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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

From Damien G. Walter’s unfathomably headlined article “Is science fiction literature's first international language?” in the Guardian:
Russian SF has a long and well-documented history as an outlet for political perspectives that were otherwise repressed. But it is as a critique of the values of western capitalism that the genre has recently caught attention.

The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Eskov is set in the Middle Earth of JRR Tolkien, immediately after the climatic [sic] battle of The Return of the King, and has recently been issued in its second edition translation free online, despite objections from the Tolkien estate. The book reimagines Lord of the Rings as a history written by the victors, with Mordor recast as an emergent industrial nation crushed under the heel of a war-mongering western alliance lead by Gondor, and Gandalf described as "engineering a final solution to the Mordorian problem".

If this mirrors a large proportion of European / Russian history it seems entirely valid, given how easily exactly the same reading can be made of Tolkien's fantasy epic.
Now is this really a critique of Lord of the Rings or a rip-off of it? Or does a rip-off constitute a form of political critique of such a dominant intellectual property?

What does it mean to identify with orcs, even if you present them as misrepresented? Is the “war-mongering western alliance” that Eskov and Walter see the Axis or NATO?

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