Another Author Post

This time I won’t focus on one because I have three authors left that I definitely want to recommend. One of them is another guy, that just posts good stuff in the internet and the other two could be called classics.

Let’s start with the internet guy. His nickname is qntm but n the comments he is mostly called Sam. He published a lot of short stories on his page, along with a few longer ones. His stories range from Sci-Fi and Time Travel to Fantasy and Magic and are sometimes strange and weird, but in a good way. His stories are based around laws of physics. Sometimes he invents own systems in which he tries to write a coherent and logical story. Both Ra and Fine Structure, the longest stories Sam has ever written, are like that.
Ra is a strange mixture between Magic and Sci-Fi. Magic was discovered in the 1970s and has developed into a new field of engineering. It is taught at universities and is researched using the scientific method. The protagonist is a promising student of applied magic and has the goal of reaching space without the help of any machines. The story can be found here.

But maybe you want to try a few short stories first? How about sam513, or The Last-But-One Question (weird and cool) or I don’t know, Timmy, being God is a big responsibility (about Hyper-Computation, therefore weird)? How about a medium sized one like The Four-And-A-Halfth Planet (Time Travel) instead? Really, you should check some of those shorter stories out, they are great! 🙂

On to the classics:

H.P. Lovecraft mostly fabricated a special kind of horror. Not the a-axe-murdering-guy-is-hunting-you-kind, but horror on a far larger scale albeit somewhat concealed. A prime example would be The Call of Cthulhu where the protagonist slowly uncovers knowledge surrounding mighty beings through books, notes and studying strange cults around the world. Those beings are called the Old Ones and pose a great threat to mankind, should they ever awaken.
The Music of Eric Zann is a bit shorter, but goes down a similar route. A bit more insanity and less Old Ones in this one, I think.
All of the works by Lovecraft I already read are very dark. I really like his language. His stories give me a creepy feeling like there is something invisible and dangerous looming right next to me. I love that!

I only read two books (1984 and Animal Farm) by Orwell, but those were absolutely great. Both touch on political topics, which I really like.
1984 describes the most depressing dystopia I ever had the displeasure to think about. But as you are already aware I am drawn to dark and dismal stories, so that’s right up my alley.

I think this will be the last post about authors that I write, but I think I covered the most important ones and more or less in the right order. The only other one that I should have written about is Lewis Carroll. You should check out Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland if you did not read it, yet. 🙂

Author: Elizier Yudkowsky (Less Wrong)

A few years ago, friends of mine suggested „Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality“ (HPMOR) by Elizier Yudkowski (Less Wrong) to me.

This is a story set in the world of Harry Potter, but with a few major changes. Harry’s aunt did not marry Vernon Dursley, but instead Michael Verres-Evans, a professor at Oxford. Additionally, Harry is highly intelligent and learned about the scientific method early in his life.
In Hogwarts, he is, together with Hermine, assigned to Ravenclaw. As soon as he hears anything about Quidditich, he points out how strange and even silly some rules of that game are. He doesn’t get along with Ron, but instead with Draco Malfoy.
Soon Harry takes on two quests: To teach Malfoy about science as well as rational thinking and to discover how magic works on a physical level.

This is a really fascinating and exciting read with clever dialogues and interesting facts about physics, mathematics and psychology (a lot about different biases and other flaws in human thinking).

There is another work by Less Wrong, but I didn’t get around to reading it, yet. It is called “Rationality – From AI to Zombies”. It started out as a series of blog posts, called “sequences” about different topics of rational thinking. The few pages I already read made a great impression. I am looking forward to read the rest of it. 🙂

 

Links Links Links

Here are some links regarding scientific writing that I stumbled upon last week. I think they might be interesting for you:

[article image: pixabay]

An introduction of Wildbow

Hey guys!

I would like to introduce my favourite author to you. His name is Wildbow and he writes rather dark webseries.

The main reason I want to share his works with you is not only his style of writing (which is amazing btw), but his work ethic. He puts out at least two chapters a week on tuesday and saturday, often even an additional one on thursday. Those chapters aren‘t short either. He is keeping that schedule for nearly five years, even at christmas or while helping organizing the wedding of his brother or while moving to another city. He only made exceptions when he got sick. (EDIT: Nope, not even then.)

Wildbow has a little gimmick, where every single story title of his‘ has only four letters. Those stories are, in chronological order, Worm, Pact and my personal favourite: Twig. That last one isn‘t completed, yet.

Each of these stories take a while to get into, but they get really, really awesome.
As a starting point I would recommend Worm, because this story is finished and a few tads better than Pact.

Summarizing Worm withouth spoiling anything AND without sounding boring is kind of hard, but I will try nonetheless.

The following contains minor spoilers for Worm:
Worm is takes place on an alternative earth, which has superheroes. Those so called capes get their powers only after traumatising events. Therefore most capes turn out to be villains.
The protagonist is a girl named Taylor that recently aquired her powers, which let her control all insects in a certain radius, and wants to start fighting crime. Soon she starts a undercover mission to take down a group of local villains, but those turn out to be nicer than most people Taylor knows personally, which puts her in a predicament.
Her ability sounds weak and useless if compared to Wolverine or Ironman, but turns out to be quite versatile.
Furthermore Wildbow thought of many weird, clever, mindboggling or simply amazing powers. Yes, there are heroes with lame powers like superman, but also a lot of really interesting ones. For example there is this one guy who gets three powers at random that could somehow help him and gets to choose if he keeps those or if he replaces some of them with new random powers. He never knows what he gets and needs to learn how to use each power, but he always has three different powers at once, which makes him really mighty. Another one can inflict feelings on his victims. Anything from love or anger to pure terror and extreme horror is possible. Others are especially good at building gadgets, can teleport through fire, change how the dimensions of space work and much more.
What I really like about this story is that everything gets explained sooner or later. Even where the powers come from. I can‘t think of any loose ends that didn‘t get tied up at the end. Additionally the protagonist does not win every fight. She is still just human. She fails and suffers like everybody else.

I believe Twig to be Wildbows best work, because he excels at writing dialoges. The protagonist here is a social manipulator, which is part of a team. This means less fighting and more talking. Those are ideal conditions to let Wildbow shine.
Twig is set in a universe, where the Frankenstein experiment happend and succeded. From there on it developed lots of biotechnology at a really fast rate, but normal technology a bit slower. The year should be something around 1920. Houses are mostly grown, not build. Strange, interesting and dangerous experiments of the academy are everywhere and the crown constantly wages war to conquer other countries.
The protagonist, Sy, and his team are also experiments of the academy and are send on various missions as a form of stress test.
Twig’s strong points are definitely the manipulation done by Sy and the character building.
For anything else you better read the about page of Twig or even the story itself! 🙂

I will leave out a summary of Pact, because Twig and Worm are better starting points in my opinion.

I don‘t think I did Wildbows stories justice, so I really urge you to give at least one of his stories a chance. 🙂

Recap session 1 – the kick-off meeting

Yesterday we had our first session of the writer’s workshop. It was great seeing you all and we are really looking forward to work with you during the semester.

So here is a short recap of yesterday’s class:

We gave you a short introduction on the mechanics of the course and talked about what you can expect from attending. Our slides with all the information can be found here.

We introduced you to this blog which will be our central workplace for the seminar. We are really curious what you are going to post, comment and share here. I also wrote a little about the blog and its purpose in my welcome post.

The take home messages from our postcard game have been the following:

  1. If you write something you paint a picture in the head of your readers. This picture might look very different than you had intended. It’s important to pick the main aspects of the subject you are talking or writing about. Less important things could should be left out for the sake of clarity and focus.
  2. If you tell too many details about one aspect, maybe just because you know so much about it and want to tell the world, you put this very aspect in the focus of attention. Our brains are wired like that – lots of details and information = this thing is super important. Balance between details and the big picture is very important. We will talk about how we can achieve this balance.

Is there anything missing? Did you take something else away from our first session? Do you have any questions? Let us know and comment below!

But wait, there is more! The …

Homework

  1. Write a very short version (max. 2 pages or 600-800 words ) of your Bachelor’s thesis (including headings).
  2. Write a text about the writing process of your bachelor’s thesis. What did you like about it? What where the difficulties? Are you satisfied with the result? Why or why not?

The deadline for the submission of your homework is Thursday April 14 2016.

See you next week and keep on writing!

Books and Materials

In this course we will work with the following books:

Justin Zobel: Writing for Computer Science. 3rd ed. Springer 2015

The book is available as PDF and epub file at the university library (access from the university network).
Tim Skern: Writing Scientific English. A Workbook. 2nd ed. UTB, Stuttgart 2011

The book is available online via the university library

Further suggested reading includes:

Stephen King: On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. 2012Joan Bolker: Writing your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. Macmillan USA, 1998William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White: The Elements of Style. Longman, 2014Paul J. Silvia: How to Write a Lot. A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. APA Life Tools, 2007

Do you know any great books or articles on writing? Let us know!