Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Now accepting submissions for the next Storyblogging Carnival

The next Storyblogging Carnival will be the one hundred and eleventh. It will be hosted here, at Back of the Envelope, and going up on Monday, August 9th. If you use your blog to share your fiction, then the Storyblogging Carnival is your opportunity. Here we host any and all forms of storytelling in blog format. If you're curious about what this looks like, have a look at some examples of previous storyblogging carnivals.

If you'd like to participate, please e-mail your story submissions to me at dscrank-at-alum-dot-mit-dot-edu (or post in my comments), including the following information:
  • Name of your blog
  • URL of your blog
  • Title of the story
  • URL for the blog entry where the story is posted
  • (OPTIONAL) Author's name
  • (OPTIONAL) A suggested rating for adult content (G, PG, PG-13, R)
  • A word count
  • A short blurb describing the story
The post may be of any age, from a week old to years old. The submission deadline is 11:59 PM Eastern time on Saturday, August 7th. More detailed information follows (same as always):
  1. The story or excerpt submitted must be posted on-line as a blog entry, and while fiction is preferred, non-fiction storytelling is acceptable.
  2. The story can be any length, but the Carnival will list them in order of length, from shortest to longest, and include a word count for each one.
  3. You may either send a complete story, a story in progress, or a lengthy excerpt. You should indicate the word count for both the excerpt and the complete story in the submission, and you should say how the reader can find more of the story in the post itself.
  4. If the story spans multiple posts, each post should contain a link to the beginning of the story, and a link to the next post. You may submit the whole story, the first post, or, if you've previously submitted earlier posts to the Carnival, the next post which you have not submitted. Please indicate the length of the entire story, as well as the portion which you are submitting.
  5. The host has sole discretion to decide whether the story will be included or not, or whether to indicate that the story has pornographic or graphically violent content. The ratings for the story will be decided by the host. I expect I'll be pretty lenient on that sort of thing, but I have some limits, and others may draw the line elsewhere. Aside from noting potentially offensive content, while I may say nice things about stories I like, I won't be panning anyone's work. I expect other hosts to be similarly polite.
  6. The story may be the blogger's own or posted with permission, but if it is not his own work he should gain permission from the author before submitting to the Carnival.
If you'd like to be added to the e-mail list, please let me know. Finally, I appreciate folks promoting the carnival on their own blogs, and I'm always looking for bloggers willing to host future carnivals.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


As Kristin mentioned elsewhere, I recently attended a Writer's convention called Readercon. One of the panels I attended was about horror and New England. New England is a popular setting for horror stories, for a multitude of reasons. The reason I bring it up was that the topic of Salem was raised. Salem, Massachusetts has turned itself into something like a theme park of witches. One of the people on the panel, a Wiccan, in expressing how she felt about that, said that it was like how a Jew would feel about a theme park called Auschwitzland.

There are a couple of problems with this analogy. The first is that approximately 1 million Jews died at Auschwitz, while 0 Wiccans died at the Salem Witch Trials. All 24 people killed by the trials were Christians. And therein lies my biggest pet peeve. Witchcraft, as practiced in the Wicca religion, is a very different thing than what the Massachusetts colonialists considered witchcraft. Casting it as persecution of a religion that didn't exist then misses the point, and Wiccans have come pretty late to the game in order to claim that that they have sole authority to define what witchcraft means.

Witchcraft, by the definition used by the colonialists, involved making a deal with the Devil for power and using that power to torment and kill others. I believe that C.S. Lewis was the one who pointed out that if we truly believed that such a thing existed, we would agree that those who practiced it should be brought to justice, and thus our main disagreement with the people of Salem is simply that we no longer believe in witchcraft. Personally, I prefer a somewhat more balanced view, that is agnostic to the existence of witchcraft. I believe that the Salem Witch Trials were a grave miscarriage of justice and a failure of due process, convicting people on hearsay and superstition.

So what do I think of Salem? Well, comparing it to Auschwitz is silly. But so is its attempt to make witches into some kind of mascot. Because the mascot witch is yet another definition of witchcraft, very different from both the colonialist and Wiccan one, a caricature with none of the religious connotations of either. To pretend that it has anything to do with what happened in Salem over 300 years ago is an injustice.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cooking and Writing

Kristin has a couple of posts up that folks might enjoy reading. The first, "The 10 Habits of Highly Irritating Editors,"are 10 items that editors do all the time, but shouldn't.

The second talks some about my cooking travails.

It's all good stuff, and well worth reading.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fact and fiction

This is beautiful:
I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".

Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.
Personally, my favorite part is this:
Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there's no way to take the Japanese home islands because they're invincible...and then they realize they totally can't have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season.

So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they've never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was "classified". In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone's ever seen before - drawing from, of course, ancient mystical texts. Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn't it?

...and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin' unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you're starting to wonder if any of the show's writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.
The point, of course, is the old adage, "Truth is stranger than fiction." Or more to the point, "Truth is less believable than fiction." It reminds me of a scene in one of the stories my girlfriend wrote. In it, the protagonist, an unpublished writer trying to get some words on paper in a New York coffee shop, is accosted by a tourist couple who are excited to meet a "real New York writer." Upon reading that, I shook my head and told her that the scene would never fly. It's too cute, the couple is too touristy, it's just not believable. Her response was that the exact thing had happened to her once in New York Halifax. I recommended that she cut it anyway. Truth just doesn't cut it when you're trying to write believable fiction.

Anyway, she's since sold the story (though I don't know whether the scene made it or not, as I haven't seen the final version).

Update: In the comments, Kristin corrects me that the real life events happened in Halifax, not New York. Which doesn't exactly do much to make it more believable.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival CX

Welcome to the 110th Storyblogging Carnival. Enjoy the stories.

The Signal from Space
by Terry Haferkamp of Shadow Dwellers
A 330 word brief story rated PG.

A signal is misinterpreted. This is a science fiction story written from a prompt with a surprising twist.

Feeling the Breeze: Dreadless
by conditional cognition of conditional cognition
An 963 word brief story rated PG.

A tale of my experiences and people's perceptions of me during the 9 years I had dreadlocks, from DC to the OC.

Happily Ever
by Pietro of Engrossing Tales
A 1,384 word short story rated PG-13.

This is a love story of a different sort. They say love lasts forever, even beyond the grave... but what kind?

Believe in yourself! Baby 80 and 81!
by Harmonyloft of 100 Baby Challenge
A 2,927 word short story rated PG.

Cadence Sierra's wish is to have a huge family in Sims 3. She decides to take on a 100 baby challenge. Will she ever succeed?

Project हो तो ऐसा (बिलकुल न हो)
by Mohit Salgaonkar of Still Waiting to Wake
An 4,294 word short story rated PG-13.

Read the hilarious narration of how a crazy project in Mumbai University was (almost not) completed!

This concludes the one hundred and tenth Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me. I am also looking for hosts. Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.