Wednesday, October 27 2021

Quote of the Day

People discriminated very carefully then between administering things and governing people. They did it so well that we forgot that the will to dominance is as central in human beings as the impulse to mutual aid is, and has to be trained in each individual, in each new generation.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

Secret night writing

I’ve always loved writing at night after my hubby has gone to bed. The house will be dark and quiet, and it feels like I can write anything because no one will see. As if every single person in the world can see my writing during the day and is quietly judging it! It’s a silly hang up, but I still feel freer to write down anything and everything for a new story in secret.

I’ve taken ~45 mins the last two night to write little fragments of the story I am working on. I don’t know if I will even use them for anything, but the sheer creative joy of just building the ethereal sandcastle that a story is feels lovely. It’s hard, because I keep running into things that I haven’t figured out yet, but it does make me want to figure them out even more!

I knew my story would begin with a short travel from the main character’s home to the main setting, and I decided my MC lives in Minnesota. I assumed MN would have flooding in the climate change of our future, and just wrote off that idea. I checked The Facts today, and I am right: What Climate Change Means for Minnesota.

On the meaning of social and cultural roles in storytelling

Meanwhile, now that it is daytime, I’m looking into social vs cultural roles. Is there a difference? Honestly, what is the difference between society and culture?

Man you have to know a lot to write a story that is so infrequently taught…..

Notes from a Khan Academy video Culture and Society:

  • Culture informs society
  • Culture are the rules (human ideas) that form the organizing structure that is society
    • Weird metaphor: Apps / software on a phone are culture. The physical phone hardware is society.
  • “Society includes key parts called institutions, and examples include: family, education, politics. These are basic human needs, so we can think of society as the hardware.”
  • “Culture provides guidelines for living.”

Notes from a Khan Academy video Overview of culture:

  • “Society is a group of people and culture talks about the rules and instructions within a society that guides people and teaches them how to live.”
    • Why didn’t anyone just say this to start out with
  • “Culture refers to the ideas and things that are passed on from one generation to the next in a society.”
  • “Culture includes many different things like: knowledge, beliefs, values, language, customs”

So what I think they are saying here, for example, is that the collective we in America decided at some point that all children should be educated. That is an idea, a belief. That cultural belief is expressed in our society through the institution of public education. Right? I think.

(And yes, I know the whole public education was a scheme by factory owners to teach kids to grow up and be nice little factory workers instead of farmers. But no matter how jenky the original reason, it still became a cultural belief.)

Ok. Now, how does that apply to social vs cultural roles?

This page seems to imply that cultural roles are a subset of societal roles. (It thinks that gender, social differentiation, bio-sociological, and specific roles are each subsets of societal roles.) I guess one way to look at that is that everyone plays the social role of student when they are young, but a general American student in middle school role isn’t anything like the cultural roles of a Hebrew School student or a Chinese school student. Or even possibly football player in middle school.

Ok, wait. These roles are starting to sound like stereotypes, aren’t they? I see I’m not the only one to think that.

Members of social categories defined by attributes such as sex, race, and age occupy certain types of social roles much more than members of other social categories do. The qualities that define these roles become associated with the category as a whole, thus forming a stereotype. In a vicious cycle, this stereotype then hinders category members’ movement into roles with different demands because their stereotype portrays them as well matched to their existing roles but not to these new roles. This vicious cycle has important implications for stereotype change. Given the difficulties of producing enduring change by directly attacking stereotypes in the minds of individuals, a more effective strategy consists of policies and programs that change the distributions of category members in roles, thereby changing stereotypes at their source. If the vicious cycle is not interrupted by such social change, observations of category members’ typical social roles continually reinstate existing stereotypes.

Alice H. Eagly & Anne M. Koenig, The Vicious Cycle Linking Stereotypes and Social Roles

Well that’s a super interesting distraction. Not helpful for today, but possibly when working on the individual character level.

Anyway. This research has made me rescind my initial thought that roles flow from one another like a river. Overlapping Venn diagrams are a better representation, but (like always) I still want to create some overarching structure about how many roles a single person can be connected to. There is this image:

Manu Melwin Joy

Ok now that I understand roles better this diagram is actually super helpful. Let’s clear this up even more with various insights from around the Intarwebs:

  • Ideas about culture become cultural roles that the individual is expected to act out. A culture could be a sports team, their fans, a church, a college, a religion, an ethnicity, a “race,” a book club, “BreadTube,” a retirement community, a country club, etc.
  • Social roles change based on profession and relations. Individuals practicing different professions, such as teaching, nursing, plumbing, social media influencers, celebrities, have different roles to fulfill. I believe relations in this sense includes family roles.
  • Situational roles are knowing how to behave in specific instances, like how to be a customer in a fast food restaurant vs Ruth’s Chris, or what to do as the witness to a car crash. How to call a cab in New York, or knowing how much to tip and when.
  • Gender roles are roles we are expected to play based on our gender: mother, father, trans woman, etc.
  • Bio-sociological roles is kind of vague? It seems to be roles based on beliefs about how humans should interact with the natural world and natural systems. It’s too bad it’s so vague, because this seems like solarpunk bread and butter right here.
    • In a different but parallel vein, works by Tim Ingold and Gisli Palsson, for instance, have pointed to the necessity of a dissolution of the ‘conventional divisions between body, mind and culture’ (Ingold, 1999). A recent collection by Ingold and Palsson (2013), nicely summarizes this novel biosocial approach that challenges the reductionisms of sociobiology and cultural constructionism alike (dissolving the pole of nurture into nature and vice versa, respectively), and puts forward an integration of ‘the social and the biological … ontogeny and phylogeny, organism and context, being and becoming’ (Ingold and Palsson, 2013: 243). The biosocial: sociological themes and issues.
    • Oooooooooh, I see now. Bio-sociology is about challenging the idea of tabula rasa, that human interaction is the only thing that forms culture or identity. This idea incorporates biology into the picture of human behavior. Well, that’s much less exciting, and honestly will require way too much delving into theory to worry about overly much while I’m still getting a handle on the bigger picture.

So part of the problem here is that when you analyze the idea of “culture” it seems very static, like our modern assumptions about living in a small town in Eastern Europe in the fifth century. Everyone knew each other, there was little travel or other exchange of ideas, and everyone’s roles were set around them like cement, never changing. But in reality (then and now, most likely), culture is constantly updating itself, re-interpreting itself, being modified one way and then another and then back again by individuals and groups. Sub-cultures thrive and stagnate and die and are reborn. There might be agreement on the rules of a culture, but likely there isn’t. How dark does your skin have to be to be Black? Can you go out without makeup? Is aggression a male trait? Does our congregation welcome and perform gay marriage?

But in order to define roles for a story, they have to be pinned down. Even if they are in flux, the ways in which they are in flux need to be defined so that the change (or failure to change) will be clear. Also the role itself, if it is different from roles today, has to be clear and well-explained to the reader. So this is one of those ways in which story is very much a representation of reality, and not able to fully embody the messiness of life and people.

A bit of explanation

If you are wondering why I am worrying over roles in my worldbuilding, I am taking the idea from N. K. Jemisin’s style of worldbuilding, where thinking about social roles defines the power dynamics of your created society.

Also in looking up that link I found these that I am going to go listen to and see if it shakes anything else loose:

Narrative Worlds Episode 3 (Kate Elliott & N.K. Jemisin)

N.K. Jemisin’s master class in world building | The Ezra Klein Show

N. K. Jemisin Speaks at WIRED25

And this one possibly not on worldbuilding but sounds cool: UPSTREAMING: Neil Gaiman in Conversation with N. K. Jemisin

Monday, October 25 2021

Quote of the Day

It is the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

The calmest Monday

The last couple weeks have been severely rough. Changing up my diet caused lots of fatigue and gut issues and psychological gut-punches. I got through and out the other side of that for my husband to have a health incident that still has me nervous and a little scared. Things seem to have settled down–I’ve gotten a decent amount of sleep for the first time in 4 days, and I am well-nourished now, and husband seems to have bounced back well.

I might not have gotten every single thing done that I wanted to today, but everyone’s feeling okay, things are getting done, and no one’s neglecting their immediate health. It’s the best Monday I’ve had in like a month.

Since things have been….exciting, I have a bunch of links that I’ve picked up along the way for random things I’ve looked up. Here’s the list:

I looked up social roles for wordbuilding at some point, and stumbled over this juicy looking link: My Role in a Social Change Ecosystem

I’d also like a better office chair. I have lumbar support issues, and I love sitting cross-legged. Hence:

I am loving this trend of no-combat MMOs: Spry Fox is still building a cozy non-violent MMO – and Epic is publishing it

Speaking of games, I watched Natalie Wynn stream Ambition, and I had a brief thought that I’d love to stream interactive novel-type games. But, copyright:

Not to be deterred, I came up with a plan where I stream about 30% of the game, then could offer a book club style Zoom call on the game over Patreon, assuming those who attend bought and played through the rest of the game themselves. But will I ever act on this plan? Not while there’s still worldbuilding to be done….

In more game news, I tried Gloomhaven with some friends for the first time. There are a lot of rules, and the rulebook is crap. This Gloomhaven Helper sounds very helpful for future games.

You know how hard it is to find a Gluten-Free Crisp recipe without almond or coconut flour? Hard enough that I don’t want to loose this recipe: Gluten-Free Apple Oatmeal Crisp.

Wednesday, October 20 2021

Quote of the Day

It’s your nature to be Tirin, and my nature to be Shevek, and our common nature to be Odonians, responsible to one another. And that responsibility is our freedom. To avoid it, would be to lose our freedom. Would you really like to live in a society where you had no responsibility and no freedom, no choice, only the false option of obedience to the law, or disobedience followed by punishment? Would you really want to go live in a prison?

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

Why we are all so tired

Today I went the store to buy coconut milk to make a smoothie.

I’ve already weeded out most brands of coconut milk because they have gums in them. But, there was a new brand that I wanted to examine because the package was much bigger than my normal brand. I thought it might be easier and cheaper than having to buy 3-4 little packages.

The new brand was very proud to announce it only has two simple ingredients: coconut and water! So wholesome. So fresh and natural and simple.

But….does there need to be water in coconut milk? How is coconut milk made? Is water a required part of the process? I thought it was made by basically wringing out coconut meat, no water necessary…but I wasn’t sure.

So I trundled off to get my usual brand. It had 1 ingredient: 100% coconut milk.

At this point I felt like I had no idea what coconut milk even is.

So I started comparing macronutrients to try and figure it out. The serving size on the usual brand was marked as 1/2 cup. The serving size on the new brand was 1/3 cup. Of course. The usual had 17g of fat, while the new one had 9 grams of fat per serving.

So maybe the new brand was a lite coconut milk, without saying “lite” on it? Nope, the new brand also had a lite version, which I didn’t even bother taking a look at. It seems the new brand’s regular coconut milk was actually watered down coconut milk? What even constitutes coconut milk then? Does there have to be a certain fat percentage?

…ok, see? See how hard buying one simple thing at the store is, and how much brain power I had to expend to make a single purchase. Everything in our capitalist life is like this. I ended up not even looking at the prices, which were vastly different and I’d have to do a bunch of math to compare which was the better value, especially counting for the fact that one was watered down. And since I was also watering down the usual brand when I use it because it is slightly too fatty, the best choice might have been the new brand anyhow….

Fitting everything in a day, shopping, working, civic engagement, keeping up with friends and family now happens on 2-4 social media platforms, texts, group chats on multiple messaging platforms, voice messages, voice calls, occasional birthday cards, and video calls. It’s all too impossibly overwhelming much.

So that I know what the hell it is that I am drinking, I’ve now looked up what coconut milk is, and hey, there are kinds:

When it comes to cooking, canned coconut milk is typically king. For many, it’s a pantry staple, as it’s shelf-stable and can be added to so many recipes. Canned coconut milk is a bit thicker than its boxed counterpart, imparting hints of coconut flavor and creaminess to a dish. For canned coconut milk, you may open the can to find that it has separated, with thick cream on the top, paired with a milky liquid, but adding it straight to a saucepan while cooking will bring the separation back together into its creamy form. 

Boxed coconut milk, on the other hand, which is often found on the shelves in a carton, is typically used for quicker recipes. It’s not as thick or creamy, but it makes a great milk alternative for cereal or smoothies, or even coffee if you just need a light addition. Its flavor isn’t as strong as canned coconut milk, since it doesn’t normally present the thick cream you see in a can, and often, it may have higher water content or other additives. A powdered form of coconut milk is also available and can be mixed with water, but it’s not as prevalent at the grocery store as these other two options. 

The Untold Truth of Coconut Milk,

At least my smoothie tasted great.

Solarpunk headlines

Both of these things seem pretty easy, and one is what we should already be doing anyhow

Want to stop climate change? Educate girls.

Solar panels on half the world’s roofs could meet its entire electricity demand – new research

Wednesday, October 13 2021

Quote of the Day

In a human sacrifice to deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of moneychangers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

It’s going to be a day

Have I mentioned my shoulder has hurt for the last two months now? It’s a process my body seems to go through as it heals. I’ve gone through it before with my other shoulder. It’s fine now, no pain, complete range of motion. I’ll come out the other end with two shoulders in excellent working order. But keeping the faith in that knowledge is tough.

Today I have little energy, less motivation, and a shoulder that just won’t stop aching instead of its usual painful twinge when I use it. But I also have a tiny spark fo feeling that if I just keep trying to stick to my usual schedule, and don’t push but keep at it, I will get through today and tomorrow will be better.

So let’s try that.

Alma mater reading material

There are a number of interesting finds in this month’s issue of Stanford magazine:

More aquatic foods could be key to improving global health

  • This one links excellently to the worldbuilding I have done for my story. Also, according to both my nutritionist and my taste buds, this seems like a much better answer than going vegan. Also also, remember not to blame the poor cows.

Stanford researchers develop an intervention that cuts recidivism among children reentering school from the justice system

  • People acting like other people are people ftw

New Book Answers The Questions: Where Did Big Tech Go Wrong, And What Can We Do Next?

  • This doesn’t sound like anything new, but maybe the framework presented in the book is interesting. The class sure sounds interesting….

Monday, October 11 2021

Quote of the Day

…true hope is ultimately a bold choice full of power and agency. It’s true that no one can escape crisis. It comes for each of us in numerous forms, whether personal or societal, but in crisis there is also incredible opportunity to draw from the strength of humans of the past and to persevere long enough to inspire someone in the future.

Ben Gierhart, Asimov’s Foundation and Finding Hope in Crisis

Today’s post is all about the researching for my new story-in-progress!

Preparing coastlines for the future

I’m worldbuilding for a short story, and really digging into how to save our coastlines from rising seas and increasingly worse storms was an incredible shock. It’s all about managed retreat and habitat rehabilitation. Many of the solutions local governments recommend (hardening, raising buildings) pretty much make things worse.

Best practices for successful coastal flooding adaptation

Coastal Resiliency

Solutions to Coastal Flooding: Can National Parks Turn the Tide?

Innovative Approaches to Building Resilient Coastal Infrastructure

Some nifty buildings

So if people pull back from the shore, where will they live? I started looking into some nifty futuristic concept architecture for ideas.

See the World’s Most Innovative Future Projects at the World Architectural Festival in Berlin

10 Futuristic Architecture Projects That Will Blow Your Mind!

What Should Cities Be Like in 2050?

Shaping Cities like Coral Reefs

Getting around in this future

Once again, really researching this has been eye-opening. I’ve assumed trains of some sort are the best plan, but coastal flooding over train tracks make them impractical. We can keep raising the tracks over and over, but…why? There are better ideas out there.

Does Sea Level Rise Matter to Transportation Along the Atlantic Coast?

Climate Impacts on Transportation

A Future Option for African Fast Intercity Coastal Transportation

Six futuristic designs that will change public transportation


The Future of Transportation course from the Futurist Institute

18 urban transportation concepts for the future

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

Wednesday, October 6 2021

Quote of the Day

There are two buttons I never like to hit, that is panic and snooze.

Ted Lasso

Links links links

I’ve got a ton to get to today, so just listing some links I don’t want to forget.


  • A game I apparently signed up to get updates about? It must have sounded interesting to me so I should re-check it out eventually.

A Solarpunk Manifesto

  • A nice summing up of the things I was researching last week.

Sistah SciFi

  • I want to visit this bookstore!!! Stupid pandemic……. soon.

Life Swap

  • Stardew Valley has to be hopepunk?

What We Can Learn from ‘Advise and Consent’

Politics and power haven’t changed much since Allen Drury, ’39, wrote his midcentury masterpiece. But trust has.

  • I really need to read this one, it might help me with my current story. Maybe this afternoon, after I finish more worldbuilding exercises….

Thursday, September 30 2021

Quote of the Day

Her visor was close up against her face, a sleek glass pane across her eyes. The prism technology and coating on the visor made it anti-reflective, obscured the AugR display from the outside, and disrupted face-detecting software. There were cameras on the front and back, so I had a full 360-degree view of the world around her head. (She had buzzed her long black hair off to avoid obscuring the camera’s view.)

T.X. Watson, “The Boston Hearth Project,” Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation

Gantt charts are doomy

I took a moment yesterday to put together a timeline in Notion of exactly how this writing process is supposed to unfold if I only have a month to write a short story.

I know that in school I only had about a week and a half to turn in a short story. Maybe that was why they were so bad. My upfront figuring out process seems to take a lot longer than fumbling around in draft after draft, although I actually seem to get somewhere using it. I really really hope I can pull this off.

On to step 1: Figuring out a theme, and what the main character will learn over the course of the story.

In a hurry

Clearly, I have a lot of work to get to, so my blog posts will be a lot shorter through the month of October.

Wednesday, September 29 2021

Quote of the Day

I don’t want easy anymore. It’s worthless and the shine doesn’t last.

Kim Harrison, The Undead Pool

Writing solarpunk resources

The research continues, and I might be starting–just a bit–to get an idea of the genre conventions for solarpunk. I went looking for resources and found these here:

“Solarpunk” & the Pedagogical Value of Utopia

Spectrum London Writers’ Group Presents: Solarpunk Day

It’s a little slippery to get a handle on, because it’s not just a genre, it’s a movement and most of the materials I’m finding are more generalized to explain the movement as a whole. And it’s still so shiny new that I’m getting the feeling that it hasn’t truly defined itself yet.

Here is my stab at a preliminary list of conventions:

  • gotta have tech–low, high, old, new, future or present, it’s got to be a component of solarpunk
  • the tech and other solutions should be distributed / decentralized and often DIY
  • there absolutely will be conflict, but since solarpunk is “a rebellion against the war on hope,” I think a happy ending is in order.
  • nature and greenery as a primary feature of important settings
  • it has to have a post-capitalist economy or be about the fight to move beyond capitalism
  • community is front and center
  • it’s got to be in the future–whether 10 mins from now or 2000 years from now
  • characters believe solving systemic causes of inequality is the future (and act accordingly)
  • diverse characters
  • themes:
    • there is action to be taken and a difference to be made even in the face of overwhelming odds
    • hope is a radical act
    • humanity can achieve comfortable living for all
    • civilization allows for indigenous / small cultures to be integrated not repressed
    • climate action doesn’t mean scarcity or giving things up
    • humans are part of the natural world, not separate from it
    • technology is for the betterment of people and nature, not corporations
    • we cannot survive the future without strong, integrated, self-sufficient-yet-connected communities

All of this isn’t nothing, but it’s pretty light on plot points or specific scenes that must happen. Once again, maybe the genre isn’t there yet, but my next step is to start reading solarpunk short stories and see if there are any repeating motifs.

Oh hey, a new solarpunk anthology open for submissions

Solarpunk Sunscapes: Optimistic Visions of the Future

So, um…I guess I better make a go of it? One month to write and finish a story……yikes….let’s see what I can make happen.

Tuesday, September 28 2021

Quote of the Day

It takes an idiot to do cool things. That’s why it’s cool.



I spent yesterday coming through Our Changing Climate’s Why This Gives Me Hope for the Future (ft. @Saint Andrewism) video. Here are all the references to nifty SolarPunk things I found in it.

Solarpunk artists & writers

The ‘Vegetal’ Cities of Luc Schuiten: A Sustainability Fantasy

J Queiroz

Dear Alice – do we love it for awesome people involved, lovely animation and aesthetics, and great solarpunk portrayal, or do we hate it because it’s capitalism trying to appropriate the movement?

Eric Hunting

Gwenn Germain

Jessica Woulfe

Thomas Chamberlain-Keene

Solarpunk tech – the excitement of the 1950s except for everyone and sustainable

The Oceanbird

Hybrid Air Vehicles

Related & nifty

The Obscure Cities: An Introduction

I was a little worried here that I’m not starting with the more “foundational” solarpunk texts, but I figure, I’ll get around to them. The delight in just picking a point and starting is discovery and rabbit holes. I hope this way will give me ideas as I browse the genre.

Why Must We Turn Everything Into A Neurosis

A friend sent me this link, and it definitely lands for me. I have gotten heaps and piles of things done over the last few years, but there hasn’t been a concrete manifestation, so it doesn’t feel like accomplishment. It also underscores again how I need to write some shorts so I don’t drive myself mad with un-manifestation.

On the Source of Our Drive to Get Things Done

Contrary to the critical assumption that the drive to produce is primarily culturally mediated, these results hint at something that many feel intuitively: there’s something deeply human, and therefore deeply satisfying, about succeeding in making one’s intentions manifest concretely in the world.

Cal Newport