A guest post by David Gerard.
Every field has its standard ways to fuck up. Experienced artists never do these in public, but you'll see the lesser lights fall for them if you go looking. Someone gets a rush of blood and is struck by aninspiration to do something different, something the big guys aren't doing, for a new take on things! Not realising that the experienced artists don't do these things because they don't work.
Like writing a novel about the pop industry. No, better: a political allegory in the form of a novel about the pop industry. No, better still: a right-wing fever dream political allegory in the form of a novel about the pop industry. Yep, that'll show 'em all!
Phil Sandifer tweeted a "hey, look what I just stepped in":
As a connoiseur of the worst of popular culture — and novels about the music industry are definitely the worst of popular culture — I foolishly looked. (Doing a great swan dive naked into the abyss and wallowing while sending back reports probably involves staring at some point.)
The least-unreadable examples of this species of folly, that don't make you shout "WRONG! WRONG! BULLSHIT!" twice a page, tend to be thin fictionalisations of real events; plenty of fucked-up shit happens in the music industry that makes people go "someone should write a book about this." Platinum Logic by Tony Parsons fails as an even slightly coherent novel, but every lurid and tawdry incident in that book is a version of something that happened, and spotting the players is the fun part.
There are genuinely good novels that have the music industry as a theme — Pratchett's Soul Music, Banks' Espedair Street — but these tend not to be about the music or the industry as such, and avoid going into too much detail even as they slip in the in-jokes. Even The Commitments, which is literally about a band. They resist the urge to be didactic. It's a trepidatious endeavour, though: get the details even slightly wrong and you look like a fool.
Fenris Wulf gets the details mostly right. The problem is everything else.
"Hi, I'm Fenris. I've considered myself to be a LaVeyan Satanist for about 10 years, and I also embrace a Lokian version of Asatru, as my name indicates."
Loki's Child is published by Castalia House, i.e. Vox Day, the abovementioned human dumpster fire, who is now most famous for doing his damnedest to fuck up the Hugo Awards with the Rabid Puppies.
I thought Day was the author of this thing — "Fenris Wolf" was the name of his 1990s video game studio, and he was once in a band with minor hit records so he's brushed up against the business. But Vox is not known for either patience or attention to detail, and this is a work the author's been polishing and polishing for years — he put the first version up as Record Producer from Dimension X in 2005, then publicised the rewrite as Loki's Child in this 2011 post to a fan board for Ayn Rand's right-wing political philosophy Objectivism:
The novel gets progressively more ingenious, and it exposes the disgusting evil of the nihilist Left in a way that hasn't been done before. The heroes are based on various pagan gods, and the villains are based on historical movements such as the Jacobins, Luddites, Puritans, Aztecs, and others.
Well, I'm glad he enjoyed it himself. ("Aztecs"?)
Here's how he describes his own brilliance on a Ron Paul forum a year later:
It's about a group of musicians who foment an insurrection against the federal government. It creates a detailed alternate history in which America is taken over by the radical Left and collapses into dictatorship and cultural psychosis. It's simultaneously dark and hilarious, surreal and all too believable. It's incredibly inventive and contains literally hundreds of passages that will make you laugh out loud. Its viewpoint is staunchly libertarian and it upholds a strict constitutionalist approach to everything from economics to education to war.
Here's the blurb from the author's site — he's a radio station engineer who "records local bands on analog tape" — describing his own book as "A libertarian tour de force ... a savagely funny takedown of culture and politics":
Meanwhile, the Jacobin Party is wrecking the economy, dismantling the Constitution, and smuggling weapons to street gangs in order to control elections through violence. Blenderman is drawn into a conspiracy to bring down the music cartel and the State itself, orchestrated by a young woman who worships Loki, the god of chaos.
Let's have a closer look at that cover:
I honestly couldn't tell if that image was a Photoshop disaster of a render, a Photoshop disaster of what was once a photograph of an actual human female, a Photoshop disaster of an artwork by an artist who couldn't draw, or an unholy cut'n'paste of some or all of these. It turns out that's a default model from 3D graphics software Poser, with a pose that appears to be from XNALara. Which is the laziest possible solution to the problem. (Really nice boots, I'll credit. Though the broken ankle is a
standard telltale of anatomically incompetent modeling bit of a worry. But full points to her being good enough to fingerpick an electric, which I'm sure was the artist's intent.)
The artist is RGUS (I looked through his DeviantArt gallery and kept shouting "BOOBS DON'T DO THAT" — there's a reason artists take life drawing classes), whose Poser/XNALara Castalia has used elsewhere. To his credit, when Day attempted to spam him into the 2016 Hugos he declined the nomination.
(Don't go looking for "Poser art" without SafeSearch on.)
Here's the original 2011 self-published edition cover, which is a photo of a guitar put through an oil-painting filter and eyes added in ah homage to a rather more famous book cover. The 2016 cover is certainly more striking. And fully up to Sad Puppies cover quality requirements, of course.
The intro asserts the sound engineering and production sk1llz of the hero,
Mixerman Blenderman, and his dab hand with ProTools SonoViz®. It ends with:
That is, this is a fictionalised crib of The Daily Adventures of Mixerman by Eric Sarafin. An amazing tale, purportedly real-life (and ringing fairly true), about Sarafin recording some well-funded bidding-war nobodies. I read it when it was originally being posted to ProSoundWeb in 2002. Every music industry sufferer will delight in it and you should read it.
Presumably this is an attempt at using your human "humor" (not "humour"). Reading this, I hear a three-second sample of canned laughter on loop with a mismatched splice, forever.
So we've started our novel about the pop industry with a rehash of an actually interesting insider tale and some hilarious parody. Fair enough, that's a standard approach.
Then he starts mixing in his opinions on women.
Feminazi bitches, amirite?
I totally describe myself to myself every time I see myself in a mirror, and I'm sure you do too.
The heels bit is a "wait, what?" He thinks these women look twenty-four, but he has them wearing heels that they literally haven't learnt to walk in yet. Let me tell you manly blokes a secret: it's not that hard to walk in heels. You walk on tiptoe and slightly move your hips in time. Keep your shoulders up, don't hunch. It takes hours to learn, not years. Including drunk. Of those women who wear heels at all, the only ones who go out, typically to see bands, in heels they can't walk in yet are literally teenagers.
"Clown paint" is an allusion to anarcho-capitalist (yeah, those two words can actually go together) cult leader Stefan Molyneux's famous admonition "stop making yourself look like fucking sex clowns to milk money out of men's dicks", his most renowned contribution to valuable Men's Rights Activist discourse on how women use makeup to oppress men.
Nobody talks like any of this, and that sort of hideous four noun pileup is the exclusive domain of people like me.
Here are the narratorial descriptions of these silly little girls who are so cutely play-acting at thinking they're a band:
Note that these detailed inventories of assets are taken in real time during a conversation.
Foolish human female, interrupting my important Brownian exposition to pretend to know as much about the thing you're actually here to do as a man would have picked up watching television and scratching his balls.
yes thanks that's great Fenris thank you
yes thank you Fenris
We're now into a chapter narrated by Scotty, Blenderman's trusty assistant, but it's good to see that he's completely — some might say indistinguishably — in tune with his boss's views on the filthy distaff of the species. Glad to see those fucking sex clowns won't be milking any money from your dick. Just like they didn't manage to in high school. (Or try to.)
This is clearly a cut and paste from an actual session. The Scotty chapters are about the didactic technobabble (and, of course, making it clear that those silly human females can't be expected to understand this stuff). The character's job is to expound Mr Wulf's views on recording — how much nicer analogue tape is than
ProTools SonoViz®, LOUDNESS WARS, why he can't stand listening to MP3s. But job-related pub anecdotes don't in fact make good fiction writing.
This starts a passage defaming Mutt Lange and Shania Twain. But what I'm wondering is if "pet veal" is an allusion to Piers Anthony's "In The Barn".
This starts probably the first actually-amusing scene in the book ...
... but we can't be expected to notice it's funny unless the characters supply a written laugh track!!
Chapters 7, 8 and 9 are the band recording. Tedious riffing on Mixerman, and lots of another standard pop novel mistake: page-length slabs of purported lyrics. These are bad enough when an author's trying to write good fictional lines, but much worse when they're just writing a strawman to demolish. Never do this.
You fucking tool, Fenris. Steve Albini would rip your head off and shit down your neck.
The extended Mixerman crib is in fact the good part. The book then takes a right turn (Castalia books do not turn left) into political polemic — the victory of the anti-Social Justice Warrior warriors courtesy the singer, who is either virtually or literally Satan, and her musicians fomenting a Galtian anti-government rebellion, some anti-Islam ranting, lots of cribs from Ayn Rand and right-wing conspiracist nutcases — all the ideas you hope the meme-spouting Trump fans on your Facebook feed are only joking about, though you fear deep down that they seriously mean them.
Even an otherwise-positive Amazon reviewer notes: "In Part 2 and Part 3 the pillow of political ranting slowly suffocates the story, the characters, and the laugh out loud vibe of Part 1." The earlier versions attracted similar complaints. It's a pity that's the intended purpose of the book as far as the author is concerned.
I could continue dissecting it in horrified detail, but as Phil puts it:
On the other hand, it did momentarily make #2 in Amazon's "satire" category! So that's something. (Even if you can make #1 in an Amazon subcategory with three dollars and five minutes.) Also it's technically alternate history fantasy, so doubtless a hot favourite for next year's Rabid Puppies slate.
Everything about this book is written in crayon. Read Mixerman instead, it's vastly superior and contains every good idea in this book and none of the bad.
There's a reason there isn't a genre of novels about the pop industry — just a scattering of survivors and a burning garbage heap of cautionary examples.
David Gerard is an embittered superannuated music journalist. He normally writes this sort of thing for Rocknerd, publishing all the fits that's news since 2001. If you liked this piece, feel free to grab him a coffee. David gratefully acknowledges the vital assistance of observant goons in the composition of this review.
Hi my name is Fenris Blen'derman Teddybeale Wulf Rand and I have long fluffy black hair (that's how I got my name) with Objectivist streaks and helpful tips that reaches my mid-back and icy rational eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Anton LaVey (AN: if u don't know who he is get da hell out of here!). I'm not related to Ayn Rand but I wish I was because she's a major fucking hottie. I'm a sound engineer but my teeth are straight and white. I have pale white skin. I'm also a Lokian Asatruer, and I go to a magic school called Castalia in Finland where I'm in the seventh year (I'm seventeen). I'm a Libertarian (in case you couldn't tell) and I wear mostly black. I love the Ron Paul forums and I buy all my ideas from there. For example today I was wearing dark angst with matching ennui around it and a black leather attitude, grey world-weariness and black combat boots. I was wearing no makeup, none of that clown paint. I was walking outside Mom's basement. It was snowing and raining so there was no sun, which I was very happy about. A lot of SJWs stared at me. I put up my middle finger at them.
then he put his Mises into my you-know-Rothbard and we did it for the first timeShare on Twitter Share on Facebook