morbane: pohutukawa blossom and leaves (Default)
[personal profile] morbane
[every time I think of posting I think of something else I need to do, like more of a beta job. And then I dream of writing a really sprawling interconnected post. It gets out of hand. Sorry.]

Just came back from film #3 this year of Film Festival picks - Joel's suggestion: Midnight Special. It was an enjoyable experience: a classic plot, treated deftly and confidently. Strong acting all around. Beautifully shot. Earned its lens flares, I think. ^!^

And I came out of it thinking "[personal profile] cahn and [ profile] scribble_myname would get a lot out of this" - because although I don't talk much about reading Zenna Henderson, because I haven't for years and feel rusty and uncertain, this felt very, very, very much in the vein of her works. There might be some applicable spoilers; ask if you want further details.

A short list of what's going on for me lately: house hunting, an evening class in short story writing, LARP catering, Pokémon ALMOST-Go, beta reading.

Also, for a while I've wanted to talk about this 1998 sci-fi story because I found it really influential and then it was referenced in 'Cat Pictures Please' and I had somewhat indignant feelings about that. But mostly I want to talk about the story, which means a lot to me.

Date: 2016-08-05 02:43 pm (UTC)
isis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] isis
That first house! I love those fussy Victorian details. And the view! ♥

The Sterling story was okay (at first it sort of reminded me of "Press Ann" by Terry Bisson, which I love) until about halfway through, and then it abruptly became wonderful. Thanks for linking!

Date: 2016-08-05 05:19 pm (UTC)
snickfic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snickfic
I'd never read that story before. Very interesting! I think I don't have any feelings in particular about it - what would you like to talk about?

Date: 2016-08-06 03:40 am (UTC)
cahn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cahn
OK, like Zenna Henderson? SOLD.

...and then I went and read that story and it is AWESOME, thank you for reccing it. Halfway through the story I realized I was not even paying full attention to the story any more because I was going, "yes, yes, that's right!" I was responding mostly to the idea of the internet becoming this vast... exchange of friendship? I've been thinking about this a lot lately, just about how I have all these people I think of as friends (like you!) and that I'd be willing to help out if they ever needed it, and (hopefully) vice versa -- and of course this happens all the time with fic beta-ing and gift exchanges and the other mail exchanges of Yuletide and such -- and yet we're only pixels on a screen to each other, really. And thinking about how some people who have a huge internet presence could get a lot of help if they needed it, whereas so many people are so alone otherwise, with networks of local friends and family disintegrating a lot (not for everyone, but for many) from where they might have been fifty years ago. And how the vastness of the internet, how someone helpful always has a helpful answer when one needs one, has enriched my life, in so many random ways -- e.g., technical Q&A sites like Stack Overflow. (I've, uh, been sort of having a lot of these thoughts in the back of my head before, and the story helped crystallize them. Which is the nature of an excellent story, I think.)

And that was even before the hints of the network as an alive and mostly-benign-but-sometimes-malicious thing. And Tsuyoshi's brother: that was great. Great story.

I don't know that I have indignant feelings about "Cat Pictures, Please?" It seems, in a lot of ways, like a homage to "Maneki Neko." (Although it's interesting that in MN the cats are actually creepy, to us, if not Tsuyoshi!) But I guess I will feel sort of indignant if it wins the Hugo (which I think it has a very good chance to do) because MN feels so much more seminal to me, and CPP is so... minor.

ETA: This story seems especially groundbreaking considering it was published in 1998. I knew people who had internet friends in 1998, but it was still very much the perception that only weird people actually connected with people over the interwebs. I didn't really make friends over the internet until I started my LJ in 2006.
Edited Date: 2016-08-06 03:44 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-08-08 03:54 am (UTC)
cahn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cahn
ha! -- I just read your comment above about how the positive aspects struck you on first reading, and the negative on second, and fairly obviously that's happening to me too -- I think because the negative aspects become more obvious near the end of the story.

I actually love that there's that negative side, that question of passivity and the abrogration of responsibility. (I also love that last image of Tsuyoshi just waiting to be freed -- that really undeerscores that passivity.) I don't have a lot to say about it right now, because I'm still chewing on it, but I do find it an integral part of what makes the story so fascinating. (One of my major criticisms of CPP is that it's too cheerful, that it doesn't admit to the dark side of what the AI is doing. And there is definitely a dark side.)

This is a really human-centred story, and it's not wholly positive or negative, because both those choices are available.

Yes! Because humans (and things created by humans) are that way! I think that's almost a prerequisite for what I consider a really good story. (Zenna Henderson, heh, might come the closest to an author I love who does tip the balance -- but she did not in fact deny the darkness of the human spirit, even if she chose to concentrate more on the positives.)

I love that the message for the guy who needed the coffee can be translated as you have always been surrounded by friends. That moment of the person you don't know is actually your friend is, well.

Ahhhhhh yes! And also the idea of: you are known. You are known and you are cared about. (This actually makes me think of FFA -- speaking of things that are positive and negative tangled up together! and even though I haven't actually been back there lately -- there is a lot of malice there, and there are also these amazing moments where people just connect to or support these other completely anonymous people!) It's just, like you say, so powerful. (I'm stealing your words because when I tried to think of my own I just started flailing about.)

(And also, interestingly, there is the part where what actually knows you is a networked machine-learning intelligence. And yet that doesn't take away the power of that scene.)

Date: 2016-08-08 05:57 am (UTC)
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
From: [personal profile] labellementeuse
haha that first house, I spent like 45 minutes drooling over it last night. so gorgeous. so unaffordable.

Date: 2016-08-08 02:00 pm (UTC)
isis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] isis
"Press Ann" is a story on the theme of machines/ai subtly controlling things in order to enhance (their favored) people's lives, which is why both stories reminded me a bit of it. A woman and her boyfriend are at an ATM to withdraw money for their date - it's her card, he's told her he's lost his - and the ATM displays increasingly strange and personal options. It's spare and clever, dialogue-only interspersed with the display on the ATM.

I read it in an anthology published in 1993 (that also included Bisson's most well-known story, "They're Made out of Meat"), so it's at least that old.

Date: 2016-08-16 08:46 pm (UTC)
snickfic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snickfic
I feel like the story would read really differently in 1998. Now I'm so used to the internet as it exists that sometimes it's hard to read stories that old and recognize them as prescient, rather than just a description of my life.

So the idea of almost a brotherhood of people you'd never met felt like just a natural backdrop to me. The part of the story that stuck out to me were the AIs, with their ambiguous motivations and enormous power. Of course, that's the part that's still novel today! Although maybe not as far out as I'd like to think, if I consider things like Google's customized search results and Facebook's opaque algorithms for what it shows you (aka yet another reason I'm not on Facebook).


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