craft narratives where they all swirled together like a graceful waltz across the silver floors of reality. Everything mattered from simile to religion to myth to person to animal to inventions--it didn't make any difference to the storyteller, because they all combined into one perfect whole. The world is a fascinating place, and you are welcome to use it all. This is why your imagination exists, after all. There are no limits.

This is a problem with a difference in mindset. The issue is that the newer one has no claim over the old. They just seized charge to make it that way.

Mr. Lundwall's dated 20th century understanding of imagination is the basis for cordoning off entire compatible ideas into locked ghettos away from each other. He and his allies were able to do this because everyone else was too busy being wowed about landing on the moon and their big screen TVs to notice how fleeting this spike in technological advancement was. Therefore, their view of reality is considerably different from those who didn't live in this back pocket of history. The moderns had forgotten what wonder actually was--what storytelling could actually accomplish. And they were enforcing their myopic view on imagination via the old mainstream publishing industry: OldPub. They were going to tell you what you could and could not read.

We don't live in that world anymore, though. It has about as much relevance to us as the pre-modern world of storytelling did to Mr. Lundwall's worldview. NewPub is primed to move far beyond any of that nonsense that OldPub set up.

And yet, despite this, we still use and operate on their terms, even though they don't actually have any authority to do so. This has to change if we wish to correct the mistakes of the 20th century. They are not an example to be imitated.

This is how limiting the view of "reality" actually is:

"Terry Carr says in his introduction to New Worlds Of Fantasy/2 (1970) that ". . . fantasy springs from and operates on a basis of emotional symbolism, just as dreams do. Fantasy is, in fact, the literary equivalent of dreams." This is a good point, and tells a lot about the mechanisms of fantasy. Just as in dreams, anything can happen, anything at all. What logic and natural laws there are, can be changed at the slightest whim. And there are nightmares as well, as attested by the veritable armies of monsters, ghouls and malignant magicians who live in blissful abandon in this sub-genre of science fiction."

Notice the sleight of hand in calling this inferior and misunderstanding of "Fantasy" a sub-genre of their own made up genre, even though none of this is based on anything. "Science" is the real master here, the rest need bow.

Mythmaking is a way of constructing stories through tradition, experiences, history, legends, and religion, into forming cohesive stories that speak to people both in and outside your culture about what moves you. To pass it off as "the literary equivalent of dreams" is quite a shallow and dismissive take. But when you can dump things into "Non-Science" and "Science" categories, you are left with little else but the idea that this is all there is to the universe.

No wonder so many "Science" authors look down on "Non-Science" authors. They literally don't understand anything outside their narrow 20th century frame and think those who do must be gibbering juveniles. All because of a frame pulled out of thin air.

If you deny that this happens, then you should understand why the post on this one chapter is so long compared to the rest. There is a lot of revisionism at work here.

"But it is striking in how high degree the authors have created their own universes, with highly specific natural laws, and how this has been done as a sort of intellectual game: creating worlds as frameworks to the narrative and molding them into shape with complete disregard for commonly accepted logic, much in the same way as the absurdists, Ionesco and Alfred Jarry and others, later did."

This is just called storytelling, Mr. Lundwall. They aren't flying in the face of "commonly accepted logic" because that can't be gauged, they are just rejecting your small 20th century view. How something like this can be so warped from its original purpose is fascinating. Writing a story is the equivalent of making the universe your playground. There are no limits except that which you impose on yourself. And the ones OldPub use to gatekeep undesirables, of course.

Though with this above passage you can also see the gears turning into twisting Mythic Fiction into "Fantasy" and "Worldbuilding" instead of being created around the rich story tradition they were originally based on. Clearly THIS is what people read wonder stories for: the nuts and bolts! It wasn't, and yet this is where the focus would go in later years.

It is too bad that this focus, which was becoming normal by the time this book was written, ended up derailing the entire genre of myth-making fiction. The 1980s and 1990s suffered for this as video games took off at the same time, instantly overtaking them. One gave the adventure customers craved; the other simply didn't. And now the genre is dead, at least in OldPub. Just like with the space battle movie from 1977: Fandom was destroyed via a single pulp-like product that went against everything so-called experts enjoyed. It seems to happen a lot.

The industry is filled with people who think topics like tax policy and the invention of toilets are more interesting than mythic-sized stories about boundless heroism in a monster pit twisted by hadron colliders and the lost jewel of Opar to reveal the lost Mu continent. Because such an idea like that is impossible to consider thanks to the intrusion of 20th century thought on imagination. It's all simply "nonsense" and impossible.

We live in a wondrous world, but our modern fiction doesn't reflect it, because it was designed not to. This isn't something a writer's workshop will tell you when they work for the very publishers who still champion Mr. Lundwall's outdated frame above.

And, unfortunately, unless we ditch it, things will never improve for the better. This mentality has hit a dead end.

"Among the works of fantasy one can also find a number of stories bordering on far-out science fiction of the usual type, very intelligent and satirical works built within a framework of pure, undiluted fantasy; for example the French artist J. J. Grandville's sick, mystifying Un Autre Monde (1844), a hallucinatory vision in which steam-powered robots give mechanical concerts, where marionettes have formed kingdoms of their own and the botanical garden boasts a section for real, living heraldic animals. Grandville, a well-known illustrator of his time, was probably the world's first surrealist painter of the Dali school. He died in 1847 in a mental institution, his last works, done just a week before his death, being two strange, frightening surrealistic dream visions."

Thank you for proving that your modern genres are completely made up and do not do anything to contain tales written before your inferior frame became standard. I much appreciate my point being made for me.

Wonder stories are wonder stories. The tools they use to reach that wonder do not turn them into different genres. That is not what genres are. Genres are listed for themes and feelings the reader is meant to get out of them. You know what mystery will give you. The same with Romance. Action. Horror. It's obvious. "Science Fiction & Fantasy" doesn't give you anything in the name, because it isn't anything. The terminology is simply a frame for a dated and growingly distant and irrelevant time period of a single century, and nothing more.

You are not following on any "tradition" by labeling your works due to these people's definitions, because they deliberately broke from a stronger tradition to begin with. All you are doing is limiting the potential of your stories with an antiquated mindset and pigeonholing yourself in a ghetto that is already dead and doesn't even know it yet.

Think bigger than this:

"The greater part of the fantasy literature that has been written during the last fifty years belongs, however, to the more easily handled groups of science fantasy (fantasy on an alleged scientific or logical basis, where the Newtonian cosmic system has been exchanged for one with a mystical or purely homemade basis) and Sword & Sorcery (swords and monsters of various kinds, usually with a strong influence of ancient Nordic folklore, including elves, giants, fire-breathing dragons, magicians and so forth)." 

This is an attempt to create boxes out of thin air, to lock stories in and categorize them in silly ways. This is done to make stories featuring certain ideas or tropes seen as "separate" from the rest. This is done to brush aside any idea outside of the norm to be filed away in the "Fantasy" category, away from the proper literature.

"Science Fantasy," for instance, is a completely artificial term created to neuter any relation between the artificial walls Fandom has built up, to make sure the two halves don't link up together again. Sword & Sorcery is merely a specific subgenre of Mythic Fiction centering on fast-paced action stories: it is not an entirely separate thing worthy of being filed away from the proper stuff. Do not let them sell this lie to you. It is all the same genre.

All of this is mythmaking of future projection: you can do anything you want when you travel down these paths. Science is not the arbiter of what your story is about or the heights it can reach, and anyone who thinks differently has adopted a frame of Fandom meant to squeeze them and their creativity into marketable product. Or not marketable, if we're going with how book sales are looking in OldPub these days. Their days are numbered.

"The Gothic novel, which appeared for the first time with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1765) had obvious connections with the chansons de geste of the Middle Ages, the Arthurian legends and the legends of Charlemagne, of which especially Ludovico Ariosto's poetical work Orlando Furioso (1516, 1532) seems to have made lasting impressions."

Yes, the Gothic branch of horror has ties with weird and adventure fiction which forms the backbone of much modern mythic and horror fiction. This is how you know they are all one whole. It also leads to some weird futuristic stories such as those by C.L. Moore who wrap myth and magic in a strange vision of a future that could have been. And might even be someday. Who know? The whole point is that there are no limits.

This is real creativity, the kind genre labels should be used to encourage, not the ones that exist to do the opposite. This is why it is imperative that the pulps not be forgotten, and why Fandom very much should be.

There's a whole world of possibilities out there. We should be encouraging this, not stamping it out using notions crafted by people who hate you.

"This ghastly literature was, of course, a product of its time, in the same way as the current science fiction literature is the product of our specific situation. It belongs, partly, to the Romanticism of the eighteenth century, the longing back to times when everything was better (the old days were always better), as well as the Romanticist's well-known faiblesse for ruins and forgotten passages and such."

Just as this mid-20th century literature has also worn out its welcome as a product of its time. We can move on from them. Unlike these limited stories, we can look back on the Gothic with a religious lens and see more to it than materialists like Mr. Lundwall can. The danger of sin, the power of courage, the heart-stopping power of romance through the spiritual battle that is life, is a thrilling wonder. Less so stories about pencil-necks chatting in blocks of political theory about coupons to buy canned beats. Wonder always wins.

Yes, Gothic literature will age better than the fiction Mr. Lundwall and his lot champion and push. It already has.

"Among the post-Gothic authors, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) towers like a giant. His psychological insight and almost tender handling of his themes made him in a way the first serious Gothic writer, obsessed with pain and death, but using the obvious horror elements only as means to convey a deeper significance."

Deeper than the fear of damnation on a razor's edge between salvation and sin? Poe was merely following on to that tradition of Gothic writers which lived long before him. Unlike whatever "scientification" or whatever they were calling it back then is supposed to be, he wasn't breaking from any established line to do what he did. Moderns just don't see it.

After describing all of Poe's horror and "scientific" stories Mr. Lundwall then concludes he is responsible for modern fantasy (?) in a way that must take some straining of the mind. Thinking two extra steps would have showed you that there were no "modern genres" when Poe wrote, and nothing to constrict him as badly as it had to 20th century writers.

This is so close to getting the heart of the matter that it is painful:

"Poe laid the groundwork for the present-day fantasy— but the now prevalent type of fantasy came later on with two writers, both of whom utilized remarkable horror elements in their works. The writers were H. P. Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson."

Have you noticed the strange pattern where Lundwall keeps using writers who don't fit modern genre conventions, because they weren't constricted by such things, in order to say how we now use them to fit the very boxes said writers weren't put in when they were alive? They were who they were because they weren't "science fiction" or "fantasy" or anything modern!

Lovecraft and Hodgson couldn't come up in the modern climate of corporate-endorsed writing courses and OldPub gatekeeping that keeps the wrong sort out. What categorized the remainder of the 20th century is antithetical to what made them able to succeed in the first place. In fact, they would never have been published at all.

This is what I mean when I say these modern labels are a straitjacket to creativity. They are attempting to hijack things that had nothing to do with them to begin with in order to paint a false view of the field. The truth is that they are just making things up as they go.

For example:

"Hodgson's novel [The House on the Borderland] is a typical example of the "new Gothic tale" that after the turn of the century began to appear, in which the time-honored vampires, living dead and so on slowly were being eased out for the benefit of far more fantastic creatures and plots. Hodgson's use of modern symbols in a traditional Gothic setting heralded the coming of the "science fantasy."

Pure gobbledygook. These are all made up terms to describe a story that wouldn't fit them, because it wasn't written when such things were crafted. Hodgson wasn't writing a "science fantasy" story because such a thing doesn't exist. There were no list of tropes he had to hit to be filed in the correct category. He was just writing a wonder story. Rather, these terms were crafted in order to explain away a creative process that used more than acceptable slogans concocted by Fandom. It files things where they were never meant to be filed.

You will never be as creative as William Hope Hodgson if you follow Fandom's frame, because he didn't use it to be creative. You will instead always come up short because there are things you subconsciously will not allow yourself to do--because you need to check columns in order to be stocked on the correct shelf. Fandom stunts creativity.


"Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) is a name practically synonymous with modern fantasy literature, not so much by his own works—his greatness as an. author is disputed and from a literary viewpoint he is at best mediocre—as by the enormous influence he had on the writers who later on would shape science fiction literature: Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Henry Kuttner and others."

H.P. Lovecraft isn't just tentacles and mindless fear, but the existential dread he uses in his stories entwined with local folklore, scientific discoveries, impossible oddities, and the fear of the unknown. He isn't put so neatly into a box, even as a horror writer, because he didn't have restraint on what he could write about. Trying to put him in a neat column after the fact is completely missing the point, because it wasn't a column he was even aware of as existing when he wrote.

Because it didn't, and doesn't, exist.

He didn't need to double check what he wrote to see if corporate wanted to add a subplot or two in order to beef the story up or cut out a problematic plot element that disagrees with the editor's political views. After all, everything needs to be a standard page-count and uniform structure and ideas in OldPub, and has for decades. A writer like Lovecraft will never come out of such a system, which is part of why it is a useless one.

This is why the future is NewPub. You will find any and everything out there. No restraint in creativity or possibility. Once this was the point of wonder fiction, after all.

"So much for the horror. I should perhaps point out that this branch of science fiction does not solely occupy itself with vampire castles and living dead. The greater part of the fantasy literature is noticeably temperate when it comes to the horror elements, and uses the fantastic situation in the same way as the more scientifically inclined branch of the genre, to construct a situation and follow it to its logical conclusion."

He did it again.

"Horror" is apparently now under "Science Fiction" just "Fantasy" is. The 20th century sure does like to lay claims to things it has no right to claim. The fact that the only difference between these definitions is how much materialism you use in your plot is so unbelievably silly I'm having a hard time imagining how we all fell for this scam for so long. It's simply a bad measuring stick.

But not only is he attempting to take up Horror into Fandom's grasp, but Adventure fiction, too.

"A great part of the fantasy that is written today is, however, of the time-honored blood, sword and hero type and actually just the adventure story in its most straightforward form, featuring giants, magicians, beautiful princesses and the usual broad-shouldered hero with lots of muscles and no brow and eyes not an inch apart. It is the fairy tale all over again, with the monsters bigger and more horrible than before, and perhaps a wee bit more sadistic, but that is about the only difference. It is pure entertainment with a good measure of escapism thrown in, and it never purports to be anything else. You might call it a kind of Wild West in the never-never lands of unbridled fantasy. There are, of course, works of singularly literary qualities here as well as in the Wild West genre, as we shall see later on. This sub-branch of science fiction is called Heroic Fantasy, or Sword & Sorcery, both of them exceptionally fitting names." 

He really did just claim Adventure fiction is a subgenre of Science Fiction, you didn't read that wrong. As backwards as this is, it makes a certain bit of sense from Fandom's standpoint. You're going to want to claim the classics for yourself in order to assert authority. And that's what they did. This despite the fact that "Adventure" is not a subgenre.

The above tales are just adventure stories. Sword & Sorcery is a branch of Adventure fiction focused on what it says in the title. Heroic Fantasy is a redundant term that doesn't even mean anything. They are all just a branches of Adventure fiction that focuses on mythmaking of the old kind. Calling them anything else leads them into a genre trap of cliché and expectations that stunt growth and creativity. It doesn't lead anywhere good.

We know this because we lived through the 20th century where this actually happened. Once Fandom got their hooks into it and decided on rules and limits that the storytellers didn't originally have, it led to the death of these subgenres. They died because those in charge never should have had charge over them to begin with. People who hate and look down on Adventure stories should not be in charge of Adventure fiction.

And yet this is exactly what occurred.

None of these are "branches" of "Science Fiction" because "Science Fiction" doesn't exist. It's a tag and title for a club of Fanatics who want to gatekeep the field of wonder stories for their own purposes, and it's a terrible name. They also are not very good at what they purport to be be good at. See the cratering of their own industry for an example.

"In the foreword to another collection of fantasy stories, [L. Sprague] de Camp stresses the high entertainment value of this fiction, and ridicules the contemporary social novel ("should an heiress marry her chauffeur?") and the acknowledgment of sex as a driving force of man ("stories that reduce human beings to animated sets of genitalia with legs and other parts vaguely attached"). I agree with the high entertainment value of fantasy, but as for the rest, I don't. There is a lot to say about, for example, the undercurrents of sex in Heroic Fantasy. I will take this up in a later chapter." 

Because of course you will. It should be said that once fandom got their hooks into Sword & Sorcery that it died a very quick death. Misunderstandings like the above on sex are part of the reason. But the "field" is full of sex-obsessed perverts who couldn't muster up the courage to buy magazines with those brown paper bags so they had to resort to sneaking it into their own lifeless and flaccid books. All because they can't think with anything higher other than their baser impulses. I realize it was the 1970s, but it's just so transparent.

But that's Science! for you. At the end of the day, it's all about the glorious future of pleasure domes and free drugs. All stories must lead to this.

Later on, de Camp notes what he thinks brought about the downfall of Sword & Sorcery. Keep in mind that this was written before the 1970s explosion in the subgenre:

"The cause, however, was the trend of the time, in mainstream fiction and also in science fiction, towards stories with a strongly subjective, sentimental, psychological slant. In such tales, the anti-hero was often a wretched little twerp who could never do anything right. Instead of providing the reader with a heroic model with whom he could for the moment identify himself, giving himself a warm glow of vicarious heroism, the writer presented his reader with a protagonist so ineffectual and contemptible that the reader—the writer hoped—would enjoy the thought that at least he was better than that."

This matches well with what those such as Mr. Lundwall were praising earlier in the book. Writers grew egos and demanded they tell their audience what they should want and what they should think, and these sheep should pay money to this special priest class to educate them on how to be good people. This is how you reach Utopia.

The problem is that the audience never wanted any of this to begin with. They never asked you to stop writing space operas, sword and sorcery, planetary romance, weird tales, or stories about gunslingers in space amidst barbarian alien races. You decided to stop giving it to them, and then you told them they were wrong and possibly evil for wanting it.

Not only that, you began to be ironic and spiteful when you did deliver what they wanted, and the audience picked up on this hostility. This is a bitterness that got uglier and uglier as the years went on, and warped into misanthropy for the audience. "What you want is stupid" is not a formula for success, and yet this is OldPub's raison d'être.

John W. Campbell wanted to know why no one could write a positive story in the "field" and this is precisely why. It's impossible.

It all starts from the base realization that your "genre" doesn't exist and is based on presumptions of the world that aren't true. Therefore it attracts people with that mindset who cannot deal with it when reality falls outside of their narrow scope. It brings in nasty folks.

Essentially, it was always bound to end the way it already has. This is why it's over.

Mr. Lundwall then returns to prove my point for me:

"The source of this sudden interest in fantasy might be partly attributed to the success of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring trilogy; however, looking at the state of the world—the real world —today, I can well believe there are some deeper reasons, too. There was a similar interest in heroes and mighty deeds in Hitler's Germany. Richard Wagner's Der Ring der Ni-belungen, a heroic Sword Sorcery fantasy of no mean qualities, was not the only work of its type popular at the time."

Yes, of course, that's the first example my mind would have jumped to, as well. Why else would audiences want to read about heroes in fiction?

"One might say that he [Lord Dunsany] practically invented the pastoral never-never land for fantasy. It had, of course, been there all along, in the fairy tale, but these tales had very seldom been written for anyone over the age of twelve. The Gothic tale only made use of the most ghastly elements of the old sagas. Dunsany used it wholesale, with his own details added, and did it for adult readers. He didn't use quite as many swords and spilled guts as his successors, though; that was for lesser geniuses to invent." 

So much of this is grossly incorrect that I don't even know where to start. Not only do you have to cherry-pick to get the conclusion that you want, you have to conclude, again, that you don't understand the point of violence in fiction. Surely hardcore blood-spilling and gore was something invented by Dunsany acolytes. It surely never existed before them.

Thing is, we all know he's lying here. He knows he's lying. but there is a purpose to duplicity beyond messing with people--it comes down to messing with their history.

I don't know what it is with a certain group of gatekeepers in entertainment that love pornography and always want more of it, yet wretch at the sight of blood. Violence is a tool like any other than can be used for dramatic weight and tension; sex is used to bring the story to a halt so the reader can indulge in baser fantasies away from the ongoing plot. And yet it is always the latter that control freaks want to see more of. I'd say it's a pattern, but we already know it is.

These are the people who think they should be in charge of wonder stories, when all they can think of are dopamine hits and vague notions like Progress. But that's the legacy of the 20th century: to formulize everything into consumerist mush and file everything away in compartmentalized nooks away from each other. This is the opposite of how it is supposed to be, and it is why so many industries are on the decline.

Speaking of which, while talking about James Branch Cabell's since out of print and public domain work, Jorgen, Mr. Lundwall lets us in on it without even a wink of irony:

"Jurgen became the source of Cabell's fame as a writer, when the U.S.A.'s self-appointed moral guardian, John S. Sumner, boss of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, tried to suppress the book on charges of obscenity. Cabell was acquitted after a court battle that lasted for two years, and suddenly found himself a famous man. Jurgen has never been out of print since then. The guardians of morals are always the best advertisers for the very books they dislike." 

Well, the book isn't very famous anymore, so that didn't work out too well. Nonetheless this passage is rich coming from Fandom, the group who kept writers like A. Merritt out of print for decades and took adventure stories out of the pulps when no one asked them to. Compared to Fandom ruining an entire market and chasing countless customers out over the years, this one book really seems like a drop in the bucket.

I guess it works differently when the story is about hedonistic nihilism. Because when it's not, gatekeepers of Fandom have much different views on the subject. Not too long later after his Cabell screed, Mr. Lundwall dives into Burroughs.

"[Edgar Rice] Burroughs' fantasy novels have proved immensely popular, despite the fact that every one of them on close scrutiny turns out to be rather old hat. This not only goes for the Pellucidar books—the hollow Earth is one of the oldest and most common clichés of science fiction, Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth being only one among many works utilizing this idea. Likewise, the Burroughs adventure formula doesn't differ much from other action novels. 

The answer might lie in the quick, breathtaking pace of the stories, and the skillful handling of the prose. Burroughs was out to write entertainment, and this he did, splendidly."

He did it so well that it makes eggheads mad to this day.

Case in point:

"It is far from great literature—you hardly know more about the people in the stories when you finish them than when you began—but there is suspense in them from beginning to end, and in Heroic Fantasy, this is what counts."

Yes, in an adventure story that is what counts. The reason you also "don't know more about them" is because they are meant to represent normal people and ideals to strive for. I know that's a good deal different than the sad sack fiction that Fandom loves, but it is a valid approach to literature and no less worthy of respect or admiration.

It should also be mentioned that Edgar Rice Burroughs was never before listed as a "Fantasy" author, but yet he is listed as one here. I can't imagine why such revisionism might be occurring. Possibly because, like I said earlier, the "Science Fiction & Fantasy" frame was invented to separate the wheat from the chaff and separate genre fiction into easy to digest columns. And wouldn't you know it, the good stuff is all in one category!

If it wasn't for people like Ray Bradbury, the Burroughs revisionism might have already happened before now. Fandom has always worked hard to scrub him out of the picture, and still do to this very day.

As if desperate to prove me right, Mr. Lundwall quotes the following passage from Rev. Henry Hardy Heins on a book about Burroughs:

"ERB knew the difference between right and wrong, and he spun his yams so that there was never any doubt in his reader's mind either. His heroes and villains, together with the characteristics of each, were painted in unmistakable terms of black and white. And he was always scrupulous to keep his stories clean, even though they might also include violent battles and the spilling of countless buckets of blood. This is why it seems downright foolishness to me to hear of anyone alleging that Burroughs' works are unfit for children. Actually, taken in toto, they depict most clearly the relative merits of Good and Evil, along with an exaltation of the simple virtues such as honesty, kindness and family devotion—with the opposing vices often played up in order to intensify the contrast."

Precisely! This wholesome approach is a universal take that anyone can get behind. There is objective good and evil in the world, deeper than we can see. It shows us there is a wide open universe taller and wider than our own, where the impossible is just out sight but no less real. Violence is a tool used for tension and dramatic weight, but it doesn't need gore to be effective. And it can be enjoyed by all ages. This is wonder!

There is a reason these books are so beloved, because they speak to people of all sorts on a base level. Simple values such as honesty, kindness, and devotion to family, are all values we can get behind. Who wouldn't?

Of course this also goes against the recent charge that these books were written for children, when they very well weren't. Once again, this is another attempt to try to contest Burroughs' popularity and importance in adventure fiction by people who hate adventure.

This stuff is as wholesome as it gets.

So this is what Mr. Lundwall thinks about all of this:

"To me, this seems to be a pretty good explanation as to why Burroughs never should have seen print at all and why (as actually once was done in Burroughs' home town, Tar-zana) his books should be banned in every library ever frequented by people under the age of fifteen years. Perhaps the Rev. Heins thinks that "the spilling of countless buckets of blood" belongs to the "simple virtues" of life. I don't. I much prefer "dirty" (and natural) sex to the senseless killing so exultantly praised by this Burroughs advocate."

Hot damn, look at all those tears of impotent rage. And AGAIN with the sex obsession! A writer that doesn't understand the appeal of violence in storytelling is someone who should stick to writing Harlequin romance novels and religious pamphlets like Mr. Lundwall's heroes. Talk about completely missing the forest for the trees.

Yes, killing murderers who are attempting to murder you is a good thing. Anyone with half a braincell knows this. Heroes who forcibly stop those who wish to do evil are good people. Justice is as natural as sex, but only one is ever propped up by cultists. The one that's easier to write and understand, of course. It's very intellectual, you see.

If children can understand the appeal of these stories then so should grown adults. This isn't hard. At least, you'd think not.

"The "clean" virtues listed by the Rev. Heins above are, however, common for all Heroic Fantasy heroes; they kill like maniacs, but they are clean (which probably means that all of them still are virgins; how they should be able to have clean consciences after what they have done, escapes me). The facets of Good and Evil are also very easily discernible; everyone intellectual or not broad-shouldered enough is a baddie. Same goes for everyone with physical deformities. Tis a beautifully uncomplicated world, this one."

I really think he was biting his lip with tears in his eyes while he wrote this part of the book. Look at all that projection from a morally dead 1970s writer who can't understand simple concepts like good or evil. How could they have clean consciences after killing bad people who wanted to kill them and others? Wow, that's such a headscratcher! You must really be a deep thinker if you can't figure that one out. Again, even children understand this. Adults have no excuse. Peggy Charren would be proud of Mr. Lundwall.

And yes, bad people actually very frequently advertise they are bad people, whether ironically or not by what they wear, how they carry themselves, and how they behave around other people. The only ones who think it is subtle are those that know little about human behavior or habits. For instance, most people you meet at the gym are usually very friendly and helpful while a certain crowd you meet at SF conventions are usually having orgies in the back room and covering up for sex criminals while they dress and love to look like hobos. One looks good, the other doesn't, and their appearances even match what they are like!

It's not as complicated as people like Mr. Lundwall want it to be.

Also, I shouldn't have to point out the irony about how bad and evil it apparently was to ban Jorgen while then turning around and saying he would ban A Princess of Mars, do I? You'd think an editor would catch that one and try to talk to him about it. But tearing down Burroughs was more important than honesty.

I'm starting to think a lot of it comes down to a group of people wanting to have adventure and wonder pushed on one side, and the other obsessed with baser pleasures like sex and drugs on the other. We can then stamp the former out as we reeducate the sheep into correct thoughts. It sure would explain a lot, and why the normal people in the first camp get shafted so often by the Fanatics in the latter. One group will do anything to control the other, even though they don't understand anything at all about them. Once we all think right, Utopia will arrive.

No wonder Fandom is so attracted to materialism. It is the only hope they can get out of life. They just can't imagine anything else.

For example, when talking about Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser, Mr. Lundwall has this to say:

"It should be noted that Fafhrd has a sex life—something almost unique in this collection of oversized eunuchs."

"It should be mentioned" as if any of this matters in the least to anyone but a pervert.

Once again, remember that this was written before the 1970s explosion of Sword & Sorcery. At this point it looked as if it was dead for good. He probably thought he was writing an epitaph for the subgenre.

And here's the final word on why you should never take anything Sam J. Lundwall says seriously. Neither should you ever listen to the Fandom that gave him a platform. This utter mess of paragraph is braincell genocide:

"Usually, the Heroic Fantasy, or Sword Sorcery, is so absurd that no one ever can take it seriously, which admittedly weakens some of the objections against it as to its overemphasis on violence. True, fantasy takes a lot of "suspension of disbelief to appreciate it as entertainment, but it is really no more improbable than the typical story of the broad-shouldered private eye who fights fifteen Russian agents single-handedly and shoots beautiful blondes in the belly. It's just the setting that is different. Basically, I believe that Heroic Fantasy shares with the Wild West and the tough detective story the trait of being essentially Utopian: that is, to again quote de Camp, "providing the reader with a heroic model with whom he for a moment (can) identify himself, giving himself a warm glow of vicarious heroism."

Do you now see why the "Fantasy" category exists? It is like a freak show bordering a (supposed) fine art museum. Just don't look over there if you want the real classy stuff. the real art is over here. You know, the material made by people unnaturally obsessed with pornography who have a history of covering up for sexual abusers and their handlers. Truly they know what is correct and true. That "Fantasy" nonsense, though? Those people are broken!

This isn't Utopian fiction, Mr. Lundwall. It's moral storytelling meant to reaffirm goodness in the world without the need to spread badly coded messages that wouldn't feel out of place on a Jim Jones flyer. That you don't understand the difference between these things and yet think you are qualified to categorize them says it all.

A reminder that the people who hate what you love are the ones who decided how to file your stories away. You don't have to let them.

"Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) is the crowned king of the branch, practically canonized by his many fans and followers. Howard, a man with an unhappy mother complex who committed suicide when his mother died . . ."

Very tactful, Mr. Lundwall. Also there is no proof he had anything in the way of a mother complex, but good to know it will be used to tar him regardless. It is a talking point that has no point to exist, since it is made by people who do not understand suicide or what causes it at all. They merely wish to discredit Howard's work.

The author just goes on to repeat himself over and over only to admit something when he starts talking about Fritz Leiber.

"In Gather, Darkness! Leiber actually proved that the gulf between "straight" science fiction and Sword & Sorcery can be spanned with good results, using elements from the two branches and uniting them into a powerful work of imagination."

Then why are they separate "genres" to begin with? If this can be done without changing the core concept of the story (which it doesn't, because they aren't separate genres) then why do we insist labeling them differently based on how much 20th century materialism is used within the pages? This isn't how any other genre works, except in this supposed one. Why is that? And don't tell me it is because this is a "special" genre or some such nonsense. That's a copout used to fellate the bloated ego of cultists. There is no explanation that doesn't rely on a very dated philosophical frame at odds with reality and thought outside of one specific time period in human history.

The above questions are never answered, and I suspect that it never will be. So I will just call a spade a spade. These genres aren't real. They have no practical use, and they should be abandoned. There isn't any excuse to keep them around.

Especially when your genre masters, the ones whose terms certain folks slavishly stand by, are people who don't understand basic things like humanity or the concept of Good.

"Actually, Elric of Melnibone stands a cut above most other heroes; he is a tragic personality possessing some traces of individuality, and his battle against the powers of Chaos is both intelligent and engrossing. Sometimes he even behaves like a human being. Every time he has killed one of his lifelong comrades or his dear wife or so, he cries a bit; I think this is a nice, human touch."

I bet you do.

"He has also been caught in the act of thinking, which is very unusual for heroes and in fact an almost unprecedented occurrence."

When you don't pay attention to the stories you read you probably shouldn't comment on them. But then you wouldn't be a Fanatic, and this stupid book wouldn't exist.

"And in the end of the two-volume saga of Elric, The Stealer of Souls (1963) and Stormbringer (1965), everything goes to the dogs, which perhaps is the nicest and most human of all."

Yes, misery is very nice.

"The idea was later readopted by a man with strong imagination, Richard S. Shaver, who in the years 1945-48 got a number of novels dealing with the monster-infested underground published in the sf magazine Amazing Stories. The awed readers learned that the evil Lemurians and the Atlanteans in times of yore had gone underground and now were sending up rays toward us unknowing people. Many fell for this rubbish, and Amazing's circulation rose rapidly. Loud protests from the not-so awed sf fandom and the rest of the magazine's writers put an end to the Shaver tales, however, and the Shaver fans had to go back to their flying saucers again." 

See? These are the people whose terms you use with such gleeful abandon. People who gatekeep audiences out: the audiences who actually keep these productions float. And when they get chased off, they get snotty comments thrown their way like the above. No one had the right to take away what the readers wanted, but it was taken away regardless.

Don't worry, it's for your own good. You need to be educated correctly.

It doesn't matter if you think Shaver's stories are rubbish, Fanatic. There were people who liked them and were enjoying reading them. They sold really well, and the public wanted more. What gave you the right to take them away from the people who wanted them? Based on what? Your expertise? Who put you in charge?

Oh right, nobody. But you were catered to regardless which ended up flatlining the "genre" you purport to love so much. Now it is owned by a small cadre of large corporations who pump out tons of books no one is even reading except other cultists who rage against free digital libraries in their spare time. It would be funnier if it wasn't so pathetic.

Masterful job! I'm sure the "establishment" just fears your imposing ghetto of dirt.

"Tolkien's Midgârd is in many ways not so much a creation of unbridled imagination as a conservative man's Utopia, where an old white-haired philologist can expect to study to his heart's delight without being disturbed by the coarse populace and their cries of justice, food, freedom, human rights and other trivialities."

Hey, I caught a copy-paste job! This bit of hack idiocy was later reused in his other book released in 1977 that I already covered extensively. Pretty sloppy writing to go along with the thinking on this one. It is quite the embarrassing passage to include twice in two separate books. It didn't work the first time so you thought you'd push this lie a second time?

Boy, am I happy these books are out of print. They truly deserve to be forgotten.

The only difference between the books is that he copy/pastes even dumber quotes from others even worse to try and insult Tolkien and tarnish his name. I'm not going to reprint them here because they are monumentally idiotic and made by people who completely, and possibly deliberately, missed the point of the books. At this point I'd believe either.

By the way, Mr. Lundwall, it's called THE LORD OF THE RINGS, not The Fellowship of the Rings trilogy. You've gotten it wrong every single time you've written it down in this book. I've kept track. If you want me to take you seriously as a scholar you should probably pay attention to what you are supposed to be an expert in. Just getting the title right, the one the author always intended, would be a good start. Of course, the editors are to blame here, too. But then again, I'm fairly convinced they just didn't care about anything aside from narrative.

"A great deal of Tolkien's appeal probably lies in a nostalgic longing for the good old days of yore when life was nice and secure and people knew their place; in other words, as I have pointed out earlier a sort of Utopia where the sun always shines and the grass is greener and the evil dragon always can be slain by a gallant knight."

Reminder that Donald A. Wollheim wrote the introduction to this book and supported uneducated buffoonery such as the above quote. Ask yourself why he would do that. Why would he support assertions as weak and shallow as the above? You would also have to wonder why they hired Mr. Lundwall to write another book on this exact topic near seven years later. The answer is obvious. You'd have to be blind not to see it.

Mr. Lundwall has such a one track mind and projects his own strange explanations onto everything he doesn't like that he just doesn't realize how wrong he is. And he is wrong about just about everything that isn't autobiographical information. It's very impressive.

But remember, he's a leading voice in Fandom! Donald Wollheim of the Futurians said so. And who would know better about Fandom than a Futurian?

"The magic ring is science and knowledge with power over the world, and when Frodo finally overcomes himself and manages to destroy the ring, the factories of Sauron crumble to dust, the machines grind to a standstill, the horrors of industrialization are aborted."

Proof that fanaticism is a terminal brain disease. He literally made this up out of whole cloth and decided to share it in a book like this. He found a narrative and he needs to run with it because this problematic book needs to be dismissed outright.

It's so obvious that it hurts to read. He just goes on and on.

"Frodo returns to his peaceful village, defeats the remainder of the revolting lower classes (aptly described as some kind of sub-human creatures) and later leaves for a place more fit for a gentleman. It is a beautiful description of the upper class's inability to face change, and the efforts of the same to fight evolution, although I am sure Tolkien never consciously meant it that way. The Fellowship of the Ring is the protest of an old man against everything new, and the fairy tale brings all his hidden fears out in the open." 

You can't even get the title of Tolkien's book right, and you're telling him what his story really meant and is about. The fact that you can't picture anything outside of your obtuse 20th century thought patterns is why you can't comprehend any of the themes or what the story was actually about or that he didn't write it specifically as an allegory to anything. You have to write about the author's intent, not your shallow and outright moronic attempt to understand a work that went over your head. But then they wouldn't be Fanatics if they didn't do it backwards.

But you can't do otherwise, because you are a mere hedonist, locked in a robotic thought loop that was a flash in the pan for five seconds in the middle of the 20th century. You do not understand basic storytelling, just like your peers, and yet you believe you can describe and define genres to the blithering sheep and future cultists.

"With the risk of evoking the wrath of every science fiction old-timer, I am including the Space Opera branch of science fiction in this chapter, as being the direct descendant of the fantasy tale. It is really the same branch, only with some of the old symbols exchanged for new."

See, once again "Fantasy" is code for "Nonsense I don't like" that always conveniently includes titles the writer doesn't want filed with his pet favorites. Now "Space Opera" is "Fantasy" because we can shuffle it off that way into the bad part of the genre construct. It can then be dismissed outright and we can forget it exists.

Why not, though? None of this means anything. It's just throwing made-up terms at the wall until they stick. I've already showed you why "Science Fiction & Fantasy" is a bunk term concocted for nefarious reasons, so every time he says something stupid like this it just gives me more ammo to work with. Just let him do the noose tying himself.

Do go on, Mr. Lundwall.

"They were crude stories, usually lacking even the simplest literary merits. People were painted in black or white, nothing else and the only thing in them more idiotic than the scientific theories was the immature handling of the compulsory love interest.

"Nevertheless, they conveyed a Sense-of-Wonder, and this to an extent that probably never has been surpassed. When things started rolling, by golly, it really started. Whole galaxies crumbled before the atomic cannons, and the evil alien monsters were slaughtered by the quintillions by the heroes and their faithful friends. The galactic patrols roamed the void, spreading Pax Terra at blaster-point, and scientific miracles were as common as apple pie. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible in Space Opera. It might be a lot of rubbish, but I can't resist liking it.

"This branch of science fiction is, of course, closely related to the fairy tale and the Heroic Sword Sorcery Fantasy, with the magic sword exchanged for the atomic blaster and the magic for super-science. Wizards have become scientists, with thick spectacles added to their long beards, wearing white smocks instead of the multicolored cloaks of yore. Instead of the cabalistic magic signs, we have equally meaningless formulae that, to a present-day reader, promises exactly the same things that the magic words once did. The monsters look about the same as before. The setting is somewhat more original, drawing ideas not from the ancient sagas but from contemporary science. Instead of the book of magic, we have books of mathematical tables; instead of the philosophers' stone, uranium; instead of the pentagram, the computer."

Oh, what a coincidence, it's "Fantasy" because it's rubbish. Who could have seen that coming? Almost like the game was rigged that way from the start.

But he goes on:

"The Space Opera aspect of science fiction will be discussed in the next chapter, but it is interesting to note here that the branch, together with an increasing interest in traditional fantasy, is again gaining in popularity. The miraculous adventures of E. E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark and Lensman series, Jack Williamson's The Legion of Space, A. E. van Vogt's Slan (an interesting mutant novel, aside from its Space Opera merits), Edmond Hamilton's Captain Future and so forth are being reissued and, apparently, very well received. It might be the old Utopian dream of man conquering matter again, and the dream of easy solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems."

Why is this interminable chapter still going? He's just repeating himself with recycled clichés about stories he doesn't even understand from people he looks down on about characters he loathes. For a book about "Science Fiction" he has spent the vast majority of the book on this one topic that is apparently a lesser "branch" of the bigger one. Why is that? He is going out of his way to really pin down why his phony genre exists in the first place. That I have spent this entire post on ONE chapter should say a lot.

"In a world ridden by anxiety and fear, the exploits of star heroes and swordbearers alike must be of considerable interest. The Space Opera regards the future with hope and a positive attitude, although mostly overly naïve and sometimes openly escapist. But as a contrast to the defeatist attitude of many recent works of science fiction, it certainly serves a purpose. Perhaps this particular branch is overdoing it; but that is the prerogative of writers anywhere, anytime."

I can't imagine saying "Sometimes openly escapist" as if that's a bad thing. This is literally the entire point of wonder fiction, to allow audiences to escape to a new world different from our own. I should also add that he never really described why Space Opera should be in the meaningless category of Fantasy, aside from the fact that he just feels like it and using weasel terms that no one ever used before. It's just more attempt at revisionism.

And that's the problem with these nonexistent genres. They exist on the whims of people like this, and not on any sort of reality or tradition.

Finally, this entry is finished. It is difficult to imagine that I spent the entire post on this one chapter, but it is true. I am not doing that again. I outright refuse. Reading this was the most interminable experience. It was filled with undeserved arrogance from a writer who thinks too highly of himself and his non-existent field than he should. I wasted far too much time tackling this inane chapter when I could have been doing much more rewarding things instead.

Like reading a good book.

Next time we're going to move a bit faster because we're already three entries in and only roughly halfway through the book. I can't take much more of this, and I wouldn't want to subject it to you either. We need to get on with it.

Nonetheless, the point remains. These are your genre masters. This is the set that rules over your industry and told you where to shelve books they can't even sell. They did this because they needed to teach you the correct way to think and believe. Normal people are broken, after all. It takes a big brain to put them back together and educate them right. Would you give power to people who hate you? It doesn't sound very appealing, nor very sane.

Mostly because we already know where this leads. It leads to the destruction of an entire industry. This is happening to OldPub right now.

But NewPub is here, and we no longer have to fall in line behind Fanatics touting bad genre titles and terrible story advice that guts creativity. They are an industry that is currently on its last legs, and it is more than due. We can do better than OldPub, and we will.

We can move on to a better future away from all of this mess. And that's what is going to happen. The future is here. act accordingly.

See you in the next part!


  1. Wow. I kept having to stop and reread passages, trying to see if Lundwall said what I thought he said. And he *did*. He's such a pretentious humanist, and wow, he values no god higher than sex, does he? His version of Lord of the Rings reads like satire. That's what he got out of it? It's like reading Saruman's version of the book, all machinery and wheels. Thanks for chewing through this and writing this fascinating blog series. I kind of want to read this space opera where people shoot ray guns and blow apart galaxies, and wizards are the scientists. :-D

    1. This chapter took so long to get through that I almost second-guessed writing this series. It was just so interminable. His high opinion of himself and his mind-numbing opinions on everything made it worse.

      The rest of the series should hopefully be a more pleasant read than this chapter was.

  2. Maybe it's the influence of the Frank Frazetta paintings, but I never thought of ERB's Mars books as sexless. Burroughs makes it quite clear that The Princess of Helium is a very attractive (and nearly naked) woman. That Carter doesn't try to jump her every other page doesn't mean he's a sexless character. He is a gentleman who follows a set of rules about how to treat women.

    Calling The Lord of the Rings a utopian novel again misses the point of a 1000+ page novel. The book is all about loss. When the ring is destroyed, so is the power of all the other rings. Lothlorien (the one place in Middle Earth closest to being a utopia) is now destined to whither and die. All the elves (and magic) are leaving Middle Earth. It's that sadness of losing a place that Tolkien made you care about that makes the book unforgettable. I also guess he missed the part where Frodo and Bilbo are going to a place to die.

    "It might be the old Utopian dream of man conquering matter again"

    Since that's the whole point of the "big men with screwdrivers" stuff, one has to wonder what science fiction he does like. I mean space opera is out, as is anything with action and adventure. That doesn't leave much left, at least not much anyone would be willing to pay money for.

    1. He likes the "Social Science Fiction" stuff which is typically message fiction about how bad humanity is and how the world would be better if we were all 1940-1970s Progressives. As a consequence, the material he does like feels very far removed from those of us living in the 21st century.

      When I reviewed SLC Punk a made a note of saying how the movie looked utterly insane to anyone who didn't have the context to what led to Gen X existing. Someone who saw this movie a century from now would consider it madness.

      This stuff, on the other hand, would just confuse those people. It's just too dated to its time and place (and deliberately, at that) to be of any use to most people.

      This is one of the main reasons that Fandom needs to go.

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  4. "To me, this seems to be a pretty good explanation as to why Burroughs never should have seen print at all and why (as actually once was done in Burroughs' home town, Tar-zana) his books should be banned in every library ever frequented by people under the age of fifteen years. Perhaps the Rev. Heins thinks that "the spilling of countless buckets of blood" belongs to the "simple virtues" of life. I don't. I much prefer "dirty" (and natural) sex to the senseless killing so exultantly praised by this Burroughs advocate."

    That's, uh, a hot take. I don't even know what to say to that.

    1. It's even funnier when not even a few paragraphs earlier did he go on about how book banning censors are a net negative to literature.

  5. Is The Western a real genre? It can be adventure, uncanny, horror, romance, pretty much anything.

    Your explanation of the foundation of sci-fi reminds me of what I've read of the USSR's infatuation with sci-fi and dismissal of fantasy. They probably shared the same impetus - a commitment to 'scientific' materialism.

    I can think of one other genre that is defined by philosophy rather than story contents - Christian fiction. It shares with sci-fi the general poor quality and low readership.

    1. Westerns rely on specific settings and attitudes to be what they are. That probably why they can transfer so easily to other "time periods" and still feel like westerns.

      "Christian" fiction that focuses on the philosophy before the story always doom themselves to obscurity. You have to start with a bigger story idea, like Chesterton did, that happens to be informed by Christianity in order to make it work.

      But then it's no longer "Christian fiction" anymore, it's just fiction driven by Christianity. Which is supposed to be the point.

  6. There are some who claim that this breed of fan and their allies in publishing pushed and used Tolkien to erase 'more muscular' and 'more explicitly Christian' fantasy. Any thoughts on that?

    1. They used the Tolkien boom due to the controversy with the pocket paperback editions to stir the pot and add stories "like Tolkien" in hopes of catching some of his popularity. Though if one looks at what was actually popular, Tolkien-like books don't start really showing up until the 1980s. The Thor Power Tool case then made it a lot easier to change the perception of what "Fantasy" was supposed to be.

      The issue with Tolkien is that he was writing in a genre that was already implicitly Christian and masculine, his sub-creation harboring all of the trappings and spirit of what the rest of the genre was already doing.

      What materialists did was use this opportunity to weaponize sub-creation to their own ends to keep the shell (vaguely Middle Age setting, dragons, and overarching battle of good and evil) and simply pry out the core Christian essence, replacing it with their own philosophies instead.

      That is what helped turn the genre against Christianity and the older tradition. And because of this nut and bolt obsession, it has been stagnant and irrelevant to the wider public for about as long.

  7. The rot ran pretty deep. Way back in the late 90s, everyone in our junior class had to pick an author from an approved list, read a bunch of his books, and then write about them throughout the year. My teacher rejected my choice off the list, because the author was what she considered a "beach writer." (I can't remember, but I think it was Michael Crichton or something). See, I was supposed to "expand my horizons," not read something that I would "enjoy reading at the beach." So, I ended up having to read Foundation and some other books by Asimov. At the time, I was convinced I was missing something, because Foundation in parcticular seemed dull, heavy-handed, and populated by characters that seemed to all be stand-ins for the author himself. I was embarrassed that I liked the "fun" stuff and not this. That horrid class put me off not just genre fiction but reading entirely until I accidentally discovered NewPub about five years ago.

    Turns out it was guys like Lundwall and Asimov that were missing something - the ability to appreciate wonder, and they tried their best to make sure the rest of us missed it too. I don't know you you can read through this book without your blood coming to a boil.

    1. School does so much damage to reading and the perception of stories in kids that it is no wonder they turn to things like video games to get their fix of wonder.

      This book was actually really tough to get through. I'm not certain what I can attribute to getting through it aside from divine intervention, because I almost gave up several times.

      Nonetheless, if it serves a cautionary tale, then at least the effort was worth it.

    2. No kidding. In a more sane world, I'd have been pointed to Burroughs. My experience with literature in school was that each teacher had their favorite pet authors that the talked about at _great length_, and beyond that sneered at anything "openly escapist." I'm sure there exist out there somewhere teachers that actually cultivated an interest in reading, but the ones I had would've fit right in with Lundwall's crowd.

      Anyway, your slogging through this is appreciated. I'd read before from you and others about the contempt these gatekeepers had for the pulps, but man... seeing it in their own words like this is really something. If not for the excerpts, I wouldn't believe it.

  8. And DAW backed this dreck? Good Lord, that's depressing. I'd like to join the others in thanking you for reading it so we don't have to. I just hope it didn't do any permanent damage in the process.

    1. They definitely threw their weight behind it. I'm not sure how much impact it had, though. I only learned about the author's work due to a fluke of finding it in a used book store. I had never heard of it before.

      Thanks for reading!

  9. "We don't believe in demons, werewolves, fire-breathing dragons and the rest (well—most of us don't), but once, and this wasn't too long ago, we certainly did. Everyone knew that these creatures existed; they were not imagination, they were fact... "

    Mr. Lundwall thinks Aesop believed animals could talk, or that Aristophanes believed Cloudcuckooland was overhead. Does he also think Swift believed in Lilliputians, or More in Utopia?

    Let no man write a book on storytelling who grasps not what the storytelling is.