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How the Culture of Hyperbole is Ruining Everything

How the Culture of Hyperbole is Ruining Everything

The language of culture today is defined by hyperbole: everything is awesome — unless it’s not, then it needs to die in a fire.

It’s a style thing, and it will probably pass, but even though it’s obvious and amusing, the implication that the only options for criticism are unbridled enthusiasm or profound hatred makes for a toxic environment.

Reviews, even bad reviews, are desperately important for creators. They are how we know if we’re accomplishing our task. Milquetoast reviews of “Liked it,” or “It’s okay” don’t really say anything. I’ve often argued that bad reviews are among the most important for a creator, since they help to determine if we’ve found our audience or not. No book, painting, play, video game, poem, dance or song will be to everyone’s taste, not should it me.

Art is individual, taste is subjective. Good reviews help me know I’ve found a receptive audience, but bad reviews help me refine what that means. Bad reviews show me where I’ve hit people’s buttons, where I differentiate my work from someone else’s. And they also show me where I went wrong — where I alienated an audience I wanted to reach. They are a key component of my work.

But the language of hyperbole that pervades popular criticism is as meaningless as vague words like “fine” and “okay.” When everything is awesome, nothing is great. And when everything else should be nuked from orbit, other issues arise.

Criticism is necessary for art to thrive, positive and negative. But creators are human beings and most of us are very close to our work. When we hear people talk about our work in deeply personal, passionately hateful ways, it hurts. And when we are hurt, sometimes we lash out.

I don’t condone authors who stalk their critics, but I can understand how someone might be so hurt that they become obsessed in this way. I don’t condone calling for critics to have their careers sabotaged, but people who feel their own careers have been attacked might turn to revenge. None of this excuses these actions, but a toxic environment makes these bad decisions

Worst still, when most negative criticism is counted in hateful terms, even reasoned and intelligent criticism becomes tainted with spite. When you’re accustomed to hearing worst. episode. ever. it’s easy to hear has some issues with representation with a vindictive subtext. But true criticism isn’t vindictive, which is something that many people (*cough*GamerGate*cough*) don’t understand. There’s a difference between haters and critics, and critics are necessary to the creative process.

It’s time to end the reliance on hyperbole in our reviews and critiques. It has its place, sure, but in moderation. Because intelligent, nuanced discussion really is like a cat with a gun riding a unicorn. Best thing ever.

cat-unicorn

Notes:

  1. I’m not linking to the specific issues I mentioned because I don’t want to give traffic to people who engage in these activities.
  2. Yes, the title of this post is ironic.
  3. I’d argue that The Lego Movie and the song “Everything is Awesome” are, in part, critiques of the culture of hyperbole. “Everything is awesome, like a Nobel prize or a piece of string.” Indeed.
More tech from my novels coming true

More tech from my novels coming true

Well, potentially, anyway.

The implanted chips that everyone uses in Beautiful Red and the Dex books might be coming down the pike, and for pretty much the same purposes.

From unlocking your front door to silently communicating with people nearby, this implantable chip concept from New Deal Design is pretty much what I envisaged in my books. This was one of the concepts I thought was pretty likely, and like some others, I’m a bit surprised it’s taken this long.

I have to admit, I cannot wait for functional wearable technology that will truly monitor my health and take care of basic stuff like ID and payments. I mourn the loss of privacy and anonymity that existed in my youth, but I believe that ship has sailed, so I might as well make use of constant monitoring for my own purposes.

via Co.Design

image via NewDealDesign

News from Plan B, my mystery & crime magazine

News from Plan B, my mystery & crime magazine

In addition to writing SF, I’m the editor of Plan B Magazine, a professional short fiction magazine that publishes mystery, crime and suspense stories. We’ve had a great couple of years so far, bringing readers stories from award-winning authors, one of our originals being on the short list for last year’s Derringer Awards, and starting a podcast of some of the stories we run.

I’m now crowdfunding to support doubling our pay rates for Year Three, as well as some great stretch goals (paperbacks! pro-rates!).

Contributors can get perks like pre-ordering the Year Three anthology, critiques on your short stories, and a beautiful paperback of all the Plan B stories so far. It’s massive: there are 52 stories and it weighs nearly a kilogram.

If you like mystery or crime, or know someone who does, please consider checking out the campaign. Every little bit helps and I’d love to keep bringing these stories to readers.

2014 Worldcon Roundup

2014 Worldcon Roundup

As one might expect, I had a fantastic time at Loncon 3. It’s difficult to distill the excitement of meeting so many great people, of being involved in such great discussions and just generally being in an environment suffused by the whole gamut of science fiction and fantasy spirit. It was a heady few days.

So, here are some highlights, knowing that this is but a tiny sliver of the experience.

I was lucky to participate in two panels, both of which were great discussions. The first was a lively round of talk about the value of technical exposition in science fiction. Myself, Jack William Bell, Cory Doctorow, Heidi Lyshol and Kim Stanley Robinson mostly vehemently agreed with each other. We all thought that the proscription on “info-dumps” (boy howdy, does Stan ever hate that term!) was silly and that learning things from stories is one of the parts of SF that we loved. We also agreed that they can be done poorly, but so can any aspect of story-telling. That said, it was a heated debate, even though we were mostly all on the same page. Good fun!

The second was a discussion of post- and trans-human stories told from non-dominant perspectives (queer, non-Western, etc). This was a great discussion that covered the constraints of embodiment, technology as a factor of wealth and class, the nature of consciousness and selfhood. It felt like Ibrahim Abbas, Russell Blackford, Lettie Prell, Hannu Rajaniemi and I could have talked about this subject all night.

I attended a bunch of panels on subjects ranging from the globalization of satellite launches, the gendering (or not) of artificial intelligences in science fiction, and a critical discussion of the Cornetto Trilogy of films. There was much more to see that I could possibly have ever gotten to, and many panels I’d hoped to attend were full before I could get there. Even so, there was a ton to see and I don’t feel like I missed out at all.

I also got to meet what felt like a thousand people, have great chats with folks from varied areas of SFF, had several professional meetings and attend the Hugo Awards. It was a very full few days.

Clockwork Cookie Blog Tour: Buttery Beer Bread

Clockwork Cookie Blog Tour: Buttery Beer Bread

My pal Beth Cato has a new book coming out soon, and to help get the word out she’s visiting various blogs around the place to talk about it. And, she’s also sharing her awesome recipes to boot. As a bread and beer maker myself, I couldn’t resist the allure of beer bread. But first, the steampunk!

Hi! I’m Beth Cato. I’m here to share in the joy of buttery baked goods and to introduce you to my book.

My debut novel, THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, comes out September 16th from Harper Voyager. It’s a steampunk novel with airships, espionage, and a world tree that seriously plays favorites. Here’s the back cover summary:

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

You can also read the full first chapter over at Tor.com. It can be found or preordered at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most any independent bookstore.

Now, on to the beer bread!

I’m an author, but I’m also somewhat infamous for my baking. Every Wednesday over at my site, I post a new recipe in my Bready or Not series.

This beer bread is one of my personal favorites. It’s great to bake during a deadline crunch because the mini loaves make it easy to use one for a meal and then I can wrap up and freeze the others for later.

Enjoy!

Buttery Beer BreadButtery Beer Bread5_sm modified from Veronica’s Buttery Beer Bread at Jenna’s Everything Blog

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 
1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 
1 tsp salt
  • 
12 oz beer
  • 
1/2 – 1 stick unsalted butter, melted (make it as buttery as you want)
  • kosher or pretzel salt

Instructions
1) Preheat the oven to 375-degrees. Prepare your big loaf pan or mini loaf pans by buttering lightly on the bottom (the sides will be well-buttered later on).

2) Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Stir in the beer. It may be sticky and need to be incorporated by greased hands.

3) Drop the dough into your pan(s) and even out the top as much as possible. Melt the stick of butter and pour it all over the dough.

4) Using four mini loaf pans, it will bake for 30-35 minutes. The original recipe stated that a full-size bread pan needs to bake for an hour. Let it cool in the pan for about five minutes, and then because of all the butter, the bread should pop right out.

OM NOM NOM!
BethCato-steampunk-headshot300x450Beth Cato’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.