Monday, January 22, 2018

The Myth of the Exclusionary Nerd

I'm sure you've all heard the stories. You can probably quote them by rote at this point. After all, they get shoved in our face so very often, and yet one thing they all have in common is this: Zero Evidence. For those of you wondering what I'm talking about, it's this myth that's circulated in feminist circles about how men are supposedly exclusionary to women. That we guys are gatekeeping our own hobbies, and trying to keep women out. From the stories we hear this happens everywhere in the nerd hobbies. Comics, tabletop, video games, you name it. All of these hobbies and more are supposedly just infested with awful men that hate women and don't want them to have any fun.

This is, of course, retarded on its face.

I've been sitting on this post for a while, but finally decided to write it when I saw this on Twitter today.

[archive link to the tweet in question]

This utterly ludicrous statement was made by the creative director of Dungeons & Dragons. The whole entire franchise. He also co-created the bloated abomination that is 5th ed., so now we all know who to thank for that. But before I get into this I'd just like to make sure that he understands one thing, should he ever read this post.

Much like a TV show can't decide who does or doesn't tune in, you don't get to decide who does or doesn't buy your product. You have no power in this situation. I can go to any number of online stores and buy a copy of 5th ed. and be playing it with my friends tomorrow, and there's quite literally nothing you could do to stop me. I won't, because as I said 5th ed. is a bloated monstrosity, and I also don't believe in encouraging people who want to put actual serious barriers to entry (such as a series of books you require to play the game all priced at $40 each), or giving money to people who so obviously hate me. I'll go play Moldvay, or AD&D, or GURPS, or ACKS, or Traveller, or Gamma World, or Hero System, or Vampire The Masquerade, or even Children of the Sun. There are about 500 or so other systems I could be playing besides 5th ed., and I would encourage others to look into those instead of giving Wizards of the Coast and Mike Mearls your money. But he needs to understand that he can't fire customers, and attempting to attack his customer base will only shrink the amount of people willing to put food on his table and pay his bills via buying his products, and if I were running WOTC right now he would issue a very public apology, delete that tweet, and watch his ass because it would be grass should that ever happen again. You don't insult your customers. That is a firing offense in literally every other industry. 

There's also the tiny little matter of WOTC actually passively protecting pedophiles in their Magic: The Gathering judge community until the fan outrage became so loud they were forced to respond and institute background checks on judges and refuse to work with any organization that actively hired sex criminals, but hey, that's fiddly little bullshit, right?

Stop giving WOTC your money. I'm deadly serious.

But anyway, my personal hate-boner for WOTC aside, let's get on with this post here. According to this fucking moron, the narrative repeats. The thing that really gets me is the inherent sexism in his statement. Apparently, according to Fuckstick up there, complex rules and lore are exclusionary, and women can't understand them. Therefore he has to fix the game by dumbing it down to women's level, and the guys who are mad about the dilution of their game aren't mad because everything they liked about the game is changed, they're mad because they hate women.


Remember, this is all according to this idiot. Now, on the other hand, and what I think is more likely, is that all of this is made up. I'd put the number of made up accounts at 99.95%. It's not outside the realm of possibility that this has happened a few times, but with nowhere near the frequency that these people claim. Remember, as the "Feminist 40K" mods have stated themselves, flat out admitting to it on more than one occasion, they assume there is a problem rather than looking to see if the problem is actually there or not. And given that there are women out there who can and have lied about being raped to get out of cab fare (no, I'm not bullshitting you), it's perfectly reasonable to assume that the vast majority of these complaints are either made up from whole cloth, or come from out-of-context or misinterpreted social interactions. 

Unfortunately, and this really, truly is unfortunate, we don't have any data to prove anything. There have been no studies done on this by reputable organizations such as Pew, and whenever these people bring these complaints and stories, they never, ever have evidence of such. You'd think they would at least have audio, if not audio and video, given that damn near everyone has a high-definition camera and microphone in their pockets. But no, they expect you to just "Listen & Believe". Take what they say on faith.

Social justice is, after all, a religion to these people. They take so much on faith, they cannot comprehend a world where someone would actually want them to prove the bullshit they spew rather than just believing them outright. I mean, there are wammen to respek! We don't have time for things like methodological study, due process, or critical thinking! Just believe them, and then we'll start burning witches and tearing down everything you hold dear! Don't you want that? Because you're a misogynist if you don't!

Well, in lieu of actual evidence, all we really have to go on is what these people call "lived experiences". This basically means we listen to people who have been there, because they exist in that hobby/fandom/job/whatever and therefore are more qualified than average Joe off the street to speak incredibly broadly about it for some reason. Well, I've been here since I was a child, so my lived experience must add up to a shit ton of authority at this point. Tabletop is more recent, but about twelve or fifteen years of being in that hobby should count for something. 

I've met a lot of nerds in my day. I am one, they are my people. They're the people I almost exclusively hang out with because I find the discussions there more interesting. I don't hang out with people who talk sports because I find sports incredibly boring, but if those people are talking scifi, fantasy, tabletop, comics, video games, etc. I'll be right at home among them, because they're speaking my language and talking about things I'm interested in. I must have met or been tangentially acquainted with about a thousand nerds over the course of my life. 

Post-puberty, not a single one was even mildly hostile to women because they were women.

In fact, we actively tried to interest women in our hobbies, and the ones who were interested were treated like queens. They were invited to D&D games (and some even showed up), to get loaded and watch movies or anime, whatever nerd shit we were doing, the more women that were interested in it, the better. Nowadays I don't care so much, but when you're a horny teenager swimming in hormones who gets weird looks because he's reading D&D manuals at the lunch table, the approval of the opposite sex means a lot. So finding women who were interested in things like D&D was like wandering through the forest and stumbling upon a unicorn out of nowhere.

It's no surprise to anyone that women just generally aren't interested in games where you go into dungeons and bash goblins around for their meager gold coins. Or wargames like Warhammer 40K. Most of Dungeons & Dragons, or 40K, or Warhammer Fantasy, or other wargames and TTRPG's, is rolling dice until monsters fall down and die. Of course there are also other aspects to the game like shopping and roleplaying interactions with non-player characters, but the meat of the game is generally wandering through dungeons and slaughtering monsters. More so with wargames than with RPG's, but the point still stands. The name of the game that started all this is Dungeons & Dragons, after all. Sort of implies that there will be a fair amount of dungeoneering and dragon fighting in this game. And those are things that women tend not to be very interested in.

And it has nothing to do with sexism. As I said, women who want in on these things have always, in my lived experience, been welcomed with open arms and encouraged by the male players who were already there. I have been to comic shops, game stores, GW stores, and more all across my long years of being a nerd, and not once in my life have I seen some guy give some chick shit because she had a vagina. 

Not once.

Matter of fact, the exact opposite always happens. If a woman shows interest, the guys treat her just like they'd treat a guy who showed interest. They show her the game, what she'd need to get started, how the rules work, and offer to play a starter game with her to show how the mechanics work in practice. Whether it's Magic, D&D, or 40K, this is how it goes every time, because the people who exist in these hobbies understand that while they may be fairly popular, they're also pretty niche, so having more people interested who know what they're doing means having more people to play with, which means more fun for everyone. And for guys who are historically and stereotypically as bad with the opposite sex as nerds, it is completely counter-intuitive for them to treat women who actually want to be around them like shit. Most of these guys couldn't be mean to a woman if they wanted to.

A good personal example of this I have is from my time in college. Turned out there was a GW store a few miles from the school, and they were open on the days I had classes, so I would go to class, then drag my backpack full of models, paint, and brushes into the Games Workshop store and hang out for hours at a time and paint my armies. The manager at the time was a five-foot-nothing Asian woman, and she knew more about the lore and rules than most of the guys. She was treated perfectly fine by all of the regulars who knew this game and its lore inside out. She was also fucking obsessed with Orks. The big green fungus monkeys that reproduce via space spores and eat each others' heads off. Of course she, like everyone else including myself, lamented that the Sisters of Battle get no love from GW, but she didn't want to play them. She wanted to play Orks, and what's more she wanted to make an entire Halloween-themed orange and black army of the bastards. She could also fuck you up on the tabletop.

Now I don't know if you've ever taken a look inside a 40K rulebook, but I have, several times. Lemme give you a quick and dirty. If you buy one of the beginner boxes it comes with two small armies from different factions, a general rulebook, and a book with the different scenarios you can play to tell the story of what happens in that box (they're usually structured around some kind of story that adds to the lore of the game). The rulebook is single-spaced, double (sometimes triple) columned, with incredibly small print. It's 156 pages long. Of course there are plenty of pictures and diagrams, but the majority of this book is taken up by tiny text, and depending on how you play you need to be generally familiar with all of it. Furthermore, there are special rules for each faction (Orks, Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Eldar, etc) that each have their own books, and you need to be familiar with those as well. 

That manager damn near had the entire book memorized, and could rattle off rules from the top of her head. She was well respected, and put her heart and soul into running that store as efficiently as possible to bring in new customers. It was a fun time. 

But very rarely, at least while I was frequenting the place, did we have women come into the store. When it did happen they were usually with male friends, or their boyfriends or husbands, or they would be little girls with their parents shopping for Christmas presents and the like. When they were interested at all, they would be interested in the Lord of the Rings models, rather than the hardened militarism of the Guard or the Space Marines, or the tentacle-faced horrors of Chaos, or the gribbly nonsense of the Tyranids, or the soccer-hooligan-esque antics of the Orks. 40K is literally a game about neverending, grimdark warfare where nobody is in the right, and the only ones that are good by human standards are completely immoral space nazis that want to genocide all the aliens, because the aliens want to genocide all of them. 

It's just not something that a lot of chicks are into. The male players aren't keeping them out, I can attest to that personally. Hell, the guys in the store acted as unpaid salesmen to potential female customers more than once while I was painting my models or thumbing through a rulebook. There was only one GW employee there at a time most days, and occasionally it got pretty busy. They were mostly trying to just keep the people in the store until the manager could get to them, asking them if they had any experience, talking shop, discussing lore, the books, all that stuff, but the guys in the store helped her make more than one sale (I know this because I was one of those "more than one" sales). 

Anyway, point is, women are perfectly capable of understanding complex rules and lore, and the rules and lore don't need to be changed to accommodate women at the expense of the men who already like it the way it is. We've proven that the "Wider Audience Appeal™" is a complete myth. It does not exist. Marvel tried this for over 5 years. They hired a bunch of diverse people to write diverse comics to appeal to a "Wider Audience™" and managed to run their company so thoroughly into the ground that they've almost taken the US comics industry with them. The people they were marketing towards were simply not a sustainable market, because they were not interested and weren't showing up to buy comics. And the comics were on the shelves, we know this from testimonials from shop owners who had to throw them away or bargain bin them and take a loss because they weren't selling. The "Wider Audience™" is as much a myth as the Exclusionary Nerd™. Literally nobody was stopping these people from buying these comics. They just didn't want to.

The women that are into 40K are already playing and collecting, and the women who would get into it but don't know will find their way around one way or another. Changing the hobby to be more "inclusive" of women is just going to kill it, and if anyone is pushing this as an objective that GW should be pursuing it should be assumed that killing the hobby is their goal. We have objective proof at this point that appealing to social justice principles does not work, it alienates your regulars and it doesn't pull in the people you're condescending to. Sorry to say, but a new Sister of Battle codex and model lineup won't bring them in, nor will changing the lore. This will kill the hobby dead. I don't mean a new Sisters Codex. Honestly that would probably make GW some cash and get people buying the Sisters models again (especially if they made some tentative explorations into giving them plastic). But changing the lore and rules absolutely will kill the hobby, which is probably why GW doesn't do it. They may be one of the physical manifestations of corporate evil on planet earth, but they're also not stupid. 

So having observed this pattern in certain women wherein they will lie for attention and victim points, I think it is safe to say that this simply does not happen outside of a few isolated incidents, and the people those isolated incidents happen to need to find better friends and game shops. What I think is actually happening is that these guys are trying to figure out where these gals are with regards to lore and rules knowledge, so they can fill in any gaps that might exist in order to better facilitate gameplay or enjoyment of the medium in question. Comics, card games, tabletop, whatever. It's no secret that primarily men built these industries and hobbies, and they're to this day primarily enjoyed by men.

Given this, as well as the fact that stereotypes exist for a reason, unless a woman shows up with a full deck(s), a fleshed out character sheet and the rulebooks, or her own painted army, they're going to assume she's some level of newbie. And there's nothing wrong with that, because 9.95 times out of ten, they're doing this because if she is a newbie, they want to help her become adept as soon as possible. As I said earlier, the more people playing, the more fun everyone has, and the vast majority of nerds agree with this.

The problem comes in when these women expect to be treated deferentially, they expect everything to be changed for them, they expect everyone to worship the ground they walk on. This is, quite simply, not how things work. In these hobbies you show your ability to hang by knowledge about the setting or system. If you're playing Magic: The Gathering, and you're sufficiently able to manipulate the rules such that you completely fucking destroy anyone of any deck style that you go up against, you're going to get more respect than the guy who gets wrecked every game but is happy because he's just playing to have fun. Simply having a vagina, sorry to say ladies, does not qualify you to be respected in nerd circles, nor does the fawning adoration of sweaty virgins give you lease to start changing things to suit you. 

You need to learn your place, just like the rest of us did. I knew dick all about the 40K game when I walked into that GW shop. I listened to the friendly, more experienced people and they helped me understand the mechanics, why there were so many dice I had to roll, and the advantages and disadvantages to each army and system generation. So really what I think is happening here is that these guys are trying to be helpful and the women assume that they're treating her like she's stupid.

It's either a complete fabrication or a misinterpretation of the social dynamics of an unfamiliar place and group. This actually happens fairly frequently across all kinds of social groups, and the technical term for it is called a "faux-pas". Just a silly mistake someone made because they don't understand the group they're trying to gain entry to. There's nothing wrong with making a faux-pas or two so long as you actively work to become better versed in the thing you're trying to understand and be apart of. Nerds who dig comics and tabletop are also far more friendly about faux-pas if they know that you don't know a lot about the subject matter. 

"Fake it till you make it" doesn't apply here, because you can't fake knowing a rule set that you've never encountered before. You absolutely can not fake damn near 40 years of lore (or more, depending on the thing in question). The best approach is to just be okay with making mistakes, and listen when someone corrects you. Nobody knows all the rules, nobody knows all the lore. Just be cool, and everyone around you will be as well.

Of course I should mention that this applies to an incredibly small subset of women. The vast majority of women into nerdy stuff I've met in my life have been totally cool about everything, and usually they're just as into it as the guys are. But we're talking about a subset of a subset of a subset of a population. Allow me to get sociological for a moment.

You have all women. Then you have women who might be interested in nerd shit. Then you have the women who might be interested in nerd shit that actually go out and get into nerd shit. Then you have the women who stick around. Then you have the women who stick around and don't act cool, but instead try to turn it into their own little kingdom where they can do whatever they want. Given the numbers that we're working with (mostly unknown, but we can make educated guesses in certain directions EXTREMELY TENTATIVELY), this means that the amount of women into nerd shit who are actually shrill harpies with daddy issues is relatively small. We're talking maybe 2 or 3 out of 40, if I had to make an extremely tentative guess. I've been apart of a bunch of groups into a lot of shit and have only met one personally. This is over about 20 or so years.

However, one of the things about social media is that it allows these people to congregate, as well as garner a misguided following of thirsty orbiters. Often these people are not involved in these hobbies, or if they are it is in the most tangential fashion. They don't buy comics, they don't buy models, they don't paint, they rarely if ever game, they barely understand how D&D words as a system, they might've watched some Marvel movies and Star Wars back in the day. And yet, they think that because a woman claimed something, it must be true, therefore there's this gigantic problem in these communities that they know precisely fuck all about. Their combined presence, as well as their incessant whining, leads people to believe that these people are more numerous and more important than they actually are, which gives them a certain level of power with out-of-touch corporations like WOTC or Marvel. This happens because the people actually enjoying the thing are just quietly enjoying it like they always have been. So these people look like an even larger contingent of the customer base because nobody is countering their narrative. 

And what's more, with Gamergate, we saw that these people are more than willing to lie to advance that narrative. The FBI itself did an investigation into the movement/hashtag, and found fuck all to do with abusive behavior coming from the GG side of things. Anti-GG, on the other hand, were implicated in a lot of abusive behavior, and since the events of that fateful consumer revolt a lot of the major players have been outed as sex pests if not outright rapists. So in reality what's probably happening here is that old chestnut of, "Accuse the enemy of that which you are guilty." 

As evidenced by Shitnugget's tweet up there, he is very contemptible of women. Women like Morgon Newquist, or that GW manager just don't exist, and if we want to appeal to women and get them into our hobbies, we have to dumb the games down for them. We have to make comics unreadable preachy Chick Tracts so that the stupid blacks and browns can identify with them, because they're obviously too dumb to get white comics. When you really break these people's beliefs down, it honestly sounds like something out of an alt-right screed, doesn't it? They're white supremacists and misogynists with guilty consciences. 

But as I said, given their frequent use of lies and absolute refusal to provide a single shred of proof of these misogynistic, racist, hateful, exclusionary nerds, we can safely assume that they are lying about his as well. This is how the burden of proof works. The one making the claims must provide the proof. So to all of the people claiming that this problem exists, the only thing I can say is this:

Prove it.

Presumably this is happening in public areas. Film it.

If it's happening in skype chats then tape it with a program like OBS. Although you may want to get consent, depending on the laws in your state or country. Some countries/states require both parties to consent to a recording in a non-public setting. 

If this is such a widespread problem, if it happens so often that it's this big of an issue, prove it.

I know you can't, and you won't, because it isn't. But the time is now, because we've listened to you crow about this for too long.

Put up or shut up. 

Prove it, or get the fuck out. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

You Seem Upset...

[UPDATE: I have been corrected on a small bit of lore by a friend of mine, Todd Everhart (@Rolecasters). It turns out that Vlana and Ivrian, the lovers of Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser, were not in fact burned alive by the Thieves' Guild. They were hung by sorcerous magic and eaten alive by giant rats. The Mouser overturned a pot of coals and set his treasure horde on fire because he couldn't bear to look at what happened to them. Thanks for the correction, Todd!]

So apparently I unlocked an achievement earlier: Trigger a Supposed Major Author You've Never Heard of Before.

Before I get into whatever this turns out to be, I want to make it very clear I have no particular animosity towards Mr. Barron. Like I said, I'd never heard of the guy before a friend of mine showed me this screencap. I don't even have a Facebook, so the best I can do is a quick check of his wikipedia page, and from what I got there he has a lot of anthologies he's contributed to and stories out there.

Good for him.

I mean that seriously, good for him. It still doesn't change the fact that I have never heard of him before today in my entire life, but if he's getting it in this industry then good for him. 

I can't for the life of me figure out why he's so upset when a nobody like me criticizes an anthology that he didn't even contribute to. But there are some things in his little Facebook post I'd like to correct, and now seems as good a time as any.

This wasn't "a rant disguised as a review."

This was a rant. 

I like to think I was up front about that at the start, when I mentioned that I hadn't read the book, but trust the opinions of the reviewers of Castalia House to know whether a book will be worth my money and time. That is, after all, what reviewers are for. Maybe I should be clearer in the future with that kind of thing, so there's no more confusion. If I knew dick all about graphic design I'd make some kind of "RANT NOT REVIEW" image to put on these sorts of posts so that everything's nice and clear. We'll see what I come up with.

Now on to Mr. Barron's next point. Yes, all the characters listed have their bloodthirsty moments. But if all you're familiar with is, say, Conan pastiches, or the movies, or the media featuring the Cimmerian which was not written by Robert E. Howard, I can see how you'd think that's his overall character trait. I haven't been in the business of debunking individual statements of ignorance in a while, but I think I remember how to play this game.

In the very first published Conan story, the world's first introduction to the mighty barbarian, "Phoenix on the Sword," Conan is a king. He is a wise and noble ruler, willing to ride into the jaws of enemy armies woefully outnumbered (as is shown in the story "The Scarlet Citadel"), and is even a patron of the arts! In "Phoenix", there is a poet who is essentially spreading seditious material against Conan and lionizing the king he deposed and killed. Conan is reluctant to even say a harsh word against him, because, and I quote, "A great poet is greater than any king. His songs are mightier than my scepter; for he has near ripped the heart from my breast when he chose to sing for me. I shall die and be forgotten, but Rinaldo's songs will live forever."

Quite the thing for a "bloodthirsty prick" to say, wouldn't you think?

Quite the thing for the writer of said "bloodthirsty prick" to put into print, as well. 

As for Beowulf, if I recall that story properly he came upon a group of people in the grip of a terrible monster that invaded their homes at night and literally ate people alive. Beowulf killed that monster with his bare hands, and then went on to find that monster's mother and kill her, all to ensure that these very put-upon people he'd come across could sleep soundly at night. Sometimes being a "bloodthirsty prick" can do good for people in need. 

Fafhrd & The Mouser are perpetually broke thieves who nonetheless find ways to do good for people, despite their "bloodthirsty prickishness". In "Bazaar of the Bizarre", Fafhrd risks his own skin to save not only his companion but all of Nehwon itself. The entire reason they were so admittedly bloodthirsty near the end of "Ill Met in Lankhmar" is because the women they loved had been burned alive by the Thieves' Guild. Seems justifiable bloodthirst to me. And in "The Price of Pain-Ease" The Two make their way quite literally to Death's Door simply to say goodbye to those two women. But no, we can reduce the entirety of their adventures down to them being simply "bloodthirsty pricks." Right.

Now I have not read Tarzan, or watched any John Wayne movies, or read The Iliad, or the 12 Labours of Hercules, and as such I will not speak to them. When I do finally read or watch these, I'll let you know whether or not I find the heroes to be simply "bloodthirsty pricks."

What I can speak to is Mr. Barron's near-total ignorance of that which he speaks. Well, I can't say that, as I'm not a mind reader, now am I? I don't know if he's read a single word of Howard, or Leiber, or the Beowulf legend, or if he's just working off of what he's heard from other people or movies he's watched. If he's simply ignorant, that's forgivable, as he just doesn't know and can't be faulted for not knowing. Speaking while not knowing is another matter entirely. The other option, however, is that he has read these stories, and is simply lying.

Maybe he's upset that I attacked someone he likes. Fair enough, but if you're going to come riding to rescue your beloved sempai at least pretend like you know what you're talking about when you do. If your ignorant, misrepresenting, nuance-lacking assessment of these gods whose feet you dare to even approach, much less spit on is any indication of where science fiction, fantasy, and horror is as a whole, then thank you for proving my point. 

Howard, Leiber, and Vance are three of the most influential authors in the history of literature. Howard's characters are still read, written about, given new stories, and influencing everything from new writers like myself to massively popular tabletop RPG's, almost 100 years after his death. The "Fighter" class in the wildly popular Dungeons & Dragons franchise is directly influenced by Howard, and their magic systems still have more than a small smack of the Vancian. Mr. Barron, nor I for that matter, could not even have the faintest shimmering of a hope to ever be as influential or well-loved as these gentlemen. 

If you think that going back to the people who literally dug the well Dozois and Martin are attempting to poison is a bad idea, then there might be no hope for you. I'd suggest you actually go back and read some of these people whose work you're pretending to know anything about before you attempt to shit on their legacy by calling their most popular, enduring, and well-loved creations "bloodthirsty pricks" as if that's a bad thing 100% of the time. 

"Bloodthirsty pricks" are the absolute lifeblood of Sword & Sorcery literature. Without them, it is merely short experiments in bad writing pretending to be high fantasy. Allow me to quote myself, here: 

(the readers) came here to watch good guys bash bad guys (or at least reasonably okay guys bash bad guys), airship pirates conducting daring raids, wizards of vast and deadly power hurl spells, monstrous creatures eating people, underwater kingdoms threatened by ancient evil, unthinkably valuable artifacts stolen by intrepid thieves, and on and on the list goes of things you could be doing rather than putting people to sleep with your boring message fiction that seems to be trying to take up the majority of fantasy literature these days.

This is what Sword & Sorcery literature is about. If your Sword & Sorcery literature doesn't involve "bloodthirsty pricks" with swords either fighting against or wielding deadly sorcery, you're doing it wrong. It's quite literally in the name. 

I'll end on this. Mr. Barron, if you'd like to see my metaphorical ass, all you'd have to do is listen to my podcast where I put it on display about once a week. If you'd like to see what I and people like me are doing with the influence from people like Vance, Leiber, Howard, Tolkien, and all the rest, I gave you some very nicely curated links in the original post. There's even some free literature on Steemit you can peruse at your leisure, and the tags are linked there as well. I'll also remind you that I've sold an Old Venus-style story to Cirsova Magazine, and you can get a digital copy of the issue my story is going to be appearing in for $0.50, or one half-dollar. For the other half you also get their spring issue. Drop a dollar, read it when it comes out. 

Have fun.

But I would like to sincerely thank you for the 4-500+ views that post has gotten since you shared it. You've exposed a whole lot of people to an attitude, philosophy, and approach to writing that many people agree with but are too afraid to speak themselves. The time for attitudes like yours that do nothing but denigrate the masters we should be looking up to who created the genres we all write in (well, some of us actually write in them, others just pretend to) is nearing its end. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it won't last forever. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Call To Action: The Swords of Saint Valentine

The Council has met, and come to a decision. Well, actually it was a bunch of yahoos on a discord server, but nyewhatever, details. The Steempulp Warband is putting on an event through the end of February, and you can take part! The full details you can read on Warboss Cheah's Steemit post about the event, and if you're wanting to contribute you're more than welcome to join us on the blockchain-powered blogging platform.

The basic rundown is this: It's past New Year's, and it's Valentine's Season. Being the intrepid neo-pulpsters and hopeless romantics that we are, a bunch of us fungus monkeys with keyboards got together and decided to host an event for the fiction side of Steemit. 

We're having an open call for tales of chivalric heroism and romantic love, preferably together in the same story. They can be a whole post or a serial, but the one thing they must be other than chivalrous and romantic, is pulpy.

Did you really expect any different from us?

Also nothing over 15,000 words. We're doing this for an eventual anthology, akin to the PulpRev Sampler, and the stories chosen for invitations to the anthology will be voted on by some group of jackholes in their discord server, based on non-bot, non-paid upvotes. I'm one of those jackholes, along with Warboss Cheah, Noughtshayde (you may know him as Conner Goff of Darkest of Dreams), t2tang, notjohndaker/themixedgm, and J. D. Alden. The Chief Editor shall be the PulpRev's own Jesse Abraham Lucas, editor of the Sampler. 

Also your story can be anything, so long as it has chivalry and romance. Set it in space, prehistoric times, other planets, fantasy worlds of your own creation, whatever you like. You're not limited to knights rescuing princesses, and frankly in my opinion if that's all we got it would be a pretty boring anthology. So go buck-fucking-wild with. Bring out the true batshit, and let's give these people a taste of the pulp side of things they won't soon forget. 

Once again, full details at the Warboss' post. I just wanted to give y'all a quick rundown and point you in the right direction. If it sounds up your alley, then hit us up. See you on the S.S. Steempulp!

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Attempted Murder of Sword & Sorcery

So the good people over at Castalia House have put out a review of the new Gardner Dozois/George R. R. Martin anthology, The Book of Swords. You can read the autopsy of this shitpile here, but I'll just let you know that it doesn't look pretty. This is the same problem they had with their Old Venus anthology, which is that these people fundamentally do not understand the medium they're working in. Either that, or they're actively trying to kill it. They say you shouldn't attribute to malice what could be attributed to ignorance and incompetence, but at this point I'm really starting to fucking wonder over here. 

The problem with Old Venus, as expounded on in many places, is that the stories went nowhere and did nothing. They were vehicles for preachy wannabe litfic, not adventure stories exploring the possibilities of Venus as an inhabitable world in the way that the old pulpsters did. So in the interest of showing these wankers how it's done, I wrote a story playing with the concept of Old Venus, and it'll be appearing in Cirsova Heroic Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine this summer. It's called "Slavers of Venus", and you can support their Kickstarter here.

Unfortunately, it looks like we're going to have to do more of this kind of thing, because these people are apparently damned and determined to slaughter everything that used to be fun about these old genres. What really pisses me off here is that there are authors in this new anthology that I actually respect, and they're engaged in this exercise in killing the primary genres that I write in. My opinion on Martin is already well known (for those who don't know, I really actively dislike the fucker, and try to steer people away from his nihilistic celebration of his personal fucked up sexual fantasies), but some of the rest of these people formerly had my respect. 

Robin Hobb is one of my favorite fantasists, and I routinely praise her series of books dealing with Fitzchivalry Farseer and the Liveship Traders. She knows how to tell a damn fine yarn, and it's very disappointing to see her be apart of one of Martin's deconstructions and subversions of the genre that she has formerly imbued with so much wonder and so many brilliant ideas. 

C. J. Cherryh I'm particularly disappointed about, because I love her Faded Sun trilogy, and I know she's a better writer than someone who thinks the subversion gimmick is any kind of original or even fun. And really? Beowulf? You're going to subvert Beowulf and make him the bad guy? While Grendel was raiding the feasting halls while people slept and devouring entire innocent human beings, the hero who came and stopped the slaughter of innocents was the bad guy the whoooole time!

You're better than this crap, and you know it. 

And I know the people running the show know that fiction better than this crap exists, because they published some in that very anthology! The person at Castalia who reviewed it had some very nice things to say about a few of the stories in this book, and more often than not my tastes and theirs' align enough so I know whether I'll like a book or not based on the review. If they enjoyed it, chances are I will as well. It's not enough to get me to buy the anthology, because I'm not paying god only knows how much for 10 stories I'll hate and 3 I'll like. On top of that, I'm no longer in the habit of giving money and time to people that hate me.

So the real question here is this: Is this intentional or is it incompetence?

I know what my guess is, but more importantly this is symptomatic of the slow death of fantasy literature. Everybody wants to be Martin, nobody wants to be Tolkien, Burroughs, Howard, Merritt, Leiber, Vance, et al. Much as I enjoy Tolkien's work, there was only one of him, and all the imitators (slavish or otherwise) since his debut have been a little bit worse. Or a lot worse, depending on who we're talking about. People are hungry for short, punchy, weird, out there, batshit insane, heroic fantasy adventure fiction. This anthology is not going to give it to them. 

Instead what it appears to be actively doing is just giving them enough of what they're after to make them want more, but letting them know that what they're after is only a small part of the genre in question. No, the REAL point of fantasy literature is boring think pieces that go nowhere and subversions of heroic tropes so that the characters you've always loved were really the bad guys all along! There are no more exemplars, no heroes, no true adventure, no true monsters, no true fun in this genre.

This pisses me off in particular because this genre is my home. Fantasy adventure fiction has been my bread and butter since I was very young, and continues to be my favorite genre to read and write in today. It pains me on a spiritual level to see these heathens defiling my temple, and I want them gone. They don't deserve your respect, your time, or your money. These people simply do not understand anymore (if they ever truly did) that the entire basis of swords and sorcery is high-flying adventure, dastardly villains, heroic heroes (or at the very least a protagonist who's willing to risk danger for personal gain, a la Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser, or Cugel The Clever), mystical locales, deadly magics, and batshit insane supernatural creatures. 

Sword & Sorcery is most definitely not a genre in which to make social commentary the point of your story. That can happen, of course. In "Phoenix on the Sword" REH makes a point about lower taxes making people happy and prosperous, then moves on. In most Drizzt books Salvatore makes a point about racism at one time or another (usually often, and easily spotted), but the rest of the book is an adventure story. In The Dying Earth Jack Vance makes a point about how dreadful the world would be if everybody were solely out for selfish, personal gain. 

However, what you notice with all these examples is that the story, the adventure being described, takes primacy. The lesson is merely a throwaway line, or something minor that happens but means a great deal to that particular character. It isn't the overall focus of the story. If you absolutely have to put politics into your stories, that's how you do it. Making the whole story a commentary on racism, sexism, insert your pet issue here, is a fast way to make your story boring as shit. It's the equivalent of making your story all about how much you love Jesus, on the Christian side of things.

Nobody who doesn't really care about your pet issue is going to think it's anything but you preaching, and that isn't what they came to sword & sorcery for. They came here to watch good guys bash bad guys (or at least reasonably okay guys bash bad guys), airship pirates conducting daring raids, wizards of vast and deadly power hurl spells, monstrous creatures eating people, underwater kingdoms threatened by ancient evil, unthinkably valuable artifacts stolen by intrepid thieves, and on and on the list goes of things you could be doing rather than putting people to sleep with your boring message fiction that seems to be trying to take up the majority of fantasy literature these days.

Fortunately for everyone who actually does like this kind of thing, there are people out there working to reverse this trend and bring things back to the golden days of Conan, Cugel, Elric, early Drizzt, Fafhrd & The Mouser, and all the rest. You can find some of them in the PulpRev Sampler (only one (1) single United States Dollar on Amazon in the Kindle store), and we're also beating it up on Steemit under the pulprev and steempulp tags. The stories on Steemit are 100% free for anyone to read, no account required.

If you want to see what real pulp looks like, look us up. Accept no substitutes, because these half-hearted attempts to murder genres like sword & sorcery will only leave a bad taste in your mouth. The indies are where the real writing is, so get some books like the Sampler, or Paragons, or our DimensionBucket Media horror anthology Darkest of Dreams. The big publishing stuff is just a waste of time at this point. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bright Is An Absolute Smash

So this is a movie that I had studiously avoided watching for a while now. It looked dumb as shit, I'm not gonna lie. I had also seen snippets in various trailers that didn't do much to mollify my opinion. Seeing Will Smith's character yell, "Fairy lives don't matter today!" wasn't exactly encouraging, given that I'm part of a literary movement that wants to kick politics out of writing/film/etc as much as possible, I'm not looking for a movie that plays to either side of the current political divide, right or left. I'll still laugh at jokes that agree with my politics, because I agree with them, but at the end of the day a fun sci-fi/fantasy/drama romp with a good plot and decent acting and writing is all I'm looking for. I don't want something that plays to my biases.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I was wrong about Bright.

I know, stop the presses, holy shit I was wrong about something. Shockingly enough, that tends to happen more often than I'd like, and Bright totally blew me away. Going in I was fully expecting a bare-bones buddy cop movie with heavy political overtones that were an obvious allegory to what's currently going on in politics, and there are some nods in that direction, to be sure.

But first and foremost, this movie is built to be entertaining, which as Bradford C. Walker has stated, should be the primary goal of any piece of fiction. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but I can't make any promises. 

The basic plot of the movie is that at some point in the past there was a war against a Dark Lord, and the orcs chose to fight on his side. This has led to a certain stigma against orcs, which has caused them to be ghettoized to an extent. Human society has dealt fairly well with the introduction of fantasy races, developing to a technological level about on par with what we have now in the real world.

Magic exists, and it's incredibly dangerous, only able to be wielded by a select few, called Brights. There are magic wands, and if you're not a Bright, simply picking one up could have disastrous consequences to say the least. This is most definitely not a universe where the average person can become a wizard, or Bright, through diligent study a la Dragonlance.

There is what could charitably be called a cult looking to bring back the Dark Lord, and another cult looking to stop it. These two are constantly engaged in a kind of underground war, and both are despised by the authorities, but things are coming to a bit of a head when our story takes place, and it falls to our unlikely and (sometimes) unwilling heroes to put a stop to it and save the world from the return of the Dark Lord.

Will Smith plays a police officer five years out from retirement, just trying to do his job and get by without any trouble. For unknown reasons (to me, at least, as I only watched the movie once, maybe they did go into it) nobody wants to partner up with him. He does his job, but he's not overly nice about it, and simply views it as a paycheck. He doesn't have any high-minded ideas about justice or the greater good weighing him down. 

Joel Edgerton (whose work I'm not personally familiar with outside of this film) plays the first orc law enforcement officer in the world. He's a rookie, and despised by his own people, who see his turn to law enforcement as a betrayal. But this is what he wants to do and he is determined to be good at his new job. He doesn't suck up to Ward (Smith's character), but throughout the first half of the movie it becomes clear that he's an idealistic cop who wants to do right and clean up the streets. 

And absolutely nobody wants to partner with him, because he's an orc. Including Ward.

These two being basically mashed together despite mutual antipathy leads to some of the best character interaction I've seen in a non-established movie series since some of the earlier Marvel movies. Smith and Edgerton play off of one another so well it's almost akin to something like Reservoir Dogs, or Goodfellas, in the sense of you put two great actors in a room or car together, and they're constantly trying to out-do one another. 

I'll come out right now and say I think Smith is an amazing actor, and I haven't seen a movie that he's acted in that I've disliked, or that I think he's done a bad job in. Hancock, I, Robot, I Am Legend, all of these movies I think he did a great job as the character he was attempting to portray, and I think he gets unnecessarily shat on because he's Will Smith. Much like Keanu Reaves gets shat on because he's Keanu. 

Reaves' performance as Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's Dracula is to die for, and if you think he did a bad job as Robert Arctor in A Scanner Darkly I'd advise you to go watch that again and pay close attention to his performance. Smith, like Reaves, is actually a solid actor, and given the right role and proper direction he's able to shine and bring a special bit of personality to a role that few other actors can match. And this absolutely bears true in Bright.

His character is a street-level cop that's seen too much, is far too jaded for his own good, and absolutely refuses to put up with other characters' bullshit. He calls people on their shit immediately, but is also willing to make deals to save his own skin. At the same time, he's willing to abandon said deals just because he knows the people engaging him are trying to fuck him. Smith brings this character to life with a realness that I doubt other actors put in the same roll could deliver. 

Edgerton, on the other hand, brings a bit of almost whiteness to his role. He's awkward, he doesn't understand how to act in police culture within the context of the movie, he gets why people dislike him but is determined to prove them wrong, and his delivery of the dialogue is spot on. Personally I don't think they could've cast a better person as Jakoby, and I'm looking forward to seeing other programs Edgerton has acted in. I might've seen him here or there in minor roles in the past, but regardless I'm going to be paying attention to his career in the future. The guy's damn good, and he played Jakoby to the hilt in this movie. 

So far as the character interaction in this movie goes, Smith and Edgerton have serious chemistry. I'm talking chemistry like Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor had chemistry. These two play off one another so well that if I had any faith in any film awards ceremonies anymore I'd nominate them for everything they were available for with regards to this movie. Once again, this goes back to my comparison to Reservoir Dogs or Goodfellas.

If you put two amazing actors in a room together and tell them to play off one another, they should immediately start trying to out-do one another. This is the precise dynamic we see in Bright. Smith and Edgerton are constantly trying to one-up each other, and the overall effect doesn't lead to overacting as seen in Patrick Stewart's portrayal of Gurney Halleck in Dune, wherein if he's on screen, he's the most overly dramatic motherfucker on the screen. These two build on each others' portrayal of their characters very naturally, and the overall effect comes across like a buddy cop movie straight out of the 80's, with all the animosity, rivalry, ribbing, and eventual getting-along that entails.

Which leads me to my next point, the buddy cop dynamic. If you'll remember, most 80's buddy cop movies had the two characters be initially combative, but eventually set aside their differences in the face of the greater threat. Through combating this greater threat they come to understand and have a grudging respect for one another, and even develop a rudimentary friendship to hopefully be expanded on in future sequels. This is precisely the kind of relationship we see in the main characters in Bright, and it was very refreshing in the Era of Subversion™ to see this dynamic played completely straight as it was in the movies in this genre that preceded it. 

The writing in this movie is also extraordinarily good. The dialogue sounds 100% natural, and it was nice to see Will Smith getting another role that allowed him to talk straight as a character (like in Hancock) rather than make the character out to be something he's not. He's a reluctant hero, but a hero he becomes. Not through some prophecy, but by a combination of predestination and his choices as a person, which make perfect sense within the context of the events in question.

Which leads me to my one gripe with this movie. There are politics in it.

This is by no means an overriding message the movie is putting before the story. Make no mistake, Bright is meant to be a fun, buddy cop, urban fantasy, let's-save-the-world-even-though-we're-nobody's-and-probably-can't romp before it's meant to be any kind of political commentary. However, with a producing studio named Trigger Warning, we can expect a couple of political messages with our fiction.

The scene I mentioned at the beginning of this review is probably the worst offender in this regard. Fairies are regarded as a nuisance in this world, and one is bothering Ward's bird feeders. His wife orders him to go kill it, and he proclaims to a crowd of gangsta motherfuckers, "Fairy lives don't matter today!" and proceeds to beat the fairy to death with a broom, because they're little better than vermin.

There was also specific mention of "diversity hires" several times in the movie, and allusions to law enforcement being constrained by diversity education and having to make allowances for Jakoby because muh diversity rather than him having proven himself worthy of being a cop. I'm not going to lie, this shit is tired. 

I don't really care which side of the political spectrum you happen to be on. I'm obviously more right-leaning, myself, but I'm not looking for fiction that plays to my personal biases. I'm looking for entertaining stories. That's why I've studiously avoided the vast majority of Hollywood movies that have come out in the past few years, as well as shows and movies on Netflix.

I'm not interested in this kind of shit.

If you want to make mild political points or jokes, fine, be my guest. As long as it doesn't detract from the overall story, I'm good with it. For example, in Welcome to Night Vale (before I stopped listening because the main voice actor told me personally on Twitter I should be physically assaulted because I disagreed with him politically), they make several jokes about gun nuts. I admit that gun nuts are kinda crazy, and despite essentially being one I can take and even laugh at some good-natured jabs at our side. Especially if the fiction is overall very good. 

What I don't countenance is preaching, and I'm happy to report that although Bright engages in lighthearted jabs towards the left-wing and right-wing of politics, none of this is overbearing, has any real weight it applies to the story, and are nothing more than one-time gags played for laughs and quickly abandoned. They make their joke, often in one line of dialogue, and move on. The overall plot itself is able to be enjoyed while completely ignoring these jokes. Few of them that I noticed were plot-specific, and the ones that were are inoffensive unless you're just looking for something to bitch about.

There is definite political commentary there, but like any good story it's delivered within the context of the world they're presenting to you, and any allegorical connotations can be safely ignored in the interest of enjoying the overall story. These jokes can be safely written off as, "Oh, they're ripping on BLM," or, "Oh, they're ripping on racists," because while some of them have a bearing on the overall plot, they're one-note jokes and are quickly lost in the onrushing stream of the actual plot of the movie.

Which, I think, might have something to do with its critic ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. 

At the time of this writing, Bright has a rating of 27% from critics, but 87% from fans on the aggregate review site. I think this might be because Bright is an actual heroic adventure story, and it doesn't pretend to be anything else.

Understand, Bright is the story of two cops finding out that a cult is operating in their jurisdiction to bring about the second coming of the Dark Lord and slaughter billions of people, and these two unlikely assholes figure it's their duty to stop it. These two characters are beat to shit, shot, blown up, run over with cars, and god only knows what else, and yet they persevere in their quest to stop this horrible thing from happening.

They're not heroes out of legend, they're just the guys who were there, and were able to do something about it. 

This is 100% a heroic adventure story akin to The Lord of the Rings, wherein a couple of random, no-account people were in the wrong place at the right time, and decided they had to fix things, because if they didn't then who would? They didn't want to be there, but they were, so they might as well try to save the damned world. 

This is an unabashed, unapologetic, urban fantasy pulp romp, and I couldn't enjoy it more if I tried. If you have Netflix, you could do far, far worse than spending the two or so hours it would take you to watch this movie. There's also a shoutout to my personal favorite movie of all time, The Fifth Element, when they pick up the Elven chick and she's spouting incomprehensible gibberish in the back of the car while they're being trailed by people who very much want to hurt them and her.

And fam.

If you're going to do a shoutout, however subtle, to my top-tier favorite movie in the history of film...

Well, I don't have much choice but to endorse your movie. Simple as that.

Go watch Bright. It's fun as fuck. Moreover, it's fun as fucking. This movie is like good sex, and like with good sex I may have my gripes, but those gripes are mere nitpicks. Overall there is nothing wrong with this movie, and I'm very much looking forward to the sequel. Smith and Edgerton did an amazing job in this movie, and the overall product is absolutely worth your time.

Ignore the critics, and go watch this movie. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons! The Temple of Elemental Evil!

Okay, so I'm running a D&D campaign! Don't get too excited, I'm a first time DM, and have only the barest handle on what I'm doing. Thankfully, a couple of my players have a better handle on this ruleset than I do, and we're going to get into some old-school Moldvay Basic D&D for you guys!

Originally I was just going to record sessions because not every player I've roped into this insane endeavor is going to be able to show up every session. So I wanted to have a definable record of what went down so people who couldn't make it could catch up. But, I figure why not share that with you guys as well? And so here we are. 

These'll hopefully be going up about every Sunday or Monday. I made a mistake this time and didn't do screen capture, so I had to take the time out and put the maps into the various time slots in the video I'm eventually going to upload to YouTube. Unfortunately I had an accident while editing, and the video is going to be slightly delayed while I re-render the entire fucking thing. 

However, the audio version is ready to go, and that's what I'm bringing right now. If you're not interested in seeing the maps for the places the player characters go, this'll be right up your alley. 

Next time I'll have actual screen capture as well as audio so that everything is preserved properly, but for now, this is all I got.

So I hope that you enjoy my abortive attempts at DM'ing, and that you tune in next time to The Adventures of the Murder-Hobo's in The Temple of Elemental Evil!

[NOTE: This post will be updated with the video for those interested]

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The JimFear 138 Podcast Ep.76 - #FreeJDA, Sci-Fi Pedos, and Lion & Dragon

Hello everyone, and happy new year! Welcome back! I've had some computer and health issues over the past month, but I'm almost back on track. This episode I go over some atrocious Scalzi writing, talk about Jon Del Arroz getting pre-banned from Worldcon, discover that scifi fandom has no leg to stand on with regards to moral superiority, discuss the jacking around of Kasimir Urbanski's new RPG rule set Lion & Dragon, and talk about the difference between fans and customers. 

Hope y'all enjoy!

Conservative Hispanic Writer Jon Del Arroz Banned from Worldcon Sci-Fi Convention:

WorldCon Banning May Be Tied To Its Pedo Problem:

Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End (Part 1 of 5):

Safe Space as Rape Room Full PDF:

RPGNow Has Screwed Me Over YET AGAIN, Day 3:

Kasimir Urbanski on Twitter:

Lion & Dragon on RPGNow:

The Dream of One Book Shelf:

The Gathering Storm by InternetAristocrat/MisterMetokur:

Social Media Dump:













Opening Music:
Honey Bee by Kevin Macleod:
Honey Bee Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License