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Craverguy on The Interstellar Cockfight
at 08:45 on 02-03-2015 - link
Why the races in the game are fighting each other isn't clearly defined beyond some sort of twisted mountaineers logic (why are we blowing up that other fleet? Because it's there that's why!)
There is no peace among the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter and the laughter of thirsting gods.
https://me.yahoo.com/a/A2uDAFBom5Q0GcmnP1T.GiRRs1WGGbA-#6bab2 on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 06:10 on 02-03-2015 - link
“OK, fine. In People of the Black Circle Conan declares his intent to rape someone. In Red Nails he paws at a woman he finds attractive without her consent and shows no inclination to stop when she objects. In addition to these very big red flags, we know that Conan considers himself to be the big important in-charge-man in any particular relationship he is in, and doesn't consider his partners to be adult human beings capable of making their own decisions; the most striking example of this is at the start of The Slithering Shadow, in which he contemplates murdering Natala rather than allowing her to die of thirst in such a way which makes it clear that this is him unilaterally making the choice for both of them, as though she has no say in it.”
OK, thank you, then here we go. So that means for the point that it is in character for Conan to rape women we have:
-People of the Black Circle: Conan declares an intent to rape (1 point)
-Red Nails: Conan paws at but doesn’t rape Valeria (0 points, due to no rape. Conan also shows concern for her safety when she is hurt in battle)
-The Slithering Shadow: Conan is about to kill Natala rather than let her die of thirst (0 points, due to no rape. Again, this thought was motivated out of a desperate sense of mercy)
-The Frost Giant’s Daughter: Conan is definitely trying to rape Atali (1 point)
So that gives us a total of 2 points notwithstanding that not one rape has occurred.
Now for the point that it is more in character for Conan to defend women with his life than rape them:
-Black Colossus: Conan saves and attempts to save the princess Yasmela on several occasions, even ending with her begging him to stay with her. (1 point)
-The Slithering Shadow: Conan directly fights the demon Thog to protect Natala. (1 point)
-The Pool of the Black One: Conan fights a giant black humanoid to save his captive, Sancha. In fact, her saves Sancha several times and doesn’t save a tortured Zingaran boy. (1 point).
-Shadows in the Moonlight: Conan saves the character Olivia from Shah Amurath and later the man-ape. (1 point)
-Queen of the Black Coast: Conan tries to save a Belit who has gone mad. He cannot save her but avenges her by killing the winged monster. (I think half a point is fair as he wanted to save her. But if you want to say 0 points, that is fine)
-The Devil in Iron: Conan fights a colossus to defend Octavia and carries her when she is too weak to run away from it. (1 point)
-People of the Black Circle: Conan kidnaps the Devi Yasmina first against her will. She then comes around to his side as he saves her multiple times and eventually returns her to her country. (1 point)
- Jewels of Gwahlur: Conan gets his hands on those eponymous jewels but abandons them to save the slave girl Muriela. (1 point)
-Shadows in Zamboula: Conan strangles the strangler Baal-pteor to save Nafertari, the mistress of the satrap. (1 point)
-Red Nails: Valeria is a capable fighter but Conan fights alongside her and saves her when she is trying to save Techotl. (1 point)
And there you have it. The final score is 9.5 to 2. Or if you like, 9-2. What would that be in the eyes of an audience watching a soccer match (or football, if you like)? I think it would be called a pretty unambiguous ass-kicking. Especially when you consider that the only points you can manage are not for Conan actually raping a woman but for me stretching the rules to allow it. And the examples to find of Conan fighting to protect women are pretty clear and unambiguous. I can admit that you have a point about humans being complicated and multifaceted and it is possible to be a rapist and do benevolent things but isn’t that just taking it from one extreme to another? Is it really so hard for you to admit that it takes real courage to put one’s life on the line to defend someone against often towering monstrosities, and that such a person is not to be written off as “vile” so easily?
Now before you spend any energy to sweep all of this aside and tell me how we can safely ignore all of these examples as they are nothing but a patriarchal bully out to keep a firm grip on his property (pussy)… just save it. Seriously, just save it. There is your answer to why some people will downplay the rape and focus on other aspects of Conan like his good side. Because it was clear to them what is and is not in character for Conan. And bear in mind there are several things this doesn’t take into account like every time a woman promised Conan a “special reward” which he turns down (as in Shadows in Zamboula). And this only focuses on one aspect of Conan’s positive side and says nothing of his courage, his generosity or his trustworthiness.
Would you like to play again? Are you going to tell me that Conan is a bully and brute? OK, let’s put that, every example you can find of Conan pushing other people around unnecessarily just to make himself feel big, on the line against all of the times that he demonstrated beyond average courage. Every time he refused to back down in the face of overwhelming odds. Every time he faced an inhuman monstrosity that was much stronger and quicker. Every battle that was not one-on-one or two-on-one, but a minimum of three-on-one. Say the word and we can play again, or else honestly, I have grown tired of this game of uncompromising telephone tag and rationalizations.
Do you understand why I made this game in the first place? Let me just say a couple of things before I get out of your hair forever:
We have been playing this game of back and forth for quite a while but what it mostly boils down to is one person’s viewpoint against another’s. I will never agree with, among other things, your idea that we are meant to enjoy a person about to be raped and you will probably never agree, among other things, that Conan is actually a good protagonist and good guy. So I wanted to draw our conversation away from “I think this” and “I believe that” and more into “Conan DID this” and “Look at how often he DID that” as a means of judging the character and even to an extent, the writer. And when comparing comparably noble and ignoble actions, Conan’s nobility far outweighs his bad side.
And the point that you don’t seem to be getting or don’t want to admit to is that moral considerations really are different in the world of Conan. Our protagonist, right from the beginning title, is a red-handed barbarian. The whole intrigue of the character is that even though he has the power to bully everyone around him and exploit his superior physical strength in cruel ways, he doesn’t really do it. The effete civilized people, on the other hand, do exploit any petty advantage they can wrangle over others. The whole point is that the world itself is cruel, something that Howard himself believed of the real world, but even though one must be strong to survive it, one doesn’t necessarily need to give up one’s humanity and be needlessly cruel and Conan is not. Call him harsh and brutal and I will say sure, but cruel and petty? Sorry but that’s just not who he is.
I often likened it to sports because it is quite appropriate to the character, a man judged on his actions and not someone’s interpretation of those actions, and in that arena, Conan will win every time. Every sports team and every sports player has their ups and downs. So collecting all of the footage of every time Michael Jordan failed, got blocked, missed his shot, has a warping effect on the audience member. You have collected all of the failings of a character and there is no taking them away. Jordan was blocked, stolen from, missed easy shots. There is no denying the bad side’s existence. But it is not a reasonable way to judge how great a basketball player he was and will leave a false impression in the minds of people watching your little lowlight reel.
So every time you write a section called, “Conan the Rapist”, I will ask you where is the section called “Conan the Woman Defender,” a section that can theoretically be about 9 times as long. Every time you say, “Conan the Bully”, I can say what about “Conan the Courageous”, again a much more substantial and unambiguous section. And every time you tell me that Conan’s world isn’t above moral considerations and that this is “what the text supports”, then I will ask you why we need focus only on the bad side of a character to judge their morality and suggest you look more fair-handedly at what the text says. I can at least admit with no reservations that Conan certainly does have a bad side. But if I am just being a cute puppy-dog for asking you to admit that there is a good side to the character, then I will continue to stick by my assertion that your article is glib, one-sided and misleading. It is essentially a guy bitching about a barbarian acting like a barbarian and about a racist who lived in a time of overt and socially accepted racism. Now we can stay on opposite sides of the fence and that’s fine: there are perfectly logical arguments to make no matter how one sees Conan and Howard. But I have demonstrated that I will not say down every time you say up, which is why I feel justified in my apolitical stance. You have yet to demonstrate any fair-handedness and you have yet to convince me why I should shun perfectly well-written and interesting stories. It’s a good thing I had personal experience reading the stories or else I might have just gone along with the crowd and avoided what I now know to be great stories.
So my last message for you Arthur is: either play the game, either show me how a comparable judging of his sins and his virtues weighs against him or don’t be surprised when I wave away your opinions and rationalizations.
And my last message for any others reading this: don’t take either my or Arthur’s opinions on the matter as written in stone. If there is one point I want to emphasize the most it is to read and judge everything for yourself on an individual basis. Read the books for yourself and if you agree with Arthur and want to shun them and not recommend them to people you know, you will hear no word of rebuke from me (unless you write a public article telling the general public at large to shun them). If you are ready for hardcore and gritty fantasy action with a protagonist that, love him or hate him, has carved out his own rightful and uniquely distinct place in the history of literature, I couldn’t recommend them more.
Girr, MRA Bob, the puppy-dog (arf-arf!)
https://me.yahoo.com/a/A2uDAFBom5Q0GcmnP1T.GiRRs1WGGbA-#6bab2 on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 06:10 on 02-03-2015 - link
Thank you for the comments. Again, I do understand what you are saying, and I have told Arthur at the times that I think he has it right that he has it right. So there are reasons I see that people would have a problem with reading the Conan material and anything else by Robert E Howard. But on the other hand, the good things in something like FGD would be lost in the shuffle, as with anything else good, so Orion had a good suggestion to mention what I like and it seems to be making the most progress in the discussion.
Not to go into another long tirade about it or anything but the point I mentioned that fighting for women is inherently seen as noble and fighting for men as ignoble is not a reflection of what feminists think or are concerned for. So that doesn’t contradict what you said about most feminists you know actually being concerned for the rights of men. I was using that only to demonstrate that feminists, regardless of what they do say and believe, have a natural advantage in the eyes of the public. I have heard the range from many famous feminists like Anita Sarkeesian saying explicitly that they don’t care about men or many Jezebelites and Tumblrists even discussing eugenics and the possibilities of cutting down the male population of the world. The point is that in the sense of gaining actual votes for political causes, regardless of how good or bad the people are, in the eyes of the mainstream, feminism and its causes are generally seen as benevolent and worth fighting for. Did you see the Academy Awards the other day when Patricia Arquette said:
“To every woman who gave birth, to every tax payer and citizen of this nation. We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
So here is my point: The idea that a woman should get the equal pay a man gets for doing the same job sounds on its face as a perfectly agreeable and noble cause, and as such, her sentiment was loudly applauded. Now if a person feels that in reality a woman often doesn’t make as much as a man because of factors other than cruelty and oppression like for example prioritizing family over work, or the necessities of childbirth, etc., this is not the kind of thing that one can announce in front of an audience and expect to gain any support over. So it is hard to debate her point without having people accuse you of trying to keep women down. Even if Arquette cannot objectively prove the point that women are being treated unfairly, she will be seen as ultimately noble for championing the cause. And on the other hand, people who called her out later, notably Stacey Dash, are ultimately seen as ignoble, just hating on a concept that everyone with a conscience should be behind.
So if you know feminists that you think are fighting for the cause of true equal rights for everyone, I am not saying that that is not true and there are not good and intelligent feminists out there. What I am essentially saying is that it is naturally hard to be in direct opposition to feminism no matter what you or they actually believe. One can’t really go the other way on that and get in front of a crowd and say, “We need to fight against false rape allegations because they destroy innocent men’s lives” and expect a roar of approval. Even if false rape allegations are a major problem or even if they are not, the sentiment will not meet with instant, enthusiastic approval.
And on the point that you say that it takes a level of cognitive dissonance to be able to enjoy something, again, I see what you mean and I think that it is a fair example. I must admit I fell off of the Star Trek train back in the 90s with The Next Generation, but yes, there is no inconsistency with not liking a specific point within it that offends you. I will admit that Arthur has the right to be turned off by what he perceives as horrible which is this crime of attempted rape in FGD. But in all of this, I think it really is fair to acknowledge that in the world of Conan, it really is different from most other works in the genre. So if we are talking about Star Trek, we have things that fit into something of that mold like Babylon 5 (one of my all-time faves) or Stargate of The X-Files or something like that. There are certain normative standards that they all play by like minimal sex and violence. But there are some other things like especially certain sci-fi movies where the audience knows that it is R-rated and the level of sex and violence is higher. Well, Conan is for the hardcore. We know Conan with titles like Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, The Savage Sword of Conan. We kind of know right from the get-go that it is not really for the faint of heart. Writing such a scathing review of hardcore material for being hardcore is kind of like a critic who specializes in soft jazz complaining about how loud and abrasive that heavy metal band is and telling everyone that they shouldn’t listen to it. But very simply, there are many fans of hardcore material and a review should be written with them in mind.
So there is nothing wrong per se with a review that points out Conan’s character flaws, but if it doesn’t take into account the entirety of the character, especially in its context, then there is something missing in it. Arthur certainly exceeds my knowledge of Conan but reading his review, it is like we didn’t even read the same books. And especially how confrontational he was towards those who like the books or would look to defend them, I felt compelled to chime in.
Ashimbabbar on The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 5)
at 01:36 on 02-03-2015 - link
"Query: what on Earth is the point of having randomised starting stats for player character in these gamebooks? "
As I understand it, the basic idea is that you need several readings to map the connections and figure out the wrong turns, traps, mandatory items etc. So a weak character, if he survives the early fights, can be used as a 'belgian mine-clearer' to try suspicious places and see what happens - no great loss.
re what I wrote earlier, Andrew Chapman's novel is Ashkar the Magnificent; here the Banshee's captain is called Starg, wears a cape of tanned human skin and slays a few of his men who raped maiden prisoners ( since virgins fetch a much higher price ). It would have improved Seas of Blood somewhat to include those details, I think.
Orion on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 22:25 on 28-02-2015 - link
Not quite. Michael Dunn did try the "stand your ground" defense, but he didn't get away with it. He did convince one jury not to convict him of first-degree murder, but they still voted to lock him up for decades, and then a second jury convicted on murder and put him away for life.
Back on topic, I actually would question the assertion that "murder is a worse crime than rape." Honestly, I think comparing crimes is tricky business, and dangerous in some of the ways comparing oppression can be. I certainly wouldn't turn round and say that rape is a worse crime than murder. I do think it's important to remember that each word covers a huge range of scenarios and that if you want to talk compare them you need to be very clear about both what assumptions you're making and about what you think "worse" means. In Illinois, where I live, sexual assault carries the same penalty as second-degree murder, which I think is pretty reasonable. In real life and especially in fiction, murderers often think they have good reasons for what they do, which can make them more sympathetic and lead us not to see them as "evil", despite their crimes. Rapists don't and pretty much can't have sympathetic motivations.
Robinson L on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 15:39 on 28-02-2015 - link
Arthur: Well, you know what they say: an armed society is a polite society that has guaranteed that whenever its members snap they do as much damage and bloodshed as humanly possible.
Brilliantly put, Arthur, and all too true.
Although, correct me if I'm wrong, Orion, but wasn't the point of at least one of those stories that the killer claimed "Stand Your Ground" to defend their actions and got off?
Girr: this is likely my last post as it seems the relevance of debating with you, which came to a head about two posts ago, has slowly ebbed away.
Guys, we need to stop talking about Conan, 'kay?/obligatory joke
Girr, I want to say - in the interests of playing at least a little into your game - I appreciate the way, in an earlier comment, you describe what it is about Frost Giant's Daughter you enjoy. Especially the part about the dialogue - as a fantasy writer, I've encountered the problem of trying to write dialogue which sounds at the same time archaic and natural. On balance, it's not enough to convince me to read the story, but I like hearing about what you think Howard got right with the piece.
I also like the way you make sure to welcome other voices into the conversation, and you do your best to exercise fair play, as you see it.
All of which said, I think many of your arguments are not nearly so clinching as you seem to believe. I won't speak to most of the Conan stuff because, again, I've never read it. But I get the sense a couple of times that it is the premises of your arguments which people are objecting to, and you don't seem to be getting that.
For instance, given that there is no political party or organization in the US which wields enormous power and is explicitly anti-feminist, it does not follow that feminism reigns supreme and unchallenged in the country, which is what you seem to be arguing (feel free to correct if I misconstrue).
Also, this characterization:
The principle is simple: feminists are seen as fighting for the rights of women which is seen as an inherently noble act, whereas fighting for the rights of men is inherently seen as ignoble and selfish.
... Is a gross misunderstanding of how feminism operates pretty much everywhere I've encountered it. Most of the feminisms (it's not monolithic) I'm familiar with are concerned about men's issues, men's rights, and men's problems. Hell, the first time I encountered a serious discussion of the particular hardships faced by male rape survivors or even just the term "misandry" were on explicitly feminist blogs. The thing is, the feminisms I am familiar with do not fault women for men's problems (or men for women's problems, for that matter), but ascribe both to a destructive overarching system of oppression.
in actuality and despite the general public opinion (which is overwhelmingly influenced by feminism), the crime of murder is worse than the crime of rape.
And I don't actually think there are many people who will argue the assertion that murder is a worse crime than rape. I do think that for various reasons (i.e. the aforementioned system of oppression), rape is a much more politically charged and contentious issue than murder (except when the victim is a black youth or a brown person on the wrong end of a predator drone).
In other words, you will go to great lengths to rationalize why we can accept killing but not rape, instead of just admitting that both acts are just as morally unacceptable.
You also seem to be missing the point that the rules for how people respond to fiction are different from how they respond (or should respond) to such issues in the real world. There are several very good conversations to be had about how violence is depicted in popular culture and whether that is or is not a good thing, but those are very different from the conversations we need to have about real violence.
I don't think I'm explaining this very well, so let's try an example: I'm a pacifist, but my favorite books, movies, and television are positively steeped in violence. Heck, my all-time favorite fandom has "war" in its frickin' title. So yeah, pretty much all of the stories I enjoy involve some level of cognitive dissonance, which I accept for the sake of entertainment.
There's no logical inconsistency to my enjoying the hell out of watching Captain Sisko and Starfleet conduct a war with the Dominion, even though in real life I oppose wars on principle. Nor is there an inconsistency with my accepting the Dominion War, but getting turned off by Sisko colluding in the assassination of a Romulan senator and his escort in order to trick the Romulans into entering the war. What I can accept from fiction is different from what I can accept in real life, and there's nothing wrong with that.
You are just overselling the egregiousness of rape and underselling the virtue of standing and fighting to protect someone.
As others have pointed out, the two are not mutually exclusive, and the virtue of standing and fighting to protect someone does not negate the egregiousness of attempted rape. (I'm going to be generous and assume you mean that Arthur is overselling the egregiousness of the alleged attempted rape in Frost Giant's Daughter, not that he's overselling the egregiousness of rape as a phenomenon.)
Again, coming at this from the perspective of an outsider who's never read Conan - and from that perspective, you're said little to convince me that Arthur's characterization of the stories is inaccurate, or that his recommendation against reading them is irresponsible, which I believe were your original points (again, correct me if I'm mistaken)?
- Craverguy on The Hipster On the Seas of Fate at 04:55 on 28-02-2015 - link I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on "Modem Times," Moorcock's most recent Cornelius novella. I've seen some good reviews of it, but it sounds like more of the "Socratic dialogues" that you didn't like in "The Camus Connection" and "Cheering for the Rockets."
- Craverguy on Pawn's Playtime at 04:50 on 28-02-2015 - link The Pawn mechanic sounds like it could be fun. But what's the plot? And are there loads and loads of sidequests? That's what I play CRPGs for.
- Melanie on Pawn's Playtime at 02:39 on 28-02-2015 - link Honestly, if I didn't have a dislike/incompetence for that general type of combat (i.e., real-time and detailed--for me it's fun enough to watch, but not to actually play), and if it were for the PC, I'd probably try the game on the strength of this review. As it is I found a Let's Play and it's pretty involving. I'm especially admiring the gorgeous scenery (slightly blurry, but still utterly beautiful and detailed, and--man, you can see the artistry that went into this. It seems like that's becoming common in games with a realistic art style, but still, ooooooooo) and the stuff the player is able to get up to, i.e., throwing people off of things, roofrunning, climbing... various things... etc.
- Arthur B on Elric: A Von Bek Fantasy at 14:57 on 26-02-2015 - link Blood: A Southern Fantasy.
Alice on A Rowling In the Nest
at 14:45 on 26-02-2015 - link
I just read this (my decision to pick it up being mostly based on this review, actually), and quite enjoyed it for what it is, i.e. comfort food for the white English middle-class brain. I agree that the handling of race (and class, and gender) seemed more well-intentioned than well-executed -- though I didn't exactly have high expectations for the execution side of things to start with...
Cormoran Strike reminded me rather of Kate Atkinson's PI character Jackson Brodie: both ex-military, with tragic family backgrounds pushing them into detective work, not to mention having failed romantic relationships hanging over them, though those are rather better incorporated into the Brodie books: I felt that Charlotte in Cuckoo was a pretty unnecessary Vindictive Beautiful Harpy #3 stereotype of a character who didn't add much to the story.
(I'd recommend the Brodie books as a somewhat meatier version of the Strike novel(s), btw.)
I also agree that the title seems a little strange, but it helped me to realise that it's a reference to Christina Rossetti's poem "A Dirge" (Why were you born when the snow was falling? / You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling [...] Why did you die when the lambs were cropping? /You should have died at the apples’ dropping), which is used as an epigraph to the novel. It's still a problematic bit of imagery when applied to adoptees, though!
Incidentally, I keep thinking of Cormoran Strike as "Cormorant Shrike" and wondering if his names' similarity to the bird species is in any way deliberate.
- Craverguy on Elric: A Von Bek Fantasy at 14:40 on 26-02-2015 - link So...I can usually tell, but: what novel/story is the title of this review a reference to?
- Arthur B on Pawn's Playtime at 07:06 on 25-02-2015 - link Yes, that you can do.
Melanie on Pawn's Playtime
at 23:39 on 24-02-2015 - link
In other words, they're NPCs who are aware that they are NPCs and to whom each game of Dragon's Dogma is like a different parallel universe they can travel between.
(Neatly, Pawns also learn from their adventures - pawns who have gone along a particular route or quest before will have useful advice about it, and Pawns are more effective in combat when fighting monsters whose weaknesses they have learned.)
Okay, this sounds really cool. Can you actively seek out Pawns who have done certain things, or is that information not available?
Arthur B on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 12:22 on 22-02-2015 - link
When asked to provide names of any politician or group of politicians whose influence is comparable to feminists, you offered up the MRM, internet trolls and social conservatives. Every single one is a time waster. You know yourself that the MRM is the only one of which who attempts to stand as a direct counter-balance to feminism and comes nowhere near its influence. Internet trolls is the silliest answer you’ve given me so far. And social conservatives? Really? Well that might be true if they built their platform around fighting against feminists, but sadly such is not the case and you know that as well as I do. They only happen to oppose some issues that mostly stem from religious views. Not a single one fits the description of a powerful and specifically anti-feminist group.
OK, well if we are exclusively looking at politicians let's turn it around. Where's the big monolithic feminist group you are talking about here? In national politics in the US in particular, one-issue politicians are vanishingly rare, so whilst some Senators and Representatives and so on may support feminism, that is hardly going to be the only thing they support - just as social conservative sorts are going to support a range of issues which are of importance to them rather than just exclusively concentrating on anti-feminism.
For the same reason you are not going to find many politicians working exclusively for feminism at the national level, you are not going to find many working exclusively against it. As such, the power of the social conservative forces is your biggest counterbalance to feminism, and I query your assertion that social conservatives don't support many anti-feminist causes. By definition, feminism is about challenging the social status quo and institutionalised distributions of power, precisely the sort of thing social conservativism specifically exists to preserve.
In the absence of you naming a specific, powerful Feminist Party or cross-party grouping in American politics, I can't say that our results are that disparate. Ultimately, if anti-feminist forces aren't as represented on the national stage as you like, what are you gonna do - blame the electorate for voting wrong?
But you didn’t mention that murder, not battlefield killing, is also needless and cruel and yet we agree that Conan certainly is a murderer.
And he is - he kills people and whilst some of his killings could be excused from context, plenty don't, and he's certainly more bloodthirsty than many other adventure story protagonists.
The reason you don't see me pushing this point more is quite simple: people dispute it less. We'd have been arguing this point back and forth lot more if you'd questioned it.
That being the case, I wonder how you can see Conan as an individual of such high moral character that rape would never occur to him, whilst at the same time acknowledging that he is a murderer, when by your own moral judgement murder is worse than rape.
When I say that Conan can’t accurately be judged for the times when he acts out of character and to prove that it isn’t in character, let’s go on a hunt through the source material to check, you, right on cue, immediately backed down.
Refusing to play a biased game that doesn't actually demonstrate what you think it demonstrates. It's not so much that the rules are unfair so much as they are nonsensical.
The real reason that the rules bother you is that it points out very clearly that there is a missing element in your analysis and will make you have to admit that raping people is actually not in character for Conan.
What is in-character and out-of-character for Conan is what Robert E. Howard writes him doing, because Conan is not a real person with any independent existence from his creator. If Howard depicts Conan raping someone even once, then Conan is a rapist and that is in character for him. If it is difficult for you to reconcile this with the rest of Conan's behaviour then either this is a failure on your part to comprehend the genuine complexities of human behaviour or a failure on Howard's part to make Conan a believable character.
I am putting it to you that that evidence you cling to is flimsy at best and if you are correct, if he is a rapist, it should be no problem to find him doing this with no ambiguities. I can supply plenty of evidence of him putting his life on the line to defend a woman.
Again we come back to your completely bizarre insistence that someone who puts his life on the line to defend a woman from physical harm in one context wouldn't rape someone in another context. It's like you believe that rapists are androids stuck in rape mode and can never behave differently.
This is absolutely ridiculous. You are exhibiting the moral awareness and depth of character judgement of a tiny child who believes that a burglar must necessarily always be creeping about with a big sack of stolen goods marked "swag".
Either take the challenge and prove to me that it is in character for Conan to rape people or you prove to me that one of your central ideas doesn’t stand up in the light of relevant facts.
OK, fine. In People of the Black Circle Conan declares his intent to rape someone. In Red Nails he paws at a woman he finds attractive without her consent and shows no inclination to stop when she objects. In addition to these very big red flags, we know that Conan considers himself to be the big important in-charge-man in any particular relationship he is in, and doesn't consider his partners to be adult human beings capable of making their own decisions; the most striking example of this is at the start of The Slithering Shadow, in which he contemplates murdering Natala rather than allowing her to die of thirst in such a way which makes it clear that this is him unilaterally making the choice for both of them, as though she has no say in it.
Given that combination of character traits, I would find it utterly unsurprising for Conan to rape someone.
But even if you don't buy that, it's a massive overexaggeration to suggest that Conan-as-rapist is even a major pillar of what I am discussing here. Conan being an objectionable character whose actions are disconcertingly enobled and admired by the narrative voice doesn't rely on him being a rapist; nor is it the only objection I have to Howard's writing.
Lastly, your puppy-like expectation that I will roll over and concede your points is endearing but unrealistic, and misses the point of debate altogether. Discussions like these almost never result in one side or the other changing their minds - it's all about what impression undecided parties observing the argument come away with.
I entirely admit that my appreciation of Conan might be tied into the particular values and ideas I subscribe to and that people with an entirely different worldview from me may find a lot to like about Conan. That's fine, but I don't write reviews for the benefit of people who don't agree with me, don't think like me, and wouldn't get on with me, and nor does anybody else producing such material.
You constantly wail about people coming at these things with political biases without ever contemplating the idea that you might be doing exactly the same, your supposed "apolitical" stance notwithstanding. The fact is that we're all looking at this stuff through coloured lenses. I am willing to not only own to my lenses, but argue for their benefits above other lenses. Yes, I might be influenced by feminism. I would be willing to argue that this influence is outright benign. You don't seem to be able to even acknowledge what's influencing you, insisting instead on pretending you're the only one in the room who isn't looking through shades.
And that, my friend, is pretty goddamn pathetic.
https://phantomphonesringing.wordpress.com/ on Episode 10 - The Final!
at 11:33 on 22-02-2015 - link
I quite liked/sympathized with Jack actually, especially for the part about not wanting to do what other people tell you to. And the fact that he's inevitably gonna lose.
As for Freddy, meh. He should have stayed the adorable idiot he's perceived as, not turned into some hunk who solves all Kitty's messes. It's frustrating to have his lesson be he's more capable than he thought and hers to be she was selfish and shallow and bit off more than she could chew.
I should confess I've only skimmed the second half because I couldn't stand Kitty's puzzling objection to her cousin's romance and Jack losing.
Daniel F on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 10:00 on 22-02-2015 - link
Just throwing it out there:
The point at which you're accusing someone of just taking rape too seriously is probably the point at which you want to stop talking.
https://me.yahoo.com/a/A2uDAFBom5Q0GcmnP1T.GiRRs1WGGbA-#6bab2 on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 07:26 on 22-02-2015 - link
Hello again Arthur:
Again, I am sorry for the delay, but as I said before, I can only find time to respond on the weekends. But the good news is that this is likely my last post as it seems the relevance of debating with you, which came to a head about two posts ago, has slowly ebbed away. Your grudging unacceptance of some basic truths and unwillingness to answer pointed questions directly tells me everything I need to know. Ironically, even though all of your words are in direct opposition to mine, they could not exemplify my points any more perfectly:
I mentioned to you the point that politics gets in the way of reality, or that people will often refuse to acknowledge true points in order to maintain their stance. In other words, people will throw out rationalizations for things rather than admit they are wrong or might have missed something. As an example, I mentioned that feminism enjoys a powerfully influential position in politics which has no direct, effective counter-balance. The principle is simple: feminists are seen as fighting for the rights of women which is seen as an inherently noble act, whereas fighting for the rights of men is inherently seen as ignoble and selfish. To be seen as directly fighting against feminists inherently runs the risk of being labeled a woman-hater and this is socially unacceptable. The opposite is not. When asked to provide names of any politician or group of politicians whose influence is comparable to feminists, you offered up the MRM, internet trolls and social conservatives. Every single one is a time waster. You know yourself that the MRM is the only one of which who attempts to stand as a direct counter-balance to feminism and comes nowhere near its influence. Internet trolls is the silliest answer you’ve given me so far. And social conservatives? Really? Well that might be true if they built their platform around fighting against feminists, but sadly such is not the case and you know that as well as I do. They only happen to oppose some issues that mostly stem from religious views. Not a single one fits the description of a powerful and specifically anti-feminist group.
So there you have it. Rather than admit a simple point that feminists don’t have a direct and effective counter-balance, I have to sit through a series of rationalizations that dodge the central issue of the question. Your refusal to admit this doesn’t really do anything to diminish the point.
Also, I accused you of being selective in your moral outrage. I explained how in actuality and despite the general public opinion (which is overwhelmingly influenced by feminism), the crime of murder is worse than the crime of rape. You refused to chime in on this. You won’t explain to me why we shouldn’t take murder just as seriously as you want us to take rape. You said that kill-or-be-killed situations necessitate some levity but rape is needless and cruel. But you didn’t mention that murder, not battlefield killing, is also needless and cruel and yet we agree that Conan certainly is a murderer. The point is there and easily grasped, but you refuse to do so. In other words, you will go to great lengths to rationalize why we can accept killing but not rape, instead of just admitting that both acts are just as morally unacceptable. Again, your refusal to admit this doesn’t mean that you have disproved this point. It just shows me a man who would rather jump on the hamster wheel and churn out another rationalization than to just admit a simple truth.
Again, I think you are still missing the broader point, which is that I am only pointing out that all of your criticism for the vileness of rape can just as easily be applied to murder if one is willing to focus on it with the same tenacity. In reality I am not actually bothered by the killing so much and I am not trying to claim that Conan didn’t try to rape Atali. The difference is that I can find clear evidence of Conan committing murder when I look through the stories (i.e. swords entering victim’s bodies, actual dead bodies) and not one of him committing rape.
Your tenacious clinging to the idea that Conan is a rapist despite your best evidence being a rape that didn’t happen with a Conan acting out of character shows me just how far you would go to maintain this hypocritical illusion. When I say that Conan can’t accurately be judged for the times when he acts out of character and to prove that it isn’t in character, let’s go on a hunt through the source material to check, you, right on cue, immediately backed down. You complained that the rules are unfair but I think this is nothing more than another in a series of empty rationalizations. The real reason that the rules bother you is that it points out very clearly that there is a missing element in your analysis and will make you have to admit that raping people is actually not in character for Conan.
What all of this really boils down to is one person’s taking of the stories and presenting how they see it compared to another person doing the same. You can say that Conan is a rapist, and I can say that he isn’t. You can also say that Santa Claus is real and I can tell you that I have a UFO in my backyard. So what are we left with but to go into the source material and check? See who is right and who is presenting a fraudulent case. Your best foot forward, your only foot forward, is an out of character non-rape. I am putting it to you that this is not an accurate judge of the character because there is far more evidence that Conan doesn’t act in such a way normally. I am putting it to you that that evidence you cling to is flimsy at best and if you are correct, if he is a rapist, it should be no problem to find him doing this with no ambiguities. I can supply plenty of evidence of him putting his life on the line to defend a woman. I am even willing to give you two free points for things that are not actual rape. Even though you complain about it, the reality is that I am being generous to give you even those points. You have been given a head start and even then you are unwilling to play. Again that tells me everything I need to know about the relevance of your position despite what you would claim on the matter. You are just overselling the egregiousness of rape and underselling the virtue of standing and fighting to protect someone.
So I can stick around and wait for another rationalization as to how unfair it is etc. But what is the point? Either take the challenge and prove to me that it is in character for Conan to rape people or you prove to me that one of your central ideas doesn’t stand up in the light of relevant facts. If you can’t do this and instead expect me to sit through another round of rationalizations, then there really is nothing more to say.
- Robinson L on What The Fucking Fucking Fuck JK Rowling? at 18:30 on 19-02-2015 - link Coming in waaaaay late, but I thought I might as well point out that author Seanan McGuire also believes that Rowling doesn't deserve any points for gay representation with Dumbledore, for broadly the same reasons cited in this article.
Arthur B on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 18:47 on 18-02-2015 - link
Well, you know what they say: an armed society is a
politesociety that has guaranteed that whenever its members snap they do as much damage and bloodshed as humanly possible.
Orion on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 18:34 on 18-02-2015 - link
Arthur, this is not actually relevant to the argument being made here, but I feel it is my sad duty as an American to tell you that "I will kill you if you don't turn your music off" is a threat that has turned out to be deadly serious more than once in the past two years. America is a weird place.
Orion on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 18:17 on 18-02-2015 - link
You know, Girr, something just occurred to me about why I find this interaction odd. You've said you're not an MRA, and I'm happy to take your word for it. The MRAs, at least their prominent sites, are so spectacularly awful that I'm sure there are plenty of anti-feminists who are disgusted by Elam & co. At the same time, it sounds like your concerns/ideas are similar enough that you end up in a "fellow traveler" situation where you probably have allies or friends in common with MRAs. I bring this up because you seem to have picked up an interesting part of their M.O. One of the bizarre things about MRAs is that their "activism" is mostly about going after individuals (and sometimes institutions, but mostly individuals) that they disagree with. They spend very little effort trying to make their case to the public and a great deal of effort trying to shut down feminists. In the MRA case, this takes the form of reprehensible mob harassment and personal threats. I hope you can agree that MRA tactics are beyond the pale.
I don't want to imply that you're morally or ethically comparable to the MRAs, but I think you have actually absorbed (or independently derived) some of their ideas about how activism works and how movements spread. Going round to the blogs and review sites of your ideological opponents to try to talk them out of posting their opinions is a similar strategy, in that you're trying to change culture by going after individual people on the other side. That's really not very effective, and honestly kind of weird.
I think that if you want to persuade people to change the way they think about violence and sexual violence in literature, you can do a lot better than posting comments on obscure web sites frequented by people who are almost guaranteed to be unconvinced. You really would be better off getting your own blog, or writing some articles for an existing site that's at least receptive to your opinions. If you wrote an essay of similar length to Arthur's about the Conan corpus and its contribution to literature, I would be happy to read it and I think -- though I can't speak for them -- our hosts would be happy to let you link it here. It might also help if you developed an essay that laid out your problems with the popular attitudes on violence in your own terms, rather than rolling out your beliefs in small pieces over the course of a very long comment thread. I would happily read that essay, but more importantly for you, your ideas might reach people who don't even read Ferretbrain. "The antidote to bad speech is more speech," as they misquote justice Brandeis. I really do think you would get farther by proactively making your affirmative case than you ever will trying to shut down the other team.
Arthur B on We Need to Talk About Conan
at 18:03 on 18-02-2015 - link
In other words, don’t tell me that rape is too heinous to countenance but murder isn’t.
The reason a lot of the emphasis on this ongoing conversation has been on rape is because rape is the major theme of The Frost Giant's Daughter - a theme which Conan fans seem to constantly try to minimise or deny by excusing Conan's actions in one way or another.
Is Conan a murderer? Almost certainly; there's plenty of situations where he kills people in a way where there's no reasonably excuse. I wouldn't single out The Frost Giant's Daughter as such a story; we generally don't regard killings as part of battle as being murder even in the modern day, and the killing of Atali's brothers are fairly obviously in self-defence. Despite your strange insistence that the frostbitten tribal warfare between the Aesir and Vanir is somehwow not a legitimate war by modern standards, the fact is that of the actual on-stage action in that story by far the most objectional thing Conan does is trying to rape Atali.
Conan is different from other fantasy fiction like LOTR or Dragonlance or some such. It might belong under the same general category but not necessarily side by side on a book shelf. One is perfectly fine to let your young teenage nephew read, and the other certainly is not.
How is that relevant? Just because a fantasy novel deals with adult themes doesn't mean it automatically doesn't endorse a particular viewpoint or ethic.
I don’t agree at all that it falls within the bounds of a traditional adventure story and I don’t think at all that Conan is a traditional story protagonist. Howard created a world and character which has an originality and unique feel (probably you will argue that, but anyway). They don’t fit so well within the frameworks that you outlined.
Howard created a world based around his fringe theories of racial development and his savagery-barbarism-civilisation idea, and as I've regularly shown through this article the stories endorse a set of ethics and morals and political stances that reflect that.
Moreover, the Conan stories are fairly clearly an evolution from Howard's other fantasy series, whose connections to earlier adventure story traditions (as espoused by the likes of Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs) are more evident.
It is really, genuinely hard to see how you can read the Conan stories and not come away with the impression that we are meant to find Conan to be an impressive model of humanity, his barbarian nature triumphant over both the crude savage and the effete, deceitful ways of civilisation. Particularly in the stories in which he's protecting settlers in Pictish lands, you can see in Conan a parallel with the exaltation of the frontiersman in American culture as being superior both to the indigenous peoples they displace and the city-dwellers back east who lack the grit necessary to head out to settle the frontier (a theme which Howard wouldn't shy away from in his more traditional Westerns either).
And I still don’t agree at all that not having a character express remorse is tantamount to approval.
You're cherry-picking: I also suggested that you can avoid authorial approval and/or express disapproval through the narrative or authorial voice, and Howard really doesn't do that here.
The one time that he did clearly say that he never rapes anyone, you immediately wrote it off.
Because it directly contradicted the facts.
Again, if raping Atali is something the author thought was defensible and deserving, then why didn’t Conan get away with it?
Because she's the daughter of a deity, which means that a) within the story he whisks her away before Conan can do anything (but notably doesn't seem inclined to punish Conan, despite the fact that Conan just killed his sons and tried to rape his daughter) and b) as you point out, Howard is riffing on Daphne and Apollo, and following the format of the original demands that the Daphne analogue escape. (The original legend, of course, hails from a different culture from ours, and Ancient Greek myth constantly denied characters agency or responsibility for their own actions when they are less-than-sympathetic - but which crucially often had the characters carry the can for those actions anyway.)
Either way, the fact that a character gets away with something in a story has little to with whether the author presents them as doing something defensible and deserving. Rocky doesn't win the big match in his first movie, but he's still presented as being laudable and heroic. Tony Soprano was never shown as being jailed or killed as a result of being immersed in organised crime, but that doesn't mean The Sopranos made him out to be a good guy.
How does that figure into your equation? Are you going to tell me that only a depraved rapist would choose to work with such a vile story?
Well, the original story is deeply problematic in a modern context because whilst the Greeks were happy to attribute people's actions to divine influence but still have them face the consequences (see Heracles, who massacres his wife and kids under the influence of a curse but doesn't get to wriggle out of punishment with an insanity defence), in our culture we tend to regard people losing control of their actions as not bearing responsibility or deserving punishment for those actions.
That is hugely problematic when in real life people are regularly promoting and reiterating the idea that sometimes rape is partially or entirely excusable as a result of men being unable to help themselves or being provoked. Consequently, whilst I don't think someone who writes such a story is necessarily a depraved rapist, I certainly think that if they write such a story unquestioningly they are being somewhat irresponsible, since the Cupid's Arrow angle retrod unthinkingly could just perpertuate modern-day rape apologism.
Are you not going to admit that Conan’s out of character actions were part of a plot device?
I maintain that it is far from clear to what extent Conan is enchanted and the extent to which that enchantment constrained his behaviour. But I'd say that even if it does go as far as you say, I'd say the plot device as used here is lousy rape apologism. And as has been mentioned, this isn't the only story where Conan threatens rape or otherwise imposes himself on women with no regard to consent.
Are you not going to admit that even from the beginning of the thought process in the story, Atali was always meant to get away?
That is irrelevant as to whether or not Conan is a rapist.
In return though, you have almost never gotten off of your horse and acknowledged a good point that I made.
Well, when you're ready to make one...
Cheap shots aside, the cut and thrust of this discussion doesn't like where we agree (like on Howard's overt racial agenda), it's where we disagree, so naturally comments are going to focus primarily on those disagreements. There's no point engaging in long asides yakking about points that aren't actually contentious, and in respect of those areas where we do disagree I'm genuinely yet to see a convincing argument from you.
I gave you several examples of real life legislation that was enacted in the real world by feminists.
Actually, you cited a mixture of legislation and stuff that isn't legislation (such as "mother bias in divorce courts"), all of which are lightning rod issues for those with an antifeminist agenda, all of which have been enacted by bodies which, yes, feminists have been members of, but have also been supported by those without a declared feminist agenda.
Your response was to say that you can list off several “politicians pushing for greater control over women’s reproductive rights.” Well, that’s nice. But, what the hell does that have to do with the MRM? The people who fight against access to birth control are religious groups who think it unethical or taxpayers who don’t want to foot the bill.
And their agenda with respect to reproductive rights is diametrically opposed to the majority of feminist positions, so to the extent that they've had successes lately they are mounting an effective opposition to feminism right there.
And as for those politicians. Well, please, tell me which of them are MRAs. I gave you direct examples of heads of state, the US President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State who openly fight for feminism. I asked you the direct question of who can you name that holds comparable power among the mighty internet trolls, the masculinists or the MRM. You didn’t even try. I asked you the direct question of what laws have been passed directly due to MRM political efforts.
I'm not aware of any national politicians in the US who are self-declared members of the MRM because the whole Men's Rights thing is an utter fucking cartoon that's an instant credibility-killer. That doesn't mean that there's a lack of antifeminist politicians in the states; pretty much anyone with a socially conservative agenda is going to oppose most-to-all feminist positions.
If you seriously don't believe that there is a significant and potent social conservative strand in American politics, I don't know what to say.
When feminists get a head of steam in the political world, no one wants to be seen as standing in their way or else risk looking by default as a misogynist.
If that is the case, why is the social conservative cause such a perennial feature of American politics? Just as with feminism, social conservativism cuts across party lines, though it mostly lies in the Republican party - see, for instance, the 2012 election, in which Mitt Romney's opposition consisted of a range of social conservatives who diluted the power of their wing precisely because of the way they split the back-to-the-1950s vote, plus Ron Paul.
So there is nothing at all in my posts, my video, that made any kind of sense? It was all wrong?
Nothing that particularly demands commenting on.
Yes, the scoring system that asks you to directly put your claims to the test.
Which claim would that be? That Conan rapes people more often than he murders them? Because I've certainly never claimed that. To establish that Conan is a rapist takes only one attempted rape, which we already have. (The credible rape threats in People of the Black Circle only add credence to this point.)
I mean, if you think that saying that he will rape someone, as in PBC, is a crime, then will you also say that when I get mad at my neighbor for playing loud music and I say, “I will kill you if you don’t turn that off!” should land me time in prison?
Generally speaking such things tend to be judged on just how credible the threat in question is. Your loud music example would tend to be recognised as the hyperbole it is, whereas the rape threats in PBC seem entirely sincere.
OK, Arthur, let’s run with it for a second. Do you happen to know any rapists?
What criteria are you after here? Are you after someone who was found guilty in court? In which case, no, to my knowledge nobody of my acquaintance has gone to jail for rape.
At the same time, I am aware of at least one person I've met who is said to have raped someone. Since the victim chose not to take the accusations public or go to the police I'm not going to go into any more detail than that.
Not sure what the relevance of the question is, mind.
Wouldn’t a rapist, a person of low moral character, run at the first sign of any personal danger because in actuality a rapist only thinks of their own life, their own gratification at the expense of others?
This is where I have to question your own personal experience. You seem to have this bizarre mental conception of a rapist who is in full-on self-gratification mode at all times. I'd call this a caricature of the truth, but it's so far from reality that it's a full-blown cartoon. Whilst it is true that the act of rape will typically someone to put their own gratifcation ahead of the consideration of others and the principle of informed consent, at the same time people behave differently under different circumstances and imagining that a rapist must necessarily always put their own gratificaiton first is ascribing a robot-like consistency to people that real life experience doesn't really bear out.
Really, there've been ample examples of people convicted of rape who have been in high-risk occupations like the military or police. To imagine that there's a particular rapist personality that is consistently cowardly and always puts its own needs first takes you so far from reality that it would be funny if the subject matter weren't so grim.
To make it completely clear: there is one and only one qualification you need to be a rapist. That's raping someone (or attempting to do the same). (Similarly, you don't need a high score to be a murderer - one kill is enough.)
Why should we only look at the bad things a person does to judge their moral character? Good things are irrelevant? Even if they far outweigh the bad? If a quarterback throws two interceptions in the first half, but later comes back to score the game-winning touchdown, we have to say that he had a bad game? Or that he is a bad player? Please don't waste time by making such untrue assertions. Of course it matters.
Calling someone a rapist isn't saying "this person is a shithead with no moral character", it's saying "this person has raped someone".
The big mistake you appear to be making here is assuming that there is such a thing called "moral character" that can be measured in a linear way - that someone with a high moral character score wouldn't rape, murder, or steal, someone with a miserably low score would do any of things, and someone with a medium score probably isn't above stealing but might have second thoughts about rape and murder. Outside of Vampire: the Masquerade, this just isn't how human behaviour works.
And the best for last: I asked you two times to tell me whether Atali is or is not the primary villain of the story.
Fine, let me give you a direct answer there: Atali is the villain, the scam she's running with her brothers is murderous and horrifying, she's a terrible person. None of this means that she deserves to be raped; furthermore, Conan tries to rape her before he knows any of this and the story still puts this across as an understandable and supportable reaction on his part.
But do you see what I mean about it seeming to be harder for society at large to hold a bad woman’s feet to the fire?
How exactly am I supposed to analyse the character of Atali to the extent I have examined Conan here given that she appears in one fucking story?
To me there was an element of deception involved, where the author is presenting a case that his overall experience with the character should inform him is absolutely untrue and in no case was this more apparent than FGD.
Except if I am consistently finding issues with Conan's character and - perhaps more relevantly - Howard's writing from story to story, doesn't that speak to there being more to what I'm saying than if I am just building my entire argument on one thing that happens in one story? As it stands, you could quite happily delete any one particular story from my overview and it'd still come to the same conclusion.
I just don’t like it when a person takes their negative opinion and tells others that they shouldn’t try something based on it.
This is an attitude that others have taken in response to this review and I find it really strange. If I don't consider a book to be good reading, I'm not going to spuriously recommend that people read it anyway when there's material that I think is actually worth their time and which they are substantially more likely to enjoy than Conan.
The particular impetus for the comments about shunning is the way that Howard, nearly a century after his death and decades after the peak of the popular rediscovery of his work, is still widely cited as being essential reading in fantasy literature, and I just don't see that he is. He's useful to read if you are interested in the history of the sword-and-sorcery subgenre thanks to the place he holds in it, but not every fantasy reader is going to be (or needs to be) interested in that subgenre to begin with. And by recommending Howard as a cornerstone of the fantasy genre, fans are effectively making the particular agenda he pushed through his writing part of the foundations of the genre, right at a time when if anything we should be digging them out.
- Arthur B on You Wonder What The Author Was Thinking at 10:52 on 18-02-2015 - link It's part of a fringe psychological theory.