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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Mailvox: Sociosexuality and Selenoth

Cogitans Iuvenis was the first of several to ask:
So how would you classify each character in Throne of Bones.
My own work tends to illustrate the intrinsic challenge of writing outside one's rank. Let's look at the perspective characters first:

Marcus Valerius: too soon to tell. Either Alpha or Sigma.
Valerius Corvus: Alpha, but less Alpha than his brother Magnus
Valerius Fortex: Alpha
Severus Aulan: Beta
Theuderic: Sigma
Lodi: Beta
Meerfin: Delta

Non-perspective characters:

Valerius Magnus: Alpha
Severus Patronus: Alpha
Charles-Philippe de Mirid: Alpha
Skuli Skullbreaker: Alpha

Now, considering that it is a book that concerns a considerable quantity of kings, aristocrats, and generals, it is entirely appropriate that the characters should be weighted towards the Alpha rank. But I think the book would be better, and more interesting, if a broader range of characters were portrayed, so long as they were portrayed accurately according to their socio-sexual profile.

The challenge is that it is no easier for an Alpha to convincingly write a Gamma than vice-versa. Or for the Delta to write a Sigma, etc. Just as the Gamma writes paper Alphas, the Alpha is likely to write excessively sniveling Gammas that don't do justice to either the observable exterior or the rich, self-centered interior.

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47 Comments:

Anonymous Sveinung March 07, 2015 6:31 AM  

What about Marcus cousin that also appeared in Summa (not sure about the name) that now is about to marry a girl from House Severus?

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler March 07, 2015 7:13 AM  

Just curious, almost OT, are alphas psychopaths? Aren't all psychopaths/sociopaths, alphas? I heard that a lot of business men are closet psychopaths that have found a decent way to channel their drives. Just wonderin'.

Anonymous Allabaster March 07, 2015 7:31 AM  

Been a while since I read atob, what about the master of cats?

Anonymous Ridip March 07, 2015 7:54 AM  

Caught an episode of Revolution last night called, "Sex and Drugs". The bearded fellow was a perfect example of the Fantasy Gamma from yesterday. The "Alpha" was just an alpha shell seen through the eyes of a gamma. I bet my wife that the writer had that characters personality type because the others are rather empty.

The interesting thing is that the guy that created it is the same fellow that did Supernatural. I think Sam? on Supernatural is the other character that best matched his personality and comparing the two it seems he has degraded over time.

The show is totally Pink, but if you want to understand gamma a little more it may be worth wasting 45 minutes on that episode.

Blogger JartStar March 07, 2015 9:19 AM  

I never thought of Lodi as a Sigma. He didn't seem outside of dwarf society enough mentally just physically due to his abduction and missions.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2015 10:14 AM  

He doesn't go back, JartStar. A normal dwarf would have disappeared underground after so long an imprisonment above ground. Also, look at his actions during the Siege of Iron Mountain in SE.

Anonymous Krul March 07, 2015 10:17 AM  

But do they know that Riker turned down command of a ship?

Anonymous Billy March 07, 2015 10:32 AM  

I guess it can be a matter of perspective, but I would also consider Lodi definitely a sigma. How would yall classify Graven Tower from a Man disrupted.

Blogger Vox March 07, 2015 10:45 AM  

Yeah, I didn't really think through that very well. Lodi isn't separated from dwarf society due to his nature, but due to his experiences. He left because he was still grieving over the female dwarf who was killed in the siege, then he was captured and forcibly prevented from returning. He returned at the first opportunity and then was a) paid to retrieve the captured dwarves and b) sent out by the King due to his experience of the Above. And he still considers himself to be of the Kingsguard.

So, he is clearly a Beta.

Blogger Dewave March 07, 2015 10:52 AM  

"Just curious, almost OT, are alphas psychopaths? Aren't all psychopaths/sociopaths, alphas? "

It should be obvious this is not the case.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2015 10:55 AM  

I suspect Sigmas are more popular among readers than Alpha protagonists. Especially these days, but probably always. Believable Alphas are somewhat constrained in what they can do, since they have to operate within the expectations of society. Sigmas have a wider range of action.

Blogger Vox March 07, 2015 11:14 AM  

Aren't all psychopaths/sociopaths, alphas?

No. Not even close.

Anonymous PA March 07, 2015 11:18 AM  

The Hierqrchy as outlined in the origina 2011 post closely ties various male delusions about women to some of the lower ranks -- such as deltas and gammas tending to idealize women.

Should red pill/game knowledge become common knowledge, will that shake things up a bit in how the hierarchy is set up? My guess is 'not much' because that hierarchy defines men's position relative to other men; female attraction is a secondary factor.

Anonymous PA March 07, 2015 11:21 AM  

"I suspect Sigmas are more popular among readers than Alpha protagonists."

The sigma appeals to the reader's sense of adventure because he is apparently unencumbered by responsibilities.

"Aren't all psychopaths/sociopaths, alphas?"

Alphas care or at least feel responsible for their followers.

Blogger maniacprovost March 07, 2015 11:22 AM  

People with less emotional reaction to the nonsense around them, and little concern for others may be called sociopaths by laymen on the internet, but they aren't.

Anonymous The Old Sarge March 07, 2015 11:29 AM  

What? No Lone Wolf characters? :-)

Anonymous Earl March 07, 2015 12:01 PM  

Sigmas may lend well to the current post modern fashion of writing "gritty" anti-heroes in every story. In earlier fashions it was the alpha with his ironclad ethics that was fashionable: Superman, Captain America, Lone Ranger.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2015 12:02 PM  

Aren't all psychopaths/sociopaths, alphas?

Alphas are no more psychopathic than other men (probably less so in fact), but I suspect their non-lethal conributions to the field are noticed far more often than other ranks. Especially by women and gammas, who are especially prone to the Apex Fallacy.

Blogger macengr March 07, 2015 12:05 PM  

Speaking for myself, while I do like Sigmas - i.e., Conan - I also like a story where the main character is an Alpha that can rally and get the loyalty of his troops. A good alpha, mind you, not an anti-hero. I don't like those at all. I suspect it's because that's the kind of alpha I'd like to have been.

Anonymous Eric Ashley March 07, 2015 12:05 PM  

Wheeler, you'd be interested in Ringo's Posleen War series, the elite elf-like aliens are pschyos who were genetically limited by superior aliens to prevent war, so instead they practise business with a maximum of cruelty and power-mongering.

Knowing more of Roman history than the average high school student, I'm not up to making a detailed suggestion. But surely there are folk in a rather unjust and cruel society (see Gladiatorial games) who due to a lack of social understanding have been grievously mistreated, and now view the rest of Selenothian society as A. with distant pity OR B. potential sacrifices to the Dark One!!

Another example, I think, is the David Drake series, RCN Series, with Captain Leary, undoubted Alpha, and his aide, Adele Mundy, who is Omega. The only reason she has not joined her young sister and parent's head on Traitor's Rock was she was off planet at the time. Now her only concerns are 1. Helping her Alpha. 2. The Honor of the Mundy's which usually means threatening to kill anyone who insults her. 3. Playing with data. and 4. Deciding not to kill herself.

Her assistant is even more out there than she is. A full blown sociopath who obeys Mundy because Mundy tells her when its ok to kill someone.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2015 12:06 PM  

. In earlier fashions it was the alpha with his ironclad ethics that was fashionable: Superman, Captain America, Lone Ranger.

Captain America perhaps, but Superman was an outsider and the Lone Ranger's very name maybe should tip you off he wasn't a part of the heirarchy. Alphas don't generally have secret identities...

Anonymous Jill March 07, 2015 12:33 PM  

Do you use the same hierarchy for females/female characters?

I have to stop myself from always writing what you call "sigmas, deltas, and betas" when it comes to male characters (at least I believe that to be the case, but I'm really more studied in archetypes and personality types). I have tried to write alphas and generally come up with sigmas instead. Oh, well. Still trying.

Anonymous Mike M. March 07, 2015 12:40 PM  

I think the real drama comes from characters having to develop, sometimes against their inclinations. Marcus Valerius strikes me as a Sigma forced into an Alpha position. He does his duty, though.

Blogger Vox March 07, 2015 12:47 PM  

Do you use the same hierarchy for females/female characters?

No. They don't apply. The female hierarchy is more based on a) physical appearance, b) the status of the primary man in the woman's life, and c) the ability to manipulate others.

The wife of an alpha male has more status with women than a female CEO.

Anonymous GreyS March 07, 2015 12:59 PM  

Book-wise, this whole thing has been instructive and helpful even with all the grey areas and various muddled perspectives. It takes a real craftsman to break out of his own type and see characters as people and not as mere extensions of self or wishful thinking.

It's interesting to think of the various hurdles each type has to overcome in order to write effectively about other types. Gammas seem to be especially handicapped in writing other type perspectives-- their envy gets in the way of allowing themselves to truly understand others. Rothfuss is a perfect example of completely f'ing it up out of lazy self-centeredness. But then, the goals are different for each type of person and those goals come out for that person in everyday life-- be it an author or any other type of career. The Gamma writer has completely different aims, writes characters and stories with those aims, then other Gammas buy his books and cheerlead him on for their own aims.

In other words-- The first question would seem to have been one of "Which type of author would break out of self to write the best books?" But in reality some types could care less about breaking out of self for craft purposes--they want to reinforce their own perspectives using their books, just as they would if they weren't authors but working in public relations or advertising etc etc. (see Scalzi).

What's the goal for the author? Gammas seem completely uninterested in producing great work which brings insight and understanding of the human condition. It seems to me that a well-adjusted Delta would be naturally more of a pro, craft-wise, and produce the most well-balanced stories appealing to varied audiences. I figure Sigmas would produce more insightful and interesting stuff but I learned long ago that the % of people who think like I do about books, music and movies is pretty low indeed.

Which brings me to the other great point about this subject-- matching book recommendations and gifts with your reader friends and families. These thumbnails could really help in deciding which books to recommend or buy for others. If, say, you have a Gamma friend you could give him a Gamma book as a birthday gift, knowing he will assuredly like it and make him happy. Or you could slyly and purposely try to change his mindset on another occasion by recommending a non-gamma book in order to break him out of his shell.

So many ways to think about this subject...

Anonymous Jill March 07, 2015 1:05 PM  

"No. They don't apply. The female hierarchy is more based on a) physical appearance, b) the status of the primary man in the woman's life, and c) the ability to manipulate others."

In some ways, you're using this hierarchy to describe personality types (that is, basic motivations and behavior patterns). Perhaps you aren't, and I'm misunderstanding. But if you are, there has to be a similar system to describe--not just social standing--but personalities and archetypes among the female population. Certainly, I use observation as my tool to describe humankind and don't necessarily need a system. Maybe I should just stick with that.

Blogger Vox March 07, 2015 1:12 PM  

But if you are, there has to be a similar system to describe--not just social standing--but personalities and archetypes among the female population.

Yes, but since women compete based on completely different rules, the male system is completely irrelevant. An ugly, irrationally confident man can lead an army and score a supermodel. An ugly, irrationally confident woman will inspire near-universal hatred from men and women alike.

Explain why 18 year-old women have higher social status than 50 year-old women and perhaps you'll be able to produce some system. I don't understand the vagaries and subtleties of female competition to create one myself.

Blogger Outlaw X March 07, 2015 1:30 PM  

Vox Netflix just released a documentary called "My Own Man". It is a documentary about a gen x'er on a journey trying to change himself from a Delta to an Alpha. It is an intellectual journey where he asks alphas how to be one. It is a 5 star doc. and a good lesson for everyone. It's honest and well done.

My Own Man


Anonymous Mike M. March 07, 2015 1:31 PM  

"But if you are, there has to be a similar system to describe--not just social standing--but personalities and archetypes among the female population."

Jill, that would be a rich field of study...and I'm not entirely sure men can do it.

Having said that, I think you could pick up a lot of pointers from female writers, particularly the classics.

Anonymous Mike M. March 07, 2015 1:35 PM  

I'll add that Alphas and Sigmas will dominate fiction as heroes, simply because they fit the part.

Anonymous Jill March 07, 2015 1:39 PM  

"An ugly, irrationally confident woman will inspire near-universal hatred from men and women alike." Unless she's Mother Teresa. But maybe she wasn't irrationally confident. She certainly wasn't physically attractive and was still revered as an old woman. Elders, in fact, used to be revered. An ancient example would be the Oracle of Delphi. I'm not trying to argue with you, just thinking things through. Archetypes are important in stories, and your social hierarchy regarding men is just another look at them--another filter to view them through. It has piqued my curiosity.

Anonymous PA March 07, 2015 1:50 PM  

Interesting point about the Mother Theresa ideal. Maybe a devout/selfless, celibate woman is like a female equivalent of a male Sigma, in that she's outside of the mating market (as he is outside of conventional male hierarchies) but still respected by women.

Blogger Danby March 07, 2015 1:55 PM  

I've been struggling with this. If pressed, would classify myself as Beta, verging on Sigma. I've never been into the whole sexual competition thing. It's not particularly interesting to me, but I have what personality surveys call IntJ. I just don't care where what people outside a small group of family and a few close friends think of me.
I've never understood people who are self-delusional and underhanded. I would think the pain of constant failure and rejection would inspire some self-examination, but I guess not.
Now I think I'm getting it. It just occurred to me that Wormtongue is a Gamma.

Blogger bob k. mando March 07, 2015 2:28 PM  

Vox
Now, considering that it is a book that concerns a considerable quantity of kings, aristocrats, and generals, it is entirely appropriate that the characters should be weighted towards the Alpha rank



this is true of the self made men of the aristocracy.

it is NOT true, however, amongst many who inherit aristocracy/royalty.

i mean, clearly, every aristocrat will ALWAYS have the Extrinsic trappings ( wealth, status, usually power ) of Alpha but very few of the inheriting have the Intrinsic personality traits.

i mean, who would consider Nicholas II or Prince Charles to be normal Intrinsic Alphas?

Blogger Nate March 07, 2015 3:02 PM  

i knew lodi as a beta was going to cause trouble with folks. Because everyone equates Badass with Alpha. But Vox is a clearly correct. Lodi is a beta. He's happiest being in leadership sub group of a group... but not leading the group.

Like many interesting characters he has alpha traits. But you only get to be a beta in the first place by having alpha traits. Otherwise you'd be a delta like everyone else.

Anonymous Peter Pan March 07, 2015 4:20 PM  

I'm having trouble distinguishing between more subtle ranges of gamma and sigma, despite the many examples given (it seems most assignations of them are contested and argued at least a little bit if not more), and despite the Socio-Sexual Hierarchy list at Alpha Game. Obviously there is a bit of a spectrum and some crossover between the several different ranks, and I'm assuming very few people are pure alpha or pure gamma. I read the recent posts on Alpha Game on the gamma, but it hasn't really helped me on the harder cases when I run across them in real life. Any ideas on how to better apply the information I already have, or any new tips to make it easier to discern between the two?

Blogger Nate March 07, 2015 4:29 PM  

i don't get why someone would have a problem confusing sigma and gamma. Its pretty obvious. Sigmas win trophies and fuck prom queens.

Gammas sit on the sidelines and bitch.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2015 4:50 PM  

i don't get why someone would have a problem confusing sigma and gamma. Its pretty obvious. Sigmas win trophies and fuck prom queens.

Gammas sit on the sidelines and bitch.


On the off chance Peter is trying to judge a couple of guys and neither one of them happens to be fucking a prom queen at just that moment, the way to tell the difference between Sigma and Gamma is that the Sigma is usually taking action while the Gamma is usually waiting for someone else to act.

Which explains the prom queen.

Blogger Corvinus March 07, 2015 5:11 PM  

i don't get why someone would have a problem confusing sigma and gamma. Its pretty obvious. Sigmas win trophies and fuck prom queens.

Gammas sit on the sidelines and bitch.


@Nate
It's obvious to you, and to me, but not to Gammas, who seem to think they (or, often enough, other Gammas) are Sigmas a lot. It's a natural part of their thinking they're special and at the top of the heap but being unjustly held back by Alphas.

A simple test for Gammas who think they may be Sigmas: honestly evaluate the quality of the women who seem to like you most. Or, if you're married, your wife. Are they hot? As in, could they win a beauty pageant or work as an actress / model / any job that requires attractive women? If you think hotties are into you, have you made sexual moves on them? How often? Did they respond positively?

If you can truthfully answer yes to all of these, then you may be a Sigma. If you have to answer no, you're a Gamma.

Blogger Vox March 07, 2015 5:41 PM  

I've never been into the whole sexual competition thing. It's not particularly interesting to me.

Not Sigma.

I'm having trouble distinguishing between more subtle ranges of gamma and sigma, despite the many examples given (it seems most assignations of them are contested and argued at least a little bit if not more), and despite the Socio-Sexual Hierarchy list at Alpha Game.

It's very easy. Does everyone look to them for leadership and do they usually select from among the top 5 percent of women? Sigma. Do you seriously find it hard to distinguish between me and John Scalzi? And Scalzi is a King Gamma. I'm a fairly average Sigma.

The only reason it is confusing is because half the Gammas out there decide they want to be Sigmas due to their delusion that they're actually winning, they just choose not to compete. It's an easier way of pretending to be on top.

Anonymous Jill March 07, 2015 6:04 PM  

My experience with sigmas is that they might have outward politeness or charm, but they bleed contempt and people still like and admire them. They also won't play games. Ever. Not even innocuous ones.
Female: "Do I look old? I feel old."
Sigma: "Yes, because you are. You're forty. Get over it."
Slam. Just like that. No obtuseness. They know exactly what they're saying, and they don't care.

Blogger Vox March 07, 2015 6:17 PM  

My experience with sigmas is that they might have outward politeness or charm, but they bleed contempt

There you go. One of my roommate's girlfriends once said she didn't see why he talked about me the way he did, because she'd seen pictures of me and didn't think I was anything special. Which is fair enough, all three of my brothers are taller and better-looking than I am, as were two of my best friends.

He laughed and told her that if she spent 15 minutes in my room, she'd find herself taking her pants off. Not long after that, she walked into my room and introduced herself to me. We exchanged a few pleasantries, after which she went back and told him, yeah, okay, I get it now.

What was it? I have no idea. But I have noticed that when I stare at women directly, their eyes frequently dilate. I can often make both men and women take a step back by meeting their eyes.

Anonymous Peter Pan March 07, 2015 6:22 PM  

It's very easy. Does everyone look to them for leadership and do they usually select from among the top 5 percent of women? Sigma. Do you seriously find it hard to distinguish between me and John Scalzi? And Scalzi is a King Gamma. I'm a fairly average Sigma

Yes, I suppose that does put it into perspective, and it makes me wonder how I got so confused in the first place.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2015 8:03 PM  

I get confused by the introduction of races to the SS hierarchy. Elves and Dwarves and Goblins and Orcs don't really make sense in the spectrum to me - their females, for one thing don't compete for marriage in the same way as humans. Reliance on rape in the human scale is likely to put you in Gamma or Omega status most of the time, whereas in say Orc, it could put you at the top of their scale, especially if you father a few half-orcs who survive. Elves and dwarves live a long time, and I don't quite understand how they determine bonded pairs, nor how highly sexual counts are valued. Elves are shown with unique long-term relationships, and it seems that virginity and sexual experience factor into magical ability among them, but it isn't clear how that impacts the scale.

Is the theme of Book 2: Do Dwarves have sluts? Are Elves ensociosexualled? Is Scalzi the orc (pictured lower left ) the exemplar of their ideal "good family rapist?"

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2015 9:23 PM  

I get confused by the introduction of races to the SS hierarchy. Elves and Dwarves and Goblins and Orcs don't really make sense in the spectrum to me

It does make sense. Regardless of what fantasy race they belong to, the stories are being read by humans, and we're going to react to the characters as if they were humans. If Vox manages to make a character inhuman enough that we don't react that way, then it won't be a character so much as a part of the environment.

Anonymous Aquila Aquilonis March 08, 2015 12:04 AM  

What was it? I have no idea. But I have noticed that when I stare at women directly, their eyes frequently dilate. I can often make both men and women take a step back by meeting their eyes.

Is Vox admitting Vampirism here? Are we gonna have to stake and behead him?

Blogger Corvinus June 07, 2015 4:47 PM  

Here are my two cents / opinions about aToB characters:

Marcus Valerius is definitely Alpha, not Sigma. The only character that I could identify as a Sigma was Theuderic.

Betas: Saturnius, Trebonius, Junius Honoratus, Falconius Buteo, Sulpicius Deodatus, Caius Vecellius, Dardanus, Vestremer, Steinthor Strongbow, Sanctiff Pelagianus.

Deltas: Sextus Valerius, Corvinus, Patrice, Thorald.

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