September 19, 2005

No Young Bloke Can Carpe Diem Like a Pirate in His Heyday

Mayhap ye been ashore some savage island these last years, or else ye be some poor sod of a landlubber; if so, we'll not keel-haul ye for not knowin' what day this be.

Avast, me hearties! Yo ho!

ADDENDARRRR: More o' this theme may be sighted if ye sail here.

To know by what name ye be called under the Code, see it writ here. (Or upon this parchment, or this.)

And this lot o' swag be the makin's of a fine sack o' plunder.

Swill rum and swagger, me lads!

September 12, 2005

The Sound of Half a Hand Wanking

It's so inevitable that it should probably be a Law of Fandom, and Murphy knows, maybe it is: At least once in every calendar year, any sufficiently large group of fen will find a reason to have a discussion in which Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant gets a thorough kicking.

(Equally inevitable is the mention of this essay as some kind of supporting documentation - as excruciatingly nasty a piece of snobbery as you're likely to encounter in genre crit.)

I know I should just look away when this happens, but all that vitriol and eye-rolling is like a three-car pileup: you swear you'll avert your eyes, and then you can't help needing to see just how horrible it all is.

Okay, so, it's like this. I kinda get what the criticism is all about. I can see the things that might make Lord Foul's Bane and it sequels not to everyone's taste: the wordy, dense, occasionally tortured prose; the morbidity; the infuriating, completely unsympathetic non-hero. I don't know for sure that these count as "flaws," but I can certainly understand why they might be off-putting.

Nonetheless, my reaction to the gleeful pile-on that inevitably happens is: Oh, for fuck's sake. No matter how articulate you are about it, after a very short while it boils down to a lot of Comic Book Guys sitting around going "Worst trilogy ever."

Michael Suileabhain-Wilson identifies, with terrifying accuracy, the Five Geek Social Fallacies; to which list I've long thought should be added the primary geek psychological fallacy, which is "My tastes, especially my dislikes, are personal virtues." Hell, I've been prone to this one too - I think most of us are to one degree or other. It's especially hard to be at all on the fringes of society and not at least partially define yourself by what you don't like (or read, watch, listen to, play, fuck, eat), and it's easy to imagine that this elevates you somehow above the benighted masses who don't have your refined tastes.

But you know what? A bunch of people who seem to have nothing better to talk about than how much they hate something is just... unpleasant. There are a few cases where I'd agree that excessive vitriol can be appropriate: actual hate literature, say, or artless Premillenial Dispensationalist godporn (same thing). I'm unconvinced that the Covenant books fall into such a category.

Am I being oversensitive? Of course I am. I freely admit that I have an excessive desire to see everyone playing nice, and that I think it's a shame (and, y'know, unbecoming) when people indulge in sneering rather than choosing to shrug and say "de gustibus." And I do take it a little personally, though I know I shouldn't, that this kind of conversation sends me a clear signal that there are things I can't admit to and still be in the club with the Cool Kids. (Why I'm not used to that by now I don't know.)

Mostly, though, it's just this: eleven years ago, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever blew me away. I'm not an undiscerning reader, and I wasn't then either. Donaldson made me root for a protagonist I couldn't admire; he made me fall in love with the Land, with all its richness and strangeness and shadowed, fragile hope; and he changed the way I thought about fantasy and what it was capable of and how it could do it. I don't really believe all that was merely a lack of taste, intelligence or maturity on my part.

It's probably too much to ask that niceness be restored to the discourse of fandom. I'm sure it's silly and naive of me to wish for it. But I'm tired enough of half-apologizing for things that I like, that I don't actually think call for an apology or embarassment on my part, that I'm tempted to design a new t-shirt, suitable for congoing: If you can't think of anything nice to say, go on and fuck yourself.

September 08, 2005

...Beggarman, Thief

"The reason the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

"Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars....

"But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet."

- Terry Pratchett, Men At Arms

Also, what he said; and the followup.

September 06, 2005

Storming the Reality Studio

I try not to engage in reflexive television-bashing, tempting though I admit it sometimes is. When I was a wee theatre undergrad a decade ago, there was a popular t-shirt that read Theatre is Life; Film is Art; Television is Furniture, and I suppose I thought it was sort of clever then; now I mostly think it's nasty triumphalist snobbery, about half a sneer away from "Your Favorite Band Sucks," and equally undeserving of the nodding gravitas that's usually accorded it by the more-aloof-than-thou. And while it's undeniable that Sturgeon's Law holds sway in the land of the Great Glass Teat as much as everywhere else, when one stops to consider that the same soil brought forth the fruit of Buffy and Farscape and The West Wing and Gilmore Girls and... well, I could go on, but it becomes clear that the medium itself is not the problem.

(And besides, all the tut-tutting that often goes on about TV, and what it's doing to the collective intelligence, attention span, imagination, what-have-you of our culture, sounds awfully familiar to me; it's the same dumb crap that gets trotted out every so often about comics, and it's dead wrong there, and there's a good argument to be made that it's completely off the mark about the so-called Idiot Box too. But anyway.)

Nonetheless, I'll be the first in line to say that "Reality TV" is an oxymoron, and that the current fashion for it in network programming is troubling on many levels. Which is why this cartoon by Ampersand made my morning. Hell, I'd tune in to see that; it may even be better than my idea of having the hosts of What Not To Wear thrown amongst punks and hippies and taunted about their clothes until they cry.

September 04, 2005

Don't Try to Revive Me

I've been alternately avoiding and following with sick fascination news of the post-Katrina apocalypse down south, and trying not to think too hard about a city I've had a great love for these last two years - one of the jewels of our Republic - becoming a hideous toxic lake while the Gummint apparently does its hell-bent best to raise the suffering and misery and death to truly Biblical proportions.

But I will say that if this doesn't make you ill with outrage, you're not paying sufficient attention. In which case, I suggest at least checking in with the coverage at Making Light, where the Nielsen Haydens and company have been relentlessly, unblinkingly keeping abreast of the atrocities; start, say, here, and read on through. Follow the links until your capacity for being appalled is reached; rinse, repeat.

If you had any lingering doubts that the current American regime is both grossly incompetent and actually evil - consider those scales fallen.