Previous Posts: Uncategorized / General: November 2016

Coltrane Vs. Vonnegut III Dept.

To exist is to be misunderstood.

This is part three (see parts one and two) of an ongoing talk into the social utility of art.

The line I've been developing so far goes like this: Good art (including good entertainment) gives people the freedom to be things they either only imagined they could be, or never even dreamed about being in the first place. But that also gives people the freedom to be jerks, so it has to be used carefully.

Hence this whole business I come back to time and again about how you want to pay attention to what you're saying with your creations, whether you realize you're saying them or not. You don't want to take away with one aesthetic hand all that you give with another.

All creative work is art whether or not we like it to be, and so your art, whatever it is, has the potential to liberate someone, somewhere. Keep an eye towards that liberation being positive for everyone concerned, though. Make sure the rising tide really does lift all boats, and not just the ones in our harbor or that are painted a color you like.

That said, don't beat yourself up if someone takes your work "the wrong way". I remember once how Christian Vander (of the band Magma) once said that he wanted to create something as pure and direct as the sun. "You can't misinterpret the sun," he said. But we did exactly that for most of the lifetime of the human race, by thinking the sun was a giant glowing hot stone a couple of hundred miles away or some such nonsense. To exist is to be misunderstood. But that doesn't mean you have no obligation to make your case as properly as possible.

Tags: art creativity psychology

Coltrane Vs. Vonnegut II Dept.

On why being your "true" self is not a matter of acting out things that you normally repress.

As promised, a follow-up on my previous post. The premise: Art gives people permission to be that much more wholly themselves, for good or ill. Preferably for good.

A lot of people misinterpret this as being about "disinhibition" — that "being yourself" is a matter of giving free reign to selfish impulses of one kind or another. They couldn't be more wrong. Being your "true" self is not, strictly speaking, a matter of acting out things that you normally repress.

This one is kind of tricky, so I'll explain it as best I can. (Again, I owe Brad Warner a thank you for these insights.)

Read more

Tags: art creativity psychology sociology

Coltrane Vs. Vonnegut Dept.

Two theories about the social utility of art,

Here are two theories about the social utility of art, as described in this blog post.

One is the "Coltrane" theory — the idea that, as John Coltrane once put it, "The true powers of music [or art generally] are still unknown," and that you make great things happen by first envisioning them.

The other is the "Vonnegut" theory, where he described the total power of all the artists protesting the Vietnam War as being akin to "a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high."

Read more

Tags: art Buddhism creativity John Coltrane Kurt Vonnegut

Ow My Brains! Dept.

"Pain is not punishment. Pleasure is not a reward."

I'm typing this post with minor cuts on my left thumb and right middle finger, and even with Band-Aids on they still hurt. So bear in mind how everything I say in this post is slightly more than theoretical for me right now.

Read more

Tags: Buddhism neuroscience psychology

Tick Tick Tock Dept.

On time travel and our urge to get away from it all.

Can We Escape from Time? | by John Lanchester | The New York Review of Books

The new idea, time travel, is appealing because we know time better than we used to. We know, much better than our ancestors, the exact lineaments of what Kipling called “the unforgiving minute.” Our time is more universal and more precise than ever, and we’re more than ever aware of the fact; it’s no wonder that we dream so much and think so fervently of ways in which time might be bent, stretched, reversed, made less unyielding and less unforgiving. All prisoners dream of freedom, perhaps never more so when they know there isn’t, and will never be, any possibility of escape.

Jack Finney, author of a sort-of time-travel novel named Time and Again, once tackled this idea indirectly in another, widely anthologized story called "I'm Scared." In it, a man recites to the reader a collection of bizarre, Fortean anecdotes about people and things that seem to have become displaced in time. The conclusion he draws is that this is happening because we want it to happen, because the pressure of billions of minds against the very nature of things is causing it to kink and warp here and there, and maybe someday burst altogether. We can't stomach the idea of time being linear, so we are kicking against that particular prick with greater and greater force.

I loved this idea when I first read it as a kid, and I hearken back to it often as a possible seed for a story — not one in this precise vein, but as a general idea. I haven't thought about what form it would take, but I suspect it would in some way be a tragedy. Here's why.

Read more

Tags: creativity fiction Jack Finney science fiction time travel

Motive Power Dept.

You can't rely on motivation; rely on discipline instead.

In a conversation over on Reddit in /r/gamedev, someone asked the one question that is asked of most anyone in any creative field: How do you stay motivated? The best answer so far: You can't rely on motivation; rely on discipline instead.

Read more

Tags: creativity discipline writing

No, No, NaNo Dept.

No new novel this November. I'm already booked.

Forgot to mention this before, but sorry, not this time around, gang. No NaNoWriMo for me. I'm neck-deep in Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, and am letting that stand as my current project. I still wish everyone out there who is taking the plunge this time around the very best of luck, though, including my fine friend Scott.

Read more

Tags: NaNoWriMo writing

A quick note.

I have said very little about the election here, but not because I don't care about it.

I have said very little about the election here, but not because I don't care about it. It's because I'm trying to stay focused. Focus is one of the few salves I have for uncertain times.

I also find I tend to lose political arguments very, very quickly, in big part because I am not very good at sustaining such discussions. The last thing I want to do is waste my energy in ways that will just leave everyone, especially me, all the more exhausted.

That said, the level of quietude you're seeing from me as of late should be a good sign as to how I feel about all this.

Tags: real life


I just want people to know blogging will resume in short order, and so will my writing work. It's been a busy couple of days, as you can imagine....

I just want people to know blogging will resume in short order, and so will my writing work. It's been a busy couple of days, as you can imagine.

Tags: real life

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Uncategorized / General category from November 2016.

You can see alphabetical or chronological listings of all entries in this category.

Uncategorized / General: October 2016 is the previous archive.

Uncategorized / General: December 2016 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

About Me

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.

My Goodreads author profile.

Learn some more about me.

My Books

Coming Soon

Out Now

More of my books

Search This Site

Other People We Like