Quantity over quality, product over art

A few days ago, one James Yu unveiled a new AI writing tool. Sudowrite, according to Mr. Yu, can give advice on and even write long-form stories. AI writing tools (or text-generation tools, as I would rather call them) until now haven’t been able to tell a story without losing track of characters or meandering off into total nonsense, so this is a bold claim.

It may also be a true claim. I don’t plan to judge the technical quality of Sudowrite or any other such tool, not beyond the couple of free services I messed with last year to see what the fuss was about. In fact, let’s just assume for the sake of argument that Sudowrite can generate a more or less coherent long-form story, maybe a novella-length one, with prompts and some editing required on the user end. Even if that’s the case, I question the value of such a tool in creating fiction and the need for AI-generated fiction at all.

I won’t go over the same old arguments I and many others have made against the widespread use of AI text and image generators, and what I consider to be the totally ineffective counterarguments comparing their use to that of digital tools by illustrators or of sampling, drum machines, and synthetic vocals like Vocaloid by composers.1 Tools and instruments like those aid the creator — they don’t themselves create. A set of prompts by contrast generates work that can’t reasonably be considered property of the prompt writer, the connection between the prompts and the end result being far too weak. The arguments go deeper than this, and no doubt they’ll be raised in cases involving copyright.

Today I’m concerned with a different aspect of this problem: the treatment by these AI developers of art as pure product.2 Art is usually product in some sense at least: unless they’re a hobbyist, the artist has to earn money, and so they have to consider their audience, the possible demand for whatever story they want to tell, and how they’ll market that story. It would be naive and ridiculous to deny that there’s often a commercial aspect to the creation of art.

Computer, give me a screenshot depicting the human love of money

However, an artistic work is not a commodity in the same way as a can of tuna or an office chair or a car is. It makes sense to talk about volume and cost-efficiency when producing commodities like those. People need to eat and sit, and in most places they also need to drive.

People also need art, but in a different sense: art is an expression meant to teach lessons, to convey feelings, or perhaps simply just to please the senses. Even one of those anime girl pinups I was talking about last post — it might not be profound or anything, but I get something from that art knowing it’s the artist’s particular expression of beauty or sexuality or some mix of those. In very real terms, one illustration by one of my favorites has far greater value to me than one thousand pieces of superficially similar AI-generated work.

The same will doubtless be true of fiction. Say Sudowrite can produce a spy thriller or a romance or a fantasy adventure with some input and guidance from the human user (who I won’t call the author or writer for obvious reasons.) What will that prove? That an AI tool can generate a readable paint-by-numbers story. I believe this text generation tech probably is capable of following a formula just as it now is with visual art. But what purpose does that actually fulfill? It potentially floods an already crowded market with mediocre trash. Most of the million-plus novels in existence are already mediocre trash, and there’s no shortage of them, every one written by a human. Just ask any writer if demand for fiction outpaces supply and see if they don’t laugh at the question.3

I’ve said before and I will repeat that I’m not really fighting the development of this kind of technology. It’s hardly possible to stand against it, to try to shove that genie back into its bottle. Maybe Sudowrite would make for a decent brainstorming tool like ChatGPT has become. And hell, even if I call the work it churns out paint-by-numbers, I’m not against that in principle. Some people enjoy painting by numbers, after all, and who am I to criticize that?

However, painting by numbers damn well doesn’t make you an artist. And I would rather slam my hand in a car door repeatedly than use one word of anything Sudowrite or any similar tool had generated in one of my stories. The creators of Sudowrite seem to believe that writers are interested in taking prefab parts and using those to construct a novel in the way you might a barn. I disagree: any “writer” who builds a novel using a text generator is anything but, at least for the purposes of that particular novel. I write to express myself, and I neither need nor want help from an AI text generation and analysis tool to do that.

I also won’t despair over all this. In fact, I feel all the more motivated now to write when I have the time. Even if it’s pointless, I have to do it.


1 To the techbros: go ahead and call me a Luddite.

2 Certainly Mr. Yu and similar types will argue that they’re not treating art as pure product but are rather aiding in the creation of art. Maybe they even really believe that, but I don’t for reasons I’ve already expressed in past posts on the subject.

3 I think this also calls into question this article from The Atlantic. It’s an interesting piece, but I fundamentally disagree with the author’s conclusions, falling back as he does on the old “it’s like sampling in hip hop” analogy that I don’t accept. But at least he admits that he’s not the author of the AI novel he generated (though he does say he’s legally the author, which is extremely debatable as far as copyright is concerned. At least for the time being: see the ongoing federal case Thaler v. Perlmutter for more on that point.)

Write what you feel

Another sleepless night. Not for no reason, though — I had absolutely no weekend, pulled off to work on a new case. It’s impossible to avoid that sometimes in my line of work. I’m told I need sleep, but I don’t really want to sleep yet. So much for my health and sanity.

Being restless, I wanted to write something. But instead of the more usual kind of post, I’ll take the chance to address maybe my least favorite common piece of writing advice, at least as it’s often taken: “write what you know.” Plenty of writers have taken shots at this turd, but I thought I’d take mine too since there are enough people around still repeating it.

Too often, the old “write what you know” advice is taken at face value, resulting in people thinking they should only write situations that they have personally experienced or might reasonably expect to experience in the course of their daily lives. It’s certainly possible to write such a story well and in a compelling way. I much prefer fantastic or futuristic settings to modern everyday ones in my fiction, but lately I’ve opened up to those more commonplace settings with the slice-of-life anime I’ve binged on over the last year as a kind of pain reliever.

Like Hidamari Sketch, which takes the mundane and makes it entertaining mostly through comedy (and yeah, I just finished the first two seasons; look forward to a new post about those soon-ish.)

However, those series work in part because they offer an effective escape from everyday life — just the opposite of the result that “write what you know” would turn out for many of us, and maybe even especially for the slice-of-life watcher seeking out that relief. I would never and will never be able to create anything like Yuru Camp.

No, my stories are full of misery and self-doubt and other not-so-pleasant stuff that I dug up from my own psyche, but placed into those more fantastic and futuristic settings and situations. If I were instead to take “write what you know” literally, here’s what I’d be writing about:

  • Living in a large American city, but not one of the interesting parts.
  • Working as a lawyer, a realistic depiction of which nobody wants to read, least of all fellow lawyers.
  • Dealing with family-related headaches, which many people write about but very few in a form I’d want to read. It’s relatable, but why do I want to read about other people’s personal miseries when I have my own? Though apparently that works for a lot of people considering how many family dramas exist in novel, TV series, and film form.
  • Writing. Writing about writing? I guess that’s what I’m doing now, but in the context of fiction, this feels like a dangerous option. Picture the protagonist, a struggling author whose insight and talent just isn’t appreciated — you can see how easily a story like this can become masturbatory even for a self-effacing person like me.
  • Being miserable and depressed. Which can give rise to some good art, setting aside all the obviously awful things about them, but you need more than just misery and depression in the mix unless you want to end up with a bad copy of Notes from Underground. And see again about not wanting to read about others’ miseries unless you can make them compelling somehow.

“Write what you know” can be great advice depending upon your circumstances. Say, for example, that you’ve lived an interesting life people might want to read about and you’re writing an autobiographical work. Or maybe you really can pull off that mundane slice-of-life healing stuff in which case thank you in advance.

“Write what you know” is also good advice if you know everything. But you just know what you know.

For most of us, however, it is lousy advice the way it’s often taken, making some new writers feel they have to box themselves in unnecessarily, especially if they’re trying to write “literary fiction” (and man, I have some opinions on that whole literary vs. genre distinction too. But maybe later.)

Here’s how I would rewrite write what you know, then: Pull from your personal experiences and feelings when writing to create something that’s meaningful to you and will feel genuine to the reader. Sure, it’s not as brief and catchy as write what you know. It also leaves no room for misinterpretation to turn into a trite piece of advice people pass around as if it’s the word of God Almighty.

However, if you want to shorten my advice at the risk of it being misinterpreted, here’s my best effort: write what you feel. Feel free to write what you don’t know — there’s no better way to push your boundaries as a writer in my opinion than that. But if you write what you feel, you might write something worth reading.

For whatever that’s worth from an unpublished author, anyway. Fiction is a rough way to make a living — anyone trying to live off of their art gets my respect.

The Florida state government’s attack on bloggers

Another unexpected subject, yeah, but I do write about writing online here on occasion. This subject affects every writer, after all, whether they address political issues or not. And given that this is also a legal issue, I can address it from a professional perspective as a lawyer (though admittedly not a Florida lawyer.)

The Florida Senate chamber (source.) I remember visiting my state capitol building when I was a kid, back when I didn’t realize government was 99% dirty grifting. Still better than the alternatives, though.

Here’s the story if you haven’t heard yet. Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, is backing a bill recently introduced in the Florida Senate, SB 1316. Said bill contains a few parts, but the only one we’re concerned with is the recently added Section 3, titled “Blogger registration and reporting” (and a red flag has already been raised.) This is an amendment to the Florida state code, adding a Section 286.31. It starts out with a long list of definitions, but subsection 2 is where the hammer comes down. Quoted in full:

(2) If a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post, the blogger must register with the appropriate office, as identified in paragraph (1)(f), within 5 days after the first post by the blogger which mentions an elected state officer.

Section 3 continues on with details about fines to be paid by bloggers who fail to register and the information that must be provided — who paid the blogger, how much accurate to the nearest $10, a link to the blog post in question, articles on newspapers’ websites being exempt, etc. The full searchable text of the bill is here — read it for yourself.

You might be wondering whether this could possibly be constitutional. It absolutely isn’t, not by any stretch of the imagination. While it’s being framed by supporters as a way to hold special interest-influenced writers accountable for their statements and to fight against libel (which in itself wouldn’t even be close to enough to overcome its constitutionality issue) the actual wording of the bill as currently written is exceedingly broad, potentially roping in anyone who monetizes their blog with Google AdSense or some other pay-per-click advertisement program. Not exactly getting $5,000 in unmarked bills from a foreign agent packed in a brown envelope to write vicious lies about good pure American officials, which I think is the image DeSantis and co. are trying to get across. It’s more just people like me and perhaps also like you, people who just want to publish their opinions and might want to make a few dollars on the side if possible.

I’d say this was an utterly insane ploy by Gov. DeSantis, except it’s likely calculated — everyone knows he has presidential ambitions, and this is very far from the first outrageous act he’s taken as Florida’s governor (see also: shitting on teachers every chance he gets, banning books from school libraries, wedging his political agenda into school curricula, pulling ridiculous stunts in coordination with Gov. Abbott of Texas involving sending migrants, allegedly without notice, up to New York City and Martha’s Vineyard, etc. etc.) DeSantis is a lawyer himself, a graduate of Harvard Law no less. He knows very well that this section of the bill is wildly unconstitutional, a clear violation of both freedom of speech and of the press afforded by the First Amendment. Even the extremely conservative Supreme Court would not uphold this law, were it to become a law (and since the Florida Senate is controlled 28-12 by DeSantis’ party, it seems almost certain to pass in whatever form he wishes.)

But since the good Governor is backing it anyway, we may as well examine in exactly what way and to what extent Section 3 of Florida SB 1316 is a vile piece of shit. This section of the Florida bill violates not just the First Amendment, but even standards of American law whose roots were established over fifty years before the Constitution was ratified. In 1735, the royal governor of New York had a New York City printer, John Peter Zenger, imprisoned for working for a publication critical of the administration and its policies. You can find background and the details of the case here — this New York judicial history society already did an excellent job with that, so I won’t repeat their work. But the gist is that while Crown v. Zenger did not establish a precedent in itself, being more of an early case of jury nullification, it also put royal authorities on notice that they wouldn’t be able to simply have their way with an unfriendly press. And as the case history says, the spirit that led the jury to acquit Zenger also inspired the freedom of the press codified in the First Amendment.

French climber Alain Robert scaling the New York Times building in 2008 (Source: Markus Poessel (Mapos) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 (link.)) It has nothing to do with any of these cases, I just thought it was interesting. See, I’m about as far from professional as you can get.

Of course, we don’t have to reach back into colonial America to look for a precedent against this bill. Here’s New York Times v. Sullivan, a Supreme Court decision from 1964, in which a unanimous Court found in favor of the Times, which had printed an ad in favor of Martin Luther King during one of his stints of imprisonment and was subsequently sued by an Alabama city official for libel. New York Times v. Sullivan is especially relevant here, as it established the heightened standard for a finding of libel against a public official.

Now here’s the counterargument: SB 1316 has nothing to do in itself with holding bloggers liable for making potentially libelous statements against Florida state officials. It merely creates a database of bloggers who write about state politics on a professional basis, or even an amateur one if they make any money for their trouble.

Well, I’m sure the intent of Gov. DeSantis and his friends is absolutely not to create a shit list of politically unfriendly bloggers or to chill public discourse in the state. Why would they possibly want to do that? But my too obvious sarcasm aside, the anonymity of speech is in itself protected, and by a long line of Supreme Court decisions. Once again, someone else has done all the background work for me, so I’ll just link to this page written by someone at Middle Tennessee State University (do they have a law school too? There are really too god damn many of them here, at least four times too many.) The point here is that the protection of anonymity of speech is also beyond debate, and the mere fact that a writer is being paid to write about public officials and their policies has no bearing on that analysis.

Gov. DeSantis is not an idiot. He seems to be a lot of things, but an idiot is certainly not one of them. The framing of SB 1316 looks to be deliberate — I believe it’s framed as addressing a dark money issue. This framing is confirmed by subsection 5 of the offending Section 3, which states that bloggers who refuse to comply with registration are to be treated in the same way as unregistered lobbyists. But I’m also convinced that that’s not its true purpose. Public speech and private lobbying are starkly different. This is an attack not on “special interests” but rather on the public itself and our ability to speak freely on political matters.

Thankfully, since I don’t live in Florida and don’t get paid for what I write here anyway, I don’t have to be concerned with paying any fines if, hypothetically, I were to give certain opinions about an elected Florida state official. For example, suppose I were to write “Ron DeSantis is a little Mussolini,” or “Ron DeSantis is an anal wart,” or something less polite. I wouldn’t have to register with a state office even if I were in Florida as long as I kept my blog completely unmonetized and received no compensation otherwise. But obviously I can’t just say “well, this isn’t my problem.” It is my problem, and it’s yours as well if you’re a blogger in the US, considering the deep and wide-ranging implications of the bill on the incredibly off chance it were to survive a legal challenge (and believe me, it would be challenged as soon as possible if it were to pass in its current form or anything like it.)

Well, I guess I won’t get in any trouble with anyone if I write about anime, music, games, or whatever other escapist entertainment I feel like, so if that’s what you come to this site for, then rest assured that I’ll be getting back to that stuff in the next post. I just couldn’t pass this story by.

A look at some obscure punctuation marks

Did I mention this would be a lazy month on the site? That’s how it’s turning out, though maybe my overwork at my job is contributing to that. I’m actually working on an anime review right now, though I’m still at a loss about how to finish it — I set it aside for months before returning to it and rewatching a few key parts, but I’m not sure my feelings have changed much about it. Maybe you’ll see what I mean when I finally do post that review.

That should be coming soon, anyway (I hope.) For now, here’s some talk about weird punctuation marks. Back in the day when typesetting was still a pretty new concept (in the West anyway; China already had it down) punctuation wasn’t quite standardized. Even the use of the comma and period wasn’t settled for a long while. Language in general being a pretty fluid thing, then, it’s only natural that new punctuation was invented by typesetters and scholars to better perform certain functions. Like say the semicolon, a mark that isn’t that necessary to use often but that I use too often because I am a pretentious jerk. Or the ampersand, &, existing more as a sort of very specialized letter than a mark, resulting from the natural combination of the Latin et (and) into a distinct character.

What about a star? Does that count as proper punctuation?

Not all of these newly proposed marks stuck, however. Some fell out of use after a while and more simply never stuck. Yet they still exist in a sort of semi-death, still floating around available to be used for those brave enough to not care whether they confuse their readers.


If you know any of these marks, it’s probably this one:

This is the interrobang, a ligature or combination of a question mark and an exclamation point, the latter also known as a bang hence the name. The purpose of the interrobang is just what it seems: to mark a question asked in a surprised, angry, or agitated way (ex: “You ate the reuben I was saving‽” Truly a crime worthy of a ‽.)

The interrobang is a newer mark, proposed in the 1960s, and despite its being pretty well known among nerds like me it’s never really caught on. I can’t remember a single time I’ve seen a ‽ used in print media, and it barely ever makes an appearance online either. In fact, the only times I remember ‽ ever being used is in articles about the interrobang itself. In that sense, it’s absolutely failed as a punctuation mark — people for whatever reason just decided they’d prefer to use a ?! (or a !?, which Stack Exchange claims is different, but don’t listen to those jerks. It might mean something different in chess terminology but not in general use.) And ?! is so rarely used anyway that there’s really no need at all for ‽. The interrobang is an interesting concept, but it’s just far too specialized to be of any real use to anyone except weirdos who want to make their writing stand out for the wrong reasons.

Irony mark

Man do I hate this one. I get why someone came up with it — in fact, the idea is a lot older than the interrobang concept. But it just so completely kills the point of what it’s supposed to be achieving that it’s amazing. Maybe even ironic? Maybe not (I’m not getting into that Alanis Morissette bullshit here.)

The irony mark is meant to mark an ironic statement. Seems pretty obvious from the name, and the reason for it is obvious too. It’s a well known problem that irony can be hard to distinguish in writing, especially if you’re not familiar with the writer, their character, and the unspoken context of a statement that may or may not be ironic depending.

The trouble is that marking an ironic statement as ironic is like putting the statement this is a joke at the end of every joke you make — it kills the effect. That might be part of why ⸮ never caught on in writing despite having a far longer life than ‽. Though maybe not, since the “sarcasm tag” /s serves pretty much the same purpose and I’ve seen that used fairly often online. And if anyone reading has ever been in or seen a Twitch stream, the same is true of the Kappa emote, which gets pulled out when chat wants to make some biting comments. Even Kappa on its own can be effective at teasing the streamer (hopefully in a friendly way, but knowing Twitch, that’s not always the case.)

So maybe the real problem with ⸮ isn’t its function but its look, because a backwards question mark doesn’t really scream “irony”, at least to me. I think I’d just read it as a question mark in text. It was a lazy choice anyway — imagine having an excuse to create a new punctuation mark and just reversing an existing mark. I’m happy this mark never caught on. (Note: I’ve seen ⸮ also called a “percontation point” meant to mark a rhetorical question, but the same criticisms apply here — a rhetorical question should be obvious from context. Though to the percontation point’s credit, at least it makes sense that it looks like a question mark. Edit: also note that the irony mark is sometimes cited as having a slightly different shape than the “reversed question mark”, but fuck, that is just what it looks like to me. It’s close enough that my brain still reads it as a reversed question mark anyway.

Any of the marks created by Hervé Bazin

Hervé Bazin was a French author who in the 60s proposed a set of new punctuation to express various feelings, like his “love mark”, two mirrored question marks over a single dot in the shape of a heart, or his “acclamation mark”, a similarly doubled exclamation point, or his own version of the irony mark. I’m not sure whether any of this ever caught on in French, but I doubt it, and I know it didn’t in English. Bazin’s punctuation marks are so rarely used that they don’t even exist in Unicode. Even the interrobang has a Unicode entry, meaning you can place it into your own text if you feel like it, but these don’t. Sorry, Mr. Bazin, though credit where it’s due for actually bothering to make up new marks instead of repurposing or reversing old ones.

Looking back, though, it’s pretty obvious why none of these caught on. In formal/published text, their functions were far too specific to establish new characters for them. You might ask why not just throw them in anyway, but for centuries, printers and typesetters were the ones who would have had to deal with that extra type, and if they didn’t deem new characters necessary, they sure as hell weren’t going to bother with them. They’ve exerted a surprising amount of influence on modern English for that reason, creating new letters and dropping old ones through decades and centuries of custom. So why mess around with a new mark like ‽ when the old ?! or !? do just as well?

And in casual text, we already have a far superior alternative (at least in terms of range of emotion and function): emojis. These might not be “formal” parts of our languages, but they’ve become actual parts of our written communication over the last few decades starting with the old 90s mostly sideways emoticons, and they’ve made any new punctuation that expresses particular emotions unnecessary. You might not like them — hell, I don’t really care for them myself and barely ever use them except when it feels absolutely necessary. But they’ve caught on, and if you can’t call these pictographs language because they don’t usually have sounds attached to them, then at least you can say they function as a kind of informal punctuation. Maybe. I’m not a linguist, I don’t know. What’s your opinion?

Finally, just a note on some of the articles I’ve seen about these marks while looking them up: almost all of them are titled “13 rarely used punctuation marks you should use/never knew you needed” or similar. I know that’s just how these titles are always written, but as long as words have meanings I can criticize them, so here: I’ve gotten along fine without interrobangs or irony marks, and even without emojis. I never knew I needed them because I don’t need them. None of this is to dump on their creators — they had some clever and interesting concepts, but again, there are good reasons those concepts never caught on. As for the authors of those articles, I get the game there too. I guess I’m playing it as well, though not quite as well as they do. Just adding my own commentary here if anyone cares.

Anyway that’s my nerd rant about language, and maybe not my only one. I guess this counts as talking shop for a writer, doesn’t it? Until next time‽⸮

Behind my lousy writing process

It’s Monday night as of this writing, and the week is already hell. Normally I’d be too exhausted at the end of a long day to write anything, but I’m feeling restless tonight. I’m having more of these restless nights than usual, too. Maybe there’s some intense dissatisfaction with my life boiling under the surface (well, that’s not a “maybe”, and it’s barely under the surface if I’m writing about it.)

The only healthy way I’ve found to deal with this dissatisfaction isn’t to actually address it properly but to keep writing more so that I can distract myself from my constant impending doom. So here’s a look behind the curtain at my terrible amateurish writing process! I’m not writing this post to instruct or educate, because I honestly don’t recommend that anyone follow this as a guide. It works for me (sort of) but might not work for anyone else.

Step 1: Fill up with coffee

Caffeine is a drug, and I’m undoubtedly addicted to it. You might say that’s unhealthy, and you might be right, but I don’t care. My heart is still fine, and even if it isn’t, the world seems well on its way to ending so it probably doesn’t matter very much.

To be more serious, I do keep my daily intake to a few cups of coffee, though they are strong ones. I do my best not to overindulge, anyway. Energy drinks are out — no interest in pouring that stuff into my body, whatever it is. And in any case, coffee is among the cheapest options for your fix if you know what to buy. I’m not a gourmet: I buy giant jars of Café Bustelo instant coffee, the least bad instant I’ve found, and I drink that. Six dollars for ten to fourteen days of coffee — not too bad, is it? True coffee enthusiasts might turn their noses up but I have a taste for that bitter black espresso style and this is the easiest way to get it. (And don’t bother with Starbucks’ instant brand. Seven dollars for six one-cup packets of coffee? It’s a terrible deal. Starbucks doesn’t even brew good coffee; you just go there to meet friends and get extravagant sugary drinks with whipped cream.)

I haven’t reviewed Super Cub yet, but it’s an anime that appreciates good coffee better than I can. Though I would drink good coffee if I had the time to bother. If I get rich I’ll buy one of those French presses and spend time picking the right beans and all that stuff.

As for the drink’s effects, I read an old translated poem from a Sufi mystic, one of the guys who first made coffee popular in the 15th century before it was exported from the Middle East to Europe. I don’t remember who wrote it (Rumi? I don’t even remember if he’s the right time period) but it pretty much praised the drink for energizing and opening up the mind, and that’s how I feel about it too. Here’s a relatively mild drug that promotes creativity and energy — that’s made for me. Live your totally clean life if that works for you, but I still need at least a little vice. Otherwise what’s the fucking point? And more importantly, I can’t write without it.

2) Write a post

Just write. No editing in this initial stage — it’s just a flow of words, though I usually have a general idea of what I want to say and where I want to end up, especially when it comes to my reviews. For those more structured sorts of posts, I make a sort of outline in my head. Other bloggers might prefer to write an actual outline with notes and will probably come up with better results than I do.

But sometimes I don’t even have any idea where I’m going with a post and it’s a near-total stream of consciousness. Like this post. As I write this sentence, I’m still coming up with what the hell I want to write in the next, like building a railroad as the train rolls along the tracks. At least there won’t be an actual derailment if I fuck up, which does happen — I have quite a few garbage drafts sitting around that I just can’t part with because I think I might be able to repurpose them someday.

3) Make one single quick, rough edit before posting

“Editing” for me consists of a read through for two purposes: 1) to make sure I didn’t make any obvious typos or grammatical errors (ignoring the formal errors I actually do make but ignore because I prefer to break those rules for whatever reason) and 2) to make sure what I wrote basically makes sense and that it’s more or less what I wanted to express.

This part of the process is part of what separates my amateur bullshit from professional work. I’ve done professional work before that’s been assessed and cut apart by editors, but I was always paid to put up with that. Here, I simply want to express myself as I like, and I’m happy with any way I can get that done so I can keep existing for another week without losing my mind completely.

Yeah, I get that

4) Edit the post after I’ve posted it because I missed stupid typos or actually said something ridiculous-sounding that I should clarify

Yeah, this happens a lot, partly because of how rough that third step is that I described above. That’s also part of why I can’t recommend my method of writing to anyone who doesn’t want to look like an idiot. I already know I’m one and have accepted that fact, so it’s fine for me. If I’m making a substantive edit, though, I will mark it clearly as an edit in the text for transparency’s sake. Not that anyone probably cares, but I do, and that’s enough.

And that’s it. I get the feeling my second step is similar to the last step from that “How to Draw an Owl” meme you’ve probably seen around — it doesn’t help for me to tell you to draw the rest of the fucking owl if you don’t know how to go about it. That’s part of why I quit teaching (and also because of how horribly teachers are treated in this country.)

So until next time! I can’t say what or when “next time” will be, but I’m shifting over from anime a bit to visual novels, which I have a whole pile of, and a few shorter ones on the top of that stack to get through finally. I’ve been meaning to return to the still underappreciated VN medium. See you then.

Writing in hiding

Okay, “in hiding” is way too dramatic. There have been writers who have actually had to hide out of fear of being harassed or even murdered (as we saw last week.) What I’m talking about here is far more mundane and less of an actual issue, but one that I still think a lot of people who write online have to deal with: the matter of who to let in on your writing in your offline life. For some people, I think this isn’t an issue at all — either you’re writing on subjects that you feel people won’t have any issues with, or your friends, colleagues, and family are cool to the point that nothing you write about will faze them, or alternatively you just don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of you and your interests.

None of the above is true for me, and I’m guessing it’s not for a lot of writers here. Most of us have to be at least a little selective about who we let in on that we write online, since those old questions can follow: what do you write about, do you have a site/blog, where is it so I can follow it. Sometimes all these might just be polite questions that the person asking will never follow up on, but you never know when you’re talking to that rare one who might actually look your work up.

Not quite my work. I wish I had this kind of talent.

This partly links back to a post I wrote a few days ago about getting more personal. One of the reasons I think I get personal about certain issues on this blog is that I can’t do so in real life. We all have matters we can and can’t talk about with certain people — some only with close friends, some only with family (or excluding family, another important point.) And some require a kind of partial anonymity at least to talk about.

I can find at least a few reasons why I can’t share this site with anyone I know in real life. I’ve recently brought up my past issues with drinking, for example. This was a matter I felt I had to get off my chest, especially since I was going through a rough spot a few weeks ago, but most of my “real-life” friends only have a faint idea of the problem, and my family has never had any idea about it since I’ve always hidden it from them — it’s not so easy admitting to issues with alcoholism when drinking alcohol is considered not just a bad idea but a sin, a breaking of God’s direct commands. Following up on that, I’ve questioned some forms of religious belief in a couple of posts where I felt my views on it were relevant, another reason to not let on to any of my family about this blog. And of course, worst of all, I’ve reviewed games like Nekopara. That last one is probably enough to get me raked across the coals on Twitter assuming anyone even knew who I was or gave a shit about me, but far worse for people I actually know to draw some uncharitable conclusions about me (baseless ones, of course, but you know how it is.)

This screenshot has never been so relevant.

All of the above is even more relevant to my fiction. I’m not exactly Mr. Grimdark — I find that kind of excess pretty embarrassing really, unless there’s a good reason for it. But my stories are also fairly weird as you might imagine. I don’t really need to hear people asking if I’m okay assuming, again, any of them were to read what I wrote instead of just feigning polite interest (the answer: no, I’m not really okay, but there’s nothing much either of us can do about that and this is part of how I’m coping with it. Best not even to open that door.)

For these reasons, I don’t tell anyone I know in my day-to-day offline life about this blog — even if I might trust one friend enough to “get it”, you know how this kind of shit can magically spread and suddenly you’re hearing your aunt ask about something you wrote and forgot about five years ago. And just for good measure, I’ve never posted my name or face here or on social media connected with this site either. Again, I don’t think I’m in a special situation here: I think doxxing is a concern partly for these reasons on top of the potential for harassment that comes along with it.

All that said, I’d like to reach a point in my life where I don’t feel the need to conceal my interests. Bisque Doll had the right idea about that, but in some ways it really feels like a fantasy to me. In the end, I don’t have it so bad, really, but I’ve accepted that I’ll probably never be able to live as openly as I like. Now I just wish I could convince my family that I actually have “real” hobbies and don’t simply work and sleep without getting into all of the above. To readers and fellow writers, I hope you’re having an easier time with this than I’ve had, or else that you truly just don’t give a fuck and can live your life the way you like.

The personal touch

Three years ago, I was agonizing over how much objectivity I should be going for in my reviews. I took the examples of old-school (at least now they would be old-school, I guess) independent internet music critics George Starostin and Mark Prindle, two guys whose work I equally admired but who had very different approaches. Even though I’d had this blog since 2013, I never really thought much about this question or about my own writing here until about 2019, and by that time I’d realized that a lot of what I had written previously wasn’t that great — I felt this kind of self-examination would help improve my work here.

Well now it’s three years later, and I don’t know whether I’ve improved at all. I “solved” the problem of how I should use ratings in my reviews by not using ratings anymore, and as for the Starostin/Prindle spectrum or whatever you’d call it, I think I’ve more or less fallen somewhere in the middle of it. Not exactly by choice — I write most of my posts in a nearly stream-of-consciousness style, usually all at once or maybe in two sittings and with barely any editing, which probably explains a lot of the mistakes and post-posting edits I end up having to make. So I can’t say I’m really thinking very consciously about how objective or subjective I’m being in a review, but I write in what I feel is a natural way.

One question I still wonder about, and that this Blaugust daily posting challenge raised for me, is how personal I should be in these posts. I’ve written about some personal matters this month, but the fact is this has always been partly a personal blog — I complain about my petty problems sometimes, but I also try to connect with readers on some personal level. I think the enjoyment of art, in a very broad sense what my site is all about, can’t be separated from the person talking about it. Our personalities affect how we see art, after all; it’s not just impossible to view art in an objective vacuum but would be useless even if it were possible.

But then I still want to keep readers’ interest, and I can’t pretend I’m someone anyone should give a flying fuck about. One of the things that annoys me about a few prominent anime YouTubers, for instance, is their tendency to let their personalities overshadow whatever anime they’re actually talking about. As much as I liked Mark Prindle’s reviews, he could also fall into this very occasionally, talking about family problems or his feelings about religion for three paragraphs in a totally unrelated album review. That was just his style and something you had to expect from him, and it was rare that he’d go into that kind of personal depth in a way that wasn’t actually connected to the music he was talking about from what I remember, but it was still noticeable.

Then again, I might have done the same on this site. I think it’s best to maintain a balance in these cases, anyway, and I’ll do my best to keep that balance. None of this is to say fully personal blogs are bad — they can be interesting, but that’s also not what I’m going for, and anyway I present this site as a game, anime, and sometimes music review/analysis blog, and presumably that’s what most people come here for. And that’s what I want to give readers: my feelings and opinions about art. But again, I don’t think it’s possible to talk about art without getting a little personal at least, unless you’re going for an extremely dry sort of “here’s what this work is composed of and when it was made” sort of wiki style that I have no interest in doing myself, because it would be personally boring for me to write and wouldn’t provide any value to readers.

As a side question to the writers reading: how personal do you like to get in your posts? We all have different styles, so it might be interesting to gauge that here.

Variations on a theme

It’s another short post today, but one for both the writers and readers out there, since I’m in both of those groups.

I’ve been trying to write fiction lately, digging back up my old dream of living off my art. I’m taking a different approach with that goal than I did before, however. I understand now that I’ll never be able to actually “live off my art” in the sense I used to think of it. I’m stuck as an attorney forever now. This might be a punishment for a crime I committed in a past life, but whatever it is, I’ve accepted it. Luckily it’s possible to do at least two things at once with your life, so I can still pursue my writing ambitions while being a lawyer.

Partly because of this changed approach, I’ve totally given up on the idea of a novel. It’s not that it’s impossible for someone to be a full-time working professional and write a novel, because people have done it before. It’s just impossible for me, since I seem to lack the energy and focus to do both, and if I lose energy and focus on the job I’ll lose the job, and then I won’t be able to eat or live.

But maybe that’s not so bad, because it’s pushed me towards a format that I’ve found pretty rewarding: the short story. I can actually find the time to dedicate to short story-writing since it’s so much less time-intensive — aside from the issue of length, a novel requires a lot of planning and outlining, editing and drafting, and that’s time I just don’t have. Short stories need some of that as well, but the scale of it all is so much smaller that I find it a lot more manageable. When you start to factor in all the tasks around writing fiction, putting together even a halfway decent novel looks like an exponentially more demanding task.

That’s not to say that writing short stories is easy. Writing of any kind takes real effort and an idea to drive it, and that’s why I’m writing this post today. I’ve “finished” three stories now — the quotes because I’ll never be really satisfied with them at this point, but they’re in their final forms anyway. Out of those three, two of these stories, together with all the rest of my still unwritten but outlined story ideas, deal with more or less the same themes expressed in different ways.

At first, I felt like this was a problem, like I was repeating myself too much, but I don’t feel that way anymore. Plenty of authors write on the same themes constantly. It’s the same with the visual arts: a few of my favorite artists do the same thing, using common elements in their work. Look through a catalog of work by Giorgio de Chirico or René Magritte and you’ll notice all those repeated elements.

Not that I’m comparing myself to these guys, really. Their work was monumentally great and mine is just some scribbling. But I do look up to these and other artists like them. Maybe I should be referring to authors who specialize in short stories instead of surrealist painters, but I’ve been a lot more affected and motivated somehow by that surrealist art than by a lot of modern short stories. I certainly don’t care for a lot of what I’ve read in modern journals — I’ve read through some literary fiction publications online and it seems like they have a strong emphasis on gritty realism. That’s fine, but I have no interest in gritty realism at all. I can get that by going outside.

I do want to take on some serious issues that I care about in my writing, but I’ll leave the realism to people who like it and are skilled in that style. I guess that makes me a genre fiction writer, but that’s fine with me (and more on that literary/genre division later maybe, because I have some god damn opinions about that too. I’m not even sure any of these professionals would be interested in my pet issues or my views on them, but then I’m not writing for them anyway. The traditional path feels like a dead end for someone like me.)

I’ll keep writing fiction off and on as I’m able and when I get the motivation. And tomorrow I’ll be back with a more typical sort of post, so until then!

Seven SAT words I’ll never use (except in this post)

More about me this month: before deciding to become a lawyer I worked a few odd jobs, and one of them was teaching the English sections of the infamous standardized college entry test the SAT (formerly the Standardized Aptitude Test when I was a kid, now just the SAT because fuck acronyms having meaning1) along with a few subject-specific SAT II and AP-related courses. I taught anything not related to the sciences or math — history, geography, literature, grammar, and yeah, writing in general. I enjoyed some aspects of teaching, and I even considered getting an advanced degree and going into that field.

Then I realized that I wasn’t a perfectly good person with the patience of a saint and also that I like money. I have massive respect for teachers in America considering just how put upon they are here, and I have no desire to sacrifice myself in that way (and see how supposedly shocked some of our state officials are at our current teacher shortage — we treat them like shit and pay them shit salaries, then we suggest they also double as federal marshals? And they have the nerve to quit? Truly, utterly shocking. There’s a special circle of Hell reserved for hypocritical politicians.)

School is extremely serious business and they’ve been fucking everything up for a long time now

Part of my job as a tutor was to teach high school students vocabulary that comes up on the SAT. Some of these words are commonly used but at more of a high school reading level, the sorts of words you probably wouldn’t use too often in everyday conversation but might use in a formal piece of writing. Some are rarely if ever used in everyday conversation but have scientific or other specialized meanings that are important for students to learn. But there are a few SAT words that should never be used in any context, except to make fun of their use as I’m doing here.

This last category is full of words that are good to know if you plan on reading a lot of old literature, say up through the early 20th century, but that since have fallen out of both everyday and literary use. They’re still legitimate and technically usable words, but they’ve either been made redundant by more commonly used words or were always too highfalutin and ostentatious for anything more than occasional drops in very particular circumstances. (No, “highfalutin” and “ostentatious” don’t fall into this category. Though I don’t think I’ve ever used either on the site before today. Run a search and prove me wrong.)

But since we’ve established both today and in every post I’ve made over the past nine years that I’m a nerd anyway, let’s just give up the act here and have a look at seven of the words off of this 6,000 word SAT study list. Many of the fancier words on this list are commonly known as “SAT words” for the very reason that you’ll never use them after learning their meanings as a high school student studying for the SAT English sections.2 Going alphabetically down the list, these are words such as:

antediluvian – Meaning very old, and literally “before the flood”, as in the Great Flood that Noah survived along with his family and all those animals, then he presumably had to help repopulate the Earth again or something. I don’t remember exactly how that story goes. But my opinion on antediluvian is that it’s fine to use if you’re referring to something that occurred in scripture before the Flood, but not otherwise. If you’re using it just to mean “old”, then say “old”. Or “ancient” works for something or someone especially old. Throwing around antediluvian otherwise just makes you look like kind of a jerk.

eleemosynary – Of or relating to charity. I’d never even heard of or seen this word before seeing it on this list — if I taught it as a tutor, I’ve long since forgotten it. It’s taken from Latin and is the root of the common word “alms”, but why we still have eleemosynary in English is beyond me. It certainly shouldn’t be tested for on the SAT. Because who the hell uses it anymore? Again, aside from people who just care about showing off their education, about which see antediluvian above, only this case is even worse.

masticate – To chew. The verb masticate and its noun form mastication are often used to refer to the constant chewing of animals like cows, but they can also be used in a more satirical or joking way to refer instead to people chewing their food in a similar way as using “to feed” as an intransitive verb instead of “to eat”.

Which of those words would you use when referring to a human pretending to be a cow in someone’s dream? That question is beyond me.

I actually think this word is fine to use in the right context, but it also sounds close enough to another common bodily function, both in its verb and noun forms, that it may cause you some problems with people who don’t know the term.

nonplussed – Taken from the Latin non plus, or no more, nonplussed is an adjective meaning confused or stunned into silence. Unlike most of the words on this list, it’s used fairly often even in modern writing. However, a lot of its users have no idea what it means and even use it in, if not quite its opposite sense, a very different sense from its actual meaning. The non- at the beginning looks like a negative prefix, which it isn’t (the non is sort of a negative, but you can’t remove it from the word and just be “plussed”) and the contexts the word is used in combined with that false prefix makes it look something like “unbothered” or “unfazed”, and it’s also sometimes used to mean “unimpressed” because who cares about meaning at this point if we’re just making shit up.

But do you think I’m going to go to war over nonplussed? No. In my view, if a word can no longer effectively communicate its own meaning in speech or writing, despite being in every English dictionary on Earth more advanced than a middle school level, it’s time to dump it. It’s broken and past fixing. That’s my opinion, anyway, but the people who write the SAT don’t share that opinion, so you’ll still have to know it if you’re taking the test. And beware, because nonplussed and other commonly misused words let them set up traps for unsuspecting students, and they love their fucking traps from what I remember.

perambulate – To walk around something, as in “after dinner I took a constitutional and perambulated the garden with my companion.” Unlike the last word, I don’t think this one needs to be dumped necessarily, but it’s a bit much when you can use “walk” or “stroll” for the same effect and have people actually understand what you mean. Sure, those don’t technically mean “to walk around“, but addition of the word “around” solves that problem.

puissant – Oh, here’s a good one. Puissant means powerful and/or influential, usually in reference to a person. It’s derived from Old French like so much of our vocabulary is, including a ton of commonly used words like beef and castle. Some of them are extra-literary archaic words like puissant, however. I can’t think of a single reason to use puissant, except that it has a completely coincidental resemblance to a slang term for a part of the female anatomy. A pretty funny one too, since that term is used in a vulgar way to refer to not strong but rather weak people (which I never understood. Just misogyny going on there? I’m no expert but it’s just a guess. Then again, we call difficult people dicks and pricks too, so maybe the matter goes beyond gender and just relates to our understandable obsession with genitals.)

pulchritude – Meaning physical beauty, from the Latin pulcher, or beautiful. It still occasionally shows up in journalistic and literary writing, but nobody knows what it means, and even if they do remember, they probably have to stop for a second to connect those wires in their brains because it doesn’t read or sound at all like its meaning. On top of all that, it’s a difficult word to say. Just try saying pulchritude clearly without having to spell out every syllable slowly — it takes some practice.

The master of the manor was enchanted by his maid’s beauty… no, by her pulchritude. That’s a lot better!

Like antediluvian and eleemosynary and the other couple of p-words on this list, you’ll come off like a jerk if you use this word. (Of course that didn’t stop someone at The Washington Post from using it early this year. I hope the editor at least made fun of the author for that word choice. That’s aside from the content of the article, which I have nothing to say about except that suits and ties haven’t gone out of fashion in my profession and likely never will. People forgetting about the lawyers as usual.)

There are more words I can go on about here, but I’ll keep this list at just seven, since I think I’ve made my point. A lot of my feelings about most of these and similar words are described in George Orwell’s six guidelines for English writing set out in Politics and the English Language. Wrapping your meaning up in self-consciously fancy language hurts it — at best it makes your writing and speech muddled and confusing and at worst might make people think you’re a self-aggrandizing asshole, which you probably aren’t aiming for. And if you’re writing fiction, you might just end up with something like The Eye of Argon, only probably without most of the unintentionally entertaining badness, which you also probably don’t want. Mixing up your vocabulary is a great way to add spice to your writing, but spice has to be used sparingly, or else it can ruin the dish.

But that’s no excuse for not studying, because you still have to know these god damn words for the SAT. If you still have to take it, good luck, and I know your pain. It only gets worse from here!

General edit — I don’t mean to suggest with any of this that you shouldn’t bother knowing these or similar words, just that it’s best to balance out your writing by not relying on obscure or complex words when common and simple ones will do. Of course, there are always exceptions, and you’ll know these exceptions when they show up, but only if you already have that large vocabulary and plenty of experience in reading and at least some in writing.

In fact, here’s some real advice for approaching the SAT or any other standardized language test: the best way to prepare for these is to read a lot, and over a broad range: journalism, nonfiction, and fiction of various genres all help. Read like crazy for several years on end and you’ll naturally pick up a large vocabulary that will help you not just for your tests but throughout your life (and an advanced tip here: read Herman Melville and you’ll pick up a lot of the more obscure/archaic words right away. Moby Dick is the classic, but also check out White Jacket, far more successful upon publication but now mostly forgotten except by avid readers. Throw in his short story series The Piazza Tales too. He’s still one of my favorites.)

I know that’s not much of an aid for students who have their exams coming up in a few months, though. If that’s your case, just cram as much into your head as you possibly can. Make flash cards or something.

Anyway, that’s my attempt at teaching something useful after several years. I’m not a real academic anyway, just a fraud: a law degree is basically just an extremely expensive trade school certificate without any of the need for writing theses or dissertations. And look, to the students again: if an idiot like me can put together sentences, you certainly can too, so I hope that’s some motivation for you.


1 I know not everyone agrees that a term that’s usually “spelled out” like the SAT (though I have occasionally heard it pronounced like the word “sat”) is classified as an acronym, but that’s what I’m calling it. If I’m going to have a nitpick-anticipating endnote in any post it should be this one.

2 Its informal name. The two “English” sections are broken into Reading and Writing & Language. The test has undergone some changes since I took it in the early 2000s and maybe even since I taught it several years later.

Talking shop #3: Get in the pot

One day in the year 691, in Tang dynasty China, two men sat down to lunch. These two were Lai Junchen and Zhou Xing, the chiefs of Empress Wu Zetian’s widespread network of secret police and informants. Lai and Zhou were infamous and widely hated for heading up an officially sanctioned reign of terror against the empire’s bureaucratic and military elites, even having produced a book on “advanced interrogation techniques” that’s survived to the present day.

Over lunch, Lai asked Zhou his opinion on the most effective way to get a suspect to confess to a crime. Zhou replied that he would place his suspect in a large pot of water with a fire lit under it. At that point, he said, the man would spill everything.

Lai agreed with his colleague. Then he called for his servants, who brought out a massive pot full of water that they began heating up. Lai explained that Zhou had been placed under suspicion of plotting against Empress Wu and invited him into the pot. No need: Zhou immediately confessed to his plotting, knowing what was in store for him otherwise. This story is the origin of a Mandarin phrase that translates as “to invite the gentleman into the urn” — to trap someone using their own cruel method. Maybe a stronger version of our own English saying, to give someone a taste of their own medicine.

Why am I telling you this? It is one of my favorite historical anecdotes — whether it all happened in exactly that way or not, it makes for a good story — but there’s another reason I’m bringing it up that relates directly to writing, social media, and accountability. Writers have various tools we can use, some sharper than others. For as much as I harp here on the importance of preserving and respecting freedom of speech, it’s also important to recognize this simple fact: we have the power through our words to influence society for the better or the worse.1 Even if the effect of one person’s words is microscopic (like most of ours, including mine — I’m not going to pretend my basic as hell plan WordPress blog has that much impact on the world) I believe every writer has their part to play in this.

Which brings me to this dumbass tweet I saw a while back:

Name cut out partly because I’m not interested in calling particular people out and partly because I don’t want to give this person any more undeserved attention than they already received.

Now sure, some people might think: “Ah, AK is mad because he likes video game soundtracks.” But that’s not exactly the case here. I don’t even see the above tweet as a slap against me, since I listen to a lot of types of music, of which game soundtracks are just one. But calling a game soundtrack a “type of music” is inaccurate in itself, considering the amazing diversity of musical styles you can find in games. I can’t read this person’s mind, naturally, so I don’t know whether they have misconceptions about what “game music” consists of, whether they think it’s all either beeps and bloops or Sonic Adventure butt rock.

But even if that were the case, it doesn’t matter to me. The reason I’m highlighting this tweet is not what it might imply about the quality of video game music, but its nature as a personal attack over a matter of taste. Sure, maybe it was meant as a joke. But even then, looking at this statement in the most favorable light possible, it was a mean-spirited one, and not nearly a clever enough joke to come close to justifying such a tone.2

Anyone who’s spent a few minutes on Twitter will know that this tweet isn’t out of the ordinary. The platform hosts a constant flood of insults of this sort. To be clear, I don’t have a problem with all personal insults, though I think they should be avoided as much as possible — only that when I see insults lobbed at people who are actively and intentionally hurting others or making the world a measurably worse place (like say certain politicians and executives) I can’t blame those lobbing the insults, and sometimes I’m happy to see them posted.

Insults over disagreements in taste are another matter entirely. Even I, as bitter as I am, don’t have the energy for that level of constant negativity.

I also saw an unkind implication a few days back about the social skills and habits of people who like NagatoroUzaki, My Dress-Up Darling, and similar series, and that initial tweet in the thread got a hundred thousand likes or something, so maybe I’m just an idiot. But it also raises an actually interesting argument against these series that I want to take on in a later post.

Naturally, social media is set up to encourage this kind of inflammatory talk since it thrives on engagement, both positive and negative. This connection has been so well understood for so long that I don’t even need to bring it up, but it’s always worth talking about considering how much social media has been woven into all our lives. Even if we don’t think about it much ourselves — my own engagement with it is pretty minimal; I only use Twitter and then under my pseudonymous initials, nothing using my real name, yet I have almost 3,000 tweets a little over three years into my presence there, which is probably far too many.

And on occasion I do read some boneheaded shit someone wrote in retweets or replies to tweets from people I don’t know, and though I don’t do it, I might at least have the urge to get into it with them. Over those three years I’ve even joined in a couple of those common ratio pile-ons as I noted back in this self-flagellation post, though in these cases I make sure to address the contents of whatever was posted and not to attack the person making them, a distinction not everyone makes. But I’m still not happy about it afterwards.

Yeah, Udon-chan from Aquatope would love Twitter I bet.

Looking back on my now 25 years online, starting when we got our first dial-up connection at home, I’ve probably done about as much of this dumb shit as the average user has. I’ve always been not much more than a bystander in these situations, even when I frequented 4chan way back in the day (and really 95% or more of that site’s users are bystanders too, despite whatever nonsense the news back at the time would have had you believe about an elite team of megahackers — though good on those actual rogue expert types for taking on Mr. Putin’s criminal regime right now.)

So maybe I’m not the best person to address this matter, but even as a bystander, I’ve seen enough bad consequences happen to other people that I have at least a basic understanding of how things work. Which as I see it goes like this: if you make a habit of insulting people and gain a following for that, be prepared to take serious hits at some point yourself. At the very least, insult people who really do deserve it, like those aforementioned asshole politicians and executives. Otherwise, it takes a very special sort to insulate yourself from blowback: even a few famously untouchable internet personalities who got into drama talk ended up pulled off their pedestals. So sure, none of this bullshit comes anywhere close to the horrific antics of Lai and Zhou above, but it’s still worth remembering that story if only for instructive purposes.

And in our own game/anime/etc. circles here and on YouTube, it’s vital to keep in mind that you can express dislike and even hatred for certain works and types of works without insulting those who enjoy them. I don’t think I ever do that, and I also don’t follow anyone here on WordPress who does — there’s no quicker way to get me to hit “unfollow” than to jump into the mud like that.

And it’s generally just a bad idea to make a spectacle of yourself unless you’re at least as entertaining as Mr. Libido here. This guy also mainly minded his own business in spite of appearances. Yakuza 0 is full of great life lessons, isn’t it?

My intention here isn’t to shake my finger at anyone. I don’t think any of the excellent people reading this site need this lesson from me anyway. Even if that weren’t the case, I don’t care to tell people what to do, but merely to give a warning, and partly to myself. Plenty of us can dish it out, but how many of us can take it in return? Best to worry about yourself and leave others to their own business. God knows I have enough to worry about.

Anyway, I didn’t expect to write another one of these posts so soon, but that’s how it is sometimes: I’ll read something that sets me off (this time the anime Twitter scuffle) and I can’t rest until I’ve addressed it. As usual, I’m interested in hearing about how other writers and readers think of these situations. Next up will be the regular end-of-month post, I promise.


1 There’s an important distinction here between what I see as the social responsibility of the writer who takes on real-life issues and addresses real-life people, on one hand, and the contrasting lack of responsibility of a writer or any kind of artist who deals purely in fiction and fantasy on the other. I have far more respect for a writer who produces vile stories but acts respectfully and honorably towards others than for one who claims to be upstanding but uses their pen to recklessly destroy others’ lives and livelihoods, or even just to generally make the world a more miserable place to live. Life doesn’t need any help being miserable, does it? On the other hand, a vile story can just be critically torn up and ignored without further harm. At least that’s how I feel — again, I know a lot of people disagree with me on this point.

2 And following up on the above point, I don’t think it’s even justified to attack people based on objectionable contents of the artistic works they enjoy. What counts as “objectionable” is usually pretty subjective, but even setting that argument aside, even objectionable fiction is still just fiction. To use a fairly common example I’ve seen from anime, Monogatari is a divisive series, and while I completely understand why someone would have serious problems with it based on what I’ve watched so far (though I still think the first scene of Bakemonogatari should filter a lot of them out) I draw the line at insults directed at the fans. The same goes for fans of any other ethically and morally produced artistic work.

I’ve already addressed this subject a few times (you can see those in that “commentaries” tab above along with a link to this nonsense I’ve just written) so I won’t beat that particular dead horse again too much, but it does keep coming back up. I just don’t think I have anything else to say about it.