Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cultural Processes and the Pulp Revolution

Recently, the Russian Orthodox Church's Patriarch Kirill spoke out in support of the Pulp Revolution, the Superversive Movement, and the various stripes of Puppies.  Not in so many words, but his heart is with us. 

Naturally, in their interview, Russia Today didn't explicitly ask the Patriarch what he thought of Appendix N and the recent push to reinvigorate a dying sf/f culture by a return to stories featuring healthy relationships, clear lines of good and evil, and heroes that take active measures to suppress the latter.  Instead, they asked him about recent legislation pushing the normalization of same-sex relationships, and in an off-hand moment he used literature as a common touchstone for understanding the difference between good and evil:
"I’m deeply wary of it. What’s happening in the Western countries is that, for the first time in human history, legislation is at odds with the moral nature of human beings. What’s good and evil? Sin and righteousness? These could be defined in both religious terms and non-religious terms. If you take a good character from English, American, or Russian fiction, you will see that all of them possess the same qualities. Why? We have different cultures and different political systems, but for all of us good is good, and evil is evil, and everyone understands who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are. So how do we distinguish? With our heart, with our moral nature. This moral nature, created by God, served as a foundation for the legislation which is designed. Laws defined moral values in legal terms, telling us what’s good and what’s bad. We know that stealing is bad and helping people is good, and laws define what stealing is and what the suitable punishment for it is.
Now, for the first time in human history, the law allows something that doesn’t correspond to our moral nature. The law contradicts it."
As Breitbart said, politics is downstream from culture.

The enemies of truth and beauty have long understood this, and they've long understood that subverting the culture was a necessary first step towards subverting the law.  By pushing fiction away from universal truths about good and evil and towards antiseptic intellectualism unmoored from a moral center, they've managed to shift the culture towards one that accepts and encourages their stilted world view.  There's a feedback system built into their plan whereby they infect the culture with their grim worldview which then demands more reinforcement that hopelessness is the natural order.

The new-wave writers and editors explicitly told readers to stop worrying about all that good and evil stuff.  They told readers to evolve beyond simple superstition and accept that the world is painted in various shades of gray - that the wisdom cultivated over generations and handed down to us should be overturned if you're really smart and you just kinda figured some stuff out.  Which left the barn door open for, "I just kinda figured it out when I was in college," writers like Iain Banks and China Mieville to escape from the hog pen and into the kitchen to slurp up all the jelly.

Patriarch Kirill.  Hero.  Revolutionary.  Puppy.
And yet, as the Patriarch points out, we distinguish good and evil with our heart and our moral nature.  I'd argue that our brains play a role, but the greater point is that even after you give your brain over to writers like Banks and Meiville, the good man's heart and soul reject what they have to offer.  It takes an act of will to silence or ignore the feeling of disgust or dismay that those two (and others like them) inspire in readers.  The bleak and hopeless worldview of the new wave authors is a heavy and draining one, and all the brainpower in the world cannot solve that problem.  Give up, these authors say.  You are surrounded by evil and nothing you do can really make much difference in the grand scheme of things.  Just abandon hope, live for today, and let your betters care for you and yours.

Contrast that with the feeling of hope and inspiration that John C. Wright's works inspire.  Even when things look their worst, hope remains.  It feeds the soul what it needs to forge ahead in this fallen world.  It pushes a worldview that inspires active resistance to darkness and evil.  Wright, and writers like him, bring the message that you are surrounded by evil, but everything you do to fight it makes a difference.  Fight today that you might live tomorrow, and care for you and yours.

That's the message you get from the 'regress harder' crowd, and it appeals to the sensibilities of all men of good faith.  That message is a direct threat to the new-wave writers and those who subscribe to the larger cultural narrative.  That message resonates with the hearts and souls of those looking for hope, and active measures are taken to silence that message because it is so much stronger and appealing.  That message has to be contained because every time the message of life grows, it does so at the expense of the death eaters.

At the societal level, a culture welcoming messages of truth and beauty also rejects the grim nihilism and empty intellectualism of the 'no real bad guys' crowd.  The former teaches an understanding that good and evil are real things in the world.  The former provides an ability to distinguish between good and evil.  The former encourages everyone to fight evil - even if it's just the dragons appearing on the ballot or in the office or in one's own heart.

Producers of nihilistic tales of raw intellectualism unfettered by the presence of a moral heart and soul know that literature exalting the ability to recognize and fight evil are a dagger pointed straight at their blackened, shriveled hearts.  They are all battle cries that serve to inspire men of good will to reject the seductive message of evil peddled by men of ill will.  The forces of darkness hate and fear the Pulp Revolution, the Superversive Movement, and the various stripes of Puppies, because we represent a direct threat to their existence.  They cannot but alternately mock and ignore us because deep down in their hearts they know their empty promises will yield but bitter fruit.  They know their days are numbered.  They that we are coming for them. 


  1. Why doesn't the link to the interview work?

  2. I don't think this article paints an accurate picture of New Wave, and China Mieville in particular. Granted, "Kraken" goes off the rails into anti-religious screed towards the end, but in general I'd say that Mieville's work has a strong adventure based story esthetic. The Bas-Lag novels--"The Scar" in particular--present characters have a clear moral sense and are faced with choices between good and evil.

    The setting of Bas-Lag is clearly pulp inspired, owing much to Leiber's Lankhmar.

    "The City & The City" (which won a Hugo, I believe on pure merit) is a film noir style detective story set in an Eastern European city in which the scars of communism are all too evident.

    Mieville makes no secret of his far-Left politics, however he has also said explicitly that he believes that politics have no place in speculative fiction.

    1. Obviously, I disagree. Setting aside the heaviness of Mieville's writing, his world view is a sickness that that can't help but infect his writing. Even before I learned of the author's personal life, I could tell where he lay on the spectrum. Perdido Street Station - the first of his books I encountered - might be a decent steampulp detective story with some interesting characters, but all the little touches are there.

      Business men are bad. Coffee house hipsters are teh kewl. The hero doesn't save the girl from the torturous crime boss. The democratically elected mayor is literally in hock to the devil. Oh those poor misunderstood desert-dwelling minorities are just utterly noble if only their white guys could understand their culture...

      That leopard might try to hide his spots, but I know a big cat when I see one.