Pixel Scroll 4/19/16 You’ve Lost That Scrollin’ Feelin’

(1) OPENING DAY. The PKDFest is three days long — I posted about the Friday and Saturday sessions at Cal State Fullerton. The party starts Thursday, April 28 on another campus — at UC Irvine.

PKD IN OC CROP

Philip K. Dick in the OC: Virtually Real, Really Virtual

Thursday, April 28, 2016, 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Humanities Gateway 1030)

Philip K. Dick spent the last decade of his life from 1972 to 1982 in Orange County, having fled the Bay Area convinced he was the target of various malevolent forces, ranging from governmental agencies to religious groups. In Orange County, PKD experienced the anonymity of everyday life in suburbia. He also experienced a divine vision that, as he explained in later writings, permitted him to glimpse the “trans-temporal constancy” of the universe. During his decade in Orange County, he produced some of his most enduring and enigmatic works, including novels like A Scanner Darkly and VALIS that reflect a pervasive sense of paranoia and also PKD’s attempts to make sense of his life-altering spiritual experience.

Schedule:

Opening Remarks & Welcome – 10:30am

  • Jonathan Alexander

10:45am-12:00pm

  • Interviewing Phil, Charles Platt
  • PKD in Perspective, Gregg Rickman
  • PKD on the Couch, Barry Spatz

Lunch Break – 12:00pm-1:00pm

Living with Phil – 1:00pm-2:00pm

  • Tessa Dick, Grania Davis, Gregory Benford (moderator)

Visualizing Phil (in the High Castle and Otherwise) – 2:00pm-3:00pm

  • Sherryl Vint, Jonathan Alexander, Antoinette LaFarge

Coffee break – 3:00pm-3:15pm

PKD and Privacy – 3:15pm-4:30pm

  • David Brin, Gregory Benford

Closing Reception – 4:30pm

Please RSVP to icruse@uci.edu to confirm your attendance.

(2) B.C. Things Kelly Link did before being announced as a Pulitzer finalist yesterday now appear in a strange new light….

(3) VENDORS IN SPACE. Russ Ault told Facebook readers merchants are getting a bum deal at Worldcons.

Some of us out here in the world of convention merchants have, for some time now, been getting increasingly disenchanted with the opportunity presented by the typical Worldcon. (For those unfamiliar, that’s the annual “World Science Fiction Convention”, held in a different place each year, and nominally staffed and run by a different group each year as well.) In a space that is typically similar to that occupied by a Wizard World event, at a cost of more than twice as much per attendee, they end up hosting a crowd that is just 10% to 25% of the size of the typical media or comic con – but the rates they want for vendor space (when you include the price of the separate membership) end up being commensurate with the worst of the WW shows in terms of per-live-body-square-foot results. An eight-foot table and one membership will cost you over $400, with the prospect of having a crowd of as few as 3500 to 4000 people. (Compare that to a 10×10 booth for $1500 with a delivered head count that’s typically in the area of 20,000 – which is not really a very good deal either.)

And they wonder why we bristle when they say things like “The Worldcon doesn’t owe the dealers anything.”

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHARM. Hugh Hancock foresees the “Rise of the Trollbot” in a guest post on Charles Stross’ blog.

… In “Accelerando”, Charlie posited the idea of a swarm of legal robots, creating a neverending stream of companies which exchange ownership so fast they can’t be tracked.

It’s rather clear to me that the same thing is about to happen to social media. And possibly politics.

What makes me so sure?

Microsoft’s Tay Chatbot. Oh, and the state of the art in Customer Relationship Management software….

2: On The Internet, No-one Knows Their Friend Is A Dog.

In many ways, the straightforward trollswarm approach is the least threatening use of this technology. A much more insidious one is to turn the concept on its head – at least initially – and optimise the bots for friendliness.

Let’s say you wish to drive a particular group of fly-fishers out of the fishing community online for good.

Rather than simply firing up a GPU instance and directing it to come up with the world’s best fly-fishing insults, fire it up and direct it to befriend everyone in the fly-fishing community. This is eminently automatable: there are already plenty of tools out there which allow you to build up your Twitter following in a semi-automated manner (even after Twitter clamped down on “auto-following”), and Tay was already equipped to post memes. A decent corpus, a win condition of follows, positive-sentiment messages and RTs, and a bot could become a well-respected member of a social media community in months.

THEN turn the bot against your enemies. Other humans will see the fight too. If your bot’s doing a half-decent job – and remember, it’s already set up to optimise for RTs – real humans, who have actual power and influence in the community, will join in. They may ban the people under attack from community forums, give them abuse offline, or even threaten their jobs or worse.

For even more power and efficiency, don’t do this with one bot. One person starting a fight is ignorable. Twenty, fifty or a hundred respected posters all doing it at once – that’s how things like Gamergate start.

(And of course, the choice of persona for the bots, and how they express their grievances, will be important. Unfortunately we already have a large corpus of information on how to craft a credible narrative and cause people to feel sympathy for our protagonist – storytelling. If the bot-controller has a decent working knowledge of “Save The Cat” or “Story”, that’ll make the botswarm all the more effective…)

(5) A NUMERICAL LACK. From the Dictionary of Fantastic Vocabulary, ”a compendium of imaginary words and their uses,”comes —

Anquintan, n.

a person without five

That’s what happens when someone uses double share!

(6) DO AS I SAY. Dr. Mauser says “Don’t Pirate Indies”. (But dude, your blog is named Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas!)

…. Now, I understand a bit of what’s going on, there’s an awful lot of piracy going on out there, and yeah, in strictest terms, virtually every picture you’ve got on your phone or hard drive that you didn’t take yourself is some kind of copyright violation. I’m not going to go down that puritan road. But let me go through the usual excuses and explain why they don’t apply to indy books….

But I’m broke! – No, you’re not, you just can’t prioritize, or childishly can’t manage your budget. We’re talking an e-book in the $2.99 to $5.99 range. Hell, Comic books are about that much apiece these days. You just bought the latest video game for enough to buy TEN eBooks. You could stock a library for what you spent on that Con. Give up ONE Latte? (Furries are particularly notorious for pleading poverty when their favorite artists put out a $10 portfolio, then drop $50 for a single commission of their personal character in some sexual position – go fig.)

Hey, I’m doing you a favor, it’s free publicity! – Bullshit. In my friend’s case, it’s costing him plenty – hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Free publicity is writing reviews, having discussions, all that stuff they call “Word of Mouth”, and actually BUYING the book so that its Amazon Rankings go up. If you actually Love the author’s work, why are you destroying it?

(7) CAT’S PICTURES. Cat Rambo tells “How I Use Instagram”.

Still working frantically on the update for the Creating an Online Presence for Writers book, plus prepping for this weekend’s online class. One big change since the last version is Instagram‘s rocket upward in popularity. Here in 2016, it is the number two social media network in number of users, second only after Facebook.

It lets you post pictures, often with some sort of caption, and see what other people are posting. Unlike Facebook, it doesn’t play fast and loose with what you see, but gives you a stream composed of everyone you’re following.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 19, 1987 — The Simpsons first aired on The Tracey Ullman Show.

(9) MORTALITY. Rachel Swirsky has revised her essay “On Writing and Mortality”. “It was originally published in 2011. I had recently had a death scare.”

A year or two ago, an article made the rounds which had asked a number of famous authors for ten pieces of writing advice. Some of the advice was irritating, some banal, some profound, and some amusing.

One piece of advice that got picked up and repeated was the idea that if you were working on a project, and found out that you had six weeks to live, if you were willing to set the project down then it was the wrong project for you to be writing.

I dislike that advice. It seems to come from the same place that makes writers say things like “a real writer has to write” or “any writers who can be discouraged should be.” (A convenient excuse for acting like a jerk.)

(10) GOOGLE BOOK SCANNING UPHELD. “Supreme Court rejects challenge to Google book-scanning project”. As David Klaus puts it, “The court says ‘to Hell with your ownership of the books you write.’”

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge by a group of authors who contend that Google’s massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library violates copyright law.

The Authors Guild and several individual writers have argued that the project, known as Google Books, illegally deprives them of revenue. The high court left in place an October 2015 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in favor of Google.

A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.

The individual plaintiffs who filed the proposed class action against Google included former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, who wrote the acclaimed memoir “Ball Four.”

Several prominent writers, including novelist and poet Margaret Atwood and lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief backing the Authors Guild.

The authors sued Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, in 2005, a year after the project was launched. A lower court dismissed the litigation in 2013, prompting the authors’ appeal.

(11) WICKED AUTOGRAPH. Abe Books has a special Something available for Bradbury fans.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. (SIGNED)

BRADBURY, Ray, [ Christopher Lee ].

Published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 1962 Second Edition. Hardback. Dust Jacket. (1962)

Used Hardcover Signed

…Signed presentation from the author on the front endpaper to Christopher Lee, ‘For Christopher Lee, who is Mr. Dark! With the admiration of his fan – Ray Bradbury, Mar. 21st 1964’. Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE,(1922–2015) was an English actor, singer, author, and World War II veteran. He was notably in ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ but is best known for his role as Count Dracula in a sequence of Hammer Horror films and later as Saruman in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy.

(12) SPOCK AT TRIBECA. Yahoo! Movies’ Seth Kelley has the story: “’For the Love of Spock’ Q&A Remembers Leonard Nimoy, Talks Future of ‘Star Trek’ Franchise”.

Adam Nimoy remembered his late father, Leonard, during a Q&A that followed a screening of his documentary “For The Love of Spock.” The discussion took place on Monday as part of the Tribeca Film Festival where the film first screened two days earlier.

Variety‘s Gordon Cox moderated the conversation, which also included Zachary Quinto, EP David Zappone and film critic and self-proclaimed Trekker Scott Mantz.

Adam Nimoy, who wrote and directed the film, said that he had plenty of material. “A lot of things got left on the cutting room floor, unfortunately,” he said. But he added that his father would have approved of the final cut. “I think he would be very pleased and proud.”

(13) IMMURED. “Elizabeth Banks Unrecognizable As Power Rangers Reboot’s Rita Repulsa” says Yahoo! News.

People magazine has lifted the lid on 2017?s live action ‘Power Rangers’ reboot by revealing the film’s villain Rita Repulsa as played – beneath layers of costume and prosthetic make up – by Elizabeth Banks.

The ‘Hunger Games’ star is channelling her dark side to play the mean green witch – her first villain role – describing the character as “a modern and edgy re-imagining of the original Rita”.

(14) CROWDSOURCED BOWIE TRIBUTE. Unbound’s project Fill Your Heart: Writers on Bowie will be an anthology of writers inspired by the musician.

Our mourning isn’t over, but we want to write, we’ve got to write: to him, for him, about him. Fill Your Heart: Writers On Bowie is an anthology by some of our greatest contemporary writers. It is an anthology celebrating David Bowie with creativity. Whether a short story, a poem, a piece of memoir, psychogeograhy or creative non-fiction, these pieces will be personal responses to Bowie, to his shaping work and influence.

Edited by the novelist Tiffany Murray, this will be an important celebration, possibly a strange, mad celebration, but it is for anyone who was and is inspired by David Bowie and his work.

Fill Your Heart will be creating something new, a bold anthology that in some way shows us all how Bowie sparked each generation’s imaginations: how he made us.

Let’s spark together.

The collection is 11% funded so far.

(15) GUARDIANS. A Russian Marvel-esque superhero flick. It’s called Zaschitniki (Russian) or Guardians (English).

Set during the Cold War, a secret organization named “Patriot” gathered a group of Soviet superheroes, altering and augmenting the DNA of four individuals, in order to defend the homeland from supernatural threats. The group includes representatives of the different nationalities of the Soviet Union, which each one of them have long been hiding their true identity. In hard times, they settled down to business and gather to defend their homeland.

 

[Thanks to Kendall, JJ, Will R., Gregory Benford, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

121 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/19/16 You’ve Lost That Scrollin’ Feelin’

  1. Aaron:

    “Every dealer isn’t going to go to Worldcon, no matter what anyone does. The question is, do you want to fundamentally change Worldcon in order to attract more dealers?”

    No. The question is: What can we do to encourage dealers and make them feel happy without fundamentally changing WorldCon? If they have ideas that aren’t feasible, is there anything else that can be done to make them happy? That is the question.

    Also, actually listening to people to show that you care can go a long, long way. Just ignoring them or telling them you don’t care if they go somewhere else is more like kicking them in the balls.

  2. Also, actually listening to people to show that you care can go a long, long way.

    What if you actually don’t care?

  3. “What if you actually don’t care?”

    Then have some respect for people who care. A con is not only for you.

  4. @Aaron – What if you actually don’t care?

    Well, first, you don’t get to be in charge of anything that requires other people or is in some way concerned with the enjoyment of others. (I’m not being snarky here, I promise, but caring is kind of a first principle for events of any kind.)

  5. Well, first, you don’t get to be in charge of anything that requires other people or is in some way concerned with the enjoyment of others

    I care about the convention. I just don’t care about these complaints from dealers.

  6. I care about the convention. I just don’t care about these complaints from dealers.

    Then you probably get told by the people in charge of the convention PR to please not talk about that in public, because making the dealers think that nobody cares about them does not help the convention.

  7. my current one is full of Thai entry and exit stamps, and it’s beginning to make them suspicious.

    “….this person must really like Green Curry.”

    Here’s the thing… I actually hate green curry here. I love it back home; it’s usually mild and really flavourful. Here they put so many aromatic herbs and spices in it that it tastes as if perfume and fire had a mutant baby.

    I do love a lot of other Thai food though – especially street food near where I live.

  8. One of our executive team has two UK passports for business travel, from what his PA told me. As he is constantly travelling one is often away somewhere for visa applications while he still needs to go somewhere else.

    So definitely still possible.

  9. When a person not working on the convention (as far as I know), and having nothing whatever to do with the decisions and arrangements being put in place says “If you don’t like the way we run things here, don’t come“, it’s really quite frustrating to have other people in the discussion take that as an official policy statement. I know it’s the by-product of our online lives, that we default to treating all posts with equal weight, something that doesn’t happen at all in face to face conversations, but I really wish it didn’t keep derailing conversations.
    [also – ticky box. forgot last time.]

  10. @Alice Bentley,
    Thank you for dropping by & posting comments. It’s good to know that efforts are being made so that everyone can have an excellent Worldcon experience.

  11. If you actually don’t care, think about why you are performing indifference, rather than just going and doing/saying/watching/reading about something else.

    There’s a difference between “I don’t care, let someone else deal with this” and “I think nobody should work on this, because it’s a waste of the group’s time and resources.” There are worthwhile things that are outside any likely definition of what MidAmericon should be doing—road maintenance in Oregon, for example. For that, “I don’t care about that” would be reasonable, especially if someone had ignored “That’s off topic for this meeting, so let’s get back to the agenda.” How to run the dealer’s room isn’t that kind of question.

  12. If you actually don’t care, think about why you are performing indifference, rather than just going and doing/saying/watching/reading about something else.

    There is a difference between not caring about Worldcon, and not caring about the feelings of a particular set of people who are griping about it. I wish people would learn the difference.

  13. Huh. I didn’t know the U.S. allowed citizens to have two passports

    I once had three. One was for traveling to South Africa for hand surgery.

  14. I love the dealers’ room, but it’s certainly not a make-or-break deal for me. That said, what I want to see in a dealers’ room is interesting stuff. Stuff I can’t buy at half-a-dozen stores on my way to the convention. I don’t mind a bookseller or two—especially small, independent ones, since that way I can support local businesses—but if it was all booksellers, I probably wouldn’t bother visiting, since books are not hard to come by. And if Amazon or Tor or Baen had a booth, I probably wouldn’t bother visiting it, since that doesn’t support the locals. What I really want is interesting, fan-related stuff. I can buy t-shirts a lot of places, but Worldcon is the only place I’ve ever seen Vor saga shirts!

    So, the real question to me is not so much: how can cons attract more vendors? It’s: how can cons attract more interesting vendors? And unless dealers’ room space is going unused (which is not my experience), I don’t think purely financial matters are the answer.

  15. @Various: Interesting (re. passports), thanks!

    @JJ: Wow, I had no idea it was possible in the U.S. Thanks!

  16. @Aaron:
    many conventions already require that all those engaging in commercial activity acquire a permit/tax permit/register whatever paperwork is needed.

    That’s so the con doesn’t get stuck with the tax bill and so that vendors don’t run afoul f whatever local laws apply to retail sales.

    One of the dealer’s room staff’s jobs would be to gather together all of the compliance materials and present a package to each prospective dealer in sufficient time to get everything processed before the convention.

    ***
    I have difficulty seeing how having an exhibit hall open to the public would alter the traditional aspects of the convention….

  17. Xtifir – interesting as I find that there are some books that are very hard to find and that one of the few places I have hopes of finding them is at a convention.

    And one of the things I’ve been missing at conventions are the book & magazine dealers. It used to be “murderers row” where that was concerned. Now, they’re vastly out-numbered by other things like jewelry, tea, clothing, scultpture & etc.

    Other than the pulp conventions, I hardly ever see a 1920s/1930s pulp on display anymore….

  18. steve davidson: Other than the pulp conventions, I hardly ever see a 1920s/1930s pulp on display anymore…

    And the reason for that is because it’s a very small niche market at this point, and those dealers are not likely to make a huge amount of sales at Worldcon.

    I don’t blame dealers for choosing not to get a table at Worldcon, if they’ve run the numbers and it’s not a decent return for their time, effort, and expense. They are much better off targeting the cons for their niche market or the cons which will garner them large amounts of sales.

    It sounds to me, from what Alice Bentley has said, that MAC II is making a real effort to try to make it a more worthy proposition for Dealers, without trying to change the character of Worldcon dramatically to achieve that. And I applaud that.

  19. Wow, maybe it’s because I’ve been on the Internet for a long time, but I have a hard time imagining a convention as the place to find obscure, hard-to-find books. Me, I’d start with Google, if that’s what I wanted! 🙂

    Anyway, I’m not saying booksellers shouldn’t be at conventions. I’m saying, I’m not interested in, say, a B&N booth when I can visit B&N on my way to the convention.

    (In my case, this is exacerbated by the fact that I live in an area which has several top-quality specialist SF stores, like Dark Carnival and The Other Change of Hobbit. Which, I freely admit, is probably not true for many people. On the other hand, I do visit the Other Change booth when they show up at conventions. Hence my earlier comment about exceptions for local independent booksellers.)

    But yeah, I’m not a collector; I’m a reader. I don’t really give a hoot how obscure that edition is. I just want the words inside, if I want it at all. And if it costs an arm and a leg because of how hard to find it is? Well, there’s plenty of other stuff I can read. I also don’t own any signed books, except for those I ended up with accidentally.

  20. Xtifr: Wow, maybe it’s because I’ve been on the Internet for a long time, but I have a hard time imagining a convention as the place to find obscure, hard-to-find books. Me, I’d start with Google, if that’s what I wanted!

    I think the other issue causing a drop in the viability of conventions for book dealers is that in recent years, airlines have become quite draconian in enforcing baggage weight limits, and postage has become more expensive (especially if the con is overseas from where you live). And a lot of people use e-readers now.

    So where people might have brought boxes full of books back from cons in years gone by, now they’re very selective about what books (if any) they buy at a con.

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