May 26, 2014

As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality

This fascinating book shows how today's fan culture (and more) arose from literary history, in particular the tales of Sherlock Holmes and Middle-Earth. The consequences of these works on modern Western culture has been huge and varied but here's just one thing that author Michael Saler points out: The construction of elaborate, realistic imaginary worlds "helped to legitimate the idea that Western adults could indulge their imaginations without losing their reason." They (re)introduced the idea of play as part of high culture.

And this is the dominant note of culture today. I'd go so far as to say that in the second decade of the twenty-first century, you can't be considered an intellectual or a cultured person if you don't appreciate fantasy, pop culture, and fandom. And if you've got a Loki action figure or a Yoda pez dispenser on your desk, thank Arthur Conan Doyle.

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