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 17:32 on 22-03-2012, James D
Hackneyed? How so?
I thought it was pretty original, not so much that it was time travel, but rather how it worked. Plus I liked the flying fortress idea.
And I felt the characters were all quite well-written, not with tremendous depth necessarily, but they all had distinct personalities and weren't too cliche. I guess without really hashing out the finer points we might just have to agree to disagree.

Wolfe has the occasional urge to attack cliche genre fiction head-on, with varying results. Free Live Free turned out pretty well I think, The Wizard Knight turned out really well, but An Evil Guest turned out pretty poorly. Oh well.
at 17:25 on 22-03-2012, Andy G
"If they're going to do fairy tale retellings, why can't they at least try some different ones for a change?"

Two words: brand recognition. Studios don't want to take risks, they want to stick to familiar franchises or stories that everyone has already heard of.
at 17:22 on 22-03-2012, Arthur B
Eeeeh, I thought the
time-travel explanation
and characters were kind of hackneyed myself. It's one of my least favourite Wolfes.
at 17:20 on 22-03-2012, James D
Fair enough, I haven't read Pandora by Holly Hollander or Castleview yet myself. Maybe selective reading has colored my perception of the character of Wolfe's standalones. Still, I thought Free Live Free was pretty weighty. Not as weighty as Peace, but it was rather complex in terms of the mystery and the
time-travel explanation.
Also the characters were well-realized. It was his version of a potboiler thriller I guess, just as An Evil Guest was his version of a pulp horror/spy story, but he handled it much better and, dare I say, much Wolfe-ier.
at 17:14 on 22-03-2012, Sunnyskywalker
Finally started reading that Ron Moore interview. I had about the same reaction as Guy: wow, they could have used his advice in BSG! You know, the show where it took the writers three seasons to remember that since this fleet is out on its own, they should probably train more workers to process their fuel and other critical jobs, because working the same batch of people 24/7 until they drop is a bad plan which only people who aren't really trapped on their own would come up with. (Seriously. They never had a problem before that which drew attention to the immanent manpower shortage?) The show that introduced a prison ship which made a deal to do hard, dangerous labor in exchange for a measure of autonomy and then promptly forgot about them forever. The show that had a character taking over the black market only to promptly drop that forever too, even though being a crime boss would probably come in handy during election season.

If they're going to do fairy tale retellings, why can't they at least try some different ones for a change? (Two Snow Whites?) I haven't seen 12 Dancing Princesses lately, other than that YA novel The Phoenix Dance a while back (with a bipolar girl who wants to be a shoemaker instead of a prince, which was interesting). You'd think Disney, at least, would be all over a concept which included 12 princesses.
at 16:48 on 22-03-2012, Arthur B
Peace is heavy as hell but isn't from the 80s. ;)

There Are Doors is on the to-read pile, but I thought Free Live Free was pretty light going, as was Pandora By Holly Hollander and Castleview (which The Sorcerer's House was a very mild rehash of).
at 16:40 on 22-03-2012, James D
I disagree, I feel like his standalones like Free Live Free, There Are Doors, and Peace were much weightier than more recent ones like An Evil Guest or The Sorcerer's House or Pirate Freedom. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, except in the case of An Evil Guest, which I just didn't like very much at all. It just seemed kind of directionless and...missing something, I guess. There just wasn't a very good central conflict; the protagonist wasn't even privy to it, in a kind of sexist way.
at 16:22 on 22-03-2012, Arthur B
I still need to get around to reading Home Fires. I remember liking The Sorcerer's House but not quite feeling up to reviewing it on FB due to not having anything particularly substantial to say about it. I'm still picking apart how I feel about An Evil Guest and I might need to reread before coming to any conclusions.

In general I think most of Wolfe's standalones have come under the "lighter fare" category since the 1980s, so I don't think it's a new thing. Or at least if there's a new thing, it's Wolfe shifting gears to concentrate primarily on standalones.
at 16:08 on 22-03-2012, James D
Speaking of Gene Wolfe, anyone read Home Fires yet? I read his previous book, The Sorceror's House, and found it fun and well-crafted, though rather light fare compared to his weightier works. He seems to have shifted more toward writing that kind of thing in his later years, likely wanting to just enjoy the writing without having to work out labyrinthine puzzles 90% of the readers won't even get.
at 15:51 on 22-03-2012, Wardog
Awwww, Gene Wolfe looks adorably happy...
at 15:29 on 22-03-2012, Michal permalink
at 11:43 on 22-03-2012, Ibmiller
Funnily enough for my cultural context, I did see the film opening weekend, and thought it was dreadfully dull. I did like the exploding people, though.
at 09:12 on 22-03-2012, Wardog
It was bad. But on the other hand: Oxford and bears!
at 06:53 on 22-03-2012, Axiomatic
I went and saw the movie, and ye gods, it was bad.

It was like the director was waging a bitter crusade against the concept of pacing.
at 03:52 on 22-03-2012, Michal
Oh, don't get me wrong, I love blimps and battle-bears, though I prefer if the latter have names like Ivan and call each other "comrade." But I have absolutely no connection to Oxford, so one piece of the puzzle may be missing. I just found the writing in The Golden Compass supremely unengaging. I never finished it...I don't like Christian Narnia all that much and atheist Narnia just wasn't any better, y'know?

Still find it funny how New Atheists all too often lift directly from 19th-century Protestant anti-Catholic rhetoric. I keep on expecting Pullman and his ilk to start referring to Catholics as "damn Papists!"
at 00:56 on 22-03-2012, Andy G
I have such weird cognitive dissonance about that trilogy - on the one hand, I have very fond memories of them being brilliant, on the other, I suspect if I read them (well, the latter two at least) I'd spend the whole time cringeing at all the New Atheism.

Did anyone see the film? God it was awful awful awful.
at 22:21 on 21-03-2012, Arthur B
I thought Northern Lights was great, but The Subtle Knife felt very mediocre; it essentially introduced a whole heap of stuff which hadn't really been hinted at in the first book, and I missed the wonderful alternate world he'd created. It doesn't help that he suffered from Moorcock's disease (Moorcock's Multiversal Malaise?) where once a story begins to become focused on hopping between parallel universes each one feels less real than the one before - the world of the first book felt really well developed because we spent a whole other novel there, but aside from our Oxford none of the other dimensions really measured up to it.

And The Amber Spyglass is just an organisational disaster, not least because of the long interludes with the scientist we don't care about studying the wheelie creatures we don't care about and the tedious rants. Plus he straight-up chickened out of providing any sort of explanation of what the dust was.
at 22:13 on 21-03-2012, Ibmiller
I love the ideas in the Dark Materials, but the execution is incredibly dull, and Pullman's rants annoy me with their hypocrisy.

So glad he's not attached to the Paradise Lost project anymore. Now that would be dark, man, dark for the Milton fans (of whom I am unfortunately not one).
at 15:30 on 21-03-2012, Wardog
I quite enjoyed Northern Lights because it seemed like fairly straight forward children's fantasy with airships and bears and Oxford (three of my favourite things) but The Amber Spyglass turned out to be as big as a walrus and basically about Pullman dissing the Catholic Church ... so I lost interest massively.
at 15:24 on 21-03-2012, Michal

I think Pullman
is re-telling fairytales
as well.

Ah yes, this bit of news. Another book for the "will probably never bother reading" shelf.

No, I didn't enjoy The Golden Compass, why do you ask?

Oh and there's ... err ... Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts which isn't remotely dark but how many fairytale retellings can the human race endure?!

Gregory Maguire seems to think we don't have nearly enough. Out of curiousity, has he written anything that wasn't a pastiche of something else? (It's related because he wrote Mirror, Mirror and all)
at 14:54 on 21-03-2012, Wardog
I am basically up for Bella and Thor because of Charlize Theron... she's being so very fabulous in the trailer that I am ... yes ...

I think Pullman is re-telling fairytales as well.

Oh and there's ... err ... Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts which isn't remotely dark but how many fairytale retellings can the human race endure?!
at 14:22 on 21-03-2012, Ibmiller
Just out of curiosity - what other "dark, man, dark" fairytales are we getting this summer? I think Bella Swan and Thor (er...Snow White and the Huntress) looks halfway interesting (certainly moreso than Mirror Mirror, which looks pained and forcedly cheerful), but don't remember any others.
at 10:17 on 21-03-2012, Arthur B
Re: Prometheus trailer: Is the implication we're meant to get that the Space Jockey was flying to Earth to bombard it with facehugger eggs? Because on one hand, that's a fair enough premise for Prometheus, but on the other hand it ties in with one of my frustrations with the series: the way the movies constantly flirt with the audience by alluding to awful consequences if the xenomorphs ever make it to a well-populated place on Earth whilst at the same time never, ever having the balls to show that happening. (No, the second Alien vs. Predator film doesn't count because the lighting was so bad in that you couldn't see anything happening.)
at 09:31 on 21-03-2012, Wardog
Hmm, my reaction was DO NOT WANNNNNNNT

I occasionally want things I shouldn't - it's a vicious cycle of self-abuse.