Fanfic Question Meme

Mar. 28th, 2017 05:09 pm
calliopes_pen: (54 IJ Edith silhouette books)
[personal profile] calliopes_pen
Taken from many people, here’s a fanfic focused meme.

Choose a fic and 1 (or more) question(s) from the list below:

1: What inspired you to write the fic this way?
2: What scene did you first put down?
3: What’s your favorite line of narration?
4: What’s your favorite line of dialogue?
5: What part was hardest to write?
6: What makes this fic special or different from all your other fics?
7: Where did the title come from?
8: Did any real people or events inspire any part of it?
9: Were there any alternate versions of this fic?
10: Why did you choose this pairing for this particular story?
11: What do you like best about this fic?
12: What do you like least about this fic?
13: What music did you listen to, if any, to get in the mood for writing this story? Or if you didn’t listen to anything, what do you think readers should listen to to accompany us while reading?
14: Is there anything you wanted readers to learn from reading this fic?
15: What did you learn from writing this fic?

My fanfic (from Yuletides past, mainly) can be found here at Ao3. Or here at Teaspoon, where I last added anything from Doctor Who seven years ago.

Or you can peer into the depths of a tag called ‘fanfic I’ve written.’ There’s one Firefly fanfic down there somewhere, and quite a few drabbles for that and Buffy from back when I was starting to dabble in fanfic for the first time.
yhlee: M31 galaxy (M31)
[personal profile] yhlee
When I was younger, I cared a lot about worldbuilding in the sense of realism or plausibility. I hoped to write fairly standard Eurofantasy. I pored over books on siege engines and polearms, pondered the role of Swiss mercenaries as inspiration, took copious notes on books like Dorothy Hartman's Lost Country Life. I was determined for my worlds to be as "realistic" as possible, whatever that meant. Why? Because I was convinced that this kind of faithfulness to the waking world was the key to capturing readers; that a world with every pothole papered over, in which every city was mapped out to the least cobble, would be the most immersive.

I don't believe that anymore.

I came to this thought by way of games. For the longest time--an embarrassingly long time--I tried to learn chess the wrong way. The pageantry and imagery of chess, the fluff if you will, fascinated me: queens and knights and kings, rooks that looked like castles. I was very young when I had my first encounter with chess, and I developed this conviction that because the imagery of chess was based on medieval warfare, understanding medieval warfare would help me understand how to win chess.

(Those of you who do play chess are laughing. Hell, those of you who don't play chess are laughing. I know, I know!)

There are all sorts of things that an interest in medieval warfare will get you, but playing better chess is not one of them. I presume medieval knights did not get around the battlefield by jumping in L-shapes. On the other hand, chess knights never have to worry about broken lances or drowning in their own blood if their helmets get smashed in. (I read about that somewhere--whether it actually happened, I don't know. I don't remember the source.)

One thing is clear, though. The "failure" of chess to simulate medieval warfare in a mimetic sense has nothing to do with how successful, or immersive, it is as a game.

Video games are another example. These days a lot--not all, but a lot--of games sport beautifully rendered graphics that make my aging computer cry. The vocabulary of game graphics became so embedded in my thought processes that I have on multiple occasions had beautifully rendered dreams where I thought, Wow, that's some amazing polygon count there. (I have lucid dreams sometimes.)

Yet I remember being addicted to games with crude pixellated graphics back when I was in high school. I will own that one of those games was the Gold Box game Azure Bonds, which we picked up a bootleg of from an entrepreneurial fellow student when I was in Korea. (Something like two decades later, I caved and bought a legitimate copy from Good Old Games.) There was something jinxed about the bootleg's graphics, and it wasn't just the pixellation, which was how the game was supposed to come. No; something about the bootleg caused all the colors to load up in shades of sky blue, aquamarine, and lavender. (Given the title of the game, perhaps not entirely unfitting!) Nevertheless, the crudeness of the graphics and the eye-searing colors didn't destroy my enjoyment of the game. We never beat it (even today I haven't beat it!), but we spent hours killing trolls for bounty, trying to figure out how to outwit a black dragon, and prowling through the labyrinthine halls of Zhentil Keep. It's been rare that a more modern computer roleplaying game, despite the high-powered graphics, has been able to keep my attention in the same way.

The more books I read, to say nothing of book reviews, the more I become convinced that immersion in sf/f, as in games, is not a function of "realism" or even, necessarily, of meticulous worldbuilding. What a given reader will find acceptable--"plausible"--seems to be a function of familiarity or preexisting prejudice. We have hordes of hard sf books where faster-than-light drives are casually referenced; Jack Campbell's (excellent) military sf adventures have ships maneuvering at significant percentages of the speed of light yet the Lorentzian contraction factor never comes into play. The message I take from this is to choose what matters to you, and don't worry about the rest, because there is no such thing as perfect worldbuilding. I am not even convinced that perfect worldbuilding of the intensely time-consuming Tolkienian type is always desirable. Certainly it is sometimes desirable (it is difficult to argue with Tolkien's success!). But that doesn't mean it is the only storytelling mode that can work.

We accept all kinds of compromises with reality as part of the "speculative" part of speculative fiction. If you're telling a branching-lives story about how a woman's life might have played out if she had come to different decisions about how to handle her best friend's illness, is it all that realistic from a quantum mechanical "many-worlds" hypothesis standpoint that all the branches being explored have to do with her emotional crisis? When I'm reading a Warhammer 40,000 adventure in the grimdark future, does it really matter that the Latin is distorted in odd ways? If I had to read every line of dialogue in footnotes in a work that sought to represent pervasive multilingualism, would it really enhance my pleasure in the story, as opposed to concessions to the author and reader's actual shared language(s) and the occasional too-good-to-resist pun that exists in English but probably not as well in the constructed language of your choice?

Different readers care about different worldbuilding details; different writers care about different worldbuilding details, and both groups have differing areas of expertise. What's more, a given story may not rely in the slightest on a realistic depiction of its setting. I can watch Suits and enjoy the banter and office politics because I don't have the faintest clue how a law firm runs, but some of my friends are lawyers and they have all told me that they can't stand that show. Suits might perhaps best be considered a fantasy (in the loose sense of the term) only vaguely using the furniture of a law firm as a backdrop for its exchanges and power plays. If Suits had been written--worldbuilt--with greater attention to how law firms and legal negotiations actually work, it wouldn't do thing one to enhance my enjoyment of the show. That level of mimesis in that particular area is simply not relevant.

In its way, a story can be likened to a model. And no model can perfectly replicate the original, or it wouldn't be a model anymore. As an author, I want to carefully choose where I expend my effort building a world. If the story is mostly concerned about gardening, there might be much discussion of mulch, weather patterns, and slugs, but less care taken with the provenance of the yarn that shows up in a one-line throwaway. Not every aspect of a story can be rendered with equal depth, nor should it be. When I spend a lot of time on that mulch, and very little on the yarn, I am signaling to the reader what is important in this particular story. (And also saving myself time researching fancy yarns. As an ex-knitter, I have been that route!)

It is not that worldbuilding is bad. It is that worldbuilding is a tool, like any other--to be used judiciously.

(yes I know I'm a massive hypocrite)

[cross-post: Patreon]

Rules of Play

Mar. 28th, 2017 03:24 pm
yhlee: icosahedron (d20) (d20 (credit: bag_fu on LJ))
[personal profile] yhlee
The most recent book I read is Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman's Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. I never had a very large collection of books on game design and game design theory, but I lost almost all of them in the flood last year. Generous benefactors, donated replacements for a couple, which I am still reading (I tend to bounce between books); but it also occurred to me that I could check the local public library for any game design books. This was one of my finds.

My interest in game design comes partly from screwing around with game design, as you might expect; past efforts have included parser IF (interactive fiction--think text adventures like Zork), a really terrible Monopoly mod involving thoroughbred racing, and a fantasy adventure game that inadvertently resembled Talisman more than it had any right to. It also partly comes from the intersection of game-as-narrative and narrative-for-writing, and partly from my fascination with game designer John Wick's statement that roleplaying games are the most immersive form of storytelling because they're the only kind in which the audience is also the author. (Something like that. I'll try to dig up the exact quote sometime.)

So, here are the good things about Rules of Play: it is 600 pages of chewy, thoughtful, massively interdisciplinary theorizing about how games work, what makes them tick, what makes good games good. While it's copyright 2004, I would say that on a theoretical level almost all of its material remains relevant, even when some of the examples are dated. (I mean, I suspect that Chess is still Chess, you know?) It is also one of the most beautifully organized textbooks I have ever seen. The book is divided into thematic units (Core Concepts, Rules, Play, and Culture; Rules, Play, and Culture represent three outward-expanding schemas through which games can be studied), and each unit into chapters. Each chapter lucidly explicates different frames (e.g. Games as Emergent Systems, Games as Narrative Play, Games as Cultural Resistance), and ends in a 1-2 page summary with vocabulary/terminology bolded for easy notetaking. (I did just that--I copied out all the summaries. If the book had been of a size amenable to photocopying, I would have done that instead, but alas.) There are also recommended readings that further elucidate on the topics of each chapter, a few of which I was already familiar with, most of which not.

Also interestingly, each unit ends with a commissioned game that requires very basic materials (think a deck of playing cards, or some six-sided dice, or a game board printed in the book itself) as well as the designer's notes/diary on the design and playtesting process. The game designers are Richard Garfield (who is best known for Magic: The Gathering), Frank Lantz (Gearheads and The Robot Club), Kira Snyder (Game Designer and Lead Writer on Majestic at Electronic Arts), and James Ernest (Cheapass Games, e.g. Kill Doctor Lucky and Give Me the Brain). I was particularly taken by the beauty and cleverness of Lantz's Ironclad, which is almost two games in one on a 6x8 checkerboard, with one game taking place on the squares and the other on the intersections, and the two inner games interacting with each other in interesting ways.

This is an excellent textbook, and I do not hesitate to recommend it if you are interested in game design theory, but it comes with an ENORMOUS caveat--not something that's bad, but something you should be aware of. It is that this book will not teach you how to design a game. It will teach you a ton of theory about game design and analysis. But it will not lead you through the game design process, or present exercises, or talk about rapid prototyping, or about the business side of the game industry, or any of that. I can in fact imagine someone picking up and reading this book and not ending up with much clue as to how to start designing a game. It would undoubtedly make a fantastic supplemental text to a course on actually doing so, of course. But as far as practical game-designing advice goes, you'll want to go elsewhere.

The most accessible resource I have seen for actually learning to design a game remains Ian Schreiber's online course Game Design Concepts, although it also requires the text Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. That text is well worth it, and is more hands-on as well (I have read it, although God knows I didn't do the exercises--so many exercises!). As an example of how Schreiber's approach differs, one of the first things GDC does is to lead you through the creation of an extremely simple racing game. It's not an original game. It's not even necessarily an interesting game. But it does break that first "What do I do?" block.

[cross-post: Patreon]

okay now i can go eat my ramen for lunch LUNCH LUNCH OM NOM NOM

Poetry Fishbowl on Tuesday, April 4

Mar. 28th, 2017 01:48 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This is an advance announcement for the Tuesday, April 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. This time the theme will be "living in the cracks." I'll be soliciting ideas for ordinary people, outcasts, the misunderstood, fish out of water, abuse survivors, troubled relationships, the women that men don't see, QUILTBAG folks, people of color, bodyguards, hermits, people with detested superpowers, "evil" races, untouchables, burakumin, former or current criminals, foster children, others on the fringes of society, looking in the window, standing in the rain, taking people for granted, expecting the unexpected, pushing people into the cracks, surviving oppression, hiding, upstanding, speaking truth to power, facing your demons, punching up, protesting, keeping a lid on it, reservations, cities, slums, classrooms, counseling offices, lairs, alleys, subways and sewers, liminal zones, government buildings, playgrounds, self-sacrifice, disruptions, soup care, unusual vulnerabilities, minority languages, the inescapable, poorskills, humility, humiliation, history written by the losers, appreciation, useful junk, and poetic forms in particular.

I have a linkback poem, "The Quick Brown Fox" (11 verses, Polychrome Heroics). 

If you're interested, mark the date on your calendar, and please hold actual prompts until the "Poetry Fishbowl Open" post next week.  (If you're not available that day, or you live in a time zone that makes it hard to reach me, you can leave advance prompts.  I am now.)  Meanwhile, if you want to help with promotion, please feel free to link back here or repost this on your blog. 

New to the fishbowl? Read all about it! )

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

The Libertarian Futurist Society
has announced five finalists for the Best Novel category of the 37th annual Prometheus Awards

The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Corporation Wars: Insurgence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins)
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo (translated by Lola Rogers) (Grove Press/Black Cat)
Blade of p'Na by L. Neil Smith (Phoenix Pick)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This month's theme was "small yet crucial moments of courage." I wrote from 12:15 PM to 7:45 AM, so about 17 hours 30 minutes allowing for lunch and supper breaks. I wrote 7 poems on Tuesday and another 11 later.

Participation was lively, with 20 comments on LiveJournal and 100 on Dreamwidth. There were no new commenters.


Read Some Poetry!
The following poems from the March 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl have been posted:
"Balancing on a Cliff"
"A Bridged Right"
"A Dangerous Thing with Style"
"In That Terrible Inbetween"
"Listening Back"
"Running Away from the Circus"
"Ruts in the Road"
"Stepping Out"
"A Tornado of Thought"
"What Real Courage Is"
"The Whip of His Own Remorse"
"Why Can't We Accept It?"

"Leaves Upon the Water" (December 6, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl)
"Spooked" (Polychrome Heroics, January 3, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl)


Buy some poetry!
If you plan to sponsor some poetry but haven't made up your mind yet, see the unsold poetry list for March 7, 2017. That includes the title, length, price, and the original thumbnail description for the poems still available.

All currently sponsored poems have been posted. Donors this time include: [livejournal.com profile] goldbach5[livejournal.com profile] rix_scaedu[personal profile] janetmiles[personal profile] technoshaman, Anthony & Shirley Barrette.

The Poetry Fishbowl made its $200 goal, so "Spooked" was the free epic.  We also made the $250 goal, so that's three tallies toward a bonus session.


The Poetry Fishbowl project also has a permanent landing page.

General Fund Poll

Mar. 27th, 2017 09:56 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
 There's a general fund poll over in my LJ.

brief and journal-esque

Mar. 27th, 2017 07:54 pm
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
I am at my parent’s home, my childhood home, in Kansas City, cleaning out my closet and bedroom. About sixteen large boxes of papers to go thru, ranging from elementary on up thru grad school, much of it sorted repeatedly but all still needing reorganizing and tossing of much of it, but not all - I refuse to toss everything. Lots of fun going thru memories; avoiding ruminating on change, loss, etc so far. Joy in noticing continuities and recovering old creative work. I was very prolific with poetry, sketching, world-building, and childish short stories! Need to tap back into some of it and keep going. Feeling strange but overall positive at this point. Just shy of halfway of a first pass thru all the boxen, getting rid of obvious junk only.

eeeeee

Mar. 27th, 2017 10:27 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
I get to toy with being a living example of the Peter Principle at work.

GOP D&D

Mar. 27th, 2017 01:52 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
New game.  Do not read with mouth full.

Okay, everyone, roll for initiative ...
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
 [personal profile] dialecticdreamer has posted the story "Hidden Complication."  World Worker finds out about Halley's mistake and goes to clean up the mess.

Fidget Spinners

Mar. 27th, 2017 12:49 am
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
 [personal profile] technoshaman tipped me to these clinical-grade fidget spinners.  Multiple shapes, colors, and bearing options.  

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catherineldf

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