Debarkle Chapter 27: Vox Day, Racism, Sexism and Opera Vita Aeterna

[content warning for extreme views on race, gender and sexual violence]

Larry Correia’s second Sad Puppies slate was not very different from the first. There were a lot of Mormon men (because of his writer connections in Utah) and seven of the twelve people listed were people Correia had recommended in previous years. Marko Kloos was new but Correia knew him from gun forum days and had been promoting his book. Sarah Hoyt was also new but she was a fellow Baen author and they had a lot in common politically (and coincidentally, both had family connections to Portugal).

Vox Day was different though. Nominally, he had called himself a libertarian in the past but his views on women and race were more extreme than Correia’s. I don’t know if there was any communication between them other than the comments left by ‘VD’ at Correia’s blog but the additional works that Vox Day listed on his own blog, look more like works that Correia would have listed if he had the time.

After the initial stages of the campaign and the announcement of the finalists, Correia would offer a new rationalisation for his campaign.

Short Version:
1. I said a chunk of the Hugo voters are biased toward the left, and put the author’s politics far ahead of the quality of the work. Those openly on the right are sabotaged. This was denied.
2. So I got some right wingers on the ballot.
3. The biased voters immediately got all outraged and mobilized to do exactly what I said they’d do.
4. Point made.”

Certainly, the impact of Sad Puppies 2 was receiving more negative publicity than any of Correia’s three previous campaigns. However, prior to this campaign, he’d never had somebody like Vox Day before. Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson, Toni Weisskopf may well have benefited from Correia’s campaign but none of those people was antagonistic to the rest of the ballot. As Mike Glyer had said in his post on the Sad Puppies 2[1] initial campaign post, it was a net positive to have Toni Weisskopf on the ballot. Why hadn’t she been on the ballot before? Well, as Larry Correia had himself pointed out, Baen readers were a small subset of Worldcon attendees, Baen books were not well distributed beyond North America and the publisher had in recent years increased its focus on the military science fiction sub-genre (which had lots of fans but with fewer overlaps with other sub-genres). Politics and sub-genre were somewhat conflated in the mil-SF space (particularly with Baen’s trifecta of Ringo, Kratman and Williamson).

Even so, Correia had gained a slot as an Astounding finalist in past years. Hoyt had not been a Hugo finalist before but in terms of some kind of entrenched bias against her, she had been promoted at John Scalzi’s blog[2] and had a high profile set of essays at[3].

The politics of Sad Puppies 2 wasn’t exclusive to a single nominee but what shifted the balance was not Correia or Hoyt (two of the three most obviously political entries on his slate) but Vox Day. Larry Correia wasn’t unaware of that and in the same post I quoted above, was open about the central cause of the controversy:

The Controversial Slate: For the record, I’m only the second most hated man who got a nomination. The most despised is Vox Day by far, however, I’m the one who suggested him to my fans who were participating in Sad Puppies 2. So if he’s their devil, I’m the antichrist. Let’s back up. The reason Vox is so hated is that he is the only person ever kicked out of SFWA. He makes me look cuddly and diplomatic. He was expelled from SFWA because the powers that be decided he was a racist, in fact, it was so obvious that he was racist that it only took a thirty page thesis explaining how stuff he said was actually racist, including the leadership of SFWA searching through the vile cesspool that is Stormfront until they found some nazi skin head who used similar words, and then holding him accountable for things that posters said in his blog comments (us right wing bloggers don’t believe in censorship so we don’t “manage” or “massage” our comments like they do) then they kicked him out for misusing their Twitter account.”

It does not take a thirty-page thesis to show that Vox Day could be reasonably described as a racist even in 2014. Only a couple of days before Correia’s post, Day was overtly saying racial segregation was inevitable and that to be “pro-segregation” was like saying one was “pro-biology”:

“To talk about being pro-segregation or anti-segregation is a category error. It’s no different than claiming to be pro-biology or anti-gravity. It’s a normal human dynamic, and as such, it can be resisted with effort, but only for a short time from the historical perspective.”

Day had been fine-tuning and adapting his ethnonationalist politics over time but by 2013 he had already been quite clear that his preference was for people to live in racially homogeneous segregated states. In 2013 he thought this was compatible with his libertarian beliefs on the grounds that he believed that without government intervention, people’s naturally preferences could lead people to choose this arrangement without force.

“With regards to race, I would be more than content to see the U.S. federal government and other governments across the West firmly respect the right to self-determination, the right to free speech, and the right to freedom of economic association on the part of individual, as well as the political sovereignty of the several States.

This would likely lead to legal segregation in some states, most likely beginning, ironically enough, with the States where Hispanics are expected to soon be the majority. In most of the rest, I expect a return to Constitutional federalism and the concept of democratic laboratories would merely lead to bans on enforced desegregation and government violations of the freedom of association; history indicates that people have a tendency to naturally segregate as that is how most of the various population groups were formed in the first place.”

At this point, one of the few points of differentiation between Day’s stated beliefs and those of more overt and recognisable White Supremacists is that Day hoped that this segregation would occur peacefully and that a race-war would be regrettable, whereas the more stereotypical White Supremacists were eagerly anticipating such a calamity. It was certainly possible to enumerate points of difference between Day’s views and those of neo-Nazis or groups like the Klan but the shared assumptions and beliefs were also numerous. Day’s expectation of a coming race-war akin to the ‘helter-skelter’ like ideas of Charles Manson[4] was of a ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ kind.

“It may already be too late for a peaceful return to historical segregation patterns. But if history is an even remotely reliable guide, the West will return to them one way or another. And keep in mind that my expectations of the future have nothing whatsoever to do with my personal preferences, any more than I wanted to see the global financial system seize up when I predicted the 2008 economic crisis six years before it happened.”


Correia, who very much resented liberals putting him in a box or making assumptions about his character based on his religion, the state he lived in or his gender, may also have missed how fine-grained Vox Day’s preference for racial/ethnic segregation was. Again, Day would fine-tune and clarify these ideas over time but none of them was new in 2014 or only made clear in subsequent years. Day has a consistent belief that he has explained relatively clearly again and again. His concerns about immigration to the US may have pointed at contemporary concerns about immigrants from Mexico, or refugees from the Middle East or Africa (as was common across US politics) but his analysis was clear. The United States, as a project and the ‘libertarian’ rights-based ideal of the constitution (as claimed by libertarians and libertarian-like conservatives), was, in Day’s views an ethnicity-specific project only suited for a specific ethnicity. Very, very, specific:

“As I noted in a previous post, the influx of Irish, German, and Scandinavian immigrants distinctly transformed the political culture of America in a fundamentally anti-Constitutional manner, not despite but because of their assimilation. In this essay, we can see the way in which the Jewish European immigrants of the post-WWII period have had a predictably inimical effect as well as predict the ultimate outcome of the much larger and more recent wave of Central American immigration. I find this piece to be fascinating because while I hadn’t read Glubb before, I had reached very similar conclusions on the basis of my own historical readings.”

Day often says that he is not a racial supremacist. That he believes that societies of different races are just different rather than one being better than the other. He even points to his own family background which includes some ancestors of Mexican and Native American background to cast himself as not being conventionally ‘white’. However, Day is disingenuous. He separates two beliefs to maintain this belief. Connect them (and they often appear together) and the implication is clear what his beliefs entail based on his assumptions about the world.

  1. He believes that Western society is “the most humane civilization the human race has ever known” and also that the freedoms enshrined in the libertarian/conservative perception of the US constitution are ideal.
  2. He believes that “the West” is a civilisation SPECIFICALLY for white people/people of European descent AND that specifically, the USA (in the sense above) is a project that is intended to work for people of ENGLISH descent.

In Day’s view, the fall of the USA from grace (which matches his theological beliefs about the fall of the world from grace and its control by Satanic forces) was precipitated by non-Anglo immigration. For Day, the Irish (among others) led to a weakening in the constitution, later mass immigration from southern Europe (in Day’s view) being even worse and as he openly states (in 2010 note), post-WWII Jewish immigrations was even worse.

Libertarians like Correia and Hoyt shared a belief that the USA (in an idealised form as a constitutional republic base on natural rights and rose-coloured spectacles version of capitalism) had drifted off course and become dominated by left-wing and state-centric beliefs. Day had similar beliefs (he has since shifted from the libertarian aspects) which made him easy to see as an ideological partner but underneath was a theory that the shift away from the ideal was a racial one. Day’s theory of US politics was explicitly anti-Semitic in that he blamed American Jews for post-WWII departures from the capitalist ideal[5]. Day’s views aren’t identical to those of the nineteenth century ‘Know Nothings’[6] but the similarities are substantial.

So on race alone, asking people to ignore Day’s politics was already a big ask. He had also spent a year accusing the popular author John Scalzi of being a rapist. He had also aligned himself overtly with the growing online misogynist movement[7]. Day’s views on women writing science-fiction were widely known[8]. Nevertheless, Correia was shocked by one outcome of his campaign:

“The libel and slander over the last few days have been so ridiculous that my wife was contacted by people she hasn’t talked to for years, concerned that she was married to such a horrible, awful, hateful, bad person, and that they were worried for her safety.”

Correia didn’t connect these concerns with his alliance with Vox Day but it seems likely that Day’s extreme views on women may have led people to be concerned about who Correia was aligning himself with. Day was on record with a number of disturbing views from his Pick-Up Artist/Manosphere related blog ‘AlphaGame’, including:

  • “Women not only lie about rape, but women USUALLY lie about rape.” [9]
  • “it’s time to stop pretending that rape is the worstest crime ever in the history of the world”[10]
  • “So, get your rape on, boys. The ladies, they love the rape.”[11]
  • “Apparently Sharia has the solution for ending rape culture. Just hang the women. That will kill three birds with one stone, as it should also take care of the growing problem of false-rape accusations as well as teenage pregnancy.”[12]
  • [on women] “when it comes to what sexually attracts them, even the nice, well-bred ones are more insanely twisted, from the male perspective, than the average serial killer”[13]
  • and on his main blog “Because female independence is strongly correlated with a whole host of social ills. Using the utilitarian metric favored by most atheists, a few acid-burned faces is a small price to pay for lasting marriages, stable families, legitimate children, low levels of debt, strong currencies, affordable housing, homogenous populations, low levels of crime, and demographic stability.”[14]

Day’s claim that the term “marital rape” is oxymoronic hadn’t been made at this point[15] but it wouldn’t be hard to infer from his already stated views. That Larry Correia was falling into the orbit of Vox Day was not an unreasonable worry for friends of his wife. Day’s views could be described as “politics” but they were politics of a distinct and immediate personal nature rather than abstract ideology or partisan party alignment.

Larry Correia’s assessment of Day’s beliefs at that time (and note, the dot points all predate Correia’s post) was as follows:

“I didn’t really know the guy that well before he started pissing so many people off, but having been character assassinated myself, I’ve learned never to take the internet’s word about somebody’s character. Having actually talked with, and then gotten into long arguments and debates with Vox, he is a contrarian, can be a jerk is extremely opinionated, but I honestly don’t think he’s a racist (He’s also not a white guy, but most of the people attacking him don’t know that). We’ve had some long, heated debates on different subjects now, but since I’m not a panty twisted liberal, I can handle differing beliefs.

We disagree about a lot. I disagree with him on some fundamental philosophy. His “rabid hateful” views on homosexuality match about a third of America, most staunch Catholics, and he’s far more moderate on the issue than any devout Muslim or average European villager. So I disagree with him, but he’s not the out there whackadoo his detractors make him out to be, but then again, these same people say I want to drag gays to death behind my truck, so take the hate with a grain of salt. He thinks I’m nuts on several topics, but the dude is smart, and he can write. As for the people saying he “bought” the awards… Holy moly, you’ve got no idea what his day job is. If the man wanted to simply buy votes, he’d be up for everything from Best Novel to Motor Trend Car of the Year.” [16]

Whether they had discussed Day’s views that immigrants from Southern Europe (for example, Portugal) had undermined the constitution, is unclear. However, Correia was confident that he wasn’t an “out there whackadoo”, although oddly, he only mentions Day’s views on homosexuality rather than his views on race and women. Day is quite capable of being thoughtful, eloquent & polite and as we have seen, even he and John Scalzi managed to maintain a relatively civil communication for some years.

Even if we assume a degree of cluelessness and a lack of curiosity on Correia’s part, adding Vox Day to his slate as a way of demonstrating that Hugo voters were politically motivated were very much putting a finger on the scales.

Even so, arguably even the very worst person might write compelling fiction. Correia had made brief mention of Roman Polanski in his post as an example of a person who had committed a terrible crime and still received awards. If Vox Day’s novelette was truly good, shouldn’t Hugo voters put aside their dislike of Day’s views? As Correia had said in that post “Truly brilliant works of art have been created by people who are bat shit crazy.”

Correia had read the story and had liked it:

“I was surprised by how good it was. I found it to be a really good story (it is actually about love and friendship, with a moral philosophy based on Thomas Aquinas, so not really what you’d expect from such a supposed hatemonger of hatey-hate). I plugged it to my fans earlier this year, which meant that a lot of them had read it as well.”


But he was also clear about his motives:

“Yes, I will totally admit that I knew this would spur additional outrage. And oh, how I was proven right. His existence offends them. They aren’t going to read his work. They’re proud to admit it. In the spirit of the awards, a certain Tor editor—who has no problem marching with communists—is pushing for everyone to automatically vote No Award over Vox. Stay classy, noble Social Justice Warrior, but once again, there’s no bias.”


Nevertheless, let’s read it and see…

Opera Vita Aeterna

I suppose A Work of Everlasting Life? An elf approaches a human monastery belonging to the Order of St Dioscurus[17], a holy order of the Catholic-like human land of the setting. The elf’s arrival is unusual and the Abbot speaks to him to discover why he is visiting a human monastery. The elf explains that he is seeking a different order of human monks. A monk of this order had visited his lands and defeated one of the powerful Magisters of his college using the power of his god. The elf was attempting to learn more about the god. The Abbot explains that the monastery worships the same god and so the elf elects to stay and learn more over the winter. When spring arrives, the elf who has spent much of the time in the library is keen not only to stay but to work:

Bessarias put his hand to his mouth and coughed twice. “What I should very much like to do, Lord Abbot, if you are amenable to the idea, is to contribute a newly illuminated manuscript to your library. However, it will take me a considerable time to copy and complete it, and I do not wish to impose upon your hospitality any longer than you and your brothers can endure.”

Excerpt From: Vox Day. “Opera Vita Aeterna.”

The elf’s only condition is that he be allowed to ask the Abbot any questions about the holy scriptures he will be working on.

Unfortunately, the elf’s work at the monastery is interrupted by a demon in the shape of a talking fox who attempts to persuade the elf to return home. The elf refuses. Years pass and the elf continues to work on copying all of the Sacred Scriptures. Each year the demon returns and the elf refuses to go with him.

One day the elf sets off with a party of monks to visit a city seven days walk away, to collect writing supplies. However, when the elf returns to the monastery, he discovers that all the remaining monks have been murdered by goblins. Also, because the monastery hasn’t been ransacked he concludes the goblin attack must have been organised by the demon in a bid to make the elf return home. The elf enters the chapel of the monastery and finds the Abbot dead.

“If there was such a thing as a soul, if the incorruptible not only had a beginning but could begin with something so insignificant as a single human life, then somewhere, somehow, Waleran would know of it and the knowledge would grieve him. Bessarias was still within the walls of Saint Dioscurus and his vow still bound him. So instead, the sorcerer slowly lowered himself to one knee and did something he had never done before. He did not lower his head. He stared directly into the painted face of the pathetic wooden god as he addressed it in a voice full of scorn and fury.
“I don’t know you. I don’t believe in you. I have no use for you, you sad wooden fraud. But my friend served you with all the loyalty you could ask of any Man. So, if you exist, if you have any power at all, I ask this one thing of you, one thing only, and then we are done. Let it be as he believed. Give him that promised life beyond the grave. Welcome him into your Heaven. Walk with him in your golden streets and give him the answers he could not find here”

Excerpt From: Vox Day. “Opera Vita Aeterna.”

Surprisingly, this isn’t the end of the story. Instead, a final section skips forward in time and we meet two new characters who are visiting a different monastic library. There they discuss a book called the Sacra Incognita whose author is unknown but which contains thirty-six faces drawn into the illuminated letters. They speculate that the faces must have been the fellow monks of the copyist and the copyist themself. The younger of the two says of the book:

“This is immortality, Father. The body dies, the soul ascends, but the mind lives on forever through these words. Thank you for bringing me here. I shall never forget it, not if I live one hundred years.

Excerpt From: Vox Day. “Opera Vita Aeterna.”

The final paragraph reveals that in a letter on the open page of the book is a picture of the face of the dead Abbot. The implication being that the elf was the copyist of the book and had finished the work.

Without a doubt, I have read worse stories. There’s a plot and two characters of a sort. The story attempts some philosophical questions such as whether elves have souls but doesn’t dig down into that as a topic. There is a discussion between the Abbot and the elf on the question of whether perfect things can have a beginning but the debate is interrupted.

One of Day’s favourite writers is Umberto Eco, so the inclusion of a monastic library and philosophical questions may be a bit of a nod to The Name of the Rose. Certainly, he is trying for something quieter here than people might expect from a Larry Correia recommendation. True, the whole monastery is slaughtered (aside from the elf and the people he is travelling with) but the murders happen ‘off-screen’.

It is also a relief that Day is not overtly deploying his alpha/sigma-beta-gamma ‘socio-sexual hierarchy’[18] here. All the characters are male (with one caveat) but the monks are monkish and while maybe the elf character fits into Day’s charismatic-loner ‘sigma’ category that he carved out for himself, it’s not belaboured. I say one caveat because the demob who initially appears as a fox is given a gender-neutral “it” initially but is later given “he” when the dialogue establishes that he is a demon rather than a fox.

As an incident in a wider story, the novelette would be at worst redundant. What could be an interesting development of the Abbot and the elf isn’t given space to develop. On the Apple Books reader on my laptop, the story comes to 24 pages but it takes three pages just to get the elf into the monastery and four pages for the coda at the end. So we only get a short snippet of philosophical argument between the elf and the Abbot. Now I will concede that maybe many readers of high fantasy aren’t after a story about the arguments of Thomas Aquinas reframed into a fantasy setting and yet, that is the one and the only thing that distinguishes the story from being a random snippet lifted from a fantasy novel.

The philosophical part is teased as a question as to whether elves have souls but I believe that is a question Day considers in other parts of his Selenoth books[19]. Instead, the snippet we get has the elf launch straight into a question of existence. The Abbot having agreed to answer any questions the elf might have about the text he will copy, the elf starts with the first sentence:

“The elf laughed and raised his glass in a salute, like a swordsman preparing to address his opponent. “Granted. Now, your sacred manuscript starts with the phrase ‘In the beginning,’ does it not?”
“To be sure.” The abbot smiled and responded with his own half-empty glass.
“But my thought is that, contra the text, the world cannot have had a beginning. That which exists has always existed. It does not exist at certain times and not exist at others. And every incorruptible thing naturally has the capacity to exist always because its existence is not, due to its incorruptible nature, limited to any determinate time. Therefore no incorruptible thing sometimes is, and sometimes is not, whereas everything which has a beginning does not exist prior to its existence. So, either there are no incorruptible things to be found in the world, or no incorruptible thing ever begins to exist.”

Excerpt From: Vox Day. “Opera Vita Aeterna.”

In short, incorruptible (or changeable) necessarily can exist forever so the elf argues that if the world is incorruptible then it must have always existed. The Abbot counters the more obvious flaws in the argument (why assume the world is incorruptible) but by the time the two of them clear brush around their argument and start to approach the question of souls…they are interrupted by the demon arriving at the gates. That would be a neat bit of writing, particularly having a demon interrupting, except we never return to the argument! It reads like we are heading towards Thomas Aquinas’s discussion about the incorruptibility of the human soul[20]. ‘Incorruptibility’ doesn’t mean here ‘can’t become bad’ but more like (in modern terms) free from entropy, a point the Abbot and elf touch on.

Day opts for mediocrity rather than a bold failure. Maybe he suspected that his audience would only cope with small doses of theology. Writers like Gene Wolfe or even Tolkien, who have woven Catholic themes into fantasy works have done so with broad subtlety. In Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Eco makes more overt use of Aquinas’s philosophy but he does so to play out more modern ideas around reasons and how meaning attaches to signs and symbols. All three of those writers are not famed for brevity in dealing with these ideas (although Wolfe has written brilliant short stories).

Day’s described his earlier novel Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy, as an attempt to grapple with these questions:

“However, I did have this insanely ambitious idea for bringing religion back into high fantasy, inspired by an essay I’d written for Ben Bella’s Revisiting Narnia anthology, entitled “CS Lewis and the Problem of Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy.” I knew no one else would ever even consider publishing it, so I said I would write it if it was of any interest to him. He said yes, so I got to it.

Unfortunately, I completely failed. Originally, the plan was for this massive structural subtext in which each fantasy race represented a different medieval philosophical school, but I just couldn’t pull it off. The intellectual scope was far too grand; it took me a year just to get a decent grasp of Thomas Aquinas via the Summa Theologica. So, the book went from being philosophically vast to atomic; the novel is essentially nothing more than a single Aquinas-style argument concerning whether elves have souls naturally united to them or not.”

That element is still present in Opera Vita Aeterna as a kind of stub but without it, what is left? The characters are thin and the story is slight. It isn’t that the theology has to take second-fiddle to action or magic or world-building or mythic scope or atmosphere. Instead, we have some events and a lot of padding.

I enjoyed six pages of this. I’ll concede that is six pages more than I expected and that made me a bit sad because there genuinely are signs of Day being able to write something good.

Is this novelette in any sense close to something award-worthy? No, not even close,. True, that is a subjective judgement but to be worthy of award implies a question less prone to individual taste:

In what way does this novelette stand out from any other novelette in SF/F at the time?

There are no strong answers that relate to the content of the novelette and I’d argue the situation is even worse for Opera Vita Aeterna. It is barely even a stand-alone work and frankly, there are better 20+ page sections of fantasy novels that would work as better novelettes than this one. It maybe passes muster as an incident in a broader novel but it really doesn’t work as short fiction. If somebody said to me “this was an early work by a writer who later wrote good short fiction” then I would find that believable. Is it comparable to the quality of writing of Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, Marko Kloos, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells? No, and again not just ‘no’ but not even close. It wasn’t for me maddeningly awful in a throw-the-iPad-across-the-room way nor was it laughably bad but it was resoundingly mediocre.

Actually, it is worse than that. Consider who is the audience for this? It isn’t people looking for Larry Correia like stories. It is pitched at people who like high fantasy and like philosophical themes and like the kind of metaphysics that tries to deduce what substance gods or angels are made out of. Hey! That’s me! I’m the audience for this! Sure there’s the implicit sexism of an all-male cast and the fantasy races having ingrained natures sounds like a perfect playground for Day’s beliefs but those elements are no worse in this story than they are in a whole pile of fantasy works by less ideological obnoxious writers[21].

Of course, I’m dancing around a point that Larry Correia had already confessed to. Opera Vita Aeterna was not on the Sad Puppies slate because of the “superior quality” of the work. It was put there to troll the voters and provoke a reaction. When the reaction was received, Correia claimed this was proof of political bias. Interestingly, to find the ‘bias’, Correia chose to nominate a mediocre work by the most singularly controversial person he could find within science fiction whose stated views included dismissing over 50% of the population.

Next time: Vox Day and Gamergate



165 responses to “Debarkle Chapter 27: Vox Day, Racism, Sexism and Opera Vita Aeterna”

  1. Very interesting installment. (Which I hope is a better comment than *clickity*, but that too…)


  2. I want to live separate from other *humans* when possible.
    I’d argue you don’t have to hate, but you can’t like that which you wish to be apart from.


  3. I noticed a big error n my part. I said early on that I don’t know if LC and VD had other communication but in LCs post that I quote he basically says that he did. Too messy to edit that bit right now but I’ll change it at some point.


    • I’m glad you’ve decided to go a different direction in the next draft. I had given up on the comment I was writing about how Lincoln had to deal with alleged communications between the advocates of extending slavery, although it is now a documented fact (and there was really no reason to suppose Lincoln was only guessing.) Although true, I came to doubt it would help you to know it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In re note 17, the Dioscuri are Castor and Pollux, conventionally – it’s a Latinizaton of a Greek word meaning “sons of Zeus”. So, the singular form is a slightly odd name for a crypto-Christian saint, but I’ve seen weirder. It’s not bad, by the standards of Day’s Deformed Latin (which seems to consist mostly of putting plausible-sounding Latin words next to each other and hoping the resulting phrase means something.)

    Liked by 4 people

    • I mean, this story has “Sacra Incognita” in it, which… excuse me, I need to go slam my head against a wall.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Pedantry mode activated: you have “demob” for demon in the paragraph in which you are discussing the gender of said entity.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The most shocking thing to me in this section was this phrase, which I didn’t think the author in question was capable of uttering: “Unfortunately, I completely failed.”

    Also, has literally anyone ever actually believed that Beale is “not a white guy”? I mean, I know what he’s said about this. But come on. Even Correia isn’t that stupid.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Didn’t he admit on his blog that pretending to have Native American and Mexican ancestry was just a rhetorical game — turning the liberals’ tactics against them sort of thing?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well yeah, he’s basically said in various contexts that he has no regard for truth so it would be ridiculous for anyone to take his word on anything – although I don’t know if he had said that in so many words yet by the time of that Correia quote. Regardless, he never gave anyone any reason to believe it. Every photo of him looks like an extremely white guy, he never said anything about anyone ever treating him otherwise, and has a very low regard for non-white people and a very high regard for himself. AFAIK he never said anything to indicate he or his family identified as anything other than white except this desultory statement that he had a Native American ancestor. Correia had no reason to believe this except that it’s a claim Beale made, and he doesn’t exactly seem to be a trusting sort.

        Liked by 2 people

        • follow up – the timing works in his favour after all. He’d mentioned his Mexican great-grandfather before but only mentioned that the guy had married a Native American after the DNA post. So presumably somebody did some more genealogy work


      • Well, of course he lied.

        Or if he didn’t (and Mexicans have a LOT of Native genes anyway), I realized why he claims all this:

        People who think like him are the ones who invented the “one-drop rule”.


      • From the post linked by Richard Gadsden:

        “I’m Native American. And not in the Fauxcahontas manner either. We’re talking about enough to qualify for membership in most Indian tribes. And, as it happens, more than enough to qualify for the relevant one.”

        I’m largely ignorant here but I’m also really skeptical that NA tribal membership works this way.

        Liked by 2 people

      • 1. Given how much he projects, I wouldn’t be surprised if Beale’s Native American ancestry was, in fact, in the “Fauxahontas” manner. Basically, any time he accuses someone else of something shady or sleazy, it is because he has done it. This tendency of Beale’s also makes me wonder about his obsession with rape and pedophiles.

        2. That’s not how qualifying for tribal membership works. I’m going to guess that he has put as much effort into researching how the process works as he has put into everything else (i.e. very little, and he did it badly).

        Liked by 2 people

        • I think the specific claim (not the DNA claim) is his Mexican Great grandfather married a native american woman – and while the only source is Vox, contextually I think this is true and something he only learned later in his life.


        • Sorry-an addendum. Different country and different ethnic context but in Australia, that sort of connection to Aboriginal background is important because of the kinds of racist policies that were used against indigenous Australians by past governments to make the population vanish.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Cam, the Australian and American treatment of their local indigenous people is so basically the same that you should feel free to extrapolate. We’ve just been doing it longer.

        Also, this shows how completely ignorant Teddy is of another thing. The Mexican population as a whole has a MUCH larger Native American gene percentage than the American one does. British conquerors brought wives over; Spanish conquistadors just took up with the local ladies. So anyone with Mexican ancestry is liable to have Native blood — it’s just a matter of which tribe their ancestors were from.

        And not forgetting the Black Mexicans either, or the blond ones — Mexico has a lot of naturally blond people too. Basically, Mexicans come in all colors.

        As to whether Teddy’s possibly-mythical ancestor bequeathed him enough Native DNA to get membership in a tribe, he is of course lying again. It’s really hard, at least in the US. Did he ever say the putative NA woman who married g’gpa is in fact, his g’gma, or just someone Grampy married but didn’t have kids with? He may be weasel wording his way there too.

        Wonder if his alleged tribe is part of a big famous Indigenous rights group? You know them as the Zapatistas. 😉


    • Like… when I was growing up, there was a story on one side of my family that there was a Cherokee ancestor about five generations back. That’s not documented and we’re skeptical about it now, but even when we assumed it was true, absolutely no one would’ve called us anything other than white. Having a Native American ancestor somewhere in the mix long ago is a pretty common thing for self-identified white people and identified-by-everyone-else-as-white people in America, and has been for hundreds of years. And if you replace “Having” with “Vaguely claiming or believing to have”, it’s incredibly common. Correia can’t possibly not know that, and he can’t possibly think it’s relevant as a defense since that would have to mean that there are virtually no racists in America.

      Liked by 3 people

      • The Cherokee have a saying “Every White person in America *claims* to have a Cherokee Princess great-grandmother”.

        Needless to say, very few White Americans have any Native ancestors at all.

        I have a female Iroquois ancestor about 250 years ago, but she wasn’t a princess, and I don’t think she was even purely Iroquois, so kick it back another generation.

        I am almost as White as it is possible to be without being transparent. My husband *is* that White, because being entirely Northern English and Irish means his people needed no melanin.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Needless to say, very few White Americans have any Native ancestors at all”

        I wouldn’t go that far, and I certainly wouldn’t say it’s so sure as to be “needless to say”. If you meant any documented ancestors, or more than one very far back, or any real connection to an indigenous nation, then sure. But this is very dependent on how recently someone’s European ancestors came over: on the East Coast with a ton of European immigration in the 20th century, your statement is true, in the West and Midwest and South not so much.

        It’s totally correct to push back at the overblown claims that a lot of people make out of a desire to make their heritage seem more interesting, but totally ruling out “any at all” in this blanket way isn’t realistic. I’ve seen attempts to back up that kind of statement by arguing for instance that “the number of people claiming some Cherokee ancestry is greater than the number of enrolled Cherokee, and that is literally impossible”, and I think it’s not hard to see why that makes no sense: it’s not only not-impossible for a few individuals who assimilated into a larger population to have more living descendants than their relatives who remained within a smaller segregated and highly disadvantaged group, it’s exactly what you would expect.


      • “being entirely Northern English and Irish means his people needed no melanin”

        But I was reliably informed that if the sun don’t come, you get a tan from standing in the English rain!


      • @Eli: you are correct, “no documented Native ancestors”. Because lots of places didn’t keep the best records back then, and of course unknown numbers of people either a) passed for white so they could avoid racism or b) falsely claimed to be Native for fun and profit.

        Liked by 1 person

      • People apparently get a great deal of entertainment out of researching their ancestors, and far be it from me to say their kink is not OK. (Until 2019 when 23andMe “outed” my bio-parents, as the child of a private adoption I was until then excluded from that game.) But where I’m continually boggled is where people (1) assume none of their ancestors ever lied about whom they slept with, and/or (2) feel a sense of pride or accomplishment. Sleeping around has been very much a thing at all times because, well, humans, and what on Ghu’s green earth do you have to do with the accomplishments of endless past ovum and sperm donors, almost all of whom you never even met? Pro-tip: Nothing.


        • While I agree that we deserve no respect for what our ancestors did, feeling proud or thrilled about it seems to be a common human reaction. And usually a harmless one unless your response is along the line of “My grandparents came to America as poor immigrants, therefore I don’t have any privilege.” which is an argument I have seen made.


          • I’m having a vague recollection here of the privileged wealthy white guy who, sometime in the last couple of years, defended his behavior by claiming that he was not privileged because his grandparents (from whom he had inherited wealth and social status) were poor, oppressed immigrants who’d had to build their lives up from poverty… as if therefore he had himself been a poor, oppressed immigrant who’d worked his way up from nothing. I can’t remember the guy’s name. It was absolutely bizarre.


      • I mostly know more about my anchestors, because they had to prove that there weren’t any unwanted people in the familytree.
        That’s more from my father’s side, where my ancestors came from what I know somewhere in Scandinavia, the name is more from my wikipediaresearch common in Great Britain.
        As I mentioned my mother’s familyside has an anchestor who was french nobility from familylegend and he(I think it was a he) was robbed by relatives.
        And there is of course the dark spot, an uncle of my mother. (with Wikipediapage)

        I found it interesting that Germans and Scandinavians were considered as not pure enough by Beale. I know of anti-irish prejudice and catholics beeing seen as a problem, but those were new for me.

        Liked by 2 people

        • My ancestors are whitey-whitebread as they come; my great grandparents on one side and great-great grandparents on the other were all immigrants from Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland.

          One of the branches of my family by marriage has the wrong surname. On the trip over, the ship’s captain died, so the guy took the captain’s name so he could sell the ship and claim the money for it. There’s no record of what his original name was. On the other side, we’re related by marriage to an infamous Virginia Confederate commander who later somewhat reformed after the war by holding a number of government positions and making a career of uncovering a lot of the fraud and graft that was going on.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Near as I can tell, my ancestors came to North America from the British Isles three hundred years ago and immediately sought to be as obscure as possible. History of poor dirt farmers, anyone? Mother’s family came out to Oregon in 1846 and married into a prominent family without becoming leaders themselves. Father’s family bounced around Canada and I’m still not sure how they ended up in Colorado during the nineteenth century. But none of ’em appear to be all that much into leadership or prominence of any sort. Which is fine by me. Somebody’s gotta be descended from the peasants, and since that appears to be my heritage, I’m going to embrace it.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Most Germans can at least trace their ancestors back until the late to mid 19th century due to the Nazis requiring people to prove they were Aryan enough, when getting married, applying for certain jobs, etc… My great-great-grandmother, born sometime in the 1870s, had a “Jewish sounding name”, so we have a certificate from the mayor of a tiny village in Alsace (now France) confirming that she was Protestant, which satisfied the Nazis.

        Other interesting ancestors are my great-.grandfather, a roving shoemaker who made it all the way a tiny village in Alsace to New Jersey and who may or may not have been killed by the Nazis (he was planning to come back to Germany to attend my great-aunt’s wedding in 1937 and never showed up. Supposedly, there is a letter he wrote from prison).

        On the other side, one of my ancestors six generations back was a rabble-rousing priest who got kicked out of one small fiefdom and went just across the border to the next. I actually visited the chuch where he was a priest once..

        Liked by 1 person

        • Cora Buhlert: one of my ancestors six generations back was a rabble-rousing priest who got kicked out of one small fiefdom and went just across the border to the next.

          The year I did a huge amount of work on my family’s genealogy, I did that of my then-spouse as well. My ex was descended, not from the upstanding, highly-revered governor of Plymouth Colony, but from his ne’er-do-well brother who was sanctioned repeatedly for stealing, brawling, and other crimes, and eventually kicked out of the colony altogether for being a dishonest, incorrigible rotter.

          Hindsight is 20:20.

          Liked by 3 people

      • I may have some *extremely* distant cousins who do not exist, because we’re pretty sure that my great-great grandfather was a German Jew who came over in the late 1830’s and told the authorities he was a German Protestant, ja.

        100 years later in the US nobody cared, but if any of his family was still in Germany in the 1930’s…

        @Joyce: We’re ALL descended from thousands of years of peasants, really. Some people simply hate to admit it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I’m not sure if this “Nope, Isidora Weiss [that was my great-great-grandmother’s name] was definitely Protestant” certificate is the truth or if the mayor falsified it to do the family a favour. Not to mention that she might have converted. But it was enough to satisfy the Nazis.

        Liked by 1 person

    • “The most shocking thing to me in this section was this phrase, which I didn’t think the author in question was capable of uttering: “Unfortunately, I completely failed.” ”

      I will say this about the Beale who wrote the early Selenoth stories–he was trying. He was not generally succeeding–there’s really only one halfway decent story in the bunch, and another one that despite being badly done and frequently unpleasant has some striking ideas–but he was trying. Reading them I am generally of Camestros’ opinion–they are the works of someone who if he’d perhaps gotten an editor willing to engage with him and tell him where he was going wrong might have gone somewhere. (Or maybe not–his prose styling generally runs from ‘mediocre’ to ‘gouge out your eyes to stop reading it’, occasionally hitting ‘clever’ almost by accident.) He was trying less by the time he wrote the first novel, and by the time he regurgitated up the second, he’d pretty much stopped. He is one of the handful of writers I know of to show no progression as an artist, only decline.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Noted genius Theodore Beale quite literally wrote this sentence:

        “It does not exist at certain times and not exist at others.”

        I understand what he’s trying to say but this is exceptionally clumsy phrasing.

        Liked by 3 people

      • He did and he didn’t. I’m fairly certain that’s a mangled version of an Aquinas statement, for reasons that I’ll get into when I really delve into my thoughts on this story.


      • He doesn’t need an editor, he’s quite capable of editing himself. That’s how we end up with a bonus Chapter 5. We just don’t understand him.

        Liked by 3 people

      • 4 dimensional chess, 5 dimensional editing.

        Although he wouldn’t care for the melanin content of The 5th Dimension.
        🎵up, up and awaaay in my beautiful, my beautiful ballooon🎵

        Liked by 3 people

  7. 1) Yeah, Larry knew that Beale was a racist who believed in the superiority of white “European” culture while also openly supporting violence and abuse against uppity women. He knew what Beale said about Jemisin in the controversial tweet, which was an open, no dog whistle racist attack on her being a black “tribes” person and thus ignorant and inferior. Beale is a racial eugenicist, indulging in the fever dreams of white nationalists about establishing a more fortress-like new apartheid now that it’s a bit harder in the parts where they live to just enslave and murder people of darker hues or Jewish ethnicity and take their stuff.

    But Larry saw Beale as a useful tool. I’m sure that Beale argued that he could be a useful tool. If Larry had Beale on the ballot, he would get Beale’s window-smashers (who would become more numerous later, next chapter,) more media attention (in large part because Jemisin had grown in stature,) and he could claim that A) there isn’t really any discrimination going on so the SJW’s are lying, exaggerating, trying to steal the power of their rightful superiors — method #1; and B) all biases are equal.

    2) This is a favorite tactic of bigoted authoritarianism and leads into the “both sides” stuff. Notice what Larry says:
    “Stay classy, noble Social Justice Warrior, but once again, there’s no bias.” I.e. the more liberal authors being outraged over Beale’s inclusion in Larry’s voting slate and getting the nomination thereby are showing that they are biased against authoritarians and therefore it’s not only authoritarian writers and voters who are biased and so liberals don’t have the high ground (which supposedly consists of no biases and political views about human rights) and clearly are just unhappy that right wingers in voting slates and log rolling are doing what they supposedly do.

    But what do the two biases consist of? The authoritarian biases each person has vary but they are all anti-equal civil rights — homosexuals are sinners who should be deprived of legal secular rights; feminism — women’s further equality — undermines proper and innate gender roles and should be controlled; white European society is superior and should get to have or will end up having the U.S. as its entire segregated ethnostate, etc. They are bigoted views against people who have been historically repressed and marginalized and against efforts to change that in cultures or at least their own culture. Progressives are “biased” about authoritarians’ anti-civil rights views, believing them to cause further violent harm and repression and having plenty of evidence to back it up.

    But Larry is claiming that the biases are equal, just differing opinions, two teams trash talking each other. And so Beale abusing the rules of an organization to call Jemisin an unintelligent, ignorant tribeswoman who should shut up (bigoted stereotype slurs and threatening demands) is no different in Larry’s view than Jemisin in her complaints about Beale and his SFWA supporters’ racist and often violent beliefs about what they see as her racial and gender inferiority. As authoritarians, they both claim superior authority while also claiming their anti-civil rights speech, threats, outrage jokes, etc. don’t have any harmful or real repressive effects. And thus that speech, those views, are no different from progressive’s concerns about and rejection of those views.

    3) I had a little info about Beale’s story before but having the fuller description here, it’s basically a western with the non-blow-out action ending option. The lone, powerful man (elf) journeying from his violent background (gunslinger/bandit) finds refuge in a peaceful church with a reverend who believes in redemption and rebirth. The loner seeks understanding of the people so different from himself and a sense of renewal while pursuing works of labor and dedicated craft that help the church. He also protects the church from a hovering threat that wants to drag him back into his violent past. But the threat gets past when the loner leaves the sanctuary and slaughters the reverend and good people. The loner builds a memorial (the book,) completing a task of importance and helping in the reverend’s memory. In many westerns the loner then might also stop further threat/enact vengeance and then, having protected the reverend’s dream, leave, going back to his path. But it can also be the ending of the western that the loner takes up being the new reverend and rebuilds as a man of peace or that he accepts the reverend’s views of peace and just leaves without vengeance seeking, protecting the remaining community with his absence and the violence it brings with it.

    Of course western stories come from heroic ballads of medieval and older times applied to a particular time/location, that folklore also being the lore drawn for most modern fantasy tales, so it’s not a western in and of itself, just the familiar form that is particularly liked in westerns. That being said, I don’t think Larry cared about the story because he thought it was a good, western-like tale. He just needed a story of Beale’s. But he might have decided that this one was the one of Beale’s that would do because it involved religion and was western-familiar.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. So Larry is unable to identify either racism or bad writing?

    And he wonders why his pals don’t get nominated for things without slating.

    Also, if Teddy was really part Mexican, which one of the separate nations was he planning to live in? Yeah, didn’t think so.

    He’s also pretty darn comfy in his current living in a Southern European country, for someone who’s got such a low opinion of them…

    Liked by 3 people

    • I wouldn’t classify Switzerland as a “Southern Europe” country. That usually involves a border with the Mediterranean. Also Switzerland is very ‘white and conservative’ and has banned face coverings recently. He fits in quite well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Though Northern Italy is also quite conservative and white and often votes for various far right parties. If he actually is in South Tyrol, he also lives among a German speaking minority who are at odds with the rest of Italy.

        Liked by 2 people

      • As Cora said, Day chose what is probably the most venomously anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, and anti-the-rest-of-Italy part of Italy to settle in. But even if he regards all southern Europeans in general as a pernicious influence on the US, I can’t really say that him living there is hypocritical or inconsistent with his ideology. He thinks most kinds of people are incompatible with US culture and the Constitution, but he’s not trying to live in the US or to help implement the Constitution, he’s happy to just hang out at a distance talking shit. So he may as well live among people he doesn’t respect but who have nevertheless stayed in “their place”.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I wouldn’t tar all of North Italy with the Lega brush–it’s got the most right wing and the most left wing sections of the country, right next to each other, and sometimes cheek to jowl. I mean, Bologna was the PCI’s unofficial capital for most of the First Republic.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t know about in 2021, but five or six years ago he liked to leave the impression that he was in Switzerland. I remember an email exchange with Jerry Pournelle where he mentioned mailing contracts (for Castalia House reprints) to Beale in Italy, which struck me as a bit of a reveal at the time.

          Liked by 3 people

    • s/unable/unwilling. He can’t allow himself to see the racism inherent in his lifestyle or else he’d have to admit that he’s been wrong all this time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • So Larry is unable to identify either racism or bad writing?

      I’m pretty sure he could identify it, he just avoided mentioning it. This is a consistent pattern for Correia: If there is an argument that undermines the point he is trying to make, he will simply ignore it. He does this all the time with his “fisking”, where he will pull the parts of the original piece that he wants to ridicule and ignore those parts show his attempted argument to be a stupid strawman-argument or those that simply give the statements he is attacking context that would demonstrate his attack is based on a lie.

      In short, Correia’s style of argumentation is fundamentally dishonest, because he is a fundamentally dishonest person. Given that, it is not really a surprise he got along with Beale, since Beale is similarly dishonest. In fact, one of the primary personality traits that most of the Pups share is that they are all routinely dishonest sacks of shit.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. adding Vox Day to his slate as a way … were very much putting a finger on the scales -> adding Vox Day to his slate as a way … was very much putting a finger on the scales


  10. Problem with the text is that many of the statements are never supported by the quotes. I.e Correia says that “it was so obvious that he was racist that it only took a thirty page thesis explaining how stuff he said was actually racist”. To refute this we should get easy read quotes showing he is racist. Instead we get a series of statements that is of course clear, then quotes that aren’t very clear (because Beale use weasel language in them) and then a long thesis on how they should be interpreted according to Beale’s world view – which isn’t supported by quotes.

    I feel there is something missing here. *I* know that Beale is a racist. I agree with you that hos world view has been quite consistent. I just don’t think it is supported by any of the quotes in this chapter. In contrast, his misogyny is loud and clear for everyone to see. There is no need for statements about world view or interpretation, the quotes are enough by themselves.

    I guess this is the problem with weasels dog whistling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right that the sexism is simpler and Vox covers his race views with rationalisations. He certainly isn’t a vulgar racist ie he doesn’t spend his time throwing slurs around. However, he also doesn’t make a secret of the fact that he thinks culture and civilisation is racial and genetic. On the sexism, the acid throwing quote I think is the most like his race quotes I.e. cloaks it in a get-out clause. The world view aspect…fair point…the problem is I don’t have a pithy example although it really is all there. He thinks we should all live in our own racial groups – I mean, I think if he was willing to talk to me and I asked him that as straight question he’d say ‘yes, sure’ I.e. I don’t think its my spin on it. I’ll see if I can find a 2014 quote that says it more neatly.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. All that said, Opera whatzit was better than most of the stuff to follow. It was at least trying in a way that the 2015 slates were proud to not try. I remember reading it, being a bit bored and moving on.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Am I the only one here to have read Vox Day and Bruce Bethke’s execrable The Moon is a Harsh Mistress-knock off Rebel Moon? It was like Heinlein, if Heinlein was super-shitty at writing.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. I still don’t get over it, that this story was the hill that Larry choose as his battleground.
    To points: If you want to prove bias (and it may well be that people vote more for a work they agree with then one they want to scream on at every other page) you need a case.
    Now Beale did finish worse than nearly every other candidate for the Hugo (I not cheeking hom to ration was for any other work that was no awarded before the Puppycampaign).
    That is as datapoint not helpful because a) Beale is an extrem case, he is not a normal conservative or even rightwing writer.
    b) You make a case the work has to be comparable, you would need a work that has at last nearly the same quality than Beales.
    b is not somethink I often see on the Hugoballot. Now I fully think that an awful first story by a nice person (not on a slate) may do better than Beale in the case of getting votes against no-award, but the gotcha is a) on a very predictable result and b) completly meanigless.

    I remember the Story from Kevin Standlee, that someone confuse Larry and Theo.
    What Larry managed to do, he made a lot of people aware of sad puppies and made sure, that Theos Brand became his, therefore reducing the readers he could reach, who are worldconvoters. (And proved that he had very bad taste)


    • I think it was Eric Flint who said if the Puppies wanted to fight for a conservative to get the Hugos they could have picked Gene Wolfe (I gather he’s devoutly Catholic). But then everyone might have said “Yeah, he deserves one” and they wouldn’t have been able to pose as oppressed outsiders.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Actually if they just put the spotlight on overlooked conservative writers, that wouldn’t have been controversal. Same later with Indy Writers(that other puppys said they fight for).
        First everyone knows that there are works that are overlooked, whatever the source. (I think a lot of people have a list of writers that they wished were more on the focus of the nominators)
        I am asking myself did the put of Beale, with the goal that he would fall (the same as Beale did with Wright?)
        Another point is that bad recomendations devaluat the other recomendations someone gives. (I may react differently than you, but absolute horrible stuff, will not make me look forward to the next recomendation)

        Liked by 2 people

      • Wolfe’s best case for a Hugo was probably 1983, when Sword of the Lictor was nominated and Foundation’s Edge won. The previous year, Claw of the Conciliator was nominated, but Downbelow Station won, which I think was probably the right choice.

        The thing that a lot of people (including the Pups) don’t really cotton on to is that the Hugos are not a “roll call of greatness”, they are an assessment of the works from particular years, and in some cases, really good fiction doesn’t win a Hugo because it was just up against something better that particular year.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Yup – and also made the slate look like a dodgy exercise. Correia, Tayler, Wells, Torgersen etc had all got on the ballot more-or-less on their own steam before (OK Reno helped). Weiskopf was an obvious oversight with support beyond Puppies (eg Mike Glyer). Hoyt had a Prometheus award (I think) by that point. Kloos had some buzz around it (don’t know if he’d been to Variable Paradise and been promoted by Scalzi at that point). Even if Day was an unknown, it would have raised some quizzical eyebrows on the ballot and the story would have fared badly. I might not saying people didn’t vote against him because they hate him but then again Day does say that Hate is a Human Right…

      Liked by 1 person

  14. So, my thoughts on Opera Vita Aeterna

    Mmmmm, right, you better pull up a metaphorical chair, this might take a while.

    The first thing about the story I have to bring up is that, as you note, it is very much not self-contained. It is the sequel to Master of Cats, which was a prequel to Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy. Bessarias, the protagonist of the two stories, is a supporting character of the novella the lone elf adherent to Selenoth’s Church of Crystal Dragon Jesus* (who is heavily hinted at being, like Aslan, simply Jesus in another incarnation). The stories are about showing how Bessarias became a member of the faith, and I will give Opera Vita Aeterna this, it is an effort to wrestle (or precisely to pretend to wrestle) with some tough questions, which Master of Cats most certainly is not. Mastema debuts in the latter tale, where he is identified as Bessarias’s familiar, hence his apparent obsession with the elf. In addition, Marcus, the young character from the story’s epilogue is the protagonist of Summa Elvetica, and goes on to be the central character of the novels.

    Now, all of this should make it clear that this story is meant to be read as a piece of a whole. And yet, ironically, doing so actually weakens it as a tale. Part of this is because Master of Cats and Summa Elvetica are, well, terrible, clumsy stories. Another part of it is because reading the series as a whole underlines Beale’s lazy worldbuilding, which one might ignore or at least forgive while reading a single short story. For example, throughout Beale uses simple fantasy versions of real world philosophers and theologians, frequently given to us in list form. This is generally quite irritating, because at best what he does is give us what amounts to ciphers, a real world philosopher hidden behind an altered name. At worst, he just adopts the name wholesale even if it makes no sense in this different universe–this is what happens in Opera Vita Aeterna where Marcus mentions a group of real world Christian theologians (culminating in… well, I’ll get to that) most of them by their real world names, with Peter Lombard among them, something that after reading story after story of these weak substitution games is like one more go of hearing fingernails on the chalkboard. Thus, ironically, after reading more of Beale’s stuff, one is likely to be LESS forgiving of his foibles.

    But there’s another flaw that being placed in a series creates–being part of a longer story underlines that Bessarias’s story ends with him becoming a good fantasy world Christian. As opposed to the earlier tales, Opera Vita Aeterna flirts with ambiguity, or appears to. But with a fore-ordained ending of ‘He gets Crystal Dragon Jesus’ hanging over the tale it becomes clear that ambiguity exists because Beale can’t stick the landing or come up with halfway decent answers to problems he poses. Reading it as part of a whole, one realizes that Beale thinks he’s nailed it, answered all those questions about immortality and the problem of evil, and it’s a reader’s ability to recognize that he hasn’t that can give the tale an appearance of depth that it lacks. The story ends with an image of the abbot looking on the face of God–but it’s Bessarias’s engraving of the abbot looking on the painting of God that adorns the ceiling of the Church. Beale clearly wants us to nod along with Marcus when he says this is immortality, man, and that God has answered Bessarias’s prayer that his friend live forever and know the glory of God, but has instead crafted an image of two imitations doing a sort of cheap version of that. It’s Beale’s American Fundamentalist theology shining through–he thinks he’s answered the question when he’s made a weak assertion that not only doesn’t answer it, it raises further questions.

    Which of course brings up another part of the whole ‘immortality’ matter–one part of the story is that the abbot starts writing down his discussions with Bessarias making a sort of manuscript of them. This book is found with the *shudders* Sacra Incognita and goes on to become a big deal, being the work of–the fantasy world’s version of Thomas Aquinas. So the abbot has been Crystal Dragon Aquinas the whole time, with Bessarias taking the part of Aquinas’s “objections” in his argument style. Hence my belief that the philosophical discussion is probably a lightly reworked version of a bit of some out-of-copyright translation of Summa Theologica, a trick Beale had used before and would use again in this series.

    So to sum up, no, not a fan of the story.

    *I should clarify that I’m using the TVtropes term for fantasy “Christian, but with a little window dressing to pretend they’re not” churches–Selenoth’s church does not in fact worship a Crystal Dragon.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Agree with James Moar. “Tree” is a frequent poetic metaphor in Christian songs and sermons–and from my experience of both evangelical Protestantism and Catholicism, it’s a fairly universal one.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Believe me when I say the more you get the worse things get. A character is introduced and featured in Master of Cats and then vanishes in between the stories, with out even ranking a mention in the second, despite having both suggested Bessarias’s trip to find the human’s god, and accompanied him at the conclusion. And that’s not even getting into the mess that is Summa Elvetica

        Liked by 1 person

    • So Marcus in this one is Marcus as in “really good at tunnels” Marcus? Oh Lord.

      One of the good things about Mary Gentle’s immense “Ash” (a book I recommend, though given the size of it you will need an e-reader or pretty strong wrists) is the way the setting emerges – you see people swearing by “Green Christ” on his “tree”, and it actually sounds not far away from standard mediaeval dialogue; it’s only after a while that it becomes clear just *how far* the alternate history diverges from historical Christianity. The tree is a standard enough metaphor for the Cross in Christianity, it doesn’t seem out of place. (Beale, IIRC, is an oddball Protestant. Among other things, he doesn’t subscribe to the Trinity, which is one of the few things short of actual Satanism that will get you barred from Communion in the Church of England.)

      My recollection of “Throne of Bones” (time is dulling the memory, tnough not yet enough) is that the religion is a presence in people’s lives, but the actual *founder* of that religion isn’t – there is a hierarchy, there is a Pope, there is priestly magic, but actual Christ (or His equivalent) doesn’t seem to feature in any real capacity. I couldn’t tell you what Beale’s Crystal Dragon Jesus is even called, for example. There seems to be a hollow core to Beale’s imagined religion – there are rules and rituals and even magic, but no actual faith. I don’t know if that’s significant, or just bad writing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, it’s the same Marcus. He’s also the protagonist of Summa Elvetica, though this largely consists of getting yammered at by various characters as he moves about from place to place, accomplishing nothing in the tale.

        Beale’s spotty development of the religion is of a piece of Selenoth, where cod Rome seems to go through its entire history either out of order or at once, the Pope is the Head of State (or acting Head of State in place of God), but the religious orders are barred from the Senate, and everyone insists there’s never been a civil war, despite having overthrown their previous lines of kings (who are hanging around on the honor system) which somehow doesn’t count, AND the military being largely in the hands of a hereditary nobility that is allowed–nay ENCOURAGED–to raise private armies. Oh, and the Church also has its own private militias, because of course it does.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Never fear!

        You can refresh your memory of the wonder of Throne of Bones with fewer tedious words and many more illustrations!

        The Throne of Bones comic will be one of the main attractions in Vox’s latest, paradigm shifting, world shaking venture – Arktoons!!!

        Marvel at the slaughter of the hapless goblin armies! See the sweat on the brows of the legions miners! Stare at the definitely not Christian temple architecture!!?!

        (Apologies if I have used up your supply of ! but I think the good news warranted their use)

        Liked by 3 people

      • Mormons are also non-Trinitarian.

        (As are Unitarians — it’s in the name — but they’re all lib SJWs, many of whom don’t even believe in God.)


      • I’ve been known to say to curious young people, “You might as well think of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as being something like the Three Musketeers: ‘All for one and one for all.’ That doesn’t actually help you understand the doctrine in the slightest, but don’t worry, because a fully correct, exhaustive doctrinal explanation wouldn’t make even a particle of sense, either.”

        Liked by 2 people

  15. I have to say that Beale appears to lack any sense of logic. The quoted argument (which seems to be hacked from Aquinas) has no real logical flow. The last sentence is especially out of place.

    The original appears to be this:

    “ Further, nothing which has power to be always, sometimes is and sometimes is not; because so far as the power of a thing extends so long is exists. But every incorruptible thing has power to be always; for its power does not extend to any determinate time. Therefore no incorruptible thing sometimes is, and sometimes is not: but everything which has a beginning at some time is, and at some time is not; therefore no incorruptible thing begins to exist. But there are many incorruptible things in the world, as the celestial bodies and all intellectual substances. Therefore the world did not begin to exist.”


    Much, much, better.

    I guess Beale deserves some small credit for not copying the original verbatim, but making such small changes and bodging those is hardly worth much.


    • He does this all the time in the series–plunders old translations of classic and medieval works and then tweaks them, frequently ineptly. One of the longest examples in Throne of Bones is a lengthy bit of verse that is the conclusion of Dryden’s Aeneid, reworked badly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just think that in a supposedly philosophical story mangling an argument is worse than mangling prose (or verse). It would be bad even if the argument was completely original. The fact that the argument is so closely based on an existing text makes it worse. I’m sure that some people can glide over it, but to me it’s a pretty big flaw in a story which seems to have little to recommend it (the other quoted passages aren’t good, but I don’t find them to be annoyingly incompetent).

        Liked by 2 people

  16. “Wolfe’s best case for a Hugo was probably 1983, when Sword of the Lictor was nominated and Foundation’s Edge won. ”

    How does this fit the Puppy’s model of how the Hugo is biased against old-fashioned SF?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Perhaps I’m the only one bothered by this, but it looks like there’s no discussion on what elves believe about origins (besides the objection from Aquinas). Does the Abbot really not think to ask “Do elven histories go back for all eternity?” Did VD even have an origin story for them? Were they created by a personal god, and they never recorded this information? Or did they actually evolve? And, I wonder, did he actually have in mind whether his universe was a literal creation, or similar enough to ours that his cosmologists would have a science similar to that in our world?

    Other fantasy writers often fail to go into the origins of their fantasy races and worlds, but they also usually stay away from in-universe arguments and discussions about origins.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Although this post is mostly about Beale and his terrible views, I think time should be taken to reflect on Correia’s projection when he claimed that Hugo voters would just vote against the slated works without reading them.

    I distinctly remember several exchanges in various fora between Pup-supporters and non-Pups in which the non-Pups were asking the Pups what they liked about the slated works, and through the Pups’ responses it would generally become readily apparent that the Pup claiming they loved the slated works had never actually read them, while the non-Pups, in many cases, had. The Pups, for the most part, don’t seem to read much.

    In some cases, it became apparent that the primary Puppies (like Correia, Torgersen, Hoyt, and Wright), had never read the works they they slating onto the ballot. Not reading things and voting for them appears to have been common among the Pups.

    So when Correia says that the “SJWs” will vote against things without reading them, he was revealing much about himself and his compatriots, although he didn’t realize it or intend to.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Yeah, I’ve come to the conclusion that at least part of the reason the Pups claimed that Worldcon voters were only nominating works because they “ticked boxes” and not because they actually enjoyed them, was because Puppies don’t read much, and it’s incomprehensible to them that Hugo nominators and voters read dozens, if not hundreds of the current year’s novels and stories.

      This is why they always kept insisting that author X deserved a Hugo nomination / award because they’d “sold thousands of books”, or were “a huge bestselling author”, or “totally deserved a Hugo Award”. They weren’t actually able to say, “this novel deserves a Hugo nomination because…” since they hadn’t read most (if any) of what they were nominating, so they figured that Worldcon nominators and voters couldn’t possibly have read much of what they were nominating, either.

      Liked by 7 people

      • It is really a fascinating thing how regular Hugo voters and even a load of newer ones are deeply dedicated to at least trying every nominated finalist before feeling it’s acceptable to decide their votes on the awards. It’s a responsibility they seem to take very seriously. I don’t think many convention awards have the same situation and it’s doubly remarkable because WorldCon is a traveling con, thrown by a different group of people each year.

        For the Puppies, the Hugos were just a marketing tool. For all that they liked to pretend the SJWs were somehow elitist academics, I don’t think they truly understood how fully analyzed what they were schilling was going to be. They had to keep switching their justifications and rationales in large part because hundreds of folks had read both past and present works that got Hugo noms or were heavily talked about. They certainly didn’t expect that Chuck Tingle was going to be warmly welcomed in and people were going to actually read his work. After all, the SJWs were supposed to be humorless, narrow-minded prudes. Because they didn’t much bother to read what they are critiquing (or as noted promoting.) Not even Red Shirts, as we saw.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Kat Goodwin: I don’t think they truly understood how fully analyzed what they were schilling was going to be.

          Yeah, Puppies wanting to force Hugo voters to read their works was very much a case of “Be careful of what you wish for, because you just may get it.”


      • Well, no reason they should be more informed about Hugos than anything else.

        After all, Brad smugly assured everyone that there were no social justice issues in ST: TOS.

        Also that SJW Hugo voters would never award popular stuff like “The Avengers”, which won about 6 months before he Dunning-Kruger’d that statement.

        Lord, grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Comics blogger Brian Cronin has done a whole series of posts about political comics stories back in the pre-SJW days when comics were supposedly devoid of politics.


      • In response to Kat Goodwin, I’d point out this is possibly a symptom of something I’m starting to recognise as a division in mindset.

        Basically, and in the most broad-brush terms, people on what could be termed the “left”, “liberal” or “non-authoritarian” side of things tend to regard ideals as something to live by, and arguments as something you believe in. The qualities of the person who originated the idea is immaterial – it’s the idea which is the important thing. Meanwhile, people on what could be termed the “right”, “conservative” or “authoritarian” side of things tend to regard both ideals and arguments as tools – you pick up the correct one to do the job you’re doing at the moment, but you don’t get emotionally attached to them, and you don’t believe in your arguments any more than you believe in a spanner or screwdriver. You get your rules on how to live from your leaders, and if your leader is shown to be a terrible person leading you to destruction… you find a new leader.

        This is part of why accusations of “hypocrisy” do work against people on the left, but don’t work against people on the right. It also explains why the right is constantly seeking thought leaders on the left to attack, in the hope it will utterly destroy the followers, and why they’re continually bewildered when it doesn’t work.

        So, for the majority of Hugo voters, what’s being asked of them is not “please vote in accordance to the wishes of your leaders” but “please respect the ideal of voting for the best and most distinctive science fiction stories created this year”. The Puppies were approaching it with the opposite mindset – people were voting in lockstep with the wishes of their leaders, and the actual stories involved didn’t matter – what the Hugos are about is selecting which authors are going to be leading science fiction.

        Liked by 4 people

        • A data point to your hypothesis: creationists like to characterise the theory of evolution as “Darwinism”, as if the merit of the theory rests on the integrity or otherwise of Charles Darwin.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you for saying this, because I’d never mentally put the pieces together in this way, but it’s true.

          If you point out that a conservative leader has done something inconsistent with conservatives’ stated values, they make excuses for that person, or change what their stated values are. If they say to liberals, “AHA! Your leader violated your stated values!”, liberals say “you’re right” and hold that leader accountable, perhaps even force them to resign.

          It’s two very different philosophies: revering the leaders vs. revering the ideals that leaders are expected to uphold.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

          Liked by 2 people

      • I said something during or in the fallout of SP3 along the lines of the Sad Puppies desperately needed a movement critic, someone who would actually read stuff and explain what they thought was good and bad about it. They didn’t ever find one

        The Rabid Puppies had Vox Day who occasionally would actually read and say what he thought about things. But he was also writing columns on politics, dating, gaming, science fiction etc. as well as his own fiction as well as running his own publishing house, so as ever was scattershot.

        Which leads me to his quote “it took me a year just to get a decent grasp of Thomas Aquinas via the Summa Theologica.” I won’t knock that, that’s about as much research as I do before giving up and writing something. Still, George R R Martin’s been at ASoIaF for 25 years. Think how many philosophers Vox could integrate into his fantasy if he had that kind of sticking power!


      • Very on target megpie, but I would move a little on this point:

        “You get your rules on how to live from your leaders, and if your leader is shown to be a terrible person leading you to destruction… you find a new leader.”

        1) They don’t necessarily find a new leader if the current one is a terrible person leading them to destruction. Witness people drinking bleach because Trump told them to do so. There are definitely some death cult aspects to authoritarianism. Destruction is not necessarily a bad thing for them if it also tears down those they feel threaten their status.

        2) And that’s because, while authoritarians do make it about individual leaders as you note, the leaders themselves are also considered tools, the tools who proscribe but also maintain the authority. The dedication of the authoritarians is to authority — to a dominating group that provides cultural reputation and status, that makes you, as part of the dominating group, a good and righteous lord. As a lord you are part of something bigger and important. You are above the peasants, no matter how low your circumstances, because the dominant group is in control, maintained by your leaders.

        If the leader is doing horrible things that are destructive, that can be explained away because the leader is showing authority and maintaining that dominant status in the society. And you don’t have to love your leader as long as he is doing that. If the leader seems to not be doing it, even if the leader is urging things that help you as a person, the leader may be discarded, at least by factions. So if an authoritarian leader urges the dominant-minded to go get vaccinated to save their lives, but vaccination is giving in to the inferiors’ control of the society according to other leaders/pundits that interpret the gospel, that leader can be discarded as a betrayer — or kept but their pro-vaccine position ignored because the leader is still useful in other ways.

        Millions of white evangelicals hated Donald Trump. He was not one of them and they had other evangelical candidates in 2016 they liked better. But when it became clear that he was dominating and they got his campaign to promise them domination and power — an evangelical VP, control of the Supreme Court, etc., they signed on board. And no matter what came out about Trump — Stormy Daniels, etc. — or what he did, he was indeed the chosen leader because he was going to give them white theocratic domination. They did not idolize Trump; they idolized the authority he did and could get them. Republican state officials who asserted that the 2020 election results were valid and secure were considered betrayers, but they also won’t necessarily be kicked out as leaders, depending on how useful and connected they are. Liz Cheney can incur Trump’s wrath and make a mint of campaign money because he’s out of power and she’s incredibly well connected with daddy bringing her big donors. For authoritarians, everything is about power/perceived power in the society, about an in group and out groups. So their actions towards leadership can get very twisty.

        That also occurred with the Puppies. When Beale brought in some Gamergate voters, they were at first quite happy about it because they’d have enough votes for their nomination grab — it showed their authority and domination. They were happy to let Beale take control, design two similar slates, come up with the gambit of two related groups, etc. But when they got media for the Gamergate voters that was negative and that presented Beale as the main leader, that looked bad for their status and did not show them dominating. So they kept trying to distance themselves from Beale, stating that he was doing his thing and they were doing their thing. He was not their leader — because he wasn’t as useful anymore for getting them dominance and status.

        So they do totally focus on leaders, authorities, “winning” and dominating the “game,” etc. but it’s flexible. They could be for an author and then against that author and vice versa. But yeah, it was fascinating that, having invented a conspiracy group out of whole cloth, they basically just believed it to be true and declared that any wins they thought they were getting destroyed not only the authors they declared ringleaders but the entire integrity, etc. of any progressive authors and fans. It’s really all just a way to declare teams and status to them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Correia went after Gamergate voters but Beale did have somewhat better connections to the right mediasphere outlets that were using Gamergaters. He had a bunch of voters Larry needed.

        Liked by 1 person

    • My mother will never forgive them for making her read such dreck. She did indeed read (although not necessarily complete) everything that was on the ballot. And she swore never again would she do so.


    • I remember the anger they had that they were called “homophobes”, even when they had slated on Wright’s brutally homophobic work and gotten it nominated. They obviously hadn’t read it, at least not more than a few pages, and always moved goal posts as soon as anyone started quoting it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not going to go into If You Were A Dinosaur My Love much because I spent two essays on it in the Hugosauriad but Hoyt et al believe that violent hate crimes against gay people are inventions. Naturally they regard this as just a fact rather than homophobia but that kind of spin (claiming not to have prejudice, only a honest understanding of fact) is a common theme.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. A theme that ran throughout the Puppy controversy was the way the Puppies were forever making false accusations about other fans when the only people actually behaving that way were the Puppies themselves. Their complaints about people judging the authors, not the works, was the most extreme example. For the Puppies, it was all about the authors; it appears that they nominated and voted entirely on the basis of who the authors were, apparently not even bothering to read their works at all.

    I simply couldn’t believe a normal person would actually behave that way, but it sure was great preparation for the age of Trump.

    Liked by 3 people

    • They didn’t even base it on who the authors were. Sad Puppies 3 dragged in authors who were liberals without their consent and authors who weren’t but certainly weren’t rabid right wingers and wanted none of what they were trying, like Marko Kloos.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Brad Torgersen thought he was handing out Hugo nominations like party favors to his pals from Writers of the Future — whether they wanted them or not. Though they mostly did want them at the start.

        Liked by 3 people

        • SP2 had that same quality but Correia had a tighter group and it was more of an outgrowth of his previous three Hugo campaigns/promotions. Also, Sanderson, Wells, Tayler and Weiskopff were not unfeasible people to appear on a Hugo ballot.

          Liked by 3 people

  20. I’m no Latinist, but “opera” is actually the (neuter) plural for “opus” (a 3rd declension noun), thus translating as works instead of work. Ergo, I’m guessing Theo’s title translates as “[The] works of eternal life”?

    Bonus Irrelevant Latin: “Virus” has no plural in Latin, because it is a mass (non-countable) noun (like “water”) of the 2nd declension, neuter. But even if there were a plural, no, it would not be “viri” (as is frequently jested), because that is attested as the nominative plural not of virus (slime, poison, or venom), but of vir (man). Nor would a hypothetical plural be “virii” (as also often jested), because that posits the existence of non-word “virius”.

    We can know this because of the work of Perl programming language expert Tom Christiansen, who actually is a Latinist.

    As to the word “virus” in English, since English thankfully lacks declensions, we can happily go with “viruses” for the plural and ignore Latinate foolishness.

    (No, you certainly didn’t ask. You’re welcome!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • In my Latin textbook, “virus” is a 4th declension neuter noun, which means the Latin plural is… “virus” (short u in singular, long u).

      However, it was scientifically decreed that the plural of “prius” is “prii”. Or maybe that was Toyota taking an internet poll, I forget.


%d bloggers like this: