Thursday, September 29, 2016

What is Western Civilization?

Not gaming, not science fiction or fantasy... but I do read non-fiction, and I do (sometimes) review it.  This question is one for the ages—but particularly for our age.

Long ago (or at least it seems so now) I read Samuel Huntington's essay "The Clash of Civilizations."  If you haven't, you should.  In fact, here it is right here.  Go read it now.  It's OK, I'l wait...

What I haven't ever read is the full-length book that expanded on that notion.  I've recently had it pointed out to me that I should; that it's brilliant; that without doing so, I can only claim to know about the issue, not to actually know it.  The premise that Huntington proposes has been "rebutted" many times over the years, by those with a penchant for Trotskyist globalism, but in the last couple of years it's become obvious that Huntington was right.  Soon, even the dimmest, most stubborn globalist cheerleader will be forced to admit it.  Therefore understanding what our culture is, and why it is coming into conflict with other cultures, is a paramount question for today.

It's at our public library.  Sure, it's checked out right now, but I put the next hold on it, and I should have it within a few weeks.  In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to discuss what Western civilization actually is.

Huntington spells out what he believes the major civilizations of the world are today in the essay (which you just read if you haven't already, right?) so I'll start with that list: Western, Sinic or Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Latin American, Slavic-Orthodox and Sub-Saharan African. As an aside, according to his divide, some cultures that speak Slavic languages are part of Western civilization (or even Islamic civilization) rather than Slavic-Orthodox, highlighting the paramount important of religion in determining civilization.

The earliest roots of what would become Western Civilization start out with the Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome.  Not only were these civilizations great and powerful in their own day, but they were literate, and they passed on down to us because of this much of the foundation of our own thought.  The rational pursuit of knowledge through study comes from the philosophers of the Greeks; Plato and Aristotle founding much of what academic inquiry even means, joined by guys such as Thucydides and Herodotus, etc.  Literature too, gets its start in a manner that we recognize with Homer, Hesiod, and later other Greek writers.  Even the system of government that we use throughout most of the West has its nascent form in Athens and the Roman Republic.

I have to caution against drawing too direct a line from Classical Civilization to modern Western civilization, though.  In many other ways, Classical civilization is completely alien to us.  Does anyone in Western civilization really believe that we could attempt to implement the brutal eugenic policies of ancient Sparta, no matter how much they may admire Leonidas?  Or the anti-family state-sponsored agoge, complete with the ritual hunting and murdering of untermenschen Helots?  As much as one can admire Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar as brilliant military minds and great spreaders of their civilization, is it admirable that Plutarch claims Caesar killed a million Gaulish warriors and enslaved a million more—at a time when their ability to field warriors was only three million?  That's what we call today ethnic cleansing or genocide.  Maybe one can point out that at least sometimes in the history of Western civilization we had some similar episodes; the colonization of the Americas was characterized by often very bloody civilizational clash, after all.  But uniquely in the history of mankind, did Western civilization have critics who bemoaned this for ethical reasons, and uniquely did they stop doing it, even as they approached the height of their power.  It wasn't co-civilizational sub-Saharan Africans who protested the Congo Free State (rather, they were perfectly willing to help out if it was profitable for them); it was other elements within Western Civilization that made it such a scandal.  The Classical civilizations were an important foundation to Western civilization, but clearly it is not sufficient in and of itself.

The next element that has to be layered in to the development of Western civilization is Christianity.  As Tom Holland said:
“We preach Christ crucified,” St Paul declared, “unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” He was right. Nothing could have run more counter to the most profoundly held assumptions of Paul’s contemporaries – Jews, or Greeks, or Romans. The notion that a god might have suffered torture and death on a cross was so shocking as to appear repulsive. Familiarity with the biblical narrative of the Crucifixion has dulled our sense of just how completely novel a deity Christ was. In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves.
Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value. In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.
You do not get anything that resembles Western civilization without Christianity; it is that system of belief that truly separates Western civilization from the late Classical civilization which preceded it.  If you are going to quibble with the quote above by saying, "The Crusades! The Inquisition! The Colonialism!" you probably should get more educated on all of the above before speaking up.  Plus, keep in mind my point above about Leopold of Belgium.  The same claims were made against the Spanish (who are not part of Western civilization) and others.  Only in Christendom is this condemned.  Although, of course, a parallel similarity was profoundly influential in Buddhist thought—hence the appearance of guys like Gandhi, etc.  This was a much more radical (and alien) idea than merely Christian valuation of human life, however—it was pacifism for its own sake, which doesn't make any sense to anyone in Western civilization except for highly divergent liberal hippies, who as r-strategists, constantly try to dump on Western civilization anyway.

The next element to be introduced is the customs and traditions of the Germanic people (often overlaid on a Celtic substrate.)  This is where Western civilization deviates from Slavic-Orthodox and Latin civilizations, although the tribes of Visigoths, the Rus, and other more far-flung Germanic groups gave a weak patina of this to other areas outside of the core Germanic settlement.  It's fair to say that Western civilization isn't really a development of Classical civilization per se; it's the appropriation of most classical civilization elements and Christianity and the syncretic  fusion of those elements by an alien people to their own culture; the alien people being, of course, the Northern European Germanic people (and their largely Celtic substrate over large parts of their core settlement area.)  The presence of a large population of "freemen" (or comitatus, to use the word the Romans coined to describe this alien (to them) custom) who had the right to bear arms and sit in council with their chief is one core element from the Germanics.  This evolved into Salic Law as the migration period ended and the first "empires" of the Germanic peoples started to form, which codified much of what was already happening, and then laid the foundation for legal tradition throughout Western civilization for centuries to come.

This also sets the stage for separating Core Western civilization from southern Europe, a divide that not all will make, but all will recognize the significant cultural differences between Northern and Southern (and Eastern) Europe; the influence of the Germanic tribes is this factor.  But this evolved through a particular vector, and without that particular vector, you still don't get anything recognizable as Western civilization.  This is actually only somewhat recently recognized, although the fact that it existed is no mystery.  Just that the likely causes of it were.  These divisions can be more or less described by looking at a map of the Hajnal Line (which as you'll see, leaves out southern Italy, much of Spain, especially the parts that were "Reconquistadored" late, Ireland, and Finland.  In reality, it should be much more jaggedy, should probably have spots within it that are left off (Highland Scotland and probably Wales, for example) and parts without that should be added as "islands"—the Ulster area of Northern Ireland and western Finland, probably the rest of Austria or the Sudetenland at least, for example.  I'm making the case that only the areas within the Hajnal Line truly qualify as "Western civilization" other areas (like Ireland, southern Italy, etc.) that are without it are merely dabbling in Western civilization, or imitating certain aspects of it, without fully embracing it.  They are satellite pseudo-Western nations, not truly members in full fellowship.

Of course, later colonies of people from within the Hajnal Line to areas outside it still qualify, so places like Iceland, the US and Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. are, of course, prominent members of Western civilization despite their geographic appearances outside the traditional Hajnal Line.  But their ancestors came from within it, and in all of those cases, they were successful in dominating their new homes to such a degree that they did not really hybridize either culturally or even genetically (to any significant degree) with the peoples who were there before them.

But what really happened within the Hajnal Line to cause this foundation to completely and fully develop into Western civilization as we know it?  The Hajnal Line itself describes marriage patterns, and the reason for it is the Catholic church's ban on consanguinous "cousin" marriages, which were enforced most strictly in the corest core of core Europe; the Merovingian stronghold of Austrasia, and it's later satellites in Neustria, Burgundy, Saxony, Anglo-Saxon Britain, Lombardy, etc.  In short, it spread from the capitol in Metz through all of what would become a "Greater Germania"—France, the Holy Roman Empire, Scandinavia (minus the Lapplander and Finnish areas) and the kingdoms that later emerged as England.  This ban on close relative marriage was also present in other parts of Christendom, but inside the Hajnal line, it was combined with two other developments, and these three, together, created selection pressures that created modern Western Civilization.  As Avner Greif said:
“The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups. From as early as the fourth century, it discouraged practices that enlarged the family, such as adoption, polygamy, concubinage, divorce, and remarriage. It severely prohibited marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had constituted a means to create and maintain kinship groups throughout history. The church also curtailed parents’ abilities to retain kinship ties through arranged marriages by prohibiting unions in which the bride didn’t explicitly agree to the union. 
“European family structures did not evolve monotonically toward the nuclear family nor was their evolution geographically and socially uniform. However, by the late medieval period the nuclear family was dominant. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term family denoted one’s immediate family, and shortly afterwards tribes were no longer institutionally relevant. Thirteenth-century English court rolls reflect that even cousins were as likely to be in the presence of non-kin as with each other. 
“The practices the church advocated, such as monogamy, are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than one percent of the total number of marriages. In contrast, the percentage of such marriages in Muslim, Middle Eastern countries, where we also have particularly good data, is much higher – between twenty to fifty percent. Among the anthropologically defined 356 contemporary societies of Euro-Asia and Africa, there is a large and significant negative correlation between Christianization (for at least 500 years) and the absence of clans and lineages; the level of commercialization, class stratification, and state formation are insignificant.”
So, the end result of this was the replacement of the large, extended family with the nuclear family as the primary unit.  This lack of large extended families eventually undid the entire tribal structure of core Europe.  Large, extended, cohabiting families, on the other hand, are still very normal in places like, say, Sicily or Eastern Europe—outside of the Hajnal Line.  In these areas, there's an environment in which "nepotistic altruism"—giving favors to extended family and other forms of what we in Western civilization deem to be corruption—which was largely eliminated within the Hajnal Line.  Combined with manorialism—the founding principle of feudalism, where the Lord of the Manor had vested in himself certain legal and economic powers, and in turn owed certain obligations to the serfs or villeins as well as the free farmers who used the land of his manor, or demesne.  As hbd chick observes, manorialism "was really an almost all-encompassing socio-religious-political system which, although its features and importance did vary at different times and in different locales, pretty much regulated nearly all aspects of medieval Europeans’ lives."  Throughout "Core Europe" it existed for the better part of three quarters of a millennium; even in areas where it was adopted a bit later, it lasted nearly half of one.  What are the selection pressures that manorialism plus outbreeding and non-consanguineous marriage exerted on the developing Western Man?  Again, from hbd chick:
The working theory around here is that the Outbreeding Project set up the selection pressures for getting rid of much of what we could call “nepotistic altruism” in Core Europe, allowing for greater cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals and, therefore, a more open and “corporate” sort of society. A second working theory is that manorialism set up selection pressures for a whole suite of traits including perhaps: slow life histories; future time orientation; delayed gratification; the good ol’ protestant work ethic; a general compliant nature and even rather strong tendencies toward conformity; perhaps even a high degree of gullibility; perhaps a few extra IQ points; and even more cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals. ... The manor system also probably contributed to the selection for the reduction in impulsive violence. ... the Outbreeding Project and manorialism very much went hand-in-hand as well — the medieval European manor system could not have happened without all of the outbreeding, and the Outbreeding Project was reinforced by the manor system (since marriage was often regulated within the manor system).
Does that now sound like modern, Western Civilization?  Not the feudalism itself, of course, but the selection pressures it generated caused, after many generations, a new type of European to emerge in the northern portions of the continent.  A Brazilian with whom I communicate on occasion expressed the idea that many in Latin America see themselves as members of Western civilization, but he sees these stark differences clearly—as do I, and my oldest son, for that matter, who lived for a few years in various parts of Spanish Latin America.  He pointed out that both in Latin America and Southern Europe (the same is true of Eastern Europe) that the culture is characterized by "low trust society, weak rule of the law, corruption, weak work ethic, etc."  This is a major disconnect, and why I cannot consider Europeans of descent outside of the Hajnal Line to truly be members of Western civilization.

What does this mean for America?  Firstly, it means that the large numbers of immigrants that we took on 100-150 years or so ago from Ireland, the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the Jews are not really members of Western Civilization, didn't understand it, and have largely undermined its success in America to greater or lesser degrees.  When first arrived, they turned quickly in large numbers to organized crime, voluntary segregation instead of attempted assimilation, tribal nepotistic takeovers of businesses, politics, and to some degree, even entire industries (media, Hollywood, etc.) and in defiance of the good of the host nation in which they were living, they agitated and campaigned for changing immigration laws both to 1) bring more of their kind that they could nepotistically deal with, and 2) change the fabric of the prevalent Anglo-Saxon with a touch of Dutch and German American society to one in which they stood out less, by inviting even more alien cultures into the fold.

If this hasn't been bad enough, the mass invasion of the US by the completely non-Western civilization members of Latin America in their tens of millions, and from Islamic civilization (a bigger deal in Europe than America, but it's growing fast here too) is a genuine crisis; an existential threat to Western civilization on the American continent.  Give or take a few tens of thousands, Switzerland has the same population as Honduras.  Because of our shared Western civilization background, America could probably absorb the entire population of Switzerland without it being too disruptive (we're way too diverse now to quibble about Anglo- vs. Germano- backgrounds now; although Benjamin Franklin and other Founding Fathers were more skeptical) but absorbing the population of Honduras will never happen successfully; they simply won't integrate and assimilate.  Ever.

If we hope to remain a bastion of Western Civilization in America, instead of being absorbed into a growing Latin culture, or continue to be held hostage to an admittedly native subset of sub-Saharan African culture, or even worse, continue to invite Islamic civilization into our homes to the extend that it becomes a significant threat, then we need to recognize who and what we are and stand up for it again.  Maybe Western civilization isn't the pinnacle of human achievement (although I kind of think it is) but even if it's not, it's ours and we have every right to our civilization, the same as every other people on Earth.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Assimilation

https://jaymans.wordpress.com/american-nations-series/

This is more a link round-up than it is an actual exegesis on the subject, but it's a really, really interesting bit of work.  I think this is one of the biggest contributors to understanding social and political issues in America, and its only starting to be recognized as such; most regular Americans will never have heard of it, and only specialists in their field are really generally aware.  I've read both Fischer and Woodard's books (and they're excellent) and I've tried to keep myself up to date on developments in the field since then as much as I have time and access to the work in question to do so.

Reading this brought to mind an off-hand comment my father once made to me, which didn't really mean much to me at the time, but which in retrospect, now that I understand this, makes all kinds of sense and seems really significant.

With the exception of one thin line of Portuguese ancestors from the island of Madeira (which gets a lot of attention because it's unusual and different; not because it really contributes meaningfully to our culture or DNA either one) our family is almost completely made up of Borderers, or Appalachians to use Woodard's terminology.  From the northern English England/Scotland border area and northern Ireland from the Scots-Irish area (which means that they were Scotsmen living in Ireland, who found themselves opposed both culturally and politically to the actual Irish, most often), they grew up in a relatively lawless area, without much in the way of supervision of king and country.  They were competitive, fractious, did not necessarily seek out conflict, but also did not shy away from it when it presented itself, and had an incredibly stubborn resistance to authority.  Their area had been a border region since time immemorial; between the Romans and the Celtic barbarians to the north of them, between the Anglo-Saxons of Northumbria and the nascent Scottish of places like Galloway, Strathclyde, and the Mairches, between the Anglo-Saxons and the Danelaw, etc.  It goes on and on as a rough and tumble frontier region for literally millennia.  It's no wonder that in the early 1600s when it was finally good and pacified by the Pax Anglicana of the Stewart and Tudor kings that my ancestors found the new regime either boring, or stifling, or otherwise intolerable and came to America before the 17th century was over, and once there, made immediately for what was then the backwoods frontier regions of parts of South Carolina and northern Georgia.

My father once said that on moving to Texas, he finally saw some context that explained the behavior, attitudes and cultural beliefs of his family, which despite spending four generations out West, turned out to never assimilate into western culture, remaining stubbornly "ethnic Southerners" until his triumphant "homecoming" to a territory where our culture and values are more the norm (this is less true of Texas than it was even when we arrived; the mass influx of people from both south of the border as well as within the United States due to greater economic opportunity in Texas has greatly diluted Texas' cultural heritage over a matter of mere decades.)  The same is true for me; although I now live in Michigan, I have significant cultural dissonance with the way that Michiganders think and live, in many ways.

It also explains much of my disconnect with the cultural aspect of fellow members of my church, especially those from Utah and whatnot, who are largely the descendants of New Englander Puritans and while massively augmented by immigration from England and Scandinavia, still exhibit a very strong founder effect towards neo-Puritan cultural values.  I frequently find the exhibits of casual busybody-ness and community level petty totalitarianism extremely off-putting.  It's not doctrinal to the church, it's cultural to some people of the church who've grown up in a culture where that kind of thing is tolerated or even encouraged.

In any case, Julie (my wife) sometimes despairs of making of me a civilized person that can be taken to nice places; she often finds me iconoclastic, possessed of an overly "big", over-bearing or even intimidating personality, stubborn beyond all reason, and strangely contentious.  I never thought of myself as any of those things growing up, necessarily, but then again, I grew up in an environment where my native cultural traits were relatively commonplace.  It's only now (well, not only now, but especially now) where my native cultural traits contrast with my environment that it is really obvious.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ad Astra military ship types

For reference; in adopting terminology from the Age of Sail to the Age of Space, many of these labels have been abused and misused over the years.  Here's what I consider the various "classes" of ships in AD ASTRA.

Single person craft
I'm actually cheating just a bit; some of these "single-person" craft do actually have more than one person in them, either as passengers or as crew.  In military craft, that may often mean a pilot, a gunner, maybe a tail-gunner, and maybe a bomber.  A co-pilot is always welcome, although the smallest of these ships does not have them.  In general, these are for dog-fighting or bombing runs, or simply for local transport (the equivalent of a Cessna) but it is a very, very rare "single" person craft that has ether travel capability, so long distance travel is not an option.  The largest of these might be something like a big cargo airplane of today; the smallest are like single-pilot tiny planes.

Corvette
This is the first of the ships that I'm actually meaning to talk about.  Rather lightly armed and armored, corvettes are military craft, originally meant for convoy duty, blockade running, or patrol of relatively quiet areas.  Not meant to stand up in combat to any kind of significant ship of the line.  Many pirates and privateers use corvettes, because they are small, light, cheap, maneuverable, and require a small crew, which makes them ideal for attacking non-military targets like yachts, freighters or liners.  Although the Millennium Falcon is always called a modified freighter in Star Wars Expanded Universe material, I rather think that it's the perfect, iconic example of what I expect a corvette to look and behave like.  The ships that the characters in Old Republic get would all be considered corvettes by my book as well; even if in game they are given other designations.

The "Double Dub"—a nickname for the modified corvette Wayland's Wyrd, a privateer used by the iconics.
The big exception to this lack of suitability for line combat would be torpedo craft; corvette-style ships modified to carry a payload of an extremely heavy weapon (with minimal ability to fire) that rush up to larger ships, fire their payload to devastating effect, and then rush back to safety.

Frigate
Larger, with heavier arms and armaments and room for much more crew, the frigate is the "standard" military craft.  Not completely a ship of the line, but designed for almost any other military duty except for protracted broadside-style space battles.  This is the ideal pirate vessel for larger crews as well, and often come equipped with a significant complement of marines for boarding actions.  They also serve as escorts for larger ships, and can be effective torpedo craft hunters.

Cruiser
A cruiser overlaps somewhat with frigate and with battleship below; it is essentially a medium sized ship that is capable of "cruising" i.e., operating independently, for the most part.  Capable of a wide variety of tasks, from independent scouting and exploration, fairly heavy ship to ship combat, orbital bombardment, commerce protection, blockades, etc.  In famous sci-fi terms, the Enterprise would be the most famous cruiser I can think of.  This is really defined more by the role than by the characteristics of the ship itself; frigates can be light cruisers, and on the heavy end, they can be very similar in design to battleships; again, the main difference is role rather than design (although many ships are designed specifically to be cruisers as opposed to frigates or battleships.)

Battleship
These are very heavily armed and armored, large ships of the line.  Imperial Star Destroyers, while sometimes serving in the role of a cruiser, are the iconic battleship from science fiction.

Carrier
These are also large ships, but they have little (if any) armament on their own; rather, they are meant to carry large components of fighters and bombers.

Dreadnoughts
These are really big super-heavy battleships.  Darth Vader's Super Star Destroyer would be an example.

Commercial craft
One could make a similar progression for commercial craft from the smaller little schooners and brigantines to the fast-cargo transport jammers and clippers, with yachts and liners, container ships, and tankers cutting across those categories to some degree as well.  All of them are ether drive capable, regardless of size.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Diversity, Inc.™ Spider-man

Now that Marvel is owned by Disney, they're moving nearly as quickly as Star Wars is into the realm of insulting their classic audience.  Congress was alarmed today at the rate at which Chinese interests are buying up stock in Hollywood producers, and that they might be producing anti-American propaganda in southern California.  Quite frankly, they'll probably produce better (and certainly less insulting) anti-American propaganda than (((Hollywood))) has done for the last several decades.

Anyway, I was cautiously optimistic about the new Spider-man movie hinted at in Captain America: Civil War because Marvel Studios has done, generally, a pretty good job, and the Spider-man casting, at least, was the best yet.  However... check this out.

This is Ned Leeds: a co-worker of Parker's at The Daily Bugle.

He's been re-imagined as a high school friend of Peter's.  The actor playing him is this guy.


This is Liz Allen.  She's another high school friend of Peter (and Co.)  This picture is from a little later in the canon, after she's married to Harry Osborne.  That's Harry there with her, plus their own little mini-Green Goblin grandson or whatever.

This is the actress cast to play her.
No word on whether or not Harry is even in the movie, but Liz is now supposed to be Peter's love interest.  (No word on what, if anything, happened to Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson—both of them probably too iconically white for them to risk changing her.)  Also; keep in mind this data point when you think of Peter Parker being attracted to her...

Flash Thompson is an iconic Spider-man character; a big-mouthed jock who loves Spider-man, but ironically, despises Peter Parker.

Played by this Guatemalan actor, who was originally, supposedly, supposed to be a character named Manuel!

To round all that up, we're also supposed to believe that this actress is a brainy, nerdy, always-in-her-books character.

Of course, the villains will be played by these three actors:



Who do they think that they're kidding?  (((Hollywood))) hates America.  It hates white males; the primary audience for super-hero comic books (and movies based on them) especially.  Do they really think that the virtue-signaling of a handful of critics is going to make up for the disgust of their primary audience?

This is hardly an isolated incident.  Check out Iris West in the Flash, or Ben Urich in Daredevil.  Or Aquaman, fer cryin' out loud.  The black Johnny Storm in the recent Fantastic Four movie was just embarrassingly stupid.  Perry White in the new Superman movies.  Deadshot in Suicide Squad.  The black Norse god Heimdall in Thor (?!)  Nick Fury is a classic example, as is Blade (although both were minor enough characters that they probably got away with it, since both Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes did a credible job on both.).  In the older Fantastic Four movies, Ben Grimm's blind girlfriend Alicia Masters mysteriously went from being a blonde to a black girl.  Jimmy Olson in the new Supergrrl show (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose) is now a black man; formerly a freckled red-head.  Halle Berry as Catwoman (although I guess Eartha Kitt already paved the way for that one a long time ago; plus Anne Hathaway stole the role more recently.)  The same complaint could be made about the Kingpin in the earlier Daredevil movie.  Electro by outspoken anti-white racist Jamie Foxx in The Amazing Spider-man.  Dr. Strange's arch-enemy Baron Mordo is now going to be black.  Deathstroke in Arrow went from being a white guy to a Maori.  Wally West in The Flash is black.  Jasper Sitwell kinda looks like he could still be white, but the actor is definitely hispanic.  Hawkgirl in Arrow is black.

There are even more if you delve into shows like Smallville and whatnot.

It's insane.  Do they really think that we aren't noticing what is a very concerted and heavy-handed push to insult the audience and erase white people from the entertainment industry as much as possible (except when playing villains)?

I notice that they're a bit leery of replacing major stars or extremely well-known characters still; I guess they haven't completely sold out to their racist agenda that they don't want to still have a shot at making some money.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What to do about elves, dwarves, orcs and hobbits

I'm not a huge fan of the way Tolkien handled non-human races.  Sure; they do have some mythic resonance, but I've lost interest in the elves in particular, to be more interested in the Men of the story.  This, of course, is an essential element of making the setting more sword & sorcery pulp friendly, since the sword & sorcery pulps are heavily skewed towards humanocentric and rarely (if ever) place alien non-humans in any kind of protagonist role.  Rather, I prefer the dangerous, fey interpretation of Dunsany, Shakespeare, or Goethe. What does Middle-earth look like if Elrond is the Erlking?  If Galadriel is Queen Mab or Titania, or even Circe?

What if the dwarves are more like the mythical Dökkálfar or Svartálfar (Swert-elves?) and less like they actually appear; more like plot devices and the source of strange magical plot devices than like actual characters in the traditional sense?  The same for wizards; Gandalf wouldn't go "adventuring" with the Hobbits, or go confront the Necromancer in Dol Goldur; like Merlin or other more mythical wizards, he too is nothing but a plot device.  The superstitions of Boromir and the Rohirrim, in other words, are not fallacies to be dismissed by the likes of Aragorn; they're actually true.  There is only a single example of this, muted but still, in the legendarium of Middle-earth; Bilbo's experience of being lost in Mirkwood off the path and stumbling across the feasts of the Elf-king in the woods.

The real stories aren't about elves, or dwarves or wizards.  They're about Men.  Hobbits, on the other hand, are consistently portrayed as little more than small men, so they get a pass.  I'll let hobbits be hobbits without any significant change.

What needs to change to bring about this sword & sorcery, pulpish change to the setting of Middle-earth?

First: Rivendell is not a refuge for the elves.  It's a refuge for the Dunedain; the rangers.  Elrond does indeed live there, but he's trapped by the arts of the Dunedain of old.  He can be consulted, due to his knowledge of history, but he is not necessarily to be trusted.  He's like a bitter, untrustworthy Mimir; a dead body hanging from a tree that does not rot and does not truly, completely die.

Lothlorien is indeed perilous.  It's Queen will indeed trap any foolish mortals who wander too far under it's eaves in her spells, and if such a mortal ever escapes again, will suffer the fate of Oisín.  This assumes that they survive Herne and the Wild Hunt long enough to get caught in Galadriel's spells.

The Lonely Mountain isn't a kingdom in the traditional sense.  No mortals know for sure what happens under the mountain, but a few select Masters of Dale have managed to secure for themselves access to wonderful things from Undermountain that they can then use to amass fortunes.  Few ask exactly what such access costs them, but it is also true that all of these Masters have, mysteriously, lost their oldest child.

Both Hollin and Dwarrowdelf (or Moria, but I prefer to use the "Mannish" name and minimize somewhat the usage of the Elvish words) are haunted by the memory of the elves and dwarves that used to live there.  Not only do spies of the White Wizard haunt the area, and the malevolent spirit of Redhorn the Cruel itself, but passers-by often disappear during the night, their companions left only with the sinister mark of fairy rings where they went to bed.

I'm not sure that I have any real need to do anything with the Blue Mountains and Lindon, since they barely make a cameo as the hobbits pass through on their way to the Grey Havens.  But maybe I'll make Lindon a place where mortals live, but mortals who have been touched just a bit by the magic of the elves.  Sinister, bizarre; not unlike the men from the cold, dark land of Inganok, from Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.  For that matter; the Blue Mountains can be more like the onyx quarries in the mountains near Kadath—which is itself probably located not far north of the Ice Bay of Forochel.

The other element of Lord of the Rings which has become, in many ways, synonymous with High Fantasy are the orcs.  To make them more pulpish, sword & sorcery, I'd turn them into man-apes.  Various types, from hugely strong, nearly gorilla-like uruks to the smaller, almost baboon-like soldiers of the Misty Mountains, their appearance would be different, but their role almost identical.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Periods of potential play in Pulp Middle-earth

Before I go around making all kinds of setting changes to Middle-earth to make it more conducive to a sword & sorcery pulp feel, let's explore some of the potential eras in which I could set a game.  All of these are in the Third Age of Middle Earth, but far removed from the War of the Ring itself.  There's plenty of years to play around with here; the Third Age lasted for over 3,000 years, and started at the Fall of Gil-Galad, Elendil and Sauron himself, and ended with the end of the War of the Ring after the end of Return of the King.  For context, that's nearly as long as the period of time between the Trojan War and now; although the longer lives of characters in Middle-earth tends to extend the years somewhat, I suppose.

1) In the 1060s, the reign of Gondor's Ship-kings has just come to an end.  Gondor is at it's apex, having conquered much of Near Harad, controlled South Gondor (or Harondor) and Umbar.  Political upheaval of the southlands.  Arnor is already divided, although all three kingdoms remain strong(ish) yet at this point.  The Istari are only relatively recently arrived and not yet famous.  The first hobbits reach Eriador.  Although the Northmen of Rhovanion are not yet allied overtly with Gondor, they are still on relatively friendly terms.  Greenwood the Great starts at this time to get its shadow and is starting to become called Mirkwood.

In this era, most likely a game would focus on political intrigue in the Southlands.  Sauron is quiet, as are his direct servants.  The distant echoes of problems in Greenwood would barely reach the ears of the kings of Arthedain or Gondor either one.  Arnor is broken and provincial, while Gondor is at the height of its power.

2) In the 1250s, on the other hand, Gondor is fighting (or just fought) a large horde of Easterlings, and ties with Rhovanion are established.  By this time, Mirkwood is known (at least by the White Council) to be occupied by what is thought to be a Nazgûl.  Lands to the east as far as Dorwinion and the Sea of Rhûn could all feature here.  In the north, Arhedain remains strong, although the Dunedain of Rhudaur have failed and the country is occupied by Hill-men.  Cardolan also has a waning nobility.  Until the founding of Angmar in fifty more years, however, Eriador is fairly quiet and peaceful, other than squabbles over borders (and Palantiri) between the three north kingdoms.

3) By 1410, Rhudaur is completely conquered and overthrown by Angmar; if a kingdom by that name even still exists, it is a puppet kingdom of hostile aliens, friendly to Angmar.  Cardolan is ravaged, but survives, as some survivors of its citizens flee in the the downs or the Old Forest.  The King of Arthedain is slain and Amon Sûl (the tower on Weathertop) is destroyed.  Despite this, later in the year, the northern Dunedain, with help from their allies from Lindon, Rivendell and even Lothlorien manage to beat back the assaults and pacify (for a time) the border with Angmar.

4) A few years later (1432), the disastrous, fifteen year long civil war called the Kin-strife in Gondor takes place.  The rightful king is overthrown by Castamir the Usurper.  Osgiliath is burned (although not fully depopulated, and the king flees to his mother's kin in Rhovanion for a decade.  When he returns and overthrows the Usurper in 1447, it is a bitter affair, and the rebels hold out under siege at Pelargir for a full year, before they decamped and took the entire province of Umbar with them as a rival power, supported not only by these dissidents, but also Black Numenoreans who still lived in the area.

5) By the 1850s, Araval, king of Arthedain, has been at war for 400 years with Angmar.  Cardolan is desolated, and now populated by the Barrow-wights; Rhudaur is now the Coldfells or Ettenmoors and the Trollshaws because of their hostile inhabitants, although some villages of rangers remained in the Angle.  Arthedain will hold out for nearly a hundred and twenty five more years, but the sad defeat and decline is a prominent theme here, as well as constant wariness and low-grade warfare.  In Gondor, the disastrous invasion of the Wainriders truncates Gondor's eastern frontier, and the king is killed, and Gondor's allies, the Northmen of Rhovanion are enslaved, although some move to the Vales of Anduin and become the Éothéod.  The Wainriders will not truly be defeated for fifty more years, and much suffering in both Gondor and among the Northmen still lies before them.

You may notice that these proposals focus considerably more on the Men of Middle-earth than the elves, or dwarves, or even the hobbits.  Yep.  I haven't decided what, exactly, I'm going to do about elves and dwarves, honestly—probably replace them with something a bit less mythic and more pseudo-scientific.  Or maybe I'll just minimize their importance even more than it already is.

The Dunedain I will treat much like later Romans; a great and grand civilization; the greatest in the world, at this point, but politically fractured and in decline.  The Northmen are like various Germanic tribes; some of the common men of Eriador and Gondor are like pacified Gauls or other Celtic groups, and the Wainriders and Easterlings are like the Scythians.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pulp Middle-earth

"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Númenor and the gleaming cities, and the years of the Fourth Age, there was an Age undreamed of, when realms of Elf, Man, and Dwarf lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. . . Hither came Aragorn of the Dúnedain, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a ranger, a wander, a chieftain, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the thrones of Arda under his feet."  
- The Red Book of Westmarch

From Trey's "Pulpify Middle-earth" project.  What a great idea for an alternate take on the venerable setting!  Why didn't I ever think of that?  I don't want to step on his toes, but I might play around (very briefly) with the idea myself.  I'm tempted to do a more thorough remixing than it looks like he's doing, though.  Replace elves and dwarves with some less mythic races, replace orcs with man-apes, etc.  The Necromancer is truly a Necromancer, not a minor fallen pagan god, etc.

I might even develop the idea towards actually being played, setting the game somewhere in the time between Sauron's loss of the Ring and Gollum's finding of it.  Once, long ago, I had mapped out several potential very specific eras (from a review of the chronology at the end of Return of the King) but I have no idea what I've done with that over the years, so I'll probably have to do it all anew.


Ad Astra vs. Star Wars Remixed, Part II

Bern Monarchy = Bern Monarchy

Revanchist Republic = Revanchist Republic

Sith Empire = Hezun Empire

Corporate Sector = Corporate Sector

Hutt Cartel = Dhangetan Cartel

Mandalorian Cartel = Cilindan Cartel

Chiss Ascendency = Altairan Ascendency

Gray Marshals = Gray Marshals

Orthodox Jedi = Sacristans

Skywalker Jedi = Simonians

Cyborg Order = Cyborg Order

Nightsisters and Nightbrothers = The Old Ones

Sith = Shadow Knights or Hezun Knights

Coruscant = Capitol (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Tatooine = Orken (or Ørken)

Raxus = Dimidium

Dathomir = Phobetor

Ilum = N/A.  No Ilum equivalent, since lightsabers are psionic constructs, not mechanical ones, and therefore need no crystals.

Hoth = Yuggoth (hehe...)

Mandalore = Cilindare

Nal Hutta = Tars Dhangeta

Nar Shaddaa = Tars Bruttium

Moraband = Thanatos

Dromund Kaas = Phonos Ma

Given that my Earth-descendants are specifically Northern European (or their descendants via America) in origin, some old Germanic, Celtic and Classic references in the names is to be expected.  There are alien humans (and actual aliens) namely the Ubrai and Idachar, although as they've merged with earth-descent humans over time, they've largely taken on Earth-descent cultures, languages and whatnot as well.

I'm going to minimize (somewhat) the presence of aliens relative to Star Wars.  They'll be there, although most are not even people in rubber masks, they're just people with weird contacts and make-up jobs, but the real focus is on the Earth-descent people, for the most part, and my "iconics" party is specifically designed to be mostly them.  Partly this is to keep me from having to come up with tons of weird new alien names all of the time; something that I enjoyed in my younger years, but which somewhat dread now (plus I don't have nearly as good an ear for it as someone like Edgar Rice Burroughs did, for instance.)

Again; this is more in keeping with the flavor of the very first Star Wars movies—and less so with the later movies.