NewsWire: Attack of the Clones meets the Lord of the Luddites - The American Prospect
Attack of the Clones meets the Lord of the Luddites
By Chris Mooney
The American Prospect - May 16, 2002
In his recent American Prospect Online article, "Attack of the Metaphors," Matthew Nisbet lucidly explains why even though it shouldn't, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones will inevitably come to shape this nation's ongoing political debate about cloning. George Lucas's take on this technology, Nisbet argues, resonates with themes from Brave New World, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and other influential texts concerned with misuses of science, from The Island of Dr. Moreau to Jurassic Park. Besides Star Wars itself, perhaps the most recent work in this genre is Spider Man, yet another tale of hubris, science run amok, and unwise manipulations of nature -- specifically, the genetic engineering of spiders -- by human beings.
There are any number of reasons, plot not the least of them, that modern science fiction and fantasy take up these motifs with such frequency. But here -- as the U.S. Senate's cloning debate fortuitously coincides with another Senate cloning debate contained within Attack of the Clones -- Idea Log would like to draw attention to one oft-neglected factor. When it comes to the relationship between the fantasy and sci-fi genres and worries about technology, there's a huge elephant in the room. So huge, in fact, that it's some half a million words long. The novel in question, in case you hadn't guessed, is J.R.R. Tolkien's 1954-55 fantasy romance The Lord of the Rings (LOTR).
Tolkien's impact on both science fiction and fantasy is immense. It's probably no exaggeration to say that the fantasy genre as we know it today, which encompasses hundreds of English language novels published each year -- many of them "Tolclones" -- wouldn't exist without him. As Jane Chance, a Tolkienist and English professor at Rice University, once put it to this writer, "He's not only the grandfather of 'Dungeons & Dragons,' but of the entire sci-fi fantasy genre as a popular phenomenon." Indeed, the greatest Tolclone of them all may be Harry Potter. The parallels between Rowling's "Wormtail" and Tolkien's "Wormtongue" -- or between her soulless, black-clad "Dementors" and Tolkien's "Ringwraiths" -- are only the most obvious ways that her books draw on LOTR.
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