The Collective Journey, or The Hero’s Journey? by William Lehman

*I’m working on a book that drops dead tomorrow, but now William has made me aware of this insanity, I’ll have to write my own post about it, probably tomorrow.  Part of it being Mr. Gomez (I liked his relative, Wednesday’s father better) doesn’t get the Hero’s journey.  And isn’t that bog standard?  Another fricking collectivist trying to replace what he doesn’t understand?- SAH*

The Collective Journey, or The Hero’s Journey?  by William Lehman

A friend of mine called my attention to a series of essays about a concept the author (Jeff Gomez) calls “The Collective Journey”. Mr. Gomez is the “CEO Starlight Runner. Brand and cause-related consultant, producer of franchise storyworlds and transmedia entertainment properties.” Says so right there in his autobiography. He’s also worked as an editor (Palladium books) a producer of comic books, etc.

In this concept and series of essays, he proposes that the “hero’s journey” is out moded, and should be scrapped.  He then goes on to suggest that the narrative we should be telling, and writing as story, proposing at all turns is this “collective journey” where winner and looser are no longer part of the real world, and we must learn to cooperate with everyone and find common ground with all people…  In many ways, he’s right (in how he describes the concept, and that it works well for selling the “we’re all in it together”, for example) But I have real issues with his lauding and supporting of moral relativism as right, and good. This is the mindset that has brought about most of the story lines in modern comics that do things like make Captain America an agent of Hydra.  It also brought about the sorts of novels that created sad and rabid puppies as a backlash.
He holds forth shows like Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Walking Dead, as ideal storytelling, with the message that “no one is going to come to save us, we must gather together and save each other:“These stories are not about the glorious eternal return of heroes. They are about communities struggling to achieve efficacy through the power of their own diversity.”

“Hero’s Journey stories are about how the individual actualizes by achieving personal change, but Collective Journey stories are about how communities actualize in their attempt to achieve systemic change.

“These stories tell us that if we are awaiting a savior, we are consigning ourselves to doom, and to erect one in his place can be just as bad. We, collectively, must become our own salvation.”

Horse shit.

I prefer stories in which it’s pointed out that “yes there are dragons, but you can fight them, and they can be beat.”  The “hero’s journey” that Mr. Gomez feels is oh so last century, is not about awaiting a savior, or erecting one, nor is it about “actualizing, by achieving personal change”. (my dictionary tells me that “actualizing” means: making real, so please explain how one “makes real, by achieving personal change”) Actualizing has become one of those “buzz words” like “paradigm” that has become a shibboleth. “Oh look, I use this word, I’m one of the intelligentsia, you must believe me.”

No Mr. Gomez, the hero’s journey is about a common man, not a perfumed prince, or a chosen one, seeing wrong, and making it right.  It’s about recognizing that, in the words of John Wayne’s character from a movie a long time ago, “There’s right and there’s wrong. Y’gotta do one or the other. Do the other and you may be walking around, but you’re dead as a beaver hat.”

Mr. Gomez goes on to tell us that “Conflict is violence” and “We’ve become wired to hunger for violence” that “conflict is masculine”, that in the hero’s journey it’s all about killing a single villain, not achieving systemic change, that “good versus evil is binary”, that the female is either a temptress, innocent, a goddess, or a stand in male, and that the hero’s journey is “Not conducive to communications technology.” It’s “Narrative built on knowledge scarcity.” Mentors are rarefied elders.” It’s a “Celebration of heroic power and glory.” “The hero loses.” and “The community loses.”  Oh, my aching back.  Where do I begin?
Well yes, conflict is violence.  News flash ace, everything is violence when you break it down that way, including harvesting wheat. (the classic song “John Barleycorn” ring any bells folks?).  We’ve not “become wired” to hunger for violence, at the level that you identify violence (IE: “either real or implied”) we have always been all about violence, and short of some miraculous change in the human condition, we always will be.  No, conflict is not masculine, conflict is inherent.  Be it conflict against other people, nature, or our own baser instincts, conflict is the fucking world.  Yes, the hero’s journey is often about killing or vanquishing a single villain, but there’s always another one waiting in the wings.  That’s life.

Systemic change can happen in the hero’s journey, the classic that jumps to mind is “Mister Smith goes to Washington”. But the sort of change you propose in your essays doesn’t lead there.  It leads to the sort of “community good at the cost of individuality” that has been tried so often.  That’s 18th century thinking sir. The classic pamphlet on it was written in 1848.  Dude named Karl Marx.  The most recent example of how it ends up is Venezuela. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll pass.  (in fact, whether it’s all the same to you, or not.)

This bit about “not conductive to communications technology” seems to be because in several films the hero gets frustrated and throws his phone… Really? Moving on… The “narrative built on knowledge scarcity” bit seems to be about the hero not reaching out and using his networks to get the answers.  Again, we’re on the whole “you must go to the community” thing.  Sometimes yes, we should.  Sometimes that’s not a viable option, for whatever reason.    That’s storytelling.  It’s not a reason to go communist.

“Mentors are rarefied elders”.  Gomez would have you believe that all hero’s journey type stories require a wise man or woman to give the hero his clue, without whom the hero would be lost.  Again, Horse Shit.  “Celebration of power and glory” … Yeah, whatever.

“The Hero loses” and “The community loses” the first is based on the complaint that in Hero stories the hero is changed, and can no longer be what or who he was.  Well sir, maybe you have never done anything since school that is outside an office, and the very strange world that is the entertainment industry, but let me explain to you that in point of fact YES the sort of shit that makes a story something more than “he went to work, he made cartoons, he argued with the boss over the story line, he went home”, in short something that makes the story worth reading, does change a man (or a woman).  Ask anyone who has been in a life or death situation, be it combat, or man v nature, or any other formative experience. (hint, the operative word is FORMATIVE, meaning it changes you).  The second part of this bit proposes that the community is reliant on this mythic hero, and without him we all are lost…  One last time, I say: “Horse shit”.  The whole thing of the hero’s journey is usually about some guy having to step up and be the hero, because stuff needs done.  The point of it, which you somehow seem to have missed in your communistic indoctrination, is that ANY man can step up and be that hero.  That it may suck, the road may be hard, and you may even die, (not all hero’s journeys end with the first hero living through it) but it’s better to stand forth and TRY.

In the end, all of his screed boils down to Moral Relativism, and Communism. Communism is a dead and failed philosophy, a model so bad, that the only way to get people to stay in it, is by bruit force.

Moral relativism is maybe the biggest lie of our time. The collective idea that “there is no “good” and no “bad”, just what you have to do.” Now that’s not to say that some bad choices must be made, when your choice is between bad, and “oh FUCK no”, you will end up choosing bad. BUT if you don’t do it KNOWING it’s bad, even though the alternative is worse, you wind up down that slippery slope that so many civilizations slid, and are sliding. The slope where “what I want, and what I need, is worth doing anything I want to do, because after all, what is “bad” but an arbitrary decision?” That way leads to things like “work makes free”, and gulags. Or in personal life, that way leads to things like the Mafia, which started out as a community protection group, when the government was too corrupt (NYC) or just nonexistent (Italy) to protect the people. Where it wound up, was a result of that same sort of moral relativism.
Yes there are shades of grey. LOTS of them. (don’t know if there’s 50, but…) Still, you must choose, and, in the end, if you decide that it doesn’t matter, because everything is grey, you are an animal, and I stand against you.

182 thoughts on “The Collective Journey, or The Hero’s Journey? by William Lehman

  1. Oh, Hell yeah! Why should authors struggle to write fiction about individuals struggling to uphold standards in the face of challenges both physical and moral? Where’s the benefit in that? Horatius at the bridge was a sucker and a show-off, enjoying his Roman Privilege and rubbing his companions’ noses in it.

    In today’s world such out-moded concepts as honor, pride and diing one’s duty are anachronisms that cause extremists to obstruct the People’s Will (as carefully calculated by expert pollsters) and block progress. We need to stop promoting the likes of Atticus Finch and Huck Finn and show readers that if Society says a person is less than human, that person is by George, less than human!

    1. Obviously they must advance the Revolution, comrade!

      And the very notion of their being aesthetic issues is kulak propaganda!

    1. Collectivist thought on a large scale began with the French Revolution of the late 18th Century. The fact that Communism was not formally developed until the year of revolutions does not mean the ideas are not older.

      1. Sure. But I’m not commenting on when collectivism began (I could make a case for Plato as the first collectivist thinker, for example). I’m just commenting on what century the year 1848 belongs to. It’s a really small, fussy point.

      2. I recently finished reading Declaration – The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became Independent May 1 – July 4, 1776 by William Hogeland.

        In the late spring and early summer of 1776 the elected colonial government of Pennsylvania was overthrown by the City Committee and Committee of Privates. This was done under the under the influence of radicals the likes of Dr. Thomas Young, James Cannon, Christopher Marshall and Tom Paine. Under the guidance of men like these, the State of Pennsylvania became one of the first experiments in collectivism. No, it did not last.

        1. The Pilgrims also started out as a collectivist society when they first got off the Mayflower. The switch to individuals and private property was a big part of the reason they managed to turn things around for the ceremonial Thanksgiving.

            1. As I pointed out in my analysis of Acts story of Ananias and Sephira, the 12 Apostles backed up by God with thunderbolt in hand couldn’t make communism work.

              1. And didn’t try. The Acts narrative makes it clear that all the “sell everything” was voluntary. Ananias and Saphira were struck down for *lying*–saying they’d given all so people would admire them and tell them how holy they were .

          1. It’s amazing how much easier it is to survive as a society when all of your food isn’t stored in the one, flammable building, isn’t it?

  2. They are about communities struggling to achieve efficacy through the power of their own diversity.

    What does that even mean? I know each of the individual words but they do not add up to an intelligible sentence. “The power of their own diversity”?????? T’ain’t no sech animule.

    1. Means just what you think it means: He don’t know what he’s talking about so had to make it as fancy dress as possible in hopes it looks like “dazzling with brilliance” rather than… *flush*

      1. You’d think Alan Sokal’s exposure of these linguistic frauds would have relegated them to the intellectual trash-heap they so deserved, but here we are, twenty years later, and this expression of pseudo-thought is now dominant.

    2. Most of what political advocates say is blather. Not just political advocates of the Left, either. At the moment, the Left has it worse because they controled the terms and venues of debate too long for theor own good.

      1. Theoretical diversity, in which all races, sexes, and creeds have the same political opinions is a superpower. Real diversity is an embarrassment and a pain in the unmentionables.

    3. Reminds me of some student responses I’ve gotten from homework assignments where they just repeat words from the assigned reading into a nonsensical word salad. They do it in the hope that I’ll just mark it complete without reading it.

    4. Diversity is a useful thing. Someone who can fix the car, and someone who can raise the veggies, and someone who can — etc.

  3. the hero’s journey is about a common man, not a perfumed prince, or a chosen one, seeing wrong, and making it right.

    Quibble. The Prince and the Pauper or even Citizen of the Galaxy. For that matter: Theseus.

    1. Joseph Campbell’s formulation of the Hero’s Journey was full of problems and stupid, and it did not fit American stories well. But this idea of a Collective’ s Journey is even stupider.

      Every strong community is made by many, many people each choosing to act with individual heroism, stubbornness, and response to grace. It is not something that is done alone, but it is not done by magical lockstep, either.

      1. And in some ways that’s what irritates me about this. It’s that it COULD get to right. (A Hero’s Journey style thing where a whole community decides on small acts of heroism that affect a larger plot. I’d say a fair amount of pioneer stuff falls into that category. This family and that family banding together so they ALL can build something. My brain is blanking on a given book.)

        Yet this ‘collective journey’ doesn’t go there. It jams itself into some kind of sick parody of what real community and real strength are, then applauds itself for its own lack of substance.

        I may be saying this badly, if so, I apologize. I just have to wonder if they realize that they’re looking into a funhouse mirror and calling it ‘truth’?

        1. In a less action-oriented fashion, the English mythopoeic writer Elizabeth Goudge used to do this. Whether she was writing historical fiction, contemporary fiction, or fantasy, the characters were always each undergoing spiritual trials and challenges to their virtues and weaknesses. You see how every member of a close family can be very different, how they misunderstand or put up with each other, and so on. (But in an interesting way. Seriously, to the point that her contemporary novels feel like fantasy.)

          She does a huge amount of omniscient narrator, telling instead of showing, huge descriptive passages, and other things viewed as failings by critics today. But she got away with it, because her style was never boring. Instead, it oriented the reader toward the big picture, while showing how all the little things are important.

          I did not realize that a lot of her stuff is on Kindle now, until last night. Which is why I am sleepy now. (Oh, and Gentian Hill is $2.99.)

            1. I grew up on Elizabeth Goudge, and it’s neat to see her referenced here. 🙂 She’s got lovely animal descriptions if you’re a dog person; Pooh-Bah and the Bastard have been family watchwords for decades.

        2. Even the idea of a small band all doing their role and stepping past expectations every so often would count. Think of the MHI team. Owen stumbles into heroism often, Earl just is Badass, his wife (my mind failing me) takes on curse to save him, etc. That small team is a band of heros working together and could be called a community.

          1. Yes they are a community. They are working together and the sum of the parts may be the greater because of it. Still it is not because they are a collective. Each contributes to the whole as an individual. They remain individuals. Not a single one of them could be considered an interchangeable cog.

              1. What comes to mind are the stories about Chelm (the village of fools) and the Russian tales of the village where everyone is named Ivan Ivanovich (and it is a village of fools).

              2. All I can come up with is the community villain. The Lottery, and the Borg.

                No: wait. How about “I am Sparticus!” Then the legend of the Christian legion who were repeatedly ordered to renounce Christ or decimate themselves, until finally other legions wiped them out. Then there’s Masada. What about the Alamo?

                The thing, though, is that in each case the community acted in an unusual way by a group choice. The slaves who declared “I am Sparticus!” when one would be expected to sell Sparticus out. The Christian legionaries who chose death rather than renounce Christ. Masada where the Jewish rebels chose death rather than capture. We all know of the Alamo. Not touchy feelly stories, and full of hostility and conflict.

                Northfield and the James-Younger gang. That’s a good community hero tale. The Jewish delegation who bared their necks to Pontius Pilate when they protested him bringing in the Imperial Standard. Those sorts of events are out there, but I suspect aren’t the type of collective they’re looking for.

        3. > given book

          “The Postman” by David Brin. Though I’m told the movie was considerably different.

  4. “Everything is Grey except when it’s something I want others to do/believe.” [Sarcastic Grin]

  5. If you believe that it is all about the collectivist journey you are ready to believe of the USSR under Stalin, ‘Everyone’s well fixed in Russia; everyone has a job. The government is run by the people, and there’s no exploitation if the poor. Anything the reactionaries say to the contrary is a lie.’

    Which is more than Peppone himself could quite swallow when he said it to Don Camillo.

    Any collective is made of a lot of individuals. Even if one chooses to become part of such a heard of sheep, he will still be but one sheep. It will be noted that even in a heard each sheep displays his very own personality, and can be very stubborn about it.

    Even the Marxist’s celebrate individual heros — ones who bravely go above and beyond to sacrifice for the collective.

    1. Though, sadly, that nonconformist sheep is often the first one put on the table, because it’s too much trouble to keep an eye on it.

      Which is why I object to the ‘sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs’ analogy.

        1. Farmer John the capitalist: “Interested in trading this nice full trough of sheep food, plus another 300 or so like it, for that wool?”

          1. Besides, Mssr. Ram, everybody is wearing wool cut close this season; it’s far more comfortable and much easier to care for. You really need to show some definition if you want to impress the ewes.

            I’ll happily style it for you, and for only half my usual fee. What the heck, I’ll throw in a free shampoo.

  6. conflict is masculine

    What, no girl ever had to struggle to do right in the face of social pressure to go along with the crowd?

    For that matter, while it has been a couple decades since last I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tales I seem to recall conflict a’plenty in there. Conflict with nature, inhospitable and cruel, conflict with peers to earn their respect, conflict with poverty to aid her family survival.

    There’s conflict in Austen, too, as well as Christie’s Miss Marple and even Nancy Drew. What were The Devil Wears Prada, Sophie’s Choice, The Women (1939, not the horrid remake) or Julia about if not “womyn’s conflicts?

      1. I had a fellow classmate in boarding school whose goal in life was to become a roller derby queen. I haven’t thought of her in a while. There was something about her.

      2. I use to love roller derby. Back in the 70’s, I was a fan of the LA Thunderbirds. Man, that Bertha was tough enough to knock a man out of the rink. 😀

      1. Who totally stole that from Odysseus, of course. But that’s not a bad thing; plagiarism is (as Kipling reminded us) the sincerest form of flattery.

    1. “Isn’t this a *beautiful* yacht?”
      “Oh, yeah. Everybody ought to have one.”
      “Why Mr. Scott! That sounds like Communism!”
      “No, babe. With Communism everybody gets an oar. But nobody gets a yacht.”

    2. I’m reminded of Sting’s cameo character in ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen’. Vienna is under siege by the Turks, and Sting’s character is brought before the Viennese leader, who is read a list of all of the heroic things that Sting’s character has apparently done off-screen (and it’s an impressive list). The response is to have Sting’s character executed, as it is now the Age of Reason. We’ll not have any of that heroism nonsense.

      Fun fact – while double-checking the info on that scene just now, I found that Sting did it for free. Apparently Terry Gilliam was his neighbor, and had run out of money shooting the film. He still needed an actor for the scene, and begged Sting to do it for him for free. Sting obliged. And while he was a bit sore about not getting paid, given how much money was spent on the film, he apparently loved the final product.

  7. Community? The community is the source of oppression, is it not? Pressure to conform, to bend your values to those of the folk around you, to submit your judgement to that of others? To say 2 + 2 = 5, or 3, or whatever Big Brother wants it to equal.

    1. Not even. 2+2=5 might be a hard sell, but perhaps could just be argued in some rare case. 2+2=3 is a bit easier if you pick subjects with great care (miscible liquids?). This is 2+2=dragon cheese.

      Yeah, I know what you mean about community pressure and you are right, it can get quite oppressive.

  8. “Conflict is masculine”, says someone who probably thinks we need more butt-kicking heroines.

    1. oh no, if you read his screed (an hour I’ll never get back) in the cases where there are “butt kicking heroines” they’re just stand ins for a man, and not really women at all…
      Just writing that made me throw up a little in my mouth, but that’s what he holds true.

      1. There’s something wrong with being masculine? It sounds like he’s bought into the feminist dogma that males are morally responsible for the evil of the wiring and plumbing they were born with. Women, of course, being neither angels nor whores, nor goddesses, nor males, are the only true people. Just who is he trying to flatter with that piece of fatuous nonsense?
        So, men shouldn’t kick butt and neither should women. That sounds like someone who thinks that all problems can be solved by sweet reason, diplomacy and negotiation. (I was thoroughly cured of that notion, by the behavior of bullies, long before I was twelve). It winds up sounding more like the kind of common scum who advocates offering the tender young maiden as a sacrifice to the dragon because he doesn’t have the guts to risk letting the dragon eat him first.

        1. And now we need an assassin with a garotte named reason, pistol named diplomacy and rifle named negotiation.

          1. Or if you are in a fantasy world, make that a sword named diplomacy and long knife named negotiation. In a science fiction setting, the pistol becomes a blaster named negotiation and the automated drone sidekick/translator becomes diplomacy of course.

          2. As in Stephenson’s Snow Crash – the water-cooled minigun named Reason. Like, ‘Now they’ll listen to Reason.”

  9. ” Again, we’re on the whole “you must go to the community” thing.”

    Why am I reminded of Bilbo and Frodo coming to the conclusion that the Shire would benefit from an invasion of dragons. A huge chunk of the time, “the community” doesn’t know, and doesn’t want to.

  10. “Actualizing has become one of those “buzz words” like “paradigm” that has become a shibboleth. “Oh look, I use this word, I’m one of the intelligentsia, you must believe me.” ”

    I just received my copy of the score of Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride. It’s a send-up of the aesthetic trend of the Victorian era, but in reality, it’s a satire of anyone who adopts a fad in order to seem smart.

    It can never be. You are not Empyrean. You are not
    Della Cruscan. You are not even Early English. Oh, be Early
    English ere it is too late!
    [Officers look at each other in astonishment.]
    [looking at uniform] Red and Yellow! Primary colors! Oh,
    South Kensington!
    We didn’t design our uniforms, but we don’t see how they
    could be improved!
    No, you wouldn’t. Still, there is a cobwebby grey velvet,
    with a tender bloom like cold gravy, which, made Florentine
    fourteenth century, trimmed with Venetian leather and Spanish
    altar lace, and surmounted with something Japanese — it matters
    not what — would at least be Early English!

    Sounds about right.

    1. Mr. Gomev strikes me as the sort of creature who provides “helpful” collaborative input and claims credit for the success of any project and is quick to point the finger of blame for all failure.

  11. While not a parable on moral relativism, I recently watched an anime series that had a surprisingly deep message. Throughout the anime there was a recurring theme of desperate times making good people do evil for the greater good. Usually the evil deed backfired but sometimes it didn’t and in fact saved people. The series was far more thought provoking than 99.9% of the movies and stories I’ve seen and read.

      1. Izetta: The Last Witch.

        A reprise of WWII with different country names and different leaders. The strategies, tactics and equipment in the series are the same with differences at the end of the series.

        Toward the end you find out about one of the most brutal betrayals you’ve ever heard done by good people in order to save their country. The people involved are fully cognizant of what they did but saw no other path. There were several other ‘Sophie’s Choices’ in the series. It makes you wonder what you would do given similar circumstances.

        It also has fairly realistic treatment of the reactions of other countries with the discovery of powerful magic and it’s military and geo-political ramifications.

    1. Friend of mine recently got me into Japanese tokusatsu (live action heroes kicking rubber-suited monsters in the face until they explode) with series like the Ultraman franchise and Kamen Rider. Even though 90% of the genre is ostensibly aimed at younger kids, there’s a number of series within it that made me sit back and really think hard about some moral questions and how we demonstrate heroic ideals in a way that everyone – regardless of age – can apply to their lives.

      Good stories are good stories regardless of what genre they come from.

  12. I can understand wanting to do away with the ‘hero’, all lefties want to do away with the hero! Because heroes are the ones who stand up against the institution, heroes are the ones who change things, heroes are the ones who make a difference. Communities? Large Groups of People? They don’t do -shit-. They are a herd and herds only follow the group, even if that group is going to lead them off a cliff or into the slaughterhouse. Groups, communities, they never do anything on their own, they never rise up, they never lead change, they just follow.

    Follow, follow, follow.

    That’s where ‘heroes’ come in. Heroes are the ones who make the change and who lead the herd out of danger to the new place. That buck the system, that call out wrong and call out evil and have the guts and courage to point out that the emperor is naked.

    Back where I grew up, the government has illegally installed red light cameras. They have even changed the law so that you can’t fight your conviction and you have to pay it. They abuse the system tremendously (and quite illegally). Everyone moans and complains, but they won’t do anything.
    One man rose up to challenge it figuring the community would stand behind him (like on TV!). But being it’s lefty central, the people wouldn’t back him and the government has put cameras on his house now and raised all of his taxes by double. He’s still fighting his heroes journey, whether or not he wins is still anybody’s guess, but he’s now only fighting it for himself. The ‘community’ the ‘group’ did not join with him as they never do. They just stand there and bleat.

    There is no ‘collective journey’

    Unless it’s to the slaughterhouse.

    1. As anyone who has tried marching or hiking in a group knows, a group moves no faster than its slowest member. Otherwise, it stretches out along the road and ceases to be a group,
      As anyone who has tried to persuade a group should also know, a group without an obvious leader is seldom smarter than its loudest member. The bold, confident, “Often wrong, seldom in doubt” fellow has a natural advantage over quieter types.

    2. Hm … if we do away with the hero too early in the story, should the POV character be either an anti-hero or a villain? 😉

      His analysis of Game of Thrones and Walking dead are fundamentally wrong as well.

      Game of Thrones has a variety of characters which are heroic, at least in their own mind. What makes it so unusual is not that it doesn’t have heroes, it is that after setting a character up as a hero (or a villain for that matter), the author then proceeds to kill them, violently and sadistically. Villain or hero, long term, no character is safe from getting suddenly and messily killed. In the fantasy genre, it is not the usual thing to make all of the characters red shirts – but that is exactly what George Martin did in a way. And yes, individual players matter in this world of his creation – $!#@ someone off and/or disrespect them and you get things like the Red Wedding happening. Bottom line – a number of the characters could do with a strong dose of anti-psychotics and/or a sense of morality – but you can’t (or should not) say there are not individual heroes and villians.

      1. I’m interested in characters I can like and respect. I’ve never been all that interested in ‘downer’ series though I confessed I’ve seen/read a couple just because they were done very well but I’ve never gone back to those stories like I do with your more traditional well down ‘heroic’ series.

        I’ve maintained that in many lefties there is core of nihilism in their heart-of-hearts. I think that explains why so many of their tales are dark and heartless.

        1. Which is why I generally give Donaldson (Covenant chronicles) and Feintuch (Seafort saga) a wide berth. Don’t like to feel as if I need to take a shower after finishing a book.

          1. The only Donaldson books I enjoyed were Mirror of Her Dreams (which may have had an A or a The preceding the title) and its sequel, A Man Rides Through. Funnily enough, those were ones where the protagonist does NOT commit rape, or anything else objectively evil, and in fact ends up (IIRC) married, and happily sleeping with her husband.

          2. If you want to see a very well done ‘downer’ story with very well designed characters, I recommend Fate/Zero anime series. It makes Game of Thrones look like kindergarten story yet is so well done you can’t stop watching. While it has some good, likable characters (that aren’t killed off just for the easy shock), it has some of the most brutal betrayals, mind f@cks and blatantly evil people you’ve ever seen.

            I’ve never watched it since but it was worthy of watching at least once.

      2. Well GRRM is a communist, so of course he doesn’t want any heroes.
        The only time he doesn’t push communist philosophy is with his money, which he is keeping for himself. Funny that.

    1. Also as POI (from Wiki-bloody-pedia, so take it FWIW): ” . . .today grayscale images (as photographs) intended for visual display (both on screen and printed) are commonly stored with 8 bits per sampled pixel, which allows 256 different intensities (i.e., shades of gray) to be recorded . . .”

        1. And now I think of the machine Pa had for a while when he had small printing press. Two big drums. Put article/picture/whatever on the pickup drum and the ‘plate’ to be made on the other drum, and let the machine run and it would copy the one to the other. Things were pretty much ON or OFF but the results did look like it was more grayscale than pure B&W.

  13. I can’t imagine a “Collective Journey” story – strictly without any heroes… it doesn’t count if you sneak any sort of hero (or leadership, because that would be cheating because leaders are de facto heroes) in there – that would be even remotely worth reading. If that is the future of writing, I’ma gonna forget how ta read! (luckily, I don’t think it is).

    ps: moar of the Dark Fates please…. you know… whenever you have time. Not trying to be pushy, just letting you know I very much like… Yes… AGAIN 🙂

    1. I’ve joked of bad TV that “TV like that got me interested in radio.” And then of all too much modern radio, “Radio like that got me into books.” Dunno what I’m gonna do if such fools as this manage to ruin books. Fortunately, most unlikely he’ll/they’ll be able to mess up everything.

    2. What would a collective/community’s journey look like?
      I imagine as a meeting of the Home Owners Association from Hell.
      Minutes of the Caring Community Council Consultation
      Commissar Vladimir reported on the increase of non-potholed streets from 27 miles to 21. .

      Commissar Michelle reported on how the new of civic suggestions list which now exceed 1 million pages, exceeding the goal set by of last year civic committee. The implementation of these suggestions has already show the benefit of adding 25000 nonconformers to the support services pool.

      Commissar Bill reported on the reduced the number of the hoarders per Schedule 4-b to ensure a more equal distribution of goods and services to all members of the community.

      Commissar George reported that his predecessor Commissar [name redacted] has been liquidated for failure to maintain a sufficient socially productive attitude.

      1. What would a collective/community’s journey look like?
        I imagine as a meeting of the Home Owners Association from Hell.

        Wouldn’t that be the evil that needs to be defeated?

  14. The imaginary weasel comes around a corner of reality to say—

    …how the individual actualizes by achieving personal change…

    (my dictionary tells me that “actualizing” means: making real, so please explain how one “makes real, by achieving personal change”)

    In this context, “actualizing” means “self-actualizing”, making oneself real. And speaking as an imaginary personage: ptui! on that.

  15. Oh, fer -! And on a day I’m sick and at work, too (complain, complain…).

    Okay, point one: Frau Gomez doesn’t seem to get readers, or even people in general. “We” are not a “collective” in the way he thinks. A “collective” is meetings, the lesser (and possibly least) of the sum of its parts, and most likely some would-be master’s wet dream of an ant farm with only the Special People (of which himself must be prominent) are Queens and all the rest of us mindless drones in our own defined roles. Each person reads, listens to, and or sees the story with his own eyes and ears.


    Completely alone in our own heads, that is. We are each the hero of our own story, and in our fiction, in our *escape,* we do awesome things! Being a gear in the machine is not an escape, it’s pretty horrible to contemplate. I can see somewhat of how one might get to that irrational point, however.

    Working together for a purpose, now that looks awful close to the “collective” now doesn’t it? Soldiers in armies, adventuring parties, starship crews… Pretty sneakily “collectivist,” right? Well, no, not so much. Take a look at the best of those stories. Heck, take a look at the ones that have stood the test of time. Centuries, even, and more. The hero’s journey is damned compelling because it’s a story about what one person can do! A lot depends on the captain of the ship (usually our focus character), and so on. While some pretty impressive headhopping can go on if you are, say, David Weber, you *still* have the problem of those pesky heroes cropping up all over the bloody place. There are reasons, several and good ones, that heroic action is praiseworthy the world over- it’s a human trait, not a merely cultural one.

    Point two (or point 1a, as it’s tied to point one): Nobody is an NPC. We’re all rather stuck that way, responsible for our own actions whether we like it or not. Reading about npcs is boring. They react. They don’t act, per se, of their own volition. Which may well be baked in to the whole nasty pie, somewhat like a lot of modern education seems to be.

    If we’re using TWD as a story guideline, how come folks get all on edge when a story character might die? It’s not like they were a “hero” or anything, right? A little bit of angst and sadness, a smidgen of tension, sure. Can’t be an apocalypse tale without a few heads breaking, right? That’s not how human brains work, though. We get attached to the oddest things (don’t look at me like that. My truck may be old and have holes enough to be considered a relic, but it’s paid for and it runs), and find heroic qualities in even inanimate objects. Don’t believe me? Try the ship from Firefly, for one. Or swords, staves, and suchlike from any good fantasy.

    The need for story is pretty universal in human beings. How many of us would swear that cats, dogs, and animals of all sorts have personalities, and even ascribe human characteristics to them? I know my cats plotted, don’t try and tell me any different. How else would “dog loyal” have become a phrase, indeed.

    Methinks the Gomez person might want to go back and review his first principles. I don’t think he quite gets “human.” And I say that as an Odd who pretty much reverse engineered the concept, because *I* didn’t really get it at first, either.

    1. I’ve seen people who keep complaining that in all the Avengers movies it’s got the same thing: the heroes bicker and fight amongst themselves and then are given a reason to work together.

      To which I usually respond “Well, yeah, because they’re wildly different individuals, and the movie wouldn’t be half as interesting if it was all puppies and rainbows until the villain(s) turned up.”

      1. Can anyone think of a movie where a team acts like a ‘well-oiled’ machine used to working together instead of bickering showboats? The battery in For Love of the Game?

        1. Well, “a group of individuals overcoming their differences and learning how to work as a team” is a very effective trope. However, it should not be used in sequels.

  16. Two observations:

    (1) I’ve never seen anything of “Orange is the New Black,” but both “Game of Thrones” and “Walking Dead” seem to have heavy elements of “Life sucks and then you die” to them. If we’re leaving it to the “community” to save itself, those shows seem to be suggesting the “community” isn’t doing so hot.

    (2) “Gomez” and “Grey Goo” all start with the same letter. Coincidence?

    1. And tbh the three seem to be in the aspect of ‘apply with those like you’ and being with those dislike you will lead to conflict. Not exactly peaceful diversity.

    2. Aaaargh! Pressure building! I must vent!

      1) I, quite proudly, have never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. I decided I did not want that inside my brain at all. GRRM seems like a guy I don’t want any input from. Just sayin’.

      Walking Dead I can’t watch, because the cast NEVER LEARNS ANYTHING about how to manage zombies. Never. Learns.

      Ten minutes among zombies, and anybody with a room temperature IQ would know more than that whole cast after three seasons. Holy. Fracking. Frack.

      Communities do not learn things. People learn things. When you look out a window, you do not see a “community.” You see people, walking around. Unless you’re me. I see a hay field, and that’s how I like it. People freak me out.

      2) Gomez also shares letter with gawdawful, goof, and got-to-be-kidding-me.

      Ah, pressure reduced, overload/meltdown/world ending explosion averted. Yay.

      1. Which is why I have a problem with ‘the wisdom of crowds’. Crowds don’t know anything. Indeed, crowds are stupid*. What’s the formula; average IQ divided by that of the groups slowest member? I forget.

        Anyhoo, what I think the ‘wisdom of crowds’ might be is that in any significant group of people, there will be someone who *knows* how to handle a particular situation; and hopefully, if faced with said event, the crowd will let that subject matter expert deal.

        * ‘Cuz everyone knows Anthropogenic Global Warming is a thing (even if they’re not able to pronounce it), and is Bad.

          1. Okay, fair enough. Do you believe that an efficient market is a good mechanism for finding the true value of something? If so, how do you reconcile believing that the market produces correct results if you believe that groups of humans are dumber than individuals?

            Show your work.

            1. Call For Trick Question on the Field!!!!!

              Sorry Jonathan, but the “Market” isn’t a group of people who decides the “value” of anything.

              The “Market” is a count of how many individuals who individually decide to purchase a certain item.

              IE When I decide to purchase a particular book, the Market isn’t “telling” me to purchase that book.

              I’ve decided to purchase that particular book and all the Market does is to say “how many other individuals made that same decision”.

              On the other hand, “Value” is a “hard to define idea” when it comes to books as there are so many different ways for people decide that this is a “good book” and personal taste gets involved with the decision.

              I’ve read books that were not IMO a “good read” but I also thought that the writer did a good job with the story. They just weren’t to my taste.

              Now, IMO a “Great Book” is one that was widely read (by the choice of individual readers) at the time it was written and is still widely read decades (or more) by the choice of individual readers today.

              IMO it is highly arrogant to declare that a certain book is a “Great Book” because nobody knows if that book will be read by readers decades (or more) from now.

              1. Yup. This. When I buy something *I* buy something. A _committee_ does not. I do. And if neighbor_one does? Neighbor_one does. Same for _two, _three, and _four, etc. We do not coordinate. We individually choose. We *might* choose the same thing. We might not.

                Now ponder, if you needed help, would you want that help from a mob, or an individual?

        1. Thing is, they’ve actually looked at this. Apparently, if you get one hundred people and ask them, individually, about various statistics, most of the time the average answer comes out pretty close to right.
          The moment you ask them in a group, however, things start going off the rails.

  17. For some reason this sprang to mind: “The community has self actualized to achieve a new paradigme of synergy and six-sigma life-quality through group empowerment and awareness of our previously-underserved members.” Bingo card is now filled in! *does happy kitty dance*

  18. Community as a hero for self-change is just as ridiculous as design by committee. The odds of finally producing anything are less, will take longer, cost more, the product won’t look anything like originally envisioned, and won’t be able to perform all the functions it needs to do.

    What’s interesting about Jeff Gomez’s “The Collective Journey” is it sounds so much like the moral to the newest “The Day the Earth Stood Still” movie. Humanity as a whole needs to suffer to change humanity as a whole. Funny, but the suffering and the change goal had nothing to do with each other; and 99% of humanity had no idea why they were dying.

    Individual people listen to, read, and buy stories. They buy stories about people who they can identify with. (I know, preaching to the choir.) Show me a person who identifies more with the faceless masses, and I’ll show you a helpless psychotic. Heck, even in Lost Horizons, you identify with individual characters, not with the community of Shangri La. I’m Ender Wiggin, not the Hegemon. I’m Honor Harrington, not the Star Empire of Manticore. I’m George Washington, not the Continental Army. Can you see me as the heroic mob, “The Proletariat, Faceless Mass of the People?”

    * Best take a hit of O2 and some chamomile tea to settle down and stop laughing so hard.

  19. At least in part this seems to be looking at the idea of the trend of chosen ones who through minimal effort of their own are heros. The average guy who gets knocked down and gets back up to keep going isn’t the hero but the chosen one (properly diverse of course) just has to effortlessly win. When it’s that simple, of course community could do it.

  20. All hail the non-conquering zero!

    BY W. H. AUDEN
    (To JS/07 M 378
    This Marble Monument
    Is Erected by the State)
    He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
    One against whom there was no official complaint,
    And all the reports on his conduct agree
    That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
    For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
    Except for the War till the day he retired
    He worked in a factory and never got fired,
    But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
    Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
    For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
    (Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
    And our Social Psychology workers found
    That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
    The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
    And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
    Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
    And his Health-card shows he was once in a hospital but left it cured.
    Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
    He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
    And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
    A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
    Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
    That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
    When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
    He was married and added five children to the population,
    Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
    And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
    Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
    Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

  21. I think this is sufficient rebuttal to the likes of Mr. Gomez:

    I have more interesting things to think about.

  22. I suspect that the end result of Gomez’s blather will just be another 5 token band, with a hot bisexual female that kicks butt as the leader.

  23. “In this concept and series of essays, he proposes that the “hero’s journey” is out moded, and should be scrapped.”

    My reaction to this is the same as my reaction of Ms. Alex MacFarlane and her pronouncement: “I want an end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories.” Unprintable in polite society.

    I will do as I please, and if Mr. Gomez does not like it, he can join the really long line of other people telling me I’m doing it wrong. And this here is both my middle fingers saluting said really long line in the time honored manner.

  24. A particular reviewer of old SF has a problem with Keith Laumer’s Jame Retief character. Apparently he’s putting on his “James Bond” glasses while reading, because he keeps complaining about a character who’s some kind of super spy hero. Which he’s pulling out of thin air, because Laumer goes to great lengths showing that Retief is *not* a hero, at least not in the sense the reviewer is using it.

    Retief is reasonably intelligent and motivated; other than that, he brings almost nothing to the table. No super-chopsocky martial arts. No encyclopedic knowledge of alien languages, technologies, or cultures. He’s just an ordinary schmuck, dividing his efforts between fighting the declared enemy and his own governmental bureaucracy, who might as well be the enemy.

    The same basic character pops up in lots of older SF. Not a hero, just a decent man doing his best at a nasty, thankless job.

    1. I don’t remember Jame Retief being a “spy” but the “super-intelligent” can just be because Retief is smarter than his superiors (in some cases, that’s not saying much). 😉

    2. Retief has a super power — if Common Sense and Clear Vision* constitute super powers. So many people are incapable of seeing things as they are rather than as they wish them to be that the ability to see clearly must be a super power.

      Eric Flint has said that in the process of editing the Retief stories for republication he has concluded they are an apologia for CIA involvement in the Third World. My impression was Flint felt it requisite he disapprove of America exploiting these Third World nations rather than allowing them to be exploited by the Soviets or their indigenous corrupt entities.

      *Easier when you do not have your head up your ahem.

      1. Common sense, clear vision, a belief in his own system/side and a sense of right and wrong come perilously close to being super powers these days, I fear.

      2. What a silly thing for Flint to think. Retief isn’t a superspy, or any kind of spy; he’s a gentleman and a man of honor, working for a bureaucracy staffed by the witless and the venal. The Retief stories are a satire of the US State Department, plain and simple.

        1. … working for a bureaucracy staffed by the witless and the venal

          Isn’t that functionally a definition of Communism?

    3. I always thought it was a shame that Laumer went off the rails the way he did. He invented Bolos, one of my favorite things. A tank “big as a beached freighter.” I stole them for my stories. Mine are sexier than his.

      I also greatly enjoyed Retief in all those stories when I was a kid. Super fun. And no surprise that the “modern reviewer” has “issues.” Retief is fighting the Forces of Stupid on two fronts, and Lefties are that these days.

  25. He’s also worked as an editor (Palladium books)

    Personally, this is the kind of detail that I would be leaving *out* of my biographical information. Though it would probably go a long way toward explaining how Palladium has become such an utter and complete mess over the last decade or two.

    1. There’s been some events at that place. The coverage I saw at Tenkar’s suggests a deeper problem.

      1. Yeah, the place is a mess. The second part of my comment was more tongue in cheek than anything else.

        But I was dead serious about it being something that I’d leave out of my own resume.

  26. It angers and frustrates me that we still have a whole cadre of people STILL trying to say we dont need heroes. Ive been hearing this shit practically all my life. (The whole of the ’70s, anyone?)

    Awesome post. Thank you for sharing

    1. Almost the whole of the 1970’s. There were the odd exceptions. While I am not a Star Wars fan by any means, at least SW of ’77 had that much right. And earlier there was Rocky (I have not watched it) which showed that simply being cussedly determined was something.

      1. I thought the exact same thing. Star Wars brought heroism back…which is probably why a lot of people hated it so much then. Its roaring popularity made all that deconstructionism a huge lie.

  27. Oh goodness that was satisfying to read. I’ve always had a love of superheroes and heroic narratives of any kind, whether it was my childhood immersed in the Redwall series and the Hobbit, or my recent encyclopedic reading of comic book superheroes and love affair with Japanese tokusatsu.

    The day we deny the ability of an individual to live up to those ideals and urge them to conform to the collective will of a nebulous “community” is the day the human spirit dies.

    Hilariously enough, I’m running an elective at the school where I teach that involves the Hero’s Journey in different movies. Hopefully they’ll get some inspiration from it.

  28. A thought on “Heroes” (which may or may not apply to this topic).

    In the first (in order of release) Star War movies, the Jedi were seen as a Heroic Force for Good with the Sith as a Force for Evil.

    But in the so-called prequels, Lucas showed the Jedi Order as Hide-bound, restrictive toward its members, etc. IE Not a “Heroic Force for Good”.

    Of course, the Sith were still shown as a Force for Evil, but the Jedi Order wasn’t seen as much better.

    The funny thing for me was that Lucas had one of Jedi (in the prequels) saying that only the Sith deal in Absolutes and Lucas apparently approved of that. Of course, the statement was to a strong degree an Absolute Statement. 😉

    Of course, the Jedi Order was a “Collective” and were opposed by the more “individualist” Sith. 👿

  29. the hero’s journey is about a common man, not a perfumed prince, or a chosen one, seeing wrong, and making it right.

    Perfumed princes can make the hero’s journey. After all, it’s not their fault they’re princes, and possibly not even that they are perfumed. or the chosen one — the one to blame there is the choosing one.

  30. While I don’t care for the phrase “the collective journey,” I don’t think everything Lehman is suggesting is unworkable literarily. Let me offer an example: The Lord of the Rings. This is a novel where the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth, with their diverse cultures and their old animosities, come together in a common struggle against a shared enemy (perhaps most compellingly symbolized by Gimli’s friendship with Legolas, and by Gimli’s falling in love with Galadriel, which helped bring it about). We see two different peoples, the ents and the hobbits, both rise out of their quiet, peaceable existence to common action against an oppressor (and, interestiing, the same oppressor for both, Saruman). There is a classic hero in the story, Aragorn, but he doesn’t have a “hero’s journey” from youth and doubt; when we meet him he’s already mature and purposeful and a bit weary from his long struggles; what happens in the story is that he unmasks. And the protagonist, Frodo, doesn’t fight dragons and beat them; he spends the entire story wearing out his endurance in holding out against the One Ring, and at the end loses the struggle and is saved only by Gollum. Aragorn doesn’t go through personal change (and the movie having him do so was a betrayal of the book); Frodo does, and it destroys him. So I think an argument as to why this “collective journey” idea is wrong might need to target more specific points.

    1. I hear what you’re saying but I don’t see “Lord of the Rings” as an example of “collective struggle”.

      To be fair, I can’t think of a book that I’ve read that is an example of “collective struggle”.

      My vague idea of “collective struggle” would be a story of a “group” as the “Hero” with the individual members of the “group” not really mattering.

      1. Sure, but I’m not arguing for the name “the collective struggle” or “the collective journey” being a good one. Au contraire!

        Though at least one classic SF writer, Olaf Stapledon, wrote two books that seem to be about collective struggle: Last and First Men, about the whole history of humanity’s eighteen species from the mid-twentieth century till final human extinction a couple of billion years from now, and Star Maker, in which minds from races all through the cosmos come together in a quest for insight into why the world is as it is and what justifies suffering and death (incidentally, the whole of Last and First Men occupies a couple of paragraphs in Star Maker). They’re actually worth reading, and I think they’re one of the great idea sources for all later SF.

        A brilliant writer can pull off things that go against any generalization you care to make about literature, and make them work. Hence generalization is best done cautiously. Of course, I don’t think Lehman gets that; he sounds as if he’s more interested in what the collective literary establishment of our age ought to be doing to fulfill its historic mission than in what’s actually worth reading.

  31. I agree, and you made quite a cogent argument. I think it’s not a hero’s journey if you attempt to do it alone. A HJ requires others (mentors, guardians, the village). It’s just a cool thing I learned if I don’t share it or have help along the way. The circular shape of the HJ then puts me into the role of mentor later or even guardian for another’s journey.

    1. Yep. So this guy misunderstood it, as he misunderstood bringing back the boon.
      The hero is not the collective amorphous “we” but the individual and his assistants.

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