Monday, September 29, 2014

Fiction in the digital age: What do we do as writers?

Muramasa and the Mass Media Market

The online run of Muramasa: Blood Drinker is soon coming to an end. It won't be a swift end, and it probably will not have the end that was expected by my tortured readers, but it will be a good end. The right end. Rather than taking time and energy at the end of that project’s publication to wonder about the future, I thought it might be better to look ahead a little (ahem) ahead of time.

The Downfall of Traditional Media

"Prometheus Bound" - Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1618
The vision for this site came about through many years of experience in the arts, monitoring trends, and observing successful content creators. More than ever, I feel like our society is pushing harder toward content that requires no up-front cost to consume. This can be exhibited through the massive scale of online music “sharing,” which is, from a legal and indeed ethical perspective, rank theft. Other content, notably movies and cable TV shows, have had similar problems the last few years. When nobody is watching, the moral imperative to pay people for their work seems to be forgotten.
Rather than shake my fist at the wide swaths of people that use bittorrent and similar applications, I am going to use it as a message. When people had the option to not pay 18 dollars for a CD that contained a single song heard on the radio with the rest being totally unknown, they took up Napster on the offer. When people had the option to forego paying upwards of 100 dollars per month on cable to watch four installments of Game of Thrones, they took Pirate Bay up on the offer.
 In the media industry, such actions are lamented as they seem to represent a loss of revenue. The recording industry has lost a great portion of the profitability it enjoyed during the CD era of the 1990s. Nobody seems to think that people are buying less music because lots of it wasn’t worth paying for to begin with. The old music model relied on radio play of a single hit to sell a CD with 14 tracks on it, and the quality of those filler tracks was almost irrelevant to sales. When people could actually listen to the whole thing without the 18 dollar gatekeeping fee, or buy the one song they liked from iTunes, the highly-profitable model from the 90s was bound to fail. This hasn’t stopped the RIAA from trying, even going so far as to sue Limewire for an implied 72 trillion dollars, which is more than the combined wealth of Earth.     
The same is true of cable TV, which relied on selling large packages of channels to every single end user. With subscription services like Netflix, that model too should fail, though doubtless cable companies will try to keep it alive through manipulation of government entities like the FCC and might attempt to bully content makers. Even HBO, the long running “premium channel” has considered shifting away and offering HBO GO as a stand-alone service.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Chal'cha Napkin (flash fiction)

“It looks like a gigantic napkin,” Tommy said. “Like they put in your glass at nice restaurants.”
“You ain’t never been to a nice restaurant,” Julie said. She was always saying things like that jokingly, but Tommy never laughed, and she never quit.
They walked toward the strange building, seemingly dropped overnight in the middle of the countryside miles away from any convenient skyways. It stood about eighty feet tall at its highest point, and did look a bit like a crumpled cloth from where they stood, with long ripple-like folds spiraling up to a narrow top, which opened to the sky. Nobody knew why the many-tentacled Chal’cha built such structures, but given their fleet, nothing was ever done about them.
“The Chal’cha certainly know how to build a… whatever this is.” Tommy touched the outside. Sudden friction halted his palms. They would not move once planted.
“The secret is on the inside, stupid.”
Tommy smiled, and began pulling himself upward into one of the grooves on the outside. Soon he was twenty feet off the ground, then fifty, then he was at the top, looking down at a very perturbed Julie.
“Good luck getting down!” she cried.
Tommy swallowed.

200words. This was created for a writing prompt at Short Story and Flash Fiction Society.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Everyday Skeptic, Part 3: Credible Evidence

Note: The video portion of this article could not be completed due to time constraints. It will be added on a future date.

While it is very possible to dismiss many claims using the rules of logic covered in the last installment of the series, you are still likely to encounter claims that, while adhering to the rules in their format, still warrant a bit of skepticism from you, the reader. This is because not all claims have credible evidence. Just to review from last week:

A statement is true if it is a positive claim and there is credible evidence to affirm it, while there is no credible contrary evidence that makes the statement untrue.

The most critical piece of any argument, given that it is a logical, positive statement, is supporting evidence. What remains to be added to our skeptic’s toolkit is a way to tell if evidence is credible, flimsy, or false. Some of the most common bits of misinformation are believed because readers either could not tell how bad the evidence really was, or were unable or unwilling to evaluate the credibility of evidence on their own. In this week’s article, we will go through what sort of things make good, affirmative scientific evidence, leaving the fallacies for their own shrine of dishonor next week.

The Scientific Method

The scientific method was developed and refined over the course of many centuries leading up to the modern day as a means to determine the objective reality of various physical processes. It accomplishes this using specific experimental processes, data gathering techniques, and rules of reasoning. When evidence fails to follow the guidelines of the scientific method in its acquisition and evaluation, it loses its objectivity, and therefore becomes less usable to others.
I. The experimental process
Not all scientific information requires experimentation. Most facts can be derived from observation of physical objects and phenomenon that are already occurring naturally. For instance, no experiment is needed to determine the average height of trees in the Sequoia National Forest; one only needs to go measure the trees and do the math. Scientific experiments are usually used to determine causal relationships.
1. Background.
Usually, when you are performing a scientific experiment, you are not doing it blind or striving for a totally random outcome. You start by reviewing literature of those who have come before you, or observing something in nature or the human world. You may see hints at a pattern, or may wonder about an area of science or a physical process that has yet to be tested. You use this background information to formulate the next part of the process:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Everyday Skeptic, Part 2: What is Truth?

Note: the video contains the same information as the article, but in a more conversational form.

Now that we have established why it is important to be skeptical, and what sort of situations should prompt you to be extra careful, we can dive into the methods used to be skeptical.
Being a skeptic doesn’t mean you disbelieve everything and everyone, it means that you demand proof of claims before you commit them to belief or take action. In future articles, we will delve into what constitutes good and bad sources of evidence, and how to tell if evidence is used properly. For now, let us discuss an important logical concept: truth.

I. What makes something true?

The concept of truth is as old as philosophy. For the purposes of this article, which deals with claims, true means that something really exists, and can be proven. This concept can be defined quite briefly:

A statement is true if it is a positive claim and there is credible evidence to affirm it, while there is no credible contrary evidence that makes the statement untrue.

Like all brief statements, this one can be somewhat complex, so let’s take a closer look at the three conditions contained in the statement: