Daily Archives: July 14, 2014

An Interesting Quandary

I went over to Scribd and discovered that several titles of mine were on the site without my permission, which gave me an opportunity to try out Scribd’s DMCA reporting form and process. I’m happy to say that Scribd seems to be doing a fine job on that score: The elapsed time from report to removal of the content was about ten minutes. That works for me.

However, one title of mine, The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, I haven’t requested to be taken down yet. It’s not up on the site by permission of the publisher, because among other things, the book is currently out of print and the rights have reverted to me. I certainly haven’t given permission for the book to be there, either.

But as noted, the book is currently out of print — there might be a few copies still in bookstores, but not enough to represent any major economic benefit to me at this point, and no more are going to be made. I retain the rights to the work and may eventually do something with the contents of the book, but at the moment I don’t really have any solid plans. Which means that although the text is there illegally (and I can have it taken down), at the same time it’s not actually doing me any economic harm to have it up there, either. It’s not stealing sales from me because as an out of print book there are no sales to steal.

And so my position on it is kinda: Meh. I took down the books of mine that are still in print; if you want them, please pay for them or borrow them from a friend or your local library, that what bookstores, libraries and friends are for. But the out of print ones? For now I’m content to leave them out there. If I ever do get around to doing something with the text I might change my mind. Or I might change my mind because I’m mercurial. Until then, though, if you see The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies on Scribd or anywhere else, have fun with it.

My Detcon1 Schedule

I’ll be at the Detcon1 convention this upcoming weekend, Detcon1 being the North American Science Fiction Convention for the year (and the NASFiC being the convention that gets run in the US/Canada when the Worldcon is on a different continent). It’s in Detroit, downtown. It’s not too late to come along — it should be a fine convention, not in the least because I will be DJing an 80s dance at it. Yes! Me! Finally, all those years of dance training will pay off! Or something!

In fact, here’s my whole schedule for the weekend:

Thursday, July 17

5pm: A Renaissance for Science Fiction

Chuck Von Nordheim (moderator), Saladin Ahmed, Anne Harris, John Scalzi, Ellen Denham, Carrie Patel

Our panelists discuss the theme of Poul Anderson’s Detention Guest of Honor Speech: authors should create “not merely clever variations on a theme, but stories which are about people and about science and about history and about art and about philosophy and about the way a mountain looks at twilight when the stars are just coming forth. That kind of science fiction is entertaining.”

Friday, July 18

2pm: Dealing with Bad Apples

Steven H Silver (moderator), Tim Miller, Mark Oshiro, Jesi Pershing, Diana M. Pho,John Scalzi

Trolls, creepers, or just plain jerks. We’ve all encountered them at cons and online. Panelists discuss tools–like comment moderation and harassment policies–for keeping foul and prejudiced people from chasing others out of our community spaces, events, and organizations. And what to do when “they” are “us.”

3pm: Fanzines and Professional Writing

Steven H Silver (moderator), Nicki Lynch, Roger Sims, Jim C. Hines, John Scalzi

At Detention a discussion by the editors of amateur magazines was sparked by Ed Wood asking, “Why weren’t fanzines as good as they once were and why were their writers no longer becoming top quality pros very often?” The panel lasted from about 11 p.m. Sunday until 4:30 a.m. What is the state of fanzines today? How have digital formats affected fanzines? What role do they have now in the career of a professional writer, especially compared to 50 years ago?

4pm: Reading: Carey/Scalzi

Jacqueline Carey, John Scalzi

Jacqueline Carey and John Scalzi read from their work.

Saturday, July 19

12pm: The Other Worldbuilding Panel: Gaming

Jon Davis (moderator), Mike Substelny, John Scalzi, Carrie Patel

Our panelists discuss worldbuilding techniques for video games, focusing on how stories are developed and told for interactive software titles.

10pm: ’80s Dance with DJ Scalzi!

Join DJ Scalzi for a retro dance. Wear your ’80s on your sleeve!

Sunday, July 20

12pm: Creators and Brand Identity

Beverly Bambury (moderator), Martin L. Shoemaker, Sean Mead, John Scalzi

Neil Gaiman. John Scalzi. Would they be mid-list authors in a world without the Internet? Can you be famous in 2014 only by writing or making art? How does a creator build a brand?

I’ll note that for the 80s dance I have (I think) two hours for the dance, and 22 hours worth of music ready on my dance playlist. Because I believe in overpreparation. It’s gonna be fun.

I should also note that there is supposed to be a mass autographing session at 8pm on Friday. I am likely to be there if you wish to have books signed.

When I am not at panels or events, I am likely to be in the bar, per tradition. Feel free to say hello!

See you at Detcon1, I hope.

Lock In on the August 2014 LibraryReads List

This is a nice way to start the week: Every month, librarians pick the 10 books they are most looking forward to, out of all the books published that month, in the Library Reads List. And for August, Lock In is one of them. That’s really cool. Note that the Library Reads List is across all genres, not just science fiction and fantasy, which makes it even cooler — it’s nice to be peered with every kind of fiction (also on the list for August: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. Awesome).

There’s more happy news for Lock In coming, but I’m waiting to find out when I can share it. When I can, I will. In the meantime, this is certainly more than good enough. It’s a lovely thing to know librarians like your book.

The Lowest Difficulty Setting in Action

I noted a couple of years ago that Straight White Male is the lowest difficulty setting in the game called life (in particular the Western civilization variant of it). This annoyed many a straight white male, who didn’t see his life as being particularly “easy.” Noting that “lowest difficulty” is not the same as “easy” did not assuage this agitation. And well, I can understand it: If you genuinely think your life sucks — and it may! — it may be hard to imagine that you still get advantages other folks don’t.

So maybe this will help: A 25-year study followed the experience of nearly 800 children in Baltimore, from first grade into adulthood. Half their families were low income, many with parents who had not finished high school; 40% of those low-income kids were white.

A couple of relevant points from the article:

Looking at where these children started in life and where they ended up, the study results are troubling but clear: At 28, hardly any of the children from a disadvantaged background, black or white, had finished college.

But even without the benefit of a college degree, whites, and white men especially, had vastly better employment outcomes. At every age, the white men experienced shorter spells of unemployment, were more likely to be working full-time and earned more.

And:

[T]he consequences have been especially dire for African-Americans. As young adults, African-American men had fared much worse than whites in the job market, even though they and their white counterparts had about the same levels of education and the whites reported higher rates of marijuana and heavy drug use and binge drinking…

Indeed, throughout the course of our study, it was clear that African- Americans face greater barriers to employment. Having an arrest record or failing to complete high school were less consequential for white men than for African-American men: 84% of whites without a high school degree were employed at 22; among African Americans, just 40% were.

And this is the point of the lowest difficulty setting metaphor. It isn’t that folks who are straight, and white, and male, can’t or don’t find themselves on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder. They can and do, and there’s no doubt that it sucks. But even then, they can catch some breaks that others — in this particular study, black men — don’t (or don’t catch as often).

Which is to say: Even as much as your life blows, straight white dude, the black dude in exactly the same situation is likely to have it worse. And not because of anything he (or you) did. Just because it’s the way things are.

This study applies specifically to Baltimore, it appears, and factors in Baltimore’s own history of racial and cultural biases. But I would not in the least be surprised if other studies in other major cities across the US (at least) cropped up similar data. Baltimore is not exactly unique in terms of its racial dynamics. Nor does it seem that the authors of the study would be surprised; the sales copy of the book the above article is based upon notes: “[Baltimore's] struggles with deindustrialization, white flight, and concentrated poverty were characteristic of most East Coast and Midwest manufacturing cities. The experience of Baltimore’s children who came of age during this era is mirrored in the experiences of urban children across the nation.”

Now, bear in mind that when I said “maybe this will help,” that I don’t actually expect the sort of straight white man who fervently believes that is life is harder than anyone else’s, harder than anyone else can possibly imagine, and that society is even now feasting upon his set-upon bones, will pause to consider the data above. For that sort of dude, mere data are not nearly enough in the face of certain belief. For everyone else, including the straight white males who aren’t already conflating their own personal unhappiness with society squishing straight white men in general like bugs, this might be useful.

(Here’s another take on the data, at Science Daily (but largely written, it appears, by Johns Hopkins’ PR folks). There’s more in the study than just the one aspect I’m highlighting here, all of which are pretty interesting.)