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Inclarity on the concept - Habemus plus vis computatoris quam Deus
Ramblings of a Unix ronin
Inclarity on the concept

I just finished reading The Tuloriad last night, by John Ringo and Tom Kratman, and for the first time I find myself having to fervently disagree with the authors.  I believe they made a serious mistake in the ending of the book, which they then compounded in the afterword.

First of all, let's start with a capsule summary of the afterword.  Ringo and Kratman discuss the Battle of Lepanto, present their conclusion as "Bring a gun to a gunfight; bring a religion to a religious war", assert that the Christian fleet decisively defeated a numerically slightly superior Ottoman Turkish fleet because the Christians were driven by faith, and conclude on the strength of this argument that religious faith is a good thing and atheism is bad.

To start with, this argument is flawed because it assumes that the Christian fleet was driven and held together by faith, while failing to explain why the Ottoman Turkish fleet — overwhelmingly Muslims — was not.  It's also flawed because it ignores that although the Turkish fleet outnumbered the Christians by about 7 to 6, not a very significant disparity in numbers to begin with, the Turkish ships were on average somewhat smaller, thus making the forces much more even than the huge disparity the authors suggest.  It completely ignores any issues of the tactical situation, or of the quality of leadership on either side; and it completely ignores both that the Turkish galleys were largely crewed by slaves who probably were not highly motivated to fight hard for their enslavers, and that the Christian side had the Turks outgunned by roughly 2:1 in artillery (not to mention the Turks having inadequate ammunition for their cannon).¹  And as if that wasn't enough, it totally handwaves the question of whether a religious war is ever a good idea in the first place.

Which brings me to the end of the book, and the moment in which the Posleen clan chief Tulo'stenaloor tells the Jesuit Father Dwyer, "You have won; I will order my people to convert to Catholicism."

There are two things terribly, terribly wrong with this.

The first is that Dwyer should have replied (but did not), "No; we have not won, because there was no war between us to win.  We came here to offer you our faiths, not to force one upon you."  It's stated over and over again throughout the book that theirs is a mission of peace.

(Actually, although the stated mission was to offer many of Earth's faiths in the hope of finding one to fit the Posleen, only Catholicism was given any serious chance to speak; Islam was deliberately allowed to present itself only weakly, mainly to allow the token imam to lament the need of Islam to "keep its lunatics under control", and none of the other faiths ostensibly represented in the delegation even really got a look in besides it being mentioned once or twice that they existed.  In practice, Islam was there to make Catholicism look rational by comparison, while the rest barely got even lip service.)

The second is more fundamental (and again, Dwyer should have pointed it out, but didn't).  If you think that you can ORDER a people, even your own, to adopt a specific faith, and you think that doing so means one damned thing in spiritual terms and makes you any better than any other theocrat in history who has told a people "Convert or else", YOU'RE DOING IT² WRONG.

[1]  The Battle of Lepanto really wasn't a case of the Muslims failing to bring a religion to a religious war.  It was a case of the Turks failing to bring nearly enough naval artillery to a naval artillery battle, and bringing archers to fight musketeers and arquebusiers.

[2]  Faith, that is.

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yamamanama From: yamamanama Date: December 27th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just want to get this out: Sometimes I think Tom Kratman is a pseudonym Dan Simmons uses when he's not satisfied with his work. Then I read Flashback and don't get that thought anymore.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: December 27th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Perfect score, Yama. Even though unixronin was agreeing with your negative opinion of Tom Kratman and unixronin raised a highly valid point, you still failed to say anything logically-relevant to either unixronin's or your own disagreements with Kratman. Have you taken classes in failing to make sense?
yamamanama From: yamamanama Date: December 27th, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know I agreed with him on Kratman, I just wanted to say that.
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unixronin From: unixronin Date: December 27th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I actually found Wacht am Rhein not bad at all. I particularly noticed that there was basically only one actual fervent Nazi in the entire corps, and pretty much the entire rest of the corps who knew it considered him the scum of the Earth.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: December 27th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is not implausible: the outcome of World War II coupled with the post-1945 history of the Earth deeply disillusioned even surviving Waffen-SS veterans with the brilliance and integrity of their Nazi political leadership!
Tom Kratman From: Tom Kratman Date: December 28th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Consider the possibility, painful though it may be, that you missed the point. I've certainly considered the likelihood that I didn't make it in a way suitable to all readers.

Much more than 90%.

I highly encourage you not to read my books. I am certain they will cntinue to offend you. Just out of curiosity, though, did you find the very graphic portrayals of SS crimes - Babi Yar, Auschwitz - equally offensive.
dakiwiboid From: dakiwiboid Date: December 28th, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Before I found this comment, I was considering reading this book to decide for myself whether I liked it.

I won't be doing that now. Inviting the reading public NOT to read your books is not a wise move for a writer.
Tom Kratman From: Tom Kratman Date: December 28th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, puhleeze. Do you really think the 60 odd cents I get from a paperback matters? Or even two increments of them, including yours?

It really doesn't. And telling some particular person, "Hey, I'm not the writer for you," in advance, is only about 60 cents difference from him, or her, finding it out for themselves.

dakiwiboid From: dakiwiboid Date: December 28th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

I know a number of novelists

and they've told me they need every reader they can get. If you keep treating your readers and potential readers this way, those 60 cent sales may well start declining. It starts with one reader talking to another reader, and soon the balance sheet looks a bit thinner. It's happened to other writers, and it might happen to you.
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Tom Kratman From: Tom Kratman Date: December 28th, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you for your response - it was quite unexpected

Sure, and I don't have a problem with that.

I actually did a partial migration, into straight military fiction, with the COUNTDOWN series. Sadly, Barnes and Noble doesn't know quite how to shelve it. It's been found in sci fi, in fiction, in politics, and God knows where else. They're not super political but they're damned harsh, occasionally mitigated by quite funny (at least, if you like Monty Python).

But, fair warning, _all_ my books are harsh to the point of brutal. They're just not for everybody.
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jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: December 27th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you on Lepanto (the Turks certainly were faithful Muslims, as much as were the Christians faithful Christians). Not so much on the Posleen. Remember, they have been a slave race for a very, very long time: submitting whole-heartedly to, and converting to a religion of, those who defeated them would be in character.

Whether they'd make good Catholics -- well, that's anybody's guess.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: December 27th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll grant you that point ré the Posleen, but if anything, that only strengthens Father Dwyer's responsibility to point out "You know, it's not supposed to work that way. Faith is supposed to be a free choice to believe."
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Tom Kratman From: Tom Kratman Date: December 28th, 2011 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know that it is usual, though it's certainly been done, notably by Moslems (kinda) and by the Spanish who understudied them for five or six centuries. I say "kinda" for the Moslems because they used force only to set things up / take control / disadvantage non-reverts. If they ever said, "convert (revert) or die," it was mostly or entirely toward pagans. The Spanish, on the other hand, felt no compunctions about forcing conversion. They didn't seem even to care if the people concerned had any idea of what they were converting to, or even that they were converting at all.

Even there, though, whether it was Monophysites in Egypt or sundry non-Aztec Indians in Mexico, most conversion was voluntary, if not necessarily all that faith based. I recall reading of an Irish Catholic landowner who converted to Protestantism. When asked why, he answered to the effect of, "600 acres of the best land in..." whatever county it was, which he could not have kept had he not converted.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: December 28th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
[...] most conversion was voluntary, if not necessarily all that faith based. I recall reading of an Irish Catholic landowner who converted to Protestantism. When asked why, he answered to the effect of, "600 acres of the best land in..." whatever county it was, which he could not have kept had he not converted.

And how, exactly, is that voluntary? "You have a free choice whether to convert or not. But if you don't, we'll take your home, your land and your livelihood."

That doesn't sound very voluntary to me.
Tom Kratman From: Tom Kratman Date: December 28th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's not libertarian-voluntary, no. Nor do I think I suggested it was. But there was a choice that was better than "convert or die." The point was that people who convert may well do so for purely financial reasons, or for reasons of social position and mobility.
Tom Kratman From: Tom Kratman Date: December 28th, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, but it often enough is not a matter of free choice. I had remarkably little choice about being raised a Catholic, for example. ;)

This might be an interesting and civil discussion. We shall hope.

A lot of people got this wrong, so I'm inclined to think it's my fault. (Which doesn't rule out, of course, the occasional person who deliberately misreads what I wrote because they don't like the conclusions.) Note that I never said the Christians won by having greater faith. They did not. What I claimed - and I'm not sure how it could be refuted, generally - was that it was largely faith that got them - the various national, Papal, city state, and militant monastic fleets, many of the principals of which detested each other - together so they could win. That's rather different.

Artillery didn't win it for the Christians. The guns on the typical galley were intended to be fired once, basically, and sometimes twice. By the time they'd done that, the galleys were broadside. They were structurally unsuited to firing broadsides with major guns. Thereafter it became an infantry fight, at sea. The Galliases _hit_ and damaged maybe 70 of the 280 or so Ottoman galleys. They only sank four or so. The rest continued on to that infantry fight at sea. (Note here, that the Wiki article on the subject is not all that good. I commend to you two books,Victory of the West, by Niccolo Caponi, and Roger Crowley's Empires of the Sea.)

An infantry fight of the day was largely a function of morale, which is a short and simple word with a lot of meaning. Faith can be, and at Lepanto clearly was, a hefty part of the morale of both sides.

Now subtract faith, and all it meant for morale, in the day, from one side or the other. Who wins then? The artillery, as mentioned, has not been decisive. Who stands in line of battle, longest, then? The ones with the greater morale, which, in the day, also meant the greater faith. (Now, someone's going to be silly here and say, "But you just now said that the Christians had greater faith." No I didn't. What I said was that had someone had no faith, or even substantially lesser faith, their morale in the infantry fight would have crumbled and they'd have lost more or less quickly.)

Don John's ships were also largely rowed by slaves and criminals. There were exceptions, of course. And in a few Ottoman galleys the slaves rose up. A number of the "Christian" rowers, when unchained to fight,took the opportunity to desert as soon as they could.

This might sound snarky. I don't mean it that way. If you want a particular ending for a particular moral point that pleases you, write that book and that ending.


Tom Kratman

unixronin From: unixronin Date: December 28th, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, well. Welcome, Tom.
Tom Kratman From: Tom Kratman Date: December 28th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Tom Kratman From: Tom Kratman Date: December 28th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, by the way, the next one - tentatively entitled The Yellow Pope - is going to have the Legio Equistris Posleenorum a Sacra Custodia Pontificis in action. But Ringo's got to get off his ass and do another book in the series before I can write that,
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