Posts Tagged ‘new worlds’
The New Worlds Patreon is finally tackling a fairly central concept we’ve missed up until now: government! Beginning with the lack thereof, i.e. the largely egalitarian social structure often found among mobile hunter-gatherer groups, and the two types of status that shape how people are treated. Comment over there!
I’m not sure why, but it turns out my last two posts about new Patreon essays going up failed to post as scheduled. My apologies for not noticing that! I’ll keep an eye on it this week and manually push it if I have to.
Anyway, this month we’re talking about art! Starting with a discussion of the lines along which we declare things to be Art vs. Not Art, then continuing on to sculpture and, as of this week, painting — less the specifics of style and technique, more the uses to which we put such things. Comment over there (including on the older posts)!
(Edit: yeah, something’s wrong with WP, as this post also missed going live as scheduled. I’ll look into fixing that.)
The blogger Slacktivist has a periodic series of posts he titles “Smart people saying smart things,” where he links to and quotes from a handful of solid pieces by other writers. I’ve happened across several great posts recently, so I’m going to steal his approach and modify it a bit here.
- Mary Robinette Kowal, “Debut Author Lessons: Status and Hierarchy Shifts”
A really good discussion of how things change when you got published, and how to bear in mind that meeting you may be a really big deal for a reader of yours — yes, even if you don’t think of yourself as being all that famous. If they love your work, they love your work, and it doesn’t matter if you haven’t sold as much as Author A or won as many awards as Novelist N. And while trying to be extraordinary for them may be daunting, you don’t have to be; simply meeting you is out of the ordinary. All you have to do is be a good kind of out of the ordinary — i.e., remember that this may mean more to them than it does to you, and don’t be a jackass. Also, if somebody’s a fan of your work, respect that; don’t grind down their joy by grinding yourself down in front of them. They may love a short story you’re embarrassed by. They may praise the exact thing you wish you could revise out of your last novel. That’s okay. Accept their delight as the gift it is.
I also want to call out one specific thing Mary Robinette said, about taking advantage of people. We see this cropping up a lot in allegations of sexual harassment: some guys are knowingly and maliciously using their social power to get what they want, but others are the equivalent of that guy with the enormous backpack who turns around without first checking to make sure there’s clearance for it. They don’t realize the pressure they’re applying simply by opening their mouths — and because they don’t realize it, they may apply it harmfully. We’re social monkeys; we like to do favors for the shiny monkeys, because then some of their shine rubs off on us. If you’re a published author and you ask a fan to do something for you, pay attention to what you’re doing. Don’t exploit their goodwill. Don’t ask them to do things that will be burdensome, or if you do, make sure you compensate them fairly. Always thank them.
- Foz Meadows, “Cancel Culture: The Internet Eating Itself”
A potted history of the different ways internet culture has dealt with trolls across its brief history, and why it keeps on burning us out. What she says about the internet changing so fast — I honestly hadn’t even heard the term “cancel” used in that context yet, because I am out on the very edge of the social media pond, and those ripples hadn’t yet reached me. But this lays out very clearly how we haven’t yet figured out a good way of dealing with social interaction online, and the effects that’s having on other parts of our lives, including the way we interact with narrative media. I don’t know what the solution is, but I hope one exists, and that we find it sooner rather than later. Because the anthropologist in my looks at what we’ve got and wonders how long we’re going to lurch along in a car that’s on fire before we either fix it or decide as a society that getting where we’re going faster isn’t worth the third-degree burns we suffer along the way.
- Ada Palmer, “Stoicism’s Appeal to the Rich and Powerful”
Palmer means stoicism in the specific philosophical sense, not a general “grit your teeth and bear it” approach. I don’t know much about philosophy, so the majority of her post was news to me, and very interesting — tangentially the part about stoicism as a metaphysics, but more to the point, stoicism as ethics. She makes some good points about why it is well-suited to being the philosophy of those in power, and why even for the downtrodden it can be both a wonderful lifeline and a dangerous trap, encouraging us simply to accept the world the way it is, rather than striving to change it. And it also makes me think about writing fiction, and the unexamined assumptions that can be hard to get around in your worldbuilding . . . like the idea that we can change the world, not just in a localized sense, but a general progress one. Humans didn’t always have that idea, and it’s easy to forget that.
- Marissa Lingen, “That Never Happened: Misplaced Skepticism and the Mechanisms of Suspension of Disbelief”
What happens when the “Tiffany problem” isn’t about small things like plausible medieval women’s names but rather the lived experience of people around you. I like her point about physical intuition, and how reading broadly can help us build up the kind of instinctive understanding that helps us process what is and is not likely to be true in other people’s lives. It’s an angle on the subject of empathy I haven’t seen before, and reminds me of a thing I’m still flailing at in the New Worlds Patreon, which is how to explain the instinctive feeling I have that some kinds of worldbuilding hang together plausibly and others don’t. Fundamentally, the answer is that I’ve read a lot about a lot of different cultures, so I have that intuition about the ways they work; I’m not sure it’s possible to boil that intuition down to a checklist of questions to ask, without doing the reading first.
(Also, this essay gives me some additional vocabulary to talk about what skills I still lack in the kitchen, so hey, bonus.)
I’m having nostalgic memories of when my first novel was released, thirteen years ago . . . on April Fool’s Day. (Yes, I spent rather a lot of time persuading myself that no, my editor wasn’t going to say “haha, fooled you!” and then the book wouldn’t come out.) This year I’m managing to dodge that day — which is good, because I have not one but two things out!
The first is New Worlds, Year Two: More Essays on the Art of Worldbuuilding, which you can get at Book View Cafe — i.e. direct from the publisher, and it’s a little bittersweet, because Vonda beta-read this for me — or Amazon US or UK, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, Kobo, and Indigo. And if that’s not enough anthropological and worldbuilding goodness for you, there’s always New Worlds, Year One: A Writer’s Guide to the Art of Worldbuilding, the collection from the first year of the New Worlds Patreon.
The second thing out today is my short story “Vīs Dēlendī” at Uncanny Magazine. Their Kickstarter backers got this a while ago, and half of the contents went live earlier, but as of today the entire issue is available for free online: fiction, poetry, articles, and interviews. One (1) Internet Cookie to anyone who can identify the main folksong that inspired this story; fifty (50) Internet Cookies to anybody who can identify the other folksong that contributed to it, without which this refused to cohere into an actual story. (Offer null and void after the podcast interview with me goes live, wherein I talk about both songs.)
No joke! Go forth and enjoy!
With two years and counting worth of essays in the New Worlds Patreon, there’s a rather large elephant in the room, which is how you communicate all your lovely worldbuilding to your reader. I’ve finally figured out some ways to articulate that process, the first part of which is this month’s bonus theory post.
I haven’t nearly finished addressing the topic of cleanliness in human societies — we haven’t even started on personal hygiene — but since the month is nearly over, this segment of the New Worlds Patreon will wrap up for now with trash. Next week, for the fifth Friday in the month, I’ll be back with a bonus essay!
This week’s New Worlds Patreon essay delves into that most fragrant of topics: sanitation! To bait you into clicking that link rather than going “ew, no thanks,” I will use my favorite piece of historical trivia on this topic, which is that there was a time and place in history where human waste was so valuable, people literally stole it. To find out where, when, and why, head on over to Book View Cafe!