On stopping in the middle of a first draft and starting over, sort of.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/26 17:00
Late last week I did something I've done a couple of times before with other works-in-progress, although only reluctantly and after great deliberation. I stopped only partway through the first draft, backed up, and started over. No, I didn't throw out everything; I'm not quite that crazy.
No more superhero/wizard academies based on British boarding schools, please!By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/26 09:00
A minor thought, but one that amused me all the same: Why are all academies for superheroes, budding wizards, etc. (although mainly wizards, it seems) based off the British boarding-school model? Why can't we have them in the manner of, say, a Montessori school, or the New School For Social Research (for the older students), or A.S. Neill's Summerhill (for the much younger ones)? The closest thing I can think of that works in this vein is Professor X's school, but even there the details are hazy.
Come to think of it, maybe my real question is: Why not have a story about the actual education of these folks, instead of just whatever overheated megaplot the author can cook up? Why not a story about the actual difficulties involved in creating a curriculum for such students? I'm sure someone has already beaten me to it, but a man does wonder.
Instead of attacking them head-on.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/22 08:00
In the introduction to the revised edition of Stephen Jay Gould's ever-excellent The Mismeasure Of Man, Gould writes:
If I have learned one thing as a monthly essayist for more than twenty years, I have come to understand the power of treating generalities by particulars. It is no use writing a book on "the meaning of life" (though we all long to know the answers to such great questions, while rightly suspecting that true solutions do not exist!). But an essay on "the meaning of 0.400 hitting in baseball" can reach a genuine conclusion with surprisingly extensive relevance to such broad topics as the nature of trends, the meaning of excellence, and even (believe it nor not) the constitution of natural reality. You have to sneak up on generalities, not assault them head-on. One of my favorite lines, from G. K. Chesterton, proclaims: "Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame."
Emphasis mine. Many of my favorite books, typically nonfiction, have been about the way a humble subject can be opened up to expose tremendous depths. One of the reasons I became a fan of film criticism at a young age was not just because I had early exposure to some of the best such folks around (Ebert), but because of the way a good discussion about a work of art or an art form was a way to talk about the totality of things — "a means of rapid transportation to Life Everlasting, and to Life, period," as John Cage once said about the meaning of music.
A photographer deleted his social media presence to save his creative instincts. A wise idea.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/21 08:00
... social media trains us to create and post in a manner that pleases the apps’ algorithm. If a post does really well and followers respond well to a certain kind of image or technique, we begin to form a Pavlovian drive to replicate that response.
For example, when I post an image with a lot of red or shutter drag, those images would outperform my other posts by two or three times. Over time this began to motivate me to not only post more images with movement or red, but I would also shoot more in that manner. My art was becoming a meme.
Aside from the social media affecting the type of work that I create, there is also the human element to consider. Personally, I am someone who gleans much of my information through external data points. I overthink everything. This makes social media a minefield for someone like me. I would analyze likes and follows and unfollows and draw conclusions based on what were likely benign engagements, and I would arrive at concrete and final conclusions that negatively impacted real-life relationships.
... I personally believe that humans aren’t built to have relationships with thousands of people. We can care for a core group of friends and family, and beyond that our interactions will be short and shallow, and relationships will inevitably fall between the cracks.
Anyone creating for an audience larger than themselves will eventually run into the issue of how to process and use feedback from their audience. This is an art at least as complex as the art of creation itself, because it requires you to do all kinds of difficult and counterintuitive things. You have to hear out good advice when it comes from bad people, and ignore bad advice when it comes from someone close and trustworthy.
Zen as nonintellectual, rather than anti-intellectual. But also non-passive.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/20 08:00
Some time back, when I was a relatively new student of Zen, I mentioned the fact that I was such a student offhandedly to someone. I knew this person not better than casually, so their opinion wasn't of much consequence to me. What took me aback was the dismissive response: "I don't like Eastern religions, they're too passive." So I asked him about that TV show he had mentioned a couple of sentences back, and he went off on that tack for a good ten minutes.
On the difference between foxes and hedgehogs.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/16 13:00
A good insight:
I’m also doubting the relevance of the ancient distinction between foxes (which know many things) and hedgehogs (which know one big thing). The important thing isn’t whether you know one thing or many things, but whether you what what’s relevant and what’s not.
I do like the fox/hedgehog distinction, but I think Chris's point is valid. A lot of trivia is not materially more useful than only a handful of trivia, and a lot of valid wisdom is far more powerful than both a little wisdom and any amount of trivia.
On the other hand, fox/hedgehog may never have been intended as an important distinction in the sense of which method is more useful. The reason for making the distinction is about understanding how different people can see the world, and to what end. Some people see a forest, some see a few trees. If you know what inclination that person has, you have some idea of how to approach them, how to interpret their interpretations of things.
Notes from early on in the first draft of the new novel, 'The Fall Of The Hammer'.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/15 17:00
I haven't been posting much the last few days, not because of the site upgrade that temporarily borked my blogging software (or because of the idiotic self-inflicted political chaos that has become the hallmark of this moment in time) but because I've been up to the elbows and shins in writing the first draft of The Fall Of The Hammer. A couple of insights have already surfaced.
We're back!By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/15 10:24
I couldn't post anything to my site for a while due to a problem with my hosting provider (they upgraded and broke something), but they got everything squared away last night. Kudos to A2Hosting for handling it well. If I'd been running WordPress, odds are you wouldn't have been able to even read the site. Static content generation for the win!
Tags: excuse our dust
If remakes are trash, it's because the true potential of such a project is not the motive.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/09 13:00
Some time back I noted that in technology, it doesn't matter to anyone except historians, patent lawyers* and nerds who did something first. It matters who does something best, because that's the only part of it the majority of us are ever going to have any commerce with.
The name "Genji Press" doesn't really fit me anymore, and I'm not sure it ever did. Time for a new one?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/06 08:00
I was doing some site housekeeping the other day when it came to me that the "Genji Press" name doesn't fit what I'm doing anymore, and hasn't fit for a long time.
I have never been all that happy with the decision I made around the name. I picked it because the first couple of works I produced under the label had been set in Japan (Summerworld, Tokyo Inferno), and I had vague plans for doing more in that vein. But I've drifted away from such projects, and the label no longer reflects what I'm trying to do with my work. It's just a name. It's not me.
I'm also not thrilled with the idea that it could be seen as culturally appropriative. I should point out that nobody else has told me this; this is something I realized on my own, if only belatedly. It's 2019, not 2006, and I should be realistic about how some things can be a bad look even when you never intend them.
I've started, in the background, a search for some possible new names for the outfit. Don't expect anything to come of this immediately. But it's something I now have as a low-level ongoing mission. Maybe by the end of the year, you'll see a rebranding, and even after that the old Genji Press addresses will still work (if only as redirects). For now, though, normal service will continue uninterrupted.
How the Open Library is keeping me from drowning in books.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/04 17:00
One thing that always endeared me to living in or near New York City is the plethora of used bookstores that still exist there even in these times of high-rent blight. The Strand is more or less here for keeps (I hope); the occasional indie store still manages to keep its torch burning. Where I am now, though, there's nothing like that, and so I've had to compromise.
A major compensation for me is the Open Library, where newly digitized titles are added to the collection all the time. Browsing the "Just Arrived" section there is like hanging out in the discount rack of the Strand, and I use what I find there to add to my list of things to read someday. One of these years I'm just going to have to take the year off from every other project I have cooking and get caught up, but I have the nagging feeling that's a fantasy doomed to remain ephemeral and distant as "when I get my pension"
On recommending books as a way for authors to get perspective on a current or future work of their own.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/01 17:00
Whenever I run into other creators and they ask me for advice about something they're working on, one of the first things I tend to do is say something like, "Have you read [name of work with some distant but useful connection to their own] yet?" Not as a way to accuse them of being out of touch or not well-read, but as a way to say, look at the way this work or this author (and this one, and this one) approached a problem parallel to what you're doing.
Those who embrace creativity take control of their lives. It's a contagious thing.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/01 13:00
Savage Steve has a nice one about how people write because it provides them with a sense of being able to control something in their lives.
Many studies have been performed about the nature of volition in human life, and they all seem to point at the same things: you have to take control of what is within reach, and let things you can't control unfold as they must. People who have a sense of powerlessness about their lives can remediate that to some degree by taking back what's immediately in front of them. This is why lifestyle mags often say things like, when you're depressed, clean your sink or organize your closet.
I think the danger of this advice is in feeling like the line between what you can and can't control is set for you. All signs point to that line being set perceptually, not practically. It might have been drawn before you were born, but that doesn't mean you can't move it a few inches.
Science fiction, rebooted.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind