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 13:57 on 18-06-2014, Arthur B
I don't usually have much time for Aaron "Dresden Codak" Diaz but he's laying down a lot of truth on Twitter lately (STFU Moffatt has a summary here which I find more tolerable than actual Twitter).
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at 14:27 on 17-06-2014, Alice
See, I actually don't mind not having heard of all the "if you liked X" books, because they give you a "Z elements that X and Y have in common" bit to explain why "you'll love Y". And that's enough for me to go on, at least to make a "shall I look this one up online to see if it sounds like something I'd want to put on my library loan list?" decision.

Plus, they're going to be recommending a book a day all summer, so odds are they'll mention at least one or two Xes I've heard of in that time. ;)
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at 10:37 on 17-06-2014, Axiomatic
The only problem with the "if you liked X, you'll love Y" model is that, well, I find it helps me if you list X's that I've actually heard of. That entire list is basically stuff I've never heard of, plus Harry Potter...whic I didn't like.
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at 23:48 on 16-06-2014, Alice
I thought this might be of interest to Ferretbrain readers:

We Need Diverse Books is "a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. We recognize many kinds of diversity, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, those impacted by their gender, those with disabilities, ethnic/cultural/religious minorities, etc. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process."

I'm particularly enjoying their summer reading series, which recommends diverse books based on the "if you liked that, try this" principle (e.g. "if you liked Harry Potter, try Akata Witch").
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at 19:40 on 16-06-2014, Adrienne
Dan H. -- You aren't the same guy who posts as Dan H at Charles Stross' blog, are you?
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at 18:01 on 14-06-2014, Sunnyskywalker
I knew about her brushing off her husband's actions because (she said) they were big strong boys who could have said no if they really wanted and she was in love with the guy, which is horrible enough. I'm not sure why it still surprises me that there's more horrible parts to the story. Desperate hope that it's so bad that at least it can't get worse, I guess?

I never read much of her work, but one I did read in high school was Stormqueen! Which, as I fuzzily recall, involved an 11-year-old girl who every guy agreed totally looked older and really hot and they kept trying to rape her, so she blasted them with lightning. And at the end she "has to" be kept forever in a drugged coma because she's "too dangerous" and so it's for the best, honest. In retrospect, it's hard for me not to see real life influence in this story... Especially given that her daughter says she was finally "able to walk away" and end the molestation at age 12. Now I'm looking at dates and wondering just how much real life influenced fiction. I can't find the daughter's birthdate, but MZB married Walter in 1964, and Stormqueen! was published in 1978. Did she write the book just as her daughter started trying to stop it? No words.

Also, her 1965 scholarly article Feminine equivalents of Greek love in modern fiction" looks a whole lot less like academic interest in an under-examined element in fiction now.

Yeah, very difficult to separate the art from the artist in this kind of case. Some things can't be un-known.
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at 08:15 on 13-06-2014, Adrienne
Arthur B: it's not exactly news, but the little bit from Ms. Waters in the depositions lends itself to multiple interpretations (is she misremembering what the daughter told her, etc. -- remember that the depositions happened a longish time after the events.) To the best of my fairly certain knowledge (I have followed disclosures about this particular rat's nest for awhile) this is the first time Ms. Greyland has ever spoken about this publicly, or as an adult, about this.
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at 01:30 on 13-06-2014, James D
Lackey's books are also full of abused children.

Yes, that's the kind of thing I was wondering about. It's quite possible that certain parts of MZB's books, which may have seemed totally innocuous before, will have acquired all sorts of unpleasant implications in light of these revelations.
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at 00:56 on 13-06-2014, Chris A
I agree that the self-absorbedness (self-absorption? no, that sounds dangerous and painful) of reacting to this kind of news by pondering whether and how much one has to adjust one's literary opinions is probably worth registering. That said, I also tend to agree that it's a natural and obvious reaction, at least in the absence of any personal connection to the situation.

The only book of MZB's I've ever read was The Mists of Avalon, and I didn't have any feelings about it one way or the other.

But to walk even a bit further down the primrose path, Mercedes Lackey was very close to Bradley - spoke of owing her career to MZB, may have ghostwritten books for her after her stroke - and I passionately loved Lackey's books as a kid, and read them over and over again (psychic sparkle ponies and angsty gay wizards: her novels were pretty much all I sought in a book as a twelve-year-old).

Lackey's books are also full of abused children. Strange, and sad, to think about her connection to Bradley in light of Goldin's account of years of court cases and determined obliviousness by those close to Bradley and her ex-husband.
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at 21:36 on 12-06-2014, Arthur B
It is worth noting that this is not actually news, sadly.

Stephen Goldin has had the information out there - including depositions from Bradley and from Elizabeth Waters from a civil court case - for over a decade. (Huge trigger warning for that site, obviously, since the depositions involve fairly frank discussions of abuse.) Goldin's stuff mostly focuses on Bradley's ex-husband's well-documented abusive behaviour, but Waters' deposition has her directly saying that Greyland had confided in her that Bradley had abused her, and that Waters accepted a strange brush-off from Bradley as the end of the matter without looking any deeper. (Waters, incidentally, is the former lover who manages the Bradley estate, and put out a version of the facts in response to Goldin's website which, as Goldin points out, doesn't really line up with what Waters herself said in court.)

It's been well over a decade since this information was made available, so I fully expect a hard core of Bradley defenders to keep trying to brush over this for a good long time to come.
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at 20:50 on 12-06-2014, Alice
As regards her literary reputation... on the one hand I see the temptation to say, as Deirdre did in the linked comments, that this shouldn't affect what you think of Bradley's fiction. On the other hand, if this shouldn't affect it, just what should?

I think this is one of those cases where it can be very difficult to separate the art from the artist, especially because the events are comparatively recent. While Bradley is dead (and therefore buying her books doesn't directly benefit a child molester), her (and her husband's) victims are still living and (in some cases) bearing witness to the abuse.

Personally, I find it quite difficult to separate artists and their work when I find the artist morally reprehensible, though I find my level of concern depends a lot on whether the artist and their victims (if any) are are alive. So I can't bring myself to watch Roman Polanski or Woody Allen films, but I don't look too closely at historical authors/artists/etc.

I haven't actually read any Bradley (her books never appealed to me enough to give them a try), and if I did now, I know that my reading experience would be coloured by what I know of the author. So I doubt I ever will read them, but if I did, I certainly wouldn't buy them (for the reason James gives).
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at 17:55 on 12-06-2014, Daniel F
Well, what other kind of reaction can we have in this case?


Well, that's just it. I don't think there's much that can be said. On the personal level, all I can do is hope that the pain of the evils she committed is overcome, and resolve not to buy anything that would support her estate. For people involved in the industry, it's a sober reminder of the possibility of abuse, and to guard against it.

As regards her literary reputation... on the one hand I see the temptation to say, as Deirdre did in the linked comments, that this shouldn't affect what you think of Bradley's fiction. On the other hand, if this shouldn't affect it, just what should?
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at 17:19 on 12-06-2014, James D
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.

Yes, that's certainly true. It's a very human need to want to view people we agree with or like as saints, and vice versa, but of course people are more complex like that. Someone else's comment on that blog post Adrienne linked is a good example:

I used to work with a woman who was a babysitter for Marian’s kids. She later married Terry Carr. She told me, 27 years ago, that she was in denial about the stuff that was going on and was very idealistic and didn’t want to believe that talented hippies would get high and neglect and abuse children.

I guess we're lucky that now there's enough evidence that people can't really deny it anymore. Makes you wonder how much abuse goes similarly unreported because the abusers don't fit people's preconceptions of what an abuser is like.
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at 13:54 on 12-06-2014, Adrienne
FYI, Ms. Greyland (the daughter in question) has turned up in the comments section at Deirdre's other blog post (the LJ is a crosspost) to answer some questions.
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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.
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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.
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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!"
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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)".
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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.
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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.'
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