Pixel Scroll 6/10/16 Sevenfives

(1) TURING POPCORN TEST. “Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense” promises Ars Technica, where it’s free to view.

Knowing that an AI wrote Sunspring makes the movie more fun to watch, especially once you know how the cast and crew put it together. Director Oscar Sharp made the movie for Sci-Fi London, an annual film festival that includes the 48-Hour Film Challenge, where contestants are given a set of prompts (mostly props and lines) that have to appear in a movie they make over the next two days. Sharp’s longtime collaborator, Ross Goodwin, is an AI researcher at New York University, and he supplied the movie’s AI writer, initially called Jetson. As the cast gathered around a tiny printer, Benjamin spat out the screenplay, complete with almost impossible stage directions like “He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor.” Then Sharp randomly assigned roles to the actors in the room. “As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight,” Sharp told Ars. The actors interpreted the lines as they read, adding tone and body language, and the results are what you see in the movie. Somehow, a slightly garbled series of sentences became a tale of romance and murder, set in a dark future world. It even has its own musical interlude (performed by Andrew and Tiger), with a pop song Benjamin composed after learning from a corpus of 30,000 other pop songs.

After viewing, Pat Cadigan begged to differ, “Actually, it was neither hilarious nor intense. It was incoherent. And non-intense.”

(2) BAREFOOT CONTESTED. Aaron Pound reported “obnoxious and surly” behavior by hotel security at Balticon 50 including the now-famous “Shoe Cop” who was “enforcing their previously unannounced policy that shoes had to be worn at all times.”

Longtime fan Hobbit, whose preference is to go barefoot, was particularly upset.

I and a traveling companion were some of the first casualties … we only made through less than a day there before simply bailing out. While the barefoot issue was only about a third of what pushed me over my limit by the time we put it all in the rearview, I complained bitterly to Marriott’s customer-care department [as Renaissance is one of their brands] about the way we were treated.

Hobbit has posted the complaint letter and corporate replies.

I would like to lodge a formal complaint against your property at Renaissance HarborPlace, in Baltimore.  I was there for an event scheduled through this past Memorial Day weekend, May 26 – 30 2016, to help with its technical setup and operations.  The event was a science fiction convention named Balticon, in fact its fiftieth year in existence, put on by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS). This was its first year at this particular hotel property, and may well be the last.

Within mere minutes of arriving to unload gear and begin building our technical infrastructure, I and several of my colleagues were harassed by the hotel security staff for not wearing shoes. Some number of my crew generally work without shoes for an extensive set of positive reasons, including but not limited to increased agility, comfort, *safety*, and situational awareness.  While perhaps a bit unusual in the relevant activities, it is our personal right and freedom to enjoy and presents no unacceptable risk or concern to either ourselves or the venues we occupy.  The many health *benefits* of going barefoot are also well known.  We accept full responsibility for our own care and safety, and at that level it is not up to any other entity to dictate to us about it either way.

The harassment continued and escalated through that evening, even after our staff offered a temporary compromise by confining our activities to our assigned function space and slipping on shoes to go elsewhere on the property. The only shoes I had with me were effectively light-duty slippers which would cause me to be significantly *less* surefooted and safe while working, and thus were not a viable option.  This was also true of our other staff, who only had open-toe sandals and other seasonally-appropriate footgear on hand.  Ultimately I was unable to continue working the convention setup, and wound up simply leaving the entire event prematurely because it seemed like the only reasonable option left open to me….

Hobbit also has barefoot advocacy information online.

In early 2016 I began to correspond with some of the other online barefoot advocates in my area, and participate in various group activities like hikes and dinner gatherings.  I viewed this as further support in my own journey, particularly with helping bring awareness and reason to typically stodgy organizations that harbored some unreasoned sixties-holdover fear and loathing for bare feet.  In keeping with my own personal tradition of advising any number of companies on best customer-facing practices in the online world, it seemed a short step to use those same techniques and reach out to them to discuss customer and client policy decisions about footwear in an escalated fashion.

While my past efforts to inform have met with an entire spectrum of successes and failures, I’ve chosen this point in time to start bringing it to the web and chronicle some of the major interactions

(3) UNDER CONSTRUCTION. The Digital Antiquarian begins an opus about “god-game” development with “SimCity Part 1: Wil Wright’s City in a Box”.

This description subtly reveals something about the eventual SimCity that is too often misunderstood. The model of urban planning that underpins Wright’s simulation is grossly simplified and, often, grossly biased to match its author’s own preexisting political views. SimCity is far more defensible as an abstract exploration of system dynamics than as a concrete contribution to urban planning. All this talk about “stocks” and “flows” illustrates where Wright’s passion truly lay. In other words, for him the what that was being simulated was less interesting than the way it was being simulated. Wright:

I think the primary goal of this [SimCity] is to show people how intertwined such things can get. I’m not so concerned with predicting the future accurately as I am with showing which things have influence over which other things, sort of a chaos introduction, where the system is so complex that it can get very hard to predict the future ramifications of a decision or policy.

When SimCity was finally released, the public, including plenty of professionals in the field of urban planning who really should have known better, credited Wright’s experiment with an authority it most definitely didn’t earn. I’ll return to this point in my next article, in the course of which we’ll try to figure out what so many thought they were seeing in Wright’s simplistic take on urban planning.

After working on the idea for about six months, Wright brought a very primitive SimCity to Brøderbund, who were intrigued enough to sign him to a contract. But over the next year or so of work a disturbing trend manifested. Each time Wright would bring the latest version to Brøderbund, they’d nod approvingly as he showed all the latest features, only to ask, gently but persistently, a question Wright learned to loathe: when would he be making an actual game out of the simulation? You know, something with a winning state, perhaps with a computer opponent to play against?

(4) SEASONING. Life eventually taught Alma Alexander what her younger self had needed to know about “Madness and the Age of Innocence” (at Book View Café.)

Back when I was nineteen years old and steeped up to my innocent ingenue ears in the Matter of Britain, I dreamed up a story – technically a novel, I guess, seeing as it was over 40,000 words, but not much over. It was a solid chunk of writing, though, pretty much written over a year or so when I was about 18, and it told the story of Queen Guenevere….

Andre Brink, South Africa’s pre-eminent novelist, started his report thusly:

“This is an impressive piece of writing, especially if it is taken into account that it was written by a 19-year-old. I have no doubt that this young woman will be a major writer one day.”

But…

You heard the but coming, didn’t you?…

He went on to say that the story was too tame, especially given the subject matter of lust and adultery and multi-layered betrayals. There was plenty of drama, he said, but there was none of… oh, let me quote him again… “…it lacks what Kazantzakis calls ‘madness’.”

Today, I know of this madness. I understand it from within. I take no issue with his comments, not from this side of the bridge of time, because he was probably right – my story was one of innocence rather than guilt and machinations, my Queen was a child caught up in an adult world, much as I was at the time. But when he wrote this report, I had yet to read Kazantzakis. I had heard of Zorba the Greek, but I had not read the book, nor seen the movie at that time.

(5) DEPRESSION ART. MD Jackson reminds you of everything you’ve forgotten (or never knew) to answer the loaded question: “Why was Early Comic Book Art so Crude? (Part 1)”, at Amazing Stories.

A friend of mine recently asked why it is that the artwork in comic books has gone from being so crude and rudimentary in the beginning to being so much more photo-realistic today. Well, I thought that was a good question, so I am setting out to answer it. And although the question seems simple, the answer is not, and it will take more than one post to fully cover.

Were the early comic book artists untalented hacks? Or did the early limitations of printing technology hamper their creative expression? The answer, in my view, boils down to: a bit of both.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 10, 1922 — Judy Garland

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak

(9) DINO DUDES. Den of Geek has “Jurassic Park 4: new concept art from lost film”.

Artist Carlos Huante recently shared concept art from a much earlier take on Jurassic Park 4…

If you Frankensteinized the DNA of the Hulk, Wolfman and a velociraptor in a petri dish, you’d get Raptorman. He was due to appear in a Jurassic Park film, but ltimately it wasn’t meant to be.

Raptorman was part of a screenplay envisions by John Sayles and William Monahan when they were penning an earlier take on Jurassic Park 4, featuring genetically enhanced soldier-o-saurus reptiles created by a corporation to be mercenaries that are supposed to wrangle the rogue dinos trampling North America.

(10) DELANY. From Shelf Awareness: Image of the Day: NYS Writers Hall of Fame.

NYS Hall of fame COMP

Samuel R. Delany, Roz Chast and Roger Angell

For the seventh year, the Empire State Center for the Book inducted a group of diverse writers into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Honorees Samuel R. Delany, Roz Chast and Roger Angell (pictured, l.-r.) attended the June 7 event at New York City’s 3 West Club, where Maya Angelou, Jean Craighead George, Grace Paley and Don Marquis were recognized posthumously. Stephen Sondheim was not able to attend due to illness. In his acceptance remarks, science fiction writer Delany told of his fondness of fellow inductee Don Marquis’s famed characters Archy and Mehitabel.

(11) INDIEGOGO. Scholar Kenneth James wants to raise $60,000 of support for his work on “Autumnal City: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany”.

Currently I am compiling and editing Delany’s personal journals.  The journals will be published by Wesleyan University Press in what is projected to be a series of at least five volumes, with each volume covering approximately one decade’s worth of material.  I have recently completed the first volume, In Search of Silence; this volume is now in the final stages of production at Wesleyan and is slated to appear at the end of this year. It covers the period from Delany’s teenage years in the late 1950s to the end of the 1960s, during which time Delany established himself as a major figure in what came to be called New Wave science fiction.  The second volume, Autumnal City, will present Delany’s journals from the 1970s, during which time he wrote the bulk of what many consider the pivotal work of his career, Dhalgren (1975), as well as Trouble on Triton (1976), the first volume of the Nevèrÿon tetralogy (Tales of Nevèrÿon [1979]), and many works of criticism.

In this campaign I am seeking funding to produce the second volume.  If I secure this funding, the project – which involves researching, compiling, transcribing, editing, and annotating the text – will take two years to complete.  The total amount I am seeking, for two years of full-time work on the project, is $60,000.

There has been $1,355 pledged to date, and the appeal has 2 months to run.

(12) JOURNAL EYEWITNESS. Matthew Cheney enthsiastically endorses the project.

I’m just back from spending a few days at the Delany archive at Boston University, and I’ve looked through a few of the 1970s journals. They’re truly thrilling for anybody interested not only in Delany the writer, but in the writing and thinking process in general. They’re especially interesting for those of us who think that after 1969, Delany’s work only got more brilliant. They are working journals, not really diaries as we generally think of them, and they clarify a lot of questions of when particular things were written, and why, and how. That makes them, if nothing else, of immense scholarly value. But they’ve also got material in them that just flat-out makes for good reading.

(13) ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE SF. “Sharman Apt Russell Guest Post–‘BFF: Science Fiction and the Environmental Movement’” at Locus Online.

In 1864, a hundred years after the start of the Industrial Revolution, the American scholar George Perkins Marsh wrote about the impact of a society rapidly cutting down its forests, destroying its topsoil, and polluting its water. Marsh thundered, “The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature has established, and she avenges herself upon the intruder by letting loose her destructive energies.” He predicted an impoverished Earth with “shattered surface,” “climatic excesses,” and the extinction of many species, perhaps even our own.

In his own way, Marsh was an early science fiction writer.

(14) DO YOU WANT TO GET PAID? Peter Grant’s Mad Genius Club post “Writing your passion…or not?”  makes an argument for avoiding saturated markets. The commenters overall favored passion-directed writing.

In the same way, I see authors trying to ‘break in’ to the market in a particular genre and getting discouraged.  That may be because it’s a crowded genre (e.g. romance and/or erotica) where there are already lots of books and authors and it’s hard to get noticed;  or it’s a field where there are relatively few readers in relation to the overall book market (e.g. those interested in the domestic life of the Polynesian parrot!);  or it’s a moribund genre which hasn’t attracted interest or support from either publishers or big-name authors for some time (e.g. Westerns).  To authors facing such challenges, my advice is:  Why not try to write in a genre where you will be noticed, and where you can offer a quality product that will attract reader interest?  You may not be passionate about that genre, but is that any reason not to try your hand at it?

(15) OLDERS Q&A. “Malka Older and Daniel José Older Discuss Infomocracy, Cyberpunk, and the Future!” — Leah Schnelbach covered the event for Tor.com.

There was already a nice crowd gathered for the concatenation of Olders at Greenlight Bookstore, and by the time the reading began, the seats were full, and many people already had copies of Malka Older’s debut novel, Infomocracy. The novel takes us into the near-future, twenty years after Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, guided the world in a shift from a fractious collection of nation-states to global micro-democracy. Now the world is entering another election year, and idealists, policy wonks, spies, and rabble-rousers are all struggling to see which democracies will come out on top.

Older read, and then her brother, Bone Street Rumba series author Daniel José Older, joined her in front of the crowd for a lively interview and Q&A. You can read the highlights from their conversation below!

(16) SILENT MOVIE. Here’s a video documenting what Mystery and Imagination Bookshop looked like on June 9, 2016.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

68 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/10/16 Sevenfives

  1. Anthony on June 10, 2016 at 4:23 pm said:

    Not even remotely fifth

    And yet a necessary first step towards the inevitable but surely the question for today is who will be the seventh-fifth?

  2. The most interesting thing about Sunspring is the importance of acting to the drama. Given some nonsensical or barely-sensical text which has the form and structure of a dramatic script, the actors an effective love-triangle scene and a heartfelt monologue. It’s a fairly standard bit of acting training, of course, to take a text and act against its meaning, or to perform a scene entirely in nonsense syllables, but this kind of text is something new and it’s fascinating to see the performance create meaning from scraps of quasi-meaning.

    There has long been a trend in literary SF circles to criticise drama as if all that existed was the written text, ignoring the role of performance. This short film may not show screenwriters becoming obsolete any time soon, but it does effectively demonstrate the equation Drama = Text + Performance, in the limit where Text -> zero.

  3. I just finished Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “The Summer Prince”(James Nicoll’s review here) and I’m still processing my reactions a bit.

    It’s an excellent read first of all, with themes of generational, class and technological conflict. It can be read as the main character coming to terms with death, growing up, and casting off the role a corrupt government made for her.

    But to my mind, it can ALSO be read as a young women giving up everything she wanted, all for a man. And that’s why I have ambiguous feelings about it.

    Va gur raq, Whar unf cbjre, ohg unf ybfg nyzbfg rirelguvat fur jnagrq. Fur unf n cbyvgvpny cbfvgvba fur qvqa’g jnag, pbhegrfl bs gur znavchyngvbaf bs Raxv. Fur’f tvira hc ure neg, va snibe bs Raxv’f “cbyvgvpf nf cresbeznapr neg”. Jvyy fur rire unir nal nhgbabzl? Jryy fur rire qb ure bja neg ntnva? Be jvyy fur or or nyjnlf qnapvat gb gur ghar bs gur qvfrzobqvrq Raxv? Uryy, vf fur rire tbvat gb or noyr gb tevrir naq zbir ba, jura gur ibvpr vs ure qrnq ybire vf evtug gurer?

    Note that these questions are not ones where I am saying the book is bad or problematic. But they do make it seem even more of an ongoing tragedy than it appears.

  4. You may not be passionate about that genre, but is that any reason not to try your hand at it?

    Yes, probably.

    Also, super-excited about the Delany journals project.

  5. @Tasha I made that same point on Twitter to Malka and Daniel. She seemed surprised by my admission.

  6. (2) I would rather be in a room with orthodox vegans and evangelical Cross-Fitters (together, even) than these all-barefoot people. Ugh.

    (3) It’s all about the LlamaDome and the destroying monsters.

    (14) Because we all know how great books churned out in genres to make money by people who don’t like the genre is. MGC is consistantly more M than G.

    @Rose Embolism: thanks for the warning — think I’ll skip it.

  7. Sim City. I remeber a TV-program where they took the leaders of the political youth organizations and let them play Sim City against each other. The liberal refused to put money on publiic spending and had his city burn down somewhere in the program. The socialdemocrat raised the taxes to the maximum of 18%, quite far from Swedens usual tax of about 30%, and had to get a bulletproof car to protect himself from all citizens that started to tale potshots at him.

  8. (2) In Hobbit’s post he rhetorically asks “It is still unclear if the problem lies with this specific hotel or across Marriott in general…”
    As a long time con-runner i can categorically answer from personal experience: “It’s Marriott”. [insert long story about a friend of mine, a well known Con/Event organizer who had to have his lawyer at his side for Every Single Meeting with Hotel executives during his event at a Marriott, regarding previously agreed-to details IN THE CONTRACT, practically every three hours, for the duration of his event.] I very strongly recommend that any con or con-like event give very careful consideration to locating at a Marriott property. (Yes, their acquisition of Starwood concerns me. No, the behavior of this Marriott does not surprise me.)

  9. @Hampus: I used to play that game as a “republican”; build everything up until it was working decently, then, remove all city services and raises taxes through the roof.

    For some reason, the citizens revolted. Every single time….

  10. The Queen’s official 90th birthday Trooping The Colour included a flypast of one of every type currently flown by the RAF. The helicopters and Memorial Flight headed north, but the rest of the planes came out over West London. I was on the roof in Putney with a camera:

    https://flic.kr/s/aHskBnDr5W

  11. I have a favorite “playing simulation games from a political stance” story. It was at a family holiday gathering and someone pulled out a “nuclear standoff” scenario game. (I think it was card-based, but it’s been quite some time.–I was a teenager, I think) The alleged goal was to develop your nuclear arsenal and political alliances such that you achieved (by some point-based system) more power and influence–or at least mutually assured destruction–relative to the other players.

    So I have an older cousin who is a very serious pacifist (Quaker, does weekly peace vigils on the streetcorner, that sort of thing) and only agreed to play if we let him play by his own principles: no acquisition of weapons at all, just diplomacy.

    I’m sure you can all see the punchline coming. He won.

    Mind you, it was only possible because the game developers–either intentionally or inadvertently–made that path possible. But I took away a serious lesson about never assuming the overt rules of the game are the only possible “win” scenerio, even when you stick to them.

  12. @Simon Bisson:

    The Queen’s official 90th birthday Trooping The Colour included a flypast of one of every type currently flown by the RAF. The helicopters and Memorial Flight headed north, but the rest of the planes came out over West London.

    Never forget!

    HRH Queen Elizabeth II's eighth (and most successful to date) escape attempt. Buckingham Palace, May 14th, 1955. pic.twitter.com/tEMAIGsHUV— Histry in Pictures (@Histreepix) March 22, 2016

  13. Simon

    Thank you for sharing the pictures. I usually have an excellent view of the flyover from the Barbican, achieved by standing on the balcony, but I am still flattened by the bugs…

  14. The 60,000 expectation for each volume of the Delany project past the first … I’m not sure how I feel about that as likely each will earn less than a thousand (or slightly more, depending on the purchase price). In a perfect world these kinds of things are labors of love, but in a capitalist market is there any justification, considering 60,000 per volume is almost exponentially more than it could ever bring in? The whole “five or more volume” series might bring in 5,000 dollars, being generous, and he seems to think that is worth, if I understand the idea, 240,000 dollars for the time to produce it?

    (Transparency: a similar kind of project, though not identical, took me about four years so far, and has earned me $375. It will eventually probably gross over a thousand, though certainly given the cost of purchasing books for research it is a net loss. This does not seem like the kind of thing one can expect money for doing. It needed to be done for fans of the author; this probably needs to be done for Delany, given both his writing and his identity in the field.)

    Unless we are talking about hundreds of thousands of almost illegible, hand written pages to cull for topical diamonds … I don’t see how editing existing journals could take two years. I am very interested in the state of the original journals.

  15. @marc aramini:

    The 60,000 expectation for each volume of the Delany project past the first … I’m not sure how I feel about that as likely each will earn less than a thousand (or slightly more, depending on the purchase price). In a perfect world these kinds of things are labors of love, but in a capitalist market is there any justification, considering 60,000 per volume is almost exponentially more than it could ever bring in? The whole “five or more volume” series might bring in 5,000 dollars, being generous, and he seems to think that is worth, if I understand the idea, 240,000 dollars for the time to produce it?

    If he gets funded, the second volume will bring in at least $60,000.

    $30K per year is an entry-level wage for full-time work. I hardly begrudge him the money. The problem is that, near as I can tell, no reward level gets you a copy of the actual book. This is probably a consequence of the editor’s relationship with Wesleyan University Press, but if so it’s shortsighted on their part. It seems like it makes it less likely that people will choose to fund it – at least going by my own reaction. (“No book? Hm. Maybe not.”)

  16. In a perfect world these kinds of things are labors of love, but in a capitalist market is there any justification, considering 60,000 per volume is almost exponentially more than it could ever bring in?

    Indiegogo is part of the capitalist market. If it brings in $60K by that means, it has brought in $60K.

  17. Aaron: Indiegogo is part of the capitalist market. If it brings in $60K by that means, it has brought in $60K.

    Maybe you could unpack that thought for us. It’s not instinctive to me to think of money raised by Indiegogo as capitalism.

  18. @marc aramini
    You continue to show you don’t know anything about what you talk about. Crowdfunding is a thing. If it raises money then that is real money to publish a book & pay people for their parts in doing so. The publisher knows if the cost of producing it is paid through the crowdfunding than readers buying copies is PROFIT from day one.

    By not providing the book as part of their crowdfunding campaign I question whether they will successfully fund. I’ve backed over 1,800 crowdfunded projects and getting part of what the campaign is raising funds for is usually, but not always, critical to a successful campaign. I’ve seen some campaigns overfund (raise more than goal) while not providing the product they are producing so you never know. Depends on what else they are offering and how much people want the project to succeed.

    Crowdfunding was another way you could have raised the funds to publish hardcover copies of your book rather than aligning yourself with a white supremacist who is against women having the right to education and voting. Bet you didn’t look into it based on your comment here. This is just one of many reasons some of us look askance at you when you say your book could never make money and you really had no other choices.

  19. I spoke too early as I didn’t go read the campaign, bad Tasha. In this case where the publisher is not involved my comment: If it raises money then that is real money to publish a book & pay people for their parts in doing so. The publisher knows if the cost of producing it is paid through the crowdfunding than readers buying copies is PROFIT from day one. is incorrect. Whoops

    It does cover salary for the author for 2 years which is no small thing as Jim Henley points out.

    @Jim Henley
    At the $500 level you can get a copy of book 1 signed by Delany. It’s a very limited reward.

  20. Maybe you could unpack that thought for us. It’s not instinctive to me to think of money raised by Indiegogo as capitalism.

    It is part of the market, like almost anything else. An Indiegogo project is in competition for your dollars with everything else in the market. It doesn’t exist outside of the market for other things – what someone is selling on Indiegogo isn’t necessarily a tangible product (although it can be, with supporter “rewards”), but we recognize that people value intangibles just like they value tangibles.

  21. Not too long ago I attended a library conference in which the keynote speaker, an author who writes within a certain genre, noted that she wrote in a specific sub-genre because her publisher asked her to. A number of people were dismayed. I figured authors need to eat, too. Having said that, I’ve read one of those books she wrote in that sub-genre and didn’t think it was at all good, but I can’t speak as to whether it’s because it was forced or because I just don’t care for her writing. She was an entertaining speaker, though, so I forgave her a little for the wretched book of hers I read.

    On a totally unrelated note: Has anyone else read The Velocipede Races by Emily June Street? The series title is “Bikes In Space.” Unless this all takes place on another planet (which, if it does, I missed it), I really don’t get the “in space” part of it. I saw that the author had a story in an anthology of that name, so perhaps the connection is there, but I was curious to see if anyone out there had some wisdom to bestow in this regard.

  22. Aaron: The Delany journals are something that will be delivered to the market, but the funding isn’t capital in the usual sense of debt or shares where the person advancing the funds is entering into a risk/reward proposition.

    A church or the Red Cross are also competing for my dollars in the sense you’re discussing, in that there is a finite supply of “my dollars” and I am going to make a choice how to spend them.

  23. The academic-writing “market” is a curious place that depends, top to bottom, on subsidies of one kind or another. At the bottom, the labor of producing documents of all kinds is generally supplied in return for indirect compensation (keeping one’s job and/or securing advancement). At the publisher level, journals and university presses run on subsidies–though since my heyday the journals seem to have been bought up by corporations that extract substantial subscription fees from libraries that want to keep their collections current. There was for a while (and may still be, in some segments) a modest market where an academic could be paid up front for producing (in a work-for-hire arrangement) scholarly work that might also count for something on a resume. (Though publication by a refereed journal or Real University Press was much preferred.)

    For what is politely called an “independent scholar” (that is, someone lacking a university gig), producing good work means working for free, period, unless the work in question has enough commercial appeal to attract a commercial publisher. (Or unless a press like Wesleyan has a budget to pay its writers. I’d be curious to hear about such arrangements.)

  24. @tasha no, I wouldn’t crowd fund something based on someone else’s work. You can hate me all you want, but I wrote that book on my time out of love. I think asking people for money for something I might not be able to finish satisfactorily doesn’t suit this kind of ideological project and that it is slightly problematic (the game mighty number 9 comes to mind . Getting a big corporate backer after crowd funding, then delaying the product interminably … this doesnt seem like a project that could be delayed as long, but mine was.)

    I do, however, know what I am talking about as far as Gene Wolfe goes. And that knowledge could be worth slightly more than 370 dollars. 😉

  25. The Delany journals are something that will be delivered to the market, but the funding isn’t capital in the usual sense of debt or shares where the person advancing the funds is entering into a risk/reward proposition.

    Sure, because that’s not what an Indiegogo campaign is selling. It is selling the satisfaction of supporting a project someone thinks is worthwhile. That’s an intangible reward. You can’t simply separate something out of the capitalist economy because the gain isn’t tangible or measurable.

  26. @marc aramini

    It’s a nonsense question. If we were speaking of a government grant where people might be involuntarily contributing to a project they don’t support your question might have weight. In the realm of voluntary individual contributions though: the project is worth whatever a sufficient number of people are willing to pay for it. I’m not seeing a philosophical problem with that.

  27. @Mike Glyer: Crowdfunding is part of “the market” in that it can be one more compensation model for labor (this case) or one more means of raising capital for a project (a lot of the roleplaying-game kickstarters I fund) or both. It can also be a glorified preorder system, making it a way of purchasing desired goods (also the roleplaying-game kickstarters I fund). And, conservatives and libertarians take note, it is based in voluntary transactions. As a substitute preorder/subscription system, it has traditionally had more risk associated with it than traditional means of buying things and caveat emptor was the only recourse for failure to deliver, though that is changing now, for better or worse. It conveys at least as much information as other pricing mechanisms, and indeed, companies and creators often take a failure to hit their funding goal as a sign that a project isn’t worth doing. Heck, it can even do duty as a marketing campaign if you sandbag it: set an easy, reachable goal for a subset of what you really want to do, then keep rolling out enhancements to that core product as stretch goals.

    So it is thoroughly embedded in the market. marc aramini’s seeming distaste for it may stem from personally not wanting to risk failing to deliver on a funded campaign – there really is a loss of honor there – or perhaps from socialist/communist priors against the free exchange of goods, services and financial commitments. But that doesn’t make the “marginal revolution” perspective – that a project is “worth” whatever its crowdfunding campaign brings in – less valid under capitalism.

  28. @marc armamini
    I don’t hate you. I have no respect for you based on who you chose to publish with.

    I don’t know how delayed your project is. For a complex project like yours I’d probably have recommended a 3-5 year delivery date if you crowdfunded. Delivering early is a nice bonus if your not that late. I’m pretty sure you haven’t had a contract with Castilia House for 5 years based on prior statements. I can understand not wanting to go the crowdfunding route. It’s not right for everyone.

  29. As I thought was well known, Delany suffers from fairly severe dyslexia. I would expect his private journals to take quite a bit of deciphering.

  30. @david excellent point they might be a mess if it is severe, though his published work seems to be of high quality in that regard, and one would assume his editor doesnt have to change every sentence or even every paragraph. (I was with delany to the dog scene in through the valley of the nest of spiders, and I just couldn’t go on, but maybe I will finish it someday… gotta have an iron stomach for that one. Never read Hogg.)

    @tasha i have a million excuses for early 2014, but only one is good. (This isn’t it). I did not anticipate that the book would reach past its direct audience (the urth mailing list) and thus assumed virtual public invisibility, subserviating everything to my goal of getting the book out and having an editor go through the mess with me for nothing out of my pocket. My mistake was making excuses earlier, so I’ll stop and accept that politics and publishers matter in SF, and hope that in 50 years some people will like my book regardless of those choices, and resolve not to be personally affected one way or the other when Related Works is no awarded.

    I suppose now crowdfunding is part of the market; i see it as a great way for those seeking aid with unjust medical bills to stay afloat – i do have more ambivalent feelings about it for long and difficult projects. So generally if the goal isn’t met om a non-contracted work the project is cancelled and the partial funding refunded?

  31. @Heather Rose Jones:

    In HS, my buddies and I were big RISK players. So much so we constructed a giant game board (200+ countries) that, even with six playing, required two sets of armies per player just to get started.

    With that size of a game – things frequently ran more than a full weekend of play.

    Eventually, one of our guys got sick of the whole thing, announced that he was implementing the “nuclear option” and up-ended the entire board.

    Everyone was so happy that the never-ending war was over, we kept that nuclear option as a permanent rule.

  32. (2) BAREFOOT CONTESTED.

    Two things. First, I’m pretty sure going barefoot in the public areas of a hotel facility is illegal. If not, it will be very much against any hotel’s health and safety policy. Carpet, foot fungus, etc. Ew. Not to mention broken glass in the ball room carpets, fabulously unsafe for barefoot walking.

    Second, as to the Hobbit’s anti-shoe assertions, the humble shoe predates agriculture in the archaeological record. If you’ve seen the feet of people from countries where shoes are not commonly available, you will thank God they are available here. I would hazard a guess that the shoe was invented long before pants.

    Taking the protestations of that individual with a whole box of pickling salt.

  33. @marc aramina: I tried Equinox, which, from the descriptions of Hogg I’ve read, is either a kind of Hogg precursor or, who knows, maybe in the same continuity. Equinox was hard enough for me to take, and I happily read the bathroom-cruising memoirs in The Motion of Light in Water.

    Delany wrote four of my favorite novels – Nova, Einstein Intersection, Dhalgren and Trouble on Triton – and some essays that had a powerful influence on me. He’s up there with your boy Gene Wolfe in my pantheon. But starting in the 80s he took his fiction places I had no desire to follow. I can’t begrudge him that. (I can begrudge him the Wool Sweat interview.) But I’m not a masochist.

  34. @ Heather Rose Jones: The game still exists, if it’s the one I think, and it is simply called Nuclear War. I think we have a copy, but I haven’t actually played it since my first turn in College (Which would be before I met my husband by a significant number of years.

  35. Crowd funding a project like this doesn’t seem that dissimilar to academic research funded by a grant. Such grants often pay the cost of doing the work—in the case of literary scholarship like this, that means paying the researcher something to live on. Except in this case, instead of applying to some foundation, govt. agency, or university, one is applying to the interested public. Doesn’t seem that illogical.

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