Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Biased Sample and the Spotlight Fallacy

It’s been a while since I’ve highlighted a logic fallacy, but after the most recent non-fiction book I read, I felt compelled to start again.

The Spotlight Fallacy

I am highlighting this fallacy, as it really is being exemplified in the media right now (or always really, but I have a timely example right now).

This fallacy is a simple one. It is when a person assumes that all people of a type or group share the exact same characteristic(s)as those being spotlighted in the media or receiving the most attention.


“All black men are violent; I see it on the news all the time.”

“Kids these days are so much more violent; I see all these stories about school violence."

Pretty poor logic to depend on rumors and the media to determine what a class of people are like--which can’t be done anyway, as people are chaotic systems and it is best to judge them on a individual level. In fact, racial profiling started and failed by this logic fallacy.

My most recent example, as it is really starting to agitate me, is with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. I honestly overheard a conversation a Seattle tea shop between two men that went like this:

Person A: “Hillary’s voting demographic is clearly women."

Person B: “Is that enough to win?”

Person A: “Well, it’s not all women, just women that hate their husbands or are divorced.”

Person B: “There can’t be that many feminists.”

The assumption is in this conversation is that all feminists hate men and are divorced, angry women. Why does this come up? Well, look at who the media tends to highlight as feminist and/or who people talk about when talking about feminism. For example, on a number of occasions when I have said that I identify with feminist thought, I get a lot of questions (almost none about the actual philosophy or reason). Here is a selection of my favorites:

1. Are you gay?

2. Are you and your husband having problems?

3. But you aren’t ugly, why would you want to hang out with those women?

Why do people jump to these conclusion? Spotlight fallacy. It is the same reason people assume that all Muslims are terrorists that blow people up (as per the news reels), and the same reason people see all Americans as loud, violent, and obnoxious.

Back to the tea shop. When these men imagined who would vote for Ms. Clinton, they immediately presumed that it would be her ilk, feminists. Is she a feminist? Well, that axiom was not established through any formal logic; it was assumed because these men saw her as angry and hating husband (circles, circles).

Think what you will about these topics, but please use good logic. Otherwise, it makes my brain smoke.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Day

Another Filter
Originally uploaded by Nicole.Kelly
On Photography:

I took this photo yesterday at the Seattle Arboretum. It was a great day, and the Winter Garden was in full bloom. I fixed the color in Photoshop, as it was a little blown out.

On Writing:

I sent off the first four chapters of my second novel to my critique group yesterday. I am super excited to hear back from them. :D

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Non-fiction writing

January 24
Originally uploaded by Nicole.Kelly
I am currently reading a book about Seattle ghost stories, which I was so excited about. I have to say, though, that I am truly disappointed in the writing. It is clunky, poorly arranged, and, well, juvenile sounding. I was really looking forward to reading this book and using it as research for my next project, but it is just too weak on information. Half the book cites sources of information as a friend of a friend (FoF). In short, nothing is verifiable in the book. Not that I expect ghost stories to be verified, but I do expect crimes to substantiate and verified. You know?

The odd thing is that so much of the non-fiction I read is no where up to the same quality of the fiction I read. Are there just looser standards for the non-fiction market?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Writing ...

January 23
Originally uploaded by Nicole.Kelly
I ran across this excellent post about writing short stories. I really think it offers solid, real world advice for fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction writers. My favorite bit, as it can never be said too much:

"3. Get your best ammunition on the first page. Put whatever makes this science fiction or fantasy up front. Also, don't start with an extended scene that only functions as an info dump. If you think you need a prologue, try breaking the information up instead and salting it throughout the story. Prologues can slow down a reader's immersion in the story."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tired but happy

January 17
Originally uploaded by Nicole.Kelly
On Writing:

I am about 800 words into a new short story. It is very Hemingway, but it's nice to switch up the voice.

On Photography:

I learned how to hand color photos with Photoshop! I am super excited about that (note the photo)!

On Reading:

I am reading the worst non-fiction book ever! I cannot believe the logic flaws with this thing. Go ahead an expect a logic rant in the next day or two (you'll like that Written).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


January 14
Originally uploaded by Nicole.Kelly
I got this nice note from the Writers of the Future contest:

"Dear Contestant,

Your story arrived and has been entered in the 1st quarter 2008 competition. We will have results in the next 8 to 10 weeks. Winners will be notified personally and the results posted on our blog, which you can access through our web site which is www.writersofthefuture.com. Good luck!!
Best, Joni Labaqui - Director"

Honestly, that was a nice note to get. I didn't even submit via the Web, they pulled my address off of my submission form.

It was strange to me that I was so please about getting this, but I think it really points to the nature of the publishing business. As in, I feel respected as a writer, which is nice. Maybe I am just in a winter blues cycle, but I don't feel like most agents or editors are very kind (sorry). I have run into some really great agents and editors, but for the most part the industry personality is terse and cold.

After that bit of less than positive attitude, I give you some great editors that I think are supportive and kind in their responses (this is in no way a comprehensive list, so please add to it for me):

  • JJA (whose timely responses and rejectomancy fun are always appreciated)
  • Sean Melican (who wrote me a really nice critique)
  • Eric Marin (timely, nice, and professional)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Originally uploaded by Nicole.Kelly
I sometimes think that being a successful writer is one percent talent, 10 percent ambition, and 89 percent being able to handle rejection.

One of my favorite short stories was rejected last night (form rejection) for the fifth time. I really believe in the story, but I do have to question how much my belief is pride and how much is actually warranted. I have a very hard time having an objective perspective on my work. I have a "love it" or "hate it" problem. Edits are tedious on good days and crushing on bad days. That's the problem with being involved with the arts, there are no good metrics by which is measure yourself and have an objective result. I can't step up to a scale and weigh a story ,or run it and have the results come back with a "bug free" status. So when do you give up on a story? How far do you push "perseverance"?

Friday, January 4, 2008

11 years

Originally uploaded by Nicole.Kelly
Today is my anniversary. I got married 11 years ago. It's hard to remember that day, but it is still the best decision I ever made.

My strongest memories from that day:

  • It was 70 degrees outside (the wedding was in Colorado)
  • I just finished finals (only one semester to go)
  • I wore white Doc Martens
  • My husband looked so charming (and still does)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

On point

Originally uploaded by Nicole.Kelly
On Photography:

Boy, I need to make it into the studio. If I shoot one more photo of a dog in my office, I am going to pop.

On Writing:

I am writing an article for a magazine called, "Healing Path" right now. That is taking up most of my writing time. It is a 1400 word story, so I am in knee deep.

On Writers:

The PNWA and I are so close to having a spot for our meeting, which is tentatively set for February 15th. If it all works out, we will be meeting at Elliot Bay Bookstore and the topic will be Speculative Fiction and where is it is headed.