Guest Post: Alternate Histories, Part 2c: No, Really, I'm Just Making This Up As I Go

Here's Part 2 (well, part "2c") of Ben Knaak's Alternate Histories project exploring how to model a materialist conception of history through video games. Be sure to follow along on his blog and YouTube Channel!

 

The state of Europe in 1880.

Shit I Don't Really Know, But Can Fake, Part I: How's the Game Going?

It is on its face absurd that the crisis over the Panama Canal Company could by itself lead to the largest and bloodiest war the world had ever known. That the two-headed monster of Boulanger and Déroulède would make their usual hash of things was no surprise. That the Panama Scandals would bring about the peaceful downfall of a government which, after regaining Alsace-Lorraine, had no further reason to exist, might have been predicted. That the departure of the pro-British Boulangists, combined with the refusal of the Colombian parliament to approve the sale of the canal concession to Britain, would pit France against her traditional enemy is perhaps understandable. The American invocation of the Monroe Doctrine is practically reflexive. But without recourse to other causes, Britain's insistence on backing the cause of Panamanian separatism to the point of worldwide destruction makes absolutely no sense.

  ...

Kerblam! Review

Back in my TARDIS Eruditorum post on The Caretaker, I mused on what Gareth Roberts might have written if he’d been allowed to write Doctor Who that reflected his politics of English middle class supremacism as opposed to being constantly pigeonholed into writing comedy romps, suggesting this would have been preferable and interesting. With Kerblam! we finally test that, and the results are as fascinating and infuriating as you’d expect.

On one level, this is the biggest political fuckup of an episode in recent memory. I mean, it’s a satire of Amazon that comes down firmly on the side of Amazon. It’s consciously pitched as a critique of labor activists in favor of exploitative corporations—one that is overtly hostile to younger generations and that treats concerns about the effects of automation on individual workers as contemptuous. It is overtly in favor of of corporations that aggressively micromanage workers’ exploitation in favor of efficiency, of bullying and abusive bosses, and of automated systems that kill people to make a point. It’s like the Cartmel and Davies eras as rewritten by Nick Land.

The thing is, that’s actually a hell of a pitch. And the first part of it is key—this episode ...

Demons and Silences

The historian Yasmin Khan, who wrote a book about the Partition of India that Vinay Patel, the writer of ‘Demons of the Punjab’, has tweeted about having read as research, wrote that the Partition is “a history layered with absence and silences”.

Yes, her name is Yasmin Khan.   

What does that mean?  Does it mean anything?  We must simply add this to the list of questions ‘Demons of the Punjab’ raises, or almost raises, and then remains silent about. 

‘Demons of the Punjab’ is an episode haunted by silences.  Pregnant, eloquent silences. I don’t know if this is deliberate, in the sense of being a conscious strategy on the part of the people who made it.  Whether this matters is itself a question to consider.

The first pregnant, eloquent silence comes very near the start, when the elderly Umbreen remarks that she was “the first Muslim woman to work in a textile mill in South Yorkshire”.  This follows her remark, itself news to Yaz, that she was the first woman married in Pakistan. Umbreen has been very silent for a long time.

Contrary to myth and apologia, India before the British came was a wealthy, thriving country.  According ...

Eruditorum Presscast: Demons of the Punjab

We here at Eruditorum Press are unrepentant SJWs, and so we care about diversity. Accordingly, we decided it wouldn't do to have an entirely homogenous lineup of podcast guests, and so have made a token diversity hire this week to bring you an actual cishet male to comment on Doctor Who. We would like to assure you that Jack was hired with no consideration whatsoever to his merits, and his entire existence is simply an act of crass virtue signalling. 

Anyway, here's Demons of the Punjab.

Guest Post: Alternate Histories, Part 2b: I Still Have No Idea What I'm Talking About

Here's Part 2 (well, part "2b") of Ben Knaak's Alternate Histories project exploring how to model a materialist conception of history through video games. Be sure to follow along on his blog and YouTube Channel!

 

Hot Take: Stone Age Teddy Roosevelt would be fucking dead before he turned 25.  Motherfucker would get straight up trampled by a mammoth after running out of breath.

Shit I Don't Know, Entry #2: Who's Playing This Game?

 

In most 4X games in which the player controls a nation, that nation's identity, attributes, and associated play style remain static and constant. Rather than a contingent cultural and political reality that arises from particular circumstances, the nation is an eternal reality. It will often have a set of statistical bonuses or accompanying debuffs, or a unique unit or building it can construct once the correct technology has been researched, simply by virtue of being itself. The nation exists at the beginning of the game, and barring conquest by another nation it will exist at the end. Every player who chooses "America" begins history with the founding of Washington in the year 4000 B.C. Where did these people come from? Are they white? Patawomeck? Who is this Washington they named their settlement after? It's not important; welcome to the United Neolithic States.

 

This works fine ...

Demons of the Punjab Review

In any previous season, this would have been a minor gem; in this context, it feels like a cool drink of water in the desert. After five episodes that repeatedly struggled at the task of being about things where the one that seemed to know what it was doing had its own deep problems, here we get an episode of admirable clarity and focus that deftly balances the broad historical and intimate personal scales. There’s nothing save for the agonizingly overdue engagement with India that makes the story extraordinary, but there’s also a refreshing lack of any significant flaws, and all in all this feels like the most developed idea of what Doctor Who should be in 2018 that we’ve had to date.

Let’s start with the politics. There are obvious fallings short; the clangingly bad line about the Doctor forwarding Prem’s complaints on to Mountbatten next time she sees him being the worst. And more broadly, there’s a milquetoast tendency throughout to place responsibility for the violence of partition on the masses instead of on the British empire, which finds itself blamed more for the carelessness of partition than for the exploitation that preceded it. None of this was ...

Real Gone

Sections of this piece are drawn from conversations with Niki Haringsma, whose forthcoming Black Archive on 'Love & Monsters' is really good.  Don't blame her for this though, for god's sake.

*

The style/substance dichotomy is, of course, false.  Most dichotomies are, when you dig deeply enough. The thing is: dichotomies are also real.  Even false dichotomies are real. Our world - bourgeois society, the capitalist epoch - is made of ‘real false dichotomies’.  The most fundamental dichotomies in our society - capitalist and worker; use value and exchange value - are both real, in the sense of having real material effects, and also unreal, insane, hallucinatory.  Capitalism is the rule of abstraction. It is concrete human existence tyrannised by the slippery, the spectral, the notional.

For Marx, when things are produced as commodities they are no longer just ‘use values’ but now have the divided nature of also being ‘exchange values’.  Use values are useful, sensual, material, human. Exchange value is abstract, useless outside the profit system, and has no use beyond the self-expansion of value. That’s capitalism.  That’s the root of ‘profit for profit’s sake’. Marx sees labour, and thus production, as fundamental to human life and society (our ...

Eruditorum Presscast: The Tsuranga Connundrum

This week I'm joined by Beth Axford of Doctor Who Magazine's Time Team and the delightful blog The Time Ladies to talk about The Tsuranga Conundrum, which we gradually find is very hard to say out loud and decide to rename. To what? Listen and find out.

This podcast also features the "classic" version of the Eruditorum Presscast theme, because elections make me cranky. As usual, it's by my good friend Alex via his band Seeming, which you can and should check out here.

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