Greetings, gutter-born sewer people of the industrialized and enslaved Wetlands! It is I, Vrokthar the Skull-Feaster, Scourge of the Northern Wastes. It seems I am yet again driven to bellow oaths of vengeance from my throne of skulls, even though it was scarcely a half-moon’s time since last I came to berate thee. But some things will not stand, and so Vrokthar inscribes his mighty words into his slate so that you might tremble at their utterance.
It has come to my attention that you have liked a Thing that I did not. It matters not what. What matters is this:
You are wrong.
It matters not what this Thing is! However, for the sake of argument, let us say that this thing is a tale of high adventure in distant lands in ages long past. Perhaps about a cadre of barbarous raiders who hath usurped the authority of their rightful leader and have, therefore, sought succor from an ancient, wicked sorcerer who will smite the king’s champion on the field of battle. Yes, let us say it is about that.
Let us therefore say, for the sake of argument, that Vrokthar did not enjoy this tale. In this case, it is impossible that you have enjoyed it. No matter how feeble-brained or malnourished you are, that which Vrokthar believes must, by rights, be the belief of all. This is the Order of Things. Vrokthar is the Keeper of Universal Truths. I know this because the previous Keeper of Universal Truths, Hodrank the Horrible, was slain by mine own hand and his head removed and skull polished so that I might keep the Truths therein (just as Hodrank kept the Truths in the skull of his predecessor). As I hold the skull, so too do I dictate your experiences. If I say you are wretched, cowardly wetlanders, it is doubtlessly so. If I say you are diseased, half-dead wastrels, likewise the truth is readily apparent to those who have eyes.
Of note, those who contradict me will have their eyes gouged out. So it is written.
But Vrokthar digresses! The main thing is this: your opinions are worthless. If the Thing is obviously bad to Vrokthar, it is bad by nature. There can be no argument, because Vrokthar is right. And yet you pack of whining dogs cannot cease your howling! “We loved it!” sayeth you. “It was everything we hoped it would be!” you continue. Fie on such untruths! Your weak beer and over-cooked meats have weakened your minds or, worse yet, you are seeking to spread sedition among Vrokthar’s tribesmen!
Yes! I see your plot, now! Ha! You are undone! Your inexplicable love for the Thing can only be rationalized as a duplicitous ploy! Clearly you know the Thing to be terrible – even a half-blind child could see this! – so you are simply lying to gain favor among the weak and impressionable! But of course such an obvious ploy is doomed to failure! As Vrokthar knows the Thing is terrible, so too will his followers – they are loyal and, more importantly, know that I’m carrying around Hodrank’s skull full of Truths.
The logic here is clear and obvious! Vrothar is Right! As Vrokthar is Right, so therefore must those who disagree be Wrong. The Wrong must be purged so that the Right may claim their lands and loot their halls. That’s just Nature for you. Woe to thee who loves the Thing that Vrokthar hates! Thy name will be burned from the sagas, just as this terrible movie shall be expunged from the minds of the Righteous! Yes, flee from my wrath – the hunt only makes the kill sweeter. In time, you will see that mighty Vrokthar is right about that, as well.
Dear Duke Lothario,
If you are receiving this correspondence, it is because you have successfully stolen Degas’s The Bellelli Family from Musee D’Orsay in Paris and have found our note taped to the back of the canvas. Congratulations, monsieur, on your successful heist and be assured that our fence, Madame Noir, shall be by tomorrow at midnight to take possession. This note, however, will be stolen off your person by tomorrow morning by the one and only Chat Mauve. Do not try to stop him; you will only embarrass yourself.
Why have we gone to such lengths? It is to inform you of an unparalleled opportunity developing in the United States of America. As you may have heard, inveterate fool and consummate imbecile Donald Trump has managed to achieve the White House (thanks, in no small part, to our meddling, we assure you – your service fees at work!), and now, friends, our true work begins. A golden age of kleptocracy is about to begin in the US of A, and we would love for you to be part of it!
Let it be known that we are contacting every hustler, grifter, sneak-thief, footpad, brigand, con-man, cat burglar, extortion artist, cutpurse, second-story man, bandit, robber, and pickpocket in our network that, once Trump takes office, we are declaring open-season on any and all American goods, artifacts, or government assets. We are buying military equipment, real-estate, physical assets (e.g. gold), and artifacts. Grab all you can carry – we are absolutely certain that the FBI, NSA, and CIA will be entirely too worried tracking down Hispanic farm workers with unpaid parking tickets to bother stopping you from filching weapons-grade plutonium from a government lab. Their eyes will be so fixated on signing unassuming Muslims up on some fascist database that not a single person will notice if the Washington Monument goes missing. Trump isn’t even living in the White House, so the whole damned place is basically unoccupied except by those glorified rent-a-cops in the Secret Service and, let’s face it, you are just three or four high-end strippers away from having the run of the place!
Just to give you a taste of the things we’re looking to purchase off the ambitious villains willing to pull it off, here is an incomplete list:
- The US Constitution (an easy grab, since we doubt it will be seeing much use)
- The Declaration of Independence (note: do not look for any secret treasure maps)
- Lincoln’s Head from the Lincoln Memorial (rest of statue optional)
- The VA Hospital system (the whole thing–no partial buys)
- A Commissioned Aircraft Carrier (deliverable to our offices in Arkhangelsk, Russia)
- Minuteman missiles (for our mad-scientist clients–demand is high, so prices are too!)
- Trump’s Toupee (careful–it might bite)
- Mount Vernon and/or Monticello
- The US Interstate Highway System (suffering from some disrepair, so be delicate)
- Mount Rushmore (Teddy Roosevelt only)
And on and on and on…
Friend, the possibilities here are literally endless, but act quickly – Trump’s minions are going to be pawning a lot of this stuff off soon, so supplies are more limited than you think!
Good luck, Duke Lothario! Remember: your success is our success!
Financial Operations and Underwriting Limited (FOUL)
Wretched Wetlanders, Weakling Half-Men of the Fat South, heed the words of Vrokthar the Skull-feaster, on this, the eve of your pathetic day of thanks.
By the decrees of this loyal ensorcelled word-slate, it has become clear to Vrokthar that soon thou shalt feast. This strikes Vrokthar as redundant, as he cannot think of a time when you miserable cowards do not stuff thy obese faces with innumerable decadent confections. How canst thou tell the difference between a feast and thy regular obnoxious gluttony? But no matter.
Vrokthar, too, intends to celebrate this coming day. Yes, a feast of true proportions is being prepared by mine own slaves even as I etch my words into the ether. There shall be wolf liver boiled in blood! Goat brain! Many different confections of the boiled entrails of various venomous beasts! And, of course, a great platter of the finest man-bacon, cured from enemies slain by Vrokthar’s own hand.
And then, when the feasting has complete, Vrokthar and his thanes shall recline in his longhouse and boast and drink until the winter sun has risen again. This, by my count, ought to be four and a half days.
During this time, opportunity for contemplation will unfortunately arise. I realize thou must wonder, in your abject terror, what thoughts graces the unstoppable mind of Vrokthar. Does he contemplate razing your pathetic city to ash? Does he have designs upon your cattle and your children to increase he already vast wealth?
The answer is YES! Vrokthar shall take what he pleases, and what pleases him is vast and uncountable. That, however, is not where this conversation is going, you unspeakable toad-people. Think of others for a change!
No, Vrokthar, in those moments of drunken introspection, shall think instead of those things he is grateful for about your miserable, ill-begotten “culture.”
To begin with, Vrokthar is please you have deigned to crown the Trump as thy king. This makes him a worthy foe, and my armies will take great pleasure in setting fire to his golden tower and dragging him away in my battle sledge, there to serve me as a hairless, mewling slave. That is, of course, assuming his orangeness is not a sign of divine protection, in which case Vrokthar will have him skinned and mounted upon his best shield, so that I might be invincible in battle. It goes without saying that the pelt he wears upon his head will join my trophy case or, if it proves large enough (which is doubtful), I may fashion it into a loincloth for formal occasions.
Also, Vrokthar is inordinately pleased this year that many of your most odious and cacophonous musicians have, at long last, saw fit to die and leave mine ears in peace. This has been a most glorious year in that regard, for all wetlander music is decadent and depraved. All Vrokthar wishes to hear is the laments of his enemies and the wails of his suffering servants, and it is good to see that this is becoming the norm. Lo, but thy wails of grief have coddled Vrokthar in this trying time!
Finally, let it be known that Vrokthar is most grateful that the Chicago Cubs have at last won the World Series, and thereby lifted the century-long enchantment that hath protected the City of Wind from my wrath and the wrath of my ancestors. Truly, a great reaping is at hand! The city of Chicago shall weep beneath my heavy boots, and many skulls shall adorn my wall, complete with their Cubs-related paraphernalia (though any doubles shall be sold on EBay – keep an eye on my auction page).
Oh, yes, and of course I am thankful for skulls (and their innumerable uses in home decor and housewares), massive axes, mighty blades, and the howling arctic winds of the vast north, so cold that they might flense the flesh from the weak and give girth and succor to the mighty.
Though, now that I think about it, it is getting unusually warm up here lately, and the ice floes are paltry shadows of their former selves. Do you fools have anything to do with that? What black sorcery have you been devising?
I may have to come down there. But first, I feast.
Hi, everyone – sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’ve been a mixture of sick and busy and just haven’t been able to get back. Hopefully you’ve all had time now to read my story in Perihelion. Right?
Anyway, for today’s topic, I’d like to discuss satire a bit. It’s on my mind lately largely because it is becoming more and more prevalent in my social media feeds of late and, like most things, I have definite opinions about it I want to voice, and as this is my blog, well, you know the rest.
Satire, technically speaking, is a style of art that exaggerates something in society (usually people or customs) to the point of absurdity for the purpose of critique. While it is often humorous, it doesn’t need to be. Ostensibly, its purpose is to effect social change or draw attention to social problems, which is broadly what distinguishes it from parody, which is primarily intended to entertain and, indeed, satire can use parody, but in the end it often isn’t very funny.
The thing about satire is that it can be done very well (e.g. The Onion or The Borowitz Report) or it can be done very poorly (The Daily Currant comes to mind, though it has gotten a lot better in recent years). The difference, to me, is this: if you, a reasonably intelligent person, read a satirical article and cannot actually tell whether or not it is satirical or not, this is bad satire. If you find yourself googling whether or not the thing described actually happened, it has failed as a piece of satirical writing.
Let me explain: Satire is the art of exaggeration for the purpose of creating an effect. It is a kind of reductio ad absurdum: “If political figure A is like this, it basically means they could also be like this absurd thing, which is stupid.” However, if your satirical piece comes across as merely “extreme but plausible,” then the “satire” part hasn’t hit home. People who already agree with the critique the satire was intending are merely outraged and the people who disagree with the critique don’t notice that a critique has been made. You haven’t actually satirized, you’ve just made something up.
Granted, lots of people get confused by good satire, too. The Onion frequently gets angry e-mails from people who thought their articles were factual. Some folks out there thought the “Stephen Colbert” of The Colbert Report was actually a conservative. Obviously, satire is not for the dull-witted. However, satire needs to wink at the audience at some point. They need to realize that this isn’t real, but is making a point through absurdity. Any reasonably well-informed person should be able to tell the difference, even if at first they are confounded.
I’ve been seeing lots of bad satire lately. Saw a piece the other day claiming Mike Pence didn’t want to use the word “vice” in Vice President because of religious grounds. The article barely had any indication that this was false, and even though it seemed extreme, it wasn’t so extreme that it was impossible. The article included links to actual events, which merely obfuscated things further. It was by a Journalism professor. The winks to the audience, such as they were, were so subtle as to fail to qualify. It was only after looking at the author’s other publications on the Huffington Post that you could see the pattern – this guy is a satirist. Just a bad one.
Part of the trouble, I fear, is because our current political climate is pretty absurd to begin with. It’s hard to get crazier than Trump, and satire is a challenging business in any event. Nevertheless, now is the time for satirists to shine, and shine they must. If they don’t, nobody will know they were there until Snopes posts a declaration, and by then their message will have been lost in the scramble. As E.B White once said:
Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better, but the frog dies in the process.
Hail, unholy brethren! We meet tonight, beneath a moonless sky, to discuss our fiendish and ungodly enthusiasm for that blackest of black speech, the literature of fantasy authors. Bill will pass around the basket for monthly dues, as usual. No more newt’s eye, please – we’ve still got a crap-ton we’re trying to unload on those Wiccans who meet in the university annex down on 5th street. Stacey is also circulating a copy of the minutes from last month’s minutes. Just everybody confirm it’s written in the blood of an unbaptized virgin and we can get to new business.
All set? Oh, and there’s a fountain of baby tears at the back if you’re thirsty. And coffee. Yes, Paula, there’s decaf. Jesus.
Okay, new business:
It has come to our unholy attention that Graeme Whiting, head of the Acorn School, has declared to all who will listen that our genre of literature – Fantasy – is likely to damage the sensitive brains of young children. He says that he “stands for the ‘old-fashioned values of traditional literature’ rather than the modern ‘dark, demonic literature’ which could warp children’s subconscious minds.”
He is, of course, entirely correct. Such is our goal and has been ever since the Grand Wizard Tolkien spoke to us in the thousand-tongues of the goat-footed god and gave us our life’s goal: to consume children’s innocence with tales of wonder and magic.
What is distressing is this: Mr. Whiting suggests to the world that parents “leave those mystical and frightening texts for when they can discern reality, and when they have first learned to love beauty.”
This, of course, may prove to be an existential threat to our goals, and must be counteracted. Why, if children learn to love beauty, they will never be indoctrinated into our hellish ways and our nefarious cult may die out with its goals of world domination unrealized. This must not come to pass! Think of the mind-warping horrors children will be spared!
If our future acolytes are driven away from Harry Potter, the unholy ominbus of Grand Priestess Rowling (praise be her name!), how shall we infest the youth with the demonic notion that even the least among us may hold within them great power? Why, in studying the forbidden books’ heretical whisperings, children will develop the perverse idea that people should not be judged by outward appearances but rather by internal character and nobility. Think of the wickedness the world would be spared if these books are banned from young eyes!
And what may occur if the impressionable innocents of future generations are not exposed to the grim and hapless prose of Dark Master Roald Dahl? Why, how can we be assured that children are corrupted to believe they are independent and respected agents of their own fate? We will never bring about the end of civilization if innocent youths are indoctrinated into a love of chocolate or exposed to the possibility of going on an adventure inside oversized produce. Indeed, Dark Master Dahl’s work has been instrumental in making school heads look like sadistic monsters ever since his black manifesto, Matilda, was circulated among the unsuspecting population. Obviously Mr. Whiting caught on to what we were doing there. He is a clever one, no doubt, and must be taken seriously if global apocalypse is to be assured.
(pause for evil laughter)
But let us consider the gravest of threats posed by this unrepentant servant of the light, Mr. Whiting (foul gods! Even his name is a clue to his spotless soul!). What if Mr. Whiting manages to get children to not read the works of the almighty Grand Wizard himself? Why, without Tolkien ravaging the immaculate souls of children, they may never grow up never having his magic worked upon their deepest being. Then, instead of becoming lovers of such black virtues as “peace,” “fellowship,” “humility,” and the “beauty of nature,” they will instead grow up to gallantly work as cogs in the mighty machine of the modern world, bravely grinding their hopes and dreams to dust so that they can selflessly save society from the foul curse of dreaming about sunlight and the sound of trees.
And then the forces of evil will lose.
Brothers and Sisters in Wickedness, we must redouble our efforts. We must strive to put a Pratchett in every pre-teen’s hands. We must slip Lloyd Alexander beneath the pillows of unsuspecting whelps the world over! We must not rest until we inflict the words of Lewis Carroll, L Frank Baum, Suzanne Collins, Ray Bradbury, and David Eddings upon the impressionable minds of young people, twisting their brains into organs capable of that great perversion: unrestricted imagination, wonder, and love of reading.
If we fail, the forces of light will triumph, and our children will instead learn to read sterilized, safe, and reverent works of great literature, such as Titus Andronicus, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Odyssey, Heart of Darkness, Beowulf, and Frankenstein.
You know: kids’ stuff.
Will the wailing of you weakling wetlanders never cease? Now, I, Vrokthar the Skull-feaster, Scourge of the Northron Wastes, am forced to listen to you moan and weep over who shall be your next King? What madness is this? What ails thy current King, the one known as “Obama?” Hath his death-drones abandoned him? Why can he not slay his rivals, as is fitting? Is his champion, Biden, bereft of blade and fire with which to burn the homes of his foes? This perplexes me.
Why should finding the Obama’s successor require so much time and foolish preening, like cocks strutting in the yard? Why do these contenders not merely fall upon one another on the field of battle and the mightiest prove the gods’ favor in him? This talk of “super delegates” and “caucuses” is madness.
But lo, Vrokthar is no man to sit and ponder the mysteries of your depraved people! Vrokthar acts, and what he does shakes the foundations of the world! So it is that I will settle your whimpering, once and for all, and command you to choose the king who would suit thee best. Therefore, wetlanders, heed me: Trump is now thy new King. Bow down to the Trump, lest thee be slain for thy insolence!
Why? You dare to question Vrokthar’s wisdom? He who hath slain seven polar bears with his bare hands? He who hath razed thy villages and sold thy children into slavery in the Mysterious East? For this insult, all you and your clan shall have thy bones ground to meal to make my bread!
But, in the meantime, Vrokthar shall explain.
This Trump is the only suitable King for your wretched people. In the first place, he is an unnatural color orange, and therefore is no doubt blessed by the gods. Indeed, his skin may even be impervious to the spears of his enemies, as was the case with Golmarg the Yam-Colored in days of yore. Furthermore, this chief Trump is the only candidate who wears the pelt of a beast he hath slain upon his head. I know not what unnatural creature it was, but I can be certain that it was a mighty battle, given how restlessly the pelt lies upon the Trump’s brow.
Yes, the Trump will be a mighty King. Already he hath found innumerable enemies for thy people to ride forth and slay. Yes, much war and glory shall come to your shores with this new King. The name of thy tribe shall ring with fear the world over, and he even promises to be so fearsome that thy foes shall construct a mighty wall to keep thee out. It is a testament to the bloodthirsty urges of the Trump (and, indeed, to all barbarians) the height and length of the walls their enemies, in their abject terror, are forced to construct.
Let it also be known that the Trump speaks his mind, not fearful of being called a liar, for such persons will no doubt be silenced by his champions. He speaks in short words, which is fortunate for the many fools who dawdle their pointless existences within your borders, and when he speaks, he speaks of victory! Yes, the Trump promises to win in all things, just like a good chief must. Care not that he hath no “plan” or “knowledge” – such are the trappings of lesser men! A true king acts, he does not plan! A true king makes his vision true by force and rage and the blessings of the gods! Surely, his orange hide is proof enough of his virility!
The Trump hath many wives and hath built great towers to his own glory! He hath pillaged fortunes and then squandered them and then pillaged still more, without care for the weaklings who perished in his wake! Those who challenge him he mocks, for he knows they are too weak to face him in battle! He is, at long last, a King worthy of my own people, who ravage the northern wastelands and live hard lives worthy of the name.
Who else wouldst thou select, fools? The duplicitous dowager queen? The wild-haired old madman? The beardless, malevolent wood-sprite? That other guy, who bears no discernible features?
No! It will not be! Trump is the victor – Vrokthar hath declared it! Kneel to him and his battle sledge, or become the first of the slaves tasked to build his mausoleum! So Vrokthar hath decreed!
Trust me in this, weaklings. It takes a true barbarian king to know his own kind.
Disturbing news reaches the ears of Vrokthar the Skullfeaster, Scourge of the Northern Wastes. As I brood upon my throne of desiccated entrails, I am told of a soft wetlander praising the virtues of strapping armor across one’s body.
This angers me. How typical of soft, womanly wetlanders to cower behind their technologically sophisticated weapons technology. Here, in the Wastes, true men face death with their chest bare and their great axe held high, to show their contempt for the weakness of their opponent. When Vrokthar goes to battle, he wears nothing but the blood of a holy bull, slaughtered as a sacrifice to Mook’ta, the God of Mindless Hatred. Never has Vrokthar died in battle, and this is proof of the effectiveness of his holy protection. The warriors that die when thusly blessed were not true believers, and so it is that the tribe of the Meaty Fists is the most pious of all the great tribes.
Only those who wet themselves with fear would cover themselves with articulated, battle-tested protection harness. Those who fear are not men, but women. So it is that Vrokthar makes a point to plant his seed in all armored wetlanders he captures, as they are clearly women. That they have failed to bear Vrokthar sons is little surprise – the soft, wetlander womb is poor soil for his harsh northern seed. Indeed, Vrokthar is so virile that he has yet to discover even a Northern woman capable of bearing him a son. All he has is useless daughters, whom he sells to buy mead for his tribesmen, for he is a great and noble man.
If the well-disciplined, well-equipped armies of the weakling civilizations of the south come to battle and it does not please Vrokthar to offer them battle, this must not be interpreted as cowardice. Vrokthar has no need to prove his naked flesh and mighty battle-cries against the womanly ranks of an organized army. What would such battle prove? There is no honor in killing limp-dicked men who have made themselves into a walking wall of steel. How could Vrokthar even determine which of their skinny, fruit-slurping number is the chief and challenge him to single combat? If Vrokthar cannot engage his enemy in single combat, then Vrokthar has better things to do. He will pack up his entire tribe and vanish into the steppe, making the so-called invicible legions of the south appear foolish as they occupy our worthless territory and find nothing but goats and scrub-grass. My, the laughs we have at their wretched expense.
Vrokthar wishes to speak no more of such foolishness as ‘armor’ and ‘discipline’. It is time to drink mead and take pleasure among the sheep. We will do this naked, as the God of Mindless Hatred intends. He smiles upon us, and laughs at your foolish wetlander ways in your soft, warm, prosperous cities. We are mightier than you, and will die a glorious death in battle long before any of your own soldiers.
That or dysentery. Very many of us die of dysentery.