Hello Cruel World
Thursday, November 20, 2003
... It might be better to be a slave than to die, but it was better to die than to be a slave who acquiesced in his own slavery ...
... where courtesy is weakness, honesty is foolishness, and cruelty is entertainment ...
-- Gene Wolfe, "The Best Introduction to the Mountains" (Interzone 174, Dec 2001)
www.sfsite.com/05b/iz128.htm (review of review)
A review by David Soyka
In her study of 14th century life, A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchmann speculates that much of the senseless carnage of that period could be attributed to the young age of many of the nobleman. Oftentimes, a duke or a lord was a teenager, with a teenager's limited sensibilities and experience, with too much time on his hands to engage in deadly mischief. Of course, that doesn't quite explain how with our longer lifespan and older people in charge matters haven't changed all that much. Still, something about that era strikes me as less noble than undeveloped, the chivalric code (which some academics contend was more literary conceit than actual practice) notwithstanding.
What actually makes the essay worth seeking out is for how it depicts a time not all that long ago, before the near instant gratification of the Amazon "point and click" and mega-bookstores with overstuffed shelves devoted to the spawn of Middle-Earth. Wolfe invokes the sense of wonder of a "friendless young man in a strange city far from home" who finds solace in a literary work that actually took some effort to obtain, which perhaps made the reading experience all that more intense.
For a better defense of Tolkien -- if not the oeuvre he unwittingly conjured -- see Lucius Shephard in the May 2003 Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
.. Gary Westfahl ... The fact that our newspaper headlines now recall the technothriller is not, as some would have it, a sign that our world has undergone some massive transformation, but rather a sign that our world, for the most part, remains depressingly the same.
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