A Bottomless Boat

There is a song, a Child Ballad, of course. One of the older ones, I think , but I have no way of knowing. It’s called, variously, “Edward”, or “My Son David”, or simply, “Son David”. Like “Lord Randal”, it is a dialogue between a mother and her son and, like “Lord Randal”, it has some sinister interpretations. In “Lord Randal”, the eponymous character is dying after having been poisoned by his lover. There is a suggestion in a few versions that Randal’s mother might have colluded in his murder.
“Edward” isn’t dying, but he has killed; up to eight verses can treat with the Mother’s attempt to find the provenance of the blood on Edward’s sword. She does not believe him when he claims that the blood belongs to his hawk, his hound, or his horse. Edward must at last confess that he has killed his father or brother, usually for the crime of not respecting him. His mother then asks him what he will do next.

Allow me to briefly digress. In the medieval Irish religious tradition there were three types of martyrdom: the white, or pilgrimage, the green, or hermitage, and the red, which is what usually comes to mind when someone mentions martyrdom. In most versions of this song, Edward chooses the white martyrdom; he will leave and never return. Sometimes he rather callously abandons his wife and his children (“The warld is room; let them beg”), and he frequently blames his mother (“sic counsels ye gave tae me”) for encouraging him to kill his other relative. There is only one version that I’ve heard which gives a possible explanation for Edward’s guilt.

In Malinky’s “Son David”, which is the most poignant version that I own, there are two significant differences. First, David kills his brother John “because he drew his sword tae me”. Why the two were arguing to the point of slaughter is, again, not mentioned, but this lyric provides some reason for David’s depth of feeling. Once David has confessed his crime, he says “For it’s I’m gone awa’ in a bottomless boat, a bottomless boat, a bottomless boat/ It’s I’m gone awa’ in a bottomless boat and I’ll never return again.” Son David has chosen the red martyrdom.

And that is the essence of the song. It is about crime, guilt, and the expiation of that guilt. It is about families, and the way we hurt each other. It is about a man driven to the ends of the earth to undo something which cannot be undone.



Thoughts on “The Wheel of Time”, including a brief major digression and a plethora of snarky asides.

[Trigger Warning when I start talking about Compulsion]


I first thought about writing this blog some months ago when I read two (excessively) laudatory articles about Robert Jordan and his series. Since I’ve waited this long to put my thoughts in ones and zeros, I’m going to digress first.

My wife sometimes says that I’m more of a feminist than she is. What she means is that since I am not a woman, and therefore not used to dealing with entrenched societal sexism, I tend to react more strongly to hearing about it. This may or may not be true, if you have known me for any length of time at all, you’re aware of how easily I get bent out of shape about various forms of oppression. I am capable of getting just as angry about, say, the massacre at Glencoe as I get about redlining. This is compounded when it comes to sexism, because hey- I’m still kind of sexist. I’m getting better about it, but realizing that I acted in a certain way, or (more germane to this post) uncritically enjoyed a piece of media that was sexist tends to push all of my available guilt/anger buttons. (A brief aside to this digression- I’m somewhat culturally Jewish so at least a quarter of my available guilt buttons have been activated at any given time. In fact, I’m feeling a little guilty for writing this when I could be putting my new desk together.) When I approach a work that I previously loved with fresh eyes and see some of its uglier flaws, I experience a sense of betrayal, which then ramps up that guilt/anger process.

That being said, let’s discuss The Wheel of Time.

The main flaws I can see in this series are lazy writing, male gaze, and Jordan’s complicated relationship with world-building. I’ll work backwards.

Some of Jordan’s world-building is fantastic. The hints of the civilization that precedes the Breaking of the World are pretty cool. Occasional references to Earth history (although probably an alternate version in which a Nuclear War was fought) added a bit of depth to the story. I appreciate that he thought out a detailed three-thousand-year history for the area of the world in which the main action takes place. But he clearly, CLEARLY, went too deep down his own rabbit hole. He was giving minor characters multiple page backstories as late as book eight. He basically introduced a new nation of people to be a villainous army in the last book, unless that was Sanderson, but I doubt it. He threw in bits and tags of forgotten cultures and references, and never bothered to define them. It’s one thing to have an anachronistic character make a reference that no one else understands, it’s another thing entirely not to know what it means yourself. What is “the Can Breat”, or “Spinning Earthfire”, or “Milking Tears”? The Companion doesn’t explain those any further than did the books.

Somewhere in the middle of the series, he started kitchen-sinking it. Everything he could think of, no matter how small or undeveloped, was thrown into the series. Forward action and even characterization fell by the wayside in an attempt to shoehorn every last thing Robert Jordan thought of into the Wheel of Time. Eventually, reading the books was like eating a poorly-made stew- it was a jumble of ingredients, all of which, regardless of origin, tasted largely the same.

Actually… he did show some tendencies in that direction from the start, as all of the major characters are linked to the Arthurian cycle by name, if nothing else (Rand Al’Thor does take the sword from the Stone after all). Rand, Perrin, and Mat have the added bonus of divine heritage, as they are loosely based on Thor, Perun (he’s Russian, look him up), and Odin, respectively. In retrospect, the power-creep shouldn’t have been a surprise in a series that had two Thunder God analogues as main characters. This was meant to add layers, but works out to be a mess, much as the alternate realities did (they show up in book two, I think, and were largely dropped after that). Oddly, or maybe not, none of the main female characters seems to have the same mythological ancestry.
Which I suppose is a good enough segue to the male-gaze section of this entry/rant. The women in the book are largely two-dimensional characters who largely exist for the benefit of the male characters. Even the most powerful women in the book sigh and melt to some degree when the object of their affections is near, because nothing, not personal survival or the fate of the world, is more important than getting that man.
Jordan is actually a little bit worse than Eddings about pairing people off (Thom and Moiraine. Really? SHE SPENDS EIGHT OR NINE BOOKS IN FUCKING FAIRYLAND! When, exactly, did she and Thom develop a relationship. I should be fair… those eight or nine books covered what, two, perhaps three, weeks in series chronology? “Winter’s Heart” took place over 24 hours, if I remember correctly.) and when no man is available, then his female characters turn to each other. This is not an exaggeration, or at least, not much of one. The entry under “pillow friends” in the Companion flat-out says that women in the White Tower who are romantically involved with each other pretty much stop after becoming full Aes Sedai. So, great. They’re all lesbians until graduation. Except for some of the minor evil characters.

And I would be remiss not to mention Rand’s groundbreaking polyamorous relationship in which he has sex with three women,two of whom bear six of his children, all of whom are OK with the arrangement and have no desire for anything more, and all of whom appear to be fine when he leaves at the end of the series, not sure that he’ll ever see them again. I thought the “Three Queens” prophecy was a coded reference to the women who brought Arthur to Avalon, and even a mid-twenties me was disappointed to learn that no such Arthurian connection existed; Rand would just have a lot of foursomes.

I have mentioned Jordan’s obsession with bosoms ad infinitum, ad nauseam on Facebook, so let me just say that very few women in these books are not evaluated in terms of their sex appeal at some point or another. Mat, in particular, likes to speculate about damn near every woman he encounters (e.g [somewhat paraphrased] “She may be an Aes Sedai and I don’t trust or like them, but I bet she’d make some man a pleasant armful.”) Do men think this way? Undoubtedly. Does it serve any purpose to have men in these books explicitly and continuously express themselves this way? Not that I can see.

I’m going to move  on to discuss lazy writing by taking a quick look at  creepy mind control. In this 14 book series, Jordan devotes more pages to the “breaking” of women by both magical and non-magical means than John Norman did in “Gor”. I am definitely exaggerating because I’ve never read “Gor”. Probably definitely exaggerating.

It seems that the one thing that all of the various channeling societies (except one) have in common is a period of servitude for the initiates. The Wise Ones, Aes Sedai, and Windfinders all impose various humiliating punishments on members of their orders. Many of these punishments involve nudity and/or some kind of spanking. And I should say that it’s not limited to the channelers. Faile gets hit with some of this as Gai’shain and even has some Stockholm-Syndrome-induced butterflies for one of her captors (side note- in how many of these books is Perrin in the process of rescuing Faile? Half? More than half? How many times do Egwene or Elayne find themselves in need of rescue? How about Min? Is any woman in this megillah not in need of rescue by a man at some point? Are they all female versions of Robin, the Boy Hostage? Have I asked too many rhetorical questions in a row?).

All of that kind of pales in comparison to the a’dam used by the Seanchan to control female channelers. Many of the extremely proud/arrogant/powerful Aes Sedai last as much as a couple of months before turning into spineless lapdogs. Sevanna uses torture and an oath rod to do much the same thing to Galina (just look them up, I don’t have time) with the added bonus that Therava is explicitly sexually interested in Galina. I will say that Jordan did a somewhat better job (only somewhat) of disguising his interests than did Terry Goodkind who may as well have subtitled the back third of “Wizard’s First Rule” as “A Young Nerd’s Introduction to BDSM”. Mind you that whole series should have been called “An Unimaginative, Extremely Repetitive, Introduction to Being Awesome Special Libertarians. No Really, You’re Better Than Everyone Else, White Dudes”. I suspect that wouldn’t have sold as well.

But wait, there’s more! That’s right, I haven’t mentioned Compulsion! Compulsion is something that channelers, especially the evil channelers, use to control people. Graendal does it with the primary purpose of taking sex toys, and  mind control from the bad guys frequently has some kind of sexual dimension to it- up to and including rape-as-punishment.
I found myself wondering why the Forsaken didn’t simply start Compelling everyone they could to join the Dark One’s side of the conflict. Or at least Compelling all of the channelers they could find to come get turned to the Dark, which is a thing that could magically happen. Sure, strong-willed people could eventually break out of it (maybe), but probably not before it was too late. Graendal could turn people, even other channelers, into mindless husks. So why bother with the fighting and the plots and the whatnot? Why not just Killgrave the whole situation?

Which brings me to another point. When someone makes a Faustian bargain in our literature, the rewards are immediate and the payment is delayed; the bargainer can even delude him or herself that payment can be indefinitely delayed. In the world of WoT, the rewards are sometimes immediate (for the powerful) and sometimes hard to discern (for the not so powerful). The payment is also immediate as, once a character makes a bargain with Shai’tan, he or she can be killed, changed, resurrected, reincarnated into another adult body, tortured, sliced, diced, and julianned at whim. It is also difficult to tell why immortality is a benefit when the Dark One’s more-or-less stated goal is to break free from his prison and make things terrible for everyone everywhere. I can only imagine the conversation.

“Now that I have accepted your power, I can be everything I truly deserve to be! I can live forever! I can have everything I want! I can be better than Lews Therin Telamon!”


“…I’m sorry, what?”


“So the retirement plan is…”

“Welp! Too late to turn back now!”

None of the Forsaken, Black Ajah, or Darkfriends seems to have considered this. Although it seems like turning male channelers to the Dark should have been a slam dunk.


“Is killing myself an option?”



Let’s return to reincarnation. Guess what? Old Forsaken never die, they just get endlessly reincarnated to draw out the series. The Dark One seems to be big on second chances. Though not third chances! He’d never give anyone a third chance! Also, is there a reason that he didn’t just resurrect all of the dead Trollocs? It never seemed as though he had a defined limit, even a poorly-defined limit, as most of the channelers had. Why didn’t he make more Isam/Luc type hybrids? Why not more Grey Men? Why didn’t he task Aginor with making more gholam instead of sending him out to be pals with Mazrim Taim (or making him a hot chick. I get Aginor and Balthamel mixed up in my head)?

And what about Shai’tan? Who the Devil is he, really? He’s a little Lord Foul, a little the Crimson King (who is also a little Lord Foul). He’s the manifestation of the dark side of humanity and, though possessed of seemingly infinite power, keeps getting his ass eventually handed to him because he’s just a terrible idea. No really. That’s more or less it. I remember thinking that he wasn’t a very compelling villain once we saw the being behind the curtain. I also thought that it was incredibly dumb to let him continue to exist because “humanity needs evil as well as good”. Bullshit. Moorcock was the only one who did Balance well because his poles are Law and Chaos, and too much of either is bad. You can’t really have too much good.  Here’s a thought. How about Rand can’t destroy the Dark One because, as the embodiment of humanity’s ickyness, the Dark One will continue to exist until we get over ourselves? It’s not great, but I find it somewhat more satisfying than low-grade metaphysical handwaving.

I have been picking on the bad guys a bit. Let’s flip that, shall we? In a world where alternate universes exist, why didn’t the good guys find one where any given atrocity had never happened/been prevented, and figured out how to stop it from happening?

And, my god, the power creep. How many sa’angreal (please compare to sang real or san graal) that give Rand the power to destroy the world does he get his hands on? How about the other channelers? And what of Mat and Perrin? One has thousands of years of military experience in his head, a magic spear, unending luck, and anti-magic get-out-of-channeling free card. The other one has a magic hammer, the ability to talk to wolves (ok, I’d still like this), and the ability to cross into and out of the dreamworld at will.

Oh yeah, Tel’aran’rhiod. Best not to get started. Best also not to mention the Ways.

I suppose the bottom line is that the series became less about telling a story and more about showcasing Robert Jordan’s ideas. Which isn’t necessarily bad. A 14 volume series might not be the best medium, and those ideas might not all have been good, and the framework necessary to display them might have irrevocably bogged down plot resolution, but aside from those quibbles, it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea.

I suspect I should have stopped several hundred words ago, but I’ll say that any unnecessary length is intentional on my part, and a bit of postmodern commentary on the series itself. My advice is this: if you haven’t read it, don’t start. You can do without. If you have read it… my heart bleeds for you.





Enough. Please.

A friend of mine from high school died this morning. Another friend from high school died this morning. I don’t have anything to point at right now, Michelle battled cancer for the better part of ten years, but Kelsey seems to have gone quickly with no obvious cause.

I knew Kelsey in junior high and high school. As a very good friend of mine put it earlier, Kelsey gave us something to aspire to. He was a tall, gawky sonofabitch who would have been great as Ichabod Crane, but he was comfortable in his own skin at an age when most of us were lucky if we were only awkward instead of disastrous. Kelsey could ignore cliques and boundaries seemingly at will- he was a musician, a choir member, a jock, an actor, and class president. He was also an unabashed geek- I remember that he had the Rocky Horror comics… the issues with the audience shout-back lines included in the appendices.

He had an infectious sense of humor and a genuine warmth no matter to whom he talked. He was always game for some harmless fun. In ninth grade we filmed a short video for a project on Romeo and Juliet in English class. As sophomores we were in Dracula together. As juniors we coined the term “theatretically” to refer to our preferred casting of upcoming shows. As seniors I assistant directed him as Tevye in Fiddler. I also had to talk him down two nights before opening when act one ran for three hours.

In college I lost touch.

Two years ago he called me out of nowhere. He’d been through a bad breakup of a long-term relationship, and as so often happens, he was trying to get some context. My name came up somewhere and he figured “Why not?”. We chatted for an hour or so about this and that and everything. I said I’d see him the next time I was out West. He said he’d stop by if he ever made it to DC.

On the day of my wedding, he messaged me on Facebook, mostly to talk about our upcoming twenty-year reunion. When I said that I probably couldn’t afford to come, he offered to crowdsource my trip. That was the last time we spoke.

I never heard anyone say a bad word about him. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone.

I hope that he finds what he’s looking for wherever he might be. He was one of the good ones. Good-bye, Kels.

Care of the Reaper Man: Another Post About Death

Some of you may have noticed that I posted a quote from Reaper Man on my FB wall earlier this week. If you’ve been following my updates about Pratchettathon 2015, you might wonder why I posted that quote when I’m 20 or more books past Reaper Man.

I had a decision to make this week. It was not a pleasant decision, but it seems to be necessary. I am euthanizing Voodoo today.

Voodoo, whose full name is Voodoo Child, and whom I called Voodz, Voodlebees, Splotchface, and Fuzzbutt, has been suffering from an undiagnosed gastrointestinal problem for about 13 months now. After multiple expensive trips to the vet, I thought we had it under control; she’d only lost a pound between April and September. By December her disease had taken a turn for the worse; she was down a couple more pounds and she had been vomiting up blood with increasing frequency. I took her to the vet again, but there wasn’t much they could do.

Finally, at the end of March, after another incident involving blood, Allyson took Voodoo in and the vet put her on palliative care. To my surprise and relief, she improved a great deal for the first couple of weeks, but that didn’t last. Voodoo has been uncomfortable, but not, as far as I can tell, in pain since March. She was only six pounds (down from 11 in 2014) at the time of that last vet visit, and she has continued to lose weight.

I made the decision to put her to sleep after a conversation with the vet. Allyson and I are leaving to get married in a couple of weeks, and, assuming that Voodoo lived until then, I didn’t want to pass the burden of her death to our friends who have agreed to feed the cats. I also didn’t want her to die essentially alone.

I have been assured that I’ve made the right choice, but as a cultural/genetic Jew, guilt is my superpower. When I was younger, I really wanted a dog. My parents eventually capitulated, and my Uncle Bart gave me one of his dogs. Colt had been getting the worst of it from my Uncle’s other dogs, so all of the adults agreed that giving him to me had solved two problems. Only, I wanted a dog that could come inside and my mom had finally been able to decorate a house in white and blue. Colt was an outside only dog, and, frankly, I was kind of terrible to him. I ignored him, but but didn’t seem to mind though. After numerous health issues, culminating in two years of diabetes, my Dad made the decision to euthanize Colt. Dad took him to the vet. I stayed on the couch.

Some years later, I was moving out of my parents’ house back to Springfield, and I had to make a choice about my cats. At the time I had Voodoo and her sister, Zombie. Voodoo was the neurotic, sweet, needy one. Zombie loved me, but had no fear of peeing on everything to display her displeasure. She would also swipe at Voodoo if Voodoo tried to come to me for affection. My roommate at the time, Thayer, had a lot of expensive electronics, and I couldn’t afford to pay for them if Zombie did what Zombie usually did. I had a theory that Zombie wanted to be the only cat, but it didn’t feel right to send sweet, neurotic, needy Voodoo away because her sister had developed a bad habit.

After several unsuccessful attempts to contact a cat haven in Southern Virginia, I found a shelter in Arlington that advertised themselves as “not ‘no kill’, but ‘kill only in the case of aggressive behavior'”. What they did not mention was that excessive peeing constituted ‘aggressive behavior’. So, when I called about a week after surrendering Zombie, I was told that she had been killed.

I could have done more for Colt. I could have treated him like a pet rather than an unwanted responsibility. I could at least have held him as he died. I could have tried harder to find Zombie a home or at least a better shelter. And I can’t help feeling that I could have done more for Voodoo. I don’t know. I didn’t have an extra $3000 to pay for the endoscopy, nor another $3000 after that to pay for exploratory surgery, and God knows what her treatment would have cost. But I made my choices, and here we are. The song that has been stuck in my head for most of this last week is “My Son David”, which is a Child Ballad, possibly better known as “Edward”. In whatever version, a mother asks her son to explain the blood on his sword, and he tells her that he’s had to kill two or three prized animals before confessing to killing his father or brother. I can at least say that I haven’t done that, but it is very hard for me to ignore the idea that I have failed another pet, or the idea that Voodoo’s blood is now on my hands.

But I think I’ve beaten my breast enough for right now.

Voodoo, or Voodz, Voodlebees, Splotchface, or Fuzzbutt, came to me as a kitten almost 10 years ago. She immediately bonded with our older cat, Alchemy, and they were best friends until his untimely death of congestive heart failure. Voodoo went through a lot with me. She accompanied me through a divorce, grad school, and five moves. She has had to share her space with other animals, including a dog, her sister, my parents’ cat Riley (in two different houses on two different occasions), Allyson’s cat, Ayo, and our cat, Memphis. Several of those other pets (Zombie, Lana [The Dog], and Ayo) have been disrespectful of Voodoo and her space, but she never lashed out, she never hurt any of them, and she never peed all over the place to show her discomfort. Voodoo was sweet, gentle, and loving. Her signature move was to come up on to my chest, put her face as close to mine as possible, and then flop on her side so that she could cuddle me and get belly rubs simultaneously. She was, in fact, on my chest, when I began this entry.

She was incredibly needy. She was very talkative, and did not give up when she wanted affection or food. She did not scruple to disturb my sleep, or indeed, anyone else’s sleep when she wanted something. Voodoo was a keen kneader of stomachs, and restless when it came to choosing a position to sleep. I’m not sure whether this was worse for me during grad school or when I had a regular job, but it was annoying as hell. She was neurotic about my absence, but always very, very glad to see me when I returned home. She never got used to curling up by my side, she much preferred lying down on my chest.

Allyson and I were worried when we first moved in together, because Ayo wanted to play and Voodoo never did. Thankfully, Memphis provided a much needed buffer between them, and Voodoo’s last few months have been much more peaceful.
She was uncomfortable in large groups of people, but if she had time to approach a person one-on-one, she was very friendly. She was not, thankfully, jealous of any of my girlfriends. I don’t know exactly what I was to her- her mom, her dad, this big weird cat who fed and cuddled her- but I know that she loved me, and that I loved her. She didn’t deserve this illness, whatever it is, and she didn’t deserve to die before her 10th birthday. But, to steal another quote from Death, there’s no justice, there’s just me, and I tried to do right by her.

Goodbye Voodz.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Correia?

The excerpts from Correia’s blog are taken from GRRM’s response to Correia’s response to GRRM’s initial post about the puppies. We’re through the looking glass here people!

[[CORREIA: When I started this the Hugo Awards were not portrayed as the awards that belonged to WorldCon. They were portrayed as the awards that represented the best of all of fandom. After my first experience seeing how the sausage was made, I publically said the same thing you said there, that the Hugo Awards don’t represent all of fandom, they represent one tiny part of fandom. I was called a liar.]]

Larry is going to be called a lot of things, buckle up. One of the biggest problems with the writing style of the Puppies on/about themselves is the lack of context. He’s right: the Hugos represent voting members of WorldCon, which is a small percentage of fandom. HOWEVER, I suspect that by “tiny part” he means “Liberal Clique”, which might be why he was called a liar. If someone flat out said “Larry Correia, you’re a liar.” Which, given the internet, someone probably did.

[[CORREIA: I too was nominated for the Campbell for Best New Writer. As a young, new writer, who had grown up reading the great ones, I was super excited by this incredible honor. See, I was born around when you got your Campbell nomination. I was one of those fans who grew up believing it when great authors said things like “this is your award” and “this award belongs to the fans, the readers”. Because I was naïve. I was overjoyed when I found out I’d been nominated. I was even dumb enough to think that I might have a chance. I had already read works from two of the other nominees and I knew that they were remarkable story tellers. I had read Wells and Beukes and knew the quality of their work was excellent. In any fair wordsmithing contest either could kick my ass, and I hadn’t even read Ahmed or Grossman yet, but if they were as good as the other two, then there would be a lot of quality works to choose from.]]

I do like me some Lev Grossman. Now, let’s take a moment to notice the negativity here. He was naive to think he had a shot. Ok, we’ll need to wait for the dramatic reveal to find out why.

[[CORREIA: But that’s the kicker… I hadn’t realized yet that for many voters it wasn’t about the quality of the work. Within a few days of the nominations being announced I not only knew that I was going to lose, I knew that I was going to be last place. Only it had absolutely nothing to do with my writing, but rather, who I was, and what I was.]]

And the dramatic reveal. Here’s the problem with those sentences: from the admittedly small sample I read five years ago, Larry Correia is inextricably bound up in his writing. More than many, though not all, other writers. I invite you to go read as much as you can of Monster Hunter International. I made it through two chapters. Then go to Monster Hunter Nation and read his bio. His main character is HIM. A better him. A super-awesome him, but him. It’s more than a little disingenuous to make the claim that people are judging one’s writing based on one’s personality/politics when those elements overwhelm one’s writing.

[[CORREIA: *Skipping a bit about Young Larry sprinting down the metaphorical stairs of cable internet to the Christmas Tree of reviews*]]

[[CORREIA: I know I was. So I went out on the internet and started searching my name, trying to find out what the buzz was for the Campbell nominees. I started calling friends who belonged to various writer forums and organizations that I didn’t belong to, asking about what people thought of my books in there. You know what I found? WorldCon voters angry that a right-wing Republican (actually I’m a libertarian) who owned a gun store (gasp) was nominated for the prestigious Campbell. This is terrible. Did you know he did lobbying for gun rights! It’s right there on his hateful blog of hatey hate hate! He’s awful. He’s a bad person. He’s a Mormon! What! Another damned Mormon! Oh no, there are two Mormons up for the Campbell? I bet Larry Correia hates women and gays. He’s probably a racist too. Did you know he’s part of the evil military industrial complex? What a jerk. Meanwhile, I’m like, but did they like my books?
No. Hardly any of them had actually read my books yet. Many were proud to brag about how they wouldn’t read my books, because badthink, and you shouldn’t have to read books that you know are going to make you angry. A handful of people claimed to have my read my books, but they assured the others that they were safe to put me last, because as expected for a shit person, my words were shit, and so they were good people to treat me like shit.]]

Yes, Larry, people on the internet don’t like you. People you’ve never met don’t like you. Many don’t like your politics. Many don’t like your religion. Welcome to being a first world human in the year of our web 2015. You’re lucky you’re a white male human, because MANY MANY MANY non-white, non-male humans get a lot worse treatment for reasons that have little to do with the choices they made/continue to make. And because many people don’t like X about you, they’re not going to read your books. Now is it unfair that people are making terrible assumptions about your possible racism, sexism, and homophobia? Maybe, but you pal around with Vox Day and John C. Wright (both of whom have been/are on the Puppies’ slates) and, forgive me, but I can’t see you saying to either of them “Hey, man! I wish you’d stop saying all those terrible things about people who aren’t straight white men!” I have trouble imagining this largely because you describe “the warm fuzzies [those people] get for nominating someone with a foreign last name” in a blog post. I have yet to meet someone who unironically references “white guilt” as a reason for choosing anything who does not have some sort of racist views.

Let me bottom line it for you, because SHIT do I hate it when you guys throw around Orwellian language as though he were not a left-lefty-left-left who would have hated everything you stand for. Even if all of those people had read your books, they would not have been impressed, nor would they have voted for you, because frankly, everything they don’t like about you appears in the first two chapters of your first book. Actually, “appears” is wrong. “…gleams like an idol polished by a fervent worshipper” is more appropriate and “…is thrown onto the page as though it were received wisdom, above all criticism” is much more accurate.

That shit is jarring because it usually has nothing to do with plot, or character, or narrative and everything to do with grinding the author’s axe. Soapboxing does not make for particularly good writing.

[[CORREIA: Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not lumping all of the WorldCon voters in with that perpetually outraged, politically motivated clique. I know plenty of voters read my books and just didn’t think they were as good as the people I was up against. Awesome. I salute you for you being an honest person with an honest opinion, and let’s face it, people have different tastes. But don’t tell me now that the Hugos don’t have whisper campaigns…]]

Well, I’d believe you more if you’d started your rant about persecution with this paragraph, rather than describing how wronged you were before admitting that many people didn’t think you were as good as the other authors. I can tell you for damned sure that you’re not as good as Grossman. And now, “whisper campaigns”. Do you mean talking about the merits and flaws of various authors? I think I might be belaboring this point, but are you absolutely sure that the whispering campaign was “Don’t read his books because he’s conservative.” and not “Don’t read his books because they’re poorly done Libertarian fantasy, like I mean worse than Goodkind.” Because, again, when that kind of thing permeates a book (no matter where on the political spectrum the screed originates), you can’t really call people out for not wanting to read it.

[[CORREIA: Then I went to my very first WorldCon. Mr. Martin, you talked about your positive, joyous experiences at WorldCon. How you were welcomed as a peer, about how you had all these great, wonderful, memorable experiences. But I’m betting before your first WorldCon a whole bunch of malignant lying bastards didn’t spread the word to thousands of complete strangers that you were a racist, sexist, homophobic warmonger who deserved to be shunned.]]

I see. Is your claim that you’re not any of those things? You’re a Mormon, and the Mormon Church as an organization has been pretty staunchly and outspokenly homophobic in the past few years. And really?! Warmonger?! “Death Merchant” I can see; you sell guns, you’ve worked for gun rights (I should note that you do not claim any activism for, say, Gay rights. You are a libertarian, right? Small government, right? Or is it that you mostly don’t want people infringing on your gun rights?), A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEMS WITH THAT. A lot of people might not want to give you money because of where it might end up. Do not be upset because you put your heart on your sleeve and other people didn’t like the color. You know Gene Wolfe? How about Glen Cook? They both manage to write without their politics being central to their stories. And you know what, duder, I wouldn’t want to hang out with you either, because we’d get in fights. Do you want to hang out with people you’d yell at? I mean, is the entire point of your post that people for whom you have no respect don’t like you either? You can’t have it both ways, sir.

[[CORREIA: I met many wonderful people at that WorldCon. I also had many people treat me like garbage. I was berated by other panelists. I had people get up and leave the room when I entered. I had belligerent drunks challenging me at room parties because “Oh, it’s that fucker”.]]

Oh, wait, um no. You didn’t have a bad WorldCon, you met some nice people and some assholes. Let me ask you again, are you sure the people who didn’t like you disliked you on the basis of rumor, and not, say, because you’d written something racist, misogynistic, or homophobic in your books?

[[CORREIA: A lot of people will tell you now that I bring this upon myself, because I am rude and abrasive on the internet now. Yes. Now. But back then I was still trying to play it cool, and didn’t think I could have a successful career if I made the wrong people angry. It wasn’t until after that WorldCon that I said screw it, they’re going to hate me anyway, might as well state my honest opinions. So I mostly hung out with the Barflies, because they were cool. But I can hang out with Barflies at fifty other cons where I’m not assumed to be the second coming of Hitler because the internet said so. And while I hung out with them, I got to hear how many of them were shunned for various reasons too.]]

Sorry, this is back then? In 2011? After I wrote my Amazon review of your book? Gotta tell you, you have a strange definition of “play it cool”. And yes, you hung out with a lot of rabidly conservative authors and fans and found out that they were “shunned”. Dude, I don’t have to hang out with or talk to you. Nor are you obligated to spend time with me. Did you cheerfully and joyously spend time with Liberals? Is your point that fandom and the awards should be above politics? Because, once again, your writing isn’t. You can’t ask people to judge you by what you write and not what you say/think when those to categories are basically the same.

[[CORREIA: Then I went to the award ceremony, and the parties, and the various schmoozefests, and I discovered that the Hugo Awards were like one great big In Joke. And the cool kids told their cool stories to the other cool kids, and lorded it over those who weren’t part of the In Joke. Honestly, it reminded me of high school, and I was the poor fat kid who had inadvertently pissed off the mean girls.]]

Are you absolutely sure it wasn’t just you? Because this is where I start to recognize your pattern of thought, and I feel bad for you, and worried for myself. See, I went to the World Fantasy Con and had this experience where I was welcomed into a group of the cool kids and just froze the fuck up because I felt like an impostor. Which leads me to my probably projection-based theory. You’re looking for an objective measure of your worth. Some goal which, when reached, will assure you that you’ve made it, you’re in, you’re one of the cool kids. Except that, for, well, people like both of us, that doesn’t exist.

[[CORREIA: Then I got to meet and hang out with a whole bunch of authors, artists, and creators who spent most of the con bitching about how broken and biased the Hugos were. Some of these were old school, and got the In Jokes. Some were so talented, so famous, so successful, that it blew my mind that here they were at dinner, pissed off and angry that they knew they would never get any sort of consideration.]]

Except for the fame, talent, and success. Except for those. Huh. It’s almost as though they might move the goalposts for some reason.

[[CORREIA: After the awards were over and all the cool kids patted each other on the back about how brilliant they were, and everything shook out pretty much exactly how everybody predicted it would anyway, they released the actual numbers for nominations and votes, and I discovered just how freaking tiny the number of people involved in this supposedly most prestigious award in the world was. The winners were those who played the game, and as I sat there with the losers, I watched the game already being played for next year. As an author, I was sad. As a fan, I was disgusted. But as an auditor, I marveled at how something so statistically insignificant could be taken so seriously.]]

HOW TINY WAS IT?!  No seriously, what were the numbers? Was it 1000 people? Less? More? How many fans did they represent? How many people do the pollsters ask in Presidential elections? I’m sure that, as an auditor, you know that a relatively accurate poll can be conducted from a sample of 1500 people, which seems small to me, but I’m not a math guy.

[[CORREIA: That was my first exposure to how the process really worked. So I went home, dejected. And when I openly spoke about my experience, and I said pretty much exactly what you just said there, Mr. Martin, that the awards don’t represent all of fandom, and that they just represent one tiny, insular, clique of fandom… I was called a liar. I was attacked all over again. I was told it was just sour grapes from a loser, but what could you expect from a shit writer, making shit product?]]

Um… reference a clique and a whisper campaign does not adequately explain the voting process. And as I said, there’s a difference between saying that a small group chooses the winners and saying that a small group of these particular people chooses the winners for these reasons. And also, frankly, you did have a shit product. David Gerrold says you have merit, but I don’t know which work of yours he read. And, Hell, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that first book was terribad and you’ve gotten much better. Maybe. But those two chapters speak strongly against another attempt at your fiction on my part.

[[CORREIA: The Hugos represent greatness, worthiness, and all of fandom. WorldCon is inclusive. How dare you question it? So I said I would prove it, and I did.]]

Well, it might not be inclusive of you. Perhaps you’re an asshole. Other people have discussed the wide variety of political thought (Heinlein alone pretty much hit everything) represented by the Hugo Winners, so I’ll refrain.

And we’ve just run into another stumbling block. How exactly did you prove that the Hugos were insular?

[[CORREIA: I am many terrible things, but dishonest is not one of them. Let me clarify something, because I have been personally attacked for this for three years now. Yes, like most authors I dreamed of winning a Hugo, because I was very naïve. In the past I did very much want to win a Hugo. Just like I was dumb enough for a couple days to think that I might actually have a shot at winning a Campbell. However, I know that I will not ever win a Hugo. I’m way too good at statistical analysis. I had a snowball’s chance in hell before I upset the apple cart and made myself radioactive to the typical WorldCon voter.]]

You’re somewhat delusional, and you clearly, CLEARLY, do not spend anytime in self-reflection. Sorry, neighbor, you are dishonest. You’re lying to yourself about your motives if nothing else. Also, are you absolutely sure that the typical WorldCon voter does not represent the typical SF Fan? I mean you’d be way too good at statistical analysis to ignore that, right? Also, you’d be sure that, all things being equal, your writing could win on merit, right?

[[CORREIA: Not only did I know going into this that I would never win a Hugo, I also knew that I was going to make myself a target, and that I would be slandered, threatened, and have my career sabotaged. But I still did it anyway.]]

Hmm. Has Baen canceled your contract? The site still advertises you. And by “career sabotage”, do you mean “working with a bunch of real assholes to make sure that me and all my cool, downtrodden friends get to take our rightful place in history as defined by us”? Because, if so, you might take a minute to realize how likely people are to find you easy to work with.

[[CORREIA: I got a nomination for my novel Warbound last year. The people I’m trying to expose rose to the occasion, formed lynch mobs and started attacking. I got a nomination again this year, for my novel Monster Hunter Nemesis, but I refused the nomination, specifically to prove that this isn’t about me wanting a Hugo. Apparently that still isn’t enough. Allow me to demonstrate my conviction, and state for the record that I will never accept a Hugo award nomination for myself. However, I will continue to assist other authors who I believe have been unfairly blacklisted and shunned get theirs.]]

You got a nomination because you formed a clique to block-vote all of your guys into the awards. You also loudly trumpeted your intentions all over the internet. Is it possible that you were attacked because you’re an asshole? And climb down off of your cross, man. No one is buying that martyrdom bullshit. It sure is big of you to refuse any future nominations for an award that you feel you’d never win. Let me bring in my theory again. You’re not a good judge of talent. Here is my proof: in another blogpost, I referred to one of your posts last year (which, btw, sort of belies your claim that you thought you’d never win a Hugo. Unless, of course, you felt as though your chances had been buoyed by packing the votes.) in which you used both the word count of a work, and the time spent composing a work as yardsticks by which to measure the quality of a work. Except that those standards are bullshit. They’re fine objective standards which are absolutely useless for conducting a subjective evaluation. Your definition of “blacklisted’ appears to be largely “straight white men” (excluding, for reasons I cannot fathom, the late great Iain M. Banks who wrote some truly beautiful novels) which is really weird given a cursory glance at past Hugo Winners and Nominees.

[[CORREIA: While WorldCon complains of the shrinking and greying of fandom, Salt Lake City ComicCon has been around for 2 years and has 150,000 attendees.]]

Ok, I am not an expert in statistical analysis, but on what basis are you making this comparison? How big is WorldCon? Is it held in an arena which might allow 150,000 attendees? Do fans of comics skew younger than fans of novels (hint: yes)? Is WorldCon easier to get to or is SLCCC easier to get to? Does World Con attract movie and video game studios as much as Comic Cons do? How about celebrities from TV and Film? Have novel sales been decreasing? Are people perhaps not reading as many novels? Are you just comparing these two events because, hey, they’re both nerd things?

[[CORREIA: For some people, books might not be their primary fannish outlet, but they still read books. Just because somebody plays Dragon Age or the Witcher doesn’t mean they don’t read fantasy novels too. Heck, I believe Halo tie in novels are some of the bestselling books in scifi. If somebody was introduced to fantasy by watching Game of Thrones on HBO, and then they bought and read all your books, discovered they liked fantasy and read other books, and they thought some are awesome and deserving of an award, are they somehow lesser fans on the scales of fandom because they don’t know WorldCon trivia?]]

Um, what part does WorldCon trivia play in choosing the Hugo winners? This is the first time you’ve mentioned it. Also… from what I remember of MHI you consider yourself to be a dab hand at trivia. But to back up for a sec. The answer to your question is yes. Not because of WorldCon Trivia, but if you come in thinking that hey, these epic Fantasy books are the best and they should all win awards without having read anything else, then you are a lesser fan. You have less experience, less depth and breadth of reading, and less ability to judge from a wider field. Also, not sure what this paragraph has to do with your main argument, unless it’s that WorldCongoers are out of touch.

[[CORREIA: The barbaric outsiders shelling out their $40 to get involved now grew up being told that the Hugos were it, the Big Deal, the best of the best, and like me, they were naïve enough to believe it for a long time.]]

But the award is not the best because mean ol’ liberals took it away from you? I mean, all awards ceremonies are political. All of them. Maybe not in the sense you mean, but they are.

[[CORREIA: Yet, as the Hugos became increasingly politically skewed in one direction, people can now admit that is because they reflected WorldCon, not all of Fandom, only for all these years Fandom were the ones being told that they were dumb for liking the wrong things. They were wrongfan having wrongfun.]]

No, dumbfuck. No. No one’s trying to take away your fun. No one’s trying to shut down the house of Baen, or even Vox Day’s circle-jerk-of-a-vanity-press. All we’re saying is, maybe, JUST FUCKING MAYBE, John Grisham shouldn’t win the Pulitzer Prize. We’re saying that what’s popular is not necessarily the best thing in the field. And we can’t say that the Hugos didn’t reflect fandom, we can only say that vote-packing means you can usually stack a vote on your favor. OH DEAR GOD, YOUR MUCH VAUNTED STATISTICAL SKILLS SEEM TO HAVE EVAPORATED!

[[CORREIA: Why do the many people involved in the Sad Puppies campaign seem to hate WorldCon? Because the SJW crowd (I know you don’t like that term, but it is the appropriate one to use here) hates my kind of fan, actively and routinely attacks my kind of fan, and calls them racist, sexist, homophobes without evidence, all day, every day. I know the SJWs are only one small clique at WorldCon, however they are the loudest and the meanest. And sadly, the moderate, rational, normal WorldCon folks rarely seem to condemn them for their antics. So from over here on the Sad Puppies side, they take your silence and lack of condemnation against the hate mongers as tacit approval, and then they tend to lump you together.]]

“I think Vox Day oughtta win” “You’re homophobic!” “WHERE’S YOUR EVIDENCE!”
Also that last sentence is so rich with irony it is practically both Koch brothers. Perhaps people aren’t condemning those mean liberals because, hey, they’re right.

[[CORREIA: WorldCon claims to be inclusive, but scroll through the various comments threads on the various fan blogs on my side of the fence and get their perspective sometime. SFWA also claims to be welcoming, inclusive, and apolitical, but again, read how they are really perceived by many. Snobbish, snooty, bossy, self-righteous, etc. Don’t take my word for it—you know I’m terribly biased—but ask them yourself.]]

Great. This is a mess. Are people from WorldCon being mean and exclusionary? Was that before or after you were a massive prick? And who perceives the SFWA to be snobbish, snooty, bossy and self-righteous? How many? Why is the SFWA perceived in this manner? Can you actually support any of these goddamn claims you’ve made? Would you even try, once?

[[CORREIA: Hypothetical question, if Robert Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers in 2014, could he get on the Hugo ballot now? Or would he be labeled a fascist with troubling ideas, and a product of the neo-colonial patriarchy? And before you dismiss that question, maybe you should read up on what the voting clique that shall not be named says about Heinlein now. Sadly, I suspect the only way Heinlein could get on the ballot today would be if my horde of uncouth barbarian outsiders got involved and put him on our suggested slate.]]

Oh, don’t fucking start with that faux-academic crap. Sigh. More of the same, more of the same, all you spout is more of the same. Let’s play more games! What if Heinlein published “Stranger in A Strange Land” right now? WOULD THAT WIN, DO YOU THINK?! Should we not examine Heinlein’s problem areas? Can we not agree that Farnham’s Freehold and Sixth Column have some race issues? Can we not wonder about all of the creepy sex in Time Enough For Love? Also, dude, I have a whole damn shelf of Heinlein. Shut up.

[[CORREIA: Yes, I do get angry, and yes, I have said some very mean things as part of that. I know you’re not looking for excuses, Mr. Martin, but I’m a little nobody, no name, hack author, who sells a tiny fraction as many books as you do, who had the bright idea to expose the bias in a biased system. As a result I’ve had people who know better spread the vilest lies about me you can imagine, and even when they know it is a lie, they have continued. For five years, nobody on your side said a damned thing about tone when I was the one being labeled a hatemonger, or a “rape apologist” by disingenuous SFWA presidents, or they were using fabricated “scare quotes” to show I was a homophobic woman hater in the Guardian. So, yeah, I’m angry. When people who haven’t talked to my wife since high school reach out to her, worried for her safety, because they read about how her husband is a wife beater, I get angry. Right now in about 50 blogs going out to I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of people, the narrative is that I’m an angry white man, trying to keep scifi straight and white and male.]]

This is a fine example of what the Irish call “the poor mouth”. Yes, you’re not as successful as GRRM. You and about 99% of the field. Irrelevant. Unimportant. Shut up. You’re a best-seller. You are also a hack, these two things are not exclusive, but you are not a “little nobody”. Let’s see, hatemonger. Do you tithe to the church? Did the church oppose gay marriage in, oh, say, a California election? Did you speak out against it? No? Do you seem to believe that people of color only get nominated because they’re people of color? Then you might be hatemonging just a friggin smidge. Do you call people who disagree with you a name which equates actual concerns about culture with whining? Well, then you might be a hatemonger. Lessee “Rape Apologist”? I need more context, but you might well be one.

Sorry about the false accusations. That sucks.


[[CORREIA: You know the most heartening things I’ve seen this week are? Writers who are my polar political opposites finally standing up and saying things like yes, Larry Coreia is an asshole, but he’s not any of these horrible things you are accusing him of, or yes, Larry Correia is an asshole, but please quit threatening to kill him and his entire family. That’s been nice.]]

Which things? See above for things you might actually be doing. And yes, the internet is a terrible place. There’s no excuse for death threats or trolling. Just to be sure… no one on your side is doing those things, right? It’s just the liberals? You have a good handle on the extremists you’ve fired up? No one getting out of hand? Ok, just checking.

[[CORREIA: LOCUS I think it has like 40 or 50 books but ZERO from Baen (a publishing house that gets a bad rap because it is willing to publish any author regardless of their politics, from capital L Libertarians to card carrying Communists as long as they can tell a good story).]]

Er, actually, no. Baen will publish anyone who will make them money, regardless of talent. And if you think the Hugos are skewed, please check the politics of most of Baen’s stable.

[[CORREIA: Yes, there were competing cliques, but the only cliques who mattered all looked virtually identical to us outsiders looking in. And hardly anything they ever nominated represented anything we liked. To most of us barbarian wrongfans, the competing cliques were indistinguishable from one another. For example, correct me if I’m wrong but I believe with last year’s winners, every single one shared similar political viewpoints. And all but one of them was white, yet that year was hailed as a huge win for diversity. You need to see this from Wrongfan’s perspective. You guys had competing cliques, but to us it was like an Eskimo having a thousand different words for snow, and you can tell us about your many diverse and wonderful types of snow, but all we saw was snow.]]

Yes. The one time you were there. When you lost. Which was enough to prove conspiracy, despite the fact that much better authors than you have also lost. Multiple times. And perhaps we have different standards. You, for example, think that self-insert-Mary-Sue-fedora-wearing-m’ladying types make excellent main characters. I do not.
And oh god here it is again. Maybe fandom has swung to the Left. Maybe the popular guys on the right aren’t writing good fiction. Maybe WorldCon is an accurate reflection of Fandom. Who knows? I am also going take the low-hanging fruit and say that it’s not a surprise that all you see is white.

[[CORREIA: And in recent years when we looked at the ballots it was like, awesome, let’s choose between these five items of approved socially conscious message fiction. Yay! We’ve got selections from: religious people are stupid bigots, capitalists are raping the earth, capitalists are stupid bigots, bigots are stupid, and I’m not quite sure what the hell this last thing is about and I’m not even sure if it qualifies as fantasy or scifi but it has bigots in it… Oh man, tough call.]]

Maybe because nobody wanted to choose from the right-wank fluff escapism. Your basic argument is that fluff can be just as good a story as something with a message. Well, yes, sometimes the messages are too intrusive, sometimes they prevent the story from being good. But again, don’t get bent out of shape when I think that Les Mis  is a better musical than Oklahoma. We’re not going back to the pulps. We’ve moved on. Pure entertainment SF, especially of the sort you champion, which is largely straight white male power/sex fantasy, just isn’t as well-written as other works in the genre. Sorry. I am not ever going to nominate the Dragonlance Novels over anything by Jack Vance.

[[CORREIA: I don’t want to be Hugo Pope.]]

Ah, no, this is almost completely dishonest. You’ve been playing kingmaker for three years. At the very least you want to be the Hugo Cardinal Richelieu.

[{CORREIA: Last year I didn’t do anything different than what was listed above. I talked about it on my blog. I tried to motivate and rally people to get involved. I plugged stuff I liked. And all of a sudden there was a little clique of Wrongfan nominating for LonCon, just big enough to get one item into every category. We were no different than the other above mentioned subfandoms. Yet, somehow, when I did that, I was a filthy villain, breaking all the rules, with no respect for tradition. Just as I predicted, there was a wrathful terrible public backlash from the clique which shall not be named, and even though I went into it knowing that none of us would actually win, once the final results came in, the leaders of the clique which shall not be named out of respect for Mr. Martin, moved the goal posts, and danced in our blood. Articles were written about how these horrible racist hate mongers were soundly driven from the sainted halls of WorldCon. Back beneath your rock, foul barbarians! And anyone who supported Sad Puppies was motivated by racism! Booooooo!]]

Lies. Lies. Lies. You tried to break the ballot, and you’ve already named the clique, you massive fuckwit, please stop being cute, you’re not good at it. YOU ASKED PEOPLE TO MAKE A BLOCK VOTE! Do you not see the diff- oh what am I asking, of course you don’t. You’re poor little Larry Correia, so hurt by the liberal clique that you have several best sellers and a publishing contract and you’re a full-time writer. Also, dude, VOX DAY was on your slate. VOX DAY. Yes, he is a horrible racist hate-monger. You backed him. Guess what.

[[CORREIA: To be perfectly frank, some things changed between LonCon and SasQuan. I’d proved my point about the bias and attacks, and was ready to hang it up. They poked the bear, the bear mauled them, and now the bear just wanted to go back to his cave and be left alone. But Brad Torgersen is an idealist, Mr. Martin, I can’t accentuate this enough. He would be dead in Westeros in fifteen minutes. Brad is TruFan. That man waves his nerd flag high. He looks at the Hugo with adoration like it is some sort of religious icon with a halo around it. He prays to his altar of Saint Heinlein 3 times a day and lights candles for Frank Herbert. If I was naïve at first, Brad makes me look… hell… I don’t even have a good comparison. So when he grew up hearing that the Hugos represented the Best of the Best, bright shining light on the hill, he incorporated that into the very fiber of his being… At that point Sad Puppies was no longer just about proving a point. It was about giving a voice to a whole mess of fans who didn’t think they would ever have one again. The mission changed, and it became about getting deserving worthy creators who would normally be shunned or ignored some freaking recognition for once in their lives. It was time to stand up to the clique that shall not be named and their lectures about how we were having wrongfun. Unlike the existing cliques, Sad Puppies 3 didn’t give a damn about politics, race, religion, or orientation. All we cared about was could they tell us a damned good story.]]

Oh, poor Brad Torgerson. Brad Torgerson cannot write a coherent essay to save his life. Poor you guys who nominated at least one hateful right-winger who can tell a “good story”. Poor, poor, poor. Still doing block voting. Still assuming that it’s the same thing as voting by merit. I begin to question this statistical ability of yours. Even I can tell that if you have, say, 20 books, being chosen by 1250 people, and 250 of those people are only going to vote for one book, no matter what, well, guess what gets on the ballot. Oh, also given your earlier concerns about fairness, all of your merry band did read everything, right? Just to be sure they could accurately judge it and not choose based on politics? You know, you inveighed against that method earlier?

[[CORREIA: If the people attacking us don’t chill out, more of my people are going to get pissed off, and it might hit a 12 or 13 next year. :)]]

“Stop sending me death threats, but by god we might start threatening to kill you all, LOL.” Once again, you wanted to provoke a reaction. You did. You are now upset because you provoked a reaction. I am unsurprised that you don’t understand causality.

[[CORREIA: If you want to talk about going forward, from here, I don’t know what to tell you about your campaigning cliques. They were already there long before we showed up. But you really want to “fix it” and make sure my people don’t screw it up anymore, and keep the Hugos sacred? Well, right now the ball is in your court. You’ve got people out there who supposedly love the award so much that they are organizing block votes for No Award against absurdly deserving yet consistently overlooked people like Jim Butcher, Toni Weisskopf, and Kevin J. Anderson, all to burn the whole thing down, just because my people violated your secret gentleman’s agreement and plugged them on a slate.]]

Jim Butcher, unless he’s gotten about 10X better, should not win an award. He’s just not that good. And Anderson and Weisskopf have been nominated before. And I think one of them won. And yes, people are organizing block votes to negate your block votes. Seems like a reasonable tactic. I also hope you thought about the careers you might be sabotaging when you nominated people, because you sure were quick to say that someone else had done it to you somehow. In an unexplained way.

[[CORREIA: I think you will find that the people who are involved with Sad Puppies are willing to talk about the future, but we are very tired of being yelled at and lied about. No matter what happens, whether you like the term for them or not, you guys need to calm your SJWs down, and tell them to quit forming angry twitter mobs, and scaring the hell out of authors who cross their invisible lines.]]
Nope. Not gonna talk to them. Not gonna try to reason with them. Not gonna engage. This is not about fairness or engagement, quit claiming that it is. This is about being butthurt. And once again, I’m sorry that the people you were trying so very hard to piss off got mad at you. Oh, btw, since “us guys” haven’t organized anything I hope you’re content with individual people trying to calm down the people you’ve been working so hard to rile up.

Goddamnit. I wanted to have more sympathy, but reading your posts drained me of whatever I had. You’re a sad, scared, little boy who’s upset that the world isn’t what he wants it to be. Welcome to adulthood. You don’t think you belong. Welcome to being human. If you would for one goddamn minute think about what consequences you might have provoked instead of boldly claiming to be the victim of your own assholishness… I wouldn’t have spent the last four hours writing this.

Timor Mortis Conturbat Me

Yes, I know I’ve used part of that title before. Let’s take this all the way back to Billy Dunbar. And settle in folks, this is not going to be pretty.

“I that in heill was and glaidness
Am trublit now with great seikness
And feeblit with infirmitie
Timor mortis conturbat me

Our presence heir is all vain glory
This fals world is but transitory
The flesh is brukle, the Feynd is slee-
Timor mortis conturbat me

The state of man does change and vary
Now sound, now sick, now blyth, now sary
Now dansand mirry, now like to die:-
Timor mortis conturbat me

No state in Erd heir standis sicker
As with the wynd waves the wicker
So wavis this world’s vanitie:-
Timor mortis conturbat me.”

William Dunbar wrote that poem (there’s much more) about dead authors, mostly poets.  Well then, let us talk of death.

Robin Williams- who informs my comic sensibilities a great deal. Leonard Nimoy- I taught myself to raise my goddamned left eyebrow because of him. He taught us that it was cool to be smart. Terry Pratchett- there’s no justice. And now we don’t even have Death. Harris Wittles- unassuming, wildly successful, secretly addicted to heroin, Harris Wittles.

I never knew those men except through their art, but I admired them. And if I can paraphrase another poet, the bell tolled for all of us when they left.

That wasn’t enough though. John Kevin Boggs- an acquaintance, a storyteller, and someone who I thought I’d get to know better later. Look him up on youtube; you won’t regret it. Michelle Reuter-Zsarko- a friend from school. We were in most of the shows in HS together. She was my Theatre Club president when I was VP. 9/11 Survivor. 38. Cancer. She asked us for a favor that I meant to get to. Later.

I want to make the point that all of these people except Robin Williams have died in the first 90 days of this year. And even he’s less than a year gone.

How about this week?
Hey, Voodoo’s in palliative care. She’s going to die. Soon. Yes, I know she’s a cat. She still loves me. She still doesn’t know what’s happening. And I’m still helpless to stop it.

My Grandmother’s in hospice. Got the news the same day that Allyson took Voodoo to the vet. Just a meaningless coincidence, I’m sure. This is not a surprise. She has Alzheimer’s; she’s been going downhill for years. She barely remembered who I was the last time I saw her. And she’d forgotten me completely two years ago. But now my Dad and my Uncles are literally deciding whether to stop treating a UTI so she won’t have to live as a prisoner in her own body anymore.

I have to remind myself that I have a job, and that I’m getting married.

Fuck this year. Fuck cancer. Fuck death. Fuck Alzheimer’s. And fuck whoever it was that decided to let pets and children waste away.

I Don’t Always Write a Response to A Copy/Pasted Blog, But When I Do It’s About “Sad Puppies”.

I would have to imagine that the… two? three? of you who read this blog are already familiar with the “Sad Puppies” campaign, but if you’re not, a brief overview. Some rabidly conservative SF authors felt that too few of the “right” works were getting nominated for, much less winning, Hugo awards. To combat this perceived discrepancy, these authors banded together to create the “Sad Puppies”, a full voting slate of middling-at-best stories, novels, etc. And if you don’t vote for them, you see, puppies will be sad. I am not entirely sure they grasp the criteria by which one judges a “best of” category, as Sad Puppy Co-Founder and noted idiot, Larry Correia, wrote a blog post which dismissed all contenders for a Hugo except himself and Robert Jordan. He then went on to express his worry that Jordan might beat him on the grounds of word count, and length of composition time. Both of which are terribly important in determining which of two works is better.

But now I turn to the current inanity of self-described “token liberal” Brad Torgerson. A few disclaimers: I have not read any of Torgerson’s work (nor will I if the depth and breadth of imagination found in the following blog post is in any way typical of his output), nor did I scour his archives looking for any sort of numerical support for his claims. It might exist, but I doubt it. Let’s begin, shall we?

“One thing that’s become apparent during this third go-around of SAD PUPPIES, are the many and divided opinions on why the Hugo awards are broken. Much of this conversation is simply a continuation of the debate held during (and in the wake of) Loncon 3. Depending on who you ask, the Hugos are broken because they are either too insular (this is part of the SAD PUPPIES theory) or too easily manipulated by outside voting blocs (the “fandom purist” theory) or because “fandom” itself is still too white, too straight, and too cisnormative (Call this the “Grievance Studies theory”) or even that the Hugos spend too much time dwelling on popular works, at the expense of real literature (the “pinky-in-the-air snob theory”) or that “fandom” simply falls into predictable ruts, and is easily swayed by sparkly bellwethers, such as the Nebulas.”

Hoo boy! We’re only one paragraph in! I’ll take this opportunity to discuss the many and divided opinions cited by Torgerson.

The first one- the Hugos are too insular. Perhaps. Torgerson has another blog post which features a brightly-colored Venn diagram which purports to show the relatively small overlap between the Hugo elites and the vast majority of SF fandom. I will limit myself to saying that I could also create an unsupported diagram which illustrates the vanishingly small overlap between Torgerson’s essay and critical thought, but I don’t want to waste the time.

The second- the Hugos are too easily manipulated by outside voting blocs. I can’t help but notice that there is no mention of this theory as the bedrock of the Sad Puppies mission statement. I find this omission incredibly odd, as the entire point of the Sad Puppies is to sway the Hugo voting by use of an outside voting bloc. Again, Torgerson provides no evidence to support this contention.

The third- the “Grievance Studies” theory. The sheer unmitigated gall of any of the almost overwhelmingly white cisnormative male members of the Sad Puppies referring to the claim that people who resemble them are overwhelmingly represented in SF fandom as “Grievance Studies” is staggering in its arrogance, self-ignorance, and stupidity.

The fourth- the snob theory. Yes. Oh, this makes sense. Certainly the best example of a genre should also be the most popular example of that genre.

The fifth- fandom is predictable and easily distracted. I think perhaps the best thing about Torgerson’s post is that he ignores all of these theories in favor of the hobby horse he’d like to ride. No discussion of the contradictions or parallels between any of these, no mention of how credible he finds them (well, no explicit mention). He simply lists them and moves on.

I do not wish to replicate Torgerson’s mistake, but that’s not the point of my blog post. I will say that any halfwit with an axe to grind can make unsubstantiated claims and then move on.

“I want to introduce another theory. One that others have spoken of before I call it the “Unreliable packaging” theory. And it’s afflicting not just the Hugos, but the SF/F literary field as a whole. As witnessed by (yet another spate of) declining SF/F sales at the bookstores.”

Torgerson here links to a blog post which quotes Publisher’s Weekly numbers for 2014- this blog post. https://chaoshorizon.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/publishers-weeklys-annual-fantasyscience-fiction-print-sales-numbers/
Looks grim, eh? SF down 7%, F down 13%, eBooks sales flat… I guess I really did cut back last year *rimshot*. Here’s what I don’t know- I don’t know whether this is a reflection of an overall downturn in book sales, I don’t know whether there was a spike in 2013, I don’t know whether anybody bothered to cross-check against video game sales as they attract a similar demographic and tend to cost two to three times as much as a new hardback. I don’t know whether the spike in YA purchases explains the drop in adult fiction. I do know that Torgerson blames the whole thing on “unreliable packaging” without more substantiation than an essay by Kristen Kathryn Rusch from 2004. In her essay, Rusch complains about the lack of “Gosh Wow” SF, and informs her readers that she reads fiction (not just genre fiction, BUT ALL FICTION) to escape. I have no fucking patience for this kind of bullshit. If you can’t find fluff in a bookstore, go reread something or write it your damn self. 90-95% of the genre is light entertainment (in all fairness that is an estimate on my part) and if you don’t feel that fiction should be challenging you can have my pity or my contempt, depending on my mood. In the interest of full disclosure, I was wearing my “Ulysses” t-shirt when I wrote the foregoing, so I may have been feeling my oats/glass of burgundy and a gorgonzola sammitch.

But I digress, and should return to castigating the primary object of my scorn. Torgerson, if he has not hitherto impressed you, is about to embark on one of the most singularly puerile extended metaphors it has ever been my displeasure to read. I remind you that I taught six sections of Freshmen Comp; you have been warned.

“Imagine for a moment that you go to the local grocery to buy a box of cereal. You are an avid enthusiast for Nutty Nuggets. You will happily eat Nutty Nuggets until you die. Nutty Nuggets have always come in the same kind of box with the same logo and the same lettering. You could find the Nutty Nuggets even in the dark, with a blindfold over your eyes. That’s how much you love them.”

HOHO! “Nutty Nuggets!” What delightfully irreverent wit! I remember being one of these readers for around 20 years. Then I got bored. But don’t let me keep you from enjoying the rest of this pablum.

“Then, one day, you get home from the store, pour a big bowl of Nutty Nuggets . . . and discover that these aren’t really Nutty Nuggets. They came in the same box with the same lettering and the same logo, but they are something else. Still cereal, sure. But not Nutty Nuggets. Not wanting to waste money, you eat the different cereal anyway. You find the experience is not what you remembered it should be, when you ate actual Nutty Nuggets. You walk away from the experience somewhat disappointed. What the hell happened to Nutty Nuggets? Did the factory change the formula or the manufacturing process? Maybe you just got a bad box.”

Anyone remember New Coke? Remember how Coke changed Coke and then marketed it as an entirely new product? Do you know that there are Cheerios and a different brand called “Honey Nut Cheerios”?! Torgerson’s analogy is rapidly approaching its breaking point.

“So you go back to the store again, to buy another box of good old delicious and reliable Nutty Nuggets! Again, you discover (upon returning home) that the contents of your Nutty Nuggets box are not Nutty Nuggets. The contents are something different. Maybe similar to Nutty Nuggets, but not Nutty Nuggets. Nor are the contents like they were, with the prior box. You dutifully chomp them down, but even adding a spoonful of sugar doesn’t make the experience better. In fact, this time, the taste is that much worse.”

I am not sure what a “a spoonful of sugar” is in this case. Perhaps John Ringo diddling himself with a gun while moaning “All the women… love… conservatives. THEY LOVE CONSERVATIIIIIIIIIIIVES!”

“Two bad boxes in a row? Must have been a bad shipment!Return to the store. Buy another box. Bam. It’s not Nutty Nuggets. This time, you add bananas, sugar, and berries. This only makes up for the deficit a little bit.Return to the store again for yet another box. Yup. It says NUTTY NUGGETS proudly on the packaging. You are sure in your heart that you love and adore Nutty Nuggets! And yet, the magic is gone. This is not the cereal you first fell in love with. The box may say NUTTY NUGGETS but you won’t be fooled any longer. Nutty Nuggets are dead. Or at least they are no longer of any interest to you.So, you reluctantly turn to another brand. Maybe Freaky Flakes or Crunchy Bits? You give up on Nutty Nuggets, and you let some other cereal woo your taste buds. A cereal that is reliably what it claims to be on the outside of the box.”

Argument by analogy only works if the analogy coheres, and Torgerson’s fails miserably. Why doesn’t the hapless shopper ever once read the ingredients to discover what’s different? Or, more to the point, why doesn’t the shopper READ THE BACK OF THE BOOK?! OR LOOK UP A REVIEW ONLINE?! OR READ THE AMAZON DESCRIPTION?! Torgerson’s entire premise largely rests on the assumption that SF readers buy books solely based on cover art, and not say, on author or description. Further, he assumes that SF readers are incapable of determining whether a book will interest them without purchasing and reading it. My own experiences with the doubtable Larry Correia and the Baen Free Library seem to disprove that. Torgerson also ignores the role of the publisher in this farce. Publishers no longer have large profit margins, if they ever did. Publishers lose money if their books are returned. It is not in the publishers’ interest to package product in such a way as to shrink their customer base.

“That’s what’s happened to Science Fiction & Fantasy literature. A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.”

Is it, Brad? Is that what happened? Quick question- and I realize this is all anecdotal evidence- but have any of you picked up any books with covers like those Torgerson describes only to find something other than what you expected?


Nor have I. Although in some cases I have found recycled libertarian garbage (Terry Goodkind) or more-than-usually-misogynistic power fantasies (Robert Newcomb).

“These days, you can’t be sure. The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?”

Oh shit! Social commentary in Science Fiction?! How dare they?! How things have changed since H.G. Wells wrote his… oh. Um. Well, I. Um. Birth of the genre? Really? How about that. Let me reiterate that Torgerson calls himself the “token liberal”. That fact bears repeating in light of the complaints he makes about content.

“There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?”

WE CAN’T USE ESCAPIST LITERATURE TO EXAMINE OUR OWN CULTURAL BIASES/PREDJUDICES/ASSUMPTIONS! Good guy dragons! My God! Such a thing has never happened before except in “The Reluctant Dragon”. Oh, and “The Guardians of the Flame” series by noted conservative Joel Roberson. And that one thing with Strabo in the third “Magic Kingdom for Sale” book. And mostly the entire “Dragon and the George”. And the movie version, “Flight of Dragons”.

“A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.”

In what sense, Bradley? I think you probably enjoy “Gor”.

“Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.”

Can’t be both, I guess. I mean it’s not like there were any armies that had gay people in them. *COUGHSACREDBANDOFTHEBESCOUGH* Yeah, I mean it would take a Monstrous Regiment of writers to come up with a book that could cover a war story and transgender issues. Who would ever do such a thing?!

“Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.”

Sai Mieville, I think that’s a shot at you.

“Do you see what I am trying to say here?”

Yes, Brad, yes I do. I do not know in what sense you are liberal, but I feel that you are working with a definition different than the one we use to describe progressives in the current political climate. Why, Brad, why did you not complain of fiction used to (barely) veil right-wing screeds about the perfection of the Iraq War, the absolute necessity of one of Bush’s cabinet picks, and the slow, loving fellation of the S.S. (all examples found in John Ringo’s books). If you don’t like message in your fiction, why are you only complaining about liberal messages? Especially points of view which have hitherto been largely ignored or silenced by the SF/F community?

“Our once reliable packaging has too often defrauded our readership. It’s as true with the Hugos as it is with the larger genre as a whole. Our readers wanted Nutty Nuggets because (for decades) Nutty Nuggets is what we gave them. Maybe some differences here and there, but nothing so outrageously different as to make our readers look at the cover and say, ‘What the hell is this crap??'”

Allow me to translate: “#notallmen, may I play devil’s advocate, WHY AREN’T STRAIGHT WHITE MEN THE ONLY PEOPLE WRITING ANYMORE, M’LADY?!”

“Note that this is not nearly as much of a problem for movies and television. You can still (mostly) rely on movies and television to give you what you want. Video games as well. The packaging matches the experience, and the experience matches the packaging. The studios (motion picture as well as game development) understand that an unhappy audience is an audience which spends its money elsewhere. And so the studios don’t usually devote a lot of time to re-inventing the contents of the package simply for the sake of novelty, or to score a political point, or to push some agenda. Films and television which attempt this — a kind of subversive switcheroo — are liable to crash and burn at the box office, as often as not.”

Oh, by all means, sir, the creative-bankruptcy of big-budget Hollywood is definitely, DEFINITELY, what you want to reference to support your argument. While you’re at it, why not point to the poisonous hellpit that is mainstream video game production/fandom as an example of “the right way to do things.” Right. They crash and burn. “District 9”, “The West Wing”, quite a lot of Joss Whedon’s work, and even “ASOIAF” by some lights. Well researched, Torgerson, my fedora is off to you.

“When people want and expect Nutty Nuggets, and you fail to deliver . . .Yet SF/F literature seems almost permanently stuck on the subversive switcheroo. If we’re going to do a Tolkien-type fantasy, this time we’ll make the Orcs the heroes, and Gondor will be the bad guys. Space opera? Our plucky underdogs will be transgender socialists trying to fight the evil galactic corporations. War? The troops are fighting for evil, not good, and only realize it at the end. Planetary colonization? The humans are the invaders and the native aliens are the righteous victims. Yadda yadda yadda.”

I’m sorry, what books are you reading again? Where is the massive publishing tidal wave of counterculture SF that is driving faithful readers away in droves? Why are repetition and stagnation only problems now, rather than 20-30 years ago? Did you read SF/F then? Were you even alive then? Did you not notice that many of those books simply swapped out names and races? Did the mass-Tolkienification of the entire fantasy genre somehow escape your notice? I’m sorry, I forgot. That was just jim-dandy when publishers only released stuff that you wanted to read. Now that things are slightly more inclusive, your sense of privilege has been compromised and you want your generic pulps back.

“Which is not to say you can’t make a good SF/F book about racism, or sexism, or gender issues, or sex, or whatever other close-to-home topic you want. But for Pete’s sake, why did we think it was a good idea to put these things so much on permanent display, that the stuff which originally made the field attractive in the first place — To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before! — is pushed to the side? Or even absent altogether?”

Really? Because that’s exactly what you’re saying. And just to be sure, are you arguing for the removal of any social commentary from the genre? I want to be sure that you’re telling me that SF shouldn’t really cover any of that because people aren’t interested.

“We’ve been burning our audience (more and more) since the late 1990s. Too many people kept getting box after box of Nutty Nuggets, and walking away disappointed. Because the Nutty Nuggets they grew to love in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, were not the same Nutty Nuggets being proffered in the 2000s, and beyond.”

Late 1990s… late 1990s. Hmmm. What large cultural shift occurred in the late 1990s? What could possibly have happened that might have provided yet another distraction from books? Golly, I can’t think of a SINGLE. DAMNED. THING.

“This is not an irreversible trend. But we’re pretty deep into the unraveling, and there may not be enough cohesive force to keep SF/F tied together as a whole. The field may simply blow apart entirely, like a supernova. The different pieces spinning off into the universe, leaving a dead neutron core (or even a singularity) in its place. No more identifiable SCIENCE FICTION. Just SF-flavored war fiction, or SF-romance, or SF-mysteries, or Fantasy-flavored cop dramas, etc. The center (as the saying goes) may not hold.”

HORRORS! Can you imagine?! SF-mysteries (Asimov)! SF-Flavored war fiction (Drake, Weber, Cook, possibly all WH40K licensed fic)! SF-Romance (Bujold)! Fantasy-flavored cop dramas (Too many to name). How, Bradley, how will these be unidentifiable as SF? Do you need phallic spaceships, Ming the Merciless, and heaving, objectified bosoms to make the genre work for you? Did you realize when you quoted the “Star Trek” tagline that you were referencing a series which did little else but make social commentary? I think not. I think you actually are as dumb as your blog post and your professional affiliations indicate. If readers like you are falling off in droves, then good riddance. Fandom could use some fresh ideas from writers and enthusiasts with even the slightest glimmer of critical faculty. I’m sure you’ll find contentment arguing that Howard and Lovecraft were not racist because they were “products of their time”.

P.S. And it’s “The center cannot hold”, you mouth-breathing cretin. “Cannot hold.” It is not a saying; it’s a poem. Go read it before you quote- oh, wait, you won’t. It doesn’t have ray guns.

The Bourgeoisie Existence and the Tyranny of Laundry

I started a new job on January 5th. A full-time, adult, fully-benefited job. A job for which I must dress appropriately Mon-Thu, with a casual Friday (look for my forthcoming post, “Causal Friday”, in which events are both followed and preceded by other linked events).  I have found myself devoting what I feel to be an inordinate amount of time to laundry, dress code notwithstanding. Instead of gaily ignoring the clothes in the dryer until I needed clean underwear, I find myself instead anxiously awaiting the dryer alarm so that I can remove my work outfits with a minimum of wrinkling. I need to avoid wrinkling so that I can spend less time ironing clothes.
I am not in favor of this part of my new existence. I once saw an old socialist/labor movement poster (yes, I know they’re not synonymous, but I am too lazy to do research right now) which read: “8 Hours for Work, 8 Hours for Sleep, 8 hours for What We Will”.
8 hours for work (not counting lunch), 8 hours for sleep (if I’m very, very lucky I get 7), 8 Hours for what I will (as long as what I will includes a 1.75 hour commute, laundry, ironing, prepping meals, and running errands).
And I should point out that my commute is relatively short because of my car. A fact I am very much aware of today, as my car is in the shop, my girlfriend’s car is in need of repair, and I have to get to the dealership before 7:30. I can spend 1.21 hours getting there via DC’s lamentable public transportation, or I can push my luck and wait for her to get home from rehearsal at 6:15 and hope that roadside assistance can change her tire in time for us to get my car.

I realize this is a first world problem, I do. Why am I so concerned about this loss of time? Well, I still have to do laundry and iron. It’s not really a weekend if it’s spent prepping for the work week.

Let me go buy some lottery tickets.

In Defense of Bad Music

Bad is a lamentably subjective term. I’d love to simply sweep all popular music into the “bad” category, but I remember when grunge was popular, and I liked that. I will say that grunge, the good stuff anyway, tried to say something in the middle of all of those crashing chords. But enough of that; I came here not to complain about pop, but rather to praise bad music that I happen to like.

The song that inspired this post is entitled “The Lads o’ Wamphray”. Yes, it’s a Child Ballad (184). Yes, it’s a Scottish Child Ballad. By now I’m sure that most of you are saying “Dammit! There’s no mystery here! You’re predisposed to like Scottish Folk music; this song simply fits inside your musical prejudices.”

I can’t really argue with that, but there’s more to it than just my preferences. Even I have my limits.

Lads of Wamphray is not one of those songs that makes a larger point about Scottish history, nor does it tap into some sort of archetypal mythology, nor does it address some sort of fear, nor yet does it tell a tragic love story, nor still does it repeat an older story in a newer form. The ballad narrates a few incidents in one of those sordid little clan feuds that pepper Scottish history; this one is the Johnston-Crichton feud.

A member of the Johnston clan, called “The Galliard”*, does something to piss off the Crichtons, and attempts to steal a horse but is caught and hanged. His nephew, who witnesses the Galliard’s death, rounds up some Johnstons, wreaks a bloody revenge, and the Johnston boys celebrate by going out for drinks. Oh, and they pat themselves on the back.

That’s it. Petty, self-congratulatory to the point of being masturbatory, and grandiose.

The arrangement is not much better. The tune is catchy, but simple. The singing is, well, mediocre Ren Faire quality at best, the recording itself is a bit hard to understand, and so on. The one thing is has going for it is the stress that the performers place on the fourth line of every verse, which underscores the action in those lyrics, thus giving the song some dramatic impetus.

I’ll link here to the lyrics: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch184.htm

The point I’m trying to make, at some length, is that music evokes emotion. And if it can do that, and do it well, then that ability can make up for the lack of technical skill, lyrical complexity, etc. Some more modern examples might include “We’re Not Gonna Take It” or, say, “Cum On Feel the Noise”.

Bad music has a place. Not necessarily a prominent place, not necessarily a merited place, but a place.

The Fanboyest of Nitpickery.

I’ve been listening to the Tolkien Professor podcast, which I enjoy, though I do not always agree with his conclusions. For example, I’m reasonably sure that some Balrogs have wings. Maybe not all, but some.  

I am basing this contention on two pieces of information. First, when Morgoth is assailed by Ungoliant, he lets out a dreadful cry, which summons the Balrogs to him.  Now the Silmarillion says that they cross Hithlum to reach the region know afterward as Lammoth. So, if they are wingless, we’re left with the image of a shit ton of Balrogs running their asses off across Hithlum and over mountains to reach Morgoth in time to prevent Ungoliant from eating him. I just don’t buy it.

The second is a kind of negative proof. Olsen, the Tolkien Professor, maintains that as two of the Balrogs that died did so, at least in part, by falling, it does not make much sense to envision them with wings. However, in the War of Wrath, it is clearly stated that Ancalagon the Black, a very pointedly winged dragon, plummets to his death after having the bad sense to take on a dude with a crystal ship and a Silmaril bound on his brow. If a winged dragon can die by falling (see also: Smaug, yes I know, but he did fall) then so can a winged Balrog.

If you enjoyed this picayune entry, please stay tuned for my discussion in praise of bad folk music.