Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rising to the challenge

Regular visitors to the main website have known for eons, you can send questions through Ask Mel ... and I get some beauties.

A little while ago I wrote a feature article taking a look at gay SF through the age -- literally, right back to the first gay SF story anyone knows, written by Lucian in the second century. (I think I've mentioned the article somewhere on the blog, but even I can't recall where, so here's the link: Gay SF: MK takes a fresh look.)

Apparently, the prospect of an SF story from the mists of time is tough for some readers to swallow, so I'm here with the provenance! Give this a click, and see where you land:

Homosexuality in speculative fiction.

This is the part you'll be on the lookout for:

    True History by the Greek writer Lucian (A.D. 120-185) has been called the first ever gay science fiction story.[5] The narrator is suddenly enveloped by a typhoon and swept up to up to the moon, which is inhabited by a society of men that are at war with the sun. After distinguishing himself in combat, the king gives the hero his son the prince in marriage. The all male society reproduces (male children only) by giving birth from the thigh or by growing a child from a plant produced by planting the left testicle in the moon's soil.

[SOURCE: www.powerset.com : Homosexuality in speculative fiction]

[also, click the pic for a larger, readable captioning]

...and if you want to keep going, you'll eventually land here: The works of Lucian of Samosata. Notice, you have a contents list; look under "Volume II."

You're welcome. And yes, I've read it ... not only that, but (!) you can too.

Powerset is something new, and I like it. It's not a new wiki (thank gods), but a fresh take on the interface via which the existing Wikipedia can be accessed. It's clean, more linear, and "immediate" ... like a marriage between Google and Wikipedia.

I've come to know a little about Wikipedia lately, because very soon (and I shudder as I even imagine this) I have to knuckle down to a horrific task. You can go to Wikipedia and search on Mel Keegan, and get nada. Zip. Zero. Nuth'n.

Now, that can't be right. I'm sitting here typing, sneezing out what few brain cells remain in my skull (springtime in the Antipodes), wondering if I get get through this afternoon's edit of the next segment of THE LORDS OF HARDENDANE and also get the notes for a new story down, *and* look at some webpages for DreamCraft, *and* contribute something to to the newsletter that should be going out either this afternoon or tomorrow ... which would be good going, since it's already two o'clock.

So I'm definitely here; but Wikipedia doesn't know it. I mean, they have 121,437 articles listed for "science fiction writers," and Keegan ain't one of them.

Naturally enough, it'll be 121438 articles before long, the last of them being something about this weird Aussie scribbler who writes stuff like NARC and HELLGATE. The problem is, Wikipedia has gotten so big, so complex and so hemmed in by its own red tape (which, I know, I know, is the only way they can keep out spammers, vandals and character assassins), that it's become a seven-headed beast.

To get a really solid Wikipedia "presence" for this indie publishing effort is going to entail a lot of work; not just the writing and uploading, but also learning the system, how it functions (and doesn't), what you're supposed to do (and not), to keep everyone smiling.

The truth is, I've wanted to get into Wikipaedia for two or three years now, and have never had the time to take this particular brute by the horns and wrestle it down. And here's the kicker: the longer I put it off, the bigger and more labyrinthine the system is getting.

Speaking purely as a user, Wikipedia is terrific, so long as you're of a slightly academic bent (or a somewhat bent academic). However, the Powerset interface is cleaner, clearer, smoother. I'm pretty sure the ordinary visitor will enjoy the Powerset presentation more than the original. It's like the difference between a text book and a magazine. The content might well be the same; the presentation is rather different.

And speaking as a wannabe contributor, I admit, Wikipedia has become daunting. It'll be a little while before I can get my teeth into it, but ... I'll get there. I'd like to do a basic "bio" page, with a booklist, and then have a page for the NARC books, and the HELLGATE books, the historicals, and so forth. Then, I'm pretty sure I ought to get Keegan onto the pages for gay writers, gay books, gay fiction, gay science fiction, general sf, independent publishing ... and so on, and on, and on.

Mammoth job. Herculean task. Next week. Month. Uh ... year. 2009 sounds just fine. I know it has to be done, but this is one time when I could easily contend for the title "Last of the Procrastinators."

Wikis are becoming very popular lately, along with "self help" sites. I stumbled into something called www.squidoo.com just yesterday. Good gods.

My work ethic is nagging at me now, and LORDS OF HARBENDANE is waiting, along with a load more to be done so --

Ciao for now,

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