"And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps." ~ H.L. Mencken
Defiant, She Advanced: Legends of Future Resistance
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
Let’s begin by forgetting about libertarianism altogether for a few moments and focus only on the primary aspect of this anthology: science-fiction.
There are a total of ten tales in this little micro-collection, edited by George Donnelly, and I found every one of them to be a singular gem. Some appealed to my sensibilities a tad more than others, and I intend to opine myself more specifically in that regard, but let’s define sci-fi first. I think the best way to do that is by contrasting the entire genre against its close cousin, fantasy. What distinguishes the two?
Most succinctly, fantasy describes that which never was and never will be because it cannot be. Its very nature defies any and all known or even hypothesized aspects of science: Sorcery, fire-breathing dragons, and magical fairies all come to mind. These things and creatures are not real and never could be. This is what makes them fantasy, after all.
But sci-fi contemplates that which is not yet, but could be, at least theoretically. In this sense it is concomitant with the voluntary society envisioned by libertarian free-marketeers. The genre automatically lends itself to such ideological exploration. After all, will it be socialism that reaches out among the stars, or the dynamic and transcendent technologies made possible by free minds in a laissez-faire marketplace? Defiant, She Advanced showcases stories predicated upon this salient concept, and the heroic efforts of the characters therein to resist and overcome statism and authoritarian aggression at every turn.
Other than being highly entertaining strictly for the diversion and escapism value (and I dare voice my belief that a preponderance of fiction succeeds merely on the basis of those qualities alone), author J.P. Medved raises a highly relevant point in his short commentary “What to Read Now” on page 233:
“We understand the importance of advancing liberty on the cultural, rather than just the political front. We know that dramatizing our beliefs in story form makes them more inspiring, more convincing, and more ‘sticky’ than dry position papers or polemical op-eds.”
In other words, utilizing emotion rather than pure empirical reasoning to capture the imagination and hearts of the uninitiated into libertarianism. I’ve written to some extent about this subject, perhaps most notably here, though I must admit that, for whatever reason, I’d never seriously contemplated the power of published fiction in winning converts to the principles of a zero-government voluntary society. The entertainment value of such for the existing choir, certainly – but never otherwise. You can perhaps gain an insight into my philosophy as a fiction writer from this gross oversight. I don’t know.
But I do know that the emotional-appeal approach is a sound tactic when seeking to win adherents to a philosophical viewpoint. The statist monster Hitler openly acknowledged that the key to winning people over was not their heads, but their hearts. Even if he understood very little else, he understood how to exploit the purely emotional – dare I say, the irrational -- in the human psyche. There is no reason I can see why the same principles cannot be applied to the converse, and hence, for far more elevated purposes.
As to the stories themselves, they are as diverse as the sci-fi genre itself is. The kick-off selection, “The Slow Suicide of Living Again” by long-time voluntaryist Wendy McElroy, is a very well-written mystery thriller involving a free voluntary city district surrounded by continuing urban statism. The author states in her short bio that she intends to expand this story into a full-length novel. It promises to be an excellent one.
J.P Medved’s “Under the Hell of the Aether Imperium” quite obviously derives its inspiration from the venerated Star Wars dynasty, but loses nothing as a result (any more than Terry Brooks’s Shannara series was diminished by being among the first to pick up the torch of Tolkien in the fantasy genre). It is a very visual and fast-moving jaunt into a universe of statist tyrants and free-trading rebels. With a few hints of the fantastic, to boot (sorry, no spoilers here).
If you’re a steampunk fan, William F. Wu’s “Yellowsea Yank” will take you back to a rousing mostly maritime version of 1894 Shanghai, China, and the rigors of the opium trade – with some insights into the nature of “crony” capitalism versus laissez-faire.
Robert S. Hirsch’s “The Intruder” is almost a short-short, and is a brief high-tech unapologetic blast into some brutarian justice.
The volume ends with Donnelly’s own “The Death Shop,” a novelette that takes a number of surprising twists and turns between various plot extremes before settling into a chilling conclusion.
I was not a contributor to this anthology in any way -- except to purchase a copy via Indiegogo. I can say without reservation that it was well worth the price of admission. I’m sure that you, or anyone you may want to gift a copy to, will feel the same way.