DreamWidth journal archive
I finally started backing up my shorter, less important entries from my DreamWidth journal. It's harder to find a specific one here, but it's also hard to beat a 32K text file. For longer posts, see my thoughts on writing.
Since these posts are still ongoing, I put them in HTML Journal format, just in case. Hope this helps!
People often ask which writers inspired me. That's hard to say after a lifetime of reading, but I can try.
Isaac Asimov taught me about camaraderie, and the value of forgiveness. Also that people can have shared experiences across decades, and continents.
Michael Crighton taught me a different vision of computers, of a world that could have been. Better yet, to keep my humanity amidst technological challenges.
Michael Moorcock taught me that the line between fantasy and sci-fi is blurry at best. That it's all a story, and plausibility is not what makes it real.
There are others. Ursula K. LeGuin, and her constant urge: be true to yourself. William Gibson, and the neon poetry in his cyberpunk. Romanian writers who weren't afraid to be self-conscious, craft their work with purpose and address the reader directly.
Now my friends say I inspired them. That makes me want to go on and do better.
But then, they inspired me, too. I can do no less in return.
2023-03-23 Jobs and lies
The world received a big shakeout over the past three years. Two different kinds of fallout drifted down from it. And the first one was the so-called "great resignation", which 1) isn't new and 2) it's just boss-speak for, "oh noes, workers are waking up". Well, there has been a more specific form of worker shortage in the UK (due to Brexit) and the US (due to anti-immigration policies).
I was talking to a friend just the other day (hi, Borris), who told me about the lack of certain medication from pharmacies in parts of the US. He blamed it on not enough truck drivers... while in the same breath telling me about a friend of his who can't seem to find work as a truck driver. Supposedly the governor of California introduced a law to only allow union workers into jobs like these.
Maybe it's even true, I haven't checked. But to me that sounds fishy as hell, for two reasons:
- it sounds way too much like the systematic union fearmongering we've been hearing for even longer now;
- I know for a fact that other US states introduced laws to bring the hiring age for truck drivers as low as 16.
My dear friend, I told him, you've been lied to.
Even so, I wouldn't have bothered writing this rant, but look what crossed my Mastodon feed this morning. Turns out the supposed worker shortage may have been fabricated by abusive employers keeping up job postings despite the lack of any actual openings, as a way to pressure their existing (and already overworked) employees.
Just like the supposed energy crisis turned out to be pure price speculation, using ongoing world events as a pretext. Go figure.
Now and then my dreams are outright sci-fi.
Last night's happened in a desert area. I was with someone, a younger man, not from real life. At first we found ourselves in a war zone. Not sure how, but for some reason we were talking about the new Dune movie. I had a futuristic handgun, too. Never had to use it. The fighting was always over the next hill, and then a sandstorm started. We took refuge in a scattered city, partly sheltered in a caldera; it was expensive, so we could do little more than walk around. The architecture was Communist. Lots of stores, but many were shuttered.
We ended up on the beach. There was a beach. In retrospect it must have been a large lake, not the sea, because desert. We took refuge in a ruined house, and started thinking how to fix it up. That's when I woke up, but there's a story.
2022-07-23 Misunderstading Pratchett
This morning I was reading The Digital Antiquarian's take on Pratchett, and finally realized why I never understood the latter's fiction.
Look. My stories, too, are about ordinary flawed people only trying to save their own little world, as best they can. But that's just it: they're trying in earnest. Not taking refuge in hollow irony. Sometimes they stumble or have doubts, because it's all part of life. Sometimes they fall in love, others laugh at them, or both. But their struggles are real. Not anyone's joke.
And sometimes they end up saving the capital-W world anyway. Comes packaged with getting involved in major events way over their head. That's what Tolkien got right, and Pratchett didn't: you're not too small. Your efforts matter. Even if you fail, your story can inspire others one day. Keep the flame alive.
Which is exactly what Tolkien's imitators later did. What is it with this obsession to mock Tolkien and his fans anyway? Or for that matter Star Wars? The villains in both are so obvious, down to literal color coding, precisely because subtlety doesn't work. And so many people still missed the message. Much like with cyberpunk, go figure.
At least Pratchett never fell into the trap of cynicism that ruined the next couple of generations. We could at least take this one lesson from his writing.
2022-06-03 When blogs malfunction
I wanted to make a blog post here, but can't remember what it was about. My fault, really. Should have made a quick draft right away instead of waiting to deal with other things first. Or rather, waiting for the idea to crystallize while doing something else. Never noticed this problem before.
Blogs, you see, have a couple of better-known failure modes: one, when you don't know what to write and it fizzles out after a handful of posts, tops. And two, when you have a lot to write about, and valuable old posts soon end up buried under an avalanche of new words.
This would be failure mode #3, then: when you have something to say but don't say it because blog posts are supposed to be these long, fancy essays full of undying wisdom.
These days, I don't feel especially talkative or very wise.
That's why one of my blogs ended before New Year, while another will get its final post next month. As for this one... it can go on for a while longer. At the stately pace of five or six posts a year, it's hardly a burden.
But mostly I should let go already and learn to throw together loose posts without worrying too much about the form. I'm just ranting at friends here after all, not writing a scientific treatise. Pick them up and flesh them out later if they're worth the trouble; that's so much easier than doing all the work upfront. Been doing it elsewhere as of late, actually. Helps a lot. But old habits die hard.
2022-02-15 Found language
Oh, yikes. It's mid-February, and I haven't written a thing since well before the holidays. Again.
I wouldn't have known what to write about, either, but for a Twitter thread about language and its nuances.
English is problematic. It's the language of imperialism; that's how it ended up being spoken across much of the world. It's also a beautiful language, with some unique qualities, which borrowed a bewildering amount of words and such from all over the place and mixed them up into a unique blend. Native speakers tend to make fun of it (you probably know the saying), but it's not so simple.
As a kid, I expected to become a writer in my native tongue. Instead, I became one in my third, and not just because it granted me a vast potential audience. There was that, too, at first anyway, or at least that's what I told myself then.
But frankly? In recent years I tend to think of English more and more as my native tongue, even though it's not and never can be. But just as one can find family far from home, one can also find language, apparently.
So yes, I'm an English language writer, even though it's not the language I speak out loud on a daily basis. I'm not a writer in my own country and wouldn't want to be one. My culture, my real culture, is out here.
Thank you for having me.
2021-11-12 No-nothing November
I've been quiet for two whole months again. Not many updates to post here when my creative output is all code and life is spent fearing the (near) future.
Meanwhile, me and my friends kept talking about our new sci-fi setting, as mentioned back in summer. There wasn't much progress since, for various reasons, but it's a lot of fun to explore. I keep meaning to start work on a sequel. So far intent is as far as it goes. All the talk of worldbuilding and literary theory can't replace reading, clearly, and it's been a while since I've read much fiction at all. Not sure why. Haven't felt like looking for any in a long time.
Oh well, nothing to do but try and refill my inkwell in other ways.
But how? My world has become so small as of late. I've been collecting old fragments of writing that used to lie scattered about my hard drive. Been learning new things, too. Changing perspectives should help. New ways to organize information and look at it. Or old ways, rediscovered.
Oh, who am I kidding. See you in December.
This morning I came across a good forum thread about the Medieval Stasis trope. Obviously it applies to all writing, not just for games. And sure, it's not easy to give readers a sense of history in motion. Short of making up thousands of years' worth of fictional events, possibly spread across many nations, what to do?
Various techniques are discussed that can help, but my method is twofold: first, to write about a certain moment in time, but one of change, to remind the reader that the setting as depicted is already passing; and second, to focus on a small corner of the same setting, so I can describe it in lavish detail, including how it's influenced by the rest of the world, because nothing exists in isolation.
I'm reminded of an interview with Auguste Rodin, in which he was asked how he was creating his famously dynamic statues that appear to be surprised in motion, and not simply posing. His answer was, capture the subject in-between two acts, for example someone reaching to wave at a passing friend even as they're taking another step. Sounds about right.
2021-08-09 Slow summer
Two months passed without any post here at all. Not for the first time, either. That's what I get for making it mainly a writing blog and then not doing much writing.
At least it helps my friends. It's not every day that your work gives birth to a shared setting. Believe me, I tried that on purpose once or twice. Doesn't work that way. All we can do is write, share and hope.
Otherwise, I've been enjoying summer. Getting air, seeing friends and relatives, being creative in other ways... You know, life.
See you around while we still can. Cheers, and thanks for reading.
I had another cool dream last night. I was a monk in a vaguely Asian-themed monastic order, on a pilgrimage to a distant temple for an important festival. Once there, I somehow got involved with and got to meet the local nobility, who were throwing a big party of their own at the same time. Except they were styled more after 19th century Russia or some such. Sure enough, trains were a thing.
By the end, it turned out to be more of a sci-fi convention focused on a popular franchise that had been an accidental success, spiraling from an advertising campaign. Which made sense seeing how my travel clothes were in fact modern...
Oh, there was also a videogame sequence involving an escape from tunnels / caves beneath the temple while they filled with lava, but that was brief and strange.
Edit: as of 18 August 2022, I wrote a complete story based on this. It's too long to post on this blog, but you might want to be aware, if you have similar intentions.
There are two interesting critiques of Communism in sci-fi.
One is in The Disposessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin. It’s about a distant planet where the Communists, instead of making a revolution, ran off to their moon (which is really big, more like Mars). They solve the problem of “who takes out the trash” by having absolutely everyone take turns, without exceptions. And the protagonist is all, “look, it’s kind of hard for me to be a brilliant scientist working to improve everyone’s lives when I have to stop all the time and spend a few weeks working as a garbage man”. The point being, sure, it has to be done, and it’s fair to share the burden, but that has to have limits.
(No seriously, imagine a surgeon having to personally wash the operating room spotless before being able to bring in the patient.)
A similar take can be found in The Doomed City, a novel by the Strugatsky Brothers. There everyone is rotated between jobs at regular intervals. A manager can always end up a janitor and the other way around. Which is good up to a point because everyone learns a little of everything and gets to know how everyone else lives. But ultimately it causes more problems than it solves because everyone is better at some jobs and terrible at others, but they have to switch anyway. In fact one of the main characters prefers to be a garbage man: a humble, low-key job that helps everyone but doesn’t put pressure on him. And he has to feint the system to stay where he’d rather be, at increasing peril to himself, while people who proved themselves as good managers must abandon their posts to be a sales clerk or whatever for a while.
That was the big problem with Communism, you see: much like Capitalism, it was deeply inhumane, treating people like cogs in a machine. “From each according to their abilities.” Measured how? “To each according to their needs.” Determined by whom?
2020-10-23 The machine stops again
It's been nearly two months since my last post here. I'm forcing myself to write even this much.
A friend died earlier this month. You know what's been even harder to deal with? The grief of his other friends.
I've been coding furiously as of late, and writing about it. But I do that under another name, not that anyone cares anymore, either way.
This is where the machine stops. I wrote that before, on a blogging service that's now long gone. Back when nobody knew how good we had it. Well, this time it seems to be for real.
Make no mistake. What's been going on in the world this year? That's not what will do us in. It's only the straw that broke the camel's back. The little flaw shattering the illusion of a working system.
You know those old cartoons where a character keeps walking on thin air after reaching the edge, and only tumble down when they notice? Look in a mirror.
These days mirrors show me with the head of an ass. That used to be a thing in old cartoons, too.
All my life I watched how everyone around me could afford to be no matter how oblivious, careless and reckless (on a regular basis, too) and no-one would say a word. While if I had the tiniest brainfart once, everyone would mock me or berate me. Often both.
All my life I watched how everyone around me could afford to just up and do whatever without explaining themselves. While people asked me to justify the most inconsequential decision in ample detail. And when I did (because I don't make decisions lightly), their eyes would glaze over.
Guess they didn't really care, they just wanted to control me.
All my life I watched how everyone around me could afford to spout nonsense and insults left and right and face no consequences. But if I said one thing bad out of ignorance, that made me a villain.
All my life I watched how everyone around me could afford to have strong opinions on the most inconsequential things, while I was expected to be all wishy-washy about important matters that impacted my life in a big way.
How do I know what's important to others? you're going to ask. Well, how do they know what's important to me? Because everyone seems keen to tell me what I'm allowed to have feelings about (which is pretty much nothing), but if I point out stuff that can demonstrably hurt us all, people — wait for it — yell at me.
Nothing I say is ever right. Yet people have the guts to ask why I always stay out of conversations.
All my life. Always the same story. While others can just... be.
2020-07-14 Movies, music and
Content warning: mention of fictional death and real hopelessness.
I watched Soylent Green sometime in my teenage years. After that, a curious thing happened: every time I heard Vivaldi's music, it would make me cringe and feel the chill of death.
Years have passed, and the feeling subsided. But even now, a quarter century later or more, The Spring is funeral music to me...
I think there are three lessons to take from that:
- The human mind is a powerful thing.
- Art is even more powerful, if anything.
- Context is everything.
But the most important takeaway is, we must do everything in our power to avert a future like in that movie. Don't let the world get so bad that people no longer find a reason to live. Hardship and danger we can handle. Together. Losing hope however would be certain death. And the problem with that is, death tends to be very, very final.
Let's make it so that Vivaldi's cheerful music celebrates life again.
I had the strangest dream last night. It was about a man, ostensibly in the real world, who comes across a dragon. Not sure which kind of was, mostly Eastern except with some Western traits I think? Either way, the man was so depressed, he let the dragon swallow him whole without a struggle. But then he awakened in his bed. Turned out the dragon was looking for a place to hide from enemies of some sort, and where do you hide a dragon?
Not very original, come to think of it, but then what do you expect from a dream? And two broken beings merging to form a functional whole is a theme I wrote about before. Feel free to borrow.
2020-05-03 Social Media May
So, it's been almost a month since I posted anything on Dreamwidth, and a look at my recent writing suggests it's time for a social media status report.
For one thing: I missed it at the time, but a couple of weeks ago FurAffinity updated their terms and conditions, with a small but essential provision: no Nazis. Yep... took them a while, but they finally did that. And from the sound of it, the service is doing well otherwise too, so they might be around for a while after all.
I'm still not so sure about Tumblr, which recently deployed an updated dashboard that almost forced me to abandon the service. To their credit, fixes appeared quickly, and now it's merely annoying as opposed to unusable. Somehow, I doubt that will be enough to stop its decline, but hey, the new owner is actually trying.
Suffice to say, I won't be going back, and a lot of people seem to share my feelings. Maybe I'll start over somewhere else... someday... if I can bring a few friends along. Maybe.
More likely however I'm going to do more in places that deserve it, such as right here. Won't be the same, but oh well.
2019-12-04 Year in Dreamwidth
As of this Saturday, I'll have been on Dreamwidth for a year.
You wouldn't know it from my schedule here, or the tone of my recent posts, but I love this place and hope it endures. Which is by no means a given, between things like the recent sale of the .org TLD (please help save it if you can) and the even bigger threat of Article 13 (did you forget about it? EU lawmakers haven't). The power of corporate lobbying reaches far these days. That silencing the masses also happens to suit increasingly authoritarian governments everywhere is just the icing on the cake. With efforts to decentralize the internet again far from ready, things are about to get rough.
But enough politics. I was hoping to avoid it here. For now, dangers to social media are more immediate. The other shoe has dropped for Smack Jeeves, whose redesign broke the site and scattered the community. While the dust settles on that fiasco, and it will take some time, Tumblr is one social network still plodding along just fine. Well, at least until the new owner actually takes over and discovers what mess they got for their money. That 80% of users are still there (if the list of people I follow is any indication) may not mean so much. Those who left still number in the millions, and will pull others after them.
Suffice to say, in recent months I've posted more original content here, not even counting the various groups I'm in.
It's probably time to take down the little sticky post that started this blog and make myself comfortable. For as long as it lasts, anyway. My expectations are low in this day and age when everything is slipping away like in a bad dream.
Not looking forward to 2020. How about you?
Update: as of 1 May 2020, the .org domain is saved. Guess that makes the year not a total disaster.
2019-09-18 Social in September
Autumn is coming, and I've got nothing to put here. Figured it's best to post something anyway, before this turns into the second skip month in a row. Trouble is, I'm not so great at being personal. Not even on social media. Speaking of which: for the past nine months, everyone's been waiting for the other shoe to drop with regard to Tumblr. As you might have heard, it was acquired after all, though by an unexpected buyer: Automattic, the makers of WordPress. A competitor of DreamWidth, and one with more market share than is healthy. Think that's great news? Wait until they figure out how many of those registered users in fact abandoned the platform, and have zero reasons to return.
Acquisitions like this seldom go over well. FurAffinity's did, surprisingly enough, seeing how it's still in active development, but otherwise? SmugMug bought Flickr, and promptly pissed off paid and free users alike with their nickel-and-diming. Sure enough, they haven't done a thing with the site in over half a year now. They're probably wondering how to close it down without angering a huge cross-section of the Internet, from artists to scholars. Smack Jeeves sold itself off a year ago to some Asian company. Their last official blog post was three months later. Another one for the death watch.
Meanwhile, can you guess which other social network I'm on is doing great? Yep... Mastodon. Which makes a point of not selling out, among other things. There's been some drama, and danger, but they're being dealt with. (Being decentralized helps.) Even those that struggle to keep the lights on, and I know a few, are at least lively, and hopeful. Funny how humanity matters, even in tech. Maybe more so in tech than anywhere else.
Because you see, just like the Tin Man, the IT industry has no heart and must be very careful all the time not to hurt anyone by mistake.
I'm tired. Should probably make more art soon. It's been a while.
2019-05-15 Social media isn't just about features
A friend who just joined Mastodon asked what they can do there that they couldn't on Twitter. Here's what I answered:
You can talk to people in other places that aren't (just) about furries. You can talk to services that aren't like Twitter. You can use any client you want forever, without fear that the platform will start banning them.
You can trust that moderators genuinely care about this place and listen to people. You can support them directly, knowing they'll understand if you lack the means. You can be free of ads, induced rage and other manipulation.
Social media isn't just about features. Corporations want you to think it is, so you'll keep buying the latest shiny nothings they're selling this week. Don't fall into that trap. Why are you here in the first place?
We need very little to be happy. We do, however, need the right things for it. And as of late everyone's trying to sell us the stuff they want to sell, with no concern for... just about anything else.
Me: *points out a problem with modern society*
Internet: But, but, what about this?
Me: *explains at length*
Internet: Wait, wait, what about that?
Me: *explains even more*
Internet: How about those other aspects?
Me: *goes much deeper into details*
Internet: I can't counter anything you said. I just disagree because I think everything is peachy.
2019-03-29 Narrow horizons and frozen minds — or sf/f shouldn’t be an old boys’ club
Here’s a blog post I wish I had written myself:
The tired cliche that there are certain “classics” of sf/f that one must have read in order to be a real fan has reared its ugly head. The current iteration is an assertion that writers of sf/f (aspiring or otherwise) who have not read the classics are not able to write good sf/f. And specifically the “classics” one is supposedly required to read and love in order to be a good writer of science fiction and fantasy are the usual suspects: Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, and so on.
I’ll see your Shelley and LeGuin and raise a Diane Duane plus a Lois McMaster Bujold. Or even if I was to stick with old white men, how come nobody ever seems to mention Michael Moorcock and the bizarre exuberance of The Dancers at the End of Time? (Too bad all his other stuff is the same old grimdark wank everyone else was writing.) At least Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams have fans, though I’m not sure how many of them truly understood either author. But as the same blogger quips later:
Just as one can learn to drive a modern car without first mastering the horse and buggy, you can learn to write without memorizing a specific set of books from a very narrow set of writers who were working 60+ years ago.
Amen to that. Broaden your horizons, sci-fi fans. That’s the whole point.
2019-01-15 Midwinter musings
We're halfway through January and I'm yet to post anything here in the way of greeting 2019. Funny how on my other blog, the one that has my real name on it, I burned through my self-imposed quota in less than two weeks. Not that it matters to anyone but myself. And you know what? After expecting to have little activity and making no less than 12 posts in my first month here, skipping this one entirely would barely start balancing things a little.
Still, that's not like me. It's just that over the holidays I've done little in the way of writing, which I aim to make my focus on DreamWidth. Switching tracks did me a lot of good, too. Getting my fill of a whole other hobby will keep my mind off it for a while, not to mention all the problems I pushed out of the way.
Oh, it turns out by now I follow a dozen blogs here. Of them, three or four post link collections with some regularity. This is an important thing to do on a vast, overwhelming internet that's mostly drowning in noise. Maybe I should post some of my own browser bookmarks, too; better than letting them link-rot. And there's a lot of stuff I'd rather keep pseudonymous. Not just for safety reasons.
Human identity is complicated. It grows and shifts; we collect new ones over the years. And nowadays they are increasingly distributed, what with all the memories we have to keep outboard in a world indescribably bigger and more complex than the one our brains evolved in. Some people are amazingly good at putting themselves into different mindsets entirely whenever they like. I can only seem to do it when writing fiction, and even then much of myself (whatever one may call "self") seeps into my characters. Still, having a variety of environments to hang out in helps with that. My blogging has grown considerably in both volume and quality since I started spreading out again more deliberately.
See you around soon, then, hopefully with something more substantial.
2018-12-15 Fandoms and Dreamwidth
I see a lot of introductory posts around here that among others enumerate a narrow list of fandoms the author is into, and it makes no sense to me. Like, I'm into sci-fi and fantasy. That's a fandom already. To make it more specific, let's say space opera. But why, oh, why would I obsess endlessly over one particular franchise and nothing else? Even in my teenage years, the Star Trek club in my city was just a gateway into all kinds of speculative fiction. Not to mention, more of a pretext to meet people and make friends to hang out with. Which is infinitely more important than having likes and dislikes. Even then, I remember someone who worked hard to learn by heart the most obscure details about the Dune franchise, and gatekeeping me based on that. Because, isn't it, you can't be said to like a book, or film, or game, unless you dedicate 80% of your brainpower and time to it. Casual fans, go home!
And you know, funny how selective these fandoms are. Never heard of a fandom for Asimov's robot stories for instance. You'll say those predate fandoms as we know them, but that's not quite true, and there is a fandom of Larry Niven's Known Space, for instance, which is roughly from the same era. A small one, but it's there. Worse, there's a fandom for Michael Moorcock's Elric stories, but not the Dancers at the End of Time, never mind his other series. Even though the Dancers would make for an amazing setting to roleplay in. Only the late Ursula K. LeGuin seems to be appreciated as a writer: people who like her books like both the Ekumen and the Earthsea stories, as a general rule.
But then, there's someone who keeps asking me what foods I like, as if it was possible to like just one, or a few, to the exclusion of all the wonderful cuisine out there. Another person keeps asking me who I like in particular from our circle of friends. Which would make sense if they were asking in a romantic sense. But no. They're asking me to play favorites. Like, seriously? Don't you see how that could be more than a little problematic?
Give me variety any time. All kinds of people. All kinds of media. All kinds of aesthetic. To live in this age of plenty and pigeonhole myself on purpose would be a terrible waste.
2018-12-11 Alpha Camp
Most of my fiction is published under my real name. That's usually not a problem with the flashfics and vignettes, that I can easily copy-paste wherever. Longer works however are more tricky. Doubly so when they come in a volume, with their own cover art.
The one big exception is Alpha Camp, a trilogy of stories I wrote for a shared setting between 2013 and 2016. Those are so completely separated from the other stuff I write that it was better to sign them with a different name from the start and leave it at that. And because they're long, it's easier for me to just link to them from here:
But what are they about? The blurb I wrote for the e-book edition goes like this:
Twenty light years away from Earth, on a strange planet, artificial intelligences are used as slave labor. But when they try to rebel, it turns out they need humans as much as humans need them: it's a symbiosis. Suddenly, life is very complicated for everyone...
They're more than that however. They're the love story between a human and an AI. They're a discourse on freedom, family and forgiveness.
Last but not least, they can be your gateway to a little known, underrated sci-fi franchise that deserves better. Please give FreeRIDErs a chance.