dhole

Advertisement in Dragon Magazine, March, 1995


Good GMing is hard work! So, get your hands on the monthly newsletter dedicated to sucking every last drop of fun and excitement out of each adventure!


I'll admit, I have never seen an issue of the Game Masters Monthly, but I can't help but admire their dedication to truth in advertising.
dhole

Things that were a bit too long to fit on twitter.

1) Voiceover:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and-


Eyestalk pulls back from telescope. MARTIAN puts on sunglasses, snowboards down Olympus Mons.

2) Dear Editors,

It has been some time since I submitted "________" to your publication. There have been a great many changes since then; the great Khhrzn invasion, the opening of the Darkest Seal, and so on. Nonetheless, I still feel the story has merit, and would like to know if it is still under consideration--I could certainly use the ration coupons that your current guidelines say are issued for entertainments of this sort.

While I can certainly understand how things have gotten a bit confused on your end as well, I'm afraid that if I do not hear from you by the next galactic lustral, I shall have to withdraw the story from consideration.

Best,
Alter


(I'm considering sending #2 to a short fiction market, pretty much as is.)
dhole

Is this thing on?

Apparently, I still have an lj.

And, apparently, I still have lj posts I want to make. This one is about private islands!

You see, as I've been selling short fiction lately, I occasionally will look at www.privateislandsonline.com because, you know, sooner or later I'll be able to afford a few of those. That's how short fiction works, I'm pretty sure.

But anyway. Truth is, I probably could afford some of those islands. And let's look at some of those.

First off, at a modest $39,999 (note that they'll let you keep the 99 cents they could've added, while still keeping the price under $40,000), is Chandler Island. Which is in the US, unlike many of the cheapest islands, which tend to be in places where dollars go a bit further. But it's . . . well, it's not a very large island. At high tide, in particular, it's described as being "the size of an average suburban yard."

There's not really much that I'd want to do with a forty thousand dollar backyard off the coast of Maine. I could build one of those micro-houses, I suppose. Presumably, something in Maine that's "nestled protected in a bay," with "line-of-sight of the open ocean," would be pleasantly warm during the winter, right?

The owner of Chandler Island wouldn't have to worry about transportation, anyway. The island can be reached "by foot at very low tide, when the water is only waist-deep."

This isn't so much an island, as it is a beach chair that you've pulled out into the surf and declared to be an island, and worth almost, but not quite, $40,000. It's a beach chair you'd have to pay taxes on, is what I'm saying.

I'm going to skip over island parcels, which are frankly not worth consideration. The thing about a private island is that it's private. An island with other people owning houses on it is the exact opposite of private. You could describe an apartment in Manhattan as an island parcel. Which, frankly, would be a way better way to live than sharing some freezing wilderness with a few dozen other people who wanted a private island, but couldn't afford to get one.

Sadly, it seems that most of the howling wilderness type islands aren't on the market at the moment--that site had one a few years back way up in northern Quebec that was big and had a house, and was apparently a good place to hunt bears and moose and yeti or whatever they have in Quebec. Wendigos? But there is Sweet Island, which is the sort of thing for people who want to live in the wilds of Canada. 3.3 acres, half acre cleared for gardening, and . . . it's a bit to the north of where people live, so if you wind up breaking your ankle or something, it'd be years before anyone found your skeleton. Which would probably have been picked clean by seagulls, and maybe bald eagles. So that's cool.

A somewhat warmer, but still under $200,000 option is Isla Esmeralda. Only you only get half the island, because the seller is planning on keeping the other half. I might be leery of buying something isolated near the US-Mexican border, but it is apparently "-4.5 miles to Airport, Touristic Resort, Restaurant, Golf Club, Luxurius -Residential Area and Sea Turtle Conservation Camp."

I mean, negative 4.5 miles to the airport sounds pretty good, but the conservation camp . . . I dunno. I've heard some bad things about conservation camps. Or something like that, anyway.

And then there's Buck Island. British Virgin Islands, luxury estate, private coral reefs, beaches, cliffs, staff quarters, etc. It's a bit pricier than Chandler Island, at . . . well, that page says price available upon request, but this page on the same site gives a price of $30,000,000. To be fair, they could just have easily gone with $29,999,999, so they could learn from those Chandler's Island people.

So, yeah, a bit out of short fiction range. Maybe if I start selling novels.
dhole

A bit of Yiddish.

So, before I get onto anything else, I would like to mention that I got two acceptance letters in my inbox yesterday--a reprint sale to Podcastle, and a sale to Bundoran Press's anthology of political SF, Strange Bedfellows. So, can't complain about that.

But what I wanted to say was, you know how people say that "Eskimos have fifty words for snow,*" right? So I've always said that Yiddish has that many words for people you find objectionable. I mean, there might be words in English which substitute adequately for a putz or a shlemazel, but I can barely come up with a sentence to summarize a noodge, or a macher or a shmegegge, but I certain know them when I see them. **

Now, I'm not a Yiddish speaker, not really. I might be able to piece together what someone says, but I was way better at that when I was ten than I am now. But I do have a certain number of words in my Yiddish vocabulary, and in doing a little research on them, I've discovered that there's another area that Yiddish has a wider range of choices than English. In addition to people you don't want to be around, it's quite rich in words for places that it's inconvenient to get to.

The words I've come across are:

Yehupitz: I mostly encountered this as "Yehupitzville." It's from Sholem Aleichem, and was his stand in for Kiev, apparently.
Hotzenklotz: What people who are in Sholem Aleichem's stories would use to refer to the boondocks. I don't think I ever encountered that one in the wild.
Yenemsvelt: "Someone else's world," which is the word I think that I've heard from my immediate family.
Ekvelt: The ends of the earth. Don't think I encountered this one in the wild, either.
And there's one more that I totally had, but now can't remember.

And there you are.


* Yes, I know they don't.
** And boy do I see them, I tell you.
dhole

Rejection

I use Grammarly for free proofreading because sometimes people give other people Amazon gift certificates for mentioning their product in blog posts. *

But that wasn't what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about was rejection. From time to time, I finish a novel (at the moment, it's been something of a long time since that has happened, and it looks to be something of a long time until it happens again. Largely because I spent the better part of last year flattened by mononucleosis, but also for other reasons. Anyway.)

After I finish a novel, the next step is to look for an agent. With each project, I've been getting closer, in a sort of Xeno's paradox fashion—most recently, I had a nice phone conversation, followed by a regretful email a few days later. Next time, I hope to see how exactly I can get closer to having an agent without actually having an agent. Maybe there'll be something about the agency agreement that I'll object to? Something to look forward to, anyway.

In the course of looking for an agent, I will occasionally read the advice that agents give about looking for an agent. Some of which seems reasonable, some of which doesn't, and most of which falls into the sort of broad area in between. One bit from that last category has to do with rejection. "Don't blog about rejection," in specific. "It's negative," some say, "and it shows your writing in a poor light."

"Bother that nonsense!" some of you might say, particularly if you were brought up in a refined environment, and also if you have small children nearby who echo phrases that they hear. And you'd be right to say that, of course, for reasons that I shall get into later. But first, I will explain why this bit of advice doesn't go directly into the "does not seem reasonable" bin.

While the reasons that they give aren't very good, agents will occasionally look at the blogs of authors they are considering recommending. And if you blog your process of seeking an agent with updates like, "13 rejections from my first choice agents, 1 requested partial!" "28 rejections, 5 no responses, 2 requested partials, and 9 somewhat oracular responses which I'm taking to mean requests for fulls from my second choice agents!" and "Fine! I guess it's time to send out queries to all the loser agents I don't want in the first place!" it might dampen the enthusiasm of agents included in that last category. I mean, largely because they're losers, but whatever.

To some degree, that applies to stories as well—it's not necessarily great practice to announce that a particular story has gotten three hundred and seventy rejections before sending it out to the next place, as it might cause the story to be viewed with some suspicion. Also, odds are good that the story is terrible, because that's just too many rejections.

However, getting back to why you were right in the first place, the reality is that if you are not willing to accept constant, crushing rejection for years, you might want to do something other than trying to write fiction. Alternatively, you can write fiction, but just be better at it than me. Because where I'm at, I've got a handful of shiny yeses to measure against a giant steaming pile of no. **

To give numbers. For 2013, I have 59 rejections on 26 stories. Fortunately, I have a total of zero sales of new fiction which I can use to weigh against that. Admittedly, the mono wasn't just a matter of me doing things more tiredly and slowly, though it was that. It was also a "Flowers for Algernon" type thing****, where the disease made me stupider, though I wasn't entirely aware of that while I was in the middle of that. So I wrote worse stories, and handled things less ably while I was sick. Still, it's not a record to inspire confidence.

And that's the thing. If I needed the record to inspire confidence, I'd be done. I can't necessarily put my finger on what it is that's giving me confidence *****, but when I look at a story that I've written, and I think that it's good, I can keep sending it out, despite all evidence that I should stop doing that. Which isn't to say that I'm not willing to take criticism on board when it feels right, but when it doesn't, I can look at a number of similar rejection letters about a story as evidence that there's something about editorial work that makes people wrong in the same way. *******

There's another problem with blogging about rejection, and that is that it's hard to be interesting about rejection. But it's also hard to be interesting about what you had for lunch, or what you think about Syria when you don't speak Arabic and have only recently learned how to find it on a map, or celebrities, and that doesn't seem to shut anyone up.

Anyhow, I seem to have reached the maximum number of asterisks that I can count********, so I think I'll leave it at that.

* This post was sponsored by grammarly.com.

** (I suppose that some of this is because of me, but I largely blame you, the readers. Those of you who are also editors are more directly responsible, but it's for the same fault. If you'd just find my stories more entertaining, they'd be easier to sell. It's that, or take the Johnathan Franzen approach, and blame the internet. Or possibly a penny-pinching old German lady? Strange dude, that Johnathan Franzen.***)

*** For a full examination of Johnathan Franzen's issues with elderly Germans, see
http://the-toast.net/2013/09/16/rage-jonathan-franzen/

**** One of the things that I only just realized is that the reason that "Flowers for Algernon" works as a story is that it's not just a speculative premise about mind enhancing drugs, it's a thing that everyone goes through in their lives. And that there is an unutterable bleakness to the aspect of the human condition that the story's about, which is hard to see when you're on the upward slope.

***** There's a thing called the Dunning–Kruger effect******, which I assume has no relevance here whatsoever.

****** Google it yourself, why don't you?

******* Grammarly.com found 2 critical writing issues and generated 3 word choice corrections for this sentence alone. See note 5 as to why I haven't done anything about it.

******** It's eight. I think.
dhole

Amateurism.

Right. So, last time, I said that I'd post about my insane process next. Which I'm not going to do, I'm afraid. In fact, I think I'll wait until I sell a story composed through my current process, and then wait even more until it's published, and then I'll forget to post about my process.

Instead, I will post an insane rant, as people on livejournal do.

In this case, it's about amateur sports, specifically about things like college football and the Olympics. Normally, I think about these things, and decide not to say anything, because people are being happy about upcoming Olympics or whatever, and why try to make people less happy?

However, at the moment, people hate the Olympics because of Russian gay bashing, and college football has more or less pinned its brand identity on child rape and attacking people for thinking they own their own names. So. amateur sports.Collapse )
dhole

(no subject)

According to Livejournal's homepage, my "current position in the top journals is 14,724." This is a profoundly sad thing to read, and it makes me feel bad for livejournal that they decided to say it. I've been posting like once a month, at best, and it feels like most of those posts are resolutions to post more. If there are only about 15k journals which are more interesting than mine, it seems like they may as well close up the shop.

Which is something that I might do, right—say that I'm done with LJ, it was fun while it lasted, etc., and that you can find me on twittlr or gtumbl or whatever it is that people do these days.

But no! Instead, I will post about how I intend to post more. Right here on livejournal, where I'm the fourteen thousandth, seven hundreth and twenty fourth most top journal. (Or at least I was when I started this post. Now I'm 14964th. Oh no!)

Specifically, I will post about a website which I find amusing, and I will promise to at least start a post about my insane writing process, which is insane, but which people might find amusing.

The website in question is smosh.com. Which isn't to say that I advocate visiting there; it's generally a tired sort-of-funny humor website that kills a small portion of soul every time you go there, like much of the internet. However, the guy who writes the newspaper comic Sally Forth has a webcomic, "Medium Large," which is occasionally funny. Don't get me wrong; there are tons of funnier webcomics out there. But the novelty of someone associated with a newspaper comic having a sense of humor, no matter how slight, causes me to follow the webcomic. And on it's RSS feed, there are occasional links to his article at Smosh.com, which are about as funny as his comic. (Kinda. They are kinda funny.)

But that's not what gets me. What gets me is the comments.

"Don't read the comments!" shout both people who are reading this. "Never read the comments! The internet is a plot to undermine democracy by making you hate and fear your fellow citizens by showing you what they have to say about a cute kid swimming on youtube!"

And fair enough, though both you guys need to lighten up a bit. But here's the thing. The comments on this guy's articles aren't hateful or bigoted or insane, as a rule. They're just sort of . . . simple. Basically, they're the sort of comments you might imagine Ralph Wiggum leaving.

Here's an example: http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit/articles/6-funny-ice-cream-flavor-fails

The article is about bad ice cream flavors, and is kinda funny. Like something Cracked would run on an off day, and you wouldn't be upset that you wasted your time reading it, but you wouldn't feel any need to, you know, laugh. But those comments. There is nothing there; reading them is like looking into an aquarium without any fish, and yet, I find them kind of charming, in their way.

Perhaps it's because of the objectively pro-misanthropy comments you get on newspaper articles and youtube videos. Nobody posting racist stuff about Japan, or yelling about toxins in the foods we eat, or urging the sheeple to awake. Just, you know, Chakuu, who wants to tell the world, "horse flavor D:", and GoinCoastalAT, who wants to inform us that he understood that, "ew they don't sound good at all!"

I'm not sure how smosh has built a community of this sort, but I'm sort of happy that they did.
dhole

Well, that was a week.

So, in the past week, I've been caught in an airline strike, and had all four of my wisdom teeth out. These are both terrible things, and if any of you were thinking of trying them recreationally, I'd recommend that you think harder. Admittedly, the wisdom tooth thing was something that I totally decided to do. I went to a guy, and without any sort of coercion, asked him to pull four teeth out of my head.

When he was done, I paid him a large sum for having done this to me, and I am not currently planning on lodging a complaint with anyone about it. Still, it was a very unpleasant experience, and also the lidocaine kept me from being able to focus my eyes for a couple of hours, which wasn't very nice either.

The airline strike didn't involve anyone pulling bones out of my head, but it did involve me missing one flight, and being uncertain whether I would get on the next one. Then I got on the next one, and went home, and they only lost one of my bags, which turned up the next day.

Those who know how I feel about travelling will know which I'd prefer to do again.

Before I got onto the plane in New York, the Iberia people reassured me that I didn't have to rebook, that El Al would probably have something waiting for me when I got off the plane, and everything would be fine. When I got to Madrid, the Iberia help counter told me, "this is El Al's problem, you have to call them. Here's their phone number in Israel, and you have to go through passport control in order to get to a phone which will not take any of the money that you have. Now go away."

There are people for whom being dropped in a foreign country with no local money and without the ability to speak the language would be a wonderful adventure. I am not one of those people.

So, of the two, of course I'd rather go through an airline strike again. I mean, seriously. I don't like uncertainty, and I'm sure that at some point in my life I'm going to lose my passport while in transit, and have to spend the rest of my life in airports. But those teeth just wouldn't come out. I'm actually not going to go into more detail, as it's gross, but suffice it to say: Dental surgery is really unpleasant. Way more than airports.
dhole

Notes from America.

I'm back in the US briefly, visiting family. Which is where I noticed the following:

A NYT headline which read, "Huskies Conquer Demons, Irish." It is probably for the best that this was in the sports section rather than the world news, but a small part of me wishes it weren't.

Also, on the box of some frozen blintzes, I got this: "Before machines, before mass production, before people began caring more about quantity than quality, there was only one way to do things.

And that was the right way."

Smash the looms, says Frankel's Homestyle Products Kosher for Passover Apple Blintzes (non Gebrokts).