2018/02/28

Outlining for Pantsers

pants

In response to L. Jagi Lamplighter's advice against outlining novels, commenter roughcoat asks the following:
Funny that she gave the advice about not outlining. Not over-outlining, really. I've been struggling with exactly that recently.
I'm a very inconsistent writer (productivity-wise) and I've been trying to nail down a process that actually works reliably. Since I had great success in NaNoWriMo doing detailed daily outlines near the end---when I had to write 3000+ words a day to catch up---I thought that was a good way forward, even though I was never an outliner before.
But my output the last few months has been dismal. I think I've written like 10,000 words this year so far. The problem is exactly what she says: once I figure out the complete plot and a bunch of details ahead of time, it's hard to write because I lose interest. I can grind it out if it's a short story, but it doesn't come easily. I have a dozen great 15-25k word stories plotted out and developed but I just can't bring myself to write them.
Back to the old "only plan a few thousand words ahead but have a general idea of how it's going to end" method I suppose.
Some writers are natural outliners. Others are natural pantsers. A defining lament of the latter is that they lose interest in writing once they "know how the story goes". These are the writers who feel like they have a story inside burning to get out, and writing the outline satisfies that urge.

An outliner approaches writing a novel like a builder approaches a construction project. It's not enough for me to draw up the blueprints. I've got to see the job through until that book is standing tall, shiny, and proud amid the KDP skyline.

In contrast to panters, if I don't have those blueprints, the final product will be the literary equivalent of the house Ned's neighbors built.

I suspect Jagi advised against outlining because John doesn't outline. Then again, he's John. 

Now that I've worked as a professional editor for a year, I can tell you that, at minimum, every new author needs to outline.

If you're a pantser, don't worry. I've got you covered. Go ahead and pants your first draft. Then, once you've got the story off your chest, go back and write an outline to impose some order on the chaos. Do your revisions using the outline as a guide.

Don't know how to write an outline? Consult this handy guide that presents eight outlining options.

And check out The Door into Nowhere, part one of Somewhither by my fellow Dragon Award-winner John C. Wright!

John C. Wright - The Door into Nowhere

2018/02/27

L. Jagi Lamplighter Interview

L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright, my lovely and talented editor, and an accomplished author herself, recently gave an interview to the fine lads at Geek Gab. If you're an aspiring author, or even an old hand who knows there's always room to grow, don't miss this writing advice from one of the best!


If you want an example of Jagi's world-class editing skills, check out our first collaboration, the Campbell Award-worthy Nethereal.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2018/02/26

AmRen v Twitter

Twitter smartphone app

In the comments on last week's post about the Twitter Lock Out, I called for legal action against the censorious tyrants in Big Tech. Many readers echoed that sentiment.

Well, ask and ye shall receive.
A group of free-speech lawyers filed the most serious legal challenge yet to Twitter’s censorship policies Tuesday in San Francisco County Superior Court, seeking a ruling preventing Twitter from banning users purely on the basis of their views and political associations.
The 29-page complaint contends that, under a California legal doctrine that recognizes some private facilities as “public forums,” Twitter may not discriminate against speech on their platform based purely on viewpoint. If successful, it would be the first extension of that doctrine to internet social media platforms and could transform the way free speech is treated online. The suit became all the more relevant Wednesday as Twitter stood accused of locking out thousands of conservatives under the guise of cracking down on “Russian bots.”
It looks like some ordinary Conservative citizen finally got fed up with being pushed around by the Ctrl-Left and decided to fight back.

Or does it?
One of those purged is Jared Taylor, founder and editor of “American Renaissance,” a fringe-right journal on race and immigration. He is frequently described as an “extremist” and a “white supremacist” by left-wing groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the latter of which sits on Twitter’s “Trust and Safety Council,” the largely leftist group of activists and non-profits Twitter assembled in 2016 to help decide which speech to censor.
Taylor is a graduate of Yale University and Paris’s Sciences Po, the former West Coast editor of PC Magazine, and author of several books. He describes himself as a “white advocate” or “race realist” and condemns Nazism and antisemitism.
According to the complaint, in his more than six years on Twitter, Taylor never made threats, harassed anyone, or otherwise came under scrutiny for his behavior on the platform. Even the SPLC notes Taylor “scrupulously avoided racist epithets [and] employed the language of academic journals” in his writings, and Taylor once wrote an article urging people to be more civil on Twitter.
Friendly advice to Conservatives: It may once have been unthinkable, but the Alt-Right is poised to take the moral high ground from you on free speech issues. If you don't want that to happen, I strongly suggest that you stop hiding behind the "Private companies can ban whoever they want!" canard and consider doing something for a change.

Speaking of which, it turns out private companies can't ban whoever they want, at least not in California.
“If you’re the functional equivalent of a traditional public forum … even the private company that owns it can’t prohibit common expressive activities completely … they can’t selectively kick people out and allow certain people to speak and not others,” Peters explained of California’s unique privately owned public forum doctrine.
A loyal reader of this blog who also happens to be a legal expert examined Taylor's complaint and concluded that he's got a strong case. I'm just a layman, but it looks pretty open-and-shut to me.

That's not to say Taylor's legal victory is assured. You can bet the San Francisco court will be biased against him. But even if he loses, this case is win-win for all of us second-class Twittizens.
  • This could go all the way to the Supreme Court on appeal. I'm informed that the high court would almost certainly refuse to hear the case since it's based on California state law, but the amount of national attention generated would shine a bright, cleansing light on Twitter's dirty operation.
  • Discovery will be enlightening for us and deeply embarrassing for Twitter, regardless of the initial outcome.
  • Twitter definitely doesn't want the emails, memos, and recorded statements proving how it really decides to ban users aired in open court. Therefore they'll probably try to settle out of court. Which AmRen can spin into a PR coup by declaring that they're funded by Twitter.
Combined with James Damore's upcoming suit against Google, the picture isn't looking so rosy for Big Tech. Here's hoping some more civic-minded folks step up to keep the pressure on.

2018/02/23

Now Excommunicate the Rest

Durbin

It's refreshing to see a member of the Catholic hierarchy taking the adjudication of Church doctrine seriously. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL continues his juridical tour de force by publicly barring Democrat Senator Dick Durbin from receiving Holy Communion.

His Excellency wrote on the diocesan web site:
I agree completely with His Eminence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who called the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act “appalling.”
Fourteen Catholic senators voted against the bill that would have prohibited abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization, including Sen. Richard Durbin, whose residence is in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. In April 2004, Sen. Durbin’s pastor, then Msgr. Kevin Vann (now Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, CA), said that he would be reticent to give Sen. Durbin Holy Communion because his pro-abortion position put him outside of communion or unity with the Church’s teachings on life. My predecessor, now Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, said that he would support that decision. I have continued that position.
Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those “who obstinately persist in mani­fest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” In our 2004 Statement on Catholics in Political Life, the USCCB said, “Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice. Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.” Because his voting record in support of abortion over many years constitutes “obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,” the determination continues that Sen. Durbin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion until he repents of this sin. This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart. Sen. Durbin was once pro-life. I sincerely pray that he will repent and return to being pro-life.
Bishop Paprocki has chosen the diligent exercise of his episcopal office over the praise and adulation of the world. He is 100 percent correct that denying Durbin communion is medicinal, not vindictive. Had Durbin been allowed to continue receiving the Eucharist while in a state of grave sin, he would have compounded his guilt by committing sacrilege each time.

Of course, Durbin may ignore the warning--I pray he doesn't--but Paprocki can rest easy knowing he's satisfied Ezekiel 3:19.

The other pro-infanticide senators' bishops have no excuse. It's their duty to excommunicate all thirteen for the sake of their immortal souls. That should get them primed to do likewise with every Catholic lawmaker in open rebellion against the Church.

2018/02/22

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Lightbulb

"Where do you get your ideas?"

Writers get this question often. It doesn't lend itself to a simple yes/no answer, so I'm gonna go in-depth with this one.

Where ideas come from: Some are lifted from books, movies, TV, etc. and I file the serial numbers off and recombine them. Some I put serious effort into devising from scratch and developing.
Some do just come to me. This happened with few of my more popular characters.

What most laymen call "ideas" are actually managed influences combined and developed in appealing ways and properly executed.

Influences + juxtaposition + execution = speculative fiction "ideas".

Most non-writers tend to overestimate the importance of ideas. Pick up any book, turn your television to a random channel, or look out the window. You'll find a hundred concepts that could be the seed of an SFF novel. Jim Butcher's Codex Alera sprang from a bet that he could write a book based on the two worst ideas a panel audience gave him. The crowd came up with the lost Roman legion and Pokemon.

Writers must be readers. If you finish a book and say, "I could never come up with an idea like that!" Chances are you don't read enough fiction.

Ideas are easy. The world is overflowing with them. Execution is the most vital part of the equation by far.

The synopsis of every SFF story sounds dumb because it's just the pure idea without the execution.
A short, hairy-footed gentleman  goes on a cross-country trek and returns.
When someone says "I could never think of an idea like that," nine times out of ten he means he couldn't execute it as effectively.

I can't speak for anyone else, but there's a lot going on behind the scenes of my writing--linguistic techniques I use to deliver the story's ideas for maximum effect. People call my stuff layered and dense. They're right, but only a few folks have caught on to what's happening beneath the surface.

But that's just me. You don't have to get down into the paragraph, sentence, & word-level weeds like I do. Just read extensively in your genre, manage your influences, & work hard to hone your execution.


Make my award-winning Soul Cycle part of your reading list, and add the tools I mentioned to your author toolbox.
The Soul Cycle ends with a fast-paced, thought-provoking bang. New characters, returning favorites, and a villain so grotesque, the most chilling thing about him will be how recognizable he is.

2018/02/21

Twitter Lock Out

TwitterLockOut

Rumors that "ass-backward tech company" Twitter would be launching a major purge of non-Leftist users have been circulating for a while now. I fully expected them to try it, having been targeted by Twitter's passive-aggressive shadowban censorship before.

Now it looks like they've gone and done it. Overnight, an unknown number of conservative users' accounts were summarily locked. Countless others lost followers in amounts ranging from a handful to thousands in what is being called the #TwitterLockOut.

Twitter and its ideological fellow travelers claim the lockout was implemented to shut down Russian bot accounts, which is a lot like an arsonist explaining he burned your house down to kill the evil leprechauns hiding in the walls.

Remember, this is the same company that denied shadowbanning their users until Project Veritas caught them on tape admitting to the deed.

Besides, I can assure Twitter that my good friend voice actor JimFear138 is neither Russian nor a bot.

JimFear138 LockOut

We all know the drill by now. Twitter's ham-fisted censorship has nothing to do with stopping foreign spam accounts. Twitter openly declared which side of the culture war it was fighting on when it announced the members of its Trust and Safety Council, which gives the Committee of Public Safety a run for its money in the competition for Most Ironically Named Organization.

What the increasingly brazen actions of Twitter--and YoutTube, Google, Facebook, etc.--to censor their own users means is that the Left is out of arguments. They got so used to dealing with a complicit media and pliant, feckless "opposition" party that their debate skills completely atrophied. Now they can only try to silence dissent.

If you were locked out of your account or lost followers on Twitter, tweet in the #TwitterLockOut hashtag. Follow others who were locked out and lost followers. Show the bubble-dwelling mandarins of this ass-backwards tech company that we're on to them, and we will not be silenced.

While you're at it, contact President Trump, your Congressman, and your Senators. Demand that the Justice Department begin antitrust proceedings against the tech giants who've chosen to censor their users' political speech.


take sci-fi back to when it was all about pushing you into a strange new world with strange rules and bizarre visions of a boundless alien universe 

2018/02/20

Superluminary

John C. Wright - Superluminary

Announcing Superluminary, the latest release from science fiction grand master and Dragon Award winner John C. Wright:
Being assassinated once may be an accident. Being assassinated twice is enemy action.
Aeneas Tell of the House of Tell is one of the youngest Lords of Creation. His family rules the Nine Worlds through its control of the ultra-advanced technology that has permitted the colonization of the entire solar System. More gods than men, the Lords of Creation have cheated Death itself.
But even a quasi-immortal god will take exception to being assassinated. Twice. Especially when the assassin turns out to be a someone he thought was a friend.
Buy it now!

A Successor To Herbert Who Learned From His Mistakes

2018/02/19

Black Panther Review

On the latest episode of Geek Gab, Daddy Warpig and Dorrinal talk Marvel's new movie Black Panther. Does the controversial film put politics ahead of story? Find out!

Make Wakanda Great Again

Also, our hosts discuss heroism, the new counterculture, and the MPAA.

Give this one a listen:


The cast of Firefly overdose on the spice from Dune and wake up on Cthulhu's couch.

2018/02/16

Galaxy's Edge: Legionnaire Review

Galaxy's Edge: Legionnaire - Anspach & Cole

Sotmrtroopers in Afghanistan. #StarWarsNotStarWars. The guilty pleasure book you'd stay up reading if you didn't have plans on Saturday night. Galaxy's Edge co-authors Jason Anspach and Nick Cole have come up with a vivid litany of elevator pitches for the first book in their blockbuster sci-fi series. It's the kind of compelling ad copy I've come to savor from my fellow Dragon Award winner.

There's an old proverb in the ad game that good copy is like a bikini. It should tantalize without revealing everything. Having read Galaxy's Edge Book 1: Legionnaire, I can confidently report that Jason and Nick followed that advice to a T. There's more going on here than the book's taglines imply.

Take what's probably the novel's most accessible description: Stormtroopers in Afghanistan. For the first couple of pages, Legionnaire seems like it's going to be a case study in Exactly What it Says on the Tin. Lest you think that's a criticism, Nick himself has said that a major driving epiphany behind this series is the realization that "Cliche is cliche for a reason. Cliche works."

I'd be more charitable. What Anspach and Cole are dealing with here aren't strictly cliches, but tropes. And yes, tropes work. George Lucas understood that fact better than anyone in Hollywood, and he created the biggest franchise on earth.

That's not to say Nick and Jason did a copypasta on Star Wars, filed the serial numbers off, and called it a day. Pertaining to the example above, the image that Stormtroopers in Afghanistan calls to mind is a mob of bumbling white-armored clones getting mowed down by Kalashnikov and RPG fire in some arid mountain pass. But we quickly learn that leejes aren't Stormtroopers.

What Jason and Nick did was take the Stormtroopers' informed attribute of badassery: "An entire legion of my best troops..." and back it up with ample competence. Leejes aren't just troopers that can hit the broad side of a barn. They can hit the top of a humanoid's head poking up from behind a boulder three klicks away.

The "in Afghanistan" part is pretty much accurate, with the addition of some choice sciffy tropes. Victory Company is stuck on a hostile planet, not just a war-torn country, and the Afghans are aliens. We still get to see what's essentially a surplus Russian tank, though.

It's often said that the secret to making a top shelf parody is that the story still works if you take out the jokes. That's why Airplane! is still a classic while contemporary comedies vanish from the public consciousness as soon as they leave theaters. Watch the Zucker brothers' parody again, and pay close attention to the performances. Everybody's playing the goofball comedy straight, which lends the film extra weight.

Anspach and Cole apply the same trick to mil-SF. The battles, the characters, and the secondary world politics that shaft them are all played straight. I you went through and stripped out the speculative elements, Legionnaire would still work as a damn fine war story. The whole novel could easily be re-purposed as the tale of a Marine company in Kandahar Province.

Besides the explosive, visceral battles, the authors paid the most attention to the book's characters. The legionnaires of Victory Company aren't cookie cutter clones. They're relatable men with their own hopes, desires, quirks, and rivalries. Jason and Nick paint these (mostly) faceless characters in such a way that you will end up caring about them. Considering that they usually didn't have the luxury of showing facial expressions, that's a remarkable achievement.

In the same episode of Geek Gab linked above, Nick revealed another key ingredient of GE's success: telling simpler stories. Legionnaire succeeds at that aim. The plot is almost brutally streamlined. If you're looking for a Clancyesque military thriller with convoluted twists and intrigues around every corner, look elsewhere. Anspach and Cole boil their mil-SF story down to the bare bones: fight, survive, and escape.

But what of the authors' #StarWarsNotStarWars meme? Fans of the swashbuckling, clear black and white morality, and heroism of the galaxy far, far away might be inclined to simplify the hashtag to #NotStarWars. Legionnaire makes ample use of Star Wars tropes, but it also subverts them. Turn the throne room scene at the end of A New Hope on its head, you've got the idea. The subversion makes sense when you bear in mind that the whole premise is to tell a story from the Stormtroopers' perspective. It's easy to forget in light of how sympathetic the leejes are, but they're basically fighting for the Empire.

The authors were clearly aware they'd inverted reader expectations, and they obviously know their audience, because they offer a classic space opera-flavored treat in the epilogue. I wouldn't dream of spoiling the fun, but suffice it to say, Nick and Jason saved the best for last with what is hands down the most captivating, inspired writing in the book. I sincerely hope they give Legionnaire's epilogue its own novel-length treatment some day.

With the implosion of Mouse Wars in progress, it's encouraging to know there are creators who are stepping up to fill the galaxy-sized void.

Everything Star Wars should be doing, but isn't.

2018/02/15

B&N's Bloody Monday

Closed Barnes & Noble

Barnes and Noble, biggest of the few remaining big book stores, is on its last legs if these independent sources cited by The Digital Reader are correct.
Yesterday Barnes & Noble shook the business world when they fired an unknown number of experienced employees. The initial report said B&N had fired "lead cashiers, digital leads, and other experienced workers", but what that report missed - and why this was worth bringing up a day later - was that B&N also fired nearly all of its receiving managers in what current and ex-employees are calling Bloody Monday.
The business world might be shook, but regular readers of this blog saw B&N's collapse coming a mile off.
When B&N fires a digital sales lead, it means they'll sell fewer Nooks. This is no big deal given how B&N's digital revenues have fallen since 2013. When B&N fires a head cashier, it means you're in for longer waits at the register.
But when B&N fires its receiving managers, it means that B&N won't have the merchandise to sell you because the person who was responsible for making sure shelves get stocked does not work there any more.
Prediction: B&N will use the payroll savings to upgrade their insurance and hire a convicted arsonist at each remaining location.
Last month Barnes & Noble reported that revenues for the 2017 holiday season fell 6.4% compared to the same period a year ago, to $953 million. Online sales dropped 4.5%, while same-store sales fell 6.4%.
That is how B&N performed when they had experienced managers running the show, but next year they won't have these managers - in fact, B&N is going to have trouble finding any experienced managers to fill these roles.
We have a fairly healthy economy right now, and everyone from Walmart to Amazon is hiring. This means Barnes & Noble isn't going to be able to find the experienced people they need to turn the company around.
Circuit City lasted 19 months after they fired their best sales people, but B&N won't last nearly that long.
The Big Five New York publishers' business model is entirely dependent on their paper distribution monopoly. That's why they charge as much--or more--for an eBook as they do for a hardcover. It's a desperate attempt to force readers back into the Big Five's print sales channel, which at this point is pretty much synonymous with Barnes and Noble.

When B&N falls, tradpub will be forced to compete with indie on a level playing field, i.e. Amazon. The legacy publishers will lose, because as Galaxy's Edge co-author Nick Cole explained, tradpub authors who are used to writing one book every six months will be drowned out by indies releasing new titles every 1-2 months.

The Big Five can see the writing on the wall. I've heard reports that tradpub authors, including some of Tor Books' purse puppies, are complaining that their editors are drastically moving up their deadlines. It won't save them, though--not if they suffer from electile dysfunction.

We are witnessing the dawn of a New Pulp Age. Authors must evolve to compete in this new environment. Write entertaining stories that put fun before politics, and write them fast, and thrive.

Short & sweet: if you’re a fan of mind-bending fiction, and epic tales spun out over centuries, of heroic heroes you can love and disturbingly inventive and evil monsters, then check out this book and the whole Soul Cycle series. And buckle in for the ride.
-Joseph Moore

2018/02/14

Gen Zed Perspective

Reader and high school student Eliza offers her informed commentary on yesterday's post about the Left's efforts to normalize obesity.
As part of Generation Z, it is interesting to read about the excuses that people have for "letting go." At the high school level I think everyone knows that being obese is less attractive. No questions there, no excuses. Kids may acknowledge that they are fat, but they do not defend the rightness of it. Fat kids even joke about how unhealthy they are. In my school there aren't that many really obese kids. The number one rule is never talk about it; even in health class. Sure you can talk about how healthy exercise and eating well is, but never talk about how unhealthy fat is. 
On the subject of being able to do ballet even when you are heavy, I object. I started ballet when I was four years old and basically have been dancing since. Extra weight is extremely hard on the joints. I myself have knee, feet, and ankle problems without being obese. Posing doesn't take much effort, but jumping, turning, being on pointe, and having high extensions are really difficult if you are fat.
Ballet dancer feet

Thank you, Eliza, for offering your insightful testimony against the charlatans preaching fat acceptance. The sly reference to Disney's ode to Crowleyan satanism is icing on the cake.

I'm happy to report that some of my faith in humanity has been restored by the female commenters who have come out three to one against Cat Lady's Healthy at any Size agitprop. It ain't "distorted male standards of beauty" that young, intelligent women (two of whom are or have been ballet dancers) are having none of. It's heart disease, cancer, and crippling joint damage.

The report that few of Eliza's classmates are obese is doubly heartening. It's a good bet that most of them have dates tonight.


Incidentally, the story of a woman who battles the god of evil to save her husband would make a great Valentine's Day gift.

2018/02/13

Reason #1,000,001

The following FaceBook post found its way into my feed yesterday. Names and faces are concealed to protect the innocent.

Unpopular Opinion 1

Anon is right on the money. Body positivity/#HealthyAtAnySize is pure rhetorical snake oil for all the reasons listed. Furthermore, it's downright evil for ulterior reasons not-so-subtly hidden in this comment on the post above (cat and land manatee pictures retained for emphasis):

Unpopular Opinion 2

That flood of solipsistic logorrhea set my Sailer's Law of Female Journalism alarm to blaring--in this case, we'll call it the Social Media Signaling corollary. Now, laymen may not be aware of what's going on in that comment. On the surface, it seems like a harmless if somewhat tangential call to be nice to fat people. Their mistake is overlooking the fact that comments like those are primarily rhetoric, and rhetoric is unconcerned with information content. You'll see just how unconcerned in a moment.

Let's break Cat Lady's comment down. She sees a thread where the OP challenges the body positivity movement based on his relevant personal experience of having once tipped the scales at nearly 400 pounds. (Good on him for taking charge of his health and losing the weight!)

Cat Lady shifts the context of the discussion from facts to feelings, viz. obese people who get upset when told they should lose weight. She self-identifies with the horizontally challenged demographic, which is the Rosetta Stone that lets us translate her comment as, "I get upset when people suggest I shed a few pounds."

Our second major feelz over facts alert comes when Cat Lady offers an olive branch in a manically waving hand to medical science, thus conceding the OP's point! She then takes a sharp left turn down Bitter Feminist Lane to pontificate about distorted standards of female beauty which are being roundly rejected by women (i.e. her).

Well, she's not wrong on that count.

But in the process of rationalizing her personal choice to be overweight, Cat Lady accidentally lets slip a kernel of truth. People--men and women--find thin women more attractive than overweight women. And contra Jezebel, it's not due to the internet. Hint: those ads with slender lasses work for a reason. As another study, also from Scotland, discovered, men are attracted to thin women because being thin has an evolutionary relationship with fertility and health.

Also lurking in Cat Lady's comment is the underlying assumption that men's standards of female attractiveness are distorted and therefore invalid. The implication is it's men's responsibility to reconfigure their natural desires to conform with women's lifestyle choices. The inescapable conclusion is that men need to rewire their brains to please women but women have no reciprocal obligation to lift a finger to please men.

In short, men are not allowed to have standards when it comes to mate selection.

Turns out the feminist line is a steaming load of projection, as the fine folks at OK Cupid found out.

OK Cupid - Female Attractiveness

As this graph shows, male OK Cupid users rated female users' attractiveness on a curve that's actually rather close to a normalized distribution. Men did tend to approach women on the higher end of the attractiveness spectrum more often, which just goes to show that beauty standards are more universal than OK Cupid claims.

Now let's take a look at how the ladies rated men.

OK Cupid - Male Attractiveness

The verdict: Female users rated an astonishing 80% of men as below average in attractiveness. Women's messaging patterns were only slightly ahead of the attractiveness curve.
But with the basic ratings so out-of-whack, the two curves together suggest some strange possibilities for the female thought process, the most salient of which is that the average-looking woman has convinced herself that the vast majority of males aren’t good enough for her, but she then goes right out and messages them anyway.
Men pursue. Women choose.

OKC themselves put paid to the "Distorted Male Beauty Standards" canard:
Females of OkCupid, we site founders say to you: ouch! Paradoxically, it seems it’s women, not men, who have unrealistic standards for the “average” member of the opposite sex.
Armed with these facts, I discerned a moral duty to show Cat Lady the error of her unscientific ways. I answered:
Men find thin women attractive because obesity is associated with infertility and birth defects. It's settled evolutionary science.
To which she replied (reproduced from memory):
Excuse me while I vomit all over my keyboard! I unfriended you for a million reasons, Brian, and this just confirms my decision. Please don't talk to me on other people's threads, either.
For those keeping score, that's not a rational argument. It's not even rhetoric. That is pure cognitive dissonance screeching "GAH! IT BURNS US!! MAKE THE NASTY FACTSES GO AWAY, PRECIOUS!!!"

When your science-based argument is met with a faceful of REEEEE, you can be sure that the other party is impervious to reason on the subject at hand. However, America is in the grip of an obesity epidemic of which Cat Lady is a casualty. I don't want her to have diabetes or flipper babies, and sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

This was one of those times. My parting shot:
OK. Didn't know evolution is against your personal beliefs.
My last comment proved more triggering than I'd hoped. In addition to being unfriended, all of my comments were summarily scoured from the thread that the portly participants not chance to look upon them and suffer badfeelz.

Nerve: struck.

Mandatory health classes, PSAs, and Big Gulp bans have failed to stem the rising blubbery tide that threatens to engulf America. With a delusional pro-obesity movement waging a fanatical psy-op against science, the only remedy left is ridicule--public, merciless ridicule--of the solipsistic shills trying to lead women and men astray from the road to health and beauty.


Astlin weighed 400 lbs, but in her defense, she was made of brass at the time.

Souldancer - Astlin

2018/02/12

Anime Is Real

Here's Russian figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva, world champion, record-holder, and 2018 Olympic gold medal favorite, performing as Sailor Moon.


Observation: The moment when she unveils the Sailor Senshi costume--while spinning, you'll note--is the feminine equivalent of Clark Kent opening his suit jacket to reveal the big red S.

As a classic anime fan, I couldn't help but picture this as a 26 episode series by Studio Deen made way back in 1992 or so. 

2018/02/09

What's New Is Old

retro

A curious phenomenon I started noticing about fifteen years ago hit me as a sort of jump-cutting in time. The effect wasn't internally consistent, though--like when I sit down to write at 7 PM, get into a groove, and suddenly it's midnight. The temporal anomaly I'm referring to is oddly selective. What happens is that the years continue their orderly march, but out of nowhere some piece of pop culture that I still think of as new has become a dusty old artifact.

"What's the big deal?" I can hear many of you protesting. "That's nothing new. It happened to Boomers with the Beatles, Jonesers with disco, and Xers with Star Wars. Time sneaks up on you. It's just a normal part of getting old."

To which I would reply that I agree. However, I contend that this pop culture time-slippage effect has been accelerated and amplified by the explosive growth of consumerism that didn't really kick into high gear until the 80s. I further posit that the subsequent exhaustion of the West's cultural capital has locked in this trend.

Here are a few personal anecdotes that illustrate what I mean.

My first experience of a selective time shift came while watching a Homestar Runner cartoon. For those who are unfamiliar with homestarrunner.com, it was a flash site spun off from an unpublished children's book by a couple of hipster brothers. The site caused something of a sensation during W's reign for being among the first to capitalize on nostalgia for saner times--think of a less pandering, animated Ready Player One, and you've got the general tone.

The point is, Homestar Runner made its bones by lampooning 70s, 80s, and 90s pop culture. The site followed the adventures of a weird gang of muppets living in a time warp where 8 track tapes, the Commodore 64, and Saturday morning cartoons were contemporaneous with emo bands and dead-end call center jobs. The creators' nostalgia fueled the whole enterprise, and new content became fewer and farther between as real life forced them to contemporize.

A brief aside: I grew up on Nintendo until high school, when I switched to the PlayStation and never looked back. The days of single-console houses weren't quite over yet, and as a result I missed the entire N64 era.

Fast forward to the early 2000s. I'm checking out a Homestar Runner Halloween episode with a buddy. Much of the fun of HR's yearly Halloween cartoons was trying to identify the characters' costumes. In keeping with the site's theme, each muppet-creature would go as some pop culture footnote from a bygone decade.

I guessed most of the costumes correctly, but there was one I just couldn't figure out. Finally I gave up and asked my buddy.

"He's Tingle from Majora's Mask."

"What's that?"

"An N64 Zelda game."

"You mean Ocarina of Time?"

"No. The one after that."

"They made one after that?"

At the time, I still considered Ocarina of Time to be "that new Zelda game" because I hadn't played it yet. The twofold revelation that a) it already had a sequel and b) the sequel was already old enough to be Homestar Runner joke fodder, proved quite unsettling.

Anecdote the Second:

Back in the day, I was an avid reader of Penny Arcade. If you don't know what that is, it started as an amusing little nerd culture web comic with heart before metamorphosing into an event management and polo shirt corporation that dabbles in web comics.

Frankly, I checked out when the comic started requiring intimate knowledge of WoW trivia to get the jokes. You see that kind of self-ghettoization happen when content creators find a booming market niche and start chasing the puck. Soon the whole IP becomes a paean to inside baseball.

In PA's defense, World of Warcraft was a big, lucrative ghetto. I checked back in a few years ago when I figured their WoW obsession had run its course. Sadly, the art had turned to vomit in the interim, and I've steered clear since.

Related: In a delicious instance of postmodern intertextuality going full circle, homestarrunner.com totally had Penny Arcade's number in this video:


My recent post on the Thrawn Trilogy called to mind a PA strip that probably appeared within a year or two of the Homestar Halloween episode mentioned above. In the comic, Tycho--one of the slickly drawn roommates--makes an offhand allusion to a denim jacket he once owned that had a Chiss Expansionary Force patch sewn onto the shoulder.

I don't remember anything else about the strip, except that the characters were swapping tales of their favorite Star Wars EU ephemera. You got the impression of eavesdropping on a couple of young professionals reminiscing about once-beloved diversions of their long gone high school or college freshman days.

The timeline didn't seem to add up to me. I'd recently completed my collection of Thrawn Trilogy graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics. The story was still fresh in my mind, but Tycho was talking about a later development from Zahn's books as if it were ancient history.

Then I realized that the last novel in the Thrawn Trilogy had come out over a decade before.

Are stories like these of pop culture leaving us behind a normal part of growing up? Absolutely. But the relatively recent substitution of pop culture for the bonds of faith and community that used to inform American life seems to have contributed to members of generations X and onward experiencing more such instances of temporal displacement.

There's another, more sinister aspect to this phenomenon that heightens the already disorienting experience of learning that the Weird Al single you'd meant to buy on release but kept putting off is now old enough to drive--like children born on September 11, 2001 are now. It's an empirical fact that Western pop culture--and even Western technology itself--has remained largely static since the late 1980s.

Submitted for your consideration:
  • The last two generations of iPhones have had no new features.
  • The celebrated iPod performed the same essential function as a 1970s Walkman.
  • Movies and TV are dominated by sequels to film franchises and adaptations of comic book story arcs that first gained popularity in the 70s and 80s.
  • Nintendo is still the biggest name in video games, trading on IPs it established in the 80s.
  • In terms of ordinary street clothes, popular fashion hasn't changed substantially since the 70s. You could zap the average American twentysomething dude back to 1988 right now, and no one would bat an eye, except perhaps to comment that he looked like a slob. There would be no Marty McFly-style gaffes, e.g.: "Hey kid, you jump ship?" "I've never seen purple underwear before!"
The issue is bigger than a generation of kids raised on Nickelodeon turning 40. As the 21st century lumbers out of its infancy, we find that the music-makers can only sample Vanilla Ice ripoffs of Queen songs; and the dreamers can only dream of the lifestyle their parents took for granted.

We'd better get some new dreams.

Brian's characters are as interesting as Nick Cole's.

2018/02/08

Could Thrawn Have Saved Star Wars?

Grand Admiral Thrawn

Gamespot, of all places, just ran a story by Christopher Gates that made the same assertion I've been making since The Force Awakens came out, viz. that film adaptations of Timothy Zahn's legendary Thrawn Trilogy should have been the official Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.
It's hard to imagine these days, when every year brings a new Star Wars movie and a truckload of spin-off media, but in the early '90s Star Wars was effectively dead. In the '80s, Lucasfilm had tried to keep the franchise alive with animated series like Droids and Ewoks, but those fizzled out. George Lucas claimed that he had more Star Wars stories to tell, but not a single film was in active production. At the time, the only real source of fresh Star Wars material was West End Games' tabletop role-playing game.
Sourcebooks full of stats and trivia aren't the same as brand new stories, however. Fans were hungry for new Star Wars adventures, and Lucasfilm left them high and dry.
Putting a ten year moratorium on new Star Wars projects was one of the smartest business decisions George Lucas made. Always leave them wanting more.
That's the climate in which Bantam Spectra released Heir to the Empire, the first book in the Thrawn trilogy. While the book came out in 1991, work on the novel had begun two years earlier, when Bantam Spectra editor Lou Aronica negotiated a secret publishing deal with Lucasfilm. After securing the rights, Aronica hired Hugo Award winner Timothy Zahn to pen the new trilogy, and gave the author carte blanche to do whatever he wanted with Star Wars' classic characters.
Insert obligatory "Back when the Hugos used to be a mark of quality" lament here.
There had been Star Wars books before, of course. Before the original film's debut, George Lucas tapped sci-fi legend Alan Dean Foster to write Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which doubled as a blueprint for a potential low-budget Star Wars sequel (obviously, Star Wars did quite well at the box office, and Lucas decided not to adapt Foster's modest story). Two prose trilogies featuring Han Solo and Lando Calrissian appeared on shelves between 1979 and 1983, but those were prequels set before the main Star Wars films.
By contrast, Heir to the Empire is a direct sequel to Return of the Jedi, taking place about five years after the second Death Star exploded. In the book, a blue-skinned and red-eyed Imperial warlord named Grand Admiral Thrawn attempts to restore the Empire to its former glory. In order to secure victory, Thrawn enlists Joruus C'baoth, the deranged clone of a dead Jedi who agrees to help Thrawn in exchange for the deliverance of Luke and Leia, who he hopes to convert into his dark side apprentices. Along the way, the Skywalkers and the gang team up with a nefarious smuggler named Talon Karrde and butt heads with Mara Jade, a Force-sensitive assassin with a dark past.
Heir to the Empire was an immediate hit, and Star Wars fans propelled it to the number one spot on the New York Times' best-seller list. Dark Force Rising, the second book in the series, proved that Zahn's success was no fluke. By the time that The Last Command, the third and final entry in the series, came out in 1993, Bantam Spectra was hard at work on a number of other Star Wars books, which covered topics like Han and Leia's wedding and the Galactic Empire's final days and ultimate collapse.
Gates goes on to explain why the Thrawn Trilogy could have made a successful movie series, though his praise is alloyed with Disney apologists' "The new movies are too subversive, nuanced, and complex for stupid nerds" narrative.
Unlike the new movies, Zahn's novels stick to the trajectory set up by Return of the Jedi, taking the story to its natural conclusion. Leia is married to Han Solo, has her own lightsaber, and is pregnant with twins. Luke Skywalker has continued to train in the ways of the force. The Empire is waning, replaced by the democratic New Republic. The action continues, but Star Wars fans' childhood heroes remain heroes. There's nothing complicated about them.
That's wildly different from Disney's new films, which sever the bonds between the original cast and scatter them across the galaxy. In the new canon, the New Republic is a feeble institution hobbled by bureaucracy and corruption. The Empire didn't win, but the Rebel Alliance didn't really, either. Heir to the Empire is comforting in its predictability. While Luke Skywalker's legacy is one of failure in The Last Jedi, the Thrawn trilogy gives him a (relatively) happy ending.
Zahn also had the freedom to play with Star Wars continuity in a way that the new films don't, and offered fans tantalizing glimpses into then-unexplored areas of Star Wars' past. Clones play a big part in the books, as does a fleet of warships created before the still-mysterious Clone Wars. While writing, Zahn incorporated details from West End Games' RPG into his books too, creating the impression that all of this new Star Wars material was part of one consistent universe--a trait that the increasingly convoluted Expanded Universe maintained throughout its 23-year run.
Of course, the most important thing about Star Wars is its characters, and the Thrawn trilogy delivers there, too. Thrawn, who relies on his mind instead of brute force, is a very different type of villain from Darth Vader, but is no less intimidating. Mara Jade, who viewed the Emperor as a father figure, is the perfect foil for Luke Skywalker, a guy with his own daddy issues. Luuke, a Skywalker clone made from Luke's severed hand, is kind of silly, but fans didn't seem to mind too much: In the lead up to The Last Jedi, fans transformed Luuke's origin story into a popular theory regarding Rey's parentage.
A popular theory that The Last Jedi summarily threw out in favor of the least interesting answer possible.

Note to Kathleen Kennedy: Space opera fans want their heroes to be heroic, their morality clear, and their endings to give closure consistent with the story's themes. Saying that fans want happy endings is a glib oversimplification. Look at the film widely regarded as the saga's best, The Empire Strikes Back, for proof that audiences don't need to be fed a steady diet of sunshine and lollipops.

Despite having to burn his pinch of incense to the mouse god, Gates can't miss the glaring reason why film versions of the Thrawn Trilogy would have made a superior follow up to Return of the Jedi. In short, Zahn's magnum opus is Star Wars, and Abrams/Johnson's cynical imitations are not.

The Thrawn Trilogy is heroic, swashbuckling space opera at its best, and mirabile dictu, it doesn't represent a rupture with prior Star Wars canon. Indeed, Zahn admirably placed his novels in harmony with the mood, tone, and style of the original Star Wars trilogy.

Could a conjectural trilogy of Thrawn films have succeeded where Mouse Wars is failing? Like all things, the answer depends on the execution. Releasing an Heir to the Empire movie in 2015 probably would have been a bad idea. The original cast was simply too old for the heavy action that would've been required of their characters. But let's tweak a few details to see how we might have gotten a Thrawn movie trilogy to work.

RotJ was released in 1983. It's nigh inconceivable today, but Star Wars all but vanished from the popular consciousness for roughly a decade. Sure, you had the Marvel Comics series, a handful of novels, sporadic home video releases, and a few failed cartoon shows; but nobody thought about Star Wars except for the rare occasions when one of the movies would be aired on TV. Gamers kept the flame alive with WEG's superb Star Wars RPG, but even the toys disappeared from shelves after 85.

But the seed that Lucas had planted in fans' minds quietly laid deep roots throughout that lost decade. Zahn's novels were timed perfectly to tap the undercurrent of Star Wars nostalgia waiting just below the surface of the zeitgeist. By the Thrawn Trilogy's conclusion in 93, Star Wars was back with a host of new Expanded Universe novels, hit video games based on the classic trilogy, and a highly lauded LaserDisc release that defined the original trilogy for a new generation.

Here's how Lucasfilm could have taken maximum advantage of Star Wars' early 90s resurgence:
  • 1991: Begin pre-production on a film adaptation of #1 best seller Heir to the Empire with Zahn hired to co-write the script. Sign the original cast to three-picture deals.
  • 1993: Release Star Wars: Episode VII - Heir to the Empire on the 10th anniversary of RotJ, playing up the date to maximize fanfare. Presented with a movie based on a best selling novel and co-written by the author, thirsty fans would almost certainly have propelled HttE to stratospheric box office heights. Kenner releases tie-in action figures two years early, and they fly off the shelves. With a major hit on his hands, Lucas gets the next two films into pre-production ASAP.
  • 1995: Release Star Wars: Episode VIII - Dark Force Rising to an expectant public. As the sophomore installment in a trilogy, DFR probably wouldn't have performed as well as HttE, but it wouldn't have had to clear a very high bar to beat TLJ.
  • 1997: Release Star Wars; Episode IX - The Last Command, bringing the new trilogy to a triumphant close. Bonus: TLC would have spared us the garbage fire of the Special Editions and may even have kept 1997 from utterly sucking.
Don't know about you, but that's the timeline I'd want to live in if given the choice.

A few lingering questions remain. Would Lucas have gone on to do the prequels? Probably, but he wouldn't have been as rusty, and with any luck Zahn could have helped him steer clear of major blunders. What about fan favorite EU projects like Shadows of the Empire? I don't see why they couldn't have squeezed those in between Thrawn Trilogy tie-in games. If anything, the new trilogy would have incentivized studios to create even more Star Wars games.

As entertaining as thought experiments like this are, it's time to come back down and face reality. Star Wars is dead for good, and there's no going back and saving it. Fortunately, a new generation of indie authors are working hard to give readers entertaining adventure stories in the spirit of Zahn.

Looking for a fun space opera with horror and fantasy elements and a distinct old school anime vibe? Then Nethereal is for you! Give it a read today.
-Author JD Cowan

2018/02/07

Torching Itself Nicely

Disaster Girl

In light of the ongoing discussion of the Prussian education model, my comment on Joseph Moore's original Catholic Schools Week article would seem to merit its own post.

I attended Catholic schools from K-12, and my experience largely mirrors Mr. Moore's. My schooling took place a generation after his, though. The last sisters were replaced with professional laywomen by the time I made it to junior high. By and large, the latter group were confused by and hated boys.

The ADD panic was just coming in when I started first grade. Thank God I had a good pediatrician who overruled my teachers and refused to pump me full of drugs for failing to act like a girl.

The rest went down pretty much as Mr. Moore said. With minimal effort, I aced every subject except for math–and for the same reason: I recall asking one math teacher why a particular operation was done a certain way when dividing fractions, and she couldn’t understand the question.

I was definitely among the 1% of nonconformist students. Never had many friends in my own age group (most were older). Holed up in the library whenever I could. Always had a nagging sense I didn’t belong there. All-school Masses were about the only times I felt like I was in the right place.

High school was worse than grade school. There were no nuns but quite a few non-Catholics on the faculty. The building itself was a fluorescent-lit concrete tomb with no windows–which Frank Herbert observed betrays hatred of children. I’ve been a night owl since I was twelve, and high school started an hour earlier than grade school. For all four years I spent first period struggling to stay awake. If you held a gun to my head and ordered me to tell you one piece of information I learned in high school outside a theology class, I doubt I could do it.

But like Mr. Moore, I quickly worked out the minimum amount of effort required, did that, and got mostly A’s–again, except for math. Again I’d use any excuse to hit the library.

I, too, went to a secular college out of high school, but the minimal effort trick worked for me there. I did go back to Catholic school for my MA in theology, though.

The whole education system needs to be burned down. Luckily, it’s currently torching itself nicely.

 -Adam Lane Smith

2018/02/06

Prussian Model Stockholm Syndrome

Pink Floyd classroom

Over at Yard Sale of the Mind, the inestimable Joseph Moore attempts to shake parents from their They Live-style illusion that Catholic schools differ substantially in their teaching approach from Prussian Model public schools.
A key point you’ll need to keep in mind to understand the following: the form we consider normal for schooling is an historically recent invention. The idea that a nation should separate its young into ‘classes’ by age and teach every child in that class the same materials in the same way regardless of their existing knowledge, intelligence, interests and natural family relationships would have struck sane people as at least bizarre until about 150 years ago. If it weren’t for pervasive Stockholm Syndrome, it would strike us as bizarre as well.
When such schooling, known as the Prussian model, was first proposed in America by Horace Mann, Massachusetts’ and the nation’s first state secretary of education, around 1838, it was widely opposed. Literacy was about 99% in the North at the time – somehow, people were getting educated without the involvement of the state government and taxes! The hard-headed farmers and shopkeepers of New England were not about to tax themselves to get something – educated children – they already had.
Then starting in 1845, Mann got his lucky break: the Great Famine in Ireland resulted in many thousands of Irish immigrating to Massachusetts. Having suffered under the murderous fist of the English for centuries, having the culture and religion crushed, and being treated as slaves, the Irish understandably did not fit in. They weren’t good little Protestants.
These same hard headed New England farmers and shopkeepers were now sold the idea that compulsory public schools on the Prussian model were needed – to make good little Protestants out of the filthy Papist Irish via removing their children from their care and indoctrinating them in good solid Protestant teaching.
And the voters bought it. It became illegal to not send your kid to school – your kids could be taken away from you if found at home during school hours. Of course, those same kids could be working in a factory owned by Mann’s friends and peers – that was fine, so long as they were removed from the evil influence of family. That’s a key feature of Prussian schooling, which in its pure form (rarely advertised) advocates for the complete removal of the child from the family as soon as practical – say, once weened – for the kid’s entire childhood. No, really – you’ll need to read the book, all this is laid out at the founding of the public school movement. Complete removal of children from families has not proven economical or practical – yet. Instead, the school day and school year just keep growing, to reduce as much as possible the baleful influence of family.
Note to those Catholics who support open borders: The reviled public education system that's ended up banning school prayer and handing out condoms was sold to the public as a way to deal with the cultural conflicts arising from mass immigration. And if you think that Catholic schools provide a bulwark against Prussian Model indoctrination, read on.
As more and more Catholics came into the country, the bishops, with varying degrees of fervor, began pushing for the construction of Catholic schools. They were so desperate to prevent the Protestantization of the faithful via the schools that, at one point, they sought to get Vatican permission to excommunicate any Catholic parent who could send his kids to a Catholic school but refused. The pope, very probably not really understanding the situation, would not allow it. The bishops – this will shock you – went along with the pope’s decision without a fuss.
At no point did more than 50% of Catholic kids attend Catholic schools. The results we see today are exactly what those bishops feared. They would weep to see the secularization of almost all Catholic schools today.
Recall that not too many years later, in 1907, Pope St. Pius X issued his condemnation of modernism. Now, a pope will not bother condemning something in such dramatic fashion unless he sees it as a real and present danger. The example of what happened in American Catholic schools is just the sort of thing that PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS was written to address.
In fairness to the Holy Father and the American bishops, forcing Catholic parents to send their children to Catholic schools on pain of excommunication wouldn't have prevented the watering down of childhood faith formation. As Moore points out, Catholic schools rushed to become mirror images of public schools, just with uniforms and daily, then weekly, and finally monthly all-school Masses.

It's no coincidence that Pius X's encyclical condemned the Modernist corruption of Western civilization, including the individualism that has eroded solidarity and obfuscated tradition.

Just as I advise consumers of pop culture to stop giving money to people who hate you, I urge parents to stop subjecting their kids to the devices of schools whose faculty and administrators hate them.

                                                                         -Joseph Moore

2018/02/05

Adam Smith on Self-Publishing

This past weekend, indie author Adam Smith sat down to chat about his new adventure novel Making Peace with Daddy Warpig and Dorrinal on Geek Gab.

Check it out!


I'm delighted to see that Adam's first novel has met with such extraordinary success, and not just because I edited it. We need more skilled, honest authors who are dedicated to entertaining readers to stand against the literary sewage pouring out of New York. The critical and commercial success of Making Peace shows that Adam is up to the challenge.

Adam also has his marketing game down cold. Aspiring authors should make every effort to learn from him.

Pick up Making Peace here.

Making Peace - Adam Lane Smith

And if you haven't already, get the final book in my award-winning action/horror series the Soul Cycle today.

The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

2018/02/02

Captain Blood and the Soul Cycle

My friend and editing client Alex, @DaytimeRenegade on Twitter, produced a fun little Periscope about the classic Errol Flynn movie Captain Blood and my Soul Cycle horror/adventure series.

Captain Blood The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

Watch the Periscope here.

Alex's observation of the differences in structure and pacing between pre and post-1980s movies is quite astute--especially his example of the Transformers films.

Captain Blood takes its time establishing its characters and the world they inhabit. The first act takes up half the movie. The swashbuckling doesn't start in earnest until act two. Yet this film shot in 1935 never drags and uses every minute of its two hour run time to maximum effect. It's engaging throughout.

In contrast, 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon features almost constant action but feels longer than its two and a half hour length. The reason is that Transformers flagrantly breaks Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "and then" rule, while the writers of Captain Blood knew how to string scenes together logically.

There's a key pacing lesson here for authors. If the only way to describe the transition between any two scenes in your story is "and then", you need to rewrite until every scene is connected with either "therefore" or "but".

Pacing has much less to do with cramming gratuitous action onto every page than with making sure the action comes as a consequence of prior action or a complication athwart future action.

H/t @DaytimeRenegade

2018/02/01

Ritual and Consistency


A recent study presented to the Society for Catholic Liturgy showed that Catholics prefer ritual and consistency in the Mass and shun changes meant to make the Mass "more accessible".
The summary of the Ligas’s and McCallion’s research boils down to the idea that Catholics are more apt to verbally participate in parts of the Mass that are more ritualized, such as the Our Father. The response to the general intercession had the highest rate of response and participation, while more “changeable” parts of the Mass, such as the hymns, psalms, or the pastor asking the congregation to greet one another, tended to have low rates of participation.
“From our initial responses, we found that ritual comes to form again,” McCallion said. “If people are not singing the same songs, people are less likely to sing. That’s our hypothesis that bore out in the data. Some hymns, some other parts of Mass that are constant, we found a greater rate of response.”
In other news, water is wet.

The Mass is not a tent revival, a choir recital, or a praise and fellowship gathering--though certainly there are proper places and times for such forms of worship. It is a most ancient and solemn ritual precision-designed to do what rituals do best: connect people's everyday lives with their shared identity.

And the Mass is ritual par excellence because it actually brings about what it symbolizes.
The initial analysis implies that when pastors and music directors change the pattern of the liturgy in an effort the make the Mass more accessible, it tends to have the opposite effect.
“When you know what’s going to happen, you will know what’s going on,” McCallion said. “When you go to a baseball game, nobody is sitting right next to you telling you every single rule. You just know them, because of the repetition. You know what you are supposed to be doing to enter into the collective ritual.
A collective, communal tradition under siege--why am I sensing a pattern, here?
“The liturgy is supposed to be a communal event, but American postmodern culture is really focused on individualism,” McCallion said. “I’d argue that our liturgy has been affected by individualism. Sometimes as, Emile Durkheim (a sociologist who studied the Mass) said, the ‘secular invades the sacred.'”
The tension between making the liturgy a communal prayer experience while at the same time fostering an individual relationship with Christ is something everyone involved with liturgy – pastors, music ministers and catechists – will have to address in the new evangelisation, McCallion said.
“In the new evangelisation, there is a stress on having a personal relationship with Jesus, but the Mass stresses you are supposed to have a communal relationship with Jesus,” McCallion said. “It is both/and, the sacraments are all communal. The Eucharist, if you want to find the physical body of Jesus, is communal.”
Add "obfuscating the meaning and coherence of civilization-preserving traditions" to the list of reasons why individualism is a cancer eating away at the mortally ill body of the West, along with:

  • Trying to make personal consent the sole criterion of the good
  • Creating a mass of atomized individuals that is helpless against collectivist manipulation
  • Being impossible to implement and live consistently

It doesn't take a genius to see why parishes administered by the Confraternity of Saint Peter frequently have standing room only Masses. A major negative consequence of the Boomers' rebellion against all tradition is that generations X, Y, the Millennials, and Z have been systematically robbed of the framework that helped their forebears make sense of the world. As a result, they are starving for ritual, tradition, mystery, and consistency.

The Church's hierarchy has only to put away the guitars, break out the incense, and stop beclowning ancient liturgy if they want to succeed in the new evangelization.

a way out of the filth and nihilism that seems to plague so much of modern fiction