Tag Archives: useful terms

Back to Riverside: Some thoughts on Swordspoint

My book group‘s selection of the month, which we’ll be discussing later this week, is Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint – a book that was one of the best things to happen to me twenty years ago or so. This isn’t the only time I’ve picked it up since it first rearranged my head back in the ’90s, but it’s been a while.

Returning to an old favorite, especially one from your teenage years, is a dodgy prospect; you’re never quite sure if the Suck Fairy‘s been at your toys while you were away. In this case, I needn’t have worried. If anything, it’s a book I find more to love about now, if only because twenty-plus years of thinking about stories and language and fantasy have given me a better appreciation for all the things Kushner does right.

(Beyond the cut: prose, plotting, incluing, interstiality, subtext, switch-hitting heroes, and mild spoilers)

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The Parable of the Fruit Punch Czar: A meditation on power, responsibility, and community

As fortune, good or ill, would have it, I picked the weekend before a busy and hurried week to launch this blog, and have not had the time I’d have liked to follow up with a post of any substance. In the interest, then, of not letting this field lie fallow overlong, allow me to point the Gentle Reader to someone else’s excellent thoughts.

I have Making Light linked over in the sidebar under the Essentials category of my blogroll. For almost nine years it’s been one of my very favorite places on the Interwebs; though I’m not the active commenter there I was years ago, it’s still one of the sites I make sure to check in on regularly even when I don’t have time to run down every interesting online rabbit-hole I’d like to. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Making Light is the weblog of SFF editors Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and their friends and fellow-travellers, swelled by a host of excellent commenters (who refer to themselves collectively as the Fluorosphere). For people who enjoy smart and eye-opening discussions of writing, art, fandom, language, communities, politics, publishing, and a host of related subjects, there’s no other place quite like it.

So here, from last weekend, is a small taste of what makes ML great: Teresa’s tale of the Fruit punch czar, a distillation of patterns observed in the delegation, assumption, and transferrence of responsibilty. It’s framed in the community of SFF fandom, but describes a phenomenon that’s all too universal. Like many of the things the Nielsen Haydens and company write about, it has the effect of condensing a lot of small ideas you might not have known you knew into something fascinating and revelatory. And, like almost everything Fluorospheran, the discussion in the comments is at least as good and illuminating as the post itself.

For me, having been through changes in a lot of organizations (professional and otherwise), and having observed several of the weird and uncomfortable things that can happen when a role is passed from the person who defined it, this is an enormously useful bit of terminology. Certainly I’ve seen a lot of batons passed in situations where it might have helped to be able to say “Uh-oh. This is a Fruit Punch Czar in the making.” It’s hard to say how much just having that knowledge can prevent such things from occurring, but, jeeze, it sure couldn’t hurt.