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Examining the four main foci for traditionalist impulses in fantasy and science fiction (Part Three)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted November 4, 2013

(This article is based on a draft of a presentation read at the Fantastic Literature Conference (The Basic Categories of Fantastic Literature Revisited) (Lodz, Poland: University of Lodz) October 21-23, 2012.)

Arthur C. Clarke, one of the best known science fiction authors, has made the provocative statement that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

A return to older forms of human organization in the future may not be as unlikely as some might think. During the 1980s debate over the nuclear winter theory, the respected popular scientist Carl Sagan suggested that the reason the universe is not teeming with intelligent life (as some astronomical theories had proposed to be the case) is that, as every intelligent species develops technology, it is faced with a developmental crisis that in most cases results in its extinction. Sagan had suggested that it is probably nuclear war that is the vehicle for this extinction. Although Sagan was highly critical of Reagan’s policies of the 1980s, the argument can certainly be turned in a quasi-traditionalist direction. If we do not deal with the hypertechnology overwhelming our planet in a disciplined fashion by pursuing an order that only some form of neo-traditionalist and/or neo-authoritarian arrangement can provide, our human societies are doomed to fly apart and possibly lapse into oblivion from the disintegrating forces attendant on too-rapid technological advancement. So feudal values juxtaposed with high-technology may indeed be one possible future for humankind (or for any other intelligent species that is faced with the need to surmount a similar developmental crisis). Whether these planet-wide quote feudal elements can be provided by distinctly more humane and peaceable religions and national traditions rather than by violent means remains to be seen.

This typology gives traditionalists hope that the future will not be quote hypermodern, but rather quote postmodern (to give this term a highly eclectic usage). In this scenario there will be some kind of return to tradition, of quote moving toward to the past. To use Hegelian terms, premodernity is the Affirmation, and modernity is the Negation, while the Negation of the Negation – the true Synthesis -- is a neo-traditionalist quote postmodernity.

Also, some settings of alternative-history posit worlds that may be more to the liking of traditionalists and essentially replicate this typology. Take, for example, Sheldon Vanauken’s notion (expressed as part of his non-fiction book The Glittering Illusion, 1985) that a victorious Dixie would have joined the British Empire, the eventual result being a quick Allied victory in World War I and with a more traditional modernity following in its wake. It is usual for conservatives to suggest that slavery would have been relatively quickly abolished in the South and that black-white relations would have actually been better without the association of black advancement with triumphant Northern aggression. Alternative history centered on the premise of Hitler being thwarted earlier in his nefarious career should also be of strong interest to traditionalists, as presumably, under such a scenario, more of the quote Old Europe would have been saved for the future.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.





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