Hooc Ott on Science Fiction’s post-Christian Divide

Tuesday , 13, June 2017 16 Comments

Hooc Ott dropped a blog post-sized comment on Jon Del Arroz’s post about cultural differences between the two main factions in the science fiction and fantasy scene:

A divide I have found is Christian and post-Christian atheist.

Throw a rock at a crowd of Pulp revolutionaries and you will hit a Christian 9 out of 10 times.

“It’s a burnout mentality”

I have been reading Spengler a bit. A couple things he wrote strikes a cord here. First he says all science of a civilization comes from religion. Now I don’t speak German and i am reading Decline of the west in English anyway, but i get the distinct feeling Spengler’s idea of what he means by science isn’t graphs and guys in lab coats. I think he includes philosophy and art when he says this.

The other thing Spengler mentions is that after all possibilities in art philosophy and science are exhausted in a culture its civilization dies.

Now you don’t ascribe much as to the reasons why the old guard group is boring and complain about how “hard it is to write, how they have a block, how the muse just isn’t inspiring them, how they’re scatterbrained and can’t focus.”

I am going to go out on a limb here and ascribe their exhaustion to their post-Christian atheism. They have built a culture and civilization without an ethos where all the possibilities for art philosophy science and FUN are pre-exhausted and because they have rejected the culture and civilization from which they birthed cannot build upon that ethos nor any of the works produced by it.

The predominantly Christian pulp revolutionaries on the other hand in contrast to Spengler’s speculation that the west has exhausted its possibility hasn’t exhausted all the possibilities and hasn’t rejected the works produced in its past.

The Pulpsters have an ethos from which they can still build imagine and create while the Old Guard does not.

One of the things I stumbled upon doing a century-spanning survey of science fiction and fantasy is just how different things were at the dawn of the genre. Of course, most people commenting about it tend to frame things as if things began mid-way through the 20th century with the advent of “hard” science fiction. Other people act like the seventies was where things really got started, with Le Guin and Delany replacing the older triumvirate of Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov. To be featured in a newspaper interview on the subject, it’s basically a prerequisite that you have to talk trash about authors that predate both of these eras.

But what happens when you go back and sample the really old stuff that’s out of print and that “nobody” talks about anymore…? You find out that not only is there some really good stuff from back then… and what’s more, it’s way better than the stuff being put out by people that reflexively tear it down.

If you haven’t gone to see for yourself what the pioneers were really like, then this really is going to blow your mind. Your entire life, the only thing you’ve heard about these works is the stuff promulgated by the people that wanted to replace them. What few things are reprinted have introductions by people that are far from being fans and that can at best see these authors in terms of their supposed role in opening the way up for the field’s ultimate subversion.

But yes, Christianity has a lot to do with this. And even that is shocking. The fact that that is unimaginable to most people is probably the greatest testament to the effectiveness of the narrative. Naturally, people that have charged themselves with maintaining that narrative see any comment on this as being an attempt to rewrite history. It isn’t, of course. And it should be no surprise that culture wars play out in the arts well before they take root in the political arena.

Discussion on these points is brisk and not everyone sees eye to eye on everything, but one thing is sure. People are sick of the boilerplate. They don’t want to hear about A. Merritt’s Madonna/Whore complex any more than they want to go watch another dumbed down remake of an eighties movie. They are so sick of today’s cultural bankruptcy, they will try anything to get out of it.

Judging by recent works of guys like John C. Wright, Jon Mollison, and Schuyler Hernstrom, these efforts are about to pay off. Big time. So pop the popcorn. This is about to get good!

  • I think that if you’re a PCA who’s nevertheless honest and openminded, you can see and appreciate how important the Christian “mythos” as they call it is to Western civilization. Many narratives lose all their power if divorced from their Christian roots. Every Exorcist-like tale of demonic possession or oppression–heck, that’s a good chunk of the Horror genre–becomes unmoored and irrelevant, as does Arthurian-derived fantasy and allegorical fiction such as Narnia. I’m sure there are other sub-genres not immediately obvious that would crumble like houses without foundations.

    So even for secularists, it behooves them to maintain and pay homage to the culture, even if you don’t believe the religion, in the same way that hardly anyone believes in the Egyptian and Greek gods anymore, but we pay great cultural homage to their influence on our culture (just look at the current two blockbusters (okay, one blockbuster and one flop), The Mummy and Wonder Woman, to see this influence.

  • deuce says:

    “And it should be no surprise that culture wars play out in the arts well before they take root in the political arena.”

    Politics are downstream of culture. We’ve been letting the Left win the culture war. Time for Round Two.

  • John E. Boyle says:

    Round Two indeed. The fight is barely started; it’s going to get nasty when the other side realizes the threat this movement represents.

  • I strongly suspect that Hooc Ott is right about Spengler’s definition of science. Originally, “science” just meant “a body of knowledge acquired through a process with certainty.”

    Pre-Moderns wouldn’t have questioned that theology and philosophy were sciences. In fact, what we call the “hard sciences” were initially called “natural philosophy”.

    Reducing “science” to “natural philosophy” is a recent, reductivist innovation. And yes, it’s emblematic of the creative exhaustion in contemporary fiction.

  • Ron Van Wegen says:

    I never expected this: I accidentally found my way to Korean Drama (aka The Hallyu Wave) via K-Pop. I look everywhere for music including such places as “Macedonia’s Got Talent etc! It’s amazing what you can find though you often have to wade through much dross if you don’t have a guide.

    Wikipedia: The Korean Wave is the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s. … The Korean term for the phenomenon of the Korean Wave is Hanryu more commonly romanized as Hallyu.

    Repulsed by the attempt to normalize perversion in virtually every new TV show and movie (see Beauty and the Beast anyone?) and “hating” subtitles I was reluctant to try out a subtitled comedy romance called “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon”. Since then I have been utterly hooked by the extraordinary entertainment value of South Korea (The North has a different sort of entertainment value!)

    I refused to subscribe to anything in the west but I have subscribed to Viki.com, a Netflix-like clearing house for South East Asian Comedy/Romance/Drama etc. and, to put it succinctly, I have NEVER been so ENTERTAINED in all my life. I cannot describe how I feel other than I often sit for an hour grinning from ear to ear while watching daytime variety television – from years ago on YouTube (see Happy Together – a very long-running variety show with the most competent and hilarious host I have ever experienced).

    After the initial culture-shock I am now utterly enchanted and amazed at how this culture has “decided” that entertainers are there to (wait for it…) entertain.
    I now watch almost NO western television at all and if I do I am so repulsed by what I see and hear that I switch off in seconds.

    Do yourselves a favour!

    (Aside: The editing of variety television is something extraordinary and the pace of the humour is scintillating. I have a dozen examples to share but unless you experience it for yourself it’s difficult to explain. I got used to the subtitling in a few minutes – it was that easy.)

    I’d forgotten what it was to enjoy myself until now.
    I detest and despise what western “entertainment” has become.
    My link to this site? When I was ten I read ten books a week – mostly science fiction but left it behind for thirty years until I encountered the superversive movement which enlightened me as to why I had stopped reading in the first place.

    I have purchased more science-fiction in the past few years than I have in the past decades of my life. So, thank you Gamergate etc.

    South Korean has an entertainment ecosystem that you need to explore.
    Remember Psy – Gangnam Style? The most viewed YouTube clip ever? That’s an intro to K-Pop (and not a particularly good one).

    I just wanted to share my joy (yes, joy!) at finding something that reminded me what entertainment was meant to be. The west has almost completely destroyed it. Perhaps in time South Korea will also become corrupt but as of now it’s not.

    Perhaps true entertainment could only come from a culture that could literally be utterly wiped out in a few minutes in a nuclear fireball (not an exaggeration) by its closet “neighbour” so they decided that they’d better have a bit of fun before they ceased to exist.

    • Hooc Ott says:

      Oh man

      A few years ago I watched a Korean series called “Personal taste”

      One thing that was striking was the ease in which the Jeffro test was past.

      I remember one episode in which a full blown street riot breaks out between two rival architect clans over the matter of a woman’s honor.

      Seriously. the show has a bosom buddies like premise set in 2009 Urban Korea, near every character is some sort of yuppy master designer and there is little doubt as to its romantic comedy intent.

      And then out of seemingly nowhere full blown brawls break out on the night streets.

      So bizarre yet so great at the same time.

      • Jill says:

        My husband is hooked on Korean dramas.

      • Alex says:

        The weirdest shit passes the Jeffro Test.

        In Disney’s Three Lives of Thomasina, the grumpy old veterinarian beats the hell out of some gypsies who were scourging the cute blonde lady for pointing out their circus animals were abused and starving.

      • Alex says:

        In Decoy Bride, David Tennet beats up one guy in a sword fight over Alice Eve, then beats up another for Kelly MacDonald.

    • B&N says:

      This is how I feel about Japanese Anime. There’s so much to watch in which you never have to hear anyone talk about gun-control, slavery reparations, raising cigarette taxes, global warming, or any other progressive ideology.

  • Xavier Basora says:

    Great post. I would add that Cervantes and Marrtorell can’t be understood without reference to the first pulps/fantastic literature: the chivilric romances and knightly stories of the early to late middle ages.
    Same goes for Canterbury tales.

  • Jill says:

    “All possibilities exhausted.” I think that’s happened, and then a woman comes up with laying paint-filled eggs.

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