Sharing: August 16, 2018

More things I like:

Anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
I mentioned this in a previous post but I want to recommend it again…partly because I’ve now seen the whole series, and have started to watch it again from the beginning. So many little things in the series take on a completely different meaning once you understand what’s really going on. One particular character’s lines never mean what you originally thought they meant. Well worth watching and re-watching.
Casual Reading: The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
It’s big and expensive and frequently goes over my head even though I have a master’s degree in math…but I still had to own the book and don’t regret buying it. I’ve been working my way through it for several years now; I try to read a bit every day. It really is the best advanced-level introduction to the entire field of math that I know of. And here’s a cheat: if you think you might be interested, download the free sample of the book from Kindle. You’ll get lot of free reading so you can see if it’s your cup of tea.
Writing technique: Writing longhand
I do most of my writing at the computer, either in Scrivener or Microsoft Word. But if I really get stuck, I sit down at the dining room table and write longhand on loose-leaf paper. Writing longhand is a different experience than keyboarding. It happens at a different speed, and with a different mind-body orientation. If my brain is in a rut, or if I find myself inhibited when writing a particular scene, writing by hand almost always gets me out of the rut. Sometimes I write whole stories by hand. I think it gives them a different feel from the work I write by computer. Give it a try.

 

Lazy Good Intentions

We’re all familiar with the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” But does that mean we should act from bad intentions? Obviously not. Nor does it mean that we should never do anything at all. Doing nothing can have worse results than doing something wrong.

The problem isn’t with good intentions. It’s with lazy good intentions. Half-assed good intentions. You vaguely want to do the right thing, but you don’t want to do the work of figuring out what that thing is. You want to do what will make you feel good about yourself, without seriously considering the actual effects on others.

I was prompted to write about this because I’ve been reading work by people who aren’t straight and/or white and/or male. There’s a feeling among those of us with social privilege that if you act from benevolent intent, then it’s unfair for anyone to criticize you, no matter what the effects of your actions are. And of course it’s true that no matter how carefully you might try to make the world a better place, sometimes it doesn’t work. Things go wrong; bad luck happens.

But often, problems don’t arise from bad luck but from thoughtlessness. You don’t try to see things from other people’s point of view. You don’t try to foresee easily predicted consequences. You don’t do your homework about how your actions might be received, but blithely go ahead with what you want to do, just assuming that your good intentions will make everything work out right (or at least make it impossible for anyone to complain).

This is the epitome of privilege. People without privilege damned well have to consider the consequences of their actions. For them, good intentions mean squat, and they can’t expect the benefit of the doubt. People without privilege have to understand how their actions might be received; they have to do their homework, deal with any possible glitches, and never assume that meaning well is good enough.

Those of us with privilege (and hey, I’m a straight white middle-aged male) have to start thinking more about how what we do is received. I already know I have good intentions. Now I have to make sure I have good results…and that means paying attention to others before and after I act, doing my best not to make mistakes from glib assumptions and definitely trying not to make the same mistake twice.

[Image of “The Good Intent” by Glyn Baker, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Road_to_Hell%5E_-_geograph.org.uk_-_38556.jpg]

Sharing: August 4, 2018

More links:

Anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
“Puella Magi” is Latin (sort of) for “Magical Girl”, and this anime series is a very dark vision of what being a magical girl might be like. A cute talking animal offers to make “contracts” with girls who show promise. They can have a wish come true, no matter how miraculous, in exchange for which they must become magical girls and fight witches. Yes, becoming a magical girl is the price, not the reward. And things go downhill from there. (This is a 12-episode series now available on Crunchyroll.
Manga: Knights & Magic
This starts as a run-of-the-mill Gary Lou series (i.e. about a male version of a Mary Sue). However, it eventually changes to deal with the engineering process, showing the effort needed to turn a brilliant prototype into a practical, reliable product. It’s an unexpected swerve, and more interesting (to me) than just a normal Fantasy Mecha series. (FYI, the series is ongoing, available on Crunchyroll.)
Hobby: Cross-Stitch Embroidery
I don’t do as much cross-stitch as I used to, because my eyes aren’t as good as they once were. (My left eye is well on its way to having a cataract, but the optometry clinic says I shouldn’t deal with it yet. Apparently, for best results, you’re supposed to leave cataracts until they really start hampering your vision.) Anyway, I still do an hour or two of cross-stitch a week. It’s pleasantly relaxing, and like an oyster making a pearl, I end up with pretty pictures as a side-effect.

 

Sharing: July 25, 2018

More links to good stuff:

Book: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
An excellent book describing how systemic racism is rendered invisible and how white people can learn to see it, even though acculturation tries to make us blind to racism’s presence.
Web Site: Crunchyroll
A subscription service for anime and manga. I’ve been on an anime/manga binge for the past few weeks, and Crunchyroll supplies access to all I can watch/read, for a small price per month. (Too bad they don’t have Evangelion.)
Libraries
You may be aware of a kerfuffle on Twitter in the past few days, caused by a Forbes article suggesting that libraries should be replaced with Amazon. The article was an obvious troll searching for hate-clicks, which apparently are a vital income source for many media companies these days. However, the kerfuffle still shows that some people have no idea what libraries have meant to many people and still mean today.
I go to my local library almost every day: for fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, audiobooks, piano music, and more. Like many a writer, I have very little disposable income; I couldn’t keep up with what other writers are doing if it weren’t for the local libraries. Yet I know that I’m better off than many of the other people using the library: people using library computers, for example, to search for jobs, and others using library services to improve their English or get help on filling out forms. Libraries are a huge benefit to the community, especially those of us who aren’t rich. If you haven’t visited a library lately, I heartily recommend that you go on a summer outing and give your library some love.

Sharing: July 18, 2018

More things I like:

Anime: Darling in the FRANXX
A lovely story about teens slowly discovering how to live, love, and be honest with each other. Oh, and sometimes they get into giant robots and kill monsters on behalf of a vague yet sinister government agency.
A few of the details are offputting—there is some problematically gratuitous sexual stuff, like the doggy-style set-up for piloting the mecha—but the overall story is sweet and honest about the confusions and joys of adolescence.
Comic book: The Wicked + The Divine
Every 90 years, 12 classical deities are reborn as the darlings of their age: perhaps poets, perhaps warriors, perhaps socialites, but always celebrities. They live for at most two years before dying. In our modern age, they’re rock stars…and like many beautiful people, they make terrible life choices. The latest divine incarnations may drag the world down with them.
Movie: Ant-Man and the Wasp
Complete fluff, but fun…with a lot of inventive applications of shrinking/growth powers. (Yes, I’ve thought a lot about shrinking/growth powers. Wink wink, nudge nudge.)

 

Off to Ad Astra

I’ll be at the Ad Astra fantasy/science fiction convention this weekend. You can find my panelist schedule here (search for “gard”).

If you’re interested in writing science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror, I heartily recommend attending a few conventions. Conventions vary widely in emphases and in “personality”, so a particular convention may not be a good fit for your tastes. For example, some are more devoted to media (e.g. TV, movies and comic books) rather than prose fiction. Nevertheless, many conventions bring together readers, writers, editors and other people involved with the sf/f/h written word. They can be fun and very informative.

If you’re just starting out as a writer, going to a convention can really open your eyes to various aspects of writing and publishing. You can often sit down for coffee with professionals and pick their brains on any (relevant) subject. You can also listen to panels where professionals talk about how they do what they do.

You can find a partial list of conventions at Locus magazine, but there are numerous conventions not on the list. To find out about conventions in your area, just go to your favorite search engine (e.g. Google) and search for “science fiction convention city” (where city is the closest city to where you live).

Sharing: July 9, 2018

Links to more stuff I like:

Article: Five Books on World Philosophy
The web site fivebooks.com publishes regular articles in which an expert on a subject recommends five books as a starting point for learning about that subject. The site has dealt with a wide range of topics, and is a great resource for discovering new books. (Also for discovering new subjects that you might not have thought about.) The most recent posting looks at “World Philosophy”, i.e. more than just Anglo-European works. I know what I’ll be looking up the next time I go to a university library.
Place: The Walter Bean Grand River Trail
The Grand is a sizable river flowing through South-Western Ontario, and the Walter Bean Trail runs along the river through much of the Waterloo Region. I walk the trail on a regular basis—it’s close to where I live and a pleasant quiet place for an easy stroll. (For those who want a slightly more demanding hike, there are also the Grand River Trails run by the Grand River Conservation Authority.)
Pen: Zebra F-301
I write longhand in a journal every morning. Sometimes I write stories/novels in longhand too, when I need to slow down and think, or when I’m too distractable to trust myself on a computer. My favorite pen is the Zebra F-301 (Fine point, blue ink). I love the feel of the sharp steel tip on good paper. (Gel pens? Maybe for drawing, but not for writing. Too slippery.) By the way, I break off the pen-clip so I don’t have to worry about it digging into my hand.