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)
Now the demographics generator has an option to use each option in a given category only once in the result set.

That means that if you have a "tropes" option set, say, and you're planning to use it to fill out a bingo card (as I did in my last example), you can click a clickybox and not have to worry about repeated tropes showing up on your eventual card. You can still freely rotate through three universes/fandoms, while making sure that every single trope prompt is different.

You could also conceivably do this to generate random casts of characters. So, you could have "protagonist", "sidekick," "antagonist", etc, make sure the generator only generates one listing for each of them, but randomize all the other attributes like gender, age, profession.

Or you could set two sets of "use each option only once" categories and have the algorithm decide who you need to marry, shag, and throw off a cliff.

miscellany )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Today, in an effort to avoid actually writing anything (because writing is scary), I programmed functionality into my demographics/random sets generator which let you import comma-delimited lists of values. This, combined with the option I worked up a while ago which let you import random sets from the demographics generator into the bingo generator, means that I can do wacky stuff like working up a bingo card with a bunch of randomly-generated sets of things like fandom, trope, and wordcount. See below:

I sound my fearsome procrastination across the land. )

Now, the demographics generator (unlike the bingo generator) is still in alpha, is desperately ugly, and lacks a ton of stuff that would make it easier to use – like, say, paging down to show you that your options have, in fact, been added when you click the button in the comma-delimited list options. That's because I'm a back-end developer by trade, and just getting jQuery to play nicely enough that it would import the comma-delimited list in the first place meant an hour of hand-to-hand coding. Nicer stuff will happen later, once my urge to procrastinate on writing exceeds my frustration with front-end technologies again.

But, you know, if this sort of challenge appeals to you, there's now a clunky interface on my site that allows you to set up bingo cards like this.

In other news, today I have learned that jQuery does not like passing data out of its AJAX scope, and that you have to tell it not to run its AJAX asynchronously if you actually want to provide its information to another part of your script. Even if that part of the script comes after the AJAX call. ...I feel like that one, I should have known.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

•cackles madly•

Bingo card under the cut. )

Yep, workin' on a system to port the random sets from the Demographics Generator over into the Bingo Card Generator. Next up may just be allowing users to load comma-separated lists into the demographics generator as option sets. And then I may port over the Bingo lists to serve as premade comma-separated lists to load into the option sets. ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
You know, it took me until today to really put my finger on why I prefer a certain style* of asterisking/footnoting things in blog posts and web documents over another.

* That style being this one, in which the "footnote" is placed directly after the paragraph in which its asterisk appears.

It's because when reading a physical book, when I see a footnote, I can glance down to the bottom of the page and read the addendum. Even if the footnote occurs in the middle of a very long chapter, I can easily glance down and back up to my spot again because the chapter is formatted into discrete pages, the footnote is placed at the bottom of the page, and I can hold an entire page in my field of vision.

Internet texts, though, generally work with a long vertical scroll, and there's no convenient way of marking your position. (I usually resort to highlighting passages so that the highlight will catch my eye if I have to scroll away and scroll back up to find it.) Once you add in the fact that you often don't know where the footnotes will be, where the scrollbar is concerned – if you have a blog post with a large number of comments, for example, the end of the page is the end of the comment section, not the end of the post; finding the footnotes involves moving the scrollbar to some ill-defined middle point – you're either left with the hassle of scrolling/searching down and back up every time you encounter an asterisk (which I find really disruptive to my reading experience), or just encountering all the footnotes at the end, shorn of their context unless you want to go back up and search through the text to re-find them.

By contrast, placing the footnotes immediately after the paragraph in which their asterisk occurs doesn't interrupt the flow of the asterisked sentence, but it still places the additional information within the same field of view as its context.

Incidentally, this is also why I have a grudge against the term trans*, and refuse to use it to refer to myself**. ("trans," fine, though I prefer the specificity of "neutrois". "trans*," fuck no.) Because the first time I encountered it in a blog post, I spent several minutes looking for the footnote and becoming increasingly annoyed that I couldn't find it. Because while * is used as a wildcard character in certain contexts? In the context of writing out discussions on the internet, * has another, more-well-established meaning, and that's the promise of additional information to be fulfilled within the document, at some point following the *. When that promise isn't fulfilled, well, XKCD may have said it best.

** If you prefer that I use the term trans* to refer to you, I will, but I will also persist in thinking that it's an extremely poor piece of information design.

Anyway, there's no real point to this entry, except to note that the formal reasoning behind my gut preference finally snapped into place, and that was cool.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I want to see a dense-packed dystopian urban setting... surrounded by incredibly lush, dense wilderness. As in, the reason that everything is piled up on top of everything else and people are living stacked like cords of wood isn't because they've destroyed everything and their cities have taken over the world like a bacterial culture, it's that the rest of the world is too damn poisonous and too fast-growing and too interested in cracking open your buggies and eating the nummy human interiors for anything to survive outside of these narrow strips of otherwise-dead land. (I imagine that'd be the way you'd answer the question of how you'd get enough resources in the first place to build a dense urban setting: you're in the equivalent of the Atacama or the Dry Valleys or something, only with bonus high concentrations of minable minerals.)

I have not thought through the logistics, here. I came up with this idea about two minutes ago.

In other news, I recently learned that the Sahara was a fertile region up until about 3000 BCE, and that is immensely cool.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Sometimes I'm reading along, and I'll hit a word – usually a really common word – that I've never thought of in terms of etymology before (usually because it's a really common word, and thus kinda invisible in my day-to-day goings-about), and encountering it in a new context makes the etymology just... click into place for me, and it's like I've uncovered a new nugget of meaning and a secret pedigree, and it makes me really happy.

Frex: I'm reading the astronomy textbook I got from Launchpad. I come across this passage:

Evidence that asteroids and comets really are leftover planetesimals comes from analysis of meteorites, spacecraft visits to comets and asteroids, and computer simulations of solar system formation. The nebular theory actually predicts he existence of both the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt—a prediction first made in the 1950s. Thus, the discoveries, beginning in the 1990s, of numerous objects orbiting in the Kuiper Belt represent a triumph for the nebular theory.

(Emphasis is the book's.)

My mind caught on the use of that first predicts. Looking at it stylistically, I first thought it should have been predicted, so I started testing my assumptions to see if I still thought they were correct. I thought about the word predates, and how that could be used in present tense and I'd have no issue with it. So, I took a closer look at predict – something I'd never been prompted to break down before.

pre, before. dict, from the same roots as dictate, dictum. I didn't have a Latin dictionary (dictionary!) at hand, so I didn't look up the exact meaning – but I had enough grounding at that point that my concerns were washed away. Dict; an authoritative or forceful assertion. A pre-dictum. The science dictates that it shall be so, and (in this case) it is revealed that it is so. How fabulous. A much more forceful etymology. Gleaming little declarative bones in a soft skin of supposition.

Moments like this make me love linguistics.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
One of the metrics I track in my little home-brewed submissions tracker is what draft a story is on when I submit it. It's been occasionally useful – noting when I do revision requests, for example – but recently, I've noticed that almost everything I've been submitting (and selling) is on its first draft. Which I think bears some investigation, because it ends up saying a lot more about how I conceptualize "drafts" than it does about my first-pass writing.

For one thing, "first draft" with me does not mean "unrevised". )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] sholio and I are testing out an accountability buddies setup, where we meet to talk writing shop, discuss goals, and analyze how well we're meeting them. (We're still in the first week, so neither of us have any idea how well it will work. But one of the best pieces of advice I got last year was "Failures are just experiments that yield negative results," so even if we find that this format doesn't work well, that's useful information! And I'm hopeful that it will work, and be awesome for both of us.)

The theme I want to engage with this year is of productivity, and constant storytelling: I want to be creating and putting out a lot more work than I do currently. Getting back to my Clarion West levels of a short story per week would be amazing, and the fact that I'm making my living off freelance stuff which doesn't eat as much time as a full-time job tips it into the realm of possibility. (If I could transition to making my money off writing, that would be incredible. I am looking into ways to start on that path, specifically through Patreon, but my ability to write and produce complete works on a consistent schedule is something of a prerequisite for that, so that's where I'm starting.)

The two goals I had for this week, to support my theme of producing lots of fiction, were:

1) To take a look at how I choose stories to work on, and

2) To take a look at how I go about moving stories through to completion.

This is about how I work, which informs how I choose stuff to work on. )

This is about how I choose stuff to work on. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Holy crap, I think I've got a short story done in draft. (Well, "short"; it's roughly 6600 words long. One of these days I'll figure out* how to write at commonly-acceptable lengths like 3000-4500 words.) I think I started this one sometime in mid-November. Not a bad start to the year, even if I probably won't have it out the door today!

* This is probably a lie.

Over the past few days of trying to tie everything together, I've been thinking about a couple of things.

Neepery on characters being afforded plausible choices. )

Neepery on plots that dig deep and plots that go far. )

And on we go. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, publishing for... yikes, 2005 was nine years ago already, wasn't it? –and editing professionally for over a year, and I've been to one of the most prestigious writing workshops in the speculative fiction field, and I still often feel like I have no idea how fiction works or how to write something that functions. Then again, I hear that this never really goes away, so I'd best get comfortable with continually working to figure things out and put neat labels on the tools in my toolbox.

[ETA] Welp, I read over it, and I'm still not entirely happy with the arc – but I'm not sure what I can do to fix it without writing a different story. So I sent it out! Because if nothing else, starting the year on a submission has some nice symbolic heft, and it is sometimes the case that other people like my fiction more than I do after a long writing/tweaking process. &o.o&

There are just about 50 minutes left in January 1. I'm doing pretty well!
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

Here's a brief list of things wot happened or wot I did during 2013:

The council meeting was a great success. We made a lot of lists. We here in Vault City love making lists. )

All in all, it's been a scary, disorienting, demoralizing, and challenging year, which has seemed intent on putting me into walls but has still served up a few measures of grace. Looking back, I can see that a lot of cool things happened – it's just that the stuff that was bad was really bad, and often for months at a time. It could have been a lot worse. But I still count having survived it mostly sane and optimistic to be the major accomplishment of 2013, and I eagerly, eagerly await 2014. Which will be better. I will make it be.

Partially because of how low I've felt through much of the year, I feel like I'm getting a better handle on how to build (and rebuild) strong foundations and get myself moving, even if I'm still not an expert at applying all of that. But I'm learning, slowly but surely, to find my footing in bad places, and if I can just keep building on that, it'll lead me to better places in the end. It's a goal to live into.

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I made a bingo generator!

...okay, this is nothing which does not already exist on the internet, but I was bored and I wanted to build it. I plan on adding functionality that will pre-load lists of things like tropes, kinks, genres, dramatic situations, etc; problem is, first I have to generate those lists, or find someone who's already generated them who'll let me use them. XD

At some point, I may also add support for 3x3, 7x7, even 9x9 grids, and other fancy stuff like that. Maybe even styling. In the mean time, if you find yourself desperately needing a Bingo card this Holiday season and unwilling to google a generator, here you go! Let me know if you see any bugs. ;)

[ETA] And then I made a nice comma-separated list of These classic dramatic situations, which I don't really see a lot of people using, but which could be used! Mostly as a proof of concept. But, you know, concept proved!
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Yesterday, I had to walk to the Staples that's a few big blocks away, so that I could get things which would let me mail out important documents and holiday gifts. I wore my usual – a long-sleeve button-down shirt, with black jeans – and it was a bit cool, so I threw on a windbreaker.

Within a block I realized that I was overheating, so I took off the windbreaker.

Because this may be late December, but I am in California, and the terrible horrible frigid ice-hell of winter has not found me here.


Man, I kinda want to do one of those "year in review" things for 2013, because frankly, I feel like I deserve a medal for surviving this year with my sanity and shaded-cynical optimism intact. But I also feel like if I do that before the end of the year, 2013 will find some way to punish me for thinking it's over.

It's almost over. And I am going to drink hot tea out of my adorable 3-oz ceramic cups, and I am going to cherish the things and the people who got me through this year. And I am going to continue patiently laying groundwork to make tomorrow better than today.

And then I'm going to take a deep breath and work on my Yuletide story again, even though it scares me.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Today's bout of looking things up on Wikipedia has led me into the wonderful world of puzzle jugs and other challenging drinkware, and I feel that my life has been improved immensely.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

As an exercise, to try to ease my brain up out of its months-long stress-induced no-writing slump, I sat down and copied out the first sentence (or two; the first lines of If The Mountain Comes really don't work if you only take the first sentence) of all the short stories I've had published in various markets, and then grouped them by whether I (personally) thought they were engaging or not.


Read more... )

In any case, it's something I don't think I'd really sat down to examine in any depth before, so now I can say I've done that.  And hopefully have a better sense of how this particular mechanic works in the stories I write in the future.

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

I have tofu marinating in a mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, black pepper, and powdered lapsang souchong. We are going to make it into fresh rolls tonight. (With green tea soba noodles because I have no rice noodles.) It is going to be delicious.

(Speaking of fresh rolls, I recently learned about how the skins for them are traditionally made, and the process is, as Joe Pastry puts it, "so ingeniously odd".)

My random thought upon waking this morning was that it would be really cool to make some kind of virtual coffeeshop. I think this was partially inspired by Coffitivity, and also by a bunch of articles on how the people you interact with most frequently palpably impact your performance, and thinking about how to form communities and foster community interaction when people in those communities might not be able to easily meet in person. But the idea that's rolling around in the back of my head is something like this:

  • On its most basic level, it'd be a chat site. Something along the lines of IRC, but it would take place in a kind of basic, bare-bones virtual "space", even if the only way the virtual space came about was through terminology. Frex: people could join "tables", which would be the individual chat rooms. They could also create their own tables and invite their friends. There'd be general tables for topics like politics, writing (or, more specifically, politics by region, writing by genre), and you could create public or private tables. Public tables could have short descriptions of the people "sitting" there: "I'm a writer working on the script for my first webcomic." "I'm a programmer working on a mobile app." "I'm here to meet new people; I'm a 34-year-old queer man in the Tampa area, into HAM radio and industrial music." People could join open tables based on who they might find interesting to chat with. Tables could set with upper limits on the amount of "seating" available, or let in as many people as they wanted.
  • People would be able to put things "on the table" for everyone at that table to have access to: documents, links, etc.
  • It'd be cool to integrate some kind of background audio like Coffitivity. It'd also be cool to integrate graphic design which supported the general coffeeshop theme; background images, maybe even something like LJ's gifts system where for some minimal amount of money you could buy people pictures of drinks. (I'd have to investigate how little money would be effective - not a lot to spend, but still enough that whatever processing fees wouldn't completely eliminate whatever micropayment the coffeeshop got. Like, it'd be cool to offer a $.05 virtual drink because most people would not balk at buying that, but after Paypal or a credit card processor or whatever took its cut, would there be a micropayment left?)
  • It'd also be cool to integrate optional voice or video chats.
  • You could have a little curated store where you could order tea and coffee and such – I'm thinking something like an affiliate relationship with an established tea seller, so you'd literally be ordering, like, the Adagio or David's Teas or whatever products, but (if you found the right company) they's give a percentage back to the teashop to cover hosting costs. And then regular users who ordered from the virtual counter could make the tea/coffee at home, and chat to each other about what they ordered.
  • There could be paid levels of membership which would give you things like archived chats, lockers where you could store files, dedicated tables, etc?
  • It'd be cool to make this a space which could facilitate virtual classes. Virtual lectures. Virtual open mic nights! Virtual readings! Virtual streaming of live music from "local" artists! Opt-in, of course; other people in the coffeeshop might get a notification or a sidebar listing public events and they could choose to listen to them, but the advantage of a virtual coffeeshop is that if you walk in on open mic night, you can choose not to make the audio exist for you.
  • It'd be kinda cool to have graphics for your status: a "hard at work and concentrating" icon, a "social; come interact with me" icon, a "taking a break from working" icon, a "deep in a conversation, please don't bother me" icon. Ideally, really easy to switch from a dropdown, and it'd show both in the table chat and on the description of the table. (So if two people at a public table both set their icons to "deep in conversation", people might think twice about joining them?) Ideally, also, there'd be multiple sets of icons that you could choose from. This one is an elderly black man! This one is a young Latina with a lot of piercings! This one is a robot! Here are generic smilies!

Now, a lot of this exceeds my current development skills, and I have no idea whether I'll find the idea as cool by the time I've acquired the relevant skills. But I wanted to get the high-level ideas down just in case it did remain an awesome idea, and also in case any other programmers showed up and were like "I also want to make something like this! Let's set up a GitHub and start hacking!" 'cause, hey, I may look back at this at some point and go "Ooooh." Or I may decide to dive into this as soon as my current teaching-myself-java fun times are done.


magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
So, Demonology! It's this universe I want to write in. Specifically, it's a universe I want to experiment with free fiction in. If you want to leave me prompts for the themes below, or questions which can be answered in prompts for the themes below, you go right ahead! The idea here is to get me writing.

I'll link the prompts below to their completed stories as I finish them, and add a (...) to ones whose fills I'm working on.

This is a table. It's a magical table. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
So... I'm not in a great financial situation, right now. Unemployment that's dragging on longer than I'd like (though, really, any time at all is longer than I'd like), issues with the startup I left never generating revenue enough to pay me some of my wages, living in California, etc. I'm searching for a job, and I'm getting some pretty excellent interviews, but nothing's really taken, yet; I'm also doing freelance work, writing content, and looking into other ways of generating income on my own.

But. All of this takes energy, and motivation, and unemployment seems designed to sap both. So I've developed a framework to help move me through.

Gods made to order, psychological and aspirational trickery, and the point of this post. )

And, for my own reference, an actual list of charities:

We here in Vault City LOVE making lists. )


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

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