Filed under: SF | Tags: human sacrifice, kings of wood, pulp novels, vikings v. mongols v. aztecs
The below entry was originally published as an email to friends.
Last month, I attended a party at a friend’s apartment. Toward the end of the evening, I was perusing the book shelves when my friend pointed out one of his prized literary possessions. He had purchased it at a garage sale or, I would prefer to think, an estate sale. It was a Tor pulp paperback, published in the 80s, entitled “KING OF THE WOOD.” On the cover, a ginger viking (he has a horned helmet signifying he is a viking), baring his teeth, lifts his broad sword aloft. Appropriately enough, he is standing in a forest. His shiny iron shield bears a wolf’s head. Above the title, the caption screams: “VIKINGS CLASH WITH MONGOL HORDES, AND AMERICA IS THE PRIZE!”
Upon reading the caption, I knew I had to read it. Or at least borrow it, just to be funny. Well, I read it. Below, for your consideration, dear reader:
MY BOOK REPORT:
The novel bears the trappings of a fantasy and science fiction joint, but it is more appropriately called “alternative history.” It takes place in 1450. A century before, the Vikings land in America and instead of being chased off like pussies by the angry natives, make permanent settlements all along the East Coast of North America. They give places like New York City Viking names like “Bjornsby Harbor.” The Moors from Muslim Spain settle in Florida (TERRORISMS!). The Aztec are unconquered and thrive throughout Mexico and Central America and after we meet them the author mentions human sacrifice 20 times a page because he is so excited about it. The villainous Mongols have conquered most of the Eurasian continent, North Africa, Japan and have their eyes set lustily on the New World…
The plot follows a ginger barbarian by the name of Hring as he is exiled from his Norse kingdom for killing a kinsmen and embarks on a meandering journey through most of North and Central America to follow his “wyrd” whatever the fuck that means. Every 25 pages or so Hring bangs a lady, or at least sees her naked (see below). Shortly after every sex scene is a badass fight sequence with swords. About 75% of the time, Hring ends up beheading some jerk. Hring somehow overcomes his absolute lack of personality or charm, when every new culture he stumbles into embraces him. Invariably they make him some kind of general or prince. Among Hring’s adventures (SPOILERS): seeing a witch naked, making fun of a king, seeing a bison in Florida, banging a witch after taking part in a pagan May Day festival where he sprays fake semen over the bodies of village virgins and molests them under official village government sanction, becomes a pirate, almost gets eaten by cannibals, hangs out with the Aztecs, scopes lots of human sacrifice, has lots of sex, decides rather randomly that he hates human sacrifice, learns Aztec, Crow, and Mongol languages, kills a bunch of guys with a stick while tied to a post at the top of the highest temple in Tenochtitlan, leads a Mongol army against the Aztecs, becomes a colonial administrator of the Mongol Horde, becomes king by his own hand in Norse North America, marries the witch, reconsiders his views on human sacrifice and offers himself up to the slaughter on another May Day to ensure a good harvest.
A choice passage: “She stripped off the outer garment, then pulled her undershirt over her head. She stood naked in front of him, her eyes as chill as steel. Her body was whiter than any milk, laced with a network of blue veins, like some fine marble. Her shoulders were broad, her waist narrow, swelling downward to wide, womanly hips. Her thighs and calves were powerful, and the sun behind her shone through a covering of white down, surrounding them with a pale halo. Her belly was rounded, swelling out from below the deep, wide navel into a double curve, cleft by a line running from the crotch upward. Her pubic thatch was a dense tangle of dark blonde curls writhing (ed. REALLY?) upward almost to the navel and coating her thighs on the insides for a handbreadth toward the knees. Hring was grateful that his mailed codpiece hid his reaction.” p. 31.
Everyone needs to read “King of the Wood.”
I generally keep this as a non-political space, except when it comes to Burritos. However, I have been encouraged by several people to blog my views about the results of the Senate race in Massachusetts, so they might receive (a little) broader exposure.
I generally don’t bother complaining about media coverage of political events. As we become more polarized, the mainstream media echoes, which is a type of laziness. Laziness manifests itself in superficiality. We see events covered in terms of 2012-type apocalyptic cycles, reoccurring every week. Routine events that transpire in accordance with long-set rules are treated like world-changing, mind-blowing, shocking new phenomena. Who won or lost this cataclysmic shift in the political world today? This becomes more important than actually engaging with the issues in a substantive way. For these reasons, I do not often complain or worry about the way media characterizes a political issue.
But sometimes it is important to examine who lost and why. Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley last week in a generally liberal state, Massachusetts, winning Teddy Kennedy’s seat. This is not as shocking as it appears*. Scott Brown did not change the world. The Democrats are not over as a party, just as the Republicans were not finished after the 2008 election or after they elected infamous fool Michael Steele to run the RNC. Also, I don’t believe this has anything to do with Barack Obama.
First Ancient Electoral Rule: If you are a douche with rock-solid hair and you are a Republican, you can really make a run! This has been a truth since Presidents started having hair instead of wigs.
You see, Massachusetts has been electing douchebag Republicans for quite some time. Remember Mitt Romney? They elected him! I doubt many in my generation would remember William Weld. TOTES DOUCHE. We can go back in history and look. Henry Cabot Lodge! Love that guy. In fact, until Deval Patrick won in 2008, every Governor of that state since Dukakis left in 1991 has been a Republican. A Republican is not shut out of a state-wide race in Mass.
Second Ancient Electoral Rule: If you run an interesting, exciting candidate that changes it up, you will (or are more likely to) win. If you run a party hack, you will fucking lose.
How often do we see the chosen candidate who views their run as their “turn” get trampled by some out of nowhere new face? How often do we have to see it until we stop running people who are an anathema to the idea of a meritocracy? A party hack did not rise through the ranks necessarily by merit. Rather, they rose from patronage or special interest adoration. We see Coakley, who ran a lazy and uninspired campaign, gets trounced by an exciting, albeit vapid, new candidate. A friend told me Coakley ran like 19 events last month, while Brown ran 66. Apparently, she was excited to lose because she got to hang out with her dogs (WTF?)! I had a friend, a fellow field organizer in the Obama army, who lives in Boston and offered to lead a canvassing team. He was shrugged off. They told him that they were focusing on calling. [SUB-RULE TO RULE #2: Obama campaign team training. First day. We were taught that canvassing improves turnout significantly and phone calls increase turnout not at all. If you want to know more, read this CLASSIC STUDY.]
You win elections not by mobilizing the base, but by mobilizing the independents. Independents don’t get psyched up enough to vote for just anyone. In fact, going to the polls isn’t even guaranteed for them. So how do you maintain the attention of someone who doesn’t want to pay attention? You excite them. You might be good looking, you might have an impassioned speaking voice, you might run a smartly designed and eye-catching campaign system, most importantly you might represent different ideas and policies (though this is happening less and less these days). You might get your base so excited that they share the enthusiasm with the independents. In my perfect world, a fresh candidate would actually be elected on greater merit than the party hack (though this is a questionable view). Either way, party hacks don’t win over independents easily. Given Rule #1, the Democrats should have known they couldn’t just offer up some dead fish and expect it to win, violating Rule #2. I don’t buy the argument put forward that there was no one else willing to run. I find it very difficult to believe that in Massachusetts of all places there weren’t any exciting alternative candidates available. I find it more likely that they were shut out by an incompetent state party.**
So, moral of the story: Keep your chin up. These things happen all the time. It’s not the end of the world.
*I understand it dooms health care, I am sad about that, but this post is not about health care.
** Be advised that I actually know next to nothing about state politics in MA.