Like the Apprentice System, But No Mentoring. Or Food.

Should first-time novelists be paid? (hat tip Mur Lafferty)

Wow, I’m glad my first manager didn’t have this perspective. “Congratulations, you’re hired! Of course, we have little reason to expect big returns on your first job. And hiring someone like you, from an economic perspective, is hardly worth our time. As the party who puts money into the costs of training, a cubicle, a computer, heating and lighting, and a FrameMaker license, we’re the ones who stand to lose the most. Therefore, we’ll start you out at a salary of $0 with no benefits. If things go really well, after twelve months we might revisit your contract. How does that sound, kid?”

Who out there has such poor self-esteem and business sense that they would buy this argument?

And don’t say “graduate students”, that’s not funny.


Oh yeah, I forgot! I have this “web” “log” thingy.

So… Potlatch! Potlatch was great. Several other VP X alumni attended: Bart, Mac, Lucy, and Barbara. This meant I had a safety net of friends in case the other children were mean to me, although it turned out the other children were all perfectly nice. I had drinks with friends, visited Powell’s Books and VooDoo Doughnuts, even attended a panel here and there. And I saw Ursula K. LeGuin in the flesh! I didn’t go so far as to introduce myself, since I didn’t have anything to say to her other than, “I-read-Earthsea-when-I-was-9-and-I-think-you’re-awesome.” No doubt she’s heard quite enough of that.

I also ran into Janelle, who I last saw over a decade ago in college. All Saturday, I kept looking at her out of the corner of my eye, “Geez, that person looks really familiar,” while she was wondering the same thing all day as well. Janelle actually came to her first Potlatch with no safety net of friends, which makes her a heckuva lot braver than me. I also met TexAnne from Making Light, who saw the name on my badge and tapped me on the shoulder. Having a unique first name + last name is awesome. Great for email addresses, User IDs, screen names… thanks, Mom and Dad and Ancestors!

All in all, Potlatch was a great time. It was really fun to be around so many people with such a deep and rich sense of the genre and its history. I hope to come back.

We’re from the Silicon Valley, We’re Here to Help

Earlier this week, M’ris called me at work to let me know that there was a glitch with the big group dinner she had planned at La Bodeguita del Medio. They couldn’t take reservations for a party our size. “Oh…” I said. And then the little platters in my brain started spinning…

SELECT * FROM Restaurants WHERE Ambience LIKE ...

“No, no,” said Marissa, breaking my concentration. “I’ve found another restaurant that can seat all of us.” Later on at the dinner she told me (paraphrasing), “Even though you hadn’t said anything yet, I could tell you you were going into Helpful Bay Area Mode, and I had to stop you.”

I had always thought that the spinal reflex to leap in and start solving problems (even the ones that don’t necessarily need solving) was more of a engineering thing, or maybe just a plain old male thing. But it could be a Bay Area thing as well. It’s hard for me to see my own culture clearly, since I’ve been marinating in it for thirty years.

Coincidentally, that same night I caught the end of a roundtable discussion on the radio about the valley and solar power companies. The moderator was John Doerr, the panel included folks like T.J. Rodgers and other such big cheeses. And as you might expect, it was a virtuoso performance of valley optimism. Green power is coming! This is the first time we’ve built a new world energy infrastructure in the last 100 years! And when it comes to designing and deploying this new infrastructure, we are gonna make shitloads of money and save the planet and totally kick Europe and China’s ass in this new trillion dollar market! But if for some almost inconceivable reason they beat us, the whole world wins anyway, so let the games begin!

It was pretty awesome. So we’re gonna tech our way out of this mess. Build absurdly cheap and efficient solar panels. Reconfigure the Main Deflector Dish.

The thing about the Bay Area is that we are not only selected for efficient transmission of this virus, but we are also selected for lack of immunity. For a moment even I started thinking, yes! Of course! The World of Tomorrow will be all about this stuff! I will quit my current job right this second and join a solar power startup! And … spend seventy-five hours a week documenting silicon processing and manufacturing techniques. Hmmm. The moment passed.

But still, I couldn’t help smiling on my way home from the restaurant in my 30 MPG carbon-spewing vehicle. Being helpful. This is the Way of my People.