Within the Western tradition, the expedition to find Kurtz at the end of the river has a single overwhelming connotation. It is a voyage to Hell. Hence its absolute importance, utterly exceeding narrow ‘mission specifications’. The assigned objectives are no more than a pretext, arranging the terms of approach to an ultimate destination. The narrative drive, as it gathers momentum, is truly infernal. Dark Enlightenment is the commanding attraction.
There are no doubt species of reactionary political and historical philosophy which remain completely innocent of such impulses. Almost certainly, they predominate over their morbid associates. To maintain a retrograde psychological orientation, out of reverence for what has been, and is ceasing to be, can reasonably be opposed to any journey to the end of the night. Yet such a contrast only sharpens our understanding of those for whom the disintegration of tradition describes a gradient, and a vector, propelling intelligence forwards into the yawning abyss.
Reaction is articulated as an inversion of the progressive promise, dissociating ‘the good’ and ‘the future’. The tacit science fiction narrative that corresponds to projected social evolution is stripped of its optimism, and two alternative genres arise in its place. The first, as we have fleetingly noted, is mild and nostalgic, rebalancing the tension of time towards what has been lost, and tending to an increasingly dreamlike inhabitation of ancient glories. A conservative-traditionalist mentality devotes itself to a mnemonic quest, preserving vestiges of virtue among the remnants of an eroded society, or — when preservation at last surrenders its grasp on actuality — turning to fantastic evocations, as the final redoubt of defiance. Tolkien exemplifies this tendency in its most systematic expression. The future is gently obliterated, as the good dies within it.
The second reactionary alternative to the ruin of utopian futurism develops in the direction of horror. It does not hesitate in its voyage to the end of the river, even as smoke-shrouded omens thicken on the horizon. As the devastation deepens, its futurism is further accentuated. Historical projection becomes the opportunity for an exploration of Hell. (The ‘neo-‘ of ‘neoreaction’ thus finds additional confirmation.)
On this track, reactionary historical anticipation fuses with the genre of horror in its most intense possibility (and true vocation). Numerous consequences are quite rapidly evident. One special zone of significance concerns the insistent question of popularization, which is substantially resolved, almost from the start. The genre of reactionary populism is already tightly formulated, on the side of horror fiction, where things going to Hell is an established presupposition. Zombie Apocalypse is only the most prominent variant of a far more general cultural accommodation to impending disaster. ‘Survivalism’ is as much a genre convention as a socio-political expectation. (When, as VXXC points out on the blog, .22 ammunition functions as virtual currency, horror fiction has already installed itself as an operational dimension of social reality.)
Reaction does not do dialectics, or converse with the Left (with which it has no community), yet historical fatality carries its message: Your hopes are our horror story. As the dream perishes, the nightmare strengthens, and even — hideously — invigorates. So how does this tale unfold …?
What were you expecting? Rivendell?