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February 23, 2005

Charlie Stross Announces That He Is of the Devil's Party

He writes:

Charlie's Diary: I've read a lot of extruded fantasy product in my time -- and I don't much like it. Fantasy and Science Fiction are co-marketed in most bookstores, but this conceals the fact that they're actually radically different genres in outlook. Loosely speaking, if Science Fiction is often a literature of disruption (in which change is, if not good, at least embraced), Fantasy is frequently a literature of consolation: a warm feather-bed of social conservativism disguised as nostalgic escapism, a longing for feudal certainties. While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with Fantasy, the marketing mechanism applied to it tends to promote those aspects of it that I really don't like: the hordes of marching sub-Tolkien clones.... If I was going to write extruded fantasy product, I'd have to write it from the point of view of the young lad growing up with poor but honest folks somewhere in middle earth who discovers that he's, er, destined to grow up to be the Dark Lord, overthrow the established order, and start a revolution....

I confess that I am of this party as well. I, too, am somewhat creeped out by those who are tall, blond, noble, graceful, born-to-command (even if they don't know it yet), in whose favor the game is rigged because they were born with talents and powers that no normal human can copy or match. My sympathies too are with those who are not so handsome, who build machines that anyone can copy (without being of the blood of Numenor), and who don't wind up in a leisured aristocracy that rests on the backs of many subservient and submissive peasants using hand labor to grow crops using the three-field system. Will someone please introduce the turnip to Gondor! (And, while you're at it, a big, honking, smelly chemical factory producing nitrogen fertilizers would be nice.)

There are more of us, I think, than Charlie Stross realizes. There's me. There's China Mieville. There's David Brin. There's Alexandre Dumas (who, after all, is the real hero of The Three Musketeers?). There's John Milton. And maybe there are more. Maybe there are enough of us to make the mass-market paperback of Non Serviam! a success. After all, the Middle Garth will never be free until the last half-elf is hanged by the guts of the last white wizard! Orcs of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! You have a world to win!...

P.S.: I do recommend Stross's Family Trade heartily. But I find it interesting that he classifies it as Fantasy. I thought it was SF.

Posted by DeLong at February 23, 2005 04:22 PM