The Monster Hunter Files – A Fantasy Book Review

Larry Correia has successfully built up the Monster Hunter brand to the point where other authors like John Ringo and Sarah Hoyt have now penned volumes of the series.  I have not previously read any of these non-Correia additions to the MHI world but I wasn’t worried about continuity problems when I picked up the Monster Hunter Files short story collection.  After all, when you let other authors share in your fictional world you are assuming that their writing style will be different and that they will be interested in different aspects of that world or at least emphasize things differently.

And this is definitely the case for the authors and stories in this collection.  In some cases, authors with established characters are embedding these known quantities into the MHI world.  When that happens the fans of that author will be the ones who can best judge if the character was faithfully transplanted into the MHI universe.  But Larry’s fans are the ones who will decide if the fit is successful.  There are seventeen stories in the collection with writers as well-known as Jim Butcher, John Wright, John Ringo and Jonathan Maberry.  And there are authors that are less well known.  But the success of the stories also depends on whether the author’s take on the material fits well with the MHI style.  And finally, the individual reader will provide the most important component of what is a good or bad story, namely his individual tastes.

And indeed, that is the case for me.  Regardless of the skill of the author or even my taste for that author’s work, the primary consideration is whether the story is entertaining.  And that will be a continuum.  Some stories are enjoyable on several levels and can be easily identified as the stand outs.  Others may be okay and don’t rate top billing.  And some just plain don’t work for me.  Relevant to that is the interesting situation that the one Larry Correia story is not actually my favorite story in the collection.  I have to assume it’s not because the other stories are more genuinely MHI than his.  That would be hard to argue.  It’s just because they happen to be better stories by my criteria.  And this is the beauty of the multi-author anthology.  You discover new authors whose work you find you like.  My personal favorites:

1)            “The Manticore Sanction” by John C. Wright

2)            “The Gift” by Steve Diamond

Plenty of the other stories are good and were enjoyed but these two were the best for my tastes.

I would say the story collection is a success.  In fact, I see no reason why additional volumes couldn’t be published.  One idea that I think would be interesting is a volume of stories entirely from the point of view of the monsters.  This is actually sort of the case in the story “Huffman Strikes Back” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Julie Frost.  The stories in such a volume would have to be handled carefully to make it interesting but it would be a departure and provides totally different points of view on the familiar characters and situations from the conventional monster hunting narratives.  After all there are a number of important monsters including some of the Shacklefords.  Highlighting their points of view in the stories would be entertaining and could provide insights that can’t be easily obtained from the conventional perspective.

Psycho – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Re-Posted from October 2017 in honor of Halloween.  Boo!

In honor of Halloween I’ve gone through the Universal Classic Monster Movies.  Moving along let’s look at the first modern horror movie.  And let’s start by defining what a modern horror movie is.  Well, what it isn’t is Frankenstein or Dracula or any make-believe monster.  In fact, it isn’t even a more contemporary monster like a zombie in “Night of the Living Dead.”  The generation that had lived through World War II and the Korean War and was living under the threat of nuclear annihilation probably couldn’t pretend to be afraid of rubber-masked monsters.  What they could fear was the monster that might be living behind the eyes of the boy next door.  Insanity was a monster that they knew had broken free before and once loose inflicted real horror on all in its path.  So that’s the modern horror movie monster, a homicidal maniac.  And before there was the Red Dragon, or Hannibal Lector or Saw there was Norman Bates.

Psycho was based on a novel by Robert Bloch, who wrote genre fiction in Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery categories.  It was inspired in part by a truly depraved serial killer named Ed Gein but the details of the story mostly came out of Bloch’s imagination.

But the reason Psycho is the subject of this review is that Alfred Hitchcock wanted to make that movie.  Always an innovator and aware of the need to push the boundaries of what was allowable on screen, he produced a film that fit its time.  The sexual nature of the relationship between Marion Crane and Sam Loomis is highlighted.  The murder scenes although tame by today’s standards are truly frightening.  For audiences of that time (1960) some of the scenes would have been shocking.

But Hitchcock didn’t make just a scream fest.  The movie is a complete story.  Each of the main characters and many of the smaller parts are skillfully crafted with loving detail and come to life on the screen.  And one character who has been dead for ten years and only survives inside the tortured brain of a madman gets several good lines including the closing soliloquy.

And here is one of the strangest twists of the movie.  The monster gets to tell his side of the story.  In the scene where Norman Bates brings Marion a meal, he tells his side of the story and even gives his mother’s side too.  Obviously, it’s couched in self-delusion and the confusion associated with a split personality but he describes his life as being in a self-inflicted trap that he no longer even tried to escape.  And he admitted that he depended on his mother as much as she depended on him.  And the portrait we see is personable, sympathetic and pitiable.  Of course, this just sets us up for what follows.

Norman’s sexual frustration is illustrated in the voyeurism we are shown and of course the maniacal rage is on display in each of the murders and the attempted murder.  When the psychiatrist comes on at the end as a deus-ex-machina, he not only explains the origins of Norman’s psychosis but also reveals that there have been additional women victims of “Norman’s mother.”

And finally, in the soliloquy that ends the dialog, we really get to meet the monster.  Mother tells us how sad it is that Norman must be punished and how innocent she is of all the blood.  But the dishonesty and the cruelty are on display and at the very last image of “her” we see the monster showing.  And the very last image we get is Marion’s car being winched out of the swamp (her coffin being exhumed from her grave).

What do I like about this movie?  Everything.  The actors are excellent.  The dialog is perfect.  Even the music and sound effects reinforce the action on the screen.  I don’t watch this movie often because I don’t want to wear it out.  But it’s the perfect adult horror movie.  The only thing that gives it competition is Silence of the Lambs.  I find it to be the perfect embodiment of the modern monster.  Man.

29OCT2018 – Quote of the Day

“There is nothing everyone is so afraid of as being told how vastly much he is capable of. You are capable of – do you want to know? – you are capable of living in poverty; you are capable of standing almost any kind of maltreatment, abuse, etc. But you do not wish to know about it, isn’t that so? You would be furious with him who told you so, and only call that person your friend who bolsters you in saying: ‘No, this I cannot bear, this is beyond my strength, etc.”

Soren Kierkegaard

What Can We Learn from the Death of Gab?

Vox and the Z-Man have posts up on the shutting down of Gab.

http://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=15418

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/10/they-cant-say-i-didnt-warn-them_28.html

There are a few ways of talking about this.  First off, we can discuss what is lost by a Gab shutdown.  Personally, I’ve never really completely understood Twitter or Gab.  It just seemed like everyone linking to everyone else but not actually reading the content.  What the actual value of that is escapes me.  I tried reading my linked content many times and found it a muddled mess.  Maybe that’s what happens when a million people are mixed in a blender together.  But I will confess I probably just didn’t know what I was doing.  So, all in all from a personal point of view it won’t actually affect me.  Now, maybe it has actually been useful for other folks for communication and publicity.  If anyone has found it valuable, say so in the comments.  But from my point of view it wasn’t very useful.

The next way we can look at it is what can we learn from how it was shut down.  Andrew Torba was vehement that he wanted freedom of speech to be the defining characteristic of Gab.  That sounds like a laudable ideal.  In practice, however, the content became pretty foul.  There were some pretty crazy people on the site.  Now, it’s unclear how much was just trolling by those looking to destroy Gab and which was legitimate nutbaggery.  But regardless, the result was unpleasant and chaotic.  Not being a Twitter user maybe I’m just unaware that this is par for the course in a social media arena.  If that is so then it sort of reinforces my impression that Twitter and all these social media environments are toxic places that are mostly about battling your enemies for sport.  I run a very different type of website.  It’s a microscopic place compared to Gab (never mind Twitter).  But we have to deal with the same questions of how to regulate the written interactions between real people.  I have the advantage that I can monitor the discussions on my own.  The scope is possible in a small venue.  For a place like Twitter or Gab it becomes expensive and difficult to maintain a consistent policy because of the need for multiple individuals with their individual points of view.  With respect to freedom of speech on my site, I tell people they can speak their minds but keep it reasonable.  Obviously, that isn’t a highly precise statement.  What I’m trying to say is stay within legal and cultural norms.  Different people have different perspectives on those and the only standard that I have to decide on what conforms and what doesn’t is my own judgement.  But that isn’t too different from any other venue where people interact and debate.  I’m guessing that a truly free speech site will always be a sort of giant demolition derby.  If your site is perceived as being on the right-wing it is clear that you will be punished whenever the opportunity presents itself so allowing the crazier individuals to let it all hang out will eventually lead to the situation that occurred at Gab.  So, the lesson to learn is a fully free speech site is not going to happen in the present environment.

And finally, we can look at what should be changed to avoid this waste of resources.  The first thing that comes to mind is an analysis could be done to find out exactly what are the useful functions that a Twitter, Facebook or YouTube serves and how, if at all, they could be replicated in a competing right-wing entity.  I am hardly qualified to do such an analysis but I’ll at least attempt to discuss some of the more obvious answers.  The two most important functions these sites accomplish is communication and commerce.  The sites allow people to find their audience.  To the extent that they are right-wing sites I guess that will help pre-select for the audience intended.  The second function is allowing content creators to monetize their product.  This will be tied into advertising revenue.  From what I’ve heard advertising revenues, even on established giants like YouTube and Instagram, are shrinking drastically.  What I think this all means is that a viable right-wing social media site will be a site where content providers will pay a fee to obtain visibility and the site will provide amenities like video storage space, band-width and some amount of moderation of the trolls.  Eventually, popular content producers will be able to sell advertising on their videos and other content products.  To me this seem to be the future of right-wing social media.  And it seems like a reasonable model.  Eventually the site will develop other ways to monetize its value.  Subscriptions like Netflix and Amazon eventually will be the end state.

So that’s my take on what can be learned from the Gab debacle.  Experience is the cruelest teacher but the most effective.

Codevilla’s “Our Revolution’s Logic” Resonates on the Right, but is He Right?

Codevilla’s lengthy article outlining the path forward he sees for the American republic is ricocheting around the right-wing blogosphere pretty heavily.  And that makes sense.  Here is a civic nationalist of unimpeachable credentials sadly confirming what the Dissident Right has been saying for several years.  Codevilla’s thesis is that we’ve gone over the cliff and there’s no going back to a united America.

Without a doubt, the naïve belief that a third of the population can publicly foment the disenfranchisement of 60% of the population without damaging the unity and even the existence of the nation has been exploded.  But does that mean that a coalition of people (of whatever ethnicity) who would prefer to live in a country corresponding to the pre-1965 way of life can’t be cobbled together?  Of that, I’m not convinced.  The Left has appealed to all the various grievances of women, minorities and sexual deviants against the traditional society as a way to build a coalition.  But what would happen if you take away the advantage for that coalition?  What if protected status was removed from these categories so that there was no longer any advantage to uniting under the banner of victimhood?  Suddenly moslems, feminists and trans-women don’t seem to have that much in common.  Just looking at the various minority groups, it doesn’t appear that East and South Asians have very much in common with Hispanics who don’t really get along very well with black folk.  Suddenly it makes a lot more sense for all of us to play by the rules that actually protect each group from the law of the jungle.  The real losers in this type of situation would be the really weird characters in the LGBTQ camp.  It’s pretty certain that there are much worse societies to be noticeably strange than in pre-1965 America.  Just ask the queer folk in Iran (if you could find any alive that is).  And considering the recent statistics on female college degrees and employment advancement I think women are the least entitled to demand special privileges.

I think what made the social and political situation in the last couple of decades seem like a lost cause to the Right was the fact that the only Republican leaders that we had on the scene weren’t really on our side.  Even in the short time that Donald Trump has been on the scene and even hog-tied as he has been by the machinations of the Deep State it’s obvious that our ideas are not unacceptable to the American electorate.  Imagine if a relatively united Republican establishment started to actually espouse the welfare of its constituency on a consistent basis.  I think we could easily sway many of the groups that currently vote in lock step with the Democrats.  What is needed is an assertive stance in demanding the end of unconstitutional practices that disadvantage and disrespect the majority of American citizens in the name of grievances that have no basis in reality.  The American legal system provides more than sufficient protection for all law-abiding individuals and the American business climate when nurtured by a responsible government provides opportunities to thrive for anyone who wants to work.

Anyway, that’s my take on the situation.  That’s why I haven’t despaired yet for the ability of America to revive.  I’m not saying any of this will happen.  I’m speculating that it could be done.  I also freely admit that it’s a long shot.  But if recent history has shown us anything it’s that long shots do actually happen.

I’m interested in your opinions.  Do you agree with Codevilla that all that’s left is dividing up the country or that there’s still a path forward for a United States.  Feel free to leave your comments below.