« Commoditizing our future | Main | Public appearances ... »

SFWA attempts to commit public suicide

This just isn't funny.

SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America, an organisation of which I am a member (on account of my having just a slight interest in writing and selling SF in that country) managed to get into a huge public relations mess back in August/September, when Dr. Andrew Burt, acting on his own initiative as a member of the SFWA e-piracy committee, caused a major screw-up in dealing with Scribd, a text file sharing website. (Details on the whole debacle start here; for SFWA's response see here: more here: if you really want to know everything, Google is your friend.)

One thing led to another in rapid order, including: the disbanding of the epiracy committee, the formation of a new internal committee to report back to the executive on what SFWA ought to be doing about copyright, and much internal politicking.

Confession of interest: I let myself be sweet-talked into participating in the copyright exploratory committee, along with various other members. Our remit was to focus on what SFWA should do in future about members' copyrights; we prepared a report in due course, and presented it to the executive.

The core of our report, in a nutshell, was this: SFWA should represent its members interests when asked to do so. (It should also poll the membership to figure out what they want to do.) In order to deal with members asking SFWA to act against copyright infringements, SFWA should establish a new copyright advisory committee to replace of the piracy committee, with set procedures (and a quorum of members required to implement them) to avoid anything like the earlier debacle recurring.

In addition, we made various other recommendations. (Mine included: avoid, at all costs, emulating the activities of the RIAA and MPAA. Rule #1 of being a professional writer should be: your fans are Not The Enemy. Unlike RIAA or MPAA, SFWA is actually a loose trade association of content producers — RIAA and MPAA are rather different organisms, funded by a cartel of major content distributors. Following their example would not only be disastrous and make enemies — I trust I don't have to explain why — but would rapidly bring individual writers into disrepute with their readers, something I think most SFWA members have enough brain cells to realize would be disastrous.)

A further recommendation was discussed, but the general feeling was that it would be inappropriate to put it in the committee's formal report. It was my understanding that it would be brought to the attention of the president of SFWA via a back channel. This recommendation was simple: that at all costs, Andrew Burt must be kept the hell away from the copyright committee. In view of his earlier activities, his appointment to it would automatically destroy any credibility the new body would have — not to mention sending out a clear signal that SFWA is a dysfunctional organization, institutionally incapable of learning from bad experiences.

Guess what's happened?

Yup. I am not privy to his thinking, but our dear president and executive have voted to reinstate the old piracy committee, with Andrew Burt to chair it, under the new name of the SFWA copyright committee.

To say that this is a fuckwitted decision is an understatement. Under Dr Burt, the new copyright committee will almost inevitably devolve into a reincarnation of the old piracy committee. If I thought it'd do any good I'd be resigning in protest right now; only the expense of a life membership purchased a couple of years ago is restraining me right now. Clearly the current executive of SFWA is making damaging decisions and ignoring input from committees it appointed, and and in view of this I call on SFWA president Mike Capobianco and the rest of the SFWA executive — including Andrew Burt — to resign immediately. Meanwhile, I'd like to call on all other SFWA members who don't want to see their organization commit public relations suicide to make their voices heard.

As for my own role in the affair, I consider this to be a betrayal of trust. I've been used as a stalking-horse to legitimize a process I absolutely despise; I've put in a fair amount of work on a project that was clearly intended as a distraction and which has now been set aside and ignored by the man who commissioned it. I will not forget this — and the current SFWA executive should consider that cozening and lying to their own members is not usually considered best practice for representing the members' best interests.

Finally, I should like to thank Cory Doctorow, who warned me that this was likely to be the outcome of the process: he was, of course, absolutely right.

UPDATE

I've just been made aware that there's an interesting anomaly in SFWA's by-laws. The vice-president of SFWA is officially the head of committees, and it's their job to appoint or remove people from committees. Andrew Burt is, interestingly, the vice-president, and there's no mechanism to remove someone from a committee without going through the vice-president: consequently the only person who could act on our call to prevent him from having anything to do with the SFWA copyright committee was ... Andrew Burt.

I'd like to apologize unreservedly to Mike Capobianco, and retract my call for him to resign. (He's in a very tough spot on this one: he appears to be the victim of a bug in SFWA's by-laws.) On the other hand, my call for Andrew Burt to resign is now doubled. As far as I can tell, he bears sole responsibility for this mess.

|


240 Comments

1:

Scalzi for SWFA President?

2:

Sigh! Yes, they are dysfunctional, but don't resign. This reminds me of a Canadian editorial letter to U.S. citizens when Baby Bush was elected. In the U.S., when the election goes wrong, people always say they will move to Canada. This particular Canadian editor responded with a fantastic note that basically said that if everyone who opposed Bush moved to Canada, it would leave a horrendously conservative/right-wing country to their south with no dissenting voices.

SFWA needs dissenting voices, no matter how much they've already used you.

3:

There has to be something psychological where the copyright issue always goes back to a situation where the old proponents are doing whatever it takes to make customers unhappy.... Maybe the feel more comfortable in this state, compared with this new world order where there's an interaction between the writers and the audience.

5:

I'm dismayed and baffled.

6:

So will that be you running to get rid of either Burt or Capo next time around then?

Because that is just beyond stupid.

7:

About all I can say: Meh.

Like Cory, I'm not surprised, but unlike the both of you, I'm not dismayed.

I don't think taking an internet megaphone to the problem is constructive, though.

8:

Can't believe this. As I stated on my blog, this is another reason why I'm not joining the SFWA.

9:

*Sigh*

Talk about being your own worst enemies *gentle sound of pounding one's head against the nearest wall*.

Charlie, thanks for trying.

10:

*sigh* I frequently find SWFA's actions baffling. I always figured it was because I wasn't privy to its inner workings. Apparently not. Whenever SFWA does stuff like this, I wonder if I actually want to become a part of SFWA. (This is moot for now. I'm not eligible.)

At least the exploratory committee's recommendation are public. Thank you for coming up with a sane policy.

11:

What the hell?

I mean, really: What the hell?

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.

user-pic
12:

This just pisses me off. I'm not a very productive writer currently, and my day job is insane in the fall so I can't pay attention to any political stuff that isn't in shoved into my face.

Thank you for bringing it up, despite the fact it raises my blood pressure.

13:

Burt's no big surprise--too many people really liked what he did, because he was as aggressive as they wanted him to be.

14:

Good heavens.

I can't help but to describe the coldly practical reason why this is an incredibly bad choice:
sooner or later, no matter who is on the copyrights committee, someone will hit a false positive, and there will be much of internet drama. But because Burt is going to be on the committee when that happens, you'll get extra drama, blame, and finger pointing - even if he behaves in a perfectly circumspect manner.

15:

The formulation of the board's resolution is quite tendentious. It implies the exploratory committee recommended not just to change the name but also reinstate the old committee as-is. Coming from people who craft words for a living, it simply isn't accidental, and clearly shows blatant disregard. Airing this dirty laundry was absolutely the right thing to do.

16:

Does anyone else feel like SFWA is merely a microcosm of greater political wars? That we have seen this story more times than we want to imagine? I remember Elizabeth Moon's apt story in a long-ago FORUM about the hysterics taking place at the family reunion...but there were still people trying to get Great Aunt Whoever's birdcage in the door and keeping a rein on their tempers.

I'm starting to lose faith that we can slap this organization into a group that can face the 21st century.

I remember Michael as a level-headed person whom I thought could handle the PR and Deciding Vote responsibilities of SFWA president. Now, I wonder.

Would it REALLY be harder to start a new group, without the baggage of the old?

17:

What's your suggested method for making our voices heard?

18:

At this point, I think it is not entirely unreasonable to wonder aloud as to the nature of the incriminating photos that /must/ exist. It is the only rational explanation for such a baffling choice.

19:

Since Scalzi has shut down comments on his post, I've driven over here. ;)

This is a most remarkable decision by the Board, and I think you should discuss with the other members of the Exploratory Committee whether you can make a unanimous statement that the Board completely and totally acted in opposition to the intentions of your report.

If nothing else, the coming election should prove even more hotly contested than the previous one.

20:

It helps to know that Andrew Burt, as the sitting VP of SFWA, got to vote for himself.

21:

On the good side, your reccomendations other than #3 were embraced with enthusiasm, and soon, you'll be able to vote for a more appropriate head of what appears for now to be the Amazing Changed Name Committee.

How long till the elections?

user-pic
22:

"Never attribute to malice or conspiracy that which can be explained by stupidity or incompetence."

And with SFWA, almost _anything_ can be explained by the latter factors.

Hey, I avoided elective office in SFWA by solemnly promising to follow in the footsteps of Robert J. Sawyer if elected... 8-).

(And I _like_ Rob.)

24:

It's not just that Andrew Burt did things that generated bad publicity: it's that he was so shockingly incompetent. He clearly didn't even know what a DMCA notice was, as well as the whole question of acring for authors who hadn't given the SFWA authority to act for them.

I'm not sure what the formal wording should be, but I reckon an useful protest would be a letter to the SFWA explicitly refusing authority for the organisation to carry out copyright enforcement on your behalf.

Note that I wrote "refusing" rather than "withdrawing". You cannot withdraw an authority you've never given.


25:

I am surprised and dismayed. I am also dismayed that I am surprised. It does indeed look like the committee was used as a stalking horse.

26:

So, instead of being insulted, should I be glad that SFWA never cashed the $1,000.00 check I sent them after the 2nd Glasgow Worldcon, at ExDir's request, to upgrade my membership and that of my wife to Lifetime Active, even after my reminding them repeatedly over the past 2 years that they hadn't resolved the matter?

Instead of being insulted, should I be glad that the defective DMCA notice SFWA'd earlier sent me for someone else's errors on someone else's web site only cost me a few thousand bucks of legal fees to protest? Or that the liaison I tried to build almost 20 years ago between SFWA and NWU Grievance Committees never worked?

For the past few years, I've preferred to spend my time as a full-time Mathematician, Physicist, and Biologist, writing publishable Math and Science every day; and being a full-time teacher; rather than being a Science Fiction author in a chaotic market buffeted by media consolidation and pixel-stained technopeasants, with a confused professional organization. I prefer presenting papers and Chairing Sessions at interdisciplinary Science Conferences to giving panels (and sometimes having lunatic staffers keep me off panels whose Moderators agreed in writing they wanted me) at Science Fiction Cons. Although, just to consider mixed quantum states, I did enjoy being Con Chair of a mini Science Fiction con embedded in an interdisciplinary Science Conferences in 2006, and will do so again in 2009.

Not only is truth stranger than fiction, but publishing truth is more entertaining than publishing fiction.

I'd rather read any novel by Stross or Scalzi than yet again wait years for editors to lose my novel manuscripts on their desks and have to be reminded.

Since no sensible SFWA officer would ever ask me to be on any committee, I don't have to politely decline. Better for everyone that way.

user-pic
27:

Have you considered that in america is really is a better business model to buy a few convenient laws and then get local law enforcement to rough people up for money over poorly defined alleged civil infractions?

28:

I will stay in SFWA through this election cycle. If Capo or Burt is an officer next time? I'm gone, and I strongly suspect lots of other people will be too.

As to whoever said that Burt's presence would make drama even if he acted circumspectly -- I'd ask how they could possibly know that, since Burt seems to never have acted circumspectly.

user-pic
29:

Oh, jolly. I see I rejoined just in time for the raree show.

What a gang of idiots.

30:

So, uh, please explain: How did these people get elected in the first place? (Insert "Hanging chad" joke of your choice.)

-A.R.Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com

31:

Wow, does Burt not understand that he is a useless dinosaur?

32:

ARY @29: These people got elected last time round because nobody registered their candidacy in time to appear on the ballot. (It would have been an unopposed election, except that John Scalzi organized a write-in candidacy on the grounds that unopposed elections were bad for the organization. (No shit.) The trouble is, write-in candidacies are automatically at a huge disadvantage.)

RI @30: ad hominem comments like that are not constructive. (I personally tend towards the opinion that Andrew Burt is very good at what he does -- it's just that what he does is not very good for SFWA.)

Vylar Kaftan @16: to make your voice heard: if you're a member of SFWA, vote against the current executive at the next election (in May/June, IIRC). If you're not a member of SFWA, but meet the eligibility requirements, consider joining before then. (Before this debacle I might have suggested showing up in the SFWA private forums and making a noise, but I'm becoming convinced that they're a dangerous echo chamber that serves only to reinforce the current dysfunctional executive's sense that they're doing the right thing.)

Katharine @15: the trouble with starting a rival organization to SFWA is that there probably aren't enough SF writers out there to make two such trade organizations viable, on both a membership and funding basis. I don't see a rival to SFWA as being practical unless either (a) SFWA collapses completely first, or (b) a sugar daddy offers it a $1M cheque by way of seed corn (which just ain't gonna happen).

MatGB @6: I won't be running, but I don't expect the next election to be uncontested or contested by a last minute write-in ...

user-pic
33:

@Charlie.

I can't help but notice that the commentators, on this post, are not the usual crowd. ;-)

user-pic
34:

vian @20: It is worth noting that the SFWA did not embrace the recommendations with enthusiasm, since they have:

a) deliberately recast the first recommendation by suggesting it included the reinstatement of the previous committee in full and with the same chairman. This, emphatically, was not what was recommended.

b) they have deliberately not accepted recommendation 3, yet recommendation 3 is the heart of the recommendations. It is here, and only here, that the make-up, working methods, range of interest and structure of the committee were addressed. Without this, what is left is not exactly cosmetic, but it does not require any fundamental change in procedures or much reconsideration of what the committee does.

I say this as someone who does not (I think) qualify for membership, and who would have no intention of joining anyway.

user-pic
35:

Charlie,

For the record, I was the one person who voted NAY on the motion and I tried very hard to create a different outcome than this. I deeply appreciate the work done by you and the other committee members and can appreciate your frustration.

36:

Charlie, keep in mind that the vast majority of SFWA's funding comes from the Swedish government, which remits tens of thousands of dollars per year to the organization from the pool of funds collected for library use of American sf books in Swedish libraries. If a second org could lay claim to those funds, it could certainly be self-sustaining.

37:

Cory, I didn't know that. You interest me strangely ...

38:

Actually it may not be the majority -- the last I checked it was $75k/year IIRC. If a couple thousand members are paying $70/year, the Swedish money is probably more like 50% or 30%. Jesus, what DOES SFWA do with all that money? Publish Bulletin? I guess the medical fund eats some of it.

39:

That's a good question ...

I can see the medical fund being very expensive to run. It exists to make interest-free loans to writers with emergency medical expenses, and repayment is expected, but in practice they have been known to write off the loans. (Parenthetically speaking, I expect one aspect of the coming economic/political car crash is that the USA will eventually try to fix their broken medical system, as part of the whole package of infrastructure reforms they so desperately need to address. At which point the EMF will hopefully become obsolete. But I'm not expecting this to happen within the next five years ...)

I suspect another chunk of SFWA's budget goes on legal fees in support of Griefcom's activities.

40:

Just looked at the last Treasurer's Report. Looks like a big chunk of the money goes to the Nebs and Worldcon suite, a smaller chunk to overheads, and the rest just goes to misc.

41:

What?? My country funds the SFWA? I don't know whether to be outraged or laugh...
:-O

user-pic
42:

All I can say is... wow...

It boggles the mind. "Hey, you know that guy that royally screwed the pooch and created a huge public relations fiasco? Oh yeah, let's put him in charge again."

user-pic
43:

I must disagree with all these people -- many who I know and respect -- who are saying stay with SFWA.

In My Opinion, you *must* not. The only answer to being made the stalking horse is to refuse to stalk. They cannot cite you as supporting SFWA's actions when you've explicitly resigned because of those actions.

The only reason I'm not saying "fork SFWA" is the time cost -- you'd have to spend hours a day getting it to run if you were to take the lead. But if you want something like SFWA to work, that's what it is going to take. I can't suggest that, though -- it's the time-devourer, and you've better things to do with your life.

44:

This would be amusing were it not so grim.
I am not a SFWA member so my comment is free of personal entanglement beyond being mindful of FIAWOL. My view is?

Lacking a society wide consensus about the desired handling the end point is moot. As the street buzz in some Fandom circles holds society consensus on RESPECT for copyright as dubious at best. And respect is more powerful than we give credence to. But earning respect needs consensus AND respect for all involved parties.

Some relationships cause Respect to be strained.

SFWA could in this case emulate either Jerry Garcia or Garth Brooks.
More on that in what I call the Garcia Vs Brooks logic sets.

Garcia:
Ok folks-start your recorders this is the first time we're playing this tune.

Brooks:
Whinges to Congress about sales of used cd's dooming his kids to public school.

Where Respect comes in in is to direct a world order that allows and CHERISHES the Garcia model while not spitefully ripping Brooks off by blatant immoral THEFT.

Example one-Sell a used cd- yes.. Just like selling a book. Tell Garth to grow up.

Example two -Host a torrent for "Author Authorised" music yes, A tribute to Jerry it is.

Buy a new cd only 3 hours old- post on server- For shame you bad karma thief! Oh it's not really that bad...

Do please tell me how you justify the last example or demonise the first 2?

And the same can apply by replacing the Singer's names with Authors names- and CD with Book.
It all comes down to respect.

45:

Thank you, Charlie. Yes, I'm a SFWA member. I was hoping there was something I could do sooner than that. But certainly I will remember this at election time.

46:

Just when you wonder how fucked fucked can get, things get more fucked.

Fuck.

Well, I guess if I ever get published, I will never join SFWA. Jesus Christ!

47:

Chang, I can think of several ways that SFWA could go downhill from here. I'm not going to discuss them in public (in case anyone gets any ideas), but if they show signs of materializing, I will quit the organization publicly, in high dudgeon, because to do anything else would risk the ire of my readers.

During the Burt/Scribd fiasco I noted some more intemperate fans calling for a boycott of all SFWA members -- that's the sort of thing that really could hurt, and I think avoiding that kind of public reaction ought to be a lot higher on the executive's list of priorities than it is.

48:

As a sociologist, I find it quite interesting to see that even a "unpolitical" organization as the association of science fiction writers develops the same mistakes and problems political involved organizations (as well as large corporations) show. Even with their own majority/minority/splitting thing. Is it really only people? Or is the amout of power and structure big enough to steer even a well-meaning commitee into deep troubles? (Without knowing anything about either the inner workings nor the external relevance of the SFWA).

49:

As a longtime fan and SFWA observer, I wouldn't call for the boycott of SFWA writers. That seems stupid to me. There are many fine people in SFWA, many writers whose work I enjoy.

However, I find SFWA management so silly that I'd never join the organization.

50:

Charlie @31: the trouble with viewing Andrew Burt as good at what he does is that the public evidence indicates otherwise, at least in the Scribd case, where he had over 80 errors in his list of works he claimed SFWA had the standing to issue a DCMA takedown notice for.

51:

Re the Swedish funds - if it is something like Public Lending Right, how can SFWA pocket it anyway? (Well, unless each member signed it away on joining the organization, but why would the Swedish side be willing to pay a body that is obviously not the authors or their agents?) Is more information on this available somewhere (preferably online)?

52:

"As a sociologist, I find it quite interesting to see that even a "unpolitical" organization as the association of science fiction writers develops the same mistakes and problems political involved organizations (as well as large corporations) show. Even with their own majority/minority/splitting thing. Is it really only people? Or is the amout of power and structure big enough to steer even a well-meaning commitee into deep troubles? (Without knowing anything about either the inner workings nor the external relevance of the SFWA)."

Westermeyer,

I would respond in two ways: 1) The organization is not apolitical, particularly those aspects of it which have to do explicitly with copyright. 2) To the extent that the incompetence, splitting, etc. mirror large corporations or political actions, it would be unclear whether they're fundamental in power structure, personhood, or some other element of the situation -- or whether they're part and parcel of our cultural response to those elements. Political parties and corporations may provide cultural models for how to deal with certain problems and situations.

53:

Wow. How totally dumb. I'd seen SFWA be apathetic and shortsighted before (I was the president of a group hosting a SFWA depository for a while) but treating its members this way is ridiculous. I hope they come to their senses, and I support the idea of getting a statement from the Exploratory Committee.

54:

Stephen @49: I didn't say that what Burt is good at is anything to do with what he was supposed to be doing on behalf of SFWA. (More than that I shall not say; remember that libel laws differ between jurisdictions, and I live too close to England for comfort.)

Kat et al: SFWA is a non-profit organization run by volunteers. Most volunteers are people with an over-developed sense of duty, which is good; but a small minority of volunteers have other, less savoury motivations. Obviously, I can't speak as to anyone else's motivation, but I suspect that not all members of the SFWA executive are selflessly putting the good of the organization ahead of their own interests.

user-pic
55:

Possibility:

Authors (both SWFA members and not) gang up signing a statement that if the committee interferes with their livelihoods -- e.g., by demanding takedown of a work from a context where the author agreed to put it -- the undersigned will pursue appropriate remedies against SFWA, up to and including lawsuit.

This does not cover all the kinds of hooliganism which the committee can perpetrate, but it makes clear what your relationship with them is.

56:

So I get that Andrew Burt was able to vote for himself but surely that wasn't the only vote that got him back in that position. It sounds like the SFWA Board backs Burt (unless I'm grossly misunderstanding the power of the VP vote). That's what really scares me. How many people in SFWA back Burt?

57:

Just so you know, Mr. Burt isn't wasting any time.

58:

I was set to resign this year but was convinced to rejoin, partly to be one more vote against Burt, who it appears will run for president next year. But I wouldn't be running against him again, and frankly, I just don't see the sense in it any more. It's probably time to walk away, Charlie. But first I'll go see what's happening in the zoo, check out the lay of the land there.

D

59:

Re: 47: "As a sociologist, I find it quite interesting to see that even a 'unpolitical' organization as the association of science fiction writers develops the same mistakes and problems political involved organizations... show."

It took SFWA a couple of expensive blunders to realize the value of nonpartisanship in external politics.

During the Vietnam War, one clique of SFWA members took out a full-page ad in the New York Times opposing the Administration position on the war. Then a different clique of SFWA members took out a full-page ad in the New York Times supporting the Administration position on the war. End result? Lots of wasted money. Lots.

This happened again, with the external stressor being the administration's "Star Wars" position, meaning not the sci-fi film and books, but the Strategic Defense Organization. One clique was led by Dr. Jerry Pournelle at al (who had rather brilliantly helped to persuade Ronald Reagan in the first place). Cf. the Ed.D. dissertation by Ben Bova. The other clique was de facto led by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who opposed any militarization of Space, and is, in a related matter, short-listed for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The fights worth fighting, for SFWA, are not the fights of society at large. They are fights against the common enemies: predatory publishers, movie studios (Harlan Ellison famously resigned over SFWA not taking action in an egregious case), Television Production Companies, agents, and the tax-man. Harlan was then made Life Member by Presdiential fiat, whether he'd wanted it or not. Cute maneuver. Harlan has had a big dog in the Intellectual Property wars, on the Intenet.

Writers Guild of America West is the entity fighting the Movie and TV Establishment, that fight currently on the street. The strike must end by early february, else the city of Los Angeles will lose $200,000,000 revenue from an Academy Awards ceremony. L.A.'s mayor is working behind the scenes, as is California's givernor (who knows a bit about movies).

The problem in the Intellectual Property wars is that different SFWA officers perceive different enemies.

Structurally, there is tension between those who want a "strong" president of SFWA, and those who want a "weak" president. The pressures which caused strong president Rob Sawyer to resign are indicative, but not for specific discussion on this venue, other than the defective DMCA notice slammed on me was because I did something that Rob Sawyer -- as SFWA President -- had approved, but which was not then enacted by the Board of Directors. It is expensive and nasty to be caught in the midst of one of these internal struggle for who is alpha male.

60:

A.R.Yngve asked: How did these people get elected in the first place?

Charlie responded: These people got elected last time round because nobody registered their candidacy in time to appear on the ballot. (It would have been an unopposed election, except that John Scalzi organized a write-in candidacy on the grounds that unopposed elections were bad for the organization. (No shit.) The trouble is, write-in candidacies are automatically at a huge disadvantage.)

Scalzi's candidacy was more "disadvantaged" than that. He not only decided to run too late to appear on the ballot, in fact he didn't even announce his candidacy until a week after the ballots were received by the voters, and hence many-- and possibly most-- of the voters had already voted before he started running. It was very nearly mathematically impossible for him to be have been elected.

The reason that recent SFWA elections tend to be unopposed is that it's become pretty clear in the last few years that anybody who gets elected to SFWA office will fact an unrelenting barrage of shit flung into their face. It has become increasingly difficult to find anybody willing to accept an office that, as far as I can see, has no upside whatsoever.

However, I'm willing to organize a write-in campaign for Charlie.

61:

Knowing both estimable gentlemen, I consider Hugo-winner Nebula-winner Professor Geoffrey A. Landis' statement "I'm willing to organize a write-in campaign for Charlie" to be a Very Big Deal.

To Till Westermayer (#47, 57) based on the conferences where I've presented Sociology papers (such as the NAACSOS, North American Association for Computation in Social and Organizational Systems), and my having been elected to Town Councils in two states, I have a question.

It is a folk-theorem in the field that Organizations change structure under either an internal or external pressure. But how is "pressure" defined (as opposed to mere physical metaphor) and what quantitative data supports either the external or internal structural change hypothesis. Structural change measured how -- entropy? Graph-theory? Number of 3-martini lunches? Number of words of blog fights?

SFWA, by the way, is a Small World Network, so far as I can see. I have massive data on the co-authorship linkages between authors worldwide, with Isaac Asimov defined as the center (as is Erdos in Math, or Kevin Bacon in Hollywood).

62:

I'll run for SFWA president next year, Charlie. I've already announced my platform, but I'd be happy to promise you Andrew Burt's head on a silver platter if you'd like.


1. Increase the prestige of the Nebula novel award by awarding the winner a cash prize in addition to the customary trophy. I have already spoken to publishers who have indicated an interest in contributing financial sponsorship for the award. It's worth noting that the most prestigious prizes in the world, from the Nobel to the Booker, are inevitably accompanied by an amount of cash.

2. Replace the Nebula Scripts category with "Best SF-themed film, game or non-fiction book.

3. Foster closer relations with the electronic games industry by revisiting Question 3 of the 1998 Sawyer referendum by opening SFWA membership to writers with three or more writing credits on published electronic games, working with the organization that sponsors the various GDC events around the world to create opportunities for SFWA members in the games industry.

4. Rename the Bulletin to SFWA Magazine and turn it into a bona-fide magazine of interest to the greater science fiction and fantasy community by publishing a novella and three short stories written by members in every issue. The objective would be to turn it into a must-read for everyone with any interest in the genre.

5. Increase the power of the Nebula juries by having the short fiction jury submit regular recommendations for the fiction to be published in the SFWA Monthly to the editor and by allowing the various juries to REMOVE works that have qualified for the Nebula ballot. This should bring an end to the award-by-popularity-contest phenomenon that is so grossly embarrassing to the organization.

6. Turn the SFWA web site into the premier online science fiction and fantasy e-library by providing freely downloadable works available in all formats from every SFWA member interested in contributing. All of the available evidence suggests that freely distributable ebooks help authors who are not among the 50 best-selling in the world, they don't hurt them. The primary problem facing most authors is a surfeit of awareness, not an excess of supply. Blindly following the RIAA's lead in attempting to protect dubious "rights" is stupid, shortsighted and doomed to failure. Any members who don't wish to participate, of course, may decline to submit content.

7. Pursue a treaty of non-aggression with the Romance Writers of America prior to launching a joint assault on the Mystery Writers of America. Of course, the SFWA will only honor the treaty until we are in a position of subsequent strength to take on the RWA directly, which I hope to achieve by the spring of 2010.

8. And finally, due to the Regrettable and Very Serious incidents brought to light in the December 2006 Forum, I will establish an official Do Not Hug Registry to which concerned members of the organization may add their names. Violators will be punished with the removal of the offending limb(s) by a scimitar wielded by the Head of the Grievance Committee.

63:

There's a problem with number 5: you're changing the Nebulas from a popularity contest into a clique/nepotist contest. Not good.

64:

Vox Day:
2. Replace the Nebula Scripts category with "Best SF-themed film, game or non-fiction book.
Umm, howabout manga/comic books/graphic novels? There's quite a few now that are remarkable SF, but they all are entered under 'scripts' I think, which creates a vote-competition problem.* One solution would be to expand it as a grab-bag category as you suggest, but allow multiple winners. (Nothing excessive, perhaps two, or if one felt extremely generous, three.)

Also note that voting, for example, the Foglio's Girl Genius, is hindered by the "which year was it actually published", since the bound copy of a given book in the series might span multiple years, and the original release is going to be a webcomic (or floppy comic).

*there's also a definition problem: how much text do they have to have before they are 'just novels'? Japanese style 'light novels' aren't pushing this boundary too much...yet.

65:

Re: 61 "Pursue a treaty of non-aggression with the Romance Writers of America prior to launching a joint assault on the Mystery Writers of America."

A very RISKy strategy. And what are Western Writers of America and Horror Writers of America -- chopped liver?

66:

Kill the organization and start a new one with a clear mandate: the promotion of written science fiction and fantasy. (I think it's telling that SFWA's current about page talks about what SFWA's done, but not why it exists.) Offer up professional memberships (ie for people who are writing and publishing) and supporting memberships (ie you love this stuff) in order to keep the ranks and the coffers full. Have a professional endowment manager whose job is to make sure the group's funds are invested and spent properly and transparently. Be the legal bulldog for authors who can't afford it, but make sure the fights will benefit the entire organization (going after a studio that's ripped off a member is Worth It, filing bullshit DMCA takedowns is Not Worth It). Be the resource for teachers and librarians who don't know they need it. Have awards where the pros nominate and everyone votes.

Does anyone have Paul Allen's number? 'Cause if he can fund the Science Fiction Museum, he ought to be able to pay for something like this with the loose change in his couch.

67:

Vox, @61: doubtless your campaign to restructure SFWA will run more smoothly after you disenfranchise all those pesky women. Right?

Adam @65: killing an organization, many of whose members do not wish it to die, is a somewhat ... difficult ... job. Nor is the patronage of one man, however rich, a stable long term platform for such an organization to build on.

68:

follows link Charlie gives in #67
reads
eyes bleed

yeaaaaargghh! The goggles, they do nothing!
Oh, the logic, how squamous and rugose! Rhetoric of no earthly color!

69:

I've been following this since about the beginning. As a non-SFWA member I'm not privy to the entire story. As someone who deals every day with intellectual property and particularly electronic copyright infringement:

It is pretty obvious from the various rantings on the web that there are at least two camps within SFWA regarding copyright and electronic publication. I'll call them the Doctorow and Pournelle camps since those two have been among the most vocal proponents of the various positions.

Its obvious to me from timing and etc that Doctorow & friends jumped on the "kill Burt" bandwagon - were in fact, largley responsible for turning it into the huge mess it became - because it gave them the opportunity to push their platform within SFWA; they used a misguided attempt at doing the right thing as an excuse to try and dismantle the political opposition to 'let information be free' within SFWA - and did a very good job at it.

Perhaps Burt was appointed to the chairmanship of the new/old piracy committee because Copobianco recognized Doctorow & company's play for what it was. Given the circumstances, there seems little else he could do in order to retain control of the electronic rights issue.

In point of fact I happen to know that Burt's quasi-DMCA notice resulted in quite a few pieces by deceased authors being taken off of Scribd: at least one of those authors has a widow who depends on royalties, and his work is in fact being published again in electronic form. In this instance, Burt's actions completely accomplished the goal of returning control - and revenue - to the person who owns it.

Appointing a make-work committee strictly for political expediency is not a good thing (except maybe for lame ducks) but I wouldn't quickly rush to the judgement that everything Burt did was bad and I most certainly wouldn't be allowing the Doctorow camp to benefit from the mess they HELPED make out of their own politically expedient manueverings...

70:

Charlie @67: I meant having one angel investor to get the ball rolling, with the idea that continued dues, profits from anthologies, etc. would roll into an endowment to fund the new beast. But, yes, going to the sugar daddy well every time the balance sheet goes red would be a nasty mess.

I keep thinking that no one would have to kill SFWA, that it would croak on its own from attrition (older members dying, younger members giving it the finger), but, no. As long as the Swedish money keeps rolling in, SFWA will totter on.

71:

No need to actively kill the organization against the wishes of its members. This is a problem that is taking care of itself.

First, members are realizing that many of the useful things SFWA does (Writers Beware, the emergency medical fund, etc.) are either replicated elsewhere or are in the process of being replicated elsewhere. So if you care deeply about the issues SFWA supports, you can channel your energy elsewhere.

Second, members are (rightly) agonizing over the social and emotional investments they've made in the organization over the years. But as their good friends drop out of SFWA, cutting this tie will get easier and easier. And brand-new writers don't ship from the factory equipped with built-in nostalgia for SFWA.

Unless there is some sort of massive leadership change at the very next election, these two factors will feed off each other and accelerate until there is nothing left.

72:

Umm, howabout manga/comic books/graphic novels?

Sure, include them too.

doubtless your campaign to restructure SFWA will run more smoothly after you disenfranchise all those pesky women. Right?

With all due respect, Charlie, I'm sure you're astute enough to know that you live in a non-democratic political entity ruled by an unaccountable and unelected oligarchy, so it's somewhat ironic to hear your concerns about suffrage. Voting != freedom. As for the SFWA, if our female members wish to vote for the "I slept with a sexy vampire/werewolf/ghost" that so many of them seem to enjoy writing, that's really up to them. I just want to make it possible for the Nebula to be relevant; if the membership continues to give awards to the likes of Catharine Asaro instead of far more deserving writers like Iain Banks and, (if I can say this without sounding too obsequious), one Mr. Charles Stross, that's their choice.

I don't expect to win, since one can't expect the politically sensitive to vote for someone with my frighteningly unequalitarian views, but perhaps a more electable candidate will see fit to adopt a few of the less radical ideas.

As for #5, the popularity contest is not a problem with the short stories, it's that not enough people have actually read them. So, the nepotism issue is not what it would be if we were talking about novels; you'll note I only recommended this change for the short fiction jury.

The jury removals are unlikely to be a problem, as I think I can safely attest that people who are disliked by a substantial portion of the membership don't get nominated in the first place. (Hell, they don't even get read in the first place!) But if you've ever looked at the NAR, you can see that the some of the same people are nominating their friends every single time a book comes out, this is meant to address that problem.

73:

"In point of fact I happen to know that Burt's quasi-DMCA notice resulted in quite a few pieces by deceased authors being taken off of Scribd: at least one of those authors has a widow who depends on royalties, and his work is in fact being published again in electronic form. In this instance, Burt's actions completely accomplished the goal of returning control - and revenue - to the person who owns it."

Well, there you go. There was this one time that SFWA's unauthorized, legally-actionable behavior actually helped someone -- widows and orphans even! So it's all good.

74:

"a misguided attempt at doing the right thing"

By the logic of post #69, above, cops should be let off the hook for damaging the business property (or relationships!) of innocent parties if, in the process, they happen to find evidence of somebody else's crime. Because what matters isn't the damage you do, but that you were "trying to do the right thing." Wrecked the infrastructure of a country of twenty million people? Set off a bloody civil war resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths? But we were "trying to do the right thing!" How can you think badly of us?

We've had plenty of that sort of logic in the last few years. Civilized people don't need to be walked through elementary explanations of why it's barbaric.

75:

Charlie, I'm sure you're astute enough to know that you live in a non-democratic political entity ruled by an unaccountable and unelected oligarchy, so it's somewhat ironic to hear your concerns about suffrage.

That's pretty funny, all things considered, coming from a citizen of a nation where (a) roughly 90% of all legislative districts at federal level are gerrymandered on the behalf of one party or another, (b) roughly 95% of the legislators are lawyers by training, and (c) around 60% of them are the children of previous legislators. (Can you spell "hereditary aristocracy"?)

Nevertheless, a lack of immediate democratic accountability is not a valid excuse for giving up on the process. Ahem.

Getting back to the nebulas: log-rolling is indeed a problem. In fact, it's encouraged by the structure of the nebula process. The only excuse for the process that I can see is that too much eligible fiction is published in any given year for the jury to read it all, so some sort of pre-filtering is necessary, and the way the pre-filtering evolved within the nebula process just happened to end up FUBARed beyond all recursive acronymisation.

76:

Ah! FUBARBARA. (notes acronym for future use)

77:

I really need a double shot of a good single malt right now, but something tells me that blogging under the influence isn't a smart move. Gaah.

78:

Resist, Charlie. It's a waste of single malt.

Try a blend instead.

79:

That's pretty funny, all things considered, coming from a citizen of a nation where (a) roughly 90% of all legislative districts at federal level are gerrymandered on the behalf of one party or another, (b) roughly 95% of the legislators are lawyers by training, and (c) around 60% of them are the children of previous legislators. (Can you spell "hereditary aristocracy"?)

You'll get no argument from me! My distaste for the anti-democratic EUSSR is in no way a defense of the faux "representative" democracy of the USSA.

I'm not saying that my proposed Nebula fix is the only solution, but a 5k cash prize for best novel, putting fiction in the Bulletin and bringing the game and comic writers in would help move things towards a state of sustainable relevance, even if the initial culture shock would probably kill a few of the fainter hearts.

80:

pnh, 76,
Ah! FUBARBARA. (notes acronym for future use)

Actually, I would say it Fu BaRa, (歩薔薇) which I might put as: pwned rose

Ref:
歩 (pawn, which I would be tempted to use in place of pwn)
薔薇, BaRa (meaning the flower rose, but used idomaticaly to signify male homosexuality, see uses of the term 百?, Yuri, meaning 'lily'.)

81:

I gave up and went for the alcohol.

It's late; I'm turning in. Play nice!

82:

Charles@47: funny you should mention that, I was thinking earlier about how one can determine if a person is a SFWA member in near-realtime (not all that near; I'd settle for being able to learn in 5 minutes if they were a member, accurate to within a couple of months).

83:

Does anyone know whether the back-channel recommendation regarding Dr. Burt actually reached Mr. Capobianco?

84:

re: Vox Day, #72: "if the membership continues to give awards to the likes of Catharine Asaro instead of far more deserving writers like Iain Banks and, (if I can say this without sounding too obsequious), one Mr. Charles Stross, that's their choice..."

(a) When Bill Clinton was asked for his opinion of Al Gore and George W. Bush, he said something akin to: "am I the only one here who likes both of them?" This was much funnier than the old saw about a politician's favorite color being plaid, which, tartan-wise, is appropriate for this blog.

(b) As it happens, I am a fan of Catharine Asaro and Iain Banks and Charles Stross, in writing and in person. Hence I must point out (as of an old cache I have of her web page) that Catherine Asaro is a multi-takented person, with Ph.D. in Chemical Physics and MA in Physics (Harvard), and B.S. with Highest Honors in Chemistry (UCLA). She has done fascinating research at U. Toronto, Max Planck Institut für Astrophysik, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Her research used quantum theory to describe the behavior of atoms and molecules. Catherine was a physics professor until 1990, when she established Molecudyne Research, which she currently runs. Her fiction is a successful blend of hard science fiction, romance, space adventure. Her novel, The Quantum Rose, won the Nebula Award for best novel of 2001 (which I think causes Vox Day's sour grapes). True, she is a three-time winner of the Romantic Times Book Club award for "Best Science Fiction Novel." (which relates to the RWA conquest wet dreams of Vox Day). To date, she's credited with at least 16 novels, 11 of which belong to her Saga of the Skolian Empire. January 2006 saw the mass market reprint of the NAL anthology, Irresistible Forces, in which Asaro debuted as an editor. Irresistible Forces features new novellas by six top authors in the genres of science fiction, romance, and fantasy: Lois McMaster Bujold, Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Jennifer Roberson, Deb Stover, and Catherine herself. Does someone have a problem with female-dominated anthologies?
Catherine is also part of the Analog m.a.f.i.a., magazine and in several anthologies, as well as being prolific with reviews, nonfiction essays, and scientific papers in refereed academic journals. Her paper "Complex Speeds and Special Relativity," which appeared in the April 1996 issue of The American Journal of Physics, forms the basis for some of the science in her novels.

When not writing and making appearances at conferences, Catherine also teaches a math club for homeschool children of all ages. I happen to consider teachers to be heroes and heroines, Math teachers espwcially. Catherine Asaro has performed with ballets and in musicals on both coasts and in Ohio. In the 1980's she was a principal dancer and artistic director of the Mainly Jazz Dancers and the Harvard University Ballet. After she graduated, her undergraduate students took over Mainly Jazz and made it into an organization at the college. She's married to John Kendall Cannizzo, an astrophysicist at NASA. They have one daughter, a ballet dancer and mathematician.

(c) The fact that someone as wonderful as Catharine Asaro gets attacked in public is part of why SFWA is in many ways a self-loathing impotent monster. Our little in-house Forum, which I no longer get, my $1,000.00 check not having been cashed, nor my publications (including the the SFWA Anthology) considered professional enough, is mostly flame wars about Nebula Awards for Best Emcee performance at a Nebula Awards Ceremony being too recursive, and border-line libel about colleagues. Of course, much SFWA budget goes into printing the SFWA Forum in gilt-edged vellum editions bound with human skin.

You folks do know who's won both Nebula from SFWA and Edgar from MWA, right?

user-pic
85:

...not to mention sending out a clear signal that SFWA is a dysfunctional organization, institutionally incapable of learning from bad experiences...


As a two-term ex-member of the SFWA Board of Directors: yup, that pretty much nails it.

86:

Hi, Charlie. Mind if I reply to a lot of people? They're all coming here to talk about it.

Rosemary (29): Oh, come on. You know there's always going to be a raree show.

Cory et al., I had no idea that SFWA gets so much money from Sweden. I can tell you where part of it goes: SFWA's never gotten the hang of negotiating advantageous hotel contracts.

Charlie (47), it's the worst sort of bad luck to say that SFWA can't get any worse than whatever it's doing at that moment. Proof: people keep saying it, and look what happens.

A general question: why should we believe that increased cooperativeness at Scribd is the result of Andrew Burt's/SFWA's efforts? If they were being careless about allowing uploads of copyrighted materials, other rightsholders could have taken action -- and probably didn't step on their own neckties while doing it.

Jonathan Vos Post (59), the tension is not between members who want weak or strong presidents of SFWA. What everyone wants are competent presidents. Some members, despairing of getting consistent competence, have favored weakening the office so that inept yet self-confident presidents can do less damage.

Vox Day (62), you have no idea what you're doing. None. However, two of your proposals amused me:

6. Turn the SFWA web site into the premier online science fiction and fantasy e-library by providing freely downloadable works available in all formats from every SFWA member interested in contributing. At this point I twigged to the pattern in your proposals: You think SFWA's basic problem is that it doesn't have enough things to argue about, and it suffers from a superfluity of volunteer labor.

7. Pursue a treaty of non-aggression with the Romance Writers of America --

Good idea as far as it goes. I've seen their shock troops.

-- prior to launching a joint assault on the Mystery Writers of America.

You do know that those people have seminars on stuff like the technology of mayhem, and how to beat forensics tests?

Of course, the SFWA will only honor the treaty until we are in a position of subsequent strength to take on the RWA directly, which I hope to achieve by the spring of 2010.

Given your stated opinions on women, I'd love to see you take on the RWA. Bring a friend so there'll be someone to take charge of the remains.

Steve (69): it's very brave of you to post that much calumny, misinformation, and pure bullshit without putting your full name on it.

There was no "kill Burt" faction. First, Cory was angry because his Creative Commons-licensed work had been taken offline. He's been a crusader for Creative Commons and related positions, and people who heard about the takedown understandably wondered what was going on there.

Second, Cory had specifically forbidden SFWA to issue takedown notices on his behalf.

Third, he was upset that SFWA had harassed innocent users of Scribd under the provisions of the DMCA.

You aren't acquainted with Cory's actual positions on copyright. They're not hard to find, and they aren't especially hard to understand. If you intend to continue writing about copyright issues, you'll embarrass yourself in public less often if you find out what they are.

Jerry Pournelle doesn't have a position. His understanding of the issues gets more and more out of date. What he mostly does is bellow abuse on the private SFWA area. The only of this is that it keeps the rest of the internet from having to listen to his rants.

If there really had been a "Doctorow & company play" in progress, as your libellous fantasy would have it, Andrew Burt would have been reduced to a damp spot on the pavement. Fortunately for him, there was nothing of the sort going on.

(Has anyone ever told you that you should turn off the "imagination" option when you're trying to write nonfiction?)

That Scribd took down various texts was never the point of the argument. The problem was that the DMCA takedown notices were issued improperly and illegally, and that SFWA was made to look both villainous and incompetent.

Spare me your widows who depend on royalties. Online texts aren't depressing their incomes.

"I wouldn't quickly rush to the judgement that everything Burt did was bad..."

Fortunately, no one's doing any such thing. They're reacting to Burt's genuine errors.

...

Anybody here in favor of turning Vox Day over to SFWA's female members? I'd pay money to watch.

87:

Given all the angst I suffer from how the feminist movement has made my life far more miserable than it would have been in the good ol' days of 1950 or 1850 or whenever the good ol' days were supposed to be, yes, I'd love to take out all my wretchedness on Vox Day.

Just as soon as I get done crying miserable tears of depression over my right to vote, personally-owned property, happy non-arranged marriage, and pair of successful and intellectually challenging careers.

(Oh, wait. Can I participate, even though I'm not in SFWA?)

People who think women are less happy now? Aren't paying attention. The difference is that now women are free to speak up about being unhappy, and then to do something about it.

88:

Does someone have a problem with female-dominated anthologies?

Not a bit. If people want to read about sexy vampires and women whose psionic powers are unlocked by constant stimulation to orgasm, I don't mind.

I just have a problem with books that suck winning SFWA awards. I'm have no doubt that Asaro is a perfectly lovely individual, but I tried to read three of her books BECAUSE of that idiot award and I have zero regard for novels about strong, independent, beautiful, intelligent, but vulnerable women and the handsome, shipwrecked hunks who respect them.

Her books are admittedly not as bad as the one about the lighthouse keeper having an affair with a were-seal that another publisher sent me, but ye cats, they're bad!

I note that you defended Asaro, the person, not The Quantum Rose, the award-winning book. Look, award her Miss Congenial if you like, but why devalue the Nebula? Compared to past winners, that one stands out like a very sore thumb indeed and I suspect you may even know it.

If you don't think SFWA and the Nebula process has problems, so be it. I'm merely expressing my opinion; the fact that two very different individuals actually happen to agree that there are some serious problems tend to indicate that perhaps those problems exist.

As for sour grapes, please. I'm fine with never even being nominated for a Nebula. But I'm not fine with great writers being overlooked in favor of mediocre ones.

89:

FUBARBARA: a really bad syllogism.

90:

Given your stated opinions on women, I'd love to see you take on the RWA. Bring a friend so there'll be someone to take charge of the remains.

Anytime, Miz Hayden. After I get through with the Rational Response Squad, Dawkins and Harris, I'll be happy to beat down a few fat old women. I've never had any problem smacking around women, I'm all about equality.

Anybody here in favor of turning Vox Day over to SFWA's female members? I'd pay money to watch.

Well, I'm probably a little light for THAT weight class these days, but I suppose I could fire up the creatine and get within 20 pounds for what passes for an SFW middleweight. Are you thinking Octagon? I know I am!

You think SFWA's basic problem is that it doesn't have enough things to argue about, and it suffers from a superfluity of volunteer labor.

No, I think its basic problem is that it is run by a committee of people who have never successfully run profitable businesses. Some of this is inevitable, most of it isn't. The SFWA isn't a business, nor should it be, but it doesn't have to be dysfunctional.

91:

Women don't need male feminists such as myself or Dave Brin to defend them against absurdity. I stand corrected by TNH's astute comment on strength versus competence, which may be an issue in November 2008 voting booths. Hers is the editorially acute yet sweet voice of reason who managed to partially train even me in blog etiquette, for which I thank her again.

As to: "I think its [SFWA's] basic problem is that it is run by a committee of people who have never successfully run profitable businesses."

Well, John Jacob Astor IV [13 July 1864 – 15 April 1912) was an American millionaire businessman, inventor, writer of a science fiction novel, a member of the prominent Astor family, and a lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War. He died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

SFWA is its own iceberg, this time. If SFWA has an active member with a better credit rating than Larry Niven, let her or him speak up in our time of need. Or, here's a plan, why doesn't someone hurry up and coauthor a science fiction novel with William Henry Gates III [28 October 1955-]? That trumps the earlier Paul Allen suggestion.

92:

"Its obvious to me from timing and etc that Doctorow & friends jumped on the "kill Burt" bandwagon "

Clearly you don't know the history.

Frex, did you know Burt borrowed a large amount of money from SFWA while serving on its board, promised to repay it as part of his campaigning, and then reneged?

Have you ever watched him in a comment thread? He lies, even as the trail of his lies increases. He lies, even as you can go back and *see* where his story has changed.

Burt is a lying, incompetent weasel. His lying, incompetent weaseling as part of this copyright fiasco is a symptom of the lying, incompetent weaseling -- not of his copyright stance.

93:

> I'll be happy to beat down a few fat old women.

Current RWA membership: 9500 http://www.rwanational.org/

Current SFWA membership: 1200
http://www.sfwa.org/org/sfwa_info.htm

Photographs of last year's RITA winners:
http://www.rwanational.org/cs/contests_and_awards/2007_rita_award_winners_announcement

(I may add that I know Caridad Ferrer, last year's Best Contemporary Single Title winner. I'm pretty sure she could wither Vox Day's testicles with a single stare.)

94:

Charlie, did you get drunk and code a Voxbot? And is it open source?

95:

Rachel, "...Burt borrowed a large amount of money from SFWA while serving on its board, promised to repay it as part of his campaigning, and then reneged?"

Wait, you mean after that whole thing he still hasn't repaid that loan? (I'm not a SFWA member, yet, and it's looking like I wouldn't join even when I qualify).

96:

Vox proves the Greater Internet F***tard theory.

97:

You know, it's interesting. Everything I hear about Burt makes me think he's more of a bozo. Everything he says himself, ditto. Every time I think I know what a bozo he is, he says something new, or I find out something more, that increases his bozosity rating.

It occurs to me that it's no wonder that Vox Day is in there coming up with equally idiotic ideas. They're peas from the same pod.

Well, Burt isn't a misogynist jackhole. And Vox Day (AFAIK) isn't an embezzler. But there's a real similarity in the level of self-confident stupidity.

98:

OK, I'm just decloaking to remind everyone that Vox isn't the issue here.

Carry on.

99:

Reformatted excerpts of some things quoted on Slashdot a couple of days ago:

"It is one of the essential features of such incompetence that the
person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. To
have such knowledge would already be to remedy a good portion of the
offense."
-- Miller, W. I., Humiliation, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."
-- Darwin, C., The Descent of Man, London: John Murray, 1871.

100:

John Scalzi wrote back in March:

"I believe that based on what I've read from him Mr. Capobianco is fundamentally afraid of the changing publishing world, and the changes in the world of speculative fiction, and that this fundamental position will cause him to make his tenure as SFWA backward-facing and defensive, rather than forward-thinking and innovative. This will make SFWA even more irrelevant to working writers -- that is, the people who are shaping science fiction -- than it already is."

Whew. Good thing that didn't happen.

user-pic
101:

As for the SFWA, if our female members wish to vote for the "I slept with a sexy vampire/werewolf/ghost" that so many of them seem to enjoy writing, that's really up to them.

May the ghost of Octavia Butler rise up to smite you.

102:

JVP (91): "Women don't need male feminists such as myself or Dave Brin to defend them against absurdity."

We are in perfect accord!

Kathryn tells me you've been having good times in the comment threads on her weblog. I'm pleased to hear it.

user-pic
103:

Vox, it sure does take a stunning example of manhood and Christianity to turn every argument regarding women into ad-hominem attacks and wars of stereotypes. Way to represent.

104:

As a non-member (go figure, I write code, which is only entertainment for the people that have to maintain it later), I have no horse in this race.

However, I can certainly shake my head at the latest stupidity to come from an organization that seems to have ass-hats in the place of heads.

105:

I'm all about equality, too, and would be damn happy to smack down some asshat Christian SF author. Maybe we could have a party.

106:

But Vox, why stop there at simply taking away a woman's right to vote and threatening to physically assault them, when women could be easily be rounded up in the night, shoved into cattle cars and sent away as you recommended should be done for all illegal immigrants, since you say it only "took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews." I suppose you wouldn't, as your first act as SFWA president, unless God told you to, as he's told you that you can kill children: 'If I am correct that my God is the Creator God, that we are all his creations, then killing every child under two on the planet is no more inherently significant than a programmer unilaterally wiping out his AI-bots in a game universe.'

107:

Am I correct in thinking Vox Day's real name is Theodore Beale? If so, let's call him who he really is -- rather than his (presumably self-chosen) moniker. Because for those of you who don't know Latin, he's essentially calling himself "the Voice of God" (vox dei).

Let's stop indulging his egotism, shall we?

108:

Vox, I would note that while the defense of Catherine Asaro may not directly assault your assertion that The Quantom Rose is an awful book, it does rather definitively quash your statement that women can't handle physics.

user-pic
109:

Followup to Erik Olson @57: The response from Jason Bentley of Scribd to Andrew Burt in the latter's LiveJournal may be of interest to those who have not already seen it.

Mr Burt deserves recognition for a major talent in managing to piss off the principals in every faction and camp, not to mention nearly-equal abilities in back-pedalling, oil-throwing, and osculation of posteriors (posteriori?) demonstrated in his reply to Mr Bentley.

user-pic
110:

Cynthia Wood, I read his posts as showing that he is either incapable of or uninterested in civility and logic.

Vox, if you have something to say to people that you want them to consider, you would be much better off to try talking to them instead of down at them. On the other hand, if all you want to do is piss people off, you should recall the old corollary of Occam's Razor which goes, "Never multiply your enemies unnecessarily." Especially when your posts show just how far out of your class you are in this company.

user-pic
111:

Just out of curiosity...

Is there any actual advantage to joining the SFWA these days? I realize the organization has negotiated deals with publishers in the past but how active are they on behalf on professional writers currently?

How come I never hear the names of science fiction writers anymore? I've heard of Cory Doctorow and Charlie Scalzi, but I've never heard of anything written by Andrew Burt or Mike Capobianco. What are their credits?

Does it make any sense for a group ostensibly writing what was once described as the only forward-looking literature available to be managed by what appear to be Luddites?

112:

To be fair, I've read two of Michael Victor Capobianco's [12 November 1950] 5 novels that I know about: White Light with William Barton, October 1998, which explores the strange eschatological musings of Physicist Frank Tipler's The Physics of Immortality, 1994; and Alpha Centauri with William Barton, July 1997, about colony ships.

These novels were not bad. Not classics, but professional, and mostly based on plausible science. Due to his age being just a year more than mine, he seems to have been shaped by Cold War dread in uneasy admixture with possible technological advances. His protagonists lean towards the unhappy and asocial people thrust into somewhat more action than they wanted. It would be a critical mistake to read too much into the apparent parallel between this and his challenges as SFWA President.

Andrew Burt is a Computer science professor at the University of Denver (which I respect, having been accepted into the Faculty Pool at a large university's Computer Science Department, but never getting a class due to budget cuts). He's also been a consultant (been there, done that, somewhere between $100,000 and $300,00 worth, depending on creative accounting), and a Pinball Repairman (I owned 11% of Caltech's Pinball and vending machine cartel, in the late 1960s/early 1970s, where we beta tested something called Pong and something called Computer Space, later released as Asteroids). He's somewhat paranoid, in his role as Co-founder and Co-Director of the Institute for Digital Security. So I can have some empathy for him, up to the point where he's done what seem to be stupid and dishonest things.

Prof. Burt has not had much fiction published in major markets, according to his own web site. Hence he started the Critters Workshop, an on-line group of SF (and Fantasy and Horror) writers who read and discuss each other's stories. And he sells to minor markets (I do too, no shame in that). Professor Burt's not a full-time professional Science Fiction author by my standards, but not clueless and not neoluddite either.

I think it curious that he's in a VP policy-making role at SFWA, which organization won't promote me to Lifetime Active even when I pay, and have a few more short stories published than he, and 200+ science fiction poems published, and one co-authored Science Fiction novel in print, and two sold Science Fiction screenplays co-authored, and some science fiction screenplay and teleplay consultant and rewrite credits.

Aburt's Fiction Bibliography (may be incomplete):

* Babushka for Sale, Future Orbits [upcoming]
* To Free the Slaves of the Mind, Age of Wonders anthology November 2000
* Murder at the Front, Neverworlds, January 2001
* Swirling Dust, Neverworlds, March 2000
* Healthy Habits, Titanzine, February 2000
* Hotel Missouri, Altair, August 1999
* Noontide Night [novel], June 1999
* Pigskin in a Poke, Pirate Writings, [Upcoming]
* The Last IRS Agent, Dark Matter, February 1999
* Vegas Reality, Eternity On-line, [Upcoming]
* You Bet Your Planet, E-Scape, February 1999
* Corpus, SpaceWays Weekly, Issue 53, September 4, 1998
* The Last Flight of the Sarah Mae, Neverworlds, September 1998
* The Last IRS Agent, Dark Planet, [February 1999]
* A Sailor on the Sea of Humanity, Jackhammer July 13, 1998
* Corpus, XIZQUIL, [Upcoming]
* 6277, Eternity On-line, December 1998 (* Winner of best-of-month award *)
* Tachyon Dreams, Visionair [a Dutch magazine], [Upcoming]
* The Watering Hole, SpaceWays Weekly, Issue 38, May 22, 1998
* The Last Flight of the Sarah Mae, Millennium, March, 1998, along with fellow Critter, Tom Hooten
* True Colors, Jackhammer, March 2, 1998
* A Sailor on the Sea of Humanity, Net Pens (Croatian), [Upcoming]
* The Last IRS Agent, Pirate Writings, Summer 1997
* Healthy Habits, Keen Science Fiction, March, 1997
* Privacy Most Public, Mind's Eye, [On continuous display starting November, 1996 -- yes, you can read it.]
* Congestion, Keen Science Fiction, [Upcoming - June '97? -- sigh, magazine went out of business]
* Delta Pi, Millennium, November 1996
* The Reluctant Guest at the Edge of the World, Plot, Summer 1998, with fellow Critter Dan Thompson
* A Sailor on the Sea of Humanity, Keen Science Fiction, July 1996
* Privacy Most Public, Millennium, July 1996
* True Colors, Millennium, June 1996
* To Kiss a Star, Dream Forge, May 1996
* The Reluctant Guest at the Edge of the World, Phase Transitions, May 1996

But this is not a good time for ad hominem attacks. The real issues, IMHO, include: what is SFWA for; is it doing the job; are the current officers converging to or diverging from that job; and is the Committee Formerly Known as Prince of Pirates accelerating asymptotically to lunacy, even after getting some rather good advice?

There are, as I say, common enemies of all writers. These do not rightfully include other writers, our readers, good editors, good publishers, good agents, good attornies, or kindred writers' groups. I remember being cofounder and emcee of a Writers' Rights in the Electronic Age event at the Writers Guild Theatre back in 1990-mumble, which had Harlan Ellison as a keynote speaker, and an ad hoc coalition I'd assembled of 13 writers' organizations (including MWA, Writers Guild, National Writers Union, and the like).

There is room for coalition against, as I say, common enemies. John Porter (Harvard Business School) identifies 5 types of competition. Read him for the details. These are competition with other providing the same product or service (why it would be hard to simply replace SFWA); suppliers (of research materials such as magazines and newspapers and books and movies, PCs, webhosts, ISPs, online subscription services such as Lexis, paper, travel to cons, overpriced hotels and SFWA Suites, restaurants for tax-deductable entertainment, tuxedos or lather kilts to wear while accepting awards, and the like); customers (i.e. pricing or Giving It Away Free or a combination); government (taxation, regulation), and technological change that obsoletes our business model.

The proper strategic response to technological change that obsoletes our business model is to study it, measure it, understand it, and then change our business model. Not to stick fingers in ears and yell at passers-by. Not to play King Canute Meets Ned Ludd. What we need to build is "the loom that weaves another loom." Google that magic phrase.

The future is here, but is not equally distributed. So now, you know, let's distribute it better.

113:

John Jacob Astor IV [13 July 1864 – 15 April 1912) was an American millionaire businessman, inventor, writer of a science fiction novel, a member of the prominent Astor family, and a lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War. He died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. If SFWA has an active member with a better credit rating than Larry Niven, let her or him speak up in our time of need.

What does that have to do with the SFWA? Did we ever elect his sodden corpse to run it? Even dead, he can't have been much worse than some of the recent officials. That latter sentence is amusing. All that Googling and all everyone latched onto was a few op/ed columns?

"Never multiply your enemies unnecessarily." Especially when your posts show just how far out of your class you are in this company.

Come on! No one, other than Sara and Midori, has actually made a salient point about anything I've written here or elsewhere. It's merely variations on the theme of "Me No Like Scawy Ideas". Not that any of those ideas actually have anything to do with the subject supposedly on hand.

As for "enemies", I don't see any, I only see a few SFWA sheep who dislike me for what they think are my unpalatable ideas. That's fine, it comes with the territory for any columnist. I merely hope they remember their position on the matter the next time they want to whine that person X doesn't like them because of their opinions.

I mean, is it really an idiotic idea to make the Nebula a cash prize like every other major prize covered by the media? Is it really so stupid to expand SFWA's reach into the two areas which are the most influential in both the science fiction and fantasy worlds today?

114:

Leather kilt. Black leather. Not lather kilt, which I suppose mad Scotties wear.

And Googling my phrase got me Lord Byron's daughter's famous phrase comparing Babbage's proto-computer to the Jacquard loom.

"The Analytical Engine ... weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves."

But I could not find Lord Byron's speech about the need to transcend loom-smashing by Luddites, and look forward to a loom that weaves another loom, which I recall but can't source, as prefiguring automation.

He did say this, which seems a propos:

Lord Byron, speech in the House of Lords (27th February, 1812)

During the short time I recently passed in Nottingham, not twelve hours elapsed without some fresh act of violence; and on that day I left the the county I was informed that forty Frames had been broken the preceding evening, as usual, without resistance and without detection.

Such was the state of that county, and such I have reason to believe it to be at this moment. But whilst these outrages must be admitted to exist to an alarming extent, it cannot be denied that they have arisen from circumstances of the most unparalleled distress: the perseverance of these miserable men in their proceedings, tends to prove that nothing but absolute want could have driven a large, and once honest and industrious, body of the people, into the commission of excesses so hazardous to themselves, their families, and the community.

They were not ashamed to beg, but there was none to relieve them: their own means of subsistence were cut off, all other employment preoccupied; and their excesses, however to be deplored and condemned, can hardly be subject to surprise.


As the sword is the worst argument than can be used, so should it be the last. In this instance it has been the first; but providentially as yet only in the scabbard. The present measure will, indeed, pluck it from the sheath; yet had proper meetings been held in the earlier stages of these riots, had the grievances of these men and their masters (for they also had their grievances) been fairly weighed and justly examined, I do think that means might have been devised to restore these workmen to their avocations, and tranquillity to the country.

===========

Also, googling the loom situation:

"Stop him who dares; stop him who can!" was the watchword of the secret worker's societies. The destruction of the machines ceased only when a new understanding of the matter arose among themselves, and they came to see that they could not halt technical progress by this means.

In 1812, parliament enacted a law imposing the death penalty for the destruction of machines. It was on this occasion that Lord Byron delivered his celebrated indictment of the government and ironically demanded that, if the bloody law was to be put into force, the house should provide that the jury should always consist of twelve butchers.

Lord Byron's sympathy for the Luddites,includes this first stanza of one of his poems:

"As the Liberty lads o'er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will die fighting, or live free
And down with all kings but King Ludd!"

I should be asleep, so sorry if this is a bit rambling, but:

Now the storm begins to lower,
(Haste, the loom of hell prepare,)
Iron sleet of arrowy shower
Hurtles in the darkened air.

Glittering lances are the loom,
Where the dusky warp we strain,
Weaving many a soldier's doom,
Orkney's woe, and Randoer's bane.
"The Fatal Sisters" T. GRAY.

Does anyone know the "loom that weaves another loom" citation that I can't find?

I can't find it in his "The Curve of Minerva" which has these lines:

The starv'd mechanic breaks his rusting loom,
And desperate roans him 'gainst the common doom.
Then in the Senate of your sinking state,
Show me the man whose counsels may have weight.
Vain is each voice where tones could once command,
E'en factions cease to charm a factious land;
Yet jarring sects convulse a sister isle, And light with maddening hands the mutual pile. (259-78)

So, please, no more shall SFWA's jarring sects convulse.

In Childe Harold's Pilgrimage IV Byron had lamented:

"What from this barren being do we reap? /
Our senses narrow, and our reason frail, /
Life short, and truth a gem which loves the deep, /
And all things weigh'd in custom's falsest scale"
(93)

Hmmm. "gem which loves the deep" -- didn't we see this late in the blockbuster film Titanic? Lord Astor wrote, oh, isn't this where we came in?

Thank you for hearing my rambling plea for peace and progress. Good morning.

115:

I mean, is it really an idiotic idea to make the Nebula a cash prize like every other major prize covered by the media? Is it really so stupid to expand SFWA's reach into the two areas which are the most influential in both the science fiction and fantasy worlds today?

Yes, it's a dumb idea. Because ...

The original purpose of the Nebula was to raise money for SFWA. It was to do this by providing a handy sales hook for an annual anthology of award-winning stories; that's why Damon Knight established it in the first place. (You can't have an anthology of award-winners without an award: right?)

Since then it's kind of wandered off the track, but the Nebula anthologies are still highly profitable and provide a supplementary income stream for SFWA.

Turning it into a monetary prize might gain publicity, but would cost money. SFWA doesn't really need publicity, but it needs money. QED.

116:

Turning it into a monetary prize might gain publicity, but would cost money. SFWA doesn't really need publicity, but it needs money. QED.

I understand. But sponsoring the Nebula for a $5k or 10k prize would be nice publicity at little cost for a game developer or publisher who does sci-fi or science fiction. Look what Eidos spent just to get rid of one editor from GameSpot.... Others like NCSoft or Blizzard wouldn't even notice the expense and they've got people at executive levels who quite appreciate various members of the SFWA, if not the SFWA itself.

117:

Vox Day seems to think a Nebula cash prize could be funded by sponsorship, as other major literary prizes are.

The Booker prize is named for the company that sponsors it.

I hope everyone sees the problems.

But if something like the Honest Joe's Used Car Nebula Award is OK with you....

118:

That's actually quite a good idea -- although it'd take a lot of work to develop. For one thing, it would entail amending the SFWA by-laws, which is a bit of a nightmare. For another: the sponsor company would effectively be buying publicity using the Nebula award. At the same time, there's the risk of sponsors pressuring SFWA itself to behave in such a way that it doesn't devalue the publicity gain to the sponsor -- which could be a good thing as well as a bad thing, but it needs to be considered. Finally, it'd be pretty important to restrict sponsorship deals to companies who aren't active in those areas for which the Nebula is awared, to avoid conflict of interest questions arising.

In summary: a good idea, lots of work needed to make it possible. Thanks, I think this needs to be passed on for consideration.

119:

Posts crossed over there...

If you're who everyone thinks you are, VD, I appreciate you know something about the publicity money that these companies can spend.

But the interactions between these companies and the SF world could be open to criticism. Does the SFWA want to seem influenced by one small market for SF stories?

And is the company name really that important for their publicity?

You're right, it could be a good deal, and it needn't be a big-budget item for a sponsor. But would a sponsor rather have a nice simple competition: a few books on a shortlist, and one winner?

120:

Some of us in the old committee refused in person (not publicly) to rejoin the new SFWA committee.

Capo is polling and discussing things with the ex presidents.

80% (or close to it) of SFWAns who answered a poll wanted a strong (anti-piracy)committee but with strong supervision. The committee that reccomended how to rework the (anti-piracy) committee was very broad spectrum and included Scalzi as chair, Charlie, me, Greg Bear, others. We were in huge agreement what was to be done.

I have sent a strongly worded email to the president of SFWA that I will not be on the new committee and think that Burt should recuse himself.

That's all I will say publicly on the matter.

Oh, and by the way, that Swedish thing? It goes to a number of American writer's groups because there seems no way that they can track down everyone individually. That way, well-known writers are helping to support lesser knowns through their organizations. It has to do with books borrowed from libraries.

Jane Yolen


A lot of people answering here are talking through their collective hats.

121:

Claudia@#101, nice smackdown. When I read that line of Vox Day's comment #88, coming so soon after JvP and TNH's excellent disquisitions, I physically recoiled from the screen; it was as if something slimy-furred and disgusting had crawled inside my brain and was curling up in there.

At least his utterly odious views are in the minority.

122:

Rachel 92: Burt borrowed a large amount of money from SFWA while serving on its board, promised to repay it as part of his campaigning, and then reneged

Steve Buchheit 95: Wait, you mean after that whole thing he still hasn't repaid that loan?

John Scalzi says

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.

Vox Diaboli 113: No one, other than Sara and Midori, has actually made a salient point about anything I've written here or elsewhere.

This is because engaging with your racist, misogynist, genocidist rhetoric is not worth our time, not because your arguments are worth anything. You're a troll, not a serious participant in any discussion, as you've proved over and over at Making Light and elsewhere.

124:

Vox Stult.:

"No one, other than Sara and Midori, has actually made a salient point about anything I've written here or elsewhere."
Good heavens. Did you imagine you were worth arguing with? You aren't.

125:

Xopher: there is a fine dividing line between a troll and a pinata ... if I thought the denizens of this comment thread couldn't cope with Vox I'd ban him, but it's more fun to watch the fireworks.

126:

VD... Having seen you in action before, it's not that we don't like scary ideas, it's that we dislike stupid, non-factual, or ridiculous ideas.

It's that silly posturing of manly strength (and implicit virtue by gender) count as such.

But if you want to warm up on the girly men who agree with people like Teresa, Midori and the like, feel free to come to Grafenwoer (Cp. Aachen) and I'll be glad to give you a warm up.

T. Karney
SSG, USA

user-pic
127:

...there is a fine dividing line between a troll and a pinata...

One swings up at a piñata, and down at a troll, right?

128:

This is because engaging with your racist, misogynist, genocidist rhetoric is not worth our time, not because your arguments are worth anything. You're a troll, not a serious participant in any discussion, as you've proved over and over at Making Light and elsewhere.

That is almost too funny for words. I rather look forward to you discovering what my next book is and how it has been received by far more serious intellectuals than the writers and publishers of vampire sex fantasies in space.

If you had any intellectual self-respect you'd be embarrassed by relying on that junior high school dodge. You could, but you just can't be bothered. Right. Never heard that one before.

In any case, what do any of my ideological views have to do with the wisdom or foolishness of my recommendations for the SFWA? Charlie's right that there are legitimate structural obstacles within the organization, but those can always be overcome.

The money will be found easily, we're talking about petty amounts and that's not a problem. The question is if the organization will support a move to make the Nebula prize legitimately worthy of note, the Bulletin something that everyone interested in SF&F wants to read and the membership broadened to include other significant creative forms in which sci-fi and fantasy writing appears.

129:

Charlie 125: Point taken.

*picks up broomstick*

130:

"That Swedish thing" is not just Swedish, it comes from a handful of European countries via the Authors Coalition. It's non title specific (i.e. guilt ridden countries paying blanket tithes for xeroxing) so rather than being paid out to specific writers, it underwrites author organizations, on the theory that this will indirectly help authors. In practice for the SFWA this means it appears as an unrestricted income item - one that dwarfs dues and all other receipts combined - and it goes to pay for salaries, expenses, the annual Nebula loss, the EMF, etc. Without it, SWFA would probably go out of business. In case you're curious, MWA and RWA also get their share.

user-pic
131:

Xopher 129: Is it just me, or is the candy in this pinata unusually stale?

132:

In any case, what do any of my ideological views have to do with the wisdom or foolishness of my recommendations for the SFWA?

Your ideology is stupid and abhorrent. It also makes us suspicious that you have an agenda to push, and you've shown yourself to be single- and narrowminded enough to push an agenda even where it's irrelevant, let alone where it might matter.

A stopped (analog, 12-hour) clock is right twice a day. A completely bozo clock (e.g. one that runs at random speeds, runs backward occasionally etc.) is right occasionally, but even when it is, you can't draw any information from it because it is unreliable. When it's right, you only find out by comparing to an actual working clock. And then the reaction is not "wow, I should start paying attention to the bozo clock," but rather "what do you know, the bozo clock was right; what a coincidence."

You, "Vox," are a bozo clock. It's possible you may be right about some things about SFWA. However, this is no reason to listen to you. If the ideas come from some other source, even if they're identical, they'll be worth more, because the other source is almost certainly more reliable than you (unless it's Jerry Pournelle).

I certainly encourage you to begin trying to turn yourself into a reasonable person. You're beginning the effort late in life, though, and your bozo clock habits will be hard to break. In addition, you will need a new crop of people to be reasonable at, since the ones you've already ranted at have stopped listening to you long since. Eventually they may start again, but it will take a long time and much effort on your part.

I must add that I do not expect you to listen to any of this, much less make the effort required to become a reasonable person. (I've seen people do it—hell, I'm a former strident jackass myself—but they started younger, and didn't have quite as much self-satisfied ego as you.) So I'm saying this mostly to help others who may not have encountered you realize that your ideas should be considered in the light of your history as a racist, a misogynist, and an open advocate of genocide. This is not so much a grain of salt as an entire salt mine.

That said, a good idea is a good idea. If reasonable people (like Charlie) think the idea of making the Nebula include a cash prize has merit, it might be worth considering. "Huh, the bozo clock was right. What a coincidence."

But I would caution that they should carefully consider how that seemingly-good idea could push a racist, misogynist, and/or genocidist agenda. The last of these I can't see, frankly. But I once commented that men and women could both act, and I didn't understand why the Oscars™ were divided by gender. A female friend told me why right away: "Because if they were combined only men would win," she pointed out. HINT: she didn't mean that the best male actors are all better than the best female actors.

I think adding a cash prize to the Nebula is an extremely bad idea for this reason. If there were cash behind it, some of the men would use all the dirty tricks in the world to ensure that only men, and likely only WHITE men, would win it. This idea serves your racism and your misogyny, in the guise of your stated goal of not giving the nebula to "crappy books."

Not giving it to crappy books is a good thing, but in your case, given your history, I suspect that "crappy books" includes "all books written by women."

If you come up with ideas that are genuinely irrelevant to the topics on which you are a proven wacko, they might be worth listening to—if otherwise reasonable people look at them and think so. But I don't think you will.

BOTTOM LINE: you've poisoned a well from which you want to drink. If you didn't think the good opinion of fans, writers, and bloggers was worth having...here's why it is. And why it's way too late for you to get it.

133:

Fiendish Writer 131: It's not really about the candy, at least for me. It's the whacking that's fun!

134:

As the old saw goes, "on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog." I can make no determination as to whether Vox believes this stuff, or just thinks it's a fun way to tweak our noses.

However ...

Following up what Xopher just said, roughly 65% of all books sold in the USA are sold to women. Even in SF, a genre identified as being short of female cooties, 55% of the readership have XX chromosomes. Among the authors of SF/F novels, roughly 60% are female. There's no getting away from this: if you are perceived as a misogynist, then it doesn't matter in the slightest if that's a misconception with no basis in fact. You will have alienated up to 55-65% of your potential audience before you get started.

(And this is not a good way to convince editors that publishing you is likely to be profitable. Whether or not they have XX chromosomes.)

135:

The most troubling part of this whole thing - to me, an active member of SFWA - is that the ONLY time anyone ever contacted me about anything in this whole kerfluffle was when the exploratory committee sent out an e-mail. I would actually like to know when these sorts of things are happening when they are happening, so that I can actually participate in the decision-making process. Writing letters to Senators works much better when the vote hasn't already been cast.

I learned quite a lot after the fact. I'm still learning the whole details.

However, and I want to make this very clear to you, personally, Mr. Stross, and to all of your committee members:

Thank you for your efforts. Please - >PLEASE

We are, after all, merely one election away from organizational relevance.

Cory Doctorow: I'm looking at you, too.

136:

Oops, HTML ate part of the prior post... I always forget that some people have that stuff turned on.

Thank you for your efforts. Please - PLEASE - continue to remain active in the organization. Please will some of you run for office next election cycle? Please!?

We are, after all, merely one election away from organizational relevance.

Cory Doctorow: I'm looking at you, too.

137:

"...there is a fine dividing line between a troll and a pinata..."

"One swings up at a piñata, and down at a troll, right?"

A troll is a person who says outrageous things in order to provoke a response. When a troll is successful in provoking a response, the troll is rewarded.

Thus, the difference between a troll and a pinata is that a troll in fact gets stronger when you swing at it.

user-pic
138:

After doing some Googling, it looks like the person calling himself "Vox Day" might well be Theodore Beale.

There this post from a Google games group. And there's a lot of stuff here from Jeff Fecke's blog.

I figure if people are going to take him seriously enough to reply too, they might as well address their comments to a real person rather than a faceless sock puppet.

user-pic
139:

Charlie wrote:

SFWA doesn't really need publicity

I think that's going to start changing -- the longer this goes on, the more need there will be for positive publicity.


140:

Robert 138: And I'm Christopher Hatton (not, I should add in fairness, the one who wrote ST:TNG episodes), but I post as Xopher. Posting under a pseudonym isn't necessarily a sign of nefarious intent.

Of course, VD's pseudonym is hubristic (that's prideful, for Christian readers). I think the various solutions to that problem seen here are good ones.

141:

I think adding a cash prize to the Nebula is an extremely bad idea for this reason. If there were cash behind it, some of the men would use all the dirty tricks in the world to ensure that only men, and likely only WHITE men, would win it. This idea serves your racism and your misogyny, in the guise of your stated goal of not giving the nebula to "crappy books."

Definitely someone from the "fantasy" side of the genre. WTF? Sure, all the WHITE MEN of the SFWA are going to plot to make sure that one of them can run away with a massive $5K windfall? No wonder the organization is increasingly irrelevant.

BOTTOM LINE: you've poisoned a well from which you want to drink. If you didn't think the good opinion of fans, writers, and bloggers was worth having...here's why it is. And why it's way too late for you to get it.

I could not care less. I did my bit as a life member and spoke my piece, it's fine with me if SFWA keeps doing what it's doing. I've certainly never used any of its services. However, I don't think my critics here have any idea how out of touch they are with the entertainment market; if you think you dislike my abhorrent ideology now, just wait until the first screenshots from my latest design come out.

The future belongs to those who show up.

user-pic
142:

I think adding a cash prize to the Nebula is an extremely bad idea for this reason. If there were cash behind it, some of the men would use all the dirty tricks in the world to ensure that only men, and likely only WHITE men, would win it.

Xopher, I think Vox Day is a total ass, but this is contrary to all available evidence. It would mean only white men would win... just like the Booker prize?

I don't see it.

143:

No, David, I think he meant Andrew Burt would win.

(This is SFWA we're talking about.)

user-pic
144:

For Andrew Burt to win, he would have to actually write something. By all evidence this is something he is incapable of.

145:

Excuse me stepping in, but David post#144, I refer you to Jonathan Vos Posts post # 112.

As for Vox Dei, theres no need for anyone to get their knickers in a twist. SOme of us have known about him for quite a few years now.

146:

2010 Nebula for Best novel won by Andrew Burt for his brilliant novel "Cracker Hackdown and the Spiders from Mars" which reads as if Neal Stephenson rewrote Bruce Sterling's "Hacker Crackdown" as a sequel to Cryptonomicon, but with the FBI as the good guys and the Grateful Dead being the ultimate evil conspiracy, giving away music files free, promoting drugs and modern art neckties and tie-died VW vans.

"Takes Cyberspace way beyond what William Gibson intended" -- TIME.

"Andrew Burt's mysterious actions at SFWA revealed as a post-modernist set up for the greatest shaggy dog punchline in Sci-Fi history." [Publisher's Weekly]

"Well, that explains everything." [joint communique from SFWA Acting President Stross and Acting VP Doctorow]

"Jane Austen novels and Harry Potter books suck because they were written by girls. At least Jane Yolen isn't President, on account of she's a girl! God told me so, and I am His Prophet!" [Vox Day]

147:

Girly men and raddled harridans, that is one way to describe those who get their knickers in a twist over Vox. 'Prissy' is another good word for all ya'll tea-sipping cat-fanciers.

Now, comment on how I'm not worth commenting on. Tell me again where you got your egos? China? Full of lead?

148:

Pardon me, sir. I am a monstrous virago, although I will cop to the tea-sipping and cat-fancying.

My parents assure me that my ego was delivered straight from the womb, together with (praise the Lord) a superego to keep it in check. The unconscious was included as part of a package deal.

user-pic
149:

I'm a girly man in a big bearded fellow sort of way. It's my little contribution to confusing gender lines and subverting morality, all in the interests of better selling my perverse fiction and gaming prose to confused and ignorant seekers of truth. It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it, y'know? However, I have nothing that could sensibly be described as knickers, and have often regretted this lapse as I'm forced to go about my apartment randomly twisting whatever comes to hand, if it's a heavy book or a measuring cup or something like that, well, things can get messy in a hurry. But it's worth it all to spit on traditional social organization. Lenin sacrificed friendships on the altar of revolution, so it's the least I can do to sacrifice some knick-knacks of non-knicker persuasion.

Oddly enough, I am in fact sipping tea and occasionally petting the cat, here on the sofa beside me (the cat, not the tea; the tea is in its mug, mostly, until it goes down into my mouth, and at no point does any large quantity of it end up on the sofa), while pondering phrasing. Thus I am found out.

user-pic
150:

Apologies for the inappropriate comma in the above, after "whatever comes to hand". Even a giddy gender-revolting revolutionary should pay attention to his, her, their, its, yeye's, or otherwise possessed punctuation.

151:

Hi Bane. I was just curious who you thought was addressing you, or how you entered into the conversation. Because I know you didn't just randomly show up and dare a bunch of strangers to start paying attention to you. Because that behavior is called being 'needy', stinking of a desperate junior high school girl's need to be noticed and talked about, and not necessarily indicative of the uber-tough-guy-Marlboro-Man type that you seem to think you are. Cheers.

152:

David 142: Shhh! You'll give it away.

Oh, he already jumped on it like a brain-damaged kitten on a piece of string. I was attempting to characterize him as thinking that would work. Which I guess my joke didn't, either. Oh well.

Vox Stuporis sez:

However, I don't think my critics here have any idea how out of touch they are with the entertainment market; if you think you dislike my abhorrent ideology now, just wait until the first screenshots from my latest design come out.
The future belongs to those who show up.
See, the guy isn't a BAD writer exactly. He just needs a good editor. Here's a shorter, snappier version of the above:
Fools! I will destroy you all!
Has tradition behind it, too.

153:

I feel I should point out at this juncture that Girlyman is a great band. Try "On The Air" and "Young James Dean".

user-pic
154:

Xopher @ 152

Good translation for the average Evil Overlord wannabee, but it lacks that extra bit of desperate neediness so prevalent in the troll subspecies:

"Fools! I will destroy you all! Ask me how, please."

user-pic
155:

Does someone have a problem with female-dominated anthologies?

We have a new guy in the bookgroup who won't read books by women. The fan/librarian who runs the group made him check out Barrayar but he hasn't been back the last two meetings. Then again, we read books by female authors those months (Tepper & Carmody). I wonder if he'll show up this month for Pratchett.

Vox@90, how about taking on the SFWA Musketeers?

Bane@147, it's typed "y'all" since it's a contraction of "you all." (Yes, three cats within my sight and iced tea at my right hand.)

Xopher@152, tsk! It's "Fools! I will destroy you all! (ask me how)."

156:

I was using the traditional version.

user-pic
157:

Sorry to make a trivial point, but my built-in theorem prover just spotted an invalid rule of inference ...

If I am correct that my God is the Creator God, that we are all his creations, then killing every child under two on the planet is no more inherently significant than a programmer unilaterally wiping out his AI-bots in a game universe.

No, if God kills every child, it's no more significant than the programmer wiping out his AI-bots. The situation you describe is analogous to the AI-bots in the game killing each other: in which case the programmer probably fixes the bug and restarts the system.

Of course, this may already have happened.

Or, to rephrase, Don't be so stupid.

user-pic
158:

VD@141 The future belongs to those who show up.

You going to show up as Vox Day, then? Or is there some other way we're going to recognise you from any other random attention-seeking net.asshat?

user-pic
159:

Xopher(140): Posting under a pseudonym isn't necessarily a sign of nefarious intent.

True enough, as long as the anonymous author is posting in a calm and reasonable manner. On the other hand, if the thoughts being posted are contentious (one might go as far as to say "uncivilized"), then I confess to being curious who is hiding under the pillowcase (so to speak).

160:

To my knowledge, the only F/SF/H award that includes cash is the somewhat feminist James Tiptree, Jr, Award, which gives the novel winner a lot of chocolate, a song, and a check for a thousand dollars. Since the year 2000, at least four white males, including me, have won it. It's a juried award, and the jury isn't weighted toward white males.

The Tiptree people don't need a corporate sponsor. They raise money through bake sales.

SFWA could do it too, and not need bake sales. I didn't pursue the idea when I was an officer of the organization. I'm hardly disinterested, having won a few of the puppies, and may win another some day. But I do think it's a reasonable notion. The only argument I see against it is that it would just be another source of oxygen for the flamewars that distract writers from what's important -- making a living and protecting our rights.

Back to my cave now.

Joe Haldeman

161:

Robert Prior #159: VD isn't unknown to us. Sadly the most clever thing about him (in online discussions) seems to be the hubristic play on words he uses as his nom de net.

Since the market forces don't seem to be beating down doors to by his books (at least I don't see any NYT best sellers under his name, nor yet the Hugos and Nebulas... oh! right, that's because the evil feminist cabal has prevented the Hugo Voters from buying supporting memberships to WorldCons, and somehow perverted SFWA and destroyed the Nebulas. I keep forgetting), I'm not really all that concerned that I'll be forced to find out if his prose is worse than his argument.

162:

Terry, you won't be forced, but if you want to find out about him, I'm pretty sure this is his website. One thing I noticed going through it is that all the short stories are unpublished, though he seems to have gotten Pocket Books to publish "the Eternal Warriors series of Christian fantasy novels."

Here's the first paragraph of The Hoblets of Wiccam Fensboro:

It was a bad time to be a goblin in Ummat-Mor. Not only had the kingdom nearly been brought to its knees by a series of unsuccessful wars against the Iron Mountain dwarves, but two years ago, a new and dangerous threat had arisen in the north in the form of the Troll King. Rightly skeptical of his army’s ability to fend off the Troll King’s dark and terrible forces, King Weezabreth had not been tardy in rushing to the side of his distant demi-cousin, the Great Orc Gwarzul Headsmasher, Warleader and Skullcrusher Supreme of the Zoth Ommog sept.
That's right. King Weezabreth. Get the feeling he's not in the best of health? And Gwarzul Headsmasher, Warleader and Skullcrusher Supreme. Not a nice guy, at a guess.

Reading on (and I did, so you don't have to), the main character has a conversation with the mayor of the little town of Wiccam Fensboro (surprise! it's in a swamp), who is called Mayor Spitswiggle. Turns out that Gwarzul wants to exterminate the hoblets, who are—guess, just guess—little people with a tendency to be good at stealing. Orcs hate hoblets, and the mayor says "I do not intend to allow a troop of hobophobic orcs to march in here and slaughter three hundred harmless citizens!"

Hobophobic. Actually that's a pretty good pun.

And honestly, the story isn't as bad as I'm making it sound. The species are transparent Tolkien ripoffs (the trolls even turn to stone in sunlight, or at any rate the goblins think they do), but the plot isn't totally stupid, and there are a couple of characters who aren't complete cardboard cutouts.

It's actually kind of funny. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he intended it to be.

163:

Joe, there's also the Sunburst in Canada, which is worth a thousand bucks and a nice medallion. And the Endeavour Award offers $500, I think. And isn't there that Spanish award as well?

D

164:

Part of the problem with getting sponsors for something like a Nebula stipend is that SFWA (like RWA) has incorporated itself as a 501(c)(6) trade association, rather than as a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit like the MWA. The only deduction that anybody gets for giving money to the SFWA is as a promotional business expense, and there are not that many businesses who would be (a) appropriate, (b) likely to be interested in the promotional expense, and (c) lacking their own "dog" in the annual "hunt" as it were. But that's not to say there'd be none. I bet Google would be willing to think about it.

user-pic
165:

I'm an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. I've spent a fair bit of time reading down through the entire list of postings. It's good to see actual organization members speaking to the SFWA issues. I greatly appreciate knowing that the, uh, management acted without anywhere close to full support.

In turn, I'd like to speak on the subject AS a customer. I currently own a few hundred books and many back issues of some of the related magazines.

I've noted, with great concern, the increasing trend of even the biggest book stores to narrow their offerings to maximize profit. This is becoming true of even the family owned stores. I'm seeing fewer authors I like and know are still publishing and I see even fewer new authors.

The magazines have ameliorated that somewhat. I still read read comments from their editors bemoaning the inability to include all they want to because of space/cost.

I do enjoy reading a book in paper form a great deal. However, continuing to buy that way is becoming more and more impractical as well. Approximately half of my books are in storage and it's taking far too long to find that book I want to reread or loan to a friend. That's already impacted the rate at which I buy new books.

Speaking of lending, how many of you have loaned books to friends and never gotten them back? I have - and been unable to find a new copy for sale. There are also a huge number of books I borrowed from the library as a teen that are no longer in print - and probably never will be. I've not had much luck finding those in used bookstores either.

All of the above boils down to three things to consider as strong positives on going the electronic route.

1) dramatically higher availability of your works - both
current and older

2) dramatically lower cost pressures for producers and
retailers

3) a bigger market IF most of those savings are passed on to
customers (Are you listening, Amazon?)

The major risk in going to electronic distribution is that it increases the risk of piracy. This brings me back to what prompted the blowout last summer.

It appears that there are publishers and authors that are very upset about seeing their works in unauthorized places on the web and leaning hard on the organization to "do something!" I don't know the specifics behind those concerns, but the SFWA came awfully close to getting you lumped in with the RIAA precisely because it was so hamfisted.

I didn't react to what happened then, but I DO boycott all RIAA member published or distributed works and will continue to do so. Terrorizing your customer base and taking away their rights under copyright law is a great way to lose revenue. If you've been reading the news, even the major RIAA members are starting to admit that.

Speaking for myself, I can only say that I am quite willing to pay when I feel I am getting value for the money. Recently published academic studies show I'm far from alone. Baen and O'Reilly would probably be very open to discussing lessons learned as well. Dealing with the known is a lot less stressful.

I see going the electronic route as being a major boon to both readers and authors . I see little choice in my case. E-reader technology (e-paper) is finally starting to mature enough that I'll most likely buy one next year. That should ease the transition for me quite a bit. Again, I doubt I'm alone.

I'm sure that little, if any of this, is new to you. However, this is coming from a customer with a better than $100/month habit on average.

166:

Chris, I, too, have a > $100/month book habit, so I know where you're coming from.

We are, however, statistical anomalies. Here in the UK, the average person buys 1.8 books per year. It's a long tail effect; probably 50% of all books sold (other than to libraries) go to about 2% of the population.

(The difference between a midlist writer and a bestseller these days is that the midlist writer is selling to that minority who have the $100/month habit, while the bestseller is breaking out into the general public.)

Books are, increasingly, a short-term proposition; I threw together a scraper that plugs into Amazon's ecommerce API last year and began tracking my Amazon sales, and you could almost plot the decay curve in sales after initial publication date; the half-life is about two weeks. This gels with what I'm told by my editors; 80% of a book's lifetime sales in a given edition are made in the first 10 weeks.

Here's another scary statistic; Baen are doing way better with ebooks than anyone else in the SF/F field. Nevertheless, those Baen authors who've shared their figures tell me that ebooks are accounting for about 25% of their royalties. Baen sell unencrypted ebooks for a little less than mass market paperback cost, but the author gets a royalty of, IIRC, 20% rather than the traditional 6-7.5% for an MMPB. So the high royalty rate is actually exaggerating the effect of ebook sales; at best, ebooks are selling nearly as many copies as hardbacks, right now. (Other publishers who insist on using DRM and unrealistic pricing are a disaster area -- in many cases the sales don't cover the cost of converting the typeset files into an ebook in the first place.)

In consequence, ebooks don't make a lot of money. So while there's demand for them from some readers -- like yourself (or like me) -- there's little push for them from publishers. Why should there be? Dead tree books come with built-in DRM; you can't simply drop a paperback into a slot in your computer, push a button, and have a perfect scan/OCR pop out three minutes later, as you can with a music CD or a DVD.

167:

HHmm. Scary comment, Charlie. I knew book buying was bad, but not that bad.

168:

Chris and Charlie:
I'm also looking into ebook reader for the same reasons that Chris listed. I still prefer paper books (I grew up with them), but that's probably just Pavlovian and the since the advantages of ebooks outweigh my fetish for paper it's just a matter of time.

One thing scares me, though. If a publisher could get total control over e-books, the built-in DRM in dead tree books pales in comparison. Paper books can be lent and resold without paying dues to the publisher. Ebooks can be locked to a single device and - worst case - if you buy a subscription rather than a copy the publisher may decide not to offer that particular book at any point in the future (or offer a rewritten/retranslated version instead). This is why I actually watch pirates with some kind of relief - as long as someone is able to pick apart DRM, I know that at least one set of dystopian futures won't happen.

user-pic
169:

Joe @ 160: The Arthur C Clarke Award includes a cash prize, currently £2007. (Yes, it's an amount in UK pounds equal to the year of the award).

170:

#89: its cowardly for me to only use my first name, but its ok for you to insult me anonymously?

Pournelle does have public opinions on the subject; there are two camps.

Doctorow was not hurt in any way by the temporary removal of his 'free' crap on scribd.

Burts letter to scribd was not illegal; it rode a fine line, but it wasn't illegal.

He handled things in a ham-handed, idiotic manner - absolutely true. But it didn't rise to the level of an international calamity until Doctorow and friends trumpted it all over the internet and turned it into a cause. The only reason you can't see that is because you're probably part of the problem.

You want to solve your SFWA problem? Step on Cory, explain to the little yapper that what works for him doesn't mean it will work for everyone else, get real about doing for writers what needs to be done and oh. btw - pull your head out of your fundament first.

171:

Okay, steve (@169): you're banned.

Hint: anonymous trolling, when combined with outright lies and ad hominem attacks on my friends, tend to get up my nose -- especially when they're aimed at me, in my own blog. You want a soapbox? Get your own blog.

172:

Hmm, Charlie, I submitted a long comment last night. It was held for moderation, probably because it had several links in it. Did you see it? Was it too over-the-top?

173:

Xopher, your post ended up in the spam bin, which I normally only check weekly, rather than the held-for-moderation bin. Not sure why. (I've just resurrected it.)

174:

Jonathan @ 112:

"Cracker Hackdown and the Spiders from Mars" which reads as if Neal Stephenson rewrote Bruce Sterling's "Hacker Crackdown" as a sequel to Cryptonomicon, but with the FBI as the good guys and the Grateful Dead being the ultimate evil conspiracy, giving away music files free, promoting drugs and modern art neckties and tie-died VW vans.

That's rather too close for comfort to a novel I decided not to write about twenty years ago.

175:

165: If I could simply drop a paperback into a computer slot, and get a perfect scan/OCR, I'd find ebook readers more attractive than I do now. If I had an ebook reader, I'd want to use it like I use my iPod. (i.e., I buy CDs, rip them, listen to the audio files, and keep the CDs as a backup. Once I have a sane backup strategy in place, I'll buy DRM-free digital audio.)

I already have a backlog of dead tree books to get through. If I have to buy them again as ebooks, not only do they need to be cheaper, and DRM free, but I'd also want something more. For some non-fiction, it might be a new edition of the book. I don't know what that would mean for fiction. (I suppose this is kind of like going from LP to CD, except that going from book to ebook interposes an extra gadget. Going from LP to CD meant switching gadgets. That's an important distinction.)

I realize the analogy between books and music doesn't work. That was part of your point. It's still nice to see the trend away from DRM in music. DG and Chandos both sell DRM free classical music. Chandos even sells lossless. (Unfortunately, it's WMA Lossless which means I'll have to run it through my Tablet PC before I store it on my Mac. It has the large hard drive.) DG will even sell you music from out of print CDs. (I think Chandos does the same. I don't remember.)

Anyway, it looks like the music companies are starting to get the message that not only will people buy DRM-free music, some of us insist on it. Maybe the book publishers will get a similar message.

176:

Thanks Charlie. Maybe because of the multiple links to Theodore Beale's site?

177:

Charlie@143- He could win if he was on the jury and voted his own stuff onto the ballot. After all, he's got form in the whole refuse-to-recuse area.

178:

I'm a long-enough-term member that I 'retired' to become a senior member, rather than drop out in utter dismay. Until returning Burt to the renamed COpyright Committee, Capabianco had been doing a decent job, if only by cautiously listening and thinking things through before acting. I can't imagine what he was thinking, or if he was somehow browbeaten into returning Burt. If SFWA is going to survive as something other than a grumpy old farts home, it needs someone sensible with serious SF/F publishing experience to run as president.

I'm also struck by how many members have retreated here from sff.net to express themselves. There's some peculiar dynamic in on-line conversations where a small fraction of people who act like trolls -- intentionally or unintentionally - dominate an on-line medium and drive the reasonable folks away. That's sad, because in theory being on-line should bring people together rather than driving them apart, but maybe that's just the nature of the group

179:

Jeff: I've retreated from the SFF.net forums because several persons -- naming no names, J*rry P**rn*ll* springs to mind -- act like internet trolls whenever the topic of the internet comes up: and others ... let's just say the political culture is toxic.

180:

No, if God kills every child, it's no more significant than the programmer wiping out his AI-bots. The situation you describe is analogous to the AI-bots in the game killing each other: in which case the programmer probably fixes the bug and restarts the system.

Oh, you lot are indeed funny. My statement equating killing to AI-bot deletion was an answer to a hypothetical question about morality posed by an atheist reader, who posited a definite, unequivocal command from a divine being who was unquestionably the Creator God. No hallucination or subconscious elements involved.

My answer was logically correct. And it's a bit late to try to attempt getting outraged over this, as not even the more militant atheist blogs took any exception to my answer since they understood the context. Of course, it's no surprise that many here wouldn't bother to ask for any clarification before leaping to a hysterical conclusion.

That's just the SFWA being the SFWA, obviously.

And yes, Xopher, Hoblet's is a bit of a joke, albeit with a serious theme underneath. My short fiction is unpublished because I don't submit it anywhere. I'm much more interested in the concept of free ebooks anyhow, because book money is already trivial and will continue to fall as the barriers to entry keep shrinking and the publishing gatekeepers become ever less relevant.

I think read what you want, pay what you want is the inevitable e-future. Many will fight it, but they'll eventually be overwhelmed by the new breed. X may be a better writer than Y, but how many people will pay to read X when Y is free, especially in a post-literate world inequipped to fully appreciate X. And if Y is more entertaining too... forget it.

25+ people still believe that hardcopy conveys some sort of essential virtue or stamp of professionalism to a product. 25- people don't. If more of the latter crew read, or if ereaders were as good as the MP3 players, the publishing world would have been forced to face what the recording industry is now trying to come to terms.

181:

Re #174:

John A Arkansawyer, I know the strange feeling from reading a story or book and thinking: "Hey, I started to write the same thing!"

To pick one example from my experience, I'd been researching the origin of computers for my Jan 2000 IEEE Computer magazine cover story on what Science Fiction did and did not predict about computers.

Along the way, I stumbled on how early (1700s) semiconductor research in the Royal Society was terminated. I wondered what would have happened if the transistor had been invented early enough for Babbage to have built a mainframe digital electrtonic computer. The British Empire would never have collapses, for instance. I pitched this to Dr. Stanley Schmidt at Analog. He said: "It's an editor's prerogative to tell a writer when an idea is too interesting NOT to be submitted for publication. Write me a novel outline, and I'll consider it for a serial in Analog."

So I wrote a 9,000 word proposal/outline. He didn't like it enough. I put it back on the shelf.

Then, in rapid succession, three other writers figured out essentially the same thing, and did get published.

One was by Dr. Charles Sheffield.

The other shoe dropped when Bill Gibson and Bruce Sterling wrote Nebula finalist The Difference Engine (1990), which defined the steampunk subgenre.

Moral #1: When it's Steam Engine time, everyone invents steam, engines.

Moral #2: There are LOTS of smart, creative people in SFWA. Don't judge the whole organization by a few allegedly bad apples.

182:

I'm not sure what thread this belongs in, but speaking of Bill Gibson and Bruce Sterling, and Charles Stross, Mr. Gibson sayeth:

“Having grown up in the village of science fiction, my take is that if you're writing it now and not accounting for the arc of future history that will get you from there to here, you're not really playing by the rules. You're writing a kind of fantasy. Charles Stross is doing science fiction, but the most stimulating thing he's done, the piece gave me the most sense of wonder of anything I've read in a long time, was his essay about how there's never going to be any space travel or colonization of space. That hit me like 'Wow! What if?' I really felt something shift in me. That piece was extremely culturally provocative within science fiction, and it really impressed me.

“Years ago, Bruce Sterling said to me, 'You know, the moon is a really harsh and ugly place and nobody's ever gonna live there. You could probably get the technology together to live there, but I don't think anybody will. When Columbus sailed for the New World, he wasn't planning on living at the foot of a frozen volcano. He was going somewhere good.' It really made me question my childhood, going back to the very beginning of my relationship with science fiction (which was pre-literary).

“It was always an article of faith for me when I was a kid that space travel was going to happen and if you couldn't see that you were parochial. Since I grew up, I've met a lot of parochial people. But when I read Stross's essay, it suddenly seemed quite believable to me that having an unexamined, underlying cultural faith in space travel might actually be extremely parochial. It might be limited to a certain point along the time frame. What if the world isn't flat??


The full interview, with biographical profile, is published in the November 2007 issue of Locus Magazine.

user-pic
183:
25+ people still believe that hardcopy conveys some sort of essential virtue or stamp of professionalism to a product. 25- people don't.

And you stereotype your audience as well as your characters? Do you truly believe that's a good way to gain their interest? Not only that, that statement flies in the face of the Libertarian trend that emerged in SF in the 1980s; those people are significantly older than 25, and most of them that I know are quite astute about what constitutes professionalism (Hint: it has to do with instrinsic worth to the customer put in by the creater, not extrinsic additions like marketing or packaging.) (Second hint: I'm not a Libertarian, or even much of a libertarian, but I give people their due respect).

184:

Jonathan @ 181:

You should check out 'The Egan Thief' in the latest Flurb. It's about that very thing. (A bunch of SF authors finally decide to get Greg Egan for all his precognitive plagiarism.)

185:

Re #183:

"hardcopy conveys some sort of essential virtue or stamp of professionalism" -- this is an overly reductive and antique statement, IMHO. The relationship between (overpriced) hardcopy journals (cf. resignation of entire editorial staff of Toplogy) and on-line journals (PLoS, arXiv) is changing rapidly in Science.

Science Fiction is being dragged along into the chaotic attractor of where science research papers and Math (Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, hosted by AT&T Research Labs, with over 130,000 web pages) and pr0n have gone.

Thanks for the reference, Adam Balm. To increase the linkitude:

The Egan Thief
by Gord Sellar
http://www.flurb.net/4/4sellar.htm

Story Copyright (C) 2007, Gord Sellar.
Images Copyright (C) 2007, Rudy Rucker.
2,200 Words.

.emit

Like microphones at a dictator's podium, the wormhole mouths greedily swallow my words. So I tell them stories, steganographically coded, whisper daring encrypted visions back.

Tell and whisper sound better than transmit, don’t they?

The memeseeds will were, therefore I am.

[truncated]

186:

Joe Haldeman wrote:
"The Tiptree people don't need a corporate sponsor. They raise money through bake sales. SFWA could do it too, and not need bake sales."

Now, let's not throw away a winning concept. I think Harlan Ellison in an apron, selling home-baked cakes, could raise some serious cash for the SFWA.

187:

Half-baked concept.

188:

NOTE

I've updated this blog entry in light of information that is new to me.

user-pic
189:

Charlie,

Re 166, thank you for responding and sharing some statistics. Extrapolating from what you wrote, it appears that average sales revenue per science fiction book is decreasing.

Is this a correct statement? It would certainly explain the highly emotional reaction of the authors driving Burt's earlier action. It's essentially a mirror of what RIAA members are doing.

I've done some googling just now, trying to get a cost breakdown on book publishing and overall trends in publishing. What I saw bears out what you say on traditional publishing.

However, this link states that e-publishing is rising extremely rapidly:

http://publishers.org/main/PressCenter/2006BookSales.htm

"E-books saw a 24.1% increase in 2006 at $54 million, with a compound growth rate of 65% since 2002." It appears that publishers are overcoming their reluctance.

With e-paper readers now available, it's likely that, like us, publishers are finally seeing a consumer acceptable way to read e-books.

To Kit@168, I heartily agree with you. I see Kindle as doomed to failure precisely because they are treating their customers as thieves.

Chris

190:

Chris, I don't know that average sales are decreasing for sure ... but a lot more titles are being published, and somewhat more books are being sold, and many writers feel squeezed. This is not a high-paid industry.

Note that the ebook biz is still tiny; compare that $54M in revenue against the 500 million-odd dead tree books sold per year, probably averaging about $10 each. On the other hand, 24.1% annual growth is nothing to sneeze at; if that growth rate is sustained, in 20 years ebooks could account for approximately $6Bn a year, at which point they'll have eaten the dead tree biz.

Your typical novelist is probably 30-35 when they first sell, and 70 when they retire. So the median age is probably around 50 years of age. You tell a 50 year old that a new technology they don't really have a handle on is going to eat their livelihood in the time frame of them reaching retirement, and they are going to scream blue murder: and can you blame them?

(I'm 43, but I've been doing the tech thing since my mid twenties. Which is probably why I can talk about the subject without going OHMYGODINTERNETPIRATESAREGOINGTOSTEALMYPENSION!!!!)

user-pic
191:

Charlie, All:

I think there's a couple of points that may require clarification here.

According to the bylaws, Article 5, Section 5, Paragraph B, the Vice-President is an *ex officio* member of every committee and acts to oversee their work. He is not, however, automatically the chair of every committee. This section also specifies that the VP has the power (but does not indicate the exclusivity of this power) to appoint and remove members to the Corporation's committees.

Further, there was some discussion within the Board in regards to the precise meaning of Article 5, Section 5, Paragraph A, which states in part, "The President shall have the exclusive power to sign contracts for the Corporation, except as specified below, the power to issue publications, create and appoint committees..."

The discussion was essentially about whether or not the President had the *exclusive* power to create and appoint committees or if the Board also had that power. Precedents aside, I think what was probably meant was that the President had the exclusive power to create and appoint *standing* committees (as opposed to ad hoc).

In other words, the original motion to disband the old ePiracy Committee (which I wrote and moved for, for reasons I've already discussed on SFF.Net) was - in some ways - an usurpation of the President's powers. When Michael Capobianco pointed this out to me, I apologized... and when Andrew Burt wrote and moved for the motion restoring the original committee in toto (including himself as chair) one of my many reasons for objecting had to do with whether or not the Board could even vote on such a measure.

There were a number of fairly heated exchanges between Andrew and myself on how to proceed, but voting on his motion was allowed and it passed, with myself as the only NAY vote. I'm somewhat hopeful that this vote won't come back later to bite me in the ass as someone who doesn't want to protect our members. I agreed with the Exploratory Committee's findings - I just had different ideas of how to implement them.

Anyway, there's a little of the backstory on what the bylaws say and why there is confusion.

Cheers,
Russell Davis
Western Regional Director

192:

You tell a 50 year old that a new technology they don't really have a handle on is going to eat their livelihood in the time frame of them reaching retirement, and they are going to scream blue murder: and can you blame them?

I can, perhaps, suggest that screaming blue murder is not the most effective way to achieve their ends.

193:

Charlie, I was fool enough to go read Vox Day's web page.

Fortunately I have an emergency cache of sci-fi furry bondage porn, which may help restore the balance of my mental state. (One of the major characters is a unicorn, and the author is a woman mining engineer, so he'll probably make some derisive comments.)

194:

Jonquil; quite right. However, in the SFWA's internal discussion groups, there's a critical mass of self-reinforcing screaming fifty-somethings (and a few seventy-somethings on top). Any attempt at calming things down and trying to educate them founders on the rocky shore of fifty-something angst and uncertainty. "But how can you be sure that releasing ebooks without DRM won't backfire horribly and result in my entire backlist being pirated and my royalties rapidly sinking to zero? Give me proof!!!" seems to be a fairly representative plaint, and it's in the nature of the question that you can never win, because you can't prove a negative.

The situation isn't aided by ... well, to be blunt, it is my impression that Andrew Burt is actively encouraging paranoia about ebook piracy among the more easily alarmed members of SFWA; I believe he does so in order to be able to present himself as the owner of the cozy warm safety-blanket of copyright enforcement. (It would be inappriate to speculate about his possible motives for doing so in public; this is merely my perception of his behaviour, and you shouldn't assume that I am any more reliable an observer than anyone else.)

I cannot and will not provide references and details here -- SFWA has a firm rule about not talking in public about private conversations that are presumed confidential -- but I believe that he's said enough in public that you can substantiate it yourself if you go digging (see, for example, this).

Dave, do you suppose there's a market for two-fisted christian furry bondage sci-fi porn? If so, maybe you could point Vox at some of your source material and we could all have a good laugh.

195:

Charlie wrote "Andrew Burt is actively encouraging paranoia about ebook piracy among the more easily alarmed members of SFWA; I believe he does so in order to be able to present himself as the owner of the cozy warm safety-blanket of copyright enforcement."

He may also have a bit of a conflict of interest, as he's got his embryonic iFiction pay-to-download service that he's trying to get going. I'm sure it would be a significant boon for him if he could convince the SFWA membership to use his service to publish e-texts.

196:

Regarding Nebula/SFWA corporate sponsorship, one decent candidate might be Virgin. They have their space tourism business to promote, after all. And they are somewhat less parochial in outlook - they have a line of comics for the Indian market.

Also, they have lots of money. And maybe they'd be willing to put SF stories in the in-flight magazines of their airlines.

197:

Virgin is also partnered with the SciFi Channel in some of those comic endeavors.

But I suppose that might depend on how many SF authors would want to receive an, um, 'Virgin Award' for their work...

198:

"You tell a 50 year old that a new technology they don't really have a handle on is going to eat their livelihood in the time frame of them reaching retirement, and they are going to scream blue murder: and can you blame them?"

Umm, many of the people most upset about the epiracy aspect are much older than 50 and some of them are very well established in the industry. Not clear how old Andrew Burt is. Many of us in our 50s like this technology as readers, and would probably not be screaming bloody murder if we had made money writing fiction.

199:

Charlie: Who knows *what* went on during those years in the desert? JC might have encountered all *sorts* of critters there.

200:

Xopher: "Of course, VD's pseudonym is hubristic (that's prideful, for Christian readers)."

With breath abated, I await the denunciation of this straightforward statement as "gloating" and "baying for blood".

[crickets chirping]     [leaves rustling in the breeze]

201:

market for two-fisted christian furry bondage sci-fi porn?

Damn. I could totally write that -- even though you'd think the reader would need at least one fist free.

user-pic
202:

Dave Bell @#193, thanks (eeeuw but thanks for keeping me from looking for VD's blog). Now where did I put the brainwash....?

user-pic
203:

@Jonquil/192:
Thanks for helping me make my point. However tangentially, that's what I've been trying to say.

@Charlie
Thanks once again for clarifying things. Nevertheless, I'd still like to point out some things in hopes that, hearing it from a paying customer, it might get some other members of SFWA thinking.

The internet can be a major boon as well as a bane. I don't know how long it takes rights for a work to revert back to the author, but those that have can be put back for sale on the internet by the author - perhaps through an SFWA sponsored site.

Again, I realize you understand these things - I'm mostly hoping to get some of the other members thinking.

Chris

204:

re: #203, "I don't know how long it takes rights for a work to revert back to the author..."

Chris Teegarden, some on this blog know more about this than I, but the internet has complicated things.

Some standard book contracts specify that rights revert to the author x years after the book goes out of print, for a small value of x.

Some publishers claim that a book available by Print-on-Demand or downloadable from a web site, or bundled into an e-book NEVER goes out of print, and hence rights never revert to the author.

This issue is one that those in the know at SFWA have studied and made suggestions about for some years. This is an example of what I've said about all authors having common enemies. Not the technology, but the abusive contractual interpretations by some publishers, and some of the Producers and Studios against whom Writers Guild is quite rightly striking.

205:

Charlie (134): You left out one other pertinent statistic: how many of the field's editors are women.

Vox Day's true opinion of women has always been clear to me: he's terrified of them. That's why he has to demonize and Other them. It's why he sounds so defensive when he talks about beating them down.

He is a wuss. I gesture meaningfully at him with my semi-erect pinky.

Bane (147):

"Girly men ... raddled harridans ... knickers in a twist ... prissy ... tea-sipping cat-fanciers."
You know, you're never going to grow up to be a good writer if you don't break that habit of using cliches.
"Now, comment on how I'm not worth commenting on."
Okay: You're still a pismire. You're also a singularly inept sockpuppet, O Bane/Vox/Theeeeeodore.

Steve (169? 170?): You addressed your comment to message #89, but you're clearly responding to me at message #86.

"its cowardly for me to only use my first name, but its ok for you to insult me anonymously?"
I believe that would be the sense of "insult" that roughly translates as "Waaaaah! They shot back!"

I put my full name on my comments. So did #89, Arthur Hlavaty. If you're suggesting that it was improper of me to reply as I did to your offensive and tendentious comment (#69) because you didn't use your full name, and therefore I didn't know who I was addressing --

No problem! If you'll just start signing your comments, I'll be happy to address the exact same remarks to you under your full name.

"Pournelle does have public opinions on the subject;"
Nah. Those are old recycled opinions of his. These days he has a slow and uncertain grasp of new information, so he repeats his old slogans at top volume to cover his confusion.
"there are two camps."
There are considerably more than two. And do please stop saying there's a Doctorow "camp"; since you haven't bothered to acquaint yourself with his actual positions, you can't tell what's a camp and what isn't. "Persons who don't agree with Jerry Pournelle" is a very inadequate definition.
"Doctorow was not hurt in any way by the temporary removal of his 'free' crap on scribd."
I see you're once again taking advantage of your anonymity to make statements you know are false. I listed the harms that were done in my last response to you. You haven't so much as mentioned them. Either address them, or drop this portion of your argument.

And while we're on the subject: it's very brave of you to call Cory's novel "crap" when you're posting anonymously -- though if you are who I think you are, anonymity is in fact your best option when scoffing at other people's writing.

"Burts letter to scribd was not illegal; it rode a fine line, but it wasn't illegal."I take all my legal advice from anonymous trolls who can't spell, punctuate, or capitalize.

Ridable fine lines belong more to criminal than to civil law. If Scribd had wanted to take SFWA to court, they could have done so. They might or might not have won, but they could certainly have cost SFWA a great deal of effort and worry, and probably a lot of money a well.

"He handled things in a ham-handed, idiotic manner - absolutely true."
And is continuing to do so.
"But it didn't rise to the level of an international calamity until Doctorow and friends trumpted it all over the internet and turned it into a cause."
Listen carefully: SFWA took public action against a large public website, with very public consequences. I don't know where the hell you get off saying that Cory was in the wrong for publicly objecting to it, and setting the record straight.

You don't seem to be getting a major point here, so let me explain it to you again. Cory isn't just a science fiction writer. He's also a public intellectual (yes, that's a real gig) whose central issue is the large-scale corporate abuse of copyright laws to effect a sort of intellectual property land-grab. He's been crusading on behalf of Creative Commons copyrights for years. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the novel Andrew Burt ordered Scribd to take down under the terms of the odious DMCA, has been freely available to all comers since the day it was published.

Then the word came out that SFWA, acting on behalf of some of its authors, had hit Scribd with a mess of DMCA takedown notices. One of those notices was for Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. He couldn't not make a public response. I've heard people complain that Cory reacted too quickly. He didn't. There were already people asking whether he'd changed his opinions on copyrights and/or the DMCA. Some of them weren't polite about it.

So yeah, Cory went public with the story.

And it wasn't just Cory's friends who condemned SFWA's actions. You can see the world in terms of petty cliques if you want to, but in this case you'd be wrong. People that don't know Cory from Adam, people who don't even like him, were joining in the general condemnation. SFWA would have gotten blamed no matter what Cory did, because what SFWA did was wrong.

If your truck goes out of control and skids down a hill on an icy day, you don't blame the pedestrian it hit. You definitely don't complain that if only the pedestrian hadn't insisted on screaming for help, no one would ever have noticed your truck skidding sideways through two crosswalks, an intersection, a red light, three parked cars, and a fire hydrant.

I take it you think Cory should instead have taken his arguments to the private SFWA area on SFF Net, a toxic morass where he could have been pointlessly abused at great length by the whole pack of gargoyles: Jerry Pournelle, Andrew Burt, Bud Webster, Will Sanders, et cetera et al.: a stunningly unattractive proposition. They'd have refused to listen to him the same way they refused to listen to John Scalzi (mostly), Tobias Buckell, Nick Mamatas, Elizabeth Moon, Jim Macdonald, and others.

Those people needed to listen. I think my favorite moment in SFWA-area thrash was when various sensible SFWAns were trying to explain the magnitude of the PR disaster Andrew Burt had set in motion. One of them pointed out that the story had already gotten unfavorable write-ups on Ars Technica, Boing Boing, Metafilter, and Making Light.

The responses were fabulous, in a despair-inducing kind of way. One person asked what Ars Technica was. Another volunteered that he'd heard of Metafilter. A third belligerently asked why anyone should care what got said on Boing Boing. Meanwhile, I was looking at that list and trying to figure out how much of SF's online core audience it represented. Quite a lot, I decided.

So much for SFWA's private deliberations.

I'll admit there are some better-informed, smarter people there, saying smarter things. They just don't stay. The kind of flaming loudmouthed crap that's S.O.P. in the private SFWA area doesn't just repulse run-of-the-mill SFWAns. It takes out the best: the ones who think and care and work the hardest. That's what unending flamewars do in any forum: they take off the top layer. The kind of thick-skinned jerks who start worthless fights wherever they go are unaffected, because flamewar behavior is something they can do automatically.

Are you aware that Toby Buckell just resigned from SFWA? He's flamed out. That's a real loss. He's smart, he works hard, he's utterly committed to writing, and his reaction to "thus-and-such needs to be done" is to go do it -- and do it well. That is: he's worth about a dozen each of the SFWA forum's Loud Family. But he's gone, and they've stayed, and there's SFWA's problem in a nutshell.

And you want me to believe that whole thrash was Cory's fault, because he went public with his discontents rather than taking them into the private SFWA area?

I don't think so.

"The only reason you can't see that is because you're probably part of the problem."
Now, there's an argument for you. I must remember that one: meaningless, yet applicable to all occasions.
"You want to solve your SFWA problem? Step on Cory, explain to the little yapper that what works for him doesn't mean it will work for everyone else, get real about doing for writers what needs to be done and oh. btw - pull your head out of your fundament first."
Translation: you are frustrated; you have run out of arguments; and you don't have the sense to figure out that when you're deep in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

...

Oh, damn. Charlie, I finished this offline, and when I came back you'd banned the fellow. Can't blame you, of course.

Go ahead and delete that part if you want, or leave it up if you think it's worth reading anyway. It's up to you.

...

And one last thing: Jonquil, Charlie, may I join with Laurie Mann in pointing out that not every fiftysomething in the SF community is in denial about the internet and changing patterns in publishing?

206:

Whoops, I was mistaken: you banned him, but you didn't remove the comment I was responding to. In that case I do hope you leave my response up as well, though of course it's your weblog and your call.

user-pic
207:

re: #204
I'm really saddened to hear that. This is sounding even more like the music industry. Does Baen do that as well?

One encouraging thing to note is that this behavior on the part of the publishers has to be a result of their coming to realize just how fragile their position is in light of the internet.

I see an inevitable shift towards e-books. There's too many incentives for that not to happen. I also see co-ops developing where the editors, proofers and cover artists freelance along with the writers. Big only offers cost savings when you have physical product and/or physical infrastructure requirements.

As for marketing/distribution, that's rapidly taking care of itself for you. There are a growing number of sites dedicated to helping individuals find links to content they want in specialized areas such as musical genres and artists.

Like Google, they do quite well off of targeted advertising and don't charge the linked-to site anything. Unlike Google, they can even suggest new works based on the person's stated preferences or history.

I just wish that the older authors were more willing to see past their fears on this. I'd dearly love to get my hands on several hundred out of print titles - and those are just the ones I know of.

208:

#205: Teresa Nielsen Hayden has written several things in this thread that deserve to be graven in stone, except that sounds insufficiently au courant.

#207: I like Jim Baen very much. It was a pleasure working with him even when we disagreed.

When it's steam engine time...

IP: Real or Bogus?
http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2007/12/ip_real_or_bogus.php#c659854
Category: Chatter
Posted on: December 2, 2007 9:52 PM, by Mark C. Chu-Carroll

There's been some talk among the sciencebloggers about the idea of intellectual property, and Bora over at "A Blog Around the Clock" asked me to convert my thoughts into a post. It's a serious topic, which is worth giving some deep consideration, and it's something that I've given a lot of thought to. Back when I was at IBM, I worked on some projects that were internal and confidential, and also spent several years working on open-source. I've got two software patents to my name. I didn't do any of that lightly; I spent a lot of time thinking through the morality of what I was doing, and I've been careful to stick with what I think is right.... [truncated]

user-pic
209:

he's terrified of them. That's why he has to demonize and Other them. It's why he sounds so defensive when he talks about beating them down.

Ys, 'm sr h lys wk t nght vrtbly qvrng n mrtl trrr f th lks f y, h st nfntl f wmn.

(You're banned too -- The Moderator)

210:

And one last thing: Jonquil, Charlie, may I join with Laurie Mann in pointing out that not every fiftysomething in the SF community is in denial about the internet and changing patterns in publishing?

Oh, I'm forty-eight myself; believe me, I'm not eager to write off people over fifty. My concern is focused not by age but by technophobia. The public positions of SFWA officers seem to be driven more by fear of the new than by any comprehension of it.

I was using USENET in 1983. (Like Laurie, whom I know from back then under my real name, I'm a geek.) I used flat HTML. I used various forms of bulletin boards, both before the Web and after it. The current leadership of SFWA seems to have gotten stuck somewhere along the way -- Web 1.0 at the latest. They want to talk *to* the world at large, but *with* only themselves; they are outraged that there should be "firestorms in the blogosphere" in response to their actions. Mr. Capobianco feels that he should have shut off comments in response to his SFWA LJ, since he was too busy reading closed SFWA newsgroups to pay attention. I look at that, and as a forty-eight-year-old woman myself, I think, "That man has no comprehension of the modern communications world."

Which is the issue I see. "Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace." It is already too late to stop books being digitized. Just as it was already too late, when Sony released the Betamax, to stop people taping TV shows off the air. The profitable response was not to sue the customer; the profitable response was to release TV shows on tape in higher quality and more convenient form than the taped-off-the-air version. Which is what SFWA should be fighting for. Not to sweep back the tide, but to put in tidal mills.

I know, I know, preaching to the choir here.

user-pic
211:

Getting lost in electronic rights fray has unfortunately blurred the good things that SFWA does and continues to do for writers in standing up for their rights, nearly all of it done by people who volunteer their time and expertise. Bailing out over this particular problem isn't a solution. Instead, vote the people out and put yourselves up to run for office, and work to move things in a direction that you believe is appropriate.

I think I read way back there at the top that Charlie corrected himself about Mike Capobianco--the SFWA President did not reinstate Andrew Burt as the Copyright Committee's chairman. That was solely under the purview of the SFWA Vice President, Andrew Burt himself, as specified by the flawed SFWA Bylaws. That's a flaw in SFWA Bylaws that needs fixing. In the meantime, it would have been appropriate for Andrew to have recused himself from continuing to serve on the committee. His credibility in this area has, unfortunately, been permanently undermined.

user-pic
212:

Watching all this nonsense is as dismaying as it is amusing, especially the bombast of the Outrage Squad against any perceived slight against protected classes. But, come on, folks - 'genocidal'? Even such professional moralists as you people appear to be recognize that 'genocidal' is a bit over the top, yes?

It appears that Dr. Burt made a mistake. He's not evil or stupid, as far as I can see, from my outsider's perspective. The mistake was corrected. It's obvious that the whole brouhaha was genned up by Comrade Doctorow and his Creative Communist fellow-travelers in classic Leninist fashion ('The worse, the better.') in order to use it as a vehicle to promulgate their own views of copyright in the modern age.

[Irony/sarcasm alert - since all you Outrage Squad members seem to've undergone radical surgical removal of the portions of your brains responsible for humor, the above is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I do believe that Doctorow & Co. genned this up for their own purposes, but I don't think they're really communists - they lack the requisite intellectual rigor.]

On the subject of female SF/F writers, there are only a few whom I can stand. Mary Gentle's Ash series was outstanding; Anne McAffery's dragon stuff was unique and interesting when it first came out, before she ran it into the ground; same with her Ship Who Sang works. Catherine Kurtz's Camber series was pretty good. Elizabeth Moon started out strong, but has devolved, IMHO. Naomi Novik is just fantastic! I'm about to start one of Elizabeth Bear's novels on my Kindle; I don't have high hopes for it, but we'll see.

On the other hand, just about all the other SF/F I've read which was written by female authors is just crap. Octavia Butler is unreadable; Asaro almost as unreadable; Bradley interesting at first, but her ideology gets in the way of the storytelling with a lot of it. I never saw the appeal of Karen Anderson's work, and can't stand Joan Vinge's oevure.

On the gripping hand, there are lots truly outstanding female mystery writers, including Agatha Christie, Helen McInnes, P.D. James, et. al. Even the mediocre female mystery writers I've read are head-and-shoulders above the run-of-the-mill just-plain-awful female SF/F authors I've read, with the abovementioned exceptions (Mary Gentle and Naomi Novik are just fab, did I mention that, before? They're two of my all-time favorite authors in any genre).

I have no idea why this is so - probably just happenstance. But it is a valid observation, and it has nothing to do with gender bias, 'intolerance', 'genocide', etc. But it's only fair to note that the female SF/F authors whom I can't stand (and the male ones, too, for that matter) have in fact managed to do something which I have not - namely, disciplined themselves and worked hard enough to produce a manuscript, and then persisted until said manuscript was sold. In other words, they are professionals, and deserve some small measure of respect for that accomplishment, alone, IMHO.


213:

The trouble is that, despite it being down to failings in the lagal framework under which the SFWA operates, members and non-members alike have seen this situation as approval and support for Andrew Burt's incompetent and abusive use of the threat of DMCA action, with at least a hint of a dismissal of Cory Doctorow's authorial rights over his work.

Perhaps there has been a grovelling public apololgy for that last element?

I have, in my own past, had experience of being a member of a trade association which isn't a "union". I've had experience of being part of an industry with many small players, selling their products to a few very large corporate entities.

There was a social side. But I wouldn't join such an organisation if I were a writer qualified for membership. It just doesn't have the teeth to maintain its member's collective power in the market. It will depend on the goodwill of the large corporate entities, or their equivalents.

Sooner or later, somebody will tell the SFWA that "My door is always open," and the sign on the open door will be "Exit".

Any of you guys qualified for WGA membership? They're the ones who look to be fighting the author's corner in the age of new copyright; not the SFWA.

user-pic
214:

"Even such professional moralists as you people..."

Uh-oh.

user-pic
215:

I don't know about anyone else here, but I've never been paid for making moral pronouncements. I do it out of the goodness of my heart.

user-pic
216:

But, come on, folks - 'genocidal'? Even such professional moralists as you people appear to be recognize that 'genocidal' is a bit over the top, yes?

Indeed, but Firefox isn't finding me any instances of it in this thread other than in your post. Is there somewhere else I should be looking? I'd be intrigued to see the Doctorow camp (don't) hurling accusations of IP genocide about, that I would.

On the other hand, just about all the other SF/F I've read which was written by female authors is just crap.

Here we go.

But it is a valid observation

It's an opinion, certainly.

214 I do it out of the goodness of my heart.

And your generosity does you credit, sir.

217:

Roland Dobbins @212: It appears that Dr. Burt made a mistake. He's not evil or stupid, as far as I can see, from my outsider's perspective.

You nailed it in the last four words -- "from my outsider's perspective". There's stuff going on here that you are not privy to, and you are dead wrong about this just being a minor mistake. Hint: John Scalzi has, elsewhere on the net, just been accusing Andrew of lying about him, citing chapter and verse. I'm being very careful what I say here because this server is hosted in London and I've got no desire to get sucked into a libel case. (Under English libel law, merely telling the truth is not an adequate defense -- you have to prove that you didn't damage the plaintiff's reputation by doing so. Feh.) But you should be aware that I've clashed with Andrew repeatedly over the past year or two, and each time I've walked away from the incident counting my fingers to make sure he hadn't stolen them; this affair was just the final straw for me.

You are right out of order in just about everything else you say on the subject -- and I find your coining of the term "Creative Communist" and its association with Leninist tactics to be personally offensive. (Clue: go look at www.accelerando.org).

I'm in a forgiving mood this morning so I'm not going to ban you without giving you an opportunity to apologize. If you're not inclined to do so -- or at least maintain a decent silence on matters whereof you admit to lacking inside knowledge -- then I advise you not to let the door hit you on the way out.

218:

Chris Teegarden wrote: "I just wish that the older authors were more willing to see past their fears on this. I'd dearly love to get my hands on several hundred out of print titles - and those are just the ones I know of."

In Sweden, several SF authors have made some of their out-of-print work available online -- such as Bertil Mårtensson and the late Denis Lindbohm.

219:

Re Charlie 217: Would English libel law mind (possibly a third person) giving a link to that "elsewhere on the net"? I checked (what I considered) the usual places, but found nothing; from the phrasing I'd gather that this doesn't mean the closed SFWA smoky parlors.

220:

#213: IIRC, Michael Capobianco publically apologized to Cory on behalf of SWFA at the time. I don't remember Andrew Burt making a public apology, much less a groveling one. Is he aware of the irony of denying authors' rights in the name of authors' rights? (Cory wasn't the only author whose rights he dismissed. He's probably the most prominent though.) His subsequent public statements don't betray any awareness...

user-pic
221:

Regarding that Swedish money, I bet its origin is the same in Sweden and Spain: SGAE (Sociedad General de Autores de España - think RIAA, but for every kind of content) had the nerve to sue the system of Public Libraries for unfair competition because, you see, they were giving people books to read for free! And, guess what, they actually won!

Spanish government was forced legally to impose a healthy fee for every book lent (but at the same time decided the State would pay the fee so that Public Libraries users still could get their books as before)

Every time I remember this story I can't decide if it deserves laughing or crying...

222:

Malcolm Cory: you asked if SFWA did anything these days on behalf of writers. If you've received a contract from Dell Magazines in the last year and a half, you've benefitted. Dell had a problem with their electronic rights clause, specifically, and approached SFWA about how to solve it. We negotiated a change that represented a big improvement -both- for Dell and for the authors.

When major elements of one member's novels were appropriated by a publisher with a large gaming division without compensation, we provided the financing that enabled that author to sue - and win.

When I-Books went bankrupt two years ago, nearly a hundred SFWA members were affected. Due to the nature of bankruptcy proceedings and the court system, we weren't able to free up their works or their royalties, but we did our best to keep members informed and aware of their options.

We're currently in the process of financing an audit on behalf of two members who feel their publisher has not been upfront regarding royalty reporting. (I just put that very politely - grin). We began this during my presidency, and it's carrying over into Capobianco's.

So yes, SFWA still does a lot of its members. But the quiet stuff that it does well doesn't get the attention. It's the stupid stuff that sometimes happens that unfortunately gets flashy.

Abendon: I don't know where you get your information regarding the Authors' Coalition funds, but you're very incorrect on a number of points. That money accounts for less than half of SFWA's income, and the amount of coalition money shrinks every year for a variety of reasons. There are also restrictions on the manner in which coalition money can be spent. It does not go toward operational expenses.

Charlie: thanks for your work on the exploratory committee. I'm sorry that didn't work out better.

Best,
Robin

223:

Robin, I'm with you 100% on the problem with SFWA being that the important, low-key stuff never gets any publicity. I should also put in a good word here for the emergency medical fund; not that I'm ever likely to need it, being a native of a country with a universal healthcare system, but it's a lifeline for many American writers.

The tragedy here is that the whole ebook and internet piracy topic is a huge red herring that generates heat and noise out of all proportion to its real significance. It attracts attention and has huge potential to generate adverse publicity if handled badly. It's a push-button irritant to that subset of the general public which has been sensitized to it because of the actions of other organizations, which means dealing with such issues requires, at a minimum, near-infinite tact and diplomacy.

224:

"So yes, SFWA still does a lot of its members."

Depending on how that's taken, possibly this statement may find universal agreement...

... and become a major recruitment slogan.

user-pic
225:

Vox Day @ 128: "If you had any intellectual self-respect you'd be embarrassed by relying on that junior high school dodge. You could, but you just can't be bothered. Right. Never heard that one before."

Oh no, I'm sure you've heard it many, many times.

Roland Dobbins @ 212: "But, come on, folks - 'genocidal'? Even such professional moralists as you people appear to be recognize that 'genocidal' is a bit over the top, yes?"

I see your critical reading skills are serving you poorly this day. "Genocidal" is being directed against the, gentleman, I addressed above.

Does that spoil your rant? Oh dear.

user-pic
226:

So, the Vice President of SFWA has unreviewable control over committee appointments.

Good grief. Does this leave the President with any power at all, then? And didn't anyone setting up this structure take Introduction to Comparative Communism in college? ("Sure, let's have Joe S. do all the scutwork. He's just a gray blur.")


227:

Vox Day, if your campaign platform to run SFWA includes the contention that SF/F would be better off had there never existed Frankenstein, The Dark is Rising, the tales of Darkover and Pern, and the collected works of André Norton, James Tiptree Jr., and all other female SF/F writers -- because possessing female genitalia makes one's fiction unworthy to be read -- then thank you for your altruistic kindness and honesty in clapping a big white conical cap onto your head so that everyone may see exactly what sort of candidacy you offer.

Such a reputation can only be enhanced among SF/F writers (and readers) by your claim that Robert A. Heinlein recommended imposing murderous dictatorship on mankind ("inevitably simplistic and brutal", no less).

No doubt there was some subtle irony in your quoting, against such atheist schemes, a Pope who had previously been the head of what used to be called the Inquisition.

But I commend your perspicacity in identifying the spearhead of this encroaching atheist dictatorship as the present US administration (notable atheists all).

228:

Pyre -- apropos that last sentence, you owe me a new keyboard. (In future, please warn me to put the mug down first ...)

user-pic
229:

Charlie@217: I clearly stated that I was using the term 'Creative Communist' TIC (Clue: take a look at http://www.flickr.com/photos/null0, where I publish my own amateurish photos under a CC license). Liking and making use of the CC license in no way obligates one to agree at all with Messr. Doctorow's views, strategies, or tactics, which I do in fact view as Leninist, in this instance (he also is obviously an avid student of Gramschi). I know he's your friend and all that, but I find the man highly annoying - unlike yourself, this flash of misdirected temper aside, who's always appeared to be quite rational, level-headed, and nuanced.

I'm sure you're very handsome and powerful, too, and have a tremendous singing voice.

;>

As far as banning me goes - that's up to you. It's fairly amazing to me that you would find any type of wry commentary of this sort personally offensive, since I've not insulted you in any way, shape, form, or fashion. This is your site, and you can do with it as you please, but it's very odd to me that a wordsmith such as yourself, who liberally makes use of satire, irony, sarcasm, et. al. in his own prose, would be so angered over what was clearly and unambiguously stated to be sarcasm. I guess there's just so much insider-baseball-intrigue swirling around all this that it's become an extremely emotionally-charged subject for those who're directly involved.

To be clear, no offense to you was meant. As mentioned above, I use CC, myself. However, I greatly dislike Messr. Doctorow's tactics and believe he does far more harm than good for his purported aim of copyright reform, and I believe that he seized upon a minor kerfluffle with practically no real-world negative consequences for anyone and made use of it to make political/philosophical hay for his own purposes. I've a very clear idea of Messr. Doctorow's motives in all this; what I don't have any insight into whatsoever would be Dr. Burt's purported motives, if one accepts the fact that there's something more sinister about the original misadventure than a simple mistake (which I don't, absent any evidence).

In other words, Cui buono?

user-pic
230:

heresiarch@225: Yes, I know whom you were describing as 'genocidal'. My point is that hurling such terms about without justification cheapens them and insults those who were vicitims of actual genocide, since, absent any evidence that this Vox person is Idi Admin or Josef Stalin in disguise, he's hardly commited genocide against any group of people, as far as I can make out.

231:

Charlie: Let me pay you last year's dollar cost of a keyboard, in next year's dollars.

You should be able to replace one or two keys, at least.

232:

Roland, Cory is a public intellectual. He's a proponent fighting to defend a certain position which I happen to believe is very important -- that, all talk of intellectual property and creators' rights aside, it is valuable and necessary that there be a public commons and that the open exchange of ideas is possible; and that large corporate interests are using creators' rights and IP as stalking horses while they work at fencing off, enclosing, and charging rent for those commons.

This position is unpopular with (a) those folks who want to monetize the commons for their own benefit, (b) those folks who think they can gain favour with those in the first category, (c) a large body of people who swallow the lies and half-truths promulgated by the folks in the preceding categories, and (d) the usual attention-seeking fucktards (aka "trolls").

If you use CC yourself then it seems to me that your disagreement with Cory is over tactics rather than ends.

As to Andrew Burt, Cory, and prior history, I suggest you google "burt shades of gray" and read the top-ranked link to get some insight into where Andrew is coming from and what he thinks (or wants people to think) about epiracy. (For added fun add "sfwa loan" to the search terms.)

233:

I've never been paid for making moral pronouncements. I do it out of the goodness of my heart.

I was about to say "I'd like that gig", but then it occurred to me that I'd pretty much have to become a professional philosopher or theologian. Ah, well. Another dream shattered.

Under English libel law, merely telling the truth is not an adequate defense -- you have to prove that you didn't damage the plaintiff's reputation by doing so.

Wow. That's ... elegant.

234:

Jonquil: The fullness of that elegance is that the jury might find you guilty of libel for telling the exact truth about a malefactor -- and then award the plaintiff the true value of the damages he suffered... in old currency, perhaps a farthing; under the new currency, perhaps an entire penny. The tale's not told by the verdict alone.

235:

Pyre is correct ... but the problem is, if someone takes you to court, you have to defend yourself or lose by default. And the cost of defending a libel action in the high court starts in five digits -- it can easily cost more than defending a murder charge.

If the jury decides the accuser's case was baseless they can award the defense costs against the accuser. Or not.

The English libel law is a very effective tool for bankrupting enemies of the rich and powerful. Consequently, I have to take a prudent view of my words here (and if I see anything I consider to be potentially libelous posted in these comments I will delete it instantly).

236:

Pyre: I'm sorry, but I had to delete that last question of yours. I believe the deletion should answer it sufficiently. Please refrain from public speculation along similar lines. (If you want to pursue it, email me directly.)

237:

Charlie: For the sake of other readers (and of my own perplexed self), will you please at least clarify whether there was anything the least bit defamatory, toward anyone at all, in the question I asked?

I hope that my asking this is not a bannable offense.

238:

Charlie, you might want to take a look at my comment up thread, and consider smiting it.

Thx,

Jon

239:

Charlie @217.

Truth is a defense in English defamation cases, but it is up to the defendant to prove that their statements are true.

240:

Pyre: not so far, but I think I'm closing this comment thread: it's soaking in oil, and all it really needs is one troll with a match. Sorry guys. A less inflammable topic will be along shortly.