We Need To Talk About Hitler

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Editor’s Note: please check the publication date before reading this article. Also take salt: apply liberally 🙂

As you’ll know if you’ve read my spirited defence of Robert E. Howard from a while back, I’m not keen on people badmouthing respected fantasy and SF authors out of a misplaced sense of political correctness. All too often, this is a result of people chronically failing to see the wood for the trees and latching on to minor issues which any adult reader should be able to move beyond. This is why I never, ever stoop to writing vindictively negative reviews of people’s books; what place have I, as a reader, to tell authors what to do or criticise their work, when I haven’t written a published novel of my own? No, my place is to promote what is best in the genre, and defend it from its more spiteful critics, despite the insults thrown at authors – and, by extension, their readers – by the rabble.

Numerous authors have been subjected to these vile ad hominem attacks on their work, themselves and their audience, and I for one am sick of it. What does it say about the fantasy genre when an author of the stature of Jay Lake says that he no longer feels safe to go to conventions due to accusations of misogyny and racism against him, when anyone who has read Green will know Jay Lake can’t be a sexist or a racist – after all, he says he isn’t, and offers the fact that he adopted a Chinese girl as very convincing proof, so why can’t we take an honourable and well-meaning man at his word?

These character assassinations have been made against more or less every serious author in the genre of adult fantasy and speculative fiction. From Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, who popularised the genre in the pulp era, to J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who lent the credibility only an Oxford professor could offer to the field, to Robert Heinlein and the many other authors who brought us the golden age of American science ficton, to George R.R. Martin, whose works have made a transition to television which is more successful than any previous fantasy-themed TV series, pretty much every one of the great men responsible for making major advances into the popular consciousness in the name of the Literature of Ideas has been the target of the most noxious and appalling smears.

And no author’s reputation has come under assault more than Adolf Hitler’s.

Continue reading “We Need To Talk About Hitler”

The Warrior of the Timestreams

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Michael Moorcock’s fiction is mildly obsessed with 20th Century history, and in particular the build-up to and impact of the world wars. (Growing up in London during the Blitz will do that to a young mind.) In fact, I’d say that within the wider scope of the Eternal Champion series you can pick out a smaller sub-series about various figures who are doomed to be the spirits of their particular segment of the 20th Century. Jerry Cornelius is explicitly described as being just such a spirit of the post-World War II age; you could make an argument that in the Between the Wars series Colonel Pyat takes on this role for the period… uh… between the wars.

And back at the very start of the 20th Century you have Oswald Bastable, who like John Daker in The Eternal Champion finds himself unstuck in time and meandering between various alternate timelines, in all of which some version of the world wars is either about to happen, happening, or just happened. Often cited as being a prototype for steampunk (despite the fact that The Dancers At the End of Time goes for a neo-Victorian aesthetic much more aggressively), the stories featuring Bastable essentially consist of Moorcock indulging in deconstruction via pastiche, spoofing out of date genres of adventure fiction in order to highlight how awful they are.

Sounds good in theory, but is it any better than Moorcock’s sword and sorcery epics, which were getting increasingly lacklustre at this point in time? Can Moorcock handle the matters of colonialism and racism and socialism he sets out to play with without turning Bastable into a mere mouthpiece for his opinions? Let’s see.

Continue reading “The Warrior of the Timestreams”