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 11:17 on 06-05-2012, Wardog
Also I'm sayin, the last time we built a massive ship it didn't exactly go well, did it? And lead to the death of Leonardo di Caprio so we should really think about that we're doing here.
at 08:45 on 06-05-2012, Shim
It also sounds like an ecological pain to me. I mean, leaving aside the massive ship itself and the toxic materials built into it, it'll burn tons of fuel, and the passengers are to commute to the shore and back by plane. Yeah, great. But their claims about building a special community are rather undermined by their constant focus on the commercial aspects.

@Kyra: clearly the Dreaming Void series is the place to start, no?
@Arthur: I have actually thought it'd be fun to do a short-story TF, but I dunno how you'd actually do it.
at 06:49 on 06-05-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Grant Morrison's Filth had a story line wher an ocean liner with an utopic community disintegrates into an apocalyptic nightmare, because the series (kindof) main antagonist messes around there. Related to the them and Wallace's essay, check out the newest Simpsons episode: "A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again."

The ferries into Baltic sea between Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki and Turku are basically giant malls with cabins and a huge helping of drunken Scandinavians(well, Finns might not count as such), so this is not a surprising development to me. At least it's not SeaOrg.
at 03:09 on 06-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Ah, that silly ol' thing.

When looking over the proposed design features, the sentence "The shopping mall, one of the world's largest, would also be one of its most beautiful" filled me with so much sadness. It's just the idea that someone would want to design a utopic new community, and the best thing they could think of to put in it is a shopping mall.

Christ, it even looks like a goddamned mall too.

This also caught my eye: "As it circumnavigates the world, Freedom Ship would make a series of offshore stops, including exotic tropical islands accessible only by sea. These stops would provide the ship's residents and entrepreneurs with extensive and varied touring and business opportunities, and bring a continual stream of visitors to the ship to patronize its shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities. The ship would provide as many as 40,000 tourists to ports around the world. These cities and countries would eagerly anticipate this influx, as well as the major market the ship represents for local farmers, fishermen, and merchants."

It's remarkable. I've never seen a parasite think so highly of itself before.

FOR FURTHER SUBJECTS ON THIS TOPIC, please consult "Shipping Out", David Foster Wallace's essay in the January 1996 issue of Harper's Magazine (later expanded into "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" in the essay collection of the same name, as well as Ian Edginton and D'Israeli's comic short story Leviathan, which initially ran in issues 1351 to 1360 of 2000 AD and has since been collected in a standalone graphic novel.
at 02:39 on 06-05-2012, Michal
Plans for a giant city ship.

What could possibly go wrong?
at 00:37 on 06-05-2012, Arthur B
It is.

First season, Girl Books For Girls special, second season. Much listening pleasure awaits.
at 00:27 on 06-05-2012, James D
Newbie question, what is TextFactor exactly? Some sort of Survivor-type voting contest between books you guys pick?
at 00:21 on 06-05-2012, Wardog
Flash Fiction - a word per episode :P
at 00:03 on 06-05-2012, Arthur B
Text Factor of short stories. We do a page per episode.
at 23:58 on 05-05-2012, Wardog
I think we should have a TextFactor of really long books just for Shim ... we could have Tolstoy versus Proust verus Powell versus Joyce versus Richardson versus Hugo versus Rand. It'd be awesome. By which I mean awful.
at 23:08 on 05-05-2012, Arthur B
Next season of the Text Factor: Hilary Mantel special! Bring Up the Bodies dukes it out against Beyond Black, The Giant O'Brien, A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Fludd and more! Come for the celebration of the Booker-prize winning author, stay for the sounds Shim makes!
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 ;)
at 19:14 on 05-05-2012, Shim
I can't bear it. No more!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
at 20:34 on 04-05-2012, Furare
The lack of a coherent plot symbolises the inherent randomness and meaninglessness of life.
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.
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. >.>
at 21:31 on 03-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Not necessarily. Some people just start with images and work their way forward from there.
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.
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".)