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Derek, Tim and ‘Trol’ are three ageing rebels, hitting their fifties. Disillusioned by the way the world has turned out and the frustration of their teenage dreams of a better life or a revolution.

All they have left are stories of past glory and pints of cheap beer at one of the last punk-pubs in London.

Watching a riot unfurl on television, to no point and no effect, their frustration boils over and they decide to do something futile and stupid, a grand, nihilistic gesture of futility.

Comedy, social and political satire, and frustration all meet in this story of a ‘revolutionary caper’

 

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WOV_09_KH0009_01_PSo it was the Hugo Awards and, if I have this right, everywhere it was a Sad Puppies slate* ‘No award’ won, everywhere it wasn’t a Sad Puppies slate a story with the ‘right politics’ won.

This is being hailed by the Anti-Puppies (Angry Kittens?) as some sort of victory, since the Puppy slate didn’t win, but that seems, to me, to have gotten things utterly wrong.

What happened has confirmed 100% what the problem is. Rather than allow a good story that just happens to have been written by someone with the ‘wrong politics’ (or just someone who was nominated by the Puppies) they’d rather nobody won at all and are willing to block-vote on that basis, whereas the Puppies were happy to divide their votes based on personal assessment of merit throughout their slated offerings.

There’s absolutely no way, whatsoever, that you can argue this hasn’t been politicised now, nor can you argue that this politicisation is not to the detriment of what are supposed to be awards based on talent, not political orthodoxy.

I’m on the left, I’m progressive (in the proper meaning of the word) but I simply can’t simultaneously claim that political ground AND seek to silence others or demand that any and all kudos can and should go to people who agree with me on every point or who use their work to preach (rather than their work being informed by their politics).

A good example of this, for me, would be Peter F Hamilton. He’s right wing, I’m left, but he writes fantastic space opera that deals with interesting technological and social questions, yet no Hugos for him. Politics have nothing to do with whether he’s a good, popular writer or not.

The hope for me, and I think for a lot of Puppies, that was by demonstrating the problem they would prompt a correction of the problem. Instead the awards system seems to have doubled down which leaves two paths:

  1. Escalation (a single Sad Puppies nominee).
  2. Fixing the problem (this seems massively unlikely given what’s happened).

A possible third would be to set up a new award, or to boost a different award, but the false narrative about Sad Puppies (similarly to the one about Gamergate) is so powerful that people will hate and/or ignore it anyway.

I don’t know where this goes from here, but it’s not a victory for anyone.

It has, however, demonstrated blatantly that the Sad Puppies were right.

*The Sad Puppies is a protest movement against politics rather than talent having determined who won the Hugo Awards (science fiction and fantasy book awards) for the past few years. In protest they created a slate of titles for ‘block voting’ in an attempt to counter this corruption by showing what the problem was, in order to encourage reform.

Well this all sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it?

It’s an interesting essay, and makes some valid points about the weight of nostalgia on this particular corner of genre fiction. But it also falls into a pattern that’s worryingly prevalent these days in the world of criticism, particularly when it gets to the topic of rape and sexual assault in fantasy. It’s at this point that Lutgendorff’s argument falls into the trap of confusing a depiction of something in a work of fiction for an endorsement of that thing (at least, in any instance where there’s an absence of explicit, unequivocal condemnation of it).

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18lp5c9jxqj7rjpgEsoteric horror brought to you courtesy of ironic sexism.

In the twenty-some years I studied at the Miskatonic I came to realise the importance of the university in relation to the safety and security of the planet as a whole. Scholars at this fine institution, with its collection of rare tomes and artefacts and with its association to exploring the furthest reaches of our planet nowhere was better suited to battle the elder horrors which threaten this world – in secret of course.

Since at least the nineteen-twenties, and likely as far back as its founding, the university has been a centre for a number of professors and investigators risking life, limb and sanity to preserve fragile humanity from destruction at the hands of cosmic horrors.

But no more.

Our little cabal of professors and assistants, explorers, scholars of ancient languages, parapsychology, science and antiquities was outed when an overzealous assistant registered our society with the university authorities – seemingly on a whim. There were some benefits to this, we no longer had to masquerade as something else when we needed to use facilities and money was made available, which greatly improved the quality of the coffee we were drinking but had we known the consequences this would have we would have never gone along with it.

Things proceeded as normal, albeit with better coffee, for perhaps a month until we received a visitation from the campus diversity officer who had been checking into the various university groups and societies to ensure they conformed to a set of rules so changeable, esoteric and confusing that even I – who has mastered the incantations of the Dark Pharaoh – could not decipher them.

What it appeared to boil down to was that we were all too old, too white and too male and that we would have to induct more people from what she referred to as ‘minorities’. Women, persons of colour and so forth.

This delighted professor Abernathy, who has long argued that we need ‘more chicks in eschatological disaster prevention’, but it presented a problem for the rest of us, whose classes are still mostly inhabited by white men as well and the few women we did have in our classes showed little or no interest in tackling shadowy monstrosities from beyond.

It was then that we made our second mistake, in explaining this difficulty we asked for help.

And we got it.

Professor Bentham was not au fait with any of the fields necessary for our work, only with ‘Gender Studies’, but since she simply disappeared into the stacks and did not bother us this was little worry.

More concerning by far was the application – which we could not deny – of a foreign student, a pygmy or ‘little person’ which I’m given to understand is the preferred term – of the Tcho-Tcho tribe, originally from Tibet before their diaspora.

Na-Na, for that was his name, much to the amusement of Professor Abernathy, was a problem from the start. He would scurry, disconcertingly, through the stacks and leap out at the most inopportune moments. When he attacked Professor Carnegie with a blowpipe and dragged him off into the stacks, never to be seen again, we protested only to be told that was his culture and we should not be so judgemental, that we should ‘decolonise our attitudes’ towards his rich heritage. Even when we found a human hand, gnawn upon, laid atop a leather-bound folio of The Yellow Sign, which we suspected to belong to Professor Carnegie, nothing was done. ‘Dietary requirements of his culture’ we were told.

We had other problems by then of course. Female interns from the Gender Studies course who had joined our group as aides and researchers walked out en masse having read – in passing – a tome of ritual magic attributed to Dr Dee and having taken offence at talk of esoteric principles of ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ utilised in the rituals within. They would listen to no explanation and it mattered not one jot to them that this was centuries old.

Thanks to them to university paper ran an ‘expose’ on us as a hotbed of sexism and we were besieged by constant protest, culminating in the pulling of a fire alarm as part of the protest. In the ensuing confusion with the fire brigade over a century’s worth of meticulously referenced knowledge was lost, along with many first editions. A great loss to our great work.

Besieged by angry furies, sniped at constantly by a cannibalistic half-man and with our work exposed to the world we did the best we could as the stars began to turn right.

During our most delicate preparations Professor Bentham made herself known to us again, forgotten for so long. Only she was different, she had degenerated – no, sorry, transitioned – into something other, an avatar of Shub-PoCurath (you can’t say the ‘N’ word or anything that sounds like it). Hooved. Tentacled. A hundred breasts and dozens of gaping, suppurating vaginas covered the knotted trunk of her body, indistinguishable from her many babbling mouths.

Professor Abernathy attempted, heroically to intercede and shove her back into the stacks. We thought he had been devoured, but it was worse.

The next day we were awash with campus police and a worried looking person from the office of the Dean. Professor Abernathy was being held up on molestation charges. In the struggle his hands had touched at least four breasts and three vaginas and Professor Bentham, now operating under the preferred pronoun of ‘Ia’ was holding him up on rape charges.

The siege – and the fire alarms – began again.

Despite all this, as the stars came right, we held out hope that we could stave off the end. We had everything prepared, meticulously, to heal the tear in the world that would admit the dark ones to this reality. All we needed was a virginal incantrix for the climax of the ritual. We had a volunteer and at the right moment she recited the words perfectly, but nothing happened.

There could only have been one possible cause, and she had cost us the world through her dishonestly.

But, apparently, that was slut shaming.

So now, as a black sun devours the sky and shadow tentacles devastate the planet, as the campus police come to arrest me for insensitivity, even as our world comes to an end, the conspiracy becomes clear.

We were the victims of a new cult, a cult that listens and believes, a cult that will live on until the very end because they made a deal with the dark powers beyond.

#KillAllMen

Or at least #KillMenFirst

camgirl4n-1-webNB: Before I say anything else, because I know assumptions will be made, Nazi uniforms aren’t a fetish I share. If I want to see someone sexy in a tight black uniform I’ll Google Adrianne Curry’s Imperial Officer. I do, however, have an interest in obscure cinema and pulp magazines which informs this article.

As reported on by various news outlets, including The Young Turks, a cam model on Myfreecams.com – named Sunny Olivia – engaged in a controversial cam show where she dressed up in an SS uniform and performed in front of a Nazi flag. The show earned $30,000 in tips before the show was pulled by the site operators and in the aftermath there was fighting online both in defence of her and against her with other models donating funds to Jewish charities and so on.

Ilsa-She-Wolf-of-the-SSSo this is an issue worthy of examination and consideration and it stands out because this is censorship (yes, censorship, despite being a private company) within the adult industry, an area of private enterprise traditionally very much for free expression.

Adult industries are very much the ‘canary in the coalmine’ of free expression and have been very effective free expression campaigners in the past. So to see something, anything, that is still legal, being removed sets off alarm bells.

Myfreecams.com is already transgressive, many people are already disgusted that anyone should pay for pornography, or that anyone should want to perform on camera for money. Further you will find gay, transsexual and other performers on the site outside the norm, which would offend more people. You’ll find BDSM and you’ll find sex acts that are currently illegal to perform on Camera in my country – something that is putting independent female pornographers potentially out of business.

Yet dressing up in a particular uniform is beyond the pale?

Where do you draw the line?

This is further complicated by the fact that Myfreecams.com is a platform, and an adult platform. A platform upon which a performer might reasonably expect that they can perform as they wish within the bounds of legality and their own discretion.

camgirl4n-2-webSo should it have been censored? It seems strange, given that uniform fetish is so common and is there really any difference between Tom Cruise dressing up as Colonel Von Stauffenberg for our entertainment and Sunny Olivia dressing up as a Nazi pin-up for people to wank to?

Private censorship creeping into adult sites is definitely concerning and an advancement of ‘battle front’ into concerning places.

It’s not as though this stuff doesn’t go back a long way.

Ultimately, dressing up as a Nazi, or a Commissar, or anything else doesn’t actually hurt or harm anyone, and it’s not as though those who are offended are forced to watch. So this just seems like – yet more – posturing and faux-outrage.

Webpictures 002*Recording starts*

Harris: This is Inspector Steve Harris of the National Crime Unit, with me is John Graves, a researcher for the National Computer Crimes Unit. It is… four thirty two PM, on the twelfth of July, two-thousand and fifteen. Mister Graves is here voluntarily to discuss the disappearance of his fellow researcher Andrew Norton.

Graves: Just one thing Inspector, I resigned. So I’m no longer with the NCCU.

Harris: You’ve tendered your resignation but you’re serving your notice and still being paid at present. So far as this investigation is concerned you’re still part of the NCCU until your resignation is accepted and processed.

Graves: Figures. So where do you want to start?

Harris: For the record could you describe the nature of your work and your relationship with Mister Norton.

Graves: Our group is a small team that investigates reports about online… nastiness of various kinds. We try to identify people in supposed snuff pictures and videos, children from child porn pictures, and trace creepy people. It’s a tough job in a lot of ways and nobody really expects us to make too much of a difference. I mostly work on the sexual depravity and Norton on the grotesque stuff. Our relationship, such as it is, is that of co-workers.

Harris: Why did you resign?

Graves: I’d rather not talk about that. I’d already tendered my resignation before Norton disappeared.

Harris: I’m afraid I have to insist. I’m sure you understand that you may be a suspect.

Graves: As you can imagine, staring at this grim fucking shit all day, every day, seeing it in your dreams and so rarely being able to make a difference wears on you. I began to disturb myself, so I decided to get out.

Harris: So you admit to a disturbed state of mind?

Graves: Not exactly. Norton was a lot twitchier than me it’s just like… well, you ever talked to firemen?

Harris: Can’t say I have. Can you get to the point?

Graves: The point is that burnt human flesh smells a lot like cooking bacon and one of the most horrible things about dealing with a fire is salivating and feeling hunger around disfigured and burnt human remains.

Harris: I don’t follow.

Graves: For God’s sake. I spend all day looking at images of sexually abused men, women, teenagers and children. Drugged, abused and subjected to all manner of fucking depravity. After a while it stops making you vomit and you start looking forward to the less bad ones. Do I have to spell it out?

Harris: Please say calm Mister Graves, I believe I follow your point. So what about Norton? You said he was more twitchy than you were?

Graves: He has a lot more experience than I do. He’s been looking at scenes of torture and death for a couple of years now. I don’t think he’s ever managed to get really callous to it. We used to talk about work, who else are you going to talk to, right? He was still trying to make sense of it all. To understand the why and the how of it.

Harris: That seems healthy to me, but I’m no psychologist.

Graves: I don’t think you can make sense of it. Maybe that was gnawing at him. Maybe if you could understand, really understand, the mind of a killer you’d be one. I try not to think about it. I try to concentrate on the job.

Harris: When do you think he started to go off the rails?

Graves: Maybe a fortnight ago? Things started to change around then I think.

Harris: Do you think anything triggered it?

Graves: Video 19121314.

Harris: What’s that?

Graves: I never watched it, but it’s the latest ‘hot thing’ around the fora we keep an eye on. A supposed real snuff video, though most of them turn out to be fake.

Harris: I don’t know it, can you tell me what you do know?

Graves: It’s a short, grainy low-resolution video of what seems to be a couple of kids, wearing big suits, maybe belonging to their fathers, stabbing another kid, slowly, to death with kitchen knives.

Harris: Jesus…

Graves: That’s a Thursday afternoon for us.

Harris: Was it real?

Graves: Norton thought so. I didn’t. He gave me some stills so I could try and find the kids involved.

Harris: And did you?

Graves: No, not enough to go on. It was too low resolution and there were a lot of image artefacts.

Harris: Artefacts?

Graves: I mean… like when a bird flies in front of your satellite dish, yeah? Interrupts the signal and makes it break up? All those little squares and lines?

Harris: Right, got you. Norton thought it was real though?

Graves: Right, he was convinced. Obsessed even I’d say. He kept working on it.

Harris: He ever get like that about a case before?

Graves: Not a case, exactly.

Harris: Can you explain?

Graves: Norton used to take breaks by looking into urban myths and scary stories people used to share. He got especially obsessed with the Waukesha stabbing.

Harris: I don’t know that either.

Graves: Couple of kids got obsessed with a made up supernatural character and attacked another girl. Stabbed her a dozen times.

Harris: That’s nuts.

Graves: Like I said, that’s a Thursday to us. Anyway, that wasn’t the only case like it. There were others, all in America though. Ohio, Florida, Pine Ridge. He wouldn’t shut up about them.

Harris: And this related to that?

Graves: He thought so.

Harris: So this video came across your desk, and that’s when he started acting up?

Graves: Started acting up more. He was always a bit jumpy and grim. I think he was drinking, but he did his work so I didn’t begrudge him or report him.

Harris: You should have.

Graves: I know, I’m trying to be honest here.

Harris: How did he act up?

Graves: Little things at first. He gave up smoking and started vaping. Looking back, I think it was so he didn’t have to leave his desk.

Harris: So he was working non-stop?

Graves: Yeah, and taking his work home. It’s a rule, generally, that we don’t do that. Psychologist says it’s a bad idea to stay stuck in that stuff. We all break the rules sometimes, if we’re on to a lead, but he was taking stuff in and out of work on a USB drive, I’m sure of it.

Harris: What else?

Graves: He turned off his nightlight.

Harris: Can you explain that?

Graves: We’re working on screens all day, so we want to keep the daylight off the screens so we can see. Keeping it dark also helps us pick up details in the pictures that we might miss. Even the slightest difference can provide a location or an ID. We keep little nightlights or LED lamps so we can find stuff on our desks. He turned his off.

Harris: Anything more that struck you as odd?

Graves: Yeah. We don’t face the public, so we wear mufti most of the time. Save when the brass or a politician is coming around. Even then we don’t usually see them. They’re there to see the glamorous stuff like the organised crime data. They don’t bother with us. He started wearing a suit though, every day. Suit and tie. Said it made him feel more professional and better able to concentrate. Told me some bullshit story about Magritte.

Harris: Who?

Graves: Some surrealist painter. I don’t know. Didn’t make him really look more professional though. After a couple of days it looked like he was sleeping in it, and he stank.

Harris: The drink?

Graves: No, stale sweat and piss and… like ozone. I thought a computer was burning out for a while, but it was him.

Harris: And you still didn’t report anything?

Graves: No, he told me he was closet to figuring it out. I assumed he meant cracking the case.

Harris: But you did report him, the same day he disappeared.

Graves: Yeah.

Harris: Why?

Graves: I was worried about him. I tried to get him to come out for lunch and he wouldn’t. I hadn’t seen him eat for a few days. I brought him back a sandwich and tried to sit with him for lunch, but he wouldn’t eat and I couldn’t stomach it around his smell. Not that close. So we just ended up talking.

Harris: What did he talk to you about?

Graves: Nonsense.

Harris: Anything you can remember, no matter how stupid, might help.

Graves: He’d been pursuing those same leads. He had this crazy idea that it didn’t matter if monsters were real or not, so long as they could inspire people to do horrible things. He said they were just as real as they needed to be when that happened. There was some other nonsense as well, things he’d read on conspiracy sites and had gotten from crazy people on Youtube. Things about this Tibetan idea of a ‘tulpa’.

Harris: What’s that?

Graves: The idea that ideas and thoughts can become real. He said it was a metaphor for how things shape people’s behaviour. Religions, memes, that sort of thing.

Harris: Cat pictures?

Graves: No, well yes, but memes are any idea that can be transmitted. At least in theory. It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s nuts.

Harris: And that’s when you decided to report him?

Graves: That was the final straw, yes. He sounded insane. Smelt insane. Looked insane. I couldn’t cover for him any more. He wasn’t on the verge of a break, he was on the verge of a breakdown.

Harris: I think that’s about it. Thank you for your cooperation Mr Graves. You’ll remain on the payroll until your resignation is complete, but you’re not expected to work.

Graves: I can go then?

Harris: Yes, just one thing though. [Interference] He didn’t just disappear. He did have a breakdown.

Graves: Shit [interference].

Harris: I’m afraid [interference] stabbed his wife and daughter [interference] times, before disappearing.

Graves: If I can [interference] help. Please do let me know.

Harris: Interview ending, the time is [interference].

 

 

 

51ZJd6PimvL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat is a sort of… Gulliver’s Travels of ideology and philosophy. The main character, Professor Caritat, lives in a repressive military state and is arrested because – as a Professor teaching the history of the Enlightenment – he is seen as a security risk.

Broken out of captivity by the resistance, with whom his children are associated, he escapes into the wider world with a mission – if people were to flee his nation (Militaria) – where could they go for a better life? Which world is the best of all possible worlds? Which philosophy, which ideology, produces the best society?

Caritat travels through many lands on his journey and the benefits and drawbacks of each are explored.

He travels through:

  • Militaria – Which embodies safety and security.
  • Utilitaria – Which conducts itself on the principle of value, utility and cost.
  • Communitaria – Which considers identity and culture to be at the pinnacle of importance.
  • A dream vision of a Communist utopia.
  • Libertaria – An anarcho-capitalist country of total ‘freedom to’.
  • Egalitaria – A mythical land he never quite reaches.

It is well written and for any ardent rationalist or admirer of The Enlightenment it is an amusing romp which highlights many of the issues one might see in the current philosophies and ideologies one sees thrown about.

Coming in for particular skewering is identity politics, which is addressed in one of the professor’s letters home:

Communitarians live lives (which they call ‘identities’) that are shaped externally and collectively, not individually and separately; and if they were to try to step outside them they would have no place to stand…

…Nor does it seem possible to pass from one identity to another, or to live several together, or to reject one without having to acquire another…

…At least the Utilitarians believe that every question has an answer that can in principle be calculated. For Communitarians every question-and-answer comes with a point of view and no point of view can be judged superior to any other, since there is no further point of view from which this can be done (though, oddly, they seem to have a point of view from which this, in turn, can be known to be true).

The conclusion is never in too much question, which is – of course – a reassertion of the values of The Enlightenment.

Whenever we pursue one ideal it is disastrous to lose sight of all the others. Doing that is fanaticism. All the countries I have so far visited are run by fanatics with tunnel vision, fanatics obsessed with a single, overriding, all-consuming conception of what gives value to life.

I’ve long suggested that we need a muscular reassertion of Enlightenment values of reason, freedom (both ‘to’ and ‘from’), tolerance and the constant attempt to improve. Identity politics and it’s twin, postmodernism, seem to me to be a huge threat to many of these values and that seems to be being shown true more and more every day.

It’s a good – but imperfect – book. The Professor spends too much time in Utilitaria and too little time in the other nations and other ideologies and philosophies are not examined, still it’s a fine book and a good read.

Style: 4
Substance: 4
Overall: 4/5

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