“The Violence of Reason”: I review a retrospective of Cold War SF

“The Violence of Reason”: I review a retrospective of Cold War SF November 8, 2021

at We Are the Mutants:

The new world is a place where a new kind of person lives — although many would argue that this new and dangerous person was always the only kind of person around. The old SF hero was that rational man you used to hear so much about: the imagined actor in liberal political philosophy, the person without dependents or dependencies, who confronted the stars with reason, self-control, and a spirit of adventure. He travels, as the introduction puts it, “from the suburbs to the stars.” The old guard’s heroes were white, even when they were green. The old SF hero might die, but he’d never worry about getting pregnant. Mind and body were manageable; desires were reasonable, inspiring, and above all intelligible, both to the hero himself and to the reader. Whether this is a fair description of the old-school hero, I can’t say. I only like this kind of guy when he’s played by William Shatner — in a book, I just can’t see the appeal. I can say that the works explored in the PM Press collection are rebelling against this hero. These books are populated by mystics and criminals, artists and threatened children, even animals and creatures who are some blend of human and Other. The political apparatus of the state does not enable constructive action; it provokes fear or anger. In these books knowledge is less like an equation and more like a hallucination.

Speaking of Samuel R. Delany….


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