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 10:16 on 30-06-2016, Adrienne
James D: "lots of philosophical asides" i'll definitely give you, but slow pace and not a lot of action? I'll argue with you on those. It definitely starts slow - and in flashback - but that's a deliberate stylistic choice! It starts with one thread and steadily brings in more, until you have LOTS of action (albeit much of it is downplayed, or delivered in weird interstices) and enough plot threads to get all tangled up in. Which is, of course, the point of the book, and the point of the book this one is a response to (which is Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler, who incidentally passed away yesterday.)
permalink
at 08:56 on 30-06-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
Interesting articles turning a critical eye on a widely praised author are always welcome in my book.

What happened in Greece is a result of such a perfect storm of different factors that there is little reason to think that Scotland would be in like danger. They don't seem to be the type to lend too much money, even if that opportunity should ever arise. Access to the common market on the other hand is a very good thing and especially so for a peripheral economy. If they are worried, they can always stay out of the euro. There are plenty of small economies that are doing well in the EU.

While Scotland re-joining the EU is of course not certain, depending on what happens, it is still very likely, since the main reason for leaving now would be the whole matter of the recent vote. As with N-Ireland. No more politics from me. Kind of a mess, the whole thing.
permalink
at 22:19 on 29-06-2016, Bill
I hope before the Scots rush into the EU as a small peripheral economy, they chat with a few Greeks.
permalink
at 21:49 on 29-06-2016, Shim
@Robinson: I can't imagine Scotland leaving the UK and not rejoining the EU, it'd be really vulnerable. Also Scotland is heavily pro-EU, and I suspect the other EU countries would be happy to ease its way: a chance to be the good guys, while making a point to the UK.

The big question is what happens to the Irelands.
permalink
at 18:41 on 29-06-2016, Andrew Currall
Adrienne, I'd be interested to see your take on Tamora Pierce as well. I loved her books as a teenager. Reading them more recently, I've been a lot less impressed.
permalink
at 03:36 on 29-06-2016, Robinson L
Adrienne: I daydreamed a long time back about submitting a The Shockwave Rider essay/review, too. I should do that

Please do, I've been wondering about that one for a while. I figured either it had been rejected or you gave up on the idea.

i have pissed myself off ALL OVER AGAIN at how goddamn bad Tamora Pierce is and how despite that people still praise her to the skies as great YA for teen girls ... could i perhaps submit something on the subject?

I'm looking forward to this one, too. I don't have much personal experience with Pierce's work, but one of my little sisters was obsessed with Terrier and its sequel not so long ago (and maybe still is, I just haven't heard her talking about it so much). All the other stuff I hear about Pierce has been generally positive, and I didn't get far enough into the MetaFilter thread to see where she gets mentioned, so now I'm really curious to see what you find so objectionable in her writings.


Er, coming back to the British politics discussion for a second, a friend of friends recently shared this article about a petition for a second referendum, citing the narrowness of the "Leave" vote's victory. Just curious if anyone had any thoughts on the subject.

I've been thinking lately about my experiences as a non-EU immigrant to the UK for my Master's studies, and about all the EU friends I made while I was there; I'd hate for them to have the same heavy restrictions I and my fellow non-EU students had to deal with abruptly thrust onto them.

At the risk of being overly irreverent about a situation I realize is very serious - if Scotland has another referendum about leaving Britain, will they likely (re)join the EU?
permalink
at 01:47 on 29-06-2016, James D
I'm glad I read Shockwave Rider and it was well-conceived, had some good characters, wrapped the plot up pretty well, with tons of interesting ideas throughout ...but man was it a slog to get through. Slow pace, lots of philosophical asides, not a ton of action, a setting that's weird enough to be difficult to relate to but not weird enough to be fun - I've read and enjoyed others by Brunner but Shockwave Rider was one of those books which I found satisfying and interesting but would have trouble calling good.
permalink
at 00:23 on 29-06-2016, Adrienne
I daydreamed a long time back about submitting a The Shockwave Rider essay/review, too. I should do that - the book keeps getting more relevant, not less, despite having been written in fucking 1975.
permalink
at 10:11 on 28-06-2016, Arthur B
Go ahead, I'd be interested to hear your thinks.
permalink
at 09:21 on 28-06-2016, Adrienne
Also as a result of that MetaFilter thread i have pissed myself off ALL OVER AGAIN at how goddamn bad Tamora Pierce is and how despite that people still praise her to the skies as great YA for teen girls. Andrew B or whoever is running this show these days, could i perhaps submit something on the subject?
permalink
at 07:02 on 28-06-2016, Adrienne
James D: Heinlein at short-story length is in general vastly superior to Heinlein at novel length, in my opinion. Several of his short stories are interesting, fun, and in some cases really challenging/idea-driven stuff. His novels are, in my fairly considered opinion, universally dreck.
permalink
at 22:15 on 27-06-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
My only experience with Heinlein was when I was going through some cardboard boxes full of spec fic books in a flea market on holiday and coming across some Heinlein titles. I remember thinking that Heinlein mihht be worthwhile since I hadn't read any and he was a well known author. So I chose the one with the nicest title, which also had some stuff about parallel earths, which I've always liked. Number of the beast. It didn't end well, and I couldn't get very far with it.

I mean, nipple movement and peculiar sentiments about familial relations are bad enough, but it was just so stupid in its arrogance about science, society and everything. And apparently it got even worse after that.

I guess it might be a good idea to check some of those YA things out, but then again, I'm behind on more interesting and essential stuff already. Farnham's Freehold sounds terribly unpleasant. But I recall there was some other authors dabblng in positive interest in the sixties, so I guess it was just one of the dark undersides of the breaking of sexual taboos, a marginal area where things just went too far with freedom aspect without considering the implications and consequences aspect. Curious that that whole alfa and beta nonsense was bandied about that far back(1964), but stupid ideas often are
permalink
at 01:30 on 26-06-2016, James D
Yeah, I had the exact same experience with SiaSL. Even setting aside its weird gender politics, it's just...boring. A big reason it got popular and was lauded at the time was it happened to come out right around the time of the whole "free love" movement, and struck a chord with a lot of hippies who were dabbling in Eastern philosophy.

Needless to say, 15-year-old me did not care about any of this, and only got about halfway through. If I tried reading it today, with an eye toward the gender politics, I'd probably find it even worse.

Although if we want to talk about good Heinlein for a moment, I think The Green Hills of Earth is an absolutely fantastic short story, to the point where it almost seems like it was written by someone else. The only "Heinleinian" aspect to it is a facility with mechanical terminology as used day-to-day by a ship's crew. No libertarian politics, no "daddy" sex, no misguided racial shit.

There's also an audio version out there narrated by Leonard Nimoy that's great, too.
permalink
at 15:30 on 25-06-2016, Robinson L
I started reading Stranger in a Strange Land in my late teens, but kind of wandered away from it after a few chapters/dozen pages. Not for any reasons of ethics or worldview, you understand, just because - as best I recall - it failed to hold my interest.

The only Heinlein I've read all the way through was Starship Troopers on audiobook in my earlier teens. This was well before I'd developed either critical taste in literature or anything resembling a coherent political conscience, and even then I remember being put off by the abject celebration of military authoritarianism (regardless of who's at fault, any subordinate who lays hands on a superior officer must be punished very harshly - as in, they should count themselves lucky to survive at all - to maintain proper discipline). It never occurred to me until just now to set that beside the author's market libertarian ideals.
permalink
at 11:30 on 25-06-2016, Melanie
Makes sense, I guess.

you were Doing A Literature, especially if you were dealing with hardcore SF fans who didn't read much non-genre fiction


It just occurred to me that if "genre fiction" is opposed to "literature", then all "literature" really means is "hard to categorize". If a book is Literature, but then the kind of thing that it is gets more popular and a genre of books similar to it in some key way springs up, does that retroactively make it Not Literature...?
permalink
at 10:36 on 25-06-2016, Arthur B
That makes a kind of sense, but I'm a little stuck on the idea of his elaborate scaffolding for "what if incest... were actually great?" being "highbrow". You know that thing where you slowly become aware while reading a book that a "recurring theme" is probably the author's fetish? Because it just keeps somehow coming up in different contexts? That was the whole series that I read.

Oh, it's not great literature at all, but it has pretensions of being so and was hyped as such by SF fans at a time when SF with literary aspirations was thin enough on the ground that it was easy to convince people you were Doing A Literature, especially if you were dealing with hardcore SF fans who didn't read much non-genre fiction.
permalink
at 06:36 on 25-06-2016, Melanie
Re: Heinlein - the thing about his work is that whilst the Lazarus Long stuff and Stranger In a Strange Land get hyped because they had highbrow pretensions and came out just when the idea of highbrow SF for grown-ups was getting a lot of currency, actually his "juveniles" (basically YA SF) which he wrote prior to that were what he built much of his reputation on.


That makes a kind of sense, but I'm a little stuck on the idea of his elaborate scaffolding for "what if incest... were actually great?" being "highbrow". You know that thing where you slowly become aware while reading a book that a "recurring theme" is probably the author's fetish? Because it just keeps somehow coming up in different contexts? That was the whole series that I read.

Wow, Farnham's Freehold does sound terrible. And... not uncharacteristic?
permalink
at 00:50 on 25-06-2016, James D
Yeah, having the main character seriously threaten to kill his son (after fucking his girlfriend with the wife in the neighboring room) because he won't unquestioningly obey daddy's every command is a great way to make your point about the importance of obedience in a crisis, while also winning your audience over.

Oh, and I seem to remember that the reason the girlfriend went along with fucking daddy was because he was "alpha" while the son was "beta".

Which is re-emphasized later, when the son is content to stay as a slave to THE DECADENT BLACKS.
permalink
at 22:35 on 24-06-2016, Arthur B
Ah yes, Farnham's Freehold. Where daddy's libertarian turns into violent authoritarianism as soon as there's a crisis situation.
permalink
at 22:29 on 24-06-2016, James D
How the hell do Heinlein's books come so highly recommended, when they're like. The incest series, and the polyvangelist cult series.

I mean, I know he wrote other things, but the Lazarus Long stuff and the Stranger in a Strange Land stuff were what I found specifically recommended as great classic sci-fi or whatever, so that seems to be what people like about him...?


He did write some cool stuff - Have Spacesuit Will Travel is a fun YA adventure story with a minimum of political stuff (the protagonist's dad is a typical Heinleinian "fatherly libertarian know-it-all" character, but he exits the narrative early on). The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is more grown-up, and does have some political stuff, but it's more reasonable and he creates a very interesting and plausible (for the time) culture.

On the other hand, if you want to read one of the absolute WORST sci-fi novels ever written, look no further than Farnham's Freehold. It's got the absolute worst case of the "fatherly liberterian know-it-all" character ever, who within a few chapters is boning a much much younger woman (in a consensual but extremely creepy manner, given it was written by an older man) - and then nuclear war breaks out and...



teleports them to a world where decadent blacks rule everything and own whites as slaves. Yep.
permalink
at 11:55 on 24-06-2016, Arthur B
I have been doing most of my talking about it on Facebook. My take on it is probably (especially now) way too grumpy for here and would drag the tone down.

The silver lining is that at least Cameron is paying the price for making a daft promise he never expected to have to actually follow through on. It's not much of one because we'll all be paying the price too.

Re: Heinlein - the thing about his work is that whilst the Lazarus Long stuff and Stranger In a Strange Land get hyped because they had highbrow pretensions and came out just when the idea of highbrow SF for grown-ups was getting a lot of currency, actually his "juveniles" (basically YA SF) which he wrote prior to that were what he built much of his reputation on.

It has been ages since I read him but I seem to remember him being able to tell a good story early on in his career where his more eccentric ideas didn't intrude, but they got more and more intrusive over the course of his career until you got dreck like The Number of the Beast.
permalink
at 10:50 on 24-06-2016, Craverguy
Kind of surprised no one here is talking about the Brexit vote and Cameron's resignation.
permalink
at 10:40 on 24-06-2016, Melanie
How the hell do Heinlein's books come so highly recommended, when they're like. The incest series, and the polyvangelist cult series.

I mean, I know he wrote other things, but the Lazarus Long stuff and the Stranger in a Strange Land stuff were what I found specifically recommended as great classic sci-fi or whatever, so that seems to be what people like about him...?
permalink
at 21:58 on 23-06-2016, Adrienne
Dunno how folks feel about MetaFilter, but there's some interesting conversation going on in a thread over here that might be relevant to some folks' interests.
permalink