On #sffwrtcht tonight 6pm PST, reading in SF Saturday 6pm

Hi all. Just a quick heads-up for a couple of events — I will be on #sffwrtcht with the very kind @BryanThomasS tonight at 6pm PST/9pm EST. All you have to do is load up the #sffwrtcht hashtag on twitter.com to tune in! You have many screens to choose from, but I’ll be pleased if you pick this one. The chats are a lot of fun, so stop by on a future Wednesday evening if you can’t make this one.

And if you’ll be in the bay area on Saturday evening, I will be reading alongside Marie Brennan and Ysabeau Wilce at SFinSF. Full details are here, and the short and sweet is:

Saturday, May 19th

Join us for an evening with Ysabeau Wilce, Marie Brennan & Erin Hoffman

6:00PM – doors and cash bar open
7:00PM – event starts
$5-$10 donation at the door benefits Variety Children’s Charity of Northern California – to date, we’ve helped raise over $30,000 for the kids in our community! Learn more here!

The Variety Preview Room Theatre
The Hobart Bldg., 1st Floor — entrance between Quiznos and Citibank
582 Market Street @ 2nd and Montgomery
San Francisco, CA 94104

Don’t Drive — BART/MUNI Montgomery Street station is right at our front door, and parking in San Francisco sucks!!! Street parking ($3.50 per hour) is metered M-Sat., til 6PM; find a parking garage here.

Hope to see you there!

Poised on the threshold of a lifelong dream

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a long time, and thinking about the subject for even longer. But as is often the case with such things, a picture gives you the important information faster. 🙂

And in case that’s not clear enough:

I have author copies, they are beautiful, and the book is available on Amazon now, though at the moment there are only 11 5 2! left in stock.

Kiba, as you can see, is quite excited.

Nothing I could say would be even remotely adequate. I have memories of walking through the aisles at Crown Books at ten years old and thinking about how amazing authors were. I remember being midway through a fantasy book once and being suddenly existentially struck by what an amazing thing a book is. That we think of it as a finished object, a thing, but what we don’t consciously wrap our minds around while reading is how every word put down is a moment in another person’s life, that each page and collection of pages is a chronology of experiences, probably multiple experiences, days and weeks and months of hard work and pure invention.

And now I have one, and, perhaps in part because I work in games I am unusually aware of the number of people that go into this (and yet I’m not as aware as Lou Anders is, who actually works with them all). In Prometheus’s case, right around fifty hardworking people who all touch every book at some stage of its production. Which basically multiplies the complex work of the story, refines it, polishes it, makes sure that every moment of your reading experience is a crafted one, carefully considered. They did a hell of a good job.

It’s obvious, I think, from my shield-banging about sustainability and organic food and conservation activism that I am a pretty passionate environmentalist. My tax return so attests. And I love technology, and I love what it’s doing to the experience of reading. But crafted objects like this, touched by so many people, delivered to you, the reader, are what will keep paper books around, at least for the next while. And though I am biased (ridiculously biased!), this one is a treasure, and I am humbled to have it. If you seek it out (or if I throw it at you — cough), I hope you enjoy it too. And if you do, or even if you’re just interested and haven’t taken the plunge yet, I’d love if you’d consider joining the party on the Andovar World Facebook page, where there will be info, links, giveaways, and more. 🙂

If you want to read more of my thoughts about game design, storytelling, and a bunch of other things, before I was flummoxed by this meteor of awesome, Jeremy Jones was kind enough to interview me for Clarkesworld Magazine. If you take a gander I’d love to know what you think.

Taking the Psychopath Test

Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test is an enthralling read for anyone who is even the slightest bit odd. (And if you’re reading this, chances are I mean you.) It’s a wild ride, a Philip K. Dickian roller coaster through some of the darkest crevices of human behavior, spiraling out into the macro-levels of societal power structures and human history, and then back into the minutiae of everyday people living lives with the greatest intentions of normalcy. And in its way it is an act of torah, in the universal sense — a paean of love for humanity, of love that looks closely and does not flinch.

Be warned that if you go in and go deep you will probably go a little crazy. And perhaps the great honesty of the book is that it dives in deep here as well, pushes you to reflect on your own crazy, and the expanded crazy of the greater semi-conscious social system that we live in.

It will make you think about your friends, your enemies, your coworkers, your family. I know people who are capable of violence. Some of them great violence. You know people like this, too — maybe you even are one. One of the questions at the heart of this work is one asked by dystopians for centuries, and yet one that seems to get sharper with every increase in our civilization and technology: where do you draw the line around what kind of abnormalities should be eliminated from society, by imprisonment, by medication?

To draw that line is to say that we have found the pattern. We want so badly for there to be a decisive list, for there to be labels and boxes, for things to be clean. We are pattern-seekers. Patterns make a chaotic world comprehensible, they lull us into functionality. And so ultimately, we need books like this, the world needs books like this, that peel back the skin of reality and have a good sticky look inside, to challenge the artificiality of the psychological borders that keep us safe. And as all truly well designed things are, it achieves a life of its own by being entertaining, by taking us from Douglas Hofstadter’s Strange Loop to Bedlam to Mississippi industrial ghost towns, from Wall Street to the brainstem of psychiatry to mass murderers, from Scientology to DSM IV, from opulent Florida mansions to four-year-old children being treated for bipolar disorder.

In the end, once we have gone through the wormhole of inquiry and emerged onto the far side, changed, the concluding question is: if there were a “normal”, truly, would we want to be it? Even considering the consequences of the vast systems around us, their need to contain us, to statistically filter out danger and potential disruption?

Hopefully, the answer remains no. Hell no. My cold dead hand no. God is dead no.

And yet, being the social animals that we are, it is inevitable that we try. And that’s okay. And also a little bit crazy.

Publications Update: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Farrago's Wainscot

Hi all. Behind on updates again, but just wanted to get in a quick update. More posts coming soon, including a Smeagol update — he has a vet re-visit next Saturday. Overall, he’s doing much better — more details soon. 🙂 Much travel ahead… NYC this weekend, Seattle next month (for LOGIN Conference, where [info]erikbethke and I will be discussing BetterEULA’s second year), NYC again in June for State of Play, TNEO in July, and of course many trips to LA in between… I’ve given up updating my Dopplr account.

So, writing stuff!

Here are some links:

In Beneath Ceaseless Skies, also check out Marie Brennan’s “Driftwood”, and, if so inclined, her wonderful post about the magazine on her LJ. If podcasts are your thing, also check out the mag’s audio fiction.

In Farrago’s Wainscot, also check out other great stories by Bruce Boston & Lee Ballentine, Toiya Kristen Finley, Jason Fischer, Jason Heller, S. J. Hirons, and Matthew Kressel, poetry by Miranda Gaw, and a very interesting experimental word piece by Jeffrey Barnes.

Go forth and read!