Feminism is Worse Than War

Assume for the moment that the following is true:

Hillary’s quote demonstrates the feminist belief that being left alone, without a man in your life, is a fate worse than death.
But what is the natural result of increased feminism?

Increasing numbers of unmarried spinsters.

Therefore, women have always been the primary victims of feminism.

Note: I looked, but couldn’t find a simple chart showing the marriage rates for women and men who self-identify as feminists.  Color me surprised that either a.) the research hasn’t been done for “reasons”, or b.) that it has been done, but the results buried for the same “reasons”.  No doubt if marriage rates were the same or higher for feminists, that result would be shouted from the rooftops by the gender studies crowd.

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Tough Love

A few weeks back I had the misfortune of writing an honest review for a book that I really wanted to like.  The author is a great guy, and his book hit a lot of the right notes, but just didn’t work.  I was concerned that my rationalizing the need for a negative review was just that – rationalizing.  

This past weekend, Rawle Nyanzi reviewed Forbidden Thoughts, and the results were messy.  Like me, he loves the authors, but couldn’t in good conscience recommend the book.  When he mentioned it on social media, it sparked a bit of conversation that’s worth highlighting:

That’s a critical point.  Many of us involved in the fight to make sci-fi and fantasy great again are relative neophytes at adventure fiction.  Our early works shouldn’t be our best works.  As Rawle says, we’ve got to do better, and keep pushing each other to get better.  Unearned positive reviews provide a brief spark of satisfaction, but honest negative reviews that push us all to improve provide a long-term benefit not just to the author, but to the readers who deserve the best we have to offer.

So let this be an open call for negative reviews.  They might be harder to write, but decent writers who can take one on the chin and keep coming back for more, appreciate them just as much.  I know I do, and if you don’t believe me – just try me:

You can review my latest novella, The Sorceror’s Serpent, right here on Amazon.

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You’re Welcome, HUGO!

The Rabid Puppies are the best thing to happen to the Hugo Awards in decades.

Five years ago, nobody in the mainstream media was talking about the Hugos.  It was considered a niche of a niche market.  Maaaybe you’d see a couple of column inches discussing the results, but certainly no real acknowledgement or analysis.  You can count on one finger the number of Hugo Award winners given significant air time on NPR, for example.

Then the Rabids showed up, knocked the nomination process tail over teakettles and suddenly the Hugos became a viable way to virtue signal.  The People’s Radio made sure to present stories about the brave kingmaker clique standing up to those very bad, no good, horrible fans who liked writers that didn’t look right on camera.  Entertainment Weekly rushed a story out the door so fast they didn’t even have time to perform the simplest fact checking or even read the list of names of white guys like Chixin Liu before going to print. It was a bonanza of coverage for a modest little corner of fandom, and it only occurred because of the Puppy driven controversies. 

Had the Puppies never shown up spoiling to fight for their own beloved works, the winers would have been no different, but the mainstream press would have given Hugo a considerably dimmer spotlight.

Think I’m wrong?  Just wait.

Sooner or later the Rabids will lose interest in Hugo.  They’ve largely met the goals established at the outset.  They’ve exposed the corruption for everyone but the Fake News to see.  They’ve forced Worldcon to revise the nomination process to make it far more difficult for the insiders to dominate the ballot list.  Best of all, and a year earlier, they exposed the years of PizzaGate style activity of the despicable people at the heart of fantasy and sci-fi publishing.  In short, the Rabids managed to allow a little bit of sunlight into the process.

While that sunlight might burn the flesh of the Puppy-Kicking vampires, it also acts as a strong disinfectant.  Even if the Rabids were to walk away from the Hugo Awards forever more, they have done tremendous good for the Awards by raising its profile, for better or worse. 

Remember, though, that the Puppy Kickers are the classic examples of ‘useful idiots’.  They welcomed the spotlight shone on them by the mainstream media – which holds those nerds in such contempt that they couldn’t bother to report on the Hugo Awards until they had been bitten by the Puppies.  Once the Puppies do fade away, the Hugos will have one year of grace in which the media will fall all over themselves congratulating the vampires for drawing the curtain back over the windows and preventing the Van Helsing’s* of the Rabid Puppies from exposing them to unwanted attention.  The next year, the only sound you’ll hear from the media will be crickets.  The next year, the Hugo Awards will once again be nothing but a minor blip of an event taking place in a backwater mutual masturbate-a-thon than no one in the mainstream media cares about.

So enjoy it while you can, Hugo Award insiders, because your relevance now depends entirely upon the Puppies.

You’re welcome.

*Thanks to the couple of guys who filled in for my brain on that one!

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2016 Planetary Award Nomination

It’s nomination time for the 2017 Panetary Awards.  (Hat tip to Cirsova for alerting me.)  There are only two categories:

Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)

My nomination: Images of the Goddess, by Schuyler Hernstrom, published in Cirsova Magazine #2

Gift of the Ob-Men was a nice little regression to a more ideal mean, but Hernstrom blew my socks off with Images of the Goddess.  The quality of this story sneaks up on you, as it starts with an innocent monk finagling his way into a quest for a sacred text, but with each successive character Herrnstrom introduces, his writing skills become more and more apparent.  The overall structure and tone are reminiscent of a Jack Vance, but carry the light-hearted touch of Pohl Anderson at his lightest, giving this work an increasingly complex and dramatic tone that culminates in an ending at once satisfying and leaving the reader wanting more.  Even the gag reveal at the tale’s climax is handled with a deftness that amuses the reader without spoiling the suspense and drama of the story.

Longer story (novels)

My nomination: The Invisible City, by Brian K. Lowe

Brian K. Lowe evokes all the best qualities of an Edgar Rice Burroughs in this sprawling ‘man out of time’ epic that carries its protagonist, a World War I Yankee, to a far flung world populated by everything from alien invaders to downtrodden races to talking and sentient gorillas and…wolverines?  That’s probably as close a description as you can get for the feral savages Dixon meets in his journey to free a slave race, rescue his infatuation, and save a princess from a corrupt nobleman bent on world domination.  Lowe’s writing crackles with an energy and style that one doesn’t often find these days.  it is both lyrical and brutal, and Dixon’s voice is as authentic for a man of the early twentieth century as it is refreshingly noble and heroic in these days of science-fiction populated by con-men, complainers, and small potato heroes fighting for vague notions of, “don’t judge me, man!” rather than fighting for liberty and justice for all.

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We Are All Gatekeepers Now

We’re still beating up on Laurie Gough and her contention that bypassing the gatekeepers who live east of the Hudson River hurts written words.

No caption necessary.

When I pointed out that we’re all gatekeepers now, Jeff Duntemann (author of the excellent Ten Gentle Opportunities) responded by pointing out:

@NotJonMollison As readers, we’ve always been. The difference is that we now have to be systematic (and unrelenting) about it.

— Jeff Duntemann(@JeffDuntemann) January 1, 2017

He’s absolutely right.  Word of mouth has always been a cherished aspect of marketing, and bad word of mouth can easily overcome even the most sophisticated advertising campaign.  Look no further than the recent Ghostbusters debacle which resulted in a very different kind of hysterical response than the original.

For the record, my gatekeepers are legion, and I’m always on the lookout for more of them.  If you love a particular style of work, and if you want to see more of it produced, then you should become a gatekeeper, too.  You’re a fan, after all, and one of the things that fans do is talk about the things they love.  The more you talk about the things you enjoy, the more people will find those things, and the more incentive people will have to make more of it.

The dirty little secret about increasing your influence as a gatekeeper is that it’s really easy to do.  it just takes a little time and dedication.  All you have to do is start showing up in a few blog comments, find the blogger’s Twitter feed, and join in the discussions.  You don’t need to build a full blown blog or start up your own literary criticism magazine.  Just join in the discussion, and you to can help keep the gates open for the style of works you love.

Here’s a quick list of the guys who make for a good starting point (in no particular order):

It’s a rolling conversation that spans dozens of links, threads, and blogs, and it’s a blast.  If you join in, you’ll start seeing familiar faces and before you know it, you’ll find your very own team of gatekeepers blowing open doors to works that you probably would have missed out on if you relied on the recommendations of snooty New York literati types.

Even better, they’ll all have you to act as a gatekeeper to help them find the same.

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Find Your Own Gatekeeper

Look at this thing from HuffPo:

It would be easy to go after the low-hanging fruit here.  This woman you’ve never heard of has written three memoirs.  Three.  Because her life is just that interesting.  She is a “journalist”. Because writing a blog on HuffPo counts.  The obvious self-contradiction of a blogger sneering at self-publishing.
Instead of dwelling on these things, let’s look at a far more mature and thorough takedown by Richard Alan Chandler.  He doesn’t go for the easy insults to an obviously flawed piece, he cuts to the heart of the matter by focusing on how her wrong-headedness about gatekeepers amounts to her lament that things are better for readers today:

No, my point is that she is wrong about the lack of gatekeepers. There are actually more gatekeepers now than there are editors and publishers and agents in the entire publishing industry.

I’m talking about you, the reader – both individually and collectively. Individually, because you now have a vastly broader range of works to choose from. And collectively, through your actions on a site like Amazon. When you and all the other readers go to Amazon, you are informing each other about what is good or bad by what you buy, or not, as reflected by the Amazon ranking (conveniently divided by subgenre), and what else is good through the “Also Bought” mechanism. And individually, again, through your star ratings and reviews. Your actions are both informed by those who have gone before you, and they guide those who come after you.

To which I would add that the changing nature of gatekeepers puts the burden on the reader of choosing his own gatekeepers.  And that the process of finding, following, and supporting your chosen gatekeeper crew need not be an onerous one.  You already enjoy reading, and most of the gatekeepers out there are communication via the written word.  So if you dedicate just a few moments of your day’s reading to the social media output of even just a handful of trusted individuals, you’ll be able to find works that target your interests like a laser beam.

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2017: The Year I Come Out of the Box

Even my wargames are pulp.
This rocket ship was built for
15mm sci-fi miniature battles.

If you direct your eyes to the left, over there on the sidebar, you can spot a tag in the cloud called, “wargame related“. It’s no secret that I’m an avid wargamer from way back. I played D&D back when I still had baby-teeth in my mouth, and even dabbled in a bit of ASL from time to time, but my true love has always been miniature wargaming.  I haven’t talked about it very much on Seagull Rising because I have another outlet for showing off my painting, modeling, and wargaming talents.

It’s a little blog called War In A Box, which I published under the nom de jeu de guerre, Warren Abox.  You can read a little bit about why I’m coming out of the box in this post.

The year of our Lord 2017 looks to be an incredible year. The opportunities presenting themselves to me right out of the January starting gate are mind-blowing. In addition to collaborating with one of my favorite authors on the background for a skirmish wargame, I’ll be hosting a semi-weekly column over at the Castalia House blog alongside such luminaries as Jeffro Johnson, P. Alexander, Josh Young, and Morgan (the man with no last name).  The first one went live yesterday.  They’ve got big plans for that blog, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

To make a long story short, thanks to Jeffro, it’s growing increasingly difficult to maintain a separation between my thoughts on gaming and on literature.  While I’ll hang onto the moniker “Warren Abox” for the purposes of forum continuity, that alias will pretty much be an open secret between you, me, and anyone else who really cares about these things.  To be frank, I don’t have the energy nor the time to sustain multiple internet personas, and opening this up should simplify everything for me on the back end.

Understand, this blog will remain largely unchanged.  I’ll leave the wargame heavy posts over at War In A Box, while this blog will stay largely focused on writing, literature, and general cultural critiques, with only the occasional forays into role-playing games, board games, and wargames.

Meanwhile, that semi-weekly column that I’ll be contributing to the Castalia House Blog kicks off on Wednesday.  If you’ve ever thought about attempting to take up the miniature and brush, but been intimidated by the front-end effort at starting a miniature wargame, you won’t want to miss out on this series.

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The Elfs Control Hollywood

Skip the film, play the game.

The title to this post hit me like a brick while reading John C. Wright’s The Swan Knight’s Son. Given that elfs serve as the primary antagonists in a world where they represent the primary threat to Christendom, it’s a throwaway line meant to serve as red meat for the faithful.  Yet it serves as a throwaway line that gives the reader pause…it’s just plausible enough to make you wonder how fictional the book really is.

Case in point, the recent Hollywood version of Ben Hur.  There are all kinds of problems with this film.  The secular problems are easy:

  • They paid for Morgan Freeman to be in it, so of course they have to get their money’s worth by having him narrate the opening scene.  It may be the most superfluous narration I’ve ever seen.  Freeman literally tells us what we are watching, right now.
  • The characters are unlikable. The mother is so obnoxious, I enjoyed seeing her arrested by the Romans and didn’t care about her fate. The protagonist dooms his family for the sake of a stranger who never receives his comeuppance for all the trouble he causes.
  • The sister and love interest are pretty much indistinguishable. That makes for some really confusing make-out sessions.
  • The Roman empire is painted as a wonderfully diverse realm where everyone lives and works and trades together in peace and harmony.  Every single crowd scene was carefully crafted to show people of all races and colors and creeds and dress.  Okay, fine, but you’re doing this to me right after telling me the Roman Empire was totes xenophobics, guys, ’cause the only reason Rome invaded her neighbors was because they were different.  Does. Not. Compute.

The religious problems were infinitely worse.

  • One of the two main leads responds to Hippy Jesus’ call for love with the words, “How progressive of you.”  Nice and subtle, Hollywood.
  • The jerk that caused Ben Hur’s downfall and all the pain and suffering in Act One by failing to assassinate Pontius Pilate re-appears in Act Three. Instead of his just desserts, he is revealed to be the crucified thief Jesus promises will sit at his side in Heaven.  You can’t paint a character that unsympathetically and then reward him at the end without some serious character growth or character beats.
  • The most unforgiveable deviation from scripture occurs when Pontius Pilate identifies Jesus as the real threat to Roman control over Israel. Apparently the writers aren’t familiar with Pilate trying on multiple occasions to avoid crucifying Jesus.  Apparently, the writers are familiar with the fact that Christianity worked to preserve the Roman Empire (and the subsequent Eastern Empire in particular) for centuries.

The whole thing, top to bottom, was just dreadful.  You can give them some credit for a great galley-slave battle scene and a great chariot race scene, but without the emotional investment in the characters those are hollow stage-pieces.  Compare the weight of any arena scene in Gladiator.  The fact that Maximus is so much more heroic, wise, and likeable imbues those scenes with a deeper impact than the herky-jerky visuals could ever achieve on their own.

In short, Ben Hur, wins my award for ‘worst movie I saw in 2016’, right at the final turn.  Congratulations on butchering film-making and the story of Christ both, Hollywood.  You’ve made the elfs proud once more.

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The Invisible City, By Brian K. Lowe

This is my kind of throwback. 

Brian K. Lowe is one of those authors that Cirsova introduced to me.  His story, Hoskin’s War, in the second issue featured a grossly under-utilized setting for fantasy – the American frontier in the days of the American War of Independence.  It took a nudge and a Christmas sale, but I’ve finally confirmed that Brian’s long form work is as good as his short form work.

The story kicks off with that wonderful trope of a WWI soldier stumbling into a far flung world so very much unlike his own.  Through grit, wariness, cleverness, and a bit of luck, he survives his first few days in this alien place and goes on to fight for love, honor, and freedom.

Brian’s writing style is great.  This book is told in the first person, and he never forgets to describe the advanced tech thrown at the hero in a way that a 1920’s young officer would.  Clee, the hero, references Wells and Verne, indicating some familiarity with science-fiction that give him a leg up when it comes to dealing with the fantastic.  The prose is solid.  It has an brutal musicality to it that just works.  Check it:

How ironic, then, that such was my own goal, to track Farren down wherever he might run and wrest from him that which I  desired with my heart, and which he desired with only the basest animal emotions: Hana Wen. Whence he would fly, I knew not, but the answer would likely be found in the midst of his fellows. With that end in mind, I marched boldly into the aliens’ headquarters, planning to elicit advice from the Library. Hardly had I stopped before the elevator than two Nuum pulled up even with me, seized me by the arms, and whisked me away.

That’s some great stuff, right there.  Feels almost Zelznian, you dig?  It’s plain spoken, yet it also has a rolling rhythm to it you don’t often find these days. Here’s another way you can tell that this guy writes with a #PulpRevolution aesthetic – he isn’t afraid to stick Christian words into the mouth of a character born and raised in an early-twentieth century Christendom:

Someday, when the final horn sounds and the multitudes of Mankind gather around the Lord’s throne for judgment, He will rise up to His full magnificent height, and He will point His majestic finger, and He will say: “Behold the irony of Man, that I should grant him reason, and he should squander it.” And He will be pointing at me.

Used to be passages like this were hen’s teeth.  They used to be refreshing to read, but I’ve been reading a lot of Wright these days, so that sort of reference is no longer just a nice change of pace.  Over the course of 2016, this sort of thing has become damn near a requirement for me.

The one downside is that the middle act seems to meander a bit. It doesn’t really.  It turns out the meandering about is important for the resolution of the book, but until you see how it pays off, it does seem like something of a wandering travelogue of the new world the hero finds himself in.  Stick with it, it’s worth it.

When people talk about #RegressHarder, this is exactly what they are talking about.  Everything from the basic plot, to the inclusion of an honest to gosh hero, a bit of genuine romance handled with a deft touch, and even the narrator’s voice, it all harkens back to earlier days of science-fiction.  And yet, Brian K. Lowe doesn’t just write a 1950’s work of fiction, he writes a modern day story using all the best bits of the 1950s style.  The voice, the romance, the heroism, and the unbridled sense of optimism all make reading The Invisible City a joy.

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The Yanthus Prime Job

It looks like this blog may just be turning into a book review blog.  Things are pretty crazy right now what with the audio book recording, trying to finish “Five Dragons” before the end of the year – a long shot, to be honest – cranking away on a couple of sooper seekrit projects that will be revealed in the new year or forever hidden…oh, and family and overtime in the salt mines. 

Those are all excuses.  To be honest, in the last few months I’ve just been thrilled to discover great writer after great writer.  Reading Cirsova, and finding a couple of great social nodes on Twitter, have introduced me to a number of great writers.  It’s an embarrassment of riches.  Combine that with technology that allows me to sneak in a chapter or two at lunch or in quiet moments at work, and it’s almost embarrassing how much reading I’ve been able to accomplish over the last few month.

Eventually things change, as they are wont to do, and you may find things in these spaces other than reviews.  You know, things like politics, film, writing, wargaming…I do miss wargaming…and philosophy.  But for now, it’s books, Books, BOOKS!

 Why, lookee here!  It’s another book.  Not just another book, but another @RobKroese book.  Remember when I said, “[Starship Grifter is] just not my cuppa joe.”?

Yeah…about that.

The Yanthus Prime Job is a novella for a dollar.  It’s short.  It’s fun.  It’s protagonist has the standard, “one last job” motivation, but we all know that for characters like this, there’s always another job waiting just around the corner.  A writer’s gotta eat, after all.

This title is set in the same universe as Starship Grifters, and it features the same sorts of characters – grifters, conmen, and thieves.  The protagonist of this work is a bartender trying to go straight after a career working for the Ursa Minor Mafia*.  Deep in debt, she hatches a plot to steal a valuable thing and use the proceeds to buy her way out of debt to the mafia and escape Yanthus Prime for parts unknown. 

The story is half standard heist, half science-fiction.  The heist is easily recognizable from movies ranging from the 1940s to today – break into a secure museum and steal a valuable macGuffin – but includes several clever science-fiction nods.  Her (sort of?) low tech solution to defeat the standard high-tech security measures is the sort of plan that could only work in science-fiction or fantasy.  Otherwise, most of her gear (grapple guns, chameleon suits, and plasma glass cutters, for example) is the standard thief kit.  Aside from the key plot-point used to defeat the security cameras, the break-in and escape could be plunked into any setting.  That’s actually a compliment.  Rather than succumb to the temptation to make everything whiz-bang gee-whillickers new SF you’ve never seen before, Kroese wisely stops while the stopping is good.  The hook is all you need.

If you’ve watched a lot of heist movies, you’ll see a few of the double and triple crosses coming a mile away, but there are enough surprises left in Kroese’s pockets to make it worth reading through to the end.

  *  Get it?  Ursa Minor Mafia?  Ursa means “bear”.  It’s the Russians.  Kroese has a gift for nomenclature that is downright Futuramaian.  I mean, the man has a book out called Shrodingers Gat, for crying out loud.  How can you not love that?


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