On Moorcocks’s Starship Stormtroopers

I really like this essay by Moorcock.

I don’t have a lot to say about it–it factors into basically any piece of literary analysis or media criticism that I do. The reason that I am making this post is that the essay is hard to find the essay unedited or fiddled with. I had to use The Wayback Machine to find the version that I have read before. So I decided to copy it all, fix the formatting, and make a PDF of “Starship Stormtroopers” for the perusal of anyone who needs it. This is strictly for educational use, mind you. I think the essay is phenomenal and it is a shame that there isn’t a good copy floating around out there in the cyberspace (or at least a good copy that I can find.)

So if you want to find out why the loved authors of science fiction and fantasy’s pasts are basically the most evil people in the world, read this essay.

I have some choice quote be

At least the American pulp magazines like Amazing Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories were not, by and large, offering us high-profile ‘leadership’: just the good old-fashioned mixture of implicit racialism/militarism/nationalism/paternalism carried a few hundred years into the future or a few million light years into space (E. E. Smith remains to this day one of the most popular writers of that era). John W. Campbell, who in the late thirties took over Astounding Science Fiction Stories and created what many believe to be a major revolution in the development of sf, was the chief creator of the school known to buffs as ‘Golden Age’ sf and written by the likes of Heinlein, Asimov and A.E. Van Vogt, wild-eyed paternalists to a man, fierce anti-socialists, whose work reflected the deep-seated conservatism of the majority of their readers, who saw a Bolshevik menace in every union meeting. They believed, in common with authoritarians everywhere, that radicals wanted to take over old-fashioned political power, turn the world into a uniform mass of ‘workers’ with themselves (the radicals) as commissars. They offered us such visions, when they attempted any overt discussion of politics at all. They were about as left-wing as The National Enquirer or The Saturday Evening Post (where their stories occasionally were to appear). They were xenophobic, smug and confident that the capitalist system would flourish throughout the universe, though they were, of course, against dictators and the worst sort of exploiters (no longer Jews but often still ‘aliens’). Rugged individualism was the most sophisticated political concept they could manage — in the pulp tradition, the Code of the West became the Code of the Space Frontier, and a spaceship captain had to do what a spaceship captain had to do…

Yet what Heinlein or Tolkein lack is any trace of real self-mockery. They are nature’s urbane Tories. They’ll put an arm round your shoulder and tell you their ideas are quite radical too, really; that they used to be fire-eaters in their youth; that there are different ways of achieving social change; that you must be realistic and pragmatic. Next time you pick up a Heinlein book think of the author as looking a bit like General Eisenhower or, if that image isn’t immediate enough, some chap in early middle age, good-looking in a slightly soft way, with silver at the temples, a blue tie, a sober three-pieced suit, telling you with a quiet smile that Margaret Thatcher cares for individualism and opportunity above all things, as passionately in her way as you do in yours. And then you might have some idea of what you’re actually about to read.

Once again, another link.

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