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 03:48 on 21-03-2012, Michal
I'm a bit concerned by the von Daniken connection to Prometheus, but otherwise, it looks rather nice (I read The Chariots of the Gods in Elementary School and even back then I thought it was flipping ridiculous). A Alien prequel that invalidates everything after Aliens by its sheer existence can only be a good thing. Also, Space Jockies.

I was secretly quite intrigued by the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer, though I should know better!

Hmm, my reaction was DO NOT WANNNNNNNT.
at 01:07 on 21-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj

Well, I think I've found the one big movie I'm going to see this year.
at 22:00 on 20-03-2012, Wardog
I think it's going to be the summer of the Brothers Grimdark - there seems to be dark man dark retellings of fairy-stories coming out of the walls. I was secretly quite intrigued by the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer, though I should know better!
at 21:00 on 20-03-2012, Robinson L
Ibmiller: David Farland = Dave Wolverton?

Yes, that's him. Juneau uses both names to refer to him in the update to that execrable post explaining his "philosophy" of writing female characters.

Courtship is so bad it took Aaron Allston three books to make it even semi-interesting (and as someone who read it after Allston's prequels, it was an extreme letdown).

Well, it's been quite a while since I read either. I suppose I should remedy that fairly soon. I really enjoyed Han's showdown with Zsinj at the end, and Luke single-handedly piloting, copiloting, and operating the quad-guns for the Falcon a little earlier. The rest I could probably go either way on.
at 15:45 on 20-03-2012, Guy
@Alasdair, I think we have very different ideas about what "very diplomatic" means! Still, very astute comments by Moore, especially about the problems with Voyager. Fairly prescient about the problems with Enterprise, too, despite it not even existing at that point.

However, while reading it I kept thinking, boy this is a smart guy, he understands about the importance of not breaking an audience's trust, not fobbing them off with stuff that doesn't make sense, that isn't true to your premise; they could have used some of his advice over at Battlestar Galactica during its precipitous plunge in quality somewhere in the middle of season 2... oh, right. This is the man responsible for the "story doesn't matter, only character matters" philosophy that turned that series into a soup of contextless melodrama. Pity.
at 05:27 on 20-03-2012, Ibmiller
RobinsonL: David Farland = Dave Wolverton? Oh, dear. I think he certainly does fit Axiomatic's description of someone so bad they fail just by sucking. Courtship is so bad it took Aaron Allston three books to make it even semi-interesting (and as someone who read it after Allston's prequels, it was an extreme letdown).

Plus, in his "regular" fantasy short stories I've read, he continues on with his rather vanilla gender/society obsessions. Like, exactly the same without the lightsabers.
at 00:27 on 20-03-2012, Arthur B
That stuff he says about Voyager not remotely following through on its own premise is fantastic, I've been saying more or less the same thing for years.
at 21:15 on 19-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Stumbled onto this the other day: an o-o-o-o-ld interview done with Ron Moore around the year 2000 about his brief experience working on Star Trek: Voyager. He's very diplomatic about everything, but he manages to confirm a whole lot of what everyone suspected. He also manages to predict why Enterprise would suck too.

Man, the more I hear about the behind-the-scenes stuff, the more it seems like Voyager was just a death ship. It certainly explains why the episode compendium had almost no commentary on the process behind the making of the show in it.
at 06:13 on 17-03-2012, Axiomatic
Yeah, when I saw that, my first thought was, Someone's made a terrible imitation of a Tim Burton movie, and it's TIM BURTON!

Also, re: Juneau

"But through this, I figured out why there's so much argument. Too much emotions. Just like with racism."

at 02:33 on 17-03-2012, Arthur B
Someone made a hilarious parody trailer for Tim Burton's remake of Dark Shadows and they've really nailed Burton's tired-out aesthetic, worn-out ideas, and general lurch into being a total parody of himse- oh wait, that's the real trailer.
at 01:57 on 17-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Oh, hey, and some people with too much time on their hands made a map of Panem from The Hunger Games!

Now, I never read the books, so forgive my ignorance, but was it mentioned at any point that Panem was founded by Vladimir Tatlin? Because, in all honesty, that map implies to me that the books are set in a world where the United States was conquered, destroyed, and rebuilt by a cabal of immortal Russian Constructivists (which, come to think of it, would be a pretty awesome premise for a novel).
at 01:27 on 17-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Wow, I never thought this would ever be released in North America.

Probably should explain, shouldn't I? A few years back, I found out about The Company of the Dead though, and I was so intrigued with the premise that I had to read it. Naturally, while it'd won a few awards in Australia, there was no news of it ever coming out overseas, so I had to shake down a copy from an Australian bookstore.

To summarize briefly, everything gets set into motion by an American neurologist who gets shanghaied into some research work on a damaged time machine excavated out in the Nevada desert. Naturally, he ends up getting sucked back in time to the 1900s, and with no way back, he decides he's going to dedicate his life to fixing the 20th century up. Unfortunately, he only gets as far as 1912 before he dies on the Titanic, but he does make a few critical changes. The bulk of the book is set in an altered version of 2012, when the planet has been divided for decades by the armed standoff between the world-spanning empires/alliance systems of Hohenzollern Germany and Showa Japan, and where America itself has split into two nations permanently divided by the cold war. As for the plot, the book is a spy caper/thriller involving a bunch of Americans (including an alternate Kennedy scion) trying to come up with a way to avert the coming apocalyptic war between the superpowers through a search for that buried time machine.

Now, I read this years ago, and I kind of liked it then, but I do have to admit that the criticisms on that Tor page are on base. It's bloody long, but it's thriller-style so it usually doesn't feel like a slog. (The author mentioned that it originally started out as a short story he worked on for years that just snowballed, and it really does show.) When I read it, I always got the feeling that while it was a thriller at heart, it had some aspirations towards "art" that it was never quite brave enough to follow through on. It's really a book that's more for enthusiastic teenagers that older people.

That said, I do remember it fondly. Some of the allohistorical speculation amusingly out-there (particularly the idea about a seperatist Texas convincing a fair chunk of the other southern states to leave the union with it by wrapping itself in the mantle of the Confederacy), and I am a sucker for any premise that involves a German victory in WWI. (I still don't know why more people don't use this idea; Nazi victories are so overplayed, and letting Wilhelmite Germany win means you could get a pretty strange alternate version of Europe that would probably be more enduring than anything the Third Reich could've done.) And, yes, even the thriller bits are kind of fun.

Oh, and the original site built to promote the book is still up after all these years.
at 01:05 on 17-03-2012, Melissa G.
Oops, I formatted that wrong. O.o My bad.
at 01:00 on 17-03-2012, Melissa G.
>but I don't know what the appeal for women (mostly because the vast majority of this stuff seems to be male-to-female

My guess would be that because almost all the complex and interesting characters tend to be male while female characters are often tokenesque and under developed, that girls like to swap the genders around to see themselves better represented. In a sort of, "Why couldn't this character have been a girl" kind of way.
at 00:48 on 17-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Awww - look gender-swapped Harry Potter! Part one and part 2. Hot sneering girl Draco is particularly delightful.

Wait...Rule 63 drawings that don't give you an overpowering need to bathe in Lysol? What madness is this?

Still, having encountered stuff like this in the past, it does leave me wondering. I can figure out the male motivations for creating/viewing this sort of material easy enough (curiosity, fetish, control, what have you), but I don't know what the appeal for women (mostly because the vast majority of this stuff seems to be male-to-female, rather than an equal split between the two).

Finally, on a tangentially related note, I thought this picture of a dragonified Isaac Clarke from Dead Space was pretty sweet. It's a dragon in an EVA suit; what more could you want?
at 00:36 on 17-03-2012, Michal
Juneau wrote something about rape.

Ow. My eyes.

This looked like just another unpublished-author-gives-advice-to-other-unpublished-authors-on-how-to-stay-unpublished blog, but... this...? :-/

Am not going to waste breath on 'im. Not worth it.
at 21:13 on 16-03-2012, Arthur B
Oh god he uses the Devil's Advocate excuse.

Sometimes, I really wish the Catholic Church had decided to call the person responsible for calling a prospective Saint's claims to saintliness into question (before then grovelling and apologising to the Saint should they be canonised) as the Pretentious and Aggravating Arsehole Who Should Be Fucking Ignored Forever. Then people would stop claiming to do that.
at 21:01 on 16-03-2012, James D
Holy shit. That is one of the most offensive things I've ever read. I can only imagine how angry a rape victim would be after reading that. I'll hold this Juneau guy while you work him over, valse.
at 20:40 on 16-03-2012, valse de la lune
Wait wait wait.

Juneau wrote something about rape.

It is rock-bottom horrific and this man has a daughter. Extreme trigger warnings.
at 19:00 on 16-03-2012, James D
Honestly the fact that it was written by an (apparently) relatively successful shlock fantasy writer makes a lot more sense. He's not telling aspiring authors how to write *good* female characters, he's telling them how to mass-produce female-like characters that will satisfy readers and publishers of fantasy shlock. Not that that excuses him of misogyny, but it's more a symptom of the industry and readership than just him being a dickbag.
at 18:51 on 16-03-2012, valse de la lune
Juneau takes what a bunch of women supposedly said as god's own truth and--contrary to his stated aim to lecture the world that women! are all! different! come in many shapes and sizes!!!--sets up rigid definitions of womanhood. He makes the errors of interpreting anecdotes as absolutes, and anecdotes were probably all that they were meant to be. He doesn't think women are people with vastly differing ideas, he thinks we're a hivemind.

Having said that, I wouldn't be happy with hearing those things from women either, like "I think 99.9% of all women are bitchy-some more so than others of course" or "Females are nurturers. Men are fixers [...] When a woman lays out a problem, often she is not asking for it to be fixed, but is asking for sympathy" or "One last thing: women have a tendency to be passive aggressive." Indeed, were I interacting with women who say such things--again, assuming these women exist--I'd have told them to fuck right off, because these are stated as absolutes and reek of internalized misogyny. That's not even getting started on the repulsive heteronormativity in several of them.

On the other hand, things like this strike me as an anecdote about men being sexist fucks than a "this is how to write women":

I once told a male friend that while some men may have a constant sex drive, for women who are tuned in to their bodies and their husbands, ovulation can be like mating season. I swear I could see the mental wheels turning as he plotted to go home and figure out how to track his wife's cycle and take advantage of it.

My final point is that women are extremely sensitive, insecure about their looks, and slow to forgive and forget when someone makes us feel unattractive, stupid, masculine, or any other undesirable thing. I was a late bloomer and I still remember every person that teased me about my flat chest. I remember when I hit a growth spurt and a man told me I was getting "big". (I was 15...wrong word!) I remember the male coworker that told me I had big hands, and the boy in high school who told me my butt was getting jiggly after the end of basketball season (and I wasn't exercising enough, apparently).

...and interpreting it as "this is how women are, so write women like so" speaks of obliviousness whose level cannot be measured in either words or numbers.
at 18:30 on 16-03-2012, Robinson L
Re: Eric Juneau's Twisted Philosophy on Writing Women

The first part read to me like a guy with a fairly reasonable outlook and a fairly immature grasp of feminist issues which might conceivably improve with guidance (aside from the occasional tasteless joke, I could imagine my younger self writing something quite similar).

... and then the bullet list. After about point three, I'm sitting their with my mouth hanging open thinking 'Are you SHITTING me?' And the it gets worse. So much worse.

Girls are stupid, women are smart. Teenage girls think about boys and sex a lot.

Okay, you know what, fuck you. That's my sisters you're talking about right there; and most of my best friends, not too long ago. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

James D: You know who I'd take advice on writing female chararacters from? A fucking female author. I hear those exist now.

I see nothing wrong in taking some advice on writing female characters from a male author. Taking most-to-all of your advice from a male author? That's another story.

I'm not sure when he posted it, but Juneau has added an update clarifying that 1) it's Farland's list, not his (so why the fuck are you hosting it unless you endorse it?), and 2) Farland "is directly quoting other women."

The post Juneau "condensed and simplified" most of his bullet points from is available here. To me, the fact that the context of these women's remarks makes a huge difference in interpretation. (Contrast: "I am told by older female friends that menopause is very freeing, because they don't experience the emotional ups and downs that younger women do" from the original with Juneau's "condensed and simplified": "Menopause can be very freeing, because they won't have the emotional ups and downs.") I haven't been through all of Farland's post yet, but what I'm seeing so far strikes me as much less problematic. Do other folks here agree, or is there something I'm still missing?

Re: David Farland
Axiomatic: He's one of the worst fantasy authors I know. He doesn't even have the benefit of sucking due to being exceptionally offensive, he is just REALLY, REALLY bad at writing.

Oh, huh. It's been a while since I read Courtship of Princess Leia but I remember quite enjoying it, despite all the dodgy gender stuff. Hmm.
at 16:18 on 16-03-2012, Axiomatic
Ye gods, the "other author" whose tips this guy is using? It's DAVID FARLAND.

He's one of the worst fantasy authors I know. He doesn't even have the beneift of sucking due to being exceptionally offensive, he is just REALLY, REALLY bad at writing.

No wonder I bought his "something something Runelords" for 2.99 euros. I don't mean used, or having it marked down by the store, this book was published with "ONLY 2.99!!!" on the FRONT COVER.
at 16:03 on 16-03-2012, James D
Yeah, I get he was supposed to be the 'untried youth' type of character, but in order for those sorts to not be frustrating, you have to really like them and their bumbling has to culminate in an eventual success at *something*, and that usually parallels their maturing into adults. Dill wasn't bad at the start, but we never had much reason to like him; he never had a clear motivation, except maybe wanting to walk in his father's footsteps and become a heroic Archon (but that's never really emphasized). Anyway all his sucking just culminated in
getting his ass killed, then getting resurrected, then doing absolutely nothing important for the rest of the book.

Anyway the whole notion of a "how to write a non-straight/white/cismale character" article is flawed at the outset, unless the thrust of it is "how to write about people whose life experiences are very, very different from yours can't be summed up in a brief blog post, read books written by them and ask people you know who belong to these groups (and take them out to dinner to make your incessant stupid questions worth their while)."