The interests of the children

Keep this in mind the next time you hear that some insanely unjust decision to take children away from their homes or require ridiculous child support payments was made “in the interest of the children“.

A Christian couple morally opposed to homosexuality today lost a High Court battle over the right to become foster carers. Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, went to court after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ was acceptable.

I suppose it makes sense that it is more important for an orphan to be told that homosexuality is okay than to be provided with a loving foster home with Christian parents who uphold Christian moral standards, since they’re probably getting raped by the social workers on a regular basis anyhow. These days, if a divorced man wants to obtain primary custody of his children, his best bet is probably to tell the family court judge that he intends to teach the kiddies positive attitudes about money and homosexuality by forcing them to work as cam whores.

Defining epic

Matthew David Surridge attempts to define it:

[W]e decided to take a stab at coming up with a definition for epic fantasy ourselves. We decided to first list a number of texts that seemed clearly ‘epic fantasies,’ and try to work out what they had in common. In the process, we also thought of texts that seemed close but which we felt not to be epics, and texts that really seem to be on the margins of the epic; any genre definition is a fuzzy set, and some things will seem in the genre and some out of it depending on how you look at them. At any rate, while it seemed likely that the defintion we’d arrive at would be somewhat conservative — at best describing what epic fantasy has been so far, not necessarily what it is or could be — it seemed worth doing, just to try to establish what people think of when they talk about epic fantasy. If you have any counter-suggestions, or texts that you’d like to put forward as possible epics, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The core texts that we came up with, by a fairly quick process of word-association, were: Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara, David Eddings’ Belgariad, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s The Wheel of Time, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Deathgate Cycle, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders Trilogy, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series, R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series, and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. In many cases only one of us had read the books in question; in a couple of cases, notably Erikson and Bakker, it has to be said neither of us had read all the books of the series. In some cases neither of us liked the books much, but this was not an evaluative process, simply definitional.

As we discussed what we thought was and wasn’t epic fantasy, the marginal cases we found were Ursula Le Guin’s original Earthsea trilogy, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, and Glen Cook’s Black Company series. Things that looked like epic fantasy, but which one or another of us felt strongly were not, were Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

Attempting to justify what we felt was and wasn’t epic fantasy, we came up with the following characteristics of the fantasy epic: Firstly, it has to have a certain length. Ideally, at least three thick books. I’ve seen The Lord of the Rings estimated at 400,000 words, which seems about right; The Sword of Shannara I’ve seen estimated as 265,000 words, so let’s set 250,000 words as an absolute minimum, with a reasonable expectation of much more.

Epic fantasy is one of those things that I suspect is easier to recognize than define. Tolkien is clearly epic. Eddings is clearly epic. I don’t think Carey feels epic in any way, shape or form; even though one could make a rational case for it, I think the argument for Zelazny’s Amber is stronger than for Carey’s Kushiel. I also think that both the original Dragonlance trilogy and the Twins trilogy are far more epic than Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, even though the latter is clearly higher quality literature. But certainly Surridge’s approach is the correct one, the challenge is to reasonably draw the line between that which is epic and that which is not epic. The primary omission thus far, in my opinion, is is Steven Erikson’s prodigiously epic Malazan Book of the Fallen, even if it isn’t always what I would tend to consider particularly readable or even necessarily plotted.

UPDATE – Erikson wasn’t omitted at all. Let this serve as an object lesson in why one should read carefully before opining.

WND column

The New White Man’s Burden

Looking at population projections for Texas, demographer Steve Murdock concludes: “It’s basically over for Anglos.” Two of every three Texas children are now non-Anglo and the trend line will become even more pronounced in the future, said Murdock, former U.S. Census Bureau director and now director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University.
– Texas Politics, Feb. 24, 2011

The harsh historical reality is that no human society ever survives. They come into being, they thrive, they decline and eventually they perish. If they were remarkable, perhaps they will leave indications of their past existence through literature and the arts, through place names and through their influence on subsequent ideas and modes of thought. But that does not bring them back to life; the modern Greece of IMF-inspired riots, burning banks and filthy streets is not the ancient Greece of the philosophers and the Athenian Empire.

The death of satire

The Dyke and the Dybbuk, by Ellen Galford. “A fun, feisty, feminist romp through Jewish folklore as an ancient spirit returns to haunt a modern-day London lesbian.”

The OC remarks: “And they wonder why straight men have lost almost all interest in buying and reading fiction…”

This makes me suspect that the gatekeepers are unintentionally strangling the genre by ignoring population demographics. Do the math. It is nearly impossible to get published in SF/F as a Christian evangelical or anti-feminist these days. It is, by comparison, relatively easy to get published as a lesbian, feminist, or Jewish writer, because the lesbian, feminist and Jewish editors, (or in some cases, all three in one), understandably tend to be interested in publishing books that reflect their interests and perspective. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. Their job, their call.

But there is something mathematically wrong with it, since lesbians make up around one percent of the population and Jews are either 2.2 percent or 1.7 percent, depending upon which metric you use. So, by combining those two factors, as in the case of Ms Galford’s new “fun, feisty, feminist romp”, you have functionally decided to turn your back on at least 99.98 percent of your potential market. Of course, the transparent short-sightedness of this approach is unlikely to prevent the publishers from decrying their continually declining sales and blaming them on ebook piracy, video games, or that old standby, male readers being intimidated by strong, independent female characters.

I have to confess, though, that description kind of makes me want to read The Dyke and the Dibbuk. It appears to have the potential to be even hilariously awful than that were-seal book that presently serves as our standard for the literary depths of the SF/F genre.

Insty on Game

I agree with the sentiment, if not the specifics:

The “game” stuff pretty much is for douchebags, or at least the otherwise hopeless. It involves taking the sophisticated approach that someone with actual interpersonal skills might employ, and boiling it down to a set of simplified rules that produce a sort of cartoon version — much as you might boil down social interactions into rules for an autistic person; the result is better than nothing, but not the real thing. But although it’s a cartoon — and focused largely on picking up women in bars, a fairly limited and artificial environment to begin with — the simplification process does reveal things that might otherwise be obscured or ignored. And it’s interesting to see some of these insights going mainstream. (The other thing you learn from perusing some of these sites is just how much some men need the help. And I’m not sorry to see them get it.)

Glenn has it exactly right. As I describe it, it is the articulation and emulation of successful natural behavior for the benefit of those who do not possess it. So, there’s no reason that it should be limited to male-female relations, much less douchebags seeking to score with club sluts. And he’s right, most men badly need it today because they have no idea how the rules have changed since 1950.

Consider the following female strategy for obtaining free drinks:

6. Befriend an older man at the bar. Um, hello… old fashioned manners. He’ll have to offer. And you will graciously accept.

Notice that the entire strategy is designed around the female assumption that an older man will not view her as a predator out to use him for his financial resources. The mere articulation of this thought process demonstrates the need most men have for Game today. As it happens, I never offered to buy a woman a drink at a bar in any situation that I would not have done so for a man. Certainly not as an icebreaker, still less in response to a request from a stranger. And somehow, that didn’t prevent me from meeting Spacebunny. Given that many women are overt cheapskates attempting to cadge free alcohol from suckers and that not offering free drinks is no handicap to meeting beautiful women, I think it is safe to say that one should not ever buy drinks for women in the hopes of ingratiating oneself to them.

Keep in mind that as a general rule, female gratitude takes its philosophical cue from Charles de Gaulle.

Surviving the test of time

Bestselling Novels
# Title Author
1. The Broad Highway Jeffrey Farnol
2. The Prodigal Judge Vaughan Kester
3. The Winning of Barbara Worth Harold Bell Wright
4. Queed Henry Sydnor Harrison
5. The Harvester Gene Stratton Porter
6. The Iron Woman Margaret Deland
7. The Long Roll Mary Johnston
8. Molly Make-Believe Eleanor Abbott
9. The Rosary Florence L. Barclay
10. The Common Law Robert W. Chambers

How many of these writers or novels do you recognize? They are the 10 best-selling authors of exactly 100 years ago. I am a reasonably well-read individual, and I have to admit that I have never heard of any of these books or any of these authors except for Robert W. Chambers, who also wrote the ur-Lovecraftian collection of short stories entitled The King in Yellow. One of the things that became clear in last week’s discussion about the literary decline of the fantasy genre, (or, as I would argue, the literary decline of the SF/F genre), is that very few of those involved in the discussion appeared to fully realize just how unusual it is for literary works to survive 70 years, as the works of Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien have, let alone 100. Nor, as should be readily apparent from the names and titles on this bestseller’s list from 1911, should one be inclined to confuse book sales with literary longevity, let alone immortality.

Read the entire post at the Black Gate. Then comment here, or there, as you prefer.

Decrying anti-Anglicism

I found the following statement by the New York Times about the latest Charlie Sheen incident to be intriguing:

Why did the two parties decide now was the time to toss Mr. Sheen asunder? His vaguely anti-Semitic comments about the “Two and a Half Men” creator Chuck Lorre likely didn’t help (Mr. Sheen repeatedly called Mr. Lorre “Chaim Levine”; his given name is Charles Levine), but what probably pushed them over the edge was that Mr. Sheen became too much of a public relations burden.

I’ve noticed that when people are supportive or indifferent about something I have written, they invariably refer to me as Vox Day. On the other hand, when they are offended by it or opposed to it, they often elect to refer to my given name. But apparently, this is racism, so I shall be sure to call them on their anti-Anglic insensitivity in the future. It’s also interesting to see that Wikipedia features articles on Chuck Lorre and Charlie Sheen rather than Charles Levine and Carlos Estevez whereas the Wikipedia article devoted to me is not listed under Vox Day. I can only conclude that Wikipedia is rife with anti-Anglic racists.

Mailvox: Spelling it out slowly

James S doesn’t realize that it isn’t necessary to deal with the “meat of an argument” when the point that it is trying to defend is irrelevant. He wrote, and I quote in full:

“How can you possibly say this isn’t a moral argument? It feels like you are purposefully muddying the issue by making a distinction between ‘attributing’ the decline of genre to it’s amorality and the moral judgment that would be necessary to make the aforementioned attribution. This seems to be done to escape having to admit that the argument turns on morals (for it would then collapse) and turning it into one of literary aesthetics instead (which it is anything but as the crux of the argument rests on the ‘moral vacuity’ of the literature you claim is a symptom of a declining society). The distinctions are self-serving and at best contrived and artificial. This posting proves to me that you are indeed the moral coward Bakker claims you are.”

First, while Bakker is by all accounts an entertaining writer, in making the accusation of “moral cowardice” he has also shown himself to be an ignoramus who is attempting to spin words and concepts that he does not, by his own admission, understand. To claim that I am a moral coward because I am directly and openly calling out the genre’s authors on what I believe to be their literary failures without also calling them out on their supposed moral failures is simply nonsensical. It is obvious that James S, Bakker, and other putative Preachers of Death desperately want me to make a moral argument so they can preen in their juvenile transgressivism, attack the argument in relativistic terms, and thereby avoid dealing with the problematic matter of the material literary incompetence of modern fantasy. This is why people keep trying to insist that I am making an argument that I have repeatedly and correctly informed them I am not making.

If I was to make a moral argument for the decline of SF/F literature, I would first define the moral standard to which I was holding the literature accountable, then compile comparative lists of transgressions against that standard committed by two sets of fantasy authors, those writing from 1930 to 1960 and from 1980 to 2010. If significantly more transgressions were committed by the latter, my point would be supported. If not, my point would fail. While critics could certainly debate the question of whether the selected moral standard was relevant or not, no one, myself included, could dispute that the argument was an intrinsically moral one. Of course, I have done absolutely nothing of the sort for the obvious reason that I have not presented a moral argument… note that my critics can’t even tell what moral standard I am supposedly utilizing as the basis for this nonexistent moral argument.

James appears to suspect on some level that the case he presents here is an invalid one. Which is, in fact, the case. Note the weaselly approach as he attempts to derive a “proves” from a “seems” plus a “feels”. When I correctly dealt with the actual question posed – How can you say this isn’t a moral argument? Because it demonstrably is not. – he tried to claim that I was avoiding the core of his argument. But it is not necessary to address an argument that is based on nothing more than James’s feelings and perceptions.

Of course, since I, too, have my share of character flaws and take an amount of unseemly and sadistic pleasure in rubbing my intellectual supremacy in the face of those who are unwise enough to directly challenge me on it, I will first correct James’s argument by transforming it into one that is not dependent upon his feelings. Then I will show why his argument is incorrect, even when presented in a relevant form.

I paraphrase his argument thusly: How can you say the decline of the SF/F genre isn’t a moral argument? I believe you are purposefully muddying the issue by making a distinction between attributing the decline of genre to its amorality and the moral judgment that is required to make this attribution. You are making this distinction in order to escape having to admit that the argument turns on morals and turning it into one of literary aesthetics instead because you cannot successfully make the moral argument. The distinction between the attribution and the moral judgement are contrived, artificial, and self-serving and the fact that you are unwilling to make the moral argument directly proves you are a moral coward.

1. I can say the decline of the SF/F genre is not a moral argument because morality is only one of many possible metrics in which decline of the genre can be measured. Decline can be measured in book sales, in real dollar revenue corrected for inflation, in failure to abide by traditional moral standards, in historical accuracy, in logical consistency, in scope of ambition, or in literary quality, just to name a few possible metrics. My argument happens to be focused on what I perceive to be the decline in literary quality, although I am certain one could make a convincing argument with regards to the genre’s increasing failure to abide by conventional moral standards if one so chose. I may even do so one day, primarily for the purposes of demonstrating to the dim-witted or insufficiently imaginative that it can be done. But the fact that one can make the moral argument does not indicate that one must do so in the course of making any of the other arguments.

2. I did not invent the distinction between “‘attributing’ the decline of genre to it’s amorality” and “the moral judgment that is required to make this attribution”. It is, quite clearly, a distinction that is absolutely necessary in order to determine if the observation is correct or not based on the chosen metric. Being necessary, it is neither artificial nor contrived, and it is only self-serving for me in this case because my argument happens to be correct. Were my observations not correctly in line with the metric selected, it would not be self-serving. If I had attributed the decline of the genre to the lengths of the books published, would anyone be dumb enough to assert that this attribution was not distinct from the knowledge of book lengths required to make it?

To underline how absurd James’s attempted elimination of the distinction is, let us return to the technological example. As with the book lengths, there is an obvious distinction between “attributing the decline of genre to its technological incongruency” and “the technological judgment that is required to make this attribution”? There has to be a distinction, there always will be, because the former is an act and the latter is a capacity. While it is true that it is necessary to be sufficiently technologically (morally) aware to perceive a potential decline in literary quality due to technological incongruency (amorality), the ability to make an informed judgment cannot possibly be equated with the judgment itself. The distinction is both real and necessary.

3. James should note that it is not at all necessary to subscribe to a moral standard to a) have the capability to make a judgment concerning whether something abides by that moral standard or not and b) determine that something does or does not abide by that standard or not. I am not a Muslim, nor do I subscribe to Islamic moral standards, but I know enough about Islam to be able to determine if a book is respectful of Islamic morals or not. What this discussion has revealed quite clearly is that many fans of the genre lack both the moral knowledge and intellectual capacity to participate in a rational discussion of the subject. This is why their arguments in attempted defense of the state of the genre have been so uniformly irrelevant; lacking the ability to see color, they have nothing to offer in a discussion of whether the painter would have done better to consider using a different color palette.

4. The irrelevance of the moral argument obviously removes the foundation for the accusation of moral cowardice.

5. James wrote in a subsequent comment: “If my argument (and it is one out of many issues I have with this post) is so obviously wrong, then show me. A decline to do so reads as an inability to do so, however you dress it up as disinterest with my ability to comprehend your obvious superiority. Again, quote my argument and dismember it. If you can prove me wrong I think I could admit it, but all you have done is again and again in different ways call me names and assert your intellectual superiority. I would ask you to stop embarrassing yourself but you seem hellbent on proving yourself superior (in any way possible), and in doing so you have only proven your need to feel superior. Quote the argument!” Once more, it should be clear to all and sundry that I have no need to feel intellectually superior, since it happens to be an observable fact that I can demonstrate at will. The fact that I often don’t bother to address an invalid or irrelevant argument should never be confused with an inability to do so. I trust James will feel entirely satisfied that his argument has been quoted in full and dismembered, as per his request.

Taxes and diversity

Newsflash: people don’t like them:

St. Louis is losing residents, according to U.S. Census figures released Thursday, and the population decline goes deeper than being another blow to the proud city’s image.
The drop will mean a financial loss that could cost the already cash-strapped Gateway City millions of dollars. Figures from the 2010 census were a bitter disappointment, as the city’s population dipped to 319,294. That’s down more than 29,000 – a staggering 8 percent – from 2000.

The social planners can show multiracial socializing on every commercial, television show, and music video they like, but that’s never going to overcome basic biological preferences. As times get harder, the need for tight-knit communities will spring to the fore and that’s when the forced vibrancy will start to turn increasingly ugly. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that the French were drowning Algerians in the Seine. And the people most responsible for the bloodshed won’t be those fighting it out, but those who consciously encouraged the creation of the multi-ethnic societies in full knowledge of the historical record.

Modern chivalry is dead

And a good riddance to it. Guy Ritchie is an early nominee for Man of the Year.

When a man sees a woman in trouble it is usually polite to help her out but for one English gent his manners seemed to have failed him last night. As Guy Ritchie was leaving Claridges hotel a woman stumbled on a plant pot and tumbled to the ground, but the director did little but smile at her plight. In fact, although the woman fell directly in front of him, he failed to help her out and merely pointed towards her with a grin before walking around her and carrying on his way home.

Chivalry in the modern sense presumes that women are of intrinsically more value to men. This was true when most Western women were serious about fulfilling their primary role as propagators of mankind. But since women have by and large abandoned that role and given priority to their self-esteem, education, and occupation instead, there is no longer any justification for chivalric behavior applied broadly to the female sex in general. Each woman must be judged worthy or unworthy of such treatment on her own merits, and in the absence of any information, the assumption must be that she is unworthy.

My habit is to treat women as they wish to be treated. If a woman insists that she is equal to me, then I will show her no more favor or mercy than I would show a man. Pay for yourself, defend yourself, and get your own damn door. If, on the other hand, a woman indicates that she subscribes to traditional and unequal standards, I am pleased to show her with all the conventional courtesy that was previously provided to all the members of the erstwhile “fair sex”. Barring any indications to the contrary, I assume that a woman I don’t know is an equalitarian and treat her accordingly.

In the days of yore, the correct response to a woman in minor distress was to go to her assistance. These days, the proper response is to simply proceed with the mission. With a snort of amused contempt, of course, if you feel so moved.