Decline of civilization in reality and genre fiction.

A Brexit rant & graphic novel review. Today’s motto:

deadpool-never-underestimate-the-stupidity-of-idiots

Law & Justice in Poland, Brexit in the UK, Trump… I don’t think that on Earth 2016 we can dismiss this possibility, it’s getting more and more crazy and disgusting. If the forces of evil score triple win, time will come to migrate from the planet…

And a sneak peek into aforementioned graphic novel:

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The declining civilization is actually Carthage, about 300 million years in the future 😉

And Brexit… TOR analysed the situation from the book industry’s POV, genre writers seem to be firmly in the disappointed camp. Rowling, important voice against Scottish independence in 2014 referendum, now has twits like Goodbye, UK and her immediate response to the referendum results was I don’t think I’ve ever wanted magic more.

I was watching, with some delay, the last episodes of House of Cards, S04 lately and my thought was: what a tame, happy vision of politics, if the main protagonist was someone like Trump, a year ago we’d laugh the series off as unrealistic and grotesque. And I don’t even mean the undoubtedly more classy British version of this show. One that presents us previous stages of the decline of democratic politics…

Now retards all over the western world are taking over politics and a fantasy reader wishes for some diabolic, but smart, manipulator, like Abercrombie’s Bayaz – with all his crimes and his devious personal agenda, he was at least able. And provided stability of sorts 😛

Potential for catastrophe hidden in direct democracy was obvious for the observers of Athenian political system in Ancient Greece, but there is no shortage of demagogues in genre fiction as well. They offer an easy way out for populace tired of following a hero in his quest. Being misunderstood by general populace is one of the frequent stages of the hero’s journey. It’s even harder in reality, where we are sadly deprived of true heroes.

It makes me pine for some nice fantasy with a country ruled by a just king sending good knights to fight dragons. I know what I want and I’m not getting it from the political system. Lets find some temporary solace in escapism. And in England’s loss to Iceland in yesterday’s football/soccer match, I’m not a fan but it’s a funny metaphor of current situation…

And I’ll stock up on English books, with a pound weakened and while my online shopping in UK is still duty free. One thing is certain – I’m not going to learn French, despite suggestions that English will not be one of the official languages of EU any more.

Speaking about French… language of, among others, Gustave Flaubert, whose Salammbo is a long-term occupant of the lower shelves of my TBR list. For about 20 years. I’ve read about this novel, by one of the XIX–cent. masters, about a mercenary rebellion in ancient Carthage, powerful, but weakened republic, with rebels’ leader and a daughter of Carthaginian leader as main protagonists. War, carnage, love, torture… nothing really about democracy, but demagogues and dysfunctional political system – definitely. And yet, somehow, I’ve never gotten around to reading it. Until recently, when a Polish edition of the graphic novel adaptation was published.

It’s author is also a Frenchman, Pierre Druillet, who published it in three parts between 1980 and 1986. And it’s a different kind of s/f comic.

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Or epic fantasy? Epic space fantasy would probably be the correct genre here. But not the bright, happy, Star Wars kind of space fantasy. It combines a very distinctive style of drawing I’ve only seen in European comics with full page pictures and sometimes solid blocks of uninterrupted text. You don’t even need to read it all, it’s a very interesting visual experience on its own, before you start to follow the story. Some of the techniques were pretty innovative 35 years ago, and the effect is still stunning.

Detailed, monumental, colorful, but often graphic and grotesque. Not for readers with weak hearts, or stomachs. Or simply under-aged.

I believe Alejandro Jodorowsky is the most widely known artist with similar style. His graphic novels are reasonably popular in Poland, and his vision of Dune, almost filmed, would have made a grand spectacle. Not a very faithful adaptation of Herbert’s novel though. See a trailer of a documentary about a movie that never was.

Back to Salammbo. It’s world is stunning, but inconsistent. Space travel and monumental technology are combined with vast armies armed with swords and bows. It’s a dying Earth kind of world where magic exist, but we can be almost certain it’s just technology, invented so long ago that nobody remembers it’s origins. Zelazny’s Lord of Light comes to mind.

In the story there are no good guys. The forces of order and chaos, civilization and barbarism, are equally repulsive. Personally, in situation like these, I tend to root for civilization regardless. Hoping for a chance to retain something worthwhile and stop incoming dark ages. Here… I follow my heart, but reluctantly. Author’s sympathies, contrary to what I’ve read about Flaubert, seem to lay on the side of the barbarians. Civilization here is too decadent, to inefficient and cruel to survive. The barbarians are equally brutal, but also authentic, fresh, and might yet accomplish something. Echoes of political ideas of the time…

We have a triangle of protagonist – mercenary leader Matho/Sloane, Salambo, Carthaginian priestess and daughter of powerful military and political leader – Hamilkar Barkas, and Hamilkar himself. Sloane is strong, cunning and violent, Salambo is a fragile, cloistered girl torn between desire and duty, and Hamilkar… well, he combines military genius and political acumen  with an almost Kurtz-level of understanding of barbaric mind achieved after years of conducting Carthage’s wars with mercenary force now rebelled. Most interesting political play is between him and other oligarchs, jealous of his successes and popularity. Carthaginian mob just follows whoever shouts loudest at any given moment.

Not an optimistic vision, but an interesting diversion from regular superhero comics.

Brexit: 0/10, they need to reshoot the event

Salammbo: 7,5/10

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4 thoughts on “Decline of civilization in reality and genre fiction.

  1. Pingback: Jay Faerber, Copperhead (2014-…) | Re-enchantment Of The World

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