Steve’s Book Roundup 3/2/2021

I write a lot and have quite a few books.  So now and then I post a roundup of them for interested parties!

The Way With Worlds Series

This is what I do a lot of – writing on worldbuilding!.  You can find all of my books at www.WayWithWorlds.com

The core books of the series will help you get going:

  • Way With Worlds Book 1 – Discusses my philosophy of worldbuilding and world creation essentials.
  • Way With Worlds Book 2 – Looks at common subjects of worldbuilding like conflicts in your setting, skills for being a good worldbuilder, and more!

When you need to focus on specifics of worldbuilding, I have an ever-growing series of deep dive minibooks.  Each provides fifty questions with additional exercises and ideas to help you focus on one subject important to you!

The current subjects are:

Fiction

Take a typical fantasy world – and then let it evolve into the information age.  Welcome to the solar system of Avenoth, where gods use email, demons were banished to a distant planet, and science and sorcery fling people across worlds . . .

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet – Two future teachers of Techno-Magical safety find trying to earn their credentials hunting odd artifacts backfires when you’re hired to put some back . . . on a planet where gods go to die!

Creativity

I’m the kind of person that studies how creativity works, and I’ve distilled my findings and advice into some helpful books!

  • The Power Of Creative Paths – Explores my theories of the Five Types of Creativity, how you can find yours, and how to expand your creative skills to use more Types of Creativity.
  • Agile Creativity – I take the Agile Manifesto, a guide to adaptable project development, and show how it can help creatives improve their work – and stay organized without being overwhelmed.
  • The Art of The Brainstorm Book – A quick guide to using a simple notebook to improve brainstorming, reduce the stress around having new ideas, and prioritize your latest inspirations.
  • Chance’s Muse – I take everything I learned at Seventh Sanctum and my love of random tables and charts and detail how randomness can produce inspiration!

Careers

Being a “Professional Geek” is what I do – I turned my interests into a career and have been doing my best to turn that into advice.  The following books are my ways of helping out!

  • Fan To Pro – My “flagship” book on using hobbies and interests in your career – and not always in ways you’d think!
  • Skill Portability – A quick guide to how to move skills from one job to another, or even from hobbies into your job.  Try out my “DARE” system and asses your abilities!
  • Resume Plus – A guide to jazzing up a resume, sometimes to extreme measures.
  • Epic Resume Go! – Make a resume a creative act so it’s both better and more enjoyable to make!
  • Quest For Employment – Where I distill down my job search experiences and ways to take the search further.
  • Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – An interview-driven book about ways to leverage cosplay interests to help your career!
  • Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – My second interview-driven book about ways to leverage fanart to help your career!
  • Convention Career Connection – A system for coming up with good career panels for conventions!

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight – My co-author Bonnie and I analyze the impact Sailor Moon had on women’s lives when it first came to North America.  Based on a series of interviews, there’s a lot to analyze here, and surprisingly consistent themes . . .

My Sites

Steve’s Update 3/1/2020

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

And here’s my somewhat regular update! First thing, giveaways!

I am in a LOT of giveaways

I’m really enjoying these giveaways and plan to do more – with more books!

Now the rest of the update!

  • Way With Worlds: Taking a break for now. I’ll start the next book in a few months, unless I shift things around.
  • A School Of Many Futures: Just waiting on my editor – I hope to have feedback soon. I am still tweaking the “rewrite outline”
  • Seventh Sanctum: Rewriting away. I found problems with my new code, and mostly solved it (objects/classes are a treat for isolating code), but still have a few bugs to iron out. I wish this was going faster as I’m so close to having an essential site.
  • Blog: No big plans for now, let’s see if a series strikes me . . .
  • General:  Working to improve my marketing and expand my newsletter. Hey, gives us more friends to talk to . . .

Steven Savage

How Much Time Did You Lose In The Pandemic?

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As my regular readers are aware, I’ve speculated on how the Pandemic has slowed down my projects and my life.  That got me asking something – is there a way to calculate how much time is lost due to the pandemic?  Of course I had to try.  

Let’s go through my thought processes – it might help you as well.

So first, I decided to calculate time lost in hours.  Because I’m that over-organized and like fine detail.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The calculations below already account for how different needs interfere with each other. In other words, this is real loss due to stress/time/etc. not just available time shifting around.

First, I went to my projects.  I track my projects pretty closely, and I found I’ve functioned at 80-90% efficiency for about a year.  A few quick calculations and I found that my overall projects – from writing to home improvement – got delayed or took extra time.  That was about 5 hours a week, to my surprise – disconnected from everything else.

Secondly, I went to regular chores such as shopping and so on.  No longer could I or my GF randomly run to the store.  We also had to preplan a lot of work, engage in other safety procedures, and so on.  This one was shocking as we found this added another two hours of time a week.

(Sometimes online shopping takes longer as you just can’t grab stuff you realize you need or do it on the way home from work).

Finally, seeing now and then I notice we’d just crash more than usual.  That was intermittent, but usually turned out to be about four hours a week.

Note this also didn’t worry about saving time due to not commuting.  That was not as big as I thought – only about three hours a week.  Car pooling saved me more time than realized because I could just sit and work on stuff.

So all together I realized I’m losing eight hours a week in the pandemic from stress, from things taking longer, from not being able to double-up on chores.  In one year I’ll have lost over 400 hours – this is due to things taking longer, extra unexpected tasks, stress, and schedule changes.

It really does feel like I  need a two month vacation.

So anyway there’s an invite to you – how much time have you lost?

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It – News, Media, and Worldbuilding

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr. Find out more at my newsletter.)

Why would I do an entire book on news and worldbuilding? Because I was (and am) pissed off at people misunderstanding the importance of news in fiction and life. We’re not talking about my most noble of goals, but it led to a good book.

When I wrote this book in 2019 people were waking up to the impact of disinformation, news-as-propaganda, and internet bullshit. Many people wished this had happened much earlier because plenty of people sounded the alarm, but at least there was an alarm. I was one of the people wishing this had happened a hell of a lot earlier because, look, it is evident that people are tragically deceived between networks like Fox and internet propaganda.

Of course, when I think about real-life issues, I start asking how these issues are portrayed in fiction because it’s what I do.

I realized quickly that fictional settings rarely deal with the questions of how news works. Sure we sometimes get great things like Sir Pratchett’s The Truth, or maybe a reporter character, but I couldn’t recall anything that stood out beyond that. It was time to do two things:

One, keep doing my political activism.

Two, write a damn book on worldbuilding and news.

If that seems petty, it was – I was annoyed and wanted catharsis. However, there were two benevolent motivations:

  • Fiction is a tool to help us understand the world, to think, and imagine. If people who were worldbuilding thought about news, their stories would in turn, make the audience think. Plus, we might get more cool stories out of it.
  • Those reading this book would also think about news and media in general and become more thoughtful. Worldbuilding is very educational, very thought-provoking, and I view it as a form of personal growth.

It was time to write a book on news and worldbuilding – which was also easy.

Remember when I said this age of disinformation got to me? I’ve been a news junkie since I was in my early 20s; I was the guy buying the newspaper in college and turning on 24/7 news on my radio at work. My career in IT has been dependent on information, reporting, and data. You can see why I was annoyed – and that I had a great foundation to write another worldbuilding book.

Yes, some of it felt good to get out.

The result is a pretty good worldbuilding book. It’s got some great questions, some thought-provoking bits, and comes from both the heart and experience. Definitely, one I’d put as high up in my collection because it dealt with something that wasn’t typical to worldbuilding coaching.

It’s also a reminder that a mix of irritation and personal experience is a surprisingly solid start for a book.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 2/21/2021

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Gonna try to bring these updates back here for my readers. I’ve changed the newsletter up to be a little more personal, so I’m going to do my more “businesslike” status here!

  • COVID-19: My second shot of vaccine should be fully effective now – but I’m keeping up all safety protocols to protect people (there’s some evidence you might be able to carry). But the numbers look good, so I’m hopefuly.
  • Way With Worlds: The History worldbook is out! So go on and enjoy!
  • A School Of Many Futures: Just waiting on my editor!
  • Seventh Sanctum: I finally solved the problems with the advanced generators. This will run maybe 60% of the site – but now I have to tackle the generators with unusual configurations and the like. So it’s moving forward, but now I’m on to the weird stuff.
  • Blog: With my conspiracy theory analysis done, I don’t have any new series on the horizon. Let’s see what happens.
  • General:  Still trying to relax and take time off – and yes, I failed at taking time off. I’m also kicking around a few side book projects to cleanse my mind – more as I mess around

Steven Savage

Conspiracies and Creative Inoculation

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Teaching people to write, draw, and more can protect us from conspiracy theories. Let me explain since such a statement requires a lot of explanation.

In my last few posts, I explored how Conspiracy Theorists activities are a creative act, how their actions mapped to my creative theories, and the theorists’ motivations. People wanting a sense of power and real power turn to conspiracy theories, fueled by their creative energies. I think this view of conspiracy theories having a creative element provides additional ways to protect ourselves from them.

In David Niewart‘s excellent book “Red Pill, Blue Pill,” he explores the current grip such theories have and ways to cure it. You should get his book, but his recommendations include empathy, how to work with people, and how to inoculate people against disinformation. I’d add teaching people to use their creativity is part of that inoculation.

Previously I identified three ways creativity helps spread conspiracy theories:

  • People’s creativity is harnessed to spin theories – often to serve their egos and insecurities.
  • People maliciously use imagination to create wild tales to manipulate others – for profit and their egos.
  • Of both of them, there is an addictive rush to using creativity.

So let me propose that we inoculate people against conspiracy theories by encouraging them and teaching them to use their creativity. Allow me to go into detail:

Creativity is about communication. When one learns about creativity, one learns both how to communicate and how communication works. They will better understand what people are trying to say – and identify manipulation.

Creativity teaches one how their mind works. When you learn how to be creative, analyze your art, and understand yourself, you see how you think and imagine. One is better armored against deceiving oneself.

Creativity lets one see how others are creative. A person versed in creative acts – combined with good information practices – can easily detect conspiracy theories. In short, one knows how others imaginatively manipulate information.

Creative experience also lets one find healthy and responsible ways to use their creative ability. The conspiracy world bursts with failed actors and scriptwriters, the ambitious, and those feeling unappreciated. A healthy appreciation for creativity may give them healthy outlets.

(If you’re one of the people who’ve been annoyed at less emphasis on the humanities, this sounds familiar I am sure.)

Will encouraging creativity solve everything? Hardly. This is merely a useful addition to what we have to do, albeit a fun one.

As for how to implement this, such detail is a post of its own – and one requiring more thought. Let me give some starters.

  • Each of us who is a creative can support and encourage others to use their skills.
  • We can push for creative and media education, alongside information health.
  • We creatives can increase awareness of responsible and irresponsible creativity – my posts are a humble example.
  • We can share our knowledge with those fighting disinformation.
  • Also, encourage teaching the humanities, as noted.

Hopefully, my own work has provided a useful clue for readers. Certainly, it’s given me something to think about and to explore in future posts. For now, we creatives can use this as an additional tool in our arsenal as we battle conspiracy theories – and remember each person we help grow may be further armored against them.

Steven Savage

Jagged Little Pills: A Review of Red Pill, Blue Pill by David Niewart

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

David Niewart has written on extremism before, but the internet-fueled conspiracy theories poisoning our country require him to face an evolving sickness and the need for a cure. Red Pill, Blue Pill is a history, a diagnosis, and a hope for treatment for an illness – American’s emeshment in conspiracy theories.

The book is a passionate if ragged thing – it has the feel of something sent to market a few months early, and that’s understandable. There are sections that are too long, others too short, and formatting choices that I question (Namely, they’re too simple). However, this doesn’t really take away from the book.

This is a raw subject, and the lack of polish means there are rough edges that snare your thoughts and emotions. There may be parts here and there that are tough going, but also the blood and pain of the conspiracy theory world hasn’t been watered down. I’ll take a book that has hooks that catch my thoughts than something smooth and polished.

Neiwart walks us through some introductions and history, then individual cases of extremists. The cases are illustrative, and he describes them piecemeal, showing how multiple extremist attacks were similar. This section is informative but honestly too long. A few examples would have been enough, and anyone familiar with this material may find it overlong – or hard going due to the brutality of it.

Early on it’s like a horror film, as we see many stories head to one bloody conclusion. There’s painful inevitability.

Fortunately, past this overlong point, Neiwart goes into the history of conspiratorial thinking in the United States, hitting multiple high points. This section is powerful and well-researched, and it becomes apparent how much of current conspiracism is built around a few pillars. The same people and same theories pop up over and over, and you get a sense of how our Capitol being stormed was nearl inevitable.

From Alex Jones to Fox news and other grifters and opportunists, it becomes apparent how we’ve been grinding towards this – and didn’t stop it. We should have seen it.

Finally, Neiwart looks at modern extremism, the final result of these events. Its a bizarre, violent, yet disconnected culture of self-loathing, raging hate, and posturing personalities. Newiart takes us into the world of racism and weird economic theories with no grounding in reality – and people ready to kill for them.

The path he’s charted comes to an end, and the end is in an insanity that now seems obvious. There’s a strange sadness the book.

Fortunately, Neiwart ends by discussing remedies for it by experts. It is a hopeful ending – a chapter really – but it is a reminder our current problem requies all of us to help. Its all hands on deck to fight to turn our culture back from the brink of further meltdown.

You see the possibility – but the weight of what he’s shown will sit on your shoulders.

Do I reccomend this book? Yes it’s important reading for anyone that studies conspiratorial thinking, and who hopes to help friends and family out of extremism. It’s not the end-all-be-all on the subject, but it is good to get a sense of the history and what we can do. If you’re truly concerned with helping people out of extremism, this is a book thats a start, not the end.

We’re not anywhere near the end of dealing ith our problem – internet-fueled extremism of people far gone down violent rabbit holes. We have to get to work.

Steven Savage

The World And The Story

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Special thanks to Serdar for inspiring me to write more on my experience’s guts with one of his latest columns.

“Oh no, not another learning experience,” reads many a t-shirt, coffee cup, sticker, and almost assuredly a few tattoos. Writing means one is always learning, and I view every book as a learning experience. My current book, A School of Many Futures, has been exceptionally informative.

My latest finding? I saw how worldbuilding and story could work together – and conflict.

For those unfamiliar with my return to fiction, ASOMF, as I call it, is a sequel to my techno-fantasy novel A Bridge To The Quiet Planet. The first novel was fun – “a romp,” as one person put it – but also my first fiction piece in awhile. I want to keep growing – and ASOMF taught me a valuable lesson about how worlds and stories interact.

ASOMF takes place in a very “built” world – that’s how I operate. It has politics and economics, sorcery and gods, technology and culture. I like worldbuilding, and believe it makes good stories and better authors. But I also know one can go overboard with showing off worldbuilding.

A list of facts and places is not a story in most cases – but that detail matters as it brings the world to life.

ASOMF also involved me diving deeper into making stories compelling – better structure, better flow, and so on. The previous book had pacing issues, and I wanted to keep it snappy and compelling (Knives Out was a major influence). But my story was also hip-deep in detail, giving it meaning, and I didn’t want to follow some common plot structure and lose the heart.

Just because you follow good writing rules doesn’t mean the story is meaningful – but good fiction writing helps people come into your world.

There’s my challenge – and yours in a worldbuilding-heavy story. What fits the world may be hard to put into a compelling story. What fits good storytelling may not reveal the heart of the world.

I realized that the two of them should work together, and neither dominates the other. A few things I can share:

One.  What made a good pace for fiction did not help explore the setting deeper. I added an entire chapter that enriched the story – and got exciting with a few useful storytelling techniques.

Two.  Some parts of the story weren’t compelling. My worldbuilding gave me options to tweak the story to make it more interesting. Changing one minor character’s motivation to another equally likely reason made the story much better – and you only see this character three times.

Three.  Writing-wise, a part of an arc lacked a particular “identity” – there was a lack of emotional resonance. A review of my characters’ viewpoints helped me find a view that made the arc compelling and brought everything into perspective.

Four. A general structure I aimed for was each chapter should have an arc to keep people interested. That meant thinking and rethinking when chapters ended and what was revealed. I had to ask what mattered to start a chapter, what mattered to end it, and what meant something to people.

Good writing and good worldbuilding should support each other. It may mean not showing something in your world as it does nothing. It may be going deeper into your world. But don’t view them as in conflict.

Steven Savage

Creativity, Conspiracy, and Motivation

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

In my previous blog post, I noted conspiracy theorists easily fit into my model of Creative Types. Because various presentations and forms of conspiracy thought fit my model, I think we can think of conspiracy theories as being a kind of pathological creative act. This leads to the question of why people engage in conspiracy theories.

Fortunately, as we’ve heard about incessantly since the media managed to pay attention to the online world, it often comes down to power.

Conspiracy theories give a sense of control.  A conspiracy theory explains a messy world, so you think you know what’s going on. You can bend your creativity towards “explaining” things and giving you that rush.

Conspiracy theories give you a target. Having explained the world, you can then figure who to blame. Of course, these targets are often ones of traditional bigotry, and you can harness creativity to explain why you hate people. One merely has to look at the mental acrobatics people go through to remain racist and sexist to see this in action.

Conspiracy theories make you the hero.  A conspiracy theory means you figured it out, that you are the hero. A conspiracy theory is a sick kind of Isekai power fantasy that runs inside your head. Your ego grabs onto your creative urge and rides it into the bloody sunset because it can make you the protagonist.

Conspiracy theories can give you power. Grifters and would-be grifters flock to conspiracy theories, and if you want to grift, it’s a world rife with targets. Grifters use their creativity to spin more stories, make money, and ensnare their victims. They may even believe their lies after a while, though I’d wager most of them don’t even think in “reality” after awhile.

Conspiracy theories can give you connections.  You meet fellow conspiracists in your endeavors, you share ideas. Such reinforcement feels good, so people do it – especially those alienated or disconnected. If you’ve ever seen conspiracy communities talk, they seem to take pleasure in exchanging ideas – and creating new theories. The social thrill has a “round-robin” writing element.

That’s it. Conspiracy Theories are about power and control, and creativity is damned easy to use to support them. Connecting ideas, finding explanations that fit, etc., are all creative acts. The Conspiracy theorist, from a podcast ranter to a lone person making a connection, is engaged in a creative act – an act of power.

(I’d like to thank David Neiwert and Stephan Lewandowsky, whose work informed my model.)

However, I think focusing only on power and just saying “oh, it’s creative as well” misses something. Creativity is fun, and people enjoy using it. The conspiracy theory world doesn’t only deliver a sense of power, explanation, or money but also offers a creative rush.

Think of all the times you made a piece of art or wrote a paragraph that feels right. Consider the settings you’re making with their crystal-clock clarity or a song you composed that hit all the right notes. It’s a rush, a high, and it’s compelling if not outright addictive.

Now pair that with the power one falsely feels believing in conspiracy theories. One has a sense of power, control, enemies to fight, money to make, and the creative rush on top of it. How many highs is that all at once?

Tell me how addictive that sounds now.

I’ve even wondered if some of the pushers of conspiracy theories and propaganda-as-news are so high on their supply they don’t see the evil they do. Are they lost the same way the rest of us might be in a videogame or a mystery novel? I’m not prepared to forgive those that spread this malice, but I wonder if we might understand it a bit better.

In summary, I think conspiracy theorists and the like are motivated by power and the rush of creativity – of finding the truth and explaining things. To help people out of this, we need to consider both.

Steven Savage