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 18:50 on 19-02-2012, Frank
When you whine about tone, it just shows your privilege and the lack of awareness of that privilege which is in itself, a privilege.
If you, a non-racist, say something racist even unintentionally and a person of color calls you out on it in a tone you dislike, do you disregard what that person has to say? It is not the responsibility of that person to make sure your feelings are okay when it is your statement that continues the dominant culture's oppressiveness. The comment doesn't need to be racist. It could be sexist, misogynistic, ablist, agist, homophobic, transphobic, sizist, classist, and whatever I'm missing. Those statements still devalue the human.
at 18:36 on 19-02-2012, valse de la lune
I read it in the sense of, at some level, "worthwhile art." I've already admitted I didn't read much in Bakker, but what I did see (yeah, I actually read more than five pages) didn't especially interest me--hence my original remark that the prose is "leaden as fuck." And the names with all their diacritics are hilarious. This holds true across most of the grimdark fantasy: take out the way it handled homosexuality and homophobia (and I think my opinion on that and Arthur's differ somewhat) and The Steel Remains doesn't have much to offer except swearing and cinematic violence, take out the fail of lesbian rape and I'm not sure what's there to see in The First Law trilogy except, at best, a middling effort to subvert popular fantasy tropes. What else? Maybe we could discuss the merits of objectivism as presented by Terry Goodkind.
at 18:28 on 19-02-2012, Arthur B
I'm sure Bakker's books, too, are great art by the way. Arthur? You aren't wrapped up in your sexuality or ethnicity, right, so I am sure you can teach me how to look at those books rationally.

If you put gender and sexuality and ethnicity aside what you're left with is some page-turny brick-sized grimdark fantasy novels which happened to come out at the time when that was the fashionable bandwagon to be on. So not what I'd call "high art", if I had to sort things into high and low art categories despite my disinclination to.

On the other hand, I didn't read Alasdair's use of "art" as implying "high art".

On the third hand, if you worked engage what the story was actually doing in that trilogy rather than paying attention to all the fail surrounding it, I'd have to say it was... um... wasting everyone's time. Sorry, Alasdair, but the Aspect-Emperor doesn't have any clothes.
at 18:15 on 19-02-2012, valse de la lune
And since I'm very slowly playing Batman: Arkham City maybe I should soon make a vitriolic capslocky profanity-filled post about all the rape threat in it ("Rape her! Rape her! Rape her!"), and miss out all the artistic aspects of the thing, like how ginormously huge Batman is and how he takes up all the fucking screen space so I can't aim properly. I'll concede in advance that this is a very blinkered way to look at art. If only I could just look past all the rape threats and misogyny, and focus on the important things!

I'm sure Bakker's books, too, are great art by the way. Arthur? You aren't wrapped up in your sexuality or ethnicity, right, so I am sure you can teach me how to look at those books rationally.
at 17:32 on 19-02-2012, valse de la lune
Oh, dear. Are you okay, Alasdair? Have the prejudices against... uhm, Bakker as an individual or Bakker's demographic gotten just too much? Was it my latest post about white men's tears? Did you burst a vein? You might notice that I don't exactly come here and link Bakker's every post (I don't recall if I'd done so since the first time). This is also the point where, were you a woman, someone would be telling you to calm down and stop being so shrill.

I don't think you are nearly as smart as you think you are, and I also think you are so wrapped up in you sexuality and ethnicity issues that you can't think of anything else. [...] You don't really seem to care about what a story is doing, as long as it involves marginalized groups, which I have always felt is a massively blinkered way at looking at art.

I'd offer some kind of commentary here, but I don't think I especially need to. Maybe I could just link this whole thing and count all the boxes you ticked. Not that's an I-WIN button or anything, but how do I engage with a post that boils down to a long screech of YOUR TONE, MY GOD, YOUR TONE? Oh, well, maybe I'll just point out that being able to consider things without being "wrapped up" in "sexuality and ethnicity issues" is a luxury. I could also point out posts where I review works without making ethnicity or gender a primary focus, but that'd require some degree of rationality for you. That appears to be in short supply. If I was Bakker, I'd be pointing at you and muttering something about moral outrage.

Which is a tragedy, because you are the last person I would listen to about gender, sexuality, or race issues.

I will just have to live with this, somehow. It's not that not listening to me is a mark of moral or ideological failing, but what do you think your declaration that you can't take me seriously will accomplish? Dive into comments at Bakker's or Pat's or Watts' blogs and you will find hundreds of like-minded individuals falling all over themselves to declare the very same. It's not as though you are one of a kind, a visionary, or some sort of rebel.
at 16:58 on 19-02-2012, Arthur B
For my part: I don't think valse's original article on Bakker is one of her best, to be honest - she's done better and more convincing takedowns. (I like the articles she wrote about The Wind-Up Girl mainly because it pointed out that as well as having all these other issues, the novel doesn't even present the authentic depiction of Thailand it's often cited as presenting - to the extent that the use of Thai is objectively incorrect and looks like gibberish to Thai speakers.)

I'm just highly bemused that Bakker's blog posts have become dominated by his objections to how valse argues and its implications when on the other hand the way he argues makes him look like a total crank. Even posts where he seems to be trying to say "Ok, I admit it, sometimes I can look like a self-aggrandising crank" make him sound like a self-aggrandising crank.

On top of that, I was reasonably positive about Bakker's first trilogy when I reviewed it, aside from the loopier setting elements and the fact that he couldn't decide whether he was writing about Generic Fantasyland or the Crusades with the serial numbers filed off. But then the discussion on the comments here prompted me to realise that actually the books had some pretty glaring issues I'd entirely failed to analyse, which prompted a long process of actually thinking about the stuff I was reading rather than consuming it uncritically. So seeing Bakker behaving as he has behaved lately is kind of a "there but for the grace of god" moment for me in that less than five years ago I might have been shooting off tone arguments left right and centre too.
at 16:31 on 19-02-2012, Shim
Fair point, the name-mocking was childish and unnecessary, and I vaguely noticed at the time but went ahead anyway because it mildly amused me, which was the wrong choice. Apologies.
at 16:21 on 19-02-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj

I...I can't take this anymore.

I, too, have been reading Bakker's blog, but I have not been seeing any of this "pity party" that everyone else has been going on about here. Not a hint of it. What I have seen is someone who is no longer interested in valse's arguments (since, as he and others have made pretty damn clear, there really is nothing like a structured argument that can be properly reasoned and/or refuted in your complaints, is there, valse?), but is interested in the way she argues and its implications.

And then I come over here and I find you all crowing and sneering and congratulating valse on making a direct it, when it's crystal fucking clear that this is exactly the problem he is diagnosing.

valse, you are an asshole. I don't think you are nearly as smart as you think you are, and I also think you are so wrapped up in you sexuality and ethnicity issues that you can't think of anything else. When I read your blog, I see a whole lot of strutting and preening and yelling that cloaks some fairly dull commentary. You don't really seem to care about what a story is doing, as long as it involves marginalized groups, which I have always felt is a massively blinkered way at looking at art.

And the worst part? People here agree with you because you confirm their prejudices. If you wrote exactly the same way you do now, but were, say, a libertarian Baptist instead, everyone here would loathe you, and they would pick out the exact problems with the way you write that Bakker has. But because they agree with you, all that is pushed by the wayside. Which is a tragedy, because you are the last person I would listen to about gender, sexuality, or race issues.

(Oh, and when Bakker made the first of these new responses, why did you come over here and crow about it? Why the need to gloat?)

Bakker is a dick. But I find him more bearable than you.

(And in case anyone is wondering, this has been building for a while, but it was Shimmin's "Bakkker" that pushed me over the edge.)
at 14:04 on 19-02-2012, Cammalot
Aw jeeze, I read the comments. All the comments. I'm going to shower now. And exfoliate. Possibly bleach. Maybe when I'm done I'll go kill and disembowel and eat a deer or something in order to have some feelings of self worth.
at 13:07 on 19-02-2012, valse de la lune
As a friend said, Bakker seems to think I've snatched the bread out of his children's mouths, the shoes off their feet, the steak off their plates. Like, me personally. Not that his books are not very good, or not interesting to most people, or... I mean, as you said, Orson Scott Card for one and John C Wright for another--and Jay Lake too!--continue to sell, continue to get published. He's giving me a whole lot of credit. While in the same breath saying that "feminism has lost." So what is it? A single feminist's blog post about him has seismically affected his sales so that must mean feminism is going strong, or... it's lost, in which case what?

I'll take you up on the swishy cloak. Maybe a false mustache too? Twirl twirl, swish swish. In the meantime a reader helpfully linked me to this post from Bakker. Something about writing serial rapists.
at 09:29 on 19-02-2012, Shim
I had a brief skim over the actual post, only it was embarrasing pseudojoycean rubbish and not worth the time. The main thing I noticed was some EM person writing a frank and detailed response to all his whinging and telling him to sort himself out, which Bakkkkker then... actually I have no idea what Bakkker did, it's some kind of non sequitur Wai So Srs slash inverse tone argument slash hey look at the fancy city type with all them big words. The most bizarre bit was probably where someone claims EM's writing like Chandler, which is both wildly incorrect and irrelevant if true, although I suppose if the only writing they're used to is netcommentspeak and Bakkkker's attempts to be literary, then I can see everything else might look the same.

But yeah, I have no interest in Bakky as such and everything about the site is so offputting that I don't read it unless someone prompts me to. As always the comments are the icing.

I do like that he sees Valse as a kind of sinister mastermind single-handedly manipulating the world into not buying his books (even the vast majority of it that doesn't care about the internet, as Michal pointed out). We should get you a swishy cloak.
at 08:14 on 19-02-2012, Michal
'Tis strange. It seems like Bakker's blamed the perceived unpopularity of his books (according to recent sales) on you. But this sort of thing rarely effects sales to any appreciable degree. I'm pretty sure most people who do read Bakker aren't really aware of his blog or the accusations of misogyny (or else just ignore both). And if Orson Scott Card can be a complete bigoted piece of shit time and time again on the internet and still sell just as many books as he always has, I don't see how a single blog post accusing him of misogyny is going to make his family starve. But I guess he's determined to paint himself as the victim here.
at 07:53 on 19-02-2012, valse de la lune
I read it as an attempt to further justify himself as the martyred victim of bullying, which is to say identical to some of his previous posts and then my eyes glazed over.

Bakker's meltdown may be simply embarrassing, but Peter Watts' vicarious defense of him is... something else. One-upping Bakker, at any rate, albeit with much fewer words.
at 05:49 on 19-02-2012, Frank
oh. and thanks for the heads up, Ibmiller. I'm almost done with The Magicians and will gladly stop there.
at 05:28 on 19-02-2012, Frank
It's neither a capitulation or an attack. It's just some unhealthy guy experiencing traits or a disorder of narcissistic personality (cluster B) and sharing his needy, grandiose, and empatheticless writings, or e-stink, to the world.

at 05:04 on 19-02-2012, Arthur B
Well, I realised Black Library do better Dark Eldar stories and the rest is history.
at 04:27 on 19-02-2012, Michal
What, the further adventures of the alien bodysnatching BDSM enthusiasts didn't entice you?
at 04:05 on 19-02-2012, Arthur B
Make that a trilogy.

I found the first book of the sequel series in a charity shop, bought it, had it sat on my shelf for some months, and then sold it again because I couldn't bring myself to care. I begin to think his japery on his blog is the first even moderately attention-grabbing writing he's done for years - for all the wrong reasons.
at 03:55 on 19-02-2012, Michal
Arthur, I think you're the only one here who's actually read a Bakker book cover to cover, and can therefore muster the will to care.

I haven't really followed the meltdown, so actually reading the link was...pretty bizarre. I'm kind of tickled by the thought of someone reading that without any context. Imagine if this was the first thing you ever read on Bakker's blog? "I'm e-stinky"? "I like the lay of your sausage, kid"?

The fuck?
at 01:52 on 19-02-2012, Arthur B
Possibly I'm the only person here who's still paying attention to RSB's really embarrassing meltdown (I imagine even valse is bored by now), but hey.

He's posted two new blog posts since the last one which deal more or less exclusively with the subject and the issues arising from it - which makes it six posts in a row - but I wanted to bring everyone's attention to this charming story, because I cannot work out whether it's meant to be a capitulation or some sort of really oblique attack and I'm hoping the hivemind will help me work it out.
at 23:04 on 18-02-2012, Michal
A fascinating article on fictional maps. Discussion of the neat-o map from the 1976 Russian edition of The Hobbit included.
at 02:18 on 18-02-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Trout is certainly an important source of omega-3 fatty acids and proteins.
at 02:03 on 18-02-2012, Arthur B
It kind of looks like "trout".
at 01:46 on 18-02-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
I have no idea what you might see in that line of letters. Whatsoever.