When I was a kid, I regularly read Whizzer & Chips and Buster and occasionally read of the Disney comics, but I never got into the DC/Marvel worlds – probably because they were too expensive and I was quite happy with books. Over the years I occasionally flicked through a comic, and I was vaguely aware of the major storylines, but never a regular comic reader. Over the last month, I’ve tried out the comic world. more »
Jeff Atwood, one of the founders of the StackExchange network, chose to mark his last (day-to-day) day at the company with a post disparaging identification questions. As Jeff pointed out in his post, the story-identification tag is the second most common on our site right now, so I’d like to point out why our community feels that these are a valuable part of the site, where we disagree with Jeff’s viewpoint, and hopefully give you a bit better understanding of how decisions about what’s on-topic are made (and then re-made, and re-made, and …).
The community consensus gets hashed out on “meta” – there have been quite a few discussions about story identification questions (starting way back at the launch of the site, up to and including during the recent moderation elections), so you should head over there if you’d like to make your opinion heard, or read in more depth (good places to start are here and here) – what’s below is heavily based on the content from there (I’ve borrowed some sentences verbatim).
This is my personal opinion as a user of the site, not an official statement.
The first moderator elections for scifi.stackoverflow.com are now underway! Back in February 2011 we gained “pro tempore” moderators, whose task was to guide the site through the beta phase (before then the Stack Exchange staff filled this role). Now that the site is fully launched, the community gets to elect its own moderators.
Moderators are the patient, respectful, and fair folk that lead the site and get access to the most powerful moderation tools and a few special resources. There’s not much in the way of reward, but there’s plenty of work, so we should be thankful to all of those that have put their name forward, and especially those that end up with the job.
Once elected, the moderators hold their office permanently, so you need to make sure that you get the mods that you want. Likewise, if you want to be a moderator, then this will be your last chance for likely a long time.
The election process is composed of two stages (or three if we get more than 10 nominees, which looks unlikely). The first, which ends in three days, is nominations. Any community member with at least 300 reputation may nominate themselves (you cannot nominate someone else – encourage them to nominate themselves instead). Each nominee writes a brief outline explaining why they are a good candidate, and anyone can comment on these – indeed you are encouraged to do so: ask the candidates anything that will help you make up your mind as to where your votes go.
We’re about to enter the election phase, when all members with at least 150 reputation can cast three votes: 1st choice, 2nd choice, and 3rd choice. All votes are private until the election is complete, at which point the election data file (the vote totals for all the candidates; no identification of who voted for whom) will be freely and permanently downloadable by anyone. The winners are determined using the Meek STV method.
There’s going to be a chat event where you can ask the candidates questions to better inform your vote. See this meta post for details about when it’s scheduled, or just keep an eye on the chat room calendar. You can also post questions on meta, if you find that better than chat.
Democracy is a highly imperfect process, but it is a participatory imperfect process. Please participate in our community elections. Your vote is your voice, so use it!
The Dark Mirror and Blade of Fortriu are the first two books in Juliet Marillier’s Bridei Chronicles. In The Dark Mirror we see the rise to kingship of Bridei, a 6th Century Pict as well as his relationship with Tuala, his half-human foster-sister, and in Blade of Fortriu two of the minor characters from Mirror, Ana and Faolan take center stage in a story that mostly develops their own backgrounds and futures, with one of Bridei’s significant battles forming a secondary backdrop story.
These stories are based on real historical characters (e.g. Bridei I of the Picts), with more overt magic than stories like Stewarts’s Merlin stories, but still maintaining a generally realistic feel. This is a form of historical fiction that I particularly enjoy, although not knowing much about the history of the Picts the relationship to real history mostly passed me by.
The central characters of The Dark Mirror are compelling enough that I enjoyed the novel, although the outcome is never really in doubt to the reader, and of little doubt to most of the characters too. The story never truly captivated me, however, and felt slightly rushed at times, moving quickly from age to age. The quirky cast of characters that educate Bridei as a child were all interesting, but none very fleshed out (I got the impression that they might be recognisable characters from Pictish history, but I wasn’t able to verify this).
I expected more of Bridei (especially given the name of the series) and Tuala in Blade of Fortriu, although Marillier’s sequels often leave behind the central characters of the previous stories. Bridei and Tuala do feature, but are decidedly minor characters. I found the story of Ana and Faolan less interesting, with Ana’s development particularly dull (although the characters note how much she has changed, I didn’t see much change at all), and Faolan’s background less interesting than Mirror suggested it might be.
A love triangle features strongly in Blade; I don’t have any objection to this trope in general, but it wasn’t well done here. Other than his magical nature and exceptional good looks, there was nothing appealing about Ana’s other beau, even though it was obvious throughout that she would end up with him, rather than Faolan. Perhaps there’s some sort of redemption and superior love waiting for Faolan in a later book (the end of the story suggests that he might feature centrally in a later novel in the series), but I was rather unsatisfied that he came out of the triangle so poorly.
I’d recommend reading The Dark Mirror, at least – it works well as a standalone novel – and would recommend Blade of Fortriu to anyone that enjoyed Mirror. However, if you’re new to Marillier, I’d suggest starting with the superior Wolfskin/Foxmask or the Sevenwaters novels.
DVK explains that this is the case: Lucas and Spielberg agreed to merge their universes (although they probably thought they were just adding Easter eggs), starting with a kid in a Yoda mask and a snippet of the “Yoda Theme” in E.T. and matched by the appearance of other “Children of the Green Planet” (i.e. others from the same planet as E.T., Brodo Asogi) in Phantom Menace.
HoloNet News Vol 531 #50 has a brief mention of Senator Grebleips (“Spielberg” backwards), established in Cloak of Deception to be from Brodo Asogi funding an “Extragalactic Survey”, presumably the one where E.T. visits Earth (or the one where a member of Yoda’s race does, making popular the masks).
A sequel to the novelization of the E.T. movie, E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet, confirms the tie in by stating that one of the names given to the planet is Brodo Asogi, and Children of the Green Planet is the translation of the name of E.T.’s species.
After almost a year in beta, we now have over 3000 users and an active community of science fiction fans (as well as a few users that are actively working in this area) providing input, answers, moderation, blog posts and their own time to make the site a global success.
Congratulations to all the members – your effort has paid off, and today scifi.stackexchange.com has graduated from a beta Stack Exchange website to a full-fledged member of the Stack Exchange family.
What does this mean?
Be sure to check out the error, CAPTCHA (human verification), about, and 404 (page not found) pages, and check out the different look of meta (and, while you’re there, take a look at some of the hot meta questions).
Privileges have changed.
Now that we’re not a beta site, the privileges required to do certain things have increased. That means there are fewer people to do them, and you might not be able to do everything that you could yesterday.
If you see something problematic, please comment and flag. Your moderators will be happy to close, reopen, migrate, protect or delete questions or answers that need it, especially if there’s comments and/or flags from multiple users saying that’s what needs to happen.
Remember that anyone can edit. Even if you lost the edit privilege, you can still edit any answer or question – it’ll just go into a moderation queue to be verified first. Again, there are fewer people to work through these suggested edits now, too, so it might take a little longer for the suggestions to be processed, but generally our moderators are super fast, so you probably won’t wait long. If your edit is approved, you get reputation, so it’s another way to build up to the privilege level that you used to enjoy.
Vote Early, Vote Often, and Vote Some More. Voting builds reputation, which will help more users earn the privileges that let the site be more user-run than moderator-run. When you’ve run out of votes, find an unanswered or poorly answered question and answer it, to gather more reputation for yourself.
We’re linked in the footer of regular Stack Exchange sites
Hopefully we’ll get some new visitors as a result. Please take care to be even more friendly and helpful than you already are to help out our new members. In particular, if you down-vote or vote to close, please make sure that you leave a comment (or upvote an existing comment) explaining what’s wrong with the question/answer, so that we encourage better participation by these new users, rather than scare them away.
Let your friends and fellow fans know about the site (and the blog!) – we get around 1500 visits a day, but the more people who come, the wider the pool of expertise we can bring in. This is just one giant leap towards becoming the authoritative site for science fiction and fantasy questions – we still need to work hard to get the rest of the way.
The Movies StackExchange site is now available to the public. If you’ve got questions that need answering by a film expert, then this is a good place to ask.
There don’t seem to be many sci-fi or fantasy movie questions yet, but if you’re particularly interested in or expert in film, then you might want to keep an eye on the questions there (if you’ve got an account on our site with at least 200 reputation, then if you associate the two accounts – you’ll be prompted to do this if you use the same OpenID – then you’ll start off there with 101 reputation).
If you’ve got a question about a science fiction or fantasy movie, where do you ask that question, now that there’s both sites? Consider who you would like an answer from: an expert in science fiction / fantasy, or an expert in movies in general; different types of questions will suit each site. Some questions will be perfectly acceptable on both sites, and in those cases it’s up to the asker to decide where they’d like to ask (in general questions won’t be migrated between the sites, and duplicates may exist on both sites, as long as they are not exact duplicates). You should definitely not post the same question on both sites, however.
Also, don’t forget that there’s a similar site for the written word, Literature, where there continue to be a reasonable number of science-fiction and fantasy literature questions, aimed more at a literature audience than a sci-fi/fantasy one.
Featured Question: In The Lord of the Rings, what important background information is contained in the poems?
Sometimes, a fairly simple question inspires an amazing answer. DVK noticed someone say that there was important background information contained in the poems found in lord-of-the-rings, but couldn’t recall any himself.
Personally, I admit that I often skip or lightly skim-read poetry in novels. Like many fantasy readers, I’ve read Lord of the Rings many times, and I’ve probably properly read the poetry only once or twice (I do remember using one of them in a school exercise, so it must be at least once!). Partly this is because I don’t enjoy the poetry form as much, and partly I guess I’m assuming that nothing important is happening there and I’d rather move forward to the action.
This question has only one main answer (there’s another, but the question was later revised – I do love the description of The Silmarillion as a “wonderful and tedious read”), but it’s over 2,000 words long! In it, Gilles explains that although you can get by without reading the poems – as I and I expect many others do – you’re reducing your enjoyment of the book by doing so. I highly recommend that you go and read the full answer, which analyses each poem in turn. Here I’ll simply touch on a few of the main points from each of the six books in the story.
In the first book of The Fellowship of the Ring, the poems introduce us to Hobbit and Elvish lore, behaviour, and attitude – there’s also the crucial rings rhyme (“Three Rings for the Elven-kings…”), which is probably the one poem that everyone has read.
The second book of Fellowship continues this, telling us more about the Elves, Bombadil, Dwarves and other peoples of Middle Earth, but also foreshadows events that will take place later in the story, and provides hints at the greater history of Arda that is more fully detailed in The Silmarillion and later books. The poetry in this book tells us a lot about who Aragorn is, and the background of his and Arwen’s relationship; we also get a hint as to Frodo’s eventual fate.
Just as the travellers move on in The Two Towers, so does the poetry. In book three, we learn more about the human lands and the Ents. Galadriel’s poems to the company are particularly prophetic in telling Aragorn what he must do, and Legolas what his fate shall be. The fourth book is the low point in the characters’ morale, and this is reflected by a lack of uplifting poetry – we mostly get rhymes from Gollum, which help us understand his character.
As we move to book five and The Return of the King, we get many poems and songs about the battles that are fought during this part of the tale. We get another poem leading Aragorn to the Paths of the Dead, and more background about the current and past state of Gonder and the Rohirrim.
In the final book, the poetry is about the historic events that the reader has either just read through or is about to, and marking the parting of ways that ends the story.
What we learn from Gilles, overall, is that the poems serve to illustrate the various cultures and the mental journey of the characters. It sounds like it’s time to pull the books of the shelf, and read them properly this time!
Not everyone is interested in manually heading to a website each day to check out what’s new - we’d rather get pushed any interesting new content when it arrives. Thankfully, there are a number of ways that you can get notified about new scifi.stackexchange.com content:
- Most pages have an feed, so you can subscribe to ‘recent questions‘, ‘questions about Doctor Who‘, or even to a specific question or user.
- Chat has iCalendar links, so you can subscribe to a room’s events or add a specific event to your favourite calendar application with a single click.
- The blog has a feed of its own.
- Great answers to questions (note that “great” here isn’t the same as in badges). I find this more useful than even the questions (which I’m likely to notice just browsing the site), since it’s easy to miss a great answer, especially if it gets added after you’ve already read a question.
- Requests for help (“can you answer”). If there’s a question that no-one has been able to answer, @stackscifi will put out a call for help.
- Notification of new blog posts, like this one.
- Upcoming chat events, like the fortnightly recommendation chat.
The Literature StackExchange site is now available to the public. If you’ve got questions that need answering by a literature expert, then this is a good place to ask – note that their current definition of “literature” is quite wide (it includes popular fiction, not just “those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit”).
The site actually has quite a large proportion of questions that are about science fiction and fantasy literature, so if you’ve got some expertise there, you might be interested in answering some questions for them (if you’ve got an account on our site with at least 200 reputation, then if you associate the two accounts – you’ll be prompted to do this if you use the same OpenID – then you’ll start off there with 101 reputation).
If you’ve got a question about science fiction or fantasy literature, where do you ask that question, now that there’s both sites? Consider who you would like an answer from: an expert in science fiction / fantasy, or an expert in literature in general; different types of questions will suit each site. Some questions will be perfectly acceptable on both sites, and in those cases it’s up to the asker to decide where they’d like to ask (in general questions won’t be migrated between the sites, and duplicates may exist on both sites, as long as they are not exact duplicates). You should definitely not post the same question on both sites, however.
If you’ve got questions about writing science fiction or fantasy, then you’re still probably best off asking over at Writers rather than Literature or our site. Note that the Literature site currently accepts recommendation questions, which are off-topic at our site, so if you’re after a science fiction or fantasy recommendation, then you can ask there (we continue to welcome these questions in chat, as well).