Pixel Scroll 11/12/16 Like A Scroll On A Wire; Like A Pixel In A Midnight Choir

(1) ROBOTIC PREDICTION OR CAMPAIGN PROMISE? “Meet Sofia, the Humanoid Robot That Looks, Thinks and Talks Like a Human”.

Right now, artificially intelligent robots are part of the workforce, from hotel butlers to factory workers. But this is just the beginning.

According to Ben Goertzel, AI researcher and entrepreneur who spoke at the Web Summit in Lisbon this week, intelligent robots in human-like forms will surpass human intelligence and help free the human race of work. They will also, he says, start fixing problems like hunger, poverty and even help humans beat death by curing us of all disease. Artificially intelligent robots will help usher in a new utopian era never before seen in the history of the human race, he claims.

“The human condition is deeply problematic,” says Goertzel. “But as super-human intelligent AIs become one billion-times smarter than humans, they will help us solve the world’s biggest problems. Resources will be plentiful for all humans, work will be unnecessary and we will be forced to accept a universal basic income. All the status hierarchies will disappear and humans will be free from work and be able move on up to a more meaningful existence.”

(2) FAN FICTION. In an article called Full-body reading” on the website Aeon (aeon.co), University of Toronto English lecturer Anna Wilson talks about how her dissertation on medieval mystic Margery Kempe inspired her to deepen her appreciation of fan fiction and make her a more committed lesbian.

Fanfiction makes its source texts richer for its loving readers. It amplifies allusions and hidden currents, pulls out notes of characterisation and subtleties of plot, and spends time with them. After reading fanfiction, I return to texts I love with a new eye – sometimes a more critical one. For example, I read hundreds of stories embroidering the relationship between the Harry Potter characters Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, which – fanfiction writers suggested – was the real reason Sirius’s family had thrown him out. Thanks to fanfiction, I was wondering ‘Where are all the gay people at Hogwarts?’ long before J K Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay (but his first crush was an evil wizard, and he apparently never loved again – thanks, JK).

Fanfiction can fill gaps in the world of the story, or tease out elements forbidden or unspeakable in the original text and bring them to the surface. These might be erotic; Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) began life as a hugely popular erotic fanfiction of the Twilight series that reimagined its characters Bella and Edward in an office BDSM setting. E L James brought out an element of Twilight that many readers found appealing – the erotic power dynamics between Edward and Bella – and rewrote those dynamics for a commercial audience. Another example is slash fiction – fanfiction that imagines a gay romance into a straight narrative, like those Remus/Sirius stories I binged on (the name ‘slash’ comes from the /).

Slash is particularly powerful for me as a queer woman because it subverts some fundamental assumptions in media narratives about who is watching, and what they want. When I read slash, I feel recognised and loved as a reader in a way I almost never do when I watch TV. In fact, fanfiction gave me something I’d been craving; it was literature for me. Though I’ve always loved science fiction, I felt obscurely unwanted by books in which the female characters were unsatisfying and marginalised: women are barely imagined as part of the science fiction audience, let alone catered to. By the same token, romance novels (one of the few genres that almost exclusively caters to women) were overwhelmingly heterosexual, with male and female characters I found boring and unrelatable, moving through prescribed motions that always ended with marriage and babies. Reading romance novels felt like forcing myself into a too-tight corset: reading fanfiction was like taking a deep breath.

(3) INDIVIDUAL PROTESTS. Two comics creators will quit attending shows in states that voted for Trump reports Bleeding Cool — “George Perez To Fulfill Current Commitments, Then Stop Attending Shows In Trump States”

Yesterday, Humberto Ramos, the Mexican comic book creator, currently topping the charts with Champions #1 for Marvel declared that he had chosen not to attend comic book shows in the US, in states that had voted to elect President-Elect Trump.

He was, today, joined in that by American creator George Pérez, co-creator of the New Teen Titans, also joined that number.

(4) SEFTON OBIT CORRECTION. While other details in the November 10 Pixel Scroll about the late Amelia (Amy) Sefton were correct, I was mistaken in identifying her as working for Tor. That is a different Amy Sefton. Thanks to Andrew Porter for the correction.


  • November 12, 1982Creepshow opens in theaters nationwide.

(6) NEXT AT KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will present John Langan and Matthew Kressel, on Wednesday, November 16, beginning at 7p.m. in New York’s KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

John Langan

John Langan is author of two novels, The Fisherman and House of Windows.  He’s also published two collections, The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters.  With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters.  He is one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards and he currently reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.

New and forthcoming are stories in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki.  In February of 2017, his third collection of stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

John Langan lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and teaches classes in creative writing and Gothic literature at SUNY New Paltz.  With his younger son, he’s studying for his black belt in Tang Soo Do.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has been twice nominated for a Nebula Award and has or will soon appear in such markets as Lightspeed, Nightmare, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9.com, Apex Magazine, Interzone, and the anthologies Cyber World, After, Naked City, The People of the Book.

From 2003-2010 he published and edited Sybil’s Garage, an acclaimed SF magazine. He also published the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities and for his publishing work, received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Special Award Non-Professional. He co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series alongside Ellen Datlow. When not writing fiction he codes software for companies large and small, studies Yiddish (Nu?), and recites Blade Runner in its entirety from memory.

(7) CROSSOVER SEASON. The CW has released a promo for upcoming DC crossover between Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, a sequence of episodes that begins November 28.

During a press event earlier this week, executive producer Marc Guggenheim offered up a few details on the crossover, which will actually begin at the end of an episode of Supergirl as Kara is enlisted by Barry (Grant Gustin) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) to help battle the threat of the extraterrestrial Dominators.

“Some people call it a four-way crossover because it involves four shows; my ulcer requires me to call it a three-part crossover,” states Guggenheim explains. “The story that’s being told has a beginning, middle, and end: a beginning in Flash, a middle in Arrow, and an end in Legends.


(8) BRING OUT YOUR UNDEAD. Fox has ordered a pilot for a drama series based on bestselling vampire novel The Passage.

Sink your teeth into this news, vampire fans: Fox is adapting the popular book trilogy The Passage into a drama series.

The network has ordered a pilot for a TV adaptation of Justin Cronin’s book series, per our sister site Deadline. Friday Night Lights writer Liz Heldens will pen the pilot, with Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves attached to direct.

The 2010 novel The Passage, a New York Times bestseller, envisions a post-apocalyptic future where virus-infected vampires roam the earth, with human colonies banding together to survive. (That book was followed by 2012’s The Twelve and this year’s The City of Mirrors.) Fox bought the film rights to The Passage before it was even published, and a Twilight-like film series was planned for years, but now they’re opting to bring it to the small screen.

(9) MUSEUM GETS TAKEI COLLECTION. George Takei is giving 70 years of his belongings to a museum. The LA Times gives you a viewing.

The donation itself was announced in September.

Actor and activist George Takei is donating a trove of art and artifacts from his life and career to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

The museum announced the gift Wednesday and said the collection will be featured in an exhibition next year. “New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei” is set to open March 12, 2017.

Takei’s collection includes photos, sculptures, scripts and other memorabilia from his “Star Trek” days, as well as his run for Los Angeles City Council in 1973 and the Olympic torch he carried ahead of the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

(10) MR. SCI-FI IS BACK. Sci-Fi Writer-Director-Producer Marc Zicree talks about politics in science fiction, as relates to Trump, alternate worlds with different Presidents, how science fiction reaches across all political beliefs, and more.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

102 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/12/16 Like A Scroll On A Wire; Like A Pixel In A Midnight Choir

  1. Mark: In case anyone doesn’t have the 2016 recs thread tickied

    Mike has kindly given us a permalink at the top of every File770 page:
    2016 Recommended SF/F Page

  2. Thanks Jetpack!

    I have sent a message to tech support.

    I first tried disconnecting and reconnecting the plugin — made no difference.

    Meantime, people might tell me if the update helped their notifications….

  3. Also getting the error message in Safari. Given Mike’s earlier comment, this moose subspecks there is an upgrade in progress so is not narked (even afterwards).

  4. …but to me there is more grey area in boycotting a red state vs the N.C boycott. Take my State, Georgia, that is a red state but has blue counties, particularly in the Atlanta metro area and this time around some of the traditionally red metro counties voted blue.

    People make those very same arguments about the NC boycotts. “You’re punishing the people there who support you!”

    Hey, there were people in South Africa who weren’t actively racist, but the Don’t Play Sun City movement didn’t fall apart over “but what about the nice fans”?

    For that matter, those years of sanctions against Cuba and Iran had to affect some nice Cubans and Iranians.

    Trying to demand metrics whereby protests or boycotts won’t affect anyone but the individuals that someone’s specifically mad at is an argument against this sort of protest at all. I don’t buy Procter & Gamble products, and don’t shop at Walmart, but I’m sure there are some nice people whose salaries are paid by P&G, and I’ve got friends who work at Walmart.

    But I’d rather not give P&G or Walmart my money even if some of it would go to nice people, because I don’t want to encourage companies like them.

    Airboy doesn’t give a shit about the nice people working at Tor; the only time he’s going to make this argument is when he feels it’s depriving him (or people like him) of something he feels entitled to, and he feels entitled to further his politics without repercussion, while people he doesn’t agree with should be punished for trying to further their own.

    But here’s the thing: The people of North Carolina are not entitled to basketball tournaments. The people of Atlanta are not entitled to George Pérez autographs. Walmart isn’t entitled to my dollars. If these groups don’t get those things, they’re not being harmed, they’re simply not being benefited, which isn’t the same thing.

    If they want to get those things, maybe they should work harder to make North Carolina or Georgia or Walmart a more welcoming place than say “But I don’t care if your tax dollars benefit the whole state; me and my friends are nice and you owe me a photo op.”

    They don’t owe you a photo op. They’re not required to go anywhere, and they have every right to choose where they spend their weekends, just as you do.

    And if they’re not numerous enough to tip their state back into friendly territory, and can’t rally enough friends to become numerous enough, then if they want to see George or Humberto, they can travel. Or wait. Not everything gets handed up on a silver platter.

    As for Minnesota and Michigan, rather than puzzling out the math of what’s acceptable, why not just leave it to Humberto and George to decide? They’re grown men who don’t need a computer program to cover all contingencies; they can figure things out for themselves. They may not even have any con invites from either state (although knowing Minnesota, they probably do).

  5. Kurt Busiek: since you are quoting me–not Airboy–in my post I said that everyone needed to do what they feel is right for them. That includes George Pérez and you, and I certainly don’t feel entitled to your money or autograph. I am not disagreeing with you. I am just saying to methe issue is not as black and white as it may be to you or others.
    I despise Trump and am as angry as anyone that he was elected and I personally have resolved to spread love and kindness in protest against his hate.

  6. Unrelated to anything: Google Play Music has a feature where depending on the day and time it offers to play you some themed music e.g. music for waking up, for working, for making dinner, etc.

    It just offered to play me music for a zombie apocalypse.

    Should I be worried?

  7. Mark
    I remember Harlan Ellison’s boycott of Arizona. I went to the Phoenix Worldcon while he was doing it, and so did he. Oh, he wasn’t really there, because he was sleeping and eating in a motor home outside the hotel, except when he came in the hotel and ate in the con suite, which also wasn’t in Arizona. I’m sure it’s not as simple a story as I make it out to be.

    I got a notification and subscribed to the thread, by the way. Thanks, whoever turned it off and back on again.

  8. San José’s Worldcon is facing a very real prospect of many of its non-US members not feeling safe attending their Worldcon. Some Americans may scoff at this, but it’s a seriously real concern. The USA was already a pretty scary looking country for many non-Americans, and now it’s worse. And that’s San José, a highly diverse city in the highly liberaly San Francisco Bay Area in California, one of the most liberal states in the USA.

    Reed College is a very liberal college here in the very blue city of Portland Oregon.

    That didn’t prevent bathrooms in the library from being racist, homophobic and anti-semetic graffiti referring to the election yesterday. Elsewhere in he city, one of the protesters was shot the other night. A lot of people here are scared, let alone people who might be thinking of visiting the city (or the country).

    OryCon is next weekend, in downtown Portland. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a very low turnout this year.

  9. Mark: If anyone had any good suggestions for books for Best Related Work I’d appreciate hearing them.

    These are the 2016 non-fiction works that Worlds Without End has in their DB so far:

    Alfred Bester by Jad Smith

    Alien Audiences: Remembering and Evaluating a Classic Movie by Martin Barker

    Bandersnatch: Lewis, Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration by Diana Pavlac Glyer

    Castaway Tales: From Robinson Crusoe to Life of Pi by Christopher Palmer

    The Geek Feminist Revolution: Essays by Kameron Hurley

    Hard Reading: Learning from Science Fiction by Tom Shippey

    The History of Science Fiction (2nd Edition) by Adam Roberts

    The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism by Judith Merril

    Michael Moorcock: Fiction, Fantasy and the World’s Pain by Mark Scroggins

    New Atlantis: The Decadence of Scientific Romance by Brian Stableford
    New Atlantis: The Emergence of Scientific Romance by Brian Stableford
    New Atlantis: The Origins of Scientific Romance by Brian Stableford
    New Atlantis: The Resurgence of Scientific Romance by Brian Stableford

    Octavia E. Butler by Gerry Canavan

    A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages by J. R. R. Tolkien

    Time Travel: A History by James Gleick

    Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Robert Silverberg

    The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

    Wandering Spirits: Traveling Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Selena Chambers

  10. @JJ

    Oh thank you, that’s a great list. I’ve read Bandersnatch but none of the others yet. The Moorcock book sounds particularly interesting to me but has a rather eye watering pricetag.

  11. @rob_matic

    Anecdotally, Germany (well, Berlin specifically) seems to be one of the destinations of choice for Western citizens and businesses leaving Turkey following the recent events here.

    Nationalism isn’t particularly attractive for the mobile and the entrepreneurial.

    Not really surprising, since people of Turkish origin are one of the largest minorities in Germany with approx. 3 million people, so Westerners leaving Turkey would feel right at home in Berlin Kreuzberg.

    Coincidentally, since the Turkish coup, German authorities have noticed an uptick both in Turkish nationals applying for political asylum and in Turkish nationals who’ve been living in Germany for years or decades, but still retained Turkish citizenship (giving up Turkish citizenship had several disadvantages, so a lot of people didn’t do it), suddenly applying for German citizenship. There have also been several cases of Turkish nationals living in Germany, who happened to be on holiday in Turkey when the coup happened, having trouble leaving the country again, particularly young men and academics.

  12. 2016 best related work candidates: JJ already listed several that are on my “to check out” list (as well as several that went right onto that list), but here are a few more:

    ·Art and War: Poetry, Pulp and Politics in Israeli Fiction by Lavie Tidhar and Shimon Adaf, Repeater

    Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek by Manu Saadia, Piper Text

    The Role-Playing Society: Essays on the Cultural Influence of RPGs, edited by Andrew Byers and Francesco Crocco, McFarland

    The Plurality of Imaginary Worlds: The Evolution of French Roman Scientifique by Brian Stableford, Hollywood Comics

    Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, The 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren and Howard Aldrop, McFarland

    May the Armed Forces Be With You – The Relationship between Science Fiction and the United States Military by Stephen Dedman, McFarland

    Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal, Liveright

    Words Are My Matter – Writings about Life and Books 2000 – 2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin, Small Beer Press

  13. I’m not sure my notifications are working again–I’ve been getting a lot of spam lately and my Gmail filters were so tight they cut out just about everything new. I’ve removed some of the filters, but when I came here I noticed the error message at the top of the page.

    Anyway. Just got back from seeing Arrival. Wow. It’s so refreshing to see an intelligent science fiction film (and this is true SF, not handwaving SF) that doesn’t talk down to or condescend to its audience, and that feels no need to make its points through explosions or frenetic set pieces. This is the kind of movie that leaves you thinking long after you leave the theater. In its own way it is as mind-twisty as 2001. Definitely on my shortlist.

  14. There is a similar bug in Jetpack that was fixed in August: Ensure we always call `Jetpack::init();` #4900

    Can you check what version the site is running? Is it customized? Was it updated recently? The error seems to be related to the plug-in not having been built correctly. I would guess that disabling/re-enabling the plug-in would not make a difference. Reinstalling or upgrading/downgrading might help, if the new installed version was built correctly.

  15. @Bruce Baugh: Yyyyyyeah, that’s part of why I wrote, “But then I started thinking about how deeply personal a lot of the rhetoric….” Thanks for the Facebook link; I’ll check it out!

    @Mark: I read your recs and checked out the blogs you linked, and may be picking up one of them (like I need more blog reading, gaaaah LOL). Thanks!

    @Various: I subscribed to the 11/11 thread and got the confirmation e-mail. No one’s commented in that thread since I subscribed, minutes ago, but at least that part seems to work for me. I dare ya – go comment in the 11/11 thread! 😉

  16. Interested – though not surprised – to see things by Brian Stableford on those recs lists; besides writing SF, Stableford has been writing about SF for quite a while – he’s a genuine authority on some pretty recondite areas. And he’s also very readable, IMHO. Well worth looking into.

  17. Echoing Bonnie McDaniel: my wife and just got back from watching Arrival and “wow” pretty much sums it up.

  18. Mike, for what it’s worth I subscribed to comments with my initial post on the thread and I’ve been continuing to receive the e-mails. Don’t know if that info helps you at all.

  19. Dawn Incognito: It’s good to know the notifications are working. Whatever broke the front page isn’t keeping us from enjoying the usual amenities in the comments section….

  20. Since we’ve taken Berlin, next can we take Manhattan?

    San Jose Worldcon will be a pretty good space for LGBT and persons who are or may be mistaken for Mexican. Sadly, you’ll have to come through US Customs. But we’re very nice once you get here! Hopefully things will settle down a bit by then. Or get worse; either way, the decision will be clearer. And of course San Juan NASFiC is in a place of maximum Hispanicity.

    But even as a straight cis white person, there are parts of the US I’m not inclined to visit. Yooge parts.

    I’d think this would be an ideal time for Canadian cities to crank up the Worldcon bids. I’d love one in Vancouver.

    I have that error message at the top and bottom of every page on Chrome. It doesn’t affect the content, but it’s there.

    Wild applause for “File-allujah”. Someday I want to go to a Filer meetup, pass out lyric sheets of various filks and have a singalong. Or do a File-related song in open filking at Worldcon.

    @Dana: Yeah, it makes me think she didn’t actually look very deeply into either SF or romance. And Diane Duane’s books where there are plenty of LGB couples… I swear everyone in that world is bi.

    @Mark-kitteh: I’ve had some eerily-correct suggestions from Google Music, but not any that scary. Do they know something? Do we need more cat pictures?

    @JJ, Cora: please put those lists on the Recommended thread, because I will lose them here.

  21. lurkertype: please put those lists on the Recommended thread, because I will lose them here.

    I didn’t want to list them there, because I thought it was better to keep that thread for Recommended works (rather than just eligible works); instead, I posted a comment pointing back to the lists here.

  22. @Bruce Baugh: A poignant post by Humberto Ramos; thanks.

    @lurkertype: Re. Diane Duane, I’m not sure which books you refer to, but at least the “Tale of the Five” (a.k.a. “Middle Kingdoms”) – I agree. I’ve always said everyone in that world is bi. 🙂

    @Various: Great to hear “Arrival” is great – I want to see that soon!

  23. @Mike: I’d be happy to, but it would have to be sometime tomorrow. I assume I should just email it to you?

  24. Arrival is a very nice piece of filmmaking and has some fine acting, particularly from Amy Adams. Just don’t expect the SF part to quite make sense. (It’s also full of homages to other SF films–I kept annoying my wife, pointing them out as they flew by.)

  25. @lurkertype
    Someone else apparently linked JJ’s and my best related work lists.

    Regarding Europeans (and presumably others) staying away from the US, I just saw a news article that German exchange students no longer want to go to the US (which used to be a very popular destination for student exchanges) and that even kids who have already been placed with a guest family and are due to leave soon ask to go somewhere else, because they and their families are scared.

    Of course, we know that most Americans are not xenophobic jerks, but a sizeable minority of them are. Plus, exchange students rarely end up in the urban areas that voted Democrat, but instead tend to find themselves in rural America, i.e. among Trump voters.

  26. @JJ: good enough!

    @Kendall: yep, those are the ones I meant.

    @Cora: Well, as long as the German students are all-white, they’ll be fine. (Possibly horrified by how much it resembles their country in their grandparents/great-grandparents time, though.) Part-Turkish, nope, best stay away. They need to check the location, population, and voting records of the town/county they’re assigned to. Like, they’d be okay in Austin, but I wouldn’t try the rest of Texas, despite the massive number of German settlers. Don’t get too far away from the coasts even in blue states. Big cities are the best, university towns are good.

  27. @Kendall: Sorry if I sounded like I was busily lecturing on things you already knew. I was, without realizing it. My rhetoric is extra rambling and de-tuned this last week.

  28. @Cora / @lurkertype

    I am not really sure it is the physical safety aspect really – at least for most Germans. It is more will they feel comfortable living with their host family. It seems to me that the social attitudes of people from the European centre-right are not really that close to the US mainstream right let alone Trump supporters.

  29. (8) This sounds interesting. I very much enjoyed the first two books of Cronin’s The Passage trilogy. The final book was OK, but not as good as the first two. It was a great routine where he just missed sticking the landing.

    It’ll be interesting to see how it is converted into a series. I wonder if the Netflix/Amazon trend of presenting more defined/limited series will impact future projects. The TV model seems to be wrapped up in squeezing as many seasons as possible out of a story/situation. The trend towards the a more mini-series type approach (i.e. The Expanse) is kind of interesting.


    It’s always whining when people you don’t agree with do it, and ethical boycotting when people you do like do it, I suppose

    Yup. It’s been a growing trend for a couple decades now. Sadly enough.


    I’m getting the same error message as well.


  30. @andyl

    I am not really sure it is the physical safety aspect really – at least for most Germans. It is more will they feel comfortable living with their host family. It seems to me that the social attitudes of people from the European centre-right are not really that close to the US mainstream right let alone Trump supporters.

    Adjusting to differing attitudes to religion, sexuality, clothing and grooming habits, etc… has been an issue for German exchange students for years now. For example, a surprising number of exchange students wind up with Mormon host families. The culture shock is often quite extreme, especially since the exchange organisations often don’t do that good a job to prepare kids whose image of the US comes from TV shows for the reality.

    Meanwhile, a kid from the neighbourhood – one of the comparatively few young Germans to regularly go to church – wound up in generally liberal Seattle, but with a staunchly Republican host family, which didn’t work very well.

    So the divide is already there, but Trump’s election has only exarcerbated these issues.

  31. But isn’t it the point of foreign exchange programs to expose yourself to different cultures and points of view?

  32. @Bill– It’s a lot less useful if they don’t get any realistic preparation at all. Imagine taking a nice Mormon kid, too young for their missionary trips, and plopping him down in a household that has wine at every meal and thinks nothing of nude sunbathing every afternoon–without any preparation on the customs. Might be a rough transition, hmm?

  33. Imagine taking a nice German kid, used to being treated like an adult and having unfettered access to the internet, and plopping him down in a household that has strict behavioral and religious compliance requirements – without any preparation on the customs. Definitely a rough transition. 😐

  34. @Bill

    But isn’t it the point of foreign exchange programs to expose yourself to different cultures and points of view?

    That is the point, but some preparation is nonetheless important, because the German usually arrive with an image of the US that’s almost entirely based on TV shows. For example, the destinations where teens want to go (which is almost never where they end up) is heavily influenced by the locations of popular TV shows. California, Florida and New York are perennially popular, but Las Vegas was almost never listed as a desired destination before CSI became popular.

    So some preparation is important such as telling exchange students that the US is not like what they see on TV, that they’ll probably not end up in a big city, that there is a high chance that they will encounter people who are a lot more conservative and religious than is common in Germany.

    Mind you, the typical German highschool exchange student is 16 or 17. They can legally drink and buy beer or wine and most have probably tried harder alcohol as well. They’re above the age of consent and well informed about sexuality and birth control, whether they have already had sex or not. If they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s perfectly accepted for the boy- or girlfriend to stay over at the parents’ house. Most of them swear and not just in mild terms either. The vast majority probably hasn’t seen a church from the inside since confirmation (which happens at 14), quite a few come from families that have no connection to organised religion at all (and are sometimes outright hostile towards religion). Some are muslim.

    Now plop such a kid into a Mormon family (and mind you, most Germans have no idea what Mormons even are) without preparation. Not a great idea.

  35. Obviously we need more big-city atheist drinking host families.

    I have heard many tales of host families who, sadly, figure the kid is a captive audience for proselytizing and free labor. Which is horrible and also gives them the wrong view of the country.

    I was in a speech class in high school with a Brazilian girl and two Swedish guys. The Swedes were lively and even made fun of their own inability to pronounce “th”.

  36. So it sounds like the problem is that the German organizations arranging exchange visits do a crappy job of preparing students for America.

  37. @Bruce Baugh: No problem, and sorry my reply was a little cranky!

    @robinareid: 🙂 Online somewhere, perchance? I admit, I don’t read much writing about writing, except reviews, but I’m intrigued.

  38. Yes, Bill, that seems to be a significant part of the problem. Though if you think Trump making bullies and bigots feel empowered, while also damaging our reputation abroad, is not going to make more problems for exchange programs among other things, I fear you are kidding yourself.

  39. Bill: So it sounds like the problem is that the German organizations arranging exchange visits do a crappy job of preparing students for America.

    Considering how incredibly difficult it would be to try to create an orientation for the vast multitude of flavors of American families (not to mention that many of these families would provide these organizations with, shall we say, a less-than-accurate profile of their home life), it’s more than a little inappropriate of you to blame the German organizations.

    It’s one thing to plop the German kid in Cora’s example into a Mormon family, with some preparation, for a short-term exchange (a week to 3 months). Putting them into such an arrangement for 6 to 12 months would just be horribly cruel.

  40. Wow, Bill! You’re so clever at finding simple solutions to complex problems! You should be President! You’d have things sorted in no time! 🙄

  41. Seriously, I don’t understand what it is you all are getting at. Germans come to America, and it isn’t what they expected. This, apparently, is the fault of:

    a. Mormons, and
    b. Donald Trump.

    Looking at some statistics, I think you are worried about a problem that isn’t significant.

    In 2013, 48000 high school students came to America to study. Less than 1000 of them ended up in Utah, so Mormon-shock probably isn’t that big a deal. A full third of them ended up in CA, NY, and MA (all blue states and dens of iniquity), so they probably got to drink and screw and cuss and skip church without upsetting their hosts too much.

    Only 7100 of them were German — the majority were Asian, and most of those were Chinese.

    Seriously, if the problem is that students get here and the experience isn’t what they were expecting, that’s on them and their host organizations.
    Considering how incredibly difficult it would be to try to create an orientation for the vast multitude of flavors of American families (not to mention that many of these families would provide these organizations with, shall we say, a less-than-accurate profile of their home life), it’s more than a little inappropriate of you to blame the German organizations.
    Well then who should be blamed? (and why do you assume that host families would lie about their home lives) The student, their parents, and the sponsoring organization all have the responsibility — and there’s this thing called the internet that lets you read local newspapers, make friends in the city you’ll go to, research the school you’ll attend, and in general learn a great deal about any city in America. Here’s a thought — you could find someone who’s been a student in your future host city and ask them. Alumni groups are easy to find. Orientations can and should be customized, and it wouldn’t be that hard to do so.

    Oddly enough, Chinese students are flocking to Christian high schools. Maybe they are more open-minded than Germans.

  42. Bill, you’ve done a spectacular job there of taking a couple of “for examples” and claiming they’re the totality of what people were talking about.

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