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 21:43 on 11-11-2011, Frank
The retcon requires my hate.
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at 21:30 on 11-11-2011, valse de la lune
Oops, I accidentally a word so that didn't make sense. What I meant to say is: "She's not on wheels anymore, though."
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at 20:40 on 11-11-2011, Frank
Yeah... how are you defining 'compelling character'? Cuz Barbara Gordon kicked open the door to the fridge she was stuffed in and wheeled the fuck out, kicking some ass.
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at 19:16 on 11-11-2011, Ibmiller
Good point about category confusion. Since I regard all text as literature (which leads to my more exclusionary friends to pointing at street signs and mocking my "literature"), I have no real terminology problems with "Beowulf" or such being "literture" - but I do acknowledge that there is a distinction between what I use as boxes, and what boxes existed back then, and that distinction makes a big difference in how you look at the composition of a work.

And originality is indeed overrated. Skill and intelligence in handling old concepts, even cliches, are much more interesting to me than most "new" ideas (which, I think, are usually pretty old, just with new names slapped on).

Also, I must have missed that comic book statement. I'm a big baffled...I mean, I personally don't find Venom compelling, but he's certainly more interesting to me than the Punisher. And I think that comics, while definitely written by 30-40 year old fanboys (mostly, though some bright spots of non-boy-ness exist), are actually written for the adolescent crowd. I think the statistics show that the majority of comic buyers still read and purchase them between 12 years old and college - which is why things like the recent DC reboot happened and seem to work out okay, despite the fairly articulate reasons for them not to happen or work. Because people like me, who have graduated and still read and buy comics, are in the significant minority. So I don't think that they are written for 40 year olds. Sometimes I wish they were - we might have actually good things happen every now and then. But that might be me getting agist.
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at 19:12 on 11-11-2011, Jamie Johnston
On other topics, I don't know whether anyone here is in any danger of going to see The ides of March but my recommendation would be to wait 'til it's on the telly. It's a competent and well-made political thriller about rich white USian dudes that does exactly all the things you'd expect such a film to do. Clooney is unremarkable, Gosling is pretty good, and Wood almost overcomes the fact that the writers have given her a plot device rather than a character. (In fact there's a sequence near the end that pretty much explicitly invites the audience to regard all attractive young women as interchangeable and doomed.)

From the trailer, though, I quite like the look of The awakening.
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at 18:57 on 11-11-2011, Jamie Johnston
Catching up a bit...

Ibmiller wrote:
I would also like to moot the issue of "what is derivative fiction," if anyone's interested. I mean, tie-in work is pretty clearly a commercially driven property, but there are a lot of professionally published Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, King Arthur, and the occasionally more difficult to find Narnia, Shakespeare, and Virgil fanfic. Okay, yes, I consider the Inferno fanfiction (to some extent...but then, I think the Aeneid is kind of Homeric fanfiction, so I'm clearly beyond all reason).

I wouldn't say beyond all reason at all. I mean, as we saw from the discussion about Beowulf being 'wish-fulfillment' a while back, in many ways it gets unhelpful to try to classify pre-modern texts in boxes made by and for modern readers (to the point where I hesitate to say 'fiction' or 'literature' rather than 'texts'). But it's got to be productive and relevant to point out that tie-in and fan works on the one hand, and a huge proportion of ancient western narrative texts on the other hand, are both based on re-using existing characters and settings. If only to counteract the excessive premium placed on 'originality' and the accompanying deprecation of fan-work &c.

It's also, of course, a creative approach that has underpinned comics since they began. Speaking of which, TryCatcher wrote:
About comic books, their main problem is that they are written by ad for 40-year old fanboys. There's hasn't been a compelling character on the big two (Marvel and DC) since The Punisher. So yeah.

Wow, that's quite a statement! I mean, of course there's no arguing over tastes, so never mind how compelling you can get by saying 'hey what if Batman really liked guns?' — are you really saying neither Marvel nor DC have created a single compelling character since 1974? o_O
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at 18:31 on 11-11-2011, valse de la lune
Maybe is me, but making a huge "Systematical Opression of the System" statement just because some guys decided to use a female pseudonym seems out of proportion.


Look, ma, someone's fighting a straw man!

You seem to generally have a lot of opinions with regards to minorities and said opinions have consistently followed a pattern of deflection or apologia, e.g. the WoW thing which you insisted was totally not homophobia. Do you have any further scintillating insights you'd like to offer? Are you some kind of ambassador from Kotaku or Reddit?
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at 17:59 on 11-11-2011, TryCatcher
Maybe is me, but making a huge "Systematical Opression of the System" statement just because some guys decided to use a female pseudonym seems out of proportion. Note that I already wrote my opinion on trying to pass fiction stories as facts.
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at 16:13 on 11-11-2011, valse de la lune
See Janne, what you are doing is called "derailing." An epic amount of it even, and every single word textbook as can be. You started off with the premise of men being treated unfairly because of their gender and in no time flat you went on to "but what about poor/gay/disabled men of color!" Who are not treated unfairly because of their gender: they're treated that way on account of their class, their orientation, their disability, or their ethnicity. You are moving the goalposts.

Assuming so for every given male and treating them differently as a result would be unfair treatment, as there are poor white males whose lot in life is not necessarily better than anyone elses.


Feminist call this argument "but what about the meeeeeennnnn" in the most mocking, sneering manner possible. To wit: the way men turn a discussion about women and feminism into a discussion about men because men should be the center of attention in all contexts at any given time. Also, see above. Poor white men don't suffer because they are white or they are men. They suffer because they're poor. Even then, poor women will still have to deal with misogyny, which poor men do not. And no, this isn't Oppression Olympics because--I repeat--men are not oppressed for being men.

I do realize that of many possible groups "white male heterosexual" is at an advantage to other groups, which should be corrected by prudent laws and good social policies, for example in education and the like. But it can be unfair if taken to individuals. There are differences between countries for example and shouldn't everybody at least have the opprtunity to try and be a moral person?


Are you, like, saying that there are countries in which white straight men are treated worse than any other group? Because that's hilarious and I double-dare you to name one. Crying that whites are subjected to racism in certain countries will not score you any point, because white people have global privilege and generally the option to get the fuck out if they can't cope with Japan or whatever. Exception's Middle Easterners and marginalized Eastern Europeans (the latter of which don't generally seek fairer fortunes or escape from poverty in Asia; they more frequently head for Western Europe and the States), but I'd make a stab in the dark and guess you aren't thinking about that.

I'm not even sure what you mean regarding the moral person thing.

On misandry, I suppose it wouldn't be very usual, but isn't Valerie Solanas kind of an example?


You are right, an isolated incident is just like systematic, institutionized bigotry reinforced across multiple cultures by power, politics, ingrained prejudices and the media. I sure got told.

Here's something I don't get. What is it about women saying "we are oppressed, and this is how" that brings out all the "BUT WE ARE OPPRESSED TOO, WHAT ABOUT US" from men, but most often straight white cis men citing isolated cases as evidence of the prejudices they must face in life? Do they think being oppressed confers access to an exclusive club? Do they want to become the majority victims of rape, domestic abuse, and unequal pay? Will that make them happy?
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at 14:44 on 11-11-2011, Arthur B
On pseudonyms: I would argue that there are ethical ways to use them. If you make it clear in your author bio that your pseudonym is a pseudonym and don't make any claims or assertions about your real-life identity - if, in other words, you use it solely as a label and make it clear that's what you're doing - then I struggle to see what's objectionable since you're not claiming that you're actually a member of any club you don't have any right to be in, and your readers will be aware that there is a possibility you might be a dude or a straight woman instead of a woman or a gay guy.

On the other hand, actually coming up with a fantasy life for your pseudonym and writing fictional coming out stories which are passed off as real is just gross. There's lots and lots of real coming out stories which deserve the limelight more than your selffic.
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at 14:35 on 11-11-2011, Janne Kirjasniemi
valse: But that is why I said individually. I do not know how the idea itself is absurd; I have no problem imagining a situation. Although I quite agree it is not systematic. Though I have to say that there is a thought that unfair genre roles can have bad effects on everybody involved in it. And I don't mean equally or that the harm materialises in the same way or as strongly, but for example the practice of those in power to systematically send the young men to die in wars is an example.

And also that while it can be said that (white heterosexual) males are privileged as a group over (white heterosexual) females, it is quite clear that if we look at individuals and take into account such things as education, class, race and sickness, we can safely assume that not every given person from the male group is privileged over every given person from the female group. Assuming so for every given male and treating them differently as a result would be unfair treatment, as there are poor white males whose lot in life is not necessarily better than anyone elses.

I do realize that of many possible groups "white male heterosexual" is at an advantage to other groups, which should be corrected by prudent laws and good social policies, for example in education and the like. But it can be unfair if taken to individuals. There are differences between countries for example and shouldn't everybody at least have the opprtunity to try and be a moral person? On misandry, I suppose it wouldn't be very usual, but isn't Valerie Solanas kind of an example?

I guess the thing with men pretending to be women to sell booksis that it is kinda unavoidable though, as when there are willing writers and there's money to be had, it would be hard to stop such a practice. I mean, would even the publisher necessarily know something like that if the author didn't wish for it to be known? But yes, it's not nice and I would assume the prime motivator is money.
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at 12:46 on 11-11-2011, valse de la lune
The thing about men pretending to be women is that it's creepy, due to:

1) someone from a privileged group appropriating an identity he has direct, unambiguous privilege over (the oppression of which he consistently benefits from)
2) doing so in order to gain, to an extent lesser or greater, the trust of said marginalized group and thereby profiting from it

With regards to romance there's some gender essentialism going on, but at the same time I don't much like the idea of a guy barging in, putting on a veneer (however thin: even by obscuring through initials) that he too is part of this women-dominated market. It's dishonest. A woman using a male pseudonym or initials to obscure her gender, on the other hand, is doing so as a minority that's trying to get by in an arena that's predominantly stacked against her. The dynamics are different. Romance, both straight and M/M, is one of the few areas in which women will benefit by being known as women. It's like how there are scholarships for students of color but no scholarships specifically targeted at white students.

Do you think that men as individuals can be categorically treated prima facie "unfairly" because of their gender, or just in this particular case or cases resembling it?


The idea that cis men can ever be treated "unfairly" due to their gender is absurd. Misandry doesn't exist as a systematic oppression; I'd argue it doesn't even exist at all. Of course, men's right advocates insist otherwise, but they also seriously say shit like "bigoted feminists" so I daresay they can be written off as socially malodorous wastes of oxygen who should be flown into the sun.
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at 11:05 on 11-11-2011, TryCatcher
I don't care about pseudonyms anymore that I care about those weird names that artists take, much less on the Internet age. But, as always, people writing about a fictional life without saying that is fiction is dishonest.
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at 10:44 on 11-11-2011, Shimmin
Would you find it less objectionable if they simply used neutral names (like initials), even though most people would probably assume they were female?
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at 10:39 on 11-11-2011, Janne Kirjasniemi
Well, I suppose so. But then, since the motives for people doing so are no doubt varied and mostly not accessible to us, I might argue that regardless of motivation or feelings of shame, these acts could just as well be seen as performative challenges to the controlling discourse that tries to enforce the rules of who can do and what. Is the term community as it describes such a large market as romantic novels even accurate(I know I used it myself)? In the end isn't it more of a marketing ploy to appeal to an age old gender assumption and also to tell people how they should be and what they should write? In that case people changing their identity would be welcome to, if it helped them express themselves without people questioning their motives or gender rights in doing so.

But I suppose that is reaching a bit. Do you think that men as individuals can be categorically treated prima facie "unfairly" because of their gender, or just in this particular case or cases resembling it?
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at 09:39 on 11-11-2011, valse de la lune
If some male writer's feel that it is impossible for them to get published or any sort of attention if they use their own name writing romantic novels, it seems unfair to deny them the possibility, if they really like the genre and want to write in it.


Tbh I don't really give much of a shit how it might be ~unfair~ to male writers; being dudes already gives you huge perks in every other area of life, so men will just have to put up with whatever disadvantages they perceive in writing romance under their own names--and frankly, I suspect the pseudonym has more to do with them being ashamed of what they write. With regards to women using male pseudonyms to write M/M wankfodder, I only care insofar as straight women pretending to be gay men--emphasis on "straight pretending to be gay" (sometimes even going so far as blogging about their "coming out" experiences or having to deal with homophobia) because that's gross. By itself, a woman using a male pseudonym doesn't necessarily invade or exploit because men aren't marginalized, nor require a safe space/community.
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at 09:21 on 11-11-2011, Janne Kirjasniemi
On the subject of Russians or slavs, I would guess that a Russian ultra-nationalist is an easy villain to make. Recognizably stereotypic and the thing you do when you run out of options. The germans can't be taken seriously, Middle Eastern is more controversial and pretty used, game companies actually might care about the Chinese market... Russians were good villain fodder for sixty years, so they still have that certain thing. Plus people still think they're hardcore and you get a funny accent too! Whether this is anti-slav, I do not know. Did it have Checks and Russians co-operating merely out of a sense of a shared racial identity(that really does not seem to exist in real life)?

While 90's russian nationalism was no doubt a paper tiger, with the blustering Zhirinovsky and all, people are starting to get worried again, when Russia is finally standing up again. And I would argue that nationalism is much more potent in Russia now, when they're getting stronger again than it was before. There's Nashi that worries some as well as the rather aggressive way Russia handles its politics around its borders(like Baltics and the Ukraine). Now people are worried that they're updating their military(after 20 years). Although in that case I guess its mostly the army types making noise who are worried about cuts in military spending(in Finland).
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at 08:36 on 11-11-2011, Janne Kirjasniemi
Valse: That seems an issue with many possibilities. If some male writer's feel that it is impossible for them to get published or any sort of attention if they use their own name writing romantic novels, it seems unfair to deny them the possibility, if they really like the genre and want to write in it. On the other hand it might just be a way for some hack to figure that the only way to get their greedy hands on the sweet sweet money that is the romantic market, is to use a pseudonym since it is expected. But in both cases the reason for this seems to be the gender roles the market and perhaps the reading public sets on writers of certain kind of literature. This is a problem, but I don't know why women writing gay erotica or men writing romance novels should be the only ones responsible for changing these attitudes and perhaps risk obscurity for their work. Of course at the same the readers and writers not faking their identity do have a right to their community so I guess it is invasive to infiltrate it by lying about oneself. And exploitative sure, if they're making money from it.
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at 07:06 on 11-11-2011, valse de la lune
Something different: there's some brouhaha surrounding female M/M authors who pretend to be men to write gay erotica, but more to the point how does everyone feel about dudes who use female pseudonyms to write romance? I've always found it invasive and borderline exploitative (even if you're upfront about being a man, when people glance at your name in a store they aren't going to immediately cotton onto "oh, this is a dude pretending to be a woman").
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at 06:29 on 11-11-2011, valse de la lune
@Alasdair:
Even stranger, after realizing this, I started wondering how much Pierce/Soap (two long-standing Brit characters from the series you play as/with) slashfic is floating around online.


I googled. CoD slash does, indeed, exist. "During a mission Ghost has a very close encounter with death. Light Soap/Ghost slash. rated for F-bombs" is one, apparently. Whoever Ghost is.

@TryCatcher:
Well, Russian villains are easy. Also, a lot of people (this place included) would whine a lot if videogames (except maybe hidden indie games) reflected current politics.


Is whining something like "criticism I disagree with" over there?
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at 03:02 on 11-11-2011, Arthur B
I read "assimetry" and immediately thought of "the measurement and study of rumps" and now I am giggling.
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at 02:42 on 11-11-2011, TryCatcher
Well, you need a cutting-edge and modern computer to run the game. Dunno if that counts.

People tend to have a, let's call it, romantiziced view of war. Fact is, Warsaw Pact slugfests are only on history books. Now the way is "assimetrical warfare", which looks less like wargames and more like a large-scale Mexican Drug War.
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at 02:10 on 11-11-2011, Michal
Oh, and because I'm a masochist, I watched a playthrough of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Wednesday night.

Well, Alasdair, I found listening to this song always makes my frustration at anti-Slav sentiments wash away in a wave of Soviet Nostalgia.

Anyway, back on the fun/theme false dichotomy...this discussion takes me back to something Guy Gavriel Kay's repeated in a few interviews: that people consistently seem to say that you can have well-developed characters but plots that go nowhere (literature), or else page-turning plots but shallow characters (genre) on both sides, and that the whole thing was silly. His stated goal is to write about "interesting things happening to interesting people", which seems a worthy enough cause. Of course, I know a great many people think Kay's books are slow (including one reviewer who was a big fan of The Wheel of Time, to which I ask: What?) but at least he's trying, and it would do some good if his attitude were more widespread.
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at 01:16 on 11-11-2011, Arthur B
For my part I'm not poking the fact that it doesn't reflect current politics, I'm poking fun at the fact that it reflects comically out of date politics and yet makes a big deal of being totally cutting-edge and modern.
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