?

Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Elf Sternberg's Pendorwright Projects Previous Previous Next Next
Hate SF? What are you, a Commie? - Elf M. Sternberg
elfs
elfs
Hate SF? What are you, a Commie?
Dave Wolverton has as essay, On Writing as a Fantasist, in which he takes to task the various odd schools of writing that describe the genre known as Literature, and he reveals something I did not know. In 1866, William Dean Howells became an editor, and eventually the editor, of Atlantic Monthly, which at the time was by far the magazine with the greatest distribution and widest readership for short fiction. When he became editor, he set out new rules for the kind of fiction he wanted, describing it as Realism. Howell's rules forbade the supernatural, the weird, or the overly dramatic.

What Wolverton claims is that Howells was a socialist: he came up with a way of restricting his writers to dealing only with economic issues that affected "real" people. He took away all of the trappings of escaping: no witches, warlocks, vampires, ghosts, mob bosses and molls, ray guns, trips to the moon, adventures underground, or time travel. That left writers who wanted to get into the Atlantic Monthly with two constrictions: that all fiction must have a conflict, and that all conflict must be real, personal, and intimate.

Since at the time "intimate" was not allowed to have the same meaning it quite has now, his writers were pared down to writing around these issues, and they did what Howell hoped they would: they wrote all of their stories about economic hardships suffered by ordinary human beings. Howell hoped that enough stories describing the "plight of the common people" would encourage America toward a more socialist and collective direction.

If true, it would explain a lot about the state of Literature today.

Tags:
Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: Melon Kinenbi, Cruel Holiday

3 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: September 14th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
What Wolverton claims is that Howells was a socialist: he came up with a way of restricting his writers to dealing only with economic issues that affected "real" people.

This is ironic if true, given the later importance (and politics) of H. G. Wells ...
ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: September 14th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Interesting

Ayn Rand wrote about this conflict over and over again, describing it as "naturalism" vs. "romanticism." She said that one of the goals (or at least one of the effects) of rejecting romanticism was to promote a socialist worldview.

She was mostly concerned with the fiction market of the early- to mid-20th century, and I don't see any obvious evidence on Google that she ever talked about Howells or Atlantic Monthly, but it's the sort of thing she used to complain about a lot.

. png
rfmcdpei From: rfmcdpei Date: September 15th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
If true, it would explain a lot about the state of Literature today.

If it was true, yes. Leaving Wolverton's concentration on developments in non-Anglophone literatures and other English-language literatures (where does Dickens fit in his schema?), I have to say that he seems to wildly overestimate the influence of William Dean Howells--the man doesn't have that much name recognition, or that much respect within the academy.
3 comments or Leave a comment