Monthly Archives: August 2011

Today was a full day.

I worked a full day at my day job, wrote 1000 words on my new novel, made a header image for this blog, and still had time to watch the classic Star Trek episode “Amok Time.”

Now I’m ready to chill.

Social media is a hammer, not everything is a nail

Today, I met with my boss and a social media expert. Now, generally, I think of social media experts as middle-aged women on Facebook, as they are using the hell out of that medium, but this was the other kind, a guy who gives you advice on how to grow your business.

However, due to the nature of our business, there are only about a hundred specific people in the whole world who can actually help us to grow. My boss wanted to get them very specific, confidential information.

Social Media is all about being social. It’s about being honest and above-board. It’s a great place to put information you don’t mind sharing with the entire world, but it’s not a great place to put anything you never want anyone to see. It is not and will never be a good place to hide anything. That goes double for Facebook.

I’m talking to you, addressing the second person.

Things we read are almost always in two points of view, the first person, “I swallowed a fly,” and the third person, “The man swallowed the fly.” There is, however, that weird in-betweeny thing called the second person. “You swallowed a fly.”

I’ve tried to read pieces written in second person, but when I read, “You swallowed a fly,” I generally think, “I did? When did this happen?” They leave me feeling very uncomfortable.

Generally, it’s a good rule to stay away from this form in journalism and fiction. I’ve already covered the fiction part–remember when you swallowed the fly? But I also believe a journalist would rather say, “The GAO’s new report is shocking,” than, “You will be shocked at the new GAO report.” The first phrasing may imply how the reader should feel, but the second phrasing tells the reader how they will feel.

Second person, however, is acceptable in many places. In advertising: When you walk across the plush carpets, you will marvel at the old world craftsmanship of this quaint, three bedroom home. In songwriting: You and I travel to the beat of a different drum. And, in everyday conversation: When you listen carefully, you’ll hear it too.

So, when I saw yesterday that I had used the second person several times in my post on the subjectivity of humor, I thought about editing them out, as if I were a journalist. However, I decided not to. Because I’m not writing for a magazine, I’m having a conversation with you.

The subjectivity of humor

Last night for my book group, we read Headcrash by Bruce Bethke. To me, Headcrash is one of the funniest books ever written. It is raunchy, crass, and unhygienic. Just reading it made me develop a small rashIn 1995, Headcrash did something that almost no humorous books ever accomplish. It won an award, specifically, the Philip K. Dick award.

When the final vote was cast, we were rather split on our opinions, four likes to three dislikes. The amazing thing was that some of the likes and dislikes cited the same reasons for their respective opinions.

For instance, Headcrash is a great example of retro-futurism. It takes place in the Internet of today as all we World Wild Web pioneers thought the Internet would be when in grew up. (Instead of the haven for B2B networking and pictures of grandchildren that it has become.) In Headcrash, superusers live in a virtual world of fast cars and faster women that puts Grand Theft Auto to shame. To me, remembering what it was like to daydream about the future of the web in 1995, that’s really funny. To someone who didn’t get on the Internet until much later, that aspect was just a big question-mark.

Little BrotherSome people say that humor is all about showing someone something they don’t expect with the right timing. Other people say that humor is always about class warfare. But, to me, humor is about context. It’s a lot easier to enjoy the tongue-in-cheek comments in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother if you remember being a fifteen year old computer enthusiast than if you are in charge of teaching immature young adults. Just as you are more likely to enjoy Headcrash if you’ve ever hooked up with a person on a MUD without knowing for sure if they were a man or a woman. As the Bard said, “I’m from the Internet. Such things happen.”

Today’s Wine

Marques de Caceres Dry Rose 2008

My friend, Jose, is a pusher. He wants everyone in the world to learn about wine. A while ago, he asked me for help with his web presence. I insisted that I didn’t like wine, but he kept giving me a bottle here and a bottle there, insisting that I try a new vintage when I was in the store, slowly training my palate, so that I could appreciate the more complex flavors. Now I am hooked.

This Marques de Caceres is a great summer wine. It has the airiness of a rose, but the earthiness of a Granache, which is the red part of the blend. The cost is low, but properly chilled, it is very enjoyable.

So, who am I?

As the large-font header above might have clued you in, my name is Shannon Ryan. I write boring computer programs by day, and I write fantastic books by night. Now, I don’t mean fantastic as in wonderful, because I still have a lot to learn about the writing business. No, I mean that they involve vampires, and Greeks gods, and drunken spacemen.

So, why do I write? Well, the simple answer is that I have to. The more complicated answer involves a surly, drunken, eighteenth century Frenchman who has it in for Louis XVI, but that’s a whole other story.