Observations

Membership versus a ticket at Worldcon

by on Aug.12, 2017, under Observations

One of the prevailing arguments in favor of fan-run Science Fiction conventions is that you are a member, a participant in the convention. This is in contrast to the ticket to attend principle of media corp-run promotional conventions. I have generally found value in this difference over the years, and have campaigned to bring more and more people into fandom over the years.

In the last 10 years this has dried up, with more and more friends choosing Comicon and other media conventions over fan-run events. After the utter and complete failure of Helsinki’s Worldcon to prepare for, or care about its membership I am finally forced to understand why. The definition of success for Worldcon no longer matches with any definition of success I understand. Let me explain: (continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

Massively parallel personal connections

by on Jun.02, 2014, under Observations

A friend of mine, the award-winning author Jay Lake died yesterday. I spent most of yesterday mourning, and watching as people all over the world came together to share their experiences with Jay. It was truly amazing to see how many lives he had touched, how many people felt loss at his passing. However, it also showed us how Jay achieved something I believe truly new, only possible with recent technology advancement. Jay built personal connections on a global scale, in a sense massively parallel Interactions in Real Time. (continue reading…)

1 Comment more...

Sharing context: are we The Borg or Babylon 5?

by on Mar.17, 2014, under Observations

Recently we have seen renewed fervor in what is clearly a multi-generational discussion: “Have you read the classics?” I’ve seen some very odd conclusions about what this request is.

A request that someone read a book, or “the classics” for whatever value of “classics” the speaker intends, is a request for the other person to gain the same vocabulary/basis/perspective as the speaker so that a common base for communication can occur.

I think all of us have made this request of another constantly. I can’t tell you how many times a friend and I have agreed to put aside a debate until each of us has read some book or set of books that the other recommends. Phrased as a request in the pursuit of knowledge, this is a great way to participate in an enlightening conversation.

The problem occurs when one person rejects another person, their beliefs, or their tastes based on lack of sharing a common base. (continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

Be Something Better: Change the conversation

by on Oct.10, 2013, under Observations

Today we saw a conversation we see far too often, about some nasty men who harass women on the Internet. They aren’t speaking their opinion, they are attacking women. It’s reprehensible behavior, and it needs to stop. And it needs to stop now. I am shamed that we allow this behavior in our society, and I wish I could do more to stop it.
(continue reading…)

2 Comments more...

A different kind of loss in Night Shade’s collapse.

by on May.24, 2013, under Observations

This post is not going to deal with how or why Night Shade collapsed, nor is it going to deal with the choices that authors have to make dealing with the purchasers. I really don’t know anything about either of these, and what little has reached me I read in the same places you have. I am writing this post about something different–what we in the community lose in this transaction.
(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

The essential key of a good critique

by on May.08, 2013, under Observations, Process

After more than four years participating in critique groups, both in person and online, I have come to the firm conviction that there is only one essential key to a good critique. This key is so essential that I’ve come to believe that a critique missing this key is worthless to the author, and that any critique containing this key, no matter how green or ignorant the reviewer, can be valued for its weight in gold by the author. (continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

The most important question

by on Oct.30, 2012, under Observations

This election is not about the economy. There is something so much more important here. There is something essential to the nature of who we are as Americans that is on the line right now.

What we are doing when we go into the ballot box this coming Tuesday is not selecting the economic leader for the next four years. Instead, we are selecting the leader who will guide our executive policy for the next four years. The person who will choose where the government spends its money, and whether or not it helps people in need. This is not a question of economy. This is question of compassion, and mercy.

Let us consider these candidates:

Obama Romney
FEMA Relief for Storm Victims Is busy mobilizing well-trained federal resources to assist people. Wants the (bankrupt/debt-ridden) states with limited resources to deal with the problem.
Health Insurance Reform Has passed laws to protect people from greed-driven opportunism by the health industry. Wants to see every person able to receive quality health care. Obamacare programs will relieve significant state burden for unpaid emergency room visits. Supported President Bush’s policies which saw health care costs more than triple for businesses. Wants to end Obamacare so that the health industry can charge anything they want. Wants low-income families to go to the emergency room to die. No help for the states.
Women’s Rights Reversed Bush’s executive orders that denied health care to women overseas on his first day in office. Appoints women into his government on a regular basis. Supports their right to make their own choices. Doesn’t know any competent women. Lied about having asked for a binder of them. Has been reported as insulting to women in the workplace and the church. Has repeatedly promised to take away women’s rights. Supports legislation which would allow employers to deny healthcare to women.
Gay Rights Believes that gays should be able to have relationships with dignity and respect. Has prevented the government from defending DOMA. Fought against gay marriage in Massachusetts. Humiliated and victimized children of gay parents by refusing to sign their birth certificates.
How They Treated People (while young) Has spent his entire career helping people improve their lives. In his first job he expanded a tiny community role with a church to set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organization in Altgeld Gardens. Bullied and beat up on people poorer and smaller than himself. Impersonated a policeman to harass people. Threatened people with his father’s influence.
How They Treat People Now Has focused his presidency on treating everyone with dignity. Respects other faiths. Has created policy to better help people who need help. Ridicules people that need help. Insults people of different beliefs. Wants to turn the government’s back on people in need.

This is what we are choosing. This is the man you are choosing to lead the nation. This isn’t a choice where you get to vote for the best gas price. Neither one of these presidents can control that. You are choosing the moral character of the man leading our nation.

More importantly, you are choosing how your friends will be treated by the US Government over the next 4 years. You are choosing whether or not your friends:

1. Die from being unable to cover their medical bills after being cast aside by profit-seeking health care companies.

2. Lose their jobs or lose their lives because of who they love, or which god they believe in. (When people know that the government won’t indite them, they do nasty things to people they fear.)

3. Lose their dignity and respect by being unable to participate in the same benefits you enjoy today. Lose their lifelong homes after their partner dies. Lose their partners because they can’t get coverage for them under the same health plan.

This is the quality of mercy. This is the choice you are making for your friends and neighbors. You really cannot pretend it is anything else.

I have come to a sad turn in the road, but it is a turn that I think is essential and important to me. If you are a person that feels that the things I have listed above are not important enough to vote to save them, then I no longer want you in my life.

1 Comment more...

Do you groan about a story title’s inclusion in the text?

by on Sep.22, 2012, under Observations, Process

How often do you read a story and come across the title of the story in the text, and groan to yourself, thinking “Oh god, that was a horrible way to shove the title in?”

Apparently, this happens quite often. But I have done some analysis of this topic, and from what my limited testing shows, this may be an artifact of reader expectation. Let me share with you what I have observed, and then you tell me what you think. (continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

Reading a story is like experiencing a role playing adventure

by on Sep.12, 2012, under Observations, Process

Very recently, a reviewer of one of my stories complained to me, “Reading this is like playing a role playing game. The reader has to advance up level by level.”

This statement was truly said to me as a complaint, although I still can’t figure it out. Should I should have given the reader a complete list of characters and a map of universe, prior to asking the reader to read the story? Do we ever get a map and character list prior to starting a story? Would you read a story that tried to give you all of this prior to the first paragraph?

It’s been 10 days since that comment, and I still can’t figure out what the basis of the complaint was. To me a well told story is where you the reader starts with a tight focus on a single scene, and expands outward as you learn more. Is this not the brilliance of story telling, such that a good story will tease us forward, into the darkness in hopes of learning more?

Leave a Comment more...

The Soul of a Reviewer

by on Aug.31, 2012, under Observations, Reviews

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of other reviewers last night that really got me thinking. Several of them admitted that they didn’t stop to think about whether or not they enjoyed the piece they were reading–they were too busy looking for things to critique as done well or badly.

Although I totally respect the work that both of these reviewers do, I feel that it is important that as a reviewer I don’t forget what the reader cares about.

One of the essential things to remember is that a reader is reading to be entertained. They have no objective beyond enjoyment or learning, in both the passive and active senses. The most important thing about reviewing should be looking at the story from this point of view.

If I am reviewing a piece of work, and I don’t approach it with the intent to be entertained, then I am doing the reader a disservice. While it may be important to note that an author did or did not achieve some technical objective, the most important part of a review is to answer: is this book likely to entertain the reader?

Obviously, it’s impossible to such a subjective question for all possible readers. But I feel that it is the goal that we as reviewers should always strive for. Almost any technical matter within the work is less important than this essential question.

Leave a Comment more...