Facebook and Google are putting you in a bubble

Someone on the radio the other day (NPR, perhaps?) pointed out that some groups think that the whole country is going to vote for their favorite presidential candidate while polls show that only about 20% of people are considering them.

Why? Because:

Facebook and Google, in their efforts to show content which they think we would like, show us more of the type of content we interact with. Therefore, they are creating pocket bubble cultures where beliefs are never questioned and reinforced within the group.

This makes people think “The whole world agrees with me! Everyone on Facebook is saying the same thing!”

Not only does this affect what people think most of the world believes, but it makes it more and more difficult to encounter and consider differing viewpoints. This is strongly related to confirmation bias. “Confirmation bias, or Positive Bias is the tendency to look for evidence that confirms a hypothesis, rather than disconfirming evidence.”

Check out this video real quick and see if you can solve the riddle:

 

Google and Facebook take advantage of this, feeding us articles that we read more, like more, share more. They tailor what we see to be more to what we’ll interact with. And we’re more likely to seek out and interact with things which agree with us. And that’s no way to progress, to learn more.

To conclude, here’s a quote from the Veritasium video above, he says:

“The scientific method is to set out to disprove your theory, and when you can’t disprove it, that’s when you know you’re getting to something really true about our reality.”

 

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Is my fantasy too European?

When I saw that agents are looking for non-European fantasy, I wondered if my fantasy fit that criteria. So I underwent a process of self-examination and I learned that I DON’T write European fantasy. Nor do I write Asian fantasy, American fantasy, Middle-Eastern fantasy, or African fantasy.

I create my own cultures, from scratch. I take ingredients from different cultures and invent new recipes. I don’t copy a recipe/culture and tweak it slightly, I start from the ground up and invent entirely new dishes.

I’ll emphasize that:

I don’t appropriate and tweak other cultures for my fantasy. I create entirely new cultures from scratch.

One novel (Two Masters) features a culture inspired partially by ancient Israel (a tribal system with a strong religious influence) and partially by early gunpowder-era Japan. However, the culture’s religion draws from Catholicism and the government is theocratic meritocratic dictatorship (1 leader rules absolutely, with laws based on religion, and other leadership positions are attained by passing specific tests and quizzes better than others).

Another novel (Robbing Gods) has a culture that’s almost like a China going through a magical industrial revolution. Another culture is inspired by Jews, Native Americans, with a little bit of Nazi ideology. They’ve been driven forth by other races for centuries, found a land to call their own, but other races have still oppressed them. After growing sick of this, they’ve rejected all other races and are willing to commit genocide to have a land for themselves.

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You read that right, I used Nazis and Jews as inspiration for a culture. Once wanderers (like the Jews), then struggling with settlers (like the Native Americans), and now they’re willing to slaughter all not of their race, considering themselves superior (Nazis). Oh, and their leader is sort of like a mix between Hitler and Joan-of-Arc. She’s brutal, but loves her people and feels she is inspired to do what she does.

I find that my favorite fantasy uses this “invent a new recipe from random ingredients” method. Brandon Sanderson’s way of kings is ridiculously difficult to pin down as having been inspired by one certain culture (magic tech, kings and princes, racial discrimination based on eye color, people with white eyebrows that never stop growing).

I suggest giving this method a try. Invent brand new dishes and brand new worlds. What if there were a race of humans who had spikes in their elbows, believed in a god made up of the thought-energy of their ancestors, lived in outhouse sized homes by themselves (1 per person, privacy is greatly important), and their government was based on taking what everyone thought and putting it through a series of mathematical equations to decide what to do.

Which culture inspired that? Oh and they fight with sword-shoes. (I just came up with this.

I’m done worrying. Now, I could do better with having greater diversity in my stories, and having stories with less western modes of morality. I’m trying to do better with that. But with that also I’ll invent my own diversity. I can’t represent African-Americans in a world where there are none, but I can create my own minorities and give them a voice, reflecting the same pain felt by minorities in our world.

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My advice: Create brand new dishes. You can definitely create Native American, African, or Polynesian fantasy. There’s nothing wrong with that (in fact more fantasy of those kinds would be nice). But know that you’re not limited to slightly tweaking the cultures that already exist.

You can create an infinite amount of brand new ones from scratch.

 

Booyah!

 

 

Useful Query Tips

The following tips were helpful in writing my query:

  • No longer than 1 page, 12 pt. font, double-spaced (most agents/editors want this length).
  • Keep the overview/hook under 200 words.
  • Don’t include the ending.
  • Do include the fun, the feel, the tone, and the unique voice.
  • State specific reasons why you are sending to this particular agent or editor (e.g. I met you at a conference/convention, I read that you like x on your blog or twitter, and/or I saw your posting in writer’s market. Show that you researched that agent/editor’s style and the books (and genres) they’ve represented).
  • Don’t include irrelevant credentials