(urth) OT - Watchmen on trial

Iorwerth Thomas iorweththomas at hotmail.com
Tue Mar 22 08:56:44 PST 2005

>From: "James Wynn" <thewynns at earthlink.net>

>Plotted is not written, and Manhattan's justification of Ozy's plan almost 
>word-for-word mirroring Com. Gordon's justification of Batman simply cannot 
>be ignored.

Regarding TDK, I think the British sf magazine SFX had a feature on it in 
which Miller was of the opinion that most of Gotham's villans were as they 
were due to the presence of Batman; the theory put forwards by the tv 
psychologist that Batman is the locus of the chaos (since criminals define 
themselves against him) is in fact what is going on.  This suggests a 
reading in which the events of the graphic novel are nothing but a psychotic 
wish fulfillment fantasy for Bruce Wayne; a nice comment on some 
undercurrents of the superhero genre.  On that reading, it's no more facist 
than Spinrad's 'The Iron Dream'.

>>You want to know a classic that's facistic as all hell?
>>Read _Dune_ and pay attention to what's actually going on.
>>Master race, fuhrerprinzip, the whole works.

I don't find these as obvious in Dune [1] as I do in, say, Robert Jordan's 
'Wheel of Time' (content digested via the RPG rulebook; Jordan's prose gives 
me indigestion) - where a couple of obvious borrowings from Dune (fearsome 
tribesmen who'd be Fremen if not for the lack of sandworms, a manipulative 
order of women who're the Bene Gesserit in all but name)  meet with some 
dubious subtexts - purity of 'old blood', anyone? - in fashion I find 
slightly disturbing.  Thing is, I'm not sure this is deliberate on Jordan's 
part, as a lot of these subtexts have always lurked around fantasy (which 
doesn't make their inclusion a good thing); probably as a holdover from the 

[1]  I suspect, if they're there, Herbet either is commenting on them in a 
negative way, or they're space opera tropes that have snuck in without 
anyone noticing, which can happen if no one's careful.

>I'll check that out next time I read it. I don't recall any mention of a 
>"master race". But the connections some are making between feudalism and 
>Wolfe's governments and fascism I do not believe are warranted. The view of 
>the King in Christendom cannot be separated from the view of God having a 
>theologically rightful place of authority in Heaven. The King is not a 
>"leader", he is God's executive.

This seems right.  In British history, the Divine Right of Kings (as per 
most peoples conceptions of a monarchy) seems to be a fairly late invention 
due to James I (who may have needed it as a coping device following many 
assasination attempts).  It did not go down well, as his son discovered.

>The Roman Empire could be seen possibly as proto-fascistic but Egypt and 
>most of Asia (with their god-kings) could not IMO. It is hard for me to 
>imagine true fascism (except by analogy) being at all related to a religion 
>in which the Leader acts as a **servant** of God.

Quite.  It's when they delude themselves into thinking they speak for God or 
are God that I imagine problems arise.  Though I don't think a monarchy 
would be the ideal system I'd choose if I were God. :)

>So the Autarch IMO is not a fascist ruler and neither was King Arthur or 
>Silk or Fidel Casto or any other "liberator" or defender of his people 
>against powerful aggressors.

I agree, but I think quick definitions of what is meant by 'fascism' now, 
rather than later, may also save everyone a lot of hassle and strained 
typing fingers.  It's one of those words that everyone is sure they know 
what it means, but...

We might also have to draw a distiction between the political structure in 
the various novels and what moral point is being conveyed through the 
structures.  The tendency towards monarchy may be a convenient metaphor; it 
substitutes most easily for 'rightful authority' in the fantasy genre simply 
because most readers view fantasy worlds that way (this is lazy on their 
part, but a clever authour can easily exploit it to profitable end).  I 
doubt Wolfe is seriously suggesting that he'd like to live in the Autarchy.


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