Daily Archives: April 5, 2008

WordPress Geekery

The more I work with WordPress the more I like it (although I still wish I could generate permanent static pages for archive purposes, hint, hint), and I have to say that I like the 2.5 update quite a bit. After the initial couple of days shakeout to figure out where they moved everything around to I find it’s generally easier to use, but the thing I like most about it is the WP-Stats plug-in, which to me is like crack-flavored crack in a fine crack sauce, because it gives me a whole bunch of stats that were difficult for me to dig out before, like which of the links out of the site people are clicking on, and because it updates almost constantly, which means I can track visitors to the site on a second by second basis, which I’ve been doing, like a rat at a feeder bar. Yes, I’m a dork.

It doesn’t offer me a complete view of my site (because I have several years of archives in Movable Type, and those archives are pretty active), but for my purposes of tracking what people are reading right now, it’s fun and useful and addictive. Between my Web stats and tracking my Amazon rankings, it’s a miracle I actually every get any writing done. So if you’re a stats addict like me, check out WP-Stats.

Reader Request Week 2008 #14: Quick Hits, Volume I

Well, I pretty much completely failed at making shorter answers to reader requests this week, although I did do more of them. Be that as it may, we’re coming to the close of Reader Request Week, which I traditionally end by doing an entry or two of short replies to questions I didn’t get to with longer answers. So, let’s get to them:

The Pathetic Earthling: “What font do you use to when you are writing, and why?”

Mostly I like to use a serif font: Currently I like Calibri, which is one of the fonts Microsoft shipped with Vista, but Times New Roman also works for me. I also like Goudy, but it’s not really good for writing. When I was younger I preferred sans serif fonts: I was very high on Helvetica in high school and college, and for a while on Whatever I was using Trebuchet. At the moment, WordPress’ composing font is some flavor of sans serif, so I use that when I’m writing on the blog. But with the novels, I just find it more visually useful to use a serif font; it makes it easier to scan and read.

Joelfinkle: “Sharecropping: Shared worlds, licensed characters, movie novelizations. Do you have less respect for authors that make a buck off this? Would you consider writing for such categories? If so, which one(s)?”

In fact a couple of years ago I was sounded out to write a novel set in the world of a popular science fiction television show. I passed on it; I had my own projects stacked up and it wasn’t a good fit for my career at the time. But no, I don’t have less respect for authors who do media titles, and I think the snobbery is a little hypocritical. If I wrote a script for, say, Stargate: Atlantis, and it got produced, people would be congratulating me for getting the gig, and it’s fair to say the episode might get considered for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo (Short Form). But if I wrote a tie-in novel in the universe, my reputation as a writer might get dinged. This confuses me a little: Same sort of work, same characters; the only material difference is format. Why the hate? Got me. And in any event, you can’t tell me that Karen Traviss or Matthew Woodring Stover, to pull just two names out of the hat, are writers who are not worth reading, simply because they’ve written media novels.

Also, to be blunt, media tie-ins outsell nearly all original SF by a nice chunky margin, which no one seems to bring up much, but which seems to be relevant if we’re talking about who gets to be a snob to whom. Now, the obvious rejoinder here is that McDonald’s outsells the French Laundry, but let’s not kid ourselves: in the metaphorical sense, most commercial science fiction is a lot closer to McDonald’s than the French Laundry (mine is for sure). So, no, not inclined to have less respect for these authors. Hey, they’re working, and they get to make up stuff for a living. That’s my job, too.

Fiona: “In light of global climate change, when and where do you think the first major multinational war over fresh water rights will occur?”

Africa. Because it’s the place in the world where national identities are weakest and where people seem most willing to hack each other into bits over something, and where people have the most to lose, on a personal basis, by not having fresh water. If someone can make an argument for somewhere else in the globe coming to blows over water first, however, I’m ready to hear it, since I’ll be the first to admit my guess here is not precisely rigorously researched.

Peripatetic Entrepreneur: “The Singularity. It’s clear that you avoid the concept/event in your books. This is not a slight against your work, as it’s clear that rapidly changing technology makes future predictions difficult to make. What do you think the likelihood of it is? Is this just a form of ‘Geek Religion’? If it happens, how will it effect us? Will you do a book that involves it (aka. Charles Stross)?”

Well, I don’t think I actively avoid The Singularity in my novels; not writing about it is not the same as avoiding it. To avoid it, it would have to be in my writing path; I would have to swerve considerably to put it there. I don’t write in that direction because The Singularity is not very interesting to me as a writer. As a reader; sure — I’ve made it clear that Charlie’s Accelerando is one of my favorite SF novels of recent years. But as a writer, eh. I’ll let others with more enthusiasm for tackling it do so. As for whether there will be a Singularity: Sure, why not. It’s happened before, after all, and if you don’t think it has, take a time machine ride back to the 15th Century and ask anyone there you might meet to try to imagine 2008. “The Singularity” isn’t so much about technology as it is about the context people find themselves in, and how it shapes their thought.

Shrike 58: “You don’t seem to be a sports fan; any particular reason why?”

No reason; it’s just not anything that gets me going. I don’t dislike sports; I like playing sports (I played soccer as a kid and in high school and also did track and cross-country running), and I enjoy watching sports live, in the stadium. I just like other things more, and one does have to make priorities. That said, I’ve always been a fan of sports columns, because sports columnists just seem to have more fun writing than most other journalists. And (perhaps because of this) I’m surprisingly well-informed about sports for someone who doesn’t really care about them. If I chose, I could pass for a sports fan. But that would be living a lie. And I can’t have that.

Kate Baker: “Do you believe we live in a culture of fear driven by our anxiety of an unknown, highly politicized, media sensationalized aggressor? Or does terror stem from our materialistic apathy and over-dependence on a patriot act wielding, overly controlling government happily wearing an innocent sheep’s skin of a caring government?”

Neither. Our terror stems from the fact we’re soft squishy primates, descended from animals even softer, squishier and smaller than we, and thus to survive as a species our brains have instinctually internalized the concept that something big and mean that we can’t see lurking right over there is totally going to eat us. All subsequent terror is just elaboration on this fundamental element of our brain wiring. We will always live in a culture of fear, in one way or another, so long as we have a direct genetic link to the line of soft, squishy mammals from which we were bred. What we want to do is be smart enough not to elect jackasses who exploit this for their own goals. But, well. We don’t seem to have evolved out of that yet, now, have we.

Alternative Eric S: “What’s Wil Wheaton really like?”

He smells of musk and lilacs.

Oh, wait, there’s more to the question:

“(OK, maybe a discourse on whether blogs/journals give an accurate view of the people who write them.)”

Assuming that the writer is not actively trying to obscure his/her identity and is otherwise not screwing with the heads of the readers, the best way to answer this is that the view you get is accurate but incomplete. For example what you read here is me, but it’s not all of me. This me has been specially optimized for your online reading pleasure, and edited so that you don’t know about any part of my life I don’t want to share with you because I’ve decided it’s none of your damn business. It is a public persona, not a private one. I assume most people, intentionally or not, also do this sort of optimizing and editing to their online personae.

More quick hits tomorrow.