Creating New Stories That Don’t Suck

How The Critical Drinker and a certain web site inspired author's side hustle

I was four years old when my father took me to the theater to see “Star Wars.”

From that moment, until that calamitous day in 1999 when “The Phantom Menace” debuted, the “Star Wars” trilogy was everything storytelling should be.

In the past few decades, stories like the ones I grew up loving have been in short supply, leaving me to ask:

  • Where are the terrifying villains that could pose some ultimate challenge to the heroes trying to take them down?
  • Where are the noble but flawed heroes who grope their way to success?
  • Where are the damsels in distress?
  • Where are the characters whose qualities as an individual are more important than their race and their sex?

And, of course … 

  • Why do these modern movies suck?

Hollywood in Toto helped to introduce me to The Critical Drinker. It was the Drinker who reverse-engineered the cultural and political rules that govern modern storytelling and why those rules result in terrible movies.

After watching a few dozen Drinker videos, I was convinced that I could create an epic adventure better than anything Hollywood is churning out these days: one that ignores the rules supposedly demanded by “modern audiences” and the mobs of fanatics on social media.

Why Modern Movies Suck - They Hate Men (Part 1)

Further, I was determined to create something special for a very ordinary reason: I wanted to impress a girl. My creation had to be good because the girl I needed to impress is a very special one: my wife of 25 years.

That leads me to my concept

Imagine a computer algorithm that can know your hopes, dreams and deepest desires better than even your friends and family do. It can use that knowledge to persuade you to do whatever its owner wants you to do.

The possibility that such a technology could one day exist seemed terrifyingly plausible, given that tech giants sit atop enormous mountains of data about every one of us. Further, with all of the devices in our midst, they can spy on us and communicate with us in a multitude of ways.

Having learned something about the psychology of influence, I found it easy to think of persuasion as a rule-bound endeavor, much like the game of chess or the Japanese game called Go. Long before the world stood in amazement at the capabilities of ChatGPT, I had become deeply unsettled by the abilities of an AI program called AlphaZero that had revolutionized both chess and Go (mastery of Go had eluded computer science far longer than chess).

What if AI could master persuasion the way it has mastered these games? What use would it be put to? The first use seemed obvious. It would be used for the same purpose as any new technology: to get girls. But what then? The results amazed and terrified me.

A Truly Intimidating Villain

I began to imagine a tech billionaire who owns an algorithm that can persuade and manipulate people more effectively than any human being can. Algorithm in hand, Neville first uses his program to seduce Meghan Peters, a Hollywood starlet whom he could never attract on his own.

Neville’s problem is that he owes the Chinese a lot of money. They come to him with their concerns that his program, while effective, is not perfect. They’re tired of having to imprison dissidents for political crimes. It reflects badly on China on the world stage. They threaten to collect on their debts and ruin Neville if he doesn’t perfect his program.

Neville is unable to meet their demand. The sheer complexity of the world makes the task of perfecting the program as he originally conceived it impossible. He and his team find a clever but terrifying workaround, one that solves the problem in the most horrifying way imaginable. His new weapon of persuasion interests both Chinese and American politicians.

Trying to ‘Out-Crichton’ Michael Crichton

To make Neville’s evil plan terrifyingly plausible, I had to take the reader through it one devious step at a time. If the reader doesn’t see what’s coming, it has grown organically out of the story. But if the reader begins to sense what’s coming, the eventual payoff is even more terrifying.

To accomplish that, I realized I would have to “out-Crichton Michael Crichton” by filling my budding techno-thriller with lots of real-world techno: physics, mathematics, complex systems, psychology, computer science, and network science.

Additionally, having spent the past decade on a program of self-education, I was also able to fill the work with law, art, history, opera, and political intrigue, all of it working to enhance the plot and deepen the characters.

A Diverse Cast of Heroes

What kind of heroes could overcome the plans of an AI-backed genius whose work is by nature secret?

Realistic but positive and inspiring, I designed a cast of the most American of heroes: ordinary and imperfect characters of every background who have, (in varying degrees) some of the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

Not knowing exactly what they’re up against, they all get in over their heads and they have to find their way out. Only one of my male characters is an incompetent laughingstock. Without having to cater to “modern audiences” I was able to build female characters who are genuinely strong rather than the “strong female character” we see so much on screen.

The men in Kingmaker are the kind you would recognize from your everyday life rather than the “hyperactive hyper-emotional hyper-talkative children forced into men’s bodies” that today’s “insecure, effeminate, emotionally fragile Hollywood screenwriters imagine men to be.”

The heroes in Kingmaker aren’t trying to establish some unreachable Utopia. They don’t strive to be “empowered” because the desire to control the lives of others hardly seems like a noble calling fit for a hero.

Instead, they’re concerned with the same things we all are concerned with: finding work, finding love, finding meaning, finding forgiveness, exposing injustice. The obstacles they face are the same obstacles we all face: constant lying from our “betters,” utopian educators alienating our children with indoctrination, and the sheer amount of effort it takes to truly grow and achieve anything worthwhile.

In their pursuit, they show us all what we can become with courage, conviction, humility, and effort. In their quest, they uphold the best of our nation’s legacy and urge us to defend it from those who would tear it down.

As a writer, I wanted to experience the world from a multitude of perspectives by creating characters who are different from me. Some of my heroes are different from me in the trivial dimension of race. But they’re also different on the more important dimensions of experience, profession, and worldview.

For instance, although I’m an orthodox Jew, one of my heroes is a Catholic priest.

Meet the Honeypot

After reading about Chinese spy Christine Fang who seduced Congressman Eric Swalwell and other American politicians, I just had to have a honeypot spy of my own to spice up the plot. The result was Mei Hua Chang, a dangerous wild card in the plot of Kingmaker. She’s a femme fatale whose sex appeal is only exceeded by her cunning.

To execute her character properly, I could only get her clothes off but once. In all of her other interactions, she’s required to play the card’s she’s dealt to perfection. I always relished the challenge of writing her scenes.

WWCDD: What Would Critical Drinker Do?

By the time I finished planning the novel out, I had something like five plots going simultaneously. It reminded me of the HBO series Game of Thrones (but unlike George RR Martin, I actually finished writing the book, and unlike the HBO series, I provided an ending that works).

In order to tame all those plots into a coherent whole, I made a careful study of my characters, their backgrounds and their emotions. I attended to the practicalities of what my characters were attempting to do.

Inspired by Critical Drinker, I made a careful study of setup and payoff. Every plot point either had to set up an important payoff later or be the payoff of an earlier setup. (My daughter Leah nicknamed the book “Chekhov’s Arsenal.”) That one Critical Drinker video became the inspiration for an entire method of writing that guided the whole process.

A writer could do much worse than to ask himself, “What would the Drinker do?”

Don’t Hate Your Audience

Critical Drinker observes that modern screenwriters, bent on replacing legacy characters with their mediocre creations, seem to hate their fans. I was raised in a different generation. I drew on the teaching of Dale Carnegie.

Why Modern Movies Suck - They Hate Their Own Fans

He said of the great American magician Howard Thurston, that he would remind himself before every performance how much he loved his audience. I did something very similar before sitting down to write. That was easy because I was writing to impress the love of my life.

More than that. I began sending pieces of Kingmaker to my friend Martin. He devoured them and asked for more. Energized by his encouragement, I was able to keep on writing even when the going got difficult.

Deconstructing Deconstruction

Critical Drinker once commented: “One of the most disgusting hallmarks of modern screenwriting is the denigration of the past in a desperate attempt to elevate the present. The bastardization of other people’s work to service your own.”

Why Modern Movies Suck - They're Destroying Our Heroes

Kingmaker skewers all of those who would deconstruct the arts, architecture, and legacy popular culture IPs, revealing them to be dangerous, power-hungry operatives. It does so in ways that spring organically from and contribute to the plot.

For instance, when it dawns on my two main heroes that their favorite comic book movie series has lost interest in telling the great stories they once told, that realization dawns on each of them at different times. That difference moves the plot forward.

While Critical Drinker takes to task what the custodians of popular culture have done to the IPs they have been entrusted with, others have pointed out that the same thing is happening to “high culture” as well. Kingmaker addresses that and imagines what the next step will be for the arts if those who would deconstruct them get their way.

Something for Everyone

If a technology like Neville’s existed, which political party would be the one to use it?

The answer is obvious: either of them. Any political party can have ruthless operatives, opportunists, and time-serving apparatchiks. It should be obvious to every American that one party isn’t the domain of well-meaning idealists while the other is the one for evil wannabe tyrants. If Machiavelli has taught us anything he’s taught us that the public would never know which leader is virtuous and which one is simply an effective Machiavellian. Party affiliation can’t help the public tell the good politicians from the bad.

While Kingmaker addresses issues such as lawfare and election integrity, which is currently associated with the political right, that issue is genuinely critical to all Americans. Governments that are secure enough in their power that they don’t have to answer to the people have done some tremendously depraved things to keep and increase that power.

In those one-party states such as Saddam’s Iraq, it was extremely dangerous to be a member of the Ba’ath party.

Saddam Hussein's Very Public Purge

When offered Neville’s tool to increase their power, the villains in Kingmaker do not hesitate to add members of their own party to the proscription list.

In any political system, the strategy for getting and keeping power is the same: reward the people who keep you in power and punish those who oppose you. That goes for a dictator who depends on a small number of people to keep him in power and a Republic that (hopefully) governs with the consent of the people at large.
The evil Party operatives in Kingmaker are not evil because of which party they choose. They’re evil because as Machiavelli and Game Theory teach us, good politics frequently requires evil behavior.

No Easy Answers to Complex Questions

Unlike modern moviemakers, I don’t dictate my answers to complex questions to my readers. In fact, I have no idea how to answer many of the thorny questions posed by Kingmaker. For instance, what is consent in an age of powerful persuasion?

How do we make it so that the government truly can be said to have the consent of the governed? Did Meghan Peters genuinely consent to Jerry Neville’s advances after she had been seduced by his computer algorithm? I invite the reader to think through questions like these about the topic of consent with me. I don’t attempt to answer them, even in a book entitled Consent.

One reason I don’t attempt an answer is an important truth that Jerry Neville knows about the human mind: our brains are not sophisticated enough to genuinely understand a board game any more complicated than checkers. Equipped with that kind of brain, I realize that we’re going to have to grope our way through these issues and learn from experience rather than trusting some smarty-pants who says he’s figured it all out for us.

DIY or Die

I didn’t want anything about Kingmaker to be dictated to me by a publishing industry that is busy editing out the “offensive” bits of James and the Giant Peach. Instead, I followed my vision.

Paul Joseph Watson has famously argued that populism is the new punk. Every step of this project has been influenced by the 1970s punk ethos of “DIY or Die.” I immersed myself in the nitty-gritty of every stage of this production: background learning, writing, editing, formatting, and the recording and editing of the audiobook.

The only thing I didn’t do was design the cover. That was left to my friend Richard Smotherman.
The result was a product I was so confident about that I put Consent, the first volume of Kingmaker on YouTube for free.

Consent Complete Audiobook Part 01

Facing down the impossible odds

If the culture war against those trying to destroy our heritage is to be won, we have to become creators. It’s a risky business. The odds against hitting it big are long. The thought of daring greatly and having the world reject your work is not one that everybody can bear. Still, it must be done.

Simply finishing Kingmaker has been a reward unto itself. For the past two years, I have gotten to experience the greatest drama I will ever encounter. I started with a simple premise and thought as deeply as I could about what I had created.

Thinking deeply about simple things leads to wonderful discoveries. I was constantly delighted and surprised by what my characters did and the way the plot twisted and turned as I tried to wrestle five stories into a coherent whole. All the while, the project was spiced by the persistent question I asked of myself: Can you do this?

For two years, I willed that answer to be “yes.” No matter what, for the rest of my life, I will be able to say that I stared down those impossible odds and kept going when I thought I couldn’t. In the process, I created something wonderful.

I hope you will take that risk and join me in creating culture. Our nation needs it. You might even impress your wife.

Attorney and polymath Ari H. Mendelson is the author of the “Kingmaker” trilogy. His previous novel was “Bias Incident: The World’s Most Politically Incorrect Novel.” Before beginning the Kingmaker Trilogy, Mendelson dedicated himself to home schooling his four children. You can find his books at and GoodReads. Follow him on Twitter (X) via @kingmakerseries.


  1. Being inspired by Critical Drinker isn’t a good thing. Over the last year, there’s been several terrific video essays about what a culture war grifter he is and how he doesn’t know anything about storytelling. He’s also had some awful takes, including applauding Gina Carano for bashing democrats….. while at the same time bashing any celebrity who criticizes republicans. You can’t say “don’t attack the fans” and then praise Gina for attacking the fans.

  2. How can anyone still be asking “where are the damsels in distress?” Women are 50% of the population, and they’re tired of the 80 years of cinema where they were almost always shown as damsels in distress. As a man, I’m tired of those kinds of female characters too. They’re boring, don’t inspire young girls, and are just a male wish fulfillment fantasy that derails the story.

  3. If the question is, “Why do these modern movies suck?”, the answer can fill a book more than a gazillion times over.

  4. Any author who strives to emulate Michael Crichton is on the right track. He’s my all-time favorite. He also wrote some essays warning us about the global warming cult we now see and how it’s not based on science.

    1. I agree, great author. What I find interesting is the left is so very desperate for the peasants to care about global warming. Or the new word- climate change. The new word is hilarious since it works for both winter and summer. But no one really does as they’ve been banging us over the head about it for decades. What is getting dangerous now though, is the possibility they will do covid like lockdowns and laws that force us to submit to carbon reduction. They now have the tech to force us into complying. Especially when digital currency is forced on us. The real thing people should be afraid of since they can turn on and off our spending with a switch.

  5. Woke makes everything worse because their beliefs is a conglomeration of several concepts that are in conflict.

    They hate the white male character because of identity politics yet their primarily white male audience watch these shows. Women don’t watch them despite feminizing the shows. So if identity politics is true, men will abandon these shows and they did.

    Diversity is a lie. Catering to different races, genders, and sexuality doesn’t increase the audience. It narrows the audience because few represent the Venn diagram of a lesbian, black, woman character. Instead of encompassing the 3 diverse characteristics, people just don’t identify with all three. Diversity is exclusion rather than inclusion. Increasingly, a white male straight character are no longer in these shows and people identify with him rather than the diverse conglomerate character.

    Lastly, Woke isn’t a plot. It’s a grievance. They substitute complaints about an ingrained biological reality for ideology. Patriarchy is the strawman. It doesn’t exist in modern society yet we are supposed to keep fighting it. Can’t we enjoy a story without such plotting? It’s all a waste of time and I’d rather cancel every streaming service and watch pre-2019 movies and shows.

    1. PP,

      Your argument is disproven by the box office. Having a White male lead is no assurance that a film will be a surefire success.

      Side note: The examples below have box office grosses listed as (domestic/global). Hat tip to for the information.

      For example, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part 1 ($172 M/$568 M) starring Tom Cruise was edged out at the box office by the remake of The Little Mermaid with its Black female lead ($298 M/$570 M). This surprising result was trumped by the even bigger box office of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ($381 M/$690 M).

      And let’s not forget the mega success of Barbie ($631 M/$1.43 B). Clearly, the public was not turned off by the film’s female lead and a large, diverse cast.

      Bottom line, the public will support a film they deem good and could care less about the race, sex, etc. of the actors.


      There are hit films with Black lesbian characters. See Thor: Love and Thunder ($343 M/$761 M) and Nope ($123 M/$171 M).

      1. @Fred2: Your argument is undermined by the failure of almost all Disney/Marvel/Pixar movies from 2021 to 2023. Little Mermaid and Thor: Love & Thunder are box office failures. Thor was again a denigrated character and Lady Thor & Valkyrie were upgraded female & lesbian characters.

        Barbie was already a female interest movie and didn’t swap races despite Woke messaging and was counterprogrammed with a White Ken antagonist who actually stole the show.

        Mission Impossible lost money. That’s the way it was, but it appeared to be undermined by an unbelievable female fighter.

        What movies defied expectations? Oppenheimer and Sound of Freedom with a large white male cast.

      2. ” Your argument is undermined by the failure of almost all Disney/Marvel/Pixar movies from 2021 to 2023. Little Mermaid and Thor: Love & Thunder are box office failures. Thor was again a denigrated character and Lady Thor & Valkyrie were upgraded female & lesbian characters.”


        Incorrect. Since 2021, most Disney films have been hits. These include Shang-Chi, Encanto, Free Guy, Dr. Strange 2, Black Panther 2, Avatar 2, Elemental, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and Spider-Man: No Way Home (profits were split with Sony).

        And Thor: Love and Thunder was indeed a hit by making over 3 times its $250 M budget. On that note,

        * Lady Thor was from the comics.

        * Valkyrie being bisexual is also from the comics.

        So, Love & Thunder was being true to its source material.

        “What movies defied expectations? Oppenheimer and Sound of Freedom with a large white male cast.”

        Oppenheimer defied expectations thanks to the “Barbenheimer” effect, a.k.a. Barbie’s girl power. Had it debuted on another weekend, Oppenheimer would have made less money.

        As for Sound of Freedom, the film was successful, but did not enjoy the large box office of the films cited above. SOF clearly has a low box office ceiling ($183 M/$217 M).

      3. “Incorrect. Since 2021, most Disney films have been hits. These include Shang-Chi, Encanto, Free Guy, Dr. Strange 2, Black Panther 2, Avatar 2, Elemental, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and Spider-Man: No Way Home (profits were split with Sony).

        And Thor: Love and Thunder was indeed a hit by making over 3 times its $250 M budget.”

        Delusion is a mighty strong drug.

        No, the Disney/Marvel/Pixar movies were failures with the exception of Guardians 3 and Dr Strange, but barely. The Sony movies don’t count and they aren’t Woke. The 20th Century Fox movies like Avatar 3 and Free Guy don’t count and aren’t Woke. Why would you even list a horror movie Nope that doesn’t show the lesbian relationship? So you can feel better about the failure of Buzz Lightyear that does? Nope costed $68 million. That 3.6x less than a typical Disney film except when it costs $295 million for Woke Indiana Jones 5 that grossed $383 million.

        Black Panther is a failure because the budget is actually $300 million. It lost $100 million.

        Disney’s outrageous spending is why Disney’s movies don’t make any money. What’s not mentioned is the budgets for retakes are usually not in the budget.

        Dr Strange MoM was also refilmed. It’s practically filmed twice. Budget $295 million and Grossed $955 million. Is $70 million estimated profit just barely breakeven?

        Let’s watch for the $278 million The Marvels.

        Shang Chi costs $150 million for a movie that grossed $432 million. Using the 3x breakeven, it needed to gross $450 million.

        Elemental costs $200 million against box office gross of $489 million. Not breakeven.

        Watch what Disney does instead of what they say. Marvel Phase 4 was quickly discarded for Phase 5.

      4. Encanto budget is $120 to $150 million. Box office was $256 million. Your match is mad. Break even is $360 to $450 million. Off by $104 to $194 million.

      5. The last few Mission Impossible movies all had female characters who were great fighters. This new one actually had the most useless female characters. Ilsa suddenly became a damsel in distress. Paris was cool, but was barely in the movie. And your insistence that every movie needs to be all about white men is making me very uncomfortable. Movies need to be for an international audience now.

      6. That female fighter from the new Mission Impossible movie is in 5 minutes of the movie and easily loses a fight against the male lead. Blaming her for the movie’s box office is just ridiculous.

      7. “Bottom line, the public will support a film they deem good and could care less about the race, sex, etc. of the actors.”

        You’re only relying on Barbie to prove your point. That’s only one movie. The exception isn’t the rule. Most people want to see good movies. Woke movies are generally awful.

      8. “You’re only relying on Barbie to prove your point. That’s only one movie. The exception isn’t the rule. Most people want to see good movies. Woke movies are generally awful.”


        Besides Barbie, I mentioned Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ($381 M/$690 M), Thor: Love and Thunder ($343 M/$761 M) and Nope ($123 M/$171 M) in my initial post.

        Once again, you’re incorrect.

      9. Thor Love and Thunder has a budget of $250 million according to Variety. Breakeven is $750 million using 3x. $11 million profit is evidently a massive hit.

        Everyone thought it under performed even Chris Hemsworth. You just don’t get a sequel for underperforming.

        Even Taika Waititi didn’t really follow the comics by turning it into comedy.

        “Some audiences really wanted it to be just like the comics. But, you know, I always say, if you want it to be exactly like the comics read the comic. You’ve got to change things here and there to make it a film.”


  6. It sounds pretty cool, and if you used the Drinker as inspiration to structure your story – I;m in! Just ordered the 1st book.

    I also recommend Nolte’s new release “Borrowed Time” ; a regular guy who’s immortal (and non woke).

  7. While there are some very woker than woke entertainment out there being shat out into the feeble masses, I don’t think ALL modern movies suck, I might sound crazy here but Pixar’s Luca I think is perhaps the most harmless animated movie in recent years, it could have ended up an ideological mess, but it didn’t, and I wouldn’t take it any other way

    So yeah, sometimes you just gotta look for the diamond in the rough

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