Monday, May 10, 2010

Socialist Fantasy

"whether there's something in the form of the writing that lends itself to radical or subversive aesthetics"

- China Mieville in a decade-old interview in the International Socialism Journal (can you say desperate for content?) via SB

Or, alternately, is there something about left-wing ideology that lends itself to fantasy? After all, what sci-fi / fantasy writer has ever conceived of an alternate reality half as compelling as the socialist utopia of Marx and Engels?

Das Kapital may be the most influential work of sci-fi / fantasy ever.

P.S. No, I haven't fallen prey to the Mieville-groupiedom that seems to have overtaken the blogosphere. Never read the man. Have no immediate plans to. Life is too short.

P.P.S. Am I the only one who finds silly Marxist screeds (see the Mieville interview) against Tolkien amusingly pathetic? One could claim just as convincingly (I would argue more convincingly) that LoTR is an allegorical depiction of the inevitable decline of the aristocracy (Elves, Frodo) and the rise of the working class (Dwarves, Sam) to take over the new world. Tolkien may wax nostalgic every now and then, but his perspective on the engines of history is clear-sighted, and, unlike his critics, he is no slave to ideology. All of which is, of course, irrelevant to the magic of his work.

P.P.P.S. Ironically, one could legitimately argue that Sauron is the embodiment of the Marxist enterprise: not the triumph of the working class, but the emergence of the police state.


Anonymous said...

I tihnk you can't make out this difference between utopian socialism and scientific socialism. Marx and Engels disliked utopian socialism, their view of society was
1)Not prescreptive
2)Historical in methodology.
3)Das Kapital has nothing prescreptive in it. Definitely not socialist utopian prescription. Infact there is a strong citicism of prooudhan's utopian prescriptions in chapter 3 footnotes.

Epistemologically, it is closer to darwin than to approach popularised by physics and later picked up by
I would personally suggest you to take a course on Marxian or actually get down to reading the capital before making these grand statements.

I think Ayn rand's work with one dimensional humans resembling androids comes the closest to science fiction.

??! said...

Falsie, Falsie. You're making the classic mistake of confusing a writer's beliefs with his work.

Yes, Mieville does throw in some of his socialist schtick (which I find overblown too) into his work, but it's only there if you're looking for it. Rather like the whole Narnia thing. And yes, his attacks on Tolkien are rather boring, but hey, they're nothing compared to Moorcock's vitriol on JRR, and that doesn't mean Moorcock isn't one of the most imaginative SF&F writers around.

Mieville's sci-fi is innovative, and his writing is great. Not all his books, admittedly, but who has a perfect strike rate?

Now, if you want to go all 'he's an idiot, and anybody who reads him is an idiot, and since I don't, I'm all superior to you', knock yourself out. But you'll be judging without knowing.

Falstaff said...

Anon: Who said Marx was prescriptive? Sci-fi / fantasy generally isn't.

And I have read Das Kapital, and found it delightfully entertaining, if generally unscientific (see: falsifiability).

And in defense of good sci-fi: Ayn Rand is not science fiction. Ayn Rand is just crap.

??!: Nope. Not making mistake. Not judging at all. I think the points he makes in the interview are fairly silly, but that doesn't mean I think his books are bad by any absolute standard. I just have too much other stuff that I think is more interesting to read to make the time to read sci-fi / fantasy. About one Ursula Le Guin a year is all I'm willing to invest in the genre.

km said...

Ayn Rand, my dear sir, is not "just crap". Her books are utter, total and complete crap.

Never read Mieville, but SB's interview (and ??!'s comment) has got me mildly interested. Filed under "will check it someday".

Falstaff said...

km: See for me "will check it someday" = never going to get to it. I could list a few dozen books that have been on 'absolutely, positively must read' status for months, if not years, now, so 'will check it someday' just doesn't cut it.

Aditi said...

I have an excellent reason for being a China Mieville groupie: the man is hot.

I've only read one book of his and liked it a lot. It's fun and adventurous and imaginative -- as SFF should be. But he can get quite obnoxious in person, and will appear that way in interviews as well.

Falstaff said...

Aditi: Good reason. Though I'm not sure I agree about the man being hot - based on pictures on the Internet he looks too much like a bouncer for my taste. But each to his / her own.

And while we're on the subject of hot men and reading.

blackmamba said...

Falstaff: The ROI on going through the "hot men reading" page is very low. Not a lot of those men are really hot.

But, hey, to each her/his own.

Falstaff said...

bm: ROI? Really?

Someone's been spending too much time with VCs.