Inspired | October 2019

Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in October: stories that are neither character- nor plot-driven, the good guy/bad guy myth, thoughts on digital privacy, the history of women’s restroom lounges, and more.

On the Many Different Engines That Power a Short Story by Lincoln Michel: “Character and plot are fine, reliable engines. You can put them in your novel draft and, with a good amount of luck, drive it to the bestseller list. But they are only two ways of powering a story.”

What Fan Fiction Teaches That the Classroom Doesn’t by Julie Beck: “Fan fiction, then, is a way to instantly get extensive amounts of targeted feedback in a low-stakes environment where, unlike at school, no one’s being graded.”

Musings: Why Do People Read What They Read by Charlotte (moonraker)

If you follow me on twitter, you will know I have very very little patience for “where is all the f/f” tweets that crop up about once a month. Because it’s there if you look, it’s not like there’s this gaping great hole of no f/f. So the question isn’t so much where are the books as why don’t people read the books.

Your Hypocrisy About “Realistic” Teens in YA: Why Do You Hate Us For Being Too Much of a Teenager, but Also Too Much of an Adult? by May: “If teenage characters aren’t allowed to be “too teen” or “too adult” in teen books without people complaining about how “unrealistic” that is, then what’s to say about teenagers in the real world?

The good guy/bad guy myth by Catherine Nichols

Good guys stand up for what they believe in, and are willing to die for a cause. This trope is so omnipresent in our modern stories, movies, books, even our political metaphors, that it is sometimes difficult to see how new it is, or how bizarre it looks, considered in light of either ethics or storytelling.

My Decision: No Amazon release for Tales Anthology by Jeannie Lin: “Amazon doesn’t need a small-fry like me. But if I keep on insisting that I need Amazon…where does that leave me? What do all the letters and posts and tweets calling to #EndFamilySeparation and #AbolishICE amount to then?”

Are Your Photos Safe in the Cloud? The Real Cost of Using these Services by Simon Ringsmuth: “However, if you value data privacy, you might want to think twice before uploading your images to popular online services.”

What Google knows about you may be a shock. Here’s how to manage or delete your activity by Dale Smith: “We’re going to cut through all the clutter and show you how to access the private data Google has on you, as well as how to delete some or all of it. Then we’re going to help you find the right balance between your privacy and the Google services you rely on by choosing settings that limit Google’s access to your information without impairing your experience.”

What’s the Point? by Michael Chabon

Maybe art just makes the whole depressing thing more bearable. I don’t mean that we should think of art solely as offering a kind of escape from the grim reality of reality, though personally I can’t think of higher praise. To experience the truth in art reminds us that there is such a thing as truth. Truth lives. It can be found. And there is no encounter more powerful than the encounter between the slashing, momentary blade of truth and a lie-entangled mind.

How non-English speakers are taught this crazy English grammar rule you know but have never heard of by Cassie Werber: “The fact is, a lot of English grammar rules only come as a surprise to those who know them most intimately.”

My own private Iceland by Kyle Chayka

Where we go and how we get there are increasingly influenced by a series of digital platforms — not just big OTAs, but Airbnb, Yelp, and Instagram — that prioritize engagement over originality. Overtourism is a consequence, not a cause. The more often a particular destination or package proves successful, the more users a site’s algorithm will drive to it, intensifying the problem by pushing travelers to have the same experiences as one another on a single beaten track around the globe, updated and optimized in real time. When one spot gets too crowded and its novelty used up, the next is slotted into its place.

The 2010s Broke Our Sense Of Time by Katherine Miller

The 2000s were a bad decade, full of terrorism, financial ruin, and war. The 2010s were different, somehow more disorienting, full of molten anxiety, racism, and moral horror shows. Maybe this is a reason for the disorientation: Life had run on a certain rhythm of time and logic, and then at a hundred different entry points, that rhythm and that logic shifted a little, sped up, slowed down, or disappeared, until you could barely remember what time it was.

Making my own clothes transformed my body image – and my life by Jenny Rushmore: “All you need is enough fabric and sewing and fitting skills – then anything is possible. I learned that there was nothing inherently wrong with my body, and trying on only clothes that were custom-made for me was total bliss.”

The Glamorous, Sexist History of the Women’s Restroom Lounge by Elizabeth Yuko

If you’ve ever come across one, you may have wondered how it got there and why people thought they needed what were essentially public living rooms directly adjacent to bathrooms. As it turns out, it’s a curious combination of Victorian culture, class and race divisions, retail marketing, and what men thought women needed when they ventured out in public (hint: it’s a couch).

Flour power: meet the bread heads baking a better loaf by Wendell Steavenson

Bread is a basic foodstuff. It is our land and our kitchen table, family tradition and religious celebration. Our daily bread is our daily life; it is economics – breadwinner, breadbaskets, breadlines; it is politics – upper crust, bread and circuses, grist for the mill. As this group of growers, millers and bakers are demonstrating, bread can be revolution, too.

What’s the most interesting thing you saw online this month?