JESUS CHRIST WADE
November 24, 2020 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Today was the release date of Ready Player Two, Ernest Cline's sequel to Ready Player One. Reactions have been strong. Without having read it, one can only say that, well, these are certainly excerpts of a book that exists (live tweeting by Jacob Mercy). But there are of course now fake excerpts that would pretty much pass.
posted by Countess Elena (173 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Started it last night but fell asleep. Avoiding spoilers for now.
posted by ShakeyJake at 2:44 PM on November 24, 2020


Maybe it was because I grew up during the '80s, I thought the book and movie were awesome. Very excited to see the next installment.
posted by cparkins at 2:45 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


Ernest Cline is basically what you'd get if all of Elon Musk's Epic Bacon!-type tweets were struck by lightning and came to life.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:47 PM on November 24, 2020 [18 favorites]


Obligatory response.
The best part of this will be Jenny's video on the sequel.
posted by phunniemee at 2:52 PM on November 24, 2020 [26 favorites]


Jenny is the best!
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:57 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Those of you inclined towards disparaging criticism of the original may want to check out 372 Pages We'll Never Get Back, a podcast by Conor Lastowka and Michael J. Nelson (of MST3K fame). It's pretty much MST3K, but for books.

Start with episode 1, since Ready Player One was the first book they went through.
posted by meese at 3:00 PM on November 24, 2020 [13 favorites]


I listened to Cline on Sacramento public radio today. He literally took credit for the Oculus Rift UI. In great detail, with citations, and with no irony or humility. He didn't even have the good grace to mumble some words about Snow Crash. At least Jaron Lanier finally has some competition in the irrelevant arrogance category.

Do not forget Demi Adejuyigbe's soundtrack for the first book.

Laura Hudson is on the outtake train, too.
posted by Nelson at 3:09 PM on November 24, 2020 [22 favorites]


I enjoyed RP1 in the sense I expected to — I'm in the intended audience of '80s kids and sharing his sense of nostalgia was fun. If I subtracted that personal connection to things like Voltron, D&D, old arcade games, and so on, though, it was easy to see that everything else about the book was pretty bad.

Now with the shine off it (it only existed for the duration of reading) I can imagine going back and reading it again in horror. And the feeling must be similar to reading that excerpt with 42 and 867-5309. "Beyond parody" is the exact phrase.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:09 PM on November 24, 2020 [9 favorites]


I didn’t make it through more than a few pages of RP1 and those tweets support my lack of interest in the sequel. I wish I had reached similar conclusions about Robert Jordan but here I am about 5000 pages in, wishing somehow I could make it stop.
posted by simra at 3:17 PM on November 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


When the aughts nostalgia hits pop culture it’s going to be a trip.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:25 PM on November 24, 2020




I lived through the 80s and my response to the first book was, to put it politely, not positive. My biggest question for the new one is not if it is good I just wonder if African American culture will exist in this book or is it more of the same white suburban American circle jerk?
posted by Ashwagandha at 3:29 PM on November 24, 2020 [23 favorites]


Just as a note, The Importance of Being Ernest (1938912306) is kind of a fun poetry/short story/whatever collection from the same author. It predates the Ready Player novels, and even if you dislike them, you may find it a fun read.
posted by metabaroque at 3:29 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


I wish I had reached similar conclusions about Robert Jordan but here I am about 5000 pages in, wishing somehow I could make it stop

Randgaragorzit! I release thee!
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:29 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


Is there anything at which a mediocre white man cannot achieve stunningly undeserved blockbuster success while leaving in his storm-surging wake the wreckage of dozens if not hundreds of more interesting, more competent, more talented people?
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:45 PM on November 24, 2020 [64 favorites]


I graduated High School in 1985, and spent an awful lot of time at the Arcade or playing D&D back then. So the first time I read RP1 it was a hypodermic of nostalgia shot right into a vein, and I loved it. But then I read it a second time, and noticed just how unbelievably bad it was. The prose, the plot, the characters, none of it held up. It was just 80s reference piled on top of 80s reference, as far as the eye could see.

I picked up RP2 this morning half curious, half hoping I'd get another nostalgia high out of it. It took me 4 hours to make it through the 20 pages of prologue -- I could only read a paragraph or two before needing a break. It is far, far worse than RP1 with even more references, and even less coherence.

If I had purchased a hardcover, I'd toss it into the fireplace. Since it's on Kindle 'Permanently Delete' will just have to suffice, I suppose.
posted by Frayed Knot at 4:03 PM on November 24, 2020 [9 favorites]


I still hate some fraction of the green for recommending the first one. Clearly the blue has a better class of book reviewer.
posted by biffa at 4:05 PM on November 24, 2020 [11 favorites]


Honestly, if you're in the right age bracket, I'd still recommend RP1. There's nothing wrong with nostalgia, and it's really REALLY good at that.
posted by Frayed Knot at 4:08 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


It's lists of things though.
posted by phunniemee at 4:09 PM on November 24, 2020 [33 favorites]


I admit I liked the movie, it was a colorful, cheerful noise and the references I did get (can't believe Zork and the other IFs I devoured in the 80s didn't get a shout-out) made me smile.
posted by The otter lady at 4:12 PM on November 24, 2020


Since I had already violated her privacy, I decided to go full-on Big Brother and look at her headset feeds is not the creepiest sentence I've ever read in a novel, but - well, if I hadn't already decided that Ernest Cline's writing style was not for me, that sure would've decided it for me.

I am almost - not quite - in the right age bracket (it's class and gender, more than age, that keeps me out of that loop; it's not just 80s nerd culture, it's very specifically middle-class white-80s-American-boy nerd culture) but I've yet to be convinced that its nostalgia goes deeper than "Do you remember this pop culture reference? I, too, remember this pop culture reference!"
posted by Jeanne at 4:13 PM on November 24, 2020 [18 favorites]


I read RP1. It was a fun page-turner, and fun for a novelty, but the more I learned about Cline as a person, the more I've come to regret reading it, and every criticism I've seen of RP1 is completely valid.
posted by SansPoint at 4:14 PM on November 24, 2020 [15 favorites]


Ready Player One was one of the most delightful audiobook experiences I've had in my life thus far. I'm in the right demographic, I used to have to frequently drive long distances, and it's something that I could 75% listen to (and 25% actively focus on driving) without missing too much of the plot. It was perfect.
posted by Gray Duck at 4:17 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


for some reason the first and only D&D module I played in the early 80s was the Demi-Lich one featured in the book, so it did manage to hit a lot of member berries for me. Props to Cline for reminding me about the existence of The Plimsoul's A Million Miles Away, that was indeed a nice rocker from the glory days of the summer of '83.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 4:20 PM on November 24, 2020


it's very specifically middle-class white-80s-American-boy nerd culture) but I've yet to be convinced that its nostalgia goes deeper than "Do you remember this pop culture reference? I, too, remember this pop culture reference!"

That's entirely fair. I was exactly that kid, and the nostalgia isn't a lot more than listing stuff, as phunniemee also points out.

But in 1984 I used to get the shit kicked out of me in the boys bathroom in no small part because I liked those things. So the validation of that list driving the book, and that being the worlds best expert of the things in list was the doorway to becoming the coolest of cool kids was enough for me to love that first read through.
posted by Frayed Knot at 4:23 PM on November 24, 2020 [7 favorites]


Has anybody forced an AI to read 100,000 pages of Ernest Cline’s prose and seen what it comes up with yet?
posted by acb at 4:26 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


Has anybody forced an AI to read 100,000 pages of Ernest Cline’s prose and seen what it comes up with yet?

Are you mad ?! That's how you get Skynet !
posted by Pendragon at 4:33 PM on November 24, 2020 [9 favorites]


...or...*shudder*... Ready Player 3.
posted by logicpunk at 4:41 PM on November 24, 2020 [22 favorites]


Has anybody forced an AI to read 100,000 pages of Ernest Cline’s prose and seen what it comes up with yet?

Are you mad ?! That's how you get Skynet !


Or at least how you get Ernest Cline.
posted by notoriety public at 4:42 PM on November 24, 2020 [20 favorites]


My son loved Ready Player One when he was 14 or so, even though he's too young for most of the pop culture references. I thought it was terrible, and loved 372 Pages, but it does have an appeal beyond "Do you remember this thing? How about that thing?" I'm just not the intended audience.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:44 PM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


I am a 100% the target demographic and I found the book to be total eggnog: one sip was tasty and I was gagging long before it was over.

The first excerpt of this sequel was even worse, and holy shit it's like Cline is risking the creation of a black hole that could eat the Earth's core.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:51 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


Look, if this stuff sells...what I'm saying is, I can do better than this.

How do you get published?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:55 PM on November 24, 2020 [6 favorites]


Ready Player * appears to be written with the marketing-constructed category of the “geek”/“sci-fi fan” (i.e., a compulsive consumer of “geek culture” such as superhero comics/movies and video games, and the dual of the jackass, the other young male marketing demographic) explicitly as a target audience, which makes it feel vapidly cynical. It’s an ouroboros of cynical marketing for a world where everyone either is a Frommian
Marketing Character or pretends to be to fit in.
posted by acb at 4:55 PM on November 24, 2020 [12 favorites]


Sorry, but *is there* 100,000 pages of Ernest Cline’s prose, yet?
posted by hototogisu at 4:57 PM on November 24, 2020


acb: Spot-on, and it's a very specific type of "geek"/"sci-fi fan" that is not just a compulsive consumer of product, but also does nothing with what they consume. They simply use their consumption as a mark of ownership of their franchise, and make nothing—not even fan works. I suppose you could say Ready Player One and Two are fanworks, but if they are, they are utterly shallow fanworks that simply shove a bunch of untransformed geek properties into one thing. Say what you will about, oh, I dunno, My Immortal, but at least it did something different with the source material.
posted by SansPoint at 5:04 PM on November 24, 2020 [19 favorites]


> I am a 100% the target demographic and I found the book to be total eggnog: one sip was tasty and I was gagging long before it was over.

Said son also loves eggnog. Hmmmm.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:05 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


I listened to Cline on Sacramento public radio today. He literally took credit for the Oculus Rift UI.

Yep. Specifically, aspects that William Gibson beat him to literally decades ago. I turned off the radio after that.
posted by brundlefly at 5:05 PM on November 24, 2020 [20 favorites]


I heard a hot take, which is to say a friend directed me to a comment on reddit with a hot take, that the people who think Ready Player One is a good book are generally people who do not read much. They get lured in by the flash of video games and nerd pop culture, and because the book is an easy to read page turner they finish it super fast, faster than any other book they've read, and think by default it must have been good.

Regardless of how true it is broadly, it made me feel better about life in general because it was certainly true of every person I know in real life who said they enjoyed the book. It's not that the book is good, you just don't read. It makes me sad, but it's a forgivable sin.
posted by phunniemee at 5:12 PM on November 24, 2020 [21 favorites]


If I had purchased a hardcover, I'd toss it into the fireplace. Since it's on Kindle 'Permanently Delete' will just have to suffice, I suppose.

One of the huge advantages of the paperback format over eBooks is the fact that after finishing a bad one in the bath one can drown it with no regrets whatsoever.
posted by flabdablet at 5:24 PM on November 24, 2020 [10 favorites]


I love egg nog and hated RP1. I have no desire to read the second one.
posted by jazon at 5:26 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


When I tried to read RP1 I was embarrassed for the author, but it turned out the joke was on me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:28 PM on November 24, 2020 [10 favorites]


Hey everybody just go read Dan Brown if you don't like RP1
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:41 PM on November 24, 2020 [8 favorites]


As a non-binary person, I am baffled by the phrase "nonbinary sex", as like an activity to have?
posted by ShawnStruck at 5:43 PM on November 24, 2020 [15 favorites]


I hope it references classic 80s video games like 1942®, 1943 - The Battle of Midway®, 1943 Kai®, Amidar®, Arkanoid®, Bagman®, Battle City®, Blaster®, Bomb Jack®, Bubbles®, BurgerTime®, Carnival®, Centipede®, Congo Bongo®, Crash®, Crush Roller®, Defender®, Dig Dug®, Dig Dug 2®, Do! Run Run®, Donkey Kong®, Donkey Kong Junior®, Donkey Kong 3®, Frogger®, Galaga®, Galaga 3®, Galaxian®, Golf®, Gorf®, Gradius (Vs.)®, Gridlee®, Gun Smoke®, Gyruss®, Ice Climber®, Joust®, Jr. Pac-Man®, Jumping Jack®, Juno First®, Kick Rider®, King and Balloon®, Lady Bug®, Liberator®, Mappy®, Mario Bros.®, Millipede®, Missile Command®, Moon Cresta®, Moon Patrol®, Mr. Do!®, Mr. Do!’s Castle®, Ms. Pac-Man®, New Rally X®, Pac & Pal®, Pac-Man®, Pac-Man Plus®, Pengo, Phoenix®, Pinball Action®, Pooyan®, Qix®, Rally-X®, Robotron: 2084®, Scramble®, Shao-Lin’s Road®, Sinistar®, Sky Kid®, Space Invaders®, Space Invaders Deluxe®, Space Panic®, Splat®, Stargate®, Super Bagman®, Super Breakout®, Super Cobra®, Super Mario Bros.(Vs.)®, Super Pac-Man®, Super Xevious®, Super Zaxxon®, Tank Battalion®, Tetris®, The End®, Time Pilot®, Van-Van Car®, Video Hustler®, Vs. Pinball®, or Zaxxon®.
posted by mazola at 5:50 PM on November 24, 2020 [37 favorites]


Aside: PENGO! :D
posted by mazola at 5:53 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


Having seen the Twitter-dunking this morning, I went back and perused a few of the previous Ready Player One threads on Metafilter (book & movie.) In one of them someone (sorry, I forget who) who hadn't read/seen either one asked something along the lines of, "So, this is American Psycho for the 80's gamer set?"

After a moment's thought I realized that, no, actually, Ready Player One is the book Patrick Bateman would write, because he's a sociopath who doesn't believe other people truly exist, and thus he could only ape (poorly) the surface level appearances of the conversations that he hears other people having.

(I have read it, painfully, just to see what all the fuss was about. And I saw the film (Spielberg being at least capable of whiz-bang action/adventure turn-off-your-brain flicks.) I stand by my assessment.)
posted by soundguy99 at 6:01 PM on November 24, 2020 [17 favorites]


I was okay with RP1 but after watching Cline crash the Alamogordo "E.T." dump excavation event chronicled in Atari: Game Over (2014), I lost respect for him just like Joe Polinaczek lost respect for Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey after she stole Edna Garrett's car keys in The Facts of Life Season 4, Episode 3.

and he did it in a DMC DeLorean, of course
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:02 PM on November 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


I read a lot. Mostly terrible terrible books.

And have a high threshold for stupid.

I have had conversations with my wife about which book I classify as the third best book about giant ants. And that the best book about giant ants is the one where the ants are 3 times larger than regular ants. Which is not that big.

I have read books about a special force astronaut who's girlfriend fell out of the space shuttle on re-entry so he had emotional depth. That book left physical scarring from the level of stupid.

I have read a book about a town that is under attack by carnivorous jellyfish. Not giant, or different than regular jellyfish though. People typically died by tripping and falling on them, forgetting shoes and stepping on them, and in one case, not looking at their bathtub before they got in that was full of jellyfish.

Anyhoo.

I liked Ready Player One. I recognize it's crap. Call it eggnog or chips ahoy or just assume I had a very clever analogy.

Ready Player Two, I'm not sure. I hope it's not like the new dan brown stuff where it just got stupider than I can tolerate (Which is LD50 levels of stupid).
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:08 PM on November 24, 2020 [21 favorites]


Yeah, everyone who is pointing out that it taps into a very specific type of nostalgia is on the nose. It doesn't evoke positive past experiences for me; instead, it evokes the annoying white boy trying to flex his nerd penis by proving that his collection of minutiae was bigger than yours.

The same type of white boy - now man - who on one hand throws a tantrum about feminists ruining his media while at the same time insisting that he never benefited from the patriarchy because, like, he was bullied for being a nerd as a kid.

And that's not really fair because I'm sure some very nice people enjoyed the book. Just like some very nice people were exactly the type of nerd who will get (and care about) all its references.

But honestly, from my perspective, the disappointing way the movie handles its non-white and female characters isn't just an unrelated flaw introduced by flawed writers. (I gave up on the book.) It's a major part of the subculture it's valorizing, and that just makes it a big ugh for me. I can't turn that part of my brain off.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:17 PM on November 24, 2020 [26 favorites]


I graduated High School in 1985, and spent an awful lot of time at the Arcade or playing D&D back then. So the first time I read RP1 it was a hypodermic of nostalgia shot right into a vein, and I loved it.

It was 1989 for me, but yeah. The first time around, RPO pressed a whole bunch of the right nostalgia buttons for me. (I was a pasty 80s nerd, exactly the demographic the book seems to be targeting.) The second time around, though, I started noticing just how badly put together it was and how yikes-worthy some of Cliine's views were.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:20 PM on November 24, 2020


[Comment removed; I don't care what point you're trying to make, doing a wink wink her breasts type thing is crappy objectification stuff, skip it from now on.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:24 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


From reading the excerpts on Twitter....he's not even getting into real obscure things 'a real nerd would know' if the whole book is going to be lists, and all the cool things he'd mash together. Pass.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:27 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


In the spirit of recommending something rather than cursing the increasingly merchandised darkness, Among Others is a lovely novel that resonated with my own nerdy childhood in a more satisfying way.
posted by selfnoise at 6:31 PM on November 24, 2020 [14 favorites]


I say this all as someone that did not like RP1 and has a Richard Brautigan quote in my profile.

The prose might not be very good and Ernie Cline might be a pompous windbag, but perhaps consider all of the fans of these books before you decide to publicly tear into it for your own entertainment. It isn't a good look no matter how justified you might feel it is.

However you might personally feel about the artistic merits of "gamelit" there is clearly a market for it that is growing. Have you looked at Kindle Unlimited lately? Have you seen what the biggest earners are on Patreon for fiction? At least 3 of the top 10 writers on Patreon are writing gamelit/progression fantasy: SenescentSoul, and PirateAba. Push that out to the top 15 and you have at least 5 of them.

They have young fan bases and the in-depth lists of things, mechanical underpinnings, and discussion of the underlying math of these stories is a big part of their appeal. Take a look at some of SenescentSoul's writing. Entire chapters are dedicated to a character massaging numbers and calculating optimal combinations of things. Have you considered who might be the primary audience for that kind of writing? These are the same people that enjoy RP1/2. I know people that read Delve religiously that wouldn't crack a book normally because there is something about that approach that clicks for and satisfies them. Who am I to say that the writing is bad? I sure as hell ain't making $20k/month on my writing.

But hey, they must all be sociopaths or terrible at reading in order to enjoy this stuff. Or maybe they've just never been exposed to good writing before, right? Can you feel how hard my eyes are rolling?

This is the same as all of the hate-reviewing and hot takes related to the likes of Twilight, Omegaverse, and so on. This writing isn't trying for what you think it is and all you're doing is making yourselves look like out of touch snobs.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 6:32 PM on November 24, 2020 [18 favorites]


the disappointing way the movie handles its non-white and female characters isn't just an unrelated flaw introduced by flawed writers. (I gave up on the book.) It's a major part of the subculture it's valorizing

Honestly that's part of how that book took me back to the 80s. It took me back to the cool stuff I loved, and it also took me back to where everyone insisted they had to relate to me As A Girl and in no other way. So I had a really weird experience of simultaneous positive and negative nostalgia, which left me in the end with a 'glad to have toured there, even gladder I'm living my life now."
posted by corb at 6:34 PM on November 24, 2020 [19 favorites]


However you might personally feel about the artistic merits of "gamelit" there is clearly a market for it that is growing.

There's a market for Ben Shapiro novels. Who gives a shit
posted by Cezar Golescu at 6:36 PM on November 24, 2020 [26 favorites]


Uh, heh heh heh, you said Ben Shapiro.
posted by valkane at 6:43 PM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


At least the movie sequel will make him more millions.
posted by gottabefunky at 6:46 PM on November 24, 2020


My point is that all of these people in a rush to snark as hard as they can are maybe, just maybe, missing something. That all of the mean-spirited hate-reading of this book and ones like it aren't hurting the likes of Cline, but might be hurting the huge number of people that do read these books and enjoy them.

Consider how toxic this behaviour is. Anytime you think it would be fun to shit on something for amusement consider where the asshole is.

That's all I have to say on the matter.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 6:55 PM on November 24, 2020 [11 favorites]


I just listened to the Public Radio interview referenced above. It’s ridiculous to hear the amount of credit Cline gives himself for the virtual reality we have today without even pretending to acknowledge the work of others.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Ready Player One but I remember it being a fast, entertaining read. It’s okay to to write an okay book that makes millions of dollars. It’s absurd though to misrepresent your contribution to a technology that was decades in the making.
posted by mundo at 6:59 PM on November 24, 2020 [11 favorites]


Laura Hudson is also livetweeting her read of the book, though she's further behind Jacob Mercy.

BTW, HS Class of '87 here. Yes, I enjoyed RP1 when it first came out for hitting all the right notes from my geek canon. But then I read Armada (Cline's second novel) and it was more of the same. At least RP1 had the Easter Egg hunt to justify the characters' obsession with nostalgia.
posted by cheshyre at 7:03 PM on November 24, 2020


I have had conversations with my wife about which book I classify as the third best book about giant ants.

WELL?!

I have read a book about a town that is under attack by carnivorous jellyfish. Not giant, or different than regular jellyfish though. People typically died by tripping and falling on them, forgetting shoes and stepping on them, and in one case, not looking at their bathtub before they got in that was full of jellyfish.

John Halkin's _Slime_? Or are there more dangerous jellyfish books I should be aware of?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:07 PM on November 24, 2020 [8 favorites]


My point is that all of these people in a rush to snark as hard as they can are maybe, just maybe, missing something.

Me, I liked the book when I read it. Then I thought about it and saw the movie marketing and thought about it more and heard Cline speak and then I realized oh, huh, that was a really shallow novel. With some toxic elements. So for me it's more like I got it, then realized what I got was really thin garbage. The snark is more fun than the book now for me. Cal it remix culture if you want, or hostile nostalgia.
posted by Nelson at 7:12 PM on November 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


When I tried to read RP1 I was embarrassed for the author

Oh, embarrassed, like when Han Solo talks to the Empire personnel on the Death Star in Star Wars, which was only retitled Episode IV after the 1981 release of the Empire Strikes Back, that's understandable.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:18 PM on November 24, 2020 [14 favorites]


Something I realized a long time ago (when I was reading a lot of alt-history). Don't overexplain your in-jokes.
The readers who got the reference don't need it, and those who didn't don't really care.
The book that held up best was one where each reread revealed further detail as I learned more about the period.
posted by cheshyre at 7:20 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Cal it remix culture if you want, or hostile nostalgia

Hostalgia?
posted by flabdablet at 7:22 PM on November 24, 2020 [8 favorites]


Nopestalgia?
posted by cortex at 7:26 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


Neal Stephenson says hello.
posted by valkane at 7:30 PM on November 24, 2020 [9 favorites]


I read Ready Player One for a book club, enjoyed listening to book podcasts make fun of it more than I enjoyed reading it, but now I think the excessive Twitter hate is a little silly. It’s basically Twilight for nerds, but instead of being horny for a sparkly vampire, the main character is horny for lists of video games.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:31 PM on November 24, 2020 [9 favorites]


This is the same as all of the hate-reviewing and hot takes related to the likes of Twilight

Twilight (which, incidentally, had some very feminist hate-reviews) was aimed at young women. Ready Player One is mostly aimed at a specific segment of middle-aged white males.

Very much not the same.

And even if a younger generation has embraced a certain type of "gamer-lit", critiquing, even rudely and snarkily, a specific work of such is nowhere near the same as "hurting" fans of the genre. Claiming that it does is disingenuous at best, as it provides cover for claiming that an entire class of work is above criticism for vague personal reasons, which is definitely a problem when a class of work may well embrace or ignore problematic elements. You don't get to the point of recognizing the racism, classism, and sexism contained in many of the classic themes and tropes of fantasy lit if you can cut off discussion by claiming that fans of The Lord of the Rings are getting their feelings hurt by mean tweets.

I don't know enough about "gamer-lit" to say if it has the same problematic elements as Ready Player One and the cultural background of that work, but the genre and its readers will not only survive but may well improve with or despite or even because of snarky critiques of one of the apparently seminal works of the genre.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:48 PM on November 24, 2020 [22 favorites]


Neal Stephenson says hello.

When the opening crawl of Star Wars Episode IX began with a reference to an event that happened in Fortnite (a massively-multiplayer battle royal video game especially popular among teenagers) I thought "We were promised the metaverse from Snow Crash and instead we got Ready Player One."
posted by straight at 7:59 PM on November 24, 2020 [15 favorites]


Just as a note, The Importance of Being Ernest (1938912306) is kind of a fun poetry/short story/whatever collection from the same author.

There's also an amusing play with a similar title written by Oscar Wilde, a late-19th-century Irish poet and playwright.
posted by straight at 8:03 PM on November 24, 2020 [24 favorites]


I had the same reaction to Ready Play One that I did to The Martian: the movie was better. I think the combination of the limitations of the movie and screenwriter acted as final editing pass. Add to that a better ability to show-not-tell, and what were good stories became tighter, and more enjoyable.

Reviews of both Cline's and Weir's later books seem to confirm my suspicion: they learned the wrong lessons from the experience, and leaned hard into their worst tendencies. It sounds like the reviews of Ready Player Two continues that trend.

(For what it's worth, I read the book first in both cases.)
posted by MrGuilt at 8:04 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


the people who think Ready Player One is a good book are generally people who do not read much...Regardless of how true it is broadly, it made me feel better about life in general because it was certainly true of every person I know in real life who said they enjoyed the book. It's not that the book is good, you just don't read.

Meanwhile, my wife, a full-professor of English Literature, enjoyed the book. But she's a child of the 80s who wasn't immersed in geek culture and hasn't spent her life ruminating over the bits of pop culture she did catch back then, so the nostalgia probably felt much more fresh to her and the references less stale.
posted by straight at 8:10 PM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


It is an embarrassing book. Like America should not exist based on it existing, and America has been fucked up FOR A WHILE.

And I fucking love shitty stuff. My best friends are English-language soap operas.

I worried I've only read fake screenshots of either book but it turns out all of what I've read is the same and what I've not read is even worse.

I loved almost every property referenced it, but it makes me hate everything from my childhood

Anyway, take care everyone. Sorry to yuck on your yum. But this book is racist, misogynist, and homophobic, and that's not anywhere near the worst thing about it.

(WAKANDA OUTREACH INITIATIVE? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:26 PM on November 24, 2020 [10 favorites]


John Halkin's _Slime_? Or are there more dangerous jellyfish books I should be aware of?

Thats it. I even read the awesome physical paperback

And it’s on kindle unlimited too! It is not good.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:30 PM on November 24, 2020 [6 favorites]


Dear people who remember old things that they liked:

Sometimes, a new thing can be good. But rarely, almost never, can an old thing be a new good thing.
posted by belarius at 8:34 PM on November 24, 2020


One odd thing about reading RP1 when it was a Thing was that it was often recommended as being similar to Snow Crash. Which, Snow Crash is not a perfect book, but it was aggressively forward-looking at the time, and its language and imagery were weird and novel. RP1 was ... decades-old ideas from books like Snow Crash, set in an online world that was actually less interesting than the current internet and more like World of Warcraft with better graphics.

I'm glad some folks got something enjoyable out of it -- coming into it looking for 2011's version of Snow Crash was definitely not the right approach, though.
posted by john hadron collider at 8:39 PM on November 24, 2020 [9 favorites]


Reviews of both Cline's and Weir's later books seem to confirm my suspicion: they learned the wrong lessons from the experience, and leaned hard into their worst tendencies

IIRC, after The Martian, Andy Weir started writing some kind of epic far future space opera, which got shelved due to demands for "something tonally similar" to his first book.*

He's shown more range in some of his short fiction, so market pressure appears to be a contributing factor.

* See Tor.com, 2016;
San Diego Mag, 2017
posted by cheshyre at 8:49 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Are the last five pages of RP1 better than the last five pages of Snow Crash, because how could it not be?
posted by Beholder at 9:05 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


The problem with RP1 isn’t the genre. “Gamer-lit” is no better or worse than a Tingler or any other form of niche genre fiction. Good books are good, bad books are bad, and there’s a whole morass of mediocre stuff in between. In isolation, as someone who read RP1, I’d say it’s mediocre.

But none of that change the valid criticisms of RP1, of Ernest Cline’s writing, and of Ernest Cline as a person and public figure.
posted by SansPoint at 9:05 PM on November 24, 2020 [9 favorites]


Ernest Cline is two years older than me, about a thousand times richer, and had a book made into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. I refuse to accede to the claim that criticizing his writing is in some way punching down.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:06 PM on November 24, 2020 [49 favorites]


Before the internet and the ubiquity of "geek culture," references carried weight. Back then, media just wasn't terribly referential. Except for a few notable franchises, entertainment was more-or-less standalone. And if you were into some non-mainstream culture, you really were unlikely to see or hear a shout-out to something you recognized. If someone said "fnord" or made a reference to Monty Python or the Hitchhiker's Guide, you knew that person was your people. And chances are, they probably were.

Fast forward several decades, and cultural references are the norm. Cinematic universes, memes, and pop culture nostalgia are mainstream entertainment. References no longer feel special. In fact, they feel kinda lazy and patronizing. At this point, I'm far more impressed by entertainment that can stand on its own and doesn't require someone to be "in" on a joke in order for it to be enjoyable.

Maybe if RPO had been written in an era before we were positively drowning in reference, it would seem more fresh. Instead, it recycles the same garbage we've been fed for the last 20 years, and doesn't even do so artfully. It made me feel pandered to.
posted by panama joe at 10:18 PM on November 24, 2020 [20 favorites]


I feel like I scratched this itch watching I Love the 80s! on VH1 and I've been good ever since. It allowed me to roll around in nostalgia like a pig in mud and get it out of my system. Since then I've moved on and had room for new interests.

Maybe these books will serve that function for their fans. The VH1 series was a lot more fun though.
posted by emjaybee at 10:25 PM on November 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


Why pay for an Ernest Cline book when Just Two Things is free?
posted by Reyturner at 10:29 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Nopestalgia?

Soundtrack?
posted by flabdablet at 10:45 PM on November 24, 2020


This is the same as all of the hate-reviewing and hot takes related to the likes of Twilight, Omegaverse, and so on. This writing isn't trying for what you think it is and all you're doing is making yourselves look like out of touch snobs.

Aw yay culture's aged enough that smarm's coming back.

Anyway, I'm amazed that this thread went on this far without anybody mentioning Ernest Cline's classic poem about porn stars! Specifically about how he, a cultured and elitist man, deserves so much better than those terrible, tasteless sex workers, all of whom are dumber than he is. Even though, as he writes,
"Like a preacher needs pain, like a needle needs a vein,"
Guys need porn.
Anyway, even better, he gives away his game later on—he's still talking about how he wants to make porn for people who fetishize "smart girls" they knew when they were teenagers, but tell me this doesn't fit the marketing scheme of Ready Player N to a tee:
This idea is a fucking gold mine.
I am gonna make millions,
because this country is full of database programmers
and electronics engineers
and they aren't getting the loving they so desperately need.
And you can help . . .
("...by letting me make a porno of you, ladies," is the implication at the end there.)

Anyway, my firm belief is that people should be allowed to like whatever appalling tripe they like, and am not here for directly shitting on people who liked these books, but the books are very bad and the author is so, so much worse. And it's very funny, to me, to suggest that it's reverse sexism or whatever to diss Cline or diss his book, because it reflects the same sort of context-collapse lack of self-awareness that algorithmically generated Ready Player One to begin with.

I close by saying that the one good thing about Ready Player Two is that it retroactively proves Gregg Turkington's insight correct. Stephen Spielberg is a genius!
posted by rorgy at 1:06 AM on November 25, 2020 [18 favorites]


I have seen the movie (I think? it's possible it was some other similar thing but I'm about 99% sure), and it's utterly forgettable (apparently to the extent that I'm not entirely sure I saw it). The Martian is a really good film, but it has its issues too (Mackenzie Davis plays a character who I think was Korean in the book). RP1 -- the movie -- is at best kinda blah. The book might have some shiny nostalgia objects distracting from the underlying issues, but GODDAMN read that horrible porn poem and tell me that you want to give the benefit of the doubt, or time of day, to that same dude. Oof.
posted by axiom at 2:12 AM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


Shit, I should be the target market for this stuff, my friends and I spoke almost entirely in quotes for most of 95-97, and every waking moment was saturated with pop culture. References to things other people had written or said was our primary way of communicating with our incredibly tiny, incredibly nebbish circle of friends. We thought it was cool that people outside our circle couldn’t understand us.

And then we grew out of it. I mean, not to say that quotes don’t just spring to mind, or that I’m not excited when I have someone who “gets” the quotes I throw out (well, hello there, Metafilter), but I think we all sort of came to the realization that being a cross between Dennis Miller and the Comic Book Guy wasn’t a life goal.

Meanwhile, you’ve got RP1 which just seems like a breeding ground for holier than thou gatekeeping of a type that would be laughable if not so sad. I haven’t bothered with the book, but what I’ve seen of the movie, goddamn, that was painful. As far as saying he’s achieved something by getting Spielberg to make his book into a movie, wasn’t the book essentially offering Spielberg a massive hit of nostalgia juice, hero worship, and a sudden resurgence of relevance into current pop culture?

Even after all of that, how incredibly dumb, how piss poor of a writer, how shockingly out of touch with the zeitgeist do you have to be to do a sequel to the first book, titled Ready Player 2, and not have it revolve around the female character (Artemis?) from the first movie? I mean, shit, how many arcade games out there had the second player be a female character? Instead, you shit out a retread of the first book? Same character, but a bigger, badder shadowy company? Fuck, this lazy bullshit is exhausting.

I mean, what, what’s the excuse? The guy was worried he wouldn’t be able to write from a woman’s perspective? Do some fucking research man. And no, research isn’t watching the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally and deciding you understand women now. Talk to some women. Talk to fans. Find out the side of fandom that you just wholly ignored when you got to play out your author stand in fantasy. You got to do your dream thing, now maybe pull back a bit and do something that isn’t just masturbating with a shit ton of TV guides from the 80s.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:02 AM on November 25, 2020 [20 favorites]


do something that isn’t just masturbating with a shit ton of TV guides from the 80s

Maybe you misread the book but it's not tv guides? In the multiple pages devoted to masturbation in the book this is accomplished by a state of the art haptic suit.
posted by phunniemee at 4:37 AM on November 25, 2020 [6 favorites]


Elizabeth Sandifer said on Twitter,
Literally the only thing that could have made Ready Player Two interesting is if it focused basically exclusively on 80s/90s pop culture for girls.
and I think it's a compelling argument.

As for RP2 being about a female main character... I mean, on the one hand, yes, but on the other hand the whole "stalking" bit in RP2 makes me deeply distrust that any amount of research could make Cline write well about women, especially when I don't think you could write such a book without confronting misogyny and harassment in nerd subcultures.

(And this is why I feel OK about shitting on the book, btw. It's just a bad book, it's fine, it has neither picked my pocket nor broken my leg, but it's a bad book with a cavalier attitude about invading the privacy of your romantic interests. Which, for women in the right age and cultural brackets to catch the references for this book, is likely to be... what's the opposite of nostalgia?)
posted by Jeanne at 4:43 AM on November 25, 2020 [15 favorites]


Well, as a book it's very Not Good; as fan service it's too heavy-handed.

The writing and story are not subtle or surprising, and the book doesn't do anything new. I mean, for hundreds of years we have had lines in stories that refer to other creative works, but we called those allusions -- and just like in RP1 they also served as a signal of both the writer's and the audience's shared culture. Farther back, the whole Western canon from painting to literature had explicitly biblical themes, and before that the Greeks made their art and sculpture about characters from other, older stories.

But the difference is that they were trying something new, or executing it especially well. Cline's writing just isn't good, so there's no excuse to rescue him from the (totally legit) criticisms of ignoring women and POC and, well, everyone who isn't his target market. And that what the book boils down to: endless nudges and winks about how cool things were When We Were Young And Relevant.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:23 AM on November 25, 2020 [6 favorites]


endless nudges and winks about how cool things were When We Were Young And Relevant

As someone who struggles, while teaching classes of children born after 2004, with the urge to make references to things that happened decades before they were born, there's something very, very difficult about just letting go and realizing that those things were cool because we were young and relevant, and we're neither of those things anymore. Bleating on about how wonderful all the things you grew up with, for the most part, they've been forgotten, and there's definitely a market out there (as seen by these books) for assuring old and out of touch people that no, it's not them, it's the children that are wrong.

I do my best these days to keep my references among the people that would get them, and accept that, when I make a reference no one gets, it's not because they aren't cultured, it's because I'm old and talking about obscure shit, and oh, dear god, Ghidorah, no, stop, don't try to explain it to them, they don't care, old man... Because, fuck, a little hindsight is a terribly embarrassing thing.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:35 AM on November 25, 2020 [23 favorites]


I'm feeling something foreign and strange right now and it's very unsettling.

Oh. Oh, fuck. This can't be happening. This is very bad. Make it stop.

I miss Cory Doctorow.
posted by loquacious at 5:48 AM on November 25, 2020 [16 favorites]


How can you MISS him when he's always right there, hourly turning one entirely adequate sentence into a twenty tweet thread with even less nuance.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:53 AM on November 25, 2020 [9 favorites]


I bought the book years ago while visiting the Strand in NYC because, hey, I'm a tourist, how can I not buy some books from the Strand. (You'll love the other two books I picked up: Flatland and GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, so really spanning the spectrum from page-turners to giant wall of oh-god-what-have-I-done from what I've heard.) I still haven't read it. This is partially because I have become pretty terrible at sitting down and just reading a book, especially in dead-tree form, and partially because every time someone would talk about Ready Player One it just sounded worse and more embarrassing than the last time someone would talk about Ready Player One.

This culminated in me seeing the movie with a couple of friends. I can report two things: first, that they liked it more than I did, and second, it is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. There is literally a moment in the movie where the protagonist, who's going on a virtual date with the girl he's attracted to, tries on a number of avatars. This could've been a neat moment commenting on virtual identities and the nature thereof. Instead, in the movie it boils down to this: everyone literally wears their bucket of geek references on their sleeves, these references define them, and other people will determine your worth through them. It is a profoundly depressing commentary that the movie nevertheless revels in, on the level of "wouldn't it be cool if you could dress like Marty McFly from Back to the Future ALL the time?"

I don't really remember much else from the movie because it's just a wall of references, and it seems like the one vaguely clever use of references may not have even been in the book? (I'm thinking about a certain extended reference to a horror movie.) But I have never forgotten the moment where the movie unironically told you that yes, girls will only think you're cool if you namecheck exactly the right not-that-obscure 80s sci-fi and video game references.
posted by chrominance at 6:30 AM on November 25, 2020 [7 favorites]


because this country is full of database programmers
and electronics engineers
and they aren't getting the loving they so desperately need.


Benjy Feen had the same fantasy over two decades ago, and it wasn't new then.
posted by jackbishop at 6:52 AM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


everyone literally wears their bucket of geek references on their sleeves, these references define them, and other people will determine your worth through them

This is the entire premise of the book, plus the chapter on the haptic fuck suit.
posted by phunniemee at 6:53 AM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


the chapter on the haptic fuck suit.

C'mon, man, some of us haven't eaten breakfast yet . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 7:09 AM on November 25, 2020 [5 favorites]


I feel really weird admitting I liked Ready Player One since according to folks on the internet it's junk that only 80s gamer boys would like and even then, they should feel bad about it.

(I will cop to being a person from the 80s, but other than that, I am not that demographic at all.)
posted by vespabelle at 8:03 AM on November 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


For me, there are two levels of frustration about the success of Ready Player One. First off is that it's bad, more so than even something like Dan Brown. There's frustration at seeing this, of all things, be the one that takes off. Cline is the middle-aged white dude equivalent of EL James - highly derivative and a terrible writer from any conceivable angle, but for whatever reason, they caught a zeitgeist at just the right time and had massive success.

The other issue for me is that RP1, much like Big Bang Theory, is the thing coworkers, family members, and acquaintances bring up when they want to find something to talk about with me. "Hey, you're into a few nerdy things. You must like this, right?" And you've got to just kinda nod along or say "Nah never got into it" because if you start doing what most of us have done in this thread, you'll just come across as some sort of toxic gatekeeping geek.
posted by thecjm at 8:11 AM on November 25, 2020 [18 favorites]


FWIW, Ready Player One was the first novel my teenage son ever read (and reread) voluntarily. So I think its appeal goes far beyond nostalgia, at least for some audiences.

I mean we all know that Foucalt’s Pendulum is vastly superior to The DaVinci Code, but teenage gamers may not.

So notwithstanding the very valid criticism of the book and the author, I can’t help but appreciate Ready Player One as a gateway to reading for pleasure.

And I’m assuming that Ready Player Two will teach my son the folly of getting too hyped for sequels
posted by lumpy at 8:12 AM on November 25, 2020 [5 favorites]


Just to be clear, I'm not saying people who enjoyed Ready Player One are bad or wrong. I read it. I enjoyed it.

I am saying that your enjoyment of a work does not negate valid criticism, and there's a lot of very valid criticism of Ready Player One, and of Cline's writing in general, in this thread and elsewhere. I don't need to rehash it.

Criticism is not a review. Reviews are subjective: is this thing good or bad. Criticism is discussing the work and what it does. It's up to the person reading the criticism to agree or disagree with that criticism. Good criticism opens your mind to different ways of looking at a creative work, and certainly good criticism can change the opinion someone has of a work, and it certainly has for me in many cases far beyond RP1.

I think it's also perfectly valid to enjoy and appreciate problematic works—as long as you acknowledge what is problematic about it. Weezer's Pinkerton album comes to mind. It's an amazing power-pop record, but it's also insanely misogynistic and has really nasty racist undertones in parts. (A friend who also loves it has described it as "Yellow Fever: The Album.") Acknowledging a work's flaws, and an artist's flaws are important, and as fans of living artists who do problematic work, it's important that we push them to do better, which to bring this back to Ernest Cline, it's clear he has not done.
posted by SansPoint at 8:17 AM on November 25, 2020 [19 favorites]


Metafilter: I mean we all know that Foucalt’s Pendulum is vastly superior to The DaVinci Code
posted by benzenedream at 8:29 AM on November 25, 2020 [11 favorites]


The thing that I think makes RP1 and 2 actively bad is that they encourage the myth that being into (male, white) nerdy things is special, and that knowing a lot about pop culture is a superpower. This is one of the myths that fed into gamergate and now we have a whole lot of nazis. Men feel alone and too "special" for the healthy communities around them. Neo-nazi groups recruit them from self-help and depression forums and tell them they are in fact special, then slowly introduce them to fascist thought.

I don't want to shit on things that people like, but I don't want to give this sort of tripe a pass.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:49 AM on November 25, 2020 [24 favorites]


I read RP1 because a lot of people recommended it to me. I found it boring and clunky and only finished it because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I am the same age as Cline and was (am) into geeky stuff, so I guess I am the target audience. What a waste of time that was. That guy can't write worth a damn. A terrible, terrible, book of lists indeed.

Someone gave me Cline's "Armada", and I only made it a few pages in before I gave up.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:52 AM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]


Can't wait to see Cline run the full Gauntlet and roll out Ready Player Four: Warrior Needs Food, Badly.
posted by Catblack at 8:57 AM on November 25, 2020 [14 favorites]


Good Idea: Enjoying nostalgia.

Bad Idea: Writing a book in which the ideologies are based on your enjoyment of nostalgia.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:01 AM on November 25, 2020 [7 favorites]


I'd heard the buzz about RP1 when it first came out, tried to read it and couldn't get into it. Then the movie was about to come out, so I figured I should try again. And I really loved it. Another HS class of '87 and it really did hit a lot of pretty seminal references for me - even though I'm a girl, thanks. I think I laughed out loud when Zork came into play.

It wasn't just the hit of nostalgia, because you could already get that from pop-up videos and the Wedding Singer and a lot of other 80's-driven media. It was - and maybe people don't remember this, or maybe a lot of people here grew up with a bunch of friends with similar tastes - most of those touchstones weren't cool. You might have a gang of friends who all quoted Monty Python to each other, but most of the kids in school (at least my school) treated you like a pariah for it. No one read the Hitchhikers Guides. No one played Zork. I mean, obviously millions of people did, but that still added up to maybe a half a dozen people in my grade, all of whom (as far as I know) were in my friend group. Over the years, a lot of this culture has been rediscovered, and celebrated as Gen X started to stake a claim on the cultural conversation. So it's easy to look back now and say that everyone watched H.R. Puffinstuff or played Yars' Revenge, but at the time I would have been thrilled to know how not-alone I actually was. Which is kind of what the book did for me. I know it's become a trope, but I really did feel seen.

Not sure I feel any need for a sequel, though.

Anyways, Brian, I'm opening a boutique.
posted by Mchelly at 9:04 AM on November 25, 2020 [7 favorites]


"Pouring one out for all the extraordinary books that don't get published while this is getting its own fancy hardbacks. Please make it stop" --tweet from Adri Joy, who reviews books for Nerds of a Feather. She's retweeting the start of Jacob Mercy's thread, and adding content warnings too for Wade's stalking and other issues. There's a whole conversation here which people have already started, about this mythos of the pop culture boy whom the world has stomped on but he's shown them and now he gets to stomp on everyone else.

The other angle she's getting at is really interesting to me. Who gets the attention, and shelf space, and marketing budget from the publishers? Some people say in the comments that maybe the money the publisher makes from this book will allow them to take more chances on marginalized voices. But books like this still distort and shape the market later, and how many others get told they're not marketable because they don't look like this author, and their book doesn't look like this book? There are black trans women, queer Latinas, and others who don't fit the cis-white-het-able-bodied mold, writing wonderful stories that either never get published or do get published but won't earn out their meager advance because the publishing house doesn't bother to actually market them.

In my own life I see and sometimes read blockbuster books like this and try to use them as motivation for my own writing. (I snarked to the friend who sent me that Twitter thread that RP2 is about the quality of my current Nanowrimo attempt, so I'll think of that when I feel like giving up.) But it is discouraging to see how mediocre a white man can be, while his book does casual harm to women, people of color, and everyone else, inside and outside the story. This one is still going to sell like hot cakes.
posted by j.r at 9:16 AM on November 25, 2020 [17 favorites]


Even after all of that, how incredibly dumb, how piss poor of a writer, how shockingly out of touch with the zeitgeist do you have to be to do a sequel to the first book, titled Ready Player 2, and not have it revolve around the female character (Artemis?) from the first movie? I mean, shit, how many arcade games out there had the second player be a female character? Instead, you shit out a retread of the first book?

The other option would be to retread the first book, but do it as a grotesque. Hold up a crooked mirror to the gatekeeping whoever-dies-with-the-most-nerd-shit-wins fanboys, showing them their true form and shattering the heroic delusion they have built of themselves.

Though admittedly, that would take a writer other than Cline. At the very least, if he did so, he'd be setting fire to a lucrative nerd-fan-service revenue stream in the name of something far less likely to pay off.
posted by acb at 9:41 AM on November 25, 2020 [11 favorites]


I mean, for hundreds of years we have had lines in stories that refer to other creative works, but we called those allusions -- and just like in RP1 they also served as a signal of both the writer's and the audience's shared culture.

Your point is well-made, but I was referring specifically to popular entertainment from the 80s and early 90s, the era that I grew up in and that RPO references most frequently. During that time, TV was largely episodic, and movies were typically stand-alone. It wasn't all that common for TV shows to reference something from a different episode of the very same show. Even movies with sequels sorta lived in their own bubble, rarely referring to anything outside of their own universe.

I'll hold up Stephen King's work as sorta the exception that proves the rule. I was super into Stephen King as a teen -- I think I read everything he wrote up until 1993 or so. King had a (roughly) shared universe long before that was common in popular entertainment. And I remember the profound joy I felt in recognizing, say, a Castle Rock denizen from a different book, or an antagonist with the initials R.F, or a character who remembered "something about a clown" from their childhood. And it was joyous because it was unexpected. I just didn't expect characters from one book to pop up in another book like that. I'm not sure a contemporary audience experiencing his work would feel that magnitude of joy. They might just think, "Oh, it's a shared universe" and move on.
posted by panama joe at 10:13 AM on November 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


The other option would be to retread the first book, but do it as a grotesque. Hold up a crooked mirror to the gatekeeping whoever-dies-with-the-most-nerd-shit-wins fanboys, showing them their true form and shattering the heroic delusion they have built of themselves.

Or the nuclear option, where the dead guy opens another portal they have to go through, and it's all Gak and Mary Kate and Ashley and Tamagotchis, and the protagonists' heads explode because suddenly their specialty isn't the center of the universe anymore.
posted by Mchelly at 10:23 AM on November 25, 2020 [7 favorites]


Interestingly, I think King specifically was aware of the value that references could hold, if done tastefully and sparingly. I remember him taking a lot of flack at the time for using brand names in his writing. Characters wouldn't just get a burger, they'd drop by a Burger King. George LeBay didn't just fill Christine up with motor oil before handing her off to Arnie, he used Sapphire Motor Oil. I think King knew, instinctively, that if you can ground your fiction in something familiar, it will seem more real to people. I don't recall him abusing this, although to be fair, not every book of King's is a golden work of art.
posted by panama joe at 10:23 AM on November 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


I was a child during the 80s and mostly a teenager during the 90s, though because I was from a poor family that taped things on VHS and bought second-hand gaming consoles, I had a lot of 80s acculturation. We wore out the tape on Back to the Future. I played D&D. I read The Lord of the Rings. I played Sonic the Hedgehog. I also wasn't always very popular (though part of this is probably because I was an awkward smelly kid). I get it.

But when I grew up and started hanging around comic book shops with my own money as an adult, I realized what I was becoming, I realized that knowing trivia doesn't mean anything.

There's no analysis in this book, no understanding of themes, motifs, symbols, and ideas beyond the most hollowed out nostalgia fumes. It's just references, but a bastardization of any that mattered in context. The movie turned the "this is an anti-gun movie in part sourced because the director's sister died of gun violence" The Iron Giant into a fucking gun. It's turning quirky, silly movies like Buckaroo Banzai into ways to dunk on others. And it puts at the center of the universe straight white male suburban culture of the author's childhood in a way that it really shouldn't be.

The implications of the books are horrific. Imagine a 2040s that doesn't have a culture of its own, that desperately cannibalizes 1980s culture to suck up to the ghost of a capitalist billionaire, deforming the entire world into a sad, soulless place. There's no real 2040s culture at all. Hell, there's no 2010s culture. There's no Childish Gambino or Billie Eilish or Miley Cyrus even though all of them produced massive pop hits of which everyone in this decade are aware. There's no Fury Road or Ex Machina or Pacific Rim or What We Do in the Shadows. There is an absence, and in its place is a cavalcade of meaningless references divorced from contexts, male entitlement, and tech-billionaire worship.

If the book was willing to do any criticality with its love letter, at least it could bring this all up honestly. If it was willing to dig into the mass (and niche) culture anyone else participated, at least it would offer an inclusive familiarity.

But it's empty, dangerously empty. This doesn't mean anyone is bad for reading and enjoying it, but it is bad that it was produced, that it was giving millions of dollars and a movie (probably more on the way), and that it sucked the oxygen out of the room for all the more interesting, thoughtful participants in our shared world.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:40 AM on November 25, 2020 [37 favorites]


I saw that someone referenced Among Others upthread and while it's better written, and doesn't centre a privileged white male point of view, I think it's just as bad with respect to its ham-handed inserts of nostalgic references. It's also incredibly boring. I hated it.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:52 AM on November 25, 2020


As an addendum, I love talking about "geek culture" all the time. Just yesterday, after watching a Renegade Cut on how Odo was a fascist collaborator, my partner and I had a conversation about the different of justice systems in Star Trek, and how while the Cardassians have a fascist justice system that is made to reify the state, the Dominion has no justice system, just a security system that totally dispenses with concepts of guilt, process, or truth.

I like those conversations. I like talking about how the final dance number of Buckaroo Banzai was filmed using the music of Uptown Girl. I like thinking about the Bea Arthur expanded universe. I like so much, and it's why I find it so frustrating to see a perfectly good roast be turned into nutritionaless slop.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:02 AM on November 25, 2020 [12 favorites]


Remember in the 80s how the boomers (then in middle age and prime earning power, whilst for the first time feeling the icy fingers of Chronos on their backs) ruled pop-culture, and banged on about how great The Sixties were, how everything was authentic and real then and now there's just plastic synthesised rubbish? And how the music industry pandered to them, with contemporary artists from Lenny Kravitz to manufactured bands (Sophie Lee And The Freaked-Out Flower Children anyone?) paying tribute to this high-water mark of pop culture that the people with the spending power had designated? And how shite that was, this invalidation of the present in favour of a sort of cultural necrophilia of your parents' generation's adolescent years?

Ready Player * sounds like a response to that as a revenge fantasy: what if we have the power, and instead of it being The Beatles and The Eagles and Jimi Hendrix forever, it's Pac-Man and He-Man and Ghostbusters and all the stuff me and the boys were into out in the suburbs; all the things we thought were cool at age 12 are now cool forever, and nothing exists outside of that. Nothing of significance happened after we got our first paychecks or filled in our first tax returns, because there is nothing then.

If there is a 2040s Trump, this would be the cultural plank of his platform.
posted by acb at 11:05 AM on November 25, 2020 [17 favorites]


I saw that someone referenced Among Others upthread and while it's better written, and doesn't centre a privileged white male point of view, I think it's just as bad with respect to its ham-handed inserts of nostalgic references. It's also incredibly boring. I hated it.

I'm glad that you, too, were able to hate something in this thread.
posted by selfnoise at 12:08 PM on November 25, 2020 [6 favorites]


I'm going to write something like this but for a 70's English childhood.
One For Sorrow, Chapter One
The AI avatar had taken the form of a saggy cloth cat - dusty grey and dirty orange stripes, flat black eyes with an occasional glitter of deep, amused intelligence.
"If you will not talk to me Agent Tucker, perhaps you will talk to my associates, the mice!"
They poured down the steps by the clock, a seething mass of matted fur and tangled, wiry implants. Their eyes shone with a mad fanaticism.
"We will find you, we will bind you,
We will stick you with glue, glue, glue"
The nightmare had only just begun.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:10 PM on November 25, 2020 [8 favorites]


I'm glad that you, too, were able to hate something in this thread.

Some of us hated both!

But anyways enjoy the reviews on twitter while you can, there are DMCA takedowns about some of the excerpts.
posted by jeather at 12:12 PM on November 25, 2020


I'd love it if I wrote a book the entire internet hated. I'd be ecstatic. So much better to be hated than to be ignored. I cannot see Ready Player 2 as anything but a huge success. It's a massive departure from Cline's sophomore effort, Armada, which was largely ignored.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:14 PM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


I thought the DMCA stuff was a joke, but it's for real.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:16 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


Hatestolgia.

Also, it's fine to make a reference. Just don't explain the reference. Or, if you must, that's what footnotes are for.
posted by Wetterschneider at 12:22 PM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


I'm going to write something like this but for a 70's English childhood.

Ah, but then you're doing h̴a̷u̷n̸t̴o̶l̸o̵g̷y̴.
posted by acb at 12:33 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


My friend is hate reading it and sending me excerpts and I literally can't tell if she's writing parody or just cutting and pasting from the book. Both of them have the feel of a "Hey Lois, remember that time..." joke from Family Guy, so I read everything in the voice of Peter Griffin.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:38 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


The DMCA stuff is fucking outrageous. They're filing fraudulent takedowns on tweets that contain three sentence excerpts from the book, highlighted for purposes of criticism or parody. I can't imagine a more clear form of fair use. There really needs to be actual penalties for DMCA abuse. Of course Twitter is just going along with the takedowns because fighting them makes no sense for that company.

As Caylen says "pretty cool that the book who's entire schtick is "reference copyrighted material to tell a story" & entirely dependent on copyright law allowing for that to issue a bunch of illegal DMCA's for someone also doing legal transformative work to said book".
posted by Nelson at 12:44 PM on November 25, 2020 [21 favorites]


I get that there are people who enjoy reading RP1, and I don't want to take that away from them, but I'm not sure I believe they enjoy it more than I enjoy reading snarky jokes about it, and I don't want that taken away from me either. My way of enjoying the book counts for something too, right?
posted by straight at 2:02 PM on November 25, 2020 [10 favorites]


No one played Zork. I mean, obviously millions of people did, but that still added up to maybe a half a dozen people in my grade

That feeling of being an oddball was definitely real and many of us had similar experiences.

At the same time, one of the most pernicious things of our time is groups of people who are not oppressed minorities convincing themselves they are oppressed minorities. So I think it's very important to be clear that, yes, millions of us played Zork, we can talk to each other online all we want, and nobody is ever going to deny us a job or refuse to rent us an apartment because we played Zork. In fact the opposite--having a better than average opportunity for a job because you played Zork--is more likely.

The supposed power-fantasy of RP1 ("The thing that made me feel odd now makes me elite!") was already a power-reality for years before the book came out. It's like someone writing a novel imagining what if the United States had the most powerful military in the world.
posted by straight at 2:17 PM on November 25, 2020 [15 favorites]


If you were ten years old in 1988 and you’re still ten years old now rp1 is your book.
posted by mhoye at 2:24 PM on November 25, 2020 [12 favorites]


(Straight, I’m here for you.)
posted by mhoye at 2:26 PM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]


mhoye: that suggests the ghost of a boy who died in an accident in '88 and cannot rest until someone tells him a story that comforts him, which might indeed be the RP books
posted by Countess Elena at 2:36 PM on November 25, 2020 [5 favorites]


At the same time, one of the most pernicious things of our time is groups of people who are not oppressed minorities convincing themselves they are oppressed minorities.

Totally agree. And I think that all the criticism here is valid, and some of it (like your point) is crucial. I just don't like the "that thing you like is terrible, you should feel terrible for liking it" pile-on that can happen - especially here, where I'd guess there's a super-high percentage of people who liked what I liked, back when I felt like an oddball.

Meanwhile, "Revenge of the Nerds" wasn't meant to be ironic. This toxicity isn't new. It just metastasized further.
posted by Mchelly at 2:38 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


The thing that I think makes RP1 and 2 actively bad is that they encourage the myth that being into (male, white) nerdy things is special, and that knowing a lot about pop culture is a superpower. This is one of the myths that fed into gamergate and now we have a whole lot of nazis. Men feel alone and too "special" for the healthy communities around them. Neo-nazi groups recruit them from self-help and depression forums and tell them they are in fact special, then slowly introduce them to fascist thought.

Now I really want a scene in Season 3 of The Boys where we see Homelander idly flipping through Ready Player One, chuckling to himself at all the references he gets.
posted by rorgy at 3:11 PM on November 25, 2020 [6 favorites]


On nerds being a marginalized group: I guess I'm a child of the 90s but truly came of age in the 00s, which is when I think nerd culture shifted into the mainstream. Lord of the Rings becoming a blockbuster hit did so much heavy-lifting, and while I once traveled a ways in my friend's mom's van to the one movie theater that was showing Spirited Away (and we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the car because it was one of those cars that played DVDs in the backseat), the world changed in a way that I wasn't so ridiculed for being good at math and into fantasy when I was in high school. I still felt awkward and stuff because most of us do at that age, but I think the view of me from the rest of my sports team was that I was mildly eccentric for being more into watching nerdy movies in a friend's basement than sneaking beer on the weekends. Combine that with going into engineering during the big tech ascendancy and then Game of Thrones happening as I stepped into adulthood, and I no longer feel marginalized for being a nerd--far from it.

Instead I feel more marginalized as a woman in tech, and on some pockets of the internet (cough Reddit) where everyone just assumes the whole room is full of awkward dudes who are exactly the same age as whoever is posting. I view Big Band Theory as equally toxic, both for being a bad primer on what nerds are like and also skewing to heavily male nerd view that can be downright hateful to women.

As for Cline being able to improve on inclusion in that arena, err...spoilers for Ready Player Two, I guess.
I read RP1 years ago and the full Tweet thread recap from Jacob Mercy whatever wasn't DMCA'd, so this is not from primary sources. But I think Cline did actually try to address some of the criticism. Extreeeemely ineptly and the book is still pretty toxic, but I can see where it's shoehorned in. The main McGuffin is the shattered consciousness of Kira, whom the former CEO billionaire was creepily in love with, and whose consciousness he copied and uploaded without her consent. (USS Callister anyone? Does this guy have any original ideas?) They have to do some stuff with her favorite pop culture to find the pieces, including Sailor Moon, which leads to Wade getting flashback simulations that he experiences *as her* which he says makes him understand her better and learn how Halliday is flawed. Oh, and when they all go to a John Hughes planet (?) Aech comments on how white it is and Artemis murders Duckie for being a creepy Nice Guy (TM). Prince makes Wade question his sexuality, as does all the VR sex you can do as any gender. There you go! Sexism, racism, and homophobia are solved!
End spoilers for Ready Player Two

For some of the other media mentioned, I still have a soft spot for Pinkerton but dear lord is it problematic. Same goes for a lot of music I listened to when I was 15, well before I noticed lots of the misogyny I can see now. As for Among Others, I was disappointed by it, but I'll fault it for making me bored rather than disgusted. If you're interested in a different way to do nostalgia, though, give it a shot.
posted by j.r at 4:20 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


I have had conversations with my wife about which book I classify as the third best book about giant ants. And that the best book about giant ants is the one where the ants are 3 times larger than regular ants. Which is not that big.

Looking forward to your forthcoming FPP ranking Giant Ant Novels from Worst to Bratwurst.
posted by Lonnrot at 4:30 PM on November 25, 2020 [7 favorites]


The other option would be to retread the first book, but do it as a grotesque. Hold up a crooked mirror to the gatekeeping whoever-dies-with-the-most-nerd-shit-wins fanboys, showing them their true form and shattering the heroic delusion they have built of themselves.

...

Or the nuclear option, where the dead guy opens another portal they have to go through, and it's all Gak and Mary Kate and Ashley and Tamagotchis, and the protagonists' heads explode because suddenly their specialty isn't the center of the universe anymore.


As someone with no interest in ever reading Cline (because of the "nerd girl" poem; still makes me feel gross), I genuinely like these ideas and would find them fun expansions of a bad idea into something potentially interesting.
posted by Lonnrot at 5:11 PM on November 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


Well, if they can take Lovecraft's mythos and turn it from WASP racial hysteria to something more well-rounded (such as the novel about Innsmouth fish-people being interned in camps with Japanese-Americans in the 1940s), perhaps they can détourn Cline's nerdboy merchsturbation into something that says something profound.
posted by acb at 5:31 PM on November 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


I couldn't finish Armada so I doubt I'd read RP2, let alone possibly enjoy it any more than the parodies I'm laughing with today, but for more than a few, the first book was just a silly work of fantasy, a bit of non-serious escapist fun for those who grew up in the 80s and 90s. People are welcome to their own interpretations, without any question whatsoever, and Cline may be insufferable about taking credit for things he shouldn't, but personally I'd have just as difficult a time taking his book any more seriously or profoundly than I would a Harry Potter, Twilight, or Lord of the Rings book, or any other work of fantasy on the YA bookshelf — many of which often also have similarly not-so-great representations of genders, sexualties, and ethnicities, as it happens. Tomorrow's fiction will almost invariably do a better job of that, as attitudes change.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:40 PM on November 25, 2020


> “If you were ten years old in 1988 and you’re still ten years old now rp1 is your book.”

As my daughter points out, you just described Bart Simpson.
posted by mbrubeck at 6:02 PM on November 25, 2020 [12 favorites]


Tomorrow's fiction will almost invariably do a better job of that, as attitudes change.

Today's fiction is doing a better job of that. Including YA fantasy; Kristin Cashore's stuff, for example, is really thoughtful about gender dynamics and consent, Natasha Ngan and Rokshani Chokshi and Melissa Bashardoust are doing great things with nonwestern worldbuilding, and we're seeing a ton of great LGBTQ+ books in YA lately. The last YA book I read was a story of a 2nd-generation Vietnamese-American coming out to his parents, braided with retold fairy tales, and it's great.

The bar is already higher.
posted by Jeanne at 6:30 PM on November 25, 2020 [12 favorites]


The bar was higher in the 1980s in prose. Even without counting fanfic.
posted by clew at 7:57 PM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


ctl+f airwolf

0 hits
.

ok then

This [MP3] was Cline's peak, and he should have stopped there.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:07 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


The bar is already higher.

I don’t know if I’d fully appreciated how reactionary RP1 is until I’d read this comment.
posted by mhoye at 4:57 AM on November 26, 2020


Ironically, Cline seems to have created books that are immune to nostalgia.

"Remember when we read that book about remembering when we saw that movie?"
posted by panama joe at 8:00 AM on November 26, 2020 [7 favorites]


This [MP3] was Cline's peak, and he should have stopped there.

Transcribed here if you'd rather read than listen.
posted by straight at 12:44 PM on November 27, 2020


Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

I saw this post on Tuesday, went "oh good, that's out on Audible", and didn't read any of the links or comments on here until I'd finished listening to it through work.

I'm fucking glad I didn't. Because due to the fact that I enjoy the literary equivalent of junk food every once in a while, I'm apparently someone who probably doesn't read much, the kind of guy who beat me up when I was younger, think I'm 'special' and a potential neo-nazi recruit, who is sort of proto-Trumpian, and has shown no growth since the 1980s.

Ironic part of this? Going from the Twitter threads linked in the post, a lot of people don't seem to have the basic literary comprehension that the narrator's behaviour isn't exactly presented as admirable or sympathetic. The stereotypical geek isolation and stalking behaviour in particular comes across as "this is a bad thing that he is doing". I mean, this is a book about 80s and 90s pop culture, where the characters have strong anti-establishment and surveillance feelings throughout the first book, where there's characters modelled on Jobs and Wozniak, and people don't realise that "since I had already violated her privacy, I decided to go full-on Big Brother and look at her headset feeds" is meant to put you off the narrator?

Listening to it I thought Cline was a bit heavy handed with how obvious it was, but apparently not obvious enough. Apparently it needs Will Wheaton chewing on the scenery to actually get across that no, being able to relive the experience of your mother giving birth to you is not being presented as A Good Thing the technology could deliver, and that the socially self-isolated, complaining billionaire bankrupting bands isn't A Good Person.

The book is empty calories, it's full of references, it's clunky, but it's still kind of fun. A short summary of the (heavy handed) thrust could be "if you spend all your time online, if all you know is geek culture, if you think you're better than other people, if you don't think about other people, then it won't matter how rich or how much you own, you still won't be happy". Or to put it another way, it "holds up a crooked mirror to the gatekeeping whoever-dies-with-the-most-nerd-shit-wins fanboys, showing them their true form and shattering the heroic delusion they have built of themselves." I mean, there are literal scenes where characters die, dropping their huge piles of nerd-shit, with heavy undertones (overtones?) about how the amount of stuff they had didn't save them or make them happy. Oh, or how the previous generation's ur-geek accidently turns himself into the supervillain who threatens to kill billions.

It's not at all subtle, but it's extremely far from what some people seem to think it is.

And yes, I am still a wee bit angry with some of the generalisations about people who enjoyed the two books.
posted by MattWPBS at 4:58 PM on November 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea that criticizing the RP(n) franchise is on the same level as mocking the Twilight books etc...and I really can’t make sense of that argument. There’s nothing worth protecting here, this is not a marginalized group by any stretch of the imagination. Twilight is problematic as hell, but it exists in and for a cohort that has always been underserved, so it requires a more conscientious approach. RP1 is written for a majority that likes to pretend it’s not the majority.

I’m happy to be wrong about this, but I know I won’t be. These books are completely and utterly unnecessary. And by the way, if you think they can be redeemed as gateway-lit for people who are allergic to reading, well, I’ve got a whole shelf of manga ready to fight you.

*****

You know that old trope where The Cool Uncle catches The Kid smoking and he’s like “ok you wanna smoke? Here you go, smoke THIS WHOLE CIGAR” and then The Kid smokes the whole cigar and promptly gets massively sick and turns green and is all like “guess I learned my lesson and will never smoke again”

That’s what reading RP1 did for me and my relationship to nostalgia. It is just way too much of a thing that everyone already knows is not very good for you. It fucking sucks, AND it promotes really nasty ideas about pretty much everything that isn’t a white dude in the precious 38-45 demographic.

Jesus Christ Wade, indeed.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:04 PM on November 27, 2020 [7 favorites]


Obviously Cline had the commercial acumen to make his scathing critique of nerd collectible culture also interpretable as a celebration of such, given sufficiently motivated reasoning. It's as if Bret Easton Ellis had written American Psycho to also function as an Art Of War-style inspirational guide to how to be a winner in the boardroom and the bedroom, and of course, made an absolute mint on the merchandising, and consequently the idea that Patrick Bateman was a delusional creep rather than some kind of Galtian alpha-titan to emulate was a fringe idea, out there with Marxist deconstructions of Donald Duck.
posted by acb at 5:54 AM on November 28, 2020 [4 favorites]


"scathing critique of nerd collectible culture".

Nice strawman.

I'm not arguing that, simply making the point that saying Ready Player Two is a celebration of the same is hard to stand up.

Like a few people have said in this thread have said (both people who enjoyed this or the first, and detractors), the books have a large target of people who grew up in the 80s and 90s, and were into the nerdy side of things. We are talking about D&D, Lord Of The Rings, computer geeks, etc. The charge has been made in this thread that the book is some kind of celebration of the problematic extremes of this nerd collectible culture, by yourself and by others.

Let me lay out the rough plot journey of the narrator in Ready Player Two as I see it. Spoilers, obviously. The book picks up after the end of Ready Player One, where him and his three friends have defeated the corporation who were trying to take over the worldwide virtual reality, and become owners of the largest company in the world. He finds this new technology, and blows up his relationship with his girlfriend by prioritising it over her.

He withdraws from real life further, while using his new found wealth to buy all kinds of nerd collectibles. He is depicted as lonely, sad and unhinged. Needing human connection, but being so far in denial that he doesn't realise it. The remaining two co-owners are shown as having a much healthier relationship with both their wealth and technology in contrast to him, while his ex is firmly focused on real world problems. He on the other hand occasionally sits in replicas of movie cars he never drives, owns clothes he never wears, and talks to artificial therapists that he knows don't work.

The second easter egg hunt kicks off, and his particular nerd knowledge is useless in identifying the way to solve it. His only starting off point is by being helped by someone else. The technology he prioritised over his girlfriend is then directly responsible for threatening the lives of billions of people. None of his collection of things is useful in defeating this. There is (again) heavy handed symbolism showing how the blind following of the technology damages the healthy relationships in the book (the spouses cut off from their partners inside their tech coffins). The irredeemable bad guy is an AI based on the narrator's hero in the first book - the co-founder ultra geek, who apparently had even less understanding of boundaries than the narrator and copied his crush's brain (who has married to the other co-founder) rather than spying on her. This AI now believes he has the right to do anything with this copy, that he has a right to her affections and company, and that he can make her love him.

Again, it's not possible for the narrator to solve the riddles through his game geek knowledge, wealth or collections, but through rebuilding relationships with others, or relationships with people in his past. This isn't subtle - one of them is only doable because of the time he spent with his mother. It's also around this time where the book has friend's avatars dying, dropping all their items, and heavy handed lines about how owning so much stuff didn't save them. If I had the text rather than audio, I'd find you some examples. When it comes to defeating the villain, the narrator is only able to get there due to reconciliation with his ex, and is not able to do it himself. That requires the living co-founder to fight and sacrifice himself, to save the copy of his wife's brain from the AI. Ending after that is quite poorly written and rushed, and feels like Cline not really knowing how to reconcile everything. That concludes the /spoilers.

Throughout the book those who are the stereotypical nerd culture types are very bluntly depicted as damaged, lonely, or out right evil. Over reliance on the virtual world and the VR McGuffin is shown as nearly destroying humanity. The only way it is defeated is through relationships with people, rather than technology or possessions.

I'd like to know your interpretation of how you read the book. I'd like to know why you think it requires 'sufficiently motivated reasoning' to see it as the above. Honestly, it's so heavy handed and clumsily done through the book that I'd suggest it needs that motivation to ignore it.

There's plenty of valid criticism of Cline personally, problems with the first book, his writing style and the misuse of cultural references in the book or film. Again, I'm not suggesting this is some 'scathing critique' or a literary masterpiece. It's a junk food book, and needs a fair amount of tolerance of bad writing to enjoy, but it's one which really doesn't fit the narrative of a celebration of the excesses of nerds and geeks.
posted by MattWPBS at 10:33 AM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: we didn't read the book.
posted by Nelson at 10:50 AM on November 28, 2020


MattWPBS, you have come down on the point exactly: it's a mediocre-at-best novel by a mediocre-at-best white man. And it has received enormous marketing efforts, sucking vast amounts of resources away from excellent non-white male authors with excellent books who are struggling mid-market and need every tiny bit of help they can get.

It's not that it's a shit book, it's not that he's a shit author, it's that he's making a shitload of money and far more deserving people are not.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:26 AM on November 28, 2020 [5 favorites]


Seanmpuckett - again, that's valid criticism. There's better books out there from better authors that don't get the attention they would in an ideal world. To me that's something endemic in the industry, rather than one book though.

That's not what I have the problem with in this thread. It's the mischaracterisation of the book, and the associated criticism of people who enjoy it for what it is as simple, misguided or reactionary. I don't think you've indulged in that.
posted by MattWPBS at 12:56 PM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


Again, it's not possible for the narrator to solve the riddles through his game geek knowledge, wealth or collections, but through rebuilding relationships with others, or relationships with people in his past. This isn't subtle - one of them is only doable because of the time he spent with his mother. It's also around this time where the book has friend's avatars dying, dropping all their items, and heavy handed lines about how owning so much stuff didn't save them. If I had the text rather than audio, I'd find you some examples. When it comes to defeating the villain, the narrator is only able to get there due to reconciliation with his ex, and is not able to do it himself.

It sounds like it was written with the Spielberg adaptation in mind.
posted by acb at 1:48 PM on November 28, 2020


Thank you MattWBPS for providing a summary. Most of us read the pages that were originally linked (now taken down for copyright violation) and the person who posted those interpreted them differently. It is nice to read a different interpretation.

That being said, my stance on RP1, which I did read, still stands. I even enjoyed it the way I enjoy pub trivia. I never said that people who read it are neo nazis to start with or become neo nazis because they read it. That is not how books work. Instead I pointed out that it is well-documented that neo-nazi groups recruit on the Internet by finding folks who identify strongly with these themes and then slowly introduce them to propaganda.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:59 PM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


One of the problems I have with RP1, RP2 and adjacent works full of geek pop culture references, plot points, nostalgia, and swag is the same problem I and many BIPOC have when white Americans of a certain age talk about "the" 80s pop. music: our fandom and creations alike are thrust to the side unless they are exceptionally noteworthy whereas even the most obscure one-hit white acts will get a shout out.

When white Americans talk about the 80s musical legacy, we black Americans get all the main references: Madonna, WHAM, Spandau Ballet, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, etc. For my black friends and family, though, the 80s pop music world also includes major and enduring works from the likes of Midnight Star, Atlantic Starr, Maize and Frankie Beverly, non-Ghostbusters Ray Parker Jr ( Key & Peele sketch notwithstanding, he has a significant body of work outside of his most famous song), Planet Patrol, Stacy Lattisaw, Whodini, etc -- and I'd be willing to bet cash money my LatinX peoples could mention a ton of groups outside of Menudo that were hugely important to them in the 80s that I lack awareness of. Same with my Asian friends, Caribbean friends, and so on.

Same with this geek stuff. I'm a wee bit younger than Cline, and I grew up in the ghetto, the dirt poor and dilapidated ghetto that would shock most Americans, but we still were all over the same stuff he grew up with. We didn't have cable, but I guess anime was inexpensive for networks to pick up in syndication back then, because we also watched the hell out of Robotech/Macross city, Tranzor Z, Battle of the Planets, Voltron, and so on. We were all over the kaiju films of the time. There were comic book racks in the convenience stores, and we read the hell out of them. There were arcades. Being poor gave us extra incentive to, using a fairly recent video game term, git gud: every token really, really, really counted when you couldn't be sure about your next bit of discretionary money. A lucky few had Ataris and Colecovisons and NESs, and we played the games as obsessively as anybody in Cline's circles or stories. We had terms for the games and shows and feats in them and the characters that spoke to our spin on them, and I've not seen the represented widely anywhere.

And that continues today, with younger folks. I've been meaning to make a FPP about RDCWorld for quite some time: their spin on anime, comics, and video game culture and references is hilarious and comes from a totally different but equally valid place as Cline et al's.

Back to video games, even outside of eliding non-whites, Cline's take on it leaves out sports games, I've noticed. Tecmo Bowl, Double Dribble, NBA Jam, Madden, Blades of Steel, etc. All major parts of video gaming from the 80s to today, and arguably even more niche -- I doubt that even folks who are familiar with Ninja and Pewdepie could tell us much about the people who've won the last few Madden tournaments -- but left out of accounts of "gamer" culture because reasons. It would have been stupidly easy to include someone replicating Tecmo Bowl's epic, unstoppable Bo Jackson runs in a battle scene in RP1 or RP2.

So it's grating to see that, as with 80s pop music, Cline's take on gaming/geek culture is represented as the take on it. So many perspectives being left out, so many voices not even getting a chance to be heard.

(Btw, don't even get me started on how Aech is a black woman, but in RP1, somewhat similar to Tiana in Disney's The Princess and the Frog, she spends most of the narrative as something other than a black woman....)
posted by lord_wolf at 2:30 PM on November 28, 2020 [19 favorites]


I am exactly the right age for these books. I read a lot and mostly Very Serious Literature. My experience was that the first third of RP1 was delightful, I was delighted, I was happy tearing through it at light speed, catching every reference. Second third I was like...OK? And last third I was laughing at the fact that I just spent hours of my life reading this book, and just willing myself to the end. Quite an experience and one in the end I'm glad I had, I both loved and despised the novel.

The biggest surprise was when my (then) 10 year old son picked it up, who probably understood 30% of the references, and declared it his favorite book of all time, ever. This kid doesn't read as much as I did/do but had read pretty much every mainstream YA fantasy/sci-fi title for his age group. I was surprised, I didn't want to burst his bubble but I did some interrogation and basically he didn't care about the references, he was rooting for the main character. We may call this protagonist a Mary Sue , but there's room for Mary Sues in literature, especially if you're 10.
posted by chaz at 4:23 PM on November 28, 2020 [4 favorites]


It's as if Bret Easton Ellis had written American Psycho to also function as an Art Of War-style inspirational guide to how to be a winner in the boardroom and the bedroom, and of course, made an absolute mint on the merchandising, and consequently the idea that Patrick Bateman was a delusional creep rather than some kind of Galtian alpha-titan to emulate was a fringe idea, out there with Marxist deconstructions of Donald Duck.

The way different people react to Glengarry Glen Ross and the mood in which they quote it is a version of this.

Although since it has the Spacey taint that may happen a lot less now.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:34 PM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


Looking forward to your forthcoming FPP ranking Giant Ant Novels from Worst to Bratwurst.

Die Antwoorst, surely.

[sports games] left out of accounts of "gamer" culture because reasons

I think this is a leftover of the jock/nerd dichotomy more than anything else.

I'm in the same place MattWPBS is (and I've commented about this on the blue before). There is a lot of "because this is a bad book, you're a bad person for enjoying it" in this thread.

There are a LOT of very valid criticisms of the book and of Cline here, and that's great. I hadn't before dug into him much outside of his books (and I've enjoyed RP1, Armada, and now RP2) so, for example, hearing his take on Oculus and his place in VR UI history is kind of a dash of cold water.

But *liking his books doesn't make me a bad person*. And I'm kind of tired of my favorite place on the Internet telling me that I'm wrong about that.
posted by hanov3r at 8:13 AM on December 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


[sports games] left out of accounts of "gamer" culture because reasons

I think this is a leftover of the jock/nerd dichotomy more than anything else.


With a generous topping of racism.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:29 PM on December 1, 2020


Laura Hudson's review is up on Slate.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 10:52 PM on December 1, 2020


I appreciated MattWPBS's contrarian posts here because he'd actually read the book. And brought back an idea new to me, that Ready Player Two was actually an ironic criticism of all the awful stuff we complained about in RP1.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that the whole world could misread a work of art because I saw that happen with one of my favorite sci-fi films, Starship Troopers. Somehow on release folks got the idea Verhoeven, a Dutch survivor of WW2, actually made a pro-fascist space movie. Most critics and viewers missed the (rather heavy-handed) irony and criticism. They saw Doogie Hauser in a various forms of SS uniforms and thought "Verhoeven is a Nazi!" It's amazing how wrong a pile-on can be. And hell, most of us here commenting on RP2 haven't actually read it; were mostly complaining from our experience reading RP1.

So could Cline really be that self-critical? Did he learn something from RP1? Could he be that subtle in his writing? Let's see what Laura Hudson's review says:
From the perspective of anyone but Wade, Ready Player Two is a horror story that thinks it is a fantasy, narrated by a monster who thinks he is the hero. ...

“I was both omnipotent and invulnerable, so there was literally nothing anyone could do to stop me,” he says, every bit the little boy in that Twilight Zone episode who wishes anyone who upsets him away to the cornfield. ...

Despite the novel’s patina of self-awareness, Wade will never be aware of how terrible he is or change in any way that matters. Instead, like a true modern villain, he will simply gaslight you with performative feints at regret and solidarity that ultimately trail off into nothing as he doubles down. You may then be tempted to think that this is intentional, some sort of knowing, ironic commentary on the failures of the previous book or the very concept of “wokeness.” It is not. If Cline had any meaningful awareness of his protagonist’s dramatic heel turn, it might have made for a far more interesting read. He does not.
Guess the answer is "nah". I'm not going to read RP2 so I'm going to have to trust her on this. It's interesting that this critical reading is possible, even if it's not supported by the author or the text directly. And that Hudson and MattWPBS both found it. But that doesn't mean Cline intended it. Maybe readers just finally found a way to remix Cline's awfulness in their heads.
posted by Nelson at 6:32 AM on December 2, 2020 [5 favorites]


There's better books out there from better authors that don't get the attention they would in an ideal world. To me that's something endemic in the industry, rather than one book though.

How do you think things become "endemic in an industry"? It's not (mostly) from some Evil Publisher Overlord sending out a memo
going, "I only want middle-aged white gamer novels or you're all fired." They happen one book or approved film script or casting decision or hiring decision at a time.

And people aren't asking for some kind of "ideal" world, just for one that's maybe just a little bit better. Which you can get by having people in the industry and customers publicly point out that, yes, choosing to devote resources to buying and promoting one book contributes to problems across an industry.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:38 AM on December 2, 2020


Like I said:
Ending after that is quite poorly written and rushed, and feels like Cline not really knowing how to reconcile everything.
He's got these different stands going on, all these different notes he's tried to hit, but doesn't quite get to grips with them, has no idea how to resolve them, or (seemingly) space. The ending's close to a sudden "and they all lived happily ever after"/"it was all a dream", when there's huge amounts to be resolved. Not just in terms of awareness of how the narrator acts, the consequences and impacts of his actions, the character conflicts, but the basic storyline as well.

One difference between Verhoeven and Cline is key here. Verhoeven is inarguably good at what he does. Ready Player Two isn't a good book, Cline is not a good author, and is not adept at handling things outside of his direct experience. He's ham fisted, and you need a lot of tolerance of bad writing to be able to enjoy the book for the nostalgia stuff, even more so than the first one. I wouldn't recommend that you or anyone else read this, because Ready Player Two is not a particularly well done book. It's not self-critical, subtle, or a knowing ironic commentary. I'm not quite sure how to properly articulate this, but those are orders of magnitude above the skill level of Cline.

These kind of points are like questioning what a painter like Verhoeven intended with a particular stroke of his brush, how the light plays across it, how the build up of the paint casts different shadows from its thickness and structure. Problem is that Cline is a house painter, and these critiques of his work need calibrating on the level of noticing that he's tried not to paint over the windows this time. Operative word being tried, you're still getting at least one window with an opaque layer of weatherproof paint over the glass, most of the others have got splashes and their frames painted along with the wall. He is not good at avoiding the proverbial windows. It's more Dead Snow than Starship Troopers.

Not just myself or Hudson picking up on it though.

Natalie Zutter at DenOfGeek:
These interludes also have Parzival getting schooled by Art3mis and Aech for the gaps in his knowledge, for following Halliday’s broad-yet-narrow tastes and inheriting the man’s blind spots for pop culture that might have been more significant for women and people of color. It’s a different kind of self-awareness than existed in Ready Player One, but it feels more performative than anything else because it still comes from the perspective of a white man.
[...]
Nonbinary people exist in the OASIS and IRL, and one of the new supporting characters is trans, though the reader mostly experiences this through Wade’s own journey of acknowledging his own sexual confusion. Wade has become more woke, but he mostly proclaims such wokeness instead of actually acting on it.
Samantha Nelson at AVClub.
The tension between self-awareness and self-indulgence runs throughout the sequel, as Cline makes it clear he’s read plenty of the criticism leveled at his first novel and clumsily tries to address it. Some holes are easier to fix than others, like complaints that narrator Wade Watts, a.k.a. Parzival, resurrected his best friends after they were killed in the epic battle of good geeks versus evil corporate drones at the end of Ready Player One. The core problem—that the novel’s vision of geekdom focuses entirely on the favorite media of cishet white men—is more difficult to address.
Germain Lusier at io9.
Cline smartly ventures into other areas of culture with these quests (music, romantic comedies, feminism), but everything about them is hugely imbalanced. A few are short, sweet, and impactful. Others are totally random and feel out of place. Some are way too long and overly descriptive.
[...]
Cline may be 48 years old but he’s writing about a teenage nerd in the voice of a teenage nerd, and this teenage nerd character, like Cline, seems to be learning on the fly. At times, the story feels like the meandering work of someone from the past trying to navigate this new, culturally enlightened landscape we live in; while the book does stuff like bring in more powerful women and talk openly and inclusively about sexuality, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s engaging and interesting, other times it’s short-sighted and awkward.
[...]
That Kira is now the focus of the entire book feels like Cline’s acknowledgment that his women characters need more depth. But the ways in which he achieves this for her are so incredibly heinous and cruel, you almost wish it wasn’t the case. So again, you have the author learning, but fumbling the attempt.
[...]
Lo, as they call her, is a trans woman, and her storyline included some terribly clumsy attempts to explain Wade’s fascination with her and humanity’s new outlook on such things. Unfortunately, the book messes it up further, ultimately using Lo and her friends as mere plot devices, never exploring anything about her character, and making the mention of her gender feel like nothing more than window dressing.

This goes on and on and on.
Badly written book, but not bad like the Necronomicon, as some of the pile on seemed to be going towards.
posted by MattWPBS at 11:39 AM on December 2, 2020 [2 favorites]


@SoundGuy99 - that's valid criticism, that's what I expect from people on here. What my anger and objections have been about is some of the condescension and sneering that other comments have had towards people who've enjoyed the books.

The fact Ready Player Two is bad doesn't justify those.
posted by MattWPBS at 11:56 AM on December 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


What my anger and objections have been about is some of the condescension and sneering that other comments have had towards people who've enjoyed the books.

I just scrolled back to the top of this thread and reread every comment. I found one that I could see possibly being interpreted as direct criticism of people who like the book, but it wasn't condescending or sneering. There's a lot of criticism of the author, the industry, and society, but I'm not seeing anyone directly criticizing people who liked it.

Which comments in particular do you consider condescendingly sneering?
posted by Lexica at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2020


Which comments in particular do you consider condescendingly sneering?

21 (as of this writing) favorites for this comment claiming that people who enjoyed these books don't read says a lot.
posted by hanov3r at 2:53 PM on December 2, 2020 [2 favorites]


this comment claiming that people who enjoyed these books don't read says a lot.

From that comment:
because it was certainly true of every person I know in real life who said they enjoyed the book.

Sorry I offended you with my lived experience. If you think I'm making assumptions you definitely don't know me, because I'm exactly the kind of person who will ask an acquaintance to their face "do you actually read books though."

Also, if we're talking condescending sneering, I admit to an extra level of saltiness over this book in particular because of the coworker who told me I obviously just didn't like RP1 because I didn't like "geeky things" and so I couldn't possibly get it. A coworker who by the way never once asked me about my interests ever. A coworker who by the way introduced himself to me as "a huge Star Wars fan" and then didn't even know who Porkins was, ffs. When I asked him, the last book he had read was Cloud Atlas. And the last book he had read before that he didn't remember, it had been assigned to him in high school. This thirty five year old man.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ernest Cline hasn't apologized, so why should I.
posted by phunniemee at 3:09 PM on December 2, 2020 [7 favorites]


Which comments in particular do you consider condescendingly sneering?

It's reasonable for someone to take a comment that a work is juvenile, simple badness and infer from that that people who enjoyed that work must be the sort of people who enjoy juvenile, simple badness and not the better sort of people that reject such things. It's reasonable for someone to read a comment that a work is made for compulsive consumers and infer that if you enjoyed it, you must be one of those compulsive, passive consumers and not one of those better people who make things. It's reasonable for people to infer from the criticism that to some extent it's their neckbeardness getting criticized along with the book, just as it's reasonable to infer that criticism of the various Twilight books is also criticism of teenaged-girl-edness or that criticism of The Turner Diaries is also criticism of nazis.

This doesn't mean people shouldn't criticize stuff, but I don't see much point in pretending that there's a lot of daylight between saying that some work is bad and saying that people who sincerely enjoyed that work are also bad. When you criticize stuff, you hurt people who sincerely enjoy it or identify with it, and I don't think authorial intent of the commenter matters very much.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:12 PM on December 2, 2020 [2 favorites]


...and then didn't even know who Porkins was, ffs.

Is my laughing out loud at this okay, or does it make me part of the problem?

Nerd cred is real (so is sports cred, and fashion cred, and Victorian novelist cred). And I do think that the thing that RP1 did best was scratching that itch for a lot of people who hadn't felt culturally relevant before.

Doesn't make it a great novel or an unassailable one. But I still think it's a valid compliment.
posted by Mchelly at 5:59 AM on December 3, 2020


it was certainly true of every person I know in real life who said they enjoyed the book.

That part is your lived experience, and I don't doubt you in the least.

It's not that the book is good, you just don't read. It makes me sad, but it's a forgivable sin.

This does not read as your lived experience. This reads as you snarkily extrapolating that lived experience onto every one else that read the book.

because of the coworker who told me I obviously just didn't like RP1 because I didn't like "geeky things" and so I couldn't possibly get it

That's an absolutely shitty experience and I'm sorry that you had to deal with it. Gatekeeping *sucks* and mediocre men who assign themselves as gatekeepers (especially in places where they're not omniscient, like not knowing who Hero of the Rebellion Jek Porkins is) are the most obnoxious stratum of nerd-dom.
posted by hanov3r at 7:30 AM on December 3, 2020


And this is the point at which I link to the essay How to be a fan of problematic things.

In this case, primarily the third point: "Thirdly you must acknowledge other, even less favourable, interpretations of the media you like" and the last paragraph:
As fans, sometimes we need to remember that the things we like don’t define our worth as people. So there’s no need to defend them from every single criticism or pretend they are perfect. Really loving something means seeing it as it really is, not as you wish it were. You can still be a good fan while acknowledging the problematic elements of the things you love. In fact, that’s the only way to be a good fan of problematic things.

I don't see much point in pretending that there's a lot of daylight between saying that some work is bad and saying that people who sincerely enjoyed that work are also bad.

That last paragraph is the response to this idea - there is in fact a great deal of point in not pretending but acknowledging that there is a difference between calling someone's favorite or liked media or art or creative endeavor problematic and calling them problematic.

We have had this discussion again and again and again - calling someone's comments racist is not calling them as individuals racist, calling someone's favorite movie sexist is not calling them as individuals sexist, on and on and on. We have an entire set of disastrous socio-political movements that have gained power and abused that power largely through intentionally conflating these two perspectives - if you point out that a politician's economic policies will have a greater negative effect on racial minorities, their response is to claim in shocked tones that they are being called racists and thus derail the consideration of their policies. In light of this, cries of, "I feel personally attacked by your criticisms of this art" are particularly grating.

And they're grating here especially because what we are talking about is a book and universe that is aimed at (and created by) privileged people. I'm deeply sorry if you personally were bullied and mocked for liking nerdy/geeky things - I was too - but in an age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars Universe and the Doctor Who restart and Apple & Steve Jobs and CBS making a Star Trek show the flagship of its streaming service and the existence of streaming services at all and Elon Musk & Tesla and Silicon Valley distorting the housing market of Northern California . . . I'm sorry, but nerds and geeks rule the world. We can no longer claim the same underdog status we could maybe have claimed when we were 10.

Especially not the nerds and geeks that RP1 & 2 are aimed at - as others have pointed out upthread, the games and movies and books used as touchstones for these books are and were primarily for white males, and those white males are now middle-aged, probably at the height of their economic and social and cultural power. So the comparison to criticism of Twilight holds no water - when criticizing Twilight one always needs to be aware that they may be punching down, because of the lack of power and agency given to teenaged girls in our culture. Are we punching down at the middle-aged white male geeks that are overwhelmingly the people who get the most frission from the nostalgia evoked in the books? I submit that we are not - regardless of one individual's personal experiences in being bullied for being a geek, or if you're not middle-aged or white or male. Because that's how privilege works - you can belong to a privileged group of people even if your personal experiences have been unpleasant or harsh or cruel.

Yes, that bullying and mocking for being a geek may have been your lived experience, yes, your feelings are valid as feelings, but as privileged people I feel we have a moral obligation to consider whether criticism of a creative work - even snarky and rude criticism that could be read as implying disdain for fans of the work - constitutes a personal attack.

Because this close identification of fandom with identity has real-world toxic consequences - Gamergate happened, and Daisy Ridley was harassed and mocked and hated for being the young female hero of the last Star Wars trilogy, and Kelly Tran was driven off social media for her role in those movies, and famed and lauded comic creators have stalled or destroyed careers (Warren Ellis previously), and the same with film creators, and on and on and on.

mediocre men who assign themselves as gatekeepers (especially in places where they're not omniscient, like not knowing who Hero of the Rebellion Jek Porkins is) are the most obnoxious stratum of nerd-dom.

And yes, gatekeeping is a big part of this toxicity - the question is is are these men defined as mediocre because they gatekeep, or is the claim that only mediocre men do these things and the rest of us are OK? Because if it's the second then we are blowing right past even considering the extent to which this gatekeeping may be endemic and systemic. And that's a problem.

Because those gatekeepers? Those harassers? They feel rage and fury and anger when their beloved creative works are criticized. They feel the same emotions expressed by some people in this thread and elsewhere. Maybe you've never (intentionally) acted as a gatekeeper and harasser thanks to those emotions, but, again, I feel there's a strong moral obligation to consider those similarities.


Can stories help define us and teach us and create our individual personalities? Absolutely - I feel utterly confident in saying I am who I am at least partly because of Iain M. Banks and Ross Macdonald and Hüsker Dü and Star Trek the original series in syndication and the first Star Wars trilogy (which if y'all want some nerd cred I saw them all multiple times on first theatrical release.) But, again - "the things we like don’t define our worth as people." So if you are reacting to criticism of things you like as if they are criticizing your worth as a person - reactions that would very much include rage, anger, and fury, and claiming that those criticisms are hurting people - it seems to me that you have lost sight of that important perspective.

And, again, moral obligations - if you have even the slightest inkling of hoping to help to create a kinder and more equitable world, or even what seems a small corner of the world, like SF readers and fandom, or gaming and gamer culture, or whatever, or even just be able to discuss arts and media and creative endeavors without punching down or crowding out other perspectives - then I would say that you have that obligation to examine your emotional reactions and consider how those reactions compare with the toxic elements of our culture. Especially when as possibly privileged people you are reacting to criticism of works created by and for other privileged people.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2020 [8 favorites]


are these men defined as mediocre because they gatekeep, or is the claim that only mediocre men do these things and the rest of us are OK

Neither, really. Mediocre is pretty much the default for white men because we generally haven't had to work to be more than that. Gatekeeping adds a place where those who gatekeep can feel powerful without actually having to rise to do any work.

Especially when as possibly privileged people you are reacting to criticism of works created by and for other privileged people.

But let's also differentiate between criticism of the works and criticism of the people who enjoy the works, shall we? "This thing is bad for reasons" (or even just "this thing is bad") is absolutely a valid criticism. "It's not that the book is good, you just don't read" is a criticism of the people who enjoyed the work. I'm not hurt because other people don't enjoy the work in the way that I do. I'm hurt because it's been made clear that, to some people, my enjoying the work represents a character flaw.
posted by hanov3r at 10:36 AM on December 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


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