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

Teaching

By John Hertz: Happening to re-read A.J. Arberry’s Classical Persian Literature (1958) I came upon this description (by Badî‘ al-Zamân Furûzânfar 1904-1970) of Jalâl al-Dîn Muhammad ibn Muhammad (1207-1273), known as Rûmî from the land where he lived, celebrated as a poet, revered as a saint, called simply Maulânâ “our teacher” by Persians religious or no.

Incidentally, if you know the tale of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant as told by John Saxe (1886-1887) “And each of them was in the right, / And all were in the wrong,” as told by Rûmî six centuries earlier they weren’t blind, they were in a dark room, and none of them struck a light.

In his conduct he was peaceful and tolerant toward [those] of all sects and creeds, looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike and urging his disciples to comport themselves similarly…. throughout his life, despite the attacks and unworthy misrepresentations levelled against him by blind-hearted enemies, he was never heard to utter one bitter reply.

Persian poetry depending so much on sounds and rhythms is particularly hard to translate, the result often looking like one of Thomas Edison’s carbon filaments held alone in the hand.

O blessed hour, when thou and I
Together sit within this hall:
Two forms, two shapes then, thou and I –
Two bodies, and a single soul.

Pixel Scroll 7/7

Four news items, a tweet and a trailer in this collection of clippings for today.

A.V. Club

“Grant Morrison is the new editor-in-chief of Heavy Metal magazine”  – July 6

Grant Morrison

Much like an obscure background character in an old comic book who very few people remember and even fewer care about, Grant Morrison has suddenly shown up to reveal that he’s actually very important and everyone needs to listen to him if they want to have any idea what’s going on. Also, the obscure background character is actually Morrison himself, and all of this takes place in a miniature pocket universe that Morrison created, and also all of us are actually Grant Morrison. Anyway, the important news that Morrison wanted to pass on—which comes to us from Entertainment Weekly and not, for once, Morrison inserting a fictionalized version of himself into this Newswire—is that Grant Morrison has been named the new editor-in-chief of famed sci-fi/fantasy/boobs magazine Heavy Metal.

 

Lawrence Watt-Evans

”Projects” – Updated July 6

Ever wonder why I gripe when I come up with a new story idea? Here’s why — I already have all these and haven’t had time to write them.

These are things I’ve started, but am not currently seriously working on. I do hope to get back to them all eventually. I’m not listing short stories because there are simply too many of them; only longer works. Except for the Bound Lands, I’m also generally not listing more than one volume per new series; I’m not going to write a sequel to, say, The Dragon’s Price before I finish The Dragon’s Price.

(I’m making an exception for the Bound Lands, and to a lesser extent for Ethshar, because stories in those settings don’t need to be read in order.)

I posted the first-draft openings of several of these on my blog, and I’m linking to those where they exist.

 

Newsarama

Len Wein informed his Facebook followers, “Well, the secret is out. I’m gonna be doing Swamp Thing again, after the terrific response the character had in Convergence. I’m also gonna be doing Metal Men finally, one of my all-time favorite books. 2016 is gonna be a fun year.”

“DC Reveals 8 New Limited Series – Metal Men, Sugar & Spike, Metamorpho, More” – July 6

In 2016, DC will launch Swamp Thing, Metal Men, Raven, Firestorm, Katana: Cult of the Kobra, Metamorpho and Sugar & Spike. Some of the series will be written by the characters’ original creators. The list of titles and writers are:

  • Swamp Thing by writer Len Wein
  • Metal Men by writer Len Wein
  • Raven by writer Marv Wolfman
  • Firestorm by writer Gerry Conway
  • Katana: Cult of the Kobra by writer Mike W. Barr
  • Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life & Death by writer Amy Chu
  • Metamorpho by writer Aaron Lopresti
  • Sugar & Spike by writer Keith Giffen

“We want the best writers working on our characters, and these are the best writers for these characters,” said [Dan] DiDio.

Of Raven, Marv Wolfman says it’s a way to to tap into the renewed popularity of the character from the Teen Titans Go! animated series.

“When I go to comic conventions it thrills me to see all the young fans cosplaying as Raven from the Teen Titans GO! cartoon show,” said the long-time Teen Titans writer. “Because so many comic fans are boys, it’s wonderful that there’s something about her that connects with both girls and boys.”

 

George R.R. Martin on Not A Blog

“Buy Tor Now” – July 7

In one of the more recent developments, the Rabid Puppies and some of their allies and fellow travellers have declared a boycott of Tor Books. I say “Rabid” here because Beale is backing the boycott, while Larry Correia says the Sad Puppies are not boycotting anyone… though Correia and some of the other Sads certainly seem deeply sympathetic to the boycott. I am not, needless to say. Neither is most of fandom. Which makes this a perfect time to BUY SOME TOR BOOKS!!

…And, hey, you can even buy some AUTOGRAPHED Tor books by me. My Wild Cards series is published by Tor, as it happens, and we have signed copies of INSIDE STRAIGHT, BUSTED FLUSH, SUICIDE KINGS, FORT FREAK, and LOWBALL available through the Jean Cocteau… along with hardcovers of our award-winning anthology, DANGEROUS WOMEN, also published by Tor. You can find them all at the cinema bookshop, here: http://www.jeancocteaubooks.com/

[How’d that get in here?]

 

 

[Didn’t you people get the memo either?]

 

Mr. Holmes – in US theatres on July 17

[This trailer was released in May. I just saw it at a movie theatre last week.]

[Thanks for these stories goes out to Rob Thornton, Hampus Eckerman and Will Reichard.]

A Hot Time In The Old Fandom Tonight

File 770 has a Clipping Service category, however, this may be the first time it has ever featured a literal clipping.

David Doering’s fanhistory searches on Google yielded the newspaper article reproduced below, which inspired him to comment —

First, gone are the days of such colorful journalism. Second, MSFS meetings in Saginaw in 1949 sure were a blast! How come the LASFS didn’t have such fun?

 

Art Rapp in paper

Carrolling

By John Hertz:  Somehow this apothegm of Lewis Carroll’s seemed worth quoting.

Misunderstandings

(1850)

If such a thing had been my thought,
I should have told you so before,
But as I didn’t, then you ought
To ask for such a thing no more.
For to teach one who has been taught
Is always thought an awful bore.

Now to commence my argument,
I shall premise an observation,
On which the greatest kings have leant
When striving to subdue a nation,
And e’en the wretch who pays no rent
By it can solve a hard equation.

Its truth is such, the force of reason
Can not avail to shake its power,
Yet e’en the sun in summer season
Doth not dispel so mild a shower
As this, and he who sees it, sees on
Beyond it to a sunny bower —
No more, when ignorance is treason,
Let wisdom’s brows be cold and sour.