Between SocJus and PulpRev at the Dragon Awards

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The science fiction and fantasy community is divided by a long-standing culture war. On one side are the social justice warriors and their allies, who wish nothing more than to churn out thinly-disguised propaganda and shut down everyone who disagrees with them. On the other are PulpRev, Superversive, the Sad and Rabid Puppies and those who side with them, united in a singular purpose: to make SFF great again.

The old pulp tales were the literature of the masses. They were tales of high adventure and excitement; stories of distant worlds, exotic cultures and superscience; fiction filled with hope, courage, verve, heroism and, most of all, fun. Free from genre conventions and ideological shackles, writers were free to let their imaginations soar and entertain their readers. From this age came the cultural icons of the West: Conan the Cimmerian, John Carter of Mars, the Shadow, Jirel or Joiry. This age birthed the great writers of the modern SFF canon: Robert E Howard, Poul Anderson, Leigh Beckett, C L Moore. Cheap and cheerful, the pulps made reading enjoyable for everyone.

But, in the words of pulp advocate Jasyn Jones, “Every age of F&SF after the Pulps has been about less: less variety, less action & adventure, fewer heroics and less heroism. Less imagination. Less of all the things that make F&SF great.”

Today, when you look at modern SFF, you’ll see the same catch phrases: subversive, challenging dogmas, progressivism, inclusiveness, post-modern. They are codewords for ‘boring’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘contemptuous of the reader’.

To the social justice warrior, the personal is the political. Everything one does must in some way be linked to political activity–and the only acceptable politics is ‘progressivism’, ‘liberalism’ and other -isms of the day. Thus, social justice fiction can’t settle for being fiction; they must brainwash the reader into accepting the core tenants of social justice and denouncing everything else as doubleplusungood. To survive, SocJus must drown out everything that is not itself, and it must not tolerate dissent — never mind that it is the surest form of cultural suicide.

Marvel went full-blown social justice with its comics, employing everything from gender flips to race-switching to suddenly-queer characters. The Ghostbusters 2016 remake replaced the original cast with women and made that the sole selling point. The result: financial disaster.

It’s not enough for these social justice warriors to cram their ideology down their audience’s throats. They aim to destroy their competition through whisper campaigns, social exclusion and outright lies. Aided by cliquish editors and a horde of fellow travelers, they drown out non-believers by smearing them the labels of ‘discrimination’, ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ and other nonsense.

The Young Adult industry saw its latest controversy with SJWs attacking The Black Witch by cherry-picking selected passages and proclaiming the entire novel to be ableist and racist and other -ists. When the Sad Puppies campaign recommended a number of writers for the Hugo Awards, the mainstream media denounced it as a ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ campaign by white supremacists to reserve the Hugo awards for white men — never mind that the founder, Larry Correia, is Portuguese, and that the Sad Puppies recommendations had far greater diversity of race, sex and politics than the past three decades of Hugo Award winners. I have myself been denounced as a ‘hard-core Puppy’ (and therefore racist and sexist) just because I wrote a blog post thanking my fans and editor for recommending one of my stories for the Hugos.

Social justice corrodes everything it touches. Today, there are precious few SFF books published within my lifetime that I can stand. Almost all of them come from two publishing houses–Baen and Castalia House–and all of them have one thing in common: they place the reader above politics.

This is where PulpRev and other groups come in.

PulpRev pays homage to the great masters of the past, figuring out what made their stories great and how to apply these lessons for future fiction. The Superversive movement wants to go one step further, creating fiction that is uplifts and builds up instead of degrading and tearing down. We come from many nations, represent both sides of the political spectrum, hail from a wide range of backgrounds, but we all believe in the same cause: to create entertaining SFF.

Social justice fiction is fatally flawed. It assumes that any fiction that does not explore and expound upon the cause du jour — minority representation, global warming, Strong Female Characters, anti-capitalism, anti-religion, LGBTQ — are fundamentally incomplete, daring so far as to say that creators who do not include these elements are saying that these things do not exist. SJWs overcompensate by making their fiction all about these causes and nothing else, leaving no room for everything else.

PulpRev recognizes that life is more than just these causes, that fiction isn’t simply about expounding a cause but about building worlds within worlds. Worlds of splendor and beauty and truth and reason, worlds populated by men and women and children and talking animals and monsters and spirits and demons and angels and gods, worlds that recreate the breath of your love and the dry heat of the summer sun and the crackling of dry leaves and the sticky sweat of an honest day’s work, worlds built on awe and wonder and courage and virtue even as they recognise lust and vice and sin and fear and naked evil. Worlds, in other words, that are worth living in.

And we take these worlds and cram them into our prose and offer them to our readers with hopes and prayers, believing that to someone, somewhere, these stories will chase away sadness, catalyse joy and inspire heroism.

You may not wish to declare for one side or another. PulpRev and Superversive will not denounce you if you do not join us. But understand that the SJWs will not leave you alone. To them, you are either ally or heretic, with no in-between. If you keep your head down you won’t be noticed. But if you speak about something that does not toe the party line, they will come for you. They don’t care what you did, be it mildly disagreeing with accusations of racism, praising books on the wrong slate, or daring to produce a story that does not conform exactingly to the agenda of the day.

You may not care about the culture war, but rest assured, the culture war cares about you.

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The Dragon Awards are the next front in the culture war. Aiming to represent all of fandom, the Dragon Awards seek to recognise the best SFF of the previous year in wide-ranging genres and media. Here is an opportunity to recognise the creators whose mission is to make SFF great, while sending a message to the SocJus nominees that thinly-veiled propaganda is no longer welcome in the field.

Speaking only in my personal capacity, I would recommend the following:

Best Science Fiction Novel: The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal): A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright
Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz
Best Alternate History Novel: No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah
Best Apocalyptic Novel: Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz
Best Horror Novel: Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

These nominees (myself included), are known members and allies of the PulpRev, Superversive and Puppies movements. Further, Jagi L. Lamplighter, author of Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland, is also an early founder of the Superversive movement and was nominated for Best YA/middle grade novel. However, Brian Niemeier has very graciously offered to grant the award to her should he win. Thus, to prevent vote dilution, I would recommend voters to pick Swan Knight’s Son and The Secret Kings.

In addition, I must point out the nominees known to be affiliated with or are social justice warriors.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa
Mass Effect: Andromeda by Bioware

Scalzi reportedly withdrew from the Award today, but if his name is still on the ballot, consider this a warning against him. The Collapsing Empire was so badly written that a hastily-written parody quickly outsold it on Amazon.

Jemisin is a racist who hates whites and denigrates fandom. Everything associated with Marvel Comics is tainted, and Ms. Marvel is no exception. Mass Effect: Andromeda is a buggy mess that was, and remains, critically panned for its game-breaking bugs and phony dialogue — and among its key developers was a white-hating racist more focused on SocJus than making a great game.

The culture war is not merely about left or right, liberators versus supremacists. It is about whether creators should place entertaining their audience above personal politics. PulpRev and Superversive prioritise the audience, SocJus prioritises politics. The former creates fantastic fiction, the latter overpriced propaganda. With your help, we can keep the momentum going and support the creators who respect the craft and you. Together, we can make SFF great again.

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Racism Is Not Hurt Feelings

If Social Justice Warriors are to be believed, we live in the most racist period of human history. Racists are everywhere: in school, in church, in government. The only way to deal with them is to point your fingers and shriek. And to an SJW, there is a simple test for racism: if you are offended, it is racist.

Mothership.sg ran an article detailing the ‘everyday racism’ an Indian girl, Chandralekha, described in her blog. She is a student at the Business School of the National University of Singapore, and claimed that she she experienced so much racism she broke down into tears. I went to her blog expecting stories of discrimination, bullying and violence.

What I got was the usual litany of SocJus complaints.

Racism is Everywhere!

Her first complaint came from orientation:

We had a lot of games and for some reason, it required everyone to say some “phrases” in Mandarin. I can’t speak Mandarin >because I have never learnt it. I struggled to remember the phrases and say it properly. But I tried my best. Having noticed >this, my group’s leader came up to me and asked me how come I didn’t know Chinese? I was taken aback because no one has >asked me that before. Like it was an expectation. Everyone in Singapore is supposed to know. I told him that I didn’t take >Chinese in school. He got very confused. If the question that he had already asked wasn’t bad enough, he then asked me if I >was a Singaporean and if I was born in Singapore. That was a slap on my face. My nationality was questioned because I didn’t >speak Chinese. Wow. It was just plain ignorance. I can’t remember what I said after that or if I even said anything at all. I was >just stunned. Since primary school, I have been on the receiving end of Appunehneh jokes and jokes on my skin colour. It >doesn’t help that you’re a girl and that too a fat one. I had foolishly hoped that when I go to university, it would all stop >because people would be less ignorant. I realized that it had just taken another form.”

I’ve been asked similar questions my entire life. I have been asked if I were American, Australian, British, Taiwanese, a Chinese national, a Hong Konger, Korean, a New Zealander, a Eurasian or half-Indian half-Chinese. (The answer is no.) I don’t speak with a Singaporean accent and I don’t speak Singlish. My voice and appearance throws off a lot of people. It is annoying to field the same questions over and over and over again, but these questions indicate that the questioner wants to know more about you.

The alternative is that they don’t care about you and don’t want to learn more about you. Or are too afraid to be called racists for asking.

Yes, the group leader in question was insensitive and ignorant. But these are not sins equivalent to racism. He did not insult her, attack her, exclude her from activities, or shun her. All he did was say something stupid. It was an opportunity for Chandralekha to correct his misconceptions, but she chose to feel offended and justify it by calling him racist.

Her next complaint goes:

During breaks, I would sometimes join my classmates but they would often speak in Mandarin and I would just not >understand. I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they did not know that I did not understand Mandarin. One day, during >a class on cross cultural communication, I shared my experience in NUS Business School where sometimes people leave me >out in conversations by speaking in Mandarin. Following that public confession, it just never happened to me again. Maybe it >was my fault that I did not tell them the first time they did it. Wait, I think I did. They probably thought that I was just joking. >But this is what makes it difficult. You would have to forever be explaining and earning your rights. It would just never come >easy.

I’ve been in groups where I’m in the linguistic minority. I’ve been in groups where Malays speak Malays to each other, Indians interacting in Tamil, Chinese speaking in dialects. It doesn’t bother me because I am not the subject of the conversation. They’re not speaking to exclude anyone; they’re just using a language both parties are familiar with. It is the height of selfishness to assume that you must be part of every conversation whenever you’re in a group, even if it’s about topics that aren’t relevant to you. Singaporean etiquette is to always use English when talking to someone who doesn’t speak your mother tongue, unless you know the other party shares the same language as you. Since everyone around the writer spoke English after she made her preferences known, they aren’t being deliberately racist.

Racism is only involved if people are deliberately shunning minorities using language, and even then, they wouldn’t just insist on a different tongue: they would turn away from the person, close the circle, look only at each other and never engage the person being excluded. People don’t exclude others simply by using a different language. They will demonstrate a cluster of behaviours, from subtle body language to outright requests for the ostracised person to leave. The writer has provided no descriptions of their body language. If these groups did not do any of this, then they aren’t being racist — the people are likely just having separate conversations while she is in the vicinity.

If you want people to know where you are coming from, you have to tell them. Humans are not telepaths. They won’t know what you are thinking or your preferences unless you tell them. Expecting people to always know your preferences without telling them is being immature. If you want to be part of a conversation, you have to let people know. It’s basic human behaviour, evidently lost on people like Chandralekha.

Her last complaint was this:

To commemorate NUS Business School’s 50th Anniversary, there was a Special notebook giveaway at the BBA office. There >were limited number of books and being the Kiasu Singaporean who loves freebies, I went to the NUS BBA office to collect it. >While the people before me were allowed to just take it and leave, when it came to my turn, the staff told me that they were >only for NUS BBA students. I said that I am one. He asked me to show my matriculation card but seeing that I was going to >take it out, he said nevermind and giggled. I stared at him. In a vain attempt of lightening up the situation, he said that he’s a >racist and giggled again. I just took the book and left immediately. I was disgusted by the entire event. That was just another >reminder that I would have to forever be explaining and earning my rights.”

There will always be idiots. How you handle idiots tells the world what kind of person you are. This is a minor matter. He did not attack her, insult her, deny her the freebie, or otherwise inflict any kind of harm against her. Her response is to get offended and complain about the inconvenience of having to assert herself.

Society runs by unspoken codes of conduct, but in the First World, the assumption is that these codes are sacrosanct. There is no formal education in assertive communication, and conversely, no explicit expectation that you have to stand up for yourself. When some jerk violates this code of behaviour, many modern youths like Chandralekha have no idea how to handle them. If they swing towards SJW and progressive tendencies, inevitably they will screech about how they have to keep explaining themselves.

It is incredibly selfish and immature to assume that the world must bend to your whims just because you don’t feel comfortable asserting your boundaries. Throughout my life, I have experienced constant taunting, insults, bullying and swarms of SJWs. I’ve been called a race traitor by members of my own race, and had people of other races insinuate I’m a fraud because of my name. Whining about how they were behaving didn’t do any good. People like that don’t care about how you feel. You can’t change those people, but you can change how you perceive and handle them.

Throughout her post, we have seen exactly zero incidences of racism. There is plenty of insensitivity on display, but not actual racism. She has not suffered physical violence, unfair marking, deprivation of resources, or any other such actions. She simply felt offended over and over again about trivial matters.

The Age of the Crybully

Babies and children have no frame of reference for life. When they experience an emotion, it is so huge and overwhelming they don’t know how to respond appropriately. When they want something, they whine and cry until their parents tend to them. If something doesn’t go their way, they continue to cry and throw tantrums. As they grow older, they learn how society works, pick up communication skills, and learn how to self-soothe when hurt and how to calibrate their responses and actions to suit the audience and situation.

SJWs are the exception. They still act like babies, screeching and crying and raging whenever they feel hurt. ‘Everyday racism’ is an excuse to find offense in everything to maintain the two minute hate. Instead of dealing with the situation, they want to guilt-trip or intimidate everybody around them into obeying their whims. They don’t want to grow up and enter adulthood; they want everyone else to coddle them. They are crybullies.

It’s clear Chandralekha has no idea what racism looks like. It is corrupt cops pulling over people of the wrong skin colour and cooking up excuses to levy punishing fines, teachers marking down minorities, governments restricting minorities from taking public office or exercising their rights, allegedly neutral organisations casting out people for being of the wrong race. It is violence and deprivation and exclusion from mainstream society. She has experienced none of these. Instead, she blew up her hurt feelings way out of proportion.

Chandralekha has not exposed racism to the world. She has merely exposed the smallness of her heart.

Crybullies prevent people like Chandralekha from growing up. They encourage and reward people for acting like babies by showering them with soothing words and SocJus dogma. Organisations further incentivise these crybullies by publicly supporting them or bowing to their every demand. By painting themselves as victims, crybullies manipulate society to meet their demands. They are overgrown children whining to adults.

Childhood is over. It is time to grow up.

Photo credits:

Everyone I don’t like is Hitler: KnowYourMeme
Racism everywhere: Memegenerator
Weaponised victimhood: Firebreathing Christian

Gatekeepers Make Creators Fragile

Creators and artists of all persuasions cannot count on gatekeepers. Many publishers and corporate sponsors do not have the creators’ interests in mind, only their own. That gives social justice warriors a vulnerability to exploit.

Earlier this week, political interest groups used deceptively edited footage to assassinate Milo Yiannopoulis’ character. The edited clip showed Yiannopoulis apparently defending paedophilia, leaving out the entirety of his argument: the law on age of consent is proper; in some rare cases a sexually mature teenager older than a child but younger than the age of consent may give consent; intergenerational relationships between younger and older gay men, both of them above the age of consent, are beneficial; and that paedophilia is an unforgiveable crime. The lie caught like wildfire across the Internet, prompting Simon & Schuster to cancel Yiannopoulis’ book publication. Yiannopoulis himself opted to resign from Breitbart to draw fire away from his colleagues.

Yiannopoulis is not a one-off event either. Disney-owned Maker Studies and YouTube severed ties with YouTube sensation PewDiePie after he was accused of making anti-Semitic content. Bestseller author Nick Cole’s former publisher dropped him after objecting to a chapter in his work Ctrl-Alt-Revolt that likened the antagonists’ motivations to abortion.

Social Justice Warriors and progressives of the Ctrl-Left know that gatekeepers are fragile. Stir up enough of a controversy and the gatekeepers will fold – if the gatekeepers are not themselves already converged by SJWs to suit the ends of SocJus. This trend can only continue into the future: now that authors and publishers are hiring ‘sensitivity readers’, one can expect Big Publishing to weed out and reject every doubleplusungood thoughtcrime book and author.

From Crisis, Opportunity

Cleaving to fragile gatekeepers makes creators fragile. The fickle whims of the crowd will inevitably turn against anyone SJWs do not approve of, even their own allies. SJWs will always eat their own.

Creators must seek to be antifragile. Every crisis becomes an opportunity for growth.

After Nick Cole wrote about his being dropped, he signed on with Castalia House to release his novels. When Roosh V was attacked by feminists and slandered by the media, he went on the offensive and increased his own popularity. Milo Yiannopoulis is now setting up his own independent media network.

The lessons are clear. Build your own brands and platforms. Never count on gatekeepers to protect you; always go indie if you can. Never give in to the howling mobs of never-to-be-placated Social Justice Warriors. When mobbed, always counterattack at the earliest possibility. Study Vox Day’s seminal work, SJWs Always Lie, and be prepared for the inevitable wave of shrieking harpies. If you must work with publishers, select those that will not bow to the whims of SocJus, like Baen or Castalia House.

To be famous in the modern age is to attract the jealousies and intrigues of lesser people whose only talent is to lie and shriek and denounce. But as these men have demonstrated, the skilful creator can turn the situation around for his own profit. Antifragility is no longer an intellectual curiosity; for creators, it is a critical life skill.

Image: SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day

Women writers have never been more advantaged

(Image c/o Flavorwire)

This article by TODAY newspaper on female writers is heavy on human interest and light on facts. In fact, the lede flies in the face of reality.

The literary scene has long been dominated by men. Despite notable female authors such as J K Rowling and, closer to home, Catherine Lim, the consensus is that women writers remain disadvantaged in a male-dominated literary world.

It is fashionable to claim that there is a ‘consensus’ that women writers are disadvantaged. But what is the ground truth?

The 5 genres that make the most money in the industry are romance/erotica, crime/mystery thrillers, religion/inspirational, science fiction and fantasy, and horror. Of these genres, women dominate romance and SFF. 2 out of 5 may seem proof of male domination, but this is not so.

The romance genre outstrips every other genre. In 2014, sales of romance books were estimated at $1.44 billion, nearly twice that of thrillers. In 2015, romance books account for 40% of all Amazon Kindle sales. The overwhelming majority of romance books are written by women, for women. This means that women have the biggest slice of the publishing pie, and tend to earn more money than their male counterparts in other genres.

As for SFF, women have a stranglehold in three distinct subgenres: children and Young Adult, urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Going beyond the veterans — JK Rowling, Nalini Singh, Lilith Saintcrow, Faith Hunter — many newcomers in these fields are women. Some publishers, such as Tor and Math Paper Press, commit themselves to diversity by welcoming or seeking submissions from women and minorities; other publishers publish women and minorities exclusively. As for SFF, especially Western SFF, courtesy of the long and bitter culture war, female writers are almost always given preference over male ones to ‘fight’ the invented narrative.

Now consider: historically, have there ever been mainstream publishing houses that openly favour women? Especially in an age when major bookstores are forced to close and traditional publishers are losing profits?

In addition, the Internet favours female writers. Go to your search engine of choice and look up variations of the following in your favourite genres: ‘best female writers’, ‘top female writers’ and ‘recommendations for female writers’. Now switch ‘female’ for ‘male’.

Notice something? If you search for female writers, you get female writers almost exclusively. Search for male writers, and you get female writers and mixed-sex lists of writers. Unlike women, you have to go out of your way to search for male authors in specific fields before you can get male-only lists of writers.

Women also dominate publishing houses: 78% of staff in publishing houses are cis  women. Throw in other sexual minorities and the number will be higher. Men are not keeping women out of the field. If there’s anyone preventing women from being published, chances are high that they are female.

Female writers who choose the self-publishing route also enjoy similar advantages to their trad-published sisters. As these lists demonstrate, the majority of popular indie authors are women who write in the fields of romance, erotica, young adult, children, paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

The situation is more complex than the narrative wants you to believe.The narrative ignores demographic preferences. Women flock to romance, female-driven fantasies and stories with a heavy focus on relationships, while men prefer thrillers, uplifting works, and stories that emphasise action. The majority of female authors understand the female mind best, while the majority of male authors are familiar with the inner workings of the male mind. It’s a matter of different strokes for different folks.

I do not bregrudge women writers for finding literary success. I think the more stories and writers there are out there, the richer the world will be. That I live in an age where I have to make such a clarifying statement is telling as is. I am, however, allergic to nonsense, and the facts simply do not support the narrative.

In the literary history of mankind, women have never been more advantaged.

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.

After the Hugos

Vox Day wrote excellent write-ups about the Hugo Awards here and here. Taken together, they are a veteran’s perspective on the state of internal politics in science fiction and fantasy.

I don’t understand why Social Justice Warriors make such a big deal about the Hugos.It’s a meaningless status symbol. A little trophy doesn’t put food on the table, and in recent decades it is no indication of merit. As a child, every award winning SFF work I picked up was so utterly boring it turned me off from the field. Even today, I read far more thrillers and non-fiction than SFF post-1980. Where a plebeian genre writer like me is concerned, there are only two objective indications of a successful SFF story: honest reader reviews and overall sales.

Rabid Puppies, and to a lesser the Sad Puppies, have demonstrated that the Hugo Awards are irrelevant. Last year, the SJWs voted to burn down most of the Hugos than to pick a Puppy nominee. This year, the SJWs chose non-controversial picks over No Award — never mind that other finalists are objectively (in terms of sales figures, reviews and achievements) more deserving of the award, such as Jim Butcher or Toni Weisskopf. The Hugos will soon be changing their voting rules in response to the Puppies — no doubt to shut out the Puppies and only the Puppies.

The awards are so irrelevant that in a nation obsessed with firsts, nobody cares that I’m the first Singaporean to ever be nominated for the Hugos. And I don’t blame anyone. A small group of people played kingmaker, forced the SFF-SJWs and their allies to react to their strategy, AND recommended choices that more accurately reflect reader interests or literary accomplishments than the actual awardees. This tells any reasonable person that the Hugo Awards, ostensibly to represent the finest in SFF, are broken.

A Hugo Award is a hollow award.

I spent more time, energy and brainpower planning and preparing breakfast this morning than I did on the Hugos this year. Somehow, a tale I wrote, itself nothing more than a testbed for technologies and tactics like the Takao, made it all the way to the nominations. While I’m pleasantly surprised and grateful, I lose nothing by not winning the Award, and gain nothing but bragging rights by winning it. I have no stake in the Hugos and no reason to care, now or in the future. Likewise, my target audience doesn’t care about the Hugos or other awards, only whether a story is worth time and money.

I measure literary success not by trophies but by stories. Flashpoint: Titan is only the beginning: coming up next is The Burning of Worlds.

Marvel Comics is Dead

An artist strives to frame his ideals in an image, to challenge his audience and make his vision immortal. But the parasite says, “No! Your art must serve the Cause! Your ideals endanger the people!”

-Andrew Ryan, Bioshock 2

When parasites create art, the result is Marvel’s present lineup of comics.

In the last two days, Marvel has produced two pieces of social justice-inspired works. The first casts Gwen Stacey as a sex-flipped Spider-Man, with Donald Trump as the villain. The second has Tony Stark handing over the mantle of Iron Man to 15-year-old  Riri Williams. The virtue signalling is so obvious, it is painful. Couple this with Female Thor, Evil Captain America, and a number of Marvel characters suddenly becoming lesbian, bisexual, gay, black, female or Muslim, and it’s obvious that Marvel has declared its position in the culture war.

The announcement of Black Iron Girl demonstrates comic book logic at its finest. The Iron Man suit has fought supervillains, aliens, mutated superhumans, assassins, magicians, monsters, supersoldiers, and rival suits of power armor. The suit transforms the wearer into a one-man army. In what sane universe is it a good idea for a veteran superhero to hand over the suit to a 15-year-old? How does a teenager somehow possess the judgment to properly use a weapon of mass destruction?

Iron Man, it should be remembered, fights in a staggering number of environments, including densely-packed urban cities. The wearer only has milliseconds to properly identify and engage targets with the appropriate weapon. Firing missiles at the wrong time or the wrong target would blow up a building full of innocents. The suit’s repulsor beams can blow holes through walls and armor; it is extremely easy for an inexperienced user to kill a roomful of civilians instead of a legitimate threat. Even trained soldiers and police officers would find this extremely difficult.

Tony Stark, at least, had the excuse of founding SHIELD and the Avengers, and with those organisations and his inherited wealth, he would have access to superior training and colleagues who could help him develop his skills. And he became Iron Man at 21, when he was a legal adult. As for Williams, her major achievement is somehow reverse-engineering an old Iron Man suit. And because of that, it is somehow acceptable to turn her into a child soldier. Which is illegal by international law, by the way.

None of this, of course, matters to the high priests of diversity. It is far more important to have yet another black female STEM-inclined superhero(ine) than for the story to make sense. Needless to say, Williams will embody the finest traditions of social justice, perhaps even throwing in references to Black Lives Matter, and will either become a Mary Sue or make mistakes so trivial that they can be glossed over.

The American comic book industry is particularly ripe for social justice infiltration and subversion. Many beloved characters have been around for decades: Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Nick Fury, Thor, Batman, Captain America, and so on. They have become static archetypes. Instead of character development or introducing new characters, Marvel prefers signing on new artists and writers to introduce ‘fresh’ takes on existing characters, which inevitably leads to Social Justice subversion. This disrespects the audience that previous generations have grown and served, and any publishing company that disrespects the audience is bound for the ash heap of history.

Contrast this with the Japanese manga industry. Virtually every artist creates his own unique stories, characters and worlds. The industry rewards success and punishes failure: artists who enjoy high sales are allowed to continue their career; those who do not are axed, and only very lucky ones are given a second shot. Characters, plots and worlds are not recycled among different artists as a matter of procedure; creators, stories and characters stand or die on their own merits, and characters are either retired or given new story arcs for greater development. There’s also far less blatant politicking and social justice in manga than in American comics.

While Japanese manga generally do not have archetypical characters, in my personal experience the industry as a whole offers richer and deeper stories than anything Marvel has to offer. They also tend to have a faster release schedule. And the very best manga characters become archetypes in their own right: Sailor Moon, Vash, Kusanagi Motoko, Vegeta, and so on.

The Americans have much to learn from the Japanese in the field. Focus on good writing and characters; introduce fresh characters and IPs to explore different themes instead of rehashing old ones; and get rid of the social justice virtue signalling. Art is not a weapon to reinforce a narrative or protect people from dangerous ideas; art is its own end, as the extension of the artist, and to catalyze the audience’s own growth.

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.

 

Why Polygon is DOOMed

On the 12th of May, gaming review website Polygon released a 30-minute gameplay video of DOOM. To call it horrible is an understatement.

The player’s performance is embarrassingly abysmal, quite literally on par with someone who has never played a first person shooter on a console before. It’s as though the concept of aiming, moving and shooting are alien to the player, as is reading environmental cues, processing enemy movements and attacks, and in-game navigation.

It’s not wrong to be bad at games. Every gamer has to start from somewhere. But this is Polygon, one of the world’s largest gaming websites. One would expect, and demand, a reasonable degree of skill from someone tapped to showcase the first 30 minutes of an eagerly-anticipated AAA title  — itself the spiritual successor of a title that defined the game industry.

A gameplay preview is supposed to showcase the best of the game: the mechanics, the controls, the story, the enemies, the objectives. Viewers want to know what to expect if they buy the game. Instead, this video showcases the worst gameplay ever recorded on YouTube — it says more about the player and the company than the game itself. If a gaming ‘journalist’ cannot even play a game he is assigned to cover without making himself look like a noob, how did his content even pass the editor’s desk? If a gaming journalism site can’t assign a competent player to play one of the most eagerly-anticipated games of the year, what kind of gaming journalism site is it?

The icing on the cake, though, is what Polygon did after the video was posted.

Or rather, didn’t.

Polygon disabled comments on the video, and took away visibility of the like/dislike bar. On the main website, Polygon said nothing about the fiasco, never mind that parody videosTweets and critique posts are floating about the Internet. Instead of addressing the issue, it seems Polygon is intent on sweeping the disaster right under the carpet, never mind that the Internet is forever. In doing so, Polygon has doomed its credibility.

During the GamerGate saga, Polygon spread the usual social justice drivel about harassment, showing that they were against ethics in gaming journalism. Polygon banned users for disagreeing with a review and with Anita Sarkeesian. Polygon cried racism when reviewing The Witcher 3, a game set in a universe based on Slavic mythology, for not featuring non-white characters (because Azer Javed doesn’t count), and misogyny, when the most powerful beings in the game series are all women. Now Polygon can’t even hire staff that can play a game, and won’t make amends to the gamers it has disappointed over the years. Polygon has been fully converged by Social Justice Warriors, and now it can’t or won’t even uphold standards of competency.

Polygon is doomed. It just doesn’t know it yet.

A Tale of Two Devs

The recent furore over Blizzard’s Overwatch and Beamdog’s Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear illustrates two very different approaches to game design and response to criticism.

Blizzard’s Overwatch is an upcoming multiplayer first person shooter. The original controversy began when people complained about a victory pose employed by the game’s first revealed character, Tracer, claiming that it turns her into a sex object. Blizzard quickly apologised for the so-called ‘butt pose‘, and replaced it with another victory pose…itself based on a pin-up.

I think the original complaint was overblown to begin with. Overwatch is Blizzard’s intellectual property, and they are free to design characters as they please. A bunch of pixels on a two-dimensional screen is hardly worth getting riled up about, but it’s what Social Justice Warriors do all the time.

Blizzard’s response is one for the textbooks. I don’t know enough about the game to decide whether the original pose suited the character in question. But I don’t see any wrongdoing there, and there’s nothing for Blizzard to apologise for. On the other hand, the new pose took the perspective off Tracer’s rear, defusing the original complaint, while retaining the aesthetics of the game and character, and gave anti-SJWs something to smile at. Blizzard turned a potential crisis on its head, showed its respect for its target audience, and even generated good PR for itself.

Dragonspear, on the other hand, was a mess. It was set in the Baldur’s Gate universe, in between the original and its sequel. The franchise has an existing canon, an established universe, an entrenched culture — and Beamdog inserted social justice memes into the series.

While designers are free to design what they wish, Beamdog interfered with the creative vision of another team of developers — and not in a way that built up the canon. Instead, they subverted the game universe to push their ideology, practically shoving it down gamers’ throats. For example, there is a transgender character named Mizhena. She says:

“When I was born, my parents thought me a boy and raised me as such. In time, we all came to understand I was truly a woman. I created my new name from syllables of different languages. All have special meaning to me; it is the truest reflection of who I am.”

The mindset revealed in this explanation points to a modern Western progressive mindset, one that is concerned about tolerance, gender fluidity, and casual linguistic appropriation. Most tellingly, the player character can only react in three ways: express approval, move on to another subject, or end the dialogue.

This is something you might expect to see in San Francisco, circa 2016. But tolerance, gender fluidity and casual linguistic appropriation have not been established as part of the in-game culture and memes of the original Baldur’s Gate. This is clearly a naked attempt to subvert an existing IP to shove politics down gamer’s throats.

When called out on it, Beamdog’s CEO doubled down, claiming that he will stand behind his staff. Beamdog proceeded to crack down on ‘harassment’ and ‘abuse’ on its online forums, banning users for thoughtcrime. The company also called for people to post positive reviews of the game online — which is a naked attempt to manipulate rating systems.

If people want to make social justice games, they are free to do so. It has never been easier to create, publish, sell and market a computer game in history. But Beamdog subverted an existing IP, disrespected its original creative vision, and alienated its target audience. And the icing on the cake: the game itself is buggy, riddled with glitches, and breaks other mods. Gamers may forgive social justice themes in games; they will not forgive broken games.

Beamdog’s approach is characteristic of social justice warriors: they subvert existing IP to ram their ideology down fans’ throats, they double down when called out on their behaviour, they lie about how good their work is, they project their insecurities and tendencies towards harassment on people who call them out, and if their new IP is fundamentally broken in some way they will redirect attention on the cultural conflict.

Developers should be like Blizzard: either create fresh IPs or build upon existing IPs, respect their target audience without backing down to SJWs, and focus their efforts on the game and the gamer.

Gamers care less about social justice than game mechanics and playability. Gamers do not want to be lectured or preached to; they want to have fun and escape the real world for a while. Developers who fail to recognise that are failures.