The Enduring Allure of Choose Your Own Adventure Books

I didn’t realize how involved the children of divorced dads Packard and Montgomery were in the creation of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” gamebooks. (The children of divorced dad Will Crowther were one motivation for, and were early playtesters for, Crowther’s original Colossal Cave Adventure; the history of parser text adventure games and branching path gamebooks overlap in time and theme.) You were a girl who wanted to choose your own adventures. Which is to say, you were a girl who never had adventures. You always followed the rules. But, when you ate an entire sleeve of graham crackers and…

Reading fiction early in life is associated with a more complex worldview, study finds

This study relied in part on the repondents’ self-reporting of what they read as children, but it was a complex study that approached the core issue from multiple angles. The researchers note that an “association” is not a “cause” — yet the correlation is still worth reflecting on: Those people who did not read fiction in early life have a fundamentally different worldview than those who did. Research has demonstrated that people who read more fiction tend to have better perspective-taking abilities. Now, new research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has found that reading more fiction early in life is…

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Can AI write good novels?

I expect that this is probably the year I’ll need to consider how my profession will change if students start relying on AI writing software. Like many people in my social media feed, this summer I’ve been playing a bit with AI image software, and thinking about how all the photographers and artists whose work is being sampled and remixed, without compensation or credit, to supply a commodity that serves someone else’s needs. “Julia was twenty-six years old… and she worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly…

Enterprise-D Blueprints

As a newlywed, when my in-laws were visiting us in Toronto, I picked up a slightly crushed box of Enterprise-D  blueprints at a big discount, and proudly showed my prize to my father-in-law. His face brightened, apparently thinking I was *giving* them to him. During the awkward pause that resulted, he reasoned that I was expecting him to *pay* me for them, so he took out his wallet. He happily took the blueprints back to his hotel room, then on to his home in Texas. I hadn’t even looked at them all yet! After he died about 10 years ago,…

Masked, vaxxed, and settling in to watch live theater

Barebones is a little black box theater, but it fits a fantastic set and some effective practical effects. (It’s based on a Stephen King novel, so bear that in mind.) The battle of wits between complex characters who don’t make the kind of dumb mistakes that people make in horror movies was just thrilling. Great acting and direction. And the soundtrack of 80s hits and story-appropriate oldies was just perfect. The lightning punctuating the events was perfectly timed, the costumes, the props, everything intimate and credible, down to the animal doorstop and the crucifix on the wall.

Plagiarism Today Plagiarized in a Plagiarism Atonement Essay

Jonathan Bailey writes: In short, Bello, an author who admitted to plagiarizing in her now-cancelled debut novel, wrote an article about the experience and, in that article, included poor paraphrasing without attribution of an article that I wrote over a decade ago. It’s a moment that even 16 years of work in this field did not prepare me for. To be honest, even as I write this, I am still confused trying to figure out how to approach this both intellectually and emotionally. […] In short, Bello has, by her own description, a deeply flawed writing process. One that makes…

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In May, 2002, I was blogging about… typefaces in period movies; poets Paul Dirac and Stewart Conn; web usability; fired for making a satirical game

In May, 2002, I was blogging about Rating historical movies on how accurately they represent period typefaces The average UK reader spends 17 minutes a day reading a newspaper, compared to 11 minutes reading a novel. Paul Dirac, honorary poet laureate of modern physics. Student web project on poet Stewart Conn’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” Fired for making a game (a government meat popsicle creates a satirical game that his superiors never bothered to play) Creator of Nancy Drew dies at 96 Why won’t we read the manual? Put a search box on your home page, not just a…

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In April, 2002, I was blogging about an autistic person’s guide to asking a girl on a date; The Inform 6 Beginner’s Guide; broken links;

In April, 2002, I was blogging about Instructions for “Asking a Girl on a Date” (autistics.org) The Inform Beginner’s Guide (I edited this book on programming text adventure games in Inform 6) Broken Links: Just How Rapidly do Science Education Hyperlinks Go Extinct? (yes, the link was broken but I linked to the backup on the Internet Archive) Faking It: Sex, Lies and Women’s Magazines “Prenatal memory and learning” (language acquisition begins before birth) “Did I Miss Anything?” (poet’s creative response to a “question frequently asked by students after missing a class”) A Salon article mocking the New York Times…

It’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” 111th birthday

Interesting introduction to the history of musical annotation and copyright. The journey to that sheet music copyright began with Greek and Roman grammarians; they had developed signs to guide declamation (high voice, low voice and falling voice). Musicians adapted those signs to “[indicate] the contour of a melody.” This provided “a memory aid to singers who knew words and melody by heart.” In the mid-1000s, medieval music scholar and teacher Guido of Arezzo decided there needed to be a better way to teach novices. Consequently, he “revolutionized the music education methods of his time.” His innovations made it possible to read music, for a signer to perform a chant that he had…

The overlooked masterpieces of 1922

In literature the response to the challenges and opportunities of the early 20th Century was Modernism – the rejection of traditional linear storytelling and the use of more challenging styles to reflect the new world – and its annus mirabilis is usually seen as 1922. It was an apt time for breakthroughs: the same year saw, among other world-defining events, the appointment of Joseph Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist Party in Russia, the first treatment of diabetes using insulin, and the creation of the BBC. In literary terms, this was the year stamped at one end by James Joyce’s novel Ulysses…

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Pitching a Magazine Article: Resources for Beginning Freelance Writers

Jerz > Writing > Journalism A “pitch” is the publishing industry’s term for “proposal.” Your goal is to find out whether an editor is interested in a story you’ve written (or that you’re about to write). An editor with deadlines to meet and a flood of pitches from established authors will need a very good reason to take a chance on a new writer.  How to Pitch a Journal or Magazine Article (Harvard.edu) How to Pitch an Article to a Magazine (MasterClass.com) Pitching Articles: 5 Tips for a Successful Freelance Writing Pitch  (WritersDigest.com) How to Write a Pitch to Editors That WINS (15m video from Megan Grant)…

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In February, 2002, I was blogging about…

In February, 2002, I was  logging about Robert E. McElwaine was a conspiracy theorist who had a habit of spamming multiple newsgroups with his political, religious, and social ideas. He used an account at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, and was very active until around the time I started teaching at that school. Animator Chuck Jones, who brought to life Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, dies at 89. (No, he was neither squashed by a falling safe nor run over by an Acme Indestructo Steel Ball.) Palindromatic dates:”The year 2002. The 20th day of the 2nd month, 2002.…

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In January, 2002 I was blogging about…

A 20-something former CEO takes a fast food job The death of Astrid Lindgren (creator of Pippi Longstocking) at 94 Isadore, patron saint of web surfing (who remembers when “surfing the web” was the dominant metaphor?) Teenager created a glove to translate ASL finger positions to speech On the implausibility of the Death Star’s trash compactor The death of Hemingway’s “Old Man” at 104 Bernard Shifman, the moron spammer 11 September 2001, the Response of Poetry A former student’s 9/11 poetry project (created for a technical writing assignment) Arts & Letters Daily (long-running blog that’s still going) More reasons not…

The eagles in Lord of the Rings are a plot hole, but also an us problem

Part of my enjoyment of genre franchises is looking for and appreciating continuity. The other side of that coin is, of course, pointing out continuity gaps. But a plot hole is just a plot hole, and means nothing without context. A logical inconsistency in a tense psychological courtroom drama would be more serious than a logical inconsistency in a jukebox musical. I don’t read Larry Niven for his dialogue, and I don’t read Jane Austen for action sequences. Romeo doesn’t check whether Juliet is still breathing, but 1) he’s a character in a tragedy, not a first responder in a…

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In December 2001 I was blogging about

In December 2001, I was blogging about Changes in Online Culture The End of Free (chronicles services that used to be free but that now cost money) Is the [Technology] Revolution Over? Imagine Silicon Valley Buried Like Pompeii Wil Wheaton While the character of teen wonder Wesley Crusher was annoying because weak scripts had him saving the ship too many times, I wrote this blog page that traced early references to Wesley on rec.arts.startrek, a Usenet fan site that predated the World Wide Web. The young actor who portrayed Wesley was sadly the target of some online abuse, but over…