How can I help?

I wrote earlier this week about writing for my niece. The second piece of this is something I’ve been struggling with for a while.

Why me?

I created a podcast. (You might have heard of it, 600 Second Saga.) This makes me a gatekeeper of sorts. Not a super fancy gate wearing gatekeepers (that’s what real gatekeepers do right? wear gates?) but one nonetheless.

I read a lot of other submission guidelines along the way to creating mine. Some of them said something about accepting or soliciting work for underrepresented groups. A few called out specific populations. Some didn’t. I thought, only a monster wouldn’t want that. Only a person who is a garbage person would need to even say that. Of course, I want a range of experiences and stories.

Not a monster

And then Trump got elected. On a wave of people who think that it is more important to have false change and loud shouting than to disavow actual Nazis. So…here we are today. I would like everyone who reads my blog, listens to the podcast, or reads my books to just know, of course, I’m not a monster. Just like the day after the election at work, even though I didn’t talk about it at all before directly, everyone knew how I felt. Because when someone needed to say, hey it’s not cool that we only have white dudes as avatars, that was me. When someone had to say it’s not ok to say that word/thing/etc it was usually me. And eventually, they just stopped saying them (around me at least). Because they just knew that about me.

I wish everyone here knew that I wasn’t a monster. And I wish that everyone felt free to say, hey! Not ok! Every time I said something out of line (if I do, please do, I try hard, but I screw up often).

So here I am. Saying I am not a monster. I do, of course, want work from underrepresented groups. Especially groups that are going to be feeling the pain the worst in the next few years. I want to help lift your voices. I want to do what I can. And that is the absolute bare minimum that any decent person should be doing.

I want work that is about being who you are. I want work that edges on political. (Not that I haven’t already got that, just wait for the inauguration day episode, which was written and recorded before election day.) I want work that doesn’t file off your edges.

I don’t get demographics on authors, but I know for a while I had more authors outside the US (this is the easiest demographic for me to keep track of, though I’m not 100%, but if your email is clearly outside the US I have a hint) than from inside, which is a good component. But I want to keep doing better.

My offer

What I think I can do is make this tiny little offer. If you think your voice isn’t welcomed, isn’t heard, and isn’t represented and you are struggling and aren’t sure if your story is a fit, or is ready, or you want feedback? Let me know. As long as it meets the other guidelines (link at the top but basically, ~1K, no swearing, sff) reference this post in your email, and I’ll do what I can to help, make suggestions, etc.

Messy Roundup

My thoughts are a bit mess this week so it is leading to a bit of a messy roundup.

Have you read blahblahblah

I told you messy. I both love and despise all of the lists about what you should read and what you have to read and what you are a horrible person if you don’t read and what you aren’t a real writer if you don’t read and whatever. They always say more about the people compiling them than anything else.

SF Signal’s How Well-Read found a new shiny toy at Worlds Without End  which lets you compare and compile lists without end in the SFF realms. There of course was the one that NPR put together that was turned into a fancy flowchart and an even fancier interactive thing.

I love that they can introduce you to new books. I love that they give you a chance to see if you are being broad in your scope. I hate the often prescriptive nature of the lists.  It feels like it is always the same books over and over and over. And the over and over nature of it feels a little like if you don’t like this thing you’re not a real fan. There is also a bit of the whole idea of a true fan that I will explore at some other point in time, but for now. Bullshit. The bullshittiest of bullshit.

messy so messy
Free Will horse from Faisal Akram because when I searched for Free Will this was the best thing that I got…

I have no choice but to write this

Illusion of Free Will I feel a little surprised that this is a new idea apparently? Is this really a new idea? I assume there is something fundamentally different about this than other stuff I’ve read.

There is an idea in some communities (I am really sure there is a Mysterious Universe episode that talks about this but I’m having a hard time finding it so I may be wrong?) that the gap in time is basically where …consciousness lives. Or where the soul lives.

But that our brains sort of back engineer things is very common. Some biases work this way. You make decisions (people are so weird during the full moon!) and then you seek out evidence to support that and dismiss what doesn’t.

*This doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole. Not having free will doesn’t mean you should go out and shoot someone and say you couldn’t help it. You’re just an asshole. Stop being an asshole.

Mesmerizing

This is a round up of things that will make you stare for hours watching how the insides of things work. So engineering gifs basically.

 

Which Words

Writers and words go together because…duh? But which words?

Call me…a miniaturist?

Maybe? Mental Floss has a list of 14 old fashioned things to call writers.

Someone who writes short pieces of fiction. Yup! (Writrix is also good but mostly because it sounds like someone who stabs someone with old fashioned quills.)

Which Words? Swear Words

How many swear words could you come up with? 400 or more? Mostly we use 10.

No, swearing doesn’t mean you have a limited vocabulary.

Cut words, ruthlessly

Would you be willing to let an app edit you? I mean chances are extremely good you already have auto correct turned on, you use spell check. Why not have an app weed out words you don’t need.

Watch nature

I looked a bit for a site (or better yet an apple tv app) that compiles all the bird/bear/shark/etc cams from different DNRs, park services, and other resources. I couldn’t find one. If anyone knows of one please tell me!

Good cam news? Condors are raising a foster chick

Bad cam news? The PA eagle hatched an egg and the hatchling did not survive. The second egg is unlikely to be viable.

The future and the past

I think a lot about the future and the past. Our future is completely informed by our past. If we weren’t who we were we wouldn’t be who we will be.

3D printing clothing

This will of course be coming and I look forward to it. It is important to note that we will absolutely still need designers.

Some day we will have closets with these printers built in. You might go to a store and work with a designer to make the perfect dress for you. Rather than a tailor you’d have a quick 3d video and everything comes out just for you.

The real trick is going to be in recycling them live. Take the fabric, break it down, and reuse it. Then they will be built into home closets everywhere.

Singularity and the Neural Code

Singularity is a term thrown around quite a bit. I don’t really believe it will be soon. I don’t even think I’ll get to see it in my lifetime. I am a little disappointed by that. I would love to be able to upgrade to virtual. And when the end of my life comes around I’m entirely on board with being tested on.

I also think we may end up reverse engineering the brain before we really understand it. Mapping neuron to neuron without quite understanding all of the parts of it, but that will help us understand.

By Dcrjsr - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
By Dcrjsr – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ancient Trees

I’m trying to get the last of an edit pass done on the My Woods (which does desperately need a new name) short before April (camp nano). This lead to getting lost in the wikipedia about ancient trees and ancient organisms.

Thousands of years? Easy!

The clonal colonies are also fascinating.

The Future of Banks

Uber Banking

How banking and the Uber economy means layoffs. The “uber” economy leaves a lot of questions about our future.

Apple Bank

Would you bank with Apple?

Apple Watch Edition

Was the Apple Watch Edition a really thoughtful and deliberate example of anchoring?

So my (entirely lay) understanding of Anchoring is basically the first thing sets your perspective of the next thing. A tool used in negotiations very frequently.

Wikipedia says “ For example, the initial price offered for a used car sets the standard for the rest of the negotiations, so that prices lower than the initial price seem more reasonable even if they are still higher than what the car is really worth.”

So when Apple first came out with the Apple Watch there was a super expensive fancy version meant for super fancy people. ($10-15K) I know some people said this was in line with expensive watches. But for those of us who don’t regularly buy expensive watches it is a wow price point. Especially when there are other versions that do basically the same thing with a much lower price point.

Apple just came out with cheaper versions, and apparently (according to 9to5Mac) they’ve been hiding the information about the Edition version. (When I went out to find the link to the Apple page I searched Apple Watch Edition and the ad at the top was NOT the Edition page, though the first link was, which is also interesting.)

So did Apple’s marketing people specifically design this campaign this way? Anchor the price with the Apple Watch Edition versions over $10K and then bring it down and shift their campaign to say, hey, we are for everyone. And now people will look at it and go, oh well it’s WAY less than $10K I can totally afford that. Things like sales and mark-downs all play heavily on Anchoring.

I know this seems not-writing related but I think it is. The way our brains work, and how we understand them is critical. It is also a part of how the world around us is changing and projecting that into the sci-fi of the future. Sci-fi isn’t just about new watches, it is also about how we talk about, think about, and market those things. Consider a world where marketing classes are all taught by people like Dan Ariely. (I took his Coursera class a couple years ago and I don’t think it is out there anymore but it was fantastic and really educational, I highly recommend his book as well.) What does that look like? How does that shape what we do, what we buy, how we save, how we invest, what we decide to do? Do we go to Mars in that world? Do we shoot for something bigger? What are the other changes in a world that shifts that way? What other possibilities are there for it?

The Future Now

The world is a strange, wonderful, disturbing, and incredibly malleable place. Some random links I’ve run across about the future now. Some things that have a lot of potential, but potential can be for good or evil.

Bust Art Heist Bust

Cosmo Wenman, an artist who actually has done guerrilla 3D reproductions of classical art using high-quality digital photos, told Ars that he was immediately suspicious about the Nefertiti scan. Most likely, he said, the artists had been given a version of the Neues Museum’s own 3D scans, possibly by a museum worker or a third party who did the scans for the museum.

The ability to replicate incredible art, print it, interact with it, and have copies of it.

Self focusing glasses

The company initially hopes its technology can be useful for people with presbyopia, which is a very common inability to focus close up as people reach their 40s and older. Typically, this is solved by wearing glasses with progressive lenses, which have different degrees of focusing power in different areas.

We live in the future now.

Wolves and howls

Howling UK wolf
Howls from different parts of the world (a UK wolf from Wikipedia).

This is a story worth listening to. The howls are amazingly different. The Eastern European one they played didn’t sound anything like what I think of as a wolf howl. The Iberian was very different. They all are beautiful. I can absolutely see how you’d be able to identify them.

(I also love that Dr. Holly Root-Gutteridge was watching a horror movie when she went, hey, that’s an american wolf and it all went from there.)

Drugs and Morals

There seems to be a notion that our morals and ethics and what we believe is an innate part of who we are. Except it is incredibly changeable. From making the people more fair with lemons to using magnets to change your moral judgements. (These are both VERY simplistic explanations so please go read the details and remember nuance and further study is incredibly important.)

It can also be changed with (or by) drugs, and might be already altered by the ones you are already taking. There is so much potential for the future, but what do we do with it.

Oxytocin: Some new studies have seen sex-specific effects: oxytocin can promote self-interest in men but increase altruistic behavior in women.

Kate Rauner writes about robotics

Yup, sign me up for letting an AI drive me to a grocery store. (Well I can walk to mine, but yes, I would be absolutely on board with it.) I fully expect lots of flaws. But I think about people who can’t get around on their own now and giving them the freedom and ability to live on their own is a huge thing.

Scientists developing robots to lead people in high-rises to safety in case of a fire discovered people would follow the robot even when it made obviously dangerous and ridiculous errors. We seem all too ready to shift our brains into neutral and follow orders.