erinptah: (daily show)
Posting this before I actually sign up, spurred by the general Yuletide enthusiasm on FFA. (Also, there's a lot I can just c&p from last year.)

Hello, prospective future Yuletide writer! Thank you in advance for the fic you are about to embark on.

Pet Shop of Horrors, Home (Dreamworks), Fake News FPF )
erinptah: (Default)
The tag set for Yuletide 2017, the annual holiday small-fandom fic exchange, is out!

This post filters it down to the webcomics, along with all the available characters to offer/request. Scan it for old favorites that you've always wanted to read or write fic for...and as for the ones you've never heard of, now is the perfect time to give them a try.

Always Raining Here
Adrian Hlaváček, Carter Brooks, Jason Keller, Maria Wong

Spore Alien, Jessie

Demon of the Underground
Annie, Jasper Samsid, Merritt, Pogo

Digger (Comic)
Jhalm, Digger-of-Unnecessarily-Convoluted-Tunnels, Murai, Shadowchild

Dumbing of Age
Becky MacIntyre, Carla Rutten, Danny Wilcox, Dina Saruyama, Ethan Siegal, Sal Walkerton

An Easy Target
Choi Yule, Ha Kyung Soo

Elsewhere University
Antler Fae, Boy With Frog's Eyes, Girl With Hollow Back, Stolen Musician

Girl Genius
Axel Higgs, Bangladesh DuPree, Jenka (Girl Genius), Zeetha Daughter of Chump

Gunnerkrigg Court
Antimony Carver, Coyote, Katerina Donlan, Paz Cadena-Blanco, Reynardine, Robot

Hark! A Vagrant
Dr. Sara Josephine Baker, Nemesis, Pirate

How To Be A Werewolf
Elias Ross, Malaya Dysangco Walters, Marisa Salcedo, Vincent Dysangco Walters

Kill Six Billion Demons
Jagganoth, Nyave Anyadis, Allison Ruth, Cio, Incubus, Mottom, White Chain, Zoss

Anton, Beppe

Atlas May, Dorian "Zib" Zibowski, Elsa Bastion, Ivy Pepper, Mitzi May, Mordecai Heller, Nico Savoy, Serafine Savoy, Viktor Vasko

Lady of the Shard
Acolyte, Old God, Radiant Goddess

Leftover Soup
Carol, Ellen, Lily, Nicole

Leif & Thorn
Agent Delphinium, Matatuhi Kaihanga, Olive Romarin, Patotara Kaihanga, Rowan Muscade, Violet Dupont, Leif of Sønheim, Thorn Estragon

The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal
Amal Chakravarthy, TJ Freeman

Long Exposure
Javier Osorio, Jonas Wagner, Mitch Mueller, Scratch Dyer

Monster Pulse
Abel Elizondo, Bina Blum, Nancy, Wanda Lulenski

Alice Purcell, Emma Crewe, Selva Chopper, Warrick Chopper

No End
Jenna Reid, Jeremy Edison, Ramona Taylor, Tristan Khouri | Cotton

Orc Captain, Greir, Navaan, Snow Queen, Vanka

The Order of the Stick
Belkar, Bitterleaf Elan, Haley Starshine, Vaarsuvius

Questionable Content
Brun, Clinton Augustus, Elliot, Hannelore "Hanners" Ellicott-Chatham, Pintsize, Shame Orb, Yelling Bird, Bubbles, Faye Whitaker

A Redtail's Dream
Åsa Skärsholm, Ellu Viitanen, Hannu Viitanen, Jonna Kuikka, Joona Kuikka, Jouko Kuikka, Kielo Miettinen, Kokko, Paju Kinnunen, Riikka Skärsholm, Samuli Tiira, Swan of Tuonela | Tuonelan Joutsen, Ville

Riot Nrrd
Maria Ortiz, Nhi Nguyen, Samantha Jay, Wren Watanabe

Saint For Rent
Jingtian Demort, Kanon, Meilü

Czesia, Luba, Mojmira, Sambor

Sleepless Domain
Kokoro, Tessa Quinn, Undine, Zoe

Small Trolls
Jáhko Hammarström, Veeti Harmonsuo

Stand Still Stay Silent
Agneta, Emil Västerström, Ensi Hotakainen, Lalli Hotakainen, Mikkel Madsen, Onni Hotakainen, Reynir Árnason, Sigrun Eide, Siv Västerström, Tuuri Hotakainen, Kitty

Abel, Cain, Deimos, Praxis

Pink Haired Girl, Sphynx, Zoe Muggs, Ethel

Alan Benson, Allison Carter, Anne, Lisa Williams

Kyunghee, Sihyun

Unknown Code
Hammer the Pixel, Kim Bo Gang, Song Ji You, Yoon Phil

Wilde Life
Darcy Flores, Eliza Proctor, Oscar Wilde (Wilde Life), Clifford Norman

Year in Hereafter
Jaakko Ilmarinen, Mikael Lapintaival, Sakari Harmonsuo, Siiri Harmonsuo, Veeti Harmonsuo

Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic
Charlotte, Elzear'bith, Gren Razortooth, Lucas Greyfort, Cadugan, Clover Firelight
erinptah: Madoka and Homura (madoka)
Coal discusses: "is it okay for the author of a Yuletide-nominated original canon to write a treat?" With bonus "if you were the recip, how would you want that treat delivered?"

Challenging meme to find Characters Who Are Not At All Problematic (and then to figure out how they've actually been problematic all along).

The origins of the term "SJW", in serious detail, by someone who actually knows what they're talking about.

"What kind of summaries (on fic or anything else) actively draw you in?" Examples + advice.


Some anon filked Ozymandias, and I'm copying it in full for posterity:

I met a fan from an antique canon
Who said: "Two vast and readerless archives of fic
Stand in the internet...With them, in an lj comm,
Half f-locked, an abandoned meta discussion lies, whose detail
Tell that its writers well that canon read
Which yet survives, stamped in these activity-less things,
The troll comments that mocked them, and the juggernaut slash ship that fed:
And in the profile information these words appear:
'My name is Former Megacanon, Fandom of Fandoms:
Look on my fics, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The post- geocities and livejournal internet stretches far away.
erinptah: Cat in christmas lights (christmas)
Hello, prospective future Yuletide writer! Thank you in advance for the fic you are about to embark on. Here's a bunch of information to make it as easy as possible.

Oz books, Home, Fake News )
erinptah: (Default)
An excellent essay about darkfic and sexuality (cw: author discusses her own trauma/abuse history). Centered on Sherlock fandom, though the general ideas apply no matter what characters you're writing about.

I wanted to highlight this part:

If, instead of normalizing the existence of fics that portray noncon and underage, we make these themes taboo, if we pathologize them, if we require noncon works to be kept in a separate archive, if we insist that it be labeled with derogatory terms like “rapefic,” then what will happen is that writers who think that their work has “a bit of dubcon” in it will not tag it as such, in the hopes that it will fly under the radar and they won’t be banished to the leper colony with the filthy rapefic fans. This will have results that neither the responsible creators and consumers of noncon, nor the people who dislike it and categorically oppose it, want: that someone who doesn't want to see noncon will see it.

I wrote the above paragraph close to a year ago, and my predictions are already coming true. I have seen noncon and underage fanworks being posted without appropriate tags and warnings. Some of these inadequately tagged fics are being posted by the same people who accused me and my fellow gender politics panelists of being rape apologists and pedophiles. The creators of these works defend them as being somehow different than the works the so-called rape apologists create, because they themselves were underage when they drew the fanart or wrote the fic, or because the work features the right” pairing, or the “right” kind of non-consensual situation, or because they don’t “eroticize” the noncon aspect, or because there’s a sufficient amount of comfort to offset the hurt, or for any number of other reasons.

It's framed as a prediction, and maybe with respect to Sherlock fandom it is, but for fandom in general it's nothing new. I remember wrestling with the same kind of cognitive dissonance more than a decade ago:

"Okay, I like stories where characters get hurt, but that's a Bad Thing to enjoy. But I also like the emotional payoff when characters are rescued at the end! So when describing this, I should emphasize the rescue part. Imply that any scenes with pain and suffering are just a necessary evil on the way to the morally-acceptable payoff. Or, hey, maybe don't mention the suffering at all."

That mindset not only discourages people from warning for dark story elements, it stifles the general discussion about them, so that even if you want to warn, you can't pick up the vocabulary to do it well.

I remember one fic of mine -- it had a brief sex scene, and it was consensual, just incredibly unhealthy. Potentially very upsetting! And the only warning I put on it was a general sexual-content label. Partly because I was erring on the side of what looked more Morally Pure, but also because it was neither "non-con" nor "sex that is positive and affirming and healthy in every way" -- and I didn't have a handle on how to articulate the situations in between.

Fandom in general should be a place that helps people figure this stuff out, not a place where people get shamed and shouted down for trying.
erinptah: A map. (writing)
Fantasy hurt/comfort, about 15K words total. Split up over three parts. You'd get them one at a time.

It's a Leif & Thorn AU that's supposed to work as a standalone piece, so I'd like someone who hasn't read the comic to read and comment on how well that holds up. General feedback on SPAG, pacing, and emotional reactions would be cool too.

Drop a comment if you're interested!
erinptah: Madoka and Homura (madoka)
  • Drop off bread
  • Budget project doc
  • Home: dishes!
  • Saya stabs Homu in the throat
  • Voicemail
erinptah: Cat in christmas lights (christmas)
First December ever where I've had a full-time job throughout. Which is great financial-stability-wise, and not bad personal-fulfillment-wise, either.

As for Internet/artistic/fannish work...well, I only just finished with November's Patreon rewards, which gives you a good idea of how under-control things are -_-

Current art commissions are inching forward. Other art is...happening. Writing is almost entirely at a standstill. I've done a few hundred words here and there, but haven't had any blocks of uninterrupted thinking time long enough to finish anything. (Weekends keep getting broken up by tasks like "laundry" and "grocery shopping.")

BICP is in an important place story-wise, which means each page also requires a Block of Uninterrupted Thinking Time to do properly. On the plus side, I know exactly what the plot is doing right now! It just takes coordination to pull off. But I am keeping up the two-pages-at-some-point-every-week schedule, dammit.

Leif & Thorn's four-panel format means it's easier to come up with a few gags and get them sketched during my lunch break. And even that is kinda scattered right now. In the storyline I'm working on, I keep going "wait, there's something else that has to be revealed/established/joked about before the strip I just drew," and then backtracking.

Seriously, here's the current order of the strips in the sketchbook: 5, 6, 7, 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 4, 11, 12. At least with this strip there's enough of a buffer uploaded ahead-of-time that I can get away with it....

Did some holiday fanart sketches on the train this morning, too. Fingers crossed that I can scan and color them over the weekend.

(btw, if anyone wants to inject some insta-joy into my life, I would love for other people to draw fanart of BICP/L&T. If it's on Deviantart I will +fav it, if it's on Tumblr I will reblog it, and no matter where it is I will adore it.)
erinptah: (Default)

Patreon reward tiers have been revamped and bulked up! For everyone pledging $10 or more, there are stacking bonus rewards for all the months after your first -- and everyone pledging over $10 is guaranteed a free BICP cameo thrown in.

Milestone goals are new too. I've decided not to hold off on the Leif & Thorn sneak preview -- so look out for that to be posted in a few days. To replace it as the $50/month milestone, I'll draw a romantic pinup...of whichever two characters patrons vote for. (Will this lead to a crack crossover pairing? Only time will tell.)

If just 5 more people chip in with at least $5/month, we'll reach this one!

Also new: the promise of a BICP bonus story if we hit $100/month. And of course, there'll be a new wallpaper available at the turn of the month.

And hey, followers, are there any other rewards you would find particularly...motivating? Comment here and let me know!

erinptah: Madoka and Homura (madoka)
When you see this, share 3 random lines from 3 WIPs.


All the other Rimmer boys had volunteered, but not Arnie J., no sirree. There were plenty of young people in Two just chafing at the bit to be tributes; let one of those poor saps jump at the chance. And if by some stroke of terrible luck nobody did, well, that was just too bad for the chumps who get reaped, wasn't it?


Getting some pop out of the fridge and pouring it into a glass doesn't seem that fascinating, but Carlos watches like it's as complicated as one of his seismology lectures. Well, maybe it is, if you're muddled enough to not be sure how stop signs work.


Madoka is moonlight in comparison, subtle and ethereal. To Homura's eyes, the pale yellow on the front of her dress is the only touch of color in a silver-and-white ensemble, tied off with ink-black ribbons. She's a ghost. She's calligraphy.
erinptah: (daily show)
Meme: When you see this, make a post in your journal or in a community. It can be anything: a crosspost something you've posted on Tumblr, a few words about the last thing you read/watched, or just a "Hi, how is everyone?" Then go read your f-list and leave at least one comment.

People talk trigger/content warnings, including how to make them most useful and how to reasonably approach the fact that they can't cover everything (nor should have to).

Recent-upload statistics for both AO3 and Interesting to see what older fandoms are still churning along (Harry Potter: of course, Sonic the Hedgehog: wow, tween furry fandom is a powerful thing), and which are more popular on which site.

How people write and release WIPs. (Guest-starring my praise of Microsoft Notepad as a fic-writing program.)

The Best Writing Advice You've Ever Been Given. Lots of it is general, but it's good and thoughtful.

"Let's talk about works that used language barriers or linguistics to good effect. And about works that really should have but didn't. And works that tried and failed."

Related: writing fic for multilingual canons.
erinptah: Cat in christmas lights (christmas)
I think I'm finally not sick anymore! It's been down to a level of "sore throat + sleeping 12hrs/night" for the past week or so, but the sore throat actually seems to be gone, so fingers crossed for normal sleep too.


My WIP folder has a file named "5 nativity stories.txt" in it. Last modified on Boxing Day, 2012. The file is 92 bytes, and is literally just a list of fandoms. I no longer remember what the story for any of them was supposed to be.

And there weren't even five of them at the time, just four ._.

(Pet Shop of Horrors, Sailor Moon, Madoka Magica, and Death Note, for the record.)

I'm officially giving up on remembering, and am deleting the file. Just wanted there to be a memorial somewhere in the world that it existed.


(The least-recently-updated thing in my WIP folder was last touched in 2008. Don't ask.)


I'm so bad at deleting digital clutter.

When And Shine Heaven Now was maybe six months from ending, that was a big motivation to go through all my notes and doodles and half-baked ideas and say "okay, there is no more indefinite maybe some time I'll get around to this, it's either showing up in the next six months or it isn't getting used at all." And once you face up to the fact that you're never going to finish a thing, so no final product will be ruined by sharing the details, you can pull the summary/sketches into some kind of organized form and release them as-is.

Trying to let the end of TCR be the impetus to do that for a bunch of fake-news ideas. There isn't the same kind of deadline, it's not like the comms are going to close up shop after the final episode (three left to air, aaaahh), but, you know, any excuse for motivation.

Some files that might get mined and polished, rather than deleted, in the next week or two (including the date they were last updated):

--5KB of misc genderswap notes (October 2011)
--27KB of liberalverse misc notes + disconnected scenes (April 2013)
--like 80KB of an AU where my OTP are related (April 2013)
--1.7KB of half-finished filk (July 2012)
--31KB from an AU designed by [community profile] fail_fandomanon (worked on this last week, hah!)
--8KB snippet of dystopia, in which I hate at least half of it (September 2010)
--6KB of so-misc-I-don't-know-what-it-is (October 2013)
--Drawings from the next strip of Jon's JDate Adventure (October 2012)

...If anyone has a particular interest in one of those, feel free to vote that I work on that first! Otherwise I'll just tackle things in whatever order seems like a good idea at the time.
erinptah: (night vale)
There are all these things I want to say about the WtNV/HDM crossover, but I don't want to pile too much rambling in the author's notes. So here goes.

(Spoilers through Book 2, Chapter 22, in case you're coming to this later than it was posted.)


It was literally on this past Tuesday -- during all the traveling -- that I figured out the ending.

I mean, it wasn't completely up-in-the-air before, but as of Monday my plan for the big finale looked something like this:

1. [character arcs up to this point]
2. ????
3. some kind of epic battle idk
4. ????
5. good guys win! (somehow. costs+losses tbd)

And then by the bus ride home after TCR, I knew everything. Where the different parts of the battle are taking place, and what the goal is at each battleground. Where Cecil, Carlos, Tamika, and Dana are all positioned, what each of them is doing, and why it's important. The locations and roles of a bunch of secondary characters -- including the Man in the Tan Jacket, Fey, the Erikas, the rest of [whatever's left of] Carlos's team, and Janice. How to work in this one really cool Carlos moment that's been sitting in my notes file for months, waiting for context.

Plans are still subject to change -- there's always the possibility that one of these ideas will get discarded for a better one -- but a concrete, writable plan finally exists! Which is very exciting.


Also wondered the other day if I should actually consider breaking the story up into three books. Which is such cliché Trilogy Writing, having book 2 overrun its bounds like that. But there's just so much stuff that needs to happen. And that's just action-arcs that are planned out now, not stuff that will only become obvious during the actual writing.

I have zero good ideas for what to title a Book 3, though, so there's that.

Guess we'll have to wait and see how the pacing feels in another ten chapters or so. See if it still feels impossibly unwieldy; if there's a good, natural breaking point. (Really not interested in pulling the "hmm, just reached a major nailbiting cliffhanger, time to slap on a To Be Continued" cop-out.)


Sometimes, even when you're on a roll with the writing, it'll wheel off in a direction that isn't sustainable, and you have to yank it back on track.

That's been happening really often in the Christmas-with-Carlos's-family arc. When you leave Night Vale, all of a sudden there are serious limits on what you can write without incurring Extensive Real-World Consequences. Which would get in the way of Carlos getting back to Night Vale.

At worst, I got 3300 words into a sequence of scenes before realizing the whole thing had to be yanked out by the roots. (Basically, a more dramatic, action-packed "Magisterium agents are tailing Carlos" sequence. Trouble was, it had so much action that there was no plausible way to walk the characters out of it...without irrevocably getting the attention of the news, the police, and probably a whole bunch of lawyers. Carlos is on vacation here, and he's got to get back home and help save the multiverse soon; he doesn't have time to waste arguing with lawyers.)

And there have been little tangents and jokes getting axed right and left, because they were throwing off the pacing. At least a bunch of them can be saved to show up later.

Lots of potential family-related scenes just aren't going to happen. Lots and lots of them. Sequences that would be fun to write, so I keep having to step back and think, wait: the important thing about this pack of OCs is how each of them brings out new information about (a) Cecil's character, (b) Carlos's character, or (c) the worldbuilding. Does this scene do any of that? No? All right, take a deep breath and move that note to the scrap heap.

(I could probably write a whole chapter's worth of just Meta Commentary On Tumblr, In The Form Of Conversations Between Cecil and Carlos's Teenage Niece. Some people might even enjoy the read! But let's be real, it would mostly just get obnoxious fast.)

...maybe I'll repurpose some of these ideas for fluffy non-daemonverse family-vacation fic. Maybe I'll even write it when we're actually in the middle of the Christmas season, and not still gearing up for Halloween. Crazy idea, but it just might work.
erinptah: A map. (writing)
"What is your opinion about the use of italics for “foreign” words in fiction in general? How do you determine which words to italicize? To what degree it is a stylistic or political choice?"

The article there has a bunch of opinions from pro writers. Fic writers, what do you do?

Me, I'm thinking I'll keep using italics, and there's one reason carrying most of the weight: because on the Internet, not all your readers are going to have English as their first language, and ESL fluency levels will vary. If the second language coming up in the fic is one that they speak, great. But if it's not, they might just end up lost.

Anecdote 1: One time I had on Radio Junior, a kids' radio/streaming station that broadcasts primarily in French. My brother and I were both taking French in school at the time. The station changed songs, and he said, "You know, I was recognizing some of the words in that last song, but now I'm not getting anything at all." The new song...was in Italian.

Anecdote 2: Another time I went to the forums seeking help with a word I couldn't find in any dictionaries. Turned out it was a typo.

So it seems polite to signal "hey, don't stress about not recognizing this phrase, or not being able to find it on your translation website of choice -- it's a different language from the main text, and there may even be a translation at the end of the chapter."

Other fannish people, how do you handle this? Especially those of you who regularly read in a second language: what do you prefer?
erinptah: (night vale)
I keep drawing ahead of myself in the His Dark Materials AU. The WIP folder currently sports four finished illustrations that can't be posted for a while because of spoilers. (One with Cecil and his mom; one with Cecil and Kevin; one with Carlos; and one with a character whose very presence is miiiildly spoilery, although several people have seen it coming already.)

Writing a longfic with so many stable time paradoxes (future Dana tells past Carlos what future Carlos told past Dana to tell him, etc) is kind of exhilarating. And I've got a couple of lists to keep track of the order of everyone's relative timelines. But I do worry about writing the future!characters delivering lines that don't quite make sense by the time the narrative present catches up to them. We're just coming up on Dana's side of the visit to Cecil in the subway, and even though none of her established dialogue is outright wrong, some of it is...awkward.

And there's always the fear of "what if next month I come up with a plot twist that's really cool but totally undermines this one future!Carlos/Cecil/whoever scene already written?" So far, so good, but keep your fingers crossed.

Meanwhile: trying to write two very different AUs covering the same span of canon is mindbending sometimes. I keep having to stop and double-check which version of, say, Kevin's backstory applies to the scene I'm writing. Also, having to remember that the characters who regularly break into song can't have their daemons do the harmonies.


A couple of readers have asked general fic questions that ended up getting really long answers, so I'm gonna copy those out here. )


And on one final note: shipper anons of FFA, I salute you. (That would be the most awkward pairing ever, y/y. I'm imagining there's some particularly high-adrenaline Night Vale disaster, they both go for a kiss in the heat of the moment, and then they're both horrified and embarrassed and won't look each other in the eye for a month.)

(...while poor innocent Carlos is all "what's going on with you two? Did you have a fight? You remember that not fighting amongst ourselves is a very important part of our team-wide Keeping Fatalities Low strategy, right?")
erinptah: (daily show)
Had some thoughts about kinkfic recently, wanted to find out how common it was for other people to take their fic the same way.

Cut for discussion of fictional non-con. )
erinptah: (Default)
In a recent FFA subthread (that nobody replied to before the post ended, alas), one [non-me] anon wrote the following:

"HDM is a book about people *discovering* Dust, and fighting off evil Heaven & Church. But what longer term implications would discovery of Dust / invention of devices to see Dust have on 'modern' soceity - Mary & Will's world instead of Lyra's? I keep wondering if it could be commoditized/commercialized or technologically adapted into normal everyday 'present'-level-of-tech life, but I have no idea how."

And this is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, for purposes of a certain AU.

Our heroes are in Lyra's world, but, well, let's just say there might be a stopover in Mary & Will's world planned at some point. It's 120 years in the future of HDM, which means Will's world has had a working amber spyglass for 120 years now. For purposes of this discussion, they also discovered how to reproduce it -- so maybe not everyone has a personal amber spyglass, but like an airport security scanner, you could buy one if you wanted to. And this has been the case for so long that the long-term social implications have shaken out by now.

Thoughts so far:

The one immediately-useful property of Dust is that if you watch how it moves around someone, you can discern their intentions. When Mary looked at one of the mulefa, who was a mother keeping an eye on her playing child, she described the Dust as "the very image of responsibility and wise care."

It's very general, not enough to make the spyglass a mind-reading device, but I bet it would be enough to use for security purposes. No more invasive full-body scans or pat-downs when you're getting on a plane -- all you have to do is walk in, with a couple of security officers scanning the entry point through their amber spyglasses for people whose intentions are bad.

If it's specific enough, you can also use it as a lie detector. Put someone on the witness stand, ask them a question, and watch to see if their intentions are closer to "be honest and open" or "lie and scheme" as they answer.

I see that having complications, though. For instance, if a defendant is lying to hide something other than the crime they've been accused of. ("I didn't rob that bank...but I can't give them my real alibi, because it involves sleeping with my best friend's husband!") I don't think Dust-vision is so detailed that it can tell the difference.

And what about people who genuinely don't understand that they did something wrong? The US already lets way too many white people let off the hook for shooting unarmed people of color, on the grounds of "what matters is that you decided you felt threatened, not whether your victim was doing anything threatening!" Lawyers are going to have to adapt to a whole new level of argument: not trying to convince the judge/jury of a person's presumed intentions, but trying to convince the judge/jury of the meaning of their confirmed intentions.

(It would be nice to think your average trigger-happy gun owner could have an amber spyglass of their own, and check to make sure the person they're about to shoot is really someone they need to panic about. On the other hand: if they shoot anyway, then once the victim is dead, the shooter can claim they saw whatever intentions they want, and there's no way to double-check.)

It's a powerful tool as a general people-spotter. Think of every situation where you would use infrared goggles to track people -- except these don't indiscriminately pick up heat sources, they pick up adult humans far more brightly than anything else. Good luck sneaking across a border, or hiding in the woods, or going unspotted as an assassin creeping through the shadows.

In the hands of a totalitarian ruling power, it's all too easy to use your amber spyglass for evil. Your freedom-loving dissidents may be great actors, but you have a foolproof way to see who's loyal and who isn't.

There's a hell of a lot of potential invasion of privacy in the hands of average citizens looking at each other, for that matter. Which is why I don't like the idea of making them so common that everyone and their dog has one. Would there be legal usage standards, similar to the way you legally have to get people to sign permits before filming them for publication? Limits on places of usage? Limits on who gets one? Do the cops need a warrant to look at you through one?

In the hands of the people aimed at their government...well, you're going to get a lot of politicians thrown out of office if enough voters get a sight of what conniving scumbags they are. Hopefully you can find replacements who genuinely care about the good of the public and are intelligent and capable enough to run the country. There would be an amazing amount of upheaval if amber spyglasses went public in a big way, but eventually it would stabilize, so the only people making it into high-level politics in the first place are the ones who are visibly in it for the right reasons.

Long-term -- in the most hopeful scenario, where the spyglasses are funneled toward people who will use them for good -- it could push humanity toward being better, not just better-governed.

Not because people will magically learn to be kind and generous when they know their meanness and selfishness is visible. But because people who start out inclined towards kindness and generosity will be less likely to get burned-out on "no good deed goes unpunished, might as well stop trying." Social support will be able to flow toward people based on how much they care, independent of charisma or how good they are at making you believe they care.

As a more mundane cultural thing, I can see "the moment you start attracting adult levels of Dust" (i.e. the point when your daemon settles, in universes where people have visible daemons) becoming a growing-up milestone. Maybe even supplanting traditional coming-of-age ceremonies. Something like a bar/bat mitzvah could start happening when an individual reaches that point, rather than just happening with everyone's 13th birthday.

And that just covers the known properties of Dust. The fanon possibilities are endless.

One that I'm not necessarily writing, but would love to read: what if, like electrons, Dust particles can be used for energy purposes? Could we get some kind of source of green energy by setting up generators in hubs of thought/creativity/learning/support (the various human actions that generate Dust), like classrooms or museums? Utopian version: what if it could be made efficient enough that you could, say, power a car by listening to a history lecture while driving?

...So that's all the angles I've managed to ponder so far.

Would really love other people's thoughts and ideas. It's such a cool prospect, but really intimidating to try to work out in detail.

October 2017

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