May 9th, 2012

a-links

[links] Link salad has never been more ready in its entire life

One in six cancers worldwide are caused by infection

Bandersnatch Cummerbund: not a typo, not a cupertino — Hahahah.

An Economic Lifeline of Barley and Hops — An interesting story about beer and small town economics in rural Oregon.

Abraham Lincoln Filed a Patent for Facebook in 1845 — As it were. Weird. (Via [info]danjite.)

Space weather expert has ominous forecastMike Hapgood, who studies solar events, says the world isn't prepared for a truly damaging storm. And one could happen soon.

Pacific 'garbage patch' changing insect mating habits

Physicists Store Short Movie In A Cloud of Gas — Sometimes the jokes just write themselves. (Though this is in fact a cool science story.)

Shuttle Enterprise Over New York — Very nice photo from APOD.

NC pastor created lies about gay sex because of his 'religious views' — This is why 'real Americans' vote Republican - for the moral leadership provided by conservatives. What are a few bald-faced lies so long as they validate your worldview, right? That bit about bearing false witness in the Ten Commandments isn't nearly as important as God's hatred of gay people, right?

North Carolina voters approve amendment defining marriage as union between a man and woman — Another victory in the conservative march toward a closed and intolerant society. I really don't want to live in their America. Do you?

Moving the economic goalpostsBut the other concern here is historical -- over the last three decades, the unemployment rate has dipped below 4% just four times out of 496 months. Each of those four months was during Bill Clinton's presidency. In other words, Romney's goal was achieved, but only after a Democratic president raised taxes in 1993. Ah, conservatives and their cherished ignorance of history.

The Opportunity SocietyDoes Tagg Romney actually believe that his dad had nothing to do with his successful entry into the private equity game, and the millions he has made and will continue to make are the result only of his own merit? That his life is radically different from those of the millions of people struggling to get by only because they don't work as hard as he does, or have his gumption and entrepreneurial spirit? (Snurched from Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

Romney: I Take Credit for the Auto Rescue — Wow. He's not even pretending to consistency any more. This would be the same Mitt Romney who wanted to let the automakers fail, right? Good thing for him that likely Republican voters are largely divorced from reality and will fall for the Etch-a-Sketch routine every time. It must be nice to have a low-information, ideologically blinkered base like the GOP does. Helps avoid those pesky requirements for accountability and consistency.

?otd: Could it be nice to be alive?




5/9/2012
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (brain break)
Body movement: 1.0 hour urban walk
Hours slept: 6.25 (solid)
Weight: n/a
Currently reading: The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton

sanguine-birds_wake

[photos] Ah, flamingo, we hardly knew ye

This past Sunday, I posted this photo of a plastic lawn flamingo floating in the creek near my house.

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It was taken on a phone cam, and almost impossible to parse. [info]the_child and I went back later that day with the 300 mm lens and tried again.

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Clearly, what we have here is a tragedy of epic proportions. I am desolated to see a flamingo in such a terrible plight. We can only speculate about the bad company he fell into, and how he was led into dissolute ways.

Photos © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr. and B. Lake

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. and B. Lake is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
writing-leopard_cow

[process] Do we need Sauron and Voldemort?

A day or two ago, I asked the question on this blog, "Do we need Sauron and Voldemort"? By which I meant, do we as writers need strong antagonists to make a story compelling?

Obviously, that's a storytelling modality that works very well. One can hardly argue with the commercial success of either Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Either of those series probably moves more books in any given month than I'll sell in my entire publishing life.

Humans, or at least humans living in the storytelling and cultural traditions of the West, have a strong affinity for dualism. Perhaps we're all birthright Manichaeans. The simplicity of moral contrast, of a binary choice, appeals strongly to us. Many people distrust nuance in ethics, in morality, in politics, in law. There's something very comforting about a simplistic good-vs-evil dynamic. You know who the "us" are, and you know who the "them" are. And certainly in both Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, that is unambiguous on the page.

Yet there's a gentleman down in New Mexico who's shifted more than a few million books writing about a world where the good guys aren't very good, and most of the bad guys have mixed or even noble motives. Kind of like real life, where everyone is a protagonist, a hero of their own story. George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire has proven in a big, big way that you don't need stark moral dualism to sell well. Damned near everything in those books is ambiguous. There is still a decidedly strong moral dimension. It's just ambiguous and complex to the point of being non-Euclidean.

So I think about my own work in this context. Most of my books don't have clear-cut, central antagonists. (Well, maybe none of them do.) My plots tend toward one of two models — the hero(es) opposed by a shifting collage of shadowy forces; or a set of interlocking protagonists with conflicting goals. I like what I write. Bluntly, if I didn't like it, I wouldn't write it. But I don't write like Tolkien or Rowling. Or Martin, for that matter.

I write like Jay Lake. And Jay Lake is a guy who sees the world as complex and nuanced, and largely filled with people who think they're trying to do the right thing, even if too many of us cannot see the consequences of our own actions and beliefs for what they really are. (Yes, that's a not-very-veiled reference to contemporary American politics, but it also really is how I see the world in general.) So I write fiction where the world is complex and nuanced. I don't think I could write a Sauron or a Voldemort. I just don't believe in pure evil for evil's sake, any more than I believe in pure good for good's sake.

So, no towering antagonists for me. Which makes me wonder about Sunspin, which is decidedly in the vein of interlocking protagonists. Much as the precursor novel Death of a Starship was. It also makes me wonder about my sales figures. Am I really writing stories people want to read? Or am I doing it wrong?

What do you think? Do we need Sauron and Voldemort? Or does George R.R. Martin have the right of it? Where do you fall as a reader? Where do you fall as a writer?