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Here are some children's books about death. This season is a good time to open a topic that everyone needs to know about, in ways that are not too scary.

One of my favorites is The Hobbit. It's not primarily about death, but it has a lot of very thoughtful ideas about mortality and the utter foolishness of war. Among my best-loved bits is the parting between Thorin and Bilbo:

"Farewell, good thief," he said. "I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the Gate."

"There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!"

-- Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

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[personal profile] dialecticdreamer and I got into a fascinating discussion about when not to extend a scene, based on Part 3 of her story "Clearing the Air."  Scroll down to our comments and you'll see us picking apart why we both agree that Tran's part is finished, even though both of us have a tendency to extend scenes or revisit bit characters. I'm very gratified that we managed to pin it down.  This is a crucial thing to understand for writing complex storylines that may have multiple parts.  
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 Not every plot looks like an inverted checkmark.  Look at all these!
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 Explore the massive changes in peaches, watermelons, and corn over millennia.  Science is delicious!
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 [personal profile] dialecticdreamer has written the science fiction ficlet "Spinward" to someone else's prompt in the Creative Jam, but it's so awesome I wanted to share anyhow.  If you enjoy positive stories about human/AI partnerships, definitely give this a look.

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Oct. 19th, 2014 03:51 am
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Things I enjoy about my current life: not having to wear 5-40 layers of clothing.
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Here's an article about writing aliens who are really alien and not just funny-looking humans.  There are some good ideas.  But then there is this mistake which people keep making ...

This is a related argument to the issue that if someone creates a “real” alien, it might be so far off from what human minds can comprehend that no reader or viewer could get into the story.

*headdesk*  Do you have a cat?  A dog?  They are nonhuman, think very differently from us, yet most people have lived with one or the other.  Consider our interactions with horses, pigs, ferrets, elephants, dolphins, parrots, etc.  These are all animals we interact with.  We play with them, train them, talk with them, eat them, ride them, occasionally even have sexual contact.  My bet is that if we meet aliens, we're going to respond very much the same way: Can I eat it?  Fuck it?  Wear it?  Play with it?  Train it to work for me?  Experiment on it?  Decorate my house with it?  Will it want to do any of those things to me?

This is why I often use animals as inspiration for an alien race.  It gives me a basis of plausible biology to start with, and that suggests some things about its culture, how it might interact with people.  The aliens won't think like humans, but will think as sapient beings.  And humans will go right on being humans, the way we deal with the nonhumans we already know.

Another thing I do is bring in bits of far-flung human cultures, ones that many readers will be less familiar with than their local culture.  That's because other humans are usually weirder than so-called alien characters.  They have little quirks like Korean culture considering plans to be dangerous, or many Native American tribes counting a third (or more) gender, or the Canary Islands whistle-language Silbo Gomero.  So make sure you at least out-weird other humans.

One of my favorite, most-alien characters is Alakazam by M.C.A. Hogarth.  Imagine an empathic, fluffy person the size of a basketball who does not speak but does emote in helpful, usually pleasant ways and expresses preferences for certain people's company.  Sort of like a pet, but always with a sense of being deeper, more nuanced, and ineffably mysterious.  You don't have to understand it to like  it.
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Remember the old Spirograph? It was one of my favorite toys.  :D  Inspirograph is an online version. Bend over and kiss your time goodbye!
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[personal profile] dialecticdreamer has started posting the Polychrome Heroics story "Clearing the Air" in which Aidan offers to teach Danso how to drive.  Read Part 1 of 7. 
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[personal profile] dialecticdreamer has posted "Storm-Brought" from a previous Creative Jam.  This is a wonderful bit of science fiction featuring aliens hemmed in by a storm, one of whom finds an injured human afterward.
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Nina Paley is working on a new animated movie, Seder Masochism, and has posted a clip from it.  This is gorgeously macabre, with a vivid adaptation of Egyptian artistic motifs.  Watch for subtle details like the way bodies become partially then wholly skeletal as the Shadow of Death engulfs them.  Like her earlier movie Sita Sings the Blues, this one is crowdfunded rather than conventionally published, so there's a donation link under the clip if you want to support something more distinctive than Mr. Macho Blows Shit Up Part IX.
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Today's hilarious demifiction is "Corporation Sues Man!" by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, sequel to her earlier Polychrome Heroics story "Keeping Warm."  It shows the aftermath of a supervillain incident from the perspective of ordinary citizens.
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 [personal profile] kissofjudas has posted a call for prompts on the theme of "ghosts & spirits."  Leave a prompt, get the beginning of a spooky story.  Donations can extend the stories, and signal boosting gets you an extra prompt.

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