Fantastical Elements: Mainstreaming Subversion


The western world, 2013 may be caught in a web of depression and economic austerity but popular culture is dominated by escapist genres and narratives, embracing elements of fantasy. Formerly designated to sub-cultural interest groups, fantastical fiction and film have become part of the mainstream. This development has not occurred overnight and, I would suggest, has rather evolved as a reactive process to changes in the nature of social reality.
Arguably infrastructural changes are reflected in the superstructure of a society. Popular culture, like ideology, is a facet of the superstructure and is not an autonomous movement; not only is it shaped by the superstructure but it, also, helps shape the superstructure. The relationship is one of reciprocity; in my world one way causation is mythical!
I wish not to resort to a vulgar form of Marxism and would, thus, centralise the role of the individual as the human agent of change and the producer of cultural meaning.
We as writers, readers and viewers have embraced an alternate cultural universe in which vampires and zombies, spirits and wizards represent our hidden desires, supressed by our empirical roles as women and men interacting with and surviving the turmoil of the life process. Thus, the ascension of sub-genre fiction, film, etc should be applauded by the educated masses and accepted by the establishment as a counteraction to outmoded cultural snobbery and a positive consequence of the new cultural world order.

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Yankee Doodle Britainnia


Having recently been introduced to the concept of the indie novel, I have just written a review of an American indie novel which, when I have worked out the technicalities, will be published online in the NewYorkerTimes. Admittedly, the prospect of reading a novel about zombies awakened some of my literary prejudices. The prevalence of other worldly creatures within books, denoting in my closed mind, a concession to popularism, which I associated with “low art” and commercial exploitation.
As I read the novel, I realised the extent of my own hollowness. For the novel I was about to review, and others encompassing similar genres, consciously appropriates the notion of exploitation to satirise and thus, critique the society by which exploitation is generated; a symptom can, itself, be curative.
I inhabit a land whose soil is enriched by the works of Shakespeare, Shaw and Dickens. Standing upon this land today, are Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and J. K. Rowling-lesser talents, perhaps, however recipients of worldwide acclaim. The alternate universes presented in their books tell us something about the people and the social realm of contemporary existence, which we call “reality.” Whilst aesthetic worth is measured in terms of style of presentation, interpretations of a book of or a work of art should, also, take into account its relationship with and impact upon the environment from which it arose.
American fiction has much to teach us stuffy Brits about the contemporary world and our own attitudes and belief systems. Thus, I have relinquished my inner, British snob and now embrace citizenship of an eclectic, literary world.