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 21:39 on 28-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Wait, alternate history? I should say something about this!

Even though I haven't read any of Jared Diamond's work, I do have a bit of an irrational prejudice against him. No good reason for it, other than the fact that my interpretations of history tend to the anthropocentric and the metaphysical while he's solidly empirical and ecologically focused. Still, his approach is useful when dealing with periods where there are no relevant records available.

As for his theory, I could buy it, but I always felt the major factors the America were "slow" to develop was the fact that, well, they were settled later than the rest of Eurasia by fewer people, and thanks to the warming after the Ice Age and human predation, there weren't as many species around that lent themselves to widespread domestication as existed in Europe, Asia, and Africa (which is another kick in the pants for agriculture, since if humans need crops, animals need more crops). There weren't even horses in the Americas until the Europeans imported them over, and in the Old World horses are the backbone of every major preindustrial civilization. I not saying development would never have occurred; humanity is way too tenacious to not exploit any possible resource to the limit. But it would have taken longer, because the Americas would be starting long after the Old World did, and would have to make do with fewer initial resources. Development along familiar lines certainly was occurring; there were mound-building cultures clustered along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and the Great Lakes that came and went in waves but were getting pretty centralized around the 1000-1500 AD period. And there were sophisticated societies in Peru and Mesoamerica, the latter of which was just starting to shift into the Bronze Age when colonization began. Still, if you wanted an Americas that could compete with Europe on equal technological terms, you would probably have to wait until the year 8000 or so.

As for Ms. Lyne's book, my snap judgement is that is feels a bit like premise overload (imagining an entire alternate species that uses "magic" that dwells in eastern North America is kind of a long way from the initial question of how indigenous populations could have met the colonization on an equal footing), and that in terms of sensitivity, replacing entire populations with aliens tailor-made to the requirements of the story may be the equivalent of vaulting over a pit of punji sticks, only to land on a claymore.

Now ask me about The Years of Rice and Salt!
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at 14:34 on 28-03-2012, Guy
Ah. According to the cached version: "Notice: The game is getting slammed! Please excuse the hiccups as I work to expand capacity... definitely wasn't expecting such a response by day 2, but am thrilled! :)"
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at 13:32 on 28-03-2012, Guy
Well, damn.
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at 13:23 on 28-03-2012, Rami
Link works for me...
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at 13:19 on 28-03-2012, Guy
Broken link? Or just me?
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at 11:15 on 28-03-2012, Wardog
I am currently enjoying Drawception far too much....
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at 10:26 on 28-03-2012, Guy
Diamond's theory is a bit smarter than that. I've read "G, G, & S" and liked it, and "Collapse", which I liked even more, although it's slow going. He has another one ("The Third Chimpanzee"?) which I haven't read.

Anyway, essentially, Diamond is trying to answer the question, why did people indigenous to the Eurasian continent militarily overwhelm people from the Americas in the C15th rather than vice versa? Why didn't boats from America arrive in Portugal loaded with Seminoles armed with guns & horses rather than the other way around? He's aiming for an explanation based on geographical and botanical principles rather than a "narrative of history" where events are caused by individual decisions - ie, it's not Columbus or Henry the Navigator, who are only proximate causes, it's the context they came from.

He covers all kinds of stuff in the book, some of which is disputed by other scholars, but the thing about N-S vs E-W axes is that in C15th Europe agriculture was much, much more productive than in the C15th Americas. And the short answer as to why is "wheat vs maize & potatoes". I found the stuff about the history of wheat extremely interesting; harvesting grasses with disproportionately large "seeds" didn't happen overnight.

Anyway, I don't have anything to say about SF&F inspired by his work, but I think it's an interesting book.
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at 08:35 on 28-03-2012, Arthur B
Jared's theory, as Lyle explains it, seems to hinge on the idea that Native American cultures didn't really vary along an east-west axis... so the chaps living in, say, Florida had a culture more or less the same as the occupants of pre-Colombian California. The fuck?

(It also implies that food is the only significant trade good, which is a whole other variety of WTF.)
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at 03:22 on 28-03-2012, Michal
This is why I think Jared Diamond can get stuffed. Because he's inspiring these kinds of alternate history novels.
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at 22:13 on 27-03-2012, Melissa G.
TIME I NEED TIME.


Dammit, Kyra, you need to cater to MY schedule here! I need reviews! I don't care what kind "life" and "responsibilities" you have!
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at 21:11 on 27-03-2012, Wardog
I really liked the books - although I might have partially misread / interpreted strangely some elements of them. And I thought the movie was ... okay. I keep meaning to write a review but TIME I NEED TIME.
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at 20:28 on 27-03-2012, Ibmiller
Well, I saw it. But I'm not sure if peeps elsewhere have...

I liked it better than the book (but that means little, since I didn't really like the book at all).
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at 20:16 on 27-03-2012, Melissa G.
Have we talked about The Hunger Games movie yet? Because I quite liked it. :3
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at 18:15 on 27-03-2012, James D
Maybe, but just leave He-Man alone. And Transformers. I'll be damned before I see anyone change it to Transformours: Automatons Incognito.
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at 18:07 on 27-03-2012, valse de la lune
Quite frankly, I suspect the US could only benefit from being recolonized. :p
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at 17:41 on 27-03-2012, Arthur B
From what I've heard, I don't think they have safewords... either because boundaries are for pussies OR because kinky urges come from a deep dark place in Cullen's psyche (because KINKY PEOPLE ARE WEIRD AND BROKEN RIGHT) so he doesn't bother with basis safety precautions.

...or because the author doesn't know the first thing about how this shit works IRL?
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at 17:24 on 27-03-2012, James D
I understand the safety word is "Greyskull".

It's "Grayskull" ya damn Brit! Stop trying to subtly recolonize American fantasy!
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at 16:58 on 27-03-2012, Wardog
From what I've heard, I don't think they have safewords... either because boundaries are for pussies OR because kinky urges come from a deep dark place in Cullen's psyche (because KINKY PEOPLE ARE WEIRD AND BROKEN RIGHT) so he doesn't bother with basis safety precautions.

Valse ... you tempt me so badly.

Dammit. I can resist anything etc.

GIMME :D
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at 16:34 on 27-03-2012, Arthur B
I understand the safety word is "Greyskull".
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at 16:30 on 27-03-2012, Michal
The fanfic was called "Master of the Universe"? Does that mean Christian/Cullen actually turns out to be He-Man?
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at 15:05 on 27-03-2012, valse de la lune
I'm rather baffled at the amount of people willing to defend this thing to the death. Why so serious, guys?

I don't suppose Ferretbrain'd like to review this? I can provide a copy.
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at 13:27 on 27-03-2012, Wardog
Yeah, my inner goddess was like totally freaking out when she read about 50 Shades....

In case anybody is interested there's a devastating review of the thing over at Dear Author which I reckon is probably more entertaining than the book itself, and a Turnitin analysis of Shades versus the piece of fanfic on which it totally isn't like at all...
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at 13:18 on 27-03-2012, Arthur B
I guess to some people "feminism" means "pretending you have an inner goddess because ascribing your reactions to yourself wouldn't be twee and special enough".
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at 13:12 on 27-03-2012, Wardog
Re: 50 Shades, I genuinely have NO IDEA who is reading this book because most of the commentary I've read has been from within the romance community who have all pretty much "this is shitty fanfic." And all the bewildered mainstream pieces have been "...guilty pornographic pleasures for yummy mummies" (wtf). Although I think there's, potentially, an argument to be made that some romances can be feminist for some people - I think 50 Shades needs to GET OFF MY SIDE, IT'S MAKING US LOOK BAD.
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