writing, zombie

Writing, Communication, and Administrivia

I’m up at the Mad Genius Club with the story of a mislectorist,

Look, something a certain author needs to grasp is that although you may like your writing style, and the book is (traditionally, indies don’t have this limitation) published so you can’t change it, that doesn’t mean that readers haveto buy it or like it. Pretty much the only time you can force anyone to read anything is if it’s required for a class, and even then they will creatively dodge the reading assignment in any way they can think of. I’ve seen that with college textbooks, forget fiction. So why on earth would you boast about your poor writing and gloat over the readers not having a choice? Like it or lump it? Mister, they may set your book on fire just to watch the world burn. People don’t like the idea of being forced into anything, and pleasure reading is always optional.

Communication boiled down to a single emoji. Because why do we need all these words, anyway? :0 😛 😀

Reason is old-fashioned, a product of Victorian Childhood Fantasy: outdated. The new “in thing” is emotion. Nothing is more emotional than outrage. Think of the efficiency gains if twitterers could send a single emoticon instead of a 140 character screed? That would be an increase in productivity of 14000%, according to official government statistical methods. Do I believe that? Let’s just say for auditing purposes, I do.

All of our other needs can be broken into emotional icons as well. Hungry? Thirsty? Need an iPhone? How about a diaper change? Yes, yes, yes, and ew.

Joe Konrath addresses a zombie meme, one that I keep fighting against myself, and it just won’t go down… Die you stupid zombie! Die!

In fact, many authors self-publish for nothing (both in ebook and pbook). They do it themselves, or barter for services (I’ll proofread yours if you proofread mine.) There are also many affordable freelance editors, artists, proofers, and designers. So the notion that self-publishing necessarily costs thousands of dollars upfront is chimerical, akin to wild stories of hundred-dollar melons told by western travelers returning from Tokyo. Yes, such specimens can be found in the gift departments of certain high-end Ginza department stores, but they are far from the norm, and certainly not representative of what food actually costs in Japan or how the vast majority of people go about nourishing themselves.

A program named Alex may become the new word police. I already run into this with Microsoft Word, when the grammar checker is on. If you write ‘wife’ or ‘husband’ it suggests that you use ‘spouse’ instead. Why are we supposed to abandon the specificity for the vague, again?

I highly recommend the article by Sarah Skwire, using Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham to evaluate literary criticism. Brilliant.

If you engage with the work of art, you are entitled to an opinion about it.

If, instead, you refuse to read or view or listen to it — or taste the green eggs and ham — you don’t get to have an opinion. Knowing what you’re talking about is the bare minimum requirement for expecting other people to care about your opinion of a cultural product.

What is distressing to me — and to all lovers of art and of free expression — is that of late we appear to be taking seriously the opinions of those who have not ponied up even that very minimal buy-in. We wouldn’t pay attention to restaurant reviews written by someone who has never been to the restaurant in question. Why are we reading — and accepting — evaluations of literature by people who have never read the books they’re condemning?

And finally, a little something different. How words, and their imprecise application, are killing the American medical system. When you try to make everyone fit your stereotypes in writing, it’s a bad story (see the book referenced in my MGC article today). When you try to make patients fit into billing descriptions, people die.

At first, the decay was subtle. In the 1980s, Medicare imposed price controls upon physicians who treated anyone over 65. Any provider wishing to get compensated was required to use International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD) and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes to describe the service when submitting a bill. The designers of these systems believed that standardized classifications would lead to more accurate adjudication of Medicare claims.

What it actually did was force doctors to wedge their patients and their services into predetermined, ill-fitting categories. This approach resembled the command-and-control models used in the Soviet bloc and the People’s Republic of China, models that were already failing spectacularly by the end of the 1980s.

Before long, these codes were attached to a fee schedule based upon the amount of time a medical professional had to devote to each patient, a concept perilously close to another Marxist relic: the labor theory of value. Named the Resource-Based Relative Value System (RBRVS), each procedure code was assigned a specific value, by a panel of experts, based supposedly upon the amount of time and labor it required.