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Monday, June 08, 2015

ONE BRIGHT STAR vs THE WASP FACTORY

Or, if you prefer, Phil Sandifer vs Vox Day. This is the Pex Lives podcast featuring the interview-debate I previously mentioned concerning the perceived merits and demerits of John C. Wright's Hugo-nominated novella "One Bright Star to Guide Them" and the late Iain M. Banks's much-lauded debut novel The Wasp Factory.

You can also download an MP3 of the nearly two-hour interview (94MB). I understand a transcript will be forthcoming.

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86 Comments:

Blogger JP June 08, 2015 8:44 AM  

You don't sound like Matthew Broderick anymore.

Anonymous Moses Lambert June 08, 2015 10:12 AM  

VD - Just read this on Peter Grant's blog. Has your nefarious plot to take over the SF publishing industry been exposed?
Joe in PNG said...
Well, Tor, it's been... something, I guess.
Anyway, I'll sit back and wait a few years.
There's a good chance they'll be sold off, probably to Vox Day by then.
June 8, 2015 at 2:56 AM

Anonymous zen0 the Concerned June 08, 2015 10:28 AM  

Vox, now that the battle with Luciferianism has abated, is chapter 4 of HoS on deck, or maybe next Saturday?

Anonymous Porky June 08, 2015 10:35 AM  

Shorter version:

VD: I like christian allegories.
PS: I like grotesque mutilation porn.

The end.

Blogger VD June 08, 2015 10:46 AM  

Vox, now that the battle with Luciferianism has abated, is chapter 4 of HoS on deck, or maybe next Saturday?

Probably tomorrow.

Blogger Daniel June 08, 2015 11:44 AM  

Sandifer brings up Cicero as complaining that things were better before as evidence that things don't decline because everyone always says such things...

VD: "Cicero was right."

I laughed so hard.

Blogger VD June 08, 2015 11:50 AM  

VD: "Cicero was right."

It did seem a rather unusual tack to take given how the Republic crumbled into civil war and dictatorship, after which Cicero got his head cut off by the newly established Empire.

Blogger Russell (106) June 08, 2015 12:03 PM  

Vox's response at ~5:25 shows he's walking the walk.

Phil is much more interested in talking about his ideas than listening to what Vox has to say.

Blogger Jack Ward June 08, 2015 12:13 PM  

Have not listened to the MP3 yet, but, even considering the 15K + rant at that blog site I have the sense that, as someone mentioned here, PS is much near where Vox was at one time. Before God slapped him upside the head. This may be a man worth trying to save. I know, all men are, but he seems very intelligent if somewhat harebrained at times. If anyone could sway him with logic it would be Mr. Beale. Probably take that flash of light [road to Damascus, anyone] Lets hope and pray for the best.

An aside: when I type Mr. Beale I have the image of a gun fighter dressed all in black. The synthesis of the anti-hero.

Blogger slarrow June 08, 2015 12:17 PM  

Listening to this now, and it's amusing how defensive Sandifer gets about occultism. For someone who has no trouble calling God "Reverend Harry Powell figure; a sort of conniving charlatan, running a scam that is chilling in its efficacy", he's not so happy when it's his ox being gored.

Anonymous RedJack #22 June 08, 2015 12:34 PM  

Tried to down load, but ended up in a live play.

Is there a site for a download?

Anonymous RedJack #22 June 08, 2015 12:38 PM  

Never mind, got it.

Hate Android down loading.

Blogger Josh June 08, 2015 12:44 PM  

He's going on for quite a long time about how JCW mocked occult rituals. That's a very strange sore spot.

Blogger Daniel June 08, 2015 12:55 PM  

Critiquing the scientific accuracy of the adder is not right because The Wasp Factory isn't plausible. Critiquing the scientific accuracy of the occult ritual is right because One Bright Star is...

Blogger Russell (106) June 08, 2015 1:05 PM  

Around the thirty minute mark, Sandifer's complaints about Wright's version of occultism.
1. Wright is writing for educated Christians.
2. It's an literary juxtaposition.
3. It pairs with the cup Richard drank from to obtain secret knowledge, and allowed him to swallow anything, even things not meant to sustain mankind. That was evil, far too subtle for Sandifer to pick up.
4. Does Sandifer object to Brown having similar sort of thing in "Angels and Demons"?
5. Sandifer's objections are from his more affluent, 21st century Western frame of reference. Check your privilege, shitlord.
6. It pertains to the Faceless Warlock and his demands, not whatever occultism Sandifer adheres to.

"I don't confuse reading for entertainment with a political op-ed."

I laughed.

Anonymous NateM June 08, 2015 1:38 PM  

This was Vox in top form the way I expected him in the Youtube interview. He handed Sandifer his ass on so many points that he just couldn't answer and had to either backpedal or totally change tacts.

I especially liked when he made the point that the JCR version of evil was hyperbolic, then proceeded to explain why it was actually reasonable in Wasp Factory. Cause insanity

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 08, 2015 2:14 PM  

I expect the transcript to be available Thursday, though that's based merely on the estimate of the person who is kindly volunteering their time to transcribe it.

Thanks again to Vox for sitting down with me.

To no one's surprise, the SJWs all seem to think I won. :)

Anonymous RedJack #22 June 08, 2015 2:23 PM  

Philip,

I am half way through the pod cast, but I admire the way you both talked about the books (mostly). You stated your worldview, as Vox did his. I suspect that is why you don't "get" One Bright Star.

While I think that Vox won, I do think it was because the book was more inside baseball than outside. Getting hung up on the ritual was rather, interesting I guess. For me the bigger story was the coward.

Looking forward to listening to the "Wasp" half of the podcast after work.

Anonymous Not-So-Merry zen0 June 08, 2015 2:35 PM  

> To no one's surprise, the SJWs all seem to think I won. :)

Of course they did. SJWs always lie. Besides, they are not the target audience.

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 2:37 PM  

My knowledge of occultism is based on the witches among whom I lived in my senior year at law school. They call themselves Wiccans.

Since I know more about the esoteric traditions of the West, witchcraft and arcanum, than I know about Christian theology, having studying the one all my adult life, and the other only the few years since my conversion, it is an absurdity for anyone to challenge me where I am strong, rather than where I am weak. Good grief.

One may, if one wishes, upbraid the actual practitioners of the occult sciences for their insufficient knowledge, but one cannot upbraid the author.

I was more than a little surprised to hear Vox Day describe it as a Christian allegory. It is not allegory in any way. Tybalt is certainly not Aslan, as he does not die for the sins of anyone. He says aloud why he dies: because the rational adult man must have dominion over the little beasts called emotions that aid him in childhood. It was a symbol of maturity, not of salvation.

Tybalt is Gareth the cat from TIME CAT by Lloyd Alexander. Aslan is big and yellow and wise, and a lion. Tybalt (and Gareth) are small and black and snide and a cat.

Blogger Josh June 08, 2015 2:42 PM  

DANGEROUS DANGEROUS MESSAGE!

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 2:46 PM  

I hope everyone is aware that I wrote the first version of the story, the short story, as an atheist.

Mr Sandifer's misreading of the scene where Tommy must kill the cat is so freakish as to be a sign of mental disorder. The scene means the exact and precise opposite of what he interprets it to mean.

This is why one never invites the author to a discussion of his work. He spoils so many good and theories rolling like tumbleweeds, unrooted in the text, nourished from the psychology of the reader.

This is also why reader are obligated to read the text as written: otherwise you read it like a Rorschach blot, and reveal too much of your own soul in the so called analysis. You think you are talking about the story. You are talking about yourself, stripping nude before the gaze of strangers.

Blogger VD June 08, 2015 2:53 PM  

I was more than a little surprised to hear Vox Day describe it as a Christian allegory. It is not allegory in any way.

He dies. He comes back to life bigger and better. It may not be an exact Christian allegory; he also comes back the next dawn rather than two days later. But it's still recognizable Christian symbolism.

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:02 PM  

Extra points to Vox Day for seeing the parallel to CS Lewis' THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH. Your humble author thought he was being too subtle. Glad someone caught it.

Anonymous 15er June 08, 2015 3:07 PM  

That Phil can go record anther episode immediately after THAT "debate" and get back to name calling is rather astounding. Probably a little worried that it was far too cordial and of good humor so he had to immediately assure everyone that he still believes Vox to be teh most awful person evar.

And it still kills me that these totalitarian wankers don't understand the nature and roots of "fascism."

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:11 PM  

At the 29.39 mark, Mr Sandifer asks why the villain utters a monologue justifying his crimes.

Good grief, again.

It is a staple of writing. As well ask why Lucifer gives a monologue atop mount Niphates, or why Syndrome in THE INCREDIBLES starts monologing.

Richard feels guilty for killing his own unborn child and seeks to justify it to the only person whose condemnation he fears.

Because that is they way people with raw consciences talk.

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:19 PM  

At 32.20, Mr Sandifer asks whether any real Wiccans perform the ritual Richard used to propitiate the Winter King, and summon up the evil magical whale.

It is difficult for me to keep a civil tongue in my head at this point. All I can say is that no Wiccan of my acquaintance forged the One Ring from Tolkien, or created the Tarncappe of Wagner, or used the wand of the White Witch of Narnia to turn fauns and beavers to stone.

But the Aztecs did kill people in an act of ritual sacrifice, and so did Julian the Apostate, who killed a slavegirl to learn oracles concerning his fate in the Persian wars. Planned Parenthood kills unborn people, but their motives are not as noble as the Roman Imperator nor the Mesoamerican priests.

Fairy stories should not be read or discussed by people who cannot tell the difference between real and make believe.

Blogger slarrow June 08, 2015 3:24 PM  

I'm not surprised that SJWs thought Philip won--ideology has clouded their reasoning too.

I'm at the section where you're discussing the end and the Frank/Frances reveal. Because Philip can't accept that "she's a little girl all along" actually is the big reveal (substituting such poor fare as "male hormones" and "daddy rants" and "daddy lied to me"), he can't understand why the ending is so flat. If Frank/Frances is a continuum, the revelations should have moved the protagonist a little way from one end of the scale to the other, not all the way to the other side. That only makes sense in: (a) a Frank/Frances binary system, where if you can't be a hypermasculine vengeance-filled boy-demon, might as well be flip the switch to be a girl who puts your brother's head in your lap; (b) a "boy" struggling with all these odd, unfamiliar impulses and reactions all during the novel (which puts you more in the middle of the Frank/Frances continuum); or (c) a Frank in denial of Frances who initiates direct confrontations with the brother and father (starting with some form of, "why didn't we all realize that I have a vagina?!?!") which would require another chapter or two.

I know that Vox said all this in the interview, but hopefully the condensed version will do until the transcript is posted.

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:27 PM  

Wait... What? When Mr Sandifer reads the scene where Richard talks about sacrificing children to gain power from the darkness, he thinks I am talking about him?

That is a telling confession.

Blogger Joshua_D June 08, 2015 3:30 PM  

"John Wright June 08, 2015 3:19 PM

At 32.20, Mr Sandifer asks whether any real Wiccans perform the ritual Richard used to propitiate the Winter King, and summon up the evil magical whale.

It is difficult for me to keep a civil tongue in my head at this point."

This is an amusing interview so far. I haven't yet read your story, although I certainly plan to now. Mr. Sandifer's strong reaction to the abortion ritual suggests to me that something may be hitting a bit too close for home for his comfort. At least Mr. Sandifer has already admitted to his solipsistic tendencies, so I'm not surprised.

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:34 PM  

Where, exactly, is the demand for unquestioning obedience that Mr Sandifer is going on and on again, in this story, exactly?

Who in this story demands obedience and to whom, again, exactly? And on what grounds?

If the story is about having one small star of hope to guide you, what is the advantage of being skeptical about the guide who is your only hope of escaping a world of darkness?

Has Mr Sandifer read ANY fairytales in his life? Ever?

Blogger Cail Corishev June 08, 2015 3:34 PM  

I'm not surprised that SJWs thought Philip won--ideology has clouded their reasoning too.

If they watched it and thought, "Holy crap, 'Beale' destroyed him," would they say so, or would they insist that they see five lights, just as they knew they would?

Of course, they'd say the same thing about us, but that's demonstratively untrue. After Vox's last interview, there was plenty of criticism. If he actually got beaten in a debate with a SJW, we'd all be giving him noogies.

Blogger Joshua_D June 08, 2015 3:35 PM  

"Nasty nasty!!!!!!!"

Anonymous Holmwood June 08, 2015 3:35 PM  

Interesting that Phil (quoting him from the followup podcast) felt he needed "therapy" after talking to Vox. I suppose that says it all. I suspect Vox simply went off and had a good evening with his family, or even a good night's sleep.

A decent debate. It is genuinely interesting to hear SJW's explain why they like what they claim to. At first, I genuinely did not believe anyone could love (let alone like) "Dinosaur". Or Ancillary Justice. Tedium, horror, leavened with unintentionally risible bits, all overlaid with a veneer of style.

Could anyone really enjoy this?

And yet, they seem to. I take them at their word, finally. I suppose listening to Phil and reading file770 has been instructive in that regard.

By our standards -- and again, I hearken back to Phil's "therapy" comment -- they are simply mentally ill, and all their tools for dealing with the world are built on a foundation of mental illness. (Heck, look at the whole idea of 'triggering').

Who won? I think Vox, narrowly, but I'm biased. Phil emitted far less squid ink than I anticipated; that alone is impressive. I suspect any who characterize it as a knock out (looking at the SJW's) were unable to hear at least half of the debate.

Blogger Joshua_D June 08, 2015 3:36 PM  

"I don't confuse reading for entertainment with a political op-ed."

I laughed.


Just got to that part. I laughed too.

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:37 PM  

The breaking of the sword is a symbol of skepticism. That is why it has to be reforged, each time, by each man, for himself.

Slaying Tybalt was a symbol of killing off the childish and obedient thinking of a child, who obeys without question, to a man who does good because he knows the good.

Did every one miss the point of this story?

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:41 PM  

"In some ways, Sally is the more contemptible figure. Richard is the traitor. Sally knows better, and yet she won't lift a finger."

Which is why Tybalt says nothing to her at all, not one word.

I take it back. Vox got the point of the story. Thank you, Vox.

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:46 PM  

A about the 50 minute mark, Vox mentions what brings each of the children to depart from his childhood faithfulness. (In Penny's case, she dies, but she does not depart from fidelity.)

He says death stops Penny (It does not); that power lust stops Richard; that fear stops Sarah; that doubt stops Thomas.

Very close, Vox. Richard's besetting sin is envy, not powerlust. He envied the gifts given the other children, and was not content with the sword he was given.

Blogger John Wright June 08, 2015 3:54 PM  

So... Mr Sandifer's main problem with a story paying deliberate and obvious homage to children's stories is that the evil is obvious? Did he miss the part of the story where Thomas is told precisely and exactly why children confront obvious evils and adults confront subtle ones?

Blogger Russell (106) June 08, 2015 3:58 PM  

Wasp Factory is all about the feels.

I'm going to paraphrase here.

PS: "It's a black mark against PUA because of X."
VD: "X is factually wrong."
PS: "It's still a black mark."

PS: "It's nuanced and detailed and thorough."
VD: "Adders don't kill."
PS: "Ignore that detail."
VD: "Giant metal kite."
PS: "Ignore that detail, too."
VD: "All three characters have to be idiots."
PS: "Ignore that."
VD: "The alien being created is bullshit and not credible."
PS: "I agree."
VD: "Alien mindset is disgusting and evil. Not credible."
PS: "Ignore that, as well. It's about the aesthetics."
VD: "There is no vision."
PS: "The vision is the that book can't support it's own aesthetics. The narrator is reliable, unless I don't agree, then he is unreliable."
PS: "I demand clearly defined areas of ambivalence!"

Blogger Daniel June 08, 2015 4:07 PM  

Very glad Satandifer entered this thing so honestly. It was like a fireside chat with Screwtape, and I don't mean that harshly, and believe that Phil would not mind being associated with such a symbol of rebellion. If he is, I apologize.

Anonymous NateM June 08, 2015 4:29 PM  

Well this conversation convinced me to buy One Bright Star. guess what it convinced me to do with Wasp Factory?

Anonymous 15er June 08, 2015 4:58 PM  

It is fair to think that Satandifer approached this in an honest manner - especially if you aren't familiar with Wright's work. However, if you listen to the circle jerk...er...After Party, it becomes apparent that he did not. They lie. Always. Even by way of acts and demeanor.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 08, 2015 5:04 PM  

So... Mr Sandifer's main problem with a story paying deliberate and obvious homage to children's stories is that the evil is obvious? Did he miss the part of the story where Thomas is told precisely and exactly why children confront obvious evils and adults confront subtle ones?

Did you miss the part of the story where you made Thomas an adult?

Blogger Jim Bro June 08, 2015 5:59 PM  

Mr. Wright, this may be a minor point, but where did you read that Julian ever committed human sacrifice? Is it a later source?

I was obsessed with him years ago and as far as I know not even his Christian detractors accused him of this. From his own writings it seems as though he was almost fastidiously Christian in his moral outlook, though naturally he'd have denied this. He even goes so far as to complain that pagans didn't practice charity like the Christians do!

Blogger Jim Bro June 08, 2015 7:03 PM  

Oops. Never mind. Theodoret implies it heavily.

OpenID crash June 08, 2015 7:38 PM  

@Philip Sandifer
Did you miss the part of the story where you made Thomas an adult?

Did you just ask an author if he knew what he wrote ?

I don't know where I stand relative to Mr. Beale and his supporters but this confirms where I stand relative to you and yours.



Blogger Joshua_D June 08, 2015 8:20 PM  

"There's room for a sequel!" That makes it all better.

Blogger Nikis-Knight June 08, 2015 8:28 PM  

Vox,
Phillip there sounds quite offended at about 1/3rd way through that occultic rituals might contain abortion. It would have been interesting to follow up and ask him if he was pro-life, and if not, what exactly did he object to?

Blogger Remo - Vile Faceless Minion #99 June 08, 2015 8:43 PM  

This was a great debate. Phil was put on the ropes at least half a dozen times and it was good entertainment. I loved your comment about it being a good thing to be skeptical of 2+2. He couldn't counter that and his lack of an answer amounted basically too "I don't feel good about what Larry wrote". Of course you don't you don't want to hear the truth and you don't want to be reminded of it.

As for the wasp factory he completely ignored the very real criticism of why a young girl would behave exactly like a boy given only the false information that she had been castrated. You know there is actual precedent for this - I wish I could find the story but there was a true occurrence of a doctor botching a circumcision operation and telling the parents that it would be best to cut off the whole thing and raise the child as a girl. The man (which is what he was) never was right, never felt female, and later returned to the doctors office as an adult with a mind to killing the doctor. I will see if I can find this story online but it completely overturns the notion that sex is merely a social construct. Our brains are different.

Anyway great job and great radio.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 08, 2015 9:01 PM  

This was a great debate. Phil was put on the ropes at least half a dozen times and it was good entertainment. I loved your comment about it being a good thing to be skeptical of 2+2. He couldn't counter that and his lack of an answer amounted basically too "I don't feel good about what Larry wrote". Of course you don't you don't want to hear the truth and you don't want to be reminded of it.

To clarify that exchange, I floundered there because I was baffled by what was either a moment of unusual intellectual dishonesty from Vox or a moment of surprising failure to grasp the point. The problem was that Vox was equating "2+2=4" with the act of telling someone that 2+2=4, or, perhaps more accurately, the act of telling someone "2+2=4, but don't ask me to demonstrate this or show you why, just trust me." In other words, the sort of skepticism I was talking about was not a skepticism of facts, but rather of people who try to sell you on fundamental truths while refusing to provide any explanation, and I was momentarily flustered by the complete irrelevance of Vox's example.

As for the wasp factory he completely ignored the very real criticism of why a young girl would behave exactly like a boy given only the false information that she had been castrated. You know there is actual precedent for this - I wish I could find the story but there was a true occurrence of a doctor botching a circumcision operation and telling the parents that it would be best to cut off the whole thing and raise the child as a girl. The man (which is what he was) never was right, never felt female, and later returned to the doctors office as an adult with a mind to killing the doctor. I will see if I can find this story online but it completely overturns the notion that sex is merely a social construct. Our brains are different.

I agree I was less clear on this point than I wish I had been. The retort I was searching for was, roughly, "what makes you think The Wasp Factory is invested in the idea that gender essentialism is a real thing?" Which is to say, regardless of the material reality of gender, within the world that Banks is depicting (which is manifestly not intended to be a realistic depiction of the world) it is not at all clear to me that the categories Vox was insisting on are meant to apply.

Anyway great job and great radio.

Glad you enjoyed.

Blogger Nikis-Knight June 08, 2015 9:53 PM  

"I agree I was less clear on this point than I wish I had been. The retort I was searching for was, roughly, "what makes you think The Wasp Factory is invested in the idea that gender essentialism is a real thing?" Which is to say, regardless of the material reality of gender, within the world that Banks is depicting (which is manifestly not intended to be a realistic depiction of the world) it is not at all clear to me that the categories Vox was insisting on are meant to apply."

This is nonsense. Science fiction and fantasy can break the rules of the real world, but it needs to be clear when it does so, at least if it wants the reader to invest in it and care. Readers lose interest, and rightly so, when the rules of nature are arbitrarily and without notice or justification changes, because the reader then can have no expectation or understanding of what happens or how it is supposed to connect to real people.

And, perhaps you will say that young boys and girls are blank slates, as some suggest, in the real world, not just Banks imaginary one here, and therefore it requires no justification in the story, but Vox anticipated this by asking if you had ever been around young children, who do in fact have gender characteristics at a young age, in all times and cultures known.

Look at your comment--"...it is not at all clear to me that the categories [of male and female] are meant to apply." Clarity is the mark of a well written piece of fiction, or any writing. You stated that you loved the ambiguity, but ambiguity of the sort described here leaves the actual meaning of the characters unclear, and I don't see what that would add to the work.

(I must disclaim that I'm not aware of the work beyond what was discussed in the interesting interview.)

Blogger Jeff Y June 08, 2015 10:42 PM  

The 2+2 argument you made was decisive of all the rest. You have a quality I lack. It's the same thing Milton Friedman had. You can present your ideas to a hostile crowd with an almost grandfatherly voice that brings with it the ethos of knowledge and benevolence. I enjoyed listening to you speak.

Blogger Jeff Y June 08, 2015 10:46 PM  

Philip Sandifer, you are a stand-up guy. I also enjoyed listening to you speak. I wish more leftists would sincerely engage with the opposition. Respect to you, sir.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 08, 2015 10:50 PM  

Philip Sandifer, you are a stand-up guy. I also enjoyed listening to you speak. I wish more leftists would sincerely engage with the opposition. Respect to you, sir.

Thank you for the kind words.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 08, 2015 11:04 PM  

It would have been interesting to follow up and ask him if he was pro-life, and if not, what exactly did he object to?

I am pro-choice, although I should clarify that this is a position about what the legal status of abortion is and not a position about the act's morality or what my wife and I would be likely to do in the event of an unplanned pregnancy.

Certainly the idea of conceiving purely to abort the fetus in an occult ritual does not horrify me to the extent I expect it horrifies you or Vox (I don't think it morally equivalent to human sacrifice, for instance, whereas I suspect you both do), but I am nevertheless repulsed by the idea. I dislike magical sacrifices in general; I do not think killing things produces good magic. I think the wastefulness of it - the creation of something purely to destroy it - displays a cruelty and callousness that I find abhorrent. So while I do not think that someone who hypothetically uses an abortion in a magical ritual should be jailed for it (and again, this is not a thing that actually happens), I would still object to the practice.

But more to the point, even if I thought abortion was ethical up until the moment the mother goes into labor I would find the scene objectionable because it is both clearly intended as a negative portrayal of magical ritual and because it is flatly untrue. In much the same way that I am not offended by the actual accusation of homosexuality when various people on this site have called me a "faggot," I still take the comment in the spirit intended: as an insult.

Blogger Remo - Vile Faceless Minion #99 June 08, 2015 11:25 PM  

In searching for my source I encountered this: David Reimer. I'm not certain if this is the case I was read about years ago - mine clearly involved a boy who grew up and visited the doctor as an adult with a gun so as to kill him but it is a compelling story nonetheless. This man committed suicide and firmly puts the lie to the notion of gender as a mere social construct. The idea that a girl would think exactly like a boy simply by being told she is a boy is ludicrous. The author in the Wasp Factory completely ignores this. That is the reason the story fails to compel, because what they are asking you to believe is simply not realistic given observable reality. If he made them aliens on some distant rock and they weren't human you could do what you like but as it stands it doesn't work.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 08, 2015 11:43 PM  

That is the reason the story fails to compel, because what they are asking you to believe is simply not realistic given observable reality.

The idea that a story taking place on earth must comport to observable reality in all ways in order to be compelling is ludicrously facile.

That said, your objection is more sensible than Vox's. You, at least, oppose books that portray gender as a social construct or reject the fundamental reality of the gender binary. I think that's wrong of you, but I at least understand rejecting books that depict certain worldviews and aesthetics. That is, after all, the crux of my objection to One Bright Star to Guide them: I simply do not like the universe and aesthetic it portrays.

But Vox's objection - that the story treats gender as a social construct and then, in his words, "fucks it up" anyway - is different. He's willing to accept the potential validity of a story that is set on Earth but that opts to depict gender as working differently than he believes it works. He merely objects to Banks's execution within his own premises. In other words, you reject the aesthetic outright, whereas he accepts it but finds the book flawed according to its own terms.

I, meanwhile, think Banks is using a subtly but significantly different set of premises than Vox does, and that the book works fine under those premises.

Blogger Nikis-Knight June 09, 2015 12:08 AM  

"So while I do not think that someone who hypothetically uses an abortion in a magical ritual should be jailed for it (and again, this is not a thing that actually happens), I would still object to the practice."

I agree that it is a bit absurd; why should demons give power in exchange for abortion when they can get women to do it for nothing? If the other side actually had to cash those checks, I suspect America, to its indictment, would soon bankrupt them.

Anonymous Jack Amok June 09, 2015 12:20 AM  

The idea that a story taking place on earth must comport to observable reality in all ways in order to be compelling is ludicrously facile.

A story - wherever it takes place - must comport with the observable reality of human behavior or it will not be compelling. It doesn't even matter if the story is supposedly about aliens, as the reader will most certainly be human. The behavior of the characters that reader is supposed to experience the story through must feel realistic or the story will be meaningless.

The author can put characters in unrealistic situations, but they'd better behave in realistic manners if the reader is supposed to care about what happens to them.

Blogger automatthew June 09, 2015 1:12 AM  

I want to read the version of Perelandra where a pre-conversion John C. Wright takes Ransom's place.

Or something like. Take one of the first circle virtuous pagans and put him in a pit with a Malbolgian.

Anonymous MeloniusThunk June 09, 2015 1:31 AM  

The reason that Cabin In The Woods is a beloved horror movie is that it harpoons the worst trope of its genre, the "idiot movie" element. The Wasp Factory sounds like an egregious exemplar of the opposite (a brilliant farm kid doesn't know a vagina from a hole in the ground?) whose entire plot turns on this and doubles down on this weakness. Sandifer merely dismisses it as standard-issue and continues to view the story as some apex achievement.

But the two podcasts are great, and I wish that more SJWs (besides Kluwe and Sandifer) had the ability to argue with people they disagree with.

Blogger John Wright June 09, 2015 2:49 AM  

"I dislike magical sacrifices in general; I do not think killing things produces good magic."

Does anyone actually doubt that, at this point, I know more about the esoteric tradition than Mr Sandofer, despite that he is a practicing occultist and I am not?

The comment is absurd. Sacrifice is the heart of magic, and, indeed of all religion, primitive and advanced.

Sacrifice has nothing to do with killing things: it is offering back to the gods what comes from the gods, a sign of loyalty and propitiation, a sign of penance, and, for witches, the seal of a bargain. Blood is life.

I do not know what kind of sissified shopping-boutique witches Mr Sandofer has fallen among, but I used to live among the real deal, read their writings and heard them speak, and this is following a lifelong interest in the topic.

In the story, of course, I use abortion as a sacrament not literally. No witch sacrifice uses such a thing. However, to neo barbarians and haters of Christendom and Western civilization, Abortion is a symbol of freedom, of choice, and sexual excess, particularly perverse excess, is sacred.

To use the figurative sacraments of modern leftist corruption as a symbol in fairy tale witch rituals is a symbol of the corruption of the modern culture, the things taught to the young by the Willow Women who chalk the Worm Sign on the blackboard.

That corruption is the thing Thomas is supposed to fight, once he overcomes his own animal nature (in the scene where he kills the cat, his externalized soul) and the thing Mr Sandofer unintentionally reveals to us in his misreading of the story is his beloved.

What he reviles as a heavy handed and unconvincing slander is the philosophy of George Bernard Shaw and Fred Nietzsche and Rousseau in the metaphor of a warlock ritual.

Good grief and again I say good grief. I could not have been more obvious if I had struck the reader over the head with a two by four.

One need not share any common background with me or my beliefs to see the point of the story. One need only read it honestly.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 09, 2015 4:20 AM  

Does anyone actually doubt that, at this point, I know more about the esoteric tradition than Mr Sandofer, despite that he is a practicing occultist and I am not?

Well. Mr. Wrought, yes. I certainly do. Given that you seem to think that the esoteric tradition consists entirely of the Wiccan tradition, in contrast to, say, the Chaos Magick tradition in which the heart of magic is not offering but will. Or the ceremonialist tradition, in which the heart of it is the inherent power of certain ritual invocations.

I will, however, admit to an infelicity of language: I was trying to use sacrifice in contrast with the broader concept of offering, to specifically refer to the killing of a living creature for magical purposes. I accept that this was likely unclear and apologize for the confusion.

Anonymous Phil2 June 09, 2015 8:38 AM  

careful guys, Phil has a PhD in English. he smarter than dictionary.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit June 09, 2015 9:07 AM  

Well, I need the download link so I can let my children listen to it when they are a bit older. What a singular example of sophistry and prevarication. Every single point made against his narrative was dodged then tagged out for another "equally valid point" to maintain the predefined conclusion.

There is no consistency in this man’s head - there is no belief. The "gender is a social construct" narrative crumbled on his own lips and rather than reflect he jumped to the "gender is whatever anybody wants it to mean ever" narrative. How could a physical world exist if these things are true?

He is more pleasant than the awful, average "Randy Harper/ Full McIntosh" variety of SJW but his willingness to debate makes it clear he actually believes the universe is made up from whatever pops into his head at that instant. However affable he may be, he will watch the world burn with us in it because he believes in nothing!

Someone who makes a living analyzing a children's television program for other adults probably has more issues than the nihilism and lack of logic that came across in this interview. (One of the worst things the Internet has done is to provide these sophists with allies to facilitate their eventual breakdowns. They think they are legion when they are but a handful that consistently coalesces around the same topics with the same narrative.)

Anonymous Shut up rabbit June 09, 2015 9:12 AM  

And I thought it very appropriate the hosts (enablers?) played out with a copyright infringing song with no attribution (cos everything should be free, man!) with "Nothing gonna change my world..." repeated over and over again.

Blogger Sean June 09, 2015 3:43 PM  

I found the listen to be so odd. The way he found the cult rituals so offensive because they were not realistic was very off putting. PS wanted to hold JCW to a standard of realism that he didn't hold Banks to. And I really found how emotionally PS was invested into this grotesque tale very unsettling.

Also I think that in the SJW effort to change the definition of words, we need to add Nuance=Provocative.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 09, 2015 4:37 PM  

I found the listen to be so odd. The way he found the cult rituals so offensive because they were not realistic was very off putting.

To clarify, it's less that I found them realistic as that I recognized that they were blending philosophical statements that do have roots in occult thought with propagandistic smears ripped off from Dennis Wheatley.

It struck me much as I imagine that a basically accurate description of a Catholic mass that suddenly veered into a description of cannibalism and eating the flesh of God to gain his power would strike Mr. Wrought.

PS wanted to hold JCW to a standard of realism that he didn't hold Banks to.

You're confusing two lines of thought, although I will readily admit that the confusion is an easy one to make. First, let's distinguish between two modes of argument: critique from within a set of premises, or critique of a set of premises. Vox's attack on The Wasp Factory was the former: he argued that Banks breaks the rules he sets up in his own book. My attack on One Bright Star was the latter: I think the rules Mr. Wrought sets up are a bad set of rules in the first place.

If Vox had launched a critique on the underlying ethics of the grotesque/gothic tradition I would have responded very differently. Indeed, I had in my notes quite a lot, because based on his previous statements about the book that was where I expected him to go with it. But that's not the critique he made.

Blogger Cail Corishev June 09, 2015 4:57 PM  

To clarify....

You keep using that word....

Blogger Sean June 09, 2015 5:22 PM  

I guess I don't buy that. I'm reading fiction. I am not an occultist so when I read that, I didn't take that as anything other than some made up thing to serve the story. The same would be with the cannibalistic Catholics. I'm no Catholic, but if I read that, i would assume that it is not meant as a representation of the Catholic church but a device to drive the story forward. It just seemed to me that hit close to home and that is why it bothered you. I didn't notice that in any of VD's critique of the Wasp Factory that he didn't like the book because he found the ideas offensive, he just found the offensive ideas didn't make sense within the story being told.

I think that is the big difference between the two sides. One side doesn't like things because they find the viewpoint offensive. The other side doesn't like it because the offensive viewpoints aren't written particularly well. At least that's what I noticed. That's why it seemed the JCW half of the podcast seemed to be a debate on theological ideas and concepts and the Banks half dealt with the actual context of the book.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 09, 2015 5:32 PM  

Not offensive: morally corrosive. My objection to One Bright Star's valorization of unquestioning obedience is of the same general form as Wrought's famed objection to the finale of Legend of Korra, except coming from a radically different underlying system of values.

Blogger Hound June 09, 2015 7:23 PM  

Enjoyable listen, but every time Phillip went on about Frank's magic and how unique and original it all was, I was dumbfounded. Has he never read Shirley Jackson's masterpiece We Have Always Lived In The Castle, which was clearly Banks' inspiration for the sympathetic magic Frank was using?

Honestly, now that I starting thinking about it, Wasp Factory is basically a twisted retelling (ripoff/homage as you prefer) of Castle. From the magic to the deaths to the destruction to the ambiguous ending...

Damn. The Wasp Factory is a /pastiche/!

Blogger FlexFantastic June 09, 2015 7:44 PM  

And I thought it very appropriate the hosts (enablers?) played out with a copyright infringing song with no attribution (cos everything should be free, man!) with "Nothing gonna change my world..." repeated over and over again.

Well, I'm glad somebody appreciates our modest contribution to the whole affair.

---

sous les pavés la plage

Anonymous MelodiusThunk June 09, 2015 11:02 PM  

It's interesting that Sandifer's co-hosts would refuse to debate Vox (e.g., on Marxism) because they don't want to give a platform to a fascist.

Vox has built bigger platforms for himself; debating him would introduce more people to their ideas than vice versa.

Blogger Bogey June 09, 2015 11:23 PM  

"It's an idiot plot" the girl never looked in her own pants to see what she was, no that makes it a "grotesque plot" LOL.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 09, 2015 11:28 PM  

It's interesting that Sandifer's co-hosts would refuse to debate Vox (e.g., on Marxism) because they don't want to give a platform to a fascist.

Vox has built bigger platforms for himself; debating him would introduce more people to their ideas than vice versa.


It's almost as though Jack's motives are not primarily his own self-promotion.

Blogger Bogey June 09, 2015 11:36 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Bogey June 09, 2015 11:36 PM  

I don't know Vox, it's cool that you do these things, but it's a bit frustrating, it's like listening to a sane man walk into an asylum and trying to talk sense into the inhabitants. How would you not end up banging your head repeatedly against a wall by the end of the day.

Blogger Snorri June 10, 2015 12:33 AM  

I guess I don't buy that. I'm reading fiction. I am not an occultist so when I read that, I didn't take that as anything other than some made up thing to serve the story. The same would be with the cannibalistic Catholics. I'm no Catholic, but if I read that, i would assume that it is not meant as a representation of the Catholic church but a device to drive the story forward. It just seemed to me that hit close to home and that is why it bothered you. I didn't notice that in any of VD's critique of the Wasp Factory that he didn't like the book because he found the ideas offensive, he just found the offensive ideas didn't make sense within the story being told.

I think that is the big difference between the two sides. One side doesn't like things because they find the viewpoint offensive. The other side doesn't like it because the offensive viewpoints aren't written particularly well. At least that's what I noticed. That's why it seemed the JCW half of the podcast seemed to be a debate on theological ideas and concepts and the Banks half dealt with the actual context of the book.

You nailed it, Sean.

Anonymous MelodiusThunk June 10, 2015 3:58 AM  

It's almost as though Jack's motives are not primarily his own self-promotion.

He doesn't seem very interested in promoting his own ideas, either. Just as you've reacted so emotionally to Vox "I hate you hate you hate you hate you" "this podcast is therapy" I believe that Jack is incapable of calmy regarding someone with whom he disagrees about real things. How many times did your crew refer to him as stupid even though it's patently obvious that he's smarter than at least three of you? It sounds weak.

Anonymous MelodiusThunk June 10, 2015 4:24 AM  

Maybe the ending of The Wasp Factory is supposed to be just a crude joke. I've known gay men to claim that at least the male anus doesn't look like an open wound; with Sandifer spending so much time with his Rainbow friends, maybe that idea took hold.

Anonymous MelodiusThunk June 10, 2015 5:54 AM  

The Wasp Factory couldn't be made into a movie today because it would be viewed as mysoginistic to have a female lead who was also a moron.

Blogger Joshua_D June 10, 2015 1:14 PM  

I found a PDF of The Wasp Factory. After a few tries, I managed to get through the a few pages of Ch. 2. It's very tedious. The first conversation with Eric was kind of interesting, but that's it.

Blogger Mark June 10, 2015 1:50 PM  

My conclusions about Phil Sandifer after listening are:
1) He's really not very intelligent, and
2) He's a liar.

The caveat on #1 is that this could be an erroneous impression because he's simply not a very good speaker. Filling his sentence with overly flowery phrases that don't actually lead to a meaningful sentence could just be someone who's nervous in a conversation.

However, when challenged on an assertion about the text he simply reads a paragraph or two. He makes no effort to explain how the paragraph supports his assertion, he just spits it out and lets it sit, as though the point is self-evident. (This is something I see a lot from SJWs--no idea why.)

Furthermore, his points were frequently flat-out wrong. He says that JCW presents Christianity as requiring blind trust, with the slaying of Tybalt, yet Tybalt explicity says "At the place of the Swordbearer, I bade you leap and you leaped not. Woe came of that, and capture, and Richard died, whom you were meant to save." Vox correctly notes that this isn't blind faith, but trust. And the text shows that the trust is earned, not blindly accepted. I have to wonder if PS has ever learned a physical or technical skill, which cannot be learned except by doing first, asking later.

As to #2, he said at least once that he can discuss the merits of a story irrespective of any message it may have had. Yet he spent 99% of the time on "One Bright Star" proving that he actually can't. His fixation on the evil of Christianity and the merits of Occultism dominated the discussion to distraction.

And then we got to Wasp. Oy. Others have eviscerated PS's arguments, but I'll focus on one aspect: PS doesn't care about story -- the story elements require an idiot plot as Vox nailed, and there are many internal inconsistencies that are resolved in PS's mind "Oh he's an unrealiable narrator" (which raises the question, "then why am I listening to the narrator?"). In my experience, "unreliable narrator" means "sloppy writing." PS conceded so many points, I don't understand how anyone can think he "won" the debate.

I imagine myself in conversation with PS who has made a new art project from his own feces:

PS: See the delightfully disgusting material?
Me: Yes, it's your own feces.
PS: Doesn't that make you feel something?
Me: Well, a little nausated. It does stink.
PS: Aren't the brushstrokes delightfully macabre?
Me: Uh, you didn't use a brush, I'm not seeing brushstrokes.
PS: Well, metaphorical brushstrokes. I actually used a stir stick.
Me: The lines don't show anything.
PS: You have to imagine some extra lines, and ignore some of the ones over here, and then it's wonderfully horrific!
Me: Actually, it's just a pile of shit.

Anonymous malcolm June 11, 2015 10:38 PM  

I just finished listening to the debate, and I enjoyed it a lot. It was nice to hear two people with very different points of view rationally discuss a topic.

Will there be more of this in the future?

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