Links to Things

Here’s another list of interesting links I’ve collected recently:

  • Jo Walton, at, on science fiction reading protocols:

    We talk about worldbuilding as something the writer does, but it’s also something the reader does, building the world from the clues. When you read that the clocks were striking thirteen, you think at first that something is terribly wrong before you work out that this is a world with twenty-four hour time–and something terribly wrong. Orwell economically sends a double signal with that.

    And an earlier essay on the same subject by James Gunn:

    Earlier in the essay, Delany refers to the fact that “the conventions of poetry or drama or mundane fiction–or science fiction–are in themselves separate languages,” and in other essays call the process by which one approaches and reads those languages as “protocols.” As I thought about it, I realized that good reading is a matter of learning the protocols and applying them with understanding and sensitivity to a particular genre: poetry, for instance, is not read with the same protocols as prose, or an essay, as an article, or a short story, as a novel, or any of these, as drama.

  • On the other hand, there’s this post from another writer in which “genre fiction” is pitted against “literary fiction,” and the Virginia Quarterly Review is held up as an example of all that is wrong with the literati. There are people who look down on genre fiction–David Langford finds one or two examples every month for Ansible–but hardly anyone listens to them anymore and it’s really time for genre fans to stop obsessing over it.

    But I’m linking to this particular post because, rather wonderfully, the editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review shows up in the comments to point out that the VHQ does, in fact, publish genre fiction. I think this is what the kids these days call “pwned.”

    Elsewhere, Rachel Swirsky explains the difference between genre as a tool and genre as a prophecy.

  • Ten ways to write badly. I only draw comics and write blog posts, but I must admit I’m guilty of the first half of rule 7 (“Write only when the muse moves you.”) Got to work on that.

    Additional rules for writing badly, the way I write badly:

    11. Adverbs are your friends.
    12. So are semicolons.
    13. Em dashes! Lots of em dashes!
    14. Interjections are so much better than actually organizing your thoughts.

    Too much of the time I spend revising blog posts is spent just cutting down on these four problems.

  • Much of the art in the Louvre is anonymous. Who made it? And what assumptions do we make about the people who made it, and why do we make them?

  • On a less tasteful note, this is what can happen when language changes.