Conservatism and the End of the World

This week in The New Inquiry William Osterweil explores the recently prevalent “Ancient Apocalypse” film and TV genre. From Gladiator to Apocalypto to Noah to an endless shambling parade of zombie films, an Ancient Apocalypse doesn’t depict the literal end of the world, but situates its heroes at the end of an age, the downfall of a quasi-historical civilization. Osterweil explains:

There is a subnational social group: a tribe, city-state or family, living, if not happily, at least in stability and relative peace. That group receives a prophecy of a coming apocalypse. The prophecy proves true almost immediately, though it refers to the end of the world only insofar as it is the end of the group as currently constituted, the end of the group’s forms of life, the group’s world. This end is violent, sudden, and comes from the outside, in the form of natural disaster, foreign hordes, or rival groups with better technology—although its effects are exacerbated by internal decadence, corruption, weakness, willful ignorance, and/or betrayal.

At first blush, these apocalyptic fantasies may seem to promote conservative values. They feature strong heroic individuals who win survival or glory against all odds in the burning debris of a collapsed civilization. Continue reading Conservatism and the End of the World

Game of Moans

A review of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and the suggestion of a better book.

Painting: "Battle of the Scythians with the Slavs" by Viktor Vasnetsov
Viktor Vasnetsov, Battle of the Scythians with the Slavs

I recently finished reading George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (just the first book, mind you, not the entire series).  First, let me admit:  it was entertaining.  It was not imaginative.  It was not breathtaking.  But it was a page-turner; that much must be admitted by rights.

It was not, however, a good book, and it does not deserve the accolades it has received.  It suffers from many of the problems which the fantasy genre has suffered after the advent of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Let’s start with a nod to the ladies.

I do not frequently repeat this most shrill of charges, but the author does warrant the accusation of sexism.  He considers, apparently, narrating from the mind of a woman an insufferably uninteresting setting, so he instead resorts to narrating between her legs.  Inevitably, the worst writing takes place in this location.  There are, as far as I can recall, three types of women in Martin’s first book:  those who care about breeding, those who use sex as a tool (and are generally perverted in some way), and those women who are really just men with breasts.  He reminds you about the breasts.  Allow me to share some of the gems. Continue reading Game of Moans