Show AND Tell – Rules for Writing

By | Comms | 2 Comments

This blog has been a lot of personal ruminations and discussions of day job stuff lately, so I want to talk for a moment about writing craft. A lot of writing blogs are focused on discipline, inspiration and other tangentials, and very few discuss nuts and bolts of how to write well. This is because art is incredibly subjective (the best definition I’ve ever read is “Any activity not specifically focused on survival or reproduction”), and therefore defies rules-based architecture and ontology. This makes teaching art problematic. When there is no “right” way to do a thing, it becomes challenging to relate how best to do it to others. Let me give an example here. My first source of writing “rules” was the Turkey City Lexicon. It’s a primer for SF writing workshops, and it presents a lot of hard and fast regulations for good writing, all of which are highly quotable, incredibly useful and totally wrong. The one here…

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For Ta-Nehisi Coates and the ghost of Veronica Wedgwood

By | Comms | 5 Comments

This one’s a little dark. Not a cry for help, just a reflection. At the recommendation of essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates, I went out and got myself a copy of Veronica Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War. It’s the kind of narrative history that I love, built on a strong foundation of primary sources, yet with a dramatic flair that keeps it from being a dry recitation. I loved this book. I’m onto her monograph on the trial of Charles I next. But reading it also left me feeling like I’d been run over by a train, and that’s what I want to talk about here. I’ve written a lot of . . . grapplings with what I did in Iraq. They’re here for public scrutiny because I write to communicate, but they’re also letters to myself, exercises to help me claw my way to some kind of understanding of this giant purple gorilla of a thing that’s stamped on history and…

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In which I solve all of the country’s cybersecurity problems in a single blog post

By | Comms | One Comment

Some of you know that I work in law enforcement in a cyber-related role. As such, I get particularly het up over issues of information security, which resulted in my rather candid indictment of Federal network defenders during the OPM breach. I try to cleave to William Golding’s brilliant essay on how to be a responsible thinker, the bottom-line of which can be expressed as “Don’t bitch about a problem unless you have a solution.” In that spririt, allow me to solve the United States’ cybersecurity problems in a single blog post. This will be more technical/procedural and less visceral than the last post I did on this topic, but after reading Weir’s The Martian, I’m starting to think that readers may have a tolerance for this level of unabashed geekery. The problem here is one of OODA loops. “OODA,” is a military acronym coined by Air Force Colonel “Genghis John” Boyd, and if you’re in the military, you certainly…

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We are the stories we tell ourselves

By | Comms | No Comments

Met up with my friend Daniel Polansky the other day. Our meetings usually involve a.) drinking and b.) bitching about one thing or another, but I guess I must have tipped the gripe scale even by our standards, because he turned a tipsy eye my way and said: “Spin in the other direction, Myke. We are the stories we tell ourselves.” We laughed and drank, and to be honest, I forgot what the hell we did after that, most likely because of the drinking. But the thought stuck with me. Because the truth is the story that I tell myself most of the time is one of uncertainty, and loss, and defeat. When friends call me on this, I’ll trot out the Defensive Pessimism (it’s a real cognitive strategy, folks) flag, or cover up with “Ah, it’s just griping, it doesn’t actually effect anything.” Except, you know, when it does. Writing is the dream of my heart. It’s the only…

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An open letter to my niece

By | Comms | One Comment

Sweetheart, I’m reading this book about Joan of Arc and it made me think of you, not least because Joan was born and grew up in Domrémy-la-Pucelle, a little town that’s about a four hour drive from Paris, where you are while I write this. France is pretty cool when you’re a girl in 2015, but Joan grew up over 500 years ago, when being a little girl in France, or pretty much anywhere, was a lot more restrictive. To hear Harrison (the lady who wrote this book I’m reading) tell it, women in the 15th century were consigned to three gender roles: virgin, wife or widow. You’ll notice that all of those roles are defined by their relationship to men. All people in 15th century France lived under Feudalism, which you’ll learn about in high school. What you need to know now is that social mobility (the ability to change your lot in life) was super limited. You usually…

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