Author Archives: authordwhawkins

A Recommendation

Greetings all.  I hope your Autumn is going well.  There’s something I want to show you.

A very good friend of mine has recently published the first two installments in his new series, The Seven Virtues.  When I say ‘a good friend,’ I don’t mean some random author from the dark corners of the interwebs, either–I mean that I actually grew up with him.  We still talk a good bit.

In fact, I drank him under the table from a thousand miles away the other night.  Mention it to him sometime.

We share a lot of the same tastes when it comes to books, and I guess it only makes sense that we both aspired to be fantasy authors.  His name is Jacob Peppers, and he’s no joke.  He has an English degree, and has been writing for at least as long as I have, if not longer.  He published the first installment in his new series, a novella called The Silent Blade, and the first full novel in the series, A Sellsword’s Compassion, just two days ago, and they’re already getting some good reviews.

If you’re looking for something new to read, maybe to hold you over until The City Under the Mountain drops (cough cough…because it’s so late) then hop over and give his books a read.  Like mine, they’re free to read for Kindle Unlimited members.  While I won’t say that you’ll find a story like mine in The Seven Virtues–even though the series names are similar–what you will find is an author that was forged in the same environment that I was.  Jacob, me, and our brothers all played Dungeons and Dragons together growing up, and shared a love for all things fantasy.

We also did Jiu-Jitsu together.  Told ya he was no joke.

The next installment of The Ballad of the Outrider is coming in the next two weeks, and more updates to follow on The City Under the Mountain.  As for Jacob’s work, I’ll let one of the recent reviews posted on his novella speak to what you’ll find if you decide to take a dive into his world.  Much love and respect to you all, and I’ll talk to you soon.

On The Silent Blade

Apparently a chronological prequel to the first actual book in the “Seven Virtues” series, this novella tells a short-but-dense tale that leads to plenty of characterization of this one fellow in particular (no surprise, given his feature on the cover). Peppers really nailed the length, here — this is no appetizer or prologue and instead describes a complete story arc on its own, without any cliffhangers or other nonsense. A brief word from the author promises more of this guy in the first novel proper, and it’s nice to both get a feel for a character in a shorter read and still get resolution to the events of the story.

I haven’t read “Sellsword’s Compassion” yet, so the setting here was new to me. It’s a kind of darker fantasy, urban grit kind of setup, with plenty of seedy underbelly and stalwart holdouts. It works well for the kind of tale going on here — plenty of conflict, loss, action, and self-interest — and compliments the main character nicely. It doesn’t really have that shiny plastic feel I associate with a lot of more whimsical fantasy — it feels a lot more visceral, which again works with the character. It gives the feeling that Peppers really thought through what kind of world he’s talking about, and this was an effective peek into it. I’ll be reading the next one for sure.

~Posted by one Matthew Palmer on

Check out The Silent Blade
US  |  UK 
Check out A Sellsword’s Compassion
US  |  UK
***Those are not affiliate links and will not collect information from you.  They are direct links to the product pages on Amazon.

If you’re interested in reading more about Jacob, you can visit his website HERE.

Important Announcement for the Conclave

Alright, everyone–there’s a bit of foolery incoming.  I’ve just gone through the tiresome process of migrating all you wonderful Conclave members over to a new service provider, and also upgrading the book delivery process.  What does that mean for you?  More security where your information is concerned, and top-notch customer support for the books that I send you.

Here’s the thing–the moving process is dirty, and it can leave a few people behind.  Information gets dropped between providers sometimes, and we all know the fickle nature of software.  Here’s how to make sure you end up on the list:

If you’re a current Conclave member, as in you subscribed before the date of this posting (September 26th, 2017) then you should be alright.  There’s an email incoming, just hang tight, click on the proper links in the email I send out to you, and you should be golden.  If you don’t receive an email by September 27th, 2017, then follow the instructions below.

NOTE:  The old list will be deleted (this is to protect your information) and if you don’t get an email, make sure you take action.  Otherwise, your email could be lost in the sauce.

If you subscribed either ON or AFTER September 26th, 2017, then here’s how to ensure that your subscription went through.

*First, head over to the Conclave Signup Page, re-enter your email, download your new copy of The Ballad of the Outrider, and all will be well.

Most importantly, if you feel you were unsubscribed from the Conclave by mistake, or through software demons, shoot me an email at authordwhawkins at, let me know what happened, and I’ll add you manually.

Much love to you all, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Child of the Flames: Last Chance

Alright guys, the sale for Child of the Flames ends today, so if you haven’t downloaded your copy yet, go to it.  The world depends on you.  Pretty sure something awful will happen if you don’t.  Perhaps the beaches will be invaded by laser wielding alien frogmen…perhaps nothing.

Do you really want to find out?


Child of the Flames: ON SALE TODAY

Don’t forget, little monkeys, that Child of the Flames is on sale today though Friday for $0.99 (£0.99 in the UK).  Head over to Amazon and pick up your copy today, or share this with a friend so they can do it.  You wouldn’t keep this from a friend, would you?

How could you?


US  |  UK

Updates, and a Big Load of Bore Snark

Just writing a quick update to let you guys know what’s going on. Work continues on The City under the Mountain, and the Conclave-exclusive serial, The Ballad of the Outrider, is also coming along. I’m still looking at a mid October release for City, but that is still a tentative date.

Also—I’m trying a new writing method. I’ve been hearing good things about dictation, so I picked up a program and decided to give it a try. There is a bit of a learning curve, but everything I’ve read says that it doubles your writing speed once the initial hurdle is out of the way. I’ve been doing it for the last two nights, and so far, it’s working pretty well.

In fact, I’m dictating this letter right now. It’s a little weird. In all honesty, though, I think this is going to seriously improve things. Once I get the hang of speaking all my punctuation, first drafts will flow like radiation from the sun.

The main reason I’m writing today is to let you all know of the sale I’ll be running starting Monday, September 18. Child of the Flames will be going on sale for $0.99 (£0.99 in the UK). It will remain at that price for the entire week and go back to $2.99 on Friday, September 22 (£1.99 in the UK). If you’ve yet to pull the trigger on The Seven Signs, or have friends who have been waiting to do so, next week would be prime time to get it done.

I know most of you have already read it, but you can help by heading over to Amazon and leaving it an honest review. If you haven’t already, that is. If you’ve done all that, then you can always share it with a friend. Nothing wrong with sharing, right? Right?

If you’re seeing this post on your social media, feel free to plant some hashtags on this bastard and let it sail. Send it to your grandma. After all, she’s always sending you those weird conspiracy posts about the flat Earth, and how the globalists want to control you with pop music.

Send it to Becky. She totally deserves it. She probably knows why, too.

As always, much love and respect. This thing makes you want to say all kinds of dumb shit. Playing with it is kind of fun. Tiddlywinks. But to lease breaks. Being KeyBank he bulky. Sheesh I’m in a period. Full fuck and stop. Be back in a month’s thinker Pinker piker pick a pack of pickled pepper Peter Packer. I ha ha ha Peter piper picked a pack of pickled peppers. BORE Snark!!! THE SHADOW MASTERS ARE WATCHING YOU

This dictation thing is so much fun. I’m leaving all that in there, too. Enjoy, and you’re welcome.

Spam Comments III: What Happens on a Boat in Jersey

It’s time for another episode of Spam Comments, also known as the day I put aside to muck out the stalls of my comments section.  It’s here that we dive deep into the nonsensical mutterings of Asian click farms, and say hello to the Russian hackers.  Also, in all likelihood, the NSA.

Let’s start things off with this mushroom-enhanced poster:

imitation bvlgari jewelry necklaces
i got a sky dragon by breeding tropical and elctric

Approve | Reply | Quick Edit | Edit | Spam | Trash

Ooooooh, Sky Dragon, eh?  I can’t tell if that’s some new, smack-you-in-the-face strain of weed, or some kind of lizard.  What gets me about this comment is the lack of a shady link.  What are they trying to sell?  Sky lizards?  Mushrooms?  I love how the contact is “imitation bulgari necklaces.”  I think someone got their A.I. drunk.

Next, we have an amateur poet…

kem upsize nga…
What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious familiarity
regarding unpredicted feelings.

Approve | Reply | Quick Edit | Edit | Spam | Trash

I always try to infuse my posts with a certain preserveness of precious familiarity, thanks for finally noticing.  Regarding those unpredicted feelings, though–the best thing to do is follow your heart.  It is the most un-ambiguous part of your being.  You’re welcome.  Go now, brave flower, find a information your heart such desires.

This next one is not for those with delicate sensibilities…

Daily porn blog updates
jerssey boys boat trip hamster sex videos hot oral sex site de sex maroc free school web proxy

Approve | Reply | Quick Edit | Edit | Spam | Trash

Those Jersey boys, and their crazy hamster sex boat trips.  There must be a reason those keywords found themselves together.  Maybe it’s something that happens; maybe I’m the one out of the loop, here.  Maybe there’s a whole black market for people who want their sex with hamsters on a boat in Jersey.  I just wonder, when the program that put this comment together was going out and grabbing random keywords, how it collected jersey boys, boat trip, and hamster sex.  Maybe it was just hamster and sex video.  It could have been hamster sex videos–the internet is a dark place.

Anyways, I hope everyone in the path of all those hurricanes is alright.  All for now, more to come.

Actually one more thing–I’ll be running a sale pretty soon for Child of the Flames, so if your friends have yet to take a chance on it, a good opportunity is coming.  Work continues on The City Under the Mountain, so keep your eyes open for more sales as October draws closer.

Much love, and JOIN THE CONCLAVE for some free stuff, like the new Ballad of the Outrider: Season One that I just released.  Just scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your email to get the serial directly in your inbox for FREE.

Come and get some.

Updates on The City Under the Mountain

So, having pushed out a bit of news on this subject weeks ago to my mailing list, I realized–somewhat belatedly–that I had yet to update everyone else.  This is why I need an assistant.

With brevity, City is going to be delayed.  I have someone very close to me who is very sick, and it has put a wrench in my planning.  I had hoped to get three books out before the end of the year, but now it’s looking like only two.  I wish things could be different, but some things in life are more important than work.  I know that’s not anything people want to hear, but life sometimes (always) gets in the way of our plans.  Every now and then you have to enjoy the time you have as much as you can, and this is one of those times.  I will not go into much detail, but the delays are necessary and inevitable.

I’m putting the release of The City Under the Mountain off until mid-October.  As of right now, that’s the earliest I see everything getting done.  With that being said, I have made some arrangements to try and complete it sooner.  I’ve hired some help around the house–most of you know I’m a single dad, which takes up a lot of time–and arranged my schedule in such a way as to give me ample time to complete the book before outside elements can have more of an effect than they already have.

I’m working on the final draft now, so hopefully these changes will be helpful.  We’ll see.

Also, if you’re a Conclave member who has subbed in the last few days, check your email for the first installment of The Ballad of the Outrider: Season One.  New subscribers should now have access to the serial in the final welcome email, so if you haven’t subscribed, it’s a good time to start.

Don’t worry.  I won’t tell your mom.

All for now.  More later.  Much love.

Let’s Bitch About HBO’s Game of Thrones

Or, Where Did All the Fantasy Writers on the Staff Go?

The first time I picked up George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones was in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom II, sometime around 2004.  I had a sergeant who knew I was a big reader, and he’d heard that the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) tent in camp was being cleaned out, the donated books kept within being shipped off to other bases.  He got me on the detail to help with the effort so I could go through what they had and take my pick before the books took their next journey.

I read the first one, and ordered the rest of the books available at the time.  I had to wait a long time for them to get there.  I was so invested in that story that I carried it home with me, in all its vast paperback weight–which matters on a deployment, believe me.  It has influenced my writing a good bit.  Before I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire, my own work was much more jaunty and heroic.

(More?!–I can almost hear you saying it.)

Say what you will about Martin’s release frequency, his writing is subtle, interesting, and makes sense.  The man knows his history–after all, he’s a historian–and he has created a deep and interesting world.  For those of you who may have read some of his Thousand Worlds stories, you know there’s even more to the world of Ice and Fire than others might realize.  Martin is infamous amongst his readers for killing your darlings.  Just when you’re invested, just when you think you know what’s going to happen, how the good guys are finally going to win through, Martin stabs a big old ice spear through your heart.  I remember laughing with glee when my mother called me after the Red Wedding aired on the show, and telling her this:

“That’s Game of Thrones, mom–it breaks your fucking heart.”

What I should have said was: It breaks your fucking heart in the most beautiful way.  There’s another reason I love Martin’s stories more than other hard-hitters in the Fantasy genre–his writing holds a greater suspension of disbelief for me.  His world feels real because anyone who has read any history knows that the ancient world was a brutal place.  Hell, the modern world is a brutal place.  A lot of Fantasy stories take place in settings where the heroes always win, noble knights marry chaste ladies, and the good-hearted stableboy is always a secret prince.  That stuff is fine, too.  I love the Belgariads and Harry Potters for what they are.  In Martin’s world, though, heroic behavior is often rewarded with a brutal end, and things don’t just magically happen because everyone has been hoping for it since the first Christmas.

Television shows are rife with plot contrivances.  It’s almost an understandable thing, given the visual nature of television.  People have scenes they want to see, and any serialized story is in danger of falling victim to pandering.  Can we not just have Dany and Jon Snow sexing it up because everybody has been hoping for that for, like, oh my god, like totally YEARS???  Television has to react to the audience by the season; it’s almost forced to alter itself and evolve in order to stay relevant.

This is a tendency to which HBO’s Game of Thrones has been slowly surrendering.  Since the show has outgrown the source material, it’s been deteriorating.  The show is beautiful, and I’ve been fine with it through season five, and most of season six.  This past one, however, has really disappointed me.  The sad thing is that I don’t see how such a story can be completed in another season, much less a six episode season.

Let’s just list out what has gotten under my skin.  I’m including a map to help make my points.

First of all, where the hell do the Ironborn get enough wood to build Euron Greyjoy another thousand ships, and how the hell did they do it so fast?  Even in the 1700’s it took at least a year to build a ship close to the type we see in Game of Thrones.  Somehow Euron finds three forests of wood in good enough shape to build one thousand fuck-you ships, and enough men to crew them, all on these tiny fucking islands that don’t seem to have enough room to build a castle that won’t fall into the sea sometime soon.  Right.  And they do it all quickly enough to attack Yara’s (Asha’s) fleet.  If you’re going to counter me with something like “time passes differently in Westeros”–well, obviously, but ask yourself the following question:  Why do the Ironborn subsist on raiding in the first place?

Tyrion’s plan of attack makes no sense.  So Dany lands on Dragonstone with a huge force of Dothraki cavalry, and thousands of Unsullied.  She’s got three full-grown dragons.  She has allies in the Reach, and in Dorne.  Dany owns the southern third of Westeros, and has a distinct advantage in food, given that the Reach is the breadbasket of Westeros.  She’s also got the strongest castle of all three monarchs.  She’s got a dream team of advisors.

Yet, Tyrion decides to ruin it all somehow by giving the worst military advice ever given in the history of bad military advice.  He says, basically, “let’s split our forces for no goddamn reason and send the Unsullied all the way across the continent to take a castle that hasn’t been relevant since the gold mines ran dry.”  Why?  Um…to win hearts and minds?  Shouldn’t someone have pointed out that the Tyrells own all that land next to the Lannister holdings, and wouldn’t it be a better idea to use the fucking armies they already have on scene?  I guess not.  You’re going to tell me that Olenna Tyrell, who had time to plot war with the Sand Snakes and Varys, forgot to prepare for the coming war with Cersei?

You never split your forces if you don’t have to, and Dany sure as hell didn’t have to.  Why take Casterly Rock?  Even if you wanted to attack it, a siege and blockade would suffice to nullify whatever made-up advantage they wanted to contrive in order to justify even putting it in the storyline.  And sure, they’re rewarded with failure, but you’re going to tell me that Tyrion, who has supposedly read all these great books on military tactics–as in the Battle of Blackwater Bay–suddenly becomes stupid?

Also, Euron’s magical fuck-you ships seem to be able to traverse the whole of the continent in no time at all, and be in two places at once.  Dany had a pretty strong fleet, remember.  You might say, “Yeah, but he could have split his fleet, too.”  Sure, but how did he know where to send his detachment in advance?  Can ravens find ships on the sea?

There are a million ideas that would have worked better.  March to King’s Landing, put the city under siege.  You’ve got the only aerial scouts south of Winterfell, and the biggest guns on the battlefield.  Cersei has one zombie and a few ballistae.  The Lannister armies are pretty much worthless in the face of all that, and dragons will probably scare enough lesser lords into swearing fealty, which would make Cersei’s reign as impotent as Dany’s infantry.

What happened at the battle between Jaime and Dany?

That spear line is way too thin.  A single horse could break through that spear line, and why aren’t the people in the second rank wearing any helmets?  Formations were strong because they were closely packed.  That’s the only way to stand down a cavalry charge–in a strong block of men with a hedgerow of long spears.  Why doesn’t a Westerosi army–a land famous for mounted knights–have any sort of heavy cavalry to counter the Dothraki?  For such well-trained and well-funded soldiers, the Lannister boys are really eating boogers on this one.  Guess they don’t have enough of that freedom and love that Tyrion was going on about in the last episode.

And–what were Jaime’s forces doing there?  They said the gold’s already through the gates of King’s Landing, so what are they doing?  Chilling out?  Carting in the rest of the food?  Which Dany decides to burn because, hey, burning wagons full of possibly useful things your armies might need is good fun.

Also, you will never be able to convince me that a horse, even a trained warhorse, could be goaded into charging a fucking huge dragon.  Nope.  Also, somehow Bronn drags Jaime a long damn way under water, while Jaime is apparently just flopping around with his golden hand in full plate armor.  Right.  He also doesn’t clean himself up before stomping into Cersei’s private office.  What a dick.  Honestly, though, Cersei deserves it.

Hey, let’s go north and grab a single wight, because that’s a good fucking idea.  It would be quicker to stomp Cersei’s neck, grab up all the forces in the south, and then march north.  But no, we’re not going to learn the lessons of the past…well, always…and we’re going to trust in the general goodwill and steadfast logic of Cersei fucking Lannister.  Good plan.  It’s not like everything north of the wall has been dead and animated for the past two years, or anything.  We probably won’t get swarmed by murderous zombies.  Can somebody give Jon a few lines that don’t involve “I’ve seen the Night King, I’ve looked into his eyes, I’m the only one that’s fought them,” and on and on and on.  I don’t remember book Jon being so damned insufferable.

So they decide to send the most unlikely group of characters ever into the north on a heroic mission to capture a single zombie.  Like there are just going to be stragglers hanging out, playing cards, or something.  Maybe they meant to catch one pooping, I don’t know.  Of course, useless Gendry (who just happens to have the dumbest looking warhammer ever made because nostalgia) comes along.  Since he’s apparently the most useless, he’s also the one they decide to send running back the way they came, all the way to the wall, in an unfamiliar land, in a climate he’s not used to, because…reasons.

And, of course, Jon has another great idea–the only one that can save them after running onto this totally convenient rock in the middle of a frozen lake is Dany.  Who is on Dragonstone.  What was it that Jon said to Sansa earlier in the season?  There’s a thousand miles between here and King’s Landing?  Something like that?  But she’s the one that they need to call.  Why?  Because the Night King needs a dragon, of course.  Nobody saw that coming for the past twenty years.

Also, Dany flies north of the wall wearing nothing but a beautiful piece by the most famous designer in Westeros.  Ser Gucci, Lord of Fabricton, apparently forgot to give her any warm clothes for the high altitudes.  And why doesn’t she have some kind of saddle?  She just holds on while that huge dragon flies really fast through the air?  Right.

Jon is immune to hypothermia as well as sound planning.

Rhaegar and Lyanna’s secret marriage means nothing.  I could understand Rhaegar and Lyanna being in love and having a child together–that part is believable for me.  It’s even a good story.  Jon being the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar has long been a fan theory.  But you’re going to tell me that some random High Septon annulled the marriage between Rhaegar and Elia Martel–a political marriage that bore legitimate children–and just never told anyone?  That information never came out during the course of Robert’s rebellion?

Sure, if he had gotten a bastard on her out of love (in the books his reasoning is a bit different, his character a bit more mysterious) I could see that.  But now you’re adding the High Septon to the conspiracy, and the information was only written in some random diary?  Also, Rhaegar’s children by Elia Martel were named Rhaenys and fucking Aegon.  “Hi, I’m Rhaenys, this is my brother Aegon and this is my other brother Aegon.”  Give me a break.

Also, how the hell do the Unsullied march all the way across the continent through enemy territory with no food to show up at King’s Landing?  I guess we’re going to set up this plot line, then just pretend like it never happened.  It must be all that love and freedom the Unsullied have that gives them their superpowers.  Maybe they’re more aerodynamic without penises.  We will never truly know.

Also, these guys are supposed to be the most badass fighting force in all of the world, but they’re dressed in useless half-leather (or whatever that is) armor, and all of them have tiny round shields instead of something that would make their phalanx worth a shit.  We see the Unsullied stand in formation, kill some people individually, but it looks to me like their weapons and armor are quite inferior to those of Westerosi soldiers.  Also, how come Varys gets all effeminate and fat when he gets his jewels cut off–which is sort of accurate–but the Unsullied are all prime slices of man-meat?  Slices…hehe.

Grey Worm and Missandei have nub-to-clit sex, I guess.  The most uninteresting romance in the history of television, ladies and gentlemen.  Good thing we get that story line where Grey Worm is trapped in enemy territory with no food and has to march across…wait.  Shit.

Littlefinger’s death was really anti-climactic.  First of all, Sansa reveals some things that she had previously lied about in front of Lord Royce, who was supposed to be a staunchly honorable man.  Yet, he’s quiet throughout this entire exchange.  She seems very concerned with retaining his loyalty when she’s arguing with her sister, yet she forgets all this during the big trial.  I know Royce has a problem with Littlefinger and probably wants him dead, but does it really make sense for such a man to compromise his personal sense of justice?  Does he not have a duty as a Lord of Westeros to see justice is done?

Also, Littlefinger doesn’t have a right to a trial by combat?  Suddenly in the north, we’re passing sentences and not swinging swords?  They’re just going to cut his throat and let him bleed out on the floor?  Really honoring the memory of their father, whom Arya and Sansa so lovingly cite in the last scene they have together.  The guy who supposedly started this whole thing (even though there were some holes in the way they presented it) just dies, sobbing on the floor?  He didn’t have a way out planned?  He’s just hanging around Winterfell, waiting to be killed.  Seeing the looks that Arya gives him, the weird shit Bran says to him, and the open threats from Jon.  Yeah, seems like a good idea for someone who has been cunning enough to maneuver his way to such great power.

So if regular weapons don’t kill wights, then how was the dream team chopping them to pieces north of the Wall?  In the books Martin is more consistent on this–fire for wights, obsidian for Walkers.  In the show?  Fire, dragonglass, sometimes a burning sword like Berric wields, sometimes Valyrian steel, sometimes regular old swords.  Consistency, yay!

The writers needed things to happen, and it’s clear.  They wanted on-screen reunions that served no real purpose other than to stroke the wishes of people in the audience.  The plot lines weren’t well thought out, and as a result, this season kind of sucked for me.  I love Game of Thrones, but since they’ve departed from the source material, their weaknesses have been slowly revealing themselves.  There are only six episodes left, and I have no idea how they’re going to finish this up without it becoming a total shit show.

There were some good things.  Lena Headey was amazing.  I’ve been a big fan of hers for a long time.  Peter Dinklage was awesome, even with the shit writing they gave him.  The dragons looked incredible, but honestly I could have done with less CGI flying lizard, and more thorough writing.  At this point I think I’m rooting for the Night King.  He’s been shambling toward the Wall for seven years, between turning Crastor babies into inbred White Walkers.  He’s been waiting on his 100,000 buddies to pick up the pace since season two.  And he’s the only one who has yet to do something monumentally, story-ruining, fuck-you stupid.

The Night King for the Iron Throne!

An Open Letter to #Google

I don’t usually like to get political on my blog.  I don’t think that using this platform to spew any sort of ideology is what my readers are searching for, or expecting from me.  However, in this case, I’m too angry and unsettled to ignore what’s happening.  I know I’m probably going to catch some hate for this, but so be it.

I will not apologize.

We’ve all seen the news, I’m sure, and if you haven’t, you should probably start paying attention.  For the past few years, there has been a growing controversy within western culture.  The growing divide between Left and Right in America and abroad has reached a point where the two sides have become increasingly polarized, and ever more insular.  Politics has become intensely personal, and the ramifications are radiating outward through all western societies.

I have been in a unique position to witness some of this controversy playing out first-hand.  At the time of this writing, I am thirty-five years of age, and a United States Army veteran of the so-called “War on Terror.”  I’m also a liberal arts student attending a large school with a vibrant left-leaning culture, though I won’t mention which university.  This is increasingly becoming an odd dichotomy in American society.  When I mentioned that I was a veteran, you probably pictured a mock-up of my personality based on popular stereotypes.  In wild opposition to that, you may have pictured something different when I mentioned that I was a liberal arts college student.

This has allowed me to walk between the two “worlds,” so to speak.  On one hand, I have my personal experiences taken from multiple deployments over nine and a half years of military service to inform my opinions on the war, other cultures, and international politics.  On the other, I have the prevailing cultural zeitgeist influencing–or trying to influence–what I think and feel about the above mentioned subjects, and all other hot topics.  Feminism, Men’s Rights, LGBT rights, Islam, terrorism, Republicans, Democrats, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, free speech…it could go on and on.  You all know what I’m talking about.

I’ve never been one to complain about having to face adversity–I grew up an atheist in the Bible Belt, so I’ve been arguing with people my entire life.  Growing up, I had a regular troop of other kids in school who made it their personal mission to either convert me, or let me know that I would burn forever in Hell for my blasphemy.  Even my friends would sometimes look at me like I was pitifully misguided, though they would tolerate my vociferous opposition to their positions.  I laughed these things off, because hey–Hell isn’t real to me, so it’s an empty threat.  Being a contrarian is not only a comfortable position for me, but also a preferred one.  I would much rather be a pariah who is strong in his beliefs than a sheep who has no foundation for the same.

Now, in pursuing a liberal arts degree, I have once again found myself in the contrary position.  I will preface the following statements with the “hashtag-not-all” qualifier.  For the most part, everyone I’ve met on campus has been friendly, open, and interested in discussion.  It’s college, after all–that’s kind of the point.  I have also faced a surprising amount of hate.  I have been called a war-monger, a fascist, a straight-up Nazi, a white supremacist, and had the term “right-winger” thrown at me the way a racist might spew epithets at his or her most-hated group of people.  I voted twice for Obama, and in this last election, I was so disgusted by both major candidates that I voted for Gary Johnson (go ahead and accuse me of wasting my vote, I would rather have done that than join either Clinton’s or Trump’s camp).  I have never considered myself right-wing.

However, at school I nearly had an official complaint logged against me under Title IX rules because, during a discussion in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting, I said that the primary motivation for the killings was contained within the Qur’an.  This comment was met with horror by most of the students in the class–all of whom were under twenty-one, and had never traveled outside the sphere of the western world.  The teacher for this class, who was a graduate student in the humanities, called me down for the comment.  To me, this is the most benign and truthful comment one could make in regards to the shooting.  I didn’t say that Muslims are evil, or that Muslims hate gay people, or that Muslims do anything at all.  I said that the Qur’an clearly sanctions this kind of violence in the same way the Bible sanctions slavery, and all kinds of other horrible stuff.  The comment was devoid of any condemnation for any person, or group of people–it was a comment on the holy book itself.

I was also the only one in the class who had read the Qur’an.  I’ve also read a sizable amount of the Sunni hadith, three versions of the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, and studied Shintoism, Confucianism, Ancient Greek and Roman religion, and lots about the three schools of Buddhism–Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.  As an atheist, I find that I’m quite interested in and mesmerized by religion, religious history, and religious thought.  Only three other students in my class were even familiar with the Bible, and only one had actually tried to read it.  Only those three knew what the term “Abrahamic” meant in regards to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet, the entire class spoke to me with “authority,” assuring me that the Qur’an most certainly does not advocate violence–these white teenagers whose only exposure to Islamic cultures has been filtered through social media.  I’d say the news, but who are we kidding?  These days, people get their news fed to them by whatever social media outlet into which they are currently hooked.  The information they’re used to getting has been curated, and corrupted–and it was probably biased to begin with, as well.

I remember when Christians were bombing abortion clinics in the United States, and crowding the entrances to these places in order to shame and attack the women who needed care.  I was a child for most of that, but I remember the culture surrounding these attacks and how society confronted them.  No one would deny the fact that the justification for these attacks–or at least, the basis for the outrage over abortion–was found within the popular Christian belief that life begins at conception.  I don’t remember a vast army of apologists for the violence, or any pundits on television saying “well, we just have to understand that Christians are mad about this sort of thing, and the real problem we need to worry about is backlash against the Christian community.”  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of hate out there for Christians, but as a society, we did not shrink from confronting the root of the problem.

Today, there is most definitely a culture of silence surrounding the problems facing our society.  It thrives in our universities, it has seeded itself in our media, and spread from preschools to the top of the most powerful entities in western society, including our governments, and our most powerful corporations.  It is not a centralized conspiracy, but rather a prevailing zeitgeist that resembles, for lack of a better word, a pervasive orthodoxy.

I, like all of you, read the news about the Google engineer who wrote an “anti-diversity” memo, and was subsequently fired.  To me, this was the culmination of something that has been bubbling beneath the surface for years.  The man was blasted in the media as being everything from a woman-hating misogynist to an alt-right racist–none of which, of course, was true.  Read the memo for yourself.  The man takes pains to point out that his arguments are NOT coming from a racist or sexist place, and in fact, he suggests ways to improve the hiring practices in order to make working at Google more attractive for women.  In an interview after the fact, he even stated explicitly that he wants more women in tech, if for the simple reason that he likes working with women.

Of course he does.  He’s a nerdy guy.  He probably jumps for joy when a woman looks in his direction.

Not long after this, it came out that Google has been burying search results, or redirecting searches to results that seem more in line with Google’s values–such as redirecting ISIS searches to anti-ISIS videos, etc.  On one hand, this sounds like a good thing.  After all, we don’t want people being able to search up ISIS videos and become radicalized, right?  Surely not.  Being the contrarian that I am, though, I must raise a point–why in all the hells do we trust Google to tell us what’s acceptable to think?  Since when do we care what Google’s values are?  Why do we, as a society and as consumers, tolerate ANY thumbs on the proverbial internet scale?  Why would we cheer for a company who tells us to our faces that they wish to control what we watch, read, and can find on the internet?  Since when do people beg the Ministry of Truth to intervene in their lives, and curate what they are allowed to know?

After all, controversial and objectionable are subjective, relative terms.  Don’t believe me?  Read more history.

Nothing, to me, sounds more un-American, more antithetical to the enlightenment values that all westerners–not just Americans–hold dear, than this cowardly, secret censorship.  Our society has blossomed from the courage to confront, to question, and to risk trying new things.  It took hundreds of years for western societies to shrug away the mantle of religious orthodoxy and reach new heights, to find a synergy between rational inquiry and religious morality.  Now, a new kind of orthodoxy has sprung up in our midst.  One that has all the mechanical elements of a religious philosophy–rigid dogma, resistance to contrary evidence, desire for social control, hatred of outsiders, and active punishment of dissent, to name a few.  I know there are probably more elements I’m missing.  This orthodoxy has none of the mythology, but all the mechanical trappings of a cult.  It must be confronted, and it must be defeated.

Google’s dickery is most obvious to users of YouTube.  I’m a cord-cutter, meaning that I don’t subscribe to any cable television services.  I get all my media online, and have been doing so for the past few years.  This was originally an awesome thing.  On YouTube, it was quite easy to find shows that discussed politics in long format, with interesting people who couldn’t be more different than the paid pundits one would find on ABC or CNN or Fox.  On YouTube, one could find new perspectives, both interesting and repulsive.  One could also find independent journalists, who were supported directly by their patrons on Patreon and by ad revenue on YouTube, who would report honestly–and without filters–on whatever subject they were currently pursuing.  YouTube had the potential to be a free market of ideas, a bubbling cultural cauldron where even the most radical suggestions could be confronted, argued, and tested–at least, in the rhetorical sense.  YouTube has made some of the biggest stars in our society at the moment, and has become in itself a cultural phenomenon.  YouTube was so awesome because it pushed aside the traditional media gatekeepers, and instead took its ideas and content directly to users, who voted on whether or not they wanted said content.  With YouTube, you knew the biases in what you were watching were clear, if there were any, and that what you were seeing was, at least in some sense, raw.

Also, I hear it’s a good place for cat videos and Worldstar compilations.

YouTube, however, has recently been blasted for blocking videos they deem “controversial.”  They’ve demonetized videos en masse, and have empowered “trusted users” to go on flagging campaigns against content they find objectionable, effectively creating a sort of digital Truth Brigade.  While demonetizing an ISIS propoganda video is one thing, what about the temporary removal of Dr. Jordan Petersen’s account?  A move which was obviously motivated by his outspoken resistance to hard-left ideology encroaching upon western society.  Agree with him or disagree with him, his videos simply cannot be compared to, or lumped in with, ISIS propaganda and pornography.  YouTube, however, did exactly that.  They’ve hid video notifications of channels from the very subscribers of said channels, effectively telling you, the end user, that the content to which you subscribed is something you shouldn’t be seeing.

You might say that Google is a private company, and they can censor whatever they want on their own platform.  There is some merit to that argument, but I do have a dog in this fight–I subscribe to HBO, Google Music, and YouTube Red through Google Play.  I have been a Google customer for years–a paying customer.  Also, Google has arguably reached such a level of influence in our society that they have a responsibility to uphold things like free speech.  Google has created entire economies, including the one on YouTube.  It’s just not right for Google to create this economy, invest in it, encourage it, then start picking winners and losers based on the political beliefs of their creators.  What it is effectively doing is discriminating against the end users who hold those political beliefs, or just wish to hear those beliefs.  Forget, for a moment, the wrong being done to those creators who, without warning, saw much of their income vanish overnight.  What about the users, who have become consumers of “controversial” content?  It is clear that YouTube and Google are attempting to shut these channels down by demonetizing them, and if this trend continues, they will succeed.  The disappearance of this content hurts not just the creators, but the users who have become fans of these creators.

My message to Google is thus:  Stop placing yourself between your customers and their preferred creators.  Stop with the political discrimination within your own company, and stop with the ham-fisted attempts to water down the information that reaches your end users.  It is not your job to be the Ministry of Truth.  It is your job to find what the fuck I’m searching for, not to decide what it is I really want to see, or should be seeing.  Also, fuck you for trying–that’s some truly evil shit.  If this doesn’t change, I will be voting with my dollar, and encouraging everyone else to do so as well.

And YouTube–you had something great going before you decided to play schoolmarm for your entire audience.  You pushed aside the gatekeepers, and allowed creators to bring their content directly to the users.  You then made a system which saw the most popular creators rise to the top, but also allowed those with smaller audiences to find their niches and make an income doing what they love.  This was good not only for them, but for your audience.  It is exactly what YouTube users wanted, and why they love it.  It is the thing that made YouTube what it is, you fucking idiots.  Now, instead of disdaining the gatekeepers, you have decided to become the gatekeeper.  You have taken the very thing that made your product awesome, and turned it around ninety degrees.

Google, it is not your place to take a political stance.  I wish everyone would stop doing it, as if I care what Johnson & Johnson thinks about gay rights, or whether or not Aflac insurance is #woke.  You can’t even watch ESPN these days without having twelve idiots talking about whether or not Colin Kaepernick’s inability to get hired is racist.  For fuck’s sake, he’s not even a good quarterback!  Can I just get the game highlights without the political commentary, please?  This constant grandstanding, this high-handed moralizing, is beginning to really make me sick.

Companies need to stay in their lanes.  If you want to support a political cause, then give money to those causes.  Do not use your platform to discriminate against those with whom you do not agree.  That’s not only underhanded, it’s cowardly, and frighteningly authoritarian.  The fact that anyone agrees with it is staggering to me.

Authoritarianism is my greatest fear.  It is the thing that pushed me away from religion, and the thing against which I have spoken my entire adult life.  It doesn’t matter if any given authoritarian is wearing a brown shirt, an SS belt buckle, a hammer-and-sickle pin, a priest’s robes, or a CEO’s tailored suit.  In practice, they are all the same–cowards who want nothing more than to stifle individuality, and whitewash society in their own preferred image.  They are evil, no matter the clothing in which they appear.

So, Google–stop being evil bastards.  We can all see what you’re doing.