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 08:46 on 17-07-2014, James D
Even though Howard and Lovecraft were far more influential, I personally much prefer Smith's stories. Conan I don't care much for, and a lot of Lovecraft's stories are kind of underdeveloped, or not executed as well as they could've been. Smith comes across much more self-assured and is just plain more interesting.
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at 15:11 on 16-07-2014, Arthur B
Clark Ashton Smith died much later than Howard or Lovecraft and so his stuff isn't yet in the public domain. That said, The Eldritch Dark keep his stuff available online with the blessing of Arkham House and CAS's estate. Wikipedia has a useful listing of the Zothique stories with links to the Eldritch Dark entries.

Not quite as convenient as an e-book, but it's the best I can do bar posting my CAS collection to you.
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at 14:22 on 16-07-2014, Shimmin
I am seized with a desire to read the Zothique stories of Clark Ashton Smith. Does anyone know where I can actually find the blighters? So far I haven't been able to find out clear information about what books they might appear in, and so on. If at all possible I'm looking for an e-book, not least because getting hold of second-hand books in English ain't likely where I am. As far as I can tell the Ballantine Zothique isn't e-ified.
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at 16:26 on 14-07-2014, Rami
Rare appearance to say: I think fuligin has just been developed.
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at 09:28 on 14-07-2014, Daniel F
He takes this incredibly condescending tone throughout the whole thing, yet 90% of that massive essay is just blather, full of name-dropping and vague references to facts. He just flat-out ignores vast swathes of theory, like the role of western aggression in fomenting terrorism in the middle east.

He does mention economic explanations for Middle Eastern terrorism, but only to rubbish them. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense: I thought the social and economic factors contributing to terrorism were fairly well-documented? His suggestion of a 'global civilisational war' between life-affirming Western values and death-demanding Islamic values raises some fairly significant questions about why Islamic terrorism has not been a historical constant. If Middle Eastern societies are numb to social and economic stimuli, and Islamic values are so hostile, why hasn't this supposed war of civilisations been a constant? What has changed?

Also, this isn't really related to the issue at hand, but fuck did I find his rant-within-a-rant about "sci-fi" to be arrogant and pretentious:

Since when is ranting about science fiction not relevant on Ferretbrain? It doesn't seem to be rare here!

But yeah, I try to stay away from any author prone to going on rants about how only smart people read his novels, and how other fiction is for stupid people.

Sorry for the sidetrack on Islam, by the way. There was a point some time in the early 2000s where Simmons started including gratuitous evil Muslims in every book. The post Michal linked about Flashback included some; and I remember being really surprised that Ilium, a book supposedly about a distant-future re-enactment of the Iliad, had a random segment with the Wandering Jew explaining how Muslims conquered Europe and killed all the Jews.
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at 08:11 on 14-07-2014, Arthur B
Are you a Europe of warring and divided nations whose one common thread is an expanding pool of Muslims who won't obey civil law?

"Warring" in the sense that we disagree with other nations in public (as we always have), "divided" in the sense that a broader range of political positions get represented at the parliamentary level compared with the US (as has always been the case), and "expanding pool of Muslims who don't obey the law" in the sense that immigration occurs (as it always has) and immigrants generally want to obey the law and get jobs and thrive and contribute (as they always have).

But yeah, we are a continent home to a diversity of opinions and peoples, so if you don't like that idea you are probably going to sadface about the state of Europe (and have probably been sadfacing since pre-Roman times). Simmons has probably been listening to our homegrown sadfaces too much.
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at 06:31 on 14-07-2014, James D
He did try to explain himself afterwards, but it boils down to "People who disagreed with me are stupid" and "By the way, I'm totally right".

I actually took the time to read the whole thing, and I have to agree with your assessment. He takes this incredibly condescending tone throughout the whole thing, yet 90% of that massive essay is just blather, full of name-dropping and vague references to facts. He just flat-out ignores vast swathes of theory, like the role of western aggression in fomenting terrorism in the middle east.

Also, this isn't really related to the issue at hand, but fuck did I find his rant-within-a-rant about "sci-fi" to be arrogant and pretentious:

It is not my fault that too many of those who read the April Message—or who read at all—were weaned from, or more likely are still tugging at, the hind tit of the dead literary sow that is often called "sci-fi." (properly pronounced "skiffy," to rhyme with "iffy.") ... Your self-crippling is your own business just as your limitations are society’s burden, but please be informed that there is a thing called "SF"—once also called science fiction—which some of its more astute practioners in recent decades have chosen to call "speculative fiction."

This coming from a guy who writes bad space opera. I'm sorry, I promise not to dirty up the Playpen with any further Dan Simmons quotes, but I'm still coming to grips with how much of an asshole he is.
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at 02:57 on 14-07-2014, Daniel F
Wow, no kidding. That's some of the most laughable shit I've ever read, and most depressing too, in that a (relatively) intelligent human being with a large following actually believes it.

He did try to explain himself afterwards, but it boils down to "People who disagreed with me are stupid" and "By the way, I'm totally right".

Though I suppose I shouldn't judge: I've never been to Europe. I believe most of you have. Tell me, is this a true description of modern Europe?

People sneered at the idea of Europe being "overrun" and of a "Eurabia" coming into existence there, but there was no report from the Time Traveler of a Europe that had been overrun by military forces, merely his statement—"I give you the continent of Europe cast back more than five hundred years into sad pools of warring civilizations." In other words, a Europe of divided cities and divided nations in which the one common thread is an expanding Muslim presence which refuses to abide by local and national laws. Some would say that this is almost the case in 2006.

Are you a Europe of warring and divided nations whose one common thread is an expanding pool of Muslims who won't obey civil law?
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at 00:15 on 14-07-2014, James D
I remember him mostly as another influential science fiction author who went mad on the subject of Islam.

Wow, no kidding. That's some of the most laughable shit I've ever read, and most depressing too, in that a (relatively) intelligent human being with a large following actually believes it. He even says it himself:

Finally, it's also true that I've noticed that even the most famous (and popular) (and beloved) writers from the 20th and 21st Century can be abysmally stupid when it comes to politics. This tendency toward idiotic political opinions may be one of the very few ways in which novelists and poets are like movie stars and rock idols.

Luckily I'd already sworn off of Dan Simmons after the massive turd that was The Fall of Hyperion.
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at 19:04 on 13-07-2014, Michal
I was thinking more of this.
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at 06:14 on 13-07-2014, Daniel F
Is Dan Simmons one of those guys with a PC Police persecution complex? I've read a couple of his books (wasn't impressed at all), but haven't read anything about his attitudes and politics.


I don't know if he has specific beefs with 'political correctness' (whatever that is), but I remember him mostly as another influential science fiction author who went mad on the subject of Islam. Ilium was the only novel by him I read - not a fan, incidentally - and after reading this I decided I probably didn't want to give him any more money.
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at 04:32 on 13-07-2014, Fin
Speaking of awesome webcomics, I've been enjoying Manfeels Park. I'm particularly fond of this one.
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at 04:09 on 13-07-2014, James D
There's a webcomic about Dan Simmons?

Is Dan Simmons one of those guys with a PC Police persecution complex? I've read a couple of his books (wasn't impressed at all), but haven't read anything about his attitudes and politics.
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at 13:52 on 12-07-2014, Sonia Mitchell
Oh yeah, html. Right.
Transformers passports.
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at 13:50 on 12-07-2014, Sonia Mitchell
Latest odd news from the Isle of Wight - passports for tourists sponsored by Transformers.

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. I WANT A ROBOT FERRY AND THIS UNDERLINES THAT I DO NOT HAVE A ROBOT FERRY.

http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/news/passports-launched-for-the-isle-of-wight-61749.aspx
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at 01:05 on 12-07-2014, Michal
There's a webcomic about Dan Simmons?
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at 23:57 on 10-07-2014, Arthur B
I suspect that anything more substantial than a brief short story will end up being a movie rather than a novel. (It's happening already with this Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them deal, after all.)

I agree that there's nothing necessarily wrong with Rowling producing microfiction for Pottermore. I mean, the hint's in the title, right? Couldn't make it clearer unless she called it Harry Potter Expanded Universe Website, which isn't as pleasing.
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at 21:15 on 10-07-2014, Alice
Or both? ;)

I wonder to what extent Rowling's apparent refusal to just leave the Harry Potter phenomenon alone stems from (perceived) fan demand, and how much of it is her genuinely wanting to continue writing in that world.

I have no problem with authors continuing to work on their most popular creations in between writing other stuff, but the HP book series is so self-contained/complete that further additions on the part of JKR are beginning to seem just a tad self-indulgent.

(This is of course slightly complicated by the fact that the new piece is from Pottermore, which strikes me as just separate/different enough from the books that I'm okay with JKR producing new content for it. I basically think of Pottermore as being its own ongoing canon, so I don't really mind additions to book!canon existing on Pottermore, whereas additions to book!canon that come out of interviews with Rowling tend to bug me in a "but Death Of The Author!" sort of way.)
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at 12:06 on 27-06-2014, Daniel F
I suspect it's unhelpful to use the words 'liberal' and 'conservative' in contexts divorced from particular issues anyway. It's very hard to be conservative in general; but easy to occupy conservative or liberal positions on particular issues.

So I prefer to try and make some description of the principles guiding a person's thought. What's the logic behind a person's political convictions? For a lot of people there will be multiple competing and even contradictory principles, so how people trade off their principles against each other really matters too. Linkara didn't seem too complicated, because his convictions (it seemed to me) are fairly consistent, and come in a clear hierarchy: liberty good, this helps liberty, we should spread liberty, and so on. He just has an attachment to the word 'conservative' that can be misleading.
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at 11:15 on 27-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
The terms liberal and libertarianism as well as others are hopelessly mixed-up nowadays, as people on different sides of the Atlantic have their own meanings on things and I'm sure the definitions change according to the local politics where ever one goes. And added to this the whole mess of what exactly does left and right mean anyways?

So describing something from axiomatic principles is probably a good way to go, although it might be tricky. My own view is that while liberty is surely one of the key values in a society, it is not the only one. But that sort of realistic conservatism that we understand Linkara to have is at least reflective and capable of dialogue with differing views.

I just did a google search on top hats and it seems a lot of people are doing it, although most of them seem to be conventionally pretty. I do not know what the significance of this is.
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at 11:12 on 27-06-2014, Arthur B
Ah, Google rides to the rescue.

Based on what he says about the Republican party, the failure to address reconstruction in the wake of military intervention, and his willingness to set aside his ideology where practically speaking it just wouldn't work or isn't what is called for, it sounds like Linkara would like to live in a world where libertarianism and maximised personal freedom and lassaiz-faire economics all work, but is at least perceptive enough to not blind himself to circumstances where they don't work, but at the same time doesn't take the next step of considering why these instances pop up where those things don't work and adjusting his worldview and ideology accordingly.

I mean, it's heartening that he's firmly against "racists, homophobes, sexists, douchebags, and general crazy people", and it's good that his belief in personal liberty has prompted him to support feminism and other social justice causes, but at the same time arguably "conservative" is a poor descriptor for his position because what is he actually trying to conserve? (If anything, if you are very big on personal liberty then logically you should take the position that if society is changing, you shouldn't try to stop it changing, because that would obstruct the freedom of people to live along new lines if they so desire.) So far as I can tell he's keen on capitalism and small government, but capital is an agent of change, stripping down government is a process of change...
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at 10:38 on 27-06-2014, Daniel F
Something like that. I was thinking of a social ethic that boils down to "do as thou wilt, an harm none". I don't feel a particular need to quibble liberalism versus libertarianism.

There is a coherent worldview here, I think. The objective of our politics ought to be to maximise personal liberty. Market capitalism is the economic system most conducive to that goal. We have a moral imperative to spread liberty to others. It's not a worldview I would endorse - at least, not without severe hesitation - but it's not raving mad either.
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