The Room Where It Happened

Mar. 30th, 2017 11:48 am
rachelmanija: (I wrote my own deliverance)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
A couple nights ago I attended a meeting of the city council on whether to declare my city, Culver City, a sanctuary city. It was already acting as one, but the measure made it actual law.

Culver City is its own city within LA county, with its own police force; I live on the dividing line, which means that if I observe a crime being committed on my side of the street I call Culver City police, but if it's across the street it's a matter for LAPD. Culver City police is the police force I volunteer with. It practices neighborhood policing, in which police are assigned to a specific neighborhood for years and sometimes permanently, so they can get to know who lives there and what's normal and what isn't. They also believe in de-escalating situations rather than charging in with guns blazing, and I have seen this in action. No organization is perfect... but they're really good.

One of my neighbors emailed me to inform me of the sanctuary city vote, and so I showed up. I live in a fourplex, and found at the meeting that all four apartments in my building had at least one representative at the meeting: a 100% building turn-out! I'm in the first row in the black jacket. The guy on my right is my downstairs neighbor.

It was my first city council meeting. There was a huge turn-out consisting of hundreds of Culver City residents and eight or ten non-resident paid Trump agitators. The Trump agitators were next to me, against the wall.

Because of the huge turn-out, the council had other matters go first. I was charmed by the multiple Farmer's Market vendors who spoke to urge the council to re-hire a guy named Emanuel who had been running the market for nine years, all eloquently praising him, often mentioning "despite his youth." When they were done, Emanuel himself spoke. He mentioned being 29, so he started when he was 20! Impressive. He was voted in. I was also intrigued by the several vendors who made references to the previous manager leaving under what were apparently mysterious circumstances ("Emanuel took over after [I forget his name] left... for whatever reason," and "Since [Whover] went... wherever he went," etc).

Then we moved on to the main matter. 79 people spoke, at two minutes each. All but one of the actual Culver City residents were in favor of the sanctuary city resolution, which is pretty amazingly unified. It was cool to hear everyone's stories - immigrants, descendants of Holocaust survivors, lawyers making lawyerly suggestions, teenagers, pastors, veterans, and a hilarious number of parents of exactly two children, many of them attending the same high school. (Culver City has the fourth most diverse school population in America - 25% African-American, Asian American, Latino/a, and White.)

The Trump agitators loudly booed and cat-called Every. Single. Speaker. This despite the council members repeatedly telling them not to. A high school student from an immigrant family made a very moving speech, and started crying when he spoke about his family's struggles; the Trump agitators loudly mocked him. At that, the entire audience got up and gave the student a standing ovation.

The agitators' speeches were clearly meant for some audience other than their actual one; Trumpers on youtube, I think. They threatened and insulted the council members and audience, yelled, "Sessions is coming for you!" invoked strange Biblical conspiracy theories, and said, "They're gonna rape your women!" and "They're gonna kill you all!" Culver City is extremely liberal and this did not go over well.

The meeting started at 7:00 PM, and ended at a quarter to 1:00 AM. By around 11:00, the heckling and booing was getting pretty old. A Muslim speaker who was calling for peace and brotherhood got called a murderer and terrorist. At that point, I snapped, "SHUT UP!" and a council member had the loudest yeller evicted. When he was allowed back in about half an hour later, he brandished and set off a taser. He was then escorted out by the cops and not allowed back in.

The remaining agitators got bored and left before the actual vote. The council members spent about an hour debating the actual provisions of the measure, with input from the chief of police and the city attorney. In the end, the measure passed 3-1 (the dissenter also voted for sanctuary, but as a symbolic measure only without specific provisions), with one provision stricken (providing funds for immigrants' legal defense) and a few others reworded. Victory!

The whole thing got me interested in city politics, which I haven't been involved in previously in that sense. It was also nice to do something as a part of my community, after mostly living under a rock for the last two years.

(no subject)

Mar. 30th, 2017 12:11 pm
yhlee: wax seal (Default)
[personal profile] yhlee
I have an AMA (Ask Me Anything) today over at r/Fantasy here--please come say hi! I'll be back to answer questions over there around 7 p.m. CST today.

Reality ensued

Mar. 30th, 2017 10:13 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
It turns out Young People have exams and such. Accordingly, there will be a two week hiatus in Young People reviews. See you all on the 14th!

Comic: I Don’t See Color

Mar. 29th, 2017 08:08 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Comic: I Don't See Color

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

My CPAP machine is insecure

Mar. 29th, 2017 02:51 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
So it sends me endless emails explaining how it makes my life easier. Today's was a claim that apnea sufferers who use their CPAP machines correctly halve their odds of experiencing a vehicular mishap, which is kind of funny because I almost got backed over by a car today.

Long way to go

Mar. 29th, 2017 03:09 pm
green_knight: (Inner Feminist)
[personal profile] green_knight
Here are two periodical reminders that equality is a long way off:

http://www.parent.co/5-unexpected-gender-differences-in-childrens-clothing/

An article which details the differences between 'boys' and 'girls' clothes. Spoiler: clothing for girls is less functional and less sturdy. It's also more likely to make the wearers uncomfortable.


The other day I was watching a primary school class run around the local park. In school uniform. Many girls wore shoes that did not seem to be made for running. Also, all of the girls but only some of the boys were running in their blazers.

The result was that girls in blazers and uncomfortable shoes were competing with boys in shirts and comfortable shoes. Guess who runs faster? Guess who takes home the message that they're good at sports? Guess who will find sports uncomfortable?



A female cook and a male cook work on a project together. It's way, way cool. A 'media/news company' ("Insider") makes a short, viral film about the genius guy and briefly mentions his female partner.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQV5btvgxII/?taken-by=abbyleewilcox

This is how women get erased. In this case, very deliberately.

Those chocolate geode eggs are way, way, WAY cool.

Hey UK friends

Mar. 29th, 2017 09:19 pm
soon_lee: Image of yeast (Saccharomyces) cells (Default)
[personal profile] soon_lee
Good luck!

Don't go 'round tonight...

Mar. 29th, 2017 07:42 pm
soon_lee: Image of yeast (Saccharomyces) cells (Default)
[personal profile] soon_lee
Don't go 'round tonight
It's bound to take your life
There's a...

a POLL of PORTENTOUSNESS

Mar. 28th, 2017 09:14 pm
yhlee: snowflake (StoryNexus: snowflake)
[personal profile] yhlee
Poll #18118 side project for fun
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 16


If I were to do a mini-gamebook (~100 sections) just for fun as a side project, it should be about:

View Answers

the hexarchate
10 (62.5%)

a sequel to Winterstrike (StoryNexus game)
3 (18.8%)

non-hexarchate space opera
3 (18.8%)

something else that I will explain in comments
2 (12.5%)

ticky the talky tea tocky!
5 (31.2%)



For reference: Winterstrike is now completely free to play (all the previously Nex-locked options are now free options, which should make it play faster!).
yhlee: M31 galaxy (M31)
[personal profile] yhlee
When I was younger, I cared a lot about worldbuilding in the sense of realism or plausibility. I hoped to write fairly standard Eurofantasy. I pored over books on siege engines and polearms, pondered the role of Swiss mercenaries as inspiration, took copious notes on books like Dorothy Hartman's Lost Country Life. I was determined for my worlds to be as "realistic" as possible, whatever that meant. Why? Because I was convinced that this kind of faithfulness to the waking world was the key to capturing readers; that a world with every pothole papered over, in which every city was mapped out to the least cobble, would be the most immersive.

I don't believe that anymore.

I came to this thought by way of games. For the longest time--an embarrassingly long time--I tried to learn chess the wrong way. The pageantry and imagery of chess, the fluff if you will, fascinated me: queens and knights and kings, rooks that looked like castles. I was very young when I had my first encounter with chess, and I developed this conviction that because the imagery of chess was based on medieval warfare, understanding medieval warfare would help me understand how to win chess.

(Those of you who do play chess are laughing. Hell, those of you who don't play chess are laughing. I know, I know!)

There are all sorts of things that an interest in medieval warfare will get you, but playing better chess is not one of them. I presume medieval knights did not get around the battlefield by jumping in L-shapes. On the other hand, chess knights never have to worry about broken lances or drowning in their own blood if their helmets get smashed in. (I read about that somewhere--whether it actually happened, I don't know. I don't remember the source.)

One thing is clear, though. The "failure" of chess to simulate medieval warfare in a mimetic sense has nothing to do with how successful, or immersive, it is as a game.

Video games are another example. These days a lot--not all, but a lot--of games sport beautifully rendered graphics that make my aging computer cry. The vocabulary of game graphics became so embedded in my thought processes that I have on multiple occasions had beautifully rendered dreams where I thought, Wow, that's some amazing polygon count there. (I have lucid dreams sometimes.)

Yet I remember being addicted to games with crude pixellated graphics back when I was in high school. I will own that one of those games was the Gold Box game Azure Bonds, which we picked up a bootleg of from an entrepreneurial fellow student when I was in Korea. (Something like two decades later, I caved and bought a legitimate copy from Good Old Games.) There was something jinxed about the bootleg's graphics, and it wasn't just the pixellation, which was how the game was supposed to come. No; something about the bootleg caused all the colors to load up in shades of sky blue, aquamarine, and lavender. (Given the title of the game, perhaps not entirely unfitting!) Nevertheless, the crudeness of the graphics and the eye-searing colors didn't destroy my enjoyment of the game. We never beat it (even today I haven't beat it!), but we spent hours killing trolls for bounty, trying to figure out how to outwit a black dragon, and prowling through the labyrinthine halls of Zhentil Keep. It's been rare that a more modern computer roleplaying game, despite the high-powered graphics, has been able to keep my attention in the same way.

The more books I read, to say nothing of book reviews, the more I become convinced that immersion in sf/f, as in games, is not a function of "realism" or even, necessarily, of meticulous worldbuilding. What a given reader will find acceptable--"plausible"--seems to be a function of familiarity or preexisting prejudice. We have hordes of hard sf books where faster-than-light drives are casually referenced; Jack Campbell's (excellent) military sf adventures have ships maneuvering at significant percentages of the speed of light yet the Lorentzian contraction factor never comes into play. The message I take from this is to choose what matters to you, and don't worry about the rest, because there is no such thing as perfect worldbuilding. I am not even convinced that perfect worldbuilding of the intensely time-consuming Tolkienian type is always desirable. Certainly it is sometimes desirable (it is difficult to argue with Tolkien's success!). But that doesn't mean it is the only storytelling mode that can work.

We accept all kinds of compromises with reality as part of the "speculative" part of speculative fiction. If you're telling a branching-lives story about how a woman's life might have played out if she had come to different decisions about how to handle her best friend's illness, is it all that realistic from a quantum mechanical "many-worlds" hypothesis standpoint that all the branches being explored have to do with her emotional crisis? When I'm reading a Warhammer 40,000 adventure in the grimdark future, does it really matter that the Latin is distorted in odd ways? If I had to read every line of dialogue in footnotes in a work that sought to represent pervasive multilingualism, would it really enhance my pleasure in the story, as opposed to concessions to the author and reader's actual shared language(s) and the occasional too-good-to-resist pun that exists in English but probably not as well in the constructed language of your choice?

Different readers care about different worldbuilding details; different writers care about different worldbuilding details, and both groups have differing areas of expertise. What's more, a given story may not rely in the slightest on a realistic depiction of its setting. I can watch Suits and enjoy the banter and office politics because I don't have the faintest clue how a law firm runs, but some of my friends are lawyers and they have all told me that they can't stand that show. Suits might perhaps best be considered a fantasy (in the loose sense of the term) only vaguely using the furniture of a law firm as a backdrop for its exchanges and power plays. If Suits had been written--worldbuilt--with greater attention to how law firms and legal negotiations actually work, it wouldn't do thing one to enhance my enjoyment of the show. That level of mimesis in that particular area is simply not relevant.

In its way, a story can be likened to a model. And no model can perfectly replicate the original, or it wouldn't be a model anymore. As an author, I want to carefully choose where I expend my effort building a world. If the story is mostly concerned about gardening, there might be much discussion of mulch, weather patterns, and slugs, but less care taken with the provenance of the yarn that shows up in a one-line throwaway. Not every aspect of a story can be rendered with equal depth, nor should it be. When I spend a lot of time on that mulch, and very little on the yarn, I am signaling to the reader what is important in this particular story. (And also saving myself time researching fancy yarns. As an ex-knitter, I have been that route!)

It is not that worldbuilding is bad. It is that worldbuilding is a tool, like any other--to be used judiciously.

(yes I know I'm a massive hypocrite)

[cross-post: Patreon]

Yes, I Still Get Rejections

Mar. 28th, 2017 05:12 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

A while back, I posted something on Facebook about a rejection I’d received on a project. I was a bit taken aback when several people offered to “have a talk” with the editor. Others questioned the editor’s mental health for rejecting a Jim Hines story. It was flattering, in a way — I love that I have fans who are so enthusiastic about reading new stuff from me — but I think it might also reflect a basic misunderstanding.

Rejections are part of the job. They don’t suddenly stop when you become more successful. They’re less frequent, yes. Much less frequent, and my own mental well being is unspeakably grateful for that. But with the possible exception of folks like Rowling and King, we all risk rejection when we write.

Over the past year, I wrote a short story for an anthology that got cancelled. Another editor said they were interested, so I sent the story their way. They read it, said some nice things, and rejected the story. And they were right to do so.

I’ll be honest, I would have loved to sell a story to this particular editor and venue, but the story I had written didn’t match the tone and style of the venue. I appreciate them taking a chance on reading the story, but they have every right to turn it down. It’s their job to turn it down. Because it wasn’t the right story for them.

I have another project my agent has been shopping around. We’ve gotten some very nice rejections, generally saying things like it’s not quite right for that particular line, or it’s close but this or that or the other didn’t work for them.

In a slightly older example, I had a friend reject me because the story I’d written utterly missed what they were looking for in the guidelines.

Does it still sting? Sure. Twenty-two years into this, I still hate getting rejections. But I’m not unrealistic enough to think every word I write is made of gold and perfectly-suited to all editors and publishers in the world, bar none. Sometimes I’m able to sell the rejected work elsewhere, to an editor/venue that’s a better fit. Sometimes I’m not.

That’s how the business works. Even after 12 books and 50+ short stories in print. Not because the editors are misguided or wrong or blind to my brilliance, but because they’re doing their jobs.

As someone who’s currently on both sides of the desk (co-editing Invisible 3 with Mary Anne Mohanraj as well as continuing to write my own stuff), let’s keep in mind that being a good editor is hard, just like being a good writer.

As for those rejections? I recommend three things.

  1. Get the story back out there.
  2. Keep working on the next one.
  3. Eat ice cream as necessary.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Rules of Play

Mar. 28th, 2017 03:24 pm
yhlee: icosahedron (d20) (d20 (credit: bag_fu on LJ))
[personal profile] yhlee
The most recent book I read is Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman's Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. I never had a very large collection of books on game design and game design theory, but I lost almost all of them in the flood last year. Generous benefactors, donated replacements for a couple, which I am still reading (I tend to bounce between books); but it also occurred to me that I could check the local public library for any game design books. This was one of my finds.

My interest in game design comes partly from screwing around with game design, as you might expect; past efforts have included parser IF (interactive fiction--think text adventures like Zork), a really terrible Monopoly mod involving thoroughbred racing, and a fantasy adventure game that inadvertently resembled Talisman more than it had any right to. It also partly comes from the intersection of game-as-narrative and narrative-for-writing, and partly from my fascination with game designer John Wick's statement that roleplaying games are the most immersive form of storytelling because they're the only kind in which the audience is also the author. (Something like that. I'll try to dig up the exact quote sometime.)

So, here are the good things about Rules of Play: it is 600 pages of chewy, thoughtful, massively interdisciplinary theorizing about how games work, what makes them tick, what makes good games good. While it's copyright 2004, I would say that on a theoretical level almost all of its material remains relevant, even when some of the examples are dated. (I mean, I suspect that Chess is still Chess, you know?) It is also one of the most beautifully organized textbooks I have ever seen. The book is divided into thematic units (Core Concepts, Rules, Play, and Culture; Rules, Play, and Culture represent three outward-expanding schemas through which games can be studied), and each unit into chapters. Each chapter lucidly explicates different frames (e.g. Games as Emergent Systems, Games as Narrative Play, Games as Cultural Resistance), and ends in a 1-2 page summary with vocabulary/terminology bolded for easy notetaking. (I did just that--I copied out all the summaries. If the book had been of a size amenable to photocopying, I would have done that instead, but alas.) There are also recommended readings that further elucidate on the topics of each chapter, a few of which I was already familiar with, most of which not.

Also interestingly, each unit ends with a commissioned game that requires very basic materials (think a deck of playing cards, or some six-sided dice, or a game board printed in the book itself) as well as the designer's notes/diary on the design and playtesting process. The game designers are Richard Garfield (who is best known for Magic: The Gathering), Frank Lantz (Gearheads and The Robot Club), Kira Snyder (Game Designer and Lead Writer on Majestic at Electronic Arts), and James Ernest (Cheapass Games, e.g. Kill Doctor Lucky and Give Me the Brain). I was particularly taken by the beauty and cleverness of Lantz's Ironclad, which is almost two games in one on a 6x8 checkerboard, with one game taking place on the squares and the other on the intersections, and the two inner games interacting with each other in interesting ways.

This is an excellent textbook, and I do not hesitate to recommend it if you are interested in game design theory, but it comes with an ENORMOUS caveat--not something that's bad, but something you should be aware of. It is that this book will not teach you how to design a game. It will teach you a ton of theory about game design and analysis. But it will not lead you through the game design process, or present exercises, or talk about rapid prototyping, or about the business side of the game industry, or any of that. I can in fact imagine someone picking up and reading this book and not ending up with much clue as to how to start designing a game. It would undoubtedly make a fantastic supplemental text to a course on actually doing so, of course. But as far as practical game-designing advice goes, you'll want to go elsewhere.

The most accessible resource I have seen for actually learning to design a game remains Ian Schreiber's online course Game Design Concepts, although it also requires the text Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. That text is well worth it, and is more hands-on as well (I have read it, although God knows I didn't do the exercises--so many exercises!). As an example of how Schreiber's approach differs, one of the first things GDC does is to lead you through the creation of an extremely simple racing game. It's not an original game. It's not even necessarily an interesting game. But it does break that first "What do I do?" block.

[cross-post: Patreon]

okay now i can go eat my ramen for lunch LUNCH LUNCH OM NOM NOM

slush as a form of meditation

Mar. 28th, 2017 03:31 pm
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
The line I return to over and over about the slush pile is that all of human life is there, and I don't think I'm going to get sick of saying it. If I'm feeling particularly depressed about humanity, all I have to do is read slush for a while, and I will find something to make me feel better. Of course, if I'm feeling particularly good about humanity, all I have to do is read slush for a while, and I will find something that makes me despair for our future and, indeed, past and present as a species.

I feel as though at some point some ancient and secret confraternity of editors has codified the guidelines of slushomancy, and I hope someday they let me in on it: next year will be heavy on space squid, say, with a chance of light pastiche storms. I'm not sure you could use it to predict real events, although it certainly has about as much randomness included as any yarrow stalk or marrow bone.

There are a few trends that have become clear, of course. More fantasy than science fiction, always, always. Sad lesbians, or lesbians in romances that don't work out for one reason or another, are very in. People who write excessively effusive cover letters have frequently never learned how to use spellcheck. Every so often there will be a story I absolutely love which is simply completely wrong for the magazine, and I will have to write a very sad note reading Dear X, this is amazing, there is nothing wrong with it, I love it, have you tried a mainstream lit mag/a horror magazine/an erotica anthology? I always fear they won't believe me, is the problem with that.

Also, every so often we get actual answer stories, stories written in direct response to and in conversation with other works in the field. What fascinates me about these is which works people choose to respond to. I mean, more than fifty years on we are still getting direct replies to 'The Cold Equations'. That's a sub-genre of its own, people who object to something or other about 'The Cold Equations'. Which is fair, except that at this point I suspect it has all been done. There's that, and then responses to Ender's Game are a subgenre (one which has become more impassioned since Card proved to be... the kind of person he is), and then responses to 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas'.

We do occasionally get really good response stories. I'm not inherently against the idea of publishing them. But the problem with response stories is that you don't just measure their quality against your own standards, you measure them against the original, and while that isn't a horrific problem with Card or 'The Cold Equations', I feel bad for people who are directly attempting the prose style, let alone the story structuring, of Ursula K. Le Guin. Probably the best way to go prose-wise with an Omelas response would be to be as different as humanly possible, because direct comparisons are going to be odious. Unfortunately, this memo has not reached many of the writers in question.

Ah well. You can't make an Omelas without breaking a few egos.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

The Libertarian Futurist Society
has announced five finalists for the Best Novel category of the 37th annual Prometheus Awards

The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Corporation Wars: Insurgence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins)
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo (translated by Lola Rogers) (Grove Press/Black Cat)
Blade of p'Na by L. Neil Smith (Phoenix Pick)

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