Theodore Beale, Fascism, and Epic Poems

By now you may be familiar with how the Hugo Awards (a prestigious set of annual awards for science fiction) had their nominations manipulated by a slimy individual named Theodore Beale.  I recently read an analysis of him and the movement he’s involved in here.  It also gives a great summary of the events and a compelling case that the man is technically a fascist.

Here’s my brief and probably bad attempt to paraphrase his definition of fascism; it seems to have three main elements: a charismatic manly leader or ‘ubermensch’, a powerful nostalgic pining for ‘the good old days’ that never actually existed, and persistent rumors of some kind of conspiracy where the good people or good society were betrayed or ‘stabbed in the back’.  Consider the Nazis, who rose to power when they convinced a section of the German people that German Jews had betrayed them and it resulted in the loss of the first world war.  I said ‘stabbed in the back’ because it’s a pretty key phrase for the small point I would like to make.

I was searching Wikipedia for information on what I thought was an unrelated topic: epic poetry.  I’m a writing hobbyist and I thought that someday I might try and write one myself.  I started off looking at Beowulf but my wife directed me to a German one I was not familiar with called the Nibelungenlied.  What really caught my eye when I read the plot synopsis was one of the main characters: Siegfried.

He is a powerful warrior who slays a dragon and becomes coated in its blood.  The blood then makes him invulnerable to harm.  Unfortunately he did not notice that there was a leaf on his back, which prevented the blood from reaching the skin beneath it, making him vulnerable in that one small spot.  You can probably guess what happens.  Somebody throws a javelin at him, strikes that spot, and kills him.

Does that sound familiar?  A god-like super masculine warrior is struck in the back by cowards who end his heroics.  It’s a lot like the myth that fascists seem to construct around themselves and their leaders.  Remember too the story of Achilles, who had a similarly small weak point on the back of his foot.

Now compare these figures to Theodore Beale who uses the pen name Vox Day, as if he thinks he’s part god.  In the post I linked to at the beginning the author uses excerpts from the militaristic science fiction stories that Beale nominated to point out the odd fetishizing of the futuristic technology.  To me it reads much like the fetishizing of the deeds and physiques of the heroes in epic poems.  They should be our leaders because they are literally that good at everything they do.  Fans of the real-life pretenders who cast themselves in the light of Beowulf, Achilles, or Siegfried also strike me as the type of people who, when asked to talk about a character’s flaw, might suggest a chink in the character’s physical armor rather than an emotional or intellectual shortcoming.

Epic poems are among our oldest stories.  They were the tales we told because we didn’t know how to talk about anything other than victories in battle or triumphs over nature.  We’re past that now and it’s why these character types aren’t as popular as they used to be.  They’re instinctual.  They’re pure animalistic power fantasy.  They’re the men that all women want and all beasts fear that can only be destroyed by shadowy figures that aren’t playing fair.

It looks to me that fascism is made up of people who won’t accept that the worlds of the epic poem are not reality.  To them, somewhere, there has to be a man strong enough and great enough to lead them all.  It’s really pathetic.  There’s a reason we favor stories with characters more like ourselves these days: our lives are about realizing our own potential rather than finding some shirtless hulk who can crowd-surf across his subjects all the way to the next dragon he needs to choke.

I’m not trying to say epic poetry has no artistic value; I just wanted to point out that odd parallel I noticed when reading about these issues.  Perhaps I’m noticing a connection where there is none.  Regardless, Theodore Beale is a jackass.

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