Year
of·the
Meteor

This is an archived newsletter from Robin Sloan. You, too, can receive these! They go out every Sunday.

Week 21, all is foretold

Rain at the Togano Gate

Rain at the Togano Gate, Hasegawa Sadanobu, ca. 1615–1868

It’s raining in the Bay Area—a surprise precipitation jag. This is dangerous for the olive trees out in the grove; many have just bloomed. Rain and wind of sufficient violence can knock those blooms loose, and every flower lost is an olive lost, too. We’re nervous, but/and there’s nothing we can do about it, so!

As you know, I recently spent two weeks in Japan. After that, we had visitors in town for ten days. So, that’s about a month in which I wrote not a word and contributed not a keystroke towards any digital project.

Even among the chill and well-intentioned, there is an ambient expectation—maybe it’s a pretense—of productivity. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed, with some distress, the rise of a new default greeting: “What are you working on?” Again, it comes from the chill and well-intentioned, and I don’t begrudge anyone their opening gambit. At the same time, I think it’s useful to puncture the expectation, and maybe the pretense. Sometimes, the honest answer is: “Nothing!”


There’s that hoary old quote, attribution unclear, that goes: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Which is clearly wrong, but/and I think of it every time I dip into Fortnite a little bit, because, have you SEEN these players?

The dance

The second half of the quote is supposed to sound absurd, impossible; but/and here we have a game that is fundamentally a dance about, and with, and through, architecture!

It’s said that tween Fortnite players can spot the adults a mile off because, even if an adult knows the map, and even if they’re quick and deadly with weapons, they’re afraid to build. Or, they only build logically; practically. This is definitely me: I’ll lay down a neat bridge in a flash, but when it comes to the towering improvisational combat spires, I just… can’t. They’re too random!!

The dance

When I was a kid, playing with Legos, I was fastidious about symmetry and color schemes. All is foretold.


Stories I will not write. For fans of sci-fi concepts.


Tiger Rain at Ōiso Station

Tiger Rain at Ōiso Station, Utagawa Hiroshige, ca. 1834

Is Gig blowing up anywhere else? This is the car service that operates like one of the on-demand scooter fleets, except, it’s cars. Last time I checked, there were three of Gig’s black cheapo Priuses parked on my block; I think I might live in one of their pilot neighborhoods? I will say: more power to them. The service is outstanding. It really is exactly like the scooters… except, it’s cars. The pricing runs either $2.50 a mile or $15 an hour, whichever is cheaper; my car-grabs have ended with me paying either about $15 or the maximum day rate, which is $70, and both have felt like a fair price to pay for a car I can leave behind.


Do I think all memoirs are lies? No… but basically also, yes.

They are spells, in the old sense: webs of language intended to transform the world. (“Grammar” used to mean “magic.”) Reading memoirs (or: essays in the key of memoir) written by people I know, I can see that they don’t really portray those people or their lives. That’s fine! It might even be great. Experience becomes feedstock for a creative machine that produces something interesting, even thrilling or important—transformative. But/and, that something is… not quite what’s being advertised.

I realize, as I’m writing this, that I’m talking about a particular flavor of memoir: the kind that seems to consider life less a series of experiences or encounters and more… a series of sentences? Stirring sentences! Incantatory sentences. I often enjoy them, but I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure: life is not actually made of sentences.

I think my own memoir-ish piece about early MUDs is impeccable, of course.


In early comic books, they weren’t always sure how to render actions as sound effects.

Turns to metal again

Delightful.


Robin Rendle celebrates WiggleTech™.

(I produced a very quick reference implementation.)


This post by Elisabeth Nicula is wondrous: on going to the see the dead whale:

I joined the other lookers: dogwalkers of course; a mother teaching her son, both touching the gray whale’s flank; a photographer from one of our dying newspapers, pants wet to the knee; some guys I wouldn’t normally judge but couldn’t help myself today.

“A photographer from one of our dying newspapers, pants wet to the knee.” Novel-worthy.

I should add that Elisabeth’s Twitter account, a chronicle of the birds that alight on her porch in San Francisco, is the only good Twitter account.


In the same way that Star Wars referred to Flash Gordon and Indiana Jones referred to the old Republic serials—these roots unknown and/or inscrutable to the overwhelming majority of the viewers who have ever enjoyed these movies—it’s clear to me that the Marvel movies, with all their camp and connectedness, the goofy sprawl of them, will inspire something great many decades from now.

THE YEAR: 2123

HOLO-PRODUCER #1: It’ll be like those old Marvel movies!

HOLO-PRODUCER #2: “Marvel”… “movies”…?


22C. A badge of honor, indeed.


Night Rain at Ōyama

Night Rain at Ōyama, Utagawa Toyokuni II , ca. 1830

Hey! I’ve been to Oyama!

☄️R

May 2019, Oakland

Here, at the bottom of the page, I shall say again: the newsletter is the best way to keep up with new offerings.

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hony soyt qui mal pence