December 12th, 2011


[links] Link salad sings Monday, Monday

Amazon Commits Rare Strategic Blunder Using Brilliant Tactic — Just a typical abuse of their corporate power. I personally continue to boycott Amazon because of their abusive behaviors.

Mission patch from 1930-1931 Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition — :: wants ::

Cassini to make a double play

An Unusual Vein of Deposited Rock on Mars — Very nearly a smoking gun for running water, this.

Cosmologists Reveal Largest Ever Simulation Of The UniverseThe latest computer model of the cosmos involves 400 billion particles in a box about two thirds of the volume of the universe. Sounds like the inside of my refrigerator.

Higgs boson to be unveiled (possibly)Cern physicists are on tenterhooks as experiment sets out to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson.

Unraveling an epidemicAutism rates have increased twentyfold in a generation, stirring parents' deepest fears and prompting a search for answers. But what if the upsurge is not what it appears to be?

Climate Change Disaster looms despite Durban Agreement

Siri Failures, Illustrated — The apparent Christianism of Siri, who promotes fake abortion clinics that bear false witness to entrap young women, but won't provide any info on abortion or rape crisis resources. Miserable failure, Apple. Just miserable. (Via [info]danjite.)

What Latin America Can Teach UsThe New York Times on income inequality and the decline of the middle class. (Via @brendacooper.)

NPR Tries to Track Down Those Millionaire Job Creators — Like supply side economics, millionaire job creators are nothing but another cherished GOP myth with no basis in reality. (Via David Goldman.)

?otd: Can you touch that day?

Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo fatigue)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 10.0 (fitful plus napping)
Weight: 209.0
Currently (re)reading: Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold


[personal] More dreams, meaning what exactly?

@scalzi has been infesting my dreams lately, but last night was a doozy. In my sleep I was at the Scalzi Fortress of Solitude in Bradford, Ohio (a place I've never been in real life), which in my dreamscape looked like part of Coruscant under urban renewal. John had taken his role as president of SFWA seriously, and installed a large dining hall, an automobile service center and a publishing house, among other things. I couldn't walk through the place without practically being assaulted by do-gooders working for him, trying to make my life as a writer and a human being somehow better.

I'm sure this is a metaphor for his yeoperson's service as president of SFWA, not to mention his general nice-guyness, but mostly in my dreams it was overwhelming. Especially the mile-high Scalzi Tower that was under construction. I was amused as heck, and I surely hope John is too.

Family Christmas was yesterday, and my big present o' presents was a quilt stitched by my (step)mother which featured all my book covers to date. Which as I write this I realize is much cooler than I just made it sound. Apparently production of this thing involved most of the adult members of my family, what with cover scanning, fabric printing and so on. At some point I'll try to get pictures, though I doubt they'll do it justice. [info]the_child and the Niece scored big, as is right and proper for kids at Christmas, and I mostly sat around in an exhausted heap.

Workie bits this week through Thursday, and an unusual field trip for [info]the_child's class Thursday that I arranged and may go on. Otherwise I'm resting and keying up for Friday's final chemo session. Also having the new heater installed tomorrow, which will hopefully not be a signal experience.

And that's the news from Lake Jaybegone.


[process] Competing with the visual

Yesterday on Facebook and Twitter, I said:

A challenge of written SF nowadays is describing setting to a reading audience conditioned to visual marvels in television and movies.

There was a fairly interesting thread of comments on Facebook in response to this, including a fascinating digression on Herman Melville.

I've been thinking since about what this means for fiction writers. It's not like this hasn't happened before. Changes in media or technology change reader expectations, because they change reader experiences. Movies, radio, television: all three must have really altered reader experiences. Sometimes they change writers as well — for example, the introduction of the typewriter apparently had significant effects on sentence structure in novels. Not to mention what the changes in revision process from longhand to typescript must have been.

As for special effects, I'm sure this is at least partially observer bias on my part, given my age, but it seems to me that the modern era of special effects began with Star Wars in 1977, and it's only been amped up ever since. The visual influence of movies from Bladerunner to Gattaca has been pervasive. A writer cannot help but be subject to the audience expectation that's been set in the visual media.

Personally, I often run to set-piece descriptions of new settings, and can be guilty of ornate overdetailing in close scenes. I'm not sure those are the correct responses. As a writer, I cannot compete with ILM, and there's small point in even trying to do so. As a writer, it's my job to build a word picture than can translate into the reader's own sense of wonder, whatever their influences are. That my readers and I largely share a cultural grammar of film and television should just be a tool in my toolbox.

But it's still a challenge to wow someone who's seen Fifth Element with baroque marquetry, or to impress a fan of Alien with a dank, gothic starship on the page. The greatest sin would be to create a cheap imitation.