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Very often hate reads are undertaken by people who fall outside of the text’s original demographic. I must stress that this doesn’t invalidate the criticisms (especially if we are talking about marginalised people deconstructing mainstream work written about them but not for them), but when it comes, say, to an unqueer white nerd who fundamentally believes all vampires should scary monsters and not romantic heroes, his point of view on Twilight may be useful but ultimately, I shouldn’t consume so much of his work that I internalise his voice. It would not be constructive. Because I am not trying to write for him.

I should not cultivate in my head a Critical Voice that is antagonistic to the premises of the genre I want to write in. That way lies compromising my ideas to appeal to hypothetical readers who would never actually want to engage with my work, all the while alienating people who are actually invested in the premise itself.

Jeannette Ng on not requiring what you hate.

Ng’s point here is that brutal, nitpicky critiques, sporkings, and hate reads can be fun… but they’re fundamentally poisonous to your own ability to write, because they stifle creativity. Part of learning is fucking up, and unfortunately when you’re a paid creative oftentimes the only way to fuck up is to fuck up publicly. But if the threat of the critical voice means you don’t have the courage to try and fail in the first place, you’ll never get anywhere at all.

And as Ng points out, this critical voice seems to hit marginalized creators the hardest. “Submit like a white man” might be a jokey thing authors say to each other when they’re angsting over whether to send this novel to that agent, but there’s a painful core of truth there. Because who is it in society who gets permission to fuck up royally, in public, and recover from it? Who gets lauded for “doing better” and who gets eviscerated for not being perfect in the first place?

These things matter.

As a personal confession, I do occasionally indulge in bouts of hate reading although, honestly, not that much given the state of Mt. TBR. But even when I do hateread I try and approach it constructively; obviously someone liked a work well enough to publish it, or make it popular, so… why? Dan Brown makes mediocre men feel smart. Twilight makes awkward teenage girls (and women who were once awkward teenage girls) feel loved. And, yes, usually there’s more to the story than just that (cough E.L. James cough), but…


People like things for a reason, even if you don’t. It’s often useful to understand why.

2020-03-27T08:07:52+11:008th July, 2020|Tags: culture, writing|

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Dropping the bass… barcode-style.

2020-03-27T07:43:46+11:007th July, 2020|Tags: music|

Liesmith, chapter 12.

Alis’s Note
… let’s speed this up a bit.


The world still hadn’t ended by Monday, which Sigmund decided to take as a good sign, even if it did mean that he had to get up for work. Sunday had been uneventful, minus a bit of ribbing from Em and Wayne about his date and the fact that their progression raid kept wiping on the last boss. But that was all regular, Really Real World stuff. No gods, no monsters—well, the ones on the computer, but pixels didn’t count—and, most important, no apocalypse. Sigmund had considered messaging Lain on Sunday evening, but had decided against it, and Lain, for his part, seemed to be respecting Sigmund’s tacit suggestion to leave him alone for the weekend. He did that a lot, Sigmund realized. Respected boundaries, at least when Sigmund set them. It was nice.

Read more »

2020-07-06T12:40:06+10:006th July, 2020|Tags: books, LIESMITH, wyrdverse|


More quick D&D doodles. DnDoodles.

Ziggy is a gnome artificer and would-be revolutionary who wants to stick it to House Cannith. The party found him running a brainwashing cult on behalf of Law-aligned outsiders, smashed up the cult in the Goat Incident, and somewhat forcibly removed him on behalf of an airship captain who totally isn’t a House Cannith operative in disguise no siree. The tiefling girl, Dara, was a former cult acolyte who followed the party partly to escape her abusive father (who until that point had been being “kept in check” with cult brainwashing; basically a lingering version of the calm emotions spell) and party to help Ziggy take down House Cannith. Laqis—who approves of neither House Cannith, brainwashing, abusive parents, nor sending children to do one’s dirty work—is apparently now Team Dad to Dara and enemy-of-my-enemies with Ziggy. Also possibly the new captain of an airship?

… and the adventures continue!

2020-07-06T09:12:48+10:006th July, 2020|Tags: dungeons and dragons, my art, tabletop rpgs|


Places exist for purposes, and when those purposes emigrate to new locations they also bring along the specters of their former homes. The bathroom is a place to shower or to cast out human waste. Bring your phone in there, and it’s also an office where you can complete procurement requests in enterprise-resource-management software such as Workday, and a theater where you can watch The Crown on Netflix, and a classroom where you can practice Latvian on Duolingo, and a travel agency where you can book a flight on Delta. And your office isn’t just at home, either: It’s anywhere. At the gym, on the train platform, in the gastropub, behind the wheel.


It’s easy but disorienting, and it makes the home into a very strange space. Until the 20th century, one had to leave the house for almost anything: to work, to eat or shop, to entertain yourself, to see other people. For decades, a family might have a single radio, then a few radios and a single television set. The possibilities available outside the home were far greater than those within its walls. But now, it’s not merely possible to do almost anything from home—it’s also the easiest option. Our forebears’ problem has been inverted: Now home is a prison of convenience that we need special help to escape.

Ian Bogost is unintentionally prescient.

So I added this to my drafts folder months ago, which means it’s kind of surreal to encounter it again now, in late March, right after I’ve spent my first week in serious social distancing/work-from-home mode due to the coronavirus pandemic. And by the time this pops off my scheduled posts queue, sometime in July… where will we be? After spending weeks or months locked into our homes, relying on Xoom and Slack and Citrix and Deliveroo and Amazon? Will our enforced reliance on the non-place have changed our relationship to Outside? And if so, how?

See you in the future, I guess…

2020-03-27T07:36:20+11:006th July, 2020|Tags: covid-19, culture, tech|


What if books aren’t actually that special, and the reason we treat them as some kind of sacred object is actually a hundred-plus year-old marketing gimmick?

My one of these is I went through a phase as a kid where I used to very heavily write in and dog-ear paperbacks. When I tell people this they tend to be horrified, until I explain that, to me, it was a sign of how much I loved the interior text. I was also a big believer in (pencilled) marginalia in library books, because I loved finding other peoples’ pencilled marginalia in library books. It was like GoodReads before GoodReads!1

  1. Librarians don’t @ me. []
2020-03-17T08:58:53+11:004th July, 2020|Tags: books|


This article on the economics of all-you-can-eat buffets reminds me of the time we went to France on a school trip when we were about fifteen or so.

We had several buffet meals at a place called Flunch, and every time the boys would swear to “show the French how a real Aussie eats!” and every time manage to demolish… about one small plate of chips.

In retrospect this was a very formative experience in realising exactly how much crap men talk which… go figure, I guess.

Relatedly, probably my best adult buffet experience was that one morning we got those BBQ pork sticky rice leaf things1 in the members’ lounge at the Conrad Macao. Followed closely by the unlimited champagne bar in the flight lounge at Hong Kong airport and yeah actually now that I’m thinking about it I’m starting to realise why we seem to end up going to Hong Kong so much…

  1. Apparently these are actually called zongzi, a fact I learned because I looked it up just now; they’re one of my favourite things ever and I’ve mostly encountered them by grabbing them off the yum cha cart, so have never actually known what to call them… []
2020-03-03T09:26:51+11:002nd July, 2020|Tags: food|

Private effort.

So I don’t exactly make it a secret that I hate the whole shtick about companies foisting off “responsibility” for addressing climate issues onto consumers (fuck your straw ban, basically). But, like… just quietly? In the last year or so I’ve also started making changes to my personal behaviours, like driving less, always making sure to carry reusable grocery bags in my handbag,1 and no longer cooking red meat at home.2

Realistically, I know these efforts won’t achieve much and, like, also? Being an affluent Westerner who is choosing to not having children basically gives me a free pass on environmental issues forever, so there’s that. But it’s surprising how much they’ve just made things… baseline less shitty for me in general. Particularly the car thing; I’m privileged in that I can largely eschew a car, and I also hate driving. But man, once I stopped regularly using it I did not for one single second look back…

  1. Incidentally, it’s actually kind of shocking how often I use these. Like, pretty much daily? Which I would not have guessed prior to starting to carry them. []
  2. Though I will eat it when I’m out. Because, y’know. It’s sooooo goooooooood… []
2020-03-03T09:04:33+11:001st July, 2020|Tags: environment|