Pixel Scroll 7/14/16 I Am the Pixel in the Darkness

(1) READERCONTROVERSY. Mikki Kendall’s “#Readercon: Low Point & Lessons” rounds out an ongoing conversation about a panel at last weekend’s con.

For those who weren’t at Readercon—or who didn’t attend the Beyond Strong Female Characters panel—Sabrina Vourvoulias’ post lays out the panel I was going to write about as my low point for the weekend. I expect a certain amount of fail at sci fi conventions, and as failures go this wasn’t one of the majors for me. (Ellen Kushner has already apologized to me on Twitter, and I will be talking to her shortly after this post goes live. I accept the apology and this post isn’t really about Ellen so much as the phenomenon she was a part of at this particular panel.)….

Ultimately, cons are supposed to be fun. They’re a chance to meet people who love the same kinds of things that you do, a chance to geek out with them about whatever it is that you love. They are also a major part of networking in the industry. You can share a table with an agent, an editor, and your potential audience. Cons are important for fans, for authors, for the publishing industry as a whole.

Dissuading new authors and fans from con spaces this way won’t keep them out of publishing. It might make it more difficult, it might make for fewer amazing stories. But mostly it will make for the end of con culture. Maybe that’s the point. If the panels aren’t welcoming, if some con spaces feel closed, then as sad as it might be to lose con culture, maybe that’s for the best because endlessly fighting for space at the table is energy that can be used to build a new table.

(2) POLLBUSTERS. FiveThirtyEight uses Ghostbusters as a springboard to examine the problems with online ratings systems.

But this “Ghostbusters” thing? It lays bare so, so much of what we’re investigating when it comes to the provenance and reliability of internet ratings.1 Namely, they’re inconsistent, easily manipulated and probably not worth half the stock we put in them.2 Here are a few stats I collected early Thursday for the new “Ghostbusters” movie:

The movie isn’t even out in theaters as I’m writing this, but over 12,000 people have made their judgment. Male reviewers outnumber female reviewers nearly 5 to 1 and rate “Ghostbusters” 4 points lower, on average.

(3) STUDYING THE HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS. This week on James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SF the panel looks at Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall”. Jamie comments —

I’ve actually read this one before, in a collection of Asimov stories. I had forgotten the details but knew what the big reveal was. Maybe because I read and liked the Foundation stories I don’t find the prose in this story so foreign. And foreign is the word for all these stories. They were clearly written by people who lived in a different time and place. People just don’t speak like that anymore and writers don’t write dialogue like that anymore.

The format is one that I’ve seen in other stories, a journalist chasing a story as a means to give the scientists someone to explain to. It’s a good trick, and kept the story moving.

(4) MANY AUTHORS NOTIFIED. Bence Pintér sent the link to the final article in his investigation of a Hungarian sf magazine – “Piracy by Galaktika: They Are Doing It Since 2004”.

Galaktika placed emphasis on reprinting stories by the grand masters of sci-fi, fantasy, horror genres dating back to even the 19th century. This can be witnessed from the very beginning when in the first edition in November 2004 authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley and Poul Anderson were included. We were able to reach the agencies of Poul Anderson, Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke, who stated that Galaktika magazine had no right to publish their clients’ work (not only in this case, but in all concerned cases). The agency representing the Asimov estate has only recently taken control and therefore was unable to give a statement.

When we last contacted the agency representing the Anderson estate (and fifteen other affected authors), they claimed that negotiations were underway with the publisher – more on that at the end of the article. The agency representing the Clarke estate stated that after our first article on this issue all previous debt was settled by the publisher. ?Copyright protection is essential to the survival of these stories and our industry, and we are very reassured to know that there is such a strong SF community in Hungary which is holding those like Galaktika to account for their actions? – stated that representative of the company towards Mandiner. We also inquired towards the books of Arthur C. Clarke reprinted by Galaktika. It turned out that besides the reprinted short stories, there was also at least one novel that needed to be discussed between the parties; but we have no further information about this issue. (Sources tell us that this novel may be 2001: A Space Odyssey reprinted last year.)

Coming back to the grand masters: besides Clarke, Anderson, and Baxter, the agencies of Terry Pratchett, George R. R. Martin, Robert J. Sawyer, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, Nancy Kress, Jack Williamson, Michael Flynn, Kim Stanley Robinson, Hal Clement, Leigh Brackett, Cordwainer Smith, Philip José Farmer, Jack McDevitt, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, Jack Vance and Richard Matheson also gave no permission for the reprinting of the authors’ works; similarly, Larry Niven was also not informed that his works were being reprinted. Vance’s agency later informed us that the two parties came to an agreement. A regularly occurring author was Michael Swanwick, winner of the Nebula Award and nominee for many others; he too was oblivious to his works being reprinted; neither were the successors of Philip K. Dick or Tanith Lee informed. These authors alone had a work reprinted nearly every year, all of which were illegal. This however is only the tip of the iceberg….

(5) AMAZON BITES. Mary Rosenblum’s guest post at the SFWA Blog, “Amazon Bites Author”, argues that a client’s receipt of a warning letter that they were about to suspend his Amazon account and stop selling his books shows writers can innocently run afoul of the online bookseller’s anti-fraud algorithims.

Meanwhile, I’ve been changing my client advice for career authors regarding Amazon.com. I no longer suggest going the Select/KU route. Clearly, Amazon is casting a net for scammers there and if you use book discounters and other promotions well, you may find yourself in Brad’s shoes. You can make your ebook free in other ways. Use the book discounters and free downloads to reach a lot of new readers and stay off the KU system. If your book is good and readers like the freebie, they’ll pay for the next book and become loyal fans.

Here are my new ‘rules’.  It’s a depressingly long list, isn’t it?

  • Never offer any kind of thank you gift, incentive, or what have you for a review.
  • Never post a free book offer on your Facebook page to solicit reviews.
  • Use only the email list you’ve acquired from your website (and this is why that list is SO important) to send an offer of an epub or mobi or pdf copy of the new book to those people and ask them to review the book when it’s out.
  • Never ask for a positive review, only ask for an honest review.
  • Never let family members review your book.
  • Never use a paid review service.
  • Use only honest book discounters such as Fussy Librarian and BookBub.
  • Never swap reviews with other authors.

(6) HARDY OBIT. Robin Hardy, director of the horror film The Wicker Man (1973), died July 1 at the age of 86.

When Mr. Hardy, a television director, decided he wanted to make a horror film, he found an enthusiastic collaborator in Anthony Shaffer, who wrote the play “Sleuth” and the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock film “Frenzy.” Mr. Hardy and Shaffer, partners in a production company, were avid fans of the horror films made by Hammer Studios. Together they set about making a film that would take the Hammer approach in a new direction.

Shaffer, using the novel “Ritual” by David Pinner as a basis, came up with the story of a devout Christian policeman, Sergeant Neil Howie, who travels to a Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a girl. In Mr. Hardy’s hands, the island and its inhabitants — led by the priestlike Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee, took on a mystifying aura, with bizarre events unfolding….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 14, 1910 – William Hanna: The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Top Cat etc.

(8) ANIME. Petréa Mitchell runs down more than 20 stfnal anime premieres for Amazing Stories.

Gray-man HALLOW premiere – In Fairytale Britain, a villain called the Millennium Earl is creating demonic constructs and sending them out to take over the world or somesuch. Opposing him is a vaguely religious order armed with everything from magical powers to amped-up mundane weapons. At the center of it all is Allen Walker, a particularly talented exorcist, who is slowly being taken over by the personality of one of the Milliennium Earl’s former allies. There are people in the power structure moving against him, and something unfortunate is about to happen to his mentor.

While most of this episode is spent catching new viewers up, there’s still room for some supernatural monster-killing action. It does a decent job at both. All around, it’s a perfectly serviceable action-adventure.

The big caveat for a Western audience is that it takes the European setting and religious trappings and does very weird things with them. It operates at about the same level of fidelity in its depiction of Japanese culture as a typical Western cartoon.

(9) PUMPKIN IS THE NEW ORANGE. The Halloween Daily News urges one and all to sign a petition to make Ray Bradbury’s favorite day of the year a real holiday. (They don’t mention Ray, but we know it’s true.)

Have you ever wished that your favorite day of the year, Halloween was recognized as an actual federal Holiday like Christmas and Thanksgiving? Of course you are not alone, and one person is taking this request to the White House in the form of an online petition that needs at least 100,000 signatures by July 25 to be taken seriously. But we can do that, right?

(10) THE VOTE. Hugo ballot picks for Novella by Jonathan Edelstein.

I wasn’t able to put the best novella of 2015 on the top of my Hugo ballot, because that story, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik, didn’t make the finals.  That said, I can’t complain too much about the choices I had: the novella can be an awkward length, but most of this year’s entries carried it off and some were very good indeed.

(11) TEMPERATURE RISING. Kate Paulk’s comments in “Hugo Finalist Highlights – Best Short Story and Best Novelette” for once venture beyond indifference. There were some stories she even warmed up to.

“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015) – Another cute piece, but with a liberal side of “hmm” that kept me thinking after I’d finished. This is one of my personal contenders for this category.

(12) THE ANSWER MY FRIEND. Teri Windling shares ancient knowledge in “Hedgies”.

“Aristotle says that hedgehogs can foretell a change of wind,” writes mythologist J.C. Cooper, “and accordingly shift the outlook of their earth-holes.”

Aristotle!

(13) SIDE OF HAM. Entertainment Weekly’s view is that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a movie about acting”.

For the moment, stuff the subtext: The Kobayashi Maru is a scene about the Enterprise crew – highly-skilled space-naval pioneer coworkers – putting on a show. They’re performing. And “performance” is both running plot point and underlying theme in Wrath of Khan. Khan fools Kirk with a performance, and Kirk fools Khan with three performances. In the second scene, Spock performs the opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of…” etc. In the penultimate scene, Kirk quotes Dickens’ closing: “It is a far, far better…” etc.

(14) ABOUT FACE. Handimania supplies a recipe for the head in a jar prank.

The thing is to blend two pictures together in order to prepare flat image of a human head. Afterwards, the photo has to be laminated and placed in a jar filled with fluid to create the illusion of a decapitated head. This nasty prank was prepared by Instructables’ user, mikeasaurus, who advises to personalize the gag for the best effect.

(15) E.T. ON LINE 1. Listserve knows “10 Bizarre Ways Scientists Believe Aliens Will Contact Us”

  1. Flashing A Billion Stars

Astrophysicist Ragbir Bhathal works with SETI to scan the skies for possible communications from extraterrestrial intelligence. Unlike most SETI facilities, which look for radio signals, Bhathal’s facility looks for laser pulses at his lab. The pulses sweep a nearby volume of space—within about 100 light-years—to find laser bursts that come in regular patterns. Scientists are now capable of detecting signals as faint as a single photon of light every few fractions of a second.

Lasers can, in principle, help transmit messages over extraordinary distances. While scientists have monitored a large number of stars looking for alien laser signals—like the facilities at Harvard and Princeton that scanned more than 10,000 Sun-like stars for several years—no evidence for any alien communication has been found.

(16) RESPECT. In “Should Pokémon Go?”, Kim Stahl offers a defense of Pokémon Go at the Holocaust Museum.

Following the articles about the D.C. Holocaust museum’s reaction to Pokémon Go, it struck me how very differently game-theory people and other people react to what’s going on with this game. The spots in the museum have been targets in another game (Ingress) for a few years, apparently without incident. Hundreds of thousands of people play that game, and many have played it inside the museum. But Pokémon is a very different sort of game. It is much more popular, and appeals to younger people, and unlike a game that is essentially a game-ified version of Geocaching, Pokémon is lighthearted and people are excited about it because it is new….

But the important difference I’m seeing is that the challenge the museum is facing made me think “great! People are visiting a place with so much to teach them because of the game! Now, how should they take the next step to encourage appropriate behavior from those visitors?” In other words, “how could the museum gamify getting the behavior they want from visitors instead of the behavior they don’t?” Quiet, respectful behavior and attention to the exhibits presumably.

When I was in Milan, one of the official pamphlets from the Duomo had information for Ingress players about a mission there. One of the most famous cathedrals in the world, a historical wonder intended for silent, respectful contemplation of God, used a game to get more people to visit and to get them to see the best parts of the church. That surprised and impressed me, of all of the places I would expect to clamp down on frivolous things or modern things, instead they embraced the possibilities.

(17) GO FOR PARENTS. Matthew Johnson wrote “A Parents’ Guide to Pokémon Go” for MediaSmarts.

Over the last week our world has been invaded: cute cartoon creatures can now be found lurking in parks, restaurants, museums, and even people’s houses. If you haven’t seen them, it’s because they’re only visible on a smartphone screen, and only if you’re playing the new game “Pokémon Go”.

While most parents are probably at least a bit familiar with the thirty-year-old Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Go is something new: the first widely popular alternate reality game (ARG). These games use GPS and similar location-finding technologies to overlay a game onto the real world. As a result, both public spaces and news stories have filled up with people looking to “catch ‘em all.”

Although most people playing Pokémon Go are probably adults, Pokémon’s popularity among kids means that many of them will want to play it too. Here’s a quick rundown on what to consider if your kids ask if they can play: ….

(18) POKESONG. Then Matthew Johnson took a break and insta-filked a bit of Pokémon trivia.

Darren Garrison on July 14, 2016 at 5:50 am said: My son sez Mew is the rarest Pokémon.

Okay, somebody, quick–filk “Mew is the rarest Pokemon” to the tune of “One is the Loneliest Number” for Paul_A.

As you wish:

Mew, is the loneliest Pokémon you’ll ever do
Mew is just the saddest one, he’s so lonely that they had to clone Mewtwo
It’s just no good anymore since Mew went away
I spent my time just catching Grimers yesterday
Pokémon Go is the saddest experience you’ll ever know
Yes, it’s the saddest experience you’ll ever know
Because Mew is the loneliest Pokémon
Mew is the loneliest Pokémon
Mew is the loneliest Pokémon you’ll ever do

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Aziz Poonawalla, Chip Hitchcock, Will R., and Petréa Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

95 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/14/16 I Am the Pixel in the Darkness

  1. (9) PUMPKIN IS THE NEW ORANGE.

    Yes. YES!

    *stomping my feet. Doing the halloween pumpkin dance. Throws eyeballs in the air and presses bloody fingerprints against the windows*

    (14) ABOUT FACE.

    This one works very well. I did this for my Halloween party two years ago and it looked really good. There are plenty of ready made heads for printout that are perfect for jars. Also somewhere a My Little Pony skeleton.

  2. Mikki nails it. If a con isn’t fun–there is no reason to go. And if con culture problems aren’t addressed, a con isn’t going to survive. The expansion of the welcoming of voices in fandom is running hard against previously uncommented-against bad norms. But the more privileged one is (moving on the scale toward heterosexual, white and male) the harder it is to see when you are marginalizing those voices. Its a phenomenon, and its one that takes a lot of work to fight.

    No easy answers. No magic bullets

  3. (9) My understanding is that once a year, the President visits the most sincere pumpkin patch and offers to make Hallowe’en a national holiday.

  4. Whatever post this is is the new fifth.

    After maybe the second Trek movie, I could imagine Kirk putting in an urgent plea to the library computer for some good lines from Shakespeare. Alas, the Shakespeare systems are all down, how about some Dante or Blake? (A short-lived emergency, to be sure, not like the quandary of a space pilot in 2001 whose copy of The Blue Danube got munged just before he had to enter the docking bay of the station. All they have left is Voices of Spring! Batten everything down.)

    Good night Pixel.
    Good night Scroll.
    Good night Filers mocking a troll.

  5. I attempted a re reading of “Nightfall” a few years ago. It was a rough going.
    I didn’t enjoy it at all. I liked it a lot when I was 16. I am no longer that gosh wow fan.
    The movie of this story just scrip[ted what was on the page. The film is considered a kind of torture.

  6. 16) I thought that this was a pretty interesting take on the how Pokemon Go can be used in the real world. My wife works in the musuem field and is always interested in ways to drive people into said musuems, which means I am also interested in such things. I think that using popular media is a pretty good way to draw people in.

  7. @Kip W: Perhaps you meant to say fifth is the new black?

    @alexvdl: Biology Babe had a nice link up to science museums which are also Pokemon hotspots. Here be the link.

  8. This one works very well. I did this for my Halloween party two years ago and it looked really good. There are plenty of ready made heads for printout that are perfect for jars. Also somewhere a My Little Pony skeleton.

    I wanted to see what the MLP skeleton jar looked like, and while googling inadvertently learned of the existence of the pony cum jar project. There is your Halloween nightmare prop.

    (Hey, if I’m now stuck with the idea in my head, you should be, too!)

  9. (5)

    Here are my new ‘rules’. It’s a depressingly long list, isn’t it?

    Rosenblum’s list of self-promotion no-nos is only “depressingly long” if you ignore the fact that a number of the items are obviously unethical and should never be done regardless of what Amazon’s fraud detection algorithms might be.

    “Never offer any kind of thank you gift, incentive, or what have you for a review,” and “Never swap reviews with other authors,” address behavior that might possibly be intended innocently, but even a moment’s thought would show that the natural consequence in both cases would be the encouragement of dishonest positive reviews.

    But “Never ask for a positive review, only ask for an honest review,” “Never use a paid review service,” and “Use only honest book discounters…,” all warn authors away from flagrantly unethical behavior.

    Rosenblum might be depressed that Amazon’s anti-fraud measures have forced authors to hold themselves to a standard that excludes using paid review services. Meanwhile, I find it depressing that authors use(d) paid review services at all.

  10. There’s a reason why my site has section two in the How to Commission a Review post:

    Authors may not buy reviews of their own books; nor may their family members, publishers or agents. This is for two reasons: Yog’s Law and also the possibility that a confused minority might expect if they pay me to read their book they are then entitled to a positive review.

    Authors may point out to me that their qualifying books are now out (or back in print) and while I cannot promise to read said books, there will not be a charge if I do.

  11. 16. Pokémon should go.

    I don’t think Stahl has ever visited the National Holocaust Museum. It’s the first museum that I ever visited with metal detectors and armed security to get in. Most of the people in the lobby are stunned and many are openly weeping. If the Pokémon players somehow get into the museum without noticing this, how are they going to find a pamplet of proper behavior? What Pokémon should people catch next to the films of Nazi medical experiments? Let me jostle this old woman quietly weeping for family who didn’t survive Dachau so I can catch another one? My mission is to find the Pokémon hidden under the exhibit of how our government knew about the genocide and concentration camps and did nothing? I just can’t see creating a fun-filled mission through this museum. I could barely walk when I got out and I don’t know anyone who was personally impacted. It’s not at all like an art or natural history museum.

    When I visited, they gave all visitors a pamphlet containing the true story of someone imprisoned by the Nazis. As you go through the exhibits, you turned the pages and learned more details. You aren’t supposed to read the end until the end of your visit. The individual on my pamphlet was imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen when about 12 IIRC along with parents and two siblings. She survived but no one else in her family did.

  12. @3: I regret that Nicolls chose “Nightfall” instead of “The Martian way”; the latter has a plot, while the former has a punchline with prolonged setups.
    Appraising foundational writers fairly is difficult. I have the same issue with early polyphonic music, which one of the local stations plays a lot of; it was a major step up in musical vocabulary, but there have been so many steps since then that it palls quickly.
    I was grimly amused by the people who commented on the attitude toward religion; perhaps they need to learn a little more 1940’s history. (The local paper just ran the story of one of the people who brought down Father Feeney, who was just one of the sanctioned haters when “Nightfall” came out.)

    @6: I hadn’t even heard of Ritual before this obit; what I remember of Cinefantastique‘s discussion of the film made it sound like Shaffer was a first-class twit who tried to break into a longstanding Mayday tradition (at Padstow) and decided there was something sinister going on when he wasn’t welcomed.

    @Paul Weiner: If a con isn’t fun–there is no reason to go. For attendees, probably yes; over the years I’ve cut several cons because the fun/dollar ratio was too low. For anyone making money it’s more difficult; does the personal really not matter any more, or does face time still draw more attention than an online presence?

    @CeeV: that was pretty much my reaction. (I wonder whether swapping reviews even helps; when I see reviews from other unknowns or from other-genre people, I think “They couldn’t find somebody known to speak for them?!?”) If Rosenblum was pushing the opposite of any of these before, she’s been giving bad advice.
    However, I find her observations about Amazon chillingly plausible, enough to make me wonder whether it should be treated as a monopoly (whatever little that would mean under current politics).

    @World Weary: I also remember the Holocaust Museum as a solemn place — which makes me wonder how the previous ]game[ was considered acceptable.

  13. Rosenblum’s list of self-promotion no-nos is only “depressingly long” if you ignore the fact that a number of the items are obviously unethical and should never be done regardless of what Amazon’s fraud detection algorithms might be.

    If you read forums where authors (especially self-pubbed authors) hang out, you’ll quickly realize how necessary it is to include obviously unethical behavior. Many authors are so morally challenged the Nixon administration would’ve had qualms about hiring them. Kboards is especially bad in this regard because the moderator is such a strong believer in keeping conversation positive and polite that critical comments will get a thread shut down.

    In other words, “how could the museum gamify getting the behavior they want from visitors instead of the behavior they don’t?”

    Great, maybe the Holocaust Museum can make arrangements for a special version of the game where people inside get to collect Nazi war criminals instead of Pokemon. It’s educational, after all, so why should it matter whether it’s respectful.

  14. October 31 used to be a Nevada state holiday, but they wimped out a few years ago and moved Admission Day to the nearest Monday. I liked living in a state where Halloween was a public holiday.

  15. Pixéscroll: Gotta Click ‘Em All!

    I’m conflicted about Pokémon Go. In theory it gets people out exploring their city and finding parks and statues and murals, but in practice I doubt people are even looking at these things. Just looking at the pictures of them on their phones, and checking if there are any rares about, y’know?

  16. Chip Hitchcock: (I wonder whether swapping reviews even helps; when I see reviews from other unknowns or from other-genre people, I think “They couldn’t find somebody known to speak for them?!?”)

    If nothing else, there is supposed to be a benefit of a book reaching a threshhold of 50 reviews on Amazon, when the system kicks in some of its automated promotion tools.

  17. @Chip Hitchcock

    I regret that Nicolls chose “Nightfall” instead of “The Martian way”; the latter has a plot, while the former has a punchline with prolonged setups.

    Technically, I would argue that *Nightfall* actually does have a plot: The newspaper reporter Theremon 762 wants to cover the “Nightfall” story, even though he doesn’t really believe darkness will fall. He gets everything he wanted, although he never gets to publish it.

    Glancing at the story again, I just realized that Sheerin 501 is probably meant to be gay. But the biggest thing that strikes me is that if you showed it to someone who’d never read it, he/she would think it was a message story aimed at climate-change deniers! 🙂

  18. An assortment of random notes:

    My Friday review this week is Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. My money-quote: Uprooted is an exquisitely written book with astounding world-building. But I can’t really say I found it a fun book to have read.

    (1) READERCONTROVERSY

    Clearly some of the participants at Readercon had unhappy experiences around panel dynamics, and I in no way want to diminish or dismiss that. But I find curious one aspect of the Vourvoulias post referenced in this item (which I had read from a link on Twitter when it first appeared). There is a complaint that moderators were heavy-handedly emphasizing that “books, not media or pop culture, were the acceptable references and subjects for analysis at Readercon.” In this context, the official Readercon home page starts off its “about Readercon” statement with: “Although Readercon is modeled on “science fiction conventions,” there is no art show, no costumes, no gaming, and almost no media. Instead, Readercon features a near-total focus on the written word.”

    It isn’t specifically mentioned in the con reports whether people felt this policy was being applied unevenly to shut specific people (as opposed to specific genres) out of the conversation. But it seems odd to complain that the convention (via panel moderators) was trying to stay on track with its stated focus. Perhaps there are additional dynamics that I’m ignorant of, given that this isn’t a convention I’ve ever attended.

    (5) AMAZON BITES

    The rule “never swap reviews with other authors” is nice in principle, but in a tightly-knit community like SFF, the chance that authors will be reading—and potentially reviewing—works similar to their own makes this problematic. I consider it unlikely that Amazon’s algorithms can distinguish between swapped reviews and two authors in the same field reviewing each other’s work because they both like the same types of books. That phenomenon is even stronger in smaller literary communities than SFF.

    I’ll note that the only reports I’ve seen of authors being bitten by this sort of accusation are indie or self-published. It’s possible that Amazon gives greater scrutiny depending on the nature of the publication. The only direct experience I’ve had along these lines is that when one of my brothers posted a review of one of my books on Amazon and explicitly identified himself as a sibling, the review was taken down a few days later. (It isn’t like I could have prevented him from posting it, mind you. I certainly didn’t request or encourage it!)

    I’ve heard of reviews being taken down and accusations of review-manipulation based on connections between people that were documented only in facebook connections. So the idea of “people who have social connections to you shouldn’t review your books” either creates an impossible conflict with the idea that authors should have a strong social-media presence, or means that an author’s most ardent fans should be excluded from expressing that love of the books via reviews. Notice that these guidelines don’t say, “Have no social connections with your readers at all,” but rather, “Have your social connections via private email lists where Amazon can’t get wind of them.” That’s not a statement of ethics, it’s a statement of strategy.

    It’s easy for people who are familiar only with mainstream publishing to see these guidelines as ethically self-evident. But independent publishers in marginalized communities walk a much finer line in trying to navigate structures that are, in many ways, designed to shut them out. The integration of readers, reviewers, authors, and publishers in social media sites for marginalized communities is often very tight. The idea of being a supportive reading community can turn the ethics around from emphasizing separation and distinction between producers and consumers, to emphasizing unity of producers/consumers and a distinction between that unified community and the faceless steamroller forces of the book industry.

    The essence of marginalization is that your numbers are too few to be able to afford setting up barriers within the community, whether those barriers are a strict separation between producers and consumers or whether they are a quarantine of social interaction between producers. So before one starts talking about how these principles are morally/ethically self-evident, take some time to think about how principles like these differentially affect marginalized literary communities.

    (16) RESPECT

    It’s all very well to identify ways that institutions can turn an unwanted game invasion into an educational opportunity, but the bottom line is that they didn’t opt in to it. And they can’t directly opt out, evidently. And a game like this would be logistically unmanageable (I presume) if creating it required getting the opt-in agreement of all relevant locations. Pokeman Go is exploiting people’s expected sense of resignation to such invasions of space. Even if all the spaces involved are technically public accommodations of a sort (and they aren’t all, as has been reported, due to outdated data), there are still limits on access to public accommodations that have been blithely ignored.

    Wow, I’m being grumpy today. Sorry about that!

  19. (1) Wow. That is unacceptable behavior at a panel. The more I read about some of the panels and behavior at different cons, the more I don’t want to attend small ones. Kendall also points out an issue that members of other marginalized groups aren’t always allies for other groups.

  20. Mallory said:

    The more I read about some of the panels and behavior at different cons, the more I don’t want to attend small ones.

    Please don’t let it turn you off of all small cons. Some of them were created with a goal of staying small to help the organizers keep them friendly and safe. 4th Street Fantasy and FOGcon spring immediately to mind.

  21. @Heather Rose Jones

    [5] Exactly my thoughts about the Amazon thing. I understand that they’re trying to eliminate “dishonest” reviews, but their parameters — assuming that every review from every person the author has a personal connection with is dishonest — seem fundamentally flawed, and designed specifically to punish authors who small or self-publish. Which seems weird, given that Amazon makes a lot of money from indie, self-published authors.

    I mean, in the game of perverse incentives, they’ve given me a reason to actively discourage friends, family, and authors I know socially from writing honest reviews of my book because they feel like it. Instead, they have given me a reason to find random complete strangers and pay them money to write positive reviews. Or, rather, publish positive reviews (possibly with content supplied by me) using their Amazon accounts.

  22. @TYP

    In Paulk’s review of Seven Kill Tiger, the Puppy shows through…

    The story going beyond racism and actually glorifies the genocide of all the blacks in the world. It says bad things about her that she actually liked it.

  23. And then I had to write some more but got stuck:

    The Scroll and the Pixelcat Went to Sea in a Seven and Seventy Blog,
    They took some links and plenty of drinks and a sad but juvenile dog

    The Scroll looked up to books above and sang to a ukulele,
    ‘Oh file-like Pixel, oh Pixel my file, you update yourself so daily’

    Pixel then said to Scroll ‘Your filk is so droll, how charmingly sweet you rhyme,
    Oh let us be blogged, too long have we slogged, and now is an excellent time.’

  24. Don’t know if we have anyone from Turkey, but if so, hope you and yours can stay safe.

  25. Camestros Felapton: The Scroll and the Pixelcat Went to Sea in a Seven and Seventy Blog

    A distant relative of Timothy’s?

  26. James Davis Nicoll: Nicoll, not Nicolls, btw.

    There’s a possessive in the post (‘s) — unless you’re responding to something else.

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