The Ratchet Always Turns One Way
Today, I present an interview with a person I think you’ll really like hearing from: me.
Alexander Hellene: Alex—may I call you Alex?
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Alexander Hellene: Yeah, sure. Just not Al.
AH: Okay, not Al, got it. Alex, how long have we known each other?
AH: Shoot, how long’s it been? Forty, almost 41 years? Something like that.
AH: It sounds about right. So anyone reading this needs to know that I’m a little biased, being your friend and all. Also, I love your books (available here!) but I’ll try to keep the fanboying to a minimum.
AH: That is very much appreciated.
AH: Great. So now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let’s get to it if you’re ready.
AH: I really don’t have a choice, so . . .
AH: That’s right, you don’t. Basically, my question, and the main thrust of this whole interview, is really this: to what extent are all of the figures in the alternative culture scene that you’re a part of who come across as “our guys” compromised somehow?
AH: Compromised, or bankrolled by our enemies.
AH: Right. Exactly. It’s a confounding thing.
AH: “Confounding.” Good word. Are you sure you’re not a writer too? Next thing, you’ll be saying this is a “vexing” problem.
AH: You’re vexing me right now with all of your interruptions. But to my question . . .
AH: Is everybody compromised? I mean, of course not. “Everybody” is a very broad category. But are a lot of the people on our, quote-unquote, “our side” compromised in some way? Sure. You just have to scratch a little deeper.
So for every truly organic countercultural success story like a Vox Day—who, I mean, has attracted none other than comic book legend Chuck Dixon to his Arkhaven imprint—or a guy like Jon Del Arroz with his comics, and Brian Niemeier with his books, guys who are earning a living creating culture, there’s, you know, someone completely or partially astroturfed, right? I mean, Ben Shapiro and his whole thing . . .
AH: Brian Niemeier has done what he calls five minutes of research on Google about Eric July and his wildly successful Rippaverse comic book crowdfund. July has a lot of connections to the Blaze, for example.
AH: Brian Niemeier is doing God’s work for those of us, and I include myself in this, who just don’t have the inclination to play sleuth on this. Maybe we should start. But in any event, that’s right. The sort of people who are behind Eric July, supporting him, and the people he works for, aren’t exactly the kind of people who support our values, with “our” being a genuine opposition movement to what passes for American culture these days. Not just in entertainment, you know? But also in areas like social and cultural issues beyond novels or movies or comic books or music or anything like that.
AH: Agreed. And it’s worth reading Brian’s piece about Eric July.
So you’ve gone on record stating that you wish people like July might extend a hand down the ladder to the little guy instead of only aiding those who have already “made it.”
AH: Yes, I have. Though that wasn’t directed at Eric July in particular. I’m not sitting here saying “Ooh, ooh! Eric! Pick me! Pick me!” It’s more of the principle of the thing. It’s good to help your peers, but if you’re truly interested in creating a counterculture, you can’t just freeze out the little guy.
AH: So there’s an obligation there?
AH: I suppose there is, right? Especially if you work for or with people in Con Inc. who always lament the supposed dearth of conservative culture without realizing that (1) Your side are the idiot discouraging creative people from going into the arts because neoliberal economics are more important, and (2) Your side doesn’t bankroll or promote anyone.
AH: Not true. There have been conservative attempts to influence the culture via novels and movies and the like. And what about the Daily Wire and its movie studios?
AH: The Daily Wire hired former Disney executives! It’s one thing to say that you need folks with the institutional knowledge and experience in the industry to join your side, but I’m very skeptical of this move. Have these people been vetted? What are their values? Is the Daily Wire gatekeeping infiltrators as assiduously as it gatekeeps actual people in opposition to the ruling culture?
AH: This brings up another point you and I were discussing earlier: Why can’t we ever seem to infiltrate enemy territory?
AH: That’s a really good question. I think it has to do with a fundamental unease around the practice of lying. If you’re a Christian or otherwise take your religion-of-choice seriously, you look down upon lies. You do not want to be a liar. You want your “Yes” to mean “Yes” and your “No” to mean “No.” The sort of long-con runs counter to that fundamental sense of honor. Some might call a sense of honor a weakness, and maybe it is in some regards. I disagree with the word “weakness.” Maybe it’s more like a “hurdle.”
You know, this is one reason why the ratchet always seems to turn one way, or Cthulhu always lurches left, however you want to call it. It’s because the other side plays the long game. They’re not in it for quick monetary gain. The “long march through the institutions” was a multi-generational project. This stuff takes time. Culture isn’t numbers on a spreadsheet or good ROI. All of that stuff helps, sure. It’s nice. But making money is not the point! If we want to turn the crank the other way, it’s going to take time and effort. And maybe a part of that effort is our own particular brand of subversion.
AH: You’re getting dangerously close to “You’ve got to break a few eggs in order to make an omelet” territory.
AH: Yeah, the “Ends justify the means” trap, if you can call it that. Sure. But remember: spies and espionage have bee a part of warfare since forever. What if you’re infiltrating enemy territory for an honorable end? For God’s glory? And you’re not going out of your way to actually hurt people out of malice? I’d contend that, in these specific types of circumstances, any deceptions are both temporary and moral. But maybe I’m in the minority here.
AH: Or maybe you don’t know enough about theology.
AH: I concede that point one-hundred percent. And it brings to mind something else: people on our side—whether you call them “conservatives,” “right-wingers,” “traditionalists,” or just “not progressive” should not totally avoid a college education! I mean, some professions require post-secondary training, and we need doctors and lawyers and middle-managers andengineers and software designers and people in human resource who share the same values as us. Ceding territory to the enemy without a fight is just dumb and has brought us to this point.
AH: And in the arts as well.
AH: And in the arts.
AH: Here’s a question submitted by a reader with the most excellent name of Alexander Hellene: If a major motion picture studio offered you a vast sum of money for the rights to adapt one of your books, would you take it?
AH: A few years ago, I think I would’ve been totally mercenary and given an unequivocal “Yes.” My rationale was that I would take the money and use it to secure my family’s future while also continuing to create culture of my own. Further, I’d be able to use my newfound wealth to fund others on my side. At the same time, I could dump all over the sure-to-be-pathetic Hollywood version of my book.
I also thought that there may be studios who do reflect my values. So if that was the case, it’d be a different analysis.
Leaving that aside, let’s assume that we’re not talking about a studio that’s on our side. So I was also thinking I could be a dick about things and demand creative input or even a veto as condition of granting the option, and try to gum up the works from within, etc.
But thinking about it deeper raised a two other points. I’ll go in order of lest important to most important.
First: What if the adaptation is actually really good? What then?
Second: Regardless of the answer to question number one, would I be able to live with myself by literally cutting a deal with the enemy?
AH: You can’t just make a little deal with the devil, after all.
AH: Right! That was the point, and indeed the working title, for my story “Kentucky Mothers” in the Pulp Rock anthology I released earlier this year. Once you compromise a little bit of your soul, the enemy has its hooks in you. I can only imagine how difficult it is to extricate yourself.
So no, I don’t think I’d allow a major studio to option my work if the opportunity came up today.
AH: But what if one of these wolves in sheep’s clothing did promote truly dissident art, even just a retweet like you had mentioned . . .
AH: I’d appreciate it, sure. Take a guy like Razorfist. I don’t know much about his personal life, but he’s a success who is writing successful pulp novels now, and he occasionally throws the little guys a bone, which is great. I think he’s promoted the excellent Cirsova magazine a time or two.
But I’m talking guys like Brandon Sanderson—that guy promoted a hell of a lot of indie writers doing crowdfunding after his own wildly successful crowdfunding campaign. That was awesome! That’s what I’d like to see more of!
Unless Sanderson, too, is compromised . . .
AH: I don’t know the answer to that. I suppose I could do five minutes of research on Google.
AH: Same here. But Brandon Sanderson, Razorfist, Eric July—I mean, Sanderson put his money where his mouth is. I like that. And I get that the “bigs” can’t promote EVERYBODY, and it’s presumptuous of me to expect them too. But I am presumptuous. Every little bit helps when you’re in a war.
AH: That sounds so apocalyptic and overblown, but it is true. What is a clash of values but a war?
AH: It’s on a different plane. An intellectual, emotional, and most importantly, spiritual battlefield. You might think it’s goofy. Some of our enemies might think it’s goofy. But the people running that show sure believe this stuff, and their animating spirit is not the same one that we consider one part of the Triune God, that’s for sure.
AH: So what can we do now?
AH: As far as promotion and stuff like that? Scenes! We have scenes, but we need more! There are the loosely organized online scenes like PulpRev and #IronAge you can search for online. Katie Roome of Periapsis Press is doing a great job highlighting and reviewing indie books and interviewing authors. Two other guys who have “made it,” so to speak, Rob Kroese and Declan Finn, have their site Upstream Reviews, which is also doing a lot of heavy lifting. Rob has his convention, BasedCon, which is going to have its second annual gathering this month.
And there are so, so many people putting in the work on YouTube and other sights, highlighting true alternative culture instead of just bitching and moaning about new mainstream stuff that’s horrible.
AH: The bitch-and-moan economy, as you call it, is a powerful and lucrative thing indeed.
AH: It is! And if one wants to look at bad mainstream culture in order to demonstrate how indie creators can do it better, that’s okay. But just hatewatching for clicks and rage bucks gives the enemy the thing it needs the most: attention. The best thing to do, as always, is to starve the beast. No hatewatching!
AH: I love how Microsoft Word recognizes the word “hatewatching.” Anyway, I think that’s a good place to wrap this up. Where can people find you, and do you have anything to promote?
AH: Find me at ahelleneauthor.com, alexanderhellene.substack.com, and twitter.com/ahelleneauthor. Find me on Amazon here. And while you’re at it, sigh up for my mailing list on my website (just scroll down a little bit)! I need to start sending emails more often . . .
Right now, I’m drafting a new novel while working on the crowdfunding campaign for The Final Home, the last book in my Swordbringer trilogy. And in general, trying to stay sane in insane times.
Thanks for interviewing me—you ask great questions, and are very smart and handsome. So much appreciated.
And as always, thank you, the reader, for your continued support!
Check out my first novel, A Traitor to Dreams, here!
Thanks for reading A. Hellene Author! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.