More geek-squee stuff to see on the internet today! Here's a clear and complete cartoon primer (aimed at adults) that details what we know about dark matter. (PS - If you can't get the video to work, click the link, and you should be able to watch it on the Vimeo site instead.)
(Psst. I can blame this late posting on chocolate-bunny overdose, right? Sure, I can.)
This article about "The Chaos Monkey" is just awesome. It talks about dealing with failure and details how Netflix created a program that randomly kills processes within their computer system.
That's kind of mind-melting, isn't it? The company purposefully created a daemon that sabotages their business. And why would they do that? Because they knew it would force them to build a system that could survive genuine equipment failures.
To quote the article writer, Jeff Atwood, "[T]he best way to avoid failure is to fail constantly." In other words, to really learn how to deal with disaster, you have to incorporate it into your life--expect it, plan for it, and get some practical experience at sweeping up the rubble.
Trail runners--those crazy people who jog up and down mountains for fun--are supposed to practice falling. It's not enough to know how to do it safely; you must practice the skill. This is because your body's natural instinct to splay its hands to stop a tumble could get you killed when you're sprinting down a 45 degree hillside. Instead, you need to tuck into a ball, roll over your shoulder and back up onto your feet, then keep on running. And to be truly ready for the real crisis--for that hideous moment when a tree root mugs your ankle--you must fail on purpose so you learn how to survive such failures. You have to practice crash-landing.
When was the last time you wrote something experimental that you knew you couldn't pull off? Do you ever force yourself to submit to magazines and literary agents you realistically have no hope with? How about pitching a non-fiction idea when you've got no platform?
The great thing about practising failure is that at some point, it will turn into success. Even better, you're never going to be scared to fail because you will already know you can handle it.
I admit it: I'm feeling uninspired about what to write for a blog post this week, and in my ennui, I began to traipse through some of the visual detritus that has accumulated on my hard drive. Lo! I abruptly realized this made very entertaining filler, and perhaps there was merit in sharing it with all of you.
But don't worry; I'll be back to verbal communication next week. In the meanwhile, please enjoy the following image-spam:
Just a lighthouse covered in icicles...or Cthulhu?
I made this animation myself.
This thing seriously freaks me out.
Seal of approval!
May I suggest a support garment might be in order?
Some things need no explanation.
Prince reacts to the previous image.
You don't mess with ma family, you hear?
Pengies in sweaters!
High five, dude.
Here, the judges deliberate over which contestant's chili was best. Suffice it to say, this year there was a clear winner.
Oh hai u gaiz; this iz teh last 1.
So--have you guys got any awesome images/animations/lolcats to add to my collection? Please post them (or a link to them) in the comments section!
Ghostbusters and literary agents have been known to say, "Whatever you do, don't cross the streams."
What the latter group means is if your book doesn't have a well-defined pigeon-hole in Ye Olde Bigge Box Bookstore, then that novel will be harder to sell to publishers because the publishers know it will, in turn, be harder to sell to the people who decide which books Ye Olde Bigge Box is going to stock.
But like much advice given to writers, in some cases, this isn't actually good advice. Just look how successful hybrids like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are. Think how fresh-seeming were the Temeraire books, which are basically The Dragonriders of Pern versus Napoleon.
A new twist on an old idea is good. The problems only arise when the tweak is a large one and the resulting novel becomes hard to market. Sub-genres have receptive, well-defined audiences, and publishers want to be able to appeal to those audiences in a straightforward manner. Being able to say, "This is that thing you love, except with zombies," is a hook. Having to say, "This is kind of like that thing you love," is a liability.
There's also the other side of the coin--if the writer does nothing unusual, their book won't be easy to sell either because it's interchangeable with its competition. To lurch over to an election analogy, that book has no chance to become a frontrunner; it can only split the vote.
In the end, I think the safest thing is to never think about what's safe--never try to pander to the market. Write the story that resonates with you, the tale that seems interesting to you, and then hope like hell there proves to be an audience for it.
You might be wrong, but that's a danger when you write a "safe" book too. At least if you're writing the books you want to write, you'll be genuinely doing what you love.