Archive for February, 2003

Ready, Set, Edit!

Friday, February 28th, 2003

NaNoEdMo begins in just a few short hours, and their registration is finally working, more or less. Ignore the error message after you submit your registration, if you get one, and just try to log in with the account you were making and you should be fine. For more details on National Novel Editing Month, see
my previous NaNoEdMo post, which has the link to the one-pass manuscript editing essay.

For the Love of the Game

Friday, February 28th, 2003

Related fic: Than Fade Away (post-VOY)

Just recently I read about SatireWire shutting down, though it happened half a year ago. After citing creative differences, the sole satirist went on to blame burnout, if not in so many words. Today I was looking through Daypop and found a blog entry that related the SatireWire grand exit to the perils of doing what you love for a living.

Burnout is a danger to fan writers, too. The legal tender of fandom is fame and feedback, and fans may end up writing long after the muse has gone because they can’t give up the steady paycheck. I’m not addicted to feedback (or I’d have died of the DT’s long ago), but I’m sentimental about the good old days when the muse was writing 200k epics. I keep hanging around, hoping that the glory days of 2001 will return, or writing the esoteric pairings or Borg-victory plots which still interest me.

I don’t mean the burnout caused by fandom wankery, though I’ve seen my share of that. I used to think I was protecting my fan self from RL by hiding my identity, but I realized a while back that fans are much more of a danger to my RL self than RL people are to my hobby. This horror story of late-night harassment is a prime specimen of the viciousness of fandom, but that’s not my topic.

Whether you’re a fan writer, a professional author, a humorist, or even a blogger, burnout is always a risk. The advantage of getting paid for your hobby is that then you get to do it at least 40 hours a week. Those 40 hours are a dead loss if you’re working some non-beloved job in order to make ends meet and support your avocation. I’d gladly risk burnout for those 40 hours, not to mention the fifteen I spend commuting.

I don’t think you can save your love from burnout just by saving it from the nine-to-five hamster wheel. All those BOFQ’s and burned-out fan writers demostrate otherwise. Deadlines or financial stress or fan harassment can wear you out. Maybe you’ll be too lazy to do what you love. Ayn Rand said it was the hardest thing to do what you really want. She would have been livid at anyone who suggested chasing your dreams was a ruinous and destructive way to think.

But then again, Ayn Rand was an INTJ. If you’re the kind of person who chases your dreams, you’re probably the kind of person who catches them.

Is There in Truth No Beauty?

Thursday, February 27th, 2003

Cool link of the day: Space Film - I can’t believe no one had tried this before.

I thought I’d never think of a fannish application of J/P, but RJ’s comments have inspired me. This is my version of her version of the difference:
INTP: It’s true because it’s beautiful.
INTJ: It’s beautiful because it’s true.

The analogy to fanfic comes immediately. Some fans love any well-written story, no matter how depressing the plot or esoteric the pairing. It is a good story because it is beautiful. There’s another camp who appreciate any story about their one true pairing with a happily-ever-after ending, even if the literary quality is questionable. It is a beautiful story because it is fanon-correct.

So far it’s just an analogy. I’d have to know more about fans’ tastes and personality types to claim that it’s a real J/P distinction. I wouldn’t do a survey just over fic tastes, though it might be interesting to find out how the personality types found in fandom differ from the proportions of the types in the general population. That sounds like a job for Seema…

The Preference Preference

Wednesday, February 26th, 2003

Lego link of the day: Lego Tarot

I’m going to have to backblog (place on the blog back burner) the fascinating topic of sexual politics until I’m feeling more meta. Today, I’d like to start, at least, on the final chapter of MBTI Theatre: J/P. I was inspired to return to this long-backblogged topic by an article on introversion currently making the blog rounds.

People have trouble understanding the J/P distinction, partly because it doesn’t give rise to the personality stereotypes that extreme E, I, T or F behavior does, and partly because of the dual definition. It is a mystical truth of MBTI that the J/P preference in behavior corresponds to the J/P preference in preferences, but it’s a tough idea to wrap your mind around.

In behavior, the J/P preference distinguishes between the judging types, who like to come to conclusions and make decisions (or at least to have the finality of the decision having been made). The perceiving types prefer to leave matters open-ended, to take in all new information rather than closing off some future possibility with a hasty decision now. Judging types tend to take control of a situation and give it direction. Perceivers tend to go along for the ride. J’s like to finish things; P’s like to start things. J’s are regimented, P’s are curious.

In preference, J’s prefer their judging preference over their perceiving preference, which is to say, either thinking or feeling (T/F), whichever is in their official personality type, over sensing or intuiting (S/N). For example, an ESFJ, given a choice of approaching a matter with his sensing abilities or his feeling, will lean towards the feeling approach. An ESFP, on the other hand, will go with the sensing. The J will decide how he feels about it, while the P will investigate what concrete data she can sense in the matter.

If you’re not boggled yet, there is an added complication. The J/P distinction establishes a preference for dealing with the external world, not the internal one. For extroverts, whose domain is the external world, the J/P preference therefore determines which out of S, N, T, or F is the dominant process - the leading part of their personality. The ESFJ has F for his dominant process; the ESFP has S.

For introverts, however, the external world is of secondary concern, so the J/P preference determines which process, S/N or T/F, is delegated to the scut work of dealing with the outside. Their dominant preference is instead the one that is left free to govern their internal affairs. Thus, an INTP such as yours truly has T for her dominant process, while an INTJ prefers N.

So that’s the explanation. It’s singularly unconvincing next to the more obvious distinctions of E/I, S/N and T/F. J/P is tied into the E/I preference, further muddying the waters. While it’s easy to say what an E as opposed to an I would do at a party, it’s not so clear what an IN (introvert with N as the dominant process), for example, would do differently from an IT.

I think personalities tend to be more balanced (that is, in the middle) between J and P than between any of the other opposites, and that makes it hard for the average person to get much out of their J/P label. I’m still searching for my inner P - or is that my inner J?

On having a debate

Tuesday, February 25th, 2003

Cool link of the day: Memeufacture: Weblog and Automated Trend Reporting

In some really excessive midnight geekiness, I hacked modtool, a perl script for usenet moderators, to do NNTP authentication at Earthlink. I can only assume it was a more trusting time back in 1996 when the script was last updated, when NNTP servers ran wild and free… Anyway, if you want my modified script, email me and tell me what newsgroup you moderate and I’ll send it to you.

Now, back to the meta. I was thinking about this topic even before I saw Melymbrosia’s comment, to which I hope this entry will be a sufficient answer. First of all, the purpose of a debate is not necessarily to convince the other party of the truth of your own point of view. Argument purely for the sake of winning converts is more properly called proselytization. The proselytizing mindset is most ironically seen in A’s allegation, you’ve already made up your mind. In that case, A believes that the sine qua non of argument is the potential for changing B’s mind. The possibility that B’s opposing arguments might, in fact, change A’s own mind has been completely overlooked.

There are very few cases in which I get into debates with the hope of persuading other people, and most of them involve communal activities where everyone wants a certain outcome - say, a fair set of rules for the ASC Awards, or a new XML DTD. In the case where there is a final goal the group wants to reach, you need people to be able to compromise on the outcome. Yet there is never a need for anyone in the group to actually change their mind about what they, individually, feel would have been the ideal story categorization.

Most of the time, I argue because I enjoy thinking about whatever the topic is, voicing my ever-ready opinions, and hearing what other people think. It’s entertaining. I don’t expect anyone to change their mind because of what I say, except possibly me. I don’t expect anyone to stop writing slash because I don’t care for it, any more than I expect professional SF writers to change their styles because I got bored halfway through their last book. Without a communal goal in mind, there is no pressing need for people to agree with one another.

Because it’s my personal soapbox, my blog is the biggest repository of argument for the sake of hearing what I think. I write it down because it clarifies issues for me, entertains me, and may even interest others or prod their own thoughts. If I get into a debate with another person about something as non-earthshattering as the latest fan follies, I don’t do it to convert them to the gen cause. I just find it interesting to dig down to where we truly differ. It’s fine if they’ve already made up their minds, as long as they can say how they came to that conclusion, and I can figure out where we diverged.

So where do discussions go wrong for me, so that I have to walk away? It’s never that B holds an opinion. It’s not that B doesn’t want to discuss the matter - in that case, B is the one who has walked away and I see no point in pestering her. If B is willing to argue, yet unwilling or unable to do so rationally, then I’m the one who has to walk away.

If B is incapable of expressing why she thinks X instead of Y, she’s useful as a statistical point in an opinion poll but not as an opponent in a debate. If B consistently misconstrues A’s statements or resorts to logical fallacies like ad hominem, whether out of malice or out of a simple lack of reasoning skills, it becomes impossible to have a rational discussion. Maybe other people enjoy a flamewar, but I don’t.

Is walking away from a bad B in itself itself impolite? If you’re face-to-face with someone, maybe you do owe them an explanation, but that explanation cannot be you’ve already made up your mind because there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion. That B stands by her original cause at the end could just mean that A presented no convincing arguments to the contrary that were based on premises B would accept. With a bad B, that’s not the case, but it’s logically possible. It’s not polite to tell B that she’s not as intelligent or interesting as you would prefer, so it’s probably best just to bow out of the situation gracefully and not get involved with B again.

If you’re on-line, most communication is asynchronous anyway, so there isn’t really a problem with dropping the ball when you’re tired of B. Unless B has left some outstanding question that A couldn’t answer (and this is unlikely with an irrational B), A can let her explanation stand. A could do so even with a rational opponent who hadn’t made any particularly intriguing points in the last round. Most arguments peter out one way or the other.

For instance, it could be 3 a.m. and A might need to get to bed.


On having an opinion

Sunday, February 23rd, 2003

I confess - I’m a logician. I’ve seen my share of malice in fandom, but it never bothers me as much as irrationality does. The ad nauseum disturbs me because it is an attack on the possibility of rational debate in the area which “bores” the attacker. The ad hominem likewise bothers me, not because I’m the scapegoat, but because, again, the actual debate is tossed out the window when the debater herself is attacked.

I don’t mention fan foibles unless I’ve seen them more than once. I don’t link examples when the people involved are malicious, but if it’s just something an average fan might say or agree with, I will. Maybe not this time, though. Instead of linking, let me just rephrase one of the more frequent ad hominem arguments of fandom: A tells B, You’ve already made up your mind, and walks away.

It’s an ad hominem in the literal sense of the phrase, since it’s directed not at the point at hand but at the person (B) making the opposing argument. However, it’s not used (fallaciously) to establish the truth of A’s side, but merely to excuse A from further debate.

First of all, it’s meaningless to say that B has made up her mind. Believe me when I tell you, A wouldn’t be bothering with the argument if she hadn’t also made up her mind, at least provisionally. People who don’t have an opinion in the matter don’t get involved in debates.

A’s real meaning might be taken as, even if I proved my point, you wouldn’t accept the proof, but unless A is psychic and knows for sure what B’s reaction will be, this is just a baseless allegation. It takes quite a bit of argument to get down to another person’s fundamental irrationality, if she’s fundamentally irrational - I know, I’ve done it more than once. If you haven’t done the work, you have no right to impugn someone else’s rationality.

Of course, A is always free to walk away, but not to blame her forfeit on B. People are busy, and not everyone enjoys a good debate. Some people are culturally biased against certain styles of argument, considering them frightfully impolite. I’d guess the majority of fans either don’t like to argue or can’t argue their way out of a paper bag, which makes fandom a dull place for me. Even so, I never find myself cutting off an argument with an irrational opponent by saying you’ve already made up your mind - that is hardly B’s problem. If I have the time, interest, or a sudden fit of educational zeal, I will argue until it has become quite clear that B is a hopeless case. Then I just walk away, and I don’t look back.

Argumentum Ad Nauseum

Sunday, February 23rd, 2003

The most common logical fallacy in fandom is not listed in Stephen’s Guide, but I keep running into it so I’m giving it a name. I’ll call it the argumentum ad nauseum. It’s a cross between the argumentum ad hominem and the fallacy of style over substance. A crossover fallacy is singularly appropriate for fandom.

The ad nauseum is the act of attacking a position, not for being incorrect nor for any other logical flaw, but simply for having been said many times before. There is, the man once said, nothing new under the sun, and even less new in fandom, so the ad nauseum is never a valid criticism. Usually it’s not even true - that is, the positions under attack have not been stated more frequently than anything else, nor than the opposite stance in particular.

Just as it’s only meta when somebody gets annoyed, it’s only boring when somebody doesn’t want to hear it. Maybe they feel threatened by opposing points of view, or maybe they aren’t intellectually capable of defending their own. The motives behind the ad nauseum are probably as diverse as those behind any other logical fallacy - it only holds the power it does because fandom is a literary community. Boring is a damning criticism when it’s leveled at fic, yet it is hollow when pointed at a blog or any other discussion forum.

If you really don’t want to hear it, you have the delete key and the back button. When instead you go on and on about how dull someone else’s blog is, questions automatically arise: Why did you keep reading it? Why are you pointing it out now?

I do book reviews in my blog, and I’ve never criticized a book without saying exactly how I thought it went wrong. Saying that meta is boring, dull, or “grey” is just a cop-out - a statement that the (allegedly) poor style negates the underlying substance. Ad nauseum is also a way to attack someone without having to justify, or even mention, your own position on the issue - that is its kinship with ad hominem.

So I really can’t get worked up over people who have nothing more insightful (or inciteful) to say about me than the standard ad nauseum “ho hum.” For an even better example of ad nauseum than my recent appearance on fandom_wank, I would refer you to Jintian protesting too much at the manifesto meme - for example: I don’t see the need for all of this sudden flag-waving and State of the Union speech-making. [The following has been edited.] I took this to mean, my opinions are interesting; your opinions are boring, unnecessary, or repetitive. The first half of the statement is merely implied, and isn’t necessary to ad nauseum. [end edits]

To recap, everyone has the right to be bored. If you’re bored, go away. If you attack me for boring you, it means you’re just faking the boredom - you’re really feeling threatened, guilty, or just plain hostile. Either learn to defend yourself without the ad nauseum arguments, or go away. Whining that something is boring is, for lack of a better term, boring.

Today I am a BNF

Friday, February 21st, 2003

I made fandom_wank. Thanks to Seema for the link.

I didn’t read it all, but one answer I can provide is that I think Te is great. Give the gift of fic!


Thursday, February 20th, 2003

Cool mac link of the day: Perversion Tracker reviews the really bad Mac software that never sees the light of day on VersionTracker.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to writing…the email appears in your box. You thought everyone had forgotten the 50,000 words of dreck you wrote in November, didn’t you? The lazy days, the desperate weekend catch-up sessions, the wretched last 2,000 words you wrote on the night of the 30th when you discovered that your word counter and NaNoWriMo’s didn’t agree…yes, they’ve all come back to haunt you. It’s time for NaNoEdMo - it’s time to edit that albatross into a sleek, fashionable penguin (paying special attention to the repulsive imagery of chapter four).

Don’t think you’ll get away just because didn’t finish your NaNoNovel, or even worse, didn’t start. According to the EdMo FAQ, any pre-existing draft of a novel qualifies for a national edit. Even fan-fiction is allowed. All you need is 50,000 words of dreck, more or less, and 50 hours of your time in March. Start planning now with the Pre-EdMo Tips. Check out Holly Lisle’s article on one-pass manuscript revision to make your first NaNoEdMo your last.

This comes at a bad time for me. After the exhaustion of NaNoWriMo, I took December off, then did some last-minute Trek writing in January for the ASC Awards year deadline. This month I’ve been on vacation from fanfic, slowly working myself up for more original fic. I have a stack of books on metallurgy I’ve been reading for one short story (which was supposed to be about genetics, not alloys) - I was so into The Nature of Metals by Bruce A. Rogers (1964) that I almost missed my T stop tonight. I certainly don’t want to stop writing both that story and the other I started this month in order to go back and edit dreck, but I’ll never get anywhere by starting novels. At some point, you have to finish them.

There goes another month…

So many stores, so little cash

Wednesday, February 19th, 2003

Cool image of the day: a hotrod iBook

So I want to buy a new iMac, I really do, but the issue is: where? Do I order it from the on-line Apple Store? Do I hike over to the Apple retail store at the CambridgeSide Galleria for that hands-on, immediate gratification? Do I support my local reseller? Or is an on-line MacMall, with its rebates and free printers, for me?

For reasons I don’t recall, I joined the Boston Macintosh Users Group, and they also have an on-line store for members. The deals look the same as at MacMall, at least on the new macs. By the way, that free memory thing is a scam - they charge you most of the cost of the memory, but call it an installation fee. How about they send me the free memory, I open the bottom cover, pop it in, and close the cover? I won’t even charge them $40 to do it.