Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Weird Tales Controversy-Part One

Last week, before PulpFest, I was writing about politics and science fiction. My thesis is that politics often intrudes upon science fiction because: a) people who are extremely political make all things--including art, science, and literature--political; and b) science fiction, being progressive in a general sense, too easily lends itself to progressivism in the political sense. The subject of science fiction is the question what if? The temporal setting for that question is usually the future. But in working with the future, the science fiction writer unknowingly intrudes upon a territory carved out by the political progressive exclusively for him- or herself. As a result, the science fiction writer may feel pressure to create in his or her work a future suitable to the political progressive. He or she is not free as the artist must be free. There is pressure to conform, to guard his or her thoughts and words, to compromise his or her own artistic integrity, to engage in tokenism, to be politically correct, and, at the extremes, to create propaganda. To be nonconformist is to risk censorship, boycotts, and opprobrium of the most vicious kind. Physical violence may not yet have occurred in the world of science fiction, but earlier this year, the staff of Charlie Hebdo were murdered by Islamists. Those staff members--artists, writers, and editors--were non-conformists. They stood alone and they died alone. Their spilled blood was yet warm when the politically correct (and others) began defending their attackers and attacking them, the defenseless, with the opinion that they got what was coming to them. It may just be a matter of time before other artists and writers face the same kinds of threats, hazards, and violence. You can ask Salman Rushdie, a writer of science fiction and fantasy, about that.

Now I'm forced to show my hand: The second part of my thesis is that, if the future belongs only to the political progressive, and science fiction, as the literature of the future, is increasingly or inevitably politicized, then only fantasy (including weird fiction) remains for the escapist, the non-political person, the politically non-progressive person, or the person who wants to read within the larger realm of fantasy simply for pleasure. Fantasy (including weird fiction), being about the past, is apolitical (or non-political or anti-political) because the political progressive is not interested in the past. In fact, he or she hates the past. At least I thought all that before reading about the Weird Tales controversy of 2012. Now I'm beginning to see that the world of fantasy can be--and probably will be--politicized as well. I don't know why I would have thought differently, knowing then and now that for politically-minded people, all things are and must be political. To them, even the past can be politicized. Even the past can be made politically correct. And it will be. The past will be scrubbed, expurgated, censored, revised, and bowdlerized to match current requirements, which will, as we know, change moment by moment. In short, the photograph you think you saw never existed, for it disappeared down the memory hole.

To be continued . . .

Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

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