commentary and current events

It’s Election Eve and I Don’t Even Know What to Write Here

In the last week, I’ve blown up my own Twitter account, become a meme, had my worst-ever bout of gastritis, planned a winterguard season that probably won’t even happen thanks to all the people who can’t keep their mask on, and started building another dollhouse.

I want to say something profound here. I really do. But after four years, I’m exhausted.

On Election Day 2016 I went to bed at my usual time, assuming that whatever happened would happen whether or not I was awake. I woke up to the news that Trump had won the Electoral College, despite receiving three million fewer votes than Clinton.

It was the second election won without a majority vote since I started voting. It was exhausting then. It’s exhausting now.

Here’s my best advice for the next few days:

Know what is in your control and what is not. Know when you have done what you can reasonably do. Focus on the things you do control, like whether you’ve eaten and when/how you meet personal and professional deadlines. If you haven’t voted, focus on doing that; if you have, focus on taking care of yourself and those in your immediate orbit.

Know that, no matter what the talking heads on the TV want to say about whether all the votes were counted or which ones weren’t or who made up what story about finding which ballots in which opposing candidate’s butthole, you voted. You played the game according to the rules. You followed the directions, and you are owed a correct count of your lawfully cast vote.

Prepare to stop a coup. Ignore anyone who tells you that preparing to stop a coup is overreacting. It’s far, far better to be prepared to stop a coup that doesn’t happen than to be unprepared to stop one that does.

Be the helpers. Mr. Rogers’s famous advice to “look for the helpers” in times of crisis is aimed at children, and it’s excellent for children. But children need helpers to look for. That’s the rest of us.

Know you are not alone.

A strip of “I Voted” stickers along with the words “Election Eve 2020” and this blog’s URL.
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AI and predictive text, non-compliant space, satire, fiction and humor

They Don’t Know What They’re Looking For: An AI Generates Book Marketing Copy for NAHARA

Move over, Botnik: I have a new AI obsession.

Enter copy.ai, which is specifically designed to help marketers generate social media copy for their products. It’s basically GPT-3 trained on a bunch of marketing copy.

I’ve been playing around with promotional copy for NAHARA, Book 2 of the Non-Compliant Space Series (due Q1 2021 from Neuroqueer Books!). So I decided to ask copy.ai to weigh in.

The Copy

Something’s rotten in registered space – and the crew of the Jemison intend to find out what it is.

After uncovering a slavery plot on a far-flung space station, the Jemison heads for an even further-flung planet suspected of supplying the trafficked slaves. They find the last thing they expect: a Niralan colony lost for centuries, guarding a terrible secret. But the Jemison’s crew are carrying deadly information of their own in a book whose destructive – or creative – force could change life as they know it.

And Compliance is coming for them.

copy.ai’s Facebook Post Recommendations

When one of you is a Compliance Officer, there’s no such thing as personal space. But are you ready for what happens when the crew of the Jemison defies authority? NAHARA: A Tale of Compliance.

…I like this one. It’s basically NAHARA from the point of view of the antagonist. (N.b. The antagonist is not read for what happens when the crew of the Jemison defies authority.)

NAHARA is a technological and biological marvel, a gripping sci-fi thriller, and a reminder of humankind’s capacity for ethical atrocity.

Forget social media promotion; I’m repurposing this as a back cover blurb. “Humankind’s capacity for ethical atrocity,” indeed.

Compliance. The word itself is instant code for resistance, noncompliance and the deepest threat to humanity’s survival.

“Compliance” is code for…wait, what?

Also, not everything is about humans, geez.

NAHARA is a scifi noir detective series. Set in a future where the U.S. has lost its first-world status, it follows an ex-cop (Santiago), his mentor (Brizuela), and the android liaison (Andora) who get tangled in interplanetary intrigue and conspiracies when a strange book falls into their hands.

I hate it when the AI writes a better book than I wrote.

Google Descriptions

These are 90-ish character descriptions tuned for Google search results. I am…disturbed.

The crew of the Jemison is a burnt-out, near-mutinous group – former partners drawn together

…I mean, no lies detected.

After the UN-sanctioned slaughter of the Niralan homeworld, one captain and her crew

copy.ai just took a very dark turn. I mean, sure, NAHARA has slavery and murder and messy breakups in it, but it doesn’t have genocide. …yet.

Deep Space Nine relaunch. The Jemison crew try to navigate their way through the newly discovered Niralan

How DARE you, GPT-3. Nahara is very obviously a Voyager reboot.

Instagram Captions to Create Vibes

I’m not sure what vibes are or whether it is strictly OSHA compliant to create them by rubbing GPT-3 all over my novel manuscript. But here we go.

They couldn’t afford to let it go. They didn’t know what they were taking on. And by the time they did, only one of them could save the ship.

This is a better blurb than anything I have written so far, and I 100 percent want to steal it and put it on the back of the book in place of that thing I wrote at the beginning of this post.

You’re in the wrong storyline, Compliance said.

Dammit.

I’m a Niralan diplomat. This was my life. I am not accustomed to mercy, or forgiveness.

…Actually, this is the plot of THE AMBASSADOR.


NAHARA comes out in early 2021. Until then, pick up the prequel, NANTAIS, from the publisher or on Amazon Dot Com.

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commentary and current events

Dinosaurs Vote: How We’re Letting the Past Decide Our Elections

Here’s a disturbing pair of facts to enliven your Monday Two Weeks From US Election Day.

One: The average time across all industries for a skill set to become obsolete is 4 years. In many industries, it’s shorter: Tech, for instance, has a skill turnaround time of about 18 months. (For reference, 18 months ago was when Notre Dame burned down. …Okay, maybe The Age of COVID is a bad era in which to be making time references.)

Two: In 2016, more than half of voters over age 45 held a high school diploma or less. That includes 57 percent of voters ages 45 to 64 and 66 percent – two in three – voters 65 or older.

This year’s 45-year-old voters earned their high school diplomas around 1993. For the 75 and over cohort, those diplomas came from about 1963 or earlier.

Meanwhile, a high school education is now obsolete, from a work skills perspective, for anyone over the age of 22.

I emphasize the high school diploma here for two reasons. One, it’s the maximum level of formal education attained by over half of voters ages 45+. Two, we still treat the high school diploma as a reasonable end goal of education – especially if “we” are 45 or older. Yet today’s college students have run out the clock on the skills they learned in high school just as, or even before, they finish college.

Oh, and also, the 45+ crew are the ones who vote.

Put together, these two facts point to a disturbing trend: The people who vote the most, on issues in a society in which lifelong continuing education is a survival need, are the least likely to have had lifelong continuing education.

Image: Blog title image featuring the title of the post and a picture of wooden dinosaur toys.

Put another way, the people who are most likely to influence the outcome of elections in the US are also the least likely to understand the world they live in today and what it demands. They’re still basing decisions on an education earned in the middle of the previous century, because that’s the education they have – even though educations earned in the middle of the last decade are, in a key sense, obsolete.

I don’t intend to imply that everyone over 45 is trapped in the mid-1900s. Many have had some kind of continuing education beyond high school, and/or they have continued to educate themselves in various ways.

But I would venture to suggest that the older (and thus more likely to vote) they are, the more likely it is this cohort is operating on a set of obsolete understandings about the world and how it works.

I know the rest of us are exhausted trying to revamp our entire skill set every 1.5 to 5 years. But if our election outcomes are going to reflect our lived realities at all, those of us who actually contend with constant skill slippage have to fill out our ballots.


Buy me a coffee for more disturbing insights, or share this post on social media and let others share your pain.

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