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.

at 18:52 on 27-03-2016, Orion
I don't have a Pando membership.
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at 19:16 on 23-03-2016, Arthur B
So, in between journalists being aghast at just how flippant Gawker's witnesses were on the stand, wrestling fans getting to see Hulk Hogan get a win in a venue he doesn't normally wrassle in, and Gamergates frothing at the mouth with glee over the verdict because Gawker runs Jezebel and Kotaku and they have huge problems with those site, there doesn't seem to have been much discussion of how Gawker these days is bankrolled by potentially shady forces.
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at 00:41 on 23-03-2016, James D
Sure, it's just the same old invoking of "The Goode Olde Days" that American conservatives (and, presumably, conservatives around the globe) have been doing since time immemorial. When exactly those days were and whether they were really that good doesn't matter, because they leave the specifics necessarily vague so that the reader can insert whatever rose-colored crap they want. In this country it generally means the Reagan years, or maybe the post-WWII boom.

The thing is I get the impression that the various brands of Puppy are really thinking more about politics and internet discourse in general rather than sci-fi, because I seriously doubt that any of them were actually alive at a time before the New Wave wrecked Golden Age, John W Campbell-style conservatism's stranglehold on the genre for good. The whole "political correctness" narrative they peddle sounds much more like something an aging Republican would complain about after reading tumblr for a while than something specifically related to sci-fi.

Plus, their notions that politics are a recent phenomenon in the Hugos is fucking silly - Double Star, winner for best novel in 1956, included a shitload of Heinlein's political ramblings, as did all his other Hugo winners excluding Have Spacesuit Will Travel. Of course, they were libertarian ramblings, so clearly in those cases the Hugo voters chose them purely based on the quality of the stories, and the political content didn't factor in at all!
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at 01:43 on 21-03-2016, Arthur B
I first became aware of the Puppies as a result of John Wright decrying evil SJWs hijacking the Hugos in recent years and using them to reward people who wrote deviant (by his standards) takes on gender.

Which would presumably mean that the takeover has been in effect for some 46 years, seeing how Ursula LeGuin got the 1970 Hugo for The Left Hand of Darkness.
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at 01:02 on 21-03-2016, James D
What's crazy about the whole thing is they don't seem to realize how stupid they're making themselves look. The whole "we're the dignified Old Guard writing two-fisted manly-man hard SF just like our fathers used to read" routine was totally undermined the moment they started publicly whining and moaning about being oppressed and using underhanded tactics like voting slates, behavior their supposed idols would've totally abhorred.

Ironically, all it seems they've succeeded in doing is politicizing the Hugos even more than they were before.
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at 21:20 on 20-03-2016, Arthur B
How do you become the Sad Puppies organiser anyway? Divine right? Killing and eating the heart of your predecessor? Satanic pacts? Who gets to choose who drives the clown car?
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at 15:30 on 20-03-2016, Michal
For a brief space of time I was willing to give the latest sad puppy effort the benefit of the doubt, then I saw how nasty its proponents are being to authors who want off of their it's-not-a-slate, and I think Rachael Acks put it best:

"Please, someone explain to me how I should see this as anything but transparently manipulative, wanky shit."
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at 11:59 on 19-03-2016, Arthur B
Also, wasn't part of the complaint that the types of fiction allegedly being snubbed were conservative stories by conservative authors? If so, then nominating Ancillary Mercy makes even less sense to me.

In some respects it's curiously effective as a wrecking strategy, in the sense of attempting to force anti-Puppies to either deny their real favourites the prize or vote for a Puppy candidate.

On the other hand, Guardians of the Galaxy was a Puppy candidate last year, so the Hugo voters have already demonstrated that being nominated by the Puppies isn't the mark of Cain.
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at 00:36 on 19-03-2016, Robinson L
@Alice: I've talked a bit about my experience reading Ancillary Justice and Sword before, and I'll probably make another update when I read Mercy later this summer.

I like the series, but I don't love it - the characters are good, but I can't get as deeply invested in them as I do in some others. The first part of the first book was actually a struggle, because so much of Breq's goals and motivations were kept deliberately obscure that it I couldn't get into her character at all. I actually liked the sequel better for that reason, as I was already there with Breq from page one - although I've heard that it's generally considered a weaker follow-up to Justice.

I really like Jamie's assessment of her internal struggle, but only having read the first two books, I don't really see her being in denial about her emotions and feelings: perhaps it was too subtle for me.

I guess I also agree that the review may have been unfair to the series: okay, perhaps it's not groundbreaking, fair enough, but I think it still does a good job at what it sets out to accomplish. Also, this bit:

the ideas contained in Ancillary Justice seem disappointingly simple: empires are evil, class systems are oppressive, absolute power corrupts absolutely

Huh, I dunno. I mean, yeah, obviously, those are ideas which the book explores, but aren't most ideas in books simple when you boil them down to their core? At the risk of hyperbole, couldn't you make similar claims about, say, 1984? Obviously, I don't mean to imply Ancillary Justice is anywhere in the league of 1984 in terms of exploring ideas of freedom and oppression - on the other hand, I think Ancillary Justice is much better at telling an engaging story. (Also, a lot of the more successful parts of 1984 as I recall involved telling rather than showing.)

And as long as there are empires, class systems, and--if not absolute, then extremely high concentrations of power--these are themes it will be important to explore.


Arthur: So the new Sad Puppies nomination slate came out today and so far as I can tell their genius plan to retake the Hugos seems to involve nominating so much popular stuff that is likely to get nominated anyway that they can then turn around and claim that stuff like Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars 7, and the latest Ancillary novel represents the Sad Puppies.

Huh. I thought the whole point of the Sad Puppy phenomenon was protesting that certain types of fiction were allegedly being snubbed by the Hugo voters, so nominating mainstream hits does seem exceedingly odd.

Also, wasn't part of the complaint that the types of fiction allegedly being snubbed were conservative stories by conservative authors? If so, then nominating Ancillary Mercy makes even less sense to me.
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at 17:25 on 18-03-2016, Arthur B
So the new Sad Puppies nomination slate came out today and so far as I can tell their genius plan to retake the Hugos seems to involve nominating so much popular stuff that is likely to get nominated anyway that they can then turn around and claim that stuff like Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars 7, and the latest Ancillary novel represents the Sad Puppies.
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at 21:25 on 17-03-2016, Shim
@Ichneumon: I think it makes sense even though I don't know quite what you're doing. One of the things holding up my writing is that I need to read/reread a couple of books first, and I might need to look through some comparators as well depending how my article develops.
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at 21:13 on 17-03-2016, Ichneumon
@Arthur: I need to finish something that I could either use as an example in my argument, or simply mention in passing. I cannot do that at the moment.

That was excessively cryptic, but it will make sense later.
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at 09:35 on 17-03-2016, Jamie Johnston
@Alice: I like the 'Ancillary' books a lot and am maybe just being a bit defensive about them, but I feel like that review is mainly criticising 'Ancillary Justice' for not doing things that it has no interest in doing (and that, by Allan's own account, other people have already done anyway). Like, I don't think the reader is meant to spend much time grappling with whether conquering planets or turning people into ancillaries or having rigid class hierarchies are Good Things or Bad Things: the starting-point is that we all agree they're bad, and the point of interest is what is it that enables Breq to recognize and act on that when other people don't?

And yes I can see the potential in a story about a human who gets turned into a computer but remains psychologically the same person, but that would defeat the psychological point of 'Ancillary Justice' -- which is to explore what it's like to be a sentient and intelligent being who doesn't think of themself as human or as having inherent value because nobody else does, and who has enormous understanding of and consideration for other people's emotions and thoughts while being so alienated from their own humanity that they don't really recognize that they have any emotions of their own or that anyone else has any about them.

I think the thing about the other characters being flat is again a bit of a misunderstanding. It has some truth, but also I don't think it properly takes into account that we encounter the other characters through a quasi-omniscient first-person narrator whose ability to interpret and understand them is limited and distorted in certain ways -- so you have to do some reading between the lines to find the parts of their personalities that Breq misses or misunderstands.
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at 08:33 on 17-03-2016, Arthur B
Why would that require you to wait to do something important?
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at 04:52 on 17-03-2016, Ichneumon
...I just had quite an article idea, but I think that I am going to have to wait until I do something important to actually write it; to whit, the subject, while not *particularly* controversial, may be amusingly contentious for some folks here.
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at 11:23 on 16-03-2016, Alice
@Jamie: That does look shiny, thanks for sharing!

And speaking of shiny things, I've just finished Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice (gender and AI and consciousness, oh my!) and am about to start the sequel, Ancillary Sword. From the number of prizes the first book won, I can only imagine most of you heard of it well before I did, but I'm a fairly haphazard reader of sff, so I've only recently come across it.

I enjoyed it a lot, though I definitely take the criticisms expressed in this review on board. (Though again, being a haphazard reader of sff, I didn't have the same sense of making comparisons to other sff works that deal with the same themes while reading the book: I still buy the criticisms, though.)
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at 10:48 on 16-03-2016, Shim
I think it's a good idea, previously as so many of us are inclined to long-therefore-none writing. It could keep things flowing and be less intimidating for new people.

One thing I don't know is what that content might look like... interested to see what emerges.

I am currently working on an article where I am entirely positive about something (I know, who are you and what have you done with the real Shim), but it's long.
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at 10:23 on 16-03-2016, Arthur B
I, for one, am a font of concise, dubious opinions on things nobody else cares about. Ask away.

/watches editor at ferretbrain dot com inbox avidly...

In all seriousness, though, we must be careful to avoid turning this into Hot Take Theatre. We're not Vice columnists, nor should we aspire to be.

I think the last thing anyone wants is for this place to become a farm for #content.
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at 08:49 on 16-03-2016, Jamie Johnston
Here's a shiny thing: Spooky action at a distance is a new review blog with an interesting premise and an interesting format. The premise is that interactive fiction (as a medium) and sci-fi / fantasy (as a genre cluster) have a lot to say to each other but those conversations aren't happening much at the moment. The format is that Cat Manning, who writes IF (some of which I've played and can recommend), recommends narrative games to Arkady Martine, and Arkady, who writes SFF, recommends non-interactive SFF works to Cat; then each picks something the other has recommended and reviews it.
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at 04:28 on 16-03-2016, Ichneumon
I, for one, am a font of concise, dubious opinions on things nobody else cares about. Ask away.

(In all seriousness, though, we must be careful to avoid turning this into Hot Take Theatre. We're not Vice columnists, nor should we aspire to be. That said, if this can be done well, it could be fun.)
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at 15:01 on 15-03-2016, Robinson L
I fear I may be an irredeemable write-at-great-length-or-not-at-all sort of person (mainly on the not-at-all side in recent years, because of lacking time / energy to write-at-great-length).

I fear I may be an irredeemable write-at-great-length-or-not-at-all sort of person (mainly on the not-at-all side in recent years, because of lacking time / energy to write-at-great-length).
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at 15:38 on 13-03-2016, Arthur B
That'd be a good way to expedite publishing a FerretNibble pile if there's something time-critical in there.
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at 11:41 on 13-03-2016, Jamie Johnston
A slight variant of the idea (though I'm not sure whether this would make it more or less work for you) would be to have a sort of semi-regular round-up / digest, which could include nibbles never before seen but could also mention and link to or collate other notable recent stuff from the site, such as already-posted articles that have generated interesting discussion in the comments, substantial recent playpen conversations, unusual events (like if there were a new podcast or something). That would give more flexibility on timing than if you had to wait for a sufficient number of nibbles alone, and might also encourage the idea that there don't have to be rigid boundaries between different types of content and something that starts as one thing can turn into another.

Having typed it out, though, I now suspect that would be quite a bit more work for perhaps not much more benefit.

Whatever the exact format, there's no harm in having a go with something new to encourage more / different contributions. No doubt it would develop over time. I'd certainly have a go at writing the odd nibble, though I fear I may be an irredeemable write-at-great-length-or-not-at-all sort of person (mainly on the not-at-all side in recent years, because of lacking time / energy to write-at-great-length).
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at 22:51 on 12-03-2016, Arthur B
Typically, though if people have an idea for something topical/time-sensitive I could see what could be done to ensure it came out in a broadly timely manner (or just run it as a brief article if it's especially time-critical).
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