[COMP 98] What I thought:

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Sam Barlow

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Nov 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/18/98
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My reviews; written after I had played all games. Unless it was a *real*
problem I ignored technical issues. Reviews may include spoilers- I'm
presuming that people have played the games.

I haven't rated the games out of 10, but can categorize them in the
following ways:

The games I will remember for a long time:
Little Blue Men, Muse, Yodel

Games which I will remember for a while:
Photopia, The Plant, Mother Loose

Games which I will remember for a bit:
Cattus Attrox, Persistance of Memory

And now the reviews:
[Roughly in order of quality]

Little Blue Men

The best game of the competition by far. Good writing, very well
implemented world- the photocopier, etc. was very robust. The puzzles on
the whole were nice; didn't like the way I got the stool-- Having the
stool freed up as a by-product of an other puzzle wasn't good; it relied
on the player playing the game in a certain order; something which the
game avoided quite well the rest of the time. Oh, and it wasn't obvious
to me that the fire extinguisher was the best weapon. Loved the 'ending'
(the naked men). I think here we have to distance ourselves from the
character and the plot and say that this was the optimum ending because
it was the one which gave us a fuller understanding of what was going on
and also (and **much** more importantly) because it added another level
of complexity to the situation. By having the character leave and enter
another deluded "fake" situation the game cemented its strength as
metaphor and as a much more generally applicable work. Without this
ending we could have presumed that outside of the office was the "real"
world -- that this false situation was just a simple delusion of the
character and that it was therefore only relvant to him and it would
have been a simple escape game. By upping the ante and continuing the
layers of deception, by continuing the complexity the author retains, or
rather adds to the strength of the work. Bloody good stuff. And funny
too.

The Plant

Very little of the plant remains with me (when compared to LBM) but I
rate it highly because it was *very enjoyable*. I would compare it to an
Infocom game -- we have the logical, sensible, integrated puzzles; there
is our boss who follows us around constantly (like Floyd, the guy in
LGOP, Sherlock) and a nice plot. The game flows well and the plot is
interesting if very unoriginal. My only problems were (a) At the start I
played around in the garage, etc. for a while before seeing the events
at the plant which stilted the plot a little, I was thinking "Ok. I have
objects, there are puzzles, I'm in a text adventure -- but what is my
motivation for this??" When I saw the trucks it all clicked and
everything went along fine. (b) The Boss npc was curiously impotent.
Exactly how much did he know? Had he planned the breakdown? Why did he
do nothing?? He was like Sherlock in Infocom's game, but in that
Sherlock had a reason for standing back. But otherwise a very fine,
complete, robust game which is probably worth a re-play. And I -really-
liked the Dog puzzle; maybe a bit BorderZone-esque but still great fun.

Muse: An Autumn Romance

Yes. Lovely game. Its only fault was in the occasional way the game
ground to a halt; I liked the fact that it was possible to achieve some
very different endings, etc. But there was an "optimum" ending which
obviously I was trying to achieve -- yet it was easy for me to do
something wrong and not realise it, having the game stop in its tracks
with me trying every action I could think of. And this was
indistinguishable from moments when I *was* doing the right thing; but
not at the right time, or I had forgotten to do something else. I think
I only had a couple of situations like this, and they didn't harm the
game too much. This was the only game where I felt I was in character; I
felt like the old man who loved the young women- in all the other comp
games I was either *me* doing things, or me watching someone I was
commanding. And, as in LBM, the ending was honest, and true to the
piece.

I Didn't Know You Could Yodel

Sorry if I liked this game, but.. I did. Like a cheeky young child I
couldn't help liking it for its sheer energy and force of will. It was
probably the whole Jed (I think that was the name) house sequence that
won we over - so bizarre and funny in a Steve Meretzky way; Initially I
thought "Oh God.. TOILET jokes?!!" but once I had surrendered and gone
with the flow I found the whole thing *funny*. And for a home-grown the
parser wasn't too bad (unlike -ah!- Commute). Ok, so I had to check the
walkthru a few times but I didn't resent doing so; because the puzzles
did seem sensible in the game's mindset. It was my brain that was at
fault.

Photopia

Hmmm. This game *did* impress me. It *did* affect me. It was well
written. The dovetailing of various viewpoints worked and it all tied up
and made me go "oh ah" at the end. However it was *too* linear. I'm not
saying that there should have been harder puzzles (to get of mars, you
have to find the parts of a space suit and built it, etc..) but when a
game is so puzzle-free, I feel you need freedom. You wouldn't have lost
much by asking for <press enter> rather than the actions required as
demonstrated in the purple sequence. It wasn't like
Persistance-Of-Memory where asking the player to perform actions made
him think about them (they were hard things to do -- but if you didn't
do them you would die). In P-O-M, the interactive element combined with
the linearity communicated the emotions, etc. to the player. But
Photopia didn't have situations like that- the puzzles were just about
moving the story on. And switching between characters meant that I
didn't empathise as in Muse-- I was just an observer. This might have
been the point. But; I could have been an observer if this were a short
story. The colours were *nice* and helped divide the sections well, but
didn't really effect me otherwise. Everything was very well implemented
and well written, but I came away feeling like I had been on a
rollercoaster- plenty of thrills, etc. but it was just a rollercoaster.
And I disliked the multi-choice chat (though I don't want to start off
another "Ask vs. multiple choice thread so move on). Although Photopia
was an enjoyable and rewarding experience I wouldn't like other IF games
to go in this direction.

Mother Loose

Very nicely rendered; was fun to explore, and see the details. But the
puzzles sort of spoiled it for me-- the last puzzle foxed me for ages
until I resorted to the hints and even then I don't think it was
particularly obvious. With better puzzles could have worked really well.

Persistence of Memory

Nice. Whereas the puzzles in Enlightenment seemed contrived when I tried
other ways of solving them, the solutions to the puzzles in POM were
rigorous-- there -was- no way round them other than the actions the game
accepted. In this case the determininstic approach (you either die or do
it this way) worked; it was the game's way of getting its point across.
The writing was good, and the parser well done. My only complaint was
that the ending rubbed it in a bit too much -- to get that far you had
to have "got" the point; we didn't need it spelling out in lights.
Otherwise, great (if short) stuff.

Cattus Atrox

An OK game. Once I realised what I could and couldn't do I sort of
enjoyed myself. Then I started to get frustrated and annoyed. There
seemed to be so many *obvious* ways to escape the flat before being
killed-- but none were implemented. This is the only game I didn't
complete (other than 4in1) -- I just gave up.

Arrival

Reminded me too much of the previous competition "Zeffron's Almanac"-
funny aliens and OK puzzles. I didn't see the pictures/sounds because I
have an old computer, so I can't comment on how they contributed. Yes I
enjoyed it, but I can't see myself going back to it or remembering it in
a years time.

Enlightenment

Lovely "Gimmick"-- like Zero Sum Game; a knowing homage to old-style
adventuring. The documentation and stuff was nice; got me in an Infocom
mood. But the puzzles drove me insane. I can honestly say that I would
never have completed the game without hints -- even if I played it for
the rest of my life. Whereas ZSG had some really logical and well
implemented puzzles I didn't like those in Enlightenment. The reality of
the situation just didn't gel for me- it all seemed to contrived; not
being able to chuck stuff past the troll, etc. But the premise is still
a lovely one. If it hadn't been for the puzzles, I would have thoroughly
enjoyed this.

Informatory

Another "gimmick". Not much to say on this one.. On its use as a
learning tool? I felt that it was probably more a game to be played by
Informers, rather than a tool for novies. But I did enjoy myself quite a
bit.

Research Dig

I wasn't sure what I thought of this one really. It was pretty well done
(remeniscent of Early Infocom in style) but it seemed there was nothing
going on! The end was a -huge- anti-climax. It came so completely out of
the blue; this is the end?; oh? Maybe I'm just used to there being
monsters and exciting stuff in these Lovecraftian games. But can't
really fault it too much.

Four in One

Arghghg. Well written, and thought out, etc. But the really mechanical
nature of the brothers killed it for me. I saw what I needed to do, but
I didn't want to. Just seeing "... goes west. ... goes south" ad
infinitum reminded me of a dreadful attempt I made at doing an IF
party-sim when I first got my hands on Inform. For me the more input the
author makes, and the less "rules" there are, the better the game.
That's why I ended up leaving this game to one side. With material like
the Marx Bros so much more could have been done.

Where Evil Dwells

Very patchy, sloppy, Lovecraftian game which didn't scare or engage me.
The majority of the puzzles were fine; there were a few that I needed
the walkthru with. But it felt like several different games slapped
together and didn't really leave me with any lasting memories. Like
"Horror of Rylvania", when you have too many -obvious- "puzzles" &
"puzzle" objects floating around it just kills the atmosphere for me.
Makes AnchorHead look even better.

The Ritual of Purification

Didn't like this-- it felt like something that would happen if you fed
lots of dark, symbollic, bloody comic books into the Inform Compiler and
forced it to make a game. The fact that you had spells to cast wasn't
obvious to me until I checked the walkthru which meant ages of hitting
my head against interactive-walls. And it failed to move me in any way.

Purple

The bugginess, and the puzzles meant that I ended up typing in the
walkthru for this one. It could have been good, but the writing was too
inconsistent (I wasn't even sure at the start, whether the purple cloud
was something my character should have been scared of) and the locations
didn't tie together; they seemed disjoint and I found it hard to
remember directions between them.

Acid Whiplash

Funny. The puzzles worked, after a little thought. But I do find myself
tiring of in-joke games. Dissapointing after Cody's Zero Sum Game which
was the best thing last year.

Spacestation

If Balances was how to turn a transcript into a game, this was how not
to. It wasn't that -bad-, but was quite thinly implemented and didn't
have any of the humour or interest of Planetfall/ Stationfall.

Downtown Tokyo. Present Day.

Amusing, but I didn't really get much out of this. Didn't like the
intrusive Ascii-art.

Lightiania

Scrappy TADS programming and confusing; I kept trying to solve puzzles
that had been left out in the final release. But it wasn't a bad
experience- I did enjoy playing it.

CC

I wasn't sure what the point was, and the succinct responses didn't
help. Reasonable puzzles, etc. Average.

Trapped in a One-Room Dilly

Didn't like this. The puzzles didn't lend themselves to me, and there
was no story, or point -- it was just an interactive Mensa test. This
isn't why I play IF.

Fifteen

I kind of enjoyed this-- the puzzles were logical, and I liked the maze.
Not much else to say.

The Commute

I don't think I have to list my reasons for not enjoying this game.
Though, at some points I did-- the parser was so wierd that interacting
itself became a puzzle. And what a -mundane- plot!

In the Spotlight

Like One-Room-Dilly but with only one logic puzzle; I didn't like this.
*A* puzzle? Wow. And the puzzle didn't really seem to make sense - I
couldn't visualise it given the descriptions the program gave me, though
the solution was obvious.

Human Resources Stories

Interactive-Fiction competition. What we have here is
Interactive-QUESTIONNAIRE. And I didn't find the programming-jokes
funny. This was the first 'game' to be deleted from my hardrive.


Thankyou for listening,

Sam.


Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/18/98
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I note that several people have said "Photopia isn't interactive enough"
-- for example:

Sam Barlow (sb6...@bris.ac.uk) wrote:

> Everything was very well implemented
> and well written, but I came away feeling like I had been on a
> rollercoaster- plenty of thrills, etc. but it was just a rollercoaster.
> And I disliked the multi-choice chat (though I don't want to start off
> another "Ask vs. multiple choice thread so move on).

I'd just like to repeat that this is not a universal view. I thought
Photopia had *exactly* the right amount of interaction. For itself.

> Although Photopia
> was an enjoyable and rewarding experience I wouldn't like other IF games
> to go in this direction.

This is a dreadful thing to say. This is saying that this particular
style (subgenre) of IF is dead -- nobody should ever do it again. What if
someone else had come up with a game of this style last year? Should Adam
then not have written Photopia?

You may say, if you like, that you wouldn't like *all* other IF games to
go in this direction. *I* wouldn't like all other IF games to go in this
direction. But that isn't really likely.

My point here is, future IF authors, don't accept one set of opinions as
*the* concensus on how IF should be written.

Hm. Something similar happened with Plant. I saw one reviewer saying
(paraphrased) "Hey, I really didn't like the drawn-out plot exposition
sequences where you type "wait" a dozen times. If you're going to put in
that much non-interactive plot, use a single huge chunk of text."

Well, you may recall Mike Roberts's *last* game, The Legend Lives, where
one common criticism was "Geez, lose the huge non-interactive chunks of
text." (I was one of the people saying that.)

I'm betting that a lot of work went into Plant to string out that
exposition and integrate it into the game. (Just because it *does* so in
such a subtle and complex -- and, to me, effective -- manner.) I reacted
rather the same way when I was writing So Far; there are some fairly
blatant "busywork" scenes, where you diddle around doing nothing much
while Stuff happens off in the distance.

Obviously, Mike (and I) could say, gosh, the pendulum's swung back, and
my next game will profer big cut-scenes once again. But that way lies
nutville.

IF is now big enough that people can dislike works on *structural*
grounds, not just because the writing sucks or because they don't like the
subject matter. (In fact, IF has been this diverse for at least the past
two competitions, but I'm not sure if it's been recognized.)

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Doeadeer3

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Nov 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/18/98
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We like what we like, we don't like what we don't like.

Period.

We can't be forced to like what we don't like. Or dislike what we like.

Period.

The reasons we come up with for what we like and what we don't like are just
that, reasons. Maybe we don't always articulate well or pick out the real
reasons as well as we think we do.

I think it is sort of silly to argue with people why they do or don't like
something.
It isn't going to change how they feel.

I though this contest was about what we like and don't like. And feedback for
authors so they can know why we felt that way. Then they can take it or leave
it.

I did not think it was just about betatesting.

Thanks for all authors for their contributions, I never understimate the work
and effort that goes into writing even the simplest game. If I ever sounded
that way, I am sorry. We all do this in our spare time and even finding spare
time takes effort.

I find it hard to do criticism publically, I am never sure if I sound too
critical (gone over the line), but on the other hand, I feel if I am not honest
I have missed the point.

I actually enjoyed this contest more than last year's (maybe because I didn't
try to enter anything).

I would hate now for the after contest mishmash to become as contentious as
last year's did.

Doe :-)


Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
****************************************************************************
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/18/98
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Andrew Plotkin (erky...@netcom.com) wrote:
> Well, you may recall Mike Roberts's *last* game, The Legend Lives

Or, in fact, Dave Baggett. Er, oops again.

Adam J. Thornton

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Nov 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/18/98
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Something about Photopia I just realized, unless I've forgotten a scene.

You get to be pretty much everyone in the story *except* the main
character. That's REALLY REALLY cool.

Adam
--
ad...@princeton.edu
"There's a border to somewhere waiting, and a tank full of time." - J. Steinman

Michael Straight

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Nov 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/19/98
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On 18 Nov 1998, Doeadeer3 wrote:

> We like what we like, we don't like what we don't like.
>
> Period.
>
> We can't be forced to like what we don't like. Or dislike what we like.
>
> Period.
>
> The reasons we come up with for what we like and what we don't like are just
> that, reasons. Maybe we don't always articulate well or pick out the real
> reasons as well as we think we do.
>
> I think it is sort of silly to argue with people why they do or don't like
> something.
> It isn't going to change how they feel.

I strongly disagree. There are all sorts of artworks (music, books,
poems, paintings, heck--even comic books) that I didn't like much the
first time I was exposed to them but then, after someone else showed me
how to appreciate them, I loved.

Isn't that the whole point of taking humanities classes in school?

SMTIRCAHIAGEHLT


Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/19/98
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Michael Straight (stra...@email.unc.edu) wrote:
> On 18 Nov 1998, Doeadeer3 wrote:

> > We like what we like, we don't like what we don't like.
> >
> > Period.

> I strongly disagree. There are all sorts of artworks (music, books,


> poems, paintings, heck--even comic books) that I didn't like much the
> first time I was exposed to them but then, after someone else showed me
> how to appreciate them, I loved.

> Isn't that the whole point of taking humanities classes in school?

Ooo, this issue. I may be forced to set fire to myself in public over this
one.

In brief, humanities classes didn't do a damn thing for me in school.

Also in brief, you're both right (and there are art forms I've learned to
enjoy from other people), but the contexts are so wildly different that
you're talking about unrelated things. If you pretend you're talking about
the same thing, it'll all end in tears.

Michael Straight

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Nov 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/20/98
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On Thu, 19 Nov 1998, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> Michael Straight (stra...@email.unc.edu) wrote:
> > I strongly disagree. There are all sorts of artworks (music, books,
> > poems, paintings, heck--even comic books) that I didn't like much the
> > first time I was exposed to them but then, after someone else showed me
> > how to appreciate them, I loved.
>
> > Isn't that the whole point of taking humanities classes in school?

> In brief, humanities classes didn't do a damn thing for me in school.

I didn't say humanities classes often successful (it wasn't until my 3rd
year in college that I had a lit class that did anything but turn me off
to literature), but that it's the only reason I can see for taking such a
class (other than filling a graduation requirement), instead of just
getting a list of good books and reading them yourself.

> Also in brief, you're both right (and there are art forms I've learned to
> enjoy from other people), but the contexts are so wildly different that
> you're talking about unrelated things. If you pretend you're talking about
> the same thing, it'll all end in tears.

Well, I'll take your word for it, but I don't really understand how the
contexts are so different. I thought the whole point of reading reviews
of games you've already played was to check your experience with other
people and see what you might have missed. I wrote my reviews of Arrival
and Muse in response to some of the lukewarm reviews I saw to try to
convince people they may have missed something good.

SMTIRCAHIAGEHLT


Paul O'Brian

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Nov 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/20/98
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On Fri, 20 Nov 1998, Michael Straight wrote:
> On Thu, 19 Nov 1998, Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> > In brief, humanities classes didn't do a damn thing for me in school.
>
> I didn't say humanities classes were often successful (it wasn't until

> my 3rd year in college that I had a lit class that did anything but turn
> me off to literature)

Since I'm married to a lit. teacher, I'm curious: What was it about these
humanities/lit. classes that you guys found so negative? What could/should
your instructors have done to make them better?

Paul O'Brian
obr...@colorado.edu
http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian


Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/20/98
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Paul O'Brian (obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU) wrote:
> On Fri, 20 Nov 1998, Michael Straight wrote:
> > On Thu, 19 Nov 1998, Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> > > In brief, humanities classes didn't do a damn thing for me in school.
> >
> > I didn't say humanities classes were often successful (it wasn't until
> > my 3rd year in college that I had a lit class that did anything but turn
> > me off to literature)

> Since I'm married to a lit. teacher, I'm curious: What was it about these
> humanities/lit. classes that you guys found so negative? What could/should
> your instructors have done to make them better?

I have no idea.

Well, I must have some idea, because I lend out a lot of books. I've
gotten people excited about reading particular books by describing them.
I've discussed books with people, although (as I said) it's always seemed
a pretty tangential activity.

Whatever it is I'm doing, my high school English teachers didn't do it.

Sam Carmean

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Nov 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/20/98
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> writes:
: Paul O'Brian (obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU) wrote:

: > Since I'm married to a lit. teacher, I'm curious: What was it about these


: > humanities/lit. classes that you guys found so negative? What could/should
: > your instructors have done to make them better?

: I have no idea.

: Well, I must have some idea, because I lend out a lot of books. I've
: gotten people excited about reading particular books by describing them.
: I've discussed books with people, although (as I said) it's always seemed
: a pretty tangential activity.

: Whatever it is I'm doing, my high school English teachers didn't do it.

: --Z

Well, this is off-topic...but the answer lies right in front of you.
You're describing particular books that you yourself are excited about,
rather than dutifully paying homage to a canon that's intended to
encompass "important" works of art. I had one great English teacher who
genuinely loved Shakespeare and Dickens, while doing the best she could
with guys like Samuel Pepys (hoping, no doubt, that somewhere there was a
Pepys fanatic to pick up the slack). Many teachers are really just doing
a job; even when they're conscientious enough to feign enthusiasm, every
author winds up getting the Pepys treatment.

--
sa...@primenet.com

edr...@concentric.net

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Nov 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/20/98
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>I think what would be good would be a combination. Teach a section on what
is considered
>'the classics' and balance it off with a section on something more modern
that more of the
>class can get into, whether that might be Anne McCaffrey, Stephen King,
John Land, whatever.


The day I see Anne McCaffrey on my kid's lit class syllabus is the day I
start at-home schooling. Probably buy a few rifles while I'm at it.

-M.
================================================
"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Lelah Conrad

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Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
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On Fri, 20 Nov 1998 12:33:02 -0700, Paul O'Brian
<obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> wrote:


>
>Since I'm married to a lit. teacher, I'm curious: What was it about these
>humanities/lit. classes that you guys found so negative? What could/should
>your instructors have done to make them better?

DON'T talk about themes, plot, setting, characterization, etc. Yuck!
I think more people are turned off by this type of stuff than just
about anything.

DO ask kids/students "what do you like about this story?" "What do
you dislike?" "How can you change this to make it better?" "What do
you think was absolutely essential here?" "Tell me what would have
happened if... [e.g. you could have stopped the car in Photopia].
and then tell me if that is better or worse." "Are there some
beautiful words or phrases for you here?" "Did the author say or
describe something that really just grabbed you?" "What two words are
the most important words to you?" etc etc etc

Lelah

um, cheating a little on this test, since I'm a reading teacher....

T Raymond

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Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
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On 20 Nov 1998 23:21:29 GMT, Sam Carmean <sa...@primenet.com> wrote:
> You're describing particular books that you yourself are excited about,
> rather than dutifully paying homage to a canon that's intended to
> encompass "important" works of art. I had one great English teacher who
> genuinely loved Shakespeare and Dickens, while doing the best she could
> with guys like Samuel Pepys (hoping, no doubt, that somewhere there was a
> Pepys fanatic to pick up the slack). Many teachers are really just doing
> a job; even when they're conscientious enough to feign enthusiasm, every
> author winds up getting the Pepys treatment.

I have to laugh at this a little. I had one english teacher who asked us one year which
Shakespeare play we were going to do in class. Most of us had no idea who he was
at the time. (must have been 9th grade or soemthing) This was balanced out some in
later years by one teacher that had us do reports on any literature topic we wanted.
King Arthur ruled! Another year I had a teacher shorten our time on Shakespeare and
we did a little on Tolkein. That was really interesting.

I think what would be good would be a combination. Teach a section on what is considered
'the classics' and balance it off with a section on something more modern that more of the
class can get into, whether that might be Anne McCaffrey, Stephen King, John Land, whatever.

At least that's my opinion of what I think would work.

Tom
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Tom Raymond a...@usa.net
"There are advantages, and there is me..."
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Doeadeer3

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Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
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In article <Pine.GSO.3.96.98112...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU>, Paul
O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> writes:

>> I didn't say humanities classes were often successful (it wasn't until
>> my 3rd year in college that I had a lit class that did anything but turn
>> me off to literature)
>

>Since I'm married to a lit. teacher, I'm curious: What was it about these
>humanities/lit. classes that you guys found so negative? What could/should
>your instructors have done to make them better?

I guess people are using "Humanities" to encompass literature here.

I had "English" classes in high school most of which I hated. Had the same
teacher two years in a row (for different classes) that should have been
"bumped upstairs" years ago because he was a flake (eventually he was bumped up
to adminstration).

In college I had "Humanities" classes which I loved, art/history/literature all
combined together, it put things into perspective. But the thing was the
teachers, one I had later for logic because I liked him so much, the other must
have been in his eighties (well, he looked it) but they both loved the subject.

Teachers make all the difference.

But I remember the novels ("great literature") I read in high school too.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
to
Sam Carmean (sa...@primenet.com) wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> writes:
> : Paul O'Brian (obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU) wrote:

> : > Since I'm married to a lit. teacher, I'm curious: What was it about these


> : > humanities/lit. classes that you guys found so negative? What could/should
> : > your instructors have done to make them better?

> : I have no idea.

> : Well, I must have some idea, because I lend out a lot of books. I've
> : gotten people excited about reading particular books by describing them.
> : I've discussed books with people, although (as I said) it's always seemed
> : a pretty tangential activity.

> Well, this is off-topic...but the answer lies right in front of you.

> You're describing particular books that you yourself are excited about,


> rather than dutifully paying homage to a canon that's intended to
> encompass "important" works of art.

Hell no. I have no doubt that my 12th-grade English teacher (Advanced
Placement English class, even) loved the works he was teaching. He just
failed to get it across to *us*.

I think it's a different obvious answer: I know what to recommend to
my friends.

T Raymond

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Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
to
On 20 Nov 1998 19:47:15 PST, <edr...@concentric.net> wrote:
> The day I see Anne McCaffrey on my kid's lit class syllabus is the day I
> start at-home schooling. Probably buy a few rifles while I'm at it.

And why is that? And I note that out of my examples, that was the only one you
specifically pointed out. If I had said Asimov instead would you have replied the
same? And if so, why? I'm curious really. Of course if we don't want to tie up the
group, feel free to e-mail me on the topic.

edr...@concentric.net

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Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
to

T Raymond wrote in message <1103_911627781@ron>...

>On 20 Nov 1998 19:47:15 PST, <edr...@concentric.net> wrote:
>> The day I see Anne McCaffrey on my kid's lit class syllabus is the day I
>> start at-home schooling. Probably buy a few rifles while I'm at it.
>
>And why is that? And I note that out of my examples, that was the only one
you
>specifically pointed out. If I had said Asimov instead would you have
replied the
>same? And if so, why? I'm curious really. Of course if we don't want to tie
up the
>group, feel free to e-mail me on the topic.
>


Why bother? The thread's already got an OT tag on it. So:

I picked on Anne McCaffrey alone because I was trying to be brief. She's a
melodramatic, one-note hack. That is my opinion. Any who disagree with my
opinion are free to spite me by buying lots of McCaffrey's pulp thereby
bumping up her income and ensuring that she will write more.

Stephen King...ehhh...some of his early stuff you could maybe squeak by --
but it would be more appropriate in a writing class, as good examples on how
to construct plot & flesh out characters. As literature, he's pushing it.
Anything more recent than _Misery_ and I'll just laugh at you.

Again, opinion. If you disagree, write a high-brow review for Amazon.com.
They'll publish anything.

John Land...well, I have no idea who John Land is. I looked him up on
Amazon, and all I got was J. Land, a co-author for some out-of-print
engineering textbook (surprised me, since Amazon's usually pretty good with
the obscure authors). That's another reason why I stuck to Annie -- I
couldn't say anything intelligent about Land, and it would have been even
weirder for me to pick on everyone *except* Land.

So there you go. My advice: graduate from junior high and boot the Anne
McCaffrey. Go buy _Unlocking_The_Air_ by Ursula K. LeGuin and read it
instead.

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
to
On Sat, 21 Nov 1998, Lelah Conrad wrote:
>
> DO ask kids/students "what do you like about this story?" "What do
> you dislike?" "How can you change this to make it better?" "What do
> you think was absolutely essential here?" "Tell me what would have
> happened if... [e.g. you could have stopped the car in Photopia].
> and then tell me if that is better or worse." "Are there some
> beautiful words or phrases for you here?" "Did the author say or
> describe something that really just grabbed you?" "What two words are
> the most important words to you?" etc etc etc

Now, I'm talking about college students here. (I had assumed Andrew &
Michael were referring to college lit. classes, and that's the level where
my wife teaches.) Is that what you're talking about? Some of these
questions strike me as a little condescending when asked of a 20-year-old.

Michael Gentry

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Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
to
>>. If I had said Asimov instead would you have replied the
>>same?

Sorry; I forgot to address your Asimov question:

Lump him in with Stephen King. I'm not terribly crazy about Asimov, but I
consider that more of a personal taste issue than an opinion of whether he
should be taught as contemporary literature. He did have an enormous impact
on the field of science fiction, but we might do better to focus on the
works of someone like Ray Bradbury or Michael Moorcock.

I would love to see Philip K. Dick taught in the classroom, were it not for
that niggling little fact that he couldn't write prose for beans.

Lelah Conrad

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Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
to
On Sat, 21 Nov 1998 10:02:41 -0700, Paul O'Brian
<obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> wrote:

>Now, I'm talking about college students here. (I had assumed Andrew &
>Michael were referring to college lit. classes, and that's the level where
>my wife teaches.) Is that what you're talking about? Some of these
>questions strike me as a little condescending when asked of a 20-year-old.

Some of the people here have been referring to high school, and even
middle school. You didn't originally specify the level your wife
taught.
Two comments: any of those questions I wrote could be
rephrased for young adults. Also, simple questions are more
interesting, and engaging, for grown ups as well as children. But
that's something that you have to experience in order to really
understand.
One of the worst things schools do is to make things overly
complex, when actually, simplicity and directness is what is called
for in education. I look at some of the texts high school and middle
school kids carry around, and the questions in them, and I think, no
wonder they hate this so much.

So...

you get things rolling by asking: what two words are the most
significant to you in describing Photopia? And why?

You will get a chorus of, "fratboy" and "angel", "Alley" and "Wendy",
"stop" and "complicity", "Adam" and "Opal" , "colors" and "photopia",
"life" and "death" -- well, pretty soon you've gotten a big engaging
discussion going, you've covered hundreds of aspects of the work, and
all by putting it in the students hands. And all by asking for only
two words.

IMHO, of course.

Lelah

Lelah Conrad

unread,
Nov 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/21/98
to
PS
everything I've written here I've stolen from other teachers. :/

T Raymond

unread,
Nov 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/22/98
to
On 21 Nov 1998 06:23:28 PST, <edr...@concentric.net> wrote:
> I picked on Anne McCaffrey alone because I was trying to be brief. She's a
> melodramatic, one-note hack. That is my opinion. Any who disagree with my
> opinion are free to spite me by buying lots of McCaffrey's pulp thereby
> bumping up her income and ensuring that she will write more.
>

No problem, I was just curious as to why that one. Personally I happen to like the
major series, it took some time to discover why it was under SF instead of Fantasy.
She might not be perfect but there are some memorable characters IMO.

Then again, these were just examples, my thought was that anything that the class
could agree on that was more modern than the classics would be a way to go. Kind of
a nice return for putting up with what can be some dull reading and interpretting for
teens. At least that was my opinion at the time.

> Stephen King...ehhh...some of his early stuff you could maybe squeak by --
> but it would be more appropriate in a writing class, as good examples on how
> to construct plot & flesh out characters. As literature, he's pushing it.
> Anything more recent than _Misery_ and I'll just laugh at you.

I can agree with that. I hagven't read anything since Misery that I liked or could
really get into.



> John Land...well, I have no idea who John Land is. I looked him up on
> Amazon, and all I got was J. Land, a co-author for some out-of-print
> engineering textbook (surprised me, since Amazon's usually pretty good with
> the obscure authors). That's another reason why I stuck to Annie -- I
> couldn't say anything intelligent about Land, and it would have been even
> weirder for me to pick on everyone *except* Land.

That is rather odd. Might be I got the spelling wrong on his first name, it might be Jon?
It's been a few years since I read anything from him. He has several books that involve
spy type intrigue and some technololgical, corporate manipulation. Kind of like Tom
Clancy blended with an engineer.

> So there you go. My advice: graduate from junior high and boot the Anne
> McCaffrey. Go buy _Unlocking_The_Air_ by Ursula K. LeGuin and read it
> instead.

I'll keep it in mind to check it out at the library first ;) I'll stick with
Brooks, Jordan, Tolkein, and Asimov, especially as you didn't pick on him! *BG*
Not that it's a problem anyhow, I appreciate the response.

> "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
> How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Ok, mere semantics, but is it ok if I eat the pudding first?
(not picking on PF, I just had to ask.)

T Raymond

unread,
Nov 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/22/98
to
On 21 Nov 1998 10:51:52 PST, in rec.games.int-fiction you wrote:
> Sorry; I forgot to address your Asimov question:
>
> Lump him in with Stephen King. I'm not terribly crazy about Asimov, but I
> consider that more of a personal taste issue than an opinion of whether he
> should be taught as contemporary literature. He did have an enormous impact
> on the field of science fiction, but we might do better to focus on the
> works of someone like Ray Bradbury or Michael Moorcock.

Well as I said, I just gave examples which reflect what I would have
voiced as a choice. Can't change my view on Asimov though, someone
I'm related to worked with him way back. It just adds that little bit. That little
strange bit, which makes me me of course!

> I would love to see Philip K. Dick taught in the classroom, were it not for
> that niggling little fact that he couldn't write prose for beans.

The name sounds familiar, bu tonly because a favorite musician has the
same last name. What sort of lit did he write?

Iain Merrick

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Nov 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/22/98
to
T Raymond wrote:
[...]

> > I would love to see Philip K. Dick taught in the classroom, were it not for
> > that niggling little fact that he couldn't write prose for beans.
>
> The name sounds familiar, bu tonly because a favorite musician has the
> same last name. What sort of lit did he write?

Science fiction. Both his science and his fiction were rather naive and
unsophisticated; what his books _do_ have is fantastic energy, really
outrageous ideas and amazing insights into that ol' human condition
thing. He's great.

_Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep_ is one of his best books - they
used the basic plot in the film _Bladerunner_, sadly omitting all the
wilder metaphysical stuff. _Ubik_ is also very good, and IIRC someone
recently made a computer game out of it in roughly the same manner.

_Valis_ and _A Scanner Darkly_ are good representatives of his later,
even weirder work. They contain some SF elements, but the plots revolve
purely around character interaction rather than spaceships and neat
gizmos.

Iain Merrick

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Nov 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/22/98
to
Iain Merrick wrote:

> T Raymond wrote:
> [...]
> > > I would love to see Philip K. Dick taught in the classroom, were it not for
> > > that niggling little fact that he couldn't write prose for beans.
> >
> > The name sounds familiar, bu tonly because a favorite musician has the
> > same last name. What sort of lit did he write?
>
> Science fiction. Both his science and his fiction were rather naive and
> unsophisticated; what his books _do_ have is fantastic energy, really
> outrageous ideas and amazing insights into that ol' human condition
> thing. He's great.

Hmmm, in reading that post (yes, I _know_ it's mine) I immediately
thought 'compare and contrast with Robert Heinlein'. I was thinking in
terms of Heinlein's scientific knowledge and excellent writing style,
but it occurs to me that they _both_ had _major_ breast fixations.

Sorry. Ignore me, carry on...

Aris Katsaris

unread,
Nov 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/22/98
to

Adam J. Thornton wrote in message <72utiu$7lc$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>...

>Something about Photopia I just realized, unless I've forgotten a scene.
>
>You get to be pretty much everyone in the story *except* the main
>character. That's REALLY REALLY cool.


Agreed! Is this the first time in IF that the main character is an NPC? Or
the first time that the number of the PC characters is so much greater than
that of the NPCs?

Aris Katsaris

Lelah Conrad

unread,
Nov 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/22/98
to
On 18 Nov 1998 16:45:18 GMT, ad...@princeton.edu (Adam J. Thornton)
wrote:


>
>You get to be pretty much everyone in the story *except* the main
>character.

Well, yes of course. That was obvious. Hence my comment on another
thread about this being the *remembrance* of Alley in some way, in the
same way as at a memorial service. She's not really in the story,
except as seen through everybody else's eyes.

BTW, I take it to mean also then that the opening line "Let's tell a
story together" is NOT Alley speaking to Wendy but Adam's authorial
statement about the multiple perspectives, e.g. "let's all of us" (all
the people who reflected on her meaning for them.)

But then, maybe I'm just way off the deep end. :0

Lelah

Craxton

unread,
Nov 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/23/98
to

Could be both.

What I really liked about the change of perspective is that It's a very
acurrate portrayal of what it's like when a young person dies. You spend
practically the entire game learning stuff about this Alley person. The
player has not the slightest idea what's going on, or how Alley relates
to it. And just when it's all starting to make sense- *snap* Game Over.
It speaks very well of wasted potential, of all Alley could have done
had she lived. Like the queen's land, that was dead when she arrived.
It's a very tragic and moving piece. I wonder if Mr. Cadre has suffered
any personal loss recently. If not, he sure has the emotion of such a
happening down pat.

-Craxton

David Brain

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Nov 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/23/98
to
In article <36580A...@cs.york.ac.uk>, i...@cs.york.ac.uk (Iain Merrick) wrote:

> > Science fiction. Both his science and his fiction were rather naive
> > and
> > unsophisticated; what his books _do_ have is fantastic energy, really
> > outrageous ideas and amazing insights into that ol' human condition
> > thing. He's great.
>
> Hmmm, in reading that post (yes, I _know_ it's mine) I immediately
> thought 'compare and contrast with Robert Heinlein'. I was thinking in
> terms of Heinlein's scientific knowledge and excellent writing style,
> but it occurs to me that they _both_ had _major_ breast fixations.

Curious that I would tend to put them the other way around in terms of writing ability
(Heinlein sucks whereas PKD's short stories are almost all works of genius).
They both had startlingly original ideas though.
(For some reason, this reminds me of Dr Nelson's Pastiche Masterclass we had in r.a.i-f
some time ago...)

--
David Brain

Apotheosis can be somewhat unnerving.
-- Expecting Someone Taller, Tom Holt


Aris Katsaris

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Nov 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/23/98
to

David Brain wrote in message ...

>
>Curious that I would tend to put them the other way around in terms of
writing ability
>(Heinlein sucks whereas PKD's short stories are almost all works of
genius).
>They both had startlingly original ideas though.


I've only read two books of PKD and two of Heinlein, but if I can judge from
them, you are correct. PKD seems a lot better than Heinlein.

Aris Katsaris

Iain Merrick

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Nov 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/23/98
to
Aris Katsaris wrote:

Oh. Well, I've read a lot of PKD and a few books by Heinlein. Overall,
PKD's books are much more enjoyable; what I meant was that Heinlein
seemed to be _much_ better at the basic task of stringing words together
into flowing, grammatical sentences. He was a classy writer, whether or
not you like his stories or agree with his politics...

Brandon Van Every

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Nov 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/25/98
to

Adam J. Thornton wrote in message <72utiu$7lc$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>...
>Something about Photopia I just realized, unless I've forgotten a scene.
>
>You get to be pretty much everyone in the story *except* the main
>character. That's REALLY REALLY cool.


Yeah it's cool.


Cheers, 3d graphics optimization jock
Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA
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If we are all Gods and we have thrown our toys the mortals away
and we are Immortal What shall we do
and we cannot die to entertain ourselves?


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