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Sunday, July 22, 2001
Typos, lace knitting, and schadenfreude
Wednesday, July 18, 2001
various points in my career I've worked as a typesetter, research
checker, technical typist, proofreader, slugger, copyeditor, line
editor, writer, six kinds of editor, and asst'd misc. other. I wouldn't
say that typos are my life, but they're a constant feature of it. And I
wouldn't say that I'm superstitious about typos; say, rather, that
experience has taught me that there's a certain perversity to the
universe where typos are concerned.
an apocryphal story about the man who tries to produce a book with no
errors in it at all, and winds up misspelling the title of the book on
the title page; but we don't have to settle for apocrypha when so many
real examples are available. My personal favorite is in Robert Cawdrey's A Table Alphabeticall of Hard Usual Words (that's a shorthand version of its title), which was published in 1604 and is generally held to be the first real English dictionary.
alert: I'm very fond of Cawdrey, whose pithy initial address to the
reader contains a great deal of common sense. Read it out loud if
you're having trouble with the spellings, and it'll come clear. An
"ynckhorne" is an inkhorn, or inkwell, and "ynckhorne termes" are the
kind of arcane or obscure words and phrases which a scholar might use,
but which never turn up in normal speech.
as by their place and calling, (but especially Preachers) as haue
occasion to speak publiquely before the ignorant people, are to bee
admonished, that they neuer affect any strange ynckhorne termes, but
labour to speake so as is commonly receiued, and so as the most
ignorant may well vnderstand them: neyther seeking to be ouer fine or
curious, nor yet liuing ouer carelesse, vsing their speech, as most men
doe, & ordering their wits, as the fewest haue done. Some men seek
so far for outlandish English, that they forget altogether their
mothers language, so that if some of their mothers were aliue, they
were not able to tell, or vnderstand what they say, and yet these fine
English Clearks, will say they speak in their mother tongue; but one
might well charge them, for counterfeyting the Kings English.
So, returning to our subject, there's Cawdrey's A Table Alphabeticall,
the first English dictionary -- a mighty blow struck, you'd think, in
the cause of orthography. And yet, right there on the very first page
of the definitions is a dirty great typo -- by my guess, a slugging
error -- whereby the word "aberration" appears twice on the page, once
in its proper place and once out of sequence, with "astray" spelled two
different ways in the definitions that follow.
some far iournied gentlemen, at their returne home, like as they loue
to go in forraine apparrell, so they will pouder their talke with
ouer-sea language. He that commeth lately out of France, will talk
French English, and neuer blush at the matter. Another chops in with
English Italianated, and applyeth the Italian phrase to our English
speaking, the which is, as if an Orator, that professeth to vtter his
minde in plaine Latine, would needs speake Poetrie, & far fetched
colours of strange antiquitie.
any wise man think, that wit resteth in strange words, or els standeth
it not in wholsome matter, and apt declaring of a mans mind? Do we not
speak, because we would haue other to vnderstand vs? or is not the
tongue giuen for this end, that one might know what another meaneth?
Therefore, either wee must make a difference of English, & say,
some is learned English, & othersome is rude English, or the one is
Court talke, the other is Country-speech, or els we must of necessitie
banish all affected Rhetorique, and vse altogether one manner of
language. Those therefore that will auoyde this follie, and acquaint
themselues with the plainest & best kind of speech, must seeke from
time to time such words as are commonlie receiued, and such as properly
may expresse in plaine manner, the whole conceit of their mind. And
looke what words wee best vnderstand, and know what they meane, the
same should soonest be spoken, and first applied, to the vttrance of
wish I could find a facsimile of the page. You can't properly
appreciate what a glaring error it is if you can't see that the book
has roughly 42 characters per line and 27 lines per page. There are
only twelve definitions on the first page, and "aberration" is two of
It would be "aberration". It would be "astray". And it would be on the very first page of definitions.
I going on too long here? Doesn't everyone keep lists of their favorite
typos? Want to hear about my three favorite typos affecting saints'
lives? No? Perhaps another time.)
Anyway. As I started out to say, I'm wary of presumption where typos
are concerned, because the little suckers have a knack for getting
even. And that, dear readers, is why I'm not going to say I recently
ran into the most painful typo of my life.
only mitigating factor was that it was someone else's typo. Normally
that would be enough to take the sting out of it. There are even times
when someone else's production error can take the sting out of your
own. I was much consoled over the bits of pied and missing text in
Walter Jon Williams' Angel Station (my book) by the entire page that went missing at the climax of Dan Simmons' The Fall of Hyperion (someone else's book).
Alas, the typo I'm writing about was in a set of knitting instructions in A Gathering of Lace, which in knitting circles is a hot book
just now. And justly so: it's beautiful, well-written, and full of
great patterns. It also has a few inspiringly loopy ones, like a lace
coracle. (No, that's not a typo.) For reasons I won't go into, I've been wanting a wretchedly difficult piece of knitting to work on. I'm not there yet, but to warm up for it I decided to knit a big circular lace shawl -- specifically, the pi
shawl that starts on page 38. For related reasons, I decided that for
once I was going to knit something entirely according to the
directions, without throwing in any of my own frets and variations.
Call it an exercise in faith.
you knit you've probably never thought about this, but when you make a
circular shawl that starts in the center and is formed outward in
concentric rings, in order for it to lie flat the number of stitches
per row has to gradually increase. By the time I hit the typo, I was up
to 574 stitches per row, and was working the last lace pattern band
before before the edging. It's a pretty pattern: Diamond Madeira, 14
stitches by 36 rows, in 41 repeats around the circle. The book
helpfully supplied a chart of the pattern on page 40. I must admit that
as I knitted from the chart, it did occur to me that the developing
pattern didn't look quite like the the one shown in the book, but I was
determined to follow the directions for once so I knitted even more
energetically so I could see how it came out.
halfway through the band, the horrid realization struck me: the results
didn't look right because the stitch chart I was working from had a
major error in it. After some study I figured out that the first eight
of its 36 rows should have been the last eight. Ripping out lace
knitting is a major pain under any circumstances. Worse, by my
calculation I had by now knitted 9,184 stitches in error.
O, the embarrassment. All die.
was such an unpleasant thought that I put off deciding what to do about
it, then put it off again. In the meantime, I got in touch with the
publisher so we could all share the joy. Traci Bunkers, the Instruction
Editor at XRX Books, took it fairly well. It probably helped that I
wasn't the first person to report that particular bug. She told me she
keeps track of errata
and posts them to the XRX website. She's not the only one who collects
knitting-pattern errata. I hadn't previously known this -- though I
should have; it's such an obvious answer to a perennial problem -- but
there are a number of websites that collect knitters' bug reports.
is all very useful if you know about them in advance; but I had my
9,184 erroneous stitches to consider. In the end I wussed out, kept the
existing stitches, and worked forward repeating same rows I'd already
knitted in reverse order. It made a tidily symmetrical pattern.
Disasters are always better if you can make them look intentional.
then my spirits have continued to improve. Thinking about poor brave
Traci Bunkers has helped. When there are typos in my books, I of course
regret them, but most times they just cause a little confusion. They
don't blossom forth as botched and misshapen handwork, and I don't hear
about each and every one of them from irritated readers.
happy me. There's nothing like other people's production errors to
cheer you up. This is as good as the time I read that long detailed
angst-ridden article about magazine disasters caused by binding in
those little sample envelopes of perfumed handcream. It's almost as
good as that missing page in The Fall of Hyperion.
Afterword: The technical bits
- = knit one
# = purl one
/ = k2tog
\ = ssk
A = Sl2tog-k1-p2sso
Here's the wicked mendacious chart as it appears on page 40 of A Gathering of Lace:
36 0 / 0 - 0 / - \ 0 - 0 \ 0 A
35 / 0 - 0 / - - # \ 0 - 0 \ -
34 0 - 0 / - / 0 0 \ \ 0 - 0 A
33 - 0 / - - # - - - # \ 0 - -
32 0 - - \ 0 0 \ / 0 0 - - 0 A
31 \ 0 - - - - - # - - - 0 / -
30 - \ 0 - - \ 0 0 / - 0 / - -
29 - - \ 0 - - - - - 0 / - - -
28 - - - \ 0 - - - 0 / - - - -
27 - - - - \ 0 - 0 / - - - - -
26 - - - - - 0 A 0 - - - - - -
25 - - - - 0 / - \ 0 - - - - -
24 - - - 0 / 0 A 0 \ 0 - - - -
23 - - 0 / 0 / - \ 0 \ 0 - - -
22 - 0 / 0 / 0 A 0 \ 0 \ 0 - -
21 0 / 0 / 0 / - \ 0 \ 0 \ 0 -
20 - 0 \ 0 \ 0 A 0 / 0 / 0 - -
19 0 - 0 \ 0 \ - / 0 / 0 - 0 A
18 \ 0 - 0 \ 0 A 0 / 0 - 0 / -
17 # \ 0 - 0 \ - / 0 - 0 / - -
16 0 \ \ 0 - 0 A 0 - 0 / - / 0
15 - - # \ 0 - - - 0 / - - # -
14 / 0 0 / - 0 A 0 - - \ 0 0 \
13 # - - - 0 / - \ 0 - - - - -
12 0 / - 0 / - - - \ 0 - - \ 0
11 - - 0 / - - - - - \ 0 - - -
10 - 0 / - - - - - - - \ 0 - -
09 0 / - - - - - - - - - \ 0 -
08 0 - - - - - - - - - - - 0 A
07 \ 0 - - - - - - - - - 0 / -
06 0 \ 0 - - - - - - - 0 / 0 A
05 \ 0 \ 0 - - - - - 0 / 0 / -
04 0 \ 0 \ 0 - - - 0 / 0 / 0 A
03 \ 0 \ 0 \ 0 - 0 / 0 / 0 / -
02 0 \ 0 \ 0 - - - 0 / 0 / 0 A
01 \ 0 \ 0 - 0 A 0 - 0 / 0 / -
To generate the correct version, move rows 1-8 to the other end of the chart. Renumber the rows as at right.
08 0 - - - - - - - - - - - 0 A 36
07 \ 0 - - - - - - - - - 0 / - 35
06 0 \ 0 - - - - - - - 0 / 0 A 34
05 \ 0 \ 0 - - - - - 0 / 0 / - 33
04 0 \ 0 \ 0 - - - 0 / 0 / 0 A 32
03 \ 0 \ 0 \ 0 - 0 / 0 / 0 / - 31
02 0 \ 0 \ 0 - - - 0 / 0 / 0 A 30
01 \ 0 \ 0 - 0 A 0 - 0 / 0 / - 29
36 0 / 0 - 0 / - \ 0 - 0 \ 0 A 28
35 / 0 - 0 / - - # \ 0 - 0 \ - 27
34 0 - 0 / - / 0 0 \ \ 0 - 0 A 26
33 - 0 / - - # - - - # \ 0 - - 25
32 0 - - \ 0 0 \ / 0 0 - - 0 A 24
31 \ 0 - - - - - # - - - 0 / - 23
30 - \ 0 - - \ 0 0 / - 0 / - - 22
29 - - \ 0 - - - - - 0 / - - - 21
28 - - - \ 0 - - - 0 / - - - - 20
27 - - - - \ 0 - 0 / - - - - - 19
26 - - - - - 0 A 0 - - - - - - 18
25 - - - - 0 / - \ 0 - - - - - 17
24 - - - 0 / 0 A 0 \ 0 - - - - 16
23 - - 0 / 0 / - \ 0 \ 0 - - - 15
22 - 0 / 0 / 0 A 0 \ 0 \ 0 - - 14
21 0 / 0 / 0 / - \ 0 \ 0 \ 0 - 13
20 - 0 \ 0 \ 0 A 0 / 0 / 0 - - 12
19 0 - 0 \ 0 \ - / 0 / 0 - 0 A 11
18 \ 0 - 0 \ 0 A 0 / 0 - 0 / - 10
17 # \ 0 - 0 \ - / 0 - 0 / - - 09
16 0 \ \ 0 - 0 A 0 - 0 / - / 0 08
15 - - # \ 0 - - - 0 / - - # - 07
14 / 0 0 / - 0 A 0 - - \ 0 0 \ 06
13 # - - - 0 / - \ 0 - - - - - 05
12 0 / - 0 / - - - \ 0 - - \ 0 04
11 - - 0 / - - - - - \ 0 - - - 03
10 - 0 / - - - - - - - \ 0 - - 02
09 0 / - - - - - - - - - \ 0 - 01
June is over and done with. Goodbye, orange blossoms and lace; hello, post-mortems.
Start with the smart-mouthed And the Bride Wore... website: MST3K for bizarre wedding fashions. They're spot-on, especially about the cupholders.
Onward to the compulsively readable Wedding Etiquette Hell,
a collection of misbegotten wedding stories that have the horrid
fascination of a train wreck in progress. Here's a former Matron of
Honor describing a ghastly limo ride:
wedding goes just fine, and we all file out into the hot, late-June sun
to await the limo that is not yet there. It finally pulls up, and I
can't believe it when the driver steps out and introduces himself. He
has no teeth! I can't even remember his name, but he was memorable. As
we all try to pile into the back, of course there is not enough room
for us all. My husband and I have to sit up front with the driver. The
day being hot and sunny, we asked that he turn on the air conditioning
for us. "Hope you don't mind", he says, "but the air conditioning is
broke." So we ask him to roll down the back windows. He says he can't,
it's against company policy. Whatever! So we finally take off. The
driver asks the newlyweds where they want to go. Their response? "We
don't know." ...We drive around downtown.
And another former attendant recalls an exceptionally unattractive Bridezilla:
the bride and groom have an idea--let's go to the local Home Depot and
parade around there in our wedding attire! Help me! We arrive and file
out of the limo into the store. Needless to say, the workers and
customers are rather surprised to see us. We traipse all over the
store, and for some bizarre reason the bride decides to have her
picture taken on a TOILET sitting in the aisle. Can we leave now?
file back into the limo and head for the reception (held in the lower
level of a bowling alley). We get out, and the driver takes off! All of
my husband's and my stuff is in the trunk, including my purse! Aaaah!
We go to the reception, considering everyone is waiting for the bridal
party, and perform as usual. Meanwhile, I am telling the groom to call
the limo service and the photographer to get his money back, and my
husband is on his phone trying to get a hold of the limo service to
bring the limo back. Nobody there! He tries again, and gets someone
that does not speak English! Finally, somehow, he gets the limo driver
to come back and retrieves our things from the trunk.
all that hoopla, I was exhausted. I feigned a headache and we left! I
don't think I ever want to be in another wedding again.
woman who I thought to be a close friend of mine was getting married.
She didn't ask me to be a bridesmaid, which I thought was odd, but I
just figured that she had lots of cousins that she had to ask or
something. She asked me to be a "special attendant" who would help her
in her wedding preparation, since her Maid of Honor (her cousin) lived
out of town. Since I thought she was a great friend, I said yes.
ended up picking 3 bridesmaids and one Maid of Honor--2 were family
members, 2 were what I can only call casual acquaintances of hers. I
was baffled at this selection, especially when I was not chosen, but I
let it pass. As time went on, I noticed something that I include here
only because it is crucial to the story of this bridezilla...all four
of the 'maids were *significantly* overweight. I would say that the
*least* overweight of the four was about 45 pounds overweight, and the
heaviest probably weighed around 350 pounds.
she had finally coordinated schedules so that all four could be in town
together on the same day to go have bridesmaids dress fittings. I went
with her as her "special attendant" to help see that things went
smoothly. But when the 'maids saw the dress she had picked out for
them, they looked appalled. When they tried their dresses on, at least
a couple of them were in tears. She had (unknown to me) picked out
tight, spaghetti-strap sheath dresses.
even though they were all significantly overweight, all of her 'maids
were quite beautiful women. They would have looked and felt gorgeous in
a different style of dress. But a tight sheath??? Every bulge showed
prominently. And SPAGHETTI STRAPS??? Most overweight women do not feel
comfortable showing off less-than-toned upper arms, backs, and
shoulders like that.
I said, her 'maids were in tears. They asked her to reconsider her
dress decision. She threw a fit and said that this was the ONLY dress
that fit into the "vision" she had of her wedding. Then they asked if
they couldn't just order some matching shoulder wraps (which were
available, by the way) so that they didn't feel quite so exposed. She
continued her fit, ending by sobbing that they were trying to "ruin her
wedding" and that if they were good friends or relatives they would
just "shut the hell up and wear the dresses she wanted for HER day."
One maid had had enough, and told her that she quit. Inside I was
shouting "you go girl!" But outside I was still trying to be the good
"special attendant" and console the sobbing bride.
anyway, when we got in the car to leave, Bridezilla showed her true
colors...you thought it was bad until now? It gets better! She turned
to me and said, "It's too bad Gina (names changed) quit...my balance of
my attendants with his is going to be ruined now!"
offered to step in and take Gina's place. She snorted and said, "Don't
you get it?" I shook my head in bewilderment. She said, as though
explaining something to a 2-year-old, "YOU'RE NOT FAT." She then
proceeded to explain to me that she had specifically picked only
bridesmaids that were, in her words, "really gross and fat." And that
she had specifically picked the dresses to highlight their figure flaws
so that she would look better. Or in her words, "Next to those fat cows
in those dresses with their fat hanging out all over, I am gonna look
like a supermodel on my wedding day."
I rode home in shocked silence. The next day, I wrote her a letter
telling her exactly how nasty, selfish, and mean she was, and that I
quit as her "special attendant." I should have told her to her face,
but I guess I just didn't have the nerve...not to mention I was so
shocked the words didn't come to me until the next day anyway! I never
heard from her again, did not attend the wedding, but always hoped it
turned out well for her remaining 3 'maids...like maybe they ALL quit!
I also admit to hoping that she gains about 200 pounds someday and has
someone give her a dose of her own medicine!
Another scientific breakthrough from Philip Morris, Inc.
Monday, July 16, 2001
The world's largest tobacco company has issued a report
saying that premature deaths by lung cancer save the government money,
because the smokers die before they need all that expensive senior care.
Bringing the light to Bognor Regis
How did I miss this story until now? According to a story in the London Times, "Missionaries to spread word in 'heathen' Britain", South American and African missionaries have taken to preaching in the UK:
the first are 12 Brazilians who have gone to spread the gospel to such
places as Bognor Regis in West Sussex, Edinburgh and Orpington in Kent.
In Harrogate, North Yorkshire, people taking the waters today will be
greeted by the gentle samba of Viva Vida, a Brazilian dance troupe
gyrating to the music of Christian songs.
who have travelled 5,000 miles from the Sal da Terra (Salt of the
Earth) church in Uberlandia will ask onlookers whether they are ready
to commit themselves to Jesus.
Barros, head of the Sal de Terra mission, will give holy communion
today in a restaurant in Bolton, Lancashire. "Britain is ungodly," he
In re the Bulwer-Lytton contest, Barnaby Rapoport writes:
you say, there are much worse sentences in published work. I've been
reading a lot of Richard Shaver for a fiction project, and I recently
came across this:
the dark gloom cast by the shadow of the gloomy old "Home" (for even
the workers of that far past had their accidents sooner or later in the
endless lives their medicinal science gave them so that the legend of
their immortality still is remembered today), Tim parked the rollat in
the shadow of the overhanging stone monster of stone that graced the
weird architecture of the great pile."
-- from "The Masked World" by Richard S. Shaver, Amazing, May 1946, pp. 30-31.
Thursday, July 12, 2001
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown slash. What more can I say?
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Question Settled: Does the Internet Really Change Everything?
I came to this decision after noticing that it's a rare week in which someone on eBay isn't auctioning off a bit of the True Cross. At the moment that I'm posting this there are one, two, three bits of the True Cross up for auction, accompanied by bits of (respectively) (1.) SS. Agnes, Anthony of Padua, Apollonia, Blaise, Catherine of Alexandria, Constantia, Donatus, and Francisci Solani; (2.) Didier, Claire, Romain, and Felix; and (3.) Dominic, Leonidas, and Francis of Assisi, plus a bit of the BVM's veil. This week there's also a relic of the Holy Lance.
The world may be turned upside-down, but it's still made of the same old stuff.
Not Half Bad
The results are in on the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest,
and as usual, the winning entries aren't bad enough to be interesting.
In fact, you could pretty much construct them to a formula: "Take two
normal expository sentences, plus a third sentence containing a
heavy-handedly inappropriate element. Remove the terminal punctuation
of the first two sentences, and string all three of them together.
Identify any recurrent elements and translate their second and
subsequent instances into obscure equivalents. Randomly decorate the
whole ad libitum with extraneous details, parenthetical remarks, and overblown verbs."
But don't take my word for it. Here's the prizewinning entry, the overall runner-up, and the winner in the Detective category:
small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each
other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices
as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of
angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona's ankles, causing her to
reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way
through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians
in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea. (Sera Kirk, Vancouver, BC)Bah!
I could find worse (and livelier) specimens in a ninety-second troll
through the office slushpile or a fifteen-minute troll through any
bookstore. Those aren't bad sentences. They're an exercise in
milk-and-water naughtiness for daytrippers who think it's deliciously
wicked to let their participles dangle in the breeze, but wouldn't
dream of appearing in public in a sentence that doesn't parse. They're
playing at being bad.
lone monarch butterfly flew flutteringly through the cemetery, dancing
on and glancing against headstone after headstone before alighting atop
Willie Mitchell's already lowered casket, causing gasps of awe to fly
from the open mouths of five or six lingering mourners, until a big
shovelful of dirt landed on it and it died. (Julie Stangeland, Seal Beach, CA)
graphic crime-scene photo that stared up at Homicide Inspector Chuck
Venturi from the center of his desk was not a pretty picture, though it
could have been, Chuck mused, had it only been shot in soft focus with
a shutter speed of 1/125 second at f 5.6 or so. (Ms. Rephah Berg, Oakland, CA)
years ago, I did see a Bulwer-Lytton entry that was up to spec -- a
sentence that instantly told you that you didn't want to read any
further, that was guaranteed to make the book drop from your numbed
"I was a very, very, very sensitive child." -- but this formalist work of art only got an Honorable Mention.
year the first entry of any note is the runner-up in the Detective
category, which has a nice little confusion-of-motion problem:
was the night, the night that began when the sun dipped its hot belly
below the trees outside Detective Gravning's window, the night that
would not end until the sun rose in the morning, like the flaming red
hair on the married head of Dectective Gravning's lover, who rose now
from his bed, and pranced through the room, like a match struck, then
thrown. (Steve Gehrke, Austin, TX)The
winning entries in the Fantasy category are both one-bang jokes, I
uterly diskard them. They're nothing next to the simple elegance of one
of Jacqueline Lichtenberg's actual published opening lines:
Before him, the road receded in both directions.But
back to the Bulwer-Lytton contest. The winning entry in Purple Prose is
a finger exercise. Again, the runner-up is more interesting. Its real
problem is that it's a quick edit away from being a passably
interesting description of its subject. Here's the original:
most members of "Mustela putorius fero," known to laymen as the
domestic ferret, our inquisitive hero (about whom more we shall shortly
read) resembled a shrunken polar bear, toasted by a blowtorch, suffixed
by a tail, and stretched out like taffy while still hot. (Tristan Davenport, Santa Cruz, CA)Here's the fix:
Like most specimens of Mustela putorius fero,
or common ferret, our inquisitive hero resembled a miniature polar bear
that had been toasted by a blowtorch, suffixed with a tail, and
stretched out like taffy while still hot. Forget the Science Fiction entries. They're trifling riffs on Star Trek that wouldn't raise more than a polite giggle at Godawful Fan Fiction, where bad sentences are regarded as an art form. If you want the real thing, read the works of Mary Sue Whipple, author of the deathless The Night the Ship Exploded and Everyone "Did It". Here's a specimen:
"With that I am adone for anow. Let us have sex."Onward.
Skip Western and Romance. Skip the Vile Pun entries, which manage to be
even more labored and unfunny than the rest. Skip Adventure and
Children's Literature, and Dark and Stormy Night, and the Special
Silicon Valley category. Mercifully avert your eyes from the entry in
Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions which demonstrates by its presence
that the judges don't know the difference between a bad sentence and a
good piece of Irish Bull.
With that Janeway nodded much appeased.
Captain and Ensign Mary Sue are doing it on my desk, thought the Doctor
with a harsh pain where his heart would be if he had one.
see a lot of bad writing professionally. Know what? Most of the people
who write it work just as hard and love their work just as much as the
good writers do. The difference is that their writing doesn't love them
back. That's not a moral failing. It's just sad.
I won't deny that inept writing can be funny, and I don't mind people
laughing at it. Neither do I mind them playing at being bad, tourists
in the land of unfortunate word choices. But I do mind them slumming.
Tuesday, July 10, 2001
This must be the future
Actually, it's just the Textura Trading Company's
catalog listings. They're a mail-order business that sells yarns and
unspun fibers to weavers, spinners, and other textile artists.
Traditional pursuits, right? But their yarn listings are a descent into techno-weirdness. Their fibers, too.
Monday, July 09, 2001
If I tell you that people in Utah give their babies strange names,
you'll think you understand. But I tell you: if you have not seen, you
do not understand. I'm not just talking about giddy flights like Heavenly Melanie, Young Elizabeth, Kaysional Tempest, Liberty Lulu, and Miracles Precious One. They name kids after cars --
Audi, Auto, Avis, Chevrollette, Lexus, Pontiac, Porsche, Turquoise Novaand common nouns --
Camera, Canteen, Crayon, Jar, Lawn, Magpie, Mothers, Novella, Panda,
Pork Chop, Quorum, Soda, Stripling, Thermos, Timber, Tithingand rather less common nouns:
Glory, Christmas Holiday, Confederate American, Denim Levi, Friends
Forsaken, Logan River, Messiah Angel, Paradise Sunrise, Sincere
Devotion, Southern Justice, Stormy Shepherd, Thankful Flood, Vernal
Independence, Welcome ExileIn
some cases I'm convinced that the parents rashly omitted to look words
up and pronounce them out loud before wishing them on their helpless
infants, or "just liked the sound of it" and didn't have the necessary
vocabulary to spot an unfortunate meaning:
Barbeli, BeDae, Chlorine, Clitoris, Codiene, Fawn-Dew, Feramorz, Iron
Rod, Knight Train, Latrina, LaVirgin, Malis, Mikatin, Morona, Nudity,
Paradi, Pratt, Rube, Sambo, Sham, Sleeza, Sterile, Tugdick, Vindalu,
Vinyl, VulvaMaeOccasionally their ingenuity runs short, especially in those really big Mormon families --
Seavenly, Eighta, Ninea, Tenna, Elevena, Twenty, Finita, Amenbut alas, not for long, as witness the generally inexplicable
Bimberly, Casualeen, Chip-wa, Chod, Corx, Cimemthymia, CoJane, Czar,
D'Bora, D'Dee, D'Loaf, DaLinda LaDale, DeFonda Virtue, DeRail, deRalph,
E'all, Elvoid, Garn, Gatobon, Grik, Halloween, Halo, Hereditary,
Jennyfivetina, Jeopardee, Jilbear, Justa Cowgirl, Justan Tru, K-8, Ka,
Kris Miss, L'orL, La, Laalaa, Laddie, LaDeeDee, LaDonnaJosephrania,
LaEarl, LaNondus, LaZello, LeVoid, Luvit, M'Lu, Musser Cenia,
Nafeteria, Najestica, NaLa'DeLuhRay, NaNon, NB, Non, Nymphus, O'Ann,
Patches, Pictorianna, Prime, Queenola, Revo Cram, Sancie D'Wan,
Saunsceneyouray, Shimber, Shlori, Shrudilee, Slaughter, Slayer, Stod,
Synthi, Syrullean, T-vive, Tabernacle, Truly, Xanton, Violeet,
Vyquetoriya, WaThene, Wavie, Yodawn, Young'n, Zagg, Zaragrunudgeyon ("Zarg," for short), Zedwain, Zem Saxon, Zenus, Zestpoole, Zhalore, and Zion Anakin.This
is only a tiny fraction of the oceanically weird whole. I haven't gone
near their perverse respellings of otherwise normal names (viz., Aarikkaa), but I have to stop somewhere.
It's all from The Utah Baby Namer: For years now, the website that most reliably leaves me weeping.
Botts' All-Flavor Beans for Your Eyes
A friend recently observed that the www.we-didn't-need-to-see-that.com domain name is still up for grabs. It may stay that way. In the meantime, a random collection of images:
of anthropomorphic (a.k.a. "funny animal") comics, whose passion is to
dress up as same, get together for a healthy all-American night of bowling.
The Song of Songs, illustrated: Take that, Biblical literalists!
In celebration of Valentine's Day, Japanese tatting enthusiast Megumi "Exanimis" Okamura, who has a thing for bats, devised paired symmetrical kissing bats enclosed within a heart.
Sports for Jesus! We have this courtesy of Catholic Supply of St. Louis, Inc., from whose site it may be divined that Our Lord and Savior is into baseball, football, basketball, track, hockey, and soccer, but not golf. Not personally, at any rate.
Click here for Sumo wrestlers in Sailor Moon drag. All I can say is, it's a real shame they aren't into bowling.
Jason Shih, a very earnest Taiwanese rockhound, is concerned about the number of faked fossils on the market.
Sunday, July 08, 2001
Igor learn write book fast, Umgawa! Or, as the site puts it, "How to Write A Book On Anything in 14 Days or Less ... Guaranteed! -- A Guide for Professionals."
I suppose it uses the conceit of being addressed to professionals so
it'll sound like hot stuff to its real audience: Wanna-be writers (of
whom there are approximately 2.4 bazillion in the English-speaking
forestall the obvious question, yes, of course it's a scam. Or, more
carefully: It would be such an extraordinary breakthrough for the
author, Steve Manning, to be able to do what he claims -- surely by now
we'd have heard about him from other sources? And: I assume he's lying
about stuff I can't check, because he lies about stuff I can.
he able to teach the blind, lame, and halt to write? Maybe. That's
unascertainable from here. But he also claims he can teach you --
guaranteed! -- how to get an agent in just 36 hours, create a book
proposal no publisher can resist, ensure that your book is a
best-seller, and abolish the role of luck in publishing.
No, really! He actually says that.
more than a decade of research, more than a decade of finding,
evolving, creating, and developing these strategies--strategies that
many of my clients are using right now--I've encountered some amazing
truths that I'll share with you right now. These are truths you've
probably suspected all along: Amazing,
innit? That paragraph is the main reason the URL for this site has been
quietly circulating in author-and-editor circles.
in order to write a book, the less writing talent you have, the easier
it will be for you. If you're a professional writer right now, it's an
uphill struggle as you try to perfect what's already perfect. These
techniques will free you from the bonds of perfection and you'll
discover in minutes that you already have all the talent you need to
write an outstanding book...honest!
2. Creativity: I have one word of advice for you when it comes to creativity. DON'T. I'll show you exactly what publishers want...and it's NOT
creativity. Those who wish to be creative will rarely be published. The
sooner you learn that, the sooner you'll be a very successful author. Fibber. Creativity is of course a necessary component of a good book, though it's not sufficient by itself to make a book good.
You're a busy professional. You've probably been told it takes years to
write a good book. These are lies. You can write your book in 14 days
or less, even if you've got a full-time business or career and have
other demands on your time. No tricks, no asterisks. As one of my
students, professional speaker John Watkis, said to me, "Steve, if I
hadn't used your information I'd probably STILL be writing my book. A
book that's now published and selling fast!"There
are cases where notable authors have written books in less than two
weeks -- but they'd been writing for years when they did it, and they
didn't write all their books that fast.
Forget luck. Luck has nothing to do with writing and publishing your
book. Follow the guidelines I'll set out for you and you'll be on a
direct course for publishing success. That's the other passage that makes people in the industry thrash around on the floor and make strange noises.
5. Writing ability:
Do you know how to talk? Then you know how to write! Writing isn't like
painting or sculpting or playing tennis. You don't need to spend years
learning the basics and mastering the techniques. You've already done
that as a child. You're already a master writer. I give you the
techniques to make it happen! Talking isn't writing; it just sounds a lot like it.
a rule of thumb, someone who can talk can learn to write. That doesn't
mean it'll come easy, or that they'll write well enough to sell, or
that they're already master writers who just need to learn how to let
their genius out. It means they have the basic abilities they need to
start learning. There'll be a lot of work involved. There always is.
That's why the line about being freed from "the bonds of perfection" is
such a hoot. If perfection is bondage, and if as writers we're
fortunate enough to be wearing those bonds, we've spent years getting
wondering whether Manning isn't just repackaging known material.
There's a fairly simple set of techniques and exercises for getting
students to stop writing in that dreadful stilted "My-report-is-about-algae,-algae are very important"
style so many of them pick up while writing themes in school. The trick
is to get them to break out of that, and into the language of everyday
speech. It's a great corrective. The change can be striking. The basic
work on this is Ken MacRorie's Telling Language, which has been around since 1970 and is now in its fourth edition. (Here's a link to a nice sample
of the first chapter.) If you're trying to learn to write, it's one of
the best books you can buy, and it costs a heck of a lot less than
Manning's little opus.
6. Getting an agent: I don't want you to simply write a manuscript. I want you to SELL
your book to a publisher. I'll give you the three steps to getting an
agent that will have several of them lining up within 36 hours! That's right, 36 HOURS!If your book is SF or fantasy, those 36 hours had better not fall over Labor Day or Halloween weekend.
agents from the vasty deep is no great feat. The trick is to get a good
one. The good ones tend to be busy. Claiming that you can have them
lining up within 36 hours is like claiming that a scented aftershave
will cause scantily-clad women to throw themselves at you: If it
actually starts happening, keep a firm grip on your wallet and head for
a better neighborhood.
those are all bold claims. And each one of them has been challenged by
"professional" writers. But when they see the techniques and
strategies, when they actually use them, they actually write me letters
afterwards apologizing and agreeing that these strategies not only
work, they work better than anything they've ever seen in their lives. Name three I've heard of.
The Alchemist's Challenge
is an unusually good quiz where the wrong answers are half the fun. A
couple of the questions are glitched, like the one that assumes that
there's an authoritative answer to where the word "okay" comes from,
but most quizzes have questions like that. Few of them have questions
1. Dido is:I am exceptionally fond of question #14.
A machine used to cut ornate moldings in wood.
An extinct flightless bird once living on the island of Mauritius.
A sex toy.
The queen of Carthage and the spurned lover of Aeneas.
A group of early twentieth-century artists who used accidental and incongruous elements in their work.
An accomplished female classical singer.
Knit and Tuck is a custom knitting firm with a profound understanding of human nature, and I wish them well. Go here, to their site, and click on "Project Completion" to see what I mean.
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
Los Angeles explained; e-book praised; and other improbabilities
The Universities of Nottingham and Birmingham have cooperated on something called The Three Cities Project: Literary and Visual Representations of Three American Cities, 1870s to 1930s,
and in connection with it have published an excellent e-book on a
proprietary website. There are essays, illustrations, appurtenant
scholarly material, the works -- and well designed and implemented,
too. It's a great idea. Publishing the same material as a
conventionally printed book would have been prohibitively expensive.
Chances are it would never been published, or would have appeared in
truncated form; and if it had been so lavish and expansive, it would
have cost so much that I'd never have gotten my hands on a copy.
(See? I don't dislike e-books per se. I just dislike bad books, badly published, in any format.)
three cities under consideration are New York, Chicago, and Los
Angeles. I'm sorry to say I found the New York essays the weakest of
the lot. The Chicago essays were better; I enjoyed several of them. But
to my mind the prize of the lot is Jeremiah Borenstein Axelrod's "'Los
Angeles Is Not the City It Could Have Been': Cultural Representation,
Traffic, and Urban Modernity in Jazz Age America". The text is concise,
literate, and punchy, but it makes most of its points with pictures, and they're goodies.
Tuesday, June 19, 2001
The last time I talked to Gordon R. Dickson,
over Easter weekend of 2000, he said, "SF will be a different place when the last person dies who remembers a world that didn't have science fiction in it."
(You could quibble about when SF became available where; but Gordy grew up in Alberta in the 1920s and 30s, and it warn't. And that matters less than the fact that he's right.)
More on the SF community in the early 50s
Quite by accident, while I was looking up something else in Harry Warner Jr.'s A Wealth of Fable: An Informal History of Science Fiction Fandom in the 1950s
(Van Nuys: Scifi Press, 1992), I ran into a passage that discusses the
mindset and tastes of fandom circa 1950-1951, and how much things had
changed by the end of that decade.
(An oversight: I should have mentioned A Wealth of Fable in my earlier post on historical sources. My all-time favorite work of fannish historiography is HWJ's history of the 1940s, All Our Yesterdays, which is a bit better integrated and has a more coherent narrative; but A Wealth of Fable
is nevertheless and hands-down the best overall history of fandom in
the 1950s. And if it's a tad less coherent, well, so was fandom.)
Here's the passage, from chapter one, "Oscillating Fans", page 24:
and International Fantasy Association awards paid too little attention
to fandom to give much information on fannish preferences in the 1950s.
The 1959 Fanac poll received 125 filled-out ballots, probably a better
response than that year's Hugo balloting. It showed that as the decade
ended, Fanac, Cry, and Shaggy were the favorite
fanzines; George Barr, Dan Adkins, and Bjo, artists; ATom, Bjo, and
Bill Rotsler, cartoonists; John Berry, Terry Carr, and an ancient
Hagerstown fan, writers; Berry, Bjo, and Carr, the top fans in
general. In the same year, Skyrack took a poll about United Kingdom fandom. Winners included, for fanzines, Aporrheta, Hyphen, and Orion;
artists, ATom, Jim Cawthorne; writer, John Berry, Walter A. Willis,
Vincent Clarke; favorite column, "Inchmery Fan Diary"; and best
individual article, "The Goon Goes West."[Non-footnotes: 1. The ancient Hagerstown fan is Harry Warner Jr. himself. 2. Sercon (adj., from "serious [and] constructive"): (1.) Of or having to do with the assumption that fandom and fan activity should have some loftier purpose. (2.) Formerly, having an exaggerated sense of the importance of one's own projects; see "serious constructive" in Fancyclopedia II.
In modern fandom, most often used to characterize attempts to write
about and discuss fantastic literature and related subjects in a more
earnest, structured, and formal fashion. (3.) Stoned. (An occasional informal usage, 1980s and later.)]
I have been unable to find a comparable poll from the start of this
decade. But the poll which Don Wilson took in 1948 might not be an
anachronism, because the choices shown through it reveal the changes
wrought by the 1950s. All of the four favorite fanzines that finished
highest in the Wilson poll were sercon to a greater or lesser
extent: The Fanscient, Dream Quest, Fantasy Commentator, and Gorgon.
Redd Boggs, never an all-out serconist, was nevertheless more sedate
and scholarly than the fans who were favored by the end of the 1950s,
and he finished first in 1948 both as best fan writer and as most
Austin took a poll early in 1951, getting 52 replies which indicate
what fans thought of prodom just before major convention awards began
to be made in that field. In order, the favorite authors were Heinlein,
Bradbury, Sturgeon, Van Vogt, Asimov, de Camp, Kuttner, Lovecraft,
Campbell, and Merritt; prozines, Galaxy, Astounding, FandSF, Startling, and a tie between Other Worlds and Galaxy Science Fiction Novels.
If you are wondering whether you are sercon or fannish in nature, it is
not hard to find out. You are sercon if you can identify the authors
and original places of publication for all the novels that got the most
votes in the Austin poll: To the Stars, Time Quarry, The Wizard of Linn, Dying Earth, and The Hand of Zei.
all those names and titles mean nothing to you, the gist of it is that
the SF community underwent a sea change in the 1950s. It became more
self-aware, more sophisticated, less formal. It stopped worrying what
it was for, or about.
many ways this was the same process the literature had been going
through when it figured out that science fiction wasn't really a way to
teach popularized science to the masses, or a technology for predicting
future social and technological developments, or a nascent modern
mythology that would supplant the outworn beliefs of an earlier era.
Sure, it dabbled in all those things, and still does today; science
fiction never entirely throws out its old toys. But science fiction and
fandom both slipped past those early attempts to define their purpose
and meaning. It was sufficient that they existed. Their discourse moved
on to other subjects.
change had been coming for a long time. In 1950-1951 things were just
beginning to start to tip over, and would shortly be heading for a new
equilibrium, but ... only kind of, so far; it hadn't happened yet, not really. Which makes it a very interesting moment.
the stupid Retro Hugo ballot (once you've voted "No Award", that is).
History is interesting. The Retro Hugos aren't. The only good thing
about them is that no matter how well or how badly they work out,
they're bound to be a self-limiting phenomenon: there were only so many
years of Worldcons but no Hugos.
Saturday, June 16, 2001
Roadie.net is a momentary glimpse of another world, only dimly understood. I remain bemused by one guy's claim that on four separate occasions, he's heard people who were trying to get backstage use the line, "The singer has my prosthetic leg!"
History: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Fandom, and the greater SF Community
few notes to start: (1.) The history of science fiction, fandom, and
the SF community are braided together. There are sources that deal only
with one or the other, but that's more a matter of focus than any
real-world distinction. (2.) The SF/fannish world regards clear-cut
definitions as a challenge. (3.) "The SF community" is slightly larger
than fandom, since it includes some non-fannish bits of the pro
community, publishing industry, other SF-related media, academia, etc.
(There are also fannish bits of all those milieux; see note 2.) (4.)
Persons who explain why they're not fans at more than a couple
sentences' length are almost certainly fans. (5.) Writing is best
honored by being read.
The two best books about the early history of the field are All Our Yesterdays, by Harry Warner Jr., and The Futurians by Damon Knight. Find copies where you can.
this past decade or so, the wildest imagining of SF wouldn't have
encompassed the idea that old fanzines would be available via the web.
They're vastly more accessible now than they were when I was young fan.
The Enchanted Duplicator, by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw, is a loose pastiche of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
which combines a picaresque spiritual quest with bad puns, advice on
etiquette, broadly comic descriptions of perennial fannish types and
their characteristic follies, and tips for avoiding overinking. It has
been called "the national epic of fandom," which may or may not be
overdoing it, but it's still being read, long after mimeography has
disappeared from general fannish use.
did their level best to catalog and explain fandom. You could do worse
than to browse them. Here's Jack ("John Bristol") Speer's 1944 Fancyclopedia I, and Dick Eney's 1959 Fancyclopedia II. Cum grano salis, as Speer and Eney would be the first to tell you.
Then, Rob Hansen's ongoing history of British fandom. Also, George Flynn's history of Hugo and site selection voting. Also, Laurie Mann's Awards Page.
The essential newszine Ansible, by the even more essential David Langford. Eighteen Hugos are not too many. Good links, btw.
The skiffy stuff its ownself:
NESFA Press, which is run by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA),
has been putting some of the best old SF (and some that's not so old)
back into print in a series of single-author collections. Note: The
link that says "A short list of titles and prices" is how you get to the complete list of all publications available from NESFA Press.
Even if I do say so myself: Orb (an imprint of Tor Books) has also been putting old SF back into print.
The Internet Speculative Fiction Database
is up and running again. This is where to find out who wrote what,
under what pen name, as part of which series, and where and when it was
published; plus diverse other databits. Not an interpretive site, but
it's unequalled for depth and breadth of data collected in one place.
It's been sorely missed.
The other good bibliographical site: The Locus Indexes, which has Charles N. Brown and William G. Contento's Locus Index to Science Fiction (broadly informative listings,1984 to the present), Contento's Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections
("An index to 3,428 SF anthologies and single-author collections
published before 1984, containing over 23,000 works by 3,850 authors),
and Stephen T. Miller and William G. Contento's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazine Index, 1890-1998: A Checklist of Magazine Titles and Issues.
More miscellaneous than usual:
Anything SF-related can probably be found somewhere on the Science Fiction Resource Guide portal sites, all of which are maintained by Chaz Boston Baden. The two I generally use are SF-Lovers (New Jersey), hosted by Saul Jaffe, and the Linkoping Science Fiction and Fantasy Archive (Sweden), hosted by Mats Ohrman.
Thursday, June 14, 2001
The Retro Hugos! What a Terrible Idea!
A plea, and one I wish I'd thought of it earlier: Please consider voting No Award on the Retro Hugos. (Sorry, Bruce, Rick, Saul; and meaning no disrespect. Highest personal regard, and all that.)
The Millennium Philcon, this year's World Science Fiction Convention, has picked up the idea of awarding Retro Hugos
for past years in which Hugos weren't awarded -- in this case, 1951. I
acquit the idea's supporters of any ill intent. It's an earnest
undertaking. It would work just fine if all the voters knew as much SF
history as (say) Bruce Pelz; but they don't, and it doesn't. These are
not the 1951 Hugos, and pretending that they are leaves us knowing
less, not more, about the field.
(I'm going to dodge the temptation to take up a related argument, which is that the imminent Heat Death of Science Fiction
is going to occur at that point at which everyone in SF simultaneously
receives and administers an award. Two weeks after that, the last
detectable author who ever made a commercial sale but didn't win
something will be posthumously given the SFWA Grandmaster Award. We've
gotten trophy-happy, and the last thing we need is to add more awards
to our liturgical calendar. But I'll save the full-scale rant for
always hard to remember how the world looked to us at some past moment,
even a fairly recent one. We existed, then, in a complex state of
knowledge and projection: imagining links between the past as we
understood it, and the future as we imagined and predicted it. Then a
circumstance changed, or a decision was made, and we unhesitatingly
revised our models, overwriting without saving. We still know what we
know, but we're less clear on what exactly we knew and what we thought
about it. And what we imagined would come of it? That's unrecoverable,
except as scraps and fragments. (Thus the joy of a primary-source
historical document: it still exists in that moment, unaltered by later
knowledge and the multiplication and foreclosure of possibilities.)
We can't vote on behalf of 1951. Too much time has passed.
Characters that should have sounded like our friends now sound like our
grandparents. Ideas that were fresh and startling have gone stale;
formerly allowable assumptions seem stupid or distasteful; and we know
entirely too much about how the story comes out.
last is the big problem. The Retro Hugos are seriously distorted by
votes cast, not for work that appeared in the target year, but for the
nominees' work overall. Four nominees -- Ed Emshwiller, Harlan Ellison,
Dave Kyle, and Bjo Trimble -- were excluded from the final ballot by
the administrators because they had no work published in the nominated
categories in 1950. Robert Silverberg stayed on the ballot, because he
did have writing published in 1950 -- but he was fifteen that year, and
he and Saul Diskin were publishing a not-yet-prominent fanzine called Starship. Within a few years Starship
would become one of the most distinguished fanzines of the day, and by
the end of the decade Silverberg was the wonder of the professional SF
world, selling over a million words a year; but not yet.
That's a surprising thing, that he should go from promising neofan to BNF fanpublisher to professional SF's stupor mundi in a single decade, but reality is surprising. Lists of actual Hugo awards
are full of oddities. You look at them and blink, wondering who Ron
Ellik was, or Roy G. Krenkel; or how it happened that a Pohl and
Kornbluth short story got a Hugo in 1973, or why They'd Rather Be Right
got a Best Novel Hugo at all. The Retro Hugos don't have that. They're
a half-remembered rehash of secondary sources, possessing none of the
diversity and unpredictability of real history.
If we're going to honor the history of our field, let's honor it in all its deeply weird particularity. Better yet, let's remember it, and to hell with the awards.
was going to finish with a few links to sites about the history of
science fiction and the SF community, but the list grew in the
compiling so I'll post it separately.
Tuesday, June 12, 2001
Crimes of Persuasion
appears at times that our justice system does not place adequate
emphasis on fraud and other white collar crimes, especially when it is
considered a non-violent victimless crime," argues Les Henderson, in
his Crimes of Persuasion website;
disturbing fact is how the offense is perceived, not as a criminal
offense at all, but as simple bad judgment on the part of victims, by
both the general public and by the victims themselves. This perception
can lead to a tendency to blame the victims for their own losses. ...He's done a tremendous amount of work. His site is in the same weight class as the National Consumer League's National Fraud Information Center, but it's a one-man project.
to the murderers, rapists and urban gangsters that get the headlines,
white-collar criminals just don't scare the public very much. ... The
price tags attached to some economic crimes are so staggering that they
are difficult to comprehend. As an example, the price of bailing out a
single corrupt savings and loan institution surpassed the total of all
the bank robberies in American history. ...
few laws are enforced 100%, white collar crime has a much lower margin
of non-enforcement. ... Many law-makers and judges are of the mind
that, with an already overloaded justice system, jails should be used
for violent offenders only, so fraudsters are given what are perceived
as lenient sentences, or an absurdly low penalty in comparison to the
crime committed, such as alternative sentencing (e.g. warnings,
probation etc.) or by "buying their way out" of prison by paying a fine
or restitution. ... AARP research indicates that less than 5% of people
believe that fraudulent telemarketers are "hardened criminals."
crime, because it requires planning, is a prototypical example of
deterrable conduct, but to prevent it through deterrence the punishment
must be designed to teach offenders that crime does not pay. ...
I like his approach. He's been compiling a taxonomy of frauds.
Naturally, the first thing I did was check out the frauds that affect
my own industry. Not only are they there, but they're correctly filed: Vanity Press Publishing is listed under Fraudulent Business Opportunities, subcategory Frauds Which Use Vanity as a Lure (which subcategory it shares with Fraudulent Offers to Assist Patenting Inventions), while the perennial Make Money Reading Books scam is listed under Work at Home schemes. Correct!
(Henderson doesn't list Display Sites, but they're a relatively recent development. I sent him email on the subject, referring him to sites that specifically focus on publishing scams (such as this site, that site, and yon
site), but now that I check, I find they no longer discuss display
sites in as much detail as I remember. That's interesting. Bless
Google.com for getting the DejaNews archive up and running again.
Here's one discussion of display sites; and here's another. Or you can just go to SFF Net, find the Publishing Scams discussion, and politely ask the regulars to tell you all about it.)
thing I like: Henderson never loses sight of the victims: Financially
strapped households persuaded to pay substantial "application fees" for
subsidized debt consolidation loans that never materialize. The
elderly, targeted in part because they're unwilling to admit they've
been robbed for fear they'll lose their independence if their children
think they're incompetent. The workers desperate for employment, and
families desperate for college scholarships, who are conned into buying
worthless how-to guides. These are crimes that hurt people, not clever
abstract capers, and he makes sure his readers understand that.
started out to do a book, not a website, but he wound up doing both. He
now hawks copies of the book from the site. If you can afford it, think
about buying a copy. The information isn't going to go out of date.
Besides, it would be nice if he made even a fraction as much from his
book as the con artists made off their scams, but if he doesn't get his
sales numbers up he'll never get a decent per-unit cost:
hope the book makes me rich and famous, but realize that I'll be lucky
to break even years down the road. When I sell the book, which
presently costs $14 to produce, through retail outlets for $29.95 I
actually lose $2 per sale. That's how tight the industry is. Mind you I
am hedging my bets by doing small print runs initially and trying to
sell to you directly. Even with large print runs the cost will not
likely drop below $10, so unless I change the name to Harry Potter
Battles Fraud, I will value your being a customer and promoter more
than you can imagine.
Sunday, June 10, 2001
Some (but not all) of my favorite rose sites
Just Rose Pictures
is just what it claims to be: "A bunch of rose pictures from Susan, in
Auckland, New Zealand, and Regina, in Reno, Nevada." Their pictures are
professional-quality high-resolution shots; their roses (over 150
varieties!) are sumptuous. There's also a curious sequence of photos
from the time Regina's blooming summer garden was hit by a freak hard
Karl King's energetic CybeRose & Bulbs
has faint overtones of "mad scientist on the loose". He's into the
heredity and taxonomy of roses, plus some Amaryllis and Zephyranthes
and a few other odds and ends. (He also has an unfortunate soft spot
for Nerium oleander, but I suppose that can't be helped.) The section I most enjoyed on this visit was Belladonna News, a chronicle of his research into the nomenclature of Amaryllis belladonna, which at times reads like an Avram Davidson short story:
28 Aug 1998: Species Plantarum 2 (1762). Copied descriptions. Mac Stephenson's Socorro Roses Roses Roses Roses Roses Roses Roses Roses Roses Roses Roses
would be on my list of favorite websites even if I weren't into roses.
It's the website equivalent of those unclassifiable midlist books like Anything Can Happen and I Capture the Castle
which have such distinctive voices that you don't so much read them as
make their acquaintance. In this case the short version is that Mac
Stephenson is retired, lives in New Mexico, and likes what he likes.
Willdenow's Species Plantarum 4 (1797). What a mess! Linnaeus's references for Amaryllis Belladonna are split between A. Belladonna and A. equestris, but has the Hort. Kew. description for A. Belladonna, which is of the Cape Belladonna.
23 July 1999:
Amaryllis were received in England by the box or barrelful. Apparently
they were a byproduct of the diamond trade. Thus, the sources of the
various imported forms likely corresponded to the diamond districts. ...
5 August 1999:
Herbert's 1839 discussion of why Linnaeus could not have named the
American plant Belladonna is so wildly fanciful -- and wrong -- that I
can only assume he wanted to be found out. Almost everything is wrong,
and too easily checked.
6 August 1999: In 1754, Philip Miller identified the Mexican lily by Royen's name for Amaryllis orientalis (L) Heister.
This has puzzled me for months. Today I recalled that in 1753 Heister
made the remarkable statement that Merian had painted Ferrari's plant.
However, the plant in question was the Brunsvigia, and the painter was
probably Matthaus Merian -- father of Maria Sibylla. This may also
explain Herbert's apparent belief that Maria Merian was alluding to
Ferrari's Cape plant while painting the American Belladonna. (Herbert
must have been kidding.)
Brent C. Dickerson's literate, information-dense, faintly twee page has lots of good reading, though I'm sorry to see that his books, most notably The Old Rose Advisor vols. I and II, are now being published by iUniverse.
It's hard to imagine a better website on its subject than S. Andrew Schulman's Yesterday's Rose: A Tribute to Old and Old-Fashioned Roses.
It's beautiful, informative, well organized, and well written, like the
electronically enhanced version of a superior coffee-table book.
The Philadelphia Rose Society's HelpMeFind
is the best of the online public databases: a searchable, sortable,
hugely compendious trove of information. I'm obscurely comforted by its
four main clickable options -- I know more about this, I have a question about this, I found an error, and I need help here
-- even though I never use them. Note: If you don't know rose
genealogies and you have a slow connection, think twice about clicking
on the "parentage list" link -- you'll get what you ask for.
Next favorite database is EveryRose.com, a worthy and useful site but not quite as compendious, nor quite as well constructed.
The rec.gardens.roses FAQ is authoritative and essential.
Friday, June 08, 2001
Good search strings for bad writing
It's like an infallible fishing lure for unreadable fiction: If you go to www.google.com and type in "She loved him. She really loved him.", you'll turn up between twelve and twenty specimens of online fiction, not one single piece of which will be good. "He loved her. He really loved her."
works just as well, though the results are a bit steamier. Oddly
enough, the same-sex variants, she-loved-her and he-loved-him, aren't
represented at all. I see no reason why gay writers should have denied
themselves the use of this cliche in bad online fiction, but there it
is. If you're desperate, you can substitute he knew he loved him or she knew she loved her, though you have to ignore the instances where "her" is being used as a possessive rather than a pronoun.
I take more than a little pride in the search strings for bad poetry I suggested to my friend Scraps, who collects the stuff: peom and peotry. Scraps says poerty works too. He also says that Martha, who's particularly fond of bad poems about dead celebrities, recommends that fateful day. Velma's inspired suggestion, a new star in the, fished up a lollapalooza.
Friday, May 27, 2001
And now for something completely different:
The Pharaoh's Thanes versus The Spear-Host of Moses
It's the Exodus section of Codex Junius 11 (ms. Oxford, Bodleian Library 5123) (tr. 1916 by George W. Kennedy),
and it's a hoot. It's part of a late-10th-C. Anglo-Saxon compilation of
poems written between the 7th and 10th C. The poems used to be
attributed to Caedmon
-- following the natural scholarly tendency to ascribe motherless works
to someone famous, or failing that to someone they've heard of -- but
the attribution just doesn't work out, so the poems are now called
But never mind all that; it's just the message header. The poem's the point. It begins:
far and wide throughout the earth we have heard how the laws of Moses,
a wondrous code, proclaim to men reward of heavenly life for all the
blessed after death, and lasting gain for every living soul. Let him
hear who will!--
thereby giving notice, if any were needed, that this is not a straight
translation. It's more or less chapters 11-14 of Exodus, from the tenth
plague through the crossing of the Red Sea, only all the boring bits
get left out in favor of a highly-colored version of the Israelites'
departure from Egypt, told in proper Anglo-Saxon style.
is transformed into "... a lord of men, a wise and ready leader of the
host, a bold folk-captain. ... The Lord was gracious unto him and gave
him weapon-might against the terror of his foes, wherewith he overcame
in battle many a warrior, and the strength of hostile men." The
Israelites are heavily-armed vikings, marching to the sea. Before they
reach the Red Sea marshes they come up against the mountainous borders
of Ethiopia. There the biblical pillar of cloud by day
is transformed into a day-shield, a protective cloud-cover like a sail,
"though earth-dwelling men knew not the mast-ropes, nor might behold
the yards, nor understand the way in which that greatest of tents was
reach the shore. Right on cue, the Egyptian army shows up behind them,
a forest of spears held upright above their shields, accompanied by
carrion-crows and wolves looking to feast on the dead. Things are
looking bad for the Israelites:
had no way of escape nor any hope of their inheritance, but halted on
the hills in shining armour with foreboding of ill. And all the band of
kinsmen watched and waited for the coming of the greater host until the
dawn, when Moses bade the earls with brazen trumpets muster the folk,
bade warriors rise and don their coats of mail, bear shining arms, take
thought on valour, and summon the multitude with signal-beacons unto
the sandy shore of the sea.Then
the miracle happens: the Red Sea parts, and the Israelites go dryshod
across the seabed, mailcoats and linden shields and all. The poet, in
his enthusiasm, chooses this moment to digress into recapitulations of
the story of Noah's flood and Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac.
(Anglo-Saxon narrative does this a lot, ornamenting one story with the Good Parts Version
of another.) We don't know how he manages the transition back to his
main story, because at this point a page or two went missing. The
manuscript abruptly picks up again in the midst of the Red Sea, where
the Egyptians are getting theirs. This goes on for some time. The poet
has a good time with the scene, combining as it does several favorite
Anglo-Saxon themes: hopeless doom, the fury of the ocean, and lots of
watching from the shore, is moved to observe that "This earthly joy is
fleeting, cursed with sin, apportioned unto exiles, a little time of
wretched waiting. Homeless we tarry at this inn with sorrow, mourning
in spirit, mindful of the house of pain beneath the earth wherein are
fire and the worm, the pit of every evil ever open." (Observations of
this nature are as unavoidable in Anglo-Saxon literature as the "please
don't smoke" and "buy our fine junk food" trailers at your local
multiplex movie theater.)
finishes by declaring that the episode is a portent of victories to
come: "...ye shall vanquish every foe and hold in victory the banquet
halls of heroes between the two seas. Great shall be your fortune!" The
Israelites applaud wildly. On the shore appear African maidens adorned
with gold, rejoicing in their deliverance from bondage. The gold gets
shared out evenly; Pharaoh's army is still dead; and, all the
conditions for a happy ending thus being met, the poem ends.
Check it out.