An interview with Peter Grant

Now that BRINGS THE LIGHTNING is out in all four formats, hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook, and is available on Kindle Unlimited as well, it seems a propitious time to link to this excellent interview of author Peter Grant by Scott Cole of Castalia House. The level of knowledge that Grant has about the weapons of the period, and the amount of research he puts into his books, are truly astounding. – VD

Scott Cole: How did you decide to base your first Western novel on Walt’s demobilization, journey home, and quest to find a new life in a changed world?

Peter Grant: A lot of this was personal experience. I’ve been in military service, and experienced demobilization, a journey home, and having to start all over again. I knew that hundreds of thousands have had to do the same thing after almost every war in history. I researched the stories of both Union and Confederate veterans, and found they shared similar experiences. Also, the corruption, attacks on returning Confederates by both official and ‘unofficial’ enemies such as bushwhackers, etc. are all documented in books and narratives of the period. It was a logical step to make this the beginning of my novel.

Q. Is Walt’s character based on historical figures or is he your Western alter-ego?

Walt is entirely based on historical figures. Some were Southern veterans who became first guerrillas, then outlaws, such as the James gang. Others are based on veterans from both the North and the South who wrote about their experiences of coming home after the war, then heading west to make a fresh start. I have no alter ego in the book at all.

Q. You mentioned that you fired many of the weapons mentioned in the book. Were these updated versions of the original models or part of private collections that survived the years?

These were original weapons that had survived the wars in Southern Africa. I’ve fired original versions of Colt’s 1861 Army and 1873 revolvers, Winchester Model 1873 and 1886 rifles, and the Winchester Model 1887 lever-action shotgun. All were in private collections.

Q. Walt does a good job in explaining the advantages and disadvantages of various firearms in the book. Then again, he had a lot of them. If you had to choose only one pistol and one long rifle to equip yourself with in that time what would you choose and why? Would you make different choices if you were equipping yourself for the African bush?

Good question. If I were in Walt’s shoes, I’d have gone with the choices he made, for the same reasons: the Remington revolver and the Henry rifle. Both were suitable for the plains. I’d have liked a heavier rifle as well, to handle buffalo on the plains and bear, etc. in the mountains, but if I was limited to one rifle, the Henry would be it, because it would be so much more useful in combat to have its rapid rate of fire and large magazine capacity.

If I were to pick one of each for Africa, during the period when it was still wild and filled with very dangerous animals, the revolver would be the same, but the rifle would unquestionably have to be a much more powerful weapon. Don’t forget, African dangerous game is much larger and more powerful than those in North America. I’d pick a European big-caliber rifle, probably (in the days of blackpowder propellant) an eight-gauge or even a four-gauge muzzle-loading weapon. That would have obvious limitations in its speed of reloading, etc., but it would have the power to take down the largest African animals, unlike any American rifle of the period. If dangerous animals were less of a factor, I might consider a repeating rifle; but all of the cartridges during the period in which this novel is set (mid to late 1860’s) weren’t very efficient or powerful. If we were in the 1870’s, I’d take the Winchester 1876 rifle with its .45-75 cartridge, or, a bit later, the Winchester 1886 in .45-70. By the 1890’s I’d take a European bolt-action repeater with a smokeless round; the British Lee-Metford, the German Mauser, etc.

Q. Why were the cartridges so weak and inefficient in the mid to late 1860’s? Cost savings by manufacturers or just the technology at the time?

The cartridges were weak for two reasons.

The technology to produce metal cartridges was brand-new and in its infancy. Extruded brass was unknown; cartridges had to be formed from a sheet of the metal, with consequent weaknesses at the seams. This meant that if a powerful propellant load was used, it risked rupturing the case; so all early cartridges were relatively lightly loaded. For example, the Henry rifle (and its immediate successor, the Winchester Model of 1866) used a powder charge of only 25 to 28 grains, less than many handguns of the day. The Winchester 1873 used 40 grains – an improvement, but not greatly. It took until the 1870’s for more powerful cartridges such as the .50-70 and the later, more efficient .45-70 (and their larger, longer cousins) to be developed.

During the 1860’s, the centerfire primer had not yet been invented; all early cartridges were rimfire, like modern .22LR, or pinfire. This meant that ignition was less reliable. It also meant that the bases of the cartridges were less strong, as their rims had to be hollow to accommodate the priming compound and/or the pin. It took until the 1870’s for central primers to be developed (most notably the Berdan and Boxer priming systems). That, in turn, allowed for solid rims that were stronger.

I do not want. I WILL.

Mike Cernovich hits another one out of the freaking park.

How to go from “I want” to “I will.”

The first step from going from a day dreamer to a doer is recognizing the self-sabotaging language patterns we use as part of our self-talk.

As with all mindset training, vigilance is crucial. Stop yourself every time you say, “I want.”

When you say to yourself or others, “I want,” pause and reflect in the moment.

Do you want what you say you want?

Perhaps you don’t. I’ve caught myself saying, “I want…,” and upon reflection, realizing I didn’t want that person or thing in my life.

If you desire in your heart what your mind tells you what you want, begin creating a vision of what you want.

Create a clear vision for what you want.

I said on Twitter that the most significant event of 2016 for me was meeting Mike and Milo in Paris. It was pure serendipity; I didn’t really know who Mike was or why he was co-hosting GGinParis with us, but Mike, Shauna, Spacebunny, and I got together for dinner before the event and we really hit it off in a way one seldom does at my age.

I’m middle-aged. I’m reasonably successful, all things considered, and I’m fairly set in my ways. But Mike inspired me and caused me to need to adjust my thinking in a way that hasn’t happened in decades. Somehow, he made me realize that I’m too prone to thinking about things, and planning things, and contemplating things, and not actually DOING things.

I used to only feed on the Dark Side of the Force. I needed negativity to motivate me; I needed to feel the need to vanquish someone, or something, to really get myself in gear. I don’t think it is a coincidence that my best athletic performances have always come against archrivals or in playoff games. But since having the opportunity to sit down and spend some time with Mike a second time, in Spain, I’ve learned how to act without waiting for that motivation, without having a plan in place, and without overthinking the matter.

And I’ve learned that energy and momentum are contagious. Mike has it. I’m more introverted than he is, but I have more energy than most people my age and I’m learning to let it show so that others can be inspired and feed off it the way I am inspired by Mike’s energy.

Mike is right. Mindset is absolutely key; one of the primary factors in most of my successes has been my unshakable confidence in something, whether it is my speed, my strength, my ability to take a shot, or my intelligence. And two of the primary factors in most of my failures has been either laziness – which is a failure of the will – or a lack of willingness to expect excellence from myself or others – which is a failure of confidence.

In the end, it’s not about intelligence or natural gifts, it’s about mindset. Castalia House WILL become the dominant force in science fiction and fantasy. The Castalia Blog WILL become the leading blog in science fiction, fantasy, and wargaming. And Vox Popoli WILL pass 100 million annual pageviews. I know these things will happen because I can already see them happening.

We’re not there yet, but we’re a damn sight closer to them than we were 12 months ago.

Signed and Limited Edition: Freehold

In honor of the tenth anniversary of its first publication, Mike Z. Williamson and Baen Books are offering a signed hardcover limited edition of Freehold, the first in his Freehold Universe series. It is now available for preorder, so if you are a fan of my mortal enemy and occasional bete noire, M-Zed, this would be the time to act before they run out.

Mike Williamson and Larry Correia weigh in

Standout Author Michael Z. Williamson and I don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on everything, but he’s written a very good post on his experience with SFWA.  He, too, has had a run-in with The Puppinette:

Mary Robinette Kowal, self-described professional puppeteer and part
time writer, is very upset with some of the drama going on in SFWA at
present.  I sympathize with the aggravation.  I spent years in SFWA, and
stopped renewing, because of the endless drama and little
accomplishment. She’s very unhappy with several members over their politics, which is an inevitability of an organization….

Will Shetterly ‏@WillShetterly 4 Jul
@schanoes @sinboy @MaryRobinette The rest of us believe diversity should be more than skin deep.

Michael Z Williamson ‏@mzmadmike 4 Jul
@WillShetterly @schanoes @sinboy @MaryRobinette And once again, SFWA demonstrates why I let my membership lapse.

Mary Robinette Kowal ‏@MaryRobinette 4 Jul
@mzmadmike @schanoes @sinboy What? Because of someone like @WillShetterly, who isn’t even a member?

Michael Z Williamson ‏@mzmadmike 4 Jul
@MaryRobinette @schanoes @sinboy @WillShetterly No, because of those who are members. Didn’t you just say as much?

Mary Robinette Kowal ‏@MaryRobinette 4 Jul
@mzmadmike @schanoes @sinboy Oh… so you’re agreeing with @WillShetterly. That’s all right then. I’m glad you’re not a member.

Michael Z Williamson ‏@mzmadmike 4 Jul
@MaryRobinette @schanoes @sinboy @WillShetterly Yup. It would be
terrible to have dissenting members. Even if they agree with you.

Michael Z Williamson ‏@mzmadmike 4 Jul
@MaryRobinette @schanoes @sinboy @WillShetterly What exactly has SFWA
accomplished in the last decade? Other than internet bitch fights?

She’s glad I’m not a member.  And that Will is not…. So it’s pretty damned conceited for a part time writer to look at senior full timers and say, “You shouldn’t belong.” 

Meanwhile, my courageous fellow SF/F Writer of Color Larry Correia – stay strong, mi compañero (raises fist) – explains why he never joined SFWA in the first place:

A couple of years ago a SFWA officer asked me to join. I asked what was in it for me. Basically, nothing. However, she pointed out that I would be able to help new authors, and because I’m pretty successful it would give SFWA added credibility… The thing is, I help new authors now, and I can do that without giving anything related to John Scalzi any extra credibility.

For the record, his bullshit about racial difficulty settings was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. The real racists are the ones that believe America has a caste system. The real racists are the ones who believe people of certain skin tones are unable to make it in life unless the government is there to save them. Why the hell would I want to give that added credibility?

President Scalzi, who is a white suburbanite liberal and thus an expert on racial issues and “priviledge”, is super awesome at finding controversial issues to milk for publicity for name recognition so he can sell more books, (hey, I’m a master of controversy generated traffic, I can recognize it when I see it) runs an organization that doesn’t really do much to help its members sell books. And sometimes, SFWA is even good at helping its members do things which help them sell fewer books.

The really funny part is that an organization of SCIENCE FICTION writers has yet to really understand the concept of “internets” and the super crazy idea that you can even sell books over this internets thing! And because of that, some writers are making buckets of money more than their traditional counterparts, but even the ones that are selling tens of thousands of books aren’t “real” writers. They don’t qualify. Somebody that sold a short story to a magazine 30 years ago totally qualifies as a real writer.

Which is sort of backwards, but what do I know? I grew up without “priviledge” on a higher difficulty setting, so maybe all of these big words are just confusing me.

Do you know what would be more entertaining than all the novels published by all the SFWA authors in the last five years combined?  If, instead of internet bitch fights, there was an actual Monster Hunter-style civil war between the mavericks and the SFWA members in good standing.  They might have the numbers, but I’d bet Larry alone has them outgunned.

Meanwhile, @aaronpound is simply incorrect.  I have absolutely nothing to do with @SFWAfascists.  Didn’t create it, didn’t conceive of it, didn’t have anything to do with it.  But it hasn’t escaped my attention that @SFWAfascists does tend to explode the absurd idea that @sfwaauthors is an official SFWA channel by virtue of four letters in the Twitter account name.

Aaron Pound ‏@AaronPound
The most hilarious thing about @SFWA_fascists is that it is so clearly the creation of @voxday.

Deen proves Hoyt right

Prof. Stephen Clark writes in to Instapundit:

The cancellation of Paula Deen’s book at this time is about avoiding
being seen as enabling what appears to be an evolving protest as
expressed through the advance orders, coupled with a desire to flip off
the protesters. Just another page in the ongoing cultural aggression
being waged by the bicoastal elite. It does, however, neatly illustrate
the inherent viciousness of the class.

Taken in
combination with the complete inactivity concerning Alec Baldwin’s
recent comments on Twitter, it also shows the utter hypocrisy of that
class.  By the elite’s standard metric, Baldwin’s speech was every bit
as hateful and unforgivable as Deen’s theatrics, if not more so, but he
hasn’t been fired from his show or lost any endorsement contracts.

I certainly don’t pity Mrs. Deen in the slightest, as like James
Frenkel, she is simply reaping the harvest that she helped sow with her
active support of progressives and the establishment of today’s
political elite.  And there are worse fates than being paid millions of dollars to not write a book or two. But she does serve as what should be an educational
example to all the Scalzis and Hineses and Goulds of the world; no
amount of goodthink, political posturing, or progressive flag-waving is
going to save you when the pinkshirts and/or savages you have championed
turn on you and tear you apart without warning.

Scalzi was very fortunate that his inept political satire last year was
accepted as such. That didn’t have to be the case; it was far more
potentially offensive than the “lady editor” comment that sparked
Bulletingate. If it had served the whims of the pinkshirts to destroy
him, (for example, if they had had a candidate for SFWA president they
wished to push), he would have found himself the bewildered recipient of
the same sort of ideological hysteria to which Messrs. Resnick and
Malzberg were inflicted.  As readers here have probably noted,
pinkshirts tend to fall silent and run away as soon as they meet with
direct opposition willing to openly confront them; the only thing even
the most abject apologizing accomplishes is to inspire them to go into a
feeding frenzy.

In fact, because he has shown obvious Scalzi-like weakness in his obvious desire to appease the pinkshirts, I think it
quite likely that Steven Gould, the incoming president, will soon come
under attack from the organizational left for one reason or another.

To return to Mrs. Deen, the cancellation of her book, which at the time was Amazon’s #1
bestseller prior to its release, also shows that Sarah Hoyt was
absolutely right and that “business reasons” have absolutely nothing to
do with the ideologically driven decisions of the publishing
gatekeepers.  That defense, which was never the least bit convincing to
anyone with actual experience of mainstream publishing, has now been
exploded in a very public and undeniable manner.

And it also demonstrates the importance of building distribution channels that circumnavigate the attempts of the gatekeepers to control what is made available to the public.

John C. Wright explains l’affaire sauvage

In his philosophical explication of the differences between the Conservative, Liberal, and Libertarian political theories, Standout Author John C. Wright explains why the conflict between me and the writers presently dominating SFWA was not only inevitable, but will remain unresolvable.

The reason why political discussions between partisans of these theories
are so often futile is that their goals are unrelated to each other,
and the fears of one seem highly theoretical, if not ridiculous, to the
other…. Libertarian views of Liberals is one of deep seated and scathing
contempt. Where Libertarians are fundamentally intellectual and
conservatives fundamentally men of passion and honor, Liberals are
entirely emotional, and do not have the metaphysical or philosophical
groundwork needed to erect an intellectual defense of their position to
Libertarians, or to mount an intellectual criticism of Libertarianism.

It’s intriguing to see how closely his observations serve well as a predictive model concerning the behavior of both myself and my critics.  I certainly tend to regard this particular set of critics with “deep seated and scathing contempt”.  And, as we have seen, the SFWA writers have not only failed to erect an intellectual defense of their position, or mount an intellectual criticism of mine, [REDACTED PENDING APPROVAL TO QUOTE FROM SFWA FORUM].  They definitely regard me as evil.

This speculation is admittedly harsh.

It would have been gentler had I been asked my opinion in the days
before I exchanged many, many arguments with liberals of all stripes.
The one thing they all have in common, and this includes Catholic
liberals as well as atheist liberals, male and female, young and old,
all of them, all of them, all I have ever met: their argument is
primarily emotional, and they interpret disagreement as a moral failure,
not just an intellectual one.

They do not think you are wrong, my dear conservative and
libertarians readers, they think you are evil. Not one I have met thinks
that there can be honest disagreement with their positions, or that the
matter is one where reasonable men can differ.

This is not due to the personality of the liberals I have met, but it
is due to their theory. I have had angry Catholic socialists denounce
me angrily as wicked for not believing his nonsense, but I have also had
gentle grandmotherly socialists do the same in mild tones, and sneering
atheist socialists utter the same denunciation in sneering tones
without even bother to discover what the argument is or the objections
are. The tone depends on the personality of the liberal, and they are as
different as the whole spectrum the human race affords.

But the the automatic imputation of vile motives and conspiracies by
one mass against another mass is not due to a character flaw in the
liberal psychology. Rather, the flaw is built into their theory. It is
what they have to say. They can say nothing else, since if they did,
they would no longer be liberals. The institutions of civilization are the enemy, since they and only they are the source of mass-oppression and inequality.

Wright’s observations are 100 percent in line with my own considerable experience of what he describes as the Liberal. And this explains why Jamsco’s assertion about the need for inoffensive dialogue is not only wrong, but futile.  Because he only thinks about what he sees as being obviously offensive, he doesn’t recognize that it is not the sharper points of the rhetoric that offend, but rather the way in which the use of that sharper rhetoric correctly communicates to the Liberal that the non-Liberal is immune to their primary emotion-based tactics.  He’s only looking at the surface, and in doing so, he’s failing to see the more substantial forces operating beneath it.

You cannot use Aristotelian dialectic with a Liberal.  You cannot reason with him because he is not reasonable.  You cannot engage in rational discourse with him because he is not rational. To paraphrase Aristotle, you can only rhetorically flay him alive while dialectically exposing the flaws in what passes for his arguments in order to persuade undecided third parties.  And the more cruelly you flay them, the louder they shriek, and the more third parties are eventually inspired to see the difference between your reason-based arguments and the emptiness of their emotion-based non-arguments.

It would surprise – no, it would horrify – the rabbits if they had any idea how more and more people are coming over to agree with my positions as a direct result of Liberal pointing-and-shrieking combined with their total inability to make a coherent case, let alone a compelling one.  Perhaps you recall how only last year various rabbits were trumpeting the significance of how popular Whatever was and asserting that I was jealous of their Chief Rabbit’s massive blog traffic?  Less than a year later, my blogs have 4553 percent more pageviews than the Chief Rabbit’s warren.

Now, Wright’s series of posts – read the whole thing from the start – are not about my conflict with a group of SFWA members, and yet they demonstrate that those who see that conflict as a petty writers squabble are entirely missing the point.  It is, rather, a micro-model of the great civilizational conflict that is already engulfing the entire West, whether most of those on either side realize it yet or not.

Book Review: Hailstone Mountain

Lars Walker
Rating: 7 of 10

Hailstone Mountain is three-quarters historical fiction, one-quarter fantasy. It is the tale of Father Ailill, an Irish priest who is the good friend of the heroic figure in Walker’s ongoing saga, Erling Skjalgsson. Although it is not the first book in the series, it stands alone very well; as it happens, it is the first book of Walker’s that I have read.

Walker’s genre is an unusual one and could almost be described as historical magical realism, as it reflects the largely pagan worldview and beliefs of 12th century Scandinavia. Agricultural Fantasy, if you will.  It is a realistic, if slightly sanitized, portrayal of a brutal, uncompromising culture in which life is tenuous, unspeakable dangers lurk nearby, and the tenets of Christianity are just beginning to penetrate.  Walker clearly knows the world of the Viking very well and he introduces the reader to it with the ease of an expert.

The book is rather slow going at first.  A certain amount of discipline is required to get through the occasionally modern internal dialogue and a plot that is not immediately compelling.  The dialogue is at times stilted, the characters sometimes appear to be walking through the steps of a choreographed plot, and the some of the Christian elements feel a little forced.  One can see what Walker is seeking to do, but the execution is not always entirely adroit. There was even a moment at which I put the book aside in favor of Joe Abercrombie’s latest novel.

However, I was pleased to discover that the book picks up considerably following a brief and unconvincing descent into thralldom and despair, and I was downright surprised to learn that as it continued, Hailstone Mountain didn’t suffer much by the comparison with Red Country. Not only does the quest go into strange and unexpected directions that appear to be based on genuine Nordic legends, but Walker unexpectedly finds his literary stride, building up to a scene of genuine power and emotional resonance under the titular mountain. Many authors have mined various aspects of religion to imbue their tales with significance, but I have seldom, if ever, seen an author more effectively utilize the aspect of Christian hope, as opposed to faith, sacrifice, love, or redemption, than Walker does in Hailstone Mountain.

Having done that and apparently concluded the tale, Walker then throws the reader a serious curve ball with the denouement, which is every bit as violent, ruthless, and abrupt as the historical sagas by which the novel is palpably inspired.  It is an unexpected reminder that the savage world of the Viking is not a place for Hollywood-style happy endings, but rather, a world in which the struggle always continues and the wolf is always just outside the door.

Story: 3 of 5. Hailstone Mountain is a quest.  More to the point, it’s a saga, readily identifiable to anyone sufficiently familiar with historical Viking literature as a modernized version of the classic sagas such as Arrow-Odd, Njall, and Halfdan Eysteinsson.  And as such, it is abrupt and merciless in a manner similar to those sagas, in which a happy ending often means that the hero died well. The book also features some of the creepiest villains one will ever encounter in fiction, although upon reflection I suppose it should come as no surprise that the much-feared Vikings would have managed to produce such ghastly boogeymen.

Style: 3 of 5.  It does clunk a bit in places, mostly when the author is going for pathos and overdoes it a little.  But, for the most part, it is sufficient for the purpose, by which I mean it advances the story without getting in the way.  Moreover, the style is fitting for the saga storyline.

Characters: 3.5 of 5.  The characters were distinct and credible.  I did find the Irish priest’s internal monologue to be a bit overly dramatic and I think one bad guy would have been considerably more compelling if there had been more positive aspects to his character to balance the negative ones.  Walker also does a competent job of showing the reader some of the cultural constraints upon the characters through their interactions with each other.

Creativity: 4 of 5. Based on it is on a history with which most readers are much less familiar than they tend to think, Hailstone Mountain is considerably more creative than the average fantasy novel.  I liked how Walker mimicked the way in which saga plots tend to advance and turn abruptly, without much in the way of warning.  It’s a fascinating blend of old and new, and will be a pleasure for anyone tired of the formulaic plots and predictable characters that presently infest so much of modern fantasy.  Jonathan Moeller has remarked how epublishing has broadened the scope of fantasy fiction, and Hailstone Mountain is an excellent example of this phenomenon.

Text sample:  At breakfast Jarl Svein told us what he needed.
“My people are being raided,” he said. “Men clad in furs, barbered like thralls and armed with clubs, attack farms in the night and steal the folk away. We’ve captured some of these raiders, ones who were wounded and dying, and they told us they’d been sent by their masters, who need more thralls. We try to track them, but lose their trails in the mountains. The folk are afraid. They blame me for not protecting them. They say… they say that if Erik were here he’d stop it.” He spoke the last words with some bitterness.
“Why do you ask my help?” Erling replied. “You’re lord in the north. You’ve easily the strength of men and the wealth I have.”
“I want neither your strength of men nor your wealth,” said Svein. “I want you present with me-you and Father Ailill.”
“Because there’s no one in the north-perhaps in the world-with the practice in fighting the forces of the Other World Erling and his priest have. Everyone knows this. They sing of it in the halls, on winter nights.”
Oh jubilation, I thought. More of the Other World.
“I know not if I can help you,” said Erling. “In spite of all you’ve done for me, I remain Olaf’s kinsman. It would take a very great need to bring me to your side.”
“Listen then,” said the jarl. “There is evil in the north.”
He paused for the question that had to be asked.
“What sort of evil?” asked Sigrid, who had little Asbjorn at her breast.
“Have you heard,” he asked, “of the Children of the Mountain?”
We all traded looks, and said we had not.
“The Children of the Mountain are a clan of witches and warlocks who live under Hailstone Mountain, in Halogaland. They are said to live forever.”
“What?” I asked.
“It’s said they eat their children. All their children. Because you only need children if you look to die, so that your line will live on. If you mean never to die, you can use the children for other things.”
“They live forever by eating their children,” I said.
Jarl Svein stared at me. “You’ve heard of this?”
“When we came north we came with a man called Lemming, a freedman of Erling’s,” I said. “He came along to seek his niece who, it would seem, was of this witch-clan, on her mother’s side. The girl disappeared. Lemming knew straight away what had happened to her. Her kin had taken her. He seeks her now, in the north country, to find her and bring her out before the time of the ceremony.”
“When they eat the children,” said Svein.
“Yes. On Winter Night.”
“Winter Night. That is the time indeed.” He turned to look at Erling. “I set out to hunt the Mountain’s Children because they raid my folk. You came on this errand to fight the same enemy. The case is not that you would join my adventure. I would join yours. May I join you? May I walk by your side a little while, in this business that touches us both? Would that betray your wife’s brother’s blood?”
“When I throw into the scales the fact that you rescued us from so great a dishonor,” said Erling, “there can be but one answer. We shall sail together.

Stampeding the herd

Sarah Hoyt contemplates the bovine thinking that led to the SFWA’s recent “storm in a B-cup”.  After all, it’s hard for the older members of the herd to keep up:

I got very – as opposed to a bit – worried in the eighties when women
started claiming that men talking them into sex was “rape.”  The
reasoning seemed to be that men had awesome talking skills and a mere
woman could not defend herself against all those double-slick words.

I thought “OMG, they’re going Victorian.”

Since then we’ve gone to lookism (the ugly girl’s attempt to take
attention from the pretty one) and to a man even looking at a woman too
long, or asking for a date being considered “harassment.”

In fact, any man NOTICING another person is female is now harassment
(witness the offense at “ladies” in Barry and Mike’s article.)

I feel for Barry and Mike.  I’m sure they were full supporters of the
initial feminism which only wanted to give women access but assumed
that evolution was not going to be reversed in a generation, and if
women wanted to work alongside men, they’d have to endure men being…
male.  And if they used a little of female wiles to get what they
wanted… well, that’s how humans are and they go two by two.  This was a
somewhat rational idea, and if it had stopped there…
It didn’t.

Their articles were salutes of the women who made it in (at that time) a very hostile male environment.

Barry and Mike had no idea that the herd had changed step and that
the mooing signals from the top had changed.  Cattle are very stupid
animals.  They identify their herd by a series of not very rational
signals.  Fall out of step, and you risk being mistaken for an intruder
and gored.  And people who didn’t realize there was herd behavior going
on, and who got to their positions by rational thought, are more than
likely to get that treatment.  I know, it’s happened to me.

And meanwhile the herd of tough grrrl Victorian maidens, “don’t call
me slut” but “I’ll sleep with guys I’m not even interested in, and I’ll
call myself slut,”  “asking me on a date is sexism” and “I can’t
understand where all the good men have gone”, “we’re just as good as
men”, “it’s rape if a man talks a woman into sex because men have
awesome men neurons we can’t compete with” goes on its merry way
changing directions as the leaders change rationals and demanding more
government intervention to handicap men more, because otherwise, how can
they compete with wonderful male superpowers?  They who are fragile
flowers who get peristaltic disturbances because someone mentions most
top scientists aren’t female?

The irony is the lesson being taught to younger men who have watched the Resnick-Malzberg debacle is that my way is the right way.  Kowtowing to the feminist cows only leads to being trampled, but standing up to them, challenging them, and contemptuously exposing them for the pathetic intellectual frauds they are will send them stampeding away, mooing in distress, every single time.

Barry and Mike were full supporters of the initial feminism.  Most men of their age were. Having been steeped in it my entire life, I’m a full-fledged enemy of it.  And I’m very, very far from being alone in that regard.

No tyranny lurking under the bed

Now go the fuck to sleep, says Big Brother Obama.  Larry Correia takes exception:

Let’s see… The first American president that’s actually had to argue that he’s not a dictator, who has to have a big debate over whether it is okay to just waste American citizens on US soil without any due process, who broke thousands of federal laws in order to ship guns to Mexican drug cartels to drum up phony stats against his political enemies, and who blamed a terrorist attack on a YouTube video, says that the idea that potential tyranny looms is just silly.

Sounds legit to me!

Sure, Barack Obama has grown the federal leviathan bigger and stronger and more intrusive than it has ever been, and it was already bloated, absurd, and terrifying before, but talking about how this government could become too powerful and thus tyrannical like all of the other governments in human history which did the same thing before… well, that’s just crazy talk!

Why, one wonders, is it important to Obama that Americans “reject these voices”, the voices that “incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity” and of lurking tyranny?

We know his executive branch is actively targeting political foes in a way that not even Nixon or Clinton ever dared.  We know that his administration regularly lies to the press and the public, about Benghazi and about the IRS investigations.  We know he is openly claiming the legal right to assassinate any American, inside or outside U.S. borders, without due process.  And we know he is seeking to disarm the American people.

So, with all due respect, I submit it would be unwise to heed his advice.  First, it is  simple fact that government is a separate entity; it is neither the people nor the nation.  Second, while government is not necessarily and intrinsically sinister, the actions of the current U.S. government and the present administration most certainly are.

Who, When, How: the unique nature of SF

John C. Wright contemplates what separates SF from all other forms of fiction, and in doing so, helps delineate the intrinsic difference between science fiction and fantasy as well as why science fiction has increasingly been transformed into fantasy as more women entered the field:

Aliens are unique to science fiction.

In no story about detectives solving a murder or heiresses wondering
what baron to wed will you find anything told from the point of view of a
nonhuman intelligent creature. All other genres, from Westerns to War
Stories to Historical drama to mainstream tales about college professors
cheating on their wives, are told from within the human realm of human
nature and can never leave it. In science fiction and in science fiction
alone is there an opportunity to step outside the human realm, and
turn, and look, and to see the mask of man from the outside.  Only in
science fiction can we speculate on what humans look like to intelligent

If the task is feasible then science fiction is the only place to go, the only vantage where to stand, to look at mankind, because it and it alone steps away and turns and looks at humanity from the outside.

Before we address that broader question, the gentle reader may be contemplating at least two objections to the bold statement that examining man from a viewpoint outside man is unique to science fiction.

The first is that fantasy stories, myths, fairytales, Aesop’s fables and stories about animals, from Lassie to Black Beauty to Bambi, involve imagining what human beings might look like seen from the viewpoint of gods or sprites, ghosts or talking animals, or dumb animals. It would be odd indeed to classify BAMBI or FINDING NEMO or HAPPY FEET as “science fiction” and yet the audience for those tales sees human beings only from the beast’s-eye view. In the oldest poem in the West, THE ILIAD, many a scene is told from the coign of vantage of the Olympian gods. The far-famed Wagner’s Ring Cycle is told mostly from the point of view of gods and dark elves, giants and river nymphs, valkyries and so on: Indeed, in the first opera of the cycle, DAS RHEINGOLD, there is not a single human character on stage at any time.  The first objection, then, is simply that the statement is not true: many stories look at man from outside.

The second objection is subtler: all stories by their nature take the reader out from his own personal viewpoint. That is the core of what the story-telling imagination is, and what it does. Reading GONE WITH THE WIND as if by magic transforms the reader into the rich and willful daughter of a slaveholding Irish plantation owner; WAR AND PEACE transforms the reader into any number of Russian nobles and serfs in the midst of the Napoleonic wars; in SIEGFRIED, we become a young hero raised by a treacherous dwarf, destined to forge his father’s sword to slay a dire dragon, and win the love of an exiled goddess and the gold the world craves; in BAMBI, we become a deer; in WATERSHIP DOWN, a rabbit.

The second objection, in other words, is that science fiction is not only not unique in taking us outside our own viewpoint, but that this act of imaginative self-departure is ubiquitous and essential to all story-telling. If the reader can look at the world from another set of eyes, what does it matter whether the reader is transformed for an hour into a Southern Planter, a Russian Boyar, a Germanic Hero, or an English Hare?

Science fiction (so the objection runs) is doing something no different from any other genre, and indeed, does something less useful, because, unlike Southern Planters and Russian Nobles, the Vulcan scientist or Klingon warrior or green-skinned Orion slavegirl simply does not exist.

Imaging life from the point of view of a stranger or an enemy may have the benevolent real-world side effect of increasing my sympathy and brotherly love for him, and affirming our common humanity. Whether or not there is any common humanity with the Mollusk Men of Mars, or the Sorns, or the Tharks, or the Old Ones, there is little point in the reader learning how to step by an act of imagination into the shoes of these inhabitants of the Red Planet, because neither do they exist, and even did they, none of them wears shoes.

In sum, the second objection is that looking at ourselves from outside is what all story telling does, so science fiction is not unique; and looking at ourselves from the point of view of characters who resemble real people serves a useful real world purpose of engendering empathy with others.

The answer to the second objection is simple: Empathy is engendered by the care and skill of the portrayal, no matter who is portrayed. Whether or not the person portrayed is real or unreal means nothing.

Scarlet O’Hara of Tara is no more nor less real than Thweel the Martian. Both exist in the imagination only. Both have a relation to reality that is symbolic or emotional. When the nonhuman creature of the Genii in Disney’s ALADDIN yearns for the manacles to be struck from his wrists, and his bondage to end, all spirits longing for liberty understands precisely how he feels, because the emotion is the same in the real as in the unreal circumstances. When the completely unrealistic Siegfried, raised by a magical dwarf in a cave, yearns for the mother he has never known, it is not less poignant than the similar yearning by Oliver Twist, because both are orphans. When Bambi suffers the same loss and longing when his mother is shot by hunters, no skeptic is so foolish as to object that this scene is not moving and melancholy on the grounds that, unlike Siegfried and Oliver, deer cannot put their emotions of filial love for their mother into words, nor can they weep tears.

The answer to the second objection, in other words, is that it is the act of exercising the imagination which is the beauty and the justification for story-telling.

By the nature of imagination, the thing imagined is not real. It can be closer to reality or less close, more realistic or more fanciful, but this degree of realism has little or nothing to do with how well the scene draws the reader out of himself, and how firmly he finds himself planted in the shoes of an orphaned boy or, for that matter, an orphaned fawn.

A realistic scene portrayed without craft or genius does not engage the imagination and therefore fails as an exercise of the story-telling art; an unrealistic scene, even one involving magical beings or talking animals, which is told with craft and skill does indeed engage the imagination, and does indeed accomplish the feat that story-tellers are commanded by the muses to attempt.

The answer to the first objection is not so simple, for it involves a subtle distinction between what seem to be twins.

How is a Martian different from a Dark Elf?

People often attempt to distinguish SF from F on the basis of one being a literature of technology and ideas versus the other being a literature of magic and people, but I think Wright’s point about the dividing line being the one between intellect and emotion is cogent and arguably the more convincing.  While there are intellectual strains in many fantasy novels, such as the financial struggles in Westeros(1) or the military logistics in Selenoth, at the end of the day, the focus in these books is as every bit as emotional as the average urban fantasy featuring a necro-bestial love triangle.  The primary appeal of A Song of Ice and Fire, Arts of Dark and Light, and every fantasy since Narnia and Middle Earth is the emotional one of experiencing what it might be like to dwell in those imaginary lands.  It is the appeal of the What and the Why.

A science fiction novel, on the other hand, concerns the intellectual appeal of posing and answering questions that do not involve feeling. It is the appeal of the Who, the When, and the How.  Which is how it is possible to insist, with a straight face, that one can write a science fiction novel about angels as well as a fantasy novel about scientists.

Wright says it all considerably better than I possibly can, so just go there and read the entire thing.  And perhaps unintentionally, he implicitly explains why reading chick lit can, to the average man, very nearly approach the experience of reading science fiction.

(1) In watching A Game of Thrones the other night, I suddenly found myself getting mildly irritated BECAUSE of the financial verisimilitude involved in Tyrion’s attempt to pay for the royal wedding.  While I appreciated the practical realism of the problem as well as the impact it had on the plot, it suddenly occurred to me that Martin engages in a certain amount of handwaving with regards to the economies of the great families.  The Lannisters are unthinkably rich because they have a gold mine and collect taxes in Lannisport and the Westerlands?  Marcus Licinius Crassus laughed. And House Tyrell is very nearly as rich because they have a large quantity of farmland?  Both families are wealthy, to be sure, but the sources of their wealth are not nearly sufficient in historical terms to fund the size of the military activities in which they are engaged.