TNH's Particles
* In love with anime in Kurdistan.
* Losing the Louisiana Boot.
* Pedal-operated bicycle-style scroll saw, c. 1876.
* 100 Actual Titles of Real Eighteenth-Century Novels.
* Avoid Corrupted Catholic Editions of Foxe's Martyrs!!!
* Theory of the Pixar universe.
* Designer silk chiffon (incl. burnout) $20/yd.
* All dogs go to heaven.
* What my bike has taught me about white privilege.
* Forensic facial reconstructions.
PNH's Sidelights
* Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands: almost certainly bullshit
* The Milgram experiments: quite possibly bullshit
* "Martial Arts and the Cycle of Bullshit."
* Graham Joyce, 1954-2014
* Science Fiction Is Such an Oppressed Ghetto, Part Mumblety-Fifth
* "38 maps that explain Europe." Or that, at least, start conversations about it.
* "Any sign of noncompliance is an invitation to strike." Our police are out of control.
* Time to worry about UC Riverside's Eaton SF collection
* Saving the records of early New England churches
* A Lynching on Staten Island
Abi's Parhelia
* Japanese Maple
* Labour Pains, Labour of Love
* YMCA as a Shakespearean sonnet
* Inventories
* The Gunfighter
* The Pitchforks Are Coming... For Us Plutocrats
* Patriarch's Day
* An open letter to Dave Truesdale
* Book-related cookie cutters
* A day in the life of Everyday Astronaut
Jim's Diffraction
* Angelus ad virginem 14th century Irish carol
* Christmas on the Theremin
* Kinect eye patch for Xbox One will protect what's left of your privacy
* Real-Time Wind Map
* IS-907: Active Shooter: What You Can Do
* Smithsonian museum artifacts can now be 3D printed at home
* PunditFact
* A Display You Can Reach Through And Touch
* The Craigslist killers: the full story
* Proposed Museum of Science Fiction
Avram's Phosphenes
“Every man is Responsible for his own Soul” (context)
We’re Our Own Family Now
fMRI Study of Inconceivable Cosmic Horror
Here is How Google Works
Snark vs smarm
Dirtbag John Milton
Hobby Lobby, Student Loans, and Sincere Belief
Regard the notebooks of Paul Klee!
German Rocket Cats: A Meditation
The Internet With a Human Face
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“We are prophets of a future not our own.” (Oscar Romero)

“Peace means something different from ‘not fighting’. Those aren’t peace advocates, they’re ‘stop fighting’ advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it.” (Jo Walton)

“You really think that safety can be plucked from the arms of an evil deed?” (Darla, “Inside Out”)

“Forgiveness requires giving up on the possibility of a better past.” (unknown)

“The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.” (Arthur D. Hlavaty)

“You don't owe the internet your time. The internet does not know this, and will never learn.” (Quinn Norton)

“Great writing is the world's cheapest special effect.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Everyone gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” (Gertrude Stein)

“Very few people are stupid. It’s just that the world really is that difficult and you can’t continually be careful.” (Quinn Norton)

“Armageddon is not around the corner. This is only what the people of violence want us to believe. The complexity and diversity of the world is the hope for the future.” (Michael Palin)

“Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“The fact that ‘there are only a handful of bad cops’ cuts no ice with me. If ‘only a handful of McDonald’s are spitting in your food,’ you’re not going to McDonald’s.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, like always.” (Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars)

“The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday)

“When liberty is mentioned, we must observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests.” (Hegel)

“History is the trade secret of science fiction.” (Ken MacLeod)

“But isn’t all of human history simultaneously a disaster novel and a celebrity gossip column?” (Anonymous LJ commenter)

“I see now that keen interest can illuminate anything, and that anything, moreover, has something worth illuminating in it, and that without that interest gates carved by Benvenuto Cellini from two diamonds would merely look chilly.” (Lord Dunsany)

“I grieve for the spirit of Work, killed by her evil child, Workflow.” (Paul Ford)

“The opposite of ‘serious’ isn't ‘funny.’ The opposite of both ‘serious’ and ‘funny’ is ‘squalid.’” (R. A. Lafferty)

“Ki is, of course, mystical bullshit. That’s why it works so well, both as a teaching idiom and a tool of practice in martial arts. It’s as nonexistent as charm, leadership, or acting. Humans are all about bullshit.” (Andrew Plotkin)

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” (Charles Kingsley)

“Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even when the plan is horrifying.” (The Joker)

“Hope has two daughters, anger and courage. They are both lovely.” (attributed to St. Augustine)

“Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“This movie has way too much plot getting in the way of the story.” (Joe Bob Briggs)

“If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Always side with the truth. It’s much bigger than you are.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.” (Tony Kushner)

“I don’t want politicians who are ‘above politics,’ any more then I want a plumber who’s ‘above toilets.’” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.” (Otto von Bismarck)

“Every organization appears to be headed by secret agents of its opponents.” (Robert Conquest)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott)

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.” (Oscar Wilde)

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical science-fiction cowboy detective novel.” (Alan Moore)

“See everything, overlook a great deal, improve a little.” (John XXIII)

“You will never love art well, until you love what she mirrors better.” (John Ruskin)

“They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came.” (Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose)

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” (Jay Gould)

“I’m a leftist. I don't argue with anyone unless they agree with me.” (Steven Brust)

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” (Mark Twain)

“Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don’t struggle to get them right.” (Stephen Jay Gould)

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” (Gustav Mahler)

“But this kind of deference, this attentive listening to every remark of his, required the words he uttered to be worthy of the attention they excited—a wearing state of affairs for a man accustomed to ordinary human conversation, with its perpetual interruption, contradiction, and plain disregard. Here everything he said was right; and presently his spirits began to sink under the burden.” (Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander)

“Hatred is a banquet until you recognize you are the main course.” (Herbert Benson)

“For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.” (Neal Stephenson)

“‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.” (James Morrow)

“And after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than any man who fires at it.” (Lloyd George)

“The United States behaves like a salesman with a fantastic product who tries to force people to buy it at gunpoint.” (Emma of Late Night Thoughts)

“I’m a fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberal, and I think fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberalism is an ideological stance that needs defending—if necessary, with a hob-nailed boot-kick to the bollocks of budding totalitarianism.” (Charles Stross)

“The real test of any claim about freedom, I’ve decided, is how far you’re willing to go in letting people be wrong about it.” (Bruce Baugh)

“As with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has.” (Terry Eagleton)

“Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.” (Max Weber)

“No, it’s not fair. You’re in the wrong universe for fair.” (John Scalzi)

“I don’t understand death, but I got hot dish down pretty good.” (Marissa Lingen)

“Skepticism is the worst form of gullibility.” (John “adamsj” Adams)

“We have a backstage view of ourselves and a third-row view of everybody else.” (Garrison Keillor)

“The Reign of Sin is more universal, the influence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us.” (Lord Acton)

“All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.” (H. L. Mencken)

“Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day, man.” (Janis Joplin)

“Words are always getting conventionalized to some secondary meaning. It is one of the works of poetry to take the truants in custody and bring them back to their right senses.” (W. B. Yeats)

“It is a little embarrassing that, after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other.” (Aldous Huxley)

“Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval [...] If he gave an interview to a reporter, or performed any unusual exploit, he would find it recorded in such terms as these: ‘Professor Bract, although a distinguished botanist, is not in any way an unmanly man. He has, in fact, a wife and seven children. Tall and burly, the hands with which he handles his delicate specimens are as gnarled and powerful as those of a Canadian lumberjack, and when I swilled beer with him in his laboratory, he bawled his conclusions at me in a strong, gruff voice that implemented the promise of his swaggering moustache.’” (Dorothy L. Sayers)

“Grown ups are what’s left when skool is finished.” (Nigel Molesworth)

“If you don't like the ‘blame game,’ it’s usually because you’re to blame.” (Jon Stewart)

“Slang is for a war of signals.” (Unknown semiotician/palindromist)

“Science fiction is an argument with the world. When it becomes (solely) an argument within science fiction, it breathes recycled air.” (Ken MacLeod)

“All worthy work is open to interpretation the author didn’t intend. Art isn’t your pet—it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back.” (Joss Whedon)

“I really don’t know what you do about the ‘taxes is theft’ crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires.” (John Scalzi)

“So whenever a libertarian says that capitalism is at odds with the state, laugh at him. It’s like saying that the NFL is ‘at war’ with football fields. To be a libertarian is to say that God or the universe marked up that field, squirted out the pigskins from the bowels of the earth, and handed down the playbooks from Mt. Sinai.” (Connor Kilpatrick)

“True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.” (Abdal-Hakim Murad)

“There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.” (Joss Whedon)

“There's always romance at the top of a system.” (Will Shetterly)

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.” (John “Second US President” Adams)

“There is a document that records God’s endless, dispiriting struggle with organized religion, known as the Bible.” (Terry Eagleton)

“There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop, And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.” (Mario Savio)

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“To live is to war against the trolls.” (Henrik Ibsen)

“There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we are ourselves incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.” (G. K. Chesterton)

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

“It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” (Bill Hicks)

“I don’t think we have a language, will ever have a language, that can describe transcendence in any useful way and I am aware that that transcendence may be nothing more than the illusory aspiration of a decaying piece of meat on a random rock. The thing is to be humble enough to be content with that while acting to other people as generously as if better things were true, and making art as if it might survive and do good in the world. Because what else are we going to do with the few short years of our life?” (Roz Kaveney)

“No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.” (Iain Banks)

“If it doesn’t connect with people around you who aren’t like you, it isn’t politics.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

September 14, 2014
Turning and turning
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:33 AM * 64 comments

Via the Washington Post, I ran across a study entitled “How Community Feedback Shapes User Behavior” (pdf).

It’s fascinating reading. The authors use four sites that allow up- and downvotes on individual comments to analyze what effect being voted on has on commenters. There’s a lot of neat stuff in there about how they measured comment quality (to account for its role in the feedback that users receive), how they matched commenting populations, and how they determined what metric of voting pattern best captured the impact of different types of votes.

The conclusions are also interesting:

We find that negative feedback leads to significant changes in the author’s behavior, which are much more salient than the effects of positive feedback. These effects are detrimental to the community: authors of negatively evaluated content are encouraged to post more, and their future posts are also of lower quality. Moreover, these punished authors are more likely to later evaluate their fellow users negatively, percolating these undesired effects through the community

This came up in the context of Reddit and the photographs of celebrities, but it resonates with #GamerGate, the crap Anna Sarkeesian’s been getting, and the general stream of MRA nastiness that seems to be all over the internet these days. Because it’s not just relevant to how individual subreddits can turn into wretched hives of violent misogyny (or racism, or other deep wells of loathing for and contempt of one’s fellow humans). It’s also relevant to the internet as a whole.

More than one pundit has talked about how The Era of the Blog is Dead, not just because Twitter and Tumblr are faster and snappier, but because the model of conversation is changing. Comment-and-response cycles happen between blogs as well as within them. In many ways, it’s as useful to regard the entire internet as a set of shifting meta-communities, where the regulars from listservs, blogs and fora take the role that was traditionally occupied by individual commenters on a single site.

In that model, there are places online that are the equivalent of the private thoughts of an individual. More than once, I’ve watched groups of people gather on particular LiveJournals, blogs, and chatrooms to spin up their energy and hone their arguments, then go back to the “main” venues to continue the discussion. These side-channels act as adjuncts to the visible conversation, where people not actively participating can research claims, suggest arguments, and feed support and affirmation to those who are.

This is not, in itself, a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just how conversations work on the internet at the moment. I’ve participated in it, both unconsciously and knowingly, trying to move the “group mind” in the directions that I find best and most ethical.

But when you apply the study conclusions to the internet as a whole, you get exactly what we’re seeing now: communities like Reddit and 4chan are criticized (negative feedback), and begin to see themselves as persecuted. Their worst sides gain strength. The volume of negative output increases, and the gleeful nastiness drives out thoughtful, balanced conversation, even within the communities themselves.

I know of no rough beast whose hour has come at last to solve this. Not feeding the trolls—whether individual or collective—isn’t always practical, and the model that keeps communities like this sane (strong, human moderation) can’t work across multiple sites with no unified owner. Perhaps there is no solution, and all we can do is defend what we have for as long as we can. I do not know.

September 06, 2014
Open thread 200
Posted by Teresa at 09:33 AM * 490 comments


In 1962, members of Apex, a private apa* that included some of the leading fan publishers of the day, addressed a remark to imagined future readers:

Fanhistorians fifty years in the future, reading this, should realize that we don’t all hate Bruce Pelz.*
In 1985, I wrote a letter addressed partly to that 1962 APEX mailing, and partly to the unknown future. I later incorporated it into my article Over Rough Terrain, which was reprinted in Making Book.

In 2012, Mark Plummer wrote an article for Strange Horizons about my letter, “Over Rough Terrain,” and what had been going on in Apex. He understood exactly what I’d been trying to say. Right on schedule, he stood revealed as the fanhistorian that Apex had invoked fifty years earlier, and a recipient of my note from 1985.

Well played, Mark Plummer.

I had forgotten until I looked it up the other day that Making Light’s first open thread, posted in January 2003, was an emergency measure. My service provider, Panix, was getting hit with a massive DDOS attack. I could barely post or comment, but I couldn’t see why that meant the conversation couldn’t continue. It could, and did, and has.

Welcome to Open thread 200.

Casting on into the future:

Consider taking a look at the energetic and resourceful, which is working to save the internet’s history from the internet’s bad habits:

And we’ve been trashing our history

Archive Team is a loose collective of rogue archivists, programmers, writers and loudmouths dedicated to saving our digital heritage. Since 2009 this variant force of nature has caught wind of shutdowns, shutoffs, mergers, and plain old deletions - and done our best to save the history before it’s lost forever. Along the way, we’ve gotten attention, resistance, press and discussion, but most importantly, we’ve gotten the message out: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.

This website is intended to be an offloading point and information depot for a number of archiving projects, all related to saving websites or data that is in danger of being lost. Besides serving as a hub for team-based pulling down and mirroring of data, this site will provide advice on managing your own data and rescuing it from the brink of destruction.

These are the guys who mounted an emergency effort to scrape GeoCities — a huge chunk of the early history of the Web — before Yahoo shut it down. One of their current projects is “preemptively archiving”

Check it out.

September 04, 2014
Schrödinger’s asshole
Posted by Teresa at 09:00 AM * 51 comments

Schrödinger’s asshole: A person who says something offensive, then waits to see the reaction it gets before deciding whether to claim it was a joke.

Thank you, Alex Sutherland, for teaching me such a useful term.

August 30, 2014
Spoiler thread for Lock In by John Scalzi
Posted by Teresa at 11:25 AM * 83 comments

Lila’s requested a thread so she can talk about Lock In without spoiling it. Good idea. Contents enclosed.

August 28, 2014
The first four sentences of Craft of Deyng
Posted by Teresa at 06:15 PM * 55 comments

Like it says on the box:

SEn the paſſage of this vrechit warlde, the quhilk is callit dede, ſemys harde, perelus, ande rycht horreble to mony men, alanerly For the wnknawlage at thai have thare-of, tharfore this lytill trety, the quhilk is callyt the craft of deyng, is to be notyde & ſcharply conſederyt to thaim that are put in the fech[t]inge of dede; For to þaim, ande to al vthere folk, It may awaill rycht mekle till have a gude ende, the quhilk makis a werk perfyte, as the ewill end wndois al gud werk before wrocht. The fyrſt chepture of this trety begynnys of the commendatioune of dede, Fore ded, as haly wryt ſais is mar pretiouxe and worthy, is maiſt terreble, of al thing that may be Thocht. Ande in-ſamekle as the ſaull Is mare pretious & worthy than The body, in-ſamekle is the ded of It mare perulus and doutable to be tholyt. Ande the ded of synfull man, but ſufficiant Repentans, is euer ill, as the dede of gude men, how ſoding or terreble at euer It be, is gude & pretious before gode: For the dede of gude men is nocht ell bot the paſing of perſonis Retwrnynge fra banaſynge, offputyng of a full hevy byrdinge, end of all ſeknes, eſchevyng of perellys, the terme of all Ill, the brekinge of al bandys, the payment of naturell det, the agane-cumynge to the kynde lande, ande the entering to perpetuall Joy and welfare; And tharfore the day of ded o neide men is better than the day of thar byrthe; And ſa thai that ar all weill ſchrewyne, and deis in the faithe and ſacramentis of haly kyrk, how wyolently at euer thai dee, thai suld nocht dreid thare ded; Fore he that valde weill de, ſuld glaidly dee, and conferme his wyll to the wyll of gode; for ſen vs behwys all de o neid, and we wat noþer the tyme nor the ſted, we ſuld reſaue It glaidly, that god and nature has ordanyt, & gruche nocht thar-wyth, ſen It may nocht be eſchewyt, For god, at ordanyt ded, ordanyt It fore the beſt, ande he is mare beſy fore our gud than we our ſelf can ore may be, ſen we ar his creaturys and handewerkis; and tharfore al men that wald weill de, ſuld leir to de, the quhilk is nocht ellys bot to have hart and thocht euer to god, and ay be reddy to reſaue the ded, but ony murmwr, as he that baide the cumyne of his frend; & this is the craft that al kynd of man ſuld be beſye to ſtudy in, that is to ſay, to have his lyf, how velthye or pure that It be, takyne In paciens that gode sendis.*
Because I like it, that’s why.

Those are some fearless spellings, and that last sentence is epic.

August 27, 2014
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:23 PM * 24 comments

Just a reminder: we are having the Dutch Gathering of Light on Sunday, August 31 (that’s this Sunday!) at Proeflokaal de Prael. This is your chance to hang out with Patrick and Teresa, and maybe that other mod who keeps hanging about the place. In addition, there will be many fine members of this community, and one or two people whom I have invited because they might like us.

Note that there are two locations for de Prael, the brewery and the tasting room. This is the latter. Its address is Oudezijds Armsteeg 26, 1012 GP Amsterdam, and its precise position may be ascertained with the assistance of many of the fine mapping programs avaialble on this here internet.

The intention is to gather at about 1:00, drink some beer, eat some hapjes, and generally hang about for a reasonable number of hours. (I cannot say what constitutes “reasonable” in this context*.)

Events, clarifications, and the answers to logistical questions will be answered in-thread on the day. You can also track me down as evilrooster on Twitter.

Be there, or be…elsewhere.

* Some would say that the last three words there are extraneous. That is a base lie and a calumny, and any who say it should suffer a horrible fate.

August 24, 2014
American Canyon quake
Posted by Teresa at 06:37 AM * 23 comments

Are the Californians okay? How was your earthquake?

August 17, 2014
MidAmericon 2
Posted by Patrick at 02:34 AM * 112 comments

Today in London, the right to host the 2016 World Science Fiction convention was granted to the group bidding to hold it in Kansas City, Missouri. Their Worldcon will happen 40 years after MidAmericon, the only previous Worldcon held there.

MidAmericon 2, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention
August 17-21, 2016, in Kansas City, Missouri

Guests of Honor:
Kinuko Y. Craft
Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Tamora Pierce
Michael Swanwick

Pat Cadigan

The original MidAmericon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held September 2-6, 1976. It was my first Worldcon. I was seventeen years old. I can’t begin to list all the things that happened there that would affect the rest of my life. Some of them I was present for. Some I discovered only years later.

Among the people I met for the first time at MidAmericon: Paul Williams, whose later importance in our lives I have yet to manage to write about. In brief, Paul is the person who, in 1983, discerned that the two of us needed to be science fiction editors in New York City, instructed us in the steps necessary to accomplish that, and activated his remarkable network in support of making it happen. If we had never known Paul we would be living substantially different lives.

Another person I met for the first time at MidAmericon: The great science fiction editor Terry Carr, my and Teresa’s role model in so many things. Terry’s entire life was the canonical demo of how “fan” isn’t the larval form of “professional” but a co-existing state. He died in 1987, age 50. We’re still pissed at him about that.

Among the things that happened at MidAmericon: The scrappy, inexperienced, only slightly-organized science-fiction fans of Phoenix, Arizona, with whom I was socially affiliated despite not having lived there since May, 1975, unexpectedly defeated the long-established Los Angeles group in the site selection for the 1978 Worldcon. Which we promptly announced would be named “Iguanacon II.” (There was never, except in an obscure work of fanzine fiction, an “Iguanacon I.”) Setting in motion a tremendous cascade of events and connections, some good, some dreadful. We should never have tried to run a Worldcon. We pulled it off.

Among the people I didn’t meet at MidAmericon: Tom Doherty, then the new publisher of Ace Books. It was Tom’s first worldcon as well.

Among the people who weren’t at MidAmericon: The young Teresa Nielsen, who I knew through an APA of which we were both members. She had planned to attend but was waylaid by illness. We met in person, in Phoenix, just a few weeks later anyway. By then we were both members of the fledgling committee to actually run the 1978 Worldcon. We didn’t become Patrick-and-Teresa until a year and a half later, in the final epic pre-Iguanacon months of drama, bloodshed, heroism and betrayal. I think it was sometime after the Catalog of Ships but before the defeat of Achilles. Memory is treacherous. You’ll have to ask someone else.

Here in the endlessly strange future, I can’t begin to tell you how honored Teresa and I are to be among the guests of honor at a World Science Fiction Convention. And I can’t possibly express how appropriate it feels that this should be happening at a Worldcon in Kansas City. From both of us, thank you to the lovely KC people who invited us. We’re looking forward to it more than we can begin to say.

August 15, 2014
The Guardian, or at least the writer of an unsigned editorial therein, gets it
Posted by Patrick at 06:10 PM * 95 comments

Check out the third link from this unsigned editorial. Wait, you don’t need to, you’re already there.

Hello from Loncon, which is going very damn well.

August 14, 2014
Gatherings of Light: Worldcon and Amsterdam
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:13 AM * 51 comments

This post is intended to index and expand on the currently planned Gatherings of Light. I’ll be editing it as more information becomes available/more decisions are made.

Please note, by the way, that lurkers are expressly welcome to come to these gatherings! You may be urged to de-lurk, but only because we will probably turn out to like you, and want to hear more from you. And you’re totally allowed to say “commenting is just not my thing”, or “I’ll think about that” and stay in lurkerdom.

  1. Thursday 14 August, Worldcon, 7:30 PM, meeting at the tree in the Fan Village
    We will meet and decide on a place to go from there, departing at about 8:00. actually, we’ve kidnapped a table by the tree. Come to the fan lounge.I will then post the location here, and anyone available later is welcome to join us. (special thanks to iamnothing for getting this ball rolling)
  2. Saturday 16 August, Worldcon, 7:30 PM (tentative)
    There may be a second gathering on Saturday evening. This is not yet certain. Discussions about whether this should go ahead in this thread or the Making Light at Worldcon thread. Updates here if we make a decision.
  3. Sunday 31 August, Amsterdam, 1 PM, Proeflokaal de Prael
    For the Continental crowd, a gathering before Patrick and Teresa hop the pond. The location is a tasting room/pub attached to a local brewery, right near Centraal Station. Please comment in this thread if you’re coming so I can update them with numbers.
August 06, 2014
Toni Weisskopf gets almost everything wrong about the Futurian Exclusion, but we like her anyway
Posted by Teresa at 10:45 PM * 337 comments

I like Toni Weisskopf. I’ve got absolutely nothing against her personally. But I’ve had a tab open on her essay The Problem of Engagement since it was published, and I want to close it.

Thesis: Toni has somehow gotten hold of a very tendentious version of the Tale of the Futurian Exclusion. She needs to read some primary and near-primary sources on the period, which will mostly be Fred Pohl’s and Isaac Asimov’s memoirs, but that’s not suffering. Other suggestions will be gratefully appreciated. Thank you.

Toni begins:

The latest fooforaws in the science fiction world have served to highlight the vast cultural divide we are seeing in the greater American culture. SF, as always, very much reflects that greater culture.
Science fiction, both the literature and its community, has always reflected its time, and the contexts in which it exists. Nonskiffy political topics have always been a part of that context — and necessarily so, because science fiction is a massive assertion of real-world causality. There has never been a time when politics were not part of the general discourse of our genre.*

Personally, I’m made nervous by language like “the vast cultural divide we are seeing in the greater American culture.” When you see the very complex subject of cultural divides being reified into a single big cultural divide that’s All About America and is split along the red/blue line, odds are you’ve run up against far right’s “culture wars” agenda.** It’s a decaying old hunk of fish that no one I know of wants to to see dragged into the house.

It is also nothing new.
If such a thing as that single great cultural divide existed, which I deny, and specifically existed in SF, which I strongly deny, it would unquestionably be a new thing. Not only has politics always been part of the discourse of SF, but the politics discussed have always been all over the map. For example, the Futurians, who tend to get referred to as though they constituted a single unified political faction, included a card-carrying communist, a Trotskyite, a kindasorta fascist, and an Alf Landon supporter.

To the best of my recollection, the closest SF has ever come to a formal division of the house was that time a bunch of SFWAns took out ads to express their opinions, pro and con, on the war in Vietnam. Let me assure you that the fact that two SFWAns agreed about Vietnam was no guarantee that they agreed about anything else.

When you add culture to the politics, SF’s opinions become much more diverse. They could only be mapped along a single line of division if the mapmaker were Benoit Mandelbrot.

When fandom was first starting
Fandom had been up and running full-tilt for years. The Futurian Exclusion was not the kind of fight that happens between strangers. NYC fandom had been in a state of constant political flux, and throughout that time, the factions and individuals that would be involved in the Exclusion incident had sometimes been allies, oftener been opponents, and frequently gotten up each other’s noses.

Times were hard. People had to make their own fun.

there was the “Great Exclusion Act”
Later, quieter writers have been known to just refer to it as the Futurian Exclusion.
when a group of young, excitable, fanboys
If any single phrase has kept me from closing the tab on Toni’s essay, it’s that one.

It’s hard to explain just how wrong it is. Almost everyone involved in that convention was young, and while I don’t see the need to describe them as fanboys, all of them could be described that way.* The Futurians were no more excitable — arguably, they were a shade less excitable — than the three guys running the convention.

Those are lesser points, though. The central point is that the Futurians were one of the single most important and influential groups in the history of science fiction. The six excluded fans were Frederik Pohl, Donald A. Wollheim, Robert Lowndes, Cyril Kornbluth, Louis Gillespie, and John Michel.

You probably aren’t familiar with the last two names, but if you know science fiction, you know the other four. (Even more Futurians.) Lightly dismissing them as “a group of young, excitable, fanboys” without mentioning their names suggests you’ve either gotten hold of a very weird version of the story, or you’re trying to make a case in which major and well-known facts are inconveniences to be avoided. Since it’s Toni, I just think she needs to read some more reliable sources before she tries this again.

attempted to spread their political/fannish feud propaganda at the first Worldcon in New York,
I very much doubt that Toni has any idea what that flyer said. IIRC, there were no surviving copies, so no one really knows. [Hurrah, I was wrong! Dave Kyle saved a flyer, and published it over at Mimosa, so now we can see what all the fuss was about. IMO, it’s too breathless and pushy to be really first-rate agitprop — likelier to turn off newbies than enlist their sympathies — but isn’t over-the-top flaming by fanzine standards of the day.**] … The flyer was described at the time as “Michelist”, which if you’re being parsimonious just means it came from the Futurians. And since New York fandom was awash in nonfannish politics during that period, there’s no justification for labeling it “propaganda”, as though it were singularly political in ways that other fan publications of the time were not.*
and were not only prevented from doing so but not allowed back into the con.

What happened, roughly speaking: the “Triumvirs” (Will Sykora, James V. Taurasi, and Sam Moskowitz), who were running the convention, were a little slower and a little less political than, and chronically at odds with, the “Quadrumvirs” (Pohl, Wollheim, Lowndes, and Michel). Their tendency to get up each other’s noses was IMO more a clash of personalities than anything else.

The extent to which the Exclusion was prompted by anything the Futurians did onsite on the day is not entirely clear. Apparently the Triumvirs had been talking in advance about doing something of that sort, and they made reference to some kind of vaguely described trouble at an earlier gathering in Newark. IIRC, the flyers weren’t read and given thoughtful consideration; they were grabbed and stuffed into the garbage. Six Futurians weren’t allowed to enter and attend the convention, but at least four were (Dave Kyle, Richard Wilson, Jack Rubinson, and Leslie Perri).

It wasn’t handled well. As Fancyclopedia 3 says in its entry on the Exclusion, “The reaction of fandom as a whole, while not necessarily pro-Futurian, was very definitely anti-Exclusion.”

All fandom was aflame with war!
Sorry, I can’t bear to let that stand. The correct line is All fandom was plunged into war.
(The fact that this line is a cliché
It’s a fannish catchphrase.
is also a clue that fandom is not, and never has been, a calm peaceful sea of agreement.)
No one who has any acquaintance with fandom thinks it is. One has to wonder at the perceived need to deprecate Pohl, Wollheim, Lowndes, Kuttner, et al. for one episode of interpersonal friction during a period that was rife with them.
The reason we have a fandom to disunite now, is because calmer heads prevailed.
No. Fandom just got better at being itself.

We have fandom because fandom wanted fandom to happen, and made it happen, and liked the results, and so did it again. It rests on the innumerable shoulders of the fannish community, and is built by their hands and uttered by their mouths. Some of its very colorful history has involved feuds, standoffs, and other expressions of conflict. A good deal of fandom’s neverending oceanic braided conversation has been political, in one sense or another; and the fannish discourse would be poorer without it.*

Bob Tucker in particular, with intelligence and humor,
Lest anyone be confused about this, Bob Tucker was not at the first worldcon. He didn’t go anywhere near it. I don’t know whether she knows it, but Toni is now talking about Tucker’s long-term influence on early fandom. He wasn’t the only fan who took fannish institutions less than seriously, and encouraged others to do the same, but for a long time he was the most prominent and influential of them.

Like stromatolites making oxygen, the process of making fandom funnier was a gradual one that stretched out over many years. If you’re interested, while you’re checking out Bob Tucker’s fanwriting you should also check out Robert Bloch, Walt Willis, and Burbee and Laney.

led fandom to the idea that it ought have nothing to do with greater world politics, but should concentrate on the thing we all loved —
Oh, no no no. That is so wrong that the internet has no standard meme capable of expressing how wrong it is.

What Bob Tucker, rising first and shining best, understood before anyone else did was a great truth: fandom isn’t about anything but itself. Fandom is about fandom. Fanzines and conventions are congenial venues for a particular kind of conversation loved by our oddball population of people who at some point in their lives have probably read a great deal of science fiction and fantasy, but don’t necessarily feel the need to talk about it at every opportunity.

No one has ever taught fandom that it ought not have anything to do with the politics of the larger world. Tucker sure didn’t do it, especially in his professional fiction, which you should also check out. What he suggested in his fanwriting was that fans and fandom weren’t obliged to be political, and that some of the political beliefs being espoused by members of the SF community were very silly. Which? True.

— but should concentrate on the thing we all loved, that being science fiction.
No way. Tucker knew better than that.

Fandom at its best is notorious for talking about anything other than science fiction — though mind you, it’s great at talking about the genre when it wants to. Tucker got that. You’d have to be the Recording Angel to know the answer to this one, but my guess is that he held the lifetime record for number of times he had to listen to bewildered complaints about fanzine articles being about subjects other than SF and science. Perils of being an early adopter.

Midwestcons were Tucker-shaped occasions, and he was their resident deity. I never got to go to one, but stories about them were a staple of my fannish youth. Midwestcons were known for their eclectic mix of fans, and for having no programming whatsoever. Everyone just hung out by the pool and talked. People would travel long distances to attend them who never ran into each other at any other point in the year because they normally moved in such different fannish circles. Basically, it was a convention for fans who liked Midwestcons, whoever they might be.

(Does this inform my understanding of site moderation? Of course it does.)

(Mind you, his sympathies were with the ones who were excluded, but he was able to overcome his own political inclinations for the best of fandom.)
The idea that Bob Tucker gave up an entire range of conversations he found interesting in order to push a lifelong agenda of forcing fandom to only talk about certain subjects is deeply, deeply weird.
The fact that fandom as an open culture survived more than seventy years is a testament to the power of that simple, uniting concept.
That is not how fandom works.

However, if that were how fandom works, Toni wouldn’t have to preach it. It would simply be the way things are.

I don’t see how forbidding a range of subjects that fans naturally talk about can amount to an open culture. Even more, I don’t see how Toni thinks it’s possible to talk about science fiction without talking about politics. As I said at the beginning, SF is built on massive assertions of real-world causality: “If this goes on, these things here will happen.” Any time you do that, you’re making a vast number of assumptions about how things work, who benefits from them, and what’s really going on. The genre is political to its core.

I only know one way to argue that some SF is political and some isn’t. You do it by defining “political agendas in science fiction” as “assertions of causality that differ from my own.” As in: “this person can’t possibly believe that in a widespread major disaster, people would rather cooperate, and maintain rule of law, than take to the hills with a gun and declare that the law of the jungle is the only law that now applies. They must be saying that in furtherance of some political agenda! Whereas my own grimdark stories about survivalism in anticipation of social chaos are just the way things are — not political at all. Talking about them isn’t talking about politics; it’s talking about science fiction.”

Eh, maybe I have that wrong.

That we are once again looking to be rift by a political divide was perhaps inevitable.
The existence of this rift has been asserted several times now, but it’s never been described or defined. Frankly, I don’t see any reason to believe this one exists.

I’ve been in fandom a long time. Rifts do develop, and sometimes build up so much stress that when one it finally makes itself felt, the backlash is terrible. Often it comes in the form of a feud whose destructive vindictiveness takes participants on all sides by surprise. But the thing about rifts like that is that they never build up where you’re looking. If you could see the stress accumulating, you’d do something about it before things turned explosive. The worst rifts are always unforeseen.

But as fandom has grown, expanded and diluted itself, we may have won the überculture wars and lost our heart. We have not been able to transmit this central precept to new fans. Geeks are chic, but somehow we’ve let the fuggheads win.
I’m not sure who these fuggheads are. It’s like I can see the outline and postholes of someone’s agenda, but I can’t tell what the building was for.

The heart of my fandom is just fine. We’re still being kinda dumb about opening doors for younger fans, but we’re finally having some forty-years-overdue conversations about POCs (real and fictional) in the genre, and we’re actually making progress on the “touch: consensual or it doesn’t happen” front.

And, from my observations, this is an inevitable consequence of the creation of any kind of fandom, from tattoos to swords to us. There is a thing people like. Thing people make initial contact with each other to discuss things and thingishness. At some point a woman (and it’s usually women, no matter what the thing) organizes gatherings, and thing fandom grows bigger and better. At some point, the people who care not about things, but merely about being a big fish in a small sea, squeeze out the thing people. Sometimes thing fandom just dies, sometimes it fissures and the process is recreated. So the fuggheads always win. The only question is how long can we delay their inevitable triumph?
While this has some slight resemblance to a piece I once wrote about social misunderstandings and the perception of power, it in no way resembles fandom as I know it. Among other things, if fuggheads inevitably triumphed, fandom would have died off long ago.

What you have to understand is that when you’re at a convention, pro publishing is a bubble. It’s got a lot of nice people in it, and on a moment-by-moment basis it may not be obvious that you’re having a nonstandard convention experience; but it’s still a bubble.

One of the reasons I love doing programming at conventions is that it gives me a rock-solid excuse to spend an hour having an interesting conversation with people I might otherwise never meet. Doing a stint as a volunteer works too.

Hmmm. This is getting long. One more bit:

Now we have not only 300 hundred channels of cable (and nothing on), but the vast output of the Internet, both pro and amateur. It is possible to be a science fiction fan and have absolutely no point of connection with another fan these days.
Ask them what they like and why. Listen when they tell you. Don’t make the kids do all the bridge-building.

Humbly acknowledge in your prayers that you would never in a million years have come up with Chibi Sauron on your own.

August 01, 2014
An Update on Velma
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:52 AM * 49 comments

From the thread on Velma, an update:

This is Kristen, Scraps’ sister. Sorry that I don’t know how to make this an entry of its own; if someone who knows how to could do so, I would be grateful.

Velma (sister-in-law) update - This is what I know: (Apologies if it’s too long. I’m trying to keep a balance between too much information and not enough.)

1st surgery = Wednesday of last week. (July 23; details about that in one of my previous posts)
Velma went into that surgery in a less-than-ideal physical state - very weak, hadn’t gained back weight she had lost in the previous month. (Hospital decided to do surgery even though Velma wasn’t where they wanted her physically because Velma had been losing ground in terms of getting to a stronger place, and because one of the tumors was growing rapidly.) Although weak, Velma seemed to be recovering appropriately. (I had a good conversation with her that Friday before I went back to Portland.) At some point she was moved out of ICU.

Yesterday I received three emails from Scraps.

First: A bad news and good news kind of email.
The bad; This is from Scraps’ email. “Last night was very hard. Velma was in excruciating pain. Her time for the epidural was ended, so that came out, but her heart and lungs were still weak, so the doctors were concerned with giving her too much pain medication and having her heart stop. Unfortunately, they stopped short last night, and while they adjusted, Velma suffered.” Her pain medication was increased; doctor explained that they wanted Velma to be pain free, but they needed to be careful.
The good, again quoting Scraps: “Today she walked almost twice as far, two times. She was glowing; that was good. And the pain is definitely down. She’s been drowsy, but they’ve been watching.”

Second: A short email titled “bad update.”
In intense pain. Moved back to ICU. Temporarily put out and tubes (breathing, etc.) reinserted. (my summary)

Third: She had fluid in her belly.

Today, received three texts from my Mom. Velma had emergency surgery this afternoon, because of an infection. (Don’t have any more details than that.) Quoting Mom here: “Dr says hour by hour to pull through on this part … very low blood pressure … Reason touch and go right now is she so weak after last surgery… Crucial next few hours.”

That’s what I know. Haven’t heard anything from Mom for over three hours.

Prayers and strong healing thoughts for her please. And for my brother.

Being as I’m the praying type, my prayers are with them both, and with their families. I’m sure the affection and goodwill of the community is, too.

Update from Kristen: Velma came through the surgery fine.

July 30, 2014
Open thread 199
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:10 PM * 1031 comments

One of my long-running disgruntlements with survivalists and Galters is their collective ignorance of one key aspect of self-sufficiency: cloth. I can’t count how many people I’ve watched loading their own ammunition and slaughtering their own deer. But all the while, they’re wearing flannel shirts and jeans made of fabric that was woven on an industrial scale, from mechanically-spun fibers, before being shipped across the world either made up or on bolts. Even when they sew the garments themselves, their participation in our shared culture lies across their shoulders and hangs from their belts.

I suspect that a substantial element in this inconsistency is the relative priority of men’s work over women’s, which determines what actions are more valuable for Making A Statement. But I think a good deal of it is also simple blindness: fabric and clothing is so ubiquitous in our civilization that all we focus on is its variations (AKA fashion, style, or what those damn kids are wearing).

Spinning and weaving are crafts or hobbies (knitting and crochet less so). As a culture, we’ve forgotten how much of the lives of all classes of women, from the Middle Ages to well past Jane Austen’s time, was spent on thread, fabric, and clothing†. Our closets overflow*, and only the mindful consider how much of our history was made by people with at most two outfits, Sunday best and workaday garb. Even wealthy Bingley had but two new coats a year.

(I read somewhere that one of the reasons that the National Socialists did so well in Germany is that they gave people a chance to join organizations with uniforms, which is to say, provided them with clothing during the Depression.)

I often wonder what things we carry now the way that medieval women carried their distaffs: continuously, unconsciously, and (in the sweep of history) temporarily. What will our descendants look back on and say, “they spent so much time doing that. Thank goodness we don’t have to”?

† eg Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park: “That is a very foolish trick, Fanny, to be idling away all the evening upon a sofa. Why cannot you come and sit here, and employ yourself as we do? If you have no work of your own, I can supply you from the poor basket. There is all the new calico, that was bought last week, not touched yet. I am sure I almost broke my back by cutting it out.”
* with clothing that lasts less and less well, because cheaper fabrics keep the price down

Continued from Open thread 198

July 28, 2014
Making Light at Loncon 3
Posted by Patrick at 02:25 PM * 243 comments

Both Nielsen Haydens and Abi Sutherland! Opinions! Moderation! Speech acts!

All of our events will be in the ExCel Centre. I have taken the liberty of condensing the official panel descriptions. The full program guide is here.

Thursday, 14 August

1:30 - 3:00 PM, London Suite 2
Diggy Diggy Hole!: Minecraft and Gaming Communities
(What it says on the tin. The game is one thing, but the intense communities it’s spawned are another.)
Esther MacCallum-Stewart [m], Abi Sutherland, Mark Slater, Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 9
Ideology versus Politics in Science Fiction
(And how most SF hasn’t got a clue how either of them work.)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden [m], Martin McGrath, Laurie Penny, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Courtenay Greenwood

Friday, 15 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 1
Don’t Tell Me What To Think: Ambiguity in SF and Fantasy
(Ambiguity: it’s a thing.)
David Hebblethwaite [m], Nina Allan, Scott Edelman, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Ellen Klages

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 9
The Deeper the Roots, the Stronger the Tree
(Pre-genre authors whose work featured little or no fantastic content, but who SF&F people read and obsess about anyway. Dumas, Doyle, Austen, etc.)
Abi Sutherland [m], Zen Cho, Mary Robinette Kowal, Keri Sperring, Delia Sherman

12:00 - 1:30 PM, Capital Suite S
Settling the Alien World
(Worldbuilding in real time.)
Marek Kukala [m], Robert Reed, Tobias Buckell, Amy Thompson, Abi Sutherland, Laurence Suhner

3:00 - 4:00 PM, Art Show
Art show docent tour
(May require advance signup.)
Led by Teresa Nielsen Hayden

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 3
The Role of Fandom in Contemporary Culture
(Or, how the entire world turned into fandom while you were distracted.)
Chris Gerwel [m], Jean Lorrah, Emily January, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Laurie Penny

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 2
Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Next Generation
(You may have heard that there’s a lot of good stuff happening here lately. You heard right.)
Amal El-Mohtar [m], Abigail Nussbaum, Abi Sutherland, Andrew Ferguson

Saturday, 16 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, London Suite 4
(Will definitely require advance signup.)
Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Haytden

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 14
What Is I?
(Consciousness: it’s a thing.)
Ken MacLeod [m], Russell Blackford, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Martin Poulter, Ashley Pollard

Monday, 18 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 8
All the Traps of Earth
(Culture, the “natural” world, and how their relationship’s been handled in SF&F.)
Sam Scheiner [m], Glenda Larke, Amy Thomson, Anne Charnock, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

1:30 - 3:00 PM, Capital Suite 16
Codes of Conduct
(At science fiction conventions. Sure to be a dull panel, because nobody has any opinions about the subject.)
Crystal Huff [m], Michael Lee, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, B. Diane Martin, Patrick McMurray

July 22, 2014
A fund for Velma and Soren
Posted by Patrick at 07:30 AM * 34 comments

A guest post by Debbie Notkin:

Many Making Light readers know Velma and Soren (Scraps) deSelby-Bowen. Those who read the open threads here may also know that Velma has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She hasn’t been very specific on the site, but I have her permission to tell you (to tell anyone, in fact) that the cancer is “smooth muscle cell neoplasm.” Velma was scheduled for surgery tomorrow (7/23), but they have just discovered at least one infection, and surgery may be postponed. Velma’s doctors tell her that surgery will likely be followed by chemotherapy. I will do my best to keep Making Light readers informed as I learn more.

Velma has been out of work for some time, and will not be able to work for some unpredictable amount of time going forward. Soren’s stroke of several years ago (followed closely on this site) makes it very difficult for him to earn any income, though he does have some disability income.

Their need is great, and is not likely to get any less great for many months. I’m asking this community for donations to help them survive this period. I have set up a unique gmail address ( for nothing other than taking Paypal donations and communicating with me and a team of supporters about this issue.

If you can’t/don’t use Paypal, you can email me at the velmascraps address and we can discuss other means of getting money to them. Since we’re hoping to cover their needs for several months, some people may want to donate a lump sum to spread out over that time, and other people may want to send monthly small amounts. PLEASE, no one give anything that will affect your own ability to get along.

I have been unable to identify any online services that will track monthly donations and reminders (if anyone knows of one, please tell me!). If you would like to make a monthly donation, someone will send you an email reminder around the 25th of each month. If you need to halt your donations, just let me know.

Please pass this along to anyone who you think knows them or might otherwise help, but who doesn’t read Making Light.

And thank you in advance for your generosity, whether in the form of money or good wishes and good thoughts. They need those too.

July 21, 2014
I dreamed a Wikipedia entry
Posted by Patrick at 11:42 PM * 93 comments

I dreamed a Wikipedia entry. It was about William Rowse Sitcup, a deservedly obscure figure in the history of colonial Virginia. Born to a family long established in James County, young William grew up living a life of the mind. For reasons imperfectly understood, by adolescence he became obsessed with the geographical details of Virginia itself—its tidewater region, its Piedmont, its rugged western mountains, its long Shenandoah valley, and all the individual counties. He became convinced that the Dominion had been, in its physical shape and political subdivisions, ordained by God as a perfect miniature of the greater world outside. (The fact that Virginia contains no deserts, no year-round snowcaps, no rainforest, and no permafrost seems never to have impinged on young Rowse’s—he went by his middle name—frenzy of hermetic insight.) On reaching his majority, he came into an inheritance that gave him a modest level of financial independence, and allowed him to pursue his dream of visiting all of Virginia’s counties—this is when “Virginia” included what are now the states of West Virginia and Kentucky—in order to deliver a series of lectures to be offered to the public in each of them, elucidating to no-doubt-thunderstruck audiences his vision of the Dominion as a divinely-wrought miniature of the great world, hammered out on God’s anvil as a benign but distinctly pedagogical message to erring humanity. It goes without saying that, in Rowse’s worldview, the institution of slavery was assumed to be part of the divine plan. It is peculiar, then, that on his visit to Ohio County, in that portion of then-Virginia which stuck like a northern-pointing spear between Pennsylvania and Ohio, Rowse was on several occasions heard to express sympathy and support for slaves who had managed to cross the Ohio and light out for freedom. Whether he actually met any is lost to history. Little is known of him following this sojourn beyond the mountains; he died under mysterious circumstances in Palmyra on his way back to his familiar Tidewater home. After much pressure from his family’s solicitor, the inkeeper returned Rowse’s portfolio of manuscripts, but when it was opened in the parlor of the family’s old manor, all that remained was a fall of ash and the smell of rosemary. Citation needed.