“Literary” Awards

January means it’s time for successful authors to start laying the marketing groundwork for the award season.

Hard pass.

The digital panopticon was supposed to make it easier for the technocrats to fool the rubes.  They see a distopian future with themselves standing atop the graveyard of liberty, fully believing themselves deserving of such an honor because of their good breeding and good intellect. Of course, they aren’t as smart as they think they are.

After all, they never considered the idea that the watched also watch the watchers, goes all the way back to old Jeremy Bentham his ownself.

You can see this in a million little details.  Major media conglomerates getting out-hustled by Drudge.  The #MeToo movement gaining traction in the public.  And on a lesser scale, the clear evidence that all of the major awards choose their winners using methods as democratic and organic as the DNC chooses presidential candidates.

There were too many smarty-Marties involved who just couldn’t keep their gobs shut about the rigged system.  They had to blab about how they were so smart they could game the system.  And their own pride exposed the sordid mess of the process for all the world to see.  The worst offenders straight up admitted that they bought the gold medal – Weinstein all but bragged about the pricetag for Shakespeare in Love‘s Oscars.  And sci-fi’s favorite whipping boy bragged about the role organized log rolling played in the Hugo Award selection for decades, including the one where he got his turn.

It’s all one big scam.

And while it may be lucrative for the miscreants who lie to the world and themselves using words like “deserved” and “earned”, the revelations that it’s all one big marketing schtick puts me off the process.  I’d value a solid recommendation for one of my works by a big name writer over a Hugo any day and twice on Sundays.  I’d rather hear from one fan that they loved one of my works than make bank off of a scam.

Go ahead and compile lists of works you loved and that you think were the best of 2019.  Put my name on there and I’ll be honored that you remembered my work.  But don’t expect me to go courting voters who have already sold their votes for a drop of clout or a shot at climbing another rung up the Award Ponzi scheme.

I’m in it for the readers.  Not the accolades.

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Diversity is Our Strength

Don’t panic, I’m just talking about diversifying our social media footprint.

As discussed elsewhere, we are all hunkering down for the censorgeddon sure to accompany the 2020 US presidential election.  Even the blabbermouth socialists, the latest iteration of the BernieBros, recognize that their opposition to Creepy Uncle Joe will put them square in the crosshairs of the Democrat Party Machine.  So even the guys who have made a lot of hay by praising the censors have begun to look for ways to re-route information around Big Tech’s “Trust and Safety” roadblocks.

The New Year turn back toward the fertile fields of the blogosphere will be interesting to watch.  I predict many of those who resolve to do more blogging will, like most of the fatties at the gym, fade away by February.  You just can’t get the same dopamine hit from blog views that you get from counting hearts and thumbs.

On a more practical level, blogs never really developed an easy way to engage in slow-motion conversations.  Comments were welcomed, but remembering to check the post for responses was always on you.  All of the efficient and convenient “one stop comment shops” that showed up in later days converged into uselessness by anyone not sucking on the Demorcrat teat within a year, and even the wide-open G+ threads tied to posts vanished when that experiment was shut down by the Goog.

Today, you get more actual engagement by linking to blog posts than on the posts themselves.  Conversations are manageable across users, convenient, and integrated in a way that just isn’t available to dissident blogs – even those who dissent from the Democrat Party Machine.  There’s a vacuum surrounding blogs that has yet to be filled by a trustworthy source.

For that reason, I don’t expect a wholesale return to blogs.  There will be a shift, sure.  But a blog is a tool for deep thoughts, well constructed, and presented to the most diehard fans.  A microblog is for cheap shots scattered to the winds.  Both are useful, and I’ll be doing both as long as they let me.  And most of those signalers they are making a grand shift from social media to blogs are more like me than they care to admit.

 

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A Balm In Gilead

One year.

It’s been one year.

One year further from an unbroken heart.

And yet…

One year closer to being with you again.

It’s going to be a good day.  I remember that.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

You taught me well.  More than you will ever knew.

Over the last year I have chosen gratitude over bitterness.  Just like you showed me.

Thank you.

For everything.

 

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The Death of Nature Documentaries

Once upon a time nature documentaries were designed to inform and inspire.  They brought our collective attention to the wonders and mysteries of this incredible world that God has given us to hold in stewardship for future generations.  As the father of a young daughter who believes that she will one day make a living rescuing animals, we’ve tried to watch a few documentaries of a more recent vintage.

Despite all of the advancements in technology they are universally terrible.  The gorgeous camerawork and unprecedented access to ocean depths, hidden jungles, and once inaccessible cave systems have all been pressed into the service not of the collective children of man, but of the forces of suck.  Globohomo has claimed nature documentaries as trojan horses for their secular-religious propaganda, and has now filled them with constant refrains of death and doom should we not all drape ourselves with the chains of slavery.

The few that we’ve slogged through never miss a chance to warn the viewer that global warming means the wonders you see are going to burn.  It is an endless litany of “habitat loss means all these creatures will die” and “rising temperatures are destroying this fragile system”.  Even when rising temperatures actually improve a habitat the narrator solemnly intones, “but this is only a short term benefit that ultimately will doom these wonderful creatures to extinction” for reasons that are never fully elucidated.

The underlying message is always the same:

  1. Be afraid.
  2. Accept the technocrats’ vision.
  3. Vote for the globalist agenda and accept demands for lower standards of living.
  4. Utopia!

It’s the usual death-eater view that you see in every other form of entertainment, and as with most other forms of entertainment, they have ripped the mask clean off.  What once was confined to the background and subtle shading is now presented in full frontal exposure without a trace or shred of camouflage.  It’s repetitious and clumsy and readily apparent to even a cursory analysis.  The contrast between the elevation of the technical aspects of the film making process with the utterly incompetent narrative writing is jarring.  It’s the same process we saw with the CNNBCBSPN media monopoly, now etched into what could be a useful tool for real improvements in our lives – but then, improvements in our lives don’t pay the globohomo bills, so we can’t have that.

Or can we?

As usual, there are a lot of other options out there.  You can still find grainy old documentaries that don’t jam a spoonful of globohomo poison into every shot.  Even better, we’ve found that reality programming has inadvertently made sport fishing and hunting a safe refuge for the more conservation minded among us.

Our current favorite is Monster Fish starring Cyril Chauquet, an oddly accented French Canadian, who bops around the world trying to catch massive fish.  Primarily a sport fishing show, it features enough actual biology and a touch of the travelogue to create something that straddles the line between sport and nature documentary.  Sometimes he goes full modern, sometimes he goes full trad, but however he does it, he makes a day spent outwitting fish exciting and informative without all the preachiness that you get from the “respectable scientific community”.  He also does it with a charm and charisma that most fishing shows lack.  Given his focus on entertainment for the masses rather than information for fisherman, Cyril manages to craft a show that is both fun and informative.

There are also a host of smaller shows that focus on efforts to save wild dogs and cats and other animals from the hazards presented by urban and suburban life.  Often filmed on a shoestring budget and often featuring volunteers or barely-paid staffers, these shows typically provide information on follow up care, and therefore slide into the realm of medical drama – but with cute animals that tug on even a jaded guy’s heartstrings.  More importantly, they entertainment while giving viewers specific information on what steps they can take to make their neighborhoods a safer place for everyone.  They show how rewarding actual conservation can be, and they show the actual positive effects of serving as a good steward for God’s green earth.  Those are things you never see in the Serious Fare.

We live in strange days where gorgeous cinematography and high production values serve the lie, and where low budget or grassroots efforts serve the truth.  That’s as true for nature documentaries as it is for blockbuster superhero films.

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A Mutual Vote of Confidence

Writer Daniel J. Davis burst onto my personal scene in 2019 with a string of solid D&D analyses that would have fit right into the earliest days of the OSR.  His post on the post-apocalyptic assumptions built into D&D is one of those deep insights that have grown harder to find.  The lowest fruits of the deep tree have long since been picked over, so that was a refreshing insight for me and even a timely reminder for others.  He is also the man responsible for taking the sneered description of dungeon delving as “Fantasy Vietnam” and embracing the idea to produce a hardcore “Full Metal Jacket” meets “Lord of the Rings” game.  Which is exactly the high-test sort of gaming that gets my blood pumping.

He writes:

Bottom line, I’m thankful to all the PulpRev and OSR writers I’ve linked up with through my blogging in 2019. The most important lesson learned this year is to keep it up, and to keep it consistent. To that end, I’m going to have more of what worked in 2019: More ‘Pocky-clypse Now reviews, and more D&D and gaming related posts.

Welcome to the mutual admiration society, bub.

The PulpRev kicked off during the implosion of the Hugo Awards, and was in large part inspired by Jeffro Johnson’s book on the works that inspired D&D.  A coalition of fans coalesced around that work, and its seminal question of, “Why don’t they make them like this anymore?”  A handful of writers answered with a resounding, “There’s literally no reason that we don’t,” and immediately set about building the skills to write the next great generation of popular genre literature.  Along the way they met each other, traded thoughts and notes, and despite all the naysayers our numbers have grown, our library of works continues to improve, that there is no end in sight.

As David admits, he came to this relatively recently, but his insights are as deep as any we’ve seen to date.  And he represents one more solid voice in the crowd demanding the works the likes of which the Coastal Publishers cannot even conceive.  If we can’t give it to him, he’ll produce it himself.

And I’ll be there to support him, because he has a strong voice, a clear vision, and the pugnacious attitude that expresses itself with something considerably more concrete than mere virtue signaling.  His proposed gaming supplements look great, but it’s his long form fiction that I’m really looking forward to reading.  Something about the way he handles prose on his blog tells me that his narrative work will be strong and just the right kind of different to make be an even bigger fan than I already am.

Add his blog to your daily reader.  You won’t regret it.

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A Dive into Dungeons Dark and Deep

I’ve been loathe to cross the streams of my blog and my twitter presence. Partly due to the very different approaches to conversation, and partly due to an aversion to pointless redundancy.  That should change moving forward, as twitter’s rapid-fire conversations often direct my thoughts down avenues best explored in the more sedate realm of the blogosphere.

Today’s post is hopefully the start of a decent trend for 2020.

The Pookinator fired some interest shots across the cultural bow when he pointed out that the Chick Tract on D&D is genuinely cursed because:

  1. It’s friendly fire.
  2. It’s directly responsible for mountains of apostasy.
  3. It covered up actual child abuse by making the “Satanic Panic” look like a ridiculous joke.

When pressed for more thoughts, he added the following:

Which is an interesting and seldom cited pair of observations.  They don’t tell the whole story, though.  In fact, the whole story has never really been told in much the same way and for many of the same reasons that the whole story of so many historical events and cultures remain shrouded in deliberate mysteries, uncertain truths, and outright lies.  To whit – the people who write the histories have a vested interest in hiding the full scope of events.

In these early days of the collapse of the Pax Americana, direct evidence of the lies we are sold has taught us to question the things that “everybody knows”.  So let’s review what everyone knows about the early days of D&D.  Born of the tabletop wargaming culture, it was a simple tabletop game that appealed to the smart and disenfranchised.  Those who played it in the earliest days fell into two basic categories: the super smart set who eschewed sports and girls for escapism, and the Satanists who used it as a lure to entice the lost and forgotten latchkey kids of the 1980s into the dark world of the dark lord.

The Untouchable Pooka touches on how that latter classification mimics what we’ve seen in the “Recovered Memory” crowd.  As a brief review of that mess, the man who invented the concept of “Recovered Memories” claimed that abused children suppressed the trauma they experienced and, after therapy, full blown adults could reliably make accusations against abusers from decades previous.  Pretty convenient.  That theory has been contentious almost from the start, being so obviously a mechanism for false accusations.

But what if the man who popularized the repressed memory movement in the 1980s was essentially a cultural double-agent?  What if the point of popularizing a method of generating false accusations was meant to cast doubt on ALL accusations, even the most legitimate?  That’s a hell of a question to ask, but it’s one we should all consider now that the once seemingly impossible concept of a child-rape island frequented by former presidents, CEOs, and other luminaries is a well known fact.

Turning our attention back to D&D… is it really so far fetched to wonder if the people who popularized the Satanic Panic did so as a head fake.  The overblown reaction, which forced publisher TSR to scrub all real world references to real world demons from their second edition books, made any charges along those lines appear so ridiculous as to not even merit consideration.  It’s the perfect way to distract the public from those few poisoned souls who saw D&D as the perfect complement to the pedophile lifestyle that burbled along in the halls of sf/f conventions.

You know who doesn’t want you to believe in monsters?
The monsters themselves.

The playacting nature of D&D, combined with the inherent need to read up esoteric works, and the private basement/dining room physical spaces made it the perfect breeding ground for bad people to do bad things.  It was more than that, to be sure, but the idea that predators and demons weren’t drawn to D&D from the beginning is as naïve as the idea that predatory and demonic activities were a required part of the game.

Back in the day, we all knew that one table full of weird kids a little too into the occult.  We all knew that handful of creepy adults a little too into D&D and playing it with inappropriately young kids.  We knew that it was a tool and that, like any tool, it should be wielded with care and caution, and only used responsibly.

We live in a dark and complex world, people.  It’s time to face up to the fact that Jack Chick – though not entirely right – was not entirely wrong.

Don’t trust the narrative.

Don’t accept simple explanations for complex questions.

And whatever you do, when you attend an sf/f convention, do not under any circumstances let your kids out of sight.

 

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Lost In Space, Part the Second

Continuing from the last post, we’re observing how Netflix’s Lost in Space somehow manages to dance through the raindrops of identity politics without getting all wet. Today we’re going to look at the menfolk.

So we’ll start with Doctor Smith, played by the restrained and menacing Parker Posey. This Doctor Smith isn’t a coward – she’s a she this time around so that wouldn’t fly – she is a pragmatic opportunist who is also physically weak and incredibly manipulative. So the gender-swap mostly works. Much like the 1990s film, Netflix doesn’t mince around. This Dr. Smith is evil. She is a callous, thieving, murdering scumbag who manages to hide her nature from most people until it is too late. She and the mystery of the robot’s nature and genesis provide a layer of menace and inter-party conflict that could have carried the show all by itself.  She is a villain more than a mere foil, and watching her navigate through the labyrinth of her lies reminds my very much of watching Nina operated in that that old spy-adventure show, 24. 

The robot, following the usual modern overcomplication of things, melds a mechanical and organic framework to update the bubble-headed booby into something fare more menacing.  This isn’t so much a boy and his dog as it is a boy and his unlicensed nuclear powered velociraptor.  It moves with a fluid awkwardness that never lets the viewer forget that what you’ve got here is not a man made tool, but an otherworldly thing.

The show stumbles with its portrayal of Will. Once the irrepressibly confident wunderkind, he now forfeits that role to Doctor Judy, and to avoid the redundancy the writers make him an average kid. He is cautious to a fault. Incurious. Baggage meant to be rescued and unable to perform under pressure. A weak link only on the mission thanks to Mama’s machinations with an unseen agent, he is dull and without serving as a hook for the robot’s interest in the family, he serves mainly as valuable luggage. Disappointing, but expected.

And now, at last, we turn to the heroes of the show.

Papa Robinson is a genuine badass. He doesn’t just ape heroism, he inhabits it. When he puts his wife in her place by pointing out that, “We don’t all have the luxury of working to protect just our own little corner of the world,” we see that this is a man dedicated not just to being tough for the sake of being tough, but a man for whom being tough is just a step on the path to doing good. He leaves his family at a fragile moment in history to fight for something greater – for a better future for everyone. We see this time and time again, when he leads his family by standing in the breach and choosing to dive into danger to protect them. He is strong and worldly and wise and loving and oh man is this really a show created by Hollywood? His biggest weakness is that he wasn’t home for his family everyday because he was gone fighting for their safety elsewhere?

Consider my gob fully smacked.

And then you’ve got Don West. Here’s a guy who claims to have signed up for the colony mission strictly for the money, but as the show trundles along its clear that he’s really in it for the excitement. And the money. I’m not going to talk too much about specifics because I don’t want to ruin any of his fun surprises. At one point early on, Doctor Smith blabs the whole reveal by observing that Don affects an aloofness, but that deep down he truly cares. One example serves to illustrate the point. He saves a chicken from a deadly obsidian hail-storm, professes he did it to save for dinner, and then later reveals that its now his lucky chicken*. He’s the lovable rogue with a heart of gold, and ultimately his exuberant humor and wholesome desire to do the right thing (while maybe taking a little cut off the top) makes me long for the Don West show. He is exactly the kind of hero that Hollywood has promised and failed to deliver for decades.

Where Papa Robinson is the kind of guy you want as a friend and neighbor, Don West is the kind of guy you want as a friend and drinking buddy.

And you want both of those by your side if you want to escape from a deep gravity well, rendezvous with a mothership that may or may not still exist, and somehow find a way back to your new home on Alpha Centauri.

Remember that? Remember how they crashed on an alien planet? Sometimes the show forgets. Who cares about fuel drinking worms the size of your leg or dinosaurs barely seen through the trees or ship-eating glaciers or razor rain or magnesium volcanoes or any of the hundreds of other threats and beauties of a hostile and wonderful alien planet when we can fight about child custody battles…

Sigh.

The show gives us all of those things; it just parcels them out so slowly. We get rising clouds of pink phosphorescent flying jellyfish. We get camouflaged alien bugs and drippy, glowy fungus pods, and they are nice breathes of fresh air amid the oppressive relationship drama. The showrunners watched the idealized family from the original series and the focus on adventure and then tried to pull back, but overcorrected. They need to dial back the family drama and dial up the natural disasters and puzzle solving and engineering jury-rigged solutions.

That said, it’s hard not to root for this plucky little show. The diktats of the commissars of modernity place strict controls on what showrunners are allowed to show us these days. Despite those stringent requirements, Lost in Space has managed to squeeze enough crimethink past the censors to keep me interested in the show at least through the end of Season One.

It’s also just as cheesy as the 1960s version, but without the self-awareness.  They have all the same pseudo-science driven by plot needs, monsters of the week, two-fisted action, and forced melodrama.  The production values might have changed, but at heart this is still an over-the-top and unserious show that prefers adventure to deep introspection.

That’s not a complain.

My guess is that they’ll tighten the screws for Season Two. They will crank up the grrl power and turn Don West, space scoundrel, into a craven and selfish copy of original series Doctor Smith. My only hope is that his face-heel turn arises from being sick of the Robinson’s petty crap. Because that way I’ll identify with him as an anti-hero doing what I’ve wanted to do since Episode One.

 

*On a personal note, the chicken, Deb, has proven the high point of the show for my youngest daughter as it looks exactly like her own pet chicken Bolt. The question of whether or not they’ll eat Deb adds a layer of suspense to the proceedings for her that I can’t help but get swept up in. Your mileage, naturally, may vary.

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A Very Meta New Year

This is not a daily blog.  Your time is valuable, and I’ll not waste it by filling up empty posts with pointless material.

Posts arrive when something you might find interesting crosses my path or my synapses.  Generally, I try to post a few times per week, but as my secondary writing project – books and paid work come first – I dip out on a regular basis.

For the most part you’ll continue to see breezy analysis of pop storytelling – usually long after the new car smell has left the property – with a smattering of cultural analysis.  The heavy lifting and study is better left to minds more dedicated to deep dives than my own 1,000-foot view which attempts to synthesize such deep thoughts into something a little more actionable for you, dear reader.

Also, Happy New Year.  This is how my area celebrated – by thumbing our collective noses at the safety Karens and scaredy cat schoolmarms.

I am praying that you have an amazing 2020 filled with laughter, song, dance, and victory.

And thanks for sticking around.  It’s been fun, and will continue to be throughout the decade.

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Stopped Clocks and the Midlist Midwit Diaspora

When they are right, they are right.

Before we get to the meat of this post, let’s take a moment to recall the first rule:

A quick search for “Scalzi whatever hiatus” takes six seconds and reveals five of the first six hits betray the lie of “nonstop”.

But whatever.  That’s cheap shottery, and we’re here to give credit where credit is due.  This is great advice, and the trend toward tweet threads has been a disappointing one.  I like the twit machine as much as the next guy, but it’s not a place for serious thinkers.

Beard oil salesman notwithstanding.

I’m actually curious about the sudden shift.  For years thee Wendigs and Scalzis of the internet have been enamored of the leftwing control over the big social media spaces.  The rallying cry of “make your own space” has echoed from the right since at least the 2016 election. They know something is up, and they know their current favored son status is at risk, so they are once again following the smarter and faster thinking dissidents.  You can expect them to leap in front of this parade with claims of starting the retreat soon enough.  That’s easy enough to see.  What’s harder is figuring out WHY they are shifting their strategy to follow that of we independent hordes.

What sea change are we looking at that would cause these guys to abandon their love for digital spaces run by amenable authorities?

Is it guys like Nick Fuentes dancing through the raindrops and laughing at the left’s inability to play their own game?

Is it the impending wave of Chinese competitors who care nothing for silencing crimethinkers, a likely bolthole for political dissidents from woke culture, entering US internet space?

Or does it have more to do with a barrage of lawsuits raining down on social media giants that threaten the SJW hegemony?

We’re talking about guys who are very online and very dialed into the culture of the SJWs.  They have contacts and ‘ins’ and rumor-mills at their disposal that we plucky underdogs do not.  So their change in attitude from as recently as a few months ago means something big is in the wind.

My guess is that all midlist writers are about to get the axe from DinoPub.  We’re going to see a flood of names with moderate sized followings enter the independent space and plant their flags.  They finally have no choice but to admit that their unstable orbit is pushing them toward the publishing event horizon that guys like Brian Neiemier have been pointing to for years now.  If I’m right, we’ll have a grand time watching them twist to spin their ejection from the Eloi down to the level of us Morlocks as an upgrade – particularly after years of sneering at us.

Stay nimble, gang.  The year 2020 is going to be a lot of fun for we mammalian successors to the DinoPub propaganda machines.

[Eidt to add:

It’s the BernieBros. Backchannel discussions have pointed out to me that the Bernie supporters know that they backed the wrong candidate. As in 2016, Sanders will not be christened the candidate by the Democrat Party’s deep state powerbrokers. The cancel culture warriors aren’t sufficiently in the loop to know which candidate’s parade they should join right now. That puts them in a difficult bind. They could simply wait to learn the name of the right candidate with the rest of us, but that would entail doing something that the virtual signalers are constitutionally incapable of doing: shutting their mouths for a brief spell. That puts them in a tight spot. The year 2020 puts them looking at the sharp side of a two-sided bladed that they have been wielding for years now.

Fortunately, the Secret Kings have an easy way out. Do what the Dissident Right has been doing for years. Rebuild their own platforms, take credit for the move in that direction, and claim that being hoisted on their own petards is a sign they are doing something right. It’ll be interesting to see how they spin things to convince themselves that the Trust and Safety Councils at all of the major social media outfits have suddenly become infested with Nazis within the space of a few weeks. Who knows, they may suddenly remember that Big Corporations don’t actually make decisions with the interests of the hoi polloi in mind at all.]

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Making Meme Magic Real

My twit feed automagically deletes posts after a month or so.  That means a lot of my best meme work vanishes out into the cloud beyond my reach.  Here’s a year end post for archiving the stuff I can’t be bothered to sort and save to a hard drive.  Here’s a quick rundown of 2019’s most savable content.

It’s short because I started late.  Next year we’ll try to do it bigger and better.

Drive safe tonight, watch out for the other guy, and have a great 2020, everyone!

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