Review: “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” in _Monsters and Mormons_

5.28.12 | | 53 comments

I was excited to get Monsters and Mormons in my mailbox. Not only because it was put together by two of our peeps over here at A Motley Vision, but because the concept was just fun and quirky enough to get my attention, without going overboard. I first read some of the introductory material, and then read the graphic novel/comic book sections, because comic books are a part of pop culture I’ve been a sometimes reluctant, but more often avid fan of since I was in grade school. But somewhere in the front matter, I read that Eric James Stone’s “The Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” was included in the volume. After reading “Leviathan” and some other meaty entries, I’ve realized this was more than just fun pulp fiction and mad Mormon mash ups… this thing had a backbone.

I knew “The Leviathan Whom Thou Has Made” only by reputation. Eric Stone is a Mormon science fiction writer whose “Leviathan” won the prestigious Nebula Award and was a runner-up for the Hugo Award. Even though I’m only an infrequent taster of science fiction and fantasy literature, yet even I knew this was no mean feat for any writer, Mormon or not. So I immediately perked. I had originally intended to read the stories basically from cover to cover, but this particular story’s reputation drew me to it. I jumped straight ahead to “The Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made.”

Now I’m probably going to review the rest of the stories at a later time all together, once I’ve finished the anthology (it’s a pretty thick book, so I guess it may take me a while). But this one story left such a strong impression on me that I felt compelled to give it its own review while its still burning in my mind, heart and belly.

The story takes place in a futuristic human society which has found extra-terrestrial life in the most unlikely of places—the sun. Called, “swales” these great beings of plasma are of ancient origin and are mostly a mystery to the humans who have developed the technology to observe and interact with them within the sun, establishing a tenuous relationship with the swales.

There are four major characters within the short story. Harry Malan is a Mormon branch president who leads a small flock of humans and swales while he is stationed at the sun (“Sol”) for his work. Juanita Merced is a secular “solciologist” who studies the swales and objects to  Mormonism’s proselyting to the swales and corrupting their original culture. There is Neuter Kimball (swales are male, female, and “neuter,” all of which are needed in the procreation process)who is a (comparatively) young swale  and a convert to the Mormon faith. Leviathan is the most ancient of swales, the “original” swale, and a being of great power and influence among his society… some would say he is their god. It is this interaction between these four characters that make up the spine and soul of the story.

Stone’s writing in this story is exemplary. He wastes no time introducing us to the moral quandries that exist within the relatively new interaction between the two societies. Cultural  hubris, religious exchange, scientific sterility, and spirituality all play interesting and even legitimately moving aspects of this unique and beautiful story.

The fact that the nature of some of Stone’s characters’ is sincerely religious, yet never off putting or holier than thou, is an important element to the story. Although characters like Juanita Merced and Leviathan are hostile to Harry Malan and Neuter Kimball’s Mormonism, which they see as a kind of foreign infection into swale society, yet in Harry and Kimball we see likable, striving Latter-day Saints, doing their best with their limited strength and understanding to live their religion, despite the hostility it creates towards them. Its a testament to Stone that he was able to take these characters without an eye of cynicism or patronization, and put them before a national readership and still win such high honors and acclaim for the story.

The story has a philosophical, even moral, makeup, but Stone’s skill in setting that forward never allows the story to become heavy handed or preachy. The acts which we love Harry and Kimball for were taught to them by their religion, but can be appreciated by secular audiences as well. It cuts past negative stereotypes of religious people (and aliens) and shows that, for the most part, they’re just striving to live and love like most everyone else.  Showing Mormon characters in that kind of light can turn off the skeptics who are looking for an ax to grind with religious folk, but this story is able to accomplish something truly noteworthy in its nuanced and empathetic development of all its characters, both religious and secular.

So far from what I’ve read of Monsters and Mormons, a lot of it is just fun pulp fiction. Yet it seems some of the stories may cut from the same cloth as Stone did and show that genre fiction can still live up to the highest of literary goals, while never losing some of the otherworldly wonder that makes speculative fiction so fun.

53 comments: “Review: “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” in _Monsters and Mormons_

  1. William Morris

    There’s some heft and some Mormon resonances to the pulp fun as well, Mahonri.

    We need to stop worrying about the pulp/literary divide (or even the genre/literary divide) and realize that different modes of storytelling can accomplish different (and similar) things. Highest literary goals are all well and fine — but they also impede many writers and readers and bog down in their own high-mindedness.

  2. Moriah Jovan

    Well, Mahonri, if I were you, I wouldn’t bother reading the rest.

  3. William Morris

    I think this post is meant to be more about how great Eric’s story is and less about the anthology as a whole. So I would bother if I were him. And then I want to hear about what he thinks — even if it’s not solely exclamations of genius and wonder.

  4. Moriah Jovan

    I, too, think Eric’s story is great. No question. However, Mahonri is an articulate and deliberate man, so It makes me wonder why, in the process of praising one work, he would choose to trash the other unread works to do so. Eric’s story is not weak. It doesn’t need to be elevated by pushing the rest of the anthology under water till it drowns–especially when Mahonri hasn’t read it.

  5. Lee Allred

    Well, my own M&M entry is guilty as charged—invertebrate frothy Mormon fun—so Mahonri’s at least 1/20th right. :)

    Setting aside the frothy pulp debate, I’d rate Eric’s “Leviathan” as my personal favorite of the collection.

    The story is quite excellent, but what amazes me just as much is the writing workshop conditions under which he wrote it. (I just recently completed the 2012 version of Eric’s workshop.)

    It is one thing to write so Mormon-centric a story as “Leviathan” and then mail it off facelessly, anonymously to a distant editor for consideration weeks or months later. It’s an entirely different thing to write such a story and have it verbally critiqued face-to-face the next evening or so by four or five of the top editors in the field in front of twenty or thirty of your non-Mormon national market professional peers at the workshop.

    That takes guts as well as talent, and my hat’s off to Eric for doing it!

  6. Lee Allred

    Thanks for the link, Wm.! I hadn’t known about those videos; spent the morning listening to Eric’s lecture.

  7. James Goldberg

    One thing I think is great about Eric’s story is that it leaves plenty of evidence for two apparently contradictory conclusions:
    1) Human religion in general (and Mormonism in particular) is big enough to contribute to the cosmos and divine intervention doesn’t end with advancing technology.
    2) Human religion in general (and Mormonism in particular) is built on such an amorphous body of metaphors that religious precedent can be applied to absolutely any outcome of any situation and divine intervention is something people trick themselves into seeing.

    I actually see a sort of similar duality in Stone’s “A Great Destiny”: the story leaves room for the reader to decide whether we’re seeing God or seeing humans wriggle out of trouble through the flexibility of language.

    I think it’s cool to enter fictional worlds that provide plenty of interpretative room for both belief and disbelief.

  8. Lee Allred

    James, there is also the dual interpretations of the final outcome that

    a) God softened Leviathan’s heart (the Mormon Branch President’s belief)

    or

    b) there was a logical, rational reason that accounts for Leviathan’s actions (the secular Gentile scienctist’s conclusion)

  9. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    Uhm, I haven’t trashed anyone’s work yet, Moriah. Why are you always so quick to take offense at my reviews when none has been intended? I don’t use the word “pulp” as derogatory. I grew up reading comic books, remember. I STILL read them, actually. I see genre fiction as a vital, visceral and often beautiful way of storytelling.

  10. Moriah Jovan

    Why are you always so quick to take offense at my reviews when none has been intended?

    Oh, I see you removed the “JUMPING TO THE GOOD STUFF” part of your post title and edited a bit of your review.

    Never mind then.

  11. William Morris

    For what it’s worth, Mahonri, I also read the tone of this post as being somewhat dismissive of the rest of the stories (more than, backbone, forthy, without high aspirations). That certainly may come from some defensiveness on my part, but I don’t think so — I’m pretty confident about what we achieved and am fond of all the works included, but also understand that not everything is going to be to everyone’s taste (hey, I’m just glad someone is writing about it).

    And again: there’s an inherent built-in tension between just wanting to have pulp fun and using the form to address some of the issues inherent to the use of Mormons in genre fiction — thus, the framing essay by Terryl Givens. “That Leviathan” does some interesting and entertaining things with Mormon thought. So do the other stories. And that was the key criterium we used when selecting them.

  12. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    Well, for what it’s worth, that was not my intent. “Frothy” to me is a word I use with affection– it conjures to my mind the equivalent of a literary root beer float, which I love. And the “backbone” comment, to be fair, ought to be read in its context… I was saying that the anthology already exceeded my expectations. The comment extended beyond Stone’s story to include all of the anthology. Which is a good thing, no?

    And, also to be fair, some of what I’ve read so far HASN’T had high aspirations… meaning that they’re not TRYING to be high literature. The comment was perfectly appropriate and accurate. Some of the work is purposely pulpy, just enjoying the mash-up style of what the anthology deliciously serves. Some of the writers are not trying to be Tolstoy or Hemingway. They’re going for the *POP* in pop culture. And that’s half the fun of what you guys are doing here.

    So my comments were just showing my surprise that some of the writers in the anthology were aiming for making it more than just a fun ride. Which I really appreciate. I like my dessert, but I also like a full meal.

    So far, I’m very much enjoying my reading.

  13. William Morris

    I suppose it comes down to wanting to draw distinctions that I’m not interested in drawing.

    But also, for example, the fact that “forthy” can be read as either negative or positive just goes to show how messed up and silly the literary/genre distinction is. Both the more literary types and the more genre types need to get. But that’s a subject more for my other blog.

  14. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    I guess I’m not worried whether distinctions are drawn or not. Good stuff is good stuff, whether literary or genre, but there are definitely differences in approach, intent, and goals, which is fine with me too. I’m just as apt to enjoy speculative fiction as much as “high” literature… although, I must admit I’m not a fan of zombies, which I tried to not let prejudice me too much going into the anthology. ;)

  15. William Morris

    I think part of the point, if I understand Moriah correctly as well as my own initial reaction, is that it seemed like you were drawing distinctions rather sharply.

    But that’s why we talk such things out — so we can better understand what we mean.

  16. Katya

    Why are you always so quick to take offense at my reviews when none has been intended?

    Hmm. Well, multiple people have apparently read the tone of this post as offensive or dismissive and, by your own admission, this is not the first time people have taken offense at something you wrote. So, it sounds like you’re having difficulty making your tone or choice of words match up with your intent. How can we help you do a better job with this?

  17. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    William, I think I’m going to have to backtrack a bit… I actually do think distinctions can be quite important. Isn’t that really the purpose of literary criticism and literary theory? If things just all melt into one pot, then I think that is when unfair standards are REALLY being applied. If I’m using the same set of standards to apply my criticism The Avengers that I would use on Remains of the Day, then things will go South really quick.

    So, I guess all of you are right, I was defining what my perimeters of criticism were and then pointed out that Leviathan exceeded those off the bat. I was a little enthusiastic about how much I enjoyed the story. Guilty as charged. I’m still a little bewildered, though, that I’m getting tackled for what I feel is a very positive review and being judged on a future review which I haven’t even written yet (which, from what I can tell so far, is also going to be very positive). I was writing the state of mind I went into the anthology with, and describing what one particular story did to shift that state of mind.

    But I’ve read through several stories in the anthology now, and there are others which are exceeding those criteria that I set forth in my reading as well (I LOVED the story about the two ghost wives, for example).

    I maintain that a book with a purposely pulpy cover (hearkening back to comic books and dime novels in its approach) with a sister missionary wielding a knife against a purple, tentacled monster is inviting a certain set of criteria and, yes, distinctions. The book has been marketed that way, it’s been delivered that way, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. I say embrace the distinction, revel in the pulp and froth and fun. I write genre fiction too with magic and myth and romp. I don’t always try to write “high art,” and I expect people when they approach it to use a different set of standards when evaluating it.

    Again, “I was excited to get Monsters and Mormons in my mailbox.” That’s the first sentence of the review. And then “Yet it seems some of the stories may cut from the same cloth as Stone did and show that genre fiction can still live up to the highest of literary goals, while never losing some of the otherworldly wonder that makes speculative fiction so fun.” The last sentence of my review. I’m loving the anthology, but I’m tiring of the direction where this conversation is headed, where it seems a little bit defensive from all sides.

  18. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    “However, Mahonri is an articulate and deliberate man, so It makes me wonder why, in the process of praising one work, he would choose to trash the other unread works to do so.”

    I realized I neglected to address this comment from Moriah. There was very little that was “deliberate” about this review. It was kind of shoot from the hip, actually, wanting to get my thoughts down while they were hot instead of waiting until I had read through the whole anthology when my thoughts on “Leviathan” had cooled. And, again, I don’t remember trashing anyone’s work… as has been stated, I have only read a fraction of the anthology so far.

    I wanted to clear that up, but I don’t want to get particularly contentious here, mainly because I really did mean this as a good rah-rah moment for the anthology. I really like the concept of it, as well as a great deal of the content, and think it’s a wonderful piece of craftsmanship. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen from Peculiar Pages so far and think that things like this, Out of the Mount, and Fires in the Pasture are very valuable additions to Mormon Letters.

    Are there a couple of the stories so far that have failed to thrill me? Sure. But that has as much to do with my own taste preferences as anything else. A great deal of what I’ve read so far, I’ve loved, though, so let’s wait to finish this conversation when I’ve actually been able to plow through the whole thing and put down more developed thoughts after that. We’re really discussing an opinion I haven’t formed yet, and this first piece was really just meant as a jump off point for a fuller discussion later on.

  19. Moriah Jovan

    We’re really discussing an opinion I haven’t formed yet.

    Yes. That was precisely my point with my first comment. If there’s anything that sticks in my craw, it’s a review of an unread work. By framing it the way you did, you effectively said, “I already KNOW nothing else in this antho is going to live up to this, but, hey, I’ll read it anyway for kicks.” It was a review by secondary intent. I would have been equally upset if it had been glowing, because then I would have been bracing for the inevitable, “Oh, my bad. Yours sucked after all, Moriah.” Which I’m sure it does for some people because THAT is the nature of an anthology.

    I’m glad you liked Eric’s piece. You have no idea how happy I am. Which was why I am dismayed that 1) you compared it against work you hadn’t read and 2) that you’re doing a lot of backpedaling because you still don’t seem to truly understand the problem.

    But again, thank you for making the edits.

  20. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    Moriah,

    The thing is I never said that nothing else was going to live up to it. Again, look at the last paragraph:

    “Now we’ll see if the rest of the anthology can live up to the high bar this story has set. So far from what I’ve read of Monsters and Mormons, a lot of it is just fun pulp fiction without high aspirations. Yet it seems some of the stories may cut from the same cloth as Stone did and show that genre fiction can still live up to the highest of literary goals, while never losing some of the otherworldly wonder that makes speculative fiction so fun.”

    Also, the anthology has some other heavy hitters like Dan Wells which I’m excited to get to, plus some other excellent writers I’m sure I’m not familiar with. I love coming across unknown gems just as much as jumping to the more visible writers.

    And, yes, I did make edits in the title (which is a lot more than I would do for most people), because it was never my intent to pass on judgment on what I hadn’t read and I didn’t mean it to come across that way, which I’m very sorry about. The framing I did was to show what my expectations were going into it (fun, pulpy, frothy, enjoyable) and that Stone blew me out of the water and brought it to a whole other level and made me re-consider the nature of what I was jumping into. That’s all. No ulterior motive, no genre bashing, no “deliberate” anything. I’m sorry folks have misread my intent on that, I truly am. But I stand by my review as an honest reaction to one story in the context of my expectations. That’s all part of the process as well, people will have expectations and pre-conceptions before reading any work, I’ve been on the receiving end of that and I think people just need to push through it and be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised. But I actually feel like I came into the anthology excited for it (we’re kind of poor and I don’t put money down for just any anthology)and ready to have some fun… although I must admit that’s tempered a bit since I feel like its publishers and editors will vocally and publicly blow any of my comments way out of proportion. Not exactly an encouraging environment to write a review, even a positive one. It’s just one person’s reaction, not something to fuss so much over.

    The comment that most concerns me, though, is this:

    “I would have been equally upset if it had been glowing, because then I would have been bracing for the inevitable, ‘Oh, my bad. Yours sucked after all, Moriah.’ Which I’m sure it does for some people because THAT is the nature of an anthology.”

    Why would you immediately think that I would think your work in it “sucked”? Is that insecurity fueling this reaction? I haven’t read yours, so I’m NOT going to pre-judge it, but I have read some of your on-line stuff and I think you’re a good writer. I’m actually looking forward to what you’ve included.

  21. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    Moriah,

    I “jumped ahead to the good stuff” again (sorry, couldn’t resist) and read your story. Along with “The Living Wife,” “Mormon Golem” and “Leviathan,” it’s one of my favorite I’ve read so far (but, except for the ones I jumped ahead on, I’m only 60 pages in so far, so plenty left to read!). The story has a wonderfully terse writing style, strong characters (especially the protagonist), an intriguing world, a wickedly subtle sense of humor, and is sealed together with a strong feminist narrative… it’s a superb piece of work.

    So can we go beyond this nonsense that I think it all starts and ends with Stone or that I’ll pre-think anyone’s work is going to suck? Everything I’ve read so far is worthwhile and deserves inclusion, and a few of them have transcended expectation and are legitimately moving, powerful pieces of work.

    N’est-ce pas?

  22. Mark Penny

    First reaction: Sheesh.

    Second reaction: Behold the dangers of fuzzy writing (of which the first reaction is certainly an example).

    Third reaction: Writing is a form (and act) of communication in which the onus for clarity is on the writer. You (impersonal) can say what you want how you want, but you need to consider how others may take it. If you’re going to use a term idiosyncratically, you need to clarify your meaning for the reader or you will be misunderstood.

  23. Mark Penny

    Fourth reaction: Lots of (mostly) nice negotiation of meaning going on here.

    Fifth reaction: In this case it’s Mahonri getting the stick (by which I mean being called on the carpet), but I’m fairly sure most if not all of us have been guilty of skimping on clarity from time to time. I have. My brother has. Let’s be good literati (of whatever ilk) and watch our steps.

  24. William Morris

    “although I must admit that’s tempered a bit since I feel like its publishers and editors will vocally and publicly blow any of my comments way out of proportion. Not exactly an encouraging environment to write a review, even a positive one. It’s just one person’s reaction, not something to fuss so much over.”

    I think that reviewers need to be willing to stand up for what they are saying or clarify it or even change their mind as they discuss their reactions and their understanding of the text evolves. Nobody’s opinion is precious (and especially not mine) and nobody’s opinion is set in stone. Unfortunately, the normal modes of literary discourse tend to push us into certain ways of speaking, reacting, defending, speaking up or remaining silent. I’m increasingly more interesting how we can disrupt those. So I like to prod — and I like to be prodded because that’s how we come to understanding and that’s also how I make up my mind.

    I know that that’s not standard practice. But I don’t really care. I’m interested in breaking down all these strange distances that have been created between literary and genre; between text, review and criticism. Your language reinforced those barriers so I challenged it. You say that it was blown out of proportion — but those reactions came from somewhere (and I have already admitted that they may have come a bit from defensiveness). So I think we need to be able to talk the reactions we have and why we have them and figure out what we actually agree on and what we disagree on. And I have no problem if we disagree.

    And let me be clear:

    I don’t speak for Moriah, who has a different set of assumptions, interests and issues that she’s coming from.

    I’m also very happy that someone, anyone is writing about Monsters & Mormons. And, of course, you’re not just anyone, Mahonri. So I’m very pleased. I also am quite certain that no one outside of Th. and me is going to like every single story in the anthology. That’s one of the (intentional) problems with it — it contains a wide range of genres and tones and subject matters.

  25. William Morris

    Also: Jonathan — the fact that your are compartmentalizing this discussion into sides is one of the things that drives me crazy about how we talk about narrative art here in Mormon culture land.

  26. Jonathan Langford

    William (29) —

    My perception of sides was based on my reading of all the comments, including yours and Moriah’s.

    For what it’s worth, I think there’s an argument in favor of describing useful categories of stories, both in general and in Monster and Mormons. And I think that would be a good discussion to have, though not in the context of Stone’s story in isolation.

    However, that wasn’t what I was trying to engage in my brief comment about “sides.” So just to clarify:

    For me, Mahonri’s comments about the anthology as a whole did not come across as either dismissive or judgmental, but rather as providing context for his own reaction to Stone’s story. I saw his opinion about the anthology as a whole as being a work in progress, that he will (hopefully) share with us later.

    On the other hand, I did see your comment and Moriah’s as defensive in tone and as blowing Mahonri’s comments out of proportion. So as someone who doesn’t have any particular skin in this game, I’m taking on the frankly rather unwelcome task of saying that I think you need to rethink your rhetoric.

  27. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    Again, maybe we should all wait until I actually write the review for the rest of the anthology (which I will) and see what we have to say then. Again, I’m seeing a lot of good stuff in the anthology so far and think that William, Th., Moriah and Co. have done an excellent job. It’s kind of odd that this conversation got so heated about a work which I’m planning (so far) to give a good review (based on my current reading, and I only expect it to get better) and which I felt I was giving a positive review of what I had read so far. All of you have every right to be proud of the anthology. Even the stories that didn’t thrill me as much I felt deserved to be included, while most of what I’ve read so far I really enjoyed.

    Since Lee Allred weighed in earlier in the conversation, I’d also like to say that I laughed outright during parts of the pirate ghosts on the Great Salt Lake piece. The satire on Utah idiosyncrasies was a little broad, especially near the beginning, but that was the point I think. At one point it was reminding me of one of my friend James Arrington’s one man plays… and just then James literally came into the piece! I laughed outright. I really appreciated the fun time I had reading it.

  28. Th.

    .

    I hope this doesn’t make me sound slight, but I’m frankly delighted so far by everything on the page.

    If anyone’s interested, I thought that the phrase “without high aspirations” was the key explosive in the review because it sounds like a comment on quality rather than intentions (even though, dictionarydefinitionswise, it’s clearly about intentions).

    As someone who has read a lot of Mahonri’s reviews I recognized “without high aspirations” as a clear example of his review style: Ambiguity. Personally, I would prefer a bit more precision, but that’s not how Mahonri reviews things. He has a knack for expressions (and tone, as Katya pointed out) that are, shall we say, open to interpretation.

    But, as can be seen in these comments, that ambiguity may be a net plus. Ambiguity breeds discussion. And while someone like me forgets slights (intended or accidental) with perhaps egregious aoplomb, I think the initial reactions from William and Moriah threw a crowbar in the gaps and forced them wide open.

    Voila:

    Conversation!

    And I hope that this conversation has been useful in defining terms etc etc.

    But, in the end, as Wm said, it’s more attention for the book. Which delights me.

    So keep up the good work everyone. I’m all for tussling so long as we all remain friends. And I can’t see any reason we won’t still be sending MSs to each other after today.

  29. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    I have censored some of the more controversial phrases. As fun as good tussle can be, as Th. points out, yet contention stresses me out, so this is my peace offering.

  30. William Morris

    Mahonri:

    That you see it as contention and (self)censorship is exactly part of the issue I’m trying to raise and deal with. We need to be able to talk about this stuff because, in my opinion, it’s the only way we’re going to be able to figure out where we’re all going and break new territory. One of the issues that we’re going to run into, invariably, is that if we only say positive things about each other or if we all have the same attitudes and tastes in regard to various genres and art forms, then we become an echo chamber. And to me, that’s one of the major problems with Mormon culture — echo chamberism.

    So that’s why I like it when things happen here — like Laura expressing her opinion on Brother Brigham or Kent challenging some of the truisms of self-publishing or MoJo challenging some of the truisms of traditional publishing or me accusing the AML of promoting middlebrowism, etc. — so long, of course, as we keep things relatively civil and talk things out a bit.

    So I was happy about the title change because a) it’s the headline and b) I thought it could be read as quite dismissive of the earlier works in the anthology, but other than that, I had no desire to see changes made.

  31. Moriah Jovan

    Eh, I kinda see it as that blowup you have at large family gatherings, but everybody still shows up every time one’s held.

  32. Lee Allred

    “I really appreciated the fun time I had reading it.”

    Thanks, Mahonri. As I commented earlier, my piece doesn’t pretend to be anything but froth(does whisked fry sauce froth and if so why?).

    “The satire on Utah idiosyncrasies was a little broad, especially near the beginning, but that was the point I think.”

    Overstated on purpose, yes. :) The piece was originally written for a non-Utah/non-Mormon audience.

    And glad you liked the Arrington shout-out.

  33. Lee Allred

    I recently unexpectantly acquired a rather large collection of (mostely) sf movie and TV series DVDs as part of an estate settlement. (Long story, don’t ask.)

    I’d heard of nearly most every title in the collection — some were movies I’d wanted to see but never had, others were ones I’d just heard about, some were ones I’ve watched before and even owned myself — but some were complete strangers to me.

    Much of the collection is froth — complete set of Godzilla movies and complete runs of the TIME TUNNEL and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA TV series. Others are weightier titles.

    My reaction to the boxes was very similar to Mahonri’s post. I immediately jumped to “the good stuff” and watched it first, even though I hadn’t seen much of the collection so I couldn’t know if what I was skipping was good or bad. I just knew that what I started watching first was what I considered “the good stuff” upon opening the packing boxes of DVDs.

    I read Mahonri’s post in similar light.

  34. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    William,

    Totally understand what you’re saying, but I care about you guys and don’t want my work misread as a slight, so changing it was probably all for the best. If that many people were misreading the post, then I wasn’t clear enough.

  35. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    Moriah,

    I come from a family of 11 children, so I totally can relate to that. Although it’s stressful for me in that context as well. My Father would always interrupt those kind of moments with, “No contention!” So I inherited some of that duck the conflict instinct.

  36. Mark Penny

    And, yeah, I don’t often dig into the refreshments. Does that make me semi-active?

    By the way, since there’s nowhere else to post this, if anyone happens to be looking for a very, very flexible and versatile site for a free blog, I recommend drupal gardens. I’ve just started building a new poetry, fiction, music and so on site there and it’s just what this doctor ordered. A free account gives you all the really important Drupal modules (Content Construction Kit, Views) as well as the apparently universally offered ability to build several sites on one account.

  37. William Morris

    I don’t know many bloggers who use Drupal — it’s a bit overkill-ish for most folks, which is why WordPress or Blogger are most often used by authors, etc. But should anyone be looking to use Drupal, there is a very limited free version available at drupal gardens as well as several tiers of paid solutions.

  38. Mark Penny

    That’s pretty much what I told a friend on Facebook. If you’re just blogging, there are simpler options. But I like to structure my site, so I like Drupal.

  39. William Morris

    WordPress also works pretty good for static, structured sites — it’s improved vastly over the past year as an all around solid CMS.

  40. Mark Penny

    Part of my problem is the distinction between posts and pages in WordPress. I like pages for stories and poems, and posts for blogging and critiques. Unfortunately, pages are not displayed in the main content area. They have to be linked to somewhere (such as in a sidebar). This makes it a bit intimidating for somebody stumbling onto the site. Drupal lets me create all manner of views and send any type of content anywhere I like, so I can have “home pages” for whatever categories and combinations of content I desire. Also, the Books module treats all content types equally. WordPress’s parent-child system doesn’t provide bottom links for pages. Anyway, it comes down to the complexity and depth of structure you’re after (I mean that neutrally). WordPress is great for most people’s needs—even overqualified in many cases.

    My only beef with Drupal Gardens is the lack of a migration tool. You can export any time you like, but you can never import.

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