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 09:20 on 12-06-2014, Arthur B
Well, what other kind of reaction can we have in this case?

I guess you can also take it as a sad reminder that espousing feminism and an interest in social justice is in no way a guarantee that someone isn't an abuser.

But yeah, I don't think it's entirely unfair to think about how this affects your response to her books since that's the only way 99% will ever directly interact with MZB's estate and legacy.
at 05:47 on 12-06-2014, James D
I suppose it further disinclines me to purchase any of her works, but I can't help but think that when we hear about molestation and abuse, our first thought probably shouldn't be "But what about the books!"

Well, what other kind of reaction can we have in this case? The perpetrator has been dead for 15 years and the victim(s) don't seem comfortable talking publicly about it, so after acknowledging it happened and agreeing that it was shitty, the only thing left for us to do that I can see is try to suss out how this information relates to MZB's legacy, if at all. From what I can tell, MZB's estate is managed by a former lover, who has viciously attacked people who have made this kind of allegation in the past. For my part, I would certainly be uncomfortable buying books that this person would profit from.
at 05:18 on 12-06-2014, Daniel F
She's certainly been an influential author, though not always in a very positive way. Not that I think the merits (or lack thereof) of her writing have great bearing on the crimes themselves.

I suppose it further disinclines me to purchase any of her works, but I can't help but think that when we hear about molestation and abuse, our first thought probably shouldn't be "But what about the books!"
at 04:36 on 12-06-2014, James D
Well that's shitty. I haven't read anything of hers myself, but as far as I know she's pretty highly regarded, alongside other pioneering women writers like Leigh Brackett, Ursula K Le Guin, Andre Norton, etc.
I wonder what impact, if any, this is going to have on her legacy. This info about MZB herself being a child molester seems new, but it's been public record for years that she looked the other way or even defended her husband when he was molesting children, and hasn't made too much of an impact.

Does anything skeezy make it into her fiction?
at 01:41 on 12-06-2014, Michal
In today's "terrible news from the sff world", it's been revealed that Marion Zimmer Bradley was a child molester.

I am now so very glad my story was rejected from the latest Sword and Sorceress.
at 22:32 on 10-06-2014, Arthur B
For those who like gaming industry horror stories (or are wondering what happened to the long-awaited World of Darkness MMO), this is a fascinating read which also points out troubling trends in the state of the games industry as a whole.
at 00:12 on 10-06-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Welp, in another installment of Great Moments of Personal Hypocrisy, I decided to buy Wolfenstein: The New Order. After the launch trailer it looked like to be another Homefront situation, but I changed my mind about that after the reviews started coming out surprisingly positive. Everything I've read says that it's ludicrous, but they're coming at it from a different direction that the earlier games, and I'm curious to see it they pull it off.

'Course, once I fired it up I only got 3-4 frames per second, and I'm stil screwing with my four-year-old computer to make it work. (Ironically, I also bought W:TNO since my machine is aging out of the market and I wanted a final fancy-ass title for it.)

In other gaming news, I'm quite interested in Tangiers, a stealth-assassination game that takes its cues from the Surrealists, the Dadaists, and there's probably some Existentialists in there too. It should be out in August with any luck. Here's a trailer.
at 04:04 on 07-06-2014, Melanie
So trying to pretend that something can be apolitical might just be a hand wave to avoid the issues.

Or a way of saying, "my view on [issue] is the unbiased, neutral, default, correct one, untainted by such pettiness, and people with other views just hold them for political reasons (i.e. not real reasons)".
at 11:01 on 06-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Also, considering that politics is just a name for a very wide range of issues and not really a separate entity that can somehow be always recognized and removed from things, it can be argued that a work absolutely devoid of Serious Issues could very well be a work devoid of anything interesting or meaningful in general.

Or consider TV shows for very small children which try to be as nonthreatening as possible. They are either completely absurd or very tedious for an adult(well, in a majority of cases). Like Teletubbies. And it's still possible to see politics in that.

So trying to pretend that something can be apolitical might just be a hand wave to avoid the issues. Of course in some cases people can turn their senses off, and that should be okay on occasion, but that has to be a very subjective matter. And for an author to try and aim for that must be a finely tuned skill and by necessity be defined by the target audience, which makes it political again.

Beyond trying to remove the more controversial issues in the service of making a romp, I guess an option would be to just try and make the whole thing so abstract that any political issues would be tangential.
at 09:38 on 06-06-2014, Tamara
Is that even really possible - the hypothetical work truly devoid of Serious Issues - though? You have to hit quite, quite carefully considered notes in terms of history, representation, etc, to actually BE fun. You have to smooth out everything that might make a reader go "fuck this noise," and that actually requires a fairly finely tuned political sensibility (lining up with your audience, that is), to my mind.

I may just have an odd way of seeing these things, but I remember glomping hard onto the politics of Sleepy Hollow as the most interesting thing about it, for example. Erasing politics out of a work is a very, very political act, and sometimes fascinatingly illuminating. Jemisin, I think, isn't really saying that the problem with the book is that it isn't serious - it's that she can see the seams, see where the seriousness had to be taken out to get to 'a-political fun time adventure romp.'
at 11:04 on 04-06-2014, Shim
The thing is, I don't think it is an expression of contempt, except perhaps a very minor subconscious kind. Quite often I'm not interested in engaging with complexities - I don't want every book I read to be about Serious Issues and spend all its time unpacking social injustices or portraying complex and gray-morality situations. Obviously many fall in the middle ground, but sometimes I want something that ignores complex issues entirely in favour of simple fun. I think acknowledging that point is worthwhile, although I do agree that the phrasing is unfortunate.
at 10:23 on 04-06-2014, Chris A
"More than enough for just about everyone" reads as pretty straightforward sarcasm if we take the immediately preceding verdict of "fine, for readers who aren't especially interested in engaging with these complexities" as an expression of contempt. Which seems fairly inescapable.

Nice to see the Sunday Book Review giving an SFF author space to review SFF works, though. Thank you Robinson L for sharing the link!
at 09:30 on 04-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Well, from the point of view of rhetoric, if the reader needs to second guess his meaning, or interpret it too much, the author has failed to convey his intended message. The part in question does have too many options of how to read it and it seems that if the intention of the "just about everyone" is intended to exclude the author and those who care about intersectionality, it has to be assumed by the reader from context. Which is fine, as it goes, but it's hard to see why the author would want to insert that sort of confusion there on purpose. There are no purposes which that contradiction would serve really. So it's justified to be pedantic about it. But I guess it is a bit pedantic.

It is ponderous and silly! And it seems to be coasting along at the moment plot and pacing wise, but I've found it entertaining enough. Eva Green is good.
at 00:00 on 04-06-2014, Robinson L
I guess to me, "just about everyone" implies a dismissive attitude towards the people who are not included - as if the exceptions are negligible in both number and outlook. But yeah, you're probably right about Jemisin's intention.

I'm sure most of the general reading population probably isn't bothered by poor handling of intersectionality, and I probably subconsciously overestimate the minority which is because just about everyone I talk about fiction with is to a lesser or greater extent. However, I don't think the minority is so small that when you subtract it from the general reading population, "just about everyone" would be left over.

I guess it's possible that I'm putting too much thought into all this though, and getting overly hung up over choice of wording.
at 23:52 on 03-06-2014, Shim
I can't really decide how to read that, to be honest. Like Robinson, I tend to associate that phrase with a sense that reservations about a work are minor and an overall warm endorsement, which clashes with the long critical paragraph and its phrases like "it’s all surprisingly unengaging" and "trivialize the struggles and complexities that made the era fascinating in real life".

The combination does somehow come across with an unfortunate tone for me, but I'd tend to say patronising rather than presumptuous, and I don't think it's intentional. In context I'm sure the author's genuinely saying "if you're not bothered by that stuff, good on yer, enjoy it". It's just that it provokes the thought that it obviously isn't quite good enough for the author, so what does that say about you?

Anyway, too late to dig out my pragmatics textbooks, so night all. Hope that was relatively lucid, I'm tired.
at 23:07 on 03-06-2014, Alice
See, I read it as "just about everyone" = "most of the general population (not including the reviewer)", who are "people who aren't bothered by poor handling of intersectionality". If that makes sense.

I tend to assume that (poorly handled) intersectionality issues in fiction aren't a sticking point for most people, actually. For most of the people whose discussions of fiction I encounter/engage with? Sure. But not necessarily for the general (reading) population.
at 22:00 on 03-06-2014, Robinson L
@Alice: Yes, that was the part I was referring to.

(I guess when someone says X "should be more than enough for just about everyone," I tend to assume they're including themselves in that statement, which is also pat of why I found the juxtaposition of this line with the assertion that the story is "surprisingly unengaging" so baffling.)

My presumption would be that the intersectionality issues are likely to be a sticking point for more than "just about everyone," but I guess maybe I'm just splitting hairs over word choice.
at 15:50 on 03-06-2014, Alice
I'd agree with Adrienne: I think the unimpressed reviews Robinson linked to boil down to "if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you will like (but it doesn't work for me personally for intersectionality reasons)", which seems fair enough.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "presumptuous", though, Robinson: is that in reference to the "[that should be enough for] just about everyone" bit?
at 05:55 on 03-06-2014, Adrienne
Robinson L - I find, for example, that my tolerance for fast-paced action movies or novels with zero women in them (or women in them only as macguffins) is pretty low. They don't engage *me*, even if they are 'rollicking adventure yarns'. (There are exceptions; most of them are older works, and they are few and far between.)
at 00:45 on 02-06-2014, Michal
Sad news: Jay Lake died of cancer this morning.
at 22:36 on 31-05-2014, Robinson L
I've just been linked to this recent review of five new speculative fiction books by N.K. Jemisin, and idly curious as to folks' thoughts on the piece. Most puzzling to me is her discussion of "The Tropic of Serpents," which she characterizes as "unengaging" even when the action picks, and speculates may be because the book - like so much "neo-Victorian" literature neatly elides all the unpleasant racial, class, imperial, and socio-economic (and mostly gender) issues which typified actual Victorian society. She then goes on to say:

Which is fine, for readers who aren’t especially interested in engaging with those complexities. In that case, the story is exactly what it says on the tin: a rollicking adventure in which women wearing unnerving amounts of underwear tromp through jungles on dragon-hunting safaris. Really, that should be more than enough for just about everyone.

... Which to this ignorant white guy sounds just a little bit presumptuous (but, again, the key words are the two adjectives and the noun), and doesn't quite seem to jive with the "surprisingly unengaging" description.
at 13:55 on 31-05-2014, Tamara
I watched Penny Dreadful! It's dreadful! Silly and ponderous...except one plotline, which is just enough ever so slightly better than everything else to keep me watching, dammit.
at 15:44 on 30-05-2014, Arthur B permalink
at 15:30 on 26-05-2014, Robinson L
Ibmiller: I wasn't paying that close attention when I was watching Warm Bodies, to be honest. Or are you talking about the book/short story the film is based upon?

Sorry, I was talking about the book, haven't seen the movie. I've heard a little from fans of the book about the movie as an adaptation - opinion seems to be divided over whether it's a decent reinterpretation or a horrible travesty.