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 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.
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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.
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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...?
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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at 10:50 on 24-06-2016, Craverguy
Kind of surprised no one here is talking about the Brexit vote and Cameron's resignation.
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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...?
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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.
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at 18:00 on 20-06-2016, Robinson L
Alice: Rest in peace, Anton Yelchin. :(

Damn, but that's sad. Born in 89? Shit, he was younger than me. Such a tragedy.
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at 22:22 on 19-06-2016, Alice permalink
at 15:02 on 15-06-2016, Robinson L
Ah, okay, I must have misread.
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at 10:30 on 15-06-2016, Arthur B
@Robinson: Er... yeah, I was agreeing with you re: claimed vs. actual purpose of the militias, at least as far as the Constitution goes (which would be the relevant bit of law allowing this farce to go on to the present day).
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at 10:07 on 15-06-2016, Bill
Before the American Revolution, the militias were essentially the military force of the British American colonies. So they were used to fight Natives and suppress slave insurrections, but they were also used to fight the French colonists (who were also organized on a militia basis) in the various Anglo-French wars of the period. The British Army wasn't a factor in North America (the Navy is a somewhat different story) until the Seven Years War which began in America in 1754, two years before it began in Europe. Friction between the Army and the various colonial militias was a factor in precipitating the Revolution.
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at 03:00 on 15-06-2016, Robinson L
@Arthur: Huh, I thought I heard somewhere that militias were used for that purpose before the rebellion, and that state tyranny was thrown in as something of an afterthought.

Mind you, the late 20th century United States provides examples of groups with legitimate grievances using guns to fight the government when ballot boxes proved ineffective (thinking particularly of the Black Panther Party and American Indian Movement). As a pacifist, I obviously think violence is ultimately a self-defeating strategy, but I'm not so secure in my convictions as to say the government should be allowed to disarm people like the Panthers or AIM members who believe those weapons are necessary for their communities' protection. But I fear I'm in danger of derailing the conversation on the Orlando tragedy, so perhaps I shouldn't expound on this topic any further at present.


@James: I hadn't heard any of that, no - thank you for sharing. It does serve to humanize the shooter, in a way, but not deny or deemphasize the horror and tragedy of what he did. As you said, it's a very complicated issue, and the results are just awful. So many wondrous, precious lives, wastefully cut short before their time.

I don't know of anyone close to me who was even peripherally affected - I heard a branch manager of the chain store I work at might have been among the victims, but that doesn't feel all that close to me. Still, I've been thinking today about all the people I know who might have been injured or killed had the attack taken place at another club somewhere else in the country.
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at 21:34 on 14-06-2016, James D
I didn't see if this was brought up yet, but apparently Omar Mateen was also a regular at the club he attacked and was well-known there. He also had a same-sex dating app on his phone. Apparently he was very conflicted about his own sexuality, but, according to people who frequented the same clubs, didn't really fit in very well in the gay community either.

So, like most things, this seems to be a very complicated issue with many motivating factors on every level.

Regardless, it's a terrible tragedy. A few of the victims happened to work for the Florida branch of the same company I work for, and while I live in a different state and never knew them, it definitely makes this more real to me than other disasters.
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at 21:21 on 14-06-2016, Arthur B
Yeah, and am I wrong that the necessity for those "well-regulated militias" referred to in the 2nd Amendment was to fight those bloodthirsty Injuns who perfidiously pre-invaded our land thousands of years before we had an inkling it even existed, and to deal with legally and lawfully owned human beings trying to run away from their chattelhood? Because if not, I can totally see that's a necessity which has stood the test of time.

Well, the declared purpose of that militia - its actual use in practice was of course closer to what you were talking about - was, as gun people like to remind us, to allow the citizenry to rebel against a tyrannical central government.

And when the Confederacy popped up, a terrible lesson was learned: any group willing to use guns to fight the government when they had access to the ballot box (as the southern slaveowners did) is a group you really don't want to win in a stand-up fight. (And if the ballot box is no longer an option, the rule of law has kind of gone away anyway.)
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at 20:36 on 14-06-2016, Robinson L
This is all just horrific, and the reactions to it are sickening, disgusting, and sadly, entirely unsurprising.

That Reuters piece plays a little bit of the Humanizing the Killer game the media plays after a white person goes on a shooting spree, getting some neutral or ambivalent remarks from people who knew him, but after a paragraph of his former spouse describing him as violent and abusive. Also note how his (possible) political/religious affiliations are placed front and center in the article narrative (and in the title), rather than downplayed or ignored entirely.


Melanie: (I am queer, and bitter.)

With good fucking reason, clearly.


Sidebar:

Arthur: Or the argument that random members of the public having assault rifles stashed in their closets constitute anything resembling a "well-regulated militia".

Yeah, and am I wrong that the necessity for those "well-regulated militias" referred to in the 2nd Amendment was to fight those bloodthirsty Injuns who perfidiously pre-invaded our land thousands of years before we had an inkling it even existed, and to deal with legally and lawfully owned human beings trying to run away from their chattelhood? Because if not, I can totally see that's a necessity which has stood the test of time.
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at 03:59 on 14-06-2016, Melanie
What with most of the victims apparently also being Latino, it seems to add insult to injury that, of course, people want to blame "immigrants", despite the shooter having been born here.
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at 09:30 on 13-06-2016, Fin
This news destroyed me. I wasn't able to function yesterday and don't feel much better today. I'm only two degrees of separation from some of the victims. And while we're mourning our dead opportunistic scum are downplaying the role homophobia played in this tragedy and capitalising on it to fuel their Islamophobia. I've already had one cishet guy yelling at me last night for having the audacity to include Muslims in my call for love and solidarity yesterday. Cishets have been dehumanising us and when someone acts on that hatred they want to decouple the bigotry from the act so they can scapegoat their pet boogeyman. It's sickening.
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at 08:33 on 13-06-2016, Arthur B
Or the argument that if more people at the club had guns it wouldn't be so bad, because having more guns in that dark, noisy, confusing confined space would have made it safer.

Or the conspiracy theories that it was faked/provoked so Obama could Take Our Guns.

Or the argument that random members of the public having assault rifles stashed in their closets constitute anything resembling a "well-regulated militia".

I really want the conversation around this mass shooting to not just follow the same limp pattern that the discussion of every mass shooting for the past decade or two has followed, but I hold out little hope.
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