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Thursday, September 17th, 2009

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Only Posting a Link!
John Derbyshire, monger of gloom, over at National Review Online, is talking about Howard Philips Lovecraft.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Derb remarks: Spot On!

There follows several other related posts discussing, for example, HPL's religious (or nonreligious) political and economic beliefs.
My comment: I note this as an odd cultural artifact. You must realize my formative years were BSW (Before STAR WARS) and in the culture of my youth science fiction was an outcast literature, read only by hooded lamplight in dismal smuggler's caves far from where the prying lamps of civilization and propriety might spy. I recall serious discussions among us that no fantasy movie could ever be made, on the grounds that no one wanted to watch half-naked barbarians cleaving skulls, or see an elf by moonlight in Lothlorien. Movies, in the Jimmy Carter years, were all grim and depressing.

That a literate scholar, such as C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien, might read or write the stuff was astonishing, albeit allowed on the grounds that it was for children, and perhaps instructive  -- all the more astonishing was that, while being universally dismissed as mere 'Buck Rogers junk' there were writers (and I am thinking of John W. Campbell Jr., Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov) who took seriously the idea that science fiction was meant to be sober, literate, serious, and transformative, it was propaganda (I mean that in the religious sense of the word--the literature to propogate the faith) for belief in technical progress. The message was: The Stars Are Yours! Go Up, Young Man! (I seem to recall that the only book I have seen in recent years firmly in this Campbellian tradition was Victor Koman's KINGS OF THE HIGH FRONTIER. Are only Libertarians still believers in progress?) -- but outside the SF ghetto, the scorn of the muggles for sciffy was universal. Harlequin romances had more cachet.

And now SF is mainstream. It is part of the culture, so that even conservative political commentators read and remark on writers who never published outside the pulp pages of Farnsworth Wright's WEIRD TALES.

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