New And column out

I finished it up right before I left. It’s on Ferguson and the people who think Michael Brown’s taste in rap music and his pot-smoking are somehow relevant to the case.

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It’s Dragoncon, Jake … Dragoncon (#SFWApro)

(With apologies to Chinatown for misquoting). “It” being the reason I haven’t posted since Thursday. I’d planned to post while I was there, but during my down time at the hotel room, I didn’t have much energy left.
I enjoyed it much better than last year, probably because I gad a clearer sense of what I wanted to do and see, and less qualms about squeezing in every possible writing-related panel. And I spent much more time with my friends, shown in the picture dressed up as Gravity Falls characters.
Highlights for me besides hanging with various friends included a panel with Wesley Eure and Kathy Coleman of the 1970s series Land of the Lost. As a fan I enjoyed it; as I’m writing a book about time-travel, some of what they said about the show will be useful. I also attended Amy Acker’s Q&A which was great—she comes off very friendly and she had a lot to say about Joss Whedon’s projects, Person of Interest and more.
I attended several writing panels and some from the urban fantasy/historical fantasy track that looked writing related. Most of them either weren’t or were too basic to be of use to me. Which is fair enough, because beginners need advice too, but I wish there was a way to tell. One panel on “setting in urban fantasy” was good, and a Jim Butcher/Lev Grossman panel on magic in a world of technology was excellent (I’ll go into more detail on that in a separate post).
I also visited my publisher, McFarland’s booth, and picked up some books. One of which, at least, I can justify as relevant to my time-travel book. I’ll get to the details when I read them.
Unlike last year, TYG found a hotel right next to one of the big ones, and maybe a quarter-mile from the others. That made everything much easier
The crowds were humongous, more I think that last year. Saturday, moving inside the con hotels was almost impossible, between the sheer number of people and the sudden traffic blocks where someone was photographing cosplayers.
cute hook
Lines were huge, whether it was for using the toilets (the soap dispensers frequently ran dry), getting a drink from Starbucks or actually getting into an event. I enjoy Dragoncon but if you don’t like crowds, this is so not for you.
Although I did enjoy it, I definitely don’t have the emotional connection to it that some of my friends do. It’s fun and enjoyable, but if we don’t make it next year, TYG and I won’t miss it too much. But we’ll definitely be back sooner or later.

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The Parallel World Solution (#SFWApro)

As I’ve mentioned before, time-travel films have logical paradoxes aplenty. Most typically the grandfather paradox where changing the past eliminates the time-travel trip ever taking place.

The standard solution to this is that the time traveler didn’t really change history, she just created a parallel world. In the old world, everything remains as it was; the happy ending is for the new timeline.

This doesn’t always work. Some movies, such as The Black Knight, have other logical problems. The horror film The Caller (2011) which I caught last weekend has someone changing the protagonist’s past and affecting the protagonist’s present—so it’s definitely history being changed, not world-line jumping.

A bigger problem, as I noted at the link, is that it doesn’t work dramatically. Take Against Time, in which a drunken, broken-down Robert Loggia travels back in time to stop his teenage self from causing a tragedy. After he succeeds, his personal history changes so he never makes the trip; instead he makes an unrelated trip at the end of the film, showing his new alt.self is happy, healthy and contented.

If all he did was create a parallel world, then somewhere out there in the old timeline he’s still drunken, broken-down and miserable. In that timeline, his younger self will still make a stupid mistake that gets two dozen kids, including his own son, killed. Nothing’s changed.

Dramatically speaking that just doesn’t work. It might work in fiction, but it definitely doesn’t when I’m actually seeing the characters up on the screen, flesh-and-blood rather than printed words. I want Loggia to heal himself. I want him to avert the tragedy. If it’s just a new timeline it’s a cheat.

Likewise, if all the cast of Terminator 2: Judgment Day did was create a new timeline without the machines (of course T3 subsequently made it clear they hadn’t beaten Skynet anyway), that’s a good thing (millions of people live without going to Skynet’s death camps) but it’s still much less satisfying. It’s the problem Larry Niven raised in his short story “All the Myriad Ways”—if every action creates multiple timelines then you accomplish nothing—it’s just random luck which timeline you wound up in (as Crisis on Two Earths points out).

It’s similar to my reaction to Family Man when I realized Cage’s kids were erased from existence when he left the magically created alternate world. I wouldn’t have batted an eye if it happened in a book, but on-screen they’re so real ….

So unless a film specifically invokes parallel worlds, I’m going to assume there aren’t any. Paradox or not, history changed. Screw logic, movies work better that way.

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Filed under Time Travel Book, Writing

Another libertarian myth

A perpetual argument for the glories of the unregulated free market is that while some companies may profit from bad behavior in the short term, in the long run the invisible hand guarantees the best product or service wins.
If that were true, hotels wouldn’t be following airlines in tacking on extra fees for what used to be standard stuff (like having a safe in the room—even if you don’t use it—or putting your own stuff in the mini-fridge). And Comcast wouldn’t have such infamously bad customer service.
•Echidne reminds us that statistically, having a lot of angry sexist/racist/whatever comments on a post doesn’t prove anything about how common these views are in the general public. I agree it’s easy to inflate them and to think the comments prove what They (whichever They is involved) Are Like. Even the worst comments only prove there are horrible people out there, and we already knew that.
•I don’t believe ISIS is an existential threat to the US but they are hideously horrible. Unfortunately the people who screwed up the Iraq war are still treated as if they know how to fix this (How? Kill people of course!).
•And then we have right-winger Erick Erickson’s explanation for why we shouldn’t worry about global warming: We’re all going to die someday, so what’s the diff? Which reminds me of some right-wingers during the Iraq war who’d brush off troop deaths as “less than the annual deaths in car accidents” (unsurprisingly they never applied the same standard to the deaths of 9/11). And contrary to Erickson, DDT does have bad side-effects. And Rachel Carson didn’t demand the world ban it.
•Some right-wingers just hate the idea that poor people can get help without being judged or stigmatized. And that includes poor kids who get free or subsidized lunch, presumably instead of … I don’t know, working as chimney sweeps to earn lunch money? Funny how it never applies to all the corporations, sports-stadium owners and other moochers with money, though.
•The National Pro-Life Coalition asked Arizona Democrat James Woods to support anti-abortion policies. He sent them a box of condoms and encouraged them to work with him on guaranteeing universal access to birth control.
•Online retailer Accessory Outlet says anyone who does business with it will have their credit card billed for $250 if they criticize the company publicly, threaten to criticize it or try to cancel a bill. I respect their nerve,but not their ethics.
This guy isn’t fond of criticism either, but he doesn’t seem to know what to do about it.
•OMG, Obama’s playing golf before solving all the world’s problems! It’s an old issue with right-wingers.
•I’m not linking directly, but this is an unintentionally hysterical article warning about how Katy Perry is so much worse for American morals than wholesome singers like Madonna, and that Nicky Menaj will corrupt virtuous twentysomething women with her coarse lyrics.


Filed under Politics

Story sold and unrelated writing group thoughts (#SFWApro)

First a big squeee for Leave the World to Darkness finding a home in Love, Time, Space, Magic, a romance/fantasy/SF anthology coming out next year. This is easily the fastest acceptance I’ve ever had, less than a week from submitting it, so yay!
This story was done well before I joined the writing group, but I did get quite a bit of feedback along with rejections from various editors and that definitely helped. And that got me thinking about writing group feedback, so ….
My group is sizable, easily 20 or more at a typical meeting. Inevitably this means some of the feedback is white noise: not that it’s stupid or wrong, but it’s going to spread out over the spectrum which makes it harder to utilize.
The last couple of shorts I’ve read, I had several people who loved them. A couple of members hated them. Several had specific changes, but not all the same. Some got exactly the point I was trying to make, others felt the point was blunt.
The thing is, like any writer I want as many people as possible to like my work. Sometimes most of the feedback is compatible and I can incorporate all the suggestions, sometimes not. So I have to figure out which suggestions to go with.
Do I decide the people who liked the story (albeit with corrections) are the ones to trust? Maybe not. If someone gets my point when nobody else did, maybe the point really isn’t clear enough.
On the other hand, it doesn’t always follow that the people who dislike the story are spotting genuine flaws and that fixing them guarantees wider appeal. Some suggestions just don’t work for the story at hand. The same is true, for that matter, of editor responses. Before I sold One Hand Washes the Other to Abyss and Apex a few years back, I had an editor tell me the protagonist was too unlikable. It’s a fair point—he is unlikable—but too bad; it’s a redemption story, and I needed to make him enough of a dick he needed some redemption.
What I usually do is write down everything, let it sit for a week (more if I don’t have time), then review. That’s usually enough time for me to think clearly about it. Some criticisms I find I agree with, some I don’t. Usually there’s more useful than not.
Finding ways to fix the problem … that, of course, is a different story.


Filed under Short Stories, Story Problems, Writing

A few quick writing links (#SFWApro)

Good advice on how to keep editors happy. More for nonfiction writers, though advice about not following directions or not responding to editors’ calls are sound for any writer.
•Remember the debate over whether a monkey’s selfie was public domain? The U.S. Copyright office says it is.
•The Last Word on Nothing blog talks to science reporters about the challenges of doing good work in the “gig” economy, especially when gigs are paying less and less or just “exposure.” LWON also links to this article about Forbes’ reliance on freelancers and whether it’s benefiting the bottom line at the cost of Forbes’ journalistic brand.
•A visual explanation of the difference between your synopsis, your query and your book. (hat tip to Walk of Words)
•An agent argues it’s a mistake to send your book to publishers before you find an agent. As someone who’s sent novels to plenty of agents and plenty of publishers and been turned down by both, I don’t think I agree. Being turned down by agents doesn’t mean it’s unmarketable, and I think if I ever found myself saying “No, I never sent it to a publisher, just agents.” my soul would curdle.


Filed under Writing

Sunday morning linkage

A look at how much Tea Party groups spend on fundraising vs. what actually goes to candidates.
•RIP Aero. The company that planned to deliver broadcast TV over the Internet lost against the broadcasters (who claimed this violated copyright) and now failed to get itself reclassified as a cable company.
•Jim Fallows looks at the parade of Iraq “experts” who were completely wrong about the merits and outcome of attacking Iraq before, but are still taken seriously as worth of consideration. Case in point, William Kristol and Fred Kagan, who insisted back in 2002 that “The Iraqi threat is enormous. It gets bigger with every day that passes.” No argument with Fallows here—I’ve mentioned before how pundits almost never suffer (at least in terms of being taken seriously by their publishers) for being massively wrong.
•Best way to keep women virgins until marriage: Make ‘em marry young. Courtesy of defeating the dragons.
•A place in Europe where crossing borders is fun!
•LGM argues (as it has before) that Obama is indeed the most liberal president in recent history, and discusses the difficulties in shifting the “Overton Window.”
•Increasing discussion of campus rape has some male students worried asking a woman out will get them tarred as a rapist/harasser. This is actually an old, old bugaboo—as one student says, better training about consent and harassment and which is which might help a lot.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches