You Are Not Your Weaknesses

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It’s never been easier to define yourself as a disabled minority. Autism, PTSD, agoraphobia, rape survivor, any and all of a long litany of modern-day maladies. You don’t even need an actual medical diagnosis; just slap the label on yourself, proclaim it to all and sundry as loudly and as often as you can, and only the brave will dare dispute you. If you can pass for an oppressed minority de jour–female, transexual, homosexual, racial or religious minority–more underprivileged points for you. Go on some special places on Tumblr and you’ll see people competing to slap as many labels on themselves: vegan poly autistic queer pangender otherkin diagnosed with ADHD, BPD, PTSD.

But what kind of person defines himself by dividing himself down to the smallest he can be?

Every gratuitous label represents a degradation of the human spirit. It is a narcissistic celebration of weakness. Define yourself by what you can’t do and you tell the world that you are a loser. Identify yourself with special snowflake labels and you tell the world you only crave attention.

I qualify for a number of tumblrina psuedo-labels myself. I will never use them where they are not appropriate. I do not even define myself as autistic. I choose different indicators: author, journalist, thinker, blogger.

I define myself by what I do.

Every declaration of what you won’t or can’t do tells the world that you are not interested in delivering value to others. Thus, the world will not take interest in you. Yes, you can get pity and attention with those labels, but they hold no water with people outside of those narrow circles, and feelgood brings no value to the world or to yourself. Every declaration of what you do and have done tells the world what you can, have and will achieve. It attracts like-minded people to you and bends the universe to your will.

I have achieved far more by drawing people’s attention to what I do and what I have done than to my weaknesses. So can you.

You Are Not Your Wounds

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Never before has the modern world rewarded people for being weak. All they have to do is stick those labels on themselves. Now that they are part of an oppressed underclass, they can organise and demand special rights and privileges. If someone disagrees with them, all they have to do is shout, “You are a privileged cis het homophobic/misogynistic/transphobic/Islamophobic/racist/nazi bigot!”.

This is the logic of social justice and the strategy of cultural Marxism. These people exploit social scripts of compassion, kindness, empathy and charity. By declaring themselves as part of some oppressed minority, they can claim that their demands are legitimate and draw attention to themselves. Anyone who says otherwise with them is a class enemy who must be destroyed.

In-groupers think these labels are power. They think lets them take and take and take from society without ever having to give back. But this is only possible in a society willing to give in. The winds of culture are changing. People are recognising these tactics and the parasites who use them for what they are. When society stops caring about them, what are they left with?

Nothing but shrieks and howls.

With that said, there are plenty of people out there who have experienced trauma, crippling diseases and disabilities, and genuinely need help. I am not unsympathetic. Social justice warriors have appropriated their wounds to wear as armour, and the siren song of power and pity is everywhere in the First World.

But you are more than your wounds. You are more than what you can’t do. If you want to live life fully, you cannot define yourself by the lesser part of who you are.

If you seek to excel, you must overcome them. Mind blindness, social deficits and phobias, sensory issues, what-have-you, these are not things that define you. I’ve seen too many people using them as excuses to justify why they aren’t getting jobs, why they aren’t achieving their goals, why they are wallowing in self-pity and like being losers.

Wounds are not to be picked at and paraded to the world. They are to be healed and learned from. If you want to be great you must step beyond your limits. Identify your weaknesses and reframe them. They are not things holding you back; they are obstacles to be overcome. Know your deficiencies, seek out professional advice to resolve them, and put in the work. Day by day, week by week, month by month, chip away at your weaknesses until they no longer bother you.

This can be terrifying. If you have identified yourself as ‘X’ your entire life, the prospect of changing it could make you feel adrift in the world. And the sheer amount of work needed can be daunting. One method is to identify something better to work towards, something that aspires you to act instead of dragging you into sluggishness. If you are fat, marvel at the beauty and strength of a well-conditioned human body, and work to get there. If you are poor, imagine what you can accomplish if you can increase your wealth tenfold or a hundredfold, and work to get there. Every day, find something that inspires you to reach your goals and take steps towards that, and remove yourself from people and things that prevent you from getting there.

Aspire to be your best self and work towards it.

Be Great

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You’re probably not going to overcome all your weaknesses. That’s okay.

As I grow older my sensory issues have grown more acute. Just today I went shopping for pens that glided smoothly across paper without transferring resistance up into my fingers. When I train with sticks at full power indoors I have to have hearing protection on standby. Once, when shopping for cold weather clothing, I ran my fingers across synthetic down jacket. It elicited a screeching white sensation of disgust overlaid with yellow spikes, a feeling so powerful that it blanked out my brain. These are things that have never happened to me before.

It may not be possible to completely overcome your disabilities. What you can do is strive to achieve a minimum standard of functionality. As a teen I could not stand human contact; today I can power through empty-hand martial arts training and remain functional. When I was younger I had significant social deficits; today I can maintain a healthy relationship with my fiancee. I learned to adapt and overcome, and I’m not done yet.

The wise understand their limits. You may not fully overcome your deficiencies and your weaknesses. What you can do is raise yourself to a level where they will not hamper you, allowing you to exercise your strengths and become the best person you can be.

You are not your weaknesses. You are the sum of your achievements and will become your future glories. Heal from your wounds and mitigate your flaws so they will not get in the way of your strengths. Present the greater part of yourself and leave your mark on the world.

How to Recognise A Soulmate

The modern world has no room for soulmates. The First World has repudiated the strictures of the Church and traditional morality, ushering in an era of free love, rising divorce rates and increasing unhappiness. Corporations have turned Valentine’s Day into an excuse for ostentatious consumption, and with it, an opportunity for immense profit. Skeptics claim love is little more than brain chemistry. Pickup artists laugh at the idea of ‘the One’. Writers in the manosphere advise readers to keep their game tight and prowl for women, marking success by notches on the bedpost. The idea of a soulmate is anathema to them.

They are wrong.

Finding My Soulmate

12 years ago, when I was in secondary school, I was part of the National Cadet Corps. One afternoon we were scheduled for a meeting in a classroom after school. I was the first to arrive; only the cadets from that class were present. I sat at an empty desk, opened my notebook and continued crafting notes on my novel.

A girl sat opposite me. Dark-skinned, short curly hair, an androgynous face. The kind of girl most people wouldn’t look twice at. I kept writing.

“You have nice handwriting,” she said.

Her voice was an electric violet entwined with crystalline greens shot through with yellow, so bright I had to look up at her. She smiled at me.

A strange sensation crept over me. It was the feeling of familiarity, as though I had known her for a hundred lives or more. She was a plain girl, but her eyes were wide and soft and deep, and her smile bursting with joy and warmth. I thought of a photograph dating to the fifties, yellowed with age, of a woman in a pencil skirt and plain blouse, wearing the same smile she did now.

Her classmate wandered over. He was the leader of our company, the one who had called for the meeting.

“Hey Jas,” he said.

A voice in mind, quiet and calm and confident, said, No. Her name is Jasmine.

“This is Benjamin,” he continued.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Jasmine.”

I nodded.

It wasn’t the most romantic of encounters. We never thought that that meeting set the stage for the rest of our lives. But here we are today.

Recognising Your Soulmate

By now a spiritual reader would have recognised the signs and broke out into huge grins. If you’re that person, chances are, you’re going to know what I’m going to talk about. For the rest of you, read on.

To find your soulmate, you must first discard all illusions. Pop culture depicts soulmate relationships as smooth-sailing and effortless. Romance writers like to make everything work out somehow. Fairy tales end their stories with ‘and they lived happily ever after’.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The game gurus of the manosphere have learned to be wise about women. They understand that women are as human as everyone else, prone to frailties, eccentricities and personal failings. They know that the majority of women out there are not suited for long-term relationships with them. They know that women positively respond to specific behaviours and negatively to others, and pass on advice to other men to make them become more attractive. They know the perils of being in long-term relationships with dangerous women, and correctly advise their readers to drop unsuitable mates the second they see the warning signs. They have experienced the suffering that comes from being attached to the idea of any particular woman being ‘the One’ — especially if that woman does not reciprocate their affections — so they teach men to develop the mindset of detachment and abundance.

But those that sneer at the concept of soulmates are mistaken.

The idea of a soulmate is misunderstood by society. Meeting your soulmate does not guarantee a relationship, much less a successful one. A relationship with your soulmate is not guaranteed to be smooth and pleasant. A soulmate may not be with you forever. Meeting your soulmate may be a capstone in your life, but it is not the end. It is, if anything, the beginning of a long and rocky road.

To understand the notion of a soulmate you must understand the soul. It is your essence, the sum of all you are. It is your personality, your worldviews, your beliefs, your habits, your hang-ups, everything that makes up who you are. Your soul is a diamond. And the only thing that can wear down a diamond is another diamond.

When diamonds are unearthed from the ground, they are dull and irregular and plain. Once inside a gem workshop, lapidaries carefully slice away their flaws, wear away rough corners, and meticulously grind facets at precisely-calculated angles. Diamond is so hard that the workmen must use diamond tools to shape diamond. After long hours of labour, the product is a sparkling, opulent gem with a rainbow at its heart.

So it is with your soulmate. A soulmate is a person who reflects your soul in its entirety, both its beauty and its ugliness. When you are with her, it is like diamonds grinding each other down. Your interactions with her bring out both the noblest and basest aspects of your self. She motivates you to exercise your strengths, and she exposes your flaws. And you, too, do the same to her.

Your soulmate inspires you to transform yourself into a glittering diamond of a human being.

Polishing the Diamond

Life with your soulmate becomes a journey of personal transformation and transcendence. But it is neither easy nor automatic. Like the lapidary carefully polishing a diamond, you bothhave to put in the work.

As you might have guessed from the anecdote, as a teen I was surly and antisocial. I was razor-focused on the Great Work of creation. Most people who did not contribute to that simply ceased to be relevant to my life. I had minimal social skills, and I saw no need to be friendly to people.

Jasmine showed me how I had gone wrong. And even today I am still learning from her.

For all this, humans are free. Free to cling to their old ways and free to change. Free to defend a fragile ego and free to exercise compassion. Free to stay and free to walk away.

When you are with your soulmate, you will grind away at each other. Your friction and conflicts will expose your deep-seated insecurities, fears and delusions to the light of day. You can choose to stay the course and work things out. Or you can choose to leave.

Neither choice is always right all the time. As she works on you, you too are working on her. You will see her at her worst. Her ideas, suggestions and actions may not be in your best interests all the time. Blindly going along with everything turns you from a diamond into a doormat, and insisting that she listen to you always is to demand the same from her.

Do not count on angelic proclamations, crackles of metaphysical electricity or flashes of mental imagery to signal a meeting with your soulmate. It is nice if it happens but do not assume it always will. Instead, like the lapidary who examines a diamond with a clear microscope and penetrating light, you must examine your relationship and hold it against measurable benchmarks.

Does your mate celebrate your successes or does she belittle them? Does she encourage you to grow your strengths or bury them? Does she motivate you to be healthier and fitter and wiser, or does she sneer at your attempts at self-improvement? Does she cultivate virtue alongside you or does she ignore you? Does she help you overcome your weaknesses or does she humiliate you for them? Does she encourage you to nurture and grow your wealth or does she leech off you? When caught in a dispute, does she seek to resolve matters with you or does she seek to impose blame? When facing a challenge together, does she partner with you or attempt to impose her will? Most of all: are you happy with her?

You must be brutally honest about yourself. The more she builds you up, the greater you can be sure that she is a keeper. if she tears you down, you must point out such behaviour to her and encourage her to change: if she ceases and changes for the better, she may yet have potential. If she refuses, you must leave. A relationship built on denigration and destruction will not last.

Predators and parasites seek only to grind you into dust. Soulmates offer you the challenge of becoming a diamond.

The Great Dance of Life

Jasmine and I have our issues. Plenty of them. We’re not saints, not by a long shot. But for over a decade, we have helped each other overcome great challenges, resolved some of our deep-rooted problems, faced down our fears and built each other up. We’ve had our ups and downs, our arguments and differences, but we stuck it out and invested the blood and sweat and tears needed to make things work. We still do. We aren’t where we want to be, but we are getting there every day, step by step.

A soulmate is someone you want to share the great dance of life with. Someone who sees you for the diamond that you are and helps you manifest your true potential, and someone whose inherent greatness you feel compelled to bring out. Like polishing a diamond, this dance is long and hard and rocky, but if you’ve found the right person, the challenge is worth it.

To all lovers out there, may you help each other become glittering diamonds in the world. And to all the singles out there, may you find your soulmate someday.

When Caught Between Polarities, Find the Deeper Truth

The world is a complex place. The movers and shakers of the world — people, organisations, superpowers — act and speak in strange, apparently contradictory ways, yet the universe bends to their will, and with it the destinies of ordinary people. Oftentimes the world seems caught between polarities: between centralisation and decentralisation, love and hate, spiritual and secular.

To leave your mark on the world, to avoid being caught in the wakes of clashing leviathans, you must discern the truth.

Truth is a strange thing. The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of a truth is another truth. To understand why this is so, we must peel back the veil of everyday reality and gaze upon the underlying principles of the universe.

The Dao De Jing describes existence as such: “From the Dao comes the one. From the one comes the two. From the two comes the three. From the three comes the ten thousand things.”

Observe the yinyang above. It symbolises the duality of nature, portraying how two seemingly opposite forces are in reality complementary and interconnected. The bright fades into the dark, the dark gives to the light, and nestled within each half is the seed that sprouts into the other.

Yin and yang are not binary opposites. One flows into the other, ever turning round and round in the great dance of life. Yin and yang is idealised as being in a perpetual state of balance. The reality is that yin may overpower yang, or yang overpower yin. The cosmic balance appears to be out of order – but the Dao remains, and all that is timeless and eternal remains the same. What changes is the manifestation of different facets of the Dao.

Ivan Throne of Dark Triad Man elucidates the following exercise. Visualise a long strip of paper. One end is white, the other black. In the space between is infinite shades of grey, with one colour transitioning into the next. Spin the paper round and round, fast as you can, and all you see is grey.

The black end represents the supreme manifestation of a given aspect of reality. The white end is the supreme manifestation of another aspect. The grey zone represents the manifestation of both aspects. Each shade of grey represents how either polarity is manifest in varying degrees and combined into a singularity.

Here are some examples to illustrate this principle.

What is the Truth?

The opposite of love is hate. One is the supreme manifestation of affection, the other the supreme manifestation of hostility. They appear irreconcilable until the moment a wild tsundere appears. When faced with her love interest, the classic tsundere switches wildly between both ends of the scale, acting lovestruck one moment and harsh the next. How can two emotions exist in the same person?

Answer: they do not. A properly-done tsundere experiences intense feelings towards her love interest but lacks the ability to properly comprehend or express said feelings. This is the underlying truth. Whenever she feels this surge of emotions, she expresses them in markedly contradictory ways. Confusion (for the love interest) and hilarity (for the audience) ensues.

From the one (unable to process emotions) comes the two (running hot and cold towards love interest), from the two comes the three (how relationship with the love interest plays out), from the three comes the ten thousand things (how other characters perceive her and her relationship to others, how the audience perceives her and her relationships with other characters, how this affects the audience’s perception of the story, and so on).

Now let’s look at the real world. To be specific: President Donald Trump.

In the real world, we see this in perceptions of controversial figures like Donald Trump. Here is a man who is loved and hated, lauded and feared, embodying the growing polarisation of America. The Alt-Right, New Right and other figures love Trump, hailing him the God-Emperor of America. Everybody bluer than left of centre hates him.

This is deliberate.

Trump has deliberately built an image designed to incite extreme emotional reactions. His supporters love him, his enemies hate him, and his supporters love the fact that his enemies hate him – so they will continue to support him. The underlying truth is that a man who can stir up the passions of the crowd is a man who cannot be ignored and will not be forgotten. This is the principle Trump employed to win the 2016 Presidential elections and take power.

Here is another example: be honest in all your dealings, but conceal yourself with a smokescreen.

How can you be honest if people do not know your intentions? How can you hide yourself effectively if you choose to deal fairly with people?

Answer: carefully choose what you reveal and what you hide.

Again, go back to Trump. On the campaign trail, Trump has made a number of grandiose promises: ban illegal immigration and refugees, roll back federal power, strengthen the economy and make America great again. At the same time, Trump is (in)famous for tweeting non-stop, making pronouncements and attacking his critics on the Internet.

The tweets are his smokescreen. Every time he says something controversial, the media swarm all over it like vultures. He uses simple, emotive language, leading many critics to deride him as a simpleton. The hostile media spends so much time and resources stirring up a two minute hate against his latest soundbite, they have nothing left when he acts.

At the same time, by acting on his campaign promises and signing so many Executive Orders in his first month in office, he has created the appearance of an honest, decisive executive to his supporters. His supporters trust that he will act on his word.

The question, then, is how to determine which of his words are the smokescreen and which of his words reflect his true self. This is a variation of the Japanese concept of honne and tatemae: honne are your true desires, while tatemae is the facade for public consumption (usually, but not always, politically correct). This keeps world leaders and policymakers guessing, letting Trump build up a reputation for unpredictability — a reputation he can use to his advantage.

Here is a third and final example: always court the spotlight, but the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

People only notice other people who stand out from the crowd, but people who stand out from the crowd are destroyed.

If you want to effect great change, you must be visible and command the attention of everyone around you. However, this increased visibility attracts the wrath of your enemies, who will plot to destroy you. Thus, you must hide your true intent and appear to be aligned with the will of the people, preventing your opponents from predicting and overthrowing you.

Look at Trump. Trump’s signature is to go big and press hard, making bold declarations and policy statements that he knows his enemies and opposite numbers won’t stand for. Between his speeches, announcements and air of controversy and unpredictability, he is constantly in the limelight. Not a day passes when he is not the talk of the entire world. His enemies are legion, constantly seeking avenues of attack. But Trump’s ideas echo the sentiments of the public: they resonate with the Americans who feel bullied by the Left, with Americans who fear the effects of mass immigration, with Americans who want the Federal government to stop encroaching on their rights. Trump speaks in simple language that anyone can comprehend, using the most popular technological platform of the day. Whenever Trump is criticised, his supporters — seeing Trump as one of their own — will rise to the defence of the God-Emperor.

Trump’s true thoughts are hidden in the fireworks. He has always scaled back from his opening positions. This makes his opposite numbers feel like they have won concessions, fence-sitters feel that he is reasonable, and his supporters feel that he has merely enacted the first step of his master plan — or that it is as far as Trump can go for now. And the reason he can do that efficiently is because his enemies can’t predict what he really wants and alter their tactics accordingly.

Find the Dao

The ten thousand things appear bewildering and incomprehensible. But all roads lead to the three, to the two, to the one, and to the Dao.

In the face of seemingly contradictory truths, recognise that they are opposite polarities of the same overarching principle manifested in reality. Discern the underlying facet of reality being expressed. That facet is the principle that guides the situation, such as a drive to gain, hold or express power coupled with the desire to defend against hostile attention.

The world may seem complex, yet it is governed by recognisable fundamental principles. The man who can discern and manifest these principles to suit his needs peers through the veil of reality and holds in his hands the levers of the universe.

Photo Credit:

Yinyang: free image from Pixabay
Donald Trump: Dark Triad Man

The Rhetoric of Provocation and Offense

There are many people in the world who will not be persuaded by reason, and even the most rational humans can be swayed with the right emotional leverage. For years the Left has utilised outrage to dominate the political arena. Now the Right is taking up the same tactics, especially the New Right of America. Case in point: Ann Coulter.

Feel the rage? The pleasure? The amusement? Whatever you are feeling now, let it pass through you. When your heart is calm again, read on.

Coulter’s tweet was deliberate. With that one statement, she addressed three separate audiences, with vastly different reactions.

Her first audience are the people who oppose her. A tweet like that impinges on their beliefs and values, triggering outrage and denouncements. Indeed, the hate-fest on that tweet was epic, even by Twitter standards. That tweet would forever alienate this audience.

But what kind of people will get offended over the use of rape as a rhetorical device? People who sympathise with the plight of illegal immigrants, oppose Donald Trump and his policies, and Social Justice Warriors and progressives of every stripe. In other words: people who would never agree with Coulter’s views no matter what. If she is not concerned about their opinion of her, Coulter incurs no cost in offending them.

The second audience are the people who support her. These people support Donald Trump, agree with his proposal to build the wall, and believe illegal immigration is a scourge. They will support every argument against illegal immigration, no matter how emotional or contrived. This is Coulter’s core audience.

Most of them are regular people who despise rape. In their perception, Coulter’s tweet engineered a subconscious connection between illegal immigration and rape. And Trump’s supporters would be well-primed with facts and statistics pointing to the number of illegal immigrants who are gangsters, drug dealers, murderers and rapists. This tweet activated their sense of moral righteousness, triggering feelings of camaraderie and the pleasure of finding a fellow traveler. Coulter’s tweet spoke to the hearts and minds of this audience, and continues to resonate with them.

The third audience are the people who can view the subject dispassionately. They either do not have a stake in the situation, or are able to step back and view the exchange for what it is: an allegory reflecting the absurdity of the original statement. These are the people Coulter would like to win over — but it is a bonus, not her primary objective.

These people can’t be classified into a homogenous mass. Their politics span the entire political spectrum. Their values and morals are equally diverse. Some may appreciate her use of rhetoric; others will be turned off by her talk of rape. But more than a few will use the discussion as a springboard to further examine the issue and investigate Coulter. And they will learn that Coulter correctly predicted the rise of trump, while the sitting Mexican President has one of the lowest approval ratings in history (12%), has been embroiled in scandal after scandal, cracked down on dissenters, allowed the growth of crime and violence, and engaged in a multitude of reforms that weakened the rights of labourers while consolidating power in the hands of the oligarchs. If Coulter manages to convert any of these thinkers to her point of view, she has profited from the tweet.

This strategy of provocation works on three levels. By speaking to her core audience, she maintains and grows her support base. By offending those would be offended anyway, she gets them to blast her tweet far and wide and reach a greater audience, effectively manipulating them to do her work for her. By prodding the non-partisans, she sways who she can to her perspective, generating buzz that keeps the momentum going.

Let’s examine her tweets at the macro level. These are her tweets before her provocative tweet.

These are the ones after (excluding her retweet of Donald Trump).

Notice the sharp uptick in replies, retweets, and likes. Before the tweet, she had an average of 237 replies, 838 retweets and 3300 likes for her past three tweets. After the tweet, the average shot up to 533 replies, 2566 retweets and 7066 likes for her next three tweets.

But that’s not all. In the following three tweets, there is an average of 376 replies, 1086 retweets and 3666 likes. While the momentum generated by the rhetoric tweet is dropping off, the average numbers of replies, retweets and likes are still higher than before the tweet. When Coulter sees her numbers drop below a given threshold, I predict she will say something offensive again, and keep her base growing.

People are drawn to drama. Rhetoric provokes conflict and conflict leads to drama. On social media, retweets and likes are the lifeblood of public figures. They provide a gauge of how that person’s ideas are viewed. Replies are secondary — almost nobody has the time and energy to go through hundreds of responses. The retweets and likes are a rough-and-ready measure for everyone else to see how well-liked and socially-acceptable a tweet is, creating a bandwagon effect that recruits more people to their point of view.

There are many people who insist on decorum and reason — in other words, dialectic. These are nice sentiments, but social media is not the place for dialectic. Every social media platform is designed for entertainment and consumption. Twitter has a hard limit of 140 characters. Gab offers 300. Facebook emphasises one-liners with larger fonts and hides longer statements. Social media is not inherently designed for the rigorous arguments and logical thought processes required to properly deliver dialectic. That is the province of books, blogs, websites, speeches, podcasts, videos and debates — but not text-based social media.

Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalising one. After deciding his values and ideas he will invent reasons to justify his faith in them. To make this work for you. you must trigger a powerful emotional response linked to a specific idea. This will sway someone to your side, making him more receptive to follow-on arguments — if he will not create his own arguments.

The key players of the Alt-Right and the New Right understand this. They know the Left, especially the Control-Left, has used this strategy for years without fail. They scorn the Old Right who refuse to use such tactics in the age of Twitter and Tumblr; by refusing to adapt the Old Right has conceded the culture war to the Control-Left. The New Right, with the Alt-Right as their vanguard, is turning the Left’s tactics against them. The rise of the New Right, with Trump as their God Emperor, reaffirms their use of provocative and offensive rhetoric. They will continue to rely on such rhetoric while taking measures against the real-world consequences of uttering fighting words.

The culture war is upon us, and offensive rhetoric is the weapon of choice. Understand this, or be swept away by the inexorable forces of history, politics and human nature.

Drop the ‘Strong and Independent Female’ Label

Progressives, social justice warriors and feminists love gushing over strong, independent females in fiction. It’s an affirmation of their beliefs and ideas, a reflection of their worldview in popular culture. Critics constantly highlight the presence of such strong, independent females everywhere they appear: books, games, films, everywhere. What is truly remarkable about this phenomenon is that the phrase ‘strong, independent female character’ means nothing at all.

Let’s break it down. We have ‘strong’, ‘independent’ and ‘female character’. The last is self-explanatory. The former two, in the context of fiction, make little sense.

Let’s look at ‘strong’. When pertaining to people, the Merriam-Webster dictionary says:

1:  having or marked by great physical power

2:  having moral or intellectual power

3:  having great resources (as of wealth or talent)

6:forceful, cogent<strong evidence><strong talk>

10:ardent, zealous<a strong supporter>

11a:  not easily injured or disturbed :solid

11b:  not easily subdued or taken <a strong fort>

13:  not easily upset or nauseated <a strong stomach>

While ‘strong’ makes for a convenient shorthand, the word carries so many connotations that as a descriptor it is vague to the point of meaninglessness.

A female character may have an IQ in the 99th percentile, but if she can’t even lift a 20kg barbell, can she be called ‘strong’? A female character may be an Amazonian, but if she runs away at the first sign of conflict, can she be called ‘strong’? If a female character is a billionaire with a talented staff of hundreds, yet squanders her wealth and time chasing frivolities, can she be called ‘strong’?

The word ‘strong’ requires context for a complete understanding of the character. Why not simply use more specific words?

What about ‘independent’? Merriam-Webster says:

:  not dependent: as

a(1):  not subject to control by others :self-governing

(2):  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independent bookstore>

b(1):  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent <an independent conclusion>

(2):  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3):  not bound by or committed to a political party

c(1):  not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) <independent of her parents>(2):  being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living <a person of independent means>

d:  showing a desire for freedom <an independent manner>

The character doesn’t need other people to make decisions for her. She is capable of making her own choices and driving the plot through her actions. By being self-reliant, she stands out from the other characters, and her will sometimes clashes with theirs, creating the drama that feeds fiction.

In other words, she is a major character.

‘Strong and independent’ basically means ‘plausible major character’. There’s no point in celebrating main characters just because they happen to be female; all it means is that you’re only concerned about appearances. The label of ‘strong and independent’ will not make female characters stand out. The term has been used so many times, semantic satiation has set in, rendering the label little more than fluff.

In the realm of fiction, words are currency. If you are a writer, marketer, reviewer or otherwise involved in the industry describing a female character, seek superior words to more accurately reflect the character and make her stand out from the crowd.

Is she a sharpshooter and a martial arts expert? That makes her a human weapon. Is she capable of defending her dignity and achieving her goals in the face of widespread prejudice? That makes her assertive. Does she have an IQ of 180 and regularly invents world-shaking inventions? She is a genius. Has she survived major trauma and bounced back? She is resilient. Can she turn her enemies against each other? Then she is manipulative.

In other words, describe her as though she were a man.

Male characters aren’t described as ‘strong and independent’; they are described by skills, history and worldview, making them stand apart from each other. When freed of fluffy shorthand labels, they all become unique.

By contrast, female characters who labelled ‘strong’ and ‘independent’ are reduced to three words: strong, independent and female, signifying nothing of import. Their identities are erased, and they are all damned by faint praise.

This post isn’t about sexual differences or sexual politics. It is simply about crafting a brand for major characters through the use of powerful descriptors.

Don’t settle for the ‘strong and independent’ label for females and males. Seek more accurate and impactful words, and make the characters shine.

Inducing Flow Through Mindful Writing

You have finite time and energy. The world has infinite distractions. How, then, can a writer stay true to his calling?

I began writing my first novel when I was 13. Every day, I sat at my beat-up second-hand laptop and wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote until I was done. Then I went to bed, got up and did it all over again. When I wasn’t doing homework, studying or tending to other activities, I was writing. A year later, I had a 300-page manuscript.

The year after that, I completed a shorter novel in nine months. This year, I wrote the equivalent of three full-length novels, each over 120,000 words long.

I strive to be mindful in my writing, to develop and maintain moment-by-moment awareness throughout the act of writing. When I write, I write with the union of mind, body and soul, racing to the moment when consciousness implodes into a singularity of being, where the story and I are one and the same.

This is a state of flow. It is energised focus and total involvement, enjoyment and wonderment that goes bone-deep, a thousand seeds blossoming into ideas and characters and actions and turns of phrase. It is the hand of the muse and the voice of God working through you.

The best stories come from the place of eternal stillness within. It is the throne of the muse and the palace of the soul. It is where your subconscious processes and integrates every idea floating in your head, spinning threads of pure gold. In that place there is no room for distraction or excess motion, only the truth of your vision and the truth of the world. From this stillness comes flow, and from flow comes mastery.

To reach that place of stillness, you must emulate it.

Approach writing as a ritual, with all the sacredness that entails. Block out a time and place for writing, when you are sure you will not be disturbed and have the time and energy to write. This may be early in the morning, during lunch, late at night, or whenever it pleases you. Set yourself a writing goal, be it to write for a set period of time or a set number of words, and get to it.

Once you begin writing, do not blaspheme this region of spacetime with the noise of the world. Brook no distractions. No chatting with people, no switching to YouTube at whim, no wandering down Wikipedia articles, no people coming in and disturbing you. There should be nothing in the background; every additional stimulus saps attention, energy and time from your work. Sink yourself fully into your work. Where attention goes, energy goes; where energy goes, mastery goes; where mastery goes, success goes.

The exception to the rule is if that stimulus helps you write better. Some authors work best at a standing desk or on a treadmill. Some find inspiration in music, others in the chatter of a lively cafe around them. If such background stimuli engages your brain and helps produce better work, then seek out and create these conditions. As for myself, the sight of words appearing on the screen, the texture of the keyboard and the clacking of keys is more than adequate simulation to propel my fingers along.

You may find yourself distracted while working. That is fine. The fact that you are aware of yourself being distracted means that you are being mindful. Simply redirect your attention to your work carry on. Do not let your thoughts linger on self-recrimination; the emotional energy is more profitably spent on your work.

You may not always meet your writing goals. You may occasionally exceed them. Neither event should leave much of an emotional impact on you. Allow yourself to feel regret or jubilation as appropriate, then reconcile yourself with the fact that the time has slipped away and there will be more opportunities to write in the future. Approach these sessions as lessons: if you have failed to meet your goal, think about how you can improve; if you have exceeded your goal, see what you did right and do better. No matter what happens, the computer, the desk, and the page will still be waiting the following day. There is always a story waiting to be written.

When you are done, walk away. Return to your mundane life, absorb fresh ideas from the world, and re-energise yourself. Energy is wealth and energy is limited; if you do not recover, you cannot create.

Mindfulness leads to flow, flow leads to productivity, productivity leads to success. Cultivate mindfulness, create and sustain the conditions for flow, and produce the best work you can.

Cultural Appropriation Enriches Everything

Lionel Shriver gave a speech critiquing the concept of cultural appropriation, leading to this temper tantrum filled with politically correct whining. I’m amused that people think ‘cultural appropriation’ is an intellectually honest concept.

What is cultural appropriation? From Shriver’s speech:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

But let’s go deeper into progressive-speak and take Everyday Feminism‘s definition of cultural appropriation. (Emphasis theirs)

In short: Cultural appropriation is when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own.

But that’s only the most basic definition.

A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.

That’s why cultural appropriation is not the same as cultural exchange, when people share mutually with each other – because cultural exchange lacks that systemic power dynamic.

It’s also not the same as assimilation, when marginalized people adopt elements of the dominant culture in order to survive conditions that make life more of a struggle if they don’t.

Some say, for instance, that non-Western people who wear jeans and Indigenous people who speak English are taking from dominant cultures, too.

But marginalized groups don’t have the power to decide if they’d prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture’s traditions just for fun.

Even with this more specific definition, cultural appropriation is nonsense. Culture is intangible. It is a set of ideas and practices. If a stronger party adopts elements of culture from a weaker party, the weaker party is not in any way further diminished. If anything, the weaker party spreads its memes and ideas to the stronger party, giving it influence over the latter.

How is this not a subversion of the dominant culture? How does this undermine the weaker culture?

The concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ suggests that there is a deliberate effort to steal cultural ideas, but this is clearly not so. Is there an equivalent of an Archchancellor of Cultural Warfare who decrees that the people of his empire should unanimously adopt the practices of a given oppressed people in a certain year? Is there a grand conspiracy that decides which cultures to promote and which cultures to ignore?

No. It’s simply people deciding to adopt the ideas of another culture after finding them useful to their lives.

Looking at the three concepts of culture promulgated by Everyday Feminism, you will see that they are saying that dominant cultures are evil for taking ideas from a weaker culture and for imposing those ideas on a weaker culture. In other words: heads I win, tails you lose. The only way to win is to not play — or to be a self-designated victim.

As an idea to grapple with reality, ‘cultural appropriation’ is intellectually bankrupt. It is simply an excuse for an arbitrarily-designated minority to point and shriek at an arbitrarily-designated majority under the guise of cultural protection. It is a tool to justify affirmative action of the basest kind: to tear down or promote someone else’s work not because of its merits and demerits, but solely on the basis of identity. It is a weapon that self-declared ‘progressives’ use to erase the vibrancy of humanity.

In Singapore, the local patois is Singlish,  English organized along Chinese grammatical rules with loanwords from Malay, Tamil and various Chinese dialects. Singaporean cuisine is a fusion of every culture that has passed through the land. You can find Chinese selling nasi lamak, Indians cooking Western food, Malays preparing curry chicken, and a vast array of restaurants offering food to suit every palate, be it Japanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, vegetarian, even kosher food. Peranakan people are of Chinese descent who settled in the Malay Archipelego, speak a creole of Malay and Hokkien, have Chinese religious customs and adopt Malay fashions, and developed a distinct cuisine. Among the locals and foreigners who pass through Singapore, English (or Singlish) is the language that bridges everybody.

The world would be a far poorer place if people refused to adopt ideas from different cultures.

Where writers are concerned, the first thing they should do is focus on the story. Not the PC harpies shrieking about cultural appropriation, not the elitists who sneer at anything that isn’t capital-L literature, not the social justice warriors who project their narcissism and inadequacies on everyone.

If you’re a writer writing about a culture you’re unfamiliar with, you have to do your research. You have to capture nuances of behaviour, the idiosyncrasies of language, fashion sense, cuisines, social hierarchies, everything that marks a given culture. To do anything less is a disservice to the story.

Dressing up the setting of your story in foreign clothes but making everyone sound like you doesn’t enrichen the story. Kubo and the Two Strings, for instance, has the dressings of Japan, but everyone speaks and acts like Americans, and the weapons and armour are period-inappropriate. This is not cultural appropriation, though — this is simply a failure to do the research, or else a deliberate stylistic choice that detracts and distracts from the story.

Writing about a foreign culture is a road to growth and empathy — the opposite of SJWs who would demand that everyone shut up and stay in their little boxes. Done right, works about different cultures contribute to the wonder and the majesty of art — the opposite of SJWs who would rather everything be reduced to grey, flavorless mush. Stories of different peoples allow readers to see through the eyes of others — the opposite of SJWs whose insistence on arbitrary identities require that everyone become soulless, narcissistic blobs incapable of empathising with anyone.

If you like an idea from a different culture, don’t be afraid to use it. Never let the harpies keep you from greatness.

Female Characters are not Men with Breasts

The stench of social justice is strong with this piece.

Which is why Rat Queens is so damn important: it’s essentially a D&D campaign driven by women. The heart of the story follows the eponymous mercenary team, a brash quartet who know what they want and just go for it…

 

On the off-chance that you don’t relate to any of the Queens, good news! There’s a slew of other ladies to love and admire! Lola is the muscular second-in-command in the city guard; Braga is a death-defying lady orc built like a tank; Tizzie is Hannah’s very blonde and very feminine friend-turned-chief rival; Faeyri is Betty’s punk elf girlfriend.

Even some of the baddies are women! “Old Lady” Bernadette is a merchant, tired of the Queens constantly destroying her businesses, and the team has to face down a troll army led by a pissed off girlfriend (after they killed her boyfriend earlier in the story—hey, the dude was trying to smash them all into paste! It was absolutely self-defense!)…

 

And, let’s not forget, some killer representation. Not only is there an amazing preponderance of ladies, there’s also people of color (in a fantasy world! Because if you can have dwarves and dragons, you sure as hell can have black people) and LGBT+ representation (Betty’s a lesbian and Braga’s transgender)…

 

With so many of us ladies demanding better representation and hungry for anything starring women, the network that adapted Queens would also be guaranteed a huge female viewership, which is nothing to sneeze at. We’re half the population, folks, and we deserve to have more loud and proud heroines to admire in our media.

When I read fantasy, I think of sweeping landscapes, intricate magic systems, sprawling empires, clashes of cultures and civilisations, and tales of good and evil. The best fantasy stories should tell readers something timeless about human nature. Spending one in six paragraphs talking up women and diversity tells me that either the story is incredibly bland, or that the writer is incredibly solipsistic. I suspect both.

Look at the character descriptions.

Hannah is the mage: an aggressive, tattooed, and confrontational lady who would like nothing better than to pick a fight with the entire world. Her parents are necromancers, so she has a direct line to the next world.

‘Aggressive, tattooed and confrontational’ are masculine traits. There are women who are like that, and all of the ones I’ve met who embody those traits are fundamentally broken. People who ‘would like nothing better than to pick a fight with the entire world’ usually get their wish–and usually die soon after. There is always a bigger fish, and if you spend your life fighting everybody you meet, the bigger fish will oblige. People with this character trait aren’t badass — they’re flawed. They are ticking time bombs with a sharply limited life expectancy.

Violet is the resident dwarf and swordswoman. She’s got a chip on her shoulder re: her culture and family and shaves her beard as a statement. She’s also the most heavily-armored of the Queens and has a driving need to prove herself.

Body hair is political only to feminists. This seems to be an inversion of modern-day feminism’s obssession with keeping armpit and leg hair. This tells me nothing about the character, only the creator’s hamfisted attempts at pushing a political message. Further, people with a ‘driving need to prove’ themselves by taking up an inherently violent profession and deliberately entering combat tend to be men with an excess of testosterone.

Further, being the resident swordswoman, she should know better than to mount swords on her back, and she would understand the virtues of not carrying so much gear that they could catch on anything, interfere with her actions and slow her down. The character designs tell me that the creator chose style over substance — as expected of third-rate stories.

Betty is fondly referred to as a “smidgen” by her teammates; she’s pretty clearly a halfling/hobbit, and because of her size and speed, she’s often the thief (when they need information) or a projectile weapon (in a melee). Betty’s typically high on a lethal mixture of magic mushrooms and sugary candy and is pretty laid back as a result.

In other words, she’s a drug addict. That makes her a liability in the real world. Not badass.

And size and speed does not a thief make. Real thieves are stealthy and smooth. Fast and unnatural actions draw attention, and attention leads to a lethal dose of metal poisoning. A real thief would be invisible in plain sight, unseen and unknown until after the job. A good thief would stay unknown well after the job — quite the opposite of the Rat Queens’ reputation. (See The Thief, the Burke series, and other crime noir stories for more realistic representations of actual thieves.)

Further, ‘(small) size and speed’ do not a good projectile weapon user make. Longbows, for instance, require immense upper body strength. Crossbows may need less strength than longbows, but longbows have a faster rate of fire. Slings, darts and javelins are propelled by the user’s muscles; speed comes from body mechanics and proper application of bodyweight. If we’re talking fantasy weapons not reliant on gunpowder or magic, strength matters. So does size–the larger the better. Not the other way around.

Dee is the group’s cleric and healer. An atheist with divine abilities, thanks to being raised in a cult that worships a flying squid—think Lovecraft meets the Flying Spaghetti Monster—she’s also the homebody of the Queens. While the others love nothing more than a rousing bar fight, Dee would prefer to stay home with a big book.

Now this does not make sense. Clerics are not inherently powerful; they channel the power of their god(s) based on their long-standing relationship with the divine. In harder fantasy settings, clerics and other believers must act in ways commensurate with the morals and creed of the power they worship, or suffer the consequences. How can a person who does not believe in gods draw on the power of gods when she will not form a relationship with something she does not believe in, much less embody the values of that greater power? Being raised in a flying squid cult is not enough; by being an atheist she repudiates the squid, severing her relationship with it. By drawing on the power of the squid, or any other divinity, she necessarily forms a relationship with a divine being, which means she must confront her atheism. And the divine power, in turn, will pay more attention to her and her behaviour — and wonder why she still will not believe in it. At the very least, she must resolve the question of whether she can have a relationship with something she does not believe in. You do not get to be fashionably atheist and still be blessed with the power of a god without having to reconcile the two.

Berry sums up the Rat Queens as such:

A team of hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, fun-loving, totally asskicking female mercenaries.

‘Hard-drinking’ and ‘foul-mouthed’ are masculine characteristics. They are the traits of men and male soldiers I have been around. The female soldiers I have served with tend to be less hard-drinking and foul-mouthed than the men, and indeed, in an interview with Pioneer magazine, male sailors recounted reminding each other to watch their language after female sailors were assigned to the ship. The presence of women make men gentlemen; they should not make the world even more masculine.

The most damning flaw with Rat Queens is that I don’t see women. I see men with breasts. They act like men, talk like men, drink like men and fight like men. Nothing in their described behaviour sets them apart from the male soldiers and adventurers I have known. There is nothing about, say, compassion, diplomacy, morality, relationship-building, solidarity or any other traits that women tend to employ more than men.

At the same time, the Rat Queens get away with things men will not, because they are women.

Due to their wild partying, they’re on the mayor’s naughty list in their current home base of Palisade and have frequent brushes with the law (good thing Hannah can usually seduce the Captain of the Guard and get them all off “on good behavior”).

Real mercenaries and operators know that you cannot afford to alienate your home community, especially the movers and shakers.Men who do what the Rat Queens do will quickly find themselves arrested, imprisoned and exiled. Or executed. At the very least, they will have to deal with the wrath and resentment of the businesses they bust up, and the constant attention of local law enforcement. But the Rat Queens get to get away with destructive behaviour because of Hannah’s feminine wiles, and the mayor’s inability to have the Captain of the Guard replaced.

Berry’s write-up on the Rat Queens tells me that this comic is typical feminist fantasy fare. The comic portrays unbelievable women who enjoy the traits of men and the privilege of women without having to deal with the consequences of their behaviour.

I don’t care whether a fantasy story has minority representation, diversity or women or whatever. I care whether the story is believable. Fantasy stories, especially good stories by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and John C. Wright, are stories about timeless truths. Fantasy stories that do not reflect the truth are failed stories.

The Unmaking of Heroes

I grew up with heroes. Sun Wu Kong, Perseus, Thor (the god not the comic book character), Bellerophon, the Eight Immortals, Justice Bao, Heracles, David. The list goes on and on. As I grew older, I found different kinds of heroes: Kusanagi Makoto, Batman, Okumura Rin, the Punisher, Deunun Knute. And, yes, Captain America.

People need cultural heroes. They want to see the triumph of good over evil, virtue over vice. They want to see the wicked punished and the just rewarded. They want to see brave and resourceful people overcome impossible odds. It’s a universal trait, seen in every culture around the world.

People want to believe. They want to be inspired. By reading of heroes doing great things, they can believe that they, too, can achieve great things. When they see heroes smite the wicked, they can believe that they, too, can be agents of righteousness in the world. When they see heroes outwit, outlast or outtalk the enemy, they can believe that they, too, can achieve such greatness.

Belief in virtue is a powerful thing. From such belief we have Martin Luther King Jr., Chiang Kai Shek, George Washington, the Righteous Among the Nations, Sophie Scholl, the Four Chaplains. The everyday unsung heroes.

Never underestimate the power of belief. Never underestimate the power of stories to inspire greatness.

And so, with a heavy heart, I read of Nick Spencer perverting Captain America, turning him from incorruptible paragon to insidious mole.

The Triumph of the Message

Amidst the Sturm und Drang over the revelation of Captain America being a Hydra agent, one small detail was almost left out: the Red Skull, the leader of Hydra. Here’s what he had to say:

“I have just come from Europe — my homeland, in fact. And do you know what I saw there? It was an invading army. These so-called ‘refugees’ — millions of them — marching across the continent, bringing their fanatical beliefs and their crime with them,” Captain America’s nemesis says. “They attack our women, and bomb our cities. And how do our leaders respond? Do they push them back and enforce the borders, as is our sovereign duty? Of course not. They say, ‘Here, take our food. Take our shelter. Take our way of life, and then take our lives.’ Despicable.”

“Your entire culture is under siege,” Red Skull continues to an American audience. “The principles your country was founded upon lost in the name of ‘tolerance.’ Your religion, your beliefs, your sense of community — all tossed aside like trash. And you cannot even speak out against it, lest you be called a bigot!”

This is the rhetoric of American conservatives, the alt right, and European nationalists. Spencer clearly wants to criticise right-wing ideology in his comic. And he isn’t afraid of how much history he has to pervert.

Hydra’s goal is world domination, to implement a fascist new world order. One would imagine that Red Skull would welcome mass illegal immigration and terrorism. This would undermine borders and faith in national governments, creating the conditions that would allow Hydra to step in. Hydra’s ideal recruits would be people who believe in its dream of a united world, run by ubermenschen like themselves, and are willing to commit terrorism. In all the depictions I have seen, Red Skull does not see himself as an American or a German or a European or anything but the leader of Red Skull — and yet here he speaks like an ultranationalist.

Captain America is a paragon of American virtue. I imagine that by some twisted leap of logic, he must also also be an American ultranationalist zealot.

This story concept is weak. It is inherently flawed. Why would a globalist organisation start spouting nationalist doctrine? Why would an organisation hell-bent on world domination espouse ideas that would further divide the world and make it harder for it to achieve its goals?

Spencer wants to portray Hydra as a right-wing organisation inspired by modern nationalist thought. But he doesn’t understand the international right-wing movement. Right-wing parties want to end immigration — and the crime and terrorism that follows mass illegal immigration — and rebuild their societies. They do not care about world domination or invading other countries; they want to restore the days of glory. While there may be cooperation between nationalists and ultranationalists across borders, they aren’t out to rule the world; they’re out to kick out the outsiders and enforce their national sovereignties. Their alliances are built upon opposition to globalisation and supranational organisations like the European Union. It is logically inconsistent for a terrorist group that aims to unite the world under its rule to support an ideology that would keep the world fractured into sovereign states.

And what if this Hydra is now an ultranationalist organisation? Then the question I must ask is: which nation is it supporting? Why does it have a German leader attempting to recruit Americans? Why would it want to poke its nose into the affairs of other nations? Ultranationalists have a national scope, globalists have a global vision; this Hydra is somehow both nationalist and globalist, a walking contradiction that cannot exist and survive for long. Not in the real world and not in fiction.

I have no doubt that Spencer and his allies intend to resolve this story arc by preaching the triumph of the ideology opposed to nationalism: globalism, tolerance, diversity. The same ideology that Hydra — the original Hydra — would have to embrace to be a world-spanning international terrorist organisation with one vision and one goal.

The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. Spencer sacrificed story logic on the altar of politics. No doubt the ‘revelation’ of Captain America’s secret betrayal would generate international controversy — which would ideally push sales — but the story is doomed from the start. Hydra is the core of this story, and Hydra is not logically consistent. If the core of the story cannot hold, the rest of it must fall. Such is the fruit of placing message over story.

A Return to Virtue and Glory

Spencer placed message over story, and the story will fail. We have seen this again and again and again, from dishonouring the original Thor (the comic book character) to create a female Thor, Spider-Woman risking her baby to fight crime while pregnant, to lazily inserting self-censored postmodern commentary into the mouth of a Norse god without having the guts to actually articulate these words or explain why the god would care about modern society.

The intellectually honest thing to do would be to create new characters, new antagonists and new franchises. New worlds with internal consistency and the freedom to fully explore ideas and themes without being shackled by established canon or fan expectations. Instead, a number of ‘creators’ chose to subvert existing heroes, and now they chose to turn a hero into a villain.

This is why I stand with Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. Stories must come first; messages mean nothing without strong stories. This is why I stand with the Superversive and Human Wave movements. Stories can be a force for good in this world. These ideas underpin my stories, and if they put me at odds with the world, I am proud to oppose.

Social Justice Warriors wish to end the old age of heroes. Now they are converging on pop culture and twisting the popular heroes of my youth. There is only one solution.

Make new heroes.

 

Only Goodthink Allowed in SFF

The cult of social justice strikes again. Social Justice Warriors have launched a whisper campaign to purge the works of John C. Wright, Larry Correia, Brad R Torgersen and Michael Z Williamson from science fiction and fantasy bookstores in Toronto.

All of them have been accused of making homophobic comments. Only Wright has made remarks that could be argued as such; he called homosexuality an ‘aberration’. The others have not.

Their true crime was being associated with the Sad and Rapid Puppies campaigns, designed to encourage greater participation and transparency in the Hugo Awards. In doing so, they challenged the SJWs who insisted on turning the Hugo awards into a parochial contest to determine who can most blatantly signal their adherence to the principles of social justice in fiction, culminating in a self-congratulatory ritual that refuses to recognise the groundbreaking authors who have broadened the field of SFF.

The objective of the campaign is clear: to purge authors for thoughtcrime, leaving room only for goodthink. This is naked authoritarianism, and authoritarianism is authoritarianism no matter which side of the political spectrum approves it. Coming from a country that bans politically embarrassing books, such as Once a Jolly HangmanI cannot stand back and watch others attack the livelihoods of authors solely because they disagree with their politics.

There will come a time in the not too distant future when the SJWs will no longer resort to whisper campaigns. They will openly leverage the arms of the state to have thoughtcrime removed from bookshelves — and governments will acquiesce. Authors the world over need to be ready for this possibility.

The short-term solution is redundancy. Print and mortar bookshops are a dying trade. The modern author needs to explore alternative means of getting books out. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is the world standard in publishing and distributing books. Other options include Smashwords, Lulu and Lightning Source. Authors can also attempt to sell and distribute books, print and digital, from online shopfronts, like Chuck Wendig and Joanna Penn. Multiple redundant distribution streams will prevent a sudden loss of income should SJWs succeed in cutting one down.

But the long-term answer is antifragility. An SJW censorship attack should be treated as an opportunity, not a crisis. Hit back on every media channel you own and get your side of the story out. Ride the waves of controversy to generate greater attention for your books. Expose the SJWs for who and what they are, and ally yourself with the people who would stand against them. And let all and sundry know where else they can find your books.

There is no such thing as bad publicity, only opportunities to leverage other platforms. There is no censorship, only opportunities to drive customers to other distribution channels. There is no permanent victory for SJWs and their ilk: through the power of truth and new media, they shall be overcome.