Thursday, September 24, 2009

A List Of Hoaxes For Your Reading Pleasure

So I'm talking with the doctor the other day at work and he turns me on to this event involving a lit crit magazine and a physicist from back in the day.  Wikipedia refers to it as the Sokal Affair.  It's a fantastic read, but I'll sum it up for those too lazy: 

A high literary criticism magazine called Social Text basically declares war on science in 1996.  This is the kind of magazine that talks about things like a "more feminist geometry" and deconstructionist realities to a point that the jargon basically collapses under its own weight and it becomes nonsense.  So as part of their Science Wars issue (I really wish I could make that up), the only article that they can manage to get from an actual scientist is submitted by Alan Sokal, and he writes up a test to find out if Social Text will "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions."

Long story short:  they publish it, he outs them, and the look like a great lot of jackasses.

This leads me to the Related Articles on Wikipedia, and they're comedy gold.  Here are some of the highlights:

SCIGen:  The 2005 World Multiconference on Systematics, Cybernetics and Informatics invites the "authors" of a non-reviewed paper it accepted to be speakers.  The real author of this paper is a program called SCIGen.  It strings together a bunch of computer jargon so well that the conference reviewers can't tell the difference.

Atlanta Nights:  This one is awesome beyond words.  After PublishAmerica gloats about how it's a traditional publisher that only accepts high quality literature and also talks trash about sci-fi and fantasy writers, a group of (mainly sci-fi and fantasy) writers get together and co-write what may well be the worst piece of literature ever.  PublishAmerica accepts it.  The mechanics of the novel absolutely amaze me:

"The distinctive flaws of Atlanta Nights include nonidentical chapters written by two different authors from the same segment of outline (13 and 15), a missing chapter (21), two chapters that are word-for-word identical to each other (4 and 17), two different chapters with the same chapter number (12 and 12), and a chapter "written" by a computer program that generated random text based on patterns found in the previous chapters (34). Characters change gender and race; they die and reappear without explanation. Spelling and grammar are nonstandard and the formatting is inconsistent. The initials of characters who were named in the book spelled out the phrase 'PublishAmerica is a vanity press.'
The finale was also crafted to be deliberately bad; not only are all the previous events of the plot revealed to have been a dream (long condemned as a 'cheat' ending), but even after this revelation the book continues for several more chapters. This particular fillip was the work of Macdonald, who contrived the entire plot (or lack thereof)."

Ern Malley:  Two poets in Australia who have been rejected by the same publisher make up a poet and write up a postumous collection of absolute gibberish poetry that he supposedly wrote.  Said publisher loves it.  Hilarity ensues (for some).

Disumbrationism:  Same thing, but with modern art.  At least people have a sense of humor about this one...there's a yearly contest.

All of these hoaxes have one thing in common that I'm in love with.  The Piltdown Man isn't in here, for instance.  Nobody here was seeking fame, nobody trying to get money (the publishing attempts were pulled, etc.).  These were all hoaxes perpetrated on pretentious douchebags for the sole purpose of exposing them as pretentious douchebags.  The moral of the story:

Don't be a pretentious douchebag...there's always people who can't stand the pretentious and there's always someone more clever than you are.  Eventually, the two will either join forces against you or be one and the same.  Seriously, pretentious douchebags...cut it out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Time Is An Invention #8 - In Which The Progress Is Almost Scary

Originally posted by D on FB Notes Monday, September 7, 2009 at 10:07pm.

Another day at Spider House. Another highly productive Yahoo IM conversation (Thanks Shauna!!!). Another session with more progress made in a few hours than I've been expecting to come in weeks.

I'm pretty sure this is unrelated. I'm going to be wicked embarrassed if I find out I'm wrong, though...

At no point did I expect this to progress so quickly...I'm getting really close to the point where I actually start writing this thing (as opposed to mindmapping/timelining).

This actually makes me kind of nervous.

I'm currently guessing that this is due to a combination of not being personally ready to start releasing the story into the wild (it has been wicked great fun kicking it around in my head and refining it constantly) and being nervous about whether or not I can actually write something this big.

Seriously, I think the biggest draft I've ever written was like 15 pages. You might be thinking that size doesn't matter, but it really does...that 15 pages was kind of intimidating (it started to kind of ramble) and I ended up cutting it down to like 9 (this would be the story about the guy who fell apart...a few of you know about it). This is a massive idea, especially in comparison to what I've written before. Am I really capable of pulling it all together into a cohesive storyline that will still be interesting?

We'll definitely find out, because I'm right on the verge of starting it up. I've already got a second scene in's going to be kind of difficult, as it's got a lot of revealing in it while simultaneously hiding a great deal. I'm currently deciding whether to go ahead and start this scene up, or go back and do the rewrite of the intro in light of all the new concepts I've gotten in the last few days. Vote on your preferred choice in the comments. I can't promise that I'll follow your collective recommendation, but it's still up in the air enough at the moment that I'm definitely willing to consider it.

Wish me luck, it's starting to get to a really interesting phase...

Time Is An Invention #7 - In Which A Mind Is Mapped

Originally posted by D on FB Notes Saturday, September 5, 2009 at 2:09am.

OK, I've got to start this one off with a shameless plug:


Will the pic EVER be related??

This program is AWESOME. The fact that it's free actually makes it awesome cubed. Big thanks go out to Kevin for originally introducing me to the concept of mind-mapping, and to Mark T. for suggesting that there were programs out there that would help with it (probably obvious information if I'd thought of it, but I didn't).

For those that have never done any mind-mapping (I'd never actually heard the term before Kevin introduced it for gaming once), it's really just a more visual form of outlining ideas. This is really cool for me because I despise writing outlines in the usual academic format. It bores me to tears, seriously.

This is an incredibly organic process though, at least as I'm looking at it. I can jump around, easily see things in relation to each other, break concepts down more easily than I feel able to in outlining.

Downsides: If there's a way to link separate branches of ideas, I haven't found it yet. This currently leaves me stuck with only the options of adding multiple child nodes to a parent node. While this is entirely acceptable, that would be cool to have, especially when I start getting into the task of doing some kind of timeline for everything going on.


The above picture (intentionally shrunk to obscurity) is the result of about a half hour of work, a lot of which was figuring out features of the program. It's pretty hard to tell here, but there's a lot would probably be 3-4 full pages of outlining. The work is currently heavily skewed towards the Factions branch of things, although I've got a few things in Themes as well.

In other news: through the wonders of, I've gotten in contact with an Austin Writer's Group. They're doing a writing session tomorrow (light socializing, but mostly just a group of people going heads down and hopefully peer pressuring each other into being productive for a while) at a local coffee shop. I will be in attendance.

Also, I finally got my own laptop!!! No more feeling guilty about taking the company laptop out and using it for web-surfing/writing on my off hours. OK, I didn't actually feel the slightest bit guilty about that, but whatever. I was slightly concerned about what the consequences of a spilled drink on it would be if it happened while I wasn't working. Doesn't matter now, though!

I ended up getting a Dell Studio...17 inch monitor, really nice display, pretty good processor, and crazy RAM for what I thought a laptop would have (4GB is apparently becoming near standard)...even the work laptop only has 3GB. It does suffer the unfortunate malady of having Windows Vista installed, but it came with a free upgrade to Windows 7. I'll probably hold off until SP1 is out, but I've been hearing a lot of good stuff about it. I know it's still early, but people were doomsaying all over Vista a year before it came out and they were right. I also sprung for an awesome laptop backpack, and an awesome mouse, and an awesome new set of headphones. I'm quite happy with the whole setup so far, and it seems to be leading to increased productivity. It is therefore worth every penny.

Oh yeah, I also started on Chantix today to quit smoking. It apparently has a wicked good success rate (it had better, considering what it costs). Wish me luck, I should be off the smokes in a week or two.

Time Is An Invention #6 - In Which An Avalanche Strikes

Originally posted by D on FB Notes Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 12:36am.

OK, enough happened tonight that I felt it really warranted a second and more in depth note.

Pic not related.

In short, an IM conversation with Angela started out with me bouncing a few ideas off of her trying to get a couple of logic problems solved, and ended with me having an absolutely massive chunk of the story laid out in my head. Seriously, this is so much farther than I expected to get in the next few months, let alone in one night.

A cohesive plotline has been devised with a beginning, middle and end, and reasoning for each of those to happen. Characters and factions have started fleshing themselves out in my head. The setting is getting much much more detailed than it was. Protagonists and antagonists have been defined, and motives have been discerned. It's turned into a real story as opposed to a bunch of cool ideas just swirling around in my head.

As I was telling Mindy, I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much, but this feels like an honest to god, centuries-spanning sci-fi epic. If someone told me that a book had been written/movie had been shot about this exact story, I'd go out and buy it immediately.

Next tasks:

* I mentioned figuring out exactly how the Directorate works so I know exactly how I can break it, and that's still on the list, but I mapped out some good progress on that tonight.

* I need to start outlining and getting exact events laid out. Tonight's progress was very broad strokes, cause and effect type stuff. Outlining will boil it down into small enough chunks for me to tackle.

* I'm starting a pet project to map out a timeline of all of this. With any luck, it will end up being a great big piece of wall art.

I was excited about this idea before. Now, I'm excited and driven. I can't wait to see where this goes.

Time Is An Invention #5 - In Which Time Travel Is Freaking HARD

Originally posted by D on FB Notes Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 8:16pm.

OK, so at least two or three of you have read the intro by now. Several of you gave a lot of very useful input (I'm looking at you, Eric and Angela), and some of you gave input that wasn't particularly helpful, but was particularly awesome (I'm looking at you, George and Randa).

Pic TOTALLY related.

I've decided that there's a reason that you don't see a massive amount of literature/media about time travel:

It's astoundingly fucking hard to figure out how things work. Not how time travel itself works (obviously), but how people react to a force that completely bypasses what all of us pretty much see as a collective objective force. A second is a second all over the world, and they only travel in one direction. With time travel, you've not only got to figure out how people react to an outside stimulus, but you've also got to factor in when they would even realize that external's very confusing.

There are a number of conundrums (conundrii? conundrices?) that I'm trying to work out after having finished the intro. /*redacted*/

I had a fantastic talk with Angela about this today, during which I came to the conclusion that what I really need to do here is figure out how the Directorate works when it's actually working. What are the parameters for a mission, how does the agent get back, and what's the linear view from each side?

Once I figure out how these guys function, then I can figure out how to properly break them. That's the key that I really need to figure out how all of this works, I think. Bonus mindblow: I have to figure this out from multiple perspectives.

Did I say "have to"? I really meant "get to"?

I really do love doing's an awesome feeling beyond description to have these ideas flowing into my head. While trying to pry them out into a format that others can read and enjoy can be frustrating as hell, there are very few things I'd trade it for.

EDIT - I really like Angela...she's got a wicked bad case of the smart, and conversations with her are giving me HUGE insight into where I can take this story. I would like to get an apology on record to her though, as I'm spending all this time giving her all these spoilers about how it will turn out.

Sorry, Angela :(

Time Is An Invention #4 - In Which Work Has Begun

Originally posted by D on FB Notes Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 11:24am.

The writing actually started last night, which I'm incredibly stoked about. 3,000 words and approximately 4 pages, according to Google Docs, all of which spilled out.

Picture unrelated.

Reading back over it this morning, I'm pretty happy with it. I'm leaving it as a first draft for the moment, I'd like a few people to take a look at it before I do any editing.

To get access to the Intro:

Send me a message with an email address. I'll send a link to the document to your email address.

The following people have already got an invite (I knew your email address):


Time Is An Invention #3 - In Which There Is A Map With A Destination, But No Route

Originally posted by D on FB Notes Sunday, August 9, 2009 at 12:40am.

I know it's been a little while since I put up anything about this, but I'm still working on it. My current dilemma is that I seem to be stuck on the "what" of the whole thing.

Picture unrelated.

My general idea progression for things that I've written before (or idea refinement progression in the cases where the entire story popped into my head at once) tends to be theme/moral, then events, then characters, and setting last...almost as an afterthought, honestly. What I've gathered so far on this was an idea that I loved that has sprouted into a very detailed setting that I'm utterly fascinated with, and an inkling of one or two of the characters involved. I'm almost completely missing events.

Now there are a lot of events that pertain to the story, but they're really more part of the setting than they are the actual story...more of a history of my world. I guess that's one of the inherent difficulties in doing something about time travel: the history and the actual story cross over more than one would expect.

I need an antagonist, I need an event, or a chain of events. I need to find out where this goes...the setting is enough to keep me entertained, but not quite enough to write about.

I'm definitely still working on it though, and the route is definitely there...I just can't quite read the map yet.