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Author Topic: EP248: Spar  (Read 76423 times)

Thunderscreech

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Reply #150 on: July 27, 2010, 05:46:18 PM
I still consider Ender's Game one of the finest books I've ever read, and perhaps even my favorite book.  I choose to enjoy (or not) a book on the merits of the book, not the personality of the author.  Anyone here like Harlan Ellison's writing?  Why am I asking?  Oh, no reason.  But I've heard he's a character at parties...



Talia

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Reply #151 on: July 27, 2010, 06:01:15 PM
Harlan Ellison is mostly just tempermental, rather than a hatemonger. As I understand it he makes a fantastic friend and a dire, dire enemy. One of those types. :)



FireTurtle

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Reply #152 on: July 27, 2010, 08:17:23 PM
Well, I finally got around to listening. Ironically, I was drilling holes in my garage walls at the time. It added an eerie dimension to this already bizarre piece. I've got to say I was expecting something more from this after all the hyper hear on the forums. Perhaps ignorance of the furor would have aided my enjoyment. But, it did nothing for me. I just couldn't identify with the character enough to care. I think the writing was good and the concept was interesting but....it failed for me.

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CryptoMe

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Reply #153 on: July 28, 2010, 02:26:18 AM
I still consider Ender's Game one of the finest books I've ever read, and perhaps even my favorite book.  I choose to enjoy (or not) a book on the merits of the book, not the personality of the author.

I absolutely agree! Ender's Game is wonderful. I even liked Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and some of his other works. But if you read his commentary on these, it becomes very clear that what he thinks he's saying in his books and what most people get from his books are completely different things. So, I just ignore the man and enjoy the literature.....   ;)



Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #154 on: July 28, 2010, 06:21:07 PM
Ender's Game is wonderful. I even liked Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and some of his other works. But if you read his commentary on these, it becomes very clear that what he thinks he's saying in his books and what most people get from his books are completely different things. So, I just ignore the man and enjoy the literature.....   ;)

Yes, I still enjoy those too, particularly Speaker. However, at least partly as a result of finding out how much I dislike most of his views, I find I've stopped reading anything new from him.

The other part of the reason is that he seemed to have stopped finding new worlds to write about and started setting everything in the universe of Ender.  It got somewhat old.  (For all I know, he may have gotten out of that rut more recently.)  I think the last book of his that I really enjoyed was Pastwatch.

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TripleAught

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Reply #155 on: August 01, 2010, 03:11:31 AM
Not going to read this whole thread. Sounds like it's been a doozy.

The visceral images in Spar made it hard for me to pursue the deeper, psychological implications the author was trying to explore.  Well-written but just not for me.



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Reply #156 on: August 01, 2010, 04:07:05 AM
Not going to read this whole thread. Sounds like it's been a doozy.

The visceral images in Spar made it hard for me to pursue the deeper, psychological implications the author was trying to explore.  Well-written but just not for me.

As one of the more vociferous and dogmatic voices in defense of "Spar," I'd just like to say that THIS statement makes perfect sense to me, and I would not blame anyone for holding such an opinion.  "The images were too unpleasant for me" is a completely viable reaction.

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Schreiber

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Reply #157 on: August 02, 2010, 09:33:49 PM
"The images were too unpleasant for me" is a completely viable reaction.

Yeah, I don't know about that.

To be sure, there are some people who just don't like graphic violence, sex, or combinations thereof. Nothing wrong with that. There are also some people who don't like chocolate. But if you dump three pounds of unsweetened baker's chocolate into a steaming pot of mushroom risotto, it's a little precious to tell critics "Oh, you just must not be a chocolate person. Well, it takes all kinds." There are no hard and fast rules to fiction writing or cooking, but even so...you can screw up the recipe, even if there isn't a recipe to screw up.

And yes, so that we're clear, in this instance the mushroom risotto is the subgenre of hard science fiction and the three pounds of unsweetened chocolate is the sex to which the lion's share of the story is dedicated to describing.



Talia

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Reply #158 on: August 02, 2010, 09:49:19 PM
I apparently enjoy my mushroom risotto with three pounds of unsweetened chocolate. :)



DKT

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Reply #159 on: August 02, 2010, 10:04:11 PM
"The images were too unpleasant for me" is a completely viable reaction.

Yeah, I don't know about that.

To be sure, there are some people who just don't like graphic violence, sex, or combinations thereof. Nothing wrong with that. There are also some people who don't like chocolate. But if you dump three pounds of unsweetened baker's chocolate into a steaming pot of mushroom risotto, it's a little precious to tell critics "Oh, you just must not be a chocolate person. Well, it takes all kinds." There are no hard and fast rules to fiction writing or cooking, but even so...you can screw up the recipe, even if there isn't a recipe to screw up.

And yes, so that we're clear, in this instance the mushroom risotto is the subgenre of hard science fiction and the three pounds of unsweetened chocolate is the sex to which the lion's share of the story is dedicated to describing.

Schreiber, I'm a bit confused by your comment, and your reaction to Scattercat's comment. I don't get that he's disregarding your reaction to this story as saying "Well, all the people who don't like 'Spar' just don't like sex in SF, so obviously they don't like this" or whatever. I took his comment pretty much at face value. If someone doesn't like fiction with such visceral descriptions, then they don't/won't like this story. That doesn't mean you can't like the story for other reasons.

And while I appreciate that you don't like this story, it seems like you're suggesting that people who do like it maybe don't know how to cook or don't understand an inherently screwed-up recipe when they taste it.

I know you know how to cook, and maybe I'm reading your comments wrong here. But although I respect your opinion on this story, I don't necessarily agree with it, and I definitely don't buy that the recipe was inherently broken.

OTOH, I'm perfectly willing to accept that while "Spar" worked for some people, it doesn't work for others for a variety of reasons. (See also: Pretty much every Hugo nominated short story featured here at EP.)

I don't think that mean's the recipe is wrong; just that not everybody shares the same tastes, even if we all do love mushroom risotto.


Schreiber

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Reply #160 on: August 02, 2010, 11:25:09 PM
Well, DKT, you cut to the quick. It's an absolutely fair question you are asking: if people take pleasure from a work of art, is anyone else ever entitled to say anything about it worse than it wasn't to their taste?

I would say yes. The gods of equanimity cannot save this story. Yes, some people like it. It successfully achieved the goal of satisfying an audience. And it's still bad.

I'm reminded a little of Julia Roberts' character from The Pelican Brief. Her law professor asks her position on a particular case, she gives it, and he then informs her that the Supreme Court disagrees with her. When he asks her to continue, she says simply that the Supreme Court is wrong. Which, my attorney friends tell me, is considered an unacceptable answer in law school. The scene is meant to establish her character as intellectually precocious and plucky. You don't say the Supreme Court is wrong when you're a lawyer. The Supreme Court tells you whether you're wrong.

Well, in this instance, the Hugo nominating committee is wrong. A thousand SF fans can be, and are, wrong. This story sucks. It's just shrewd enough to suck in the style of Lisa Lampenelli. You point out that she's not funny and she strategically asserts that you must be  too politically correct or too insecure to appreciate her humor.



eytanz

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Reply #161 on: August 02, 2010, 11:56:11 PM
Well, DKT, you cut to the quick. It's an absolutely fair question you are asking: if people take pleasure from a work of art, is anyone else ever entitled to say anything about it worse than it wasn't to their taste?

I would say yes. The gods of equanimity cannot save this story. Yes, some people like it. It successfully achieved the goal of satisfying an audience. And it's still bad.

I'm reminded a little of Julia Roberts' character from The Pelican Brief. Her law professor asks her position on a particular case, she gives it, and he then informs her that the Supreme Court disagrees with her. When he asks her to continue, she says simply that the Supreme Court is wrong. Which, my attorney friends tell me, is considered an unacceptable answer in law school. The scene is meant to establish her character as intellectually precocious and plucky. You don't say the Supreme Court is wrong when you're a lawyer. The Supreme Court tells you whether you're wrong.

Well, in this instance, the Hugo nominating committee is wrong. A thousand SF fans can be, and are, wrong. This story sucks. It's just shrewd enough to suck in the style of Lisa Lampenelli. You point out that she's not funny and she strategically asserts that you must be  too politically correct or too insecure to appreciate her humor.

Well, if we're going to hold the debate on this level - and I mean this entirely without prejudice, as I think this is a valid, though not necessarily very satisfying, level to have a debate at - no. You're the one that's wrong. And the one thing that is different in the supreme court analogy is that if you are to be a lawyer in America, you make a commitment (which I think is a formal vow) to uphold the laws of the country, and that commitment includes recognizing the authority of the supreme court as the final arbitrator. I, on the other hand, have made no commitment to recognize your opinion as more valid than mine. You can tell me I'm wrong as much as you want, and I'll say you're wrong right back at you. Unless you choose to provide any explanation of why you think I'm wrong, other than just "sex and SF don't mix" - which isn't so much an explanation but a dictate on the limits of SF - then we're done debating.

For what it's worth, I don't like the story. I wasn't satisfied by it. I found it difficult and frustrating and challenging. It made me uncomfortable and it made me think. It made me realize things about myself that I haven't really thought about (in that way) before. It made me feel claustrophobic while I was standing outside in a park. It made me wince with pain. It made me wince with pity. I don't particularly like it for any of that. I admire it. I think it is great art. It is unpleasant, but art isn't about pleasantness. This is one of the best stories I've read in a long time. And, for all those reasons and more, if someone tells me it sucks - not that they didn't like it, or didn't approve of it, or didn't enjoy it, or that it wasn't to their taste, but that it sucked - well then, that person is wrong.



Schreiber

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Reply #162 on: August 03, 2010, 12:58:23 AM
In my defense, I did explain at great lengths earlier in this thread why I didn't like this story. I think you misapprehend my position, Eyetanz. My dislike for this story -and indeed my dislike for most stories I dislike- doesn't fall into the category of "not to my taste" or "does not meet with my approval." Stories that use sex in dynamic and interesting ways are to my taste and stories that ignore taboos meet with my approval. I approve of this story. It's to my taste in many ways. I just don't like it. And I know why I don't like it. It's self-indulgent and unthoughtful, and lacks the self-awareness to grasp that it is self-indulgent and unthoughtful.

Now if someone doesn't like a story and they don't know why they don't like it, then it's safe to say it's a matter of taste. And to be honest, I really, really hate it when people talk about how they don't "agree" with a story. Stories are not meant to be agreed with or disagreed with. They're meant to be stories. In terms of personal ideologies, Tim O'Brien is way the hell closer to me than Flannery O'Connor, but the one is an exploitative mediocrity while the other is a master storyteller.

In general, when people love a work of art they often have rationales for their love, which they articulate enthusiastically and emphatically. In order for positive reception to stand up, doesn't there need to be room for its opposite?



Talia

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Reply #163 on: August 03, 2010, 02:28:07 AM
Well, my problem with your argument is saying the hugos, and fans, and everyone who liked this story, is "wrong."

My opinion is 100% right, thank you very much, much as I'm sure your opinion is 100% right for YOU. Saying "your opinion of this is WRONG" will never really succeed as an argument, because it makes people defensive. Your opinion being different doesn't invalidate everyone else's opinion.



Scattercat

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Reply #164 on: August 03, 2010, 02:47:54 AM
@Schreiber
Your prior arguments were that Kij Johnson was too much of a pervy tentacle fancier to write a tentacle porn story without obsessing over the tentacle porn aspect.  Given that this requires a substantial level of mind-reading capability on your part, I'm going to continue to discount it until I see something from Kij Johnson that indicates to me that you're even in the ballpark about her.

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eytanz

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Reply #165 on: August 03, 2010, 02:49:49 AM
In my defense, I did explain at great lengths earlier in this thread why I didn't like this story.

You're right, I apologize - I did look back in the thread, but not back enough.

Quote
I think you misapprehend my position, Eyetanz. My dislike for this story -and indeed my dislike for most stories I dislike- doesn't fall into the category of "not to my taste" or "does not meet with my approval.".

No, it's you that misapprehend my position (and apparently, the spelling of my name). I wasn't providing interpretations of your position, I was listing alternate positions that I find more understandable than yours.

Quote
Stories that use sex in dynamic and interesting ways are to my taste and stories that ignore taboos meet with my approval. I approve of this story. It's to my taste in many ways. I just don't like it. And I know why I don't like it. It's self-indulgent and unthoughtful, and lacks the self-awareness to grasp that it is self-indulgent and unthoughtful.

I find it interesting that you seem to be claiming that your dislike for this story is objective because you "know why [you] don't like it", but the two reasons you give are entirely subjective. Unless you can show me you have some objective criteria to measuring self-indulgence or thoughtfulness, you've just found a more elaborate way to say "I don't like this because it didn't appeal to me".

And note that I agree with a lot of your earlier, more objective assessments now that I've gone back and read them, even if I disagree that they are particularly problematic. This is definitely not a perfect story; and it's definitely not a story that succeeds on every possible level of interpretation. That's ok, because it doesn't really try to succeed on every possible level (and if that counts as self-indulgence and unthoughfulness, than most great art is self-indulgent and unthoughtful); it's enough, for me, that it suceeded in the ways I listed in my previous post.

Quote
In general, when people love a work of art they often have rationales for their love, which they articulate enthusiastically and emphatically. In order for positive reception to stand up, doesn't there need to be room for its opposite?

Certainly there is (and I have made the same point myself in other threads - not to mention that I have been critical of stories in the past, sometimes against a far less divided positivity than this story would ever garner). I do not begrudge you your view of the story, at all. But when you equate the validity of your position to that of a supreme court ruling, and claim that those who disagree with you are simply wrong - and not because they got the facts of the story wrong, but simply because they did not take what you saw to be flaws as such - then frankly, you're making a fool of yourself.




Schreiber

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Reply #166 on: August 03, 2010, 04:50:10 AM
Actually, I was equating myself to Julia Roberts. Perhaps even more presumptuous!

And sorry about the spelling, Eytanz.



eytanz

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Reply #167 on: August 03, 2010, 05:42:07 AM
Actually, I was equating myself to Julia Roberts. Perhaps even more presumptuous!

Ah, well, I guess I did misapprehend you somewhat. My apologies.

Though I still think that your claim that anyone who got something out of this story that you didn't is wrong is rather ridiculous.



Scattercat

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Reply #168 on: August 03, 2010, 01:01:28 PM
Actually, I was equating myself to Julia Roberts. Perhaps even more presumptuous!

Ah, well, I guess I did misapprehend you somewhat. My apologies.

Though I still think that your claim that anyone who got something out of this story that you didn't is wrong is rather ridiculous.

But he can prove it!  See, he didn't like it.  The gods and the universe are on his side.  Quod erat demonstratum, ipso facto.

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DKT

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Reply #169 on: August 03, 2010, 01:37:38 PM
Actually, I was equating myself to Julia Roberts. Perhaps even more presumptuous!

You, sir, are no Julia Roberts  ;)

Well, DKT, you cut to the quick. It's an absolutely fair question you are asking: if people take pleasure from a work of art, is anyone else ever entitled to say anything about it worse than it wasn't to their taste?

I would say yes. The gods of equanimity cannot save this story. Yes, some people like it. It successfully achieved the goal of satisfying an audience. And it's still bad.

I don't think that's what I was suggesting. I'm perfectly comfortable liking a story other people do not like. I guess I'm surprised you are suggesting people opinions are wrong - the story is actually bad - broken, in fact. It doesn't work - not just for you - it doesn't work on any level. And if someone thinks it does, they are wrong.

That seems off to me.


KaylingR

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Reply #170 on: August 03, 2010, 01:55:47 PM
Quote
And yes, so that we're clear, in this instance the mushroom risotto is the subgenre of hard science fiction and the three pounds of unsweetened chocolate is the sex to which the lion's share of the story is dedicated to describing.

Hmm, well here's a problem. I don't think it's mushroom risotto. Spar's not hard SF. Spar's about soft, gooey things like connecting to other entities and communication and is any of that really possible when we're such different creatures, and how horrific would it be if we were so alienated from each other all we had left to us were ins and outs. She uses the capsule isolated in space as a symbolic landscape, rather than a literal projection of how the universe could be. Or, because I shouldn't try to speak for the author, I should say that's how I've been thinking about it since it first appeared on Clarke's World. And I have been thinking.   

Its scope is intenesly personal.  She looses her lover, not her employer, or her political entity, or colleague, but the person she was most viscerally involved with in the universe and ends up questioning whether they ever really connected, so yeah, probably the physical act that generally represents greatest intimacy between equals needs to be part of that story.  Twisted into an act of further alienation. 

Of course, personally, I think most things can be improved by good, dark chocolate.  Bittersweet, Bakers, mmm, bring it on. But mushroom risotto? Not so much.  And it's hard for me to believe there's no place in hard SF for any sex.  Not if hard SF is going to have anything to say about gender, or reproduction, or basic human attraction. But that's not what this disturbing gem set out to do. 









Schreiber

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Reply #171 on: August 03, 2010, 05:27:52 PM
What seems to be irritating everybody is the impression that I'm claiming that my opinion is the final word on a story. Of course it's not. Of course I don't believe it is. That would be silly. It's also silly to preface every sentence with the words "I think" or "In my opinion" when most things we say and write are opinions that can be disagreed with. I mean can't we sort of take that for granted?
 
The truth is there are stories that I don't particularly like, but that I have no good reason for not liking. With those stories, I will go out of my way to make a distinction between my gut reaction and an objective criticism because the story has earned that privilege (here is where I would write "in my opinion" if I felt the need to include it in every sentence I wrote.) But "Spar" is not one of those stories and i don't feel the need to make that distinction with it. In fact, I feel the need not to. I think a retreat to flimsiness of subjectivity is misleadingly charitable and unfair to stories that do deserve to be recognized for their technical merit.



eytanz

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Reply #172 on: August 03, 2010, 05:34:43 PM
Well, in this instance, the Hugo nominating committee is wrong. A thousand SF fans can be, and are, wrong. This story sucks. It's just shrewd enough to suck in the style of Lisa Lampenelli. You point out that she's not funny and she strategically asserts that you must be  too politically correct or too insecure to appreciate her humor.

I can't see how this paragraph could be made any better with the explicit inclusion of "in my opinion". You're not expressing an opinion about the story, you're expressing an opinion about the people whose opinion of the story differs from yours.

No one is asking you to make a "retreat to flimsiness of subjectivity". You don't have to express anything but a categorical dislike to it. What I (and others) found surprising is your denial that there are any valid reasons to like it.



DKT

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Reply #173 on: August 03, 2010, 05:44:39 PM
Ah, eytanz beat me to it.

Of course, you don't need to tag everything with "IMO." That would be silly. But the paragraph eytanz quoted seems to be going beyond your opinion (which as I said earlier, I respect) and into this other thing I was pointing out, where you are insisting other people are wrong wrong wrong (and you are Julia Roberts). That just makes me kind of uncomfortable is all.

(Not the Julia Roberts part. Although I could see why that might make me uncomfortable, too.)

I dig reading how people react to this story (and others) in different ways. I don't like being told that since my reaction is different from yours, my reaction is wrong.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2010, 05:46:31 PM by DKT »



Schreiber

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Reply #174 on: August 03, 2010, 09:30:15 PM
Well, I'm sorry. I guess drinks are on me. Or maybe I should bake you all a cake?