SFWA Names Candidates for Office

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have posted the candidates for its leadership positions.  

In 2019, the President, Secretary, and three Director-At-Large positions on SFWA’s Board of Directors are up for election.

Candidate for President

• Mary Robinette Kowal

Candidate for Secretary

• Curtis Chen

Candidates for Director at Large

• James Beamon
• Tobias Buckell
• John Chu
• Andy Duncan
• Walter L. Fisher
• Jeffe Kennedy
• Kevin McLaughlin
• Sarah Pinsker
• Eric James Stone
• Peng Shepherd
• William Alan Webb

Those with access to the SFWA Forum can read their platform statements.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Liu Cixin Didn’t Quit His Day Job – and That’s the Problem

Liu Cixin never let his day job keep him from getting his writing done. Did anyone know that when Jason Heller tweeted this message last week and got a lot of sff writers in an uproar?

Of course, Heller and everyone else is assuming that someone with a day job will actually be working at it. Not in this case.

Bloomberg’s report “Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Sparks Debate on Slack in State Economy” carries news of a revealing 2015 interview with Liu Cixin that’s made a recent splash in Chinese social media:

China’s most prestigious science fiction novelist revealed that a lot of his work was written during work hours at a state-owned power plant, sparking debate about the level of slack in the nation’s vast state sector.

The comments from Liu Cixin, seen as China’s equivalent to Arthur C. Clarke, come from a 2015 interview that began circulating widely on social media recently after the film Wandering Earth, which is based on one of his novellas, took in 2 billion yuan ($300 million) in just a week.

“Everyone was sitting in front of a computer, and nobody knew what anyone else was doing,” Liu said in the interview. “You have to be in the office. But when you’re there, you are free to write.”

Liu worked as a software engineer at a power plant in Shanxi province from the 1980s and identified himself a worker there in interviews until as late as 2014.

However, this week Liu tried to walk back what he said in the interview (Sixth Tone, “Chinese Sci-fi Author Sparks Work Ethics Debate”).

But on Tuesday, the writer told the state-run Global Times that there’s “no time to write while on duty,” while also admitting that on rare occasions he would write on his office computer. “As an engineer at a grassroots power station, there’s constant work. Where is the time to write?” he said.

And officials also jumped in to do damage control, crediting themselves for making changes that are already taking effect:

On Monday, China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission also stepped in to address Liu’s comments on company culture at state-owned enterprises. Liu worked at the power station in Shanxi until 2014, two years after the company’s reforms.

“Mr. Liu, this phenomenon you mentioned — more workers than available work — is exactly why we are deepening reforms,” the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said via Weibo. “The reforms are good, so the enterprises can focus on their business, and you can focus on writing novels.”

Fans long ago discovered that one worker sitting in front of a computer typing looks like any other, as long as you’re not reading over his shoulder. But they also discovered a second truth which seems to have escaped the Hugo-winning author — that if you brag about what you’re really doing, then you get in big trouble.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

48 Hours Later Vox Day Pulls the Plug on SocialGalactic

Announced only two days ago, Vox Day’s Twitter substitute SocialGalactic is already being shut down (“Another curve ball” [Internet Archive link].) The team that works on InfoGalactic, his alt-right revision of the Wikipedia, had joined forces with OneWay to build SocialGalactic on Fediway’s distributed network engine. The platform claimed 2,500 users after the first 48 hours of operation.

Vox Day did not go into detail about the decision. However, in comment a few hours after the initial announcement he had written —

Note that if you’re in the EU, you’re not going to be able to use it until we can resolve the GDPR compliance issue. 

The General Data Protection Regulation  (“GDPR”) regulates data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA), and also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas.

Since Vox himself lives in the EU, such a ban would be no small problem for him.

Day’s Finnish confederate Markku Koponen wrote some more revealing comments. When someone asked how soon people in the EU could gain access he wrote —

Not at this point. Could be never. We’ll have to have a lawyer take a serious look at GDPR. Then we’ll know what it takes, do we need data protection officers, and so forth. There is a chance that the simplest thing is to just block EU altogether (I will of course have backdoor access). We shall see.

…Yes, but that notice is only a small part of it. Blogger [where Vox Day’s blog is hosted] can afford to have the bureaucracy required to allow access, and just nag you with the notice. You still need to comply with the entirety of GDPR and it’s so complicated that there are companies whose whole business is to explain it to you.

…No, I’m just a moderator. But since I’ve had to think about GDPR myself, I tipped Vox off that this is going to be an obvious attack vector for SJWs and it’s best to plug it right from the start.

…There’s always going to be some Soros-paid troll who will spend all his waking hours trying to find some small mistake somewhere in GDPR compliance. Better to just shut it down.

Being unprepared to comply with EU rules may have been the new platform’s Achilles heel.

Amazon Reopens Castalia House’s KDP Account

Castalia House’s Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing account was restored yesterday within hours after Vox Day told readers it had been taken down (see “Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account”.) The problems were caused by Castalia’s Collapsing Empire parody Corrosion by “Johan Kalsi” with the look-alike cover, which has brought Day’s business into conflict with Amazon’s rules many times since the book came out in 2017.

Collapsing Empire author John Scalzi seems to have had this news in mind when he tweeted on Thursday —

Although the Amazon account was reopened, Markku Koponen of Finland, where the Castalia House entity is based, told readers of Vox Day’s blog that the “Kalsi” book will no longer be sold on Amazon.

But the sales had dropped so low on it (because people seem to connect it only with the Scalzi events, which isn’t really fair. Again, it’s an actual, serious book) that removing that tool from them had more value than having the title there. And it’s still available on our own site, from which we keep 100% of the revenue instead of 70%.

And he said they have asked Audible to take down the audiobook.

Vox Day also contacted File 770 “to set the record straight,” saying —

  1. CORROSION by Johan Kalsi was cleared of being “misleading” no less than 7 times by the highest-level managers at KDP. The previous time it was depublished by the Quality Assurance employee, in September 2018, it was republished before we even received the email telling us it had been depublished.
  2. The reason we were given for our account was terminated was a claim of copyright infringement. This claim was incorrect and was subsequently acknowledged to have been incorrect when our account was restored.
  3. What Amazon did yesterday affected more than 60 authors, and any author who was feeling schadenfreude would do well to keep in mind that not every employee at Amazon with access to their account is fully in agreement with them either. We are very far from the first to have our account terminated, even if it was only for 20 hours in our case.
  4. We sold more copies of Corrosion via our direct store yesterday than we had sold in the previous three months on Amazon. We’ve sold even more copies of it today. That is why we decided not to republish it on KDP and why we will remove it from Audible as well. It’s simply not worth the potential conflict.

When one of his fans encouraged him to initiate legal action against Amazon. Vox Day replied —

No. We’re already in a significant legal battle with Indiegogo. We will not take on any additional conflict unless it is forced on us. Nor are we interested in going to war against our own distribution channel.

Day was referring IndieGoGo’s action last October, shutting down Arkhaven’s current fundraiser for Alt-Hero: Q, and refunding backers’ money (see “After Bleeding Cool Interviews Vox Day, IndieGoGo Axes Latest Alt-Hero Comic Campaign”.) Arkhaven is Castalia’s comics imprint.

Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account

Update: Vox Day says his Amazon KDP account is now “Reinstated” [Internet Archive link.]


Amazon told Vox Day they have shut down his Castalia House Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account because of the latest issues about its goon book Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1), a parody of John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire which Castalia markets with a look-alike cover.

Castalia House’s efforts to sell the book have repeatedly brought it into conflict with Amazon rules since the work first appeared in March 2017 (see “Amazon Yanks Castalia House’s ‘The Corroding Empire’”). According to Vox Day (“Amazon Takes Down Castalia House” [Internet Archive link]): “This is the second attack on that book this month, as ten days ago, they pulled the book itself down for the sixth or seventh time due to claims that it was ‘misleading’.”

Day says he received the following message from Amazon on January 21. At that time they only removed the one book from sale on Amazon.

From: Amazon.com [kdp-quality-assurance@amazon.com]
Sent: 21 January 2019 21:59
Subject: Notification from Amazon KDP

While reviewing the following books we found the title, cover image, descriptions and/or authors of the following book(s) are misleading to our customers:

Title: Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1)
ASIN: B06XFQ24QC

As a result, the book(s) have been removed from sale from Amazon.

However, today Amazon shut down the Castalia House KDP account and banned Day from opening any others. Not only that, Day was told he will not receive any unpaid royalities that he may be owed on sales.

As last communicated in the message on January 21, 2019, we have identified the submission of content for which you did not have the necessary rights. Due to this and previous violations, we are terminating your account and your Agreement effective immediately.

As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account and remove the books you have uploaded through our channels from sale on Amazon. Note that you are no longer eligible to receive unpaid royalties for sales that occurred prior to this termination.

Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open any new KDP accounts.

Despite the message, Day sounded confident the account would be reopened.

Of course, there were no previous violations that internal SJWs did not invent as we’ve been repeatedly cleared of the “misleading” charge for that book. Needless to say, we will not be taking this latest SJW attack lying down. I won’t be surprised if the account is rapidly restored once we contact the manager who has been repeatedly dealing with this issue, especially since we were promised that it would never happen again after the last time.

Or he did before he updated the post with this calamitous discovery —

UPDATE: Amazon can’t even find the account information. It looks like whoever was responsible actually wiped all the data.

[Thanks to rcade for the story.]

Financial Problems and Deceptive Practices Ground FurFlight

FurFlight won’t be leaving the ground again soon, if ever.

FurFlight is marketed as a way for furries to fly as a group to selected conventions, and travel in their fursonas.

Yes! Enjoy being an animal before you arrive at the convention! We have officially sanctioned costuming permitted post-security and onboard from both SFO, Boston and Seattle.

 

Dogpatch Press says the arrangement was successful for a group that flew to Midwest FurFest last year (“A financial fuss about FurFlight – can it fend off a fandom fiasco?”)

FurFlight bundles furries together for group air travel from highly-active fandom regions to highly-attended conventions, most notably from Seattle and San Francisco to Midwest FurFest. The idea is to improve the boring parts and the endpoint arrangements. It happened successfully in 2017.

Unfortunately, Mike Folf, the organizer and principal of Canis Vulpes LLC, which operates FurFlight, couldn’t meet expenses and reportedly was selling 2019 events to try and fund FurFlight’s remaining obligations for 2018.

Now those who signed on for the group trip to Midwest Furfest (Nov. 29-Dec.2 in Rosemont, IL) will be scrambling to cancel their reservations and make other plans.

When the story came out last week, Folf did not respond to contacts, something he has now explained in an apologetic post “Regarding Midwest FurFlight, Mental Health, and Future Trips” which says in part —

I have wronged you all and I’m sorry. This isn’t how I wanted it to be and I want to make things as right as possible for you all.

Long story short: I will work hard in early November to salvage what we can of the flights to ensure you all can go to Midwest Furfest. If this isn’t logistically possible, I will refund all guests and then some to ensure you all can book a flight to the con. If this can’t be done in time, I’ll add an extra sum to cover the damage of a lost convention time. This isn’t ideal, but it’s better than silence and doing nothing.

Also until further notice, all 2019 trips are suspended and everyone who signed up for TFF, BLFC, or FWA will be refunded ASAP.

A little transparency as to what has been going on these past few days:

On Wednesday October 24 I got an email from Alaska Airlines saying that the flights were suddenly unpaid for. That evening, the journal post came up. Overwhelmed, I spoke to the exec team about the issue and my own stress before being forced to remove telegram and social media for my own personal well being. At 11:30 that night, the police came and I was placed on Psychiatric Hold, isolated from society, until Friday October 26 due to concerns about suicidal thoughts. At that moment, I felt I had lost everything and was an emotional mess. That Friday, I was taken to a safe location for the weekend and was otherwise disconnected from the online world while I figure out with close persons what to do about the situation.

There is the idea that no matter how much good you do in the fandom, one bad slip and you’re forever reviled as an enemy. This is a mentality that I have held close to myself and have done as much as I can to cover my tail and prevent any kind of darkness from going public. Needless to say, this also prevented me from asking for help when it came to FurFlight, as I’ll detail below….

Financial and Management Transparency

Canis Vulpes, or FurFlight, was in the red from the get go. I was still paying off the $5k debt from last year and initial set up costs would inevitably bite into the income. If we had zero operational costs, Midwest FurFlight would only garner $2.5k in profit. In reality, marketing (twitter ads and physical items that unknowingly cost upwards in the thousands) and additional set-up costs (funding for SkyCollies, setting up the network infrastructures and other formalities) took a severe bite on the funds. We had zero capital so I assumed that I could keep this within the $2.5k margin. I was wrong, and again was afraid to ask for specific help and loans due to the aforementioned furry drama mentality. I was promised a capital investment over the summer that failed to materialize which also had an effect on the marketing spending.

Prior to getting the notice from Alaska Airlines, Folf borrowed over $35,000 from Robert Johnson (“Alohawolf”), ostensibly to secure the tickets. When he recognized FurFlight’s financial situation and his own exposure, Alohawolf went public:

I wanted to ensure that the event was successful and that everyone would still make their flights. In doing so I made the mistake of trusting him; I processed $35,631 in airline tickets on two credit cards to cover all of the flights from SEA (Seattle) and SFO (San Francisco) to ORD (Chicago – O’Hare). This payment was made directly with Alaska Air and Mike supplied account information needed so I could process payments to cover the transactions.

After realizing the extent of this situation over the weekend, I realized that this is not sustainable. I began reaching out to other furs over the weekend to determine the best order of operations to proceed to start unwinding this transaction on the very next business day, which was Monday, October 22.

Currently, I’m out over $35,000. If I’m very lucky, I’ll come out whole. I have disputed the charges and made both the airline and card issuers aware of the details of the fraud. As a result, they may have begun to act to cancel the transaction and the tickets for the 2018 MFF FurFlight date.  As this case includes such a large amount of money, on the advice of a lawyer, the police and FBI both were also contacted and informed.

I am making this public statement to make those affected aware as soon as possible. For those who purchased FurFlight 2019 tickets, I highly recommend you reach out to your credit card issuer and request a refund (or use travel insurance if your card has it), as the company that sold you flights is insolvent.

And the incident prompted the Boozy Badger, a lawyer with a blog, to write a study of all the California regulations that Canis Vulpes LLC may have violated — “FurPlanet’s Furry Friday: FurryAir – At Least It’s Not Pet-Screwing” – an effective advertisement for start-ups to hire legal counsel. BB’s analysis leads to this conclusion —

So…they’re crooks?

I’m not saying that.

I am saying that there appears to be a situation where an LLC was formed for the purpose of selling travel, including travel to residents of California. That this LLC took a substantial amount of money from people to obtain flights to a specific event, both in and outside of California. That for some reason, whether it be exemption from the law or ignorance, this LLC did not submit a legally required registration as a Seller of Travel to the State of California. That now it appears the same LLC has confirmed that they reached out to another party to pay the debt for the travel which should have been paid with the passenger funds already submitted, as those funds are technically trust funds (not property of the seller of travel) until the travel is actually paid for entirely. That as a result, and individual paid $35,000.00 on assurances the money existed, and it apparently did not from what has been revealed. And that, in these circumstances, there is a very specific California law that, if applicable, makes this a very serious criminal and civil penalty.

I’m also saying that, while out of compliance with the law from what I can see, Canis Vulpes customers who reside in California may be able to seek restitution from a fund specifically created for this…but they may not. Likewise, customers in other states (Including, I should note, Washington) are or may be protected by similar

I am not, however, saying that money was “stolen” or anything of the sort. Idiocy and ineptitude is not the same as malfeasance, and people starting businesses screw up all the damn time.  Especially when they rely on LegalZoom instead of a real goddamn lawyer to give them advice.

Which really leads to my last lesson:

It is so fucking important top understand the legal requirements and ramifications of what you do that a lawyer, at least one to help you form and start-up your business, isn’t optional.

Alohawolf says that the other people working on Furflight were kept in the dark, too:

FurFlight has released its own message of apology, telling customers to request refunds of their airline tickets.

This may not be as simple as it sounds:

[Thanks to ULTRAGOTHA for the story.]

Saint Chesterton?

G.K. Chesterton in 1909.

It’s not just Tolkien – there’s a move afoot to make author G.K. Chesterton a Catholic saint, too. The Word on Fire Blog questioned the president of the American Chesterton Society about his prospects: “Saint G.K. Chesterton? An Interview with Dale Ahlquist”.

BRANDON: I know many people are excited about the possibility of G.K. Chesterton being named saint one day. Why do you think he’s a saint? And can you give us an update on his cause?

DALE: First the update: the Bishop of Northampton, England, Peter Doyle, appointed a priest, Fr. John Udris, to be the investigator for Chesterton’s potential. Father Udris is completing his report to the Bishop within the next month, and the Bishop is expected to approach the Congregation for Saints in Rome to officially open the Cause for Beatification. If that happens, Chesterton would be declared a Servant of God, and a postulator would be appointed. And the real work begins, with a thorough examination of Chesterton’s holiness and his cultus. The cultus is us, those who are devoted to him. And that is the answer to the first question. I think he’s a saint because there is a universal cultus devoted to him, finding in him a model Christian, especially a model of lay spirituality, and a friend and companion. That’s what the Communion of the Saints is all about.

Chesterton is already remembered liturgically on June 13 by the Episcopal Church, with a provisional feast day as adopted at the 2009 General Convention.

His influential essays and nonfiction are the foundations of his case for sainthood, though some of his views have led to charges of antisemitism.

Among fans, Chesterton is known for fiction like The Man Who Was Thursday. Neil Gaiman has stated that he grew up reading Chesterton, whose The Napoleon of Notting Hill was an important influence on Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which used a quote from it as an epigraph. Gaiman also based the character Gilbert, from the comic book The Sandman, on Chesterton.

Horror Show Telethon Will Benefit Charity

By Dann Todd: Brian Keene intends to double last year’s success.

In January 2017, The Horror Show with Brian Keene podcast held a 24 hour telethon to raise money for the Scares That Care. Scares That Care is a 501C(3) charity that helps children with cancer, women with breast cancer, and burn victims. The telethon coincided with their 100th podcast episode.

The Horror Show podcast started out with the objective of raising $10,000 for Scares That Care in 24 hours. They exceeded that goal…barely.

The Horror Show podcast announced that they would be repeating their telethon effort on behalf of Scares That Care in 2018. The details of this year’s telethon were announced on a recent Horror Show episode. This year’s fundraising goal is $20,000.

The telethon will take place beginning at noon (EST) on May 11, 2018, and ending at noon (EST) on May 12, 2018. As with last year’s telethon, the show will be livestreamed via YouTube. It will be free to listen to all of the telethon related mayhem.

For those wanting to attend in person, the telethon will take place at the Courtyard Marriot located at 2799 Concord Road, York PA 17402. Seating is limited to 80 people. Tickets to attend the telethon in person will cost $25 and can be purchased via Ticket Leap.

From the news release:

(All proceeds raised from ticket sales will go directly to the $20,000 goal). Your ticket guarantees you 24-hour admission to the telethon — come and go (and sleep) as you please. Please note that by purchasing a ticket and attending, you are granting The Horror Show with Brian Keene permission to broadcast your voice and/or likeness live on the air.

For Your Consideration: Disney Story Origin Podcast – The Black Cauldron

By Dann Todd: After a year-long sabbatical motivated by personal health concerns, mystery/thriller author Paul J. Hale is back with episode 10a of The Disney Story Origins Podcast.

In this most recent episode, Paul focuses on Disney’s The Black Cauldron movie. As has been the case with his past podcast episodes, Paul presents a thoroughly researched comparison between the source material and Disney’s movie. His purpose is not to criticize the choices of Disney filmmakers. Instead, his focus is on illustrating the differences between the source material and the movie. His analysis ends up having the movie illuminate the source material and the source material illuminate the movie. As is his habit, Paul includes a complete bibliography at the page for this podcast that formed the basis of his research.

One interesting sidelight on the movie is that Jeffrey Katzenberg, then a new studio chairman with Disney, feared that the original version of the movie was headed for a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. That concern was after the movie’s director and editor had already removed material to avoid a suspected R rating. Mr. Katzenberg then attempted to personally undertake the process of editing the movie to remove the offending material.

The source material for The Black Cauldron was Lloyd Alexander’s series The Chronicles of Prydain. The movie uses material from books 1 and 2 of the series; The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron.

Lloyd Alexander won the Newbery Medal for the fifth and final installment of the Prydain series, The High King, in 1969. He received the World Fantasy Award – Lifetime Achievement in 2003.

Octavia Butler Presentation at Altadena Library on 2/12

A special presentation, “Octavia Butler’s Story”, will be hosted by the Altadena (CA) Library on Monday, February 12, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. as part of their program centered around one of her novels, “One Community, One Book: ‘Kindred'”.

Join Altadena Library for this special look into the life of science-fiction author and Altadenan Octavia E. Butler!

ABOUT THE PRESENTER:

Presenter Natalie Russell is the Assistant Curator of Literary Collections at The Huntington Library, and curator of the recent exhibit “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories.” She has been at the Huntington for over 11 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema-Television Production from the University of Southern California and a Masters of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. She is a native Californian, and a member of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

25 COPIES OF “KINDRED” AVAILABLE BEFORE THE EVENT!

The Friends of Altadena Library have generously donated 25 copies of Octavia Butler’s powerful novel “Kindred” for patrons to borrow prior to the event. Stop by the Main Library or Bob Lucas Branch Library after 1/10/2018 to pick up your FREE copy — we encourage participants to return the book before the presentation so that others have a chance to read the book as well!