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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy Book (or Series) NOMINATIONS NEEDED.


UPDATE: The nominations on this poll are now closed. Please go vote!


What is the best Fantasy (book or series) written in 2009 or later?  

I'm getting back into the habit of writing, but I've been dropping a lot of my daily writing on my Facebook these last few days. (It's a public account, so you should be able to at least read stuff even if you're not on Facebook.) So we're a little off our update schedule, but at least the words are coming now.

Anyway, we have ONE MORE slot to fill in in the break up of sci-fi and fantasy into manageable chunks, and that is CONTEMPORARY FANTASY. So nominate the titles you'd like to see go on to a poll!


The Rules:

  1. There is a new category of nomination. It is NOT a nomination for the poll. It is an UNDERSUNG HERO nomination. Basically it is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, but maybe not necessarily the besty bestest 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 Ancillary Mercy as fantasy rather than science fiction, 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. (It would have been ten years––or 2010––but I wanted this to match the timing of the Sci Fi version of the same contemporary poll.) 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. No small number of shout outs to Discworld have included only the books from the appropriate time frame. Why should we stop now?
  4. You get to mention 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 you can do 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 remember 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 "transform" into nominations unless someone else nominates them as "best" (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 the HBO series of Game of Thrones was great (*cough*), but you didn't really care for the Dance of Dragons by Martin, 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. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

You Can Have The False Dichotomy, But I'm Keeping The Word



I think it's been a year. And because of memories, I'm going to have to watch that anti- "introversion/extroversion" meme going around again. (Every year for a while now.) And since I'm currently trying to pull-start my writing engine like an old lawnmower, anything I can get a little amped up about is good. Even though a cursory survey of some of my friends indicates that I might be standing against high tide on this one.  

I like the pushback against the false dichotomy and the lack of moral dimensions, but every time this wanders across my eyeballs, I am a little less enthusiastic about the middle and its apparent attempt to eliminate the terms themselves. It may not even have been in the mind of the author (radicarian), but it has sure been in the mind of many who reposted it. I'll own that baggage, and maybe I'm tilting at windmills, and bringing way more to the table than is fair, but I think it has been A Thing™ dealing with folks trying to erase something I find meaningful, useful, and important, for long enough that I'm ready to hit this thing with a nuance beam, unpack the bullshit stuff (of which there is MUCH), and die on the hill of the word itself. 

Personally, I'm a raging fan, of the term “introvert” and the way it articulates a different dynamic through which I interact with the world from most.

If folks are powerfully middling or a term just doesn't work for them, it's really okay to just NOT use that term for themselves or tell everyone that the dichotomy isn't good for defining them. (Although it’s worth mentioning that the idea of the “ambivert spectrum” with introversion/extroversion respectively on either end brings a continuum to the dichotomy that seems to deal tidily with the “false dichotomy” in the meme’s complaint without the rather blunt-force solution of getting rid of two perfectly useful words at either end.) It’s not necessarily cool to project one's own disinterest onto everyone else, and taking it away from people who are like "OMFG!!! It's me! I never knew there was a name for it! I feel so seen!!" is only like # 612 on the comprehensive list of dillhole moves. 

There's a bit too much of "This doesn't work for me, so therefore it doesn't work...at all." in the world already. 

I'm also not a radical or a fascist (though some who are either might certainly label me as the other), but I don't argue that we should just abandon these terms and say that people are just "a certain amount of liberal until they're not" or "a certain amount of conservative until they're not." Those terms explain things to us about just how conservative/liberal they are and how they may interact with the world differently than others. 

Personally, I'm a raging fan of the term “introvert” and the way it articulates a different dynamic through which I interact with the world from most. I thought I was shy (I am, but only with new people), had social anxiety (I don't), and was a misanthrope (also no) until I started running into this term and what it meant. Suddenly, I made a lot more sense to ME. I felt seen. I felt understood. I felt less like a troglodyte in a cave hissing "Leave me!" at anyone who wandered in. I found comfort and ease in a term that described my quirks (in the same way I felt comfort about A.D.D. or non binary gender). I generally recharge alone and am drained by being social. Some people generally recharge socially and are drained by being alone. Most are in the middle, and probably feel like this is much ado about nothing. 



I happen to be over on one side of the bell curve. That's it. Obviously, there are limits to how much I can be alone, and I'm sure there are limits on how much other people can be social. But it is a good descriptor (a signifier if you want to get all linguistic up in here) and it's useful to have a term that quickly and easily indicates which side of this spectrum one is on. But it is such a relief to me to know that I'm not some socially borked pariah.

I just need alone time to recharge my batteries.

I totally get that the rash of introverts making up shit about how they want to "actually have 'deep conversations'" or "don't talk all the time" needs some push back right in the face. Come on! No one gave out extra deeposity to introverts. What the fuck kind of elitist twaddle is that? Everyone looks stoic and wise when they say two sentences a day (look at Silent Bob) but trust that having a filter or not has NOTHING to do with how often you talk. (If anything the extroverts might have more practice not blurting out the quiet parts.) That fucking crap is obnoxious and needs to be kidney punched. Introverts can be shallow. Extroverts can be deep. Neither one of them is more "evolved" at socializing. Introverts aren’t NICER. Extroverts aren’t impolite. Stop it!

Of course there's no "moral" dimension.

Let me say that again: OF COURSE THERE'S NO MORAL DIMENSION.

Unfortunately, introverts make up a lot more of the writers and the shitposters, so we're often running the table when it comes to the narrative, and we like to frame us in a good light. But rejecting the whole thing because a few of us are being dillholes on social media doesn't mean our self-identity is meaningless. It just means a few people need to have a tall frothing glass of shut the fuck up and stop thinking that people who actually ENJOY chatting and talking are in any stretch of the imagination beneath them instead of just different.

Which isn't to say that this meme is doing a bad job at describing what introversion and extroversion MEAN, and if folks mostly just want to take away the Myers/Briggs idea that you’re either one or the other and ne’er the twain should meet, I’ll be the first in line to help you knock down the statute, but you have to stop there. YOU HAVE TO STOP THERE!  You can’t start talking like the terms themselves aren’t working.



The place where my nod turned into narrowed eyes and tables began to telekinetically flip all around me was at the idea that the terms are useless. Eliminating the terms THEMSELVES makes about as much sense as saying, "Why don't we remove ‘tall’ and ‘short’ from our vocabularies, and just say that there is a certain height that people are, and some people stop existing sooner as you travel up, while others can't go on the roller coasters until they’re pre-teens––why do we need all these labels?" And then we lose the ability to say, "This ceiling is too low for tall people" and have to start specifying the exact height at which the ceiling becomes an issue every single time we talk about it with no linguistic shortcut. Double plus ungood if you ask me.

Seriously though. Joking aside, that's not really how language works. We are linguistically lazy, and go for the shortcut every time. I mean, look at us saying "Bye" when the phrase is "God be with ye." (Shortened to “Godbwye," then to “Goodbye” and then "Bye.") Because saving that one second is super important and probably after thousands of "Bye"s added up to at LEAST one extra episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender by the time we're pushing middle age.

I'll just fire that up now.  Surely in this episode the cabbages guy will be okay....

Narrator's voice: "He wasn't."


I also get just a little head-itchy when people want to start removing labels for how folks interact differently with the world than the "acceptable party line.” Just because most folks sometimes want to party and sometimes want to stay in and read doesn't mean they should extrapolate the whole of humanity as finding edge labels as useless as they do. I do wonder why they can’t just work around terms that clearly resonate (often with great shared enthusiasm initially) among those identifying and naming that difference––as well as suddenly relating to those who have experienced the same different-ness in their own lives. 

But then that's something we DO a lot, isn't it? We dictate the ways in which others must interact with the world by shaping the language that is considered "right" and "proper" and "allowable." This same impetus leads to a lot of denial of neurodivergence or non-binary sexuality and gender. And I know too many folks who get that lightbulb moment reading about something after an entire difficult life of being told they were just broken. (”Why do we need all these labels?" and "We all have trouble concentrating sometimes, so maybe you're just lazy. Time to buckle down.”) Strip away all the Tumblr posts going viral about how introversion is some kind of superpower (it's not) and I’m willing to bet the farm you’re going to find a lot of folks who lost too many years being pushed into social situations and told they need to “get over it.”
 

Might be worth thinking about before folks pluck the label someone is squeezing to their heart like their favorite stuffy and tell them it means nothing. 


So sure. Have the dichotomy and absolutely have the false dichotomy.  (We have been talking sliders, continuums, and “ambiverts” for a while now anyway.) But this introvert's introvert is going to bristle when the implication is folded in that the words themselves are not doing anyone any good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Best of April 2020



It's a Patreon week here at Writing About Writing as I work on a number of project for either my patrons or Patreon itself. I've spent the last day and change doing this virtual interview that they'll be using in some kind of internal film. (I think they're about to do a "Mission Statement" shift or roll out some new feature or something.) Tomorrow I'm going to start the Monthly Newsletter. By Friday I'm going to have some kind of Early Access post. I'll try to get something else going too, but living in Groundhog Day means that everything takes so much longer (plus I'm having a dental issue), so there might be a lot of jazz hands. But I'm getting more time off from my clients, so if I can keep the rest of my teeth in my head and not have to drop six hours making a video, I'll be in good shape to end the month on a high note.

In the meantime, here are the three best posts from April. And as close as we came to having these be the ONLY three posts from April, there were a few, and these were the best of them.

I wrote something on the night I came down with Covid-19 hoping to hell that I would wake up and erase it. This didn't happen. I ended up being pretty damn sick. 
A lot of April's posts were a little personal and stream-of-consciousnessy, but they did get a lot of views.

One thing writers have been doing for a long time is working from home, so let me give you some advice on how to nail it. 


Honorable Mention


Technically this was nothing more than a link to my other blog, but it would have gotten second place by page views alone.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Best Classic Sci Fi

The results are in!

Like most things these days, my chores and errand to roughly thirty times longer than I expected (and I wasn't even on existential-dread-fighting drugs today!), so I'm just going to drop these results and run. I'm hoping to get an early access post done tomorrow for my infinitely patient Patrons. And if I'm just on fire (I won't be), I'll get a little something done for here as well.

Thank you to SO MANY who voted. I will get the permanent results plastered up this weekend. 

Text results below.


Dune- F. Herbert 135 20.03%
1984 - G. Orwell 131 19.44%
A Wrinkle in Time- M. L'Engle 102 15.13%
Foundation Trilogy- I. Asimov 78 11.57%
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - P. Dick 70 10.39%
Earthsea trilogy(the before '75 parts)- U. Le Guin 66 9.79%
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - R. Heinlein 46 6.82%
The Disposessed - U. K. Le Guin 46 6.82%

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Absolutely the Last Chance to Vote (Best Classic Sci Fi)

What is the best science fiction book (or series) written before 1975?  

It is absolutely your last chance to vote! 

I got hit with some food poisoning/allergy/something on Monday that would have knocked the shit out of me even in a pre-Covid-19, shelter-in-place, everything-takes-three-times-longer-to-write-because-you-just-can't-focus kind of world, so naturally it's REALLY fucked things up this week. (Broccoli of all things is the prime suspect. A stir fry that might have either been "too much of an unfamiliar intestinal flora" for me or possibly just starting to go off in the "produce a lot of gas" way.  And that is as much detail as I think either of us wants me to share.)  Thankfully I have some overdue polls to wrap up and end-of-month shit from April, and my job 2 clients are giving me as much time off this week as they can, so maybe I can catch up and get something served up by Friday that isn't just jazz hands (and if I'm really on fire some Early Access stuff for patrons too!) 

Everyone will get three (3) votes. Use them....wisely.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." 

If you are using a mobile device, you can either switch to web view and scroll all the way down, but if that's not working, is too much trouble, or you're having any other issues, you can go directly to the poll through this link: https://poll.fm/10533632

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Quick Note to Those Following Closely

Hi,

This is mostly just a meta post for those who keep up with our update schedule (such as it is in these socially distant times). Our regularly scheduled post for today has been eaten by the quarterly Inside Scoop newsletter available only to Patrons (and only of a certain tier).

99% of my content will always be free, and that includes fiction (and even novels when they start coming out), but my two different tiers of newsletters are meant to, in some small way, say thank you to the folks who are keeping the lights on and my little "tea problem" from getting out of hand.