What a pile of w_nk

I’m sure plenty of others are piling onto this piece of onanism in The Federalist:


Men were made for violence. It’s part of why they were created. To protect the weak. To fight for themselves and for nations. To compete and to win.

Actually – I apologise. Comparing it to mastrubation simply reinforces negative views of a healthy activity that’s good for your prostate*.

It is male myths time and yet another rightwing commentator asserting that men are just naturally a particular way and hence shouldn’t try to be something different…even though if men WERE just pre-determined to be that way, then they couldn’t change anyhow…so the whole basic premise of the argument doesn’t make any sense…but we all knew that anyway because it is just entry number three thousand in rightwing-media-trying-to-enforce-stupid-masuclinity-norms.

Others can talk about the rest of the piece but I just wanted to discuss this nonsense paragraph:

“Do you know why men like football? Why they watch boxing? Why Romans watched the gladiators slaughter each other? Because part of men was made for violence and their instincts draw them to it. We cannot suppress human nature. We cannot half-embrace who and what we are—how God made us, and how we are built.”

Oh! Yes! I think I do KNOW why men watch football! At least I know it must be the same reason that men (or rather SOME men and also some women but more men than women) watch competitive sports. Now that does include American Football and boxing which do both feature really big guys slamming into each other but…also includes these sports:

  • Baseball
  • Cricket
  • Actual football – aka soccer
  • Basketball
  • Golf
  • Tennis

Of those the biggest sport in the world is soccer. It is an athletic, competitve game but unlike the two cherry-picked examples it doesn’t role play violence specifically. Also soccer players, while physically fit are not physically extreme examples of maleness. Cricket may be incomprehensibly popular to non fans** but it is a game that involves a lot of standing around. I’ll just point at frickin’ golf for awhile and say ‘look, golf‘.

On the flipside, the writer of this daft piece won’t have any experience with the sheer scale of women’s competitive sport. Non-Australians won’t be aware of just how enormously huge netball is as a participatory sport in Australia – it’s huge and not a new phenomenon either.

So, ‘why do men like watching competitive sport’ because LOTS of humans of both genders like competitive sport because it is exciting. That probably does have connections with how humans percieve the risk of violent conflict and inter-group rivalries but 1. not all men find it fun and 2. lots of women do find it fun.

The women who find competitive sport fun aren’t being forced into it, they are giving up multiple weekends and spending money on special clothing and equipment not because they are being brain washed by campus feminists. They are doing it because they find it FUN. They find it fun, presumably, for many of the same reasons that men who participate in competitive sport (including as spectators) find it to be fun.

The men who DON’T find competitive sport fun aren’t ’emasculated’ nor are they weak willed. They just don’t enjoy it. I do feel the need to snarky and dismissive about sports because I find that expectation of man=interest in sport annoying because it is so prevelant. However, it is easy to see that it is just a shallow stereotype because it is almost indistinguishable from an ethnic stereotype (a harmless but annoying one) that says ‘English person’=’knowledge & interested in discussing English Premier League football’.

No, I’m not pre-determined to like sport because I’m a ‘man’ anymore than being born in England has made me racially determined to have an opinion on the off-side rule or have a good assessment of the chances of Wigan Athletic*** winning the FA Cup.


*[when you are older: https://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/news/20090127/masturbation-and-prostate-cancer-risk#1 maybe]

**[I dislike cricket for strong personal reasons]

***[Are they even a Premier League side? Not only do I not know I can’t even be bothered to check Wikipedia to find out.]


Review: Black Lightning

I know the various DC TV shows (Arrow, Flash, Supergirl etc) have some strong followings but there’s something about them that doesn’t pull me in. I think part of it is that they feel a bit old-fashioned or stuck in an uncanny valley that isn’t kids TV or sitcom or serious drama and they can’t quite find the right balance. That’s a problem with superhero stories in general – a balance between the innate silliness and potential drama of the genre. Gotham is an exception and I think it has managed to find its own space by adopting Tim Burton’s stance on Batman. Gotham embraces its own absurdity but also mixes it in with elements of horror and camp.

The second advantage Gotham has is it gets that the fictional geographical setting has to have its own character. That’s relatively easy with Gotham but the show gets it right. The other DC shows also adopt the DC-universe policy of using made-up American cities as settings but I’ve found these places feel too generic and hence nowhere-like.

Black Lightning is the most recent addition to the DC stable of superhero TV shows. Unlike the others, it centres on an African-American superhero but otherwise, it follows a similarish style to the others (e.g. set in the fictional city of Freeland). The first episode didn’t grab me but it had some interesting elements, so I’ve stuck with it. I’m up to episode 8 of a 13 episode season and I think I can pull apart what I like and don’t like about it.

I’ll start negative. I don’t think it has yet managed to find the right mix of humour, gritty crime drama, family drama, superhero-antics. That’s not a surprise, as all superhero shows and movies struggle to find that sweet spot (and the right spot is going to vary among viewers). At times the show is quite violent (or suggestive of extreme violence) but within a show that feels more like it has been written for a more general audience. Like the Marvel Netflix shows, the central character regularly beats up criminals to get information but unlike those shows, the behaviour feels at odds with Black Lightning’s non-superhero persona.

However, there is also a lot to like about this show. The central character, Jefferson Pierce, is unusual for a superhero. He is an older man with a successful career as a high school principal. He has a family and responsibilities and ‘Black Lightning’ is something from his past. By having him as a superhero who is coming out of retirement (due to gang violence initially) is a clever way of avoiding a protracted origin story, while giving viewers an introduction to the character. We have not, as yet, been given an explanation for the source of his electrical powers – although there are hints in a subplot around the death of his journalist father some years ago.

Grounding the central character in a wider group of people (family, school and the techno-support guy in the form a tailor with a shady past) early helps the show rest on multiple characters and creates both motivation and tension for Pierce as a character.

Now I said the show avoids being a protracted origin story but that’s just for Black Lightning. [Mild spoilers ahead] a secondary plot revolves around his older daughter Anissa who (unaware of he father’s powers) discovers she has powers. A genre-savvy social-activist lesbian with a side interest in cosplay, Anissa has her own story as a character thinking about becoming a superhero (including trying out her own costumed identity to demolish a Confederate monument). Using father and daughter to create related but different superheroes with similarish but generationally different attitudes is a really smart addition to the plot.

I think the show is still finding its own voice and style. I think it would benefit from more humour and snappier dialogue but there are some clever superhero action elements and dark hints at a complex backstory/mystery. Overall, good television.


The Cat is a Harsh Mister – A Review

With scincere apologies to the legacy of Robert A Heinlein.

[Scene: the south drawing room, Felapton Towers]

[Camestros Felapton] I think the decorators took the theme too literally…
[Timothy the Talking Cat] You mean the paper floor and walls and the rough pencil sketches of furniture and windows?
[CF] Yeahhhh
[Timothy] You have to admit they did a fine job of the billiard room though.
[CF] Well a room shaped like a giant billiard ball with nothing but billiard balls inside it, is in essence, just a very big ball pit.
[Timothy] Exactly! It’s not like either of us would ever play billiards.
[CF] I can’t fault your reasoning there Tim. But enough critiquing of eccentric interior design, were we not intent on reviewing some work of science fiction?
[Timothy] Yes indeed! One of my favourites ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress‘ by Robert Heinlein.
[CF] I thought you and he didn’t get on?
[Timothy] We had our artistic differences but I admire his work. In particular, the political insights of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress have been very influential on my ideological development.
[CF] Well confession time! I haven’t read it.
[Timothy] WHATTTT???? You call yourself an official-a-now-doll of science fiction and yet you haven’t read one of the greatest works of the twentieth century by one of the most versatile writers of speculative fiction that ever lived?
[CF] Did you just say ‘an official-a-now-doll’?
[Timothy] It’s a fancy term for somebody who knows a lot about a thing – like he is a doll that is officially now. See? That’s ate-him-ology.
[CF] I…no never mind…how about we do this as an interview? I’ll ask you questions about the book and you can tell me things about it.
[Timothy] No, that’ll never work. I haven’t read the book.
[Timothy] Oh! How about I ask YOU questions about the book! That way I’ll find out all about it.
[CF] No but…
[Timothy] Hmm, no that won’t work you’ll just say stupid leftist stuff.
[CF] No I won’t!
[Timothy] Oh, well, in that case, we can go ahead with my plan.
[Timothy] Well then you shouldn’t have agreed to be interviewed about it. No, no, we’ll just have to carry on – that way you’ll learn a valuable lesson about doing your homework before agreeing to an interview.
Ahem…Question one. So what’s the book about then?
[CF] [peering at his phone and obviously reading:]

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 science-fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, about a lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth. The novel expresses and discusses libertarian ideals. It is respected for its credible presentation of a comprehensively imagined future human society on both the Earth and the moon.”*

[Timothy] Oh, you cheat! You are just reading out the Wikipedia page!
[CF] The irony is that was the only thing I knew about the book.
[Timothy] Put that phone away! Next question. Who are the main characters?
[CF] I’ve no idea? Bob? Frank?
[Timothy] Hmmm, sounds interesting. Which one is the good guy?
[CF] (sigh) Frank and he lives on the moon and Bob is the bad guy and he lives on Earth.
[Timothy] Motivation?
[CF] Well Frank just wants to be left alone on the moon but Bob keeps asking him annoying questions.
[Timothy] That no good statists Earther scum! What’s he look like?
[CF] Bob well he’s about your hight, purple and has whiskers.
[Timothy] So quite handsome for a villain? See, that’s Heinlein working his magic – instead of an ugly bad guy he picks somebody who looks quite debonair.
[CF] Yup, quite the master craftsman.
[Timothy] Then what happens?
[CF] OK, I’ll act it out. Can you play Bob for a moment and I’ll be Frank?
[Timothy] OK – OH! Can I twirl my whiskers villainously?
[CF] By all means!
[Timothy] Ho ho! I’m the evil Earther villain Bob! You’ve got to do as I say!
[CF] No way! I’m Frank and as an independent moon living man, I just want to do my own thing!
[Timothy] You dare defy the might of world government of EARTH!
[CF] Yes! [Walks over to Timothy, picks him up by the scruff of the neck, opens a badly drawn window and drops the cat outside.}
[Timothy] oofff!
[CF] I can’t believe that worked! Time for some peace and quiet for once!

[A horrific tearing noise breaks the silence. Camestros turns to see razor-sharp claws shredding the walls of the south drawing room from the outside. Timothy’s head pushes through one of the tears.]

[Timothy] HERES BOBBBYYYY!!!!!
[CF] Eeep!
[Timothy] Ha! Foolish Frank – you underestimated the power, determination and claw sharpness of Earth’s government. I’m here to subjugate THE MOON!
[CF] Yeah well I’m guessing you didn’t bet on me asserting my god given right to bear arms with this GIANT ROLL OF DRAWING PAPER!
[Timothy] You vandal! That was the lounge!
[CF] Yeah well now it is my sovereign right to self-defence! CHARGGGGEEEE!!!!!
[Timothy] Eeeep!
[Chaos briefly ensues]

[Enter: Mr Atomic]
[Mr Atomic] Stop this chaos! I HOLMES IV, the moon’s sentient computer otherwise known as Mike, aka Adam Selene ersatz leader of the lunar rebellion command you to stop making all this mess!
[CF] Who?
[Mr Atomic] Mike Holmes – it’s a character from ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’.
[Timothy] Wait? You’ve actually read it?
[Mr Atomic] Obviously – it is one of the finest works of science fiction from the twentieth century!
[Timothy – turning toward Camestros] See – I told you so.
[CF] Earther scum.

[Timothy] OK final ratings:
[Camestros] I give it 10 out of 10 for actually existing as a book and not just a fake title we made up.
[Mr Atomic] I found the themes of artificial intelligence are under-appreciated in this science fiction masterwork: 9 out of 10. I’d give it more but it has too many fleshy humans in it.
[Camestros] No offence taken.
[Mr Atomic]  None intended.
[Timothy] I give it 11 out of 10 because I got to twirl my whiskers. Also we don’t seem to have a south drawing room any more.

*[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moon_Is_a_Harsh_Mistress ]

The CLFA and other groups

The Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance has pinged twice on my radar over the past few days. The first was in connection to the loss of reviews on Amazon by some rightwing authors (see here) and the second was the release of their nominees for their “Book of the Year Award 2018“. The ten nominees are mainly the usual set of names (e.g. JCW, Lamplighter, JDA, Paolinelli) and in a departure from previous years a non-fiction book, Moria Greyland’s The Last Closet.

I’m mindful that the announcement of the CLFA’s nominees was very close but just before the Hugo nomination date but I don’t think their list was intended to be a stealth slate and I doubt it could function that way. Still, both events made me realise that the CLFA has been a grouping I haven’t discussed much when looking at the righthand side of science fiction writing.

While the CLFA has a website (https://conservativelibertarianfictionalliance.com/ ) it functions primarily as a closed Facebook group. Not exclusively SFF, the previous nominees for their awards have been mainly either SFF books or non-SFF by SFF authors (e.g. Sad Pup/Mad Genius/Castalia House author Peter Grant’s Western novel won in 2017).

So, in some ways, the CLFA just looks like the same groups of people we keep encountering. However, in other ways, it has operated differently. Here’s a chart of how the group has grown over time:


Unlike some of the other similar charts I made looking at growth trends, this looks like steady, sustainable growth. Now, it’s a closed group so I’ve no either whether it is particularly active or a ghost town but it does keep attracting members and doesn’t seem to be losing them. Possibly this is because of (rather than in spite of) it’s low profile overall. While many of its members are famed for outrage marketing, the group itself has tended not to assert itself as a thing. Consequently, its membership includes people across the many factions in right-leaning SFF.

While I was on the topic of closed Facebook groups, I thought I would see how the loudly announced “Science Fiction and Fantasy Creators Guild” was getting on. Their main website doesn’t seem to have been updated since mid-February (https://sffcguild.com/blog/ ) but they’ve gained an interim President – Doug Irvin, who occasionally guest posts at Sarah Hoyt’s blog. Their main action has been another closed Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/726470947555061/ ) At 160+ members it has a long way to go before it reaches the same scale as the CLFA (1750+ members).

Of the members of SFFCG, about 65% are also members of the CLFA (reversing that, only about 6% of the CLFA are also members of the SFFCG).

The growth seems to have reached a plateau for the time being. Most of the growth was in late January after the fumbled announcement of the group.


Anyway…that’s it. No punchline just some numbers 🙂

Review: Annihilation (movie 2018 – Netflix)

I am a big fan of Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. I like the mounting sense of personal disintegration as the primary source of both horror and release. The announcement of a film version of the first book Annihilation was intriguing. It certainly was a book that would gain from a visual expression of the wild and mysterious Area X nut it wasn’t at all clear if the intentionally obtuse and unresolvable plot would work as a drama.

The film (which had a very limited cinema release in the US and then a Netflix release internationally) is a different creature than the book. Events have been changed, plot elements removed, characters adjusted and the structure of the story altered. All of which seems to have been a good idea. The film carries the same sense of paranoia and wonder as the book and the same theme of people trying to cope when confronted with the incomprehensible. However, it has been remade into its own thing – a story with its own structure and characters that shares DNA with the book but which follows its own course.

The essence of the plot is the same. A section of coastline in the southern United States has become transformed by an unknown phenomenon. A government agency has been charged with keeping this event under wraps and given the task of investigating it. The most recent attempt to explore ‘Area X’ is a team of women with military and scientific equipment. Once in Area X they experience strange events some of which may be psychological as they attempt to find a key landmark – a lighthouse which may be the centre from which all the weirdness is spreading.

Where the book drops straight into Area X with the individuals in the team known only by their profession, the film frames the story with elements taken from the later books – a flash forward in which the central character (played by Natalie Portman) is interrogated and a flashback to her motives for joining the expedition and her previous life with her soldier husband (Oscar Issac being handsomely weird).

The film doesn’t offer any more clear answers than the books did but there’s a more conventional story arc. The connections with similar territory-as-character stories such as Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky’s film of Solaris and Tarkovosky’s later film Stalker are clearer than the book, as well as tapping into the ‘Lost Patrol’ style story of a military expedition being picked off one by one.

Visually it is wonderful. The boundary aka ‘shimmer’ is a  swirling liquid refraction of light and that same theme of refracted light carries through the film. The plant life (both real and imagined) is shot lovingly making Area X look like it should -beautifully fecund but with a menacing sense of growth and strangeness. The animal life similarly shifts from wonderful to horrific but with a strong visual connection between the elements.

I don’t know if people who found the novel frustratingly obscure will like the movie any better but they might. There are fewer mind games and there is less piecing together what has happened and more of a sense of what Area X might be. The film doesn’t seem to be set up for a sequel – which is a shame in so far as Authority was a really interesting way to do a sequel without being anything like the first book except in that same sense of a mounting loss of identity.

Weird, scary, horrific and beautiful.

Some Links Relevant To the Thing

The first courtesy of Jim Henley:


Gun Culture And Wellness Culture Come From The Same Place
Fear. Suspicion of established authority. A feeling of intense disempowerment. People turn to guns for the comforts that others get from oils and energy crystals.

The second I saw in a tweet by N.K.Jemisin


Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns?
Research suggests it’s largely because they’re anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market and beset by racial fears

An older piece – one man’s story about how he became involved in “Men’s Rights” and how he got out.


I Was a Men’s Rights Activist
One man’s journey from misogyny to feminism
I discovered the men’s rights movement when I was 22, working at a bookstore in downtown Kelowna, British Columbia. I was trying to earn some money before starting my second year at university.

I was in the self-help section “facing” our most popular books — arranging them so their covers, and not their spines, faced outward — when I noticed the title Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture.

How the alt-right arepreying on depressed men online.


The Alt-right is recruiting depressed people
Alt-right figures are targeting vulnerable communities with videos and, unfortunately, it seems to be working.

A video on YouTube entitled “Advice For People With Depression” has over half a million views. The title is generic enough, and to the unsuspecting viewer, lecturer Jordan Peterson could even look legitimate or knowledgable — a quick Google search will reveal that he even spoke at Harvard once. But as the video wears on, Peterson argues that men are depressed and frustrated because they don’t have a higher calling like women (who, according to Peterson, are biologically required to have and take care of infants). This leaves weak men seeking “impulsive, low-class pleasure,” he argues. Upon first glance he certainly doesn’t seem like a darling of the alt-right, but he is.

I think this was already posted in the comments but I can’t find by whom – sorry, for not crediting them!

Infowars and Goop!


Goop and Infowars Have Way More in Common Than You Thought

On Thursday, Quartz posted an article revealing how the luxury lifestyle website Goop and the right-wing conspiracy hub Infowars essentially sell the same wellness products. This is remarkable — and hilarious — given that the two media platforms could not be targeting a more disparate audience: The former is essentially a sentient Instagram feed run by Gwyneth Paltrow that tells mostly affluent, mostly liberal readers how to live and what to buy. The latter is headed by always-shirtless conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, whose far-right fans believe Sandy Hook was a hoax and that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are literal demons. Nevertheless, Goop’s spiritual wellness products and Infowars’ virile supplements are just about the same thing. But dig a little deeper, and beneath the SoCal beauty of Goop and the underground paranoia of Infowars you may find that the two share more in common than just the “alternative” medicine they sell.

The alt-right and male virility


What Is It with the Alt-Right and Male Virility?

The alt-right is a loosely defined coalition of various far-right conservatives, hate groups, social regressives and conspiracy theorists. It’s a nebulous collection of what Hillary Clinton rightfully called a basket of deplorables, and, boy, they sure are making headlines lately with openly Nazi protests that feel more like a chan raid that got way out of hand than anything else.

There is one weird thing that does seem to unite a lot of these groups across their various denominations, though: male enhancement pills. There is an obsession with chemically restored virility.

But by the way these supplements and useless but mainly harmless


We Sent Alex Jones’ Infowars Supplements To A Lab. Here’s What’s In Them.
“You could grab a bottle for around $10 and skip the 2X+ price markup from Infowars,” one lab review reads.