The Art of Suppression: Please think of the ‘Adults’!

It starting to look more and more apparent that we’re culturally progressing off a cliff as even works of fiction become progressively more sanitised beyond recognition. I say this as the Guardian recently reported that;

‘Several schools across Barcelona are considering purging their libraries of stereotypical and sexist children’s books, after one removed around 200 titles, including Little Red Riding Hood and the story of the legend of Saint George, from its library.’

Furthermore this decision comes from an organisation, Associació Espai i Lleure. The project aims to highlight hidden sexist content present within works of fiction. I know I heard audible gasps of absolute horror as people only just realised that these stories are filled with content that might shock and offend. But in my opinion (if I’m even allowed to have one anymore) fairy tales and their darker counter parts are an important part of our world especially when looking at the history of Europe.  Also regardless of the interpretation be it the original works, or spin offs, to retroactively take them off the shelves suggests to me that you underestimate the intelligence of children.

The further illustrate this point;

 The group reviewed the characters in each book, whether or not they speak and what roles they perform, finding that 30% of the books were highly sexist, had strong stereotypes and were, in its opinion, of no pedagogical value.

First of all, who gets to decide the value of these stories. And second of all, why does it always boil down to the inescapable truth that the people that complain the most about depictions in fiction have a real hard time separating that fiction from reality. A text’s value as a resource is down how the teacher approaches the subject. There’s a lesson in everything after all. A good teacher can figure how to approach any story and context even if the depictions are apparently negative.

Also it doesn’t take long for the problem to be directed against the real original sin that is masculinity.

Anna Tutzó, a parent who is on the commission, told El País that “society is changing and is more aware of the issue of gender, but this is not being reflected in stories”.  Masculinity is associated with competitiveness and courage, and “in violent situations, even though they are just small pranks, it is the boy who acts against the girl”, which “sends a message about who can be violent and against whom”.

The determined emphasis on killing competitiveness really concerns me. The idea that even courage could be considered negative is also surprising but not unexpected. But it all boils down to the message about who can be violent and against whom. You could argue this same logic applies to video games. The notion that children are willing to act on stories or perceive them as anything but fiction is as irrational as it gets. It worries me more that the parent can’t take responsibility in these cases. When it’s their imperative to raise a child well. What’s even more concerning is that this may move beyond just fairytales. We all know how the spectrum of colours is being more politicised with every waking minute, I can’t wait for the alphabet to fall to a similar fate.

The real tragedy is that the story of Saint George has to fall on this sword and all because it falls under the damsel in the distress trope;

The legend of Saint George has also been taken off the shelves of Tàber’s infant-school library. Books about this legend are commonly read at Catalonia’s Sant Jordi book-giving festival, the Diada de Sant Jordi (St George’s Day) on April 23, but most perpetuate sexist stereotypes, where a man is the courageous hero, slaughtering dragons, and a woman is the scared princess. New children’s books, however, such as Santa Jordina (Saint Georgia) and La revolta de Santa Jordina(The revolt of Saint Georgina), are putting a twist on this legend and placing a girl in the role of the hero.

As a point of aside, I often wonder if what I’m reading is cleverly worded satire but sadly it’s not. These people think they act for the good of us all. All they’re doing really is satisfying an urge to control everyone else. And there’s nothing good about that. They could quite easily have the original and inspired work exist side by side but often it seems that if a man has a lead role they have to be punished for it. It’s becoming harder to see why some see this as okay. Are boys not allowed to see Saint George as a hero? It’s not think of the children but the adults that just can’t leave fiction well enough alone.

“If boys get the starring roles in books – both as the good and bad protagonists – and girls are the sidekicks, it confirms that’s how the world is and how it should be. It’s very hard to feel equal then.”

I don’t think any reader feels this way about a story be it a child, teenager or adults. Do I really need to refute such an illogical statement but the real nail to the coffin of anything remotely academic is the final part of the El Pais article. I won’t respond to it but let you decide your feelings;

Ester Murillo, a mother of the parents association at Montseny school, adds that this awareness of sexist content “needs to be shared by both the families and the teachers, who must internalize it and transmit it in the classroom.”


Why Context Matters?

The Covington controversy is a lesson for us in patience and why context above all else can change the initial perspective on events. By now most of you will have seen the short two-minute video depicting an elder Native American confronting a Covington student on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was shared around faster than the T-Virus turning Racoon City into a zombie-infested hell hole.

It created a mob of sheep that assumed evil intent without first understanding the situation. It has recently come out that there is in fact approximately two hours of footage that may in fact cast the boys in a better light. But it has already been too late. In my own personal experience, I became a sceptic of the mainstream media after observing a coordinated effort by spineless journalists to turn the identity of gamers into something akin to a bogeyman. The Gamergate controversy whether you be for or against it saw to the demise of caution and integrity. The Wikipedia article speaks for itself about how vindictive game journalists and their supporters really are when it comes to a simple matter of ethical journalism.

The situation involving the Covington students gets exacerbated further when you read the initial comments. People who should know better may as well have called for Nick Sandmann’s head. A lot of sites ran stories ahead of time and even managed to interview Philips.

Until stated otherwise, there is currently no evidence the boys chanted anything close to what Philips claimed. It’s true they may have been a tad over the top in response to him but that can be boiled down to them reacting to him banging a drum in Sandmann’s face. A situation we can all agree would leave you either wanting a way out or having to grin and bear it. It should also be noted that Nathan Phillips marched into the group of his own volition and went as close to Sandmann as possible it seems.

Of course, Sandmann was not the first target for an unrestrained mob egged on by Twitter check marks and an unforgiving media. Michael Hodge bore the brunt of it initially with a series of tweets being released indicating an attempt to damage his culinary future before it had a chance to start.

No matter how you cut it or view Trump. Loathe or love the President, his ascendancy to that position is born from this same mentality that caused Clinton to lose. Assume the opposition is deplorable and you will never get them back. No amount of blaming your Russian bogeymen will change the result. That same logic applies to Brexit. It’s convenient to focus your ire on Russia because it ignores introspection and a chance to grow.

There have been a few retractions now that the two-hour clip is readily available but many can’t see past the Maga hat. The hat itself is harmless, but projecting hatred of a President onto a someone else is as damning as it gets. When the ‘free’ press can’t be arsed to fact check and just eagerly watches as its audience pulls someone else apart it comes as no surprise when people use hashtags like #LearntoCode. It hurts to be given a taste of your own medicine. And truthfully tolerance means facing your opposition in good faith. And if these people truly opposed harassment this story would not be what it is today.

As the title says, context matters. Journalists need to learn quickly that their reporting can be seen as an incentive and as radical activism is on the rise, this can lead to even more division as eggshells finally break underfoot.

Nick is innocent, he has committed no crime and didn’t deserve to endure slander by the mainstream press.

Now in regards to the other group present. Who I have neglected to mention so far, has managed to dodge all criticism. The Black Israelites are arguably one of the most hateful groups I’ve seen in recent memory, whether it is being homophobic to a couple of school students or chastising the traditions of native Americans. Not one publication criticised them. Instead, you see a MAGA hat and white man. And in the minds of many on the left side of the political spectrum. That truly is the original sin. The lesson to take away here is to treat others as you would like to be treated. It’s not rocket science.

The lesson to take away here is to treat others as you would like to be treated. It’s not rocket science.

(Note: the footage appears to show the boys defending homosexuality. Ironic considering how much the media has doubled on them being the bigots in all this)

When Books Haven’t Aged Well

There seems to a growing issue in this current day and age in which some feel ashamed that they would consider recommending work that was published in the 20th Century or prior and in the case of the article here written by Matt Mikalatos. This relates to the novel, The Once and Future King by T.H White.

At first glance, his issue with it, now ties back to White’s references to usage of the phrase Red Indians. Which does stand out, however, as a descriptive element it does appear to work in regards to how the American Indians were often stereotyped by those back in the early to mid-1900s. It’s not inoffensive but as a piece of fiction, it’s like most things harmless.

Whilst the content of the book from my own initial observations do provide commentary on the state of the world, they are entirely related to that period of time. I do intend to fully read the novel but for the sake of this initial point, I searched the bits are referenced.

Matt’s next issue ties back to characters saying ‘nigger‘, and at the end of the day no matter how I dissect this, the term is always going to carry weight to it. But as these are stories written prior to the civil rights movement. The use either to reflect a character’s personality or how they see others isn’t entirely to be unexpected.

Most of us who love speculative fiction run into this problem at some point. There are classics of the genre that are uncomfortable for various reasons. Some of them are straight-out racist, or unrepentantly misogynistic, or homophobic, or all of the above.

It’s easy to forget how much has changed just in the last century and even before that. I’m only twenty-four and technology is already far ahead of what I used back in the early 2000s. A person growing up in the eighties will see the world in an entirely different light to me. Writers of the past often do pull on their own experiences and even prejudices. Can we judge them? Sure but what does that achieve except painting you as some kind of moral crusader.

We can have a debate in the comments about whether Tolkien’s world is racist, but in general, if someone in Middle-earth has black skin (the Uruk-hai, at least some other orcs, the Southrons) or are described as “swarthy” (the Easterlings, the Dunlendings), then you better believe they’re going to be bad guys, with very few exceptions. Sure, there are plenty of white, non-swarthy bad guys, too, but it’s hard to escape the sense that it’s the people of colour you need to keep an eye on, in these books. (Yes, I know Samwise sees a dead enemy soldier in The Two Towers and reflects on whether he might have been a good person who was lied to. This shows, I think, Tolkien’s empathy for people and desire to humanize and complicate the Haradrim and other dark-complexioned combatants, but this is one brief paragraph in a massive trilogy.

There’s a lot to unpack here and there’s obviously parts of the LoTR lore that I’m not all that well versed in. It’s a series I do plan on reading as my only real insight is the films and reading the lore online. However, its no secret that the orcs are evil and how they look has very little to do with that fact. And other depiction of evil in that series can be tied back to the rings corrupting influence over men, elves, dwarves etc. Regardless of skin. It is a force impossible to resist. Assuming anything about Tolkien just ignores the context and setup of the universe he has built.

Of course, Matt dances around Lovecraft’s work because he’s already been bludgeoned by this view that we should shun past authors. I don’t care personally for Lovecraft’s views. Because I’m more invested in the story. It takes anyone a few seconds to delve into Lovecrafts life and you can see where that horror manifests. Although why he named his cat ‘nigger-man’ I will never know.

As for whether I’d recommend a story written in the past that may reveal an authors prejudice. Yes, I would. Because the person I’m recommending to is an individual capable of making their own decisions and I imagine can separate fiction from reality.

With folks like White, Tolkien, and Lewis, we see people who are steeped in colonialism and racist assumptions. Thus the defence that gets trotted out whenever these problems are discussed: “They were a product of their time.” This is one of the challenges for all of us as we delve further into the past reading the classics—of course, there are assumptions and cultural practices and beliefs that are at odds with our own. Where is the tipping point of not being able to look past these differences, the point where we can no longer enjoy reading these works?

That’s entirely on you Matt. Nothing else needs to be said. If you can’t treat this writing as mere fiction then that says a lot about you. We as readers get it. Colonialism is viewed very negatively but in the end its the very reason you probably exist. Complaining about it achieves nothing. As for its depiction in fiction. Well, that’s entirely on the author and the characters they bring to life.

As a whole whether your like Matt and can’t stomach the writers of the past. That’s on you. Sure as he says you can write ‘corrective’ pieces but then even that can be viewed as problematic. It also risks indicating that you are more interested in correcting the past then telling a story.

Remember folks a fictional world may draw from our own but its conventions, lore, history, can quite often be at odds with our beliefs. It may make us uncomfortable. And that’s okay because these are only stories. No two authors will be the same. They may have the same idea. But the execution will always be profoundly different.

Branching out

I’ve created world a anvil page in order to keep track of all things happening on Infinitum Earth. I’ll be updating it as time goes by. You will also find a few stories dotted around there too following the escapades of those that may only make a small appearance in the main set of stories.

The Infinitum Earth

My patreon is more of an experiment. I’m considering of using it to reveal content early to those interested in the universe as well as providing support for those who may be sitting on an idea and don’t quite know where to take it.

Mr Mad Writer

The Man Who Sold the World

Can you guess what inspired me to write this short piece of fiction during three years at university? 

I stand on uneven ground, the cracks of time show, but under shallow moonlight, I see the old world. Skyscrapers, tower blocks, a once bustling city of activity. It died a long time ago. Yet it feels like this happened only yesterday.

Weather the storm. Who said that again. I vaguely recall my old life, the only memory of it I have… is Him.  

He stands beside me, prying at my mind, he is the curious, the innocent, and the megalomaniac all rolled into one single package. Yet despite this facade, I see a calm, resolute figure. We stare at each other briefly.

He should be dead, and so should I. I laugh and he joins. It ends as quickly as it began.

I like to think I run away from him simply because he is the man who sold the world. There is this air of hostility between us, for am I the one born in that fire.  Fire still raw and burning in my mind.

What have I become? two centuries have passed and I am still no closer to that answer.

As if seeing my thoughts he says, “Regret, I am the match, and you are the regret. You are the light that blanketed this planet. Before the silence fell.”

The man who regrets. It seems fitting when I think about it.

“I am a man forged in atomic fire,” I answer.

“And you will burn for all of the time,” he adds.

I merely nod, not wishing to speak further. He disappears from my vision, like a magician at the end of a magic act. Two hundred years of suspension and this gets no easier, each time I see what it was before. Memories I can’t begin to suppress, as much as I’d rather forget. It is sad, I still see Humanity as it was and as it is currently. I see us still locked in the cruel snare that one day will leave this world empty. All because I sold the world. All because I made the choice and caused the end of many a life. Finality. It will never come. For I know even now. I am not done.

I am the man who sold the world, and I have been reborn.

The Forge

A flash of light,
piece of clay,
Warping, twisting,
In the light of old forges,
History written,
Ever evolving.

Death and demise,
And hate,
Victims of imperfection.
Fulfilment beckoned,
One mind,
Body and soul
Humanity, joining to unite under
one singular conscious

The string is unravelling
Loosening its shackles
Liberating the sense of self.

Humanity’s bane and blessing
lies with its uniqueness

In the end
It does not matter
What we do
What the consequences are
For our life is tiny
Nature will roll on
With or without us.

We are one small tale.
And someday it will end.

The Last Jedi: A Deconstruction (Part Two)

There’s no point pretending I can cover the entirety of this movie, but hopefully, the first part puts perspective on how out of sync it is with the rest of the Star War series. Now I’m going to focus on the characters in the new trilogy, specifically Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren. The three of them are entirely one dimensional. Most two dimensional characters I’ve observed have more character than these three combined. Rey’s overpowered nature is exacerbated in the Last Jedi making it clear that she will never have to face a real threat. The only character that I had some hope for was Finn but sadly he was butchered unceremoniously in this mess of a movie. His character was dead as soon as Rian conveniently forget the man had been sliced in the back with a lightsaber in the last movie. Not only that, we must sit through an awfully done romance subplot that makes me rather endure Twilight’s equally cringe-worthy attempt at romance.

Now I’m not pretending to be the expert on the romance genre but even as I continually practise my own abilities as a writer, developing character relationships overtime is the hardest part of any story. If things go to too quick then it becomes unrealistic, but to slow and you risk affecting the overall pace of the story. The problem with romance in the Last Jedi is that it absolutely has no right to exist and I hate to say it but Rose Tico could quite easily be removed from this story and nothing would be lost. If anything it would give us room to rework the weakest part of the story that is everything related to Canto Bight. The problem is if you take out Canto Bight then the story just falls apart. It doesn’t help that suddenly fuel is a problem in a universe that has seldom seen such issues arise.

But Canto aside what purpose does Rose serve? She’s just as much if it not more a Mary Sue than Rey. She takes centre stage in a story that didn’t need her. Only existing because her nameless sister dies blowing up a dreadnought.  Rose also undermines the arc of Finn before butchering what could have been a redeeming send off for him. The master of subversion couldn’t have a plot point resolve in a satisfying way. No that’s too easy. Subversion is the future even if it makes a subplot resolve in a way that nearly wipes the rebellion out for good. Rose’s cringe-inducing line about saving what you love is delightfully ironic as the death star laser penetrates the only thing separating the First Order from their goal of wiping out the Rebellion or Resistance because even that’s not entirely consistent in this movie.

Rey’s training in this movie can be summed up as three days of swinging a light sword around and magically becoming good. At least in a show like One Punch Man, Saitama is aware of how overpowered he is and almost resents that fact. Yet Rey had no sense of agency. She goes where the plot demands and is the forced hero no one wants. In the Force Awakens, she magically became good using the force after what? Getting inside Kylo’s head. It’s even harder to stomach that she could go toe to toe with a man that had been tutored first by Luke Skywalker and second by Snoke. She had absolutely no right to win her first match or even come off as strong as she did. At times a lot of what happens in the Force Awakens makes me wonder was Finn meant to be the main character all along. Because we never really see what it is like for a conditioned stormtrooper to adapt to being free. In fact, Rian just disregards that too. Forget the Last Jedi just call this movie, the Last Retcon because it throws out so much characterisation in order to inflate Rian’s ego in order for him to tell the story he wants and not the one that would benefit the new trilogy.

The two main bad guys in this trilogy are Kylo ‘how the hell is he worthy of leading’ Ren and the ominous Snoke. I literally have nothing on Snoke. We all know how ‘subversive’ his death was. And since Rian didn’t give a damn. Neither will I. As for our little angsty wannabe Sith Lord. He makes me yearn for even Darth Maul. The Darth’s in the star war universe have nearly always had a presence to them, something that makes them imposing on others. Vader had presence and power, while Sidious could just sound intimidating and you would listen. Now Kylo isn’t a Darth, why? Because we can’t have any of that common sense in this movie. Now the Knights of Ren you say, who are they? Well rather like Accrington Stanley. No one has a damn clue because this is the Last Retcon, that means everything Abrams set up needs to be trashed for the good of Star Wars. Which finally leads me to finish on the most tragic deaths I’ve seen in any film. Not so much because it came at the hands of a certain character but because it came at the hand of the Director.

Even if you’ve only seen the original trilogy, it’s not hard to fathom that Luke’s character in the Last Jedi makes no sense. Now I have no issue with him pulling an Obi-Wan and biding his time. That’s fine, when Yoda and Obi-Wan went into exile they had little choice otherwise the Empire would put an end to them. They had to hide as for all they knew the Jedi were no more. But Luke’s reasoning for being on Ahch-To directly contradicts the Force Awakens. We can assume originally, he was seeking to understand why he failed to rebuild the Jedi and was wanting to also find a way to combat the dark shadow that was sweeping across the galaxy hence why he left a map in the first place. But what we get instead is a man disconnected from the force, whose actual reason for being in such remote place is to die. Not only does he not realise Han is dead, we get no chance to share this moment with him. Almost like Rian just doesn’t understand what an audience wants. And even when he eventually trains Rey if you could even call it that, it simply turns out that she’s already surpassed him. We also find out that Luke tried to kill Kylo when we already know that Luke went so far as hand himself over to Darth Vader in a futile effort to redeem his father. In reality surely, Luke would seek to reconcile Kylo’s temptation to fall into darkness. In my honest opinion, it should have been Kylo trying to kill Luke. Which forces Luke into hiding. But again that would have been ‘sensible’. And Rian obviously isn’t going for that nonsense.

I guess as closure I could talk about Leia surviving in space and the breach of continuity regarding space and the opening of any door that leads into a vacuum. But it’s pretty obvious at this point that there’s really nothing more to say. In my next part, I’ll touch a little on why the Canto Bight side of things just doesn’t work.