Pixel Scroll 5/13/17 Pixels Scrolled Separately

(1) IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT. James Davis Nicoll decided, “Just because an organization never got around to the logical step of commissioning an anthology does not mean I won’t review it anyway.”

So in “All I Have To Do Is Dream” he assembles his own edition of Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winners.

Starmaker (excerpt) by Olaf Stapledon, 2001 winner

Accompanied by like-minded companions, a star-farer explores a diverse array of inhabited worlds. He observes some common themes.

Comments

Like the novel from which it is drawn, this excerpt is less concerned with plot and much more concerned with drawing a vast yet detailed picture of the universe.

(2) KNOW YOUR GRANDMASTERS. SFWA President Cat Rambo reports “We (SFWA, not royal we) have added a bunch of playlists devoted to the various SFWA Grandmasters to the SFWA Youtube channel here. They are courtesy of SFWA volunteers K.T. Bryski, who put them together, and Juliette Wade, who got them put up.”

These are curated playlists consisting in large part of videos discussing the authors’ works. Over three dozen have been created so far. Here’s one of the videos included in the Alfred Bester playlist:

(3) THE GETAWAY. James Somers of The Atlantic will have you feeling sorry for Google by the time you finish “Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria”. “And I didn’t know that was possible,” as Ben Bradlee said about H.R. Haldeman. The biggest intellectual property grab in history, or a boon to humanity? You decide!

“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”

…On March 22 of that year, however, the legal agreement that would have unlocked a century’s worth of books and peppered the country with access terminals to a universal library was rejected under Rule 23(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

When the library at Alexandria burned it was said to be an “international catastrophe.” When the most significant humanities project of our time was dismantled in court, the scholars, archivists, and librarians who’d had a hand in its undoing breathed a sigh of relief, for they believed, at the time, that they had narrowly averted disaster….

… In August 2010, Google put out a blog post announcing that there were 129,864,880 books in the world. The company said they were going to scan them all.

Of course, it didn’t quite turn out that way. This particular moonshot fell about a hundred-million books short of the moon. What happened was complicated but how it started was simple: Google did that thing where you ask for forgiveness rather than permission, and forgiveness was not forthcoming. Upon hearing that Google was taking millions of books out of libraries, scanning them, and returning them as if nothing had happened, authors and publishers filed suit against the company, alleging, as the authors put it simply in their initial complaint, “massive copyright infringement.”….

(4) MISTAKES WERE MADE. John Scalzi, in “Diversity, Appropriation, Canada (and Me)”, gives a convincing analysis of what Hal Niedzviecki set out to do, despite starting a Canadian kerfuffle:

As I’ve been reading this, I think I have a reasonably good idea of what was going on in the mind of Niedzviecki. I suspect it was something along the line of, “Hey, in this special edition of this magazine featuring voices my magazine’s reading audience of mostly white writers doesn’t see enough of, I want to encourage the writing of a diversity of characters even among my readership of mostly white writers, and I want to say it in a clever, punchy way that will really drive the message home.”

Which seems laudable enough! And indeed, in and of itself, encouraging white, middle-class writers out of their comfort zones in terms of writing characters different from them and their lived experience is a perfectly fine goal. I encourage it. Other people I know encourage it. There’s more to life than middle-class white people, and writing can and should reflect that.

But it wasn’t “in and of itself,” and here’s where Niedviecki screwed up, as far as I can see…

Then he talks about his own experiences —

Now, related but slightly set apart (which is why I’ve separated this part off with asterisks), let me address this issue of diversity of characters in writing, using myself as an example, and moving on from there….

(5) GET YOUR BETS DOWN. Two more entries in the Doctor Who replacement sweepstakes:

Radio Times is reporting that Luke Treadaway (Fortitude) and Sacha Dhawan (Iron Fist) are now in consideration for the role. Treadaway has been a mainstay of British TV, so fits the Who modus operandi. Dhawan, meanwhile, would become the first actor of color to secure the role, an exciting prospect for many. He’s also quite eager for the gig. When asked about playing the character, he had this to say:

“Oh my God, I’d absolutely love to. I SO would love to.”

(6) STAPLEDON WARS. There’s no agreement in the science fiction community on the best science fiction novel, but Mike Resnick claims there’s no debate on the most influential science fiction novel.

A few days ago, someone on Facebook asked the question: what was the greatest science fiction novel ever written? There wasn’t much agreement (nor should there have been). I think the first hundred respondents named perhaps eighty-five titles.

When it came my turn, I answered that I didn’t know who did the best novel, but there was no question that Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker was the most important, since ninety percent of all science fiction since it appeared stole knowingly—or far more often, unknowingly—from it.

So of course I got over one hundred e-mails in the next few days asking who Olaf Stapleton was, and why would I make such a claim about a book no one seems to have heard about.

It occurs to me that some of our readers may share that curiosity, so let me tell you about this remarkable thinker.

The wild part is that not only don’t most fans know his name, but most pros who have used his notions as a springboard for their own stories and novels haven’t even read him. His ideas have been so thoroughly poached and borrowed and extrapolated from and built upon that writers are now borrowing five and six times removed from the source.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 13, 1955 The aquatic monster is back – in Revenge of the Creature.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian discovered Dick Tracy has been busy stopping crime at a Comic Con.

(9) AS YOU KNOW BOB. A Robert A. Heinlein letter archive is being offered on eBay for $17,500:

Here is a vintage archive of letters from May 1941 to January 1942, during Heinlein’s early days as a pulp writer before beginning his World War II engineering work for the Navy.  It was during this period that he was Guest of Honor at the Denver Worldcon & hosted informal gatherings of science fiction authors at his home on Lookout Mountain Avenue in the Hollywood Hills under the name of The Manana Literary Society.  Basic listing is: five TLS, one ALS, one TLS from Leslyn, two ALS from Leslyn, many with some crossouts & corrections, plus a later catching-up TLS from 1956.  Shown are a few samples.  Further details available for serious enquiries.

(10) A CONCRETE HOBBIT HOLE. Here’s a material I don’t usually associate with Hobbits, used by a couple to build “A Gorgeous Real World Hobbit House In Scotland”.

Reddit user KahlumG shared photos of this amazing hobbit-style home located outside of Tomach village in Scotland – this incredible residence is the result of tireless effort by a husband and wife team who salvage, craft, sew, and carve to create their own magical mind-bending wonderland from the objects they can find in the wilderness around them. While the verdant exterior of the home is certainly breathtaking on its own, the rustic interior is filled to the rafters with even more one-of-a-kind delights to explore and enjoy. Would you ever adopt a magical retreat like this one to be your full-time residence?

The exterior of the main building is constructed almost entirely of concrete, allowing a variety of gorgeous vines and mosses to take root all over. Concrete’s ability to weather quickly will lend the home even more character and charisma as the years go by.

Wouldn’t Bilbo find this a little too much like a cell on Alcatraz?

(11) DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M SAYING? Cnet traces “How 138 years of sci-fi video phones led to the Echo Show”.

The latest Alexa device from Bezos and friends will finally give us video calling the way decades of movies predicted it would look. What took so long? Here’s a timeline.

… By the time actual moving pictures became easier to record and play back for an audience (real-time transmission was still a long way off, of course), early sci-fi films quickly got to work solidifying the video phone of the future as a recurring trope.

The 1927 classic “Metropolis” features a videophone, as does Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and 1935’s “Transatlantic Tunnel.”

(12) GORDO COOPER AND THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. James Oberg tells about the Discovery series “Cooper’s Treasure in “The magic MacGuffin of Mercury 9” at The Space Review.

As any film buff can tell you, a “MacGuffin” is a plot device that is the focus of the drama and action of the story. It’s often a physical object, such as a codebook, or treasure map, that the protagonists are seeking.

For the Discovery Channel and its latest series, “Cooper’s Treasure,” there is indeed a treasure map, already in possession of a veteran “treasure hunter.” What makes this map unique, according to the program promos, is that it came from outer space.

Supposedly, Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper made the map based on observations he made during his MA-9 orbital flight in May 1963. Near the end of his life, he shared the map and the research he’s been doing with a friend, Darrell Miklos, who vowed to complete Cooper’s search for shipwrecks full of gold.

Specifically, reports Miklos, Cooper told him he found the potential treasure spots using a secret military sensor that had been installed on the spacecraft originally to hunt for Soviet nuclear missile bases hidden in the area of Cuba—where a major international crisis involving such missiles had occurred only a few months before the flight….

(13) STATE OF THE ART 1989. Leslie Turek, editor of classic fanzine Mad 3 Party, thanked Tim Szczesuil and Mark Olson for completing their project to put the entire run of the fanzine online at Fanac.org.

Writes Mark Olson:

You really want to take a look at these! The first ten issues were Boston in ’89 bid zines edited by Laurie and then by Pat Vandenberg, and they’re worth reading, but it’s the issues 11-38 edited by Leslie Turek which provide an amazing view into the nuts and bolts of building a Worldcon, especially starting with #14.

If you have never been involved at a senior level in a Worldcon and think you might want to be one day, read these! (And it’s good reading even if you don’t l/u/s/t/ f/o/r/ p/o/w/e/r/ hope to run one. Leslie’s work won a Hugo! And you can easily see why.)

(And I’ll add that reading through them reminded me of many things — mostly good — that I’d forgotten. And reminded me what an energetic, competent group who really works together can accomplish.)

(14) IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU REVIEW. At Galactic Journey, John Boston relives the things that make fans scream — “[May 15, 1962] RUMBLING (the June 1962 Amazing)”.

Oh groan.  The lead story in the June 1962 Amazing is Thunder in Space by Lester del Rey.  He’s been at this for 25 years and well knows that in space, no one can hear—oh, never mind.  I know, it’s a metaphor—but’s it’s dumb in context and cliched regardless of context.  Quickly turning the page, I’m slightly mollified, seeing that the story is about Cold War politics.  My favorite!

(15) PUSHES ALL MY BUTTONS. “‘Unearthed’: Read the first chapter of Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s upcoming novel” at Yahoo! News.

Love Indiana Jones but wish it were set in space? Well, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s Unearthed has you covered.

Their latest Y.A. novel sees scholar Jules Addison team up with scavenger Amelia Radcliffe, when Earth intercepts a message from the Undying, a long-extinct alien race whose technology might be the key to undoing all the environmental damage the planet has sustained over the years….

Free excerpt at the link. But if you get hooked, you still have to wait til the book comes out next year.

(16) SUMMER OF FANLOVE. The over the air nostalgia channel MeTV is adding ALF, Outer Limits and the classic Battlestar Galactica to its summer schedule.

Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night and Red Eye Sci-Fi have added two science fiction classics to The Summer of Me. The last vestige of humanity fights for survival on Battlestar Galactica, Saturdays at 7PM | 6C. Stay up late for fantastic tales from The Outer Limits, Saturdays at 1AM | 12C.

 [Thanks to JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/17 I Saw A Pixel Filing Through the Streets of Soho With A Chinese Menu In Its Scroll.

(1) IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. James Davis Nicoll gives the Young People Read Old SFF panel Vonda McIntyre’s “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”.

The second last entry in Phase I of Young People Read Old SFF is Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1973 Nebula award-winning “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”, later expanded into the Hugo winning novel, Dreamsnake. I am pretty confident the double win is a good sign, and that McIntyre is modern enough in her sensibilities to appeal to my Young People.

Mind you, I’ve been wrong on that last point before….

(2) GENRE BENDER. Jeff Somers praises Gregory Benford’s new book at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog: “Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project Gives Science and History a Thrilling Twist”.

The lines between book genres can get a blurry as authors push against boundaries, trying to do something new with a story. Sometimes the result is a novel that incorporates the best parts of several genres, creating a category all its own. Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project is one of those books—equal parts alternate history, spy thriller, history lesson, and physics textbook, it’s one of the smartest, most entertaining sci-fi novels of the year.

(3) EXPANSE. Aaron Pound’s review of Caliban’s War is online at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

Full review: Caliban’s War continues the story started in Leviathan Wakes, with James Holden returning along with the rest of the crew of the Rocicante to deal with yet another interplanetary crisis. They are joined by new characters who replace the missing Detective Miller as view point characters – the tough Martian marine Bobbie, the naive Ganymedean botanist Prax, and the calculating and shrewd U.N. official Avasarala, all of whom must navigate the crisis caused by the raw tensions between the governments of Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Against the backdrop of this raging internecine human conflict, the mysterious alien protomolecule carries out its enigmatic programming on the surface of Venus, sitting in the back of everyone’s mind like a puzzle they cannot understand and an itch they cannot scratch.

(4) ZENO’S PARADOX. You can’t get to the Moon, because first you have to…. “So You Want to Launch a Rocket? The FAA is Here for You by Laura Montgomery”, a guest post at According To Hoyt.

Do you want to put people on your rocket?  There are legal requirements for that, too. There are three types of people you might take to space or on a suborbital jaunt:  space flight participants, crew, and government astronauts. The FAA isn’t allowed to regulate how you design or operate your rocket to protect the people on board until 2023, unless there has been a death, serious injury, or a close call.  Because the crew are part of the flight safety system, the FAA determined it could have regulations in place to protect the crew.  That those requirements might also protect space flight participants is purely a coincidence.   However, just because the FAA can’t tell you what to do to protect the space flight participants doesn’t mean you are out of its clutches.  You have to provide the crew and space flight participants, but not the government astronauts because they already know how dangerous this is, informed consent in writing.  You have to tell them the safety record of your vehicle and others like it, that the government has not certified it as safe, and that they could be hurt or die.

(5) NEWS TO ME. Did you know that Terrapin Beer’s Blood Orange IPA is “the official beer of the zombie apocalypse?”

It is an official tie-in beer with The Walking Dead and has a cool blood red label with a turtle on it!

(6) NEWS TO SOMEONE ELSE. Daniel Dern sent me a non-spoiler review of Suicide Squad when I was in the hospital last August. I didn’t notice it again until today. Sorry Daniel!

(“Non-spoiler” as in, assumes you have seen some or all of the three trailers, particularly trailer #2, done to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”…)

I enjoyed it enough. Hey, it’s a comics-based movie.

I’ve skimmed some reviews listing the flaws in S/S. Probably mostly correct, but arguably BFD.

The good: it didn’t thematically overreach or overbrood, unlike (cough) BvS (which I liked enough, but accept that it had big problems). A lot of good lines (you’ll see many/most in the trailers), good action, etc. A little (but not too much) Batman.

The big challenges S/S faced IMHO:

– DEADPOOL has set/upped the ante and standard for humor/violent comic-based live-action movies. Particularly the BluRay version of Deadpool, which is what I saw. And before that, lots of Guardians of the Galaxy bits.

– S/S’ Trailer # 2. I would have been happy/er with a shorter, even 12-minute, video not bothering with plot, just lovely musical jump cuts and snappy lines.

– Is it just me, or did S/S seem to do the “who’s who” twice, and not really bring in the antagonist (“big bad(s)”) for an astonishingly long time?

– This is an A-level plan? I mean, Captain Boomerang? Having seen Ghostbusters a week earlier, I would have considered sending that team in instead, in this case.

On the other hand, at least it wasn’t Manhattan that got trashed this time.

I can see how if you aren’t a superhero comic fan you’d find this less satisfying. Granted, I’m still happy-enough when it simply looks reasonable, doesn’t insult continuity gratuitously, and doesn’t try to go all philoso-metaphysical on us.

Recommended enough, particularly if you can get a bargain ticket price…

(7) TV LIFE AND DEATH. Cat Eldridge says Adweek’s “A Guide to 2017’s Broadcast TV Renewals and Cancellations” “on who stays and who gets the ax is fascinating as regards genre shows.”

The renewal is pretty much everyone save Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, Frequency, and possibly iZombie and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Arrowverse of course was kept intact.

If you’ve not watched the second season of Legends, do so as its far entertaining than the first season was.

(8) O’HARA OBIT. Quinn O’Hara (1941-2017), a Scottish-born actress who starred in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, died May 5. The Hollywood Reporter elaborated:

In The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), from American International Pictures, O’Hara played Sinistra, the nearsighted daughter of greedy lawyer Reginald Ripper (Basil Rathbone); both were out to terrorize teens at a pool party held at a creepy mansion. She also sang “Don’t Try to Fight It” and danced around a suit of armor in the horror comedy.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 8, 1886 — Coca-Cola went on sale.

(10) THE SAME OLD FINAL FRONTIER. Tom Scott explains “Why Sci-Fi Alien Planets Look The Same: Hollywood’s Thirty-Mile Zone.”

There’s a reason that a lot of planets in American science fiction look the same: they’re all filmed in the same places. But why those particular locations? It’s about money, about union rules, and about the thirty-mile zone — or as it’s otherwise known, the TMZ.

 

(11) MEMORIAL NIGHT. See Poe performed in a Philadelphia graveyard, May 18-20.

As the sun sets over the cemetery’s historic tombs, The Mechanical Theater will bring some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most haunting tales to life in this original production, directed by Loretta Vasile and featuring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.

Two young men hide out in the shadows of Laurel Hill Cemetery while hosting a secret on-line auction. The clock is ticking as they try to sell a priceless, stolen object known only as The Anathema. When the antique expert finally arrives to verify the object’s authenticity, he shares with them some of The Anathema’s dark history as well as rumors of its power. But as the night goes on, one of the thieves starts to suspect these stories are far more than legend. This anthology piece will include Edgar Allan Poe’s “Hop-frog,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Pit and The Pendulum.”  Written and directed by Loretta Vasile.  Starring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.

(12) BIG ANSWERS. Coming June 5 on the UCSD campus: “Sir Roger Penrose: Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics”.

Sir Roger Penrose

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents an evening with Sir Roger Penrose, the celebrated English mathematician and physicist as well as author of numerous books, including The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. The talk is titled “Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics.” A book signing will follow.

Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, has made profound contributions encompassing geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe. His geometric creations, developed with his father Lionel, inspired the works of MC Escher, and the Penrose Steps have been featured in several movies. His tilings adorn many public buildings, including the Oxford Mathematics Institute and will soon decorate the San Francisco Transit Terminal. Their five fold symmetry, which was initially thought impossible or a mathematical curiosity, has now been found in nature. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.

(13) DEARTH WARMED OVER. Trailers are supposed to sell people on a movie. But here’s a pre-dissatisfied customer.

On the other hand, a cast list on IMDB includes three Hispanics and a black actor born in England

(14) DIALING FOR NO DOLLARS. Vote on how Jim C. Hines should spend his time. Well, within certain limits, anyway.

(15) SPLASH. Most SF writers didn’t think about the waste heat of monster computers:” Google Moves In And Wants To Pump 1.5 Million Gallons Of Water Per Day”.

“We’ve invested a lot in making sure the groundwater quality that we treat and send to the customers is of high quality. We also want to protect the quantity side of that,” Duffie said.

In addition to building several reverse osmosis plants to treat the water, Duffie said the community has spent about $50 million since the mid-1990s to install pipelines and purchase surface water from the Charleston Water System to supplement the water being pumped from underground.

Google currently has the right to pump up to half a million gallons a day at no charge. Now the company is asking to triple that, to 1.5 million. That’s close to half of the groundwater that Mount Pleasant Waterworks pumps daily from the same underground aquifer to help supply drinking water to more than 80,000 residents of the area.

(16) WHITE NOISE. On the other hand, sff authors are wellaware of the high noise levels from widespread communication: “Facebook – the secret election weapon”.

A quarter of the world’s population now use Facebook, including 32 million people in the UK. Many use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends and are unaware that it has become an important political player.

For example, the videos that appear in people’s news feeds can be promoted by political parties and campaigners.

The far-right group, Britain First, has told Panorama how it paid Facebook to repeatedly promote its videos. It now has more than 1.6 million Facebook followers.

(17) AUDIO KILLED THE MUSIC HALL STAR. Edison probably never realized he was killing off the mid-level performer: “Superstar economics: How the gramophone changed everything”

In Elizabeth Billington’s day, many half-decent singers made a living performing in music halls.

After all, Billington herself could sing in only one hall at a time.

But when you can listen to the best performers in the world at home, why pay to hear a merely competent act in person?

Thomas Edison’s phonograph led the way towards a winner-take-all dynamic in the performing industry.

The top performers went from earning like Mrs Billington to earning like Elton John.

But the only-slightly-less good went from making a comfortable living to struggling to pay their bills: small gaps in quality became vast gaps in income.

(18) BANAL HORROR. In other news: the BBC slags Alien: Covenant but still gives it 3 stars: “Film Review: Is Alien: Covenant as good as the original?”

Given that he is now 79, and so he doesn’t have many directing years left, you have to ask whether it’s really the most stimulating use of [Ridley] Scott’s time and talents to churn out yet another inferior copy of a horror masterpiece that debuted nearly four decades ago. He certainly doesn’t seem to be interested in recapturing the scruffy naturalism, the restraint, or the slow-burning tension which turned the first film into an unforgettable classic.

Much of Alien: Covenant is simply a humdrum retread of Alien. Once again, there is a spaceship with a cryogenically frozen crew – a colony ship this time. Once again the crew members are woken from their hypersleep, once again they pick up a mysterious radio transmission, once again they land on an Earth-like world, and once again they discover some severely rotten eggs.

(19) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Pascal Lee, Director of the Mars Institute, talks to Money magazine about the expense of going to Mars: “Here’s How Much It Would Cost to Travel to Mars”

At this point, what would it cost to send someone to Mars?

Pascal Lee: The Apollo lunar landing program cost $24 billion in 1960s dollars over 10 years. That means NASA set aside 4 percent of U.S. GDP to do Apollo. To put things in perspective, we also spent $24 billion per year at the Defense Department during the Vietnam War. So basically, going to the moon with funding spread over 10 years cost the same to run the Department of Defense for one year in wartime.

Now, 50 years, later, today’s NASA budget is $19 billion a year; that’s only 0.3 percent of GDP, so that’s less than 10 times less than what it was in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense gets $400 billion a year. So the number I find believable, and this is somewhat a matter of opinion, a ballpark figure, doing a human mission to Mars “the government way” could not cost less than $400 billion. And that was going to the moon. This is going to Mars, so you multiply that by a factor of 2 or 3 in terms of complexity, you’re talking about $1 trillion, spread over the course of the next 25 years.

(20) TOP TEN FELLOW WRITERS HELPED BY HEINLEIN, AND WHY: Compiled by Paul Di Filippo. None of these facts have been checked by File 770’s crack research staff.

10) A. E. van Vogt, needed money to open a poutine franchise.

9) Barry Malzberg, stuck at Saratoga racetrack with no funds to get home.

8) Gordon Dickson, wanted to invest in a distillery.

7) Keith Laumer, wanted to erect barbed wire fence around home.

6) Damon Knight, wanted to enroll in Famous Artists School.

5) Anne McCaffrey, ran out of Mane ‘n’ Tail horse shampoo during Irish shortage.

4) Joanna Russ, needed advice on best style of men’s skivvies.

3) Isaac Asimov, shared the secret file of John W. Campbell’s hot-button issues.

2) Arthur C. Clarke, tutored him in American big band music.

1) L. Ron Hubbard, helped perform ritual to open Seventh Seal of Revelation.

(21) SJW CREDENTIAL ENTRYIST INVASION. The Portland Press Herald is aghast: “Cats at the Westminster dog show?”

Dogs from petite papillons to muscular Rottweilers showed off their four-footed agility Saturday at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, tackling obstacles from hurdles to tunnels. And next door, so did some decidedly rare breeds for the Westminster world:

Cats.

For the first time, felines sidled up to the nation’s premier dog show, as part of an informational companion event showcasing various breeds of both species. It included a cat agility demonstration contest, while more than 300 of the nation’s top agility dogs vied in a more formal competition.

It didn’t exactly mean there were cats in the 140-year-old dog show, but it came close enough to prompt some “what?!” and waggish alarm about a breakdown in the animal social order

(22) POOH ON THE RANGE. Atlas Obscura explains the popularity of “Five Hundred Acre Wood” outside London.

Every year, more than a million people travel to Ashdown Forest to find the North Pole. Ashdown Forest is 40 miles south of , but they’re not crazy. In the forest they’ll find the Five Hundred Acre Wood, and somewhere in the Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place where Christopher Robin discovered the North Pole.

Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, the magical place in which a fictionalized version of A. A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, had adventures with Winnie the Pooh and friends.

In 1925, Milne bought a Cotchford Farm on the edge of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, and he brought his family there on weekends and for extended stays in the spring and summer. The next year, he published the first collection of stories about a bear that would become one of the most beloved characters in children’s literature, Winnie the Pooh, based on his son, his son’s toys, and the family’s explorations of the woods by their home.

The book’s illustrator, E. H. Shepard, was brought to Ashdown Forest to capture its essence and geography, and a plaque at Gill’s Lap (which became Galleon’s Leap in the Pooh stories) commemorates his collaboration with Milne and its importance to the forest. A pamphlet of “Pooh Walks” is available to visitors who want to visit places like Gill’s Lap, or Wrens Warren Valley (Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place), the lone pine (where the Heffalump Trap was set), a disused quarry (Roo’s Sandy Pit), or, yes, the North Pole.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Science Six-Pack

By Carl Slaughter:  (1) Google’s super secret anti-aging research. “Google is super secretive about its anti-aging research. No one knows why.”.

We should pause for a moment to note how strange this is. One of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world has taken an interest in aging research, with about as much funding as NIH’s entire budget for aging research, yet it’s remarkably opaque.

Google also prides itself for being a leader on transparency and for its open culture. And we’re living in a time when the norms in science, particularly biomedical science, are centered around openness and data sharing. But these values have somehow eluded Calico.

For now, I think it’s safe to say Google has not solved aging. Or if it did, they haven’t told anybody.

(2) Inside DARPA. “Inside DARPA, The Pentagon Agency Whose Technology Has ‘Changed the World'”.

Welcome back to FRESH AIR. What are some of the most impressive successes of DARPA?

SHARON WEINBERGER: Well, let’s start with the first success that has really cemented DARPA’s reputation today. And that would be ARPANET, which was the precursor and laid the foundation for the modern Internet. That is undoubtedly the agency’s biggest success. And because of the name itself, ARPANET is sort of synonymous with DARPA today. But there are many other innovations that they get less credit for but in fact go back directly to the agency’s work. The driverless cars, autonomous self-driving cars that are now coming to fruition date back to a series of robotic car races that DARPA sponsored beginning in 2004, 2005.

Some of DARPA’s other biggest, quote, unquote, “successes” are stealth aircraft. They sponsored the development of the first stealth prototype aircraft in the 1970s. Precision weapons is another DARPA innovation. Drones, particularly the Predator drone that we now associate with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere date back to DARPA sponsorship.

(3) Scientists versus politicians. “A Cold War theory for why scientists and the government have become so estranged”.

Indeed, a big reason why tens of thousands of scientists rallied in cities around the country last weekend was to counter what they see as “anti-science” attitudes taking hold in the United States — particularly in the US government. The March for Science, according to organizer Jonathan Berman, a biology postdoc at the University of Texas Health Science Center, sent “the message that we need to have decisions being made based on a thoughtful evaluation of evidence.”

But this raises the obvious question: Was the United States ever pro-science? Was there a golden age? And if so, why were things so different then? What’s changed?

(4) Space firms warn Congress. “US space firms tell Washington: China will take over the moon if you’re not careful”.

Robert Bigelow, a real-estate mogul who now operates an eponymous company dedicated to creating space habitats and building facilities on the moon, warned the Senate hearing that without a global legal framework, the US could be left behind.

“China is very pre-disposed to ownership, whether its creating the islands in South China Sea, properties in massive quantities that they’ve purchased in South America or Africa, whether you open a [foreign subsidiary in China] and can only own 49% of it,” he said. “China could exercise an effort to start to lay claim to certain lunar territories. I don’t think it’s a joke, I don’t think it’s something to be cavalier about. Such an ownership consequence would have an amazing impact on the image of China vis-a-vis the United States and the rest of the world, if they should own large amounts of territory on that body, if we stood back and we were not prepared.”

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (R), Chen Dong wave before the launch of Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft, in Jiuquan, China, October 17, 2016.

(5) Ted Cruz:  Unleash the commercial spaceships. “To infinity and beyond: Ted Cruz looks to encourage commercial space exploration”.

The Texas Republican convened a panel of top executives at private space exploration companies to solicit suggestions for reducing regulatory barriers to encourage further innovation.

By opening more commercial options for space exploration, Cruz said, they could be creating “the real possibility that in the not-too-distant future, American private citizens will be able to reach space from a launch pad or a runway in Texas.”

(6) Water covered planets. “Most Habitable Alien Planets May Be Totally Covered in Water”.

 Earth may be special because of its water, but not in the way you may think. A new study published in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society suggests that we may actually have less of it than average.

Astronomer Fergus Simpson of the University of Barcelona ran a series of computer simulations to determine what planets orbiting in their star’s habitable zones would look like. Habitable zone planets like Earth are the perfect distance from their host stars for liquid water to form on the surface and are prime candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Simpson simulated what would happen to a wide range of habitable zone planets given a variety of starting conditions. The results were that planets tend to be either mostly water or mostly land, with very few in the middle. Most planets with any significant amount of water are likely to be dominated by it, and most planets in the habitable zone are almost completely waterworlds.

Pixel Scroll 4/27/17 The Pixel You Scroll, The Filer You Get

(1) MORE CORE. This time James Davis Nicoll lists “Twenty Core Military Speculative Fiction Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

Is there any overlap between your list and James’s?

(2) ENVELOPE PLEASE. Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off has a winner — The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. The results were based on scores given by the reviewers at 10 different blogs.

All in all The Grey Bastards is a runaway winner and I must commend it to your attention.

2nd placed Path of Flames by Phil Tucker was favourite with three blogs and I’ve read it and can see why!

3rd placed Paternus by Dyrk Ashton was favourite with one blog.

All of these books were someone’s choice for finalist and they all scored 7+ with two or more bloggers, so check them out. You never know what will hit a chord with you.

Huge thanks to all ten bloggers/teams for their very considerable efforts and to Katharine of Ventureadlaxre for stepping in to fill a gap. The bloggers are the stars of this show so be sure to keep checking them out now we’re done.

Our most generous scorer this year was Fantasy-Faction, taking the crown from Bibliotropic last year. The Elitist Book Reviews remain the harshest scorer, though they were slightly kinder this year.

(3) FILE 770 TODAY, PBS TOMORROW! Masterpiece Theatre is broadcasting King Charles III  on May 14 with Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles. (Martin Morse Wooster reviewed the stage play here last month.)

(4) WORLD MAKER. Larry Correia provides a very interesting and expansive answer to a fan favorite question in “Ask Correia 18: World Building”.

Always Be Asking

Since I usually start with a basic plot idea, the first thing I do is think about what does my world need to have/allow for me to write this? Some are pretty obvious. Monster Hunter is our world but supernatural stuff exists in secret. Others ideas require something more complicated. For Son of the Black Sword I needed to figure out a world with brutal caste systems, where the low born are basically property.

Take those must haves, and then ask yourself if that’s how things have to work here, what else would change? Always be asking yourself how are those required things going to affect other things?  This doesn’t just make your setting stronger, but it supplies you with tons of great new story ideas.

Besides creative questioning, his other subtopics are: The Rule of Cool, Using Cultural Analogs, Nuts and Bolts, You Need To Know Everything but the Reader Doesn’t, How Much is too Much? and Have Fun.

(5) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. That’s why Trump’s election wrecked an author’s plans — ‘Sci-Fi Writer William Gibson Reimagines the World After the 2016 Election”.

But last fall, Mr. Gibson’s predictive abilities failed him. Like so many others, he never imagined that Donald J. Trump would prevail in the 2016 election. On Nov. 9, he woke up feeling as if he were living in an alternate reality. “It was a really weird and powerful sensation,” he said.

Most people who were stunned by the outcome managed to shake off the surreal feeling. But being a science fiction writer, Mr. Gibson, 69, decided to explore it.

The result is “Agency,” Mr. Gibson’s next novel, which Berkley will publish in January. The story unfolds in two timelines: San Francisco in 2017, in an alternate time track where Hillary Clinton won the election and Mr. Trump’s political ambitions were thwarted, and London in the 22nd century, after decades of cataclysmic events have killed 80 percent of humanity. In the present-day San Francisco setting, a shadowy start-up hires a young woman named Verity to test a new product: a “cross-platform personal avatar” that was developed by the military as a form of artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, characters in the distant future are interfering with the events unfolding in 2017, through technological time travel that allows them to send digital communications to the past….

… “Every imaginary future ever written is about the time it was written in,” he said. “People talk about science fiction’s predictive possibilities, but that’s a byproduct. It’s all really about now.”

(6) REASONS TO BELIEVE. The Vulture interviews the evangelist of American Gods – the author: “The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman”.

Pony sushi?

Pony. Because Iceland, what it actually has a lot of, is ponies. And then I walk into the downtown tourist office, now closed, and they had a fantastic tabletop diorama basically showing the voyages of Leif Erikson. You start out in Iceland, you nip over to Greenland, you go down the coast in Newfoundland and have a little thing where you build your huts, and so forth. I looked at it and I thought, Y’know, I wonder if they brought their gods with them. And then I thought, I wonder if they left their gods behind when they came home. And it was like, all of a sudden, all of the things that I’d been thinking about, all of the things that had been circling my head about immigration, about America, about the House on the Rock, and this weird American thing where … In other places in the world, they might look at a fantastic cliff and go, “Ah, here we are in touch with the numinous! We will build a temple or we will build a shrine!” In America, you get a replica of the second-largest block of cheese in the world circa 1963. And people still go to visit it! As if it were a shrine! I wanted to put that in. And it was all there. I wrote an email to my agent and my editor saying, “This is the book,” and ending with, “The working title is going to be American Gods, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something better.”

(7) WHATEVER IT IS, IT’S EXPENSIVE. Carl Slaughter asks, “OK, one of you science geeks explain to me, what exactly is laser based energy transmission?” — “LaserMotive raises $1.5 million to boost innovations in laser power transmission”.

LaserMotive, a stealthy pioneer in laser-based power transmission that’s based in Kent, Wash., has raised more than $1.5 million in an equity offering.  LaserMotive focuses on laser applications for transmitting power. In 2009, the company won a $900,000 NASA prize in a competition for laser-powered robot climbers. In 2012, it kept a drone flying for 48 hours straight during a beamed-power demonstration for Lockheed Martin. And in 2013, it unveiled a commercial product to transmit electrical power over fiber-optic cables.

(8) LORD OF THE (SATURNIAN) RINGS. NPR and BBC on Cassini’s successful pass (“shields up!”) inside the rings:

“Cassini Spacecraft Re-Establishes Contact After ‘Dive’ Between Saturn And Its Rings”.

NASA said Cassini came within about 1,900 miles of Saturn’s cloud tops and about 200 miles from the innermost edge of Saturn’s rings. Project scientists believe ring particles in the gap are no bigger than smoke particles and were confident they would not pose a threat to the spacecraft.

“Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive”

The probe executed the daredevil manoeuvre on Wednesday – the first of 22 plunges planned over the next five months – while out of radio contact.

And the day before, a Google doodle showed Saturn “ready for its closeup”: “Cassini Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and its Rings!”

By plunging into this fascinating frontier, Cassini will help scientists learn more about the origins, mass, and age of Saturn’s rings, as well as the mysteries of the gas giant’s interior. And of course there will be breathtaking additions to Cassini’s already stunning photo gallery. Cassini recently revealed some secrets of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus — including conditions friendly to life!  Who knows what marvels this hardy explorer will uncover in the final chapter of its mission?

(9) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Two long-time sff editors and SFWAns have become editors of an Eastern Maryland publication — “Peter Heck and Jane Jewell Named Chestertown Spy Co-Managing Editors”.

The Community Newspaper Project, the parent nonprofit organization of the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, has announced the appointment of Peter Heck and Jane Jewell as co-managing editors of the Chestertown Spy, effective immediately.

While Peter has been best known locally for his many years as a reporter for the Kent County News, he has also written over 100 book reviews for such publications as the Kirkus Review and Newsday, as well as spending two years as editor at Berkley Publications. A native of Chestertown, with degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, Heck also has written ten novels, two of which were genre best sellers.  He is also an accomplished musician, playing guitar and banjo.

Jane, Peter’s wife, also comes to the Spy with a distinguished background in writing, editing, and photography. Since moving to Chestertown, Jane worked at Washington College in the computer department, then as the executive director of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She also has contributed photos to the Kent County News. Jane currently serves on the board of the National Music Festival and has been active as a coach with the Character Counts! program in the Kent County Public Schools.

(10) BIG DATA IS WATCHING. Tracking whether a driver was texting: “‘Textalyzer’ Aims To Curb Distracted Driving, But What About Privacy?”

If you’re one of the many who text, read email or view Facebook on your phone while driving, be warned: Police in your community may soon have a tool for catching you red-handed.

The new “textalyzer” technology is modeled after the Breathalyzer, and would determine if you had been using your phone illegally on the road.

Lawmakers in New York and a handful of other cities and states are considering allowing police to use the device to crack into phones because, they say, too many people get away with texting and driving and causing crashes.

(11) A FACE IN THE CROWD. Using face-recognition software at a soccer match: “Police to use facial recognition at Champions League final”.

Police in Wales plan to use facial recognition on fans during the Champions League final in Cardiff on 3 June, according to a government contract posted online.

Faces will be scanned at the Principality Stadium and Cardiff’s central railway station.

They can then be matched against 500,000 “custody images” stored by local police forces.

South Wales Police confirmed the pilot and said it was a “unique opportunity”.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment with the link: “It will be interesting to see how many false positives they fess up to and how many known troublemakers they miss; I have the impression that FR software is not ready for prime time.”

(12) ANOTHER COMMENT ON ODYSSEY CON. Bill Bodden also dropped off Odyssey Con programming, as he notes in “Timing Is Everything”.

Monica’s resignation as a guest went down on Monday. By the end of the week, all three Guests of Honor had withdrawn from the convention, and the harasser was no longer part of the convention committee. I myself tendered my withdrawal as attendee and panelist on Tuesday April 11, when it became clear that vocal members and friends of the Odyssey Con committee had taken it upon themselves, in a campaign of damage control, to try to spin the discussion to make Monica look bad. To my mind, Monica pulled out from an untenable situation, and while I’m deeply sorry it had to happen at all, I absolutely support her decision. I apologize in the unlikely event that anyone was coming to Odyssey Con specifically to see me.

Just the week before he’d gone 15 rounds with misogynistic trolls in “What the Hell Is Wrong With Gamers?”

Green Ronin Publishing recently put out an open call for female game designers for a specific project. I used to be one of the Ronin, and I was proud to see them doing something that everyone should have been doing years ago: forcing the issue to give women more of a chance to be game designers. Here’s the LINK so you can read it.

The outcry was immediate and vitriolic. I refuse to link to any of the trolls involved, but cries of discrimination against white men were on all the major gaming discussion boards, some gamers even suggesting that Green Ronin was destroying their company, alienating their fan base by committing such a heinous act against men….

Maybe those men who say they don’t behave that way really don’t, but I’ll bet they also don’t stand up — or even notice it — when other men do. Know how I know that? Because I had an experience over the last few years that proved to me how blind I was to this sort of thing. An individual was labeled harasser by a number of women, and I had a difficult time believing it was true because this person was a friend of mine in one of the circles with which I sometime engage, and I’d never seen him behaving that way. However, now being aware that it was an issue, the next time I saw him interacting with others, the harassment of women was clear, and obvious. It opened my eyes.

(13) FLYING FINISH. With the official Clarke Award shortlist coming out next week, the Shadow Clarke jury is pouring on the speed. Perhaps that explains their reluctance to break for a new paragraph?

Just over a third of the way through Christopher Priest’s The Gradual, the modernist composer, Alessandro Sussken, is told by Generalissima Flauuran, the dictator of the totalitarian Glaund Republic, that she wants him to compose a full orchestral piece celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Republic but ‘we do not want irony, subversion, subtlety, cryptic statements, cross references, allusions, knowing asides, quotations, hidden meanings.’ Instead, the stipulated requirements include a minimum of four movements, three major instrumental soloists, four operatic soloists, a mixed chorus of over three hundred voices, a sequence of peasant celebration, a triumphal march and ‘cannon effects in the climax’. It’s difficult not to see this – especially in the context of shadow Clarke discussions concerning the relationship between SF and the ambiguity of the modern condition – as a commentary on the ironies of being a writer torn between desiring the possibilities that the genre opens up for interrogating the limits of consensus reality while hating the conformist demand to meet certain expectations that it also embodies. It is as though Gollancz had said to Priest, ‘We’ll leave you alone to write your weird stories of alienation and separation, as long as you knock out a mass-market, three-act space opera with a world-weary hero, feisty heroine and cynical robot as the three main characters, and include alien sex, a heist sequence and a climactic space battle.’ Would Priest indignantly decline or take the money and run as Sussken does? The answer, based on the evidence of The Gradual, is not as obvious as one might think.

Time travel TV shows can be broadly divided into two categories based on whether they’re about conserving history or changing it. On the one hand, Legends of Tomorrow or Timeless are about characters from our present preserving the status quo of our past, no matter how many historical atrocities must be committed to make that happen. On the other hand, 12 Monkeys or Travelers are (generally better) shows about characters from our future attempting to change the status quo of their past: our present is the error they’re setting out to change. The first category is big on costumes and cliché historical settings. The second is usually about future dystopias that must be prevented by taking action in our present: depending on budget, we may see more or less of the future dystopia itself, which features its own set of clichés….

All historical fiction is alternate historical fiction, to a greater or lesser extent.

The setting is always other than it was; necessarily so, because we can only access the past through the imperfect lens of the present.   Our 21st century way of knowing the world may be intimately connected to the experiences of human beings one hundred, five hundred, even two thousand years ago, but it is also paradigmatically alien.  When we imagine, interpret and co-opt those experiences to tell stories we do so in the spirit of conjecture.  Which is not to say that historical fiction cannot strive for factual veracity, only that it can never be completely achieved. Speculation creeps in – in some cases more than others – and because of that historical fiction shares some essential qualities with science fiction: the will to imagine otherwise; the displacement of human experience in time; and the estrangement of the reader from the contemporary familiar.  The great historical fiction writers of the last century – Mary Renault, Dorothy Dunnett, Patrick O’Brian, Hilary Mantel – wrote (and write, in the last case, we hope and pray) with the ferocious enquiry that I also associate with great SF.  For which reason I have few qualms about the eligibility of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad – a book that harvests and reaps influences from both genres – for a science fiction award. I would have equally few about its eligibility for a historical fiction prize….

Before I get on with the review – feel free to skip ahead to the subheading at any point in what follows – I should note that my participation in this Clarke Award shadow jury has not progressed in the manner I anticipated. First an industry-standard biannual workplace restructuring took an unexpected detour into poorly-executed dystopian satire during March and, second, an unexpected family bereavement has wiped out the first half of April. I had anticipated being pretty much through reviewing my six titles by this stage and to be on the verge of subjecting unwitting readers to my own idiosyncratic analysis considering the wider issues of contemporary SF and the state of the novel today. However, as I still have four novels to write about, I have no choice but to try and weave any hot takes I might have gathered from the process in with the narrative analysis and close reading of the text in question. The time-honoured way of doing this for academics is to riff off the work of other academics and, therefore, I am going to consider a couple of points from fellow jurors.

(14) EMOTION PICTURES. In her latest column for Amazing Stories, Petréa Mitchell reviews installments of eight animé series: “Anime roundup 4/27/2017: The Strong Survive”.

The Eccentric Family 2 #2-3 – The magician Temmaya was a friend of the people who ate Yasabur?’s father, until he fell out of favor with Benten and/or her colleague Jur?jin. He’s also stolen something that belongs to the Nidaime. And to complicate things further, Benten’s back and doesn’t seem to be getting along with the Nidaime either. The old bit of tanuki wisdom about not getting involved in the affairs of tengu is sounding very wise about now; although none of them is strictly a tengu, three humans with serious magical powers having an argument looks bad enough for the supernatural society of Kyoto. Unfortunately, Yasabur? is already too entangled to extricate himself….

Everything about this show is still top-notch. Kyoto feels like a living, complicated city, practically a character itself among the complicated individuals populating it, from Temmaya to Yasabur?’s grandmother the venerated sage. This is going to be a real treat.

(15) STREET ARTISTS. It’s a paradox — “In Hollywood, superheroes and villains delight crowds – and sleep on the streets”. The Guardian tells why.

In a parking lot off Hollywood Boulevard, Christopher Dennis recently changed into a Superman outfit, complete with a muscle suit and calf-high red boots. He headed out through the crowds, a habit he was resuming after a forced absence.

“You look like you’ve come out of the movie screen, man!” said a parking attendant.

“Man, you’re back!” said a street vendor selling imitation flowers.

Many people who frequent the boulevard – not least the other superhero impersonators, who pose for tourists for tips – know the reason Dennis was gone. For about seven months he was homeless, and lived in a tent and under tarps in different places in the city.

Among the characters showboating in front of the Chinese Theater and parading in their regalia along the Walk of Fame, his situation is not unprecedented. There is a Darth Vader who has spent nights sleeping on the sidewalk with a costume in a backpack, and a Joker whose survival strategy sometimes involved trying to stay awake when it was dark out….

(16) E-TICKET RIDE. A little bonus for the tourists on Tuesday – not an imitator, but the real guy — “Johnny Depp Appears as Captain Jack Sparrow on Pirates of the Caribbean Ride in Disneyland”

It’s not the rum, Disneyland visitors — that was Johnny Depp in the flesh!

Riders on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, got a special surprise on Wednesday night: Depp transformed back into Captain Jack Sparrow and greeted those who visited the inspiration behind the film franchise.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Carl Slaughter’s Open Letter to the CEO of Google

By Carl Slaughter:

To: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google
From: Carl Slaughter teachenglishabroad@yahoo.com 86-18437781522

Congratulations on your recent promotion. Now shut it down.

Quick update: I registered these domain names: I HATE GOOGLE DOT COM, I LOVE GOOGLE DOT COM, I LIKE GOOGLE DOT COM. Your legal department threatened me repeatedly with legal action.

You fiercely protect your own property – or in my case, property you claim to own – but refuse to protect the property of others. And not only do you not fight piracy, YOU ARE COMMITTING THE BIGGEST ACT OF MASS THEFT IN THE HISTORY OF COPYRIGHT.

I am referring to your book project. You tried to publish 30,000,000 books without permission or compensation. The only reason you offered compensation later is because the Authors Guild took you to court.

The Authors Guild’s solution was to ask you for $3,000,000,000. Your solution was to offer them $125,000,000. My solution is for you to stop publishing someone else’s books. Or rather, everyone else’s books.

And make no mistake, what you are doing with Google Books is essentially publishing in spirit and letter. It’s obvious you intend to coop the entire publishing industry. It is furthermore obvious from your longstanding actions that you consider all material whatsoever fair game, plan to assimilate all of it, and don’t intend for anyone but you to profit.

Meanwhile, you let Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel (WME) take a beating in the media when he took you to task over piracy. Then you snubbed Chris Dodd (MPAA) and rebuffed Geoff Taylor (PBI).

Most of the books you’ve scanned are nonfiction and most of the people I network with write mostly fiction. But you will eventually start assimilating fiction. Movies, TV shows, music, sports, photos. You’ll eventually target anything that can be offered online. You are the Borgle.

But even before your pending invasion, piracy has long been a major problem in the fiction community. Why else would the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have epiracy and copyright committees? Why else would speculative fiction matron Ursula K. Le Guin cancel her membership from the Authors Guild and publicly renounce their decision to (temporarily) compromise with you?

Authors routinely offer excerpts on their websites, as do publishers like Tor. At SF Signal, I have linked readers to as many as 9 sample chapters from one book. FreeSFOnline.de offers free short stories in print and podcast form. But they get the author’s permission. You can’t post or distribute scenes, chapters, or entire stories, much less entire books, without permission from the authors.

In search of authors to interview and books to feature, I have perused the catalogs of the major speculative fiction publishers and the major agencies with large speculative fiction clientele. I have read jacketcopy for thousands of novels. I did the same with the 300 and 900 sections of the library to get caught up on all those things my professors didn’t tell me in college.

So I can tell you from extensive personal experience that reading the jacketcopy of a book suffices for someone to decide whether to read a book. And Amazon is already providing that service. You are enticing people to your site by offering aggregate snippets that essentially gut the contents of the book and render a reading, i.e. purchase, unnecessary.

Just as aggregate news sites, with high Google ranking, gut news stories by offering readers the key paragraphs and a perfunctory link to the original source. Thus, they drive advertisers away from newspapers and magazines that rely on advertising revenue to generate news. These aggregate news sites use the same fig leave of “fair use” to justify the same parasitical process.

Furthermore, cyberlockers, which your search engine makes easy to find, delete advertisements, which underwrite television production costs; just as download sites cut deeply into ticket sales, which underwrite movie production costs.

Screen sci-fi is particularly sensitive to production costs because of the special effects, spaceship/extraterrestrial sets, alien prosthetics, varied costumes/uniforms, and so on, unique to this genre’s visual storytelling.

Big and small screen speculative entertainment – science fiction, fantasy, and horror – have long since gone mainstream. But if this trend continues, THERE AIN’T GONNA BE NO MORE SCI FI MOVIES AND SCI FI TELEVISION SHOWS CUZ THERE AIN’T GONNA BE NO MORE PRODUCTION FINANCING FOR NO MORE SCI FI ENTERTAINMENT.

As an example, I recently interviewed Matthew Warner, novelization author for Plan 9, the remake of Plan 9 from Outer Space. He gave me the username and password to access the reviewer copy of the movie. He needn’t have bothered.

I typed this formula into the Google search engine: “Plan 9” “watch.” With the help of Google’s auto complete, I drew up plenty of sites that offered pirated versions of Plan 9. I clicked on the first one and was able to watch THE ENTIRE MOVIE IN CINEMA QUALITY WITH NO TECHNICAL PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER COMPLETELY FREE.

I need to add that I’m talking about the 3rd or 4th pages of hits. Not those Asylum produced blockbuster copycats or those hideously unwatchable Kickstarter financed projects deep in the archive.

On one site, 18,000 people had viewed Plan 9. Amazon lists Plan 9 at $5 to rent and $13 to buy. Do the math. And that’s just one site.

Same site, Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, 6 weeks after its release, 5,000,000 views. Captain America: Civil War, 3 weeks after its release, 700,000 views. Multiply that by a $10 cinema ticket.

Hateful 8 producer Richard Gladstein said a few weeks after its cinema release that it had been illegally downloaded 1,300,000 times. A few months later, same site, 1,870,000 views.

Expendables 3 producer Avi Lerner claims he lost $250,000,000 because of illegal downloads. Same site, 2,000,000 views. Gladstein and Lerner blame you and Lerner calls Obama a coward for not standing up to you.

Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd claims her season 5 premiere was illegally downloaded 1,200,000 times. She Googled “watch Fear the Walking Dead.” The first hit you gave her was AMC. The second was a pirate site.

I emphasize most of these statistics are for one site. Multiply the views times the number of pirate sites, add DVDs to the formula, and you begin to see the magnitude of piracy.

After my investigation of piracy in the “Plan 9” case, I typed the search formula “download videos” into the Google search box and discovered that Chrome offers a video downloader accompanied by a disclaimer about piracy.

I have the screen shots to prove all this.

Thus Google facilitates piracy but gives lip service to copyright, all the while practicing far more piracy than anyone.

The director of Plan 9, John Johnson, whom I also interviewed, Matthew Warner, the actors, and the production crew at Darkstone have bills to pay, mouths to feed, careers to forge, college tuition to save up for. And you’re taking food out of those mouths.

Nor are my encounters with Google my first major encounters with large-scale piracy.

I travel extensively as an ESL teacher. So far, 18 countries on 4 continents.

I’ve seen movies, TV shows, documentaries, albums, and books on sale in every nook and cranny of Asia – subway stations, bus stations, compound gates, bridges, alleys, vans, even a restaurant. I’ve seen entire markets with numerous shops selling thousands of titles. (Yes, thousands.) More than once, I have found pirated versions of Hollywood movies on sale before they were scheduled to be released in American cinemas. When I was in a Beijing [CHINA] bus station, pirates were selling DVDs without fear. When I was in the main Greyhound station in New York City, pirates were brazenly hawking the leaked draft version of X-Men Wolverine. When I was in SAUDI ARABIA, they were selling copies of Fahrenheit 9/11 right outside the biggest bookstore in Jeddah. I am very sure the DVD shop in BURMA on the Thai border across from Mai Sot has no business arrangement with anyone in Hollywood. Same with the DVD markets on Beijing’s south side, in the Morning Market in Vietiane [LAOS] on the Lao-Thai border, and in MBK, Bangkok’s [THAILAND] biggest mall. If there is anyone you would not expect to sell pirated merchandise, it would be the major retailers. But in Beijing’s largest bookstore, I bought the complete Friends series, only to discover that the episodes were taped from Channel 14.

ESL is big in China. A slew of ESL MAGAZINES print dozens of articles per issue. Almost all of these articles are pirated from American and British periodicals and news agencies. In CAMBODIA’s ESL schools, pirating textbooks is standard operating procedure. Worldwide, it seems the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary [DICTIONARIES] is the pirated desk dictionary of choice. Windows is popular in China. American and British pop music is almost as popular as Chinese pop music among China’s youth. Every one of my students has a smart phone and every one of those smart phones has numerous American and British pop [SONGS].  International credit cards are not widespread in China, especially among high school/college students. I’ve traveled to and taught in so many cities in China, I’ve lost track. I’ve used countless computers in offices, dorms, and Internet cafes. I’ve yet to see a Windows [OPERATING SYSTEMS] or NOD 32 [ANTIVIRUS] program that isn’t pirated.

And piracy is not limited to western countries being the prey. Chinese students take an awful lot of standardized local and national academic and professional exams. Free pirated pages of Chinese written and Chinese published exam prep books are readily available online.

Back to sci-fi and piracy. Galaktika, a Hungarian magazine, has been publishing translated short stories without permission or compensation. The SFWA continues to challenge and expose Galaktika and its editor continues to spout increasingly sincere sounding spin doctor excuses.

Foreign language magazines and publishers represent a huge market for speculative fiction authors. Some authors draw more income from their foreign sales than their English sales. This investigation is only one magazine. Factor in the enforcement problem of not being able to read multitudes of languages. Also, the original magazine draws income from reprints until the copyright returns to the author.

I experienced this scenario too. A major science fiction magazine in China translated and published one of my best interviews. They promised to compensate me, quoted their rate, and asked for my bank account information. The money was never transferred. Thus I have joined the ranks of authors who have been burned.

For the record, I not only have never downloaded a pirated movie, I have never downloaded any movie. I am technology challenged. I’ve never used Bit Torrent. I don’t even know how.

I have a collection of 1500 movie DVDs carefully selected for language learning purposes. When I want to use a movie in the classroom to teach ESL – conversation, listening, idiomatic usage, report writing, cultural context – I never assign a student to download it from the Internet, although they are abundantly available through the Youku and Tudou cyberlockers. Instead, I buy the DVD.

The DVDs I have bought have half a dozen voice languages, 10-15 subtitle languages, and several bonus features. So they are obviously copied from the master. Pirated movies usually don’t have these extras. So these DVDs don’t appear to be pirated.

When I use a book excerpt as a classroom handout, I retrieve the handouts at the end of the lesson. I certainly don’t give them the book and a wad of cash and tell them to feast themselves at the copy store.

For several years, I was the editor of ESL Book Review, which used the domain name, you guessed it, ESL BOOK REVIEW DOT COM. The books I reviewed, I got from bookstores or publisher’s marketing agents, never the copy store, never the street.

(When I landed in Beijing, the translator for my host school said, “Where do you want to go?” I didn’t ask to visit The Great Wall, The Forbidden Temple, or the Summer Palace. I said, “Take me to the biggest bookstore in Beijing.” When I finished shopping, she said, “Where do you want me to take you next?” I said, “Take me to the second largest bookstore in Beijing.” And where did I ask her to take me after that? The foreign language bookstore, of course! Oh the money I spent in those bookstores; oh trail of book collections I left with school colleagues across the globe; oh the boxes of books I donated to my university English department and library. Not to mention time building a massive website and time typing a running list of titles.)

BTW, when I was in Washington DC, I went to the Copyright Office, which is inside the Library of Congress, and asked in person if my classroom activities violated copyright law.

The point is, whether discs or books, I took the high road. You haven’t taken the high road.

In response to criticism from Ari Emanuel, you came out with The Emanuel Update and The Emanuel Penalty. Or some such thing, I can’t remember the details. But it was all damage control.

With over 75,000,000 takedown requests per month and with the rate doubling on a yearly basis, it’s undeniable that you are not practicing preventative medicine on any significant scale. Instead, you are The Little Dutch Boy with too many holes in the dam and too few fingers. I can state categorically that you are not and never have been serious about piracy on any front except that which directly affects you.

And if you ever get serious about piracy, pirates will be in serious trouble. You built a driverless car. You designed arguably the first authentic AI. You mapped the world. And those glasses. I don’t even know what they do. But those glasses got an awful lot of buzz. And some people are intimidated enough by those glasses to ban them from their establishment. (What DO those glasses do?) This and much more coming out of your lab. It’s only a matter of time before you invent a brain chip that allows us to operate gadgets, type, and yes, hack technology –  right out of a sci fi story. And all this is in addition to a search engine that has eliminated the need for a second opinion.

In all the years I’ve been using Gmail, I honestly can’t recall receiving even one spam message. So why is Gmail utterly spam free while Yahoo and Hotmail are swimming in spam? Because one of your awesome geeks there in Mountain View designed it to recognize spam. Why can’t you give us software that can recognize piracy? You didn’t make excuses about spam, you just dealt with it. So why are you making excuses about piracy?

On the same note, when I subscribed to NOD 32 antivirus software, my virus problems completely disappeared instantly and I did not have even one virus problem during the entire subscription (and as part of my job, I use a lot of copy store, classroom, and office computers, so my USBs are virus magnets). Same explanation: Because an awesome geek at ESET designed it to recognize viruses. They don’t make excuses about viruses, they just deal with them.

You and the rest of Silicon Valley have given us STAR TREK TECHNOLOGY IN ONE GENERATION. But there is a conspicuous gap in this string of impressive technologies. To this day, you pretend you can’t design effective anti-piracy software. I suggest you can and would if Ari Emanuel wrote you a big enough check instead of asking you to do it out of moral obligation and civic duty.

For ESL Book Review, I used a pagebuilder that was as simple as Word. (Let there be Word and let there be only Word; let it be XP and let it be 2003; text-based command buttons, no freaking hieroglyphics.) Contributors to a couple of magazines I’ve written for are required to do their own pagebuilding and I’m ready to exile HTML to an alternate universe. So as I explained before, I am technology challenged. So correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t anti-piracy software as simple as comparing 2 lists and eliminating anything not on both lists?

Cinemas, DVD shops, bookstores, and agencies get their piece of the action. Retailers have documents on their front windows certifying they are authorized to sell copyrighted products. And they all sign contracts with studios, production companies, publishers, and authors. Pirates don’t want to settle for their piece of the action. They want everyone’s piece of the action. So they don’t sign contracts.

Copyrighted material is on file with the Library of Congress. Copyright owners have a list of people who have signed a contract to use their creative content. Pirates are not on the second list. Isn’t anti-piracy software as simple as comparing the 2 lists and eliminating from the search results anyone not on both lists?

Like I said, I’m not tech savvy, but it seems to me Silicon Valley, a community with the most talented, skilled, and experienced geeks in the world, could perform this task blindfolded, half asleep, and with one hand tied behind their back.

A talk show host who interviewed you and Susan Wojcicki counted 22 times Ari Emanuel criticized you during his notorious rant. This talk show host then posed a question to you about anti-piracy software, then posed a question to Wojcicki about customized advertising. You said Google technology is woefully inadequate, Wojcicki said Google technology is impressively precise and reliably predictive. We’re talking back to back comments. I laughed uncontrollably at the hilarity of this contradiction. Dude, you can’t have it both ways.

One minute, you’re saying to victims of piracy, “We have no way of telling you what you want to know.” The next minute, you’re telling advertisers, “We have the means to tell you exactly what you need to know.” What’s the explanation for this duplicity? Oh that’s right, advertisers are paying you lots of money for the information you provide them. How many zeros does Ari Emanuel have to write on that check before you stop indulging in this Pentagon style doublespeak?

Your legal department threatened me through an email address I was required to provide when I registered those domain names you demanded from me. So don’t tell me you can’t track down contact info for pirates through their domain name registration.

There was an awful lot of spin doctoring in the media in response to Ari Emanuel’s comments about Google. To the effect that Google has no control over the situation and that he and other entertainment industry leaders are responsible for piracy through their refusal to adapt. (I’m looking at you, Mike Masnick.)

Intellectual property is owned by the people who create it. Just as much as buildings, land, vehicles, livestock, jewelry, precious metals, insurance policies, stocks, retirement accounts, art collections, etc, belong to the people who buy them.

Protection of intellectual property is an inalienable, longstanding, universally recognized right. That right does not disappear just because technology changes. Any more than free speech, religion, assembly, redress, due process, etc, disappear because any other aspect of society changes.

You can’t publish my book without my permission. For the same reason you can’t sleep in my house, drive my car, wear my clothes, play my musical instrument, cook with my gas, wash with my water, make calls on my phone, or eat the produce from my garden without my permission.

If someone stole your coveted algorithm, you would press criminal charges. If that person was a Google employee, you would have them escorted out of Google headquarters in handcuffs. If a rival reverse engineered that algorithm, you would file a claim in civil court. You challenge anyone, including me, who registers a domain name with the word “Google” in it. If someone in your accounting department embezzled so much as $5, if one of your cafeteria workers walked into the parking lot with so much as a box of chicken strips, you would fire them. You would dismiss without any consideration whatsoever any spin doctoring they put on their behavior. You would take action to protect your company and you would do it completely unapologetically, as would any responsible CEO.

So you clearly have no reservations about applying property rights to yourself, but you have repeatedly refused to apply that same principle to the rights of others, whether it be defacto publishing or enabling pirates.

What do robbery, burglary, shoplifting, pickpocketing, carjacking, identity theft, embezzlement, extortion, blackmail, ransom, insurance float, welfare fraud, Ponzi schemes, scams, counterfeiting, and forgery have in common? They are all forms of theft.

Piracy is theft and theft is a crime. Google Books is a copyright violation and copyright violation is a crime. Pirates are criminals and protecting criminals makes you an accessory to crime. There, I’ve used the word crime 5 times in the same paragraph in reference to piracy and you.

Meanwhile, you have in your archives the entire contents of what will eventually become every book ever printed in every language, past, present, and future. As any honest geek will admit, anything in electronic form is hackable if it’s accessible; and if it’s accessible to you, it’s accessible to hackers. And you have made available a treasure more than one hacker will find irresistible. So don’t talk to me about your security protocols.

Seriously, haven’t you ever heard of Wikileaks? Hackers have gained access to massive government and corporate files and dumped the entire contents online. What’s going to happen when they hack Google Books? Or a Google employee steals them?

That’s right, they’re going make all those books available online, not in snippet form, but in their entirety, either for free on the light net or for sale on the dark net, depending on the identity of the hacker. Either way, the content creators will be left out of the financial loop and the investment of their time and energy and money will evaporate in the time it takes Bittorrent to do its thing.

Oh but wait, that means your investment in scanning those books will evaporate too. (How much money DID you spend on your book project?) Hmm, I suppose then you’ll get serious about piracy.

So I’m giving you a chance to shut it down. Shut down your threat of legal action against me, shut down your book project, shut down the piracy charade, and shut down the abuse of entertainment industry leaders who have addressed your involvement in piracy.

Otherwise, I will have to post this letter online and distribute paper copies to the media.

Postscripts:

Shortly before finishing this letter, I tested the password for I HATE GOOGLE DOT COM. (Curse you, Captcha!) If I don’t get the appropriate response to this letter, you and everyone else on the web will be able to access this letter online by typing I-H-A-T-E-G-O-O-G-L-E-.-C-O-M into your browser.

In spite of being technology challenged, about 5 minutes ago, I somehow figured out how to open a Twitter account and tried to tweet you this letter. Oh I see, only 128 characters per twit or tweet or whatever the terminology is. OK, how about this twit-tweet for under 128 characters:

I own these:

www. I Hate Google .com

www. I Love Google .com

www. I Like Google .com

@teachenglishab1

The twitter note was yesterday. Today, I read this headline in Yahoo News: “Google Wins Long US Court Battle on Book Scanning.” The Supreme Court sided with you, declining to even consider the Authors Guild’s case. The Borgle has just assimilated a very large sector of the galaxy. In light of the Supreme Courts decision, I decided to go live with this letter instead of waiting for your response.

No sooner than the Supreme Court authorized your assimilation of 30,000,000 books, Getty Images filed suit against you for pilfering their archive of 80,000,000 photos and illustrations. What’s next? I’ll tell you what’s next. You’ll target Getty’s 50,000 hours of stock film footage, that’s what. It’s only a matter time before you offer a service called VGoogle and find a “fair use” fig leaf for posting Hollywood’s entire collection of movies and TV shows. Whether the Supreme Court let’s you keep your hand in Getty and Hollywood’s cookie jar remains to be seen.

I consulted with Ari Goldberger of ESQWire.com, a domain name defense attorney with a track record for winning cases against high-profile corporate claims.  He told me I have a right to these domain names. I’ll take Ari Goldberg’s legal opinion over your legal team’s any day.

Authors Guild, MPAA, RIAA, BPI. Ari Emanuel, Kurt Sutter, Richard Gladstein, Avi Lerner. Lamar Smith, Bob Goodlatte. Too many people writing guest editorials about you, not enough people suing you.

Carl Slaughter has a degree in journalism and radio/tv. For several years, he was editor of ESL Book Review. He was a stringer for the Associated Press. He has written 300 reviews, interviews, features, profiles, news items, and essays for Tangent, Diabolical Plots, SF Signal, File 770, and Amazing Stories ezines, plus 200 critiques for the Critters online workshop. For the past 15 years, he has traveled the globe teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in 6 counties on 3 continents. Carl has traveled to 18 countries and counting. (He’s tired.) His essay on Chinese culture was published in Beijing Review. His essay on Korean culture was published in The Korea Times, as was his expose on the Korean ESL industry. His travel/education reports about Thailand occasionally appear on the Ajarn website. When he’s not distracted with chronic visa issues or major culture clash, he enjoys interviewing famous science fiction authors, who by coincidence enjoy being interviewed.

Google Kicks Copyright Holders’ Butts

A Federal judge today dismissed the Authors Guild’s lawsuit over Google’s library book scanning project which has been in litigation for the last eight years.

Many of the books scanned by Google were under copyright, and Google did not obtain permission from the copyright holders its use of their copyrighted works, leading to the class action suit charging Google with copyright infringement.

In dismissing the case, reports Publishers Weekly, the judge enthusiastically praised Google’s project. The full text of the decision is here.

The judge was impressed with the technology in place to allow online users to look at snippets why preventing them from acquiring a complete copy of a scanned book.

Google takes security measures to prevent users from viewing a complete copy of a snippet-view book. For example, a user cannot cause the system to return different sets of snippets for the same search query; the position of each snippet is fixed within the page and does not “slide” around the search term; only the first responsive snippet available on any given page will be returned in response to a query; one of the snippets on each page is “black-listed,” meaning it will not be shown; and at least one out of ten entire pages in each book is black-listed…

An “attacker” who tries to obtain an entire book by using a physical copy of the book to string together words appearing in successive passages would be able to obtain at best a patchwork of snippets that would be missing at least one snippet from every page and 10% of all pages…. In addition, works with text organized in short “chunks,” such as dictionaries, cookbooks, and books of haiku, are excluded from snippet view.

And the judge said that Google satisfied the “fair use” standard of the copyright law.

In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.

Similarly, Google is entitled to summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs’ claims based on the copies of scanned books made available to libraries. Even assuming plaintiffs have demonstrated a prima facie case of copyright infringement, Google’s actions constitute fair use here as well. Google provides the libraries with the technological means to make digital copies of books that they already own. The purpose of the library copies is to advance the libraries’ lawful uses of the digitized books consistent with the copyright law. The libraries then use these digital copies in transformative ways.

They create their own full-text searchable indices of books, maintain copies for purposes of preservation, and make copies available to print-disabled individuals, expanding access for them in unprecedented ways. Google’s actions in providing the libraries with the ability to engage in activities that advance the arts and sciences constitute fair use.

The Authors Guild said it plans to appeal the ruling. Its president, Paul Aiken told Publishers Weekly, “Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense.”

Guarding Google’s Data

Huffington Post reports the new GoogleData Centers site tells you about their eight facilities worldwide, while 360-degree Street View Images takes you inside the company’s vast Lenoir, NC center.

Pace the virtual halls at Lenoir long eough and you’ll find several cute surprises — like a Star Wars stormtrooper standing guard over a row of computers. Just don’t dwell on the sight too long or you’ll find yourself wondering if that’s a sign of tyrannical oppression or a foredoomed security measure.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

Huge Damages Asked by Authors Guild in Google Suit

Google is a number with lots of zeros. And if The Authors Guild has its way, the company famously named for that number will be paying a figure with plenty of zeros in damages for illegally copying books.

Publishers Weekly reports if the court grants the Authors Guild’s recent motion for summary judgment the minimum statutory damage award — $750 per infringement – on as many as four million books still under U.S. copyright could add up to more than $1 billion.

The Authors Guild and Google lately traded motions for summary judgment in the suit now almost seven years old. They spent three of those years pushing a settlement with authors and publishers that was ultimately rejected by the judge in March 2011. The judge’s ruling against the settlement did not need to address the copyright claims that the case is really about, but a Publishers Weekly analyst now expects the case to deliver a “precedent-setting fair use verdict.”

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

Testing Google Ngram

Google’s new data-visualization tool Ngram Viewer searches datasets of 500 billion words from 5.2 million books in Chinese, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish to tell how frequently selected words or phrases have appeared from year to year.

Wanting to put this tool through its faanish paces I searched “sci-fi” but got zero hits. So I tried searching for the name of the most famous fan of all time, “Forry Ackerman.” There were lots and lots of references to Forry, all when and where you’d expect them to be – nothing requiring any analysis.

That changed when I searched for “fanzine”. A little blip right at the beginning of the graph showed an occurrence of the word around the year 1810. What was this? Evidence of time travel? Or maybe someone once coined “fanzine” as a technical term, long since forgotten? Patrick O’Brien readers know what a vast, specialized vocabulary there is for sailing ships alone and every other line of work presumably had its own.

Ngram Viewer allowed me to drill down to the page where it found “fanzine” – a page from a 19th century edition of Plutarch’s Lives. And no, Plutarch had nothing to say about fanzines. What Ngram Viewer actually had found was “Fanguine,” which is the word “sanguine” rendered in the typography of the time when the character used for the letter “s” sometimes resembled the letter “f”.

Can you come up with your own creative uses for Ngram Viewer? I look forward to hearing your stories.

Google Honors Pac-Man 30th Anniversary


It was 30 years ago today that Pac-Man started gobbling your quarters. Google, which regularly features header art celebrating a theme or event, is commemorating the birth of the famous video game with a free interactive version on the Google home page.

Hit the “Insert Coin” button below the search window and the game will begin. You direct Pac-Man where you want him to go by placing your cursor ahead of him and clicking.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]