EXCERPT: Do We Need God to be Good

An excerpt from anthropologist Dr. Hallpike’s conclusive demolition of evolutionary psychology, among other things, DO WE NEED GOD TO BE GOOD?

‘Evolutionary psychologists’, who claim that our human abilities and traits are very specific adaptations to the problems of pre-historic life on the savannah in East Africa, have not faced up to the fact that we know virtually nothing about what this life involved, about the social relations and organisation of our ancestors in those remote epochs, and still less about their mental capacities. If we are going to use the theory of natural selection to explain the characteristics of any species, it is obviously essential to have a detailed knowledge of their behaviour in relation to their environment. In the case of a social species it is particularly important to observe the relations between individuals, and modern studies of chimpanzees and gorillas are obvious examples of how this should be done.

But while it is reasonable to assume that our ancestors in this remote period lived in very small groups of gatherers and scavenger/hunters, and to deduce from this that we must have been an innately sociable species for a very long time, and that some of the well-established gender differences seem to be adaptations to this way of life, it is difficult to be sure about much else. Normal science proceeds from the known to the unknown, but evolutionary psychology tries to do it the other way round.

Language is central to human culture, but we do not even know when our ancestors were first able to utter sentences like ‘Shall we go hunting tomorrow?’, and it is quite possible that they only achieved this level of linguistic ability well within the last 100,000 years or so. But without language there would have been no way of referring to the future or the past, no means of conveying information, no group planning, no way of communicating group norms and ideas of sharing and cheating, and no discussion of technology and other problems of survival. We cannot even imagine what a pre-linguistic human society might have been like. It cannot be sufficiently emphasized, therefore, that our profound ignorance about early humans is quite incompatible with any informed discussion of possible adaptations.

Even in the case of the earliest Homo sapiens sapiens from around 200,000 years ago we do not know what sort of things they might have said to each other, (or if they could have said much at all), what made them laugh, or even if they laughed, what they quarrelled about or how they organised sharing within the group. Nor do we have any idea when they first had personal names, or when they could form the ideas of ‘grandfather’, or ‘mother’s brother’, or when they developed the idea of some sort of official union between adult men and women, or if they exchanged women between bands, or how hunting co-operation was organized, or what sort of leadership existed. Nor do we know when humans first had ideas of magic and symbolism, gods, ghosts, and spirits, or when or why they first performed religious rituals and disposed of the dead in a more than merely physical manner.

Ignoring these drastic limitations on our knowledge has meant that many so-called ‘adaptive explanations’ are merely pseudo-scientific ‘Just So Stories’, often made up without any anthropological knowledge, that have increasingly brought evolutionary psychology into disrepute. For example, it has been claimed (in the Proceedings of the Royal Society no less) that more than a million years ago, early humans lost their body hair because it was full of nasty parasites, and potential mates therefore preferred partners with the least amount of hair so that it was eliminated by sexual selection. Instead of body hair, humans took to wearing clothes: ‘clothes, unlike fur, can be changed and cleaned’. We know nothing whatsoever about the sexual preferences of our ancestors a million years ago, but at least we know they could not possibly have had clothes, because these have only been around for a few thousand years since the introduction of farming and weaving. Another example of an adaptive theory, recently published in New Scientist , is obviously based on the author’s experience of living in London rather than on any anthropological knowledge about hunter-gatherers. ‘The first, and most ancient function of manners is to solve the problem of how to be social without getting sick [from other people’s germs].’ No it isn’t. If there was a ‘first and most ancient function of manners’ it would have been to reduce social friction among small groups of people who have to live and get along with one another, and a hunter-gatherer band was, in any case, the environment where one had the least chance in human history of catching a disease from someone else.

Some years previously, New Scientist also published an evolutionary explanation of nightmares: ‘In the ancestral environment human life was short and full of threats’, so that ‘A dream-production mechanism that tends to select threatening events, and to simulate them over and over again in various combinations, would have been valuable for the development of threat-avoiding skills’. Since most people wake up screaming when the threat comes, however, nightmares seem a most unpromising educational tool. And as I write, yet another evolutionary knee-slapper has appeared, in Biological Reviews, this time maintaining that men’s faces and jaws are more robust than women’s because for millions of years men have engaged in fist fights. The problem here is that we know from anthropological studies that hunter-gatherers are not recorded as engaging in fist fights but in physical conflicts typically use weapons like clubs, spears, or rocks because they are so much more effective than trying to use one’s bare hands. Boxing as such is a skill that has to be deliberately taught and is only found in a small minority of societies which makes it extremely unlikely that it was an important form of human combat for millions of years.

The second problem is that if our ancestors were so closely adapted to the environment of prehistoric East Africa, this should be able to tell us a great deal about their subsequent behaviour, especially during the last 10,000 years of maximal social and cultural change. For example, we would expect humans, in their expansion all over the globe, to have chosen environments with a discernible resemblance to the savannah of East Africa, and to have avoided those that differed markedly from it, like rain-forests, deserts, the Arctic, islands in the Pacific Ocean, and high mountain ranges. We would also expect them, after millions of years of simple, egalitarian hunter-gatherer existence in small groups, to have been strongly resistant to the formation of large-scale, highly stratified societies, and again to have had great difficulty in mastering mathematics, science, and modern electronic technology, just to mention a few glaring examples of major cultural change.

Yet we know very well that in these and innumerable other respects, human habitats, social organisation, culture, technology and modes of thought have diverged in wildly different ways from the simple model of Man in his prehistoric environment, so that evolutionary psychology has no predictive value at all in these essential respects. This alone makes it very unlikely that human abilities and dispositions were ever closely adapted to particular ancestral conditions. ‘Among the multitude of animals which scamper, fly, burrow and swim around us, man is the only one who is not locked into his environment. His imagination, his reason, his emotional subtlety and toughness, make it possible for him not to accept the environment but to change it.’

Thirdly, Man’s extraordinary intellectual abilities, in particular, raise the problem that in Darwinian theory biological adaptations can only be to existing circumstances, never to those that might be encountered in the future. We did not acquire our mathematical abilities, for example, so that thousands of years later we could be good with computers. This fundamental point about human abilities was first made by A.R. Wallace, Darwin’s co-formulator of the theory of natural selection, who had extensive first-hand acquaintance with hunter-gatherers of the Amazon and south-east Asia. He noted that on the one hand their mode of life made only very limited intellectual demands on them, and did not require abstract concepts of number and geometry, space, time, music, and advanced ethical principles, yet as individuals they were potentially capable of mastering the highly demanding cognitive skills of modern industrial civilisation if they were given the chance to acquire them. Since, as noted, natural selection can only produce traits that are adapted to existing, and not future, conditions, it ‘could only have endowed savage man with a brain a little superior to that of an ape, where he actually possesses one little inferior to that of a philosopher’.

This is particularly obvious in the case of mathematics, where even today many simple cultures, especially hunter-gatherers but including some shifting cultivators may only have words for single, pair, and many. The Tauade of Papua New Guinea with whom I lived were like this, and indeed, the hunter-gatherer Piraha of South America are described as having no number words at all, not even the grammatical distinction between singular and plural. We can get a good idea why this should be so from the example of a Cree hunter from eastern Canada: he was asked in a court case involving land how many rivers there were in his hunting territory, and did not know:

The hunter knew every river in his territory individually and therefore had no need to know how many there were. Indeed, he would know each stretch of each river as an individual thing and therefore had no need to know in numerical terms how long the rivers were. The point of the story is that we count things when we are ignorant of their individual identity—this can arise when we don’t have enough experience of the objects, when there are too many of them to know individually, or when they are all the same, none of which conditions obtain very often for a hunter. If he has several knives they will be known individually by their different sizes, shapes, and specialized uses. If he has several pairs of moccasins they will be worn to different degrees, having been made at different times, and may be of different materials and design.

What needs to be emphasised here, therefore, is that our hunter-gatherer ancestors could easily have survived without the need for verbal numerals or for any counting at all, and that consequently there could have been no selective pressure for arithmetical skills to evolve in the specific conditions of the Pleistocene of East Africa. As we all know, mathematics has only flowered in the last few centuries, and among a tiny minority of people, far too brief a time-span for natural selection to have had the least effect. The mathematician Keith Devlin very reasonably concludes: ‘Whatever features of our brain enable (some of) us to do mathematics must have been present long before we had any mathematics. Those crucial features, therefore, must have evolved to fulfil some other purpose’(my emphasis). Because we have no idea what that ‘other purpose’ might have been we are obviously not going to discover the origin of the mathematical features of the human brain from anything we suppose our ancestors might have been doing in pre-history.

Mathematics is only one particularly glaring example of a whole range of advanced human thought in logic, philosophy, and science, of a type known as ‘formal operations’, which has only emerged in literate civilisations, and is never found among hunter-gatherers. This general type of thought must therefore be the result, like mathematics, of the brain using its faculties in novel ways, which therefore cannot be traced back to African prehistory.

EXCERPT: SJWS Always Double Down

This excerpt from SJWS ALWAYS DOUBLE DOWN seems appropos, considering the recent topics:

What, precisely, is a Gamma male, how do they behave, and what is the connection to the social justice cause? First, let’s consider the attributes of the average Gamma male.

  • Less physically attractive than the norm.
  • More intelligent than the norm.
  • Unathletic, often overweight.
  • Socially awkward and resentful of social hierarchies.
  • Generally unsuccessful with women.
  • Passive-aggressive and conflict-avoidant.
  • Verbally-oriented and prone to snark.
  • Disloyal and socially calculating.
  • Deceitful and disrespectful.

Of all these attributes, it is the latter that is the most important. One can go so far as to say that the chief attribute of the Gamma male is the relentless ability to lie to himself and others.

If you want an ideal example of a Gamma male, it would be hard to do better than Pajama Boy, the literal poster boy for the young liberal Democrats, who was featured in one of the famous Obamacare ads drinking hot chocolate and wearing a red plaid pajamas with a smug look on his extraordinarily punchable face. Pajama Boy’s real name is Ethan Krupp, and he prides himself on being what he calls a “Liberal F—”, which he explains is not a Democrat per se, but rather, “someone who combines political data and theory, extreme leftist views and sarcasm to win any argument while making the opponents feel terrible about themselves.”

In other words, a Krupp is a textbook social justice warrior. The two concepts are not synonymous, and yet there is a tremendous overlap between the SJW and the Gamma male.

Later in the same interview, Krupp went on to say that he has never lost an argument, except once, and then only because he was drunk. Even if we didn’t know what Krupp looked like or what views he espouses, this ludicrous claim would be sufficient to identify him as a Gamma.

Krupp’s statement about himself is tremendously valuable insight into the Gamma mentality, and even demonstrates why women tend to find them off-putting. Krupp claims he combines ideas, opinions, and a tone to both win an argument and cause feelbad. But the truth is that to the Gamma, the two are one and the same. The Gamma’s victory metric is simple: whoever can cause the other individual to feel worse about himself wins. This explains why the Gamma is constantly pretending to be above it all and unconcerned with the outcome even when everyone can see that he is horribly upset and wounded.

The Gamma believes that if he admits to the truth of his own feelings, he will lose. This is why he is always creating the impression that something is off about him, because it is. Even more than with the social hierarchy, the Gamma is at war with himself and with his feelings. This is why they often appear to be living in a delusion bubble of their own creation, and why they so often idolize Spock and human reason. They like to think they are beyond all human emotions, because they find their own emotions to be painful for the reasons that were described above….

If a Gamma is wrong, then he sees himself as being wrong. His very life is wrong. It’s all personal to him. He holds everything against everyone forever, except for that girl on the pedestal, and conversely, expects everyone to hold everything against him forever. It’s a sad and horrible way to live, but if you watch and learn, Gammas are very predictable and keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Gammas don’t believe in failure, repentance, or forgiveness. That is why they never learn from their mistakes, or anyone else’s.

A Gamma is prone to psychological projection and naturally puts himself in other people’s shoes when it comes to conflict and imagines how he would feel in their place. This is true for both reconciliation and conflict. It is why what he thinks is required for reconciliation is usually out of touch with reality, and why he thinks attacks on other’s feelings are much more effective than they really are.

A Gamma constantly relives adolescent shame, bullying and emotional issues. He likes nothing better than to publicly shame and mock those who he is angry with (except the girl on the pedestal) to the point of losing sight of any other goal he had in mind. If you can imagine the awkward boy on the playground being danced around and called names by the others, then how that boy would treat people when he is a man, and you will begin to understand how they treat others with whom they are angry.

He is a coward and will readily abandon almost everything to save his skin, and the fact of his cowardice gnaws on him internally. Being narcissistically inclined, he is unable to imagine other people not being secret cowards, so he will often talk of being brave while simultaneously accusing others of being cowardly. This, again, is pure projection.

All of this negative, self-destructive behavior ends up sabotaging relationships for the Gamma, including his friends, his family, his coworkers, and even his own children. The recognition of the poor quality of these relationships are not lost on the Gamma, and he will often feel a deep sense of personal disgrace about his behavior. However, since he cannot admit to being wrong, he is trapped in a self-made hell.

EXCERPT: Hunter Killer

This is an excerpt from WARDOGS INC. #2: Hunter Killer, published today.

Two weeks later I stood on a platform behind Chief Executive Officer (Planetary) Heiermach, suited up and carrying both my Reaper and my Popov-Norinco 60. I was glad for my battlesuit’s climate control as I watched the important men and women around me sweating in the hot afternoon sun.

I’d placed Zelag and Ward down in front of the stage, behind the local fuzz. Jones was on the stage platform with me, also a bit behind Heiermach. The crowd was pretty big. I’d estimate between twenty and thirty thousand people were there. The whole thing was a legitimately big deal.

DVG and the Chrysalans had managed to put this event together and get it advertised quickly. I suppose you can do stuff like that when you have more money than God. There were plenty of locals present, along with more than a few offworld tourists, historians and media crews interested in the temple. I had no doubt I’d end up in the background of a half-dozen documentaries. Good thing I was wearing my exo and my visor was mirrored.

Wardogs had provided us with an armored luxury skycar and a driver to escort Mr. Heiermach. That got us to the mountain in about five minutes instead of driving an hour or two through the desert. Mount Xirtis looked close through the windows of DVG HQ but the flat terrain played tricks on you.

The ceremony itself was typical PR stuff. Sappy speeches by local politicians and a university professor, various religious stuff, some music, blah blah blah. At one point some young Chrysalans did a little dance with gauzy wings on their backs, then we had to listen to a guy playing some sort of glass organ with his feet. I was desperate for coffee to stay awake within the first ten minutes, and I’d been standing here for two hours.

Fortunately, our suits are well-stocked with pharma. I set it to zing me with a little chemical pick-me-up whenever I started nodding and my heart rate dropped too low.

Heiermach played emcee himself. He was good at it too. He made it look easy, introducing each person and pronouncing their names correctly, then standing back and letting them go for their allotted time, then stepping in and moving everything along to the next portion of the program if it looked like they were going to go on too long.

“And next we have a woman who is both a priestess of the temple and an honored historian,” Heiermach announced, his hand on the shoulder of a heavy, older woman with facial tattoos. “You may have seen her book on the divine origins of the temple and the many fascinating events which took place over the centuries on this very ground. Her work has been designated as worth preserving in the Alexandrian national library, as well as bring recognized by the Academy of the Ascendancy as a–”

Some yelling up front at the barriers caused Heiermach to pause. My visor was jacked into the security grid and gave me a tactical summary. Four yellows were pushing through the surveillance field and starting to scuffle with the local police.

“Possible hostiles at barrier!” I yelled into my comm, but I could already see Ward and Zelag converging rapidly on the scrum, so I held my position. Just to be safe, I pulled my Reaper and stepped in front of the CEO and the confused historian, holding it up so no one would think I was aiming it at them. Jones stood behind Heiermach, facing backwards in case a second threat materialized from behind the stage.

I focused on the four men and confirmed they were hostiles. They were dressed like tourists, but they’d pulled vibro blades and had put the police down fast. Two police already lay bleeding on the ground, while a third was staggering away holding his bleeding stomach. I flicked the Blitz to a moderate dispersion and braced to fire, but before I had the chance there were multiple flashes of plasma fire from both flanks and all four of the attackers went down hard.

The crowd was yelling and shouting and starting to get frantic.

“Tell them the threat is neutralized!” I said to Heiermach. “Keep them from rioting!”

He recovered fast, taking the mic. “Ladies and gentlemen—everything is under control. Please remain calm—please stay where you are!”

“Jones, stay with Heiermach,” I ordered, then jumped down off the stage.

On the ground were four men, two of them neatly burned through center mass by plasma bolts. Ward and Zelag were already there.

“Ward, Zelag? Who torched these two?” I asked.

“That was me,” Zelag admitted. “I nailed them with my Cerebus.”

“Good shooting,” I said. “Though non-lethal would have been better.”

I kicked myself mentally. I should have specified that to the team. We wanted captures, not kills. Assuming knowledge was not good leadership, especially since Zelag was a new guy.

“I didn’t kill mine,” Ward said, pointing to the other bodies on the ground. They were still breathing with no burns. Stunned. One of them had lost his hair—a wig? I looked at his detached hair, then at his head. On it was a network of green tattoos, ending at his face where they’d been obscured by makeup. I pulled at the other guy’s hair and it came off as well, also revealing ink.

Then I examined the other two. All of them were wearing wigs. They must be radical monks who hadn’t gotten the memo. Apparently the druid was right and not everyone was easily convinced of DVG’s contrition. Or maybe the gods were still pissed.

One of the two wounded police officers was now sitting up, his arm slashed from elbow to shoulder. The other one was being carried off on a stretcher.

“Damn Chrysalans,” said the local police chief, taking my arm and addressing me over the murmur of the crowd. I nodded. He shook his head. “I swear, I know they’ve been around a long time, but if I had my druthers…”

We’d introduced ourselves to the captain before the event when discussing the security plans and he’d told me in no uncertain terms what he thought of the “crazy cultists and their stupid temple.” I watched the police search the living and the dead. All four of the faux tourists had been carrying blades. I thanked Ares none of them had been wearing an explosive vest. Though the sniffers would have picked that up, I mused. Okay, a disrupter. Thank Ares none of them had a disrupter.

“You’d better make an announcement,” I said to the police chief, aware that the crowd was restless. “Get this thing back on track.”

I took the stage again, as did the police chief. He made a quick announcement, stating that two police officers had been injured in the line of duty but were receiving care and that “security had neutralized the threat and we shouldn’t let terror derail this momentous occasion.”

The event resumed, with Heiermach thanking the universe as well as the local gods and the sacred mountain for keeping everyone safe. We made it through without incident. As the sun set over the temple, the chief druid took the stage and publicly hugged Heiermach, accepting his repentance and blessing him for it, then sharing a drink from a large and glittering ceremonial chalice. It was passed around on stage among a circle of Chrysalans along with important members of the city and the DVG staff, then torches were lit and songs were sung for another half hour before the event came to a close.

And that’s when everything went rodeo.

Excerpt: Wardogs Inc. #1

From the reviews:

  • The Mercs in this book are hardcore, amoral, just in it for the money. Vivid battles and political intrigue. Well written. The book compares well to David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers, the original book on Sci Fi Mercs. This takes place in the world of Quantum Mortis, where you have super advanced technology, in a universe that resembles city states. And with a fight going on with AI’s. This is a mercenary company, publicly traded with stock options, in that universe. I guess a future version of Black Water.
  • This is what I call military science fiction. I could tell from the first two lines that this book was going to be worth the read! The opening was very strong. 
  • I loved the story and the characters it was non-stop action from beginning to end. I’m hoping to see many more Wardog stories. If you like Drake, Ringo, Carr, or Stirling you should enjoy this book.
  • Very enjoyable. Hopefully more to come in the series soon. Being told from the point of view of a wardog really puts the reader in the action.

An excerpt from Wardogs Inc. #1: Battlesuit Bastards

Four hours later I found myself on a clunky unmarked VTOL aircraft along with the rest of the platoon, heading to parts unknown. The pilot and copilot were in civilian clothes, as were the two guys in cargo. One of them looked familiar but I couldn’t place him. You see a lotta stiffs in this business.

The sun was setting as I looked down over the countryside. We’d been told we had a special bonus contract, but I had no idea what it was. We’d been given heavy rifles, loaded up with armor-piecing rounds, suited up in armor, then sent up the ramp into this shuddering deathtrap of a low-tech flying machine.

After seeing no explanations were forthcoming, I leaned my head back and shut my eyes, exhaustion overcoming my curiosity.

I awakened to Park shaking my shoulder. We were landing. There was a rough bump, then a settling of struts, then the crew popped the doors. I unstrapped, jumped up, and followed the platoon out into the darkness. I pulled on my goggles and looked around. We were in a stretch of tall rolling grass near a highway. Judging by the thermal signatures, we were probably the only people for miles, though I couldn’t see over all the hills. Not even an all-night diner, just empty grassland.

When we were all out and some cargo had been dumped by the crew, the helo took off and left us. In the middle of nowhere.

All eyes were now on Jock.

The sergeant cleared his throat and addressed us. “As you all know by now, you’re on a special mission of utmost importance. We’re out here to–”

“Kill the prince,” a Wardog interrupted. Someone else whistled.

“That crazy Ulimbese general sent us here to kill the prince!”

“Shut up, Cole,” Jock said.

“Yessir,” the man said.

“Bad manners aside, though,” Jock shrugged, “that is our objective.”

There were murmurs around the group. We were mercs. It wasn’t like we wouldn’t shank an enemy in the dark. The emperor must’ve felt the same way and we were the shank. But this was stone cold.

“You will, of course, receive the appropriate bonuses,” Jock said. “Now, we’ve seen the prince and his men. We’ve also seen their vehicles. That’s why we’re here. Right now their convoy is being tracked by drone.” He paused and took out his tablet. “Based on their progress thus far, they’ll be here within the hour.”

He pointed to a bend in the road, “We’re going to set up an ambush in the road here, but as of right now, there is a civilian vehicle on the road roughly ten minutes ahead of the convoy, so we’ll wait for that to pass, then we’ll create an L-shaped ambush just past that bend, with a machine gun team in the road with two teams of our guys in a row along the creek bed. The convoy will enter the kill zone, at which point the machine gun team will commence firing, then the long leg of the L takes them out.”

“Sir, no RPGs?” asked Goodman.

Jock shook his head. “No RPGs this time. Our client requires a decent photo of the deceased, not a splatter painting. Now, I want a fire team a quarter kilometer before the L, right where the hill peaks, in case they manage to turn around or get nervous. This team will also act as our spotters.

“A quarter kilometer beyond the L, I want another machine gun team, just in case they follow SOP and mash the gas and somehow get through our first ambush. We’ll have eight men in the grass keeping rifles along the long leg of the L. You have likely already noted the rifle upgrades, as well as the armor-piercing rounds. No one gets out alive.”

“Understood,” we chorused, then went to establish our positions.

I was between Goodman and Four-eyes. “Hey Falkland,” Goodman said to me. “How come we don’t just have some guys in the road pretending to be a road crew? Hard-hats and a barricade and all that. Maybe a flare. We could get them to slow down, then pow!”

“I dunno,” I said.

“Well, I do,” Four-eyes said. “You do that and they’ll know something is up. Guys that do security for important people would smell that old trick a kilometer away. A group of military-age guys hanging around a barrier in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night? Might as well put up a billboard that says ‘free assassinations ahead.’”

“Oh. That makes sense,” Goodman nodded. “I never got to do this kind of cloak and dagger stuff before.”

“Stick around,” I said. “We also do windows.”

EXCERPT: The Missionaries

Of all the novels we have published to date, The Missionaries by Owen Stanley is without question one of the best. It is almost disturbingly funny. It’s also available in both hardcover and paperback from Castalia Direct.

Laripa was distinguished among the settlements of the Moroks by the presence of the greatest orator, Malek; the greatest sorcerer, Macardit; and the greatest philosopher, Garang, a twisted, hairless little man with a squint. It was thus a kind of Florence or Paris, a cultural centre where the aspiring young intellectuals of the Moroks came to learn the secrets of their fathers, and, more hidden still, the dark revelations of the Before-Men who, led by Tikame himself, had roamed the mountains when Time itself was not.

As befitted its status as the cultural capital of the Moroks, its men’s house was the largest, the best-ornamented, and the most smoke-blackened in all the island. Raised on piles, its rear was low, but the roof-ridge rose into the sky, so that, being more than a hundred feet long, the top of its front end, the formal end, was nearly forty feet above the ground. The boards covering the front of the house were brilliantly painted in the form of a great face, whose mouth was also the entrance. The teeth of this mouth were provided by two rows of bleached skulls, as the boiling and preparation of skulls was one of the arts for which Laripa was celebrated.

Below the men’s house, the hovels of the women formed two parallel lines for a couple of hundred yards down the crest of the spur. At the end of these two lines, a second, smaller, men’s house faced up the yard between the huts of the women, looking directly at the great face of the principal men’s house. The yard was steep and slippery, of shiny red clay, and all around the village ran a high stockade of timbers, whose tops were carved into replicas of simian faces, or barbed to resemble spear points, or hacked and pruned into stranger, even more lethal shapes, curved and twisted like instruments of torture.

The interior of the great men’s house was lit only by those rays that penetrated the narrow entrance, and its natural obscurity was rendered the more impenetrable by the smoke which filled it, rising from the smouldering logs on the hearth of ashes running the entire length of the building. Inside the entrance, in the ashes, smoking his bamboo pipe, sat Nyikang, once the most renowned of the Laripa warriors, now little more than an old bag of bones looking out over his beloved mountains, waiting to die.

Smoking was the last of this world’s pleasures left to him; the government had stopped most of the axe murders at which he had been so proficient, and he had never been much good at sorcery. He’d always muddled the spells at the critical moment. Sex, well, that had been fun, and at least the government hadn’t stopped that yet, but it was a long time since he had felt up to it. The last time, that had been a long time ago, when the great landslide swept away some of his pandanus trees, but all he got for his trouble was a splitting headache, and he had given it up as a bad job ever since. Not that he was missing much as far as Teopo, his last surviving wife, was concerned. She was almost as decrepit as him and never bothered to wash anymore; she was usually covered in dust, like an old gourd abandoned in the corner of a hut.

It was ages, too, since he had led the killing of the pigs at a great dance. His teeth had mostly gone now, and he couldn’t even chew a pig, let alone kill one. Soon he would be a spirit, roaming the forests of the high ranges with his ancestors, without fire, or food, or hope. He still clung to life, not out of love of this world, or fear of that to come, but from habit.

His attention wandered back to Macardit and Malek, who were sitting outside on the verandah, talking.

“A bat’s wing without fresh dog’s blood will blight naught,” said Macardit. “Some say that a frog’s head, crushed with ginger root, giveth more power than the blood of any creature, but that is folly.”

Malek nodded wisely.

“Dog’s blood, thou sayest. I will mind it well.” His fourth and most recent wife had been seduced by his cousin, so he had come to Macardit for a little private tuition in sorcery. The receipt for smiting an enemy’s genitals with gonorrhea cost only a small pig; a larger one, of course, was required if the Master himself recited the spells. Since this enemy was a cousin, the handier and cheaper remedy of the axe was denied him, but a good dose of the clap would suffice to put the fellow in his place.

“Fresh blood, fresh blood,” reiterated Macardit. “If thou but usest fresh blood, the bat’s wing, and the words of power which I have given thee, and well besmear his codpiece with the remedy, there will be one pig that will not root in thy garden for a while.” Macardit drew on his bamboo pipe, but found that in the long interval of conversation it had died.

EXCERPT: Innocence & Intellect, 2001-2005

Githyankee was kind enough to say the following about my early columns: I wish everyone could read Vox’s columns from about 2005. The second book of essays. That’s what really let me know I was dealing with an intellect. Vox was calling out feminists and muslims as allies before Obama was President, ten years before Conservative Inc even noticed. Those columns hold up extremely well – if you’ve been on the fence, each essay is about a five minute read and contains the perfect mix of military news, sports comments, leftist lunacy, conservative bumbling. Really good.

WL added: Those are really extraordinary. It’s very interesting discovering how any intellectual figure develops his thought over time, especially when it’s derived from logic and history, which is a rarity at this phase of our decline. Wish I had known about them when they were new. 
There are a hundred different points you can make about those early essays, but I’ll save that for my own blog in the future. Really, the intellectual development of this sector of the counter-culture is more impressive than anything being done in academia, at least in the humanities.

That’s very flattering, and more importantly, it reminded me that I’ve been remiss in actually making some of them available to prospective readers. The first volume of my Collected Columns was previously not available directly on Amazon, or through Kindle Unlimited, due to our experiment with the ill-fated Pronoun service offered by Macmillan. Having rectified that today, I can report that both Vol. I: Innocence and Intellect, 2001-2005 and Vol. II: Crisis & Conceit, 2006-2009, are available for Kindle and KU. The first volume is also available as a 764-page hardcover, on Amazon as well as via Castalia Books Direct.

An excerpt from June 2, 2003:

In which we examine a few of feminism’s favorite fairy tales.

Feminism is about choice.

Feminism is actually about having your choices made for you. Feminism is nothing more than a gender-based form of fascism, which attempts to control the behavior of individuals through government fiat. Fortunately, feminists have not been able to amass the power required to send unrepentant males and recalcitrant gender-traitors to the pink gulag. In the words of feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir:

No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such choice, too many women will make that one.

The reason that women have accomplished very little of note throughout history is primarily due to male oppression.

There is an element of truth to this, as the vast majority of women were denied access to the higher levels of education; then again, so were most men. However, it is also true that those women who did obtain excellent educations often chose to engage in light intellectual amusements instead of contributing anything of significance to the arts or sciences. There was nothing to stop the educated hetaerae of Greece from writing a “Metaphysics” or a “Republic”, nor anything preventing the mistresses of the famed Parisian salons from compiling, like Diderot, their own “Encyclopedia”; the fact remains they did not.

But the most damning argument against this myth is the appalling behavior of the leading female pseudo-intellectuals over the past 30 years. Instead of taking advantage of their intellectual freedom and unprecedented access to education, the feminist vanguard has embraced an anti-intellectual dogmatism that imprisons the current generation of young women in the academic convent of Women’s Studies, robbing them of both foundational knowledge and the capacity for rational linear thought, thus ensuring that this generation, like its foremothers, will also fail to accomplish anything worthy of historical regard.

Women entering the work force has been good for America.

The entry of women into the work force accomplished only one thing. It significantly lowered wages by doubling the size of the work force. According to the iron law of supply and demand, increasing the supply of X while demand remains constant means that the price of X will fall. The primary impact of women entering the work force in quantity has been to lower the price of labor so that two people must now work in order to maintain a household instead of one, as before.

While America does realize the benefit of the contributions of women whose talents might have otherwise been wasted, it pays a heavy price in terms of children who are abandoned to be raised by day-care centers, the state schools and television. And those many women who would like to make the choice to remain home with their children cannot, since their husband can’t earn enough money to support a family alone due to his wages having been lowered because of the increased supply of labor.

Anything men can do, women can do better.

This myth raises the question of how the nefarious Patriarchy could possibly have come to be established in the first place. Were the women of yore less intelligent, less aware, or otherwise less able than their modern counterparts? A lovely example of nonlinear fifth-stage thinking.

The Sexual Revolution liberated women.

It actually freed men from the responsibilities that traditionally accompanied access to sex. Whereas a man once needed to all but promise marriage before taking a lover, he now can freely expect a woman to satisfy his desires on the third date, if not the first. The real revolution was the wholesale transference of power in the male-female dynamic from women to men, and now any reasonably handsome young man can effortlessly rack up more sexual conquests in four years of college than did the legendary Casanova in a lifetime.

A woman has a right to control her own body.

This baseless assumption flies in the face of hundreds of long-standing American laws. A woman can be jailed for putting certain unapproved chemicals into her body, for failing to put certain required chemicals in her body (military vaccinations), for selling portions of her body or renting out her body on an hourly basis, or for displaying her body in public in an unapproved manner. The fact that some of these laws are, in my opinion, ill-founded, does not matter; they still serve to demonstrate the fallacy of this particular pro-abortion gynomyth.

EXCERPT: The Lords of Creation

This is an excerpt from the first book in John C. Wright’s astonishing new series, SUPERLUMINARY: The Lords of Creation. And I can testify that it is some of the most outrageous, creepiest, most mind-bending science fiction I have ever read.

Aeneas felt a chill in his soul.

This was the Cerberus.

He was aboard the dreadful, legendary ship.

The last time the ship had been seen, Aeneas had been a little boy playing the gardens of the Ishtar Plateau, in the fragrant shadow of Mount Freyja, overlooking the perfumed north polar sea of Snegurochka. The Cerberus, the ancient superdreadnought and spaceborne palace of his mad Grandfather, had taken up a menacing orbit about Venus. He remembered seeing his mother crying when no servants were around.

“I thought it would be more… luxurious. Harems. Gold. Wine centrifuges. Do you think grampa is here?”

I cannot imagine. 

Once inside the airlock, the hatch shut, atmosphere was pumped in. Weight slowly returned. The heat, the oxygen, the moisture revived him.

Aeneas found a modern First Aid kit and broke the seal with a swing of his periscope. Inside the kit were ampoules of blood and bone marrow, totipotent cells and other biological materials. He opened one ampoule after another, absorbing the materials directly into his center of mass.

Restoring himself to his earth body was easy, since the cell memories yearned to return to their wonted shapes.  Soon Aeneas stood on the deck in human shape: He was nine foot tall, a layer of convincingly human skin over his hidden layer of armored scales. With his metal bones and muscles of ultradense fiber, he was over four hundred pounds in earth-normal gravity.

Working the airlock might alert Lord Pluto.

“Maybe he went to the conclave at Everest. And he keeps no servants.”

 Do not be at ease. It is forbidden to be on this world. It is death.

The inner airlock hatch was round, and a sideways ladder led to it, designed to be climbed out of, not crawled through.

On the far side, Aeneas straightened up and stared in astonishment.

He now stood on an unrailed circular balcony overlooking a wide well. It was a five hundred foot drop. Whatever was at the bottom, Aeneas could not see at this angle. But a reddish light was splashed along the undersides of the balconies.

In a circle with him were cryocoffins with transparent lids. Had the ship been under spin, the sleepers would have been prone. But the ship stood on her nose. The men inside the coffins were hanging head-downward.

All were unmodified. Some were greyhaired, or wrinkled, or scarred, or blemished like characters from a history lesson. Oddly, the coffins were chained shut.

There were fifteen of the nudes upside-down in coffins on this balcony. There were ten balconies below, nine above.

Three hundred crewmen.

“Stars in heaven!” said Aeneas in a hoarse whisper. “These are the three hundred. Were they asleep this whole time?”

Not asleep, sir.

“Grandfather said none of them survived!”

Nor did they, sir.

All the eyes of the upside-down crewmen flicked open. The eyes were dead, their faces, expressionless. A sensation of weakness, faintness, dying, washed over Aeneas. He staggered, but did not fall. He clamped shut the scales of his subcutaneous armor, blocking the death-energies. An unarmored man would have been killed instantly.

Their pallor was not due to cryonic suspension. Their cells had been adjusted into the negative bands of the life-energy spectrum. They were not alive, but absorbed life.

These had been turned to zombies, just as Thoon had done to his guards, but at the same time refashioned into vampires, as Thoon had been. They were necromatic automatons, soulless soul-eaters, creatures of negative-life.

Just then, a hand fell on his shoulder, and spun him around.

“Who dares trespass on my keep?”

EXCERPT: African Adventures

Just another tale of Darkest Africa, courtesy of one Lawdog, Esq. Also available in audiobook and paperback.

FILE 13: Flying Monkeys

The company that contracted to fly into, and out of, the Bendel State of Nigeria wasn’t real picky about the background of the pilots it hired. Matter-of-fact, near as I could tell, there were two big requirements: 1) You had to be able to fly, and, 2) You had to be able to land. Pretty sure that #2 was the more important.

The local company that supplied aero service into, and out of, Warri International Aeroport had a pilot named Bob.

Bob wasn’t Russian. Matter-of-fact, Bob would go on at length, in a nigh-unintelligible Russian accent, usually while potted on vodka, and waving his arms with their Cyrillic tattoos, as to his not-Russian-ness.

This being West Africa at the time, the old hands simply agreed with him, and ignored his singing of Soviet marching songs at the top of his lungs at three in the AM.

Bob was also an excellent pilot, and his baby was a C-119 Flying Boxcar that was the major hauling aeroplane for our little patch of the jungle.

The company that Bob worked for had an extremely logical training process. If you were brand-new to Africa, you would fly with an old Africa hand until said worthy decided you were less inclined to prang an expensive aeroplane and kill yourself in the process, and you got a plane.

Well, Bob got this new kid with a brand-new pilot’s licence and a hankering to see Africa, and it was not a happy match.

Seems like Africa wasn’t exactly matching up to the kid’s expectations; high on the list being the fact that Bob was frequently one-and-a-half sheets to the wind when flying.

One day the kid stomped onto the plane past the locals, past the livestock, past something angry in a sack, up to the flight deck. It is a fact of life in Africa that if you get on a bush cargo plane with bunch of locals, there is always something angry in a burlap sack. Upon reaching the flight deck, he learned that Bob was not aboard.

A subsequent search found Bob, completely and totally fit-shaced, asleep in the pilot/radio shack/tower.

This was the Last Straw as far as Junior is concerned. There are regulations, damn it!

Junior went and grabbed another newbie, this one apparently still with egg yolk behind his ears, and our intrepid pair of birdmen mounted their steed for the trip into Lagos.

The locals, who aren’t exactly gormless, immediately grabbed Co-Pilot Egg-Tooth, gently lofted him out the back door, carried Bob from the pilot shack, planted him in the left seat and began to ply him with coffee, all much to the sputtered indignation of Junior.

Bob surfaced enough to figure out up from down, which is fairly important for a pilot, I’m told, and they took off.

They were not very long in the air before the locals decided to celebrate their victory by building a fire on the back deck and spit-roasting Angry Sack for brekkie. Angry Sack apparently held opinions most firm about this, and as soon as the sack came open, did a runner.

This, of course, led to the locals snatching up machetes and tear-arsing off after their breakfast. Angry Sack made three laps through the flight-deck to the locals two before Junior lost his tiny little mind, screamed, leapt to his feet, vaulted into the back and began to utter thundering denunciations of Africa in general, and the passengers in particular. Fingers were waved! Regulations were cited! Heritage, manners, sexual proclivities, and levels of civilization were denounced in fine rolling language to the deep appreciation of the locals, who were passing a gurgling jug around the back deck in silent admiration of a fine oration.

Unfortunately, Junior didn’t realize that his vault into the back of the aerocraft had landed him standing four-square in the campfire built for the roasting of Angry Sack.

When the C-119 landed in Lagos, Junior was carried off in a litter to a standing ovation, which, sadly, he apparently did not appreciate in the least, but before being loaded into the ambulance, he managed to snarl a series of promises at Bob, not the least of which was that Junior believed that not even the Nigerian government would let Bob fly anywhere without a co-pilot, and that would give Junior enough time to have Bob’s license to fly yanked, with prejudice.

Bob belched meditatively, and while the plane was being refueled, he wandered over to the edge of the tarmac, paid ten Naira for a chimpanzee, and another Naira for the gimme hat the chimp’s previous owner was wearing.

He then boarded the plane, buckled the ape into the co-pilot’s seat, crammed the gimme hat onto the chimpanzee’s head, clamped the radio headset over the hat, and took off for Warri International.


An excerpt from QUANTUM MORTIS A Man Disrupted. Issue #1 of the comic will be available in print soon.

City homicides this year will total slightly more than 700, marking the third year in succession of a declining murder rate, Lord Mayor Mondereth Platen said today. Trans Paradis had 702 killings as of this morning, according to Nikal Vorgna, a city spokesman for the Lord Mayor’s office. The continued reduction in crime was attributed to the new data analysis augments acquired by the Trans Paradis Police Department two years ago. The record low was 571 in 3385; the record high was 18,477 in 3299, according to police statistics.
—from “Homicides fall for third year in a row,” the Trans Paradis Times, 3403.380

They hurtled through the official airlines of the city with sirens blaring, lights flaring, and Baby’s emergency override sending bureaucrats and private citizens sufficiently well-connected to acquire public transponders spilling left, right, and downward out of their way. Tower was driving on manual, listening as Baby and Hildy took turns sharing information that was being divulged from the civilian and military nerve centers. According to the red light that kept blinking on his controls, his speed was “dangerously excessive” but Baby had overridden the override.

“The fatality is the assassin. I repeat, the fatality is the assassin,” Hildy said as if she was simply repeating whatever Victor was telling her. “ID indicates Xeno—”

“ID X3042ML018493061,” Baby interrupted. “Male Valatestan citizen by the name of Giuseppe Andrea Milazzo. Ex-military. Eight years in the Valatestan Deep Space Marines. Unmarried, no children. Two years on-planet serving as bodyguard to various visiting dignitaries. Employment nominally private, in reality front corporation owned in full by the Valatestan Embassy in Rhysalan.”

“Looks like you get your case back, Tower.” Hildy frowned and wrinkled her lip.

“What case? The targets nailed the hitter and I have no doubt the sponsoring embassy will very convincingly deny all knowledge of his actions and disavow any responsibility for them. If we lean on them hard enough, maybe they’ll send a junior deputy undersecretary to the ambassador’s chief food taster home and blame him after the fact, all the while vowing to never again do what they swear they didn’t. A few weeks later, rinse and repeat with a new hitter, a new embassy, and a new target.”

“Sounds like you know the drill.”

“Not my first xeno,” Tower said, a little bitterly. “You know what they say, embassy is just another way to spell invasion beachhead.”

“Sounds frustrating.” Hildy commented, looking slightly mollified. She wasn’t the only one feeling disappointed. Sooner than he’d wanted or expected, he would have to fish or cut bait. It felt too soon to ask her out on a genuine date, and yet, Tower knew that if he didn’t do it before the case came to a complete close, he would probably never find the courage.

The creaky old building in which the Morchardese embassy was installed came within sight. Tower slowed and began angling the car down toward the ground. The traffic parted, as before, and he eased the var onto the ground gracefully enough to merit a nod from Hildy. The vehicle had barely stopped before he and the detector were leaping out of cockpit and rushing toward the group of people, mostly Morchardese judging by their military stances, openly displayed weaponry, and similar attire, standing around the scene of the near-crime. He didn’t see any sign of Prince Janos or the queen; if they’d been the targets, no doubt they’d already been hustled back inside to a secure location.

Paramedics were working on one man who was sitting up, looking rather dazed, amidst a pile of shattered glass and placrete that appeared to have come from the gaping hole in the building above them. That would have been the disruptor shot, Tower observed as he realized the man, whose arm was being bound, had been struck by the debris and was likely no more than an unlucky passerby. The dead Valatestan was about sixty meters away, to his right, lying in a sprawled heap on his side, the body warded by a pair of skittering quarpods who beeped and whirred and meaningfully focused their camera eyes on anyone who stepped too close to them. There was a scorch mark on the building behind the dead man about 150 centimeters off the ground, as well as two tell-tale bore holes of a charged particle beam.

“That was some nice shooting,” Tower mused aloud as he mentally calculated the distance between the body and the entrance to the embassy building.

“What’s that?” Hildy had been mumbling to herself, or rather, to Victor.

“Seven shots fired, six by the good guys, right? The assassin has just enough time to get one shot off and it didn’t come within 30 meters of anyone in the Morchardese party. They fire six shots back, from at least fifty meters away, and get three hits. That’s not bad.”

“Two hits, Tower. The third shot explains why the Valatestan only fired once. He couldn’t shoot again. Look at the disruptor.”

His right contact zoomed abruptly and focused on the area between the trigger guard and the charge pack. The disruptor, which he now saw was a Mosin-Nyarla Upsilon 32, a mid-tech military model known more for its rugged construction and heavy power suck than its accuracy, was ruined. It was very nearly blown in two. A section of the chunky, oversized bullpup design was simply missing, as if the designer had made a strange decision to narrow the section between the guard and the action on an otherwise solid weapon.

Laser or PPG?

“PPG. The edges are smooth, but they’re cut, not melted.”

EXCERPT: The Lords of Creation

An excerpt from John C. Wright’s masterpiece of pulp madness, SUPERLUMINARY: The Lords of Creation.

Aeneas Tell of House of Tell, the youngest of the Lords of Creation, was twenty-one when he was assassinated for the first time.

His secondary brain came awake while his primary brain was still foggy with strange dreams. Alert to danger, the secondary brain stopped the nerve pulses from the primary brain which otherwise would have let him groan and open his eyes, which would have precipitated the nervous killer’s attack.

But his primary brain had been in the delta brainwave stage of sleep, a deep and dreamless slumber. There was no sound, no light, no disturbance. What had broken his sleep? A memory, like an echo, of terrible multiple toothaches left a metallic taste in his mouth.

He had been dreaming about his insane grandfather, the Emperor. The old man had been telling him about the secrets of the universe… then a stinging pain in his teeth had jarred him awake. But how could Aeneas remember a dream when he had not been in the desynchronous brainwave state in which dreaming was possible?

Aeneas, eyes still closed, not daring to move, increased the firing rate of his auditory nerves. He was laying on the nongravity cushion of his opulent four-poster bed. The neverending whisper of the high-altitude winds of Mount Everest beyond the bubble of weather-controlled air was now loud to him.

On these upper peaks his family had erected the proud imperial palace-city of Ultrapolis, whose towers and domes were impregnable behind concentric force-shells and thought-screens. None of the artificial or bio-modified races of the nine worlds, fifty worldlets, and one hundred eighty moons of the Solar System could bring any realistic threat to bear on these defenses, not while the twelve ranking members of the House of Tell, the so-called Lords of Creation, retained control of the stratonic supertechnology known only to them.

But betrayal from within was another matter.

The quiet hiss of the protective screen that the bedposts projected around the bed was gone. He could not hear the heartbeats of his two bodyguards posted in the anteroom of his apartments. Instead he heard the heartbeat, louder and faster than was possible for an unmodified human being, of the assassin.

As the youngest member of the Family, Aeneas had been stuffed into the oldest wing of the oldest palace, and no other guards were within shouting distance.

There was no sound of footsteps on the nightingale wood floor of his bedchamber, and so for a moment Aeneas had a false sense of hope. But the sound of the racing heart was close at hand.

The killer was in the chamber with him.

Then he felt a waft of intense cold radiating from the cells of the man’s body. The assassin was near the bed, coming closer, bending over him.

Aeneas reflexively focused a thought to his signet ring, asking alarms silently to ring and the armaments hidden in the walls to slay the intruder. But there was no response. The electrotelepathic circuit was blocked.

The nanoscopic thought-broadcast cells his mother had implanted in the bones of his skull likewise were blocked when he tried to send needle-thin neuropsionic signals to receivers hidden in the ceiling.

A sharp, stabbing pain reappeared in his lower left molar, and then vanished. And then an upper incisor throbbed with a pain that vanished, and then a bicuspid. It was an basic proprioception code. It read: Intruder in dis-inertia armor… negative-vitality field integument… contortion node detected…

Of course. The killer was wearing armor that contorted the fabric of space a few inches in each direction around himself and lowered his inertia. It would prevent ordinary weapons, bullets or monomolecular blades, from imparting kinetic energy to him to do damage. Hence he could glide across the floor without imparting any pressure to the special floorboards biogineered to sound off when they felt an unfamiliar footstep.

The contortion node was a teleportation path for the assassin’s escape.

Modified electroneural ganglia beneath the killer’s skin—impossible for normal antiweapon sensors to detect—had erected a life-energy absorption cocoon. Hence the killer had silently drained Aeneas’ two bodyguards of their life and added it to his own, increasing his neural speed and muscle pressure. It was a vampire field, a modification illegal to all but the highest ranking and most trusted servants of the Lords. And a normal man would be killed at a touch.

Aeneas was no normal man. From hidden retaining cells in his bone marrow he released stored life-energy charges into his body, increasing his nerve-muscle potential beyond what a vampire energized with only two men’s vitality could match.

Faster than a striking snake and stronger than a rhino, Aeneas flung up the bedsheet and drove his fist into the man’s chest.