December 19, 2014

Fantasy is fantasy

Connor Gormley, Black Gate:

My point is that fantasy, and all the genres like it, give writers a medium through which they can explore every facet of the human imagination, test the very limits of what we, as human beings, can envision and relate to, what’s within our power to articulate. Fantasy challenges writers to make social commentary and philosophical statements within the most fantastic and diverse circumstances possible. Fantasy has the potential to take its readers to places they could never conceive of, on adventures that transcend comprehension; with this tool, fantasy could become the most beautiful, poetic, and diverse form of escapism we have.

It could be, if we didn’t focus so much on the elves, the dwarves and the dragons, but we do, because we’re idiots.

Fantasy is a genre that has become bogged down with clichés and tropes, archetypes and expectations. Apparently, in order for a novel to qualify as fantasy, there has to be sword fights, magic has to be present, dragons have to turn up at some point, and it absolutely must be set in a pseudo-medieval, sort of European landscape.

Fantasy literature is a weird beast. It definitely carries the weight of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, doubtless not his intentions. The readers want what they’re accustomed to, just as in any other genre, or form of entertainment. Meanwhile, there’s the people who want to be different, who want to stand out and whine about how everything that’s shaped fantasy is basically shit. I find that silly, it’s like saying 70s rock is shit, and needs to be replaced. There’s room for a lot more than we have today, a lot more than fantasy worlds inspired by medieval Europe, but that doesn’t mean that everything pertaining to that style should be obliterated. Nor does it mean that you can scratch out Tolkien’s importance in the genre, no matter how much you want to.

Fantasy literature is constrained only by what you accept to read, and, I guess, in part by what’s published. With self-publishing, you can rest assured there’s quite a lot non-mainstream out there, so if you really want to change things for fantasy readers, do it with your wallet. And if you’ve read some outstanding fantasy, traditional or not, tell me on Twitter. I’d love to spread the word, if it’s good.

December 18, 2014

Steam Holiday Sale 2014

Gamers beware, the Steam Holiday Sale for 2014 has started. 63% off Dark Souls II, and 40% off Civilization: Beyond Earth among the discounted games in the first batch. Better set up a budget for this thing…

WordPress 4.1

WordPress 4.1 is out now. My favorite addition isn’t the new default theme, Twenty Fifteen, although I like it and am currently using it on Pale Publishing’s site. No, I’m more interested in this little tidbit:

Metadata, date, and term queries now support advanced conditional logic, like nested clauses and multiple operators — A AND ( B OR C ).

Potentially very useful.

December 16, 2014

Roundups of 2014

I started to collect snippets for yearly lists, for a linkdump post. Best of Twitter, you on Facebook, Tumblr’s year in review, year in music on Spotify – that sort of thing. But looking through these I realized that they’re utterly boring. Even the YouTube rewind video is, while well made and full of things to recognize, nothing worth giving extra thought. So while I’ve linked all of those things above, a way less comprehensive piece of linkage than I had in mind, I really can’t urge you to click any of those links if you’re just going to click one thing today. That says a lot, and it reminds me that not all things are worth linking, nor spending time on.

As a side-note, are you fed up with the gift guides yet? I certainly am, and I’ve stayed clear of most of them anyway. This is such a weird time during the year, when weak content suddenly gets the spotlight.

Finally, there is one yearly thing I think is worth checking out, saved for last obviously. I might not be Google’s biggest fan, but their global and national lists of what people have been searching for during the year are interesting. These have been the big issues in 2014, and that’s worth a link.

December 11, 2014

Instagram is now bigger than Twitter

Instagram passes Twitter:

Instagram now has a bigger active user base than Twitter, according to a blog post written today by CEO Kevin Systrom. The photo and video sharing platform has over 300 million active users, more than Twitter’s 284 million but a far cry behind parent company Facebook’s 1.3 billion.

This is, obviously, the service Twitter should’ve bought.

December 10, 2014

Jim Dalrymple and the iPhone 6 Plus

Jim Dalrymple on the iPhone 6 Plus:

Despite my initial reaction, three months in and I’m happily using the iPhone 6 Plus. The larger screen is glorious for my aging eyes and I find I’m able to get more done on a phone than ever before.

Nice piece. I’ll have my own piece on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which I’m still swapping between, up in the near future.

Nick Denton’s 2015 memo

Gawker Media CEO Nick Denton has published a mammoth memo for 2015, where he announces changes in leadership and other important stuff for people working on any of the company’s properties, or with an interest in media. But as always when Denton writes, there’s more, and this stood out.

We all understand how this works. Editorial traffic was lifted but often by viral stories that we would rather mock. We – the freest journalists on the planet – were slaves to the Facebook algorithm. The story of the year – the one story where we were truly at the epicenter – was one that caused dangerous internal dissension. We were nowhere on the Edward Snowden affair. We wrote nothing particularly memorable about NSA surveillance. Gadgets felt unexciting. Celebrity gossip was emptier than usual.

We pushed for conversations in Kinja, but forgot that every good conversation begins with a story. Getting the stories should have come first, because without them we have nothing to talk about.

Read more →

December 8, 2014

Starbucks baristas controls your name

Salomé Jones have written down the Starbucks name game, as told by yours truly.

When you go to Starbucks and the barista writes your name on your paper coffee cup, that is your name until you are assigned a new name.

Example: Your name is Alice. The barista writes Ally. You are now Ally until you get more coffee in a new cup with a different name on it.

Full rules here. It’s crazy what powers the baristas have these days…

Cheap Android tablets aren’t secure at all

Bluebox tested sub-$99 Android tablets, and – shocker! – found them to be security nightmares.

Bluebox Labs purchased over a dozen of these Black Friday “bargain” Android tablets from big name retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Kmart, Kohl’s and Staples, and reviewed each of them for security. What we found was shocking: most of the devices ship with vulnerabilities and security misconfigurations; a few even include security backdoors. What seemed like great bargains turned out to be big security concerns. Unfortunately, unsuspecting consumers who purchase and use these devices will be putting their mobile data & passwords at risk.