East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Just kids having fun

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You really can’t take a moment off.
Back online, and people are bickering on facebook.
Big news, uh?
Only in this case is something that touches upon my job (for what it is), my livelihood (ditto), and something I like very much, and therefore I consider “my own”.

Now, I have mentioned in the past how Italian politics have been trying to polarize popular culture since at least the fifties – from music mags labelling prog rock as right wing and singer-songwriters as left wing, to the old classic SF is left, fantasy is right, to the opening of “Hobbit Camps” where like-minded individuals could debate the merits of J.R.R. Tolkien, Julius Evola and Mussolini.
It would be silly, and ridiculous, were it not that it creeps into the general perception, it becomes a filter, and you are labelled as a jackbooted right-winger because you listen to Jethro Tull, or a crazed communist because you read Arthur C. Clarke.
The first reaction is laughing, then you realize these people are skewing the general public’s perception of reality. That is always bad.

And mind you, there is nothing wrong with an author having a political position, or an ideologic agenda – as I said in my post about themes, we all have our convictions and our pet peeves, and they percolate in our writings.
I am aware of the political and philosophical positions of a variety of authors, from Gene Wolfe to Steven Brust to Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock and dozens of others. I like the work of all these writers, sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t when it comes to their underlying positions, but I always find it stimulating to confront a different take – even one I really can’t subscribe to, given my personal history and my upbringing, and my beliefs.
It’s OK.

But if you start telling kids in school that if they like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings then they should join a certain political movement and hold the associated views… no, I don’t like that at all.
What I object to is the primate of propaganda over storytelling and narrative.
And I speak against it. And because I am a scientist, and we serve truth, I claim the right of calling a spade a spade, and a fascist a fascist.

I write fantasy and science fiction (and pulp adventure, and thrillers, and horror).
Just as I do not feel compelled to wear a heavy metal T-shirt because “all horror writers dig metal”, I don’t feel compelled to lean right because “all fantasy writers are conservative right-wingers”, nor do I feel to embrace certain theories because “all science fiction writers are pinkos”.
That’s propaganda, prejudice and blatant stupidity.
That’s not me.
I would be mildly amused, and a lot less mildly irritated, should someone jump to conclusions about me because of the books I read or the mosic I listen to, or the food I eat or anything else.
I do not like prejudices, of any kind.

And yet, it is possible today, in my country, to publish a “learned essay” on how all of fantasy literature finds its roots in the “spiritual racism” of Julius Evola, and how all of sword & sorcery stems from roots that are connected with national identity and sovereignty and blah blah blah.
Point out that’s rubbish, and fascist rubbish to be more specific, and they will tell you they are just joking.
Like all bullies, from the old schoolyard onward, they were always joking when you call them out.
Just kids having fun.
After all, as a colleague told me today about the latest fantasy/politics bagarre, “it’s not like they ever beat someone up with nightsticks.”
So, everything’s fine, right?

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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