#MetalGate: you’re joking, right?

I saw some brief references to #MetalGate on Twitter before the weekend and assumed it was GamersGate loons trying to stir shit. I was right:

Similar to how “#Gamergate” was coined by Adam Baldwin while linking to videos about Zoe Quinn’s sex life, then famously retconned to actually be about ethics in journalism, the origins of #Metalgate seem to be unimportant. #Gamergate has established a template. Throw a hash in front of a word and a “-gate” behind it, and you send out a veritable Bat-Signal to thousands of angry people on the internet: “Social Justice Warriors are doing… something. We may not be clear on what they’re actually saying or doing, but they must be stopped.”

Proof once more, if any was needed, that GamersGate is just another rightwing kulturclash project, just another attempt by “South Park Republicans” and professional culture warriors to seem even vaguely relevant and use the fears and prejudices of unthinking white men to get some sort of rightwing cultural backlash going, gain some foothold in youth culture. Yes, it’s all sound and fury and rape threats that accomplishes nothing except the harassment of more women but hey, it beats working for a living.

Furies — Lauro Martines

Cover of Furies


Furies: War in Europe 1450 – 1700
Lauro Martines
320 pages, including index
published in 2013

A lot of history books about war and warfare, even when they look at the impact war had on wider society, on the civilians and soldiers caught up in it, are remarkably clinical and dry about the violence it brings with it. Not so Furies: War in Europe 1450 – 1700. Before it’s good and well started, you get the first grizly massacre to process, no horrid detail spared, all the better to prepare you for the rest of the book. This is not an easy read, not your average military history wankfest, this is a book with a message and that message is that war in Early Modern/Renaissance Europe was hell, a total war where nobody cared if you lived or died.

That period from roughly 1450 to 1700 was one in which a military revolution took place, with Europe emerging from feudalism and war as a noble pursuit for knights and aristocrats giving way to mass warfare by any means necessary. It was a revolution brought about through the introduction of gundpower weapons making possible new ways of making war, as well as the growing strength of the emerging European nation-states. Add to that increasing religious schism and you have a recipe for warfare on an apocalyptic scale and Martines is not afraid to show what that meant on the ground, for the people caught up in the war.

Read more

Your Happening World (November 26th through December 8th)

Twentyfive years ago today

Lest we forget:

Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968), civil engineering student.
Hélène Colgan (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968), chemical engineering student.
Maud Haviernick (b. 1960), materials engineering student.
Maryse Laganière (b. 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department.
Maryse Leclair (b. 1966), materials engineering student.
Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961), mechanical engineering student.
Michèle Richard (b. 1968), materials engineering student.
Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte (b. 1969), materials engineering student.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958), nursing student.

Books read November

Nine books read this month, which began strongly but petered out a bit as a couple of tough books slowed me down.

Schitterende Wereld — Mel Hartman
A disappointing collection of sf short stories based on an interesting concept: twelve stories based on the work of six world famous scientists.

Broken Homes — Ben Aaronovitch
Fourth in a series about a hapless London police officer being caught up in its magical underworld.

Styx — Bavo Dhooge
A bent cop in Oostende returns from the death as a zombie to bring a serial killer to justice

Ter Ziele — Esther Scherpenisse
Sometimes Death has pity for a dying person and brings them to its palace….

A History of the Vandals — Torsten Cumberland Jacobsen
A decent introduction to the history of the Vandals, one of the few such actually available in English.

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance — Lois McMaster Bujold
The latest so far in the Vorkosigan saga, now starring Miles cousin, that idiot Ivan.

Furies: War in Europe 1450-1700 — Lauro Martines
A distressing look at warfare in Early Modern Europe.

Who Fears Death — Nnedi Okorafor
Okorafor’s first adult novel, a harrowing coming of age tale & quest story.

Het Laatste Verhaal — Guido Eekhaut
In the near future republic of Flanders, two street outcasts team up with a Japanese woman from an alternate world who has a sword that can cut through time and space…

The Dark Colony — Richard Penn

Cover of The Dark Colony


The Dark Colony
Richard Penn
327 pages
published in 2014

James Nicoll is a longtime science fan active on Usenet and Livejournal, who has been working as an internal reviewer for various publishers. As that work started to dry up earlier this year, he started doing sponsored reviews, where people (but not authors) can buy reviews of books they’re interested in, suspect James would like, or at least would have an enjoyable reaction to. I’ve known James for a long time and he’s one of the people I absolutely trust their taste in books of, so I pay attention when he says something he’s worth reading. Which is exactly what he did with Richard Penn’s The Dark Colony and since it was cheap on *m*z*n, I bought it.

Now there was a risk with this. At times James’ fondness for exactly the kind of setting The Dark Colony provides — near future, the real Solar System, no magical rocket propulsion to let people pootle around it in hours or even days, no cheating — can blind him to some of the other qualities (or lack thereof) of a book. Fortunately however, in this case, the book’s appeal exists beyond its setting. Basically, this is a police procedural: it starts with the discovery of a body floating around in the the giant free fall hangar of Terpsichore Station. What’s remarkable is that it’s the body of a stranger to the Terpsichore colony, which only has a few hundred people living in the station and the asteroid itself. It’s up to constable Lisa Johansen to find out where the stranger comes from and in the process she finds herself unravelling a huge conspiracy in the heart of her community and beyond. Yes, this is not just a police procedural, it’s a gloomy Scandinavian one…

Read more

The real shock is having Fanta publish it

Greg Hunter reviews Fukitor for The Comics Journal:

Intentionality becomes a consideration while reading comics like this. Here are two ways to consider “Operation Cockblock!”: 1) Karns uses satire as a pretext to include content that’s upsetting by design; 2) Karns’s ambitions as a satirist outstretch his gift for satire to such a degree that the story is a near-total failure. Not all art has a social intent, and not all art is best viewed in these terms, but we can certainly judge ostensible social comment by its follow-through. Fukitor manages little with respect to race except the visual parroting of hateful tropes.

It’s possible Karns doesn’t consider the reactions of readers while drafting his work. Not likely, but possible. If he does consider reactions, we can posit that shock is not merely expected but desired. So criticizing Fukitor because of its harsh content feels uncomfortably like playing a game that Karns has arranged. But Fukitor can also be critiqued on the grounds of its eventual boringness. By the end, viscera fall with plodding monotony.

As I’ve said before, there’s nothing shocking about Fukitor, satirical or otherwise. It just draws on the same wellsprings of racism, sexism and bullying as everything it’s “inspired” by. It’s the alternative comix version of Identity Crisis, a deeply cynical attempt to exploit aging fanboys’ confusion of maturity and adult material with asshole behaviour. Are we sure, in fact, that Jason Karns isn’t a Mark Millar pseudonym, because the trolling style is the same.

And if Fukitor is just a giant troll attempt, it’s overshadowed by that of its new publisher. The first book in Fantagraphics new F. U. imprint (and I see what you did there), it’s a clear statement of intent, and a giant troll to pretend that this book, out of all the interesting work being done, is good enough to launch this new imprint. One of the great things about Fantagraphics is that it has always been in the forefront in the fight for artistic freedom in comix, but it does lead them sometimes into tedious épater le bourgeois territory, like it seems to have done here. You can, if you squint, draw a line from certain of Crumb’s racist fantasies and Bagge’s more outrageous libertarian strips to what Karns does here, but it doesn’t make it more interesting, here in 2014, to again see yet more racist, sexist power fantasies get preferable treatment just because it offers the illusion of transgression, when in actuality it does nothing but riff on the same tired old stereotypes already all over mainstream media offerings.

Retreat, postpone, avoid

Matt Zoller Seitz’s 2010 essay about the death of his wife and remembering her afterwards hit home on so many levels:

Sondheim. Kander and Ebb. “Feed the Kitty.” “Deadwood.” In the last few years, to greater or lesser degrees, these things and others have been off-limits.

A song, a poem, a scene from a film triggers memories. You’re startled, moved, shaken. And you’re faced with two options: 1) engage with the work and the memories it calls up, or 2) retreat, postpone, avoid.

Option 2 is very attractive. You’re buying Tums and hand soap at the drugstore and a song comes on, a song you associate with somebody you loved — a shared reference point, an in-joke, an anthem, a confession — and suddenly you’re a mess, a wreck, useless, so you leave the store without buying anything. You’re watching a movie in a multiplex or in somebody’s living room and here comes a character that reminds you of somebody you miss — a parent, a sibling, a lover, a friend — and you excuse yourself for a while and go into another room or take a walk around the block, and when you’ve regained control, you go back. (“Hey, where were you?” “Nowhere. Just taking a break.”)

Retreat, postpone, avoid.

Omnitopia Dawn is a novel I won’t reread anytime soon, because it was the novel I’d finished and reviewed the night Sandra died. I’d left her in the hospital on that Sunday night, three years ago, in the full confidence I’d see her again on Monday, had watched some telly and written an indifferent review, then gone to bed to be woken up at 2 AM with the news she’d passed away. Just rereading that review, paging back through the blog to it, is enough to trigger that response Seitz’s talking about.

I dreamt of Sandra again last Friday night, one of those dreams that started out as something else entirely and then I dreamt I was walking through the market near the flat we first lived together and I heard my name called and turned around and there she was. I’d been worrying sometimes about forgetting what she looked like but my subconscious rememembered. The shock of it woke me up. As such it was a gentler dream than the ones I’ve sometimes had where I was aware she was dead, but it had all been a huge mistake and she was still in hospital, alone…

October and November are always bad months for me now, because this is when the reality of Sandra’s death, her absence, is the strongest. Most of the rest of the year it’s easier to avoid it, live with it, remember the good times rather than the end, but as November 7th comes around, it becomes unavoidable. It’s what I need to become used to, but never quite can and hope I never quite will, strange as it sounds.