Archive for March, 2014

Having come to the conclusion in the previous entry that the “underground stream” had a significant influence on 1940s SF, I’m finding that there’s a great deal more I need to say about it before I move on. It promises to clarify many things that have previously struck me as obscure about the culture of that decade.

I’ve noted here previously that my theory of history as a recurring cycle of visions began with one sudden insight: that the last several centuries have been marked by an alternation between periods in which a dominant worldview maintains complete cultural hegemony and periods when the worldview collapses and everything is in flux until a new worldview emerges from the wreckage.

Over the next few years, I refined that original insight and extended it further back in time. As I did, I discovered that what I’d thought of as unified worldviews could more accurately be described as temporary partnerships between two well-defined visions of the nature of existence — such as the reason-and-scientific-materialism partnership of the late 1800s, the scientific-materialism-and-democracy partnership of the mid-20th century, and the democracy-and-chaos partnership of the last several decades.

More recently, however, I’ve paid only minimal attention to the partnerships. My primary focus has been on the birth of new visions and on the periods of creative flux during which an aging vision is cast aside and the relationships among the other visions are redefined. I’ve assumed that once a new partnership settles into place there’s not much to be said about it, except that it undergoes a slow decay as the younger visions become more powerful.

I’m realizing now that I was wrong. The “romantic break” that succeeds the classical peak of every partnership is actually marked by a frenzy of activity. It’s just not easy to define it in rational terms, because most of it derives from the impact of the underground stream.

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