Reading a story is like experiencing a role playing adventure

by on Sep.12, 2012, under Observations, Process

Very recently, a reviewer of one of my stories complained to me, “Reading this is like playing a role playing game. The reader has to advance up level by level.”

This statement was truly said to me as a complaint, although I still can’t figure it out. Should I should have given the reader a complete list of characters and a map of universe, prior to asking the reader to read the story? Do we ever get a map and character list prior to starting a story? Would you read a story that tried to give you all of this prior to the first paragraph?

It’s been 10 days since that comment, and I still can’t figure out what the basis of the complaint was. To me a well told story is where you the reader starts with a tight focus on a single scene, and expands outward as you learn more. Is this not the brilliance of story telling, such that a good story will tease us forward, into the darkness in hopes of learning more?

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The Soul of a Reviewer

by on Aug.31, 2012, under Observations, Reviews

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of other reviewers last night that really got me thinking. Several of them admitted that they didn’t stop to think about whether or not they enjoyed the piece they were reading–they were too busy looking for things to critique as done well or badly.

Although I totally respect the work that both of these reviewers do, I feel that it is important that as a reviewer I don’t forget what the reader cares about.

One of the essential things to remember is that a reader is reading to be entertained. They have no objective beyond enjoyment or learning, in both the passive and active senses. The most important thing about reviewing should be looking at the story from this point of view.

If I am reviewing a piece of work, and I don’t approach it with the intent to be entertained, then I am doing the reader a disservice. While it may be important to note that an author did or did not achieve some technical objective, the most important part of a review is to answer: is this book likely to entertain the reader?

Obviously, it’s impossible to such a subjective question for all possible readers. But I feel that it is the goal that we as reviewers should always strive for. Almost any technical matter within the work is less important than this essential question.

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Why HR1981 is not SOPA, how it is a good for you, and what can be done to make it better.

by on Feb.02, 2012, under Observations

So I’ve gotten a few e-mails from Demand Progress and others claiming that HR 1981 is the new SOPA and asking us to fight this. Claims like “A direct assault on Internet users” have been made. So I went and took a look at this bill, and from what I can see there is no basis for this claim. In fact, from my years of experience working in the industry this legislation is badly needed, and will be greatly appreciated by nearly everyone. The claims being made by Demand Progress and the ACLU are completely off base.

Yes, SOPA was bad. SOPA had hundreds of unintended consequences. This bill isn’t SOPA. This bill doesn’t assault any legitimate Internet user. In fact, this bill is something we should be calling our representatives and asking them to support. And unlike these unsubstantiated claims, I’m going to show you in explicit detail why.
(continue reading…)

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Where are the ebook gifting options?

by on Nov.16, 2011, under Observations

I was really hoping that this year we’d have really good options for ebook gifts.

I don’t want to receive physical books. I want to receive ebooks. But I simply can’t find any way to put ebooks on my wishlist and allow people to give them to me.

  • Apple allows you to purchase an iTunes Book for someone, but they receive it instantly. That’s not useful for christmas giving.
  • Amazon allows you to purchase an ebook for someone, but they receive it instantly. That’s not useful for christmas giving.
  • Barnes & Noble fails entirely by not allowing you to purchase an eBook for someone else — only gift cards. Barf.

As a matter of fact, the only large online retailer which seems to have any reasonable gift giving choices is Books a Million. You can download the eBook from their site and put it on a CD as a physical gift if you want, or e-mail it if you prefer an electronic delivery.

I believe that the ebook retailers are handicapping themselves. This is a great opportunity they shouldn’t be passing up for Christmas business.

Have you found any better ways to give eBooks as gifts?

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Why I review books (and other things)

by on Nov.15, 2011, under Observations

A few people have questioned why I have started publishing reviews of books. They point out that this appears to be a very busy field, and there’s no money to gain.

There are the obvious simple answers: I enjoy doing it, and others have expressed appreciation for my review style. But there is a much more important reason that I’d like to share: I don’t see many reviews done the way I appreciate, so I’m putting my mouth where my interests are.

Far too many reviewers (for my taste) do one or more of the following in their reviews:

  1. Summarize the story – A summary of a story provides no value to the reader. You can’t tell the difference between a well-written and a poorly written story from the summary. And fairly often it ruins the exploration a reader might do when they read the story.
  2. Use the review to advocate – This point of a review is not about the reviewer, it is about the thing being reviewed. I grow weary of seeing a reviewer use a review as a stick to chastise the creator because of a difference in beliefs or approaches.
  3. Forget to answer the question: why would I invest in this? – This is the primary question of a review — who might appreciate this thing? Why might you want to invest time or money in the object being reviewed?

This is what drives me most to do reviews. I want to let people know why they might enjoy or find useful something. And honestly, I’d like to see many more reviewers do the same for me. There’s some great stuff out there, let’s talk about it.

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The benefits of being human

by on Nov.04, 2011, under Observations

In a letter written to someone the other day I mumbled out something about myself that is more true than my quick typing should have been able to write. I have reread it several times, and found it more true on each rereading, therefore I thought I’d share this with you.

I enjoy communication. I enjoy talking with people about things that interest them, that challenge them. I enjoy conversations about anything someone likes, or hates, or is thinking about. This is joyful to me. This is learning, this is expanding, this is experience.

Moreso, this is something that simply isn’t possible without being human. I know a great many people think that Heaven will be wrapped up in God’s love, being close to him and knowing everything. Perhaps. But someone connected to the all-knowing source cannot experience the moment of realization — the “ah ha!” moment, the moment when your reality changes, broadens and becomes something different because of something you just learned. Only living beings which are separate and non-omniscient can have that moment, can change each other’s lives. Only we can sizzle with the warmth of a new experience, a change in ourselves due to something we have just learned.

Only we can change moment by moment, evolving through interactions in real time.

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The pen is mightier than the … bass?

by on Oct.22, 2011, under Observations

I’ve been making some difficult choices recently, to give up on things I simply don’t have enough time or interest to do any more. What I gave up this week was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Not because it didn’t make sense — it totally made sense. I hadn’t touched the bass guitar in over a year, except perhaps to dust it. It was time to let it go.

But this reaches more than twenty years back into my soul. I remember those years when it seemed that a life of music was the only possible path for me. Not just that I lived and breathed music — in my choice of friends, in my free time, and in my dreams — but because no other life path seemed likely or possible for me.

I still love music. But my creative interest lies now in writing code and writing fiction. It has been too many years since I found myself sprawled on the bed, running my fingers down the neck, teasing each note out until the walls shrunk in. Until demons in the air lifted me up to hear the glass and wood surrounding me reverberate in harmony with my angst.

No, music isn’t where my creative energy lies any more. It was good to pass those instruments to a new home, and focus on the characters who call me now.

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Interactions in Real Time

by on Oct.18, 2011, under Observations

Perhaps the thing I love most about technology is how it changes our lives. In ways we can forsee, and in ways we can hardly imagine.

Sixty years ago everybody assumed we’d have flying cars by now. We’re not even close to that, however most of us walk around with more computing power on our hip than existed on the entire planet sixty years ago. This has changed us much more than flying cars would.

But the most intriguing thing is not what new technology brings us today, or even how one technology changes us. The most intriguing part is how these changes interact.

Like we already see with designer drugs: the problem is rarely the effect of the drug, so much as the unforseen and difficult to test interactions with anything else the recipient takes or even is, when genetics themselves play a role. The changes brought to us by technology are similar. I don’t think that Facebook alone has changed us half so much as the interaction between all of the social media today, how it enables us and how it limits us. How we take for granted things we couldn’t even imagine 5 years before.

How has this changed you, and how much better or worse is your life now?

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I’ve got Friends

by on Aug.11, 2011, under Observations

I’ve finished a new short story called Friends. It’s an easy 2500 words to ride through, although a bit of an emotional roller coaster even given the short length.

It’s been through the first readers blender and everyone seems to like it, even a few people who normally aren’t fans of my stuff. I’m going to wrap it up and try to get it submitted this week (assuming Worldcon doesn’t eat my brain, which it probably will)

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Switched to WordPress.

by on Aug.10, 2011, under Observations

The site is now running from wordpress, so that I can do some more interesting things here. ¬†You’ll be seeing a lot of changes soon.

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