It always baffles me what people claim as “historically accurate” for ye olde fantasy fiction while completely ignoring all the cool shit that actually did exist and negates their misconception that everyone was Gross™ and unkempt because Reasons.
Like all y'all realize we’ve had soap for a while, right, and perfumed oils?
I mean fuck me, we have evidence of the Egyptians as far back as Cleopatra (and likely before) styling their nails (rich and poor!) bright vibrant RED hues using tinted oils and henna.
We’ve got evidence of unisex nail tints and adornments from the Ming Dynasty including but not limited to kohl, vegetable dyes and literal actual gold dust gelled together with egg whites and bees wax. Not to mention actual mother fucking tooth brushes dating from the late 1400s and the well known “chew brushes” from before then.
But sure. Rough mannered white dude takes a piss behind a tree and makes a comment about wining and whoring as he does up his ‘britches’, and all your women just expect to be brutalized 24/7 while lamenting the stench because nobody bathes.
Yep, sure sounds like mediocre white dude fantasy to me.
I've been thinking about this for a while, but how effective is full plate armour? Was it actually a good way to defend yourself?
Short Answer: Yes.
Here’s a general rule: People in the past were ignorant about a lot of things, but they weren’t stupid. If they used something, chances are they had a good reason. There are exceptions, but plate armor is not one of them.
For a type of armor, no matter what it is, to be considered effective, it has to meet three criteria.
The three criteria are: Economic Efficiency, Protectiveness, and Mobility.
1. Is it Economically Efficient?
Because of the nature of society in the Middle Ages, what with equipment being largely bring-it-yourself when it came to anybody besides arrowfodder infantry who’d been given one week of training, economic efficiency was a problem for the first couple of decades after plate armor was introduced in France in the 1360s. It wasn’t easy to make, and there wasn’t really a ‘science’ to it yet, so only the wealthiest of French soldiers, meaning knights and above, had it; unless of course somebody stole it off a dead French noble. The Hundred Years War was in full swing at the time, and the French were losing badly to the English and their powerful longbows, so there were plenty of dead French nobles and knights to go around. That plate armor was not very economically efficient for you unless you were a rich man, though, it also was not exactly what we would call “full” plate armor.
Above: Early plate armor, like that used by knights and above during the later 1300s and early 1400s.
Above: Two examples of what most people mean when they say “full” plate armor, which would have been seen in the mid to late 1400s and early 1500s.
Disclaimer: These are just examples. No two suits of armor were the same because they weren’t mass-produced, and there was not really a year when everybody decided to all switch to the next evolution of plate armor. In fact it would not be improbably to see all three of these suits on the same battlefield, as expensive armor was often passed down from father to son and used for many decades.
Just like any new technology, however, as production methods improved, the product got cheaper.
Above: The Battle of Barnet, 1471, in which everybody had plate armor because it’s affordable by then.
So if we’re talking about the mid to late 1400s, which is when our modern image of the “knight in shining armor” sort of comes from, then yes, “full” plate armor is economically efficient. It still wasn’t cheap, but neither are modern day cars, and yet they’re everywhere. Also similar to cars, plate armor is durable enough to be passed down in families for generations, and after the Hundred Years War ended in 1453, there was a lot of used military equipment on sale for cheap.
2. Is it Protective?
This is a hard question to answer, particularly because no armor is perfect, and as soon as a new, seemingly ‘perfect’ type of armor appears, weapons and techniques adapt to kill the wearer anyway, and the other way around. Early plate armor was invented as a response to the extreme armor-piercing ability of the English longbow, the armor-piercing ability of a new kind of crossbow, and advancements in arrowhead technology.
Above: The old kind of arrowhead, ineffective against most armor.
Above: The new kind of arrowhead, very effective at piercing chainmaille and able to pierce plate armor if launched with enough power.
Above: An arrow shot from a “short” bow with the armor-piercing tip(I think it’s called a bodkin tip) piercing a shirt of chainmaille. However, the target likely would have survived since soldiers wore protective layers of padding underneath their armor, so if the arrow penetrated skin at all, it wasn’t deep. That’s Terry Jones in the background.
Above: A crossbow bolt with the armor piercing tip penetrating deep through the same shirt of chainmaille. The target would likely not survive.
Above: A crossbow bolt from the same crossbow glancing off a breastplate, demonstrating that it was in fact an improvement over wearing just chainmaille.
Unfortunately it didn’t help at all against the powerful English longbows at close range, but credit to the French for trying. It did at least help against weaker bows.
Now for melee weapons.
It didn’t take long for weapons to evolve to fight this new armor, but rarely was it by way of piercing through it. It was really more so that the same weapons were now being used in new ways to get around the armor.
Above: It’s a popular myth that Medieval swords were dull, but they still couldn’t cut through plate armor, nor could they thrust through it. Your weapon would break before the armor would. Most straight swords could, however, thrust through chainmaille and anything weaker.
There were three general answers to this problem:
1. Be more precise, and thrust through the weak points.
Above: The weak points of a suit of armor. Most of these points would have been covered by chainmaille, leather, thick cloth, or all three, but a sword can thrust through all three so it doesn’t matter.
To achieve the kind of thrusting accuracy needed to penetrate these small gaps, knights would often grip the blade of their sword with one hand and keep the other hand on the grip. This technique was called “half-swording”, and you could lose a finger if you don’t do it right, so don’t try it at home unless you have a thick leather glove to protect you, as most knights did, but it can also be done bare-handed.
Above: Examples of half-swording.
2.Just hit the armor so fucking hard that the force carries through and potentially breaks bones underneath.
Specialty weapons were made for this, but we’ll get to them in a minute. For now I’m still focusing on swords because I like how versatile the European longsword is.
Above: A longsword. They’re made for two-handed use, but they’re light enough to be used effectively in one hand if you’d like to have a shield or your other arm has been injured. Longswords are typically about 75% of the height of their wielders.
Assuming you’re holding the sword pointing towards the sky, the part just above the grip is called the crossguard, and the part just below the grip is called the pommel. If you hold the sword upside-down by the blade, using the same careful gripping techniques as with half-swording, you can strike with either the crossguard or the pommel, effectively turning the sword into a warhammer. This technique was called the Murder Stroke, and direct hits could easily dent plate armor, and leave the man inside bruised, concussed, or with a broken bone.
Above: The Murder Stroke as seen in a Medieval swordfighting manual.
Regular maces, hammers, and other blunt weapons were equally effective if you could get a hard enough hit in without leaving yourself open, but they all suffered from part of the plate armor’s intelligent design. Nearly every part of it was smooth and/or rounded, meaning that it’s very easy for blows to ‘slide’ off, which wastes a lot of their power. This makes it very hard to get a ‘direct’ hit.
Here come the specialized weapons to save the day.
Above: A lucerne, or claw hammer. It’s just one of the specialized weapons, but it encompasses all their shared traits so I’m going to only list it.
These could be one-handed, two-handed, or long polearms, but the general idea was the same. Either crack bones beneath armor with the left part, or penetrate plate armor with the right part. The left part has four ‘prongs’ so that it can ‘grip’ smooth plate armor and keep its force when it hits without glancing off. On the right side it as a super sturdy ‘pick’, which is about the only thing that can penetrate the plate armor itself. On top it has a sharp tip that’s useful for fighting more lightly armored opponents.
3. Force them to the ground and stab them through the visor with a dagger.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Many conflicts between two armored knights would turn into a wrestling match. Whoever could get the other on the ground had a huge advantage, and could finish his opponent, or force him to surrender, with a dagger.
By now you might be thinking “Dang, full plate armor has a lot of weaknesses, so how can it be called good armor?”
The answer is because, like all armor is supposed to do, it minimizes your target area. If armor is such that your enemy either needs to risk cutting their fingers to target extremely small weak points, bring a specialized weapons designed specifically for your armor, or wrestle you to the ground to defeat you, that’s some damn good armor. So yes, it will protect you pretty well.
Above: The red areas represent the weak points of a man not wearing armor.
Also, before I move on to Mobility, I’m going to talk briefly about a pet-peeve of mine: Boob-plates.
If you’re writing a fantasy book, movie, or video game, and you want it to be realistically themed, don’t give the women boob-shaped armor. It wasn’t done historically even in the few cases when women wore plate armor, and that’s because it isn’t as protective as a smooth, rounded breastplate like you see men wearing. A hit with any weapon between the two ‘boobs’ will hit with its full force rather than glancing off, and that’ll hurt. If you’re not going for a realistic feel, then do whatever you want. Just my advice.
Above: Joan of Arc, wearing properly protective armor.
An exception to this is in ancient times. Female gladiators sometimes wore boob-shaped armor because that was for entertainment and nobody cared if they lived or died. Same with male gladiators. There was also armor shaped like male chests in ancient times, but because men are more flat-chested than women, this caused less of a problem. Smooth, rounded breastplates are still superior, though.
3. Does it allow the wearer to keep his or her freedom of movement?
Okay, I’ve been writing this for like four hours, so thankfully this is the simplest question to answer. There’s a modern myth that plate armor weighed like 700 lbs, and that knights could barely move in it at all, but that isn’t true. On a suit of plate armor from the mid to late 1400s or early 1500s, all the joints are hinged in such a way that they don’t impede your movement very much at all.
The whole suit, including every individual plate, the chainmaille underneath the plates, the thick cloth or leather underneath the chainmaille, and your clothes and underwear all together usually weighed about 45-55 lbs, and because the weight was distributed evenly across your whole body, you’d hardly feel the weight at all. Much heavier suits of armor that did effectively ‘lock’ the wearer in place did exist, but they never saw battlefield use. Instead, they were for showing off at parades and for jousting. Jousting armor was always heavier, thicker, and more stiffly jointed than battlefield armor because the knight only needed to move certain parts of his body, plus being thrown off a horse by a lance–even a wooden one that’s not meant to kill–has a very, very high risk of injury.
Here’s a bunch of .gifs of a guy demonstrating that you can move pretty freely in plate armor.
Above: Can you move in it? Yes.
Here are links to the videos that I made these .gifs from:
A collection of secular music from the High and Late Middle Ages (1000-1400). The mix features songs in vernacular from many different areas of Western Europe, as well as a few songs from the Byzantine and Islamic Empires.
De Fortune me doi Plaindre et Loer | Guillaume de Mauchaut (1300-1377) Ach Owe, daz Nach Liebe Ergat |Meister Alexander (1247-1288) Mîzân Qá'im Wa-nisf |from the Nuba Ushshaq, (13th c. Arabo-Andalusian Anon) Worldes Blis ne Last no Throwe | English Anon. (ca.1265)
Bailemos Nós já Todas |Airas Nunes de Santiago (1230-1289)
Adiu, Adiu Dous Dame |Francesco Landini (1325-1397) Ey Dervişler |Yunnus Emre (1238-1320)
A Chantar M'er de So Qu'eu no Volria | Beatriz de Dia (1140-1212)
Ecco la Primavera | Francesco Landini (1325-1397)
Bache, Bene Venies | from the Carmina Burana, (11-13th c. Anon) Cel que no Volh Auzir Chanssos | Raimon de Miraval (1165 - 1229)
The Nightingales of the East (Ta Aidónia tis Anatolís) | Byzantine Anon. (14th century) Tant M’Abelis |Berenguer de Palou (1160-1209)
Willekomen si der Sumer Schoene |Brunwart von Augheim (1250-1300)
Esperance |Guillaume de Mauchaut (1300-1377) Laude Novella |from the Laurdario di Cortona, (13th c. Italian Anon)
Photo: Illumination of a Christian and Muslim playing ouds, from The Cantigas de Santa Maria (13th century Spain)
Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488)
“Christ and St. Thomas” (1467–1483)
Located at the Orsanmichele, Florence, Italy
The sculpture depicts the episode that gave rise to the term “Doubting Thomas.” During which Thomas the Apostle had doubted the resurrection of Jesus and had to feel the wounds that had been inflicted during his crucifixion for himself, in order to be convinced that it was really Jesus who had risen from the dead (John 20:24-29).
A virus is not just DNA; a virus is also packaged up, covered over with a series of proteins in a nice, elegant, well-compacted form.
- Francis Collins
An archaeologist begins to explore the ruins of an ancient Scottish castle that dates one of the many battles in the ‘War of Craft’. His hand faltering and flitting over the stonework, he flinches somewhat as he feels something cold and damp, scared that somehow it may be blood or rot. Instead when he shines a light on the sticky white concoction, his eyes widen as a white dampness turns into what feels like white heat searing through his palm and travelling up his body.
Before he knows it, he’s bent down, hand wrapped around his cock as he can already feel the change happening. His bones shift as his back grows sending him to be over 6’ tall. His feet burst out of his boots. His own ass becomes thick as it grows. His once skinny and pale frame now broad and fair as he can feel muscle growing and growing in an endless wave of pleasure. By the time he cums on himself and feels his intelligence draining, he knows it’s too late, as for now he’s nothing more than a temporary victim of Cordypecs.
Morbus incrementum musculus otherwise more commonly known as Cordypecs is a virus that originated in the late 1400’s due to the actions of Sir Thomas. Having been transformed into an orc, Sir Thomas believed the affliction to be permanent and sought out [REDACTED] believing it to be a cure. During a heated discussion with The Craftsman, he was warned that his case was not permanent and that [REDACTED] wouldn’t cure him but only make him permanently become an orc and have disastrous consequences on both him and those around him. However Sir Thomas did not heed The Craftsman’s words and once he [REDACTED] he found himself shifting into an orc for the very last time as he became the first human-orc hybrid, containing the humanity and intelligence of his old self but the body and power of an orc.
He could barely control his body through the lust as he learned that he had a similar effect to the transformation that ensued for his squire, Gared. Only this time instead of making men more masculine (or at least their idea of masculinity). He also robbed them off their intelligence for the however long they lasted in their new forms. Eventually all men who were even transformed once by this method were soon able to find themselves transforming others and thus what was once a blessing was now viral, spreading from men to men across generations to come (no pun intended).
The virus has since been spreading around however it has weakened in the modern day era, now only leading people to last as long as a few hours in their new forms. Not much else is known about the virus other than it is only spread through semen and that it transforms men into their idea of an ideal man. This has changed throughout the ages, whereas men in the medieval period became knights, soon in the 50’s they became sexy businessmen that worked wonders on Wall Street and then greasers that enjoyed diners, leather, and all things motor in the 1960’s America and so on and so forth.
Nowadays the ideal man to many varies and one can become anything from a male model, to celebrities, to a jocked out gym bro. Only time will tell what many men will soon become, and perhaps even you will soon become your ideal man.
“A collection of secular music from the High and Late Middle Ages (1000-1400). The mix features songs in vernacular from many different areas of Western Europe, as well as a few songs from the Byzantine and Islamic Empires.”
GUILLAUME DE MACHAUT - De Fortune Me Doi Plaindre Et Loer Ciarlatani, I - Ach owe, daz nach liebe ergat Arabo - andalusian 13th c. : Nuba Ushshak - mîzân qá'im wa-nisf England - Anon. 1265 : Worldes blis ne last no throwe Kitka - Bailemos nos ja todas Francesco Landini (c.1325 - 1397): Adiu, adiu dous dame Ey Dervişler - Hüseyni ilâhi - Yunnus Emre (Ilâhileri), Turkey, 13th c Beatriz de Dia - A chantar m'er de so q Waverly Consort - Ecco La Primavera Carmina Burana (Anon.11 - 13th c.) - CB 200: Bache, bene venies Miraval (1165 - 1229): Cel que no volh auzir chanssos Christodoulos Halaris - The Nightingales of the East Els Trobadors - Tant M'Abelis Brunwart von Augheim, 13th c. - Willekomen si der sumer schoene Akira Tachikawa - Esperance Laude novella - Laudario di Cortona, Italy, 13th c
When I first read the Icebound Land, I was about 11 or 12.
This meant that I was rather naïve and didn’t pick up on a lot of the subtleties
that can be found in the RA series. Throughout the years, I have found more and
more of them. Except for perhaps the most obvious one in the Icebound Land. So,
if you’re like me and don’t really pick up on these sort of things, then I’m
sorry to pop your bubble like this.
There are prostitutes in Ranger’s Apprentice.
Now, like I said before, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was
the only one who didn’t pick up on this. But when Halt and Horace first arrive
in Gallica at La Rivage, Horace notices three young women laughing at him, all
wearing rather short skirts. They are not, as Halt had explained, Couriers, but
prostitutes. In Medieval Europe, prostitution was a very profitable business.
While the Catholic Church actively condemned all sexual activity outside of
marriage, they tolerated it based on the idea that it stops other, eviler sins
from occurring, such as sodomy and masturbation. Prostitutes and brothels were
commonly found near ports, as there was a larger population of people ‘seeking
relief’ from their time on the sea. While Flanagan’s description of the
prostitutes wearing short skirts is historically inaccurate, it is a modern
image connected to a promiscuous woman.
But that’s not all. After I had discovered this information,
I remembered about the plants that Horace notices on their way out of the
village. Originally, I had thought they were corn. Horace describes them as
such: “large, broad leaves on stalks that stood as high as a man’s head were
left to dry and seemingly to wither on the stalk before they were gathered”.
When a specific type of corn called dent corn is harvested, they leave it to
dry on the stalks. This ensures that the corn is fully matured before turning it
into cattle food (or fuel and plastics in this modern age). Sweet corn (what is
usually sold and eaten by humans) is picked a full month before dent corn when
the corn is in early maturation. It is entirely possible that this is what
Horace sees. Except for one thing: corn is native to the Americas. It wasn’t
introduced to Europe until Columbus in the late 1400s. So what else could it
Marijuana has been propagated throughout the world since the
3rd millennium BC(E). We know this as cannabis seeds have been found
in a ritual brazier at an ancient Romanian site that dates back to this time. During
this period, marijuana was used in medicine and religion. Marijuana plants have
broad leaves and their stalks can grow up to 6 feet, especially when grown
outside. When harvested, marijuana plants grow white hairs, giving an image of
withered-ness, and their leaves can either be collected and hung to dry (as
described in the book) or left on the stalk to dry naturally, which is known to
create a far more potent product.
So if you were like me and had never picked up on this, then
I’m sorry to ruin your childhood. If not, then I probably seem like a very naïve
person (which I am). Join in on the conversation by either sending us an ask,
or by reblogging this analysis and tagging it with your thoughts. Do you have
questions or thoughts on future analyses? Please send us an ask or submit it to
If you are interested in becoming a RA Analysis writer or in
doing a one off, let us know! We’d love to have you :)
Re: the incest thing for Jonerys. That's just how it was back then anyway, right? So it's not like this would be an outstanding thing.
Well… no, not exactly. Sibling marriage (as the Targaryens do) was practiced in some ancient dynasties (most notably the Ptolemies of Egypt; Cleopatra was married to two of her brothers and was descended from several brother-sister pairs) but by the medieval era, the church had developed very strict rules on kinship, how it was defined within the prohibited degree, whether it was blood or marriage or religious, and who was allowed to marry who as a result. This was a consistent stumbling block for kings/queens/etc trying to find new marriages, since most of the noble families of Europe ended up interrelated to each other. There were papal dispensations and other tricks that you could use to get around it, but a marriage between an aunt/nephew in the first degree, such as Jon and Dany, would definitely have not been cool with the church, at least in the medieval/late medieval era that GOT is basing itself on. It’s not likely that even a dispensation could have gotten around that close degree of kinship (and if they married without knowing it and then discovered it later on, the church could possibly force them to annul it by excommunicating them/putting an interdict on their lands until they agreed to comply, as was its usual tactic against irregular marriages). The church’s relationship with marriage changed drastically in the high medieval era, as beforehand it had been much less formal, and was especially related to reform efforts to attempt to prohibit priests from having wives. (Spoiler: they didn’t stop having wives, this just made their long-standing relationships now “concubines” or “whores” – the Catholic Church being misogynist, you say? Never! But that’s a rant for another time.)
This changed later on, as since the rules could be got around, the Hapsburg dynasty in particular was especially and progressively inbred, resulting in Charles II of Spain who was considerably disabled as a result, and whose death childless in 1700 led to the War of the Spanish Succession. The line also had Joanna of Castile (Joanna the Mad) and Charles VI of France (Charles the Mad) as ancestors in the fifteenth century, so the toll had started to be taken before then. But again, that was later. So if we’re saying that ASOIAF/GOT is based on the Wars of the Roses in the mid-late 1400s, then no, neither sibling marriage nor aunt/nephew/first cousin marriage would be practiced at the time.
Anyway, that was a historian’s answer, and not necessarily related to the canon of the show, but I have to say that I always really side-eye any attempt to equivocate whatever happens on GOT with “that’s just the way it was” (as that argument frequently gets invoked to justify the rampant sexual violence/marital rape/treatment of women, and which I wrote a very long ranty post about a few years ago after the Sansa/Ramsay debacle). GOT is an invented fictional fantasy universe based on a quasi-medieval setting (and I have problems with GRRM’s reading/concept of medieval history in places, but that’s just me) and HBO has made particular narrative choices in adapting it. It’s not “just the way things were back then” because it wasn’t Back Then; it’s a modern story. And there is no one The Medieval Attitude on Sexuality/Marriage/Relationships, because “medieval attitudes” span a vast geographical region and almost a dozen centuries, change, and are nuanced and complicated and specific to place and time. It’s not a monolith.
Honestly, though, there’s no actual need to justify shipping Jonerys by an attempted historical equivalent. In the show’s world, both sibling marriages/relationships (officially by the Targaryens, and illicitly by Jaime and Cersei) and general close-kin relationships (as would be the case with the Hapsburgs, where you often did have uncles marrying nieces) are fairly common. Jon and Dany are characters who have been developing toward each other, are the same age, and have obviously not been raised as family. Plus, they are fictional. I understand if the incest thing is too much of a squick for some people, but I’m not going to sit here and say that everyone who likes it is sick and twisted or justifying this or that or the other thing, or that it’s any reflection on their personal character. Let people enjoy fiction 2k17, full stop, even knowing it’s Problematic, because you’re never getting non-Problematic material. Hell, I enjoy Jaime/Cersei (at least in the books) because I find it a fascinating and twisted dynamic, if hella dark and obviously unhealthy and not something I ever want for myself (I also don’t have a twin brother, but you know what I mean). I am always up for good stories and challenging situations and complex morality. I ain’t pointing fingers.
So yes. Ship Jonerys. Be happy. Make cranky old Grandma Hilary happy, and appreciate how historical complexities of sex and marriage have changed, how attitudes in the medieval era are as difficult to categorize and generalize as attitudes in the modern era, and how that relates to a fictional setting and modern novel/TV show, and the difference between narrative and reality, and so forth. Everyone wins.
- Muhammad and buddha aren’t seen as deities
- Sub saharan trade is gold and salt
- South American trade is cash crops (like sugar)
- Globalization was in the late 1400s bc of fuckboy Chris
- Colonization was in the 1700s and 1800s
- Focus on the dbq essay
- Don’t underline your thesis!!!! Ever!!!!!
- if you have incorrect information they just cross it off and don’t count it
- make shit concise and then just spill put all the information you have neatness means nothing
'Finally, a lot of minor Legion characters came across as far more overtly misogynistic than I had intended them to.' Isn't the Legion more or less a misogynistic faction though? Since they rape their female slaves and won't allow women to fight in their army? Speaking of which, why is Caesars karma Neutral???
By “overt”, I mean that they openly express hatred of/contempt for women. The Legion systemically categorizes women for forced breeding (rape) or slave labor because Caesar wants as many Legionaries as possible as quickly as possible. This has very little to do with the personal opinions/experiences of individual Legionaries and everything to do with Caesar’s vision. The average Legionary doesn’t have deep-seated open hatred of women, but believes that their society (which subjugates women into specific roles) is good.
Most medieval European societies were relatively bad for women. In addition to the natural hazards of childbirth prior to the late 19th century, most social power structures excluded them or victimized them in various ways. If you were to ask a medieval European man what they thought of women, you probably wouldn’t find many foaming at the mouth with hatred. When people (women or otherwise) transgress social roles, the response varies from amusement to confusion to anger, but people who stay within “the lines” usually don’t catch much flack.
Last year, I read a book called Attitudes toward Post-Menopausal Women in the High and Late Middle Ages, 1100-1400 (really) by Jessica E. Godfrey. Here’s the short summary of those attitudes: not good. Writers from that period tend to hold women in relatively high regard when they are young, beautiful, and childbearing. When they are not those things, they are held in low regard if not considered worthless.
So, while Legionaries would certainly be annoyed/confused by a female Courier, the average Legionary isn’t going around with balled fists hissing “WOMEN!” through clenched teeth.
RE: Caesar’s Karma being neutral: I believe at the time my rationale for that Karma setting is that Caesar is in a Mr. Kurtz-like state of unmoored morality. Whatever moral framework he had as Edward Sallow among the Followers has disintegrated after years of being Caesar. I.e., it’s not so much that his Karma is neutral as much as it is alien.
That said, I don’t feel strongly about that designation and largely feel that the Karma system was vestigial in New Vegas. If we’re trying to encourage players to form their own opinions about factions and individuals, having a design layer that assigns (essentially) alignment is weird.