Thursday, August 02, 2007

Article 4: Counterculture.


Feeling seriously hacked off and bitchy when I did this one...


COUNTERCULTURE.


It is human nature to strive to be, or to be perceived as, superior to your fellow. This striving stems from the simple imperative that if there’s someone higher up the ladder than you, then there’s still someone who can step on your fingers, or shit on you. It is the same quest for superiority that forms hierarchies in any organisation, group, or loose alliance. And it is the one that has created the ‘liter-arty intelligentsia’ (those with pretentions to being intellectual heavy-weights) who seek to rule the SFF world, and seem to think their pronouncements are holy writ. They also create slavish followers trying to squash themselves into the same mould.

On the whole they are dreadfully serious – humour is alien to them. In conversation they will often smear popular culture. If everyone likes Friends, then they don’t and will give some apparently worthy reason why. The plain silly they can own, and thereby score points: “Well actually, my favourite program is the Magic Roundabout.” The points here are for false frivolity, thereby demonstrating how though they are intelligences to be reckoned with, they can still be fun. Even better if they can attach some meaning that isn’t there: “It’s about arachnophobia and patriarchal societies, you see.”

If a group is discussing a film, they’ll always find a flaw to criticise, to demonstrate how observant they are and how so far above the work in question. However, if something is judged as being worthy by other, higher, members of the intelligentsia, they’ll hop on the same band wagon, for to say otherwise in such a case might open them to criticism. Perhaps they have not been bright enough to plumb the deep meaning of it all? You will find these same people in the Tate Modern, attaching meaning and importance to what is quite evidently crap to anyone with half a brain. Only the braver members of their kind might voice a contrary opinion, usually those ones who still have something functioning between their ears, and have yet to buy a life-time membership.

Full members live to raise themselves in the regard of others, but are caught in a fantasy of self-regard. The top ten reading lists of same will always be for the sake of appearance and intellectual poseur points. They will denigrate some of the old greats just to demonstrate how independent is their thought. They’ll forget all about the lurid SF and fantasy books that drew them into the genre, because they have of course outgrown such trash. LeGuin and Delaney will be in and Dickson and Zelazny out. They’ll definitely dislike Lord of the Rings, obviously – too many normal plebs like it (and of course the same book has to be allegorical). In their lists will be a smattering of books concerning subjects ending –ophy, ology, istry or ics, and you can guarantee that none of them will be mathematics, physics, biology or chemistry, or anything actually useful. And presently they’ll be wading through a tome produced by some obscure European philosopher, and foolishly think that what insight they have is something new.

Equally, they will, when asked to list their top ten favourite films, make their selection based on how they think this will enhance their facade, not on what they actually like. Blade Runner would certainly be allowable to them, but Terminator or Terminator II would definitely be out. Battleship Potemkin is a definite, but Total Recall will cause them pain (having its source as Philip K Dick but starring Arnold Schwartzenegger). Black and white films would be in, the more obscure the better, and better still if French, subtitled and deeply ‘intellectual’. In describing their selection they’ll use the word ‘noir’ a lot, and sometimes lapse into ‘surreal’.

The defining spirit of these people, is a total lack of honesty. They are pretentious: truth is not their stock in trade, for if you are truthful people might see you as you really are, might be able to assess your intelligence, judge you. Better to lie about your intellectual gains, better to be obscure and misjudged as being deep. Better to appear to be … better.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Snobbery in any form is just so annoying. Unless of course it's me... I totally loved "The Skinner" which I finished yesterday. Thanks for writing it! Now I will have to read all the rest of your books.
-new fan from Idaho.

no one said...

Because surely; you have never lapsed into any kind of superiority complex of your own...towards any others?

Not in the realms of music, religion(or lack of), politics, fashion, sports, or any other such thing where you have felt the need to establish personal likes and dislikes that might mirror those around you.

no, definately not...

Because you shit gold and fly by the grace of angels.

Neal Asher said...

Yup, I maybe do lapse into a superiority complex, my choice, my blog. As to the article, your missing the point about pretension, which no one can accuse me of. My opinions are my own, and the gold I shit has nothing to do with angels but has a lot to do with hard work. You're boring me now, this was your last post here.

Bob Lock said...

Can I clean your toilet?

Mercurior said...

remember a few weeks back a student who re wrote the austen classics and they were all rejected for being rubbish..

i am sure there are many people who dont admit to liking other everyday things. because it doesnt fit in with the image they present.

no stinking loops said...

Just finished "The Skinner" as well, having read "Gridlinked", "Prador Moon", "Africa Zero", and "The Engineer" over the last six months. I'm taking my time reading my way through the Asherology, and like anonymous, I just loved them. The exchanges between Sniper and Warden were laugh-out-loud funny.

As Theodore Dalrymple has been reminding us for the last decade, the relentless downward trajectory of our popular culture parallels in some odd way the rise of obscurantism, cant, and pretentious nonsense in the academy. For me, the antidote involves a monthly infusion of "The New Criterion" and at least one screwball 30's comedy a week. And the occasional martini. Strike that. The *frequent* martini.