The Happy Life Of The Mind Dept.

"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Václav Havel wrote those words at some point, and I have been thinking about them a great deal as of late.

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Tags: Buddhism intellectualism philosophy psychology

Change Their Minds Dept.

Let's waste less time trying to argue people out of something they were never argued into to begin with.

Washington Monthly | How the Opposition Can Wound Trump

... most people don’t know much about politics, don’t know much about policy, don’t care to understand the details that make up the foundation any position, and don’t think they need to care about understanding those details, because knowledge is not what they trust most in the world. What they trust is character.

I think what's being outlined here is a vitally important understanding to how politics can be made a more practical affair.

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Tags: Buddhism politics psychology society sociology

Writer's Revenge Dept.

"I could do that too," said the writer. And thus the trouble began.

Sorry about the long silence. I spent most of last week trying to shake off a flu that clung like the proverbial monkey on the back, and dealing with some other unpleasantries I won't go on about in public.

Here, I'm following up on a previous post about making things as a response to other things. Oftentimes one of the unspoken impulses driving such work is, "I could do that too." And, I fear, not in a good way.

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Tags: creativity writers writing

Politicaliterary Dept.

On politics in literature, spoken and unspoken (and a few other things).

Viet Thanh Nguyen: By the Book - The New York Times

... [genre fiction works, like comics, science fiction, or crime thrillers ] oftentimes have more to tell us about our larger contemporary world than so-called literary fiction (which doesn’t acknowledge that it’s a genre as well). Comic books long ago predicted presidents like Donald Trump, in series like Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’s “Give Me Liberty.” Crime fiction, which often connects low-level crime to high-level corruption, can help us understand the operations and effects of a Trump presidency that unabashedly favors strongmen of all kinds. Science fiction likewise often speculates on grand political questions. Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Red Mars,” for example, is about the colonization of that planet and the ensuing tragedy wrought by human politics, greed and ambition. It takes place in the future but is really about our eternal human strengths and weaknesses. I like it when literature gets political, and contemporary literary fiction is more often apolitical than not.

Emph. mine. I think this last point is worth zooming in on first.

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Tags: comics creativity fantasy literature politics science fiction thrillers

Call And Response Dept.

On making things in reaction to the existence of other things.

Writing the previous post, about the way I experienced written SF as a young'un, brought back to mind a realization I came to about my reading habits, something I only twigged to over a long period of time. I wasn't reading because I was seeking escapism; I was seeking something even greater. I just didn't know it at the time.

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Tags: creativity creators

Public Service Announcement Dept.

I hope people will not assume my silence over the last few days indicates any kind of assent to the situation unfolding around us. I've been busy with some mundane things -- my day job has put that many more...

I hope people will not assume my silence over the last few days indicates any kind of assent to the situation unfolding around us.

I've been busy with some mundane things — my day job has put that many more demands on me since the start of the year — and trying to remain productive otherwise. But trust me, I'm not smiling.

If I don't gas off about it in public, it's only because a) other people are doing far, far better work than I can in this realm, and b) it's because I'm trying to save this space for talking about the things that I feel qualified to talk about, and that will provide something like a respite from the storm.

Tags: politics real life

Science Affliction Dept.

I call my work SF because I gotta call it something.

My problem with science fiction, if it can rightfully be called a problem, is that I got spoiled too quickly on it.

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Tags: Clifford Simak genres James Tiptree Jr. Kurt Vonnegut Philip K. Dick science fiction Stanisław Lem Theodore Sturgeon writing

Alternativity Dept.

Every picture tells (me) a story.

Once again, let me turn from the blighted face of the times to something a little more affirmative.

When I posted before about the secret influences behind Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunnedone source I mentioned was The Matrix, but not because I wanted to take ideas from that story. Rather, it was because I'd seen the trailer for the film — which did a very good job of concealing its secrets but sparking interest in it all the same — and from that had drawn completely incorrect conclusions about the movie's premise. Then I saw the movie itself, and while I really liked what I saw, I kept thinking back to the unused premise in question. It more or less sat around, waiting for me to find a home for it, until I started writing the project early last year.

I don't have a name for this phenomenon yet, but it's worth digging into further — this sense of getting the "wrong" idea about some other creative work, and then using that as its own inspiration.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned creativity creators imagery imagination

The Firstest Or The Bestest Dept.

It doesn't matter who does something first. It matters who does something best. Or who does something most theirs.

A conversation with a friend turned up the following gem of an insight: It doesn't matter who did something first; it matters who does something best.

My original version of this insight revolved around information technology. Xerox PARC may have invented many of the things we associate with modern GUIs, but it was Apple that made them into a consumer product by way of the Macintosh.

But this applies to most everything else as well, creative work included. If you have a Great Idea for a story, and someone else has a Great Idea for a story, your implementation of that idea is always going to be different from his, even if they look superficially similar. You're always going to emphasize the things that are important to you, and draw different conclusions. To that end, doing it "best" may be more about doing it your way, and for your reasons.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned Brainstorm creativity Strange Days writers writing

Mudballs And Fear Factors Dept.

How not to be intimidated by your own creative process.

I spent most of an evening pawing through the mess of notes I’d accumulated for the outline to the last third or so of Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, and tried to pull it together into something like an actual outline instead of just pages and pages of freeform rambling. This is the drawback to using a wiki as an organizational system: if you don’t rigorously impose your own discipline upon the results, you will end up with that most dreaded of design patterns, the Big Ball of Mud.

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Tags: creativity creators

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I'm an independent SF and fantasy author, technology journalist, and freelance contemplator for how SF can be made into something more than just a way to blow stuff up.

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