Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

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at 06:26 on 26-11-2018, Adrienne
Well, fuck. Not unexpected, but i'll miss Ferretbrain a lot, for all that i'm a very intermittent guest. I'll check out the blogroll and try to find folks elseweb. I'm also on Twitter at @adrienneleigh - i've already got a few of you friended over there, i think? And I've got a Discord ID, if anyone Discords: adrienneleigh#8321.
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at 04:16 on 25-11-2018, Raymond H
OKAY! Comment successfully posted to Wordpress! Sorry about that. Who would have guessed that catching a cold, having to renegotiate my water contract, planning and celebrating my mother's birthday, discussing ecumenical matters with a Bengali scholar, talking with the Immigration Office to find out legal matters, having a Thanksgiving meal with friends, and finishing my novel would take up so much time? I need a nap...
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at 01:03 on 13-11-2018, Ichneumon
@Arthur, re: The Dick and Moorcock series: I’m glad to hear that you’ll be getting back to those eventually. I adore those.

@Robinson: That’s a lovely offer! Thank you! ^w^
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at 22:30 on 12-11-2018, Robinson L
Yeah, I got distracted, but I've also be slow working through the October batch - still only about halfway through.

Fair enough on the retrospectives, I'll look forward to the next installments when and as they arrive. I wasn't sure whether you were going to take the opportunity of the site closing down to switch gears, so I thought I'd ask.
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at 21:28 on 12-11-2018, Arthur B
On the Goatswood review: already fixed (I guess you've been working on this comment for a while, huh?), and indeed already transferred to new blog.

On Dick and Moorcock: I'll get to 'em when I get to 'em. Issue with both those projects is that I actually want to wait until I am in a Dick or Moorcock mood before tackling on them so as to give them the best chance they have, so when I slam a book it's not just because I wasn't in the right mood. It'll come.
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at 20:34 on 12-11-2018, Robinson L
So, it's taken me a while to pull my thoughts together (also, there's NaNoWriMo).

Anyway, this turn of events was unexpected, but not shocking. I'm gonna miss the site. I feel it served as a unique platform and gathering hub for all these people and articles and ideas, with many wonderful conversations in the comments and playpen sections. It's been a big part of my life over the years, taught me a lot about storytelling and criticism, informed me about books and movies and trends I've always felt I should know more about, introduced me to one of my favorite books and favorite authors of all time.

In the words of Vonnegut: So it goes.

(Also, I confess that for years I've been holding onto this forlorn hope that the Two Gentlemen of Verona Shakespeare episode would see the light of day at some point, but I suppose it's high time I let that go.)

As it is, I appreciate the 6-month window to read through the articles I'm behind on, and convert my old stuff (don't think I'll get to that during NaNo), and to say our goodbyes before you shut the site down.

I suppose it's no great loss if I forgo the comments I've been intending to post and not gotten around to. However, Arthur, since you've said you're planning to repost your articles on your own blog, I meant to tell you there's a formatting error in your Made in Goatswood review, where the last three and a half paragraphs of the article are one big hyperlink to the Last Revelation of Gla'aki review. (Maybe you would've caught that in conversion anyway, but not knowing your methods I thought I'd point it out just in case.)

Also, I'm curious if you plan to complete your Moorcock and Dick retrospectives on your own blog, or if you've decided to drop those series.

Ichneumonn: I have no idea where I might publish my mitherings on this particular subject, but... well, I’ll figure something out.

For what it's worth (which, going by previous history, won't be much at all), I'll be happy to link your article on my sites when you publish it.

Now, on to Raymond's comments:

for every “Hey!” moment, there’s been a “Huh?” moment where I’ve discovered something new that I hadn’t known before. It’s really awesome, I think.

Yeah, I agree.

Actually it was from those boys in Middle School that I first learned it. I think you know the ones.

Actually, I probably don't. I was fortunate to miss K-12 and begin my formal schooling at the college level.

Fair point about not erasing the capacity of other cultures to commit heinous atrocities, that was not at all my intention. Good analogy, to, with example of racism in the USA being treated as if it were a problem exclusive to the southern states.

That's a lovely tribute to the site, too.

Not much to add to the Conan/Howard discussion, as it's not something I've ever really gotten involved in, or have interest in doing so. But I followed your link to "By Crom!" and some of the comics gave me a good chuckle, and some were actually pretty touching. Thanks.
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at 18:02 on 11-11-2018, Arthur B
Good thoughts but I realise I've been bad and gotten drawn into a discussion on the Playpen which might be better carried out on a platform which won't disappear within a few months. Will respond if you repost your comments on my blog though. :)
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at 10:46 on 11-11-2018, Raymond H
That's a good point, yeah. Which is why I think Conan works best in adaptations where the forces-beyond-our-control that he faces are more abstract concepts than human foes, such as By Crom! (Howard's black moods and general pessimism), or where Conan is allowed to be flawed and the inherent tragedy of his life is explored. I mean tragic in the sense of the same things which allow Conan to succeed in life also lead to his downfall, so like, that rah-rah-rah attitude, which allows him to face down impossible foes also leads to him being unable to grow or learn from his mistakes.

There's this truly beautiful scene that I remember reading from the comics years ago, where Conan has grown weary of his travels after losing so many friends and loved ones and returns to his home in Cimmeria, and he helps his mother tend the kennels that house the hunting dogs which Conan's family is responsible for. And there's this one pup, that Conan notices as being more wolfish than the others, and as Conan's mother explains to his friend (and us), when the dogs are low in number, they will mate with the wolves, and their children usually take after and follow one parent. Some are more wolf than dog, and follow their pack, while some are more dog than wolf, and stay with their kennel. But sometimes a pup is born that doesn't take after either parent; smarter than a wolf, but stronger than a dog. Some might consider the pup blessed, having the best qualities of both parents, but as Conan's mother remarks, she doesn't think that way. To her, the pup is destined for a lonely life. It smells too much like wolf to ever be accepted by the kennel, and too much like dog to ever find its own pack. In the end, the very qualities that give the pup strength will force it into a life of solitude and loneliness, to forever wander and walk alone.

And I just think that's a great way to evolve Howard's original themes and writing, like, not slavishly reproduce, not outright reject, but truly evolve and change as audience's tastes change and grow. It's so fascinating to me how, despite not being even a century old, the character of Conan has been retold and retooled just as much as King Arthur or Ogier the Dane. And I think, ultimately, Howard's role in the character of Conan is the same as that of Shuster and Siegel with Superman, or perhaps even Bob Kane with Batman. I don't think even the most ardent Superman fan would give Action Comics #1 as a gateway story to a Superman newcomer, because Superman has changed and evolved so much since then. And even with as much as I love Conan, I would never give a newcomer an original Howard story as a gateway, unless it was maybe Phoenix in the Sword or Tower of the Elephant. Even with Shuster and Siegel getting special credit as the creators of Superman, the character of Superman himself is not bound to any one writer any more than Arthur is bound to Sir Thomas Malory or Geoffrey of Monmouth. And as I think you mentioned in your article, the original Howard stories aren't as important as that which was inspired by them. Elric, Imaro, Kane, all of these were creators taking the basic structure of Howard and sifting, shaking up, examining, and evolving it for their own ends. And I know Saunders and Wagner themselves would even go back and write their own Conan novels, similar to how Otto Binder would go back and write Superman, and add to that vast, multi-author tapestry.

And that's just so awesome to me! As a mythology geek, it's so awesome to me how the character of Conan has managed to grow and change beyond his original creator, especially when I can't see that really happening with other fantasy authors/characters. Amber will always be Zelazny's. Earthsea will always be Le Guin's. And Middle-Earth will always be Tolkien's. For anyone else to come and try their own take on those fantasy worlds would be considered almost sacrilegious by the fans, and yet Hyborea can be tinkered with and explored just as wildly as Camelot or Jianghu! (Unless you ask those assholish gatekeepers that you unfortunately find in any fandom)

Gah, I really got on a tangent there, but I just, I really love watching the trajectory of characters' and stories' evolution over the ages, and the uniqueness of Conan in that regard fascinates me.
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