The rampant Ian fandom. Sure, he's a stand-up guy and tolerant enough to, with some coaxing and false starts, date Mack and hang out with her friends. He has real issues, though, including physically and emotionally abusive tendencies that he doesn't have under control - and yet fans in various fora regard him as a cuddly, wise, nigh-perfect man.
As for the Ian/Mack relationship, it's promising - but take out the sex and, circa #400, Mack's spent more time talking with Dee. He's fourth or fifth-place in her life, and she's at least that low in his.
You're misunderstanding the point of being an Ian fan. It's not that he has a handle on his problems, it's that he knows he has problems in the first place and knows what they are. Meanwhile every other character has major issues they refuse to speak about and are in denial. Comparing him to the whole chunks of the worlds that are essentially amoral wrecks he's likley the most stable man in the entire setting.
As of this writing, he's made a lot of (mostly off-screen) progress on his anger/daddy issues, but I don't see that Ian is so especially self-aware or moral.
Of course he may not be particularly self aware, but he's still better than Steff or Amaranth, and he doesn't have the Idiot Ball every other paragraph. He knows not to make the kind of glaring, life threatening mistakes everyone else does. Not that he doesn't make mistakes, he just isn't likley to die from them or threaten someone else's' life.
The fact that something like half of the poor persecuted non-humans really are sadistic monsters, Broken Aesop much? It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
Well, humans are rather nasty, too; after all, the "delving and discovery" major is, at its worst, ethnic cleansing as a career path. I don't think any of the mortal races (besides maybe mermaids) really seem arguably worse, overall, than human beings. The fact elves and dragons are considered "friendly allies" and "so damn cool", respectively, gets interestingly called out as a contrast to the treatment of demons by the Mack Daddy in #406.
The issue isn't that humans are or aren't doing it. It's that while a minority of humans do this, Word Of God says all demons and part demons who come into the M Universe need to eat human bits, all mermaids want to devour people and see no problem with it, and all goblins see no problem with using hobgoblins as slave labor. The Delving and Discovery is something increasingly criticized done by a minority, while the Majority of ogres, demons, merfolk, and harpies are the ones trying to devour the flesh of mankind.
Someone doesn't know what "ethnic cleansing" means. Not to get in the way of a perfectly good "humans are teh suxxorz and should all die" rant, but ethnic cleansing is racially motivated, while delving is pretty clearly motivated by profit (and, y'know, discovery). Unfortunately for the concept of man being the real monster, the author was in such a lather to say how evil everything white and male was that she made it clear that humans are perfectly willing to slaughter each other for profit too, so no, humans are not intrinsically more evil than the rest of the poor widdle persecuted slaughterers and torturers.
(One sentence at the beginning counts as a rant you're afraid to get in the way of? I'm good.) Most folks, especially the targets of it, don't really care (and in a fictional context, wouldn't care) about the exact motivation for people of one ethnicity coming to wipe out settlements from another ethnicity. The colloquial use is perfectly fine for TV Tropes, even if we were to worry overmuch about untangling personal/group profit from the other motivations for the expulsion/slaughter of another group. The overall point remains that every species is a bastard in the series, no matter how distressing some people find humans/white males being part of that.
I think the most important point made in the setting is that these flaws or positive qualities aren't actually shown as being universal anyway. A major theme of the story is that of transcending the baggage of one's culture and upbringing to be an individual. Shown over and over again with Mack's movement away from the bigotry instilled by her grandmother and from the consequences of her heritage, Steff's love/hate connection to the various dualities of her nature, Ian's struggles with the unfortunate impulses arising from his childhood experiences, the different ways Iona and Feejee respond to the presence of humans around them, the conflicts between Hazel and Honey... I mean, really, it seems like, given the fact that AE seems to go out of her way to remind the reader that nothing is monolithic and that these populations are made up of individuals and not uniform, a whole lot of the Fan Dumb seem to be going out of their way to justify their feeling that, because she portrays some members of a fantasy culture in a particular way that she's making some sweeping generalization about that culture or some real-world counterpart to it.
What is with the angry internet men complaining about the terrible, terrible politics in the story? They certainly act like they've forced themselves to read hundreds of thousands of words by an author who drives them to utter distraction. It's not like the politics don't show up early.
You may not enjoy this site. Just saying.
You may have a lower opinion of most of the people on this site than I do. :)
"Don't Like, Don't Read" isn't much of a counterargument. And the problem with the politics is that it would be a half-decent (if sexually skewed), or at least Bile Fascination, story... except we keep getting political views rammed down our throats every few chapters, making everything else taste foul.
It's not actually a "counter-argument" nor "weak" to ask "WTF". (Why? Because it's a question, and because there's no argument on your end that I'm countering.) Nobody is "ramming" anything down your throat, Angry Internet Man; nobody is forcing you to read hundreds of installments of a story you claim not to find even worth Bile Fascination. This is something you've inexplicably decided to inflict on yourself.
I haven't got a dog in this fight, but it seems to me that there's something wrong with the idea that you should avoid reading stories that don't suit your politics — and politics does seem to be the major sticking point here. About the last thing modern politics needs is more self-reinforcing circle-jerkery on the part of its participants. Besides, "don't like, don't read" has no place in a critical setting; granted that this is IJBM and not Reviews, but the whole point of a negative review is that the critic suffered so you don't have to.
That's fine for reviews, papers, sporkings, etc. For everyone else, "Don't like, don't read" is a much saner alternative to hating a work and yet still reading it so as to have something to obsessively complain about. This is why Complaining About Shows You Don't Like is considered bad.
The problem with "don't like, don't read" is that it doesn't cover "would like, except for one thing that just bugs the hell out of you," in this case the author's political speechifying. That mix of entertainment and infuriation is what leads to interweb complaints.
I can understand that - but, ultimately, "Would like, but" means "Don't like". This is absolutely fair and perfectly fine! However, knowing you don't like something is an excellent reason to instead read something more politically palatable or otherwise more of a pleasure to read. It's a lousy reason to obsess over something, as one or two people - not saying you - have. (Personally, I'm a grumpy pro-market libertarian - if I had a political discussion with Alexandra Erin, we'd probably go hammer and tongs damn quick. However, I don't view Tales of MU through the lens of her politics, and I don't try to spot insidious political content in it; kinda like Tales of the Questor, what I have actually seen in it hasn't offended or even bugged me, her Team Blue leanings aside.)
I'd just like to say, "Don't like, don't continue to read (unless you hear that the things you disliked are gone and the things you liked are still there)" is better advice than "don't like, don't read (in the first place)" (since the "in the first place" part seems to have been inferred by most of the people here and people in general who see a "don't like, don't read" message).
"Don't like, don't read" is pretty much on par with "If you haven't read it, how do you know you don't like it?" In my book. It's a stock argument, pulled out to avoid responding to the actual critique given. Personally I did like it, and I did read it, and then it detoriated and I kept on reading it along time and eventually I just lost interest. The reason so many people talk about it I think is it is nicely written, but it has some mind numbingly flaws, so people try to discuss them, and then this is internet so things turns into a snarl.
What are they upset about, anyway? The ones I've seen are apprently angry that sexism is being pointed out.
This story's fandom. ... That's it, really, they bug the hell out of me.
We know, Rann.
The No Science thing Just Bugs Me. Apparently nothing is consistent, and the universe will change everything any anything just to screw around with you. The problem that immediatly arises is "how did they get magic to work in the same way enough to produce multiple TV's, animated carriges, and whatnot". Then comes the inherient problems to experimenting not working. If you check if everything goes down, it will go up or sideways. How do comparitivly identical races and species(such as noting limbs all go in a certain space) form, or reproduction work in the same way for the same thing? Hell, observed laws do work, otherwise creating Nymphs in the method of Barley and Amaranth wouldn't work. We aren't even supposed to 'try not to think about it', since it takes place in an educational setting, where characters and readers are supposed to think about it. I generally like the series, but completely tossing out the way things work except when it's convenient to the setting seems lazy.
Eh, as described, it's that things work more by associations and similarity than causality. Quantitative research doesn't pay off, but stick your nose in a bag of herbs and you can pick among mental images of herbal effects that you can imbue water with. Or, at least that's the general line - after all, Amy's corrective lenses are hinted to be non-magical. (Mind, that may have been retconned in supplemental stuff I haven't read.) Then there are the Mechans, who may indicate that science is suppressed.
It's set in a college! An institution specifically dedicated to the archival of consistent fact!
Part of the emphasis on No Science is to avoid the Like Reality Unless Noted trope so common even in fantasy settings (like Lord of the Rings), and to avoid Fridge Logic like "if you can summon food, then why are there still starving people?" The answer being: the physical universe actively works against you, as the rules change if you try to abuse them too easily. In a sense, it's a lampshade hanging on how people in-universe will react to GMs house ruling broken spells or spell combinations. The reason, say, televisions can be mass produced is probably because they're not being used to cripple the economy, utterly annihilate entire countries, or to amass vast personal resources in a manner that, well, matters. In a sense, the universe (or GM) will say "you can't do this any more" if your method of getting rich is basically "learn Summon Chest Full of Gold, cast a million times". But if it is "gather up these materials, assemble them in a certain way, and then spend time and effort to sell them so they can become useful", then the caster will get a free pass, as "watching TV" won't be considered broken.
So Tales of MU takes place in a universe that will actively spite anyone who learns to 'break the game'?
That's the impression I get.
Which makes no sense, because people do "break the game". Breaking the game to mass produce food to try to feed everyone is the entire reason two main characters even exist. Yet at the same time people who try something similar are mentioned as dying horribly and the surrounding area cursed. It's incredibly inconsistent and bugs the crap out of me.
There's cleverness and there's game-breaking. Nymph-based agriculture takes a lot of, er, work, and in the end, you still have to go out there and harvest the grain. There's a serious advantage to the method, but it doesn't come free. That's why, I think, in the recent "submit your questions for the professor" bit, she had the guy go on about how in a quantifiable, scientific universe, there'd clearly be nothing worth teaching about science and engineering at a university level, because it would all be so easy. Stuff will take work either way; the universe doesn't mind someone being clever, but it minds someone being a munchkin and isn't shy about punishing "I wish I had an infinite number of wishes" stunts. The world is a DM.
Of course, taking the world-as-a-DM analogy to its logical conclusion, you still need rules to have a game in the first place. And a DM who refuses to share those rules with his or her players and keeps changing them whenever said players do figure out a way to use them to their advantage on top of that is (a) still somewhat predictable in that fashion and (b) just plain being a dick. Really, there's rather less wiggle room between settings in which the basic scientific approach should be able to do at least some good on the one side and just plain old formless primal chaos on the other than one might think, and the MUniverse pretty clearly isn't the latter.
There are BETTER solutions than To Mu. Kulthea (Shadow World) has a fantastic one — the rules are too complicated to be understood by mortal minds. [this is the world with tide charts and three moons. Let's just say, the author had a point.] To Mu's magic is just plain dicky. And I don't like a place without some rules... it makes me cringe. That said, AE plainly does have some rules — they're just a bit fuzzy.
The thing that bothers me about the world-as-a-DM analogy is that the hypothetical DM is petty, dickish, and uncreative. It doesn't come off as the DM putting the kibosh on the character that used a feedback loop thanks to 29 different feats and spells across 16 obscure rulebooks to achieve godhood by level 4. It comes off as a player going, "Hang on, if I put a shower head, which creates infinite water, above a toilet, which removes the water, and stick a water wheel in between, I can generate a perpetual motion machine." and the DM going, "Lol no, your small intestine is now a duck." The Leighton twins are a prime example, did their father never try the experiment with a pair of oranges? And even given their unfortunate mishap, how is the method not practiced globally now, with a little asterix next to the instructions saying "Twins may become two-headed monstrosities."
And Mack repeatedly mentions in her narration that there -are- some rules, and that not everything is 100% subjective in the setting. Any Thaumatology lecture will likely contain some commentary on this.
The gladiator games and Skirmish. I mean it's implied widespread healing on a level that lets you heal that many unnecessary injuries is a new development. Meanwhile Gladiator games and Skirmish are treated as equivalent to sports like ours, most of which have some basis for a couple of centuries, if not going back to antiquity. It's treated as if there're no games that don't involve dismembering the other person in some way because of a set of sports that exist in their current form purely because of modern circumstances with no mention of sports before then.
Presumably they fought to the death, for the amusement of spectators. We're talking about a setting where the casual killing of completely human-looking Mack was a casual consideration for a group of delvers. Presumably any society that can instill that kind of attitude treats death as something that just happens, even perhaps in the course of entertainment, as is started to work its way out of that. Considering the fact that it's a setting where resurrection is possible, if rare, one can't help but guess that AE's trying to extrapolate the results of the setting's logical conclusions.
The Man (Mack Daddy) seems a classic case of Draco in Leather Pants. The author FLIPS HER SHIT about this, and even people pointing out how her Kick the Dog moment is prone to cross-cultural interpretation as being both 1) consensual and 2) "not all that bad" are likely victims.
To be fair, Laurel Anne herself doesn't seem to have a problem with anything The Man did until after she learned he's a demon.
How the hell does a society work when murder is semi-legal, there are no obvious anti-cruelty laws, and teachers petition to be allowed to kill students? For that matter, why hasn't one or more of the supposedly-powerful gods created, say, a geas to see yourself as other see you if at least some of them are really good? This is supposed to be a modern society, and it can't even get its act together enough to prevent random slaughter?
Any god that allows death to exist cannot be termed "good" by any meaningful human standard, so there's no big mystery there.
There's nothing whatsoever wrong with death at least in the abstract; a setting in which everything alive had to live forever would probably turn into a form of hell pretty quickly, especially if said living things were still capable of reproduction and had only so much room to expand into. That said, there are a whole bunch of tropes on this very site that can be used to explain why gods in fiction generally don't come down to set mortals straight (and why, when they try, it rarely works anyway); this setting is simply no exception to that rule. Of course, neither really has anything to do with the fact that the society presented in the stories does come across as rather dysfunctional — enough so that the gods of "good" may simply already have their hands full trying to keep the whole (necessarily somewhat implied by this theory) Crapsack World from simply imploding on itself altogether.