Get Your Facts Right!

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
Andy Dibble
Posts: 72
Joined: Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:02 am

Get Your Facts Right!

Postby Andy Dibble » Tue Mar 10, 2020 12:51 am

There are some recurrent factual and conceptual errors I see in both published and unpublished speculative fiction. I figured I would call out the ones I've seen at least a few times, others could call out the ones they've seen, and then everyone that reads this thread can avoid looking foolish. Or worse, misinforming readers!

Here are the ones on my mind:

1. Neural nets are NOT computer brains. They only have a vague similarity to human brains. What they are are flexible classifiers (e.g "is this spam?", "What sentiment is expressed by this text?"). You train them on a dataset and then have them perform on data that isn't classified. Although the neuron-like pictures we use to describe them help us understand their components, they're implemented using a combination of iterated matrix multiplication and gradient descent algorithms, so if you write a story where you are depicting the inside of neural nets, it's just math.

Here's a pretty good intro that doesn't require too much mathematical background:
https://pathmind.com/wiki/neural-network

2. Be very careful before you say anything in general about religion. This unfortunately is still very common in published fiction. Spec fic writers almost never talk about science in general (except perhaps as a methodology or human endeavor) or culture in general. We deal in particulars, but still many spec fic writers think it makes sense to bash all religion as dogmatic, backward, false, doctrinal, etc. when it's not even clear which things are religion or what kind of thing religion is. There's a reason why "religion" is the dirtiest word among scholars of religion: in many ways it's just a concept invented by the academy or predominately Christian scholars and imposed on all kinds of cultures (Christianity treats religion as a distinct part of a society; for many others it's far more integrated, which is why about half of all languages don't even have a word for religion). On the other hand, it's clear that religion is a potent concept in law and in the news--just make sure you realize the complexity behind the word before you wield it.

3. Be careful about describing diverse cultures and nations as The East/The Orient/The West/Eastern/Western etc. These words paint with an awfully wide brush. East vs. West is largely an us vs. them distinction invented or at least propagated by scholars in Europe, although it's complex because the distinction can be traced back to Aeschylus at least (his play The Persians). When you think about Islam (Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country; major Muslim figures like Averroes, al-Ghazali, and Avicenna were in dialog with Latin Christian scholars and are responsible for the introduction of most of Aristotle's non-logical works into the "Western" tradition) it become quite unclear what East and West is.

4. Consciousness, intelligence, and conscience are different things. I see confusion with these terms most commonly when it comes to discussion of the Turing test. Alan Turing never tried to show that computers were conscious (i.e. had self-awareness like we do e.g. pain, inner experience of color, etc.) or had a moral faculty (conscience). He tried to establish a sufficient condition for intelligence: if computers can act like humans, they must be intelligent because humans are.
35.2 R
35.3 R
35.4 R
36.1 First Place
36.2 HM

http://andydibble.com

Most Recent - Sci Phi Journal (https://www.sciphijournal.org/index.php/2020/06/26/the-meaning-of-his-own-words/)

HermioneLee
Posts: 142
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:27 pm
Location: Taoyuan County, Taiwan

Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby HermioneLee » Fri Apr 03, 2020 2:10 am

Thanks, Andy! Congrats on your win! I liked your story very much after I read it. The title really piqued my curiosity.

I hope this isn’t an offensive question, but how did you win an HM after your penultimate entry won?
Fight for what you believe in; believe in what you fight for~~Hermione Lee
V37 Q1: R
V37 Q2: R
V37 Q3: ?
V37 Q4: ?

Andy Dibble
Posts: 72
Joined: Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:02 am

Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby Andy Dibble » Sat Apr 04, 2020 12:38 am

HermioneLee wrote:Thanks, Andy! Congrats on your win! I liked your story very much after I read it. The title really piqued my curiosity.

I hope this isn’t an offensive question, but how did you win an HM after your penultimate entry won?


Thanks! Not an offensive question. I submitted for 36.2 before I heard back about my 36.1 entry, which won. (In truth, I thought they had just lost my 36.1 entry before I got my finalist call). I'm unsure what WotF's process is for dealing with this situation. I know there was a podcast in which one of the judges said a finalist submission they liked (it was written in iambic pentameter!) was written by an author who had already won. So I suspect it was much the same situation. Only 3 win every quarter, so the worst case is that they read three more stories than necessary, and filter off as needed before making finalist calls.
35.2 R
35.3 R
35.4 R
36.1 First Place
36.2 HM

http://andydibble.com

Most Recent - Sci Phi Journal (https://www.sciphijournal.org/index.php/2020/06/26/the-meaning-of-his-own-words/)

HermioneLee
Posts: 142
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:27 pm
Location: Taoyuan County, Taiwan

Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby HermioneLee » Sat Apr 04, 2020 1:13 am

So you submit for very quarter? Same here :)
Fight for what you believe in; believe in what you fight for~~Hermione Lee
V37 Q1: R
V37 Q2: R
V37 Q3: ?
V37 Q4: ?

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disgruntledpeony
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Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby disgruntledpeony » Sat Apr 04, 2020 4:19 am

HermioneLee wrote:So you submit for very quarter? Same here :)

He did until he won, yeah. wotf007
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, ?, ?

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JDAnthony
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2020 6:47 am

Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby JDAnthony » Fri Apr 17, 2020 5:22 am

Slightly related question for anyone willing to humor me: Real Life Gangs?

I want to include gangs in my modern-day paranormal/exorcism story, and I have researched the heck out of some very real, very scary gangs (voodoo gangs from Nigeria, Santa Muerte gangs, etc). Supposing I don't fear physical retribution, is it ethical or advisable to use the actual gang names? I've seen Hell's Angels show up in paranormal fiction...but it wasn't about to be judged for an all-ages anthology.
37Q1 - HM
37Q2 - SHM
37Q3 - Pending

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Dustin Adams
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Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby Dustin Adams » Fri Apr 17, 2020 5:44 am

Me, I would totally not use the real names. Not when you can get your point across with easy word changes.
Crimson Posse comes to mind.
Heck, have fun with it!
Axe Nots
Flayed Dead
Drowned Rats
2x Finalist
1x Semi
4x Silver
9x HM
Eight EDF stories. DSF: Short Story. My Semi-F My Finalist #1

JDAnthony
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Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby JDAnthony » Fri Apr 17, 2020 11:21 pm

Lol, good point. I hadn't considered this until I saw your suggestions, but it gives me the opportunity to make up creative gang names, which could leave more of an impression on the reader than using potentially obscure gang names that would only be recognizable by readers in the region.

Thanks!
37Q1 - HM
37Q2 - SHM
37Q3 - Pending

Andy Dibble
Posts: 72
Joined: Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:02 am

Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby Andy Dibble » Tue Apr 21, 2020 1:11 am

JDAnthony wrote:Lol, good point. I hadn't considered this until I saw your suggestions, but it gives me the opportunity to make up creative gang names, which could leave more of an impression on the reader than using potentially obscure gang names that would only be recognizable by readers in the region.

Thanks!


And using slightly ridiculous names like those that Dustin suggests allows you to communicate clearly that you don't condone violent behavior or mean to politicize gang violence. Hitting either of those poles will turn readers off.
35.2 R
35.3 R
35.4 R
36.1 First Place
36.2 HM

http://andydibble.com

Most Recent - Sci Phi Journal (https://www.sciphijournal.org/index.php/2020/06/26/the-meaning-of-his-own-words/)

JDAnthony
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Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2020 6:47 am

Re: Get Your Facts Right!

Postby JDAnthony » Sat Apr 25, 2020 4:10 am

Andy Dibble wrote:
JDAnthony wrote:Lol, good point. I hadn't considered this until I saw your suggestions, but it gives me the opportunity to make up creative gang names, which could leave more of an impression on the reader than using potentially obscure gang names that would only be recognizable by readers in the region.

Thanks!


And using slightly ridiculous names like those that Dustin suggests allows you to communicate clearly that you don't condone violent behavior or mean to politicize gang violence. Hitting either of those poles will turn readers off.


Very true. Or, if not ridiculous gang names, possibly gang names that hint at further in-world lore. Like the Black Street Barbers from the Powder Mage Trilogy.
37Q1 - HM
37Q2 - SHM
37Q3 - Pending


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