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.
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.
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.
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.
I first ran into Ferretbrain in High School. This was my senior year, and I followed a TV Tropes link to Whistle Down the Wind. It was really entertaining and engaging analytically, so when I had the free time, I would click a random article and read it. I enjoyed them all, but the one that really sticks out is, surprise, that Conan article that drew so much controversy. And I remember it because it made me really angry. Like, I really loved the Conan stories growing up, and even though I’d laughed my ass off at Ferretbrainers eviscerating books I’d never read, having it done to something I had read, and which I cared very deeply for, got me pretty cheesed off.
It wasn’t until I forced myself to sit down and re-read those stories that I’d loved so much as a kid, that I saw how Arthur’s diagnosis wasn’t as far off as I’d liked to have imagined. I had to confront this big, ugly elephant in the room of my childhood memories, and that wasn’t easy. But the thing is, I still love Conan. I even still enjoy the original Howard stories, even if there are major elements of them which outright horrify me now. Having encountered my own black moods like Howard now, having to force myself to stand up for what I want, even if it’s scary, I appreciate those stories now even more than I did as a kid.
Conan, to me, is the ultimate rejection of Lovecraftian nihilism. Even after he loses everything, time and time again, even as he faces down eldritch horrors from other worlds, even as the world keeps beating him down again and again and again, Conan keeps fighting and living and enjoying all that this world has to offer. There have been times in my life when I have wanted to give up, well and truly give everything up. But even if the black moods in my life will continue, I will be like Conan. I will keep fighting. I can never go back to loving Howard’s stories like I did as a child. Honestly though, I don’t really want to, not with all the…everything that mars those stories so. But even as so much of my enjoyment has been lost, that which remains remains stronger and brighter than the simple, uncritical love of Conan the awesome mccooldude.
That’s what Ferretbrain means to me. Taking these works that we love and really sifting through their worth, really forcing us to examine why we like or dislike them, and enriching our total experiences as a result. I know I didn’t really contribute much to this site, in the long run of things. But I was honored to be part of something I’d been a fan of for so long, and I had a blast the whole way through. So thanks everyone. Really, thank you.
Reminds me of the controversy around Star Trek: Into Darkness when they recast Khan Noonien Singh as Benedict Cumberbatch. I remember the article "Star Trek: Into Whiteness" talking about how important the original Khan was to fans of color because, basically, even though he was a villain, he was an awesome villain.
Yeah, I vaguely remember that article, and I definitely remember being pissed off about Khan in that movie (although honestly, the casting was one of my smaller complaints). It makes me curious though, if the character of Zahhak has ever been reappropriated by an Arabic author or idolized despite him being the product of anti-Arab sentiment (It’s almost like Ferdowsi was mad at the Arabs for colonizing his country or something).
Wow, it's always kinda surreal to come across a discussion of a relatively obscure book or film on this site and go, "Hey, I recognize that! I watched/ read it."
Welcome to every day for me on Ferretbrain. 😊 I know I’d thought about getting a blog back in HS, but never went through with it, simply because there are so many things that I like. I mean, I doubt many people enjoy Kimagure Orange Road, Nick Carter: Master Detective, Rafael Sabatini, Poul Anderson, The Shahnameh, Kwaidan, Bionicle, AND Ghibli movies. But Ferretbrain showed me that a blog can be about whatever the hell you want it to be, consistency or themes be damned. And 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.
*snorts* Really? I should've guessed.
Hahah. Actually it was from those boys in Middle School that I first learned it. I think you know the ones. I didn’t pay much attention when I heard it from them though, since they were also boasting about their sexual exploits at 12 in terms I found overly braggadocious at that age and which I recognize now couldn’t have possibly come from someone who actually knew how sex worked. House was simply the first responsible(?) adult who let me know.
Is that meant to dispute my central thesis, or just a tangent? Because I see it working much better the second way, and I'm going to answer it as such. If I misread, please help me out.
I threw in that disclaimer to cover my ass because my knowledge of warfare is limited, especially outside of the traditional Western canon. I've done a bit of research on Indigenous peoples in the Americas, and allegedly, most nations practiced a mode of warfare which - though still awful - didn't entail the level of atrocity we see in Western warfare. I've also come across a smattering of other references to different types of warfare out there, so I'm not making a blanket statement about all forms of human warfare worldwide and through all of human history.
My apologies for not being clearer. I meant that statement more as a tangent than a disputation, though I did wish to halt the conversation from entering what I perceived to be the dangerous ground of Orwellian nationalism. It is important to acknowledge the excesses and brutalities of Western civilization. However, I think all too often when this acknowledgement is done, it is simultaneously used to sweep under the rug the excesses and brutalities of non-Western civilizations, which I believe to be a dangerous line of thinking. To put it in terms that I think you will appreciate as a fellow American, I don’t think fighting against slavery or Jim Crow should make people believe that racism simply never existed north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Well, the good news is I’m not dead. And I finally got wi-fi back up, which is a relief, because apparently the whole commenting-on-my-phone thing didn’t really work out. Even with the internet back up though, these past months have simply been too busy for me to really check up on Ferretbrain. I’ve been getting my visa and medical insurance back, teaching and lesson-planning at my schools, and writing by butt off to finish my novel, the final draft of which is nearing completion. Living in the city is way more hectic and expensive than the countryside, and yet at the same time I feel more satisfied than I was back there. I still remember the fear. I still remember the feeling of hopelessness and despair that marked my last few months here. But the black moods have subsided, and I know what it is to feel happy again.
To explain: At the time, at the urging of my partner at the time, I was playing Undertale, which at the time was significantly less of a Thing than it became not too long after, and upon reading Dan H’s “Games Are Not Art”, I became quite frustrated with the gulf between my own experiences with the potential for “entertainment software” to tell a moving story—in other games but particularly in that one, where the narrative and mechanics are so intimately wedded—and the rather pat and somewhat reductionist viewpoint I felt that the article expressed. Already having been a reader of the site for some time at that point, I decided to take the bull by the horns and pitch an article on the subject to Arthur.
Alas, I never wrote this article, or any other, for this august site, and now I never will.
But then, a Hallowe’en surprise: The developer of that selfsame game releases the first chapter in something which is and is not a sequel to that game, an... *uncanny* little release, heavily reliant on intertextuality for its full effect despite appearing entirely self-contained. And suddenly the wheels begin turning anew. I have no idea where I might publish my mitherings on this particular subject, but... well, I’ll figure something out.
It is down to individuals as to whether they want to actually post their stuff. I am going to reach out to all former contributors to let them know the shutdown's happening and let them know it's an option, but I'm not going to strongarm people into contributing to the Blogroll if they don't want to.
What about some of the other contributors, out of curiosity? Dan and Kyra haven't been around since 2013, sadly. Shim still has his sporadically-updated RPG blog. Are there any others to follow?
And hey, I just realized I'm actually working on a sorta horror-themed article at the moment. Maybe I can clean it up and get it submission-ready in time to join the month's roster ...
Until I get wi-fi installed, I guess it's radio silence for now.