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 18:59 on 10-05-2012, Michal
I'm currently listening to an interview with the author of 50 Shades of Grey on CBC radio and...this interview has more awkward moments than any other interview I've heard in recent memory.
at 17:47 on 10-05-2012, Arthur B
I'll surely give it another go then, backlog permitting. :)

EDIT: Oh, according to Amazon people who bought The Etched City also bought The Darkness That Comes Before. Now there's a seal of quality!
at 17:44 on 10-05-2012, valse de la lune
I think The Etched City has more in common with Tanith Lee than with Mieville, really.

Valse, you can interest me in pretty much anything - especially if women climb other women like trees.

It is the best thing, women climbing women like trees.

(My friend said "so... you want an entwife." N-no.)
at 15:34 on 10-05-2012, Arthur B
Possibly I was just given bad expectations by the edition I was reading then.
at 15:33 on 10-05-2012, James D
I'm not sure The Etched City necessarily qualifies as New Weird, but then again I'm not quite sure what New Weird is exactly, beyond "stuff like Mieville writes." Official definitions seem pretty vague. Like I said, it reminded me a lot more of The Malacia Tapestry, which I loved.
at 15:23 on 10-05-2012, Arthur B
I remember attempting The Etched City ages ago but couldn't get into it. Then again I was feeling kind of fed up with anything which smelled like New Weird at the time so that might have been a factor.
at 15:13 on 10-05-2012, Wardog
Valse, you can interest me in pretty much anything - especially if women climb other women like trees. I will read after Bitterblue :D
at 15:12 on 10-05-2012, Adrienne
Kyra: Yah, i'm also a squealing fangirl about Cashore at this point. There are bits of the ending to Bitterblue that i thought were too pat and glossed over some real issues, but in general i think it did a good job exploring the things it was trying to explore.

Andy: I liked Fire pretty well, myself. Like Kyra, i thought she did the OMG BEAUTIFUL thing incredibly well. The worldbuilding, too, i thought was improved a great deal in Fire over Graceling (i love Graceling, but the world isn't really very interesting. The Dells start showing us some fascinating complexity.)

I really do love how much the women in Cashore's books all refuse to put up with bullshit. None of them settle for lovers who want to control them, and all of them have a great deal of AGENCY even when they're in pretty oppressive circumstances. (Not just the main characters, but the minor characters too.) This is something that is sadly lacking in a lot of YA for young women, and i really want to just shove the books at every fourteen-year-old girl i can think of.
at 15:06 on 10-05-2012, Adrienne
Valse -- I keep swearing that as soon as the last one comes out i will actually read the Logic quartet. :) I remember reading some of her very first books (Delan the Mislaid and the first sequel, which i can't remember the name of), and loving them, way back in the day.
at 15:01 on 10-05-2012, James D
Hey valse de la lune, I ended up reading KJ Bishop's The Etched City based on your recommendation and really enjoyed it. It reminded me a lot of Brian Aldiss's The Malacia Tapestry in that it was a largely character-driven story in an unusual fantasy setting, with a fair helping of surreal bits. Also, I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I loved it anyway. I'm not sure I liked Raule's ending, it seemed a bit tacked on (she was a certain way for pretty much the whole book, then the narration tells you about how she changes completely), but Gwynn's was great. Her style is excellent, and I loved that she was able to craft as vibrant a fantasy world as any of Mieville's without resorting to lengthy, irrelevant scenes. Deft worldbuilding requires a light touch, in my opinion.

It's stunning that this was Bishop's first novel, and frankly rather intimidating too. I'm definitely going to run out and buy whatever else she writes.
at 13:56 on 10-05-2012, valse de la lune
Also I just love how many women, incidental and important, there are in Cashore's books...

Don't suppose I could interest you in Laurie J. Marks?
at 11:35 on 10-05-2012, Wardog
I really liked it actually, though I need to re-read and review it. I thought it was less wham-bam ass-kicking girl's adventure story than Graceling but I thought the ideas it was trying to explore were much more complicated, and, as a consequence, Fire herself was a significantly more subdued character. I remember really enjoying it but also finding it wildly painful... I find Cashore's depiction of abusive father figures, in particular, rather devastating. It's that careful balance of love and fear and repulsion and adoration...

Also the whole "OMG SO BEAUTIFUL" trope is, God, incredibly difficult to handle well but I think Cashore did it wonderfully, and managed to explore lots of feminist-friendly ideas about gaze and sex and power and selfhood.

I will get round to reviewin' soon. But, yeah, I am absolutely LOVING Bitterblue. Bitterblue herself is wonderful, and I am so impressed with the way Leck has essentially been a very real villain for three books now, despite BEING DEAD. I remember whinging he was pretty one dimension in Graceling but the way his portrayal has built up over the three books has really satisfied me.

Also I just love how many women, incidental and important, there are in Cashore's books...
at 11:04 on 10-05-2012, Andy G
What did you think of Fire, Kyra/Adrienne? I was somewhat disappointed - I thought it was good, but not amazing.
at 09:52 on 10-05-2012, Wardog
@Adrienne, YES - I have Bitterblue :D :D :D I got it on Kindle on release day because I am that much an embarrassingly drooling fanperson when it comes to Kristin Cashore. I've been pretty busy so I'm only halfway through it but I am really enjoying it. I've slightly more aware of her weaknesses since I read Valse's pretty darn critical review but ... I'm still a big fan.
at 09:08 on 10-05-2012, Andy G
Oh right. There was another recent R&B song with the same quotation which my boyfriend keeps playing, but I don't know it's by.
at 08:28 on 10-05-2012, Arthur B
I've seen hardcover copies of it in Waterstones so it is out over here too.
at 02:53 on 10-05-2012, Adrienne
Kyra (et al), Bitterblue (sequel to Graceling) is out! At least over here. And i engulfed the damn thing, and it's really good for the most part. Is it out in the UK yet? If not, I may be able to, erm, help.
at 01:44 on 10-05-2012, Michal
I was responding (in my usual befuddled way) to this song. I doubt anyone involved, least of all Kelly Clarkson, was thinking of Nietzsche at the time, but I had a major "Bwah?" moment hearing that.
at 00:49 on 10-05-2012, Andy G
@Michal: I'm assuming Kelly Clarkson hasn't really released a Nietzsche-themed album - but being a bit slow on the uptake, I can't quite follow what that comment was a response to. Can you or anyone else enlighten me? Pop culture Nietzsche references interest me.
at 00:00 on 10-05-2012, Arthur B
And I'm with Robinson in that I can't figure out what the author's point about Houellebecq is. Instead of "trying to draw us into a new contract: I, the author, promise always to acknowledge my characters’ narcissism, and you, in return, will continue to take an interest in it," he tries to shock us by... not flagging when his character is being a narcissistic misogynistic? Because that is an amazing new technique, and misogyny is unusual and cutting edge? (Where do I get a ticket to that alternate universe?)

I think the point of the article is that the readership have been taken around the track too many times by various flavours of misogynist novelist, but in future they are not going to go down like that. Because the audience ain't no Houellebecq girls.
at 22:39 on 09-05-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Yeah, like philosophy is just maths sans rigor. Right.
at 22:35 on 09-05-2012, Ibmiller
I actually had more of a problem with the one before that - though xkcd has occasionally shown some self-awareness about its bias against the humanities and for the hard sciences, the "every major's terrible" didn't provide equivalent mockery for every major.

And as a Lit major (twice! Also music!), I feel rather annoyed. Again.

Whereas I'm actually very interested in learning new stuff. Sure, it'd be better if the narrator said something like "and I learn new stuff too," but it's not a deal breaker for me.
at 22:25 on 09-05-2012, Dan H
Really? I'm not especially sold on XKCD, but in this case both the comic and the alt-text seem to be saying "don't be etc., everyone doesn't know stuff, and introducing people to people new stuff is satisfying" which I tend to agree with. I read the maths as serving the second part so not especially pointless.

I think I just react really badly to people who get off on explaining stuff to other people. I'd also note that there's no indication that *he* ever needs to be introduced to anything. It's just a smug, condescending suggestion that his readers should learn to be more patient with people who aren't as superior as they are.
at 22:13 on 09-05-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
I think it fails at the examples. While Mentos with DIet Coke and Supervolcanoes are amusing and interesting, respectively, I think in reality most normal people get frustrated when someone who is over twenty years old has never heard of for example the Soviet Union or the Solar System.