History nerd, reader, writer. Main worries: Extreme poverty, X-risk, metaphorical X-risk in the form of a war that is not an existential risk to humanity as a whole but still kills me and everyone I know.

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[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] The Reset Button

I actually read the protagonist as 'probably suffering from radiation poisoning, might be about to literally die from the next bomb or the building collapsing' as of the moment before they hit the reset, so I would see such planning as irrational rather than sensible - a little information might help, but not if it risks your life (which is what you're thinking about if you're selfish) or the fate of the world (which is what you're thinking about if you're selfless).

Light Before Darkness

It makes some sense? The added thing makes everything more confusing, though.

Reading what you say feels like I'm reading words that have been translated out of a foreign language and culture, or are writing in 17th-century English by a 17th-century author, or maybe you're a time traveler from the 22nd century and there's been linguistic drift since then? Or maybe you're a Zen monk and speak in koans? It isn't that I feel your culture is inconsistent or anything, it's just that you seem to be using words as if they had obvious secondary meanings and connotations that they don't have in my language.

Light Before Darkness

I'm sorry, but, having read it, I don't know what your religion is.

This is a serious statement: I don't actually know what you're trying to say, after having read it. I don't even know what you mean by writing-against or writing-towards.

I think you may be slightly understating the extent to which the transparency illusion applies.

EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $10,000 in prizes for good stories

Also, different comment that I'm kicking myself for not bringing up until now:

The Submission Grinder is a website that tracks places where people who write SF&F can submit stories. If you can get listed with them, that ought to bring more attention to the contest. 

Here's the link:

[Creative writing contest] Blue bird and black bird

Ah, but are there a thousand hacking at the branches of evil for each one who thinks they are striking at the root?

Light Before Darkness

I'm afraid my downvote wasn't articulate, but instinctive: It seemed like it wasn't actually saying anything, just being philosophical for the sake of being philosophical, or poetic for the sake of being poetic. I can't actually figure out how to translate it into what I think of as 'plain English'; I can't give a one-sentence summary of the themes, or of what you're trying to say, and it didn't reach the extraordinary  (staggering) level of poetic beauty that would make me upvote it anyway, just because I enjoyed the words as music without knowing their meaning.

This isn't saying that there is no meaning! People don't usually say things that they think mean nothing. Just that I got no meaning out of it, and hence, if someone vaguely like me was going around saying "You know this EA thing? I'd kind of like some fiction to help me intuit how it works," I would not recommend it to them.

[Creative writing contest] Blue bird and black bird

See, the thing is, I can't find any improvements because the entire premise feels to me inherently propaganda-ish. I'm sorry, I can try to break it down into more detail, but I suspect that it will be unfixable for me.

I'm going to try to rank the main bullet points of my discomfort in order of how important they are, most to least.

• I feel very uncomfortable with the entire dynamic of a 'right way / wrong way' pair. Partly this is because of individual cases where people using it ticked me off, but fundamentally it is that the idea of the character 'who exists solely to be wrong' makes me uncomfortable. Even if he isn't a strawman, he makes me uncomfortable.
• • The spiritual equality of humanity is a fundamental... not religious but sub-religious belief for me? The kind of thing you make religion out of, or that determines which religions feel right to you? Starting with the statement "all people are equally valuable" implies "in representative fiction, all people ought to be equally valuable to the extent to which the work is attempting to be representative of people's mental and spiritual states." That's why, e.g., the Sharpe series will never be a favorite of mine - because there are all these horrible people who exist so the protagonist can be better than them.
• • Worse: My natural instinct is always to support the underdog. There's a part of my brain that thinks that the underdog must be right, purely because he is the underdog. And the ultimate underdog is the one where the entire universe is opposed to him; the character created to be wrong therefore has the highest level of underdog power humanly possible, far exceeding normal victims, who at least have the author's sympathies, or actual villains, who might win partial victories or get awesome scenes; the Bad Example is doomed by the nature of the universe he lives in, and is therefore the character my underdog instinct must make me support.
• • The only exception I can think of to this general principle is Yudkowsky's "Inadequate Equililbria," but that's because Simplico gets some very good lines; he genuinely makes good arguments for his position, even though the author disagrees with it. But you, in your situation, can't give the bluebird better lines, because you are writing an extremely short, extremely simple parable, and witty dialogue or complicated back-and-forth arguments would spoil the whole effect. 

• The general style of it - soft, beautiful art, accompanied by largely one-syllable words in that specific kind of style and formatting - immediately suggested something aimed at small children. (2-5) This, to me, implied two things - first, that it would treat its audience like children, and second, that the material would be presented for children. But:
• • I didn't like being treated like a child when I was a child, and I still feel lingering discomfort about anything that treats me like a child.
• • I dislike simple analyses of complicated topics, and by this work's nature, it has to be a simple analysis, because you're either aiming it at small children or making it look as if you are.
• • I dislike the idea of giving propaganda to small children, so I'm going to feel more negatively about any propagandistic elements that exist; this is a magnifier, not a source, but it's definitely a magnifier.

• I am not, personally, a vegetarian. I'm inside EA, but only inside the first circle; my belief in the fundamental equality of humanity, combined with historical knowledge that helps me realize how terrible the lives of people in the third world are, leads me to believe that obviously third-world charity is more important than first-world charity, and clearly other people who are worse off can use the money more than I can, I have a reasonably comfortable life even by first-world standards. And I worry about X-risk literal and metaphorical because history is terrible, and I see insufficient reason to assume it won't continue to be. But I have not yet been convinced of animal rights even to the extent of vegetarianism. I agree that I ought to carry out a serious investigation; the serious investigation is currently in the queue behind a serious investigation of what religion, if any, is true, and I am not seriously altering my actions prior to the investigation for Pascal's Mugging style reasons. But as a result of that, any attempt to preach vegetarianism to me is automatically going to trigger my brain's 'defend beliefs' module, which will run a quick check to determine if this is the kind of argument I need to take seriously or if it (a) puffery or (b) emotional manipulation, and almost any argument that doesn't fit the 'serious analysis, making strong arguments, responding to my concerns, and logically explaining why I am wrong' pattern is going to end up in one bin or the other.
• • This wound up in the 'emotional manipulation' bin, partly because I'd already been feeling emotionally manipulated by the first few panels, partly because of the aimed-at-children style, and partly because it felt as if it was executed with too much craft to be puffery. But I dislike emotional manipulation, vegetarianism is a political cause, and emotional manipulation for a political cause is propaganda.
• • So, stacked on top of all my other issues, this resulted in my initial comment, an attempt to convey 'this strongly didn't work for me' while attempting to be as polite and informative as possible.

Again, I'm sorry. I can explain what my reactions were, I can analyze and dissect them, but I can't explain how the story could be altered to avoid triggering them because the problems seem to me to be fundamental to the nature of the artwork, and I cannot imagine an alternate design for the artwork that would not feel to me as if it shared these problems. This doesn't mean it's impossible, but it means it is beyond my level of skill to achieve. 

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] [Referral] A Common Sense Guide to Doing the Most Good, by Alexander Wales

My specific worry is about people coming to the conclusion that it is "a problem with EA," or "a problem with consequentialism," instead of "a problem with organizations," and thereby making people who hadn't heard of EA becoming more negatively (instead of more positively) inclined towards it.

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] The Reset Button

I am a writer (though not a published one) and I second his judgement. I felt brief disquiet at the line he commented on, but didn't analyze it until I read his post because the story as a whole had still worked very well for me. I think the change makes a good story better, and I thank both Steve for suggesting it and Joshua for implementing it. 

[Creative writing contest] Blue bird and black bird

Aaargh I completely did! facepalm

Sorry about that.

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