Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Stupid Author Tricks 1

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

The internet is a truly great resource for finding ways for authors to amuse/depress/aggrandize themselves. On the amusing end of the spectrum is Wordle, a nifty little app that will take any text and turn it into a tag cloud, like so (click image for the big picture):

This is the entire text of Brave New Words, minus the front matter, essays, and back matter. Which words show up most commonly is fascinating to me. There’re “sf” and “space” in enormous letters, as you’d expect. “Science” is smaller because I abbreviated all occurrences of “science fiction” in titles to “sf”, and “stories” shows up large because there are roughly a zillion SF mags and collections with that in the title. Some of the lexicographic furniture is pretty common, too — I was surprised to see “compare” so prominent. And I only see five last names — Silverberg, Heinlein, Anderson, Smith, and Asimov — that made the cut. As I said, an endless source of amusement (to me, anyway).


Saturday, August 9th, 2008

I just found out that I won the Hugo Award for Best Related Book. I’m obviously very thrilled. I wasn’t able to attend the convention, alas, but Mark L. Olsen of NESFA accepted the award for me. For those of you who weren’t there, this is the speech I wrote for him to say on my behalf (not really expecting that he would actually get to say it):

I’m deeply honored. This book was a labor of love, but it would not have been remotely possible without the contributions of literally hundreds of fans, and I would like to thank them for all their time and effort.  Thank you very much.

A conversation

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

“Hi, SF Community. How’s it going? Do you have any plans for today?”

“Funny you should ask! As it happens, I’m planning to spend today making fun of the VanderMeers and/or Tachyon Publications!”


Win a copy of BNW–but hurry!

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

I just found out that Grant Barrett is giving away a copy of Brave New Words on the website for his radio show “A Way with Words“.  But the contest ends at midnight EDT on Sept. 10th, so get your entries in fast!  (This is what happens when you move and therefore have no DSL for a couple weeks — normally I keep better tabs on these things and would have alerted you sooner.)

News of Earth-shattering Linguistic Importance

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

My daughter spoke her first word on Thursday.  It was “dog.”

Review from The Tensor

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I completely forgot to post this (I’m clearly falling down on the job of shameless self-promotion).  The Tensor wrote up a great review (complete with a couple antedatings — what more could a body want?) on his blog. There’s been a lively follow-on discussion, too — come join the fun!

Fun With Sophists

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Also in last week’s Sunday NY Times, the authors of Plato & a Platypus Walk Into a Bar (Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein) were outed for making up a quote they attributed to Tony Soprano.  Now, it was in service of making a joke, and it is a joke book, it’s probably OK as far as it goes (the Times did mention that the quote might be removed in future editions).  But they are also playing fast and loose with alleged dictionary entries, and that’s just plain wrong.  Here’s what they say:

Look up “metaphysics” in the dictionary and it tells you the word stems from the title of a treatise by Aristotle and that it deals with questions at a level of abstraction beyond (meta) scientific observation. But this turns out to be a case of what is known in Latin as post hoc hokum. In fact, Aristotle didn’t call his treatise “metaphysics” at all, let alone because it dealt with questions beyond the purview of science.

They then explain (correctly) that the title was given in the 1st century A.D. because that part of the work followed the treatise on physics.  There are so many errors in this, it’s hard to know where to begin. But we can always start with vague references to “the dictionary” (Jonathon Green calls this alleged book the “Unattributed Authorizing Dictionary”), which is a handy way of sounding authoritative without actually bothering to look something up.  (This is perilously close to an appeal to authority, in my book.) In fact, every dictionary that I checked (whose  etymology goes into any detail) notes that the name is due to the relative position of the treatise, and not because of its content, as the authors assert in the above quotation.  In fact, even the fictional dictionary quoted by Messrs Cathcart and Klein doesn’t claim that the title “metaphysics” has anything to do with the actual definition, which they imply in the last sentence quoted above.  It’s entirely unclear what this paragraph is doing in the book at all — it’s not part of a joke, like the false Tony Soprano quote, unless they were desperate for an excuse to use the phrase “post hoc hokum”; it doesn’t add anything to the discussion of metaphysics; and I’d think that the apparent disconnect between the etymology of “metaphysics” and its current definition is funny or at least odd enough to stand without recourse to a straw man. Besides which, one of the main features of a straw man is that it should be easy to knock down, but they don’t even manage to do that. So not only are they sophists, they’re bad ones (which is really the best kind, if you think about it). The book’s subtitle is “Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes”; perhaps it should be titled “Understanding Sophistry Through Jokes”.

Link mania

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Christopher Beha is reading the entire Harvard Library, in order, over the course of the year; I just found out about it, but since he’s on #20, he’s obviously been going for awhile. (This is the sort of nearly pointless literary project that warms the cockles of my English-major heart.) [via]

Helen DeWitt hath a blog.

Carl Burnett has started an online, collaborative, historical dictionary devoted to skiing terminology. This should be a great project — I love both specialty and historical dictionaries (big surprise there), so this pushes all my buttons.

One of the most remarkable things at the DSNA conference was a presentation on the creation of the Pictorial Websters, a beautiful art book that reprints illustrations from 19th century dictionaries. It’s hugely expensive, so I’ll not be buying one, alas.

Why Steve Lieber Rules

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

$209 Round Trip

Thinking out loud

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Irene at thinking out loud wrote this lovely post about her involvement with the OED SF project.  Irene is one of the many, many people who have made that project a success, so I’m naturally pleased that she enjoyed the book, too.