Garwulf’s Corner #21: Emails from the Edge III: The Search for Forum Posts, and the Year in Review
December 23, 2015
IT’S GARWULF’S CORNER number 21, which means it is time for the third installment of Emails from the Edge. And yes, the title is a reference to an old Star Trek movie (I grew up watching the original cast Star Trek movies, M*A*S*H, and Doctor Who…which may explain a lot).
But, it’s also the end of 2015, and the day before the night before Christmas, so before we begin with the forum posts, it’s time for a quick “year in review.”
Most amazing moment: Seeing the planet Pluto up-close for the very first time. I’m one of those old-fashioned types who refuses to let go of Pluto being a planet (the planets of my solar system include Pluto!), and for years I’ve seen scientists wondering and speculating what it was actually like. And, when we all finally saw it, the reality was better than the speculation by far.
Most interesting video game: Hatred. By all accounts the game is mediocre and joyless, but the discussion around one of video gaming’s first proper murder spree simulators was fascinating and revealing, particularly as a number of game critics declared that for Hatred to be good, it would have needed the very elements that would have rendered it indefensible.
Worst thing in pop culture this year: the Hugo Awards and the “Puppy Wars.” It’s not easy to watch a community you’ve been a part of and still care about tear itself to pieces and go scorched earth on one of speculative fiction’s most prestigious awards. Unfortunately, that’s what happened, with slander campaigns, a lot of bad blood, and some conspiracy theories about SJWs thrown in on the side before it was all said and done. The most tragic part was when it came together on awards night, with a number of authors thrown under the bus as the crowd cheered…and then people started getting ready for the rematch.
Best thing in pop culture this year: Desert Bus for Hope 9. As a pop culture issues commentator, I have to wade through a lot of fairly unpleasant and nasty stuff. But Desert Bus is a full week of using pop culture to be positive and help children, and doing it all without a single negative vibe. This is what our corner of pop culture can do and be, and I really wish that more people talking about it and in it were watching Desert Bus and taking notes.
And now onto the forum posts.
Garwulf #15, “Indies Will Be Saviors of the Game Review,” didn’t generate too heated a discussion, but it did provoke some commentary. Thunderous Cacophony wondered if indie developers courting the video games media could have any real impact:
The big articles that drive views (and thus profit) are not about the thousands of indie titles being cranked out constantly, it’s the AAA tentpoles. At the time of writing, the Binging Indie series, which has been running weekly since late August, has garnered exactly 19 comments. Meanwhile, a quick look at the Fallout 4 tag shows many articles with scores or hundreds of comments, all for a game that isn’t even out yet. Assuming some correlation between comments and views, it’s clear the profit still lies in telling people about the things they want to hear, what they want to hear is news, previews, reviews, and commentary on AAA games, and thus the big studios still have the upper hand in negotiations with the press.
Howard tended to exalt barbarism (as typified by Conan and similar characters) over “savagery” or civilization, and he did so regardless of the skin color of the barbarian in question.
Of course, while rugged individualists make for interesting characters, they tend not to make for good societies. Which one could argue Howard acknowledged in some of his King Conan stories.
The December King added :
I actually found the racism quite entertaining, if harmless, in most of Robert’s stories, as it lent a sort of base stereotyping to all of the characters — just a simple veneer to set the stage for the arguably more complex main characters. That is not to say that I don’t see how some of the portrayals might have been meant to draw modern parallels, and could be seen as quite tasteless — the Conan/Mak Morn stories involving the ‘little people’ and their possibly oriental ancestry always smacked of it the worst, in my mind.
On Facebook, Marcus Orealias disagreed that the racism of the 1930s was being subverted at all:
Howard was a racist, but his Conan stories were not a subversion of this. He also very strongly believed that simple folk, country folk, were inherently morally superior to city or ‘civilized’ people. This is why Conan won the day with his simple set of values, why all of his characters that were heroic had simple sets of values and always triumphed over ‘clever, tricksy, twisty’ city types. Howard believed Strength and Simplicity and Confronting Problems Head on were the cornerstones of virtue.
I always found it interesting that Mandy Patinkin broke before his character on Criminal Minds did, and he left the show while decrying its excessive violence and torture. […]characters in Criminal Minds do tend to get run down after a while. Patinkin’s character had a number of psychological issues related to his job (the writers have confirmed that he was based on John Douglas) while other characters are shown to have some fairly dysfunctional family lives. Hannibal has the advantage in that people watch it expecting to see people destroyed, while Criminal Minds is a show that almost always ends with justice for the victims and sets people up to heal afterwards.
And JustAnotherAardvark wondered:
Has there ever been a study of the practice of profiling serial killers that would demonstrate it was as useful as claimed?
Meaning useful in a hands-on sense: we were looking for this one person, and we caught him because we had an accurate profile, not that the profile was found to be accurate after he was caught.
Hopefully I’m wording this correctly. I enjoyed Criminal Minds for a while, and read Mindhunter and Journey into Darkness when they first came out, but I’ve run across folks comparing profiling of individuals to cold reading.
Garwulf #18, “All Aboard the Desert Bus,” didn’t get a lot of commentary, which is fine — it was a call to action with the hopes of raising lots of money for charity. So, just a couple of numbers for the followup on this one: Desert Bus 9 raised $683,719.00 for Child’s Play, with donations around the Garwulf’s Corner collection alone contributing almost $800 — and my deepest thanks and gratitude to all of my readers who helped make both those numbers happen.
Garwulf #19, “Not Like Us,” provoked a amazing discussion across the forums and Facebook, worthy of some extra coverage (and, in all seriousness, if you haven’t already done so, please read the entirety of the forum thread). On Facebook, Quoen Thaprotes took issue with my idea that in the end we can only be as good as our time and place allows:
‘Progressiveness,’ or having moral/philosophical positions similar to modern mainstream opinion, isn’t completely determined by time period. There have always been those at the fringes and extremes of society that held values that we might consider progressive even today; the madmen, the witches, the ‘libertines’ and deviants, the outcasts doomed to isolation, execution, or alienation. Harder to write stories about them though.
On the forums, Dollabillyall made a fascinating point about just how situational the term “progressive” actually is:
The term “progressive” in itself is a contested concept. Especially in American contexts it holds connotations of socialism, egalitarianism, wealth redistribution and from a more critical viewpoint a weird mix between wanting to empower the masses by taking power and responsibility away from them and giving it to what is seen as the intellectual elite by the progressive movements.
In Sudan the word progressive often has a different meaning. It is used to denote especially the bourgeois capitalists and industrialists that develop the economy and drive free market enterprise. This progress comes at the cost of what many rural Sudanese think is a wholesome, traditional way of life and they feel attacked in their culture and freedom.
[…]it illustrates finely the intricate relationship between a value system and what is deemed progressive. Progress is about movement towards YOUR goals that fit into YOUR value system but may be seen as a degeneration into evil from the point of view of a different value system. This does not mean that it is bad to chase the goals that you deem to be progress but it does mean that in doing so you have an obligation to not just be critical of competing value systems but also especially critical of the one you hold yourself.
But it was with the World Fantasy Award where most of the discussion lay. The ever-quotable Thunderous Cacophony noted:
Many people today — even grown adults with successful careers in literature — can’t remember a time when science fiction and fantasy were literally nothing more than ‘kid stuff’ and the domain of the worst sort of nerds, speculative fiction that was unrewarded except in truly exceptional cases. They can’t remember when the Hugos, the WFA, and the Nebulas were set up by fans of and contributors to the genre who didn’t think they’d ever get mainstream recognition, and how those authors worked so hard to get to where they are now. These awards were literally designed to give validation to people who never expected to get any from the traditional sources.
In the same vein, the awards today face a different issue. It’s inarguable that there tends to be fewer female and racial minority writers of speculative fiction, at least among the ranks of geek household names…you do have to wonder how Nnedi Okorafor feels having her grand reward be a statuette of a man who literally would have crossed the street rather than walk by her. The point of these awards was to recognize people who were otherwise not recognized, and replacing Lovecraft’s face with whatever abstract shape they choose may make it more welcoming.
[…]You can have a conversation about Lovecraft’s bigotry that is enlightening and educational for all sides; indeed, it’s far more valuable than dismissing him entirely because he’s racist (or, on the flip side, dismissing anyone who doesn’t like his works as oversensitive). That said, there’s a time and a place for that discussion, and it’s not with a bust on your mantelpiece.
VaporWare had a different take on Lovecraft’s racism:
I would suggest that, to the modern audience, Lovecraft’s work remains relevant in part because of his racism. Because of how it touches on the underlying sense of ‘other’ as ‘threat’ or ‘incomprehensible horror’. Because the greatest irony of Lovecraft’s work is that it was so predictive, for all that it was filtered through a lens that saw his own predictions as a terrible warning: to Lovecraft, we have, through increasingly embracing the ‘other’, become something he would see as cultish and terrible.
The fact that we now see him and his views as part of our concept of ‘terrible otherness’ is something worth keeping some thought to, because it means we are not immune to the kind of mindset he held about others, only that to the best of our ability we have tried to eschew what we hope are the real evils of our world.
Nergui found the removal of Lovecraft from the World Fantasy Award offensive, in part because of the precedent it set:
If you go down that road, perhaps other works by people with less savory personal lives are suspect[…]History is full of great men whose personal lives weren’t quite as great and this shouldn’t devalue their works.
But, I think the last word in this case should go JCAII, for what might be the best suggestion in the entire World Fantasy Award discussion, here and everywhere:
Let’s just do what they should have done in the beginning. C’thulhu statues.
Yes, old squidface himself. Replace Lovecraft with C’thulhu, replace the man with the work.
Plus, who doesn’t want a bronze C’thulhu? That’s an award worth trying to win.
Garwulf #20, “I am (Still) NOT Harlan Ellison,” veered off into a fascinating and very unexpected discussion of religion. However, some did talk about identity and public online personas. Thunderous Cacophony wrote:
Personally, I’m quite fond of online personas…I get much more enjoyment, and have much better conversations, when I filter myself through a character and add space between my true self and what is happening in a certain forum. It’s so rare to be able to redefine yourself and not only say things you wouldn’t usually say, but to hear reactions that are not based on people’s perceptions of you, that I’m tickled pink the internet was invented.
And Therumancer noted:
…if you have an online persona that’s for other people to get…[you’re] kind of blowing your own schtick if you bother to try and justify yourself by saying it’s a persona while [you’re] speaking online. Should a persona become more trouble than it’s worth one should just retire it…. though retiring a long running handle and/or persona isn’t always an easy thing to do.
And that’s it for this year! As always, the comments were wonderful, insightful, and thought provoking. And, until next installment and the new year, I’d just like to wish everybody a very happy holiday season, no matter what your religion may be, and a wonderful 2016 to come!