"No grey goo" -- don't strand us in a landscape of emptiness and nothingness unless you have a really, really good reason for it. Here are what some of those reasons might be.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012/03/31 10:00
[Note: I'm skipping a rule because I feel Rule 4 in Hoyt's list is essentially the same as Rule 3.]
You shall not commit grey goo. Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining. (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment. Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)
This one barely needs comment from me, except perhaps in the form of perspective, in which I may digress a bit. Bring coffee.
"Don't write agitprop" - but first, know what it is and what stands in contrast to it.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012/03/28 10:00
Your writing should not leave anyone feeling ashamed of being: male, female, western, non-western, sickly, hale, powerful, powerless. It should use characters as characters and not as broad groups that are then used to shame other groups. Fiction is not agit prop.
I'll use the last line as the directive: "Do not write agitprop."
(Note: I am explicitly not talking here about someone who is speaking their mind directly in the form of a nonfiction piece -- a blog post, an essay, an open letter, a conversation with a friend. There, you are not only permitted but encouraged to be as vociferous and opinionated as you can, because that way you leave no ambiguity about your position. I am confining myself here to discussing the art of fiction.)
But immediately we fall into a trap. One man's agitprop is often another man's speaking-out against being silenced by complacency or marginalization. So to just say "don't write that stuff" is to some ears tantamount to saying "Don't speak up for yourself or your brethren."
On Human Wave SF's 2nd conceit: "Do not inspire loathing." But how can we point the way to the future without being a Pollyanna?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012/03/26 10:00
Your writing shouldn’t leave anyone feeling like they should scrub with pumice or commit suicide by swallowing stoats for the crime of being human, or like humans are a blight upon the Earth, or that the future is dark, dreary, evil and fraught with nastiness, because that’s all humans can do, and woe is us.
I'll boil that down to "Do not inspire loathing."
On Human Wave SF's first conceit: "Be entertaining!" Pitfall or paradigm?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012/03/24 10:00
After re-reading the "Human Wave" document, I've decided to devote a series of posts under the Vajra banner (since that's what it's most relevant to) to examining each of the suggested precepts within. Here's the first.
1. Your writing should be entertaining.
This seems like a given, doesn't it? But the problem I always run into with the dictum "Be entertaining!" is that there are at least as many definitions of "entertainment" as there are incarnations of it. There are people who find William Gaddis's JR entertaining, because the book tickles -- entertains -- a part of them that other books do not reach. Then there are people who see this 700-page doorstopper and just turn around and walk out of the room, because it offers them nothing they can find pleasure in.
How dystopia is just our way of saying "if you seek a monument..."By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012/03/23 10:15
So far I've been sneaky and avoided saying much about The Hunger Games, especially the way it's been compared (unfairly, if you ask me) to Battle Royale. Without having read Games yet -- it's on the agenda, though -- I'll just say they seem like parallel implementations of some of the same concepts.
I bring that back up here, though, as a way to talk about a larger subject that the two invoke together: Are the best dystopias just a reflection of the excesses of the time that they were written in, or do they look at something deeper?
For a while I've been struggling with a sort-of manifesto that I was going to use as a banner for Genji Press (and especially Fight of the Vajra). Then Sarah Hoyt came along and beat me to it, at least...By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012/03/22 12:00
For a while I've been struggling with a sort-of manifesto that I was going to use as a banner for Genji Press (and especially Fight of the Vajra). Then Sarah Hoyt came along and beat me to it, at least as far as the fiction-manifesto part of the game goes:
Give the whole piece a read. I'm kind of burdened with work right now, or I'd post a more in-depth analysis, but right now that analysis consists of two things:
Being plugged in has already become a way of life. Does it just get worse from here?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012/03/12 10:00
I spent most of last Thursday without access to the 'net. I know, I know -- shock, horror, gasp, you name it. Okay, I wasn't completely without access -- I had a phone with a 3G data connection, which I used at one point to do some Google Maps lookups.
Let me rephrase, then: I was shirking 'net access. I had access; I just chose not to do anything with it, because I had more important things I wanted to fill my time with for that one day. As much as I enjoy technology -- hey, I wouldn't have the job(s) I do if I didn't, and I sure as heck wouldn't be posting here with the vigor I do -- there are days and nights when a stroll around town, or a few hours with someone over dinner with no digital intermediaries between us, is a lot more appealing than yet another blog post.
Don't worry. I'm not about to write some fulminatory screed about how technology is destroying simple honest human interaction; you've got Jonathan Franzen to do that job for you (many times over). Instead, consider this: What convinces us that we need to have at least some of our lives lived outside of the envelope of perpetual connectivity?
Science fiction, rebooted.
Other Lives Of The Mind