The Feedback Cycle of Virtue

I’ve long argued that Western men thirst for stories that reflect their culture, and that Hollywood’s woes and the decline in readers clamoring for mainstream fare are healthy signs for the future.  It’s time to show you a proof of concept.

The following review of my latest novel, “Space Princess” was written by a reader with exactly one review on Amazon.  I’ve edited out most of Gryphon’s praise for the book (full review here), because the context of the review is much more important from a cultural standpoint than what makes “Space Princess” such an engaging read.  As you read this, consider that Gryphon represents hordes of readers.

I’ve been reading quite a few independent published novels over the past few years. There are some gems out there, and a number of them happen to be very fun Catholic novels. Or at the very least, novels that show an accurate Catholic world view, while having some fun in a given genre. Take the secret agent fun of Val Bianco or Declan Finn, or the vampire novels of the latter. Even the great Father Baptist books by William Biersach, or the eclectic works of Karina Fabian. There is a unique joy in the reading of these books, because I take it they were written with a fair amount of joy. They are likely written for the joy of writing and telling a story, and because there is Hope at the heart of them, they lift you and you are happy to have made the trip through their world. I digress a bit.

I wish there were more science fiction or fantasy like this, and have a few on my reading list that may fulfill my wish. For now, this hits a spot for the modern Catholic nerd who wants to race around and save the galaxy, for Altar and Throne. As Lewis presented Earth as a place others noted because “Our Beloved” had become one of us here, Mollison likewise presents “Holy Terra”. I found it similar, and love the idea. I’ll leave it there because I want you to take the journey.

Gryphon gave “Space Princess” five stars, but I consider this a six star review.  Plenty of people enjoy my novels, but Gryphon enjoyed “Space Princess” enough to sit down and really think about the work.  Gryphon then chose to take action to spread the word about it, and did so in a way that was wholly new and potentially fraught with peril.  What if no one liked the review?  What if no one cared?  That takes courage, and that my novel might have played a small role in encouraging Gryphon to embark upon this path to help push back against the regression of western culture means far more to me as an author than any written praise that might show up on Amazon.

It should mean a lot to you, too.  Because Gryphon is only the tip of the spear.  He represents hordes of consumers starved for soul-nourishing fare, who have only recently begun to understand how empty their diets have been for the last few years, thanks to the sometimes difficult to unravel feedback process that operate in cultural shifts.  The enemies of truth, justice, and the American way have taken advantage of the feedback cycles to push back against virtue in media.  For decades they worked to feed a system that made it hard to supply entertainment reflecting the ideals of Christendom due to lack of demand, even as that very lack of demand arose from the dearth of a supply of examples of the ideals of Christendom.

That was the whole point of forcing conservative voices out of coastal elite media offices for so long.  As the examples of virtuous stories dried up, so too did the public’s desire for virtuous stories.  Which led to the coastal elites pushing ever more venal media onto the public under the safe cover of arguing that ‘there’s no demand for it’.

And then self-publishing came along and cut that Gordian knot.  It didn’t matter if there was scant demand for stories that reflected American or English or Christian ideals because the people crafting those stories weren’t interested in the pursuit of wealth or fame at the expense of those very ideals.  If they could produce works that they felt good about, and those works found an audience – no matter how small – then the effort was justified.  People who have their souls nourished by positive stories don’t relapse, but seek out more examples of those stories.  And more and more of them, as exemplified by Gryphon, are turning away from the empty media generated by the coastal elites and toward the far more fulfilling works crafted by self-publishers.

And so we find ourselves entering a cultural springtime within western culture.  Thanks to readers like Gryphon, the feedback cycles are operating towards Christendom’s advantage now.  And the future looks sunnier every day.

Click here to soak up a little sunshine yourself

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Local Kine Comics

Think global, buy local, they tell you.  Aurite*.

It’s been a long time since I bought a comic book that wasn’t wrapped in a brown paper bag.  It’s not what you think.  After a dry spell, a few years back I bought a couple packages of 10 titles for a buck and gave them to the kids to see if they had any interest in comic books.

They didn’t.

That confused me until I read a few myself and realized that Marvel and DC had undergone the same tectonic shift away from adventure stories and towards virtue signaling and ‘adult’ themes.  That experience chased my whole family away from the medium for five years.  Between the rise of Alt*Hero, the analysis of SJW comics provided by Diversity and Comics, and rubbing elbows with some solid and cool hard core comic fans online, I found myself with a hankering for a hit of sequential art that had long lain dormant.

My first choice was Alterna Comics, a smaller publisher that uses news paper, charges less than two bucks a title, and has a fun and engaging presence on the Twitter machine.  Unfortunately, my comic shop does not carry them – they probably will soon as I asked for them by name, and the clerk said I’m not even close to being the first.  Undaunted, I decided to go the local route and picked up the first issue of ‘Aumakua: Guardians of Hawai’i.

Page one got off to a tense start.  The one page backstory presents a deep and meaningful nod to the local Hawaiian folklore and explains that long ago the Native Hawaiians knew that someday people would try to steal their land, and that the gods responded by sending the Aumakua, mighty warriors of legend sent to defend the land.  Presumably from people like me, but whatevs.  On page two, we learn that the modern iteration of the defenders (shown above) are not the soulful saints of a Black Panther or a Luke Cage, they are a definite work in progress.

The basic premise of the story is simple – a giant not-at-all-Godzilla attacks Honolulu during the biggest nerd convention in town.  Which leads to the first of a couple of genuine belly laughs the comic provides.  One grateful attendee decides to personally thank Seoul Hot, a Korean and fire-themed superheroine, a little too personally.

Must have been a Magic: The Gathering event, too!

Surprise!  PedoBear reference for the win.  A couple of the other jokes are a little too fourth-grade potty-humor for my tastes, but in a nice touch, the Hawaiian Superman – Mighty Moke would be the guy with the afro shooting the shaka (that’s “Hang Loose” for you mainlanders) on the cover – shows up late to the party.  Which leads to one team-member pointing out that he arrived, “Just in the nick of Hawaiian time.”  Might not mean much to most people, but trust me, that joke kills on this island.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room.  The cover features five different ethnicities, which would be  red flag of danger on a mainstream comic book.  Handled by a team of stiff-necked New York creatives, this comic book would be overbearing, preachy, and insufferable.  Handled by a team of laid back island kine goofballs, this comic book is light, fun, and engaging.  Looking at the cover you’ve got a (presumably white) surfer, a Samoan, a Hawaiian braddah, a Korean girl, two more Hawaiians, a Portugee supergenius, and I think a white guy in a gecko suit.  None of the masked superheroes take off their disguise, so it’s a little hard to say for sure.  And that’s okay.  This is one of those titles written to reflect strange mélange of cultures that has sprung up in Honolulu over the last 250 years as it has served as a city where East meets West.

More to the point, the creative team doesn’t view these characters as paragons of representation whom they dare not insult by giving them weaknesses or challenges.  The Superman analog – Might Moke – is late to the fight.  He is arrogant.  He is rash.  His heart is in the right place, but he is young and needs the stern, guiding hand of The Royal Hawaiian Guardian (the old man in the Pith Helmet) to keep him on the straight and narrow.  It’s the sort of thing you don’t see in more mainstream comics, and that absence is part of the reason for the decline of the major publishers.  Interestingly, the creators of this comic, by treating the issue of representation so lightly, have tapped into something deeper than the midwits who strive to make the world a better place through purse puppy writing.

Although eight characters is a little crowded, each hero receives just enough center spotlight time to introduce himself and do something cool.  Only a couple have a character moment more than superficial, but it works within the “pilot episode” context.  A lot of the dialog is in pidgin**, which may make it a little harder for non-locals to follow, but if you aren’t stupid, you can translate into King’s English easily enough.

If you have a love for the modern Hawaiian islands, and you want to pair that with your love of comic books, this one is a keeper.  It’s fast, fun, and adventurous, and everything that a comic book should be.  I’ll be picking up the next couple of issues in the series to read for pleasure (rather than as an autopsy on what not to do), and ultimately that’s the best measure of a comic book’s success.

*Pidgin for “All right.”

**The local bastardized dialect that features a lot of dropped prepositions, a refusal to pronounce “th” as anything other than a “d”, and a lot of slang.  The comic includes a glossary at the back, which includes a full translation of a three panel Hawaiian language argument.  The translation is in-necessary as the art and body language of the characters makes the meaning plain enough, but it’s a nice bit of service for fans who prefer to have everything spelled out.

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Candyland 2.0

Late last year I tried to turn my four year old daughter into a proper hex-and-counter wargamer by running her through the first few scenarios of Advanced Squad Leader, but she just cannot ever remember to pop smoke before rushing a full squad through a lane open to fire by a squad support weapon.  Kids these days, I tell ya!

Having learned my lesson, this past Christmas focused on a hunt for games suitable for helping her move beyond the realm of Candyland.  Candyland is a fantastic game – it is the perfect introduction to gaming, what with its imminently relatable fluff and its focus on the core game concepts of taking turns, obeying the dictates of the randomizer*, and looking forward in the game.  “Oh, I hope I get a blue card on the first turn so that I can take that shortcut,” is music to a gaming Dad’s ears.

After a few months of learning colors and making no decisions, she was ready for something a little more involved, and so my Christmas gift list included a healthy dose of games that could help up the complexity just enough for her without being overwhelming.  In the end, we found three, and the best part of the hunt was that I didn’t have to give any money to Hasbro to find them.

Rhino Hero is a basic card stacking game.  Players are dealt five cards and have to play them as the ceiling/roof of a building.  A separate stack of folded cards is used to build the walls of the tower.  To complicate matters, some of the roof cards have a rhino icon which forces the next player to carefully remove and place a small rhino-shaped block onto the top of the tower.  It’s a bit like Jenga, but with cards and with the advantage of forcing players to choose the order in which to play their cards.  The little bit of strategy is less important than the opportunity this game provides for challenging a child’s manual dexterity, and the fact that even an experienced adult sometimes fumbles the ball means that the kids have a pretty good chance at learning how to be a good winner when playing against their parents.

Tiny Park is a ‘fill in the card’ version of Yahtzee game where players roll five dice to generate resources that they can use to buy attractions for their tiny park.  Players have three chances to get the resources needed to buy an attraction, and the attractions have Tetris-like shapes, which forces the players to plan ahead when building their rides.  Unlike the other two games, this one lacks any player interaction and becomes more of a race to finish your park first, but that provides ample opportunity for teaching your child how to plan ahead, and how to judge risks as they select which dice to reroll.  The import of teaching them how to make these small scale decisions occurs in Tiny Park without the pressure of adversarial competition, making it a prefect introduction to the basics in a low pressure gaming environment.

Rally Run mixes the pathfinding fun of Streetcar style game with the memory checks of the Match Game.  Players have wooden car tokens that have to race to the center of a five card by five card grid, retrieve a fuel can and finish line, and then race for the win.  The cars move from one over-turned tile to the next, with the path of the card being revealed only when a car is on the tile.  Instead of moving – such as when blocked in by the dreaded dead-end tiles – players may swap the positions of two of the face-down cards.  A full version of the game with a seven by seven grid might make for a better adult version of the game, but the small size and fast play make this perfect for younger children, and the randomness of the cards help level the playing field, making this a perfect game for older kids to enjoy as well.

All three games are light on rules, and a little heavy on the luck, which makes them perfect starter games for children ready to move up to the next level of board games.  They all play in a matter of a few minutes, making them perfect for those whose attention spans are growing, but not quite ready for a full-on game of Diplomacy.  And they are all pretty cheap – I think 15 bucks is the most I spent on any of them – which makes introducing them to your gaming table a low-risk investment for you.

I’ll definitely be giving more HABA games a shot in the future.

*I’ve gamed with more than a few DMs who could use a Candyland refresher on that score!

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Because You Can Never Have Too Much Cirsova

It’s that time of year again!  Time to subscribe to one of the best short fiction magazines on the market today.  Cirsova once again is offering digital subscriptions to the two issues slated for release in 2018.  At $10 each for the print copies, this is an incredible bargain for what you get.

More stories by the always reliable Adrian Cole and exciting newcomer Dominika Lein are slated for Issue #7, and the Editor even promises more Abraham Strongjohn!  His “At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen” was a highlight of the inaugural issue, so I’m excited to see what he has planned for us.

Why not swing by and back it right now, while it’s fresh in your mind?  You can get both issues in digital format for just a buck!  That’s what I did – but I also support the magazine by purchasing advertising for one of my fun and adventurous novels.

And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter – I’m giving away a digital download code for a copy of the video game Cuphead in just two days!


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Stop Supporting Your Enemies

Yesterday Brian Niemeier dropped an epic post about Fifth Columnists that is well worth taking the time to read.  Zeroing in on the most important bit:

Don’t GIVE money to people who hate you.

Don’t give MONEY to people who hate you.

Don’t give money to people who HATE you.

Even with all that said, Brian undersells this important concept.  It’s not just about the money.

Consider that the SJWs themselves provided a massive amount of support to Vox Day during the Alt*Hero crowdfunding campaign.  All of their outrage and sturm and drang served Vox’s interests by elevating the profile of his project.  Their constant attention – even negative attention – directed potential allies toward Arkhaven Press, and they only fell silent on the subject once the big funding bomb went off and it was too late to stop him.  Similarly, recent attacks by Mr. Diversity and Comics and Ethan van Sciber work to Vox’s advantage as they are exposing Alt*Hero to a new pool of potential customers.

In the fight for attention in today’s crowded entertainment market, any attention paid to the people who hate you works to their advantage.  The Last Jedi might have been the worst film you’ve ever seen, but to paraphrase Jack Sparrow, “Ah, but you did see it!”  Even if you didn’t see the thing, if you spend hours mocking the producers and stars and fans and various hangers-on, you are still providing oxygen to the dumpster fire.

Granted, mockery is a weapon against which the earnest and pinch-faced leftists are particularly vulnerable.  It’s an important tool, but that is a blade best wielded sparingly and with scalpel precision.  You only have so many hours in the day.  So after that first rush of dogpiling on the rabbit, pivot away, and use the rest of your time to help fan the flames of other, better, properties produced by those who do not hate you.

An example:  Daddy Warpig provided a tour de force demolition of The Last Jedi.  Rather than join in the Mouse Wars curb-stomping, I’ve turned my focus on a far better Star Wars than anything the House of Mouse could possibly produce.  The first in my series of detailed reviews of Nick Cole and Jason Anspach’s Galaxy’s Edge series went live this past week.  There will be more to follow.  At least five more by current count, and more if we are lucky.  Seriously, it’s so good I’ve been sucked into an epic book series for the first time in years, even after swearing them off for good.

Likewise, when it comes to enjoying the slow motion train wreck between Marvel and DC with all those lesser trains like IDW thrown in for good measure…it’s time to stop.  If you are a comics fan, turn the spotlight on alternatives.  Deny Marvel and DC the oxygen they need to survive by pointing fellow comic book fans away from the wreckage of the SJW convergence.  I’ll have a local kine comic review up in a few days, I’ll wear my Alt*Hero shirt with pride, and if the local shop ever gets in gear and orders a few Alterna Comics, you’ll hear about those, too.

This isn’t just about making a better marketplace or even making a better world for you and your children.  It’s also about making a better life for yourself.  Getting dragged down into mockery of incompetents might be cathartic given how many of those currently sit in seats of media power, but it’s also not a negative mindset and not terribly constructive.  Focus on the positive creators, and focus on creating better alternatives to the major media producers, and you’ll clear a lot of anger and bitterness from your own heart.  You’ll start to notice all of the wonderful aspects of life that surround you, and as you and your circle of friends talk more about the things you’ve discovered worth your time, you’ll start to find more and more great stories to read, and hear, and watch.

And what could be a better use of your time than that?

As for supporting your friends – I’ll be doing a little bit of that later today by rolling the bones of fate to determine who gets a download code for a copy of Cuphead.  If read this post too late to get in on the fun, don’t worry, everyone who signs up for my newsletter will receive a free e-novella, “Wyrm’s Bane”, as a thank you for being part of my audience.

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Planetary Defense Awards – 2017 Ballot

January means that it’s time to start thinking about awards season.  And when it comes to sci-fi, the hot new award on the block is the Planetary Awards.

This year, I’m going to go with “The Last American” for the short category.  Schuyler Hernstrom’s poignant and rambunctious kitchen-sink adventure complete with astronauts, wild-haired barbarians, lizard men, and oh, so much more was another breathtaking read from my favorite modern era author.  It’s a standout, even among the excellent company it keeps in Issue #5 of Cirsova Magazine.

For long form, I’d like to nominate “The Corroding Empire” by Johan Kalsi, but that’s an edge case that might get dinged for being more of a collection of short stories set in the same milieu.  Another honorable mention goes to “The Heretics of St. Possenti“, which is a prequel to a sci-fi book, but doesn’t actually qualify as sci-fi itself.  So instead, we’ll play it safe and nominate Nick Cole and Jason Anspach’s “Legionnaire“.  I’m not usually a big fan of mil-sf, but the characters and writing were so engaging that the book sucked me in, drained me dry, and spit me back out.  Nobody does jaded old warriors clinging to last scraps of decency like Nick Cole does – he even clears the very high bar set by Glen Cook – so this ranks as the best SF book I read in 2017, and my nomination for the award.

Make sure you get your own votes in before February 14th!

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The Backlog – Fat and Happy

The  year of our Lord 2017 was a banner year for the #PulpRev crowd.  In addition to picking up a lot of new talent, and a lot of established talent, the Bad Kids Table in the sci-fi cafeteria produced more great content than one man could possibly read.  After a nearly decade long dry spell, my personal backlog continues to grow – both in novels and short story collection form.

Moving in to 2018 I’ve got a list that looks like this:

And that’s just what’s out right now.  We’re going to see all of these authors drop more books in 2018, and we haven’t even gotten to the Magazines:

  • A couple of Cirsova, naturally
  • A couple of StoryHack, for obvious reasons
  • Maybe even a Broadswords and Blasters issue.  I’ve been remiss in not giving them a shot.  They edge a little too close to being ashamed of liking the bad old authors that I love, but we’ve bounced ideas around on Twitter, and they seem like a good crew.

I’m missing a few, I know it.  There’s just too much good stuff out there to remember it all in one sitting, and together we’re going to have a great time exploring and discussing all of it.

Here’s hoping your 2018 is as jam packed with great reading as mine is shaping up to be!

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Happy Swaggy New Year!

A thank you give away for my followers

Happy New Year, readers mine!

Take a gander over there on the right sidebar and you’ll see a place to enter your email to sign up for my newsletter. It’s a short and infrequent affair, but it’s the best place to keep up with what I’ve been writing and what’s coming down the publishing pike in 2018.

To celebrate big new things and the fresh face of 2018, and more importantly, to thank all of my subscribers for trusting me with the sacred duty of preserving their inbox from spam, I’d like to give everyone a copy of the breakout smash video game hit of last year, Cuphead.  That’s a little outside my marketing budget just yet, so instead I am going to give away one copy to a random subscriber on January 10th.

That means that, if you aren’t a subscriber, it’s not too late.  Sign up today and not only will you be registered for the giveaway, but I’ll send you a link that you can use to download one of my fantasy novellas, “Wyrm’s Bane”.  It’s the story of a girl, a city, and a dragon that needs a good killing.  You can’t lose, so register today.

And have a Happy New Year!

Fine print: The copy that will be given away is actually the download code suitable for use on your PC.  This is not a Steam code.

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Magic: The Smattering

The CCG can die in a cold fire so far as I’m concerned.  I’ve never forgiven it for stealing the limelight of tabletop gaming away from RPGs in the early 1990s.  Which means that I’ve been following the Convergence of Magic: The Gathering with a morbidity similar to that which I feel watching Marvel Comics choke on their adherence to the Narrative.  If you are near to this sordid mess, allow Breitbart to fill you in on the details.  Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Jeremy Hambly has been reported to the Wizards of the Coast Stasi by its SJW informants, investigated and found guilty of doing something that hundreds, if not thousands of millions of us do on the internet every day: bantering, shitposting, fighting snark with snark, invoking Kek and Pepe the Frog…And, instead of shrugging its shoulders, and going “Meh. This is what people on the internet do”, Wizards of the Coast Stasi has decided to confiscate his property, destroy part of his livelihood, and snatch away the hobby he loves.

Nice.  I’ve already shed any desire to own WotC’s official D&D product lines thanks to the usual suspects wedging their mental-illnesses into the product line.  As a non-player of M:tG, you might think I’ve nothing to withhold from the CCG line, either.

Au contraire, mon frère!

My son loves the game.  My usual M:tG budget for under the tree is around forty to fifty bucks.  This year – zero.  The disaster at WotC has me irritated enough that I even made it a point to steer away from all Hasbro products this Christmas.  Instead of Toys R’ Us, I spent my money down at the local game/comic shop on 40k items or boardgames from independent companies that I don’t know hate me.

Side note:  They probably do hate me – all of tabletop gaming seems to be pandering to the tastes of the bully-nerds these days.  Can’t even buy Reaper figures any more since they told me they don’t want my money.  C’est la vie.  Alternative Armies, Khurasan, and Ral Partha Europe have everything I need for the foreseeable future with more on the way.  But at least these smaller companies, unlike WotC, don’t go out of their way to tell me to walk away from the counter and take my money with me.

Admittedly, my own small budget represents less than a rounding error for a company like Hasbro.  But there are an awful lot of me out there.  A few hundred bucks here, a few hundred there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.  And watch me laugh when the God Emperor fires up the anti-Monopoly machine and comes after Hasbro.  Lolbertarian Jon would have defended that company loud and proud.  Alt-Right Jon finds the thought of Hasbro being broken up grimly amusing.

It didn’t have to be this way, but Hasbro chose the NY cocktail party crowd over the beer and pretzel crowd.  So when the profits flag and the stock dips and the predatory investors come a calling, shed no tears for Hasbro.  They made this bed – they can choke on it.


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True Detective – Too True to be Good [Spoiler Review]

HBO gave me a bad case of Lovecraftian blue-balls.

“True Detective” is a frustrating show.  It flirts with greatness, but can’t lift itself out of the mire of post modernism until it’s too late to be saved.  The slow investigation into the death of one nameless hooker spirals outward – a nice motif – until the leads find themselves racing around trying to get their arms around a full blown child-sex ring conspiracy complete with references to the King in Yellow and Carcosa, and then chickens out at the last minute.

I should probably be grateful that the Lovecraft references were red herrings – Hollywood’s take on Lovecraft has almost universally been as bad as its take on Robert E. Howard.

The detectives do catch “their man”, but the glimpses of Lovecraftian witchery all turn out to be hallucinations.  The cabal is not brought down in the end, only two or three of the bottom-rung members.  Maybe one of the higher-ups, but the justice meted out to the corrupt governor who tried to cover up the extent of the crimes in only implied and only happens off camera.

Our twin protagonists are both unlikable.  Harrelson’s Martin is a lech and cheat.  McConaghey’s Rustin is a bitter old nihilist who never shuts up about how meaningless everything is unless he’s ranting about how important something he wants is.  It makes the show hard to watch, and not because it’s so “real”.  I can watch real – I watch it sixteen hours a day, thank you very much.  I see cuckolds and philanderers and clever men who mistake cynicism and cunning for wisdom and intellect all round me and on every show produced over the last ten years.  It isn’t novel, and it isn’t interesting.

The actual investigation?  Now that is interesting.  How these two guys manage to unravel the mystery despite the best efforts of their bosses is fascinating.  The small clues, the interviews, the small deceptions and the large, the heroic lengths to which Martin and Rustin go to bring down a vicious cabal of child-raping perverts is great.  Particularly in these days when such things appear in the headlines on a regular basis, the central crime seems far less fantastic than it must have even two short years ago.

More frustrating is the fact that the cabal goes largely unstopped.  Martin and Rustin end up catching a few players in the game, but the larger circle goes unpunished.  So that’s at best a tie for the “good guys”?

It’s a shame they had to ruin a potentially great show by making the heroes sympathetic only in comparison to the men they are chasing.  Martin and Rustin are disgusting, and I didn’t like either of them.  If they had died in the final confrontation, I would not have shed a tear over either of them.

The show is only saved from my dumpster file by Rustin’s last second conversion.  When faced with death, he experiences his daughter’s love shining in the night, and seems to place one foot firmly on the path toward redemption.  In literally the last minute of the show, they finally give us a reason to root for Rustin personally and not professionally.  That bumps the show up and over the bar from “typical Hollywood trash-fest” to “watch it with your finger on the FF button.”

“True Detective” manages to be a good show that too busy wallowing in the mud and filth to reach the heights of greatness.

Yes, Tina Turner, we really do need another hero.  He could have made this show one of the all time greats.

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