The Advance of Heterodoxy?


Last November, soon after the election of Trump, I made the following comment in a forum post:

If liberalism (meant in the European sense, not the American sense) is starting to come apart at the seams, it is noteworthy that it is being challenged from the Right, not the Left. I have remarked before about the incredible weakness of western social democracy, notwithstanding the Global Financial Crisis and the apparent discrediting of free market economics. While America does things differently (the Democrats have never truly been a class-based party), I think the Trump victory can be seen within that sort of narrative.

At the moment different groups on the Left are trying to pursue one of three avenues:

  • Defend the liberal Establishment. The US Democrats were best equipped to do this, because (as mentioned above), they don’t rely on class identifiers, and can comfortably include the poor (who voted Hillary) in their coalition with the high income and cosmopolitan. Yet it wasn’t enough. Social Democrats elsewhere are in a much worse position, because party leadership (wedded to the orthodoxies of the pre-GFC era) and their voter base are increasingly at odds. To get Marxist for a moment – the economic conditions that created powerful Social Democratic Parties in the West are arguably no longer present.
  • Heterodox radicalism. I would put both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in this category. The difficulty here is that, just like some latter day 1960s, this appeals more strongly to a niche of young, urban, and highly educated people than the population at large, and the one recent example of such radicalism gaining power – Syriza in Greece – resulted in it folding under pressure from the resolute Establishment. Corbyn’s Labour Party itself is basically engulfed in a sort of on-going civil war.
  • Traditional Far-Left/Communists. Depending on the country, they’re still out there, but haven’t seen any particular uptick in support as a result of the GFC, and remain on the fringes (where they are perhaps happiest anyway). If the Western Far-Right is seeing a boom, the Far-Left isn’t going anywhere. This is a key point of difference with the 1930s experience.

So where does the Left go from here? I haven’t the foggiest. A world where centre-right squabbles with far-right within the ruins of political liberalism might be on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

Since then, things have changed. The high tide of Far-Right populism seems to be receding, based off the French Presidential election, while heterodox leftism has had a new lease on life in the form of Jeremy Corbyn’s performance in Britain. The electoral solution for social democracy at the moment appears to be full-throated radicalism to mobilise the young and the educated, while also doing enough to keep the traditional working class base voting the right way. An interesting juggling act, which Hillary Clinton utterly failed to pull off, though Corbyn nearly managed it (emphasis on ‘nearly’ – buried under UK Labour’s otherwise excellent performance were some weak results in the old mining seats).

As things stand, I think there are two issues:

  • What was once a class divide largely based off income and inheritance has become a class divide largely based off education. There has been a decoupling of education and income – Trump’s biggest supporters were the high income, low education crowd, whereas it is now entirely possible to have a university degree and be poor. The educated are the ones flocking to the banner of heterodox leftism – less so, the less educated.
  • The elephant in the room is that we have yet to see how a government in the post neoliberal age actually functions. Syriza, as noted, folded. Would “market forces” destroy Corbyn in the way they hamstrung Francois Mitterand in the early 1980s, or would Brexit and a viable return to capital control give him breathing space? We will have to wait and see.

The only thing we can say for certain is that the reign of post-ideological managerialism is now over: the neoliberal consensus that has ruled the West for nearly four decades is facing the same crisis that the old Keynesian consensus confronted in the 1970s. The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born, as Gramsci’s old saying goes, and one need not look very far for the monsters.

A Q&A on the world of Wise Phuul

The nice people at Our Epic Worlds have done a Q&A with me on the world of Wise Phuul:

Daniel Stride’s Viiminian Empire

It goes into social structure, magic use, religions, real-life inspiration, and so on.

50/25/5 Reading Challenge: June

Completed reads for June:

  • A Cavern of Black Ice, by J.V. Jones

Just the one book this month, but in my defence it is was a pretty beefy one at some 800+ pages. I spent more time writing (and watching old Doctor Who) in June than reading.

Hogwarts Dystopia

An amusing article about some of the darker implications of the Harry Potter universe:

The House Elves being happy in slavery is, of course, hardly a new trope. It was a staple of pre-US Civil War literature, where the Southern State plantation owners tried to defend their system as being the natural order of things (“it was for the slaves’ own good!”). It’s just bizarre that this notion of the happy slave should resurface in a late twentieth century text that ostensibly pleas for social tolerance.

There is, however, one thing that the article misses: the chilling potential of Rowling’s Love Potion. Recall that this potion takes away one’s ability to consent, forcing infatuation on the victim, and is freely available in a setting where hormonal teenagers are running around with minimal supervision. The Wizarding World literally has a bona fide date rape drug, and no-one seems to care. Rowling herself takes pains to draw a distinction between infatuation and true love – hence her conclusion about Voldemort’s conception* – but if the imperius curse is Unforgivable, surely its potion equivalent is just as bad?

*A bizarre and offensive conclusion at that. Rowling thinks the manner of Voldemort’s conception is thematically fitting for his personality, as though he never had any Free Will of his own.

Ranking 1963-1989 Doctor Who


After marathoning classic Doctor Who over the past few weeks, I can now report that I’ve seen every surviving episode of the 1963-1989 series. My rankings of the serials (only ranking those where at least 50% exist):

  1. Genesis of the Daleks
  2. Pyramids of Mars
  3. The Mind Robber
  4. The Caves of Androzani
  5. Carnival of Monsters
  6. The Talons of Weng-Chiang
  7. The Enemy of the World
  8. City of Death
  9. The Green Death
  10. Inferno
  11. The Invasion
  12. Enlightenment
  13. Day of the Daleks
  14. The Robots of Death
  15. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
  16. The Brain of Morbius
  17. The Aztecs
  18. The Web of Fear
  19. The Ark in Space
  20. Remembrance of the Daleks
  21. The Time Meddler
  22. The Ribos Operation
  23. Invasion of the Dinosaurs
  24. The Daemons
  25. Terror of the Zygons
  26. The Curse of Peladon
  27. The War Games
  28. The Horror of Fang Rock
  29. Planet of the Spiders
  30. Doctor Who and the Silurians
  31. The Curse of Fenric
  32. The Deadly Assassin
  33. Ghostlight
  34. Mawdryn Undead
  35. The Dalek Invasion of Earth
  36. The Time Warrior
  37. The Sunmakers
  38. Spearhead from Space
  39. The Tomb of the Cybermen
  40. An Unearthly Child (single episode)
  41. The Mutants
  42. Kinda
  43. Vengeance on Varos
  44. The Masque of Mandragora
  45. The Gunfighters
  46. Terror of the Autons
  47. Planet of Evil
  48. Resurrection of the Daleks
  49. Planet of Giants
  50. The Romans
  51. Colony in Space
  52. The Happiness Patrol
  53. The Androids of Tara
  54. Survival
  55. The Claws of Axos
  56. Snakedance
  57. The Seeds of Doom
  58. The Ambassadors of Death
  59. Planet of Fire
  60. The Crusade
  61. The Space Museum
  62. The Stones of Blood
  63. Castrovalva
  64. The Hand of Fear
  65. Ark of Infinity
  66. The Time Monster
  67. Logopolis
  68. Frontier in Space
  69. The Mind of Evil
  70. The Five Doctors
  71. The Pirate Planet
  72. State of Decay
  73. Nightmare of Eden
  74. The Sea Devils
  75. The Underwater Menace
  76. The Ark
  77. The Mark of the Rani
  78. Image of the Fendahl
  79. Earthshock
  80. Warriors Gate
  81. The Leisure Hive
  82. The Ice Warriors
  83. The Moonbase
  84. The Tenth Planet
  85. The Sontaran Experiment
  86. Frontios
  87. The Edge of Destruction
  88. Full Circle
  89. Four to Doomsday
  90. The Two Doctors
  91. Robot
  92. The Daleks
  93. The Keeper of Traken
  94. The Awakening
  95. The Power of Kroll
  96. The War Machines
  97. Revelation of the Daleks
  98. The Chase
  99. Battlefield
  100. The Three Doctors
  101. Revenge of the Cybermen
  102. Black Orchid
  103. The Visitation
  104. The Rescue
  105. 100,000 B.C.
  106. The Face of Evil
  107. The Seeds of Death
  108. Death to the Daleks
  109. The Android Invasion
  110. Terminus
  111. The Creature from the Pit
  112. The Keys of Marinus
  113. Planet of the Daleks
  114. The Invisible Enemy
  115. Meglos
  116. The Reign of Terror
  117. Paradise Towers
  118. The King’s Demons
  119. The Armageddon Factor
  120. The Horns of Nimon
  121. Dragonfire
  122. Underworld
  123. The Trial of a Time Lord
  124. The Twin Dilemma
  125. The Krotons
  126. Delta and the Bannermen
  127. Warriors of the Deep
  128. The Sensorites
  129. Destiny of the Daleks
  130. Silver Nemesis
  131. Attack of the Cybermen
  132. The Web Planet
  133. The Monster of Peladon
  134. The Invasion of Time
  135. Timelash
  136. The Dominators
  137. Time-Flight
  138. Time and the Rani

Best for each Doctor:

  • William Hartnell: The Aztecs
  • Patrick Troughton: The Mind Robber
  • Jon Pertwee: Carnival of Monsters
  • Tom Baker: Genesis of the Daleks
  • Peter Davison: The Caves of Androzani
  • Colin Baker: Vengeance on Varos
  • Sylvester McCoy: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Worst for each Doctor:

  • William Hartnell: The Web Planet
  • Patrick Troughton: The Dominators
  • Jon Pertwee: The Monster of Peladon
  • Tom Baker: The Invasion of Time
  • Peter Davison: Time-Flight
  • Colin Baker: Timelash
  • Sylvester McCoy: Time and the Rani

Writing update: June


June’s been productive thus far. After getting my revised version of The Happiest Man Alive accepted (yay!), I went back to another of my old stories from last year, Après moi, le déluge, and gave it a good edit. Reading it after so many months makes you appreciate how much useless verbiage can be cut.

I have also (as of today) finished and sent out a new story, entitled The Keeper. It’s shortish (1900-words), and horror. Much like The Happiest Man Alive, actually, Hopefully it also finds a home at some point.

The Happiest Man Alive – accepted


Having made my short prose publishing debut in May, I’ve had another piece of luck. The revised version of The Happiest Man Alive has been accepted for publication at Bards and Sages Quarterly:

The story (which at about 1900 words is shortish, but hardly flash), will appear in their October 2017 edition. Oh, and it’s horror. I think.

/r/Fantasy Writer of the Day

I am being featured as /r/Fantasy Writer of the Day. If you’re on reddit, feel free to ask me anything. 🙂

Haul from the 2017 Regent Booksale

One of Dunedin’s local traditions is the annual 24 hour sale of secondhand books to raise funds for the Regent Theatre. The sale generally features books at $1 each (or slightly more), and runs from noon Friday to noon Saturday. My favoured time to go is after midnight, because you can actually walk around without dealing with huge crowds. That, and the fact that I’m pretty nocturnal.

This year, the sale fell on last Friday to Saturday, and you can see my personal haul in the photos (yes, they wrap purchases in newspaper). It won’t help with my aim to read more 500+ page books this year, but never mind: pulpy goodness is always good.

Oh, and a repost of an old poem of mine about the booksale:

The Regent Booksale Is Actually Much Nicer Than This

Like the slipper-shod hawkers of dust-drenched Khartoum, 
The stalls are weighed down with the burden of ages;
The goods and the bads and the uglies make room,
But they'll grimace and glare should you peek at the pages.

The stalls are weighed down with the burden of ages:
Tattered and dog-eared, then packaged in news.
But they'll grimace and glare should you peek at the pages:
It's hazardous business in front of the queues.
Tattered and dog-eared, then packaged in news:
And that's just the people on once-a-year sprees!
It's hazardous business in front of the queues,
Unless you like nudges from elbows and knees.

"And that's just the people on once-a-year sprees,"
Chirps the lady who carries a tome about flowers,
"Unless you like nudges from elbows and knees,
Leave, and return in the post-midnight hours."

Chirps the lady who carries a tome about flowers,
Beside the bald gents with the rare Geographic,
"Leave, and return in the post-midnight hours;
You don't have to waddle your way through the traffic."

Beside the bald gents with the rare Geographic,
Like the slipper-shod hawkers of dust-drenched Khartoum,
You don't have to waddle your way through the traffic:
The goods and the bads and the uglies make room.


On rejections

I got a rejection for one of my short stories the other day. This one was kinder than many: it went to the lengths of explaining why the e-zine had rejected me. That’s the sort of rejection any writer craves: not just having someone tell you that you need to keep trying, but actually giving you some pointers in the right direction. More often, of course, you will encounter simple form rejections, ones that just notify you that your work has not made it. That’s more painful, especially if you have been waiting several months or more.


But rejections are an integral part of writing. A necessary part of writing.

First off, they show that, however bad, you are actually getting your finished work out there. Not only are they a sign you’ve completed something (rather than sketching out a vague plan and leaving it), but also that your work has actually left your hard drive. That alone increases your chances of getting published, because although the odds may seem long, they are better than your chances of getting published if you don’t submit.

Secondly, and more importantly, they make you a better writer. You don’t improve by having people fawn over your work, you improve by having it shot down. Tinker with it, then submit it to somewhere else – Wise Phuul was rewritten countless times during the thirty-five rejections I got from literary agents and publishers, a process that was ultimately to make it a better book. The rejections I continue to get on my short stories may be frustrating (I like to think they’re good stories), but they force me to rewrite and keep going. And so much of writing is just that – the ability to keep going even when it looks like you’re going nowhere.