I am very late late to the party here, but this story is just too golden not to get a post from me. Some three years ago, earth-shaking outrage broke out in leftist quarters over, of all things, an introduction to an anthology of fantasy stories. Robert M. Price, a conservative atheist scholar of religion who has garnered attention mainly for his scholarship upholding the thesis that there was never a historical Jesus, also has a history in the fantasy scene. In this case, he was acting as the editor for a collection of fantasy stories, “Flashing Swords #6.” However, when Amazon published a preview of the introduction Dr. Price had written for the volume, much howling and gnashing of teeth ensued.
You see, as Rich Johnston at “Bleeding Cool” chronicles, several authors promptly requested that their contributions be pulled from the anthology, some expressing horror at the views Dr. Price had voiced in the preface. Johnston links to the book’s Amazon listing, but the preview seems to have been removed from there, possibly in response to the outcry. Luckily, the article includes this screenshot of part of the offending text:
Can you find anything majorly objectionable in this passage? I certainly can’t. Now, as an old prude, I’m not quite comfortable with Dr. Price’s spirited defence of pornography, but I’m certainly not about to take it as occasion for a hissy fit of the kind that greeted this fairly innocuous introduction on various leftist websites. On the whole, of course, Dr. Price hits the nail squarely on the head here with some of the sharpest social criticism I have seen in quite a while.
About a month ago, the epic received an update as Robert Price joined the YouTube channel “Atheists for Liberty” to discuss this sordid affair. According to what he says in that interview, no less than half (!) of the authors whose work had originally been supposed to be included in “Flashing Swords #6” withdrew their narratives from the project. Additionally, the original publisher dropped the book. All this seems to illustrate the lef-wing hivemind’s famously superb capacity for collective action and propensity to express bombastic indignation at the slightest resistance to its agenda of societal steamrolling. As conservative atheist Dr. James Lindsay might remark, “Wokes big mad!”
However, in the maligned editor’s words, “it was no big deal because it took a few more months, but I replaced all the stories with better ones and released the book, and now another volume is in the works[.]” “Flashing Swords #6” currently has four out of five stars on Amazon. I think the moral of the story is pretty obvious. Be resilient. “Never apologise to the woke mob.”
In case you immediately thought that the contributing authors should have been forewarned of what the preface to volume would include, as some small part of me did, here is Dr. Price’s answer to that objection:
[The authors] said: “You should have warned me!” I said: “Look, I, as an editor, do not submit the material to the writers; it’s the other way around!”
Once you’ve heard it, this logic becomes obvious, and it seems airtight to me.
“I have said many times that I think women are superior to men,” Dr. Price added, as a possibly humorous counter to accusations of misogyny. How seriously he believes this was not apparent to me, and it reminded me of a similar sentiment expressed by another conservative atheist, H. L. Mencken, in a 1918 book.
Perhaps most interestingly, Dr. Price expounds the ideas behind his scandalous introduction. Since masculinity is both in short supply and actively under attack, he says, it is apposite to re-popularise a “whole genre” of masculine fiction that has fallen out of favour, consisting of “Tarzan” and “the Doc Savage novels,” among others. I find this deeply insightful, and it was nice to be reminded that such fiction exists at all, though one would indeed hardly know it from looking at our culture’s commanding heights nowadays.
The great irony of the whole episode, to me, is that fantasy as a genre has from it very inception drawn on old values of manliness, chivalry, heroism and so forth. Whereas Dr. Price’s introduction was meant as a plea for safeguarding these values in the real world, some writers and enthusiasts of fantasy are apparently content to let their real-world societies decay into softness and decadence while continuing to savour a genre which draws its strength from the power which these old institutions held in the past. The phrase “cultural parasitism” suggests itself.