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 18:36 on 05-04-2012, Wardog
I have no issues with genre fiction but I think it's problematic to try and legitimise it by pointing out fantastical elements in non-genre fiction. It's like saying there are marriages in Jane Austen, therefore she's writing romance.
at 18:34 on 05-04-2012, Andy G
I'm not sure "fantasy" just means "contains fantastic elements" though, any more than "crime" as a genre just means "contains crimes". Obviously, it's a pretty amorphous concept, but there are various tropes and conventions and expectations that you typically (but not always or exclusively) get with fantasy (not just in the texts but in the ways those texts are received) and that's different from, say, magic realism, "genuine" myths and legends, or the very exclusive genre of cryptic modernist parables in which people transform into beetles.
at 18:24 on 05-04-2012, James D
Hell, the protagonist in Shakespeare's The Tempest is a wizard, for crying out loud. With magical servants! People who object to fantasy generally tend to be objecting to their narrow idea of what fantasy is, which usually involves vague notions of Conan the Barbarian, Lord of the Rings, and their derivatives.
at 18:18 on 05-04-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Well, you can replace the dragons with anything that is a staple of fantasy, really.

That's another point. If you ask people have they read fantasy and they say no, in a superior tone and with the sort of slimy unearned superiority that exists in such stereotypical people, you continue by asking have they read Odysseia? Decamerone? King Arthur? Micromegas? Books by Kundera, Marquez, Kafka, Atwood or Rushdie? They'll probably say yes at some point so it seems they actually don't have a real problem with the fantastic or unreal, they have a problem with something being called fantasy or scifi. But I've digressed enough.
at 18:10 on 05-04-2012, Wardog
Personally I handle my dragons kindly but firmly, and I never let them break curfew or eat hobbits.
at 17:54 on 05-04-2012, James D
I don't know, it depends on how you phrase the criticism. It would be perfectly reasonable for a reviewer to roll their eyes at *yet another* fantasy book filled with dragon tropes. But yes, that would require a slightly more specific criticism of the way in which the book handles dragons.
at 17:50 on 05-04-2012, Arthur B
This is what happens when people see genres in the same way that (some) other people see sports teams or political parties or religions, where your support for it is a marker of identity and you should be passionately defending your corner even if you don't agree with what the people on your team do sometimes.
at 17:34 on 05-04-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
The whole idea of genre used in a way to excuse bad literature is kind of self defeating. What is genre, after all, than a very superficial label that tells a person in a very generic way something about its subject matter. At times it is only a marketing category. So how come some stupid tropes or even bad literature shouldn't be criticized? It somehow presupposes a strict existence of a genre that has always been and is not something that is actually a quite recent development and changes constantly.

Of course it is clear that criticizing a book about dragons for having fantastic beasts is idiotic, but a book about dragons can still have literary merits and there is nothing wrong with having high standards, whether the book tells about disgust with a modern consumerist culture through amoralistic teenagers or teenager werewolves who ride dragons(and are amoralistic).
at 17:27 on 05-04-2012, James D
The thing is, even if the reviewer isn't that into the genre, that's still a reasonable opinion. People who are very much into a genre often seem to miss glaring faults in basic writing because they've been conditioned by shlock to accept it all in service of their Favorite Thing. That might be testosterone-fueled swordplay, romantic entanglements with vampires, or worldbuilding fetishism, but I think sometimes it's healthy to have a reviewer without the entire LOTR apocrypha on their shelf rain on our parade once in a while (assuming they can do so without coming across like a total condescending pissflap).
at 17:16 on 05-04-2012, valse de la lune
I especially like the idea that if genre tropes suck you're bad for saying they suck, and should be looking into another genre. I don't think some of them can wrap their minds around the idea that sometimes reviews will be negative because the book sucks, not because the reviewer is just not into that genre.
at 11:30 on 05-04-2012, Arthur B
Photoshop Troll might be the funniest troll ever.
at 11:24 on 05-04-2012, Arthur B
Yeah, most of what's down there seems fine, but some of it reads like my April Fool's article come to life (particularly the "Why would you ever betray the Literature of Ideas by writing bad reviews of things? That's mean!" stuff).
at 00:49 on 05-04-2012, Wardog
To be fair to the article, I think some of the stuff is moderately sensible - I like the idea that reviews should be on their own terms entertaining and individualistic as long as that doesn't involve reviewer grandstanding or interfere with the central purpose of a review which is to discuss the text. I know I tend to shade towards criticism (err in the analytical sense of the word) but, hey, this voluntary, I can write what I like :)

Pamela Sargent, however, is egregiously stupid...
at 00:42 on 05-04-2012, Wardog
The thing I find most disconcerting about the Mind Meld article is the fact most of the commentary comes from writers (or aspiring writers, lol). I mean obviously you can't put an electric fence between writers and reviewers but, err, reviews are for readers, not writers, right? Obviously I don't think writers should be banned from reading reviews, and I'm not saying there's nothing "for" them in reviews, but surely one has to recognise that writers are *not* the primary focus/audience. Also another aspect that generally troubles me is the false-hierarchy of readers/reviewers and writers. These are *separate spheres.* I'm both a writer *and* a reader, and I don't consider reading/reviewing to be an unfortunate preamble to writing, nor is writing what I "really" want to be doing. I like being a consumer of texts, and I think being an enlightened consumer is a valuable role.

And, yes, as Ibmiller says I think this is even more pronounced in videogames, since that whole industry is based around the unquestioned assumption that designing games is the holy grail.
at 22:42 on 04-04-2012, Wardog
Ferretbrain is entirely amateur, there is no monies involved at all, ever :)

(although I am totally up for bribery and corruption if anybody fancies bribing and corrupting me...)
at 22:31 on 04-04-2012, Arthur B
Pamela Sargent's argument as to why writers can never get any value whatsoever out of reviews and how bad reviews are nightmarish and traumatic experiences... makes me want to review her stuff.
at 21:50 on 04-04-2012, Ibmiller
Video game reviewers - definitely supposed to be unpaid marketers.

Book reviewers - well, I would think that since books and their reviews have been out for a bit longer than video games, there's a bit more. Hopefully there's also a bit less poisonous model of production and reviewing than for games, as well. (

However, since I generally only read unpaid reviews (like, er, here :-) (unless they're paid and I didn't know it, which, if so, my apologies for the assumption), I don't quite know what they're talking about.

I do like the perspective of a few reviewers I like - at a certain point in a reviewing career, you start trying to use your position to push things you think are underrepresented but worthy. The things that succeed will succeed regardless of reviews (see also, Transformers), but sometimes, you can help smaller things do better.

At this point, I am rambling - apologies again.
at 21:04 on 04-04-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I didn't realize reviewers were supposed to be unpaid marketers.

Isn't that how the video game industry works?
at 20:55 on 04-04-2012, valse de la lune
What does everyone think of this SFsignal piece?

I didn't realize reviewers were supposed to be unpaid marketers.
at 20:36 on 04-04-2012, James D
The SNES action RPG version was pretty cool, though, at least when I was a teenager. Of course, at the time, I didn't know what cyberpunk really was and had never heard of cultural appropriation. If you're interested in the setting you could emulate it easily.
at 17:56 on 04-04-2012, Arthur B
The Kickstarter du jour is for a proper Shadowrun CRPG (as opposed to the hilariously botched FPS that Microsoft put out.

I'm ambivalent about it. I always thought that Shadowrun's mashup of fantasy and cyberpunk ended up missing the point of both genres (cyberpunk particularly), and I thought the World of Darkness, despite not being very good at horror, did a better job at scratching the "criminal hijinks in an urban environment which happens to include magic and monsters" itch. Plus some of the cultural appropriation in there was just painful.

On the other hand if the Kickstarter gets past the finish line comfortably then I might kick in just to get the game cheap when it comes out.
at 09:45 on 03-04-2012, Shim

Okay, if anyone else is going to click the Molyjam link, make sure to disable your script-blockers beforehand, so the website is only painful instead of agonisingly nauseating...
at 00:42 on 03-04-2012, Dan H
On the subject of really terrible game ideas, have people checked out Molyjam.

It is probably indicative of something, I think, that some of the most innovative game design ideas I've seen in a while have come out of a game jam inspired by tweets from a parody twitter account.

I've so far played The Spandex Parable and The Shadowlands Prophesy.
at 23:27 on 02-04-2012, Arthur B
A problem with the Kickstarter funding model: there's no way to pay money to ensure that a particularly awful idea doesn't happen.