Posted by: rogermitchell | January 31, 2020

A dystopian present

Today, as I write, Britain turns its back on a generation of peace, collaboration and friendship with its European neighbours.

This was not something that a majority of the people voted for, not even a majority of those of voting age. A backward turn that is evidence of both our dystopian present and likely dystopian future. This at a time of climate and planetary crisis that calls for greater solidarity between nations, not less. While the mainstream media in the hands of the rich and powerful bamboozled many, the deeper problem lies with the age-old deception of peace through sovereign power that darkens all our perceptions. This deception has so deeply infused, colonised and subsumed our mindsets with the toxins of empire that is nearly impossible to penetrate such darkness with ordinary language.

I recently discovered Terry Brooks’ Shannara fantasies which I’m appreciating immensely.

For the unitiated, they explore a not unlikely dystopian future through the genre of fantasy and faerie. I have long engaged with Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles and Cosmic Trilogy, Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and I think I’ve read pretty much everything Stephen Lawhead has written. So unsurprisingly I am an avid fan of their earlier extraordinary muse, the ineffable George Macdonald. My hope is to make the next iteration of my political theology of love somewhere between faerie, fantasy, bibliography and historical novel. Nothing pretentious then!

There are at least two reasons why I like this genre:

1. The present is much more dystopian than we know

My research investigates and attempts with some success to explain how far the human race and history have strayed from love’s origins, at least in the history and backstory of the West. If you are unfamiliar with my work so far, please investigate my seminal academic work Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West; Wipf & Stock, 2011, or the shorter, easier The Fall of the Church; Wipf & Stock, 2013. https://wordery.com/search?term=Church%2C+Gospel+and+Empire; https://wordery.com/search?term=Mitchell%3A+The+Fall+of+the+Church. So much has been lost and so much that seems normal and natural for us is truly abnormal, unjust and inhumane.

2. Making sense is much more complex than it appears

So-called plain speaking, literal, rational, truth-telling are all too often the communications of blind leaders of the blind and the sounds of those with no ears to hear. Our failed social constructs, jig-saw puzzle-like mathēses or what Giorgio Agamben calls the Apparatus of our world, conceal the deep structural configuration of our shared being. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear this veil was pierced long ago with the incarnational language of soul and spirit that Jesus and his parables typified. I have for long used theological and academic language as an enlightening, unlocking toolset for those with the inclination, perseverance and skill set to understand. Some have grasped what I’m attempting to communicate, some have not. Now I’m hoping to provide another alternative. I will write some faerie stories. It will take some time to evolve, but I sense that the continuing new political space is calling for it.


Responses

  1. Wow! Glad to see that your reading of the Fantasy and Faerie genre is so diverse! Where are the females of the species in your readings? The rich voices from the manifold ethnos that inhabit this earth? So much for the ‘instating of women’ and the trans-national approach. To be read is to be heard.

    • Hi Rosie, great to hear from you. So who do you recommend – I’d love to hear. Have you written yourself? With love, Roger

  2. Hi Roger, didn’t mean to sound like a hacked off harridan. A few suggestions to bolster your literary diet:

    NK Jemisin – Try the ‘Broken Earth trilogy’; and her short story anthology, ‘How long ’til black future month’. She is fierce, poetic and uncompromising. I can’t wait for her forthcoming book out in a few weeks – ‘The City We Became’

    Afrofuturism – Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson

    Sara Maitland – ‘Gossip from the Forest’; ‘Moss Witch’

    Sharon Blackie – ‘Foxfire, Wolfskin…’; and the tales interwoven into ‘If Women Rose Rooted’.

    Clarissa Pinkola Estes – try extracting the myths from her epic work, ‘Women who run with the wolves’.They’re there and they are illuminating.

    Ursula K. Le Guin – Anything, her short stories, her long stories. She is under-rated and under-read.

    Octavia Butler –

    Doris Lessing – ‘Canopus in Argos’ a series of five books. An unsung treasury.

    Emily St John Mandel – ‘Station Eleven’. This one blew my mind in terms of narrative spacing, dystopian hope (yes, I know that sounds oxymoronic) and plausible realities.

    Salman Rushdie – Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty‑Eight Nights

    I know I’ve added some guys into the mix, but they are worth reading for an eclectic hit

    Enjoy!

    Rosie x


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