March 28th, 2012

a-links

[links] Link salad comes from somewhere back in your long ago

Dear Science Fiction Writers: Stop Being So Pessimistic!Neal Stephenson created the Hieroglyph Project to convince sci-fi writers to stop worrying and learn to love the future. (Via Dale Smith.)

The World’s Largest Atlas: Cheers Bests Klencke — Mmm, books.

Air Ship No. 9: 1904 — Coney Island, back in the day.

The Mighty Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of — (Via [info]danjite.)

NASA re-creates huge Mars dust devil in 3-D video — Taz!

'Thermal cloak' hides objects from heat

Single molecule circuit controlled through quantum interference

Alien viruses from outer space and the great Archaeopteryx forgery

Global Warming Close to Becoming IrreversibleThe world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday. Those pesky facts, biased against the conservative position. That's what happens when you build your ideology on opposing the reality-based community.

Get the lead out: Have we already forgotten this lesson? The elimination of lead from gasoline is a paradigmatic triumph of American environmentalism. A danger to health was discovered by scientists. Public-health advocates and greens pushed and pushed for decades, often futilely, to get the government to take action. When EPA finally cranked up efforts to do something about it, the agency was viciously attacked. Industry shills said it was an agenda to control Americans’ lives, driven by scientists who wanted research money and a cabal of extreme environmentalists. They said there were no viable alternatives to lead and the regulations would raise gas prices and destroy the economy. They paid their own scientists to produce counter-evidence. They flooded politicians with money. Sound familiar? Climate change denial, anyone?

Pro-Compassion Of course I hated Planned Parenthood. The thing is, I didn't know anything about Planned Parenthood. There wasn't one in my town. I didn't know anyone who had visited one. I certainly didn't know anyone who worked at one. My anger and hatred was borne completely out of my ignorance. I chose only to listen to one set of stories, rather than to all of the stories. Modern conservatism in a nutshell.

‘Drive a wedge between gays and blacks’ — And the reason we're supposed to vote Republican is because liberals and atheists are immoral?

'Obamacare' and the Right's Own Private UniverseWe have half the country living in its own universe of belief, with its own history, its own politics, and its own physical laws. It's like running elections against the anti-gravity party. It is not healthy for any of us. The Right explicitly and in so many words opted out of the reality-based community years ago. Unfortunately the rest of us still live here, suffering the consequences of blatantly counterfactual conservative delusions on a vast array of topics.

Dr Strangelove: Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Rick Santorum — Charlie Stross on American politics.

?otd: Do you have the power to reason away what seems to be?




3/28/2012
Writing time yesterday: 2.0 hours (0.5 hours on a nonfiction piece, 1.5 hours on Sunspin)
Body movement: 60 minute suburban walk
Hours slept: 6.25 (solid)
Weight: n/a
Currently reading: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

writing-leopard_cow

[writing|process] Talking about doing it, and a return of the "hand of cards" theory

Yesterday I guest taught at Travis Heermann's literature of science fiction class at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. That was a lot of fun. I gave a very short lecture about alternate history, then we did a bit over an hour of open q-and-a. Though I do wonder when the college kids got so young?

This was a literature class, not a creative writing class, but there were a fair number of craft questions. About a third of the students are aspiring writers, so that makes sense. This got me thinking once more about the "hand of cards" theory, which I have previously discussed here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ] and elsewhere.

Basically, the "hand of cards" is the idea that all writers start out with a more or less random assortment strengths and talents. ([info]matociquala calls this "the box it came in".) Much like a poker deal, this could be a weak hand, a mixed hand, or, rarely, a strong hand. As we work to improve our skills and achieve publication, we upgrade our low cards one at a time, switching focus as we go along.

What I've never quite done is pinned down what those cards might be. The suits, as it were. I'm pretty sure we've had this discussion before, but I can't find it right now, so here I throw out some ideas, and ask you guys to comment or contribute your own.

  • Character

  • Plot

  • Setting

  • Prose style

  • Narrative voice

  • Auctorial authority

  • Dialog

  • Sensory detail

  • Gender/ethnic/orientation authenticity (specifically meaning: not your own default settings)

  • Action sequences

  • Emotional resonance

  • Thematic depth

  • Control of language (or possibly precision)


Some of these obviously overlap. I'm not wedded to any of them, though a number are fairly obvious. What have I missed? What have I got wrong? What would you add to the list?