July 10th, 2010

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Software That Gets Worse

My partner Doug tipped me to this gripe about software.  I remember Wordstar very fondly.  Microsoft Word is ... usable.  But I've lost a lot of programs over the years because each successive version got less and less functional.  Technology, too.  If I can't make it do what I need rather quickly, screw it.  I'll jerry-rig something or do without.  Mostly I do without.  It's disappointing, but frankly very little technology is worth the hike up the learning curve.
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Faith in Fiction

I was intrigued by this essay about faith in fiction.

For my part...

I'm eclectic Pagan myself, with a wide interest in interfaith studies. I write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

I often deal with matters of faith in fiction -- but not always the same faith. I've written Pagan fiction. I've written about characters who followed other religions, such as Buddhism or Christianity, and for whom that was a key part of what they experienced. Other stories, a character's religion might not come up, in which case I largely ignore it.

I write for intricate purposes: to amuse, to enlighten, but above all to engage. I want to make readers think. They don't have to come up with the same answers I do, but they should be holding up some idea from the story to their own worldview for comparison.

If you read a LOT of my work, and then pull back to look for common threads, you'll find them. I generally believe in making the world a better place, in taking care of the Earth, in handling divine energy with respect. But my characters not me, not necessarily like me, and not much like each other either; if you pick up any given story, poem, or article you may get a perfectly clear view of a cool image that has very little to do with my personal stance on a topic. *chuckle* And that itself is a reflection of the Eclectic tenet that everyone has a piece of the truth. Put together enough pieces and you begin to get an idea of the big picture, which is bigger than we can fully perceive from a mortal perspective.
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2010 Rhysling Award Winners

Short Poem
1st To Theia by Ann K. Schwader
2nd The Changeling Always Wins by Nicole Kornher-Stace
3rd--Nine Views of the Oracle by Rachel Manija Brown

Long Poem
1st In the Astronaut Asylum by Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson
2nd Rattlebox III by Mike Allen, Kendall Evans, and David C. Kopaska-Merkel
3rd The First Story by Lana Hechtman Ayers

The membership of SFPA also awarded Grand Master status to Ms. Jane Yolen.
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Thought on SF/F

kateelliott does not want a fence.

This part really made me laugh, though: "I have briefly addressed the question of whether fantasy is By Nature conservative, consolatory, and reactionary fiction."   Clearly anyone who thinks that has not read any of mine, much of which is boat-rocking.  Those are some of the stories that flip people out with things like having all brown characters but not being about race issues.  I also tend to read boat-rocking fantasy.
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Photography: Wildlife

Today's walkabout photoshoot included some fun surprises with wildlife.  I also experimented more with cropping.

Several red admiral butterflies were feeding enthusiastically in the wildflower garden.  Unfortunately they refused to hold their wings open for a top shot, but I got some lovely side views.

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Writing Exercise: Using the JerkMuse

Today's writing exercise focuses on drawing inspiration -- and profit! -- from negative experiences.

1) Think of someone you hate; it must be an individual, not a category.  This is your JerkMuse.  Think about an occasion when the JerkMuse really pissed you off.

2) Jot down a brief description of the person.  Write at least a few paragraphs of the interaction scene.

3) Modify the JerkMuse into a character, the Antagonist.  Change at least a couple of key details that are not critical to the scene: size, sex, color of eyes/hair/skin, etc.  Always change the name if you know it; make it start with a different letter and have more or fewer syllables.  Pencil in some kind of motive why this character is a jerk.  It is the Antagonist's job to get in the Protagonist's way; this should be someone the audience will love to hate.

4) Modify your role in the scene to create another character, the Protagonist.  Change some details and the name.  You don't want to create a Mary Sue, so give this character at least one flaw and virtue.  The Protagonist is the character the audience should be rooting for; this should be someone the audience will sympathize with.

5) Adapt the scene to fit the new characters.  You may need to change the context and details somewhat.  Often what sticks in memory is conversation -- it's okay to keep snappy dialog if you've got it.

6) Now for the fun part: spin out the story so that the Antagonist, after annoying the Protagonist greatly, is horribly humiliated or gruesomely killed or otherwise disposed of.  In broad strokes, this works in any genre: romance, mystery, science fiction, etc.  Keep the constructed characters in mind as your puppets, but use your own real emotions  to fuel the intensity of the story's mood and tone.

...* The Antagonist should juuuuust touch victory with a fingertip before it is ripped away!  This is more realistic, more sadistic, and more gratifying.

...* The Antagonist's crushing defeat should derive significantly from inherent character weaknesses.  (An Antagonist who is habitually cruel to animals might wind up spurring a horse and getting bucked off.)  The Protagonist is allowed to take advantage of this with a well-placed boot to the rear.

...* The Protagonist's ultimate victory should also derive significantly from inherent character strengths.  (A smart Protagonist should outwit the Antagonist; a muscular Protagonist might wind up wrestling the Antagonist instead.)  This is all the more gratifying if the Antagonist has been taunting the Protagonist about that particular trait.

7) Revise as necessary, using your usual process.

8) If at all possible, sell the story for money.  Few things are more satisfying than making money off people who tried to ruin your day.  Buy yourself some chocolate, or a book, or some other treat with the money.  Also, it is much easier to keep your temper if you can concentrate on what you are going to do with this next JerkMuse once you get your hands on the keyboard.