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 12:32 on 02-08-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
I haven't read the story, but perhaps it is so that time travel is only possible because of the Evil Islamic Empire, which has obliterated everything that is rational and good. Perhaps you need to eliminate rationality for time travel to work? Whether eliminating good is needed as well is I think a more important question, since most people would likely prefer a good or neutral Islamic Empire.
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at 20:28 on 01-08-2014, James D
Well that much made sense - at least within story's parameters - because it was heavily implied that the time traveler was the writer's future grandson, and he says that it's not really possible to change the future except in small ways. I think the point of him coming back was to save some family member or something.

That makes sense as far as it goes, but you have to wonder, despite all this Evil Islamic Empire nonsense - is a world in which someone like the time traveler can use a time machine at his leisure and take vacations in the past really all that bad? The time traveler doesn't seem to be rich or important or a scientist or anything. The implication seems to be that it's free (or at least affordable) to anyone, and the time traveler comes back not once but twice during the course of the story. Even if there is a religious government in some parts of the world, that seems pretty awesome. Couldn't historians visit the actual Mohammed during his own time? Maybe they did, and discovered that Mohammed actually was the prophet and Allah is provably real! Really, the story's ridiculous premise raises way more questions than it answers.
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at 22:51 on 31-07-2014, Alice
Not that there was anything about Simmons's posts that would allow me to take them at all seriously, but the thing that almost made me headdesk the most was the idea of a time traveler coming back to warn a science fiction writer about the impending obliteration of all that is good and rational by the Evil Islamic Empire -- as if that would in any way make a difference!
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at 11:43 on 31-07-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
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?


Just to chime in on this weird sort of historical amnesia, or obliviouness(since Simmons was born in 1948), but I've read and excuse me that I'm not referring to anything more concrete, that some 70 years ago the situation in Europe was really impolite and we had actual horrific wars which did not really involve islam in a significant way at all. Genocide and firebombing and almost every bad thing imaginable. If disagreements and strife in the face of economical problems and cultural friction is to be described as warring and divided, I think I still prefer that to what I suppose must in comparison be called hell.
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at 18:06 on 29-07-2014, Robinson L
I just finished reading through that post of his on Flashback the other day (the one where Islamophobia is a side dish - I read the other two, where it's the main point, a couple years ago), and now I'm half-tempted to do a Reading Canary of the bloody thing. He's kind of asking for it with the amount he trots out the canary metaphor in the post.
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at 16:07 on 28-07-2014, Tamara
Dan Simmons is one of the sad ones, for me. I really liked Hyperion (not so much the sequels, of course) and enjoyed The Terror quite a bit as well, because "stranded ship full of people slowly dying on the ice with meticulous historical accuracy" kind of outweighed the dodgy politics (it helped he couldn't seem to find a way to get any Muslims to the north pole to be evil, I imagine.) But then Illium/Olympos were just a mess and his latest, The Abominable is flat out terrible. I picked it up because it seemed to promise more people slowly dying in period detail in snow (yay!) and instead it turned into this awful slog of everything being about the Nazis and truly risible denouement.
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at 07:23 on 27-07-2014, Ibmiller
That is exactly what it is!
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at 22:30 on 25-07-2014, Robinson L
Ooh, just to be clear, this is a video diaries-style retelling of "Much Ado About Nothing"? I think I know a certain someone who'd be all over that shit. Thanks for sharing.
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at 20:44 on 25-07-2014, Ibmiller
So, I don't know how many people are interested, but I know that the Lizzie Bennet Diaries had some fans here while it was going on, and also that Shakespeare (he of the Many Themes) is at least interesting, so I thought that my latest obsession, which combines the two, might be something to share - https://www.youtube.com/user/nothingmuchtodovlog

Apologies for the really long sentence. :)
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at 02:27 on 21-07-2014, Arthur B
Ah, that definite is absent from UK Amazon so there may be rights issues there.
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at 02:05 on 21-07-2014, Craverguy
http://www.amazon.com/The-Ultimate-Weird-Tales-Collection-ebook/dp/B004JKNQ5I
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at 23:04 on 18-07-2014, Arthur B
Do you have a link? I can't that on UK Amazon.

Either way, I'm leery of super-cheap Kindle compilations of authors' stuff because I've found in the past they can have sloppy editing and horrible formatting.
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at 21:50 on 18-07-2014, Craverguy
If you have a Kindle, you can buy a complete collection of Smith's short stories for $1.99.
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at 10:36 on 18-07-2014, Arthur B
Yeah, the Fantasy Masterworks volume is by no means complete but it's a good cross-section of his best stuff.
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at 03:09 on 18-07-2014, James D
Ugh Clark Ashton Smith is stupidly hard to get hold of in print. It's a constant gripe of mine: the University of Alberta had his complete works in Rutherford Library which I read through, but I don't actually own anything by him.

There's that big collection of his Gollancz did for the Fantasy Masterworks series - has that gotten rare? Those editions tend to be very good quality and worth tracking down.
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at 02:46 on 18-07-2014, Shimmin
Thanks Arthur! If I'm feeling strong I might try turning the text into something I can read on my device so I can do *something* that isn't on my computer...
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at 01:09 on 18-07-2014, Michal
Ugh Clark Ashton Smith is stupidly hard to get hold of in print. It's a constant gripe of mine: the University of Alberta had his complete works in Rutherford Library which I read through, but I don't actually own anything by him.

Tangent: I'm also annoyed that The Sorcerer's Ship hasn't been reprinted since 1969, so when I gush about it people ask "Where can I buy it?" the answer is "nowhere." (I found my copy at the dump. Go figure.)
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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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