What comes next for me after I shove my current book off my desk.
Some progress notes:
Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned is now in the final editing cleanup stages. This is the mechanical stuff — spot-fixes, automatic spellchecking, formatting, etc. I've decided to postpone the actual release of the book until the end of August — some stuff going on that month that I don't want getting in the way if I can help it — but we are very close to done here.
Once again: Whatever it is we're designing our world for, it isn't the human being.
We have unwittingly accepted the paradigm that technology comes first, with people relegated to doing the actions that the machines cannot do. This requires people to act like machines, ever ready to take over when things go wrong.
... Whenever I wander around a city, I often stop to examine some unique thing I’ve noticed. Why? Curiosity: It’s a natural human trait. My curiosity frequently leads me to insights that have helped me in my career. So why is this wonderful, creative trait of curiosity given the negative term “distraction”?
This brings back to mind a line I return to often, one I believe came by way of Theodore Roszak: whatever it is we're designing our world for, it isn't the human being.
What did Bertrand Russell mean when he said, "Do not feel absolutely certain of anything"?
Bertrand Russell once listed a series of guidelines for intellectual integrity. I'd like to discuss them all at length, but I'll start with the top of the list: Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
This is a view shared by Sir Karl Popper, the godfather of falsifiability. His stance was that any position we take should always be regarded as tentative. But he also made it clear that the further we go, the more work would be required to overturn an existing position. It was far easier to unseat the Ptolemaic or geocentric view of the universe than to unseat the Einsteinian view of the universe, in big part because each unseating builds on the successes and learns from the failures of the prior one. Unseating Einstein would take more effort than I am capable of visualizing, but I'm one man and I'm not even a physicist. The door has to remain open. But not just so that any old thing can walk through.
On how social-reading network Wattpad is becoming a hub for discovering the next big thing.
Social-reading network Wattpad is becoming a hub for discovering the next big thing:
“This is a whole bunch of information the industry never had before,” Levitz tells Vulture. “We can go to the audience in a story and see not only if they like or dislike the lead male character. We can read the comments that actually say, ‘Yeah, this is where half the audience decides they like him and half the audience decides they hate him.’ We can look at whole chapters that don’t have any comments and drop the right pieces out. We can draw up two casting videos of two potential female leads. And through our social feeds, go, ‘What do you think?’ And we’re gonna get tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of comments that are gonna point us in one direction or another.”
First off, full disclosure: I'm flirting with the idea of using Wattpad for a future story or two, just to see what the experience is like.
That said: What strikes me most about getting feedback like this is how it's more useful for the marketers than it is for the authors or the audience.
It's the fate of most any creator to never know what their work means to other people, but only to themselves.
I think it's the fate of most any creator to never know what their work means to other people, but only to themselves.
I'm not the biggest fan of my own work. I find countless problems with it — it's too contrived here, it's too needlessly complex there, it's too removed from human behavior, etc. I have to stop myself from polishing it to death, and then I still find things wrong with it long after the fact. Whatever it is I'm aiming at, it always seems to be left of where I end up hitting. It always feels like there's too much of the story between me and whatever it is I'm trying to express. And so on.
Steve has some notes on pathological fandom that are worth a read. A few things stood out.
Steve has some notes on pathological fandom that are worth a read. A few things stood out:
Even if your interest provides a number of benefits, even if it connects you to people, those connections may not be healthy or involve too much pathology. In some cases you may be better of without the community.
It’s not just “does my interest connect me to people” it’s “does it connect me with healthy people and communities?”
I think the bigger problem is that most people have no idea what constitutes a pathological community connection, or a pathological community for that matter.
Future Genji Press plans, laid bare! (Oh, and free stuff!)
What with Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned finally (FINALLY, FINALLY) reaching completion and getting ready for publication in the coming month or two, it's high time I dropped some hints about what other changes are in store for Chez Genji.
Finally, I have two, possibly three, works on the front burner contending for being written next. I'd like to keep the timeframe on their production reasonably short. The last few books took far too long, and there were several reasons for that: Vajra was just a monster of a book; Welcome To The Fold was being written around the same time I was relocating cross-country; and AONO also ended up being long-ish (although not Vajra long) and written atop some things going on in my life that I'd rather not go on about in public. The next ones are intended to be shorter, more in the 120-150K word range, and written on a schedule to match.
Ideally, I'd like to go to a one-book-a-year schedule, which was the design I set for myself when I founded Genji Press some twelve years ago (jeezy creezy, has it really been that long?!). I don't know if I can actually live up to that kind of self-imposed rigor, but I can sure try.
On not caring what other people think of your work, while at the same time caring about your work.
Don't lie to yourself. Every author out there wants to be told — yes, you included — that they are brilliant, that they have created something truly original and memorable and fun and significant and decorated with every other adjective that writers siphon blood out of themselves to hear at least once in their lives.
I'm still like this myself, and I know it. What's different at this point is that I've taught myself to be conscious of it, and to realize how little other peoples' opinions actually mean. But not in the sense that I came to know such an idea.
"There is no reading experience in an idea, only in its execution."
This essay, entitled "The problem with asking around 'Is my story idea any good?'", is a good, succinct treatment of a common problem.
It doesn’t matter if your story idea is good or bad. An idea is just a spark of motivation to start writing. ... There is no reading experience in an idea, only in its execution.
Emphasis mine. My theory as to why writers demand a pre-emptive answer for whether or not a given idea is any "good" is because they're trying to avoid a sunk-cost situation. They don't want to invest a year of their time in something that's a known dud.
I think about this quote a lot these days.
How many happy, satisfied people there are, after all, I said to myself. What an overwhelming force! Just consider this life--the insolence and idleness of the strong, the ignorance and bestiality of the weak, all around intolerable poverty, cramped dwellings, degeneracy, drunkenness, hypocrisy, lying ... and yet peace and order apparently prevail in all those homes and in the streets. Of the fifty thousand inhabitants of a town, not one will be found to cry out, to proclaim his indignation aloud. We see those who go to the market to buy food, who eat in the daytime and sleep at night, who prattle away, marry, grow old, carry their dead to the cemeteries. But we neither hear nor see those who suffer, and the terrible things in life are played out behind the scenes. All is calm and quiet, and statistics, which are dumb, protest: so many have gone mad, so many barrels of drink have been consumed, so many children died of malnutrition ... and apparently this is as it should be. Apparently those who are happy can only enjoy themselves because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and but for this silence happiness would be impossible. It is a kind of universal hypnosis. There ought to be a man with a hammer behind the door of every happy man, to remind him by his constant knocks that there are unhappy people, and that happy as he himself may be, life will sooner or later show him its claws, catastrophe will overtake him--sickness, poverty, loss--and nobody will see it, just as he now neither sees nor hears the misfortunes of others. But there is no man with a hammer, the happy man goes on living and the petty vicissitudes of life touch him lightly, like the wind in an aspen-tree, and all is well.
— Anton Chekhov
There's no man with a hammer. We don't need one. Reality itself is tearing the door off its hinges. And yet in the face of that some would insist there was never a door there to begin with, or that it wasn't really a knock.
There is no guarantee of victory; there isn't even a guarantee of continuation. But you miss all the shots you don't take.
The other day I read a profoundly despairing blog comment. The author wrote (and I paraphrase here, but I feel this is accurate) that he was not trying to fight against all the terrible things happening around him out of any certainty that things would get better, but only because he wanted to feel he had at least tried to say no to things getting worse. It was, as I put it to myself at the time in a borrowing of one of Harlan Ellison's lines, acceptance on the lowest possible level.
Notes on a single point of failure.
The folks at Talking Points Memo have been examining for some time now how Facebook enticed the news business into building dependencies on them, and how that turned out to be every bit the trap you would expect it to be. (Best summary: "How Facebook Punked and then Gut Punched the News Biz".)