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 10:57 on 21-02-2013, Wardog
Gosh, I feel so humbled to think that this guy is such a superlative human being that he never for a moment says anything mildly negative about anyone he knows ever.
at 10:06 on 21-02-2013, James D
Did you know that sometimes people say bad things about other people? Randy does, and he's super sad about it.

Yeah, don't tell your friends how a mutual acquaintance not present never pays his debts, or is a reckless driver, or sexually assaulted you, because a webcomic author might disapprove for some ill-defined reason.
at 00:52 on 21-02-2013, Arthur B
I dunno, I feel curiously relieved to know that Randy will naturally eject himself from my presence. Saves throwing him out myself.
at 19:30 on 20-02-2013, Dan H
Just when I thought XKCD couldn't get any more self-congratulatory-slash-patronising.

Did you know that sometimes people say bad things about other people? Randy does, and he's super sad about it.
at 12:57 on 20-02-2013, Wardog permalink
at 10:30 on 20-02-2013, Robinson L
Kyra-Wardog: I was sort of borderline bored throughout.

Yeah, that was how I felt about Dust, as well. I haven't really tried to figure out why, though I think I'm mostly just apathetic towards the characters, Perceval's awesomeness notwithstanding.

Karen Healey's Guardian of the Dead also features an explicitly asexual young man as one of the major supporting characters during the first half of the book; the first person narrator has to have it explained to her, but fortunately, she catches on quick.

Overall, I found the story ... adequate. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with it that I could discern (well, aside from the narrator occasionally exoticizing a Chinese supporting character), but it didn't greatly thrill me. I didn't love it, but I liked it well enough.
at 10:03 on 20-02-2013, Dan H
I notice Cameron has weighed in on Kategate, again completely missing the point by insisting that Kate is a "perfect ambassador for Britain" which is ... umm ... sort of what Mantel was saying that Kate was being reduced to in the first place.
at 08:17 on 20-02-2013, Adrienne
That should be 'eir sexuality' in the last post; Sparrow is agender as well as asexual.
at 08:14 on 20-02-2013, Adrienne
@Cheriola - You might still give Bone Dance a chance; that Wikipedia description is TERRIBLE. Sparrow is in no way "not a full human being" over the whole course of the novel, and her asexuality isn't played as something that makes her silly or strange. YMMV, of course, but that description is really, really not representative of the book.

Also argh, Wikipedia, the part about Sparrow being bioengineered is a SPOILER, bleh.
at 06:29 on 20-02-2013, Bookwyrm
Wow...that's the first time I've seen a book get such a high rating purely because the reviewers found it unintentionally hilarious.
at 19:09 on 19-02-2013, Cammalot permalink
at 18:12 on 19-02-2013, Arthur B
Ketamine and heroin? Who are we talking about here, Horsie S. Thompson?
at 18:10 on 19-02-2013, Wardog
Don't horses just use like ... K ... anyway?
at 18:10 on 19-02-2013, Arthur B
Of course, they probably wouldn't be able to afford very good heroin, because they'd need to use horse-sized doses.
at 17:59 on 19-02-2013, Wardog
I dunno, but I reckon horses have excellent nostrils for snorting up.
at 16:38 on 19-02-2013, Arthur B
I just want to know how you shoot up with hooves.
at 16:17 on 19-02-2013, Wardog
Is it me or is "amiable characters and a robust setting" the most damning of faint praise...
at 15:36 on 19-02-2013, Andy G
Kind of like Let's Kill Hitler in that regard.
at 15:25 on 19-02-2013, Arthur B
Oh my god, this just came up in my RSS feed of free ebooks and there's no way on Earth the book can actually live up to that title.
at 14:27 on 19-02-2013, Andy G
Oops. A fitting typo given her points about royal vaginas though.
at 13:37 on 19-02-2013, Arthur B
pubic spectacle


I saw the tabloid outrage and thought "good on you, Hilary".

I love the fact that the tabloids are spinning this as an attack on the royals when in fact Mantel is specifically calling out the media (and its audience) for approaching Duchess Kate's fertility status like gynecological Kremlinologists.
at 13:28 on 19-02-2013, Andy G
Has everyone seen Hilary Mantel's fantastic article on monarchy as pubic spectacle that's so outraged the tabloids?
at 10:33 on 19-02-2013, Wardog
The hero of Elizabeth Bear's Dust is asexual - and super-wicked hot. She's a knight. Well, a space-knight because it's sort of a fantasy/sci-fi mash-up thing with angels and nano-tech.

Although ... I didn't actually enjoy reading the book very much. I don't know what it was, it felt a bit like a personal failure because I very strongly felt I SHOULD have liked everything about it. But I was sort of borderline bored throughout.

Also, maybe I'm just being churlish, but it felt weirdly like some kind of gender/sexuality spectrum pick 'n' mix. Here we have a trans character TICK, here we have a lesbian, TICK, here we have a non-gendered character, TICK. I LOVE books that centralise those sort of characters but it felt less like centralisation and more like lining them up like skittles.

Perceval is pretty awesome though.
at 09:07 on 19-02-2013, Cheriola
@Cheriola -- Have you read Bone Dance by Emma Bull? The protagonist is agendered and asexual.

No, I haven't. What's it about? To Wikipedia!

"It is equally relevant that this main character is a bioengineered human"
"The second half of the story shows Sparrow's awkward progress toward a fully human condition and becoming a valued member of a community"

No, thank you.

*sigh* Just once, I'd like to see characters whose asexuality isn't there specifically to other them, to make them seem less human, or where it's implied to be a symptom of a potentially dangerous mental disorder. (See various asexual serial killers in fiction, and the new Sherlock's self-admitted sociopathy.) It's a harmful stereotype, just like 'man-hating psycho lesbian' or 'chronically unfaithful bisexual' or 'pedophile gay man'.

The closest I've come was the classic BBC radio series of Sherlock Holmes, where Holmes is presented as more emotional (and romantic) and Watson is eventually called out about describing Holmes as machine-like in his books. And a few characters in the Discworld novels who aren't explicitely stated to be asexual, but read that way to me.

I don't know if it's just a function of keeping it kid-friendly, but most of the books kind of read like the man is demi himself. Not because there's little romance in the plots, but because of a certain way he describes people, the number of characters that seem utterly oblivious to flirting and other people's looks and never complain about not getting laid, and the snarky jokes about particularly promiscuous characters. And if someone gets a love interest, that interest rarely seems to be based on physical attraction. I wonder if it's intentional, or if that's just how the author sees the world. I'm currently reading "Monstrous Regiment" again, paying attention to the details, and the protagonist really does seem asexual to me, not just too busy to think about boys. And that's one of the more mature-oriented Discworld books that actually does cover topics like lesbianism, transgender identities, drag, sexual harassment and rape. But the protagonist never actually states that she's uninterested and never has been attracted to anyone. She just isn't. It's kind of weird to miss that awareness of alienation from the rest of world. (Though it is a religiously repressive society with no media aside from bawdy songs, so she probably wouldn't feel as 'abnormal' as most asexuals are made to feel by modern society.) Or maybe he just wanted to do the same as homosexual/bisexual authors who want to write stories with queer characters who don't suffer sexuality-based angst.