2011/09/05

Moorcock, Again

I tried to read Michael Moorcock's (risibly off-the-mark) critique of Starship Troopers, "Starship Stormtroopers", but I couldn't get very far at all. Why? This, in the opening paragraph:
There are still a few things which bring a naive sense of shocked astonishment to me whenever I experience them—a church service in which the rituals of Dark Age superstition are performed without any apparent sense of incongruity in the participants—a fat Soviet bureaucrat pontificating about bourgeois decadence—a radical singing the praises of Ayn Rand or Robert Heinlein.
He then goes on to invoke Godwin's Law against himself: "If I were sitting in a tube train and all the people opposite me were reading Mein Kampf with obvious enjoyment and approval it probably wouldn’t disturb me much more than if they were reading Heinlein, Tolkein or Richard Adams."

That's not half as astonishing as a puritanical anarchist who looks like a scrawny joyless Santa Claus pontificating about right-wing paternalism—or the man who inflicted Elric of Melnibon√© on the reading public describing Tolkien's "tone" as "one of relentless nursery room sobriety." As Tom Simon points out, that doesn't sound like any nursery room I was ever in, but also, dude, there's nothing funny in Elric, at least not intentionally. And there is a great deal of irony and indeed comedy in Lord of the Rings; all the parts set in the Shire are told in the precise tone of P. G. Wodehouse, while even after the story settles down there are funny things like Legolas and Gimli's Orc-killing contest and a few of the things Treebeard says.

Moorcock's criticisms of Tolkien and Heinlein come off as utterly, utterly pathetic, like Keith Olbermann talking about Bill O'Reilly, because he simply flat-out lies. Heinlein's values have nothing in common with fascism that Moorcock's own values don't—indeed Moorcock is by far the more fascistical of the two. Tolkien's fiction has far fewer illusions about the world than Moorcock's—but then, there have actually been functioning, just monarchies, and a functioning, just anarchy is a contradiction in terms.

I honestly doubt that even Moorcock could be such an ideologue as to make so many completely spurious attacks—even if he may be said to be, literally, Michael Moore but more of a dick. I think it's actually that those two men completely show up his intellectual posturings. Tolkien, after all, was a philologist, an expert in Old English and its literature, and reveals other writers' dim graspings after period language as the Yog Sothothery they are. Heinlein's books, at least his juveniles, are replete with the type of cold hard facts that men of Moorcock's blood, type, and creed run scared from: there is a reason the British New Wave wrote completely unscientific dystopias.

Obviously, Moorcock needs something to defend himself, because his whole worldview is founded on reflexive snobbishness ("aristocrats were always anarchists, as you can see from the barons' wars"). So it absolutely demolishes his whole self-concept that two men who are manifestly smarter than him—and in provable ways, not murky bullshit like lit-crit—should use their superiority against his religious faith (his "politics" may be more accurately termed Ethical-Cultural Puritanism). It's exactly like Keith Olbermann always name-dropping his degree from Cornell—but remember, Olbermann's "Cornell" degree is actually from an affiliated state college, Cornell doesn't offer a communications degree.

PS. The "Dark Age superstition" allusion is cute; apparently Moorcock does not know that the Christian liturgy dates to the height of the Roman Empire (it's all various forms of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, who died in 407). The theology of the sacraments was all worked out even earlier than that, well before Constantine moved the capital. Then again, Puritans are generally remarkable for their porcine ignorance of the Church Fathers.

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