All posts filed under: Fiction

What if the Industrial Revolution Happened to Rome?

My novel Kingdom of the Wicked — Rules took me 13 years to write. It has been a long time between drinks. Rules isn’t all of it, either. Book II, Order, comes out in March, so apologies for the cliffhanger. However, rest assured I haven’t gone all George R.R. ­Martin on you. Everything is ­written, with only final editorial to complete. I’m aware many people neither expected nor wanted me to write anything after The Hand That Signed the Paper. To those who wanted me to shut up and go away, I’m here to tell you while I went away (I have become one of those irritating expatriate British-Australians), I have no intention of shutting up. Two years after The Hand That Signed the Paper was published in 1994, I began to research and write a historical novel set during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasian. A local television station even flew me to Italy, allowing me the time and resources to do further research, in exchange for appearing on one of its programs. There was one problem: the book I started to …

Read Houellebecq To Free Your Mind

Let’s say that you, like many Quillette readers, are part of the broad coalition that aims to promote greater engagement with dangerous ideas and fight political correctness – call it cultural libertarianism if you wish, but in reality the coalition includes many social conservatives and others who don’t really fit that label. What should you read? Who should your intellectual heroes be? An obvious answer is John Stuart Mill; approving references to Mill’s wonderful On Liberty have become something of a ritual for those of us with such concerns. But there’s room for more heroes besides Mill, and room for disagreement and debate about who those figures should be. In this essay, I’d like to suggest that the contemporary French novelist Michel Houellebecq may be such a figure. Though Houellebecq has a large international audience and many Quillette readers are surely familiar with his work, I find that his name isn’t invoked that often in the discussions of cultural issues with which we are concerned. But it should be. Houellebecq has something to offer to …

Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle: Science, Commerce, Freedom, and the Origins of Modernity

They are [letters] from brothers of mine in Europe. They tell a story – albeit in a fragmentary and patchwork way – of a sea-change that is spreading across Christendom, in large part because of men like Leibniz, Newton and Descartes. It is a change in the way men think, and it is the doom of the Inquisition. — Edouard de Gex in the dungeons of the Mexican Inquisition Athenian civilization defended itself from the forces of Ares with metis, or technology. Technology is built on science. … The process of science doesn’t work unless young scientists have the freedom to attack and tear down old dogmas, to engage in an ongoing Titanomachia. Science flourishes where art and free speech flourish. — Enoch Root, in a later incarnation in Cryptonomicon The principal and proper work of history being to instruct and enable men by the knowledge of actions past to bear themselves prudently in the present and providently toward the future. — Thomas Hobbes, introduction to his translation of Thucydides Commentary on Neal Stephenson’s Baroque …

“Kill All Normies” Online Culture Wars and the Rise of the Alt-Right—A Review

A Review of Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt- Right, by Angela Nagle. Zero Books, $9.99 (Kindle edition).   An Irish literary critic and academic as well as a “dirtbag leftist” with bylines in Jacobin, The Baffler, and Current Affairs, Angela Nagle documents here the background and breakthroughs of the online politics which helped shape the 2016 election. It is an important topic and a fascinating one, and Nagle demonstrates the requisite impartiality: her conclusions do end up fitting her new-old-left politics nicely (as demonstrated by approving book-jacket quotes from Connor Kilpatrick of Jacobin and Amber A’Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House and Current Affairs), but they’ve garnered approval across the political spectrum, from Nagle’s neck of the woods all the way to the stodgy Never-Trumpism of the National Review. Unfortunately, one gets the impression that Nagle and Zero were both quite aware of how urgently this analysis was needed; the product seems rushed, even unfinished. Kill All Normies is merely a good start in need of deeper research, …

In Defence of Anonymity

Few recent events have united public opinion more than CNN’s petty, vindictive and astonishingly self-defeating investigation into the life of an anonymous Redditor who had created a mischievous GIF aimed at the station. It had repurposed a clip of Donald Trump clotheslining WWE CEO Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania by putting a CNN logo on McMahon’s face. Many thought it puerile and obnoxious when the President tweeted the GIF out to the world but when the media giant targeted its obscure, anonymous creator—discovering his real-life Facebook page and implicitly threatening that they would expose him if his postings annoyed them again—their bullying angered even Trump’s liberal critics. One did not have to like “@HansAssholeSolo” to dislike the power imbalance. Being so dense as to think that people would side with the multi-billion dollar corporation says something about the delusions of the media classes. Still, some sympathised with the network. Most of them were journalists. David Frum, the Atlantic columnist, proclaimed: Predictably, this did not go down well on Twitter. “Spoken like someone who does not fear for their safety,” wrote “@SaucissonSec”. …

Your Guide to Blaming Russia for Everything

There’s a secret that not many people know. It’s time you were briefed on it. Close the door and make sure you’re not being followed. Things have gone too far to keep this under wraps any longer. This is going to feel like Ivan Drago punched you in the face. This time there’s no Rocky Balboa to dance around in a boxing ring wrapped in a flag in slow-motion and save freedom. It’s just you and me. This is liberty’s last stand against the barbarian hordes of the steppes. It’s time to wake up and smell the dark-roast Kremlin coffee. I’m talking dark-roast as in a steaming cup of pitch-black, irredeemable evil splashed in your face right after you smell it. If it’s any consolation for the disturbing content to come, the following semi-information will allow you to criticize populist, white Republicans as well as Russians, so it’s an automatic win-win. Let’s start at the beginning. Remember the serpent who tempted Eve to disobey God? That serpent was actually called Vladimir Serputin and he was …

Safe University

Heart fluttering, Sophia Libby thumbed through her lecture notes as she waited for the last few students to trickle into the room. The mere sound of their voices now stirred within her a sense of dread that was, physiologically, identical to what an inmate experiences while being prepped for execution. The feeling was said to be common among teachers at inner-city public schools. But not professors at top-tier universities. A resonant buzz, her phone vibrating against the surface of the lectern, startled her, and she glanced down to find that an email had just arrived from Dick Swaddler, the Dean of Students. The emetic power of the Dick’s missives had grown substantially in recent years, and as Sophia began reading, she saw that the present piece was no less potent than usual. Dear Faculty, Just a quick reminder that our students’ well-being is our top priority. I recently received a report that one of our colleagues said the words, “That’s wrong,” to a student during a recitation. That student is now undergoing counseling. With this …