Echo Chamber or Comfort Zone?

Echo chamber has become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. The basic idea is a space where everyone is saying and supporting the same ideas. People in an echo chamber are never challenged to think beyond their assumptions, to see a different perspective, or to learn new things that don’t agree with them.

Many people agree that echo chambers are bad. That we need restructure social media  to reduce the echo chamber affect. That it is unhealthy to be in an echo chamber.

I agree with most of the criticisms of echo chambers. But I think it’s time to reframe the idea, because the criticism is also missing some of the benefits of echo chambers.

Benefits? Of echo chambers? Yes, really. Though I don’t blame you for doubting. After all, everything we’ve heard about echo chambers is bad. It’s almost as if we are in an echo chamber–about echo chambers!

Social Comfort Zones

But what if we didn’t say echo chamber? What if, instead, we called is a “social comfort zone”?

Comfort zones are already a familiar idea. From school, to relationships, to work, we sometimes need to “reach outside your comfort zone”. And when we are stressed or sick or worried, we sometimes need to “retreat into your comfort zone.”

The comfort zone isn’t inherently  good or bad. It is a place where we are comfortable. It has all the same features of an echo chamber–it prevents us from growing if we stay there too long, it only holds the things we are comfortable with, it doesn’t challenge us, etc. But it also has good features that we don’t associate with the idea of “echo chambers”. Comfort zones are places we can relax. Comfort zones are low stress. Comfort zones help us heal.

What we call “echo chambers” are really social comfort zones. They have all the negative traits of comfort zones in work or daily life. But also all the positives.

What’s in a name?

Once we acknowledge echo chambers as social comfort zones, we can start having a healthier discussion about them.

One that encourages people to reach outside their comfort zone and expose themselves to other perspectives and ideas. But also one that doesn’t shame people for having and using a comfort zone. One that recognizes that some people live in places or situations where they are constantly exposed to other perspectives and their online or IRL comfort zones are a necessary part of how they manage their stress and care for themselves.

I want to give a shout out to Gargron and for inadvertantly inspiring this post. And a shout out to the Fediverse in general for being a place that not only allows but encourages multiple accounts with lots of options for privacy controls so folks can have a comfort zone and a stretch zone on the same social network.

 

Did you learn something? Please support my work.

Fantasy Twists Anthology Is Out!

Okay, so the announcement is a bit late, but better late than never, right?

Fantasy Twists anthology, the trope-pretzeling short story collection from Cuil Press, is available as of last Thursday. My own story, One Hell of an STI, is included as well as pieces for six other authors.

If you are looking for creatively written stories inspired by some of your favorite tales as well as diverse characters you should check out Fantasy Twists from Cuil Press

from TheNerdyGirlExpress

I think my favorite part of the anthology is how varied it is.

While all the stories are fantasy, they range from fairy-tale retellings to superheroes. They explore, twist, and recreate, a wide range of fantasy tropes. Some authors took tropes so old they have become cliches and then fallen out of fashion and given them new life. (The scary old person next door) Some authors took tropes that will likely never go out of fashion and took them in a completely different direction. In my case, I took one of the most popular tropes of urban fantasy and turned it inside out.

The characters are varied as well, including werewolves, PoC, superheroes, trans characters, witches, fae, and a character I have been told is loosely based off of the Goblin Kin from Labyrinth. (See if you can spot him.)

Check it out today!

An Interview with Grandmother: Fantasy Twists Blog Tour

I love fairy tales. And I really like well-done new takes on old tales. So I was delighted when Kelseigh N. shared a very different version of “Red Riding Hood” with Cuil Press for our Fantasy Twists anthology.

When Desy starting putting together a Fantasy Twists blog tour, I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I offered to host a stop on the tour and said I’d do a character interview. Kelseigh was good enough to let me “sit down” with Grandmother and learn a bit HER perspective on things. Some of our discussion doesn’t sound much like Red Riding Hood, but that’s because there is a lot more to the story than you ever heard.

I hope you enjoy as much as I did.


Hi Grandmother, thanks for joining me today.

Why hello, Jess. How nice of you to take time out of your day to keep an old woman company. Or perhaps not so old as all that, eh?

So, one thing I can’t stop wondering—what’s with the red and blue cloaks? Is there a special meaning there, or are they just for convenience with the villagers?

A good question, that. Indeed there is, although the current villagers don’t know anything about it. Culture changes over time, you understand, and what once had a particular meaning shifts to mean something different. And we three, our cycle, we have been rolling along for a quite a long time.

But not to put too fine a point on it, from what I understand from the records of Grandmothers past and my own feelings that confirm it to be true, red was once considered the colour of youth, where blue was for those who had come of age. For the Girl and I, the division between those two roles isn’t so much dictated by age of course. But it fits well enough don’t you think?

When did you first notice the Girl? Was it something you gradually became aware of or just an instant realization that she was the one you were waiting for?

I would say the former, although it’s a much less clear-cut feeling than you may think. The three of us who make up the cycle, we are essentially the same people as we always are, but in many ways we are entirely new people every time. Memories don’t really carry well from our Wolf stage to the new Girl, but feelings and instinct…those are a much different matter. I had no idea when my Girl would come, only that she would and there were signs to look for. But in the end it was more a feeling that grew, until one day it dawned on me that this Girl out of all girls was the one I’d been waiting for.

Let me tell you, it was a relief!

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about the Wolf?

What can one say about their first love that doesn’t sound foolish to others? That she is a goddess? Perhaps she always was, in my eyes, even in her original form. Certainly she was as beautiful then as she is now, albeit in a different way. One hell of a kisser, too.

But I suppose you’re looking for something a little more objective. She is, at the heart of it, the embodiment and protecter of her entire realm. Both the things we humans would see as good and natural, or frightening and arcane, make her up and she does not judge either. She is the unseen danger that puts an edge on the villagers’ lives, and that too is a thing of value. She, that is the part of the cycle she occupies, has watched over the forest as long as there has been a forest to watch, or perhaps longer. I’ve thought long about it and discussed the matter with her, and neither of us are sure there ever was a beginning to what she is, although we each have our theories. Suffice to say she has effectively always been and always shall be, and so will the forest she guards.

How did you feel when you first became Grandmother?

Sad and happy, all at once. Excited. Terrified. Change is like that.

You must remember what I saw happen to the woman I’d loved for years. The two of us had more chance to be together before that day and I had a better idea what to expect, but it was still shocking. But now, so many years later what sticks with me are the happier thoughts. The sight of her, radiant in power, continuing the noble work of ages. Years of being together after that. Her wise counsel when it truly struck home that I was now responsible, alone, for the safety and welfare of the whole village, and for teaching my own Girl when I finally found her. She guided me through those early fears that I would not do as well as she.

I think it would have been a much harder transition without her there.

Okay. That’s all the questions I have. Thanks again for joining us.

Thank you as well. I’ve quite enjoyed our chat.


Fantasy Twists is available for pre-order on Amazon, B&N, Google, and Kobo. It’ll be out on Thursday. (I have a story in there too!)

If you want to learn more about Kelseigh’s work, check out her Patreon.

Miles Vorkosigan Is my Role Model (or How I Horrified Lois McMaster Bujold)

I’ve always felt a strong connection with Miles Vorkosigan. As an undiagnosed autistic teen growing up in an abusive household, I quickly learned that the key to survival was simple: stubborn your way through.

I’m nowhere near on Miles’ level when it comes to being a sheer, unstoppable juggernaut. But Miles was one of the people who showed me that it could be done. That no matter what your obstacles, if you are stubborn enough (and creative enough, and maybe just crazy enough) you can still beat everything in your way.

A few years ago, I learned that Michael had nearly died several times over the past year and we hadn’t known. That he was likely to die in the next few years if we couldn’t get him medical treatment. Treatment that we had no way to get because we were broke and living off money my aunt sent from Israel to keep a roof over our heads.

It broke me. Utterly, completely broke me. I remember going out for a walk and not being able to see where I was going for the tears in my eyes.

There was a little park with a circular garden in the middle. I remember walking around it several times just trying to come to grips.

And a line from Memory floated into my head.

“I am the man who owns Vorkosigan Vashnoi.”

And another,

“A mountain man, dumb as his rocks, doesn’t know when to quit.”

I took a breath. Walked back to the hotel we were staying in. I opened up Memory and re-read Miles Vorkosigan’s revelation about himself.

I wrapped myself in my own elemental stubbornness and knew we would find a way.

A little later, I got on Goodreads and for the first time ever sent a message to an author that I like. I thanked Lois Bujold for Miles, explained that he was something of a role model for me and that her writing was helping me through one of the worst times in my life.

She was awesome enough to write back. I think I scared her a bit. The idea that someone could take her “hyperactive little git” as a role model was… well, not something she was prepared for, apparently. She said she was glad that her writing had helped, but expressed… concern at the idea of someone modeling themself off of Miles.

It’s nearly 5 years later. My partner, while not health, is nowhere near in danger of dying anytime soon. Miles Vorkosigan is still one of my favorite characters.

And somedays, I remember Bujold’s supportive, but appalled, reply, and I just have to laugh.

Don’t worry Simon, I have a rheostat installed. And thanks to Miles, I’ve learned how to dial it UP when I need to.

Special Interests: Autistic Acceptance Month Day 5

Personal opinion: There is no difference between autistic special interests and allistic special interests. Autistic folks just one-track more so we get deeper into our special interests than the rest of you distractable folks 😉

Anyway, some of my special interests:

Polyamory (If you know me, this one is obvious.)

Polyamory on Purpose

Autism (New-ish, in the last year)

A rainbow infinity sign, popular symbol for autism among autistic people.

Languages (Including linguistics and conlangs)

A word cloud made of "why" in several dozen languages.
by Maierstrahl

People (Psychology, Sociology, Archeology, Anthropology)

(Yeah, I couldn’t find an image I liked)

Reactions to Coming Out: Autistic Acceptance Month day 4

What sticks in my head the most are the number of people who responded to my saying “I am autistic” with “Oh, I knew that.”

Apparently I’ve been surrounding myself with people who are either autistic or have autistic family members without realizing it. And several of them saw the signs and symptoms in me and all, independently, just decided not to say anything.

For the most part, this is perfectly understandable. You don’t randomly walk up to the new member in your synagogue and say, “By the way, are you autistic?”

I’m still a bit miffed at my sister.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister, and I understand why she didn’t say anything. My biological family really got into the whole “don’t label people thing.” The problem is that labels aren’t always bad things.

When labels become boxes, that’s bad. But sometimes labels are road maps. Guidebooks.

They show you how to find the information you’ve needed but never knew how to find or even if it existed.

My sister, when I told her I’m autistic, said she realized that almost as soon as she met me. And I nearly screamed at her for the decade of trouble I might have avoided if someone had handled me that road maps just a little bit sooner.

I didn’t. Instead we talked about labels, and how sometimes they are good things. And she admitted that our brother, diagnosed as a child with Asperger’s feels the same way I do.

I admit, I’m a bit more amused than miffed at this point. And a bit envious. She seemed to assume it was obvious to me that I wasn’t neurotypical, so there was no point in saying anything. And she was sort of right. I always knew I wasn’t like the people around me, that something was different about me. For her, the important thing was being supportive and accepting of my differences and treating me like an individual. Because that is what the family she grew up in DID.

It would never occur to her that being different would seem like being broken, being wrong. To her, it was just being different. And god I envy her that.

But still, 10 bloody years, sis. I love you, I thank you for your support, the next time I see you in person I may just strangle you a little, and thinking of you and this right now, I can’t stop smiling.

This post is part of the 30 Days of Autistic Acceptance and Appreciation posting challenge.

Please help spread the word about Autistic Acceptance.

Did you learn something? Please support my work.

My Autism Discovery Story: Autistic Acceptance Month Day 3

I remember the special ed classes. I don’t remember why I was in them or what I was being taught. But I remember being pulled from my regular class every day to go to a dark little room and the confusion about why I had to do this when almost no one else did.

I remember being a safety at school, so sixth grade, “monitoring” the empty hallway, and taking a moment when no one was around to spin and spin and spin for the sheer joy of it.

I remember my parents gripping my chin telling me to LOOK THEM IN THE EYE when I talk to them.

I remember walking up to some classmates who were talking and trying to join the conversation, only to get shot down because I violated some unwritten, unspoken rule of socializing.

I remembering family holidays surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousin’s grandparents, where I’d sneak off to someone’s bedroom and borrow a  book from their book shelves and just relax away from the noise happy that my family THERE but not needing to be engaged with them to be comforted by their presence.

I remember the lectures on the way home about how rude I was, how inconsiderate, how people wanted to see me and talk with me and how could they do that if I never took my nose out of a book?

I remember sitting down at our old IIGS apple computer, with my newest book, a catalog of different types of cetaceans, creating a database of all their stats and info. Even then I knew there was something weird–something wrong–that I was more interested in putting that information into a database than reading the detailed descriptions and history of how they were discovered.

I remember twitching my fingers, back and forth, back and forth, and the doctor who medicated me for OCD.

I remember the teacher who realized that I really was trying and instead of berating me for not doing more, sat down with my parents to talk about ADHD.

I remember the doctor who said that everyone is a little ADHD.

I remember the cousins who accepted my eccentricities and the aunts and uncles who said “that’s just the way she is.”

I remember sitting in a psych office, an adult with children of my own, desperately trying to explain to my adoptive parents WHY I can’t “just do” everything that comes so easily for them, from cleaning, to waking up in morning.

I remember opening an article on aspergers, because my nesting partner said he had aspergers, and the more I read the less I’m thinking of my partner and the more I’m thinking “This is me, this is me, this is ME!”

I remember standing in a parking lot with my adoptive mother as she tells me that someone, somewhere, advised her to get me evaluated for autism, but she didn’t.

I remember telling my caseworker, and my other caseworker, and my counselor that I thought I might have autism, and their support.

I remember calling my bio father to ask if autism sometimes made it so you couldn’t speak, because I was going aphasic more and more often and didn’t know what was causing it.

I remember the burnout that took 3 months to recover from. Months where I couldn’t talk more often then not. Months where I slept on the couch because the noise of the fan in the bedroom was sensory overload and showered in the dark (when I showered at all) because the lights are tied to the fan in the bathroom and the shower was sensory overload enough with the fan added to it. Months that convinced me that yes, I am autistic because nothing else explained the burnout and the sensory hell and the constant aphasia and rocking and repetition and, and and…

I remember finding the autistic community and #ActuallyAutistic and two straight weeks of “Wait a minute, all this time I’ve been dealing with that and that’s been autism?” “You mean that’s autism, everyone doesn’t do that?” “If I’d know this was part of autism I’d have realized I was autistic a heck of a lot sooner!”

I remember Rosh haShana in the middle of the burnout, when someone asked how Moses could not talk and then talk, and saying “I’m autistic, sometimes people’s ability to talk changes. I’ll probably be unable to talk by the time I leave here. Then later I’ll be able to talk.”

I remember a little while later trying to say something in the discussion and my stuttering, stumbling barely coherent words.

I remember during a break in the service a synagogue member coming up and saying he knew I was autistic the first time he saw me because of the rocking and inviting me to an autism support group 2 hours away.

I remember telling my bio sister that I realized I’m autistic and nearly screaming when she replies me, “Oh, is this a surprise? I knew it when I met you.”

I remember telling my doctor about how I have trouble with creams and gels because I have sensory issues.

I remember my doctor asking if I am autistic.

I remember asking my doctor for a referral to a shrink so I can get an autism diagnosis.

This was two months ago.

I don’t remember the appoint with the shrink. It hasn’t happened yet.

This post is part of the 30 Days of Autistic Acceptance and Appreciation posting challenge.

Please help spread the word about Autistic Acceptance.

Did you learn something? Please support my work.

What I Love about Autism Is….: Autistic Acceptance Month Day 2

This one is a hard one for me, but not for the reasons you’d expect.

I just don’t know enough. I mean, there are things about who I am and the way I am that are clearly the result of autism. And then there is stuff that clearly ISN’T the result of autism. And then there is the majority of stuff that I can’t clearly say whether it is related to autism or NOT.

And then there’s the stuff other people tell me is because of autism but I don’t see it.

Like, my cousin’s talking about football and the NFL draft pick for an hour is normal and not autism, but me talking about linguistics and how words are made and languages evolve for an hour is a “symptom” of autism. Why? Because their passions are common and mine are unusual? I don’t get it…

So… there are things about myself I love.

I love my passions. I love my ability to focus down and lose myself in a project. I love how precise and “nitpicky” I can be. I love how schedules and routines are comforting and empowering and motivating all at the same time.

Are these autistic things? Are they related-to-autism-but-not-directly-caused-by-it things? Are these unrelated-to-autism things?

I mean, given how neurotypicals go on about them and how “weird” they are, I guess they must be related to autism some how. Just don’t ask me how.

This post is part of the 30 Days of Autistic Acceptance and Appreciation posting challenge.

Please help spread the word about Autistic Acceptance.

Did you learn something? Please support my work.

Intro Post: Autistic Acceptance Month

This month I’m going to try for 30 Days of Acceptance and Appreciation.

If I can pull it off, you’ll get a post a day about autism and autistic acceptance.

Like with my Polyamory on Purpose blog series, as I put up each post it will get a link here, so at the end of the month you’ll be able to come here and get a link to all the Autistic Acceptance posts.

Day 2: What I love about being autistic

Day 3: My discovery story

Day 4: Reactions to coming out

I also have a blog post here where other autistic folk and allies can put links to their autistic acceptance posts throughout the month.

Please help spread the word about Autistic Acceptance.

On Nalbinding, Net Making, and Novels

Back in January, I shared some stuff on Mastodon about yarn crafting and my Building Family wip.

The short version is that for REASONS, I needed to figure out if nalbinding (a precursor to knitting, for my non-crafty friends) could have been invented off of net making.

Since research failed me, I decided to do an experiment.

First, Net Making

I pulled up some net making videos on YouTube, and tried following them. BUT I didn’t use a spacer. In net making, a spacer is used to determine how wide the holes in the net are. Without a spacer, the knots would be right next to each other.

This is the first video I looked at:

But when I ended up trying my experiment last week, I used this video:

I went with the crab making video because it used fingers for the spacer initially (I really like his net making gizmo he pulls out halfway through though!) and because it is worked in the round. Those two similarities to nalbinding just made it easier for my brain to grok.

Then, Expermenting

I initially tried to copy it using just my thumb for a spacer, instead of multiple fingers (as shown in the video). Instead of the metal ring, I started with a magic-ring type yarn loop from crochet as the center of my work.

There were definitely parts that felt very similar to nalbinding, places I needed to pinch the yarn to keep it in place or run the needle until a loop that was around my thumb. But the result was essentially a very tiny net, not fabric.

(I wish I thought to take a picture of it.)

Now, I’m pretty sure, if I had the spoons/matches, a good knot dictionary, and time, I could put the net making video (which essentially uses repeated half-hitches) next to a good nalbinding tutorial (the oslo stitch starts with paired half hitches), and figure out a way one could have evolved into the other.

I didn’t have the matches, and for my purposes I didn’t specifically need to make nalbinding. I just needed to use net making to create fabric.

Finally, Results

So I took the simple solution and just stopped using any spacer at all. This is the result:

nalbinding netmaking

The holes where initially the result of my keeping the stitches loose so I could recognize where I needed to put the needle. As I got more comfortable the holes got smaller, as you may be able to see. Unfortunately, the needle I have (as you can see in that picture) is very wide at the eye, and there are several places where the eye forced those holes wider than they would otherwise have been.

In any case, the end result looks a lot like a miniature granny square from crochet.

Fin

At this point, I have what I need. I can see how someone could do the same thing I did and not have holes or gaps. So someone starting with net making could end up with a fabric that would have different properties, and therefore different appeal, from weaving.

I am curious how far I could take this. Could I really figure out how to get to nalbinding from net making? Could I develop a new and different type of yarncraft? Where could this go?

Unfortunately, I don’t have matches or time for that kind of experimentation. I’ll go back to working on my crochet and learning new-to-me nalbinding stitches that other people already figured out how to do. And the characters in my next novel will invent a new kind of yarncrafting for their world.

But is any of my yarncrafting friends decides to pick this up where I left off… let me know what happens, ‘kay?