Monday, 14 March 2016

Religion And Politics In Fiction

A novel can be written by a Catholic or about Catholics or both. In his hard sf, Poul Anderson respects his Catholic characters. In his fantasy novel, Three Hearts And Three Lions, the protagonist converts to Catholicism because of his experiences in another universe.

We could list other Catholics in sf and have already mentioned some. See here and here. However, the greatest possible respect for Catholicism is shown in Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's fantasy novel, Escape From Hell, where Hell is reorganized in accordance with Vatican II! Can you Adam and Eve it? (The entertaining British rhyming slang.) Well, as a matter of fact, no, I do not believe it! But Niven and Pournelle have logic on their side. Dante wrote in accordance with the Catholic beliefs of his period. Therefore, if the beliefs change or develop, then so should the Inferno.

I can usually enjoy fiction despite disagreeing with the author's politics - always in the case of Poul Anderson. There are some sticking points with a few other writers, e.g.:

the later Heinlein lectures and hectors instead of entertaining;

Frederick Forsyth parodies a left wing College lecturer and makes unnecessary auctorial asides, on one occasion implying that, since some atheists are against the Bomb, all theists should be for it;

I have already mentioned a scene that I found problematic in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history -

Falkenberg orders a massacre.
copied from here.

But these occasions are few and far between.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I would like to make a few points about Col. Falkenberg's slaughter of the rebels in the city of Refuge on the planet Hadley. Is it a mitigating factor that after Falkenberg's men occupied the upper parts of the stadium (I'm tempted to call it the hippodrome!) he offered the rebels a chance to surrender? And, is it also a mitigating factor that Falkenberg ordered his men to open fire only after the rebels refused to surrender and opened fire first? Lastly, once it was plain he had broken the rebels Falkenberg ordered his men to cease fire.

I'm no soldier, but what we saw here was how a small body of trained men occupying the higher ground put out a far more massive RATIO OF FIRE than a larger, but disorganized mass of men could do firing UPWARDS.


Paul Shackley said...

Thank you for your advice in various comments about what to read next. Rebels firing first? I had forgotten that detail and it certainly does make some difference. Bloody idiots. I have been near the front line of a demonstration when a few individuals standing at the back of the crowd threw missiles at the police in front of us. The police, instead of identifying those individuals and pushing through the crowd with a wedge in order to arrest them, simply attacked the front line with truncheons. I have learned to avoid being right on the front line in such circumstances. I have not yet been in a conflict that involved the use of firearms although it has happened recently in these islands. On Bloody Sunday in Derry, the British Army killed several demonstrators and the British government acknowledged decades later that there had been no gunshots from the crowd first as lots of people knew all along.
I had better after all reread the relevant passage in THE MERCENARY.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Exactly! The police in the incident you mentioned should have pushed thru the crowd in a wedge to arrest the real troublemakers. And Bloody Sunday was an even clearer example of the MISUSE of force.