Author Archives: T.Z. Barry

True Crime vs. Fictional Crime or Zodiac vs. Se7en

The genre of “true crime” is growing in popularity in the form of documentaries and podcasts that cover real crimes pulled from news headlines in detail. There are also fictionalized movies and television series about true crimes. I am not especially interested in true crime, but it is the fictionalized narratives about real crimes that interest me least. Fictional crime stories are better—or have the potential to be better—than true crime stories. The difference between them can best be seen in two of director David Fincher’s films about serial killers: Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007).

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How to Expand Your Attention Span

Many people today claim they don’t have the attention span, patience, or self-discipline to read dense books and long-form content. That is because they have become too accustomed to the quick short-form hyperactive content on the internet like tweets, Instagram stories, YouTube videos, memes, and TikToks. In this post, I wrote about breaking my Twitter addiction and focusing my efforts and time on reading books. I suggested Twitter and social media are like drugs in that they change your brain chemistry. That is not hyperbole. Social media changes your brain by shortening your attention span.

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Philip K. Dick’s Advice for Worldbuilding Science Fiction

The book The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings features several interviews and essays by author Philip K. Dick. In the following excerpt, PKD gives some helpful advice on worldbuilding for science fiction writers.

“This world must differ from the given in at least one way, and this one way must be sufficient to give rise to events that could not occur in our society — or in any known society present or past. There must be a coherent idea involved in this dislocation; that is, the dislocation must be a conceptual one, not merely a trivial or a bizarre one — this is the essence of science fiction, the conceptual dislocation within the society so that as a result a new society is generated in the author’s mind, transferred to paper, and from paper it occurs as a convulsive shock in the reader’s mind, the shock of dysrecognition. He knows that it is not his actual world that he is reading about.”

Philip K. Dick on worldbuilding a science fiction story
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From Hating Reading Books to Writing Them

When I was a child, I hated reading books. Yet today as an adult, I not only read a ton of books—I write them. How did this happen? Did my temperament change drastically? I don’t think so. I think I could have learned to love reading as a child if only I was exposed to the right books.

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Which is a Better Reflection of One’s Intelligence: Writing or Speaking?

Which better reflects an individual’s intelligence: their spoken words or written words? Most people might initially think writing because that is how the most intelligent ideas are spread: in books. But, essentially, speaking is to writing as taking a test is to taking an open-book test. When writing, the “book” is every book ever—the entire internet: Google, Wikipedia, academic papers, etc. All of human knowledge is at your fingertips.

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The Unique Potential of the First-Person Novel

“If one feels the desire to transform oneself and to speak from other bodies and souls, one is a dramatist.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Point of view is a question every fiction writer must decide on when telling a story. When reading others and writing myself, I prefer the first-person perspective. It lets you get inside the mind of another person and see life from their point of view. No matter who they are or what they’ve done, you can’t judge them. You need to have empathy for all people, even the worst-seeming people on the outside.

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Are Modern Writers Getting Dumber?

“Monkeying with Literature” (ca. 1877–78) by William Merritt Chase

When I read the fiction of 19th-century writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Herman Melville (among others), I am amazed by the depth and sophistication of their work, both psychologically and philosophically—not to mention the craftsmanship of their prose. Is anybody writing such complex fiction today? Society does not seem to make writers like they used to. (Myself included—though such writers inspire me to elevate my work.) Keep in mind that those writers were not professionally trained to be writers—almost all were self-taught. How were people so long ago seemingly so much more knowledgeable than we are today when we have so much more knowledge? Perhaps that very “knowledge” is the problem.

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DALL-E and the Future of Art

DALL-E is the new artificial intelligence project from OpenAI that is sweeping the internet. It is an AI that can instantly produce a unique image based simply on a text description. There seem to be few limits, as the AI can create multiple high-quality images of just about anything you can think of. This has many people fearing that DALL-E will spell the end of human artists. But are the images DALL-E produces even art? Can AI ever create art?

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New Substack: Time Zone Weird

I am starting a Substack newsletter devoted exclusively to my short fiction. (I will continue to post nonfiction on this blog.)

Time Zone Weird is a place for fiction located on the frontiers of sci-fi, philosophy, futurism, and horror. If you’ve read my short fiction, you can expect more of the same.

To begin, the majority of TZW content will be an ongoing science-fiction satire series titled “Future Fake News.”

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Thomas Ligotti on the Superiority of Short Fiction Over Novels

image from filth.com.mx

Thomas Ligotti has become one of my favorite contemporary horror writers. Like my favorite contemporary science fiction writer, Ted Chiang, Ligotti writes exclusively short stories. Both writers have never published anything longer than a novella. In this excerpt from an interview, Ligotti explains why he has not and never will write a novel:

I think it’s safe to say that I will never write a novel. The reason is this: I really don’t like fiction, and novels are what fiction is all about. The only fictional works that I’ve ever admired are those which have their formal basis in essays (Borges), poetry (Bruno Schulz), monologues (Thomas Bernhard), or all three (Poe and Lovecraft). I want to hear a writer speaking, not see a movie in my mind that takes days or weeks to get through rather than 100 minutes or the time it takes to watch a multi-part mini-series. Why would anyone want to read The Silence of the Lambs when they could see the movie?

– Thomas Ligotti interviewed by Mark McLaughlin at Horror Garage
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