About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (a bad wordplay on Orwell's "double plus good" and old machismo - I'm the realest after all) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear' or 'Unripe language'), the umbrella of several literary projects in Dutch.

This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Why is this in English why everything else in Dutch? Because I want to gun for a much wider audience here. Also, my literary English isn't good enough, otherwise I would always write in English.

Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The "free speech" pushback

In the past year, I've seen numerous pieces appear on a common topic: how identity politics is supposedly erasing free speech. The tone of these articles is ostensibly "progressive but concerned". Basically, these articles' concerns boil down to how the demand for inclusivity and safe spaces is harming public debate and censoring free speech. Never mind that if you run a cursory Google search about the incidents mentioned in these articles, the authors blow them wildly out of proportion, there's something weird about casting a bunch of protesters as a minority powerful enough to get people sacked and change university curricula.

This isn't to say that activists never go overboard. I, too, have seen people with only rudimentary understanding of progressive politics froth at the mouth over what is an inconvenience at worst. I, too, have rolled my eyes at the insistent demand of radicals to fire such and such when the facts are still coming out. But here's the thing: caving in to these fringe elements betrays a lack of understanding on the part of the (supposed) offenders, too. It rerouts the debate back to empty signifying of political correctness and avoiding any sort of meaningful debate.

Let's discuss a few examples. Yale University became a hotbed of tension around Halloween after administrators didn't want to censor students in how they'd dress up, responding to concerns about cultural appropriation or offensive costumes. Some students demanded these types of costumes be banned. I would personally disagree with a ban, but Yale could at least have cautioned students and asked them to consider other people when dressing up. For instance, it wouldn't be illegal for me to dress up as a child molester at a party where survivors of sexual abuse are present, but it would probably not be a move in good taste. Adult people should have freedom of choice, but that doesn't mean that consideration for others should be tossed out of the window.

Another example is the resignation of scientist Tim Hunt after some comments about women in laboratory settings that were most likely jokes in poor taste, and not indicative of any sort of deep-rooted hatred of women. Instead of defending himself, listening to what others had to say about it or entering a debate, he just quit. He could have said: "My joke was bad and I recognise why it has offended some people, no matter how unintended it was." There. Is that so hard? I don't understand why some people caught in the crossfire of controversy feel the need to capitulate to the most radical and emotional demands first.

A third recent example is the demands of trans activists that Germaine Greer be denied speaking slots at feminist events because of her notoriously transphobic views. Once again, I do not think that if an event is not specifically or tangentially about trans matters, that Greer should be outright denied the opportunity to speak. But I do believe that free speech advocates are doing a stupid when they argue people with wrong and regressive ideas should be offered a stage at an event that seeks to engender meaningful discussion. Nobody in their right mind would argue for a KKK representative to speak at an antiracist rally, or for the Westboro Baptist Church to be allotted a speaking slot at a gay event. Or, to take it one step further, why would you invite a creationist to an evolutionary biology conference?

What sort of "debate" are these free speech advocates hoping for, really? Are they really interested in listening to concerns about how university professors probably shouldn't be endorsing sexist, racist or otherwise discriminatory practises and worldviews? Or do they merely want to brush off others' concerns as misguided and shallow? I don't think it's a coincidence that all authors of pieces arguing for the continuation of bad form and bad habit are white, cisgendered and heterosexual. At the same time, these authors are keen to downplay the factor of social context and cast "privilege checking" as a weapon to silence them. It's not a weapon. It's truth. It is well possible for a white person to say something meaningful about racial oppression of non-white groups, but their position is always one of historical power. It's easy for the non-oppressed to say that content matters more than who is bringing that content because it's a consideration they usually don't have to make.

Isolating concerned groups to their most extreme elements and casting it as a mere clash of emotions undermines the broader issues. In a vacuum, of course it doesn't matter if a white person dresses up in blackface or if a man makes an ironically sexist remark. But we don't live in a vacuum, and ignorance is no longer an excuse to do or say stupid things. Insisting that people should be able to do and say as they please or that "their side" ought to be heard as well, is simply a retreat into privilege, highlighting form over function and not contributing in any meaningful debate to an ongoing process of emancipation.

"Free speech" is one of the most misunderstood civil rights in the Western world. At its core, it does mean that you're allowed to say whatever is on your mind. But it doesn't mean that what you say is true or that the words you say don't have impact on others (indeed, why say them at all if they don't?). People with weak arguments will all too often resort to claiming critics are "censoring" and "silencing" them when they're merely being proven wrong. Free speech doesn't mean your opinion matters or is valid - a bitter truth to swallow for a lot of people.

In closing, here's another consideration. The authors of think pieces concerned about the sound and fury that sometimes comes with identity politics often explicitly see themselves as progressive people. Allies who indeed recognise that racism is bad, sexual violence is evil and that we still have ways to go to create an egalitarian society. So I'm not going to say these people have a hidden conservative agenda. But, as in the controversy around Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands and Belgium, it's not that every proponent of Zwarte Piet is racist - every racist is a proponent of Zwarte Piet. Similarly, not everyone who defended Tim Hunt was a sexist, but sexists and misogynists of all stripes unified behind Hunt. There does a come a time when the "free speech" advocates need to ask themselves what kind of friends they truly have.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Space invaders

For about three years now, I've part of a discussion group on Facebook about (mostly) feminism. I'm the only man in its moderation team, for what it's worth. For some time now, I've been fascinated with a peculiar phenomenon: men who I'll call space invaders. Men who enter the group, demanding to be listened to while obviously rather ignorant about feminist theory and practice. I'm not talking here about misogynists, undercover MRAs or people with other garden variety reactionary agendas. The specific subset of men I'm referring to would probably say they are proponents of gender equality, progressives to a degree, and not wholly uneducated.

The thing with reactionaries, trolls and MRAs is that they expect or may even thrive on conflicts. The 'space invader' doesn't even expect to be disagreed with. Of course, it's hardly a new thing that self-proclaimed progressives are sometimes absurdly blind to their own privilege and ignorance. Merely saying "I'm one of the good guys" doesn't magically make you a Good Person (tm). But the thing that fascinates me is that some of these guys simply can't let it go. Time and again, the discussion group has seen men come in who put their shallow ideas on full display*, get criticised for it, leave in a huff (or get kicked out if they make too much trouble), then come back, refusing to let it go and give it a rest.

I'm not a psychologist but I wonder about what goes on in these minds. It's easy to point to the fact that many men are simply so accustomed to be deferred to, that the simple fact a mostly female audience doesn't and combats them with facts (and facts of life) somehow triggers a firestorm in their heads. It's probably part of all of this, but my personal take is that their refusal to let it go comes from a place of wanting their egos to be reassured. That yes, they are one of the "good men", that indeed, feminists will go out of their way to personally tell him that all this talk of harassment, exclusion and rape doesn't concern him, and so on.

It's not an exclusively male thing. I've seen female activists sometimes descend down the same rabbit hole, where their activism seems to be something they hold onto to define themselves as a person or to gain some form of self-worth. But, in the majority of cases, it's dudes. Dudes with demands. That their ideas be taken seriously, although their understanding of feminism is shallow. That feminists be nice to them or that they'll risk losing their precious support. Or that feminism better focus on issues they think are more deserving of attention.

In a similar vein, this is agnostic or Christian people upset at the notion of Muslim holidays getting attention, or guys who open fake accounts on dating sites for lesbians. It's about spaces that weren't designed for them that they want to make about them, too. The thought of getting excluded from these spaces seems unbearable to them.

The earliest example I can think of of this type of behaviour is the Greek myth about Pentheus, who is curious about the women-only rituals of the Maenads (an all-female cult devoted to the god Dionysus). He goes to spy on their rituals, gets caught and is gruesomely dismembered and partially eaten. I believe this story and its modern-day variants tie into the recent hashtag of #masculinitysofragile. Indeed, masculinity so fragile it can't deal with the thought of not being particularly wanted in some space. The desire to be validated by or to seek domination in areas where they think they ought to belong.

Of course, all of this could be read as rich in irony from a man who helps moderate a feminist space. After all, I too talk and discuss in this space and even help enforce its rules and etiquette. But I never did it for validation (nor for the nookie, as some sleazelords have suggested). I'm on this journey to better understand things, to learn things. And I've certainly been called out on badly supported viewpoints or hackneyed statements. Again - ironically - I had the confidence in my intellectual achievements built up enough that I can stand the dent in my ego when I'm proven wrong. These other men, these space invaders, have never had that confidence. It's all bluster.

It's all rather sad, in a way. Self-proclaimed progressives who don't agree with the ideas of toxic masculinity are potential allies to gender equality movements indeed. But at the same time, their failure to realise how it has shaped and informed their biases, too, makes them one of feminism's most annoying detractors.

* Usually incredibly ham-fisted but fully earnest notions such as "did feminists ever consider X?", "we should all work towards a better world", "#notallmen", etc.

Monday, August 17, 2015

20 people I admire (VI): Geir Jensen

Who? Better known as Biosphere, an electronic music producer from Norway.

Why? In the deep world of ambient, Biosphere is almost an entity sui generis. Many reviewers note that the avid mountaineer and loner manages to import an Arctic, hardy sensibility into his music and it’s hard not to agree with that. His music often speaks in lingering, almost naturalistic tones of slow moving glacier ice, clear mountain streams or thin atmospheric currents. In addition, Biosphere keeps reinventing himself in his search for vast, desolate spaces: from the super-minimal sounds of outer space in ‘Autour de la lune’ to the sterile, high-tech world of nuclear technology in ‘N-Plants’, Biosphere finds the odd emotion in the absence of human business.

What resonates with me? As a busybody myself, Biosphere quenches my shadow’s thirst for being alone, undistracted and aware of being part of something far greater than myself. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that every now and then, Biosphere incorporated subtle Buddhist references in his music. In 2014, I had the honor of actually visiting Jensen's home town of Tromsø.

Best bit? It’s hard to top an album like ‘Substrata’, seen by some as one of the best ambient albums ever made. I still remember listening to the track ‘Antennaria’ for the very first time and feeling a chill descend over me, a chill that resonated with the unadulterated and quiet majesty of remote nature.

Next up: Margaret Atwood, celebrated Canadian writer.

Friday, July 31, 2015

20 people I admire (V): Marina Abramović

Who? World-famous Serbian performance artist.

Why? Although you could cast a lot aspersions on contemporary performance for being just another version of the emperors’ clothes, even for people who are completely removed from the art scene, Abramović raw bravado, vulnerability and dedication alone set her in a category completely of her own. Her performances are at once sophisticated and very direct, creating an unusually emotive impact in an otherwise rather sterile or pretentious art world.

What resonates with me? The stories of her nude performances with people allowed to use any object on her is a grim cautionary tale on the dregs of humanity.

Best bit? There was of course ‘The Artist is Present’ that propelled her to fame with wider audiences, but I suppose her unusual relationship with German artist Ulay was the story, interwoven with her art, that to me felt like a genuine, perhaps an anachronistic romance lived to its fullest. A feat few could hope to achieve.

Next up: Geir Jensen (Biosphere)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

20 people I admire (IV): Will Bevan

Who? The true name of British electronic musician Burial.

Why? Burial's influence on electronic music after 2005 can hardly be discounted. His tracks, EPs and albums have been dissected and analysed countless times to the point of beginning to resemble biblical exegesis. I think I know why: there is a pervasive sense with Burial's music of there being a ghost in the machine, an almost preternatural and haunting life that animates his distinct electronic soundscapes. And people want to find that ghost.

What resonates with me? At its best, Burial is music for late-night or early-morning reminiscing, wistful to the point of melancholy, offering a blend of very human emotions that take on the shape of some self-made necklace glittering in nocturnal streetlights. Burial deals with tiny bits of discarded vocals, samples and swaddles them in thick, earthly bass. At once, Burial can captivate the overpowering enormity of city life and the individual, closely-held feelings within it.

Best bit? The 'Loner' EP is still my favourite, representing Burial's characteristic sound amped up to frantic levels. As far as individual tracks go, I would choose 'Rival dealer', a three-part music journey that exudes danger, thrills and, at the end, redemption.

Up next: Marina Abramovic, world-class performance artist.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The crime of accusation

Quick: what do sexual assault, racist practices, structural poverty and religious fanaticism have in common with each other? If you answered that they are the excesses of four major oppressive systems - patriarchy, imperialism, plutocracy and superstition - you are right. They also share a number of other remarkable similarities.

Most societies on Earth more or less recognise that these four things are destructive and dangerous, perhaps moreso in the West, although I could be saying that because I live in the West. Regardless, they also have in common that despite being touted as great evils, most people poorly understand their realities, origins and causes.

Thought leaders and mainstream media will depict rape as a vile crime, a crime in fact so vile that only the vilest people will commit it. As such, being accused of rape is a sufficient battle cry for people to suddenly proclaim that the alleged rapist is innocent until proven guilty (which is true), while these same people will have no problem calling for severe and disproportionate punishments for people accused of various other crimes.

Racism, too, suffers from the stereotype that it's Apartheid, segregation, slavery and Hitler: gross manifestations of racism that lead to a defensive backlash if anyone is accused of racist attitudes and acts who doesn't fit this extremely brutal narrative.

And yes, we think poverty is bad and pitiable, but pinning the blame for poverty on those that hoard wealth and use every bit of power they have to unfairly keep it that way, is treated as an insane call for communism and the gulags. Instead, we prefer to blame people for their own poverty - a parallel with sex crimes - and demonise the poor as incapable, lazy and stupid.

Finally, we're good at puncturing the cuckoo beliefs of religious fanatics elsewhere, but few people ever point out that the belief in unfettered capitalism traces back to a similar false notion of certainty that this will somehow clearly work out.

The blames for these crimes are put on others, on the victims themselves, and the true perpetrators and the system in which they are movers and shakers, remains unchallenged. In fact, to challenge it is to commit a moral transgression yourself.

Despite the concern for false rape accusations potentially destroying the accused's life, we don't talk about rape culture and how rape is terrifyingly common. We are shocked when we watch 'Schindler's List', but admitting that racism is still alive on the job market, the housing market and in our courtrooms is too terrifying to contemplate. The 1% is destroying our economy, but all they are their acolytes do is to complain about how unfairly they're being treated by perceived left-wing bias in the media (which is bogus). Lastly, religious leaders and thinkers hasten to distance themselves from fanatics, but these fanatics are merely the extreme consequence of the superstitions they themselves hold.

Obviously, the mechanisms with which oppressive structures cloud their worst excesses in uncertainty, extremes and distance from their own core principles are much more complex and contain more moving parts than merely making the accusation of these crimes almost criminal in themselves.

But, I think there is merit to see how clever these systems are to single out their own worst consequences and pretend how they are somehow not present in their mainstream versions.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

20 people I admire (III): Soraya Chemaly

Who? Feminist and writer for a diverse array of American publications, most notably appearing in the Huffington Post.

Why? Chemaly is not only very much in tune with the fast-moving world of the Internet (and its memes, its soundbytes, the fickle stuff that catches the world's attention), but also manages to take the big perspective without being someone who preaches only to the choir. She is never shy for sources and back-up of the statements she makes, and I admire the fact that even in the face of the daily misery that faces a lot of women on this planet, she looks facts in the eye with an unflinching determination, never using it for self-aggrandizing, but always for the greater good.

What resonates with me? Her blend of "iron fist in a velvet glove" is something I wish I could adopt more often. Also, if I'm feeling a little burnt out on all this activism and the pessimism is invariably brings, it takes a Chemaly article to rekindle my fighting spirit and realise why I'm doing this.

Best bit? I would probably say her article on the epidemic that is violence against women worldwide, which reads as both a sad roll call of the atrocities that many would wish to forget, while at the same time connecting them all into a meaningful statement on the existence of patriarchy as a global force.

Next up: Will Bevan, also known as Burial, a British electronic musician.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Flair, we need to talk (bis)

(For my English-speaking readers, please do forgive me this entry in Dutch. A translation may be coming at a later time.)

Beste Flair-redactieleden,

Duidelijk kan ik het niet laten en ben ik een recidivist, dus bevind ik me weer in jullie digitale compagnie. De eerste keer dat ik jullie schreef, hoorde ik zelfs geen roze krekel tsjirpen in het gras, hoewel m'n schotschrift druk gelezen en gedeeld werd, vaak met jullie magazine er bij getweet en getagd. Misschien mag ik nu wel hopen op een reactie?

Het was vermoeiende werkdag vandaag, en tevens een dag rondzwemmen door diverse mediakanalen waar het jammer genoeg weer bijzonder hard rook naar het hardnekkige zweet van seksisme ('s ochtends ergens op een affiche het logo van 'Jupiler: Zielige Macho's Weten Waarom'; 's middags me mogen verheugen in de "opinies" van Guido Everaert en Marc Didden die ik moest inhalen en die medium speelden voor Louis Majors "die wijven moeten zo veel complimenten niet maken"; en 's namiddags een injectienaald verdriet in het hart over een vrouw die eerlijk vertelt over hoe genormaliseerd ongewenste aanrakingen, intimidaties en schoftengedrag anno 2015 nog altijd zijn). Ik stond aan te schuiven in de supermarkt toen ik op de radio reclame hoorde voor jullie superkekke 'Mannenvertaalwoordenboek' die blijkbaar bij de nieuwste editie hoort van jullie magazine.

Ik voelde al nattigheid hangen, en de vooruitblik op de website, nadat ik thuis de obligate avondboterham had gegeten, bevestigde dat alleen maar. De Flair-mythe van "de man" als een homogene groep debielen die nog niet eens juist kan praten of niet begrijpt dat "de vrouw" een soort infantiel wezen met een prinsessencomplex zou zijn, is nog steeds, al meer dan 25 jaar, springlevend.

Het ergste is: ik ben er zeker van dat jullie die onzin zelf niet eens geloven. Dat hebben enkele redactieleden onder jullie me zelfs persoonlijk verteld, tijdens een gezellige cafébabbel ergens in het najaar van 2013. Het is "ach, onze lezeressen lezen dat graag". Ik ga even voorbij aan het lef dat je eigenlijk moet hebben om zo neer te kijken op je eigen lezerspubliek, maar is het nog allemaal om te lachen als de eerstvolgende keer dat een man bekent aan zijn date dat zijn ex gestoord was, dat daarop een uitgebreide ondervraging volgt over zijn eigen trouw. Misschien dat die man wel denkt "ja, klaar, weer iemand wiens verstand compleet van de rails gaat".

Of nee, wacht, ik hoor het al komen. Het is ludiek bedoeld. Het is met een knipoog. Alleen is dit soort "humor" al uitgemolken sinds Al Bundy voor het eerst de sullige en verslagen huisvader speelde in 'Married with children', en worden mensen elke dag zo hard gebombardeerd met stereotyperingen rond m/v dat het niet mooi meer is. Clichés papegaaien kan iedereen.

Ik weet dat er op zijn minst enkele redactieleden zijn onder jullie die zichzelf toch wel als feminist beschouwen. Welaan dan, schaam jullie. Schaam jullie van onder het mom van een fijnere wereld te willen creëren voor vrouwen, jullie nog altijd geen enkel stereotype in vraag durven stellen met meer diepgang dan een soepbord (een vrouw met maatje 40 in een mooie jurk en mascara stoppen is niet het summum van gendergelijkheid), en damn you om steeds weer opnieuw "de man" te vernauwen tot een achterlijke seksmaniak. Af en toe krijgt zo'n exemplaar zelfs toelating om jullie lezeressen in te lichten over hoe ze hem, de Casanova-come-lately, het beste kunnen behagen.

Zelfkritiek binnen gevestigde media-instituten is nog altijd een heikel punt. Jullie zijn er niet alleen mee. Ondertussen ben ik wel verdomde blij dat er alternatieven zijn voor jullie eindeloze stroom aan roze getitelde stukjes over hoe je af moet raken van cellulitis. Er is nu al een tijd een machtig initiatief als Charlie: divers, actueel, met inhoud, en bijna volledig voor en door slimme vrouwen. Daarvoor doe ik mijn hoedje af. Misschien kunnen jullie er nog iets van leren, indien het tij van de geschiedenis jullie niet inhaalt.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

20 people I admire (II): Mark Rosewater

Who? Head Designer of the trading card game ‘Magic: the Gathering’, West Coast American.

Why? Arguably, Magic is one of the best designed games in the world because it is a game about rules. Under its familiar fantasy trappings, a complex rules engine allows Magic to be a fun combination of strategy, resource management, competition, fun, design and a little pinch of luck. In no small part, this is Rosewater’s merit. Not only has he constantly been improving his skills as a designer when he became the main face of the game after its inventor, he is also personably close to the sometimes huge and intimidating fan base. His energy, wit and flair help make Magic feel like a game like no other. This is a man who loves his trade, and manages to carry over that love to others.

What resonates with me? Apart from the things listed above, in in-game terms (sorry if this will turn off non-nerds here), like Rosewater I strongly identify as red-blue and I’m a Johnny-Melvin. Our birthdays are three days apart, his being on the same birthday as the main character in my novel cycle. Dumb stuff, but resonant nonetheless.

Best bit? Rosewater’s philosophy about the color pie, which underpins the way Magic ticks. For different reasons, the Time Spiral and Innistrad block count among his strongest work to me. Well, and for nostalgia reasons, Tempest block (that’s when I started playing).

Next up: Soraya Chemaly, feminist and media critic

Friday, February 20, 2015

20 people I admire (I): Chris Corner

Who? Sometime member of The Sneaker Pimps, now better known as IAMX. Englishman who moved to Berlin.

Why? While arguably a popular musician, Chris Corner represents a kind of dark integrity and craft not often found on the pop scene. Of course, it is an image like any other, and all images are about perception to a degree, but as a listener, you can't shake off the idea that Corner puts his money where his mouth is. It helps that he creates really fine tunes as well, simultaneously bombastic, seductive and pathos-laden as well as intimate and political. Truly, as William Blake said, the path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom. If I'm looking for an emotionally cathartic experience, Corner is very often one of the voices I'm drawn to.

What resonates with me? I discovered IAMX in 2009, and it was with me the entire time of my brief period I traveled back and forth to the UK, actually not very far from where he was born. Corner's utmost fragility in all his brutality, his hope couched  in cynicism, resonate with me most strongly.

Best bit? Hard to choose. I would say it's a toss-up between the hopeless love anthem 'Mercy' and the breakdown confessional 'I am terrified'.

Next up: Mark Rosewater, Head Designer of 'Magic: the Gathering'.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

20 people I admire (ground floor, basic rules)

In the spirit of optimism and positivity, I have decided to start the project ’20 people I admire’. Why? For one, I don’t have many idols or people I think are worthy of admiration. There’s something unreal about it – after all, every human being has to do mundane things like eat breakfast, go to the bathroom or suffer embarrassing moments at a checkout register. However, every once in a while, there are people that I wish I could be more like, at least in the aspects I admire about them. Here are the basic rules of my list:
  • The person in question has to be still alive. 
  • No dead people.
  • I will limit myself to about 300 words per person.
  • The people are listed in no particular order of importance.
  • I can’t know or have met them personally.

To start off with some namedropping, here’s five people who almost made the cut, why they almost made it and why they ended up not making it after all:
  • George Monbiot: writer, journalist and living conscience of the Western left. His columns for the Guardian are always incisive, on point and full of the right messages, whether he speaks about the destruction wrought by unfettered global financial elites, or the damage we’re doing to the environment. Why he didn’t make it? Sometimes he feels a bit too much like a mirror image of myself, and well, there’s a certain smugness to him that I don’t always appreciate.
  • Richard D. James: better known as Aphex Twin – he is a music pioneer and electronic wizard. This bad boy has influenced countless artists and has probably enriched the lives of millions with his particular brand of visionary music. Why he didn’t make it? I sometimes find myself wanting to like his entire discography more than it is actually likable. This may be a little unfair because he’s produced so much material, but about 30% of his tracks are just cerebral duds to me.
  • Lindy West: one of the leading voices of website Jezebel, which I suspect has turned a lot of young women on a path to feminism with its witty, sometimes nonsensical style, broad range of topics and clever writing. West is probably one of the best writers they have. Why she didn’t make it? Sometimes I do find her to be too much of a loose cannon, and I have very mixed feelings in general about the whole fangirling and the “your imaginary boyfriend” Jezebel does.
  • Claire Boucher: creative Wunderkind in electronic music who fuses countless styles and wears them as a coat wholly her own, plus an outspoken voice on sexism in the music industry. As Grimes, you’ve got to hand it to her that she totally does her own thing. Why she didn’t make it? Although most of her material is good, none of it is excellent (yet), and she just comes off as a tad hipsterish to me.
  • Dan Simmons: the writer of such ground-breaking sci-fi as the 'Hyperion Cantos' and a master at horror, physical pain and psychological torment, Simmons is responsible for my thesis and a major source of inspiration to me as a writer. I feel he has never quite been given the recognition that he deserves – he should be listed among sci-fi’s living greats. Why he didn’t make the cut? Unfortunately his writing qualities took a dent in his later years, along with his weird turn for the politically reactionary.

Coming up, as the first person to be featured in ’20 people I admire’: Chris Corner, the pounding heart of IAMX, and an overall under-recognised musical genius.