Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reduxing Vox Day: Post-Nomination Prediction Check

The first Hugo awards were presented in 1953, which means this venerable award lasted a full 63 years before it was irreversibly tainted by Space Raptor Butt Invasion.

Last year, I shifted from an Anti-Puppy position to a sort of general Sadness. But in interest of keeping things interesting, I'm going to continue this series from the same Anti-Puppy viewpoint I had when I started Killing Vox Day. After all, the question of how one might stop Vox is infinitely more interesting than 'yup, there goes Vox being Vox again.'

So let's review a few of my falsifiable statements to see how they stack up. This will allow us to do two things. First, we can all appreciate how much of a brilliant predictor I am. Second, we can examine that perennial question: is Vox Day a legitimate threat or a paper tiger? I have said (over and over again) that he is a legitimate threat. The Establishment has said (over and over again) that he is a "toddler." You be the judge.

From Reduxing Vox Day: Best Novelette

Shifting more towards Distributed Thoughtware, I expect Gay Raptor Gate to gain the most traction of any manufactured controversy at the 2016 Hugos. File 770 refusing to turn down a nomination? Humorous, but not damning. Nominating Video Games for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long-Form)? Intriguing, but not controversial enough. Dinosaur Sodomy in Space? Now that grabs headlines.

As expected, the File 770 controversy disappeared fairly quickly and none of the video games made the ballot (disqualified?). But Dinosaur Sodomy still has legs. We have not yet reached peak SRBI.

There's one last way that this works for Vox, and that's the rhetorical level. First, it will be used to argue that the Rabids are a powerful voting block or to argue that the Rabids aren't block voters. Think about it:
SRBI Gets the Nomination: "We are legion! We are strong! We can get Gay Space Dinosaurs on the ballot!"
SRBI Doesn't Get the Nomination: "What block voting? If we were block voting, Gay Space Dinosaurs would be on the ballot!"

As predicted, the Rabids are positively crowing about getting SRBI on the ballot. No one can claim they simply "ran in front of the parade" when it's a Gay Space Dinosaur parade. I mean, in fairness to Scalzi, Vox nominated many works that were essentially shoe-ins, and I assume that that was intentional. But you can't say that about SRBI.

It is impossible to prove the second prediction, but I assume there would have been some sort of fall-back position.

If the 2016 Hugos are the Year of the Gay Space Raptor (ie, the biggest talking point and what people remember it for), Vox knows what he's doing.

This one is still up in the air. The Establishment is maintaining poker face about SRBI so far (John Scalzi's article being the prime example), but given their past behavior, it's only a matter of time before someone broaches it publicly (thus allowing everyone else to discuss it publicly). 

There's a fascinating sub-topic here about the "pshaw! The puppies are beneath us! *swish*" attitude prevalent on the nets today, but it's a topic for another day. Suffice to say: they're counting on E Pluribus Hugo to save their bacon, and that's enough to maintain discipline for now. I'll be generous and give them a week before discipline starts to crack.

1). If there are more Rabid Puppies in 2016 than 2015, Vox Day is a threat. If there are less Rabid Puppies, Vox Day is not a threat.

Contrary to the expectations of some, the No Awards campaign did nothing to slow Rabid Puppy growth or in any way curb their influence. They have a bigger piece of the pie than ever. Vox Day is a threat.

2. If SJWs Always Lie expands Vox Day's reach, he is a threat. If SJWs Always Lie only sells to the usual suspects, Vox Day is not a threat. If it is a flop, Vox Day is a joke. 

SJWs Always Lie was definitively not a flop. But did it expand Vox's reach? It did get him a Hugo nomination. I'm going to argue 'yes,' but that's based more on a feeling than hard data. It's impossible to say whether or not SJWs directly contributed to this spike in blog traffic or that interview or opened the door to that collaboration. This may have been a poor predictor, since 'flop' is the only truly falsifiable one.

I'm going to update this one:

-If SJWs Always Lie wins a Rocket or second places to No Award, the Rabid Puppies have achieved total victory over the Hugos.

-If any other Castalia House work wins Best Related Work or second places to No Award, then the Rabid Puppies have obtained limited victory over the Hugos (although frankly, the prospect of Safe Space as Rape Room winning is perhaps more tantalizing than SJWs).

-Finally, if all Castalia House works are relegated to the bottom of the list (ie, no Castalia House work places higher than a non-Castalia House work), the Rabid Puppies have lost the 2016 Hugos. This, more than anything else, would prove than the Puppies are only good at gaming the nomination process.

3). If the 2016 Hugos are another round of No Awards, Vox Day is a threat. If the 2016 Hugos are awarded normally, Vox Day is not a threat. If an open Puppy wins a Rocket in 2016, Vox day is The Threat.
The only thing we know for sure is that the Hugos will not be awarded normally. Another round of No Awards seems most likely, but we can't rule out an open Rabid Puppy victory. And if that open Rabid Puppy victory should be Space Raptor Butt Invasion or SJWs Always Lie, then God have mercy on our souls.

So looking at those falsifiable predictions, I'd say that Vox and myself are doing pretty well. I nailed 3 predictions, 2 predictions are still up in the air, and 1 prediction had poor criteria. Whatever you think of my theories, you sure can't argue with my accuracy. *smarm smarm chin-stroke*

Since this is a war-game and I'm taking the role of an anti-Puppy strategist, next time we'll look at some ideas for opposing the Puppy Threat. Unfortunately, that probably won't be up until next week due to work obligations. Oh well.


Well, fuck, it looks like I gave the Puppy Kickers too much credit. Discipline in not taking about SRBI has been cracked, and should be non-existent by the end of the week. 2016 will be the Year of the Gay Space Raptor. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

[AVW 003] Archetypes and the Subconscious

Previous: [AVW002] Archetypes - Patterns That Keep Showing Up

"I am the Self, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle, and the end of all beings." - Bhagavad Gita

Archetypes are patterns that keep showing up in human psychology and human literature/myths/video games. The question is, why? Why do these story patterns and character types keep showing up in culture after culture? There is no doubt that these patterns exist, but the reason they exist is still up for debate.

Jung theorized that the answer lay in the human mind. In a way, it's kind of obvious - what do all of these stories have in common? They were created by humans to entertain and teach humans. And the one thing that all humans of all cultures have in common is the same basic human brain.

Jung advocates a sort of three-tiered structure of human consciousness. The chart below is extremely simplified, but hopefully it illustrates the three levels in a way you will find helpful:

We can describe the three levels in many different ways, but the most broadly applicable is perhaps Deep Sleep (Unconscious mind) / Dream Consciousness (Subconscious mind) / Waking Consciousness (Conscious mind).

As the chart shows, Jung claimed that Archetypes are ultimately derived from the Unconscious mind, from the primal energies of the human libido. This is the aspect of the human mind that is not directly accessible by the Consciousness – what you don't know you know, so to speak. It is the truth which can only be expressed to the Conscious mind through symbols, for it itself is beyond the categories of rational thought.

This libidal energy “bubbles up” into the Subconscious (dream consciousness) where it is expressed in symbols and motifs. Jung searched for patterns in his patients' dreams that would help him unlock what their Unconscious minds were trying to express through the Subconscious.

Now the Archetype itself differs from any given manifestation in an individual dream or story. The Dark Father figure that appears in one patient's dream is one manifestation of the Archetype – one figure modeled after the pattern.

This applies to stories as well - Darth Vader is not the Dark Father, he is a Dark Father. Luke Skywalker is a Hero (an individual instance of the Archetype), not the Archetype itself (the Hero). The individual is not the pattern.

To understand the distinction better, we might look at the following passage from The Golden Ass. In this section, Apuleius has a vision of the goddess Isis, who claims to be all of the goddesses of the ancient world:

"My name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world, in diverse manners, in variable customs, and by many names. For the Phrygians that are the first of all men call me the Mother of the gods at Pessinus; the Athenians, which are sprung from their own soil, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, which are girt about by the sea, Paphian Venus; the Cretans which bear arrows, Dictynnian Diana; the Sicilian which speak three tongues, infernal Proserpine; the Eleusians their ancient goddess Ceres; some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate, other Rhamnusia, and principally both sort of the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient and are enlightened by the morning rays of the sun, and the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustom to worship me, do call me by my true name, Queen Isis."

Apuleius sees that all of the many goddesses of the various pantheons are but one name for a single being. He sees the Archetypal figure of the Mother goddess lying behind the Characters of the various pantheons.

But this vision of Apuleius is perhaps still too limited. Isis too is not “The goddess” in and of herself, but rather one more expression of Apuleius' Unconscious mind, his libido taken shape as a symbolic being. "Isis" herself is just one more name for the nameless archetype of the Mother.

Apuleius is correct in acknowledging that all of these goddesses come from a common root. They are all built on one pattern, on one archetype residing in the minds of human beings. Queen Isis is Paphian Venus, because they both are born from the same source - the patterns of the unconscious human mind.

We have gone fairly far from video games at this point, but we'll bring it back around in the next post by looking at the source of the Damsel in Distress: the Anima.

Next: [AVW 004] The Anima and the Animus

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

[AVW 002] Archetypes - Patterns that Keep Showing Up

Previous: [AVW001] Tropes Vs. Archetypes

Like a tired wanderer who had sought nothing in the world apart from her, shall I come closer to my soul. I shall learn that my soul finally lies behind everything, and if I cross the world, I am ultimately doing this to find my soul. – CG Jung, The Red Book

What is an Archetype?

The word "Archetype" comes from the Greek terms "arkhe" and "tupos" ("primitive" and "model") and was used in Greek to indicate an "original pattern from which copies are made." Now, various Greek philosophers had their various ideas of what an Archetype was, but the common thread is that an Archetype is not a thing. It is a pattern.

If you ask me to show you an Archetype, there is no physical thing I can point at. All we can examine is a pattern that keeps showing up over and over again.

This thread continues to the modern theory of Archetypes. For Jung, subconscious Archetypes were a way to explain why the same stories, symbols, and characters arose in human cultures separated by vast distances of time and space.

For example, the book of Genesis contains a story of a world-wide flood that covered the whole earth and wiped out all life – save for the lives of Noah and his family (and a floating menagerie of animals). A similar story appears in the literature of Sumeria and many other Near East cultures.

It might not surprise us that the World Flood story got shared around the Near East. It's a great story - it's got divine Judgement, a thrilling escape, and adorable animals. Perhaps the author of Genesis ripped the story off from the Sumerians, or perhaps they both ripped off some third source.

What is less easy to understand is why similar stories popped up among the Ojibwe in North America and the Temuan of Malaysia, and indeed, in the dreams and delusions of contemporary psychiatric patients. The further afield from the Near East we move, the less clear the lines of transmission become.

Why does essentially the same story show up over and over again, even between cultures with no contact? How did the same story make it all around the world at a time when most people never left their village? Three possible answers have been suggested:
1). All of these sources are describing the same historical event.

2). These cultures developed Flood myths independently for no real reason.

3). These stories arise from a principle of human psychology.
The "historical event" thesis fails to adequately explain how the story spread to cultures without mutual contact (although some do argue for a literal world-covering flood), and why it still reoccurs in contemporary dreams and delusions. The "random coincidence" is technically possible, but fails to explain anything. As a result, the idea of a psychological explanation has gained the most traction.

Which brings us back to Archetypes. The term "Archetype" is used to describe the subconscious principle that causes the same stories to show up over and over again. We look at the subconscious as the source of these Archetypes because the human mind is the one thing that links all these cultures and people together.

That's the nutshell version of where the theory of Archetypes comes from, but I'm really only scratching the surface. Here's some books to start you off if you want to dig deeper:

Psychology of the Unconscious - CG Jung
The Hero With a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell
The Golden Bough - James George Frazer
The Seven Basic Plots - Christopher Booker

And if you want a good example of how the "Racial Memory of Actual Events" theory works out, check out this video series:

Next time, we'll look more closely at Archetypes themselves and Jung's model of the mind.

Next: [AVW 003] Archetypes and the Subconscious

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

[AVW 001] Tropes Vs. Archetypes

"She is the maiden of the innumerable dragon slayings, the bride abducted from the jealous father, the virgin rescued from the unholy lover. She is the "other portion" of the hero himself—for 'each is both'" -Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

The Damsel in Distress is not simply a Trope, but an Archetype. Its meaning and power do not stem primarily from male domination/power fantasies, but rather from the principles of the unconscious. It is one of humanity's oldest symbols for the struggle toward self-knowledge.

As you may have guessed, this series is something of a response to Anita Sarkesian’s Tropes Vs Women in Videogames series. That said, I would like to stress two things:

1). This is not a point-by-point refutation of Tropes Vs. Women. Ms. Sarkesian makes some good points, whether you believe she is a crusading feminist in the good sense or the bad sense.

2). This is a response to Ms. Sarkesian’s central presupposition; that is to say, the definition of the Damsel in Distress as a Trope.

Again, I have no interest in joining the pro-Sarkesian cheer squad or the anti-Sarkesian Two Minute Hate. This is about Tropes vs Archetypes, not Feminism vs Patriarchy or indeed Ethics vs Social Justice.

So let's move on to the tropes. The description on YouTube for the first video of Tropes Vs Women in Videogames states:

“This video explores how the Damsel in Distress became one of the most widely used gendered clichés in the history of gaming and why the trope has been core to the popularization and development of the medium itself.” (Retrieved 11/09/2015)

There’s a lot going on in the statement (and even more going on in the video series), so I am going to boil Ms. Sarkesian’s presuppositions into three essential points:
1). The Damsel in Distress is a Trope
2). The Damsel in Distress Trope is sexist
3). This sexist Trope is why video games appeal to men.
Hopefully we can all agree this is essentially what Ms. Sarkesian is getting at. I don't think anyone would argue the second point - Ms. Sarkesian definitely thinks that the Damsel in Distress Trope is sexist. This is where the majority of the debate takes place – are video games sexist for using this Trope?

But we're going to set aside the second point and third and focus on the first: is the Damsel in Distress best described as a Trope?

There is perhaps no better place to go for a definition of Tropes than, the internet’s foremost collection of Tropes. This venerable institution's homepage defines Tropes in the following way:

“Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations.” – (Retrieved 11/09/15 - The site seems to have undergone a major renovation recently, but here's a Wayback Machine link)

At first glance, the Damsel in Distress seems to pass this definition of Trope. It is most certainly a “device and convention” seen quite commonly in media and a writer can most definitely “rely on [it] as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectation.” Indeed, the Damsel is perhaps one of the most common narrative hooks.

I’m sure that Ms. Sarkesian would have no objections up to this point. Writers use Tropes because they work; Nintendo used the Damsel in Distress Trope over and over again because audiences understood and enjoyed it. Ms. Sarkesian claims that Nintendo chose the trope because it had already been widely popularized by King Kong and Popeye the Sailor Man.

Of course, the Damsel in Distress Trope is much older that King Kong – Ms. Sarkesian herself points out that the trope is an ancient one (or as TV Tropes terms, it is “Older than Dirt”).

But as anyone who has taken a Driver’s License test knows, there is a difference between “a correct answer” and “the most correct answer.” A cow can correctly be defined as “a source of beef,” but studying a Big Mac is not the best way to understand what a cow is. Is the Damsel essentially a Trope or can it merely function as a Trope?

I'm going to argue that The Damsel is not best defined as a Trope (or indeed, as 'the Damsel'), but as an Archetype. It does not show up again and again throughout myth, legend, literature, and video games because men are sexist. The Rescue of the Damsel is not about men and women at all. It is about the journey of the soul to discover its own hidden truths.

The Damsel can function as a Trope, but only as a cow can function as a hamburger. To find out what the Damsel symbolizes to the unconscious mind, we're going to look at Jung, Campbell, and some of humanity's oldest stories.

Monday, April 11, 2016

[Archetypes Vs. Women] Series Hub

The Damsel in Distress is not simply a Trope, but an Archetype. Its meaning and power do not stem primarily from male domination/power fantasies, but rather from the principles of the unconscious. It is one of humanity's oldest symbols for the struggle toward self-knowledge.

Part One examines Archetypes, Tropes and why the Damsel in Distress is more accurately described as the former. It will not address video games in particular, but rather question our assumptions of where the Damsel comes from and why it is a perennial theme in all forms of human creativity. 

Part Two examines different ancient stories with female protagonists, dissect the Archetypal patterns they portray, and consider how they might influence female-positive game design. It will focus in more on video game specifically, with an eye on how to create psychologically compelling characters, settings, and game mechanics.

Part One: Tropes Vs. Archetypes