How to Fight Back

Allexander Hellene is one of my favorite dudes on the internet, and I endorse everything he’s written in this blog post.

But especially:

Enjoy the battle. This fight will never end. There will be losses, but there will also be victories. Celebrate the wins and keep going. Morale is important, so don’t spread despair. Blackpilling does nobody any good.

One of the things I enjoy (yes! enjoy!) about living in Corona times is that it has stripped away the illusion that we do not live in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I came to terms with this reality a year or two ago, and it sucks to realize that this world will always be a battlefield and Satan will have the upper hand more and more right up to the moment that Christ comes back…

But once you embrace it, it’s freeing. You start to put your hope in the world to come. You start to really understand how trivial and light is death.

It’s the paradox of Ecclesiastes. Everything is dust in the wind. But once you realize you’re building castles out of soap bubbles, the proper joy of building castles out of soap bubbles is revealed.

When you cannot win, you are free to do as you like. When you cannot lose, you are free to do as you like. And the Christian gets to live under both of these realities at once. This is how the martyrs go singing to their own executions. And when we win (and we have won from time to time), it is how we win.

Building Castles out of Soap Bubbles

I recently ran across a take by C.S. Lewis on eschatology. His concept of the end times is that the point of end times passages is not so that we can play Pin the Tail on the Antichrist, but to put our actions in perspective. Christ might return in a thousand years. We’d better make long-term plans and brace ourselves for the long haul. Christ might return tomorrow. We’d better not neglect our neighbor today.

His point was that it is good to plant oaks in whose shade you will never rest. But if you prioritize the long game to the point of actively harming those around you, and Christ decides to end the show tomorrow, that would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

Lewis was writing before Eugenics was a dirty word. When everyone thought “if we only let science do whatever it wishes, we shall cure death and suffering in a few years,” instead of having the general distrust for boffins in white coats which the technocrats have earned for themselves in the intervening years. At the time, the idea of breaking a few eggs to make a civilizational omelette was in vogue in a way it isn’t now (though sadly, as a culture, we’ve rejected it not because it is wrong, but because of the teh feelz).

His take, however, ties in quite well to thoughts I’ve been entertaining of late.

Continue reading “Building Castles out of Soap Bubbles”

Trojan Mice

Yesterday I read The Trojan Mouse: How Disney is Winning the Culture War by Samuel Lively.

One of my constant contentions is that the serious plays in the culture war are to play the long game by building families and making entertainment. So it seemed this book would be up my alley. And it was and then some. The book traces both the physical and ideological histories of Disney. It is of peculiar interest to me because I grew up during the Disney Rennaisance in a Baptist-adjacent family. So I caught both the Baptist Boycott denunciations of the Mouse, and the average Joe’s apathy to that boycott.

When I analyzed Disney movies for myself at the time (as a teenager, mind you,) my conclusion was that the more wildly occultic and salacious accusations were overblown (which in turn made them easy to dismiss), but the philosophical trends were real. There were no secret pentagrams in the animation, but the Mouse had switched from a default of honoring the parents to a default of undermining them.

To this very day, though, most people will look at me like a crazy person if I tell them I don’t want to take my kid to the latest Disney flick, let alone something so old that present day Social Justice Warriors find it problematic.

The Baptist Boycott didn’t work. Audiences naturally rejected the more explicitly subversive Disney Renaissance flicks organically — Hunchback and Pocahontas did not do comparatively well — but Aladdin and Mermaid did extremely well despite (despite?) having as their core value the idea that horny teens ought to ignore their parents.

To a certain degree, people will choose what is bad for them. Humanity is fallen. But to a certain degree, people will choose the good over the bad. Even the most depraved sugar addict will choose steak and vegetables over a plate of manure. People won’t, in mass and as a rule, choose nothing at all. Audiences favored Toy Story over Pocahontas. Was it because of the shiny new 3D, or because it was more in alignment with core American values? Hard to say. But Aladdin didn’t really have that kind of competition.

I’ve already made some kids’ books, and will continue to do so, but books are seeds of the culture war; the fighting happens on screens, with music and animation and acting and drama. It may be best for me to stay behind the lines planting seeds. It may be best for me to try and charge for the front line and use my animation skills. I don’t know. But in the spirit of putting that conundrum to the test, I’ve begun work on a video game, which is the best route for my skill stack to reach the screens.


Hat Trick 1: the Death of Arthur is the start of a dark Christian scifi/fantasy serial. And it has pictures! Check it out now on Amazon.

Oxygen

Rawle Nyanzi recently proposed Brand Zero. Namely: don’t promote major media. Don’t talk about them even as negative examples, because doing so promotes them and increases their brand. Nyanzi extends this not just to subversive and disgenic brands like the Mouse, but even brands he likes and respects. From his comments on Brian Niemeier’s blog:

Anime has a lot of mainstream visibility… Big, well-trafficked sites discuss anime, and it is a frequent topic on social media. Those companies need no help getting the word out; if you want to recommend an anime to someone, do so in private conversation…

The flip side of Brand Zero is Oxygen. Do talk about the little artists who can use the exposure.

Jon Del Arroz makes comic books and steampunk. Brian Niemeier does science fantasy horror and, recently, mecha military books that are Gundam meets Battletech. Rawle Nyanzi has released a mecha book with strong Sailor Moon influences and is trying his hand at pixel art animations.

Bradford C. Walker wrote a mecha book that’s Robotech, except instead of Zentraedi you have demons, and instead of the UN you have Medieval Catholics.

The Last Ancestor is about human refugees fighting for survival on a planet of dog men.

Adam Smith has Christian Paladins engaging in fisticuffs with demons in post apocalypse America. And of course, I have a dark magician bunny fighting the Night Mare.

It’s not enough to reduce the big names to Brand Zero. We’ve got to give each other oxygen.

Honoring the Muse

One struggle that lies at the heart of art, especially when you are trying to do art for a living, is the battle between art and craft. How much of your work is following the feverish commands of inspiration and how much is buckling down and taking a workmanlike approach?

I announced at a very young age that I wanted to create art. My parents, having the noblest virtues of the Boomers, responded by exposing me to documentaries and biographies of artists and how they accomplished their goals. The upshot was I became very sold on the idea that art is first and foremost craft. That putting in the work is more important than inspiration. That it is persistence, rather than passion, that matters most.

It’s all bunk. You need both. Persistence, discipline, and craft is your strong, dexterous, right hand. Without it, good luck getting anything done. Inspiration, magic, and passion is your playful left hand. Without it, your work has no life.

Good art is hard work by a thoughtful craftsman using his tools judiciously. Good art is also a magical spark, catching lightning in a bottle. If you are a writer, and you believe firmly that art is all about the magic, I suggest you immediately buy and read any book with the word “formula” in the name by Debbie Chester, and write a formula book exactly to her prescription. If you are a writer, and you believe firmly that art is all about the craft, I suggest you immediately buy and read The War of Art, and pray and meditate over it. You will not create your best work unless both hands are present and strong.

My favorite expression of this is the formulation of John C. Wright. “Like any pagan deity, the Muse requires a sacrifice. The offering you give her is words on a page, typed out daily.”

Learning on the go.

I am embarrassed that I tried (briefly) to market myself as a cover artist.

Thanks to Niemeier having a nice talk with David Stewart on nostalgia, I was introduced to David Stewart.

Thanks to David Stewart, I was introduced to some flaws in my cover art. Namely, I’m trying to make art rather than an ad.

Here’s the Hat Trick 1 cover before Stewart and after Stewart:

Changes:

  • New font! Old font says “romance”, new font says “fantasy.” Hat Trick is fantasy, not romance. For the most part.
  • Made the title bigger. Now you can read it on the Amazon Thumbnail!
  • Moved the picture to make room for the title. From now on, I have to remember that the top third to half of the frame is reserved for that title.
  • Small color balance tweaks to make it more cohesive.

With time, I would redo the picture to make it play better with the cover design, but onward and upward!

Hat Trick 1 is Done

You can get the PDF now from my patreon.

A few thoughts:

Hat Trick has the same page count as Alphabeasts. But I will be able to sell Hat Trick for $4 whereas I have to charge $15 for Alphabeasts because Hat Trick is black and white, and Alphabeasts is color. This price difference makes me consider whether producing books in black and white isn’t the best plan for now. It’s pretty darn significant.

Hat Trick was never meant as Christian fiction, though I’m putting it in that category on Amazon. I’m putting it there because some of the characters are Christian, and Christianity is true in the world of Hat Trick as I believe it to be true in this world. And its truth matters to the plot because magic is a constant and tangible presence in that world, and so prayers and grace take on an equally tangible presence. But the purpose of the story isn’t to spread the faith nor to impart good morals. Hat Trick is not a tract. Crosses glow in the presence of vampires not because I’m trying to convert you, but because I think vampires and glowing crosses are cool.

“But wait!” you say, “isn’t Hat Trick set in a world of talking animals? How is Christianity a factor in a world of talking animals?”

Yes. Here are some spoilers about my world which I don’t mind sharing as they are not directly relevant to the plot.

World Building

The Kids’ Pulp Formula, Alpha Version

We wish to write a bedtime story that will take 3-5 minutes to read, will be enjoyed by the child and parent alike, and will feature iconic and virtuous heroes, iconic and sinister villains, and iconic and cool props. We wish to write our stories fast and in bulk, for children want a bedtime story every night.

With due respect (and apologies) to Lester Dent, fragments of whose formula are scattered through mine until testing brings refinement, here is my first proposition:

Let’s do this!

Pulp for Kids?

I respect the work ethic and powers of the pulp authors. From Lester Dent, to Michael Moorcock, a lot of stories I deeply respect were written by men who had a formula for their skeleton, a deadline, and the objective of churning out prose as quickly as possible. The king of Pulp in my imagination is Burroughs, whose John Carter of Mars stories form a founding stone in my concept of manly storycraft.

I recall hearing (and will not look it up because I don’t want the myth, if it be a myth, to be dispelled) that Rudyard Kipling heard Burroughs had made a crass, marketable pastiche of his Jungle Book, namely Tarzan. Kipling responded by saying he respected the hustle.

I, too, respect the hustle. And right now, thanks to the internet and specifically Amazon, we are enjoying a Pulp Renaissance. The intersection of ebooks, email lists, and Amazon’s marketing algorithm have made it possible for a passable storyteller to at once hone his craft also and make a decent living through sheer volume of output.

But this recipe just doesn’t translate to Kids’ books. Kids want full color illustrations. Parents want physical media to hand their kids. Print on Demand means we can (as I have) dodge around the New York spinsters who gatekeep kids books, but Print on Demand paperbacks cost twice as much as the products made by Authorized presses.

But what if there was a way for children’s stories to participate in the Pulp Renaissance? Well, I think there is. I’m not going to spoil it, because the idea came from another man and would be disrespectful to let the cat out of the bag before we go to market. Feel free to speculate in the comments, though, as I’m sure it’s not the only way and I’d love to see what other people come up with.

The purpose of this post is not to figure out how to make kids’ pulp possible. The purpose of this post is, assuming kids’ pulp is possible, to create and test a formula for cranking out bedtime stories like a madman on crack whilst remaining both sane and crack-free.

Let’s establish our objectives.

Lets sort this!