Meet the new Robespierre

Like clockwork, yet another pre-publication book has come under fire from the idpol outrage culture. This time, there’s a delicious Schadenfreude twist: The victim was part of the mob bullying Amélie Wen Zhao into pulling Blood Heir, and served as a sensitivity reader for Big Five publishers. Hello, Robespierre!

Just like Ms. Zhao, Mr. Jackson is also part and parcel of this woker than thou SJW culture, and so wanted to get back into the group’s good graces. Of course, he lists his freaking pronouns in his Twitter bio!

My Spidey sense tingles when I see pronouns. I’m sure some people are just innocently copying what they see modelled and aren’t raving SJWs and TRAs, but a huge percent of the people I’ve blocked for my own safety list pronouns. Just saying.

Yet again, WTF does “the book community” even mean? It sounds so creepy and cultish! Mr. Jackson’s tearful thanks to Big Brother is only aimed at this loud minority of people looking to find “problematic” content in every little thing.

He also didn’t follow his own advice on strictly staying in one’s own lane and only writing about people exactly like oneself:

Mr. Jackson’s website also ran a kowtowing apology to Woko Haram in the wake of the struggle session:

While there are some things it can be difficult or painful to read (e.g., racist and anti-Semitic epithets, lynching and rape scenes, loss of a grandparent), they cannot actually hurt us. Words are not literal violence. I bear zero lasting damage from reading anything which emotionally distressed me.

Shockingly, Mr. Jackson’s publisher went along with his cowed request.

Yet again, the mob leapt into action after reading an angry ARC review on Goodreads. Almost none of the people ranting against A Place for Wolves actually read the book. In the wake of this drama, I’ve discovered, thanks to Jesse Singal’s four-part series on YA Twitter culture, that many agents are in on this too—keeping blacklists of writers deemed racist or problematic; telling people to only write about characters exactly like themselves; rejecting books by people daring to write about cultures beyond their own.

Mr. Jackson’s crime? Making an Albanian Muslim a villain during the Kosova genocide, and making two American teens the protagonists. Because nuance, moral ambiguity, and being forced to make sense of complicated situations outside our familiar world are now verboten in literature.

Have these pitchfork-wielders never heard the suggestion to write your own story, exactly the way you want, if you can’t find it in other books?

Under these new rules, there can be no more books about, e.g., British colonists in India; the Dutch in the East Indies; antiheroes or victims who become villains (e.g., Magneto); or Jewish and Russian refugees in Shanghai. People of certain groups must be 100% saintly, while others can only be 100% evil. And forget fantasy and sci-fi worlds where race doesn’t exist, or people are segregated for other reasons!

One of the bullies from the Blood Heir debacle showed up again, promoting another book in her new handle. How dare Woko Haram pretend they’re not engaging in the ultimate form of censorship!

Congratulations, Woko Haram. You’ve derailed yet another new author’s career in the name of progress and inclusivity. Word is there’s a fourth book which may soon be targeted, and I hope that author doesn’t bend. These bullies become more emboldened to keep striking when they see their targets obediently rolling over and crying uncle.

More on this ridiculous development:

“Teen Fiction and the Perils of Cancel Culture,” Jennifer Senior, The New York Times, 8 March 2019

“A YA Sensitivity Reader Watched His Own Community Kill His Debut Novel Before It Was Ever Released,” Ruth Graham. Slate, 4 March 2019

“Another YA Author Withdraws Book from Publication After Backlash,” Katie Rothstein, Vulture, 28 February 2019

“He Was Part of a Twitter Mob That Attacked Young Adult Novelists,” Jesse Singal, Reason, 28 February 2019

The literary Stasi pounces again

Warning: Any nasty comments will be deleted and the commenters blacklisted. This ain’t one of your echo chambers and safe spaces on Tumblr. History, like science, only cares about facts, not your feelings and sense of validation.

Dr. James Miranda Steuart Barry, née Margaret Ann Bulkley
ca. 1789–25 July 1865

Another week, another book for the Woke Stasi to burn pre-publication. This time, they’ve set their teeth and claws upon E.J. Levy’s The Cape Doctor, which just sold to Little Brown. This is Ms. Levy’s first novel, coming after the 2012 story collection Love, In Theory. Her new novel is about a pioneering doctor who spent the last 56 years of her life posing as a man.

These zealots once again are behaving like babies throwing a tantrum. Ms. Levy’s crime? Correctly sexing Dr. Barry as a woman and using feminine pronouns. These bullies are screaming “He! He! He! He! He! He! He! Him! Him! His! How dare you misgender him! He was a man! Man! Man! Man! Transphobe! Bigot! I don’t feel safe! You’re committing literal violence! I’m complaining to Little Brown, and I hope they drop your so-called book!”

“TERF” is misogynistic hate speech, the latest version of “Burn the witch!”

Dr. Barry was raped as a teenager and bore a child. She declared she’d be a soldier if she were a boy, but was trained as a governess.

Instead, several of her brother James’s progressive, influential friends came up with a plan for her to attend the University of Edinburgh’s med school. In late 1809, she reinvented herself as James Barry, and never lived as Margaret Bulkley again.

She didn’t make a very convincing man, leading many to believe she was prepubescent. The University Senate tried to block her applications for final exams, but powerful friends intervened, and she got her MD in 1812.

Dr. Barry joined the army as a surgeon, and rose to become Inspector General (like a Brigadier General). In 1816, she was posted to Cape Town, South Africa, where she significantly improved quality of life and performed one of the first C-sections where both mother and child survived.

Dr. Barry later worked in Mauritius, Jamaica, St. Helena, the West Indies, Malta, Corfu, the Crimea, and Canada, before retiring to London. Her true sex was only discovered after death. The army sealed all records of her for 100 years.

Many women in history posed as men to do things they were legally, socially, culturally barred from. The only way women could become doctors, serve in the military, travel freely, live independently, attend most universities, etc., was to reinvent themselves as men. They were not transsexuals!

The TRAs piling on Ms. Levy harp on about how Dr. Barry could’ve “easily” been one of the women fighting to become doctors and receive higher education in that era, or go to one of the rare countries where women were allowed to practise medicine, instead of posing as a man. This shows such historical ignorance.

There were NO women’s med schools till 1848, and precious few women legitimately trained as doctors. Those rare few faced lots of discrimination. Also, how would Dr. Barry have financed this trip abroad, where would she have lived, how would she have found employment? Who chooses lifelong exile?

These people have no grasp of just how few rights women had prior to the modern era, and how women who went against the grain were treated. Women who read novels could be arrested if their fathers ordered it! There weren’t even any public ladies’ bathrooms till the late 19th century, and there was enormous opposition, since they enabled women to have lives outside hearth and home.

So of course Dr. Barry kept up the charade the rest of her life. Who invests 50+ years into a deception, only to turn around and unravel everything at the end? Women weren’t allowed to own property, so her will would’ve been null and void if authorities knew her true sex. Anyone with knowledge of her deception would’ve been arrested.

So how dare Woko Haram turn around and accuse Ms. Levy of being the one erasing Dr. Barry’s identity and disrespecting the dead! They’re the ones insisting this incredible woman was really a man!

We can’t apply modern concepts to historical people and situations. Dr. Barry lived as a man to be a doctor, not because she felt “trapped in the wrong body” or believed herself to be a transman.

I’m looking forward to reading The Cape Doctor, and hope Ms. Levy doesn’t roll over and cancel publication like Amélie Wen Zhao did with Blood Heir.

UPDATE: Sadly, they caved to the irrational lynch mob.

Through the Orwellian looking glass

Amélie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir, the first book in a dark fantasy YA trilogy, was set to release in June, after being hailed as one of this summer’s most highly-anticipated books. There were a lot of 5-star reviews by ARC readers. Ms. Zhao signed a three-book deal with Delacorte, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in January 2018, to an advance of at least $500,000. Most authors can only dream of such luck.

But on 30 January 2019, she kowtowed to an SJW lynch mob, the vast majority of whom had never read the ARC, and asked Delacorte to not publish her book. Shockingly, Delacorte agreed instead of asking for their advance back and yanking her contract.

Translation: “Thank you for stopping the beatings, Big Brother!”

I can just imagine the Woke Stasi cyberbullies who held this struggle session euphorically exclaiming, “Oh, YES! We got what we wanted yet again because we threw enough of a tantrum!” Running high-fives. “Team SJW for the win! Let’s find another target to mercilessly bully into submitting!”

WTF is “the book community”? Book bloggers, vloggers, and reviewers aren’t monolithic, even ones who only do certain genres or age categories. Some fantasy book bloggers might prefer urban fantasy to high, epic fantasy, while some contemporary YA reviewers might focus on books with dark themes or set in other countries.

I like how this member of the Woke Stasi is promoting her own book in her screen name. Many people rightly called out the lynch mob, though other SJWs wrote awful comments like these. “Ooh, I’m sitting here crying ugly tears of joy because of your beautiful, humble apology! I know you’ll do better next time!”

It turns out Ms. Zhao is an SJW herself, and so felt compelled to get back in the group’s good graces during the struggle session. She didn’t want to be an outcast and potentially ruin her career. Even if I hadn’t found out she’s an SJW, the inclusion of her freaking pronouns in her Twitter bio makes it obvious.

Although at least she only has pronouns. A lot of these snowflakes check the whole nine yards of Tumblr idiocy.

     

 

If you don’t accept material reality (in this case, the existence of biological sex and sexual dimorphism in mammals), you’re NOT a real Socialist! The core principles of Socialism are based on material reality.

Earth to SJW snowflakes: When you enter the REAL world, devoid as it is of its million and one trigger warnings and safe spaces for everything, no one will give a damn about this Tumblr nonsense. Try to announce at a job interview, “I’m an asexual polysexual polyamorous skoliosexual lithromantic non-binary demiboy transgirl wolf otherkin cloudgender, and my pronouns are she/he/they/zir.” Normal people will write you off as a right loon!

On with the rant. These SJWs’ beef with Blood Heir is that it involves slavery in a fantasy world based on Russia and China. It was described as Anastasiya meets Six of Crows:

They’re pissed because the only disabled person (someone who walks with a cane) is a villain, and a bronze-skinned character (whom they read as Black) dies. They chose to read the book as based on American slavery, because we all know no other country ever had slaves, and slavery has only involved people from Africa! Ms. Zhao’s inspiration was contemporary slavery and indentured servitude in China (you know, her native land).

They also think it’s plagiarism to use a well-known line from LOTR, “don’t go where I can’t follow.” Seriously? Ms. Zhao didn’t rip off an entire passage, and plenty of writers pay homage to lines from songs, poems, movies, and books.

The one criticism I do agree with is the gendering of Ana’s surname. Russian women’s names always end in A (e.g., Malenkova, Lebedeva, Tolstaya, Belskaya, Shulgina). Someone should’ve caught that!

I agree it’s important to represent diversity in literature, but not every fictional world is suited for a damn Rainbow Tribe of tokens. Why would, e.g., a fantasy based on Medieval Europe or a historical about Heian Japan be crawling with diverse characters?

I shudder to imagine what kinds of books Woko Haram sees fit for publication. Their list of Newspeak and problematic topics/words grows by the second.

More on this outrageous development:

“How a Twitter Mob Derailed an Immigrant Female Author’s Budding Career,” Jesse Singal, Tablet, 31 January 2019

“An Author Canceled Her Own YA Novel Over Accusations of Racism. But Is It Really Anti-Black?,” Aja Hoggatt, Slate, 31 January 2019

“YA Author Pulls Her Debut After Pre-Publication Accusations of Racism,” Alexandra Alter, The New York Times, 31 January 2019

“When Social Media Goes After Your Book, What’s the Right Response?,” Keira Drake and Jonah Winter, The New York Times, 6 February 2019

“The Latest Twitter Pile On Forces a Rising Star to Self-Cancel,” Kat Rosenfield, Vulture, 31 January 2019

“Young Adult Author Cancels Own Novel After Race Controversy,” Alison Flood, The Guardian, 1 February 2019

“Amélie Zhao Learns to Love Big Brother,” Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, 30 January 2019

Boredom and oversharing on the frontier

Like many people, I loved the Little House series growing up, and read the books many times. I even read a number of the ephemeral books, like The Little House Cookbook, A Little House Sampler, and On the Way Home. Thus, I expected to enjoy this book too.

Was I wrong.

What didn’t I like about this book? Let me count the ways.

1. It moved SO slowly! This is one of those books where 200 pages feel more like 800. This wasn’t an engaging, gripping page-turner.

2. Ms. Miller needs a lot more practice writing third-person. Her previous novels were first-person present tense, so the classic third-person past tense is quite a departure for her. I never felt fully in Caroline’s head, because the prose was so emotionally detached and distant.

3. Overdescribing the dullest things, with the same detached prose. How does it either move the story or character development along to know every little detail about rope burn, fording rivers, drying the wagon canvas after a storm?

4. Over half the book depicts the journey from Wisconsin to Indian Territory. Apart from a few people the Ingallses encounter along the way, the only four characters are Ma, Pa, Mary, and Laura. Books about, e.g., the Oregon Trail work best when there are many other people besides the main family.

Those books also feature gripping emotional, dramatic events, like disease, drought, exhaustion, childbirth, quarrels with other pioneers. This is just a boring, long-drawn-out travelogue.

5. I REALLY did not need to read sex scenes with Ma and Pa! I feel so uncomfortable reading sex scenes with real-life people. Unless we’re talking about someone like Casanova, how do you think they’d feel knowing a total stranger, 100+ years later, would depict the imagined details of their most private, intimate moments for the entire world to read?

6. Ditto reading about Pa tasting Ma’s breastmilk!

7. I’m not sure what the point of this retelling was. This is little more than a direct retelling of Little House on the Prairie from Ma’s POV.

8. Enough already with the excretory scenes! Reading about real-life people relieving themselves squicks me out even more than reading about them having sex! I did not need to read so many scenes of Ma and the girls using the necessary, digging holes and squatting over them, and emptying chamber pots!

9. Lots of purple prose and weird metaphors. Enough said.

10. Was the real Caroline really that dour, serious, depressing, and joyless? I get that Laura wrote the books from her POV, and didn’t have personal insight into her mother’s feelings, but Ms. Miller’s Caroline seems really off the mark. Pioneer women had difficult lives, and were the product of a much different society and culture, but there were still moments of joy!

It also feels like stereotyping of Victorian women in general, who were anything but prudish and repressed.

11. Spending way too much time describing things that don’t move the story along. Not every single day, week, month of a story needs detailed!

12. Ms. Miller doesn’t use enough commas. Where was her editor?

Overall, I’m tired of the trend of hist-fic about real-life people. So many of these books would work so much better were they about fictional people with similar circumstances. Then there’d be more leeway to stray from established history and personalities. At least in alternative history, there’s a reason for characters to do things they never did in real life!

At least Ms. Miller accurately depicts the Ingallses as voluntarily returning to Wisconsin because the man who bought their cabin reneged on his payments, instead of, as Laura depicts, being forced out by the government.

How to write a book in the style of Beatrice Sparks

It’s been too long since I wrote a post ripping the late fraud “Dr.” Beatrice Sparks a new one. So, let’s do that!

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care if someone wrote books I didn’t click with. One person’s lousy writing is another’s treasure. But in the case of “Dr.” Sparks, this isn’t just about bad writing or books that aren’t my style at all. Since more than a few people, esp. in her target audience, believe these are true stories, she was dangerous and unethical in addition to a fraud.

Some of her books are marginally better than others. They’re not all pure horse dung. But with the obvious exception of the 25 real entries from Alden Barrett in Jay’s Journal, they all read like the work of an over the hill, extremely conservative and religious person pretending to be a teen.

We now know Sparks lied about her training, education, credentials, experience, etc. People who know what’s what also understand she was the true authors of all those books, and what she did to the poor Barrett family.

I have NO problem with either a real-life or fictional teen being religious, frequently praying, having a close-knit relationship with her or his mother, trying to live a G-rated life, being conservative, etc.

What I DO have an issue with is how Sparks injected this into each and every one of her books, making her characters clones of herself. The way her characters express these things is so unrealistic, ridiculous, over the top, identical.

How to write in the style of “Dr.” Sparks:

1. Always give the time of day at the start of each entry, and every time you return to an entry later in the day.

2. Everyone loves RANDOM CAPS! In fact, readers have even more love for ENTIRE SENTENCES IN ALL CAPS, or, better, yet, COMPLETE PARAGRAPHS IN ALL CAPS!

3. We all love random italics too!

4. The best of both worlds is RANDOM CAPS IN ITALICS!

5. Who doesn’t love excessive exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6. PUT THEM ALL TOGETHER REGULARLY FOR EVEN BETTER, MORE INTENSE WRITING!!!!!!!!!!

7. Repeat words thrice for emphasis; e.g., “We’ve heard he’s loud loud loud” and “My mom is soooo very wonderful. I love love love her.”

8. Randomly use advanced, fancy-sounding words while pretending you have no idea where you heard them. Even better if you use distinctively Mormon concepts and terminology while feigning ignorance about their meanings.

9. At the same time, talk like a preschool kid, with beyond-babyish language. Who wouldn’t believe a 15-year-old ex-gangbanger would say “Goobly-goop-poop”?!

10. Make up baby words and sprinkle in lots of connected nonsense syllables even a doo-wop song would reject, like kit-kit-kit-kat-kat-doodle.

11. Oversimplify complex issues, and solve them in record time.

12. Use the stock line, “Ooh, I’m sooo glad my dear, sweet, precious Mom is MY dear, sweet, precious Mom!”

13. Engage in hardcore, fetishistic maternal worship, where all things Mommykins and mothers are pure, holy, angelic, never negative.

14. Make sure your character comes from a broken home, and depict divorced families as the worst moral crisis ever, bound to lead to all manner of social ills and sins.

15. Trawl through psychology textbooks and after school specials for “serious” lines to sprinkle in, like a mean girl quickly admitting she only acts like an aloof snob who doesn’t want friends because she’s insecure and afraid of rejection.

16. Pack in as many problems as possible, no matter how disconnected.

17. Make your characters mentally much younger; e.g., a 14-year-old who sounds like a 3-year-old.

18. Your characters are never drawn into drug use, premarital sex, pregnancy, gangs, cults, etc., through their own actions. It’s always the fault of bad friends tricking, abusing, exploiting them.

19. Everything is always Magickally alright again after your narrator tearfully confides in Mommykins, who’s amazingly loving, forgiving, accepting, an angel on Earth.

20. Use lines no teen ever would utter, like, “Wowee! Now I know what hormones are!”

21. Immediately apologize for cursing; thinking negative, unappreciative thoughts; or saying less than worshipful things about parents. E.g., “Ew, Mom! You are such a gross bitch!” (Five minutes later.) “ZOMG! How dare I curse at my dear, sweet, precious Mommykins in the pages of my own journal! I’m worse than Hitler! I might as well kill myself now!”

22. Jump into relationships at lightning-speed, and act like you’ve already got a serious, eternal pair-bond with a total stranger.

Beatrice Sparks, I hate you. May you continue to be exposed as the vile fraud you were. Teens learn best by honest examples delivered respectfully, not by being lied to, preached at, scared, and emotionally manipulated.