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 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.

@Tamara
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.)
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at 00:45 on 02-06-2014, Michal
Sad news: Jay Lake died of cancer this morning.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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at 23:19 on 25-05-2014, Melanie
Hey, has anyone else read the Chez Apocalypse thing you mentioned? I'm just wondering, since a friend got it for me as a result of this thread, and it was hilarious. "Masterpiece" is possibly not too strong a description.

There was this bit when they go see Nyarlathotep:
“No kidding.” The man’s voice turned flat. “Looks just like the last one. Where do you dig these women up?”

The loop-de-loop in my stomach flipped into a nose dive and I jerked, ripping my hand from Riley’s. He looked at me, startled. I quickly straightened my sweater, afraid to look him in the eye. “The last one?” I mumbled, my heart thudding in my ears.

“It was long ago,” Riley said stiffly. “And a grave error.”


I want to know how many times this has happened before, because now I'm imagining a Strahd-like situation.
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at 04:19 on 25-05-2014, Ibmiller
Brain junkies! 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?
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at 22:02 on 24-05-2014, Robinson L
Ibmiller: Both series posit that if you eat brains, you get some mind back. It's a handwave, but a semi-clever one?

Can't speak for White Trash Zombie, but in Warm Bodies, even before the zombies eat brains, they're not actually mindless (they're a bit like zombies in the figurative sense of "people who are really out of it and don't make much use of their higher brain functions") - the semi-clever bit is the way the author comes up for a plausible explanation for how they could still be semi-intelligent, and still almost always act like a classical mindless zombie around humans (basically, they have a deep-seated hunger for human brains and exceptionally low self-control when it comes to resisting said hunger).
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at 09:01 on 24-05-2014, Melanie
I remember this webcomic, Ow My Sanity, that maybe did a bit. Or a lot, depending on how you take "humanize".
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at 05:50 on 24-05-2014, Michal
Cthulhurotica did, um, romanticize the creatures just a little.
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at 05:35 on 24-05-2014, Bookwyrm
Has anyone else besides Chez Apocalypse tried to humanize(romanticize?) the creatures of the Lovecraft mythos?
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at 13:46 on 23-05-2014, Ibmiller
In Warm Bodies, they attempt to ignore/cure that part, leading them to be, indeed, no longer zombies. In the White Trash Zombie series, there's a system of distribution from local morgues and funeral businesses - at least for the "good" zombies. It's like a lot of the urban fantasies starring vampires - the "good" undead eat the already dead/animals/synthetic stuff, the "bad" undead go about killing people to get it.

Of course, the mindless thing is the real problem. Both series posit that if you eat brains, you get some mind back. It's a handwave, but a semi-clever one?
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at 13:11 on 23-05-2014, Shim
This is my problem with a lot of the existing urban fantasy stuff, but, surely the defining features of zombies are a) being mindless and b) craving human flesh? I just don't see how you can "rehabilitate" them, because if you remove a) they're not only no longer zombies, but they're cannibals; if you remove b) they're drones; and if you remove both they're either dead or human.

Can anyone explain?
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at 23:26 on 22-05-2014, Ibmiller
There's also the rather drippy and cliched "Warm Bodies," and the urban fantasy "White Trash Zombie" series by Diana Rowland - much less drippy and cliched, though not fully to my taste.

I...know Orphan Black is about clones, and I don't know if it's that or the trailers, but I have zero desire to know what happens in the first place. :)
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at 17:54 on 22-05-2014, Tamara
My sister has been raving about "In the Flesh," which is apparently a BBC Zombie-rehabilitation show with a gay protagonist. Who knew there was more meat in zombies yet?

I may have to check out Penny Dreadful...

Orphan Black - I watched the first season, and I found it much more impressive than actually enjoyable, for some reason. (I think I'm in a minority though, most people I know thoroughly love it.) It ticks all the boxes, both in terms of politics (women, LGBT, Hard-ish SF, etc) and in terms of craft (acting, pace, plot, etc) but also had a total lack of anything - character, plot point, mystery, ANYTHING - that actually made me want to know what happens next.
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at 16:53 on 22-05-2014, Arthur B
Now, the more inhuman your supernatural entity of choice looks, the less able you are to "rehabilitate" them in this way -- faeries have glamours to make them look human, werewolves look human most of the time, you can invent all sorts of ways to have vampires wander around the human world, but what do you do with dehydrated, bandage-wrapped, shambling, faceless, ex-humans?

Well, first you get a lot of moisturiser...
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at 16:39 on 22-05-2014, Alice
I've been thinking about the "which supernatural beings have been included in contemporary re-imaginings?" question, and why it seems that mummies haven't formed a big part of this (in contrast to, say, vampires, witches/wizards, and werewolves. Though there's been a smattering of mummies, I suppose -- even the thoroughly non-supernatural Castle had a "mummy's curse" episode).

And it strikes me that one of the reasons for a not-so shocking lack of mummies in recent(ish) works is that there's been a shift from seeing various supernatural entities as mindless monsters to at the very least charming and attractive (albeit dangerous) monsters (Anne Rice's vampires?), all the way across the (anti-)hero spectrum (not entirely sure if the Cullens are quite heroes, but they must be getting pretty close).

Now, the more inhuman your supernatural entity of choice looks, the less able you are to "rehabilitate" them in this way -- faeries have glamours to make them look human, werewolves look human most of the time, you can invent all sorts of ways to have vampires wander around the human world, but what do you do with dehydrated, bandage-wrapped, shambling, faceless, ex-humans?

Then again, no-one's tried to rehabilitate zombies from monsters to protagonists, either (as far as I know), but they are pretty well-established baddies. So it still seems a bit odd that there are relatively few works with mummy antagonists.
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