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Kraken: A sort of review January 22, 2013

Filed under: Books — Micah Griffin @ 20:13
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This is a book that can seriously only be written by a white man.  The detached romanticism of awful people is totally this white guy thing that runs rampant all over literature. Especially in the realm of speculative fiction. This entire review centers around one paragraph of China Mieville’s Kraken. It’s about nazis. It’s specifically about new worse nazis than the real nazis who have more fervor, more hatred, and more zeal than the 1940s nazis. Only these guys are weird. Because everything in every China Mieville book is weird.

Here’s the thing. Why do we need this? Why does this sort of thing continue to show up? This need to make your nebulous group of ne’er do wells so bad by comparing them favorably to other real world bad groups is just stupid, and really works for people who haven’t been or never will be effected by those groups’ past or present. Nazis are bad. People who subscribe to nazi ideals are still around. They suck. I don’t like them. I’ve run into them. They’re not pleasant. Being black, they weren’t terribly fond of my breathing the same air as them.

The thing that gets me is the lavish detail used. Mieville’s new nazis admired the originals but felt like they weren’t good enough. Auschwitz wasn’t effective enough. Their scope and the horrors they were inflicting weren’t grand enough. Didn’t create enough chaos.

What’s most infuriating about what happens in this book is that the “chaos nazis” are completely unimportant. It just read like China was really excited to write a passage about how the nazis could have been worse. So he created some people for whom he could spout his ideas through. They’re minor minor characters. They’re in for a little more than one scene and aren’t really heard from again. I don’t get it.

I guess when you’re white and writing for a white audience this sort of thing is cool. I think he was sitting around with his editor like “hey, aren’t nazis fun? i’d love ot write nazis. I’m gonna write nazis and people are going to eat it up. They’ll think to themselves ‘hey, this China guy. He really is smart and found a way to bring some new creepiness into the nazi idea’.”

Or, we’ll read it and roll our eyes. We don’t need nazis to be weirder and scarier than they already are. Concentration camps were pretty bad and I don’t actually need to waste a single second thinking about how they could have possibly been worse, thank you.

I long for a world where white people stop trying to come up with better nazis and better klansmen. The ones we have are pretty solid enough, thanks. You’re not saying anything. You’re not being profound or even clever in any way. You’re just trying to traffic in some sort of weird exploitation game.

The other thing that’s always annoying is throw away lines to try and fill the world with “diversity” while the whole of the story is anything but. You’re not quirky for mentioning a character that isn’t a character at all might possibly be gay while keeping every other major and minor character strictly heterosexual. Throwing up that one asian girl in a scene doesn’t make your book less of a white people party time. Cause she’s in one scene, and the white people are in every scene and are the actual characters.

Outside of all that stuff though, Kraken is kind of fun? It’s traditional weird fiction. I’m not a huge fan of it, I feel like the entire genre is trying a little bit too hard. The story of a missing squid and a bunch of London colts has predictably funny moments and the book does an excellent job of not taking itself too seriously. It’s never depressing, which is a quality I admire more and more in books these days as the unyielding tide of dark gritty fiction washes over the landscape. I think part of the goal early on is to disorient you along with the main character, but it didn’t really hold with me. I could be reading that part wrong though. The most hateable thing about the plot is the ever stupid “there’s a world right under your nose that all these entities cover up with all these weird bad guys and boogey men and secret cults with magic powers that no one has ever heard of!” Get out of here. Second to that is the main character being a special chosen one brought into that world, even though thos one in particular doesn’t think or know he’s special but everyone else thinks or knows he’s special so then he magically becomes special. It’s dumb.


Deep South Racism January 12, 2013

My homegirl over at Racism School wrote a little post about Deep South racism, and how that’s the only racism that gets acknowledged and how there’s some bit of safety in that. It’s real good, go read it. Then come back here where I add to it with a little bit of life and a bit of historical context.


I’ve been saying this for years and years and years. I have felt safer in the eight years I’ve been back in North Carolina than the twelve years I spent in Pennsylvania. It’s so bad up there. You cannot get away from the racism up north. It permeates everything in the culture up north. Stats say I’m much more likely to be killed by cops up north or out west than I am in the deep south.

There was a petition signed to prevent my family from moving into the neighborhood I lived in for the final seven years of my life up there. These neighbors of ours conveniently only let their dog out of their yard whenever I or my sister would be getting off of the bus from school. Of course it would chase us and bit her once (and it only ever chased or bit us) and everyone else in the neighborhood just made jokes and there as nothing we could do about it until I accidently killed the dog (by kicking it real hard and causing it to run into the street where it proceeded to get hit by a car. I don’t feel bad about it at all). No one knew I did it, and if they had I would’ve probably been killed for it. Because that’s how white justice works. (Note: the only reason we weren’t bitten more is because after the first time we started carrying sticks to and from the bus stop to beat the dog off us).

I had do deal with northern white liberals who told me EVERY DAY how nothing up north was racist and how I should be glad I didn’t live in the south anymore. I had to deal with all the bullshit of being told I spoke well. True story, when I was in elementary school I should’ve gone to speech classes where they teach kids who can’t talk how to talk good. Because I had a bad stammer. I still have a stammer, but it’s more under control now, no thanks to them. Even though I often t imes sounded worse than the kids they picked to go to the speech class they looked at me and said “you speak so well.. . .You don’t need this class.” So I just didn’t talk in school.

My parents caught teachers grading my homework incorrectly, teachers would lose my test because there’s no way a black kid could’ve done that well.

That’s just my personal life. We’re not talking about all the racially motivated zoning laws up north. (Look up zoning laws post reconstruction sometime and educate yourself). While the south had the national guard brought in on some integration shit, the north was busy enacting laws that prevented black people from moving into certain neighborhoods. The north invented and perfected gentrification.

Has anyone ever stopped to examine why black people have started moving back down south if the south is THE WORST place ever? No, because middle class white people have created a narrative of the stupid uneducated red necks down south being the only ones to perpetrate racism. Your Bill Mahers of the world continuously preach about how only stupid people are conservative. We act as if the republican party is only made up of people who never got out of middle school as if the catholic church doesn’t run the north eastern US, as if the Lutherans and Catholics haven’t been strangling each other for control of the midwest. We act like the new home of the KKK isn’t up in Montanna. We pretend the mormons aren’t holding sway out west. We just sit here talking about those stupid southern baptists, who, coincidentally, aren’t the ones who’ve had the cultural power to stop birth control and shit (that’s been the domain of the catholic church like forever. Cause money).

Here, people fly rebel flags. And I know exactly what that means. It means we don’t talk, we don’t look at each other, and we get out of the same space. There’s no great lie going on here. No one who’s born and bread in the south believes racism is dead. That’s only people from up north who have been force fed that lie since the 1830s. They may concoct some like in public about how that flag is honoring their ancestors, but they all know it’s a lie. They hold onto that shit.

Thing is, people don’t remember that in order to win the civil war (which the union was not fighting on behalf of slaves you stupid mother fuckers) the union burned most of the south’s crops to the ground immediately impoverishing a whole bunch of people. So all those white folks who had farms and shit for years and years with families and kids who had all been killed in this war were suddenly out of land, out of a job, out of food, and out of their families. Yeah, they be holdin a grudge, cause it took a long ass time to bring that shit back. Of course they blamed black people as much as the north, because they lost a portion of their work force (for a while, because slavery stopped for about seven or eight days before being reinacted, and a lot of people never became free after the civil war. I’m not talking about convict leasing and debt slavery. I’m talking people still  held legal receipts and shit owning people and were selling them years afterwards up into the 1890s and shit).

The south has its problems with lying about shit, too (I see you texas and virginia up in here making text books talking about how cool slavery was) but the first instance of  that came from northern abolitionists. Their motivations were all over the place. Most of them were white supremacists though, and some of them felt slavery made them look bad. Others felt the narrative around American slavery was getting away from them and their standing globally with their other white folks across the water was being lowered by it, so they wanted it to seem not as bad.

The real crux of abolitionism is that slavery was gonna put those folks out of work. Why you think Irish Catholics and the Italians went so fucking hard at black people? Cause they had someone to look down on and they were about to get put out of work by them. White people up north didn’t want to end slavery for the sake of black people, they wanted to end it for their own sake. They didn’t want black folks anywhere near them. Thus, zoning laws. Ohio’s are real bad and some of that shit is still on the books. Look at Cincinatti’s laws. The language has changed some, but the outcomes are the still the same. Why you think they riot up there so much?

The entire Pacific North West is a FUCKING PROBLEM. They straight up banned us from going out there. No slaves no negroes. Those were the signs and those were the laws. I don’t even know if Oregon ever officially took no negroes out of the law book, because I think it is intertwined in the no slavery law. That area of the country is the microagression capital of the world! Holy fuck do those guys suck at race relations. Not to mention how it’s essentially just a pit for native appropriators.

Basically, the United states is a country founded upon and built on racism. That’s what it’s always been, that’s what it’ll always be. It’s racist. Straight up. And EVERY PART of the country is racist. That includes where you live. It’s just that white folks all over have chosen to make the south the scapegoat for all that shit.