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A Fiery Flash of Light, A Sudden Crash of Thunder: The Semblance of Zero HP Lovecraft Appears
Author Zero HP Lovecraft takes on some challenging questions, and recommends some books I love
Zero HP Lovecraft is the anonymous author of several novels that bear some of the best names of any works of fiction I’ve heard, including God-Shaped Hole, The Gig Economy, and They Had No Deepness of Earth.
Some say he dwells near the white zenith of Mount Shasta, California, posting tweets that send New York Times journalists into fits of hyperglycemia and constipation. Some say he lives in a spherical deep underground military base in the Nevada desert, near to where many hikers, most of whom were very thin, very polite women, have gone missing.
I suspect a different origin—there are reportedly caves sunk beneath the bluest shores of Crete that have given off wifi signals and the ominous whirring of machine hands typing away. Computer scientist and UAP researcher Jacques Vallée has (very) allegedly said that these rumors point to the very same thing, that they are all rivers of variable clarity and speed, but which arrive at the same destination. Zero himself says he’s just a regular guy, but can we really believe him?
To read some of his stories check out his Substack here, and to read what are probably the best threads posted on Twitter (X), check out his account here. If you enjoy our conversation, like, repost, share with a friend, and become a paid-subscriber.
(Sotonye) Have been trying to understand why the civil religion operating in the US says that liberation for sexual minorities is liberation from capital and its stewards, and I realized, after reading a De Sade character say that victory for libertinism is defeat for monarchy, that the proposition of unrestrained sexual appetites is the ultimate negation of all human hierarchies, including emergent forms like we find in market economies, and patrician ones, too.
The libertines rightly understand that a sovereign is free from moral censure by peers and family, is immune to financial retributions by any authority, and is beyond the punitive power of courts and proscriptions of law, which amounts to morals, economics, and lex scripta being arbitrary outgrowths of power, and power being the executor of the state of exception as Schmitt tells us, lending legitimacy to the whole web of social institutions through this condition. Libertines understand that norms depend on the circular logic of the good being what it is by sovereign fiat, and see no reason why only the sovereign himself and his wealthy counterparts, successful capitalists, should enjoy exemption from something arbitrary.
The idea is compelling to most people even if they don’t want to abide by the implications, the average man concedes that the arbitrariness of mores makes them impossible to rationally enforce. The unconvinced minority of today has been unable to articulate a position for traditional morals, which amount to imposing on the private matters of others without cause. Is there a persuasive argument for tradition that takes these realities into account, and offers something as appealing as unrestricted freedom?
(Zero) There is a lot in this question, and there's no real knockdown one-liner that's going to cut this gordian knot, but I think the way in is to start from the end and work backwards. Tradition isn't good because it's tradition; it's not an end in itself, it's something that is probably, heuristically good because it has worked in the past. If the only reason you can articulate to do something is that people have always done it this way, that's not a very compelling reason. I think even the most hardline traditionalist knows this, and they aren't so much motivated by tradition as they find it a convenient justification for their preferences. I shouldn't say "convenient" — that makes it sound like they are being selfish or self-serving, when the reality is that it's hard to articulate why good things are good, and it's much easier to appeal to tradition. Traditions are often right even if the original motivation for them has been lost.
But that doesn't mean we should follow them blindly, and it doesn't take much intelligence at all to realize this. Traditions arose under a particular set of conditions which may no longer be the case. The correct way to appeal to tradition is to actually understand what problem they are actually trying to solve, and to follow the logic of how you solve it. The particular case this comes up for most people is regarding sexual mores around things like marriage or homosexuality.
Most people think it's not enough, when you are trying to justify a mass moral prescription, to express a personal preference. Quite the opposite, they think it's necessary to invoke some grand universal grounding of morality. But appeals to God and religion ring hollow in modern society, because we know most people don't believe in God. (Never mind what the statistics say. A majority of people will *say* they believe in God but the majority of them don't seem to be compelled by God to act in any particular way). In a country where "freedom of religion" is one of the highest principles, we can't comfortably appeal to the Bible, or to any other holy book, to justify our moral preferences. Tradition feels like a reasonable substitute, if we don't look at it too closely. Everyone has tradition, right? And basically traditions agree, there is no distinction to be made between biological sex and some spiritual concept of gender, marriage is between a man and a woman, and the marriage contract is around sexual fidelity: people are supposed to be virgins when they get married.
We can of course dig through anthropology and find exceptions to this. Many primitive cultures — and I mean, that, primitive, it's very important to understand this, subsistence farmers in rural Africa or deep in the Amazon rainforest are primitive. They have no great thinkers, no philosophy, no magnificent works of art, or great palaces, no rich history of architecture, science, mathematics. At this stage, we can safely consider any society that has failed to industrialize as primitive — many primitive cultures practice some form of polygamy, or have some specific carve-outs for homosexual behavior. I mention this because it shows that if the criteria for evaluating something as good or bad based on tradition is merely "can we find a society that had this in their tradition," then that is a criteria which excludes exactly nothing. There is a way through this, which is to claim that we should not take primitive traditions as prescriptive, since they have failed to yield technological progress for their practitioners. That's also a pretty dubious argument (unless you had about 20 pages of qualifiers) but if you are trying to rely on some deracinated notion of tradition, it's the best you're going to get.
But if we throw out God and religion as our moral grounding (don't get mad at me, a huge plurality of people have done precisely this, and it's senseless to pretend otherwise) and we can't rely on tradition, then what is left? We would like to defend the following convictions:
* that there are exactly two genders which perfectly 100% correlate to your chromosomal, biological sex,
* that premarital sex is strictly harmful to both the individual and society
* that marriage is between one man and one woman and its purpose is to produce favorable conditions for raising the next generation
Perhaps we can try logic? The problem with logic is that logic has no inherent content; it is strictly a question of structure. No matter what logical circumlocutions we undergo, we have to start with some kind of pre-logical assertion. The trap most people fall into when they take this approach is to ground morality in some calculus of harm, as if that itself isn't hopelessly contingent. Jonathan Haidt's moral foundation theory is instructive here. Utilitarianism grounded in harm is an inexorably left/liberal framework and since we know politics are 80% heritable, we can even be fairly sure whether you find such appeals compelling is down to biology.
A biological right-winger, on the other hand, is more likely to feel emotional resonance with an appeal to authority, but this will alienate a lefty or a libertarian. I think ultimately the only resolution to these types of struggles is to first admit that the above moral statements are foremost an aesthetic and a personal preference, and to believe that might makes right. That is, if you have the might to enforce your preferences, then they are correct. Might in this case doesn't necessarily mean violent coercion. It can also mean persuasion, seduction, charisma, or a genius for manipulating processes. In other words, one must be able to ground one's moral convictions in his own power.
But to bring this back down to earth, I don't think it is the case that the sovereign is free of moral censure. Historically, he is accountable both to his people and to his aristocracy. Sovereigns who exercise too much license don't face legal repercussions, but they do tend to face uprisings, assassinations, usurpations, and military challenges. Decadence is a form of weakness, and it's pretty rare not to pay for it. To the everyman who desires some kind of ultimate sexual libertinism, I think it's only necessary to point out the costs thereof, which are manifest at every level: disease, spiritual lassitude, degradation of the body, and debasement of your own dignity. True, I can't convince you to value your own body— your mental and physical health—in a universal, absolute way, but no matter how you're wired, humans are all similar enough that we can confidently say: these things catch up to you.
(S) Interesting that the premise of Dune is basically a civilization discovering the arbitrariness of sovereignty, and creating a ten thousand year breeding program to solve this issue by way of a legitimately perfect king. Should we do this? Is this how we win?
(Z) I'm not sure how anyone does this, but yes, in general, the way to have a good civilization is to have a civilization made up of good people (not just a good king) and a likely way to achieve that is through some kind of eugenic focus. But I don't think anyone has figured out how to maintain an organization with coherent goals across even (say) a one thousand year timespan, so the prospects for creating more ideal humans through a long term eugenics program are pretty bleak.
How long would it take to breed a race of supermen? We don't know, but the answer is a long time, as long as an empire lasts, at least. It's probably going to open up previously unimagined hellscapes, but genetic engineering is probably easier (and it's almost impossibly hard.)
(S) The enlightened progressive position on the big question of what to do with one’s life can be summed up as “enjoy it at the expense of all duty.” They say this because the pleasures of a post-industrial civilization are infinite, and because most of these pleasures are more than hollow substitutes for something real—the self-importance conferred by a graduate degree, the self-assurance conferred by a pile of tinder matches, the satiety conferred by porn, the feeling of high status that follows from a high follower count or a viral tweet, they all feel like the real thing, they hit your brain like a bolt from a cloud. The progressive thinks denying yourself these pleasures in order to have children is irrational and no fun, conservatives lose because they fail to understand that the progressives are right. Is there an argument for taking up duty, family, children, that takes this into account? How do we defend the family in a way that would be equal to or maybe even more convincing than the progressive argument? Is it possible?
(Z) I think if you are looking for a rational argument for why you should have children or exercise your duty towards your tribe and your family and so on, you are already sort of ceding the progressive frame. From any strictly rational perspective, taking risks will never make sense. If you look at probabilities or expected payouts, you will probably live a safe, boring life. That's where a lot of leftism and bug-man-ism (or last-man-ism, to use maybe a more formal term) comes from, from the desire to overly optimize and examine risk and act rationally.
Maybe—maybe—you can sell risks to yourself by believing that the low probability payoff exceeds the cost, but your life isn't a stock portfolio; you have a short amount of time on earth and when you try to hedge your bets on love, on glory, on courage, you just end up failing at those things. All the greatest fruits of life are things that take all of you, your whole being. To act in this way is to act beyond rationality.
It's rational to be irrational, in a sense; to burn the ships behind you, to let out a primal scream and declare to yourself and God (as you understand him) that you've chosen with your heart, and not with your brain. Can I really advocate that in good faith? I can, yes, and I do. You should manage your money with your brain, but you should manage your passion with your heart. Some men have no heart, and they can't be saved. Such is life.
(S) Let’s talk about men for a second, young men specifically. I listened to a podcast with you a little while ago where you basically described how you really learned how to engage with womankind only after finding early PUA types like Heartiste I think It was. This was one of the most significant things I had ever heard because I never considered that no one is teaching men how to adjust to a world where women have basically opted out of relationships. Can you talk more about your experience here? Is there a world where our side of Twitter wins the culture war by scoring heaps of pussy? How should young men go about dealing with girls?
(Z) Oh god. I'm working on a big podcast/essay thing on this very topic — it's a huge topic — and it's one that draws a ton of engagement. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels threatened by everyone else's opinion. Men get mad because they may feel insulted or humiliated or belittled. Women, too. When you can piss off men and women at the same time, that's the richest fertilizer for content-farming, which is to say, it's smelly shit.
Something dramatic has shifted in the discourse since I was younger, and I first came to all this. I think it's a very telling change and also probably an inevitable one. When I was a young man, many of these terms did not exist: incel, looksmaxing, body count; no one was interested in writing long, heartfelt apologetics about why it’s so impossible to get a girl, or at least impossible to get a woman of value.
All the online talk of women was about how to get them to go to bed with you, but now all it's all about how wretched they are, how awful, how undesirable. They’ve taken so many dicks. They’re unlovable. they’re fat. They’re loaded to the gills with anti-depressants. And on and on and on.
And all those things are true in some capacity, but they’re also overstated, and the people who constantly bang on the drum about them are perhaps repellent in their own more subtle ways. There’s some thing extremely self-pitying in all of this type of talk.
Oh poor me, no woman is worthy of me, I shall not even try, I shall be alone forever. I am too good for these women, these skanks, these whores.
You see this crop up especially when someone comes to the right and advocates this kind of thing, basically saying, you should participate in the mass orgy. People don't like that at all, and instead, the kind of incel blackpill discourse just tramples him down. People rail against "hypersexuality" even at a time when, if statistics are to be believed, younger people are having less sex than ever. Well, clearly those things are related.
It's perplexing because I know some of these guys are jacked, and even have girlfriends and go on dates, get attention from women, and they still go online and post about how all women are whores, etc.
It is a perfect mirror of the serial monogamist woman who claims all men are trash. In fact it's precisely that feeling of something which cannot be satisfied, which leads to this view. The mass orgy is extremely hollow, but most men aren't even in it, and I think for every one guy who is burned out on how trashy most women are, there are four who aren't getting laid, and who use the cynicism of the burned out manwhores as an excuse for not even trying.
At this point, anyone can go read Heartiste and a few other classics of the mid aughts and figure out how to be good with women, not using routines or pickup lines, but by developing your internal character in the ways that these writers suggest. But most guys won't do that, for the same reason most of them won't ever become shredded bodybuilders, because there's actually no trick to pickup artistry. The trick is tenacity, long-term effort, and grit.
Men and women long to be together, and if the average person just spends some time in the dating market, they'll find that falling in love is the most natural and automatic thing in the world, but spending time in the dating market is also extremely uncomfortable for both sexes, for different reasons.
We could look at someone like St. Elliot, who, if you read his manifesto, he really thought that falling in love with a girl is something that just magically happens to you, rather than something you make happen. This is how women conceive of love, because for the most part it is something that is externally imposed on them. As a man, you have to be the cause of falling in love. It's not just that you have to make the first move, it's that you have to lead the entire interaction. For a young man who has never held authority over others, it may be the first time he's ever had any kind of social power in his life, and that may not come naturally. But whether you want to blame Disney movies, feminism, or maybe just a general inclination to passivity that comes from prosperity, boys are failing to understand that love is something that men do actively, and something that just happens to women.
And to do that as a man, the smarter you are, the harder it is. I think social research bears this out, that higher iq people tend to lose their virgnity later in life. It's because sex and love are the most animal things about us, the least human part, and self-consciousness makes it very hard to inhabit the animal nature in the back of your brain. So instead you invent a million reasons why it's not worth it and why it's doomed to failure and so on. We don't need to teach men how to get tons of pussy so much as we need to teach them how to love women, or that they should want to love women, while also realizing that allowing sexual emancipation of women to continue is not love, it is malicious negligence.
I have a lot more to say on this, of course, which I hope to publish soon.
(S) There’s been a debate last few weeks on Twitter around whether or not family life should be men’s highest aim, and most guys seem to agree that it should be, I think for two reasons. First is, without family, what else is there? Some have answered with “male friendship.” But very rarely is male friendship positioned above the rung of family outside of times of war, and I think most men have a natural understanding of this. We’d rather make friends with women and our children in times of peace. People who thought otherwise said that a man making women and children his life destroys ambition, destroys creativity, subverts the spirit of adventure. What is your feeling about this? Are there little zero hp lovecrafts running around out there?
(Z) As of yet there are no little ZHPs, which is one reason I don't really get involved in these debates about fatherhood. I think that as much as people don't want this to be true, labor-saving devices like dishwashers, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners liberated women far more than any philosophy, and women are quite suited to most forms of white collar work. So as long as women are employed alongside men, earning comparable amounts of money, the arrangement where a man works outside the home and a woman raises his children and keeps the home isn't going to be the norm.
Of course we are all aware of declining fertility, and the other, darker side of womens' emancipation is birth control pills. I think these pills are pretty much an unalloyed evil, and we should regard them as worse than heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, etc. It should be illegal to manufacture them. But even when women do have children and invest their time in raising them, and in the home, they still end up with a lot of free time, especially once the children are grown, and idle hands do the devil's work.
The upshot of all this is that we now have a cultural expectation, which is caused by technology (the philosophy is a post-hoc rationalization of what the technology enables) — we have a cultural expectation that children should have two moms, one of whom happens to be male. This expectation is partly justified, because as people uproot and move around more, as we enter into a more diverse and less religious society, it's not as possible to trust your neighbors and your community with your child. The saying "it takes a village to raise a child" makes no sense, because we no longer have a village.
This expectation that a dad ought to be just a penis-having mom seems to me to be harmful to both the dad and to the child. For a man to spend all his time fussing over small children, this is stifling, this is a perversion of his natural proclivities and power. A son raised in this way will also probably lack a sense of what he should aspire to, vis-a-vis masculinity.
But just as most of the online discourse around pickup artistry is groundless rationalization and whining, I am sure that this is, too. Often, a man feels ambitious for the first time in his life once he becomes a father, because his ambition now has a definite end. Often, a father develops new discipline and focus, because he has more to lose than ever before, and all his vague aspirations have coalesced into producing a future for his children.
(S) Final question: Can you give us the official Zero approved list of books you feel are essential for understanding the world?
(Z) It's very tempting to give a flippant answer here.
Everyone Poops by Tarō Gomi. This is the only book whose contents I can 100% certify and guarantee.
But if you want my real reading list, the books that I personally love and think are very important, I suggest these books, in no particular order:
* The Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges
* The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Irving Goffman
* The Bell Curve by Charles A. Murray and Richard Herrnstein
* Human, All Too Human by Friedrich Nietzsche
* The Book of Pook (anonymous)
* Unqualified Reservations, Vol. 1: https://www.passage.press/store/p/ur
* Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss, and the Jewish Struggle With Modernity by John Murray Cuddihy
There are many other books I could recommend, but start with those 7.
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