Why are news outlets biased? You might think it’s some kind of sinister conspiracy, or the result of powerful people controlling what the masses think. I have a different opinion–it’s what the market wants.
People (conservatives, liberals, moderates, you, me, etc.) don’t like to hear stories that disagree with what they already believe. Whenever they do, they immediately get angry and suspect they are being lied to. Everyone knows this reaction as confirmation bias. If a news outlet violates a person’s confirmation bias enough times, they’ll stop going to a news source. Therefore, to be successful, a news outlet needs to cater to specific points of view.
If your sources of news don’t make you angry on a regular basis, you’re guilty of contributing to this effect. If you get all your news from John Stewart or Rush Limbaugh, you’re even worse. What can we do to combat bias in the media? Fight confirmation bias in ourselves.
If you’re a liberal, watch Fox news first. If you’re a conservative, watch a liberal show. Look for bias in what they say and what they omit. When you hear something that supports your beliefs, question it. If you’re a liberal who thinks conservatives are evil, or a conservative who thinks liberals are evil, hit yourself on the head until the bias goes away.
How to reject an author? How to crush those tender feelings of the sensitive artist? I’ve received a good number of “Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now” letters through the years. One of my favorites was a personalized rejection which contained the sentence, “We must be highly selective in adding to it [our list of fiction writers].” I kind of wanted to say, “Well, shoot, I appreciate the need to be selective, but couldn’t you make an exception just this once?”
I’ve also had a few rejections come back in under 24 hours (one in less than 30 seconds). I think it would be nice to add some kind of automatic delay in these cases. While I really do appreciate efficiency (I once waited two years for a rejection), it seems to me there’s a balance that might be struck.
Clarkesworld has this neat system where you can watch your story’s progress in the queue. Click. “Your story is 21st in the queue.” Click. “Your story is fifth in the queue.”
I wish all submission houses had this! It could fulfill the desire to endlessly check status (the same kind of joyful activity as checking the stock market or an Amazon sales rank). I’d like to see a few more steps added: “Story is being read,” “Story is being pondered,” “Story is being debated by the editorial staff.” These can be fake steps, of course, but I think they’d make the experience of submitting and getting rejected a bit more entertaining.
OK, I didn’t like blogspot as well as I thought I would. This will remain the place to go when you want to find out what I’m thinking.
I’ve decided to give blogger a try. You can find me at http://stevenrbrandt.blogspot.com.
I came across the story “You’re Not a Cop Till You Taste Them” while reading “On Combat,” by Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen. The story stuck in my mind because (a) it is a compelling and emotionally satisfying story, and (b) it is less than 1200 words. A link to the original is below:
More often than not, short stories leave me feeling unsatisfied, even when they’re more than 5000 words in length. I used to think that short stories left me flat because they didn’t have the space to develop 3-act structure or the time for me to invest emotionally in the tale. But “You’re Not a Cop Till You Taste Them” proved to me that a short story could truly satisfy. How did it accomplish its task?
I used to think of three-act structure as the essence of a story, but now I think it’s more a side-effect. My current theory is that a story is two decisions connected by a journey: the first is the “Fateful Decision” and the second is the “Climactic Decision.” The “Fateful Decision” is a decision made by the protagonist which determines whether or not there will be a story. The classic example is the Matrix, when Neo has to choose between the red and the blue pill. The “Climactic Decision” is also a choice between one of two things. One decision gives the protagonist an easy way out. He/she can get what she/he wants, but has to sacrifice his/her principles a little bit. The other choice is fraught with possible danger and/or martyrdom. When the protagonist chooses this option, he/she becomes worthy of achieving her/his goal and the resolution can follow.
The Fateful Decision in “You’re Not a Cop Till You Taste Them” comes in paragraph 5, when the protagonist decides to ask the tall grey-haired officer what it means to say you aren’t a hero till you “taste them.” We now know what the hero wants, and thus the story begins.
The Climactic Decision comes in paragraph 9, when the protagonist decides to stop and see if the little girl is having any trouble. Key details make this moment important: (1) only five minutes remain until the end of the shift, and it’s been a hard day, (2) there’s no good reason for him to think the girl’s in trouble. It would be easy for the hero to justify driving home and having a beer. By choosing to stop, he proves that he’s not just a good police officer, but an exceptionally committed one.
The rest of the story is resolution, the consequence of the hero’s choices. He gets what he wanted, namely to know what “tasting them” meant. It’s a hard price, and so when the grey-haired police officer assures the hero that, “There was nothing you could have done differently.” We feel the bittersweet reward in all its fullness. The hero is no longer a rookie.
Cold Days by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Harry’s problems escalate as enemy after enemy decides to focus its attention on him. Any one of them would be enough to challenge the powers of the wizard who wears the mantle of the Winter Knight and carries the power of soulfire, but the combination is overwhelming. And when Harry finds the connections between his many problems, the battle to the finish is filled with more reversals than a chicago politician’s stance on the issues.
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“The Woman who Changed her Brain,” was a fascinating read. It’s about a woman with profound learning disabilities who learned to overcome them. It’s also a book about learning disabilities in general, a list of the various types that stem from underdeveloped areas of the brain. My guess is that there are few people who can read through this list without finding they themselves have.
But the message is that we need to stop using strategies to compensate for our problems and develop exercises to strengthen our weak areas. By doing this, we can overcome them and become happier more successful people.
For the sake of an example, I’ll list a problem of my own. I have an eye-tracking problem which makes me read slowly and get tired easily when reading. To compensate, I usually put my finger on the page to help me keep track of where I am, and move my head rather than my eyes as I scan across the page. By doing these two things I make it easier to read, but I also prevent myself from learning to do better. Since reading the book, I’ve been practicing reading with my hand off the page and holding my head still, and it’s made a big difference.
Recently I was on a campout with the Cub scouts. Many of the boys were worried that there were Indians in the forest.
Naturally, like a good parent, I explained that (a) that the camp grounds are owned by the Boy Scouts and there are no “Indians” living there, and (b) the proper term is “Native American” since the people in question don’t come from India.
After that, I heard the boys talking about “The Indians that Don’t Exist.” Several of them claimed to have seen them, and one or two claimed that large fire ant mounds were actually poop left by “The Indians that Don’t Exist.”
Sometimes, explanations are less effective than you expect.
Dear Agent Name,
“The Turquoise Bones” is a 125k word young adult science fiction novel set in a bronze age culture on an alien world.
Apjay is a sixteen-year-old boy who belongs to a tribe known as the Astronomers, a people who believe in the stars even though they lost the ability to see them in the distant past.
When Apjay discovers a skeleton of turquoise bones with a gem inside the skull, he tries to give them a proper burial. Apjay’s father opens the grave, hoping to steal the gem, but instead he is caught and executed for his crime.
According to a vision from an ancient hero, Apjay’s father’s spirit will be damned unless Apjay completes a spiritual quest to see the stars–and Apjay not only loves his father, but feels guilt because his attempt to give the bones a decent burial led to his father’s death.
To succeed in his quest, however, he’ll need the help of the green-skinned girl who rose to life from bones Apjay found.
My name is Steven R. Brandt and I have a Ph.D. for studying simulations of rotating black holes from the university of Illinois, which informed the science fiction component of my story.
Thank you for your time.