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 21:13 on 17-03-2016, Ichneumon
@Arthur: I need to finish something that I could either use as an example in my argument, or simply mention in passing. I cannot do that at the moment.

That was excessively cryptic, but it will make sense later.
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at 09:35 on 17-03-2016, Jamie Johnston
@Alice: I like the 'Ancillary' books a lot and am maybe just being a bit defensive about them, but I feel like that review is mainly criticising 'Ancillary Justice' for not doing things that it has no interest in doing (and that, by Allan's own account, other people have already done anyway). Like, I don't think the reader is meant to spend much time grappling with whether conquering planets or turning people into ancillaries or having rigid class hierarchies are Good Things or Bad Things: the starting-point is that we all agree they're bad, and the point of interest is what is it that enables Breq to recognize and act on that when other people don't?

And yes I can see the potential in a story about a human who gets turned into a computer but remains psychologically the same person, but that would defeat the psychological point of 'Ancillary Justice' -- which is to explore what it's like to be a sentient and intelligent being who doesn't think of themself as human or as having inherent value because nobody else does, and who has enormous understanding of and consideration for other people's emotions and thoughts while being so alienated from their own humanity that they don't really recognize that they have any emotions of their own or that anyone else has any about them.

I think the thing about the other characters being flat is again a bit of a misunderstanding. It has some truth, but also I don't think it properly takes into account that we encounter the other characters through a quasi-omniscient first-person narrator whose ability to interpret and understand them is limited and distorted in certain ways -- so you have to do some reading between the lines to find the parts of their personalities that Breq misses or misunderstands.
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at 08:33 on 17-03-2016, Arthur B
Why would that require you to wait to do something important?
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at 04:52 on 17-03-2016, Ichneumon
...I just had quite an article idea, but I think that I am going to have to wait until I do something important to actually write it; to whit, the subject, while not *particularly* controversial, may be amusingly contentious for some folks here.
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at 11:23 on 16-03-2016, Alice
@Jamie: That does look shiny, thanks for sharing!

And speaking of shiny things, I've just finished Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice (gender and AI and consciousness, oh my!) and am about to start the sequel, Ancillary Sword. From the number of prizes the first book won, I can only imagine most of you heard of it well before I did, but I'm a fairly haphazard reader of sff, so I've only recently come across it.

I enjoyed it a lot, though I definitely take the criticisms expressed in this review on board. (Though again, being a haphazard reader of sff, I didn't have the same sense of making comparisons to other sff works that deal with the same themes while reading the book: I still buy the criticisms, though.)
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at 10:48 on 16-03-2016, Shim
I think it's a good idea, previously as so many of us are inclined to long-therefore-none writing. It could keep things flowing and be less intimidating for new people.

One thing I don't know is what that content might look like... interested to see what emerges.

I am currently working on an article where I am entirely positive about something (I know, who are you and what have you done with the real Shim), but it's long.
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at 10:23 on 16-03-2016, Arthur B
I, for one, am a font of concise, dubious opinions on things nobody else cares about. Ask away.

/watches editor at ferretbrain dot com inbox avidly...

In all seriousness, though, we must be careful to avoid turning this into Hot Take Theatre. We're not Vice columnists, nor should we aspire to be.

I think the last thing anyone wants is for this place to become a farm for #content.
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at 08:49 on 16-03-2016, Jamie Johnston
Here's a shiny thing: Spooky action at a distance is a new review blog with an interesting premise and an interesting format. The premise is that interactive fiction (as a medium) and sci-fi / fantasy (as a genre cluster) have a lot to say to each other but those conversations aren't happening much at the moment. The format is that Cat Manning, who writes IF (some of which I've played and can recommend), recommends narrative games to Arkady Martine, and Arkady, who writes SFF, recommends non-interactive SFF works to Cat; then each picks something the other has recommended and reviews it.
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at 04:28 on 16-03-2016, Ichneumon
I, for one, am a font of concise, dubious opinions on things nobody else cares about. Ask away.

(In all seriousness, though, we must be careful to avoid turning this into Hot Take Theatre. We're not Vice columnists, nor should we aspire to be. That said, if this can be done well, it could be fun.)
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at 15:01 on 15-03-2016, Robinson L
I fear I may be an irredeemable write-at-great-length-or-not-at-all sort of person (mainly on the not-at-all side in recent years, because of lacking time / energy to write-at-great-length).

I fear I may be an irredeemable write-at-great-length-or-not-at-all sort of person (mainly on the not-at-all side in recent years, because of lacking time / energy to write-at-great-length).
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at 15:38 on 13-03-2016, Arthur B
That'd be a good way to expedite publishing a FerretNibble pile if there's something time-critical in there.
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at 11:41 on 13-03-2016, Jamie Johnston
A slight variant of the idea (though I'm not sure whether this would make it more or less work for you) would be to have a sort of semi-regular round-up / digest, which could include nibbles never before seen but could also mention and link to or collate other notable recent stuff from the site, such as already-posted articles that have generated interesting discussion in the comments, substantial recent playpen conversations, unusual events (like if there were a new podcast or something). That would give more flexibility on timing than if you had to wait for a sufficient number of nibbles alone, and might also encourage the idea that there don't have to be rigid boundaries between different types of content and something that starts as one thing can turn into another.

Having typed it out, though, I now suspect that would be quite a bit more work for perhaps not much more benefit.

Whatever the exact format, there's no harm in having a go with something new to encourage more / different contributions. No doubt it would develop over time. I'd certainly have a go at writing the odd nibble, though I fear I may be an irredeemable write-at-great-length-or-not-at-all sort of person (mainly on the not-at-all side in recent years, because of lacking time / energy to write-at-great-length).
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at 22:51 on 12-03-2016, Arthur B
Typically, though if people have an idea for something topical/time-sensitive I could see what could be done to ensure it came out in a broadly timely manner (or just run it as a brief article if it's especially time-critical).
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at 21:57 on 12-03-2016, Alice
Seconding support for the FerretNibble idea! Would the idea be that people submit mini-articles as inspired, and you wait till you have enough to fill out an article slot, Arthur? (i.e. perhaps not anything too topical/time-sensitive?)
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at 11:14 on 11-03-2016, Arthur B
Yeah, I've been trying to post a few shorter ones (like today's Earth vs. the Flying Saucers review) to try and counter that impression but having a way to encourage which takes up less than a couple of sides of A4 but is longer than the typical PlayPen post would probably help too.
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at 03:21 on 11-03-2016, James D
Whaddya think, guys?

Sounds like a good idea. "Articles" have kind of been typecast at this point as being lengthy and rigorous looks at big serious things, so something between that and random conversation in the Playpen could be a good venue for things that don't quite fit either extreme.
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at 10:38 on 09-03-2016, Arthur B
When I first heard about this weird Pottermore worldbuilding project I thought that at best it would be kind of pointless. Rowling transparently didn't think through how wizarding society works and what its origins are on a global scale for Harry Potter, and for a series revolving around one particular school that's fine, just as you don't need to research traditional Native American educational methods for a school story set in a mundane school. Going back after the series was done and trying to retcon in a global wizarding society that barely existed save for some Quiddich teams and a few visitors during Goblet of Fire was always, at best, a doomed attempt to build more rigorous worldbuilding on foundations that didn't really support it.

The fact that the earlier bits seemed to assume that magic worked in every culture more or less exactly the same way (and in a way which riffed on very European assumptions about magic to boot) only increased my uneasiness. I am unsurprised that disaster has unfolded.
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at 08:30 on 09-03-2016, Shim
I'd gradually adjusted my thinking again, so that JK Rowling (having gone from "fun children's author" to "overrated, self-important, desperately-in-need-of-editing-children's auteur") was someone I vaguely respected for speaking out on issues and trying to forge a non-Potter writing career with reasonable success.

And now she's crapped all over Native Americans so I'm back to scratch here.
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at 12:50 on 08-03-2016, Arthur B
Oh, and one more thing: if you'd prefer to post stuff to the Playpen even though it's of a length where it could conceivably be a suitable FerretNibble, you should go right ahead and do it - this is an additional option, not a replacement.
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at 12:43 on 08-03-2016, Arthur B
I've had an idea for a new feature on the site. I don't know about you guys, but sometimes I come across something where I want to talk about it, but I find my thoughts on it don't quite extend to what I would consider to be a full article but are a bit too long-winded for a PlayPen post.

So, here's my idea: FerretNibbles, compilations of micro-articles consisting of short reviews, rants, observations, and any other little bits and pieces that people would like to bring to the attention of the Ferretbrain audience but which they aren't sure would make decent standalone articles by themselves.

Some guidelines:
- Submissions should go to the editorial e-mail address, as usual - editor at ferretbrain dot com. Remember to mention what your Ferretbrain username is so you can be properly credited. (If you don't have one because you've been OpenIDing in, I can set one up for you.)
- All the existing submissions guidelines apply, including the legal stuff.
- The article itself will usually - unless it solely consists of microreviews from one contribitor - be credited to "Ferretbrain Contributors"; your credit in the article will have a link back to your profile, but it won't appear in your article list. Rami and I may be able to do something technically fancy that would allow microreview contributions to appear in your profile and to automate the process a bit, but this is a solution I can implement straight away.
- In some cases, I might come back to you and suggest that a piece is substantial enough to be its own article and work with you to get it published that way if you're cool with that.
- If, on the other hand, I accept your contribution as a micro-article, I reserve the right to make edits for spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting without getting final approval from you, simply to make the process of putting together a micro-article compilation easier for me.

In terms of what is and isn't appropriate for a micro-article:
- If you're just bringing a funny link to people's attention or tossing out something which you can sum up in a couple of short paragraphs, it might be better for the Playpen.
- If you are responding to something in an article or the Playpen, it'd usually be better just to post that response in the Playpen or the article comments section. If your response is approaching the length of a full-length article, it may be worth considering submitting it as a spin-off article, though typically I'd want such a thing to be able to stand on its own rather than constantly referencing the to-and-fro of a conversation on a previous article's comments section. ("Here is an article where I muse on stuff this conversation made me think about" is great; "Here is an article where I go through someone's argument line by line and tell them they are wrong" just needlessly divides the conversation.)

Whaddya think, guys?
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at 16:01 on 06-03-2016, Ichneumon
I've personally stayed out of this because I'm still yet to see this film and doubt I could meaningfully contribute without either that or a sufficient refresher on the series as a whole. The discussion of alternate Force traditions intrigues me, however, and I would be interest to see what the new team does with that opportunity.

On an entirely different note, have some Ligotti-related articles from The LA Review of Books and Tablet, both of which are conceptually intriguing for entirely different reasons.
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at 21:10 on 03-03-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
Sorry I haven't participated in this very interesting discussion for a while, since I've been busy and it is quite convoluted to say the least. But a few most likely final thoughts:

-Comparing the Force to actual religions might be a bit futile, since it doesn't seem that there is enough consistent information to go around and what there is doesn't seem to have the necessary details or vocabulary to make comparisons which are anything more than vague (although still fun) and of course there is the big difference that the force is a much more concrete influence on the world, unlike, arguably, our religions do in this galaxy. Although discussing Star Wars and its belief systems has this meta-level of religiousness in it.

-All that said and done, it does seem to have a more panteistic and natural vibe, which does separate it from religions with more of an emphasis on personal gods, which has a more eastern, rather than semitic feeling to it. But that is noly the impression I get. I guess with connection to Jedi-stuff, the difference is whether you see it as some sudden revelation, Kung Fu Panda style, or a gradual awakening requiring practice. And since we don't really know the motivations or capabilities of General Organa, or really, how the force is supposed to function, we'll just have to hope that they'll bother to revisit this point in future installations of the franchise.
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at 06:30 on 01-03-2016, Robinson L
@Axiomatic: Wow, and I thought my knowledge of Star Wars esoterica was pretty thorough, but I only recognized like, one or two of those traditions. You do realize though, that with the exception of the Dathomir Witches, their canonicty has been rendered nil, or is at least in serious question, as per April 2014.
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at 16:27 on 27-02-2016, Arthur B
I would have said that, per the OT at least, the Force and the Jedi seem to be deliberate stand-ins for spirituality. If you take an empiricist, IU approach to the Force, you can get the position you describe, but I think the films clearly present the Force in a spiritual light.

Sorry, I wasn't putting my point very well (obviously taking an empiricist approach to the Force would be rubbish, that's how we got midichlorians), but you've hit on a better way to express it there. The Force is about spirituality, but I'm sure we all know tons of people who would describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious". It is possible to express spirituality without being part of any organised religion, and that's how I think a lot of people in the Star Wars universe may end up using the Force without ever realising that they are doing it.

If nothing else, we see in The Force Awakens that Leia is able to sense Han's death from millions of miles away. So to say she doesn't use the Force is actively incorrect - perceiving things that are happening far away from you is using the Force. (Obi-Wan feels the destruction of Alderaan like a punch in the gut; it doesn't register with Luke.) At the same time, it doesn't seem like Leia's sensitivity in this instance comes down to formalised training so much as it's a factor of her love for Han making her especially sensitive to his presence in the Force.

(Hypothesis: the Jedi were big on forbidding love to padawans because love makes you feel your beloved's presence in the Force especially strongly whilst drowning out other presences, so a Jedi in love might find that they couldn't sense a Sith sneaking up behind them because they were too distracted by their beloved stubbing a toe on the other side of the galaxy. One of the reasons that Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Luke all found it useful to go hermit was because the more a Jedi interacts with society, the more attachment they have, and the more attachment they have the more dangerously fallible their Force powers are.)
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