Lela E. Buis Reviews “An Unimaginable Light”

She liked it.

This is the first Hugo-related review I’ve seen of any of the book’s stories. Lela Buis also has her own story in “Tales of the Once and Future King”, and I think I can confidently state that it’s one of my favorites in the book.

Money quote:

Pros: John C. Wright is actually an awesome writer. The number of levels this story works on is pretty amazing. 1) It invokes the Inquisition, i.e. the uppity, beautiful woman accused as a witch and the powerful, degenerate man questioning her. 2) It pays homage to the Asimov robot stories, referring to the Three Laws and similar philosophical issues. 3) It outlines questions in the dialog that fall out from the current conflict between conservative and neo-left politics. 3) It’s pretty erotic. Wright doesn’t fall short on the character descriptions, and the BDSM elements are obvious.

Three and a half stars.

(Note: There are no rape scenes and no actual sex is portrayed, for those who aren’t fans of that sort of thing, such as myself.)

I did respond to something she mentioned in her review in the comments section. For the curious:

Hello Lela! Anthony here.

A note: God, Robot was marketed by Castalia as a superversive anthology because of the authors involved, but when I came up with the idea I wasn’t soliciting only superversive stories. It just happened to turn out that way. Vox himself also has a very creepy story in it.

Your criticisms are fair, and I’m glad you did like it.

The follow-up by Josh Young I think does a lot to put the story in context.

Lela also has one of my favorite stories in “Tales of the Once and Future King”, so you guys should look out for that.

And if you want to know what all the fuss is about, pick up “God, Robot” today!

The Product is on Sale for 99 cents

Before Superversive Press took aim at the very foundations of the Social Justice movement with the Forbidden Thoughts anthology, they took a chance at publishing my dystopian novella The Product. There has been some question as to whether Forbidden Thoughts is superversive, and I can see why people would say it’s not. However, there’s an angle that does tie into the superversive philosophy, and my novella, although fairly apolitical for a dystopia, addresses it.

I have long stated that those who worship at the altar of Social Justice do worse than break everything they touch. A significant side effect of their meddling is to remove all joy and inspiration from whatever they target, be it social interactions, scientific discovery, or entertainment. Since everyone loves Harry Potter references nowadays, SJWs are the real-world Dementors. My novella does not specifically mention Social Justice, but it does present its end result: a world without joy or hope. However, human nature being what it is, someone, somewhere, will find a way to resist, which brings us to…

The Product

The Product will change your life. It will give you joy and confidence, make you more aware of the world around you. You will find new friends. You might even fall in love.
Few people know its name. Fewer still dare say it. It is, after all, illegal. Users are jailed. Dealers meet an ugly death. Yet the temptation is irresistible.
Kevin is a dealer. And he is about to get caught.

Seraph from Tangent Online* and Jeffro from Castalia House Blog present different takes on the specifics, but both reviewers agree that The Product is a good representation of a superversive story. (This being a promotional post, I also have to point out that it made Jeffro’s list of Best Short Fiction of 2016). And for the next couple of days, it will only cost 99 cents for the readers to judge for themselves. Happy reading!

*This review has a spoiler at the end, so if you prefer to discover the nature of the Product on your own, stop reading about mid-way through the last paragraph.

Quatermaster General a quick review

I picked up a great game from Amazon called Quartermaster General by Griggling Games.

In Quatermaster General you play as a team made up of either Axis or Allied powers with 2 – 6 players. The number of players determines how many of the powers each player will have. It is an interesting cooperative game where either the Allies or the Axis win by amassing the most victory points or capturing two of the other sides home cities. The cooperation comes from either all winning or all losing as a team and each player has a deck of cards that determines what they can do in a turn. Some of these cards help out an ally rather than the player themselves.
The interesting mechanic in the game, and the one that gives it its name, is the way you don’t build armies and move them around but instead construct chains of supply. You can only advance as far as the end of your supply chain and having one cut will destroy all unsupplied units further down the chain. Which makes long thin supply lines dangerous.
Over all the game is fun to play and an inexpensive purchase that I would highly recommend if you want a game to play with friends. The rules are quick and easy to learn but the randomness provided by the card decks and the cooperation required between powers to win make for a variable and fun game with a lot of replayability.

The Fate of the Furious: A Superversive Review

On one level, The Fate of the Furious is the easiest movie to review:
1. Great fun. and 2. Leave your brain (especially the part that understands physics) at home

And now, folks, your seatbelts (HA!) because I will try to make this post deep. How deep? Glad you asked. I’m going to take the recent discussion of what qualifies as superversive fiction and apply it to this movie. If you’re rolling on the floor in fits of laughter, I don’t blame you. But stick with me here. Just because something is lowbrow, doesn’t mean it can’t be superversive, at least in part. And if we can see superversive elements in this piece of schlock, maybe they would become easier to identify elsewhere. Thus, let the experiment begin!

Aspiring/Inspiring. Our heroes are far from being role models, that’s for sure. But are they reaching for something higher? Are they attempting to improve the world, what little of it is in their control? The opening segment includes a prolonged drag-racing sequence that ends with Dom Toretto acting with both generosity and honor towards a person who really deserves neither. Much later, when the villainess questions why Dom seemingly rewarded the man who tried to kill him, the response is, “I changed him.” Does it work like that in real life? Probably not. Thugs don’t choose to join the side of light because of one event, not commonly anyway. Is it possible? Yes, I suppose it is. Is it something we’d like to occasionally see in our art? Absolutely.

Virtuous. I can see how this requirement can be viewed as problematic at first glance, but we need to remember that superversive heroes don’t need to be perfect. They do, however, need to know right from wrong, and more importantly, the story itself must be clear on the matter. An advantage of a well crafted dumb action movie is that the central conflict is very clear. The good guys are… maybe not all that good, not all of them, but they are working for a good cause. And the villainess Cipher, played with obvious delight by Charlize Theron, is as cold and vicious as they come. Her purported justification sounds vaguely noble from throwing around words like “accountability,” but at no point are we sympathetic or thinking, “Well, she’s kind of right…” Nope. Not even close. In this story, shades of gray are non-existent.

Heroic. This one is easy. Unlike in some of the other entries in F&F franchise, the protagonists’ motives here are mostly pure: family, loyalty, honor and oh yeah, saving the world. There is revenge mixed in for some, and an opportunity for a second chance for others. In particular, Deckard (Jason Statham), a villain from one of the previous films, is at first hard to accept as one of the good guys, but he does redeem himself in one of the more spectacular and absurd scenes in a movie that’s full of them. In the end, they all rise to the occasion and do what they must to fight evil, no matter the cost. Additionally, in what to me is the stand-out moment of the movie, Letty bets her life, without hesitation, for a chance to reach and save her husband who appears to have gone rogue. It plays much better if you know the history of these characters, but it’s powerful in either case.

Decisive. Again, easy, as per requirements of the genre. The protagonists don’t have time to agonize over their choices, in part because there aren’t too many. Saving the world is a non-negotiable goal. While there are heart-breaking scenes, we see not a hint of the modern “why me?” angst that has infected even many of the superhero movies. They hurt and they grieve, but never stop moving towards the goal.

Non-subversive. You’d think a movie in a franchise built around essentially glorifying outlaws would be subversive by definition. Not so. This entry in particular has a villainess whose main intent is destruction of the current order, but there’s even more than that. In one of the obligatory Villain Exposition scenes, she’s intent on convincing Dom Toretto, the man who values family and faith, that he is wrong in his priorities. It’s not enough for her to use Dom’s skills. She has a need to destroy who he is, to prove that his life has no meaning, and by extension, no one’s life has meaning. This is an important point. If life is of no value, if family, faith and honor are but an illusion, then mass murder is a perfectly acceptable stepping stone to one’s goals. The villainess is a nearly perfect embodiment of subversion. She would not, in fact, be out of place in an old-fashioned fairly tale, from the time before our culture has developed a need to understand, justify, and sympathize with villains rather than to advocate and celebrate their unconditional defeat.

There were other things that are remarkable on that front. For all the banter and joking around, there’s not a hint of irony when it comes to good old fashioned values. Dom talk constantly about family as if it’s some kind of magic mantra needed to pull him back to the light. (One reviewer commented that at times the movie has a feel of a GOP convention, with the word “family” being mentioned over 50 times.) They pause before a meal to say grace. Crosses figure prominently, both in the visuals and once actually in the plot. Two young hot-blooded men are courting an attractive woman, but that’s where it stays. There is no obligatory danger-inspired hookup, but on the flip side, no blanket rejection of men or romance either. It’s a small scene, fun and light-hearted, but also old-fashioned. And in the end, for all the ridiculous special effects and action, I think this is one of the reasons the franchise has endured. These movies entertain and amuse without tearing down, and they leave you, if not inspired, at least satisfied with a simple tale that shows the world working mostly as you know it should. Not so bad for a piece of dumb action after all.

April Puppy of the Month: Souldancer

It’s my unalloyed pleasure to report that Jon Mollison, Nathan Housley, and the Frisky Pagan have chosen Dragon Award winner and CLFA Book of the Year Finalist Souldancer as April’s Puppy of the Month book.

Brian Niemeier - Souldancer

Jon kicks off the festivities with a preamble drawn from his experience of reading my work.

We here at the Puppy of the Month Book Club have a knack for picking the first book of a series.  We’ve done it with The Swan Knight’s Son, The Chronicles of Amber, catskinner’s book, and Nethereal.  It’s high time we revisited at least one of those universes, and none of them are as deserving as Brian [Niemeier’s0  It was the very first Puppy of the Month, and it only took ten months to get to the sequel.

That’s really too long.

Not just because it’s too good of a series to languish that long, but because this is a challenging series to read.  Frankly, Nethereal kicked my butt.  Brian’s writing is deceptively dense and is thoroughly riddled with multiple references and layers of meaning that completely escaped my typically shallow reading.  It wasn’t until Frisky and Nate [joined] in the conversation and started pulling on threads that I realized how knotted were the stitches that made up the Nethereal sweater.  They introduced me to whole new dimensions in reading, and pushed me to approach the Book Club – and my other writing – with considerably more intellectual rigor, and to devote more time and thought to my own posts both here, at my blog, and over at Castalia House.

Jon and his colleagues really do deserve a round of applause. I’m honored that they find my writing worthy of their considerable analytical skills. Based on their previous Puppy of the Month book reviews, it’s safe to say we’re in for a treat.

Frankly, I’m always a bit taken aback when readers say that the Soul Cycle is unusually dense in content and complex in terms of plot. It’s all perfectly straightforward to me.

Then again, I’m the author, and I read everything in the exacting, contemplative way that Jon found most effective for reading Nethereal. I suspect that it stems from a mild, undiagnosed learning disorder that explains why I a) have an extremely slow reading speed and b) practically memorize almost everything I read.

Anyway, I think that Jon will find the going easier with Souldancer. The first book got most of the setup out of the way, letting SD’s story hit the ground running. It will certainly be interesting to find out what the Puppy of the Month reviewers think.

Jon continues with a brief review and some speculation on Souldancer’s prologue. I won’t confirm or deny his conjectures, except to say that Almeth’s pilgrimage to Kairos has more pertinent and far-reaching effects for SD and the entire Soul Cycle than he expects.

For those who missed the Puppy of the Month Book Club’s epic, multi-part review of Nethereal, you can catch up here. Note that PotM reviews are intended as read-along exercises, so if you haven’t read Nethereal or Souldancer, it is highly recommended that you remedy the situation before diving in.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle

@BrianNiemeier

Marvel 1602 and the Wet Fish Slap Redux

Mike Glyer of File 770 linked to my post “Marvel: 1602 and the Wet Fish Slap”. Against my better judgment I ended up responding to some folks in the comments section who – naturally – disagreed with me.

Worth noting: Despite the fact that I specifically attempted to be polite and tried to make my case as clearly and coherently as I could, my showing up to defend myself seemed to make people much angrier.

The original posts are on the thread; here were my responses:

[From the commenter] Has it never occurred to you that one of Gaiman’s characters happened to be gay simply because a significant percentage of the human population is gay, and Gaiman wrote his story to reflect the actual human population?

No. I’m sure that it didn’t. ?

Despite the monster under the bed stories you might have heard, I was indeed not so blinded by my hatred of the gay population nor my rage at Neil Gaiman to neglect to consider this possibility. After I calmed down from my Smaug-like wrath caused by catching sight of a gay guy in the comics, I did try to think of why.

Here’s the thing: This is not a red-headed scenario, or a blue-eyed scenario.

This was obviously structured near the end of the book as a dramatic reveal. Gaiman clearly considered it significant that Angel was gay. This was a fact about him that *mattered* – not to me, mind. To him. Gaiman.

And – people seem to want to ignore this, but it bears repeating – telling Cyclops made no sense. None. Angel is even offered an opportunity, sitting right in front of him, both to keep his secret and keep Cyclops off his back…and instead he reveals his deepest secret, a secret that in 1602 could potentially be enough to get him ostracized or blackballed from his new community, to the one guy who is *most likely* to want to use it to hurt him.

There was NO REASON AT ALL FOR THIS.

And finally – Angel was not gay in the original X-Men comics. Gaiman changed it. While other updates for characters make at least some sense, it does seem rather difficult to find the connection between being born in 1602 and being gay.

To pretend that adding this in doesn’t spark any sort of questions, isn’t meant to make any sort of point, even though he actually changed a character’s sexuality around specifically to wring out this particular scene, which doesn’t need to exist at all…

…Well, maybe Neil said “Hold on guys, there are no gay guys here! I better try to represent, you know, just for realism”.

Or maybe had a reason in mind when he made the change.

And even THAT doesn’t necessarily harm the narrative, but he handled it in such an incredibly poor, ham-fisted way I couldn’t believe it.

So he doesn’t get a pass from me. I’ll let others decide if it’s my horrible right-wing bigotry informing my opinion or not.

[A commenter] Speaking as a visitor from the 17th Century, I am profoundly grateful to such among your pamphleteers who employ empty inkhorn terms, as “virtue-signalling” and “box-checking”; it is a way of informing this reader that he careth less about the story he revieweth, than he doth making himself look good to rattle-pated, clotpole knaves and boobies.

*Sigh* I sent off my last comment, saw this one, and decided to write this up quick before I left; as I add this section in via edits, one other person has already come in to ignore everything I’ve said (for example, I didn’t say the presence of a gay character was unrealistic, I said it was stupid for a gay character in the year 1602 to out himself to somebody he already knows has a reason to dislike him) and accuse me of being a bigot in as many words. Good stuff.

I didn’t use the phrase box-checking, Mike [Glyer] did.

I did indeed use the phrase virtue signalling, but again, everybody has gotten worked up as if I threw out that word and then neglected the rest of my case, which is simply not true at all.

Now I’m certainly open to the possibility that I was only seeing what I wanted to see because I have such a reflexive disgust and revulsion towards gays, subconscious though it may be.

But nobody seems interested in actually responding to what I really said, but they sure are interested in announcing how they aren’t interested in what I want to say. The one person who tried to respond to me so far twisted the point I made so thoroughly I find it hard to believe he was making a good faith effort.

And NOW I’m gone.