What this is.

I don’t publish everything I write. An overwhelming majority of things, really. They’ve been sitting in a folder and I wanted to get them out there. It’s not because they’re bad: some are bad fit for anywhere paying and I don’t know what to do with them; some were written for a weekly fiction competition I enter and have been sitting in a forum archive that’s hard to point people at; some of them were written for a specific publication and rejected, but I’m still proud of them and wanted to put them out there. I also write about tech, trying to break down complex infosec issues in digestible ways, and sometimes I go off about media analysis because why try to do something when[…]

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Seeking Non-Exponential Decay

The Korekore cleaved through the between-ness, down the aeonic star-roads, timeloose. Somewhere in the darkness, a star turned inwards under its own immense weight, devouring itself – a symphony of shrieking magma vents and the low bass crunch of a gravity well. She turned away from this, and towards the little sound, a timetethered mayfly hum of a distant planet. Stepping between the veils, she walked into the world. The locals called her The Snail. Art installation, installed in the dead of the night. Legend had it they came back every night and moved her, maybe a fraction of a fraction of an inch. Nobody had ever caught the artist, though many had tried. The council tried to remove her once; a small group of[…]

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Critical Mass

I see: hands, delicate and doll-like, twin-thumb threefinger; slackface, two-halves stitched with care (for there is so little thread); the organ, furnacewhite death-to-plastic, radiant between the pipes; a Giant, four-foot tall, five dolls’ worth of parts, bent-back to fit into the rats’ nest of crawlspaces beneath the organ, to chase the errant children and drag them back to work; the Chirurgeon with his many hands, ready to stitch, ready to cut the fingers of children who steal, ready with paint thinner and glue to wipe away the mouths of the children who cry. Them-that-built are gone with the water but they left their temples down in the down-dark, fifteen-thousand PSI, enough to liquify bone; first a lab then a refuge then a church and finally[…]

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That’s Not A Plothole 2: The Devil All The Time

There’s no term that armchair critics love to misuse more than “plot hole”. I’ve shouted about this before and I’m gonna shout about it again. I haven’t seen people talking about this specific plot hole yet, but it’s a variety of “plot hole” people love to pick up on that bothers the fuck outta me. So, there’s a moment in The Devil All The Time where a character pours lighter fluid on a box of photo negatives before dropping a match in it and setting it on fire. Going into WHY is spoiler territory and largely irrelevant. There are two important things here: 1) Lighter Fluid2) Old photo negatives Why is that important? Because old photo negatives are super flammable. Infamously so. Maybe an expert[…]

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Satire and Clarity: Get Out vs The Hunt

It’s hard to find a movie that has drummed up more bullshit controversy than The Hunt. The goddam US president took to Twitter to shout about … really the opposite of what the film is trying to say. It’s a film about Coastal Liberal Elites hunting “deplorables” because they don’t consider them human, and the camera follows the deplorables—they’re not the bad guys here. Left and right were both furious at it for different reasons.  That confusion didn’t come out of nowhere, and I think The Hunt lacks a certain clarity in its satire that could’ve otherwise made it great. This might ruffle a few feathers, but I think its closest comparison point is 2017’s Get Out. They’re both satires of a certain flavour of[…]

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Thunderdome Rules: How to Judge Flash Fiction Competitions Quickly

In 2012, I joined a flash fiction competition on the SomethingAwful forums. I also joined the next week, and the week after, and I came to realise in February that Thunderdome has been running for almost 8 years. This week was Thunderdome #400. Our weird little writing weekly writing competition has got people into grad programs, dream jobs, got people publishing deals with Big 5 Publishing Houses; The Dawnhounds started in a Thunderdome side group; the Discord channels spun off it house a terrifying array of Serious Authors who I know started out writing flash fiction about sentient farts on SomethingAwful. Each week, Thunderdome has three judges. The head judge is the previous week’s winner, and the other two are people they’ve shoulder-tapped to help[…]

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Writer Advice #0: Embrace your Bullshit

The first draft of The Dawnhounds came from a group called WAD. It was 2013, and Brandon Sanderson was releasing a weekly video of his creative writing lecture at BYU, through a channel called Write About Dragons, or WAD. Every week, we’d watch a new Sanderson video on Youtube, discuss it in a video chat, then we’d crit somebody’s latest chapter.  If you’ve never run into Sanderson before, there’s two important things to note: He’s famously prolific He fucking loves rules Which I don’t mean in a negative way: Sanderson has a rule for everything, and I think it’s a big part of how he writes so effectively—when he comes to build a house, the scaffolding comes pre-installed. Probably the most famous are his rules[…]

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That’s Not a Plot Hole: Birds of Prey and internal consistency

I’ve mostly avoided the Birds of Prey discourse, because it seems like a magnet for the sort of exhausting dude with Comics Opinions who my life is blessedly free of these days. I also haven’t read the source material, so line up to shout about that if you wanna. I am going in mostly blind, but I got back from Birds of Prey and I think it’s a great illustration of two storytelling principles that the internet (and the CinemaSins nitpick crowd in particular) critically fails to understand.  External consistency is when a text aligns with our real world. Almost every text has some: we see a baseball bat and we know that it hurts to get hit with, regardless of whether the world of[…]

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Computers Are Not Your Friends: the Iowa Caucus, the Shadow App, and the End of Faith

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said AI could be racist, it almost burned down the internet. Smug dudes in baseball caps were hooting and hollering and falling over themselves to laugh at the ridiculous idea that a computer system could hold human values. AOC was right. It’s one of the predominant issues in AI right now—an artificial intelligence is built from human datasets, and the selection of those datasets is done by a human, and that means there’s a chance to program human biases into an AI.  In 2018, researchers at MIT created a “psychopath AI” called Norman, named after Norman Bates. They exclusively fed Norman horrifying data: car crashes, dead bodies, mutilation and destruction. Norman came out fucked up. Not everything is as dramatic as turning[…]

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How to Pick the Right Comp Titles (for Science-Fiction and Fantasy)

For many of us, comp titles are one of the hardest parts of pitching. You’re trying to find titles that: Match aesthetically with your MS Match thematically with your MS Are popular enough that the agent has heard of them  Aren’t so popular that you look like you don’t know what you’re doing  And that’s hard. So I’m going to break this down into two parts:  The Great List of Swamps, wherein I go through all the things you shouldn’t do with comp titles.  The Little List of Lights, where I talk about the rationale behind making good comp choices.  But before we begin, the most important thing to remember:  Rule #0: any rule mentioned in this article may be broken, but breaking it must[…]

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MY DEBUT NOVEL IS OUT: The Dawnhounds

I can’t believe I forgot to put this on the blog. I got a bit swept up in all the madness of it, but my debut novel The Dawnhounds came out in November 2019 and it’s … actually selling. I’m still a little bit speechless. I expected it to just drop off the world, but—much like its protagonist—it refuses to die pretty. I’ve written about it (and Gideon the Ninth, and others) for The Spinoff, and there’s an upcoming review in Landfall for y’all to look forward to. If you’re in NZ, you can order it much cheaper and faster from Unity or Arty Bees, but Amazon is available for international readers. Readers have described as “Ankh Morpork meets Ambergris”, “Disco Elysium meets Ambergris”, and[…]

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