I'm one of those people who has trouble writing at length on my main machine, because of all the distractions it offers. Email and messaging and social networking: they all combine to form the "ludic loop" that Mark recently blogged about.
I've tried various things over the years to help keep me focused, from simple full-screen word processors such as WriteRoom and FocusWriter to gadgets like the Alphasmart and Freewrite. But apps are a tab away from fun, and glorified typewriters tend to expose their limitations in odd and frustrating ways.
After a lot of experimentation, I've arrived at a best-of-both-worlds option: proper apps running on a tiny old iMac from when Apple switched to Intel chips. It's modern enough to run good software, play music and hook up to useful services like Dropbox, but so old (and tiny) that there's not much else you can do on it except work. And it's immobile, too, so it creates a space just for that one task, which I think helps.
Even web browsing is just right: the older OS X 10.6-compatible version of Firefox it runs will access research resources well enough, but the media load on dangerously interesting sites (including Twitter and Facebook) renders them almost unusable.
There are dangers to this approach. If I were cunning I'm sure I could rebuild the ludic loop on this, by hitting the mobile versions of websites and exploring what other apps work on Snow Leopard. But its age (and adorable low-res 17" display) are so far dissuading me from trying. Read the rest
Wikipedia says Isaac Asimov wrote 506 published books. Where did he get his ideas? Charles Chu says Asimov used a number of tactics:
1. Never Stop Learning
“All this incredibly miscellaneous reading, the result of lack of guidance, left its indelible mark. My interest was aroused in twenty different directions and all those interests remained. I have written books on mythology, on the Bible, on Shakespeare, on history, on science, and so on.”
2. Don’t Fight the Stuck
"I don’t stare at blank sheets of paper. I don’t spend days and nights cudgeling a head that is empty of ideas. Instead, I simply leave the novel and go on to any of the dozen other projects that are on tap. I write an editorial, or an essay, or a short story, or work on one of my nonfiction books. By the time I’ve grown tired of these things, my mind has been able to do its proper work and fill up again. I return to my novel and find myself able to write easily once more."
3. Beware the Resistance
4. Lower Your Standards
5. Make MORE Stuff
6. “By thinking and thinking and thinking till I’m ready to kill myself."
Image: Wikipedia Read the rest
Robbie Barrat is president and founder of their high school computer science club; they created Rapper-Neural-Network, a free software project that uses machine learning trained on a corpus of 6,000 Kanye West lines to autogenerate new rap songs.
Read the rest
The instructors for this summer's Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy writers' workshop are Dan Chaon, Lynda Barry, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Hairston, Cory Doctorow, C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson: the workshop runs from Jun 25-Aug 5 at UCSD in La Jolla, California.
Read the rest
William Seabrook was once one of America's foremost literary stars; now he is all but forgotten. Seabrook travelled the world, writing a series of (decreasingly sympathetic) accounts of indigenous people and their culture, outselling the literary giants he kept company with, and who pretended not to mind the women he paid to let him tie them up and keep around his home. In The Abominable Mr. Seabrook
, graphic novelist Joe Ollman presents an unflinching look at Seabrook, his literary accomplishments and failures, his terrible self-destructiveness, and the awful spiral that took him from the heights of American letters to an ignominious suicide after his discharge from a psychiatric facility.
It's not from Superman. It predates the Stussy logo. Why did schoolchildren around the globe get infatuated with this stylized S? Vice takes a (kinda shallow) dive into the provenance of the stylized S
. Read the rest
AxiDraw is a computer-aided pen plotter that uses any writing instrument inserted in the device.
The latest and greatest demo hints at just some of the possibilities. Read the rest
Australian science fiction author Sean Williams writes, "I first met Kim Stanley Robinson in Hobart, 1995, when he was on his way to the South Pole. Stan suggested I look to the Australian Antarctic Division as a possible means of fulfilling my dream of visiting the great southern land. Over twenty years later, and thanks to the Australian Antarctic Division's Arts Fellowship program, that dream is about to come true."
Read the rest
Azerbaijani artist Tünzale Memmedzade spent three years writing out the Quran in gold ink on transparent black silk, and the effect
is just beautiful. Read the rest
Typewriter historian Martin Howard (previously) writes, "I was able to pick up a rare and exquisite Waverley typewriter (1896) this summer in Scotland and have just the other day posted it to my website all cleaned and ready to show."
Read the rest
Since 1993, the Literary Review has presented the Bad Sex in Fiction Award to "an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel." The winner will be announced November 30; below are a few of the finalists:
Read the rest
Robert Seethaler’s The Tobacconist
“He closed his eyes and heard himself make a gurgling sound. And as his trousers slipped down his legs all the burdens of his life to date seemed to fall away from him; he tipped back his head and faced up into the darkness beneath the ceiling, and for one blessed moment he felt as if he could understand the things of this world in all their immeasurable beauty. How strange they are, he thought, life and all of these things. Then he felt Anezka slide down before him to the floor, felt her hands grab his naked buttocks and draw him to her. “Come, sonny boy!” he heard her whisper, and with a smile he let go.”
Janet Ellis’ The Butcher’s Hook
“When his hand goes to my breasts, my feet are envious. I slide my hands down his back, all along his spine, rutted with bone like mud ridges in a dry field, to the audacious swell below. His finger is inside me, his thumb circling, and I spill like grain from a bucket. He is panting, still running his race. I laugh at the incongruous size of him, sticking to his stomach and escaping from the springing hair below.”
Erri De Luca’s The Day Before Happiness
“She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in.
On Election Night, you went to bed crying, and this time, I couldn't fix it. Like half the country, you thought you would be going to bed with your candidate as the president-elect. I wiped away a big, globby tear from the end of your nose, proud of you for caring so deeply about your country. I said it was going to be OK. I explained that, "politics goes back and forth, and this year it just wasn't our turn. Remember when I was for Obama and you were for Hillary, and she lost the primary, but you ended up liking Obama?" Your thirteen year-old defiance broke through your tears, as you declared, "No, this is different!"
You then spouted off a litany of things I didn't know you thought much about:
"It's different because Donald Trump doesn't have the basic morals of everything our country stands for. He doesn't even have the morals of a normal Republican. It's not that the other side won. It's that the person who won is literally against half of the people in the country. He doesn't like Muslims, Mexicans, anyone who is LGBT, he definitely doesn't like women, or people of color. He doesn't like ME. It seems like he only likes people like himself -- white males. How can he be our president?"
He's our president because people voted for him and he won the election. I will be raising you under a Donald Trump presidency until you go to college in four years. Read the rest
Tor Books associate publisher Patrick Nielsen Hayden found himself presiding over a "long-planned major meeting" the morning after the election of Donald Trump, and used the chance to explain why, on that day, he was "very grateful that I work in science fiction."
Read the rest
Rebecca Solnit (previously), one of my favorite writers, has published an open letter to Donald Trump, "New York City Is a Book Conservatives Should Read," which celebrates the city's teeming, messy, multicultural vigor -- something she delves into deeply with Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, a book about the "innumerable unbound experiences of New York City [with] twenty-six imaginative maps and informative essays" (just ordered mine).
Read the rest
With Putin and Russia in the news more and more thanks to Trump and Steven Seagal, maybe it's high time to learn how to pronounce Russian text. Thanks to the instructor's lovely accent in this ten-minute tutorial, you'll be pronouncing (if not understanding) in short order. Read the rest
Science fiction great -- and 2015 World Fantasy Convention lifetime achievement honoreee -- Sheri Tepper died yesterday, at the age of 87.
Read the rest