Matt McIrvin (mmcirvin) wrote,
Matt McIrvin

Two people who should read MORE science fiction and fantasy

1. Rick Santorum should read somebody other than Tolkien. The use of Lord of the Rings metaphors by people advocating a maximalist neocon foreign policy is distressingly common in blogs (a commenter on Timothy Burke's blog went on in this vein in great detail recently), and it seems to be happening in the real world too (come to think of it, I think actor John Rhys-Davies endorsed a similar argument in an interview while he was playing Gimli).

These people really do seem to think in terms of all the Muslims we don't like (in a few cases, all Muslims, period) as a sort of orcs driven by a central Sauron-like driving force rising in the East. It's a misleading and damaging metaphor, in that the orcs are hardly even independent agents (an issue Tolkien struggled with creatively), and nothing the Good Guys do short of destroying the Ring has any effect on Sauron's reentry into Middle-Earth; all you can do to stave off the darkness sweeping over the world is try to fight his armies as hard as you can with everything you've got. That wasn't even true of the USSR and its global client empire, which was much more like an overwhelmingly powerful unitary enemy on the other side of the world. It's an even weaker metaphor for the set consisting of al Qaeda/global Islamic radicalism/Iran/Saddam Hussein/the Looming Demographic Menace of Eurabia/American Muslim immigrants if you're being really hardcore.

I'm not at all sure Tolkien would approve of this particular appropriation—as Tim Burke said, the Ring stands for the temptation of power, the ability to use that power to do good is one of its many seductions, and the grand neocon program to remake the world smacks of the arrogance of Boromir or even Saruman. But I can't be sure because Tolkien's dead.

2. Oliver Curry should read somebody other than H. G. Wells, in order to come to a realization of how easy it is to pull speculations about the future evolution of humanity out of thin air, preferably in a freshman dorm room around one in the morning, and how varied the results can be. Really, he could have come up with something more original.
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