Hey Air Force: above all, stop the web blackouts

Has anyone else begun to grow tired of Air Force 'Above All' ads blacking out an entire website? The military essentially running pop-up ads that 'block' or 'black-out' a website won't win them much love.

The Air Force 'Above All' campaign though, especially the cyberspace defense ads with that cool 'Minority Report' command center, is pretty darn neat. The issues it raises lie near and dear to my novel's heart. So I'll throw a link in to their site in hopes that they stop the blackout ads.

Pew has released a major survey on religion in America. Big result: people are moving fluidly between religions. And the second biggest religion behind Christian is 'unaffiliated' which translates to 'none'. Not that the unaffiliated don't have religious beliefs, but that they don't belong to an organized religion. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Check out the results, including state breakdowns for the lower 48, here.

As a humanist and free thinker, I find this encouraging. More people are exercising their free will and are breaking out of whatever mold their families may or may not have tried to stuff them into. It makes society less tribal, more thoughtful and more heterogeneous. Maybe Sam Harris was on to something in The End of Faith.

Since atheism is the new gay, maybe the pockets of high 'unaffiliated' will correspond to creative class meccas in the US, a la Richard Florida's hypothesis that the presence of gays in a city is a sign of tolerance, a key ingredient for municipal success. (See 'Creative Class: how cities succeed' link on the right).

Rewrite Hell

I have been rewriting the novel The Crashpoint Cascade for years (very part time though, because of family and work obligations). It has gone through about four major drafts and is now into its fifth. Some of that has been due to me learning how to write a novel. But a lot of it is just the requisite work needed. With two readers having poured through an entire draft, I have a pile of edits to put in. This is a real rewrite, more so than the others, because it is based on input from two other human brains that are not mine.

Rewriting is creative destruction in its purest essence. Favorite chunks of prose are slaughtered, ideas are belittled, put on the stand, and often executed. Characters become collateral damage. The process can seem endless, pointless, and will make you question why you ever bothered to show the world how you are a no-talent idiot that doesn't have the sense to recognize the foolishness of trying something so far beyond your abilities. Sometimes you have to write some new stuff that you know will be trashed just to get you a couple more steps on the journey to better understanding the story or a character. And sometimes you don't realize that it will be trashed until later on during a quietly sober moment of despair.

And then, while rewriting, you'll see a story point snap into place. A character steps into some contrived dead end you are sweating and takes the story in a better direction. You find some really cool chunks and they point you to new changes. Edits that you or the readers suggest spawn a whole series of new ideas and you are off and running again. Crest and trough, crest and trough.

Other writers have talked more eloquently about rewriting hell than I have, (Elizabeth Bear has this excellent post about rewrite hell here and and elsewhere she recommends this post by Justine Larbalestier) but experiencing this first hand is worth sharing.

One of the key things they and others mention is that you have to persevere. There won't be a light at the end of the tunnel for a long while, if ever, and if you stop, all is lost. If you don't go far enough, the finished product won't be good enough. Rewriting makes everyone feel like an abject failure and question their use of talent and time on writing. It never goes away, apparently. Or, as Woody Allen put it, 90% of success is showing up and by definition, not giving up.

There's a reason why many published writers' first complete novels sit in drawers, unpublished but not unloved, but never to be returned to. It could be that these novels are the necessary learning failures, never ready for primetime. And maybe each is the scar that reminds the writer about hard won lessons driven home about slogging through the rewrite stage, the bionic right hand that constantly reminds what impatience, inexperience and lack of commitment can result in.

Boycott MySpace

Because they discriminate on the basis of religion by deleting groups for atheists and agnostics after they were hacked by Christians. That it is owned by Rupert Murdoch should come as no surprise. Fox Noise regularly refuses commercials that it doesn't agree with too.

Thanks to Charlie Stross' blog where I first heard this, and see the Cleveland Plain Dealer here with the full story.

Of course, I'm already on Facebook and have little use for MySpace. I wonder what other groups MySpace will persecute next.

Trackballs set for Balticon 42

The whole Trackball clan will peek in on Balticon 42 on Memorial Day weekend. Dr. Trackball surprised me with a hotel reservation where the con takes place.

Their only con experience has been an exhausted romp through ComiCon last year in San Diego. Balticon is much different, much lower key. This should be interesting.