Discussion: Language

From MIT Open Courseware – Introduction to Psychology:

Session Overview

How do I move meaning from my mind to yours? 

Discussion

Language is just incredible – think about how easy it is for us, as babies, to learn our native language effortlessly, and yet how hard it is, once we’ve already learned a language, to learn another.

I think about this every time I see a Chinese baby speaking perfect Mandarin. I have a master’s degree in linguistics and I’ve been trying to learn Mandarin for 10 years, but I’m just awful at it. And language is just spectacularly complicated in terms of our capacity for explaining things. There are sentences that you utter, or that friends utter, that have never been uttered before in the history of the human language, and that will probably never be uttered again, and yet they’re perfectly understandable.

We can talk about language in terms of signals for communication, that is, the perception and production of speech and sign, or what you have to do to move the message from one place to another. We can also talk about language as structures for information, or what the rules are that govern how the basic building blocks of language go together to convey meaning – including rules for sounds, words, sentences, and discourse.

In psychology, some of the big questions about language have to do with language acquisition (both as babies and as adults); the brain bases of speech and language; and communication and language disorders, such as aphasia and dyslexia. Language is a huge topic, but we’ll hit some of the highlights here.

Demonstration

Phonology is the structure of the sounds that make up the words of a language. Phonemes are the building blocks of speech sounds. Phonemes aren’t large enough units of language to convey meaning all by themselves, but they do distinguish one word from another. For example, bit and hit differ by one phoneme. English has about 45 phonemes altogether.

But think about two things. One, there’s a lot of sounds that we can make (whistles, coughs, snorts, etc.) that aren’t linguistic. Two, there’s incredible variety in how the people around us pronounce the “same” sound. Think about people speaking with different accents, or how you sound when you have a cold. How does the brain handle this?

Listen to Tyler describe and demonstrate the phenomenon of categorical perception: (Includes recorded demonstrations of “bad/bat” and “slash/splash” courtesy of UCLA Phonetics Lab, used with permission. The original recordings, and many others like them, are available at Peter Ladefoged’s website Vowels and Consonants.)

Demonstration

However, we don’t rely on our ears alone to determine what we’re hearing. The McGurk effect is a famous example of how visual cues impact our perception of speech sounds. For this demonstration, you will play a single, five-second video clip three times, with different instructions each time.

First, play the video with your eyes closed. Make note of what the man is saying.

(PG Comment: This is a very short video. On PG’s computer, at the close of this video, YouTube starts another that doesn’t seem to be related.)

Second, play the video again with your eyes open. Now what is he saying?

Third, mute the sound on the video and just watch his mouth move. What does it look like he’s saying?

What do you think is happening in this situation? Why?

. . . .

Demonstration

Consider the following joke:

A woman is taking a shower when her doorbell rings. She yells, “Who’s there?” and a man answers, “Blind man.” Being a charitable person, she runs out of the shower naked and opens the door. The man says, “Where should I put these blinds, lady?”

The use of the word ‘blind’ in this joke relies upon the particularities of English semantics and syntaxSemantics refers to the meaning of a word or a sentence; syntax refers to the rules for combining words into sentences. The word ‘blind’ has several meanings (it can be an adjective or a noun), and the one that comes to mind first for most listeners is ‘visually impaired,’ so “blind man” is at first understood as adjective + noun. However, the rules of English syntax allow us to interpret noun + noun phrases such as ‘ice cream man’ not as ‘a man made of ice cream’ but ‘a man who sells ice cream.’ It’s not until the punchline is delivered that you realize that it was a different meaning of ‘blind’ all along.

Link to the rest at MIT Open Courseware

Fairness: the hidden currency of the workplace

Not exactly about writing, but possibly a good writing prompt. And a very effective use of video.

From The Economist:

Some videos are almost certain to go viral: wild animals that pilfer food from unsuspecting families, cars that career through the windows of crowded cafés, pilots trying to land planes in high winds. Some are less obvious candidates to ricochet around the internet. Take, for example, the case of Brittany Pietsch, whose recording of a call in which she is laid off from a tech firm called Cloudflare went viral last month.

The recording lasts nine minutes, shows no one save Ms Pietsch and involves words like “performance-improvement plan”. Despite these unpromising ingredients, it makes public a moment of human drama that could occur to almost any employee. It also tugs at a fundamental human instinct. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Ms Pietsch’s dismissal, the manner in which she was fired, in a summary call with two people she had never met before and for reasons that are never properly explained, seems unfair. And few things matter more to people than fairness.

In experiments where one person decides how to allocate a pot of money with another, recipients will routinely reject an offer if they feel they are being given too little, even if that means neither party gets any cash. A fair share matters more than free money. Equity matters in non-financial life, too. A study conducted in 2012 by Nicholas Wright of University College London deliberately made some participants thirsty by hooking them up to a saline drip; they would still reject offers of water from fellow participants if they felt they were being offered too little.

Given how much weight humans place on fairness, it makes sense that managers should think about it, too. For questions of fairness arise almost everywhere in the workplace—not just when people lose their jobs but also in who gets hired, who gets the credit when things go well and who has that really nice desk right by the window.

Fairness is not just a preoccupation of workers. Last month a judge in Delaware ruled against Elon Musk’s eye-watering compensation package at Tesla on the ground that it was unfair to shareholders. A recent study into ceo compensation by Alex Edmans of London Business School and his co-authors found that bosses care about fairness, too. Money is not just about what it can buy; ceos think it is only right to be rewarded for better performance, and to be paid in line with their peers. A sense of fairness can be responsible for driving up bosses’ pay and fuelling anger about it at the same time.

Customers value fairness, too, not least when it comes to pricing. Consumers instinctively recoil at the idea of prices rising in response to surging demand, whether for Uber fares on a busy night, face masks in a pandemic or snow shovels the night after a big storm. Such views are deeply ingrained. A recent paper by Casey Klofstad and Joseph Uscinski of the University of Miami asked Floridians for their views of anti-price-gouging legislation that would prevent shops from raising prices after a hurricane. Even when told that economists and other experts believe that mandatory price ceilings would exacerbate shortages and lead to store closures, respondents supported the law. (Depending on your point of view, this either proves that the public is irrational or that economists are not human.)

. . . .

This combination of salience and subjectivity makes fairness a tricky area for managers to navigate, but not an impossible one. No hiring decision will feel fair if qualified employees do not even know that there is a job going; a survey of 3,000 jobseekers by Gartner, a research firm, in 2021 found that half of them were not aware of internal career opportunities. No lay-off will feel fair if it is too impersonal.

Link to the rest at The Economist

How TikTok’s BookTok craze is ‘making reading cool again’

From Big Issue:

Welcome to BookTok. TikTok’s book recommendations, reviews and releases have amassed 185 billion views, making it one of the platform’s most active communities. According to the Publisher’s Association, 59% of 16- 25-year-olds have rekindled their love for reading thanks to the trend.

This is true for BookToker Nicole Murphy, who has 42,000 followers on the app.

“I stopped reading as I got older. But when I stumbled upon BookTok, it seemed like a positive space and I started reading more. I wasn’t part of a specific community and thought it’d be nice to be part of,” she tells The Big Issue.

“It’s made reading cool again,” Murphy continues. Addressing BookTok’s reputation for competitiveness she says, “Someone might say ‘I’ve read 30 books this month’, but they haven’t said ‘I’m better than you because of that’. It’s internal pressure people get from seeing this, like with anything online.”

There are hundreds of articles dismissing the platform for the competitiveness it allegedly fuels by promoting unattainable reading quotas and goals. GQ complains BookTok is “shallow” and has made being a reader more important than actually reading. Dazed speculates it has “sucked the joy out of reading”.

Signs are there. Some videos suggest “listening to audiobooks at 1.5x speed and skimming long passages of text”, while others show TBR piles (stacks of books that have yet To Be Read) taller than most people’s whole collections. But Murphy is quick to defend BookTok against criticism: “I urge people to spend more time on BookTok and look for what they’re genuinely interested in, not what they want to bash.”

. . . .

Another unexpected benefit of this renewed enthusiasm for reading is that it’s providing a boost for bookshops.

“So many books become bestsellers after going viral,” say Leah Caffrey and Alice Treadwell, from House of Books & Friends, an independent bookstore in Manchester. “You can see when certain backlist titles are having a moment online and many trending books have stayed consistent in our weekly sales; sales which were certainly boosted by TikTok for some titles.

“BookTok has encouraged younger generations to read more and find an online community to share their enthusiasm with. This can only be a good thing. It is creating generations of future readers.”

Link to the rest at Big Issue

PG picked a BookTok video at random. The following video had more than 17,000 views when PG embedded it.

Peak TV Is Over. A Different Hollywood Is Coming.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Fewer new shows in production. A higher bar to get shows renewed. Rich paydays going only to an elite few.

The labor pact writers struck with studios and streamers this week, ending a five-month strike,  will likely accelerate the retrenchment that was already under way in Hollywood for more than a year. It represented a formal end to “peak TV,” a decade that included an explosion of programming for viewers—and job opportunities for talent in Tinseltown.

Writers won major concessions in the deal, including new bonus payouts and higher royalties. Those hard-won victories are especially important given the hard financial realities of the entertainment business. 

A combination of debt-laden mergers, mounting losses in streaming, and the fast-shrinking cable TV bundle, has led to a push on Wall Street for entertainment companies to rein in spending. 

The streamers will have to find a way to pay increased talent costs—from the writers’ settlement, along with an earlier deal with directors and whatever is finalized with actors—without adding to their overall production costs.

That will likely mean that companies will make fewer new shows and cancel even more that are on the bubble. In effect, while many people in Hollywood will get better pay as a result of the deal, the contraction in spending means there will be less work to go around.

“The gusher of spending—I don’t see that marketplace coming back,” said Kevin Reilly, who held top programming positions at Fox, NBC and the streaming service HBO Max, championing shows like “The Office” and “The Shield” along the way. “Everyone will get a better piece of what they’ve created. But if anyone is thinking, ‘Let the good times roll!’—that won’t happen.”

One veteran TV producer predicted the number of scripted shows Hollywood produces could fall by one-third in the next three years. “The contraction in investment in content will by definition restrict the amount of work that’s needed,” the executive said.

For most of a decade, streaming companies were antiestablishment insurgents. Now, streamers, from Netflix to Max to Disney+ to Amazon Prime Video, are the new establishment, and the negotiations with writers reflected that. 

Mike Royce, a writer-producer whose credits include “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the Netflix reboot of “One Day at a Time,” said pushing for better terms was a no-brainer, regardless of whatever programming cuts might be coming, because the old system wasn’t working.

“There is no, ‘You’ll cut off your nose to spite your face,’ ” he said. “Our faces had already been eaten. The world we were in, we had lost so much.”

Writers were upset that streaming didn’t offer the same rewards for success as traditional TV. Under the new deal, they secured bonuses when their streaming shows perform well. They were concerned about a movement toward smaller writing rooms—a cost-cutting measure as streamers continued to bleed money—and won a provision that imposes minimum staffing requirements. 

The studios held the line on key issues. Streamers won’t publicly release viewing data, despite the writers’ demands for transparency, but instead will give data on how shows fared to the Guild confidentially to share with its members in aggregate form. 

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Why Can’t a Novelist Write Like a Screenwriter?

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Recently, a blog reader asked me why readers dislike it when the POV character dies at the end of chapter one, when most TV cop shows start with the victim being murdered — and nobody complains.

As I said in my blogpost on 8 Ways Not to Start a Novel: “This classic opener for TV cop shows doesn’t work to start a novel, because readers identify with the first character they meet in a book, and if you kill off that character immediately, readers feel betrayed.”

But, as our blog reader asked, why is that? Why do they identify with a character in a novel more than one in a TV show or movie?

I had to cogitate on that for a while. I’ve been mulling over that question myself. Recently, I read a mystery where the protagonist-sleuth turned out to be the murderer. I felt I’d been tricked. When the novelist has lied, leading us to believe the POV character is the novel’s main protagonist, like in the TV cop show opener, or the POV character is pretending (to the reader) to try to solve a murder they actually committed, we feel cheated. The author is lying by omission.

But would we feel the same way if the story had been a movie?

Probably not. Look at the popularity of films like The Usual Suspects, when you find out one of the “good guys” is really the bad guy everybody’s looking for. People ate it up.

Why a New Novelist Might Want to Imitate a Screenwriter

Most of us who have grown up in the industrialized world learned storytelling from screenplays as well as books. Many younger people were exposed to much more TV and film than written word storytelling in their formative years.

This hardwired certain storytelling tropes to our brains. So when we start out we may try to tell stories using screenwriter tools, not the tools of a novelist. I know I did. My teenaged stories read like plays.

That doesn’t mean we should spend endless pages on description, but a novel needs a lot more description of characters and setting than a screenplay. And it can have plenty of internal monologue. No voice-over required.

Why Does Withholding Information Work in a Film, but Not a Novel?

My answer to the blog reader who asked me that question was this: actors.

Then: directors, lighting designers, sound engineers, composers, costumers, film editors, etc. — all those people influence the way we feel about characters in film. A film is a team endeavor. Also — a film is something a viewer sees from outside the creative process. The viewer is not on the “team.”

This is what I realized: A novel is an intimate experience between only two people: the writer and the reader.

The reader’s imagination does a lot of creative work in experiencing a novel. If the author sets a scene in a castle, every reader has an image of a castle in their heads they bring to the story. In a film there’s a crew of location people and set designers to do that job.

With a film, you’re a passive viewer. (That’s why they say watching TV is harmful for people with depression, but reading books is not.)

Because the writer/reader relationship is so intimate with a novel, the reader hates being tricked. It feels as if a trusted friend has been lying.

But when you’re a viewer, on the outside looking in, you have lots of signs and signals that this situation is about to change. Music, lighting, setting, facial expressions, etc. can show the viewer they’re not on solid ground. They know things are not to be taken at face value.

We don’t need that element of trust between screenwriter and viewer we have between novelist and reader because there are so many other creative minds working in between.

What about Unreliable Narrators?

Isn’t that trust broken by an unreliable narrator like the mendacious POV characters in Gone, Girl? What about that Girl on the Train who narrates the story but is too drunk and in denial to know what’s really going on?

Are those books violating the reader/writer bond?

Some people think so. Not everybody was happy with those books. If you check Amazon’s 1000’s of one-star reviews on those books, disappointed readers mostly say they didn’t like the characters: “too angry and unlikable” (Gone Girl) and “the weakest people you’ll ever meet.” (The Girl on the Train.)

Those readers didn’t like the characters mostly because they deceived the reader. Another reviewer called The Girl on the Train “bleak, and deceitfully constructed.”

A whole lot of other readers, of course, adored these books and made them tremendous bestsellers. I read somewhere that Paula Hawkins, who wrote The Girl in the Train, is now richer than J.K. Rowling.

So I’d never tell anybody to avoid the unreliable narrator. Personally, I enjoy those books, because I have fun reading between the lines. It’s like playing a game with the author.

You still have the close reader-writer bond, but the author is challenging the reader to a game, rather than telling a straightforward story.

Other readers may dislike the author for it, because they don’t read to play games. If you write this kind of thriller, brace yourself for some nasty one-stars. But you might cry all the way to the bank.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Microsoft Designer

From Microsoft:

Creativity is more important to individuals than ever before. This reflects a trend that has added more than 165 million creators to the global creator economy in just the last three years.1 As a result, people demand tools that help them to be both productive and creative. Microsoft 365 strives to empower individuals to achieve great things by constantly evolving our products to meet their changing needs. We continue to demonstrate this commitment with new tools that help unleash creativity and imagination by enabling any type of digital ideation and creation—no professional skills required. Today, we’re excited to announce we’re removing the waitlist and adding an expanded set of features to the Microsoft Designer preview. With new AI technology at the core, Microsoft Designer simplifies the creative journey by helping you get started quickly, augment creative workflows, and overcome creative roadblocks.

From ideation to creation, Microsoft Designer is built to assist you at each stage of the creative process. As we originally announced in October 2022, Microsoft Designer can help quickly create stunning visuals, social media posts, invitations, and more using cutting-edge generative AI technology. Since October, the AI models have steadily improved, and we’ve worked to weave these powerful capabilities throughout the Designer canvas in even more delightful ways while keeping you in control. Moreover, for those moments of inspiration that strike while browsing the web, Designer is one click away within the Microsoft Edge sidebar. The seamless integration of Designer in Edge marks the first step in this journey. We’re excited for future integrations to come.

Spark new ideas and unleash creativity in less time with Microsoft Designer

Designer leverages cutting-edge generative AI technology to assist and empower every person to get started on new ideas, create unique and high-quality graphics in less time, and uplevel content, with or without a background in design.

. . . .

Get started with your ideas in Designer by simply describing what you want. Powered by generative AI technology, get one-of-a-kind images, including accompanying text and visuals, and design suggestions to meet your needs.

Link to the rest at Microsoft and thanks to F. for the tip.

PG generated a video Instagram post for Mrs. PG’s latest book below. PG didn’t try to persuade MS Designer to create its version of the F.O., however, and he didn’t find out how to insert a link to her Amazon book page or make the video run automatically.

After the first video, a series of other spinoffs based on the first one appeared. PG copied and pasted one below.

And another variation.

And another:

And one last Instagram Post:

How to create a song for Eurovision with AI

From BusinessInsider:

A song for Eurovision

Insider’s Chloe Pantazi was underwhelmed by this year’s Eurovision song contest. So she asked her husband to write a song that could hypothetically compete in the contest, from the lyrics to costume suggestions for a four-person band to a melody for vocals, lead guitar, bass, and drums.

Her prompts were simple, starting with “write a song for Eurovision please” to generate the lyrics, then asking for a “melody for a four-person band to perform the song.”

“The result arguably has all the elements of a classic Eurovision song, and honestly, I prefer it to the winning entry from Sweden’s Loreen,” Pantazi writes, but adds, “Our test of ChatGPT shows that it can follow the formula for a Eurovision hit, but it won’t test the bounds of creativity.”

. . . .

Think of Eurovision as Europe’s megawatt version of “American Idol,” but, instead of a cash prize, the winner gets a microphone-shaped trophy and possibly their big break; it’s where the careers of ABBA, Celine Dion, and Måneskin were born. The country the winning act represents also gets to host the next year’s contest, so it’s really a musical tourism campaign. The notes are high and the stakes are higher.

Link to the rest at BusinessInsider

A sheltered being like PG had never heard of Eurovision. So, he did a bit of online research and found the formula for the perfect Eurovision song.

The 10 Best Artificial Intelligence Films, Ranked

From Movie Maker:

A.I. (or artificial intelligence) is everywhere, and movies have been warning us about its potential dangers for decades. With some of the wildest elements of sci-fi movies coming to virtual life before our eyes, we had no trouble thinking of most of the movies on this list of the 10 Best Films About A.I.

But, just in case our puny human brains forgot anything, we also asked ChatGPT for suggestions. And it remembered two very scary films we forget.

Here are the 10 Best Films About A.I., compiled with a little help from artificial intelligence,

10. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Stanley Kubrick worked on A.I. Artificial Intelligence for two decades, inspired by the Brian Aldiss short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long.” When Kubrick died in 1999, Steven Spielberg took over. Spielberg’s film tells the story of David (Haley Joel Osment), a mecha who dreams of being a real boy — one of the films many nods to the story of Pinocchio.

. . . .

8. Her (2013)

A moving film that reflects the insidious ways technology seduces us. The golden voice of artificial intelligence entity Scarlett Johansson provides comfort and companionship to lonely Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), but he soon realizes he’s not as special as he seems.

. . . .

5. RoboCop (1987)

Perhaps the single most persuasive argument against the use of artificial intelligence in policing comes in the scene when the ED-209, the “enforcement droid” designed for “urban pacification,” gives a little demonstration of its supposed policing skills… and utterly annihilates a corporate suit volunteering to play an “arrest subject.”

The subject, Mr. Kinney, is given a gun to point at ED-209, which then politely orders him to drop the weapon — and gives him 20 seconds to comply. He does! He really does. But a growling ED-209 doesn’t see Mr. Kinney drop the gun, and goes way overboard in its handling of the situation.

Though RoboCop is first-rate satire, it also includes a little hope: RoboCop himself (Peter Weller) is a hero who uses technology, but is human at his core.

. . . .

3. The Matrix (1999)

As we mentioned: After writing up our own list of great films about A.I., we wondered if maybe we should get some A.I. input, just for fun. So we used ChatGPT to ask, “Make me a list of the 10 best films about A.I.”

It turns out we’d forgotten The Matrix, the Wachowskis’ magnificent predictor of our modern world, in which millions of people live online fantasies as their physical bodies languish in goo.

Perhaps disturbingly, ChatGPT also suggested the next film on this list.

2. The Terminator (1984)

Yep, ChatGPT’s second contribution to this list was another film about the machines taking over. (ChatGPT isn’t perfect, fortunately: It also suggested we add The Social Network, but we don’t think that’s primarily a movie about artificial intelligence per se, so we’re leaving it off. Because the robots aren’t in charge yet.)

James Cameron’s The Terminator has become endlessly parodied, and has spawned some bad sequels, which make it easy to forget that the original is absolutely brilliant, and terrifying. Terminator 2, of course, is the only great Terminator sequel, and one of the best sequels of all time.

Link to the rest at Movie Maker

Diagnosing Dr. Fantasy

From Writer Unboxed:

If you’re a fan of epic fantasy or of Fantasy BookTube, our guest today will need no introduction. For the rest of you, Philip Chase is medievalist with a PhD in English Literature. He has taught courses on writing, medieval literature, and fantasy literature, among other things. His special interests include Old English, Old Norse, Middle English, nineteenth-century medievalism, comparative mythology, and fantasy. Other inspirations include time spent in places like Germany, the United Kingdom, Nepal, and the Northeast and Northwest of the United States.

Those of us who are fans of his eponymous YouTube channel, which is dedicated to exploring fantasy literature, have come to know him affectionately as Dr. Fantasy (after a regular segment on his channel). Many of us have also recently come to know him as the author of The Edan Trilogy, which begins with his recent debut, The Way of Edan. I was lucky enough to get an early chance to read, and I can tell you that his expertise and dedication shine through in every sentence of this wonderful book. I’m a fan twice over!

I also had the honor of hosting the discussion below, in an effort to ascertain the root causes—and lifelong consequences—of an affliction I share with today’s interviewee: a fervent love of fantasy. Please help me to welcome Dr. Fantasy himself, Philp Chase, to WU.

Vaughn Roycroft: You and I met in the comments of your YouTube channel. You’ve gained quite a large following there (rightfully so, in this fan’s humble opinion). Can you tell us your Fantasy BookTube origin story, and a bit about how running your channel fits into your writing life? It seems the channel has been a boon to the recent release of your debut. Did you have publication or platform-building in mind from the onset? How do you see the channel fitting into your career going forward?

began a little more than three years ago as an attempt to enhance a course I created and had been teaching for years at my college on fantasy literature. In the beginning, I imagined the channel as a forum where my students and I could exchange ideas on readings and on fantasy as a genre. I was completely ignorant of the community of book lovers on YouTube – I had no clue what a “TBR” or “tag video” was – but was delighted to find myself suddenly in the midst of so many people who love the genre that I believe is incredibly rich and deserving of critical exploration. My channel has always been part of the same passion that feeds my teaching, my reading, and my writing. It has turned out to be a lot of work to run a YouTube channel, but it rarely feels like work because of how much I enjoy reading and discussing fantasy literature and writing. Since I recently self-published the first book in a trilogy that I’ve been working on for more than 18 years, the channel has indeed become a boon for getting the word out. I would like to continue the conversations that take place on my channel within the “BookTube” community as a way to affirm my passion as a student of fantasy but also as a writer since it has become a wonderful way of interacting with my own readers. Most of all, I enjoy the meaningful friendships I have made while bonding over books on the platform.

VR: I can only imagine how much work goes into making your BookTube channel such a great resource, as well as a pleasure to watch. I often find myself marveling over it. If someone reading this was thinking of starting their own BookTube channel, what advice (or perhaps words of warning) might you offer them?

PC: Running a BookTube channel can be as time consuming as a full-time job, so it’s something that is, for me, fueled by passion for the subject. For a few people with large enough channels (much larger than mine), it is a full-time job. One key thing to know, I think, is that most (or all) of the things you can try to attract viewers and subscribers – to “grow your channel” – are things that take a lot of time and no small amount of determination. One example is putting out consistent content. Though I cannot claim deep familiarity with the mysterious algorithm, it’s common knowledge that regularity helps your views. Another example is the amount of content. In general, three videos per week will get more clicks and fuel more growth than one video per week. Yet another is putting production value into your videos, meaning lots of time spent editing and money spent buying nice equipment. And then there’s being responsive to folks who leave comments, which takes more time. And don’t forget thumbnails that grab people’s attention! You don’t have to do all these things, but I think you would have to do at least some of them very well to achieve a large following. That said, not everyone wants a large following. I’m on YouTube to exchange ideas about the fantasy genre and discuss books. Believe it or not, these are not the sexiest topics on the internet, and long form discussions (my favorite thing to do) are currently not in fashion, apparently. Deep analysis does not drive clicks. But I stick to that sort of thing anyway because it would be inauthentic — and likely a catastrophic failure — for me personally to make TikTok style videos.

VR: Your writing journey and mine are similar in that we’ve both written epic fantasy for a lengthy period, and have both completed several manuscripts in a series prior to publication. How long have you been writing your own fiction? Can you tell us why you chose fantasy, and what makes the genre special to you? I’ve noticed that several reviewers refer to your work as providing a fresh take on classic fantasy. Does that description match what you aimed to achieve? What advantages does the genre provide to what you’re seeking to accomplish in your storytelling?

PC: I feel like, rather than choosing fantasy, fantasy chose me. Or grabbed me and tossed me through a threshold into worlds of peril, beauty, and wonder. I haven’t felt much like returning ever since I wandered in the Shire, but of course fantasy also has much to say about our world and its struggles. When we return from imagined worlds to the one we inhabit, we often do so with a sense of clarity and new perspectives that help us in our struggles, even with an affirmation that we have meaning in a world that often tells us that we lack meaning. So, in some way, I have been working on my fiction ever since I read Lord of the Rings as a 12-year-old boy and found myself wanting to do for others what he did for me — something I would later learn is often called catharsis. I suppose that going off to learn Welsh, Old English, and Old Norse and becoming a medievalist was part of that journey too. But I actually began writing in 2004, and I started with a map. Not knowing what was going to happen in my story, I nevertheless felt the need to imagine a world in which it would happen. And I knew my protagonist’s name – Dayraven – which I stole from Beowulf (it’s not the only thing I stole from it, either).

I’m not entirely sure what puts the “classic” in classic fantasy, but it’s safe to say that my influences include not only older writers in the genre like Tolkien and Le Guin, but that they go all the way back to the really old stuff, like the Old Norse sagas and The Mabinogion. So, perhaps some of the “classic” vibes rub off from there. More modern fantasy writers have also played a role in my ideas about storytelling. Some that I admire and read while I was writing include George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Robin Hobb, and Steven Erikson.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Mistborn author says video game publishing is superior to book publishing

From Video Games Chronicle:

Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson has said he thinks the way video games are published is superior to the book publishing process.

In an interview with Esquire (as spotted by PC Gamer), Sanderson was discussing his work routine, and explained that he gives himself two “discretionary hours” at the end of each day to do what he wants before going to bed.

Sanderson said that recently he’s spent a lot of this time playing Elden Ring, with what he calls a “glass cannon build”, which consists of two colossal swords, no shield, no spirit ashes, very light armour and “no pants”, according to his wife.

. . . .

He then went on to explain why he feels that video games do a better job than books when it comes to publishing.

“They let you self-select your price point by getting these really cool items,” he said, referring to the special editions available for numerous games.

Elden Ring, for example, was sold as a Launch Edition (with a poster, art cards and a patch), a Collector’s Edition (with a statue, an art book and a soundtrack), and a Premium Collector’s Edition (which contained everything else plus a replica helmet).

“One thing I think [book] publishing is poorly equipped to deal with right now is letting people pick their price point,” said Sanderson, who is best known for his Mistborn and Stormlight Archive fantasy novels.

Book publishers tend to sell hardcovers and e-books as two separate products, and later release a paperback version if the demand is high enough.

For years, Sanderson said he tried convincing the former president of Macmillan Publishers to release multiple editions of his books at different prices, with leatherbound hardcovers, and bundled with original art, e-books and merchandise.

“They won’t say it, but publishers get really excited by the idea that we can get super-fans to buy three copies of the same book,” he said. “But wouldn’t super-fans be happier if they could buy one really nice edition in all formats? Give them a bundle with the print book and the e-book. Reader-centric ideals will lead to long-term success for the publishing industry.”

Link to the rest at Video Games Chronicle

PG suggests that the people who are running video game companies are a lot smarter about story, design and marketing than book publishers are. Leaps and bounds smarter. Not even in the same universe.

(And people managing video game companies make a lot more money than people managing traditional publishers do.)

Here’s the Elden Ring game Update Trailer:

Here is one person’s (not PG’s) idea of one of the best book trailers ever made. (PG doesn’t think the adjective, “best,” is appropriate when followed by the words, “book trailer.”

My trip around London in an autonomous vehicle

From Bill Gates:

I’ve always been a car guy. When I was younger, I used to love driving fast (sometimes too fast). Now, I look forward to my daily commute to work. There’s something so fun yet meditative about driving a car.

Despite that, I’m excited for the day I get to hand over control of my car to a machine.

That day is coming sooner rather than later. We’ve made tremendous progress on autonomous vehicles, or AVs, in recent years, and I believe we’ll reach a tipping point within the next decade. When it happens, AVs will change transportation as dramatically as the PC changed office work. A lot of this development has been enabled by the progress made in artificial intelligence more broadly. (I recently shared my thoughts about AI on this blog. You can read them here.)

Some background for those who might not know a lot about AVs: The best way to understand where we are today is by looking at the Society of American Engineers, or SAE, classification system. This is widely used to describe how autonomous a vehicle is.

. . . .

In levels 0-2, a human driver is in full control of the car, but the vehicle can provide assistance through features like adaptive cruise control and lane centering. Level 3 is when the technology starts to move from the driver being in control to the vehicle being in control. By the time you reach the highest level, the car can be fully autonomous at all times and under all conditions—the level 5 vehicles of the future might not have steering wheels at all.

Right now, we’re close to the tipping point—between levels 2 and 3—when cars are becoming available that allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel and let the system drive in certain circumstances. The first level 3 car was recently approved for use in the United States, although only in very specific conditions: Autonomous mode is permitted if you’re going under 40 mph on a highway in Nevada on a sunny day.

Over the next decade, we’ll start to see more vehicles crossing this threshold. AVs are rapidly reaching the point where almost all of the technology required has been invented. Now, the focus is on refining algorithms and perfecting the engineering. There have been huge advances in recent years—especially in sensors, which scan the surrounding environment and tell the vehicle about things it needs to react to, like pedestrians crossing the street or another driver who swerves into your lane.

. . . .

I recently had the opportunity to test drive—or test ride, I guess—a vehicle made by the British company Wayve, which has a fairly novel approach. While a lot of AVs can only navigate on streets that have been loaded into their system, the Wayve vehicle operates more like a person. It can drive anywhere a human can drive.

. . . .

Link to the rest at Bill Gates

White Line Fever

PG’s postings have been thin of late.

The principal reason is that he has been traveling with Mrs. PG and spending time with a variety of exceptionally cute offspring.

A bit earlier today, he and Mrs. PG returned to Casa PG and found nothing broken or missing.

Suffice to say, a motel and a laptop are not PG’s preferred surroundings and tools for posting riveting items on TPV.

During his recent travels, he has seen a significant number of truck drivers so these hard-working men (and a few women) have been on PG’s mind.

Not lots of lawyers, professors or college graduates in this group, but if they put in enough hours and miles into their job, they can earn a good blue-collar income. The price is a lot of isolation and loneliness for many of them, however, including many weeks away from family and friends.

Friends in Low Places

Continuing PG’s literary overview of American Country-Western music, we come to another class conflict. The CW protagonist is always speaking from the perspective of the lower class even when he/she can afford a flashy and expensive pick-up truck. One of the CW sub-genres is called Outlaw Country, demonstrating the willing estrangement of some members of this class from the establishment which spurns and rejects them and their country ways in return.

I’ve got Friends in Low Places, dramatizes some of the the distinctions between the upper class (including the upper-middle class and pretenders that status) and its lifestyle and the working class. The title is wordplay, another common feature found in CW music.

Blame it all on my roots
I showed up in boots
And ruined your black tie affair
The last one to know
The last one to show
I was the last one
You thought you’d see there