Narcissus reviews ‘Awake in the Night Land’

Naturally, as a gentleman, I can only express gratitude that my stories are being read at all, anywhere, by anyone, and it would ill behoove me to take that for granted.

I hope I am allowed to raise a mild if polite objection that one should read any story for the sake of the story being told, and not as a Rorschach inkblot used only as an excuse to express one’s own self-absorbed political-sexual obsessions.

Any tale is ill used when used as the looking glass of Narcissus.

Certain of the critiques here are valid, others less so. The reviewer finds my use of names and situations taken from Greek myth to be distracting, for example, because I do not vary the meaning from the original. This is a legitimate difference of judgment, and I defer to the tastes of the reader.

On the other hand, the point and meaning of the scene where something called ‘the new learning’ introduces a theory of the origins of the world which the readers know is false but the characters do not is completely lost on this reviewer. The point is that the men of that era do not know for certain men of our era ever existed, so vast is the depth of time. The point is not to make a sly comment on the modern controversy of young-earth creationism versus Darwinism, which, by the bye, is not a controversy where I side with the young-earth creationists. (Setting a story countless tens of millions of years in the future would be an odd choice indeed to serve as a vehicle to make a rhetorical point that the cosmos is six thousand years old.)

More to the matter, the reviewer here was trying so hard to find some anti-feminist thought-crime in my retelling of the Antigone myth, that she was forced to conclude that Antigone was an insignificant character.

Since, as we have noted above, I did not change the meaning of the original story, in effect the reviewer is arguing that Antigone is not a major character in the Antigone myth.

Similar mental gymnastic distortions are undertaken to find other female characters to be insignificant: Hellenore, for example, is insignificant because the story is told in flashback. Why Elsie, the mother of the human race in the final story, the girl who basically saves the universe, is insignificant eludes me. Having invented bogus reasons for claiming major characters are not major, the reviewer clucks her tongue at me for not having a sufficient quota of major female characters.

There is some slippery mathematics involved to minimize the number of female characters, so that a complaint could be lodged that there were not enough. It is roughly a third of the speaking roles.

I suppose I should be thankful that I was not taken to task for failing to portray a full quota of neuro-atypical Mohammedans, one-handed Lithuanians, blind Eskimos, and lefthanded hermaphrodite Zulus.

Also, that women in Hodgson’s background, a book published in 1912, were not permitted to expose themselves to such indescribably spiritual and physical dangers as would make swift suicide preferable was cause from some cawing and coughing from this reviewer.

Perhaps persons who cannot imagine cultures different from our own, in aeons and on planets remote from our own, with political and social opinions remote from our own, should not read science fiction at all.

Let this serve as a warning to those with ears to hear: political correctness is like eating the food of the elves, which spoils the tongue for any earthly fare. One’s enjoyment of innocent pleasures is lost, and one sees with the eyes of a troll, to whom fair is foul and foul is fair, once one views all things through the myopic lens of political correctness. It robs you of pleasure and gives you nothing in return.