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 18:58 on 31-05-2015, Adrienne
I'm wondering if the 'Kyra' who's been posting on the File770 threads about the Hugo nonsense is our very own Ferretbrain editor.

(Oh, the Hugo nonsense. Any other Ferretneurons following along? It's like a trainwreck i can't look away from...)
at 18:02 on 19-05-2015, Robinson L
I recently got put onto this Kickstarter, and it looks pretty cool, and like the sort of thing some Ferretneurons may want to back.

It's a 74-page graphic novel about a young woman going to Comic Con who witnesses a murder, and hides out from the killer at the convention. Seems like a promising premise to me, and I absolutely adore the artwork.

(If you're interested in backing, you'll have to hurry - the Kickstarter closes on Saturday.)
at 18:00 on 01-05-2015, Robinson L
Happy May Day, Ferretbrain; hope you're all having fun and/or kicking up some well-deserved trouble.
at 14:20 on 17-04-2015, Ibmiller
I've been watching iZombie, and quite enjoying it, in large part because it feels so tonally similar to Veronica Mars season 1. I also enjoyed the film and the two novels that were tacked onto Veronica Mars, to give context.
at 18:00 on 16-04-2015, Robinson L
Having done a tiny bit of research on iZombie, I note that the show was developed (whatever that means) by Rob Thomas, which, welllll ...

Pros: He's responsible for the first season of Veronica Mars.
Cons: He's responsible for the third season of Veronica Mars.
Bit of a mix: He's responsible for the second season of Veronica Mars.
(I still haven't seen the film.)
at 15:15 on 14-04-2015, Robinson L
Re: Dust
I only ever read the first book, and that one only once, and I wasn't paying super close attention. I remember Rien saying something about a parental figure telling her "how do you know for sure you don't like it if you haven't tried it?" and the way Rien talked about it and reacted to the idea of sex with cismen in other parts of the story made me think she tried it, and got confirmation she didn't like it. I was a bit surprised about her receptivity to Mallory's male sexual parts for that very reason, but I just chalked it up to one of the things I, as a straight male raised in a heterosexist culture, don't understand about other people's sexual orientations. Again, though, I wasn't paying incredibly close attention the one time I read the book, so I can believe I misunderstood somewhere.

Yeah, I've heard about Aliette de Bodard's Aztec-based fantasy, and I like the idea precisely because it's not "yet another Medieval Europe-based setting." I've even read one of her short stories, and I didn't find it great, but it was quite good. (I also think she's written sci-fi where the two dominant powers are Amerindian and I want to say Chinese? That sounds cool, too.)

I've been meaning to get around to her books at some point - I have a long reading list though, and I'm a slow reader. It's really too bad her books don't appear to be available on audio.

(The author is French, and doesn't appear to have South American ancestry.)

Yeah, I believe her ancestry is Vietnamese. I remember she was interviewed on a podcast, talking about the dangers of writing another culture and having to be very careful not to do something offensive - I can believe she doesn't %100 succeed.

Re: iZombie
That does sound interesting - thanks for the recommendation, Cheriola.

@Adrienne: So sorry to hear about your crappy year+. I'm glad if I was able to cheer you up some, and I hope things continue to improve for you.
at 17:05 on 13-04-2015, Adrienne
Robinson L: I just now saw your good wishes from all the way back in January. *sheepish* (I haven't been around much on account of having been having a depressive episode all winter.) 2014 was actually a pretty shitty year, and the first couple months of 2015 weren't so hot either, but things are improving at this point -- and it made me really happy to be catching up on Playpen posts and see your kind words. :) So thanks! <3
at 21:52 on 12-04-2015, Cheriola
Oh! And I wanted to recommend the new series iZombie. It's kind of Veronica Mars crossed with Pushing Daisies. The protagonist is a cute and snarky zombie who has to eat brains and who for that purpose works at the morgue. The brains temporarily give her personality traits and skills of the previous owner, as well as visions of their lives / deaths. The other main characters are her boss and only confidant, who is adorably geeky and super supportive, and a police detective who thinks she's just psychic and who snarks with the best of them. Together, they solve murders. Two thirds of this main cast are PoC, the protagonist might be bisexual (we're not sure yet), and except for the last episode (which featured uncriticised slut-shaming, a teenage boy being a total creep about an absent woman as 'comedy', and weirdly stereotyped East Asian gang members), the show's writing has been remarkably progressive so far. As in: the episodes usually feature a character making intersectionally feminist statements for no plot-relevant reason. (For example a neighbor trying to protect an immigrant sex worker from potential police harassment, or the police character commenting on the racism and sexism of the exclusively White audience in a cop bar that had some I Dream of Jeanie inspired live entertainment.)

But what I find most remarkable is that, aside maybe from the protagonist's family and roommate, I really like every recurring character so far. I don't think I've ever seen a show where that was the case before. Even the villain is entertaining and even charming sometimes, for all he is a sociopathic, manipulative user.

Note, though, that I don't generally watch zombie movies or shows (I think zombies as villains are very boring), so if you're a fan of those, this might feel somewhat sacrilegious to you.
at 20:28 on 12-04-2015, Cheriola
@Robinson: Re: Dust
Yes, Rien said that she was definetly more into cis women, but she also said that she has had sex with cis boys "to be sure" (which I don't really think a 16-year-old lesbian would do, at least not in a society that really doesn't judge about these things), and her reaction to intersex Mallory offering to adjust his genitals for her convenience is basically "don't be silly". Besides, while someone in the third book judges Mallory to be transgender and somewhat feminine (which may be a change from the first book, since he's now together with Tristan who previously had a wife), everyone uses male pronouns for Mallory (there is a minor character for whom alternative agender pronouns are used, so it's not like the author just didn't want to deal with the writing inconvenience), and well... people can get rather upset if you judge their sexual orientation from their genderqueer partner's body instead of their gender identity. (Example: ) So I'm wary of calling Rien as purely lesbian. She is homoromantic for sure, though. Or well, as far as you can tell with a teenager who never got beyond her first love.

By the way, I seem to remember someone on this site reviewing a truly offensive / atrocious fantasy novel set in pre-columbian South America? I recently read "Servant of the Underworld" by Aliette De Bodard. (Because the TV Tropes site listed the protagonist as asexual - this turned out to be a misinterpretation by someone who can't distinguish between celibacy / low libido and lack of sexual attraction, or by someone who straight up remembered things wrong. Still, there's very little sexual content in the book for something featuring a sex goddess banished to Earth and a plot that hinges a lot on adultery. The protagonist is a Holmes expy in some ways, though not really in terms of personality. ) Despite this disappointment, the book turned out quite interesting for its setting of non-European-middle-ages-based fantasy. It's basically "what if the Aztec religious beliefs and magic were actually true", with a lot of work put into the details of Aztek life and worldview, and the plot is a murder mystery that eventually involves the gods and the end of the world. There were some issues with repetitive phrasing and hard-to-remember names, the author is a little overly fond of describing the details of people's clothing and interior decoration, and it is a rather sexist and gender-segregated society so major female characters somewhat scarce (the author actually invented an non-historical priesthood just to have a female character powerful enough to have political influence). I was also raising my eyebrows at various characters being described as "pale as chalk" or similarly when scared/sick/drowned/etc., since I don't think that's how it works for people who are normally quite brown. (The author is French, and doesn't appear to have South American ancestry.)
But overall, I found it quite enjoyable and overall inoffensive. There is a lot of blood sacrifice going on, but it's mostly just animals or small amounts of the priests' own blood. (All the characters are completely okay with human sacrifices in general, but the author shied away from making her "good guys" actually take part in them, by falsely claiming that their particular gods don't want any, as she admits in the "How accurate is all this?" essay at the end.)
The plot really isn't anything special, and the character development drags rather too long, but if you want the whole "the past is a different country" experience, this is probably as alien to the modern, Western enculturation as it gets while still being based on the experience, needs and wants of humans.
at 18:48 on 12-04-2015, Arthur B
Chuck Tingle is our greatest living Amazon troll but with these two stories (1, 2) he may have outdone himself. Magnificent.
at 14:56 on 09-04-2015, Ibmiller
That's a really great video, Alasdair, thanks for linking! I personally don't really like the FPS genre, but the video is thoughtful, interesting, and well presented (only complaint is that it feels more like a really nice radio lecture than a video, since I watched while doing other things, and whenever I would pay more attention to the video itself, it rarely had anything but a tangential connection to the words I was hearing. But that's a really tiny complaint, since as a radio lecture, it's phenomenal).
at 02:54 on 07-04-2015, Alasdair Czyrnyj
When I woke up this morning, I never thought I'd end the day by saying "boy, that was an insightful and compelling two-hour video about the evolution of the Call of Duty franchise that actually has me reconsidering some of my prejudices."

And yet, here we are.
at 15:30 on 01-04-2015, Robinson L
Right, I didn't want to suggest I think it's unproblematic, and you raise some excellent points; but as you say, it was affecting and powerful, despite the problems. I agree with you that the ending was especially moving - personally, I spent at least the last 10 minutes or so wondering how they were going to pull off a conclusion which felt appropriate to the tone, and I wasn't expecting anything on the order of what it delivered.
at 11:36 on 01-04-2015, Andy G
I also found Pride to be affecting and it's certainly a powerful story, but I did have some reservations. I found the heart-warming British comedy style to be slightly by-the-numbers and also sat uncomfortably with the radical nature of the story; I thought the generic teenage coming-out-story character they invented was superfluous and would have preferred to see more of Mark Ashton; it seemed to spend a lot more time establishing how homophobic the miners were rather than concentrating on the politics (this central conflict was not historically grounded); and for a film about gay pride there was an almost total absence of sexuality or sexual desire. I should stress that I did somehow still find it powerful, especially the end, despite these problems.
at 22:30 on 31-03-2015, Robinson L
My sisters and I watched Pride last night along with my dad and his significant other. I don't think I'll be able to write a review, as it would probably just consist of me gushing about the film. We all loved it. I mean, I'm a sucker for stories about oppressed groups coming together despite their differences in solidarity and mutual support (in this case, gay activists and striking mine workers in the 1980s). But it's also incredibly well-executed, with numerous touching and/or funny moments. And despite the grim nature of the context (which the film acknowledges), it's mostly positive and upbeat, which as one of my sisters pointed out, is very rare for a mainstream gay film.

... So yeah, all-in-all, great movie.
at 16:01 on 31-03-2015, Ibmiller
Oh, I should also add that there are several scenes of sexual violence, which a lot of reviewers have commented on (in a sadly biased fashion, I think - Sorry I forgot to mention that in the first post.
at 15:59 on 31-03-2015, Ibmiller
I just read Jo Walton's "The Just City," and really enjoyed it. Perhaps because my high school reading of "The Republic" was mostly me railing at how horrible the Noble Lie is and how annoying Plato's Socrates was with all his yes-men. Walton's Republic (on Atlantis!) (with robots and time travel and actual Greek gods!) is full of well-intentioned folk who are very much like the yes men in Plato's book, but then Sokrates (spelling in the book) is magically whisked there by Athene (ditto) and promptly sets about actually questioning the assumptions of the city. It does end extremely abruptly, plot-wise, though thematically I thought it was pretty great, and it's the first in a trilogy, so hopefully the dangling threads will be caught up in the summer.
at 15:12 on 29-03-2015, Arthur B
I guess some of those do straddle genre lines, but it's interesting how many people think that genres are a mutually exclusive one-label-only thing.

My rule of thumb in such situations is to tell people that picking a costume they like and are enthusiastic about is more important than strict adherence to theme anyway. :D
at 14:14 on 29-03-2015, Andy G
I've had a quite interesting experience in testing the limits of genre recently. I've invited friends to a "science fiction and fantasy" themed costume party, which I thought was fairly self-explanatory, but I've been surprised by how many people were completely flummoxed about what counts as sci-fi or fantasy and have been messaging me requesting clarification. Queries have included: Harry Potter? Peter Pan? Wizard of Oz? Power Rangers? Transformers? "Computer game characters"? X-Men? Ghostbusters? Frozen?
at 15:30 on 18-03-2015, Robinson L
Jules V.O.: This is the one that got me.

Yeah, that's good, too.

There's also this tribute from the other day: How to Tell You're in a Terry Pratchett novel. I particularly appreciate the Hogfather reference at the end - it's from the same snippet of the book that I used on my livejournal for my own tribute post.
at 16:07 on 17-03-2015, Jules V.O.
In more Pratchett memorial news, my sister Noria shared this picture with me recently, which she described as "the saddest adorable thing ever." I think it's an accurate description.

This is the one that got me.
at 15:30 on 16-03-2015, Robinson L
In more Pratchett memorial news, my sister Noria shared this picture with me recently, which she described as "the saddest adorable thing ever." I think it's an accurate description.

@Arthur: That's a beautiful sentiment, I hope you're right.

@Cheriola: That's sweet, thanks for sharing. And this part:

he must have been the most effective teacher of secular humanist ethics of our age

Totally agree. When I first went to undergrad and started studying philosophy (about seven years ago, now) my dad asked me at one point who my favorite philosopher was, and I can't remember which one of us said it anymore, but one put forward Terry Pratchett. I really do think he was a philosophical writer par excellence, even if I did find myself disagreeing with him on more and more points as time progressed. A couple years after that conversation with my dad, I was at a con panel on "The Philosophy of Discworld," where you had this guy talking about all this interesting philosophical ideas he found in the Discworld series, and I mostly remembering thinking just 'Yeah, that's about right.'

... And I also found his books immensely fun, which is hardly ever the case for me when it comes to Great Works of Literature.

Also interesting reading of "Bonnie & Clyde." I may have to check it out, for research on asexual characters if nothing else.

Re: Dust
Interesting: I agree that Perceval is definitely asexual, but I read Rein as emphatically not interested in male-bodied people at all, to the point where she only had sex with the intersex character in spite of their male-bodied characteristics. It has been a couple of years since I read the book, though.
at 20:27 on 15-03-2015, Arthur B
I don’t know if I should be glad that he passed peacefully and apparently before his condition got unbearable mentally, or be sad that he didn’t get to make his stand on the issue of assisted suicide as he had planned.

Unless we hear anything to the contrary I'm choosing to take that as a sign that, despite the struggles of his condition, it never quite hit the point where the "dignified exit" route outweighed what joys he still had in life.
at 21:53 on 14-03-2015, Cheriola
Argh, that's supposed to say "T.E. Lawrence", of course. I always get him mixed up with D.H. Lawrence...