This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (9 hours 23 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.
The Picture Of Dorian Gray was first published in the July 1890 issue of Lipincott’s magazine, and then in 1891, in an expanded and revised edition. This audiobook is made from the latter publication.
The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!
Posted by Jesse Willis
Review of CONAN RED SONJA by Gail Simone, Jim Zub, Dan Panosian, Randy Green, Rick Ketcham, and Dave Stewart
Conan Red Sonja
By Gail Simone, Jim Zub, Dan Panosian, Randy Green, Rick Ketcham, and Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Published: July 2015
Conan Red Sonja is a hardcover collecting issues 1-4 of a limited series of floppies put out by Dark Horse Comics.
I was prompted to review this comic, a trade hardcover actually, after re-reading the review snippets on the back of the book. SciFiPulse, Kabooooom, Geeked Out Nation, and Doomrocket all praised Conan Red Sonja (I think I may have heard of one of these websites before).
And, after reading it myself, I’m thinking it might be time for another opinion on Conan Red Sonja.
I didn’t hate it. But I am very disappointed with it.
I think Conan Red Sonja would make an fine book for a preteen who has not read many comics, or maybe someone a little older who needs a bit of distraction while waiting at an airport, or any someone who needed to get an idea who and what Conan and Red Sonja were but didn’t really want to know any the specifics (for some reason). Conan Red Sonja would make a suitable book for one of these persons.
There are some things Conan Red Sonja has going for it. It isn’t completely disjointed, despite having large time jumps between issues. It contains some good artwork. Some good colouring. It is printed on great paper. It is bound very well.
I also think I like what writers Gail Simone and Jim Zub were aiming at. And to be fair they don’t completely miss the mark. This book has a some nice set pieces. Individual panels here and there can be quite pretty. The splash pages are well composed. The whole package is there. Unfortunately its just lacking in all the little polished details that would have made Conan Red Sonja something really good.
In essence what’s wrong with Conan Red Sonja is that it is just not smart enough.
Now I bet most people who haven’t read a lot of Conan comics wouldn’t expect you’d go to Conan or Red Sonja comics for smartness, but I do.
It used to be that Conan’s stories were based on short stories by Robert E. Howard (and a few other authors). That tended to smarten things up quite a bit. And Conan comics, unlike the superhero comics, had real deaths, people would die and – get this – not just come back a few issues down the road. That was smart too. Trust me, I know whereof I speak on this whole issue. I’ve been reading comics since the mid 1980s. I grew up collecting and reading Savage Sword, Conan The Barbarian, King Kull, Red Sonja and pretty much every other Robert E. Howard character they’d do a comic about. So I know Conan and Red Sonja pretty damn well – and it can be very smart stuff.
This comic isn’t very smart.
I’ll point to five very specific problems:
1. NO GUNS. Despite the drawing above, there are no cannons in the Hyborian age. Maybe this wasn’t actually in the script, maybe this is just a slip-up by an enthusiastic artist who, thinking “this is a pirate ship” and “pirate ships have cannons” drew some cannons. They don’t have cannons, not in the Hyborian Age.
2. INVERSE RACISM. The pirate ship on the right. Do you see what’s missing? You can’t make racism go away by avoiding situations that might look controversial. Bêlit’s crew is supposed to black, made up exclusively of “ebony-skinned warriors.” Bêlit’s crew, in Conan Red Sonja don’t look ebony to me. Yes, Howard was racist, but Bêlit isn’t racist. She is selfish. Wanton. Cruel. But not racist. Having Bêlit not have a black crew is a stupid way to avoid looking like being racist. It’s like having the Kents of Smallville be Chinese for the purposes of racial diversity, but keeping Clark Kent white – he’s a fucking alien! – So, suffice it to say, I don’t get the point of the change here – it just makes me think yeahhh, they’re afraid to deal with the fact that the creator of this character was racist, so lets pretend everyone is white in the Hyborian Age. Howard specifically sets up this image in Queen Of The Black Coast. Bêlit is an “ivory” skinned warrior woman leading a crew of “ebony” skinned pirates. Deal with it.
3. NO FUCKING WAY! No, Thoth Amon is not responsible for the poisoning of the Zarkheba River, nor, as we are probably supposed to infer, the subsequent death of Bêlit. Bêlit is responsible for her own death. Despite what writers Gail Simone and Jim Zub have Thoth Amon saying above, there’s no reason at all to have him say it – other than it is something for him to say.
First of all, Thoth Amon isn’t the be-all and end-all of evil in the Hyborian Age – he isn’t the evil behind every evil. He isn’t anything close to being the Professor Moriarty of Hyborian Age (and neither was Moriarty, actually). That’s just lazy, lazy writing.
Thoth Amon shows up in exactly one Robert E. Howard story, The Phoenix On The Sword, and the two characters never actually meet. Or as the Wikipedia page for Thoth Amon puts it “[Thoth Amon] is often used as Conan’s arch enemy in derivative works.” Well, here’s another derivative work to add to the list, Conan Red Sonja.
Moreover, Thoth Amon’s explanation for why he supposedly poisoned the Zarkheba River doesn’t hold water. There were no ruins of a coastal town at the mouth of the river! There was a ruined city upriver, that’s the setting for the climax of Queen Of The Black Coast, but that city was ancient, and had very different reasons for going bad. Again, shitty lazy writing.
Maybe there are excuses for this sort of thing, maybe the folks at Conan Properties International and Red Sonja, LLC, are so worried about protecting the characters they
invented claim to own that they are micromanaging the writing team – telling them what can and cannot be written. I don’t know.
4. ART. When not occasionally looking drugged, sometimes, just from panel to panel, Conan will look like a different dude. He will rapidly grow and then lose abdominal hair. Weird right? Too weird. I could buy a version of Conan with abdominal hair, or a version with chest hair, or a version with hair everywhere, or a Conan with a completely hairless torso (the traditional look). What I can’t buy is the growing and mowing I’m being asked to do between panels. Pick a fucking hair pattern.
5. LOGIC. While The overall plot McGuffin isn’t bad – I like the idea of a red seed (from space) – one that sprouts a red-thorned vine that infects and chokes all the life out of everything in a land – it’s not a new idea of course, its from H.G. Well’s The War Of The Worlds – I like it! Yet I don’t think this book uses it very well. For example, we’re told it kills absolutely everything it gets close to, and so when Conan, after getting infected somehow (the book doesn’t show us how) – after getting infected Conan has the red thorny vines growing out of the muscle on his left forearm. His cure for this infection is fire (which is cool) but when the red thorny vine grows back Conan just pulls it out by the root – and that cures it?!? WTF!? What about all the other people and animals and plants that were killed by this invasive red alien plant? You’re expecting me to accept that this burn it then pull it technique will work for Conan but didn’t work for anyone else?
And that again is the problem with Conan Red Sonja, this book doesn’t expect anything of me. It certainly doesn’t respect the rules and patterns of the Hyborian Age and so it can’t and doesn’t respect itself.
I’ve seen this happen with a lot with corporate controlled franchises. They turn a character with whom an author told stories into fan service machines – telling us more about the character and forgetting what made the original writing so compelling.
Don’t give us more backstory, don’t give us prequels, do something awesome.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Book 4, from The Taming Of Smeagol to the end of The Two Towers, or “Don’t get tangled-up with a spider”, or “Frodo slogging through the marshes forever”, or “nothing but a bunch of people walking”, Jesse’s least favorite, so gloomy, poems, flora, fauna, stew, Julie thinks it’s necessary, encounters, the overall gloom, the purification of Frodo, also Sam, carry-on and finish-off, Sam as the hero, Sam telling the story, Sam is the lowest of the low, the evolution of Sam, Sam is jealous of Gollum, Jesse loves the meta-stuff, “Mr Frodo, sir”, Smeagol must save them both, once upon a time, “Tell me more about Sam, dad.”, the huge elf warrior, Gollum’s story, we’re never the villain, what inspired Richard K. Morgan’s The Steel Remains, seeing it from the orcs’ point of view, how well structured, looking forward and looking back, nuanced and multi-layered, Tolkien’s reputation, a very black and white moral sensibility…, the other point of view, the creation of orcs, Melkor, one of the seven gods of Middle Earth, the blight of Mordor, the flowers on the crown, dark and light, Frodo and Gollum, old and beautiful vs. old and pitiable, they could have been each other, the argument between Gollum and himself, the editing, why is Gollum bad, stinker and slinker, Sam’s apology to Smeagol, Smeagol is passive aggressive, the timing as the greatest tragedy of the whole book, Cory Olsen, the lost opportunity, twisting the promise, what the ring has promised him, Gollum the great could eat fish three times a day!, his modest dreams, like a dog off a leash, he’s like a dog in every way, guilty dogs, dogs turning on their masters, fish are sweet to Gollum, everything that we like he hates, calling Gandalf’s words to mind, the big picture, the eye is looking for you, Smeagol’s contribution, even the worst evil, chance if chance you call it, diverting evil to good, the deal with Faramir, another structural thing, three travelers in a land, Riders Of Rohan, who be you, it is totally a mirror, Aragorn and crew, revealing vs. being discovered, the righteous, blindfolded again, a foreshadowing of Éowyn, well the Rohirrim are great but…, bear that in mind, Faramir’s mind reading power, who are the Númenóreans?, Jesse thinks it is wisdom, not so much about race, it’s because he’s full of lore, the mind reading thing, Galadriel’s telepathy, “No”, “come hither”, ESP?, character vs. race, country first (Borimir) vs. wisdom first (Faramir),
I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.
this is the guy, the BBC radio drama, you ran all the way to me!?, Tolkien is teasing us, an echo of Galadriel, grey eyes glinting, not if I found it on the highway, “It’s not a romance novel, Julie.”, “Wow, what a guy!”, David Wenham, Aragorn is a ranger of the North and Faramir is a ranger of the South, Sam’s oliphant, what false promises did Sauron make to these guys?, dressed like Robin Hood and the merry men of Sherwood, one of the most religious things in The Lord Of The Rings, a meeting in the secret lair, Sam’s overspeaking reflecting Frodo’s overspeaking back in the Prancing Pony, heart over head, another geographical reflection, behind a waterfall, Helm’s Deep, seeing Rohan, seeing the storm, the dark skies, Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul, the chapter titles, The Passage Of The Marshes, The Black Gate Is Closed, Of Herbs And Stewed Rabbit, ruin the conies, the homely things, pots and pans, the phial of Galadriel, the Checkov’s shotguns, the belt that Borimir was given, the magic items, used once, Hobbits learn to cook before they speak, the rope!, Shelob stings Frodo like when Frodo is stung by the morgul blade back at Weathertop, running blindly on the bridge, Cirith Ungol, Shelob is Ungoliant’s daughter, the children of Shelob inhabit Mirkwood, South African spiders, how many time has the ring been worn?, Bilbo at the party, Frodo at the Prancing Pony, Frodo at Weathertop, Frodo at Amon Hen, Frodo at Borimir’s confrontation, Sam at Shelob’s lair, the ring’s effect on Sam, different people are effected differently by the ring, Frodo’s power with the ring would be to command, the ring is like a computer, if you think google is the internet…, the ring gives invisibility as a basic power, it gives Sam the power of sharp hearing and translation, Frodo can see more, Sam’s superpower is listening (he was an eavesdropper), as they approach Mordor the ring gets heavier and more powerful, leap from a precipice into a fire, it also blinds Frodo, the ring’s perception, “the master’s back”, because it is linked to Sauron, like a dog?, back to the magic items, if you play Dungeons and Dragons, a bow of plus to killing orcs, even Borimir’s gift, Sam’s dirt, Frodo’s phial, Sting from Frodo to Sam, leaving the Mithril armor, and then there’s the rope, the tying of the rope, is it a magic rope?, Galadriel’s rope?, that’s not her gift, words have power, another manifestation, “We got rope” [says some random elf], cloaks, rope, and bread, who is following?, is Gollum really allergic to the rope, if somebody tied me up, he can’t eat the lembas, he hates light, the ropes, and the nice things, climbing down Dracula-style, he knows his knots, the mystery from the previous, what happened to the entwives?, back in the Green Dragon Inn, “oh those tales”, the Ents tell where the Entwives went, the Brown Lands are brown, Jesse found a thread somewhere on the internet, Teleporno, a lot of digital ink was spilled, the last paragraph of page 258, just after watching the storm, “the skirt of the storm”, primed for finding the entwives, looking at Fanghorn,
At last they were brought to a halt. The ridge took a sharper bend northward and was gashed by a deeper ravine. On the further side it reared up again, many fathoms at a single leap: a great grey cliff loomed before them, cut sheer down as if by a knife stroke. They could go no further forwards, and must turn now either west or east. But west would lead them only into more labour and delay, back towards the heart of the hills; east would take them to the outer precipice.
“There’s nothing for it but to scramble down this gully, Sam,” said Frodo. “Let’s see what it leads to!”
“A nasty drop, I’ll bet,” said Sam.
The cleft was longer and deeper than it seemed. Some way down they found a few gnarled and stunted trees, the first they had seen for days: twisted birch for the most part, with here and there a fir-tree. Many were dead and gaunt, bitten to the core by the eastern winds. Once in milder days there must have been a fair thicket in the ravine, but now, after some fifty yards, the trees came to an end, though old broken stumps straggled on almost to the cliff’s brink. The bottom of the gully, which lay along the edge of a rock-fault, was rough with broken stone and slanted steeply down. When they came at last to the end of it, Frodo stooped and leaned out.
ties it too a stump, got this rope from the elves, oh I don’t want it elf rope behind, the rope is not magic, not really high fantasy, the birch stump untied the rope!, the last of the entwives, Frodo and Sam aren’t looking out for the entwives, “10 points for creativity”, a structural argument, they untie their bonds and sit down on a stump, answering any and every question, Julie goes with Tolkien’s answer, Jesse argues for the book over the author, here’s proof that the entwives are there, every time Galadriel’s name gets mentioned, the last thing he says is Galadriel and he strokes the rope, there is no truth of the matter, we cannot go to Middle Earth except by reading this book, Jesse keeps marshaling the argument, “you will find friends”, “Elrond is right”, two hobbits sit down on a stump and are taken by a tree, on the edge of a forest, symmetrically it works, an undefeatable argument unless, if were trying to solve mysteries…, the fragrant area, it used to be, this place had its history too before it was the Brown Lands, there are things we don’t know and things Tolkien didn’t know about it, world-build the hell out of it, structurally: the time, a three day foot journey to the west and a three day foot journey to the east, near simultaneous action, the end of page 70, even the wind is mapped out, Emun Myul, “almost felt you liked the place?”, a magic talking tree, the final nail in the coffin, the birch, the word book comes from the word birch, bravo bravo, the mystery is left there, when we were talking about the word stuff, Tom Bombadil,
‘It’s a trap!’ said Sam, and he laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword; and as he did so, he thought of the darkness of the barrow whence it came. ‘I wish old Tom was near us now!’ he thought. Then as he stood, darkness about him and a blackness of despair and anger in his heart, it seemed to him that he saw… a light in his mind, almost unbearably bright at first…. Far off… he saw the Lady Galadriel… in Lórien, and gifts were in her hands. And you, Ring-bearer, he heard her say, remote but clear, for you I have prepared this.
and that happens again, Sam brings light by thought, the big theme, with this phial, brandishing this light, intolerable light, unbearable light, the infection of light, Frodo asleep becoming a phial of light, Sam seeing it in Frodo, Frodo fading?, Frodo purified?, light going through him, the pincushion effect!, Frodo the white, the trend of weariness, the fate of all the elves, Mythgard Academy, that’s a choice, The Choices Of Master Samwise, you noodle!, everything that happens in the last book, foolish choices (wise choices), signing a contract you haven’t read, who would have the ring now?, somebody cut this open, the orcs had orders, in the floaty ghosty of the eye, the black hand only has four fingers, does Sauron have a body?, rolling Frodo into a ditch, all my choices have proved ill, what good lay in choice?, the very last map in The Two Towers, the wetwang and the entwash, Rohan, the new book The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski, telling the story of The Inklings, Lewis’ atheism and conversion, intertextuality, reading each other’s minds, Eagle And Child pub, Hugo Dyson, an alternate theory on the entwives, the vocal mannerisms of treebeard are those of C.S. Lewis, the question is not: “where are the entwives” but rather “where are our husbands?”, Dorothy L. Sayers, a male exclusive club, christian apologetics, a shoo–in.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Frank Semyon, the criminal businessman from season 2 of True Detective, has a fantastic character arc.
And, like season 1 of True Detective, season 2 is also connected to a weird fiction story by Ambrose Bierce.
For season 1 it was An Inhabitant Of Carcosa (read my post on it HERE).
In season 2 it was An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge (we’ve done a podcast about this one).
So, do you remember the story that Frank (played by Vince Vaughn) tells his wife, Jordan, at the beginning of season 2’s second episode?
Here’s the scene:
Frank and Jordan are lying next to each other in bed.
FRANK: How’d a water stain get there?
Camera cuts up to two brown stains on the ceiling above Frank.
FRANK: It rained maybe twice this last year. It’s like everything’s papier-mache.
JORDAN: Stop thinking.
FRANK: I don’t like being on a ledge.
FRANK: My old man back in Chicago, when I was a kid… (laughs) he used to lock me in the basement when he’d go on a bender. Usually last the night. Let me out the next day. Thought he was keeping me safe, I guess. This one time, I was six – he puts me down there. I wake up and it’s locked. It had happened before. Anyways, so I guess he ended up arrested, I guess.
JORDAN: God, baby.
FRANK: Well, by the second morning I was out of food. The third day the light bulb burnt out. Pitch black in there. That’s when the rats started coming out. I dozed off and I felt a thing nibbling my finger. I woke up, it was, you know, chewing my finger.
JORDAN: What did you do?
FRANK: I grabbed it in the dark with my hands, I started smashing. And I just kept smashing it until it was nothing but goo in my hands. Two more days I was in there. In the dark. ‘Til my dad comes home.
JORDAN: Sometimes I wonder how many things you have like that. That I don’t know about.
FRANK: Ever since, I wondered: what if he never comes home? What if I’m still in that basement in the dark? What if I died there? That’s what that reminds me of.
FRANK: The water stain. Something’s trying to tell me that it’s all papier-mache. Something’s telling me to wake up, like… like I’m not real. Like I’m only dreaming.
Then in the final episode of season 2, episode 8, in his last scene, Frank hears Jordan’s voice, then sees her standing there, in that white dress – the one he had her promise she would wear – and him, standing before her, wearing a white shirt soaked in blood (like the “red rose” he had promised her that he would wear).
And the lines:
[FRANK IS BLEEDING, LIMPING THROUGH THE DESERT]
JORDAN: Hey there handsome.
FRANK: You made it! You okay?
JORDAN: Did. Fine. I’m safe.
FRANK: I’m coming, hold up.
JORDAN: Whats a guy like you doing in a place like this?
FRANK: [WALKING EASIER NOW] Just making my way baby. I told ya, Id make it.
FRANK: You did. You made it. You can rest now.
FRANK: No rest. Never stop moving.
JORDAN: Babe, oh babe – you stopped moving way back there.
Earlier in episode eight, do you remember where Frank said he’d meet Jordan?
Yeah. And though we never see them meet there Frank was very specific, saying they’d meet in a park called “Obelisco” in “Barquisimeto” (Venezuela).
Here’s what “Obelisco” in Barquisimeto looks like:
Frank’s story is the story of An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge!
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Time Pawn by Philip K. Dick, 1960, The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth, Science Fiction Hall Of Fame: Volume 1, The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth, Idiocracy, if smart people don’t have babies…, a kind of Heinleinian authority, a little grey case, his bag is missing, grey vs. black, a doctor from the past visiting a future society, medicine as a crime, interfering with euthanasia, another weird interesting post nuclear war world, primitive or advanced?, we don’t talk about death, reflecting our world back at us, youth culture, worshiping youth, movie heroes used to be old men, Logan’s Run, Nolan’s world, what is the appeal of that world?, a culture will run things for you if you don’t think a lot, the Ancient Egyptian culture of death, you will live your life in your death, the soulcube, immortality through the species itself, The City And The Stars by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, nobody wants to see that, kids are stupid, the wisdom of the grandmothers, the Vietnam War, genetic stupidity, Language For Time Travelers by L. Sprague de Camp, Stargate, Astounding, an editorial note for Time Pawn, the right to live, ruthless euthanasia, time travel, Dr. Jim Parsons, the character is a time pawn, the second arrow, an inevitability, to ensure their own existence, deterministic, the standard classic scene, being careened, the auditorium at the first Beatles concert is only filled with time travelers, Dick’s take on time travel, familiar stars. not familiar? why aren’t they familiar, figuring out the future of the character as he’s writing it, “huh, that’s weird”, completely unpredictable vs. completely predictable, van Vogtian, Paul employs a railroad metaphor, Sir Francis Drake, line by line rewrites, from New York to San Fransisco, matter to mine, Time Pawn vs. Dr. Futurity, glittering vs. illuminated, darting like silver fish, no aircars?, nobody is going to be reading Time Pawn anytime soon, “the chamber was a blaze of light…dead gods waiting to return”, a rushed novel?, what’d you do with all that?, standard Dick tropes: a wife shuffled to the side, missing the wife less in Dr. Futurity, the description of the women is much lengthier, always heaving breasts, there’s no questioning of reality, no surveillance, less questioning, an uncharacteristically straightforward story, it feels like all the other Ace Doubles, in the mode of reading SF, all the tropes are assumed, Margaret Atwood, Michael Crichton, going through the evolution to understand the SF tropes: Wells -> Gernsback -> the 60s, three a week, that’s all we need to know, airbags everywhere, flame retardant spray, toxic chemicals vs. being on fire, we live in a screwed up culture, mercury poisoning, asbestos, guide beams, the google car, GPS, if there was a solar flare…, Aftermath, a Charles Sheffield novel, old infrastructure could save us, Cuba, Alpha Centauri goes supernova, the Three Hoarsemen podcast, steam-punk without the steam is just punk, Pastwatch: The Redemption Of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card, a monster, the Columbian exchange, Dick has just read about Sir Francis Drake, Drake’s voyage, he’s famous for making Queen Elizabeth I a big pile of money, Expo 86, the Golden Hind, Drake’s landing point, Oregon, Vancouver Island, Nova Albion, Albion, British Columbia, albino, a weird figure to fixate on, Cortez, Pissaro, The Mask Of The Sun by Fred Saberhagen, caught in the machinations of time traveling empires, more bushwhacking, Daniel Abraham, the way they talk in this future society, it keeps not working, his presence eventually changes their society, starting that whole tribe, the scene with the arrow, a predestination paradox, those stone markers, “I’ll get around to it”, that whole planet is covered in markers, the way Dick ended it, leaving it loose, why Time Pawn is so much of a better title, he feels he is the chess master after a certain point, the extended spaceship to Mars scene, the robot computer with a rat brain, such a creepy scene, “I wonder what’s going to happen”, if the character doesn’t want to get on track, what’s that about?, what are those guns for?, Shupos?, always people confronting him, make remarks about the women, this is NOT a book written by committee, don’t read this as your first Dick, more fodder for your feed.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Spoilers…. this post will point out how fucking stupid spoilers are.
See that yellow line at the end? That’s the spoilers I’m talking about. That’s the one I don’t give a shit about – and that’s the one that seems to have infected the minds of practically every conversation about books in the last 10 years. It’s pretty fucking sad to me that the only place one can really go to find out anything about a book is Wikipedia. Wikipedia, the one place that has a rule about not allowing argument about a book, the only place I can seemingly go to find out whether I’ll want to read a book.
So this is a pretty hard topic to research. Those colours, on the “use over time” above, are mine. I’m guessing with them, going with my sense of the predominate usage of “spoiler” – I think I once read that Spider Robinson coined the modern genre usage back in the late 1970s, in a column or something. Roger Ebert seems to be attributed it for movies. But what I’m certainly not talking about third party political candidate phenomenon (the idea is that they ruin elections), nor am I talking about the wings mounted on the backs of sports cars (which reduce aerodynamic lift) – I’m talking about the “spoilers” that dominate and limit book talk today – the ‘who dies at the end’ of a movie or TV show kind of “spoiler!” [said with glee], the ‘who’s whose secret sister to whom’ – or some such inane detail that someone thinks is crucial to appreciate something.
That person, actually, its you – its you – you are the person who uses the term “spoilers” – you’re well, you’re just really really wrong.
I understand, these trendy terms and turns-of-phrase are inevitable, unstoppable. One may as well fight against the tide as fight against them.
If you look to the past, as I am always doing, you will see how oblivious to the stupidity people are – check out this list of ridiculous 1980s phrases and euphemisms and you’ll see just how stupid people were in the 1980s were.
I know it is pointless to fight but I’m going to anyway, I’ve staked my claim on the beach, anchored myself to the bedrock beneath the shifting sand, and I’m beating against the endless wash of “spoilers” as hard as I can – my lone and lonely voice against “spoilers” is a valiant fight, and it is a fight I’ve long been losing – but that’s the point I’m trying to make – we all lose, whenever a conversation about any book somebody is discussing is truncated because they think some fact could “spoil” a book.
Even the word is stupid. “Spoilers” even if they have an effect won’t utterly ruin anything that is truly good” – but I understand, hyperbole is effective, the words “enjoyment lessener” or “surprise reducer” and thus would be unsurprisingly less enjoyable to use.
I really think it all just boils down to one point. I know it is doomed to failure, but I just have to say it – if you could just grasp it – if you could only grok it, deep down in your bones, in your genes – you’d stop having that word come out of your mouth when it comes to books.
I can almost understand it when it comes to a very narrow subset of movies, like The Crying Game, or Chinatown, or The Sixth Sense (the only thing The Sixth Sense has is the twist/surprise/point of the whole 1 hour and 47 minute exercise).
But books aren’t like that. And honestly, if you think about it, TV shows aren’t either.
Spartacus dies, I knew that going in, the fact enhanced my pleasure.
Whether Walter White gets away with his crimes or not isn’t the point of me watching Breaking Bad. I enjoyed the journey (except for that one episode where nothing happens).
In terms of TV shows it all comes down to this, do the people who make the show know where they‘re going? Do they know how it ends? If they do, great. If not, you’re fucking LOST.
Now books are a completely different deal, and here’s why. Books are long, and they are many. Being long and being many means we can’t read all of them, not even all the ones we want. And ultimately I think this explains why the term “spoiler” crops up in practically every conversation about book these days. If you don’t understand this one point, a small matter you think you know (but don’t really accept) if you just could accept this concept, really take it on board, namely that we are all going to fucking die, your saying “spoilers!” would rapidly diminish.
You who say “spoilers” act as if we had an infinite amount of time to read all the books.
This is stupid.
There are now more books published every year than we could read in all our lifetimes. So if you tell me that some point or other “spoils” a book then what you’re essentially saying is that you think I’d be less inclined to read the book if I knew some fact about the book. But this misses the point, I’M NOT GOING TO READ THAT FUCKING BOOK.
So, to sum up, please stop the self-censoring. I’m not going to read that book you don’t want to spoil for me, not unless you tell me something about it, something interesting.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Update: here’s a Google N-gram for the phrase “spoiler alert”