Links and Notes for the Week of February 4, 2018

* This is how you give an acceptance speech: Ursula Vernon, upon receiving the 2017 Hugo Award for best novelette.

* Some words:
** “gigil” (Tagalog) – the trembling or gritting of the teeth in response to a situation that overwhelms your self-control. The powerful urge to bite or squeeze something cute.
** “Kummerspeck” (German) – lit. “Sorrow fat” or “Sorrow bacon” – the weight gained through stress eating.

* Over at Metafilter (user name: JohnFromGR) there is an excellent catch-all post covering the latest bullshit from the alt-right/neo-nazi contingent of genre fiction and fandom (Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Happy Frogs, GamerGaters, MRAs, etc.).

* Though I have been aware of it for quite some time, I have never used Patreon. That all changed after I attended ConFusion and spoke with a number of writers who fund their writing through Patreon. Since then I have added my support to the efforts and good works of Kameron Hurley (on Patreon) and Apex Publishing (on Patreon). I really like this mode of providing support. It is a good balance to the per-project model of Kickstarter and similar services. Another way to look at it might be to say that it has the same highs and lows as Kickstarter, just smoothed out over a much larger time frame. In any event, a few dollars a month to support great writing in return for the opportunity to read that great writing, is money well spent.

* I have been following the Calvert Journal for a while now. Back in 2016 they ran an article about teens in Transnistria, which introduced me to the concept of states which are minimally recognized as such by other countries. Transnistria has been one such since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They, along with Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Artsakh, created the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations (Twitter feed). I find places like this interesting because they exist on the edges and in the interstices of power, and thus may be fertile ground for new ideas of politics, sovereignty, autonomy and empire. If they survive.

* In your copious free time, you can amuse yourself with Monster Breeder. Capture monsters. Breed them. Make new monsters!

ConFusion 2018: Visions of Positive Masculinity

(These are my lightly edited notes for a panel I attended at the ConFusion Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention in January of 2018)

DESCRIPTION: From high fantasy adventures to noir mysteries to superheroes and war stories , genre fiction has meticulously catalogued the narrow roles society expects men to occupy: strong, brave, and powerful, but also angry, competitive, emotionally repressed, and misogynistic. What does a character arc look like for the man who has decided not to be the best at performing this toxic vision of masculinity? We’ve seen many stories about women who struggle and triumph against gender roles. How can writers use social expectations of masculinity to create challenges that their male characters have to overcome to save the day?

PANELISTS: David Anthony Durham, Jason Sanford, Jim C. Hines, John Chu, Pablo Defendini

NOTES:

  • Before discussing “positive masculinity”, perhaps a definition of “toxic masculinity” (“T.M.” henceforth)?
  • T.M. may appear in ways that seem innocuous
  • T.M. does NOT mean “All men are bastards!”
  • T.M. is something we are born into but can supersede
  • #NotAllMen is a symptom of T.M.
  • Kylo Ren is an example of T.M.
  • Poe Dameron is an example of a different sort of T.M.
  • We are at the beginning of the pushback against T.M. at the institutional level.
  • Part of challenging T.M. is challenging the idea of “masculinity”, i.g. “What is masculinity? What is masculine?”
  • Works which stand against T.M.:
  • Empathy can inoculate against T.M.
  • Good fiction creates empathy
    • “Write better books, make better people”
  • Can healthy, well-balanced protagonists make for compelling reading? YES!!!!!
  • We would like to see aspects of T.M. addressed in literature in the upcoming year:
    • Aggression
    • Conquest
    • Lack of empathy
  • “We want people to live up to Apple’s P.R., not necessarily Apple’s actions in the world.”
  • Big tech companies are often not aware of, or don’t care about, even the first-order effects of their actions (e.g. externalities, be they environmental, cultural, economic, et al.)
  • Being proud of ignorance is a huge signifier of T.M. Distrust of expertise and education and intelligence
  • Dismantling T.M. is MEN’s PROBLEM. It’s not on women to do it for men.

My thoughts:

This was quite eye-opening for me. I am aware of the existence of toxic masculinity in everyday life, and do what I can to expunge it from my personality and social interactions. Of course, as a guy, and as me being embedded in me, I am not always aware of how I am perceived by people outside of me. This panel was a good view into the various ways toxic masculinity can manifest. Of particular interest was that this panel happened right after an incident in another panel, which led to an attendee exhibiting stalker-ish behavior toward one of the panelists. T.M. in action. I expect I will add thoughts to this subject in future blog posts.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 28, 2018

* Some words: Dialogue. Monologue. Analog. Dialect. Lecture. Lector.

* After some years of using GoodReads, I am trying out LibraryThing as a way to catalog all of my books. I can’t say I prefer one to the other, but at first use the LibraryThing UI is easier for viewing large volumes of data. Thus I don’t need to build a custom app to do this for me. Plus plus, the LibraryThing Android App can scan barcodes, which VASTLY simplifies the cataloging process.

* [UPDATE] After a week of using LibraryThing, I can say this: LT is very good as a cataloging system. It lacks some of the “friendliness” of GoodReads, but that is not a criticism. LT also makes sorting, filtering, and categorizing extremely easy. I think I will end up using both in parallel – GoodReads for the more public-facing view of all things literary in my life, and LibraryThing for the catalog of my personal library. LT will also be useful for outputting data for any custom apps I might build down the road.

* I’ve been studying up on Baba Yaga and Russian history for a writing project. One of the odd bits of trivia I have uncovered is that there is a community of Old Believers in a tiny town in northern Minnesota. Old Believers — staroveri (старове́ры), formerly called raskolniki (раскольники), which has interesting connotations vis a vis Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment — have communities all over the world, with the primary U.S. populations being in Alaska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Funny, the way the pieces of a story come together.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 21, 2018

* I have personal connections to New Orleans. My dad lived and worked there for many years, from the early 1980s until his passing in 2009. I attended Mardi Gras exactly once in all that time, in 2007. Unfortunately I did not get to experience the Krewe of Barkus, who are all Good Dogs.

* Since some people disagree that they are all Good Dog—and who has time or patience for that malarkey—it is sometimes necessary to clean house on Twitter. I have only recently begun to use Twitter as my primary social media outlet, as, though they are both objectively terrible, Facebook is worse. Barry Ritholtz, who I have been following for about a decade, has recently posted his strategy for dealing with trolls on Twitter. Time will tell if it is effective.

* Though I have subscribed to the RSS feed for a couple of years now, and I have been aware of its existence for somewhat longer, I have just now began listening to the Writing Excuses podcast, starting at Episode 1.1. My plan is to go through all of them in order and get caught up to present by the end of the year.

* Over in the day job, as I study up on React.js (which is actually kind of fun, now that I have played around a bit) I am keeping things interesting by using CSS Grids for structure and layout. In particular the Grid by Example website, created by Rachel Andrew, is a tremendous resource. While writing this post I realized that I met Rachel back in June of 2017 when I attended the O’Reilly Fluent conference in San Jose, California.

* Great googly moogly! Ben Firshman has built an NES emulator in Javascript, including my all-time favorite, Bubble Bobble! So much for productivity until Spring.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 14, 2018

* Back in September of 2016 I took the Amtrak from Grand Rapids to Vancouver via the Empire Builder route. It was a wonderful, contemplative, transcendent experience (blog posts pending). Based on that, and based on this article in the Calvert Journal, I now want to experience the Trans-Siberian Railway. It will also give me an excuse to dust off my Russian skills.

* And speaking of that trip, while in transit, while not watching America roll by, I read Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano. It is an absolutely beautiful book, recalling all of love and beauty and intimacy and trust and heartache and the million tiny moments that bind people together and pull them apart. I just came across a wonderful review by Lauren Goldberg in Music & Literature which does justice to the most compelling book I have read in years. On a related note, I think I will now buy a subscription to Music & Literature.

* And speaking of Russian stuff, the Speak Russian Like Russians blog is both useful and fun.

* In the world of fandom and literature, author Jim C. Hines (may his beard grow ever longer) has put together an excellent post detailing the long history of Jon del Arroz’s trolling and harassing behavior toward authors, fans and organizations in the larger community. The comments on the article are mostly erudite and informative, though a JdA supporter/GamerGater pulls an impressive amount of sea-lioning to no significant effect.

* The 2018 State of the World conversation over at The Well has wrapped up. It, as well as the many previous conversations in the series, are well worth perusing over the upcoming weeks and months. A hearty thank you to Bruce Sterling, Jon Lebkowsky and all the other participants for opening this to the general public.

Dean Allen, creator of the content management/blogging system Textpattern, has passed away. Allen was one of the biggest influences in my early career as a web developer. I took his thoughts on design and typography to heart, though I was never a designer. His photo blog featuring his Weimaraner Oliver made me want to move to rural France. Allen, along with Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman, were huge influences as I began my career in web development.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 7, 2018

* Interesting thought experiment: Roko’s Basilisk. To wit, “The premise is that an all-powerful artificial intelligence from the future could retroactively punish those who did not help bring about its existence, including those who merely knew about the possible development of such a being.” See also: America in 2017.

* For the record, this is what happens when toxic masculinity, white privilege and tech-bro douchebaggery combine to create the perfect American asshole. James Damore is a waste of space, skin, time, attention and oxygen.

* Something wonderful: A large (100+!) collection of writers in their writing spaces.

* I follow a few foreign (to me here in the USA) news and cultural feeds. The Calvert Journal recently ran this wonderful overview of pop music from Yugoslavia, circa 1960 – 1990. The Calvert Journal is a wonderful resource. In particular, their New East 100 is worth a few hours of browsing.

* The always-entertaining John Scalzi’s take on Trump’s ongoing racism.

* For the record, here is my stance on Donald Trump: Trump is a racist. Trump is racist. This has been apparent to the entire rational world for decades. If you want to argue this point, I don’t need to provide you with examples of his racist behavior. The simple fact that you want to argue this point demonstrates that you have nothing useful to say.

The Record of My Life

I have just added a “Published Work” page to this blog. You can access it through the main menu. It’s kind of threadbare at the moment, but with a little luck I will have some publications to add by the end of the year.

Most of my published work at present consists of editorials written for The 3288 Review, and around three dozen interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.

ConFusion 2018

I will be speaking on two panels at ConFusion 2018! Here is my schedule:

TITLE: Poetry in Novels
DESCRIPTION: Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass include lengthy poems, placing them in a long tradition of long-form fiction that incorporates poetry into the work. How does writing poems for prose fiction differ from writing poems that stand alone? What distinct techniques does it require? Where do poems within stories exist in the landscape of genre poetry today?
PANELISTS: Amal El-Mohtar, Clif Flynt, Jeff Pryor, Josef Matulich, John Winkelman, Mari Ness
ROOM: Isle Royale
DAY/TIME: Sunday, January 21, 10:00 – 10:50 am

TITLE: Analogue Media in the Digital Age
DESCRIPTION: Paper, vinyl, and film, oh my! What are the unique advantages to analogue media, and what’s just a deeply ingrained sense of how media “should” be? Is it not a book without the paper smell, or a song without the soft crackle of a needle on vinyl?
PANELISTS: David Klecha, Gail Cross, John Winkelman
ROOM: Petoskey
DAY/TIME: Sunday, January 21, 1:00 – 1:50 pm

I will, of course, vastly over-think and over-research these topics over the next ten days, and will therefore post my notes.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 1, 2018

Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky are holding their annual State of the World conversation over at The Well. Quite worth following over the next couple of weeks, and bookmarking for reference as the world continues to continue.

Charles Stross gave the keynote speech at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress in December 2017. Transcript here. Video here. Much discussion about the idea of the corporation as artificial intelligence. As always with Stross’s blog, the comments following the transcript are well worth reading.

* At the day job, I am studying up on React.js. After learning and using many versions of jQuery, Backbone, Bootstrap, Angular, Ember, and a host of other frameworks, my emotional reaction to React can be summed up as “eh”. The ennui of the Javascript developer.

* Over at File770, we learned that Rabid Puppy ally Jonathan Del Arroz has been banned from the next WorldCon due to his extremely bad behavior and threats of disrupting the con. This is merely another in the ongoing trend of Puppy-aligned writers and fans running aground on the cold rocks of the rational, adult-behaving world.

* During a quiet moment I looked around the interwebs to see if any other countries had the misfortune of having a leader like Trump. As it turns out, there is one! Turkmenistan has the great good fortune of being led by one Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow, who has recently outlawed black cars in his country, and who has had made a giant statue of himself riding a golden horse. Also he is a dictator and runs one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.