Sunday, August 17, 2014

Don't Sell Your Soul

I tried to ignore this story about a guy complaining about his father who is a "right wing a-hole." Depending upon the day and my mood, I can fit or be made to fit into this pigeonhole. And when I have participated in such conversations, it's generally been unpleasant.

But then I heard just enough of Andrew W. K.'s reply that I realized he was making a point closely related to one that I had made a while back. So, if he's agreeing with me, he must be right. Right? I had noted that when interacting with someone who is selling something, their humanity becomes eclipsed by their sales pitch. And if the product is the Republican/Democrat party, the sales pitch is political propaganda. Talk to a spokesman/activist and you can find yourself conversing with someone who is indistinguishable from a spambot.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Social Justice Warrior, you just failed my anti-Turing test."

What Andrew W. K. said that snagged my attention was this sentence: "Try to find a single instance where you referred to your dad as a human being, a person, or a man." Maybe the dad was so monomaniacal in his right-wing advocacy that it eclipsed his humanity. That's a real risk. OR maybe the "Son of a Right Winger" was so monomaniacal in his left-wing beliefs that it blinded him.

I have to acknowledge the humanity of humans who are anti-Turing test failures.

This turned my notion of an anti-Turing test inside out. Or it provided a hint at what an anti-Turing test should look for. Humans can recognize other humans. And should recognize other humans. Seriously bad things happen when people ignore/deny the humanity of the other. Prior to the Civil War Huck Finn might say, "Nobody got killed except some n-----s." Hutus deny the humanity of Tutsis. Turks deny the humanity of Armenians. Nazis deny the humanity of Jews. (Yes, I've Godwinned this note. Deal with it.)

If you can't/won't see the humanity of the other, your own humanity is jeopardized.

Perhaps this is what older generations meant by "selling one's soul." 

Democrats turned the funeral of Senator Paul Wellstone into a political pep-rally. They got spanked by the electorate because of its obvious ghoulishness. But the ghoulishness wasn't obvious to them because the humanity of everyone involved had been sacrificed on the altar of partisan interests. The same lack of perspective is on display when a "Pro-Lifer" murders an abortionist.

When you read classics, the ancients' axe-grinding occasions only a quizzical "what?" But we read classics because the ancients did more than just grind axes: they shared some truth about humanity they understood. Propaganda has a limited shelf-life after which it becomes--at best--a joke, then irrelevant.

One must retain one's soul in order to create art. Art manifests something transcendent and it flees pornography. This makes some think that Liberalism is killing art when it asserts that Art is always political. Political totalitarianism is a blight on our culture.

If you deny the assertion that Art must put the correct political message first, you'll be called an International Lord or Hate, a cismale gendernormative fascist, or something as bad. Of course, I'd rather be called that then sell my soul to The Cause--any cause.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gun Magic

There is a lot of infantile thinking about guns. It is nothing new. If you do not understand guns, they are sort of like magic. You point them at something you want destroyed and pull the trigger. And something bad happens to whatever you're aiming at. Hollywood perpetuates this sort of magic thinking by having guns somehow kill all the terrorists when Jamie Lee Curtis drops a machine pistol in True Lies or all those old westerns where the two gunfighters face off at the edge of town. One shoots, the other falls immediately dead.

Louis L'Amour complained about this in the '70s. He knew his stuff because he was exacting in his historical research. Sorry Toshiro Mifune, but the Seven Samurai isn't a perfect translation into the Magnificent Seven. Americans do not do unarmed peasants.

Black Bart couldn't terrorize a town full of Civil War veterans who were trained in warfare. Maybe he was the fastest gun in the west but he could still die from a shotgun blast in his back. Or if the town is mad enough, he might face six shotguns with the warning that you might kill one of us but you won't kill all of us and you'll be just as dead.

L'Amour claimed the face off at the edge of town was exceedingly rare. And when it did take place, a big guy full of adrenaline won't go down with only one shot. Because he had been a boxer as a young man, his fistfights are often better than his gunfights.

A gunfight isn't a duel between magical weapons where one shoots and the other dies. It's a fight where damage causing attacks are exchanged until one or both sides can no longer hit the other.

People who know something about guns understand this. Most of what you read in books or see in movies does not reflect this understanding. The gunfight brings the climax of the story with a bang and you immediately segue into the denouement and start selling the sequel.

Mindful of this I was reading a thumbsucker about the N most important Science Fiction novels. I was impressed by the inclusion of stories that inspired nothing but eye-rolls when I tried to read them, and I was impressed by the omissions.

(Likewise, I was reading a collection of the best SF stories of last year and after reading one that I knew was excellent, I was impressed by the next two that made me think, "what made that special?" I suppose I would have to be a Social Justice Warrior to understand.)

I figure an SF novel is not important if it reiterates The Message that the SJWs are pushing, but it is important if it changes the direction of the genre. Someone in the '40s and '50s got everyone to writing novels with a rocket ship on the cover. Someone in the '60s got everyone to writing novels with a mushroom cloud with grateful dead in the foreground on the cover. I'll call those important SF stories.

Tom Clancy's Hunt For Red October was important because it got a lot of stories about the Reagan military build-up. The whole field of military SF took off at this time.

But let's backtrack to those 1950s B-quality SF movies. Not the high brow ones like Forbidden Planet, but the cheap ones with giant ants, spiders, etc. You know, like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. The ones made on the other side of the pond were a little more posh, like The Day of the Triffids, but they all followed the same pattern:

Radiation or something mutates ants into the size
of houses. Or a space comet drops spores on Earth and blinds people while the spores grow into giant people-eating plants. In such a movie the first reel is spent learning Something is Not Right. The second reel is spent convincing someone official to Take Action. The third reel is then divided in two halves: Our Guns Have No Effect on the monster, and finally Something Trivial devastates the monster.

(Something Trivial? Consider something as ubiquitous as water. If you're the alien in Signs, it'll kill you. Same for those carnivorous plants in Day of the Triffids. (Don't forget the wicked witch of the west.) In these movies it serves as Something Trivial to be pulled out at the Dark Moment to act as a deux ex machina and save the day.)

This happens because if guns are magic, then the writer can turn off their magic. 

All this made me grow bored and tired of the entire Horror genre. I wanted to just yell at the idiot who tries to escape the chainsaw wielding fiend by jogging backwards in the forest. The slasher movies were the most annoying. There were tantalizing glimpses of a better way. The scene in Nighthawks with Sly Stallone in drag, or the world's shortest slasher film.

But the old tired pattern is risible to anyone familiar with guns. If you shoot a vampire, the kinetic energy of the round has to go somewhere as it goes through the monster's body. And if the round doesn't interact with the matter of the vampire, then how can the monster interact with other matter, say the girl's neck to be bitten or her blood to be sucked?

This sets the stage for someone like Larry Correia to write Monster Hunter International novels. He's a firearms instructor and he's trained civilians and lawmen in how to use guns effectively. You can call him a gun nut, but you'd better smile when you say that.

He respects guns enough to have the round do SOMETHING to the monster, even if it is less than sufficient to kill the beastie. Consider the opening scene of the first Monster Hunter International novel. Our Hero encounters a werewolf. You know, werewolves cannot be killed except with wolfbane and silver bullets. But Our Hero empties his gun in the beastie and it keeps coming, and he uses his fists. It keeps coming, he pushes it out a fourth-floor window, then he drops a desk on top if it.

No wolfbane, and no silver bullets. The werewolf (a young one) cannot regenerate fast enough to survive the blunt force trauma of a desk falling on his head.

At some point, even monsters have to obey the laws of physics. And that awareness is what Larry Correia brought to the telling of monster stories. It changes the entire horror genre. Instead of being helpless, or utterly dependent upon a stupid gimmick, the forces of good can innovate and come up with better ways to fight evil. When "our guns have no effect on the monster" let's try bigger guns. (And if your heroes don't have bigger guns, they can make do like the Finnish did when they beat the Russians in WW2. Like this.)

Making guns less magical
is a very helpful thing for the horror genre. And I think that when more writers realize that guns are not magic, they'll use them more effectively in their storytelling. This makes Monster Hunters important SF/horror stories.

Friday, July 11, 2014

On Exercise

I read the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, almost every day. He often recommends things he finds on Amazon. Often as not, I'll check them out--particularly, authors. Some months back, he linked to a treadmill desk.

I have some experience with exercise equipment. I get excited about something I see advertised, then talk myself into buying it. I then spend a few weeks getting excited and using it faithfully. Then my ardor fades and it ends up unused, gathering dust in my basement.

My wife knows this and we have an agreement that if I spend more than a nominal amount, I need to involve her in the buying decision. Most of the treadmill desks I saw on Amazon were in the hundreds of dollars. When I broached the subject, she pointed out that I had a treadmill that I was not using. Hmmm. So, I started using the treadmill in hopes of getting an upgrade.

This notion of upgrades spilled over to the television I keep next to the treadmill. THAT I could and did buy. The next time I got on the treadmill, I noticed I was juggling remotes and had no space for them and the book I was reading and a pad for taking notes. I needed just a little space to put these things on.

Shortly thereafter I got out a tape measure. If I had just one foot just at the height over the treadmill, that would work. How wide? About three feet. But it would have to be stable. If I made the space L-shaped, it'd be a lot like a proper desk top and it would be stable if I have a couple feet by four feet on the right.

At this point, I started laying out how this desk top could be cut from a 4x8 sheet of plywood. But how would I hold this desk top up?  I help with the toddlers at church and they have these hand-made tables for the kiddos that are held up with 2x4s. So, I could make a framework of them and attach the desk top to this.

I spent the idle hours of a few days drawing this up and working out the simplest joinery I could think of. Simple, because I didn't want to exceed my limited carpentry skills. And I came up with a nice bill of materials.

One Saturday last spring I had breakfast with my friends, then went to Menard's, a local lumber yard. They sell 4x8 sheets of plywood that are already finished on one side. I snapped that up and a bunch of 2x4s, some 1x3s and a box of deck screws.

The hardest part was sawing the desktop into the proper L shape with a handheld circular saw and rounding the corners with a saber-saw. We used a sophisticated Maxwell-House coffee can gauge to get the curved corners to the right radius.

My across-the-back-fence neighbor did the hard parts for which I'm grateful. After that it was an easy matter of cutting boards to the right length and screwing them together according to plan.

Turned out that I miscalculated and needed one more 1x3. So, I didn't finish until the next day after I bought another board.

I didn't keep careful records, but I spent less than $100, one day of labor, and a lot of obsessive planning on the project.

All in all, I'd say I made a better investment in lumber and time than I have for any other exercise-related expenditure. I've been on the treadmill on most days for at least a half-hour. In fact, I wrote this while walking and standing on the treadmill.

It was a fairly straightforward project. If you'd like to do one like it, feel free to ask me anything. I'll post some more pictures here and on my facebook page.

This shows the desk as you stand on the treadmill facing forward. If you don't like the view, that's a problem.

This shows the strip of adhesive LED lights I bought to spruce up the appearance of the treadmill desk and maybe see the treadmill display better.

This shows how the desktop is held to the 2x4 legs which hold it up.

This shows how the rails at bottom and almost top keep the legs square. Everything was screwed together using deck screws.

This is looking right at the desktop. The pre-finished birch plywood is worth the $44 I paid for it.

This shows the treadmill under the desk.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Larry Correia is the best action writer in the world. He understands guns and he understands fighting. If the dates worked and if I believed in reincarnation, I'd say he was Louis L'Amour come back.

But I don't believe in reincarnation. And that's my one gripe about Larry Correia's novel, Nemesis. I'll come back to this later.

In the preceding novels of the Monster Hunter International series, we've been introduced to the original Combat Accountant, Owen Z Pitt. Over the course of the next few novels, Pitt nukes a Lovecraftian entity (something I've always wanted to see), then introduce the Alpha werewolf (and his yooper chick girlfriend), and then he trashes Vegas baby.

I had a chance to reflect on my first review of Mr. Correia's work and I realize how far he's brought me. I used to absolutely despise the horror genre with no inclination toward anything but mocking it. There was always a lot of screaming and helpless people flailing about while someone really stupid takes forever figuring out that triffids or aliens are allergic to seawater--as opposed to well aimed hot lead at high velocity. Hurray for Larry Correia for showing us that maybe our weapons can have some effect on the monster.

The pattern of Mr. Correia's Monster Hunter books of late has been to tell an interesting foreground story and mix in a big of the backstory that answers questions about the more interesting characters. Alpha explained how Earl Harbinger became a werewolf and learned to cope with it. Nemesis is like Alpha in this way.

Nemesis turns the focus on Agent Franks of the Monster Control Bureau of the US Federal Government. In Larry Correia's universe, the story of Victor Frankenstein's creation is "based on a true story." And after bouncing around Europe for a century, Agent Franks runs into George Washington, doesn't kill him, and contracts with Benjamin Franklin to work for the US. This beats being a Hessian mercenary, but Franks has one stipulation in his contract...

Do NOT try to make any more frankenstein monsters. If you do, Franks agrees in his part of the contract to do everything in his power to destroy the project and the government who authorized it.

So, this leaves you one guess about what the inciting incident of Nemesis is. Yup, the government and the shadowy Special Task Force Unicorn (STFU) decide to create a bunch of weaponized frankenstein monsters. Not that the original is not already a formidable weapon...

Lots of action ensues.

Is there gunplay?

Yes. Lots of gunplay.

Are there fistfights, knife fights, sword fights, and heavy blunt object fights?

Yes. All of the above.

Is it a lot of exciting fun?


When the STFU, led by the evil albino named Stricken, realize they've bit off more than they can chew, they call in monster hunters from all over the world. Leading to some dandy firefights in unsavory parts of Washington DC and exurban Virginia.

Of note are the Vatican monster hunters who want to know if Franks is still abiding by the terms of "The Deal." What's most intriguing about the Vatican hunters is summed up in two words: combat exorcists. Yes, I want to hear more about these guys.

This brings us to that bit about Nemesis and reincarnation. I've tried to avoid spoilers to this point, but if you want to read the book before you read the following paragraphs, I'll wait.


Still waiting...

No, it's OK, I'll be here when you get done...

Spoilers ahead...

When asked what Agent Franks is, he always says, "Classified." But he ends up telling his bosses at the government this is classified. He gets away with it until he says that to the Archangel Michael, with whom he fought when he fell with Lucifer and one third of the angels in heaven.

Yes, that Archangel Michael.

Let's back up a bit. Have you ever wondered what a soul is? I know I have.

You see, according to Mr. Correia's cosmology, every human soul is an angel who's been granted permission to inhabit a human body. When any baby is born, some angel who's on a waiting list gets the green-light to take up residence. Somehow, only approved angels get the chance, and when they do get the chance, they forget everything that went before. This leaves the fallen angels imprisoned in Hell, but sometimes they find a way to escape Hell, whereupon they wander Earth influencing humans to do evil.

This is quite similar to the scheme C. S. Lewis put in his novel "That Hideous Strength." However, instead of reanimating a dead human brain to serve as a fallen angel's presence in this world, Mr. Correia posits that when you make an empty human shell, like a frankenstein monster, then any fallen angel can "possess" the body. This is consistent with the bible stories wherein the Savior casts out demons.

The notion is that a human body is a sort of receptacle that can house a soul. This is a dualistic schema wherein body and soul are completely different sorts of stuff. You can see this is where the reincarnation folks are coming from. A soul may be victimized and murdered in the first reel of a Bollywood movie, and be reincarnated in the 2nd reel to exact his revenge two decades later in the 3rd reel. This was going on in Babylon 5 when the Minbari noticed that some of their best souls were missing and had been getting reincarnated into Humans.

I think it is a Mormon notion that souls of men are all unfallen angels put here on Earth for a reason a Mormon might explain better than I could. This drives the backstory of Agent Franks, a fallen angel of some distinction who escapes Hell, comes to Earth, and inhabits a body of corpse parts enervated by alchemical means sometime in the 17th century.

This is a cool idea even if I don't believe in it. I think a soul is an emergent property of a sufficiently advanced neural network. But my idea doesn't matter as far as Mr. Correia's story is concerned, it's just a quibble. It doesn't hurt the story, it just serves as a distraction to the philosophically minded who will step outside the story for a bit to contemplate the transmigration of the soul. (I'm not suggesting Mormonism believe in reincarnation. It's different from that.)

The debate about where and how the soul comes about is a lot older than anyone reading this. If it is a matter of Mormon doctrine, no argument will suffice to change a Mormon's mind. Nor would I want to argue to this end.

I don't think it is possible, but if Nemesis could be written in such a way that the reader was not distracted by metaphysical considerations. In a story with the supernatural as the main source of conflict, I suppose metaphysical considerations are a necessary component.

How many stars? 5 well earned stars.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


I've been involved with software for a few decades now and one of the things I really enjoy about software is how it costs nothing to reproduce and redistribute. This means that a lot of it gets given away freely. Linux is like this. It's free and you can run Linux on your laptop for just the time it takes you to download it and put it on your machine.

And then there's the Internet. Do you want to find all the web pages that talk about kittens? Do a google search and you'll get hundred of links to sites related somehow to kittens. And what did you have to pay for this? Nothing! It's free.

Aside: The Grammar Nazi would like to point out that it is "free" or "for nothing" or "freely" and that it is improper to say "for free". But don't take him too seriously, because he left out all the commas in that last sentence.

If you have a smart phone, you can go online to one or another web site and search for applications. And if you're lucky, there's an app for that. And most of the time that's free, too. Which is great.

If you're a writer, particularly an indie writer, you may have noticed that your biggest problem is obscurity. The people who know you look up your work on Amazon or wherever, and they can buy it for a nominal amount. But you aren't rich and famous because nobody knows to look up your work on Amazon.

One approach that indie writers adopt is giving away free samples. You can find some of their stories for sale for $0.00. This is in hopes that you'll realize you like their work and you'll buy other stories at $3.00 or more.

One thing I've discovered that does NOT work for me is offering a free minimalist smartphone app, that has all its best features teased, but unavailable unless you pay for an upgrade. It's gotten to the point where there are things which I just naturally expect to be free, and it is unreasonable, but I resent it when someone expects me to pay for it. It's like internet news sites that are hidden behind a paywall. I won't pay, I"ll just go somewhere else that doesn't charge.

If I change roles, and think of myself not as consumer, but as producer of software, of ebooks, of cell phone apps, of music, of videos, etc. I have a problem with this attitude. As a producer of works art, I'd sort of like to get paid for it, otherwise I'll starve. Or do something else.

So, I've got an opportunity to build my reputation online via giving away freebies, but I can't start charging for anything I've been giving away. Once I start charging, it's like the girl who's been giving you sexual favors announcing that henceforth she's raising her prices to match the hooker standing on the corner. It changes the entire dynamic.

However, suppose you've enjoyed the sexual favors of some toothsome lass and after you're enjoying the afterglow, she casually mentions her favorite brand of champagne, or chocolate. This will transfer some of the good feelings you've recently gotten from the free goods to these other goods. You may then realize that you're thirsty for champagne or hungry for chocolate.

What I'm saying here is this:

The only thing you can reasonably expect from a freebie give-a-way is a referral.

Suppose you give away a really great iPhone app. You won't be able to raise your prices, but if that app creates value for a lot of people those people will think well of you. And if you ask them to refer their acquaintances to a related-but-different product, I think you can reasonably expect them to mention it. For instance, I might give away the sound track, but sell a movie. Or give away an iPhone app, but sell computer consulting.

The trouble with indie writers giving away book A in hopes of driving sales to book B is that the reader of book A holds in her hands proof that the book can be reproduced so cheaply you can give it away, so there's little reason to believe book B is not produced just as cheaply.

If you're an indie writer who wants to drive business to your stories, you'll have to find something related-but-different that you can give away freely. And all you can expect from that freebie is some gesture of gratitude on the part of the recipient. I don't quite know (yet) what that related-but-different freebie might be, nor do I know how to create a system that enables gestures-of-gratitude.

If you have any ideas, let's hear them.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Violence Never Solves Anything

There are things that I wish were true. For instance, there are Christians who believe everyone is going to heaven, or that the Kingdom of Christ will seamlessly emerge from a continual improvement of the human condition. Sadly, I find reasons to think these things are not true. Wishful thinking does not make things so.

I wish that my pacifist friends were right. I wish we could educate people to beat their swords into plowshares. I wish everyone was as civilized as my pacifist friends.

The mantra "violence is not the answer" is one of those things that I wish were true. And I wish that humoring this sort of wishful, magical thinking was not evil.


Violence is learned behavior. The aggressor in a violent confrontation has already acquainted himself enough with violence to believe he can successfully engage his target. The target can counter with violence provided she has the training, experience, and tools of violence.

People better acquainted with violence than I have opined here and here they make a convincing case that violence DOES solve something: namely it can effectively thwart a violent attack.

Social Justice Warriors speak of something called a "rape culture" and stress the need for "education" while they deprecate those who educate self-defense. They do this because self-defense education is education in violence.

Every so often some madman steals a gun and runs amok shooting up some gun-free zone or another. These stories become tragedies when the victims respond in a pacifist fashion. But teachers need not be packing heat to thwart such an attack. They need to recognize the reality of human evil and be prepared to respond with violence to thwart it. However, this is another form of education in violence.

The strong emotions about rape or school shootings arise because these events falsify pacifist wish-dreams.

Friday, June 13, 2014

You Have Been Disqualified

This happens in episodic television enough for me to notice, but it also works with any franchise.

Or maybe I should say doesn't work. Because I'm thinking of a story-killer. Something that takes your reader out of the story, moves him/her to close the book, then throw it out the nearest window.

A friend mentioned a TV series I do not watch and described something the heroes does which is revolting. I won't tell you which show, so I'll describe something similar.

Do you remember in Huckleberry Finn, where Huck is describing a steamship accident? A boiler exploded, but "nobody was killed except for a couple n------s." At that time, using the n-word was as common and as accepted in the South as it is between black people today. However, were I to use that word in this post even for illustrative purposes, it would attach a taint to everything else I might write.

Suppose you're watching a story and the hero sort of cavalierly suggests killing the black guy to advance the plot. You'd be outraged and you'd rightly disqualify everything else the writer had to say. In my friend's case, she's a cat person, and the TV show rather callously dispatched a feline. Now, my friend hates the show.

When you write something that is a disqualifier, you convert your readers from either a fan or someone who's indifferent into an enemy. If you want to turn me from a fan of your TV show into an enemy, dishonestly or ignorantly malign Christianity. For my friend, it is cruelty to cats.

A fan will say "yeah but" when someone points out something stupid in a story. I watched a lot of really crappy Star Trek Next Gen episodes, because I was such a fan of the franchise. And my wife would point out how stupid things were, and I'd say, "yeah but." I had this lingering love for the Star Trek franchise that caused me to make excuses.

My friend, on the other hand, is now an enemy of the show. It can't do anything right. Every weakness in the writing is a glaring omission to her. When you hate something, anything and everything associated with it gets seen in the worst possible light.

Suppose you don't care that Third-World Bohemian Have-Nots hate your story. Then you can go ahead and malign them in your writing.

If they cannot generate sympathy for their cause, they make a great punching bag. That's why Christian businessmen are great villains. Everyone knows, or knows of, a Christian who's been a jerk toward someone. Don't believe me? Three words: Westboro Baptist Church. And nobody feels sympathetic towards businessmen, unless they're the victims of bigger businessmen. (E. g. Old Man Potter in It's a Wonderful Life would be a sympathetic figure if someone opened a Walmart at the edge of Bedford Falls.)

But in the main, you want nobody to hate your story.

Trouble with that is many writers are oblivious to the things they write which disqualify. If you aren't a cat person, you may not appreciate how passionately a reader will react when you feed tabby to a monster. OK, then we'll just feed the black guy to the monster. Right?

Last week I saw a Bollywood movie, Kambakkht Ishq wherein Sylvester Stallone makes a cameo appearance in the 3rd reel. The scene is a satisfying actioner: The guy drives into the wrong neighborhood and is stopped and threatened by toughs. A fight ensues and he tells the girl to run. Despite having done a great job in the first two reels of literally cutting up Akshay Kumar, she runs and screams. The bad guys give chase with bad intent. Until they run into Sly who proceeds to beat the bad guys senseless.

Though the girl's flight and rescue is quite acceptable to an Indian audience, I can imagine my feminist friends' heads exploding. The girl is helpless? She is potential victim in need of rescue? Disqualified!

I know a fellow in my writers' group who is perpetrating a perfect trifecta of suck. He has a story with an unsympathetic protagonist. This guy is a tormented captive, but he responds in a weak and passive way. And then gets rescued. And then he turns into a woman. And then gets captured and tormented again...

Wait. HE TURNS INTO A WOMAN? What's with that? And then gets raped? And doesn't undergo any sort of character development? Oh, and did I say the story has all kinds of vaguely wrong biblical symbology?

What editor in this or any century, in this or any world would say, "I think this will sell."?

There are certain expectations one brings to a protagonist. They don't kill babies or innocent animals. They don't passively go along with victimization.

The story was laughably flawed to begin with, but once the protagonist changed sexes, the ick factor took over. Maybe, a writer who is a transexual could pull this character off, but not a straight white man. Once the author indulges in the shark jumping BS it brings to light all his other other problems. 

I call this category of writing mistakes "disqualifications." They are immediate shark-jumps. You absolutely must avoid them. And the only that you are going to avoid them is by being sensitive to people and how they respond to your prose.

That includes being sensitive to people who are not like you.

Those more worthy than I: