Thursday, December 25, 2014

Conservative fiction: beyond "Atlas Shrugged"

An intriguing article from Alyssa Rosenberg about the need for conservatives to "reengage with popular culture":

I haven't read the novel Rosenberg mentions, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P

I do agree with her that Tom Clancy, despite his many flaws (weak character development, episodic plot structure), was skilled in packaging conservative ideas within a fictional framework.

But Tom Clancy passed away last year. Moreover, Clancy's forte was the Cold War. He did his best writing before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, in which he wrote about that now bygone world.

Conservative fiction for the twenty-first century will have to deal not with the bipolar conflict between East and West, but a multipolar world in which the conflicts are more nuanced. (For example: How do European countries with large Muslim populations effectively fight Islamic terrorism while respecting the civil rights of European-born Muslims?)  

More importantly, conservative fiction will need to address so-called "culture war" issues in a way that presents conservative ideas without being heavy-handed or cliched. This will not be easy.

"It is easier to play to your base, particularly when that base is underserved by mass culture, or to revisit old smashes like Ayn Rand than it is to conquer the culture at large."

I couldn't agree more. As Rosenberg suggests, conservative literature needs to move past Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand had some useful things to say in the context of the political and economic conflicts of the early- to mid-20th century. However, her material is not only dated, but less than accomplished from a literary perspective. Rand famously ignored the novelist's dictum "show, don't tell". Her novels (especially Atlas Shrugged) were bogged down with long monologues, like "John Galt's speech".

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