Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Live From New York

Here I am in New York City, spending a couple of days before I move on to Saratoga for World Fantasy. Been a mostly brilliant last 24 hours, except the last half hour or so, when I woke up with a wicked nasty cramp in my left calf. So I'm up and suffering right now.

But, I can tell you that one of the things I did yesterday was pose for Bil Wadman, who has been doing a project called 365 Portraits, wherein he does a portrait a day. I'll amend this later with more permanent links, but if you go and missed me, I'm on October 30.

Back to massaging the leg now: big day not too much later.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Le Guin, Doctorow, SFWA, and Headaches

A slight recap for those of you not aware of the crap that's going on:

In a review in Slate back in May, Ruth Franklin made a comment about Michael Chabon and genre literature that got some hackles up. Ursula K. Le Guin took this and ran with it, as can be seen here. It was a marvelous piece, short and very much to the point.

Not long later, Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing reposted the entire piece.

UKL took exception to this, and apparently attempted to approach the SFWA e-piracy committee to ask for their help in this matter. Unfortunately, and unknown to her, that committee had been disbanded after the Scribd debacle (for opposite views, see here and here). And so she somehow ended up in touch with SFWA VP Andrew Burt, who attempted to get in touch with Cory to ask him to take it down. Due to the Scribd mess (I would imagine, although other things come to mind), Cory has Andrew killfiled, and so he says he knew nothing of this until it showed up elsewhere. See his apology for his own take on things, and then see UKL's acceptance of his apology.

I have issues with Cory's apology, which smacks of the sort of non-apology we're so prone to seeing these days ("I'm sorry your feelings were hurt," rather than "I'm sorry I screwed up"). However, it's not bad, once one gets past the blustering and excuse-making.

I also have issues with Andrew's involvement in this. In my eyes, he was largely responsible for the Scribd mess. As soon as UKL contacted him, it would have been wise to take it to the Board, or to SFWA president Michael Capobianco (who, true to nature, was able to calm much of this down with a phone call or two). UKL, who likely didn't know the history of the mess she was walking into, picked the least efficient way of getting this done, if efficiency is measured by the amount of noise generated, instead of actual accomplishments.

I wish I could share with you some of the crap that has been running on the private SFWA newsgroups, but that would be wrong, both morally and contractually. Suffice it to say, there are people I like and respect who are being vicious and ugly with this event, I suppose taking it as a form of retribution after having had to slink away after the Scribd screwup (how many descriptors can I come up with for that?). There are also, no surprise, people I neither like nor respect doing the same thing.

I can share the crap that's been running at Boing Boing, though. I don't know what the hell Cory was thinking, but as a purveyor of free speech, it came as a shock that comments were not allowed on his apology. And so people took to dropping comments into other threads. See here and here.

A couple of things about some of these comments sadden and dismay me. First, and the only obvious one to those of you coming late to the party, is the wretched idea that this is somehow to be blamed on UKL and perhaps her advanced age, and that people will no longer buy her books, or perhaps will take their UKL books and drop them in the trash. Second, and one I can't find any more (although perhaps it was tucked away elsewhere), an anonymous commenter reposted all of UKL's piece again, and it remained up long enough for me to read it some hours after it was posted.

This is where another player enters the game.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden is an editor at Tor, proprietor of Making Light, and as of not too long ago, comment moderator at Boing Boing. She doesn't have a lot of patience for boors and trolls, and developed a wonderful method of moderation called "disemvowelling," in which she leaves the comment up but removes all the vowels (reserved for the worst of the worst, I'll note). The visual effect is translates very much to my eyes as I assume someone gagged would to my ears.

Her control extends to what gets posted and when, at least when it comes to anonymous posters. Andrew Burt tried to post a question, and she didn't allow it. And yet she did allow the reposting of UKL's story, as well posting her own attack on Andrew, and publicly questioning whether perhaps UKL had fallen under Andrew's sway in this matter.

I don't like Andrew's actions with regard to SFWA. That's not been a secret. But, contrary to what Teresa had written (and I have a sneaking suspicion it's been disappeared, but I'll be happy to correct myself it someone else can find it), UKL is a grown woman and perfectly capable of making her own decisions. TNH's actions and inactions dismay me

As am I. I'll continue to read books by both UKL and Cory, although my continued existence as a member of SFWA is in jeopardy (I'll decide by the time I get to WFC), as is my respect for a whole swack of people. On the brighter side, there will be fewer sites to visit and waste my time each day.

ADDENDUM: It occurs to me that I danced around a couple of opinions of my own, which may be because Aidan took to puking last night. Cory may be right that republishing all of UKL's piece was fair use, but he may be wrong. I'm not a lawyer, and so the legalities are not mine to say. However, I don't see why it should have even been an issue. How hard is it to snip a 60 to 100 word portion and link to the original? Answer: not as hard as it is to back down and have people call you on it. No matter the old adage, roughly translated here as "copy first and apologize later."

On the flip side, UKL did publish her piece in the web. It's going to crop up (another author, unnamed here, emailed it to me in its entirety, and he's - I think - very conservative on the copyright front). In this case I would suggest that it would have been more sensible to not call this piracy and to contact Cory herself (either via Boing Boing or through his contact info supplied in the SFWA Directory).

Finally, I recall when Ian Frazier's Lamentations of the Father showed up on the web. (Google it and see: it's all over the place.) I did share it with some people, but when the book came out, I bought it. Certainly not everybody will, but it was worth it for me, something I wanted on my bookshelf rather than on the computer, and I wanted to put a little money on Frazier's pocket. Would I have bought it if I hadn't read it on the web? Maybe, since I knew of some of Frazier's work. But this was a spontaneous purchase, made easier because I already knew it, even though I hadn't been planning on making that purchase.

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