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Self-Editing, And Trying To Stop | Gimme Schalter No. 24

Gimme Schalter
Self-Editing, And Trying To Stop | Gimme Schalter No. 24
By Ty Schalter • Issue #24 • View online
I was 14 years old, and I really had to pee. But when I swung open the door of the convention center men’s room, it was packed elbow-to-elbow with clowns, Klingons, and Shriners.
The Klingons weren’t entirely unexpected; I was at my very first Star Trek convention, after all. But there was a clown convention and a Shriner convention in the same facility at the same time, and the ambient weirdness level was off the charts. Packed all into one bathroom, it reached NOPE territory.
My friend Shiv Ramdas once called me “the walker between worlds,” and that’s something I’m proud of: I can present significant fractions of my whole authentic self wherever I am, and feel comfortable and make friends wherever I go. I love new things, new people, new interests and hobbies, and I love connecting the new to the familiar.
But I really struggle to be my whole self anywhere–and sometimes, I don’t like what that struggle says about me. The flip side of needing two and a half years of working in an office again before gettingcomfortable enough to admit I’m a weird geek, is that in fan spaces I see so many people like me reveling in their chance to cut loose…while I’m still holding back.
I left that Lansing Center bathroom thinking that this was all officially too weird, even though I was there for the same reason those Klingons were. Is there a word for seeing a kid your age in a head-to-toe handmade Borg costume and simultaneously thinking “that’s so cool” and “that will never be me”?
I didn’t have the Internet yet in 1995, and I didn’t have a parent who was plugged into fandom. I didn’t know about MediaWest*Con, which was held at a hotel so close to my house that I had friends working there as banquet servers. I didn’t know about ConClave, which in 1995 was held in the same Lansing Center facility as the Star Trek one I went to. And I didn’t know about ConFusion, even though I now go every year.
I also didn’t know that the Star Trek con I attended was part of a national, corporate-run series that ripped the heart out of real fan cons. There was one big stage for a series of speakers, and a dealer’s hall for people selling stuff. That’s it. No panels, no screenings, no consuite, no room parties, no filking, no BarCon.
I went, I saw William Shatner try out some material for his upcoming Tonight Show appearance, I went home. I decided I was weird, but I wasn’t that weird.
Was I?

In late 2012, I quit my dayjob to become a full-time NFL writer. I spent that offseason watching film and studying up, trying to raise my game and improve my credibility. After the 2013 season, the thought hit me: I’m a full-time writer now. I always wanted to write science fiction. Why don’t I?
I delved back into the SFF scene, after having stopped reading entirely when my eldest was born. I was hooked by all the new online magazines, dazzled by the talent and diversity of a new generation of writers, and compelled by all the exciting (and heated) debates about what fantastic fiction can and should be.
And I went to my first real con, DetConOne. It was a massive affair, taking up a good chunk of the Renaissance Center. I had an incredible time. And even though I had to turn around, drive home that night, and bring my kids back to the Detroit area the next day for a figure skating competition, I vowed to fit more cons into my busy life.
I brought my eldest to the following ConFusion, and felt even more at home. Many SFF authors will tell you ConFusion is one of the best cons going: profoundly inclusive, incredibly friendly, and a high signal-to-noise experience for pros and aspiring pros alike. Every year I go, I leave brimming with ideas, laden with swag, and buzzing with the energy of so many amazing, smart, cool people all in one space.
This year, I’m on a panel for the first time! I’ll be moderating “Worldbuilding Fantastic Sports (And Sportsbuilding Fantastic Worlds),” a discussion of how including sports can make a fantastic story world feel more real, and how to make up new sports that feel like the real ones so many love watching.
But the problem with being one of the best cons going is, that, well, people have to go. And like many cons that canceled last year and weren’t sure about this year, Omicron is making an in-person convention right now seem dangerous. Despite both a vaccination/negative-test requirement and a mask requirement, plus all kinds of safety changes to layout and flow, many regulars are still understandably feeling they can’t safely go.
The trouble is, according to ConChair Lithie DuBois, ConFusion is both contractually bound to happen (they signed the paperwork during the “my fall plans” phase of Hot Vax Summer), and financially necessary to keep the con from going bust. They haven’t yet filled their hotel block, membership-badge sales are slow, and the con’s financials are all built around breaking even every year. Two straight years of not breaking even means there might not be any more years.
Nevertheless, they’re working their tails off to make it as great as it can be:
As a person who has been involved for many many years running not only fan events, but corporate ones, I can say that I have never had to push my team so hard, so fast, and ask for so many pivots than I have had to do this year…They’re all STILL working at breakneck speeds. They are each amazing. While the community may not have witnessed all they have faced, I have. Truly our community is blessed because of these individuals. Truly.
ConFusion has been an integral part of my reconnection with the SFF scene, an annual reunion of friends I never see anywhere else, and a regular mental boost that keeps me pursuing my other lifelong writing dream.
So, at the risk of being too weird for you guys, I’ll echo Lithie’s plea: If you’re within traveling distance, into geeky stuff, and feel safe doing things indoors, consider going. If you’re not within range or don’t feel safe, consider buying a membership anyway. If that’s too much to ask, please consider making a PayPal donation directly to the con.
Everything Awesome
I’ve already written here about the implications of “Web 3.0” on writing, IP, and authorship; if you missed “Nothing To Lose But Our Blockchains” I encourage you to read it (for the title, if nothing else).
But Marlinspike is…well, a lot of really cool things, according to his About page. But his roles as “Founder of Signal,” “software developer” and “cryptographer” give him way more credibility than me.
He takes a clear-eyed, well-informed view of what NFTs are and are not–and how the NFT gold rush has already overwhelmed Web3’s capacity to deliver the distributed, secure future it promises. With plenty of centralized, proprietary data brokers and API merchants inserting themselves between your money, your JPEG, and the blockchain, practically none of what’s supposed to be happening behind the scenes is happening–and that casts doubt on whether Web3 will ever happen.
Speaking of author journeys, this extensive thread by SFF author, disinformation researcher and Forbes 30 under 30 2020 member Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a brilliant examination of how not only is there no One Right Way to write a story, but every author has to spend their lives finding out how they write stories.
Wijeratne uses his background in information research and data science to map his approach to story ideas, development, drafting and revision in some incredibly cool ways:
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne 🎭
Because of the nature of things I'm interested in (causality, economics, culture, systems), I prefer to 'outline' using knowledge graphs. Nodes and edges seem a natural way of expressing connections. Here, for example, is my map of people and places in Origami Meteorite. [10]
I have a large reservoir of skepticism for beat sheets and/or storytelling formulas sold to aspiring writers as The Way The Pros Do It, especially when it’s people who aren’t themselves pros doing the selling.
But when a working pro takes a clear-eyed look at the act of ideation and creation? And understands how their own self-analysis has led to them leveling up their own processes? And have the ability to clearly communicate all that to others–not as “This Is The Way,” but “this is my way and how I discovered it”? I think that’s massively helpful to everyone still trying to find their way.
In a sense, this is cheating: Schottey is one of my two co-hosts on my national NFL podcast, “Three & Out,” and this piece is hosted on our brand-new dot com.
But Schottey took some research by this week’s guest, Field Yates, some outstanding points made by our co-host, Samantha Bunten, and weaved them into his own outstanding analysis.
Schottey’s been working as an editor, analyst, scout, and coach for years. But he can write a heck of a column, too, and it was so awesome to read him do just that under our brand-new masthead.
Though it was inspired by the discourse around Heather Havrilevsky’s controversial I-hate-my-spouse-just-like-all-longtime-married-couples-hate-their-spouses essay for The New York Times‘ Style section, Erin pressed hard on a longtime sore spot of mine: How legacy media outlets headline, frame, and share articles to generate outrage clicks (even when the piece is poorly served by it).
Alexandra Erin
The thing is... the essay in question wasn't written to be read under clickbait marketing and behind a paywall on the New York Times Dot Com. It's an excerpt from a book, which hopefully eases the audience into the author's style and has a more specific intended audience anyway.
August publishers like the Times literally trade on their reputation as Trustworthy Beacons of Facts and Repute. Yet they often use opinion columns and essays to generate rage-clicks and meta-discussion: no better way to monetize an article than making it Twitter’s Main Character for the day!
Yet the author becomes the Main Character in the process. Many who’ve been reading Havrilevsky for years, like “Ask Polly” advice column at The Cut or features at places like The Baffler, were shocked everybody didn’t recognize the breezy, hyperbolic, we’re-all-online-here mode of writing that was endemic to the digital media of the 20-teens. Many did, but thought Havrilevksy failed anyway. Many, many more didn’t read far enough into the article to care: they just hated it and hated her.
The “context collapse” that happens when someone plucks a mid-thread tweet someone from one corner of the Twitterverse and dunk-tweets it into another? Well, that’s the same thing that happens when someone goes, “Look at this New York Times article! It’s horrible!” and links a very Havrilevskian excerpt from the Havrilevsky book, written by Heather Havrilevsky assuming the reader would know what they’re in for.
This is all harmless to everyone except the author, who’s gotten lots more visibility for her book at the expense of several days of social-media dogpiling and permanently nuked Google results.
But when outlets do this for op-Eds that directly contradict their own reporting? Or, worse yet, frame their own reporting with eye-catching headlines and Tweets that overstate (or contradict!) the actual work? Real damage is done, to all of us–and it’s not the readers’ fault for not looking past the publisher’s disingenuousness.
An admission: This Gimme Schalter started out being late because I was waiting on an item for review…and then, when I didn’t get it until Thursday, got even later when I decided to push forward on my novel on Friday night instead of wrapping up the newsletter.
The good news is that I’m working on translating the already finshed synopsis of A&A into a scene-by-scene outline of the entire book. I should have that done this weekend.
Next week I’ll revise the first and second chapters in accordance with reader feedback about tone, plot beats, timing, etc. I’m actually thinking of doing that twice, from two different POVs…it should give me everything I need to buckle down and just write until the finish.
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Ty Schalter

The latest thoughts, hottest takes, and coolest work of Ty Schalter, a professional writer & talker (@FiveThirtyEight, @ThreeOutPod). Lots of sports, geeky stuff, social commentary and more.

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