Welcome to the New Age

Weird fiction is going through an awful time. Granted, there are those who will happily advise you that its foothold in our culture has never been as secure. I disagree. Weird fiction cannot be sustained by anything other than improving its standards through upholding it as literature. It certainly cannot be transfigured by a simple checklist of ‘vibrant’, ‘diverse’ or ‘socially relevant’ themes derived from contemporary identity politics. Those who maintained this have shown themselves up to be a cadre organised on social media out to make, as Americans say, a quick buck (after which most lose interest and start writing crime fiction, which is much more lucrative – hint). Their opportunistic tsunami has already spent itself, leaving behind a mass of rotting seaweed of Cthulhu Political Nonsense Vol. XVII and Wreckonomicon IV that this cadre owns. And one can only marvel at their remarkable online attempts at fingers-in-ears denial (c.f. the P-O-X model of balance theory) of the truth when it comes to another writer lately on their radar, namely the highly conservative, and traditionalist, Robert Aickman.

I have long prophesied that the likes of Thomas Ligotti (our greatest living author of weird fiction) will sooner, rather than later, come in for the same treatment from the same Leftist cadre and its camp-followers. When they get the chance his every utterance, whether in private correspondence, in reported behaviour, in his associations and collaborations, will be ruthlessly dissected as they project their own insecurities into his work. Political vivisection and character autopsies constitute their raison d’etre. Only the very naïve still harbour the delusion that those who are “of the Left” are never nasty (even towards “their own”) and will not desperately attempt to rend to pieces any perceived deviation from the next ‘progressive’ diktat of compulsory moral relativism.

Their goals are invariably ideological and monetary; never genuinely artistic.

Mark S.

21 Responses to “Welcome to the New Age”

  1. Revolutionary purity is a moving target. Eventually the tumbrel comes for you.

  2. BRAVO! Well said, Mark. I will now place my remaining pennies into the latest denture venture hoping to capitalize on the inevitable gnashing of teeth!

  3. James Champagne Says:

    At least on the issue of depictions of race Ligotti has plausible deniability. Because his human characters are so sketchily developed/described, it’s very rare (I can think of only a handful of occasions) that he ever mentions what their skin color is. Because of this, it’s anyone’s guess as to what their race is or isn’t. I suppose some people might be bothered by his lack of female characters. Thing is, I don’t see Ligotti himself really caring all that much if he came under that kind of attack, though maybe I’m wrong.

    I can certainly think of at least one writer I knew who initially seemed to show very little interest in cosmic horror/Weird Fiction, until certain writers on the scene started courting his favor. Now he’s suddenly very interested in all that sort of thing.

  4. marksamuels Says:

    General note: I think anyone who’s aware of the climate in the weird fiction scene will be able to think of examples of individuals who utilise it for their own extraneous purposes but naming names can provide them with the excuse to be offended that they seek. So I think that route is best avoided.

    Mark S.

  5. manfred arcane Says:

    You oft complain how you’ve never met any contemporary writer in this field who isn’t a liberal. I’d say that it is more troubling that it seems how liberals are the only ones reading weird fiction nowadays, to a point where, when I encounter someone on say Goodreads who is into Machen or Aickman, i can instantly guess that he or she is a liberal if not a far left progressive. And I’m yet to be proven wrong…
    I’ve seen arguments that conservatives are more likely to be introverts (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/493105) which would fit in with why those who tend to talk about fiction on various social netorks, or to blog about it or to seek communities dedicated to it tend to be liberals.
    But on the other hand I see a lot of conservatives who talk about SF and fantasy online. It is just this “genre” that seems to have ideologically homogenous readership. I have no idea about the cause of it, it cannot be that the attempt to frame entire branch of fiction in this politically charged postmodern context with New Weird and its entire related field of literary criticism and the like have been this successful and anyway this seems to go way back.

    Anyway, regarding Ligotti, he wont come under attack because his philosophy is one that is so useful to the western postmodern Left.
    Not exactly comparable, but consider how you won’t see folks whining about, say, certain of Cioran’s political associations, not to the extent to which same or much less is used to discredit some conservative thinkers who are actually dangerous to the Left.

    • marksamuels Says:

      I take a lot of what you’ve said onboard.

      I have no idea how I, and those who think like me, can possibly win, but it won’t stop me trying. Moreover I have the same traditional ideals of the old-time weird fiction greats at my back. If the continuum deserves to go down, let it damn well go down through the efforts of others: I certainly won’t be the one to give its downfall a helping hand. I will try to continue to write it into history not modernity.

      And so it goes, and excuse me if I momentarily take myself too seriously. At least I have some measure other than self-gain in mind. Hell, had I been “sensible” (as I was advised to be by many), in being connected with the so-called ‘Tolerant People of the Arts’, I’d have loudly trumpeted Leftism for the past odd ten or so years to my own monetary advantage. But, as I am often advised by the “kind-hearted”: such are the wages of reactionary ranting.

      Mark S.

  6. Mr. Veech Says:

    This is partially why I’ve deliberately limited myself to the “classics” as well as only a handful of contemporary authors of weird fiction.

    I saw the writing on the wall. I resisted going to graduate school in philosophy because it had already followed the same basic trend. The only key difference between the two is that those who receive philosophy degrees centered around identity politics complain about their student debt. This hatred of tradition, which is supposedly justified because some of its adherents had personal flaws, is simply inexcusable. Part of the reason Ligotti is the greatest living writer of weird fiction is because he abstained from political nonsense. He understands that the genre of weird fiction occupies a separate realm which is neither economic nor political.

    • marksamuels Says:

      I thought the same about Ligotti for a long time (that he was above the political fray); but later remarks made via email to me (and, doubtless, other people) about the desirability of socialism (at least in its policies on state-controlled housing, healthcare etc), make it pretty obvious he has firm political views. Whether those political views are philosophically consistent with the assertion, as his first principle, that it is better for humanity to have never existed, is another matter. Some of the later stories (as the late, much-missed Joel Lane pointed out) contain clear critiques of capitalist corporatism.

      Identity Politics is not universally regarded as a requisite component of socialism, of course. There are still old-school socialists around who hold to the class conflict model. I think that IDpol is at the political core of the West now, in all its shades of political variance, having consumed the value-judgements of both left and right.

      Still, it’s not that important. I don’t think Lovecraft, either, satisfactorily reconciled the idea of aesthetic-cultural continuity as his own basis for ethical behaviour with his overall ‘cosmicism’. I think Joshi conceded this somewhere.

      But, as you imply, that’s by-the-by when it comes to judging the stories on the basis of their merits as weird fiction. A diehard Leftist is just as capable as turning out a great tale as is a diehard Rightist. I’d even go so far as to say that even if the intent of such a story is didactic then it’s often the case that the final effect transcends that intent, much like poetry.

      I could say more, but am pressed for time…

      Mark S.

  7. James from TLO Says:

    My own unconventional socialist leanings come from a very dry and purely economic point of view, and I hold the opinion that our rampant consumerism is one of the main reasons we’re seeing the proliferation of corporate identity politics everywhere as everybody is sorted into demographics to be catered to, and mainstream political discourse is broken down into two parties representing the same consumerist societal structure, but each with different identity politics that the public are then, often unintentionally due to a human propensity for narcissism and factionalism, radicalised into seeing as the great struggle of the age when they’re often purely trivial concerns of utilitarian aesthetic.

    I’m always open to being wrong. In fact I welcome it.

    • marksamuels Says:

      Well, if I agreed with you we’d both be wrong.

      And I’m not wrong.

      Mark S.

      • James James Says:

        I still mostly read conservative or traditionalist writers. I don’t seem to fit in anywhere. Too much spiritual angst and sympathy for the lost aristocracy to fit with the left and too much scepticism of free market economics to fit with the right.

        All of this is a rather long-winded attempt to say I have no idea what is going on and somewhat envy those who feel they do.

      • manfred arcane Says:

        You really ought try to contribute to that Andreyev anthology. I think that you have a mindset that would have been right at home among some of Russian Symbolists.

        • marksamuels Says:

          James has actually acted ahead of your worthwhile suggestion. I’m very glad he did.

          Mark S.

  8. I believe in freedom for everyone, except those who do not deserve it for obvious reasons. You mentioned in a comment to me in the past how my journey as a writer will be a long and lonely one because of the new ”identity politics” nonsense. I am prepared to endure it, but I am sure there are relatively apolitical publishers and authors in the field, especially in Europe and the British Isles — for example, Egaeus Press, and not to mention yourself. I hope to see a Golden Age of transcendent and visionary wyrd and imaginative writing sometime in the foreseeable future; the new Romantics, the new wyrdists, the new Beats, the new surrealists. Then again, like the great Stefan Grabinski, I will probably stay clear of them and dwell in my own hermetic sphere.

    The best imaginative poetry transcends politics and economics. I hope that is the last time I ever have to write that again. Knowing the current state of the world, of course, I strongly doubt that.

  9. swedish cavalier Says:

    I fear that i cannot agree with the above assessment that the current identitarian divide is used by the elites to “divide and conquer”. At least the commenter in question admits his socialism, and probably understands that said claim harkens back to Marx with the comments like this one:
    “This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organization. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.”
    Search the above in Google to see its context.
    Anyway, I cannot agree when one side is wholly embraced and supported by the elite and the mainstream whereas other one is demonised. And I cannot agree when that other side tends to include those working classes who oughta be supported by those calling themselves socialists (but who are in fact treated as an enemy and justifiable target), and when that other ideology is one that gives them some sense of integration and preservation, some means of defense.
    Damn those unwashed masses for refusing to let themselves be reduced to expendable, alienated, easily used atoms! Damn them for not acting like proper “mass” that is!

    • James from TLO Says:

      I feel no real shame in having socialist leanings regarding health care and other elements in society, and I don’t think I have any antagonistic feelings toward the working class my entire family all come from, haha.


  10. swedish cavalier Says:

    Mind you, that comment wasn’t meant as an attack on you in particular. Sorry if it came trough like that, I’m really pretty impulsive plus kinda awful at expressing myself online. Fun combo, that.

  11. James from TLO Says:

    No worries. I don’t take myself particularly seriously, especially when it comes to my political views.

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