books

I think most of the books I’ve read and loved were written by conservatives or libertarians – the fantasy I’ve read was written largely by conservatives, I think because good fantasy plays on themes of decentralization (the villain often attempting to shore up and centralize their control) and tradition.  The science-fiction often as not came from libertarians, because like libertarianism itself, science fiction warns us against the perniciousness of the all-encompassing state, the uses of technology by the government to strip away civil liberties, etc.  So in many ways, a good deal of my formation politically has been between these two dynamics – fantasy and science fiction; traditionalism and classical liberalism.

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I just finished A Lion Among Men, the third installment (picking up where Son of  a Witch left off) in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series (an alternative vision of Oz).  It’s a good read, and has a strong decentralist message – the Emerald City is essentially the heart of Oz, an upstart capitol that has begun to centralize the economic and political and natural resources of Oz itself into a bastion of power and corruption and increasing militarization.  Even after the departure of the Wizard of Oz, who began this centralizing trend, successor after successor maintains their grip on power, even expands it – continuing the persecution of Animals and moving, by the third book, to retake the secessionist state of Munchkinland.  Fascinating stuff – dark, and lovely, and sardonic.  A bit tilted toward the anti-hero, but that was the premise all along, I suppose, when detailing the “life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West.”

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From here I think I will read, based on commenters’ recommendations either Witch Week or The Steel Remains or probably both at once.  It’s nice to have a blog if only to have a fantastic comments section to plant questions in.

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5 thoughts on “books

  1. I’ve read a fair bit of fantasy by liberals (Ursula le Guin, for example; JK Rowling; also pretty much any fantasy that has female main characters). My favorite author, Tolkien, though, was an odd sort of paleocon/libertarian – his political comment that most sticks in my mind is that he would prefer absolute monarchy of a king who was mainly interested in collecting stamps or some other hobby entirely unrelated to governing.

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  2. Hey, I meant to respond to an earlier list of fantasy and science fiction but got distracted by life (pesky offspring). I used to work in the SF section at Powell’s Books in Portland so I know a little about the genre.
    I didn’t see Joe Abercrombie mentioned in any of your fantasy posts – it’s your next read. Best fantasy I’ve read in years, hands down, and the trilogy is complete (First Law series, beginning with The Blade Itself). I’m reading Steel Remains right now and it’s very good although the war on terror theme is somewhat troweled on. Morgan’s Kovacs series is better and I would recommend it first (starting with Altered Carbon).
    If you want to see how the other half lives (us liberal/socialists) I would point you to The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod. MacLeod is a Scottish socialist who keeps inexplicably winning the Prometheus Best Novel Award. Also, socialist China Mieville has the single best imagination I’ve read in fantasy, but I’ll take a slightly contrarian tack and suggest Un Lun Dun, his young adult novel, ahead of his his outstanding Bas Lag novel Perdido Street Station.
    Finally, the imp in you would like the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Locke is a con man, a bastard, and fun as hell to read about. The second in the series is also great.

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  3. Note: There are certainly liberals who write both fantasy and sci-fi as well, but I would note that many of these writers dip into “tradition” nonetheless in a very similar way as their conservative counterparts, and run with similar themes even. And in sci-fi you basically have to deal with a dynamic of great possibility and progress coupled with the inherent dangers of possibility and progress, so it really can work regardless so long as one isn’t hopelessly optimistic. Then it just becomes space opera.

    Thanks for the reading suggestions. If I get around to it I’ll add them to the list and maybe re-post with updates….time permitting….(oh, and memory permitting of course!)

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