Ascended procrastination

Remember what I said about procrastinating by working on my Div III last Friday? My Narrative Frustration professor suggested today that I change direction and work on that for my final there. So suddenly that progress has turned meaningful!

I'm going to be outlining details about the four alternative communities along the northeast megalopolis in 2030 that my novel is going to follow. I'll probably post updates about that here as they come along, because I'm pretty excited about it!

Writing workshop

Remember what I said yesterday about how I was struggling to get myself writing again? Well, I kinda put all my chips on the table in that sphere just now -- I got into the writing workshop class I wanted, and I signed up for the earliest critique spot -- it's still a few weeks in, but at my fully functional writing speed I'll need to be working on what I'll have reviewed by the end of this week.

The writing we did in class today was some of the most emotionally demanding and exhausting writing I've done in a long time. The topic prompts went straight for the emotional core, and my chest still kinda hurts from it. My take-away from that is both that this is going to be a really difficult and challenging class, and that this is going to be fantastic for my writing.

Picking up writing again

Yesterday I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses, a podcast for people who want to be writers. In it they talked about how easy it is to get into a habit of not writing. I've been in one of those habits for too long now: it's been probably six to nine months since I've written any significant piece of fiction.

The main point of the episode was that the only way to break the habit is to start doing it again. They called it one of Newton's laws of writing: a wordcount in motion tends to stay in motion; a wordcount at rest tends to stay at rest. 

When I've tried to start writing again over the last couple months, my brain trips and snags over characters and plots, unable to get a grip and hang on. So I'm trying a different approach: I'm just going to write every night. A few hundred words, connected to the previous day's or not, until it stops feeling impossible to write a coherent story.

(I really need to get started on this because I have a fiction writing class that starts tomorrow.)

A postmodern listicle

After watching the latest Idea Channel, about the positive sides of listicles, I started thinking: Listicles are a pretty rigid format, based on a predetermined claim to authority. Would it be possible to write something that's still recognizably a listicle, but also unambiguously a postmodern use of the form? Not just a listicle about postmodernism, but one that is a postmodern work itself?

I mean, like, yes, probably, but I'm not sure if it can be done well. A listicle seeks to communicate the answer to the question asked or implied by its title, so a postmodern listicle would have to, like, not do that? But that would be boring. So it would have to answer it, but in an unexpected way? Or ask a question that, by answering it in list form, dismantles the legitimacy of the question itself?

My first thought when I had this idea was "That'd probably be easy," then I thought about it for about five minutes and came to the conclusion that it would actually be super hard. Everybody: Let me know if you find any good examples of people trying this and pulling it off.

Academic hypertext

I mentioned yesterday that wikis are a great format for academic information, and I've been thinking a lot about the formats of academic writing lately. 

It seems to me that the central conflict in academic writing is the tension between providing enough information that someone who came to the text to learn can find their footing in it, and leaving enough out that it's not an intolerable slog for anyone already reasonably familiar with the subject. Some writers do a better job of navigating this than others -- and some prioritize different hypothetical audiences than others.*

There are all sorts of strategies for dealing with this. Footnotes and endnotes can nest extraneous information that might either be essential to someone who isn't familiar but boring to an expert, or extraneous nonsense to a novice but interesting to an expert. Some writers spend huge stretches of time exhaustively covering everything they can think of, anticipating that the reader will just skim past once they get the idea. Some include appendices, charts, supplementary material, etc.

But with a printed work, it always boils down to a single fundamental problem: in the end, there can only be one text. What's printed is printed, and it's up to the reader to learn how to interact with that text. The author has to decide who to optimize for, and how to give the readers on either side of that optimization the tools to make the piece work for them.

Hypertext has the capacity to deal with this problem. Works could be made intricately variable -- not in a choose-your-own-adventure way, but in a choose-your-own-depth way.

I'm imagining a slider at the top of the page, that says "Jargon level." There's a check box next to it that says "Highlight," and a drop-down that says "Advanced." Slide Jargon back and forth, and the text substitutes sections of dense jargon with much longer segments fully explicating** them. Click highlight, and all the words, lines and paragraphs that either have changed or could be changed light up. Hover over the highlighted entries and it could show you what they would be substituted with -- so if you want to see the jargon in context but need to keep checking, it'll always be right there; and if you want to read the expanded version and know what jargon you're missing out on, you can see that, too.

Under "Advanced," you could select substitutions from a list: say you struggle with the word "Explicate" but otherwise pretty much get the jargon, you can just turn on the expanded version of that word. Or say you have a word or phrase that you frequently mess up that doesn't have a programmed alternate version: you can type that right into your copy of the book. "Ambiguated" could become "Made ambiguous," if  you struggle with that kind of verb form. "1.8 billion" could get a parenthetical phrase after it saying "(1,800 million)" and "9 trillion" could get "(9,000,000 million)," if you struggle keeping track of large numbers' relationships to each other.

You could set up favorites, or download other people's favorites. You could get modified versions of old texts, that let you dip your toes into the complexity of the original while providing a fluid safety net to toss you a line when you need it. You could read versions of texts that are prepped to let you know that the words in a particular part means something different in the context than you expect them to, like in legal texts or very old things.

You could get books that have your trigger warnings in them, so you can brace yourself right before the relevant scene, without having to put that alert in the book for everyone who doesn't share your triggers. 

This direct, hands-on access to the structure of the text could make academic writing massively more accessible. It could also help make it more collaborative, if the authors let their books take on a life of their own.

Vitally this doesn't ever have to harm the integrity of the original text. You could always have a setting somewhere that says "Author preferred," that gives you the version of the text the author feels best represents their view. That might be the one with all the jargon -- but I bet pretty often it would be the one with the jargon followed by the explication, because if you're going to have a version that counts as the truest one, why not the one where you get to say "This is exactly what I meant by..."

And I would imagine it would always be obvious, when manipulating the text, whether you're applying filters that came with the book or filters you brought in from elsewhere. 

Ooh, and imagine having these in really introductory classes? Like, being handed an original Shakespeare in seventh grade, masked over to the point of being a basic, middle school level summary? Imagine being a curious kid with an interesting assignment, and being able to start clicking away at the settings, revealing layer after layer of increasing depth. Imagine being able to see, right in front of you, in your half-a-page worksheet, the whole academic landscape underlying it.

Being able to control how the text reveals itself to you means you can make yourself maximally comfortable in the text, and it means you can make yourself feel safe and confident in your ability to approach it. Furthermore, it gives you a strong, tangible sense of the degree of abstraction you're working with: because if you don't understand the core material, it helps to be able to find out the nature of that non-understanding. The summaries and explanations can help you articulate your confusion even if they can't resolve that confusion for you. 

This is probably my least clear, most convoluted post in a long time. I think I might try and rewrite it with some hypertextual elements soon.

*That is to say, a text that is inaccessible to non-experts is not automatically badly written, although that's a whole other topic that's worth attention on its own. My use of the word "accessible" in this parenthetical is deeply ambiguous.

** "Explicating" is an example of a word that would change if you slid the jargon slider on this blog post. It means to break apart and explain a piece of media that was written in a way that is clear to someone who's accustomed to the corresponding background information, but unclear to people outside that group.

Now available to do work and stuff

You know what's weird? Having professional skills. You know what's even weirder? Asking people to pay you to use them.

I just put a "Hire me" link at the top of my blog, because for the first time in my life the name I use here is the same name I use when talking to people in a professional setting. I'm available to do work in pretty much every category that falls in the overlap between "I can do this pretty professionally" and "I don't hate doing this in my free time." That includes copy writing, proofreading, copy editing, illustration, video editing, audio editing, and typesetting. 

I also put a huge explanation at the bottom of why I set the prices the way I did, if you're curious about how I worked that stuff out. And there's an explanation of why authors seeking traditional publication might not want to hire me. And why people submitting to Solarpunk Press definitely shouldn't hire me to edit their submission before sending it. (I spent more time explaining why certain people shouldn't hire me than I did explaining what I can do for them, I think. I might not be awesome at this self-marketing thing.)

The 4 keys to successful freelancing

I was talking to my partner about blog ideas, and she suggested this one. So -- as an unsuccessful freelancer -- here are the 4 keys to successful freelancing:

1. Understanding your market

"Market" here meaning "editor" -- as a freelancer, you're not selling your work to an audience, you're selling your work to an administrator. That means you kinda have to write badly in certain important ways. Your job is to write the kind of blandly generic work that a boss-type-person is going to look at and say "I'm definitely not going to get called into an office and spoken to if I publish this."

2. Appropriate workplace clothes

It's a very common piece of advice that if you want to get work done from home, you should get dressed as if you're going into the office. I recommend having a pair of pants that you feel professional in. Wear them every day. Never wash them. These are your lucky pants.

3. Social media

As a writing professional in the age of social media, you are expected to do an impossible thing. That impossible thing is to (a.) not be constantly distracted by social media while working, and (b.) maintain a strong social media presence. You can't do this. You still have to try. You will be blamed for the consequences of your inevitable failure.

4. No matter what, never spend more than 20 minutes on a job

Your work isn't going to pay very well. If you want to make rent, you're going to need to produce it at an exceptional volume, in your time between your shifts at Starbucks, where you will also have to work to make ends meet. (Remember to smile!) To do this, avoid putting a reasonable, thoughtful amount of time into your work. Instead, crank it out like a missing Londoner in Mrs. Lovett's beef grinder. Times are hard, do what you must to survive.

Back from Readercon with news

Wow, a lot just happened.

If you follow me on Tumblr, you might have noticed that I'm gearing up to open submissions for a new solarpunk web magazine! Submissions are going to open on July 27, which I'll definitely post about here. 

I spent most of today working on stuff for that -- so I have a whole lot to talk about, but I don't want to say any of it just yet. The stuff we've already said out loud, though, is that we're going to pay $0.03/word for stories between about 2,000 and 5,000 words, to do 12 issues of 1 story a month starting in October. We'll be setting up a Patreon account in hopes of making the project self-sustaining, and hopefully of making it bigger, but we feel like even if we have to pack it in after 12 stories it's worth it to get some good solarpunk fiction out there.

Also we're gonna podcast it.

I love Readercon.


If you want to know right away when submissions open, subscribe to the mailing list at tinyletter.com/txwatson. I'm going to send exactly one email out on that list, then delete all the subscribers, so you don't have to worry about ever getting spam from me there.

Terry Pratchett died today

I don't have a lot to say. That's not true. I have a huge amount to say. Terry Pratchett was, and will continue to be, one of the most important writers in my life. Apart from 1984 no book has had a greater influence on me than Going Postal, and Going Postal edges out 1984 for favorite book on account of it being a lot funnier.

I've made myself cry a whole bunch today imagining --

well, I wanted to write something there, that I'm sure other Pratchett readers can easily guess. But I'm writing this post at work, and I don't want to start crying in my cubicle.

I don't have a lot to say that won't reduce me to a shaking, wet-faced puddle, and I need to get at least a little bit of work done today before that happens.

I'll miss Terry Pratchett, now that he's gone. And I'm really, really glad that he existed in the first place.

Not an extended metaphor about water

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about how sometimes I write angry rants that I don't want to publish. Today I've got a different kind of thing sitting on my computer. It's about 100 words, and it's an extended metaphor about water. I'm actually pretty proud of it. But I don't feel comfortable publishing it, for a reason that feels symmetrical to the reason I don't publish those angry rants. It's more emotion than content. There's a lot of content, but still.

I'm not sure how weird I should feel about that, about explicating my innermost thoughts and feelings on this blog.

Anyway, much like a few weeks ago I couldn't come up with decent posts because everything I wanted to write was too angry, right now I can't think of anything decent to post because everything I want to write is too fluffy.

g'night.

not the thing I said I was gonna do

I didn't start the villain thing. It's not that I don't want to. It really does sound like a fun story to write, it would be an interesting challenge, and it would produce a lot of valuable insight for the plot of that story.

But right now I don't wanna do a complicated challenge. I'm tired. I'm struggling at work and my school semester is about to start. I'm not in a good place to take on a project that's going to be a real demand on my emotional and intellectual energy, every day, for months.

I haven't been writing. I've dismissed the "work on a story" alert on my phone every day for over a week. It's starting to get really upsetting, but I couldn't convince myself to sit down and work on a project I've got started. I don't want to work on the second draft of Depression Buddy right now. I don't want to start on the villain's POV of my novel. And I don't want to start trying again to write a Solarpunk story while I still don't actually have a specific Solarpunk story I want to write.

So, instead of doing any of that stuff, I decided to grab a handful of the fun-looking ideas from my Google Keep folder and run with them.

Today I started a Sherlock Holmes pastiche about a detective who investigates magical crimes, formatted as a feature news story written by a journalist who tagged along on a case. The case is going to be about a magician who uses riddles to cast spells.

villain's point of view

In fall of last year, I wrote a new draft of my first novel. It ended up being even shorter than the already too-short first and second drafts -- I hand-wrote it, so I can't be sure, but I think I dropped from 40,000 words to about 20,000. So, this story may ultimately just be the sort of thing I'll have to publish as a $2 e-book, which means it won't be my first novel, because I'd like to have some traditionally published stuff before I try to publish novellas. (I will strategize more carefully when I've actually got a publishable draft.)

Anyway, this draft has some pretty significant weaknesses, apart from being really short and handwritten. The biggest of these things is that the villain totally doesn't have any motivation.

I mean, there's a rational plot arc. I know all of the reasons that the villain does the things he does. But I haven't actually fleshed out the character. (That's a joke. It's funny because he's a skeleton. This post will be hilarious in 5 years when this story is published and famous.)

I am considering writing a draft of the story from the villain's perspective. I know it's the responsible thing to do for this story.

But it's so much work that's never going to see the light of day. And I know that's a thing people do, all the time. But it's so hard to go into writing knowing in advance that you're not going to be showing anyone the piece you're working on. (And I wouldn't be. Because the bad guy is terrible and the main character is trans and he is not going to be respectful and I don't want to actually publish a book that's packed with deliberate misgendering.)

On being an asshole on the internet for a good cause

I have a Google Keep account. I'm pretty sure that everyone does, but almost nobody uses them. I use mine all the time. It's mostly like a diary -- I've even got entries in it that start "Dear diary." The vast majority of posts are short story or vlog ideas. (I swear I'm gonna start vlogging some day.) The next most common type of item is assorted useful notes, like my license plate number or how much money I owe various people.

Then, after that, are the rants.

I have at least five or six rants in my Keep account. They generally address points that are very important to me. The most recent one was about punching-up vs. punching-down humor and the idea of an 'equal-opportunity offender.'

The reason these rants are tucked away in my Google Keep folder is that they're really, sardonically mean. They display Reddit-level carelessness for the humanity of their audience. The one about public housing stars a protagonist called Assface. The one about equal opportunity offenders describes a subject (referred to in the second person) walking around a hospital punching everyone, and then describes the outcome of their violence.

I think they're generally pretty good metaphors. As a writer, I'm proud of them.

But as a human being and a citizen of the world and the internet, I don't think they should ever see the light of day.

Because despite the fact that elaborately vulgar extended metaphors are an extremely popular mode of communication on the internet, I don't think they're actually very helpful. They're fun to write. They're a pleasant way to vent. And I can see the motivation for directing them openly at someone you disagree with on a visceral moral level.

But it's completely unhelpful, potentially triggering, and a generally shitty way to act on the internet, and I think it has a lot less to do with being an asshole for a good cause than it does with making the writer feel good about making other people feel shitty.

(By the way, I've been pretty pissed off lately, so that's part of the reason my blog's been kind of uninspired: the really good writing is cruel and awful and will never be posted here or anywhere else in public.)

How to chuck words at a document and end up with something coherent

Yesterday I wrote a post called How to write an editorial, which I think was sort of almost-decent advice. The head of the Journalism program at my school pointed out that I had missed one important detail:

It hadn't occurred to me, since I almost never don't have a position on things, but yes, definitely, the place for neutral reporting on the existence of an issue is in the news part of the paper. The editorial part is supposed to contain a position on the topic.

But my advice was, altogether, really just a specific application of the general skill of putting together a bunch of words and having something at the end. So, here's how to do that.

Step 1: write just, like, a ridiculous number of pieces over a huge period of time.

There is no step 2.

When I was in high school, I took an AP Psychology class, from which I learned a ton about psychology, and also a ton of valuable studying and academic skills, because the teacher was heavily invested in the success of her students on the test and in their academic futures.[1. By the way, Thanks Mrs. Young, you're definitely one of the reasons things have gone as well for me as they have in my adult life.]

One of the things that really stuck with me from that class was a story that Mrs. Young told about college -- about a time when she wrote a major paper just a couple hours before it was due, and got an A.

She was telling the story by way of explaining why we, the students in her class, couldn't do that, and shouldn't try. Because when she was in high school, she had taken a year-long class her senior year on essay writing -- and the entire format of the class, from the first day to the final, was this: Students would enter the room, pick up a writing prompt from a pile next to the door, sit down, and write an essay on that prompt in an hour.

A school year is 180 days. She wrote 180 essays. And that's how she got good enough at writing them that she could write a coherent essay for a college class in two hours and get an A.

People have told me dozens of times in dozens of ways that the only way to get good at writing is to write a whole lot, but that's the story that really got through to me with that lesson. I had it in mind when I started my first blog, and blogged every day for a year. I had it in mind when I started up blogging again, indefinitely, after that, and I remember it every once in a while when I think about this blog.

I've also told that story to other people, a few times, when I give advice on how to get better at writing. The biggest thing -- really, the only thing -- is to just do it a whole bunch.

So -- basically -- the secret to writing a good editorial, or pretty much anything else, is to start a personal blog and commit to it to an unreasonable degree.

How to write an editorial

Okay, so, heads-up: I don't actually know how to do this. I'm not an expert, I don't own a newspaper, etc. But, I have actually written editorials several times, and my friend who is the editor on a paper and needs to write them herself more often told me I should write a post about it. So. Step 1: picking a topic. Usually for me this means something political. To be totally honest I treat editorials a little bit like blogging. They're just slightly better organized. And from what I can tell, that's how publishers treat them, too.

But the topic can be whatever feels relevant to your readers -- at a school paper like the one I write editorials for sometimes, this often means things like safe driving and parking, vacations and finals, and local news at the school. It usually doesn't mean academics, which is probably a bad thing. We should maybe write about that more.

Step 2: Write. Literally just write whatever the hell you want. Usually I write it right in the page in InDesign, which I realize is a terrible idea. But I get to see right away if I'm filling up enough space. During this step, I attempt to hold back no opinion at all under any circumstance.

Step 3: Make it coherent. Cut off the chunks that don't actually make sense, rearrange parts that need rearranging, add paragraphs that cover background you should have covered.

Step 4: Get someone else to read it to make sure you're not being totally irresponsible. Idk if you'll need this step, but I definitely do. Step 2 generally makes it necessary.

And that's it! Basically just blog in print and don't sign it. Oh, and check your sources and don't lie.

Repetition of phrases in music and literature

So I've been listening to a bunch of OK GO in the past couple weeks, and one of the things I really like about their songs is the repetitiveness -- more than pretty much any other music I listen to, OK GO songs repeat the same moments and phrases throughout songs, often in slightly different ways or after different kinds of build-up. Importantly, they're not like those artists who just sing the chorus twice whenever they sing it, or get to the end and repeat two lines over and over again until the music fades out. OK GO seem like they're finding the climactic moments in their songs and rebuilding the songs to hit that point as many times as they can, without sacrificing meaning. They justify the moments, every time. If the goal of a piece of art is to achieve a heightened emotional state, then art that takes place across a space of time has a problem: building to a climax means the work comes in a shell; the long bit before, and the long bit after, the climax isn't really the art, it's context.

Note: At this point in the train of thought, I'm not thinking about music anymore, I'm thinking about writing. Although I am still listening to OK GO.

In American literature, the answer to this problem tends to be "Fine, just cut all that other stuff off." Edgar Allan Poe argued that the short story was the ideal format for story, exactly for this reason. American poetry is noticeably short and informal more often than not.

Maybe pop music is an example of this, two-to-three minute long chunks of sound that focus intensely on a particular moment, but I'm not totally sure about that. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head (because I hate songs that do this and so never listen to them) but I've heard dozens of songs in my life that build all the way through to one moment of perfect, climactic engagement, but take two thirds of the song getting there and never return to it.

There are a lot of ways to answer this problem. Poe's answer, obviously, is that if the song takes a minute getting to the point then meanders for a minute after it, it's probably about two minutes too long. (That is, if Poe's philosophy of writing translates to 21st century pop music, which I can't say with confidence it would.)

OK GO seems to me to bring an alternate approach to the conversation: take that climactic moment, and drop it back in several times in the beginning, and throw it in a few more times at the end, and make it work. That means the narrative of the song is at least a little non-linear: the moment of climax is happening the whole way through.

I spent some time trying to figure out what that would look like in literature. My first thought was action novels -- beat-for-beat action-packed thrillers -- but that was an unsatisfying answer.

Then I remembered Fight Club, and Chuck Palahniuk's "chorus lines" -- phrases that repeat throughout the book, accumulating meaning and significance and resonating backwards through the story as their context comes together. "I am Jack's raging bile duct." "Paraffin has never worked for me."

Of course, those repetitions don't need to be ominous and increasingly disturbing throughout the narrative the way they are in all of Palahniuk's books.[1. For the record: I've only read two, "Fight Club" and "Survivor."] Comedy is a fantastic place to look for this kind of thing, because not only do running jokes pretty much always make a story funnier, but in a good piece of comedic fiction, I think, the humor tends to agree: it all represents a coherent thrust of a worldview. In Terry Pratchett, a fair amount of the jokes say "If it's working, that's as good as true." In Douglas Adams, it's "Literally every part of this is a bad idea pursued for flawed motives and will have disastrous consequences."

None of those works are non-linear, though, in the way I initially suggested. (With the possible exception of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, but I won't say anything more about that except go read it right now.)

The non-linearity comes from the way that the repetitions reflect the outcomes they foreshadow. It's like dramatic irony -- the kind where the audience knows something the characters don't -- but the audience doesn't know, either. We're being told, but we don't, as a consequence of having been told, know the thing the author's telling us.

That makes the second-readings of these books amazing, for one thing. But for another, we start to pick up on the feeling of that climax far, far before it actually takes place. These chorus lines and running gags, placed at thoughtful and appropriate places throughout the books, light up matching moments so that we can start appreciating and enjoying those thematically vivid beats long before we fully understand how they all come together.

Started a new story

So, I settled on an answer to my Solarpunk progress failure problem. I was thinking about it today, and I just kind of got fed up with myself and started a different story, one that's been kicking around in my head for a little while. It's about a woman who has depression, has been in treatment for a long time, and has made progress but is still significantly affected by her illness. It's near-future SF, and she signs up for a drug trial -- a late stage of a new Augmented Reality program for treating depression. It's a "Depression Buddy" -- I'm almost definitely going to change the name in the next draft -- a little avatar that has access to your heart rate, brain activity, etc., and can hear your sub-vocalization. It's there to give helpful tips on the day-to-day management of depression. "Just because she said that doesn't mean she hates you," "If you have just ice cream for dinner you'll feel like crap tomorrow," "You haven't had any water today," stuff like that. It learns over time, and responds to her preferences and needs.

I'm not sure where I want the story to go. Traditionally, there ought to be a conflict. I don't want to write a "Medicine is bad" story, so I'm not going to write the app as a horrible failure. But there're questions of dependency, of the need for time alone, of jealousy with real people in her life. Then, there are questions of ethics: do she and the developers have ideological differences that might cause the app to undermine her identity? When the trial's over, how do they monetize it? Are they going to sell adspace in her head?

Maybe the story won't emerge quite correctly for a few drafts.

But anyway, that's where I'm at, writing-wise.

Updates: Minecraft and Fiction

Today was a very busy day at work, then in the afternoon I had to go to my parents' house and clean some stuff up, so when I got home tonight I just wanted to relax and play video games. So I did that, and forgot that I still had to blog and work on my fiction. So! Today's post is going to be another update, in the vein of last Friday and Monday's posts.

Crash Landing : I am on attempt number eight

And I am happy to report that, as I recently found out, it's possible to build a cheap generator! I've been picking the easy mode since, I think, attempt number 4, and that mode comes with a sync-thingy -- for a kind of huge amount of power, it very slowly builds another copy of your avatar, so you get one extra life -- if you die you get shot back to the sync body.

In play-through eight, I have died once, of starvation and thirst. I was pretty close to a sustainable food system, so with the full thirst and hunger bars of the synced avatar, I was able to build up a store of supplies.

But then I was out of electricity, and couldn't build a new sync. So I figured I was pretty much screwed.

I did some googling, though, earlier, and I found a generator (the Extra Utilities Survivalist Generator) that generates power extremely slowly, but within my budget, and that I could afford to build. So now I just can't die twice within the same ten minutes or so, and I'll be fine.

Solarpunk short stories : I am on story number two, the one about fire

I knew pretty well what the plot of story one was going to be in this series. Number two, though, I am significantly more lost.

This is turning out to be a really good thing! Because my character is just wandering around the village (purposefully, but that's beside the point) so I get to describe, and thereby develop, all sorts of details about the place and other characters in it. Like -- there are a couple of girls in the lab who, using some kind of brass alloy and pattern generating systems, and a plasma cutter, they've made panels for the second-story catwalk that each have a unique floral pattern cut into them to minimize their weight, without substantially compromising their supportiveness.

I'm going to go work on that story now. 'Night.

Short stories: a progress update

So. Story #1 may not get its second draft until after these four weeks are up. It's pretty close to done, but it doesn't really have any strong solarpunk elements. Like, the plot of this story is basically "Protaganist gets kicked out of home, walks for a very long time, then arrives at the solarpunk village," but once there, the story's pretty much over. I'm going to have em get a tour to give an idea of what, exactly, the resolution e has come to is, but that's not the depth I want to get into.

So I'm thinking these 4 stories are going to have to come together as a single, coherent piece -- because I don't want to spend another whole story establishing the place's existence, so I think I'm just going to jump over to another character and tell their story for a while. It'll be like Bordertown, but with genderqueer kids with magic powers doing cool things with renewable energy.

Solarpunk -- implementation

Solarpunk neighborhood This illustration represents a profound act of procrastination, having taken up nearly all of my Saturday evening, when I had a substantial pile of work I definitely ought to have been doing instead. (Including, but not limited to, actually getting some work done on the short story set in the city this illustration depicts.)

I'm working on building some solarpunk into the present-day-ish setting I'm already using. It's an urban fantasy setting, and the majority of my worldbuilding has gone into a place called Victory City (V.C.) -- a city with a history that sets it up to be profoundly hostile to the needs of citizens who don't fit its founder's idea of 'useful.'

I'm excited about bringing solarpunk into this setting, not because it fits neatly, but exactly because it's such a radical separation from the nature of the setting. I think solarpunk is going to fit well in V.C., or at least the small bastion of a solarpunk community partially pictured above, because for the people who'd be investing in this kind of movement, the city very badly needs it.

I keep talking about accessibility as a solarpunk value. In Victory City, all the buildings constructed before 1960 are raised off the ground by a full story. If you can't use stairs, you can't use most of the city. So in the solarpunk village, they've bricked- or walled-in all the first floors, maintained the elevators they have and put in new ones where they can, and built a second floor to the outside of the neighborhood, too -- so everybody can get to all the buildings, even the ones that are completely blocked off in isolation.

Speaking of access, though, there's another aspect of that here: restricting access. The people in this community (for which I should really come up with a name) have erected false building sections to wall off the alleyways and streets that used to lead into their area. They can be opened up, but are not freely traversable. The point of that is so the marginalized citizens of [the village] aren't limited and threatened by the free movement of oppressors through their space, the way they are everywhere else in V.C.

I had the thought while I was working on this picture, too, that they might be deliberately creating inconsistent design themes, using technology and plant growth in conventionally ugly ways, to keep the property values down -- so their community building doesn't trigger gentrification and end up pushing them all farther out than they were before. I don't actually know much about the mechanics of gentrification, though, so I don't know if that would work or how.

(I know there ought to be a railing on the walkway in front of the second floor, but I worked so hard on the picture I was scared I was going to ruin it drawing in rails and bars across the middle. For the same reason, it's also not painted, despite that being the original plan.)