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November 30, 2007

SFWA: The Suicide Note
Posted by Patrick at 08:45 AM *

Charlie Stross says it all here. John Scalzi adds his own perspective here. Cory Doctorow links to both, summarizing the backstory, here. SFWA President Michael Capobianco stumbles into the furniture here.

On her LiveJournal, John W. Campbell Award-winner Elizabeth Bear expresses an attitude increasingly common among younger SF writers:

Yeah, I know, the emergency medical fund is a nice idea. And because of that, I think I shall be donating my $75.00 a year to the Haven Foundation. Because I don’t think you could pay me to rejoin SFWA at this point.

I hear rumours SFWA used to be an effective trade organization, before it started worrying about how we all kept our lawns mowed and whether we were painting interior walls offensive colors. But now…well, remember the e-piracy flap? It looks like they did something about it.

The Bush administration would be proud.

So far, the general attitude of onlookers is best summed up by commenter Stephen Granade on Charlie Stross’s blog, who writes: “I keep thinking SFWA will run out of bullets with which to shoot themselves in the foot, and then they go and buy a truckload of surface-to-foot missiles.”

UPDATE: My Elves Are Different.

Comments on SFWA: The Suicide Note:
#1 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:52 AM:

"Charlie Stross says it all here." He does? Is this some kind of premonition?

(The link 'here' leads, well, _here_)

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:57 AM:

Left the "=" character out of the URL. Fixed.

#3 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:59 AM:

Shaking my head. And to think, Michael and Jane almost had me convinced to rejoin, back at the NASFiC.....

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:02 AM:

It sounds to me as if SFWA is being destroyed because some people want to be little tin gods. That's more than sad.

#5 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:02 AM:

Y'know, the observation that unmoderated forums eventually turn toxic applies to governing coalitions, too.

#6 ::: Matt Jarpe ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:05 AM:

I notice that a donation to the Haven Foundation is tax deductible, whereas a donation to the EMF is not. Thanks, e-bear and Making Light for solving that little financial/moral dillema for me. I had been planning to give what would be my membership dues to the EMF this past year. Now I'll just send them to Stephen King.

#7 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:08 AM:

Sigh.

What else is there to say?

#8 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:36 AM:

It's like watching a train wreck. I keep trying to look away, because it's none of my beeswax, but then some tremendous crashing noise or interesting explosion draws my attention back.

Oh, dear.

#9 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:45 AM:

Well, this makes me feel better about a similar trainwreck in a non-profit that I was involved with. I guess it's hard to tell a colleague in an organization that depends on volunteer labor "you're a nice guy, but you screwed up, and someone else has to do this job from now on".

#10 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:48 AM:

*weeps in despair*

#11 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Scalzi mentions that A. Burt voted for his own placement back on the reformulated e-piracy board. Is that correct? He didn't recuse himself from voting on his own nomination?

#12 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:06 AM:

Gah. It's impressive, in its thoroughly dumb way.

One thing that the Bush administration clarified for me is that in the long run, I have more confidence in (or more doubt about) people than processes. People use processes, and abuse them, and ignore them. A person bent on smashing the effectiveness of an agency, for instance, will find ways to do it no matter what the processes are, and only people who care about that not happening can stop it. Same deal here: processes matter, but the people who will be creating and applying them matter more.

#13 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:09 AM:

FEMA botches Katrina response. Brownie is sacked. Committee is formed to solve problem. Recommendations are made to change structure of FEMA. Bush reappoints Brownie as head, and changes the name to FEMU. All else remains the same.

Wow. Just... wow.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:11 AM:

While I'm not directly affected by this organizational insanity, not being a professional writer, I make it some of my business for 2 reasons:

1. It affects writers whose work I admire and enjoy. If it makes it harder for them to write, that affects me.

2. It's a great example for my collection of organizational war stories. As a software engineer I have a fund of first-person observations of this sort of clusterfuck; I much prefer to observe at a distance so as not to get caught in the swirling maelstrom.

TNH has enshrined the previous machinations of Andrew Burt as a prime example of the Fruit Punch Czar Syndrome. This latest mess looks to me like an outcome of what I call the Parent-Teacher Association Catastrophe. For those who haven't been involved in local organizations like the PTA or neighborhood councils, they exhibit self-organization around a common principle: those with the least power and ability to use it well, exercise it the most in the most inappropriate ways. Every such organization I have ever belonged to or observed has had a minimum of one member whose self-imposed task it is to organize everyone else in ways that matter not one whit to any outcome in any alternate universe anywhen, but that the organizers consider vital to the ongoing existence of Civilization As We Know It.

#15 ::: Jonathan Crowe ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Scalzi's exegesis of Capobianco's argument here: "I believe what Michael is trying to say here is that he expects the new process itself will keep the same mistakes from happening again, regardless of who is on the committee."

It's a bureaucratic argument, something I'd expect in a civil service whose inept employees are too hard to get rid of: we can't change our people (i.e., fire the fuckups), so we'll change our process (i.e., make it harder for the fuckups to fuck up). Applies equally to organizations whose volunteer pools are limited or closed shops.

#16 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:21 AM:

Steve @11: yes, that is correct: Burt voted for himself, despite the clear conflict of interest.

One point I should like to mention is that SFWA's officers are all unpaid volunteers. Now consider the sort of person who volunteers -- without reward -- for the time-consuming and frequently thankless job of running such an organization. In most cases, volunteers in such organizations are just ordinary members with a well-developed sense of duty or obligation. But you also see pathological personality types who are drawn to power for its own sake; and I see no mechanisms in SFWA's constitution to weed out narcissistic status seekers before they can get into a position to damage the organization.

#17 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:22 AM:

I must admit I have a sentimental attachment to my SFWA active membership, which I regard as a real achievement. It's a shame, really. But, like everything else, the worth of something isn't in the concept or the intention. It's in the execution.

#18 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Another part of the problem, I've become convinced, is SFWA's attachment to (supposedly) private discussion forums, participation in which becomes seen as a status symbol in itself. I say "supposedly" because, really, the idea that SFWA could distribute hundreds of copies of its internal-discussions fanzine SFWA Forum without its contents becoming widely known was always crack-brained. These days, SFWA conducts a lot of its internal discourse in sikrit on-line treehouses, with predictable results: first, there's no actual security to those discussions, and second, their actual "conversational culture" is completely septic.

Right now, in the public statements of SFWA's officers, you don't have to look far to see a lot of Hurt Tone over that darn blogosphere "jumping to conclusions", by which they mean coming to conclusions based on, you know, what's been done and said. In these people's minds, by actually talking to his readers as if they matter to him just as much as (or more than) a bunch of American tie-in writers, Charlie Stross is breaking the rules.

#19 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:36 AM:

Charlie @16: Are there such mechanisms in any constitution?

#20 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Sometimes I vaguely regret having decided many years ago to drop my SFWA membership. But not often, and not recently.

#21 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:50 AM:

I wish I could buy the SFWA board a great big pair of lapels, just so we could all grab on and shake them.

#22 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:56 AM:

What impresses me most is that they didn't even rearrange the deck chairs. They put together a committee, then kept the deck chairs right where they were. It was a Chinese fire drill.

#23 ::: Erik Olson ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Another part of the problem, I've become convinced, is SFWA's attachment to (supposedly) private discussion forums, participation in which becomes seen as a status symbol in itself.

Let's not forget the SFWA suite. The moment I lost all respect for SFWA was when I saw the booze they were buying for the suite. The frigging corner bar had better booze in the well. This was "Tequlia from Detroit, Scotch from Tape" level booze.

Sheesh.

#24 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:16 AM:

re: My Elves Are Different. I am not "Earl Earl". I just wanted to clarify that.

#25 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:24 AM:

OMG, I can't believe they can be that stupid and still find their mouth with a spoon.

Poor Charlie.

#26 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:25 AM:

The Emergency Medical Fund, the Legal Fund, and the Grievance Committee are three big reasons to support SFWA.

And as I've said elsewhere: If people leave because of all the idiots, only idiots will be left.

A better plan would be for Scalzi to put his name in for Prez before the nomination deadline, so he doesn't have to start a write-in campaign after half the voters have already returned their ballots.

#27 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:32 AM:

#23: booze. SFWA does booze?

Scene from a Nebulas bash:

Wide-eyed author: Oh good, I see SFWA has a hospitality suite!

Hard-bitten editor: SFWA's idea of hospitality is to open another bag of potato chips.

Historical note: To be fair, they had also opened a packet of jelly beans.

#28 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Isn't EMF officially a 501(c)(3)?

What Will S. said. Someone please tell Jane Jewell that our household is going to be saving some money that can go to a good cause NEXT year as well.

#29 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:39 AM:

Jo (#25):

As my cats have proven time and again, when you're perfectly capable of lowering your head to the bowl, there's no need to ever figure out how to use a spoon.

#30 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:41 AM:

James, it can be nice to know where most of the idiots are.

As for the EMF, The Haven Foundation looks like a better alternative.

#31 ::: Suzette Haden Elgin ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:52 AM:

I'm grateful to SFWA, which has been a great help to me over the decades, and plan to hang in there while it grows up. And somebody should mention the free websites SFWA provides for its members, as well as the flawless and speedy service for those websites.

#32 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Jonathan Crowe@15:

"It's a bureaucratic argument, something I'd expect in a civil service whose inept employees are too hard to get rid of: we can't change our people (i.e., fire the fuckups), so we'll change our process (i.e., make it harder for the fuckups to fuck up)."

I tend to view it like that old Samsonite commercial in which the suitcases were savaged by a gorilla, sending the signal that if they can stand up to this, they can stand up to anything. In other words, a solid vote of confidence for the process. Since I was one of the people who handed over a blueprint for the process, I suppose I should be flattered.

James D. Macdonald@26:

"A better plan would be for Scalzi to put his name in for Prez before the nomination deadline, so he doesn't have to start a write-in campaign after half the voters have already returned their ballots."

This assumes I plan to run next year. Rumor has it, I have books to write.

#33 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:55 AM:

As I said over at Bear's place, there's another good thing SWFA does, and that's having a lot of stuff on the public part of the site that's useful to newbie writers, including "how not to get scammed". It's not all that relevant to anyone who qualifies for SFWA membership (or at least I *hope* anyone who's managed to qualify knows that stuff by now), and there are other places to find it, including here; but it's still a public service.

There are *good* things SFWA does, often things that aren't all that visible. I'm not a SFWA member, so I'm not sure whether they outweigh the bad stuff. But they seem like things that are worth preserving if it's possible, so I'm really not impressed with this latest round of "how can we cause maximum offence?" idiocy -- especially when it involves someone who appears to have got into SFWA via a certain amount of rules-bending.

#34 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:55 AM:

The first unfortunate part of any volunteer organization (and I've been in many) is that sometimes you get people whose chief qualification for the job is that they have time on their hands.

The second unfortunate part of any volunteer organization is that they don't respond well to criticism. Criticism, even of a valid nature, is frequently taken personally. This leads to a "circle the wagons" mentality.

Although Burt obviously wanted to be back on the committee, a quick glance at the vote of the board (8 to 1) suggests that his vote was not critical. So, if the SFWA members don't like what's going on, they're going to have to "vote the bums out" which means getting on the ballot and campaigning.

Lastly, although Burt's back in the saddle, his wings have clearly been clipped, since it appears he can't send out much more then a grocery list without El Capo's approval.

#35 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:00 PM:

AHhahahahahahahha!

It's starting again! Burt wants input on "What to do with Scribd?"

I am a very, very, bad, bad, bad person. I confess to cackling with glee at each new link I open.

#36 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Chris Gerrib@34:

"Although Burt obviously wanted to be back on the committee, a quick glance at the vote of the board (8 to 1) suggests that his vote was not critical."

I think this overlooks the fact that Burt, as a member of the board, was active in discussions and was almost certainly actively lobbying his board members to be on the new committee; we don't know what the vote would have been had he recused himself from both the deliberations and the voting.

I personally feel this conflict of interest should be of considerable concern for SFWAns.

#37 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:07 PM:

John Scalzi - I sympathize with your time constraints. I have a full-time job as well as trying to break into writing.

But I have also found time to be president of my Rotary club. I didn't ask for the job, but I believe in what Rotary is trying to accomplish, and I want it to continue.

You (in particular) and the other SFWA members / eligible non-members (in general) need to decide if SFWA is a worthwhile organization, and should continue.

I'm not telling you anything you don't know (or at least I don't think I am) but if SFWA is worth saving, then somebody will have to step up and get involved.

#38 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:11 PM:

John Scalzi - yep, Burt should have recused himself. Actually, the board should have told him to step out of the room (or whatever) when the vote was taken.

My point was that Burt's not the sole problem here.

#39 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Chris Gerrib@37:

Well, you may recall that I did run for president last year, not to mention I just chaired a committee that among other things required me to do hours of mind-sloggingly collating of SFWA member votes while I was allegedly on a vacation. I'm not adverse to being engaged, and I don't think I need to be prodded about the virtue of making an effort.

That said, next year I have three books I need to work on, not to mention a slate of shorter work and quite a bit of other work not relating to fiction, and I would have to see whether I have the actual bandwidth to be a competent and engaged SFWA president on top of that work.

Which is to say, I will decide when it's appropriate for me to make a decision. Until then, I don't think it's wise for anyone to assume I'll be in the running for SFWA president next year.

#40 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:18 PM:

**mumble** years ago, when I ran for Secretary of SFWA, I said in my statement that I thought SFWA was a great idea that sometimes lives up to its ideals. Being on the Board for a year was work, was time-consuming, and was illuminating; everyone (including the president at the time, who shall remain nameless) was really striving to do the thoughtful, helpful, right thing. We probably fucked up as often as not.

Being a volunteer officer, with the entire, highly verbal and critical membership of the organization watching your every move and critiquing it in almost-real-time, can make you a little crazy. That doesn't excuse the original Scribd debacle or its sequelae, but it explains it, a little.

This is a mess. I'm still wishing that SFWA could live up to its ideals more often and more intelligently.

#41 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Arrrrrgh! I increasingly regret that I went for the life membership way back when.

#42 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:28 PM:

SFWA certainly does some worthwhile things. A good example is Writer Beware. However, almost all of them turn out to have happened, not as an outgrowth of SFWA's official processes, but rather because one person, or a few people, doggedly built something useful in spite of those processes. Veterans of small-group politics in other arenas will find this a familiar pattern.

#43 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:29 PM:

Not a member, so I don't really know, but I wonder if the Iron Law of Institutions comes into play around here somewhere...

#44 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:29 PM:

The reaction to the current SFWA problem reminds me a little of the "captain" problem in Iraq.

Most of the best-graded captains are leaving the Army, despite the promise of a $35,000 resign bonus. The people taking the bonus and staying are the captains who aren't so highly regarded.

It does seem like the people who could best east SFWA into the 21st century are the ones most pissed off and the ones who seem to be leaving. Sad, but not surprising.

#45 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:34 PM:

John Scalzi - I do in fact recall you running and note your involvement in the e-piracy committee. Those are both good stepping stones to the President's chair :-)

Seriously - I'm not trying to rag on you or suggest that you're not involved. My point, and it goes to all the other SFWA members as well, is that if you don't like what's happening, you'll have to step in and offer to do it.

Madeleine @ 40 - I run a Rotary club. Everybody in there is a business owner or senior manager, and very used to having things done their way. In that regard (and only that regard) I have sympathy for Burt. What was Teddy Roosevelt's line about "the man in the arena?"

#46 ::: Johne Cook ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:34 PM:

ABurt invokes history and community service as his defense. But history can be a two-edged sword:

http://community.livejournal.com/sfwa/36429.html?view=990541#t990541

On your blog, you write the following:
I've historically had a reputation as a fair and open-minded person who tries to do good work for the community at large (such as Nyx, Critters, etc.), so I hope that says something.

http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1497
Historically, you used the Critters newsletter to take cheap public potshots at Cory Doctorow. When I called you on that, you were neither fair, nor open-minded, nor apologetic. After a lengthy thread seeking, unsuccessfully, to persuade you that it was an abuse of power using Critters as your own private podium for vendetta, I resigned from Critters in protest.

This is the sort of thing that people point to with regard to your activity with this committee. The chorus of voices today is not that of a mindless lynchmob, it is the collection of individual observations of a smart, literate public who see what is there to see - a man with suspect credibility and questionable character. As long as Michael is hitching the entire SFWA wagon to you, personally, the entire process is tainted.

#47 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:35 PM:

What does SFWA do that's actually useful?

Well, there's the EMF. And there's Griefcom. And there's the web resources for new writers (including the writers beware stuff), and the social side. And the nebulas.

1. The EMF is only necessary because the US medical system is utterly FUBARed, especially for low-earning self-employed folks (like most writers). Stephen King is trying to set up something similar but more generic and probably with hugely better funding. And if, post-2008 election, you get a president who's serious about healthcare reform, the EMF will hopefully cease to be necessary. (Declaration of disinterest: as a Brit, I have no use for the EMF.)

2. Griefcom -- yes, it's a good thing, but does it need a large organization with a thousand-plus members behind it to make it work? Are there other ways of handling representation and arbitration on behalf of authors?

3. Web resources -- they're useful, but SFWA isn't unique in providing resources for writers; see also absolute write for example.

4. The Nebulas. The voting structure of which is absolutely FUBARed by design, and which were invented out of whole cloth by Damon Knight so that he could run the Nebula award winner anthologies to provide an income stream for the organization. We've got too damn many awards as it is.

5. The social stuff. Which used to be important ... but again: in this day and age, we've got the internet. (Case in point.) The private treehouse mentality of the SFWA newsgroups breeds a toxic stew of exclusionary groupthink and encourages the sort of idiocy that the re-establishment of the SFWA piracy committee exemplifies.

Have I missed anything?

#48 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:44 PM:

Steven Frug, #43: The Iron Law of Institutions is quite certainly a factor here.

Charlie Stross, #47: Just to clarify, Damon Knight did invent the Nebulas, but he bears little to no responsibility for the baroque rules, eligibility requirements, and nominating procedures which they've subsequently accreted.

#49 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:49 PM:

Patrick, yes: I know the nebula rules got complexified out of all sanity during the 1980s, long after Damon Knight started the ball rolling. I'm just highly doubtful about their relevance to the state of SF today, given how wildly they've diverged from the Hugos (and the other awards) over the past few years.

#50 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:49 PM:

Re-reading @33, I think I should clarify that I think that SFWA is potentially a good thing, but I'm not impressed with Andrew Burt right now.

Charlie @47: I think point 1 will continue to be important unless/until there is a realistic alternative for the US writers, and I wouldn't pin my hopes on the 2008 election. But I believe there are other writers' organisations that many SFWA members could join for the same purpose. Point 2 might also be something they could get from another existing organisation.

A lot of the benefit of SFWA is collecting useful info and services into one place and putting an sff slant on it, so that the people involved know the particular wrinkles of the genre. It's useful. But it's not *necessary*.

#51 ::: jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Burt wants input on "What to do with Scribd?"

Mr. Jaw, meet Mr. Floor.

"They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing."

#52 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:11 PM:

Steve, #11: Politicians routinely vote for themselves. The idea that this is vaguely unethical is left behind along with grade school. Of course, one politician's vote in a general election doesn't carry nearly as much weight, either.

#53 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Lee 52: Yes, they do, and you've put your finger on the problem: Burt is a politician. Committee members in a not-for-profit should be the kind of people who are persuaded to do it because they're good at it, not the power-mad nutbars who make good politicians.

Unfortunately, politicians are what you get.

I remember a planet in the Legion of Superheroes universe where politicians were drafted instead of elected. Presumably some skill-level was established, but after that they were selected at random and induced to serve under penalty of law.

Short of something wacky-extreme like that, all offices will be filled by people who are good at getting into them and staying in them, which has only a slight correlation to being good at actually doing the job.

#54 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:38 PM:

John, #32: The Samsonite argument calls to mind Boccaccio's story of Giannotto and Abraam (Decameron, first day, second story).

#55 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:39 PM:

Lee @ 52: There's a substantial difference between voting for oneself a a member of the general electorate of a body and voting for oneself as a member of a Board or Executive Committee. In the former case, any person voting (usually, subject to various ordinary restrictions) is eligible to hold the post they're voting for. On the other hand, when a Board selects the members of a committee, in most cases the membership is not restricted to Board members.

Xopher @ 53:
I remember a planet in the Legion of Superheroes universe where politicians were drafted instead of elected. Presumably some skill-level was established, but after that they were selected at random and induced to serve under penalty of law.


Ancient Athens did some of that, which is probably where it was taken from.

#56 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:42 PM:

Xopher @53: a planet in the Legion of Superheroes universe where politicians were drafted instead of elected

This is reminiscent of Lafferty's "Primary Education of the Camiroi" and "Polity and Custom of the Camiroi." The government was made of draftees. If I recall correctly, any citizen could enact a law, but the penalty for enacting what was determined to be a bad law (I don't remember how) could be death. Their educational system was inspired by the idea that everyone must be trained to be competent to be the government's chief executive, or to create law.

However cartoonishly extreme Camiroi was, I wish all democracies would keep in mind the importance of teaching critical thinking and history.

#57 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:54 PM:
My point, and it goes to all the other SFWA members as well, is that if you don't like what's happening, you'll have to step in and offer to do it.

Please hear this in a mild tone of voice: I don't think anyone in this conversation -- or in most conversations among adults -- needs to be told this. I'm sure you don't intend it this way, but it smacks of lecturing, and implies that a conversation like this has no use, when in fact it is a necessary prelude to intelligent action. And volunteering other people for responsibilities is not only a bit rude, it's counterproductive: it makes people more resistant, not more receptive.

#58 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:55 PM:

@53: The planet Bismoll, home of Matter-Eater Lad. (It's an urban myth that its leader was called the "Pepto". )

#59 ::: SisterCoyote ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Jim C. Hines has posted his thoughts on his LiveJournal: he was also a member of the recommendations committee

#60 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:58 PM:

I would just like to note that I don't consider "politician" an insult, nor do I disdain the skill set that makes a person one.

#61 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Charlie @ #47 - If houses weren't (in)flammable, we wouldn't need much in the way of fire insurance, either. But houses are, by and large flammable, and US health care is, by and large, grotesquely inadequate, especially for the self-employed. And even a best case scenario in the 2008 Presidential election isn't going to change that soon -- Presidents don't make laws, and huge institutional changes like putting the entire country on a completely different footing for health care funding take time, even if the political will is there. The kind of time in which people can sicken, be wiped out, and die. I think we agree that writers dying in poverty has been done enough not to bear repeating, yes?

I sympathize in every possible way with your anger and frustration with SFWA just now, but that doesn't change the genuine need for the Emergency Medical Fund for several years to come, at least.

#62 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:11 PM:

I agree with Patrick about "politician" not being a term of abuse. Politics is important. Every society that ever was and ever will be will have politics. Even the Singularity, if such a thing is possible and happens, won't abolish politics. It's a field of activity worth respecting, understanding, and doing with honor and virtue.

(I realized a while back that I feel about the ostracization of "politics" as some weird thing that's probably a scam very much the way I do about the similar treatment of "religion". Both are fundamental parts of human nature, and deserve better than being abandoned to nuts and villains.)

#63 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Scraps @ 57 - I apologize for lecturing. That was not my intent. I intended "step in" to be seen as an alternative to "quit" or "don't join," both of which were mentioned in this thread.

I'm not eligible for SFWA, so this discussion is somewhat theoretical to me. However, having ran volunteer organizations, there were times when I wished the folks in the back would come on up and help. I suspect this impulse is part of why the leadership in volunteer organizations generally don't respond well to criticism.

#64 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Bruce Baugh, 62,

I feel about the ostracization of "politics" as some weird thing that's probably a scam very much the way I do about the similar treatment of "religion". Both are fundamental parts of human nature, and deserve better than being abandoned to nuts and villains.

Word, yo*.


*well said.

#65 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Back to the OP: did anyone else notice that they intentionally omitted the recommendation that there be oversight and that there be no unilateral action by members of the committee?

#66 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Robin Z @ 65 - actually, the order adopted by SFWA requires that the committee give the President the chance to override their letters. Which is actually a bureaucratic slap in the face.

"You can't send out letters on company letterhead unless the President sees it first."

#67 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:39 PM:

#52 Lee, as a politician myself (my creds) I certainly vote for myself in the general election. However, voting from the desk for my position to be on a committee or to some subcommittee happens only once a year when we determine our organazational structure (I am currently Chair of the Streets and Lands and Building Committees) and then it's an en bloc vote (all committee assignments, all chairs, etc in one vote, if everybody involved recused themselves there would be no vote). When I speak as a citizen of the community (as different than speaking as a councliman), I walk around the table (where we sit for meetings) to signify the difference. If the vote is about appointing me or anything that may seem to personally benefit me, I always (without fail) recuse myself. I've only had to do this three times in my five years on Council. I've had to do it more often as an officer in Ruritans (like Rotarians).

As a side note, my design freelancing comes up more often for both the Village and the Ruritans (of which I am now an associate member, not an officer). I do not vote on issues to give me the work, nor do I accept payment for the work I do for them (Village and Ruritans) specifically to avoid the specter of impropriety. This has come up more often.

As a professional, this is my code of conduct. When I see it not being followed by others it makes me question their professionalism (and their motives).

#68 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:10 PM:

#53: I remember a planet in the Legion of Superheroes universe where politicians were drafted instead of elected. Presumably some skill-level was established, but after that they were selected at random and induced to serve under penalty of law.

#55: Ancient Athens did some of that, which is probably where it was taken from.

In The Martians, Kim Stanley Robinson has one branch of the Martian government work like this; and in the notes, the fictional character (forget which) points out that there are, in fact, a fair number of different real-world precedents. The basic idea is to have the legislature operate like a Jury.

#69 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:15 PM:

"53: I remember a planet in the Legion of Superheroes universe where politicians were drafted instead of elected. Presumably some skill-level was established, but after that they were selected at random and induced to serve under penalty of law."

That was Bismol, home of Tenzel "Matter Eater Lad" Kem, who was drafted under its provisions. Sometime after the Five Year Gap he began doing increasingly outrageous things to try to convince Bismollians to stop voting for him.

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:16 PM:

Patrick 60 and Bruce 62: you're right, of course. I was feeling bitter and also wrote carelessly. Contra myself at 53, not everyone who has the talent and inclination to be a politician is a power-mad nutbar.

They do have to like power, I think. And they do have to be at least able to think in a way that most of us would find distinctly uncomfortable.

My poli-sci prof friend Sondra defines politics as "the authoritative allocation of scarce resources." My politician friend Mike defines it as "the art of the possible." I've been known to define it as "how humans interact in any group larger than one" (that's why I was able to see that Bruce was right in 62, and that I was talking through my ass at 53).

The trouble (and what made me say that at 53) is that politics is a game that, to a limited extent, can be won by abandoning all moral and ethical principles. And the good and decent politicians tend to get trodden on in the process. Too often, the scum rises to the top; see our current President for a particularly egregious example.

The current crop of Presidential candidates is another; of all of them, only Dennis Kucinich would be welcome in my home (none of the rest regard me as fully human, and funny thing, I'm offended by that). I'm not voting for him; I'm voting for Hillary, for reasons I've discussed elsewhere: politics is the art of the possible.

But I digress. In a volunteer organization like SFWA, some of the people who volunteer to serve are just service-oriented people. But it also attracts power-hungry wacko-loonies like Burt.

If this were a campaign for public office, I would call the above a "clarification." But in fact I said something wrong and stupid and I'm saying something different now.

#71 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Xopher @70 &prev:
It occurs to me that we're a word short in our vocabulary. We need a word n, where "writer is to hack as politician is to n."

Such a word would, of course, be subject to normal grammatical rules:

I am a statesman
You are a politician
He is an n

Suggestions?

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:33 PM:

Actually, abi, the word 'hack' is used there too. As is the word 'pol', but that's a little more obscure.

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Xopher @72:

I think we might, in this particular case, want to use another word than "hack". No one is criticizing anyone's writing here.

#74 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:40 PM:

abi @71 & 73, I usually use "partisan hack", which combines the connotations of "hack" with "views politics as a sport with clearly defined sides" and removes the idea that we're concerned with how well written their press releases are.

#75 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:42 PM:

I am thinking this Andrew Burt is not a power-hungry one, but one who believes he is always the right and reasonable, and so we should all listen to him, him, him.

Not better than power-hungry, merely different.

#76 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Reading the Scribd thread broke my suspension of disbelief.

I'm finding myself considering conspiracy theories because this level of stupidity just isn't plausible.

#77 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Jo Walton @ 76
The impression I get from other people in the know is that given SWFA's past, this level of stupidity is coming close to routine.

#78 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:02 PM:

On a side note, I'd like to thank Charlie for smacking down Vox Day on antipope. Veteran Makinglightites/Erloctroliters might remember him.

*snerk*

#79 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:07 PM:

#70 Xopher "The trouble... is that politics is a game that, to a limited extent, can be won by abandoning all moral and ethical principles. And the good and decent politicians tend to get trodden on in the process. Too often, the scum rises to the top..."

Having just been re-elected, Xopher, I'll try not to take that too personally, or at least see myself as the exception.

#80 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Vox "Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics" Day showed up in Charlie's comment thread? Excuse me, I have to get out my lawn chair and pop open a cold one.

#81 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:11 PM:

abi @ #71: "Glorified ward-heeler" would do, I think.

#82 ::: Martin Schafer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:12 PM:

#70, it may not be possible to disentangle this from a liking for power, but I feel that the better sort of politician is driven more by a desire/willingness to take responsibility.

I don't recall the source, but my preferred definition for politics is the means of resolving disputes without hitting each other over the heads with clubs.

#83 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:19 PM:

#75:Yes, it does seem like Dr. Burt's image of himself, and his actions don't line up.

His cheap shot at Cory Doctorow in the Critters Newsletter, IMHO, was petty. This is not the act of a right and reasonable person. Critters is the only context in which I've had any dealing with him, so I don't know him at all.

I was surprised when he responded to my question to the LJ SFWA community. (i.e., since no one has admitted error, why wouldn't those same people commit the same mistakes all over again.) However, his answer was very much in line with the blame-shifting he's done in the past. I'm a little miffed that he thought this was an adequate response to my question. Did he think there was someone who could ask that question without knowing his previous behavior?

Fortunately, Johne Cook and Teresa, among others, tore his statement apart far better than I could. Thank you.

#84 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:33 PM:

"Vox "Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics" Day showed up in Charlie's comment thread? Excuse me, I have to get out my lawn chair and pop open a cold one."

Currently he's digging in deeper, while at the same time trying to suck up to Stross. And attacking the Queen, I think. It's kind of mind-boggling.

#85 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 80,
Vox "Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics" Day showed up in Charlie's comment thread? Excuse me, I have to get out my lawn chair and pop open a cold one.

Oh yes, he's there, Mr. Vox "I consider women's rights to be a disease that should be eradicated" Day. I made the mistake of reading one of his texts. I summarize my reaction there*.

Very disappointing, btw, to find out that he's raving starkers, as I was interested in his proposal to revise the SFWA. I'm now concerned that I have contaminated my psyche through indirect contact with his emanations.

*even shorter version:
The goggles! Squamous! Rugose! No earthly! erk!

#86 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Patrick @ #80 - Yep. I get the sense he wanted to be "one of the cool kids". He will never be "one of the cool kids". Misogyny is uncool. So is Christian Dominionism.

#87 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:40 PM:

I rather got the impression that he is (a) young, and (b) trolling. Unfortunately he may yet grow up to rue his early experiments in fishing with dynamite. "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog" has a corollary: "on the internet, everyone you piss off has the memory of an elephant."

#88 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Well, at least Vox announcing his candidacy for SFWA president has given me a good reason to hang onto my SFWA membership--voting against him.

#89 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Abi & Xopher: Polihack? Hacktician? Hacktician leads me to hactastic, but that could just be the pain pills talking.

#90 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:50 PM:

Whoops, he wasn't attacking the Queen, he was attacking the EU. I'm so easily confused.

#91 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:51 PM:

I've just remembered that Our Host Patrick once urged me to run for President of SFWA; even at that time I felt this was a strange thing for a man to do to a friend.

#92 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:51 PM:

I've just remembered that Our Host Patrick once urged me to run for President of SFWA; even at that time I felt this was a strange thing for a man to do to a friend.

#93 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:52 PM:

Lara @ 89... Hackstatic? Hacksecrable?

#94 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Well, if the hack is president, you can call him a hacksident*.

-----
* unless he was on purpose

#95 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:55 PM:

Xopher #70:

The political side of some big operation (like writing a standard, running an organization, operating a business, etc.) often becomes dominant in the decisionmaking, over the side of getting the actual goal done well. I think that's what many of us find frustrating about politics in general.

That's true in the broader national politics sense, too, of course.

#96 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Evan Goer, 90
Whoops, he wasn't attacking the Queen, he was attacking the EU. I'm so easily confused.
Oh no, he snarked about the Queen here.
I believe the phrase you are looking for is:

a non-democratic political entity ruled by an unaccountable and unelected oligarchy
Which is remarkably indirect compared to his insulting of Dr. Asaro.

I say! Does this mean he's also insulted the people of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia? (And the other 12 countries that I haven't yet mentioned?) I'm a litte fuzzy on the scope of Her Majesty's rulership, and oddly, Wikipedia isn't helping.

#97 ::: Brian ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:07 PM:

The Bush administration would be proud.

I can't get to the journal in question (work filter) so perhaps someone here can explain.

What in the holy names of heck does the Bush administration have to do with SFWA?

#98 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:10 PM:

On the LJ thread responding to Capobianco's announcement, Teresa wins the read-it-twice-carefully snark-of-the-year award:

No prob. It takes work to remember that SFWA occasionally does useful stuff, but I've had decades of practice.

#99 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:46 PM:

Coincidentally, Matthew Yglesias wrote this (it's in a post about addressing climate change, but it's still apt) today:

The mechanism by which we decide what to do is called "politics" and it exists so that individuals and organizations with somewhat divergent interests and ideas can make collective decisions about how to tackle common problems. The rhetoric of anti-politics isn't just an analytic mistake, it's part of the problem. A public that doesn't believe divergent interests can be reconciled and common solutions devised for common problems -- a public that doesn't believe in politics -- is going to be a public that doesn't believe there's anything that can or should be done to prevent catastrophic climate change.

#100 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:48 PM:

Brian, I have no clue about AB's politics, but when he talks in the name of SFWA, he always sounds like a Bush administration employee.

#101 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:52 PM:

Steve 79: I hope you are an exception, and manage to escape being trodden on by the ethically bereft scum as they rise to the top.

#102 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Charlie #87: I've always heard the second line as "But if you're a stupid fucking idiot, they figure that out immediately."

#103 ::: Jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Vox Day is 39; chalking it up to youthful exuberance assumes a Gallifreyan if not Longian lifespan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Beale

#104 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:02 PM:

As if SFWA and the field doesn't have enough trouble with sexism as it is.

Aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

It's as though the abyss exerts such a glamor charm that some people cannot resist running over the cliff. What is interesting is that they run over the cliff, and somehow crawl back up the cliff, and then run over it again.

And again.

Etc.

#105 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:17 PM:

Jonquil: Really? Wow.

Constance Ash: I think it's more like they enjoy hitting themselves in the face with a two-by-four. Repeatedly.

#106 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:29 PM:

"96: I say! Does this mean he's also insulted the people of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia? (And the other 12 countries that I haven't yet mentioned?) I'm a litte fuzzy on the scope of Her Majesty's rulership, and oddly, Wikipedia isn't helping."

Elizabeth reigns but she does not rule. To the extent that she has legal powers in the nations where she is queen [1], she only gets to keep them as long as she never uses them.

Well, legal powers relating to government. She can demand her two beaver pelts from the HBC until the cows come home and nobody will complain.

1: Note that while the same person is Queen of England and Queen of Canada, those are two different positions and there is at least one way for the people holding them to become different people (Short of suicide, there's no practical way for the Monarch of Canada to step down).

#107 ::: Greg Morrow ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:33 PM:

53:

As several have noted, the planet Bismoll did indeed draft its politicians.

It may be worth additionally noting that candidates for president of Earthgov were chosen by computer, prior to a democratic planetary election. In one such election, one candidate was an Indian political science graduate student who'd written an innovative paper on economic policy.

#58: There is some canonical evidence that the capital city of Bismoll is named Pepto.

This is, after all, the utopian science fiction universe that features a character named "Jo Nah" who'd gained superpowers after being swallowed by a space whale.

#108 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:38 PM:

Charlie @105: Either that or it's stepped cliffs all the way down.

#109 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:38 PM:

Xopher, belatedly: My feeling is that anyone who has no bitter moments is simply not paying attention. I think it's really good to go ahead and say "I'm feeling bitter about this and it's getting me down". It's not the whole story, usually, but it is also part of the truth.

#110 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Midori #96: I think you're looking for this.

The list of Commonwealth realms (or dominions):

Antigua and Barbuda
Australia
Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Canada
Grenada
Jamaica
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
St Kitts/Nevis
St Lucia
St Vincent & the Grenadines
Solomon Islands
Tuvalu
United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.

All of them, according to Mr Day, ruled by unelected oligarchies.

#111 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:47 PM:

Jonquil, I went to that article earlier to see if Vx Dy was the kind of person that edited his own Wikipedia article. Survey says: Yes.

I was bemused that apparently Vox nuked the "controversies" section in his bio because it linked to his columns as WorldNetDaily, which is not considered to be a reliable source by Wikipedia... gaming the system much?

#112 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:55 PM:

And oh, look, there he goes again. Into the fat jokes, now.

This is my first time encountering him. Is this his usual pattern?

#113 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:22 PM:

Heh! The puns!

Back on the subject of the original stupidity, I actually visited Scribd for the first time thanks to this whole mess. Neat site. Lots of dreck to wade through, but I've got all weekend.

#114 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:26 PM:

Tobias Buckell quits.

#115 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:38 PM:

What's a Vox Day? What a turkey. Gah.

I've been a member of SFWA for about 35 years. I've never been involved in its internal politics, I no longer vote for the Nebulas, and though I occasionally go to the SFWA website, I've never encountered anything there which has held my interest for more than 5 minutes ... unlike at, say, Making Light, or Slacktivist, or Pharyngula, or Orcinus, or -- you get the picture. I continue to pay SFWA dues every year because I might, someday, need the EMF, and a little, I think out of sentiment.

#116 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:50 PM:

I have long wondered . . .

The Queen does, on paper, have veto power, isn't that so? Is there conceivably a situation in which she could use it to make a point? Could (for instance) she note that public opinion seems to be that Parliament is being utterly insane about Hugely Important Issue XYZ, have her people confirm this, and refuse to sign the XYZ Bill?

#117 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:17 PM:

Jenny Islander #116: Since no bill passed by Parliament has been disallowed since the reign of Queen Anne, it's beyond unlikely.

The constitutional principle, established since the reign of William IV, is that the monarch attends to the will of the majority in the House of Commons (which William did by agreeing to name additional members to the House of Lords if Lord Melbourne, then the prime minister, should desire it; this had the expected effect of forcing the Tories, then in their proper place, that is to say opposition, to yield on the Great Reform Bill).

#118 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:27 PM:

re: #116

Canada appoints a Governor-General as stand-in for the Queen when she's not in Canada (i.e. most of the time). While the duties are mostly ceremonial, s/he is supposed to act as a sort of advisor to the PM, and if the situation you describe were to occur, I think the GG, being around to see what was going on, would be more likely than the Queen to try and intervene. I don't know if in the present day s/he legally can do so - but it has occurred in the past: google "King-Byng-thing" for details.

#119 ::: Feòrag ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Jenny Islander #116: If she did, well we've chopped the monarch's head off before...

#120 ::: Xochiquetzl ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Patrick @18 wrote:

Another part of the problem, I've become convinced, is SFWA's attachment to (supposedly) private discussion forums, participation in which becomes seen as a status symbol in itself.

I've increasingly felt that what SFWA really needs is sfwa_wank, their own fandom_wank spin-off. And, of course, open and transparent communication to give the sfwa_wank readers more to laugh at.

SFWA's e-piracy fun and games have already made fandom_wank at least twice. That's impressive for a community oriented towards media fandom, fan fiction, and gaming.

#121 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:52 PM:

In New Zealand any intervention by the G-G in politics* would amount to the declaration of the Republic.

I'm not sure about Canada, but I strongly suspect that the G-G's powers are similarly constricted.

It'd be much the same in Britain, except in Britain the Monarch would be held to have abdicated by acting contrary to the wishes of Parliament, or some such fudge, if it were a minor affair, or taken to outside the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, if it were a serious one. (Just going by precedent...)

* Excepting extreme cases, such as a breakdown of the political process to a degree that the country isn't functioning -- this is what the Australian G-G used as a justification in the Whitlam affair.

#122 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:33 PM:

I went looking if any other members of the SFWA committee posted public comments. about what's going on.
• Here's Cat Rambo's

I do hope some good comes out of this and SFWA moves to a more efficient and effective stance on copyright, but I do not believe this can happen with Burt in charge
Elizabeth Moon isn't writing directly about the current situation, but seems to have a different perspective on what went on before.

#123 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:02 PM:

Every time I read about Mr. Burt, I see in my head Mr. Clete, of the Musicians' Guild, Pratchett-style. Hat, hat, hat.

#124 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:02 PM:

Jenny 116,

In Canada we have several levels of over ride on legislation starting with the senate who normally send stuff back for being badly written, then comes the supreme court then the GG then the Queen who is the veto of last resort and has not been necessary. That is if it doesn't die in some fashion in the house by several ways first.
Complex system but so far works ok.

#125 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:08 PM:

In practice, the final reserve powers of the Monarch were removed in Britain some ninety years ago, when the House of Lords was effectively prevented from ever denying or long obstructing the will of the party or parties that formed a majority in the House of Commons. Actual practice has only reinforced this position. The Lords can talk, but not too long. They can try to persuade a majority in the House of Commons that the proposed legislation is bad policy, but they can't spend long trying to do it, and that is all they can do. Hence there never can be an unresolvable deadlock between the Houses requiring the exercise of what used to be the Crown's reserve powers.

Her Majesty has no choice but to abide by the advice of her Ministers, an arrangement that, as she knows, produces the pleasing effect that the Crown becomes a symbol beyond politics. In the very last resort, if presented with legislation that utterly revolted her conscience, the only practical alternative for her would be abdication.

#126 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Xopher, #53: IIRC, it was Matter-Eater Lad who got drafted to be his planet's President. He'd rather have stayed with the Legion, but he went off to do his civic duty. (And Jon at #58 informs me that I was indeed remembering correctly.)

Bruce, #62: There are politicians, and then there are politicians. What we really need here is some way of distinguishing the politicians who are in it because they want to help people from the ones who are in it solely for their own power and/or greed. We've got some options in the similar religious issue. What's the political equivalent of Christianist or Christofascist?

Steve, #67: Yes, that's a well-thought-out ethical demarcation, and I think we're in agreement overall. I also suspect that Burt doesn't think that what he did is any different from you voting for yourself in the general election.

#127 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:31 PM:

The Queen can speak to her subjects on her feelings for certain matters and they in turn if they agree can go to the politicians. I recall a kerfuffle over aparthide in the 80's that got tongues wagging and a lot of editorial cartoons.

#128 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:37 PM:

Jim says:

A better plan would be for Scalzi to put his name in for Prez before the nomination deadline, so he doesn't have to start a write-in campaign after half the voters have already returned their ballots.

I wish wish wish wish wish wish wish wish more folks would remember that Scalzi's candidacy was pretty unlikely to win for this reason, and that's it's failure says nothing about the organization except that many of its members return ballots the same day they receive them, and that the election results are by no rational standard an indication of the failure of the organization.

Run an opposition candidate in well-thought out, organized way, get them on the ballot, and then, if they lose, start pondering whether the organization is doomed.

But this very basic thing hasn't even been tried yet, and too few people seem to understand that.

The current administration is the current administration not because SFWA is evil, but because no one else has made a serious bid to do the work and put in the time. There's no reason these things can't be tried, and no reason to assume ahead of time they will fail if they are.

#129 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:40 PM:

Would someone explain to me why what Burt did ("borrowing" money illicitly and not paying it back) isn't embezzlement? Why aren't they prosecuting him instead of putting him on committees?

#130 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:06 PM:

#122: I think of it as the fog of war. Cory's point, ultimately, was that an author should have the right to distribute his work as he wishes. If Andrew Burt agrees with this, and I think he does, then it doesn't matter if his errant takedown notices were a matter of malice or incompetence. He should have executed his take down notices with the time and care to avoid infringing on authors' rights. If he believes that an author should have the right to distribute his work as he wishes, he should be grief-stricken that he went against his own principle, regardless of cause.

An alternate narrative popped up very soon afterwards that puts "information wants to be free" into Cory's mouth, and recasts Cory's actions as political opportunism. Yes, Cory espouses IWTBF, but, in this case, what he had written was that he had explicitly denied SFWA the authority to exercise his copyright. He wasn't talking about works on Scribd in general, just works whose presence on Scribd was not copyright infringing. The crux of his complaint was that SFWA took down his work without his permission. About the only thing worthy of complaint here is that maybe Cory attributed to malice what turned out to be due to incompetence. (This is speculation on my part. I have no idea to what Cory initially attributed SFWA's action. I certainly considered malice a motive at first.)

This is why I say it was fog of war. Until it was shown otherwise, it wasn't hard to think it was malice. Given Cory's track record of IWTBF, it wasn't hard to think it was political opportunism, despite his actual words. Both sides were wrong. It turned out to be incompetence, not malice. It wasn't IWTBF. It was "please don't enforce my rights for me."

Having said that, the rest of Elizabeth Moon's account looks right to me. SFWA did not intend their potentially legally actionable rights grab. Andrew Burt did in fact make a mistake (but about 80 times over). The president of SFWA did apologize. She mentions that Andrew Burt has never actually acknowledge error only by omission.

I suppose the Scribd incident was blown all out of proportion. But any account of this which leaves out the nature of SWFA's reaction to the initial blogosphere response is inherently incomplete. Also, Elizabeth Moon writes only about the beginning of the related Cory Doctorow/Ursala LeGuin kerfuffle. She does not mention that Cory owned up, apologized (albeit snarkily) and made amends, preferring to dwell on Cory's early errors. Again, her account is incomplete.

It's as if she omitted the end of the Scribd incident where Andrew Burt took full responsibility for his actions, apologized to the membership, and personally instituted corrective actions to make sure this never happens again. Oh wait...

How to deal with electronic distribution of text is obviously a divisive issue for the SFWA membership. This makes the appointment of any polarizing figure to chair the copyright committee, at best, puzzling.

#131 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:19 PM:

Without intending to defend Burt specifically, Xopher, I can give a few good reasons, in the abstract, why people might not call it embezzlement and might not want to prosecute:

1. They believe in the person's initial and continued sincerity. Embezzlement strongly implies deliberate fraud.

2. They still hope to get the money back, and think it more likely through continued waiting and faith than through legal action, trusting that the person's concern for his own reputation in the community will eventually lead to repayment.

3. The conditions under which the money was borrowed may make it very difficult or impossible to recoup via lawsuit.

4. Such a lawsuit would be awful publicity for the organization (granted, people thinking this way probably didn't anticipate the awful publicity Burt would bring them in other ways).

5. Generally, communities are best served by pursuing all possible alternatives before legal action. There is more to the relationship than a professional borrowing and reneging; a lawsuit would likely fracture the community in various ways that may not be worth the possibility of recovering the money, even if the community concludes that there is no other possibility of repayment. At the least, it would result in the ostracism of the borrower, a result that should always be weighed very carefully by a community (again, notwithstanding the other reasons at this point for wishing to act against Burt).

#132 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:24 PM:

Cory's apology to Le Guin was not remotely snarky.

#133 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:26 PM:

That makes sense, Scraps, but it's not a lawsuit that we're talking about. Embezzlement is a criminal offense, not a tort.

That said, they may judge that their best chance of getting the money back is by refraining from filing a complaint. I think a man who tells blatant, easily checkable lies (like Andrew Burt) is unlikely to have enough conscience to ever pay it back, but it's not my choice and not my money.

If they change their minds, and Andrew Burt goes to prison for embezzlement, I will bake a Schadenfreude Pie.

#134 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:32 PM:

You're right, I muddled my language. I think the points still stand.

#135 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:34 PM:

I was under the impression that Burt had, finally, paid back his loan, but not being an SFWA member it's hard to know for sure (or possibly it's hard to know for sure even for members, which would be a further sign of problems).

#136 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:35 PM:

Also, I doubt the facts here amount to an embezzlement case. Burt didn't obtain the money by sneaking it as an employee; it was borrowed, explicitly. Right? I don't think that disputes about borrowed money and fulfilling contracts fall under criminal law, do they?

#137 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:00 AM:

The thing with the money borrowed from SFWA is done and over and Burt paid it back, and I'm pretty sure SFWA got a receipt. There's not much value in grinding it over again.

#138 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:30 AM:

John 137, some of those comment threads have people saying he DIDN'T pay it back. This comment of yours is the first one I've heard saying that he did.

#139 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:07 AM:

I would trust John to be in a position to know more than most. Given the low-profile nature of the original deal, and how amazing bad an idea it was, it stands to reason SFWA didn't blow trumpets when it was repaid. This would be why most people wouldn't know, but someone like John who has gotten officially entangled in SFWA inner workings as part of the Committee he served on does.

#140 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:32 AM:

Xopher@53: I remember a planet in the Legion of Superheroes universe where politicians were drafted instead of elected. ... they were selected at random

Ancient Greece, specifically Athens, right around the Battle of Thermopylae. Their random selector was pretty ingenious. Names put on metal plates. plates stuck into slots on a vertical board. Along the side of the board, a channel was cut. At the top of the channel, a funnel was filled with black and white marbles. If a black marble ended up by your name, you were on the council for a few months.

Of course, the Athenians ended up setting up their own little empire (the Delian League) after they pushed the Persians back to Asia Minor. The island of Naxos was one of the first to revolt against Persia, even before the ionian revolt. Athens sent troops to help in the revolt. And it was because of this help that the persian king wanted to punish Athens and led to the battles of marathon, thermopylae, and plataea. Once the Greeks pushed the persians out, the athenian "democracy" voted itself into it's own little empire, and the island of Naxos was first to revolt against them. This time, Athens sent troops to crush the rebellion, tear down the city walls, take their fleet, and what not.

I think that was the "mob" that the founding fathers were trying to prevent from taking over.

#141 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:53 AM:

Charlie and Patrick (#47-49): as an outsider (i.e. reader) I'm chagrined to hear such badmouthing of the Nebulas. This doesn't make me happy.

I've always considered the Nebulas a more interesting award than the Hugos. If other SF writers' opinions diverge from the pay-to-vote popularity contest that is the Hugos, is that actually a bad thing?

#142 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:09 AM:

Jonquil @ 103

I'd put it down to indefinitely delayed maturity.

#143 ::: Cora Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:29 AM:

I'm not eligible for membership anyway, but this does leave quite a bad taste.

Also, part of what has dismayed me since the beginning of the Scribd thing is that I had always intended to use Critters to find critiquers... and now I'm entirely too offput by Burt to even consider it.

#144 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 08:22 AM:

Andrew 139: Oh, gods. Thanks for bringing that interpretation of my statement at 138 to my attention! I meant "OK, thanks, John, I didn't know that."

John, I apologize for the implication that you were wrong, which I did not intend, I swear. I literally meant that that was the first I'd heard that he'd paid it back, and to bring it to your attention that people were saying in a lot of places that he hadn't.

You'd be in a position to correct that. The last thing we need is for Burt to be able to JUSTLY claim that he's being persecuted for things that aren't true!

#145 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 08:43 AM:

#132: Scraps, I went back and re-read Cory's apology. You're right. It is not snarky at all.

So, sorry, Cory. My mistake. I misremembered the tone of your apology. I should have double-checked before posting my comment. It's not like the apology is hard to find on the web. D'oh.

I think the bulk of my point still stands. Cory owned up, took corrective action, and made a full, public apology. He did not seek to minimize or discount his actions. He did not attempt to shift blame or responsibility. He did not imply persecution by some nebulous web conspiracy.

#146 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 08:49 AM:

I guess it was only in the comment thread to Charlie's blog post that anyone was saying Burt hadn't paid it back. I told them otherwise, quoting and linking John's post above.

#147 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 08:55 AM:

Here's the link to Burt's Nov 30 reopening of the Scribd can-o-worms. (Sorry if it's a repeat, but I didn't see it in the thread - Jonquil @#50 mentioned it tho.)

#148 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 10:08 AM:

Xopher #138 (et passim below) re Burt's loan, on aburt.com/scribd.ht he writes "I repaid the loan in July 2007." I agree that I haven't seen this spread much.

#149 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Eons ago, back in the Very Slow Internet--otherwise known as mimeograph-and-post-office science-fiction fandom--there was a well-known fan named Les Gerber, who was known for earnestly defending people in ways that made matters worse. This behavior was ultimately immortalized in the verb "to Gerberize". John Chu, you're Gerberizing Cory Doctorow.

"Information wants to be free" was an observation made in 1984 by Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand. It's not a political program or an assertion about what policies ought to be followed; it's merely an observation that, humans being what they are, information has a tendency to get out. The assertion that "Cory espouses IWTBF" is profoundly misleading; it makes it sound as if Cory and other open-source, open-system advocates are claiming that everyone should give away all their information because hello clouds hello sky la la la la. In fact, as Scraps observed (in conversation) the other day, what Cory and company are really saying is "Wise up! Information is getting harder and harder to control whether we like it or not, so we'd better start adjusting our business plans accordingly."

#150 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 10:23 AM:
If other SF writers' opinions diverge from the pay-to-vote popularity contest that is the Hugos, is that actually a bad thing?

Without getting into the virtues of Hugos vs Nebulas, I'll note that the Nebulas are every bit as much a "pay-to-vote popularity contest" as the Hugos, with the added factor of the voters being more likely to know the nominees personally.

#151 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Patrick@149: Information wants to be free" ... It's not a political program or an assertion about what policies ought to be followed;

Well, over at the Creative Commons email lists, you'll find that how people take this depends on who you're talking to. Some folks do take it to have political implications, some believe that copyright should be tossed completely out, but they'll settle for CC-BY or GNU-GPL or whatever until the revolution comes.

Of the total number of people who use Free licenses such as CC-BY or GNU-GPL*, I don't think the percentage of people who think this is insignificant. probably a minority, but not completely in the noise.

(*) (I'm excluding stuff like CC-NonCommercial and CC-NoDerivatives because aren't Free Licenses and don't meet the open source definition)

The assertion that "Cory espouses IWTBF" is profoundly misleading; it makes it sound as if Cory and other open-source, open-system advocates are claiming that everyone should give away all their information because hello clouds hello sky la la la la.

Except Cory does espouse IWTBF, doesn't he? It's just that he is in the more common interpretation that it's not a political manifesto but a description of the circumstances.

I believe John was saying that someone else introduced IWTBF and put it into Cory's mouth, that this other person was trying to portray Cory's actions as politically motivated(2). But John said that even though Cory does espouse IWTBF, the reason Cory was objecting in this case was because Cory didn't give SFWA permission to enforce copyrights and his CC licensed stuff was not being infringed anyway.

(2) Which is to say this third party took IWTBF and was casting it as a political manifesto and then portraying Cory's actions as that version of IWTBF, rather than it's a description of circumstances and had nothing to do with the SFWA debacle.

I think the thing to keep in mind as far as IWTBF goes is that some poeple will take it as a political manifesto, and some will take it as a simple description of the circumstances of current technology and whatnot. But I also think that John pretty much is making your same point, since he was saying that this third party put "IWTBF" into Cory's mouth and they were trying to make it look as if Cory was objecting on "hello clouds hello sky la la la la" grounds, when in fact Cory had more practical reasons.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time I'm grossly off the mark.

#152 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 11:27 AM:

A suggestion for the "hierarchy of terms":

I'm a stateman.
You're a politician.
He's a careerist.

That's what they're called among military officers. Each of the services has its own subdefinition of "careerist," but the usual distinguishing mark is this: If an officer's contemporaries don't know how officer X made O-5 (lieutenant colonel in the ground-based forces, commander in the sea-based forces), he/she is almost certainly a "careerist" adept at following Fernando's career advice: "It is more important to look good than to be good."

NB I didn't make O-5. I jumped ("peace dividend") before I was pushed, since — if only because I read one of the related languages from the source of the following metaphor — I could read the writing on the wall. Saying "General/Admiral/Mr Secretary/Mr Director, we're not allowed to do that by law" one too many times doesn't help further one's "career ambitions"...

#153 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Information is the jelly the RIAA tries to nail to their tree.

#154 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:15 PM:

Cora @ 143, wrt Critters: you took the words right out of my mouth. Now I'm back to square #1. (I guess my fellow SF-writing contacts on LJ are going to be getting a request from me soon.)

#155 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:22 PM:

Perhaps I'm overly lawyerly on this, but the biggest problem that I have with IWTBF is defining I. "Information," in the sense of bits, is a different thing from "information," in the sense of facts, which is a different thing from "information," in the sense of facts and opinions in a specific expression, which is a different thing from "information," in the sense of creative expression.

This is the same problem as occurs in the inscrutable design/creationism/evolution and torture/intelligence gathering debates: Misuse of terms in ways that have multiple meanings and end up improperly conflating those meanings.

As I understand things, Cory's version of IWTBF focuses on the first two meanings, with some inclusion of the third meaning, from my overlong sentence above. The debate over SFWA's policies, however, takes place almost entirely in the fourth meaning. It's rather like two monotheistic religions arguing about the primacy of "god" without acknowledging that one is talking about Old Testament Jehovah and the other is talking about Wahhabist Allah. In short, it's bloviating, not a debate that will ever resolve any question; if we can't agree on either "god" or "information" having a meaning, we can't debate about his/its nature.

#156 ::: Jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Michael Capobianco was fast asleep when the concept of "blog" was explained...

#157 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Groan.

"You darn kids with your high-falutin' computers are ruining my typewriter repair business!"

#158 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:03 PM:

#149: Sorry, Patrick (and sorry again Cory). My intent was to say what Greg has now explained. (Thanks, Greg.)

#143,#154: Perhaps not coincidentally, I just quit Critters today. Given how few crits I've submitted after Andrew Burt used the Critter newsletter to take a shot at Cory Doctorow, it was either quit, or face auto-deletion anyway.

It's a shame, really. Until I saw the abuse of power, I thought Critters was well run.

#159 ::: Jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:10 PM:

Like many of the inhabitants of the blogosphere, I'm a big ol' geek. That said, I am still astonished by the degree to which Capobianco and Burt are not only net-ignorant but net-phobic. Especially Burt. I turned to my cubemates and described the algorithmic crudity of his search for infringing documents on scribd. They turned pale and said "This guy teaches computer science?!?!?!"

#160 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:26 PM:

"124: In Canada we have several levels of over ride on legislation starting with the senate who normally send stuff back for being badly written,"

Although this didn't prevent a recent bill from getting through whose effect was to disenfranchise a million voters, most of whom probably vote for the party who crafted the legislation in question. Canada being woefully underpopulated, a million votes can be the margin of victory in a federal election.

By a peculiar coincidence, the senators who let the badly-worded bill get by them are mostly Liberals while the Party who accidentlly took the vote away from their own supporters are ReformaTories.

#161 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 02:05 PM:

ctate @#141:

I've always considered the Nebulas a more interesting award than the Hugos. If other SF writers' opinions diverge from the pay-to-vote popularity contest that is the Hugos, is that actually a bad thing?

Yes, it is. Writers who want to write for other writers should get MFA's and write excruciating literary fiction, and get the hell out of my genre.

As for "pay-to-vote," I assumed a paid membership in SFWA was required to vote for the Nebulas...am I wrong?

#162 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Mary Dell is, of course, correct on both counts (about the Nebulas).

Also note: I suspect most working writers tend to read rather less SF/F than your average Hugo-voting SF/F fan, if only because after a day slaving over a hot manuscript you don't want to read more of same, especially if it's by a giant of the field who makes you feel like a rug rat.

In other words, writers tend to take a rather idiosyncratic (if not downright idiopathic) view of literary quality.

#163 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Excuse me, your genre?

Writers should write for whoever the hell they want to -- and fellow writers are readers, too. Sometimes writers are ahead of the readers, and that doesn't mean the readers won't catch up and agree in time.

There's plenty of room for all kinds of writing for all kinds of readers, outside genre and within. And you don't have to be a lover of literary fiction to be a tiresome snob.

#164 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 02:40 PM:

Scraps, you're reading too much into a form of speech more common in the UK -- your common or garden figurative flourish.

#165 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 02:57 PM:

And you don't have to be a lover of literary fiction to be a tiresome snob.

Well, hi, Scraps, nice to meet you too! It's not my intention to be tiresome, although I will cop to being a reverse snob. Ctate was asking for an opinion about the Nebulas vs. the Hugos and I gave him one. My opinion comes from spending 4 years getting my BA with honors in English, 2 years towards an MA, 1 more year toward an MFA, and finally throwing in the towel and abandoning academia because nobody, NOBODY, in that world would allow that SF is literature. I couldn't write it in my writing classes--hell, they couldn't even stomach symbolist poetry. John Ashbery fans, to a man and woman. As for reading it...SF was only taught in the Comp Lit department, and "real English majors" were supposed to look at it with disdain.

So. I read classic lit; I read contemporary literary fiction. And I adore poetry (even Ashbery, sometimes). But I believe with all my heart that when writers are writing primarily for the pleasure of other writers, they are killing their genre. I try to imagine what it was like when poetry was considered important and relevant...I can't. Nowadays, it seems that only poets read it. It would be a tragedy if that happened to SF...my genre, meant the way I mean Chicago is my town: not my personal property, but my home.

#166 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Um ... Scraps, which one of us were you taking exception to?

#167 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 04:06 PM:

I'm pretty sure Scraps was challenging Mary Dell's "Writers who want to write for other writers should get MFA's and write excruciating literary fiction, and get the hell out of my genre." I take the same exception Scraps does. I agree that a lot of crap is generated by an anxious desire to impress other writers, but I also agree with Scraps that writers should write for whoever they want to.

Moreover, as a high-school dropout, I take particular exception to someone who enumerates her academic credentials telling me, or anyone else, that I need to get a degree before it's legitimate for me to "write for other writers," or for any other audience.

Chip on my shoulder? Probably, but no larger than the one evident in comment #161.

#168 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 04:12 PM:

I was replying to Mary.

I appear to have read more into what you said than you intended, Mary. But I completely disagree that writers who write for other writers are killing anything, unless they are all doing it, which is clearly far from true in science fiction. Anyway, I think the old bromide about writers who only write for other writers is almost entirely a myth, used to denigrate writers who simply don't choose to write for the largest audience possible. And I think it's a huge leap to infer that kind of insularity from Nebulas largely differing from Hugos; isn't it more likely that the stories being cited by the writers are also in the popular mode, perhaps not quite so much as those chosen by the World SF Convention? No matter how poorly chosen the Nebulas may be, no matter how out of touch or irrelevant, the idea that the body of science fiction writers have become a gang of elitists working only for the regard of their peers with no more than a contemptuous glance to their audience does not actually match the attitudes of most sf writers that I have heard or read.

The Hugos, too, are an elitist award, divorced from commercial reality, if you want to view them that way. Why not give the awards to simply the best-selling books? What kind of writer writes only for self-selected fans? That kind of insularity leads to the death of vitality in a genre. And yes, people have made those arguments.

I think there is a useful place for an award from the fans, an award from the writers, and even awards from committees. It's natural that there will be a scale of sophistication in what they demand from a book, but I don't see any of them leaving the realm of good, worthy books that people like to read. If the Nebulas are sucking as an award, I don't think it's because they are differing from the Hugos; I think it's because they're choosing the wrong alternatives, most likely because of the ignorance of the voters and the flaws in the system. I really doubt it's due to a disdain toward readers or signals the coming end.

#169 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 05:06 PM:

The Hugos, too, are an elitist award, divorced from commercial reality, if you want to view them that way.

Well, maybe. Big maybe.
Because a lot of the (not all that many, really) voters are buyers of those award-winners, and also those that don't win, or don't even get nominated.

(I think that the voting process ought to be better publicized, so that more of the buyers can put their mouths where their money is. There ought to be a whole lot more Hugo voters. Maybe a page in the back of each book, with the note that You Too Can.)

#170 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:02 PM:

One of the recurring themes in the response to the SFWA actions, apparently from people in the US who are qualified to be members, is "why should I join?"

Obviously, the EMF is a valuable protection for members in the USA, but I'm not so foolish as to risk my health by leaving the UK for the insanities of the US system of medical care.

But, were I to magically become another Charlie Stross, I can't see any significant advantage. I can't quite see why copyright enforcement and contractual failures by publishers need the SFWA to resolve, if you have an agent.

There's even an alternative to the EMF emerging.

So what am I missing?

#171 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @#167:

Moreover, as a high-school dropout, I take particular exception to someone who enumerates her academic credentials telling me, or anyone else, that I need to get a degree before it's legitimate for me to "write for other writers," or for any other audience.

Chip on my shoulder? Probably, but no larger than the one evident in comment #161.

Oh lord, no, that wasn't what I said at all! Please reread my comment. I apologize for invoking my educational experience carelessly, because I know it can appear to be waving credentials and I didn't think about how it might sound. But I don't believe I said anything about anyone needing a degree. I was enumerating my academic failures, and giving a bit of history about myself, in an attempt to explain the chip on my shoulder. I'm a sysadmin, for fuck's sake; I have no credentials. And I'm surprised in the years I've been commenting here, and the high esteem in which I've always held you, I've apparently struck you as a highfalutin prig, and that you talk about me as if I'm a total stranger who just dropped into the thread.

So anyway, I'll attempt to explain, but I apologize in advance if I dig myself in deeper. I failed to get an MA, and then failed to get an MFA. I went from loving the ivory tower as an undergrad to hating it as a graduate student, and from being a good student to being a bad one. Eventually I had a road-to-damascus moment where I realized that what I was being taught was killing my writing--was teaching me to write only for the 9 other people sitting around the seminar table, and to write only in a very narrow range that excluded anything too imaginative. Yeah, I'm bitter, and I mostly don't write any more.

As for writing for the widest possible audience, I didn't say that either. Nor did I say you need any credentials to write for other writers; I just don't tend to like fiction that's written for an audience of writers, and I worry if a genre I enjoy starts to lean toward a genre I don't enjoy.

Therefore, I pay more attention to the Hugos than to the Nebulas.

I hope that clarifies things. I don't expect people to agree with me but...Jesus, at least take the time to read what I actually said.

Sorry if this is disjointed. I think I'd better stop posting, but I will read followups on this thread so as to avoid doing a driveby, and anyone is welcome to email me.

#172 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:12 PM:

Mary Dell... It's been a couple of days since I posted to you about this, and I'm still waiting for you to photoshop Cowthulhu.

#173 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:17 PM:

Mary Dell @171:

Funny, that's exactly the way I interpreted your comment, and I was as surprised as you when Patrick took it another way completely. I considered saying something, but I wasn't sure whether I was wrong, and you certainly have never needed an outside defender anyway.

Fascinating how our words can take on so many meanings even in this literate crowd.

Please don't stop posting.

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:20 PM:

Mary Dell..
What Abi said.
Keep posting.

#175 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:29 PM:

Mary Dell @171:
I'm with abi - that's how I interpreted it also.

I recall as an undergrad, asking the grad student who was teaching the 200-level read-discuss-essay American Lit class about genre fiction. He shared stories about one of full Profs who's colleagues whispered about the scandal that erupted when his pseudonym was revealed. Apparently he was making decent money as a midlist mystery series writer - comparable to the grad student's stipend I think. The grad student's take was that he didn't think it all that scandalous, but that the quality of the novels really wasn't his best stuff compared to the "serious" stuff that the Prof did to keep his CV fed.

Sadly, I never wrote down the author's name - I had lost interest in mystery fiction by that point. I did take home the message that the needs and interests of those who wrote for their CVs were orthogonal, at best to those who wrote for other genres.

#176 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:29 PM:

I, too, interpreted Mary's post as abi did, and was startled by Patrick's interpretation.

On another topic: am I a bad person for really enjoying poking Vox Day with a (metaphorical) pointed stick over at Charlie's? It's good work, I know, but I'm really having FUN. Is that allowed?

#177 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:40 PM:

Bad Xopher! Bad, baaaad...

#178 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:55 PM:

*hangs head in shame*

Really, I'm ashamed of writing things like this. And especially this.

For certain values of 'ashamed'.

#179 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:06 PM:
I just don't tend to like fiction that's written for an audience of writers [..] Therefore, I pay more attention to the Hugos than to the Nebulas.

I think the heart of my disagreement is that the fact that writers give an award to a story does not in any way imply that the story was written for an audience of writers. Any more than the fact that a group of fans give an award to a story implies that it was written for fans, rather than science fiction readers generally.

#180 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:13 PM:

Mary Dell, I agree, with the caveat that I don't tend to read things outside the genre (The Genre! THE GENRE!) and so the books and stories that annoy me are the ones with obvious in-jokes-- references to other writers in jarring and non-flowing ways, ideas that are transparently drawn from discussions on Livejournal, things like that. That's what I count as writing for writers, and it's not going to win anyone any awards. It will, however, make people laugh if they're in the group that made the joke. I do the same thing, writing little vignettes for a friend, but I know they're only really funny to the two of us.

#181 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:16 PM:

Xopher, bad puppy. Scritches behind the ear.

#182 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:28 PM:

Mary Dell @ 171, Patrick @ 167

I interpreted Mary Dell's post similarly to abi, Xopher, and midori, but I entirely understand why Patrick reacted that way. Being an autodidact in the current intellectual atmosphere can be very frustrating because the snobbery is so great and the actual intellectual return of higher education may be less than ever before. A degree may mean you've been exposed to the minutia of some professional specialty*, but it's not any guarantee of being exposed to wisdom or understanding about that field of knowledge. Certainly, without the student desiring to learn and being not just willing but anxious to dig into the subject and comprehend the learning, will there be education in any real sense.

That drive is exactly the same as the determination that pushes someone to get an education outside the academic environment, and the education that you get, while perhaps not precisely the same, can easily be of the same quality.

Necessary disclosure: I do not have a degree; I dropped out of college after freshman year, was drafted, and when I returned to civilian life I had other goals that conflicted with spending several years in college before going to work. But I educated myself in a lot of areas over time, and became an engineer by proving to the company I worked for that I could do the job. Since then I've taken graduate courses and taught them as well, and worked in a corporate research lab. It's not an orthodox, or even very common life pattern, but if you can manage it, it has great rewards. It also can occasionally be a source of misunderstandings with your friends, and so they need to understand the situation.

Incidentally, the best educated person I ever met was a printer who had dropped out of high school during the Depression and gotten work setting type. Sometime in his early 50's, I think, he decided to go back to school and went in to take a college entrance exam at Columbia. By mistake, he was given an entrance exam for graduate school, and he aced it. Knowing people like that is what it made me believe it was possible to live a life based on your own abilities, not other people's expectations of your actions.

Patrick has clearly come far in his profession and has earned the respect of everyone who knows anything about the field. But it probably cost a lot in time, energy, and emotional capital to be constantly fighting upstream against the prejudice of the degree-worshipping majority. That's what makes it easy to see that same old prejudice when degrees are listed.

* or might not even mean that much

#183 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Xopher @ 176

I certainly can't vilify you for doing that, since I stuck the needle in a couple of times myself. Sure, there are signs all over telling us not to poke the troll, but it's just so much fun sometimes. Especially when we don't say anything about the barbs he's trying to use to annoy us, but just shake the tree he's in to listen to him scream.

#184 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:40 PM:

T.W 181: *leg goes wild*

Bruce 183: Well, Charlie explicitly endorsed this particular game of troll-hockey.

#185 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:42 PM:

Mary, what if there are readers who like ``excruciating literary fiction''? Do they have to get out of `your' genre?

#186 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 09:48 PM:

Genre Denial Syndrome needs a telethon....

#187 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 10:25 PM:

As someone who recently got an MFA in genre fiction in a largely autodidactic environment I'm in agreement with Patrick N H and Bruce C. Academia does not make you a snob, nor does it make you educated; it certifies that you've been educated. Lack of academic credentials is not lack of education. The way to be a writer is to write; you can do it for yourself, or for other writers, or for the populace-at-large.

Also in connection with MFA programs I'll chime in with Mary Dell too -- namely, I don't think I could have survived an MFA program with full "face time", genre fiction focus or no: I went through the Stonecoast low-residency program and got a lot more real writing done in my months of independent writing than in the months when I was attending in-person. And when I was there, I had to cultivate this very touchy, weird state of awareness -- being absorbent to new information on some level of consciousness while at the same time pushing very hard to ignore it on another level, because if it got into the wrong crevice of the grey matter I wouldn't write anything worth reading for a couple months at least.

We do, I think, need better ways to draw from the treasure-house of human experience without writing it into universally applicable fact. It takes all kinds. Me, I think the Hugos would be less good without the Nebulas, and vicy versy.

--

Oh, and way upthread -- the bit about processes keeping the same mistakes from happening again?

That line of thinking is always bullshit. Processes are operated by people. It doesn't matter if your car has good response times if you're a lousy driver. Or, put another way, I'm in China right now and there are stoplights here: the city buses run them. You could put up forty stoplights in succession and everyone would still run them: the buses do, after all. The stoplight becomes a kind of superstition at that point, sometimes half-right and no match for the actual forces affecting the event.

#188 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 10:25 PM:

my only post on this because I'm enjoying reading about it here and at Charlie's blog. (well, I did make a terse post about it on my LJ, the whole issues pisses me off but at this point I'm waiting to see what happes.)

Good Xopher! Here's a Xopher yummy (and gentle skritches)!

#189 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 10:40 PM:

Xopher: I saw that permission, and took advantage. Mind you the only nibble I got was from a drive by.

That, however, seems to be the general response. Either I'm too dull, or just swamp them with the first attack.

I don't know which it is, both ideas are somewhat less than truly satisfying... one want's to see the fish wiggle on the hook.

#190 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:39 AM:

Dave@153: Information is the jelly the RIAA tries to nail to their tree.

Oh man, for some reason I belly laughed for a solid minute reading that.

And now my sides hurt.

Can I send the HMO copay to you?

#191 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:53 AM:

Mary Dell: Please allow for the possibility that even a commenter whose judgment you can generally trust may upon occasion have a bad day, a foul mood, a headache, an over-hasty reading of your post, or a hot-button response to it. Don't take a harsh reaction too much to heart, or feel too hurt and turned-upon. Give them another day's thought, especially after a good night's sleep and reading your clarification, and all may be calm again.

#192 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:55 AM:

I don't know what's best for SF as a whole, but most of my favorite books are genre infested with lit or lit infested with genre, so for selfish reasons I'm going to have to disagree with Mary Dell.

Those all-too-common books that should be tight 160-page Silver-Age-style straight SF, but are bloated with tedious Good Characterization™? Collateral damage.

#193 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 07:34 AM:

Serge @172: Mary Dell... It's been a couple of days since I posted to you about this, and I'm still waiting for you to photoshop Cowthulhu.

[Spoken in a Hollywood French accent]: If monsieur does not see what he wants in the gallery, he may commission an original from the artist at reasonable rates...

Our fee is a modest 40%...

#194 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:45 AM:

PNH said in #42 "...Veterans of small-group politics in other arenas will find this a familiar pattern."

And veterans of small group politics ought to be experienced enough to recognize the assault on SFWA that was engineered by Doctorow over this entire matter.

If there had been no political agenda behind turning this mole hill into a mountain - what would have happened? SFWA's e-piracy committee would have been informed by Doctorow and a few others that their efforts on behalf of a large number of writers - many of whom do not subscribe to Doctorow's theories on how to make money from writing - went wrong in a few cases. Doctorow's and others works that were rightly provided on Scribd would have gone back up and everyone would have moved on; Burt would have been told to never do that again without consulting with an attorney, someone would have given him a proper DMCA notice form, several writers who's works were being priated by Scribd benefitted and maybe SFWA would have looked into this e-piracy thing a little deeper.

Instead - SFWA is publicly outed by its own members, a relatively small mistake is blown up into the idiocy of the century, the main message has been completely lost (e-piracy should be fought by organizations representing content providers - let's find the proper way to do it) and the political camp within SFWA that doesn't buy into this whole 'electronic era let everything be free and somehow the bills will get paid' bs has taken a hit at the waterline in regards to any future discussion within SFWA over the matter.

They say that dogs never eat where they crap. I guess Doctorow must not be a dog.

#195 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:51 AM:

I don't eat where I crap, and I'm a human being.

#196 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:52 AM:

Also: dogs eat poop, like, all the time. I think you're confused.

#197 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:00 AM:

Steve, I don't believe Cory's (or Charlie or PNH or TNH) engineered anything. But they are more right and more forward-looking on the whole e-piracy thing than SFWA is. Granted, writers are very split on SFWA's handling of the e-piracy stuff, and I thought SFWA was starting to get its act together. But putting Andrew Burt in charge of the process makes it look like SFWA management hasn't been paying attention.

#198 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:01 AM:

ethan @ 195... I'm a human being.

"I am not an animal. I'm a human bean!"

#199 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:05 AM:

Rob Rusick @ 193... Oui, oui.

#200 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:24 AM:

Steve @194: I gather that you had no innocent works on scribd taken down by this enormously clumsy action of Burt's. If you had, I don't think that you would regard it as a mere molehill. If the SFWA wants public support, it must protect the rights of all writers, not just those that pay their fees.

I think you've also confused the real main message, which has to be be competent. Getting so hysterical about piracy that you're willing to rush pseudo-legal actions that take out more innocents than pirates is counter-productive, and not what I would expect of my representative were I a member of the SFWA. I also don't know where you're digging up these predictions of the right and proper consequences that would have followed if only Cory Doctorow hadn't made a fuss. All of that has happened, so what are you complaining about? That Cory publicly aired the dirty laundry?

#201 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:30 AM:

steve @194:

If you've been following this entire saga from the beginning, you've come in too late.

The roots go further back than the Scribd affair; there was already a perception among a certain set of authors in SFWA that the organization wasn't handling, well, the entire internet very well before that point. Google "pixel-stained technopeasant wretch" or "Scalzi for president" and go from there to see why Cory* et alia didn't rely on a quiet word to the powers that be.

I'm suspecting you have a strong view on copyright and are seeing this affair from that perspective. Most of the commenters here have a view on SFWA and are seeing it from a completely different angle.

Nice job getting banned on Charlie's blog, by the way. It inspires very little faith that you'll read this message and learn why people here are saying what they are, but I am widely known as a goofy optimist.

-----
* Interesting how you can tell who's on what side of the discussion by whether they say "Cory" or "Doctorow".

#202 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Speaking of Charlie Stross, did anyone notice there was an even better snark than Teresa's over on his comment thread, one delivered by, of all people, Jonathan vos Post? Well, he did, and it was a beauty: After recapping Andrew Burt's written output over the years, he went on in the next paragraph to say, "But this is not a good time for ad hominem attacks."

#203 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:49 AM:

#194:Steve, Cory's blog entry in BoingBoing about the Scribd incident simply says that authors should have the right to control distribution of their work. SFWA should not be able to come in behind their backs and issue DMCA take down notices. It's the sort of post that any blogger who found his work removed from Scribd without his permission would have written. (Ok, his post is likely more eloquent than most would be.)

Doctorow's and others works that were rightly provided on Scribd would have gone back up and everyone would have moved on; Burt would have been told to never do that again without consulting with an attorney, someone would have given him a proper DMCA notice form, several writers who's works were being priated by Scribd benefitted and maybe SFWA would have looked into this e-piracy thing a little deeper.

You state these things as if they haven't happened. I'm not privy to SFWA inner workings, but I think these things have happened, perhaps in part due to the publicity. SFWA couldn't pretend nothing had gone wrong.

The Scribd incident has never been about 'electronic era let everything be free and somehow the bills will get paid.' Is there even anyone who honestly takes such an exaggerated position? No one condemning SFWA's actions that I've read has taken a position anything like this. I only see this position, as a straw man, from people alleging some sort of unproven conspiracy.

The Scribd incident was about SFWA screwing up DMCA takedown notices in almost every way possible. If Andrew Burt had done his job properly, if he had issued properly drawn takedown notices on only works by Asimov, and Silverberg, there would have been no Scribd incident. In that scenario, the Asimov and Silverberg works would no longer be on the site. Authors who wanted their work on Scribd wouldn't have found them forcibly removed. Everyone would have been happy.

Ultimately, the Scribd incident is about Andrew Burt and his incompetence. What he did was wrong, regardless of one's opinions on copyright and the implication of modern delivery systems. The focus should stay on Andrew Burt's actions, not side issues irrelevant to his mistakes.

By reinstating Dr. Burt to his old position, SWFA sends the message that they are, at best, counting on process to prevent another Scribd incident. I don't have very much faith in the ability of process, by itself, to do anything. It takes people drive it.

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:54 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 202... an even better snark than Teresa's

Sounds like a good advertising slogan.

#205 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:04 AM:

#194, Steve,

You don't really believe in the author's right to control their work.

Scribd was publishing Cory's work with his permission.

Andrew Burt stopped them from publishing his work.

Andrew Burt does not control the copyright on Cory's work.

Andrew Burt pretended he did have that control.*

I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine what this makes Andrew Burt.

There is no conspiracy here: Andrew Burt, acting as an officer of the SFWA attempted to prevent the publication and distribution of Cory's works while having no title to them. That is what one would call a rights-grab.

_______________________________________
*perjury, under the DCMA statute. SFWA would have to pay the bills for that, btw, had it gone to court.

#206 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:07 AM:

Onlookers might be interested to know that I've recently booted steve (@194) off my blog for flaming and ad hominem attacks. This sample should give you some idea why.

#207 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:07 AM:

Steve, are you actually going to be joining us in a discussion, or was this simply a drive-by character assassination on Cory, Charlie, and others?

#208 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:10 AM:

(looks at #206)

Well, I guess that probably answers my question....

#209 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:31 AM:

My thoughts on the whole thing, other than "do they deliberately go and get larger and larger caliber firearms to shoot themselves in the foot over at SFWA, or are they just incapable of figuring out they are standing in the armory, and not the infirmary?"

Background. I've been writing role-playing games for, well, a while now. Not as long (or with as great proliferation) as some here, but enough to have a solid million+ words in print.

And every single one of them has been scanned in, OCRed, and placed up for people to download on DC++, rapidshare, piratebay, etc. etc. etc. I can find every one of my books, for every game line I've ever written for, somewhere on the interbutt. Sometimes scanned in and put raw-text on web pages, more often in pdf format.

Does this annoy the hell out of me? Sure. Every time someone references a scanned copy of a currently in print book (or, in some cases, a copy purchased from a legitimate e-book dealer, like rpgnow and then distributed through bearshare or the like - often without even filing the serial numbers off), they are potentially taking money out of the hands of my publishers - which means less money for them to pay me.

But, well "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." It doesn't take long for someone to pick up the slack when a tracker or dc++ site gets shut down. Throw a C&D at a dude's web page, and his archive shows up somewhere else - possibly somewhere where getting a C&D letter to the webhoster will be difficult at best. At this point, RPG books are so evenly distributed that getting rid of filesharing of them would be... problematic, at best.

This is the new reality. We can evolve, or die. The RIAA and MPAA are trying to shut filesharing down, and they can't and they have hordes of lawyers, and billions of dollars. Even with legal remedies at their disposal, the force of intimidation and threats of jail time, they have been unable to shut down torrenting or filesharing to any meaningful degree - hell, they can't stop the signal even with the ability to directly throttle bandwidth on various protocols at the internet trunks. The only way to realistically manage IP in the way it has been in the past would involve a police state organization with the ability to snoop everyone's computers, all the time, in realtime. Which, I dunno about you, but I sure as shit don't want to see.

So, do we evolve, or do we die with the RIAA and the MPAA?

#210 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Scott: I'm sure the answer you want is "evolve". The question that exercises my mind is "Into what?"

#211 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Mary Dell, please don't go away. Yes, I was cross with you, but don't you see that telling "writers who write for other writers" to "get the hell out of my genre" might be taken as cross, too?

As Keir said in #185, what about the readers who like this kind of thing? I'm one of them, sometimes. Categorical generalizations about the motivations of others, coupled with commands (joking or not) to get lost, will in fact tend to get people's dander up. That said, I apologize if I've made you feel unwelcome. Come back here and argue, for pity's sake!

To my mind the interesting fact is that sometimes art made for an audience of other artists is tiresome, and sometimes it's fantastic. William Gibson has said more than once that he honestly expected Neuromancer to be read only by a tiny audience of people with his own peculiar literary tastes, and as someone who was socially acquainted with Bill in the early 1980s, I can attest that he's telling the truth. And yet it struck a huge global chord. We never know in advance.

So often, the stories we tell ourselves about what we're trying to do as artists are aimed more at keeping ourselves going than at telling the truth. They're what Mormons call "faith-promoting rumors." I don't mind the faith-promoting rumor that it's important to aim for a broad popular audience--my own emotional bias runs in that direction. Except, when it's coupled with flat claims that other kinds of artists, with their own faith-promoting rumors about what they do, are Thinking Wrong Thoughts and Doing It Wrong--then, I start to object. Empowering myths are great, but surely we can come up with ones that don't mindfuck the people next door.

#212 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:44 AM:

205 Midori, I'm afraid you misused a technical term. Without defending what went on as proper, it was not "perjury," whether under the DMCA or any other provision of law.

For one thing, the purported DMCA notice that was issued was not a DMCA notice. It did not have all of the elements required by 17 U.S.C. § 512(c). Calling it a "DMCA notice" in a later e-mail doesn't make it one... especially since the notice itself did not state that it had been signed under penalty of perjury. If the notice did not comply with the specific statute, then one must look to the general perjury statute.

Perjury is a specific-intent offense — that is, one must intend to commit it. One of the elements of perjury is that one knows, at the time the statement is made, that it is false. It is pretty clear from everything that has happened that at best, Mr Burt should have known — but did not know — that his search procedure (which, as noted above, did not result in a DMCA notice in the first place) included false positives, like Mr Doctorow's work. Then there's the question of standing and materiality (complicated concepts that basically boil down to "a party who suffers no legal harm from a misstatement has no remedy regarding that misstatement").

Neither, of course, was Mr Burt's statement "fraud," another specific-intent offense. This was one of many rhetorical errors committed by Mr Doctorow in the course of his (understandable) rage — an error symptomatic of everything else. (NB: Patrick, I am not attempting to open old wounds or anything else; I realize that you disagree that Mr Doctorow's rhetoric was excessive, but regardless of that disagreement he clearly misused terms with specific legal meanings to improperly imply specific legal consequences.)

Of course, the ultimate irony of this entire situation is that some of us who continued to use the system quietly have managed to obtain the result that SFWA originally wanted. Contrary to public statements by certain people who don't know what has been going on, scribd's recent public statements that it will consider prescreening result from those quieter efforts — not from anything SFWA did/is doing.

All of which is a somewhat roundabout plea for people to ensure that they know what they're talking about before they use technical terms regarding legal situations. It is not lost on me that Mr Burt would have been well advised to do so himself.

#213 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:46 AM:

Scott Taylor's #209 should be engraved on the bathroom mirror of every current officer of SFWA.

The only way to realistically manage IP in the way it has been in the past would involve a police state organization with the ability to snoop everyone's computers, all the time, in realtime.
Exactly. If you think democracy and freedom can co-exist with an efficiently-enforced copyright regime in a world of ubiquitous computing, you have, quite literally, not thought the matter through.

#214 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:49 AM:

"200: If the SFWA wants public support, it must protect the rights of all writers, not just those that pay their fees."

*cough*cough* Dragon Magazine CD-ROM settlement *cough*cough*cough*

#215 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:21 AM:

James, your ironic coughing appears to have drowned out your point. Are you noting that the settlement of the Dragon CD-ROM dispute covered all the fiction therein, by SFWA members or not, or are you noting that it only covered the fiction, not the non-fiction material, art, etc? Because it seems to me the resolution of that controversy could be deployed to support either side of a claim that SFWA does or doesn't work on behalf of "all writers."

I'm not an expert on the details of this brangle, which happened back in 1999. Nor do I have a strong position on what SFWA should or shouldn't have done. I'm just trying to figure out what you're saying. Here, have a cough drop.

#216 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:22 AM:

Patrick @#211: Thank you.

Yes, I was cross with you, but don't you see that telling "writers who write for other writers" to "get the hell out of my genre" might be taken as cross, too?

Absolutely. In fact, I wouldn't have been at all upset if you had told that I'm full of shit for taking such a narrow view of the genre, that I'm a snob for disliking lit-fic, even that people like me are what's keeping SF from gaining the credibility it deserves. Or that I'm letting my history as a failed MFA, which I've spoken of in the past, cloud my judgement and that I need to get over myself.

What surprised me is that you weren't cross with me, you were cross about me; you demoted me to third person and assigned a particularly odious brand of snobbery to me. I can see that my #161 was ill-phrased, and might have suggested that I actually think an MFA is a good thing (leaving "excruciating" aside), but you based your response on my followup as well. I respect your having a hot button about education, but you sometimes use that as a club in discussions, painting yourself as an underdog. I think it's fair to say that you've been much more successful in your career as a result of your self-education than many of us have been as a result of formal education, and you know that. You have a hugo award and creative sway over an entire genre; my great creative accomplishment is a helpful rejection letter from GVG. My day job is another story; I've been absurdly successful without a lick of formal training, in a role that few women ever get a crack at, and when someone with an EE or MIS degree starts talking down to me in a meeting, I sometimes think of what you've accomplished, and what you've probably had to endure in the way of others' condescension to get there. So when you're talking to me you're talking to a sincere admirer, albeit an opinionated and occasionally bratty one. And I was (and am) stunned that you wouldn't know that.

#217 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:35 AM:

Points taken, Mary.

#218 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:54 AM:

I think that Steve guy might have been thinking of cats.

#219 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Dave Luckett @210 -
Scott: I'm sure the answer you want is "evolve". The question that exercises my mind is "Into what?"

Well, it's certainly the answer I would prefer to see, yes.

As for into what?

I don't know. Evolution is not a guided or directed process. There are a number of experiments being looked into in the gaming industry right now - GMT games has their P500 program, Greg Stolze has been running a ransom model program with some success for his Reign game. It could be argued that Curt Schilling's Multi-Man Publishing is nothing more than a sort of patronage system for games Curt likes to play.

There is almost certainly some truth to the idea that Wizards of the Coast (under Peter Adkison) bought TSR in part to keep aspects of the company alive, and later that Peter bought Gencon from Hasbro in order to keep the con running - more patronage.*

Some game writers have reported pretty good success with tip jars, and all that is keeping micropayment systems from taking off is a lack of a decent system that is as easy to use as Paypal, but can manage sub $1 payments without nasty fees chewing up all profits. A number of PDF and print-on-demand solutions are out there, and seem to be working to some degree or another (depending in part on the company).

I don't think there's going to be any sort of "one size fits all" solution, and I think that the environment is still changing enough that all of the tools aren't yet in place. It is, however, almost certainly the case that the industry of publishing twenty years from now - maybe even ten years from now - is going to look very different than it does today, and that some of the names currently in it will not be there in twenty years - and not just because of aging and death.

But if we try too hard to stick with the old ways, if we try to use the stick and not the carrot, if we seek legislative solutions to the age old buggy whip question - then the doom that is coming to RIAAville will come to us all.**

*This does not at all mean to suggest that Peter did these things solely because he's a giant softy with no financial sense - cause that sure ain't true. But having spoken with the guy, and heard from others - it's pretty clear, to me, anyways, that while the fiscals were in his mind solid, the "don't let D&D die" and "don't let Gencon die" aspects were almost certainly there as well).

**I am pretty firmly convinced that the RIAA's days as an organization are numbered - they are already starting to see serious backlash from a number of different states, universities, and even at the federal level, and the rougher and harsher they get, the faster the breakdown will be. Profits keep going down, public opinion keeps turning against them, and they keep saying things that are just plain stupider and stupider.

#220 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:02 PM:

Second try, less coughing: Then SFWA President Levinson cut a deal with WOTC over the Dragon CD-ROM that got some money for those SFWAnians affected by Atkinson's attempt to avoid paying for reprint rights for the CD-ROM [1]. Once SWFA cut its deal, everyone outside SFWA was in a much weaker bargaining position.

1: The idea being that it was an archive and not a collection of reprinted material.

#221 ::: James Davis Nicollj ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Speaking of WOTC, everyone here knows why selling stories to the current incarnation of DRAGON MAGAZINE is a bad idea, right? They pay 3 to 6 cents a word to buy all rights (not just first North American serial rights).

#222 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:08 PM:

Patrick @#211:

To address the actual issue of the genre and who should write what, I'll attempt to make a proper argument. I'm facetious and glib by default; it's a good approach to the large issues of my life, which would otherwise be a drag, but it's not useful in intellectual debate.

So. I want SF to encompass as many types of writing as possible. I can enjoy a crackerjack plot even if it's coupled with godawful prose and wooden characters, and I can enjoy an exercise in prose style that has very little in the way of plot. Some things I utterly don't enjoy, and I think people should keep writing those things too, because I embrace diversity (sorry, the glibness is reflexive).

Please bear with my while I lay out a scenario. (If you haven't read Kelly Link's writing you might want to skip the rest of this...no real spoilers but I talk about her techniques and that could deprive you of some enjoyment when you read her for the first time. Which you should go do now.)

I've read most of Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners collection. She's a brilliant, brilliant writer. Utterly astounding. So astounding, in fact, that I grind my teeth in frustration each time I read one of her stories because *she doesn't end them!* I won't go into specifics, but her readers will know what I mean. Her stories are so involving and compelling that it utterly kills me not to know the outcome of the situation. It's a brilliant choice she's making, and it requires much more of me as a reader than most authors do, and it drives me crazy. Every time I read one of those things I get mad, the book goes back on the shelf, and then a month later I go read another because I can't help myself. "Magic for Beginners" itself is so compelling that when I simply described the plot to my best friend one evening, she demanded that I invent a resolution for her immediately so she would be able to sleep.

After I read a few of her stories, I (facetiously) said to myself, "well, hell, if you don't have to FINISH the damn things it's a lot easier to write a story, huh?" and even briefly thought about taking a stalled half-story of my own and passing it off as a whole story. But I didn't, because in my hands it wouldn't be a brilliant stylistic choice; it would just be laziness. I'm glad Kelly Link is writing fantasy instead of lit-fic--very, very glad. But I'm not going to be glad if legions of new writers start to emulate her, and editors start leaning heavily toward lady-or-tiger stories instead of the heavily-constructed closed-plot tales that I love best. As a reader, I love Vernor Vinge, Larry Niven, Neil Gaiman, Ursula LeGuin, Alfred Bester...as writer I particularly admire Gene Wolfe, Susanna Clarke and George Macdonald, but they frurstrate the reader in me for various reasons. Ted Chiang is like a slice of heaven for both sides of me.

So, in all sincerity, my actual opinion is that when writers are selecting the best works in a genre, they may tend to reward things that change the genre, and that push it more into a shape that requires sophistication to appreciate. SF readers as a whole strike me as extremely sophisticated, either in the sciences or in the arts or both, so there's not really all that much difference between writers & readers, or between hugos & nebulas. But when there is, I'm more likely to pick up the hugo winner than the nebula winner.

#223 ::: Paul B. Hartzog ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Organizations like SFWA are constrained by an entire ecology of legacy structures to which they must forever remain attached.

New organizations like http://www.oort-cloud.org are a possible alternative for writers who want to exist in the new open/sharing online networks.

#224 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Patrick @#217: Thanks, I appreciate it.

#225 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:14 PM:

If you haven't read Kelly Link's writing

(This is addressed to people other than Patrick, by the way--Patrick, I started reading her based on your recommendation)

#226 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:27 PM:

C.E. Petit, 212,
205 Midori, I'm afraid you misused a technical term. Without defending what went on as proper, it was not "perjury," whether under the DMCA or any other provision of law.

Granted.
Interesting that Burt gets a free pass on representing something as a DMCA letter that technically wasn't.

Does the second part of my footnote still stand?

SFWA would have to pay the bills for that, btw, had it gone to court.

#227 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:42 PM:

#222: Mary, I'm not sure I understand your entire argument. If SF readers and SF writers really aren't all that different, then what is the difference between the Hugo and Nebula? Or are you saying that the difference is subtle?

However, it reminds me of a related argument about The Future of Science Fiction someone floated at one of the Thursday night panel sessions of the most recent ReaderCon. I think it was Barry Malzberg? Anyway, he complained that, unlike when he was a kid, the short fiction being published these days couldn't be understood by a typical 12 year old. i.e., the stories rely too much on knowledge of SF canon. Not being 12 years old, my only response to it is this vague sense that ought to be lots of stories which don't require working knowledge of the history of science fiction, and that science fiction is so much a part of popular culture now. I wonder if reliance on SF canon is always an impediment to understanding, or enjoying, a story.

I think the main point, though, was a worry that short SF is becoming too inside baseball to pick up new readers. This, obviously, isn't your argument, but is this similar to your preference for Hugo winners over Nebula winners? That is, with Nebula winners, because it's writers picking, there may be a greater tendency towards inside baseball choices?

#228 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:07 PM:

"what is the difference between the Hugo and Nebula?"

More people bother to vote on the Nebulas?

Actually, I don't know if that's true. It's not mathematically impossible for it to be true, since the total number of people who voted in the most recent Hugos is a smaller number than the total active membership of SFWA, but I have no idea what Nebula turnout rates are like.

#229 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:15 PM:

John @#227: Yes, I am saying the difference is subtle. I was initially responding to the notion, put forth in #141, that the nebulas are more interesting than the hugos and possibly (though this wasn't stated, just implied) better than the hugos.

My habit for decades has been this: if a book wins both the hugo and the nebula, it goes on my reading list. If it wins just the hugo, I look to see if it sounds interesting; if so, it goes on my reading list. If it wins just the nebula, I skip it, unless someone specifically recommends it to me*. I know that's absurdly prejudiced, but since I only have time to read about a third of the books that go on my list anyway, that's how I do it, based on experiences back in the early 90s when I had more time to read.

*I have a dear friend who's costantly suckering me into reading things like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World with the time I'd set aside to read things like Dead Until Dark. I frequently love the books he sends me (eg Wolfe) but they're never easy...he keeps me from getting lazy.

#230 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:25 PM:

Mary Dell @ 229... back in the early 90s when I had more time to read

Now you're a sysadmin, which means you rule the world and that leaves little time for reading, eh?

#231 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:36 PM:

Serge @#230: Yes, exactly. Rather embarrassingly, I actually manage a team of sysadmins these days, thanks to the Peter principle. That and my hobbies like photoshopping things and filling out adoption paperwork keep me hopping.

#232 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 02:18 PM:

ethan@196: Also: dogs eat poop, like, all the time. I think you're confused.

yes, and if a dog raids the cat box for such treats, it's called a "kitty cigar". Didn't we go over his already? He must not own any pets.

#233 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 02:24 PM:

226 No, SFWA had no potential liability. Unfortunately, all I can give in this forum is the short answer, which leaves out a lot of nuances and responses to the "but... but... but..." objections that others will raise.

The easiest way to look at it is, first, who would have standing to possibly obtain relief from SFWA? That comes down to two potential parties:

* scribd (or, rather, its corporate owners), has not been harmed within any legal framework that gives it standing. Nobody has asserted that scribed had explicit, preexisting authority from Mr Doctorow (or anyone else) to post material — only that Mr Doctorow encouraged it. Since it did not qualify as a DMCA notice, or fit within the strict definitions of an "improper" notice found in the statute itself, Mr Burt's communication to scribd also falls outside any potential liability within the statute. That leaves the fallback for perjury... and scribd doesn't have standing to assert that.

* That leaves Mr Doctorow. The problem here is that his only potential cause of action would be intentional interference with contractual advantage... and there isn't a contract, and even worse there's no intent (as noted previously). And that's the strictly abstract question of whether the actions could theoretically lead to anything; one of the elements of the intentional interference cause of action is proof of actual (not speculative, not hypothetical) damages for removal of the material from one of many places for a matter of less than 48 hours. 'Tain't going anywhere in any US or UK court.

The bottom line is that Mr Doctorow's outrage has no legal consequences. Period. sspct tht ncnscs rcgntn f tht my hv cntrbtd t th lvl f trg, prhps fdng wht s s nflmmtry nd xcssv rhtrc. t's th (lglly) dlt vrsn f th chld's "'ll hld my brth ntl 'm bl!": "'ll s ntl w'r ll brrd frm th crths!" t xprsss rl flngs, rl r, nd rl dstrss n wy tht smply cnnt ccr... bt t's lt lss bvs t lyprsns tht clm f "lgl cnsqncs" s rdcls thn t s tht th chld wll fll ncnscs nd strt brthng bfr ctlly trnng bl. xcpt, prhps, n tlvsn, bt tht's nthr rnt fr nthr tm n nthr frm, nstd f tkng p th bndwdth f r Grcs Hsts.

#234 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 02:27 PM:

I don't know, when I was working at the vet clinic, we called it "kitty Roca" because it looks like Almond Roca... Hmmm, come to think of it, I haven't been able to eat Almond Roca since then. Well, never mind. Here's hoping y'all have sturdier constitutions!

#235 ::: Jackie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Hey, not to change the subject or anything. . . But, my husband is a huge SF fan. But only what he calls "real" SF. Hard SF, I guess. And Christmas is a comin'. Here's the deal. The best independent bookstore in comically rural Denver, Colorado used to have a huge section of hard SF. Now, it's like half of a bookcase. I've already bought all of those.

I read romance myself, although I read Bujold, Leguin, Brin, etc.*

I am hoping for some SF suggestions for my hubby for the holidays. He loves Brin, Bujold, Leguin, Varley, Kim Stanley Robinson. The Smart Bitches turned me onto Neil Gaiman, he likes his stuff. Some Drake and Weber. He's mad at John Ringo (bummer, the dude churns stuff out). He's +/- on Alistair Reynolds. I bought a couple of Scalzi's based on snotty comments he's made here, but hubby has not read them yet.

So far for Christmas, I have a tiny hardbound Orson Scott Card that looks like Harlequin re-releasing an 80's Nora Roberts. So, all you erudite SF'ers out there, any suggestions? Nothing based on Star Wars, or Trek, no manga, just olden days SF.

Sorry to bug you, but I'm desperate.**
____
*That Vox guy better not try to take on the RWA. I hang out with those ladies and they are all tough as nails and would kick his a**.

**TNH--if you find this inappropriate, don't disemvowel, just delete, kay?

#236 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 02:40 PM:

The possession of law degrees should be criminalized, and all legal decisions resolved by a contest of champions.

#237 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 03:00 PM:

Jackie @235: you're after new stuff for him, right?

I suggest you try him on ...

1. "Sun of Suns" by Karl Schroeder. Really kicks post-human swashbuckling space-operatic ass, and to add to the fun there's a sequel already out (and more to come).

2. "Rainbows End" by Vernor Vinge. This year's Hugo winner and a fascinating look into a near future that's looming up incredibly fast. (Plus, you'll never look at a Bugs Bunny cartoon the same way ever again.)

3. "River of Gods" by Ian MacDonald. I think this one deserved to win the Hugo back in 2006, when it was on the ballot; let's just say, it's an SF novel of India in 2047 -- huge, sprawling, luscious, complex, and compelling.

4. "Paradox" by John Meaney. First of a trilogy (yes, it's all in print). May or may not push the right buttons for you, but I liked it.

5. "The Execution Channel" by Ken MacLeod (or anything else by Ken if you haven't tried him before). May be a bit edgily political and scary for your tastes; a powerful near-future catastrophe/thriller. (Ken's elevator pitch for it was: "the war on terror is over -- terror won".)

6. "Undertow" by Elizabeth Bear. Warning: currently this is two books down my to-read pile -- I haven't reached it yet. Recommended because it's one of her SF novels, she hasn't disappointed me yet, and it seems a shame to supply a list entirely bereft of girl cooties (even if I'm racking my brains for hard SF, which tends to be pathologically short on XX chromosomes).

NB: I recuse myself from recommending any of my own books.

#238 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 236... Ian MacDonald also wrote small gods, a short story also set in futuristic India. Recommended.

#239 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Jackie @235: Since Charlie's recused himself, someone else will have to mention: Singularity Sky, Glasshouse, Halting State, and maybe The Atrocity Archives, depending on your husband's tastes, all by Charles Stross.

#240 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 03:52 PM:

JAckie @234: Has he snagged Peter Watts' Blindsight yet? I quite enjoyed that. I hesitate to describe it, because as soon as I try to latch onto some of the concepts that grabbed me, I worry that he'll get the wrong idea. But basically, there's a ship sent out with a crew that is all post-human in one way or another. And how they relate to the unknown has a lot to do with their own personal add-ons (or in some cases, subtractions) to what we recognise as humanity. It's dark and grim, but it's full of some great visual kicks and interesting ideas.

#241 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 03:57 PM:

Oh, and Rudy Rucker's Mathemeticians in Love, wherein two boys duke it out between alternate universes to determine who the alpha male is gonna be. (Which kept me from sympathising too much with either one of them, really, but the story as a whole was a pretty fun ride.)

#242 ::: Steve Jackson ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:02 PM:

I'm flabbergasted.

How could anyone who has read Mr. Burt's public statements think he could be trusted with ANY responsibility of any kind?

Let alone putting him back in charge of the committee that he'd just mucked up so badly.

I know, this has been said. I'm saying it too. I am a life member of SFWA and I'm disgusted.

#243 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:04 PM:

#233, C. E. Petit:

First, you're talking about Cory as if his only gig is "science fiction writer," and as if the only damage done him by Burt's antics were encompassed by the quantifiable consequences to the value of his fiction writing.

But in fact being an SF writer is a sideline for Cory; his larger career is being an activist, a "public intellectual," if you'll forgive the awkward phrase. Burt's sloppy work led to the harrassment of Scribd users who had uploaded Cory's CC-licensed work in good faith. Some of them, knowing that Cory was a former officer of SFWA, jumped to the conclusion that Cory was complicit in that harrassment, and insincere in his commitment to Creative Commons licensing. Silly of them, perhaps--but Cory was hardly out of line in being angry with Burt, and SFWA, for fostering that impression. Analyzing Cory's reactions as if the only commodity at issue were his income as an SF writer misses the point. His reputation for integrity is important to him, and rightly so.

Second, Charlie Petit: get real. I like you. I appreciate your contributions around here. I very much appreciate our own professional interactions. I don't think Cory Doctorow's public statements should be immune from substantive criticism. But how sensible is it of you to post, to Making Light, tendentious and excessively personal characterizations of the imagined inner mental state of someone who is (1) one of our best friends, (2) one of my authors, and (3) one of Teresa's employers? Characterizations which are best described as, well, sheer mind-reading? Have a little common sense.

No, we don't deploy the mighty disemvoweling engine with mechanical, dispassionate precision. Yes, we're often quicker to defend our friends and associates than to defend people who are strangers to us. Yes, you can say things on Making Light about (to take a random example) Dick Cheney that we'll call you down for saying about (to take another random example) Jo Walton. I cannot imagine you find this surprising, since I know for a fact that you have, in your life, made the acquaintance of several human beings.

#244 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Also (to go with Singularity Sky) Iron Sunrise. To the sequel of which I am looking forward, or something like that, because I want to find out if/how the continuing subthread can be resolved without everything going pear-shaped.

#245 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:09 PM:

Oh, and back to the topic at hand. I too was a member of Critters, and I suppose technically I still am, although I suppose it's time to retire. I remember Mr. Burt being very helpful when I first started participating. I think it's too bad that he has through his own actions, turned his legacy in the SF community into a byword for weaselly behaviour. But for all the folks who think that it is not right that such things are aired publically, I myself am glad to hear of them. It does give me more options as a newbie writer, to decide if I want to join up with SFWA whenever I make my qualifying sales, or if I feel my needs would be better served elsewise. I saw GRRM's response to the situation and was somewhat disappointed that he categorised it as a "generational" thing, what with us wee tykes being perhaps a bit too stroppy for our own good. Currently, I would be loath to join SFWA, but that doesn't mean things can't turn around.

#246 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:15 PM:

"I wouldn't have been at all upset if you had told that I'm full of shit for taking such a narrow view of the genre, that I'm a snob for disliking lit-fic, even that people like me are what's keeping SF from gaining the credibility it deserves. Or that I'm letting my history as a failed MFA, which I've spoken of in the past, cloud my judgement and that I need to get over myself. "

You're full of shit for taking such a narrow view of the genre.

You're a snob for disliking lit-fic and pretending that you have control over the genre.

You're letting your history as a failed MFA cloud your judgment with jealousy for those of us who *can* hack it.

Get the heck over yourself.

#247 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:17 PM:

As a paying customer who does not want her few scant dollars for books going into the pockets of asshats I have a very keen interest in this mess as it shows the true colours of a lot of otherwise cloistered away authors. Think of it as a marketing exercise.

#248 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Jackie@235 - to add to the Stross recommendations, The Jennifer Morgue is a mighty sly book.

Also Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies.

#249 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Jackie L., #235:

Charlie Stross recommends Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End for your hard-SF-loving husband. At the risk of being obvious, I note that you didn't mention Vinge at all in your original post--so if your husband hasn't read Vinge's two previous novels, A Fire upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, allow me to suggest that you repair that omission immediately. Given what we've been told about what he already likes, I can't imagine a better recommendation than these two stone classics of high, hard, epic SF. A Deepness in the Sky is the only SF novel of the last ten years not edited by me that I've read five times.

Charlie's other suggestions are good too. My only additions would be:

(1) What NelC said about Charlie's own books. Personally, I'd start with The Atrocity Archive, one of the most diverting brain-worms in recent memory.

(2) Make your husband start Scalzi's Old Man's War, the best 1950s SF novel of 2005. You won't have to urge him to finish it.

(3) Robert Charles Wilson's Spin. I said my piece on it here. Yes, we have an interest.

#250 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:35 PM:

I'll second the recommendation for "A Fire Upon the Deep," which Vernor Vinge told me he was inspired to write in admiration of Brin's space operas.

#251 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Rachel @246:
Welcome to Making Light; I see that this is your first posting.

As a rule, it's a good idea to read the threads for a while to get a feeling for the local customs before commenting. In case you haven't, or in case you have and have somehow missed it, one local custom is that long-established members of the community have a good deal more leeway to be rude than first time members. It's a trust thing.

Patrick, to whom that particular invitation was addressed, is by definition a long time member of this community, since this is his weblog. You, on the other hand, have never posted here before, at least under the email address you have supplied. We don't know you, so all we have to go on is your first words in this community.

You're not coming across as someone whose future words will be of interest. We've already had our first disemvowellment on the thread; are you to be second?

#252 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:46 PM:

I don't think what I wrote was any more offensive than her initial assertion that writers like me should "get out of her genre." And I was, as you note, responding nearly word-for-word to an invitation she authored.

#253 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Rachel @#252: And hey, as promised, I'm not a bit upset. Further, I'm glad I could provide you with words to use, so you wouldn't have to strain anything coming up with some of your own.

Welcome to Making Light.

*waves to Abi*

#254 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:53 PM:

But the invitation was not addressed to you.

#255 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:54 PM:

PNH #213, and Scott Taylor #209 -- And even that exaggerates the degree to which intellectual property can be managed. Ace Books was able to publish a pirate edition of Lord of the Rings in the good old dead tree era, and not even the totalitarian power of Brezhnev's USSR could keep samizdat copies of The Gulag Archipelago from circulating.

#256 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:59 PM:

I felt from her wording that the invite was open -- since she seemed to be illustrating the difference between responses she found valid and ones she found invalid. She seems to feel the same way.

Of course, you're the mod -- if you feel differently, then disemvowel it.

I've posted here before, by the way.

*

Mary,

"I'm glad I could provide you with words to use, so you wouldn't have to strain anything coming up with some of your own."

Well, I thought you put it pretty well. :-P

I just really dislike it when people try to make their tastes about SF absolute. I fight that attitude daily in my MFA classes; I'd rather not fight it in the genre, too. They want to force me out of lit for writing spaceships. Must you try to force me out of genre for your own reasons?

There's plenty of writing in both SF and lit that I find excruciating. Personally, I deal with it by not reading it.

*

On the issue of Burt -- just general oy. :(

#257 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:00 PM:

I would wager that if our host really wanted to get a graduate degree in literature, he'd have colleges begging to take him, despite the "lack of formal qualifications". Hell, they'd probably put him on the faculty.

#258 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:06 PM:

P J Evans @244: sadly, I hit a brick wall on that universe and can't write any more in it. (I'll try not to do that again in any other series.)

#259 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:07 PM:

I don't suppose there could be an offshoot of this thread created solely for book recommendations, could there? It would be (I think) of great interest and some use to those of us who aren't up to speed on newer authors.

#260 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Speaking of Andrew Burt, I am informed (via John Scalzi and Jane Yolen) that Andrew, as vice president of SFWA, is officially in charge of committees. Further, I am informed that the only person who can take someone off a committee is ... the vice-president.

This puts recent events in a different light, and I want to apologize unreservedly for Mike Capobianco, who is in a very uncomfortable position here. On the other hand, I think it highlights the existence of an emergent bug in SFWA's by-laws -- that there's no way to remove the head of committees from a committee if they go rogue -- and it in no way changes my view of Andrew Burt's actions.

#261 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:16 PM:

Rachel @256:
I guess you haven't been reading Making Light that long, or that widely, if you think I'm a moderator here. My statement was a prediction, not a threat.

If Mary doesn't mind you gate-crashing, that's fine. Like everyone else here, I get to draw my own conclusions on your character based on your comments.

Personally, I think your interesting argument started at "I just really dislike...", but you're the MFA, and clearly have your own approach to persuasive writing.

#262 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:20 PM:

"I guess you haven't been reading Making Light that long, or that widely, if you think I'm a moderator here."

I only tend to read the writing-related posts. I was under the impression that, besides TNH and PNH, there are a few people who post their own material here. Perhaps I was mistaken about that.

In any case, I thought you might be one.

#263 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:21 PM:

Rachel @252 ...
I don't think what I wrote was any more offensive than her initial assertion that writers like me should "get out of her genre." And I was, as you note, responding nearly word-for-word to an invitation she authored.

A rule that I attempt to adhere to in cases like this - provide useful/interesting content to go along with the snark/flame. On my part, if you'd added your subsequent comments at #256 into your first comment #246, it wouldn't have looked nearly so much like a drive-by attack, invited or no.

#264 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:22 PM:

"Speaking of Andrew Burt, I am informed (via John Scalzi and Jane Yolen) that Andrew, as vice president of SFWA, is officially in charge of committees. Further, I am informed that the only person who can take someone off a committee is ... the vice-president.

This puts recent events in a different light, and I want to apologize unreservedly for Mike Capobianco, who is in a very uncomfortable position here. "

I'm not sure how this exculpates Capo (except in that he can't fix the situation now). Doesn't this mean that the initial choice to vote Burt back onto the committee was even more problematic, since it couldn't be fixed? Or am I missing something?

#265 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Abi @#254: I agree that new folks should learn the local customs. But please don't be fussed on my account. Friends can hurt my feelings; strangers can't.

Rachel @256: I just really dislike it when people try to make their tastes about SF absolute. I fight that attitude daily in my MFA classes; I'd rather not fight it in the genre, too. They want to force me out of lit for writing spaceships. Must you try to force me out of genre for your own reasons?

I can't possibly force you out of the genre; I'm not an editor, author, or even reviewer. Nor do I want to. As detailed in my post further down about Kelly Link, I'm glad the genre has a wide range, and I acknowlege the greatness of various books that personally annoy me. My initial statement was, as I later explained, both glib and facetious, and if you get to know me you'll probably find that annoying, but you hopefully won't take it personally.

Your professors can't force you to do anything either. My experience was the same, apparently, as yours. (me: IU, early 1990's) I could hack it just fine, but it was a battle, and a death in the department was the tipping point for me--one of our best friends had died, and everyone was hideously uncomfortable even talking about it, much less seeing it written about in poetry class. My grades didn't suffer, but the feedback was universally negative, and writing became a struggle. It was weird, and it made me reconsider my opionion of the whole academic enterprise, where creative work is concerned, anyway*. More power to you for fighting it.

*the profs would give me A's, based on how well I was accomplishing my objective, but they'd tell me what they thought of my objective, which is that symbolism is outdated, I need to focus on language, etc. Madness.

#266 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:25 PM:

There are also a bunch of book recommendations going on on the "Quis custodiet" thread.

Hmmm... I just had a truly horribly tempting notion for where book recommendations belong: A Making Light wiki (registration required.) Unfortunately I have a feeling any such thing would rapidly turn into The Timesink Which Ate Manhattan.

#267 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:25 PM:

235: Let's see: Walton's Farthing and the sequel (Alternate history). Brotherton's Spider Star, if it's out (Star Dragon, if it isn't). If used book stores are your friend, Gilliland's Rosinante trilogy (Or his End of the Empire, if you can find it, just for the Death by Bridge Score Card scene and the libertopian regime it so lovingly details). Peter Watts' Blindsight, recommended for those with a surfeit of will to live. Karl Schroeder's worth a look at. Paul McAuley is worth a look at but his Quiet War is not out yet as far as I know. Charles Stross has a wackload of books out.

#268 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:29 PM:

Great discussion.

For all my mixed feelings about SFWA (I've belonged for ZOMG 20 years! holy f*k! ZOMG all the idiocies I've seen!), I have also seen it do a lot of good -- particularly for new writers who are still learning the ins and outs of the business, and in educating aspirant writers (Patrick mentioned Writer Beware, I believe).

Iow, paying forward imo is a good reason to stay in. The organization needs more experienced writers to coach and mentor newer writers.

Also, in spite of all the insanity and stupidities, I've seen a number of writers I respect and admire make serious efforts on the behalf of other SFF writers through the organization's auspices. That makes me feel committed to contributing, in commemoration of or solidarity with their prior efforts, I guess you could say.

But man. These train wrecks are soooo painful.

With regard to good hard SF, I want to second all the books mentioned above, and Jack McDevitt's stuff as well. He might also like SM Stirlings alternate histories, which are not the classic definition of hard SF, but they are very well thought out -- they "taste" hard-SF, if that makes any sense -- and they are exciting stories.

And I'll recuse myself on my own works, too. :)

-l.

#269 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Linkmeister @#259: Too bad there's not some way we can look into each other's libraries to see what's been tagged a favorite. Oh, wait, there is!

(Yeah, yeah, I know, unabashed LibraryThing pimpage...I don't work there, I swear!)

#270 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:31 PM:

Eh, if Mary Dell hadn't told a bunch of folk to piss off, she wouldn't be getting told to piss off herself.

Seems vaguely karmic to me, to be honest.

#271 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:33 PM:

"me: IU, early 1990's"

Heh, I'm at the other IU.

It's actually not a fuss as long as I shut up about SF. I could publish just fine outside genre, as long as I was willing to never *call* the work "science fiction."

In any case, I presumed a context that didn't exist -- I've been extremely vocal about Burt's ridiculous reinstatement on other sites, and am a frequent commenter at Scalzi's. I expected a greater degree of community overlap here than appears to be the case. Not that I expected people to know who I am necessarily, but I didn't expect to be marked quite as quickly and enthusiastically as "intruder."

#272 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Avram @ 255 -
PNH #213, and Scott Taylor #209 -- And even that exaggerates the degree to which intellectual property can be managed. Ace Books was able to publish a pirate edition of Lord of the Rings in the good old dead tree era, and not even the totalitarian power of Brezhnev's USSR could keep samizdat copies of The Gulag Archipelago from circulating.

Nor the Bible, for that matter, although that was due to pretty heavy concerted effort on the part of various western religious groups. And certainly the earlier history of publishing in the US (especially prior to US adoption of the UCC, and later the Berne conventions).

But, overall, pre-Internet copyright and IP protections worked pretty well, as much due to lack of capability as lack of incentive (photocopying of whole books happened, but strictly on a small scale, and the same with VCR tape copying - it happened, but usually not in an industrial/large scale fashion).*

There were exceptions (especially when heavily incentivized, as with Solzhenitsyn, or the Bible) but they were the exceptions - Patrick's predecessors at DAW (or Ace, or wherever) had more to worry about foreign copyright poaching (or, more likely, vice versa...) than about someone burring off the binding of one of their novels, running it through a sheet-feed duplexing scanner at work, then taking the raw scan file home and OCRing it and uploading it to alt.binaries.ebooks.sci-fi** - or running them through a sheet-fed photocopier and copying off a hundred chapbook copies and handing them out to friends.

*This was more true for in-print or readily available materials than for OOP stuff, which was more likely to be "borrowed" in this fashion.

**obviously, since none of the necessary technologies had been invented - or at least commoditized to the point where they might be available to non-DARPA employees).

#273 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:42 PM:

Rachel,

I don't think most people check histories unless someone sounds like a driveby. You did, and I did.

I note that you improve on acquaintaince, in both senses of the verb.

#274 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Welcome, Rachel. I don't think anyone meant to "mark you" as "intruder"; we're just wrestling with the same problems as every other virtual community in the world, and getting it wrong as often as right. Please stay around.

Any Making Light wiki will have to get along without me. I mean to join the Library Thing group when I have the time, but despite having tried, I just can't make my brain fully grasp the wiki thing.

#275 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Charlie

I have been known to wait decades for books. When things unblock and you figure out how to finish off that set of Really Bad Guys (or at least wind things up somehow), I'll be there with money in hand (provided I haven't met the Eschaton up close and personal first).

#276 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Mary's original comment just simply struck me as being a hair on the flippant side of sarcastic.
One man's sardonic cynical is another's incentive to riot I guess.

#277 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Rachel: I thought I recognised you from Scalzi's blog (he posted a link to your story about the last humans--which I liked muchly, btw) but I was a little surprised to see your entry, partially 'cuz I thought PNH and Mary Dell had already thrashed through it and also because it did seem a little drive-byish at the time. Appreciate the extra context and clarification though. Sometimes when one hasn't posted somewhere for a while, or even if they posted recently under another name, it's a good idea to recheck the assumption that people will recognise your tone based on familiarity. (Which is why I recently re-affirmed my connection with my other handle on here, just in case. You'd also know me as PixelFish.)

#278 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 06:32 PM:

243 Yeah, I think I was unclear, Patrick: I wasn't intending to go at Cory in particular with that closing comment, but the vast spread of ignorant BS that has been spouted on the whole scribd situation, which I view as various attempts to turn six or seven wrongs into a right. However, I was hasty in how I posted, and that got lost. Completely. My bad.

To make it perfectly clear:
* scribd's system was and remains (at the moment, subject to other behind-the-scenes maneuvering) improper;
* the particular individuals who posted pirated works from the quasicanonical collection were in the wrong;
* Mr Burt's method of trying to deal with scribd's infringements was wrong;
* scribd's nonresponsiveness was wrong;
* Mr Doctorow's misuse of legalisms, and assumption of ill intent, in attacking Mr Burt was wrong;
* SFWA's response was wrong;
* Various purported "activists" (not Mr Doctorow, who at least backed off once he had made his point once) who tried to paint all of SFWA, or even all of the committee in question — and I'm a member, who advised going slow — with ill will on the basis of one member's carelessness were wrong;
* EFF's counsel's purported "defense" of scribd was wrong;
And I'm not going to go any farther, although I'm not done. I hope you get the idea. Nobody has the moral high ground here, and some of my own rhetoric has been excessive. That's why I made the comparison to "holding one's breath until one turns blue" to impossible misstatements of legal consequences.

236 I will not require Patrick and/or Teresa to employ the disemvowelling engine to deal with this particular bit of BS, except to suggest considering the character of Dick the Butcher, and ask why he wanted to do that thing. And if the poster doesn't understand that allusion, perhaps he should read all of whole scene 2 at a minimum. I don't defend everything about the legal profession — hell, it needs a lot of reform — but this is excessive, particularly in this context.

#279 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 06:53 PM:

"Sometimes when one hasn't posted somewhere for a while, or even if they posted recently under another name, it's a good idea to recheck the assumption that people will recognise your tone based on familiarity."

You're right, of course. Apologies.

#280 ::: Jackie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 07:23 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, #249--

Oddly enough, Old Man's War was one of the Scalzi books I picked up for him. Should be next up on his TBR.

I have been at Amazon, looking over all of your suggestions and now have alot of stuff for under the tree.

So thanks to everybody.

When I ask for recs at Amazon, they just give me an author that not even Romancelandia will claim anymore, so this is a big help!

#281 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 07:49 PM:

George R.R. Martin weighs in

His post has a lot of vague accusations of malice against unspecified young punks who're daring to question SFWA's usefulness.

#282 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:03 PM:

C E Petit @ 278 re 236: I think the poster was either joking or making some sort of allusion to Gladiator-In-Law (how is that hyphenated? Damn, I need to tear into these boxes) but, on the off chance he was serious:

Q:What do they call a bus full of MBAs headed off a cliff?
A: A damned good start!

#283 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:06 PM:

I'm not even young and George feels like he's talking down to me in a classist fossil way.
And how can you prove the SFWA has value to new members if you keep everything behind the door. Oh that's right we should take the establishment's word for it and you can always quit after you've paid for a membership if it turns out you don't agree with them, sorry no refund.

#284 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:10 PM:
"Peter Watts' Blindsight, recommended for those with a surfeit of will to live"
(James Davis Nicoll, #267) Very well put, JDN. I started it last year and found it good: engaging, thoughtful, well-written but a fast-paced 'good yarn' too. Just that I could feel that it was going to be too much for someone in a fragile mental and physical state. Yeah, "will to live" is a good term for what's at low ebb.

As to tracking down or keeping together book recommendations from Making Light, the Venerable, if not Beatific, Kelly McCullough (to whom much praise) has produced an 'Index to the Light' (see entry on October 30, 2007). Perhaps there's room for expansion with some kind of 'book recommendations' tag? This would probably need linking to at least the first of a set of comments where the discussion of books starts down-thread. It's the sort of task where a 'distributed work' approach might work, like forming a community and people taking, say, chronological slices, or finding some other way to divide the task.

#285 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Rachel@246, I got it was humor, and my parser is generally stuck in "literal" mode. For whatever that's worth.

Actually, I was a bit disappointed that you'd thought of it before I did. But that's a different issue.

#286 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:15 PM:

Josh Jasper @#281:

I read Martin's post, and I really liked it--I didn't read it as cranky, and I don't think he called young writers punks or anything else. I think he makes an eloquent case for membership-as-service:

Maybe it's a generational thing, I don't know... but as I see it, SFWA is not about what you can get out of it, and never has been. Damon Knight did not form the group to boost his career, way back when. Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Poul Anderson, Gordon R. Dickson, Joe Haldeman, Jane Yolen, Roger Zelazny, and so many more did not give up time and energy they could have devoted to writing novels and short stories to serve as SFWA officers because they thought they'd benefit from the networking, or get higher advances, or win a Nebula. It was all about improving the field. Writers helping writers. Paying forward.

In fact, I read his post as trying to recruit young writers in an effort to improve the organization. Maybe a lost cause, but maybe not.

#287 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:44 PM:

Mary@286, I think Martin's post comes down on people who discussed this outside of SFWA channels. But Cory Doctorow isn't an SFWA member, and when SFWA started messing with his works on scribd, there really isn't an "internal channel" to use. I think Cory tried contacting SFWA directly before making it public. But I think Cory also was getting heat from people who thought the takedown notice to Scribd regarding his works was his doing, or at least sanctioned by him, and at that point, Cory needed to let those poeple know that he didn't approve the takedown notices, that they were a mistake made by Burt, and that SFWA and Burt had no right to issue takedown notices of his work.

Certainly, had SFWA canned Burt and went out of their way to tell these people that it was their mistake, not Cory's, then people like Cory could probably have kept their communications with SFWA on a private channel. However, since that didn't happen, and not only that, but Burt went so far as to attack Cory in a number of ways (Critters, Le Guin, etc), I think bemoaning the fact that the issue wasn't kept "quiet" or "under wraps" or "out of the public eye" or whatever, and blaming folks like Cory for doing so, is shifting blame from the ijits who caused the cockup in the first place, and shifting it to the people who got crapped on as a result of said cockup.

#288 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:50 PM:

Greg London:

"But Cory Doctorow isn't an SFWA member"

Uhhh, he's not?

Pretty sure he is.

The problem was not that Cory didn't have an internal channel, it's that he'd specifically told SFWA not to represent themselves as his agents in any way, and also that Cory mistrusts Andrew Burt, for reasons that are fairly obvious by this point.

In any event, as noted by others here, Cory had some excellent reasons to respond both quickly and publicly.

#289 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:00 PM:

John Chu, #227: If it was indeed Barry Malzburg who said that, my only possible response is, "The irony... it burns!"

Aside from that, I don't mind in-references in a story -- even ones that I don't get -- as long as the story itself stands without them. I think of them as the literary equivalent of nonpareils on a cupcake; they make it prettier for those who like them, and don't do much of anything if you don't. Example: Jane Dentinger's theatrical mysteries. I'm not a theater buff myself, and I'm fairly sure there are in-jokes flying past my brain on a regular basis -- but they're not critical to the story, which means the books are still quite enjoyable by someone like me. Someday I'd like to discuss them with a theater buff, though, just out of curiosity.

Jackie, #235: Does "real SF" include space opera/military SF? If so, I can recommend the Mageworlds series by Doyle & MacDonald for the former, and David Weber's Honor Harrington books for the latter. And since people are recommending Vinge, I'll mention that Marooned in Realtime is one of the most breathtaking crossovers between the hard-SF and mystery genres I've ever encountered. (If you think he'd want the backstory, get him the collection Across Realtime instead.)

(Tangentially, I have the same problem with "real SF" that I have with "real" a-lot-of-other-things; that when it comes down to a matter of personal opinion, I don't like being told that mine is unworthy of consideration. Who died and made him king, anyhow?)

Rachel, #271: You might be able to get some advice about that from Christopher Moore. He writes outstanding romantic fantasy (with vampires, no less!), which is scrupulously never let be marketed as being anywhere near the SF/F ghetto; his agent must have some pretty good tricks up his sleeve.

#290 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:14 PM:

In my opinion, the good in-jokes or allusions add to the reader's experience, without being essential.

For example, early in John M. Ford's The Princes of the Air is a brief description of a courtyard in the imperial palace on a distant planet. Two sentences. Enough for some readers to know exactly what it looked like--because we'd been there. But if you didn't know, it was two reasonable sentences of description that didn't say "hey, look at me" or "New York reference" or anything of that sort.

Mike being Mike, I'm fairly sure there are references in that book that I didn't get.

An author who made the connection between that fictional courtyard, and one in our world, key to a mystery plot, without making it explicit, would not have been playing fair with the reader.

#291 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:18 PM:

Rachel, 271,

I'm not a great example*, but the absence of a nym other than "Rachel" creates problems for identifying you as the Rachel from Scalzi's.

*on the other hand, I'm in it for the anonymity, not the continuity.

#292 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Vicki #290: There are in-jokes and there are in-jokes. The kind you mention is fine, but then there's, say, Fallen Angels, the book with more authors than pages, which I read as a very young teenager, well before I was aware of fandom, and even then I thought, "Huh. I guess I'm not in the group this book was written for." And it made me pretty angry. Why publish it for a wide audience?

#293 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Mary Dell, #286: Yeowtch. Perhaps that paragraph reads differently in context, but in isolation -- to me, at least -- it's very much a putdown of younger writers for having no altrustic interest in an organization like SFWA, for being in it only for what they can get out of it. "Young whippersnappers, not half the men* your daddies were," was the flavor I got from reading it.

* Gender-specific language intentional; that sort of argument frequently does carry gender overtones.

#294 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 09:37 PM:

ethan @ 292

I have to admit, that one is a lot more fun when you know the people involved. The jokes are very much in fandom (and you can put the quotes in there where you want them) and some are ... kind of obscure if you don't know the people.

There's a name for that kind of story: roman a clef. (Serge will know which accents belong in there. Don't miss your cue, Serge!)

#295 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:14 PM:

The problem I have with George R.R. Martin's post isn't that I think he's talking down to young authors, or anything of the sort.

The problem I have with the post is that he's saying you should join SFWA as a way of paying forward things that are long since done and gone, just because.

When I mentor a young geek, I don't think to myself "Heavens! I'm doing this as a way to pay forward Ada Lovelace, for having been the first computer programmer, and the start of an entire field". I think "Heavens! I've had some great programmers help -me-, and I'd like to be able to pass along some of what they've taught me, and their willingness to help". It's specific gratitude and motivation, not some vague feeling that I should, y'know, pay forward that stuff.

I'm looking at the people and events that Martin's talking about, and thinking "Okay - that's nice and all - but are those things that impact the current, wired generation of writers?". Sure, you've got a nice consuite, and interesting people to talk to - but I'm not going to make it anywhere near that consuite, let alone the same city as that consuite.

When I run into folks that talk about wanting to write, I end up pointing to the active discussions on makinglight, not the SWFA.
When I talk about publishing issues, I point people to Preditors and Editors, which is noted as: Preditors and Editors is not a part of SFWA.

If I look at those, and think "pay forward", I don't think "join the SWFA as a way to pay forward" -- why would I join an organization that's made it clear that there's a limited welcome for the right people[0] only, with discussions that will only help me once I'm actually a member in the first place...

... which comes down to an interesting point (apologies for the stream-of-consciousness writing) - I'm starting to think "join the SWFA" sounds an awful lot like "join the Masons" or "join the Order of Skull and Bones.

You have to have specific qualifications (somehow more flexible for some than others) to join and take part in the special secret deliberations and rituals -- and discussing any of the special secret things outside of the special secret group is verbotten!

Hmmm....

[0] (actually none for my sort, given that I'm not a published author, nor do I ever expect to meet the SWFAs criteria)

#296 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:20 PM:

I am an MFA who lasted the course, ran the straight race, fought the good fight, was faithful to the end, waded the swamps, shot the rapids, strangled the chooks, wore the gown and the funny hat, got the sheepskin and framed it, and having done all that, looked back at the territory traversed and wondered what in heck I'd done it for. I knew nothing that I hadn't known before, and what they tried to tell me was mostly wrong, often hilariously so.

The real benefit was when Terry Dowling turned up at one of the writerly bunfights and let fall a few hints to me about how to fix up a novel opening so that it didn't utterly suck, and in fairness they also stumped up the airfare to a con, which was a lot more than the Department for Sipping Champagne at Rad Art Installations of the everlovin' State government ever did.

Nevertheless, possession of said sheepskin allows me to state my opinion that those who who hold, or are acquiring MFA or equivalent degrees, are in error when they characterise those who don't, or who have dropped the whole idea, as lacking in some worthy quality. If the failed candidate for such a degree writes SFF, quite likely the only quality lacking is the ability to abide condescension from those who regard their own preferred genre as privileged and themselves as therefore entitled. Lest it be not obvious, I do not regard this quality as unworthy.

#297 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:35 PM:

I'm not saying I would join SFWA based what Martin says. For starters, I am not eligible, having published zippity. But I like the notion that he puts forward of joining a writers' org out of altruism, rather than self-interest. It's idealistic, and I appreciate that. I don't mind that he's grouchy about saying "it's not about what you get; it's about giving something, dagnabbit!" Full disclosure: I was raised by Catholic social justice crusaders, so I find rants about duty to be charming and homey. YMMV.

I think that SFWA's credibility is shot, and the question of what it really does for anybody is an important one. Ideally when one does volunteer work, it's for a worthy and helpful cause, and SFWA clearly has no Hippocratic oath. But I think Martin does a nice job of casting SFWA membership as a form of volunteerism.

#298 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:02 PM:

Jackie L @ 235: that's a good range. Possibilities (leaving out everything already mentioned):
- On one side of his range, Elizabeth Moon's Kylara Vatta series starts weak (_Trading in Danger_), gets better (_Marque and Reprisal_).
- On the other side, try Stevermer (_A College of Magics_ &f) and Kushner (_Swordspoint_ &ff); a bit more mannered than Bujold, but wonderful stories. (You say "SF", but Gaiman is all fantasy, so these might be acceptable.)
- Has he read early Alfred Bester (_The Demolished Man_, _The Stars My Destination_)? These go in and out of print.
- For old-fashioned (maybe even wish-fulfillment), try Steven Gould's _Jumper_ (&f) and _Farside_; good stories with classic working-out of a new power.
- pre-Amber Zelazny; _Lord of Light_ is a bit flash/complex if he hasn't read other Z, but _...And Call Me Conrad_ (aka _This Immortal_) is \still/ a stunning resetting of classic myths into pure SF, and _Doorways in the Sand_ is plain \fun/. Also variably in print (less so than Bester, but try a good used-book store, or whichever online consolidator you can stomach).
- Even if he doesn't want Trek, try him on _How Much for Just the Planet_ (Ford) -- an affectionate sendup of most of the pomposity that we may have loved in the golden age (12) and now cringe at. (I love everything of Mike's, but the rest are more tangled to read -- cf a comment above.)

not-new? Rachel: have you seen Fame (the original movie, not the series)? Remember what the music auditioner told the guy with all the electronics? I think that's what a lot of us are on about.

#299 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:27 PM:

An organisation which doesn't actually represent its members isn't worth anything.

Bureaucratism is not unionism.

#300 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:38 PM:

Noise, Hal Clement. It features Clements' take on nanotech, which he came up with about a generation before Drexler started thinking about small machines.

#301 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:51 PM:

Jackie L. @ 235:

I recommend David Weber's Honor Harrington series, beginning with On Basilisk Station. The books are a good mix of character-driven drama and epic space opera, with a good dose of starship porn mixed in. The battle scenes and the mechanics of FTL travel are decently hard sci-fi, too.

#302 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 11:56 PM:

Mary Dell, #297: "Full disclosure: I was raised by Catholic social justice crusaders, so I find rants about duty to be charming and homey. YMMV." With you all the way.

Lee, #289: Good gravy, yes, of course we recommend the Doyle & Macdonald "Mageworlds" series. Start with The Price of the Stars. Think of it as Star Wars if it had been written by someone who wasn't an idiot.

Charlie Petit, #278: Completely agree about people who deploy that Shakespeare quote out of context. A world without lawyers is a world in which the rich have power and nobody else does.

#303 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 12:49 AM:

Think of it as Star Wars if it had been written by someone who wasn't an idiot.

Do you mean "by someone who had at least a rudimentary understanding of the principles of hard SF" or "by someone who was writing a work of speculative fiction, not aCampbellian tale using pulp skiffy motifs" or "by someone who was more concerned with the story than the marketing" or what? Because GWL is many things, but his success and his intolerable air of smugness suggest that he is not, in fact, an idiot.

#304 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:04 AM:

Patrick #302: And if Tor wanted to produce inexpensive e-book versions of the Mageworlds books I'd do nothing but smile.

#305 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:24 AM:

I'd just like to say that I think the concept of duty is underrated in civilian society in America, probably as a result of the Vietnam war, which also saw "honor" and "patriotism" take grave hits, due to their misapplication by fatheads and slimeballs.

Every so often I meet someone who doesn't vote, and doesn't understand that it's a duty. That by itself doesn't croggle me, but the density of their resistance to the concept often does.

#306 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:48 AM:

C.E. Petit #278: I will not require Patrick and/or Teresa to employ the disemvowelling engine to deal with this particular bit of BS

"Require"?! The thought that you could require the moderators to do any damned thing at your behest by the use of your puissant lawyerly powers seems to me to be rather arrogant. As for my cunning plan for the soylent greening of lawyers, I wasn't intentionally paraphrasing the mighty spear shaker. On further consideration, I am willing to moderate my call for the recycling of lawyer's valuable biomass by generously allowing lawyers from the EFF, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the ACLU and Amnesty International to ply their trade for the benefit of mankind. Other limited exceptions may be viable as well. Have a nice day.

#307 ::: Steve Jackson ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:54 AM:

I didn't think GRRM's note was hostile or even patronizing. He's paid his dues, by any definition, and I won't quarrel with the points he makes . . . except to say that if experienced writers should participate in SFWA to "give back," then it follows that new writers should derive some actual benefits from SFWA. Otherwise nothing's being given, right?

And in general, if we accept that SFWA has the potential of doing things we consider good, it is incumbent on its members to speak up when something breaks. I think the quality and cogency of complaints, as long as they reach The Powers That Be, is more important than their venue.

I filled out the questionnaire that Scalzi's committee sent to members. I was a bit discursive because I thought that most of the questions assumed attitudes or positions that many of the respondents would not hold. Nevertheless I was pleased and impressed that the membership was being polled in detail. I thought it restored some of SFWA's credibility on the issue. I'm so sorry that all that effort seems to have come to so little result, organizationally.

#308 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 02:15 AM:

There's several things emerging about the Burt affair which, while resolving some issues, are disturbing in new ways.

I find it remarkable that Andrew Burt can make DMCA-based threats which he can get away with because they don't fit some narrow legal category. It is very clear that he did not have authority to represent Cory Doctorow, whose work was legitimately available on the website Burt targeted.

Being able to use the DMCA as a threat, while dodging the DMCA protections against false witness, suggests something in the legal system is broken.

As for the revelation that the SFWA, because of the fine detail of its own rules, cannot exclude Andrew Burt from the committee and dutes that he so blatantly mishandled; this is unfortunate. And the worst part is that, when insiders misunderstand the situation, we outsiders can hardly be blamed for seeing it as a deliberate choice by the SFWA board. If it walks like a duck, etc.

And had the SFWA, as an organisation, taken the trouble to minimise the chance of a malformed DMCA notice, perhaps by preparing a fill-in-the-blanks version to be completed by the e-piracy committee, Andrew Burt and the SFWA would have been in big trouble. The system appears to reward incompetence, and the SFWA doesn't seem to care.


#309 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 03:06 AM:

As I'm neither a member of the community of science fiction writers, nor a member of SFWA, I don't feel fully qualified to comment about GRRM's post. Nevertheless...I'm not comfortable with his premise that the community of science fiction writers *is* SFWA, and service to one is therefore equivalent to service to the other. Most of the authors I see expressing discomfort with SFWA have other connections with the community. It's not a choice between SFWA or writing in isolation. It's not even a choice between SFWA and trying to exchange information, emotional support, and emergency funds with writers outside the genre who don't really understand. If the SFWA were to become untrustworthy as an organization, its members would have other options. (Well, most of its members. I suspect the deep technophobes would have a hard time.)

#310 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 03:47 AM:

Some of this discussion (and the ranting elsewhere) reminds me of how many pressures there are against people changing their minds, once they've taken a public stance.

With regard to e-books and piracy, one of the few genuine changes I can think of came from Steve Jackson (the Texan one, of Steve Jackson Games) in the rolegaming market. Steve started off as alarmist as you could ask for about the threat of piracy to any chance of profit and even to basic intellectual property claims. But he kept looking at the market to see what people were doing and what happened to them as a result. He first drifted in the direction of favoring some sort of hard-core digital rights management, and then to an open, no-protection scheme (with other good features, too, like unlimited re-downloading of purchases). Now the E23 e-book store is one of the very best in gaming, with great stock and great service, and to the best of my knowledge, a very low rate of pirate redistribution.

Which is to say, for Steve in this matter, fears were the beginning of an experience rather than its conclusion.

I don't quite know how to do it, but I wish there were more ways to encourage people to make contingent judgments about unfamiliar and rapidly changing subjects. This goes, I guess, with one of my other major concerns, about the forces that weigh against people (men in particular but not exclusively) saying "I'm afraid of this" and not having that turn into a weapon against them. It'd be easier to talk about all of this stuff with fewer manifestos sought or demanded.

#311 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 03:56 AM:

CHip @ 298: have you seen Fame (the original movie, not the series)? Remember what the music auditioner told the guy with all the electronics? I think that's what a lot of us are on about..

I remember it well. My response then, and my response now, is that he can bite me.

#312 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 04:50 AM:

@305 Every so often I meet someone who doesn't vote, and doesn't understand that it's a duty.

Is this specifically in a USian context, or are you casting your net a little wider here?

#313 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 06:06 AM:

Because GWL is many things, but his success and his intolerable air of smugness suggest that he is not, in fact, an idiot.

I was afraid you were talking about GWB there before I looked back and saw "success".

#314 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 06:17 AM:

C.E. Petit @ 212: "All of which is a somewhat roundabout plea for people to ensure that they know what they're talking about before they use technical terms regarding legal situations. It is not lost on me that Mr Burt would have been well advised to do so himself."

Just because a word has a specific legal definition doesn't mean that people aren't allowed to use it in a casual context. I have no compunction about describing Burt's actions as fraud, whether or not it is legally actionable on those grounds: he deliberately misrepresented himself as having authority that he did not, and he misrepresented the potential legal consequences of noncompliance with his demands. That fits the commonly accepted definition of fraud well enough for my needs.

#315 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 06:43 AM:

CHip #298: Lord of Light was the first Zelazny novel that I read, at the age of 14. It blew me away. When I reread it, which I do every few years (though I don't currently own a copy), I find it still does.

#316 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 07:27 AM:

Xopher, I hope you don't think less of me because I don't agree that voting is a "duty."

#317 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 08:13 AM:

Jim @ 302:

And if Tor wanted to produce inexpensive e-book versions of the Mageworlds books I'd do nothing but smile.

You wouldn't follow up with a request for payment? Perhaps Cory's critics have a point.

#318 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 08:23 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @#317:

Doesn't "inexpensive" imply "payment?"

#319 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 08:49 AM:

#315: Lord of Light is a great book, but the last time I reread it I couldn't help but see the underlying "real topic" - 1960s reactions to colonialism. I kept waiting for the peasants to organize, start guerrilla resistance, and throw out all three factions of gods. But, then again, any book with fundamentalist Christian zombies ...

#320 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 08:58 AM:

#317: Implicit in Jim's remark is the fact that we own e-text rights already, and that our standard contract carries provisions for sharing e-text income with the authors should we either decide to publish e-editions, or sublicense such rights to another publisher.

#321 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:00 AM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @316...
Xopher, I hope you don't think less of me because I don't agree that voting is a "duty."

I'm of the opinion that on one hand, people who can't be bothered to vote should also not be bothered to complain about who was elected. On the other hand, if people are willing to complain -and- also do something, my mental scales balance out.

#322 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:39 AM:

John@288, oops. My bad.

#323 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 315

What you said about Lord of Light. Of course, I read it when it came out in the 60's and so I was primed for the theme that Jon Meltzer talks about. But what really struck me (since politics takes a back seat to understanding human relationship to the universe in my personal cosmos), was Sam's sermon on knowledge versus experience, which was one of the clearest explications of Buddhist thought I'd come across back then.

Though that book did have one negative consequence: I liked it so much that the first couple of times I read "Creatures of Light and Darkensss" I continually compared the two, and missed a lot of what was going on in Creatures that wasn't directly comparable.

#324 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:26 AM:

306 Obviously I wasn't clear enough: I wouldn't "require" them to disemvowel my response because I'd keep it civil. I must admit that message 306 is unusually civil for this poster, who has a history of... well, never mind, let's just say that I'm not that poster's favorite member of the ML amoeba.

I'm sick to death of people who claim that everyone who disagrees with them should be "deleted," even in purported fun. In the present world, that's called (among other things) the Islamic Republic of Iran (or the Bush White House; ideological distinctions are less relevant than sheer ideology). It has had many other names at many other times in the past, and will have many other names at many other times in the future. It isn't funny to me. It probably isn't funny to Jim Macdonald (notice that I said "probably" because I'm not speaking for him, but based only on inferences from our shared former profession).

314 By all means, be casual when casual is called for. Just don't mix casual comment with phrases like "legal consequences," because then nobody can really tell which is casual and which is serious... especially when part of a quotation appears later without the full context. And, especially, don't do so if you're trying to engage in activism on that issue at the same time.

One of the reasons that good lawyers tend to make lousy conversationalists is that good lawyers tend to surround their points with context in a way that is almost as difficult to follow as this sentence, in a conscious or unconscious attempt to avoid miscommunication with someone who reads only the punch line. One of Cory Doctorow's gifts as a writer is that he does a pretty good job with the punch lines; one of the problems I have with him as a public intellectual is that, when he's excited, he tends to separate his punch lines from context in a too-often misleading way. Of course, most of us fall prey to that latter problem in one way or another.

Unfortunately, there's also a converse to the above: Most lawyers who are pundits tend to be very, very sloppy about ensuring that their Fox News-style soundbites have any links to their underlying contexts whatsoever (that is, they're not good lawyers... but that's an argument for another time). The various commentators on the OJ trial were a depressing, but all too typical, example: Every single one who appeared on the national networks in the two days after the verdict gave a misleading explanation of the verdict, because they failed to note that the burden of proof is so extraordinary. And most of the public comments on the Grokster decision from the Supreme Court failed to account for the procedural posture of the case: Not that the Supreme Court held Grokster et al. liable, but that the trial court should not have exonerated them and should have allowed the matter to go to trial.

#325 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:41 AM:

Jon Meltzer #319: I read it as having more than one real topic. Political freedom and decolonisation is certainly one, but religion (and the power it wields) is another, and so are human relationships.

And, as you say, any book with zombie Xtian soldiers in it...

#326 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:54 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #323:

Lord of Light did spoil my reaction to Creatures of Light and Darkness, in part because I kept wanting Set to be Sam and he wasn't.

I agree that Zelazny's version of the Fire Sermon is a wonderfully clear explication of Buddhism.

#327 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 11:03 AM:
Being able to use the DMCA as a threat, while dodging the DMCA protections against false witness, suggests something in the legal system is broken.
While I'd agree that the DMCA is broken, this doesn't seem to me to be a DMCA-specific thing and doesn't imply to me any fundamental problem with the legal system. Anyone can use anything legal as a threat (i.e., not physical violence, anything that would constitute blackmail, etc.), but that does not mean that the recipient of the threat has to give in to it. For example, if someone writes something nasty about me, I can send them an e-mail threatening them with a libel suit, but unless they wrote something actually libellous their proper response would be to ignore me. As far as I understand the whole Burt/scribd thing, the proper legal response on scribd's part would have been to say "that's not a proper DMCA takedown notice."

Of course, since I am not a lawyer, the probability that I have gotten this wrong is 1, within epsilon.

#328 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 11:31 AM:

Adrian 312: I was thinking of a US context, but in fact I believe that the price of democracy is responsibility. I believe that it is the responsibility and duty of every eligible citizen in a democracy to vote whenever there is an election, and to be as informed and sensible as possible about every such vote.

If an election is a complete sham, then boycotting it makes sense. But boycotting an election is equivalent to a declaration that you are not, in fact, living in a democracy at all, so the duty above does not apply.

There are those who believe that the freedom NOT to vote is a critical freedom in a democracy. I don't disagree with that (or at least not very strongly), but I think that every person who makes that choice is choosing wrongly. (Just as I think Vox Day is a complete ass, and that almost everything he says is wrong, but I would object very strongly if the government were to step in and shut down his blog or imprison him for his admittedly asinine statements.)

I don't think "there are no good choices" is an excuse. Adults choose between incomplete goods, slightly differing mediocrities, and lesser and greater evils every day. Asking them to do it in the voting booth doesn't seem excessive.

I believe that democracy is a system in which the responsibility for political decision-making is held by the citizenry as a whole. In the US, that responsibility is delegated in almost every case, and the Constitution provides the structure for that delegation. But qualified electors are not relieved of that responsibility by not voting; they merely shirk it.

Patrick 316: I do not think less of you because you don't agree that voting is a duty. I'm curious why, though.

C.E. 324: A lot of non-lawyers were quite startled when I told them that based on the evidence shown to the juries (criminal and civil), I probably would have voted the same way they both did. Certainly the evidence was hugely in favor of his guilt, but there was reasonable doubt in my mind...even WITH the evidence the jury wasn't allowed to see.

BTW, I don't think 'jury duty' is just a name, either.

#329 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 11:39 AM:

aburt strikes me as the kind of politician who pushes through legislation that just happens to benefit the little business investment he has on the side.

(ie, his iFiction thing, etc.)

#330 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 11:45 AM:

316, 328 Not speaking for Patrick: I think of neither voting nor jury service as "duty."

They're rights and privileges.

It's too bad that the system does not make them attractive enough (specific example: Veteran's Day should become another nonfloating federal holiday, set on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November — and it should be enforced as a holiday with at least as much vigor as are Xmas and Thanksgiving). They're worth embracing precisely because the choice to embrace them is what those of us who are veterans were actually fighting/potentially fighting for, not because someone says we have to do them.

That's a "privilege," not a "duty."

#331 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Hmm. I think we may be using different definitions of 'duty' here. To me something can be both a duty and a privilege.

#332 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 12:16 PM:

" I think we may be using different definitions of 'duty' here. To me something can be both a duty and a privilege."

Some privileges may entail a duty: Best Man at a wedding has a duty to safeguard the ring.


#333 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Apropos #320, I'm still somewhat pissed off that the only time I've ever been called for jury service, I had to write a letter to the sheriff's officer that said " ... but I've got an urgent appointment with a cardiology professor that morning." (Yes, I was telling the truth, and yes, I asked if I could show up late; they said "don't bother" and a month later sent me a letter saying I was discharged without asking whether I was fit to serve. Humph.)

#334 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:27 PM:

James Nicoll linked to Pournelle's response.

"In fact, the President and Board adopted all the recommendations of the study committee."

On the other hand, the SFWA announcement says: "Moved, [...] that Exploratory Committee Recommendations #1, 2, and 4-10 be adopted (or the materials be reviewed for updating, in that many already exist)".

I'm not sure how Dr. Pournelle plans to reconcile those two statements.

#335 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:28 PM:

From George R.R. Martin's post - The part that really makes me gnash my teeth is where I see young writers saying that they don't see what they can get out of joining SFWA, so why bother?

Maybe it's a generational thing, I don't know... but as I see it, SFWA is not about what you can get out of it, and never has been. Damon Knight did not form the group to boost his career, way back when. Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Poul Anderson, Gordon R. Dickson, Joe Haldeman, Jane Yolen, Roger Zelazny, and so many more did not give up time and energy they could have devoted to writing novels and short stories to serve as SFWA officers because they thought they'd benefit from the networking, or get higher advances, or win a Nebula. It was all about improving the field. Writers helping writers. Paying forward. Heinlein said it best. You cannot ever hope to pay back the people who helped you when you were starting out, so instead you pay forward, and try to lend a hand to the ones who come up after you.

To paraphrase JFK, one of the heroes of my own generation, ask not what SFWA can do for you, ask what you can do for SFWA.

Which is the exact opposite of what Toby Buckell, and others have been saying. They're not saying "what can SFWA do for me" they're saying that, as a service organization, it sucks more than it puts out in terms of helping people. It's inefficient, and sometimes downright counter purpose to what they want as a means of helping others, not as a means of getting things for themselves.

Martin assumes people are quitting or dissing SFWA because they're self centered, and he implies that his generation is less greedy.

He then goes on in comments to defend Burt being appointed, make the claim that "adopting" the recommendations of the comity proves that the SFWA board acted in good faith.

Also, Pournelle wants us damn kids to get off of his lawn, lets us know what a fink Cory Doctorow is, and laments the fact that SFWA is not the RIAA.

PPS. Pixel splattered techno-pesants!

#336 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Bitching is one way of providing a vital feedback loop between the population and the government. It might be irritating to those who govern but it's arguably better than having the population occasionally explode into mass violence as a means of policy modification.

I've often said to other people on committees that while limiting the information that leaks out to the rank and file might buy some short-term peace, the long term consequences of cutting off communication might well involve an angry mob waving re-tasked agricultural tools and this is why I am not invited to serve on committees any more.

Not voting might be sending another signal, like "None of the people running (Or in the US, neither of the people running) are people I can vote for, even if I hold my nose." For example I would not vote for Michael Ignatieff if by some horrific calamity he ran in my riding since he is a whiny pro-torture two-faced Ukrainian-hating windsock who only came back to Canada from the US because his buddies were willing to parachute him into an innocent riding, but I can't see voting for the other parties who run candidates locally. I mean, vote NDP? [Eyeroll].


#337 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:34 PM:

C.E., your posts don't seem to distinguish "the necessary and uniquely correct reading of an unambiguous principle applied to a clear situation, where I am well informed on both", "one of several recognized valid interpretations, which I favor over legitimate competitors for reasons I can explain", "an aesthetic or otherwise personal preference for one of many responses", "what I wish were the case even if achieving it might call for substantial restructuring", and several other categories. That is, it's not at all always clear that you're aware that you are a person who has a history and tastes, and not a perfectly pure transmitter of guaranteed correct evidence and application. Nor do you seem to notice that even if the latter were true, audiences such as this one are skeptical that such things exist and have had bad experiences with people claiming to be them, so that a pragmatic attention to efficiency would suggest another approach.

This isn't the first time I've made the comment, but your style still irritates me as much as ever and seems to be alienating others about as much as ever, and I'd like being less irritated and presumably you'd like to be winning more support for your ideas. Particularly if they actually are as correct as you think.

#338 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:43 PM:

Not voting may be sending a signal, but there's no guarantee that the signal you send is the same as the signal that gets received. There are too many possible signals consistent with that non-act.

By not voting, are you trying to send the signal "none of the candidates are acceptable", or "I'm content with the system as it exists now, so my input isn't required", or "I don't know enough to have a meaningful opinion", or "politics is boring", or "the entire system is corrupt, and nothing short of armed revolution could improve it", or "elections are meaningless because I don't believe my vote will be counted honestly", or "I'm too busy"?

Whatever signal you intend to send needs a bit of disambiguation.

#339 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 01:44 PM:

Josh Jasper at 335, you've kind of summed up what I've been trying to put into words about Martin's response. Sure, I want to help new writers, but my experience has been that SFWA is not the only or, often, the best way to do that. I'll staff the Alpha workshop for young writers, I'll critique, I'll point out people's sites with good advice... but just about everything I like about SFWA is there because of one or a few people, not because of SFWA. It's easier to work directly with those people than to involve the organization.
From all appearances, SFWA won't take what I'm willing to give.

#340 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Charlie, with full understanding and sympathy for your reasons for doing so, it's too bad you had to close your comment thread before I could explain to the "aw, c'mon, genocide?" guy what I meant by calling Vox Day's rhetoric genocidist (which is why it didn't come up on a search for 'genocide'), perhaps with a link to the blog post where VD advocates solving our illegal immigration problems with train rides, and explicitly states that we know it can be done because Hitler did it.

Oh well.

#341 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 02:24 PM:

338: "Whatever signal you intend to send needs a bit of disambiguation."

Which is where the bitching comes in.

#342 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Jackie @ 235:

Some recommendations for things that haven't been mentioned yet:

Wil McCarthy's Queendom of Sol tetralogy: The Collapsium, The Wellstone, Lost in Transmission, To Crush the Moon.

Bruce Sterling's Distractions.

Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, e.g., The Player of Games.

#343 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 04:44 PM:

midori @ #291:
I'm not a great example*, but the absence of a nym other than "Rachel" creates problems for identifying you as the Rachel from Scalzi's.
*on the other hand, I'm in it for the anonymity, not the continuity.

I've derived some mild entertainment from speculating on whether you're the Midori or, um, the other Midori.

(And probably you're neither, but feel free to leave me my illusions.)

#344 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 04:48 PM:

Re: #233 and who would have standing to possibly obtain relief from SFWA?

Many of these posts seem to focus on Cory Doctorow as the only, or primary, person harmed.

What about Ray Gun Revival, that small-press webzine that used scribd for distribution?

Has anyone investigated whether any of the other copyright owners of wrongfully-taken-down documents suffered actual damage?

#345 ::: Johne Cook ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 05:16 PM:

#344 - RGR recorded a nice post-hoopla surge in downloads at Scribd. However, the number of people actually downloading the biweekly issues from our site remains confined to a small but steady uptrend.

We're cool with that.

#346 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Hierisiarch @ 314:

I have no compunction about describing Burt's actions as fraud, whether or not it is legally actionable on those grounds: he deliberately misrepresented himself as having authority that he did not, and he misrepresented the potential legal consequences of noncompliance with his demands.

The evidence strongly supports the idea that Burt negligently misrepresented himself to Scribd. However, any sufficiently advanced negligence is indistinguishable from criminality.

#347 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 05:39 PM:

*delurks* Teresa - I've resisted a natural impulse to jump into the discussion both here and at Charlie's blog with both feet in my mouth, because I simply don't know enough about the subject - although I'm somewhat more knowledgeable than I was this time last week - and it's not really any of my business.

But Charlie closed down the comments on his blog before I could express my appreciation of your comment 205. Magnificent. The phrase I gesture meaningfully at him with my semi-erect pinky made my day.

*relurks*

#348 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 05:41 PM:

@325 (re Lord of Light) religion (and the power it wields) is another, and so are human relationships.

Oh, sure. But the decolonization parts have elements that, I modestly hypothesise, Zelazny was not himself aware of and are a function of the time when the book was written. He gives three choices: continue exploiting the suppressed people, guide them toward a more advanced society, or convert them to Christianity. Sam is the "good guy" so his Accelerationism is presented as the right way; and, to a 1960s audience, there's an "of course" reaction - we have a responsibility to train and uplift those that are oppressed, "bear any burden" and all that. But his approach is still as paternalistic as the other two, and the people (I am tempted to say "natives") are consistently presented as clownish and less than fully capable, thus biasing the situation even more. Is there a thought that the people might want to rule themselves without any interference? No. Sam is following the Powell doctrine of you break it, you own it; and, at the time (the book was written circa 1965), the idea that the US may better serve the "natives" by withdrawing and not further interfering at all would not have been thought to be properly liberal and moral.

#349 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 07:43 PM:

Pournelle also says:

Thus the future of the paperback market is of great interest to fiction writers, and particularly so to science fiction writers since our works are seldom kept in hardbound, but do tend to stay in print in paper long after Pulitzer Prize novels are forgotten. I don't know who won the Pulitzer for Literature in any year in the early 1960's, but I would bet most haven't been in print for 20 years; while the Hugo winners have probably been in print more or less continuously.

In fact, of the Pulitzer Prizes for fiction between 1960 and 1966,* all but one** are in print right now according to amazon.com, in either mass market or trade paperback. To Kill a Mockingbird is also available in hardcover.

*Advise and Consent, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Edge of Sadness (Edwin O'Connor), The Reivers, The Keepers of the House (Shirley Ann Grau), and Collected Stories (Katherine Anne Porter). There was no fiction award in 1964.

**It's not clear to me whether Advise and Consent is in print or there are just secondhand copies available.

#350 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 08:35 PM:

Jon@348: Hmmm....

Not to get all litcrit here, but I got a very different impression from Lord of Light than you; I thought "accelerationism" was the policy of letting the colonists develop on their own, as opposed to the theocrats' policy of deliberately retarding their development. (Although on a quick skim, textual support for this isn't great --- but there is, say, a reference toward the end of the bicycle being rediscovered, and not dug out of an old book...)

#351 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Ok, went to the bookstore tonight to get reading material for our flight to the UK for Christmas, and walked out with Brust's The Phoenix Guards and a book by Vernon Vinge rather than just the Terry Pratchett I had planned to buy. You are all making my life much more expensive (and if they'd had ANY of the Brust Omnibus editions, I'd have gotten all of those too. I'll get them from Amazon, I suppose.)

/wanders off grumbling about too many books and not enough time

#352 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:41 PM:

Xopher@328 I was thinking of a US context, but in fact I believe that the price of democracy is responsibility. I believe that it is the responsibility and duty of every eligible citizen in a democracy to vote whenever there is an election, and to be as informed and sensible as possible about every such vote.

But who is the duty owed to? Seems kind of...diffuse. I'm afraid I described my view of democracy on Charlie's blog a while back. From outside America, frex, the difference between Republicans and Democrats really doesn't seem to be that enormous, though I appreciate that when you get up close to the thinking of Ron Paul all kinds of baroque weirdness may show up. Britain's not significantly better, and Japan (where I live) is worse.

There are those who believe that the freedom NOT to vote is a critical freedom in a democracy. I don't disagree with that (or at least not very strongly), but I think that every person who makes that choice is choosing wrongly.

I don't think "there are no good choices" is an excuse. Adults choose between incomplete goods, slightly differing mediocrities, and lesser and greater evils every day. Asking them to do it in the voting booth doesn't seem excessive.

But many would consider voting to be showing implicit approval of a corrupt system. Politicians often interpret turnout as such approval, in my experience, albeit not generally copping to the corruption. What you need is the "spoiled ballot", which in the UK is the traditional way of saying "I turned up to vote, don't go calling me a slacker, but nevertheless...none of the above." Depending where you live in the US, of course, you may have been blessed with some evoting system which doesn't provide the option, price of progress I guess.

I believe that democracy is a system in which the responsibility for political decision-making is held by the citizenry as a whole.

Well, that's a little rosy-hued in my view. I reckon attempts were made to set it up that way, but that now the special interests who pay campaign contributions choose the range of political options to be presented, and the public turns up to toss the coin. Corporations and lobby groups are the real citizens now.

Cynical, I know, but he who pays the piper...

#353 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:17 PM:

Adrian, I think you're basically saying that democracy has collapsed. I can't necessarily deny that.

#354 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:24 PM:

RobertL

As best as I can tell from the cr*ppy search software Amazon is using, the last mass-market edition of Advise and Consent came out in 1992. It's probably about time for another one; the plot line is still sufficiently current.

#355 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:45 PM:

Jon@348: what natives? Lord of Light is a single-planet version of Rite of Passage; the crew have made themselves rulers (partly by amplification of natural talents which may or may not also exist in the general population, cf The Many-Colored Land ff) rather than doing their assigned job of fully ]preserving[ what was lost when Earth was destroyed. This isn't just "You broke it, you bought it"; it's more like the debts of slave-holders to slaves. Note also that Charles@50 is correct; it's specifically stated that the "gods" sabotaged developments that they in their at-most-human wisdom considered excessively hasty. After their final defeat, somebody invents a printing press -- IIRC for the nth time, but the first time that doesn't get the inventor crisped.

Or are you thinking they should turn the entire planet over to the rakshasa, who IIRC were the only sapient indigenes?

#356 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:53 PM:

Jon Meltzer #348:

You're right that Sam's Accelerationism is presented as the best way to help the people, though I'm not sure they're presented as clownish (now I have to reread it to see), but as mired in superstitions fostered by the gods who rule them.


Certainly it's paternalistic -- and Zelazny might have been surprised that such ideas had their roots in the liberal imperialism of J.S. Mill and even in the thought of Marx (perhaps not, after all, he did write 'you fertility deities are worse than Marxists'). But Sam is thinking in terms of the people governing themselves without assistance from the gods (which is why he takes himself off at the end, in order not to become a replacement for the pantheon).

#357 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 11:50 PM:

Xpher@353 Well, *collapsed* is a strong word, it's kind of *evolved*...

We are but mitochondria.

#358 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 11:58 PM:

Adrian Smith @#357:

We are but mitochondria.

As long as we're not midichlorians.

#359 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:13 AM:

Those sound even better than mitochondria.

#360 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:20 AM:

Jury duty is a legal obligation. If your name is picked, you have to serve, or you can potentially go to jail. Voting is not a duty in that sense of the word. (A couple months on jury duty, trust me, it's not like voting. You have to show up.)

But I think some of the objection to the term is that "duty" not only implies some sort of obligation but also implies some sort of internal
drive should be present that would make you "want" to do your duty. Which makes the term far too loaded that I just avoid it.

I don't think people must be compelled to vote. I do have a slight problem with people who try to convince me that they're somehow taking the 'high ground' by not voting. Not voting seems to be the last hold out of disempowered, and what better way to deal with feeling disempowered than by overinflating the effects you have by "not voting". You take your disempowerment and turn it into a big "F-You" to the political parties, the process, yada, yada, yada. That'll show them. They'll have to come begging to me with a far better candidate to get my vote.

Whatever. While I don't feel that voting is a "duty", or that people should be compelled by law to vote, I certainly don't feel obliged to put up with self delusional excuses made to justify giving up the last bit of direct influence you can have on an election. If your "not voting" is the big power play, me actually voting is what? exactly? An act of weakness? Selling out? I don't buy it.

#361 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:24 AM:

Chip@355: in addition to the Rakasha, there's mention of another species of indigenous sophonts in Lord of Light, though one nearly extinct --- the Mothers of the Glow, whose last survivor defends the city of Keenset...

#362 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:24 AM:

/wanders off grumbling about too many books and not enough time

Hey, that's way better than the other way around.

Got paided! Getting books now!

#363 ::: Jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:26 AM:

I checked. Advise and Consent is not in print. On the other hand, the movie still is, and one hopes (depending on contract) that the writer is still getting royalties from that.

Bookfinder is a better source than Amazon for telling you whether a book is in print; you can click to have it tell you to return new results only.

#364 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:42 AM:

"Charles Dodgson" @ 361

As I recall (I don't have the book right here) there's also mention of a race of fire demons on another continent; Yama and others go off to conquer them, thus keeping them out of the colonists' hair.

#365 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:03 AM:

Greg L., #360: "While I don't feel that voting is a "duty", or that people should be compelled by law to vote,"

Personally, I think perhaps we'd be better off if it were, and we were. At least, elections would stop being polls of a self-selected sample of the cranky and the responsible.

#366 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:26 AM:

Adrian, #352: I know a lot of people here in America who claim that there's no significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Almost all of them are straight white Christian males. If you fall outside that cluster of traits, you'd better believe there's a difference. But that would be harder to see from outside the country if you're not hearing about our internal politics.

I think of voting as a duty owed to yourself and your fellow citizens. People who say they don't vote because "it won't make any difference" make me crazy for 2 reasons:
1) If everyone who said that actually went out and voted, it would DAMN SURE make a difference!
2) By not voting, they are helping to ensure that my vote makes no difference -- because the loons and the theocracy-pushers will always get out and vote; what we're missing is the rationals.

#367 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:40 AM:

Lee - The mother of a friend of mine always says* "If you don't vote, you can't complain without being a hypocrite. I like to complain, and I don't like hypocrisy."

That's always seemed a good a philosophy as any.

*Tongue firmly planted in cheek

#368 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:51 AM:

#349: but I would bet most haven't been in print for 20 years;

Advise and Consent is currently out of print; the most recent edition came out in 1992. That is to say, fifteen years ago.

The rest, as you note, are in print right now.

#369 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 02:56 AM:

Adrian, #352: I know a lot of people here in America who claim that there's no significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Almost all of them are straight white Christian males.

Oh dear, three out of four.

If you fall outside that cluster of traits, you'd better believe there's a difference. But that would be harder to see from outside the country if you're not hearing about our internal politics.

Well, they seem to agree on so many aspects of overall direction and philosophy that the differing tolerances for variations in lifestyle choice come across as garnish, though obviously if that garnish was going to impact me I'd take it more seriously.

#370 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 09:39 AM:

Lee @ 366

I don't think there are fundamental differences in philosophy or ethics and integrity between the average Republicrat and Demican politicians; as evidence, note that few of the Dems are advocating forcefully for the restoration of the civil liberties the Reps have been highjacking over the last 7 years. The main difference that I see, and I think it's a useful one for those of us who are seriously not interested in seeing what happens if this goes on, is that the Dem party structure has not been coopted by a Borg-like collective of power-hungry ideologues in the way the neocons have done to the Reps. In fact, the Dems have very rarely been able to act in as coordinated a fashion as the Reps, becase they have historically represented a number of, shall we say immiscible, interests. This makes them more amenable to compromise, collaboration, and cooperation, which are necesary traits for the survival of a representative democracy.

#371 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 09:45 AM:

me @ 370

Previewing my last post, it occurred to me that the situation in the major political parties isn't very different from what's happening in SFWA right now. Two large factions, split over many ideological and practical issues, have reached a point where any debate quickly escalates to grid-locked trench warfare, with no compromise possible. The only solution I see in either case is to break the monopoly of institutional power of one faction; not to destroy the faction, just to open the playing field* up so that some sort of dialog becomes necessary to get anything done. Thus we come 'round to the original topic

* it was a metaphor mash, a graveyard smash.

#372 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 09:58 AM:

A few miscellaneous observations —

I'm one of the non-white-male-Christians who believes there is little difference between the Democrats and Republicans; both parties are much too conservative for me, and their organizational structures and power games resemble the Renaissance Vatican more than makes me comfortable.

I've been informed that Advise and Consent would probably be in print but for an ongoing legal dispute.

If you really feel that none of the candidates offered on the official ballot are satisfactory, write one in. That's far more effective a protest than merely not showing up at the polling place. No matter what the election monitors try to tell you, or how difficult they try to make it, you have a Constitutional right to cast a ballot for a candidate of your choice... even if that happens to be Zippy the Pinhead. And the election officials have a constitutional obligation to count and announce that vote.

#373 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 10:33 AM:

It's exactly the same here. This regression to the centre is all very well, nicely stable, no radicals around here, nope, uh-huh, yeah. Only there's no choice. Rudd reminds me of a cabbage patch doll both for looks and substance, and his main care seems to be not to say anything that someone might take offence to.

Howard was out to screw the workers with the largest bore helical scourer available, and everyone knew it. I'd like a Labor crew with some counterfire in their bellies. And a little honest outrage wouldn't go too far wrong either.

#374 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 10:44 AM:

Lee @ 366... I know a lot of people here in America who claim that there's no significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Yeah, that one is such a crock of you-know-what. Sure, both sides can be bought by money, but, to quote San Francicsco columnist Rob Morse, it's like saying that toasters and VCRs are the same because they both run on electricity.

#375 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Serge 374: And I assume you're saying the Republicans are the toasters, since they're monomaniacal, come in only 12 models, and ultimately will exterminate humanity if not stopped?

#376 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 11:18 AM:

Xopher @ 375... I wasn't sure which side was the toasters, but you are right. That would explain Ann Coulter.

#377 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 11:31 AM:

No, Serge, I was speaking of the humanoid models.

#378 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 11:49 AM:

Xopher @ 377... Well, if we're going to start splitting wires...

#379 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Bruce Cohen, #360, "I don't think there are fundamental differences in philosophy or ethics and integrity between the average Republicrat and Demican politicians" The average, yes, the majority, no. My sense is about half the Congressional Democrats are conservatives (including apparently Obama, who appears to be an opportunist). This beats the 95%+heavy party discipline radical right of the Republicans, but only a little. It's a very clear sign of how undemocratic the USA is, that roughly 75% of our national legislature is far to the right of the citizenry.

#380 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:50 PM:

Me 375: You forgot monotheistic.

#381 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:06 PM:

The correct term is "member of the P6".

Where P6 is an acronym for "Pale Patriarchal Protestant Plutocratic Penis People".

#382 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:30 PM:

#381:"Pale Patriarchal Protestant Plutocratic Penis People"

What a cool way of putting it!

There's a '50s song parody waiting to be written with that phrase...

#383 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:32 PM:

I always heard that acronym with "Polar" as well, although I suppose that might be considered redundant with "Pale".

#384 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:58 PM:

"I'm one of the non-white-male-Christians who believes there is little difference between the Democrats and Republicans; both parties are much too conservative for me"

So you actually believe that the Bush administration's policies on, say, the environment, reproduction, science, etc, are the same as what we'd see in a Democratic administration?

Really? So in your world Bush didn't actually come in and change a bunch of stuff, because Clinton left it all just perfect?

#385 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Note that the wide stance Republicans are members of P7, not P6.

(P7 = "Pale Patriarchal Protestant Plutocratic Penis People Perverts". Because by their own party line what they're doing is perverted, whether or not we think there's anything wrong with it: and because "hypocrite" doesn't begin with a P, dammit.)

#386 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 02:17 PM:

C.E. Petit #372 If you really feel that none of the candidates offered on the official ballot are satisfactory, write one in. That's far more effective a protest than merely not showing up at the polling place. No matter what the election monitors try to tell you, or how difficult they try to make it, you have a Constitutional right to cast a ballot for a candidate of your choice... even if that happens to be Zippy the Pinhead. And the election officials have a constitutional obligation to count and announce that vote.

Burdick v. Takushi is no longer controlling? When did that happen?

#387 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 02:24 PM:

Only if 'patriarchal' is redundant with 'penis'.

#388 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 02:25 PM:

C. E. Petit at @372:

If you really feel that none of the candidates offered on the official ballot are satisfactory, write one in. That's far more effective a protest than merely not showing up at the polling place. No matter what the election monitors try to tell you, or how difficult they try to make it, you have a Constitutional right to cast a ballot for a candidate of your choice... even if that happens to be Zippy the Pinhead. And the election officials have a constitutional obligation to count and announce that vote.

Actually, there is no constititutional right to a write-in ballot, at least under the US Constitution. (That might be different under a specific state constitution.) In the 1992 case Burdick v. Takushi (504 U.S. 428) the Supremes ruled that Hawaii's prohibition of write-in ballots did not, in itself, violate the Constitution as long as the overall scheme of electoral access was adequate. A key line in White's decision was near the beginning:

Petitioner proceeds from the erroneous assumption that a law that imposes any burden upon the right to vote must be subject to strict scrutiny. Our cases do not so hold.
Ironically, one famous recent case could appear to reverse this decision, at least in part -- Bush v. Gore. That decision required intervening in just the kind of electoral issue that the Supes had stayed out of before, for reasons that contradicted their own decisions. Even with the attempt to limit use of BvG in future cases, that decision is one big chad hanging over election law -- which out of necessity will be reversed in some way at some point.

#389 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 02:26 PM:

Ah, Todd, you beat me to it.

#390 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Very belatedly... I see that I touched off quite a flurry of sort-of-nastiness with my gripe about the Nebulas. Yikes. That isn't what I was hoping for.

I suppose I plead dangerous levels of naivete: I never once thought that one had to be a current, paying member of SFWA to vote in the Nebulas. If I thought about it at all, I figured something vague like "anybody who's ever been a member" or "anybody who's demonstrably eligible" could vote. Silly me, in retrospect.

#229: I was initially responding to the notion, put forth in #141, that the nebulas are more interesting than the hugos and possibly (though this wasn't stated, just implied) better than the hugos.

Actually I just meant "more interesting," specifically to me. I find that I like Nebula-only winners better than I like Hugo-only winners; YMMV. It might just be that a lot of Hugos have gone to books I dislike, so that award doesn't really provide me much guidance.

#391 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 03:12 PM:

#384 Jon H: Word. This is a comment I left over at the SF Chronicle just 5 days ago, on an article on the CAFE standards bill:

Democrats focus on renewable energy and conservation. Republicans focus on spitting in the ocean OH WAIT "drilling in Alaska". The people who say "oh there's no difference between the parties" need to smack themselves upside the head. Republicans are going to filibuster a bill because it doesn't throw good oil after bad, because it saves oil (a resource we will need for plastic in the future) in America by reducing oil used in total... They're going to filibuster a bill that moves towards a solution because they're so in denial that they don't even admit there's a problem. Republicans think everything can run on credit cards: government, oil, topsoil... Like there will always be enough bonds, natural resources, and unpolluted land so that future people can cover today's incontinent spending sprees. There's the difference in the parties for ya.

You have to be consciously ignorant to claim there's no difference between the parties.

#392 ::: Total ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 03:55 PM:

You have to be consciously ignorant to claim there's no difference between the parties.

[snark]
Or a Nader supporter...oh, I'm sorry, that was implied.
[/snark]

#393 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 05:09 PM:

Democrats focus on renewable energy and conservation.

Any achievements you could point me to? Not saying there aren't any, I might be ignorant, but I don't want to be consciously (if that means deliberately) so.

#394 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Do the Nebulas have an associated parody award, like the Hugos have the Hogus? If they don't, I suggest they be called the Nebbishes. heh.

#395 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 06:00 PM:

The election-law scholars I correspond with uniformly agree that Burdick is no longer good law — some due to Bush v. Gore, some due to provisions hidden inside of McCain-Feingold. Basically, Burdick says that "write-ins aren't constitutionally mandated unless there's no other means of ensuring ballot access"; McCain-Feingold, among other things, says "there's no other means of ensuring ballot access". And I can't condense the Bush v. Gore reasoning well enough.

#396 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 06:04 PM:

384 You're asking me to choose between two brands of "not even minimally acceptable," which is something I try to avoid doing.

"Sir, would you rather be drawn and quartered, then hung, or just hung?"
"Is there a non-fatal choice?"
"I'm afraid not."

#397 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 06:46 PM:

C.E. 396: 1) There's a difference between saying "I find neither of them minimally acceptable," and saying you believe "there is little difference between the Democrats and Republicans," as you did at 372.

2)While I agree that neither "drawn-quartered-hung" nor "just hung" (hanged, dammit, but that's another argument altogether) is minimally acceptable, any sensible person would choose "just hung" without hesitation. But then I vote for the Democrats.

I think the difference between "don't object too much to slow erosions of civil liberties" and "push through massive slaughters of civil liberties" should be obvious. SLOW BAD IS BETTER (i.e. less bad) THAN FAST BAD. Would you rather be hanged on St. Stephen's Day this year, or on St. Valentine's next year? Clearly neither is acceptable, yet unless you're a fool you choose St. Valentine's Day, which gives you more life, and therefore more chance at reprieve, pardon, or escape.

(I suppose there are some people who don't actually know what being drawn and quartered actually means. I'll just say that probably you wouldn't even notice being quartered and hanged after being drawn, and being drawn is MUCH worse than being hanged—even though both result in death.)

#398 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Surely quartering would generally be the last step in nearly all variations of the execution recipe?
Wouldn't more people know HD&Q since Braveheart? I didn't see it, but I believe it ends with a fairly graphic & gory hanging, drawing & quartering. Hmmm. With that, Passion and Apocalypso, Gibson does seem to go for the gore.

Even in the old-style hanging, which was more slow strangulation than attempting a quick snap of the spine, 'just hung' seems preferable.

#399 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 07:40 PM:

Xopher @ 397:

The hanging came first.

The full sentence was: "That you be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck and being (still) alive cut down, your privy members shall be cut off and your bowels taken out and burned before you, your head severed from your body and your body divided into four quarters to be disposed of at the King’s pleasure".

#400 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 08:08 PM:

The Helen Mirren version of Elizabeth I has a scene of hd&q and the part of them partially reviving you after hauling you down before the rest starts so they can show you your innards.

#401 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 08:12 PM:

And, from various accounts, the drawing isn't that painful, once the intial incision is completed.

I'll forego sharing the details.

#402 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 08:31 PM:

C.E. Petit @395 -- do you have any pointers to more information on this subject? As far as I can tell, none of the organizations working for more open ballot access are aware that Burdick is no longer good law, and you'd think they'd be interested in such news.

Oklahoma's ban on write-in candidates was mentioned in passing as recently as May of this year in a state appeal's court decision upholding Oklahoma's now-even-tougher ballot access laws (we said it was constitutional in 1988, so it must still be even with 30 fewer days to comply; 2 choices should be enough for anybody!), without, as far as I can tell, a peep from either side's lawyers.

#403 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 08:43 PM:

C.E.Petit @ 396... "Sir, would you rather be drawn and quartered, then hung, or just hung?"

How about well hung?
(C'mon... Someone had to make that joke.)

#404 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 09:05 PM:

Xopher #387: Phyllis Schlafly is a constant reminder that it isn't redundant.

#405 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 10:00 PM:

John Chu, #382: Oh ghod, now my brain is trying to set it to "One-Eyed One-Horned Flying Purple People Eater," but it doesn't scan -- too many syllables.

#406 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 10:52 PM:

Xopher @#397:

yet unless you're a fool you choose St. Valentine's Day,

WHAT? And spoil the most romantic day of the year?

*flutters eyelashes*

#407 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 10:55 PM:

Bruce@364: IIRC, the Rakasha are the fire demons; they may have been on >1 continent.

Greg@360: That form of jury duty is obsolete; but AFAIK very little of the country has caught on to the one day, one trial system.

#408 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Hung, Drawn & Quartered is the name of a pub near the Tower of London, Jim took photos of it when he decided he wanted to walk back to the apartment after our Tower tour. (we were staying in a flat on Buckingham Gate before we went to Glasgow, an entirely satisfactory way to visit London.)

It was a very strange visit to the Tower, it was the Sunday before the most recent Glasgow Worldcon started and it seemed that a lot of the traveling worldcon fans were at the Tower at the same time.

I'd want to be hung first. I've read descriptions about people who were just drawn and quartered. Eeeuw.

#409 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 11:33 PM:

Mary 406: Right now, nothing would please me more.

Hope this isn't a formulaic response.

#410 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 12:18 AM:

#393: In the comment you quoted I talked about the CAFE bill. The latest Chronicle article I have open in another tab is this. Google has a news search at news.google.com if you'd like to read more.

#411 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 12:45 AM:

Anyone who says we'd be in a six year, trillion dollar, thousands of american lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, quagmire of an occupation in Iraq whether Gore had won in 2000 or Shrub...

needs a serious punch in the mouth.

The line forms to the right...

All the same? My ass. They're measurably different, in lives lost, dollars lost, both current and future.


#412 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 12:48 AM:

"Any achievements you could point me to? Not saying there aren't any, I might be ignorant, but I don't want to be consciously (if that means deliberately) so."

Nobody's saying there aren't a bunch of spineless cowards and wimps among the Democrats. But that's a different thing from saying there's no difference between the parties.

(I expect the GOP has plenty of cowards and wimps, they're just cowardly and wimpy in a different way. Or really the same way. The GOP members are afraid of their leadership. The Dem members are also afraid of the GOP leadership, and the flocks of flying reactionary poo-flinging monkeys in the media.)

In the end, it's undeniable that Bush came in and policies changed dramatically.

It seems the definition of "both parties being the same" is "I wasn't happy in the Clinton administration, and I still wasn't happy in the Bush administration, ergo, the parties are the same."

#413 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 03:18 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @408:

Sadly, if they hung (hanged?) you, they would cut you down before you were dead so you could then be drawn and quartered.

This is why the phrase "hanged by the neck until dead"* came to be. Because there were alternatives.

-----
* Although if they thought you were dead and you later revived, you were still done with your sentence. Half-hangit Maggie, for instance, lived forty years after her date with the noose.

#414 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 03:24 AM:

I was reading elsewhere today about the felony murder concept and its abuse, and I think that as a description of relationships it's very relevant to comparing the US's major political parties. The Democrats have as a party collaborated in a great deal of evil. But they've initiated almost none of it, and within the party there are a lot of folks (in office as well as in the rank and file) who publicly dissent from the leadership's embrace of war and total executive power, and some of them are doing what they can to press for effective change. The Republican machine took all the precedents available from both parties and then cranked everything up past 11 to 15 or 42, and there are no prominent dissenters against any of this who aren't as or more kooky than the leadership. Republicans in the rank and file who dissent pretty much either go quiet or get pushed out of the party.

There is in the Democratic Party a real effort to restore what I was raised to think of as the rule of law, and of competence. Its prospects don't look very good to me for the 2008 elections right now, but it is there and active, and if electoral politics survives in any meaningful form for the next few election cycles, it may yet swing the party in a good direction. There's nothing comparable in the Republican Party. The one really visible dissenting effort is even more exuberantly hostile to the entire 20th century project of social reform than the Republican leadership. There's literally nobody visible in the Republican Party to support if you were interested in reviving Eisenhower-era conservatism - no conservative counterpart to passionate but moderate liberals like Paula Murray and Chris Dodd, or social democrats like Dennis Kucinich. If the current Democratic leadership can be deposed or at least fenced in, there'll be viable alternatives immediately at hand. This isn't true of the Republicans.

This strikes me as a thoroughly meaningful difference.

#415 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 03:47 AM:

Grunk. Patty Murray. Sorry.

#416 ::: A.J.Hall ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:05 AM:

Actually two of my ancestors were h,d &q (which I've always thought of as smacking of carelessness).

And on the subject of people who went through the death penalty and out the other side Babbacombe Lee, the man they couldn't hang is perhaps the most famous one (Ashley Hutchings has a rather good song dedicated to him).

#417 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:34 AM:

Abi @ 413... Half-hangit Maggie, for instance, lived forty years after her date with the noose.

That's so yesterday's noose.

#418 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 06:09 AM:

"They're not people. They're Democrats."

- from The Day the Earth Stood Still

#419 ::: Andy Wilton ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 06:18 AM:

HD&Q, ugh! As a child of perhaps 9, I was traumatised by graphic depictions of 16th/17th century English justice in a history book my parents bought me*. It wasn't just the butchery of it that got me but the deep-down unfairness of the whole system: you were there to be convicted, and if the prosecuting counsel didn't do a good enough job, the judge was liable to take over. I was particularly haunted by peine forte et dure in that regard.

* This was the 1970s, and there was some unwritten rule that history books had to be gruesome. The same book featured woodcuts of (IIRC) Dutch atrocities against English settlers in the East Indies. Rats were involved: also, large quantities of water and a funnel...

#420 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 08:15 AM:

#414:

Republicans in the rank and file who dissent pretty much either go quiet or get pushed out of the party.

Or jump. John Dean comes to mind; I think acknowledging that some ex-Republicans saw where the party was going and decided they didn't want to go there is giving credit where credit's due.

#421 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 09:21 AM:

I think that voting is a duty and a responsibility in the same sense that car maintenance is a duty and responsibility. If I slack off on it, things may go violently pear-shaped for me and some nearby innocents some time soon. It's not a duty enforced by human-made law, but rather by the natural and inevitable consequences of non-action.

A future in which I didn't vote is never going to be as good, to me, as a future in which I did. Insofar as I want me and everyone else to live in a future I like, it is my duty to vote.

Lee @ 366: "I know a lot of people here in America who claim that there's no significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Almost all of them are straight white Christian males. If you fall outside that cluster of traits, you'd better believe there's a difference."

Seconded. I think that "there's no real difference between the Democrats and Republicans" has to be one of the more effective Republican propaganda tactics of recent years. They shown themselves quite adept at seeding the meme-scape, haven't they?

Earl Cooley III @ 394: I vote for the Nebulous. (You might think that that'd be a single award, but it's not quite that clear-cut.)

#422 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 09:43 AM:

Heresiarch (#421): Well said! And Xopher's "SLOW BAD IS BETTER (i.e. less bad) THAN FAST BAD" also resonates with me.

The only time not voting might be an effective tactic is in cases like what just happened in Venezuela, where the poor did not rubber stamp Chavez's moves against democracy as he'd expected. (I suppose a rough equivalent here would be evangelicals sitting out an election rather than going all the way over to the Dems.) But otherwise,we need to set aside our hatred of politicians -- however understandable it may be -- in order to slow down the Bad and vote for the lesser of two evils.

As for write-ins, they might make you feel good about yourself, but remember the likely outcome in any close race: a vote for Nader might as well have been a vote for GWB.

#423 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:02 AM:

Madeline F@410: In the comment you quoted I talked about the CAFE bill. The latest Chronicle article I have open in another tab is this.

Hmm, 2020, that's some deferred pain there.

Anything involving funding?

#424 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:07 AM:

I do think that Nader voter bashing can get out of hand. We need to keep focused on the primary perpetrators of the election theft in 2000, and Nader wasn't one of them. The movement conservative machine had been pushing people by the many thousands off voter rolls, virtually certainly rigged voting machines to miscount votes by the thousand or million, and had the whole legal apparatus ready to go, too. It's not like they would have given up if Nader had been whisked off by the UFO gods along with all his voters, after all.

It's appropriate to criticize Nader for morally dumb language, and some of his defenders for perpetrating it in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. But Nader voters didn't in any very interesting sense make that outcome happen - they were used, and if they hadn't been, the machine would have used somebody and something else.

#425 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:15 AM:

Hmmm... When a thread mentions Nader, is that a sign that it's about to implode?

#426 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:31 AM:

Jon H@412: In the end, it's undeniable that Bush came in and policies changed dramatically.

I think of presidents as being pretty much beyond the reach of party discipline most of the time, and at that level most people are voting for the person as much as if not more than the party, eg all those folks who said Dubya looked like he would be more fun to crack a beer with than Al, at least if he were still allowed to drink. It's really about the legislators, who buys them, how interchangeable they are, whether this recent cottaging trend is just a flash in the pan etc.

#427 ::: jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:34 AM:

abi@413: Not guaranteed, alas. Clemency for the once-hanged was a matter of choice. Which does seem unfair, but there you go.

A.J.Hall@416: I am envious of your distinguished forebears. The best I can muster is a Bermudian privateer. I had a co-worker once who was descended from St. Thomas More, which is, I think, as showy an ancestor as one can hope for.

#428 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 11:09 AM:

I may or may not have notable ancestors. My mother tried tracing our lineage one time, but most records were destroyed in the Chicago Fire. She picked up the thread somehow (with, of course, the reduced certainty that that entails) and soon discovered that many records further back were destroyed by fire in Dublin (there doesn't appear to be a fire big enough to go by the name "The Dublin Fire," unless my Google-fu is at fault).

On my mother's mother's side, the name 'Dougherty' (aka 'Doherty', 'Daugherty', 'Doharty', and by many other names) pretty much says it all. It means 'unfortunate' in Irish Gaelic. There are D[choose your spelling]s all over Ireland, but mine appear to come from the highest concentration, which is in Donnegal (dun na nGall, "fortress of the invaders"). Hard to trace, because of that.

#429 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Xopher:
The fire in Dublin was in 1922. There are some records of other kinds still around.
(I was reading about records for people in the north, which had a lot of records that were in Dublin in 1922.)

#430 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Xopher... Any fire in your kitchen recently?

#431 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 11:35 AM:

I voted Nader in 2000 - although not in '04 - because I live in Texas, and making the statement about the value of a viable third party was more practical than pissing in the wind with the rest of the state against me. (I love Austin, and wouldn't live anywhere else, but the electoral system depresses the hell out of me.)

#432 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 11:46 AM:

abi@#413, your link says that Maggie was condemned to death for contravening the Concealment of Pregnancy Act 1690.

Why on earth was concealment of pregnancy a crime punishable by death? (Well, OK, this was the 18th century, when breathing wrong was punishable by death, but this seems rather inequitable even for a 17th-century law.)

#433 ::: Total ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 12:01 PM:

"Hmmm... When a thread mentions Nader, is that a sign that it's about to implode?"

I think we might have a parallel to Godwin's law here.

#434 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 12:19 PM:

I've got a direct-line male ancestor who ran a brothel and cockfighting pit: he was born fairly rich, but his children were born destitute.

There's also one who founded a Cambridge college and 'officially' had no children, being a Catholic bishop, although oddly the children he didn't have inherited his estate and were treated as legitimate in law; and a great-grand-uncle (I think it is: dad's great-uncle) who built working model steam trains large enough to ride around on. (He also did some organ playing e.g. when Elizabeth II was crowned, and did a lot of composition, but the steam trains are enormously more interesting.)

Everyone has interesting ancestors if you look back far enough. Many ancient rulers had so many children that the question isn't 'is anyone here descended from X' but 'what percentage of the people here are descended from X'. (Genghis Khan is the example often given.)

#435 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 12:31 PM:

Nix @432:

As far as I am aware, the Concealment of Pregnancy (in Scotland) and Concealment of Birth (in England) laws were tied in with the legislation around abortion and infanticide.

Within British legislation as it stood at the time*, until the baby was entirely out of its mother's body, it was not a separate person in law. The death of a baby before birth might be abortion or stillbirth; the its death afterward might be natural, accidental, infanticide** or murder.

This was a problem for the authorities, who didn't always know what happened. To sweep the whole matter up, they would often charge a woman with concealment of (birth/pregnancy). The penalties decreased steadily from parity with abortion and murder to lesser crimes as time went on.

This, of course, had the dreadful effect of opening the mothers of stillborn children to prosecution. I gather that, like loitering laws, it was only applied when the prosecutor was convinced†† that the mother had done something to cause the baby to die, but could not prove whether it was before or after birth.

I also gather that it was not often applied to women from wealthy or powerful families.

-----
* and until the 1920's, according to my copy of Taylor's Medical Jurisprudence (1965)†
** infanticide was defined as a circumstance where the mother's "acts or omissions cause the death of her child in its first 12 months of life, while at such time the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child, or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child". It was an automatic downgrade of the penalty from that applicable for murder to manslaughter.
†† wrongly or rightly
† a fascinating and horrifying book, detailing the effects of many poisons and dreadful events, with black and white photographs and little case studies‡
‡ A much earlier edition is referenced in Busman's Honeymoon, by Dorothy L Sayers

#436 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Nix @434: My given name, "Nelson", I have because an ancestor owned the foundry that made the cannons that armed HMS Victory. As a celebration of one of Horatio Nelson's victories, he named his firstborn son "Nelson" and henceforth the firstborn of each generation gets the name. In the last generation it was my mum's turn, but my grandparents had mercy and hid it as one of her middle names. (Since her maiden name is also a common male name, Mum now has three middle names, all of them traditionally male first names.)

#437 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 12:49 PM:

My maternal grandmother was a Weiser, which takes my family back to Conrad Weiser, who was apparently some kind of awesome in colonial Pennsylvania. Not awesome enough to make it into my Midwestern history books, but still.

#438 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 03:08 PM:

#423: Hmm, 2020, that's some deferred pain there.

You should look into the time it takes from the impetus to design a car until the car is sitting on a showroom floor.

Anything involving funding?

I've answered your questions twice, before you asked and after. It's now your turn to answer your questions. Only you can choose to redress your own ignorance.

#439 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Cary Elwes, the actor, is apparently descended from William the Conqueror. Which means that his particular branch of the Elwes family is well-documented on the net. but the connection to his cousins who own Elsham Hall is somewhat fuzzy.

I used to live in a house once owned by the Wright family, who were entangled in the Gunpowder Plot.

And one of my Grandmother's cousins farmed at Twigmoor, which had been the hang-out of one of the plotters, Kit Wright.

On the other hand, the family belief of a connection with Sir John Franklin seems spurious.

#440 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Faren Miller @422 The only time not voting might be an effective tactic...

There's at least one other time: on some questions in Oregon (maybe only ones raising taxes?), to be enacted the question has to pass by what they call a "double majority": a majority of the people who vote on it have to vote yes, and a majority of the registered voters have to vote on the question.

Thus, if you're opposed to the question, it may be advantageous to not vote rather than to vote no.

This has had the effect of making Oregon one of the few places where the Democratic party has incentives to weed unlikely voters from the registration lists, cooperating with (or at least not opposing as strongly) the Republican disenfranchisement schemes; I haven't figured out if this was part of a brilliant strategy on Bill Sizemore's part or just a fortuitous (from his point of view) coincidence.

#441 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Faren Miller @422: [..] Xopher's "SLOW BAD IS BETTER (i.e. less bad) THAN FAST BAD" also resonates with me.

Probably contradicts the point, but I'm recalling a bit by a 1950s comedian (remember seeing a black and white TV appearance, but didn't recognize the performer). It went something like:

I'm driving, and I slow down at the intersection, look around and continue through.

I'm pulled over by a cop, who says "You didn't come to a stop at the stop sign".

I say, "I slowed down. Stop, slow down, what's the difference."

So the cop pulls out his stick, and starts beating me.
And he says, "Now, do you want me to slow down, or do you want to me stop?"

#442 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 07:10 PM:

I'm torn between pointing out that one side of my genaealogy stops at a bill of lading, which is absolutely true, and pointing out that part of one of the most important literary works in Western culture is dedicated to an ancestor of mine. So I've done both.


#443 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 08:10 PM:

Fragano Ledgister #442: part of one of the most important literary works in Western culture is dedicated to an ancestor of mine

Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is dedicated to one of your relatives? Cool!!

#444 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 08:36 PM:

Ah that's why someone turned up on my blog this afternoon looking for the Concealment of Pregnancy Act. I turn my back on Making Light for a couple of days and people start telling stories I actually know for once*.

On an unrelated note, about a week ago people were talking about the Queen abdicating; suprisingly that's a power the monarch doesn't have. Parliment would have to pass an Act.

* I learnt it by reading the menu in the pub named after Half Hangit' Maggie

#445 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 11:02 PM:

Dave Luckett @373 said:
It's exactly the same here. This regression to the centre is all very well, nicely stable, no radicals around here, nope, uh-huh, yeah. Only there's no choice. Rudd reminds me of a cabbage patch doll both for looks and substance, and his main care seems to be not to say anything that someone might take offence to.

Howard was out to screw the workers with the largest bore helical scourer available, and everyone knew it. I'd like a Labor crew with some counterfire in their bellies. And a little honest outrage wouldn't go too far wrong either.

I quite agree, and while I'm pleased that we finally have a Labor government again, I can't say I'm that excited by Rudd or any of the Ruddtones. I'm vividly reminded of the South Park episode where the kids had to vote for a new school mascot, and the choice was between a "Giant Douche", and a "Turd Sandwich". The upshot was that in elections it's *always* a choice between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. I came away from our recent election night coverage thinking, well, the Giant Douche won. Yay.

(I would dearly love to be wrong about Rudd, et al, and that a Golden Age of progressive and enlightened government is waiting to unfold around us, but I'm not holding my breath.)

#446 ::: Greg M. ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:39 AM:

Amen to that, Bruce Baugh@$24. And for the really ugly details on 2000, you can consult Greg Palast's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" (Chapter 1) which, among other things, discusses the more than 300 Americans (most of them African-American) who were falsely listed as having committed crimes. How do we know they were false? The dates they were supposed to have committed the crimes… were 2007. And other wonderful then-future years.
The next time a conservative claims, "You liberals can't name *one* person who was prevented from voting," you can reply "Thomas Cooper. Listed as committing a crime in 2007. In the year 2000." There are other names in the book, too.
Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, the whole rotten lot need to go to prison. All of 'em.
Sigh.

#447 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 01:16 AM:

(I would dearly love to be wrong about Rudd, et al, and that a Golden Age of progressive and enlightened government is waiting to unfold around us, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Whoever wins, a politician gets in.

I figure they'll spend their first term quietly - don't want to spook the horses. But at least they've ratified Kyoto and set a date for getting out of Iraq in their first week. And SerfChoices is going. So, yeah, so far it's just been unmaking the ghastly mistakes of the past. Rudd is no Whitlam, but he's no Howard either.

#448 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 05:31 AM:

Faren @ 422: Thank you! But:

"As for write-ins, they might make you feel good about yourself, but remember the likely outcome in any close race: a vote for Nader might as well have been a vote for GWB."

I'm going to have to disagree. People who voted for Nader were stupid because Nader would have been a terrible, terrible president, not because "it might as well have been a vote for Bush."

Politics is a process of constantly renegotiating the possible, and the endless, mindless, repetition of "voting for an outside third party candidate is equivalent to voting for the opposite party" serves only to define the possible in ever narrower terms. Speaking as someone who'd like to see substantial leftward movement in politics, encouraging politicians to believe that their extreme wings have no choice but to toe the line strikes me as a bad idea. Politicians should be afraid of losing their constituents to an outside challenger; it keeps them from drifting ever inward.

This can't be an idle threat: if the party continues to drift away from you, you can't simply support it just because it's better than the alternative. I recognize that the bulk of politics is choosing the lesser of two evils, but the rare moments when people stand up and create a brand-new, least evil are when real progress is made. These moments can't be sacrificed out of a false sense of pragmatism. Politics exists in a state of punctuated equlibrium, and those sudden leaps forward are crucial. They don't happen when people are afraid to take risks.

#449 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 08:35 AM:

#448: I think you and Faren Miller are both right. On one hand, third parties are crucial to American politics. One of them may knock out one of the existing big two. Otherwise, currently more likely, one of the big two may shift its positions to accommodate the ideas espoused by a third party. One way of moving a party where you want it is to support a third party.

On the other hand, when it comes to the actual voting, given the American style ballot, Faren is absolutely right. In an American presidential election, there is no way to say "I want Nader to win, but, failing that, I'd rather have Gore than Bush." So, if in a two candidate race, those Nader voters would have voted for Gore, Nader's presence in the three candidate race would have, in fact, swing the election for Bush. (Equal time: Not all Nader voters would have voted for Gore. Some of them would have voted for Bush. Many of them would not have voted at all. I'm not blaming Gore's loss on Nader voters.)

This doesn't make third parties any less crucial to American politics. It just means that they may be more effective as an indirect influence on elections rather than a direct one.

Now, if we voted for the American President the way we voted for the Hugos...
(Well, not exactly like the Hugos. There may be years where the winner fails the "No Award" test and then what do we do?)

#450 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:47 AM:

John Chu (#449): Thanks for clarifying what I had meant to say! You put it much better.

And Serge (#425): What, no "nadir" pun?

#451 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:55 AM:

John Chu @ 449

We'd have to do without for another four years, as my mother would say.

#452 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:40 AM:

I voted for Nader in 2000. I live in New York state, and there was no way that it was not going for Gore. In NYS, lots of smaller parties "crosslist" their candidates, so it is possible to vote for (e.g.) Jane Smith (Democrat) on the Green Party line. If a party gets enough votes, their position on the following year's ballots is guaranteed, and they don't have to collect petitions and signatures to get candidates on the ballot in the following year(s). So I voted for Nader to support a third party that would drag the Democrats toward the left, in a state that was a shoo-in for Gore. It was not a vote for Bush.

[TV announcer voice]
Political calculations may vary in other states.
[/TV announcer voice]

#453 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:06 PM:

Cary Elwes, the actor, is apparently descended from William the Conqueror. Which means that his particular branch of the Elwes family is well-documented on the net. but the connection to his cousins who own Elsham Hall is somewhat fuzzy.

Lots and lots of people are descended from William the Conqueror. Like me. For those with some English ancestry I suspect it's not that rare. What was more fascinating to me was the rapid descent through the social classes that happens in a multi-generational series of daughters and younger sons.

#454 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Lots and lots of people are descended from William the Conqueror. Like me. For those with some English ancestry I suspect it's not that rare.

I read somewhere* that anyone English alive today is the descendant of every person alive in 1066 who has living descendants, because there just weren't that many of them. Basically, if you're descended from one you're descended from them all.

Proving that descent is of course an entirely different matter, even if the factoid above is true.

*: I have no idea if it's true, any more than the "12% of men from China have Genghis Khan's Y chromosome" thing.

#455 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Of course, the most fun in digging into one's forebears is finding entertaining names. Among mine, my favorites so far are "Hermanus Shook" and "Bassingbourn Throckmorton."

(Variations in spelling make this fun/tricky. "Hermanus" is possibly a variant spelling or degeneration of "Hieronymous," for example.)

#456 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 04:09 PM:

Nix @ 434: Everyone has interesting ancestors if you look back far enough. Many ancient rulers had so many children that the question isn't 'is anyone here descended from X' but 'what percentage of the people here are descended from X'.

Paul Revere had 16 children, that we know about. (Oh, that midnight ride!)

On my mother's side, I descend from the New England Indian-killer John Underhill. On my dad's side, I'm a descedant of Confederate admiral Raphael Semmes. My ex was a descendant of his adversary at Mobile Bay, David Farragut, which probably explains something.

#457 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 04:19 PM:

ctate @ 455

Frittisweed or Fridgswith Vincent (female) is on mine. (But the Throckmortons are connected to me, somehow and somewhere.)

I heard about someone who walked into a local genealogy society meeting and announced that he'd found out he was descended from Charlemagne. He was insulted when people started snickering. (The game there is more 'how many ways' than 'whether'.)

#458 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 06:31 PM:

The most beautiful name I can come up with on the side of the family that the genealogist had a run at was Rava Jane Martin. Ravishing, I says.

(The other side has highly unimaginative names like Eunice and Bertha.)

#459 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 07:19 PM:

I'm related to a fellow who signed the Declaration of Independence*. I don't know if I think that's important - back that far I have an awful lot of relatives that I am equally closely related to. I mean, if I don't know him, and he's only, at most, responsible for 1/64th of my genetic code...?

*from Britain, not one of the other ones.

#460 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 08:21 PM:

Carrie S.@#454, that's why I was emphasising direct male-line descent (sure, it was arbitrary, but direct female-line descent for me wanders off into areas where I don't speak the language and nobody has done the research and virtually everyone is dead almost at once).

But all these distant things are questionable, given bastardy rates. But I can be certain of my (non-direct-line) relation to the steam-engine fanatic organist Sir Walter Alcock. (We even look fairly similar, and of course pre-photography it's hard to be sure of that unles a portrait survived. Sharing the same surname is sort of a clue as well, which also isn't available with most lines of descent.)

#461 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:05 PM:

My most interesting ancestor has to be Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart's librettist for Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutte et al. He eventually emigrated to the United States and ran a grocery store in Philadelphia and a bookstore in New York, among other things. I'm sorry to say I haven't followed our genealogy closely enough to say exactly where he fits in on my mother's side.

#464 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 07:36 PM:

New SFWA tee-shirts (all proceeds to the Emergency Medical Fund):

Farting Rainbows (and the explanation)

Safe for work:

SFWA Interplanetary

SFWA Fantastic

====

For another way to contribute to the Emergency Medical Fund: Atlanta Nights.

#465 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 06:30 PM:

From the Copyright Committee changeover letter:

The bottom line of the current... situation... is that the previous mistakes made, however small or large one wants to make them out to be, have created an environment both within SFWA and in the public where every move of the new committee will be examined by those who seek to oppose our goals and the wants and needs of our members.
Not by those who agree with said goals and wants and needs, but who merely object to the methods so far used?

Just as the interrogation methods of the US military and intelligence agencies "will be examined by those who seek to oppose our goals and the wants and needs of our citizens" -- not by those who agree with said goals and wants and needs, but object to methods like torture?

Way to go! Demonize the critics! Give us all such faith that fairness and even-handedness will be the New Order of the Day!

The question may arise, what would I do (or have done) different than Andrew in regards to Scribd? It would be foolish of me to try and second guess what is already water under the bridge. Mistakes were made and that is over and done with. We must move forward, rather than backward.
Given that by definition an SFWA member is a professional writer, I'm amazed to see such a concentration of clichés in succession. That reads like a parody of a political speech. But then, it is a political speech.

I hope this is (as PNH's Sidelights link comments) "a step"... in the right direction... but the above snippets raise my hackles.
 

#466 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:58 AM:

Pyre @465:
Charlie Stross has a more conciliatory response (and he did kick off this current kerfuffle). See his Comment #2 too.

#467 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:46 PM:

Nix (@432) & abi (@435): It appears that "concealing a birth" is still an offence in New South Wales. This is a report on developments in a recent distressing case.

#468 ::: Marty Busse ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 12:23 PM:

Jonquil@363: The author of Advise and Consent is dead, so he isn't getting any royalties. Don't know about his estate, though.

PJ Evans@354: I read advise and Consent not too long back, and it was really interesting. One thing really surprised me. I'll put it in white to avoid spoilers. (Highlight it if you want you to read it.)

Gur zna jubfr nccbvagzrag vf orvat chfurq ol gur Cerfvqrag vf, ol gur raq bs gur obbx, erirnyrq gb abg bayl or ylvat nobhg uvf zrzorefuvc va gur Pbzzhavfg cnegl, ohg ur'f nyzbfg pregnvayl n Fbivrg ntrag..ohg ur raqf hc trggvat n tbireazrag wbo gung qbrfa'g vaibyir pynffvsvrq vasbezngvba, naq gur nhgube cerfragf guvf nf n snibenoyr erfbyhgvba. Guvf oyrj zl zvaq-V'q unir gubhtug n gevny sbe crewhel naq/be rfcvbantr jbhyq unir orra zber nccebcevngr.

Allen Drury, the author, wrote some other interesting things, especially the journals from the time when he was a wire service reporter who covered the US Senate. This was during the New Deal and WWII, and it makes very interesting reading, especially for people who aren't aware of how devious and manipulative FDR was.

#469 ::: Marty Busse ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Ack! My apologies I tried using the font tag on that text, and it didn't go through.

I apologize to anyone for whom I may have spoiled Advise and Consent. There's a lot more to the book than that, but still, I made an error. Mea maximum culpa.

#470 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 12:31 PM:

Marty @468:
White text doesn't work in the blogging software we use.

I've ROT-13'd your text instead.

#471 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 12:40 PM:

Marty 468: Here's a site to do (or undo) ROT13 easily.

#472 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2009, 09:47 AM:

Pendrift @474:

I am sorry to hear about your student. Suicide is really difficult to deal with.

#473 ::: fidelio sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2009, 04:34 PM:

At least, I think so--it has a link and while anyone can be incoherent, this has a special sort of spambot incoherence to it, IMO.

#474 ::: C. Wingate sees more busted spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 05:01 PM:

... lacking in coherence too.

#475 ::: Raphael sees even more spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2009, 06:21 AM:

Written by Babelfish?

#476 ::: Chris W. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2010, 11:43 PM:

484 and 483 seem full of lunch meats

#477 ::: Xopher spies SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2010, 01:02 AM:

Kinda obvious, Mr. Rating.

#478 ::: fidelio sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2010, 03:06 PM:

Um, spam. Spamity spam spam spam.

#479 ::: Cadbury Moose sights spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 11:52 AM:

The spammer in this thread is singing like a canary - with laryngitis.

#480 ::: Lee sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2010, 02:29 AM:

@ 493

#481 ::: abi is on the spam-zapping case ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2010, 02:37 AM:

Just got up. I'll clean it all up now.

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