John Van Stry Wins Suit Against Book Pirate

A screencap of the Ebook.Bike site on the Internet Archive

Indie author John Van Stry has won his copyright infringement lawsuit against former Pirate Party of Canada leader Travis McCrea, whose Ebook.Bike platform offered free downloads of many writers’ work including a dozen novels by Van Stry.

“The lawsuit is over, and we won” Van Stry announced April 20 on his Patreon page. Judge Bryson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled that Ebook.Bike’s McCrea willfully infringed 12 of Van Stry’s copyrighted works, and awarded Van Stry $9,000 in statutory damages. McCrea was permanently enjoined from “copying, reproducing, or distributing, either directly or vicariously, plaintiff’s copyrighted works” without authorization. McCrea also was ordered to pay Van Stry $3,605 as a sanction for failing to comply with his discovery obligations, and to pay Van Stry’s costs and attorney’s fees.

John Van Stry took up the basically thankless and highly expensive fight against this scofflaw when no law enforcement or author organization would put an end to McCrea’s activities — which had been going on for years.

MCCREA’S TRACK RECORD. Ebook.Bike’s copyright violations had made national news in Canada. Owner Travis McCrea’s taunting self-justifications featured in a Toronto Star story on March 9, 2019: “Authors irritated by ‘smug’ defence of Vancouver website they say is stealing their work”.

A Vancouver man who led the now-defunct Pirate Party of Canada is being accused by authors around the world of giving their ebooks away for free on a website that boasts everything from Michelle Obama’s bestseller to hundreds of indie books from small publishers.

…McCrea was the leader of the Pirate Party of Canada, which supported net neutrality, open government and intellectual-property reform and participated in multiple federal elections between 2010 and 2015. McCrea himself ran for MP in the riding of Vancouver Centre in 2011.

He said he currently operates the Canadian website of the Idaho-based Kopimist Church and that according to his Kopimist beliefs, “all information should be shared.” The website calls copying information a holy act.

McCrea was on the Authors Guild’s radar, too, but their comparatively passive recommendation was for writers to try and weaponize the Google search engine against Ebook.Bike by making the site harder to find: “Call to Action: Get Google to Remove Ebook.bike Links from Search Results” (March 6, 2019):

As many of you are aware, the pirate website “Ebook.bike” is back online, hosting thousands of books for illegal download. A number of authors have sent takedown notices to the website using its DMCA form. But as far as we know, its DMCA compliance is deliberate subterfuge as its DMCA form often doesn’t work; and even when it does and the books are taken down, other users almost immediately re-upload infringing copies.

…Until Congress closes this loophole in the law that allows websites like Ebook.bike to thrive, we have to band together and take action. For a start, authors have to collectively send a message to Google to delist links to the site’s illegal downloads from search results. There’s no reason why a site that traffics in stolen books should be so easily accessible. If enough authors send Google a takedown notice, it will be compelled to take action against Ebook.bike.

The Authors Guild’s choice of tactics showed it was powerless to directly counter Travis McCrea’s activities despite his flagrant history of digital piracy.

McCrea gained notoriety as a leader of the Pirate Party of Canada which had, as a key tenet of its platform, to “decriminalize non-commercial file sharing.” TorrentFreak reported in 2011 “As part of the ‘war for digital sovereignty,’ as McCrea describes it, he has launched Tormovies, a site dedicated to providing movie torrents. A look at the site’s front page reveals that all the latest Hollywood blockbusters are showcased.” McCrea claimed that his media piracy “isn’t theft,” and stated that he would continue his piracy downloading until the media is offered to him at what he considers a fair and accessible price.

Another of McCrea’s piracy sites traded college textbooks. According to the complaint filed in Van Stry’s lawsuit:

In a May 3, 2013 interview, Mr. McCrea admitted that he ran http://librarypirate.me (“LibraryPirate”), a website that brazenly traded pirated textbooks. Mr. McCrea’s LibraryPirate instructed students on how to make digital scans of their textbooks and post the pirated scans to the site he ran for “free downloading,” boasting he made 1,700 pirated textbooks available by August 2011, and made money by advertising on his LibraryPirate website to the people drawn to his illegally available works.

Then,

January 2013, Mr. McCrea setup his tuebl.ca website. T.U.E.B.L. stands for “The Ultimate Electronic Book Library.” Mr. McCrea solicited individuals who had digital copies of books in the popular ePub format, typically used on e-readers, such as Kindles, to upload their books on tuble.ca and to tuebl.com, the latter of which would redirected to tuble.ca (collectively “tuebl”), after which he would then make copies of the books available to any and all.

Numbers posted on that site said it contained 32,000 books by 13,000 authors, and their books had been downloaded over 9.5 million times.

About December 2015, McCrea began redirecting users from his tuebl.ca website to the Ebook.Bike website.

And in 2017 he was alleged to be the developer of Audiobook.cafe which let users stream and download pirated audiobooks.

McCrea also registered “The Kopimist Church of Idaho Inc.” as a Religious Non-Profit Corporation with the state of Idaho August 20, 2012, later adopting the title of “Chief Missionary and Outreach Officer and Director.” He referred to himself as “reverend” and was on record as having said that “giving away other people’s intellectual property” is his “religious vocation.”

LITIGATION BEGINS. McCrea dared anyone to sue him in a TorrentFreak interview in March 2019:

“While we stay committed to following all US copyright laws and ensuring we maintain our DMCA compliance, I would like to reiterate that I am a Canadian and my focus is on upholding the laws of my country. It just has always been that the DMCA provides the best framework for how to handle copyright complaints,” he said.

“I use the DMCA because it offers the best framework, not because I feel I’m obligated to. If they feel I’m liable, come sue me.”

A week later, Van Stry did.

John Van Stry had strong motives for taking up the fight: “[McCrea] was making money off of the stolen work of me and other authors, and bragging about it… He never complied with any take-down requests. Oh, I know he claimed he did, and I was told by one author that any books taken down (in the few instances he appeared to do that) were back up again in days. He was destroying the retirement of many authors, who rely on the royalties they get from their backlogs to pay their bills. This is a real thing! People were being financially hurt! This wasn’t some small pirate site that maybe a couple of dozen people go to. The site was getting over a million hits per month, by his own account. Millions of books were being downloaded. Books are not like songs where you listen to them again and again. You read a book once, that’s it. People who steal books don’t come back and buy them later. Claiming that they do is a myth.”

Van Stry also feared repercussions against his legitimate sales: “I was worried that Amazon might pull my books and punish me, for them being on his website. After all, [McCrea] was claiming he had permission for them to be there. Other authors were highly concerned with this as well.” And not only were Van Stry’s sales being hurt, “He was impacting my sales ranking and my marketing. The secondary impact of this theft is a lot harder to estimate, but it was there, and I felt it. Again, other authors felt it too.”

In anticipation of a lawsuit, McCrea started a GoFundMe appeal to finance his defense. The Digital Reader’s Nate Hoffelder fact-checked some of McCrea’s claims there in a March 28, 2019 article:

McCrea has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise a defense fund. He lies multiple times in the brief description.

“Let me be clear: At no point have I uploaded content I didn’t own to Ebook Bike,” he writes “and I have always ensured that copyrighted material wouldn’t be uploaded (using the same methods and techniques used by YouTube, Facebook, and others).”

That is an utter falsehood; I just (in the past couple minutes) downloaded A Memory Called Empire and Mike Resnick’s Soothsayer. Both books were complete (and both are in copyright, obviously).

JURISIDICTION. Van Stry hired professional lawyers to litigate his case. McCrea defended himself, pro se. McCrea blew off discovery, making the minimum responses needed to keep the case going while Van Stry’s legal bills bled him financially.

Although the defendant was in Canada, the Federal District Court in Van Stry’s home state of Texas accepted the lawyers’ arguments that it had jurisdiction:

Court has subject matter jurisdiction at least under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1338(a), the first providing for federal questions and the latter providing that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action arising under any Act of Congress relating to . . . copyrights . . .”

Van Stry’s attorneys also argued the court had jurisdiction over McCrea and another co-defendant (the ISP) because through the internet they were offering the copyrighted works in Texas:

Mr. McCrea advertises, distributes, and imports via Mr. McCrea’s eBook.Bike website (see below for description) and allows for and does reproduce the copyrighted Works (also described below) in copies without permission or license into Texas and this district.

In addition, they pointed out an established principle about suits against non-U.S. residents:

For all venue purposes, a defendant who is not a resident of the United States may be sued in any district…

THE DECISION. Initially, Van Stry asked for statutory damages of $15,000 per book, and a permanent injunction to prevent further infringement of his copyrighted books. He also asked for an award of costs and attorney’s fees.

While McCrea sandbagged the discovery process, the judge prodded the parties to settle. But as Van Stry wrote when the decision came out this week —

…[For] all of those saying I should have settled out of court? We tried. Three times. The first time? Mr. McCrea sent US the settlement offer. One that was a hell of a lot better than what he was hit with today. He asked us to write it up for him (because of course he didn’t have a lawyer – right). So I paid my attorney’s to write it up exactly like he sent it to us.

And he never signed it.

Twice more we sent it to him, at the judge’s (subtle) urging. He didn’t respond to the first of those and was a bit rude on the last time.

As the prospect of a trial grew nearer, the judge also told the parties – who by then were willing to have him to render summary judgment on the record already before him – that the certain way to avoid the possibility of a jury trial was for Van Stry to ratchet down his request for damages.

“[I] note that the right to a jury trial on the issue of statutory damages does not apply when the plaintiff seeks an award limited to the statutorily guaranteed minimum amount…

“In light of Mr. Van Stry’s acknowledgement that damages in this case are likely to be illusory, he may wish to limit his request for statutory damages to the statutory minimum award of $750 per work —an amount that Mr. McCrea has already agreed would be appropriate. In that event, a jury trial on damages would not be necessary.

“Mr. Van Stry may, if he chooses, make the request to limit the award of statutory damages in the alternative. The request, that is, would only control in the event that Mr. McCrea does not waive his right to a jury trial.”

Van Stry took the hint and adjusted his damage claim downward. A dozen books at $750 apiece – thus in the final verdict, the court’s damage award of $9,000.

The court also sanctioned McCrea for his non-cooperation in the discovery phase, and granted Van Stry costs and attorney’s fees:

Mr. McCrea’s positions in this case have been distinctly lacking in both legal and factual support, and Mr. Van Stry has prevailed on all his claims. Moreover, Mr. McCrea’s lack of diligence in this case and his conduct during discovery have unnecessarily extended the proceedings and have driven up the costs of the litigation for Mr. Van Stry. And Mr. McCrea’s actions resulting in this lawsuit were willful, not innocent. Indeed, Mr. McCrea has said that he did “not care if the website was illegal and would do it either way.”

…Considerations of compensation and deterrence also favor an award of attorney’s fees. Mr. Van Stry has experienced significant and sometimes unnecessary litigation expenses in maintaining this lawsuit… Awarding fees in a clear-cut case such as this one does not give rise to any countervailing interests, such as the risk of discouraging others to build on an author’s work.

THE JUDGE’S REVIEW OF THE DEFENSE. The court opinion deconstructs McCrea’s defense, which rested on (1) denying anyone had downloaded copyrighted work from his site, (2) that he was entitled to the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and (3) he was exercising his religious freedom.

McCrea hamstrung his first two arguments by failing to answer allegations in discovery – as a result, things alleged by the plaintiff ended up being treated as admissions by the defendant — treated as fact for purposes of the case.

Mr. McCrea denied any wrongdoing because there was no evidence, according to Mr. McCrea, that there had been any downloads of copyrighted material. Id. at 3. At the same time, Mr. McCrea said that he was “practising [his] religion by helping authors connect with their readers.” Id. at 2. Mr. McCrea also claimed that his actions were protected by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And, in the event of liability, Mr. McCrea disputed Mr. Van Stry’s contention as to the appropriate amount to be awarded in damages. Id. at 1–2.

… Beyond the fact Mr. Van Stry’s prima facie case of willful copyright infringement is established as a result of the Court’s sanctions order, Mr. McCrea’s challenge to liability on the merits is not supported. He contends that summary judgment should not be granted because the plaintiff “has no evidence that any of their work was actually available on the website” and no evidence that the books were “downloaded from the site.” Dkt. No. 54, at 3. Mr. Van Stry replies that Mr. McCrea admitted (by failing to respond to requests for admission) that all twelve copyrighted books at issue in this litigation available for distribution on Mr. McCrea’s website and that they were distributed into the United States. Dkt. No. 59, at 3. Mr. Van Stry’s counsel also submitted an affidavit stating that as part of his pre-suit investigation, he downloaded all twelve books from Mr. McCrea’s website. Id.

DMCA. The DMCA grants internet service providers a safe harbor against liability for copyright infringement by works available on their websites if they adhere to several requirements. One of them is to have a designated agent to receive takedown notices, and the contact information must be on the ISP’s website, and provided to the Copyright Office.

Mr. McCrea does not dispute that he did not designate an agent with the Copyright Office. See generally Dkt. No. 54. To the contrary, Mr. McCrea previously admitted that he had no designated agent by failing to respond to a request for admission directed to that very issue.

Therefore, the court rejected McCrea’s safe harbor affirmative defense.

RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION. McCrea had told the court that his “religion should be protected by the 1993 Protecting Religious Freedom Act,” and that he is “practising my religion by helping authors connect with their readers.” Also, “[i]t is the position of the Kopimist Church that copying is a holy act, to share files is a holy act, to share knowledge is a supremely holy act.”

The court ruled that McCrea’s reliance on the RFRA was misplaced, because it does not apply when the “government,” as defined by RFRA, is not a party to the action.

Besides, said the court, copyright law was not really an obstacle to this claimed religious practice:

… Mr. McCrea certainly could have approached Mr. Van Stry to obtain a license to copy, make available, and distribute Mr. Van Stry’s copyrighted works, if that was how Mr. McCrea chose to help connect Mr. Van Stry with his readers. Mr. McCrea’s conclusory assertion that licensing would be “impractical” does not alter the analysis.

FURTHER THOUGHTS. Why did McCrea do it? What were McCrea’s motives for running Ebook.bike [Internet Archive link] and his other sites?

Van Stry told his Patreon readers, “He was stealing my work, and the work of other authors to make money, lots of money, with which he bought two airplanes and lived a pretty good life.”

Van Stry’s lawyers pointed to McCrea’s claims on his Kopimist Church site that he received enough donations to buy a private plane, and photos in which he “projects a life of luxury, including yacht trips in the English Bay of Vancouver and horse riding.” It suited their purpose to take these statements at face value.

On the other hand, there was no charge to download the books. Was there advertising on the Ebook.Bike site? — the Internet Archive snapshots I reviewed didn’t show any, although I just looked at the front page, which presumably would get the most hits. Did he get something in exchange for recommending the ebook-reading programs linked from his site? Was there user information collected at some step in this process which could be turned to commercial gain? Are there other ways to profit from a pirate site?

The inference that someone would only go to such effort for money is understandable, but users of social media have also witnessed people expend a great deal of energy in return for a sense of power, or to enjoy widespread public attention. Maybe McCrea made a lot of money. He definitely seemed to enjoy taunting the victims and critics of his filesharing sites.

LEGAL BILLS. Meanwhile, John Van Stry has shouldered heavy legal bills. Will he recover any of it through the court’s awards? That’s a good question.

At least he’s received some support from his “Bring ebook.bike to Justice” GoFundMe, where with the help of 397 donors he’s raised $31,547 of his $70,000 goal.

More than half the donations are anonymous, but the named donors include many indie writers — $500 from Craig Martelle (20BooksTo50K) — and even publishers — $250 from Suzan Tisdale (Glenfinnan Publishing, who was thanked by the Authors Guild for her own efforts against McCrea’s site, but whose name has since become more recognizable as one of the duo whose ethics complaints triggered RWA’s penalties against Courtney Milan.) 

WORTH THE PAIN. With the decision in, Van Stry is able to freely share his feelings about the case:

Mr. McCrea survived only because lawsuits are expensive. He knew this, hence his challenge ‘just sue me!’ He knew most authors can’t afford it. Well unfortunately for him, I could. I saw authors whom I’m a long time fan of complaining about the damage, I saw reflected in my own sales damage. I’ve been very successful as an author, I’m very thankful to all my fans, and all of the authors who have gone before me.

So I saw this as an opportunity to pay them back, to give something back to the writing community. To take down someone who was stealing, who was profiting from that theft. Someone who was so self-entitled that he was laughing at the rest of us and just challenging us to sue him while bragging about the money he was making.

Understand that I did NOT want to do this. But if not me, then who? If not now, then when? Sometimes, you just have to stand up for what is right. This lawsuit hurt me, considerably, and not just because of the money that came out of my pocket. Rarely did a day go by that I wasn’t thinking about it, and rarely did a week go by when I wasn’t having to deal with my attorneys. But it wasn’t just about me, it never was.

He has also made available for download three documents in which Judge Bryson explained his rulings:

These documents are all a matter of public record.

Another Would-be SFWA Rival

Craig Martelle, cofounder of the 20Booksto50k® Facebook group with 39,000 members, has launched a website for the Independent Alliance of Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors (IASFA) with the following Mission Statement:

To support the professional development of SFF authors through shared opportunities, camaraderie, and targeted philanthropy. To build an organization with a focus on bringing stories to an SFF loving readership through improved business practices.

To anyone who asks “Isn’t there already a group doing this?” Martelle is ready with an answer:

Why did I start this organization, buying a domain and building a web presence? For the simple reason that in my opinion, professional organizations were hurting their members more than helping them. My idea of a professional is one who sells stories, whether short or long, and that they can repeat that process. I wanted an organization that was focused on helping science fiction and fantasy authors reach more fans. Period. Since one of those didn’t exist, I started my own.

The 20Booksto50k® Facebook group is described as a “Safe place to discuss how to ethically make money as authors.” They run an annual event — this year’s 20Books Vegas Conference will be held in Las Vegas in November. Of interest is that among the first five guest speakers listed are three sff authors, Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, and David Weber.

Jon Del Arroz, who attended the past two 20Booksto50K conferences, publicized the new group in a YouTube video: “INSTANT REGRET: SFWA’s War On Indie Authors Creates New Rival Guild!” While reviewing Martelle’s message JDA said, “Craig’s being very cautious about not pointing fingers here,” a display of subtlety that went over JDA’s head given the title of his video. On the other hand, when Martelle says, “in my opinion, professional organizations were hurting their members more than helping them,” it’s not as if the sff field has many others.

Also, SFWA and 20Booksto50K have had some friction in the recent past. In 2019 Jonathan Brazee stirred up a hornets nest by calling on SFWA members in 20Booksto50K to support a slate of works for the Nebula Awards, for which he subsequently apologized. The intense criticism of the slate rankled Martelle, who said at the time: “It’s hard not take negative comments about 20Booksto50k® personally since I run that group, but taking a step back, we did nothing untoward. Indies read indies. We support each other by reading and buying each other’s stuff, often promoting it as well with our own hard-acquired email lists. The ignorance is appalling about what we do. I think ethically making money isn’t dirty and that’s part of the allusions.” 

At present the IASFA is not a nonprofit organization, as the ”Support the IASFA” page explains. It is controlled by Craig Martelle and funds intended for it will flow through his business LLC.

At present IASFA is completely privately funded, but that limits our reach. If you could make a donation, we can improve our engagement and provide more benefits for our author members to include an expanded reach to touch the lives of more readers.

Funds will be collected by Craig Martelle, LLC who will immediately transfer all donations to the IASFA.

And from the “Join IASFA” page:

The Indie Alliance may eventually become a 501(c)(3) charity (where donations are tax deductible) but that isn’t for right now. We want to make sure this is a viable alternative to other professional organizations. There will be no Indie Alliance awards, but there could be grants to help offset certain author-related costs to hopefully help the next great science fiction author get their legs beneath them.

Eventually, we hope to have a legal defense fund which is probably the most important thing that a professional organization can provide. Until then, we’ll settle for growing a science fiction and fantasy fan base and interdependent place for professionals to hang out and talk shop – mainly how to sell more books. Nothing other than that belongs in here. No drama. No distractions. Focus.

The internet has many communities where people trade information about markets and promote their books, and there’s more forming all the time. Talk is free. Will IASFA go to bat for writers victimized by copyright violations, raise issues with exploitive companies, or have tools to cope with Amazon’s next idea for squeezing indies?

Others have tried to found the anti-SFWA before. Richard Paolinelli started the “Science Fiction and Fantasy Creators Guild” — its last blog post was dated February 14, 2018, and they never evolved beyond a Facebook discussion group with 270 members (and one that is no longer very active, only 4 posts in the last month).

Lou Antonelli, Michael Burstein, and Brad Torgersen tried to start the Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling (SASS) and reported when they reached 19 dues-paying members in 2013. But there hadn’t been a new post on the SASS blog in six years before Antonelli recently published an appeal there to vote for him as a SFWA director-at-large in the current election.   

A lovely logo only takes you so far.

Pixel Scroll 5/24/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) NIXING BREXIT. In a letter to The Guardian, “John le Carré and Neil Gaiman join writers warning Brexit is ‘choosing to lose'”.

Dozens of writers have put their names to a letter to the Guardian that urges UK voters taking part in Thursday’s European parliament elections to use their franchise to support the European Union, “unless they know what they are choosing to lose, for themselves and everyone they know, and are happy with that”.

The authors, who also include Neil Gaiman, Nikesh Shukla, Kate Williams and Laurie Penny, go on to say: “It seems to us that the same question is facing every industry and every person in the UK: what will you choose to lose? Because we used to hear about advantages in Brexit. We used to hear about the bright future, the extra money, the opportunities. Now the advocates of Brexit just assure us that it won’t be as bad as the last world war.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode 96 of Scott Edelman’s podcast let you listen to him crunch into a crab cake sandwich with leading Aussie author Kaaron Warren.

Kaaron Warren

We met at the Freer Gallery, and then wandered over for lunch at the Capitol Hill branch of Hank’s Oyster Bar, which opened in 2012.

I first met Kaaron slightly less than 10 years ago, at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon, where her novel Slights was one of the inaugural titles from Angry Robot Books. The publisher even had a robot rolling around the launch party! (It was not angry, however.) She’s published many more novels and stories since then, with one novel, The Grief Hole, winning all three of Australia’s genre awards — the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Australian Shadows Award. Her most recent novel is Tide of Stone. She’s published seven short story collections, the most recent being A Primer to Kaaron Warren.

We discussed how her recent Rebecca reread totally changed her sympathies for its characters, the disturbing real-life crime related to the first time she ever saw The Shining, the catalyst that gave birth to her award-winning novel Tide of Stone, how she came up with new angles for tackling stories about such classic characters as Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein, the way flea market bric-a-brac has led to some of her best ideas, the only correct method for preparing fairy bread, her go-to karaoke song, and much, much more.

(3) TAKING A BITE OUT OF SONIC’S SCHEDULE. ComicsBeat explains why “Character design changes push SONIC THE HEDGEHOG movie release date to 2020”.

…The first trailer for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie definitely got people talking…just probably not the way the studio intended. Reaction to Sonic’s design—his muscular legs, his regularly-proportioned head, his teeth—was swift, loud, and overwhelmingly negative. The filmmakers heard the cries of the masses, and they responded with action, as director Jeff Fowler tweeted a few days after the trailer’s release that they would be working to tweak the design of the character…

(4) DRAGON RECOMMENDATIONS. Red Panda has created a “Dragon Awards 2019 Eligible Work” based on Renay’s Hugo recommendation’s spreadsheet. She says, “We’re trying to get folks to pay attention to the Dragon Awards to prevent them from becoming puppy awards by default. Here is a spreadsheet of eligible works – and people are welcome to add to it as long as works fit the Dragon award rules.”

(5) AFTERMATH. Cora Buhlert wrote a blog post about the Nebula Awards kerfuffle involving 20Booksto50K: “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Winners and a Post-mortem on the 20Booksto50K Issue”.

…Most of [Craig] Martelle’s post seems to be extolling the virtues of the 20Booksto50K group and the idea behind it which was developed by Martelle’s business partner and occasional collaborator Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, the basic idea behind 20Booksto50K is  is basically “write fast, publish fast and create a ‘minimum viable product’ in highly commercial genres”. For more information, you can also read their manifesto or watch videos of their conferences. They also have a Wiki with more background information here.

Now I don’t have a problem with either the 20Booksto50K group or their system. I don’t doubt that the group or their conferences help a lot of indie writers. And while their approach to writing and publishing isn’t mine, there are a nuggets of useful information in there.

Alas, the rest of the Martelle’s post engages in same tired “indie versus traditional publishing” rheotric that we’ve been hearing since 2010. “Traditional publishing is slow” – yes, it is, because their model is different, but that doesn’t make it bad. “Awards don’t matter, but whether stories resonate with readers does” – okay, so why are you so desperate to win an award then?

(6) ROTTEN TOMATOES REVAMP. The movie ratings site makes changes in the wake of their experience with people who lowballed Captain Marvel’s pre-release score: “We’re Introducing Verified Ratings and Reviews To Help You Make Your Viewing Decsions”.

In February we ditched our pre-release “Want to See” percentage in favor of a more straightforward Want to See tally (kind of like the “likes” you see on social media). We also removed the function that allowed users to write comments about a movie prior to seeing it. You can read about these changes here.

What’s next? Today, we’re excited to introduce new features to our Audience Score and user reviews with the addition of Verified Ratings and Reviews.

So, let’s get to it.

Rotten Tomatoes now features an Audience Score made up of ratings from users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie – we’re calling them “Verified Ratings.” We’re also tagging written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets to a movie as “Verified” reviews.

… The first Audience Score you see on a movie page – that’s it next to the popcorn bucket just to the right of the Tomatometer – will be the score made up of Verified Ratings. As with the current Audience Score, when the score is Fresh (that is, above 60%), you’ll see a red popcorn bucket; when it is Rotten (59% and below), the bucket will be green and tipped over (you can read more about that here). If you want to see a score that incorporates all included ratings – both verified and non-verified – simply click “more info” where you can toggle between the two….

(7) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson says “The trouble with streaming: It could fragment fandom”.

…All this is a reminder that genre tales now dominate the entertainment landscape. The people behind all these platforms are fighting to attract the attention of us, the SF, fantasy and horror fandom.

But they are also fighting for our wallets. And while is is technically possible for one household to receive all these services, it is unlikely that very many households could afford to.

Once, producers essentially had two ways of monetising their entertainment. They could charge for it – for movie tickets, videotapes or discs; or they could give it to us via free-to-air television and sell our eyeballs to advertisers.

Now, we have a new eco-system where the producers are charging us, not for individual works, but for whole bundles of content. So we can get the Netflix package, the HBO package or the Hulu package, but not everything….

What is this in contrast to? Sure, things are different than when all TV was free, however, not so different from periods when there were five or eight or ten printed prozines coming out that you could only get by subscription, unless you were lucky enough that your local library subscribed to some (never all) of them.

(8) KERR OBIT. British children’s book writer and illustrator Judith Kerr died May 22 aged 95. Cora Buhlert comments —

In spite of the title, her most famous work (at least in Germany) When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit is not genre, but about the Kerr family’s escape from the Nazis in the 1930s. The pink rabbit of the title was young Judith Kerr’s beloved toy, which she lost en route. But a lot of her children’s picture books are at least genre-adjacent and several feature SJW credentials. Besides, she was married to Nigel Kneale, British TV writer and creator of Professor Quatermass:

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher) and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. Producer and script editor. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during the era of the Fourth Doctor. He went to be one of the producers of Rould Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1946 Jeremy Treglown, 63. Author of Roald Dahl: A Biography and Roald Dahl: Collected Stories. Amateur actor who met his first wife while both were performing Romeo and Juliet at University. 
  • Born May 24, 1949 Jim Broadbent, 70. He played Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. He joined the cast of A Game of Thrones, playing a role of Archmaester Ebrose, in the seventh season. His genre credits include Time Bandits, BrazilSuperman IV: The Quest for PeaceThe BorrowersThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (well somebody had to be in it). 
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 67. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars. She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She  appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 66. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the  outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character.
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 59. Among his roles, I’ll single out as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy films, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, the ghosts of Edith’s Mother and Beatrice Sharpe in Crimson Peak, and the Amphibian Manin The Shape of Water. 
  • Born May 24, 1965 Michael Chabon, 54. Author of one of the great baseball novels ever, Summerland. Then there’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay which is the best look I know of at the comics industry during the Golden Age. And The Final Solution: A Story of Detection may be an awesome home to the Greatest Beekeeper Ever.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wondermark takes fan disappointment about Game of Throne’s final season in a hilarious new direction.

(11) REVISITING THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR. The highlights from February’s two-day conference on The Art of the Mimeograph at the University of Westminster include an appearance by fanhistorian Rob Hansen beginning around the 8:54 mark.

(12) OVERFLOWING LID. Alasdair Stuart says his Full Lid for May 24 2019 “takes a look at DJ Kirkbride and team’s excellent SF/crime/comedy comic series Errand Boys. I’ve also got a breakdown of the 2014 Godzilla in the first of two briefings in the run up to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There’s a look at the excellent documentary Knock Down The House and the one thing about its structure that bothered me. Finally, special guest Sarah Gailey drops by to do the Hugo Spotlight feature, which, this week, features me.”

…The creative team behind Errand Boys is a who’s who of people whose work I pick up, sight unseen. DJ Kirkbride and Adam P Knave are two of the best writers and editors in the business and Frank Cvetkovic is one of the best letterers. They’re joined by a raft of artists whose work is unfamiliar to me but is all massively impressive, kinetic and fun.

(13) RETRO REVIEWS. The link takes you to Evelyn C. Leeper’s Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Finalists and to her Retro Hugo Novel Reviews Part 1 and Part 2.

I am pretty sure this is the first time someone has been a finalist both in a fiction category and in an art category (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). It is also the first time a father and son appeared on the same ballot–well, sort of. Fritz Leiber, Jr., is a finalist for three works of fiction; Fritz Leiber, Sr., (the actor) appeared as Franz Liszt in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), a Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist.

(14) ALADDIN’S LAMP DOES NOT SHINE BRIGHTLY. NPR’s scott Tobias finds  “Aladdin to be A CGI World, Neither Whole Nor New”.

As Disney plunders its archives for live-action remakes of animated classics, the question of “Why?” continues to be less evident on the screen than it is on the company ledger. The one quiet exception was Pete’s Dragon, which succeeded because it had no fidelity to the second-rate slapstick and songcraft of the original, and could re-imagine the premise from the ground up. When the catalog titles get as massive as Aladdin, however, the mission becomes to replicate it as closely as possible, which inevitably leads to stilted facsimile. No matter how sophisticated CGI gets, the speed and fluidity of animation is hard to reproduce.

The new Aladdin mostly has the beat-for-beat quality of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, the current standard-bearer for pointlessness, but there are elements of it that really pop, even for being bizarre missteps. Foremost among them is Will Smith’s Genie, whose entire look is a Violet Beauregarde nightmare of bright blue and CGI-inflated swole, with a top-knot/goatee combination that suggests 10,000 years away from the fashion pages. Yet Smith is the only member of the cast who’s bothered to rethink the original character: He doesn’t bother to imitate Robin Williams’ manic schtick, but draws on his own ingratiating silliness and kid-friendly hip-hop flavor instead. If everyone else had followed suit, this Aladdin wouldn’t necessarily be any better, but at least it would be its own thing….

Chip Hitchcock notes: “My local paper wasn’t quite so harsh, but did give it just 2.5 stars.”

(15) EINSTEIN? NEVER HEARD OF HIM. BBC remembers “The man who made Einstein world-famous”.

It is hard to imagine a time when Albert Einstein’s name was not recognised around the world.

But even after he finished his theory of relativity in 1915, he was nearly unknown outside Germany – until British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington became involved.

Einstein’s ideas were trapped by the blockades of the Great War, and even more by the vicious nationalism that made “enemy” science unwelcome in the UK.

But Einstein, a socialist, and Eddington, a Quaker, both believed that science should transcend the divisions of the war.

It was their partnership that allowed relativity to leap the trenches and make Einstein one of the most famous people on the globe.

Einstein and Eddington did not meet during the war, or even send direct messages. Instead, a mutual friend in the neutral Netherlands decided to spread the new theory of relativity to Britain.

Einstein was very, very lucky that it was Eddington, the Plumian Professor at Cambridge and officer of the Royal Astronomical Society, who received that letter.

Not only did he understand the theory’s complicated mathematics, as a pacifist he was one of the few British scientists willing to even think about German science.

(16) FAKEBOOK. According to NPR, “Facebook Removed Nearly 3.4 Billion Fake Accounts In Last Six Months”. Over half a century ago, Clarke suggested what’s now become a truism: that the Internet would be a haven for porn. But he didn’t foresee the other abuses….

Facebook says it removed 3.39 billion fake accounts from October to March. That’s twice the number of fraudulent accounts deleted in the previous six-month period.

In the company’s latest Community Standards Enforcement Report, released Thursday, Facebook said nearly all of the fake accounts were caught by artificial intelligence and more human monitoring. They also attributed the skyrocketing number to “automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.”

The fake accounts are roughly a billion more than the 2.4 billion actual people on Facebook worldwide, according to the company’s own count.

(17) SPIKING THE CANON. James Davis Nicoll diagnoses the waning popularity of once-beloved works in “The Sad But Inevitable Trend Toward Forgotten SF” at Tor.com.

Love your beloved classics now—because even now, few people read them, for the most part, and fewer still love them. In a century, they’ll probably be forgotten by all but a few eccentrics.

If it makes you feel any better, all fiction, even the books people love and rush to buy in droves, is subject to entropy. Consider, for example, the bestselling fiction novels of the week I was born, which was not so long ago. I’ve bolded the ones my local library currently has in stock.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, JJ,. Mike Kennedy Cat Eldridge, Standback, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Hansen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/20/19 My name Is Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire. I Own A Pixel And A Scroll

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. You know what they say about the love of money. Patch O’Furr’s “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 1)” begins a three-part series at Dogpatch Press.

Fandom roots were growing independently. Influential fans of these times included Fred Patten, who helped import anime to America, founding a fandom for it, mingling it with science fiction fans and their conventions. Anime was a breath of fresh air with robots, monsters, science fiction and serious adult stories. Patten was also a bridge for funny animal artists with self-published APA’s and zines. In the early 80’s, Steve Gallaci put furries in military science fiction illustration that energized these artists.

At conventions, there was a certain social split among artists and fans. Serious-minded artists wanted to launch respectable careers, while orbiting ones hoped to ride along. But others looked to themselves as sources for fandom for its own sake — and respectability to outsiders wasn’t the main point. While other fandoms took different paths, this one branched off towards a subculture.

At 1980’s sci-fi conventions like Baycon in the San Francisco Bay area, the split was felt with separate room parties (separated by elitism or even cliquish mocking at “skunkfvckers”). It eventually spun off into the first furry con, ConFurence 0 in 1989, a test put together by fans in Southern California. (Mark Merlino, cofounder of Confurence, told me about the fan split in a long email exchange in 2017.) Others spun off from Chicago (Duckon), Philadelphia (Philcon) and elsewhere when furry fans wanted cons of their own….

Tomorrow, Part 2 will look more at how fandom grows with free expression, its own cottage industry and independent media, while making a certain fandom identity. Then Part 3 will look at how fandom can work like counterculture (or even punk) and how commercialism creeps in and complicates it.

(2) X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS. The late Len Wein gets a lot of love in the video that launches this series – “The History of the X-Men Part 1.”

Starting today through the end of May, Marvel will release the four-episode series online to celebrate the X-Men series that changed the Marvel Universe forever: Giant-Size X-Men, 1991’s X-Men #1, Age of Apocalypse, and New X-Men. Sponsored by this summer’s blockbuster HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X series, these new retrospectives will take both longtime and new X-Men fans back to some of the greatest moments in the Marvel Universe, setting the scene for the most important story in the history of mutantkind.

Each of these shorts will feature voices from Marvel’s past and present – including legendary creators like Adam Kubert, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jonathan Hickman, Al Ewing and more – as they look back and share their thoughts (and inside looks) into the most influential moments that redefined and reignited the X-Men, leading to bold new directions that drew in generations of fans around the world.

X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Series Release Schedule:  5/20 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 1: Giant-Size X-Men (1975);   5/22 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: X-Men #1 (1991);  5/24 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: Age of Apocalypse (1995);  5/28 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: New X-Men (2001)

(3) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Ingvar (of Trigger Snowflake fame) livetweeted his tour of the Sweden Solar System, starting near the Sun and ending right by Mars, “Using just feet and public transport, it takes about three hours to go from the Sun to Mars.” The thread starts here.

(4) PINNACLE OF SFF. The winners of the 2019 Colorado Book Awards were announced on May 18. (Via Locus Online.)

  • Juvenile Literature
    Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Owl Hollow Press)
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
    While Gods Sleep by L. D. Colter (Tam Lin Publishing)

(5) HIGHER AND HIGHER. Did you know that Godzilla suffers from inflation? Bloody Disgusting has a lovely diagram: “Artist’s Epic Godzilla Size Chart Highlights How Much the King of the Monsters Has Grown Over the Years”.

…Artist Noger Chen put together this epic size chart in advance of King of the Monsters, putting every single live-action Godzilla (from 1954-2019) side by side, in order of height.

Godzilla measured just 50m tall when he first debuted on the scene, and here in 2019, he’s grown to a staggering 119.8m – the largest Godzilla, in front of Shin Godzilla, ever on screen!

(6) DOWN THE RIVER. Casting choices are named for a new sff movie in “Cannes: Anne Heche, Thomas Jane Join Sci-Fi Film ‘Salvage'” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Salvage will tell the story of two couples fighting to survive on a houseboat as it moves down river in a post-apocalyptic America: Everyone is out for their own survival, nothing is as it was and brutality is the new normal. Each of the characters discover sides of themselves they never knew existed, some valiant and some violent.

The film also boasts an original score composed by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.

(7) CROWDSOURCED STAFFING. [Item by Dann]. Grimdark Magazine is losing their cover artist. They are asking fans who are subscribed to their Patreon to help them select their next cover artist.

Help us shortlist a new GdM cover artist

Right-o grimdark horde! I need your input to decide upon a shortlist for a new cover artist to replace our outgoing legend Jason Deem.

When I put out the word for a new artist we got a very tall pile of entries–fifty or sixty or so. I had to cut most of them either for their art not being aligned with what I want on our covers, or their rates being a bit too far out of budget, and got the list down to four. I’d love to get your opinion on them.

The artists are:

(8) DC SAYS STOP WONDERING. After the comic debuted a lawyer letter arrived —“DC Sends Cease And Desist Demand Over Wonder Woman AOC Cover”Bleeding Cool has the story.

This week, Devil’s Due published the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & The Freedom Force: New Party, Who Dis? comic book. A number of comic book retailers ran exclusive retailer covers, including this one for NY Collector Cave by Carla Cohen which Bleeding Cool posted a couple of weeks ago. In which AOC bears a stunning resemblance to Wonder Woman. Too stunning it seems for DC Comics whose legal team, after reading the article on Bleeding Cool (Warner Bros IP traffic spiked in the days after we posted that article), sent a cease-and-desist notice to DEvil’s Due and the NY Collector Cave demanded that the comic in question not be distributed, but recalled and returned or destroyed.

(9) PUSHING THE NARRATIVE. Is Grumpy Cat dead, or already reincarnated as Craig Martelle? Camestros Felapton has a few quotes from the 20BooksTo50K leader that raise the possibility: “Wrapping up the LMBPN Kerfuffle and the Nebulas”. Martelle told his FB group —

…Six indies nominated for Nebula awards last night and zero indie winners. What matters most is which stories resonate best with the readers and which ones will lead to new stories bringing more readers on board. Who is going to be the most professional of the authors? Out of our six finalists? Only one is not a full-time author and that is by choice.

I am not talking down about any winners or any other authors – being a full-time writer comes with great risk….

Camestros follows up with some earthy opinions of his own.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics who created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-ie novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 91. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. It’s a cat who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series. She also did some genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 73. In The Witches of Eastwick which is her main genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she voiced herself in the “The Secret of Shark Island” of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1960 John Billingsley, 59. Phlox on Enterprise, a series I really liked despite the fact it seems to have many detractors. His first genre role was in A Man from Earth as Mr. Rothman, a film in which the scriptwriter riffed off the immortality themes from the “Requiem for Methuselah” episode he did for Trek. He’d later reprise that role in The Man from Earth: Holocene. He’s had one-off appearances on The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Duck Dodgers, Twin Peaks, Lucifer and The Orville. He had a recurring role on Stitchers as Mitchell Blair. 
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 58. Best known role is Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1992 Jack Gleeson, 27. Joffrey Baratheon on the just concluded Game of Thrones. Earlier genre roles are all nameless but are Reign of Fire, Batman Begins and Shrooms, the latter being an Irish horror film. 

(11) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart says The Full Lid for May 17 includes a visit to the UK’s phenomenally good National Video Game Museum, a review of Vylar Kaftan’s excellent new novella and a look at Directive, a short run podcast with endless tricks up its sleeve. The Hugo Spotlight this week is Foz Meadows. Here’s an excerpt about the museum —

…Some of them are demos or in beta testing like Lightmatter, which I spent a lot of time with. You’re visiting a science facility built into a mountain when the science becomes Science. Guided out by the grumpy Cave Johnson-alike whose project it is, you have to manipulate your surroundings to stay in the light. Because every shadow will kill you. It’s got that Portal ‘feral science’ feel to it mixed with a great, monochrome graphic palette that throws stark light and shadow everywhere. Once this is done, I’m going to pick it up.

So that’s a game I would never have known existed. That’s still being built. And you can play for free in a museum….

(12) AZAD SFF REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “Language Has Magic In ‘The Candle And The Flame'”.

A fantastical silk road city comes to life in Nafiza Azad’s richly detailed debut novel, The Candle and the Flame.

Fatima works as a messenger in the melting pot of Noor, a bustling desert city where humans and djinn live side by side. Once Noor was only a human city, but an attack by a chaotic tribe of djinn called the Shayateen wiped out the entire population — all except for Fatima and her adoptive sister and grandmother. After the massacre, a new maharajah took charge of Noor and turned to the Ifrit, powerful djinn who strive to keep order in the world, to help drive out the Shayateen and keep the city safe, for its new human and Ifrit inhabitants alike.

(13) AVOID BLOGGER BURNOUT. Fine advice from The Little Red Reviewer: “Dear Book Bloggers, I’m worried about you”

Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently….

(14) BEFORE LIGO. NPR looks at a “Billion-Dollar Gamble: How A ‘Singular Hero’ Helped Start A New Field In Physics”.

Imagine spending 40 years and more than a billion dollars on a gamble.

That’s what one U.S. government science agency did. It’s now paying off big time, with new discoveries about black holes and exotic neutron stars coming almost every week.

And while three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for the work that made this possible, one of them says the real hero is a former National Science Foundation staffer named Rich Isaacson, who saw a chance to cultivate some stunning research and grabbed it.

“The thing that Rich Isaacson did was such a miracle,” says Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 2017 Nobel laureates. “I think he’s the hero. He’s a singular hero. We just don’t have a good way of recognizing people like that. Rich was in a singular place fighting a singular war that nobody else could have fought.”

Without him, Weiss says, “we would’ve been killed dead on virtually every topic.” He and his fellow laureate Kip Thorne recently donated money to create a brand-new American Physical Society award in Isaacson’s honor.

(15) WESTEROS’ FOURTH ESTATE. Esquire’s Gabrielle Bruney suspects a bunch of writers are going to have to get real jobs now that the show’s ended: “Game of Thrones Created a Vast Media Ecosystem. We Talked to the People at Its Center.”

…”I think that when the show first started, it was the book reader base that really got it going,” said David “Razor” Harris, editor of Thrones news, recap, and discussion website Winter is Coming.

“This is a show that both debuted and ran in an era where live-tweeting, after episode breakdowns, and podcasts are the norm,” said Myles McNutt, a media studies expert and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, who reviews the show for The AV Club. Twitter was barely five years old when the program debuted; Instagram would make its appearance six months after Thrones did. Earlier generations of web-savvy fans had been consigned to wikis and message boards, corners of the internet the uninitiated found easy to overlook. But instead, Thrones content was “popping up in your YouTube related videos, on the the Apple front page of top podcasts,” said McNutt.

“It sort of feels like it’s part of your feeds and your daily existence online,” he continued. “I do think there’s ubiquity to it that has encouraged people to jump onboard that might not have otherwise.”

(16) SIREN SONG. Air New Zealand encourages George R.R. Martin to finish the books — after flying to the country on one of their planes.

(17) NOT THIS FUTURE? BBC’s Jane Wakefield analyzes “The Google city that has angered Toronto”. Key quote vs. genre: “The smart city model is all about hype. They believe that if we have enough data we can solve all our problems, and we need to be skeptical about those claims.”

It was meant to be a vision of how we will all live in future – a smart city built from the internet up – offering citizens the chance to experience the very latest technology.

That would include autonomous cars, innovative ways to collect rubbish and shared spaces for communities to come together in new ways.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, had acquired disused land in Toronto, Canada for this bold urban experiment, which it hoped would become a model for other cities around the world.

The fact that it would be collecting a lot of data from sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some.

Now many are asking whether a private firm should take charge of urban improvement at all….

(18) NOT SO FAST! Indications that another much-touted idea doesn’t work to spec — “Warning over using augmented reality in precision tasks”.

People who use augmented reality headsets to complete complex tasks fare worse than those with no high-tech help, a small study suggests.

In addition, those fitted with headsets over-estimate how well they perform.

The discovery might limit the usefulness of augmented reality, which has been finding a role in medical and engineering jobs.

The problem arose because of the way that human eyes focused, researchers said.

(19) FACING THE FUTURE. “Hershey’s Tries to Woo the Youths With Emojis”MyRecipes tells how.

…Are the emojis just an attempt to sell more chocolate to youths? Probably. But they’re also designed to do the one thing that advertisers and brand managers speaking at industry conferences love most: starting a conversation. The press release states that the selected emojis were chosen because they “feature meanings that would help to spark a conversation.” The idea that chocolate could get people talking was based on market research which concluded that 87% of kids would want to share chocolate that features emojis with others.

(20) WESTWORLD SADDLES UP AGAIN. The third season trailer has dropped — Westworld III – HBO 2020.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Patch O’Furr, Andrew Porter, Dann, Alasdair Stuart, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Annie Bellet Criticizes 20Booksto50K Slate and Members of the Group Respond

Annie Bellet says she was livid when she read about “The Nebulas & 20booksto50, not-a-nudge-nudge-slate” on Camestros Felapton.

She’s brought to bear on this 2019 Nebulas slate her experience with the Sad/Rabid Puppies Hugo slates of 2015, when she took her Hugo-nominated story out of contention (see “Two Hugo Nominees Withdraw Their Stories” from April 2015). Twitter thread starts here.

She also showed the characteristics that distinguished this slate from a mere recommendation list.

Marko Kloos was the other 2015 Hugo nominee named in the story linked above, and he added his support today:

Marshall Ryan Maresca commented on the differences between authors asking for consideration and a slate.

People involved with 20Booksto50K, the creator of the slate, and the author of one of the listed works, have also weighed in.

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, co-author with R.R. Virdi of “Messenger,” a work on the list that is now a Nebula finalist, had this to say:

The disproportionate influence of a slate may also be due to the small numbers of nominations needed to make the Nebula ballot, according to this exchange:

Whether something is a recommendation list or a slate is a question:

Bellet said this about recognizing the difference between slates and recommendations:

Incidentally, there is support for Wijeratne’s nominated story.

Michael Cooper responded on Facebook by essentially arguing no one can show anybody was influenced by the list:

Recently the Nebula Award finalists were announced, and there’s been some flak because of the number of independent authors on the ballot.

Honestly, so far as I’m concerned, I don’t think there are enough.

I think that the ratio of indies to trad pubs on the ballot is backwards from what it should be. Why do I think this? Well…sales. Indies sell more books than traditionally published authors by a wide margin. Granted, this is as a whole and there are individual trad pub authors who do very well, but if you look at the top SF authors on Amazon, the list is dominated by indies.

…If you’re a SF reader, then you probably know this statement: Correlation does not equal causation. Just because a list of books to vote for was posted in the 20Books FB group, does not meant that that list got the indies who are on the ballot up there. It’s not a smoking gun.

To say that the indie authors in SWFA (the organization that produces the Nebula awards) voted as a bloc because of that list is to call into question the character of all those people and to say that they did not evaluate the books they voted for.

That sort of statement is: irrational, a baseless accusation, and irresponsible. Now, I know that a lot of people didn’t come out and *say* that members of the 20books FB group voted as a bloc, but they implied it. For the sake of intellectual honesty, they should make it clear that they did not imply such a thing, and that to the best of their knowledge, every SFWA member that nominated a book or story, did so after careful consideration and review.

Because they have no evidence to the contrary (that they’ve presented, at least).

Lastly, to say that because a person is a member of an FB group means that they adhere to all the core tenets of that group is frankly stupid and lazy thinking. To then denigrate them because you don’t like an aspect of a group in which they are members is the sort of thinking that belies a lack of clear logic and reasoning.

Craig Martelle, who runs the 20Booksto50K Facebook group, added a comment on Cooper’s post:

It’s hard not take negative comments about 20Booksto50k® personally since I run that group, but taking a step back, we did nothing untoward. Indies read indies. We support each other by reading and buying each other’s stuff, often promoting it as well with our own hard-acquired email lists. The ignorance is appalling about what we do. I think ethically making money isn’t dirty and that’s part of the allusions. People contact me if they find a typo in one of my books – I fix them and reupload. The books with the most typos are my trad pub books. Trad does not necessarily equal higher quality. I think my latest books are as high in the quality department as any trad book out there. But I digress – this isn’t about me. It’s about a system that promotes ebooks that cost more than a hardback. It’s about the old guard who are slowly changing yet having a hard time giving ground. It’s about the industry of middle men who stand to lose their jobs from the indie revolution. Of course they don’t want to change. I can’t begrudge them a long career that ends on a whimper. But adapt and overcome. That’s what has made indies a force to be reckoned with. I demonstrate that with The Expanding Universe anthologies, now a two-time Nebula finalist publication. I support indies taking charge of their own careers through 20Books. I support all authors taking responsibility for their career decisions. I don’t support those who need to denigrate others. It won’t make them feel better and it definitely won’t stop the indie train. That baby is already well down the tracks and picking up speed.

Martelle also waved the threat of a SLAPP suit against offenders:

We simply asked people to read our stuff with their limited time because full-time indie authors are busy as hell. I’m watching the blogs and stuff. If anyone crosses the line into libel, I’ll drop a C&D on them and then follow with a lawsuit. As they say, put your money where your mouth is. I’m willing to because I know for a fact that we didn’t do a slate. Let’s see how the keyboard warriors respond to real world consequences.

Jonathan Brazee continues to claim SFWA itself okayed the list:

I didn’t respond to any of the blogs or Reddit, but just as an aside, the indie FB list was cleared with the SFWA staff before it was ever posted.

I have asked Brazee for the name of the person he spoke to. Who knows what really happened anyway? If somebody asked me “How about if I put up a reading list” I wouldn’t think anything of it, unless I knew that person was the representative of a large group, and was going to preface his list with an encouragement for the group to nominate those works for the Nebula Award.

J A Sutherland has added perspective in this Twitter thread: