Why Superweapons Don’t Work: Or Why The Rebels Should Have Had the Death Star.

One of the most popular tropes, especially in science-fiction, is that of the superweapon: the huge, iconic invention that will turn the tide of battle and ensure the ultimate victory of the side that wields it. The most easily-recognized of these weapons is, of course, the Death Star, the planet-killer with the Achilles’ heel exploitable by the scrappy fighters the Rebels had. But why is it that historically, superweapons tend to work, not just as badly as the Death Star, but even worse? After all, the Death Star vaporized a planet.  Historically, experimental supposed-to-be war-winning weapons don’t usually get even that close to success. Why not?

Because The Wrong Side Has Them

Historically, superweapons are not developed by the equivalents of the Empire. Superweapons are developed by the Rebel Alliance. In other words, they are developed by the side that has the smaller army, the smaller economy, and that is in the most desperate straits. And the reason for this is easy to see: because the stronger side is already winning with the weapons they have! It was the Confederates that produced ironclads and submarines, not the Union with its overwhelming Navy. It was Nazi Germany that produced jet fighters and V-2 rockets in the late days of the war, not the Allies with their overwhelming air superiority. It’s only when you’re losing that you need a game-changing weapon to turn the tide of battle. The only exception to this rule is the atomic bomb, which is not actually an exception (see below).

Because They Tend to Come With A Whole Lot Of Suck

Superweapons are pretty much by definition untested systems, for reasons discussed  above: the side that needs them needs them right away, and they don’t have time for refining the technology. Just to give a few examples, the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship in wartime, the CSS Hunley, went down with its target. This was predictable, as she had already killed two crews in training. Hunley was very good at the “submerging” part of “submarine,” and not so good at the “surfacing” part. The Nazi jet fighters performed excellently, but had ridiculously short ranges because of fuel inefficiency. Similarly, their V-2 rockets were a triumph of cutting-edge technology, and the Germans desperately needed artillery that could strike hundreds of miles away, but since they had no guidance systems beyond Doing Trig Very Well, this meant that they couldn’t hit anything smaller and more mobile than say, a city.

Because They Attract Attention

On the rare occasions when superweapons do work the way they are supposed to, they do tend to get dogpiled on by the stronger side that they are almost inevitably facing (see above). The Bismarck is an excellent example of this. Built with all the latest technology, the Germans decided to use her as a superweapon that would be tough enough to destroy entire convoys and fast enough to run from the British Navy.

She lasted nine days.

They were a very impressive nine days, and began with the utter annihilation of the battlecruiser Hood and the damaging of the battleship Prince Of Wales, but the result of the effort was that Bismarck attracted the attention of about five battleships and two aircraft carriers, along with many heavy cruisers. After air attacks damaged Bismarck’s rudder, this force pounded Bismarck to scrap. Lest we think this was mere coincidence, the Bismarck’s sister ship, Tirpitz met a similar fate, being used in only one offensive operation over her entire career, and subject to something like 26 Allied operations mounted specifically to get rid of her, which they eventually did.

Because They Are Easily Reproducible

Generally, the better the superweapon is, the more it has been tested. And the more it has been tested, the better it is understood. And the better it is understood, the more easily it can be copied. This is what happened with the Confederate ironclads. With the bulk of the Navy remaining loyal to the Union, the Confederates needed to break the Union blockade of their ports. And since ironclads were being built in Europe, first by France (significantly, the weaker naval power) and soon afterward by Britain (the stronger), their incentive to build ironclads was high, and the technology was becoming known.
Of course, the Union also knew this, and having discovered that the Confederates were building ironclads, quickly did the same. The first battle between ironclads saw the Union rushing its own ironclad to the battlefield only a day after the Confederate fielded the CSS Virginia. Despite the fact that the Virginia had faced three Union warships the previous day and had destroyed two while taking only minor damage to itself (a successful superweapon if anything was), the Monitor proved a match for it.
And that was the beginning of the end. Because the Confederacy was the poorer and less-industrialized of the combatants, they managed to produce only 30 ironclad vessels during the war in total, while the Union turned out about 50 ships of the Monitor class alone. If a superweapon really works, it won’t work fast enough to stop the stronger side from building more of them faster.

If Matching Them Doesn’t Work, Countermeasures Often Do

One of the most successful “superweapons,” pioneered by Germany, has been the torpedo-armed submarine. It was created to destroy the British Navy, and had many advantages that scared the pants off naval planners at the time: The submarine could travel invisibly. The submarine’s torpedoes attacked below the waterline, potentially killing a battleship in one shot. The submarine could scatter and hunt merchant ships in the ocean, killing them at will. The submarine could pass underneath blockades, rendering them ineffective.

In some ways, this appeared to be the perfect superweapon, especially because it didn’t matter whether the British matched it! What would it do with its subs? Guard the convoys? Submarines in the World Wars couldn’t hit each other with dumb-fire torpedoes except by sheer luck. Kill German merchant ships or naval vessels? The British Navy could already do that!

Well, it turned out that the British (and Americans) could do a number of things that weren’t terribly complicated. They could develop long-range patrol aircraft that could hunt and track the subs when they inevitably had to surface for air. They could create armored belts below the waterline for their ships, and anti-torpedo screens that could make the torpedoes detonate prematurely. Faster and stronger destroyers could guard the convoys and use cannon and depth-charges to sink the subs. As it turned out, subs could only effectively threaten surface warships (which were all bigger and more heavily armed and armored) when they managed to line up a shot unseen, and the torpedoes themselves tended to suffer from copious amounts of the aforementioned suck.

But Wait! What About The Atomic Bomb? Doesn’t That Disprove All Your Points?

Not at all. In fact, it reinforces them. First of all, the United States and the Allies were not yet fighting the war when Albert Einstein sent his famous letter to FDR, recommending its development. They were losing it when the Manhattan Project began. Most importantly, it was triggered by the belief that Germany, the weaker side in the wider war, was already researching them. By the time the bombs were actually built, of course, things had changed, and they were no longer necessary to win the war. To shorten it, yes, but that’s a different thing. And it attracted enough attention for the Soviets to place spies in the Manhattan Project, which they reproduced in only four years. Finally, the atomic bombs, contrary to appearances, really did contain a lot of suck. They poisoned the battlespace with fallout, and the bombers then necessary to carry them were vulnerable to interception. As a deterrent to large-scale war, the atomic bomb is a wonderful weapon. As an actually usable weapon system, it is not.

And that’s why, although superweapons are an awesome ingredient in fiction, they really don’t show up in history very often.

 

 

Dear Stabby: The Politics of Gratitude

Dear Stabby: I’m in the process of molding my patient’s political views. He’s fifteen and just waking up to the idea that politics are interesting. But which political viewpoint should I strive to instill in him. I know that the best way is usually to simply make him rebel hard against his parents’ political positions, but they hardly pay attention to politics. Haven’t voted in years, in fact. So I have little to help me there.
I can see little in America’s political situation to help me either. On the one hand, steering him toward the Democratic Party has the advantage of making him hostile to Christianity, and would put him strongly in the camp of a majority that generally despises the Church.
On the other hand, the Republican Party has the advantage of alienating him from most of his peers, and being just as hostile to the spirit of the Gospel while hypocritically claiming to support it. Which is better for making sure the vile little creature never comes to Christ?

Sincerely,
Wondering In Wichita

Dear Wondering,

What I’m wondering is whether you haven’t spent so much time among humans that you’re starting to be as dull and taken in by appearances as they are. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that you are beginning with the wrong question entirely.

For over a hundred years now, one of the grand strategies we have been pursuing is the division of humanity into two great warring camps. In fact, the beginnings of this struggle can be seen as far back as human history goes, right into their earliest codes of written law. And like all of our greatest attacks on their virtue, it has its genesis in the fundamental contradictions of their very creation.

As we and the humans share the distinction of being spiritual beings, we know that we are unequal to each other. The fact that the Enemy insists, in the face of every bit of evidence, that spirits are somehow “equal before Him” is the most ridiculous piece of propaganda He has ever spouted. But spiritual inequalities can be, and usually are, concealed by lies of our own. But humans are also animals, and they are, of course unequal in that plane of existence as well. And the absurdity of any pretense that they really are equal in strength, health, intelligence or cunning, let alone possessions and wealth, is what drives their separation into two camps: what humans often call the haves and the have-nots.

Now the human response, and ours, seeing that the worlds are unequal, is the same: war for conquest. What I have, I propose to keep. What you have, I propose to take. It is the only rational response. The Enemy, of course, calls these obvious truths Sin, as he always does when His irrationality is challenged, naming them respectively Greed and Envy. But whereas we disdain to conceal the truth, the humans, who never stop pretending to love “justice” and “virtue,” must conceal with any number of justifications, coming up with reasons that they are “allowed” to keep what they have and take what they want. Being an American, your patient will probably soon encounter the terms “the politics of greed” and “the politics of envy.” The fact that they are being discussed in such bald-faced terms is actually a setback for us: we would much prefer to cloak their natures in politically-obscure terms such as “conservativism” and “liberalism,” or “capitalism” and “socialism/communism,” or whatever fatuity the humans are espousing and denouncing today.

But so long as the humans are taught to refer to the other side as “the politics of sin” and taught to embrace their own sin as righteousness, we have already won. In America we are closer every day to the time that the humans in each camp will clutch their own sin to their breasts as they would their children (even tighter than their children. Their children, after all, might join the other camp) and fight for its triumph over the sins of their fellow humans. And therefore, whoever wins, we do as well. We have exactly what we want: two groups of people living in a house that is burning down, fighting each other over whether gasoline or kerosene will best extinguish the blaze.

The humans never even consider the Enemy’s way: that there might be a politics of gratitude. That there might be a politics of humility. It is, of course, written in that wretched book of theirs that they should take no thought for what they should eat, or what they should wear, and trust the Enemy to provide “daily bread.” But it is no more in their nature to obey such ridiculous commands than it is in ours. And if anyone ever does suggest that such qualities might be the bedrock upon which a strong state could be founded, as some Americans did two centuries ago (Yes, Americans!) then it is a simple task (which has taken far longer than it ought to have) to point out the hypocrisy of it, and to bring in those who will make others’ “gratitude” an excuse for their own hoarding, and others’ “generosity” an excuse for their own theft.

So rest easy and pick a side. It doesn’t matter how your wretched patient goes to Hell, just that he gets here in the end, believing that he is blazing a trail to heaven.

Your sincere well-wisher

Stabby

An Open Letter To Lori Loughlin, Mossimo Giannulli, Felicity Huffman, Manuel Henriquez, et al. and Their Children

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You don’t know me, and you never will. That, I suppose, is what this whole issue comes down to, really: who will get to be “known” for their work and education, and who will remain in obscurity. So I suppose an introduction is in order.

My name is Scott Huggins. In 1992, I graduated from Wichita High School South. I was born into a middle-class family, where both my parents worked. My father was an aerospace engineer and my mother was an elementary school teacher.

I graduated with National Merit Scholarship, which I had earned by virtue of scoring something like 224 (I don’t remember exactly) out of the then-perfect 240 points on the PSAT. My SAT score was 1510 (a perfect score was 1600 in 1992) and my ACT score was 33. These scores were mine. I earned them fairly, and by dint of much study, practice, and the aid of some half-dozen books and the coaching efforts of my public school’s college counselor.

You see, I had been told that study and hard work, coupled with intelligence, could get me into any school in the nation. And I believed that. I went through the process of applying to Georgetown, which was my dream school because of its academy of Foreign Service. I wanted to be a diplomat. I wrote, as I recall, at least six separate essays.

And I got in. I want you to understand that, because I’m not quite sure that any of you grasp what that means: I got in on my own merit. I did what you had to pretend to the world that your children are capable of.

But the problem, you see, is that the National Merit Scholarship that I won was only $2000 per semester. $2000, matched against the cost of a Georgetown education which was, at that time, $20,000 per year for tuition alone. I called Georgetown and asked what merit scholarships were available there. And I listened as they explained that no such things existed. Only need-based scholarships would be offered, and the only people considered to have genuine “need” were those in abject poverty. I remember being taken through the formulas and having it explained to me that, according to Georgetown, my parents should have no problem expending over a third of their combined salaries on my education.

I remember my father sitting me down and explaining – and he hardly needed to: as should be evident by now, I was not stupid – that this was impossible. And of course it was. I remember him bitterly saying that perhaps the best thing he could do for his children would be to quit his job and begin drinking himself to death. That would have established “need,” after all. Or I could have taken on about $100,000 in student debt.

So I did not go to Georgetown. Instead, someone like your children went to Georgetown. Someone whose scores were paid for, whose essays were paid for, and whose tuition was paid for, so that they could be our country’s leaders. I wonder if that person is a Congressman, or a Senator, or a bestselling author because of the connections they made. And I wonder if, without people like you, there might have been merit scholarships for me. Because the qualified pool of students would assuredly have been much smaller. I will, of course, never know. Because I went to Kansas State University. Both it and the University of Kansas offered me full rides because of the National Merit Scholarship I had earned.

At Kansas State University I received excellent opportunities and a good education. I got to know some brilliant professors. I was able to do two years abroad, studying for one year in Russia and for another year in Germany. I ended up graduating with only about $6000 of debt, which put me ahead of the game. I went on to get a Master of Arts at Michigan State University, where I earned another fellowship. That education cost me nothing but my efforts.

In time, I came to see that the opportunities and lessons that I learned at Kansas State were at least the equal of those that I would have learned at Georgetown. There, I could never have taken two years to explore the world. I would have been locked into that course of study. I suppose the power and credentials I missed at Georgetown are also gone, and they will never come again. Even so, I would not trade them for the experiences I did forge in my travels. No, not for the world.

I wonder if you understand yet what this is about. You see, it’s not about me being cheated out of what I earned, though you and those like you surely did that.  It’s about the fact that you have cheated, not me, but your own children, out of the knowledge and experiences that are now mine. They will never know that they could have won admission to Georgetown on their own. They will never know what it is like to explore the world by their own power and merits. They will never really have an education. Because you have ensured that they will never really need one. You have bought your children credentials, and you have sold their self-knowledge, their earned merit, and their true experience of the world they live in. Socrates would have said that you only damage their souls and yours by your behavior, but then, neither you nor they will ever have read Socrates. And for that I pity them. For that, they should curse you. Unfortunately, neither you nor they are likely ever to understand why.

So I do not curse you for depriving me and those like me of our educations. You cannot take education from those truly determined to have it. Because we educate ourselves wherever we are – or we fail to – every day. And your incomprehension of that earns not my anger, but my contempt. No, what earns my anger is that you have taken those credentials from young men and women who would have earned them, and placed the power that comes with them in the hands of little minds. Minds forever stunted and shrunken because you would not allow them the failure and the effort needed to grow them. Much like the “athletic” scholarships you also bought, given in the name of bodies that never needed to grow as strong as the athletes they pretended to be would have. And the power that you have given, unearned, unwept for, untrained for, will determine the course of our nation. You will influence what you do not understand in place of all of us who understand what we will never influence. This nation, for whom generations of my ancestors toiled, sweated, and bled: for this nation you and your children not only show contempt, you will contemptuously direct it until either you or it – or, God help us, both – will come to ruin. Because they will not have the education or the experience to do otherwise. For that, unless you repent, may you be damned.

I cherish no illusion that you will. I cherish no illusion that you will ever read this letter. You pay people to keep you and your children safe from the truth. God, how sad is that? You do not believe in damnation, you do not believe in God, and most importantly for the purposes of this discussion, you do not believe in people like me. You do not believe we are people at all. Not real people. We are only your audience. The unwashed masses whose very purpose is to cheer you on and buy what you sell us. This letter is, in the final analysis, not really for you, unless you by some miracle really do choose to change. It’s for those like me who will recognize themselves in this. It is for those of us who earned their own way, whether or not we ever got to travel it. Those of us who worked our own jobs. Those who read their own books. Those who wrote their own papers. Those who really learned. Those of us who did must remember that we will always have what you have taken from your own children: ability and knowledge of what is real.

One last word, and this to you children, who have found yourselves in college by such means: I do not blame you, especially you poor souls who were told that you had won your places by your own merits. You are not to blame for your parents’ sins. I don’t even particularly blame you children who knew what was going on, and cheated anyway. I can at least say that I know I would not have cheated – at least, not as I am. But if I had been raised by your parents, and had these things explained to me as being just what was my due and how the world works, I might well have done so. You are not as innocent, but you are even more to be pitied. At least those who were ignorant were not told that cheating and lies were what education was all about.

No, the blame lies with your parents. Make no mistake: you and they have taken the education that people like me earned fairly. Neither I nor they will never know what the cost of that was. But justice will come to you. It always does. In the most profound sense, it already has.

What do I want you to do? I sincerely doubt that anyone who should be asking that question has read this far. But in case you have, I ask only this:

Parents, repent. I mean that. Confess your guilt. Admit it without excuse or bargaining. Accept the consequences freely. And then, when that is over, spend the same money you spent to get your own children into a top-ranked college to give someone in my position a scholarship. A merit scholarship. A scholarship that can be earned by anyone – ANYONE – who applies. And see that it is given fairly. That is what you should do.

Students, repent. Go to your deans and confess what happened. Admit it without excuse or bargaining. Accept the consequences freely. Go to a different school if you have to. One you can earn your way into. If your parents can still pay for that, by all means let them. There’s no shame in that: it’s what honest parents do for their children if they can.
And if you can stay in the school you’re in? Then learn. Make the most of those opportunities. Don’t slack off. Don’t pay others to do the work you have been trusted to do. We’re all counting on you. Be worthy of it.

And I hope you enjoy our education.

Sincerely,
Scott Huggins

Marketing Update: Lessons I Have Learned.

In honor of the massive number of new followers I have on Twitter, most of whom are writers themselves, I thought I would post some of the things I have learned about marketing so far this year. This is the year I try to teach myself marketing and self-publishing, and it is a long, slow road. See, unlike writing, I haven’t been actively trying to learn this stuff since I was fifteen, nor have I been building up an unconscious core competence in it since I learned to read at age three. So, two warnings:

  1. This is VERY basic stuff, which I provide to those more ignorant than myself. Yes, they’re out there.
  2. Some of it is probably wrong. Feel free to correct me.

I got the massive number of new followers on Twitter as a result of the latest thing I learned that no one told me about regarding building a Twitter following: There are people who will essentially throw out invitations to reply to a thread and follow everyone on it for follow-backs. This is a tedious process, but I went from ~70 followers to ~300 followers in less than 24 hours by jumping on one of these. I realize that’s VERY small cookies in the Twitterverse, but its about four times as many cookies as I had before. So, without further ado:

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT MARKETING/SELF-PUBLISHING IN 2019

  1. Learn to convert your WP documents into Kindle/.mobi format. It is challenging, but worth it. Just one of the benefits is that it makes life a lot easier for your beta readers. And it’s essential to doing self-publishing. I used Calibre. It’s not the most intuitive, but it gets the job done.
  2. Know your beta readers. Friends, even friends who write, aren’t good enough. You really have to find people who are down with specifically the kind of thing you write. Be aware also that your perception of what constitutes any given genre (horror, epic fantasy, YA) may not be the same as THEIR perception. And you need to read them back. Do a good job.
  3. Do not be afraid to ask people more experienced than you are at this for their advice. Many of them are happy to share.
  4. Do not be afraid to ask elder authors for blurbs. You will get a lot of “nos.” That’s okay. That’s the same as getting published. The default answer to not asking is always “no.” You lose nothing.
  5. Always be polite. Never suck up.
  6. When you ask for criticism, be willing to take it, no matter how much it hurts.
  7. Most importantly, BE WILLING TO LEARN.
  8. Equally most importantly: ENGAGE WITH QUALITY MATERIAL.

All Things Huge And Hideous

I am incredibly happy to be able to make this announcement: ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS, the novel-length expansion to DOCTOR TO DRAGONS will be published by Superversive Press later this year.

This is the first novel that I have written from scratch to be accepted for publication.

I’d like to thank so many fellow writers that encouraged me and helped with this. Among them must be included Larry Correia, Jim Hines, Cedar Sanderson, and of course my editor Jason Rennie.

I’m afraid this blog post does have to be brief, because along with this good news, I have a nasty stomach bug. But thank you all for reading, and I hope you will enjoy it.

The Lord Of The Rings, Forgotten Conversations

Sometime around Bilbo’s fiftieth birthday.
Gandalf: “Hey, can you save me and a dozen idiot dwarves and a hobbit from wolves and orcs?”
Gwaihir: “Sure.”

A few months later.
Gandalf: “Hey, can you save a dozen idiot dwarves and a hobbit from wolves and orcs despite the fact that the morons wouldn’t be in this situation if they’d just split off some treasure for some folks who frankly earned it by slaying the dragon they stirred up?”
Gwaihir: “Sure.”

About eighty years later
Gandalf: “Hey, can you save me from the tower of an evil wizard powerful enough to lock me up in it?”
Gwaihir: “No problem.”
Gandalf: “Hey, while we’re on the subject, can you save the entire continent from literally the most evil being on the planet? The only thing he has that can fly are on horses hundreds of leagues west of here. You just have to drop us off at the big mountain.”
Gwaihir: “Fuck, dude, we’re not your taxi service.”
Gandalf: “Okay. If I call you in about a year, can you pick up a couple of hobbits for me out of Mordor?”
Gwaihir: “Sure.”

The Awful Choices

This one’s going to be fast, because I’m running out of time, but it’s one I hope is useful to other writers.

Recently I was reworking a story because of length issues. Amazingly, it was because the story was too SHORT for a market by about 3,000 words, and if you don’t know how rare that is, then oh, my sweet summer child. As I worked on it, I realized that I had made a blithe assumption about how possible it was to do something involving helicopters.

So I consulted an expert and simultaneously realized that a) there were two really obvious workarounds if “something” turned out to be impossible. As it turned out, the expert got back to me and told me that “something” was quite workable so long as you did, in fact, have really GOOD helicopter pilots.

So now I had three possible ways of solving my problem, but the following issues:

Most Dramatic/Awesome Approach (i.e. “something”) is also Least Plausible Approach.

Least Dramatic/Awesome Approach is also Most Plausible.

Most Plausible Approach also is Most Likely To Surprise Protagonists (which needs to happen).

Middling/Plausible Approach makes it difficult for the protagonists to ever find out what happened.

I turned to my research to see if it could nudge me along the right track, here. No such luck. The research basically said you could do whatever and justify it from there. So what should I do?

I still don;t know. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going with the high action/drama, because that shit is FUN, and why the hell else do people read science-fiction?

 

The Hopeless Defense Of Susan Pevensie

If there is one thing I have learned in my life about arguments — and would that I had learned it sooner — it’s that there are some where you’re just not going to win. The issue has long since been decided before you ever entered the room. In fact, you’re not even witnessing an argument so much as the self-congratulatory talk after the argument has been decided against you. And you are as welcome in such venues as a drunken Rams player would be trying to get the Patriots’ defense to line up for one more play while Tom Brady is holding the Vince Lombardi trophy.

The only possible reason to keep arguing in such a case is if enough undecided observers are present that they might be swayed: Internet arguing is a spectator sport. But if the vast majority of spectators are Patriots fans, then you might as well not bother.

It’s a cheat, of course, because unlike sports games, there’s no timer. And the people involved in such arguments always want to appear as if they are fair-minded and brilliant, annihilating their opponents with superior knowledge, while in fact they are simply guarding their preferred outcome. To do this, they will characterize their opponents’ arguments in emotional terms and then admit the proper half of the facts into evidence while denying the other half. They will then congratulate themselves on their subtlety and insight, while mocking you. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I got into the edges of one of these earlier this week and quickly showed myself the door.

The issue in this case was a defense of Susan Pevensie as the true hero/victim of the Narnia chronicles, because she was the only one who grew up and told the tyrant-king Aslan where to stick it. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that one could read Narnia this way: people have been reading their pet philosophies into works of literature since Blake and Shelley declared Satan to be the true hero of Paradise Lost.

I could tell I was on the wrong team when I made an observation that Susan Pevensie had given up on Narnia and was immediately told that this read of Susan’s character had made the respondent furious. This was also the first indication I had that there was even going to be an argument. It was immediately supplemented by others’ contentions that a) Susan had not given up on Narnia, but had rather been kicked out of Narnia for growing up and becoming a contemporary young woman and that b) Aslan was a God who didn’t want anyone in heaven who had grown up, and that c) she had gotten kicked out for discovering lipstick and stockings and courtship and marriage and d) because of that had her entire family taken away from her.

Of course, the only way you can get to this reading is to believe that everyone else in Narnia is a complete and utter liar who hates Susan from the outset. Such a thing may be true, I suppose, but it very much involves reading that into the text rather than reading any part of the text itself.

Firstly, any reading of the text will show you immediately that “growing up” was no bar to a final re-entry to Narnia/Heaven. Professor Kirke and Aunt Polly were both there, and had, by any reasonable standards, “grown up.” So were the Pevensie parents, who as far as we know, never had heard of Narnia. So the simple process of aging is by no means a bar to entry into Narnia. In fact, when Jill says “She was always a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up,” Polly (the old lady) responds, “Grown-up indeed. I wish she would grow up… her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.” Susan’s fault is not in growing up, but in embracing a false notion of what ‘growing up’ means. The only way this equates to becoming a contemporary young woman is if we admit that such women are defined by their acceptance a false notion of adulthood. Hardly a flattering notion

Did Aslan, then, bar Susan from re-entry to Narnia/Heaven simply for being a young woman who liked the idea of looking pretty and getting married? Again, not at all. Susan’s real fault is that she has decided that Narnia was merely a game. According to Eustace, when Narnia is brought up, she says, “Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.” Susan simply no longer believed. And since she no longer believed, she could not be brought into Heaven, any more than could the dwarfs who would not be taken in. By contrast, the rest of the Friends of Narnia believed and took action on behalf of Narnia in the real world, by mounting an expedition to get the traveling rings.

Finally, did Aslan take away everyone from Susan? In a sense, I suppose He did. On the other hand, her absence from the rest was very much her choice, so I suppose that everyone was “taken away from her” in much the same sense that a high-school dropout by choice “loses all his friends” when they graduate and go off to college and the professional world and never contact him again. It’s more the result of his choices and the way life naturally works. Remember that Susan is the only one still “alive” at the end of the books. Everyone else is “dead.” The argument the defenders of Susan are making is that if Aslan really loved her He ought to have killed her along with everyone else, regardless of what she wanted! In a sense, all the characters got what they really wanted, and what they believed in. Just like Ebenezer Scrooge got all the money he wanted.

I really would like to believe that Susan, like Ebenezer Scrooge, got a second chance somewhere down the line. But to attempt a defense of her as she behaves in the seventh book is like defending Scrooge as he behaves in the beginning. It requires one to ignore all of the text explored above. It is replacing what is in the text with what is not in the text. It requires one to believe that Susan alone is honest, and her relatives, friends and God are judgmental liars. That there are people are eager to do this, of course, surprises me not at all. They are on Susan’s side, and not Aslan’s, and there is no changing their minds.

It’s probably a bad habit to tack a coda onto the end of the essay, but I will, lest a misunderstanding arise. Justifying the treatment of Susan Pevensie who made the decisions Lewis tells us she made, is completely different, of course, from saying “I don’t like that Lewis made her make those decisions.” That, of course, is completely a fair statement, and one I might even agree with. From an author/theologian’s point of view, I think Lewis was presenting the question of whether one can turn away from grace. Hos answer is that one can deliberately do so. Then who should have been his example of this? Peter the High King, Edmund the redeemed, and Lucy dearest to Aslan’s heart all would have been more heartbreaking and would have undercut the story more. Eustace and Jill were integral parts of the action in the novel Lewis had just finished. Polly, perhaps, would have been a less heart-breaking option, but also one of much lesser consequence to us. Susan, I sometimes feel, got elected by default.

White Supremacist Milk (A Fisking)

Gosh, I haven’t used the “politics” category in some time. But then PETA. So here goes. Original article in italics, my responses in bold.

Why Cow’s Milk Is the Perfect Drink for Supremacists

As when Christoph Waltz’s character in Inglorious Bastards drinks a glass of milk and a character in a pivotal scene of Get Out sips the cow secretion, dairy milk has long been embraced as a symbol of white supremacy.

If by “long” you mean “since the ancient days of 2017,” then okay.

Geneticists are alarmed that white nationalists—who are now using milk emojis and sharing photos of themselves chugging milk to celebrate their “whiteness”—are contorting science and using it as an excuse to hate.

“Contorting,” says the person trying to make the argument that if white supremacists like something, then you liking that thing makes you a white supremacist. And who is blissfully unaware that 4chan and reddit do this regularly just to screw with people: “Let’s all say we like this so people have to think it’s racist!”

In a recent article in The New York Times, evolutionary biologists state that because of a genetic mutation among Europeans, white people are more likely to be able to digest lactose. White nationalists are arguing that being able to drink another animal’s breast milk somehow indicates that they’re of the “master race”—good grief!

Well, any group of people who can use a food source another group can’t will certainly have an evolutionary advantage. But master race status seems a stretch. But they’re not so much arguing as trolling.

Of course, it was found that the genetic mutation that allows some humans to digest milk also occurs in black African cattle farmers. That should make racists think twice.

Thinking twice would make them not racist. But, then, thinking twice would have averted this article, for those very reasons, so you can’t exactly point fingers, can you?

All we can say is this: Human supremacists need to start thinking about other species’ interests in not being exploited.

Exploited: you mean like by people who kill animals so they can feel morally superior? Yeah, PETA: that would suck.

Aside from “lactose-tolerant” white supremacists, cow’s milk really is the perfect drink of choice for all (even unwitting) supremacists, since the dairy industry inflicts extreme violence on other living beings. PETA is trying to wake people up to the implications of choosing this white beverage and suggesting that they choose something else pronto.

Control Over Their Bodies

Rape is perhaps the single most heinous crime involving both power and violence.

Not murder. Murder is less heinous than rape. Just want to make sure I understand that. Gotcha.

But it’s standard procedure in the dairy industry. Like all mammals, cows produce milk only during and after pregnancy, so roughly every nine months, cows on dairy farms are forcibly impregnated so that their milk production will continue. They’re restrained on what the farmers themselves call “rape racks” while insemination instruments are shoved into their vaginas.

As opposed to in the wild, where bulls always ask consent before copulating with cows. Yes. I believe that.

Their babies are taken away immediately after birth, and the mothers are re-impregnated as soon as possible. Male calves typically end up chained inside crates so that their flesh becomes diseased for the veal industry, while female calves will eventually end up trapped in the same cycle of abuse as their mothers were.

These cows have no choice about what’s done to them.

They never did. They’re cows. In the wild, they’d have no choice about getting parasites and being eaten by mountain lions and wolves.

Their horns are burned or gouged out of their heads,

By veterinarians so they won’t gouge other cows with them. 

part of their tails may be cut off, and holes are punched through their ears.

Said the member of the species who does this for aesthetic reasons.

Suffering inside cramped, filthy enclosures, they’re forced to produce nearly 10 times as much milk as they would naturally.

Some people might be surprised to learn that cows used by the dairy industry are slaughtered after about five years because their bodies are so spent from being kept constantly pregnant.

I would be surprised. Because the dairy industry knows that cows are at their most productive after their sixth year of life and take pains to keep them that way. Actually, “surprised” is just a cool way of saying, “that’s bullshit.”

At the slaughterhouse, their throats are slit while they’re still conscious and some are skinned or dismembered while still alive.

Control Over Your Mind

It’s not “natural” for people to drink cow’s milk, which is meant for newborn calves. Humans are the only animals who drink the milk of another species and who drink milk beyond infancy.

Also the only species to build and use the internet to post bullshit. Thanks, cow’s milk!

The dairy industry spends millions funding misleading ad campaigns that urge people to drink cow’s milk, when medical studies show that dairy products are a health hazard. Unlike soy or almond milk, for instance, cow’s milk contains no fiber or complex carbohydrates and is full of saturated animal fat and cholesterol.

Also unlike almond milk, it doesn’t contain trace amounts of cyanide. But thanks for playing.

Consuming dairy products is also linked to developing heart disease as well as prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer.

Not consuming them is liked to malnutrition. Because also unlike almond and soy milk, dairy milk doesn’t cost $8.00 a gallon. You know how many gallons of almond milk it takes to kill a child in poverty?

None.

Might Doesn’t Make Right

Before you pour a glass of the “white stuff,” please remember that it isn’t the “right stuff,” unless it’s almond, soy, oat, coconut, or another vegan milk option.

You actually think you made a point by rhyming, don’t you?

If you feel that all life should be free of violent control, choose soy, almond, rice, cashew, or coconut milk the next time that you go shopping or order coffee.

Nope, in fact, I’m 100% in favor of certain life being subject to violent control. Some criminal is breaking into my house? They’re alive, and I’d prefer they not be. Large animal charges at me? Same thing. The animals are pretty much cool with this, too. That’s why cows have horns. In fact, even YOU, PETA, are completely okay with life being subject to violent control, when you think it best.

With so many different types of cruelty-free, delicious milks on the market, opposing supremacists has never been easier.

Or more hypocritical!

 

The Myth Of The Myth Of Religion: A Fisking

There are many good and intelligent atheists, among whom I count many friends. Some have attacked my religion with skillful arguments. This is not one of them. Rules for the fisking: Just to switch it up (and because I forgot my own conventions) the fisked article is in bold, and my responses are in italics.

There are at least 4,200 religions in the world today, and countless more have been lost to history.

Yeah, especially since to get that count you have to count every single different denomination of, e.g. Christianity as a “different religion,” even though the vast majority of their adherents would consider the vast majority of them to be variants of the same religion. I’m going to guess that’s true for a lot of the non-Christian religions as well, because you’ve already demonstrated that neither intellectual rigor nor honesty are features of your position. Most people don’t manage that by their first sentence.  

It’s obvious there’s a 0% chance all of them are the true word of God. Some thinkers have speculated that each religion is at least a little divinely inspired and holds a piece of the puzzle left to us by God to put together. But the only way to come to that conclusion is to ignore huge tracts of doctrine in each religion.

Hey, that’s one of three things in this drivel that actually makes sense.

Ultimately, none of them are compatible. If any religion is true, there’s only one.

What, NONE of them? Swiss Reformed Christianity can’t be the true religion if Dutch Reformed Christianity is? Wow, I was never told that. Filthy Genevan heretics!

This means at least over 6 billion people alive today believe in a religion that was written 100% by human beings and 0% dictated by the creator of the universe.

Wait, what? How did we get to this place? Why isn’t it theoretically possible that one religion IS, in part or in whole, dictated by the creator of the universe, and there’s some variants that are kinda distorted, and then there’s some others that are just made up? I mean, seriously, you just went from an actually accurate summation, to an indefensible particular, to something that in no way follows from what you said. Do you seriously not understand that? Or do you just trust that no one will notice?

A belief system written by human beings that has no bearing on the factual nature of reality is mythology.

And for a definition of mythology, we have: Wikipedia!! The final source for all your theological/philosophical needs. Not only that, but your definition doesn’t even match with theirs! Which is a lot more complex and includes: “the collected myths of a group of people, but may also mean the study of such myths,” with cited folklorists describing myth as “a sacred narrative that explains how the world and humanity evolved into their present form,” and “ideology in narrative form.” Notice how none of them render judgment on the truth or falsehood of the narrative?
So, basically, the way you go about “showing” that religion is a collection of lies is to lie about lies? Are you under the impression that a lie about a lie constitutes truth?

The cold, hard truth of reality is that the vast majority of the people alive today believe in mythology and dogmatically refuse to even consider the possibility that’s true.

Yes, you’ve definitely established your credentials as someone who can be trusted to determine “the cold, hard truth of reality.”

So if you believe in religion, there’s automatically a 99% chance you believe in mythology.

Wait, what?? You said only one could be true. 1% of about 4200 is about 42.

HOLY SHIT!! DOUGLAS ADAMS WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!!!

If you refuse to question your beliefs, there’s no way for you to know if they’re true, which increases the chance that you believe in mythology to 99.9%.

Whoa, hold on. This mathematics is really blowing my mind. So, back when I believed in one religion out of (according to you) over 4200, there was a 1% chance I’d hit on the right religion. didn’t believe in mythology. Despite the fact that (you said) only one could be true. But NOW, if I refuse to examine those beliefs, there are only about 4. Or do you mean that if I DO question my beliefs, I increase my chances of hitting one of those 42 by a factor of 10?
Or are you just making up numbers in nice round factors of ten because it’s easier than math?

This number is increased to 99.99%

So now we’re close to “one.” Which is what you said would be the only possible number of “true” religions. Oh, I get it! This is what the true religion will look like! Pencils everyone! Write this down! I’ll test Christianity!

if your religion contains any of the following:

1: Human sacrifices

Well, it was only the one time. Not like it was a habit or anything. And it was a volunteer. Who was also God. Otherwise, it’s specifically forbidden. Do any religions really still have this as a feature? Because I’d think people would comment on that more.

2: Moral values that reflect the needs and wants of a specific primitive culture

Nope, pretty much all primitive cultures. And sophisticated modern ones. So, are you saying that specific primitive cultures can’t have true religions? Or that sophisticated modern cultures automatically have better moral values? Wow, that’s awfully insulting to a whole lot of people in the world.

3: Instructions to hurt, kill or look down on other people

No, all that’s pretty specifically forbidden, too. I guess Christianity can’t be the One True Religion. Or, wait, does that mean it still can? I’m sorry, I’m still pretty hung up on 42 = 4 = 1.

4: Reasons to look down on yourself

Well, on the one hand, I’m a sinner, and on the other, I was important enough for God to die for. So, not really.

5: A pyramid-shaped authority structure

A really flat pyramid: on one level, me and all the other Christians. Infinitely far above us, Christ. I guess it depends on whether your grasp of solid geometry is as shaky as your grasp of basic arithmetic?

6: Scientifically inaccurate statements

Well, how accurate do they have to be to count? Technically Newton’s Law of Gravity is “scientifically inaccurate” since Einstein came along, but we still teach it in schools, for the very good reason that it’s close enough to accurate to be useful to the people it’s being taught to. I’ll be very surprised if you see where I’m going with this.

7: Magical beings, powers or events that no longer exist

No, all the magical beings and powers described in the Bible still exist. Somewhere. As far as “events” go, are you aware that an “event” is something that happens for a finite amount of time, having a beginning and an end? (Merriam-Webster def. 4) Every scientific experiment consists of “events that no longer exist.”

Some people have speculated that it doesn’t matter what religion you believe in as long as you believe in something that gives you meaning, instructions and peace. But believing in something that isn’t real is the definition of insanity.

It really isn’t, according to Merriam-Webster. Definition 3b might stretch that way. Oh, I forgot! Our source for the truth of all assertions is Wikipedia! But wait:

“[a term] that describe[s] a spectrum of individual and group behaviors that are characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns.”

So I guess not.

It’s not okay to be insane just because you like it because it holds you and society back.

From what?

Believing in mythology is counterproductive if for no other reason than it’s a waste of time. It keeps you busy going through meaningless motions while ignoring real world issues that have real consequences to you and the rest of mankind. Your life and everyone else’s would be improved by you focusing on real problems.

According to you. But since that whole 42 = 4 = 1 issue, I don’t really want you prioritizing my issues, much less the world’s

To this, you might reply, “But how can we know how to live without religion?” Remember that most of the world doesn’t believe in religion; they believe in mythology. 

Except for the 42 real ones. Or the four real ones. Or the one real one. Whichever.

So the real question is, “How can we know how to live without mythology?” If mythology is just a belief system made up by humans, and you’ve spent your whole life living according to those rules, you already know the answer. We can make up our own ethics, and in fact, that’s what we’ve been doing all along.

We sure can. And some people’s ethics have been very good, and some of them have been very bad. 

We just haven’t been honest with ourselves about it.

As honest as someone who pretends that Swiss Reformed and Dutch Reformed Christianity are as different as Shinto and Orthodox Judaism, for example?

If taking personal responsibility for your own ethics sounds scary or haphazard, consider that mythologies can contain horrible rules that can lead you to hurt yourself or others, which makes it all the more imperative you question your beliefs.

In which case they are no more or less likely to contain “horrible rules that can lead you to hurt yourself or others” than a religion or a mythology is… except that you don’t have the benefit of having had those rules reviewed and interpreted by possibly millions of people over hundreds of years. So your quality control sucks.

This is especially true if you absolutely insist on believing one of our religions is the divine truth. Everyone wants to believe that their religion is the right one, but at least 6 billion people are dead wrong in their faith.

Only if you insist on dividing religion into 4200 parts because Wikipedia says so.

Statistically, you’re probably one of them.

Yeah, you lost the right to the use of the word “statistically” back up there where you were randomly assigning powers of ten to things because reasons.

The only way you or anyone else can find the right religion is to scrutinize yours objectively.

And it’s the second thing that actually makes sense, assuming we allow the caveat that humans are famously not good at doing that. But it’s a useful discipline to attempt, that’s for sure. Of course, you also have to scrutinize a LACK of religion objectively, or as close to that as you can. Will you? Or do you just assume that you’ve done it by virtue of being an atheist?

This may sound like heresy, but it’s probably not a coincidence that you were created with the capacity for reason, skepticism, doubt, and logic. For the billions of people who believe in mythology, it’s a necessity. If your religion can stand the test of truth, there’s no danger in putting yours to it. If your religion can’t stand the test of truth, objectivity is the only way you’ll ever free yourself.

Well, a lot of heretics have agreed with that. Real challengers of orthodoxy, like, you know, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Your quest for truth isn’t just about you. Most religions encourage you to convert nonbelievers,

Most actually different religions, or most of the 4200 you got from Wikipedia?

and even without actively proselytizing on the street corner, you passively send out the message that people should join your faith just by living according to it.

Okay. But by that argument, you’re actively leading people away from eternal life, or nirvana, or inner peace by living as an atheist, not to mention that you’re proselytizing that right here, so I’ll expect you to objectively own that.

If you believe in one of the religions that are mythology, you’re leading unwitting victims into a trap.

And if you don’t believe in the true religion, you’re leading people to Hell. Or at least back to samsara.

If enough people in one area buy into mythology, one way or another, their beliefs are going to determine social norms and even laws. This has a harsh real-world impact on people who don’t believe in that particular brand of mythology.

Oh, noes! The brave tough-minded atheists might get their feelings hurt! Or do you mean that you might be marginalized and persecuted by the bad, bad theists? Because that never happens to religious people in officially atheist regimes like the Soviet Union or Communist China. Oh, wait.

Another danger of spreading mythology is that some people will inevitably latch onto the most violent, oppressive, absurd rules within that belief system and use them to justifying hurting other people.

You mean like atheist communists did in the Soviet Union, China and Cambodia? Yes, that would be bad.

So before you go spreading the good word, it’s imperative that you make sure it passes the most rigorous test of truth, not just for your sake but for all of ours.

And to your credit, you make sense for the last time in the essay. But you really should start with applying that principle to the basics of arithmetic. Here’s your starting point: 42 ≠ 1.