Jack Vance Versus the Social Justice Warriors

“Intelligence” demands the most strict of definitions, since the word is easily and often abused. Intelligence rates the quality of Gaean man’s competence at altering the environment to suit his convenience, or, more generally, the solution of problems. The corollaries to the idea are several. Among them: In the absence of problems, intelligence cannot be measured. A creature with a large, complicated brain is not necessarily intelligent. Raw abstract intelligence is a meaningless concept. Secondly, intelligence is a quality peculiar to Gaean man. Certain alien races use different mechanisms and processes optimally to rearrange their environment. These attributes occasionally resemble human intelligence, and, on the basis of results achieved, the effective organs seem to serve analogous purposes. These similitudes almost always are deceptive and of superficial application.

— from Life, Volume II, by Unspiek, Baron Bodissey (as quoted by Jack Vance in The Book of Dreams)

Long-time readers and/or science fiction aficionados know that my nom de plume is that of a fictional character from books written by the late Jack Vance. But Unspiek, Baron Bodissey is actually at one remove from a fictional character — he is a literary figure whose observations on politics and sociology are excerpted in chapter headings and footnotes or quoted by fictional characters in the works of Jack Vance. The illustrious Baron never actually appears in any of the books — he is simply a cited authority.

It appears that among our readership there is at least one blogger who is also a Jack Vance fan. His name is Rex May (no known relation), and his blog is called Ex-Army — Libertarian Nationalist.

Jack Vance didn’t focus on politics all that much in his novels, but when he did, it was apparent that he was a traditional conservative à la Russell Kirk. His sardonic take on the socialist planet featured in Wyst: Alastor 1716 — whose particular brand of socialism was known by its adherents as “egalism” — leaves the reader in no doubt about his opinions on collectivists. Unfortunately for conservative-minded Jack Vance fans, the culture surrounding science fiction and fantasy (which are now lumped together under politically correct handle “speculative fiction”, if I’m not mistaken) is dominated by Social Justice Warriors nowadays. That’s why I mostly stay away from the fan forums — the milieu has become dismayingly politicized.

I knew when we started Gates of Vienna that my cognomen would evoke grievous distress in most SF fans. And you can imagine how much that bothered me…

Last month I wrote a meditation about the form of logic used in Islamic theology and jurisprudence. Contrary to popular misconception, Islam is not at all irrational. Islamic logic is simply very, very different from what we are used to in the West. From its inception, Islam had no use for Aristotle or Plato, and since then its intellectual path has diverged widely from our own. It applies its logical processes to a set of axioms that would appear alien to anyone brought up on the Greeks, the Romans, Aquinas, and the European Enlightenment.

Ex-Army read my essay and blogged on it in a post entitled “Jack Vance, Baron Bodissey, Gates of Vienna, and SJWs Everywhere” . He opens his piece with an emblematic Vancian epigram: “It is useless, after all, to complain against inexorable reality.”

I’ll let him take it from there:

In my opinion, Jack Vance is one of the greatest writers of his era. I’ve done several posts on him and his works, and you can find them by entering Jack Vance in “search this blog” at the top of the sidebar there on the right.

[quote from GoV shown in graphic form] If we want to defeat this enemy, it is imperative that we understand him. And he does not think the way we do. Muslim thought processes are different, especially in societies that have been Islamic for many generations. But they are neither insane nor illogical, they are simply alien.

Well, to continue this story, I sent a link to my last post plus the quibcag* to a discussion board devoted to Jack Vance [link]. I would have expected a board of Vance fans to be a little more sophisticated than most, but, alas, one commenter pounced on the quibcag and said something sarcastic about me “hating Muslims.” Interesting, no? The quote takes pains not to judge the intrinsic nature of Muslims or Islam, but rather to stress that they are different from us. And when you read the blog post that goes with it, you’ll find no more “hate” there, but just the undeniable assertion that Islam is based on assumptions that we do not accept, and that therefore it is not compatible with the West. But I was accused of “hate” anyway. What’s a SJW doing on a Jack Vance discussion board. But that’s a bit unfair. He may not be a SJW at all, but is simply reacting in a way he’s been taught. Any criticism of the flavor of the month — in this case Muslims/Islam — is to be denounced as some kind of “hate.” It’s an impulse that goes, as they say, to the spine and back rather than to the brain.

But it gets better. On the same board, discussing Vance’s The Gray Prince, a member comments:

Like most of us here, in view of Mr. Vance’s entire body of work, it’s virtually impossible to imagine he was capable of racial prejudice in his personal life. That said, “The Gray Prince” does invoke some disturbing parallels with racist practices and attitudes, particularly those in the antebellum South.

Those of you who know Vance’s work (and if you don’t you have a treat waiting for you) would not expect knee-jerk liberalism out of him on race or class or anything else. His attitude is typified by the quote in the third quibcag [not reproduced here]. Now, I don’t know what the commenter actually means by “it’s virtually impossible to imagine he was capable of racial prejudice in his personal life,” but I imagine he has some amorphous thing in mind about Vance being horrified at anything that violates the liberal narrative on the subject. And that’s absurd, because any reading of Vance leads one to conclude that he’s profoundly conservative (not neoconservative) and well aware of the reality and utility of traditional attitudes. To put it another way, when Vance deals with race, class, nationality, ethnicity, etc., in his writing, he handled the subjects realistically as opposed to ideologically. (A great many writers, especially science-fiction writers, do exactly the opposite, lacing their stories with hard-core politically-correct ideology at the expense of all realism. Much of their work is devoted to proving a point, which is a valid purpose, but which makes their writing less valuable than in might be.)

This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. This commenter has swallowed the SJW narrative whole, and can’t imagine that a great writer like Vance could possibly be anything but a doctrinaire liberal, because he’s been told all his life that non-liberals are ignorant, evil, stupid, and barely, if at all, literate. In short, the poor fellow is a Peefer if he only knew it. To learn about Peefers you must read The Cadwal Chronicles. [Note from the Baron: possibly the greatest series by Jack Vance, rivaling the Lyonesse Trilogy.]

But on the bright side, he is a fan of Vance, and if he reads him often enough and deeply enough, the Vancian sensibility is bound to rub off on him. One can’t really read Wyst: Alastor 1716 without internalizing a healthy skepticism towards all schemes for attaining egalitarianism through socialism and government planning. And a reading of either The Cadwal Chronicles or The Gray Prince will cause one to rethink the historical eras of colonization and decolonization.

For a realistic, objective, warts-and-all description of the pure cussedness of humanity, it comes down to either Jack Vance or Shakespeare. No rainbows or unicorns there. Just dragons.

Read the rest (and see the quibcags) at Ex-Army — Libertarian Nationalist

* Quibcag = “quote introduced by cute anime girl”.

24 thoughts on “Jack Vance Versus the Social Justice Warriors

  1. OK Baron, you left me hanging. In WHAT way is Arabian Logic that produced Islam different from Greek or European Logic that fostered Christianity or adopted it as its own. I have read both Socrates and Plato and I understand the didactic of the syllogistic argument. I use it every day of the week in my work. So HOW is Arabian logic different? How would they argue from premise to conclusion?

    • It’s analogical, and not syllogistic reasoning. All deductions (if you can call them that) are based on the Koran and the Sunna, and anything that is not explicitly described in those sources can be examined by analogy with something than is mentioned in scripture. This is how fatwas are derived concerning, say, women driving or the use of cell phones.

      It’s quite methodical and internally consistent, but does not at all resemble what we think of as logic.

      • It’s sort of like pre-Scholastic (and to some extent even Scholastic) medieval logic, which isn’t accidental as Scholasticism was the path that led upward toward modern science. Everything’s teleological, and the purposes all connect to lessons God means to teach Man. It’s all about Divine rewards and punishments.

        • Not as we know it, no. It’s a methodology for processing information about external reality in order to create a consistent and meaningful ontological model that describes and characterizes everything that one might encounter in Allah’s creation. Its core premise is that everything about creation that can be known may be found in the Koran and the sayings of Mohammed, plus the analogies based on those scriptural sources. The fiqh — Islamic jurisprudence — involves a rigorous process of the examination of the original sources plus earlier judgments derived from analogies, in order to determine whether any given thing or action is halal (approved by Allah), haram (condemned by Allah), or neutral. Not much ends up being identified as neutral — almost everything is halal or haram.

      • So that is the difference between Oriental thought and Occidental thought. Oriental though reasons by analogy and Occidental though reasons syllogistically.
        Jesus used analogy extensively in the parables He used to teach about the Kingdom of Heaven. When it came to a discussion of the Law however, He was very explicit and cited the OT chapter and verse saying, “You have heard….”
        Islam on the other hand is explicit about its descriptions of heaven and how to get there but uses parables and analogies to describe its standards of conduct.
        So Islam is Christianity ‘through the looking glass’ as it were.

    • Perhaps there’s something here that can help:


      Material Logic
      Building upon Formal Logic, Material Logic
      considers arguments from the standpoint of
      their matter, or content, rather than their form
      alone. The first part of the course introduces
      the student to the Latin scholastic development
      of Aristotle’s theory of knowledge, which
      traces the genesis of concepts in the human
      intellect through the process of abstraction.
      By studying the various stages of abstraction,
      the student learns the nature of the special
      cognitive powers (e.g., imagination, memory,
      and sense perception), which are indispensable
      to the intellect’s gradual perfection as the
      seat of human wisdom. The second part of
      the course covers Aristotle’s theory of the
      first principles of human reasoning, as well
      as the role necessity and contingency play,
      respectively, in demonstrative and dialectical
      arguments. This part also explores the reasons
      why modern and contemporary logicians have
      rejected both syllogism, as the essential form
      of demonstrative knowledge, and essentialism,
      which constitutes the traditional metaphysical
      foundation of scholastic logic. Finally, the third
      part involves study of dialectical reasoning and
      its fallacies, thereby introducing the student to
      the logical nature of everyday arguments found
      in, for example, political discourse.

      BTW, I heartily recommend Jack Vance, and the “Cadwal Chronicles” in particular!

  2. Baron, I like your explanation of (or rather a micro-essay into) the Islamic “logic”. Great summary of the “other” reasoning – and yes again, its analogical vs. deductive and “alien” indeed. Shall we call it inductive to some extent ? – The uncertainty factor present in the conclusions of inductive reasoning is eliminated by mullah/imam’s fatwas cementing the conclusion and leaving no space for doubt. Case in point: Mo fought with the Js and he called them XYZ – therefore all Js are bad, and make no mistake and lest we forget, there are fatwas reaffirming that time and again …

  3. Quite interesting, Baron. I never knew where your unit designation came from until now. I guess the mechanism of quotation from the Baron’s works that you describe is similar to how Herbert led off his chapters or episodes in the Dune novels. The long quote about intelligence that you provided here leads me to suspect that Vance may not have indulged quite as much as Herbert seemed to in attempts at deep or deepish philosophical speculation (though I appreciate what Herbert was trying to do with his opus – just that concepts like psychotropic precognition and heritable memories and so on are a bit of a departure from reality as we know it – still fascinating nevertheless). But I’ve never read a word of Vance, so I may have to try him out to determine this for certain.

    Is it possible that the thought process of an SJW is rational but alien in the same sense as that of Islamic thought? Not, obviously, exactly identical – but similar in terms of the root principles?

    • SJWs and leftists in general are less rigorous in their thinking than Muslims. Muslim reasoning is methodical but alien. Leftist thinking, however, is lax. The latter was originally based on Western reasoning, but it has deteriorated and become a vestigial, degenerate remnant of what used to be rigorous thought.

      That’s why leftists are ripe for conversion to Islam. If they hunger for a consistent, rigorous system, but are viscerally averse to returning to their Western roots, Islam may provide exactly what they need. Then they can continue hating and attacking Western Civilization, but using a consistent and systematic methodology — which carries the added bonus of divine approval. How could they resist?

        • Frightening. Those women(?) ‘speak’ as though they were in the middle of an epileptic seizure.
          So that is an example of what blacks call oratory! FGS!

  4. Dear Baron. ABS just read your essay you linked to and it is spot on.

    Far from there being any hijacking of Islam by terrorists – as our willfully ignorant politicians claim – their actions must be seen for what they are and they must be accorded a designation according to Mahometan reality.

    The plan and simple truth of the matter is that Jihadists are Saints within Islam for it is they who most faithfully actualise the putative commands of Allah as recorded in the crummy Koran and it is they, the Jihadists, who imitate the perfect man, Mahomet.

    The Jihadists are the true and faithful servants of the malign and mendacious Mahomet whereas our politicians are servants of Satan.

  5. Ayatollah Khomeini took power in Iran in 1979 and on, appropriately enough, April 1st, he proclaimed that day as the first day of God’s government

    He became the Imam of Iran and in that capacity he rendered this religious decision having to do with animals:

    A man can have sex with animals such as sheep, cows, camels and so on. However he should kill the animal after he has his orgasm. He should not sell the meat to the people in his own village, however selling the meat to the next door village should be fine

    Perversion in Iran’s Theocracy

    The Tahrirolvasyleh quotes seem to be doing the rounds on the net and are causing much distress to the Khomeini kids, who either feign ignorance or deny the book exists. Funny that, because Tahrirolvasyleh is one of Khomeini’s major works and is studied in detail by the Akhoonds. Then again it was written in Arabic, making it inaccessible to most Iranians. Tahrirolvasyleh is an Iranicised version of its Arabic title ‘Tahrir al Wasilah’, Khomeini’s ramblings on fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence). It comes in two volumes and was written by Khomeini whilst he was in Turkey. Not only does this literary masterpiece exist, but we have a downloadable version for your viewing pleasure. Tahrir.zip

    Take it way Ayatollah….

    A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a baby. However, he should not penetrate vaginally, but sodomising the child is acceptable. If a man does penetrate and damage the child then, he should be responsible for her subsistence all her life. This girl will not count as one of his four permanent wives and the man will not be eligible to marry the girl’s sister… It is better for a girl to marry at such a time when she would begin menstruation at her husband’s house, rather than her father’s home. Any father marrying his daughter so young will have a permanent place in heaven. [“Tahrirolvasyleh”, fourth edition, Qom, Iran, 1990]

    A man can have sex with animals such as sheep, cows, camels and so on. However, he should kill the animal after he has his orgasm. He should not sell the meat to the people in his own village, but selling the meat to a neighbouring village is reasonable.

    If one commits the act of sodomy with a cow, a ewe, or a camel, their urine and their excrement become impure and even their milk may no longer be consumed. The animal must then be killed as quickly as possible and burned.

    Wine and all intoxicating beverages are impure, but opium and hashish are not.

    If a man sodomises the son, brother, or father of his wife after their marriage, the marriage remains valid.

    During sexual intercourse, if the penis enters a woman’s vagina or a man’s anus, fully or only as far as the circumcision ring, both partners become impure, even if they have not reached puberty; they must consequently perform ablutions.

    A woman who has contracted a continuing marriage does not have the right to go out of the house without her husband’s permission; she must remain at his disposal for the fulfilment of any one of his desires, and may not refuse herself to him except for a religiously valid reason. If she is totally submissive to him, the husband must provide her with her food, clothing, and lodging, whether or not he has the means to do so. A woman who refuses herself to her husband is guilty, and may not demand from him food, clothing, lodging, or any later sexual relations; however, she retains the right to be paid damages if she is repudiated.

    If a father (or paternal grandfather) marries off his daughter (or granddaughter) in her absence without knowing for a certainty that she is alive, the marriage becomes null and void as soon as it is established that she was dead at the time of the marriage.

    It is not illegal for an adult male to ‘thigh’ or enjoy a young girl who is still in the age of weaning; meaning to place his penis between her thighs, and to kiss her. [“The Little Green Book”]

    If a man commits adultery with an unmarried woman, and subsequently marries her, the child born of that marriage will be a bastard unless the parents can be sure it was conceived after they were married. A child born of an adulterous father is legitimate.

    Ali [son in law of Mohammed], having cut off the hands of two thieves, treated their wounds and offered them his hospitality, and this affected them so much that they became utterly devoted to him; or again when he heard that the marauding army of Muawiyah had abused a woman of one of the tribes, he was so upset and moved to pity he declared: “If a man died after such an occurrence, no one could blame him.” And yet, despite a nature as sensitive as that, Ali bared his sword and hacked the perpetrators to pieces. This is the meaning of justice.

    – “The Sayings of Ayatollah Khomeini, Political, Philosophical, Social and Religious” (The Little Green Book), ISBN number 0-553-14032-9.

  6. Acuara might want to take a remedial logic class. Muslims simply use the Koran as the basis of all their thoughts { if you can call it that } and actions. Since the Koran consists of the utterings of a demented psychopath; most of what his followers do is demented and psychopathic.

    • and analogous to their demented example’s behavior as chronicled. There is a certain logic to the Qur’an, as well as the Book of Mormon. However, both require that you abandon all reason, inductive, deductive, and analytical upon entering into their belief system.
      BTW, I did take (with a grain of salt) Logic in Philosophy and Boolean Logic in College as part of my Computer Tech minor as a Bus Admin major. I used to find the logical stretches utilized by politicians amusing, now I find them to be nauseating.

  7. I’m not familiar with the works of Vance and am glad that I stopped reading long before the advent of recent “social justice” SF. But I recall that the older cohort of science fiction/fantasy writers, even those that may have been liberal Democrats, had a certain conservative sensibility to their writings: skepticism of human social “progress”, a grand view of the cyclical nature of history, the existence of good and evil, a belief in individualism, a recognition that there are spiritual intelligences higher than that of the human, or “humanoid”. Certain authors like Heinlein, EE Smith, Tolkien etc. were quite open about their conservative views. Alas, how a once great literary genre has fallen.

  8. You should never underestimate the enemy …Islam has developed as a never ending conquering-maschine that has proven capable of adjusting its basic doctrines to the changes in external conditions …Islam is logic in the same way as evolution itself, its sole purpose is to multiply its virtual DNA, and to keep this virtual DNA free of contamination ….and as such it is best understood as the PLAN B of human cultural evolution: if we don’t get our act together pretty soon, we will be replaced by another general strategy

  9. Good Lord. You are the sort of sputtering, paranoiac buffoon that Vance lampooned in his best works. Fortunately you’ll be forgotten by the Bugardoigs of your own making in due time.

  10. Just so you know, “speculative fiction” is a neither new or PC, it is a very old term championed by Orson Scott Card in the 1980s.

    • I am an old man. Anything later than about 1975 is new to me. Orson Scott Card, for example (whom I greatly admire, by the way).

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