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 18:30 on 30-06-2016, Craverguy
According to Johnson's people, Michael Gove edited and approved Boris's column about how Britain is and always will be a part of Europe, persuaded Boris not to cut any endorsement-for-Cabinet-spot deals with Tory MPs, offered Foreign Secretary to George Osborne behind Boris's back and leaked it to the press, and announced his campaign for the leadership without informing Boris ahead of time.

Considering that he used to be Chief Whip, I now suspect that Michael Gove is, in fact, Francis Urquhart.
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at 17:33 on 30-06-2016, Arthur B
(I should clarify that I meant the Rik Mayall sitcom with Alan B'Stard, not the news magazine of the same name.)
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at 17:22 on 30-06-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
Well, whatever else, both The Young Ones and Springtime for Hitler are less boring than The New Statesman. Politics are more popular now than since whenever!
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at 17:19 on 30-06-2016, James D
Adrienne:
that's a deliberate stylistic choice!

So? Whether or not Brunner wanted The Shockwave Rider to be a chore to get through doesn't really matter to me as a reader. I am glad I read it, but I'm not sure I'd read it again.

I think part of the problem I had was going "back in time" after having read a lot of 80s cyberpunk (Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, etc.). The Shockwave Rider certainly had more substance than something like Neuromancer, but in comparison it just seemed really...uncool. A lot of its ideas are interesting, sure, the interrogator especially was a great character, and there's a lot to chew on intellectually, but there's basically nothing in it that makes me go "WHOA, AWESOME" the way there is in a lot of later stuff TSR influenced.

Maybe there's not a lot of nutritional value in "whoa, awesome," but a little sugar in your oatmeal makes breakfast much more palatable.
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at 15:45 on 30-06-2016, Craverguy
Boris's leadership bid was clearly predicated on the idea that a large majority of Tories would vote for Brexit but that Leave would nevertheless lose the referendum, thus providing Boris with compelling evidence of his sway over the party faithful while avoiding having to deal with the repercussions of leaving the EU (which he rather transparently doesn't really want to do).

I'm afraid I must disagree with Arthur on one point: this isn't The Young Ones, it's The Producers, and Brexit is Boris's "Springtime for Hitler."
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at 15:36 on 30-06-2016, Robinson L
@Adrienne: Glad to hear you're pulling things back together, and congratulations on your wedding and your upcoming move.
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at 14:21 on 30-06-2016, Arthur B
Gove is running, so far as I can tell, solely to spoil BoJo's bid. Lots of influential people in Tory circles were saying "Well, I have my reservations about Boris, but if he had Gove supporting him I think I'd vote for him". Gove's aides were literally pushing BoJo's bid and inviting people to the Boris campaign launch as recently as last night. So Gove declaring his own campaign spoiled things for Boris nicely.

I would not be surprised if Gove didn't actually bother campaigning, now that the job's been done.

We are in meltdown over here. In the space of a week British politics has gone from being like The New Statesman to The Young Ones.
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at 13:00 on 30-06-2016, Craverguy
Looks like Dan's old bête noire Michael Gove may be the next Prime Minister.
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at 10:17 on 30-06-2016, Adrienne
Robinson L: Nah, never gave up on it, just my life pretty well fell apart for a few years there. It's getting put back together these days, finally, although i got married and am moving to another country next month so things are still a little overwhelming. :)
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at 10:16 on 30-06-2016, Adrienne
James D: "lots of philosophical asides" i'll definitely give you, but slow pace and not a lot of action? I'll argue with you on those. It definitely starts slow - and in flashback - but that's a deliberate stylistic choice! It starts with one thread and steadily brings in more, until you have LOTS of action (albeit much of it is downplayed, or delivered in weird interstices) and enough plot threads to get all tangled up in. Which is, of course, the point of the book, and the point of the book this one is a response to (which is Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler, who incidentally passed away yesterday.)
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at 08:56 on 30-06-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
Interesting articles turning a critical eye on a widely praised author are always welcome in my book.

What happened in Greece is a result of such a perfect storm of different factors that there is little reason to think that Scotland would be in like danger. They don't seem to be the type to lend too much money, even if that opportunity should ever arise. Access to the common market on the other hand is a very good thing and especially so for a peripheral economy. If they are worried, they can always stay out of the euro. There are plenty of small economies that are doing well in the EU.

While Scotland re-joining the EU is of course not certain, depending on what happens, it is still very likely, since the main reason for leaving now would be the whole matter of the recent vote. As with N-Ireland. No more politics from me. Kind of a mess, the whole thing.
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at 22:19 on 29-06-2016, Bill
I hope before the Scots rush into the EU as a small peripheral economy, they chat with a few Greeks.
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at 21:49 on 29-06-2016, Shim
@Robinson: I can't imagine Scotland leaving the UK and not rejoining the EU, it'd be really vulnerable. Also Scotland is heavily pro-EU, and I suspect the other EU countries would be happy to ease its way: a chance to be the good guys, while making a point to the UK.

The big question is what happens to the Irelands.
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at 18:41 on 29-06-2016, Andrew Currall
Adrienne, I'd be interested to see your take on Tamora Pierce as well. I loved her books as a teenager. Reading them more recently, I've been a lot less impressed.
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at 03:36 on 29-06-2016, Robinson L
Adrienne: I daydreamed a long time back about submitting a The Shockwave Rider essay/review, too. I should do that

Please do, I've been wondering about that one for a while. I figured either it had been rejected or you gave up on the idea.

i have pissed myself off ALL OVER AGAIN at how goddamn bad Tamora Pierce is and how despite that people still praise her to the skies as great YA for teen girls ... could i perhaps submit something on the subject?

I'm looking forward to this one, too. I don't have much personal experience with Pierce's work, but one of my little sisters was obsessed with Terrier and its sequel not so long ago (and maybe still is, I just haven't heard her talking about it so much). All the other stuff I hear about Pierce has been generally positive, and I didn't get far enough into the MetaFilter thread to see where she gets mentioned, so now I'm really curious to see what you find so objectionable in her writings.


Er, coming back to the British politics discussion for a second, a friend of friends recently shared this article about a petition for a second referendum, citing the narrowness of the "Leave" vote's victory. Just curious if anyone had any thoughts on the subject.

I've been thinking lately about my experiences as a non-EU immigrant to the UK for my Master's studies, and about all the EU friends I made while I was there; I'd hate for them to have the same heavy restrictions I and my fellow non-EU students had to deal with abruptly thrust onto them.

At the risk of being overly irreverent about a situation I realize is very serious - if Scotland has another referendum about leaving Britain, will they likely (re)join the EU?
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at 01:47 on 29-06-2016, James D
I'm glad I read Shockwave Rider and it was well-conceived, had some good characters, wrapped the plot up pretty well, with tons of interesting ideas throughout ...but man was it a slog to get through. Slow pace, lots of philosophical asides, not a ton of action, a setting that's weird enough to be difficult to relate to but not weird enough to be fun - I've read and enjoyed others by Brunner but Shockwave Rider was one of those books which I found satisfying and interesting but would have trouble calling good.
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at 00:23 on 29-06-2016, Adrienne
I daydreamed a long time back about submitting a The Shockwave Rider essay/review, too. I should do that - the book keeps getting more relevant, not less, despite having been written in fucking 1975.
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at 10:11 on 28-06-2016, Arthur B
Go ahead, I'd be interested to hear your thinks.
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at 09:21 on 28-06-2016, Adrienne
Also as a result of that MetaFilter thread i have pissed myself off ALL OVER AGAIN at how goddamn bad Tamora Pierce is and how despite that people still praise her to the skies as great YA for teen girls. Andrew B or whoever is running this show these days, could i perhaps submit something on the subject?
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at 07:02 on 28-06-2016, Adrienne
James D: Heinlein at short-story length is in general vastly superior to Heinlein at novel length, in my opinion. Several of his short stories are interesting, fun, and in some cases really challenging/idea-driven stuff. His novels are, in my fairly considered opinion, universally dreck.
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at 22:15 on 27-06-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
My only experience with Heinlein was when I was going through some cardboard boxes full of spec fic books in a flea market on holiday and coming across some Heinlein titles. I remember thinking that Heinlein mihht be worthwhile since I hadn't read any and he was a well known author. So I chose the one with the nicest title, which also had some stuff about parallel earths, which I've always liked. Number of the beast. It didn't end well, and I couldn't get very far with it.

I mean, nipple movement and peculiar sentiments about familial relations are bad enough, but it was just so stupid in its arrogance about science, society and everything. And apparently it got even worse after that.

I guess it might be a good idea to check some of those YA things out, but then again, I'm behind on more interesting and essential stuff already. Farnham's Freehold sounds terribly unpleasant. But I recall there was some other authors dabblng in positive interest in the sixties, so I guess it was just one of the dark undersides of the breaking of sexual taboos, a marginal area where things just went too far with freedom aspect without considering the implications and consequences aspect. Curious that that whole alfa and beta nonsense was bandied about that far back(1964), but stupid ideas often are
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at 01:30 on 26-06-2016, James D
Yeah, I had the exact same experience with SiaSL. Even setting aside its weird gender politics, it's just...boring. A big reason it got popular and was lauded at the time was it happened to come out right around the time of the whole "free love" movement, and struck a chord with a lot of hippies who were dabbling in Eastern philosophy.

Needless to say, 15-year-old me did not care about any of this, and only got about halfway through. If I tried reading it today, with an eye toward the gender politics, I'd probably find it even worse.

Although if we want to talk about good Heinlein for a moment, I think The Green Hills of Earth is an absolutely fantastic short story, to the point where it almost seems like it was written by someone else. The only "Heinleinian" aspect to it is a facility with mechanical terminology as used day-to-day by a ship's crew. No libertarian politics, no "daddy" sex, no misguided racial shit.

There's also an audio version out there narrated by Leonard Nimoy that's great, too.
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at 15:30 on 25-06-2016, Robinson L
I started reading Stranger in a Strange Land in my late teens, but kind of wandered away from it after a few chapters/dozen pages. Not for any reasons of ethics or worldview, you understand, just because - as best I recall - it failed to hold my interest.

The only Heinlein I've read all the way through was Starship Troopers on audiobook in my earlier teens. This was well before I'd developed either critical taste in literature or anything resembling a coherent political conscience, and even then I remember being put off by the abject celebration of military authoritarianism (regardless of who's at fault, any subordinate who lays hands on a superior officer must be punished very harshly - as in, they should count themselves lucky to survive at all - to maintain proper discipline). It never occurred to me until just now to set that beside the author's market libertarian ideals.
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at 11:30 on 25-06-2016, Melanie
Makes sense, I guess.

you were Doing A Literature, especially if you were dealing with hardcore SF fans who didn't read much non-genre fiction


It just occurred to me that if "genre fiction" is opposed to "literature", then all "literature" really means is "hard to categorize". If a book is Literature, but then the kind of thing that it is gets more popular and a genre of books similar to it in some key way springs up, does that retroactively make it Not Literature...?
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