Pixel Scroll 9/26/16 Scrolls To The Left Of Me, Pixels To The Right

(1) JUST. ONE. SCHOOL. UPDATE. There was the inevitable brush with bureaucracy, but the books everyone donated are now being checked out to kids at Greenville High School in the Sierras of California.

“Just. One. School. A Saga Continues” (August 11) at Throwing Chanclas.

Last night I attended a monthly board meeting of Plumas Unified School District in Quincy, CA. I don’t normally attend such meetings as I thankfully as a reporter do not have the school board as my regular beat. I attended because I got last minute word that the Library Project was an agenda item. I’d received no phone call or email from the district, no inquiries whatsoever. As this was my idea and I’ve been heading up the volunteer effort (we’ll let my 17 years experience as a college instructor + knowledge of books, music, and film go at this point). So I show up there because um…my library, OUR library is on the agenda.

So I address the school board and give them a brief history of the project. As the board only has one member who regularly engages online, they were not all completely aware that we exist.  So I spend my five minutes of public comment time on facts of our project and I answer a few questions.

The curriculum director–who has never set foot in our library, nor called me or emailed me to ask questions–gets up and makes a brief presentation whereupon she states that she’ll “approve” students to check out books as soon as we produce a list of titles so that she can decide whether they belong in our library.

…America. This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why Holden Caufield whines about how every time you see something beautiful someone else has scrawled an OBSCENITY upon it.

None of this comes out of my mouth however. I do remind however that we are two schools, not one. That all summer 98% of my volunteers have been from community members and Indian Valley Academy students and parents and that we have no such stipulations concerning censorship and approval. Our goal –which we had thought and hoped was shared–was to get kids reading–especially kids who don’t read. And we’ve already been achieving our goal.

just-one-book-library

Mary of the Good Week (August 28)

There’s some bureaucratic snags. The curriculum director finally came down to look at the site (honestly we are a brisk 22 minutes from Capital City–it wasn’t that hard) and we hope she went away knowing that the books aren’t hers that they are indeed the communities and the kids.

…We had a great moment last week when a kid who was on track to drop out and have no use for the world walked into the library almost on a dare and realized that every graphic novel and Japanese manga he ever wanted to read was in there. (He was too cool for school and then left like a kid coming out of a candy store). We let him borrow the Death Note series.

just-one-book-library-2

Just. One. Book. Live with Students! (September 9).

Since Sept 6 when we opened we’ve checked out about 65 books, dvds, and cds  to students and faculty.  Considering the two schools have only 200 students combined that’s some great reach.

THANK YOU!’

Oh and on a side note. Whoever sent the soundtrack to Hamilton? I LOVE YOU. That’s the first thing that I checked out.

(2) SFWA ISSUES STATEMENT ON GALAKTIKA MAGAZINE. On March 23, 2016, Bence Pintér published an article at Mandiner Magazine regarding numerous stories published by Hungary’s Galaktika Magazine in 2015 – most of them translated and reprinted without the knowledge or consent of the original authors. The unfolding story is included in today’s SFWA statement on Galaktika, warning professionals to avoid working with the publication.

SFWA has refrained from comment so far due to hopes that Galaktika would resolve outstanding issues, but so far this has not been the case. It has taken the Hungarian agency representing one leading U.S. agency months to arrive at an agreement with Galaktika calling for a per-story fee of $75 covering 37 stories by 16 authors; this agreement was finally signed by István Burger on 7th September 2016, and apparently the money is on the way to the Hungarian Agency.  Meanwhile, the same agency is still working on finding a satisfactory arrangement with other clients whose authors are involved, although no other agreement is in the works yet (as of mid-September 2016). Some clients of the Hungarian Agency reportedly are inclined to give Galaktika a post-publication license; others want to review legal options that their own clients can undertake; others are working with other U.S. agents to explore a possible collective response.

SFWA formally recommends that authors, editors, translators, and other publishing professionals avoid working with Galaktika until the magazine has demonstrated that existing issues have been addressed and that there will be no recurrence. Authors should check to determine whether or not their works have been published by Galaktika on the magazine’s website at http://galaktikabolt.hu/galaktika/page/6/. SFWA recommends that members work with their agents and publishers to address the issue before passing it to Griefcom. At the moment SFWA has three active grievances against Galaktika

(3) GETTING THERE EVENTUALLY. Kelly Robson, “On Being a Late Bloomer”, at Clarkesworld.

I always wanted to be a writer. That’s not unique. Many writers have their destiny revealed in childhood. Like others with this particular itch, I read voraciously, and when I bought my first Asimov’s magazine at the age of sixteen—a moment embedded in my senses more vividly than my first kiss—I knew I had to be a science fiction writer.

But it took me more than thirty years to become one. And by that, I don’t mean I was thirty before I published my first fiction. I was forty-seven. By anyone’s measure, that’s late for a first publication.

Most of us have preconceived ideas about how a writer’s career should proceed, and we judge ourselves harshly if we don’t achieve the various benchmarks on time…

(4) VISIT TO THE CHINESE NEBULAS. Cat Rambo has written up her trip to China: “Beijing/Chengdu Trip, September 206: Some Notes, Observations, and Images”.

We were treated very well. Overall, recent wins by Cixin Liu have drawn significant attention to SF in China. In all of this, I am speaking primarily about science fiction, rather than fantasy, since the Chinese see the two genres as very distinct from each other. There has also historically been tension between science writing and science fiction, which is the past has been perceived as being aimed at children, or at least that is something that came up multiple times over the course of the visit.

Nowadays, that’s very different. Numerous groups in China are working on putting together Worldcon bids and I would suspect the question is not so much whether or not we’ll see a Worldcon bid from China in coming years so much as which city will host it: Beijing, Chengdu, or Shanghai. Several people, including the World Science Fiction Society, said that they’d love to see SFWA’s Nebulas hosted over in China if we’re ever interested in doing that. Crystal Huff had been sponsored by the first group as part of their effort to research what would be needed to run a Worldcon.

(5) THE DARK ADDS MORENO-GARCIA. The Dark Magazine has hired Silvia Moreno-Garcia as co-editor alongside current editor Sean Wallace. Moreno-Garcia will assume her responsibilities effective October 1 and her first issues will start next January.

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination, Silvia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City, was listed as one of the best novels of the year at io9, Buzzfeed and many other places and nominated for the British Fantasy, Locus, Sunburst and Aurora awards. She was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for her work on the anthology She Walks in Shadows and is the guest-editor for Nightmare Magazine’s POC Destroy Horror. She edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review together with award-winning author Lavie Tidhar. Her website can be found at www.silviamoreno-garcia.com

“Silvia has always impressed me with her editorial acumen and acquisitions, both with her own anthologies and Innsmouth Magazine, and it is to our credit that we have her onboard going forward,” said Sean Wallace, co-editor and publisher of The Dark Magazine.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born September 26, 1932  — Donna Douglas. Her “Eye of the Beholder” Twilight Zone episode had one of the best reveals on any TV show.
  • Born September 26, 1956 — Linda Hamilton

(7) ANCILLARY COMIC. Someone has been peeking inside the heads of Ancillary Justice readers.

(8) CROWDFUNDING TERRY JONES BOOK. Terry Jones’ publisher Unbound is crowdfunding the publication of the third volume of a Medieval adventure trilogy he has written. They discuss his recent announcement on this page.

It’s safe to say that when Unbound launched, five years ago, we could not have done it without Terry Jones.

He launched his collection of stories, Evil Machines, and went on every form of media to help us launch the business, brilliantly communicating what was new and exciting about Unbound. Here was one of the country’s best loved comic writers and performers – a Python! – entrusting us with a brand new book and pushing our start-up for all it was worth.

First and foremost, though, Terry has been a friend, not ‘just’ a driving force and collaborator. So the news of his illness has hit us hard.

We launched this book in the hope that we could get it to him for his 75th birthday in February but the announcement of illness gives us all pause for thought. We have considered whether we should remove the project but after speaking to the family we have decided we still very much want to publish this book because it completes the trilogy and because it meant a great deal to Terry that we should. So we hope you’ll agree that we should continue to fund and publish the final fictional work from an old and dear friend.

There’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 at the site.

(9) LETTERS TO TIPTREE. Alisa Krasnostein’s scorecard reads —

LETTERS TO TIPTREE has won: the Tin Duck, Ditmar, Aurealis Convenor Award, Locus, Alfie, British Fantasy; shortlisted for the British SF and WFA, long listed for the Tiptree. Which kinda blows my mind!!!!

(10) AN INGENIOUSLY DECEPTIVE WORK OF ART. Nobody knows about this transportation disaster because it didn’t happen it happened on the same day as the Kennedy assassination, you see…. Artist Joe Reginella told The Gothamist how he perpetrated the hoax.

Staten Island Ferry Disaster Monument

Staten Island Ferry Disaster Monument

Reginella told The Post that the project took six months to plan and that it’s “part practical joke, part multimedia art project, part social experiment.” The fliers, which he and his team have been giving out around downtown Manhattan and Staten Island in recent weeks, promise an octopus petting zoo, historical exhibits and a “Ferry Disastore” gift shop at the nonexistent museum.

It also includes directions to a fictitious shoreline address across the street from the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, where some people have ventured to. Francesca Navarro, who works the front desk of the Staten Island Museum, told the Post that despite the ludicrousness of the premise, some people can’t help but check it out: “I think they maybe have a suspicion it’s fake, but they feel like they just have to prove it.”

The Post found a few of the tricked: “Australian tourist Tamara Messina [said]: ‘The brochure sounded very intriguing,’ adding that her three young sons ‘seemed a bit more concerned that it may happen again’ as the family rode the ferry.”

In addition to the fake monument, there’s a website for the Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum. The New York Post says people are still looking for it.

About the Memorial

The Staten Island Ferry Disaster Story. . . It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. Eye witness accounts describe “large tentacles” which “pulled” the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. Nobody on board survived and only small pieces of wreckage have been found…strangely with large “suction cup-shaped” marks on them. The only logical conclusion scientists and officials could point to was that the boat had been attacked by a massive octopus, roughly half the size of the ship. Adding to the tragedy, is that this disaster went almost completely unnoticed by the public as later that day another, more “newsworthy” tragedy would befall the nation when beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated.  The Staten Island Ferry Disaster Museum hopes to correct this oversight by preserving the memory of those lost in this tragedy and educating the public about the truth behind the only known giant octopus-ferry attack in the tri-state area.

 

(11) SOMETIMES. Just saw this today and it cracked me up.

(12) THAT MALLEABLE VERSE. And I had a smile left over for this —

[Thanks to Janice Gelb, Sean Wallace, Ruth, Steven H Silver, Dawn Incognito, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series Presents Barron and Wong

Alyssa Wong and Laird Barron.

Alyssa Wong and Laird Barron.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, September 21 – the last day of summer – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Laird Barron and Alyssa Wong at its venue, the Red Room at the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. Up a steep flight of stairs to the 2nd-floor, the Bar is made further distinctive by its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor. “It’s one of the truly great venues to read at,” said Barron. The Series, running since the late ’90s, reliably offers stellar lineups, often pairing established authors and up-and-coming newcomers, and readings are always free. (The Bar is a cordial and hospitable host, and the Series’ presenters duly exhort the audience to express gratitude by buying something to drink.)

As traditional, as the room filled, co-host Ellen Datlow swirled through the crowd, taking photos.  (They may be seen on the Series website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.)

Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcomed the capacity crowd, and reported on upcoming events in the Series.  Next month’s readers, on October 19th, are Jack Ketchum and Caitlìn R. Kiernan.  Reading on November 16th will be John Langan (who was in attendance) and Kressel himself; on December 21st, Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker; and on January 18, 2017, Holly Black and Fran Wilde. Concluding, he introduced the evening’s first reader.

fist-of-permutatons-alyssa-wongAlyssa Wong’s story, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story, and her work has been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, the Bram Stoker Award, the Locus Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award.  The story that she read, “The Clamor of Bones,” was set in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  A “dead-talker,” tasked by the underworld to look for a missing 9-year-old girl, consults the finger bone of a corrupt detective whom she had killed, chopped up and dumped into the Bay.  It seems that he had been retrieved and magically reanimated (though missing bits, rotting and tending to ruin carpets), and been the last one seen with the girl.  Oddly, he seems reluctant to cooperate with his murderer.  Despite its essential ickiness, the story’s macabre humor had the audience laughing.

swift-to-chase-laird-barronAfter a break, Datlow introduced the second reader of the night.  Hailing from Alaska (where he raced the Iditarod three times during the early 1990s, and against whose backdrop many of his stories are set), Laird Barron is the author of X’s for Eyes, The Imago Sequence, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, and the forthcoming (in two weeks) Swift to Chase.  The story that he shared, “The Cyclotron,” appeared in a Canadian anthology riffing on “a famous franchise character” (hint:  his first name is James and there are references to “Double-O” and the British Secret Service), so, for predictable reasons, “may never be reprinted in my lifetime.”  Written in the second-person, the story presents the world-saving agent, past retirement and ill, through his memories of car chases, pointless shootouts, “sequences of horror,” death traps, assassination attempts, and seduction of and betrayal by women (he has had “extensive serious difficulties with women”), under the shadow (or should that be spectre?) of the black-clad Dr. Hemlock.  Recognition of the familiar, hackneyed tropes and their flippant treatment provided chuckles.  (As far as we know, though, no one in the Bar ordered vodka martinis shaken, not stirred.)

Copies of Barron’s X’s for Eyes and The Imago Sequence were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, while, at the front of the room, Wong had copies of a short horror comic.

Pixel Scroll 5/16/16 Pixel McScrollface

(1) AGENT OF TERRA? Brad Templeton confesses, “I was investigated by the feds for taking a picture of the sun”.

A week ago, a rather strange event took place. No, I’m not talking about just the Transit of Mercury in front of the sun on May 9, but an odd result of it.

That morning I was staying at the Westin Waterfront in Boston. I like astrophotography, and have shot several transits…

I did not have my top lenses with me but I decided to photograph it anyway with my small size Sony 210mm zoom and a welding glass I brought along. I shot the transit, holding the welding glass over the lens, with all mounted on my super-light “3 legged thing” portable tripod….

At 10am I got a frantic call from the organizer of the Exponential Manufacturing conference I would be speaking at the next day. “You need to talk to the FBI!” he declared. Did they want my advice on privacy and security? “No,” he said, “They saw you taking photos of the federal building with a tripod from your hotel window and want to talk to you.”

(2) SHINING EXAMPLE. Ann Leckie discovered someone’s named a nail polish after her.

There’s a Jemisin and Le Guin too. In fact, Nerdlacquer has named its products after all kinds of sf/f references, from Octarine to General Effing Leia.

(3) #STARWARSFORJJ. Not our JJ. An Irish kid — “Star Wars hero Mark Hamill stuns brave Northern Ireland cancer teen Jamie Harkin”

Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker was reduced to tears when he felt the remarkable force of a brave Northern Irish teen who has fought off cancer twice.

Actor Mark Hamill, who plays the famous Jedi Knight , met up with super fan Jamie Harkin.

The brave 17-year-old has raised more than £15,000 for other children battling the disease….

And on Monday the Derry lad joined his idol for breakfast during a break in filming for the latest instalment of the sci-fi saga in Donegal.

“People say that you should never meet your idols, because you build them up in your head so much that when you do meet them, they are a let down, and to that, I say, ‘you’re wrong’,” he said.

(4) SLACKEROO BANZAI. Birth. Movies. Death. is not enamored of reports that Kevin Smith might get to make a Buckaroo Banzai TV series.

Dear fans of The Adventure Of Buckaroo Banzai,

We regret to inform you that, on a recent episode of his podcast, Tusk director Kevin Smith revealed that he has been approached by MGM about possibly adapting The Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai for television.

In situations like these, it is natural to look for someone to blame for your grief. In this case, it appears that you have The CW’s The Flash to thank (or, rather, Smith’s recent episode of The Flash).

According to i09, the studio was impressed with Smith’s work on that single episode (the studio is apparently unaware of Tusk, Red State, the porch sequence from Tusk, the trailer for Yoga Hosers, Mallrats, Smith’s intention to make a movie called Moose Jaws, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, most of Dogma, Clerks 2, and Cop Out), so much so that they invited him over to pitch ideas….

(5) KALDON CLARION SCHOLARSHIP. SF author Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon passed away on April 20. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to create a Dr. Phil Memorial Scholarship for the Clarion workshop.

Janiece Murphy says, “Dr. Phil was a kind and generous man, and we’d like to memorialize him in a way that reflects these qualities.”

Murphy explains there are two ways to give money.

Folks can donate to the GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/drphilclarion , or they can donate directly to Clarion in Dr. Phil’s name at http://imagination.ucsd.edu/support.html . If they choose the latter, I would ask that they ensure the gift is designated for the Dr. Phil Clarion Scholarship, otherwise it will go to the general fund.

The GoFundMe appeal has raised $1,045 of its $5,000 goal as of this writing.

(6) WHAT’S IMPORTANT. Joe Sherry makes a great point in “My Favorite Stories Sometimes Win: A Nebula Love Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

First, it should be noted that two of my favorite stories from 2015 did, in fact, win Nebula Awards on Saturday night. I adored both Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti as well as Sarah Pinsker’s “Our Lady of the Open Road“. Both are wonderful stories and I am so happy both Okorafor and Pinsker were recognized as being excellent pieces of fiction…

This leads into my second thing I’d like to talk about. So much of the conversation about awards, whether it is the Nebula or the Hugo or the any other award you’d like to mention, is about the winner. Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my favorite stories to be recognized as the “best” novel or short story or whatever other category. Of course I do. I not only get emotionally invested in the story, I sometimes also become emotionally invested in the success of the author. Of course I want my favorite author to win all the awards and sell all the books. Of course I do.

That’s okay, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that just receiving a nomination is a significant recognition and is difficult enough to do in any given year, let alone a single time in a career. Publish your best work in the wrong year and it may still miss the ballot for any number of reasons. The recognition of a nomination is important, both for the work as well as for the field itself. The nomination says “yes, this story was excellent and we value it”….

(7) KAGAN BOOKS AVAILABLE. To capture a news item seen the other day in comments: Baen has republished several long-out-of-print Janet Kagan works as ebooks – Mirabile, Hellspark, and The Collected Kagan.

(8) SFWA ELECTIONS. SF Site News covered this weekend’s SFWA officer elections.

Last year saw some officers elected for two year terms and others elected for one year terms. This year, elections were only held for positions which were elected for one year terms last year. Erin M. Hartshorn, Justina Ireland, and Lawrence M. Schoen ran for two open Director-at-Large positions.

  • Vice President: M.C.A. Hogarth, re-elected, unopposed
  • CFO: Bud Sparhawk, re-elected, unopposed
  • Director at Large: Justina Ireland
  • Director at Large: Lawrence M. Schoen

(9) NEBULA DIVERSITY. K. Tempest Bradford reported on the Nebula Awards for NPR.

…This weekend’s winners reflect many different types of diversity beyond gender. Half are women of color, half are self-identified queer women – which mirrors the overall diversity of the ballot. 24 out of the 34 works nominated for the award were written by women from multiple racial and cultural backgrounds and a spectrum of sexual orientations. Of the 10 works by men, five of them were written by people of color and queer authors.

“The Nebula ballot is everything a ballot should be in this community,” said Brooke Bolander, author of the nominated story “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead.” “It’s diverse, it’s wide-ranging, and it includes amazing stories by amazing authors.”

That’s an important point, given the ongoing conversation about diversity happening now in speculative fiction circles. The Hugos — the other major awards in the genre — are nominated by fans. Last year and again this year, Hugo nominations have been affected by the Sad and Rabid Puppies groups, who campaign against what they see as affirmative action-based nominating and voting in the Hugo and Nebula awards.

But “people want these stories,” says Alyssa Wong. She was the first Filipino author to be nominated for the Nebula award last year and is now the first to win it for her 2015 short story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Though she says she’s seen some Puppy-style criticism of her success, most of the reaction has been positive.

Readers “want to read stories from the points of view of people who have been historically been locked out of the genre,” Wong says. “‘Hungry Daughters’ is about a group of women who are all Asian-American and all from very different backgrounds, all of whom feel isolated in some way … But clearly this is not just Asian-American audiences who this is resonating with. I’m appreciative that people are reading more widely now. It means more opportunities — not just to be published, but to be seen.”

(10) SITE PICKED FOR 2019 COSTUME-CON. Over Mother’s Day weekend at Costume-Con 34 in Madison, WI, the site for Costume-Con 37 in 2019 was chosen.  It will be run under the auspices of MCFI with Aurora Celeste and Sharon Sbarsky as co-chairs. Social media still to come.

Costume-Con 37
Salem, MA
March 22-25, 2019
DoubleTree Boston North Shore
(actually Danvers, MA)
$129 Hotel Rate including Free WiFi, Free Parking, and Free Cookies!
$60 ($45 for those that voted) through at least December 31, 2016

(11) HUGO FIX. Damien Walter takes a math-lite approach to fighting slates, where Yobs = Ø

(12) DARLEY OBIT. Dick Darley, who directed Space Patrol, died April 21 at the age of 92. He also directed the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club.

Born in Los Angeles, he served as a fighter pilot in the United States Navy during World War II, then studied radio production and writing at USC. First working at San Diego’s KFMB, he later joined L.A.’s KECA where in 1950 he became director on the channel’s new series Space Patrol.

Set in the 30th century, the series followed the adventures of Commander-in-Chief Buzz Corry of the United Planets Space Patrol, who along with his sidekick Cadet Happy faced off against a rogues gallery of villains inspired by then-current Cold War. For its first 10 months, the show aired as 15 minute episodes Monday through Friday. In December, 1950, ABC commissioned a half hour version that ran on Saturdays, concurrently with the 15-minute version. Aimed at children, the show picked up a following of adult viewers and would go on to make history when it became the first regular live West Coast morning show to be beamed to the East Coast.

(13) A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. Norman Spinrad has some strong opinions about Facebook.

Well my attempt to split my so-called Facebook “Timeline” into several different forums has been a dismal failure. Didn’t work, and more recent news (and I mean real news, not Facebook’s so-called “News Feed”) about Facebook begins not only to explain why, but begins to illuminate far larger issues about what Facebook is doing and trying to do.

Facebook has been accused of using both secret algorithms and human “editors” to control and even censor its so-called News Feed and “Trending topics” feed to suit the political agenda of Mark Zuckerberg &Co. But not to worry, Zuckerberg himself has appointed a committee to investigate.

Facebook had generously offered to finance free Internet service to third world countries, notably India. Well not exactly. The Facebook “free Internet service” would only connect to web sites approved and chosen by Facebook. India at least being a sophisticated democracy said no thanks. And other so-called “developing countries” have likewise gotten the point.

The point being that Facebook is becoming a threat to democracy itself, nowhere more so than in the United States, where a majority of people are getting their “news” from Facebook already and Facebook is expanding the process exponentially, as witness how it has weaseled itself into most of the televised presidential primary debates and now is funneling selected news stories from legitimate journalistic news channels through “News Feed” and “Trending” to far larger demographics than they can possibly reach by themselves.

And now it has been revealed that Facebook is in effect filtering and editing these feeds according Mark Zuckerberg’s political agenda. But not to worry, Zuckerberg has appointed a committee of his own minions to investigate himself.

Why is this a threat to democracy? Because it is already a huge threat to professional and politically neutral journalism itself, the commons cornerstone of any democracy….

(14) PROTECTION OR THEATRE? Recently the Society for Promotion of Japanese Animation, which runs Anime Expo in Los Angeles, announced a new Youth Protection program that requires all employees, volunteers, vendors and panelists to submit to a criminal background check and take online courses. Christopher Macdonald argues in an Anime News Network editorial that “The SPJA Needs to Change Its Youth Protection Policy”.

On the surface the new policy seems like a great idea. Who isn’t in favor of protecting children from predators? This policy isn’t unwarranted either, as with every similarly large event, bad things happen… and have happened. Unfortunately the SPJA’s new policy has many unintended consequences. Here are but a few:

  • Cost: It isn’t entirely clear who has to pay for the background checks, but these checks could be very expensive for people who have to pay for them. While a typical background checks costs as little as $50, the actual price can be prohibitively expensive for some vendors. For example, some background checks cost an extra $50 for every country a subject has visited in the past 5 years, and an extra $200 if they have lived outside the USA. With those prices, my background check would cost over $1,000 (note: AX has stated on Twitter “No artist, volunteer, guest, staff is being asked to pay for own bg check,“ however it seems that vendors and exhibitors do have to pay for the background checks).
  • Privacy & Security: The new SPJA policy requires that all vendors register with their real names & info. Many people in our industry, particularly professional and semi-professional cosplayers, have problems with stalkers. They do not want to be forced to wear badges with their real names, and they do not want their home address in the SPJA’s database. It may even be illegal to force employees of California based vendors to undergo background checks. There is a very limited number of cases in which an employer can mandate a background check, and this is not one of those cases. Therefore, it may be illegal for companies like Aniplex of America, Bandai, Crunchyroll, NIS America and Viz Media to ask their employees to undergo the background check.
  • Good People will fail the background check: I won’t go into too much detail about this here, there is plenty of information online about it, but many people often have significant trouble with background checks. Here are but a few of the reasons you can fail a background check: a name change, a minor violent arrest (got into a fight in a bar back in your college days), visiting an “undesirable” country (have you been to Iran or Cuba? I have), sharing your name with an actual criminal, etc…
  • It’s Insulting: Picture this, “Hi, you’re one of the top manga artists in Japan, and we’d really like to have you as a guest of honor at our show, but first we need to make sure you aren’t a child molester.” This is straight up offensive; you should expect that people will be insulted by this. And they are; I can say with absolute certainty that some of AX’s potential guests have pulled out because of this, and in at least one case an artist is disturbed enough that it is having an effect on their work. Have you noticed that we’re less than 2 months out, and almost no guests of honor have been announced? Guest contracts are in limbo while they wait for this issue to be resolved. For some guests it is already too late for them to commit to the event, their schedules are made more than 2 months in advance.

(15) TESTING FOR HUMANITY. The Futility Closet blog describes a proposed replacement for the Turing Test.

The original test, in which a computer program tries to fool a human judge into thinking it’s human during a five-minute text-only conversation, has been criticized because the central task of devising a false identity is not part of intelligence, and because some conversations may require relatively little intelligent reasoning.

The new test would be based on so-called Winograd schemas, devised by Stanford computer scientist Terry Winograd in 1972. Here’s the classic example:

The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they [feared/advocated] violence.

If the word feared is used, to whom does they refer, the councilmen or the demonstrators? What if we change feared to advocated? You know the answers to these questions because you have a practical understanding of anxious councilmen. Computers find the task more difficult because it requires not only natural language processing and commonsense reasoning but a working knowledge of the real world….

In July 2014 Nuance Communications announced that it will sponsor an annual Winograd Schema Challenge, with a prize of $25,000 for the computer that best matches human performance. The first competition will be held at the 2016 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, July 9-15 in New York City.

(16) SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. George R.R. Martin weighs in on the EPH discussion with “All the King’s Horses…” at Not A Blog.

I can hear the proponents of EPH and 4/6 saying their reforms were never meant to be a cure all. Yes, I know that, I never believed otherwise, and I applaud your efforts to help. I just wish these reforms helped more. Neither EPH nor 4/6 is going to prevent us from having VD on the Best Editor shortlist from now until the heat death of the universe.

And I also know that there are now other proposals out there, proposals that call for three-stage voting, for negative votes and blackballing, for juries. Some of these cures, I fear, might be even worse than the disease. We have plenty of juried awards; we don’t need another. Three-stage voting, with fifteen semi-finalists that get boiled down to five finalists and one winner? Maybe, but that considerably increases the workload of the Hugo administrators, whose job is hard enough already… and I fear it would actually ratchet up campaigning, as friends and fans of those on the List of Fifteen rallied around their favorites to get them on the List of Five. And a blackball round, voting things off the ballot? Is that really a can of worms we want to open, in this present climate? That would dial the ugliness up to eleven, I fear… or higher.

Sadly, I don’t think there is an answer here. No magic bullet is going to fix this. And I fear that the people saying, “pretty soon the assholes will get bored and go away,” are being hopelessly naive. The assholes are having far too much fun.

(17) BABELFISH NOW REALITY? Here’s the pitch.

Although the Indiegogo did not reach its goal, Waverly Labs appeas to be going ahead with production — the preorder campaign is scheduled to launch May 25.

1. How much will it cost? Retail is expected to be $249-$299
2. How much is the early bird? Early bird will be first come first serve. A limited quantity will go for $129, then another round for $149, and then a few more Late Early Bird options for $179+. Signup here: www.waverlylabs.com/launch
3. When can I preorder the Pilot? The preorder campaign is scheduled to launch on May 25th. We will keep everyone updated via email. As long as you have signed up for the launch then you will be alerted.
4. When will they be delivered? We are releasing a translation app this summer for basic translation. This is included in your purchase. However, the earpieces require much more testing, manufacturing and production time. Therefore, we anticipate the earliest will be in late fall/early winter, although fulfilling all orders could take until next spring. Again, it is first come first serve.
5. What’s included? The full package includes the Pilot and secondary earpiece (2 earpieces total), 1 portable charger, and an accompanying app. The app is where the languages are downloaded for the earpiece.

The rest of the FAQ is here.

[Thanks to Rick Kovalcik, JJ, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Lola McCrary, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Four Nominees’ Statements About Staying on the Ballot

Since Thomas A. Mays decided to withdraw his Hugo-nominated short story as his way of dealing with its having been on the Rabid Puppies slate, some Hugo and Campbell nominees in the same position have made statements to explain why they are not withdrawing. Alyssa Wong and Alastair Reynolds posted theirs today, and Brandon Sanderson yesterday. Also included is a quote from Lois McMaster Bujold — made prior to Mays’ withdrawal — addressing her story’s presence on the slate.

ALYSSA WONG

Alyssa Wong says she is staying, in “Toe the Line:” On Being a 2016 John W. Campbell Award Finalist.

There is no way in hell I’m withdrawing. The fact is, in spite of the Rabid Puppies attempts to lock people like me out of the finalists list through slate voting, some truly deserving folks and their works who weren’t on their slate slipped onto the list anyway….

And that’s the crux of it. If you are on this list despite the Rabid Puppies’ slate voting, it means you absolutely, absolutely deserve it. It means that enough SFF fans appreciated your work and contributed their individual voices to overwhelm a slate being pushed by an organized mob of malicious people determined to “leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were.” And to withdraw is to let them win.

ALASTAIR REYNOLDS

The author posted “Slow Bullets on the Hugo Ballot” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

…I’d had high hopes for Slow Bullets, after all. I considered it a strong story, and it had picked up enough positive reviews and recommendations throughout the year that it didn’t seem beyond the bounds of possibility that it might make the ballot. That’s not to say I was confident, but that just that the omens were about as good for that story as they had been for any of my recent pieces.

The adminstrators, quite reasonably, wanted a clearer, less ambiguous commitment from me. After a friendly and productive transatlantic phone call, I came around to the view that I’d not only accept the nomination, but take whatever came after it.

As several commentators have noted, the eventual ballots are quite strongly biassed in favour of Rabid Puppy choices. The unpalatable conclusion to be drawn from this is that my story, good as its chances were, probably wouldn’t have made the cut were it not for the RP block vote. However, I didn’t ask for those votes and in fact I expressly requested that my story not be slated. Kate Paulk (of the Sads) and Vox Day (of the Rabids) both declined my requests.

Since the announcement of the ballots, there’s been quite a lot of discussion about the rights and wrongs of the finalists withdrawing their stories. Quite honestly, I’m very sympathetic to both sides of the debate. If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably have declined the initial nomination. But I didn’t, and beyond that I made a commitment to the administrators not to withdraw at a later stage. On that basis alone, therefore, I’m keeping “Slow Bullets” on the ballot. I can’t say I’m exactly over-joyed about this decision, though – from my point of view it just feels like the least worst choice of a very bad hand. Compare and contrast to the situation when my only other nomination happened, for “Troika”, and my mood couldn’t be more different.

Let’s hope things are better next year….

BRANDON SANDERSON

Brandon Sanderson, author of a slated Hugo finalist, the novella Perfect State, says he is staying on the ballot and urges other nominees to do the same. This excerpt is just part of his lengthy post, which also describes what he tried to achieve behind-the-scenes during last year’s puppy travails. Oddly, while he mentions the Sad Puppies he never names the Rabid Puppies, obviously the “list” under discussion here —

If I’d known I was on this list, I would have asked to be taken off of it. This year, their list seems to include some people (I can’t know if I’m one) who are mainstream. People liked in the community, or likely to get a nomination anyway. They’ve done this, I presume, in order to see whether these people too would get “No Award.”

I can’t know how much the nomination of my novella was helped by this group, and even contemplating the idea is distasteful to me. This puts me in the position of having to decide whether or not to withdraw my nomination. It wouldn’t be heartbreaking for me to do so. I’ve won a Hugo in this category before, during the pre-Puppy years. I think my story is strong, but I will write other, stronger stories in the future. I’d be fine sitting it out this year.

I think that would be bad for fandom, and the award. Though I agree with those who withdrew nominations last year, I think we’re entering into a dangerous area. If we withdraw anytime someone like this person puts us on a slate, that gives them an enormous amount of power over us and the award. In addition, if we vote something under No Award anytime someone we don’t like advocates for it, then that’s the same as letting that person win the award whenever they want. Either way, we’re just being pushed around by a troll.

I’d like to think that we’ve learned from last year, and I have decided not to withdraw my nomination. I realize I’m setting myself up for being part of a potential blanket “No Award” voting slate this year. I will accept that, if it happens. But I don’t think letting a troll dictate my actions is going to work out better for me. And I certainly don’t want to insult the fans who nominated my work in good faith.

Therefore, I will stand by what I’ve always said: Nominate and vote for me only if you think the story itself deserves the recognition. Don’t vote for (or against) any person or their ideas. Vote for or against the story. Even when the nomination rules change next year (assuming the proposal gets enough votes again this year), we’re still likely to have a candidate in every category that was nominated in by certain elements.

In many cases, I feel it’s going to be impossible to separate which nominees are the result of trolls throwing rocks at us and which are the result of passionate fans who simply have different views from the mainstream. We’re going to have to do better than counter-voting, a point which many voices in the community, including Scalzi and GRRM, made last year.

I request that my fellow nominees consider not withdrawing. And I request that voters continue to look at the individual stories, artists, and editors, and judge based on the nominee themselves—rather than judging based on who is advocating for them.

LOIS MCMASTER BUJOLD

On the day the nominees were announced, Lois McMaster Bujold also posted a brief statement — “Penric’s Demon” is a Hugo nominee – about the slate:

…(As a point of information, “Penric’s Demon” was conscripted onto the “Rabid Puppies” slate without my notification or permission, and my request that it be removed was refused.)

Ta, L.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh and Greg Hullender for the links.]