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 19:32 on 05-05-2012, Wardog
ALAS, poor Shim. Actually Dan and I saw a Hilary Mantel in Waterstones the other day (The Giant O'Brien) and it was only like 200 pages long so we thought she'd responded to your criticisms ;)
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at 19:14 on 05-05-2012, Shimmin
I can't bear it. No more!
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at 15:08 on 05-05-2012, James D
But is characterization that great if the characters fail to grow and change over the course of the novel? Or does character growth fall into the realm of plotting? To bring it back to Mieville for a moment, I found his main characters in PSS and The Scar extremely well-sketched, very 3-dimensional and interesting, but after 800+ pages they ended up more or less exactly the same people they were at the beginning.
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at 01:19 on 05-05-2012, Ibmiller
Speaking of people who are rubbish at plot but have occasionally brilliant characterization and imagery, I just saw Avengers! And it was just that!
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at 01:01 on 05-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Well this is interesting: a brief discussion on the use of the young white male loser archetype in modern American fiction and what it says about the relationship between the contemporary American male writer and the female reader. It also articulates one of the reasons I don't like modern American fiction.
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at 00:52 on 05-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Well, there's a wealth of literary shenanigans you an use to get over it. Just get all meta-everything and symbolical all over that text.

I've never been smart enough to get away with something like that. I prefer to stick with ol' Bill Watterson's advice. In one of his Calvin and Hobbes collections, he said that the best comics have great art and great writing, but one can often make up for the weakness of another. The way I see it, if you're not good at plot but are gangbusters at imagery and character, then keep the plot simple and straightforward and make the other parts as big, beautiful, and enjoyable as you can. And if you can articulate your plot through imagery and character, that's even better.
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at 21:28 on 04-05-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
And think, since the coherence of the plot is as much in the mind of the reader as it is in the text, an incoherent plot's quality is more dependent on the reader. This grants an admirable freedom to the reader as well as implying that if the reader does not appreciate the text, the problem is with the reader's lack of intelligence rather than the text itself. Rather like if one would attempt to construct a person from a pile of miscellaneous body parts, if the pile is big and varied enough, the end result really depends more on the compiler rather than the pile.
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at 20:34 on 04-05-2012, Furare
The lack of a coherent plot symbolises the inherent randomness and meaninglessness of life.
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at 20:02 on 04-05-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Well, there's a wealth of literary shenanigans you an use to get over it. Just get all meta-everything and symbolical all over that text.
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at 13:23 on 04-05-2012, Furare
Yeah, I'm great at imagery and characterisation but terrible at plot. I'd say I ought to do some sort of collaboration if I wanted to be a writer but I really don't think "inability to plot" ever stopped anyone from publishing a fantasy novel. >.>
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at 21:31 on 03-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Not necessarily. Some people just start with images and work their way forward from there.
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at 21:29 on 03-05-2012, James D
Oh, I liked PSS too, I just enjoy making fun of it because it has some glaring flaws and it's hugely overrated. I find it really weird that Mieville managed to master style, setting, characterization, etc. but has no idea of how to come up with a decent plot, which ought to be the easiest part of writing a novel. After all, isn't what happens the first thing you think of when inspired to write? It's like Mieville learned to write backwards.
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at 20:48 on 03-05-2012, Bjoern
I feel like a party pooper, but I actually enjoyed Perdido Street Station when I read it ten years ago. The only thing that annoyed me was his tendency to introduce stuff and then forget about it. Like the subplot about the intelligent garbage dump thingumajic that went nowhere...

Still, I'd enjoy another romp through the Bas-Lag, preferably if it involved the Thanatology of High Cromlech. Mainly, because it's fun to say that name: Cromlech.

And for the sheer amount of bad puns I also liked Un Lun Dun.

That being said: Being full time employed nowadays, I'm grateful for him being able to write shorter books and I liked the laid back style of The City & The City. The Kraken was too pulpy and derivative for its own good. Embassytown was okay, but it was basically an essay on the way linguistics shape social norms disguised as a science fiction novel. Then again, quite a lot of SF novels are essays disguised as narratives.

In terms of New Weird writers I began to prefer Jeff VanDermeer a few years ago. Especially his short fiction is quite glorious, despite its (mushroom)flowery prose and it being more style than substance. (Cf. "The Situation".)
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at 19:48 on 03-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I had no idea that New Crobuzon was the asphalt capital of Bas-Lang. Their chamber of commerce needs to get off their asses and start putting that in the travel brochures ASAP.
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at 19:36 on 03-05-2012, Michal
That may be so, I'm only 40 pages in. But still, even if it turns out sour--just 345 pages! At least Mieville isn't just wasting my time with bitumous smoke stacks.
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at 19:20 on 03-05-2012, James D
Interesting, I'd heard it was even more pretentious than his other books, with the central big concept apparently eclipsing the plot and characters and sucking the book up its own asshole. I might've even read that here, but probably not in quite those words.
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at 19:06 on 03-05-2012, Michal
Mainly, I prefer not having to go through six pages describing bituminous smoke stacks. This is definately an improvement.
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at 19:02 on 03-05-2012, Michal
So I'm reading Embassytown and I far prefer this older, less rambly Mieville than the Mieville that wrote Perdido Street Station. I mean, this one's just 345 pages! That about how long Perdido Street Station should have been!
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at 06:12 on 03-05-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
AH. Same here, you only have to deal with it, if you're self-employed.
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at 22:54 on 02-05-2012, Shimmin
Taxes here for salaried people are Pay As You Earn, i.e. employers handle it and I just get a payslip every month. The only time I've ever had to do anything was taxes when I was temping and had wildly variable income. Then I had to send in a breakdown of my employment for the year so they could correct their massive over-estimate and send me a cheque :)
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at 20:45 on 02-05-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
xkcd is still good at times, when it focuses on math and other wonderful things I understand too little about, but find fascinating to read about. I prefer irregularwebcomic.net, though. Lots of horrible puns and the essays that ostensibly comment on the comic are wonderful.

I remember that Swedish always seemed such a drag in school, but it's really neat to know it nowadays, after I took the effort to learn it. Also, taxes are cool, but I guess this depends on where you live.
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at 20:33 on 02-05-2012, Ibmiller
I still rather like XKCD, and read it because it 1) hasn't really made me mad; and 2) it takes so little time. Every now and then, he'll either make me extremely angry, or extremely happy, so I consider it a fair trade.
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at 20:03 on 02-05-2012, Wardog
They speak scary French in Canada anyway - the accent is largely impenetrable to me...
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at 19:56 on 02-05-2012, Michal
The only time I read xkcd any more is when it's linked here.

*grimly remembers stumbling through about a decade of Core French classes to little success, continues meditating on folly of choosing to live in a city where a fair chunk of the civil service jobs require bilingualism*

Considering the latest massive job cuts in the civil service, it probably ain't so bad. As for me, I'm going to be doing my MA in Montreal and my Latin is far better than my French.

My Latin isn't very good. This will be... interesting.

(I am bilingual, it just happens to be in the wrong langauge! Unless there's a sudden influx of Polish immigrants who will make their own province. But that's not likely to happen.)
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