Though I write with terrifying frequency, I fail at an essential type of writing; letters make me fumble. They cause me to be tongue-tied and stuttery. Cards that I give to friends and family are inevitably filled with long spaces and smudges where I have paused to think or where I have decided that […]
Technology is commanding our attention in infinite, insurmountable loops. A country trip off-grid helped me escape.
For twenty-eight days this winter I lived on the grounds of an old estate down in central Virginia, next to a town called — terrifyingly — Lynchburg, making good on a residency I had been offered by the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. I had done other residencies before, and knew in order to eke out maximum productivity, internet disconnection was nonnegotiable. And so it began, the day after the election: my month without the internet.
It felt like a cop-out—like I wasn’t allowed to escape the “real world” so easily. But the quieter my mind became, and the deeper I went into my own work, the more I realized how my always-on, always-connected state had rendered me largely useless.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal. Did any of us remember how to sit quietly, alone, without a phone in hand? I certainly didn’t. By the time the curtain closed on act one of our political tragedy, if there was action to be taken, I was in no state to take it. I had long since lost control of my attention.
I want my attention back.
That was the first thought I had the morning after the election. I woke. The crushing weight of a new reality reimposed itself on my mind. And then: I want my attention back.
I walked Brooklyn. At best, everyone was funereal. At worst, in tears, inconsolable. It’s impossible to overstate just how dour the world felt at that moment (and continues to feel in more surreal and horrifying ways since).
The entire city — country? world? — had been infected by a terminal disease, the prime vector of which was memes. As I made my way to the rat-maze of Penn Station to board an eight-hour Amtrak train headed for Virginia, the faces continued to flash by and I couldn’t help but think: When was the last time any of us had control of our attentions?
In “Gravity and Grace,” Simone Weil writes, “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.” Then is the lack of attention the opposite? Does it presuppose fear and hate?
It had been a long time since my attention was mine. As the feelings of that day — of that eight-hour train ride past an America that suddenly felt very foreign — spread into the next and the next, I tried to think back to when my attention was something I could manipulate confidently. I couldn’t remember.
Was it pre-Snapchat or Instagram Stories? Before everything was filtered through a real-time performance? Pre-vlogs? Before palatable young white guys who say “bruh” with alarming frequency spun daily monologues into Sony HD cams for audiences of millions? Before every meal and outfit had to be posed, captured, and #tagged. Or pre-Grinder and pre-Tinder? When fantasies born on the crucible of YouPorn (or is it PornHub?) weren’t so easy to make real, nightly?
Was I being too hard on technology? Were we all? Technology is such an easy scapegoat. But it feels so right to point our fingers — It must have been the fake news. It must have been Facebook. It must have been Twitter. It must have been Reddit forums.
It was none of these things. It was all of these things. Whatever it was, it robbed us of our attention and, with that, our compassion. But the network never meant to harm us. Hell, it was made by a gaggle of geeks in rooms without windows in the suburbs of Geneva. That’s either the most endearing image, or the most creepy.
Regardless, down in Virginia, on a repurposed plantation: I want my attention back. The thought wouldn’t let go.
Continue reading at the source, Backchannel.
Obviously the inspiration for this adaptation, particularly in tone, is more owed to the recently rebooted Archie comics than the old school originals that began in the golden age of comics during the 1940s. So going in with that and the fact that it’s a modern day teen show on the CW with a mysterious […]
I was fortunate enough to attend the Women’s March on Seattle, a sister to the Women’s March on Washington DC. Before I lose you, I have no intention of talking politics in this post. What I am going to talk about is something I can’t believe is still controversial: the importance of strong female characters in fiction.
As I marched with 175,000 other humans (the estimate at the time of this writing), I noticed countless signs referencing some of my favorite female badasses from fiction. I took in multiple nods to space rebels, vampire slayers, and warrior princesses and knew—without a doubt—that every last person who argues that female heroes aren’t interesting or “won’t sell” is absolutely full of shit. I saw little girls in Wonder Woman costumes and Princess/General Leia t-shirts (I was wearing a General Leia shirt myself), and knew—without…
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Reminders like this never hurt.
by Neil MacDonald
I write flash fiction in the Friday Fictioneers group every week. Flash fiction is very short fiction, typically under 750 or 1,000 words. Within it, some people distinguish between “drabbles” (100 words), “dribbles” (50 words) and so on. These distinctions don’t really matter. The genre is good exercise for a writer in editing skills and wordcraft.
The talented Friday Fictioneer, Claire Fuller (author of Our Endless Numbered Days) produced 12 hints on writing flash fiction. That stimulated me to write a few of my own.
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by Andrea Lundgren
Recently, I’ve been dealing with…well, we won’t call it writer’s block. I wasn’t out of things to write, merely stumped on how to get from Point A to Point B without creating major plot holes. And it was very tempting to just skip the problematic bit and go ahead to the next chapter or section, where I knew how things would unfold.
I’ve heard that some writers actually do this. They jump ahead to the scenes they feel ready to write and come back to deal with the others. Because it’s all on an outline, and they know where they’re going, they can write the “Death Star exploding” before figuring out how to get Princess Leia off the space station in the first place.
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