magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
On the topic of not-rocks, when I was growing up, I had a cassette tape that had a bunch of folk tales on it. One of them (if I remember correctly, which I very well may not) had to do with a king who was sick, and sent his three sons out looking for a magical cure. Two of the sons get bored of the quest and quit; the third actually found the cure and was bringing it back when his brothers found him, killed him, buried him, and took the cure home to claim the reward. But reeds grew where the good son had been buried, and someone cut the reeds and made a pan flute, and when the pan flute was played, it sang about the brother's death in his voice.

I mostly remember it because the song was creepy and got stuck in my head a lot.  I have never been able to successfully Google the story or its audio.  I really wish I could find it again, though, because nostalgia.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

Waaaaaaaaaaait, that's my name! And that's my hand!

What's going on here.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm selling a number of 3000-word (and potentially longer!) short science fiction/fantasy stories or scenes, inspired by prompts, for $30 each. These funded scenes will become part of the Shared Worlds canon, and the first ten purchased scenes will each be accompanied by a sketch by Oakland-area artist Davin Yant. The purchaser will receive the original sketch on a postcard.

This will raise funds for the Foundations educational system, a San Francisco Bay Area group focused on community-building, personal development, education, and safety within the Alternative Sexuality and Diverse Genders and Sexualities communities.

Read more and purchase a prompt here!

I had a lot of fun with the Shared Worlds prompt call when I did it, and I'm looking forward to what will come from this fundraiser.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I've been memorizing poems, here and there, recently. This one, "Year's End" by Richard Wilbur, seems appropriate to share on the last day of the year.

Farewell, 2015. You've been a strange one. Here's to friendship and good fortune in 2016.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Apropos of not that much, I find myself really curious about reward circuitry in zombie neurology.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Most of my time has been taken up by big personal things which, being personal, I'm not really discussing in an open post. (They're not bad things at all! Just time-consuming. If you can see this post, you can learn more about them... in fits and starts.) But in the cracks of those big time-consuming things, I've gotten a few stories out into the world, and a few stories picked up as reprints.

New Stuff Not Already Announced On This Journal

Read more... )

Stuff Wot's Getting Reprinted In Places

Read more... )

What I'm Working On Now

Read more... )

Anyway, that's more or less the writing state of the An.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Because definitely what I need is more webapp ideas that I don't have time to develop.

Anyway, following on from a Twitter conversation, I'm wondering how it would work to make a writing program which could track the genders of a number of characters and then arbitrarily shuffle them. What I'm picturing is, simplified, something like this:

• At the top of the document are a number of fields which ask for a character name (or a list of character references, such as name and nickname and other variations) and pairs the name with a gender (and its associated set of pronouns).

• Each character you add is arbitrarily assigned a color (or icon or other distinguishing visual marker).

• As you type, a parser will keep track of which name (or referent) has been typed last for each of the original genders. When you type a pronoun, it will look at the last character reference matching that pronoun's set, and highlight the pronoun (or assign it the correct icon) to associate it with the specific character. It'll also have some kind of (mouseover?) menu to allow users to correct its assumption about which character it refers to.

• When you finish writing, each pronoun will be associated with a character. So you can hit a shuffle button, and then the characters' genders will be shuffled, and each pronoun can be brought back into compliance with the character's gender.

Needless to say, this would fail in a lot of situations. Take, for example:

• Dialogue. "He's not coming today," he said. (I mean, I guess I could set up a sub-parser which kept track of the last character reference inside a set of quotes?)

• Ambiguiety. We'll just call this the Randall Munroe exploit. I guess people would just have to make close, personal friends with the drop-down menus?

• Gay porn. I am reliably informed by people who have tried to write gay porn that pronouns are a nightmare anyway. And humans are better at parsing language than computers are.

• Unexpected cases. Language is complicated, yo!

I feel like there should be a way to handle this, and that it probably involves algorithms. I'm a bit worried that trying to write a general-purpose pronoun shuffler would actually require re-inventing Google Translate. Any computational linguists out there who want to point out things I'm missing?
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

Way to prey on my powerful and mostly baseless* dread horror of radiation, Veritasium.

*Not to say that radiation isn't norrifying, but I'm unlikely to be in a situation in my life where it's actually a present danger to me.

Though now I want to write a story (very) loosely inspired by the firefighters at Chernobyl. ;_;
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Somehow, I got into a hole where I just keep listening to songs set to the tune of "A Modern Major-General". I'm pretty sure the Elements Song is to blame:

...but that transitioned quickly into "Every Major's Terrible":

Which I really want to memorize, some day. Well, I want to memorize both of these, really. ("And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium" is too much fun to say. Try it!)

So, I finally decided to look up the actual song, as it's been a long time since I've heard it, and that led me to this video:

And now, despite not remembering enough of the new Star Wars movies to even remember who Grievous is, I want to see fic based on this vid where he and young Obi-Wan are goofy buddy movie partners. Challenging each other to singing and swashbuckling contests.


...I'm sure there's a lesson I could draw out of the Tom Lehrer video; you can see that he stumbles on "molybdenum" a little (and really, wouldn't you?), but he doesn't get hung up on it; he just sweeps it behind him and moves on. Good life lesson. Which I will not be making any more eloquent than that.

And with that, good night.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm not going to get to this right now, and probably won't get to this today, so this is just a note so I remember:

It would be pretty neat to have a calender generator on my fun pages. I.E., it takes a random list (like the Bingo generator), but instead of telling it the dimensions of a bingo card, you tell it a month and year, and it'll generate a calendar of prompts for you.

Advanced options would include turning off certain days (so, setting Sundays to have no prompts, for example), or turning certain days to certain prompts (so, setting Fridays to "wild card" days, or something). Probably not granular "I want the 15th to be this topic, and the 18th to be this topic, and take off the 12th", because at that point you're... not doing random generation any more.

It'd also be really nice to tie the random sets generator into it, like I did with the bingo generator: you can load response sets into it, and get cards like this one. So, you could set up something to generate random sets of a person, in a place, with a problem, and assign each of those to a day. Etc.

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] thebonesofferalletters: Writing wise, what do you do to help you get in "the zone"?

Ramit Sethi, the author of the fantastically useful personal finance book I Will Teach You To Be Rich, has this saying: "Would you rather be sexy, or rich?" What he means is, do you want to do all the flashy stuff so you can talk about investing and how your stock performs and things that will impress people at cocktail parties, or do you want the boring but effective stuff that helps you save money and make more money?

I kinda feel like that with a few of these questions. <_< The best way I have to get myself into the writing groove isn't particularly interesting or attractive. I would love to say that having a cup of my favorite tea and a handcrafted playlist for my project and a clean desk and sunlight pouring in the window helps me write, but while those things make me feel great, they don't actually have any correlation to how well I'm able to get myself writing. Instead, the method that most consistently gets me cranking out the words is this:

  1. Close everything on my computer except for iTunes or a (minimized) MyNoise generator, and
  2. Open up my story file.

And I'm not being flippant with #2. I often have a great resistance to starting, so if I sit down and a file isn't open, well, then, path of least resistance says "Meh, no writing today." But if I look at what I'm doing (or... not doing), and open up a file with intent, it's easier to get started.

What I'm doing is setting up micro-barriers to distraction (so, if I want to browse the internet, I have to go and open Firefox or whatever), and removing micro-barriers to writing (the page is right there, and I can't command-tab to any other open program). The effect is a bit like settling your wagon wheels into a well-worn groove in the path. It's easier to go forward than it is to change direction. I guess it's even easier just to sit there and do nothing, but doing nothing is awfully boring, so I usually end up writing instead.

The secret third thing I do to get myself into the writing flow – which I need to get back into the habit of doing – is: Write every day.

I was writing 800 words a day in October, planning to write 900 a day in November and 1,000 a day in December, but November knocked me out of it, so I'm thinking of starting back at 500 a day in January and increasing by 100 a day every month. And what happens when you write every day is that you learn to write every day. You sit down in front of the page and your brain starts going "Oh. Right, I know what to do, here." And so, while there are still easier days and harder days, the overall level of difficulty goes down over time.

But for the longest time before I was cranking out most of one K (and sometimes much more than that), I was doing... 20 words a day. That was the minimum, and once I hit that, I had a deal with myself that I would celebrate that achievement. I wasn't allowed to badmouth it. I couldn't say "Well, that was only 20 words, that was pathetic." And hose 20 words could be on anything – they didn't have to be on the project I was currently working on. They could be 20 words of stream-of-consciousness, or story seed, or anything. I just had to get 20 words out.

And it's hard to be intimidated by 20 words. (Like it's hard to be intimidated by one minute of meditation.) But those 20 words were the Trojan horse of a habit; once I got used to doing 20 words a day, I was used to sitting down and writing every day. And getting started is so often the hardest part, that that 20 word habit was a major victory.

It's a lot easier to grow a small habit than it is to institute a giant habit. That's why so many New Year's resolutions fail: people go "I'm going to get in shape this year so I'm going to go to the gym five times a week and run a mile every day before work!", and that's just too much if you're trying to go from a sedentary lifestyle to that. It's a shock to the system, and you get overwhelmed, and you drop the habit. (When I was walking a mile every day, I had grown that habit from a habit that just said: Go outside every day. Walk to the end of the block and back. And once I was in the habit of walking to the end of the block and back, around the block wasn't a big deal. Once I was walking around the block, around two blocks wasn't a big deal. And so it grew.)

So, that's my writing process secret! A bunch of really tiny and somewhat pedestrian things. But they work for me, so.

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] thebonesofferalletters: What do you consider the most important thing you do that falls under self care?

(Content warning for examples of negative self-talk.)

By far, by far the most important thing I have ever done for myself in terms of mental health is to practice employing techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy.

I like to cognize. )

It's all a skill, and I'm still practicing and getting better at it. But I notice that my mental health tends to soar when I'm actively practicing this, and dip back down when I'm not.

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
San Francisco is a mess. Possibly this is the Midwestern kid in me talking, but I've never really felt like I have a sense of the city itself. There's too much going on – and not in the sense of the human bustle of the streets, though there's that too. (Though I've never felt more overwhelmed in the crowds of San Francisco than I have on campus in Iowa City when school is going on.) It's more that I don't have a sense of the city-as-entity, the unified sense of place and identity I have in a place like Lincoln or IC, where the quality (as in qualitative, not as in value) of the neighborhoods changes, but gradually, and there's still something somehow recognizable about each one and all of them together.

Now, a Bay Area native might have more of a sense of the City; I don't know. But since I got here it's been a jumble to me, like neither the city nor its inhabitants are sure what it's meant to be. There's the ridiculous wealth disparity, for one thing; people might pay $6000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in this place where there are 6,000 homeless in a 47 square mile city. And there's the density and diversity in the neighborhoods: pick a palce, go two blocks over and it seems like odds are the entire characteristic of the city changes around you. And this can be a really neat thing. But it adds to my sense of displacement.

I love a lot of the stuff in San Francisco. The shops, the restaurants, the resources. Noisebridge and Alchemy and Paxton Gate and Frijtz and El Farolito and, and. But for the most part I don't grok why people want to live here. Compared to Lincoln, say, the streets are dirty. Cracked in a lot of places. The area feels more compressed, everyone pressed in by the water on three sides and no room to expand south, by the buildings which are shoulder-to-shoulder, holding each other up. (A friend mentioned that you could tell the rich people's houses because there was space between them.) Places have yards, but just about every ward I've seen has been because I was invited into someone's house – they're behind walls, or cradled as backyards between rows of houses which only show their faces to the street. Murals seem to pop up in place of green growing things – and some of the murals are quite lovely. People seem to have less respect for the immediate environment – not the big Green-energy stuff, not the recycling, but the everyday litter-on-the-sidewalks cigarette-butts-on-the-streets thing. I'm not uncomfortable walking down the streets, but I've never preciselt been comfortable either.

And the infrastructure doesn't add anything to my sense of stability. Three inches of rain on Thursday knocked out power to what seemed like half the city. I fully expect that if the city saw a flake of snow, it'd all shut down. They seem to be pretty well prepared for earthquakes, but coming from the Midwest, the SF attitude toward weather events seems bizarre to me. (Though, in fairness, I imagine that if a big quake hit the Midwest, that'd be an out-of-context problem there, too...)

But. Today, staying in a place just off Mission Street, I went wandering to get a cheap umbrella for the ongoing rain. And on 18th street with the jumble of Mission shops in front of me I passed a guy in a yellow rainjacket, wandering down the sidewalk with an umbrella open in one hand and a burger in the other, chewing away as he walked. And I cannot tell you what it was, exactly, about that scene, but I fell in love with San Francisco. Just a little. But there was some qualia there – in the light, in the guy's distraction, in the adapted chaos of the shops, in his effortless adaption to the city environment – that hit me right.

I'm on an Amtrak back down south in a couple of hours. And I'm not sure I'll miss the city, really. But there's so much about the city I will miss.

And maybe it's just my propensity to fall a little bit in love with everything this past week or so, but I'm beginning to catch glimpses of why people love this city. I don't think it'll ever be my city, but I'm beginning to understand the people for whom it is.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] noctiluca: What draws you to Minecraft? (Okay, so this is more like, "Jei is considering getting into this game b/c so many teens are obsessed with it, but is skeptical and thus dragging eir feet" and so FEEL EVEN FREER TO DISREGARD THIS than any other question.)

OH MINECRAFT, MY GAMING LOVE. There will be a lot of YouTube links in this post. And also, just a lot of links in this post.

...okay. I should qualify this by saying that these days, I hardly ever play vanilla Minecraft unless I manage to set up a server with other people. I still find social playing a lot of fun, but I'm not huge on giant complicated redstone or huge epic builds, so the game has limited replayability for me. Not to say that I didn't lose, like, eight months to the game when I first got it, and not to say I don't still play it a whole bunch now. My style of Minecraft engagement has just changed.


If you get Minecraft, we should totally meet up on Mineplex and play Sheep Quest or something. Or you could set up a server and we could rock out and slay zombies together.

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I need to keel over and go to sleep soon, so I'll answer a couple of short questions.

[personal profile] thebaconfat: What is the weirdest file currently on your computer (that you didn't create yourself)?

...I am not sure I can answer this! I don't keep track of that many files I haven't created, as I assume that most of them are things like application config files and stuff. If stuff I've downloaded doesn't count as stuff I've created, I... still am not sure. But I do have a version of "Down Under" sung by a bunch of potentially-drunk Russians.

[personal profile] squeemu: What is the weirdest file currently on your computer that you did create?

I once discovered a file named temp.rtf in one of my fiction draft folders which consisted of 2391 words of Lorem Ipsum, closed with the line "And as it turned out, THEY WERE ALL BEES!!"

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I am feeling (perhaps unwisely) confident in my ability to get (non-fiction) stuff done! So I think I'll do a modified version of the December Days Posting Meme, modified on [personal profile] sholio's post:

no dates, no specific commitments to respond (that is, you may or may not get an answer), but ...

... is there anything you want to ask me about? Anything you'd like me to talk about in a post? [...]if there is anything you'd like me to talk about, feel free to prompt me and maybe I'll make a post about it. :)

Fandom stuff will go on [personal profile] magibrain, other stuff will go on [personal profile] magistrate. I reserve the right not to answer anything, but, y'know.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm snowed in under a ton of stuff that needs to get done, but I have a six-hour Amtrak ride tomorrow and the train has wifi, so hopefully I'll be able to get off most (if not all) ( least some) of the correspondence and commenting I have due. I'm at the point tonight where it's moderately miraculous that I'm still upright.

Which probably isn't the best time to be nesting in things that make me choke up under non-completely-exhausted circumstances, but I never claimed to be wise.

In any case, here are things that would make me cry if I had more human emotions:

If you do not get choked up about space, what are you even doing here? :P )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

I mentioned this over at [community profile] allbingo, but I'm working on a bunch of challenges to get me thinking about short-form plot. Basically, I'm taking the following plot structures:

Four structures below the cut. )

...three of which I found discussed at Philip Brewer's blog, and one of which I put together after thinking about successful short stories on my own.

I'm trying to take these structures and write extremely short stories/synopses with them – using one sentence for each point in the list.

I'm also finding it surprisingly difficult.

But I figured that while I was striving and trying new things, I might as well put the results up for people to see (and quite possibly best :P ). Just to keep things organized in this post, the card I'm using is below, and I'll link my fills for the squares.

Card below the cut. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Shared Worlds prompt call!

This prompt call is:

Prompting closed at: 11:59 PM PST, Monday, June 23, 2014

Thank you everyone for coming by! I will continue to write prompt responses until every prompter has received at least one response, and will hopefully complete a response for every prompt. However, prompting is now closed.

Sponsoring is:

Sponsoring remained open until: 11:59 PM PST, Friday, July 4, 2014

Thank you to everyone who contributed!

Wait. What is this? Briefly, please.

Leave me prompts, and I'll write you snippets of fiction. Donate $10, and get 500-word flash fiction or complete scenes on a prompt response of your choice. These funded scenes will become part of the Shared Worlds canon.

Additional questions, answered in more depth. )

Table of jumping-off points for prompts. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

Ran across this in my Twitter reading today. Made me stop and raise an eyebrow. Because, really – "grim" and "bleak" are the descriptors they've chosen to entice me to see this film? (Well, there's also "incredible", but that gives me little insight into what sets this film apart, and thus does little to capture my interest.)

Now, possibly I just haven't read widely enough in the genre to realize that there's a strong undercurrent of happy, lush, uplifting post-apocalyptic fiction out there. Something like that. But to me, grim, bleak landscapes aren't exactly the aspects of a post-apocalyptic work you need to advertise – they're more or less to be expected from the genre. Advertising those, especially when you have a medium such as Twitter and have to seriously consider which few, precious words you're going to use, makes it sound to me like you just don't have anything more interesting to say than "This work competently executes the tropes it's expected to." It's the "square house, door in front" of the review world.

...which all basically means that, in a fit of pique, I have decided that I want beautifully optimistic post-apocalyptic fiction to exist. If someone else doesn't write it, I may have to.

(It's not even that I dislike grimdark post-apoc. I do enjoy it, when it's done well. But sometimes you just have to go for the subversions.)


magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

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