Thursday, July 20, 2017

Piers Anthony, Neoliberal

A Spell for Chameleon, the first book of the Xanth series, shows that Piers Anthony is a neoliberal1. Magicians are important characters in Xanth, and A Spell introduces us to at least two, Humphrey2 and Evil Magician Trent.

We find that "Evil" is just what Trent is called. We are not supposed to regard him as such. And he bases his life entirely on market transactions, even though the setting is a feudal society. Everything is an agreement to a contract, or not, for mutual advantage. An upright person adheres to the spirit of his deals, even when unforeseen circumstances make it unclear what his promises entail in this new situation.

Humphrey is also all about deals. He doesn't like to answer questions, so he always sets the questioner three challenges. Some of these challenges require the questioner to do something for him.

For both Humphrey and Trent, quid pro quo agreements can extend to the most intimate relationships3.

I was prompted to think about neoliberalism by this Mike Konczal article in Vox.

  1. One can argue that I am conflating the views of the author with the views of his characters. I think the novels portray both magician Humphrey and Trent in a positive light, but am willing to entertain argument.
  2. Humphrey, since he has access to the fountain of youth, as I recall, is an important character throughout the series. I have read hardly any after the first five or ten.
  3. Feminists might have something to say about this light reading. The hero, Bink, finds his perfect mate gives him variety, with the young woman's cycle combining certain stereotypical attributes.

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