The Death of Imagination in Writing

There’s a good chance I’m being something of alarmist here, but it is a worrying trend I’ve noticed ever since my tortuous pedagogy, bizarre occupation, and currently staggered wherewithal.  Writers aren’t trying.  They’re not trying to better themselves and their writing, finding frankly a fifth grade reading/writing level sufficient for an adult, and they aren’t trying to challenge their audience, who from years of intellectual atrophy are content to treat reading as little more than a pleasant pastime, masturbation and little more.  Let me put it like this.  You can go down to any bowling alley between childrens’ birthdays and find at least five people who are absolutely fanatical about both their sport and their growth as a sportsman in that regard.  You couldn’t just walk down to a book store nowadays and find the same; this is assuming you can even find a brick and mortar book store.

I have with me today a little example, something I’ve pulled from a book I was bought for Christmas, for which I’m very grateful.  I’m virtually impoverished and can’t afford to buy many books if I want to keep my website online.  Anyways, I’d asked for popular science fiction novels of several varieties, some of which by name.  And what I had expected was, for the most part,  dangerously evident.  Science Fiction as a genre has a proud history of excellent writers, who mastered both the subject matter and their own style.  I honestly can’t say the same for Asimov, but we’re all allowed our idiosyncrasies.  Anyways, lord have mercy have I been taken on a tangent.  I’ve pulled a paragraph from one of the books I was purchased, a more modern work of fiction that will remain unnamed in both title and author.  I’m going to list it immediately here, but I want you, whoever’s actually reading this, to think in your head what’s wrong with it before your eyes leap to the succeeding paragraphs in which I rip it to pieces.

Jackson rolled his eyes at Peter’s embellished call to action as he yanked on his utility top and felt his boots automatically snug around his feet.  He could feel the full day’s worth of growth on his face and knew his breath must smell like a trash can.  Irrationally, he felt some resentment towards the aliens for attacking before he could shower and get something to eat as he rushed out of his quarters and raced for the bridge.

I confess that I couldn’t help providing some indicators to precisely what I’m talking about.  While I could attack this paragraph for simply lacking imagination absent any sort of really colorful terminology that could sell even this relatively mundane scene, that’s not what I’m going to focus on.  While the author may simply be a published neophyte who lacks the use of a large lexicon, I don’t think that’s the case.  The author has chosen to write in this frankly disrespectful style.

What’s bold and what’s italic are somewhat closely related.  They both have to do with narrative focus, and this is all over the place.  Beginning with the italic, the narrator seems from the information available to be both third person and omniscient to the extent of being able to narrate the action and read people’s minds.  There’s nothing wrong with an omniscient narrator, but they have a lot of potential that is wasted on this sort of writing, which is unfortunately a subject for another time.  [You’ll have to forgive me, as my ailing health has reduced my cognition considerably, and I get easily confused.]  Instead of using embellished and irrationally, both of which are judgments made by the narrator–not the reader–the narrator could have talked about physical gestures and contortions the characters might make which would indicate the very same, perhaps supported by short snippets of irritated dialogue.  This would have brought the scene to life, but rather we’re left stuck believing the narrator’s interpretation to be correct because we have no other choice.  Moreover, such judgments as embellished and irrationally are better used in a first person narrative, which in that case actually give the protagonist character rather than robbing him of it in third person.

Now, the items in bold are all verbs that deal with subjective experiences, all things lingering within the character’s head.  I could talk about the sharp repetition of feel and how it quickly becomes dated, but I want to point out that instead of just saying “the boots snugged about his feet,” he for some reason felt compelled to tell us he could feel that happening, as if this is something special, as if his feet are traditionally numb.  Why waste that effort?  Why not just tell the audience what is obvious from third person?  He could say he had a five o’clock shadow.  He could say he snapped and cursed the aliens under his breath.  He could say he smells bad.  What we’re seeing wouldn’t pass for good writing at the secondary school level, and most unfortunately these weaknesses are not unique to this author but absolutely ubiquitous to his compatriots. Potential writers reading this claptrap are learning bad lessons whether they’re aware of it or not.

Most of you are probably swearing at the screen by now, cursing with me, “Show not Tell; that’s all you’ve demonstrated,” and you’re completely correct.  It’s the illustration of this example, however, which makes it so abundantly clear why I must invoke this doctrine.  I mean, I’m not going to tell anyone to avoid telling the reader outright anything, but I think we’ve all known when we’ve crossed the line from aiding the reader to shoving his face into the text.  It’s hard for me to read rubbish like this.  I’m supposed to get a handle on the competition.  And it makes me worry, if this is what the competition has to offer, if this is what’s selling books, perhaps I’m in the wrong genre or perhaps even the wrong line of business.

This is the End Part Two

Standoff at Checkpoint Charlie

Standoff at Checkpoint Charlie

Perhaps one World War could have been tolerable to the European piggy-bank, but two was pushing it too far.  Entire economies and wholesale infrastructures devastated and nations completely impoverished in a set of engagements from which Europe still has genuinely to recover, god knows the cost to American foreign policy.  Unable to maintain their extended empires, the Western sphere of influence winnowed and shrank dramatically, its only remain exponent of any influence being the United States which was already gearing up for a third and titanic conflict–this time with the Soviet Union–that thankfully never came to fruition.  But nature despises a vacuum.  All the pomp and national spirit that had characterized western nations at the outset of World War One had been totally drained.  Within this came something born of the egalitarianism of the West but something I’m forced to characterize altogether differently; Marxism, already germinating within the national character of all western nations grew infectious and lugubrious, the constant threat of red revolution now a problem of international scale.  This gave rise to post-modernism, the obscene doctrine of Derrida and other filthy counter-culture gurus which would ultimately erase any last semblance of national pride in several generations time, a problem now endemic.

What can I say?  We’re really good at killing each other and becoming poor doing it.  On top of that, our egalitarianism, once a monstrous strength, is made a weakness with the miserable doctrine of white guilt, itself so insidious and perverted a form of racism that the hairs of my knuckles bristle at its bare mention. Read More …

This is the End

Charge of the Light Brigade by William Simpson

Charge of the Light Brigade by William Simpson

We’ve come down to a subject I’ve been deliberately avoiding for weeks, something I perhaps find terrifying, something for which, if I elucidate it incorrectly, I will never ever be forgiven.  So we’ve described the conception of Western Civilization, its spread, its development, its survival through times of darkness, and we’ve come upon the precipice of the great conclusion: the modern period which saw the rise of powerful western states with modern legal systems, modern manufacturing, modern notions, and modern ways of making war.  Everything, quite naturally, changed.  This conclusion will necessarily be a multi-part document.  I want to talk about the ways in which the interaction of western states changed, starting with the Crimean War.  I also want to talk about the World Wars in context, and I finally want to discuss our contemporary, what’s often called the “Post Modern Period,” which in our general malaise is more a threat to our way of life than any regiment of bayonets or battery of artillery. Read More …

Vana Roma

Aeneas defeats Turnus

Aeneas defeats Turnus

I confess, this reads like the connecting link holding together the whole argument of this western civilization series, and it may in many ways seem completely obvious; nevertheless, it’s important to relate.

The Romans really are fascinating.  It’s easy to get lost, considering how much of our daily life is Roman: our beliefs in politics, our laws regarding property and inheritance, even some of our burial rights, the model of the standing army; I’ll be here all night if I try to list off all the ways.  It’s true that the Greeks may have invented Western Civilization, what was then what we would call “Hellenic Culture,” but in spite of the spread of many Greek colonies through much of the Mediterranean basin, it was really the Romans that, having adopted this culture and having modeled themselves after this culture, spread it wheresoever they feet or their rudders should take them, which was a fair bit further than the Greeks.

Doesn’t really seem funny though, does it?  Why should the Romans not make use of what they consider to be good ideas, ideas that would advance their cause and increase their standing among nations?  Have you ever read the Iliad?  Seems a strange interruption, but let me continue.  Have you ever read the Aeneid?  Maybe a long time ago back in high school or the vagaries of university?  Remember a figure named “Aeneas,” one of the Trojan survivors of the sack of Troy, who with a fleet of ships led the survivors across the Mediterranean, through many dangers, to conclude their journey upon the shores of Italy, where eventually would be founded the city of Rome by a pair of violent youths nursed by a she-wolf?  This triggering any memories? Read More …

Revenge of the Normans

Viking Siege of Paris

Viking Siege of Paris

I’ll admit, this one had me stumped for weeks.  I wrote this article several times over, and I’m still unsure if I’m really happy with it.  Such are my pains, my beloved audience.  Bear with me as we bear through this.

I think we need to understand, to begin, that Western Civilization did not always mean “Europe,” and for a while it meant much beyond.  Western Civilization only traveled as far as the Macedonians and Romans could carry it, the nascent ovum derived from the Athenian city-state.  Rome never traveled to the far North, barely extended into Eastern Europe whatsoever.  These absent peoples were assuredly Europeans but, at the time, “Westerners?”  Hardly.  The Vikings represent one example of a people that self-westernized, rather in the way that cats self-domesticated, eventually assimilating with the arrival of Catholicism upon their shores, which they nevertheless fought viciously, invited really by their importance generated by all their military adventurism.  To the greater fold of the West, they brought with themselves the new blood and vigor that the West would need to continue developing along new ideas and fronts while remaining indelibly “Western.”  It would be finally, and partly thanks to the Scandinavian influence, the absorption of Eastern Europe predominantly into the Western and Eastern Churches that brought about the completion of what would become the West before at last the launch into the Americas. Read More …

Medieval Politics Are Byzantine

Conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 AD

Conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 AD

It’s 1204 AD and Constantinople is burning.  This is not the first time, and sadly it will not be the last, but matters are somewhat graver than most.  They’re up there on the battlements whirling a singed banner; they’re down there in the Hagia Sophia performing obscene acts of rape and murder against the body of the church and its sacred constituents; they’ve got a tear-streaked whore seated in the emperor’s throne singing raucous songs before an assembly of disembodied heads including that of monks, scholars, bishops, and generals.  The Seljuk Turks have finally overthrown the walls of Constantinople, you might think.  No, not exactly, not at all, but the consequences immediately grave will only worsen in the hundreds of years to come.  You see, it’s the Fourth Crusade, and the streets are literally red with the massacre of the population of the of the capitol of the Eastern Roman Empire, sacked by the crusaders not just once but twice–and much worse the second time.  This doesn’t seem the mission of a crusade, does it?  How, in spite of the threat of excommunication by the pope could military and religious leaders attendant the crusader army not only allow but plan this to happen?  Medieval politics are Byzantine, and that’s just not something you can tolerate in an army. Read More …

Not Istanbul It’s Constantinople

Battle_of_Vienna_1683_11

The Battle of Vienna

The Eastern Roman Empire had been viciously mauled, raped, and robbed of her far-flung provinces by the Arab caliphates, provinces that had long worn the Roman eagle, but for centuries the empire held on, waxed and waned, against the various forces on either side of the Bosporus that menaced its continued existence, whether that be the Empire of the Serbs or the various Mohammedans of the East.  Despite their obvious advantages, the Arab influence began to wane with the arrival of Turkic migrants from the far far East, who were initially treated as foreigners, then as servants, then as soldiers, then administrators, and then as their rulers themselves.  Laziness is as much an Arabic trait as unquestioning religious fervor. Read More …

On the Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks

Betsy Ross Flag by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Betsy Ross Flag by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

I had planned from the very outset to compose an article hailing the relatively unique moment in human history in which the Zaporozhian Cossacks thumbed their collective nose against the Ottoman Emperor, as immortalized in the painting of one Ilya Repin, a formative moment not only in western history but more specifically the development of Ukraine, but as I did my research, fearing to commit an error of fact in my elucidation, I found that the nature of things was in fact labyrinthine. I don’t know why I should have thought otherwise; the truth is rarely simple, especially collated from the varying perspectives of the criminals and victims involved. Nevertheless, I will make an essai, but it won’t be nearly as clear cut as I’d like—perhaps as you’d like. Read More …

Tours de France

Steuben_-_Bataille_de_Poitiers

Battle of Tours

Everyone’s heard it once, “Charlemagne,” in passing conversation or perhaps parsed from a page.  Carolus Magnus.  Charles the Great.  Those of you that have heard of Tours are probably wondering why I’m prefacing with Charlemagne.  Well, it’s important to develop a sense of scope, a sense of consequences.

Charlemagne was the founder of the Frankish Empire and its many successors, which would lay the foundations for the sort of cowardly, limp-wristed Europe we see nowadays that its ancestors would be ashamed of.  He conducted excellent campaigns, annexed territories throughout much of Northern Europe, and quite significantly he even campaigned in Muslim Spain.  It is said that his dominion included the holdings of Lombardy to the various lands of countless Germanic and Slavic tribes.  The icing on the cake, something to legitimize his unreal set of military achievements is that he was able to secure the title renewed of “King of the Romans,” from the pope in exchange for military protection.  To that end he had the physical possession of much of Italy.  Considering that the Muslims did indeed sack Rome in 848 AD, this was a legitimate concern.  They built bigger walls afterwards. Read More …

Secrets of Cagayan

onna

Onna Bugeisha

I’ll be the first to admit that colonialism has left a swath of bodies in its wake, failed nations doomed to expensive and gory insurrections virtually ever after, but I admit I can’t pin even an iota of the culpability on Western Culture itself.  You see, just as she uplifted Europe, she had a power to do so elsewhere as well.

Many of your weebs, and perhaps even a few of you normal people, have probably heard of the amazing efficacy of the Japanese longsword sometimes referred to as a “katana,” folded over five billion times, for some reason, and not only durable but able to maintain a viciously sharp edge.  I’m going to hurt some feelings here, but people that have never heard of the term “pattern welding” have no right to comment on sword manufacture. Read More …