February 15th, 2010


[links] Link salad, at first just ghostly, turns a whiter shade of pale

jimvanpelt on Nebula nominations, and my novella "America, Such as She Is" — If you're a SFWA member, today is the last day to send in your dollar. If you're interested in my novella, please contact klingonguy (who published it) for a .pdf reading copy.

The case against banning the word 'retard' — Some fascinating cultural and legal analysis, including a reference to the famous (and deeply stupid) 'niggardly' incident in DC politics.

Lots of snow!Dark Roasted Blend tortures you all. And since it can't be said enough, weather is not climate. Those of you who claim it is either need to get educated or stop lying. Looking ta you, FOX News.

Lack of Medicare Chief Is a Strike Against Reform — Interesting discussion of policy and governance. (Thanks to danjite.)

If You Could See America Through China's Eyes — A fascinating look at American power. In a larger sense, a strong reminder how Bush administration incompetence and the conservative obsession with Islamic terrorism have weakened American global might and credibiity. Not news, exactly, unless you're a purblind "America firster", but then it's the purblind America firsters who got us into this mess in the first place.

Empathic Myopia — Digby on conservative failures of empathy. She's talking about the Haiti orphan story, but I see the same problem in the healthcare reform debate. It's a point I've been reaching for a way to usefully discuss for a while — that at a fundamental level, contemporary American conservatism can be analyzed as a near-socipathic failure of empathy. Digby does a pretty good job of laying out a good part of the case about how conservatives simply don't see other people who are unlike them as being real. Tribalism on the hoof.

The Trial: Eric Holder and the battle over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — Or how terrorism continues to make our nation crazy. You want to know when the terrorists win? When politicians and the press panic. The GOP started this round to score political points, but the Congressional Dems ran hard with the toss once it came their way.

?otD: Was it later, when the waiter brought his tray?

Writing time yesterday: 60 minutes (revisions on Endurance)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 8.25 (soundly, yay!)
This morning's weigh-in: 227.2
Yesterday's chemo stress index: 6/10
Currently reading: [between books]


[cancer] A wrap on the weekend, and a couple of lessons learned

Slept over 8 hours last night, quite solidly with only minor interruptions. I think this means last week's multi-day festival of massive lower GI failure and concomitant sleep dysfunction has drawn to a (relatively) gentle close.

As I've said before, it's like driving a car on ice. Every correction I make for a symptom or an issue risks a more disastrous overcorrection in the other direction. Try to miss the pothole, find myself heading for the ditch. Steer away from the ditch, head for a sheer wall being climbed by a roped-together team of widows and orphans fresh from the bus I just ran off the road. So to speak. (Metaphors tortured professionally here, no appointment needed.)

Two main lessons learned:

When I take Imodium (or any analogous medication), I must take a laxative in the morning to make sure I get a timely system restart. Regardless of whether I feel like it. That's a checklist item now.

Also, I can only generalize from the experience of each chemo infusion round. What works in one round doesn't always translate well into the next round. This means I never really know what I'm doing. I have to accept that, and be accordingly flexible when making self-care decisions. Even with a checklist in play.

I tell you, cancer is one giant set of Valuable Life Lessons™. Some days I feel like I'm living in a Hallmark Movie of the Week cliche.


[writing] Is all fantasy political?

Been noodling on something that cropped up on Twitter last week. A reader said she preferred her fantasy not to have politics in it. I think she meant allegories of contemporary politics, but that's just my gloss.

Anyone hanging around this blog long knows I'm passionate about contemporary politics. Anyone hanging around my fiction long knows I don't write about it in my fantasy, other than the very occasional contemporary fantasy short. I detest allegory in fiction, even when it's allegory I agree with.

Yet to my casual thinking, politics is inescapable in fantasy. The classic high fantasy tropes of the secret heir, the broken succession, the usurper/evil overlord, the quest to restore order/justice/the rightful line of kings — that's all deeply political. That flavor of fantasy is almost always about things happening to societies.

One could go up a couple of layers into metanalysis and argue quite sincerely that all fiction is political. This is a bit like arguing that all fiction is biographical. I'm pretty sure that's true, but also largely meaningless except as a tool for certain kinds of criticism.

So I'm nowhere near having an answer here, but I find the question interesting. Haven't made up my mind yet whether that's interesting-but-trivial or interesting-but-significant. A few questions for you, and quite curious to read your responses in comments, or on your own blogs.

  1. Is the question of whether fantasy contains politics meaningful to ask in the first place?

  2. Is traditional high fantasy as political as I've so casually portrayed it?

  3. Is it fair to analyze those politics only in internal terms, or does an external analysis bring value? Ie, are all us fantasy readers secret monarchists?

  4. What about other forms of fantasy? Other forms of speculative fiction?

  5. What about the politics of race, gender, class and so forth?

  6. Am I asking the wrong damned questions?

If we all get clever enough in comments, I might have a poll later.


[writing] Jay Lake's Handy Guide to Genre Distinctions

I have found genre distinctions in fiction publishing to be sometimes confusing.

To aid others in their curiosity, and planning their reading lists, I present the following handy guide.

GenreDistinguishing Characteristics

General fictionNothing to explain

Literary fictionIf I have to explain, you wouldn't understand it anyway

MysteryExplain what happened

Thriller/TechnothrillerExplain how it happened

RomanceExplain who it happened to

WesternExplain what lily-livered varmint gone and done it

HorrorExplain what's about to happen

Science FictionExplain everything in technical detail

FantasyExplain everything in nonsensical detail

Magical RealismExplain nothing

SurrealismGo fishing for ice cream

Permission is granted for redistribution or reproduction under a noncommercial Creative Commons license. © 2003, 2010 Joseph E. Lake, Jr., writing as "Jay Lake".

Creative Commons License
"Jay Lake's Handy Guide to Genre Distinctions" by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. writing as "Jay Lake" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at jlake@jlake.com.