Monday, November 8 2021

Quote of the Day

To assert by his talent, the rights of any citizen in any society: the right to work, to be maintained while working, and to share the product with all who wanted it. The rights of an Odonian and of a human being.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

Where did I go

All last week I physically felt worse and worse and worse until on Friday I finally figured out I might be having a reaction to a medication I’ve been on since spring.

Turns out, I was right. It’s kind of a good thing; I was reacting to it because I don’t need it any more. My body has resumed making enough of what the medication is because I’m eating in a way that supports it. Hey! What a great concept.

So I am feeling infinitely better and am ready to jump back in.

What am I doing

That’s what I was asking myself for all of this morning. I sat down to work after a week of being all over the place and was more than a little lost.

So after lunch I sat down determinedly and put together a process flow for myself using Notion. Now every morning I will sit down to a daily checklist that will lead me through setting up my work for the day and track it effectively so I don’t forget where I am or what I am supposed to do next. It worked extra great and I’m actually pretty happy with what I managed to get done in the 2.5 hours I had left of the day.

I know creatively is supposed to be spontaneous and all, but if I don’t have any idea what I am supposed to be spontaneous about, it doesn’t go well at all.

As it turns out, I’ve figured a huge chunk of my worldbuilding, which is literally the first time in my writing life I’ve been able to say that. As a recovering pantser, this sort of thing has never happened. I’m really loving how figuring this out is putting up a lot of guiderails as to what this story can even be about. I don’t have to try to narrow down my plot from all the possibilities in the universe; only the plausible ones that could happen in the world I’ve built.

Which means, after a few housekeeping tasks of getting the physical information into digital reference notes, I get to move on to plotting.

My worldbuilding took about a month. That’s way too long for a short story, but I’ve decided to make it up to myself by committing to write a number of stories in this place, because it’s already super interesting to explore and I bet I can think of lots of characters to write about in it.

Some interesting links

I’m not doing a bunch of research these days outside what I need for my story (and my continued health). So here’s some interesting links I stumbled over, with little commentary:

Beyond Dark Academia: The Real Horror in Magic School Is Systemic Inequality I doubt I’m going to enjoy reading this, but I’m sure I should

The Ones Who Can’t Walk Away: Another Perspective on Omelas I have enough problems with this story, I can’t wait to get other perspectives on it

What Bhutan got right about happiness – and what other countries can learn This can’t be bad

9 cities that could be underwater by 2030 It’s getting grim

AI Generates Hypotheses Human Scientists Have Not Thought Of Well, yeah, that’s why I want to use it in my story!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Quote of the Day

I wish that every day was Saturday and every month was October.

Charmaine J. Forde

Doofus interruptus

After having my day hijacked by lots of feels yesterday, I am back on track and delving more into the worldbuilding for my story. Specifically, more on flooding. I found this enlightening article about the process of getting one levee built, and how inequitable the process and the result is:

The Inequality of America’s Levee Systems

I thought this would be a great example I could use as a model for what could happen in my future southern New England coast. But then I found another article and I realized I have the complete wrong model. This article made me realize that southern New England has been dealing with flooding for a really, really long time. And most of what they’ve tried is slowly breaking down and failing. Levees, seawalls, dune rehabilitation, even stilts…none of it is working against erosion and flooding today, never mind decades from now.

Mother Nature, Humans Do Battle Along R.I.’s Battered Coast

Today I’m going to glean what I can from this article and I think I will get a good picture of where this coast might be in the years to come. I have to keep remembering that solarpunk is the fiction of the triumph of technology, of real solutions (even if temporary), of the positive outcome. It’s very easy to look at these situations today and just extrapolate forward on current social structures and political will and get to a very negative result. And I also have to remember that this is a short story and I don’t have to have all the answers to how people could ever realistically get to the future I want to show.


Speaking of solarpunk…

A new article on Tor listing some tasty solarpunk SF:

The Solarpunk Future: Five Essential Works of Climate-Forward Fiction

My library card is gonna get a workout. I actually started Robinson’s New York 2140, but I didn’t finish it before it was due back. I’ll have to try it again.

SF TV shows make my day

I’ve started watching Apple’s Foundation. I’ve never actually read the books–I never was a fan of super hard SF growing up, so I tended to skip it. The only Asimov I’ve read was The Gods Themselves, and I was young enough that maybe I shouldn’t have.

Anyhoo. Tor has an article about Foundation up, and since I’m watching the show and enjoying it, I figured this article might make for good reading.

Asimov’s Foundation and Finding Hope in Crisis

Friday, September 17 2021

Quote of the Day

What a sad thing men are. Can’t do nothing good without being so weak we have to mess it up. Can’t build something up without tearing it down.

It ain’t the Spackle that drove us to the end.

It was ourselves.

Patrick Ness, Monsters of Men

Will we stop? “Thinking like a planet” is so alien to the perspectives of modern life—so far from thinking like a neoliberal subject in a ruthless competitive system—that the phrase sounds at first lifted from kindergarten…This goes beyond thinking like a planet, because the planet will survive, however terribly we poison it; it is thinking like a people, one people, whose fate is shared by all.

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth

Two quotes for today

Yesterday I finished reading & taking notes on The Uninhabitable Earth. This morning I finished Monsters of Men, the last book in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series.

It’s been a journey, reading those two things together. One lays out the destruction we’ve caused out of greed, willful blindness, and the lie that we can control nature. It asks if we’ll stop, if we can change and mobilize, or if we’ll just keeping causing more and more suffering. The other lays out a story of the destruction we can cause out of a need for control and is asking if we can ever transcend that.

Now that I’ve finished them both, I realize I was kind of hoping for the YA series to tell me if there was any hope that we can change, that we can come up with an answer fast enough to keep the climate suffering to a minimum. A big ask, even for the dystopian YA novels that wrestle with these questions.

The answer seems to be that good people can do awful things in the name of love, and that there are some people with so much emptiness that can’t be filled that they will burn everything down just to see the flames. That we can’t ever be in short supply of forgiveness; that we need to know when to keep fighting and when to stop the cycle of violence.

And, apparently, to know when your leaders have gone batshit crazy and the only thing left to do is stop them from brutalizing hundreds or thousands or millions of people.

There is a part of The Uninhabitable Earth that talks about storytelling, and how we (at least we in the West) don’t have a storytelling model that even works in the name of collective action.

…the dilemmas and dramas of climate change are simply incompatible with the kinds of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, especially in conventional novels, which tend to end with uplift and hope and to emphasize the journey of an individual conscience rather than the miasma of social fate.

Essentially, our stories center around 1 protagonist who has enough agency to change the world. Even in ensemble stories, that’s still a very small number of people working together with very outsize influence. How do we tell stories of a vision of the future where we come together globally to Do A Thing?

…I guess I know some of the things to start noodling on myself if I hope to write solarpunk and hopepunk.

Speaking of collaborative efforts

An article about the end of World War II, and the existential dreads that can’t be filled with consumerism.

The Incredible Shrinking Man Saw Beyond the Material Façade of Post-War Prosperity

For a country ravaged first by depression and then traumatized by war, they not only Built Back Better, they Built Back Awesome. Super-highways; suburbs; G.I. plans for returning soldiers to access college educations and buy those assembly-line, suburban abodes. Plus, a wealth of consumer goods: all-electric kitchens, TV Dinners, Frisbees for the kids and a backyard barbecue for Dad. The cornucopia of prosperity rained down upon the American citizen, and no one would ever be hungry, sad, or frightened, ever again.

Do I have to tell you that that was horseshit? No, of course I don’t.

Dan Persons

Why is food so hard

Everyone says coconut oil is such a great fat to eat. But is it, if you aren’t already healthy?

Does Coconut Oil Kill Probiotics?

I’m not sure this is 100% the full story, honestly. But I don’t think it’s helping me right now, so I shall put it aside for a bit.

Next steps

Now that I’ve finished The Uninhabitable Earth, I am going to move on to take N. K. Jemisin’s MasterClass on SFF Writing! There’s a section in it on worldbuilding that I am really excited to go through and glean some new strategies before I jump into worldbuilding for my Thanksgiving novel.

Monday, September 13 2021

Quote of the Day

It’s not that you should never love something so much it can control you.

It’s that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled.

Patrick Ness, The Ask and the Answer

My brain feels stuffed

So much Deep Thought happened last week that I’m behind and have links all over my e-mail and tabs to save.

Also, I’ve decided to start working on some short stories as well as research for my novel, because the idea that no one’s going to see any work of mine for years and years and maybe a couple more years after that is just intolerable. I was getting very depressed about it. Then I saw one of those MasterClass ads–you know the ones, they are all over social media–and it led me to the trailer for Joyce Carol Oates’s class. And she said this magical thing:

…and we’re going to begin with shorter forms. Because short stories, short monologues, poetry, and things that you can finish and show other people–that’s very satisfying and necessary for a writer. What we all need is the satisfaction of this little uplift that we get psychologically from finishing something.

Joyce Carol Oates

Yes, Ms. Oates!! YES. THANK YOU. Sometimes I feel insane with the need to share my work. I guess that’s normal, actually. And I should do that.

And I’m going to buy a MasterClass subscription, because of her class, and N.K. Jemisin’s SFF Writing class, and Roxane Gay’s Writing for Social Change class, and even Neil Gaiman’s Art of Storytelling class, because even though I don’t love his life choices he is a great writer. And whatever else I can find on there that might be useful.

Anyway, here are the gazillion links, with less commentary than usual.

World’s biggest machine capturing carbon from air turned on in Iceland

Solar Punk Society

The Heat Is On: Stanford faculty are blazing paths in fire control and prevention to help us live in a changed climate.

The blog Ursula K. LeGuin started when she was 81

The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction

Museums Honor Butler and Afrofuturism

Time Travelers Should Be a Lot More Worried About Viruses

I’m rereading the HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH books about the writing of Lord of the Rings. They’re fascinating (for certain values of fascinating); what I’m going to do this time try to extract writing advice (thread)

A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change

The big myth of government deficits

Why William Gibson Is a Literary Genius

People are moving to this Midwest city for one particularly reason

Can Turning CO2 to Stone Help Save the Planet? | Out of Our Elements

Spectacular FLOATING HOME is Self-Built & Off-Grid

Seriously I haven’t had time to read / watch most of these but I really want to some day. Thank goodness for this little blog where they will stay safe until I have need of them.

Thursday, September 2 2021

Quote of the Day

Everyone looks at me, and I look away.

Because, do I qualify as an Earthling? And do I even want to? I’m not human, and all I can think about is laying claim to this heritage, which I want so bad that I feel sick to my stomach and dizzy with joy when I think about it. Calling myself an Earthling feels like a step backward.

Charlie Jane Anders, Victories Greater Than Death

WoT trailer drop!

The Wheel of Time – Official Teaser Trailer | Prime Video

I am so freaking looking forward to this!!

YouTube rabbit holes

As fun as they can be, I’m feeling like my algorithm is a little stale lately. I’m sure that’s because I’m not going down the right rabbit holes, or whatever. They have take to showing me content that is so far out on the politically Marxist branch that I can metaphorically hear it creaking as I step on it, ready to snap under the weight of its conceits. I like me some Marxist theory, and when the revolution comes I’ll happily take up a pitchfork and when I inevitably get turned on I’ll just shrug and sigh. But collapsing the whole of the human experience into a single economic theory is…tiresome, shall we say? Also equating small change to no change is defeatist to the point of nihilism.

I’m starting to wish that more podcasts set up a camera or that those on Zoom calls were recorded, and people would throw those recording up on YouTube. I want to listen to podcasts, but while I will sit through an hour long podcast while I can watch the speakers talking on YouTube, I hate listening to disembodied voices for an hour (unless I have managed to find some busywork to do while I listen).

I get that this is a me problem, but I feel like I’m missing out on some great content rabbit holes. A thought to ponder on. Maybe I just need a hobby like crocheting or something.


Those of you who watched the final episode of Game of Thrones (my condolences, obviously) may remember a moment when Tyrion Lannister asks the surviving cast members what unites people. “Armies? Gold? Flags?” He pauses there, to let the audience know that something insufferable is coming, before answering himself: “Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.”

Look. It’s not a good line. It’s an unsupported thesis, wildly out of place in a show that brutally mangled most of its own plotlines in the name of grim realism, or maybe just cool CGI…

And yet: I teared up a little. I’m not proud! I just have a helpless biological response to anyone who suggests—in any context, at any time—that stories matter. Because they do, to me, very much. So what could be better than stories about stories?

Alix E. Harrow, 7 Speculative Stories About Stories,

Really I just want to save this one. And believing that stories matter is what sent me to grad school and shaped most of my writing desires, anyhow.


Revisiting Parkinson’s Law by Cal Newport

Very good points, especially in light of my new experiment to sprint once an hour instead of put in 2.5 solid hours of deeply hard, focus-heavy work. While spreading out the hard work (and doom and gloom) over the day has helped immensely, I don’t have any timelines in place for finishing researching or this whole novel project. And maybe that’s a problem. Maybe I’m note-taking too well; it’s been like almost 3 weeks of note-taking, I think? And I’m less than halfway through the book? I mean, there’s an overwhelming number of facts in The Uninhabitable Earth, but maybe, like Cal suggests, that’s just an excuse. I’m going deep on this book because I believe this research will set me up to write any book set in the future, as climate change is the future and unless we write far beyond it it has to be shown. But maybe that too is an excuse.

This advice is sound. After reading Ferriss’s book, I began to work backwards from a constrained schedule — forcing  my professional efforts to fit within these tight confines. As predicted by Parkinson’s Law, these restrictions don’t seem to decrease the quantity of projects on which I make progress. If anything, I seem to get more done than many  who work more hours.

Cal Newport

I honestly have no idea how long any of this might take, and the thought of trying to set up milestones–either calculated out or arbitrarily–pretty much gives me hives. But maybe that is what I need to do, or this novel will take 10 years to write instead of 3.