Friday, June 26, 2009
Upcoming Appearances and Internet Etiquette

So the power was out in my neighborhood today. This doomed me to an afternoon of stewing in my own juice. The weather in Wisconsin right now has been roughly equivalent to living inside a dog's mouth. It was not a good day to be without air conditioning.

Also, the power outage threw a wrench into my plan to fine-tune and post another blog about Europe. So, instead, I decided to pass along some news and answer a piece of fanmail I got yesterday instead.

First the news: I've just finished updating the tour page.

The busy part of convention season is fast approaching, and I've got a lot of events scheduled over the next couple months. From relatively small conventions and signings here in Wisconsin (I'm in Wausau this Saturday, btw) to big conventions in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Montreal, and San Diego.




(Rare footage of the elusive Rothfuss at his natural migratory habitat: the convention.)


At some of these conventions, I even get to be Guest of Honor. I'm not sure, but I think this means someone will be contractually obliged to fan me with a large palm leaf. I also expect to be given a shiny medal of some sort or at least a rather dapper-looking hat.




(The Rothfuss uses his bright plumage to lure readers into panels, where he devours them. )


So head on over to the page and take a look at where I'm going to be. I go to these to meet readers and hang out, so the more the merrier.


Now the piece of e-mail:
Pat,

I have a quick question I hope you don't mind answering. I saw you do that sometimes in your blogs.

After finishing The Name of the Wind, I called my local bookstore to see when the next book was coming out. They didn't know. So I called my local Library. They didn't know. So eventually, I gritted my teeth and borrowed a friend's internet and found your blog.

Over the next week I read all of it. Including most of the comments. I was a little addicted. I'm guessing it took me fifty hours.

I don't have a question about book two. Take your time. But as someone who doesn't spend a lot of time online, I am curious about this whole blog thing. Specifically about the comments you receive on your blog. After reading these, I feel like I know a lot of the posters.

Many of them are funny, and some of them are really clever... But some of them seem downright insensitive or rude.

What is up with that? Am I just oversensitive, or are a lot of the people commenting on your blog actually rather rude?

I'm tempted to say it's the former. I'm not really a blog reader. And I've always assumed that people smart enough to read your book would also be courteous and polite.

Sincerely,

Jen J.

Jen,

I've always assumed that people who read my book are not only intelligent and polite, but more attractive and better in bed than your average person. They also smell like fresh pie.

Unfortunately, the internet is like a great machine designed to make humanity look stupid. Oh sure, there are good things the internet does for us. Smart things. Noble things. But for every one person using distributed computing to cure cancer, there are ten people forwarding me a letter that threatens impotence and the death of a fluffy kitten if I dare to break the chain.

The problem is this. The internet is allows people to do things very quickly.

Now don't get me wrong, some things are better done quickly. Getting someone to the hospital. Mowing the lawn. Making my 7-layer burrito.

But many things are not improved by speed. Most things, actually: Backrubs. Baths. Getting a haircut. Writing a novel. Cuddling. Kissing.

And blog commenting. Contrary to what people believe, fast is not always better in terms of communication.

The problem is, language is a slippery thing. People have a hard enough time getting their point across when they're face-to-face. Over the phone is harder because you can't see body language or facial expression.

But pure text is the hardest. That's why e-mail misunderstandings abound, because you don't even have timing or vocal inflection to help get your point across.

This means when a person types a comment without thinking things through, it's much more likely that their intended message will get lost and they'll seem rude when they really didn't mean to be.

Take my announcement today for example. I know what's going to happen as soon as I post about my upcoming convention appearances.

I'm going to get people posting comments that say things like: "Screw Indianapolis! Come to Mucwanigo!!! We have a bookstore!!!1!!"

Now this person probably wants to say three things:

1. They have a lot of enthusiasm for me and my work.
2. They won't be able to make it to Indianapolis and this ensaddens them.
3. They'd appreciate it if I came to Mucwanigo.

But despite the egregious overuse of exclamation points, this is not what this comment actually communicates. To a lot of readers, this comment seems rude. Here's why.

Signings and conventions require a great deal of effort on the author's part. Doing a even a handful of events like this means an author will spend dozens of hours on planes breathing recycled farts, hours scheduling panels and e-mailing plans, then days at the event itself.

It's also expensive, thousands of dollars on plane tickets, taxis, hotel rooms, and overpriced airport burritos.

Knowing all of this, a courteous internet user can understand why a comment of, "Why don't you ever come to St. Augustine?" seems a little insensitive.

At the same time, rude is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, too. That's why I try my best to read comments in the spirit they were written. That means looking at them with a generous eye sometimes, trying to cherish the enthusiasm and ignore the fact that the poster didn't take the time to think things through.

Still, when someone writes, "Minneapolis is a whole 30 miles away! Come to Wanamingo!" it's bound make me feel like a cat that's been rubbed backwards.

Not only is it issued as a command (which is never endearing) but it implies that even though the author is traveling several hundred miles, leaving his pregnant girlfriend home alone for the weekend, and effectively skipping his own birthday, he still isn't doing enough to please you.

So that's what I think is going on in the comments, Jen. Sure there are a few mean-spirited or genuinely snarky people out there making posts. But the vast majority of the people that come across as rude are probably just guilty of posting without thinking things through.

Of course my readers. My clever readers. My clever, polite, sexy, apple-pie readers are a class of person quite above the normal internet rabble. They think twice before they post. Some of them even think three times. Right?

Right?

Later space cowboys,

pat

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posted by Pat at 142 Comments



Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Things I Like: MS Paint Adventures

Looking for something to entertain yourself with while you're waiting for a new blog?

Why not take a look at MS Paint adventures?

I stumbled onto it a few months ago and have been enthralled ever since.

The basic premise is the cartoonist draws a little scenario similar to one of those little solve-the-puzzle flash games. Then the readers make suggestions as to how best to interact with the environment/solve the puzzle/get out of the room/win the game. Then the cartoonist draws the next panel.

It doesn't sound like much when I describe it that way, but when you reduce anything to a summary all the flavor gets lost.

I might as well say, "The Name of the Wind is a bunch of words that when you read them you learn a story about a guy who does some stuff."

Yeah. It's not exactly thrilling when you boil something down to its simplest elements. So you'll have to trust me that Ms Paint Adventures is interactive storytelling at its finest.

Let's try again: Ms Paint Adventures is one part webcomic, one part game, two parts parody, three parts role playing with a sadistic GM, four parts clever, three parts sarcastic, one part barb wire, one part sweet, sweet methadone. Plus awesome. Plus double awesome.

The author/artist is Andrew Hussie, and as one storyteller to another, my hat's off to him. He's doing something strange and wonderful over there.

You can read the current story which is in-progress. Or you can read the one that's already finished.

Be warned, the finished story (Problem Sleuth) is over 1500 pages, and it will consume a large portion of your life if it gets it gets its hooks into you.

More blog soon,

pat

P.S. By this point I know I've spelled the "Reccomendations" tag wrong. And you know what? I'm pretty okay with that. I'm going to keep on spelling it wrong until I have time to go back and change them all. If I just change half of them, the link won't work properly.

So take a deep breath and start thinking of ways to deal with it. I'm sure you can...

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posted by Pat at 29 Comments



Monday, June 15, 2009
A modest proposal
So today Sarah e-mailed me a link to a baby website.

This isn't anything new. As I've mentioned before, Sarah is a font of baby information. She's a veritable cornucopia of nativity trivia.

Say that out loud. It doesn't matter if there's someone else in the room with you and you worry they'll look at you funny. It's worth it. Trust me. Say, "veritable cornucopia of nativity trivia." I put those words together just for you, and you have to say them out loud in order to appreciate them properly.

Anyway, this current site talks about how big your baby is... compared to different foods.

Now at first, this seems okay. Babies and fruit share certain characteristics. Babies are natural. Fruit is natural. They both grow. They're both tied to reproduction.

Also, fruit is a good frame of reference. We all know how big a lime is, for example.




(Week 12: Your baby is as big as a lime.)


But as you scroll through the pictures, they don't use fruit exclusively. They use other foods, too, and some of these are... odd. Personally, I find it odd to compare a baby to things like a cooked shrimp, (which strikes me as creepy) or a pineapple (which makes my imaginary womb profoundly uncomfortable).

Plus, since they have a different food every week, they start running out of familiar fruits. I mean, when you tell me my baby is as big as a Mexican jicama, that's not really informative. The purpose of the fruit is to give me a handy basis for comparison, not to send me running to wikipedia.

Part of me would like to put together a different set of photos with different size/weight references. Week 20: Your baby is the size of a can of beer. Week 27: Your baby weighs as much as the US hardcover of The Name of the Wind.

I understand they were following a theme here. But really, why would you want to compare your baby to food? It's like Anne Geddes' work: cute when you first see it, then creepier and creepier the more you think about it.

Am I alone in thinking this?

pat

P.S. Oot is, apparently, a rutabaga now.

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posted by Pat at 71 Comments



Friday, June 12, 2009
Adventures abroad: Prologue

Before I start talking about my trip to Europe, I should mention that in many ways I am embarrassingly American. I'm monolingual. I'm fat. And in many ways, I'm terribly ignorant of the shape of the world. For example, until a couple years ago, I didn't know where Belgium was. True story.

This means that about 95% of my knowledge about Italy comes from two sources. 1) The movie Hudson Hawk. 2) The episode of Angel where they go to Rome to face down the Immortal.

This is important because Rome was going to be our first stop on our European walkabout.

Sarah was good about preparing herself for the trip. She did research. She got phrase books. She looked at maps. I was too busy getting the first draft of the book ready to do much preparation. I didn't study any languages. I didn't look at any tourist guides. I know that somewhere in Rome there's old stuff and a cool fountain. I know that somewhere in England there's Stonehenge. Somewhere in Amsterdam there are whores. Other than that, I'm flying blind….

And I do mean flying. Our flight goes from Central Wisconsin --> Detroit --> Amsterdam --> Rome. I've done a lot of flying in the last couple years, but this is different by an order of magnitude. Pretty much a whole waking day spent in the air.

Interesting fact: When you get pregnant, your body makes a bunch of extra blood. Pints and pints. Sarah told me this. She's a font of bizarre information about pregnancy. "Today Oot is growing a pancreas," she'll say. "Now he has gills like a fish."

I'm fairly certain that she makes a lot of it up. But still, I look attentive whenever she gives me these facts. Partly because I prefer things that are interesting to things that are true, but also because Sarah will cry at the drop of a hat under normal circumstances. Pregnancy has magnified this amusing quirk in a exponential way.

I actually took a video of her crying on the trip. Yes really. These things need to be recorded for the sake of science. She cries because she's upset, then I cheer her up and she cries because she's happy. Then she cries because she loves me. Then she cries because she's crying.

I probably shouldn't post that video without asking her, but here's a picture, just add a little verisimilitude.





Witness my mad comforting skills. She was weeping just minutes before this picture. After all these years with Sarah, I can stop someone's crying jag with two hugs and less than 50 words. You'll be tear-free in 60 seconds or your money back.

By the way, Oot is the baby's in-utero name. I figured we couldn't just call it "it" until it was born, so I gave him a temporary name. It's pronounced like "boot" without the "b." Just so we're clear.

Anyway, the point is that pregnant women have a lot of extra blood. So Sarah says. I can't remember her saying if it happens to all women, or just her. For all I know it might be something Sarah decided to do on her own.

Either way, apparently all this extra blood makes it a bad idea for her to sit still for long periods of time. There's a risk of blood clots. To prevent this, she has special stockings to wear and instructions to get up and walk around regularly.

Luckily, the guy next to me is willing to switch seats so Sarah can sit next to me. It's easy to forget if you watch too much news, but the vast majority of people in the world are kind and generous.

The down side is that Sarah's fear of blood clots combined with her favorite hobby, peeing, means that she wants to get up every three and a half minutes. This means that I, sitting in the isle seat, have to get up so often you'd think I was doing jumping jacks.

Why didn't I just give her the isle seat, you ask? Well... mostly because I like the isle seat. And jumping jacks, for that matter.

Eventually we made it to Amsterdam. And while Sarah and I were walking to the new gate so we could catch our connecting flight to Rome, I hear two people talking behind us. They're speaking Italian, and I hear one of them exclaim, "Mama Mia!" He says it twice in the time it takes us to get to the gate.

What really throws me off is the fact that he sounds like a bad stereotype. His accent sounds exactly like someone pretending to have an over-the-top Italian accent. If a really bad sitcom was going to have an embarrassingly unoriginal Italian character, that character would say "Mama mia!" in exactly this way.

Since this is, in many some ways, my first European experience, I can't help but wonder: is all Europe going to be like this? Are all the stereotypes true? Will a dark, handsome Italian man try to seduce Sarah? Will English food be horrifyingly bad? Are the French going to wear berets and mime at me?

These were my thoughts as our plane touched down in Rome….

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posted by Pat at 65 Comments



Thursday, June 4, 2009
Penicillin and Bruce Campbell

About a year ago, I noticed that whenever I do a big signing or a convention with a lot of panels, I end up getting sick as a dog afterwards.

So I started being more careful. I made a point of eating healthy while I'm there. I drink plenty of water and juice. I take vitamins and a zinc supplement. I wash my hands so often it looks like I'm channeling the spirit of Howard Hughes.

And it doesn't make a damn bit of difference. As soon as the convention or signing is over, I get sick. I might as well tongue-kiss everyone I meet at a convention. That way I'd at least feel like I deserved to get sick. Plus the pictures people posted on facebook would be *way* more interesting. Plus kissing is awesome.

What was I talking about?

Oh yeah. My sickness. It turns out I wasn't just being a big sissy baby. I didn't have swine flu, but I did have strep throat. That makes me feel a little better about the fact that I've spent the last week weeping like a little girl and doing shots of chloraseptic like a fratboy on a bet.

*Sigh* You know what sucks about being an experienced writer? The internal editor. Ten years about I would have written that last sentence and moved on with my life whistling merrily.

But now when I write it, I think:

  • This reinforces our negative cultural stereotype that implies women are weak and weepy.
  • This implies that all frat boys are clueless drunken fuck-ups.
  • If I write this, a half dozen people will leave comments saying, "I was the proud member of Epsilon Ometa Whateverthefuck fraternity in college. Not all of us are drunken idiots. My brothers and I maintained a 3.8 GPA, drank nothing but rainwater, and raised money for crippled kittens."

And then I sigh.

Of course, nobody will write in about the subtler, implied slur against women. Which makes me feel worse in some ways.

Don't get me wrong, the internal editor is a useful thing. It keeps me from getting in trouble. (Sometimes.) It makes me a better writer. It makes me a better human being.

But still, it's a shame. "Weeping like a little girl" is a lovely phrase. It really gets my point across. It conveys. And when you apply it to some great hairy bear of a man like me, it's got all sorts of humorous implications.

The same is true with the stereotype of the drunk sideways-cap wearing frat boy. It's a funny thing. It's a useful tool for humor.





The other obvious problem is that it takes so much more time to be a careful writer. Take today's post, for example. I was going to talk about being sick, or about my foreign taxi adventures, or about how great it is to be back home.

And what am I doing instead? Writing a blog about writing a blog. Merciful Buddha forgive me. It makes me long for the days when I was just a punk kid and wrote whatever the hell amused me with no thought for the repercussions.

Well, I promised myself I'd only spend an hour on today's blog. Taxi adventures and other musings will have to wait for a day or so…

Just to give this blog some shred of substance that isn't all meta, I should mention that this weekend I'll be at Florida Supercon in Miami where I plan on gazing adoringly at Bruce Campbell's magnificently sculptured ass.

I'll also be doing a reading, signing books, and all the rest of the usual stuff that I do when I'm Guest of Honor at a convention.

And don't worry, I'm on antibiotics now, so you won't catch strep off me.

pat

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posted by Pat at 65 Comments



Monday, June 1, 2009
Home again, Home again, Jiggedy Jig.

Merciful Buddha, it's good to be home again.

Don't get me wrong, traveling abroad was a wonderful adventure, and I have many exciting stories to tell. But I got sick a few days after my London signing/reading and after that the trip was not so much fun. My memory of that last week blurs because I was either in terrible pain, under the influence of powerful drugs, or both.

Take my reading in Manchester, for example. I'm dimly aware that I might have said something about wanting to mess up Joe Abercrombie's pretty face.

Like I said. Powerful drugs.

Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know that stories and photos will be forthcoming. I'm brimming with things I'd like to write about: Taxis of various nations. My inappropriate encounter with Stonehenge. A list of historic landmarks where I have touched Sarah's bottom....

I would have posted some of these stories sooner, but internet access was not easy to come by traveling in the UK. One of the many things I never appreciated about Stevens Point before was how easy it is to get wireless access here. There are three coffeeshops downtown with free wireless. No, wait, four. Five. Hell, my neighbors have free wireless, though I suspect that's an accident on their part.

Yessir. This small town boy sure found out that the world can be a cold, unfeeling place. More specifically, I learned that it can be a place that tries to charge you 22 Euros a day for Wifi.

Personaly, I have better things to do with my money. Specifically: Ale and whores.

Man I really need some sleep.

But first, more drugs.

Until later,

pat

posted by Pat at 40 Comments



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