Wikipedia, Fandom Waving Goodbye?

Readers quickly answered Fred Pohl’s plea for help fixing Wikipedia’s article about opera singer Toti dal Monte:

…I saw [her] performance in 1945, and I’m absolutely positive of the date because, although I was in Italy before that, it was 1945 before I could wander around Naples on my own. But I looked up Toti in the Wikipedia the other day, and it says flatly that she retired in 1943.

So what do I do about that gross error?

They answered so quickly, in fact, I imagined fans screaming “Wait, Fred, no-o-o-o-o!” at their computer screens as they hurried to save him before he innocently ran afoul of Wikipedia policies and suffered some rude remarks by Wikipedia’s vigilante editors.

For there’s disappointment in store for anyone who naïvely thinks he will be allowed to add facts to “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” simply because he personally witnessed them occur.  Wikipedia policy sharply curtails the use of primary sources, bluntly commanding: “Do not add unsourced material from your personal experience, because that would make Wikipedia a primary source of that material.”

Stop and think for a moment. Fans took it for granted that even the testimony of Fred Pohl, subject of his own Wikipedia article, and editor of the Hugo-winning prozine If, subject of another Wikipedia featured article, would be treated as having no credibility. I find it remarkable to see so many science fiction fans passively accepting – enabling – this silly state of affairs.

And no, Fred could not satisfy the policy by citing his blog as the source because that would violate a different policy.

I didn’t always know this. I found out when John King Tarpinian wrote an eyewitness account of Carla Laemmle’s 100th birthday event and I added the information to her Wikipedia article, citing my blog. Here’s what I added:

On October 20, 2009, she celebrated her 100th birthday with a guestlist which included Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Sara Karloff and Ron Chaney.

Sometime later I revisited my addition and found it changed to “[citation needed].” An editor going by the handle “DreamGuy” had eliminated the cited link to File 770. When questioned, he pointed out that blogs do not meet the criteria of WP:RS policy for reliable sources, and added this shot:

It’s just some blog with no history of expertise or reliability. If that page can be used as a source, then any page on the Internet by anyone could be, and that’s not how an encyclopedia works.

Yes, the internet never stops proving how good manners suffer when people are allowed to work anonymously. Though even I had to laugh at DreamGuy’s final fling of Wiki hypocrisy — he left my line untouched, deleting only my citation. Yes, the source was too unreliable for Wikipedia to mention, but he kept the information the source provided!

How ironic is it that the Internet’s leading online encylopedia privileges the printed page above anything else? Why can’t Wikipedia’s corps of editors learn enough about their fields to recognize credible sources when they see them? Obviously, publishing house editorial staffs have had to learn those skills.

Wikipedia is also plagued with “editors” who get their rocks off deleting other people’s contributions. Within the past week a Wikipedia editor has been gunning down entries for America’s most famous and historic science fiction clubs.

Articles about the Northwest Science Fiction Society of Seattle and the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society have recently been deleted, the former by request of an editor whose handle is RadioFan, the latter by request of RHaworth.

A list at the WikiProject Science Fiction page shows RadioFan also wants to delete entries for the Bay Area Science Fiction Association, Orange County Science Fiction Club, Ottawa Science Fiction Society.

While I was at it I checked the entries for several other clubs and found RadioFan has also recommended deletion of the articles for LASFS and NESFA.

It’s not as though fandom needs acknowledgement by the Wikipedia. What offends me is how easily some jackass can vandalize all the work people have done on these entries over the years.

Don’t let the vast dimensions of the Wikipedia project blur your understanding of what it is – a social milieu that’s actually quite similar to science fiction fandom with both the good and bad parts, the bad including the familiar dominance games, passive-aggressive behavior, and people at odds with each other. The Wikipedia is just a very bad clubzine, where quality is sacrificed because it is a battleground for rival members, driving off potential contributors, and leading participants to problem-solve by enacting rules that blindly cause as many problems as they suppress.

The Newest New Worlds

Rob Hansen continues to do impressive work in bringing Britain’s historic fanzine Novae Terrae to the internet.

He recently posted issues 10 and 11, which were published after formation of the Science Fiction Association at the Leeds convention of 1937, when the zine become the SFA’s official organ.

Hansen has also just replaced the first five issues with amended versions that incorporate corrections noted by Keith Freeman.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Overton Helps Save Arlington Planetarium

The David M. Brown Planetarium in Arlington, Virginia, faced with closure after 40 years of service due to budget cuts, has been saved after the community rallied to raise $400,000 needed to keep it open.

Kathi Overton contributed her services to produce a video “Saving Arlington’s Planetarium: Our Story” in support of the campaign, now posted on the Save the Arlington Planetarium website.  Overton wrote on Facebook, “I’m not particularly wealthy, so I can’t donate a lot of money, but I thought — hey, I can make a video about it! So I cobbled together a short video to raise awareness about the issue and some people who are trying to fix it. Just say yes to science education!”

Then today, February 25, the Arlington Sun-Gazette reported that Superintendent Patrick Murphy has abandoned plans to shutter the David M. Brown Planetarium, and has included funding in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal to aid refurbishment of the 45-year-old facility:

The announcement was a victory for a group of civic activists who rallied to save the planetarium after Murphy last year proposed shutting it down. That group appears on target to raise $400,000 by summer, part of an agreement with the school system to keep the planetarium alive. The group’s Web site says it has raised just under $290,000 to date. “Fund-raising has been extremely successful,” Murphy told School Board members. “We’ll be able to move forward here with a renovation.”

NYRSF Readings for 3/6

Pan Morigan and Andrea Hairston.

Pan Morigan and Andrea Hairston are featured at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings on March 6, 2011.

Andrea Hairston‘s first novel, Mindscape, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and was shortlisted for the Phillip K Dick Award and the Tiptree Award. Her short story “Griots of the Galaxy” appears in So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Visions of the Future, an anthology edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan. In March 2011 she will receive the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts Distinguished Scholarship Award for distinguished contributions to the scholarship and criticism of the fantastic.

Pan Morigan is an award-winning vocalist, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. Click on the link to her Web site to learn more about her latest CD, Wild Blue.

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Jim Freund for the story.]

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Dr. Demento Coming to Renovation

Dr. Demento

Dr. Demento will be participate in Renovation’s opening night celebrations on Wednesday, August 17.

His appearance will form part of Music Night, a festival of music and science fiction that will also feature the band Tricky Pixie, and a performance of Godson, a musical with lyrics written by Roger Zelazny.

The full press release follows the jump.

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More Steampunk from Book View Cafe

[From the press release:] In Shadow Conspiracy II, Book View Café serves up eleven brand new tales of adventure and intrigue in the age of steam. BVC authors offer eleven different scenarios based on the Ada Lovelace/Charles Babbage premise introduced in the first collection. The soul of a poet who would be king continues to seek immortality. Will it find a home, and if so, will that home be flesh or steel? 
Shadow Conspiracy II has all the gadgets, adventure and romance of the steampunk promise with an added bonus: the volume includes a story from the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award-winning C.L. Anderson. Campbell Award nominee Katharine Eliska Kimbriel and World Fantasy Award nominee Judith Tarr have also donated stories. 
Shadow Conspiracy II is available in the Kindle store ($4.99), or in multiple formats at the publisher’s website ($4.99).

Following Suit

Solomon’s wisdom is legendary because he settled a case by threatening to cut a baby in half. The wisdom of Virginia conrunning fans is not legendary: they actually have cut the baby in half.

A dispute between SheVaCon’s board members resulted in Keith Stanley and others filing a lawsuit against Themecon SF and F Inc. in May 2010 alleging mismanagement and a lack of fiscal transparency.

The litigants will hold rival conventions in Roanoke over the next two weekends – the breakaway group running Mysticon, February 25-27, featuring “scream queen” Brinke Stevens, artist Randy Asplund and writer David Gerrold, and the corporation hosting SheVaCon, March 4-6, offering model and actress Virginia Hey, artist Matt Busch and author Peter Beagle.

According to Virginia state records, Themecon SF and F Inc. is SheVaCon’s parent company.

The breakaway group staked its own claim to the identity by creating and registering SheVaCon Inc. with the state. Themecon countered the lawsuit by registering its right to the convention’s name, SheVaCon, as a federal trademark.

Since then, Themecon officer and SheVaCon chair Lynn Bither has posted a statement on her con’s website announcing a resolution:

Themecon SF and F, Inc. (the creator and organizer of the SheVaCon conventions since 1993) and SheVaCon, Inc. (dba Mysticon) have reached a resolution relating to the issue of the use of the SheVaCon name.

While both parties feel their claims have merit, in light of considerable amounts of time, energy, and money that litigation would entail for both companies, it has been determined that litigation would undermine the goals of both companies to provide the community with a quality science fiction and fantasy convention this year, and perhaps years to come. Therefore, SheVaCon, Inc. will change its name to Mysticon, Inc. and it’s convention will be called Mysticon. Themecon’s annual convention will continue to be called SheVaCon.

Whether this is a partial or full resolution is not yet known, for the suit remains pending in Roanoke County Court, where public records show activity as recently as December.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]