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Saturday, May 03, 2014

A tale of four reviews

It's as expected as it is informative that "Opera Vita Aeterna" is meeting with entirely different receptions depending upon the reader.  For example, here is a review of the Hugo-nominated novelette from one Nerdvanel:
Apparently "Opera Vita Aeterna" is totally ungrammatical in Latin. I didn't notice any spelling errors in the story itself, but really, having errors like that in the title is bad enough. People who know anything about Latin should know that it's an inflected language and therefore those inflections should be paid attention to if a grammatical result is desired. I don't know if Vox is really that ignorant or if he just doesn't care.

Then to the epub file... Opera Vita Aeterna has a cover page. On it is a 3d-render of an ominous castle, probably meant to be the good guy monastery in the story. When you look closely, several interesting features appear. For one thing, the castle seems to have been carved from rock as a single piece. They should have used a stone texture that had cracks in it to simulate the castle having been constructed from hewn blocks, assuming that was what had happened. Then, the castle itself is terribly designed. The architect must have been incompetent beyond belief. The castle is incredibly impractical while at the same time being really ugly. I don't know how those side towers in particular got okayed or whether the explanation for the disparate window sizes is that the perspective is all off or if those lower windows are just unreasonably huge. Also, it looks like the designers had heard that castles have crenelated fortifications but don't know what they're for or what they should look like.

The lighting is really weird too. It looks like the inhabitants of the castle like to point multiple searchlights (not pictured) at the clouds. They also have other light sources (also not pictured) pointed at the castle. The light looks cold and artificial, so the universe in which the castle is situated must have at least 20th Century technology or else magic to spare on frivolous things. Neither is exactly consistent with the story.

But enough about the cover. What comes next is a series of praise blurbs for another book by Vox, A Throne of Bones.

The esteemed sources providing the blurbs:
- Two self-published authors I had never heard of, giving faint praise
- Three unpopular blogs ideologically close to Vox, one of which currently has a post on the front page talking about how Vox's racist statements totally aren't racist
- Two anonymous Amazon reviews that could have been written by just anyone

Some of the more notable contents in the blurbs:
- Putting Vox on a level with Tolkien (x1)
- Putting Vox on a level with Martin (x2)
- Saying that Vox is better than Martin (x2)

You can judge for yourself how accurate those are.

This was pretty long, so let's call this post an introduction and move to the novella itself in the next post.

The story begins in what in this world is called "853 Anno Salutis Humanae", "in the Year of the Human(e) Salvation" according to my research. The term should probably be "Anno Salutis Hominum", "in the Year of the Salvation of Humans", but apparently looking that up was too difficult. "Humanus" is an adjective, not a noun. Well, trying to be gracious here, perhaps the author was trying to imply that some unspecified but important salvation had been a humane thing to do or done by humans or that Not-Jesus had been all man and zero God. I think there's no chance of that though.

You see, Vox Day is a Christian apologist. It would be heretical to have his Not-Jesus not be fully man and fully God as the real-world doctrine has it. Also, now that I pay attention to it, I see that the story has a lot of questionable Latin in it.

And by the way, speaking of potential heresy, I think it's worth mentioning that Vox Day's name can be translated as "Voice of Godde". Vox Day is in English pronounced the same as "Vox Dei", which is Latin for "Voice of God". That sounds just a tad arrogant. I wonder what the Inquisition would have thought of it. It's like Vox is implying that all of his opinions are God's opinions. But more than that, Vox is making it sound like he is channeling God and Vox's writings are holy scripture. I thought humility was an important Christian virtue.

We finally get to the first paragraph, and it contains some really "good" material.

Quote : The pallid sun was descending, its ineffective rays no longer sufficient to hold it up in the sky or to penetrate the northern winds that gathered strength with the whispered promises of the incipient dark.

Apparently in this world suns are held up by radiation pressure. It also sounds like it should be dark. Electromagnetic radiation being unable to somehow get through thin air should have that effect, at least in a logical world.

Also, I wonder if the winds whisper different things during different times of the day or if the winds' verbal communication is limited to always repeating things like "Daaaark... Whooooosh... Daaaark..." Winds shouldn't have a brain, after all.

Quote : The first of the two moons was already visible high above the mountains. Soon Arbhadis, Night's Mistress, would unveil herself as well.

Apparently moon rays are more effectual than sun rays.

I don't know if Arbhadis is the second moon or what. We're never told. In case it is, I wonder what the first moon is called. Is it Night's Wife, Night's Other Mistress, or what? Anyway, apparently Arbhadis is already on the scene, just hidden by clouds, unless you think those mountains qualify as a metaphorical, overly thick veil. Any of this is however doesn't matter one little bit as far as the story goes. We'll never hear of Arbhadis again. After this point the author largely stops his efforts to write in an evocative language. Too bad for the lost humor value.
There is more, but you can read it there. So, that's one perspective. I will merely note that the castle on the cover is not the monastery, it is Raknarborg, the castle in which the events of "The Last Witchking", the title story of collection in which "Opera Vita Aeterna" was published, take place. I would think that the difference between a castle-fortress and a small rural abbey were obvious, but then, I would also have thought the difference between Latina and italiano are obvious too. In ogni caso, here is a second review, from Chris Gerrib:
Overall, the story is not as bad as I feared, which is small praise indeed for a Hugo-nominated work. I found the world-building a bit jarring. How much of that is my dislike for bog-standard Dark Ages European fantasy I can't really tell you. I do think the payoff - elf finishes book - was too light for the story. I had no emotional attachment to any character, so that didn't help matters. I also thought the elf's response to the slaughter of his friends was weak - no guilt at not being there to help or blaming himself for putting them at risk, for example.
And for a different perspective, here is a third review:
It is absolutely brilliant, one of the best short stories I have read in years. This is why, no matter how much I might disagree with Vox Day (or, you know, agree with people who think he can be an asshole), I can’t help but respect the man. He understands pathos, tragedy, and redemption in a way few modern authors do, and “Opera Vita Aeterna” is a short piece of great beauty. The pacing was spot on and the emotional beats hit perfectly.
Finally, a fourth review, which goes into a similar level of detail to the first review, only to reach very different conclusions.
In today’s bloodthirsty fantasy genre, all too often “guy rapes his sister next to the corpse of their murdered child” (and sadly, I’m not exaggerating) is considered the epitome of high-brow artistic sophistication. I find it encouraging and refreshing to encounter an author like Vox Day, who can craft a subtle, complex, and powerful story through the old-fashioned method of plot and character development, rather than falling back on the shock value of depravity to stimulate his readers. Vox Day has helped restore my faith in the possibility of quality contemporary fantasy.

To that end, I’ve signed up as a supporter of LONCON3. For $43, I will be a member of the group that gets to vote on the Hugo award. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to review the other nominated short stories to see if they can exceed the high bar set by Vox Day. I’m also looking forward to reviewing the nominees in the other categories. Fans and readers who have been turned off by the state of contemporary science fiction and fantasy may wish to reconsider their decision. A brash crew of insurgents, like Vox Day, working largely outside the mainstream publishing industry, are in the process of reinventing the genre.
What explains the difference between these extraordinarily different reviews of exactly the same literary work? Is it all down to politics? I don't think that is entirely the case. Certainly politics plays a part in it; it is obvious that the first reviewer is actively hunting for things to criticize. A brief mention of the world's two moons is hardly the equivalent of Chekov's Gun. What did he expect to see, Arbhadis colliding spectacularly with the first moon and a chunk of the resulting rubble plunging to earth just in time to kill the evil, hypocritical abbot before he could murder the elf in reaction to his self-loathing over having succumbed to the temptation of elven beauty?

I think the main reason for the fear and loathing seen here is that having amputated themselves from the source from which all love, awe, and wonder spring, they have no basis upon which to judge anything but mechanics and adherence to their ever-mutating principles of the moment. If you're looking for  literary pyrotechnics or the message that [insert minority of choice] can do anything that straight white men can do, only better, you're bound to be disappointed. Although I will say that if you don't see any humor in an overly literal concept of solar supports in a medievalesque story, well, I can't help you there.

Nerdvanel says he is content to let others judge for themselves whether A THRONE OF BONES is better than A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. I concur, and I'm likewise content to leave it to others to judge for themselves which of these four reviews is the most accurate.

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68 Comments:

Anonymous Speaker-To-SFWAs May 03, 2014 9:31 AM  

The rabbits are twitching so violently, at this point, it's actually closer to resembling a sort of communal grand mal seizure than it is simple fretfulness.

Anonymous Godfrey May 03, 2014 9:35 AM  

"Is it all down to politics?"


Yes

Blogger James Dixon May 03, 2014 9:40 AM  

Chris' review at least states his biases. In that regard it is a fair review. He also gives enough detail to let the reader judge for themselves whether they might like the book. Overall, I'd say the phrase "and my eyes glazed over" in his discussion of the theological discussion sums up his reaction very well.

I can't tell whether the fact that this says far more about him than it does the book may is lost on him or not.

Anonymous MrGreenMan May 03, 2014 9:44 AM  

That first review posted suggested your remarks about those with Asperger's may be tame and understated.

Blogger Kate Paulk May 03, 2014 9:48 AM  

It's rather obvious from those reviews who was able to see past their personal opinions and who wasn't. For what it's worth, I found the prose a bit jarring at first (too much "the X was something" for my tastes) but that *is* a personal taste thing and I was fully in reader trance within a couple of pages.

The whole "Oh, medieval/dark age Europe fantasy is soooo old" is pure hipster-bunk. If most fantasy used (to pull an example out of my ass) Australian Dreamtime mythos, they'd complain about that being overdone and soooo old.

As for the story, I thought it was a beautiful, evocative piece about the way friendship can grow between different people and change both. I really appreciated that you left it for the reader to decide whether the life-work did or didn't lead to the elf coming to believe. He still created a work of enduring beauty and did so for his friend.

Thank you for a thoughtful, interesting story that is significantly better than some of the previous Hugo winners. (I can't say if I think it's better or worse than the rest of the nominees in that category because I haven't read them. I can say it's a worthy nomination.)

Blogger Desiderius May 03, 2014 9:49 AM  

"no matter how much I might disagree with Vox Day"

This mandatory disclaimer is fascinating. Is it to be expected that one would agree with an author on all points? With anyone? Shouldn't this be the equivalent of saying, "no matter how much water is wet?"

How did we get to the point where one is expected to agree with everyone else, everyone respectable at least, on all points?

Blogger Desiderius May 03, 2014 9:55 AM  

"I can't tell whether the fact that this says far more about him than it does the book may is lost on him or not."

It says he falls for the omnicompetence fallacy (he doesn't know what he doesn't know) most intelligent people, including this writer, are prone to. Gerrib's just hung out with a crowd that's unlikely to curb his excesses in that particular direction.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet May 03, 2014 10:22 AM  

Desiderius May 03, 2014 9:49 AM

This mandatory disclaimer is fascinating.

I'll offer my perspective as a left-leaning individual who occasionally gives the disclaimer.

I'm often surprised how many of my leftist friends know Vox Day, but never surprised at how much they despise him. The intensity is very comical.

So sometimes I catch myself saying "I don't agree with everything Vox Day says" when talking to them because they have such a difficult time seeing that such a thing is even possible. They can't get how I respect him, but disagree at the same time. It boggles the mind.

So call it modeling good behavior on my part.

Or else, I don't feel like listening to a half hour rant that day about how racist I am because clearly I must agree with Vox on race, having enjoyed some of his books.

Either way, yeah, we're at that point.

Anonymous Pseudo-Nate May 03, 2014 10:23 AM  

The difference appears to be that the positive reviews actually read the stories, while the negative ones attacked everything else.

Anonymous VryeDenker May 03, 2014 10:24 AM  

Bloody hell, Harry. Didn't that idiot's mommy teach him not to judge a book by its cover?

Anonymous Student in Blue May 03, 2014 10:31 AM  

What explains the difference between these extraordinarily different reviews of exactly the same literary work? Is it all down to politics? I don't think that is entirely the case. Certainly politics plays a part in it; it is obvious that the first reviewer is actively hunting for things to criticize.

Yes, in a way politics play a part in it, but no it's not all down to politics.

Rather, I think it is far more accurate to state that most people's politics arise from their understanding of the human nature. Therefore, it's not really about politics per say, but the thing that politics is based on.

To read a fictional book and understand the entirety of the message, one must first understand the underlying assumptions about humanity that the author is writing with. And since most people seem to just assume that Vox Day is just a horrible mean person for no reason and honestly make no attempt to understand his rationale, what he writes will, of course, be "off" to them.

As an example, when reading various pieces of Japanese fiction, the unaccustomed western reader will find everything very nonsensical and outlandish, and as a result judge the work he's read as extremely poor. But, when understanding common notions about 'nakama', the honorific system of addressing people, and the attitude of Japanese towards weapons and the "spirit of the weapon", you understand far more about what's being said, and what's being implied in the background. The same piece of fiction that was moments ago being labeled as extremely poor, now has become something far more.

Now, unrelated to that, I count myself as one of those that cannot tell a difference between Italian and poor Latin. Is there any way you could throw a poor reader of your books a bone, in that case? Like, say, on the title page beneath the title, there's a line in a much smaller font, going (from Italian, meaning "(insert English here)") ?

Blogger Hermit May 03, 2014 10:31 AM  

And by the way, speaking of potential heresy, I think it's worth mentioning that Vox Day's name can be translated as "Voice of Godde". Vox Day is in English pronounced the same as "Vox Dei", which is Latin for "Voice of God". That sounds just a tad arrogant. I wonder what the Inquisition would have thought of it. It's like Vox is implying that all of his opinions are God's opinions. But more than that, Vox is making it sound like he is channeling God and Vox's writings are holy scripture. I thought humility was an important Christian virtue.

Wow that's what I call overthinking, superficial overthinking to be precise.
Vox populi vox Dei.
Also that first review reminds me of some of those awful Russel's books I used to read as a young liberal: full of specious attacks made ​​using completely irrelevant details.

Anonymous Daniel May 03, 2014 10:37 AM  

What shatters my heart and soul is this: the same people who can write such spectacularly misfiring reviews are often the sort who are writing such spectacularly boring fiction. I really wish they would play to their strengths and stick to the blind hate rants instead of clogging up the fiction line with passionless nerd romances that neither appeal to men nor women. Those rants are actually fun, and the 10 months of development that they waste on novels is tragic.

As to the proper reviews above, I can't commend them for being proper - because that's what a review is for - but I can commend them for being fruitful. Chris' summary review of the "payoff" says more about his limitations as a reader in that instance, but at least it is a fair assessment of his limitations. The third review contains unnecessary qualifiers but catches all the pacing and "payoffs" that Chris honestly missed. The fourth one highlights the subtle craft.

A good critic isn't there to help you skip the book: he is there to help you read it.

OpenID luagha May 03, 2014 10:43 AM  

From the first review: "That sounds just a tad arrogant."

From my experience, whenever you are accused of being arrogant, that's how you know you're right.

OpenID cailcorishev May 03, 2014 10:52 AM  

Apparently "Opera Vita Aeterna" is totally ungrammatical in Latin.

"Apparently"? So he doesn't know the first declension, which is literally chapter 1 or 2 in every first-year Latin textbook, but he still feels the need to spend a paragraph pompously preaching about it? That's just trying way too hard.

And then two paragraphs about how the cover doesn't match the story exactly. Has he never seen a fantasy novel before? It's pretty much a running joke in the industry that the covers never match the stories.

Vox Day is in English pronounced the same as "Vox Dei"

No, stupid, "Dei" in Latin is two syllables, day-ee. Rhymes with payee.

He could have saved himself a lot of typing and replaced this whole thing with, "I have no sense of humor or artistic imagination."

Anonymous VD May 03, 2014 11:03 AM  

Now, unrelated to that, I count myself as one of those that cannot tell a difference between Italian and poor Latin.

Probably because Italian is corrupted Latin. I don't know Latin. I don't pretend to. When I want to get the Latin right, I consult a Latin expert. There is a boatload of correct Latin in Summa Elvetica.

Opera Vita Eterna is obviously Italian, although not as obviously as if I'd called it "Un Lavoro della Vita Eterna". What apparently confuses people is that I threw an AE on there, which made them think it was supposed to be "aeternus".

Now, apparently Cella Mundus is simply incorrect Latin, although apparently incorrect Latin to which Italians are prone. I didn't bother consulting the usual experts on this one. But they're just looking to DISQUALIFY DISQUALIFY, so it doesn't really matter what they seize upon. Notice that he was specifically looking for spelling errors, but couldn't find any, to his disappointment.

Anonymous NWO May 03, 2014 11:04 AM  

Everything must be gay, or else. Your story is not gay thus evil.

Anonymous Northern Observer May 03, 2014 11:09 AM  

One tell that Nerdvanel is someone who's been around VP is his exposé of the heretical translation of 'Vox Day'. He's too careful to avoid outright saying that Vox Day means Voice of God. Instead he says "can be translated".

Probably not one of the banned trolls though. Not bitter enough.

Anonymous MrGreenMan May 03, 2014 11:11 AM  

They don't get the joke yet? I assumed they would get the theme of a mash-up of languages, and "Vox Day", in addition to being unique in the search engines, is a joke about the voice of the times, related to the quote that's been at the bottom of the blog forever. I thought Vox Popoli was a joke about how Vox lives in Italy now, as Popoli is an Italian village. But, again, they're too afraid of not being the smartest guy in the room to imagine there's a hidden joke in there.

Anonymous trev006 May 03, 2014 11:16 AM  

Vox, I'm sorry, but despite my having previously defended you for the interesting philosophical messages found in all three stories of TLW, I have to agree with Nerdvanel that overall the book is subpar.

Your castle has sharp knees.

Yes, I know that's JartStar's fault. Yes, lesser minds may think the ominous magical lighting casually dispensed by a malevolent sorceror looks cool and imposing. Yes, lesser minds should be impressed at the level of detail that implies a fortress of evil was wrenched in one piece from the very cliffs with black magic, from a man wholly unconcerned with human notions of form or function, secure in the knowledge that a far greater power than mere stone guarantees his security. Yes, we need to blame JartStar (can't really overdo this point). A lesser mind might perhaps consider whether their assumptions about the monastery were wrong, especially given the title of the book and certainly before dedicating a paragraph to it in a review that exposes the author to the risk of appearing a rabbity toolbox, but as a supergenius just a bit under Nerdvanel's ability I know that you will understand.

Of course, I'd be a little more sympathetic. I mean, you did put a frivolous demon rape in one of your short stories. Two, as a matter of fact, including incestuous demon bestiality rape! I'm just... I don't know what these people want anymore!

Anonymous Student in Blue May 03, 2014 11:19 AM  

Opera Vita Eterna is obviously Italian, although not as obviously as if I'd called it "Un Lavoro della Vita Eterna". What apparently confuses people is that I threw an AE on there, which made them think it was supposed to be "aeternus".

Ah, yes. My brain is definitely registering "Opera Vita Eterna" as not Latin, and thus probably Italian. Not sure why you threw that AE on there, and I have a niggling feeling that you won't be inclined to share why.

And yes, he's looking for things to disqualify the work. I brought the title up however as it confused me, and I couldn't even do a handy (but clunky) computer translation of it.

(Mea culpa, I have yet to read Opera Vita Aeterna)

Anonymous Red Comet May 03, 2014 11:20 AM  

I think that first reviewer might have Asperger's.

Blogger tz May 03, 2014 11:23 AM  

Peter Kreeft, an orthodox Catholic professor of philosophy has also written a novel. The problem is that although it might otherwise qualify as "Blue SF/F", its protagonist is a Muslim (accurately portrayed).

Considering the reaction to Subway, Politics trumps Quality.

AToB failed for me - it was all blue, but had some really bad spots and where the blue elements didn't merge.

I can describe why Selenoth collectively is a 3 for me, but I don't see the point if I talk plot and character weaknesses as well as strengths (AToB is two disjoint 5 star works blended with a longer 1 star work), and the only thing important is that it is blue.

Is it a contest between the great (up) and the banal (down), or the left and the right?

Blogger The Aardvark May 03, 2014 11:23 AM  

The first reviewer:

The lateral lisp is strong in this one.

Anonymous Dick D May 03, 2014 11:24 AM  

That first reviewer has a crippling case of Asperger's. A common malady among the genre readership.

If you're autistic, you're won't "get" the story. If you're mildly autistic you'll complain the payoff was "too light."

I don't think politics necessarily entered into either of those reviews.

Anonymous VD May 03, 2014 11:24 AM  

Not sure why you threw that AE on there, and I have a niggling feeling that you won't be inclined to share why.

The funny thing is that in the past, I've even heard people say that "Psykosonik" is spelled wrong.

Blogger Bob May 03, 2014 11:30 AM  

I quit reading science fiction twenty-five years ago. It got so bad - IMO - that to this day I have not read another sci-fi or fantasy offering from anybody.

So far, all this hubbub over the Hugo nominations has not moved me sufficiently to take a peek at any of it, one side or the other.

I think I'll wait until the dust settles, see who won, and then took a look at what's offered.

To satisfy my desire to read, I started reading up on ancient history. At least there were no 100 pound feminist anti-white male hating lesbians with Masters Degrees in something running around with vampire teeth and thighs of steel that were capable of knocking out an Abrams battle tank in ancient history, legends and myths maybe, history no.

None the less, this dust-up between Beale and all those pink shirted rabbits is good reading..

Anonymous Don May 03, 2014 11:37 AM  

Why the hell does Ensign Chekov keep a gun around on the wall for people to shoot each other with? I mean how many times does it have to happen for him to get the idea? I am as strong a Second Amendment supporter as anyone you'll find but even I think he should get a lock on his gun rack and trigger locks on his guns.

And what's with the guns anyway? It's Sulu's hobby to collect old weapons. Chekov specifically disparages chemical fired weapons on at least one occasion as 'obsolete antiques'. I'm thinking if he just quit leaving the damn things around out in the open people would quit using them to murder people with.

It's almost guaranteed that once somebody lays his eyes on them before too long somebody gets shot. Its like a principle or a law or something.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 03, 2014 11:38 AM  

Ha! I'm happy to see my brief review made it on.

In any case, I am VERY conservative, and while I think he's an asshole (something I actually doubt he's disagree with) I don't think he's a racist, and do think his reaction to the SFWA thing has been proportionate. To that end, I absolutely have been supporting him throughout this Hugo process, which I watch with increasing delight.

I disagree with Vox a lot, but I agree with him a lot too - for example, I thought his Syria analysis was spot on, and like I said the Hugo thing. I think his thoughts on race have some merit but I do think he takes certain distinctions too far (I don't buy his whole sub-species thing).

But, I did indeed love ths story. Philosophy, good dialogue, interesting characters, and a good fantasy setting are all right up my alley.

I think that first review was trash. The reviewer never intended to give the story a chance.

I can promise you that if I hated the story, I would have said so. But I didn't.

Anonymous Don May 03, 2014 11:51 AM  

trev006 - So you are saying you would not 'hit' that castle?

Bob- You've got it wrong. I have been trying to get the phrase '90lb pixie' out there. I don't think I coined it but I am pushing it. 90lb pixie reads better I think but more importantly has an implied sneer that links it back to the '98 pound weakling' of the Charles Atlas adverts. I like the traditional things in life. Come to think of it 98lb pixie might be a better term. Hmm.

Anonymous Student in Blue May 03, 2014 12:01 PM  

The funny thing is that in the past, I've even heard people say that "Psykosonik" is spelled wrong.

Oh dear heavens. Oh my stars and garters.

Did you not realize that it's spelled "Psychosonic"?

I'm afraid I am forced to give you a negative review in the next Rolling Stone.

On a more serious note, is it feasible to throw a bone to the readers when you have a title in a foreign language, and give a rough translation in English (or whatever language the rest of the work is in)? Being the title of the work, I think it's far more relevant to the work that the readers know what it means exactly, whereas words like 'Cella Mundus' (I'm guessing this is the name of the castle or abbey) are (probably) more important in what they do in the story rather than how they are named, and shouldn't need intrusive Authors' Notes in the middle of the story translating them.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 03, 2014 12:05 PM  

The third review contains unnecessary qualifiers but catches all the pacing and "payoffs" that Chris honestly missed.

The qualifiers were there because it wasn't really a pure review so much as a review AND a brief bit on my thoughts on the Hugo nomination in general and what it meant. I think it makes me look like I'm more sour on Vox then I really am - I'm actually very conservative.

Anonymous Don May 03, 2014 12:09 PM  

In all seriousness, the story is good with elements of greatness but you have to be at a minimum at least open to Christian values to get it. I think that is the disconnect. A disconnect that is either deliberate or unintentional but either way real.

John Wright responded to a comment of mine at his site with an observation I can no longer perfectly remember or I would quote it more exactly. However, the essence is, is that our battle with the anti-Christians is never ending because simply by existing we remind them of all the things they are not and cannot be and it shames them.

Either they are lying to themselves about what is Truth and Beauty and our celebration of God's Grace shames their sneers and works of ugliness because they cannot match the beauty we are groping towards. Or they are lying to others and they know God's Grace and the beauty of his world is real and they are shamed because they are cowards or petulant children and unable or unwilling to acknowledge the Truth right in front of their noses and only by willful blindness can the pretend it doesn't exist. As long as we exist, those whom the Holy Spirit has filled with His fire so bright that it shines forth in our words, our Works, our daily lives, as long as we create art that celebrates that they are reminded of the pettiness, the weakness, and the ultimate and inherent falsity of their chosen path.

Everything that Western Civilization has ever done with Christian love must be undone for them to be able to forget we exist or ever existed and they will no longer feel that shame.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 03, 2014 12:10 PM  

This mandatory disclaimer is fascinating. Is it to be expected that one would agree with an author on all points? With anyone?

As I said above, two things:

1) It makes me sound more sour on Vox then I really am - I actually agree with him on quite a bit as well, and fully supported him during the SFWA debacle.

2) It was not a pure review, but a review and a very brief thought on what I thought of the nomination as a whole. I thought it relevant to mention my disagreement because so many other people disagreed with him and refused to give the time of day.

NorthernHamlet,

Thanks for the brief defense, but like I said above the disclaimer wasn't for exactly the same reasons as your disclaimer.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 03, 2014 12:12 PM  

Put another way -

Wouldn't Vox himself agree with characterization of him as an asshole? I always thought he rather embraced it. Doesn't he refer to himself as a cruelty artist?

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 03, 2014 12:15 PM  

Okay, okay, last one unless somebody decides to respond to me. From earlier in the post linked to:

I have never read Vox before, but I did read all about his expulsion from the SFWA. It was a load of utter horseshit. He was expelled basically because he not only wasn’t liberal, he could also be mean sometimes. His nomination is a rare case of justice, at least in a small way, being served.

Anonymous VD May 03, 2014 12:19 PM  

Wouldn't Vox himself agree with characterization of him as an asshole? I always thought he rather embraced it. Doesn't he refer to himself as a cruelty artist?

No, not really. I can behave like one, certainly, but it's not my default setting. I simply don't object to people calling me that if they like. It seems to escape most people's attention that I very seldom initiate the use of personal insults.

Blogger LibertyPortraits May 03, 2014 12:21 PM  

That first review is the epitome of pedantic.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 03, 2014 12:24 PM  

I simply don't object to people calling me that if they like.

Heh, fair enough. Good attitude.

At any rate, I'll put it this way - I respect you quite a bit, and so by my comment I didn't mean that you were always and everywhere an asshole all the time. You make too many good points for that to really be the case. And I hope that position was made clear by the other, positive things I wrote about you.

Anonymous Hound's Tooth Check May 03, 2014 12:25 PM  

Are you under the impression that Vox Day is the first person in the history of SFWA who's said mean things to people?

Umm.. that's not actually the case. Oh, boy, is it not actually the case.

Vox got kicked out because he said mean things to the "important" people. "Speaking truth to power", one might say.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 03, 2014 12:30 PM  

Are you under the impression that Vox Day is the first person in the history of SFWA who's said mean things to people?

No, the difference is that he was not only a conservative - he was a conservative who didn't take shit from people, and when people insulted him he had no issue insulting them right back. Therein lies the difference.

You have a point too, though.

Anonymous Jeremiah May 03, 2014 12:56 PM  

That first reviewer pretends to understand fortress design as well as art, but judging from his critique of the cover, it's clear he has little understanding of either. By his standards, there hasn't been a book cover published that would pass muster. Strict realism of lighting and atmosphere all too often results in a boring image. Also, one quick image search of "Gothic castle" will provide real world proof that he's talking out of his ass.

Blogger RobertT May 03, 2014 1:06 PM  

" Is it all down to politics? "

Politics isn't the right word, but you can see in all but one of these reviews that the reviewer probably had his mind made up before he even read the piece, if he even did. That single exception is what everyone hopes for, but there are not many truly open minded people. Most people approach things with their biases solidly in place. If you spent any time in or around politics, you can learn to read the biases from all the way across the ballroom.

Anonymous Don May 03, 2014 1:32 PM  

Andrew's back.

Anonymous VD May 03, 2014 1:43 PM  

Andrew's back.

Easily dealt with. Apparently he didn't take me seriously. C'est la vie. This should be entertaining.

Blogger Harry Stotle May 03, 2014 1:50 PM  

@the wind whispered

"Lol, it's just laughably bad writing. Also, your arrogant pose on just about everything else naturally makes people want to cut you down in whatever other earnest effort you might make. It's no great mystery, it's just human nature."

Well, no actually. His "arrogant pose" only makes competitively arrogant posers react in that way. Anyone else merely looks around the pose to find the truth lurking behind the feigned pretense.

Anonymous Don May 03, 2014 2:48 PM  

I have to say one more thing about the story. The pay off is not that 'the elf finished a book' but that he found the light of God reflected in his lost friend and was able to convey that in his art.

That's why I say unless you are a Christian you cannot see all the beauty in the world. All the magic, all the truly supernatural that is all around you is as invisible as atomic particles if you do not see God's hand in Creation.

I had a pastor that for years before becoming a parish priest lived in a monastery. After he drowned in a car accident and was brought back to life he suffered some brain damage. He was I believe not by nature a public speaker. He was a solitary man who truly was suited to the contemplative life.

He struggled every single day he spoke before the congregation. He sometimes forgot where he was in a prayer and started from where he last remembered. He as awkward and diffident in a crowd. But the light of the Holy Spirit shone from him like a beacon. A Christian, even one as alien as an immortal elf can see the light of the Creator. That's why all the rest of the elves are so puzzled by it. With all their magic vision, with all their age old knowledge and books they lack the capacity to see what is right in front of them for what it is.

That's why a reviewer can say, 'The pay off is the elf finishes a book' and see none of the sacred magic right in front of him.

Anonymous Seymour Butz May 03, 2014 3:32 PM  

Hoooooly shit, that first review. Nerdvanel could win a gold medal in the Pedantry Olympics. If not for the fact that his own writing seems to flow naturally and doesn’t exhibit the telltale godawful awkwardness, I would have SWORN that boy had Asperger’s.

Anonymous Krul May 03, 2014 3:39 PM  

I'm actually trying to imagine a review that's more pedantic and superficial than Nerdvanel's. Maybe if he had gone over each individual letter with a microscope.

Blogger ÆtherCzar May 03, 2014 4:07 PM  

Thanks, Vox, for quoting my review (the fourth one) and for writing such an interesting story. My suspicion is that you intended the ending to be deliberately ambiguous regarding Bessarias' motivations, leaving it to the reader and the reader's world view to decide whether the elf was motivated by pagan loyalty, honor, and friendship or by a genuine religious conversion. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some subtlety I missed that that should have tipped me off. Would you mind clarifying?

Also, an interesting experiment is underway. Just after you retweeted my review, Instapundit retweeted a different review I wrote of a different book. So far the page views are running 58:3 in your favor. You appear to have much more engaged followers.

Anonymous Tim Maughan May 03, 2014 4:27 PM  

Defend vox day's politics to me and I'll disagree. Defend the quality of his writing and I'll disagree and fucking laugh at you.

Anonymous kh123 May 03, 2014 4:43 PM  

Defend Andrew's writing ability and I'd say "Yes, but Macy's needs their catalog descriptions too, you know..."

Blogger Desiderius May 03, 2014 4:59 PM  

"we remind them of all the things they are not and cannot be and it shames them."

Heh - not so much. They're shameless and proud of it.That's the payoff in their eyes. Their gospel is that you can be too. Its a higher consciousness.

"Defend vox day's politics to me and I'll disagree. Defend the quality of his writing and I'll disagree and fucking laugh at you."

Hate to break it to you, champ, but you're the one on defense this go round. something tells me you have a lot more experience being offensive, so the practice should do you good.

Anonymous GG May 03, 2014 5:03 PM  

VD, may I just say a couple of things? It was a lovely story, very subtle and sophisticated, elegant, charming. Ignore your critics and write like that more often.

Back when President Obama wrote his book and Sarah Palin wrote hers, several bloggers conducted an experiment. We took the words from the President's book and represented them as an excerpt from Palin. The response was predictable, when they thought Dreams From My Father had been written by Palin, it was called garbage, mocked, reviled. Even the ideas expressed were said to be ignorant and right wing. Later we reversed the experiment, some excerpts of Palin's book were presented as having been written by President Obama. Suddenly it became the greatest work of literature ever. The intelligence, the depth, the deep understanding of politics...

The mindset in the world today, is a bit like the mindset of some atheists. What you seek, you will find. If your mind is closed to the idea of God, He could be standing right in front of you and you still will not see Him. Books and stories are like that, if you are bound and determined to hate something, you will hate it whether it is good or not, and you will find things in it to justify your hatred.

Blogger Desiderius May 03, 2014 5:06 PM  

Malcolm,

"Thanks for the brief defense"

No one is attacking you. everybody (with the exception of the ilk, usually) uses the disclaimer - especially conservatives. Don't take it personally. Likewise, I'm sure Vox doesn't need reassurances of your fealty. You weren't attacking him either.

This is the difference between rabbit and Man.

Anonymous Hound's Tooth Check May 03, 2014 5:22 PM  

"Defend the quality of his writing and I'll disagree and fucking laugh at you."

Says the man with the lordly 410,867 Amazon sales rank.

The Last Witchking by Vox Day: 51,439 sales rank, 60 reviews, average 4.4 stars.

Paintwork by Tim Maughan: 410,867 sales rank, 15 reviews, 4.5 stars.

Next.

Anonymous VD May 03, 2014 6:11 PM  

Would you mind clarifying?

Yes. Because some of these things are the subject matter for Book Two. But for more Bessarias, read "Master of Cats" in SUMMA ELVETICA.

Defend vox day's politics to me and I'll disagree. Defend the quality of his writing and I'll disagree and fucking laugh at you.

Well, I can't imagine anyone not being convinced by that eloquent rhetoric. Do you rabbits simply not grasp that non-rabbits don't live in fear of the derisive rejection of others? Especially the derisive rejection of those who substitute laughter for coherent discourse.

Anonymous Hound's Tooth Check May 03, 2014 6:55 PM  

A sample of Mr. Maughan's writing:

http://arcfinity.tumblr.com/post/32669420369/in-arc-1-3-commerce-and-mayhem-join-hands-in-tim

It reads like something that William Gibson and Philip K.. Dick might have written during, and thrown away after, a week-long paint-huffing session.

Anonymous dh May 03, 2014 7:02 PM  

Chris G. review was not bad in that he acknowledges he as no clue what the topic is. That's at least honest. It really comes down to those people who have had enough of flat one dimensional religious depictions in most fantasy works, where religion is 1-to-1 aligned to the humanoid like race, and a more realistic complex one.

The problem is most fantasy authors can't imagine anyone in the real world converting, let alone understand what that's like in their world.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 03, 2014 10:03 PM  

No one is attacking you.

Ha, I've seen you guys attack people. Believe me, I KNOW I wasn't attacked.

I don't have any special loyalty to Vox either. I just don't hate him, and even agree with him fairly often. That I don't think he's the spawn of Satan puts me at odds with the liberals, and that makes me happy.

Blogger Outlaw X May 03, 2014 11:08 PM  

There is more, but you can read it there.

The ignorant bastards calling you ignorant don't even have a clue how many of your books they are or will sell. Gandhi knew this well. Can you tell me where I can find some tax free salt? They are idiots, and make me laugh. I was getting a bit tired of all this book stuff, until I finally understood what you were doing as well as teaching.

Anonymous Eric Ashley May 04, 2014 12:13 AM  

O/T and asked before (but I did not find the responses)....I have a friend, an Antwerpen, who at my recommendation read OVA. Now he wants to know what to read next.

I would say he's not afraid of long pages as he described OVA as 'a mere fifty pages'.

Anonymous VD May 04, 2014 3:18 AM  

Now he wants to know what to read next.

Probably SE. Then ATOB.

Anonymous Speaker-To-SFWAs May 04, 2014 3:54 AM  

Back when President Obama wrote his book and Sarah Palin wrote hers, several bloggers conducted an experiment. We took the words from the President's book and represented them as an excerpt from Palin. The response was predictable, when they thought Dreams From My Father had been written by Palin, it was called garbage, mocked, reviled. Even the ideas expressed were said to be ignorant and right wing. Later we reversed the experiment, some excerpts of Palin's book were presented as having been written by President Obama. Suddenly it became the greatest work of literature ever. The intelligence, the depth, the deep understanding of politics...

I remember this fondly. The exposure of their hypocrisy (x2) was nothing short of delicious. ;)

Blogger bethyada May 04, 2014 5:27 AM  

Spelling error (if not mentioned previously) location 1535 on Kindle.

sorry for th demon.

Castalia version. Previous version just says felt sorry for it.

Anonymous VD May 04, 2014 6:23 AM  

Thanks, Bethyada. I'd corrected it, but forgotten to upload it. Update your Kindle file.

Anonymous twitter May 04, 2014 12:43 PM  

"@damiengwalter: You should feel a little pity for Vox Day. He will never have the self-awareness to admit he can’t write, and so he’ll never learn."

Blogger JCclimber May 05, 2014 2:58 PM  

The Aspergers is strong with the first reviewer.
At first I thought it was a female writing, because of the passive-aggressive tone. As I continued to read, I realized it was merely the full-court display of someone who is pedantic and woefully naive.

I'm guessing around 17 or 18 years old, based on a generous bump up as I put myself back in time and recall that when I was around 12 or 13 I held similar views about cover art for my books. It wasn't until I was 14 or 15 that I realized that it was rare for the cover art to accurately reflect the way things were described in the book.

It wasn't until the last few years that I found out that the author rarely even has a say in what the cover art will be for their novel.

This poor idiot doesn't have the excuse that the internet wasn't in play yet, so they are really just naive and pedantic.

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