What're you readin'


Tehanu is probably still one of my favourite books ever


It is extremely good although I have a couple very specific criticisms of it. But when don’t I.

Some of the most gripping and soul crushing descriptions of the interiority of emotional terror I’ve ever read


well go on then, tell us

i’ve not read it in like half a dozen years which is a lifetime ago for me, i don’t remember the details that well! always keen for a story where the scarred disfigured character isn’t a midboss-tier baddie though. plus yes the trauma stuff Wow


Uh, I don’t remember the criticisms so much now. I started back at work and my brain refilled with work.

Oh! I remember thinking: I understand the point she was trying to make with Ged, to make him wilting and pathetic having lost his magery which was his identity, but I thought it went a little too far and didn’t really encompass all the growing he had done as a character.

Also, I had a fundamental distaste for the inherent reactionary nature of the world. This isn’t specific to Tehanu, actually it’s more of a problem in the third book, but the idea that “with the True King on the throne we’ll have a centralized moral and political power which will make everything good again” chafes me. I understand that she was working within a folktale framework and partially subverted/enriched this narrative (how partially depends on how you read some subtleties I think), but still.

Oh, and lastly I was kind of bored of the whole chosen one thing by Tehanu. First Ged is a chosen one, then the King kid, and then finally the girl. Three Great World-Historical Inborn Talents is probably three too many. Again she was working within genre and did a lot of work to partially subvert. But still.

I want to emphasize how minor these complaints are against the absolutely beautiful wonders contained in these books, they are so good.



I am taking a break from my usual diet of flighty literary fiction to read the book of the new sun and while I see what you mean about marinara cribbing from it, I still think that the game’s facility with vignettes is hugely underappreciated in that case. I know this was a consistent point of criticism for many of the early reviewers while I was going through it, but I still admire how much they packed into five or six sentences about any given NPC who you knew wasn’t going to be important but who still contained multitudes; it was possible with that game to be a fairly quick and careless reader and still appreciate the range of imagery it threw at you without worrying you were missing something.

A few months ago I read one of the first sf (!) novels by a local author (!!) that I’ve really liked in a very long time, if anyone can find a copy of The Tiger Flu (I think it was a fairly small printing) and you trust my tastes in a genre that I like far less than most people here, then I recommend it!


Most appreciated in Wolfe’s fantasy is an understanding of religion and respect for ritual, profundities, fear, destiny that read as alien to our modern eyes but still form our deepest inheritance. It’s obvious in almost any given pullquote from BotNS and the care in describing objects, and placing them in the world and cosmos.

We’re doing heavy world-building at work and the most frustrating aspect is a disconnect from structures of belief. We spend hour constructing rules for how it is and mechanistic ramifications and power-structure outcomes and I always end with, ‘how do people X interpret this? Is this different from what it means to people Y’? And the jump to how it lives in hearts and minds is just blank. We can talk about what it actually is, and we can talk about things hidden to different groups, but nobody else wants to talk about how that informs a metaphoric world people live in.

And I think it’s the insanely positivist mindset game development requires. It literally is laying down a world atom by atom, Law by Law, and a mind is trained to shape these interactions towards direct, intended results, and stamp out unintended consequences, the heresies which bloom in bugs and exploits.


playing dnd in a mostly improvisational mode has been liberating in this regard. The starting point is always “this is what these characters believe” with the question of “well is it true” being secondary to character perceptions.


I deeply appreciate your ability to tease/spoof/validate/shatter the belief systems of your ragamuffin players.


I was probably letting my atheism bleed too much into the game but I consciously constructed Honeydew’s religion to be mostly a veneer of tradition/practice/legend over some ill-defined actual fact (he has to have magical powers from Somewhere?) so his background + events in the game could precipitate a religious crisis. The particulars of the actual fact behind the veneer have been Tulpa but they’ve given me some room to fill in the corners and I get All The Veneer.

Mostly I think of things I should definitely bring up in chat as early as possible, forget about them for a month or more, spring them on a Tulpa at the last minute.


It’s very good; constructing a perspective in which gods are learned to be real, from the mind of a lapsed faithful, towards an audience whose own secular perspective runs from a similar starting point, is two flips above chewy and interesting.

honeydew lives


oh right this is where I feel kind of alienated by having to struggle to process religious belief as interesting or nuanced in any way because it would just never occur to me


Meanwhile BJ is an atheist in a world filled with empirically demonstrable demigods just out of pure spite and ODD

This doesn’t add to this discussion it’s just funny to me


I guess it’s a little strange that I spend so much time thinking about cultural Protestantism and cultural catholicism and so on but when it comes to faith itself my brain is entirely smooth


Some of us just aren’t built for it, yeah.


I get ‘empathetic religiosity’ where I can understand and partake in religious art while holding it as entirely silly, and chafing under real-world ritual and tradition. When it intersects with heroic self-sacrifice which can exist as a strictly humanist virtue but is often found within religious stories, I’m all in.

Most powerful, most recently, was Scorsese’s Silence and its meditation on Christ-imitation and humbling, shattering climax of blasphemy as humility and sacrifice. I lost it, completely in a mindset of prideful belief and a lifetime of work to maintain it.


yeah that’s exactly the part that makes me feel affectless!

I don’t think I’m actively judgmental other than in my total inability to engage, it just exclusively registers for me as sociological


How do you feel about history as a subject of interest? I became more familiar and empathetic to religious modes the more ancient literature I read and learned about, as a way to understand these cultures. I intuitively feel like they’d be correlated but I have nothing to back it up.


I love the 20th century, as well as any kitsch or noted idiots, but I lose interest pretty fast after that


well that’s 1.5 data points now


I grew up intensely religious, and it’s still an inescapable part of the lens I view the world through even as an ostensible secular humanist who only believes in the material world?

The genesis of the Big Stupid Tabletop Game I will probably never finish was reading Esther Cohen’s The Modulated Scream: Pain in Late Medieval Culture and recognizing my much-younger self in its description of medieval attitudes toward Christ (having been given Christ as their only real tool with which to deal with pain(s), in the same way that I was as a young Fundamentalist struggling with nascent depression, etc.). Thinking “ok, there’s an empathetic bridge here; these people are fucked up but they’re just folks like me and maybe other people can also relate to them as they were in their different context?”

I liked Silence because it’s a genuine devotional work but doesn’t shy away from the vanity of spider-man’s yearning for martyrdom.