Science fiction and fantasy                                            







   

Musings and rants

Nine Political Books That Change The Conversation
Following news that Simon and Schuster plan to publish an inflammatory commentator, here are nine political books that deserve more attention.

Penguin Random House Withdraws Union Recognition
Penguin Random House have decided not to recognise Unite and the NUJ as a result of staff negotiations, leaving the publisher with a stain on its reputation as an employer.

Authors Support Stop Funding Hate
Some authors have had enough of divisive and xenophobic elements in the British press, and are willing to make an ethical stand.

Women In SFF: Indie Edition
A list of indie and self-published women writing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction genres.

Amazon Finally Makes KU Appealing For Novelists
The new per-page payout for the Kindle Unlimited subscription service makes it a much better deal for authors of longer novels.

Thoughts On The Sieghart Report On Libraries
The Sieghart report on libraries missed its mark by miles. Yet the real cause of the decline of the UK library network is depressingly obvious.

A Shout-Out For The Good Guys
When nastiness dominates online conversations about books it is time to appreciate the well-behaved authors.

Critique Circle: Shaping Fabulous Stories
The appeal of a certain writing critique website. Or, why I have neglected this blog.

Where Shall I Point This Pitchfork?
Some thoughts on Jonathan Ross, Loncon, and the twitchfork mob.

Reading Is Not A Race
Why I will be abandoning annual reading challenges in 2014.

What Book Discovery Is Missing
The current state of book discovery is narrowing our reading choices and squeezing out midlist writers. How can it be fixed?

An Explosion Of Discovery Tools
New book discovery engines are popping up all over the web. But which ones will come out on top?

Blog Tours From Both Sides
Blog tours are the lastest marketing fad. But what are the pros and cons of this kind of publicity?

It's Not Your Story Any More
When a book is published, authors lose control over how the story should be read. They should let go the reins and enjoy the ride.

Same Old, Same Old
Are current methods of book discovery pushing us further away from original literature?

Female Protagonists In Genre Fiction
A list of recommended SFF books for adults which feature a female as the main character.

Is This The End Of Sweeping Vistas?
Do recent trends in fantasy art styles and the constraints of online book discovery mark the decline of landscape cover art?

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats
Authors: stop thinking of other writers as your rivals. They're not the enemy.

Reviews Are Useless Without Context
With so many review blogs, quick ways of understanding their authors are more important than ever.

Great Scriptwriters: Sometimes Overlooked, Always Vital
Sometimes it seems like the only way to get known as a scriptwriter is to do something else entirely.


Mastodon For SFF Fans

30th December 2017

   

Is social media getting you down? In 2017 it seems to be increasingly driven by conflict, which encourages knee-jerk responses and a polarising of views. It's also been intense politically. So bookish discussions have been harder to find amongst the rants, outrage, and begging for attention that goes on.

Some of this is down to the way Twitter and Facebook are structured and funded. The advertising-funded model means they have to fight for page views and stickiness, rather than prioritising good moderation and a congenial atmosphere.

Fortunately there's an alternative. Mastodon is a decentralised network made up of a network of federated "instances" each hosted on different websites. There's no central control, and anyone with enough technical knowledge can start up their own instance. The rules and moderation are all down to the instance. The moderators will also decide which other instances to silence or block, which is important because it determines how safe its users feel from harassment and illegal content. So one instance can decide to silence another, which means their users can still follow individuals on that instance if they choose to do so but the toots (that's what a post is normally called) don't appear on the public federated timeline. Or they can suspend an instance entirely - this is the nuclear option that de-federates the instance so nothing gets through.

The instance you join determines whether you have a fun time with like-minded people or not.

You don't have to join all of the instances to get all of the benefit - you can follow those on other instances, and vice versa. Think of it as a bit like bunch of separate forums, but they can all talk to each other if they want to. And it's a bit like email - you don't need to use a certain email provider to talk to someone using that provider.

However, we all know how hard it can be to move once you've found an address you like and gained a few followers, so it's better to get it right first time. With that in mind, here are a few instances worth looking at if you're into books, writing, and/or science fiction and fantasy.

Wandering Shop - This instance is themed around science fiction and fantasy, and it has a lot of writers. This is the one I joined. I'm a little biased, but it's perfect - not too big, and very civilised, friendly and bookish.

Writing Exchange - This is for writers, poets, and bloggers.

SciFi.fyi - A sci-fi themed instance.

Bookwitty - This one's specifically for book lovers. Bookwitty is a group of companies, so its tone will be slightly different from other non-commercial instances.

Ten Forward - Star Trek themed.

Cybre Space - Cyberpunk themed, with a custom design.

Mos Eisley Club - Star Wars themed. This is a small instance without the robust blocking or rules of some of the other instances mentioned.

There are a few instances that look like they're about fantasy, but aren't necessarily restricted to the sff community. Witches Town is like this. It's a French/English instance, which is more for feminists, antifascists and SJWs than anything to do with the occult or fantasy. Every user gets a follower count of 666, meaning that it's much harder to get sidetracked by the hyper-competitive social scoring of who has the most or least followers.

Mastodon Instances list - go here to explore listings of other instances.

The default instance is the largest - Mastodon.social. It's crowded and general, which will make it harder to find your tribe. That's why I recommend looking first for a medium-sized instance of between a few hundred to under 5000 users, where the timeline may be slower but the focus of conversation is narrower.

Where not to join

This list gives instances blocked by Witches Town, and the reasons why. There's a similar one for toot.cafe. Other instances will list those ones they block, but not all do. It's worth looking out for block lists so that you don't accidentally end up joining a place nobody else in your sphere of interest is talking to.

A quick how-to

The "Home" tab is for people you follow. It defaults to not showing "boosts", which are the equivalent of shares or retweets. You can change that in your settings.

The next tab is your "Notifications" - follows, replies, and so on. Again, there are settings for what you get notifications on.

The third tab "Getting Started" is where you can find all sorts of things - settings, preferences, muted or blocked users, and the local and federated timelines. The local timeline is your "instance" - all the people on the same server as you. If you pick a good instance this can be really cool and friendly, especially if it's smaller and more tight-knit.

What you see in the "federated" tab isn't a firehose of everything posted publicly by all Mastodon users everywhere. It's filtered by what your instance blocks, and also whether anyone on your instance follows that person.

Toot!

This may seem quite complicated, and when I first heard of Mastodon in early 2017 I'll admit I was put off by what I thought was the need to register different names for different topic interests. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but it's not insurmountable and the experience of using Mastodon makes it worthwhile. If there's one feature that stands out, it's the ability to put Content Warnings (abbreviated to CW's) over each toot to hide the content. This is invaluable for spoilers, as well as potentially upsetting topics; this means you can post more freely because anyone who might be put off can skip right over your pictures of giant spiders or your analysis of the deaths in the latest big movie.

Edit:

This list on Github has some Mastodon instances organised by theme, including a few more sff-themed ones.