John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal http://www.scifiwright.com Fancies, Drollery and Fiction from honorary Houyhnhnm and antic Science Fiction Writer John C. Wright Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:42:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:48:31 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13036 A reader with the inattentive yet fraternally equine name of Distracted Brony asks:

One thing I’m curious about. Do you have any, how to say this… infrastructure for your writing? Like, notebooks with scientific facts you often need to refer to, half-formed plot ideas, or personal notes on how to write a given character or convey a given idea most effectively? Or do you just hold all that stuff in your head?

All writers I know carry with them at all times a notebook in pocket or purse where he can jot down story ideas as they occur to him. Most also maintain a continually updated file on his home computer labeled ‘story ideas’ where he carries his story ideas, possible titles, scraps of dialog, and so on.

The idea of carrying all the information that goes into a science fiction novel in one’s head is not feasible for anyone other than a mentat.

The notes for my current series is a document in its 375th iteration reaching 164 pages long. This is not the outline, which is the plan of the plot, just the notes, which contains background material.

I run the risk of ruining the mystery and mystique of novel writing, let me describe this monstrous document to anyone curious about my particular, personal writing process. I am not suggesting the creative method is useful for other writers, and I may not use it for other books.

Under the first header is my chart of Orders of Ascensions, including the thematic element they represent, and the conflict in the plot.

The astronomer Nikolai Kardashev proposed ranking extraterrestrial civilizations based on the amount of energy utilized.  Type I civilization exploits all available resources of its homeworld or energy impinging on it, Type II harnesses all the energy of its star as with a Dyson Sphere, and Type III of its galaxy.

For my purposes, this scale was too crude, since it made no distinction between utilizing the resources of a terrestrial versus a gas giant planet, which I needed to differentiate, as well as clusters of stars, arms of galaxies, and I needed to discriminate between small objects (as the Lesser Magellanic Cloud) and large (as Andromeda). Also, Kardashev did not extend his scale to large and extralarge magnitudes, therefore I have expanded it to include civilizations exploiting all available energy of Clusters and Superclusters (which are Kardashev Type IV and Type V respectively).

Orders of Ascension by Theme and Plot

 Scale

Order

IQ

Example

Theme

Plot

Race

IQ

Kardashev  III, IV, V

Seraphim

Octillion

10^27

Horologium  Supercluster

(5000 galactic groups)

Fatalism

Malthusians v Amaltheans

Swans

(Hermeticist w/ Noösphere aug)

1000

Cherubim

Septillion

10^24

 

Virgo Cluster

(16 large galaxies in the Cluster)

Gnosticism (pacifist prime-directive)

Esoteric v Exoteric

Anchorites

(biotech code)

700

Thrones

Sextillion

10^21

Andromeda Galaxy

(10 times Milky Way size)

Asimovian Totalitarianism

Centripetal  v Centrifugal

Melusine

650

Archons

Ten

Quintillion 10^19

Orion Arm/ LMC

(several hundred million stars)

Conflict is needed for evolution

Reptiles v Tyrants

Locusts

500

Authorities

Quintillion

10^18

 

M3 in Canes Venatici

(500,000 stars)

Deference to Evolution

Darwin v Isaiah

Hormagaunts

 

Kardashev  II

Dominions

Quadrillion

10^15

M44 Praesepe Cluster

(350 Stars)

Banksian Rule of Appetite

Epicurus

Nymphs

 

Dominations

100 billion

10^11

Hyades Cluster

(131 Stars)

Heinlein Justice is Strength

Thrasymachus

Chimera

 

Hosts

Ten billion

10^10

La Superba

(Dyson Sphere: 3 solar masses)

LeGuinian Socialism

Marx

Witches

 

Principalities

One Billion

10^9

Ain

(Dyson Cloud: less than 1 solar mass)

Philosopher-Kings (cf Arisian eugenics)

Socrates, or Lenin

Giants

400

Virtues

Five hundred million

5*10^8

Asmodel, Cahetel Shcachlil, Achaiah.

(superjovian volume)

EE Smithian Intellectual elitism

 

Ghosts

(Early Exarchel)

450

Kardashev  I

Powers

250

million

25*10^7

Jupiter, Neptune

(jovian volume)

Bayesian Moral Evolution

Hegel

Hermeticists

(biotech aug)

350

Potentates

 

800 000

8*10^5

 

Pellucid, Tellus, Torment

(terrestrial volume)

Fatalism v Hope

 

Daemon (Hyde)

400

Archangels

10,000

10^4

Selene

(planetoid volume)

Faith

 

Diva (Rania)

450

Angels

2000

Later Exarchel

(earth’s surface)

Catharism v Charity

 

Scholars

250

 

By Choir—

  • THIRD ORDER: Angels, Archangels, (Potentates), Powers
  • SECOND ORDER: Virtues, Principalities, (Hosts), (Dominions), Dominations
  • FIRST ORDER: (Authorities), (Archons), Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim

Ranked according to size, processing speed, energy consumption, and cognition density.

  • Third Order = Nanotechnology (Molecular and Atomic-level Engineering. Artificial Chemistry)
  • Second Order = Picotechnology (Subatomic-level Engineering, artificial substances. Artificial Quantum Mechanics)
  • First Order = Attotechnology (Preons held together by artificially augmented strong nuclear force. Time dilations on submicroscopic scales via electromagnetic anisotropy.)

I have various notes about technology.

Note on the Propulsion of Solitudines Vastae Caelorum: Using anti-mass, any particle can be vibrated interminably between two fixed points. When mass collides with antimass, it rebounds without exchange of energy. Thus, if suspended between two antimasses, it remains between them, bouncing back and forth without energy exchange or energy loss. Drawing the antimass points closer to each other increases the vibration speed, increasing the heat. But because the mass would almost remain at the same position, the heat would be negative-entropic rather than entropic.When the energy of temperature per particle becomes equal to Planck energy. If it has Planck mass and travels at the speed of light; if the mass is greater, it collapses into a singularity.

And notes about concepts introduced in the plot.

Note on Cognition Density: Note that the “cognition density” of the support-matter is basically the same as with evolved biological humans: the main mass of the life support is the inanimate molten rocky nickel-iron core of the planet, which contains neither information nor intellectual raw material (beauty) affecting the thought of the mind involved—even relatively massive changes to the interior of the planet would have no meaning, no influences on the thought of the biological Noösphere. The “life support” is very widely spread, and, despite the fears of the Greens, major changes to the “meaning” of the ecology could be endured before the material effect of the ecology would negatively affect the human thought process: we would regret the loss of birds to DDT long before we would run out of breathable air or potable water. Even of the life support, the moiety of life support biomass goes to the support of actions other than thought: cows crop grass to feed all the cells in our bodies, not just our brains, so the ratio of sun-energy converted to brain-power is very low. A solar-panel powered cube of logic diamond would have a ratio much closer to unity (depending on how much matter-energy was occupied with maintenance and support).

Under my second header is time lines. I have a small scale time line which goes year by year (for COUNT TO A TRILLION through JUDGE OF AGES), a middle scale time line which goes millennium by millennium (for ARCHITECT OF AEONS) a large scale time line which goes by millions of years, and a very large scale time line by billions of years (for VINDICATION OF MAN and COUNT TO INFINITY). Since these time lines will appear as appendices in the books, I will not repeat them here.

My third header is D&D style character sheets’ where I write down the physical description, costume and props of each character (so that I do not forget Ximen del Azarchel’s eye color). It is filled with little notes like this:

Del Azarchel

His past: the son of a minor county official, at age four his house atom-bombed as collateral damaged during the Hindosphere actions against the Jihad. He lived as a street urchin in the slums of Barcelona, preying on and being preyed upon by the Arab lordlings there, while the city was covered in medical foam, and full-scale quarantine practices were in effect.

Del Az was a “pilluelo” a street urchin. His mother illegally modified him in her womb (as it turns out, based on the Monument mathematics); the father, who was a Don, had the child DNA tested, and when the DNA was discovered not to be within the statistical limits, divorced the wife and disinherited the son as a bastard—this was the common practice in pre-Kali Andalusia, for even then, the conflict with the Svartdeutsch led to a widespread revulsion against genengineering. At seven, he was thrown from rich circumstances into humble; at eleven, his mother was killed when biomodified soldiers (Jihadists? Svarts?) overthrow the Iberians; he lived from twelve to fourteen as a wretched starvling, eating garbage, and stealing shoes from smaller children; at fifteen he was adopted by “el Cid” the Lord of the Quarter, Trajano Villaamil, a ex-soldier who insisted that every theft and crime serve the cause, that the poor could never be preyed upon, and that the media must be involved in every theft:  his motto was to use evil to defeat the Evil, and for no other purpose. He imposed discipline on his band of young crooks, and soon joined with a more organized underground. He was the Patton of the underworld, insisting on proper dress and forms of conduct for all men. He insisted that Del Azarchel enter University and study to hone his fantastic gift for numbers and visual relations (perhaps due to his bio-manipulated heritage).

When Villaamil died in police custody, Del Azarchel fled to Gibraltar, where he was protected by an old friend of Villaamil, a professor named Hengist, who noticed his prodigal abilities in mathematics. For this reason alone, he was absent from the city when it was nuked on the Day of Kali. Del Az learned that whoever controlled the skies would control the earth beneath.

He entered the Space Camp on a whim, and was much amused to see his hated enemies, the Hindus, routinely humiliated by the foolish Texan from Japan, Menelaus Montrose: and what made the humiliation delicious was that Menelaus was utterly unaware, utterly oblivious, to the currents and countercurrents of race-hatred and national pride splitting the Hispanosphere from the Indosphere.

His sword:

The words Ultima Ratio Regum were written on the blade, along with the emblem of a horned circle of olive leaves surmounting a cross: the royal insignia of the Hermetic Order. The letters were gold. In and about the letters twined the figure of a red dragon and a white. The tasseled hilts are adorned with the jacinth and chrysoberyl.

Or this:

Rania

The Royal Arms of Her Serene Highness Rania Ayesha Anne Galatea Grace Angelina Frankenstein Grimaldi of Iberia, are her arms of dominion in right of Monaco. The central shield is decorated, in heraldic terms, fusily (or lozengy) argent and gules. The monks supporting the shield in the coat of arms allude to the conquest of Monaco in 1297, when François Grimaldi entered the city with soldiers dressed as monks, with swords hidden under their cassocks. The collar surrounding the shield represents the Order of St. Charles. The Grimaldi motto, Deo Juvante, is Latin for “With God’s help”.

Her morganthic husband, the commoner Menelaus Montrose, was given an escutcheon of the three headed Serpent of Aulis chasing sparrows, the heraldry ascribed in the middle age to the mythic Menelaus of Sparta.

I have large sections of note on mathematics and astronomy, using articles cut from Internet columns or encyclopedia, which I used to keep track of who did what. Hence, merely for one chapter in the early section of COUNT TO A TRILLION, I had to make note of what I established for the members of the Hermetic expedition, including, for the Hindosphere members, their caste:

    • Del Azarchel. He was a mathematician of some fame from his studies of the Navier-Stokes equations.
    • Ramananda (Brahmin)—his work proving the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture relating to general cases of rank greater than one.
    • Dr. Ram Vidura (Kshatriya). His work was in the Poincaré Conjecture.
    • Dr. Bhuti (Vaishya )—work in the extrapolation of Kronecker’s theorem on abelian extensions to base number fields beyond the rational
    • Melchor de Ulloa—won fame for his solution of Hilbert’s 16th Problem, dealing with the upper bound of the number of limit cycles in polynomial vector fields.
    • Narcís D’Aragó had been included on the expedition for his breakthroughs in the Linear Programming problem, particularly regarding strongly polynomial time-performance in the number of constraints and variables.
    • Sarmento i Illa won his berth for his work in the topology of algebraic curves and surfaces, particularly valuable since topology and knot-theory was the main avenue of approach of most of the Monument symbolism so far translated.
    • Dr. Thiruvalluvar St. Thomas (Untouchable)—had made breakthroughs in the study of Riemann hypothesis and Goldbach’s conjecture

Then comes a list called ‘Certain Basics’ where I write down any figures, names of organizations, or dimensions of props I wish not to forget  (there is at least one place where I made a mistake despite this, and gave two different values for the weight of Montrose’s dueling arm, for example) :

  • Cliometry to establish the Concordat is six billion variables
  • Montrose’s dueling side arm is Krupp railgun and weighs six pounds. It has eight escort shots. (there was a firearm in Blackie’s house that had six). The last chapter of COUNT TO A TRILLION incorrectly lists the weapon as weighing forty pounds (this is the weight of the armor).
  • “As a ship, the Emancipation was a titaness: one hundred thousand metric tons displacement, her overall length twice that of a skyscraper from the First Space Age (2500 ft or 760 meters), with a sail spread of five hundred miles, requiring seventy-five thousand terawatts (= 75,000,000 GW) of laser energy to propel.”
  • The Bellerophon statistics are not given in the text, she was identified as lighter than the Hermetic, which again must be assumed to have been smaller than the Emancipation. Hence, 90 000 metric tons, 2000 ft length.
  • the Hermetic Order of the Irenic Ecumenical Conclave of Man
  • By the 700th century, the political union of the Local Interstellar Cloud was called Empyrean Polity of Man.
  • The Ancient and Honorable Guild of Starfaring and Interstellar Pilgrims Errant
  • Loyal and Self-Correctional Order of Prognostic Actuarial Cliometric Stability
  • Out from star men spoke of as Epsilon Tauri, the Swans in their songs of malediction named Ain, the Myrmidons numbered HIP 20889, and the Foxes riddles recalled as Oculus Borealis
  • Tau Ceti, which the Swans called Durrementhor, the foxes called Tertia Struthionum: the third of the ostriches
  • As of the 700th century there were 42 Emancipation Class sailing vessels in operation.
  • The name of the supership is Desolations of the Heavens. Solitudines Vastae Caelorum both refers to the vast emptiness of outer space, and to the solitary wastelands to which hermits were wont to retreat.
  • All starships are warships, since any mechanism carrying enough power to carry its mass at nearlightspeed across the abyss can use that power destructively. The sailing ships, by leaving their engines at home, minimize this threat.

My fourth header concerns themes. I hesitate to post them, because I have deviated from the initially-planned themes several times, as inspiration strikes (or as inspiration mugs). Inspirations are often nasty things. But I assume my readers are nicer than my inspirations, and at least one reader might be curious as to whose ideas I am shamelessly stealing and from whom. One advantage of being an older writer, is that younger readers may not recognize the even older writers from whom I am shoplifting ideas, and so give me credit for originality where none is due. (This happened considerably with my recently published AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND, where many a commentator was awed with the desolate nocturnal and Lovecraftean setting of the piece, which was taken unchanged from THE NIGHT LAND by William Hope Hodgson.)

Theme

Each order represents a different sci-fi philosophy to be mocked.

The Hermeticists, albeit Montrose does not at first recognize them, are the very ‘Science Council’ seen in ‘Asymptote’—or in other words, the Science Council of Buck Rogers, Lucky Starr, Lensmen, and any other technocracy. The mockery is that such technical warlocks, absent a check on their principles, will use their principles for the Abolition of Man, that is, as a totalitarian mechanism which regards human life as livestock.

The Ghosts will be our old friends the Transhumanists. The mockery is that self-improvement is actually power-lust, and Gnostic rejection of the real world. Those who do not have some driving love binding them to the real world fall into electronic nirvana.

The Giants are moral giants, the sons of the Church. They embrace self extinction rather than allow mankind to die.

Witches are Ursula K. LeGuin type eco-Marxists. The mockery is that envy cannot be the basis of government, family, morality, or life. (They need to use computer emulations to organize their cellular regeneration.)

The Chimera are Heinlein type militarists, who believe that justice is the will of the stronger. Montrose, who is stronger, merely shoots their leader.

The Nymphs are Heinlein type orgiastic libertines. Hedonism innately lacks the self discipline needed to organize a technological society.

The Hormagaunts are Darwinians, who believe in rule by the stronger. Larry Niven type organleggers, not to mention Mother-hunters and population control freaks. The mockery is that their population is low, not high (they will be depicted as having insufficient people to prevent farmland from returning to the wild), and their philosophy merely makes the strong prey on the weak, in the name of eco-emergency. In this case the preying is particularly grisly, since organs and glands are removed from the sellers. The Iatrocrats dictate the terms and the length of life itself. The doctors (who have female Witch organs in them) have a practical immortality.

The Locusts are A.E. van Vogt Slans or supermen. In this version they can only read each others’ minds, as they are bred for uniformity of neural-radio interface. The mockery is that they are vulnerable to mass-hypnotism and mind control (such as Jommy himself uses) and their attempt to guide mankind peaceably into extinction (as Keir Gray would have it, or the Overlords of Childhood’s End) ends when they themselves are (successfully) guided into extinction by a race higher than themselves.

The Melusine are A.E. van Vogt Silkie, that is, totalitarians whose children are raised away from them, forced into marriage to ‘Special People’ who can read their minds. In this case, they are the mockers rather than the mocked, as they also control the science of Cleometrics (Psychohistory), and they employ it in the Eron method rather than the Seldon method, and use it to break away from the history-meddling of Del Azarchel and Montrose. (Eron is the main character from Kingsbury’s HISTORICAL CRISIS, whereas Seldon is the psychohistorian from Asimov’s FOUNDATION.)

Swans—Montrose’s failed attempt to create a perfectly independent being. The Lunarians of Poul Anderson. Being based on the genetic material of pygmy chimps, and having a far lower span of childhood (by five they are fully developed) they lack the human sexual instinct for permanent sexual bonding, and consequently they cannot maintain a technological civilization, or even a civilization at all. The atomized individualists attempt for a time to maintain merely covenant or contractual structures in lieu of family or community, but each such group soon finds more and more of its mores and decisions must be made by the contract-enforcement agencies. The atomized individuals are helpless before the collective power of the state, even of an utterly minimalist libertarian state such as the Lunarians might create. The mockery here is that (far from the posthumans meaning anything to us) the happiness or sorrow of the Swans means nothing to the human beings, and their life or death, expansion or extinction, excites relatively little curiosity. There is an additional layer of mockery in that the Swans are badly designed—they cannot exist as a separate race, and they tend to die off in the colonies.

Myrmidons—Morlocks from Baxter’s the Time Ships style monsters, asexual and grown in vats. They exist without love or hate, art, religion, or any finer emotion. They are little more than an ant colony. The mockery here is of the Hegelian notion that whatever later is better (something Wells himself did not believe—hence his Morlocks.)

Potentates (Pellucid)—turns out to be a horse-brain. It is intelligent and loyal. This is meant to be a contrast (if not a slap in the face) to the “Bayesians” who think transhumanity should have no continuity, no family, no emotional relation with its parent species.

Powers (Jupiter Brain)—the “Bayesians” think it wise merely to create a machine and let it run, learning itself by itself, without any parents to teach it morality. Logically, however, any creature (biological or artificial) which can raise itself by itself is non-altricial, therefore r-strategy therefore egoistical. The moment the advantage of association with humans is less serviceable to its satisfaction than some other alternative, egoism necessitates humanity be sacrificed. The emotional nature related to parental piety, generosity, sympathy, and so on are collective-oriented emotions unrelated to egoism.

Virtues—Conflict is needed for evolution.

Principalities (Ain)— Philosopher-Kings (cf Arisia eugenics)

Hosts (La Superba) — LeGuinian Socialism

Dominations (Hyades Cluster)— Heinlein Justice is Strength. In STARSHIP TROOPERS, the moral code proposed is that man must be the toughest customers in the galaxy, an in HAVE SPACE SUIT this proposal is affirmed even in the teeth of the Vegans, who are weeding out aggressive species before they grow into a threat. Ironically, Hyades is a slave-race of Praesepe.

Dominions (Praesepe)— Banksian Rule of Appetite (as seen in PLAYER OF GAMES, etc). Mana falls from the sky, and men are altered to be able to absorb nutrient through skin, and they can ‘indicate’ any chemical they like into their bloodstream or parasympathetic nervous system. This means they can suffer and die while in morphine euphoria, if so they chose (which is the only choice they can really make).

Authorities (M3 in Canes Venatici)— E.E. Smithian Deference to Evolution “This is the race that will rule the Sevagram.”

Archons (Orion Arm)— Vanvogtian elitism (cf. the Silkie Authority). Greater intelligence=right to rule.

Thrones (Andromeda)— Asimovian Totalitarianism (cf. the Second Foundation)

Cherubim (Virgo Cluster)— Gnosticism (pacifist prime-directive)

Seraphim (Horologium Supercluster)— Fatalism

 

I have additional notes on the technology and organization of each level of mental topography, as well as notes about the nearest neighbors to Sol:

A DOMINATION is a self-aware nebulae or small cluster. The Praesepe Collective (at M44, 550 ly away) is DOMINION a near neighbor to Sol, and controls the DOMINATIONS at

  1. Hyades Cluster (151 lights) –called by Tellus “The Domination”
  2. 12 Comae in the Coma Berenices Star Cluster (270 light years).
  3. M45: the Pleiades (440 lights)
  4. M7. Ptolemy’s Cluster. (800 lights away)
  5. M34 in Perseus (1400 lights)
  6. Xi Persei in the California Nebula (1500 lights from Sol),
  7. M42: The Orion Nebula (1600 lights) centered at Trapezium Cluster, where they are making new stars.—Orion. M42 is destined out outstrip and overtake his master, the Collective of M44.
  8. The Cone Nebula (2700 lights)

The Collective owes fealty to the AUTHORITY at M3. The Collective is a daughter civilization of the long-dead Panspermians, and, like them, was once an organic life form of crystalline vegetative growths adaptable to all planetary environments, and, later, interstellar vacuum.

Dominations tend to centralize in nebulae, where the density of interstellar medium is thick, travel expenses of ramscoopships is less, and young and energetic stars are at hand for macroscale engineering projects.

And, later in my notes:

The Archons of Milky Way are:
KINDREDS

  • (Centaurus Arm), aka Scutum-Crux The Magisterium (life forms divergent here, especially multiple generations of artifacts housed in strange energy-systems. Without consensus, the Magisterium concentrates on mathematical library information only.)   The Magisterium directs the energy of the Furies (Virtues) against the sloth of utopians and the wastefulness of war. Interceded in the ancient Forerunner war (between Sagittarius and Orion) and sowed decimation among the Panspermians. The Magisterium is philosophically a Kindred, a Collaborator and a decentralist. Main centers are far side of the galaxy from Sol.
  • Sagittarius Arm (Sagittarius-Carina), Inward of Sol. The Circumincession. Originated from the Omega Nebula. Suffering from severe internal breakdown do to overuse of novae to seed worlds with heavier metallic elements. Leader and eldest of the Archons of the (Kindred) Collaboration. Remnant of the Panspermian Forerunners here. (Sagittarius for the Kindreds sends an emissary to Orion during the Coalescence into Milky Way union to discover the secret of the Playfair Axiom.)
  • Core. The Instrumentality. Forerunner race, originally Flats dwelling on the surface of neutron stars circling the super-singularity core.

REPTILIANS

  • Perseus Arm, The Colloquium (heads the Great Library System). Reptilians. Originated in the Soul Nebula. Eldest Forerunner race, recollects the previous failed attempt to unify the galaxy under the Canis Major Dwarf inspiration.
  • Cygnus Arm (Outer Arm), the Austerity. Reticent and Austere, the Cygni participate reluctantly in Sophotransmogrification, but are impelled by ancient debts of honor owed the Symbiosis, who saved them from the Furies of the Circumincession. Reptilian-strategy, practically anarchic. They do not practice indenture. (Cygnus for the Reptilians sends an emissary to Orion during the Coalescence into Milky Way union to discover the secret of the Playfair Axiom.)
  • Lesser Magellanic Cloud. The Symbiosis. Challenger and opponent to the Circumincession for the leadership of the Collaboration. Responsible for the destruction of the Panspermian Forerunners, and foes of their heirs, the Circumincession. Secretly controlled by Andromeda. The Symbiosis was responsible for the astronomical murders which tore stars from Canis Major Dwarf and led to the formation of the Monoceros Ring (This act of stellar murder happened 9.2 gyr ago, or 9,200,000,000 BC. )

And, again:

The Virgo Cluster with its some 2000 member galaxies dominates our intergalactic neighborhood, as it represents the physical center of our Local Supercluster (also called Virgo or Coma-Virgo Supercluster), and influences all the galaxies and galaxy groups by the gravitational attraction of its enormous mass. It has slowed down the escape velocities (due to cosmic expansion, the `Hubble effect’) of all the galaxies and galaxy groups around it, thus causing an effective matter flow towards itself (the so-called Virgo-centric flow). Eventually many of these galaxies have fallen, or will fall in the future, into this giant cluster which will increase in size due to this effect. Our Local Group has experienced a speed-up of 100..400 km/sec towards the Virgo cluster. Current data on the mass and velocity of the Virgo cluster indicate that the Local Group is probably not off far enough to escape, so that its recession from Virgo will probably be halted at one time, and then it will fall and merge into, or be eaten by the cluster.

 

However, my favorite part of my notes is the header for the Empyrean Polity of Man of the 700th Century. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent with star maps and charts trying to get my distances and directions correct. IN EVERY CASE the star given is one known to have an exoplanet that modern science has detected. I am adhering to the theory that a gas giant will sweep debris clear from the system, otherwise the inner earthlike worlds (which modern science has not detected) would too heavily bombarded to be inhabitable.

There follows a list giving the dominant race and language of each world, and anything established about it in the text, which is too long to reproduce here.

PEDIGREE of Mother Worlds and Colonies within the Empyrean Polity as of the 70th Millennium

FIRST SWEEP (Swans) 12th

SECOND (Myrmidons) 25th / 21 to 39

THIRD (Hierophants) 37th  / 33
to 58

FOURTH (Patricians) 53rd / 68
to 94

PETTY  (Atavists) 66th / 84 to
100

Sol—Tellus, Mars*, Venus*

JUPITER and
NEPTUNE

107 Piscium —Eurotas* (from Mars) [Chimera]

58 Eridani —Neodamode

 

 

55 Rho Cancri —Sciritaea

 

 

 

 

HIP 10301 in Eridanus—Perioecium*

61 Ursae Majoris  — Cat Sin [Cats]

 (? Tellus)

 

47 Ursae Majoris — Vital Delectation
[Delectables (Nymph Patricians)]

 

 

61 Virginis  — St. Mary’s World

(? Tellus)

 

 

Epsilon Virginis (Vindemiatrix) —Feast
of Stephen*
/ St. Agnes / St. Wenceslaus. [Loricates]

Alula Australis [aka Xi Ursae Majoris]—Taprobane (?
Tellus)

83 Leonis —Uttaranchal

Regulus, or Alpha Leonis — Here Be
Monsters
[Anthropovores]

Gliese 1137 in Antlia — Terra
Pericolosa
[Vampires]

88 G. Monocerotis —

Unicorn (? Tellus)

 

Zeta Leporis— Svartalfheim

 

Wolf 25 in Pisces —We Sing Paeans (? Venus)

 

 

 

Gliese 884 in Aquarius — We See A Strange Dawn (? Venus)

 

Hamal [Alpha Arietis] —Mystery of the
Second Creation

 

Chi-1 Orionis —We Cower Beneath Odd Skies (? Venus)

 

HR 2622 in Monoceros —Qailertetang

 

Proxima Centauri—Rosycross*

[Nonorthagonals, Foxes]

ALTHALIMAIN
(?)

TOLIMAN

66 G. Centauri  [HR 4523]— Pure Abode of Unreturning Souls
also called Suddhavasa-Anagamin

Alpha Mensae —Land of Hungry
Needle-Necked Wraiths
[Wraiths]

Gliese 31.5 in Tucana — Shumisen,
also called Mountain of the Lovely Peach Trees

HR 6 in Phoenix — World
of Willows and Flowers [
Overlords]

HR 4458 in Hydra — Felicity of the Silent Soul*

 

 

[Pyriphlegethon]

Epsilon Eridani—Nocturne*

 

Achernar — Orphan + 100 (34th )

 

 

HR 753 in Cetus — Waiting to Die

 

 

 

p Eridani — Open Airlocks

18 Scorpii — Unsuit

 

 

61 Cygni— Odette*, Odile*

VONROTHBARTH

ZAUBERRING

HR 8832 in Cassiopeia — Masochists’ Delight (Odette)

 

 

[Styx]

Epsilon Indi— Porphyry

Zeta Tucanae— Cursed Earth

 

 

 

Tau Ceti— December*, Yule*, Wintertide*, Samhain* [Hibernals]

TWELVE

CATALLACTIC

Zeta Reticuli— Venture Prospect*
(December)

Epsilon Reticuli —Determined Endpoint
Project
 

Pi Mensae — Onwardness

[Cocytus]

Omicron Eridani— Gargoyle*

284 G. Eridani — Lingering Malice (Gargoyle)

 

 

 

Tabit [aka Pi 3 Orionis] — Fifteen Masks of Uncaring Fate

 

 

 

70 Ophiuchus—Aesculapius* [Breatharians]

41 Arae — Nepenthe for Woe

 

 

 

Xi Boötis— Euphrasy*

[Iatrocrats, Reticents]

44 Boötis  — Schattenreich and Rime  [Ghosts,
Hibernals, Reticents]

 

Kappa Coronae Borealis — Aerecura
(Schattenreich) [Sworns]

Arcturus or Alpha Boötis —Nightspore
[Summerkings]

[Acheron]

Iota Draconis aka Eldsich: —

Torment*

Gliese 570 in Libra— Walpurgis [Nicors, Giants]

Chara [aka Beta Canum Venaticorum] — Joyous [Swan-Foxes
called Joys]

Gliese 490 in Canum Venaticorum — Vayijelal — existence not confirmed

Zubenelgenubi — Aaru  (from Chara)

 

MLO 4  (HR 6426) in Scorpio

Horrific Vision of Nagual
(Walpurgis)

 

Xi Scorpius —Bloody Water Poisoned Air

 

Altair in Aquila — Covenant* [Hierophants]

IMMACULATE

CONSECRATE

HR 7722 in Capricorn — Preceptor Joachim Voor’s World
(Covenant)

51 Pegasi —Chrysaor

 

 

85 Pegasi  —Geryon

[Lethe]

 

Eta Cassiopeiae— Outrage and Calm

HR 511 in Cassiopeia — New Seed (Outrage)

 

 

 

 

36 Ophiuchi— Albino* [Swans]

12 Ophiuchi — Dust [Anarchists, Aberrants]

Rasalhague  Penance*
[Optimates (Swan Patricians)]

 

 

HR7703 in Sagittarius— Gilgamesh and Enkidu

 

 

 

 

82 Eridani— Cyan* (Myrmidon throneworld)

CERULEAN

Gamma Leporis— Broceliande

 

 

HIP 12961in Eridanus  — Land of the
Young

 

Delta Pavonis— Splendor*

PEACOCK

 

Gamma Pavonis — To Prevail

 

 

Fomalhaut — Plenary Triumph

 

 

 

23 earths 15 stars

16 potentates

27 earths 27 stars (50 earths / 42 stars)

4 potentates

14 earths 13 stars (64 earths / 55 stars)

1 Potentate

9 earths / 9 stars (73 earths / 64 stars)

8 earths / 6 stars (81 earths / 70 stars)

3 Potentates

LEGEND: *=indicates Potentate (living terrestrial planets) CAPITALS are Powers (living Gas Giants) , BOLD CAPITALS are Principalities (living system-wide engineering).

 

 

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Radioactive Dinosaurs & Writing as Fishing http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/radioactive-dinosaurs-writing-as-fishing/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/radioactive-dinosaurs-writing-as-fishing/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:58:43 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13026 A reader writes in with two unrelated questions:

 In your opinion, what is the best Godzilla movie?

I love questions, silly or serious. Every question is a little doorway into the walled garden of truth, big or small.

I have several Godzilla flicks that I like. What lawyer does not like Godzilla movies? All the titles sound like law cases.

The original first one, which I finally saw in Japanese (without Raymond Burr), was really a work of art that worked on several levels, as a myth, as mystery story, as a meditation on the dangers of atomic weapons, and as a monster story.

Aside from that, I like the sixth film in the series, GODZILLA VERSUS MONSTER ZERO, where the menacing aliens of Planet X, the Xiliens, use the various Toho kaiju to attack  the Earth.

kumi

Part of my reason for liking the film was the actress Kumi Mizuno looks delightful in her spacesuit.

 

kumi 4

I rather like DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, just because it will filled with monster goodness, and I liked when Toho returned to the same them with GODZILLA FINAL WARS, and not only did our old friends from Planet X, the Xiliens, again show up, but so did the flying submersible boring-drill machine battleship Gotengo from the movie Atragon.

Next question:

Do writers seek to make a masterpiece everytime they write a new story, or do they simply try to write to the best of their abilities? Is there a difference?

I can speak for no writer but myself. I write the same way a cobbler makes shoes. He wants each pair to be made in a craftsmanlike fashion: well-made, serviceable, watertight, comfortable to the foot, long-lasting, and good to the eye.

Likewise, I want my books to do the service for which the customer paid the money: to be entertained on a rainy day, to praise the praiseworthy, blame the blameworthy, and remind the reader that grass is green, snow is white, and water will wet you and fire will burn.

I do not seek to make a masterpiece each time I write, or any time I write. Nor do I seek to crank out hackwork, stuffed with lazy writing. I do not really think about me and my motives when I write: I only think about the work itself.

Writing is the art of being brave in the face of a blank sheet of paper.

I write what I am inspired to write by that mysterious thing that compels writers to write, the thing pagans call the muses, or Christians know to be heaven, and postchristians call the subconscious mind.

Technically speaking, a masterpiece is the work a journeyman in a guild wrights in order to show he has mastered his craft. By that standard, one’s first professional sale into a major market is one’s masterpiece, and, by no coincidence, often it is a writer’s best work.

But we are not speaking technically: you are asking whether writers attempt to make their current work their best.

The difference between doing one’s best and doing a masterpiece is the difference between a comparative and a superlative. Doing one’s best means straining each nerve and muscle to the utmost, whether those efforts are met by success or failure. Writing a masterpiece means the work itself merits fame and applause, whether it was done with great effort on the author’s part, or, ironically, tossed off without a second thought.

My editor says my best work, the best thing I have ever written, is a short story that I penned in an afternoon off the top of my head in one draft. The story made no impression on me and I hardly remember it.

On the other hand, I sweated and labored over my favorite thing I ever wrote, and expected it would win awards. When it appeared in the magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, it received no comment, no applause, no awards.

Writing is like fishing. The fisherman wakes early, finds a good spot where the salmon are running, selects his bait, and uses his skill to tie his lure and to cast. He can be proud of his part of the work, which is the skill at fishing.

Sometimes you stand in the cold for hours and catch only small fry. Sometimes you have to know what to throw back. Sometimes you struggle with a huge fish too big for you, and the line parts, and it gets away from you. Other times a prizewinning fish leaps at the first moment, with no effort on your part.

Trying your best is like the fisherman’s task, and the masterpiece is the fish.

You catch the fish, and you can feel a quiet pride in your fishing skills. But you did not make the fish.

God made the fish.

* * *

And, speaking of fishing, we need more Gotengo!

(Maser?! Maser?! What gives? That is clear the Zero Canon from the movie ATRAGON!)

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Superversive: Why Christian Comic Books Are So Necessary http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/superversive-why-christian-comic-books-are-so-necessary/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/superversive-why-christian-comic-books-are-so-necessary/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:32:18 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13020 Superversive literature is needed in the name of realism, both to correct the grim and horrid stories of socialist-flavored realism so popular in the mainstream, and to correct the opposite error of happily optimistic stories of simple heroism where the heroes never fail.

Dan Lawlis, a comic book artist, has a column on the second topic over on the Superversive blog.

http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2014/12/17/superversive-blog-guest-blog-why-i-think-christian-comic-books-are-so-necessary/

Why I Think Christian Comic Books Are So Necessary

Consider your average kid is reading your average comic book, let’s say its Batman. You know the story, the Joker is threatening the city, and in comes Batman, he throws his batarang, it hits the switch that turns off the death ray, and saves the city in the nick of time.

The problem is, it always works out. Batman never faces death, so he doesn’t have to confront life. This is fine if you’re a little kid. Kids shouldn’t have to deal with the real world. But more and more comics are being read by older teens. That’s a problem, because those fantasies aren’t preparing them for the real world.

These teens get out in the real world, and things don’t work out so well. In the real world Batman misses with his batarang and innocent people die. On top of that the jerk usually get’s the girl.

Since Batman always wins he can avoid the need for God. The writers can neatly avoid God by filling any need with fantasy. When the kids try to mimic their heroes in the real world and lose, they aren’t prepared for that, and they fall apart.

Over the years comic book story lines have grown up in subject matter, that is, the heroes face death more, but they haven’t grown up spiritually. What’s the result of this development? Well, you can see it all around you. The characters get angry at life. They become bitter, grim, mean, dark brooding types. Batman, Wolverine, even formally colorful upbeat characters like Spiderman and Superman have become more evil looking, grey and colorless.

Read the whole thing: http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2014/12/17/superversive-blog-guest-blog-why-i-think-christian-comic-books-are-so-necessary/

I had noticed the evil-looking and colorless comics myself, growing steadily ever since the days of THE WATCHMAN by that child pornographer neopagan whose name I forget, the author of LOST GIRLS. Alan Moore? He did a really good job with SWAMP THING and with almost everything he’s written. This work is all dark and nasty and vulgar, of course, as morally empty as the grin on a skull. Imagine comic books written by Hannibal Lector. It is a pity his immense skills could not be used for the side of goodness and truth.

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What Wages Pay the Unpaid Apologists for Utter Evil? http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/what-wages-pay-the-unpaid-apologists-for-utter-evil/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/what-wages-pay-the-unpaid-apologists-for-utter-evil/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 00:46:13 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13013 A reader with the celestial yet thaumaturgic name of AstroSorcorer comments on the alliance between the Left and their beloved Jihad, for whom they act as unpaid apologists:

I suspect that many of the apologists are also motivated by terror. A coward without virtue will cleave to whoever is the most violent, the most threatening, the most evil. Thus, do cowards become the agents of evil.

With all due respect, I strongly disagree. None of the apologists for this evil seem to speak or act as if they fear the Jihadists. Indeed, if anything, quite the opposite, as if they are utterly unaware of the danger, and regard anyone with a rational apprehension or caution toward the enemy to be the victim of a neurotic and irrational fear, namely, Islamophobia, or motivated by an irrational and contemptible hatred, namely, racism. These are not the words or actions of appeasers. The bespeak not fear, but a blindness to the danger nearly impossible to comprehend; and meanwhile, like Chicken Little, they take trembling steps under the sky, eyes wide and wet with unshed tears of fear, terrified of the weather, convinced the earth is about to be fried like an egg by Global Warming. (Or Global Cooling. Or Alar. Or DDT. Or arsenic in drinking water. Or a hole in the ozone layer. Or acid rain. Or radiated foods. Or…)

The Anonymous Conservative has a rather elaborate theory to explain this, or, rather, since it can neither be proved nor disproved, a rather elaborate ‘just-so’ story (http://www.anonymousconservative.com/blog/warfare-and-group-selection/):

If the r-type psychology curried favor with this enemy, before initiating the defeat of their population, they would be well positioned to actually use the K-type Warrior’s competitions against him, ala the r-type transvestite cuttlefish’s exploitation of the rules governing their flashing competitions. Following their society’s defeat, the conquering force would likely allow them to survive, and might even promote them to positions of power within the new occupation. Meanwhile, their primary competition within the population, the K-type Warriors, were killed in the defeat, without the r-type individuals even having to compete against them.

Since the r-type adaption to group competition is such a complex divergence from simple individual Anticompetitiveness, we differentiate this further evolution of the r-type psychology by naming it Appeasement.

In the book, we show how the Liberal’s diminished amygdala volume in their brain is associated with a tendency to judge threats as allies, as well as exhibit diminished pro-sociality, both of which would tend to produce defeat in group competition. We examine research showing Liberals will show increased openness to out-group interests, and diminished loyalty to in-group interests. We also point out how r-strategists need a form of mortality, applied to their population, to free up the resource availability they need to enjoy advantage, relative to K-strategists. Using violent conflict to reduce population loads, and kill local K-selected competition is a brilliant strategy to increase the ability of the r-strategist to survive, under what would otherwise be lethal K-selecting environmental conditions

I admit to be attracted to this theory. I note the parallel between the behavior of the Left toward Jihad and the way herd animals will ignore predators right in their midst, almost as if pleased that the youngest, oldest and weakest among them will die, leaving more does for them.

Nonetheless, I resist the allure of the theory, on the grounds that a more apt theory would take the spiritual dimension into account, and talk about sin and guilt and the desire for self destruction, and so on, not to mention the lure of evil for evil’s sake.

The Left loved the Communists killing countless millions of innocent people both because they love the idea of corpses piled up so high that they blacken the sun, and because the Communists were foes of Christianity and civilization. But the Reds were civilized themselves enough to want things like running water and food and life, and so were unwilling to ignite a nuke and bring about the final and utter semisexual craving of the Left, which is worldwide obliteration. The Jihad are far more attractive to the Left, because they are vile, violent, and dishonorable on every level, and, like the Left, have no real desire for life on Earth.

No, I have read the words of Leftists on many occasions. They are afraid of me. Me. I have no power whatsoever to harm them. I am a fat old and nearsighted writer of novels for teenaged boys about superscientists fighting moon-nazis. What in the world would cause them fear of me? What do I have that the Jihad lacks and the Soviets lacked?

The Jihad and the Soviets are utterly, absolutely, entirely, hysterically, insuperably and supremely devoted to falsehood. Whereas I am truthful. All their bombs and guns and tanks, their money, their armies, their suicide bombers do not frighten the Left, because the Left literally cannot imagine physical danger, nor more than Veruca Salt can do, and for the same reason they cannot. They are spoiled brats. Brats always get their way.

But telling Veruca Salt the truth about the state of her soul, and her conscience will prick her, and that is the one pain she cannot fight or tolerate. The Left hates the light because their deeds are evil.

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Hillaire Belloc on Mohamedanism http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/hillaire-belloc-on-mohamedanism/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/hillaire-belloc-on-mohamedanism/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 15:22:35 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13009 A priest of Opus Dei, Fr. C. John McCloskey, joins me in calling for a new Crusade. The original is here: http://thecatholicthing.org/2014/12/10/spirited-visitor/

My old friend Hilaire Belloc spoke to me from heaven, where the Catholic sun doth shine and there is no need of plenty of wine. I was delighted to see him, even though he interrupted a fine sleep to communicate some suggestions to me and my confreres on how to handle the current threat to the civilized world posed by resurgent and aggressive Islam.

As many readers of The Catholic Thing already know, Belloc predicted that Islam would return as a major world threat, this time even more dangerous and armed with weapons of mass destruction, posing a serious challenge to the decadent West, which no longer even procreates at levels that replace its population. Over time Islam may well win the battle against the West via procreation, without firing a shot.

…First, as a good Catholic Belloc, urged that the NATO nations and other countries willing to pitch in should come up with and immediately implement a rescue plan to offer humanitarian asylum to all endangered Christians (and peaceful members of other religions facing Islamic persecution).

Second, Belloc envisioned all European countries of Christian origins, including Russia (though this is a long shot in the current geopolitical situation), and their erstwhile colonies that are Christian, including Latin America, forming a coalition of armed forces to attack and destroy the forces of the Islamic State and its allies and lookalikes.

He cautioned that, of course, such a coalition should strictly abide by just-war principles – among other things, by stopping short of the use of nuclear weapons and other WMDs, giving warning of attacks, and doing everything possible to save innocent lives and civilians.Next, Belloc the historian referred to an era of European history now widely vilified, but (despite lapses) worthy of present-day emulation. He argued (also a long shot) that if the Islamic nations were signing on for jihadism, bent on killing and maiming, we of the West should once again don the Crusader’s cross, seeking from Pope Francis the customary plenary indulgence and the blessings of our separated Christian brethren, the Orthodox churches of the East.

Assuming that such a modern Crusade would meet with the success (unfortunately, temporary) of the one that wrested away control of the Holy Land from Muslim invaders in 1099, Belloc advised that we confiscate our defeated foes’ weapons, reopen all formerly closed Christian places of worship, and rebuild the demolished churches, financing the reconstruction with money from the oil-rich Muslim countries (such as Saudi Arabia and others) that have armed the jihadists.

Of course, Muslims in these territories should be allowed freedom of worship, but their (rebuilt) mosques should be open for all to see and hear the proceedings to prevent any secret incitement to violence against Christians or other peaceful religions or sects in the Middle East.

Read the whole thing: here: http://thecatholicthing.org/2014/12/10/spirited-visitor/

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The Saints and Mahound http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/the-saints-and-mahound/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/the-saints-and-mahound/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 20:00:52 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13001 Some quotes from a column What Did the Saints Say about Islam? By Andrew Bieszad appearing on the fine site OnePeterFive on August 12, 2014:

 

The following is a brief list of quotes from Catholic saints about Islam and its founder, Muhammad. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is illustrative of how Catholics — particularly those favored sons and daughters of the Church we now know to be in heaven — viewed the Muslim faith in prior generations:

“Whoever does not embrace the Catholic Christian faith is lost, like your false prophet Muhammad.”

-St. Peter Mavimenus (d. 8th century), martyr from Gaza. Response reported in the Martyriologum Romanum when he was asked to convert to Islam by a group of Muslims.

 

“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist…. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.”

-St. John Damascene (d. 749), Syrian Arab Catholic monk and scholar. Quoted from his book On Heresies under the section On the Heresy of the Ishmaelites (in The Fathers of the Church. Vol. 37. Translated by the Catholic University of America. CUA Press. 1958. Pages 153-160.)

 

“We profess Christ to be truly God and your prophet to be a precursor of the Antichrist and other profane doctrine.”

-Sts. Habenitus, Jeremiah, Peter, Sabinian, Walabonsus, and Wistremundus (d. 851), martyrs of Cordoba, Spain. Reported in the Memoriale Sanctorum in response to Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd Ar-Rahman II’s ministers that they convert to Islam on pain of death.

 

“Any cult which denies the divinity of Christ, does not profess the existence of the Holy Trinity, refutes baptism, defames Christians, and derogates the priesthood, we consider to be damned.”

-Sts. Aurelius, Felix, George, Liliosa, and Natalia (d. 852), martyrs of Cordoba, Spain. Reported in the Memoriale Sanctorum in response to Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd Ar-Rahman II’s ministers that they convert to Islam on pain of death.

 

“On the other hand, those who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to this, the point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), Theologian and Doctor of the Church. Quoted from his De Rationibus Fidei Contra Saracenos, Graecos, et Armenos and translated from Fr. Damian Fehlner’s Aquinas on Reasons for the Faith: Against the Muslims, Greeks, and Armenians (Franciscans of the Immaculate. 2002.).

 

“As we have seen, Muhammed had neither supernatural miracles nor natural motives of reason to persuade those of his sect. As he lacked in everything, he took to bestial and barbaric means, which is the force of arms. Thus he introduced and promulgated his message with robberies, murders, and bloodshedding, destroying those who did not want to receive it, and with the same means his ministers conserve this today, until God placates his anger and destroys this pestilence from the earth.

[…]

(Muhammad) can also be figured for the dragon in the same Apocalypse which says that the dragon swept up a third of the stars and hurled down a third to earth. Although this line is more appropriately understood concerning the Antichrist, Mohammed was his precursor – the prophet of Satan, father of the sons of haughtiness.

[…]

Even if all the things contained in his law were fables in philosophy and errors in theology, even for those who do not possess the light of reason, the very manners (Islam) teaches are from a school of vicious bestialities. (Muhammad) did not prove his new sect with any motive, having neither supernatural miracles nor natural reasons, but solely the force of arms, violence, fictions, lies, and carnal license. It remains an impious, blasphemous, vicious cult, an innovention of the devil, and the direct way into the fires of hell. It does not even merit the name of being called a religion.”

-St. Juan de Ribera (d.1611), Archbishop of Valencia, missionary to Spanish Muslims, and organizer of the Muslim expulsions of 1609 from Spain. Quoted in several locations from his 1599 Catechismo para la Instruccion de los Nuevos Convertidos de los Moros (my translation).

 

“The Mahometan paradise, however, is only fit for beasts; for filthy sensual pleasure is all the believer has to expect there.”

St. Alfonsus Liguori (d. 1787). Quoted from his book, The History of Heresies and their Refutation.

 

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Defending Lovecraft (S.T. Joshi replies to Charles Baxter) http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/defending-lovecraft-s-t-joshi-replies-to-charles-baxter/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/defending-lovecraft-s-t-joshi-replies-to-charles-baxter/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 17:28:18 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13003 This column was brought to my attention by Larry Correia, and I wish to pass the favor on to my readers.

Mr Correia in his column was responding, in his incounterfeitable style, to Grimi Wormtongue, son of Gálmód, who, writing for the British printed matter called Guardian, we find busily if frenetically savaging HP Lovecraft for reasons best explained by the Anonymous Conservative.

To anyone attempting to exploit the link and read the Guardian column, I must include a ‘trigger warning’ to those who, like me, love the the nuance, precision, and strength of expression of the Queen’s English, for the Guardian publication (I cannot in good conscience call it a newspaper) retains a most negligent editor, who permits his writers yammer in jargon not as amusing as the neologisms of Dr Seuss, nor as gay as those in a Marry Poppins song, which seemingly erupt in an epileptic spasm of ink. This phenomenon, which is of interest in alienists, seems similar to glossolalia, in that it seems to be the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning, but is prompted by the inspiration of a spirit somewhat more unclean and dubious than that which inspires revivalists and evangels. 

Here is my trigger warning: always keep the trigger finger outside the guard until you are ready to shoot. Do not point until you are ready to shoot, do not shoot until you are ready to kill, aim for the center of mass and empty the cylinder.

I include below the cut an image of Mr Correia holding his typewriter as a warning to the wise.

tetsubo

In the course of this ‘enhanced interrogation’ technique carried out by Mr Correia with verbal tetsubo, reference was made to a more scholarly defense of HP Lovecraft, and his position in the Commonwealth of Letters, by Mr Joshi, who was responding to a similar savaging performed, I assume, with more skill and literacy by Charles Baxter than was seen in Wormtongue’s limp and self congratulatory effort.

The column itself, entitled Reply to Charles Baxter’s “The Hideous Unknown of H. P. Lovecraft” can be found here: http://www.stjoshi.org/review_baxter.html

Here is a quote:

 

Lovecraft was an almost universally beloved figure in his time, as evidenced by the dozens of memoirs written by his friends, colleagues, and relatives. A comment by Ernest A. Edkins is representative: “I think that the most lasting impression Lovecraft left me was one of essential nobility, of dauntless integrity. … He remains enshrined in my memory as a great gentleman, in the truest sense of that much abused term.”[10]

Baxter has a low opinion of Lovecraft’s prose. It is easy to quote Edmund Wilson’s strictures from 1945, but there are several good reasons for not regarding Wilson as the voice of God on this issue. First, Wilson revealed a severe prejudice toward all genre writing, as witness his condemnations of detective fiction (“Why Do People Read Detective Stories?”) and of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (“Oo, Those Awful Orcs”). Wilson was simply unable to acknowledge that non-mimetic literature can convey anything significant about humanity and its place in the cosmos. (It will be news to Mr. Baxter that Wilson substantially revised—and revised upward—his view of Lovecraft about twenty years later, when he read the first volume of Lovecraft’s Selected Letters [1965]; he even wrote a play, The Little Blue Light, with some Lovecraftian touches.)[11]

Second, Wilson’s review appeared when he and many others assumed that the barebones austerity of Hemingway was the only “correct” style that could be utilized in literary fiction (Lovecraft himself derided Hemingway’s prose as “machine-gun fire”[12]), but I thought we had learned something since then. Steven J. Mariconda, who has done more to analyze Lovecraft’s prose style than any other scholar, has concluded that he was a “consummate prose stylist” and adds:

The bulk of his stories are atmospherically effective. … He wrote as he did for carefully considered reasons, leveraging a naturally erudite style into an effective instrument to create weird atmosphere. … He plumbed the depths of fear, dream, time, and space as few others have, and nothing other than the unique style we now know as “Lovecraftian” could have better conveyed the intense philosophical and psychological conceptions that were his concerns.[13]

If Mr. Baxter wishes the opinions of someone more eminent than Mariconda (and, indeed, than himself), I can cite Joyce Carol Oates, who has stated:

Most of Lovecraft’s tales … develop by way of incremental detail, beginning with quite plausible situations … One is drawn into Lovecraft by the very air of plausibility and characteristic understatement of the prose, the question being When will the weirdness strike? There is a melancholy, operatic grandeur in Lovecraft’s most passionate work, like ‘The Outsider’ and ‘At the Mountains of Madness’; a curious elegiac poetry of unspeakable loss, of adolescent despair and an existential loneliness so pervasive that it lingers in the eader’s memory, like a dream, long after the rudiments of Lovecraftian plot have faded.

These sentences come from Oates’s introduction to Tales of H. P. Lovecraft (Ecco Press, 1997), one of the best short analyses of Lovecraft ever written. It was originally written as a review-article of my H. P. Lovecraft: A Life in these pages (October 31, 1996).

Baxter also underestimates the tonal and stylistic variety of Lovecraft’s prose. He has made no attempt to seek out an entire group of imaginary-world fantasies (modeled largely after the work of Lord Dunsany), ranging from such exquisite early specimens as “The White Ship” (1919) and “Celephaïs” (1920) and culminating in the expansive short novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926–27), that are very different from his dense tales of supernatural horror. These tales were deliberately excluded from Klinger’s volume. Baxter also ignores such things as the melding of weirdness and pathos in “The Outsider” (1921; also not included in Klinger), the self-parodic humor in “Herbert West—Reanimator” (1921–22) and “The Lurking Fear” (1922), and the transmogrification of the horrific “other” to the horrific self in such existential fictions as “The Shadow over Innsmouth” (1931) and “The Shadow out of Time” (1934–35).

Moreover, Baxter seems strangely tone-deaf to the radical change from Lovecraft’s early “first-person hysterical” style, as seen in such tales as “The Tomb” (1917) and “Dagon” (1917), to the far more sober, scientifically based fictions of his last decade. I for one would find it difficult to find a passage of more effective rhythmic modulation than in the first paragraph of “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926):

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.[14]

The first sentence is now cited in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I trust Mr. Baxter is prepared to admit that the editors of Bartlett’s know a good bon mot when they encounter one.

Even when Lovecraft seems to be at his flamboyant worst, he reveals a sensuous love of language that can be intoxicating, as in this celebrated example from “The Outsider”: “It was the ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and desolation; the putrid, dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation; the awful baring of that which the merciful earth should always hide.”[15] At least one dictionary has quoted a part of this sentence as an example of the metaphorical use of the word “eidolon.”

Lovecraft made every word count. He adhered as rigidly to Poe’s theory of the “unity of effect” as Poe himself did. He recognized that a richly textured prose style was perhaps the best means to convey the realism that the supernatural tale required if it were to be convincing to a skeptical audience. He outlines his principles in the seminal essay “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” (1933):

In writing a weird story I always try very carefully to achieve the right mood and atmosphere, and place the emphasis where it belongs. One cannot, except in immature pulp charlatan-fiction, present an account of impossible, improbable, or inconceivable phenomena as a commonplace narrative of objective acts and conventional emotions. Inconceivable events and conditions have a special handicap to overcome, and this can be accomplished only through the maintenance of a careful realism in every phase of the story except that touching on the one given marvel. This marvel must be treated very impressively and deliberately—with a careful emotional “build-up”—else it will seem flat and unconvincing. Being the principal thing in the story, its mere existence should overshadow the characters and events. … Atmosphere, not action, is the great desideratum of weird fiction. Indeed, all that a wonder story can ever be is a vivid picture of a certain type of human mood.[16]

The upshot of all this is that Lovecraft developed, in the course of a relatively short career spanning less than twenty years, a highly coherent aesthetic of the weird and developed a prose style that he believed was appropriate to its expression. Whatever one may think of Lovecraft’s prose, I would suggest to Mr. Baxter that he be a little less intolerant when assessing work that doesn’t accord with his own presuppositions.

I begin to wonder whether the hostility that Mr. Baxter shows toward Lovecraft—and, by extension, the entire realm of weird fiction—is based on a dim (and, to him, unwelcome) realization that, for at least the past century or so, many of the most dynamic aesthetic developments in Anglophone literature have come from what used to be derided as “genre fiction”—especially the vital interrelation between literature and media—and that the mainstream fiction in which Mr. Baxter himself has worked for his entire career now occupies a lesser place, with a dwindling readership and decreased relevance in today’s culture. Such writers as Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, James Ellroy, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, and the like are what even highly educated people want to read.

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Supermanity and Dehumanity (Complete) http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/supermanity-and-dehumanity-complete/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/supermanity-and-dehumanity-complete/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 04:52:39 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=12997 This is one of my longer and older essays on a topic very near and dear to my heart, from 2010, which I reprint for the benefit of any newer readers. I note with considerable satisfaction that there have been more examples in the cinema of comic book or science fiction films since this writing that lend support to my theme:

Part I — On Dehumanity

Let me address a question which, if answered, would answer several questions at once. Why are crass popular comic book superhero movies better than mainstream Hollywood movies?

Why are they better and more honest, more sound, and more true than a modern comedy or tragedy or melodrama, or what passes for it? Why are they better drama?

There are some deep questions unexpectedly connected to this shallow question. Let us see into what oxbows of digression the river of conversation leads. A prudence of space may require the discussion to be drawn over several parts.

The question is also based on some assumptions, such as the assumption that comic book movies, by and large are good, and are good drama. (I am aware of the glaring exceptions, and any useful theory must explain those exceptions as well.) What comic books are not is naturalistic drama; they are high romantic drama—but more on this later.

I am thinking in particular of movies like THE INCREDIBLES, DARK KNIGHT, SPIDER-MAN, IRON MAN, BATMAN, BATMAN BEGINS, and the first SUPERMAN movie by Alexander Salkind, and also MEN IN BLACK and X-MEN. If we are generous with our definition of comic book movies, we can add that best beloved version of FLASH GORDON known as STAR WARS; but I cannot in this space defend that these movies are good, and make for satisfactory drama.

Those of you who disagree, read no more, or accept it in philosophical humor for the sake of the argument, because this article is concerned with discovering the reason wherefore this is so, not debating whether this is so.

To the skeptic, all I can report is that the taste of the public put these films in the top ten to top hundred of highest grossing films of all time, whether ticket price inflated or no, so that if you scorn such films are trash, you do so in a lonely minority.

The second assumption, harder to defend and harder to swallow, is that mainstream Hollywood movies are artsy, trivial, greasy, and bad. I do not mean popular blockbusters like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, inspired by old cliffhanger serials, nor do I mean CASABLANCA, inspired by genius, or WIZARD OF OZ or GONE WITH THE WIND or LORD OF THE RINGS, inspired by widely beloved best-selling books.

I am thinking of movies critics and Hollywood insiders like, flicks such as FULL METAL JACKET, RAIN MAN, DANCES WITH WOLVES, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, AMERICAN BEAUTY, CHICAGO, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, CRASH, THE DEPARTED, THE HURT LOCKER. These are not obscure films, and each won widespread critical acclaim, awards, and praise; and you could not, for 357 dollars gold nor with a 357 Magnum persuade me to sit through one showing of them.

The third assumption is that Hollywood movies are made by the elite for the elite, and that it is only with reluctance, or to pay the bills, does Hollywood turn out nutritious fare meant to please and sate the coarse palate of coarse commoners like me, as the popular blockbusters mentioned above.

I do not mean to dwell on this point, I merely ask that you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, accept it as uncontested, since surely the counselor for the Defense of Hollywood dare not claim the actors and studios like us, want to be like us, or like what we like. Their entire claim to be an elite, and superior in taste, intellect, and moral insight to the pathetic bourgeoisie is dashed if they do not discriminate themselves from bourgeoisie tastes.

With these assumptions explicit, let us ponder the question.

Why are comic book movies better than Hollywood movies?

Now, one might assume that anyone asking this question merely has tastes that are common, plebeian, philistine and low.

As for that, I do confess it: it is easy enough to enjoy and appreciate the works of Homer and Euripides and Sophocles, Dante and Milton, Shakespeare and Wagner and Beethoven, the paintings of William Bouguereau or John William Waterhouse, or the movies of Akira Kurasawa and Hayao Miyizaki for the genius of these men is brighter than summer lightning, and darts from so dazzling a high empyrean, and echoes into such profoundest deep that one would be blind and deaf not to be awed by it.

What is difficult is learning to appreciate and savor the artistic genius of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, who wrote comic books and paperbacks, fairy stories and science fiction marketed to children. I have worked hard to lower my taste to appreciating the things as common and simple as fairy tales, and all the simple and true things under heaven. I hope one day my taste will be as coarse as that of St. Peter, who was a fisherman.

The elite of our culture have not yet shouldered that difficult task. We all know that the elite are out of touch with the tastes of the common man, but how far out of touch they are is something of a shock.

Allow me to quote from “J.R.R. TOLKIEN” by Jeremy Mark Robinson:

Philip Toynbee declared, in 1961, that Tolkien’s ‘childish books had passed into a merciful oblivion’, a wonderful statement, just a tad inaccurate. In 1997, The Lord of the Rings was voted the top book of the 20th century by readers in a British bookstore’s poll (Waterstone’s). 104 out of 105 stores and 25,000 readers put The Lord of the Rings at the top (1984 was second).

The results of the poll angered many lit’ry critics in the UK. Howard Jacobson, Mark Lawson, Bob Inglis, Germaine Greer and Susan Jeffreys, were among those irritated by Lord of the Rings‘ success among readers. The Daily Telegraph readers’ poll came up with the same results. The Folio Society also ran a poll (of 50,000 members), and Middle-earth was top again (Pride and Prejudice was second and David Copperfield was third).

It was Tolkien’s incredible popularity that annoyed some critics and journos. Writers are nothing if not bitchy and envious of other people’s success, and British journalists have a long tradition of knocking down anyone who’s successful. So the popularity of The Lord of the Rings served to underline many of the prejudices of the literary establishment and media in the UK:
(1) That people who liked Tolkien were geeks, anoraks, sci-fi nuts, college students, hippies, and so on.
(2) That Tolkien’s fiction was juvenile, reactionary, sexist, racist, pro-militaristic, etc.
(3) And it was badly written, simplistic, stereotypical, and so on. (4) And it was in the fantasy genre, which was automatically deemed as lightweight, as ‘escapist’, as fit only for adolescent boys. And so on and on.

What Mr. Robinson reports of these polls is underscored and emphasized by some that film critic and conservative commentator Michael Medved mentions about movies.

Allow me again to quote, this from a talk Mr. Medved gave at Hillsdale College:

In years past, Hollywood also turned out popular and sympathetic portrayals of contemporary clergymen. Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien and Spencer Tracy played earthy, compassionate priests who gave hope to underprivileged kids or comforted GI’s on the battlefield. Nearly all men of the cloth who appeared on screen would be kindly and concerned, if not downright heroic.

In the last ten to fifteen years mainstream moviemakers have swung to the other extreme. If someone turns up in a film today wearing a Roman collar or bearing the title “Reverend,” you can be fairly sure that he will be either crazy or corrupt—or probably both.

Mr. Medved offers the examples the film Monsignor (in which a cardinal seduces a Nun, embezzles Church funds to the Mafia and CIA) Agnes of God (Nun commits infanticide, stuffs her own baby down the toilet) The Runner Stumbles (seduction again) True Confessions, Mass Appeal and The Mission (various other crimes and offenses). Also, Pass the Ammo, Salvation, Riders of the Storm, In Light of Day, Malone, Crimes of Passion, and that masterwork of bad cinema The Last Temptation of Christ.

In explaining the hostility to our Judeo-Christian heritage that characterizes so many of these films, industry insiders firmly deny any deep-seated anti-religious bias. They insist that moviemakers are merely responding to the beliefs and prejudices of the film-going public. According to this argument, they are merely following the honorable capitalist practice of giving the customers what they want.

There is, however, one gigantic flaw in that line of reasoning: all of the movies I’ve mentioned above—every single one of them—flopped resoundingly at the box office. Taken together, these pictures lost hundreds of millions for the people who made them. Hunger for money can explain almost everything in Hollywood, but it can’t explain why ambitious producers keep launching expensive projects that slam religion.

He next lists films where religious faith was portrayed in a sympathetic light: Chariots of Fire, Tender Mercies, The Trip to Bountiful, Places in the Heart, Witness, A Cry in the Dark: all box-office successes. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was ruthlessly (and pointlessly) slandered, and yet still made an astonishing fortune at the box office.

[…] It is hard to escape the conclusion that there is a perverse sort of idealism at work here. For many of the most powerful people in the entertainment business, hostility to traditional religion goes so deep and burns so intensely that they insist on expressing that hostility, even at the risk of commercial disaster.

Medved goes on to quote a 1982 survey by researchers from the University of Maryland which analyzed the attitudes and practices of key decision makers and creative personnel in the movie business. “Only three percent responded that they regularly attended church or synagogue. In the country at large, by contrast, the same study indicated that just under fifty percent flock to services on a regular basis.”

By no coincidence, a survey by Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Psychological Sciences, “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?” found that consumers of “Green” and “Planet Saving Products” are more inclined to cheat, lie and steal.

Risibly, perhaps because Mazar and Zhong are from the planet Mars, and not aware of the last fifty years of human history, the researchers speculate that people who wear what they call the “halo of green consumerism” are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. “Virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours.”

Pardon me, but I must pause to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes.

Those of us from the planet Earth, who remember being lectured-at and talked down to for the last fifty years by these sneering self-anointed Green busy-bodies and Enviro-Marxists know very well why Greens tend to lie and cheat: it is because they are unbathed and draggle-haired hippies.

Anyone who did not note the moral degradation involved in the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolt overlooked the express and often repeated point and purpose of that revolt: it was to degrade moral standards, first in the sexual realm, then in common courtesy, chivalry, common decency, then in independence of character, then in toleration of dissent. Somewhere along the way personal hygiene fell by the wayside, along with respect for one’s elders and respect for one’s word.

The purpose of the Green Movement, which sprang from the unbathed Youth Movement, is not now and has never been to save the planet and preserve the beauty of nature. That is what Boy Scouts and Rod and Gun clubs and other arch-enemies of the Greens mean to do. The Greens want to trash industry and to feel good about themselves.

It is self esteem therapy, not anything related to reality.

If they were interested in reality, they would publish rather than falsify scientific data, such as Global Warming scares.

If they were interested in preserving nature rather than interested in watching brown skinned people die of malaria, they would legalize rather than forbid the use of DDT. Population Explosion alarmist Paul Erlich would have publicly repudiated his exploded theory once he lost his famous bet to Julian Simon, had he been interested in reality, or vulnerable to shamefacedness; and committed seppuku in the proper Japanese ritual fashion once the demographic data made it clear that the Industrialized world is suffering from underpopulation, not overpopulation.

The Greens are not interested in any of these things because their hearts are not true.

We are not dealing with honest people or even with hypocrites who pretend to value honesty. We are dealing with a philosophy of life and a world view that values untruth, and reacts with umbrage, not shame, when they are caught faking data or believing faked data.

Umbrage: because their code regards it as meritorious to lie for the sake of the cause, the party, and political correctness. To cheat is merely to lie with actions rather than words, and to steal is merely to cheat another of money or goods due him: but the root of all evil, despite what the Good Book says, is love of dishonesty.

But we have wandered far afield: let us return to the main current of the conversation. These examples (and they could be multiplied endlessly, I am sure, from your own life and experience, dear reader) suggest that good taste, faith, and trueheartedness are interrelated in some way.

We need not pause to ponder in what why they are interrelated, or whether the chicken of reality-o-phobia comes before or after the rotten egg of aversion to morality and faith. Let us merely for now proceed on the assumption that the elite in the West today accept a moral code, or antimoral code, which in some way encourages and in some way is encouraged by their code of aesthetics.

They have bad taste because they have bad morals.

Instead of believing in God, or following the Way of Heaven called the Tao, or seeking Nirvana, or paying heed to any saints, philosophers, or sages of Occident or Orient, the Glittering Generation just believe in Themselves and seek to do it Their Way, and they seek Self-satisfaction. They heed only the inner voice of pop-psychiatry self esteem, which, by no coincidence, happens to coincide with the voice of fashion, of political correctness, of useful idiocy.

No matter in what other way the great ideals of faith, truth, and beauty are intermingled, we can at least establish the sole point we need for our present purposes: a man putting up a vast idol to himself erects a monument to his own execrable bad taste. (See the Confessions of Rousseau for details.)

The vast idol to himself that the modern or postmodern man puts up always is posed in the posture of Promethean defiance: the tasteless slabs of smelt used to create the looming figure always have arms upraised in rebellion. For the modern artist, to be is to be subversive.

But against whom does the rebel rebel? To what cause do these Pied Pipers seek to subvert their ensorcelled audience? To subvert means to use subtle means to pry the fidelity of one from his former loyalty to a new. To what buried and illusory fairyland does the music of the Pied Piper’s piping pull?

You can see against whom these would be Lucifers and play-pretend-Prometheans lift their impotent arms by reading their works. They are not shy about telling you. They challenge authority, and convention, and the bourgeoisie morality. Some are alert enough to know against whose authority they actually rebel, and shameless enough to admit it: it is not the followers of the Ten Commandments the Sexual Revolutionaries conspire, but against the Author.

They regard you as sleepy and stupid sheep who need to be startled out of complacency and educated out of stupidity by the jarring clamor of their art. They do not regard themselves (as more sane and more humble artists do, for humility is sanity) as employees seeking your entertainment dollar by providing you with divertissement and simple enjoyment.

Nor do they regard themselves as did the pagan bards of old, whose purpose was to maintain in the memory of mankind the great deeds, whether joyous or tragic, done by demigods and heroes wise and great who came before, and whose name and fame should not perish from the Earth, or whose example should serve as an inspiration or a caution, lest men forget their forefathers and themselves and drift without roots, and be forgotten by their children when time is done.

No, indeed, the express purpose of the subversive modern artist is to cut those roots, to blind the modern world to the past, to drench the eye in the slumber of oblivion, and leave the soul adrift.

Rebels not only rebel against, they also fight for.

Now keep in mind we can speak only in general terms about what is in truth a complex gathering of many persons acting for many goals over many years: but let us not delay to make all the legalistic qualifications or list all exceptions that might obtain. We are seeking wisdom here, not scientific knowledge, and where a single counter example destroys a general scientific principle, an exception does not undo a generally wise observation. Let us silence this objection before it is uttered: to speak in general terms is allowed, for the same reason that we can speak of a sand dune and observe its shape, or hear the stampede and guess its direction, without naming each cow or counting each mote of sand. Sand dunes do indeed have shapes, even if some grains are tossed aside by the wind, and stampedes do go in one direction, even if one in the herd breaks away.

So what are they fighting for, this modern elite?

After the Great War, Europe went through their Crazy Years period, and during the Cold War, America followed, and the elite opinion makers, politicians, writers, thinkers, intellectuals and entertainers, all those who control the imagination and the deliberation of Western Civilization became enamored and fascinated by the series of ideas the previous two generations of philosophers and literati had conceived: the idea that God was Dead and that life meant nothing, and that life was unfair.

The great moral crusade of that generation, the so-called Sexual Revolution was the main rebellion against morality. In the name of freedom and progress, the progressive bent every effort to undoing the progress of all previous generations of saints and sages and moralists, and enslaving the world to addictions and sins: Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, a heady mixture of self-indulgence and socialism. The great moral crusade was Antinomianism.

Antinomianism, the idea that moral rules have no meaning, is a logically incoherent idea, easily refuted by human experience. Progressivism, the idea that the rules of the science economics can be replaced by wishful thinking, is likewise incoherent, and likewise alien to human experience.  Progressivism and Antinomianism are Siamese twins, since the promised revolution of the Progressivism involves an overthrow of basic principles of justice, such as the maxim that forbids stealing, forbids envy, forbids treason, forbids lying. The more violent and radical version of Progressivism, Socialism, also refutes the principle of justice that forbids murdering the innocent masses in their millions who all have to be trampled underfoot for the Marxist and Maoist revolutions to succeed. Socialism is the first code of conduct in history where to show disrespect to one’s elders and ancestors, and to hate and uproot one’s own history and institutions is regarded as a virtue rather than a vice.

Adherence to incoherence has several consequences for any mind willing and able to carry out the logical corollaries implied: civility, history, politics, and reason are all involved in the downfall of morality.

Simple civility is the first casualty of this world view, for it presupposes a degree of respect, if not for persons, then for rules of courtesy, but in either case for norms. One cannot consistently be an Antinomian and be in favor of norms.

(One also cannot respect the victims of one’s lies: contempt is the only logical way to regard those one lies about or lies to.)

History is simply ignored by the Progressives: they regard it as a principle of Hegelian or Marxist or Darwinian evolution that the past has no control over the future, no merit, and need not be consulted. The extraordinary and risible inability of the Progressives of any age to learn from their mistakes, their astonishing parochialism, and their revolting inability to honor even their own founding members are all explained by this philosophical amnesia.

As a political philosophy, Progressivism is not a political philosophy, and does not pretend to be: it is a psychological strategy to scapegoat others for failures and dissatisfaction. As the National Socialists were with the Jews, as Marxists are with the Capitalists, as Race-baiters are with Whites, and Feminists are with Males, as Jihadists are with the Great Satan, and as everyone is with the Roman Catholic Church, the Progressive scheme of things consists of finding someone to blame and expanding the power of the State in order allegedly to rectify these allegedly blameworthy evils.

Nothing is ever blamed on the nature of things, or natural limitations of reality, or on historical facts: these entities do not exist in the Progressive mind.

Reason, of course, cannot be dethroned from the respect it merits by any reasonable argument: instead it has to be shunned.

To do this is relatively simple: Reason was merely called ‘rationalization’ by Freudians, ‘False Consciousness’ or ‘An Ideological Superstructure’ by Marxists, or an ‘Epiphenomenon’ by various sorts of Behaviorists and radical Materialists. Reasoning, particularly metaphysical reasoning, was denounced as meaningless verbiage according to a metaphysical principle of the Logical Positivist School.

Hence, the one central principle of this allegedly rational and scientific age is its devotion to centerless unprincipled unreason.

The philosophy of centerless unprincipled unreason is called secular humanism, but it should rightly be called dehumanism, since its end is to remove all particular human characteristics from the human soul, and leave man barren, helpless, hopeless, soulless and empty beneath the Mordorian lidless eye of the omnipotent state.

This is the world view and the mission of the elite.

Let me hasten to add that no one person holds all these beliefs, or hold them all to the same degree. The beliefs contradict each other and contain lunatic paradoxes, so of course no one can embrace all Modernist ideals simultaneously. Many folk only have one or two of these slogans they repeat, perhaps lukewarmly, and few are true zealots. The average Progressive or Leftist or New Ager or Lover of Dunderheaded Stupidity does not buy fully into these beliefs simply because no one could: these beliefs are deadly, and only the dead could practice them consistently.

Why are the elite so out of touch with the common man? The common man comes from the common experience of Christendom, and Christendom combined Jewish faith with Greek rational philosophy and Roman civic virtue. The dehumanist who rejects all authority must indeed reject that most demanding of authorities, Christ, and finds he cannot reject Christ without rejecting also faith, reason and virtue.

You may be wondering how our elite, or any elite, could rise to predominance in society they reject? Should not the elite be composed, as in the Old World, of those established ruling and land-owning families whose ancestors founded or conquered the social order, and hence are loyal to it? Or, in the New World, should not the elite be composed of self-made men whose genius and enterprise and good fortune enabled them to contribute so much to society, offering mankind oil and steel mills and rail lines and electrification, that the reward of the free market elevated them to wealth? Would not either an elite of lineage or an elite of money be loyal to the social order?

The answer is that the modern Progressive elite are not the children of iron who whose fathers won land by hard military service and fawning on princes, but neither are they children of wealth whose fathers’ stubborn hands won gold from a hard world by fawning on customers: our elite are self-selected and self-anointed, and they know nothing of the iron of war nor the gold of commerce.

The elite are people who flock to journalism and entertainment and politics and the academy, and they share one outstanding characteristic:

Even though their intellectual accomplishments are relatively modest, they take their ability to disregard morality as a sign of lofty and superior intelligence, as if disobedience were a difficult quadratic equation.

As a corollary, they assume that loyalty to morality can only be due to an absence of intelligence rather than the presence of experience, common sense, honor, grit, manhood, spiritual insight or upright character.

They are people less moral than the rest of us, and they take that lack of moral character to be a sign that both their moral character and intellectual ability supersedes our own.

The pop psychology of high self esteem, the loss of the Christian virtue of humility, is what allows them to have these inflated and false-to-facts self-estimations.

Fan as I am of the free market, Capitalism has one obvious drawback: it is too forgiving. Capitalist societies forgive entertainers and entrepreneurs their peccadilloes, their addictions to drugs or booze or porn or adultery or pederasty, because the society wants the goods produced by the entrepreneur and the diversions provided by the entertainer. There are times when your favorite song is the only thing fending off a gray and rainy day of despair; and nothing else will cheer you. Why should you care if the singer molests children? He does not live in your neighborhood. Your ill opinion will not affect him. There are times when the only car worth buying is your favorite make and model. Why should you care if the manufacturer is an anti-Semite? The free market does not condemn.

The entertainment and media markets are even less condemnatory: Artists are expected to be odd. What would in a normal society be a sin in the world of artists is an amusing eccentricity, or a source of insight, or a sign of the sanctity. In the Academic world, eccentricity to the point of sickness and madness is not a drawback, but a passkey to lauds and fame. See the case of Peter Singer of Princeton for details.

Democracy also has a drawback: our liberty allows for such license, that no accomplishment is needed ere one is called accomplished. Even our elitism is democratic: Anyone can be a snob!

All you have to do to achieve the paramount of the modern Decalogue is dishonor your father and mother; to be the modern version Horatio, all you need do is betray the ashes of your fathers and the altars of your gods. Hegelian evolution says that whatever comes later is better, right? Well, you come after your forefathers, and you are younger than your teachers, so you must know more.

To be a snob in the Old World you had to be born to a high family, or in the New, to earn a high place. But all you have to do to be a snob in the world of no-fault modern snobbery is look down on the giants who founded and fought for this nation.

The only way to look down on a giant is to turn your soul upside down, can call evil a type of good (tolerance, diversity, choice) and good a type of evil (intolerance, divisiveness, bigotry). And all you need to do to switch the labels on things, change the definitions so that the north arrow of the moral compass reads south, is to be a damned liar.

Yes, I do mean damned. So picture the modern Progressive as a dwarfish figure, head firmly wedged into a chamber pot, who looks down (what we call up) sees the clouds and stars underfoot, and sun and moon, and proudly imagines he is trampling heaven. And when he seeks to soar to higher places, overhead is a blank and cold earth, merely a roof of matter, impenetrable to his wit; and when he dreams of spiritual things his thoughts ascend to hell. The harder he tries to live up to what he thinks are higher ideals, the lower toward the central fire he sinks.

The short answer is that the elite of our culture are not a high elite at all, but the low dregs.

They do not sneer at us as their inferiors despite their embarrassing retardation in experiential, intellectual, philosophical and theological matters, not to mention their bad manners and sexual perversions: they sneer at us as their inferiors BECAUSE of their retardation.

Lest I be accused of exaggeration, let me pause to give a single example, which will have to serve for countless others. Recall to mind Shirley Jackson’s famous 1948 story, “The Lottery” in which the folk of a small rural town in the American heartland gathers every year to implore an unnamed force to grant a good corn harvest. The townspeople consider, and then reject as foolhardy, the notion of ceasing the lottery as other towns have done. A young mother draws the black spot, and is without remorse and without regret stoned to death by her neighbors and kin, including her own children.

A Chronicle of Higher Education piece by Kay Haugaard, a writer who teaches at Pasadena City College, reports the following:

Until recently, Haugaard says, “Jackson’s message about blind conformity always spoke to my students’ sense of right and wrong.” No longer, apparently.

A class discussion of human sacrifice yielded no moral comments, even under Haugaard’s persistent questioning. One male said the ritual killing in “The Lottery” “almost seems a need.” Asked if she believed in human sacrifice, a woman said, “I really don’t know. If it was a religion of long standing. . . .”

Haugaard writes: “I was stunned. This was the woman who wrote so passionately of saving the whales, of concern for the rain forests, of her rescue and tender care of a stray dog.” …

And so on. One student, speaking in quite rational tones, argued that many cultures have traditions of human sacrifice. Another said that the stoning might have been part of ‘a religion of long standing,’ and therefore acceptable and understandable. Another student brought up the idea of “multicultural sensitivity,” saying she learned in school that if “it’s a part of a person’s culture, we are taught not to judge.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, these students are morally retarded. Morally, not mentally. No matter how smart they may be in other areas or academics, no matter how good their vocabulary or grasp of spatial relations, when it comes to making blindingly simple moral calculations, they are like a ten year old with the mind of a two year old, who can neither form sentences nor tie his shoelaces.

Let us turn with disgust from this grisly vision of the triumph of sardonic hell over the innocent minds of stupid youth back to our initial question. Hollywood mainstream movies stink because Hollywood is run by self-anointed elitists whose only claim to being the elite is their inferiority, and their inferiority is a cause and also an outcome of their dehumanist world view.

Can a dehumanist concoct, without betraying his principles a satisfying dramatic story?

To answer this, we first must turn to what makes for satisfactory drama, but that question in turn leads to a deeper question. Are the rules of drama objective, something we can discuss rationally, or are they merely an epiphenomenon or side effect of accumulated accidentally prejudices and social programming?

If we answer this, we can finally turn to what the elements are that often appear in superheroic tales, and whether or which such elements in such tales lends themselves to satisfactory drama. This will require a further digression into the origins of naturalism versus romanticism in literature. We may even have space to observe the relationship between good drama and the doctrine of determinism.

Part II — On Drama

Can a Dehumanist concoct, without betraying his principles, a satisfying dramatic story? The short answer is no. The long answer requires we discover the nature of dehumanism and of drama.

What is Drama?

The muse of philosophy who broods on Mount Helicon must forgive me if I describe what is a sprawling mansion of many chambers with the briefest of blueprints. Again I warn the reader that we are speaking in the most rough-hewn generalities, and that the presences of many exceptions and qualifications (of which, dear reader, I doubt not you are as well aware as I) does not unmake nor invalidate the general result.

To be a satisfying drama, certain basic elements must be present, either in large or in small:

  1. A protagonist with a goal or dream or need or mission, who is facing…
  2. An obstacle (it can be a person, as an evil villain, or a situation, as life in an evil village) presenting a real challenge, perhaps an overwhelming challenge, blocking the protagonist’s achievement of this goal. Facing this challenge initiates…
  3. Rising action, perhaps with unexpected yet logical plot-turns to astonish the reader’s expectations, leading to…
  4. A climax, a crescendo or catharsis, which in turn brings about…
  5. A resolution that not only…
    1. Makes intellectual sense, with no plot threads forgotten and no plot holes showing but also…
    2. Makes moral and emotional sense, it shows the cosmos the way it is or the way it should be, but also…
    3. Makes thematic sense, such that it can be used as an example, or a model, or a reflection of life or some aspect of life.

Other aspects of storytelling (such as ornamental language or proper pacing, or the use of humor, pathos, satire, insight into human nature, or character development) are needed at least in some degree, but this varies so greatly from genre to genre and tale to tale that it cannot be simplified to a general rule.

There are five dimensions to any story: plot, characters, setting, style, and theme. Philosopher and theologian Peter Kreeft, writing about the philosophy in Tolkein’s LORD OF THE RINGS, re-words these five as dimensions into work, workers, world, words, and wisdom.

The plot is the work to be done, and a dramatic story gains stature if the work is hard, the cost is high, and the reward immense. This is why Robert Heinlein listed only three basic types of stories 1. Boy-meets-girl 2. The Little Tailor 3. The Man Who Learns Better.

What is at stake in a boy-meets-girl story is the future happiness of the couple; nothing is more immense than love. Stories involving any deep emotional relationship fall into this category, not exclusively romance. Stories of this type are about people and passions, honor and attachment: the boy is changed because he falls in love.

The Little Tailor (if I may remind any reader who don’t read fairy stories) tells of a man whose boast of swatting flies gives him a reputation as a giant killer. Then a real giant shows up. Stories of this type are about people and challenges. Facing the giant changes the tailor. What is at stake here is life and death.

Man Learns Better is an inverse of the second plot. The Man finds his fixed ideas or his innate character, when played out, leads to ruin, and this leaves him sadder but wiser, or humbler but wiser. He changes because he learns and grows. If learning your lesson carries a heavy price, the drama is greater. What is at stake here is the man’s soul.

If the hero fails, he loses his heart, or his life, or his soul.

From these three all basic variations of plots can spring: the chase, the quest, the competition, the sacrifice, or tales of revenge, escape, enlightenment, victory and defeat, but in order for the plot to be a plot something has to be at stake and it has to be meaningful to you and to your readers. The work must be a great work.

The end point of the plot is comedy or tragic or melodramatic. Comedies end happily: everyone gets married, or everyone gets a medal, or Dorothy gets back home, and, Oh, Auntie Em, there is no place like home. Tragedies end soberly: Rhett leaves without giving a damn, or Hamlet and half the cast dies, or Oedipus learns a truth so horrid that he puts out his eyes. Melodramas end, or don’t end, with more of a bittersweet sense that life simply goes on, as when Kwi Chang Kane walks off into the sunset accompanied only by the lonely warbling of a bamboo flute, or the Lone Ranger gallops away, leaving grateful and astonished townsfolk wonder who that masked man was.

Those who do the work of the story are the characters. The characters are more dramatic the more the reader can identify with them: this is sometimes achieved by making the characters well-rounded, with strengths and flaws that flow naturally from their personality, sometime by making them quirky and irregular as men in real life tend to be, with unexpected angles to their personalities, and sometimes by making them simplistic, larger-than-life, and iconic.

Usually a character who is less three dimensional seems less real and therefore engenders less reader sympathy, hence interest, hence drama.  An exception arises for iconic characters who have taken up a permanent place in the imagination of the public, and I speak of Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein’s Monster, Zorro, Fu Manchu and the like. In almost every case, the original incarnation in print of the character was more quirky and particular than the many later incarnations, and that the simplification process leaves out details the original author put in, such as the character’s British title, cocaine habit, habits of speech, or added details, such as a characteristic drooping moustache or deerstalker cap or neckbolts not found in the original.

The drama of a character is in his humanity, for unless he is someone you know and love, his triumphs, passion, or losses neither elate nor sting. The complexity or simplicity of the character is merely tool for creating the empathy, the meaningfulness, that allows the reader to fall in love or fascination with the protagonist. This is not to say the protagonist need be loveable: he can have ugly personality traits. But if the author has worked the witchcraft of his craft correctly, the character will be beloved to the reader nonetheless,  warts and all. The character flaws are not overlooked: but to love is to forgive.

The setting must have the same verisimilitude as the characters, or the reader will not accept the world, and the spell called suspension of disbelief will break. To that degree, imaginary lands must resemble lands that are or that could be or that should be here in the real cosmos: because stories that leave out a basic part of the cosmic all readers instinctively put less faith in, and get less drama out.

No doubt fans  of science fiction and fantasy will object that the worlds in which speculative romances are set either do not yet exist or cannot ever, since they are set in other worlds or beneath the light of far suns, or set in Elfland, that perilous realm, where no laws of nature that we know hold sway. Ah, but I tell you Elfland, or something like it, is real, and that in our hearts we know of it, and it is this heart, and not your head that tells you this dull world is all the world that there is, which leaps in glad recognition at a book of speculative fiction.

Or are you an exile in this world? Nearly every science fiction reader and fantasy reader feels this sensation, and knows deep in his bones that this false and mortal world is not his home. We are in exile here. The science fiction reader in his imagination knows that he is meant for some finer world, perhaps on Mars, perhaps farther than Archenar or Andromeda, perhaps further than the Twenty-Fifth Century. In his imagination, he lives there, not here. This is a shadow or a reflection not of a neurosis but of a deep truth: The Christian in his soul knows that all the sons of Adam are meant for a finer world, a new earth under a new heaven, and in his soul he lives there, not here.

The style must be suited to the subject matter, and cohere with the rest of the tale. An epic, for example, is best served by elevated language; a children’s tale by lucid, even Biblical, simplicity of speech; Laconic heroes are better set in Westerns than in Love Stories. Humorous stories must be droll; Science Fiction requires unexpected oddities of word-use, so that readers are startled with a door dilates, or when a ship lifts rather than sets sail.

The theme is the philosophy behind the tale. It can be something as simple as the moral in an Aesop fable, or something as mechanical as allegory, but real drama is rung from the tale when the theme conveys not merely a lesson that can be put into words, but a vision of life, of man and man’s place in the cosmos, that the reader can use as a lens to view life through, and in sharper detail.

What is a dramatic theme? The Aesop fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf is not that dramatic, or the tale of Chicken Little. They are too simple and didactic. These are merely types, or stereotypes. When you meet an alarmist, or someone who rings a false alarm, you say, “Chicken Little is like him” meaning one small aspect of that complex person is reflected in the simple theme of Chicken Little

But Scrooge is a real person. When you meet in real life a stingy and lonely grasper, solitary as an oyster, you do not say “Scrooge is like that man” but rather you say, “That man is like Scrooge” because old Ebenezer Scrooge is the more lively and realistic person of the two, even if he happens to suffer the disadvantage of being not real or never having lived.

The philosophy of life reflected in Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL is so powerful and so popular that it is almost unparalleled. If I merely told you that generosity and Christmas cheer would save even a stingy and lost old soul from the self-wrought chains of greed and avarice, and save the poor and give them hope, you might nod politely if your reason grants assent to the proposition. But if you read the tale, so that it enters your imagination bypassing the watchful guardians of your reason, in your imagination the world comes alive, scarlet and gold with passions and visions, gray with ghosts and white with snow, and the torch of the giant drops a spark of Christmas spirit in your heart, if you have one to ignite, and the sight of a crutch carefully preserved by an empty stool next to a cold fire chills your heart with tears, if you have them to shed.

Scrooge is an excellent example of the third of Hienlein’s three types of plots, the Man Who Learns Better: except that he is wiser and filled to overflow with joy when he learns better, and the dawn banishes the cloaked horror of the final spirit, and the vision of death. Tales of salvation and redemption and forgiveness and reformation are among the most powerful and dramatic stories man can tell.

Pause now and notice what all these elements must achieve if the tale is not merely to be told but well told: not merely diverting, but actually dramatically satisfying.

The plot must be both logical, springing from previous events, and engaging, springing from the choices and deliberations of the protagonist, or, better yet, the hard choices and difficult deliberations. A story cannot be told in a world without free will, because then the characters choices mean nothing.

The characters must either be iconic, that is, posses the grandeur of archetypal myth, or must be realistic, that is, possess the detailed granular reality of real persons, naturally to their own character, but with the irregularities and unexpected textures of life. The character must be empathetic, someone the reader can like, so that the character’s victories elate or woes trouble the reader.  The character must be meaningful for his adventures and changes to be dramatic.

The setting must be as the characters, and reflect, remind, or contrast with the real cosmos. Tales that leave out an entire dimension of real life, such as Boy’s adventure stories with no romantic interest, cannot help but be less able to enchant the reader with the illusion of reality. They cannot help but be flat.

By the real cosmos, I do not mean the modern, scientific, naturalistic account of the cosmos. We all know or suspect that this is not the whole of the story of reality, because if material and natural reality were the whole of reality, we who lived in the cosmos would not tell stories, which are unreal, at all. The setting must be meaningful for the tale to be dramatic.

The style must augment the other dimensions of the tale: as in brief and manly speech for Westerns, elevated language for epics, drollery for comedy, and so on. The words must achieve poetry, even if it is only the angular and laconic poetry of the journalistic style best fit to tell a crime story. The words must exceed the mere denotation of words in order for the work not to be a legal document or a journalistic account, but actually to come to life in the reader’s imagination. The words have to be magic.

To be dramatic, the theme either must confirm the world view of the reader, or challenge that world view and lead the reader to a finer and better one instead: finer and better means, if anything, more meaningful, a tale that lends more depth, reality, and meaning to real life rather than vampiring meaning away.  Such themes as speak to eternal truths both challenge the wrong and confirm the right in the reader, and it is in the very deepest part of his soul that the deepest themes reach. A theme is a dramatization of a philosophy; and in order for a philosophy to be good, it must most of all be truth.

Let us now descend from these high matters that the Muses on their holy mountain sing, and follow a more Orphic path, and look at where modern footsteps with such good intentions have led.

What is Dehumanism? This question will be addressed in a next installment.

Part III — On Morlocks

What is Dehumanism?

Dehumanism is a term I have coined to describe that soft-edged cloud of modern thinking beloved of the Progressive elite. There is no rigorous definition of dehumanism for the same reason there is no Magisterium for the Wicca, and no Supreme Ruling Council of Anarchists. We are talking about a loose and incoherent alliance of incoherent thinkers. The central principle of Dehumanism is that it lacks principle. It is a disjointed admixture of Machiavelli, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and Nihilism.

Its Machiavellian view of morals says that the ends justify the means, and says that noblest ends, such as world Utopia, justify the basest means, such as genocide; Its Darwinian view of history says that races and bloodlines are locked in remorseless and eternal war to extinction, that men should be bred like a dogs, and the weak and unwanted be exterminated; Its Marxist view of economics is that the free market is a Darwinian war between economic classes which must regard each other as implacable foes; Its Freudian view of ethics says that to repress the natural and selfish impulses in a child leads to neurosis, therefore ethics is unnatural, whereas pride and lust and greed and ire and perversion are not only natural, but healthy. Its Nietzschean theology says that God is dead and therefore Power is God. Its Nihilist philosophy says that nothing means anything, therefore no philosophy has meaning and no reasoning is reasonable.

Let me hasten to add that no one person holds all these beliefs, or to the same degree. The beliefs contradict each other and contain lunatic paradoxes, so of course no one can embrace all Dehumanist ideals simultaneously or with equal fervor.

Some wax and wane. The theme of Eugenics, for example, was quietly dropped from the Dehumanist diapason after Hitler betrayed Stalin. Eugenics is no longer welcome in polite society unless disguised as a concern about overpopulation.

Eugenics is not gone forever, of course. The notion is built into the world view of Progressivism, which sees reality as an endless war of race against race, selfish gene against selfish gene. The National Socialists celebrated this alleged reality and sought the totalitarian power to throw the victory of the Darwianian war to the Teutonic race; whereas the Fabian Socialists abhor this alleged reality, and seek the totalitarian power to impose a cease-fire on the Darwianian war.

The Christian idea of a brotherhood of man, or the Enlightenment idea of limits to government, is alien to Progressive thinking and abominated by them. They think colorblindness permits un-umpired competition between the Teutonics and their dusky inferiors; the duskies cannot win; and not to win means to be oppressed; hence, by the twisted logic of Progressivism, a non-racist government or a non-totalitarian government unable to umpire the competition between races leads inevitably to Teutonic triumph and ergo is racist. The only way to stop pro-White racism is by anti-White racism. This requires Whites to act against their own personal self-interest or Darwinian clan interest. Such interests, oddly enough, by the Nietzschean and Machiavellian theology and ethics, is the only source of life’s moral code. It is merely a matter of time before another variation Progressivism arises with some new formulation of Eugenics in its van. The selfish gene demands no less.

The average Progressive or National Socialist or Leftist or New Ager or Lover of Imbecility does not buy fully into these beliefs simply because no one could: these beliefs are deadly, and only the dead could practice them consistently.

The average Progressive or Leftist or New Ager or Imbecilophiliac does not except in small ways support them: he is like a man who burns his leaves and his trash in his backyard, and empties his spittoon off the dock, while the smokestack factories of Academia fill the air with gassy smog, and the overflowing sewer of Hollywood pours liquid sludge by gallons unnumbered into the flood.

He is himself neither truly a Nihilist nor a Marxist; his contribution to the general moral and mental pollution of the age is minimal, but real, and every little bit hurts. He is someone happy to call M. Night Shyamalan a racist for not hiring blue-eyed Eskimos to play the roles of hydrokinetic tribesmen from a make-believe world.

But such is the poisonous moral atmosphere of the modern age. I call it Dehumanism because ours is the first era in history which holds, as its basic postulate of moral reasoning, that there is no moral code, merely arbitrary or useful social myths, and no such thing as reasoning.

It is possible to raise a child to be a sociopath. A sociopath is a being without a conscience. He is able to avoid punishment, but he acknowledges no authority competent to impose duties on his behavior. Even the authority of reason is dismissed as suspect and partial. It is possible to raise a generation of sociopaths merely by raising a critical number of sociopaths among them.

Possible? It is not even difficult. All one need do is teach no young how to reason nor how to reflect on their consciences. It is no more difficult than raising a generation of illiterates: merely teach no young how to read.

At that point, without recourse to reason and without recourse to conscience, and being unable to perceive or even to imagine abiding by any moral standard, mankind will be reduced to being merely an ape that talks. It will indeed be a rational creature, able to calculate a sum or repair a motor, but it will not be human. It will be a creature that can be tamed, like a dog, not to injure its master’s kin, but also trained, like a dog, to kill its master’s prey, but the ability to reflect upon the moral meaning of its trained behaviors will be lost. It will be human in name only, if it deserves that name. A fitter name for the race replacing Man is Morlock.

Such forms the backdrop of assumptions, the starting point, of what any story teller or film maker expects his audience to accept unasked and unsupported.

How can one create a satisfactory drama against such a backdrop, with such intellectual furniture as the props?

What kind of tales can Morlocks tell?

If a Morlock is a creature unable to make or even imagine moral judgments, he only avoids injuring others to avoid punishment. He cannot imagine any other evil aside from injury, and he cannot but resent the lash of the master who inflicts the punishment. Only a totalitarian system of rewards and punishments can check his impulses. Conditioned to equate “goodness” with reward, and therefore the only good he can imagine is reward, usually physical pleasure, such as wine, women, and song, but sometimes psychological pleasure, such as praise, rank and dignities. The Morlock must be a hedonist.

The primary daydream of the Morlock is to achieve the reward for good behavior without the tedium of good behavior: his daydream is to break the whip of the master. His stories are stories of rebellion, retribution and retaliation.

Any authority figure in Morlockian stories is to be shown as a pretender, a poseur, a traitor to his right to rule, a hypocrite or tyrant. No antagonist other than an authority figure fits the mould for a Morlock story.

Morlocks, lacking conscience, daydream of being freed of control, but not in order to live the productive lives of free men. What they seek is pleasure. What they seek is thrills. The nature of pleasure is that it palls. Pleasure is not joy, it is merely stimulus. Stimulus weakens on repetition. Morlocks thrive on defiance. It does not matter what they defy nor why.

Morlocks also lack reason, a sense of proportion, and a sense of common sense. Seeking stimulus, and resenting any attempts at control, they seek indecency. And then when Hugh Hefner and Lenny Bruce becomes mainstream, and mild indecency is the norm, the only way to find an equal psychological reward is to become grossly indecent, to praise Che and Mao and Castro, and to call all the victims of 9/11 little Eichmanns who deserved to die. Once abortion is legal and commonplace the only way to defy the commonplace (and find the stimulus of pleasure that comes from defiance) is to become Peter Singer, and call in tones of whining self-righteousness for the death of children up to the age of two.

The Morlockian rebellion against reason never ends, because the point is to promote ever more illogical and unrealistic offenses against the conscience. It is addictive: ever larger doses of grotesque ugliness, outrageous perversity, malign brutality, and inhuman cruelty are needed to produce the same rush of smug self-esteem. The note of sadism, sheer brutal bloodthirsty love of pain for the sake of pain, is never very far from the high and lofty symphonic daydreams of the utopians

Let me pause to interpose the description of a movie made and distributed and viewed by modern Americans. Hundreds of people and tens of thousands of dollars cooperated to make this. They volunteered.

Not for the squeamish.

Two men are shackled to saws, with their mutual girlfriend hanging in between them over a larger blade. They decide to spare their own lives by sacrificing the unfaithful woman, who is graphically sawn in two. As the blade cuts through her, she screams (and screams and screams) as her blood spatters the men and her intestines slide to the ground.

Another elaborately grotesque trap involves four people, one of whom is superglued to the seat of a car that will soon fall from a jack, accelerate and kill his three friends. If he can rip his back from the seat and reach a lever to stop the car, he’s told he can save them. He cannot, of course, and his flesh is torn apart in his attempt. One of the tires falls on a woman’s face, shredding it and the rest of her body as the car speeds off. A man’s jaw and arms are attached to the car by hooks—and ripped from his body when the vehicle speeds into the fourth man, who is shackled to a wall. Blood and body parts fly. When asked how many victims there are at the crime scene, a cop says, “Enough pieces to make four.”

A woman’s eyes and mouth are savagely gouged by spikes when Bobby cannot save her from a trap. He must pull a fishhook from another woman’s stomach, ripping her throat in the process—evident by the mound of flesh he heaves out of her mouth. Bobby must pull two of his teeth in order to find a lock’s combination. He twists pliers in anguish, ripping his mouth, causing blood to pour from the wounds. We hear his jaw crunch. In order to reach and save his wife, Bobby pierces his pectoral muscles with large hooks and miserably hoists himself up with chains. Eventually, his chest rips apart and he falls to the floor in a pool of blood.

People are also shot and graphically burned to death. A man’s eyelids are shown sewn shut.

This is the seventh movie in this franchise, which has countless imitators and has spawned its own subgenre, called torture porn.

I solemnly assure you that even the Imperial box, front row center, at a Roman gladiatorial game did not show wounds and torment so vividly and closely. As I said above, the point is not to drive our civilization down to the point of paganism, nor to the point of barbarism. Barbarians are still human. The point is to drive civilization lower, to the subhuman.

What is it about subhumanity that hinders drama? We are now in a position to draw two threads of the argument together.

Part IV — the Contradiction

One can indeed write a story that contradicts one’s own world view. Any author unable to disguise his personal opinions for the sake the story he tells lack the essential Puckish dishonesty of the auctorial tribe, and should not be set to telling tribal lays.

However, one cannot hide the world view of the story itself, since this forms the theme, and informs or influences (at least, in works of art maintaining minimal integrity) the plot, character, setting, and style.

A Dehumanist author can write a dramatic tale, but a dramatic tale cannot be a dehumanist tale except in the one exception already mentioned: any story of rebellion against authority, any story that expresses relief or morbid enjoyment at the discovery that life is meaningless and that no final judgment nor eternal life awaits us, can be written dramatically and honestly.

Aside from a rebellion story with a nihilist theme, the dramatist can write nothing else that fits the dehumanist world, and the dehumanist can write nothing else that is dramatic. The attempts to do so will be dishonest, or, at least, will lack an essential element of drama.

Aside from a rebellion story with a nihilist theme, there is no dehumanist drama.

I have made a bold statement: but if we accept what has been said previously about the elements of drama, no other statement will do. Let us recall these elements. What is required for a drama to be truly dramatic?

Here let me emphasize that I am only talking about how dramatic a tale is, not about other things, aside from drama, that make a tale enjoyable.

To use an example from my own field, DUNE by Frank Herbert and FOUNDATION by Isaac Asimov both were set in galactic empires, but Asimov’s short stories were intellectual puzzles, whereas Herbert’s novel was drama of operatic scope, with as many betrayals, escapes, duels, deaths, and prophetic warnings as a Shakespeare play.

Asimov’s work is not bad: it is both popular and entertaining. But I am not here talking about popularity and entertainment. I here discuss drama.

Drama happens when the reader is immersed in the tale, when the reader is touched, perhaps moved, perhaps changed, by the experience.

The drama is satisfying when, after unbearable suspense, the conclusion finally comes, and finally happens as completely as you hoped (if the ending is happy) or feared (if the ending is not). This satisfaction is when all the elements of the plot and theme come together, and something in the reader’s heart has a Eureka-like moment, almost like a moment of recognition. I knew that would happen.

The satisfying richness of the drama can only spring up from stories that bring drama out of each story element.

To be dramatic, the plot events must be logical, flowing one to the next. The Dehumanist world view does not admit of logic and reason, at least, not the nihilist school of thought. Their school of thought has events that have no meaning and no logic, or, better, no events at all: and so their art is angular, absurdist, cubic, dadaist, and their drama follows the pattern of WAITING FOR GODOT, a tale where nothing happens.

To be dramatic, the plot must revolve around the deliberations and the decisions of the characters. No tales can be told about your decision what to eat for lunch. The decision must be about a weighty, that is, a meaningful matter.

Stories involving creatures with no free will, such as Isaac Asimov’s robot stories, or BLINDSIGHT by Peter Watts, can be interesting puzzle stories or dark and dramatic mood pieces. There is some Poe-esque drama in a story where a man who thinks he has free will discovers he has none, in the same way a tale about a man waking up in cramped quarters and only slowly realizing he has been buried alive is dramatic:  but the sharp risk is run that the reader will suddenly realize he is reading about a dead robot, not about a living character, and the spell of suspension of disbelief will break.

This happened to me during the Spielberg movie AI. Once the mother, who was alive, was off screen, I suddenly realized that the little robot boy — who had no capacity, being a robot, either to suffer or learn from suffering — was a meaningless clockwork doll. This also happened, for me, while reading CATCHWORLD by Chris Boyce: since all the characters had been hypnotically and neurologically conditioned to react a certain way to their mission, there was no conflict between their mission goals and their personal goals, and therefore the story lacked drama.

I will not say it is impossible to wring drama out of a tale where there is no free will, and the characters make no decisions (aside from meaningless pre-programmed ones). My point only is that the more honest such a story is, by definition the less meaningful the actions of the characters will be, and therefore the less dramatic.

As for setting, a tale can only select one of three possible types of setting:

The story world can be a world where there are more things in heaven and earth than our dreamt in your philosophy, that is, a world larger than the real world to which the reader returns when he closes the book. All fantasy, all science fiction, takes place in worlds containing more than our worldly philosophy dreams of. It is the stock in trade and defining characteristic of science fiction.These are larger than life settings.

Or the story world could contain just as many things as the reader world. The two worlds are equal. The stories of Dashiell Hammett or Jane Austin take place in a fictional world containing the same dimensions our world contains. These are lifesized settings.

Or the story could contain fewer things as the reader world. The author’s invented world is smaller, narrower, and dingier than the real world. Stories that dwell on disease and despair occupy this niche. It is the natural location for the Dehumanist story, because it represents dehumanist philosophy, namely, the nihilist philosophy that all human virtues and passions are arbitrary illusions. These are smaller than life settings.

All ancient poetry and epic contained elements of romance and fable, stories of gods and monsters, which could not exist in the reader’s world, or of heroes and villains who were godlike or monstrous. With the advent of naturalistic writing, however, the exaggerations of romances, the tales of knightly deeds, descents into hell, or ascents on hippogriff back to the aery sphere of the moon, all fell into neglect. More realistic and quotidian concerns occupied the center stage.

The spirit of romance that informed ancient poetry was relegated to the nursery, becoming fairy stories, or the pulp magazines, where in purple prose the cardboard characters of boy’s adventure fiction swam in submarines or sailed in airships to encounter the immortal yet unearthly beautiful witch-queens ruling lost races in unexplored continents.

From such pulp roots did both science fiction and superhero comics ultimately come. Pulp adventures were placed off the edges of the map, or beyond the reach of history books, in Atlantis or Africa or Cimmeria, or Pellucidar or Barsoom, because the settled and civilized parts of the world were too small to contain the larger things of which your philosophy has not dreamt. Only the white spaces beyond the edge of the map are large enough to hold the larger than life landscape needed. By the time explorers reached the Arctic or Everest, the edges of the map were offplanet. (And these days, one cannot even set a lovely space princess to rule the crumbling ruins beneath the brooding pyramids of Mars, or set a hero to face a nine-armed Martian in the radium-lit gladiator pits, because too much is known of Mars. The edges of the map have moved.)

Dehumanist and postmodern tales do not need to be set beyond the fields we know, or beneath the colored light of distant suns. Their world is small.

The effort and effect, the point of Dehumanism in its many forms is deconstruction. The dehumanist looks at a tale as he looks at life, not to see it but to see through it.

In a dehuman tale, the handsome prince always must be a philandering creep, the monster an innocent victim of society, the wonder must be an illusion and a lie. The setting of story that is honest and true to the dehumanist message is a world more sinful, meaningless, and broken than our own, and less appealing.

Such a story could indeed be told with considerable craft, but it creates not a feeling of drama, not immersion, but a feeling a distance: a sense that one’s cynical suspicions about the world are confirmed.

As for style, one prominent element of Dehumanist theory is that words have no meaning, and are therefore merely arbitrary tools with arbitrary connotations, to be used in order to manipulate the reader, not to discover the truth of the world. Dehumanism says that all poetry is propaganda. A dehuman author, such as Phillip Pullman, can write passages of dramatic effect raising even to the level of Homeric poetry, but he cannot do so in a sustained fashion without being untrue to his world view: eventually, even if he starts as a poet, he must end as  a propagandist.

As for theme, the only messages to be gained from Machiavelli, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and Nihilism are messages of cynicism, savagery, self-righteousness, self-indulgence, moral solipsism and despair.

By moral solipsism, I mean the theory that you and you alone must invent ex nihilo your own moral code and way of life, and that no logic and no judgment and no authority stands ready to help or guide, because all determinations are equally arbitrary, and mean only what you, in your omnipotent whim, take them to mean. Moral solipsism means rejecting the world, heaven and earth, and everything in it.

Stories about rejecting the world and everything in it, cursing heaven and seeking hell can indeed, once or twice, maintain a certain stark Luciferine drama, and even be, to adolescent minds, bracing. I would list VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS as an excellent example of when this was done. But the drama always evaporates because the theme of such tales is that life has no meaning and God is dead.

The ending of Philip Pullman’s otherwise excellent trilogy was bland and undramatic because the character Lyra  is, at the end, a smaller person than when she began. She began as someone running with wild street urchins, gypsies and witches, and she was full of loyalty, zeal and adventure, willing to defy tyrants and war on tyrannous gods in heaven; and ended as a melancholy schoolmarmish nobody, whose mission in life was to go to school and be nice to people in small ways. It was a story about moral solipsism. When Lyra rejects the world and sits down to invent her own personal moral code, what she comes up with is a bland and slightly creepy version of underage erotic hedonism. If the moral code of the tale is smaller, rather than larger, than the moral code of the average reader, the average reader is in no way prone to be swept up in the drama.

In sum, the point where the various component philosophies of Dehumanism agree is that life is meaningless. Machiavelli, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and Nihilism all point to the pointlessness of ethics, the bestial nature of man and the bestial nature of nature, the meaninglessness of individual effort or individual property, the illusory nature of the mind, of the soul, and of reason.

If you write a tale where the protagonist stands to win or lose his life, his heart, and his soul, this makes the stakes high and the drama dramatic: if at the same time, your theme honesty puts across the idea that life is merely biological mechanics, emotions are epiphenomenon or social programming, and souls are figments, your opportunity for drama evaporates.

As I said before, tales of salvation and redemption and forgiveness and reformation are among the most powerful and dramatic stories man can tell. But the world view of the dehumanist, the moral relativist, the nihilist says that there is no salvation, no redemption, no forgiveness in the world, and to be reformed is merely to move arbitrarily from one empty form to another.

Drama is meaningful; dehumanism demeans meaning.

The epics of ancient poetry, Homer and Virgil and Fardusi and Vyasa, were filled with sound and fury of great and eternal significance. The modern naturalistic novel took place on a smaller scale, starring heroic realistic humans rather than demigodlike romantic heroes: Sam Spade rather than Sir Galahad. The post-modern subnaturalistic novel took place on an even smaller scale, starring people less heroic than an average police officer, priest or physician. Steerpike and Stephen Daedalus.

The magician Prospero could appear without a jar in many an ancient epic; and his sweet daughter Miranda in any modern novel; and in any postmodern, Caliban.

The question remains whether these opinions about the nature of drama are true only here and now, or only in this writer’s opinion, or if there is some more general or universal ground to support them. If that is answered, we finally can turn to the question of what it is about Superhero tales that lend themselves to better tales than what the mainstream (that is, elitist) of Hollywood evidently prefers.

Part V — On Aesthetics

Are the rules of drama subjective, conventional, or objective? The short answer is a qualified yes: a heavily qualified yes. Drama is subjective, but also conventional and also objective, even if the objective element is requires wisdom to discover, and even if the discovery can never be utterly free of doubt.

The first qualification is that any work of art follows the conventions of its genre, and these conventions, being conventions, are subjective from the point of view of the universe, but objective from the point of view of the individual. Like the rules of chess, the rules for how to write a sonnet cannot be changed by an individual. If you play a game where the pawns move backward, it is not chess; if you write a poem where not of 14 lines of ten syllables in iambic pentameter ending with a rhyming couplet, it is not a sonnet. Call it something else.

The second qualification is that personal matters of taste cannot be fully removed from the question. This does not mean we should fall into the opposite error of assuming all aesthetics is merely personal taste and nothing but: and yet it means that any conclusions admit of doubt, mayhap of grave doubt.

The reason why we know that more than mere personal taste is involved is that any reader, assuming him even partly honest, can bring to mind some example of a work of art he acknowledges to be good or even great, but does not appeal to him personally; or some work of trash he knows in the abstract to be without artistic merit, skill, or craft, but which he pursues with pleasure, and, if he is a snob, it is a guilty pleasure, because he learned to be ashamed of his taste for common things.

If you want my own testimony, I can list the BROTHERS KARAMAZOV or the short stories of Flannery O’Connor as acknowledged classics utterly not to my taste, intolerable to me, or the remake of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA—an artistic triumph I could not continue to watch because I abhorred the political themes intruding. I enjoy the Shadow novels by Maxwell Grant, even though these are mere pulp, the artless and execrable writing of HP Lovecraft, comics by Steve Dikto, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Do not leap to the defense of how great is the art of Kirby and Dikto: I acknowledge these are fine cartoonists, perhaps the best the industry has produced, but I do not take their work to be equal to that of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or Da Vinci’s fresco of the Last Supper.

The third qualification is that we must restrict our inquiry to what human beings living in the human condition can know and see. The speculation that Martians or Ghosts, Elves or Angels might have such different apparatus to sense and interpret the world that no rules of art which apply to our sphere and to the human condition could apply to theirs simply need not concern us: we are hunting for an objective rule of art the way a philosopher hunts for an objective rule of science. Let us not conflate universality with objectivity. Universal refers to what is true in all times, places and conditions: Objective refers to what does not change when the observer changes. Simply because the curve of an airplane wing will not, in outerspace, nor on the Moon, produce lift, does not mean Bernoulli’s Principle is merely a local prejudice.

The fourth qualification is that some works of true artistic merit are buried where the world has not found nor acknowledged them: consider that some of Maxfield Parrish’s work first appeared as advertisements, or Norman Rockwell as magazine covers.

Likewise, in the modern day, the Lord of the Hell has raised his iron scepter above its cindery lava plains, and at the signal of their Great Sultan, his reigning Dukes, Peers and Ministers, with folded wings of membrane, bowed their flame-crowned heads, and in his name commanded the world to acknowledge, and praise as if it is fine art high-flown the merest rubbish, junk, filth, poop, and vomit imaginable, starting with Picasso and ending with Piss Christ.

There are works of no merit whatsoever raised by the clamor of dog-eyed establishment critics and beauty-hating gargoyles to world wide fame. If you for a moment thought these gargoyles were not liars to the marrow of their crooked bones, you might wonder, all aghast, if perhaps all taste in art, all rules of craft, were not indeed mere personal preference and arbitrary and subjective.

But no, these things are not art, but anti-art, and they correctly express the world view of those that made and admire them. They are Morlocks, and their works consist, as Morlock-work must do, of taking the beautiful things of the sunlit Eloi world, dragging them down into the sewers, and chopping them into grisly strings of meat.

The leitmotif of all this modern art is the spirit of violent rebellion. For reasons I have stated above, drama and even a certain angular and sinister beauty can flow from such Promethean rebellion against established forms: but every other dimension of the human experience aside from the heady emotions rebels on the barricades can know are closed.

Example: An honest art critic can look at Duchamp’s NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE, and see in it something jarring and startling and new, something that tries to tear his perceptions away from the human method of perception, something that shatters, and violently, the bourgeoisie conventions of representation and perspective.

Nude Descending a Staircase by Duchamp — wait. Is that pic upside down?

But there is nothing else aside from this dimension to the work. You cannot study the perspective, because it is not a perspectival drawing. You cannot comment on the accuracy of the representation, because nothing is represented. You cannot notice the beauty of the nude’s face or comment on her rapturous expression, because she has no face. You cannot even comment on where and how the original myth is reflected or reinterpreted, because there is no myth, no tradition, no context, no nothing.

Ravishment of Psyche by Bouguereau

Contrast this with the RAVISHMENT OF PSYCHE by Bouguereau. You can remark on the composition because there is composition, and talk of the theme because there is a theme present; there is an erotic dimension (no pun intended) because the nude figures of Eros and his beloved are dawn well enough to see them; there is a classical dimension, as this is a scene from myth; there is a romantic dimension, as well as symbolic, as well as the technical skill required to draw the feathers on the wings of the love god, or the folds of the banner fluttering from the nude and swooning form of his ascending bride. There is even a religious dimension here, for any with eyes to see it, since this is an image of the soul ascending in to heaven in the arms of divine love. Anyone who has ever been swept aloft by love will know something of a shock of recognition studying this picture.

Your talk indeed might consist of nothing but dismissive contempt for the way the artist has handled his subject, theme, technique, perspective, eroticism, romanticism, classicalism, spiritualism: but at least you have something to talk about. There is something actually present in the work to discuss and judge, aside from merely rebellion against convention. (There is, of course, rebellion against convention in Bouguereau as well, albeit a jaded modern audience might not see how radical the rebellion is. Show this painting to a Marxist-Feminist, and listen to her tired and trite politically correct condemnation of it, and then you will understand against what the flight of Psyche flies.)

But for what it is, the eye-jarring rubbish of Duchamp does correctly what it means to do. This means we have to add another qualification: we must restrict our comments to what all art, including modern art, has in common. Whatever is actually present in modern art (and by design there is damned little of it) that speaks to beauty and to the sublime, must also be taken into account. There is indeed something brave and breathtaking in the rebellion of Lucifer.

These qualifications seem to leave us with very little room to establish an objective aesthetics. If the rules of art are not mere personal taste, nor mere conventions of genre, nor something created by specifically human biases of the human race, and if we cannot depend on the testimony of critics and experts to determine what is great art and great drama, and if we cannot even dismiss the deliberately rubbishy modernist rubbish as rubbish, how can any allegedly objective rules be deduced or discussed?

Let us start, as good Thomistic scientists must, with common sense observation. I remind you of the primary data that we all have experienced great art that does not appeal to our taste, and we have all seen art produced from other cultures which appeal to us even in translation, or even across the gulf that separates Orient from Occident. If you have not experienced this, dear reader, then read no further: my comments are not addressed to you.

All of us, if we are not merely children or possessed of childlike tastes, recall works that we had to work to learn to love, such as obtuse poems which has to be explained before they were beautiful, words of archaic or foreign cant, or novels referring to experiences in life we were too young, on first reading, to recognize or know. Even science fiction and fantasy has some introductory learning that needs be done, a certain grasp of the scientific world view or the conventions of fantastic genre that must be gained, before the work is loveable. The only art I know that has no introductory effort at all is comic books, but even they, in recent years, now require introduction, since no one unaware of the decades of continuity can simply pick up a comic book and read it with pleasure: they are written for adults, these days, not kids, and adults expect and are expected to try harder to get into the work before getting something out of it.

The reason why modern art can pass for art is that the Tailors of the Emperor’s New Clothes can claim, and the claim cannot be dismissed unexamined, that modern art merely is has a steeper learning curve than real art. Once you get all the in-jokes and palindromes and Irish and Classical references in James Joyce (so the Tailors say) you can read ULYSSES with the same pleasure that a student, once he learns Latin, reads Virgil. And as long as you are in sympathy with the effort at destruction and deconstruction, this modern art has the same fascination as watching a wrecking crew tear down a fair and delicate antique fane with fretted colonnades and an architrave of flowing figures recalling forgotten wars between giants and gods. What child will not cheer when he sees a wrecking ball crash through the marble and stained glass of old and unwanted beauty? How he will clap when the dynamite goes off, and squeal, and hold his ears! I am not being sarcastic: there is something impressive in such acts.

Let us add a second observation: great novels and great paintings, symphonies, even great comic books, are ones that reward a second rereading or heeding or viewing. A book is something you read once and enjoy and throw away. A good book is one you read twice, and get something out of it a second time. A great book is one that has the power to make you fall in love, and each time you reread it, it is as new and fresh as Springtime, and you see some new nuance in it, the same way you see more beauty each time you see your wife of many years, and will forever, no matter how many years you see her face. (Those of you who are not in love, or not happily married, or who have never read a truly great book, will not know whereof I speak. Alas, I cannot describe the colors of a sunrise to a man born blind.)

Let us assume that there is no beauty in art, no objective rules. If that were so, how do we explain the two observations noted above, first, that some art must be learned before it is loved, and second, that some art rewards additional scrutiny indefinitely, a fountainhead that never runs dry. The explanation that the learning is not learning but merely acclamation, an Eskimo learning to tolerate the tropics, a Bushman growing to enjoy the snow, would make sense if and only if any art or rubbish would reward equal study with equal pleasure.

If the pleasure I get out of a work of art I had to grow and learn to like was merely due to me and my tastes, and the learning was not learning at all, but merely an adjustment of taste from one arbitrary genre convention to another, then the outcome or result could not differ from artwork to artwork, as long as I were the same.

If I can see more rich detail each time I reread Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and if indeed there are beauties that piece like swords, and if this were due to me and only to me, and not due to something in the work, I should be able to study a pile of rocks besmirched with stains of oil and offal in a rubble heap, and with the same passage of time and effort, force myself to see equal beauty within.

But I cannot, nor can any man. Therefore the sublime is not just in me the observer; logically, it must be in the thing observed. There must be something really there.

If this argument satisfies, it tells us, with the clarity of a Deist argument, that there is an objective beauty in the world, but not what it is.

As in theological argument, in aesthetics we can only know more of the beauty of the universe if it comes to us in the artistic equivalent of revelation. We have to look at beauty in nature and see what is there, and what its rules are, before we look at beauty in human handiwork.

This requires a leap of faith. To my atheist and agnostic readers, I apologize, for now the discussion leaps across a gulf you cannot, with unaided human reason, cross. Only to my fellow theists can I make the next step and draw the next conclusion. Again, my apologies, but to you, aesthetics will always remain a branch of philosophy either of no interest, or the source only of frustration.

Jews and Christians, Heretics, Heathens and Pagans, you know we live within a living work of art, the handiwork of heaven. If there is a Platonic Form or Idea of beauty, all art is art which correctly reflects this, and the same author who established the Form in its place in the hierarchy of true ideas, also created the cosmos with cosmic beauty in it, and created our hearts so that they leap with joy and recognition when that beauty is revealed.

Beauty is the emotional apprehension of truth and goodness in the same way that truth is the rational apprehension of what fitting and perfect, and in the same way that goodness is apprehension by the conscience of what is true and fair. A beautiful thing that has a piece missing is imperfect in the same way a truth that hides part of the truth is a lie, or a virtue exercises in service of vice is vicious. We are dealing with three different types of integrity or perfection. If there is One divine author or fountainhead of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, there can indeed be, and perhaps must be, a integrity between them: if there is no God, there is no explanation of any coherence between the three, nor any reason why we humans should just so happen to be able to apprehend the same, and no reason why, given a choice, we should.

Skeptical Deists like Thomas Paine do not think God wrote scripture, but do think the Creator wrote creation; and even skeptics such as this will look to nature to see what the rules of art and beauty are.

In general, beauty reflects integrity and perfection; a nude figure otherwise well featured who has a hook for a hand, or whose one breast is larger than the other, or a symphony with one theme in jarring disharmony with itself, or a landscape painting of a factory with dead fish heaped above a polluted shoreline. Even a woman who is outwardly fair to the eye and inwardly vain and shallow and cruel is repulsive because of the imperfection, the disharmony, the lack of symmetry between her physical and spiritual appearance. There are exceptions, of course: the Venus di Milo, or unfinished symphonies or poems, can be beautiful, perhaps in a melancholy way, but the perfection is those cases in implied; these are not works deliberately meant to be marred, nor meant to praise and draw the soul toward imperfection.

The rules of drama found there are roughly what we discussed above. In the cycle of the year, for example, we see the elements of plot drama. Spring is filled with love stories, Summer with war and work, Autumn with Harvest, Winter with the still coldness and frozen beauty that reminds us of the graveyard or the inhuman beauty of Elfland; and then, as all great drama must, the plot turns to themes of redemption, salvation, transformation, and the world is saved from the grip of monstrous winter by the heroic yet fragile armies of spring, green twigs, twittering birds returning from far exiles like Elves returning to the Blessed Isles, while the white knight who saves the maiden Mother Nature and ends her snowy woes rides in his triumphal car in heaven, Apollo, too bright to look upon.

What drama do we see in nature? That depends on the insight of the onlooker. Let us list them from least to most.

Those dull-eyed and scientific people who see nature merely as a battlefield of infinite battle, red in tooth and nail, the meaningless and remorseless struggle for survival of selfish genes manipulating hypnotized beasts to carry out their blind and mindless program of endless Xeroxlike self-repetition, pointless as wallpaper, do not see the drama or the melodrama.

The pagan view of the world is like an island of joy in a melancholy sea of chaos. The bright armies of Spring, the rose with her thorn, array in battle against the hosts of Winter, icicles like spears, and the Summer King dies and is reborn, and Demeter walks the Earth hooded and weeping, seeking her daughter in Hell, who in due season will rise again. One eyed Odin roars with laughter, hearing the japes of Loki who will soon betray him, and he needs no other food aside from his horn of mead and the mystic waters of the well of wisdom, in which he sees the visions of the Twilight of the Gods, from which nor man nor god shall rise again. The worm Ouroboros eats its own tail, the very world serpent himself, and the endless cycle of endless sorrows endlessly return.

The world view of the Orient reflects this theme of endless return, and submission to cosmic law and order. Confucius, eminently practical, speaks only of the order that must obtain among gentlemen, if a life of virtue and a virtuous rule is to be maintained. Lao Tzu places his finger on his smiling lip, and says that the truth when spoken of is not the truth, but this truth guides the way of the world. For the Hindu, as for the ancient Egyptian, the Sumerian and the Chinaman, the beauty of the world is in the cosmic order: karma, ma’at, me, tao.

All of Asia might agree, with the one exception of the Buddha, the Enlightened One, who lifts a lamp from the windless sea beyond the edges of the world, from Nirvana, and tells of a place where all sorrows are dissolved in selflessness, and one can become one with nothingness. The stoical resignation to fate and cosmic law is mingled with the hints of an escape into a perfect void, where mourning ceases because there is no mourner.  For the Buddhist, the beauty of the world is part of the illusion of the world, therefore the Buddhist sage closes his eyes when he meditates.

The Jew is a rebel to all this. They are a people apart, for they were told the great secret. The world was created, and the creator pronounced it very good. Light and heaven and earth and sea, the green growing things, fish and fowl, and all that creeps and walks and runs, all are good and very good, and the crown of creation who walks upright is made in the very image and likeness of God: a work of art that is also the self portrait of the Divinity.

The religion of Abraham, like the religion of Odin, ends in the cosmic war, except that, unlike Ragnarök, in the battle of Armageddon, the forces of heaven are promised victory and joy unmeasured, and not glorious sorrow in glorious defeat. The final winter of the world is ended, and the endless Springtide rules.

Here is the element of drama, the great story, in which the numberless lesser stories are woven like the curls of a Celtic knotwork: the great tale begins with a sympathetic protagonist, Love Himself, brighter than Apollo, encountering the challenge of the Fall, an obstacle as terrible and final as the tears of Demeter when she found her daughter lost from the fields of Enna. The Messiah descends as the main act in the plot, albeit Christians say this happened already, and Jews say not yet. Then salvation, judgment, the reward of the just, and the punishment long over due of the sneering mustachio-twirling villains, and all swords are bent into ploughshares and all tears wiped away, and all lovers reunited. Roll credits.

Tragedies are those tales that end, as Milton’s PARADISE LOST, or Tolstoy’s ANNA KARENINA, with the triumph of sorrow. Eden ends in exile from Eden, and as the dead body of sweet prince Hamlet is drawn away, Horatio stands aghast, and wonders at the death of the whole dynasty. To my fellow Christians I can tell you the secret that tragedies have such power to move us because we know in our souls that this world is tragic, and that Eve ate an apple as filled with poison as the cup Queen Gertrude raises to toast her son.

Comedies end in marriages. True comedy is not mere witty sarcasm, japery, or gallows humor: true comedy is joy. To my fellow Christians I can tell you the secret that comedies have the power to bring joy because we know in our souls that one day our prince will come, and the long exile in this land of death shall end, and the bridegroom shall marry his mystical bride the Church, and heaven and earth shall wed.

Adventure stories end in victory, and romances end in consummation. There are feminists who object to tales where knights and princes disguised as churls or shepherd boys rescue princesses chained to rocks from the leviathan in the sea, and carry her off on his white charger, or, better yet, carry her aloft in his winged shoes to a royal wedding.  The feminist called such tales, where the princess is merely the prize to be won, examples of male chauvinism. Blind vipers! Were only their eyes opened, they would call this female chauvinism, because this is a type or a shadow of the rescue of all the soul of the Church by our beloved Bridegroom. He saves us not to win us as a prize; He saves us because He prizes us, and knows us worthy to be won. Compared to Him, we are all women, our souls are female: they receive, like soil receiving a seed, the inspiration and infusion from which new life shall grow in us. Speak no more of Man’s search for God. Speak instead of God perusing and wooing Man, and carrying off our souls like Psyche in the arms of Eros. He first chose us.

In addition to comedy and tragedy and adventure and romance, this one grand true drama also contains the modernist elements of shock and rebellion. Nothing is more shocking to the Jew or Mohammedan that the thought of God Himself, pure and unstained and divine from eternity, entering into time in the womb of a mere woman. This is as jarring to convention as any mere cubist abstraction. And as for rebellion, Christ defied the Prince of Air and Darkness that rules this world, spoke back to Pontius Pilate, and not merely rebelled against the world system, but overthrew it.

Even you atheists and your dramas are not absent here. When the crucified Savior cried out on the bloody tree, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? surely he cries with your voice. Or perhaps you are an atheist because you rightly scorn the hypocrisies and lies of smug established churches and their niggling rules: when the Messiah faces the Pharisees and called them sons of vipers, hypocrites, blind fools, and he overthrew the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, His anger and disgust at all the folly of false religion was as great as yours.

All the elements of great drama are present in the tragic world in which we are trapped, and in the heavenly comedy, adventure, and romance beyond the shores of this world reaching like a beam of starlight down to us, smiting the heart with hope that burns like cold iron.

Here we have the most likeable protagonist of all, whose suffering all men have alike in each his own life; the stakes are high, nothing less than the salvation or damnation of the world, or of each soul in the world; the foe is ferocious and mighty and dark, no less than death itself, and monarch over all creatures on earth, no less than Lucifer, the greatest and noblest and wisest of the archangels that fell; the plot is ripe with shocking surprises, almost to the point of absurdity, secret princes born in stables, mages following strange conjunctions in the starry sky, signs and wonders, blind men weeping with eyes once more opened to light. There is intrigue, betrayal, courtroom drama, torment and death. And then there is the one thing every springtide hints of.

And this is only the end of Act Two. Somewhere down the corridors of time rages the knightly battles of the Twilight of the Gods, and the clamor of the end of the world, and the roar of the last trumpet is so loud that prophets can hear the echoes from the future in their dreams, and haunt us with riddles and signs of things to come.

The setting is the infinite and infinitely precious world around us, the globe of Earth as an island of life in a sea of endless night, galaxies above so vast the numbers themselves must fail before the immensity. Do not wonder at the width of the universe: our Bridegroom must prepare a wedding gift as large enough to represent an endless love to give us when waiting is done. To human eyes the cosmos looks dark. In truth, it is filled with light.

The characters,  beloved readers, include you and include me. We are the players. (My role is comedy relief: Bottom with an asses’ head beloved of a bewitched fairy queen of supernal beauty.) Have any characters ever been so well drawn in any drama?  Are any villains as horrific as what human beings can be?

As to the style of the drama of creation, there words fail. You must consult both scientists and artists to see the intricacy and elegance of the laws of nature and the beauties of nature.

And the theme is the theme that makes for the most dramatic tales: we are living, all of us, even those poor atheists who cannot see it, in the middle of a desperate tragic drama with a possible ending, for some of the characters, of joy beyond immensity.

This life, and the life to come, is a tale of salvation and redemption and forgiveness, of transformation and reformation. It is a Divine Comedy. We are all the poet. We will one day see our beloved Beatrice again. First we must go through the pits and fires of Hell and climb the cornices of mount Purgatory.

Why did the Creator put creative people in His creation? Why did He give us, like Him, the power to speak Words, a power no beast shares? Why do poets exist?

Life is a Divine Comedy. We need a Virgil to lead us up as high as worldly art can reach.

Finally we can reach the final question. What is it about Superhero movies that make them better than mainstream Hollywood movies? But this will be explored in another installment.

 

Part VI — On Heroics and Superheroics

Finally we reach the question: Why Superheroes? What is it about the Superheroic genre that makes supermovies better than modern mainstream movies?

The answer is threefold.

First, older mainstream movies, such as GONE WITH THE WIND and WIZARD OF OZ did not follow the modernist and postmodernist tastes which have ruined so many recent movies. Those mentally empty and morally corrupt philosophies had not yet reached mainstream popular entertainment in those days.

So the first part of the answer is not that superhero movies grew better than normal, just that mainstream movies grew worse. This happened as nonconformists of the 1960’s and 70’s became the establishment in Hollywood. Their world view, which I here have called dehumanism, when consistently portrayed, lacks sympathy, drama, purpose, point and meaning; and therefore the films that win acclaim by accurately reflecting the dehuman world-view lose the ability to tell a tale in a dramatically satisfying way.  Dehumanity and drama are mutually exclusive. More of one means less of another; and it is a rare genius who can reconcile the two.

The modern movies that most obviously defy these corroded modern conventions are deliberately nostalgic homages to serial cliffhangers: STAR WARS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. These are among the bestselling movies of all time, and they transformed the industry and the audience expectations: summer blockbuster tentpole movies spring from nostalgic roots.

Second, there have always been superhero movies, such as CAPTAIN MARVEL serial cliffhangers. Not until recently has the special effects been able to match what pen and ink portrays. The amount of suspension of disbelief needed to feel a real thrill untainted with cynicism when watching some feat of derring-do portrayed with cheesy special effects is rather high, and only small children have that much imagination to spare. We grown-ups need more realistic special effects before we will believe a man can actually fly. So technical advances, not any change in the manners and morals of the people, allow superheroics to appear on the silver screen in a fashion that they once upon a time could not.

Third, and most importantly, superhero movies, like homages to serial cliffhangers, are fundamentally nostalgic, fundamentally childlike. One of the conventions of nostalgia is that the audience is not allowed to scoff or look cynical at the simplistic purity of the drama. If someone says STAR WARS is simply too blatantly black-and-white, with its orphaned farmboy hero in a white gi, and evil warlock-knight villain in a black cape, black skull mask, black Nazi helmet, and black lung disease wheezing, that someone just does not “get” the film. The purity of the theme is not a bug, it is a feature.

The superhero movie, along with the crowd of science fiction and fantasy movies, was welcomed into the movie theaters only after STAR WARS made such genre films respectable (which it did by tallying up a respectable profit).

Now, mere nostalgia is not the selling point. GONE WITH THE WIND or MEET ME IN SAINT LOUIS or CINDERELLA MAN or SEABISCUIT are all nostalgic movies, historical period pieces taking place in periods still within living memory (at the time they were made) of the older members of the audience. No, the rise of cliffhanger serial movies and superhero movies are a particular type of nostalgia: a longing not for our childhood, but instead for the stories from serials and comics of our childhood.

And this is for the most practical and obvious reason imaginable: stories from the serials and comics of our childhood were more decent, more entertaining, and, in their simplistic way, a better reflection of the Great Tale of salvation and redemption which makes all great stories great.

Childhood tales of heroes and superheroes are not tainted with deconstructive postmodernism. Tales of heroes are about salvation, saving people in the most literal sense of the word.

The only superhero comic that is deconstructionist, ironically, is one of the most famous: WATCHMAN by Alan Moore. The point of this tale is how spooky and creepy real superheroes would be, vigilantes and supergeniuses who take the law into their own hands, and who therefore take our lives and all human destiny into their own hands. The one character who believes in the stark contrast of black and white, Rorschach, even while being portrayed as a filthy psychotic nutbag, and whose fate is to have his head blown off by God Himself (or God’s stand-in, Dr. Manhattan), nonetheless ends up as the most popular hero of this antiheroic story. Irony upon irony.

That exception aside, what is the dramatic appeal of such unrealistic tales? The short answer is that the realism innate in real drama has been exiled by the postrational postchristian postmodern elite, and therefore real drama can only sneak back into the theatre in disguise, wearing a spider-mask, so to speak. Disguised as harmless boyish adventure stories, really good stories about good and evil can slip past the watchmen.

The appeal of superheroics is merely the appeal of heroics write large.

Satisfying drama stars a sympathetic protagonist with a dream or need or mission, who is facing an obstacle that presents a real challenge. Facing this challenge initiates the plot, whose resolution not only makes intellectual sense but also makes moral and emotional sense, and shows the cosmos the way it is or the way it should be. Characters, plot, setting, style and theme are the basic elements.

Comic books usually have quite sympathetic heroes. Keep in mind that nearly all the superheroes to appear on the silver screen were invented during or after World War Two, back when the nation still had some sense of decency and normalcy. In those days, writers were not embarrassed by patriots dressed in red, white, and blue.

Superheroes are never supermen in the Nietzschean sense of the term, creatures beyond good and evil. (Only Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan of Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN fall into this category, a villain and an antihero respectively).  The main point of superheroes is that they are masked men, and therefore they get no reward, not even thanks, for their deeds of derring-do: when Superman saves the planet from an asteroid or an invasion of robots or something, usually he gets is a snub from the alluring Lois Lane, or a browbeating from his irate boss Perry White.  Peter Parker’s boss J. Jonah Jameson is even more irate and beat his brows even more completely. Bruce Wayne might be a wealthy playboy, or Diana Prince an Amazon Princess, but even they are orphans or exiles. The more famous superheroes are the ones who, despite their strange powers or strange backgrounds, have human aches and pains all humans can sympathize with, and the power they have is never self-serving. Superheroes go masked for the same reason knights of old painted their shields blank before tourney: so that he deeds would be done for their own sake, not for praise or reward.

While it is true that Superman in costume might get a ticker tape parade, or a nod of thanks from the Warden, Clark Kent out of costume gets nothing; and Spiderman in or out of costume gets even less, since he gets blamed and called a menace even while he is saving people. Were it not for this meekness, superheroes would be insufferable.

This description does not describe the Fantastic Four, who, in a breach with convention, have no secret identities; nonetheless, the appeal of the Fantastic Four is that, in a second breach with convention, they squabble among themselves, and have problems with neighbors in the Baxter Building complaining about superexperiments exploding in Reed’s lab, or with the ghastly Ben Grimm he seeks only the return of his human face and form, and regards his distorted super-strength as a curse. The Fantastic Four have other means to retain their essential humanity and human appeal aside from disguises.

Superheroes face challenges commensurate with their powers. If heroes with superpowers fought mere crooks and gangsters, the tales would indeed be the merely adolescent power fantasies they started as. But Superman discovered kryptonite and Batman faces the Joker in order that the obstacles be proportional to their powers. For this reason, in many a superhero tale, the supervillain is as grandiose and memorable as the hero, or more so.

The plots tend to be refreshingly straightforward: the hero fights for truth, justice, and the American Way, or learns that with great power comes great responsibility, or hunts down criminals, who are a cowardly and superstitious lot, in an endless vendetta for parents slain before the hero’s eyes as a child. The supervillains seek wealth through crime or world power or merely want to see the world burn, because they are evil, or insane, or both. Even those supervillains who have an arguably noble motive, such as Magneto, the mutant master of magnetism, are placed clearly beyond the pale by the remorselessly evil means employed. The conflict is about as stark as can be, and this stark simplicity allows for a sharply dramatic plot.

The stakes are always high. Supervillains do not knock over curbside newsstands: all of Metropolis, all of Gotham City, the entire West Coast, the entire world, the universe, the multiverse, everything is at stake.

The setting is our real world, or something close to it, with the exception that, for some reason, lots of men tend to wear hats.

Such a setting places less of a burden on the imagination of the audience, because the expectations of a strange world need not be imposed nor explained.

The style is suited to the subject matter: superheroes rarely speak in poetry, and often speak in the direct, manly, laconic fashion of movie cowboys and action heroes, sometimes tinged with wit or wisecracks, sometimes with patriotic sentiment.

The theme is about as close to the great themes of myth, pagan epics of heroes in their agony, of even the self-sacrifice of Christ in His passion, as anything produced in this morbidly decadent modern age.

The reason why Luke turns off his targeting computer before making the thousand-to-one shot in the plasma exhaust basketball hoop that blows the armored battlestation to smithereens is because this is an act of faith. In the real cosmos, the real world the agnostics do not believe in, faith with eyes shut sees farther and more clearly than skeptical squinting. This kind of faith is by no means restricted to Christian faith, or even the sci-fi flavored Taoism of the Star Wars galaxy ; it is also the faith in oneself preached by the dominant religion of our times, pop-psychology, and witnessed in those holy books of our times, self-help manuals. Similar scenes and themes in superhero movies reflect similar values admired and loved by the audience, without being too obvious so as to drive away the customers.

There was many a ticket buying customer who enjoyed AVATAR for the same reason that I enjoyed LORD OF THE RINGS: the underdog were the weak and innocent and nice little hobbits being menaced by the scary mechanized might of Mordor. This was a film I did not get around to seeing only because several persons whose judgment I trust warned me that Mordor was me and mine, more or less. But the film did very well, not just for its dazzling special effects, but for the purity of the theme, where the meek (in this case, the Blue-skinned redskins) fend off the White Man and inherit the Earth. He is not to my personal taste, but Captain Planet is still a superhero, and films made by those in his camp have the strengths of superheroic films.

I notice I am talking about superhero films, but I used two examples from best selling science fiction films. I trust that where these genres overlap is clear enough. Heroes can use the Force or use the mystical bio-cybernetic unity of all life on Pandora to accomplish their Herculean labors or conclude their desperate wars against  overwhelming powers of darkness for the same reason capes can use their superpowers or super bat-gizmos attached to their utility belts: the theme is that nature, or supernature, or the fairy godmother will favor those who fight in the side of right.

The reason why supernatural or superhuman power always arrives to aid the hero, whereas merely a natural power is not quite as satisfying, is that supernatural powers have a hint that moral goodness or purity of heart is being rewarded.

When the Jedi were discovered in the first prequel to derive their fantastic powers from micro-organisms in their bloodstream, a collective groan went up from fandom. Why? While this made Jedi powers something more clearly science fictional, it robbed those powers of the dignity the moral virtue bestows. If the Force is just an energy field produced by mitochondria (or whatever) then there is no especial reason why the Dark Side of the Force is a Mordorian temptation that will always an inevitably dominate your destiny and consume your soul. If the Force is a biotechnological machine, there is no reason not to use it in wrath, or for selfish reasons.  An archangel might care if you pray, and try to use angelic powers for evil ends, but an arcwelder does not care. Power tools do not mind if you use their power for wickedness.

It is the moral component of the superpowers that makes the superhero dramatic. With great power comes great responsibility; For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.

To be sure, there are superhero movies that either failed in their execution (how can anyone manage to make a Catwoman movie unwatchable? That takes perverse genius) or intruded some modern and relevant theme (such as making Superman, of all people, a deadbeat Dad, who knocked up a girl without putting a ring on her finger) or just did not get what superheroes are really all about (Fantastic Four springs to mind) or so changed the character so as to rob the tale of point or appeal (I am not the only one who winces at the memory of the Cathy Lee Crosby version of Wonder Woman, or who recoiled with dismay at the trailer for the remake of Green Hornet).

Not to worry. There are bad versions of Hercules brought to film and cartoon also: but the essential mythic grandeur of the genre allows, despite our rather cynical and unheroic age, for larger than life heroes still to win the day.

It order to make a bad superhero film, the modernist writer or film-maker must sweat and work to intrude the cynical anti-heroic postmodern characters, senseless plots, ugly styles and nihilist themes which confirm the modern view of life.

It is easy to make a Western into an Anti-Western, where the Cowboys are the bad guys and the Indians the good guys, because the Indian were indeed the underdogs, outnumbered and outgunned; and it is easy to make a war picture into an Anti-War picture, because of the innate horror and inhumanity of war.

But it is hard to make a superhero film into an anti-hero film without violating so many conventions of the genre as to merely make it a horror film, or a film about vigilante revenge, or just some other type of story altogether.

Dehumanizing moral relativism, for the reasons given above, robs tales of drama and interest.  Superheroism lends itself easily to stories with drama and moral clarity. This is the moral clarity so utterly lacking in the modern world. It lends itself with difficulty to the dehumanizing moral relativism beloved of the elite.

And that is why superhero films are better than modern mainstream films.

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Gamergaters Rally! To Arms, Citizens! http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/gamergaters-rally-to-arms-citizens/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/gamergaters-rally-to-arms-citizens/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 20:51:20 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=12992 A request from the Dark Lord of the Evil League of Evil, whose signal I wish to boost:

#GamerGate crushed Gawker

Nero reports on the costs to Gawker of attacking #GamerGate:

The cost to Gawker Media of its ridicule and viciousness toward video gamers was “seven figures” in lost advertising revenue, according to the company’s head of advertising, Andrew Gorenstein. In addition, founder Nick Denton has stepped down as president and editorial director Joel Johnson has been removed from his post and will probably leave the company, reports Capital New York….

And now here is a chance to kick the SJW while he’s down. An Ilk suggests action:
A few of us were inspired by that stupid Change.org petition that got GTA5 banned to try to use the same tactic against Gawker’s biggest revenue sources. I figure it may be especially effective to kick them when they’re already reeling from the previous damage we’ve done, while Hulk Hogan’s suit and their insurance company threaten to bleed them further. The petition is here: Get Google and Amazon to stop advertising on Gawker Media.

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Diamond Hard SF to Mushy Soft SF http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/diamond-hard-sf-to-mushy-soft-sf/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/diamond-hard-sf-to-mushy-soft-sf/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 17:11:35 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=12990 I draw your attention to this handy chart devised by M Kazlev (I think) grading the realism of the science in SF stories. He is clear to emphasize that this is not grading the overall craft of the story, just the scientific plausibility of the props and settings.

I add this so that my compliment of THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir by calling it ‘Diamond Hard’ one can see what company he keeps. INTERSTELLAR, by contrast, is somewhere between ‘Very Hard’ and ‘Plausibly Hard.’

For the whole discussion (which I frankly thought was fascinating!) see here: http://www.kheper.net/topics/scifi/grading.html

Major Categories Rating used here Common Tropes A few examples
Hard Sci Fi “Present Day Tech” Cutting edge Present Day Tech, some developments and speculation, but nothing major that has not been attained today (so no AI). Basic space exploration, very near future Technothrillers, Allen Steele’s Orbital Decay
Ultra Hard (Diamond Hard) Plausible developments of contemporary technologies – AI, Constrained Nanotech, DNI, Interplanetary colonisation, Genetically engineered lifeforms. Nothing that conflicts with the laws of physics, chemistry, biology etc as currently understood William Gibson, Neil Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Mars” Trilogy, Robert Forward
Very Hard Plausible developments of provocative contemporary ideas, bot nothing that conflicts with the known laws of physics, information theory, etc – Assembler Nanotech, Nano-Goo, Uploads, Interstellar colonisation, Relativistic ships, vacuum-adapted life Greg Egan, Linda Nagata, Greg Benford’s Galactic Center series, Stephen Baxter’s Manifold Series, GURPS Transhuman Space
Plausibly Hard The above but with the addition of some very speculative themes, some of which may well turn out to be impossible, others may be possible. Requires some modification of current understanding, but nothing that is logically impossible, or has been conclusively proved to be impossible (so no FTL without time travel) – Wormholes, Reactionless Drive, Sub-nanotech (Femto-, Plank, etc), Domain Walls, exotic matter, FTL drive with time travel, etc Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee universe, Greg Bear’s Forge of God series, Orion’s Arm
Firm As realistic as the above categories were it not for unrealistic/impossible plot devices (e.g. FTL without time travel paradoxes), although these are kept to a minimum as much as possible Asimov’s “Foundation” Series, “Giants” series by Hogan, Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky
Medium Similar to the above but with a larger number of unrealistic plot devices; e.g. FTL without real explanation (ore with pseudo-explanation), alien biota in some instances very similar to terragen life, psionics, a great many alien civilizations. However still preserves plot and worldbuilding consistency, and the science is good and consistent. Niven’s “Known Space” series, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Banks’ “Culture” novels, David Brin’s “Uplift” series, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Traveller RPG
Soft Sci Fi Soft A number of unscientific themes – e.g. aliens as anthropomorphic “furries”, handwavium disintegrator guns, Alien Cultures and psychology all extremely uniform, and so on. However, still retains story consistency. Various TV series: Babylon 5, Farscape, Andromeda, Matrix, StarGate for the most part
Very Soft As above but either even more unscientific elements (humanoid of the week, lifeless planets with beathable atmosphere, etc), and story with less consistency Various TV and movie series; for the most part the Star Trek Canon and Star Wars Canon
Mushy Soft As above but even more unscientific (alien races never before encountered speak perfect English without a translator, animals too large to stand in Earth gravity (Godzilla), weapons that make energy beams without putting energy in, interstellar travel without FTL or centuries long voyage, mutants with super energy powers, etc) Godzilla, Comic Book Superheros, badly written TV sci fi, elements of some franchises
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