Switzerland Bound

I’m going to Zurich next week! I’ll be delivering a keynote and a workshop about transmedia storytelling* to the film educators of CILECT, a consortium of film and television schools.  If any of you will be there, please come and say hello! I’m not sure if I’ll know anyone at this particular conference, and I’m always a bit nervous going into rooms full of strangers.

My hosts tell me there will be a river cruise on the first night, serving fondue. Twice now they have asked me, anxiously, “Do you eat cheese?” 

Friends, I am going to eat all the cheese in Switzerland. And then purchase a cuckoo clock? Isn’t that what you do in Switzerland? Is there something amazing in Zurich I should be doing that I might not know about? Besides the cheese?

And I’ll likely take a million photos while I’m there, then share only the good ones with you here. It’s going to be great! 


* This may seem at odds with my declaration that I’m giving up the punditing business; but in this case, I’m talking about very specific, practical elements of craft, which continues to delight me.  No snake oil here, folks!


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I’m Not Quitting Twitter. Yet.

Let’s talk personal social media strategy, and how I’m trying to protect democracy by setting up a way to get my blog posts by email. No, really.

Look, we all know the stark truth. In the year 2017, Twitter is a hot mess, a festering swamp of villainy, a miasmatic and oppressive empire of Nazis and the people who enable them. The company’s attempts to fix rampant abuse and harassment have been shallow and ineffective, often targeting victims more than perpetrators. Something has to be done. Nothing is being done.

I say this as someone who loves Twitter. I wouldn’t be enjoying the career I have now if it weren’t for Twitter.

But time and Trump have changed the world, and social media most of all. A lot of people are increasingly uncomfortable with the knowledge that being on Twitter makes us complicit in an ecosystem of unrelenting evil. And there’s a certain vulnerability that comes from making commercial advertising networks your primary internet home. Not just the constant knowledge that at any time the eye of Sauron might fall upon you and evil will come your way; no, something subtler and more pernicious, even, than that.

Social media are a vector for propaganda, paid and otherwise. They’re sources of bad information and unsupported opinions. They are the domain of emotion over fact, and what you let into your brain shapes your very identity. Ordinarily a certain skeptical vigilance would armor us from this. But now we live in a world where anyone with a botnet or a troll farm can exploit the human urge to engage with our peers in good faith. This is a danger to democracy, and it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

And yet. Twitter is where my friends and colleagues are. It’s where my readership and reviewers are. It’s a source for work and promotion that I don’t have a replacement for. Leaving Twitter and quitting writing are not the same, but it’s hard to see where the difference lies for me.

Which is a third kind of vulnerability: as goes my Twitter account, so goes my readership. And if Twitter falls, or if we do collectively decide to leave the platform en masse, then I could face a real struggle in keeping my head above the vast ocean of obscurity.

That’s doubly true on Facebook, where what you see and who sees you are heavily regulated by an invisible and ineffable algorithmic hand. When you speak up on Facebook, there’s no telling if anyone will ever hear it. And often the things it chooses to show are the least important things of all.

So it’s time to start looking for an escape plan. Time to execute a diversification strategy, as they say. This is risk mitigation, pure and simple. There are too many of my eggs in Twitter’s basket.

I have long maintained that the best platform is the one that you own. And this is the place that I own — if you can find it.

But blogs aren’t what they used to be, and for a lot of reasons. For one thing, search engine visibility relies a lot on social traffic, these days, for good and ill. When Google Reader went bust, a lot of people just gave up on their RSS feeds, preferring instead to just click links as they happen to see ‘em pop by in a social feed. You can post, but there’s still not any guarantee that anyone’s paying attention.

There is a third way, pioneered by outfits like Tinyletter. The good old-fashioned email newsletter.

I do have a newsletter already, and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re subscribed already. But it’s a sporadic sort of thing where I mainly announce new ways for people to give me money. It’s got a lot of subscribers! But I don’t figure those people would be happy if I started mailing them every day, or even every week.

So I’m starting a new, higher-frequency list. This new Deus Ex Machinatio newsletter is going to send out my blog posts, no more than once a day, and probably less because ha ha ha ha ha who are we kidding if we think I’m going to be blogging every day. Though who knows? Maybe I will.

You can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/c75VPb (And if you subscribe before 4pm on Oct. 19, 2017, you’ll get this very email in your inbox! Neat!)

Going forward, I’m going to move a lot of my social media energy back over here again. No more threaded tweetstorms. Maybe I’ll post my daily sketches here, and talk about... you know... day-in-the-life social stuff. How my work is going, or how I like my haircut, or which conventions I’m going to this year and why. And as always, I’ll noodle over writing craft, game design, or post my hot takes. You know, what you expect from me.

That means I’ll be somewhat less visible online unless you’re opting in or following me here. Please consider opting in.

I’m really excited about this, I won’t lie. I miss the depth and substance of the blogging days. This might be a path back in. Dang, do I hope this works.

But to make it work, this is needs to be a two-way street. So I want to know where to find you in your space, too. Do you have a newsletter, too? Link it in comments. Got a blog? Hook us up so we can Feed.ly our hearts out. Tell us where you live on the internet and why you’ve picked those places.

It’s not a solution. Not a bold or brave stance. This is just damage control. But listen, if we’re going to save democracy, we all have to start somewhere.

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Patreon 2: Electric Bugaloo

I'm reposting some stuff here that I just sent to my Patreon backers. It's not all baked yet, but I am setting the wheels in motion. Ready?

First, some history. I stopped posting here because I had some qualms about limiting access to my work, and therefore limiting the number of people who would ever be exposed to it. Eventually I was posting stories to my blog, too, and nobody here minded... but nobody elsewhere read, either. And that's not a great way to get new readers.

Now, though, I'd like to do something a little different that I'm super excited about. Growing my audience is important, but there are a lot of kinds of projects I'd love to do that I don't because there's just no market for them anywhere. Stuff I used to do as a weekend project: a story in a Google Calendar, or My Super First Day, or quick little interactive twiddles with a voice mail and a couple of email autoresponders. 

I want to play.

Not full-fledged ARGs, though. Nothing episodic. Just me poking at the edges of form and story to see what I can find, and sometimes iterating to see if I can do a thing that's been done before in a different or better way.

These things will be short—minutes to go through them, and certainly never as much as an hour—and very unchallenging, since I'm interested in narrative dynamics way more than puzzles. I'll try to do monthly but we'll see where life and deadlines take me.

Updates to the Patreon coming soon. Gotta make a new video, gotta rewrite rewards and goals and so on. Happy to hear your ideas if you'll give them to me. And then... let's see what happens, OK? In the meanwhile, if you want a quick peek of what the Patreon used to look like (or you want to get in on this new thing right the heck now), you'd better click fast.

Thank you, as always, for believing in me. I hope we can have a lot more fun together going forward. <3

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The Cultures 182: Yoga Pants, What Makes Things Cool, Nation-States

You guys, this one was a GREAT episode. In it I explain the connection between startup culture, perception of status, and our current epidemic of athleisure fashion; Adrian Hon discusses what actually perfectly effable things make something cool or not; and Naomi Alderman muses that perhaps we should abolish the nation-state altogether as a thing that exists.

As always, you can follow us on Twitter!  Listen to the episodes on Libsyn! You can even subscribe on iTunes! And once you do, please let us know what you think. Happy Monday!

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Where to Find Me at Confusion 2017

I'm going to be at Confusion 2017 again this year, in Novi, Michigan from Jan. 19-22. And I'm gonna be on programming, too, so woooo!

I don't have a lot else set up yet beyond this, but I'd really love to put a couple of meetups for drinks or coffees on my calendar. So if you're going to be there and you might want to hang out, drop me a line?

And without further ado, here's my schedule so far:

All Your Data Are Belong To Us

Saturday, 4:00 PM. Room: Petoskey
What is "the internet of things?" How smart do we really want our devices to be? What will society look like when whole systems of objects talk to each other to shape our lives? And who controls the data our things collect?

Group Autograph Session (5 PM)

Saturday, 5:00 PM. Room: St. Clair
Come meet your favorite authors, artists and musicians and have them sign things! (Please limit your signing requests to 3 items per person.)

Reading: Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, Andrea Phillips

Saturday, 8:00 PM. Room: Saugatuck
Authors read from current or forthcoming works

Pantsers Rule! (Or So They Tell Me)

Sunday, 10:00 AM. Room: Interlochen
No plan! No safety net! Writing by the seat of your pants is the best, most effective writing strategy. Well... at least for some writers. What are the strengths and weaknesses, and what might be some alternatives, other than outlining?

Writing is Fundamental

Sunday, 11:00 AM. Room: Isle Royale
Some of the fundamentals of prose storytelling have evolved over time, and some vary wildly between genres. What has changed since the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres came to be as we know them, and how have genres like mystery, romance, and YA diverged?

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