My favorite evangelical Christian blogger, Fred Clark, in his ongoing dissection of the Left Behind series keeps returning to a theme in his criticism of those books: bad theology leads to bad writing. He contends that while Jerry Jenkins may well be a not very good writer to begin with, the illogical, irrational, and completely incoherent theology that forms the basis for the books makes his writing worse by demanding that he write in multiple impossibilities, contradictions, and generally write characters who behave in a way nothing at all like the way real people behave.
Substitute "philosophy" or "thinking" for "theology" and I think much the same argument can be made about Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged (and probably her other books as well, but as I've only read Atlas Shrugged (and not yet finished it) I'll limit my criticism to that book).
Rand's problem is a problem of willing suspension of disbelief and internal inconsistency. Some genres of fiction get broad leeway when it comes to willing suspension of disbelief. Tolkien, for example, set his stories in a world that was not our world, and was not supposed to be our world . We do not object to the existence of Orcs and magic and Elves because we know that Middle Earth is not our Earth. While the alien nature of the setting does not disrupt our willing suspension of disbelief, internal consistency becomes vastly more important than it would be in other settings.
Some books go so far as to begin in a way that produces the false impression that the setting is our world, and then expose the radical differences between the book universe and ours as a way of adding to the enjoyment of the story. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley, is a good example of this as the first five or ten pages deal with the mundane aspects of the protagonist's life in ways and with language that would not be out of place in our world. Then McKinley jerks the reader out of this complacent fog with casual references to events and background information that simply cannot fit our world, producing a sort of intellectual whiplash that many readers of that genre find enjoyable.
Rand, however, sets her book in the near future (presumably some time around 1968 or thereabouts, "near future" rarely mans more than 10 years from the publication date of a book, though she never specifies the year). While readers will give a great deal of leeway for such books, readers do expect the path from their present to the fictional near future to be apparent and sensible.
A book telling us that it takes place in the near future and portraying America as having undergone a mass conversion to Islam is, if not utterly impossible, at the very least going to have to go to great lengths to justify its background. I'm not sure even verifiable and widespread Islamic miracles would trigger a mass conversion to Islam in the USA.
Rand proposes a "near future" no less unbelievable than one proposing a near universal conversion of Americans to Islam. And she does so due entirely to her philosophy and ideology.
Rand said that Atlas Shrugged began with her anger at reading about a strike in the news. What, she wondered, would happen if the true productive class (of which she counted herself as a member) went on strike? The result was Rand's magnum opus, a novel that is cited by numerous people as the most important book they have ever read.
We see, from the beginning, two major problems with Rand's work. Of secondary importance is her unwavering belief in nakedly aristocratic principles, and the utter contempt and disdain for the lower classes that aristocracy implies. Most important, from a bad writing standpoint, is that Rand started with a completely unbelievable premise, tried to produce a universe in which that premise might make sense, and then told us that this universe was our own.
The wealthy and powerful do not go on strike. If you were told that Bill Gates, or Bob Iger (CEO of Disney), Daniel Akerson (CEO of GM) had gone on strike you would assume that the person telling you this had mistaken the Onion for a real news source.
Strikes are a singularly ineffective means of producing change in the world, the reason they are the tool most frequently employed by the working classes is not because strikes work, but because the working classes very rarely have access to any other means of producing change. The wealthy and powerful do not strike because if they are dissatisfied with the world, they have much more effective means of changing the world to suit them.
We need only to look at the real world outcomes of laws and government action that do not please the wealthy and powerful to see this. Bill Gates, for example, objected to being prosecuted under antitrust legislation in 1998. Employing an expensive, and extremely effective, law firm and spending tens of millions on lobbying efforts, Gates not only gutted the case against him (technically MS was found guilty of violating the law, but the penalty imposed was non-existent and MS was not prohibited from abusing its position), but antitrust laws were changed to accommodate his desires.
If anyone had suggested that Gates and MS go on strike they would have been roundly mocked. Because going on strike is ineffective, while lobbying, bribing elected officials, and working through a firewall of high powered lawyers is so vastly more effective. Microsoft stock rose during the entire affair, their profits increased steadily, and their future actions were completely unfettered by any government action.
In order to produce a fictional universe in which Galt and his comrades going on strike  Rand is forced to produce a universe which bears virtually no resemblance to our own save for the names of a few places. If she was content to put her story in a completely fictional universe then we would be limited to criticizing the (many) failures to produce an internally consistent universe.
However, Rand tries to present her impossible setting as not merely possible in our universe, but a warning that unless rapid and immediate action is taken the universe she describes may quickly become reality. And even the most casual reader is immediately struck by the sheer preposterous nature of this claim, and the truly horrible writing that is produced by the mental gymnastics necessary to pretend that her impossible setting is both realistic and prophetic.
 For those Tolkien fans in the audience, yes I know that Middle Earth was supposed to be our Earth in a long distant pre-history so far back that even the shapes of the continents have shifted. That's not our world of today, and like Howard's Hyperboria (which had the same conceit) it still falls into the category of "not being our world" for the purposes of willing suspension of disbelief.
 Not that they actually went on strike, rather they vanished in such a secretive manner that for much of the book no one is even sure that anything is happening. Strikes are public, and among other things are a forum for the aggrieved to explain why they are striking. Galt et al did nothing of the sort and in fact went out of their way to avoid explaining their grievances.
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10 months ago