Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Contest Winner!

No comments
You might remember that a week or so ago, I started a contest to win one of the limited edition copies of Pencils Made This Scar, my direct-to-reader funded chapbook of flash fiction and drabbles.

I took all the e-mails, tweets, facebook comments, blog comments and the like, numbered them, and rolled my trusty percentile dice...

...and Della Richmond won!

For the rest of you, don't feel bad - you can still get your own copy (both digital and, if you're quick, the limited edition paper version) in several ways:

The eBook is available for only $2 at my website (PDF, mobi (Kindle) and ePub formats), at Scribd (PDF format), Smashwords (PDF, ePub, PDF, RTF, and Kindle formats, though a warning - the HTML versions look wonky due to the lost pagebreaks) and available soon from the Kindle store.

The limited, signed, paper edition will be available (for $8) from my website starting 1 July (I'm having a small issue with USPS integration).

Again, congratulations to Della, and I hope the rest of you enjoy the book!

No comments :

Lease Agreement - A 100 Word Story

No comments
Yes, it's this week's 100 Word Story, which is also entered in the Weekly Challenge. Do listen below, or at this direct link if the player's not working, and vote for my story at the Weekly Challenge! The store mentioned in the audio, where you can get an eBook version of my chapbook of drabbles and flash fiction is here!

Lease Agreement

Anton dropped the drained husk. "My first real kill," he whispered. The longing, a lonely emptiness he'd never really noticed had vanished, filled with the pulsing warmth of blood.

Kelenthia slid behind him, raven hair brushing his ear. "You did well, my fledgling," she said. Her fangs sank into his neck. It was not the willing surrender of the Change. She forced herself into him, and took, and took, and took.

She left him lying there, the gnawing emptiness back in his gut.

"The extra, the passion, the pleasure belongs to me," she'd said. "Consider it rent on your afterlife."

No comments :

Politics and Monsters

What are the politics of the undead? Are different monsters popular depending on which political party is in power? Prompted by this article, one of the panels I was on at Millennicon discussed that very question. Did your politics determine whether or not you liked zombies or vampires? Was it a real effect? Was it catharsis – going to see the things that scared you – or did it reflect the different natures of the monster types themselves? After all, vampires are emblematic of sexuality and (modern) zombies reflect the faceless horde of conformity… or do they?

The literary and cultural critiques were interesting, but I wanted to actually collect some real data (putting that sociology degree to some use, right?). So I ran an internet survey asking people their political preferences and monster preferences. It's a convenience sample, mostly from the U.S. (This becomes important below.) If you're not interested in the geeky stuff, skip down to the "discussion" section. Also, I'm relaunching the survey - please take five minutes or so to take the survey!


I tested for political preference in a number of ways. I asked respondents to identify what party they were registered with and which they identified with. These had a decent (and significant) correlation with each other (lambda(272)= 0.25; p=0.05). (Note to hard science people – a correlation of 0.25 is pretty decent for real-world observations in the social sciences, okay?) Likewise, the way someone identifies their political preference is somewhat predictive of party affiliation; at least for conservatives (lambda(268) = 0.174; p = 0.00) and liberals (lambda(268) = 0.18; p = 0.00). Moderates, however, had no significant relationship between identified preference and party affiliation (X^2 = 4.715, p=0.695). Reducing the attributes of "political party" to simply Republican, Democrat, and Other did not alter these in any meaningful way.

I also asked about attitudes toward social and economic issues.

With social issues, identifying as a conservative was predictive of attitudes (lambda(272) =0.135, p > 0.005), and likewise with liberals (lambda(272) =0.113, p=0.047). With economic issues, identifying as a conservative was predictive of attitudes (lambda(272) =0.236, p=0), and likewise with liberals (lambda(272) =0.315, p=0.0). Again, moderates had no significant correlation with their position towards social issues.

Determining position on economic issues identifying as a conservative was predictive of attitudes (lambda(272) =0.236, p=0) , as were liberals (lambda(272) =0.315, p=0.0), and moderates (lambda(272) =0.174, p=0.0).

There were significant – but somewhat weaker – relationship when social and economic issues were compared to registered and self-identified party. Correlating social issues by recoded party (lambda(268) =0.143, p=0) and considered party (lambda(267) =0.094, p=0.001); correlating economic issues by recoded party (lambda(268) =0.178, p=0) and considered party (lambda(267) =0.168, p=0.001)

All this indicates that indicated party registration is a predictor of political alignment, especially in the (at least surface) dual-party system in the US - but it does signify that the two-party system doesn't necessarily fit the needs of people as much as the cons/lib/mod trinity (though it seems that moderate is shorthand for a catchall).

Because the relationships are stronger for self-identification as liberal/conservative/moderate, I chose to use that when examining for monster preferences.


I examined the relationship between identified political alignment and monster preference using the Pearson Correlation (also known as the Pearson Product Moment Correlation). I did not find many significant correlations; to try to find more correlations I also recoded political preference into a "agree"/"disagree" binary.

There were few significant correlations between political alignment and monster preferences. A weak significant negative correlation was found between how conservative someone identified and how much they liked vampires (other than Twilight) ( -0.245, p = 0 ), aliens (-0.124, p = 0.041), constructs (-0.135, p = 0.027), and werewolves (-0.157, p = 0.01). A weak positive correlation was found between how liberal someone identified as and liking vampires (other than Twilight) ( +0.165, p=0.04 ); the recoded preferences only added a significant positive correlation to aliens (+ 0.148, p=0.015). Moderates were all over the map, with no significant correlations; N=271 in all cases.

Those who liked monsters, however, liked all monsters. This was true across nearly all categories of monsters.


  • I had a huge disparity in the percentage of liberal and conservative responses, which disappointed me somewhat.

  • There were a lot of "monster" categories that I left out – some of the more common ones mentioned was the Cthulhu mythos, diakiju, and mythological and traditional monsters.

  • There were many people complaining about the political classifications – but some said the categories were too broad, others that it was too narrow.

The biggest shortcoming was that I did not control for religion. Both faith tradition and strength of association with that religion was not asked about at all. I'm not sure if that would be a cause or an effect, but it wasn't controlled for.


Politically, registration tended to follow basic two-party lines, though conservatives may have registered as independents or Republicans. When asked what party people identified with, the spread became quite a bit broader, with both liberals and conservatives identifying with parties other than the "big two" in the US. Moderates were all over the place; it almost seemed like "moderate" became a political catch-all. Because of this, I used self-identification as liberal, moderate, and conservative rather than party lines.

There were few significant correlations between political alignment and monster preferences. A weak significant correlation was found between how conservative someone identified and how much they liked vampires (other than Twilight), aliens, constructs, and werewolves. A weak positive correlation was found between how liberal someone identified as and liking vampires (other than Twilight) – and if I tortured the data a bit, aliens as well. Moderates were all over the map.

Graphing out all the correlations (even if nonsignificant) shows an interesting trend – liberals tended to like all types of monsters, and conservatives tended to not like all types of monsters. In line with that, liking one type of monster was a great predictor of liking all types of monsters. In fact, the association between liking vampires and liking zombies were pretty strongly positively correlated (0.506, p=0), blowing the original dichotomy between zombies and vampires out of the water.

Click the graphs to embiggen….

Politics & Monsters
Politics & Monsters

I've got a bit of a theory there. In general, conservatives tend to view the world as an inherently hostile place (à la Hobbes), where without control and a civilizing influence, people would descent into a violent anarchy. Likewise, liberals tend to view the world as a fundamentally peaceful (or at least, balanced) place, where mankind's "natural state" is one where people live in a kind of harmony.

IF this model of thought is correct, then that makes a lot of things more understandable. If you generally feel safe, then feeling scared can become entertainment. If you generally think the world is a hostile place, then the last thing you want is to think about more things out to get you. Still, there's a major shortcoming – as I mentioned, I didn't ask about religion at all. So I'm relaunching the survey – if you're in the United States, please click here to take the survey. It's streamlined a bit, so it's not quite the same as it was before.

Please share that url ( ) with as many people as you can; the more responses, the better. Thanks!


Elephant in My Pocket - A 100 Word Story

No comments
This week's drabble is called "Elephant in my Pocket". You can listen to it using the player below, or hear the other stories in the Weekly Challenge (and vote for mine!) at that website, or use the direct link here.

I just got the print edition (limited, soon-to-be-signed-and-numbered) of Pencils Made This Scar in my hot little hands today; remember that all you have to do to get a chance at winning a free copy is to leave a comment or send me an e-mail. Specific rules and guidelines (and context) are here.
I hope you enjoy the story!

"No," Sandra said, as the small grey animal on the floor trumpeted. She stalked past, through the kitchen toward their son's room.

"You like elephants," Andrew said. "Remember, that clown who made you the balloon elephant?" He picked up the pachyderm. "This one's about the same size, honey."

She called upstairs to their son. "James! Time to go to come home."

"You could play with the elephant," Andrew said. "Or James could, while we talked."

Their son careened down the stairs and took Sandra's hand. They went outside, slamming the door behind them.

Andrew petted the elephant. It trumpeted quietly.

No comments :

Being Clever - and a Contest!

I saw “The Failure State of Clever” on John Scalzi's blog today, and said "oh, yes." Go take a second to read - the links should open in a new tab or window.

Yes, "The failure state of clever is 'asshole'" is a wonderful phrase. But I didn't say "oh yes" because it happens to me. Because it, sometimes, is me.

I'm lucky enough to not be a completely unfunny guy [1]. I get laughs sometimes - and they're usually intentional. Heck, I run a comedy mailing list or three [2]. I know I've made people crack up at cons, in e-mails, in IM and over the phone. [See footnote #1 again.]

But there have been more than a few times where I've realized where I was trying to be clever, and it did bomb completely.


I think a clue is when it happens. It's almost always when I'm talking (or e-mailing) people who are more successful than me, or whom I look up to. You know - the people you want to make a good impression with.

Double sigh.

I'm not sure how I can properly fix this. I'm not consciously to "fit in", let alone trying too hard. If it was deliberate, that would be an easy fix. Getting a hold of things you only realize in retrospect - and fixing them before they become retrospect - is a tall order indeed. Hell, I’m not even sure that I am trying too hard. I think I'm just being a bit goofy (which I can be), and it's the response - or lack thereof - that clues me in to the problem.

The contest

So, here's the deal. I want your advice. Seriously. But I want to give you something for it. And we're both in luck there.

My e-anthology of over 60 flash stories, Pencils Made This Scar, will go on sale 28 June 2010 on the web. It will also exist in a signed, numbered limited edition print run. (Hint - e-mail me now if you want to reserve a copy.)

And you can get a copy for free.

Send me a message or comment here explaining:

How do you avoid this failure state without being an automaton?

How do you "tell" when it is cool to let loose with the jokes, and when not?

Send your advice in an e-mail to this e-mail address. All e-mail addresses offering sincere advice [3] between now and midnight on the 28th of June will get a chance to win a signed, numbered copy of my limited edition print run chapbook Pencils Made This Scar.

[1] I don't think there's that many people who would just laugh to be polite.
[2] Although that's curating rather than generating material.
[3] Move in with Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory is not sincere advice.


Slick Credibility

No comments
It routinely surprises me how different our ideas of youth culture are from reality.

A while back, there was a fascinating bit done by Danah Boyd about how kids use online media today. Some of it isn't surprising - kids view library sites and the like as "schoolwork", and only use them ass such. Some of it is surprising (at least to me) - there's no brand or platform loyalty whatsoever between different social media networks, and e-mail is something they rarely use.

(That last, though, explains why my students who are quite proficient with social media platforms had problems sending me an attachment through regular e-mail channels.)

None of this particularly troubled me except for one observation - there's no real method of verification. "I read it on the Internet" really does seem to be good enough for these kids, and that they can tell a website is credible by it's appearance; one person said they could "just tell".

Which really, really, bothers me.

I hope that - at least - "the way it looks" is a reference to an internal bullshit meter. The ability to tell when someone's not being genuine - and calling them on it - has become a necessary survival trait in my lifetime. That would be a good thing. That's the promise of the internet - that authority is granted by a discerning audience, and critical thinking can take the fore instead of spending all your time simply getting the data.

I worry, though, that it's style over substance, that the "polishedness" of a website is being mistaken for credibility. That presentation is trumping accuracy. Which would really, really suck. It's the same system that we've had since forever, really. That's why our talking heads are photogenic, why Nixon lost the election, and does a lot to explain the presidencies of Ronald Regan and George W. Bush.

It would be a disaster - simply because it would be continuing the same old crap the same old way. Without the bullshit detectors, corporations can greenwash their way out of environmental disasters, presidents can justify subverting our Constitution, and racism can wrap itself in the flag - as long as it looks good and sounds pretty.

Privilege will continue just as it always has - unless our non-profits, our legitimate educational institutions, our well-meaning activists learn (quickly!) how to effectively, sincerely, and genuinely market themselves to today's youth.

And that, my friends, means you.

No comments :

Book Review: Agent to the Stars

No comments
I've been reading (and re-reading) a bunch of mind-twisting fiction lately. I'm one of those people who likes to take their brain, shove a bunch of stuff into it, make it fit together oddly, and then twist 93 degrees. (Serves 4.)

But this review isn't for one of those deep, dark books. It's for Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi.

Agent to the Stars is one of the reasons why, despite liking Mr. Scalzi as a person and deeply enjoying his work, I am also very, very jealous of him. It's his first novel (written so that he could see if he was able to do it), and succeeds fantastically.

Agent is a light, fun read. It's fast-paced, and while slightly dated at points (it refers to current events in 1999), it holds up very well. It pokes fun at both the movie industry and at first contact novels while still being respectful – a cute trick. The characters are fun and likeable, and the plot's good – if a tish predictable at points.

And yet it still fits into the mind-twisting category.

The aliens aren't little green men. They don't think like we do. They have a completely novel (and actually alien) culture and way of communicating. When you stop to think about it – usually a day or two after you've finished the book – there's some really out-there ideas.

And you never noticed, because the rest of the story was so much fun.

That is why I am jealous of John Scalzi.

You can read the book for free (in a variety of formats) on John's website, or get a dead tree (or Kindle) version at Amazon.

No comments :

The Pie Is A Lie - A 100 Word Story

No comments
This week's 100-Word Story is called "The Pie Is A Lie". You can listen to the audio through the embedded player below, or this direct link (MP3). Of course, you can vote for my story at the Weekly Challenge as well.

Also, if you like these stories of mine, I've got an announcement for week. I'll post it first on my Facebook Fan Page - so if you're not already a fan there, go be a fan now, yes?

"I'm tired of only getting the scraps and leavings of your affection." She threw his dessert on the table hard enough for the saucer to ring.

He looked up from his laptop, brow furrowed. "That's not pie. What is that?"

"Leftovers," she said. "It's symbolic."

"Feh." He pushed the plate away, turning back to his computer.

She blurred into motion, knocking him and the laptop to the ground, dinner's steak knife dripping with A1 at his throat.

"You've been starving me of affection," she said. The knife pressed into his skin. "And I'm hungry."

He didn't feel the first bite.

No comments :

Design by Committee (or the Death of an Idea)

No comments
I came up with an idea - it doesn't matter where it was, exactly - and pitched it to one of the People Who Make Things Happen.

"That's a good idea," they said. "Why don't you take it to the FakeName Committee and let them come up with something about it?" [1]

I realized my idea was as good as dead.

I hate design-by-committee. Whenever an idea, concept, or product is created by committee, the end result is a lowest-common-denominator (e.g. low-quality) product, policy, or business plan. There's enough pixels spilled on the web - just in Dilbert cartoons alone, let alone text - to demonstrate why This Is A Bad Thing. The original idea becomes lost in compromise, cruft, and riders. Before long, the actual point of the idea is lost or diluted to the point that the new product, policy, etc seems like a waste of time.

Whether intended that way or not (I really don't know), my idea was damned with faint praise.

Committees have a place, though. I frequently see (again, all over) where an end result was created by groupthink. Most of my work with student scheduling problems (here and here) is based around that issue. When I graduated, I was invited to take place in a focus group discussing problems with my program. I wanted to talk about the difficulties for students who worked full-time jobs - but couldn't go, because they were only scheduled during daytime hours when I was working.

Rules and policy get handed down that contradict existing practices and policy, simply because nobody bothered to ask those who would be using the end result.

There has to be a balance - where someone (or perhaps a very few someones) create the policy, but diverse group feedback is sought and listened to so that the end result truly does what it's supposed to.

[1] I'm not being obscure JUST for privacy's sake - this happens all over the place, so it's not important where this actual incident occurred. Hell, Congress is a perfect example, and I have nothing to do with them.

No comments :

Meanwhile, in our Second Life...

No comments
Bear ManThe last two months have been interesting ones for my skybox (apartment) business in Second Life. I'm going to briefly note some trends I've noticed - and perhaps you've seen them too. (And if you're a Resident and want to check out my skyboxes, you can directly teleport here.) One note: Many of these changes happened together - or closely enough together that their impact overlaps. Some of these things happened a while back (for example, the switch to Viewer 2 at the end of April), but I think the effects are just shaking out from that change.

  • I've noticed that rentals - and businesses in general - are down. This is merely my impression; not only have things been slow for me, but quite a few other Residents have told me their small businesses were having tough times. There's two possible reasons for that dip - neither is good.

  • The first would be if Second Life's economy is on a bit of a "lag" from the US and world economy - which would mean the worst of the recession is on us in Second Life right now.

  • The second possible reason is the consolidation of power in Second Life. The Lindens seem much more interested in catering to large, powerful businesses (an intensive model) rather than many small businesses (an extensive model).

  • Going along with that latter point, the "Linden Homes" initiative correlated strongly with a dip in my business. I'm not sure why the Lindens decided they needed to move in on this market.

  • I suspect - though I haven't researched it - that the changes to XStreet (now to become the "Marketplace") reflects both these changes. The "anti-freebie" rules drove out many small merchants; XStreet itself has become an extension of the Lindens.

  • The switch to Viewer 2 (and the server changes that occurred) in the last week of April made things almost untenable for a week. I was "Ruthed" repeatedly, couldn't teleport, couldn't log in - regardless of what viewer I used. I'm personally aware of four Residents who were either unable to regain access to their own accounts after the change or were so frustrated that they gave up on Second Life.

  • One of my favorite viewers for doing routine work in SL - the Rainbow Netbook viewer - has ended development thanks to the Third Party Viewer Policy. And were I to keep using it, the Lindens could completely ban my account.

  • The new viewer has a default of only allowing the Resident to go to "General" lands (it used to be "PG"). Of course, most of the land I have was on "Moderate" (previously "Mature") land, which has led to at least one Resident complaining that I was trying to scam people because they couldn't TP to one of my offices.

All of these items seem to signal that Linden Labs has decided that they have a "deep" market - people, companies, and universities - so invested that they don't have to reach out to the rest of us. Those people who are invested will put up with all the changes and pay a premium. And in the meantime, the small, weird, bizarre elements that made Second Life worth going to will be forced to move somewhere else, leaving a corporate imitation mockery behind.

As always, I hope I'm wrong. I'm afraid that I'm right.

No comments :

The Message - A 100 Word Story

No comments
This week's entry to the 100 Word Story Weekly Challenge (topic: The Message) actually ties in to a past 100-word story... Generation Ship. You know the drill - listen to it below, direct link here if the player's borked, and remember to go vote for my story!

Roberto watched the man - the uniform's nametag read "Jones" - on the screen. Despite the vast bulk of the generation ship in the shuttle windows, he could not look away from the flickering pixels from what remained of Earth.

"China's shortwave disappeared just after you launched," Jones said. "Nothing from the EU, nothing from undersea." Jones laughed a little, wiped his forehead. "And nothing from the rest of Canaveral, either." The corners of Jones' face drooped. "I think I'm it."

Jones took a deep breath. "Well, good luck." As Jones reached for the controls, a grey-blue hand grasped his shoulder.

No comments :

Two 365 - Me!

No comments
I have a post up on Two Three Six Five. The blog's pretty interesting:
Two Three Six Five is a glimpse into the lives of 365 different Second Life™ residents around the world throughout the course of a year, and a literary model of the way their virtual and physical selves interact.

My post - like all the others - is short, just 365 words.
“I can’t rez objects at my skybox,” she wrote in her IM. I read it in my e-mail and sighed before going inworld.

Wander on by and take a look!

No comments :

Screening for fat kids in schools

No comments
No, seriously. Ohio is considering having schools screen schoolkids by BMI.

There's two huge problems with this.

One: Measures like this further ostracize the last group it's okay to pick on - overweight people. There's enough bullying going on in schools these days already (and really, if you need me to provide links you're not paying attention). Visibly marking kids as different effectively makes these kids targets.

Two: The BMI is bullshit. This has nothing to do with me being bloody fat now. I'm well aware of that, thanks. No, let's take a look at four pictures of me (these span over a decade and are arranged chronologically, FWIW):


Yeah, in that last picture I'm fat. No argument there. Guess which ones I'm NOT overweight in, according to the BMI?

That's right. Not a single fracking one of them. According to the BMI I was overweight in EVERY SINGLE PICTURE ABOVE. I've been under the BMI's "overweight" index once in my adult life, and it was rather scary what I had to do to get there. (It was unhealthy, let's leave it at that.)

Jim C. Hines dissects this a little more coherently (and also with pictures of himself) over on his blog. Go check it out - and then tell me if mandatory BMI screenings is a good idea.

Promoting health? Absolutely. Working to get kids more active? Behind it 100%. Using a blunt, ineffective tool that will also make kids targets? Screw that.

No comments :

MARCON - and the Panel of Doom

The first day back to work after a con is always a downer.

I had a lot of fun at MARCON this year. Some of my personal highlights were getting goosebumps from Gary Braunbeck's reading of his story "For My Next Trick I'll Need a Volunteer" from Dark Faith
, the ZombieWalk (pics here), getting to see con-friends and making some new ones (you know who you are!), and the good reception I had at my own reading. There was a lot more, of course, and overall it was a fun mid-sized con. I've been to big cons (GenCon) and small cons (Millenicon), but not anything inbetween like this. It was a distinctly different vibe. But this isn't a con report. Not really.

You see, there was one – only one - bad panel, though. And it was a panel I was on.

There were only two panelists for "Religion in SF" - myself and one Robert P. Lohman (who apparently, according to the program, just brought the machine that goes ping… but left it out of the panel). I really don't know anything about the man – and I don't think I want to. You'll understand why in a moment.

Here's how I started the panel: "I've seen lots of these sorts of panels go south before, where people got upset and felt like they were being attacked. That's not the point of this panel. We will end up talking about real religions, and real historical events in those religions. But if you think I'm insulting you, please, please, say something so that we can come to a better understanding of each other."

Mr. Lohman looked at me, looked at the audience, and said, "Everything that he said he'd do, I'm not going to do." I rested my forehead in my hand.

Only five more minutes passed before Mr. Lohman asked me if I wanted to kill him because of the Thirty Year's War. (My response: "Bwuah?") It wasn't long until Mr. Lohman asserted that all religious leaders do not believe what they "peddle" to the congregation. And a few minutes after that he said that religion only makes people make stupid decisions [1]. And then Mr. Lohman questioned how anyone could make up an alien religion, since we don't know any aliens or their religion. [2] His participation went downhill from there.

Point is, even though I worked hard to actually address the issue, a lot of people felt cheated. They came to hear about religion in science fiction, not about how one person thought they were right and everyone else was wrong. (Think Richard Dawkins without the charisma and you get the idea of what Mr. Lohman was like.)

So I'm going to recap my basic advice here. If you have questions, post them in the comments. If you were at the panel, be sure to post in the comments, k'ay?

  • Do your research - both into the history and the actual faith of any real religion you use. Research both sides of any conflict, and try to see how each side was "right".

  • When creating a religion, do not simply take an existing human religion and change a few details - Avatar is an example of Doing This Wrong.

  • Fictional religions (or real ones that are used in fiction) should have variations in depth and breadth. There are dissenters, there are unbelievers, and there are questioners. Some people will be callously using faith to get political power, others will be utterly ignoring it to do something they view as good.

  • Beliefs have to be logical. If you start with the belief, for example, that someone would be eternally punished for not participating in the ritual... wouldn't it make sense that you force them to participate? On the other hand, what if belief in free will is a big deal? Then you're not going to want to force anyone to do what they don't like.

  • There should be a justification for a belief or any contradictions. "Because our High Muckymuck says so" is acceptable, but should be avoided.

  • Your "religious people" need to be three-dimensional, not cartoon Snidely Whiplashes. They should also not be cookie-cutter clones. If you think of the character as "the religious one" or "the atheist one" or "the Baptist one", then You Are Wrong. Reverend Book is an example of Doing This Right.

  • Your job as a writer is to create empathy with the characters. Not sympathetic, but create empathy. We can even have empathy with a serial killer (Hannibal Lecter, anyone?) – but that doesn't mean we'd actually want to meet them.

  • All characters (again, with painfully few exceptions) should think they're Doing The Right Thing. That's where story comes from, dammit – two people truly thinking they're Doing The Right Thing… and doing something completely different.

  • Remember the less-often represented religions. The various pagan types still exist - if you're portraying a real human society, why aren't they represented?

  • Writing To Prove A Philosophical or Theological Point leads to sucky writing. Period. Use that for a nonfiction essay instead.

  • Use a variation of the Bechdel Test. Is there more than one representative of the faith? Do they talk to each other? About something other than their faith? (Note: As I remember it, the Bene Gesserit fail this test in Lynch's version of Dune.

  • Honestly, a lot of these problems (gender, race, religion) seem to stem from crappy and/or lazy research & charaterization.

That last point is worth repeating, in big letters.

Honestly, a lot of these problems (gender, race, religion) stem from crappy and/or lazy research & charaterization.

Think about that one a little while.

Hope you also had a great weekend!

[1] This one's a paraphrase - I can't remember the exact word order. "Stupid" was definitely in there.
[2] Not joking. It went downhill pretty fast.