The Customer is Always Right

It would be untoward for me to comment on the mental processes of any readers disappointed in my humble work. If I fail to please, the fault is mine, not theirs. Nonetheless, from time to time the causes for discontent are worthy of note.

For example, in the novella ‘One Bright Star to Guide Them’ the characters as children, around age 10, stumble through a magical well that opens to a fairytale world, where they have a strange adventure, but then are returned to our world, where they age and grow into adults. As is the custom in English speaking nations, the children are called by a diminutive of their names, so in the flashback scenes, Thomas is called Tommy, Richard is called Dick, Sarah is called Sally, and so on.

The following exchange was brought to my attention.

nickpheas on said:

OK, reads Hugo Packet. One Bright Star To Guide Me By [sic]

Is there an in story reason why Wright seems to use Sally and Sarah to describe one of his characters, or just did he forget what he called her?

rob_matic on said:
He may be using Sally as a diminutive of Sarah, although I can imagine it reading oddly if both are being used.

Alexandra Erin on said:

Sally did originate as a nickname for Sarah, but given that I’ve seen his editor switch back and forth on a female character’s name in a book before, I’m not sure the more charitable reading is warranted.

Peace Is My Middle Name on said:

Given Wright’s stated attitudes towards women, I find it utterly unsurprising that he cannot even remember the name of his own character.

In his Hugo-nominated turgid and pompous pseudointellectual religious screed “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds,” the only female present is the cat, which he uses as a symbol for treachery and disloyalty.

SocialInjusticeWorrier on said:

I don’t think switching between Sally and Sarah is a problem, so long as the author has a good reason for doing it. I could see O. Henry, for example, using the shift in names very effectively to make a point about how different someone is/appears in a formal setting (as Sarah) as opposed to their normal life (as Sally). What I don’t see is John C Wright having any such purpose in his narrative, which argues for incompetence or carelessness.

The poster above wasn’t trying to make a joke about having more than one word for people, they were pointing out that Wright apparently forgot what name he gave the character and changed it in mid story. — this is the same Chris Gerrib who from time to time commented here, doing a pitch perfect impersonation of a teenaged girl that had me fooled for a season.

(Oh, and I checked – somebody on File 770 thinks that Wright forgot the name of one of his characters, and changed it from Sarah to Sally randomly. Not so – she is referred to as both names, but there’s no explanation as to why in the story. It would have been better to be consistent.)

When readers, who are always right, depart from comments critical of my humble work, step into the role of the Holy Office for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and examine my airy thoughts and dark heart for evidence of hidden heresy, however, they depart from the immunity to criticism or comment to which their exalted station entitles them, and they become droopy-drawer pigeon-toed and cross-eyed pantomime clowns it is right and just to belabor with a pandybat in the midst of their antic floundering.

For the record, my attitude toward women is one of deep and worshipful respect akin to awe. However, my attitude toward cats is one of continual fear, horror, and wretchedness, unless one is discussing Catwoman from DC comics, or the Black Cat from Spiderman, in which case my attitude is one of fanboy concupiscence.

How in the world the irenic mesonym called Peace is My Middle Name can interpret my attitude toward the fairer sex to be a negative one I leave to a psychotherapist to explain, or an exorcist.

Ah, but it seems the Grand Inquisitor is ready to explain all things to me, in the role of a reverse Paraclete.

In reference to these paragraphs in one of my essays, where I explain why it is not cute for mommies to teach their six-year-old daughters to drop the f-bomb I made these observations:

“The female spirit is wise rather than cunning, deep in understanding rather than adroit in deductive logic, gentle and supportive rather than boastful and self-aggrandizing.”

“Contrariwise, when women in the kitchen or the nursery use the name of the Lord in vain, and the children they are nursing and teaching hear them, the vulgarity has the negative effect of deadening the emotions of the youngsters and making them vulgar and indifferent to vulgarity.”

“Also a woman who is crude inspires contempt, because she has contempt for God and man. The difference is that a woman who loses her native delicacy and modesty does not become an object of fear and respect, but an object of contempt and loathing, because the aura of sanctity women naturally inspire in men is tossed away.”

On the 770 blog, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, I unwisely left a gentle remark where I noted that a hiccupping hapless lackwit quoted this passage of fulsome praise to support the contention of my alleged dislike of womankind, rather than taking it as evidence to the clear contrary.

Emma, a zealous Inquisitor of the Thought Police, helps explicate the enigma.

@John C Wright: “It is similar to people who claim I don’t like women, and quote passages where I praise women fulsomely in support of the contention.”

I haven’t seen anyone cite passages where you “praise women fulsomely”. I’ve seen people cite passages where you speak of women in patronizing and condescending ways, utilizing some truly idiotic stereotypes to pander to a madonna/whore ideology that 1) has no basis in reality and 2) insults and degrades women in every conceivable way. (And having now read the work in its entirety, it is clear that these passages were not somehow taken out of context. Your attitude toward women really is that vile.) That you think your words “praise” women shows a foolishness that is beyond compare.

It is difficult for me to untie the Gordian knot of this intestinal bafflegab (madonna/whore ideology?) since I do not have my Morlock-to-Reality dictionary at hand.

Again, in reality a woman is either chaste (a virgin or a wife) or unchaste (a non-virgin non-wife). I suppose, technically, a divorcee, widow, or the bride before the marriage is consummated, might occupy the borders of this category, but, again, the sex act is either within marriage, hence chaste, or outside marriage, hence unchaste. It is a case of A or non-A, and the basis in reality is that one reproduces the species with the father present, and the other not so much.

So how it is that marriage, the mere existence of marriage, the mere existence of a dividing line distinguishing chaste sex from unchaste degrades women not merely in one way nor some ways, but in every conceivable way, is a verbal duck-noise not intended to make sense, merely to express the fatuous vehemence of inchoate emotion.

I am sure that the editors of bridal magazines and the authors of romance novels would be disorientated to learn that their product pleases none of their customers, but degrades them in every conceivable way.

How my words of praise and adoration are interpreted as vile, and it be a folly of mine not to see praise as vile, is beyond explanation and (I suspect) deliberately so. A sane accusation can be refuted. An insane accusation, one that makes no sense on any level, cannot be refuted, cannot even be addressed, because it is insolent nonsense. There is no sober way to defend oneself from the accusation of being a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater.

So what is this accusation allegedly supposed to mean?

My best guess is that the pragmatic, traditional and Catholic attitude that approves of chastity (and hence distinguishes between wives and maidens who abide by this rule, versus paramours, harlots and demimondaines who do not) is one that casts too bright a light on the lamplike eyes of the Morlocks, exposing their moral shortcomings, imprudence and injustice toward their womenfolk, and, since they cannot (with a straight face) criticize decency for being decent, they must invent some unconvincing substitute to attribute to the pragmatic and temperate attitude, to mischaracterize it.

What the unconvincing make-believe might be does not matter a whit. It is the act of accusation that offers the Morlock a momentary relief, not the realism of the accusation.

Meanwhile, please keep in mind that when the Sad Puppies claimed that there was a political correctness bias among the Hugo voters amounting to a political inquisition, we were soundly mocked, and (with considerable umbrage and disdain) informed that all parties merely judge works on their merit, not on the politics nor personal opinions of the author. There is no political inquisition, hence no heresy hunters! And to say there is an inquisition is heresy!

Res ipsa loquitur.