Editorial – May 2018: Decisions, Decisions

April 29, 2018 | By | Reply More

I used to be indecisive

Now I just make my mind up.

You were expecting a different answer from me?

 

Hello everyone

We live and die by the decisions we make in life, even more so from ones we have to obey a consensus on. It’s becoming less about good and bad decisions and more like the best ones for our own welfare and even for others. As I’ve always lived by the General Semantics creed that there are multiple choice answers and decisions to questions and employ that in my stories and then try to use them all in some way so not to be wasteful. From the geek perspective, it also allows thought on some unorthodox thinking and additional choices, depending on how good your imagination is. At that, it’s a matter of having some sound judgement as to picking out the best choices or rather the ones that have a chance of working. Based off of that, it should hardly be surprising that I apply the multi-choice option in real life as well, it makes for a more balanced look at what are all the options than just have two and, above all, makes any decision one of consideration. That doesn’t mean I can’t think fast through the choices, but experience also shows I also tend to choose wisely as well…mostly. If you can’t learn from a bad decision how are you going to know what a good decision is? It means I consider everything. Doesn’t mean I cover all the options and can still be surprised but the odds tend to be in my favour…mostly. I make no claims to being perfect.

When it comes to seeing how characters do this in fiction, it’s hardly surprising that whether we like it or not, we do learn from the decisions on the page as well. A certain amount of ethnics is absorbed when you read good versus evil, so it’s hardly surprising a similar thing happens when the hero does something we could deem wrong but for the right reasons. It brings understanding to the scenario more so if you, the reader, can be sympathetic to the situation.

In practice, writers therefore have a vested interest in studying how other people make decisions in real-life. It’s a study lesson of people out there and whether it can be used. It’s even more important in our genre as, after all, our tropes are often set in the future or in worlds not quite our own. Saying that, the same decision structure still exists and still tends to follow the same western ethical system although others are out there, just not so well publicised.

Rarely, on this side of the world, do we see anything radically different in anticipated choices. The first option is to protect yourself. The second option is protect your family and friends unless something about them changes and that happens a lot. Depending on ethics, probably your nation next. Sounds a lot like Asimov’s Laws Of Robotics, but in reverse, depending on circumstances. It just becomes part of a bigger family just means more people to protect so scales up to town and country and, in SF, the world and star system. It’s more amazing why some people can’t get Science Fiction considering so much of the decision-making is the same but they probably can’t get past the detail and setting.

For dramatic effect, decisions should never be easy. In fiction, it is possible to test regimes that an ordinary person might not necessarily choose. Would they do so in real life? Without naming the example, would you stay on the farm or go into space to deliver a message? Which sounds the most insane? Mind you, being barbecued had you stayed behind might not seem a good option neither had you known what was going to happen and might have shortened the film or given it a new sub-title.

The whole point of stories is that the extreme choices tend to be made than play it safe. That’s why fiction is often one step away from real life and the options we probably wouldn’t choose. The art of escapism is to see what happens from the safety of wherever you’re reading or watching your film or TV series. However, would we do the same thing in a similar situation if it happened? Consciously, given the choice, we would run first. Self-preservation.

Close-up, we might be spurred to react, more so if we’ve been trained for such circumstances. It would be interesting to see the number of stories of the average person and professionally trained protagonist over the decades in such situations and see how things have changed. It saves the writer a lot of back story if the protagonist can keep going despite all the odds against them. Then again, rarely has the writer had any practical experience for real neither and each to out own as to the decisions made. Just chosen a particular course of action to get the most thrill out of it to keep your attention. Hardly a good role model to follow, especially if the villains would probably be more vicious in real life. Would we expect the villain normally to tell the plan knowing you’d turn it against him the first chance you got? Fiction is fiction. Not necessarily the way of life to think it is copied faithfully, hence we have certain fictional acceptances.

Fictional decisions often depend on how much you should tell the reader or viewer. If all the characters kept things to themselves, we’d never know what is going on. An author who does that is internalising. A fairly common problem these days in fiction. No doubt writers are looking for something different these days but it is a bad decision.

Don’t confuse internalising with obscuring clues for the sake of a story. Anything that has a level of detecting, means you have to play with the full gamut of misdirection and misinterpreting clues to fill out the story. It also needs a lot of planning. If anything, plotting detective stories relies on multiple-choice answers. How else can you have one thing mean something else? Well, except for Victorian melodramas. It took me three stories to figure out that unless they were the villain, everyone else told the truth with no hidden agendas which happens with modern fiction. No wonder the likes of Sherlock Holmes (other detectives are available) could work out what was really going on.

But why bring this up? You probably know the above anyway. After all, we all live and hopefully not die by the decisions we make. Something that did occur to me is that as we’re living in a Science Fiction world now is why aren’t people wanting to live the Science Fiction life? All right, we have some people who do extreme sports but they are in a small minority. No one else seems to want to do anything more adventurous than social media.

So much for the renaissance hero to solve any of the multitude of problems we have today. If anything you have to wonder why we accept the convention of the single hero or heroine to sort out a problem in fiction. Someone somewhere had to have made the decision and the rest of us have taken it for granted it’s the right decision. Mind you, it could also be because we can’t focus on more than a couple major characters at a time and that includes the villain. With so much pulling our attention in different directions these days, I’m not entirely surprised that there is far more stress in the population. I think we’re getting pretty close to the point where more people are having to prioritise what specific interests they have. One can only hope there’s enough diversity to ensure all options are covered.

Going back to Science Fiction realities, unless it’s a major war in lots of people involved, the normal lives of most people is to do normal things. That sounds familiar to what we have today but with a modern slant. The real problem there is we’re becoming more acceptable of the things done about us and don’t take in the implications of what other people are often doing, like using your information for their gain and not yours. It isn’t as though there weren’t warning flags about this years ago but people thought it didn’t matter that much.

I was going to talk about bad decisions and came up with one without thinking about it as this editorial developed. This is a complex subject that I doubt I could cover all the options in one editorial and I suspect I might have lost some of you along the way. Oddly, decisions don’t follow a Gaussian graph, they just seem to happen in the herd effect. Can we be that haphazard in what we choose for collective solutions?

I’m often amazed how decisions become community agreements as if there are no dissents from a particular decision, especially as its based on emotion and wrong or bad information. Just goes to show that we aren’t all well informed which is worrying. Some have to be arbitrary if we are to get on with other people and these inevitably become laws and often become harder to repudiate if they no longer apply or something better comes along. But then, humans don’t like to change things unless it’s done in a radical way and, sometimes, not even then.

Funny old world. All dependent on one decision or another or three. It’s amazing the world works whether it’s in fiction or in reality. In fiction, we can avoid some things about a society that isn’t the focus of the story. We can’t do that in real life or on a day-to-day basis. Be more aware of the decisions you make and think about long term consequences. Hopefully, these errant social media companies (other sites shouldn’t be neglected as well) change their policies and don’t make it a requirement to fill in all details. After all, think about what government agencies and banks ask for verification that you use in your history profiles on-line. I suspect that will become the next big worry. Then you will have to ask yourself where do I draw the line and curse any conventional website that won’t let you omit details when filling in their forms. If they don’t, the only policy that will work is not to tell the truth and then where will we be?

Thank you, take care, good night check the question before deciding how many answers you want to apply.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info

 

A Zen thought: Everything has a balance unless it’s in a bell-shape statistical curve.

 

The Big Question: Whatever happened to the Jupiter 1? Don’t say it also got lost in space.

 

What Qualities Does A Geek Have: I am more than the information about me.

 

Observation: There is now a bacteria that can eat certain plastics. For those who remember the 1970s BBC series ‘Doomwatch’ will remember the pilot episode showed what happened when some was spilt in an aircraft. As much as I like an easy way to break down plastic, be a little worried that we aren’t looking at all the consequences.

 

Observation: Remembering that Superman used to declare he was for ‘truth, justice and the American way of life’, does this make the Kryptonian a capitalist?

 

Observation: Suddenly seeing my email server window get large and how quickly it is to solve, it did make me wonder if any of you here might want to live with it or just adjust it to the size you prefer. This will affect all website views.

Ensure you have your menu bar showing. Right mouse press on the top border will show all the menu options in case it isn’t showing and turn it on.

Select ‘View’ and ‘Zoom’ and select your preference. Easy as that. Often forgotten, easy to fix.

 

Feeling Stressed: The weather affects our mood but doesn’t do so deliberately. Just bounce with it until the better weather comes along.

 

Feeling Stressed 2: I’m as surprised as you how heavy my editorial is this month. If you’ve gotten this far, feel free to read it again.

 

Missed Opportunity:

            If you aren’t seeing the types of book or authors here you would want to read, chances are that I don’t have any reviewers who do them. I’m stocking up on reviewers right now. The extended info is below but essentially, if you can write and breathe and make good observations, you stand a chance. If you make grammatical errors, then I have your back. Email me at: gfwillmetts at hotmail.com

NOTE: Although there are details below, please observe the bigger message elsewhere on site. I’m always recruiting reviewers and this is the time of year to recruit as the nights are shorter and so you might be sleeping less If you’re living in the UK, love books and feel a bit geeky then read the notes below. You have to love reading anyway. You might be what I’m looking for and I do train people up and it’s good for your writer’s CVs and books to feed your reading habit. As some of my team are discovering, they can also interview writers and write articles as well. You can do that without reviewing as well but reading and reviewing is a good discipline. We’re a good team to belong to.

Polls And Opinions: We did have them for a time but the new version was causing a mess in WordPress so until a new version that doesn’t cause conflicts comes around, we’ll have to do without them but please use the answer option at the end of any material to express comments because we do read them.

For the record: For the odd query I have about being linked to media contacts. I do not have either a personal twitter or facebook account. There’s enough of me here to not outstay my welcome. I’m also puzzled why some people see SFC as a blog site when we’re not. We were in this format long before blogs. It’s getting to the point that people can’t tell the difference between blog and butter.

Beware Of Virus Attacks: December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gfwillmetts at hotmail dot com I won’t bite, although that doesn’t preclude others. In fact, I’ll settle for any more willing reviewers who love to read. Did I say I was after reviewers?

NB: We do get digital books and if you live abroad and not in the UK, then this avenue could be open to you. I’m not putting it in as a link to avoid spam. Just copy and paste into your emails to contact me with my address noted in the paragraph above. I’m always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page articles and stories as well. Just because it’s sunny, doesn’t mean you’re going to read any less. We could do with some more fantasy readers right now!

If you’ve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. It’s a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences and saying what they think.

For potential book reviewers in the UK, it’s a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you don’t think you’re up to scratch, you’ll discover why I’m the dutch uncle. Repeating this several times is for those who only scan and who don’t want to wind back up the page.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers: If you can express an opinion independently of others and aren’t likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

Zen for those who are scared by all the instructions below: Many of the instructions are things you should be doing automatically if you’re developing your writing skills. If you do them already then focus on the ones that you don’t get right. They are there to help you as much as me to get the best writing from you. If you think you’re 80% there then I’ll help you get the final 20%. Trust me, I’m an editor and I can get things right.

BOOK REVIEWS    – Don’t feel intimated by all the info below or linked to. If you’re any good as a writer, much of it should be second nature already. This is just the long hand version.

Do you love books? Do you like curling up and reading a book in preference to socialising, even on the Net? You might not even want to curl up, that’s only an option. Do you have a preference for fantasy, SF or horror? We really could do with some fantasy readers!!! Do you find it the greatest pastime you have next to being on your computer?

Are you very vocal about what you like and don’t like in what you read?

Would you like to share your thoughts with others about books?

Would you like an endless supply of books to do this with?

Do you live in the UK?

Can you spare an hour every day to read?

Do you think you can write about what you’ve read?

Are you finding the recession is hitting your book buying habit?

If you’ve been nodding your head up to this point then link in below and see if you have what it takes to be a reviewer at SFCrowsnest. If you have that special knack to read and write or want to develop said skill then the only way you’re going to find out is to take the plunge yourself rather than wait for others to do it first. Reading a lot of books is a requisite for any writer. Being able to say what makes them good or bad hones your own skills. Even if you’re just happy with reading with a little writing on the side then this might be for you. It’s got to be better than waiting for the sun to come out in this weird summer and now cold winter. It’s also amazing how much you can read in an hour a day.

If you’ve survived this far in the editorial, let me reiterate something from the website newsletter and the above editorial. As you can see from the main page, we have one of the biggest SF/fantasy/horror monthly reviews columns on the Net. Our success has increased the number of books that comes in and our policy is to read everything and give it a roadtest before giving a review so you have some idea of what you’re letting yourself in for. You want the bottom line about what you’re going to choose to read. That means we need people actually willing to read the book and tell others they’re opinion in reviews. For that, we’re always on the outlook for more reviewers.

Do you think you have what it takes to review a book? It’s a skill that can be easily mastered and we need a few more. If you love fantasy, we have more than enough to keep you busy for instance.

Apart from the ability to put words into sentences, you also need to know how to précis, do a little research on associated subjects and can express opinions constructively about the good and bad points about the books you read. We even let you choose from our pile of received books rather than foster something on you that you wouldn’t normally read. You’ll even get a little editorial help in how to write good copy and that can always lead to other things. I’m not as scary as I sound editorially and it’s better to do the test review and see how you fare than not attempt to see how well you did. I did say you have to love books and willing to read beyond your favourite authors, didn’t I?

If you like reading books in the genre and can average two or maybe three a month, can really think and show you can write a decent review and, most importantly, live in the British Isles (sorry, expense, time and distance travelled mostly prohibits elsewhere), then use the link below and see our requirements. We can’t pay you but writing a review has to be cheaper than buying a book and a good incentive to see if you have what it takes to develop your writing skills.

Do you think you’re up to writing a review? If you think you can, then you’re really going to think you’ve landed your hands in the biscuit tin. It won’t hurt to try and see if you have the right stuff by sending me a sample review to show me you can write. If you want an added incentive, it can also be good for your CV.

Look up the Review Guidelines by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_reviews.php”></a> with a press of a mouse button.

SHORT STORIES

We always have an interest in running short stories which can be anything from one to thirty or so pages long. We’re always willing to give short story writers a chance to be seen if they can withstand my scrutiny even if we can’t pay for their efforts, your material will be seen by a lot of people if it’s shown on the SFCrownest website. If you can get a short story written well then it’ll make it easier to move up to novel-length.

Look up the Short Stories Link by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse.

FLASH OR ONE-PAGE FICTION

We’ve also a teaching ground of one page stories, so check out the rules elsewhere on the website. It’s a lot tougher than it looks and far too easy to just write and write and hope something good comes out of it. What writing a one page story does is test your ability to control your word count and still tell a story in a concise way. This doesn’t mean we don’t accept stories of different lengths – a short story can be anything up to 30-40 pages long after all – but opens up the means for really short stories from ideas that don’t need as much space.

Flash fiction stories by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_flashfic.php”></a> with your mouse.

NOVEL-LENGTH SAMPLES

For those keeping track, I’m actually now caught up but don’t tell everyone as I’m undecided as to whether to keep looking at novel-length story samples, move over specifically to short stories – which we do anyway for the website – or get a couple of my own book projects completed. The latter, I still intend to do anyway and now actually working on but don’t let that put you off too much. If you want me to look over a sample, you can contact me through the links on this website.

Before you submit, study the next section below as it’s there to help you do some of the right things and reduce the number of times I’m repeating myself over silly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that you shouldn’t be making if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It makes editing a lot easier if any editor has less work pointing out poor English which you should have been sorted out in the first place and more focused on other areas of your work that deal with plot and the other serious elements of storywriting. As a writer, it is your command of the English language and its grammar that will show how serious you are about writing.

There might not be much of a wait unless I get a deluge, however those sending in ebook samples, please read the Guidelines by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse here or through the bottom line menu on the opening page of the SFC website.

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING BUT AFRAID TO ASK

General advice for those who want to become writers of any sort: There’s an old editorial adage: If you can’t aim for perfection why should an editor nurse-maid you to that state? Nominally, my job is to catch minor glitches not total mishaps. If you’re a writer, then you should understand the words, sentences and grammar of the job you’re supposed to be writing or are you considering it as mundane and boring as any other job to get right? Fall in love with making every sentence the best you’re ever written, read up and understand the rules of grammar. Put the time in researching any subject you’re using in the story. Be prepared to put a story away for a few weeks and go back to it for a self-edit until it’s as good as you can make it. Even I do that. You look good. I make you look better but you have to start off with good.

A lot of the time, errors will just stare you in the face when you didn’t see them the first time round. Once you know where your weaknesses are, they can be sorted out and allow you to move a little higher up the ladder towards making your material look its best and more importantly, getting your material seen by readers.

The link here will show you the Common Problems Link page and what I see mostly <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_commonprobs.php”></a>

with your mouse. It’s the smart writer who doesn’t get caught out with these.

Good luck.

Geoff

 

Category: Offworld Report

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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