Re: Guest Post - Shearer

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Hmm... Shearer on GRRM. This one might get tedious interesting.

Heebie-geebie, agent provocateur? Trolling her own blog? Or unwitting accomplice?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:51 AM
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Stanley suggested Ender's Game and then I forget why it didn't stick.

I'm going to risk offending Stanley here and suggest it was because Ender's Game was an excellent short story which was reworked into a flabby and unsatisfying novel. The short version is available on line and I recommend it if you have 20 minutes to kill; I don't recommend Card in general.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:02 AM
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2 is very right in my opinion + even flabbier and worser sequels.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:04 AM
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Well shoot. I can kill 20 minutes (not the next 20 minutes, though) and decide whether or not to condemn all sci-fi forever based on that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:16 AM
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It was written in the '70s though, so be aware that fashions have changed greatly since then.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:20 AM
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Short Ender's Game here.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:24 AM
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So everyone wears an onion on their belt?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:24 AM
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Oh, you're making it too easy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:24 AM
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Two women at the New Years Eve party I was at were talking about how great Song of Ice and Fire was. I got to be all obnoxiously "Oh, I was sick of those long before they were on HBO." But they clearly have a lot of appeal.

I think there's an unmet need in the reading public for stuff that's middle-brow (I should figure out a non-sneering term for this, because it's what I like) but still complex. A lot of stuff aimed at the book club market is depressingly short and simple, and more ambitious stuff tends to be stylistically offputting if it's not your sort of thing (I'm thinking about, e.g., Sunnyside, which I read because it got raves at Crooked Timber. No judgment on the book -- I'm not competent to call it good or bad because it's not my kind of thing -- but not to my taste. I should actually develop some thoughts about this more precise than "Oh, it's one of those one-thing-happens-after-another and then the book ends things".)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:58 AM
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I should figure out a non-sneering term for this, because it's what I like

Mrs y uses the expression, "Quality Mindless".


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:03 AM
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dude, no. card is nuts and the message of the book is creepy and strange, but ender's game is a good novel. all the others are a black hole of suck. but heebie, for christ's sake don't let orson scott card be the determining factor in whether you like sci-fi or not.
maybe: "the fifth head of cerberus" by gene wolfe? "shadow of the torturer" if you're feeling generous to read long things (because you are damn sure having to read more) or: cordwainer smith's mother hittons littul kittons or "ballad of lost c'mell" or most creepily "a planet named shayol" or: philip k. dick "through a scanner darkly" or one of the short story collections (or could be "ubik" but in the words of beyoncé "I don't think you an handle this") or stanislaw lem's "solaris" or "the invincible" or bradbury's "martian chronicles" or arthur c. clarkes "childhood's end" or I don't know but please not ender's game. though it is, as I said, a good novel. I think we also just summoned gary farber.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:12 AM
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That's still a little too sneering -- like, I read a lot of 19th century fiction that's generally recognized as non-mindless, but that feels like it fits into this category for me. Someone who was delighted to find A Song Of Ice And Fire is probably also someone who, if they can hack the mechanics of 19th C prose (I've never quite been able to figure out why reasonably literate people have trouble with it, but some do) would have loads of fun with Vanity Fair. I think that was what happened with the goofy little Jane Austen boom a few years ago. Or Vikram Seth would be someone modern who I wouldn't call mindless at all, but who is someone I do find appealing.

I really should work out what the hell exactly it is I'm talking about, but I find most current (meaning the last few decades at least) literary fiction really unsympathetic. Not unreadable, but I largely just don't enjoy it much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:15 AM
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9,10: I'm thinking something like "Surficial Complexity". Elements I would identify (for my version of it, anyway) might be:

- Narrative, narrative, narrative
- A compelling constucted world as far as it goes, but developed only enough to support the narrative, narrative, narrative.
- Same with the personalities/motivations of the characters, just enough to make you care/sympathize and motivate the story.
- Competently to well-written.
- No grand truths.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:19 AM
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tristram shandy is laugh-out-loud hilarious if it comes to that. separately, sci-fi wise, clarkes "rendezvous with rama" is very satisfying in a certain way. and I love larry niven's "ringworld," but maybe only because I read it as a kid. it is action-packed and fast moving though.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:20 AM
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I'd take out all the negatives in that definition-- grand truths are fine, intricately created settings and characters are also fine, but narrative has to remain within certain parameters of conventional functionality that I have not successfully defined, but I know it when I see it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:22 AM
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Maybe "The Mote In God's Eye" for Niven? (Niven/Pournelle, but close enough). If you turn off your politics for the duration of the book, a good read. On Clarke, "Childhood's End" is nicely spooky.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:26 AM
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SF has many mansions. I would generally recommend short stories, individually , collections, or anthologies to a beginner. Don't like subplots or heavy science? SF has its Kafkas and its O Henrys and ...Bloodchild is online.

Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas is online.

Freaking Tor is online if you want recent stuff.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:31 AM
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15: I was trying to rule out things where the author is more massaging/probing the setting or character(s) rather than moving the story along--a matter of degree.

But , of course, I am characterizing my thing which is not necessarily your thing. For instance (attempted) grand truths put you into a different class of thing in my carefully constructed as of the last 10 minutes taxonomy.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:31 AM
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re: 12

I find a lot of contemporary literary fiction really boring, too, but I think that's because I think it's deeply lazy masturbatory shite. The whole 'Booker Prize' genre. Shit books, mostly. None of the stylistic experimentation of earlier 20th century modernist stuff; none of the solid plotting of the best 'genre' fiction; and largely deeply unsympathetic bourgeois characters that just piss me off.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:33 AM
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Nalo Hopkinson? I liked "Brown Girl In The Ring" a lot, although I suppose it's as much fantasy as SF.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:34 AM
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19: Huh. I'm not comfortable saying the stuff I don't like sucks, because I'm fairly sure that it often doesn't, it's just not what I want to read. Someone like Zaidie Smith is, I think, a terribly good writer, and is probably succeeding at what she meant to do, but I'm not tapping my feet impatiently for her next book to come out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:37 AM
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15 is exactly what I would be after. Complicated eventful stories, told in a simple style. The kind of thing that they did quite well in the 19th century but then bloody Virginia Woolf and Joyce and that lot made it fashionable to tell stories in which not very much at all happened, and to camouflage it you made them as unreadable as possible.

In computer terms it's easy to see the distinction: you want a game that's both as complex as possible and as easy to play as possible. You don't want a really simple game that's really difficult to play ("navigate this Leo Bloom sprite around this 2-D map of Dublin, using only multikey commands entered with your feet on a Dvorak keyboard").


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:39 AM
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and I love larry niven's "ringworld,"

But "Ringworld Engineers" is beyond cringeworthy, which illustrates another problem: the extreme inconsistency of some SF authors.

Clarke should have won the Nobel for Childhood's End. Literature or Peace, I'm not sure which.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:41 AM
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It's funny, though -- this conversation breaks down instantly as soon as I try to have it with someone who genuinely enjoys modern literary fiction. That "I know it when I see it, and it's not my kind of thing" is something I can communicate successfully to someone who shares my tastes, but to someone who does like that kind of thing, it generally doesn't seem strongly distinguishable from the kind of non-stupid literature I do like.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:44 AM
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re: 21

I'm quite comfortable with thinking a lot of it is pretty bad. There's some very tight unacknowledged genre constraints going on that mean that that style of fiction has to rely on really top-quality characterisation and prose style -- in the absence of the other things that we often think of as hallmarks of interesting fiction -- and the demands are such that most people don't really succeed. When it succeeds, great, but (to my eyes at least) it fails far more often than it makes it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:45 AM
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When I finally graduated from college it was as an English major because that was easiest, but I really disliked the feeling of English departments. It was all Christian humanist gentlemen and courtly Southerners and proto-neocons of the Podhoretz sort.

But it ruined me for scifi. Stereotyped characters, mediocre writing style, and dominated by sets and props and gimmicks and plots.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:46 AM
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Oooh, Slow Tuesday Night stone classic

I don't understand you people. "Try SF" and you hand them 500 pages of embedded allusive stuff? ("Ender's Game" works in part because of SF history)
Like forcing a seven course meal or a case of wine. It's sampling, not devouring. Upset tummies

How about Inconstant Moon pdf


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:50 AM
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Stereotyped characters, mediocre writing style, and dominated by sets and props and gimmicks and plots.

J.G.Ballard thanks you for your views.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:52 AM
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It's very telling that Emerson criticises sf as (inter alia) being dominated by setting and plot, when I think this is actually exactly what LB is looking for. And me too. Being dominated by plot is not a bad thing! That's why we call them "stories"!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:53 AM
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re: 26.last

I don't read much mainstream sci-fi or fantasy stuff. I enjoyed it a lot when younger, but went off it over time.* But I still enjoy the odd thing. Ken Macleod, for example.

My first degree was joint English and Philosophy. I expect culturally the department I was in (Glasgow) was very different.

* that's not meant to be a snide implication that liking it is immature.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:53 AM
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And if I were to recommend books to a starter, it would probably be This Series which is a little old-fashioned but classic ("Vintage Season" is in there) or a more recent anthology of Best of Year or feminist or hard sf or comic fantasy. Who knows what h-g likes?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:01 AM
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re: 29

The point re: poor characterisation and mediocre writing style is somewhat true, I think, of some older SF stuff. But yeah, lots of the post-1960s writers (Ballard, as Chris points out, among lots of others) are pretty good prose stylists.

I feel somewhat out of touch with modern SF writers, in the sense that I don't know who the go-to ones are for real stylistic brio. But I don't doubt there are some.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:01 AM
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27: This is right -- it feels weird recommending short stories to someone, but if you want to know if you like SF, you could do a whole lot worse than find a bunch of short story anthologies. Any sort of "Best of" would do, and just skip to the next story if you're reading something you don't enjoy. Hugo winner anthologies or something.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:09 AM
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31: yes, it's a classic; I read that anthology a million times as a kid. 23: oh god, tragic variability with niven. make the racism stop please. but then he'll rock you with a classic! hey wait, iain m. banks! warning: things will not end well. that said, he's the shizzle. it's all good. "against a dark background"? "use of weapons," classic if brutal. what are some good ones with orbitals? "consider phlebas"? "look to windward."


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:10 AM
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My experience of SF ended about 1970, so it would be the older stuff. Also, a lot of the deep philosophical stuff in SF, even when it wasn't quasi-fascist, seemed sort of sophomoric.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:11 AM
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make the racism stop please. but then he'll rock you with a classic!

Although the maddening thing is that once you realize that he's on some fundamental level a shithead, it poisons everything. Inconstant Moon is a spectacular story, and then there's the line about colonizing a depopulated Africa. And you know, from someone else, the requirements of the story make it work out that way. But from Niven it clangs now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:13 AM
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The series in 31 plus Ray Bradbury shorts is what I hooked my kids in with. (Augmenting Star Wars etc.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:14 AM
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32:Robbe-Grillet wasn't heavy on character and Sam Beckett isn't so strong with plot.

I lost all my standards and taste in my twenties. It's my responsibility to be entertained by a text, not the author's.

"Well I know you're five and my favorite daughter, but cows aren't blue and they don't have wings. This is just shite."

Art apprehension is hard and takes empathy.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:15 AM
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I just do not love sci-fi or fantasy

It's not just for fantasy enthusiasts. They're telling human stories in a fantasy world!

Seriously, though, I wouldn't pigeon-hole ASOIAF as "fantasy" per se. As has often been pointed out it's more like alternate historical fiction. And they're generally really well-told stories.

The first book, I think, does have something deep to say about the nature of power and politics. But maybe it's only middlebrow pseudo-deep.

Shearer is absolutely right about this: "It appears to me that someplace in the second book the author lost control and began multiplying characters and subplots beyond reason." I believe the series was intended to be a trilogy and is now projected to be seven books, some of which are unreasonably long. GRRM clearly got carried away playing with all his fun Westeros toys.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:16 AM
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Contemptible self-promotion alert: the podcasts collected here are the document of the radio programme my friend Eli and I devised a couple of years ago, for the reading (by him) and the discussion of classic SF short stories (16 so far): A Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time, and Thou, first broadcast on Resonance Radio (with details more readably listed here. At least part of the intention was a way in for outsiders. They're listed in reverse order, for some reason. We may do more later in the year, if we can find the time. End self-promotion.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:16 AM
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Details more readably listed here, that is.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:17 AM
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35: Part of what's going on here, I think, is that either the whiz-bang-golly-gee-neato aspects of SF appeal to you or they don't. Me, they do, which means I'm getting some entertainment out of even a fairly sucky story, and like any other genre, 90% of it is crap. But if it's not your kind of thing at all, then only the cream of the cream is going to have any appeal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:19 AM
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I'm on the fourth book at the moment. I can sort of see where Shearer's coming from in his criticisms, although my own take is slightly different. For instance, I don't really object to the multiple plot-lines and I definitely don't object to them ending on cliffhangers. What I object to is how he drags out some of the plotlines and how similar/redundant some of them are. You see certain narrative patterns repeating themselves and it just feels like padding.

For instance (SPOILERS AHEAD): the period where Arya on the one hand and Bran/Rickon on the other are wandering all over Westeros trying to get back to their family/the Wall gets so repetitive. Which is a real shame as Arya was one of the better characters in the first book. (SPOILERS END)

As for the "realism", I'd agree that, say, the casual threat of rape hanging over all the women in the series is wearing after a while, but otherwise I don't see the problem. It's not particularly realistic for that matter - you hardly hear anything about the lives of the "smallfolk" until the second book, and even then it's still just a backdrop for the power plays of the nobles. You never get any real sense of how the society as a whole functions beyond the vaguest outlines of feudalism, or what shapes the economy.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:23 AM
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"the screwfly solution"?


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:24 AM
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I wouldn't pigeon-hole ASOIAF as "fantasy" per se. As has often been pointed out it's more like alternate historical fiction.

Come on. He's an SF/Fantasy writer, has been his whole career, and he's writing books with dragons, magic, ice zombies, and so on. The only reason to say they're not fantasy is claim they don't suck, and calling something fantasy doesn't make it suck. (You know who I love more than almost anyone else? Peter Beagle. He didn't write all that much for quite a while, and now it seems like every year or so there's a new volume of short stories. I just found out that I'd lost my copy of The Last Unicorn somewhere, so I bought a new one for Sally for Christmas.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:25 AM
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40: Downloaded, thanks.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:26 AM
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After not reading scifi for couple of decades I started not reading fiction, especially contemporary fiction. Mostly now I read nonfiction about barbarians.


If you haven't, you should read The Comanche Empire by Pekko Hämäläinen. The Comanches developed a nomad lifestyle and between 1750 and 1850 ruled a Mongol-type trade empire centered in the Llano Estacada in central Texas. They dealt with the French, the Spanish, the Texans, and the Americans as equals during that time.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:28 AM
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43

As for the "realism", I'd agree that, say, the casual threat of rape hanging over all the women in the series is wearing after a while ...

I don't understand the rape claim (which has come up before in comments). There is a lot of violence in the books but the main female characters do not seem all that worried about being raped. There is a lot of description of soldiers mistreating peasants (who are powerless to resist) in which men will be killed out of hand while women may be raped first and then killed out of hand but I wouldn't say rape is the main issue there.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:09 AM
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My experience of SF ended about 1970, so it would be the older stuff.

Putting you in roughly the same position in terms of up-to-date-ness as someone in 1940 saying "oh I don't think airplanes are anything more than an amusing toy".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:11 AM
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49:Wow, literary progress is more than linear it's geometric! No it's logarithmic!

That makes Manfred Kielnhofer 10 times better than Moore, 100 times better than Rodin, 1000 times better than Michaelangelo,and 12 kazillion times better than Praxiteles.

Oh how frabjous to live in these our times!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:25 AM
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and like any other genre, 90% of it is crap.

At the same time, it's no coincidence that the author of Sturgeon's Law was, himself, a science fiction writer. I used to love science fiction, even while recognizing that most of it was crap.

I love, love, love Phillip K. Dick*. But his themes were, let's face it, fundamentally one-note and kind of silly.

*sentence edited because it reads entirely differently if you only use the last name.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:25 AM
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I second the recommendation for short story anthologies. I have the sense that I've discovered a writer or two I liked that way and went on to buy novels of theirs, but I can't remember who. Pratchett maybe? But even if a short story anthology doesn't lead you to a new bunch of novels, it's still a relatively fun, easy way to pass the time. No waiting years for the next installment in an interminable series to come out, no getting caught up in the fun for half the book and then getting hit with offhand racism or other insanity, no slogging through florid literary prose...

Speaking of which, since LB and I think other people too have said they don't like literary stuff so much, I'll recommend How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but it had its moments, and some of the best parts are the parodies of more serious fiction.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:25 AM
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I HAVE BEEN A SOREHEADED OCCUPANT OF A FILE DRAWER LABELED 'SCIENCE FICTION' ... AND I WOULD LIKE OUT, PARTICULARLY SINCE SO MANY SERIOUS CRITICS REGULARLY MISTAKE THE DRAWER FOR A URINAL.


Posted by: OPINIONATED KURT VONNEGUT | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:30 AM
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I once asked a guy:"Well, The Stones learned from and used Chuck Berry, but are the Stones better than Chuck Berry?"

I would also note that the DC-10 was freaking cheap and reliable, and needed a lot less runway than a 787.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:36 AM
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I don't understand the rape claim (which has come up before in comments). There is a lot of violence in the books but the main female characters do not seem all that worried about being raped. There is a lot of description of soldiers mistreating peasants (who are powerless to resist) in which men will be killed out of hand while women may be raped first and then killed out of hand but I wouldn't say rape is the main issue there.

Off the top of my head, the threat and/or fear of rape is nigh on constant for Arya and Brienne once the war starts. But it's not so much about the main characters being under threat, since most of them are safely ensconced in castles and surrounded by guards, so much as that women in general are basically being raped or threatened with rape the whole time, especially on the road.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:39 AM
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43

... It's not particularly realistic for that matter ...

By realistic I meant the fact that virtue (by modern standards) is rarely even a contender much less triumphant. There is lot of the powerful stomping on the weak in the books and I find this wearing after a while.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:43 AM
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1 -> 48.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:48 AM
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I would also note that the DC-10 was freaking cheap and reliable*, and needed a lot less runway than a 787.

*Offer not valid in Sioux City, Malaga, Chicago, Ermeonville, or Detroit.

In fact the DC-10 had such a reputation for reliability that McDonnell Douglas never again called an aircraft the DC-anything for fear that people would associate it with the DC-10.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:50 AM
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55

... so much as that women in general are basically being raped or threatened with rape the whole time, especially on the road.

To me rape seems like a relatively small part of an atmosphere of murderous violence in general. Travelers are at threat of being robbed and killed, is adding rape to the mix really that offensive?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:54 AM
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I'm not complaining because it's offensive. I'm complaining because it gets wearing. And it seems to me the rape is even more widespread/casual than the violence - it happens even in relatively peaceful contexts.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

For instance, in a bit I just got to, Brienne is entering some town (Duskendale? Maidenpool?), riding alongside a smallfolk couple who are pulling a cart. The town isn't at war and the area's relatively free from outlaws, but when they get to the gate, the guards on duty just grab the woman and are about to rape her before Brienne is recognised by their leader.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:02 AM
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"navigate this Leo Bloom sprite around this 2-D map of Dublin, using only multikey commands entered with your feet on a Dvorak keyboard"

Wonderful.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:13 AM
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Travelers are at threat of being robbed and killed, is adding rape to the mix really that offensive?

Yes.

This comment brought to you courtesy of Short Answers to Simple Questions, (c) B.DeLong, 2006 (approx.)


Posted by: Public Service Announcement | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:16 AM
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When I read the first three, I wasn't particularly offended by all the rape, but I'm pretty insensitive in terms of being able to read past that sort of thing without being upset by it.

I got mildly belligerent over at Crooked Timber in the discussion of Sady Doyle's hostile review, not exactly because I was certain that I agreed with her in detail (it's been a couple of years, and my memory of the three books I've read isn't good enough to haggle over details), but because she didn't seem way off base to me, and the reaction to her review as not just wrong and to be disagreed with but "one of the more dishonest posts I've read on the internets in the recent past" seemed inappropriate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:50 AM
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45: YES! I love Peter S. Beagle - my childhood copy of The Last Unicorn is something I would try to grab before fleeing a burning building.

It's a little obvious but I strongly recommend Octavia E. Butler to the SF-cautious (particularly Kindred and Bloodchild.) I've also recently enjoyed N.K. Jemisin (forget the titles, a fairly recently published trilogy that can be read as stand alones) and Justin Cronin's The Passage (not perfect but did succeed in having actually unnerving bits.) Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter might I guess be a little more fantasy than SF, but it's still good.

For people who are soured on modern literary fiction - I could not agree more, but there are some jewels among the dross. Amitav Ghosh, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, and A.L. Kennedy spring to mind.

And my reading risk-taking has been enormously facilitated by getting and using a library card!


Posted by: julia f | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:54 AM
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All of these GoT discussions have convinced me to never read the books. I found the third Mockingjay book wearying enough.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:57 AM
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63.2: I brought up that piece (and especially the "Who's Molesting Sansa Stark?" theme) when I discovered that all of my youngest son's college roommates were big fans of the series. Led to a more interesting conversation than we most likely would have had otherwise.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:57 AM
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I sort of dislike SF and fantasy in general because it seems fundamentally aimed at escapism and fantasy fulfillment rather than understanding the world. The Mary Sue problem is just intractable -- almost the whole genre seems to be about giving adolescents some sort of alternative superhero identity. I can think of a few exceptions but not many. Of course, all literature involves identification and fantasy or it wouldn't work, so maybe I'm being too sweeping, but there's just something so callow about fantasy/SF.

Just read Robert Stone's first novel, 'A Hall of Mirrors' , and it has that first-novel slightly overwritten quality but it's still brilliant. Astonishing and sad how many parallels there are between his depiction of 1960s right-wing crazies and what we're dealing with today.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:59 AM
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it seems fundamentally aimed at escapism and fantasy fulfillment rather than understanding the world

And there is nothing wrong with that, for sheer entertainment purposes.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:01 AM
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I sort of dislike SF and fantasy in general because it seems fundamentally aimed at escapism and fantasy fulfillment rather than understanding the world. The Mary Sue problem is just intractable -- almost the whole genre seems to be about giving adolescents some sort of alternative superhero identity. I can think of a few exceptions but not many. Of course, all literature involves identification and fantasy or it wouldn't work, so maybe I'm being too sweeping, but there's just something so callow about fantasy/SF.

I disagree. A lot of SF, like the Ursula LeGuin type or Philip K. Dick type, is about thought experiments. Showing people what a world would be like if one of the things we take for granted was replaced by something else. Even if that just leads to seemingly-obvious epiphanies like "Whoa, I no longer think it would be cool if I could read people's thoughts", those are still moments that lead to understanding our world better.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:02 AM
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I found the third Mockingjay book wearying enough.

Oh yeah, I read the first book in the trilogy! I thought it was a really good read. But somehow that never meant that I read the next two.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:03 AM
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The 9 Greatest Nerd Fears Today - "#9 George R.R. Martin Dying Before Completing the Song of Ice and Fire Series".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:03 AM
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And Cryptic Ned is right, of course. I just wanted to stand up for escapism. I don't always want to be edified. (Which is probably obvious, given the amount of time I spend on the internet.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:04 AM
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||
For Paren.
Speaking of non-escapism, in our CBC they found a Nashville Warbler (should have been in Central America a long time ago) amongst the cattails in a park not too far from my house (we were out but on the other side of the township). Finally having a genuine cold snap, so it is probably a Nashville Warbler corpse by now.
|>


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:10 AM
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Of course, all literature involves identification and fantasy or it wouldn't work, so maybe I'm being too sweeping,

Yeah, I think you've nailed yourself here. It may not be to your taste, but I don't think F&SF are systematically more contemptibly fantasy fodder than all sorts of mainstream fiction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:10 AM
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69: yes, Philip K. Dick, John Bruner, Kurt Vonnegut are classic authors who use SF/fantasy in ways that are different than what I said in 67. But they are few and far between and I definitely wouldn't say they make up "most" of the genre. A lot of the seminal books of the fantasy/SF genre do fit the model, such as Tolkien and Frank Herbert ("Dune"). And people like Tolkein and Herbert are in their own way very important and even brilliant writers, as they were hugely influential and founded genres. They prefigured the increasingly important role for pure fantasy and deep escapism in modern life.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:11 AM
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No more nailing yourself to the Nashville Warbler in Fox Chapel.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:11 AM
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76: Q: Why did the birdwatcher cross the Gulf of Mexico?

A: He was nailed to a Nashville Warbler.

And it was O'Hara Township, homey please.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:15 AM
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I go by the school district.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:17 AM
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75: So, for mainstream fiction, if it's Mary-Sue driven fantasy, that's because it sucks, which makes it atypical, because the typical work of mainstream fiction is something that doesn't suck. For F&SF, if it's not Mary-Sue driven fantasy, that's because it's atypical, because the typical work of F&SF is something that sucks. I really think you're reading too much into the fact that the genre doesn't appeal to you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:18 AM
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Well, of course Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kurt K. Vonnegut don't "make up "most" of the genre". 90% of everything is crap.

Let's compare it to the detective and police procedural stories I like to read. I guess I take a little away about human nature and motivations and the different types of personalities that exist, but even in the best ones, by Henning Mankell or Ian Rankin or whatever, I'm not learning anything about how my world works, unless someone I know gets mysteriously murdered and I need to look for clues. It's nothing but escapism plus the satisfaction of a puzzle being resolved.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:27 AM
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71.--Oh my God, Roland "Needz moar explosenz" Emmerich is directing a movie adaptation of Foundation?!?! That is terrible news.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:27 AM
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I think terrible news got started with 'movie adaptation of Foundation'. I can't imagine what kind of script you could pull out of that. Maybe if you did the first book during the credits and went straight to the Mule.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:29 AM
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The page in 41 links to a very nice essay about fame and pop. Very nice, tierce.

Did you ever read Steven King's Misery?

I like SF short stories also; Robert Sheckley is widely loved in Czech and Russian, mostly for his stories and deservedly IMO. Sort of reminescent of PK Dick for briefly sketched interesting paradoxes or contradictions, usually populated by people rather than heroes. I haven't read his novels.

Iain M Banks is interesting too, his Culture series imagines a life without resource constraints, politically sympathetic often intelligent books. His prose style is very nice; my main criticism is that the books tend to be structurally convoluted, like reading a jigsaw puzzle. Worth it IMO-- I really liked Excession, recently recommended here.


Posted by: lw |
Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:32 AM
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Oh, Sheckley, definitely. His novels aren't as good as his stories (or are less to my taste) but he's great.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:33 AM
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bothed link in 83:
http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2011/11/i-am-the-0-00000001-percent/

Also, Sheckley stories on google books:
http://books.google.com/books?id=3WkcEIzUhc8C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:33 AM
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Robert Conquest: "SF's no good," they bellow till we're deaf. / "But this looks good."--"Well, then, it's not SF."

(Or maybe it was Kingsley Amis--this couplet was the epigram to Spectrum 2, a 1962 anthology they co-edited.)


Posted by: Gareth Rees | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:35 AM
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79,80:Well, SF & F are definitely Romantic genres. This gets you heroes and heroines and Mary Sues and the personal experience of wonder and personal transcendence etc.

It also I think gets you the experimentation and wide range of prose styles and surrealism (artistic individualism) and I also expect more possibilities of socialist or communalist fictions than you get in detective/crime or small-r romance genres, which I contend are essentially classical and conservative genres.

Romanticism and heroism has gotten a bad rap, from what I believe is reaction-formation on the part of intellectual liberals.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:36 AM
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I really love Iain M. Banks and have inflicted his novels as gifts multiple times.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:44 AM
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81,82: Gah! It's a good thing I no longer care about living or dying!


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:44 AM
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How do I feel about Robert Stone or, err, Cormac McCarthy? Etc?

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Everyplace ain't fucking Chinatown. Or I like to think so, some nights.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:46 AM
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79 is great.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:49 AM
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67: Someone who appears on the internet and says "Yeah, I hate SF because it's escapist wish fulfilment for adolescents"? That's like the original proto-troll.
I bet there was someone on the first web page at CERN in 1989 or whenever who wrote something like that (and then got chucked into the beam line. Never mock particle physicists.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:01 AM
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I sort of dislike SF and fantasy in general because it seems fundamentally aimed at escapism and fantasy fulfillment rather than understanding the world. The Mary Sue problem is just intractable -- almost the whole genre seems to be about giving adolescents some sort of alternative superhero identity. I can think of a few exceptions but not many. Of course, all literature involves identification and fantasy or it wouldn't work, so maybe I'm being too sweeping, but there's just something so callow about fantasy/SF.

I really couldn't disagree more. The thing that draws me to sci-fi (I don't really read a lot of fantasy, to be honest, so I'll steer clear of that for now) is precisely the fact that it (the stuff I read anyway) is about understanding the world. It may be set in a galaxy far far away or in the distant future, but it's often about the issues of contemporary society in a way traditional literary fiction usually isn't (in a big picture rather than personal relations way). Even mass mainstream SF of the 50s was obviously addressing cold war fears. And no, you can't get away with dismissing Dick, LeGuin and Vonnegut as atypical. That's like talking about Jacobean theatre and not counting Shakespeare, Jonson and Marlowe.

A lot of the seminal books of the fantasy/SF genre do fit the model, such as Tolkien and Frank Herbert ("Dune"). And people like Tolkein and Herbert are in their own way very important and even brilliant writers, as they were hugely influential and founded genres. They prefigured the increasingly important role for pure fantasy and deep escapism in modern life.

Eh? Whatever else it is, Dune is deeply pre-occupied with environmentalism. It's hardly pure escapism.



Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:02 AM
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I liked that the Mockingjay series got a little bit toward talking about what living through war/murder would actually do to the teens involved, but it didn't do a whole lot of that and left me unsatisfied.

On the other hand, I'm reading Ismet Prcic's Shards, which is realistic fiction but not in the Booker mode I don't think, various fictionalized memoirs of his own escape from Bosnia as a teen during the war and it's absolutely giving me goosebumps. I think that's because of my own personal connections to this particular war, but it's making me think more about SF/F stuff too, though without much insight yet.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:09 AM
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93.2: Oh, come on, Ginger, surely you can't say there's any real-world relevance in a story about a civilisation whose transport infrastructure is dependent on a rare resource mined from beneath a desert inhabited by devout Muslim nomads. That's clearly pure fantasy and escapism.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:10 AM
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It makes me so, so happy to not be, "the person making qualified defenses of Larry Niven" on this thread. I mean, I'm happy to defend him (with qualifications), but it's nice to not have to do so.

I agree with Bob that if you're looking for SF recommendations for somebody unfamiliar with the genre you don't want to pick things for maximum richness, you want to pick something that can stand alone successfully.

That said I'd be tempted to recommend The Cyberiad to Heebie which is laugh-out-loud funny and contains a number of memorable jokes combining wordplay and mathematics.

Another book worth mentioning, though not necessarily a book to start on, is the collection of William Gibson short stories Burning Chrome, about half of the stories in there are at the absolute peak of the genre.

Let me thinking about good introductory SF books.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:10 AM
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The problem with Dune is that it was good enough to make me want to read the rest of the series.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:12 AM
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74, 79: "contemptible" is a strong word but I would say there's a difference. For really good fiction I think that identification and fantasy are tools that are used to draw you in but they are not the aim. There is a larger goal of exploring subjective reality -- how people interact with reality and how the actual constraints of life are reflected in their internal and emotional world. This is very difficult to do well and honestly and I agree most fiction in most genres is pretty bad. But there is something in SF/fantasy as a genre that aims more inherently at fantasy fulfillment. Seminal SF/fantasy writers who do *not* suck -- giants of the genre like Tolkein and Frank Herbert, as I mentioned above -- are fundamentally escapist writers.

Admittedly it may be a difference in degree and not in kind, as clearly there are lots of forms of genre fiction that are more about fantasy and escapism rather than anything else. Rather than talking about SF/fantasy vs. other genres we may be talking about when fiction transcends genre and when it does not.

And by the way, SF/fantasy does appeal to me, I read a huge amount through my adolesence and still like it. I just think most of it, even some pretty well crafted stuff, is kind of childish.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:13 AM
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97: agree. A huge mistake.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:14 AM
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"Yeah, I hate SF because it's escapist wish fulfilment for adolescents"?

Well, both Thomas Disch and Barry Malzberg, a great and a good, were emphatic about this.

Disch said that SF appeals to the adolescent in us all that wants the world to make sense, to be rationally explicable and malleable according to science and reason. Science and liberalism are the ultimate escapist wishes, says Mary Shelley.

Woah, Marxists and other Enlightenment types! Do we live in Chinatown or on "The Road" or not?

(Mysteries and crime novels are quasi-fascist "And the violent bear it away" stuff. Romance says irrational love conquers all.)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:16 AM
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Oooh . . . a possible book recommendation for Heebie Stories Of Your Life And Others by Ted Chiang. In particular I'd be curious to know what she would make of "Liking what you see: A Documentary" and "Tower Of Babel" the former as it relates to questions about fashion, and the latter as one which is absolutely pure classic SF in its structure, but without the traditional trappings of SF.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:17 AM
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99: One I've successfully managed to avoid, despite being tempted to try at least one. I'm not going to let the others tarnish the original.

I just think most of it, even some pretty well crafted stuff, is kind of childish.
Sure, I'll grant that. But childish doesn't necessarily mean escapist. SF, I would argue, is childish in the sense that it asks questions that "adults" wouldn't think to ask, and illuminates as a result.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:18 AM
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What I meant by "reaction-formation" in intellectual liberals is the "Life is nasty brutish and short, punk." style of tragic Chinatown writing. No Exit here. Grow up.

But this is the classic disappointed Romantic, pretending to hate what they desire, cynicism as defense mechanism and justification for compromising, selling out etc. Revolutionary Road.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:23 AM
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SF, I would argue, is childish in the sense that it asks questions that "adults" wouldn't think to ask, and illuminates as a result.

Never thought of it that way, but it's spot on - the insistent "why" that all parents of four year olds are familiar with is very much at the root of SF (and at the root of science, for that matter). And it's very close to the "what if" that underlies SF and, for that matter, politics. Another World Is Possible, as they say.

The definition given by PGD of "good" fiction - that it should be all about people's internal worlds and how they react to given constraints - is a very adult and conservative one, in that sense. It's the sort of thing that you get when you've given up on understanding why the world is as it is, let alone trying to change the way the world is, and are focussing just on how people rather like oneself are affected by the world. It's adult to ask "how does Claire feel about being trapped in a loveless marriage?" It's immature to ask "why is she trapped? What if she left?"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:24 AM
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102.1: The next one isn't horrible, but after that they deeply suck but I had to see what happens. Thanks to Wikipedia, you can now see what happens in a few minutes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:26 AM
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I get the sense-of-wonder fix like all the other mooks, but I also think most mainstream fiction has limited itself by abandoning issues of society, politics, power, etc. and focusing almost exclusively on the self.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:28 AM
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I think terrible news got started with 'movie adaptation of Foundation'.

What seems to me to be terrible news, which I don't believe was remarked on here at the time of this NYT article I learned about it from, is 'movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas starring Tom Hanks'.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:33 AM
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That said I'd be tempted to recommend The Cyberiad to Heebie which is laugh-out-loud funny and contains a number of memorable jokes combining wordplay and mathematics.

It is excellent, but more fantasy with robots (or actually fairy tales with robots) than science fiction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:33 AM
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I saw Swanwick mentioned, so let me throw Robert Silverberg's '70s work, particularly Dying Inside, into the mix.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:36 AM
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106:Literary fiction is narcissistic self-pitying claptrap, bourgeois fantasies of gaining salvation through fucking taste and style in consumption, including well-informed empathy. "Oooh, I love the Wire, and the pessimism hurts so fucking good." Joan Didion, and yeah Robert Stone.

Thinking on Clive Cussler. Westerns and Adventure, being Romantic, should hold possibilities of artistic and ethical merit.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:36 AM
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107: Oh good grief.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:37 AM
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More of 108: I used to know the sonnet about a haircut offhand -- let me see how close I can get:

Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short,
Sorely shorn, soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking,
Some savage, spectacular suicide.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:40 AM
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Stories Of Your Life And Others by Ted Chiang

Seconded.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:44 AM
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In what sense is fantasy not "mainstream"? Hollywood now makes almost exclusively fantasy and superhero movies. The two biggest fiction phenomenons of recent years -- Harry Potter and Twilight -- are both fantasy.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:45 AM
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I just finished the "Ender's Game" short story linked above. I don't really like the tone of sentences like "Ender Wiggins was a stranger to the world he was being trained to save."


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:50 AM
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but more fantasy with robots (or actually fairy tales with robots) than science fiction.

While true, I would argue that Lem is so clearly a SF author* that even his fantasies (Cyberiad and The Star Diaries) still count as SF.

* I'm thinking of Bruce Sterling's description of him:

Lem compares himself to Crusoe, stating (accurately) that he had to erect his entire structure of "science fiction" essentially from scratch. He did have the ancient shipwrecked hulls of Wells and Stapledon at hand, but he raided them for tools years ago. (We owe the collected essays to the beachcombing of his Man Friday, Austrian critic Franz Rottensteiner.)

These essays are the work of a lonely man. We can judge the fervor of Lem's attempt to reach out by a piece like "On the Structural Analysis of Science Fiction:" a Pole, writing in German, to an Austrian, about French semantic theory. The mind reels. After this superhuman effort to communicate, you'd think the folks would cut Lem some slack--from pure human pity, if nothing else.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:51 AM
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114: I completely fail to understand why this is the case, but IME there's a real disconnect between people who will watch F&SF and people who will read it. Almost anyone who will go to non-arty movies at all will go see movies with spaceships and aliens, but not all of those people will read F&SF. Heebie, say -- I'm sure no one had to talk her into watching some movie or other in that category, but reading it is different.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:51 AM
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OT: Obama's just made a recess appointment for director of the CFPB. Finally.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:55 AM
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114:Bourgeois literary fiction likes to consider itself the vanguard of the mainstream, the hearts that bleed for us all, sacrificing their entertainment dollar and time so that the suffering might know that someone cares.

Dickens wasn't writing for Fagin's crew, was he?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:56 AM
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I will happily watch filmed SF or fantasy but have little taste for it in books, for reasons that I thimk might be justifiable but might not be; somehow I just have had a hard time taking the fantasy or sci fi I've read, and I've only tried the widely recommended stuff, seriously. Yet I happily/obsessively read police procedurals, mysteries and even Westerns.

I tried reading the first Game of Thrones book but honestly felt the TV show is just so much better and more fun.

Happy to get fiction recs here.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:57 AM
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107, 111: I thought that version seemed possibly promising, as far as these things go. Tykwer isn't a terrible choice.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:58 AM
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Hey, this is a really interesting discussion. Thanks. It's making me think about the tension between imagination and reality in fiction or narrative (with 'reality' being not just dry fact but the constraints realistically inherent in being human) and what balance between them is necessary to make that tension productive and creative. If you think of SF just as imagining possibilities around technological change then it must be an important part of narrative possibilities since technological change is so central to the way we live.

The definition given by PGD of "good" fiction - that it should be all about people's internal worlds and how they react to given constraints - is... the sort of thing that you get when you've given up on understanding why the world is as it is, let alone trying to change the way the world is...It's adult to ask "how does Claire feel about being trapped in a loveless marriage?" It's immature to ask "why is she trapped? What if she left?"

This I disagree with. Claire can blow up her marriage or revisit the mistakes that led to it, all I ask is that she grapple with realistic consequences for doing so. It's looking at that process that helps us understand how the world is and how to change it. If leaving her husband just means getting swept away to a Caribbean island by a rugged, handsome stranger we're turning away from the world and curling up with a comforting fantasy about it.

FYI I really don't like Larry McMurtry very much. He's very good at what he does but he somehow reproduces everything I dislike about fantasy writer in the guise of literary fiction.

110: I can't really argue with the charge that "good" fiction can be a higher form of narcissism. I mean, we're obviously involved in some kind of escape every time we're curled up with a book, and all kinds of authors have ways of appealing to a reader's desire for self-congratulation. But there's still something to the higher part of it, if only better thought and better observation.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:59 AM
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I don't really like the tone of sentences like "Ender Wiggins was a stranger to the world he was being trained to save."

I bet you don't like the X-Men comics either . . .

What about, as possible alternative to Ender's Game, The Forever War? I haven't read it in ages, but remember it as a book which a memorable and compelling central idea which it completely succeeds in pulling off (with slightly clunky writing, but nothing terrible).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:59 AM
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120: That might be the difference -- if coming up with that willing suspension of disbelief is what's stopping you from reading F&SF, I can see how an immersive experience with visuals would make it much easier. I can believe anything, effortlessly, so long as it's described in reasonably fluent prose, so I forget that it's an effort for people a little more grounded in consensus reality.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:00 AM
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Hah. 120 before seeing 117 which is right. It's true of course that tent pole movies are all sci fi, fantasy, or comic books and that these are not only mainstream but dominant genres there.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:01 AM
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117: But this must be true of almost any fiction. I would never read Tom Clancy, and yet I've seen movies based on Tom Clancy novels. I would call Clancy mainstream.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:01 AM
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123: I missed The Forever War somehow back when I should have read it, and only got to it a couple of years ago. Now, I think it's dated maybe to the point of being no longer a good book, unless you can really read it from the viewpoint of the early 70s. The sexual issues, which were advanced and shocking at the time, are clunky now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:03 AM
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117: The DE and I both dislike(d) special effect movies labeled "Science Fiction". There's no there, there, and especially so for seeing one at the mallplex. I would rather spend that $ on toys for the cats.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:03 AM
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126: But you wouldn't rule Clancy out as a matter of genre, but because he's a lousy terrible writer, no? (Actually, if you call Clancy a techno-pornographer, I could see thinking "I don't read techno-porn". But in the broader category 'thriller', I think you'd be much less likely to rule out the whole genre on paper while embracing it onscreen.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:06 AM
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95 is excellent. Also: racist.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:07 AM
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I think that there's a certain sense in which PGD is right. Almost all fantasy and most science fiction is structured around a fantasy wish-fulfillment plot, even if that's used as a framework to address other issues. Dune is about environmentalism, but it is also about the vicarious sensation of what it would be like to become the Messiah.

Having read 50 billion F&SF novels, it struck that the books I like are the ones that give the illusion of the fantasy wish-fulfillment plot, but then don't really -- Iain M. Banks and China Mieville are in this category.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:07 AM
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Slightly changing the subject: almost every French writer of the 19th c. wrote fantasy fiction, including the ones who are best known as romanticists or realists or as lyric poets. Usually it has an erotic angle, mostly some sort of succubus -- a dead, bewitched, demonic, or imaginary women who dives a man mad with obsession, etc. Realistic and fantastique are distinguished in French, but the dividing line isn't the kind of art literature / genre literature division you see in English.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:09 AM
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I will happily watch filmed SF or fantasy but have little taste for it in books, for reasons that I thimk might be justifiable but might not be; somehow I just have had a hard time taking the fantasy or sci fi I've read, and I've only tried the widely recommended stuff, seriously.

That's going to be tough. If you are likely to be turned off by SF which either (a) tries too hard to covey a sense of different realities or (b) takes itself too seriously (and I suspect you wouldn't like humorous SF either, that does eliminate most of the obvious reasons to read SF.

Now, I think it's dated maybe to the point of being no longer a good book

Okay, scratch that idea.

Pat Cadigan's first novel, Mindplayers might be a good one for H-G but that's iffy. There's a chance that she would really like it but, I'd wager, a greater chance that it would feel a bit trying. But if any of these recommendations do serve as a good entry point to SF for Heebie (or anybody else) that's one to keep in mind.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:10 AM
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Yet I happily/obsessively read police procedurals, mysteries and even Westerns.

Aha! I knew it. Conservative.

The restoration of the proper order of things.

Digby's Co-blogger was very good this week on Ron Paul

Liberalism is and has always been about intervention
> ...spoon

Now there is a line worth contemplating. And a word "intervention," to come between.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:10 AM
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But, and I say this as a non sci fi fan who is vaguely sympathetic to PGDs point, pretty much all fiction has to have at least an element of wish fulfillment to be engaging. How that is used and whether it's done in a pure Mary Sue way varies a lot, of course.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:11 AM
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One of the things I've disliked about some things of that sort I've run into, usually second hand or in short excerpts, is the dystopian fiction which allows the reader to envision himself as the Last Good Man or Last Free Man in a sort of self-serving, flattering way that doesn't actually involve any changed perception of present reality.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:12 AM
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134.2 might be right.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:13 AM
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I tried reading the first Game of Thrones book but honestly felt the TV show is just so much better and more fun.

Really? It's almost scene for scene. Martin's prose style is nothing special, but I wouldn't have thought it would put many people off who enjoy the subject matter.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:13 AM
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135: Particularly, it's very hard to construct a satisfying narrative/plot that can't be construed (unfairly or not) as wish fulfillment (even if everything turns out badly, there's going to be some way to wrench it around). To get away from an accusation that it's all fodder for childish fantasy, you kind of have to abandon story entirely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:14 AM
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Actually, maybe I'm just grumpy about fiction period. In the last year or so I've gone through some things by Flaubert, Joyce, Balzac, etc. and have been annoyed by the blatant projection, leaping to conclusions, overstressing of minor details, that goes into the construction of realist fiction.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:19 AM
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I think it's hard to get into genre fiction that you didn't read as a kid, just because "genre" is a real thing -- books in a genre are written in a dialogue with earlier books in the genre, so lots of things become customary and taken for granted for people who've been reading in that genre, and seem weird and bizarre to people who haven't. I think part of the mainstream success of the Harry Potter and Twilight books is that they lack that trait. Harry Potter sounds like it was written by someone who only reads novels about boarding schools, while Twilight reads like it was written by someone who's sole source of information about vampires was the first Underworld movie.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:20 AM
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As for H-G's post: I shall just recommend the book I always recommend in these threads, China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh. Most of the popular SF -- even heavy-hitters like Asimov and Herbert -- are variously-disguised pulp. McHugh is a happy exception to this.

63.2: There was a way bigger problem with Doyle's screwy "Professor Feminism" post than her original one, I thought. Both in terms of its inherent nuttiness and also what it did to that discussion.

95: Dune has always seemed to me to be one of those books that gave the appearance of being hip-deep in Big Cool Ideas that make less sense the more you think about them (even granting suspension of disbelief for its now-dated physics-bending psychedelia, or already-then-dated preoccupation with eugenics). The story has an ecological framework to it, for instance, but there's really no particular ecological Message going on... or if there is it's a very muddled and absurd one. About the most coherent thing it has to say is about the decidedly mixed blessings of heroes and messiahs.

107: 'movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas starring Tom Hanks'.

Well... at least it's not starring Nicolas Cage.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:21 AM
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On the filmed vs written front, I'm curious if people who exemplify this dichotomy would be as willing to watch, say, Gattaca or Primer or Tales From Earthsea as they are to watch, say, The Day After Tomorrow or Lord of the Rings. In other words, are they actually happy to watch sci-fi/fantasy films, or are they really happy to watch action/effects packed blockbusters which happen to be sci-fi/fantasy?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:21 AM
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138: If your sense of realism is keeping you from turning the words on the page into images of castles and ice zombies and wolves, I can see that having visuals supplied might make it much more engaging. I haven't got a sense of realism myself, but it makes sense as something that would make fantasy offputting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:22 AM
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Boy is Gattaca a terrible movie.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:23 AM
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Boy is Gattaca a terrible movie.

I like to think of it as a very loose film adaptation of A Separate Peace.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:27 AM
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I want them to make Gattaca 2, where they discover that they overlooked the gene for willpower that was the secret of the hero of Gattaca's success.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:27 AM
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I was looking at the trailer for Immortals when it struck me that one function of written fantasy that is now basically superfluous thanks to CGI. There was a certain kind of "visual spectacle in your head" that epic written fantasy could generate -- Gandalf versus the Balrog, say -- that Hollywood can now do better.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:33 AM
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Gattaca was terrible. I liked Primer until the 40 minute mark where I stopped understanding it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:33 AM
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148: There was a certain kind of "visual spectacle in your head" that epic written fantasy could generate. . . that Hollywood can now do better.

No it can't.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:34 AM
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Gandalf vs. the Balrog was much better on the page than the screen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:35 AM
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I'm exactly the opposite: I hate to watch movies of novels I've read, unless the novels are almost tediously realistic, because I can make and see a much better movie in my head than the greatest auteur in Hollywood could make in a hundred years with a budget the size of the United States.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:36 AM
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Or what Castock said.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:37 AM
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(I mean don't get me wrong, Jackson packed some amazing visuals into LOTR -- it was done as well as it's ever likely to be done in movies for a long time to come -- but there's still no way any of his epic action sequences can outdo the appeal of my own private movies of them.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:38 AM
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I thought Gandalf versus the Balrog was a tie. Also, the scene before that (trying to climb Caradhras in the winter, which struck me very visually) was a tie. Helm's Deep was better than I imagined it. The Battle of Pelennor Fields was much worse.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:38 AM
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I think it's true that CGI can now do it at all, when they couldn't before. But it's not better. I saw the first LoTR movie, and they really did an excellent job with it -- there wasn't much of anything to complain about visually (well, Rivendell was all wrong, but that's really hard.) But it was still unsatisfyingly far off the pictures in my head, and I never wanted to see the rest of them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:40 AM
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I regret seeing the LoTR movies because now I find their imagery intruding on my own. It was for this reason I never saw the HHGttG movie. Well, not just for that reason.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:44 AM
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I thought Gandalf versus the Balrog was a tie.

They both died, so sure. It isn't the Balrog's fault that Gandalf didn't stay dead.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:45 AM
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It's hard to overstate how much I detest the LoTR movies. I saw the first and third. The third one was completely devoid of color. What is this, winter in Detroit? Battle after battle in gray sludge. Jesus fucking christ. So boring. And three hours long! WHO CAN SIT FOR THREE HOURS? At least the first one was more colorful.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:45 AM
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Ian Mckellan overwrote any image I had of Gandalf, but that's fine -- he was quite close anyway. Part of the reason I didn't see the second is that I didn't want my Ents screwed up, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:47 AM
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159: It really should have been done as a miniseries, and with less "comedy".


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:48 AM
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Comedy?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:49 AM
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162: Dwarf jokes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:50 AM
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Dwarf tossing, and Gandalf hitting his head because, get this, he's too big for a hobbit hole. That sort of thing.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:52 AM
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I suppose it would be possible to have a 9-hour movie with less comedy than the Lord of the Rings series, but it wouldn't be easy. Also, if you want it to be a miniseries, just watch 1 hour a day for 9 days.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:57 AM
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I think part of my preference for filmed SF is that I'm not super interested in constructing fantasy realms in my head. The real world/historical world is hard enough to figure out, I don't get a big kick out of imagining life on planet Zalgon or the enchanted forest of Snyndor. A movie or TV show just sets up the world for you.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:58 AM
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159: Sure you didn't see the first and second? The second was the one with all the fighting in gray sludge. And yes, it was awful, worst of the three. The third was the one with the horse-riders battling elephants the size of AT-ATs. Also flawed.

Some of what was tiresome in the movies was just what was tiresome in the books. The endless soliloquizing about "hope," for instance, that really gets going in The Two Towers. But some of what was tiresome in the movies was just Jackson's own missteps. Like the doomed attempt to develop a touching romantic subplot between Arwen and Aragorn. Or the dwarf-tossing jokes. Or the totally unnecessary screwing-up of key characters like Denethor and Faramir. And so on.

160: Ian Mckellan overwrote any image I had of Gandalf, but that's fine -- he was quite close anyway.

As far as I can tell, the design for Gandalf -- and probably the casting of McKellen -- was based on artwork in early editions of The Hobbit, so this isn't surprising.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:59 AM
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And occasionally you can learn interesting things, such as the fact that most alien planets look roughly like the forest around Vancouver.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:00 PM
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I do think DM of the Rings uses the movie stills quite well.

Just looking through the first couple of comics this, from the third page is fantastic:

Aragorn: "Have you seen my starting equipment? All I have is a broken sword!"


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:01 PM
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The Arwen-Aragorn subplot is in the books. The bit where Aragorn is kissed awake by his horse is not.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:06 PM
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Well, it's in the books, but it gets maybe four paragraphs, total.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:07 PM
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165: I'm perfectly willing to be convinced it shouldn't have been adapted at all, for reasons given in 167.2.[12], but the movies had the same problem most plot-heavy novel adaptations have. It ends up being a sequence of scenes compressed together. (The most glaring examples that I can think of right now can be found in the Harry Potter movies.)


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:12 PM
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It gets a whole Appendix.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:13 PM
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173 to 170, 171.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:13 PM
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three hours

Actually, I enjoyed Stalker. Also, in Goldmember the background to AP driving through Tokyo for one bit is the film Tarkovsky used from Tokyo as the setting for the future in Solaris.

To get away from an accusation that it's all fodder for childish fantasy, you kind of have to abandon story entirely.
This is an interesting thought. Jeeves and O. Henry both feel like counterexamples to me, similarly Maupassant's Bel-Ami.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:14 PM
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Part of the reason I didn't see the second is that I didn't want my Ents screwed up, though.

The Ents were handled poorly enough that there's no danger there. I liked the look of all of the movies, but only the first was any good.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:17 PM
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Aragorn sings some interminable poem-song in Rivendell which is subtextually all about him and Arwen: it's easy to miss because it's impossible to read and live, but it's several pages-worth of verse.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:19 PM
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I'm not sure I've ever read any of the poems or songs in LotR.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:23 PM
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177: Aragorn actually sings that on Weathertop. in Rivendell, Bilbo sings a song about Gil-galad.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:27 PM
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I suppose it's tiresome to criticize a movie on the grounds that it's not faithful to the book, but it seems to me that Jackson got LOTR right exactly to the degree that he was faithful to Tolkien's intent. That is to say, he did a decent job in the first movie, and had some flashes of quality in the other two.

One exception: Jackson was more sympathetic to Boromir than Tolkien was, and therefore created a better character.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:28 PM
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"An elven-maid there was of old,
A stenographer by day;
Her hair was fake, her teeth were gold,
Her scent was that of cheap sachet."


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:30 PM
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178: I substitute in the ones from "Bored of the Rings".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:31 PM
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Surprising pwnage there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:31 PM
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The best songs are all in the Hobbit, and sung by goblins.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:33 PM
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I just read another parody called "The Wobbit." It was free on Kindle. Not bad for the price, but I won't be reading the rest of it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:33 PM
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I'm exactly the opposite: I hate to watch movies of novels I've read, unless the novels are almost tediously realistic, because I can make and see a much better movie in my head than the greatest auteur in Hollywood could make in a hundred years with a budget the size of the United States.

(I mean don't get me wrong, Jackson packed some amazing visuals into LOTR -- it was done as well as it's ever likely to be done in movies for a long time to come -- but there's still no way any of his epic action sequences can outdo the appeal of my own private movies of them.)

I've started to think this is a fundamental neurological difference between people. As a kid I was just maniacal about reading all the time, I did nothing but read, but all the pro-reading propaganda about how nothing up on a screen can match your imagination seemed transparently phony. Reading "The Hobbit" was one of the best experiences of my life, I was totally immersed, but I wasn't, like, envisioning things happening visually. There's a dragon in a cave. What color is the dragon? I don't know, green I guess. How big is the pile of treasure? Never considered that. Probably big enough that you wouldn't walk by it without noticing. What does Gollum look like? Well, he looks like a small, thin, wet, sneaky humanoid guy. What does Thorin Oakenshield look like? Probably some hairy warrior type with a piercing stare. Can't really envision any particular clothing, or facial features.

But you guys seem to be sincere about this stuff, and maybe so were the people trying to convince kids that reading would unlock our imaginations. I just can't imagine it.

As far as I'm concerned all the visualizations in the LOTR movies were 100% perfect, because there was nothing in my head they could conflict with. They didn't make Legolas into a rapping turtle, they didn't make Frodo a slick-talking charmer, they kept the characters basically the same except for some minor characters, like turning Denethor into a pathetic loser.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:34 PM
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Sorry, but I was wrong. Bilbo sings about Eärendil.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:35 PM
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186: It's not really like that for me. I don't actually have a strong visual imagination or memory, so I'm not watching a better movie in my head. But it's enough that I recognize what characters and settings look like and don't look like, and if they're unsatisfying they're very unsatisfying.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:51 PM
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186: You're not alone there, ned. Reading as a child, I think I would, basically, mentally construct a maximally abstract version of whatever entity was introduced in the story, and concretize it only as the text required me to.

I'm reminded of something Feynman described, about how, on having physical phenomena explained to him, would imagine a ball or whatever, and would ascribe properties to it analogous to whatever phenomenon was described, backtracking at apparent contradictions, etc.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:52 PM
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In a related story, if you took all the girls I knew when I was single, and brought them all together for one night, I am sure they would match and surpass my sweet little imagination.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:56 PM
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More recently, though, I tend to mentally cast actors or at least voice actors for characters as I read.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:56 PM
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186: Agreed with you about LotR in that Jackson got it right overall, but I can definitely think of examples of adaptations when that didn't happen. The Dresden Files TV series, for example. (Disclaimer: I saw maybe two full episodes and bits and pieces of two more, so it's not like I can discuss it exhaustively.) Whatever good things one might say about it, they definitely made lots of changes from the books. Mostly due to the practical problems of visual media with live actors involved (the tall lead actor refused to drive around in a tiny VW Bug, the character of Bob would probably have looked stupid without a human actor playing him), sometimes probably for more questionable reasons, but either way watching the show would probably get in the way of mentally envisioning the books. (And while sometimes it might be just trivial stuff, like picturing a minor character looking a certain way but they happen to cast an actor who doesn't look like that, sometimes it really isn't, like Bob's character.)

The fact that the LotR movies were so close to the original overall might be a testament to Jackson's skill and/or loyalty to Tolkien, but probably has more to do with the budget he had to play with and free rein he was given.

Also, I agree with 92: "Someone who appears on the internet and says "Yeah, I hate SF because it's escapist wish fulfilment for adolescents"? That's like the original proto-troll."

I'll grant that PGD didn't mean it that way, but still, wow.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:05 PM
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but they happen to cast an actor who doesn't look like that,

Why do they do that with characters who are vividly described? I liked the Sharpe's Rifles books a lot, and the main character is made very clear -- tall-dark-and-handsome with blue eyes. A young Pierce Brosnan would have been the right type. In the TV show (otherwise excellent) they cast Sean Bean -- too short, and the wrong coloring. Bean's great, and I enjoyed the show, but surely there was a big black-haired Irish actor who could have done the job.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:11 PM
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My reading experience was and is much like Ned's in 186, to the point that I will often skim over landscape description and visual details in prose, unless they're extremely skillfully done (and it took reading poetry for me to be able to do this at all). Otherwise, it was like, who cares exactly what color your shoes are, let's get on with the story.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:14 PM
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Wow. Not being able to visualize a story would be like not being able to taste food. Or dance to a beat. How awful.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:17 PM
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It's not bad. Some of us have access to movies that don't irritate us.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:19 PM
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195: Well, on the plus side, I can taste food!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:21 PM
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Now I'm feeling as if I have the worst of both worlds. I don't have movies in my head, but I have enough of a visual sense that something that gets it wrong bugs me. Like, I couldn't draw you an Ent, but I know what they don't look like. Same with elves, or particularly elvish architecture and design.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:23 PM
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Or dance to a beat. How awful.

I can't dance to a beat. I still enjoy music.

(I am also very much non-visual.)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:23 PM
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And it's perfectly possible to live happily without being able to dance to a beat. My arrhythmic flailing has served me just fine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:25 PM
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I opt for rhythmic flailing. But just at home. In public, I opt for nursing a drink.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:27 PM
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I would be sad to not be able to express the sublime and funky love that is my dancing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:27 PM
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If forced to dance, I do a mean "guy bobbing his head while nursing a drink".


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:28 PM
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198 describes me, except for places. I get very specific visuals of places that don't necessarily have anything to do with the author's description. But they're right, damnit.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:30 PM
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I actually rather enjoy my flailing, but it does seem to bother, or at least puzzle, other people in the room.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:30 PM
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Actually, I would honestly love to dance more. Other pouring bottles of Cristal over the floozies in my personal bottle service booth at SkyBar [nb - may not actually be true] it's hard to get to a place where dancing is appropriate.

I guess I should just live the cliche and take salsa dancing classes with the GF.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:32 PM
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Yeah, public disdain (or, more, intra-familial disdain) has pretty much ended any dancing other than at the odd wedding.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:34 PM
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I think I would, basically, mentally construct a maximally abstract version of whatever entity was introduced in the story, and concretize it only as the text required me to.

While there are clearly some people who don't construct a maximally abstract image in their heads, I would wager that most people don't have as many of the visual details concretized in their heads as the extremely vividly visual feeling of reading would lead them to believe. Mental images can feel awfully vivid and specific while still leaving most things unconcretized.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:43 PM
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Back in the day my arrhythmic flailing once won me a small prize from a cumbia bandleader who found it amusing hilarious.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:43 PM
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So can I get a check on my visualizing? Which occasionally frequent poster here is this?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:45 PM
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What does a maximally abstract image look like? Is this like the joke about the mathematician who can visualize four-dimensional space, by first visualizing n-dimensional space and then letting n equal 4?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:48 PM
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a maximally abstract image look like

I think he means, just concrete enough to get on with the feeling of the story. Like, there's some vague image of a dragon and a hobbit or a knight but the details are not filled in at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:52 PM
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Where's the movie version of Ender's Game?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:53 PM
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I tend mentally to cast characters from Pokémon and Monsters Inc for Unfogged posters.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 1:55 PM
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I can safely say that in the few cases where I've subsequently become aware of what actual posters/commenters look like, my prior mental image has been right at the level of general body type and age to within 10 years twice. On some occasions I've even imagined the wrong gender. But those prior images still trump my subsequent knowledge unless I make an effort.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:00 PM
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I do kind of like not having much of a online photographic presence. The flickr pool has messed that up a bit, but I enjoyed the idea of all the separate commenters with our own pictures of what everyone else looks like.

It's like the movie of the Lord of the Rings -- what if the characters look wrong when you see the pictures?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:12 PM
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I tend mentally to cast characters from Pokémon and Monsters Inc for Unfogged posters.]

Better than a 1983 copy of Oui magazine, I suppose.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:12 PM
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216 --the Flickr pool only kills the fun if you know how to match up people's Flickr pseuds with their pseuds here, which, in many cases, I don't.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:19 PM
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re: OP.2:

As a stand-in for pretty good SF in general, you could do a lot worse than Startide Rising by David Brin.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:20 PM
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Yes. It's the middle of a trilogy, but they're very separate, and it's the best one of the three. I liked Earth by Brin as well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:25 PM
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217: http://www.flickr.com/photos/retrojoyride/6133719108/

I recognize the guy watching TV and the lady walking up to him, but who's the brunette?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:26 PM
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Emerson.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:28 PM
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I always link to I can't see anything when I close my eyes because it's pretty much where I am, though I wouldn't say that I draw well. I definitely wouldn't say I have mental images of the bodies behind the pseudonyms, though I may know some facts about them. Also, I love 186.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:28 PM
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I read exactly as described by Cryptic Ned and Ham-Love, and also skip long descriptions. Who the fuck cares? What happens next? My ex gave up on trying to get me to enjoy comics when he realized I essentially read the text as a script and often could finish an entire comic but not match the character to a superhero costume.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:37 PM
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Because you pictured the superhero naked.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:40 PM
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I don't miss visualizing stories at all, because I never have, but I have noticed there are people who don't decipher lyrics and follow along or laugh at jokes in lyrics. That's ridiculous! You listen to a song without knowing the words?! How can you be willing to miss so much of the content?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:41 PM
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226: I'm half deaf, which makes it difficult, and I generally find it more trouble than it's worth.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:42 PM
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198: Well, I think that's how it tends to be for a lot of people. I don't literally mean I have movies running in my head: visualizing a story is a lot like what goes on in a dream, wildly amorphous and indistinct and fudged for the most part and just detailed enough where it counts that you can fool yourself. I frequently have dreams that unfold in an old, ornately decorated hotel with red carpets, for example, and I can tell you what room number certain things happened in and what one or two other characters in the dream looked like, but I couldn't tell you what the layout is or what the dimensions of the rooms. It's like that.

That amorphous quality is actually a feature, not a defect. It's what I mean when I say a Hollywood film, no matter how elaborate, couldn't compete with the "movies" in my head. In my head I have the option to revisit and change and tweak things, and so the details of the story can change -- within the rough parameters set by the prose -- every time I revisit it. That way, it can always be satisfying. It's part of what makes it desirable to re-read a sufficiently good book over and over.

The Hollywood version, no matter how good the CGI is, cannot adapt itself that way. It will always be stuck with the interpretation they came up with on the set, in the cutting room and on the green screen. I might enjoy that interpretation and re-watch it to appreciate the familiar, or see new details I missed before, but it will never have that same range of possibilities. That's (/looks over at Ned, who I'm picturing as something close to a casually-attired John Cusack for some reason) what all the pro-reading propaganda is talking about.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:43 PM
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I never listen to the lyrics, which is unfortunate as I like to sing along. I end up singing like I'm in an improv excercise.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:44 PM
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How can you be willing to miss so much of the content?

Or even GLAD. I think that the best rock music is better than its lyrics. Jazz poetry even more so.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:49 PM
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Who the fuck cares?

Nabokov did. Can any of the nonvisualizers enjoy poetry?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:50 PM
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231 last: Yes, but it took training, as opposed to reading prose fiction, which came immediately and very naturally. You do need a deeper visual/descriptive imagination for poetry, for sure, but now I love it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:51 PM
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Honestly I can understand impatience with long, detailed descriptions, but only from a visualizer's angle: I want the author to leave me some interpretive room. I can't understand it from the angle of just not caring what anything in the story would look or feel or smell like at all. Why are you reading it, then?


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:54 PM
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As a critic Nabokov was something of a nut case.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:55 PM
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233: Plot? Characters? Wordplay? To fill the gnawing emptiness in our lives?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:56 PM
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I certainly skimmed lots of the text that described the setting in Lord of the Rings. I really wanted to get to the next stabbing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:56 PM
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231: I love poetry probably even more than prose, but I think it's more about the sound and beauty of the words than about creating specific images in my head. I have physical responses to achingly beautiful images (in the literary sense) in poetry for sure, though I can't think of any way to write that without inviting unintended low-hanging fruit. That slammed-in-the-chest feeling doesn't come from making a mental picture but just from the inherent incredibly right writing.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:57 PM
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Can any of the nonvisualizers enjoy poetry?

New Criticism (I.A. Richards in particular) was pretty damned anti-visualization. Bill Gass picks up parts of their arguments in his lit crit as well.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:01 PM
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235: But plot and characters are action and people, the sort of things "visualizing" is talking about.

236: Did you ever miss out. The detailing of the setting was pretty much what distinguished Tolkien from a basic hack-and-slash writer. (I did tend to skip the song and poetry in LOTR though. Tolkien did his best but always seemed to have a tin ear for those things.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:01 PM
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I don't mean to imply that poetry is nothing but visualization; obviously it's about sounds and wordplay and language. But you do need a willingness to not skip over the descriptions, and the lack of plot requires a different kind of imaginative experience, one that feels to me closer to the kind of thing Castock is talking about. Or something. /incompetent literary criticism.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:06 PM
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238: New Criticism was also completely wrong about a ton of things.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:06 PM
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They're lecture notes aimed at undergrads. His book about Gogol was pretty good.

Not dancing to John Cage is OK, so is not enjoying Gass.

License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:08 PM
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images (in the literary sense)

Approximately a third of my dissertation was devoted to what people mean by that. (Not a criticism of your having used the term!)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:09 PM
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New Criticism was also completely wrong about a ton of things.

Sure. That doesn't mean they couldn't enjoy poetry.

Anyway, I'll leave this thread in your capable hands.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:10 PM
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226
I have noticed there are people who don't decipher lyrics and follow along or laugh at jokes in lyrics. That's ridiculous! You listen to a song without knowing the words?! How can you be willing to miss so much of the content?

I often can't make out the words. My hearing is OK, as far as I know - rarely have to ask people to repeat themselves and stuff - but there are lots of songs that I just can't make out enough of the words of to get what the narrative is.

I know I've seen a thread or two here about comical misinterpretations of lyrics.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:13 PM
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244.1: No, of course it doesn't.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:13 PM
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159: Hear, hear! The only thing that somewhat redeems the LoTR movies is that they are not the Star Wars prequels.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:13 PM
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I really wanted to get to the next stabbing.

Shoulda gone with Lord of the Knives.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:21 PM
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Wait. I visualize everything I read, but I can't make heads or tails of poetry. When I read it, it's totally nonvisual and requires enormous effort for me to make sense of it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:29 PM
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249: What kind of poetry do you mean?


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:35 PM
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Oh, the hard kind. The stuff from school.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:37 PM
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Huh. I usually visualize something with poetry. Clowns, fucking, that sort of thing.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:38 PM
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Maybe the explanation for hg's problem is here:
http://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-have-an-understanding-of-very-advanced-mathematics


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:40 PM
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I saw that recently. Some of it really resonates with me, other parts make me embarrassed that I more or less fell off the research wagon (pure math, at least).


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:46 PM
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251: As in the stuff you'd normally encounter in an Introduction to Poetry class in undergrad?


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:54 PM
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243: You're welcome to say more! This is the kind of thing I find very interesting, but I do suspect I'm using some terms in a slightly different way than those who rely heavily on visualization.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:57 PM
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but I can't make heads or tails of poetry.

Aha!

Delany et al on SF as extension and weird use of language. The affinity of many SF for experimental literary work like Joyce. The distaste among some for the use and abuse of language SF takes for granted.

"The door irised."

I tried, using a simple paragraph from "Bloodchild," to show at Crooked Timber that SF was nothing else but a particular language or symbol/sign game. Holbo wasn't listening.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:05 PM
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Huh, I guess I'm on the visualization end, though I wouldn't have thought so. I don't have a detailed picture of what Smaug looks like, for example, but I have I have definite sense of how big Smaug's cave is, or how high in the air Smaug was flying when shot with the arrow. The picture is abstract enough that I couldn't say that something like the look of Minas Tirith was right or wrong.

I liked the first two LotR movies, but hated the third one.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:05 PM
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I read poetryalmost purely for the sound and the general meaning -- I basically subvocalize everything. I'm surprised my lips don't move. To take a random example, while Yeats' "Leda and the Swan" I don't picture anything, other than a vague sense of being held at a terrifying height.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:11 PM
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As a stand-in for pretty good SF in general, you could do a lot worse than Startide Rising by David Brin.

I thought of that, and it's definitely a well-done example of SF as imaginative adventure story. I just wasn't sure if the portions of the book set in the alien fleets, while brief, might be a bit much for somebody who didn't already like SF.

Those sections are definitely written with the feel of, "don't try too hard to make sense of this, just understand the basic power dynamics at work, that's what matters."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:15 PM
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255: yeah. Shakespeare is super hard for me to Wade through, for example.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:15 PM
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wade.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:16 PM
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Pretty much ditto to 258. I rarely have very specific visual images of books, but as per 258 (and LB and others above) I know when something's wrong. Also ditto re: the movies.

So, for example, while I never had any clear specific image of what Rebus looked like, it was immediately clear to me that John Hannah was wrong, and Ken Stott was right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:17 PM
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Actually not ditto to 258 on being a the visualisation end of the spectrum, but yes on things like Smaug's cave size and the like.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:18 PM
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262: I find Shakepeare much easier when rendered in Pinyin rather than Wade-Giles.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:22 PM
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這我在我之前看見的匕首?


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:25 PM
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261: Well, one is basically learning another dialect of English to read Shakespeare, so it's difficult for lots of people. I don't think that's necessarily telling you about your reaction to poetry as such; a better test of that would be Coleridge or Tennyson or Yeats or Williams or Hughes would be a better test of that.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:26 PM
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Goddammit, I swear I deleted that last clause before I posted. WTF.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:27 PM
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Darko Suvin

Science fiction is "a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment."

People who are used to SF drastically underestimate how radical it is on the page.

I also dissed it above, but I think this is what top-end literary fiction does. Emerson above felt abused by Joyce.

Course it's all text, all words on a page. Holbo got pissed because he said "No, Chesterton is about an alternate future" and I says "Words and words only! What the fuck does "alternate future" mean and why do you accept it so easily."

I wanted to get to the cognition, but not very badly. Though I can't read fiction anymore, like the Kawabata or Mishima, without looking for cognitive tricks and effects.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:29 PM
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Gave the comment that Gertrude Stein feeling.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:29 PM
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267: I just clicked through and reread kubla kahn. It wasn't very hard and I had a very vivid mental picture. Maybe I've grown since high school after all. I found that poem totally confusing, then.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:34 PM
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When people talk about things like having a sense of the size of Smaug's cave: how long has it been since you read that book? My memory for things like that goes out the window within a few months, I think. Unless it's a book I've read more than once.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:35 PM
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Nabokov was the kind of asshole who would pose "describe Anna Karenina's wallpaper" as an exam question and think that he was testing whether students had read the book. I had one high school English teacher who would give quizzes about inane details like that, and say "I'm just testing who did the reading."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:38 PM
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Smaug the dragon's full title is "Smaug the Golden", and Tolkien painted and drew him several times, red and gold, sitting lazily stretched out on his treasure pile, or in agonised raging spasm as he's shot dead with an arrow over Laketown -- and stylised, too, in various endpapers and such. "I desired dragons with a profound desire," he wrote in his essay on fairystories, and it shows in his pictures of them: trees and dragons he loved best of all. Is the author's own picture of a person or a beast or a place they've imagined what they "really" look like?


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:39 PM
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I'm having much more trouble with Tennyson.

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' 20 Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades For ever and for ever when I move.

Huh?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:41 PM
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- 20


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:41 PM
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272: Smaug's cave is easy, though. Smaug's big enough to eat several ponies in a meal -- he's at least the size of an eighteen-wheeler. That's not visualizing, that's how the plot works. And he's clearly not crammed in there, he has room to move around. The cave is huge -- think the inside of a cathedral. And the heap of treasure is big enough to be landscape -- it's something fourteen half-size people can climb around on and not be on top of each other.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:42 PM
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I think it's the long, nested sentences with funny line breaks that I find completely impenetrable.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:45 PM
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I expect the mental image I have of Smaug's cave is shaped by the Tolkien drawings I've seen, yeah, both when I read the original book and since. That and the plot elements LB mentions.


Posted by: natttarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:46 PM
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275: I fucking love that poem.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:48 PM
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275: I think he's saying "I gotta go to bed. Bum deal, isn't it?".


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:51 PM
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I'm sure I missed a lot in the Yeats poem, but I was okay with the sentence structure. The Williams and Hughes were easy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:52 PM
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On the other hand, this is what I thought Smaug looked like when I was about 12 (from the front, so the perspective on his wings is a bit weird) (and I don't know why he's wearing a sweater with his own name and image on it)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:53 PM
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275: Yeah, I can see how there are parts of Tennyson that might be idiomatically difficult. And yet he's pretty vividly descriptive even there: the key to unpacking passages like that for me was always to key in on the visual imagery and work back from it. (Eg. "Experience" is an "arch" for Tennyson like it might be a "lens" or "frame" for a twentieth- or twenty-first-century mind -- something through which you can see, but never touch, all the parts of the world fading off into the distance that you'll never get to travel to in life.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:55 PM
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281: I bet he says bum deal a lot. I'd better get used to that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:55 PM
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283 is fantastic. When I was about 7 or 8 I wrote a summary of LoTR, with illustrations, which my mum still had up until a few years ago. The drawings were just typical 7 year old stick with blob things, though.


Posted by: natttarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:56 PM
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282: See, you're four for five! You've got this poetry thing on lock.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 4:57 PM
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It would probably be much easier to get the hang of poetry now than it was in high school. But it's never light reading.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:01 PM
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283 is great and I do love the poem in 275.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:02 PM
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266: "This, the dagger that I had previously noticed."


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:02 PM
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I tend to think of myself as someone who doesn't particularly like poetry, and yet whenever I pick up a volume, or hear a poet read on the radio, I often enjoy it a great deal. I suspect the education system is at fault here, due to the way in which poetry is often taught in schools.


Posted by: natttarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:03 PM
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Baudelaire.

(I am not much for poetry, but my brother has good taste and occasionally passes along poems to me. That is one I continue to enjoy -- both for it's content and how elegantly the structure of the narrative is handled).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:05 PM
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283 is super fucking awesome.

Bob beat me to it but I was going to mention Delany as someone who gives me poetry-level feelings in prose. I'm sorry I didn't reread Dhalgren in October or so. Doing it now might give it a whole different feel, but it's finally out of a box and on the shelf and so accessible again.

I don't know if anyone here is an Emma Donoghue reader other than ROOM, which I think was discussed in some of the heebie's book club threads, but she's someone I thought had startlingly right moments in her prose when I was obsessed with that sort of thing as a teen and whose work (short stories especially) I still love. Part of that is probably that we pale and dour lesbians need to stick together, I admit.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:09 PM
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267.link:

All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born

I've never read words that so perfectly capture what I feel looking into a mirror after giving myself a Hitler mustache.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:11 PM
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292: Paris Spleen! Hells yeah!


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:14 PM
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I likes the 292 link.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:17 PM
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Liked. What am I, Popeye?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:17 PM
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Now that we've sucked heebie into poetry, we have to up the stakes.

Heebie, you know what's something that you'd probably really like, now that you're not in high school anymore? Castor Oil.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:27 PM
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Maybe we should start with spinach. Exploit what appears to be a latent Popeye fetish.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:28 PM
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I already like spinach.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:31 PM
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If I say "top hat, tails, and a cane" you say: "Fred Astaire" and I say "No, silly, Bugs Bunny"

I thought Wittgenstein got us over the picture theory of language. There ain't no pictures in the words. There are habits and conventions in your head.

Joyce was doing a lot of things, but one thing he was doing was showing that we create narrative, character, description in our heads usually in spite of the words rather than because of them. With his "palimpset" method...well write a sentence. Now separate those 20 words each with 100 reasonably meaningful words, so each original word is 100 words away from the next original. Is the original sentence still there to be found when you subtract the extraneous?

No it is not there.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:31 PM
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I thought Wittgenstein got us over the picture theory of language. There ain't no pictures in the words

No way. I visualize everything.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:37 PM
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I don't even visualize (or bother to look at) the comics graphics that are an inch below the text.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:39 PM
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So when you read the sentence: 'All bachelors are unmarried', say, what do you envisage?


Posted by: natttarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:39 PM
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To get back to what PGD was saying way upthread: It's true that modern literary fiction is frequently focused on the constraints of life, but it's a funny kind of thing. Literary fiction is written by writers, who don't strike as a group that necessarily has any insight whatsoever into how to live. I'm pretty sure that I have a much better idea on the actual constraints of life than David Foster Wallace ever did, or Phillip Roth does. I've never read a literary novel and thought, "wow, this author really understands what it's like to work in an office."


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:41 PM
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304:A fur toilet.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:41 PM
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304: first I recall the plot of The Human Centipede...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:48 PM
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But you're right, I don't visualize that. I assume I'm being set up for a logical game, which aren't strictly visual for me, but still visualish, in a way that's hard to explain.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:50 PM
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If 301.3 is an accurate description of Joyce, does someone have edited versions so I can read him without the nonsense?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:51 PM
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(304-306, for weird reason, Duchamp was the first word in my head. Actually Bride Stripped Bare, then Duchamp)

305:I've never read a literary novel and thought, "wow, this author really understands what it's like to work in an office."

Poetry is the supreme Fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms
Like windy citherns, hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began

You are refuted.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:52 PM
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Quick, heebie, what do you picture when you read "Things you can't picture"?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:53 PM
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A list of all lists that don't contain themselves, easy-peasy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:54 PM
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311: I picture Bertrand Russell, looking kind of dour.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:55 PM
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310: Except that you agree with me entirely.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:57 PM
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Is there a biography of Wallace Stevens that focuses on his career as an insurance executive at The Hartford? As an office drone myself, I've always wondered what his life there was like.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:10 PM
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305: Have you read either Personal Days by Ed Park or Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris? Very similar, different and good enough to be worth reading both.

And what do you think of Office Space?


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:49 PM
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316.2 should read "acknowledge that Office Space is brilliant or I will cut you with a sharp thing."


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:51 PM
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309:The movie may suit you.

My thing is, I think the connection between for instance astronomy and morality, however tenuous or poetical, is much more important than a story of substitute father and son.

I love the schema, and the technology of the instrument.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:58 PM
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No, I haven't heard of either. Office Space is of course a work of genius. It's interesting that they're all comedies about layoffs.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 6:59 PM
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305: kafka, Maupassant, TC Boyle, Bolano would all be ok as cubicle dwellers


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:01 PM
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301.2: Semiotics, Brother Bobby, semiotics. There's no pictures inherent in the words. Too many pictures, not enough words, play of signifier and signified. That's part of why languages are always changing.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:03 PM
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300: Ahhh, yes, but do you love it?


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:04 PM
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When Adventures in Babysitting came out my sister and I wanted to see that movie so much that we got our parents to buy us the cheap paperback screenplay book version that we saw in some store during our family vacation. When I finally saw the film after reading the book, I felt like I'd seen it already. Enough so, that I'm wondering if I actually saw the film twice and forgot the first time.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:06 PM
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Is there a TC Boyle novel set in an office? I would like to read such a novel.

I recently learned that the bookstore girl I had a little crush on was his daughter.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:11 PM
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63

When I read the first three, I wasn't particularly offended by all the rape, but I'm pretty insensitive in terms of being able to read past that sort of thing without being upset by it.

Again I don't understand the focus on rape. The books are full of sadistic violence. Men being flayed alive, that sort of thing. Including some rape. I can understand to objecting to this in general. I found it offputting after a point myself. But I don't understand objecting to the rapes and being ok with everything else.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:12 PM
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315: There's the (surely apocryphal) story of his funeral, where one of his cow-orkers was overhead remarking to another, "I never knew Wally wrote poetry?"


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:12 PM
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Bartleby the Scrivener. Melville understood the cannibal islands, he understood the cubicles.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:15 PM
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129

But you wouldn't rule Clancy out as a matter of genre, but because he's a lousy terrible writer, no? ...

Was Clancy really that bad? I thought "The Hunt for Red October" was pretty good (as entertainment). Of course he went downhill after that and I haven't read any of his recent stuff.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:16 PM
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I'm imagining the non-visualizing interpretation of the end of "The Dead" to be something like "weather report: snow over Ireland." That doesn't seem right. On the other hand, I guess I'm a visualizer and I'm not sure exactly what I see for that scene either.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:19 PM
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Regarding SF short stories, I thought "True Names" by Vernor Vinge was pretty good. But maybe it is dated now also.

I read a lot of SF when I was young but now I mostly read mystery genre stuff. So maybe there is something to SF appealing to adolescents.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:27 PM
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Hunt for Red October wasn't bad at all of its ilk. Red Storm Rising had maybe five interleaved plots, and maybe two were entertaining. I've picked up others since then and they've been uniformly horrendous.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:28 PM
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Sort of on-topic, incidentally, fake accent's nym has always had me visualizing their posts as coming from Jeff Bridges' character in Blown Away.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:28 PM
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Agree 100% w/331. I liked THFRO when I read it as a kid but the later ones are unbelievably terrible. I picked up one where Jack Ryan becomes President after every other government official is killed in a Japan-America War where a plane crashes into the capitol building just after Ryan becomes Vice President.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:32 PM
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Wasn't Red Storm Rising basically like a liveblog of a role-playing game, or something along those lines?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:36 PM
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I liked Tom Clancy when I was, like, 12 to 14. This fills me with shame.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:37 PM
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A poem about images as words.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:39 PM
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335: It shouldn't. The people who should be filled with shame are the ones who liked John Grisham. Or moreso, the ones who published him.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:43 PM
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334: it was, yeah.

335: indeed.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:43 PM
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A poem should be palpable and mute


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:44 PM
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The people who should be filled with shame are the ones who liked John Grisham.

Yeah, that was also me at about the same age.

Also? Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:48 PM
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Slightly later, I liked Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. Sigh.

I predict that a couple decades from now I'm going to be telling people "when I was in my 20s, I liked Ishiguro... embarrassing, I know."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:51 PM
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337: John Grisham writes pretty good dialog. I have only read one JG book (and it was weird, and not like his other books, and just about a boy living on a farm or something), but the dialog didn't make me want to pop my eyes out with a grapefruit spoon, and that sets him lightyears past the other airport novelists.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:51 PM
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In college I was really into Don DeLillo.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:53 PM
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340: Crichton and Cussler could at least write decently. Pace 342, while his dialogue was relatively passable, pretty much everything else in a typical Grisham book was shit, right down to the copy-editing. Hence my particular ire for his publishers.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:55 PM
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I think at that age I liked the Cussler books because they were full of sex. I suspect they were also full of misogyny, but I was too 13-year-old-boy to notice.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:57 PM
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341: See, that's okay, too. What sucks about Card is when you get a few years' distance from his books and notice how creepy and fucked-up the underlying messages are. He was nevertheless more than competent at his craft when he wrote those novels.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:57 PM
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332: I guess I should watch Blown Away and see if that matches how I write. I do think I comment differently than I did under the old name, but I don't think the name change accounts for that.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:00 PM
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"wow, this author really understands what it's like to work in an office."

lw gets it right in mentioning Kafka here.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:02 PM
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347: You don't have to watch it. Just know that I'm always reading your comments aloud in a wandering and thoroughly-unconvincing Bostonian accent. Every one of them.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:04 PM
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You think Jeff Bridges' fake accent is the worst fake accent in Blown Away?! Not by a long shot, me lad.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:06 PM
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350: Yeah, but at least they make the fakeness of Tommy Lee Jones' accent a plot point. We're meant to swallow Bridges as part of the setting.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:09 PM
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(I still do love saying to people, especially elders in the company: "You're a good egg, Dad." Virtually nobody gets the reference and they think I'm a gorram freak, but so it goes.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:12 PM
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324: Both Tortilla Curtain and Road to Wellville cover working life. His short stories are all over the place, but as he gets older they get better.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:16 PM
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Non-comedy modern work literature: Something Happened.

More comedic (although in the end it annoyed the fuck out of me):
Paul Neilan's Apathy and Other Small Victories:

Even something so seemingly right as Bring Your Daughter to Work Day in that environment was horribly, horribly wrong. Marching a sweet, innocent nine year old who likes ponies and dreaming into an 8' x 8' cubicle and telling her that if she's strong and independent she'll get to spend forty years in there slowly wasting away is an exercise in feminist mysogyny. It was like a fucking Scared Straight program, a right-wing Christian conspiracy to create more stay-at-home moms. You grab a little girl by the pigtails and say "Suzy, this is what hell looks like!" and obviously she's going to kick off her shoes and get pregnant at fifteen. And she'll keep on going for as long as the clock runs, anything to stay out of that cubicle.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:38 PM
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Way back in 43: Come on. He's an SF/Fantasy writer, has been his whole career, and he's writing books with dragons, magic, ice zombies, and so on. The only reason to say they're not fantasy is claim they don't suck, and calling something fantasy doesn't make it suck.

There's a bit of supernatural stuff in the books, but the bulk of the material is palace intrigue and swordplay. (I've only read the first two books. Maybe the balance tilts as they get further on?) I think it's fair, and not a slight in the least on the genre, to say that ASOIAF is pretty far in tone from LOTR or The Wheel of Time.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:34 PM
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Sam Lipsyte's The Ask had some good stuff about modern office life. Probably the kind of thing you can pick up with some temping here and there to save up for writing retreats.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:36 PM
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355

... I think it's fair, and not a slight in the least on the genre, to say that ASOIAF is pretty far in tone from LOTR or The Wheel of Time.

Maybe but that doesn't mean ASOIAF isn't fantasy. Genres can encompass a range of material.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:52 PM
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Hunt for Red October wasn't bad at all of its ilk. Red Storm Rising had maybe five interleaved plots, and maybe two were entertaining.

Agree - though I think I liked The Hunt for Red October because of the film, which has Sean Connery and is therefore terrific. (Especially the beginning, where he tries to speak Russian: I like to think that John McTiernan planned to do the whole film like this, shot that scene first, watched the rushes, screamed, and said "You know what, Sean? I think we should have all the Russian characters just speak English.")

And I maintain that Clear and Present Danger, like Red Dawn, is one of the great left-wing works of the 1980s. The plot is about a very Bushlike president who talks tough and authorises all sorts of illegal military operations and assassinations and so on (against drug barons rather than terrorists), and none of them do any good - he just ends up getting a lot of people killed for no reason. The only bit of his drug war that actually works at all is the tedious, non-adventurous, legal bit of going through bank records and following the money. And that works really well. And the White House staff and officials who authorise all the illegal operations end up on trial or dead. It's like Iran-Contra with a happy ending.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 2:48 AM
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The plot is about a very Bushlike president who talks tough and authorises all sorts of illegal military operations and assassinations and so on (against drug barons rather than terrorists), and none of them do any good - he just ends up getting a lot of people killed for no reason. The only bit of his drug war that actually works at all is the tedious, non-adventurous, legal bit of going through bank records and following the money

You're right about that. Come to think of it, the opening of the book shows someone being threatened with execution based on using some sort of alternative lawbook rather than the ordinary laws of the US or even the UCMJ. Surely this should be read esoterically, as a Straussian warning about the dangers of the neoconservative/Addingtonian drive to live in the state of exception? I'm not completely kidding.

essear: yes, Red Storm Rising was based on running a simulation of a NATO-Warsaw Pact sea battle (to the extent of arguably qualifying as hard SF), but then reversed it into a very hardboiled pseudo-Hemingway macho short story.

Later, of course, he ran out of Cold War to keep him honest and sailed off into the blue yonder of flagrant war porn. The parallels are fairly obvious.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 3:23 AM
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Early 200s: honestly, giving up dancing because you're a horrible dancer is as wise as giving up laughing because you have an embarrassing laugh.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 3:26 AM
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Come to think of it, the opening of the book shows someone being threatened with execution based on using some sort of alternative lawbook rather than the ordinary laws of the US or even the UCMJ.

Yes; and the guy who did it, though sympathetically portrayed, is subsequently told by another sympathetic character that what he did was incredibly, boneheadedly stupid and wrong, and tainted all the victim's subsequent confession to the point where none of it could be used in court. Fortunately for him they had enough untainted evidence from other sources, but if not then the victim (who had IIRC murdered several people) would have walked free. It's a pretty strong "hey! don't torture!" message.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 3:33 AM
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On the OP: My pretend girlfriend Jane Espenson is one of the chief writers from the TV version of Game of Thrones. I'm certain this is the source of its popularity.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 5:48 AM
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It's a pretty strong "hey! don't torture!" message.

Nostalgic to recall how non-controversial that seemed at the time.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 6:01 AM
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Shorter 363: War on Terrorism. Winning!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 6:17 AM
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363: stop making me depressed. eventually americans will only have the same legal rights as narnians, and the main difference between being a citizen of one or the other will be erased. except for all the awesome public transit and genuinely effective government programs run by actually intelligent people who must produce economic growth to stay in power. advantage: narnia!
if they didn't for the most part also stick you in (quite a shitty) jail I'd personally prefer caning to jail. it apparently hurts like a bitch, but then it'd be over. jail sounds awful.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 7:16 AM
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and to comment 1: now that ogged (PBUH) is gone, someone has to troll their own blog.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 7:17 AM
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363: I wasn't judging ( I regularly troll my own family), merely asking for clarification of intent. Because I am a feminist care.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 8:59 AM
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BTW -- tierce's old science fiction podcast is great if you're into that stuff. I've listened to the two first episodes, on Campbell's "Who Goes There?" (in the movies, "The Thing") and Lieber's "A Pail Of Air". The podcasts start with a reading of a big chunk of the discussed work, and then tierce, this other guy, and a guest chew it over. Very interesting.

(Tierce -- if you haven't found out in the years since the podcast was recorded, a pousse cafe is a drink made by floating layers of different liqueurs on top of each other -- if you're careful, and their specific gravities are different enough, they don't mix.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 10:50 AM
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"A Pail of Air" is an awesome story.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 10:53 AM
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a pousse cafe is a drink made by floating layers of different liqueurs on top of each other

Is that a different recipe from a tequila sunrise, or is a ts a type of pousse cafe?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 10:54 AM
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I think it's a little different. A tequila sunrise you don't actively mix, but you're not supercareful about how you pour it. A pousse cafe (which I have never actually had or made), you're pouring in the heaviest liqueur, then carefully dribbling the next layer in over the back of a spoon so it sits on top without mixing, then the next. It's a stunt, not something you'd really order for the taste.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:00 AM
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And "A Pail of Air" is great. 1951 -- I hadn't realized how old it was.

It's funny how many of the old SF greats ricocheted freely back and forth between SF and fantasy. I think of Lieber as SF, but of course the thing you'd recommend of his is Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:04 AM
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More to tierce -- how'd you handle copyright? Did you get the permissions, or were the readings small enough to be fair use? (The latter seems unlikely -- they abridged "A Pail of Air", but did it neatly enough that it sounded like the whole story.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:10 AM
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Yes, a listener posted the definition in comments somewhere in the maze of related pages, which I can never find my way round. Anyway, delighted you're enjoying them!


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:10 AM
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373: Oh great, now they're busted.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:12 AM
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the radio station -- which is a UK-based non-profit org -- has a licence that covers the original broadcast, as far as we could tell, and we didn't touch anything by h/arlan ell/ison


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:21 AM
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so we're winging it, and trusting that most writers will prefer their work is heard and discussed interestingly to clampdown and silence -- the only one who contacted us so far was thrilled


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:24 AM
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Anyway, they were really fun. The extended excerpts make it -- I read "Who goes there?" a million years ago, and wouldn't have remembered it well enough to enjoy the discussion without the reading. Even though there wasn't enough time for the whole thing, the reading got me far enough back into it that the rest of it popped right back.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:37 AM
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I think after the first two we stuck with really quite short stories, and read the whole thing -- it all evolved from the fact of Eli wanting to read the stories aloud; that always came first.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 11:46 AM
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Relevant: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/07/a-reader-apos-s-manifesto/2270/

I actually like some of the books he singles out for scorn, but agree with some of the general complaints.

I just tore through Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 4:38 PM
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I always thought tierce was a woman. huh.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 10:19 PM
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pousse cafe

There's a torch song I like named "Pousse Cafe", sung by Julie London. You can hear a snippet giving the flavour of the song via the link - disappointingly, however, it fails to include the line expressing the hard-to-argue-with sentiment that: an aperitif... can't bring relief.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:01 AM
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"Who Goes There": also really an awesome story.

Now I want to look up this podcast and see if they did "8 O'Clock In The Morning".


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:12 AM
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Don't think so -- I scanned the episode titles.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:15 AM
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Full text of 'Eight O'Clock In The Morning". It's short.

I remember thinking about this at the time, but did Nelson or whoever owned the copyright ever sue Stephen King over the version he wrote of this? I can't remember the title, but if I recall correctly, it was as close as "The Running Man" was to the Sheckley story King stole.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:27 AM
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Huh. I remember when They Live came out being kind of dismissive because it had taken a basically thinky story and action-d it up, but the original story really does end with basically a big ol' action scene.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:33 AM
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Also I had no idea Stephen King wrote a version of that.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:34 AM
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"action-d"?


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:34 AM
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I just found it: The Ten O'Clock People". The similarity is just in the basic conceit -- there are hideous monsters living among us, ruling us, but they look human to almost everyone, until one person (in the King story a small group) learns to see them for what they are and fights back. They looked pretty close to me: I think King probably has a consistent problem with coming up with a neat idea and not knowing if he remembered it or thought of it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:39 AM
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Well that's weird. How often do pousses-cafe come up in life, but I actually referenced them like two days ago on another blog. Maybe it is a sign.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:48 AM
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Have you ever had one? I can't quite figure out how you drink it without ruining it. A straw?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:51 AM
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How can you dismiss They Live? It has Rowdy Roddy Piper?!


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 8:54 AM
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392: well I don't dismiss it now. Geez.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:00 AM
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Is any layered drink a pousses-cafe? We used to try and invent those (years ago, we made one called an RGB that was simultaneously nerdy and undrinkeably sweet. I think it was grenadine, green chartreuse and blue curaçao).


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:02 AM
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391: Yes. But don't stir it:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115835765770164823.html


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:02 AM
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391: I haven't. I wonder if you have to just drink up and resign yourself to it collapsing into brownish sludge. I guess this depends on whether the liquors used have flavors that combine well or just look pretty, in which case, yeah, tiny straw or: take a photo, dump it out, and order something that tastes good.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:03 AM
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dump it out

You monster.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:08 AM
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395

"The cordial comes bubbling up through the cream as a delicious, wicked suggestion might surge through the veins of an innocent maiden."

You know, I think I'll just have a PBR.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:10 AM
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What's pink? You could float a layer of cream on top of something pink and call it a French Manicure.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:10 AM
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Google says Crème de Noyaux and Crème d' Almond, but I have never seen or tasted either.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:14 AM
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That was me, not Kobe.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:15 AM
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Specific gravity chart, with colors for anyone feeling inventive.

The only thing that leaps out at me as probably tasting reasonable in combination off that list is some kind of layered grasshopper.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:20 AM
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Except for Bailey's at Christmas, I'm not a fan of any liqueur. Maybe Drambuie, because of the rusty nail.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:39 AM
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Amaretto and warm milk is a lovely nightcap. A bit of Sambuca on occasion is very nice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 9:43 AM
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399: Lee has a drink named for her (for racist-ish reasons by either white girls or white gay guys who were/are her friends, though I don't know exactly since it's before my time) at a bar she used to frequent, I think black sambuca and Tequila Irish Rose so it's pink inside brown.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 10:06 AM
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I just found it: The Ten O'Clock People". The similarity is just in the basic conceit -- there are hideous monsters living among us, ruling us, but they look human to almost everyone, until one person (in the King story a small group) learns to see them for what they are and fights back.

Isn't that just the story running through David Icke's head the whole time?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 6-12 10:42 AM
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380: That essay is great.


Posted by: King-Walters | Link to this comment | 01- 7-12 12:01 AM
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Posted by: cvgycxy | Link to this comment | 05-31-12 7:14 PM
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