Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Platypus Reads Part XI


The recent flap over "The Golden Compass" has set me to thinking: what makes for an excellent piece of Science Fiction/Fantasy. In the case of "His Dark Materials" and "The Chronicles of Narnia," both series have been criticized as propaganda pieces for the author's respective world-views; Atheism and Christianity. Some opponents of the works, if I understand them correctly, claim that the artistry of these books is diminished or the enjoyment of them poisoned by the authors' attempts to use them as platforms for communicating their ideas/beliefs.

This seems puzzling to me. After all, each book that comes out of an author's head carries in it the image of the author that produced it. The author may ignore them, or try deliberately to hide them, but his/her core beliefs and ideas are going to come through in some form. Beyond that, many authors intend for their ideas to come through in their work as a way of dialogging with their audience. Last time I checked, free speech is not considered poor taste. American society worships free-speech even in those cases where we find ourselves attempting to squelch it.

Is this what the critics are objecting to? I think not. Rather, it seems as if what they are protesting is some sort of deception on the part of the authors; an occulting of their messages in an attempt to brainwash their readers. This is felt to be particularly grievous as the target audience of both "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "His Dark Materials" are children. If this were the case, these works might be grievous indeed! A quick survey of the public record, however, shows that both authors have been more than open about their respective worldviews. Goggle either "Lewis" or "Pullman" and you will find instantly that lewis was a passionate Christian and Pullman is a passionate Atheist. You will also find many statements from the authors regarding their intents in writing their respective books. So why all the flap? Perhaps it's that we as Americans have lost the ability to interact, or let our children interact, with ideas with which we disagree.

I have just finished reading with my wife a book that I very much enjoy and that I very much disagree with: Frank Herbert's "Dune." Over the weeks to come, I plan to discuss this book in what I hope is something like a positive model of how to interact with books by authors with whom we disagree.

P.S. The image is from the cover of the Sci-Fi Channel's adaptation of Frank Herbert's "Dune." I highly recommend it, but be aware that it may contain offensive materials, especially the extended edition.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Platypus Update

The holiday season seems to be a hard time for me to keep up on the old blog this year. There have been plenty of assignments to grade, I'm on my third T.A. this semester, I've had a tooth drilled and ground, just to name a little of what's been going on. There's been plenty to read too: N.T. Wright, Dune, the Harry Potter books, UnChristian, etc. Not much time for writing, video games, or nostalgia. I'm really looking forward to that two-week break. It'll be a good chance to get back to blogging!