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 05:55 on 03-06-2014, Adrienne
Robinson L - I find, for example, that my tolerance for fast-paced action movies or novels with zero women in them (or women in them only as macguffins) is pretty low. They don't engage *me*, even if they are 'rollicking adventure yarns'. (There are exceptions; most of them are older works, and they are few and far between.)
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at 00:45 on 02-06-2014, Michal
Sad news: Jay Lake died of cancer this morning.
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at 22:36 on 31-05-2014, Robinson L
I've just been linked to this recent review of five new speculative fiction books by N.K. Jemisin, and idly curious as to folks' thoughts on the piece. Most puzzling to me is her discussion of "The Tropic of Serpents," which she characterizes as "unengaging" even when the action picks, and speculates may be because the book - like so much "neo-Victorian" literature neatly elides all the unpleasant racial, class, imperial, and socio-economic (and mostly gender) issues which typified actual Victorian society. She then goes on to say:

Which is fine, for readers who aren’t especially interested in engaging with those complexities. In that case, the story is exactly what it says on the tin: a rollicking adventure in which women wearing unnerving amounts of underwear tromp through jungles on dragon-hunting safaris. Really, that should be more than enough for just about everyone.

... Which to this ignorant white guy sounds just a little bit presumptuous (but, again, the key words are the two adjectives and the noun), and doesn't quite seem to jive with the "surprisingly unengaging" description.
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at 13:55 on 31-05-2014, Tamara
I watched Penny Dreadful! It's dreadful! Silly and ponderous...except one plotline, which is just enough ever so slightly better than everything else to keep me watching, dammit.
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at 15:44 on 30-05-2014, Arthur B permalink
at 15:30 on 26-05-2014, Robinson L
Ibmiller: I wasn't paying that close attention when I was watching Warm Bodies, to be honest. Or are you talking about the book/short story the film is based upon?

Sorry, I was talking about the book, haven't seen the movie. I've heard a little from fans of the book about the movie as an adaptation - opinion seems to be divided over whether it's a decent reinterpretation or a horrible travesty.
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at 23:19 on 25-05-2014, Melanie
Hey, has anyone else read the Chez Apocalypse thing you mentioned? I'm just wondering, since a friend got it for me as a result of this thread, and it was hilarious. "Masterpiece" is possibly not too strong a description.

There was this bit when they go see Nyarlathotep:
“No kidding.” The man’s voice turned flat. “Looks just like the last one. Where do you dig these women up?”

The loop-de-loop in my stomach flipped into a nose dive and I jerked, ripping my hand from Riley’s. He looked at me, startled. I quickly straightened my sweater, afraid to look him in the eye. “The last one?” I mumbled, my heart thudding in my ears.

“It was long ago,” Riley said stiffly. “And a grave error.”


I want to know how many times this has happened before, because now I'm imagining a Strahd-like situation.
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at 04:19 on 25-05-2014, Ibmiller
Brain junkies! I wasn't paying that close attention when I was watching Warm Bodies, to be honest. Or are you talking about the book/short story the film is based upon?
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at 22:02 on 24-05-2014, Robinson L
Ibmiller: Both series posit that if you eat brains, you get some mind back. It's a handwave, but a semi-clever one?

Can't speak for White Trash Zombie, but in Warm Bodies, even before the zombies eat brains, they're not actually mindless (they're a bit like zombies in the figurative sense of "people who are really out of it and don't make much use of their higher brain functions") - the semi-clever bit is the way the author comes up for a plausible explanation for how they could still be semi-intelligent, and still almost always act like a classical mindless zombie around humans (basically, they have a deep-seated hunger for human brains and exceptionally low self-control when it comes to resisting said hunger).
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at 09:01 on 24-05-2014, Melanie
I remember this webcomic, Ow My Sanity, that maybe did a bit. Or a lot, depending on how you take "humanize".
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at 05:50 on 24-05-2014, Michal
Cthulhurotica did, um, romanticize the creatures just a little.
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at 05:35 on 24-05-2014, Bookwyrm
Has anyone else besides Chez Apocalypse tried to humanize(romanticize?) the creatures of the Lovecraft mythos?
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at 13:46 on 23-05-2014, Ibmiller
In Warm Bodies, they attempt to ignore/cure that part, leading them to be, indeed, no longer zombies. In the White Trash Zombie series, there's a system of distribution from local morgues and funeral businesses - at least for the "good" zombies. It's like a lot of the urban fantasies starring vampires - the "good" undead eat the already dead/animals/synthetic stuff, the "bad" undead go about killing people to get it.

Of course, the mindless thing is the real problem. Both series posit that if you eat brains, you get some mind back. It's a handwave, but a semi-clever one?
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at 13:11 on 23-05-2014, Shimmin
This is my problem with a lot of the existing urban fantasy stuff, but, surely the defining features of zombies are a) being mindless and b) craving human flesh? I just don't see how you can "rehabilitate" them, because if you remove a) they're not only no longer zombies, but they're cannibals; if you remove b) they're drones; and if you remove both they're either dead or human.

Can anyone explain?
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at 23:26 on 22-05-2014, Ibmiller
There's also the rather drippy and cliched "Warm Bodies," and the urban fantasy "White Trash Zombie" series by Diana Rowland - much less drippy and cliched, though not fully to my taste.

I...know Orphan Black is about clones, and I don't know if it's that or the trailers, but I have zero desire to know what happens in the first place. :)
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at 17:54 on 22-05-2014, Tamara
My sister has been raving about "In the Flesh," which is apparently a BBC Zombie-rehabilitation show with a gay protagonist. Who knew there was more meat in zombies yet?

I may have to check out Penny Dreadful...

Orphan Black - I watched the first season, and I found it much more impressive than actually enjoyable, for some reason. (I think I'm in a minority though, most people I know thoroughly love it.) It ticks all the boxes, both in terms of politics (women, LGBT, Hard-ish SF, etc) and in terms of craft (acting, pace, plot, etc) but also had a total lack of anything - character, plot point, mystery, ANYTHING - that actually made me want to know what happens next.
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at 16:53 on 22-05-2014, Arthur B
Now, the more inhuman your supernatural entity of choice looks, the less able you are to "rehabilitate" them in this way -- faeries have glamours to make them look human, werewolves look human most of the time, you can invent all sorts of ways to have vampires wander around the human world, but what do you do with dehydrated, bandage-wrapped, shambling, faceless, ex-humans?

Well, first you get a lot of moisturiser...
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at 16:39 on 22-05-2014, Alice
I've been thinking about the "which supernatural beings have been included in contemporary re-imaginings?" question, and why it seems that mummies haven't formed a big part of this (in contrast to, say, vampires, witches/wizards, and werewolves. Though there's been a smattering of mummies, I suppose -- even the thoroughly non-supernatural Castle had a "mummy's curse" episode).

And it strikes me that one of the reasons for a not-so shocking lack of mummies in recent(ish) works is that there's been a shift from seeing various supernatural entities as mindless monsters to at the very least charming and attractive (albeit dangerous) monsters (Anne Rice's vampires?), all the way across the (anti-)hero spectrum (not entirely sure if the Cullens are quite heroes, but they must be getting pretty close).

Now, the more inhuman your supernatural entity of choice looks, the less able you are to "rehabilitate" them in this way -- faeries have glamours to make them look human, werewolves look human most of the time, you can invent all sorts of ways to have vampires wander around the human world, but what do you do with dehydrated, bandage-wrapped, shambling, faceless, ex-humans?

Then again, no-one's tried to rehabilitate zombies from monsters to protagonists, either (as far as I know), but they are pretty well-established baddies. So it still seems a bit odd that there are relatively few works with mummy antagonists.
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at 22:38 on 21-05-2014, Ibmiller
Is that what it's about? The trailers were playing, and I couldn't tell anything other than a) it has Eva Green (yay!); b) it looks like horror (nah).

Also, does anyone here watch Orphan Black? I was hanging out online last night, and a friend from Australia and a friend from the US were both raving about the show.
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at 22:28 on 21-05-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Has anyone checked the new monster mash show Penny Dreadful? It has all the classics. Vampires(probably Dracula too), Egyptian demons, although no mummies yet, werewolves(at least one) and Dr. Frankenstein. And Dorian Gray. And a cowboy. Didn't seem too Mooreish even.
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at 11:43 on 19-05-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
@Adrienne

Digger is on my list, since it was mentioned here! Good to know that there are vampiric fruit there as well!
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at 11:35 on 19-05-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
@Melanie:

I'm sure there would be a lot of stuff that could be done with Necromancers. That whole gothic, macabre thing is pretty well known and death is certainly a very primal thing to hang a story around.

Mummies might be about fear of the orient, but a part of it is also the fear of death and the unknown, which is underlined by the ancient nature of Egypt, especially at the start of the 20th century, when the whole thing was very much in fashion and the knowledge of Egypt was both limited and also changing rapidly with it seems limitless possibilities.

The love aspect of ancient undead is a good idea in that it makes the creature's motives relatable at some level at least. The all consuming hatred of all things living, which seems to be the raison d'etre of many a lich and like is frightening, but really kind of weird if one thinks about it too much. Fitting for a random encounter or end boss, but not very good for an in depth character.

@Alasdair

That take on were-creatures is interesting. Of the examples, both District 9 and Metamorphosis are a curious take on the idea of dehumanization, as the dehumanization is a thing done to the Prawns and then Wikus and of course Gregor, while all of their status as feeling sentient creatures are emphasized by the story itself. The Fly seems to be a more straightforward example, but of course in that, the change is self-caused and it is more about the hubris of the character rather than an example of abuse by surrounding society.
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at 10:28 on 19-05-2014, Arthur B
Yeah, I think The X-Files went to the "Native American mummies" well too.
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at 10:17 on 19-05-2014, Daniel F
Come to think of it, there was a Buffy episode about it as well, so it must be a thing in pop culture.
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