Pixel Scroll 2/28/17 There Are No Pixels Like Scroll Pixels

(1) SF AND THE PARTY. In New Scientist Lavie Tidhar explains why “In China, this is science fiction’s golden age”.

In the 1980s, science fiction once again fell foul of the ruling party, as a new “Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign” emerged as a backlash to Deng Xiaoping’s modernisation and liberalisation policies. Deng’s opponents in the party railed against Western “bourgeois imports” of all kinds, and with sci-fi seeming to fall firmly in that category, it was all but wiped out for a time.

The genre’s recovery was partly led by the emergence of Science Fiction World magazine in Chengdu, and its energetic editor, Yang Xiao, herself the daughter of a prominent party member. Having such influential backing allowed Science Fiction World to bring together many young writers for an “appropriate” reason.

By the end of the century, Chinese sci-fi entered its own golden age. Although the authorities still raised the issue of literary “appropriateness”, the old restrictions had gone. One prominent contemporary sci-fi author is Han Song, a journalist at the state news agency Xinhua. Many of his works are only published outside the mainland due to their political themes, but Han is still widely recognised at home. His fiction can be dark and melancholy, envisioning, for instance, a spacefarer building tombstones to fellow astronauts, or the Beijing subway system being turned into a graveyard in which future explorers, arriving back on Earth, find themselves trapped on a fast-moving train. Along with Liu Cixin and Wang Jinkang, he is considered one of the “Three Generals” of Chinese sci-fi.

(2) SHARING THE MUSIC. The LA experimental hip-hop group Clipping, reported here the other day as seeking a Hugo nomination for their sci-fi oriented album Splendor & Misery, has raised the ante. Now they are giving away free copies to Hugo voters.

Their goal is to be nominated in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category.

They are distributing free download codes via Twitter, but voters are allowed to share.

I figure it wouldn’t be fair to post it online – Clipping could have done that themselves – but i you’re a Hugo voter who’s not on Twitter and want to get the DL code, email me a mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will send it to you.

(3) IMADJINN TIME. Nominations are open for the 2nd annual Imadjinn Awards given to small press and independently published authors. Authors nominate their own titles (a form Is provided at the site).  A professional jury determines the finalists and the winners. The awards will be announced Saturday, October 7 at the Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, KY. (See last year’s winners here.)

(4) GUNN THEME. A book about 2013 Worldcon guest of honor, Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher and Scholar by Michael R. Page, has just been published by Macfarland.

One of the major figures in science fiction for more than sixty years, James Gunn has been instrumental in making the genre one of the most vibrant and engaging areas of literary scholarship. His genre history Alternate Worlds and his The Road to Science Fiction anthologies introduced countless readers to science fiction. He founded the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction in 1982. But Gunn has also been one of the genre’s leading writers. His classic novels Star Bridge (with Jack Williamson), The Joy Makers, The Immortals and The Listeners helped shape the field. Now in his nineties, he remains a prominent voice. His forthcoming novel is Transformation. Drawing on materials from Gunn’s archives and personal interviews with him, this study is the first to examine the life, career and writing of this science fiction grandmaster.

(5) CHUCK TINGLE, VOID WHERE EXHIBITED. I tell you, they can’t give this man a Nobel Prize too soon. The only delay will be thinking up a category for it.

Hugo nominated author Dr. Chuck Tingle is well known for his thoughts on love and romance, but there is another side to this revered modern philosopher that is needed now more than ever. Dispensed within this non-fiction volume is everything that you need to know about The Void, a terrifying place outside reality that is constantly overflowing with cosmic horror. Will you know what to do when The Void starts leaking into your timeline? Within Dr. Chuck Tingle’s Guide To The Void you will find multiple strategies for battling The Void, as well as survival techniques that could save your life, should you ever find yourself lost within The Void’s infinite grasp of existential dread. Most creatures of The Void are covered in detail, including Void Crabs, worms, Ted Cobbler, and The Man With No Eyes And Wieners For Hair. Also included within this guidebook is important information on Void related subjects like reverse twins, Truckman, the lake, and the call of the lonesome train. For anyone interested in the darker planes that lie just outside of The Tingleverse, this book is for you. Warning: This book includes mind-bending depictions of existential cosmic horror. Read responsibly, and stop immediately if you begin to suffer any symptoms of Void Madness.

(6) MEMORIES. Connie Willis added two new posts to her blog this month.

But certainly not to us. My family and I have known him for over forty years. He had dinner with us countless times (and especially one memorably snowed-in Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house), taught my daughter Cordelia to hang spoons from her nose, and loved talking to my husband about science, especially on the trip to the total eclipse we took to Montana in 1979. (I feel so bad he won’t be here for this summer’s eclipse. It’ll be right in his hometown, Wheatland, Wyoming.)

He was one of my best friends, and I’d rather have talked to him than anybody. He was smart, witty, and full of fascinating stories about horror movies and urban legends and weird news articles. At our last dinner a mere two weeks ago at Cosine, an SF convention in Colorado Springs, he had all sorts of wry and insightful comments about Saturday Night Live, the movie Hidden Figures, and Donald Trump.

But he was not just a friend. He was also a mentor to me before that term even became popular. He taught me how to write, how to critique, how to find my way around the complex maze of the science fiction world without getting in trouble. He encouraged me to go to conventions, introduced me to everyone he knew (and he knew everybody from Jack Williamson to Harlan Ellison to George R.R. Martin) and got me onto panels. He even got me my first Hugo nomination by relentlessly talking me up to everybody.

  1. A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith.

This book about a girl growing up in New York City in the early 1900s was loaned to me when I was ten or so, by somebody who thought I’d like it, and I adored it, even though I was probably too young to really understand it. But I totally identified with Francie, who loved to read and spent all her time in the public library. At one point, she decided to read her way alphabetically through the library, so I decided to do that, too, and discovered all sorts of books I’d never have read otherwise: Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand, Margery Allingham’s A Tiger in the Smoke, Peter Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place (about which more later), and Peter DeVries’s Washed in the Blood of the Lamb, which had the memorable line, “The recognition of how long, how long is the mourner’s bench upon which we sit, arms linked in undeluded friendship, all of us, brief links, ourselves, in the eternal pity.”

Unfortunately, I’d only made it through part of the D’s when I discovered science fiction and I abandoned Francie’s plan to read everything with a spaceship-and-atom symbol on the sign.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 28, 1965 Dr.  Terror’s House of Horrors premieres in North America.

(8) REFERENCE BOOKS. People are still buzzing about Sunday night’s Oscar mixup, especially those hoping to leverage social media attention by mentioning it. But librarians?

(9) ARMAGEDDON ACTOR. Heritage Auctions is auctioning celebrities’ collections in Dallas on March 18. One of the items of genre interest was owned by Bruce Willis.

Among his top offerings is a French Movie Poster from Forbidden Planet (est. $3,000). This large-format poster in French “grande” size (47 by 63 inches), from the 1956 Metro-Goldwyn film, features one of the most iconic images from the science fiction genre: Robbie the Robot carrying an unconscious beauty. All text, including the film’s title, is written in French. The poster includes a letter of authenticity signed by Willis.

 

(10) NEVER SEEN. The following week at the Vintage Movie Posters Signature Auction a rare Invisible Man poster will bring top dollar.

Perhaps one of the most impressive of all of the great Universal Studios horror posters, a terrifying, 1933 one sheet teaser poster for The Invisible Man could sell for as much as $80,000 in Heritage Auctions’ Vintage Posters Auction March 25-26 in Dallas. “Even the most advanced collectors have never seen this poster in person,” said Grey Smith, Director of Vintage Posters at Heritage Auctions. “(Artist) Karoly Grosz does a hauntingly wonderful job capturing the insanity that slowly takes hold of the film’s mad scientist. In only a few instances did, the studio produce a teaser for their horror greats but when they did they were often outstanding.”

(11) WOMEN OF LEGO The proposed “Women of NASA” LEGO set covered in last July in the Pixel Scroll has been approved for production the toy company announced today.

Design, pricing, and availability

We’re still working out the final product design, pricing and availably for the Women of NASA set, so check back on LEGO Ideas in late 2017 or early 2018 for more details.

(12) PROMO. Kameron Hurley sent supporters custom dust jackets forThe Stars Are Legion, released earlier this month.

She also has done a blog tour to promote the book. The posts are listed here.

(13) MAINTAINING HIS IMAGE. French campaigner uses tech to be in two places at once: “Holograms, mistrust and ‘fake news’ in France’s election” from the BBC.

The communications coup of the French presidential election so far goes to far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon who, with a flick of his fingers, appeared at two simultaneous rallies 350 miles apart and created more internet buzz than he could have imagined.

The technology required was nothing new – he does not have the money – but the performance was done with panache. Walking on stage in Lyon, Mr Melenchon materialised at exactly the same moment in hologram form before supporters in Paris. He then made a speech to both audiences for 90 minutes. He likes to talk.

Afterwards Mr Melenchon claimed 60,000 live followers of the event on Facebook and YouTube. Millions more in France and around the world read about the exploit afterwards and clicked online for a taster. In publicity terms it was magisterial.

(14) SHELF SPACE RACE. History of an object important to many fans.

The Billy bookcase is perhaps the archetypal Ikea product.

It was dreamed up in 1978 by an Ikea designer called Gillis Lundgren who sketched it on the back of a napkin, worried that he would forget it.

Now there are 60-odd million in the world, nearly one for every 100 people – not bad for a humble bookcase.

(15) THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM. Were Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi channeling their inner McCalmont and Glyer when they had this Twitter exchange?

(16) TERRIBLE PUN. Wish I had thought of it first….

(17) A SPACE TAIL. Spark, a teenage monkey and his friends, Chunk and Vix, are on a mission to regain Planet Bana – a kingdom overtaken by the evil overlord Zhong. Voices by Jessica Biel, Susan Sarandon, and Patrick Stewart. In theatres April 17.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Eric Franklin, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Karl-Johan Norén.]

A Nonconformist Among Nonconformists

by John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1228)  May I, who voted for Trump’s opponent in the Presidential election, speak against the notion Trump’s supporters were “people … scared silly by the progress we’ve been making for the non-Christians, the blacks…. [who thus] don’t know their place anymore”?  I hear that often.  In an objection we on the Left are quick to raise in our defense, it’s dismissive.  It waves away any possibility that Trump’s supporters have any creditable basis for their opinions – which unsurprisingly those folk maintain we lack.  I think we on the Left have long been smug, self-righteous, arrogant about our opinions.  That isn’t good argument.  It isn’t good politics.  It isn’t neighborly.  It violates our own principles.  Trump cried Aren’t you tired of all those left-wing people’s telling you what to think?  Had we been better preachers, teachers, reachers, that would have been laughed down.  A well-known man in November 1963 was wrong, I believe, to say “The chickens are coming home to roost”, but perhaps that’s a lesson for us now.

Actor Bill Oberst Jr. Unexpectedly Performs Ray Bradbury’s “Pillar of Fire” ‘Unplugged’

By Steve Fjeldsted, Director of Library, Arts, and Culture,, South Pasadena Public Library: An unplanned power outage struck the Library on August 11 at 1 p.m. The facility remained open for the next two hours operating with minimal battery lighting. At 3:15 the utility company said power would not be restored soon and the Library was closed for the rest of the day. After learning that power wouldn’t be back on for the 7 p.m. performance by Emmy Award-winning Bill Oberst Jr., I called many equipment rental companies to rent a generator so that we’d be able to power up the Community Room sound system and lighting. Over and over it was stated that it was impossible.

Considering cancelling the show, I asked for Bill’s thoughts. He’s an in-demand actor with impressive theatre, film, and TV credits. He calmly stated that he’s previously done ‘power outage shows.’ The decision was made for the show to go on, but outside and unplugged. Oberst would play every part because we wouldn’t have the recorded voices of the other characters. Our sound and lighting engineers, Adrian Camp and Scott Brown from 210 east sound!  along with two of Ray Bradbury’s longtime friends, John King Tarpinian and Dave Marchant helped move about half of the Community Room chairs into the Library Park.

By this time, dozens of audience members were already arriving and it was about showtime. Bill was inside in the pitch dark of the Community Room with a small flashlight and softly praying with his friend Tamara Tucker who had arrived to help. Walking out into the park, I acknowledged the co-sponsorship of the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library and SPARC, the South Pasadena Arts Council. Explaining that we would be unable to present the “Pillar of Fire” show with lighting, amplification, sound effects, etc., I asked the audience, now numbering 75 or so to encourage and support Bill who would be ‘winging it’. Among them was a friend, Joaquin Montalvan and his wife Eunice. Joaquin is a professional photographer who surprised me by informing me he was already a friend and fan of Bill Oberst. This was very pleasing because I knew we’d have some great photos of the unique event.

Draped in a charred and torn garment, Bill leaped to his bare feet, portraying William Lantry who had awakened from the grave in 2349 after 400 years of being buried, at a time in which the earth had been cleansed of morbidity and corpses. Halloween has been obliterated and cities have towering incinerators where dead people are burned without ceremony, The Government decides to destroy the last remaining graveyard and digs up Lantry, who represents all that is absent from the sterile world.

Oberst charged into the audience, standing on one of the few empty chairs. While gyrating and pointing he launched into Ray Bradbury’s 1948 novella “Pillar of Fire” with great intensity, continuing for 50 riveting minutes. Bill changed his voice and character repeatedly while climbing trees and the brickwork, oblivious to the sounds of the toddlers, skateboarders, and can collectors in the Library Park. He captivated the audience with a magnetic performance that was met with a standing ovation. Oberst pulled out the very same soiled Bradbury paperback that had started him on his acting quest at age 12. Bill revealed that he was a “fat kid with acne” in South Carolina and his whole life was transformed when he accidentally discovered the Bradbury paperback containing “Piillar” on a remote trail. Ray Bradbury’s powerful writing had changed his entire life and he had looked forward to performing in a place his literary hero loved.

Bill said he would be leaving soon for film projects in South America and Europe, but vowed to come back, hinting that he might return as Bradbury in a living history performance. Oberst has previously appeared as Mark Twain, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus Christ –so that’s certainly within his reach as an actor.

[This report originally appeared on the City of South Pasadena website.]

No Time For Yeomen (Don’t Tell Janice Rand)

By James H. Burns: Haven’t our current military brass ever watched Star Trek?

From the New York Times: “’Yeo-Person’? One Title Vexes Navy’s Push for Gender Neutrality”

The Navy and the Marine Corps, Mr. Mabus said, had to come up with new names for the dozens of job titles that ended in “man,” like rifleman, mineman and assault man. “Man” can be replaced by “technician,” “specialist” or “professional,” so carrying out the order has been fairly straightforward.

But one title has vexed Navy officials: yeoman, the traditional name for sailors who work in clerical or administrative positions that are now held by many women.

The problem with the title, which has been a part of naval terminology for centuries, is that if you lop off its “man,” you are left with a prefix — “yeo” — that means very little by itself.

“You can’t have yeo-specialist or yeo-technician, right?” said Michael D. Stevens, the master chief petty officer of the Navy, the service’s top enlisted sailor, who has been assigned the job of coming up with new titles for his service. “Yeo-person? There is no such thing.”

Burns sent along a photo collage of Grace Lee Whitney in character as classic Trek’s Yeoman Rand.

 

Diversity, diversity

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1193) William Shakespeare (1564-1616) died four hundred years ago, on 23 Apr 16, St. George’s Day, he was probably born on 23 Apr 64. He left three dozen plays, a hundred fifty sonnets, and a couple of narrative poems: we esteem them in that order now: his thought of what would sustain his reputation was the reverse, but as Isaac Asimov once said, “What do I know? I’m only the author.” Shakespeare was the greatest author in the history of English — where there’s a Will, there’s a way — and a candidate for greatest in the world, along with such mind-rackingly different artists as Firdausî (Persia, 940-1020), Murasaki Shikibu (Japan, 973-1025; literary name by which she is known), Pushkin (Russia, 1799-1837; as has been noted, he looked like Ravi Shankar 1920-2012), Tu Fu (China, 712-770) — and Homer (Greece, a millennium and a half earlier) — not counting giants of nonfiction.

Diversity, diversity. How urgent is You must allow me. How hard is I shall allow you. And understanding? You must understand me — yes; and? Pushkin’s great Eugene Onegin (rev. 1837) is set in the 1820s, when Russia was — from the perspective of, say, Lady Murasaki — much like the rest of Europe; only two centuries ago, but we on the other side of a watershed have so much trouble grasping this relatively recent time that with Jane Austen (1775-1817), who wrote in English, we keep trying to remake her into ourselves, despite her warning Turn not windows into mirrors, or we cry against, or mock, her difference. Rabbi Leo Baeck (1873-1956) said in The Essence of Judaism (1905; Howe ed. 1948, 2nd Shocken printing 1965 p. 191) “The command in Leviticus, which Akiba [50-135] called the determining sentence of the Bible, and which is usually rendered ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ (Lev. 19:18), means in its truest sense, love thy neighbor for he is as thou”; I’ve suggested we might reach still higher to Love thy neighbors for they are not as thou. Perhaps human nature can change; so far it never has; but it gets packed into various baggage.

Shakespeare has been, in the best sense of the word, called the poet of love. I’ve heard him called, by women, an honorary woman. But to see the light he shines we must look. Hans Andersen said (1835) only a real princess could through twenty mattresses and twenty beds feel a pea, but Lao Tzû quoting a Chinese proverb said a journey of a thousand leagues begins with what is under the feet (Tao Tê Ching ch. 64, two centuries after Homer; Waley tr. as The Way and Its Power p. 221, 1934). Opening the blinds to Shakespeare can start with looking up words — like naughty in “So shines a good deed in a naughty world” (The Merchant of Venice Act V scene i), which there means not what it does today.

John Hertz Warned Us

Ann Leckie’s Hal-Con report (see Pixel Scroll 4/21/16 Pixel Like It’s 1999 no. 17) prompts this reprint from Vanamonde 229 — also in John’s first collection West of the Moon:

I often recount my first adventure at a Japanese bakery, I think in New York. On display were hundreds of little cakes in many shapes and colors.  I bought one, and took a bite.  It was filled with bean paste.  How interesting, I thought, never having tasted it before.  I picked out a different one, and took a bite.  This one was filled with bean paste.  How interesting.  I tried another and another and yet another, each of wholly distinct appearance.  Each and every one proved to be filled with — yes.  Remarkable.  I remember describing this adventure to a girl I knew.  She thought I was putting her on.  Maybe a year later, she happened into a Japanese neighborhood, and found a bakery.  Look, hundreds of little cakes!  She bought one.  Well, well.

Robots in The Iliad

by John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1163 in honor of National Poetry Month)

Homer translation TRIM
These two translators achieved differently. Each in his own Introduction speaks for himself.  Garry Wills, “On Reading Pope’s Homer” New York Times Bk. Rev. 1 Jun 97 p. 22, reviewing Shankman’s 1996 ed’n, applauds Pope who “alone equals the original in its ceaseless pour of verbal music” (p. 22), comparing Lattimore, “the most literal of the modern verse translators” (p. 33) — no discredit for me the fan of Nabokov (1899-1977) but answering, as Allan Sherman put it on another occasion, “What can he do that I can’t?” (“Shticks of One and Half a Dozen of the Other” no. 4; My Son the Celebrity, 1963).  Homer’s Iliad three millennia ago (just when and how it was composed remain vexed questions) being human action complicated by Greek gods, this incidental moment of science fiction is striking.

SXSW Holds Online Harassment Summit

Over the weekend South By Southwest hosted the Online Harassment Summit it created to allay the outrage over a decision made last fall to cancel a pair of gaming panels, one essentially about Gamergate, the other about anti-harassment efforts in gaming.

Here are a series of excerpts from news reports about the event

The atmosphere at the summit matched its sobering content. Security was much tighter than the typical SXSW panels. It including bag checks upon entering the building, policemen outside of bathrooms and panels, and constant reminders not to leave bags unattended or they would be “confiscated and destroyed.”

Each session began with a reading of SXSW’s code of conduct — something that isn’t done at other panels.

It painted a stark picture of the day-to-day fear that online harassment victims live in.

Held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, it was also distinctly separate (across the Colorado River) from Startup Village, the Austin Convention Center, and popular bars and restaurants where companies host their festivities.

That’s perhaps one of the reasons why the event was sparsely attended. It was hard not to notice more empty seats than people….

 

Digital Sistas executive officer Shireen Mitchell and Giant Spacekat co-founder Brianna Wu speak at SXSW on Saturday in Austin, Tex. (Brian Fung / The Washington Post)

Digital Sistas executive officer Shireen Mitchell and Giant Spacekat co-founder Brianna Wu speak at SXSW on Saturday in Austin, Tex. (Brian Fung / The Washington Post)

Nobody made a scene. And nobody wanted to talk about Gamergate….

The show of force aimed to ease concerns about a potential physical confrontation between some of the day’s high-profile panelists — such as game developers Brianna Wu and Randi Harper — and their biggest critics. But their opponents stayed away, and the panelists studiously skirted the caustic online battles that gave rise to that particular event in the first place.

“I don’t want to make this a Gamergate panel,” Wu said in her opening remarks.

Other session moderators seemed to take a similar cue, steering clear of any specific mentions of Gamergate. And the result was a day-long series of talks that were less about the problem of online harassment than the emerging solutions to it.

Wu is among the women in the gaming industry who have faced multiple death threats and harassment in the Gamergate controversy.

What the Online Harassment Summit lacked in headline-grabbing conflict, it made up for with compelling voices that saw tech, policy, and academic experts finding common ground on the subject of antagonistic and threatening online speech. At its best, the results included informed analysis, mountains of data, and calls to specific action—all while trying to balance both free and responsible speech with paradigms that looked beyond the United States’ model.

“We represent ourselves as a target”

The day’s highlight came courtesy of Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), who sponsored a Congressional bill in November that would criminalize the act of “swatting,” or inciting police responses under false pretenses. That activity has spiked in recent years thanks to masked Internet telephony, and Clark was joined in her panel by someone with plenty of first-hand knowledge about the damage swatting can do: Sergeant BA Finley of the Johns Creek, Georgia police department.

Finley recalled a recent story in which a home in his jurisdiction was the target of a swatting attack—and its instigator turned out to be a British Columbia teenager who was subsequently convicted of 23 counts of swatting across the United States and Canada. Finley joined that teen’s pursuit after responding to a false report of a woman and two children having been murdered in the home, and he described that account at length—including meeting the parents in question and describing “the fear and panic” he saw on their faces.

Finley next confirmed work on other swatting cases, two of which have since resulted in convictions. The officer said he stood with Clark on her work to broaden local police forces’ access to better tools to fight such Internet-enabled crimes.

“When we speak against [online harassment] and try to make change on it, we represent ourselves as a target,” Finley told the crowd. “But someone has to do it. We’re not going to take any more of it. I’m going to find you and I’m going to stop you. It’s more than a prank. It’s more than a joke.”

…After Clark recalled her own recent swatting story, she admitted one of the biggest educational gaps to address is among her Congressional colleagues, who “look at me when I use terms like ‘swatting’ and ‘doxing’ like I’ve lost my mind.” Clark compared their dismissive responses to years of legislative silence about how police should respond to issues of domestic violence. To paraphrase their responses, Clark said, “This is an online problem. We really can’t do anything about it, it happens out there on the Internet, we don’t know how to address that, to deal with something that isn’t potentially imminent.”

…And if SXSW is taking harassment more seriously, it’s not clear that its attendees are. Despite heavy promotion, the summit itself was a ghost town. It was held in a trio of frigid ballrooms at the Hyatt Regency ?— a long way across the river from the Austin Convention Center, where most SXSW events are hosted. None of the panels I attended were full, or even close to full. Most drew between 30 and 40 attendees, and usually about 70 percent of those people were women. At least half of the attendees were reporters.

Soraya Chemaly of Women’s Media Center remarked toward the end of a panel about women in the media: “It’s mainly women in this room. Probably we don’t need this information. If we had named this panel ‘The Freedom of Expression on the Internet,’ which is what it is, the room would probably be more 50-50.”

In a discussion about how harassment can silence diverse voices online and even end careers, She Knows Media’s Elisa Camahort Page argued that law enforcement still doesn’t understand how fundamental online platforms are to many people’s careers. The purpose of the panel was initially to highlight the bottom line for brands — dollars lost when advertisers don’t want to appear beside racial epithets, and users lost when sites sacrifice trust for growth — but the conversation quickly turned to individuals. Panelists emphasized that individuals usually don’t have the resources to fight harassment at scale, and that the frequent, callous suggestion that society seems to make to these individuals is “just don’t go online.”

…Several panelists also expressed disappointment that the existing research on online harassment insufficiently captures the reality of having more than one oppressed identity. Women of color, for example, who experience racialized and gendered harassment, do not yet have a body of research dedicated to their experiences. Jamia Wilson of Women, Action, and the Media said that women of color and transgender women had to wait longer to get a response after reporting abuse, and she expressed hope that more research would be conducted soon by her organization and by others.

…A dearth of diversity in tech was also singled out as a root cause of abuse, with Jamia Wilson commenting that “the people who build online tools inform the tools.” Katherine Cross of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York echoed this sentiment in a separate panel, saying, “it was largely men who designed these platforms, and they didn’t see these problems coming. Now they have to build backwards. New platforms should be built with community management in mind from the start.”

The tool on everyone’s minds seemed to be Twitter, which Cross referred to as “one of the most addictive games ever made.” Caroline Sinders, a design researcher for IBM Watson, characterized Twitter as a dangerous place because it’s a tool and content platform that people often mistake for a community. “How do you have community ownership of a tool that you’re not supposed to own, that you’re just supposed to exist in?” she asked.

As part of a panel discussion called “Is a Safer, Saner and Civil Internet Possible?” Ms. [Brianna] Wu said she has had over 200 death threats in the past few years.

She criticized some of the technology companies that acted as meeting hubs for GamerGate supporters — particularly YouTube and Reddit, the online message board — for not doing enough to take down offensive content when it was posted. Reddit does not require users to register real names or any other identifying information to use the site. It is a regular congregation spot for GamerGate activists.

“I can’t say this clearly enough: Reddit is failing women in every marginalized community spectacularly,” Ms. Wu said….

But beyond general harassment, a recurring theme across all the sessions — told through chilling anecdotes and statistics — was the extent to which online hatred is disproportionately directed toward women.

….Power players from companies like Facebook , Google and Cisco shared the stage with victims like Wu.

The volume of harassment — from bullying to revenge porn — is higher than ever, making it hard for platforms to respond quickly. Facebook head of policy management Monika Bickert said the company receives more than one million reports of violations from users every day — which it manually vets to determine their validity.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told CNNMoney that companies like Facebook are dealing with an incredibly high volume of messages, more than 4 billion daily.

Greenblatt, who previously worked as a special assistant to President Barack Obama, said he’s been the recipient of hateful tweets due to his role at ADL.

As for the summit, Greenblatt said the fact that key players gathered to spread awareness of the issue of harassment is a positive sign.

“It’s a first start,” he added. “[But] we’re certainly not where we need to be.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Birthday Verse

By John Hertz: Congratulations on the 8th birthday of File 770. I wrote you this Birthday Poem. It’s acrostic (read down the first letter of each line) in unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable form.

Gathering rosebuds,
Leaving not the thorns behind,
Year by month by day,
Elucidatingly or
Ready for light others bring.

The Bright Moon

By John Hertz: Ever since Earth sent a man to the Moon, landing on July 20, 1969, that day for many of us has been the Glorious 20th — yesterday; we who cherish such thoughts looked, literally or figuratively, or both, at the Moon.

In China, since I’m about to quote a Chinese poem, but also e.g. in Japan, often people looking at the Moon think of those apart from them, who may also be looking at it, and on whom it reflects too.

The poet is Wang Wei (701-761), famous for poetry, music, and landscape painting.  The first line quotes a poem by Ch‘u Yuan, and the last alludes to one by Li Pai (also called Li Po) — this sort of thing is applauded as an art.

The translator is Red Pine (literary name of Bill Porter, who has taken the name of an immortal in Taoist mythology, sometimes considered Lord of Rain — “In emptiness and silence I found serenity … I heard how once Red Pine had washed the world’s dust off”, tr. D. Hawkes); his rendition of the T‘ang and Sung Dynasty anthology Ch‘ien Chia Shih (literally Poems of a Thousand Masters but “a thousand” isn’t meant literally) he calls Poems of the Masters (2003; below is No. 13, pp. 32-33).

Poems like this, only a few words, are meant for savoring.

Sitting alone amid dense bamboo
strumming my lute and whistling
deep in the forest no one else knows
until the bright moon looks down