Civility

As much as I may hand-wring about overaggressiveness from the Pulp Revolution crowd (I still prefer to think of myself as a moderating voice rather than a scold), I have to say that at least most of these folks conduct themselves with a level of decorum that seems to be absent in other quarters.

At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory about “my own side,” I’ve seen very little objectionable behavior from “us.” Sure, there’s some shitlording and sometimes you’ll see some bad language, it’s true. But I have yet to see anyone write off a good faith effort to engage. Dialogue and debate are welcome.

I bring this up because of an encounter Alex of Cirsova had yesterday. Summary:

 

(Updated – thanks for clarifying a point here, Alex)

– Dude writes a blog post about the Arthur C. Clark Award and his thoughts on the SFF genre.

– A commenter mentions Cirsova magazine’s contributions to the genre.

– Cirsova pops in to elaborate about his SFF magazine.

– Dude replies back observing that the Cirsova website has a Gamergate banner.

– Cirsova affirms this.

– Dude replies back accusing Cirsova and/or its fans of being misogynistic fascists. Unprovoked.

– Cirsova makes a graceful exit.

– Dude takes a parting shot.

– I drop a post mocking Dude’s lack of civility.

– Dude calls us self-serving Nazi pricks.

You can see the archived image here.

I think, in the long-run, this kind of thing can be good for us. The average observer, seeing this, is going to conclude that Dude is an asshole. It’s the same kind of poor behavior we see from the likes of Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street, or the Trump protesters. Sorry guys – setting cop cars on fire and smashing Starbucks windows is not going to win you any prizes, nor will it ingratiate you with the public.

This, I think, is part of the reason the pendulum swung to the right this election cycle. Bad behavior is not rewarded.

I mean, who comes out looking badly here?

capture

From where I’m standing, it’s not Cirsova.

Even if it *were* ok to punch Nazis in the face, you can’t just declare everyone who disagrees with you to be a Nazi. Eventually you’re going to punch someone and either (a) get hauled off or (b) get the shit kicked out of you.

-Bushi

bushi

 

Civility

Video games, SFF, politics, and contempt!

Yesterday Rod Walker posted about our little conversation on Harry Potter, political ideology, and SFF. I think Rod hit upon a key point, which I want to highlight here.

Generally, the best books are written by writers who appreciate human nature for its foibles without being contemptuous of them, and RW thinks that is hard for hyper-political people to do.

Indeed. He added in the comment section in reply to me:

Agreed! Contempt is a dangerous vice in which to indulge, because it distorts one’s thinking and causes one to make decisions based on incorrect premises.

Bingo. Perhaps this is the word or idea that I needed to complete my thoughts in the Harry Potter post. Contempt is a nasty thing. While it can galvanize a particular group against another, it can just as easily destroy one’s chances of conversion, repulse those who aren’t hardcore believers one way or another, or distance allies who feel it to be an unworthy or unfair expression of disagreement.

I myself do some shit-posting and trolling of Leftist or PC activities. And I comment on politics and culture. What’s the difference? Well, first off I’ve got to be careful not to elevate myself here. Perhaps I’ve been guilty of the very thing I’m complaining about. If so, feel free to call me out on it any time. But if you follow me on Twitter or scroll through some of our post titles, you can pretty easily guess what our shtick is here. So first off, we’ve got a target audience. If someone else wants to engage and tell me I’m a cuck or rightwing nutjob, feel free to drop a comment. Your level of reasonableness and civility may determine whether we actually interact, but there you go.

When it comes to entertainment, I may criticize the statements or actions of creators, but I try to keep that separate from the quality of a given work.

Increasingly my beef has become with sites that bill themselves as focused on something like, oh, I don’t know, video games, and then start injecting politics. And you can guess what kind of politics they’re usually foisting. Even that is forgivable in and of itself, though it is tiresome to the max. Writers have opinions on politics, sure. And sometimes they absolutely can’t help themselves and must talk about how phallically-shaped swords are another oppressive tool of the Patriarchy, or why the new GOP-headed FCC is going to destroy the internet. People who get tired of that crap can either push back in comments or stop reading. That’s why I don’t follow many gaming websites anymore.

The latest – Touch Arcade. I used to check in pretty regularly to keep an eye on interesting-looking iOS games. Their reviews were always timely and of decent quality.

But now we’re starting to see stuff like this gem:

papers

So now that we’ve got a temporary moratorium on foreigners from 7 high-risk terrorist countries, the US is really becoming like an oppressive, corrupt superstate. And Touch Arcade felt this was an interesting thing to talk about.

Well, not all gamers are liberals, and not all gamers are interested in being sermonized to on political topics.

After Kaiju messaged me about this article, I gave it a quick look to see if there was any pushback. Well, the comments have bravely been disabled. How about on Twitter? Why yes:

Touch Arcade, as you might imagine, is respectful of its readers and prepared to dialogue.

I followed up, but it was about as productive as you might guess.

ta1

ta2

There you go. And so we circle back to “contempt.” If you want to start a discussion with your readers, that’s one thing. But if you want to spoon-feed them your ideology and spurn any opportunity for divergent opinion or dialogue, that’s another. So yes, TA may have only gotten two or three people voicing their dissatisfaction with this kind of behavior from a gaming website. It’s possible they picked up a few regular readers who thought to themselves “Hey I too hate Donald Trump and like mobile games – let me bookmark this site.” But there are also plenty of folk who clicked (there’s your stats), couldn’t comment, and didn’t feel like trying to find you on Twitter. If you don’t care whether or not you alienate these readers, then come what may. Some people don’t want to frequent sites that make them feel like they’re being held in contempt.

As you said Touch Arcade – seeya!

-Bushi

bushi

 

Video games, SFF, politics, and contempt!

Badass Womanly Women in SFF

A popular grievance of the Left is a lack of “inclusion” by either the Powers That Be or the population in general. As if we happy associates of the white, Christian Patriarchy have the time to step away from counting our piles of gold coins and smoking fine cigars long enough to actively knock the undesirables (or deplorables, if you will) down to the base of the ladder where they belong. This idea is usually born either by recently enlightened members of the aggrieved class or else sufficiently apologetic, self-appointed proxies. Self-righteous pensters have been decrying a lack of diversity in X for quite some time now.

Though it wasn’t the (original) central issue, there was plenty of talk focused on this topic during the whole Gamergate affair. Plenty of people pointed out that there are many prominent female video game characters – something easily ascertainable to those who have actually played video games or done some cursory research.

What about women in other media?

We’ve been told how great it is that we’re now finally getting some diversity in TV and film. With strong women like Rey in the Force Awakens and the Ghostbusters reboot, who needs traditional gender roles? Indeed, who needs men?

This dreck has been percolating for a while now. Is there a pushback coming?

tumblr_mxjpb0i8ee1s6l9jdo1_400

For the greater American culture, I’m not so certain. The pendulum swings both ways for sure, but it’s not easy to predict the full range of the cultural fulcrum. In a more limited arena, at any rate, the battle rages on.

To counter the cries of discrimination, I’ve noted several bloggers and online literary critics highlighting female excellence within the scifi-fantasy arena – pertaining both to writers and characters. Leigh Brackett and Margaret St. Clair are familiar names to Appendix N scholars or those fans on the farther side of the SFF Generation Gap. CJ Cherryh, Ursula Le Guin, Madeleine L’engle, Anne Rice, Anne McCaffrey, and Katherine Kurtz are some other big names who have been around for decades. Hell, JK Rowling is one of the best selling authors of all time, with Agatha Christie (a different genre, but still) topping the chart in a tie with William friggin Shakespeare. There are many more to name.

In light of this topic coming to the fore, I’ve been thinking about “strong” female characters. And you know, the recent brand is boring. The Left advances the ideas that gender is fluid and non-binary, and that traditional gender roles are outdated and discriminatory. And we wind up with bland characters like Rey, who wear formless potato sacks and can do everything better than men. She is woman, hear her roar.

JC Wright has written extensively on the subject of the strong female character. Physically and psychically, men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. While social crusaders may not personally like or accept this fact, minding it goes a long way toward developing well-written characters.

I’d like to briefly highlight a number of female characters I’ve identified who serve to exemplify this point. Note that these characters range in time of origin and in source medium. We can even draw from back in the Dark Ages when the women’s voices were suppressed and they were forcibly excluded from literature.

The Blood of Heroes (1989), Kidda

4oif7wzbdxnrqtglvd0ogkgtus2

In a post-apocalyptic world, a roving team of juggers hop from town to town playing the Sport (one part football, one part gladiatorial bout) as they make their way to the capital city, where they will fight to join the League. Along the way they pick up the scrappy Kidda – a small but quick woman who becomes their quik (the runner who tries to carry a dog skull to the opposite team’s end of the field without being savaged by the enemy defenders). Rather than brutishly pummeling the much larger men, Kidda had to rely on her natural agility, speed, and size to make it in the brutal game.

 

Star Trek Voyager (1995-2001), Captain Janeway

janeway-star-trek-voyager-30990629-500-382

Star Trek Voyager gets a lot of flack, and many Trekkies seem to consider it the worst or one of the worst series. I’ll have to write a defense sometime, because it’s actually my favorite of the bunch. Janeway is Exhibit A for me. She exhibited the best qualities of Kirk and Picard. She was a skilled diplomat, leader, and scientist, and yet she was quick to kick ass and take names when shit hit the fan. I found Janeway’s femininity striking. Although she did have some romantic subplots that never went anywhere, Janeway was extremely maternalistic. When it came to protecting her crew, she was a mother bear. She was no physical powerhouse, but she repeatedly displayed great courage and emotional strength.

 

Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)Six, Eight (Boomer and Athena), President Roslin

1ce326c52c18a6e8fdb54b47bedff8b9

There were a number of great female characters in the reincarnation of Battlestar. Of course Grace Parker was engaging as both Boomer and Athena, and Six as Caprica and other roles. Roslin was written a little unevenly, but she usually made a fine leader, relying on her forceful personality, wiles, and resilience. I’d contrast these characters with Starbuck, who was crafted to be a brawling hottie but more often came across as obnoxious and destructive.

 

Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), Ripley

aliens-001

Ripley was another maternal female character, at her best when she was protecting Newt. She wasn’t always the strongest, but she was intelligent, resourceful, and determined, as was perhaps best displayed in the iconic Aliens scene in which she takes on the mother alien with the work loader mech.

 

Flash Gordon (1934-) – Dale Arden, Princess Aura

still-of-melody-anderson-in-blixt-gordon-1980abaff3ae47b68e078731c0b70807572f

Flash Gordon was published as a comic strip in 1934 and has been serialized in a number of different media throughout the years. Two major recurring characters are Dale Arden (his companion from Earth and main love interest) and Princess Aura (daughter of Ming the Merciless). Although on the surface they may look like typical princesses in need of rescue, they’re both strong and independent characters. I haven’t personally read the comic strip, but in the 1980s film Aura saves Flash’s life and Dale effects her own escape. They’re both capable, brave, and beautiful (I know, scandalous for me to say!) without having to usurp the role of the male heroes.

 

Willow (1988)  Sorsha, Queen Bavmorda, Fin Raziel

tumblr_n0kyw1qqxw1sg8jd1o1_128073aa8e71872e4b32a1c24043f061f7d8cherlindreas_wand

Ok, so Willow’s Sorsha wasn’t the most well-fleshed-out of characters. She went from basically being an ice cold bitch to eventually deciding to join the good guys against her mom. I guess the ladies just can’t resist the Madmartigen D.

i5kzn9bh

Oh well. At any rate, she was a decently depicted female warrior type – this is what you get when you’re not dealing with abnormal behemoths like GRRM’s Brienne. She can fight; she can stab some old robed men plenty well. But when she’s dealing with a skilled, larger male like Mad M, she’s no match. I guess this is hinted at by her prominent quiver of arrows, though I don’t think she ever has a bow or makes use of any of them.

We’ve also got Fin Raziel, the great magical old dame Willow must seek out because she’s a powerful mage and he’s just a two-bit magician. If woman are going to have equal opportunity, we also need some prominent strong female villains, and so we’ve got Bavmorda, who is probably the strongest magic user in the film. She’s vicious, cruel, self-serving, and good at being bad.

Willow is particularly notable because it gave us the old woman magic battle years before we got the old man magic battle on screen. Revolutionary!

 

The Wizard of Oz (1900), Dorothy

wiz

The story that spurred perhaps one of our most classic, iconic films, and the protagonist is a little girl. She may not have been roundhousing flying monkies or pummeling the wicked witch, but Dorothy’s kindness and charisma aided her in recruiting many friends throughout her journey (especially if you include the other books in the series). Her quest to return home required a fair amount of courage, as well, which you may notice is a recurring virtue on this list.

Again, this is just a small sample of female characters from a variety of SFF. And they were arguably all well done and strong despite not competing with men where men excel and/or just being good at everything.

star-wars-book-before-the-awakening-gives-a-vital-insight-into-rey-s-identity-rey-hasn-7920451

 

-Bushi

bushi

 

Badass Womanly Women in SFF

Wrongthink

It’s been a while, so time to alienate a few readers. You know, things used to seem so simple, back when the lines were drawn between conservatives and liberals. Maybe it was the naivety of my youth.

Now we’ve got nationalists and “globalists,” alt-righters, Bernie Bros, and crony capitalists. “Right” and “Left” aren’t as clear as they once were.

There are plenty of bombthrowers and shitlords on the Left. That’s nothing new. Point out the fact that Muslim terrorists keep blowing people up and you’re an Islamophobe. Venture that a wall along our border is actually a good idea and you’re anti-immigrant or racist. Observe that punching a police officer and trying take his gun and subsequently being shot does not qualify one for martyrdom and you’re displaying white privilege.

capture

Of course dumbass celebrities can talk of “cleansing” the opposition with little repercussion. This is what happens when the fourth estate becomes corrupted and heavily biased.capture2

I’ve been told that the growth of the alt-right and nationalist movements and those who sympathize with them is largely a reaction to this virtue-signalling, finger-wagging, PC wankery from the Left. Along with the growth of social media, I can buy that.

What’s a shame, however, is the conflagration of issues on what was formerly “our” side, and the adoption of Leftist tactics and thought.

I haven’t had many exchanges on Twitter with liberals, quite honestly. I just don’t run in the same circles. But I’ve had my share of exchanges with nationalist alt-righters, and they’re the only ones who have hinted to me that perhaps I deserve to be shot for treason. Not that they would ever do such a thing, mind you. But they certainly won’t forget who their enemies are, they say.

I’ve noticed this from some quarters of the faction, in particular when it comes to “globalism.”

capture
capture4

First, what does “globalism” even mean to them? It’s a collection of issues, but immigration, trade, and religion seem to be the primary considerations.

What I find ironic is that many of these people would decry being shoved into boxes or stamped with static political labels. Not a Republican, maybe a libertarian. Nationalist, perhaps. And yet, if you support walled borders, deportations, and enforcing our immigration laws and yet take a nuanced view of legal immigration and amnesty (though so does the god-king), you may be a globalist cuck.

If you support free trade, you may hate America. Nevermind the economic arguments, though – if you don’t support the subsidization of American companies to produce sometimes inferior products, you’re on the wrong side. Beware.

If you believe that immigrants from Muslim countries need to be thoroughly screened or else not allowed, but you feel that legal immigration is a good thing, especially when poaching talent from other countries, well you’re putting Americans out of jobs and you also might be a race-traitor.

Odd feeling, that conservatives aren’t as far to the Right anymore as we used to be. And that’s fine. What gets me, as I said, is the tactics. This is because it was decided that in order to fight SJWs, one must use their own tactics against them (and now against any who stand in your way).

Frog memes are fine, when they’re not depicting Jews being shoved into ovens. They’re usually just silly, and what do I care? We all know how effective Twitter memes are.

bnd8vbncuaafdta

But when you’re trying to be obnoxious and offensive and hinting at violence, well. That’s your right. Freedom of speech. Don’t know what you think you’re accomplishing, though. Maybe you amuse some people. There are only so many keyboard trolls to join your cause, though. And as far as attracting average folk; they won’t understand the fascination with green-skinned Donald Trump. You can make your nationalist populist arguments, and that will resonate with some. But keep calling well-intentioned people with differing ideas (often former allies) traitors who deserve traitor’s deaths, and you’re no better than the Left. Brownshirt thuggery and veiled threats were supposed to be their thing.

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”

At any rate, I guess those of us without purely nationalist or globalist inclinations had better watch out; we could be purged by either side!

-Bushi

bushi

 

Wrongthink

Winnie the Problematic

The other day I stumbled upon a post at Black Gate wherein the writer lamented his failings as a compassionate human being. You see, he decided to have another look at Piers Anthony’s Xanth books, which he had picked up in 6th grade and then again during his teenage years. Upon returning to the series as a mature adult, presumably after having been afforded the benefits and enlightenment of modern education, he realized how misogynistic Anthony’s writing is. Embarrassing as it is, our BG blogger hadn’t picked up on this as a child and had failed to be appropriately offended. He properly swears that he will not be recommending Xanth to his son, anyone female, or…well, anyone. Furthermore he will have his copies destroyed (making sure they are recycled, of course) rather than donating them to the local thrift shop, ensuring no one will read this smut.

Capture.PNG

I must say, bravo to him for his scruples. In his defense, I would once again point out that as a child he had not yet been adequately processed and prepared to pinpoint the offensive bits in Anthony’s work. So I hope he doesn’t feel too ashamed on that point.

His post got me thinking, however. I, too, read many of the Xanth books as a youth. And I, too, failed to be appropriately offended. What other problematic books did I read as a child, then, and fail to repudiate? What other ungood stories may be out there polluting the children’s sections at libraries and bookstores?

 

winnie-the-pooh-book_1724

 

I’m sad to say, it has dawned on me that Disney property and long-beloved Winnie-the-Pooh fails many metrics of modern decency. Let’s briefly examine the sins of the Pooh stories.

First of all, Milne’s stories fail spectacularly when put to the Bechdel test, one of the industry’s greatest standards for measuring equality. Not only do the Pooh stories not feature at least two women characters talking to each other about something other than a man, but there are not even that many major female characters to be found period.

In fact the only “woman” we see in the early stories is Kanga, the mother of Roo. Initially we are told that she is among the fiercest of animals.

“Piglet was so excited at the idea of being Useful that he forgot to be frightened any more, and when Rabbit went on to say that Kangas were only Fierce during the winter months, being at other times of an Affectionate Disposition, he could hardly sit still, he was so eager to begin being useful at once. “

We then see that this was a fake-out. She is not a strong woman character, and her fierceness is not enduring or defining. To make matters worse, she is portrayed as a mere homemaker and relegated mostly to child rearing duties.

Rather backwards, and I’m ashamed I never realized this before. If I have a daughter someday, she needs to know that she can be more than a mother kangaroo.

I would also note that while the story does feature anthropomorphic stuffed animals (close enough to representing the furry contingent, I suppose), there are no openly gay or transgender characters. Granted, the Pooh stories were written beginning in the 1920s, and society had some progressing to do. But don’t we update our stories and culturally relevant characters all the time to better suit our modern values? Look at what the comic books are doing these days!

Retconning or evolving Pooh and Piglet’s relationship, for example, would be a welcome change to the series, and I find it disappointing that Disney hasn’t already done so. When I have children someday, I want them to know that they can openly and pridefully express their love for another, regardless of gender, sex, or species.

For now, though, the simple truth remains that the Pooh stories fall on the wrong side of history, and we should not be exposing our children to such backwards values and messages. I therefore recommend that you donate any copies you may be holding, to be recycled as fuel for climate change research expeditions to the polar ice caps. It may not be as cold up there as we’d like, but hey, it’s still pretty cold.

-Bushi

bushi

 

 

 

Winnie the Problematic

Vicarious

Stare like a junkie
Into the TV
Stare like a zombie
While the mother
Holds her child
Watches him die
Hands to the sky crying
Why, oh why?
’cause I need to watch things die
From a distance

I wasn’t able to get into Tool when I was younger. There were a few songs here and there that I liked, but albums full of strange song structures were too dense for my young mind. The songs were also very long. What 13 year old has time for that? Not me.

Recent years have been different. I have come to a new appreciation for Tool, at least their later albums. The lyrics posted above are from the song “Vicarious” off of their newest album 10,000 days (from way back in 2006!). The official music video looks like a bad acid trip, so I’ve posted an unofficial lyric video below:

The lyrics to this song have had a deep effect on me in recent days. Violence and death is news. The news is violence and death. Always has been and probably always will be. Today, however, we are able to experience death in real-time, from the safety of our smartphones. Terror and suffering are live-tweeted, sometimes even live-streamed. We eat it up. I eat it up.

Every time there is a terror attack I refresh the twitter feed and the news page to check the body count, to see if the killer fits my narrative, to get a glimpse of something real and horrible happening to people I don’t know. A violent break in the monotony of modern life. Something to talk to the echo-chamber about. My natural revulsion to violence has been dulled by its frequency and the ease with which I fit it into my normal routine.

Toward the end of the song the following lyrics are sung:

Credulous at best, your desire to believe in angels in the hearts of men.
Pull your head on out your hippy haze and give a listen.
Shouldn’t have to say it all again.
The universe is hostile. so Impersonal. devour to survive.
So it is. So it’s always been.

I can’t help but read the first line as a reference to Original Sin (I am Catholic, after all). I’m not sure Mr. Keenan would agree with me. He offers no answers, only that things are this way and always have been. We should just admit it. I admit it. I also hope for something better. Maybe in the next world.

 

-Kaiju

Vicarious

Is the US becoming more dangerous? Nope.

If you watch the news and are up on your political Twitters, you’ve probably heard that our country is going to shit. I’m not going to argue with that, as in many ways it probably is. But there’s been this growing perception that the US is becoming a more violent, dangerous place to live. Be it due to rampant gun ownership or the threat of terrorism, or, according to some, the constant menace of Florida alligators, many feel that the US isn’t the safest place to live anymore. I know my girlfriend (who is from Thailand) has expressed these feelings recently. When she does I just remind her that in Thailand you can run someone over with your car and if you have money you’ll get off scot-free. She doesn’t try to deny it.

Anyway, I have a couple thoughts on the issue of safety in the US, my goal being to rain on your rain.

sing2

Thought number one: the US is not becoming more dangerous.

But thanks to the ever-quickening reach and speed of all the various media, we now get 24-hour news cycles of bad news. Local deaths are no longer confined to local news paper and news stations; they spread across Twitter and the blogosphere like wildfire, if sensational or tragic enough.

Now there are other measures of “safety” aside from murder rates, but that’s one of the biggest metrics we have. Our conversations are usually centered on people being killed. Apropos of that, here are a couple of bullet points from the FBI’s website:

  • In 2013, the estimated number of murders in the nation was 14,196. This was a 4.4 percent decrease from the 2012 estimate, a 7.8 percent decrease from the 2009 figure, and a 12.1 percent drop from the number in 2004.
  • There were 4.5 murders per 100,000 people. The murder rate fell 5.1 percent in 2013 compared with the 2012 rate. The murder rate was down from the rates in 2009 (10.5 percent) and 2004 (18.3 percent). (See Tables 1 and 1A.)

Murder rates nationally have been on the decline for years. And others have written about this, but crime has been falling as gun ownership has risen in the US, incidentally.

Terrorism and mass shootings have contributed largely to the perception that things are getting worse, I think. There are a lot of facts to process, however. The 1990s have actually been the worse decade for mass shootings thus far in the US. I would argue that the rise of radical Islamist terrorism is the main driver of the recent surge in attacks. And that’s something that’s hardly confined to the US.

That brings me to thought number two: the US ain’t that bad, comparatively.

The CDC is missing homicide data for a lot of countries. But let’s look at an infographic map of the data we do have.

Capture.PNG

The US really ain’t really that much more pink than most of the rest of the world. Meaning we don’t really kill each other a whole lot more than people in other countries. There may be more gun deaths in the US than a majority of other nations, but surprise surprise that people find other ways to murder each other.

Unfortunately I don’t have the numbers to compare reptile-related deaths across countries. And I don’t mean to make light of recent tragedies; it certainly is sad to hear of children dying by an means.

But by its very nature and the nature of humanity, the world is not a safe place. This doesn’t mean we should be afraid to go out and live our lives, or keep our children cloistered away. Our world is no Barsoom, either; you’re not going to step outside and be gored by a horrible plant man or great white ape. But things do happen and people do die. At least in the US (in parts anyway) our God-given right to bear and use arms in self-defense is recognized and protected. For now, at least safety-wise, I’d say the US isn’t such a bad place to live.

-Bushi

bushi

 

Is the US becoming more dangerous? Nope.