Also known as Kate reviews Damien Walter’s Twitter review of Opera Vita Aeterna by Vox Day. Yes. That Vox Day. You know, the Evil Lord of Evil himself, who for reasons known only to himself spends most of his time incognito writing interesting blog posts that are only offensive if you can’t sort out the difference between facts stated bluntly and insults or doing his thing with writing, software, and whatever all his other dozen day jobs entail (I haven’t asked, but I can tell he’s a busy man. How? He makes time for other people while apologizing for not being able to do much because he’s juggling too many other commitments).
As those who haven’t had their heads firmly buried in the sand will know, Damien Walters recently covered himself with… something… in an article about the future being queer. I had a bit to say about that last week. You can imagine my surprise when I found this giant of literature had elected to read and comment on Vox Day’s piece – which is, for those with their earholes and nostrils stuffed with sand, one of the nominees for this year’s Hugo awards (and yes, that noise you hear is indeed the sound of innumerable panties full of glitter (from all the feminist glittery hoo haas) spontaneously wadding themselves to combustion point. Be warned. It’s dangerous out there with all that glitter catching fire.
Anyway. After taking a look at the rather sad spew of so-called insults on Mr Walters Twitter feed, I took it upon myself to read Opera Vita Aeterna and actually, you know… comment on it a bit. Even sort of review it. Only sort of, because I’m not a proper reviewer like Mr Walters.
Anyway, you know it’s going to be a fair, unbiased review when it starts with “Well, I guess I better read this Vox Day novelette then. If it’s better than Mein Kampf I’ll be mildly relieved.” Now aside from the little question of which translation of Mein Kampf he’s using (because I guarandamntee you the translation matters – a good translation can lift a dreary work and a bad one can coat a gem with raw sewage) this really is a remarkably low bar for relief. Perhaps the gentleman needs to get himself some satisfaction somewhere outside his job?
Anyway, his next tweet smacks the piece for adjectival overload in the opening paragraph which strikes me as kind of odd because what niggled me was overuse of “He was” when the same impression could have been made without those two words. Still, stylistic niggles quickly become invisible if the piece works well enough, and that was the case here.
Moving on, Mr Walters appears to have trouble with atmospherics, since his next Tweet reads, “The sun is pallid, the dark is incipient, promises are whispered. Never make your meaning clear to the reader. Clarity is weakness.” Funnily enough I had no issues with the meaning here, so I guess he was looking for some kind of racist code words buried in here that he couldn’t find.
This micro-rant is followed by one on too many topics per paragraph, which tells me he’s not seeing the actual topic – although since I don’t know which paragraphs he’s talking about I’m not going to make a guess here. Let’s just say I have my suspicions and they have to do with the way the world building is unfolded.
After a few more micro-rants that miss the point, we get to this: “Have you a hostel in which a traveler weary may rest for the night?” THAT”S HOW THEY TALKED IN YE OLDE FANTASY TIMES.” Well, no. Aside from the actual text being “weary traveler” this is clearly polite formal speech from a noble (of sorts) to a person of a much lower class. It’s also got a teensy bit of deliberate archaism in it to give the feel of belonging to a quasi-medieval time frame. What did you want, mate, “Hey, dude, can I, like, hang out for the night?”
The next few tweets are largely rants about slow-paced narrative (because apparently he expected Vox to leap straight into evil racist action or something) while utterly missing the point. The really screamingly obvious point that we have an elf – a being widely held to be soulless – at a monastery because he wants to find out if the deity the monks are dedicated to (who is, yes, the Christian deity) is real. In short, we’re being shown that this elf, from a culture that is shown in a few sentences to be utterly at odds with Christianity as is currently understood, wishes to learn more about the faith and may be convinced to convert if what he learns satisfies his (largely implied) yearnings.
Good grief, man, I’m barely even nominally Christian (having been raised more or less lapsed with occasional interruptions in the general direction of the Australian Uniting Church – which is the bastard offspring of a merger between the Presbyterians and Methodists and a few of the evangelical denominations) and I can see it. How blind are you?
Anyway… Some time after this Mr Walters sort of gets it. “Oh fuck god no…it’s all just a set-up for a tedious exegesis on catholicism, isn’t it?” Well, no. It’s not. Oh, and wonderful job of not being biased and all that.
So, he throws a lovely little Twitter tantrum (unless he deletes it it’s all there at https://twitter.com/damiengwalter – just keep scrolling down) before proving once again he doesn’t know what the farouk he’s on about with “Enter a magic fox, stage left. #VoxRead Because when you can’t develop a plot, bring on a talking animal.” Gosh. Totally missing yet another point, not to mention a teensy wee bit of foreshadowing.
Anyway, I’ll skip the rest of the Twitter tantie and move on to Mr Walter’s inspired summary: “I have judged the work not the man, and found it to be an incoherent rant disguised as an unconvincing non-story.” Leaving aside that in a shorter work such as this it’s acceptable to have a thin plot around an idea, it’s clear to me that our esteemed literary critic here completely missed a subtle and rather elegantly understated story encapsulated by the title (which, I might add, becomes rather less subtle and understated when you run the title through Google Translate (because I can recognize Latin when I see it but be buggered if I can read it) and realize that yes, the story is about an elf devoting at least a human lifespan to create an illuminated manuscript in his attempt to understand Christianity and that a good chunk of it occurs after the murder of his human friend. Oh, and Vox leaves it to reader imagination whether or not the elf did in fact come to understand or not.
It’s not perfect. There are flaws in the flow of the piece and the opening could use another round or two of editing (that or the version Vox has made available for download isn’t the final published one), but it’s hardly something to be denigrated with “Imagine a 12 year old geek with the pompous voice of a 45 year old fascist parroting Thomas Aquinas, and there you have Opera Vita Aeterna.”
It’s certainly a good, thought-provoking story, and a damn sight better than some of the nominated pieces from prior years.