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Photo by Michael Schofield on Unsplash

Politics

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” -Voltaire

America just tried to stupid itself out of the airlock.

Lemme ‘splain. Avenue 5 is a TV show about a group of people on a cruise ship in space. A series of mishaps turns what should have been a relatively short jaunt into a years-long nightmare. In episode 8, a minor character begins confidently telling the other passengers on the ship that it’s all a ruse, that the ship is actually still on Earth, that everything is being filmed for a prank show, and that they can all go home if they simply choose to walk out of the airlock. Her evidence for these claims? “I work in VFX. …


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Photo by Florian Winkler on Unsplash

I received this in my inbox from a literary agent today:

“Dear Brandon,

Thank you for sharing your work with me. I know that writing a book is a time-consuming and emotional process, so I appreciate the effort you have expended to reach this point in your publishing journey. Unfortunately, I must reject what you have been kind enough to submit.

I am very selective about taking on new clients. Projects from my clients must have stellar world building, characters that leap off the page, pacing that is relentless, and a story that entices the reader to take its journey with the characters. …


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Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Writing

That was when I learned that words are no good; that words dont ever fit even what they are trying to say at.
-William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

It’s hard to find a more beaten, battered, overworked and overused piece of writing advice than “Show, don’t tell.” It’s also possibly the most misunderstood. Not because it’s hard to differentiate one from the other — which it is — but because it’s rarely explained why one is better. We’re told that Showing makes for stronger, more effective writing. But in what ways is it stronger? Why is it more effective? …


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Literary Tourism

“God had placed him in a garden of infinite bounty, a Land of Goshen in which any man could prosper if only he had the courage and the fortitude to try.”

“Glass had spent years on the frontier. He was a keel, steadying others through his quiet presence. And Henry knew that by morning he would be dead.”
Michael Punke, The Revenant

There are vast stretches of the American landscape untouched by human hands. Seas of grass set upon by unrelenting winds. Rivers carving narrow channels through stone. Mountains towering to spectacular heights, unconquered and unconquerable. Beginning in the sixteenth century, these vast empty lands held the promise of wealth and lifelong security for those European fur trappers intrepid enough to brave the unknown. Leaving behind the safety and comfort of civilization, they lived alone or in small groups for months, years at a time, dependent on what provisions they could carry and the goodwill of those they met. But so much time in an unforgiving world had the potential to make them into beasts. What happens when the veneer of civility is stripped away, when the competence and trustworthiness of those at your side can mean the difference between life and death? …


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Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash

Writing

Hint: it ain’t fiction

If you lurk around on writing forums long enough, eventually you will see some version of the following:

I was reading Stephen King’s On Writing and I came across this bit. Do you guys think he’s right?

This is invariably followed by well-meaning-but-misinformed posters assuring OP that Mr. King doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. It’s the online equivalent of a recess monitor telling a bullied child not to worry about what the other children are saying. …


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Literary Tourism

“You fish, swim, eat, laze around, and everyone’s so friendly. It’s such simple stuff, but… If I could stop the world and restart life, put the clock back, I think I’d restart it like this. For everyone.” Alex Garland, The Beach

Paradise. It’s a word defined by its connotations. Paradise means something different to each of us, but all versions are connected by the promise of a place where the trials and tribulations of everyday life fade away, and there is only peace. It’s a rare thing, an experience yearned for, and when finally achieved, is fleeting. Some spend their entire lives seeking paradise. But everything comes at a price. How far would you go to achieve your ideal life? …


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Travel + Food

One of the best things about living as a nomad is being able to return home for the holidays. In years past, this has meant going out to bars and restaurants with friends and family, catching up, and just generally feeling grounded again. This year, though, we’ve been seeing others a lot less and staying home a lot more. So when my mom suggested we go get brunch, Jen and I were definitely eager to get out of the house (in a pandemic-friendly, responsible sort of way, of course).

We decided to go to 13th Street Pub and Grill, which sits right in the middle of Boise’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood. With its mix of modern, craft-focused restaurants and shops tucked away in the midst of a tree-lined residential neighborhood, the area has a very “hipster light” feel to it. It’s a lot like Portland’s Hawthorne District, only cleaner and less crowded. And smaller — it’s essentially a single intersection with businesses on all four corners. Given that parking options are limited mostly to what you can find on the street, there’s a good chance you’ll end up a few blocks away in front of someone’s house. Still, it’s a great spot to wander around and window shop, or to stop for a bite to eat. …


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Literary Tourism

Reflecting on The Gift of Rain in Penang, Malaysia

“The most rewarding way to see the place one lives in is to show it to a friend.”
-
Tan Twan Eng, The Gift of Rain

Walking through the narrow streets of George Town, on the island of Penang, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been here before. The shuttered windows overlooking roads never intended for modern vehicles. The covered sidewalks known as the “five-foot way”, which are almost never five feet wide. The roadside food stalls and trishaws. …


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Photo by Valentin Salja on Unsplash

Everyone else is doing it

I haven’t been around much lately, so it’s taken me a bit to actually dig into the new features and layouts and all that, but I’ve been picking up a bit of chatter from Medium writers over on Twitter. It seems the reaction from most writers has been less than enthusiastic. Now that I’ve played around a bit myself (I updated my profile, go check it out), I feel ready to jump in. I should note that these comments only apply to the desktop version, as I never really use the mobile app.

As Ev explained a few months ago, he wants to take Medium to a more “relational” space, meaning that the company is looking to make it easier to build relationships between writers and their audience. To my mind, that’s a step in the right direction. I’ve long seen Medium as a form of hybrid social media, and the writers who are the most engaged (and engaging) are the ones who strive to make genuine connections with the others on this site. That the leadership recognizes this and is pushing to make it a central focus is a good thing. …

About

J. Brandon Lowry

Wayward PhD turned full-time writer. Topics: Health, Science, Medical Marijuana, Fiction and Poetry. Travel editor at http://theplaceswe.live.

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