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April 29, 2011
Joanna Russ, 1937-2011
Posted by Patrick at 04:38 PM * 75 comments

Go, little book, trot through Texas and Vermont and Alaska and Maryland and Washington and Florida and Canada and England and France; bob a curtsey at the shrines of Friedan, Millet, Greer, Firestone and all the rest; behave yourself in people’s living rooms, neither looking ostentatious on the coffee table nor failing to persuade due to the dullness of your style; knock at the Christmas garland on my husband’s door in New York City and tell him that I loved him truly and love him still (despite what anybody may think); and take your place bravely on the book racks of bus terminals and drugstores. Do not scream when you are ignored, for that will alarm people, and do not fume when you are heisted by persons who will not pay, rather rejoice that you have become so popular. Live merrily, little daughter-book, even if I can’t and we can’t; recite yourself to all who will listen; stay hopeful and wise. Wash your face and take your place without a fuss in the Library of Congress, for all books end up there eventually, both little and big. Do not complain when at last you become quaint and old-fashioned, when you grow as outworn as the crinolines of a generation ago and are classed with Spicy Western Stories, Elsie Dinsmore, and The Son of the Sheik; do not mutter angrily to yourself when young persons read you to hrooch and hrsh and guffaw, wondering what the dickens you were all about. Do not get glum when you are no longer understood, little book. Do not curse your fate. Do not reach up from readers’ laps and punch the readers’ noses.

Rejoice, little book!

For on that day, we will be free.

—Joanna Russ, The Female Man (1975)

ADDENDUM: TNH remembers Joanna.

April 26, 2011
The End of Information
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:50 PM * 159 comments

Think of it as the Library of Alexandria burning.

This is just a tiny example:

An e-mail sent Tuesday to registered [Friendster] users told them to expect “a new and improved Friendster site in the coming weeks.” It also warned them that their existing account profile, photos, messages, blog posts and more will be deleted on May 31. A basic profile and friends list will be preserved for each user.

That’s what’ll become of most of what we’ve written; no letters bound with a red ribbon in the attic, no diaries in a trunk in the basement. Blog posts, pictures, and all, will vanish.

Can you find the archives of the SFRT on GEnie, back from the day? The stories, the essays, the discussion? Where can you read the messages from the Speculations Rumor Mill?

This is the age that will leave no records.

April 24, 2011
Happy Easter
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:15 AM * 32 comments

[Easter Card]Q. What does the Easter Bunny get for making a basket?
A. Two points.

Q. How do you send a letter to the Easter Bunny?
A. Hare mail.

Q, What do you call the Easter Bunny when he visits Santa Claus?
A. Cold.

Q. Where does the Easter Bunny eat breakfast?
A. At IHOP.

April 23, 2011
Meanwhile, in Mesa
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:30 PM * 24 comments

Mesa Fire Honors 9-Year-Old For Saving Sister’s Life

Brief version: Two-year-old goes missing, turns up in the backyard pool. Nine-year-old does CPR until the medics arrive. Happy ending and smiles all around. Nine-year-old gets tour of fire station and gets to wear a firefighter hat.

There’s video.

Point one: 9-1-1 got called early on. No matter how good your CPR is, you want to get help rolling sooner rather than later. The EMTs don’t mind responding to a situation that’s all better by the time they get there.

Point two: It’s almost impossible to do CPR wrong. Within certain very broad parameters, doing anything is better than doing nothing.

Point three: While we haven’t had the roll-out yet, compression-only CPR is coming; if you don’t feel comfortable giving breaths, don’t do ’em.

Point four: The nine-year-old learned how to do CPR by watching Black Hawk Down, an R-rated movie. Presumably he saw it with his parents, who discussed it with him afterward.

Point five: While you can learn CPR that way, most EMS you see in movies ranges from bad to very bad. Take a CPR class. Take a First Aid class.

Point six: Summer’s coming. Drownings happen. Vigilance, folks.


I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

Open thread 157
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:09 PM *

Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamourous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
—Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

Extensions? Additions?

Back to Open thread 156.

April 22, 2011
Look! Up in the Sky!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:18 PM * 24 comments

I hear the International Space Station viewing is excellent these days. All you have to know is where to look.

It’s large, it’s low, and in the hour after sunset and before dawn it’s the second-brightest thing in the sky (behind Venus).

The only trick is knowing where to look, and our friends at NASA have a Java applet for that. In the US, it reads out time, elevation, and bearing by ZIP code. Outside the US, they have some major cities listed, including Glasgow, Amsterdam, and Melbourne.

A bit more on How to See the Shuttle and Space Station From the Ground.

So that’s why I’m going to be on a hillside, looking northwest, from 9:21 to 9:26 tonight.

April 21, 2011
Yog’s Law
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:36 AM * 74 comments

Yog’s Law is very simple: Money flows toward the author.

[Yog's Law tee shirt]

The corollary is: The only place a writer signs a check is on the back.

For commercial publishing this is absolutely true, and, I hope, intuitively obvious. Once you’ve moved away from it, you’re out of the realm of commercial publishing. Note: True self-publication is a subset of commercial publication.

(I skip over academic publishing—that’s its own field, and rewards come not in money but in prestige and tenure. You’ll know that you’re in academic publishing when you personally are an academic, you’re writing on an academic subject, and the folks you’re talking with are called the [Something] University Press.)

The next stop is vanity publishing. Here you find the so-called “self-publishing services” along with the true vanities. In this area, the publishers run the gamut from A Very Bad Idea right the way down to An Out-And-Out Scam, with a vast morass of well-intentioned-but-under-capitalized and well-intentioned-but-incompetent in between.

From an author’s point of view, there’s no practical difference between a scammer and an incompetent: Both are time-and-money sinks; neither will get your book into the hands of readers. Worst case: In addition to emptying your bank account you could lose your book for your life plus seventy years.

Yog’s Law will keep you safe from this part of the publishing landscape. Use it as your compass and your guide.

Last is true self-publishing. Yog’s Law is true here, too. Self-publishing is the part of the map where the author is the publisher and hires the editor, hires the cover artist, the typesetter, the proofreader, contracts the printer, buys the ISBN, arranges distribution, promotion, marketing, and carries out every other aspect of publishing.

What you need to recall is that while the author is the publisher, “publisher” and “author” are separate roles. One of the classic mistakes I see with self-published authors is that they don’t put “paying the author” in their business plan as an expense. The money still needs to move from one pocket to another. Those pockets may be in the same pair of pants, but that movement has to be in the business plan, and it must happen. Here, too, Yog’s Law is completely true, and will help the self-publisher run his/her business as a business.

If you can’t afford to put 10-15% of the cover price of every copy sold into a separate savings account, you can’t afford to self-publish.

Avoid unhappy surprises. Live by Yog’s Law.

April 19, 2011
The Write Agenda: The wrong company to keep
Posted by Teresa at 09:53 PM * 113 comments

Word to the wise: a new outfit calling itself The Write Agenda has been taking potshots at Victoria Strauss, Ann Crispin, our own Jim Macdonald, Absolute Write, Writer Beware, Preditors and Editors, SFWA, Atlanta Nights, and other entities that give newbie writers helpful information about the scams and nogoodniks that prey on them.

To state the obvious, The Write Agenda is not the kind of company you want to keep. For one thing, they’re attacking some of the best and most helpful resources for aspiring writers. For another, it looks like the site is either being run by Robert Fletcher of The Literary Agent Group, or C. Lee Nunn of American Book Publishing. Maybe it’s a collaboration. In any event, Fletcher and Nunn are both bad news.

See also:

SFWA Alerts for Writers.

Writer Beware’s Two Thumbs Down list of publishers.

Do some googling on your own about this subject. If you’re an aspiring writer and you don’t know how to do research, it’s high time you learned.

Addendum:

The Write Agenda has been following Making Light bloggers and commenters who have Twitter accounts. Patrick and I blocked them when we found them in our followers list. If you find them in your own list, do whatever amuses you most.

They’ve also posted a string of new blog entries denouncing me, Jim Macdonald, Yog’s Law, Ann Crispin, and other usual suspects, and an open letter to SFWA in which they misspell multiple names, grossly misquote Jim Macdonald and Robin Bailey, and demand that SFWA discipline, expel, and repudiate Ann Crispin, Victoria Strauss, and Jim Macdonald in order to preserve SFWA’s good name.

They do get one thing right, probably by accident: they point out that there’s an element of the argument ad hominem in my own remarks about the Write Agenda. That’s true! There is! And furthermore, it’s valid! There’s a long history of bad behavior on both their parts that tells us that if Robert Fletcher and/or C. Lee Nunn are associated with a project, prudent writers shouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

A further addendum, 21 July 2011:

The Write Agenda has continued to splutter and denounce the lot of us. I now have a couple of pages there devoted to me, starting here. There’s still nothing of any real substance; just angry grousing and griping. The only thing I find remarkable is the site’s repeated characterization of my writing as “narcoleptic babble.” I do believe that in all the years I’ve had that disability, this is the first time someone’s publicly thrown it at me as an insult.

Well, heck. We already knew Robert Fletcher and C. Lee Nunn were a class act.

Yet another addendum, 14 February 2012:

The site is being run by C. Lee Nunn, who runs American Book Publishing. A little googling will turn up specimens of her long and hair-raising history. Here’s a starter kit:

John Scalzi on The Write Agenda, being very Scalzi-ish.

The League of Reluctant Adults (a group of paranormal romance and urban fantasy writers) announce the creation of The Write Pretendas to protest being left off The Write Agenda’s list of authors to boycott.

Ann Crispin and Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware lay out the facts about C. Lee Nunn and The Write Agenda in The Agenda of The Right Agenda. There’s also a gallery of supplementary screenshots that document various points.

Finally, on general principles, the Absolute Write Index to Agents, Publishers, and Others. There is no better archive of information on this and other subjects.

April 15, 2011
Who am I to blow against the wind?
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 07:39 PM *

All lies and jest,
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

It’s often tempting, when so many people are wrong on the internet, to think that no one listens to counter-arguments or contrary views. Everyone seems to be trapped in epistemic closure, clinging to their tribal beliefs.

But then, despair often is tempting. And yet people do read and learn from posts they disagree with. Words do change minds. For instance, Louis Marinelli, who created and moderated a number of web properties for the National Organization for Marriage* and drove the bus in their 2010 “Summer for Marriage” tour, resigned from the organization this spring. Why?

Cathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping.
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike,
And they’ve all come to look for America.

It turns out that dealing with gay and lesbian protesters on the tour and corresponding with marriage equality advocates online made him see them as real people. Then looking at the tone of the NOM pages, which he describes as “hateful”, and doing a bit more thinking about the difference between civil and religious definitions of marriage finished his transformation from opponent to supporter. He has since issued a comprehensive apology and retraction, and now supports full civil marriage equality.

Nice to see. And good to find someone with the guts to apologize online. Lots of people on many sides of many issues could use to learn that one.

He looks around, around—
He sees angels in the architecture,
Spinning in infinity,
He says, Amen! and Hallelujah!

I was wondering what writing, precisely, persuaded Marinelli. I read the blog entry that turned his views around, expecting it to be pretty amazing. But it’s not. I mean, it’s clear and well set-out, but it doesn’t say anything that marriage equality advocates haven’t been saying for ages. The difference was that someone was ready to hear it.

He’s a one trick pony
He either fails or he succeeds
He gives his testimony
Then he relaxes in the weeds.

We never know, when we write online, who in our audience is at one of those tipping points. Nine out of ten passionate posts on important topics, or ninety-nine out of a hundred, might as well be writ on water. But all it takes is once; one time pays for all.

I’ve reason to believe
We all will be received in Graceland.

* See, Jim, there is a place for Wikipedia links.

April 13, 2011
Geeky standup comedy in NYC
Posted by Avram Grumer at 11:28 PM * 15 comments

My friend Sumana Harihareswara is working on a geeky standup comedy routine (“about project management, Linux, relationships, Agile, public transit, science fiction, and These Kids Today”), and needs an audience of science fiction and computer nerds in front of whom to practice it.

To that end, she’ll be performing for half an hour, starting at 7 PM, on Thursday, April 21st, at Seaburn Bookstore, 33-18 Broadway, in Astoria, Queens, NYC. Looks like it’s near the Broadway stop on the N/Q, and the Steinway stop on the M/R. (That Google map claims the E also runs through Steinway, but the MTA’s map says otherwise. The Internet knows all things, including wrong things.) Chris and I are going to be there. (I might also show at Pacific Standard on Friday, since I can walk there.)

You may also know Sumana, and her husband Leonard Richardson, as the editors and publishers of Thoughtcrime Experiments, a science fiction anthology published under a Creative Commons license.

Ask an Atheist
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:45 PM * 401 comments

Apparently, today was National Ask an Atheist Day, “an opportunity for the general public — particularly people of faith — to approach us and ask questions about secular life.” As Making Light’s token atheist, I figure it’s up to me to make myself available for questions. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about National Ask an Atheist Day until pretty late, and there isn’t much time left. So I’m skipping the question phase and going straight to answers:

  1. Nope, not ever.
  2. Yeah, sometimes.
  3. Not since Grant Morrison stopped writing it.
  4. Well, I don’t really see that as a distinction worth drawing.
  5. Take the N, Q, or R train to 57th Street, and walk one block north.
  6. I don’t know that it’s really a meaningful question, given that the key terms are never defined.
  7. A different breath weapon from each head.
  8. No, that would be a terrible idea.
  9. One’s an analogy Bertrand Russell came up with, another’s an early 3D CAD model, and the third’s a distinctive geological feature associated with a 1920s political scandal.
  10. Templar, Arizona, by Charlie “Spike” Trotman.
  11. Yeah, I’m pretty sure you could pick a dozen lines each from the Bible and the Koran and mix them together, and most Americans wouldn’t be able to tell which came from which book.
  12. Murray’s Bagels, Sixth Avenue, between 12th and 13th Streets. Be sure to ask for belly lox; that’s the real stuff.
  13. Well, I’m flattered, but no, thank you.
  14. It seems that somewhere between PHP3 and PHP5, they changed how to access environment variables, and that bolloxed things up. Took me two hours to find the problem, but just a few seconds to fix it once I found it.
  15. Well, I’ve seen different people use the word “numinous” to mean different things, so I really couldn’t say.
  16. Three: One to change the bulb, and two to perform “É il Sol Dell’Anima” from Rigoletto.
  17. You use it in the early game to pare down your hand by getting rid of Copper and Estates. Make sure to pick up some Silver or Gold first, or some Action card that grants a money bonus.
  18. Boxers.

I hope this has helped defeat stereotypes about atheism and foster courteous dialog among believers, unbelievers, nonbelievers, disbelievers, hemidemisemibelievers, and Unilever.

April 12, 2011
Fifty years up
Posted by Patrick at 09:04 AM * 45 comments

Today, as you have almost certainly heard by now, is the fiftieth anniversary of the (unbelievably dangerous—Yuri Gagarin was an amazing badass) first human space flight. There are a zillion commemorations and web pages happening, including the inevitable Google logo, but I love this one, simply because it’s so gratuitous.

A live flute duet between an astronaut aboard the ISS and the now-elderly Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull? While Anderson is on tour in the Russian city of Perm? That’s the sort of event no committee could have dreamed up; it happened simply because human beings are quirky. Colonel Grace “Cady” Coleman is a crazy Jethro Tull fan and Ian Anderson, it turns out, thinks people who risk their lives to fly around in space are pretty fucking cool.

Pre-acknowledged: arguments against human space flight as a logistical and economic priority; American space program as implement of imperialist hegemony; Jethro Tull as superannuated rock dinosaurs. Whatevs, dudes. Astronaut and Ian Anderson perform flute duo between Earth and orbit: cool.

April 11, 2011
A digression on literary categories
Posted by Teresa at 08:47 PM * 309 comments

My mind wandered while I was trying to explain marketing categories, and how they’re not solely determined by subject matter, to someone in a comment thread at Tor.com:

Say your book features a strange and powerful device, the Transnistrian Infundibulator:

If the storyline is about the inception, interim difficulties, and eventual happy resolution of the relationship between the inventor of the Transnistrian Infundibulator and some nice young woman, it’s a romance.

If he’s a scholar studying the Transnistrian Infundibulator, she’s a governess, and his best fossil specimen of T. infundibulator falls out of his pocket during a reception at Almack’s, it’s a regency.

If one or both of them is not 100% human, they meet cute while fighting off spooky badguys, and the Transnistrian Infundibulator is an ancient magical artifact they use to defeat said badguys, it’s a paranormal romance.

If she’s his lab assistant, he thinks she looks hot in goggles and a tool belt, and the Transnistrian Infundibulator is a huge rivet-intensive steam-driven mechanical wombat, it’s steampunk.

If the Transnistrian Infundibulator is magic, but instead of working like a handheld appliance, it generates profound and numinous changes that affect the world as a whole, it’s probably fantasy.

If figuring out who killed the inventor of the Transnistrian Infundibulator involves complex railway schedules, an old doctoral dissertation, and the exact whereabouts of all the houseguests on the night it happened, it’s a mystery.

If all the elements in the preceding paragraph are present, but are mere background to an increasingly convoluted series of unfortunate encounters, improvised excuses, assumed identities, and inadequate hiding places, it’s comedy of manners.

If the Transnistrian Infundibulator is a very important box with blinky lights on it, but its only perceptible function is to motivate asst’d spies, gangsters, goons, private investigators, international men of mystery, and hot babes to steal it/recover it/put it out of commission/get hold of the plans for it/etc., it’s an action-packed mystery, or possibly a thriller. If characters who already know how the Transnistrian Infundibulator works stop the action dead in its tracks while they explain it to each other, it’s a technothriller.

If the effects of the Infundibulator leave blood and brains splashed on the walls, and the last surviving viewpoint character winds up in a desperate hand-to-hand fight in the dark with one of its half-rotting revenant Transnistrian victims, it’s horror.

I stopped there, but you don’t have to.

April 10, 2011
*Spoilers* Sucker Punch *Spoilers*
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:16 PM * 209 comments

Once again it’s time for Red Mike Goes to the Movies!

Over in Open Thread 156, comment #455 and following, there’s mention of controversy surrounding the movie Sucker Punch.

It’s showing near me! (Near in the north country meaning “well over an hour by car.”) So I’m going to see it tonight, and report back to y’all.

No spoilers yet, but when I get back, there will be!

April 08, 2011
Goose, Cooked
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:40 AM *

[Canada Goose (Audubon)]How to cook Canada Goose:

  1. Slice off the breast meat; debone it.
  2. Marinate for a time that seems good to you, in your preferred marinade.
  3. Cook on a grill until rare to medium-rare.
  4. Slice thin.
Or:
  1. Stuff with mashed potatoes.
  2. Roast in the normal manner.
  3. Throw out the mashed potatoes.

Cooking With Light (Recipe Index)

April 07, 2011
Damn kids today! With their newfangled chrononaut suits!
Posted by Patrick at 04:02 PM * 98 comments

Via Rob MacDougall on Twitter: China’s General Bureau of Radio, Film, and Television has “called a halt” to further movies and TV programs about…time travel.

Let the jokes begin.

April 05, 2011
The teetering unsteadiness of Bill Keller’s moral high ground
Posted by Patrick at 11:39 AM * 36 comments

The consistently interesting zunguzungu takes note of the ongoing slapfight between Arianna Huffington and New York Times editor-in-chief Bill Keller, who has now asserted that “in Somalia” what the Huffington Post does “would be called piracy.”

What’s interesting about this has nothing to do with the well-documented failings of the Huffington Post (celebrity-penned anti-vaccine nonsense; a business model that depends on lots of writers working for free) or of the New York Times (too many examples to list; start with the runup to the invasion of Iraq). The squabble between Keller and Huffington, and particularly Keller’s latest rhetorical turn, would be striking if both publications were three times better than they are, or three times worse. Zunguzungu observes:

The more you talk about piracy, it seems to me, the more you bump into the uncomfortable fact that journalism is only distinguishable from word-piracy because, and to the extent that, we arbitrarily decide that it is. We have social conventions that determine what is and isn’t okay to say and steal, and how to do so—institutional rules defining the difference between socially useful activities and socially un-useful activities—but while those conventions are under particular stress right now (file this under “the internet”) they were also never quite as stable as we might have liked to think they were. Thi’ is not to say that they aren’t necessary, useful, and worth retaining, of course. They just aren’t written in stone, nor were they received from on high; they are a contingent function of what it is that we expect “the press” to do as part of the social function they fulfill. Which is why, ultimately, the kind of society that we believe “good journalism” will serve will be the determinant of what standards we use in defining what is good in journalism.

That line of thinking, however, would take the conversation in a different direction than either Keller or Huffington want it to go. This is because they are not, a such, interested in the social function of “the press”—for which, see Jay Rosen’s manifesto—but rather, in the business of profiting from their activities. This should not surprise us, but neither should it escape our notice: their job is to make information commodities, to secure ownership of them, and then find some way to sell them. “Real Journalism” talk, in that context, is just market fetishizing, a way of mystifying the work of social production that makes “news” possible, so that it can appear to be the original creation of whoever is selling it to you. Never mind all the different people whose unpaid contributions made the production of the story possible (the original tipoff, unquoted sources, quoted subjects, the reference works consulted, etc); they will not be paid or credited for intellectual labor, because of the magic thing that happens when the story has been published: having become news, it will subsequently be considered the sole production of the New York Times or whoever. And if Arianna Huffington steals it, now, she becomes indistinguishable from a Somali pirate. Once we have decided where ownership of information begins—whose intellectual labor counts and whose does not—then we can proceed to sell it.

Until 1891, American copyright law deemed the work of non-Americans to be in the public domain, which is certainly one way to jump-start an indigenous publishing industry into profitability. It does seem that, often, the people we condemn as “pirates” turn out to be simply those who got into the game just a little bit later than the original players.

April 04, 2011
Republicans vs. Religion & History
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:41 PM * 96 comments

As you may know, New Hampshire is another of the states with Republican-dominated legislatures that are trying to bust unions, remove collective bargaining rights, and otherwise support the bosses against the common people. And as you might expect, there have been rallies against this attempt to give the bosses even more power than they already have.

From today’s Union Leader:

[Manchester bishop] McCormack joined Jewish, Episcopal and other religious leaders at a massive State House rally Thursday to protest deep cuts in the House-passed budget, saying the spending plan would disproportionately hurt the poor, elderly, disabled and most vulnerable citizens in the state.

The bishop also took aim at the Republican-dominated House’s attempts to restrict public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Addressing the 4,000 to 5,000 protesters, McCormack cited the Catholic Church’s long-standing teaching that labor organizing is a “fundamental human right” and noted the “indispensable role” trade unions perform in promoting justice, especially during hard economic times.

So, how did the Republicans respond?
In response, [House Majority Leader David I.] Bettencourt attacked the bishop in a Facebook posting the next day in which the lawmaker called McCormack a “pedophile pimp who should have been led away from the State House in handcuffs with a raincoat over his head.”
Those of us who have done time in Internet forums will recognize the purest form of ad hominem.

Why is this a fallacy?

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).
Suppose Bishop McCormack is a pedophile pimp. That doesn’t mean that Republican union busting won’t disproportionately hurt the poor, elderly, disabled, and most vulnerable citizens in the state.

How did his fellow Republicans react to Bettencourt’s comments?

[House Speaker William] O’Brien, a Mont Vernon Republican, has said he shares Bettencourt’s opinions, but would have stated them more gracefully.

Speaking of labor, and the North-East states, over in Maine, the Republican governor, Paul LePage, has ordered murals showing American workers on the job be removed from the Maine Labor Department’s headquarters.
This week, Maine’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, went forward with his effort to scrub Maine’s Labor Department building clean of any reference to the movement that was responsible for the creation of that department: the union movement.

LePage argued that references to the union movement or union leaders were inappropriate in this state building (“one-sided,” his spokesman said) and ordered the removal of an 11-panel mural depicting workers in which unions also were portrayed in a favorable light.

At the same time, Maine’s labor commissioner has announced that she is erasing the names of labor leader Cesar Chavez; the first female presidential Cabinet member, Frances Perkins; and other pro-union figures from the Labor Department conference rooms that were named in their honor. She is holding a contest to come up with new, and presumably less labor-friendly, names.

May I suggest the Josef Stalin Room, the Triangle Shirtwaist Room, the Sago Mine Room, and the Upper Big Branch Mine Room.

April 01, 2011
Open thread 156
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:00 AM *

Two verses I thought were very important when I was twenty:

Not yet is the spirit of that pristine valor
extinct in you, when girt with steel and lofty flames
once we fought against the empire of heaven.
We were—that I will not deny—vanquished in that conflict:
yet the great intention was not lacking in nobility.
Something or other gave Him victory: to us remained
the glory of dauntless daring.
And even if my troop fell thence vanquished,
yet to have attempted a lofty enterprise is still a victory.
La Strage degli Innocenti, Giambattista Marino, 1632, trans RT
When the dust has cleared
And victory denied
A summit too lofty
River a little too wide
If we keep our pride
Though paradise is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the cost.
Bravado, Rush

Some days I don’t know if I’ve grown up, narrowing my bounds to the possible and the price I can pay, or simply grown smaller.


Back to Open thread 155.

Fence Your Stolen Content at Amazon.com
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:23 AM * 172 comments

Since fraud and publishing fall straight into our bailiwick, I’d been meaning to do a full-dress Post about this, and may yet do so. This, rather, will be a lick-and-a-promise review of the literature.

With the cost of self-publishing approaching zero thanks to e-publishing, and with content-farms being depreciated by Google, it seems that spammers have taken to e-publishing.

First stop: Are eBooks the new Content Farms? by Mike Essex. I recommend his article.

Here are the bullet points from his post, in re e-books:

  • They have little to no copyright detectors
  • You can turn around a book 24 hours
  • Books can cover the same topic in multiple angles
  • They sit on strong domains so have an added boost
  • They have high royalty payouts
  • Reviews don’t help
Please take the time to read his article for the expansion and discussion of those points. He arrives here:
Solutions are needed
It’s these problems that mean eBooks as a platform could soon become flooded with bad writers, stolen content and scammers out to make easy money.

Bad writers, yes. One man’s trash is another man’s pit of voles. But one of the advantages of e-book/Kindle store/et al that we keep hearing from the e-book enthusiasts is that it bypasses the gatekeepers.

“Stolen content and scammers” is another area, and there isn’t any pressure on Amazon to stop ‘em, since they get their cut regardless. Adding acquiring editors would add time and expense, and keep the struggling geniuses whose works no one understand from ever getting published at all.

That was the 8th of March. Mr. Essex has a bunch of suggestions. I doubt that any of them will happen without government regulation.

This brings us to the next post I’d like to bring to your attention: The Kindle Swindle by Laura Hazard Owen, March 31 (yesterday).

Ms. Owen links to Mike’s post, and runs with it. She has a screen shot of an ad for something called “Autopilot Kindle Cash,” a training course being sold to would-be Kindle spammers, that promises to teach them how to post ten, twenty, or more new e-books to Kindle every single day.

Again, I recommend this post, because it expands and comments on Mike’s original. Taken together, they make the future look bleak for legitimate authors who want to use the Kindle platform.

Which brings us to the reason for this post here, right now. S.K.S. Perry is a Canadian writer. He had a hard time getting an agent interested in his novel, Darkside, so he posted it on his web page.

A couple of weeks ago someone suggested that he put it on Kindle as an e-book. He thought that was an excellent idea. Someone else agreed: To his surprise he found that person already had. He posted about this on his LiveJournal on March 30 (two days ago), and since then has found that Amazon doesn’t care.

Several of my books are already available in electronic form in those 500 Science Fiction Novels in .PDF Format torrents that you can find on the net. I wonder how many of them are now Kindle books?

The question of who has the time/money/duty to bell this particular cat is open.

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