H II Regions, 4 July 2012

Independence Day edition! Happy Fourth and welcome to the H II Regions, a weekly compilation of SF, publishing and political news. Send thoughts and story tips to cosmicvinegar@gmail.com.

New Narratives

Thoughtful article on narrative structure; essential point being that 3- or 5-act narratives centered around conflict are not the only way of telling a story. Special emphasis placed on a Chinese and Japanese narrative style called kishōtenketsu although presumably other styles would fit the argument.

The points laid out in the article make sense and I support the call to study non-Western narrative styles. Yet I would have preferred a more proactive criticism; beyond a short little comic depicting the basic differences between kishōtenketsu and Western dramas, we don’t really get a sense of how to apply the style. For all its exhortations as a meta-commentary on structure, it ends with a simple plea for writers to explore new narratives. Sure OK I get the point. ["The significance of plot without conflict", Still Eating Oranges]

Money and the Brain

Article covering new research about the psychological effects of money (and privilege, and status). The results are unsurprising, and this is probably the best summation from a related study that the article mentions: “Vohs stressed that money-priming did not make her subjects malicious—just disinterested.”

A related study says, “living high on the socioeconomic ladder can, colloquially speaking, dehumanize people.” One of the themes of my work here on Cosmic Vinegar has been that money separates people from common concerns. This is because “money,” says Vohs, “brings you into functionality mode. When that gets applied to other people, things get mucked up. You can get things done, but it does come at the expense of people’s feelings or caring about them as individuals.” Another interesting bit:

“…The affluent value individuality—uniqueness, differentiation, achievement—whereas people lower down on the ladder tend to stress homogeneity, harmonious interpersonal relationships, and group affiliation.”

This research is still in the very early stages; the article says that scientists only turned to seriously studying the effects of wealth/status about ten years ago. All of the researchers are intent on stressing that none of the effects are intended, but that money simply tunes people different ways, and when you have more money, you aren’t attuned to other people’s difficulties as well.

In short, this research explains why I’m careful about charging money for my creative work. I know that in all likelihood, sales would remain tepid and it’s an irrelevant concern. But it’s a slippery slope, and if things ever took off, I’d start accruing a lot of money while criticizing money’s effects on our society. I just can’t make that trade. Money has warped our society in most every area: it is time to start creating space for money-free (and thus class-free) art, speech, and thought. [Lisa Miller, "The Money-Empathy Gap", New York Magazine]

Money and Art

Compelling “working writer” response to concerns about money and art. I agree with her point that money has value (but disagree that compulsory payments are the best way to demonstrate that value). It also added heft to the idea that there is space enough for commercial art and non-commercial art; why can’t we have both? Because one is primarily entertainment while the other is primarily art. They serve two (sometimes overlapping) purposes. I don’t mind writers who write to make money, because sometimes I do want to be entertained. I can’t go go go every hour of the day. But I also want art that expands society’s understanding of itself, because otherwise we’re just fucking off in the dark. [Tansy R. Roberts, "Art, Writing & Literary Awards: In It For The Money", tansyrr.com]

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