An excellent enumeration, Mr. Moles.
Your assumption is correct that I was indeed critiquing critiques of escapism -- or at least trying to pose provocative questions about them? -- rather than seeking advice on back pain. I will say however that, despite using them as examples, I didn't mean to limit "consolatory fiction" to "Tolkein", nor "problems of society" to "late capitalism". In answer to Dan, I think it's clear Lewis is not, on his own terms, consolatory, at least if you read his fiction (despite his protestations) as missionary; Only the "omniscient narrator who knows he's right" that you address, can know that it is Lewis's extratextual solution which is consolatory fantasy while Mieville's is practical wisdom. The question I wanted to address isn't whether the "out of the book" solution an author might advise is "find Jesus", "man the barricades", or "make iterative, cautious moves in what seems to be the correct direction"... it's what the value of the "in-book solution", the value of the experience of the book itself, can be.
Massage analogy: I think the case I was thinking of is 1 -> 2 -> 3, i.e. "used with the goal of putting off the necessity for other treatments as long as possible." That is, I was considering a case where massage is palliative; it is not going to correct underlying problems.
And the question is whether, if this is a good, escapist -- or even consolatory -- fiction cannot provide the same good.
The analogies "excedrin for diabetic diabetic hyperglycemia, or morphine for penetrating abdominal trauma" change the analogy in two directions: 1) they make the suffering more severe, which I accept is accurate for most people's experience of the world we live in today; and 2) they make the radical cure required a no-brainer which it is criminal to delay or distract from. Probably Mieville considers revolution an obviously necessary radical treatment for an easily diagnosable condition. Does Moorcock?
I think lots of people make the argument against escapism without such certainties; I think there's a case for an analogy to some back pain situation in which the alternative to palliative treatment is risky surgery driven by guesswork.
I think the treatment/distraction line is nowhere near as binary as you are making it. If the symptom is pain, and you have something which relieves the pain, is that treatment or distraction?
I also wonder whether, in both massage and entertainment fiction, there is a nonpalliative effect, in that simply interrupting pain and stress now reduces future pain and stress: people feeling better make better decisions.
You combine into one category "making an effort to ignore the problem" and "making a bad-faith effort to obscure the problem". For me this is, however, a crucial distinction. I actually agree with a lot of Mieville's critique of Tolkein, because I agree that much of Tolkein is a bad-faith lie. And a bad-faith lie -- telling someone aspirin will cure their appendicitis -- cannot be justified. While helping someone ignore their pain can, in and of itself. It might be better if you also addressed underlying problems and gave them fundamental solutions; but failing that, just helping feel better helps.
What I'm criticizing, I guess, is not the whole of Mieville's argument, but the snappy quote "jailers love escapism." That's a different thing than saying "jailers love lies that confuse prisoners". I believe the latter; I don't believe the former. Whether jailers love escapism has entirely to do with what prisoners do with their good mood after they put the book down; but more importantly, prisoners deserve escapism, in addition to escape, and it seems to me in general one should assume that sating the former need will not dull their thirst for the latter.
In fact escapist, or even consolatory, fiction seems to me simply like massage or omelettes or sudoku books or buckets of green paint -- a tool, a useful product, capable like anything else of abuse and no solution to many of life's miseries, but in the right context, a salvation.
What Emma Goldman says about dance, put me down as saying about the distractions and entertainments of literature.