How Long ’til Black Future Month?

In celebration of Janelle Monae’s new album, which I’ve bought but haven’t listened to yet since I’m holding it as a carrot/reward for meeting certain writing goals over the next few weeks… here’s an essay that I wrote for Jonathan Wright’s ADVENTURE ROCKETSHIP! Let’s All Go To The Science Fiction Disco anthology. If you haven’t done so yet, check out both!

Note: this is the not-fully-proofed not-final draft of the essay.

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? The Toxins of Speculative Fiction, and the Antidote that is Janelle Monae

Scene

I’m watching reruns of an old kids’ cartoon I used to love: “The Jetsons.” I grew up wanting to take a flying car to school because of this show. It’s the 21st century and there are no flying cars; what the hell is up with that? So disappointing.

But I watch the show now, as an adult, and I notice something: there’s nobody even slightly brown in the Jetsons’ world. Even the family android sounds white. This is supposed to be the real world’s future, right? Albeit in silly, humorous form. Thing is, not-white-people make up most of the world’s population, now as well as back in the Sixties when the show was created. So what happened to all those people, in the minds of this show’s creators? Are they down beneath the clouds, where the Jetsons never go? Was there an apocalypse, or maybe a pogrom? Was there a memo?

I’m watching the Jetsons, and it’s creeping me right the fuck out.

Counterscene

I’m listening to “Violet Stars Happy Hunting.” Janelle Monae’s singing about herself as an android being hunted for daring to fall in love with a human man. There’s a whole agency devoted to tracking down androids who do this; apparently it happens a lot. The hunters have a few dialogue lines in which they speak with an obvious African- American dialect, as they gleefully contemplate ripping out her “cybersoul” with a chainsaw. The whole thing seems awfully inefficient; why they don’t just program the androids to not fall in love, I don’t know. The Jetsons’ android certainly seemed happy enough with her lot. Maybe servants work harder if they’re left the illusion of choice? I’m probably overthinking this.

Monae’s future sounds hellish, at least for the robots. Yet it doesn’t scare me half as much as the Jetsons’ future did.

Where the Hell Are We?

I’ve been consuming science fiction and fantasy since I was a child. Started with mythology and folklore, worked my way through the Golden Age greats, peppered this with Dungeons & Dragons and endless Star Wars emulations. My father fed my habit by watching classic Twilight Zone and Star Trek episodes with me, every summer holiday weeknight at 2 in the morning, Channel 11. I dreamed of going to Space Camp, though my family couldn’t afford it; I started writing about talking animals and the apocalypse at the ripe old age of eight and never stopped. If there’s anyone who was born a geek, it’s me.

Yet even then I noticed that there was no one like me in most of my geekery. This was in the days before the first black female astronaut, Mae Jemison (no relation), and
when the closest thing to non-white people that anyone saw in fantasy were orcs. There were a few notable examples that I can remember offhand: Ursula Le Guin’s “Earthsea” series, Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End. That was pretty much it.

My father tried to supplement these rare delicacies by introducing me to Afro-futurist staples. Parliament Funkadelic became my new (old) favorite band, and we both loved the indie film “The Brother From Another Planet”. Unfortunately these supplements just reinforced my sense of alienation. Why did I have to travel to the margins of speculative fiction to see anything of myself? Why was it easier to find aliens or unicorns than people of color or realistic women?

Then I began to realize that the exclusions I’d noticed were not just a matter of benign neglect. Robert E. Howard wrote endless pulp stories set in fantastical Africa and Asia — and centered all of them on white men. Nebula- and Hugo-award-winning author Samuel Delany, in his 1998 essay “Racism in Science Fiction”, shares his experience of having a story rejected by one of the most celebrated editors in the genre solely because the protagonist was black. These were conscious choices on the part of the genre’s gatekeepers. This was deliberate, ahistorical, scientifically nonsensical, exclusion. Worse, the fans tacitly supported the gatekeepers in this. A published story containing a single error of theoretical physics might elicit pages-long rage-filled letters to the editor, but if a story depicted black men as white-woman-raping cannibals incapable of sophisticated thought, the response was resounding silence.

These were the people who made the speculative fiction that I loved. They could not empathize with people like me, and they didn’t want to try. They weren’t comfortable letting us into their archetypal playgrounds at all, let alone in any number. When we did appear, the roles we took were limited, non-threatening to the writer’s sense of superiority: the thug, the slave, the exotic sex toy. If I wanted to see people like me, doing things I could relate to, I had to look to my own. Then again, most of what I found from creators of color went to the opposite extreme, probably in an attempt to counter the extreme whiteness everywhere else. But I wasn’t any more interested in all-black futures than I was in all-white futures. I just
wanted fantasies of exploration and enchantment that didn’t slap me in the face with you don’t belong here messages. I just wanted to be able to relax and dream.

Enter my psychological lifelines: writers like Octavia Butler, in science fiction. And in music, artists like Janelle Monae.

Scene

I’m reading some fat fantasy book set in Yet Another Faux Medieval Europe. Nothing in this story jibes with my understanding of actual medieval Europe. There’s no fantasy version of the Silk Road bringing spices and agricultural techniques and ideas from China and India and Persia. There’s been no Moorish conquest. There aren’t even Jewish merchants or bankers, stereotypical as that would be. Everyone in this “Europe” looks the same but for minor variations of hair or eye color. They speak the same language, worship the same gods — and everyone, even the very poor people, seems inordinately concerned with the affairs of the nobility, as if there’s nothing else going on that matters. There are dragons and magic in the story, but it’s the human fantasy that I’m having trouble swallowing.

It doesn’t matter which book I’m reading. I could name you a dozen others just like it. This isn’t magical medieval Europe; it’s some white supremacist, neo-feudalist fantasy of same, and I’m so fucking sick of it that I put the book down and open my laptop and start writing. Later people read what I’ve written and remark on how angry the story is. Gosh, I wonder why.

Counterscene

It’s the middle of the American presidential election, and my TV is full of hate. Republican candidates are doing everything short of saying “vote for us if you don’t want women and brown people to take over!” Except some of them are saying that, too. Mitt Romney’s just been endorsed by some frothing bigoted rage-monster of a rock star. He’s not much of an artist but a hell of an attention-getter, so who’s Obama got to counter that?

I see it first on Twitter: Janelle Monae says that her song “Tightrope” is dedicated to Obama. It makes a wonderfully subversive kind of sense. In the “Tightrope” video, people interned in a stereotypical insane asylum defy authority by dancing — something which leads to, according to the video’s text, “illegal magical practices”. And what could be more magical than the idea that a black man might be elected president twice in this ridiculously racist nation?

In the video, the asylum patients are all black, though their specific skin colors range across the spectrum of the diaspora. The bad guys aren’t white; Monae isn’t interested in cliches. Instead, they have mirrors for faces. They are us. The whole thing culminates in a crowd dance scene that’s pure Congo Square, or any other place where historically the oppressed have found joy in defiance of their oppressors.

I can’t listen to this song without dancing. I’m a terrible dancer but I don’t care. I lose myself in it because Monae’s magic is for everybody.

Oh, and also: Obama wins.

Monaeism

As I write this, it’s February — Black History Month in the United States. Everyone jokes that of course black history gets celebrated only during the shortest month of the year. No one seems puzzled by the fact that there is no time correspondingly devoted to examining, celebrating, or imagining the black future.

It’s easy to look at something like Monae’s mythos and see only the obvious metaphors. Her androids’ struggle for the freedom to love after all parallels the struggle of
American slave women to legally marry partners of their choosing, to keep their children, to control their very bodies, in a system which made all of those things commodities. But it’s wrong to apply only an historical, and racial, lens to the work of any modern black woman. We have spent generations sharing the struggles of other oppressed groups, collaborating with and occasionally being betrayed by them, and progressing nonetheless. We’re the ones who (literally) wrote the book on intersectionality. And it’s clear that Monae feels no sense of threat from the others with whom our future will be shared. She welcomes all, with love and dancing.

And yet. When I watch her videos and listen to her lyrics I’m shocked to see so much of myself in this ultratechnological future — despite my own writings, despite my own knowledge that black history and myth abounds with techies and innovators, despite my life and my long-held desire to see this very thing. It’s not Monae’s ability to imagine an inclusive future that’s remarkable, but my subconscious resistance to same. What the hell is wrong with me, that her vision feels so strange?

Too many years of the Jetsons, maybe. Too many white supremacist medieval Europes. I’ve spent years swallowing these bizarro-world versions of humanity, and they have become a toxin poisoning my imagination. But Janelle Monae is a tiny, fast-footed, pompadour’d antidote to all of that.

Scene

I’m watching the movie Tron: Legacy. It’s a scene of glitzy decadence: a posh nightclub in a cybernetic dystopia, whose denizens are not human but certainly look the part. They’re beautiful people, with perfect faces and languid bodies and apparently nothing better to do with their time than lounge about flirting or whatever beautiful people do. Everyone wears white or black. Everyone I see has white skin, at first.

Then I see some black characters. They stand clustered together amid all this elegance, one obviously on guard, the rest tense and martial and definitely not comfortable in this environment. Stiffly they petition the club’s proprietor for an audience. This group’s leader is the only person in the whole movie who seems to have a scar, located prominently on his face. He’s not meant to be one of the beautiful people, plainly.

Five minutes later there’s an action scene, and all the black characters die.

Counterscene

I’m watching Janelle Monae’s “Many Moons” short film, which a friend has emailed to me with a cryptic “HOLY SHIT WATCH THIS” note. It’s a scene of dystopian decadence supported by android labor: there’s a slave auction going on, but it looks more like a fashion show. While her fellow commodities prance about on display, Janelle Monae’s character is blowing up the stage. An audience of the hoi polloi screams and jiggles all around her. It’s completely nonsensical, and completely entrancing.

People like me are everywhere. The slaves and cops: okay, that’s normal. That’s what I’m used to. But we’re also present among the decadent elite. Monae’s screaming fans display all the colors of humanity: white and brown and yellow and black and red. All of the video’s imagery fits this color palette. It’s not just racial differentiation I see, either. In the mostly-female audience there’s a pretty, big-breasted white woman about to pop out of her shirt over Monae, and Monae herself is about as genderqueer as you can get while still being named “Janelle.”

It gets weirder. An army of androids dressed like Amelia Earhart marches across the stage. The auction’s prices are rendered in pounds Sterling, not dollars; guess the Commonwealth’s doing okay in this future. The auction’s glamorous announcer speaks in almost incomprehensible accented English, so apparently immigrants can make out big in this world too. There’s a middle-aged Chinese vampire dandy in the audience — yeah, I don’t know either, but it doesn’t jar my suspension of disbelief, because there’s just so much else to look at that I do believe. I can swallow the batshittery because everywhere else there is comforting, delightful, normalcy.

I’m not sure this future is the kind of place I’d want to live in, but I definitely wouldn’t mind visiting. And for as long as Janelle Monae is willing to offer my imagination this kind of gleeful romp, I’ll keep coming back.

28 Responses »

  1. I shamefully have never heard of Janelle Morae before this. (but then I am not well versed in music, period). This is a batshit future, but one far more diverse than we normally get. And, that’s the problem of course.

  2. This is a crazy rant, but I love it.

    I agree about the status quo not becoming diverse. I am trying to get a fantasy story of mine published. It takes places in a fantastical African setting. It is 100% original. I am being told that it is not what they are looking for right now. Meanwhile, I watch them publish yet another story with a white female who falls in love with a otherworldly male.

    PS.The world of epic fantasy is even narrower than Medieval Europe. It is Medieval Britain, exactly; only with dragons and magic. The pretentiousness of the genre is bothersome. But, people keep eating it up, and others like me, a black female unapologetically writing about black characters in fantastical Africa, just watch on.

  3. @Mell: Part of the problem (though certainly not all of it) is that the world of epic fantasy is NOT exactly Medieval Britain. Medieval Britain had multiple cultures and languages, monarchs whose hold on power was tenuous and who shored up support by playing groups off each other, a social hierarchy both less rigid and more brutally enforced than epic fantasy might lead one to suspect, and a ruling class that was painfully aware of their status as a relative backwater and desperate to imitate cultures they perceived as more advanced.

    Epic fantasy isn’t medieval Britain, it’s medieval Britain as imagined by someone with a belief in British supremacy, the natural rights of the monarchy, and the benefits of racially pure nation states. In short, the type of attitude you might expect to encounter in a white English man in the 1940’s. Unfortunately, the epic fantasy community still holds up a book written by a white English man in the 1940’s as the standard by which all new entries to the field are judged.

  4. You open my eyes you wonderful woman. Thank you

    and Janelle rocks

  5. I shouldn’t watch the videos at work, but I’m going to once I’m at home!

  6. I’ve listened to the album multiple times now. It’s a very good carrot/reward because it’s PHENOMENAL and such a great follow-up to The Arch Android. If you haven’t seen her live before you should check her out when she’s on tour, the women is a powerhouse performer!

  7. I just learned about Monae a month ago from Ytasha Womack’s book “Afrofuturism” (Nora–you’re in it too!), and since then I’ve been hearing her name all over the place. I really need to listen to and watch more of her stuff.

  8. Thank you for sharing this essay, Nora, especially since I’ve been a big Janelle Monae fan since she appeared on that episode of Stargate Universe a few years ago. This book looks like a lot of fun and buying it is definitely on my to-do list.

    Much of this problem – as pertains to your Jetsons experience – stems from the way we are taught to read as children. The curriculum offered is merely a dumbed-down version of the traditional formalist approach – in which we are taught to interpret a work of fiction as the self-contained world of a singular authority, and the act of interpretation is limited to explicating the dramatic structure and the thematic content as the author intended it. Never mind the social/cultural context in which the work was produced, or what the author “omitted” from the text, either through carelessness or by design. Worse yet, despite the fact that popular media is now more image-centered than it has ever been, there has been little to no urgency among the educational establishment to introduce even a formalist approach to interpreting the images we are bombarded with, much less an approach that places these images in context. As a consequence, children today are in no better position to question the unbearable whiteness of The Jetsons than our generation was decades ago.

    I grew up as a good Roman Catholic suburban white boy in one of the most culturally diverse areas of the country. I went to Catholic School, and while the cultural makeup of the students may have leaned a little whiter than the makeup of the parish we lived in, I had plenty of non-white schoolmates – mostly Latino and Filipino, but there were a few Black kids at the school as well. So when I read books like Earthsea, with its almost entirely non-white cast of characters, or King’s Dark Tower series, with a Black woman as one of its major characters, it never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about any of that. Cuz, you know, why not? It reflected the world I was living in. BUT, as a consequence of the way I was taught to read, I also never questioned why pretty much EVERY OTHER work of SFF I read and loved had few to ZERO non-white characters in them.

    Just for shits and giggles, I recently picked up a fantasy novel that I loved in middle school, and was so appalled by it that I reflexively through it against the wall after reading only a few pages. How could I have just blindly accepted, and even celebrated, a work that was so clearly NOT reflective of the world I was living in (and also was basically a fascist romp)?

    Easy. No one ever taught me not to, and it never occurred to me that it mattered.

    The Liberal Arts education I received in college changed all that, thankfully. There’s something to be said for the power of being “born again”, and having your perspective of the world suddenly and radically altered, but part of me can’t help but wish that I had been ahead of the game before I got there. And I certainly wish that my nieces and nephews – one of which is mixed race – had such schooling, so they didn’t have only their exhausted and overworked parents to rely on for a realistic and progressive view of the world.

  9. Janelle Monáe is so wildly inventive, unrestrainedly creative – she and her fans (well, OK, I’m one of them) give me some hope for the future.

    I so wish that people would stop publishing umpty-ump article and blog posts focused on her sexual orientation and *listen to what she has to say* instead. She’s a trailblazer and (it seems to me) one of the most intelligent people on today’s music scene (not just pop music, either). But interviewers almost always want to focus on the most superficial things about her, which drives me crazy.

    The woman has a *message* for everyone – people of color and white folks (like me), too.

    so thank you for your “rant,” and for allowing me to rant a little, too.

  10. You have the new album and haven’t listened to it yet? Your discipline is formidable!

    Thank you for this post. Here’s to more fiction that depicts a broader spectrum of humanity. And more music from Janelle Monae!

  11. As a black “geek”, with other poc geek friends, I think we’ve forgotten that our ancestors were slaves and not participants in the history of this country. You cannot reasonably hold a grudge against a country full of white people for being interested in culturally white things that are devoid of Africans.

    America may be something like a melting pot, but the history of the Germanic western Europeans who founded it was not. As much as people like to invoke the Moorish invasion, it is still entirely possible for someone to write a faux-medieval story set somewhere with no blacks, Arabs, or Chinese and still be accurate.

    Imo, all of this comes from racial issues that arose from our [forced?] assimilation into white culture. We’ve been raised in black sub-cultures that perpetuate the pretense that American blacks and American whites are completely different, that black culture is at irreconcilable odds with mainstream white culture, when really, we adhere to the same Judaeo-Christian values as the slavemasters of our ancestors; we speak the same Germanic language, follow the same religion, wear the same clothes, study the same philosophy and cultural methods of viewing the world as the Germanic whites who brought us over here.

    And some of us blacks have even become interested in white history…

    It makes sense that we’d want to see more of ourselves in fantasy, scifi, and other media outlets, but you must realize that we weren’t there in the first place, that this country is predominantly white as is its history.

  12. e2c,

    Do people obsess over her sexual orientation? I don’t recall ever seeing any mention of it in reviews or articles about her. Or do you mean my mention of her playing with genderqueerness? (Granted, I have no idea if she identifies as such.)

  13. Mike,

    Who do you mean “we”, kemosabe? Speak for yourself; you certainly don’t speak for me or any other black geek of my acquaintance. Considering how much you sound like a bog-standard white supremacist, maybe you should acknowledge them as the “we” you speak for.

  14. Can’t believe you still haven’t listened to Electric Lady–it’s incredible. The video for “Queen” is pretty explicitly about Afrofuturism and multi-directional temporality.

  15. Yes, they *do* obsess over her sexual orientation, though I think a lot of them are confusing genderqueerness and her alter ego (Cindi Mayweather, that is) with Janelle herself.

    The number of people who keep trying to pry into her personal life and find out exactly who she’s dating (i.e., their gender) is way up there. I’m including otherwise professional radio and TV journalists.

    It’s as if nobody who’s in the public eye is allowed to be judged on the quality of their work, only on who they’re dating/sleeping with.

    And natch, women (of all skin colors) get hit with this more often than men.

  16. Also… the same people who are so certain that JM must be gay totally ignore the storyline in both her EP and in The Arch Android, about Cindi’s love for a human man (and his for her).

    Really, I think that her intellect and sci-fi (also science) geekdom are hard for a lot of people to relate to, so they focus on superficials, like her onstage/public preference for woman-tailored menswear. (her clothes are never boxy or unflattering, I’ve noticed.)

    I mean, what’s wrong with wanting to wear a tux or “boy” clothes and hats? I want a cricket blazer, but cut for me – is that wrong?! (And I used to do theater work, as a musician – I found an old shawl-collared tux jacket for that, and putting it on made me feel like I was in uniform for the evening’s gig… so I can understand JM’s many statements about her tuxes, et. al. being uniforms.)

  17. America’s history is white? Tell that to the Chinese immigrants who built so much of the railroad, whose “Chinatown”s within cities were simultaneously sources of fear and exotic othering and fascination and richness for those white people, but which were certainly present and alive. Tell that to the First Nations people who had already tamed the wilderness before some of them succumbed to a probably European driven plague, and others of whom helped keep the first European settlers alive long enough for those white settlers to displace them and shunt them aside, and many of whose laws also quietly got incorporated into those of the US. Tell that to the free blacks and the slave blacks brought here. And the Mexicans, whose Spanish ancestry was never all white whatever it claimed, and whose current blend of that with the cultures of the First Nations certainly is not.

    I’m the pastiest of pasty white, albeit Canadian, and I somehow failed to notice we actually have a monopoly on culture in North America. Many white people try to act like it, and many times use theirs to absorb, assimilate, swallow whole, or smother any other thing that comes near the juggernaut, depending on how much it attracts them, but whatever the media *seems* to show, we’re not alone.

    (We’re not remotely as monochromatic as TV shows make it seem, either, but I don’t pretend that the amount of not-me-ness I feel seeing mainstream North America pablum culture on tv is half what Nora would face.)

  18. e2c,

    It’s as if nobody who’s in the public eye is allowed to be judged on the quality of their work, only on who they’re dating/sleeping with.

    I think that applies to most celebrities, sadly. But the fact that she’s a woman of color, and that she clearly is playing with conceptions of gender and sexuality, probably makes it more of a “challenge” for the media to delve into. The more popular she gets, the more she’s going to get hit with this crap. ::sigh:: I do sometimes wish she’d stayed beneath the mainstream’s radar, but I’m glad to see her becoming truly successful.

  19. Lenora,

    Appreciate the assist, but I know a waste of effort when I see one. Anybody who could actually manage to crank out a comment like that — especially if they’re actually black — has deeper issues. You can’t possibly educate that much ignorance; no one can. If he doesn’t figure it out on his own, I’m sure he can head back over to TB/VD’s blog or somewhere else teeming with “his people”, and commiserate with them.

  20. n.k. – I hear you, yet at the same time, a lot of the places where the whole “Is she gay/bi/whatever?” comments and articles come from are primarily or entirely run by black Americans.

    Agreed completely on what happens when someone is in the public eye – and, like you, I wish she’d stayed under the radar, though I’m also happy that she’s so successful. I worry that she’s going to bow to pressures now that she *is* so successful, though. It has to be a very hard thing to deal with.

    I honestly wish I could say that I understand what it’s like for women of color – in all spheres – but all I can do is try to listen and learn – so thank you for being upfront about the implications for someone who looks like Janelle – and, of course, you.

  21. OT, sorry!

    Hi there: I’ve sent a friend request on FB under my passport name, and also emailed you through LJ, but those may not be seen/get through, so I’m posting here!

    My department wants to bring in MORE writers for talks and possible workshops, and I’ve nominated you for a visit in March (if you’re free) (tying it to the Gender Studies MInor plans to celebrate Women’s History month!), and all I need now to go forward, if you’re free sometime in March, is what your fees are (for a reading, and for a workshop with students).

    If March isn’t good, my dept. head is all for getting some people lined up for next fall!

  22. I have “deeper issues” for asserting that blacks adhere to a culture that is mostly European? That we shouldn’t try to rationalize our kneejerk reactions to the dearth of Africans present in western European history? You have no rationalization for calling me ignorant at all, other than the hurt feelings incited within every culturally European non-white

    You can recite all of the tragedies caused by whites throughout the years, and spend your post trying to elicit guilt and shame, but none of that has anything to do with the immutable reality of the dominance of white culture in white countries. There’s a reason minorities are called minorities. There’s a reason African Americans are speaking a Germanic language now, worshiping a white manifestation of a Semitic god, and wearing weaves…and it’s the same reason your name is Nora and not Titilayo.

    Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with any of this; we can’t help that we were born under the Anglo power structure and that we grew up fetishizing a history (the middle ages, not American history, Lenora) devoid of blacks. And no one’s saying that you can’t write medieval fantasy without blacks…

    Maybe you should look into why Malcolm Little, Cassius Clay, and other members of the NOI changed their names. But…oh yeah, right, they might have had “deeper issues” as well. I guess they too were white supremacists for realizing the nigh ubiquity of white culture and the existential terror it posed to their identities.

  23. *You have no rationalization for calling me ignorant at all, other than the hurt feelings incited within every culturally European non-white once s/he realizes how thoroughly white the mainstream culture of America is.

  24. ithiliana,

    Oh, hey! Just email me, pls; I don’t notice messages on FB anyway. It’s in the “About” section. :) Not sure I’m free in March, tho'; depends on how close it is to some other stuff I’ve got going on at that time. Let’s talk offweb.

  25. Mike,

    You’re right; I shouldn’t have just called you ignorant. I should have called you “uninteresting”, too. I have precious little patience for trolls in general, and white supremacist trolls in particular, and you’ve used up your allotment in a couple of fell swoops. So, banning you now.

    Also: “Nora” is Arabic, you dumb fuck. ::sighs::

  26. I’m sure a lot of people here already know about this but maybe some don’t so let me drop a link to this awesome tumbler:

    http://medievalpoc.tumblr.com/

  27. Not sure if your geekery extends to alternate histories, but I read the above about African futurism twenty minutes after reading this.

    (There’s a lot of backstory, starting with a slightly more successful Malê revolt in Brazil and including Jules Verne as prime minister of France and futurism as a serious political movement in the early twentieth century. Yeah, not to everyone’s taste.)

  28. I see I’m a month after the last comment, but regarding the white supremacist medieval British fantasy, did you ever read Umberto Eco’s “Dreaming of the Middle Ages?” An essay now included in _Travels in Hyper Reality_, written around 1981; he commented on the “avalanche of pseudo-medieval pulp in paperbacks, midway between Nazi nostalgia and occultism.” He then identifies a mythical/fantastical:

    “Middle Ages as a *barbaric* age, a land of elementary and outlaw feelings”

    -which perfectly captures the fascination that the Dark Ages especially held for me as a teenager, so the following brought me up short:

    “The same elementary passions could exist equally on the Phoenician coasts or in the desert of Gilgamesh. These ages are Dark par excellence, and Wagner’s *Ring* itself belongs to this dramatic sunset of reason. With only a slight distortion, one is asked to celebrate, on this earth of virile, brute force, the glories of a new Aryanism. It is a shaggy medievalism, and the shaggier its heroes, the more profoundly ideological its superficial naivete.”

    And I realized that damn it, he was right. And he saw this 30 years ago.

Dreamblood Book One:

The Killing Moon

The Killing Moon

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