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What's in the name

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November 02, 2007


Alison Croggon

Cor. What happened to "blessed are the peace makers, for they will inherit the earth"? Or turning the other cheek? Or loving one another, for by doing so, you will love Me? Beowulf is a bit different really. More interesting, for a start...



My God, this is so great.

Edward Einhorn

The pro-war, good vs evil vibe of Tolkien is something I've always found disturbing, much as I've enjoyed it in other ways. I've always wanted to write about that subtext.

Though I do disagree this vibe underlies all religion, and more than it underlies all fantasy novels. What is that relationship between that and, say, Taoism.

But a truly disturbing/amusing video, I must agree. For another disturbing/amusing religious video, look at For next year's Clown Festival?

David Cote

To my mind, religious doctrine, scripture, etc. are kinds of fantasy novels, after a fashion. Fantasy & holy writ both depend on this purely imaginative causal relationship between cosmic or supernatural forces and our actions in this world. They depend on rituals, sacralized words and objects, and battle with an enemy. In short, they take basic notions of ethics and humanist morality and warp them through tribalism and fantasies of power. Yes, taoism can be a healthy philosophy of life, nonviolent, etc. But it is also the philosophy that lies under Sun Tzu's The Art of War, no? Taoism and pacifism are not synonymous.

Edward Einhorn

Granted. I would argue that any philosophy can be used or misused, however. Take Marxism. Its atheist utopianism has a lot be said for it...and yet it led to Stalin, etc. Does it mean that all commies are bad? As someone with a grandfather who was a commie and whose father worked in the Korean War for intelligence to find the commies, I would say nothing's that simple.

As an agnostic Jew, I appreciate the philosophy behind some of the fantasy and deeply reject other elements. But maybe that's cultural--after all, the Talmud had many opinions of the Bible, often contradictory. And being Jewish doesn't necessarily mean belief in all the myths...or even God.

Oh, and as a fantasy novelist (I get to be a lot of things) I deeply disagree with the idea that all fantasy is like Tolkien. Tribalism, fantasies of power, etc, are major (somewhat disturbing) themes often found, but I studiously avoid them in my writing, as do others.

David Cote

It's not a question of good or bad, just the extent to which you surrender your code of ethics to an abstract system of perceiving or re-ordering reality. Stalinist Russia, one could argue, was the longest and most bloody theocracy in the 20th century, despite its atheist claims. Religious thinking isn't just for churchgoers. Ideology comes in a variety of flavors. But I take your point about fantasy writing not all being like Tolkein, or militaristic, Manichean in nature. I didn't mean to make that assertion.

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