All posts for May 2019

Apocalypse Table Stakes

My creative sin: writing stories where all of creation hangs in the balance, YET AGAIN.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/29 17:00

At some point every critic has to turn the criticism around and point it back at themselves, if only for the sake of fairness. So here we go.

For a long time now, I've been guilty of a sin that I would be only too happy to charge others with committing: creating stories where All Creation Hangs In The Balance, again and again.

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Tags: apocalypse  creativity 

How To Listen To Your Gut

And how to do what scares you, at the same time.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/28 08:00

I have in front of me what seem like two entirely valid and entirely contradictory pieces of life advice:

  1. Do what scares you.
  2. Listen to your gut.

I want to lay out why I think they're both valid, why they contradict, and how my own life experience might be muddying the issue.

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Tags: advice  psychology 

Guilty As Charged

Everyone who's ever put a word to paper has an excuse, or a justification if you want to be less nasty, for everything they do. Of course I'm guilty of this.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/23 08:00

Everyone who's ever put a word to paper has an excuse, or a justification if you want to be less nasty, for everything they do. Everyone who's ever written an 800 page novel can walk you through every sentence of that toe-breaker and explain in lavish detail why it needed to be there. Everyone can always come up with some defense for their ghastly lapses in aesthetic judgment, their air-pumped phrases, their plots with more convolutions than Lombard Street.

Of course I'm guilty of this. Guilty, and currently serving 15 to 25 upstate for it. Knowing this doesn't make me immune to it. If anything it makes me all the more vulnerable, because I can always imagine how much better my justifications are than your justifications.

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Tags: aesthetics  writers  writing 

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It

On why contrarianism is not dissent.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/22 08:00

I don't think you can point to any one moment in our collective lives when things broke, but I do think you can point to a number of different individual stress fractures that contributed to the structural fatigue. The one I keep coming back to is the difference between true dissent and mere contrarianism.

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The Refutation Proclamation

Make something that is your answer to all the things in the world you don't want.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/21 08:00

A comment on the New York Times site (which I can't link to directly) went like this:

... [The Wire] purported to be about how Baltimore really was. Instead it was a compendium of how criminals, journalists and police share fantasies. Like Mafia movies where the myths which animate real lives are presented as entertainment, there was nothing I could see but conformity to stereotypes which turn out to be romantic. I watched soap operas for years and years, fascinated by the plot turns and the acting, and I still watch Perry Mason. These took themselves seriously enough to stay on the air. But they don’t feel to me that they think they’ve found a higher truth, when they have just seen themselves in the mirror.

Most every discussion of the meanings of our entertainments turn into the question of what we want from them. No two people answer this question exactly the same way. Some of us want to turn our brains off; some of us want to turn our brains back on. Some of us want idealized fantasy as a contrast to all the crushing reality we face during the day; some of us want a bracing dose of reality as a contrast to all the lies and frippery we're offered as a culture. There is no point in trying to make everyone happy, except maybe by accident, and even then you don't really do that.

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Tags: Game of Thrones  creativity  creators 

Pull That Thread

If there's a thread in your story that begs to be pulled, pull it.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/20 08:00

The other day the discussion came up that inevitably emerges whenever more than one writer is in the same room: art thou a plotter or a pantser? My reply: "I'm a plantser." (I was taking a cue from Ringo Starr, who when in the early days of Beatlemania was asked by a clueless journo if he was a mod or a rocker, replied, "I'm a mocker.")

But Seriously Folks, there was a good discussion to have from all this, and it produced a must unexpected bit of fruit on my part. Sometimes, when you're in the middle of a story and you see a thread sticking out that you're tempted to pull, you should pull it and see what happens — even if it seems to go against the plan, but is in synchrony with what you know about the story and its characters.

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Tags: storytelling  writing 

You Can See Why I Was Busy

Whole lotta shakin' going on.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/19 08:00

I had, in roughly this order:

  • travel for work
  • family visiting for a few days
  • a dental implant
  • another piece of dental work done opportunistically on top of that
  • minor computer trouble
  • a personal celebration
  • minor household calamity (broken fixture requiring outside expertise)
  • medical stuff involving another family member

(I also managed to burn myself on my stove in three different places.)

Posting will resume shortly.

Tags: excuse our dust  real life 

Regular Service Resuming Shortly

Excuse our dust.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/14 10:00

Work and various real-life commitments have pinched my time for a bit. I'll be checking back in some days from now.

Tags: excuse our dust  real life 

Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death

"...what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/10 08:00

The Myth of Convenience | L.M. Sacasas

... “what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.” If you seek to conquer nature, you will eventually run into the realization that humanity is just another part of nature and, thus, the last realm to be conquered.

“Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man,” [C.S.] Lewis writes. “The battle will then be won. We shall have ‘taken the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho’ and be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be.”

“The battle will indeed be won,” Lewis reiterates, “But who, precisely, will have won it?”

Well, again: “For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.”


It is worth asking ourselves to what degree we have ordered our use of technology around the value of convenience. It is worth considering why exactly we value convenience or whether we have received the benefits that we expected. It’s worth considering what assumptions about the body structure our desire for convenience and whether or not we ought to reevaluate these assumptions. Would we not do better to understand our limits as “inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning,” to borrow a felicitous phrase from Wendell Berry, rather than as obstacles to be overcome?

Sure. Except for one thing, the most common problem I find in discussions of this sort: How do we make this understanding work for us — the understanding that our limits are a challenge to us in good faith — without it simply becoming an excuse for, as Lewis put it, some men to make other man what they please? How do we make this into a self- and inner-directed discipline instead of into an other- and outward-directed mission? And — maybe most disconcerting of all — are we too late to even think about whether or not that's possible anymore?

Tags: philosophy  society  sociology 


People who say "I'm a jerk and proud of it" are sending a signal they should be avoided. The problem is we aren't always in a position to enact that advice.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/05/01 17:00

I have never felt the not-a-hypocrite test of a person's character or social value was terribly useful. People who say "I'm no hypocrite; I'm a jerk and proud of it" are sending a signal they should be avoided. The problem is we aren't always in a position to enact that advice.

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Tags: psychology  sociology 

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