The decline of civilization reflected in fantasy novels

Black gate observes the replacement of heroes by anti heroes, and the replacement of morality by anti morality:

Thus we can be confident that the murderous, blaspheming anti-hero who rapes and tortures children will never utter a racist thought, be disgusted by homosexuality, or express skepticism about any religious stand-in for Judaism or Islam.

Abercrombie and others cannot rightly be accused of amorality nor can they correctly be portrayed as bold skewerers of sacred cows. They’re simply skewering someone else’s cows while respecting their own.

The commenters reactions reveal just how sacred these cows are.  One of the commenters replies:  “at that point you stood exposed”.  Exposed!   Exposed!  Oh the horror, the horror!

Another of the commenters pretends to sophistication, rather than advocacy of a different morality:

I don’t see this as any kind of moral statement. Modern audiences are just more interested in complex characters, and that’s reflected in their book choices.

It seems that torturing children makes a hero complex, but prejudging people according to their race or species, as Tolkien’s characters were apt to do, does not.

8 Responses to “The decline of civilization reflected in fantasy novels”

  1. Very important topic.

    In some senses it is unfair to compare anyone with Tolkien, he is so far superior – but the point about character is extremely important.

    I don’t enjoy very many fantasy authors, and have a blind spot over some good ones, however I know of some other old but post-Tolkien writers who do have morally admirable heroes: Lloyd Alexander in The Chronicles of Prydain – which is a morally edifying series.

    And Harry Potter. I couldn’t enjoy Potter until recently, but after reading the last novel and going-back over the others I belatedly recognize it as a major achievement:

    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2011/02/soul-and-prophecies-in-harry-potter.html

    Perhaps the problem lies in specifically ‘adult’ – i.e. mid-teen rather than early-teen – fiction. Early teens have a wholesomness, idealism and innocence lost in the ‘cynical’ mid-teens.

    Both Lord of the Rings and Potter are essentially pitched at early teens onward.

    However, we now live in a permanently mid-teen culture! AAARGH!

  2. Bill says:

    Black gate felt forced to change his text. The quoted sentence has been folded, spindled, and mutilated. The reactions of his readers are mind-boggling. How dare you mention taboo subjects, that’s taboo!!

    • jim says:

      Which retraction demonstrates that which was retracted.

      Overt right wingers do get published – within limits: Thus for example Scalzi’s pathetic grovelling in Racefail 09, and John Ringo, having committed the unpardonable sin of a few lines about stereotypical blondes in “live Free or Die” has to make the main character of the sequel (“Citadel”) a counter stereotypical blonde. In the sequel, the rhetoric about freedom mysteriously mutates into anticolonialist, or decolonist, rhetoric, perhaps because merely having a counter stereotypical blonde as main character is insufficient penance for making a joke about blondes.

    • Johnny Caustic says:

      Damn, that is truly scary. It sure does prove the original point, though.

      So now it’s not just heretical to be a heretic; it’s also heretical to spell out which thoughtcrimes Stalin will throw you in the Gulag for?

      • jim says:

        In these enlightened times we have no thought crimes, for every single person just spontaneously agrees on what is good and true :-) We have complete freedom of speech, because no one oppresses our freedom of speech by disagreeing with us.

  3. “It seems that torturing children makes a hero complex, but prejudging people according to their race or species, as Tolkien’s characters were apt to do, does not.”

    The modern West is indeed characterized by an ideology which sees torturing children as venial (probably due to a bad upbringing by right-wing parents), compared with the mortal ‘sin’ of prejudice – that ultimate sin which was discovered c. 1965 in the West by a bunch of rebellious privileged adolescents; but until which point throughout human history (and still among five billion people on the planet not living in the West) was regarded as a flawed but necessary attribute of mere common sense.

    So – the Baby Boomers suddenly, wholly, radically redefined themselves as having *absolute* moral superiority over everyone who lived before or who still dwelt elsewhere (and anyone who persisted in disagreeing with them).

    So – despite their lack of any reasoned argument, their lies, their inability to create lasting beauty, their utter self-indulgence and hedonism – these same Baby Boomers have such obvious intrinsic moral authority that we are compelled to accept their ‘discovery’…

    …Something wrong here, somewhere…

    • jim says:

      Which scale of values was illustrated in the reaction to Major Hasan’s terrorism, and the conclusions of the numerous inquiries into that act of terrorism: That the great tragedy was not that people got murdered, but that the murders might cast doubt on a policy of helicoptering Muslims into important posts by affirmative action.

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    American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

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