So what the heck, your turn. And you know, there are worse things to spend your money on. And you obviously need to get to at least the $35 level, so when people come over and see your fridge you can be all like “Oh, yeah, my buddy Levar sent that to me. Perhaps you recall Geordi La Forge?”
H.R. Giger died yesterday, and it seems appropriate to link to a set of pictures from the famous artist’s garden. It’s about what you’d expect, I guess. Reminds me of my visit to Boris Valejo’s Pennsylvania compound. Some of us can’t get out to Switzerland so easily, and have to make do, you know.
I read an interesting interview not long ago with Emma Donoghue and two of her editors – one from the US and one from Canada. The considerations one has with trying to reconcile the comments of various people who don’t necessarily agree with one another is an intriguing thing. But the thing that struck me was when Emma discussed her third (UK) editor, and how she’ll assign less weight to a problem only one of the three mentions. In particular, she mentioned that one of her three editors had figured out who the murderer was early in Frog Music, and this was too high of a percentage.
Now, look. You’ve only got three editors, which sort of gives you a whopping two degrees of freedom in this statistical analysis you’re performing. Not something you really want to make decisions based on. But worse than that, you can’t go around shouting “Thirty-three percent!” when you’ve got exactly one sample falling into that category. One slight tip in the other direction and you’d think zero percent of your editors had guessed the murder, and where would that put you? What if you decided the ideal number of people who figured it out was ten percent? How would you ever know how close you were? This is why all writers need a solid education in mathematics and statistics.
Also, I had a similar problem myself not long ago, and I thought 33% was about right.
So this post is by way of being a test for myself. Back with the old blog, I wrote a series of posts on libraries, and despite a great deal of temptation, I managed to avoid calling down vast amounts of web traffic with the particular kinds of pictures of librarians that are quite popular, and are legion on the internet, settling instead of staid and educational photos.
I resolved to avoid library posts altogether after the last one, lest I give in and trade massive page hits for the integrity which you, my reader, have come to expect. But not long ago, a study on “Quantifying and Valuing the Wellbeing Impacts of Culture and Sport” was done in the UK, and now that I’m here in a new blog, I thought perhaps I could give it another go. After all, it combines two of my favorite things: libraries and quantifying stuff.
It will come as no surprise that visiting libraries is a great path to happiness, worth almost 1,400 pounds/year/person (happiness and libraries – you see how well I resist temptation?) Libraries are worth more happiness value to the typical person than taking in a bunch of art or playing sports, in fact. Not only does this tell us that readers are not only smarter than most people, but happier, it also lets us know what should be first on the chopping block when public resources are scarce. Sorry, museums and stadiums.
And as a bonus, this one calls itself an “app”, so it sounds like an advertising exec trying to sound hip: Hemingway App.
Like other sites of its ilk, it works best with writing samples provided by people who are nervous about their own competence. When one tries to validate it with the sort of prose that is generally thought to be the sort of thing one should aim for, it doesn’t work so well. For whatever reason, Hemingway is always comes out looking badly things, but it is particularly ironic in this case, I think. Personally, if I thought Hemingway was awesome and that I’d cracked the code on how he wrote so well, I’d test said magic algorithm on some of his writing before releasing it into the wild. It’s not like it is hard to come by.
The obvious question, of course, is why does the test fail? (I think we can take it as read that a test designed to make you write like Hemingway has failed when it insists that Hemingway isn’t up to snuff). Is it because it can’t get out of its own way, and properly implement its own strictures? Whoever put it together, for example, doesn’t understand what passive voice is, and while they call various things adverbs that aren’t, they might be even worse at spotting actual adverbs.
Or is it, perhaps, because the rules themselves aren’t quite right? There is a clear danger in using Hemingway for something like this – most such tests pick EB White as their exemplar, but Hemingway wasn’t quite as adamant about telling everyone not to write like he did, at least not to the point of publishing a whole book about it. For White, the algorithm designer can always say that it was designed to test against this book over here, not that other one; for Hemingway, sadly, we just have the stuff where he was trying to write well. Most of his advice on writing does not lend itself so well t a formula. And if Hemingway can get away with adverbs and passive clauses and complicated sentences, how are we supposed to know what to avoid? Read his tips? Those are a bit harder to follow.
I don’t want to make everyone jealous, but check out the letter I just got:
That’s right, it’s from the Department of Issuance. That’s the department that issues things. And not only that, it is from program headquarters of the Department of Issuance. I mean, some of ya’ll might have been issued something from a regional or even state office of the Department of Issuance, but this is clearly the big time – the home office in Rolling Meadows, IL (well known epicenter of issuances).
As the envelope said, there was not a moment to waste, so I opened it immediately, and it turns out I am a finalist in a contest. So this is probably my last post, given that I’m guaranteed to win one of several prizes, and most of them are pretty kick-ass. I don’t know if I can see slaving away at a blog after I win a sweet new Corolla.
We live in an age of wonders, as far as research on fiction goes. Not so long ago, an aspiring author had to go to a library, or take a course or something, to research some topic important to their book (hence the classic advice to ‘write what you know’, which might be more accurately stated as ‘write what you already know’). But of course, those of us engaged in speculative fiction can only take that so far, and anyway there generally comes a time when you need to go a bit beyond the realm of personal experience (especially if your life is not a non-stop thrill-ride but you want to give your readers something a bit exciting to read about).
So research. Made so much easier by the internet. All you need to do these days is just type whatever you want to know about into a search engine (which let’s face it is likely Google, but if you are an Alta Vista fan don’t let me stop you). I’ve recently had some reminders, though, of the secondary functions of beta readers and editors. Their primary function, of course, is to unsuckify your writing (sorry if that isn’t a word – this hasn’t been edited). But secondarily, they may have had some direct experience with something your characters have done. Because it is all fine and well to read about things, but it doesn’t measure up to personal experience with corsets and half-moon clips and so on, simply because basic information about something may miss those little details that really make something come to life. Oh, you can perhaps find that if you look hard enough on the Internet, but you risk the grim reality of diminishing returns when you start to search for those finer points:
Even more importantly, though, is that without personal experience, you likely don’t know what sort of questions to ask the all-knowing Internet. So short of just getting out and living life (bleah, right?), I think the best bet is getting to know some interesting people who are willing to read your stuff.
So here I am at a new Universal Resource Locator. The old URL(s) and website were intended to be focused on my horror/vaguely Lovecraftian writing, and they’d drifted away from that focus, so it seemed time for a more general-purpose site. Also, setting up a new website is sort of like rearranging furniture, and who doesn’t want to do that every once in a while? My intention is to try out some new things content-wise as well, and we’ll see how long that resolution lasts.
I would continue on, and make this first post of my new internet manifestation more memorable, but daylight savings time just started, and man, I just … what? Was I saying something?
Anyway, for older posts, go here. But be careful, you might find yourself going in a circle.