One of the recurring tropes in fantasy is that of the good ecomentalists fighting impossible odds to defeat the evil capitalists. Don't believe me? The Hobbits of the Shire coming home to scour the Shire clean of the depridations of proto-industrialist Lotho Sackville-Baggins. The Ewoks beating the Empire's best troops. Avatar. The Dark Tower. The Stand. Erin Brockovich.
A recurrent problem in fantasy is that nobody has ever come up with a really plausible system of magic. To the contrary, good fantasy writers know that they have to keep magic off stage as much as possible. You almost never see Gandalf perform magic, after all, and especially not when it's really needed--like in climactic battle scenes.
To paraphrase Arthur C Clarke, the only plausible magic is really advanced technology.
So I went hunting for a novel in which the good guys are the heavily armed scientists, the bad guys are the ecomentalist Renassiance Faire sword swingers, and the Dark Lord kicks ass because his capitalist economy's GDP swamps that of the tree hugger's socialist paradise.
In Yeskov's retelling [of the Lord of the Rings], the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science "destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!" He's in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become "masters of the world," and turn Middle-earth into a "bad copy" of their magical homeland across the sea. Barad-dur, also known as the Dark Tower and Sauron's citadel, is, by contrast, described as "that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic." ...In Yeskov's scenario, "The Lord of the Rings" is a highly romanticized and mythologized version of the fall of Mordor, perhaps even outright propaganda; "The Last Ringbearer" is supposed to be the more complicated and less sentimental true story.
The inhuman nature of the orcs and Tolkien's depiction of Mordor's human allies as swarthy-skinned outsiders has prompted complaints that his book obscures the moral conundrums of warfare and dabbles in racial demonization. The American critic Edmund Wilson described "The Lord of the Rings" as a children's book that had "somehow got out of hand" and "juvenile trash," in large part for such reasons. Others, like the novelist Michael Moorcock, have attacked Middle-earth as a childishly rose-tinted vision of the Merrie Olde England that never was, as well as willfully blind to the hardships and injustice of preindustrial and feudal societies.
"The Lord of the Rings" wouldn't be as popular as it is if the pastoral idyll of the Shire and the sureties of a virtuous, mystically ordained monarchy as embodied in Aragorn didn't speak to widespread longing for a simpler way of life. There's nothing wrong with enjoying such narratives -- we'd be obliged to jettison the entire Arthurian mythos and huge chunks of American popular culture if there were -- but it never hurts to remind ourselves that it's not just their magical motifs that makes them fantasies.