All posts for January 2018

The Loud And The Desperate

"Your image does not need curation, because all you are doing is broadcasting your desperation."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/31 18:00

Stop Twitting Yourself - The Awl

There is nothing you will eventually hear about from Twitter that will make you think, “Gosh, I wish I knew that earlier.” You are not missing anything. You do not need to march in the mediocrity parade of frustrated comedians trying to make the same stupid joke a fraction of a second before anyone else. Your image does not need curation, because all you are doing is broadcasting your desperation. No one is cool on Twitter. It is a giant assemblage of sad people trying too hard in real time. You do not need to do anything in front of an audience. ... Your desire to play to the crowd is both symptom and expression of the sickness unto death. All social media is poison, but Twitter is a particular type of toxin because it takes the lack of nuance that makes the Internet in general so abrasive and it dissolves it down to its ugliest essence. Everything that happens on Twitter is a nightmare, and every time you turn away from your screen and wonder why you feel like you want to die that’s why.

Bold emphasis mine, ital emphasis theirs.

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Tags: Twitter  social media 

Unsticking The Gears

No prizes for guessing I'm talking about my next project.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/27 08:00

One of the strangest and most disheartening experiences you can have as a creator is when you have in mind what seems like a workable idea, one populated with all the right pieces, but which obstinately refuses to click.

No prizes for guessing I'm talking about my next project.

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Tags: The Fall Of The Hammer  creativity  future projects  writing 

A Few Words From LeGuin

Parting words, unfortunately.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/24 18:00

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin

If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time's-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one. It is a strange realism, but it is a strange reality.

For this and many other things, she'll be missed.

Tags: Ursula K. LeGuin  in memoriam  science fiction  writers  writing 

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, But Sometimes They Just Turn Out To Be Cattle Rustlers

We need to have more nuanced ways of taking what matters for us from a given creator and from their works.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/20 17:00

I think it is a mistake, although a reparable one, to treat our artists and our entertainers as if they need to be moral paragons.

By this I don't mean that we should look the other way when one of them does something terrible. What I mean is we need to have more nuanced ways of taking what matters for us from a given creator and from their works. It does us no good to hold them to standards that they can never meet in the first place, just as it does us no good to pointedly ignore their failings and say, "I'm only here for the art."

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Tags: art  artists  creators  notoriety 

Ruined Forever

No critic can ever "ruin" a work you like, unless you don't know what their job really is.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/19 17:00

I can't remember where I read this, but I once came across someone grousing about the way George Orwell had ruined for them the experience of reading Charles Dickens. Orwell's objection to Dickens was that the man was skilled at enumerating and dramatizing the ills of society, but didn't have any solutions. The reader thought this was a stupid objection: Of course Dickens didn't have any solutions! He was a novelist, not a sociologist! It was, in his eyes, a fundamentally dumb criticism, like going to a gas station and complaining because they don't do cataract surgery. But the reader was now also annoyed that one of his favorite authors had been ruined by this criticism.

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Tags: Charles Dickens  George Orwell  Woody Allen  creators  criticism 

If You Can't Please Yourself ...

Works don't exist just to please audiences. But authors also don't exist just to please themselves.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/19 08:00

The other night we got to talking about the problem of pleasing others with one's work, a problem I've come to think of as inherently intractable. Works don't exist to please audiences. They exist to give audiences that many more options to choose from, any of which may or may not please them. Whether or not they're pleased is really up to them. But as with any other insight in this vein, you do have to keep from letting that become an excuse for bad work.

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Tags: audiences  creativity  creators 

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned: February, Come She Will

What's on the slate for Chez Genji.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/18 08:00

Out of radio silence once more. And yeah, yeah, I know the song quote in question refers to April, but I'm planning ahead. Here's what the roster will bear for the coming month or so.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned  The Fall Of The Hammer  future projects  projects  writing 

Things I Have Learned, 2018 Edition

Words from the wise.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/17 17:00
  1. Write things down. Revisit them. By this process you will discover that you were not the person you were even five minutes ago. Take that to heart.
  2. Don't be a jerk. Moreover, don't pretend you don't know what a jerk is.
  3. Measure twice, cut once. And measure from different directions if you can.
  4. To tell good from evil, give it power. Evil keeps power for itself. Good gives power back to you.
  5. It's OK to walk out of a bad movie or drop a boring book. Life's too short to waste on things that aren't for you.
  6. That said, what was boring at nineteen might be enthralling at thirty-six. Allow for the possibility that you have evolved.
  7. Existence is a learning experience, not a morality play.
  8. A difficult truth is always better than an easy joy, but that doesn't mean an ice cream cone after dinner is a sin.
  9. Suffering is private. Never judge someone else for being in less pain than you, or more pain than you.
  10. Break the rules rather than do anything outright barbarous, but also own the consequences of doing so.
  11. There is always something worthwhile in the present moment, even if seems like a terrible moment. You owe it to yourself to find it.
  12. Shared taste is not necessarily an indicator of shared values. Divergent taste is not necessarily an indicator of divergent values.
  13. Don't worry about what other people think of you. But you are permitted to defray this rule if the people in question cut your paychecks. Just try not to defray it forever.
  14. Be yourself, but not to the extent that you're living all over the guy next to you.
  15. Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral. (attributed to Melvin Kranzberg)
  16. Money can't buy happiness. It can buy remarkable simulations of it that are good enough to fool the inattentive. Don't be one of those dopes. Insist on the real thing, the one that has no pricetag.
  17. Taking pride in being an asshole is slim pickings indeed.
  18. Never confuse a bid for immortality with the childish fear of death.
  19. Remember: they can kill you, they can besmirch your name, they can destroy everything you've ever done and ruin the lives of everyone you've ever loved, but that's all. (Paraphrased from Henry Rollins)
  20. Never strong-arm anyone else into learning any of this. They have to get it for themselves.

Also, Milton Glaser's Rules are worth remembering:

  1. You can only work for people you like.
  2. If you have a choice, never have a job. Have a vocation, or a livelihood, but never a job.
  3. Some people are toxic; avoid them.
  4. Professionalism is not enough; the good is the enemy of the great. (My way of putting it: Always play that much more over your head.)
  5. Less is not necessarily more. Just enough is more.
  6. Style is not to be trusted. Catering to peoples' tastes now is to cater to their whims, and whims change.
  7. How you live changes your brain. Live richly and diversely. See rule 4.
  8. Doubt is better than certainty.
  9. Solving the problem is more important than being right.
  10. Tell the truth.

Tags: advice  philosophy  wisdom 

Mystery, Not Mystification

If you shoot for ambiguity, some people are going to come away from your work bored or confused. Here's how to cope.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/11 17:00

From the last post: "Democratization should not consist of the destruction of mystery, but finding ways to encourage all and sundry to participate in the mystery just as it is — and, moreover, to not let that process become a form of mystification unto itself."

That was pretty gnarly and tough to decode, wasn't it? OK, decode I shall.

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Tags: creativity  writers  writing 

Smarts For Me But Not For Thee

On very stable geniuses and the like.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/10 17:00

It's hard not to look at recent news of Trump's bragging about his very stable genius, and then flash back through the history of anti-intellectualism in this country's political history. The thing I find most common isn't so much anti-intellectualism, not so much being against higher thought per se, but something slightly different. It's resentment at the idea that someone might be smarter than you are, that they don't have to brag about it because they can just go out and be smart, that they are smart enough to lecture you about why you're wrong about something when you know you're right about it, and so the response to that is not to lift yourself up, but to drag the others down and usurp their place. You're the smart one, not them. Or at the very least, you're smart too, and anyone who says you're not is a lying liar.

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Tags: Internet  intellectualism  politics 

The Answer To Last Week's Puzzle

"Are we so desperate to solve our art?"

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/08 17:00

David Bowie: The Last Five Years Movie Review (2018) | Roger Ebert

Are we so desperate to solve our art? Genuine mystery these days is in such short supply these days, so my advice? Listen to 1977's Low and let it guide your thoughts like an oar on the river of your imagination and the current of art history. We didn't come to Bowie because he could be easily understood. We put his albums on because they made our collective emptiness bearable. His albums made the journey of life seem like it had a destination.

Emphasis mine.

Most people reading this might be familiar with A. J. Weberman, or at the very least "Dylanology" — the practice of trying to divine Bob Dylan's work as if it were god's entrails. I always found that kind of pseudo-scholarship repulsive, but it took reading the term "solving our art", as above, to really snap into place what's wrong with it all.

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Tags: David Bowie  art  creativity  music 

Bailout Protocol

When is it OK to quit reading a "boring" book?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/08 08:00

There's a fridge magnet I ran into once — at the Strand, maybe? — that said something like, "Life's too short to read bad books." Meaning, if you find yourself 15% or 20% into a story that's you're just not feeling in any measure, put it down and move on.

It's good advice, and I've used it many times myself. But it also seems like a potential trap, a way to reinforce one's own bubble.

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Tags: D.H. Lawrence  readers  reading 

It's A Living

If written fiction's becoming nothing but a prelude to adaptation, what's that mean for written fiction itself?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/06 17:00

A follow-on link to my previous post (about books adapted into other media):

Great television is taking over the space occupied by many novels, and taking with them many excellent writers. And by and large, it’s delivering the same rewards to its audience. But what about novels that exploit the opportunities that are available only to the form of the novel, such as novels that explore interiority, or rely on the novel’s versatile treatment of time and causation? Who will speak for such novels?

If I seem reluctant to sound the alarm for the demise of the literary novel, even as a novelist myself, it is because modern fiction, particularly English-language fiction, has moved in the direction of the televisual, anyway. Much so-called literary fiction is evidently written with an eye to an option for film or TV adaptation. The response to the challenges from television and other media has been to become more like the offerings of those media. In some ways, this is understandable behavior on the part of each novelist. For all but a tiny few, it’s nearly impossible to make anything even approaching a living from writing literary fiction. But the effect of this in aggregate is to leave much of modern fiction looking like an inferior version of TV. If novelists are relinquishing the very things that are exclusively the province of the novel, then they are complicit in the demise of the novel. If they don’t want to save the novel, why should anyone else?

Emphases mine.

It's hard to make a living writing fiction, since the market for it dwindles ever more. There's more to read, more to watch, more to play, more to do than just read books, but reading books provide something you can't get from watching TV or playing video games or what have you. Not that they're superior experiences — that's up to the individual experience and the individual experiencer — but that they are singular experiences.

It doesn't surprise me, then, that making a work inherently that much more adaptable is a good way to turn what otherwise would be a marginal hobby into a way of life. This led me to think maybe the problem isn't in the work habits, but in the expectations; maybe the better thing to do is to treat literary fiction like a hobby and not a vocation, because we know the demand for it is correspondingly narrow, and we shouldn't be in the business of making social guarantees for people who want to do something that isn't all that monetizable.

Fine. But.

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Tags: criticism  critics  fiction  literature  readers  reading  writers  writing 

57 Channels Redux

And still nothing on.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/05 17:00

Netflix had very few wins and too many failures in 2017 - Polygon

While there is more great television [now] than at any time in history, audiences are having more trouble than ever distinguishing the great from the merely competent. I also believe that there is so much U.S. television we have lost much of the thread of a coherent, collective conversation about what is good, what is very good and what is great.

I think one of the unanticipated side effects of having so much cultural stuff is that it's harder to make a conversation out of all of it.

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Tags: Criterion  Netflix  audiences  books  curation  movies 

Player Zero

On why books need to be written to be books, not film pitches-to-be.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/05 08:00

Last post I mentioned how the forthcoming movie Ready Player One, from Ernest Cline's novel, seemed like it was always meant to be a movie anyway. That, apart from how wretched the book was in general (nerd nostalgia is no less gruesome than any other kind), was the biggest thing I brought away from reading it. RPO read more like a treatment for a screenplay than it did a novel, so maybe filming it was just the intended end result anyway.

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Tags: adaptation  fiction  movies  science fiction  writing 

Someone Else's Discussion

On getting back into the headspace for blogging.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/04 17:00

Blogging is like any other habit. It's dismayingly easy to fall out of the habit if you let yourself. The past month and change threw so much at me and so fast that all thoughts of discussing my work, or mining insights from various goings-on, or anything at all, really, were shoved straight off the table and into the other room. And — if I may torture this metaphor a little further — I haven't even gone into the other room and picked everything up off the floor yet.

But I also know the longer I stay out of the habit, the harder it will be to get back into it. Not just because any habit once broken is difficult to resume, but because the mindset that once sustained that habit now feels like it belongs to a different person.

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Tags: blogging 

Excuse My Silence

But I think you'll find it was entirely justified.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/01/01 15:00

I mentioned I wouldn't be saying much until January of 2018 at the latest. Well, here we are; about time I piped back up.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned  The Fall Of The Hammer  Welcome to the Fold  projects  real life 

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