Advanced Clichés and Critiques
The What, Where and Whenever of this Endeavor
An editorial blog “behind the scenes” of The Unconventional. A look at the sweat, blood and tears, techniques and ethos behind this journey. The raison d’être, DNA and agenda of this intellectual Mecha.
“So what IS this?” As it’s not reasonable to expect everyone to watch the introductory video, and navigate up and down our initial site, it’s natural that some may still have questions. “That was all a lot of moving pictures and flashy animations. Can you summarize this, briefly?” Simply put, “No.” In our “Origins” sentiment—or the call to action in “Enlist”—it becomes self-evident the tiresome “brevity is the soul of wit,” and conventional wisdom behind attention spans, are precisely the sort of garbage we’re assembled to scrutinize, diagnose, and bludgeon. It behooves us to recall that the source of that trite line is a layered ironic usage by the Bard himself, who is as brief in Hamlet as he is Spanish… a questionable source, at best [ 1 ]. One can divide our answer to the initial query easily enough by answering the compositional “What,” the personal “Who,” and geographical “Where,” and timely concerns of this endeavor. To wit, the answer is both complex and sublimely simple. We are meant to be antithetical to almost everything about the current “status quo” and “norm,” the current era of BuzzFeed-grade “journalism.” Do excuse our snorts of derision. We’re hoping to override the water-cooler banalities infesting discourse about fandom—our society’s mass-produced bread and circuses, in all their infinite variety, from poignant to pablum. While brevity is not going to be on-offer at our particular cafe, we can strive for concision. Let’s get into it.
‘Get to the point. What IS this?’
Calm, friends. I’ll come to it. If the current infestation of “light” content, between click-bait captioned, poorly researched, and ironically dubbed “think” pieces is the norm, we are the clarion cry against this dumpster-fire grade entropy of standards. Where they will be brief to the point of immaterial and reductive, we will be robust. We recognize this entire endeavor is swimming upstream against the current. Let us not forget that American society has been prioritizing schools below the police-state, with law-enforcement budget climbing over the past 25 years, while “the majority [still] funding schools below their prerecession 2008 levels” [ 2 ]. Effectively, there’s been a pogrom to lobotomize our society these past few decades, supplemented by corporations mining the very fiction meant to inoculate us. Yet where other outfits unerringly cater to these eroding standards of education and discourse, we will unapologetically demand more, speaking to those with studious attention spans. Each of our catalog of over 60 series, when compiled, are essentially basis for a Master’s thesis, albeit not nearly as dry nor inaccessible. Each of our stockpiled 766 articles is curated, at roughly 2,000-4,000 words, academically researched and cited, with sources documented to MLA standards—no “Wikipedia” links here! Every piece is further machined on an assembly line, through seven editorial passes, and typically a final check with the author, preserving their stylistic voice. We’ve set a standard of quality that not only exceeds those of paid journalists and correspondents, but also serves as an indictment, a challenge to improve current standards and practices. We may not be in the era of Tom Brokaw, but we can damned well reach for it, aspiring to better than this finger-food surrender to mediocrity [ 3 ].
Just because something is effective does not mean it is good, wholesome, nor healthy for a society to embrace as a norm. Slave labor—both historically and in the modern world—is unquestionably efficient, but one hardly wants to contemplate the human rights violations that enable cheaper prices on one’s footwear or smartphones [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 6 ]. Similarly, the propagation of reductive “hot takes” and mass infantilization of our populace is something that many would claim is not “new.” Philosopher of science Cailin O’Connor reminds us that “humans have [always] been dependent on social ties to gain knowledge… There’s been misinformation and propaganda for hundreds of years. If you’re a governing body, you have interests you’re trying to protect” [ 7 ]. Simply put, O’Connor and her writing partner, James Owen Weatherall, are hardly the only ones who’ve charted the accelerating erosion of intellect and our structures of society over the past 20 years [ 8 ] [ 9 ] [ 10 ].
We can hardly aspire to fix the current state of education and the press, given corporate interests and modern demand for a continuous barrage of content. Such lofty work is underway, despite long odds, by career journalists, authors and philanthropists with far more focus and determination than even ours [ 11 ] [ 12 ] [ 13 ]. What we can do, however, is take a particular vector, the state of discourse in our various fandoms and subcultures within “geek” genres, given aspirational or dystopian fictions and the aesthetics attached to them, and nudge the waterline forwards. That is absolutely within our capabilities, with our array of specialists mining the intersection between these topics and their respective fields. Thus, our rigorous vetting, robustness of content, and nuanced balance between veracity and accessibility, over the glut of “op-eds” and shoddy reasoning, sets us apart in this dubious market. We’re not here to conform; we’re here to transgress with purpose.
‘Is this even relevant, or current?’
As covered in our “Origins” segment, the inception of this endeavor was in 2013, as we tired of certain banalities of discourse and trite examinations. (“No seriously, what’s your definition of Steampunk?”) Having surveyed the current landscape of “journalism” and commentary, we were looking for something significantly more robust, and were profoundly dissatisfied. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind endeavor, building this network and training our professional staff, to say nothing of our vast web of affiliates, sponsors and other collaborators. As it’s taken eight long years, obviously our content in its “raw” form was dated. Or it would be, were our entire raison d’être not thumbing our nose at the 24/7 news cycle’s distortions, in favor of more robust, evergreen examination—thus, our trajectory in crafting deep expository essays, as a directive to all of our contributors. We have, of course, continuously added new writers and content to our ensemble, as an ongoing process of expansion, while many of our initial writers “doubled down” for second and even third series, deepening our ongoing collaboration.
The painter Robert Genn once spoke of his craft, stating that “[It] has a way of defeating people—too much to learn and not enough time. It’s a great path to be on and learn from [others], to stand on their shoulders and the rest of it, but it’s also nice to know that we’re all in this together” [ 14 ]. We have indeed fostered camaraderie and learned from one another all these long years. But the value is more than some trite, saccharine reiteration of “The real (insert here) was the friends we made along the way.” Hardly. Through sheer determination and grit, we’ve seen our array of content come to fruition, from standard writing to our roundtables, audio panels worthy of recent upswings in virtual conventions and for future reproduction as podcasts. Finally, the very delivery of our content, with curated artwork and branding, as well as rigorous fact checking over time, has granted endurance to the research in question. We can attest that the observations in question either acknowledge more recent developments or stand unchallenged. If that was not proof enough of its value, as with so many other aspects of this endeavor, we have chosen to be nonconformist.
Plenty of others are chasing “the next scoop.” The value of our content rests on their topical merits, rather than parochial flirtations with audience attention span. Per Wayne Gretzky’s maxim, we’re opting to be where the puck is going to be. Plenty of outlets have advocated for similar to what we offer, long-form and enduring content… but in the howling maelstrom of the glutted market, they are drowned out by more successful a la carte endeavors, and paid shills [ 15 ] [ 16 ] [ 17 ]. While one may surmise that we certainly anticipated launching with this content far sooner, the very process of this journey has matured our perspective and standards a bit. We have grown more patient, yet more exacting. Our primary investments in our staff and relationships, have born fruit, through careful cultivation. In short, while this all may seem like Arcanum, the real “killer app” was dedication and diligence over time. In that sense, our dear Hobbits, like Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, we are neither late nor early. We’ve arrived precisely when we were meant to [ 18 ].
‘Who do you think you are, and where do you all get off?’
Let’s address that frankly, with a light dusting of “salt,” given the question’s phrasing. We are doctorates, students, teachers and authors; subject-matter experts in our respective fields. Our staff has been meticulously curated across the continental U.S., from the parent firm’s native New England, down to Florida, with reach spanning out to Chicago, L.A. and Seattle. We’ve even been graced with some international collaborators, ensuring a kaleidoscope of perspectives. Over the course of our initial search, we procured a cast of writers and editorial staff, whose publication experience spans pop culture, journalism, gaming, and research think tanks. Our ethno-cultural, generational, political and psychological diversity is just as far flung. The reasons for this, and obvious benefits to said variety, are well documented [ 19 ] [ 20 ]. As we’ve seen in other endeavors that follow a standard model for such matters (as “hiring protocols” are nothing new), “Diversity 101’s Western-centrism also fails the realpolitik test” [ 21 ]. Thus, the deliberate-yet-measured process of seeking out qualified individuals with personal engagements over the course of 10 years of travel and networking, across different markets. Furthermore, this has been a teaching endeavor, as numerous college interns have earned their degrees in part due to our instruction over our initial pre-production and assembly.
Our one loyalty, outside of the endeavor itself, is to the Truth, as we can best assess it. To this end, (as you’ll see once “main site” is launched), each participant, from content generation to editorial staff, has filled out a “20/20” statement, that addresses their implicit biases. It’s the only way to present with even a semblance of objectivity, in a world where Fox News and other red-pill outlets have made an absolute mockery of “fair and balanced” or “truth,” fiddling to Sartre’s tune while “Rome” literally and figuratively burns [ 22 ] [ 23 ] [ 24 ]. Which is not to say we’re given over to the competing echo chambers of Left-Wing groupthink, nor centrists between the two, either. We’re rational, and given our robust perspectives, have learned from one another that all is not “peace and light” under the constant cannibalism of unequally applied “progressivism,” either.
As we’ll examine elsewhere, therein lies the rub, given flagrant profiteering, partisan pandering for easy clickshare, and unmitigated bias run amok, in other “reporting.” We are owned by a single corporate entity, which doesn’t derive a cent, peso or rupee from this endeavor. There will be no ad-revenue, no dedicated space for it in the future. Our sponsors are recurring clients for our parent company, but ones that have no interest, nor capabilities of shaping or skewing our content to meet any agenda. Frankly, it’d be a herculean task to even try, even if I as the Editor in Chief were so inclined. Not only is that the antithesis of our objectives, it would be mind-numbingly tedious and laughably poor use of my time. So suffice to say, “as unbiased as we can reasonably manage,” given the significant editorial review of each piece of content. In a world where traditional media’s ad revenue has dried up, more adaptive outlets are curating audiences and surrendering integrity to populism. Thus, we stand apart. It doesn’t affect our company’s bottom line one way or another whether this is popular, “chic” or has mass appeal.
I’ll speak candidly. We don’t give a FUCK. We’re here to do analysis and take apart the skewing of late stage capitalism, carpet bagging, and the hopelessly solipsistic on these things we’ve loved, as well as the toxic trends within certain communities. More importantly, we’re here to celebrate what we’ve found laudable, past and present, and provide further justification of why that matters. Is it a goal for this to “find our market?” Sure. But if it doesn’t, or if it lags behind the many corrupt titans that so dominate the infosphere, the endeavor will still be worth it. This is a drop in the bucket, but one that will cause ripples. Through the breadth of our contributors, the depth of the work in question and our dedication, and our dogged pursuit of quality over speed, we are confident this will make waves. Oh, it doesn’t hurt that a few of us are gifted in slinging prose or crafting a phrase or two. Thus, as Google alumni and Nine-dots winner James Williams paraphrased Diogenes to Alexander, as the latter intruded on his solitude to offer him an imperial boon, “Stand out of our light!” [ 25 ]
Wrapping Up —Curating our Audience
So if you’re still with us, then you likely are the people we want to speak to. If this all struck you as longwinded or overly chatty, than it’s likely you aren’t. And we’re powerfully okay with that. Through the depth and robust nature of our content (and its rigorous review), the breadth of our contributors and the wealth of our editorial staff’s perspective and experience, and finally through the long “marinating” that each piece has had, over the course of our pre-production cycle, what we have to offer is truly unique. If you see the value in that, then likely, you’re our kind of people. Those who favor what is expedient and shallow are not the ones who crafted the speculative fictions we all are inspired by. So why would we be concerned with what they think? It’s time for more qualified perspectives to lead.
“It’s taken far longer than we ever imagined, but our ship and crew have indeed assembled.” Gvsualan. Spacedock (Earth). Memory-Alpha. “The USS Enterprise first encounters the USS Excelsior inside the docking bay of the Earth Spacedock in 2285. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)”, memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Spacedock_(Earth)?file=USS_Enterprise_and_USS_Excelsior_in_Spacedock.jpg.
“We literally have vetted thousands of individuals annually, to get to this potent a staff together.” Shutterstock. “Recruitment concept. Businessman using futuristic tablet computer, pressing button on the touch screen and selecting Recruitment”, www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/recruitment-concept-businessman-using-futuristic-tablet-420438130.
With decades in consulting and project management, and work at over two hundred events, Savan’s settled into his role as “war chief” to many tricksters. A former Wizards of the Coast employee, he lends his acumen to several endeavors. Between his role here as Editor in Chief, ongoing duties as founder and CEO of Steam-Funk Studios, work as the driving creative force for The Living Multiverse, and pursuing his next degree through Harvard, he does not lack for crusades or grail-quests.
- Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, p. 1600-02 Act II, scene 2, line 90.
- Boatwright, Stephon J. “Defund the Police? We’ve Been Doing That to Education for Years (Opinion).” Education Week, 30 July 2020, edweek.org/leadership/opinion-defund-the-police-weve-been-doing-that-to-education-for-years/2020/07.
- Russo, Alexander. “Don’t Miss out on BuzzFeed’s ‘Business of Education’ Coverage.” Kappanonline.org, 24 July 2015, kappanonline.org/dont-miss-out-on-buzzfeeds-business-of-education-coverage. Accessed 3 July 2021.
- By Nicola Smith. “Uighurs Are Making Shoes for Nike in Chinese Forced Labour Factories, Report Claims.” The Telegraph, Mar. 2020, telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/03/01/uighurs-making-shoes-nike-chinese-forced-labour-factories-report.
- Axbom, Per. “The Slavery Supported by That Device in Your Pocket.” Ethical.net, 6 July 2020, ethical.net/technology/the-slavery-supported-the-device-in-your-pocket.
- Amnesty International. “Is My Phone Powered by Child Labour?” Amnesty.org, 11 Mar. 2021, amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/06/drc-cobalt-child-labour. Accessed 30 June 2021.
- Berger, Brian Gallagher & Kevin. “Why Misinformation Is about Who You Trust, Not What You Think.” Nautilus, 14 Feb. 2019, nautil.us/issue/69/patterns/why-misinformation-is-about-who-you-trust-not-what-you-think. Accessed 3 July 2021.
- McCloskey, Rachel S. “George Bush and No Child Left Behind: A Federalist Perspective.” Inquiries Journal, vol. 2, no. 06, 2010, inquiriesjournal.com/articles/258/george-bush-and-no-child-left-behind-a-federalist-perspective.
- Lily Eskelsen Garcia, and Otha Thornton. “‘No Child’ Has Failed.” The Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2015, washingtonpost.com/opinions/no-child-has-failed/2015/02/13/8d619026-b2f8-11e4-827f-93f454140e2b_story.html.
- Schneider, Jack, and Jennifer C. Berkshire. “Opinion | How DeVos May Have Started a Counterrevolution in Education.” The New York Times, 1 Dec. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/12/01/opinion/betsy-devos-education.html. Accessed 04 Aug. 2021.
- Turner, Cory. “How Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Will Be Remembered.” NPR.org, 19 Nov. 202AD, npr.org/2020/11/19/936225974/the-legacy-of-education-secretary-betsy-devos.
- “The Real News Network.” The Real News Network, therealnews.com. Accessed 3 July 2021.
- “PS—the World’s Opinion Page.” Project Syndicate, project-syndicate.org.
- The Artist’s Road. “Voices of Experience—a Conversation with Robert Genn—the Artist’s Road.” Www.theartistsroad.net, 2 May 2012, theartistsroad.net/articles/robertgenninterview. Accessed 3 July 2021.
- “Evergreen Content: Why Articles for Experts Are Killing Your Blog.” Blog Tyrant, 5 Sept. 2012, blogtyrant.com/evergreen-content. Accessed 3 July 2021.
- “Why Long Form Content Is Winning the Web.” Blog Tyrant, 7 Apr. 2014, blogtyrant.com/long-form-content. Accessed 3 July 2021.
- “Geek Culture: The Clickbait Epidemic.” The Star Wars Hub, 10 Nov. 2019, starwarshub.net/2019/11/10/geek-culture-the-clickbait-epidemic. Accessed 3 July 2021.
- The Fellowship of the Ring. Directed by Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema, 10 Dec. 2001.
- Elizabeth, Jane. “Challenge No. 2: Making Diversity, Equity and Inclusion More than Theoretical.” American Press Institute, 20 May 2021, americanpressinstitute.org/publications/articles/challenge-no-2-making-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-more-than-theoretical/. Accessed 04 Aug. 2021.
- Childers, Nicole A. “The Moral Argument for Diversity in Newsrooms Is Also a Business Argument—and You Need Both.” Nieman Journalism Lab, 24 Nov. 2020, niemanlab.org/2020/11/the-moral-case-for-diversity-in-newsrooms-also-makes-good-business-sense.
- Frost, Stephen. The Inclusion Imperative: How Real Inclusion Creates Better Business and Builds Better Societies. London, Koganpage, 2014. p.51.
- “Study: Breitbart-Led Right-Wing Media Ecosystem Altered Broader Media Agenda.” Columbia Journalism Review, 2017, cjr.org/analysis/breitbart-media-trump-harvard-study.php.
- Hoewe, Jennifer, Brownell, Kathryn Cramer and Wiemer, Eric C. “The Role and Impact of Fox News” The Forum, vol. 18, no. 3, 2020, pp. 367-388. doi.org/10.1515/for-2020-2014.
- Field, Rebecca Miller, Katharine Mach, Chris. “Climate Change Is Central to California’s Wildfires.” Scientific American, 29 Oct. 2020, scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-is-central-to-californias-wildfires.
- Williams, James. “Stand Out of Our Light”. amazon.com/Stand-out-our-Light-Resistance/dp/110845299X.