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 19:04 on 04-11-2013, Adrienne
James D: Yeah, the first time I read it I was maybe fifteen and had less awareness of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. Even so I found it largely boring. I really didn't want to reread it. (There is a guy involved. There usually is, for my stupider choices. I am at least self-aware enough to realize it.)

Having finished it, honestly, the thing that got me the most about it was the utter contempt for most of humanity that shone through everywhere -- even in the behavior of Smith. (Or, as a Facebook friend aptly calls him, Polyamorous Martian Jesus.) The sexism and the homophobia pissed me off a lot, but the dripping contempt for "marks" (and the relegation of most of humanity to the status of "marks") was the real nadir. (Tangentially, I mentioned in my previous post that Sturgeon's writing has a profound compassion for human beings -- even weird and creepy and downright broken ones. It suddenly strikes me that Heinlein is in many ways the anti-Sturgeon. If you are not an Ubermensch, Heinlein has no respect for you, and neither do any of his characters.)

I do have to say, though, that it takes a master of propaganda to do what Heinlein has done with Stranger, which is take a bunch of ideas i basically agree with and present them in a way that makes me want to vomit and/or scream. I am, in fact, polyamorous (although I in no way regard it as some sort of evolved moral state), and there are a number of things about the way that the Nesters run their affairs that strike me as idyllic and worth striving for. (Albeit not the screaming heteronormativity.) But it's so wrapped up in such a terrible creepy matrix of awful that I can't actually manage to be even sane about it, at least not at twelve hours' remove.

(I have started the reread of Shockwave Rider. I had to, to chase off the disgust and the incandescent fury.)
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at 18:54 on 04-11-2013, Adrienne
Janne -- The story you're thinking of is in fact by Ted Sturgeon; it's entitled "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?" It's a novella rather than a novel, and I confess to having a soft spot for it -- it's very readable, and Sturgeon has real compassion for weird-ass human beings that comes across in almost all his work. Plus, it really does blow most of the standard incest taboo reasoning out of the water in a charmingly direct way, and I love things that challenge people's preconceptions, even if they do it with a two-by-four.

(I have a degree in anthropology, and it pisses me off to no end when people spout the old canard that "incest is SOOOO GROSS that all cultures have an incest taboo." I mean, yes, they do, sort of? But it's a completely useless statement, like "all cultures eat food." The definition of "incest" is incredibly variable from culture to culture; in some cases it allows -- or even requires -- you to fuck someone you are closely related to, while disallowing you from fucking lots of people you are much LESS closely related to. You don't even have to go far afield for that -- the royal families of Europe have been a spectacularly good example for the bulk of the last millennium.)
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at 18:39 on 04-11-2013, Melanie
since I've heard Lazarus Long got busy with his mother, so I guess the man was comprehensive with his distractions.


You heard right! Time travel was involved. It would be glib to say he went back in time so he could get busy with his mother [while she was pregnant and couldn't conceive, because otherwise it would just be weird] but that's not far off. There was even one incident where they were going to possibly get busy, but they're interrupted by the child-aged Lazarus before they can.

There's also the bit where Lazarus was raised in some kind of eugenics commune where they sort of... bribed people to, to reproduce in accordance with their breeding program (they were trying to breed longer-lived humans, why do I remember all this).
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at 17:55 on 04-11-2013, James D
Yeah, I tried to read Stranger in a Strange land years ago and couldn't even finish it. The ridiculous attention paid to how AWESOME the Martian guy was at kissing, the ludicrously out-of-date "hip" dialog from the Heinlein stand-in guy, and the fucking boring & uninteresting story were just too much for me. I'm the type of reader who hates not finishing a book once I've started, and I can count the books I haven't finished on my fingers. Stranger in a Strange Land is my right thumb.

If you really want some decent Heinlein, Starship Troopers is entertaining as a character-driven war adventure story, provided you ignore the weird, fascist politics. If you read it as a guy just trying to make his way in a fucked-up militaristic WH40k-style dystopia, it works pretty well (at least I think, it's been 7 years). Also, it actually has a hispanic protagonist, so that's something.
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at 16:33 on 04-11-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Heinlein and incest was of course a thing and The Number is not, I understand, the worst of it. But it seems to have been a thing in sixties scifi. I read Dangerous Visions a while back, and there was this novel by Theodore Sturgeon, IIRC, that was about an utopic planet, which was ultra high-tech, rural and nice and also had no cancer or any other problems, because of incest. Weirdly there was no mention of Oedipal relations in the novel, but even for a "dangerous vision" which apparently no one else would publish, it was ridiculous. At the very least the cancer thing was hilarious, I mean, who knew! But are there a lot of others? Is this a thing with that bunch, Sexual revolution, yay? I suppose Heinlein should get a pass on the oedipal thing, since I've heard Lazarus Long got busy with his mother, so I guess the man was comprehensive with his distractions.
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at 11:46 on 04-11-2013, Arthur B
That particular one was just soul-crushing. It had the nipples as emotional barometers, weird incest vibes and what not, but the worst thing was that in addition, it was so boring, I just couldn't go on even to find out what the next stupid thing would be.

Yeah, that's what killed me before I got a fraction of the way into the book. It isn't even worth snagging a cheap second hand copy for the lols because it's just so deathly boring. It's sort of like Battlefield Earth in that sense.

I remember reading some good Heinlein from back in the day when he just wrote space adventure stories with slightly more hard SF sensibilities than most space adventure stories. But it's been ages since I've looked at my copies of Citizen of the Galaxy or Between Planets or whatever and it's entirely possible there's horrifying shit I've forgotten. Still, they were at least readable.
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at 11:30 on 04-11-2013, Adrienne
I have avoided most of his work very deliberately. I'd read Stranger, years ago; I've also read The Number of the Beast, Job, and several of his short stories. Of all of it, a few of his earlier short stories are the only things i can really tolerate.

And of course the most infuriating thing about his oeuvre, to me personally, is the astonishing number of people who crawl out of the woodwork to insist that he wasn't sexist or racist at ALL, no REALLY!
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at 11:29 on 04-11-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Gnomes? Please, Janne, this is science fiction.

B-b-b-but they're real? Oh, yeah science fiction. I should not go blabbering about secrets.

It could be The Number of the Beast, with its facile, ridiculous cosmology

A few years ago I decided to try and read something from Heinlein, since he was considered such an important figure in the genre and I had never done so. I didn't really do anything to find out what to read, so when I stumbled on <en>The Number of The Beast in a flea market, I just thought that it was a bit of a silly name but showed some promise. I haven't tried reading Heinlein after that anymore. I suppose he has some good books? That particular one was just soul-crushing. It had the nipples as emotional barometers, weird incest vibes and what not, but the worst thing was that in addition, it was so boring, I just couldn't go on even to find out what the next stupid thing would be.
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at 10:49 on 04-11-2013, Arthur B
It could be worse. It could be Farnham's Freehold, with its fear of a black planet and the wittering about "lifeboat rules" (which translate to "in a survivalist situation you need a violent strongman dictator running the show")! It could be The Number of the Beast, with its facile, ridiculous cosmology and its characters whose emotional states are tracked based on their hyperactive nipples! It could be Time Enough For Love, in which the immortal Lazarus Long adopts a small child so that when she gets old enough she can marry him! It could be To Sail Beyond the Sunset, in which Lazarus Long's mother has a really alarming parent/child incest fetish running through her entire life!

Early Heinlein was enough of a minefield but from Stranger on his bibliography becomes this absolutely bizarre disaster area, I don't envy you the experience of revisiting.
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at 08:53 on 04-11-2013, Adrienne
Arthur B: Yeah, that'd be the one. Trust me, I would NOT have picked it up again if not for having someone specifically request that I do. Really at this point I am only getting through it by bribing myself with promises of John Brunner.
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at 03:35 on 04-11-2013, Arthur B
Ah yes, Stranger In a Strange Land: also known as Whaddya Mean You Girls Won't Have a Threesome With Me, Are You Prudes Or Squares Or Something, I Thought We Were Meant To Be All Liberated Now Thanks To The Pill, Need I Remind You That I Am Robert Heinlein?
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at 22:46 on 03-11-2013, Adrienne
In other news, I'm rereading Stranger in a Strange Land (at someone's specific request, not because I actually wanted to). And it's a good thing I'm reading an ebook, because I'd've thrown it across the room several times by now if I were reading a paper copy. Seriously, SMH.

I am planning to reread Shockwave Rider immediately afterward as a palate-cleanser, to remind myself that there were SF authors in the 60s and 70s who were NOT reactionary, sexist, gender-essentialist assholes. In the process I'll make notes for the review of said novel that I threatened Arthur B with ages ago, and write it and send it to Kyra. :)
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at 16:55 on 03-11-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Gnomes? Please, Janne, this is science fiction.

It's very. serious.
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at 11:35 on 03-11-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Given how Truman is also a member of the financial Illuminati that rule the Earth (who include amongst their number a 500-pound Samoan, a luchadore, Emperor Palpatine, and a 2500-year-old devotee of Set)

Are the Swiss bank gnomes a part of illuminati as well!?
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at 00:39 on 03-11-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
In the post-War economy it would have been a wasteful extravagance when the Washington DC Masonic Temple has a perfectly good sex dungeon.

That actually shows up in the comic too. Given how Truman is also a member of the financial Illuminati that rule the Earth (who include amongst their number a 500-pound Samoan, a luchadore, Emperor Palpatine, and a 2500-year-old devotee of Set), he probably figured he could have two.

One of the best things about this comic is that I don't have to make anything up to get across how nuts it is.
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at 00:08 on 03-11-2013, Arthur B
In the post-War economy it would have been a wasteful extravagance when the Washington DC Masonic Temple has a perfectly good sex dungeon.
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at 00:03 on 03-11-2013, Michal
...Harry Truman converting the Oval Office into a Masonic sex dungeon...


You mean this didn't actually happen?
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at 22:49 on 02-11-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I knew it had to happen: I finally managed to find a nutso alternate history story that didn't make me cringe.

It's Johnathan Hickman's current continuing comic series The Manhattan Projects, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. Part of the appeal is seeing what crazy new shit is going to go down, like, say, with Harry Truman converting the Oval Office into a Masonic sex dungeon, but it also continues Hickman's interest in the uncomfortable relationship scientific progress has with personal ambition and society as a whole.

It's also convinced me that Oppenheimer is the most terrifying man who ever lived.
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at 02:09 on 01-11-2013, Alice
Also, something funny for Adrienne: animals being jerks gif series (4th of 4, with links to the previous 3 parts). And I hope things are/feel better soon!
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at 02:04 on 01-11-2013, Alice
Re: Sleepy Hollow

Doesn't really have much to do with the original Washington Irving that I can see, but oh well.


I noticed this too, though I suppose Tim Burton's version didn't either (at least thematically), and I quite enjoyed that one as well. Though I do find it interesting that modern adaptations all seem to have (deliberately, one assumes) reversed the "there is nothing supernatural going on" of the original story. Then again, I suppose "Ichabod Crane's romantic rival scares him off by pretending to be a headless horseman" wouldn't make for a very interesting film/tv show/whatever.

As for the current adaptation, I enjoy it overall - love Abbie, love Jenny, love the diversity of the cast, love Ichabod's transference of hero-worship from General Washington to "Leftenant" Mills, very much enjoy the "Ichabod adapts to modernity" stuff...

But the level of research in the show seems to be at the level of "the writers have read the first paragraph of a few Wikipedia articles" (oh God, the Roanoke episode!), and there's been some pretty cringeworthy racial stuff (~evil gypsy witch~ in the second or third episode, faily representation of Native Americans the episode after that) which seems at odds with the casting/characterisation otherwise.

So I'm hoping those two things will improve over the course of the series, because I'd really like to wholeheartedly love the show, but as it is I'm not quite able to.
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at 00:02 on 01-11-2013, Robinson L
Adrienne: Oh, i love Tim Zahn! His stuff is usually good fluffy fun! Where's the story?

So do I, for similar reasons. I've been reading it in a collection of novellas and short stories called "Star Song and Other Stories." I just finished it about an hour ago, and I'm not actually too impressed by it - it was okay, but it didn't wow me.

(I actually met him once, too, at a con several years back. He's a very nice man.)

Cool. I have not met him (9 Worlds was only my second con ever), but I've heard/read several interviews of him, and he does sound like a very nice man.
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at 22:38 on 31-10-2013, Adrienne
Robinson L: Oh, i love Tim Zahn! His stuff is usually good fluffy fun! Where's the story?

(I actually met him once, too, at a con several years back. He's a very nice man.)
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at 22:30 on 31-10-2013, Bookwyrm
I hate the world today. Someone tell me something nice, or funny, or uplifting, please?

Well when I hate life, this video puts me in a good mood.

Also Happy Halloween everybody.
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