Why didn’t the Eagles fly the ring to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings?
Even if you haven’t heard fans argue over the alleged “eagle plot hole” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Prometheus-winning trilogy, you should find economist Bryan Caplan’s recent blog post illuminating – as well as Ilya Somin’s Reason posting about it.
An economics professor at George Mason University and a New York Times bestselling author, Caplan finds many parallels – and similar flaws – between such fan criticisms of Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy and socialist criticisms of free markets.
Who had the more prophetic and realistic vision of a dystopian future?
George Orwell? Or Aldous Huxley?
Orwell, most famous for Nineteen Eighty-Four (one of the earliest works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame), was inspired by Stalinist communism in imagining his “hard tyranny” of brute dictatorship.
Huxley, best known for Brave New World, worried that a softer tyranny would ultimately prevail, one more insidious partly because it was more enveloping of both politics and culture and more seductive via a future of mindless pleasures.
Writing for the Institute for Art and Ideas, a British philosophical organization founded in 2008, British university instructor Emrah Atasoy compares Orwell and Huxley’s different dystopian visions in an informed and provocative essay: “Orwell, Huxley and the path to truth: How fiction can help us to understand reality.”
Robert Shea and his son, Michael. (Photo from Bobshea.net, maintained by Michael Shea.)
If you are reading this blog, there is a reasonable chance you have read Illuminatus!, the literary work originally published as an original paperback trilogy by Dell books and later collected into a one volume omnibus. It was written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, and it was awarded the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1986. (Robert Shea was actually a member of the Libertarian Futurist Society. Shea’s acceptance speech is available here.)
If you weren’t familiar with the books and essays of J. Daniel Sawyer until recently, join the club.
A prolific writer of more than 31 fiction and nonfiction books, including several in the sf and mystery genres, and 24 short stories – not to mention being a huge fan of Robert Heinlein – Sawyer deserves to be much better known by libertarian sci-fi fans and LFS members.
That’s especially because Sawyer has written two books about Heinlein and one of his nine novels is explicitly structured and billed as a “Heinlein juvenile.”
Censorship, suppression of literature and “bowdlerization” of our culture has a long, harmful and shameful history – and is anathema to libertarians, who favor full freedom of expression and artistic liberty.
The Prometheus blog has posted several articles recently about the disturbing recent spate of efforts to suppress or change the original wording and author’s intent of Roald Dahl in his children’s fantasy classics.
Similar suppression sadly has been reported about efforts to shove down the Orwellian memory hole some wording in the original editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.
It’s even extended to the Goosebumps children’s horror-comedy series, many books of which were changed by the publisher without the knowledge or consent of the series’ still-living author R.L. Stine.
This is a troubling time for libertarians, classical liberals and all lovers of liberty and art – which is why it’s important to seek out, read and digest the best insights about the roots of this anti-authoritarian trend and how we might strive to better support both liberty and literature that reflects the intent of its creators.
Perhaps the most illuminating, historically aware and wisest commentary I’ve come across about this disturbing modern recurrence of bowdlerization was written recently by J. Daniel Sawyer as a guest post on the Substack blog of Holly Math Nerd.
Did something significant to science fiction – actually, unprecedented – just happen at the Academy Awards?
It wasn’t really highlighted in any media reports I came across, but isn’t Everything Everywhere All at Once the first outright science fiction film to win the Oscar for Best Picture?
And not only that, but the Best Picture winner is especially intriguing to consider from a libertarian futurist perspective: Is it possible that this year’s Academy Awards recognized one of the most pro-freedom films to ever win an Oscar for best picture?
Such questions are sparked by an intriguing column on Reason magazine’s blog: “Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All At Once Celebrates individalism, Free Will.”
Good news for lovers of liberty, culture and artistic integrity: Matilda, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Roald Dahl’s other children’s classics will continue to be published and reprinted in their original uncensored forms.
That sudden and welcome reversal (see our previous blog post) is thanks to a remarkably wide range of principled and thoughtful responses from across the political spectrum objecting to the plans by the late great Dahl’s cowardly and conformist British publisher to bowdlerize his bestselling children’s classics in doctored reprints.
They keep coming to cancel or censor more fiction and more classics of literature. Now, disturbingly, it’s Roald Dahl’s turn.
The re-editing, rewording and outright expungement of now-disfavored wording in the delightfully subversive and amusing children’s books by the late great British writer, who died in 1990 at 74, are just the latest example of efforts to suppress or censor literature.
But the “they,” this time, doesn’t refer only to government agencies, bureaucrats and woke cultists eager to shove more politically incorrect stories and thoughts down Orwell’s proverbial memory hole.
This time, ironically but unsurprisingly, “they” includes Dahl’s British publisher Puffin and the Dahl estate, eagerly colluding to publish bowdlerized versions of his books to avoid “triggering” anyone.
Many “bests” lists or ranked-reading lists tend to be matters of opinion, even if objective merit remains a meaningful standard of rational evaluation. Yet isn’t it interesting to compare favorite books and novels and discover that some our favorites also rank high on other lists?
For those libertarian sci-fi/fantasy fans who have the curiosity and time to look beyond our own Prometheus Awards track record of 100 past winners in all categories, an online list compiled of “Books to understand the world” makes for interesting reading….
…Especially because two of the most notable Prometheus Award winners are prominently featured on the list.