2018/05/31

Why China Hates Star Wars

The numbers are in, and Disney's Solo: A Star Wars Story has spectacularly let down Kathleen Kennedy and her media cheerleaders, particularly blue checkmark Twitter. The Disney shills' excuse-making has been markedly anemic this time around. Everybody knew after The Last Jedi fell off a cliff that audiences were fed up with Kennedy's mishandling of the franchise.

Nobody wanted a standalone Han Solo movie, so everybody knew it would flop. That's why Solo apologists just look ridiculous. When they blame the movie's failure on Star Wars fatigue, a white male lead, or Star Wars' core audience not being Star Wars' intended audience, it's obvious even they don't believe it.

A fascinating emergent phenomenon surrounding the death of Star Wars is the new genre of film criticism/social commentary that's sprung up in the last few years. The trend started with Red Letter Media's cult hit review of The Phantom Menace, but the field didn't experience much growth until The Force Awakens caused a minor backlash. The Rogue One writers' anti-Trump safety pin campaign kept the scene going, but it didn't kick into high gear until The Last Jedi convinced all but the most bluepilled paypigs that they'd been conned.

Guys like comic artist Ethan Van Sciver have made a cottage industry of puckishly eviscerating the new Star Wars films. The fact that it's now considered hip to bash their four billion dollar franchise should set off alarms at Disney. In a sane world, any company whose intended flagship product had been reduced to perennial YouTube critic fodder would summarily fire the responsible parties and spare no expense repairing the damage to their brand.

But this is not a sane world, so Disney will most likely double down until Star Wars becomes a byword and a warning to other media companies that he who sins against the fans shall surely die. Anyone who still holds out hope for Episode IX or the planned Obi-Wan or Boba Fett movies has failed to understand the dynamics at play.

There's no shortage of critics who'll tell you why Mouse Wars is foundering in the West. An oft-cited but under-examined aspect of Star Wars' decline is the franchise's utter failure in China.

Let's look at the numbers. Here are the opening weekend figures for each of Disney's Star Wars movies in the Chinese market:

Star Wars Chinese Opening Weekend Box Office

A picture speaks a thousand words. But why is Star Wars tanking even worse in China than in the West? A Chinese cinema buff buddy and I were discussing the matter, and we came up with a few possible reasons.

First, Disney's hamfisted effort to pander to the Asian market certainly didn't help. The Chinese still appreciate beauty and shun ugliness. They're also quite image-conscious on the whole.

Disney's brilliant marketing move:

Rose Tico

Prominently feature an Asian character in TLJ who looks bloated and frumpy and who always dresses like she just got off a double shift at the Sears tire center.

But that's just scratching the surface. Tico's appearance isn't the only problem Chinese audiences have with Disney's Star Wars. As in the pulps of old, romance is an indispensable fixture of Chinese storytelling. As my friend remarked, the Chinese don't necessarily hate a criminal. They hate a criminal who's a weird loner. Even the most intense martial artist or hardened gangster has a girlfriend (and sometimes also a mom) to humanize him.

No one in any Mouse Wars installment has anything resembling a traditional relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Finn is first rejected; then friendzoned, by Rey. The female lead of Rogue One, whose name I can't be bothered to remember so I'll call her Rey 2, has a series of broken relationships with a succession of father figures. Finn returns in TLJ to be continually browbeaten and whipped by Rose. Han showers with a space sasquatch, and Lando is banging a feminist robot.

Take a bow, Mouse Wars. You make the original trilogy's implied incest look wholesome by comparison.

The root of China's aversion to Disney's Star Wars is story structure. To wit, the plots of TFA, R1, TLJ, and SOY are both too simple and too complex for Chinese tastes.

Almost all Western movies follow a plot structure known as the Hollywood Formula. It is a form of three act structure that dictates exactly what should happen at precise intervals throughout a film.

Three act structure is practically unknown in Chinese storytelling, be it cinema, television, or novels. Instead, Chinese writers tend to employ a two-stage model that consists of showing an event, followed by the characters examining the consequences of that event. Repeat until a desired stopping point is reached.

That kind of story structure might sound childishly simple, but anyone who's seen a Chinese historical action film knows that you can pack a lot into both stages. Mouse Wars utilizes the Hollywood Formula in theory, but Kennedy and her purse puppy writers and directors stuff so much SJW agitprop into the proceedings that they make a hash of the protagonist-relationship character dynamic.

Chinese audiences like them some classic boy meets girl relationships, so don't expect Soy Wars to set box office records in China anytime soon.


If you miss space adventures with hardcore gangsters who can still get girlfriends and boy-meets-girl romances, check out my thrilling Soul Cycle series (especially Souldancer). Today's the last day to get all four mind-bending books for less than six bucks!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/30

Starquest

John C. Wright

Science fiction grandmaster John C. Wright announces an exciting and timely new project.
It is TIME for a CHANGE!
I am pleased and proud to announce the onset of a long-awaited campaign to quit my dayjob, take up my pen, light it on fire, and ignite the slumbering spirit of fandom.
As of this day, the campaign to Make Outer Space Great Again begins, and you can be part of it.
I calculate I produce a novel every sixty days, starting with the pulp material I have previously published in serial format on this site, and then later branching out to other works.
I am particularly eager to finish the first volume of STARQUEST which is my answer to the disappointed and ruination a certain Mouse has visited on a long loved favorite franchise we all know and love.
On Freestartr, a website blessedly free from Big Brother and devoted to absolute freedom of speech, we begin the first of two funding drives.
This first seeks monthly contributions to pay the monthly mortgage and buy a cup of coffee, so I can have a roof overhead and a cup of joe in hand while typing like a mad mantis to delight the souls and enrich the lives of my beloved readers.
The second will concentrate on getting the basics together for STARQUEST, cover art and such, and it will be a one time deal.
Here is the pitch:
The Pulp Revolt starts here! You have nothing to lose but your yawns!
Goal: to fund SF Grandmaster John C Wright penning 6 books year, and make space great again!
This is a John C. Wright fork of Star Wars. You know what to do.

And while you're waiting for Starquest, pick up my own thrilling space adventure series, the award-winning Soul Cycle. Buy within the next two days and get all four eBooks for less than six bucks!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/29

Wright. Warpig. Finn

Science fiction grandmaster John C. Wright, alpha geek Daddy Warpig, and multiple Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn join Max Dean Esmay for a special installment of Red Pill Religion.

Topics include SJW censorship of science fiction, Larry Correia's disinvitation from Origins, and more.

Give it a listen!



P.S. The award-winning Soul Cycle is on sale for just three more days. Don't miss your chance to pick up all four thrilling eBooks for less than six bucks!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/28

A Day Long Remembered

L337

The opening weekend figures for Soylo are in.

Before we get started, let's take a quick trip down memory lane.
"I've been predicting that the upcoming Han Solo debacle movie will begin the Star Wars franchise's collapse."
-Brian Niemeier, 11/7/17
"First, Star Wars fans are not perfectly content. In fact, there's a major revolt brewing in reaction to TFA, Rogue One, TLJ, and the upcoming Han Solo movie."
-Brian Niemeier, 10/19/17
"At the store yesterday, a buddy and I were indulging in lavish speculation about how Disney will screw up the Han Solo movie."
-Brian Niemeier 7/21/17
With the preliminaries out of the way:

Solo Sputters
In the largest disturbance yet in Disney's otherwise lucrative reign over "Star Wars," the Han Solo spinoff "Solo: A Star Wars Story" opened well below expectations with a franchise-low $83.3 million in ticket sales over the three-day weekend in North American theaters.
Disney estimated Sunday that "Solo" will gross $101 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, a figure below even the opening weekends of the much-derided "Star Wars" prequels. Last week, forecasts ran as high as $150 million for the four-day haul of "Solo."
Overseas ticket sales were even worse. "Solo," starring Alden Ehrenreich in the role made iconic by Harrison Ford, grossed $65 million internationally in its opening weekend, including a paltry $10.1 million in China.
The Disney shills in the media are blaming Solo's failure on "Star Wars fatigue" caused by releasing Solo jut five months after The Last Jedi. Others have pointed out that audience fatigue is just a cynical dodge. Infinity War, the new box office king, was released only five weeks after Black Panther.

No, my friends. You made Soylo a spectacular flop because you remembered insults like this:

Whitest Room

And this:

Rogue One Safety Pin

And this:


You did not give money to people who hate you. The victory and the glory are yours. You have shown Disney that even a Star Wars movie can bomb if they fail to please their core audience. This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Kathleen Kennedy's career. Soon we will see the end of Mouse Wars.

Behold the completeness of your triumph. Our enemies are reduced to this:

Leia: A Star Wars Story

I hope that:
  1. Disney takes Scalzi up on his idea.
  2. They hire him to write the screenplay.
  3. Instead of hiring an expensive new actress, Disney casts their Carrie Fisher CGI cyborg in the title role.

Reminder: Since you won't be seeing Soylo today, I recommend my captivating Soul Cycle series of space opera novels for your holiday entertainment needs. All four mind-bending eBooks are now on sale for under 6 bucks!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/25

Catholic Wonkery

Moleman

...Culture War Edition. Wherein Catholic Wonk Dr. Taylor Marshall attempts to advise Catholics how to win the culture war by writing exactly the kind of article that's been losing Catholics the culture war.

First up, there's no clearer mark of a commenter who has his finger on the pulse of today's fruit fly attention span, post-literate media culture than front loading a comparative analysis of Platonic and Hindu social hierarchies--complete with a (hopefully facetious) trigger warning.
  1. Brahmins (priestly scholar class)
  2. Kshatriyas (royal warrior class)
  3. Vaishyas (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers)
  4. Shudras (laboring classes)
Marshall goes on to deliver a shocking revelation.
We like to think that human society is now finally enlightened and that there are no castes or classes. Whether you call it a “caste” or a “demographic,” you’re just moving around words. The concept may become more humanitarian over time, but the idea of “political layers” transcends cultures and transcends time. Human society has different parts.
The Platonic way of understanding political levels has little to do with wealth. Bill Gates is very rich, but he still belongs to level 3 as a merchant and producer. A modern example of how the the levels can be transcended is how both Barack Obama and Donald Trump ascended from level 3 to level 1. A person at level 3 could be poor, middle class, or a billionaire.
Partial credit to Dr. Marshall for acknowledging that human hierarchies are natural and inevitable while almost calling out egalitarianism as a vicious lie. But I call shenanigans on Obama ever having been level 3. He has always been part of the ruling class and was groomed for power from the start. Pro tip: Getting paid a big advance to not write a book doesn't make you an "artisan".

But I digress. Here's how Marshall categorizes contemporary Western demographics into the classical caste system:
  1. Head (priestly scholar class). This was the Catholic Church’s ecclesial hierarchy (from AD 600-1500). Now it is the University, the Professor, Politician, Judges, the “experts” and (since the 1960s) the TV Media and Social Media (Facebook). They are still almost impossible to circumvent. They seek to influence our daily thoughts and our children. And as always, they are usually very rich.
  2. Chest (royal warrior class). This is the military, but more and more so it is the IRS, FBI, CIA, police, ATF, TSA, game warden, et al. They have the power to imprison us and kill us. In a good political system, they are inspired by the Head to promote justice and protect the innocent. It was for fear of a corrupted “chest level” that the United States allowed its citizens to arm themselves with weapons and, notably, firearms.
  3. Stomach/Loins (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers). This is your “middle class” white collar executives, and your corporate owners. They bear the load of society according to Plato, they must be controlled through “myths or noble lies” crafted by the philosophers. Civil religion is the best way to do this. It can be Roman imperial paganism with an Emperor cult (very powerful). In the same way it can be 16th century Church of England with civil obligations ordered to the king or queen who is “Head of the Church.” Or it can be a form of state-controlled Catholicism (Napoleonic Catholicism or Chinese Communistic Catholicism) or controlled Protestantism (state Protestantism/Lutheranism found in Northern European nations). In the last 30 years, the controlled state religions are being replaced with political correctness and class Socialism.
  4. Limbs (laboring class). We no longer call them “servants” but our society has people who are deeply in debt (in the Bible, debt is de facto slavery) and who work only to: pay off debt (to banks), have food, and have a roof over their heads.
Not a bad attempt. Still, Marshall appears to be too caught up in literalist thinking and old paradigms to get a fully accurate picture of where the class lines are currently drawn. Here's my revised list:
  1. Head Marshall gets this level mostly right. The Catholic hierarchy's prophetic/priestly role has long since been usurped by a rootless, cosmopolitan class of secular elites. They are an over-culture of experts, entertainers, and managers who live in the same few zip codes, send their kids to the same schools, and work in the same industries--usually government and finance, which makes Marshall's omission of bankers odd, especially in light of his level 4. Also, it's become undeniable that it's not so much the politicians who reside at level 1 than the permanent bureaucrats who control them.
  2. Chest Here's where Marshall's literalism blinds him to a key facet of the culture war. Yes, the cops and the military are the warrior caste in meatspace. The culture war is not (yet) a hot conflict fought with fists and guns. Marshall apparently understands that we're in a war of ideologies, but he fails to fully grasp the implications. The real level 2 players come into focus when you look at how the Head exercises authority. The managerial class relies less on the IRS and the cops to remove opposition and more on Big Tech to deplatform, disemploy, and unperson dissenters. Look at Google's firing of James Damore and Twitter's constant suspensions and shadowbans of its insufficiently Leftist users, including me. As the enforcers of the ruling class, the tech oligarchs' goal isn't to reduce dissenters to level 4. It's to make us untouchables.
  3. Stomach/Genitals Marshall is right in naming political correctness as the new religion of the ruling class. However, he makes the classic mistake of seeing socialism as their idol instead of globalism. Since the end of the Cold War, the primary conflict hasn't been between capitalism and socialism, but nationalism and globalism. The managerial elite are firmly in the globalist camp. In fact, they're running it, with the intent of doing away with level 3 altogether. Their dream world is a global version of Brazil, with a small elite class maintaining corporate enforcers as go-betweens who keep them from having to deal with the great unwashed masses.
  4. Limbs Creating a permanent underclass of debt slaves is our elites' ultimate goal. It all makes sense when you realize that our entire economy is based on an ocean of fake credit. This is the main motive for pushing open borders and immigration--to keep inflating the credit bubble by importing new debtors from the third world.
Black Pigeon explains.


What is Dr. Marshall's solution?
My belief is that Christians currently have possess all 4 levels in action whether or not we are recognized in society (we have intellectuals, warriors, artisans, laborers).
Therefore we should be pursuing both strategies at the same time:
We should be fighting to take back levels 1 and 2 (apologetics, academics, along with undermining the anti-Christian institutions).
AND
We should build parallel institutions (e.g., our own Universities, schools, Troops of Saint George, our own TV/radio stations, our own art, our own Social Media outlets, our own news stations).
Some of us can push forward and fight on the front lines of layers 1 and 2 now, while some of us can retreat and construct our own parallel society (of layers 1-4).
It's encouraging to see Marshall correctly point out that Dreher's Benedict Option is insufficient. The enemy won't leave us alone in our self-imposed ghettos, and you can't win a war without a) taking ground and b) taking back ground captured by the enemy.

However, Marshall makes another critical mistake in his prescription for how to fight back. Undermining converged institutions is indeed vital. Focusing on apologetics and academics, on the other hand, is what Catholics have been doing for decades while continually losing.

Marshall provides an excellent example of a pundit who is limited to dialectic. (My advice: Read less Plato and more Aristotle, especially his Rhetoric.) Neither the level 1 professors and entertainers nor the level 2 social media enforcers won control of the institutions through reasoned argument. They did it with Alinsky tactics, social proof, and propaganda that almost exclusively appeal to emotion.

For crying out loud, Marshall knows that the academy has been taken over by anti-Christians. What makes him think their pupils, who've been indoctrinated since kindergarten to hate Christians, will be moved in the slightest by Christian apologetics? He should read Catholic blogger Joseph Moore, who has thoroughly chronicled how American secondary--and even primary--education has been purpose-built to brainwash kids.

Marshall next points out the obvious: that Catholics are struggling to turn the tide in the culture war. In his view, we're too tied to converged institutions and outmoded means of communication.
Also, the Catholic hierarchy in the West still acts like it is operating at level 1 influence. Sadly, this is not the case. Secular nations have spent the last several decades figuring out ways to transform bishops from level 1 priestly spiritual leaders into level 3 producers of funds (taxation of church is the end game) and into level 3 producers of government service (grants to do government work which we saw occur in America under President Obama).
Again, mostly right. Except taxation of the Church isn't the endgame. The Church's destruction is.
The most brilliant minds in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are talking about the Benedict Option (Option 2: parallel institutions), but we need to engage both fronts. The intellectuals who are currently “fighting the culture war” while trying to win back levels 1 and 2 are either Jewish (Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, Michael Savage) or secular in outlook (Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnis, Jordan Peterson). Some might see this “diversity” as a strength. I see it as as weakness. Here’s why:
As much as I like listening Jordan Peterson or even Ben Shapiro, I sometimes cringe when I think of how much better an equipped Christian could respond. We have a profound intellectual tradition (Thomism), but we are not using it. This is likely why God has allowed Christian influence to wane.
Pro tip 2: Don't opine about how Catholic intellectuals need to improve their familiarity with social media and then peg Milo and Gavin as secularists when five minutes of research would reveal that they're both self-identified Catholics. Milo in particular did more to move the needle culturally than all the Catholic professors in America combined. But he did it with rhetoric (though Milo does his homework and can bring the dialectic when needed), so he doesn't count as a Catholic culture warrior to wonks like Marshall.

The last two sentences in Marshall's second paragraph above are dead wrong. The problem isn't that Catholics haven't been using our profound intellectual tradition. The problem is that our thought leaders keep deploying tactics that lead with dialectic informed by that tradition when the public at large a) is not equipped to understand that tradition, b) has no desire to understand that tradition, and c) have been conditioned into both of those predispositions by the media and academia, including many Catholic schools.

As for why God has allowed Christian influence to wane, it's because we have free will, He lets us have the consequences of our bad decisions, and Christians have been making a fuck ton of bad decisions over the past several decades. (See divorce and contraception rates, degradation of the liturgy, and Democrat party voting rates among Christians.)

Marshall ends with this lament:
Where are the Christians? We need to spend the next decade prayerfully cultivating sharp and relevant Christian minds to engage the culture and social media.
To reiterate, Milo and Gavin are two Christians who've been extraordinarily successful on social media. John C. Wright is a prolific and gifted Catholic author and blogger. Vox Day is making inroads in publishing and tech. Even I'm making my own modest contribution. But Guys like Taylor Marshall won't support or acknowledge any of us because we're not engaging in Thomistic disputations on Facebook.

I do think he's spot-on about the Church's out of touch hierarchy. Here's my list of actions Catholic bishops must take now to stop the decline, get people to take them seriously, and start winning back ground.
  1. Begin offering at least one Latin Mass per week in every diocese. We're going on four generations raised with no connection to the Church's great liturgical tradition (which Marshall overlooks in favor of our intellectual tradition, but as Joseph Campbell pointed out, Liturgy is how theology is applied to daily life). Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials, and Gen Z crave solemnity and mystery, not guitar masses. The Catholic Church is uniquely disposed to provide the sense of  structure and tradition that our rulers have purposefully destroyed.
  2. De-feminize the liturgy. No more "altar girls", female lectors, extraordinary ministers, choir directors, or DREs. Female leadership is the canary in the coal mine that presages imminent descent into full-blown witchcraft as seen in the Anglican Communion, for instance. St. Paul was right.
  3. Immediately stop taking even one cent of government money. As the HHS Mandate debacle should have taught the US Catholic bishops, taking money from the government is like taking money from the mob. Do it even once, and they own you. It's baffling how Marshall misses this point since he correctly discerns that our elites have reduced the hierarchy to an NGO for their political ambitions. Shut down the hospitals, charities, and even the schools if you have to. This mess started when the Catholic schools started accepting federal money, anyway.
  4. Stop assisting the elite's plan to undermine national sovereignty by importing waves of immigrants to become generational debt slaves. No one is fooled by Catholic Charities' claims of wanting to welcome the stranger when it's clear that the US bishops are supporting unrestricted immigration in a cynical attempt to replace American Catholics (and their tuition and donations) by importing new Catholics from south of the border. Support for programs like DACA and opposition to President Trump's travel ban violate the spirit and the letter of the Catechism's teaching on the complementary rights to immigration and national sovereignty.
  5. Inform self-described Catholic politicians who publicly persist in grave sin that they have excommunicated themselves. Barring grave, unrepentant, public sinners from receiving Communion is an obligation and a mercy on the part of the hierarchy. It isn't "compassionate" or "open-minded" to let the likes of Nancy Pelosi and the Kennedys who endorse and vote for infanticide and the abolition of marriage to present themselves for Communion. It sends the message (there's that pesky rhetoric again!) that you aren't serious about your own teachings.
  6. Open the priesthood to married men. I'm not advocating the end of priestly celibacy for the usual reason, viz. to increase the quantity of priests. Rather, I propose admitting married men to the altar to address the priestly quality issue. Let's not dissemble. The sexual abuse crisis was caused by homosexuals in the priesthood. Men who suffer from same-sex attraction are already supposed to be banned from the priesthood. Requiring celibacy made sense when feudalism meant that a percentage of bright, educated sons of the nobility couldn't be married off and lay investiture was a pressing concern. Now, a lot of gay men go into the priesthood to hide their affliction (ask Milo). Letting married men become priests will drastically increase the pool of clergy who are not attracted to teenage boys and who possess the masculine leadership abilities that attract women.
  7. Call a holy crusade to liberate Christendom from the Saracen. At the rate Europe is going, Reconquista II will be necessary sooner or later. Best to get a head start.
Thankfully, some bishops, like Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL, get it.

I'm under no illusions that the steps I outlined are at all likely to happen anytime soon. The Boomers in the Church's hierarchy will have to retire and/or die before we can expect any effective leadership from the top.  

Fortunately, it is the laity, not the clergy, who are called to consecrate the world to God. Fire up your memes, your rhetoric, and your unpozzed art, and let's get to work!

"Star Wars on exotic mushrooms and psychedelic tree frog secretions snorted through a rolled up copy of Heavy Metal magazine."

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/24

Fighting the Void

Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed on a live stream series aptly titled Fighting the Void. Topics covered include as close to a succinct recap of Sad and Rabid Puppies as I could deliver on short notice, a brief discussion of #ConGate, and a digression into Nick Cole's indie publishing model.

But first, I delve deeper into the secrets of the Soul Cycle than I've ever gone in an interview before.

Bonus feature: At some point, a little girl wanders in and starts playing with the awesome toys on the shelves.

Check it out!

2018/05/23

XSeed Preview

Grenzmark C - concept

You guys are awesome, so here's a little treat: a sneak preview of my upcoming mecha/Mil-SF novel Combat Frame XSeed.


Prologue

The future is over.

Cascading social and economic crises led to the Collapse of civilization on earth. Wealthy oligarchs partnered with the last governments to found a new order in manmade space colonies at earth’s Lagrange points.

In time, life in outer space stabilized. A group of powerful colonies formed the Systems Overterrestrial Coalition to improve the standard of living on earth. The returning colonists were seen as meddlers seeking to impose an alien culture on earth’s new nations. Rising tensions erupted into violence. In response, the Coalition sent combat frames—armored bipedal weapons platforms—to protect their terrestrial interests.

Prime Minister Josef Friedlander has fought to maintain the L3 colonies’ independence from the Coalition. His wife and daughter have been seized by SOC Security Director Sanzen Kaimora. Amid the tense political standoff, Friedlander’s son Sieg has launched an unauthorized rescue mission to Sanzen’s compound in L1’s Byzantium colony.


1

The giant’s approach shook the pines atop the low ridge where Sieg lay hidden. A flock of starlings took flight from the trembling boughs but found no sky. They rose over the treetops, through a patchy layer of cloud, and toward the sunlight reflected through the thirty kilometer window arcing overhead.

Sieg didn’t linger on the flock spiraling into a pointillist corkscrew in the twisted gravity of the colony’s longitudinal axis. He trained his field glasses on the stocky, olive drab combat frame tromping through the woods below. Boughs halfway up the trees’ thirty-five meter tall trunks scraped its domed head. The CF held its oversized machine gun at the ready.

ZoDiaC’s intel didn’t mention Soc patrols this far from the compound. But the demilitarized colonies’ report had already proved less trustworthy than Sieg’s own eyes. The giant approaching his team’s position was a Grenzmark C, a last-generation Systems Overterrestrial Coalition combat frame rushed into production as a stopgap measure. Its presence meant the Socs had tightened security on short notice.

It’s almost on us. Sieg slid back downslope across the fragrant needles blanketing the ridge. When the rocky crest stood between him and the Grenzmark’s sensors, he sprang to his feet and ran downhill. His life—and the lives of his mother, his sister, and his friends—depended on him taking down the giant before it reached Elliot and Werner. He leapt the last four meters to the ground and landed in a crouch at his work frame’s feet.

“How bad are we screwed?” Elliot hissed from the cab of his work frame, which stood to the right of Sieg’s.

“Grenzmark C inbound,” Sig told him and Werner, who manned the third work frame at Elliot’s right. Werner’s dark eyes and pale face brooded in contrast to Elliot’s ruddy-cheeked anxiety.

“The three of us can take a Grenzie,” said Werner, “but not the reinforcements who’ll answer the pilot's distress call.”

Sieg climbed into his cab. The construction machines, plus forged work orders, had gotten him and his friends inside Byzantium colony. But the compact, utilitarian work frames were no match for their larger, better armed combat frame descendants. Not in a straight fight.

“Where are you going?” Elliott asked over the radio when Sieg shut his work frame’s hatch. The window reflected sky blue eyes glinting in his determined face under a crown of neatly trimmed blond hair. He started the machine and strode toward the cleft in the ridge.

Sieg answered by extending his work frame’s three-fingered hand toward his friends. He knew they’d take the hint and stay back. Sieg had been swarmed with suck ups and hangers-on since his father’s election as L3’s prime minister. But Elliot, Werner, and Chase—who they were counting on to have the shuttle prepped for a fast exit—were among the tight circle of friends whom Sieg had known since childhood, and the only ones he trusted with such a vital mission.

The Grenzmark’s approaching footfalls rattled Sieg’s cab. The Soc’s coming right through here. It stood to reason. The artificial hills ran to the massive windows that flanked Sanzen’s personal land strip. The thick panes were covered with water to create artificial lakes. Neither the Grenzie nor the work frames were rated for aquatic use, so the cleft was the only way through the ridge for over a kilometer in each direction.

Sieg fought the urge to rush his target and stayed behind the cover of an outcrop to the Grenzmark’s left. The secondhand work frame had no active sensors, which was a blessing in disguise since using radar would have triggered the combat frame’s sensitive instruments.

Three more steps. Sieg drew a carbon-reinforced utility knife from his work frame’s hip-mounted toolbox.

Two.

One.

Sieg’s work frame pivoted into the cleft. The Grenzie’s head swiveled to glare at its smaller foe. The squat metal dome was really a protective covering for a circular array of high intensity LED panels interspersed with mini cameras. Three columns of five horizontal slits made the CF’s face resemble a gladiator’s visor.

Sieg jammed the control stick forward. His work frame charged the Grenzmark with two jarring bounds. The CF’s pilot swung his 110mm machine gun forward but failed to adjust for his unusually short opponent before Sieg plunged his utility knife through the cockpit hatch in the Grenzie’s chest.

The suddenly unmanned combat frame started to list, and Sieg propped it up against a tree. He relieved the Grenzmark of its machine gun. The weapon—essentially a handheld automatic tank gun—was awkward but useable in the work frame’s three-clawed hands. He grabbed an extra magazine from the CF’s skirt armor and rejoined his friends.

“I knew you’d pull it off,” Werner said.

“Is the Coalition pilot…dead?” asked Elliot.

The weight of what Sieg had done pressed down on his chest. Mom, Liz, forgive me. I had to.
Werner knew how to interpret his friend’s silence. “Let’s move out,” he said. “It won’t be long until more Socs come looking.”

By silent accord, the three childhood friends turned comrades-in-arms filed past the motionless Grenzmark. Their work frames navigated the woods more stealthily than the combat frame had managed, and they soon reached the forest’s edge. A verdant field stretched from the tree line to a stark concrete wall that, according to Sieg’s informant, encompassed Sanzen’s house of horrors.

“A hundred meters of open ground looks a lot bigger in real life than on paper,” Elliot said. “How do we cross it unnoticed?”

Sieg’s hand sought his red and black flight suit’s left breast pocket. His thumb and forefinger closed around a smooth strip of fabric, which he gently drew out. He stared at the pink silk ribbon—one of two that his young sister was fond of wearing in her hair. That Sanzen sent my father as a warning.

“I passed the point of no return when I killed that Soc,” Sieg told his friends with cold subdued wrath. “You two have done more than I had any right to ask. Withdraw to the maintenance hatch, call Chase, and wait for me. I’ll go after Mother and Elizabeth.”

Elliot’s work frame stepped forward to stand beside Sieg’s. “I promised to help rescue your family from Sanzen,” said Elliot. “No use trying to change the terms now.”

Werner lined up next to Elliot. Sieg didn’t have to hear his explanation. His quiet friend’s crush on the lively and beautiful Elizabeth Friedlander was an open secret.

“There are no combat frames visible on the ground,” said Sig. “We rush the wall at full speed, go over the top, and head straight for the research wing. If we meet any resistance,” Sieg readied the oversized machine gun in his work frame’s hands, “keep going and leave them to me.”

The only reply was a whispered, “For Elisabeth,” on Werner’s channel. It spurred the three friends like the report of a starter pistol, and together their work frames charged from the safety of the trees toward the imposing wall.

Screaming fire rained down. Werner’s scream was cut off as his work frame vanished in a burning cloud. Sieg reflexively jerked his control stick hard to the left. The missile that had been meant for him detonated in the trees. Splinters drummed against his work frame’s back like flaming hail.

The smoke cleared. A debris-lined crater yawned at Werner’s last known position. Elliot’s work frame lay slumped against a blackened tree, its right arm and leg blown away.

Sieg fixed his camera on the colossal window above. Applying a dazzle filter showed him the stocky outlines of six combat frames silhouetted against the sun’s reflection in the colony’s angled mirror.
Grenzmark IIs. The current-model combat frames had been waiting in the air over the compound, hidden by the sun. They knew we were coming.

Sieg’s cold anger burst into white-hot rage. He punched his work frame’s jump jet switch and fired a series of controlled bursts from his machine gun as he rocketed toward the enemy squad. Three of the six CFs went down trailing smoke from their ruptured cockpits.

The remaining Grentos opened up with their own automatic rifles. Huge bullets flew past the small, fast-moving target until one volley shredded the work frame’s legs. Missing its thrusters, the critically damaged machine crashed to the ground. Emergency airbags deployed, sparing Sieg the full force of the impact that knocked the air from his lungs.

Sieg mashed the door release and tumbled from the work frame’s cab. He landed on soft mowed grass, lurched to his feet, and bolted for the trees. The whine of the Grentos’ thrusters harried him like onrushing thunder.

Elliot sat beside his ruined work frame, his left leg bent at an unnatural angle. The color had drained from his normally flushed face. “I’m done,” he panted as Sieg ran to him. “Werner’s gone. He was right next to me, then…”

“Don’t talk,” said Sieg. He bent down and slung his arm around his friend’s back. With Sieg’s help, Elliot rose to stand on one shaking foot. Together they hobbled into the forest.

“I’m sorry,” Elliot said as they limped through the woods. Three searchlight beams swept the shadows of the canopy close behind them. “I tried my best. Just wasn’t enough.”

“It’s not your fault. Someone set us up.”

“We’re trapped,” said Elliot. “I don’t know what to do.”

Sieg knew exactly what to do. From the moment he and Elliot entered the woods, he’d been heading back toward the cleft in the ridge. They might still have a chance if they could reach it before the Socs caught up—which would be any second with Elliot slowing Sieg down. He gathered his injured friend in his arms and made a run for the ridge.

Time seemed to dilate as Sieg ran. But the trees parted, and his heart leapt when he saw the small pass between the hills. Summoning a final burst of speed, he sprinted through the cleft and set Elliot down at the Grenzmark C’s foot.

Sieg’s lungs and limbs burned, but the low roar of thrusters just behind the ridge drove him up the steel rungs set into the combat frame’s armor. He reached the cloven cockpit door, pried it open, and fought his gag reflex as he dumped most of the dead pilot to the ground below. Elliot’s cry sent panic stabbing up Sieg’s spine until he saw that his friend was only reacting to the bloody mess that had landed a few meters to his right. They hadn’t been discovered yet.

Good thing my suit’s mostly red. Sieg took a deep breath and hoisted himself into the Grenzie’s cockpit. His knife thrust had destroyed the main monitor and split the pilot seat’s back, but the controls mounted on the armrests remained functional. He lowered the combat frame into a crouch and set its left hand on the ground. When Elliot crawled into the giant metal palm, Sieg raised the CF to its full height and set off with the punctured door open.

“Chase,” he called on the shuttle’s frequency. “This is Sieg. Do you read me?”

After an agonizing moment, the line crackled. “Chase here,” the shuttle pilot said. “Reading you five, Sieg. Didn’t expect you so soon.”

“I need an evac, stat.”

“For five, I hope.”

“Negative. It’s just me and Elliot.”

Chase’s voice fell. “And Werner?”

“He didn’t make it. I’m in a stolen Grenzmark C with at least three flight-capable Grenzmark IIs in pursuit. What’s your ETA to the maintenance hatch?”

“Give me ten minutes,” said Chase. “And Sieg? Stay alive, or I’ll fly this bird to hell and beat your dead ass. Over and out.”

Sieg set the Grenzie’s feet toward the access hatch partway up the curve of the colony’s end cap. Negotiating the colossal bowl was like climbing the inside of a hollow mountain. The climb proved more difficult than his and his friend’s initial descent from the same hatch what seemed like a lifetime ago, especially with Elliot cradled in one of the CF’s hands.

Equally relieved and wary that he hadn’t been spotted yet, Sieg tuned in the Coalition Security Corps’ dedicated frequency. From the three surviving CSC pilots’ chatter, he soon learned that his combat frame theft had gone unnoticed. The Grentos were still searching the forest near Sanzen’s compound for intruders fleeing on foot.

Sieg piloted the Grenzie into the warren of enormous passages that riddled the space between the colony’s inner and outer hull. Navigating by memory, he reached the CF-sized airlock that led to outer space and freedom.

“Seal your suit,” he called down to Elliot, who pulled his helmet over his head. Sieg did likewise. His helmet magnified his heavy breaths of metallic-tasting air.

“Come in, Chase. This is Sieg. Elliot and I are in position. Do you copy?”

“Copy, Sieg,” said Chase. “I’m parked just out of sight. It’s a straight shot from the hatch to the shuttle. Come on out, and I’ll have you two home for supper, over.”

Sieg’s anger blazed like red coals in the pit of his stomach as he opened the airlock. “I’ll come back for you,” he promised his mother, his sister, and the unavenged ghost of his friend before activating the Grenzie’s jump thrusters and rocketing into the black.

What looked like a white dot soon resolved into the blunted bullet shape of the shuttle’s hull, which grew to dominate Sieg’s vision. Within moments, he and Elliot would be safely aboard and bound for L3, where the wayward son would face his father’s disappointment. I’d rather fight the Socs again.

Sieg had come alongside the shuttle and was reaching his Grenzmark’s free hand toward the bay door when a nasal male voice came over the CSC channel. “Gamma One to Control: Unauthorized shuttle confirmed twenty klicks to spinward off the end cap. Transmitting live feed from my Grenzmark’s optical array.”

“Acknowledged, Gamma One,” a brusque voice replied. “Target lock acquired.”

“Chase,” Shouted Sig. “They spotted you. Get out of here!”

A point of light streaked from the colony and connected with the shuttle amidships. The resulting blast reduced the spacecraft to a hot vapor. Sieg barely managed to turn his Grenzie aside before the shockwave hammered the combat frame, sending it hurtling away from the colony at an acute angle.

Sieg feared the damaged chair to which he was strapped would break loose and eject him into space. It held, but he almost wished it hadn’t when the tremors rocking his CF threatened to batter him into paste. The shaking subsided, leaving him bruised and in shock with cockpit alarms blaring.
A frantic thought shattered Sieg’s respite. Elliot!

Sieg’s throbbing hand gripped the control stick and commanded the Grenzie to raise its left arm. Nothing happened. He repeated the process twice before a dread realization penetrated his numbed mind. Against his muscles’ protests, he released his harness, leaned forward, and craned his neck outside the cockpit.

All of the Grenzie’s limbs had been blown off.

Despair drove Sieg back into his seat. He sat motionless for what could have been seconds or hours, until a familiar voice intruded on his daze.

“Gamma One to Control: Missile strike confirmed. The target has been vaporized. Request authorization to search for CF spotted near target before impact, over.”

“Negative,” said an icy female voice Sieg couldn’t quite place in his near-delirium. “Break off pursuit and return to base. This mission was a total success.”


Mother, thought Sieg as he tumbled through space. Liz. I failed you.


Earth's battle against the Socs will continue in the self-titled first installment of Combat Frame XSeed, my upcoming mecha/Mif-SF novel series. Keep your eyes on this blog and my social media feeds for more details as they emerge.

Read the second XSeed preview here.

In the meantime, get your space adventure fix with my award-winning Soul Cycle series, now on sale for less than the big publishers charge for a single eBook.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/22

Soylo

I've written at length about how Disney's Star Wars movies are nothing but hate mail to the franchise's core audience. After the precipitous second week box office drop suffered by The Last Jedi, I concluded that Solo would be the first Star Wars movie to fail outright.

Professional comic book artist Ethan Van Sciver has recently been chronicling the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story (or as he calls it, Soylo: A Soy Wars Soyry). In the following video, he explains why the movie's lackluster critic reviews and catastrophically low levels of audience interest has Disney panicking.


Update: As of this writing, Solo's critic score has fallen back down to 70% fresh, and moviegoer interest in seeing the film has plummeted to 41%.

Soylo 41%

At this rate, Deadpool 2's second weekend may actually give Solo's opening a run for its money at the box office. Speaking of money, while I expect Solo to earn back its production budget, don't be surprised if it ends up in the red when marketing costs are factored in. As always, we shall see.

Except I won't see it because I don't give money to people who hate me.

Unlike Disney, I value and respect my audience, which is why my entire thrilling Soul Cycle is now on sale.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/21

Three Big Questions

Ten Gentle Opportunities - Jeff Duntemann

Author, editor, and publisher Jeff Duntemann poses the three questions that authors of speculative fiction must ask when designing magic systems.
There are three Big Questions you need to ask yourself as you take on a task of designing a magical system:
  • What is the source of magical power? Where does it come from and how do you obtain it? In Larry Niven’s Warlock stories, magic is an inherent property of the created world, an essence present everywhere but which may be depleted by use over time, like a seam of coal. Aleister Crowley (a real guy, if an unutterable nutcase) created a system of sex magick, which was powered (as best I can figure) by orgasms. In Ten Gentle Opportunities, magical power emerges from a fully-developed pineal eye, which is present in a small fraction of humanity and must be perfected by practice and study. The magical force itself is drawn from primordial chaos, and is inexhaustible. In some systems, magical force emerges from sacred or cursed artifacts, and in others from alchemical concoctions. Can magic be stored somehow for later use, or use by ordinary people? Stypek stores ten nuggets of magical force in stasis inside a wand made of “wereglass,” which is dense and scary and serves a plot point more than the magical system. (Sometimes you have to do that.)
  • Who is able to manipulate magical power? Magic is sometimes the purview of explicitlty magical beings like elves, fairies, pixies, etc. Sometimes it’s a skill that may be learned by anybody. In my system, it depends on a genetic talent that mundanes don’t have and can’t obtain. Spellbenders like Stypek, in fact, are incomplete magicians, in that they can examine and change magical spells but can neither draw magic from chaos nor send it back when no longer needed. (Unwanted or abandoned magic can cause all sorts of problems, like animating corpses into zombies.) Can one magician do things, or does it take some sort of cooperative effort? (One flashes on Crowley’s sex magic.) Can multiple magicians do bigger or more difficult things working together? (This was the case in the classic Witches of Karres.) Are magicians specialists? (Larry Correia’s are; see below.)
  • What are the limits of magical power? This is the big one, kids. Magic that can do anything is…boring. Stories engage us by pitting characters against challenges and their own limitations. A magician who controls magic without limits can’t lose and so isn’t especially interesting. One of the best modern magical systems is what Larry Correia built into his Dark Magic / Spellbound / Warbound trilogy. Magical persons are specialists, sorted into numerous categories by the nature and limits of their power. Some teleport. Some command electricity. Some influence weather. Some heal. Some control gravity, and so on. All of these powers draw on personal energy, which the body creates from food and rest, and when that energy is used up, the powers fail for a time until the body can restore its energy levels. All magical/super powers must have limitations. Superman has Kryptonite. Green Lantern’s lantern doesn’t work on anything colored yellow. (At least this was the case when I was reading my friends’ comics in the first half of the 1960s.) Sometimes magic is tied to the Classical Elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Aether. (Brian Niemeier’s magical system includes but is not limited to this.) You can be as clever as you like, but your magic must have quirks and limitations.

Authors take note. Jeff is dispensing solid gold advice, here. He goes into even more detail on his excellent blog. Read the rest.

NB: Jeff intimated that his post was partly inspired by one of my earlier posts on designing magic systems. When you're done with his, check mine out for a treatment of magic system design that's fully complementary with Jeff's and gets a bit more granular.

Recommended: Jeff's fantastical science novel Ten Gentle Opportunities, in which he puts his money where his mouth is by demonstrating the principles he laid out.

And don't miss the Soul Cycle Spring Sale. Time is running out to get my entire award-winning eerie adventure series for less than six bucks. Get all four exciting installments while the gettin's good!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/18

SC Spring Sale

Announcing the Soul Cycle Spring Sale! For a limited time, the Kindle versions of my first three highly acclaimed novels are on sale for only $0.99 each!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

First up is the breakout adventure-horror novel that earned me a Campbell nomination: Nethereal, Soul Cycle Book I.
Brian did a good job with this one. Dude's got skills.
-Best selling author Larry Correia
Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

Once you've taken your first step into the eerie, captivating SC cosmos, continue the journey to save all souls with the first-ever Dragon Award winner for Best Horror Novel, the spellbinding Souldancer, Soul Cycle Book II.
Souldancer and the Soul Cycle itself are like nothing else in fantastic fiction. The ideas, characters, and especially the world-building are all first-rate. Highly recommended.
-Hugo nominee Jeff Duntemann

The story begun in Nethereal and continued in Souldancer reaches the boiling point in 2017 Dragon Award finalist and fan favorite The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III.
Brian Niemeier has a great talent for heroic contrast. At times the tale is dizzying, leaving the reader as breathless as the characters in their desperate struggle.-The Injustice Gamer
The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

All three of these outlandishly fun and highly acclaimed books are just $0.99 each. If you haven't experienced the startlingly original world of the Soul Cycle yet, don't miss out. Buy them for Kindle today!

Special Bonus Offer!
Already own the first three mind-blowing SC books? You won't want to miss the series' epic finale and my highest-rated book yet, The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV. Get it now at 40% off! 
The Cycle is complete, and it feels good.
-Author Adam Smith
The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

Heartfelt thanks to all my valued readers. Each of you helped to make the Soul Cycle succeed beyond my wildest expectations. Without you, I could not have completed my first series within three years when some authors can't manage the same feat with timetables lasting decades.

Don't say that the Soul Cycle is done. Rather, the story that had been swirling around in my head for nearly fifteen years has now been realized in print.

Work on my next series proceeds apace. I can't wait for you to read it.

#AGundamForUs


2018/05/17

A Little Love Note


Friend of the blog Bradford Walker has clued me in to some encouraging developments in the unfolding #ConGate drama.

The first response comes from best selling author John Ringo, who was disinvited from ConCarolinas last month:
This is a strong suggestion to any decent author, especially all Baen authors.
If invited to a con, especially as a 'special guest', require the following in your contract:
Pre-paid travel. (Non-refundable, reserved for your use and one guest.)Pre-paid room. (Non-refundable, reserved for your use and one guest.)A cash guarantee of non-cancellation on their part.
Show them links to what happened to myself and Larry.
If they cave to the SJW mobs, make it cost them.
If they refuse, they're probably setting you up. (This, very much, looked like a set-up to boost visibility. ConCarolinas is slightly different.) Tell them that based upon recent history you have to assume they're setting you up if they have issues with such basic items and ask them not to contact you again.
Any convention that for any reason plays this game of 'we have to rescind your invitation' (Origins, ConCarolinas, ArchCon) refuse to attend and ask other authors to refuse to attend. Not for any reason. Not because it's 'local', not because it's 'convenient'. Not because 'I've always gone to X con!'
Start choking them off of the revenue stream created by our attendance.
Just. Say. No.
As authors, we really don't need conventions anymore. You get more sales through posts online and engaging in social media (for as long as Twitter and Facebook will allows us to do so) than going to all the conventions in the world. The cons are mostly for your fans and if the cons want to play this game, the fans need to make it clear they're not going.
Authors take note. Ringo is dispensing sound advice. If you agree to appear at a con, take the steps he suggests to protect yourself. Don't be a sucker.

More from Ringo:
This has to stop and it won't until we take a stand. For those of you reading this who are 'liberals', please look at the history of how this is going and wonder how long it will take for YOU to end up against the wall. Think they're going to stop with me and Larry? Think again.
Boycott, divest, sanction.
It's time to strike back. We don't need cons. Cons need us. Time for them to figure that out.
It's true that the SJW hatemob won't stop until we stop it. However, Ringo is directing most of his fire in the wrong direction. Yes, the cons are cowards, and possibly in breach of contract, for caving to the SJWs. But it's the SJWs are where the pressure's coming from. They are almost certainly committing far more and more serious crimes than the convention directors. Frankly, the reluctance to fight the SJWs directly in favor of further squeezing the cons mystifies me.

Note also the stock warning to liberals. I can picture the schoolmarm wagging her finger. (Everyone's naughty!)

Author Michael Z. Williamson is also taking action. Here is a little love note from his lawyer to Origins:
To the Board of Origins Game Fair,
Greetings. Your decision to remove Larry Correia as an invited Guest, thus eliminating one of your more prominent convention draws,has resulted not only in close scrutiny of your rash and capricious actions, but also a moment in time where you had the choice between accepting the consequences of those actions or committing financial fraud.
Unfortunately, you have apparently chosen the latter. As a business, you promised consumers a chance to meet one of the more prominent authors in science fiction today. You then took their entry money (preorders), uninvited that author (product cancellation), and then refused to issue full refunds to preregistered attendees who no longer had a reason or desire to attend your discriminatory product gala.
Most people, from laypersons to prosecutors and litigation attorneys in between, would view this as a "bait and switch" means of financial fraud.
Moreover, you have doubled down on this apparent fraud and generally rash action in the case of prepaying convention vendors. To those vendors, including my client, Michael Z. Williamson, you not only promised the draw prominent Guests would bring in terms of attendance, you also promised attendees who would be in a mood and an encouraging environment to part with cash for goods.
Instead, by eliminating your convention's most prominent draw(s), drawing stark political litmus test lines as to who is or is not an invited and preferred attendee or Guest, and also by utterly failing to maintain a workable website, you have offered vendors a much lesser (in numbers, buying power, and morale) group of convention attendees. As any number of successful and failed gaming and science fiction conventions have demonstrated, the group of people who insists that Guests pass a political litmus test is not generally the same group that also actually buys things from convention vendors.
Thus, my client is twice the victim of your bait and switch, both as a convention attendee receiving less than a full refund, and as a vendor, who now must not only fight with you to receive a full refund for vendor fees, but must also fill the financial hole left by your late actions, too soon before your convention and too late for my client to attend another, in that same time slot.
For the moment, my client will be satisfied by a full refund of his vendor and attendee fees, including those of family members. I also expect you to issue full refunds to any other cancelling attendees and vendors, though I can not speak for them as their attorney.
Given the scope of and motivation for your actions, as publicly expressed by your designated representative, John Ward, in what I can best describe as a series of libelous statements, I have strongly encouraged my client to file a criminal complaint for financial fraud if full refunds are not made.
Yes, it is time--and past time--to strike back. But not at the cons, or not primarily the cons. All that gets us is a trail of ruined cons. And for those who say, "Let's just build our own institutions," the SJWs will do their best to converge those too, and they're highly adept at it. They would have converged the Dragon Awards last year if you guys hadn't stepped up and shut the usual suspects out of the winners' circle.

As it stands, we and the SJWs are like two warring biker gangs. We keep moving to new towns, but they always follow us, and the ensuing battle wrecks the town. Those who say we should keep moving on are fundamentally defeatists. Their only tactic is retreat, and constant retreat cannot produce victory.

Mr. Blatt has since issued another statement that I think strikes closer to the target:
Want to be a part of history? Help me document violations of the frickin' Sherman Antitrust Act (as amended and supplemented) By Origins, GAMA, WoTC, and other companies and organizations in the gaming industry.
If you'e got screenshots of staff and owners bragging about being the "vendors, promoters, and sponsors" that convinced Origins to un-invite Larry Correia, I want to see them. Message me here or email them to bblatt11@gmail.com.
Heck, if you've got screenshots of GAMA officers or staff bragging about getting rid of Larry, I want to see those too.
And remember, if you cancelled your Origins reservation, DEMAND A FULL REFUND. That's your $10, not GAMA's. Don't reward their (possibly criminal) misbehavior by not fighting for what's yours.
If you're a cancelling vendor and need assistance with getting a refund, let me know. I can't give you legal advice if you're not Indiana based, but the letter I wrote on behalf of Michael Z. Williamson is publicly available for you to adapt as necessary.
If Origins is refusing to issue refunds to attendees and vendors, then yes, throw the book at them. That doesn't solve the underlying problem, though. Filing antitrust suits against converged companies like WotC and Paizo comes much closer to uprooting the SJW infestation in gaming, since victory in court potentially reduces the amenable authorities gaming SJWs can appeal to.

But I still don't see anyone involved in #ConGate striking at the heart of the problem like Richard Meyer is in the comics industry. Richard is not going after Antarctic Press, who are analogous to Origins in this example. He's filed criminal complaints against Mark Waid, who coerced AP into canceling Richard's publishing deal.

For Larry, Ringo, and M-Zed to respond in kind would mean going after the woman who demanded that Origins drop Larry based on libelous accusations. Nail her to the wall for defamation and tortious interference like Meyer is doing to Waid.

Yes, lawfare is expensive, time-consuming, and uncertain. The situation has observably deteriorated to the point that fighting back against the root cause of the problem requires great expense, considerable opportunity cost, and a degree of personal risk. It would be swell if getting the law involved wasn't necessary, but here we are, because nobody fought back when fighting was easier.

Like Bradford observed, this ends when the mere thought of messing with us causes the SJWs so much pain that they just can't even anymore.

Not giving money to people who hate you is crucial. So is supporting creators who value your patronage and strive to bring you fun stories without heavy-handed lectures.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2018/05/16

The Karate Kid We Need

Cobra Kai

This series shouldn't have happened.

I don't mean it was a bad idea. I mean it shouldn't have been possible to make a TV show that celebrates masculinity, bashes political correctness, and most importantly gives viewers hours of fun, in 2018.

I am referring to YouTube's in-house production of Cobra Kai, the latest--and yes, the best--installment in the storied Karate Kid franchise.

Therein lies a problem, because YouTube's parent company Alphabet, which also owns Google, tops the list of rootless cosmopolitan elites who hate people like Cobra Kai protagonist Johnny Lawrence. At the same time, they've somehow produced a quality television show that gleefully embraces everything its corporate overlords rail against.

It's a good problem to have. Suffice it to say, I did not give YouTube money. I did, however, contribute to the blockbuster ratings that saw Cobra Kai trounce soy bubble boy darlings like The Handmaid's Tale.

The first two episodes of Cobra Kai are available for free. It's impossible to avoid the series on YouTube, so you will find it. What happens after that is up to you.

Cobra Kai picks up thirty years after The Karate Kid. Following a brief recap of Daniel Larusso's victory in the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament, we catch up with Daniel's de jure antagonist Johnny Lawrence. It's immediately obvious that Johnny's life is a mess. He lives in a small shabby apartment and barely makes ends meet through light contracting work one step above doing odd jobs. His ex-wife and delinquent son both hate his guts.

All you writers out there will instantly recognize what the first episode is doing. It's starting the main character in a position of weakness. This is a time-tested literary device famously employed by Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Spider-man to create instant sympathy with their protagonists. It works perfectly here--better, in fact, than in the first Karate Kid.

And like Luke, Harry, and Peter, we soon learn that Johnny Lawrence is actually far from weak.

What's striking about Cobra Kai isn't that its story is an almost exact negative image of the first movie's plot. It's not even that the TV series works better than the original this way. It's the astonishing realization that the first movie makes vastly more sense when seen from the supposed villain's point of view.

Consider these observations about the first Karate Kid:
  • Johnny never initiates violence against Daniel.
  • Daniel always initiates violence against Johnny (the Halloween party scene--best example).
  • Contra Mr. Miyagi's warning, Daniel uses karate for attack instead of just defense.
  • While Johnny does land an illegal hit during the tournament, he is duly penalized. Conversely, Daniel uses a patently illegal kick to the face and wins.
Only the best sequels make us see the original in a new light. Cobra Kai performs this artistic service definitively and with flawless form. After watching the series, it is undeniable that Daniel is not the franchise's title character. Johnny Lawrence is the real Karate Kid.

Cobra Kai doesn't stop correcting the record with the first film. It also disqualifies Hilary Swank and Jaden Smith with delightful yet devastating subtlety.

Having masterfully built sympathy for our down-at-heel hero (some might call foul on the "Johnny is a bully because he was bullied" back story, but the Sid subplot has been in the background since the first movie, and Kreese's abuse of his students was always front and center), the writers deftly establish Johnny's motivation for reopening the dishonored and disbanded Cobra Kai dojo.

And no, it's not Johnny's brawl with a gang of punks from the trailer. That's just the inciting incident. What keeps Johnny focused on his goal is his constantly and realistically reinforced enmity toward Daniel Larusso. We're quickly shown that Daniel has everything Johnny lacks: a sterling reputation in the community, a loving family, a beautiful home, and a successful business. Johnny first puts his energy into fixing the last item, but running his dojo gradually brings him closer to achieving the others.

Some have called Cobra Kai a villain redemption story. Frankly, Master Lawrence can only be called a villain in a relative sense, and only by the kinds of people who run companies like YouTube. He's white (clearly), straight (and quite successful attracting women despite his marriage problems), patriotic (see the eagle picture with American flag background in his living room), and Christian (or at least raised Christian, as revealed when he joins the Diaz family in saying grace).

Johnny's macho abrasiveness is played up for the safe space crowd. He doesn't mince words. He's contemptuous of weakness, and he's sometimes downright brutal with his students. Yet the show vindicates him again and again as his pupils see drastic improvement not just in their martial arts skills, but in their daily lives.

One might interpret Cobra Kai as the story of a Gen X-er striving--imperfectly but successfully--to repair the severe damage postmodern culture has done to Millennials. I think that's a valid lens to view the series through, and I think it's a key element of the show's success. Cobra Kai is resonating with young adults for a reason. It's a good bet that many viewers never had anyone like Johnny Lawrence to challenge them and let them earn a genuine sense of self-worth.

Strike first. Strike hard. No mercy. Richard Meyer certainly took Cobra Kai's motto to heart.

With its runaway success and plans for not just a second, but a third season in the works, hopefully Cobra Kai will teach our smug elites the value of giving audiences fun stories instead of civics lectures. Check out my award-winning Soul Cycle for mind-bending fun in book form.


2018/05/15

Unaligned Views

Yesterday Origins Game Fair, one of the most prominent gaming conventions in the country, posted this announcement on their Facebook account regarding scheduled guest author Larry Correia:


Larry's blacklisting from Origins follows ConCarolina's disinvitation of best selling conservative author John Ringo last month.

Taken together with Mark Waid's potentially criminal interference in Richard Meyer's comics business, there's an emerging pattern here which author Richard Paolinelli spells out:
Conservative creators are being banned from Cons.
Conservative creators are being threatened at Cons or if they even attempt to attend a Con.
Conservative creators are being attacked and bullied on social media.
Conservative creators are having their social media platforms deleted and demonetized.
Conservative speakers are having their public events canceled.
Conservative speakers are having their public events shut down by protestors refusing to let them speak.
Larry has issued a response to Origins Director John Ward's rank cowardice. A relevant excerpt was posted on Facebook:
So I'm no longer the writer guest of honor at origins. My invitation has been revoked. It was the usual nonsense. Right after I was announced as a guest some people started throwing a temper tantrum about my alleged racist/sexist/homophobic/whatever (of course, with zero proof or actual examples), and the guy in charge (John Ward) immediately folded. He didn't even talk to me first. He just accepted the slander and gave me the boot in an email that talked about how "inclusive" they are. I actually heard about it on facebook before I even saw the email.
Oh well.
They did this to John Ringo at ConCarolinas a little while ago, and took a lesson from it. This is just another new way for bullies to target people who disagree with them. Throw a fit, make up some accusations, and cry about how you feel unsafe. Now that they know it works, it is just another tool in their tool box.
For the record, I'm not any of the things they accuse me of. Despite writing a whole bunch of books, and a ton of political articles, and all of my many personal interactions with fans (I've done up to 15 cons and events in one year), none of these people can ever find any actual examples of me being sexist, racist, or homophobic (and the Guardian looked hard and still came up with nothing).
That's because in reality, I'm a libertarian who does not give a shit who you are, or what you do, and it is none of my business, as long as you stay off my lawn. :)
This time they kept calling me a "rape apologist". They dug up that classic that John Scalzi created about me several years ago. It's total nonsense. I spent many years teaching self defense to women, and I'm all in favor of every rape attempt ending with the rapist receiving a couple hollow points to the chest. But that just goes to show the power of lies, rumor, and narrative.
So years later, complete strangers come out of the woodwork to talk about how evil I am. Yeah... That does get tiresome. It is wearying.
I'm really sorry for any fans who were planning on seeing me at Origins. Hopefully I'll get to meet you at some other event.
For me personally, meh. I go to enough events. I'll just do something else fun that weekend.
The saddest person in all of this is my son, who was my plus one. He was looking forward to playing a bunch of games, and then we were going to go to the zoo on Sunday. (they have manatees there!).
Larry is absolutely correct that the SJW intimidation campaigns will continue because they know that intimidation tactics work.

In light of D&C's response to Waid's intimidation of Antarctic Press, it looks quite possible that the SJW mobs are committing criminal acts by interfering with legitimate businesses. The situation goes beyond libel--which is difficult to prove--although that's clearly going on, as well. There are federal laws protecting consumers' access to products and services and forbidding attacks on individuals' livelihoods.

John Ward committed an act of despicable cowardice by caving to a rage mob. gamers and SFF fans are right to call him on it. We should also ask why he thought it was better to immediately throw Larry under the bus rather than stand up to the SJWs.

A criminal gang is terrorizing a neighborhood; forcing the shop owners to pay protection money under threat of having their merchandise destroyed and their stores vandalized. The neighbors see the shop owners bowing to the gangsters' demands. Perhaps one man sees a jeweler offer up a fine gold necklace in tribute to the gang that said customer had on layaway for his wife.

The neighbors are rightly angry. They upbraid the shop owners for giving in to the gangsters and correctly point out that the gang will not only keep coming back; they'll demand more and more each time, all because the store owners keep rewarding the criminals' behavior.

But it's not just the shop owners who are enabling the gangsters, is it?

When we see someone committing a crime, we have a moral duty to call the police so the criminal won't be free to prey on someone else. Yet the shop owners' neighbors never call the police. They'd rather complain about not being able to get the products they want. Besides, the gangsters have high-priced lawyers who will probably just get them off. Pressing charges is too much trouble.

The neighborhood residents aren't the only people the gang is preying upon. There are manufacturers whose products are increasingly targeted for theft by the gang. Their wares sometimes don't even make it onto the shelves. These businessmen produce commodities of the finest quality. They have earned the loyalty and trust of countless customers. They regularly perform generous acts of charity to benefit the people of the neighborhood. Moreover, they have families who depend on them.

There are also smaller startups who are struggling to get into the market. They don't have anywhere near the customer base, clout, and connections of the big manufacturers. The gang's depredations are keeping the small manufacturers out of the neighborhood altogether. Their relative lack of resources means they are effectively shut out of that market. They are forced to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Who suffers? The neighborhood residents, whose range of choices is reduced, and the big manufacturers, who lose a source of healthy competition.

The big manufacturers also know what's going on, but they also never call the police. It's still too much trouble, and the mob lawyers will probably win in court. Besides, the besieged neighborhood is a minuscule part of the big manufacturers' market. Their products are available everywhere, and the customers served by the gang-predated stores can do their shopping on the next block.

As for the small manufacturers, the industry leaders already bend over backwards to help newcomers. They have programs in place to connect startups with lucrative distribution channels. Let no one doubt that the big producers earned their success and lavishly share their time and treasure with folks who need a leg up. They are men of honor and pillars of the community.

Perhaps these good and successful men could help form an association to protect their smaller colleagues from the gang, much as an older organization once did before the gang took it over. But that's a subject for another time.

Everyone understands. Sometimes there are circumstances that complicate, or even abrogate, the performance of certain moral duties. This is especially the case when good men have their families and reputations threatened. We have reached the point where standing up to the gang is a matter of heroic; not ordinary, virtue.

Yet what core principle binds all of us more strongly than the need for heroes--in everyday life as well as in science fiction?

Understand, I'm not asking anyone to do what I'm unwilling to do myself, but my resources are limited. You probably wouldn't want to know what I'd do to the lawless scum who've planted their filthy boot on our industry's throat if I had the means.

Evil prevails when good men do nothing. Oh, the neighbors boycott the crooked stores. Squeezed between the gang's demands and the neighbors' complaints, one store after another closes up shop. Enterprising folks open new stores, but it's not long before the gangsters show up. What do they care if the business goes broke in six months? They'll burn it down for the insurance.

And they will suffer absolutely zero consequences. Of that we've made them certain.


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