I’ve been blasting review copies of Neoreaction a Basilisk (currently available on Kickstarter) out to the world, including an open offer to send it to Yudkowsky-style rationalists and neoreactionaries if they want to trash it. So here’s a roundup of the reaction it’s gotten, which has mostly been within the rationalist community so far. (But do stick around for the end, where there’s one great big of neoreactionary response, and an announcement of a new stretch goal.)
First, though, the big one, whcih is that Eliezer Yudkowsky weighed in on the book’s existence. Well. Sort of. Actually he told everyone to stop talking about the book while referring to it only as “[CENSORED].” Say what you like about the man, he’s at least very consistent in his reaction to basilisks. I’m sure it’ll work just as well.
Meanwhile, in the “good reviews” department, Tom Ewing, of the mad and epic blog project Popular, penned this very insightful, funny, and complimentary review, which I 100% promise you that you will want to stick around for the last line of. No, no. Don’t skip ahead. Just let it happen.
Tumblr user nostalgebraist wrote a lengthy series of posts on it, of which this is the last one (but it has an index of the whole thing at the start). It’s a mixed review in terms of what it thinks of the book, though I’m inclined to think it makes the case for the book just by having such a lengthy and nuanced engagement with it. It definitely sent me back to the draft manuscript to shore up and tinker a few passages, and is a thoroughly good read. (Nostalgebraist is also the author of The Northern Caves, which is by many accounts brilliant, and which I’m hoping to get to and write about, but you know how the schedule is these days.)
Also on tumblr was psybersecurity’s three-part review (again linking to the last part as it has an index). The main review (the post with review in the title, that is) is what I described as a “good bad review,” which is to say that it makes a serious effort to understand what the book is doing and has entirely sensible and justifiable reasons for it not being his cup of tea. The post actually linked, “Pwning Sandifer,” is a middling deconstruction, but middling is a hell of a good result for your first effort at deconstruction, and it’s worth reading for bit where it gets entertainingly excitable in its sheer horror that anyone would ever say the things that Thomas Ligotti says, culminating in a declaration that Ligotti is “nothing more than pure unadulterated evil,” italics his.
In a similar genre of “Yudkowsky fans attempt to pastiche the literary style of Neoreaction a Basilisk” is socialjusticemunchkin’s sort-of-ten-part review, which I link to Part 8 of, again because it has the index of the whole thing. In a reasonably clever joke about Mencius Moldbug’s failure to ever write Part 9c of A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations, Part 9 was deliberately excluded. It’s… not very good, to be honest – she makes a careless move I mostly avoid in the book of equating a genre/trope (the snarky and discursive style of Neoreaction a Basilisk) with an ideological movement (described with various combinations of the phrases “marxist,” “liberal arts,” and “eschatology”) which she then collapses into a completely homogenous set of beliefs. This is actually a thing rationalists do fairly often, it seems. Oh well. Still it has its entertaining moments, such as the suggestion that I’m secretly transgender.
Anyway, socialjusticemunchkin also goes by the name of “Promethea,” which she picked with no reference to Alan Moore, apparently. (I asked when I sent her the copy.) And then she decided to invoke Alan Moore in Part 1 via a very bad reading of Dr. Manhattan that ends up concluding that both Moore and I believe “all human minds are fundamentally intercomprehensible.” And you know how it is when you carelessly invoke the name of a Glycon’s high priest while using the name “Promethea” in a discussion of a book about snakes. So I wrote part 9 for her.
Rounding out Tumblr responses is perhaps the most astonishing of the bunch – a six-post sequence () that begins with fairly standard outrage about the book’s existence, escelates into growing apoplexy at the effectiveness of magic, and finally boils over into seething froth that essentially concludes that the basilisk is my penis, memorably described as a “wobbly head of soggy asparagus.”
And finally there are the neoreactionaries on Twitter who expressed a sort of puzzled dismay at the fact that a book by a Marxist Occultist has already raised more money on Kickstarter than the leading lights of neoreaction have collectively made off their work in years. One interpretation, I suppose, is that this just goes to show you how Marxists secretly control the world. Another more plausible one is that it helps to blog about Doctor Who for a few years before trying to sell esoteric books of horror-philosophy.
Anyway, that and some other things put me in mind of a simple, brief, and effective ritual to blunt the impact of the alt-right and neoreaction forever more, so I added it as a $13,000 stretch goal. If the Kickstarter hits that, I will deploy the ritual to this blog. (This is not, to be clear, some extended Super Nintendo Project-style project. It’s one very short post. But I promise it will be just as effective as the Super Nintendo Project.)
So if you want to end the alt-right and haven’t backed yet, or if you just want to see what the hell kind of book can produce that weird and wonderful a set of responses, the Kickstarter rumbles on.