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Left wing fantasy fiction… May 6, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This came up tangentially in comments a week or two back, but any suggestions of actual left-wing, overtly or at least evident left-wing fantasy? China Mevielle – been there. Richard Morgan’s A Land Fit For Heroes – done that. But what of others? How about Marxist and anarchist fantasy?

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1. roddy - May 6, 2017

In my youth,I always found “the beano” to be very “anti authoritarian”. Does that count?!

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Michael Carley - May 6, 2017
2. Sum Guy - May 6, 2017

Ken MacLeod “The Cassini Division”

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Sum Guy - May 6, 2017

Also don’t know it it’s exactly “leftwing”, but at least it avoids many of the irritants in mainstream fantasy: Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles (a warning though, the bugger hasn’t published the 3rd in the trilogy yet and it does not seem as though it’s coming any time soon). Anyway, it’s IMO among the best-written “high” fantasy of recent years.

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RosencrantzisDead - May 6, 2017

The Kingkiller Chronicles is a prime example of how much disdain publishers have for readers of fantasy novels. The whole thing was one book which Rothfuss’ publishers convinced him to pad out and turn into three novels.

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Gearóid - May 6, 2017

Part one was as good as Sum Guy describes. I could barely finish the second, but I thought that was just me.

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WorldbyStorm - May 6, 2017

Cheers for those. I’m particularly interested in high fantasy because I’m rereading the Lord of the Rings at the moment – or rather reading it aloud to someone. And while there’s bits I like there’s others that really grate on me.

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3. Starkadder - May 7, 2017

This interesting quote from Farah Mendlesohn book ” Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature”in a piece about the reactionary politics of much commercial fantasy:

“…a number of fantasy writers—Michael Moorcock,
M. John Harrison, Michael Swanwick, China Miéville, and most recently Steph Swainston—have tried to write left-wing fantasy..”

https://books.google.ie/books?id=qZLdAAAAQBAJ&pg=PA111&dq=%22left-wing+fantasy%22&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=%22left-wing%20fantasy%22&f=false

Other Left Wing Fantasy Writers…there’s Angela Carter, whose work features explicit feminist themes, and Steven Brust, who calls himself
a Trotskyist :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Brust

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4. lcox - May 7, 2017

William Morris?

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Starkadder - May 7, 2017

Of course. I think it was Edward James who states that
Morris’ “The House of the Wolfings” has an anti-imperialist subtext (heroic Goths fighting the Romans).

Quite a large number of fantasy writers are active feminists, one thinks of Ursula Le Guin, Nancy Springer, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Pamela Dean, N. K. Jemisin and Phyllis Ann Karr.

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EWI - May 8, 2017

Of course. I think it was Edward James who states that
Morris’ “The House of the Wolfings” has an anti-imperialist subtext (heroic Goths fighting the Romans).

I know I’ve said it before, but George Martin probably counts as well. Feminist, non-homophobic and deals extensively with the effects of events on the lower classes. His ‘Dunk’ prequel stories feature a working-class protagonist trying to make his way in a world where the rules are loaded against him.

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Gerard Madden - May 9, 2017

Not to mention James Tiptree Jr.

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5. ivorthorne - May 8, 2017

There are certainly Marxist or Anarchist leanings in many fantasy/sci-fi heroes but it seems like much of the time, even if they “take down” the antagonists, we never get to see exactly how the new system works.

Criticisms of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism are common but actual endorsements of alternative systems are relatively few (AFAIK).

GRRM could be considered left wing but I’d say he’s not exactly a fan of collectivism at least in its more extreme forms. He would oppose any overly zealous movement.

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Joe - May 8, 2017

“we never get to see exactly how the new system works.”

It’s a problem for actually existing socialists as well as fantasy/sci fi writers.
If we could show and tell how the new system works, we might persuade more people to get on board for the revolution?

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WorldbyStorm - May 8, 2017

That’s one of the reasons I’m all for many left systems being experimented with.

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ivorthorne - May 8, 2017

How about the United Federation of Planets? Seems relatively socialist.

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EWI - May 9, 2017

Very socialist. No more money!

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6. Ramzi Nohra - May 8, 2017

I suppose The Forever War is a bit leftist- or at least anti-militarist

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7. Michael Pidgeon (@Pidge) - May 9, 2017

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy certainly has anarchist/feminist visions of the future. Good read.

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8. Starkadder - May 9, 2017

“My Friend, Mr. Leakey” by J.B.S. Haldane. A children’s fantasy book by the famous Marxist biologist:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/j-b-s-haldane/my-friend-mr-leakey/

Also, even though he does the annoying “I don’t write fantasy/ science fiction” guff, Green Party supporter Philip Pullman did write the “His Dark Materials” fantasy series.

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9. Starkadder - May 9, 2017

Some “magic realist /surrealist” fantasy novels by left-wing writers would include “In the Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka (always struck me as an attack on torture), “The Wild Goose Chase” by Rex Warner
and “The Lost Traveller” by Ruthven Todd
(two Kafka-influenced anti-fascist allegories).

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