> Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer _
“Truth is Like the Sun”
Lightspeed Magazine 108
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3
More
“The Walk to Distant Suns”
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
More
“The Marsh of Camarina”
Shades Within Us
More
“Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?”
Nightmare Magazine 63
More
“In Memory of a Summer’s Day”
Mad Hatters and March Hares
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Tor.com
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
Lightspeed Magazine 85
More
“The Singularity is in Your Hair”
Cyber World
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2016
More
“Demon in Aisle 6”
Nightmare Magazine 38
More
“Saving Diego”
Interzone #221
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Magazine #42
More
“The History Within Us”
The People of the Book
More
“The Bricks of Gelecek”
Naked City
More
“The Hands That Feed”
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
More
“The Great Game at the End of the World”
After
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Lightspeed Magazine and io9.com
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Year Four
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Clarkesworld Magazine #92
More
“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs”
Clarkesworld Magazine #98
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015
More
“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
Clarkesworld Magazine
More
How Viewing Our Own Social Graph Might Help Reduce Cultural Polarization
This was originally posted on Twitter, but I’ve unrolled it here because I’d like to open this to further discussion, and I feel Twitter is too ephemeral to maintain that type of interrogation.
 
So I’ve been thinking about how polarized our culture has become lately, and what we might do to remedy it.
 
Then I read a few articles on MIT @techreview. First this one about the influence of social media — first positive and hyped, and then negative and denigrated:

And this one about how we all place ourselves into “filter bubbles.” Many people in one scientific study “were surprised to learn just how cocooned inside far-right or far-left bubbles they were.” 

So it got me thinking about how *everyone* might better visualize their own cocoons, and what tools might let the average person know (right or left, elf or wizard) their own cognitive biases. 
 
The perfect data for this is our *own* social graph. The social media companies: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter — they all obscure our social graphs from us. 
 
This is good business practice for them. Why is keeping our data hidden from us a good thing for them? Because they profit from our social graph. They use it to advertise to us. It is their primary business model. 
 
But we should at least be able to view our *own* social graph easily. I mean, if they’re going to profit off of graphs of our clicks and likes and web-page visits, then at least we should be able to see those graphs too. 
 
So I started looking for tools that might easily show us our *own* social graphs. The social media companies at least make a show of saying we can always download our own data. But how easy is this? I mean for the average person to view? 
 
Some googling led me to this page, where I was surprised that the tool did just what I was looking for. It shows you your social graph in easy to understand visual diagrams.  wolframalpha.com/facebook/
 
Excited, I followed the link to the Facebook app. But lo and behold, I get a 404: File Not Found.  apps.facebook.com/wolframconnect…
 
Either @Wolfram_Alpha or @facebook removed the link to that app. Which is a damn shame, because, as the articles above suggest, seeing visualizations of our own social graph might help us overcome the extreme polarization of our culture right now. 
 
I think visualizing how we, ourselves, are connecting with the (digital) world might raise awareness of our own cognitive biases. This is true for people of all parts of the political spectrum. 
 
I don’t see how more awareness is a bad thing. When someone is disturbed, a therapist usually works to bring the troubling issues to consciousness. Through awareness and reframing, the trauma is healed. 
 
I think a tool like the Wolfram one above, and others just like it if they exist (I will search for more), might help us to heal as a culture. I believe it would be one tool that’s worth trying. 
 
PS: here’s a page showing what some of those charts might look like: blog.stephenwolfram.com/2012/08/wolfra…

Mailing List

If you wish to keep up to date with my fiction, you can now subscribe to my mailing list here. While there is Twitter and Facebook and G+ and my blog, all of those have an aura of the impersonal. They seem to me a bit more like shouting into a crowded room and hoping a few people turn away from everyone else’s shouts for a moment to listen. An email list seems more personal to me. People subscribe because they want to

I plan to keep this list pretty low-frequency. I’ll send out updates only when I have something tangible: a new story out, a new book contract, and maybe once or twice I year I’ll send a free gift to subscribers like a novel or story excerpt. Sometimes the internet can be so very large and impersonal, so consider this my way of having a bit more intimate relationship with fans of my writing. Please fill out the form if you’re interested:

 


The Romanticizing of the Writer

The world is full of cliches of writers as drunks, addicts, horrible spouses, slobs, sociopaths, delusional freaks, hypersensitives, narcissists, hoarders and so on. And there are the cliches of writers as great lovers, wild adventurers, warm-hearted parents, magnanimous, free-thinking geniuses, etc., etc. The thing is, all of these are lies, cliches perpetrated by mass media, which romanticizes the writer as something one is rather than something one does.

If only I had a desk like him, THEN I'd be a writer.

If only I had a desk like him, THEN I’d be a writer.

We live in a world of images, and while this is a miracle (for example, imagine a person from a hundred years ago learning of Instagram), the nature of social media is just that: a world of images. When we log onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., we see carefully crafted images self-selected to convey a particular message. And because of this, it’s far easier for us to present an image of being a thing than to actually do that thing.

Parse that last sentence again.

It’s much easier to look like something than to do that something. If Sally Upstart Writer is looking to connect with the world via social media and the images she has in her head of what a writer is (images, by the way, Sally didn’t form on her own, but learned from the media she has consumed for a couple decades), then she will tailor her image to be what she thinks a writer is, because in the social media age, image is everything — you are your image. 

The thing is, what makes someone a writer is writing. Not images, not your clever Tweets or your Instagram pics or your Facebook shares. This is not to say those things don’t have a purpose. But when your social media presence becomes a substitute for actual writing, when you are externally validating your self as a “writer” by the amount of social media feedback you receive, you can be sure your narcissistic tendencies have taken over. 

I’ve done this myself and I’ve seen this behavior in others, especially those who are just starting out.

My advice therefore to Sally Upstart Writer is this: ignore everything you’ve ever heard about writers. It will be difficult at first, because you’ve absorbed all these images of what the media tells you a writer should be. But the only thing a writer is is someone who writes. All else is smoke and mirrors.

 


“Truth is Like the Sun”
Lightspeed Magazine 108
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3
More
“The Walk to Distant Suns”
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
More
“The Marsh of Camarina”
Shades Within Us
More
“Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?”
Nightmare Magazine 63
More
“In Memory of a Summer’s Day”
Mad Hatters and March Hares
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Tor.com
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
Lightspeed Magazine 85
More
“The Singularity is in Your Hair”
Cyber World
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2016
More
“Demon in Aisle 6”
Nightmare Magazine 38
More
“Saving Diego”
Interzone #221
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Magazine #42
More
“The History Within Us”
The People of the Book
More
“The Bricks of Gelecek”
Naked City
More
“The Hands That Feed”
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
More
“The Great Game at the End of the World”
After
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Lightspeed Magazine and io9.com
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Year Four
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Clarkesworld Magazine #92
More
“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs”
Clarkesworld Magazine #98
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015
More
“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
Clarkesworld Magazine
More