Category Archives: Fan and Geek Life

Unexpected Uses for Ordinary Things: January Poetry Fishbowl

Over on LiveJournal, ysabetwordsmith is doing her monthly poetry fishbowl. The theme this month is unexpected uses for ordinary things. You can leave prompts and donate to unlock the poems. (There’s still a little time left!) There’s also a freebie up.

Over on the Dreamwidth mirror, I left the following prompt:

If you stay alive long enough, everything ends up being useful at some point. Packrats and people with a knack for anticipating future usefulness, hanging on to seemingly useless objects until the critical moment. I would particularly love to see this in the Frankenstein’s Family verse, but anywhere would be lovely.

Which turned into the poem “Life Is an Improvisation,” so if you feel like tossing a few coins to the bard to help unlock it for everyone, I’ll be extra happy!

For a full explanation of the fishbowl concept, see Ysabet’s post. The short version is indie publishing at its best: readers want stuff, writers make it, money (or linkbacks like this post) support the writer so they post the materials.

Ysabet’s poetry is swell: diverse cast, smart science and magic, wicked sense of humor. Go. Read. Support.

Feminism in Studio Ghibli

This video from The Mary Sue gets into some of the reasons why I adore Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s films. In particular, the way their films handle villains is something I both love to watch and struggle to emulate in my own stories.

A good villain is hard to make, and the nuanced characters who need to be outsmarted and won over, rather than killed, have become my (often out of reach) ideal.

Meaning in Stories: Creatures Such as We

A friend mauled me until I played through this. Since I can’t stop thinking about it, I thought I’d pass along the pain/pleasure.

Creatures Such as We, by Lynnea Glasser, is an interactive fiction game from the Choice of Games line–which is frequently brilliant, by the way. You can play it online or via app for free.

The basic story is two-fold: you are a guide at a lunar resort, and in your free time, you play a video game called Creatures Such as We. This game-within-a-game structure is what ends up making this story such a trip. The story will ask questions about meaning, creativity, and consent–among other things–in reference to the interior game. Ultimately, those questions will haunt the frame story’s narrative as well, though. Apart from that, there is also some space adventure to be had, with your own life and the lives of others at stake.

I don’t want to give spoilers, and anyway, that would be difficult. Your choices, made every page or so, shape the story. You have an assortment of characters to interact with, and you can focus attention on whichever ones interest you the most. You can decide exactly what sort of person you will be in the story.

When I play any kind of RP or other flexible game, I’ll admit I can be a little…boring. I’m not the sort who cuts loose in a fictional world; I tend to be scrupulously my best self. I want to save the day and get the girl (or boy or nonbinary person, depending on what is available). This game…does not make that especially easy. Which is not to say it’s an “unwinnable” scenario, or one of those damn “rocks fall, everybody dies” doom stories. I’m not keen on those. What it is, is complicated.

Seriously, this is just me passing on the suffering my friend brought upon me. For the love of robots, play the game and come talk to me about it. I HAVE THOUGHTS.

History Preserved By Us All

Oh my gosh, I’m still not over how cool this is. The University of Iowa Libraries has tons of primary source materials in need of transcription–everything from letters and diaries to recipes from cookbooks. And they’ve set up a project that allows the public to help.

DIY History

The DIY History project allows anyone to submit transcriptions of handwritten pages. You can also review existing transcriptions to double-check accuracy and fill in any gaps you can make out that others couldn’t. They don’t require registration or special software or anything. You can contribute to the preservation of historical documents during the last five minutes of your lunch break or while commercial interruption #368 runs during your favorite show.

There’s more! You can look over existing pages, even if they’ve been finished already. This is a history geek’s treasure trove (not to mention a writer’s delight). Primary sources all over the place. Random letters between average citizens. Hundreds of cake recipes. All made fully searchable by the digitization + transcription process.

Due to a recent surge in interest (gotta love when cool stuff gets reblogged by the right people), they’ve sort of…run out of things for people to transcribe. So they’re busy digitizing more documents for the next round. If you go there and don’t find anything in need of work, check back. In the meantime, read through some of the finished pages for a glimpse into everyday history.

Spreading the Love

This isn’t the only library with such a program. They’ve shared the code used for the system so that other library collections can be preserved and shared in the same way. There are links to other projects here, some of which have lots of work left to do as well.

Here’s the most exciting bit, as far as I’m concerned: University of Iowa is doing science fiction fanzines next. The only disappointing part is that it will be restricted to a small group of volunteer subscribers. Due to issues of copyright and so on, they won’t make the whole mess of images available to the public. I’m not sure whose soul I have to sell to get in as a transcriber, but man, I would be tempted.

The combination of technological advances, history geekery, and the rise of crowdsourcing everything makes this one of the coolest projects I’ve heard of in a while.