A Few Ideas About Reading and Writing

New Writer's Tool: Operational Theme

April 17, 2023 6 minutes

I attended a writer's conference the other day and while we were there I attended the panel on "how to write a long-running series." The Journal Entries is a very long-running series, and I hoped to learn something from other people who had tried the same thing. Long-running serials are not a new thing, but tools for talking about them certainly are.

One of my favorite ideas for long-running series is the Story Engine, which is the central premise of the story that drives every episode. This weekend I heard about, not so much an alternative, as a different way of approaching the engine that drives your story, one that may appeal to character-driven writers, and belongs in every writers' toolbox: Operational Theme.

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Aliens Don't Need Patience. They Probably Have Something Stronger.

October 02, 2022 4 minutes

I was listening to NPR yesterday and there was this guy debunking the whole UFO thing, and at one point he starts going into the whole nature of what intersteller travel entails. He says, “Look, we’ve been over this. There really is a speed limit to the universe. My degree was in physics and I worked on atom smashers, where we accelerate particles to very close to the speed of light. Our best day, we reached 99.999954% of the speed of light. And you could put twice as much energy into accelerating those particles and they would just go a tiny bit faster, but they wouldn’t go past the limit. So no matter what, it would take a minimum of four years to get from the nearest star to here, and there’s all sorts of limits on accelerating to that speed and decelerating enough to visit our solar system in any meaningful way. So it would take a long time. Aliens who want to travel between stars would have to be very patient.”

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Free Guy gave me ALL the feels

September 30, 2022 8 minutes

(Warning: big spoilers for the movie Free Guy )

In the Journal Entries, one of the biggest conversations is about robots and something called Purpose, a term I was using long before The Matrix Reloaded came out. In my space opera, robots are smarter, faster, even wiser, but they’re not out to kill all of us because they’re not like us. One conceit is that every robot is initialized with a Purpose, a reason for being. They don’t have reproductive urges; they don’t have acquisitional restlessness like humans. Most standalone robots are purposed to one other person, to help that person be “the best version of themself they can be.” Most larger AIs do something similar on planetary scales. They don’t paperclip because they don’t want to; they’re built from the beginning to like mere organic us.

I watched the movie Free Guy, the Ryan Reynolds vehicle in which he plays an video game NPC who discovers he’s an NPC. And while for those not paying attention it’s a lovely roller coaster of eye candy, but philosophically it’s a deep, deep pool.

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[Review] The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, by Olivia Waite

September 02, 2022 3 minutes

I loved Olivia Waite's first book in her Feminine Pursuits series, The Lady's Guide To Celestial Mechanics, so I was delighted to see that her second book, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, was out, and I bought it immediately. And it sat in my to-read pile for months. I wish I hadn't waited.

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[Review] The Space Between Us, by Megan Hart

September 02, 2022 2 minutes

You know how you go into a used bookstore, and there's a rack of $1 books toward the front that are the sad overflows that not even a used bookstores wants to keep anymore, and if you don't take any of these home the bookstore people are going to send them to the woodchipper and turn them into toilet paper? Yeah, that rack.

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Alien Heart by Emma Taylor [review]

November 03, 2021 3 minutes

I write smut. And so, I read smut. I wrote awhile ago about the “unreadableness” of most Tentacle Porn, complaining that the writing is juvenile, the characters hateful, the plot nonexistent, the authors’ descriptive talents paltry, and our empathy for the situation assumed. All of which adds up to “unreadable.”

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[Review] King of Blades, by Nicola Cameron

October 16, 2021 2 minutes

Nicola Cameron's King of Blades (Two Thrones #4) feels like a bridge episode in the the Two Thrones series. After the first two books sailed along scrumptiously to establish an epic setting, the third (and still my favorite), Lady of Thornes segued to side characters and a charming romance. King of Blades goes back to King Matthais and Queen Danae, along with other characters fans of the series know well.

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