links 4/16/13

Great presentation tips from Emily Lakdawalla

Distraction can reduce age-related forgetting (paywalled)

Common DNA Markers Can Account for More Than Half of the Genetic Influence on Cognitive Abilities (paywalled)

Human object-similarity judgments reflect and transcend the primate-IT object representation

Mind the Gap: Bridging economic and naturalistic risk-taking with cognitive neuroscience

The Self Publishing Podcast

3 Ways to Improve Your Author Website Today (hahaha)

How We Teach Our Sons To Rape

Perceptual Learning Incepted by Decoded fMRI Neurofeedback Without Stimulus Presentation (paywalled)

Do Not Touch

Why I Do Self-Publish, by Linda Nagata

links 2/20/13

Jane Friedman: How to get your book published

Business Insider: Privacy settings for Facebook Graph Search

The Cult of Done Manifesto

In Defense of Parenthood: Children Are Associated With More Joy Than Misery (Nelson et al., 2013, PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

How to Make a Young Child Smarter: Evidence From the Database of Raising Intelligence (Protzko et al., 2013, PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

Moving Forward With fMRI Data (Rugg & Thompson-Schill, 2013, CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

The Seductive Allure of “Seductive Allure” (Farah & Hook, 2013, CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

The APS journal articles linked above are probably paywalled, sorry.

Between the special issue on how fMRI can inform cognitive theories, and the recent special issue on replication, CDIPS is killing it lately. I really want to read both from cover to cover, but I have to stick with the highlights for now. They also had a recent special issue on political bias in social psychology with a couple of good articles by Princeton’s Debbie Prentice and Penn’s Philip Tetlock; that’s not my field, so the priority is even lower, but on the strength of those article’s it’s probably worth reading through as well. Also to read, hopefully in the near future, my old officemate Martin Monti’s 2011 review of the GLM approach to fMRI…

zomg john scalzi lieks meeeeee

So, over on John Scalzi’s blog yesterday, he was all like this:


And, knowing his commentariat and being a man of his word, was soon motivated to make slight emendations to a comment he found less than salubrious, resulting in this:


Which, perhaps predictably, led me down a dank, winding corridor of eldritch and disturbing thought culminating in this:


To which Scalzi, bless his heart, responded quite kindly with this!


Which cheered me greatly.

But there was more to come! For he then went on to pen the following post:


In which he made the following announcement:


Thereby promoting my insurpassably original idea from the mire of the comments section to the Frank Lloyd Wright penthouse of the main blog, on the comfortable yet stylish black leather sofa of John Scalzi’s delight. In consequence of which I am now, for somewhat liberal values of “FAMOUS,” INTERNET FAMOUS.

I will be happy to furnish a standard 15% commission to anyone who can turn John Scalzi’s undying love for me into cold, hard cash. Or, failing that, beer. Consider this the JOHN SCALZI INTERNET FAMOUS BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION. Just don’t expect a quick turnaround on your applications—I’m absolutely inundated with hits and comments.

Well, I will be. Any minute now.

“it’s a matter of whether you’re content to focus on everyday events or whether you want to try to encompass the entire universe.”

Larry McCaffery: Could you discuss what sorts of things have drawn you towards writing SF? Do you find there are certain formal advantages in writing outside the realm of “mainstream” fiction, maybe a freedom that allows you more room for exploring the issues you wish to develop?

Gene Wolfe: It’s not so much a matter of “advantages” as SF appealing to my natural cast of mind, to my literary imagination. The only way I know to write is to write the kind of thing I would like to read myself, and when I do that it usually winds up being classified as SF or “science fantasy,” which is what I call most of my work. Incidentally, I’d argue that SF represents literature’s real mainstream. What we now normally consider the mainstream—so called realistic fiction—is a small literary genre, fairly recent in origin, which is likely to be relatively short lived. When I look back at the foundations of literature, I see literary figures who, if they were alive today, would probably be members of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Homer? He would certainly belong to the SFWA. So would Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare. That tradition is literature’s mainstream, and it has been what has grown out of that tradition which has been labeled SF or whatever label you want to use.

LM: That’s why I began by asking if you weren’t attracted to the freedom offered by SF—it’s only been since the rise of the novel in the 18th century that writers have more or less tried to limit themselves to describing the ordinary world around them….

Wolfe: It’s a matter of whether you’re content to focus on everyday events or whether you want to try to encompass the entire universe. If you go back to the literature written in ancient Greece or Rome, or during the Middle Ages and much of the Renaissance, you’ll see writers trying to write not just about everything that exists but about everything that could exist. Now as soon as you open yourself to that possibility, you are going to find yourself talking about things like intelligent robots and monsters with Gorgon heads, because it’s becoming increasingly obvious that such things could indeed exist. But what fascinates me is that the ancient Greeks already realized these possibilities some 500 years before Christ, when they didn’t have the insights into the biological and physical sciences we have today, when there was no such thing as, say, cybernetics. Yet when you read the story of Jason and the Argonauts, you discover that the island of Crete was guarded by a robot. Somehow the Greeks were alert to these possibilities despite the very primitive technology they had—and they put these ideas into their stories. Today it’s the SF writers who are exploring these things in our stories.

Here’s the rest. Highly recommended. (Some spoilers, at least about THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS, possibly about the Book of the New Sun.)

fantastic meditations: a linkology

My brother is putting together a proposal for a course titled “Wizardry and Wild Romance,” self-consciously stolen from Michael Moorcock’s indispensable book of the same name. The idea, as I reconstruct it, is to examine contemporary epic fantasy and its classic antecedents in their mutual light, which means mining a literature of criticism on contemporary fantasy that isn’t especially familiar to either of us. We shot around ideas about it for a while, and it occurred to me in the course of the conversation that I’ve consumed a lot more relevant and semi-relevant online material than I’d realized. So I compiled the sources I can remember (plus a few I only just stumbled on) and sent them to him in an email, which I’ve only just now realized might be of general interest. So here it is.

China Mieville on why Tolkien rocks: (worth reading if only to savor the phrase “the remorseless sylvan bonheur of Tom Bombadil.” Remember, in French, happiness is le bonheur.)

A collection of neat essays on China Mieville at Crooked Timber, including a longish response by Mieville:

Jeff VanderMeer interviewing CM on weird tales is probably irrelevant, but looks fun:

Jonathan McCalmont complaining about the critical apparatus of sf vs. film studies: (the more recent post on Adam Roberts looks like it could be interesting, though I haven’t finished it, in part because I’m not familiar with Adam Roberts; however, it’s possible neither is relevant to epic fantasy)

As unfortunate counterpoint, SALON’s Andrew Leonard writing a while ago on the Malazan Book of the Fallen: — I’m conceiving this as sort of an object lesson to hammer home the value of a more educated critical approach, because otherwise you get crap like:

“Give me, instead, the evocation of a rich, complex and yet ultimately unknowable other world, with a compelling suggestion of intricate history and mythology and lore. Give me mystery amid the grand narrative. There’s no need to spell it all out; no prefaces, please, elucidating the history of Middle Earth as if to students in a lecture hall. Instead, give me a world in which every sea hides a crumbled Atlantis, every ruin has a tale to tell, every mattock blade is a silent legacy of struggles unknown.”

… when Steven Brust at least has been doing exactly this since 1980 (and still isn’t done!), Martin and Rothfuss do it, Gene Wolfe does it, Gaiman does it, &c. These goals and approaches are really not that uncommon. Leonard gives GRRM crap for spending “page after page describing the household sigils of this noble family or that, or what the knights were wearing just before they ran off to joust,” which maybe I don’t remember because I’m inured to it from a misspent youth, but Martin’s approach to the First Men, the Doom of Valyria and the Targaryen conquest, and all this stuff is exactly what Leonard is asking for. Argh. Anyway. (Expanded thoughts on this matter here.)

The New York Review of Science Fiction has Steven Erikson taking on the idea that Tolkien has dominated fantasy; his review is in the May 2012 issue, and I can’t find it online, but there’s a quote on the Malazan Book of the Fallen Wikipedia page here:

This New Yorker article by Arthur Krystal and its linked predecessor may be interesting (as might the Lev Grossman article in Time, also linked), although Krystal is pretty obnoxious:

Having looked a little bit more closely at some of the material, I heartily recommend the Mieville/Vandermeer interview and the McCalmont essay, and regret to say that “obnoxious” is a generous descriptor of Krystal. I need to check back in my copies of Le Guin’s THE WAVE IN THE MIND and Delany’s SEVEN ESSAYS, FOUR LETTERS & FIVE INTERVIEWS ABOUT WRITING to see if there’s anything relevant. If anyone can find Erikson’s NYRSF article, please send me a copy!

“ave, imperator ozai! morituri te salutant!”

spoiler alert

I’m probably late to the party here, but I just discovered A:TLA Annotations and I’m having a TVTropes-like timesuck experience. Buried among the anatomy of the cartoon’s cultural references, though, is something that you might be interested in even if you don’t care about cartoon numismatics or the real-world referents of Fire Nation musical instruments—a take on the wildly ill-conceived A:TLA movie that never even came close to occurring to me. The relevant posts share a highly appropriate tag, so they’re easy to find. I won’t rehearse the argument in any great depth, but here are the bones:

Take a look at the movie. The Fire Nation is portrayed as technologically advanced and civilized and not just that, Shyamalan has more than once superimposed it with India (see the casting of all the Fire Nation, not just the main cast). He most certainly did not do that because he thinks they are the villains, quite the contrary, he seems to fanboy them a lot.

I reacted to the movie’s Fire Nation the way most people I know did: Of course the villains are the only non-whitewashed nation and they’re Indian, Shyamalan must have some weird self-hate complex and/or this was the only way he could get people of color in the movie at all. The idea that the movie is a product of a Fire Nation apologist engaging in cultural appropriation… well, it still sits oddly in the head. I think I’d have to watch the movie again, carefully, to evaluate Jin’s arguments properly, and I do not care to do that. But Jin appears to have watched the movie pretty carefully to develop her (?) arguments, and Jin has an impressive eye for visual detail. So I commend the f-you-shyamalan posts to anyone with an interest in the A:TLA mythos.

“science fiction deals trivially with matters of great cosmic importance while mainstream literary fiction uses its superior literary skills and powers to examine the lint in its own navel.”

The LA REVIEW OF BOOKS interviews Norman Spinrad. I keep picking up his stuff at used book sales, but I’ve only read BUG JACK BARRON and his ebook, QUARANTINE. This makes me want to hunt up THE IRON DREAM.

It’s fun to read about the publishing business, even if (especially because?) there’s some sniping involved, and although you are perhaps not strictly obliged to respect the cojones of a dude who claims THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS hasn’t “had quite the legs of BUG JACK BARRON,” you could at least see where that might come from.

“a writer who can be so universally admiring need never lunch alone”

All the articles in SLATE’s Longform Guide to Takedowns are worth reading, but two stand out. I think their common strength is in using good writing, and insight trained by writing, to anatomize the failings (and, in a sense, the workings) of bad writing. It may help that their targets really are fish in barrels—or, perhaps more likely, that their targets come off as fish in barrels may testify to the pungency with which Taibbi and Morozov make their cases.

The significance of Columbus’s discovery was that on a round earth, humanity is more interconnected than on a flat one. On a round earth, the two most distant points are closer together than they are on a flat earth. But Friedman is going to spend the next 470 pages turning the “flat world” into a metaphor for global interconnectedness. Furthermore, he is specifically going to use the word round to describe the old, geographically isolated, unconnected world.

“Let me… share with you some of the encounters that led me to conclude that the world is no longer round,” he says. He will literally travel backward in time, against the current of human knowledge.

“Flathead,” by Matt Taibbi

Today TED is an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering—a place where ideas, regardless of their quality, go to seek celebrity, to live in the form of videos, tweets, and now e-books. In the world of TED—or, to use their argot, in the TED “ecosystem”—books become talks, talks become memes, memes become projects, projects become talks, talks become books—and so it goes ad infinitum in the sizzling Stakhanovite cycle of memetics, until any shade of depth or nuance disappears into the virtual void. Richard Dawkins, the father of memetics, should be very proud. Perhaps he can explain how “ideas worth spreading” become “ideas no footnotes can support.”

“The Naked and the TED,” by Evgeny Morozov

“Insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering.” I’ll have lunch with Evgeny Morozov any time.