Sunday, August 27, 2017

If You're Looking to Help-

- the Hurricane Harvey relief effort, Vox has a helpful article.
ETA: Sorry, the original link was subject to link rot. Problem has been addressed.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

This Is Science Fiction

I often say that science fiction isn't about the new - it's about how we respond to the new. Whether that new thing is a technology, a scientific discovery, an alien race, or something, what is most important is how we respond to it. How we make use of it, run from it, exploit it, adapt to it. Some of the stories that I like best are extrapolative - they take the new thing and explore all the possible ways we might react.

Thirty years ago, this article from Salon.com would have been brilliant science fiction.  In it, an editor named Andrew Kahn goes after Michiko Kakutani, the Great White Whale of New York literary criticism. But instead of doing it with mere assertion and snark - the traditional weapons of belletristic warfare - he used digital humanities. He used software to analyze Kakutani's prose style and her choice of reviewed books. Instead of just saying Kakutani had a limited prose style and a decided preference for some types of books over others, he tried to prove it statistically.

He didn't use enormous processing power to find new elementary particles (after all, there are already people doing that); he used it to argue. A brilliant, science-fictional approach to the new. I wish I had thought of it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The First Draft of "Conjure Man" Is Done. Now Come All the Others...

One hundred thousand words, yikes and yowzah.
When you're in the middle of the thing, all you want to do is drag yourself, bleeding and limping, across the finish line.
Then you do. And you blog about it. (Briefly, I promise.) And then you realize...The first draft isn't the end. It's the beginning. That's why it's first. And you take a pill to keep yourself from putting a steak knife through your ear.

But one thing I am learning (slowly) is that you have to accept mistakes. You can't be afraid to make them. Perfectionism isn't a desire to do things well; it's a fear of doing things badly. That's why perfectionism is the enemy of creativity, because creativity rarely comes from a place of fear.

So if you can't make a shit ton of mistakes in your first draft, when can you?
It's amazing how hard that lesson is to learn, and how you have to keep learning it, over and over.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

One Caveat About Plumbers and Leaders

In my last post, I asked folks to think of presidents as not as leaders, but as plumbers.

My point was that we don't owe automatic deference to either presidents or plumbers - that both are just jobs. The presidency is a harder, more dangerous job, with more disastrous consequences, but a president isn't above other citizens or the law. So treat him like a plumber: Expect honesty, expect competence, and toss him if he doesn't display those two qualities.

After the events in Charlottesville, I feel I have to add something:
Your plumber should be honest.
Your plumber should be competent.
And your plumber should not be a fucking Nazi.

I thought that went without saying in the United States of America. I can see that I was wrong.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Your President, the Plumber

Don't think of your president as your leader.
Think of him as your plumber.
You have do what your leader tells you.
Your plumber has to do what you tell him.
A "leader" has to be extraordinary - wise, brave, just, merciful, heroic.
A plumber only has to be honest and know his job.
It's damned near impossible to find a leader outside of a TV drama...or an historical documentary on dictators who claimed to be leaders and weren't.
But you can find a good plumber on Yelp.
And most important:
Your leader can jail you, kill you, confiscate your home. He can order you to die in a war that you despise.
But you can fire your plumber.