All posts by Michael Schwarz

Q&A: Lethal Superheroes

Whats your opinion of the whole ‘Superheroes shouldn’t kill’ argument that always pops up? Why is it say Iron Man is given a pass for killing Jihadists, but Batman or Superman aren’t?

I wouldn’t say it “always pops up,” because I see it fairly rarely. The important thing about Superman or Batman isn’t that they shouldn’t, it’s that they choose not to.

So, the short version with Batman is his prohibition against killing was added after the character was created. Initially he had no qualms about gunning people down. His aversion to firearms and killing in general, came as an attempt to move further from another fictional, nocturnal, New York vigilante and their brace of nickle plated .45s.

It’s kind of weird now to say that Batman’s refusal to kill was because he looked like a rip off of The Shadow, but here we are. Gotham is rarely used as a nickname for New York now. The Shadow gained actual superpowers to simplify the character for the radio show. And of course, Batman became wildly popular while The Shadow slipped into obscurity.

Superman, it’s a choice. It’s just his ethics, and a line he refused to cross. Not because he can’t, or because it would cause some horrific backlash against him: Killing a sentient being is against his code of ethics.  This is a line he won’t willingly cross. It gets into a complex discussion about who he is as a person,(or character.)

There are plenty of supreheroes that don’t kill people, for a variety of reasons. So, there’s nothing wrong with a character like Batman, Superman, or Daredevil saying they won’t kill.

There’s a lot of legitimate arguments for killing your foes when they’re literally supervillains. This is especially true for Bats, every time The Joker decides to nerve a mall. “Dude, you could stop this, but you won’t. He broke out of Arkham again, so you’re taking him back instead of just ending here?” There’s a lot more to that argument, but, it makes sense.

So, Tony Stark kills people. A lot of people. Not just the ones you see. (I’m going with the films here, because the Jihadists thing is from the movies, not as much the comics.) Stark Industries is a high-tech weapons manufacturer. They make so many weapons. It makes sense. I mean, Tony wasn’t there, pulling the trigger, but this is a guy with a lot of blood on his hands, seeing as he’s also their primary venue of arms R&D.

Kind of a, “what if Steve Jobs, made weapons instead of computers,” thing. Though, even in the films Stark Industries is also in the Telecom and Computer markets.

So, part of Tony’s arc is moving from this guy who sold the weapons that killed a ton of people and didn’t care about that, to a guy who’s far more selective in his violence. Given the circumstances, that makes sense. Hell, his alcoholism makes sense. Tony doesn’t get a pass for killing people. The people around him don’t care, they’re willing to accept that, but he’s not willing to accept that about himself. It also consistent with his personality and personal history, so this isn’t just some act of self-flagellation, but it does fit neatly into the character.

This is why characters like Superman don’t kill people. It’s not that they can’t; they don’t want to live in the aftermath. Tony already does, and that’s reasonable behavior. It’s also what drives him to be a hero; he’s trying to atone for past actions. By itself, this could be cliche, but expression is unique enough that you don’t think of him as someone who’s trying to make up for who they used to be.

Superheroes can kill people, but it depends on who they are. No one bats an eye when Black Widow, or The Punisher, blow someone away. It’s in character for them. They approach lethal violence as a tool to deal with their opponents. Also, I don’t want this to sound like it’s just a Marvel thing, DC also has a bunch of lethal heroes, (ironically, including The Shadow.)

Usually when someone’s questioning if a superhero should be killing people, they’re coming from one of two places. Either, they aren’t familiar with the character at all, or it’s out of character.

The best illustration of the former is that quote from Deadpool:

You’re probably thinking, “My boyfriend said this was a superhero movie but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kabab!”

So, no shame here. If you aren’t familiar with a character like Ghost, The Mask, or The Tick, you might think they’re not going to kill people. Well, credit you can figure out which of those characters are non-lethal from their names.

Alternately, it may be that it doesn’t fit the character. Having Bats suddenly decide to gun down a foe is a problem. Not because lethal heroes aren’t a thing, but because it’s out of character for him. That’s not Batman. You know it. I know it. It’s not right for the character.

It can be very easy to transition from poorly executed writing to, “that shouldn’t happen.” In a stray moment, from someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time reading comics, that could turn into, “superheroes shouldn’t kill.” It isn’t consistent with actual superhero lit, but it’s an understandable mistake to make.

On an ethical front, sure. If superheroes were real, with actual powers, yeah, use of lethal force should be very careful measured, and only used as an absolute last resort. In practice, it probably wouldn’t be as carefully measured, and there is an entire discussion about law enforcement dealing with superheroes, that usually gets skimmed over. I mean, if the cops decide to arrest Superman, what’re they going to do? What can they really do?

This can also be a justifiable restriction based on the genre you’re working with. If working from a Saturday morning cartoon or four color 1960s comic flavor, having characters who are lethal is a serious decision and probably shouldn’t be introduced lightly. If you’re trying to write a post-Watchmen critique of the superhero as  “unrealistic” no one’s going to bat an eye at your character carving people up like a Christmas Turkey.

It’s also possible for a non-lethal hero to break their personal code. This could be increasing stress, this could be the result of some traumatic event that causes them reevaluate their position. It could be a desperate act because there really is no other option, or it could even be an accident. When you have the ability to dead lift five tons, people are made of tissue paper. Apply a little too much force and you’ve got the world’s worst Will it Blend reboot.

That’s the other thing about Superman. He makes life harder for himself by not killing his foes. Simply put, he believes killing is wrong, and doesn’t stoop to that level. I mean, this does make sense with the character’s personality and beliefs. He’s nominally invulnerable to harm, and firmly believes that anyone can mend their ways. As a result, he’s willing to make life difficult for himself to protect others, including his foes, which is certainly one definition of a hero.

The inverse is, of course, also an option. A hero who backs off of killing people, or has a change of heart is entirely possible. I mean, we were talking about Tony Stark earlier, though he’s certainly not the only example. This can also create a situation where a selective killing is more of a setback than a full failure,  This could also be baked into their origin story. Though, to be fair, there’s also plenty of room for a superhero to have a change of heart as part of their creation and continue mowing people down on their very messy road to personal redemption.

Is your character inclined to kill people? It depends on the hero. If your hero was an academic, a reporter,  jazz musician, or some other “normal” profession, then it could go either way. They might, or they might not, depending on their personal outlook. If your hero was a soldier, hitman, or intergalactic warrior before taking up the mantel of superhero, there’s a decent chance they’ll be smearing their opponents across the walls.

Should superheroes kill people? It depends character, and their story.


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Q&A: A Thousand Words

How do you convey the feeling of an ominous/sad close up shot through prose? I have a scene that ends with a character taking off their SciFi armor because they are about to set off an EMP-like device that would make it a burden. The narrator doesn’t think much of it, but I want to give the reader a sense of trepidation.

The problem here is you’re asking how to write a picture. To a certain extent, this is natural; we’re all influenced by the media we consume. Sometimes you see, or read something, and want to use parts of that for your own writing. Sometimes you can. Sometimes you need to step back and completely reevaluate what you consumed, and realize that some of it doesn’t directly translate into your chosen medium.

You can adapt what you see into prose, but you cannot fully recreate it. You can’t exactly mimic the colors, you can’t get the totality of scope, or incorporate all of the detail work. In the case of film, you can’t replicate the musical cues. You can write a script, and work with other people to realize that image, but in a written work you can’t get everything. You shouldn’t want to, because you can do better.

Writing gives you easier access to the inner workings of your character’s heads. It also opens up the gates, and lets you start sketching out your world in ways that would be impossible in another format. In writing, you don’t need to force emotions onto your audience, because they have direct access to your characters’ states of mind. If your character is scared, worried, or anxious, you can say it. You can talk about it. You can talk about why, and go into details that would kill the pacing of a flow.

What you can’t do as elegantly is show the device. But, to an extent, beyond basic mise en scene, it doesn’t really matter that much if it’s riveted, or if it has slick, beveled plates. You might mention that when describing it, but it really is just set dressing to sell the moment. The important thing getting into your character’s head. Again, in writing, that’s really easy. It’s film where the director and actors need to take extra steps to sell the moment.

Case in point: your character doesn’t need to take their helmet off. Think about this for a moment. The entire reason to take the helmet off is to see the character’s face. If you’re inhabiting their skull as a PoV character, you wouldn’t “see” it when you take it off anyway. You don’t need to see the actor’s performance because there is no actor, just your character, and your audience stuck in their mind as the moments tick down. You actually miss out on things too. If their helmet has a built in HUD, you miss out on that frying and going dark when the EMP detonates.

Visual media excels in providing spectacle. If you’re shooting a fight sequence, you can let it run far longer than a real fight could ever last because you’re relying on the choreography to keep the fight interesting. You can mix this with a changing environment to make things even more engaging. All of this applies when you’ve got stunt guys going through the motions, performing visual art. In prose, you lose that. Long fights become exhausting for the reader, and replicating the spectacle is (effectively) impossible. So, you need to tell a different story with your fights.

Different media have different strengths and weaknesses. As I mentioned, prose gives you the most control over your protagonist’s state of mind. Film and other visual media provide the most spectacle. Again, you’re never going to replicate the visual detail in text. Comic books stand between these two points, gaining some visual elements, but the trade off is that your audience is outside of the character’s head looking in, even if they have limited access to their thought process. Video games will give you an unparalleled connection between the audience and the events, as they’re an active participant rather than an observer, the trade off is, you give up a surprising amount of autonomy as a writer, as you have to find a way to align your audiences views with the character and their actions, otherwise they’ll disconnect from the material, or at least from your stories.

So, the short answer of, “how do I do this in text,” is to evaluate the scene in the context of your medium. How do you write a scene where a character is looking at a weapon of mass destruction about to detonate? In prose you’re going to spend a lot more time working through your character’s emotional state, rather than trying to get your audience to share in that experience via visual cues. They’re already in your character’s head. In that sense, you get to jump ahead of the line.


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Q&A: Violent Escalation

My characters are criminals are associate with other criminals most of the time. (Think Sutherland) Their first instinct is to believe problems can be solved with violence (which often creates more problems). So the violence does have various consequences. How can I portray that violence/crime isn’t something that will solve your problems if I’m limited by POV characters who believe it will or that others ‘deserve’ violence.

The short answer is, “you’re not limited to your POV characters’ beliefs.” You can show the violence getting out of control. This is the natural consequence of people who believe violence solves problems.  Violence leads to reprisal, reprisals lead to escalation, and before you know it you’ve got a full on crime war on your hands, or the cops running surveillance. That’s your outcome.

These kind of brushfire crime stories are widespread, in both fiction and the real world. Someone thinks that a bullet will solve their problems, which in turn causes more blowback.

You’re not limited to your POV characters’ perceptions. You also control what happens to them. Just because your character believes killing someone will solve their problems, doesn’t mean that it will. Violence could easily lead to someone associated with the victim (or the victim themselves, if they slaying doesn’t go to plan), coming for their head later. Failing that, there’s also the police investigation to consider. The more force your characters use, the more attention they’ll be getting from the cops.

This is assuming that the violence doesn’t get out of hand in the moment. Sure, your protagonist only meant to rough them up, but now they’ve got a corpse. This was more than they were planning on, and as a result, the consequences will be significantly more severe. In some ways, violence is a binary choice: You decide to engage in it or not. You can try to moderate the outcome, but you have no guarantees. There are plenty of real world examples where a trivial scuffle produced a corpse, leading to unexpected consequences.

There’s a reductive, and somewhat moralistic, “crime never pays,” approach that is justifiable when done well. Your characters do bad things, bad things happen to them. It’s a valid approach, but not completely necessary. You can track cause and effect, without needing to turn it into a morality tale.

Also worth considering that a lot of these narratives do tend towards tragedy. The narrative will build to a climax mid-way through the story, and then things will start to unravel for the protagonists from there. Characters die or are apprehended, plans fall apart because of people who were wronged during your characters’ ascent to the top. Seeing the changing weather, allies may abandon your protagonists. Enemies who’ve been sharpening their knives finally see the opportunity to make good on their threats. All it takes is a single misstep at any point, and the story can quickly degenerate into a figurative feeding frenzy.

It’s worth remembering that just because your characters say something, that doesn’t mean you’re endorsing it as a writer. What they say, and what happens weigh on your position.

You can use supporting characters as the conscience for your protagonists, or as venues for your position. There are plenty of people who would argue caution in the face of violence. These could range from family outside of the life, to veterans who managed to escape intact, or even police offering honest advice. These discussions can risk being cliche, so, some care will be needed, to ensure the dialog is properly tailored to what they know and believe, rather than a simple, “violence bad,” skit. If your character ignores that, it’s on them; they were warned.

Tragedy feeds on character flaws. Someone who believes, in spite of all evidence, that they can force their will on the world around them is an excellent candidate for taking the fall.

How do you deal with characters who think that violence will solve their problems? You let natural cause and effect tear them down. In your story, you’re responsible for applying the consequences. Wreck them.


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Q&A: Partial Armor

Is it valid that the armor is not in the most vulnerable part of your body? What can justify it, the movement, temperature? I’ve been watching video game armor and some of them have exposed the lathe and crotch, even in other audiovisual materials like Voltron: Legendary Defender happens. Is it valid or does it only have aesthetic purposes?

No. Though, there is a caveat here. You identified a good point: You need to armor the most vulnerable places, which isn’t necessarily the same as the most vital places.

So, vital places are things like your head, your chest, your groin. Things that, if you take a 48″ piece of steel through them, you’ll die. Vulnerable places are likely to be injured.

So, armor that prioritizes protecting the outer thighs, shins, and feet, without much regard for the groin or inner leg, makes sense if your’re mounted. Your horse will protect your inner leg and groin. So, while those are vital, they’re less vulnerable. As a result, some cavalry armor does leave the groin (basically) unprotected.

An extreme example of this is boxing. A boxer will wear gloves, and sometimes a head guard, because those are the most vulnerable things that need to be protected. They don’t wear chest armor, because, while your chest is vital, it is protected from blunt strikes by your musculature and your opponent’s gloves. Your hands, however, are quite fragile, and as a result are more vulnerable (mostly from self-injury.)

This is also why you’ll sometimes see armor that prioritizes the outer arm. It’s protecting against an inward striking slash from an opponent. You’d still want to protect the chest from a direct piercing strike, as it’s both vital and vulnerable.

Another example would be additional armor on the left arm. Again, this is prioritizing additional protection where you’re vulnerable to attack from a right handed opponent.

Temperature and cost are both reasons why you might not have the best possible armor. Heavy armor will (generally) trap heat more efficiently, exhausting the user. Obviously, being really tired is preferable to being really dead, so when the option was there, soldiers still went with the best they could get. Though it is a reason, particularly in modern contexts, why a soldier might forgo armor that they felt was unnecessary. Particularly if they were serving in an auxiliary role.

Cost is a classic tension on armor. It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a militia, or an organized military with standardized equipment. No one has the money to outfit everyone with the best possible gear. This means that the armor someone would have access to would be limited by what they (or their armorer) could afford to equip them with. So, while a cavalry rider might benefit from full plate, they may be forced to make due with a gambeson, because the shock cavalry and heavy infantry are above them in the queue and claimed all the available plate.

So, yes, there are reasons why a character might not have the best possible armor. Characters frequently need to make do with the best they can get their hands on. That includes armor.


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Follow Up: A Lit Review of Humor


so I’ve been studying humor theory in literature and psychology, and it usually boils down to one of three things:

1. condescending/superiority theory (Bergman, Plato, Aristotle)

2. diffusion of tense energy or relief theory (this comes closer to what the author was saying but not quite, and is of course Freud)

3. comparison between two unlike things, incongruity theory (this is the most fruitful theory imo, Kierkegaard, Kant, others) the upshot is, humor has been theorized by a LOT of…

This is a good, quick, lit review. I’m more inclined to evaluate humor in the context of B. F. Skinner, rather than Freud. That is to say, humor as a learned and conditioned behavior. Which crosses all three strands depending on the initial stimuli.

Also, because I’m more interested in the reasons, than the outcome, I’m left with some amalgamation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s will to power, and Skinner. I doubt that was going to end up in your review.

To abuse the Mark Twain quote, at the moment, I don’t care about dissecting the frog, I’m more interested in where the damn thing came from.

In the future, I would encourage you to reblog, rather than simply commenting, because it makes responses like this easier, and because it protects your post from being eaten, the way it seems to have been. There’s clearly more worth reading here, but it ends on a ellipsis.


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Q&A: The Price of Humor

What do you mean when you mentioned in an article, “Snarky Characters usually have a low sense of self”? Thanks in advance!

This requires you to answer a question very honestly: why do you crack a joke?

Humor comes from some deeply messed up places. At least, learning to be funny does. Well adjusted, emotionally healthy people do not normally develop the sense.

Normal people can spot things that are funny, but, for the most part they won’t. If you’re basically happy, you’re not going to be driven to pick at the edges of your world. The impulse isn’t there. As a result, you’re not really going to develop the skill. Same thing applies for writing and most creative exercises. If you’re satisfied, you’re not going to go take the time and energy to develop those skills. After all, if you’re happy in the world you see, you’re not going to  be driven to build a new one.

Now, it’s important to understand, just because someone’s funny doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or mentally unstable. Someone who was bullied in school may have developed a class clown routine to mollify their tormentors. Someone who was neglected or abused may have an upbeat sense of humor as a desire to draw attention to themselves, or a subversive, observational wit. Someone who’s suffered serious loss, may use humor to deflect from emotional wounds, or to keep the people around them at arm’s length, to avoid future pain. Over time, these kinds of behaviors become part of your personality. It’s not an act, it really is a part of who you are.

I’m not excluding myself from this. My sense of humor comes from some deeply messed up experiences that have left some pronounced emotional scarring. I would be neither the writer, nor the inveterate smart ass I am without that background.

It’s a little reductive to simply say that someone who’s snarking off must have low self esteem; they probably do. If you’ve got someone who’s constantly cracking jokes, particularly under pressure, they’re used to using humor as an emotional defense, and by extension, that’s covering some psychological scars. Just because you want someone to think you don’t care doesn’t mean you don’t care, and because these kinds of behaviors become baked into your identity, they can also outlast the factors which created them.

So, you can potentially see someone who has a razor wit and is mostly well adjusted now.

While it’s popular to look at the snarky badass as someone who is so confident in themselves that they can laugh in the face of death, it’s helpful to remember that most people who crack jokes are doing so to avoid facing the realities of their situation. Someone who’s legitimately unfazed by what’s going on around them won’t need to mouth off to assure anyone of their position. They don’t need bluster or bravado, they don’t need to seem tough. They already are, and they know it. Soon enough, you’ll know it too. If you’re dealing with someone who’s dealt with their issues, it’s entirely legitimate for them to get snarkier the more stress they’re feeling, as the old defense mechanisms start kicking in.

There are ranges where a character can use humor offensively, specifically to antagonize their foes into making mistakes. This is a little different, and it’s not something most characters can really weaponize. Again, this is somewhat dependent on a kind of snap psychological assessment, that’s more likely in someone who has a real talent for humor.

Now, to be fair, I think snarky characters have a lot of merit. This is a very legitimate way to deal with stress, it’s true to a lot of real life experiences, and it can create some wonderfully satisfying dialog. However, as a writer, it’s important to understand that most humor is rooted in pain. Keep in mind that humor is often a reflection of how worn and battered your character is, rather than how untouchable they are, and you’ll get far better results.

Also, try to be honest with yourself about why you crack jokes, and you might start to understand why, when, and how your character would get mouthy. I realize this is asking for open-ended introspection, but trust me, it will make for better writing.


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Q&A: Hanna

Do you have any opinions on the movie Hanna (2011)? The fight scenes specifically

Without actually digging up a copy of the film and watching the entire thing, not especially. I did find clips on YouTube, so, this is more first impressions than a review.

The soundtrack’s good. I’ve got a soft spot for The Chemical Brothers, but this is very good. The premise isn’t bad, maybe a little stale at this point, but that’s not a serious criticism. The acting I’ve seen pretty good. Credit to Saoirse Ronan, she was given a difficult character to play, and nailed it, in every scene I’ve watched.

I’m not sure how old Hanna supposed to be (I think 16, but I’m reading off her file on screen, and it’s out of focus), but Saoirse was 17 as of the film’s shooting. With the character’s background, that’s old enough to where she could be a legitimate threat to adults. This isn’t one of those child fighter scenarios, she’s old enough to be doing most of what she’s doing. Also, this is before we consider that Hanna was genetically modified, which starts screwing up that baseline even further. (I’m not going into how absurd it is to genetically engineer someone to be a better assassin, that’s just part of the premise.)

There is a “but” coming, the choreography leaves me cold. This is mostly just normal stage fighting. It’s not badly performed. However, if you know it, you can see where strikes whiff, where the hits don’t connect, or are superficial without any real power behind the impact. This results in a kind of weightlessness. If you’re familiar with combat, it looks fake. It is fake, but the illusion isn’t there. That’s unfortunate, this is a film that deserved better choreography. To be fair, this seems to be more of an issue with the stunt actors rather than the main cast.

Now, there’s a slight trick here, though I think it’s unintentional. The first fight in the film is between Saoirse Ronan and Eric Bana. Their choreography is competent, and, as result, it’s a good sequence. Unfortunately, what follows isn’t as good. First impressions are important, and if you watched the film in sequence, it would be easy to come away with the impression that the film’s choreography as a whole was much better because of that introduction. If you watch it out of sequence, then that first impression never happens, and the shortcomings are more apparent.

So, the short answer would be: my opinion is cautiously positive. The fight scenes are nothing special, but that’s not really the point of the film. Obviously, having only seen pieces of it, I’m not really in a position to give a comprehensive narrative analysis.


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Q&A: Nailed It

If a character is stabbed and pinned through the hands (like a crucifixion), could they wrench themselves free without bleeding out? I realize they’d be most likely be permanently disabled if they survive, I just want to make sure that “if” is workable.

So, there’s a small historical footnote worth knowing: In Roman crucifixion, the nail would be driven through the wrist, not the hand. The reason being that the hand isn’t structurally sound enough to support the body’s weight.

As for wrenching yourself free from actual crucifixion? Probably not. Someone subjected to that would normally take days to expire. Factor in the blood loss from getting nailed up there in the first place, and being able to break yourself free seems pretty far fetched.

It’s worth noting, there’s very little archaeological data on crucifixions, and only one set of crucified remains dating to the Roman Empire has every been discovered. This leaves us with religious and contemporary documents. Given the time involved, there’s some uncertainty in the details. For example: The size, design and metallurgical makeup of the nails.

If you’re talking about a situation like the character’s hand being mangled by a normal carpentry nail, that’s a little different. The Ulnar Artery loops across the hand, forming the Superficial Palmal Arch, which connects with the Radial Artery. So, damaging this must be bad, right?

Yes, and no. You can bleed to death from tearing the Ulnar artery (or the arch.) This is still an important conduit for blood through the forearm, and no arterial wound is safe. The Radial artery is the one most frequently severed when someone attempts to slit their wrists. So, yes, it is possible to bleed out this way. It’s also extremely unlikely, baring other factors, like a compromised clotting factor, immersion in water, or continued aggravation of the wound. In most cases, your body will clamp down on the damaged artery halting the loss of blood. In fact, emergency first aid for a ruptured artery in the wrist or hand is to keep pressure on the damaged tissue for roughly 5 to 15 minutes, until clotting commences. Depending on the circumstances you could be looking at over an hour before cardiovascular collapse from this injury (if it’s going to happen at all.) So, yeah, you can, theoretically, bleed to death from this, but it’s not going to be fast. Regardless, you can bleed to death from this, so don’t screw around with it.

So how does this happen? The nail goes through, and then you tear it out between the webbing of the fingers. That forces you to sever the Superficial Palmal Arch, causing arterial bleeding. If you’re just yanking your hand off the surface, from whatever it was nailed into, and the nail didn’t damage the arteries, you’ll bleed, but you won’t die from bloodloss.  It doesn’t really matter whether this pulls the nail through your hand or you keep the as a souvenir and implausible, improvised, punch dagger. Additionally, depending on your personal physiology, and the exact point of contact, it’s possible the nail will penetrate outside the Arch, and pulling your hand free, though the webbing, will damage tissue, but won’t be life threatening.

Now, the bad news. If your holding your hand on a surface, someone stabs through it with a knife, and the blade perpendicular to your arm, there’s a real risk the blade itself will sever the Palmal Arch. Again, by itself, this is unlikely to be lethal, but it is something that needs to be taken seriously.

Also, until the wound has clotted, bandaging these wounds will require some real skill. It’s far easier to keep pressure on the wounds by hand (insert a bandage between your hand and the wound when possible), until the initial bleed ends. If the bandage soaks through, then apply a tourniquet. Don’t just slap a bandaid on top and call it good. Also, simply. tightly wrapping a bandage around the hand will not apply pressure where you want it.

This is in contrast to arterial damage near the torso, including in the arm pits and groin, which can result in death from blood loss in under two minutes. It’s an artery, but size and volume moved matters.

One fun detail, if your character takes a fairly normal sized carpentry nail to the hand, assuming it doesn’t specifically pierce anything vital, it can do minimal damage. Obviously, nicking a nerve is permanent. This is in contrast to taking a knife to the hand, where the size of the blade means that it will probably hit something vital.

The puncture wound will suck, and in a modern setting, they’ll need a tetanus booster, and probably an antibiotic, in addition to basic wound care. Surgery can repair non-nerve damage, though the hand won’t be exactly the same again. But this is not something that will your character in the scene.

As always, please remember I’m not a professional hand stabber, so don’t take this as medical advice, aside from, you know, the first aid: keep pressure on bleeding wound that spurts in time with your pulse. Also, as someone who is not a doctor, I recommend you don’t get stabbed through the hand. I hear not healthy.


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Q&A Follow-Up: Bunguo

Up front, I’m not going to be fully answering this question, just shooting down a few pieces on the way through.

About Bungou Stray Dogs- the Port Mafia is absolutely not Yakuza just because they’re in Japan.

No, they’re the Yakuza. They’re also in Japan, but the organization they’re modeled after is the Yakuza.

The Yakuza has a very specific structure where the mafia (namely Italian/American) doesn’t have as a riding a structure if one at all, in reality.

Two things. First, yes, the Yakuza has a very specific structure. However, so do the various branches of the Italian Mafia. I mean, it’s right there in the name, “organized crime.”

To your, marginal, credit, I’m going to let slide how incredibly racist this is. I just want you to think about this in the context of the Triads, the Cartels, and of course the Mafia. “But, only in glorious Nippon does civilization flourish even in the criminal underbelly.” Nope.

However, if we were to take that statement at face value, the part where the Port Mafia is organized, kinda takes your entire theory that only the Yakuza have organizational structure, and makes it sleep with the fishies.

The Port Mafia is organized crime which is the only important part- if you control the ports, you control what goes in and out…

Yeah, that’s specifically a Yakuza thing. To be clear, all organized crime thrives at trade ports (of any variety.) There’s a lot of money (either as liquid currency or in physical goods) moving through a single point. Because the mode of transportation is changing (between land, sea, and air), there’s a lot of movement, and a lot of opportunities for things to get “misplaced.” Most organizations will seek some control so they can skim off the stuff coming in and going out. After all, why pound pavement when all the graft you could ever want will come to you?

“Controlling,” what comes in or goes out; that’s not something you usually see. A criminal organization may retaliate against a specific shipper for some action taken against them. They may use the port as part of their own smuggling network. But, the act of dictating who comes and who goes? That’s far more management than most criminal organizations are willing to engage in. Except, the Yakuza.

The Yakuza see themselves as protectors and defenders of Japan, or at the very least, of Japanese culture and civilization. If you wanted to be really flowery, and were writing a manga using excessive literary references, you could even call them, “Wardens of the Night.”

As with many lies people tell themselves, it’s tangentially related to reality at best. However, that hasn’t stopped the Yakuza from seeing themselves as heroes of Japanese identity in the post-war era. One element of that is using control of the ports to protect Japanese products from foreign competition.

To be fair, I haven’t seen much lit on this behavior continuing since the mid-90s, but it was prevalent enough in the early to mid-80s to show up in some contemporary academic lit. This would have been when the Japanese economy was in a massive bubble, and the Yakuza was expanding operations everywhere it could, so the idea of them having full control over port operations in a major city wasn’t completely out there.

So, no, this isn’t the Italian Mafia, it’s explicitly a stand in for the Japanese Yokuza. It uses phonetic approximation of the word, “mafia,” in katakana as part of it’s formal name, but that doesn’t change the context, inspiration, or the organization presented.

…which [fits] with the Port Mafia authors wanting to stick with Japanese styles of writing.

Pretty sure it’s not stylistic, or at least not that simple. Several of the members of the Armed Detective Agency were named after authors who took foreign concepts or genres and adapted them into traditional Japanese styles. This also doesn’t work for the Port Mafia references, because, Mori Ōgai was a prolific translator of foreign works into Japanese, including Goethe, Hans Christian Anderson, and many others. I’m not familiar with his original work, but one of his most influential acts was the introduction of European literary critique methodology to the Japanese literary community.

I’m not sure exactly how Kafka Asagiri decided to parse these authors up. I don’t have the background in Japanese literature, but I seriously doubt it’s that simple.

It also, somewhat, undermines your entire position to begin with. If the material is heavily referential, but the Port Mafia is supposed to be the Italian/American Mafia, then the names would reflect that, with characters named things like Mario Puzo, James Elroy, and Nicholas Pileggi. Though, given the subtly I’ve seen from Asagiri, I half expect Puzo would be walking around wearing a rubber horse mask the entire time. So, probably for the best that he stuck with the Yakuza.


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Q&A Follow Up: Domestic Abusers


Not sure if it matters, but I believe the anon was referring to the wisdom regarding domestic violence that states that when violent partners say “I couldn’t stop myself,” you can often examine their behaviour and find that they know exactly what the limits of what they think they can get away with are. That their violence was extremely controlled, stopping at the exact point they knew was before “too far.”

Looking at the question again, I think you’re correct. The, “other fights,” thing threw me. So, in answer to that: Domestic abusers are sub-human garbage. We’ll need a tier below that, someplace in the festering compost heap to account for the ones who try to pass their culpability off on their victims. They say, “I couldn’t stop myself,” in an attempt to blame their victim, because they’re such fucking cowards they can’t even accept responsibility for their own actions.

An abuser who only stops to avoid detection is possibly worse. They’re adding an extra, psychological level to their abuse. They stop to prevent consequences from spilling back on themselves and further isolate and discredit their victim. As with domestic abuse in general, this behavior is vile. Other factors like this make it worse.

While it’s not a perfect analogy, the psychology of domestic abusers hews very close to the psychology of bullies, with similar problems associated with a third party injecting themselves into the situation.

So, yeah, fuck domestic abusers, and I’m sorry I didn’t pick up on this part in Monday’s question, and thank you to InquisitorHierarch for catching that.


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