Meanwhile, our crazy neighbor (I do actually think she's mentally ill, at the very least suffering through the early stages of dementia), who has previously accused us of sneaking on her property to poison her tree, has now accused us of sneakily wedging dead tree branches 12 to 20 feet up in said tree, because this makes more sense than that the storm knocked them down two weeks ago and she just now noticed. (I also think she may be legally blind although she still drives.) Worth noting is that she doesn't maintain this yard at all; it's entirely weeds, and the grass is three feet high. I like the look, but I'm pretty sure it's not deliberate.
Maybe I could build a trebuchet from old fenceposts and use it to present her with a large rock. But then I would have to retrieve the rock, because it's my rock and I want it.
[Update: It appears to be not a large rock after all; it's some small rocks and layers of concrete, held together by the ghosts of roots. It will not retain its synthesis for any sort of large-rock usage. One notes that would cause it to act like grapeshot if loaded in a trebuchet. Yet a trebuchet would only remind me that I still haven't been issued a canon. It would gleam so proudly on my office balcony.]
It occurred to me during my cleaning today that the question dentists always ask me about "staining on just your front teeth - do you drink a lot of coffee?" is perhaps not about coffee (answer: I drink an average amount for a coffee drinker in the U.S., which I can say with confidence because this is an over-researched area), but a stealth way of asking whether I smoke, a major contributor to gum disease and oral cancers.
Or they could just be asking whether I drink a lot of coffee.
* Following up on my specialty prescription drug cost entry of a few days ago, the lifetime amount of money spent on my teeth is still I think less than my college costs (grad and undergrad combined), but not entirely out of the ballpark. I can't give an exact number because a lot of it was when I was a minor and not paying my own bills, and there's at least one inpatient surgery where I don't know what the insurance company paid out.
I'm a proponent of the notion that language changes over time. (As an aside, although I'm talking about usage here, the standardization of spelling has been in some ways wonderful for clear communication and in other ways awful for clear communication. We've already lost so many avenues of word-based expression by going to type.)
With words themselves, although it's obviously critical that we mean roughly the same thing by "pretty," even if we find different things pretty, there is a hegemonic power in declaring "this means this and only this," as when people try to enforce psychology's clinical definitions on terms that predate the field of psychology (e.g. depression), while speaking to people who are not psychologists, nor claiming to be. Or the zeal with which people proclaim the tomato is a fruit (botanical definition) when speaking to chefs or nutritionists (who use a gustatory definition, based on the sugar content rather than the item in question being a plant ovary).
So I leave it alone. I do not incline to the magical thinking side of semiotics where if I can get someone to call me the right word they will come to respect me.
Again, all this goes out the window when I'm working as an editor of prose. (With poetry, anything goes. It's poetry.) When I'm editing, I'm thorny and particular. I will shake you by the shoulders until I'm sure you're saying what you mean to say. It's absorbing and time consuming and I don't do it for free. (Unless you're Val. I'm more likely to say no to my mother than to Val. And I'm more confident she'll still like me afterward.) I don't even do it for myself when it's not important.
But my editor brain never really goes away, never really. It's more that I don't let it draw my mental resources, any more than I would voluntarily start dusting someone else's house unprompted. This is easy because I don't feel any moral high ground. It's just a skill I have. For comparison, it doesn't bug me when people sing off-key (I often listen to detuned music on purpose) and it only annoys me when people switch keys midway through a song because it throws off whatever harmonizing I was doing (whether aloud or in my head).
So my internal response to a lot of posts about the Israel-Palestine conflict is really not helpful. That response is: You can't say opposition to Israel's campaign in Gaza is anti-Semitic, because the Palestinans are also Semitic.
This is not a useful thing to say. It is also a losing battle. It is the inverse of Ciro's irritation when anyone calls him Anglo. (He is not in any way descended from the population of the British Isles.) It's definitely a violation of my stance against usage-policing, since the people who say "anti-semitic" definitely mean Jewish and are not speaking as linguists or ethnologists. Nor would getting them to use "the right word" make the conflict go away (whether on the ground, in synagogues, or on facebook).
This is a significant and weird drain on my willpower that has been going on.
Fewer than 4 percent of patients use specialty drugs, but they account for 25 percent of total drug spending in the United States; and the growth of specialty drugs is a key factor driving up health care spending, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. . .
Diane Lima of Acushnet['s] 14-year-old son depends on a hemophilia treatment that costs $25,000 to $30,000 a month. Years ago the boy needed a wheelchair from time to time because of frequent bleeds into his muscles and joints. Now, thanks to injections every other day, her son can play sports at his high school, where hardly anyone even knows he has hemophilia.
["Specialty drugs transform lives — but at a cost," Felice J. Freyer, July 21, 2014]
My first thought is that what that boy's medication costs a month, I can live on for a year. But then it occurs to me that what I spend in a month is more than the average person in central Africa lives on for a year.
It is really hard to figure out the value of something that has infinite value. It seems to me when we try to put a price on life all we're doing is calculating what someone could pay for it.
(To reduce my cognitive dissonance, I'm thinking of the $30,000/mo as not being the literal cost of this drug for this boy, but what a particular insurance pool is spending on medical research. Which is pretty literally true.)
[This is the outline of the talk I gave at Readercon 25 about Dystopian Economies. I am currently in talks with glyphpress to expand this and some other writings into a sourcebook for gamebuilders and GMs that use the Shock system (and for anybody interested in inventing fictional but reality-influenced futureworlds). You can download the original Shock: Social Science Fiction here, or buy the follow up, Human Contact, here. ]
I'm going to start with a personal anecdote. When 9/11 happened, I was a senior in college.
- changed majors late (operations engineering; program folded)
- taking all econ classes
- in-class experiments. You play games as a teaching device.
a) prisoner's dilemma
b) deciding how to split money
- 9/11 "broke" the games.
a) always a little broken; people not perfectly selfish even "Best" of times
b) measurably more generous with each other
c) similar effect across country
d) has happened after other national tragedies
- after a year or so, tapers off, like our response to Katrina, Boston Marathon. Back to "normal."
My point is: you don't make people better by changing the game. By which I mean:
- incentives are important, as are penalties
- but behavior is too complicated to "fix" with conditioning tricks
a) don't get rid of criminals by making perfect laws
b) don't get rid of kindness in concentration camps
- I say this even though there's a sub-field, econometrics
a) tries to quantify, predict, measure effects of policy change
c) CBO, Fed - if futurist, be following their press releases
d) econ like weather forecasting
I don't believe an economic utopia is possible.
- not a SYSTEM which fixes the problem independent of PEOPLE
I do think you could get to a kind of utopia even in a very compromised system
- it's the goofiest thing in the world, but the answer really is LOVE
- family, social bonds
- seeing yourself as part of something bigger than you, something noble
So I'm going to talk about economics, and what I'm going to say is mostly about the bad actors
- because antagonists are good for stories
- and I trust you all know how to be good guys
- RIGHT? (laugh line)
Anyway, keep in mind when I talk about EVIL corporations it's because I'm talking about EVIL corporations.
- "not all men"
- yes, I know.
I am seized with anxiety that I didn't enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.
I think I did. I have a memory of addressing it to myself all fancy so that I would remember, and of putting a Johnny Cash stamp on it because I would enjoy getting a piece of mail with a Johnny Cash stamp, and of deliberating whether it was better to place it on top of the manuscript or beneath the manuscript.
But I am a fiction writer and I could have made all that up.
After 16 (17?) years of steady use, we today reached the end of the roll. Infinite saran wrap revealed its finity.
Another star has joined the heavens. A totally transparent one. I will ask my astrophysicist friend Brian to look for it.
Thursday July 10
9:00 PM G What Won't You Write? John Chu, Kameron Hurley, David Shaw (moderator), Romie Stott.
Charles Stross has said publicly that he won't write about children being harmed or exploited. Seanan McGuire refuses to write about female characters being raped. Many other writers have no-go topics. Panelists will discuss their personal choices for off-limits subject areas, and their reasons for the ban.
Friday July 11
12:00 PM CO Welcome to Readercon. Kip Manley, Graham Sleight, Romie Stott, Emily Wagner (moderator).
Tropes, "reading protocols," "the real year" of a book, "slipstream" fiction, "fantastika," "intrusion fantasy": Readercon panel blurbs (and hallway conversations) borrow vocabulary from a wide range of sources that new attendees may not have encountered. Veterans of other conventions may also be wondering where the costumes and filkers are. Readercon regulars and concom members provide a newcomer's guide to Readercon's written policies and well-worn habits as well as a rundown of our favorite critical… um... tropes.
1:00 PM ENL Dystopian Economies. Romie Stott.
Romie Stott's "Economic Systems Past and Present" talk at Readercon 24 provided an overview of the economic terms and tools available to writers. This stand-alone follow-up talk will focus on dystopian economies. Stott will discuss what corporate states could look like (essentially, what happens if current multinationals get even more powerful and/or develop space programs), as well as other un-free economies like prestige economies and the ways conspicuous consumption and patronage change power structures. The talk will wrap with theorized utopian economies and why they are not likely to sustain expansion to a global (or universal) level, and more odds-favored ways heroes might seek to limit dystopia.
3:00 PM ENL Speculative Poetry Workshop. Romie Stott.
Romie Stott leads a speculative poetry workshop for poets of all levels. Writing prompts will be provided, and poets are welcome to request feedback and collaboration from other participants.
5:00 PM F Retroactive Genre and Literary Identity. Erik Amundsen, Matthew Cheney (leader), Jack Haringa, David Hartwell, Veronica Schanoes, Romie Stott.
Robert Jackson Bennett wrote in a blog post, "The constantly-changing opinions on genre bear a striking similarity to ongoing debates in psychology, sometimes, with opinions on, say, manic-depression slowly growing to be the dominant opinion; and, maybe, that opinion on who these people are, what they do, and how they feel, will change to become something else in five years. However, just because a psychological opinion changes does not mean the people being studied change with it, much like how birds are happily oblivious to any sea change in ornithology." Can books or authors be "happily oblivious" to shifts in the popular understanding or construction of genre? When we retroactively apply genre labels that didn't exist when a book was created, such as referring to Frankenstein as science fiction (or even as steampunk), how does that affect our reading of the work?
Saturday July 1212:00 PM ENL Writing and the Visual Arts. Greer Gilman, Shira Lipkin, Eric Schaller, Romie Stott (leader), Diane Weinstein.
Writers who are also photographers and visual artists may find that the two fields influence each other in surprising ways, whether by bringing narrative to image-making or by writing from a camera-influenced viewpoint. Panelists will discuss this experience and the ways they find the written and visual media complimentary or antithetical. Does the camera never lie, or does it create fiction? Is a picture worth a thousand words or is a word worth a thousand pictures?
I've been without a scheme for a bit, which makes me melancholy.
But! Now my scheme is: get a book advance, then move to Sofia, Bulgaria.
This plan cannot fail.
Needless to say, I've been hit hard by a few Supreme Court decisions, not just from today but for a bit. And not just from the Supreme Court but from the lower courts and legislatures and from the higher legislatures as well.
You may recollect that during the Bush administration I left the country, and only came back because of the landslide election of Obama (less for what it said about Obama than about the electorate). It is hard for me to feel right now that the wishes of the grassroots are significant, compared to the wishes of a few people at the top. And I'm not fond of the grassroots either. (Terrible food, and such small portions!)
I know that most parts of the world are going through strange resurgences of xenophobia and facism and ultranationalism and grandiose religiosity. Were I to for instance move to Italy, the court and police system would be even more absurdist and corrupt and injust and discriminatory, and the government would be even more influenced by money and the church (or at least more openly so).
But it bothers me more when it's America, the way your friends can say things to you that you could never accept from your mother.
It's all right though; I am listening to this extremely twee accoustical youtube channel.
"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns ... instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink."
Although I imagine he had in mind political doublespeak, it reminds me of the many letters to advice collumnists which ask the best way to say something absolutely abominable but come off as purehearted.
I am not that kind of economist; I remain more temperamentally like an auditor. But the reason the joke works (or doesn't work at all) is that I doubt very many people would draw a distinction between what Dad and I do if you hand us a sheet of numbers and ask us to find trends and patterns. (Along similar lines, I tend to identify as a white-hat hacker, or used to, and Dad worked in network security. NEMESIS I TELL YOU, although again we'd pretty much be using the same tools and trying to acheive the same ends.)
However it seems to me my natural enemy as an economist is not actually auditors but dudes who give personal finance advice. I say dudes because they have an extra layer of unexamined privilege on top of the other glaring oversights that characterize personal finance advisors. I imagine personal finance advisors are very helpful when they have wealthy, individualized clients, but when they try to talk about what the average person should do, they tend to enter a fantasy land where tradeoffs don't exist and human beings aren't rational actors. (Central tenet of microeconomics: the average human being is a rational actor and makes purchasing decisions based on what they believe will most benefit them, although not always with perfect information).
Today on NPR, I heard one of them literally say it should be easy for someone to save $600 a month by cutting out lattes.
WHAT KIND OF LATTES ARE YOU DRINKING
But also maybe I need those lattes to stay awake and do my job, without which I have no income to save? Or if I don't buy those lattes, I can't hang out at the coffee shop and use the free wifi, or meet with business associates? Or maybe I'm counting on that daily serving of calcium in a form that is easily absorbed, without which I would develop costly osteoporosis? I'm just spitballing, here.
Also, man, your definition of investment as deferred consumption . . . I don't even know where to start with that. The extent to which that is a preposterous definition of investment rapidly approaches infinity.
What stood out to me is not just how unrelated this was to the rest of the presentation, but how familiar it is. We need to fight the patriarchy and also not eat refined sugar. Stop gun violence and while you're at it go paleo.
I don't know whether this frequent coincidence is because women's activism and political consciousness-raising has tended to happen via women's lifestyle magazines, which alternate female-focused journalism with diet and exercise tips, so that this has been internalized as a sensible narrative structure. It seems possible. You could try to argue that "well, we need to change ourselves, be transformed." Yet I do not see the same number of intrusions of "and here's how to dress for your body type" or "and switch to a henna hair dye," both of which also seem physically transformative and are also women's magazine staples.
I also don't see this amount of recipe-giving in activist speeches by men on topics not related to diet and exercise.
My current theory is that diet advice is a way of appealing to the essential feminine by people whose self-identity is closely tied to their gender. I think this because men's nonsequitors tend to be direct appeals to masculinity: "we have to do this to be men." Sometimes there will be a discussion of a war zone or sports. What is the core of me? That I am a woman, where woman is defined more than anything else to mean mammary. Here, I feed you. Here, feed yourself. There is no way I can speak deeply to you, woman-to-woman, without talking about eating. There is no way I can talk to a man without talking to him as a warrior or defender. I am not sure that the people who do this could put into these words why they are doing this - I suspect they couldn't. However, I also suspect they would say "Amen" to my description if I presented it as something that resonated with me (which it doesn't).
There's not really a "why" to it, nor do I know how long I'll keep doing it. They're free for the taking if anybody wants to expand any of them.
I suppose we might have gotten my cleanser faster had we ordered through the CVS, but we might not have. One would think the small plastic jar could be put on a truck, but our CVS is for instance sometimes out of bandages. All bandages. An aisle full of no bandages. Because they kept forgetting to order more.
"And the Charleses remain a magnificent comic creation; a loving couple who enable each other’s best and worst traits. Light TV mystery shows have been trying to copy that chemistry for decades, with limited success."
I suspect the first sentence explains the second one. The Charleses work not only because of the chemistry of the leads (which, boy howdy) and their covetable lifestyle, but because the two characters amplify each other. It seems to me that most film and tv romantic characters either "make me a better person" or "bring out the worst in me." It's got to be both. Or it's not funny.
Me: Related if you haven't seen it:
Although the author is interested in exploring the gender breakdown of advance size (for first fiction books), I find the genre breakdown more intriguing. As we all know (I think) the standard advance for a first SF book is in the $5000-$7000 range. This is not so true of "mainstream" fiction advances, in which a "low" first advance appears to be an advance under $50,000. (By which I mean more than half of the first-time fiction advances are more than $50,000.)
The reason this struck me was because of two prevalent outlooks among genre writers. Number one is the chip-on-the-shoulder idea that agents won't represent SF because they think it's "not good enough." In the context of this information, it doesn't seem to be a quality judgement at all, and is instead market driven: if the first advance is going to be so low, I can't afford as an agent to take on too many first-time SF authors (given that my payment is a percentage of the advance), who are almost certain to make me at least ten times less than an author in another genre. (Seemingly there is wiggle room with YA.)
Number two is the perception that SF markets are "more friendly" than literary and mass markets (because for instance they accept unagented manuscripts). Instead, SF book markets would be better regarded as token-payment or semi-pro, and therefore more willing to take what they can get.
I don't say any of this to be resentful or to suggest one can't make a living as an SF author; we know that's not true. And anyway, we write this style of fiction because it speaks to us.
However, it suggests that whatever cultural perception exists around "geek culture" becoming mainstream, SF fans either don't buy many books (whether because there are still very few of them, or because they skew young and low-discretionary-income, or because they're more likely to read things for free on the internet or at the library, or because self-professed "geeks" are now much more likely to read comics, watch movies, or play video games), or buy books in a format with a low per-unit profit margin ($7 paperbacks instead of $20 hardcover).
In other words, we're still a niche genre; we're still pulp. When we get annoyed about the "good" SF being shelved as literary/general fiction, we should perhaps take it in this context: it sold well enough to distinguish itself as a "real" book instead of, essentially, a book-length limited-circulation semi-pro magazine.
Food for thought, anyway. And it puts into context [Val's] link [above], which seems to show that self-published SF e-books from first-time authors do comparatively well: SF fans probably ARE more likely to read in screen format, and probably ARE more interested in buying a lot of "cheap" books; they are also less likely to care about the prestige of an imprint. None of which is good for advances but which has some compensations on the e-book side.
I am not in a chore chart situation, and in fact do almost no housework. Instead I combination freeload and purposefully don't care that I live in a disaster area.
But y'all I have done 6 loads of extra-full laundry today, 5 of which were sheets and towels. I don't even know how many sheets and towels. It seems nobody has washed sheets or towels for months. And it is not so bad but it is so many hours of laundry.
* I'm dissing the ivy leagues purely for effect, but in fact did leave a comparatively fancy school (George Washington University) because I found the administration obnoxious and status-obsessed, and finished out my undergrad at a state school (University of North Texas, for which I feel continued affection). However, I remained in contact with a number of my GW classmates and pretty much none of my UNT ones, so there's clearly more than one side to what makes a school.