There’s an epic post up by Ron Edwards about what fantasy used to be like:
Along came what can only be called sudden national hysteria. It had a lot to do with the emergence of the Moral Majority in the run-up to Ronald Reagan’s nomination, but it penetrated deeply into the mainstream. Strangely, it managed to subsume and include what had been anti-establishment activism as well. Tipper Gore kept us all safe with warning labels on Frank Zappa albums. Mothers everywhere threw their kids’ stacks of comics into the trash in a replay of the late 1950s. Much of this activity was the direct sequel to the Zap Comix obscenity case, exposing a split between pro-sex women’s libbers and puritanic second-wave feminists, and paralleled the run-up to the Meese Commission Report in 1986.
The other day, Sarah Hoyt mentioned offhand how reverberations from this cultural movement are still being felt today:
In the same way, we’ve been told ad nauseum that we needed more women heroes in books, so that girls could aspire to being heroic. No one is saying anything about the complete dearth of male anything in books these days. Instead they say “boys don’t read.”
This recalls also that Ray Bradbury interview that I mentioned:
The need for romance is constant, and again, it’s pooh-poohed by intellectuals. As a result they’re going to stunt their kids. You can’t kill a dream. Social obligation has to come from living with some sense of style, high adventure, and romance.
This in turn is reminiscent of C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man:
In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
And that leads us to today’s Appendix N installment:
RETROSPECTIVE: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard
These are good stories. And more than that, Conan is the personification of decency, an amalgam of Texas men that Robert E. Howard knew in Depression-era Texas: “various prize-fighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen.” And yet this sort of thing was subjected to multiple waves of hysteria. I’ll tell you one thing, though. You will not see Robert E. Howard on your son’s reading lists. His teachers will not be recommending Conan. You’ll probably have a hard time finding Conan stories at the library. The tales will not turn up in stuff like Willam J. Bennet’s “The Book of Virtues.” And I’m telling you that’s weird. It’s wrong, even. At the very least, it is a missed opportunity.
At lot more than just the bathwater gets thrown out when these nudniks have their way…!