The mail bag is overflowing, so I’m going to do two responses in one here.
First up is member of the far (former anarchist) left Justinian Herzog, who graciously allows that I write well and that I’m a good critic. (In all honesty I do thank him for saying that.) However, he thinks I’m wasting my time in calling out the sort of people today that are unable to read anything from before 1980. He calls my cultural critic type posts “meta-criticism” and says I’m wasting my time delving into it.
Of course, he is talking to a game blogger here– the sort that spends countless hours arguing over the relative merits of Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer and whether or not Unearthed Arcana ruined AD&D. Telling guys like me that we’re wasting our time is kind of funny, really.
So why do I bother? Well look, I’m just trying to follow in the footsteps of my childhood hero John Robbins by making people excited to read classic science fiction and fantasy. These people that work overtime shouting about how “problematic” that stuff is are a natural enemy of sorts. And yes, even people that dislike those people get irritated that I spend time explaining something that should be self-evident. I mean, these people are clearly nuts, right…?
Meanwhile, a commenter (name of Robert) has been describing how The Science Fiction Book: An Illustrated History (1974), The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1977), and The Encylcopedia of Science Fiction (1978) treat the Appendix N authors. They were quite rightly revered and were synonymous with the field.
Today’s science fiction encyclopedias? They make my blood boil. Consider this:
Even though, by any absolute literary standard, Merritt’s prose was verbose and sentimental, and his repeated romantic image of the beautiful evil priestess was trivial – deriving as it did from a common Victorian image of womanhood (women being either virgins or devils) and from H Rider Haggard’s She – the escapist yearning for otherness and mystery that he expressed has seldom been conveyed in sf with such an emotional charge, nor with such underlying pessimism, for his tales seldom permit a successful transit from this world.
You know, some people want to understand the origin of a thing in order better appreciate it. Others…? It’s as if invoking the historical context and a bit of Freudianism gives them the means to disqualify their betters. It sounds smart, sure. But it’s shallow. And seriously, it’s not as if this generation is actually in need of a catalog of even more reasons to dismiss people that were writing nearly a century ago. I think we have this smug thing well in hand.
I’ll tell you what this is like, though. You remember that time that Ann Coulter said “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”? (I don’t even remember the context anymore, just the outrage.) I think that something like that has happened to us. Oh, it’s a different religion to be, sure– and they didn’t use guns and bombs. They have a penchant for waiting until our leaders are dead before they really go after them, sure.
But it was an invasion all the same.