My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Best of December 2018

We're wrapping up the admin end of the 2018 year here with our Best of posts. (There's one more order of business as the patrons and Patron-Muses have yet to be thanked.)

It may take me a little while to figure out the year's best and the adjusted three best by month. I have to account for one of FB's most greed-inspired and dramatic throttlings to date. If I went strictly by the numbers, only posts from before mid-October would make it. So what I've got to try to do is figure out what did the best by ratio compared to the rest of articles accounting for a major dip in numbers.

Facebook claimed their massive change to their algorithm was so that its users could see "more of [their] friends and the things they love" but behind the scenes they have quadrupled their efforts to badger page admins into paying ad revenue. (They all but said "Nice outreach you used to have. Shame about what happened to it. Want it back?") I dropped by 90% overnight and trying to figure out what that means to which articles actually did "better" will take some consideration.

However, as December was all on one side of The Greedening Throttling, it's easy enough to figure out which articles did the best for that month in a vacuum.

Ten Flavors of Gamergate Fail
A rescue from another blog about a years-old event turned out to be our best article of the month. Ain't showbiz funny?

"You Live in a Bubble" (Social Justice Bard)
The claims of echo chambers and bubbles are oft tossed at folks who dare to care about social issues. But is there anything to them?

20 Questions (Meta)

  • Can I take you to lunch/take you out to get a cup of coffee. Will you share your Amazon wishlist/Steam wishlist/Something wishlist.
  • Amber asks: Do you ever get PMed questions that just require too much emotional labor to answer or just make you feel gross?
  • Becky asks: Most amusing instance of "Hey, aren't you the WAW guy?"

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Best Contemporary Science Fiction Poll (or Series)––Nominations Needed (and New Rules!)

What is the best science fiction book (or series) written in the last ten years?

We're going back to some of our most popular polls of the past few years, but this time we're doing it with lots more voters (and we'll be keeping the results on display.) It's all part of our new Sticky Polls--the 2019 roll out for polls here at Writing About Writing.

To start, the very latest in science fiction.

The Rules (pay close attention because some of them are new):

  1. There is a new category of nomination. It is NOT a nomination for the poll. It is an UNDERSUNG HERO nomination. It is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, but maybe not necessarily the best. I will be listing these books along with the poll results. However, if you nominate a book it will not be considered for the undersung hero list and if you shout out something for an undersung hero, it will not be counted as a nomination. (Someone else can nominate it.)
  2. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you want to nominate Worm, I'm not going to argue, but you have to convince others if you're going to get on the poll--nevermind win.
  3. Your book must be copyrighted 2009 or later. If it is a series, the ENTIRE SERIES must be written after 2009.  Of course you can nominate the most recent novel in a series if you are trying to work around the rules, but not the series itself unless it's entirely published in the last ten years.
  4. You get two (2) books or series. That's it. Two. You can do one nomination for the poll and one UNDERSUNG HERO.  Or you can do two nominations. Or two undersung heroes. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but I compile these polls myself and it's a pain when people drop a megalodon list every decent book they can think of in the genre. It is up to you how to divy your two choices.
  5. You may (and absolutely should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. THEY WILL NOT GET ONTO THE POLL WITHOUT SECONDS. You can agree with or cheer on the undersung heroes, but they won't become nominations unless someone else nominates them (and then they get a second). Also stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll. 
  6. Put your nominations HERE. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+ will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  7. You are nominating WRITTEN genre fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought Matt Damon was great in The Martian, but you didn't really care for the book, nominate something else.
  8. This is probably well known by vets of this blog by now, but there will be no more endless elimination rounds. I will take somewhere between 8-20 best performing titles and at MOST run a single semifinal round. So second the titles you want even if they already have one. (Yes, I guess that would make them thirds, fourths, etc...) The competition on THIS poll is going to be FIERCE so please come back and second, third, fourth, and twenty-fifth everything you want to see go on to the poll. You may have to get your friends involved. Buy them a pizza. Make it real. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Trump Shutdown: A Tale of Two Narratives (Social Justice Bard)

If you learn one thing from this blog, let it be....well, let it be that you should write every day if you want to be a paid writer. But if you learn TWO things, let the second be that controlling the narrative is true power, possibly greater power than splitting the atom or splicing genes. The ability to say who is right and who is wrong and whose story we will not even listen to is the power to take a species of storytellers and exert the ultimate social control over them.

The Republicans DESPERATELY (and urgently as their numbers slip every day) want to paint this shutdown as just a simple negotiation gone wrong because of the Democrats, and the declaration of a state of emergency as merely another tool in the executive toolbox to get things done when the opposition has the votes to veto. (Odd that I can distinctly remember them howling about "executive overreach" just a couple of years ago....) They want to paint Dems as intransigent and unwilling to negotiate despite being the ones to walk away from the table, refuse compromises that would at least end the shutdown, and even having their party leader refuse a Republican compromise. McConnell won't even take up a bill to keep other parts of the government open, chiefly because he knows it would pass, and force the President into the optics of vetoing a million paychecks.

The narrative here isn't in the GOP's hands. The longer this goes on, the more Trump is just the petulant guy on high-profile camera slapping away the olive branches that Dems brought to the table in good faith. The longer it goes on, the more his constituents realize "he's not hurting the people he is supposed to be hurting." The longer this goes on, the more facts and narratives (including calls from "within the house" of Conservative politics) start working against him. And the fact that we were already pretty definitely headed for a recession makes the timing even worse.

Republicans desperately don't want the Democratic narrative taking hold; i.e. that playing politics with nearly a million people's livelihoods creates a "hostage situation" and that if they wanted to pass legislation for a wall, they should just pass it like any other legislation. Oh wait, they can't. It's unpopular and the American people don't want it.

Unfortunately Trump's biggest problem right now is that he's NOT a Washington insider. He doesn't know how the winds can change. Those with expertise tend to be very sensitive to the narrative and which way it's shifting. Whether because he chiefly listens to Fox News or because he fires everyone who isn't a sycophant, Trump is unable to recognize the clear signs of a cause being lost by inches over time.

This potential for the narrative to shift is the same reason the GOP kept calling for votes without a floor debate, accurate reporting, or even time enough for everyone to read the legislation: they were passing unpopular laws based on unpopular policies and the Republicans knew full well that the longer anyone got to talk about the actual facts, examine the issue, do impact studies, talk about the issue openly, or even READ the goddamned thing, the more public opinion would swing against them, even from their own constituencies. It's the same reason they rammed through a SCOTUS appointment without an investigation and then shrugged and said "who's going to investigate these fifty complaints now?" They have relied on their reputation as fiscal conservatives and good faith actors to act impugned when their motives are questioned, but they needed that legislative blitzkrieg so that the narrative could still be (R) vs. (D) and us versus them and they could walk away with a win at any cost, only later for sob stories of betrayed rural voters to crop up in the media because the Leopards Eating People's Faces Party ate their face.

I make no bones about the fact that while I think Democrats are FAR from perfect (or even "okay" much of the time), Trump Republicans have made revolting and harmful bigotry and abject cruelty towards me and the people I love part of their political DNA. This is the party that supports and is supported by white nationalists, literal nazis, and where prominent party members like Steve King come right the fuck out and openly wonder what the big deal is about white supremacy. Some may receive some harsh words from fellow Republicans (mostly for saying it out loud), but the right leaning voters don't stop electing them and the RNC doesn't yank their funding or do the Klingon back-turn discommendation ceremony. And the leader of the Republican party was elected president because he just comes right out and SAYS the bigotry so many are thinking of. So I have no problem pointing out the narrative that they are trying to float as the same sort of fact-immune alternate reality, we've-always-been-at-war-with-eastasia absurdity which began on day one when Trump tried to claim his inauguration was bigger than Obama's.

...and continued later that day when he assured us he didn't really lose the popular vote.

...and hasn't really stopped because he just swore he never said Mexico would pay for the wall.

Trump is working against a lot of simple, cold, hard facts surrounding the issue. Trying to flip the narrative blame onto Democrats is going to be an uphill battle (not that he won't try––he is notoriously allergic to taking responsibility for anything he perceives as negative––the buck stops....with everybody). Frankly, it takes a measure of cognitive dissonance to buy the party line:

  • Perhaps the most epic snag in trying to hoist blame onto Dems was the fact that he outright said he would be proud to shut the government down, and he wouldn't blame the Democrats. Bellicosely. Twice. On live television. Not just regular ol' live television either, but in front of cameras HE invited into a private meeting because he thought he was going to run the table so bigly. The only hoisting was Trump....on his own petard.

  • Currently the GOP has a majority in The Senate and the leader of their party is the POTUS. The Democrats aren't "in control" as Lindsey Graham would have us believe when he dons his crown of thorns and crawls up on his cross to weep. Dems provide only a veto. Republicans are trying to "rule" rather than govern by the rules set down for making compromises in a pluralistic society. You can't always get what you want. This is an inconvenient truth for someone who can't deal with not getting absolutely everything he wants when he wants it.
  • There WAS a limited extension budget. It passed. All Trump had to do was sign it. It wasn't the DEMOCRATS who let Ann Coulter goad them on Twitter at the 11th hour that they needed 6 billion to spend on a largely racist symbol that multiple studies have proven doesn't work against the types of problems Trump is catastrophizing and/or making up whole cloth.
  • It doesn't look entirely....ingenuous to blame an utter failure in governance on the party that you have spent the last two years essentially DARING to stop you from doing whatever the hell you wanted because they didn't have the votes. 
  • Republicans wouldn't NEED sixty votes if they hadn't used the once-a-year reconciliation simple-majority bylaw as a workaround for unpopular legislation they didn't want to have to debate or compromise on earlier in the year (in a total middle finger to the founding fathers' intention if you're keeping track of who clutches their pearls and talks about that every time they lose the popular vote by 4 million votes or someone wants longer waiting periods for grenade launchers or something).
  • The Republican disrespect for democracy over power grabs knows little limitation. We saw it in Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin after elections ousted them from power and this is just a larger echo. They have suppressed votes, gerrymandered the shit out of as many places as they could, and it's looking increasingly like they at LEAST looked the other way as our greatest geopolitical enemy interfered to their benefit in democratic elections. Playing chicken with a million people's livelihood if you don't get what you want (after you LOST a midterm election in which the American people voted for some checks on your power by 8.7 MILLION votes) takes a breathtaking disregard for what the people you claim to represent have told you they want.
  • Trump was offered even MORE than he's demanding now. He was offered it back in 2017, and if he had been willing to compromise on DACA, he could have had his "big beautiful cement wall" under construction already. Instead, after agreeing to a deal with Senate Minority Leader Schumer, Mr. Art of the Deal suddenly changed his mind since he thinks "deal" means getting people to do things when he already has power over them instead of "compromise."
  • He's not OFFERING anything to peel off some moderate Dems. He's not going back to DACA or offering to overhaul legal immigration. He's not rolling up his sleeves and working hard here. No midnight oil has been burnt. He's actually promised this could go on for months because apparently his wall means more than a million people's homes, health, groceries and such. He's not making deals (which is odd because I was assured he is the best deal maker that has ever lived). He's just Tweeting about how unfair life is that he has to be a public servant for a pluralistic society instead of the absolute monarch he wants to be. 
Ultimately, the power of the narrative is working against Trump the longer the shutdown drags on. He'll have his 30% base pretty much whether or not he starts eating babies on live TV, and since adulation is all he can handle listening to, he will continue to have a very disconnected perception of his image, but the rest of the country blames him, more and more Republicans see the way this is going to hang off them like a millstone and are jumping ship. What Trump has indicated as an "almost certainty" is that he is going to declare a state of emergency, his wall funding will end up quagmired in the courts, he will have to deal with the dead albatross of the optics of using Puerto Rico's emergency funding to build a monument to his racism. And blame for the whole thing will land squarely on him and the GOP that enabled him.

He was worried a couple of weeks ago that the fed raising interest rates was going to make him Herbert Hoover unpopular. 

At this point, the narrative should be so merciful. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Memory of the Polls: 2019 and Polls That Will Stick Around (Also Undersung Heroes)

Note: This is going to be an article referenced many times in the coming years for the rules it outlines, so everything in italics is going to disappear after a couple of weeks.

There's so much good stuff coming up in 2019 that I spent part of today just trying to figure out where to start. I sent some company off yesterday and jumped right into one of my side gigs. And this weekend I'm going to start in on this backlog of awesome.

But first, it's already Jan. 10th and we need to get started on things like the year-end wrap up and our polls for 2019. (Seriously, I'm kind of wondering HOW I'm going to get all this done with only a 3-or-4-times-a-week update schedule.)

Before we move forth to our 2019 polls and a whole new dimension of our polling here at Writing About Writing, let me thank everyone for participating in an incredible year of diverse polls. 2018 was an amazing run of great polls that didn't include all the same cis het white guys that dominate most every poll of the type, and I got a lot of ammunition for my To Be Read list. And I only had to ban a couple hundred people, so it was pretty awesome. 

Sticky Polls
Once upon a time we did our polls and that was that. You could dig through the archives and look them up or wait for them to come around again.


In 2019, we're going to combine the fact that we now have a decent-sized audience with the fact that you can really only run so many polls before you end up back where you started or trying to crack a whip to eke out a few more nominations on some woefully esoteric niche.

So we're going to start properly archiving the results of our polls.

Starting in 2019, there will be a menu. There will be a link to each the polls after they are done. Folks can see each of the old polls and who won, and even get an idea of when a particular poll niche might come around again. And when we do come around to a poll topic after a while (as seems to happen every couple of years with the popular topics), after a comparison, the new results will replace the old ones at the "top" of the menu, but with a link to the past iterations so the changes can be noted.

Undersung Heroes

I will also offer up a place in our nomination from now on for undersung heroes. I find that many books or series nominated are done so not because they're the genre's "best," but because someone really wants to give a shout out to a book that they feel hasn't gotten enough positive attention. While nomination pages are often huge recommendation lists already, I'd like to start making that an organized part of the results of each poll.

As in, "Here are the poll results and here is the list of undersung books or series that folks have recommended you check out if you haven't already." This is to try and keep the polls themselves down between eight and twelve titles that folks agree are "best," and limit some of the nominations folks make just to try to get a bit of limelight shining on something no one seems to have heard of.

Here's the catch. A nomination for the poll will either get the necessary seconds or won't and if it doesn't, that's that. I assume most folks have heard of it, but it's not a contender for the best and it's not "undersung." An "Undersung Hero" will go on the list at the end of the poll, but won't count as a nomination and won't go on the poll.

And my worst new rule relating to this is that I will still only deal with two titles. You can write two nominations. Two Undersung Heroes or one of each, but I'll ignore everything after your second title.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Poll Results––What is the BEST Genre Fiction (Non-SF/F/Horror) Not By a Cishet White Guy

The results are in! Best Genre Fiction written by a woman or person of color or member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

From your nominations and seconds to the final results. I would have liked that knot in the middle to spread out a bit, but we have to move on to our 2019 polls.

Also get ready for a huge change we're going to make going forward here at Writing About Writing from all the polls we've done so far!

Thank you all for participating in our year of diverse polls.