How to Stop the Left from Destroying the United States

  • by Gitabushi

 

A man with a history of violence, steeped in Rachel Maddow conspiracy theories and Bernie Sanders ideology, tried to kill Republican Congressmen simply because they were Republican.  This was the latest occurrence in escalating violence and anti-democratic tactics by the Left.  The questions raised by this shooting include: Are Democrats and their allies in the news media responsible for this?  What should the Right (and Republicans) do to stop it?

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The idea that the Right is Fascist and the Left can do anything necessary pervades the Left’s worldview.  Otherwise mild people are convinced that Donald Trump is a unique menace to the United States. This worldview is summed up in the prevalence of the self-described #Resistance movement.

Doesn’t the Right embrace the idea of individual responsibility?  Is the Democrat Party’s  worldview responsible for the shooting of GOP officials? Yes and no. Directly responsible? No. Blameless? Certainly not.

Words are just words, not actions, not force. But words are also orders, and encouragements, and goading.  “I was just following orders” is not an excuse. You are responsible for what you do.  But “my hands are clean, I didn’t pull the trigger” is also not an excuse. At some point, words expressing intent should be taken seriously

I hate to go here, but I have to: Hitler didn’t personally kill 6 million Jews.

He stirred up hatred, accused them of selfishness, blamed them for all of Germany’s problems. He said it was okay to punch them. And worse.

Don’t forget, Obama used religious imagery to tell his followers they were righteous. Told them to punch “back” twice as hard. He threatened financial executives with mobs and pitchforks if they didn’t cooperate with his goals.  He praised the Occupy movement, stirred up anger and hatred in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The inevitable rise of Leftist violence should have been expected when Obama hung around with a Leftist terrorist who had gained enough status to never be held accountable for his crimes.  The Right tried to use it politically: “Obama pal’d around with terrorists”, but we didn’t draw the lines to see where it would lead.  And, of course, the Left’s control of the Overton Window was used to protect their Lightbringer: Obama having an unrepentant terrorist as a mentor was downplayed; if mentioned at all, Bill Ayers’ current status as an accepted leader for the Left was seen as a repudiation of Ayers’ past rather than the approval it was.

But even the strongest critic of Obama didn’t realize it was leading to the overt Leftist violence we see today.

We should have realized when the news media looked at polite, peaceful Tea Party gatherings and called them violent racists, that it was an indication of more than just partisan rhetorical sniping. They were building the case for violence against the Right. Distorting views of our character. De-legitimizing our concerns. Demonizing us.

Mainstream news outlets have pointed out the shooter had no ties to any violent extremist groups, as if that is exculpatory. In fact, it is damning.  This man was unremarkable in his associations, but felt justified to shoot Republicans just for being Republican.

This is just an escalation of the general attitude on the Left.  Remember, Obama ensured his IRS subordinates would face no penalty for targeting conservatives just for being conservative.  He shielded any and all his subordinates from penalties for their actions in support of the Leftist cause, to include Lois Lerner, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and her aides (for Benghazi, and for divulging secrets), Bradley Manning, and all his officials who broke Federal Records laws by using private email accounts to conduct business as a blatant ploy to avoid citizen oversight (again, to include Hillary Clinton).

So what do we do about this?

There seems to be two sides. 1) Use the same tactics the Left uses, against the Left. 2) Keep doing what we are doing, hold to our principles.

I find both tactics to be unsatisfying.

Two intelligent, thoughtful participants in this debate are Jim Geraghty and the anonymous Ace of Spades blogger.  I don’t have a link to the twitter debate they had, but Geraghty references it here, as well as summarizing his argument.

I can’t disagree with Geraghty for distinguishing between words & actions, but the best argument against Geraghty’s point was made by Geraghty himself mere days before he debated Ace of Spades: At what point is Islamic rhetoric criminal? Applying that to the #Resistance, at what point does the rhetoric of Democrats and their news media allies actually become responsible for the violence the Left is committing?

 

The thing is, Ace of Spades makes a compelling argument that the Right cannot simply sit endure and outlast Leftist violence and destruction of democratic values in the US.  Read this article summarizing the violence by the Left and how the Left encourages it. The rise of violence was telegraphed by Hillary’s campaign deliberately instigating violence, but we responded to it only in the political sphere, and not even much there.  And even after the shootings, some Democrats are still encouraging more violence. (all three links are to thought-provoking Ace of Spaces HQ articles)

And this list of violence by the Left against the Right truly is mindblowing, to see it all in one place.

Whatever the Right has been doing, it isn’t working.  We need to hold the Left responsible.  The simple fact, is that most political violence is perpetrated by the Left. Endemic to Marxism, encouraged by Alinskyism.  It has always been that way throughout history.

“By any means necessary” & “The ends justify the means” are ideas rejected by the Right, but embraced by the Left since the original rise of the Communist movement.

In some ways, it is a process vs outcome argument.

The Left only cares about process if it gets them what they want. The Right sticks to process even if outcome is against them.

The Left exploits this. They know they can depend on the Right to keep following the rules. Even as the Left doesn’t recognize any rules.

That’s why we have this violence. That’s why we have porn. The Left is losing power in normal processes.

This just leads us right back to the debate between Geraghty and Ace of Spades: what do we do about it?

One major proponent of following the new rules set by the Left is Kurt Schlichter, who not only predicted this escalating wave of Leftist violence, but makes strong arguments for embracing those new rules, simply because the Left wants them.  To be accurate, he isn’t just arguing for Tit-for-Tat like Ace of Spades, he’s arguing that if these are the rules the Left applies to itself, let there be no double standards.

In some ways, Schlichter’s argument fits with the Right: we follow processes, we follow the rules.  His argument is that we stop thinking the process/rules are what’s written down, and start thinking of the processes/rules as demonstrated by the Left.

All respect to Kurt Schlichter, but I’m not going to shoot Democrats. I’m also not going to call for violence on them.  It isn’t really that I don’t want to stoop to their level, or fear I lose my soul if I use their tactics to win.  I simply can’t do it.  I can’t kill, I can’t advocate violence to install my preferred political outcomes.

But continuing to follow the processes and rules, as written, while they attack and kill us? No.

My take: continue to follow the rules, because that is our most basic nature.

But change the written rules.  Strengthen and improve the processes to make them serve the democratic process, rather than help the Democrats seize and wield power un-democratically, as they do now.  We have unprecedented power at all levels: control of the Presidency, Senate, House, SCOTUS, governorships, and state legislatures.  But we are barely using this power to enact our political agenda.

We should be using this power to enhance criminal penalties on the Left’s current tactics.

Use every democratic process at hand to change rules to to allow dismissal of judges. Then fire ones who don’t rule based on Constitution.  Use democratic processes to change rules to to allow dismissal of bureaucrats more easily. Then fire the ones enacting Left agenda.

There has to be a way to criminalize the heckler’s veto without damaging free speech. One idea that occurs to me is re-writing laws (and prosecutorial discretion policy) to penalize mob actions.  Free speech is an individual right, not a collective right.  If you are in a mob, and the mob shouts down a speaker, you aren’t using speech to counter speech you don’t like, you are using the mob’s power to shut down free speech.  We can make that illegal, while still encouraging individual free speech, right?free-speech-voltaire.jpeg

We gotta do what we do: stick to the rules. But use our power to change the rules: increase transparency, liberty, and choice.

Change the rules to reduce non-accountable exercise of power. Change the rules to identify & reduce Marxist influence.

Then make them follow the rules and enforce them fairly, but fully.

Use Rule of Law to punish Leftist violence harshly. Every time.

 

 

 

 

Must-Read SFF: The Last Coin, by James P. Blaylock

  • by Gitabushi

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This book is…odd. Yet immensely enjoyable.

I had no idea what I was reading at first.  Was the main character insane? Did this world have different rules than our Earth?

But I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. The main character might be insane, but most likely just has an eccentric view of how the world works and his place in it. Eccentric, yet still functional. And the eccentric view is probably also vital in the course of saving the world.

In some ways, this book is very nearly the distillation of Kaijubushi’s tweeting style into a complete, novel-length narrative.

But only in some ways.

I’ve read other books by Blaylock, and most of them don’t approach the sheer joyful lunacy of this work.  I haven’t yet been able to get my hands on the first book of the Elfin Ship series, yet, however; brief perusals of The Disappearing Dwarf (second in the series) lead me to believe it has the same sort of wit and upbeat zaniness.

Still, the Last Coin covers a fairly serious topic, and does it quite well.  There is menace in the antagonist, and stakes rise appreciably throughout the story, as a good story should.

The characters are memorable, the plot is developed well, and without implausible shifts or solutions that ruin the willful suspension of disbelief.

I don’t really want to say much more, because that could spoil the delight of discovery on your own. You can freely read the back-cover description, however: the book is about the magical power of the 30 pieces of silver Judas Iscariot was paid to betray Christ, and how that power can be used for immortality and apocalypse, and how the use of that power is stopped by ordinary people doing what they think is right.

Although it is listed as the first in a trilogy, it does stand alone. When I finished reading, I had no idea any other stories were planned, much less written.

It is one of my favorite books, from an excellent writer at the top of his game. Highly recommended.

We Need to Start Fighting Islamic Terrorists

  • by Gitabushi

The views expressed in this post are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect on the views of PC Bushi or Kaiju Bushi.

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Credit: Joel Goodman/London News Pictures/Zuma

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

The Western World may not want a war with Islamic Extremists, but Islamic Extremists have taken away that choice.

Western leaders are gaslighting us on Islamic Terror.  Elites will repeat that your chance of being killed by an Islamic Terrorist is less than that of being struck by lightning, or some other bullshit statistic.  They will repeat that Islam is a religion of peace. They will repeat that moderate Muslims aren’t attacking us, that we shouldn’t punish moderate Muslims for the actions of a few, etc., etc., etc

1) Your chances of being killed by a Terrorist are vanishingly small

Who cares?

“Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”

This is the spirit of the United States. We are a free people. A death from an Islamic Terrorist is an act of war, a deliberate murder, a violation of our Right to Life. Getting struck by lightning is not. There is a qualitative difference, and it is the most base deception to compare those two.

The responsibility of our leaders is to take reasonable precautions to seek our best interests. It is not in our best interests to be killed by terrorists any more than it is to be struck by lightning.  However, people can be deterred from becoming terrorists, and terrorists can be stopped by reasonable actions (discussed later in this piece). Lightning cannot. Lightning deaths are not within the responsibility of our leaders. Stopping terrorist deaths is. Why do they give excuses to gaslight us into accepting a few deaths every few months?

2) Islam is a religion of peace

Who cares?

We won’t kill someone just for believing in Islam. We should kill people who embrace terrorism. Non sequitur.

3) Moderate Muslims aren’t attacking us, we shouldn’t punish them by refusing to allow them to emigrate to the West.

More gaslighting.

What is a moderate Muslim? To what extent do moderate Muslims facilitate terror by funding via donations to radical mosques, by providing rhetorical cover for extremists, by providing numbers for the terrorists to hide among?

I’m not saying we need to start killing Muslims en masse, of course, but a government, any government, owes its first responsibility to its current citizens.  Any government is also supposed to moderate/resolve problems between existing citizens. So in the first case, we are under no obligation to permit another Muslim to enter our nation until they work harder to root out and eliminate terrorists. In the second case, Muslims who are already citizens should follow the US Constitution as their primary law. Sharia should never be allowed to supplant US Law at any level. Honor killing, FGM, donations to radical mosques, etc., should be prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

Some will  point to the current/recent attacks as evidence (or even proof) that the War on Terror is a failure. After all, we started back in 2001 and they are still conducting successful attacks 16 years later.

This is an incorrect interpretation.

First, we have never fully prosecuted the war on Islamic Extremism. George W Bush said that if you supported terrorists, we would treat you like a terrorist, but he never really followed through. We invaded Afghanistan and toppled their terrorist regime. We toppled Saddam Hussein’s terrorist regime. But even with Iran surrounded, we never threatened to end their terrorist regime. We did nothing as Erdogan used terror tactics against the Kurds. We just fought terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But even with those mild measures, we were winning. From 2006 to 2009, terrorist attacks were down worldwide.  The flypaper strategy of attracting terrorists to Iraq and Afghanistan was working.

What changed?

The United States elected a President that didn’t want to defeat Islamic Terrorism and thought that a powerful, confident United States was bad for the world, and he prioritized his vision for worldwide interests over United States’ national interests.

Due to his views, he had us pull out of Iraq while before their commitment to democracy and liberty were able to take root. He imposed rules of engagement in Afghanistan that made it more difficult to effectively combat terrorism. He loosened restrictions that prevented terrorists from entering the US. He toppled Qaddafi, who had stopped engaging in terror, allowing al Qaida and other Islamic terrorist groups to have unrestricted access to weaponry. He did nothing to deter or stop the rise of ISIS and of Islamic Terror organizations in Africa. He released dozens of terrorists from Gitmo. He changed policy so that we no longer captured terrorists, but killed them, resulting in the loss of additional first-hand information on terror plans from interrogating captured terrorists. He turned the focus of the Intelligence Community away from combating terror toward spying on his political enemies.  And he gaslight us again and again and again, by refusing to call Islamic terror by its name, by claiming obviously-coordinate attacks were unpredictable “Lone Wolf” efforts, by blaming terror attacks on guns, or workplace violence, or something else.

George W Bush didn’t go all-out to combat terrorism, but we were still winning. Obama could not have done a better job cultivating Islamic Terror than if his actions were a deliberate attempt to do so.

We need to return to an active posture in combating terrorism. We need to do what George W Bush did, but more so.

We need to change their calculus.  We need to make them believe that becoming a terrorist (or in their minds, a Holy Warrior) will mean their futile death. We need to deny them successes, and we do that by fighting and killing them overseas, in their land. We need to deny terrorists easy access to the United States. That means no more refugees, and that means significant efforts to combat radical ideology targeting US citizens, and ending terrorist funding via Islamic charities.

Some innocent people will be wrongfully impacted by these actions, yes.

But as I quoted, “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”

There is a principle at stake. There are always false positives and false negatives. Western leaders have prioritized the interests of the innocent Muslims at the expense of innocent non-Muslims.  However, it is a subset of Islam that is actively attacking and killing innocent non-Muslims.  If innocent Muslims are harmed by a renewed War on Radical Islam, it is the fault of the subset of Muslims, in the same way that a person robbing a home is charged with murder if the homeowner kills his accomplice.

If the Islamic Terrorists were not attacking the West, the West would not respond by killing Islamic Terrorists.

The question of the extent that moderate Muslims support extreme Muslim terrorists is undetermined.  But the fact that it is uncertain means there is a possibility moderate Muslims are not innocent.

But the teens that attended the Ariana Grande concert are purely innocent in any religious war. Islamic Terrorists targeted them, and killed many. This removes the benefit of the doubt for moderate Muslims.  We should not target them. We should not intentionally harm them or damage their interests. But we can no longer afford to consider their interests when Islamic Terrorists are using them to launch deadly attacks on the unquestionably innocent.

The point of war is to eliminate the enemy’s will to fight. We never really tried to do that before. We must fully eliminate Islam’s Will to Kill Westerners. Whatever it takes.

It is time to go to war.

 

 

Request for Assistance: Vintage Mini Game Edition

  • by Gitabushi

One story my children have gotten tired of hearing about is how I came in 2nd at a D&D convention adventure tournament.

Here’s the story, mainly to fill up space before I get to the Request for Assistance.

In the early 80s (1983 or 1984), Billings had a Dungeons and Dragons convention. There’s a minor story about how a freak snowstorm killed attendance, and to pay off all the obligations they had an auction that included Katherine Kurtz putting winning bidders into one of her Deryni short stories, but that had no impact on my part of the story.

I and my friends signed up for any number of activities.  One I chose to sign up for was a Dungeons and Dragons adventure.

Arriving at the session, the Dungeon Master (DM) asked us all what type of characters we wanted to play.  I had recently grown interested in Illusionists, which had been (unfairly) ignored in our own local sessions, so he handed me a Fighter/Illusionist.

The mission was to infiltrate a stronghold and defeat an evil Priestess/Mage.

In the first battle with an outpost sentry team, the main bad guy fell into the water.  Since I knew that there was no mechanism in D&D (at that time, at least) for hits to knock people back, I asked if he fell into the water, or jumped.  The DM shrugged and said he fell. So I told everyone the bad guy might regenerate in water, and thus to keep an eye on him as we edged past.

Safely past, I told the DM I was doing a “Change Self” spell (an extremely low level spell that merely alters your appearance with an illusion…you can’t look like a dragon, all you can do is disguise yourself slightly) to make myself look like the guy who “fell” into the water.

When we reached the next sentry team (a much more powerful team this time), I told them I had charmed and captured these invaders and needed to take them to the Priestess for her orders.

The sentry leader shrugged and let us go on.

Then we were in her presence, and attacked.  She took a good amount of damage, then changed shape (healing damage) to fly off.  We never got close to her again.

Fun session.

About 2 weeks later I came home and there was a package on the table.  In it were two mini-strategy games.  One was a dungeon crawl where a few teams raced to get to the center for some reason, encountering monsters and finding treasures and weapons on the way. The other was a space game I hardly remember at all.

I was puzzled, so I wrote a letter to the sender.  A week later I got a reply back: My actions helped us avoid a major battle and get closer to defeating the Priestess than any other team.  As a result, I scored 2nd highest overall and this was my prize.

I hadn’t even realized there was scoring and prizes. I was just intending to adventure with new people and a new DM.

So here’s the deal: I lost both games at some point in life.  I can’t even remember when.  I solo-played the dungeon game a few times, and would really like to find it and play it with friends now.  All I remember is that the objective was to reach the center, and it was a race against the other teams.  I think the idea was that reaching the center gave you control of the castle and special powers, and one of the teams was a Prince who should have been the rightful heir, but wasn’t necessarily a protagonist.  And I might have some of the details wrong, so don’t depend on that.

How would I find the name of this game so I can search out a downloadable copy, or search out a rare existing copy?

The science fiction game was something similar to “Revolt on Antares,” which was a science fiction game my friend owned, but which I have subsequently purchased, but never played since buying as an adult.

 

UPDATE: FOUND IT:

Valkenburg Castle

UPDATE II: The other game was The Warriors of Batak.  Amazing how you think you recognize another cover art, but aren’t sure…then when you see the right one, all the memories come back in a rush.

Health Theory: No Whites Allowed

  • by Gitabushi

I was thinking yesterday how sugar is really bad for the human body in so many ways.  It overtaxes our insulin system.  It turns easily into fat. It feeds the bad microbes in our gut. It is addictive.

We crave it so much, however, because it is concentrated energy, and easy energy makes everything easier when you are scrabbling for every calorie you can…which was the norm for most of human history, but not as helpful in age of plenty and Justin Bieber.

I decided to try to swear off refined sugar again.

But refined (white) flour is also considered pretty bad for your body, for many of the same reasons as white sugar.  It is a carbohydrate, and so your body converts it into sugar with almost no effort at all, and it impacts your body like sugar.

So maybe I should swear off that, too.

But is that enough?  Refined (white) rice is not only widely considered stupid, but also is pointed out as being bad for your health almost as much as refined flour.

And along with that thought came the realization that many restaurants now offer baked and french-fried sweet potatoes as a healthier alternative to white potatoes.

So now I’m considering just dropping all white starches from my diet, to the maximum extent possible, and replacing them with their brown or whole-grain alternative: no sweets, or brown sugar treats only; whole grain flour noodles and bread; brown rice, and sweet potatoes and yams.

It seems like making that switch could a) immediately improve your health, b) make weight loss and maintenance easier, c) give you some street cred with the SJW movement if you announce your moral diet purity with the proper supercilious air, and d) contribute to the end of Justin Bieber’s celebrity.

Thoughts?

They Just Don’t Get It

  • by Gitabushi

I took a quiz I stumbled onto from Twitter last night.  I can’t find the link now, but it was something about 8 Political Traits. You took a quiz regarding your reactions to several political statements, and from that, it judged your position on 4 different paired-trait spectra.  Like, Authoritarian/Libertarian, Economic Freedom/Control, etc.

One thing I was struck with was that it got Conservatives/Traditionalists completely wrong.  Of course, Progressives usually get Conservatives wrong…it has been shown over and over that those on the Right understand the Left much better than the reverse.  Charles Krauthammer’s formulation is the Left thinks the Right is Evil, and the Right thinks the Left is Stupid.  Which makes sense, of course: the Right thinks the Left is stupid because they understand the Left’s viewpoints and find them immature or unworkable; the Left thinks the Right is Evil because they can’t understand how anyone can oppose the compassion of a $15 minimum wage and free birth-control for women.

Anyway, what bothered me was they characterized Progressives as believing that the human race can and should progress toward enlightenment.  The implication is that the past is always ignorant, and as we learn things, we can improve.  What is the opposite of that?  Why, that some people think that we should cling to the past because that’s how we’ve always done it!  Meaning, the quiz assumed that conservatives are conservative out of fear or reflexive adherence to tradition out of belief that Tradition is simply a Good.

That’s not my view at all.  Maybe I’m projecting to the rest of the Right and/or conservatives, but I think I’m not alone in this.  I’m convinced conservatives are Thinkers, and spend time questioning and trying to understand everything.

In my opinion, Conservatives conserve Tradition because Tradition arises out of What Works.  Humans are humans: we are biologically programmed (whether by God or Evolution) to exploit/game any system to its extinction, but also to require systems to reach our individual and social goals.  We are biologically programmed (whether by God or Evolution) so that in our interactions with the opposite sex, any/all errors of judgment result in pregnancy, because *anything* that results in reproduction is a successful reproduction strategy, and those traits of selfishness, sloppiness, pettiness, dishonesty, manipulation, etc, that assist in reproduction will be passed on.

As such, I support Traditions because those are time-tested ways to avoid pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression and Justin Bieber.

That doesn’t mean Traditions are immutable.  We can learn as a society, and do.  We can rise above our selfishness and pettinesses, and do.

But you have to make the case. You can’t just insist that there is an end goal of perfect equality between all people and all preferences, and anyone who obstructs that progress is wrong.  You have to explain how the direction of progress you want is helpful to everyone involved.  You have to make the case for overturning Tradition.  You have to move slowly when you do make changes, so that we have time to adjust to changes, and to reverse if it proves to be more harmful than helpful.

And most of all, you have to insightfully analyze and clearly identify and explain who pays the price and who benefits.  Assertions are not acceptable as proof.

If something benefits 1% of the nation and makes things worse for 60% of the population, it should not be done.  More time should be taken to ensure that the benefit is worth the cost, and to minimize the cost as much as possible.

So in the quiz, seeing that they characterized Conservatives as preferring Tradition simply because it was Tradition, it lost any/all credibility with me.

Closely related: Chesterton’s Fence.

“No Real Plot” in ERB/REH Books

  • by gitabushi

Spoiler: Okay, that was too strong, and I withdraw the charge.  Sort of.

Don’t you love it when a writer starts off the story in the middle of the action, so you are immediately caught up in laser blasts and flying hand-axes?

So here’s the background.

There is a Pulp Resurgence going on.  As a hopeful writer who is hopefully on the verge of being able to complete my first novel, I noticed the trend and thought it might be something worth paying attention to. As in, maybe I might want to write a pulp story.

So I tried to re-read some pulp SFF I liked when I was in my teens.  And didn’t like it anymore.

The stereotype of pulp is that it is simplistic, juvenile, and immature.  Its fans disagree. And they have a point: the writings of Dashiell Hammett are considered by some to be literature worth studying.

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Dashiell Hammett

I personally enjoy reading Louis L’Amour, and while he is definitely a pulp Western writer, he has some interesting characters, occasional fascinating character growth, and some fairly intricate plotting at times.

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…and boy, did L’Amour milk this brand!

But when it comes to SFF, I have to agree with the stereotype: it is immature writing that has been so surpassed by the state of the art that it doesn’t seem worth reading anymore.

So, of course, I had to say this on twitter, because that’s the Proper Location for Virtue Signalling.

Full disclosure: Twitter has changed me. It has helped me to mature and not be bothered by responses and attitudes that would have infuriated me not long ago.  On the other hand, I’ve gotten to enjoy mild trolling, so I’m not always as careful with precise critiques as I would have been in the past.

And PC Bushi and I have a long-running mild disagreement…we both love SFF, but our tastes seem to be diametrically opposed. What he loves, I dislike.  The only thing I love that I know he’s read is the Chronicles of Amber, but that’s enough to know that the reverse isn’t necessarily true. More data is needed.

Anyway, some people had been ripping on some authors PC Bushi liked, and we had a twitter conversation about it, as PC Bushi details here.

That led to me getting called out by a commenter here:

I am sorry but it just reads like nathan hasn’t read anything and is just using other people’s talking points. Couldn’t you describe Brust’s Taltos series as a guy just wandering around killing black elves?

(He later corrects himself note “black elves” is Cherryh’s construction, not Brust’s, but the Dragaereans are called elves, so his point is not undermined by the mistake)

Here is my response, in full:

Okay, I spent a little time thinking about plot, so your challenge actually did some good.

Maybe “no plot” is the wrong way to put it.
What is plot?
According to wikipedia, Plot is: the sequence of events inside a story which affect other events through the principle of cause and effect.

So from that point of view, yes, everything REH and ERB wrote have plots.

But I still don’t think they are very good ones.

Let’s take the first story in “The Coming of Conan”. (I have read most of the original REH Conan novels, but 30 years ago, so we’ll just look at this short story).

What is the plot? A man wants to be king, so plots against the king, who is Conan. He arranges for an assassination squad. Conan has a dream where a God gives him a magic weapon. Conan defeats the assassination squad, except the last one is read to kill him before a demon appears, then Conan kills it with the magic weapon.

So, yeah, there’s a plot, but it’s not a very good one.

Why do we care about Conan? Is he a good king? We don’t know.
Where is the conflict?
Does anything bad happen if Conan is replaced as king? Sure, he’d be killed, but we know nothing about the country, or the people. Why should we care?
Does he do anything difficult to stop the assassination? No, a demon appears.
Does he do anything difficult or special to stop the demon? No, a god gave him a magic sword.

There was *one* bit of interesting development: Conan is nearly killed because he was shocked at the minstrel’s betrayal, and human emotion keeps him from striking the minstrel down immediately.

If anything, the most interesting person, the person who chooses and changes the most, is Thoth-Amon. He had power, lost it when a thief took his ring. He had to flee or be killed from the enemies he made when he had power. In disguise, he’s nearly killed by bandits, but his life is spared when he pledges to serve as a slave. Then his ring comes within his reach again…how does he react to the loss of power vs restoration of his power? That could be a fascinating glimpse into human nature. But he’s the bad guy, so we can’t care about him.

Now compare to Brust’s Jhereg (spoilers!):

Jhereg
An assassin is seduced by greed and ego to take a difficult job. He finds out the job isn’t as straightforward as he thought. If he doesn’t do the job, he’ll be killed. Then he finds out there’s a reason to hurry. If he doesn’t hurry, he’ll be killed. But if he hurries, he might be unprepared, and killed by the target. Then he discovers the target wants to die, but only a certain way. He finds out that if he does his job, his friend will be dishonored. Now, you may not care about the friend and his prized honor, but you can understand and sympathize with the assassin not wanting to force his friend to lose something important to him. Then we find out that the target is trying to destroy 3 of the 17 Houses of the Draegaera. Which the assassin would LOVE to have happen. Now isn’t that some some intriguing, major conflict to be resolved? The assassin has multiple reasons to want to stop the target’s plot, but also has multiple reasons to want the target’s plot to succeed. So he develops a plan, the one thing that could resolve all these conflicts safely. Then the plan goes wrong.

There is escalation of stakes throughout, which makes it a good plot.

Brust lets us get to know the characters, gives us some reason to care about the characters and what they want, makes even the target somewhat sympathetic, and then lets the struggles play out.

Now, to be fair, we’ve compared a short story to a novel. A novel will naturally be more complex, having more length.

So let’s bring in ERB’s The Land That Time Forgot.

The_Land_That_Time_Forgot

What’s the plot? A man is going to war. His boat is sank, he captures the submarine that did it. No way to run a submarine, unless you just happen to have experience piloting one…He just happens to make submarines for a living! He tries to get home, but gets lost. There is some conflict because there is a hidden traitor. He finds an unknown continent. No way to get in, unless you have a submarine. He just happens to have one! He gets inside, and there are dinosaurs inside. They are dangerous, and randomly grab someone. It just happens to not be the hero! Now they have food and water, but no fuel for the sub. Hey, they just happen to find oil! They still haven’t resolved the issue with the Germans, oh, hey, the Germans run off with the sub!

Oh, I forgot, there’s a girl. He loves her because she is beautiful. How do we know she’s beautiful? The author told us. She loves the hero, he loves her. He doesn’t trust her for a while. Oh, wait, he was wrong. She forgives him.

To be sure, there are some minor conflicts: the hidden traitor, the problem about the trust between the girl and the hero, how to deal with hostile prisoners.

But at no point is there much doubt about the outcome of any conflict. The hero is the leader because of course he is. He can command the sub because of course he can. When he needs to kill a dinosaur, of course he can. He can overcome the German commander one on one because of course he can.

Back to wikipedia:
A plot device is a means of advancing the plot in a story. It is often used to motivate characters, create urgency, or resolve a difficulty. This can be contrasted with moving a story forward with dramatic technique; that is, by making things happen because characters take action for well-developed reasons. An example of a plot device would be when the cavalry shows up at the last moment and saves the day in a battle. In contrast, an adversarial character who has been struggling with himself and saves the day due to a change of heart would be considered dramatic technique.

If I had to characterize The Land that Time Forgot, it would be that it is just a series of plot devices, rather than a plot. Or to the extent that it has a plot, it isn’t very good.

And it doesn’t get any better in the sequel, The People That Time Forgot. I set the book down when I got busy, and had zero desire to pick it back up again.

In its favor, there is a great What If aspect to the trilogy: What if there were a lost continent that had dinosaurs and primitive humans? Then what if the inhabitants recapitulated evolution as a personal development process?
Okay, the 2nd is way out there, and I don’t really see the reason for it, but at least there is a What If to explore.
These are milieu books: set up a world, then let the character explore the world, letting us see it through his eyes. The interest is in seeing how this world compares to ours, how the changes in the world cause changes in the humans, or in human society.

Except it really doesn’t. ERB gives us a series of snapshots, but the world never really becomes 3D.

Compare to Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky, where the question is “What if a bunch of young adults were stranded on a strange planet and had to create their own civilization?” Definitely a milieu story, but not *just* a milieu story. There is character growth and exploration of human nature and the nature of civilization.
Or compare to Larry Niven’s milieu stories, Destiny’s Road (what if people lived on a planet that lacked any natural source of a vital mineral?), the Smoke Ring duology (what if a society evolved in a weightless environment?). He tells a story with a plot, character that have goals and issues we care about, while *still* exploring a strange world. One of the interesting things about Niven is he wrote several novels about societies based on an Elite enslaving the Common People via monopoly over a scarce vital resource. He explores that theme over and over, in the two stories above, plus The Gift From Earth (human organs), World Out of Time (immortality), and probably more I can’t think of yet.

the-smoke-ring
Woah. Doesn’t this look like a world you want to see a writer explain, describe, and explore?  Hard SF for the win, baby.

Both you and I cited Cherryh.

To be fair, Cherryh has some books without any real plot. Her Fortress series is just a self-licking ice cream cone. As is the Rusalka series. Both do provide some insight into human nature, the nature of fear and love, and how those are exploited…but after finishing each of those, I felt like I do reading ERB and REH: why did I just read that? What was the *point* of the story? In REH and ERB, it’s because I don’t care much about the outcome because there wasn’t much escalation of stakes, too many plot devices, and the characters don’t earn my care. In those two Cherryh series, it’s because after all those words describing so much action, nothing really changes in the world. I guess you could say that in Rusalka there was finally a restoration of normality, but I just didn’t care that much.

In contrast, Cyteen drags you into the lives of a brilliant-but-evil woman who is cloned, and how her clone reacts to the attempts to recreate the evil woman’s brilliant skills by pushing her personality towards evil, in connection with interactions with the young, sympathetic man the evil old woman deliberately abused…this is conflict, in that the man wants nothing to do with the clone because of his memories of the old women, but the clone is fascinated by the young man and has the power to force his proximity. Lots of personal conflict, tough decisions, changing character, people under pressure, sacrificial decisions, etc. A fascinating exploration how conflict, struggle, and pain are the challenges that stimulate growth, and the ethics of using those tools deliberately to try to bring about that growth in others.

Let’s make this even more complex, and bring in ERB’s John Carter. It’s been a while since I’ve read any. I enjoyed them okay when I was 15. I tried re-reading Princess of Mars 5 years ago, and got bored before I finished.

I won’t run through all the things I consider plot inadequacies, but I’ll hit a few points:
– Yes, there’s loyalty, in that Carter saves Tarkas’ life, and Tarkas returns the favor…but to me, that pales in comparison to Vlad Taltos’ considering it better to let himself be killed rather than force his friend to go back on his promise that guests are safe. Of course, Vlad figures out how to resolve that conflict, but Vlad’s loyalty is more poignant to me than the “You save my life, so I save yours” exchange.
– Yes, there’s romance, but just like in the Land that Time Forgot, we are told that Dejah Thoris is the most beautiful woman ever, so John Carter loves her and is blessed to earn her love. Yay. I don’t find it convincing or compelling.

index
…for all we know, Dejah Thoris could look exactly like this.

There are some things in the Barsoom series favor:
– It is based somewhat on the science available at the time (canals!)
– If you want a hero with superhuman strength, it makes sense that it would be an alien that grew up on another planet with 3x the gravity. This is good What If science fiction.

But consider this: how much more poignant, how much more depth, how much more interesting would the whole Barsoom cycle be if John Carter had been torn away from a wife and child, or (worse!) a young, pregnant wife on Earth?

That would make his attraction to Thoris a conflict. That would make his return to earth after asphyxiation a mixed blessing. That would add emotion to his every success on Mars: it all came at the expense of an innocent woman and child back on Earth…and yet, it wasn’t of his own choosing, he is powerless to go back (so why shouldn’t he make their loss mean something good for Barsoom?)…and since his complete disappearance means she is also moving on with her life back on Earth…?

That one change would deeply alter the Barsoom series, making it a truly sublime exploration of the nature of love, and purpose, and dealing with loss.