They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

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What Are These People Thinking?

We Can't Believe the Response of Some

After yesterday's post on the Clarion West laptop thefts, I looked at some of the comments on some other blogs, and Mrs. Dr. Phil and I cannot understand some of these.

Read some of the comments on jimhines Jim C. Hines blog and Cory Doctorow's Boing Boing posts and tell me -- am I overreacting?

"Are there no poorhouses? Are there no orphanages?"

Get a pencil. Use a computer center. Shakespeare didn't have a laptop.

Uh-huh. And if your car is stolen, is it appropriate to point out, in the spirit of the Fourth of July over which this incident took place, that Thomas Jefferson rode a horse and never needed a car? I don't get it.

You're at an intense six-week workshop, perhaps the most intense and concentrated writing experience of your life, and something like this happens. Even if you have the rider on your house or renter's insurance, you're in Seattle, away from policy numbers, phone numbers, serial numbers -- you don't need this crap on top of your life. And some people who understand wanted to help out. Is that so hard? So wrong?

I Tried Hard To Keep Out The Snark...


From the Boing Boing post:
#24 posted by drphil , July 5, 2008 11:29 PM

DIAMATRY @ 16 covers the basics for the Clarion workshops pretty well. I attended the 2004 Clarion in East Lansing MI.

(1) Clarion isn't just about writing, it's about reading. We had 18 writers and since we averaged over 1 story a week each, that means that each week not only were we writing our own story, we were reading some 17 other stories. Having the stories printed in Standard Manuscript Format makes it a lot easier to wade through all this.

Yes, you can write a story longhand and some people did. But at some point it needs to be typed up and printed. I typically printed out one or two drafts per story for hand editing.

Then there are the research notes, web access for research, etc. Changing gears in the middle of a grinder like Clarion would NOT be fun.

(2) As I understand it, in the typewriter days, the writers would take their typed stories and tape it to the walls in the hallways -- and the others would walk up and down the halls, often writing notes.

(3) Clarion has been described as a six-week bootcamp for writers. Or a massive experiment in sleep deprivation. It's the hardest single thing I've ever done -- and easily trumps writing and defending my doctoral dissertation in applied physics.

Most attendees take months to recover from Clarion -- some never write again. You don't always know who is a Clarion grad because it concentrates on short story writing. By the time you're publishing novels, you aren't necessarily listing short story writing workshops in your bio. (grin)

Poking at Clarion West attendees for not having full backups, not having their laptops on their bodies at all time or being too coddled to "write like real writers used to write" -- is singularly not productive. By the time you get through the first week, you're too tired to think straight. It's that tough.

Dr. Phil

#25 posted by drphil , July 5, 2008 11:39 PM

Another thought:

Computers are remarkably reliable when you think about it. We had problems with printers at the 2004 Clarion and setting up WiFi connections to the sorority house net access, but I don't recall anyone having a significant computer hard- or software failure that someone in the group couldn't resolve in a short time.

Had one person have a computer fail during Clarion, we had people with a spare computer or laptop.

But four stolen laptops? If they have 20 attendees, that's one-fifth of the whole group. It's not only devastating to those four people, but disruptive to the whole workshop.

Not fun.

Dr. Phil

From the Jim C. Hines post:
Every Clarion class is different. But the one constant is the energy you get from working around other writers. I'll bet that if your Clarion used the computer lab, you weren't the only one there. At the 2004 Clarion, we had people work in their rooms if they wanted, as well as sprawled on the furniture around the sorority house, with pad-and-pencil or laptops.

To change systems in the middle of the workshop wouldn't be fun for those affected. Would those writers survive without some outside help? Sure. They might. And the Marines used to teach swimming in bootcamp by tossing recruits in the deep end of a pool -- and those who needed to be rescued from drowning were "washed out" of the Marines.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Jul. 6th, 2008 07:01 am (UTC)

I'm neither saying that they are drowning or starving -- or should be treated as such. What I am saying is that I am somewhat amazed at some of the hostility or disbelief I've read on some other sites regarding any response to this issue which has directly affected a significant percentage of the Clarion West class this year.

"A quill pen was good enough for Shakespeare" is one argument I've seen elsewhere -- and not all that germane IMHO. The Marquis De Sade resorted to writing in his own blood when ink was denied him. That's not what's happening here, but I also sure wouldn't want to write out all my stories longhand in 2008, simply to satisfy someone else's expectations.

Yes you can work in a public computer center. When it's open. And when you can work in a fishbowl. Some people can't. And in a few years that too may become a moot point as colleges are looking at getting rid of those expensive computer labs in favor of servers and expecting students to have laptops and thin clients to access remotely -- oh wait, that wouldn't work if your laptop were stolen, would it? But as I said, that's in the future.

Urgency? Last time I checked Clarion still only lasts six weeks and new (or new to you) laptops aren't necessarily set up to be useful on Day 1, Hour 1. Yes, you can write a novel in Wordpad or on a Blackberry, but it wouldn't necessarily be fun. To get back to the business of writing and critting in an orderly and timely manner would be best for those participants. Asking for assistance, whether from Clarion West or people on the outside, is simply that. This is going to be a plea to a fairly limited community. Some will be moved to make a contribution, some would like to but are too tight on resources, some can ignore the whole thing.

As for backing up and protecting oneself against the day when it WILL become necessary, you're (a) preaching to the choir here and (b) preaching to the empty barn after the cows have left. Of course there are easy, cheap and even free ways of doing things. But there is no requirement that SF/F writers actually have to be technologically savvy -- a laptop is first and foremost a tool. One just reliable enough that many people take it for granted until it poops out or some idiot decides to appropriate it.

And I suppose that's the bottom line. There are lots of evils in the world and each one of us is only going to be able to address a few of them. Saying "Wow, it would suck to be at Clarion and have this happen to me, maybe I can help" is one of those.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Jul. 6th, 2008 05:43 pm (UTC)


And from the Clarion West FAQ page:
Do I have to stay in the dorm?

Yes. Clarion West now rents out a sorority house for the duration of the workshop and we are charged rent based on the number of students in the workshop. As a nonprofit organization, we can't afford to pay rent for students who live off-site. Besides, living in the house together is an integral part of the Clarion West experience, and in the past students who didn't live in the dorm regretted it. They missed the midnight runs to the pancake house, the best gossip (which always happens after midnight and at odd times on the weekends), not to mention the "running down the halls screaming half-naked because the damn character just did something weird and the story is due tomorrow morning" bonding moments. They missed the opportunity to hang out with the instructors at meals and when they stopped by the living room for an hour, and missed chats with famous authors who stopped by for a visit. And, hey, who wants to miss that kind of fun?

Many Thanks

To Cory Doctorow, Jim C. Hines, Jay Lake, Cherie Priest, Nick Mamatas and others who helped pass on the info. And to those who could donate, or thought about donating, to help out.

To writers who think they might be interested, those who have been through the grinder (grin) or who would like to support those who might in the future, I give you the links to The Clarion Workshops: Clarion, Clarion West and Clarion South (Australia). Plus the related Milford workshop in the U.K. and Odyssey here in the States.

To be fair, most of the people questioning the merits of the "call to arms" (call to alms?) were not writers or had not done a Clarion. Some wondered whether Clarions produce any good writers. Some suggest... Naw, the hell with the asshats... these postings weren't meant for them anyway.

Feel free to disagree with me. Just get the hell off my lawn.

Dr. Phil
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