Amazing Stories

Another This and That

File 770’s reporting that several court decisions had been rendered in the JDA vs Worldcon lawsuit (not its official name) was a news highligh of the week.

Careful reading of both the court documents available and the commentary on the site should be instructive for both con committees and those contemplating anti-harrassment codes of conduct.  I’m not suggesting that Worldcon did anything wrong (I don’t believe hey did), but there is some nuance in there that could help refine things a bit.

In summary, 4 of 5 claims by JDA were dismissed, while an anti-SLAP motion by Worldcon was also not allowed by the judge.  The latter not being harmful or prejudicial to Worldcon’s case in any way.  I’d suggest that JDA is being oddly quiet on the subject, but his attorney has probably persuaded him that now is not the time.

I don’t want to steal any of Mike’s thunder, so for the details (including a link to some of the court filings courtesy of Donut Glaze in the comments), you’ll have to go here

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Our third issue is in final proofing and you can count on us announcing it here when it has been released.

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For con-programming people:  I didn’t have time or energy to think about it at Worldcon, but Boskone reminded me:  cons still seem to be quiet-quiet-quiet during panels and then a rush of frantic activity in those 5-10 minute intervals between panels as the conference room doors open and everyone makes a frantic beeline for their next scheduled event.  Only to be stopped by this friend or that.  I attended a very large high school and between classes it was possible to be swept away by the human tide of students moving from one class to the next.

At times during Boskone and Worldcon I felt like I was back in those high school hallways and it got me wondering why conventions – especially larger ones, or those with limited facility space, haven’t gone with staggered scheduling.  The answers are probably obvious, among them being:  what if the other panel you want to attend begins halfway through the one you are currently in (no one wants half of a panel’s audience to up and leave halfway through); of course, it’s hell on the programming staff;  you’d be swapping short periods of crowdedness for endless wandering;  you’d probably have to staff up a bit more…probably one or two other good reasons.

But it struck me as, oh, I don’t know, something that bears a little scrutiny.

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I had a very interesting hallway conversation with another editor/publisher at Boskone regarding the market – something I want to devote more space to in the near future.  But between that conversation (we’re not paying enough to our writers and we’re not charging enough for our products) and some thoughts that were expressed during a panel, I’ve come to the conclusion that we may be on the brink of a retrenchment in the field.

In fact, I mentioned as much during said panel, going back to Lester Del Rey’s “Boom and Bust” theory, which I covered in some detail here (finding the theory a bit wanting, but instructive nonetheless).

According to that piece, 2019, this year, should be a peak year (yay!);  what with new magazines coming out, reboots of The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories on TV, new film franchise offerings scattered throughout the year, its possible to agree with that assessment.

On the other hand, that same pattern suggests 2021 is a bust year.  I can’t say why but 2020-2021 feels like that might be spot on.

Forewarned is forearmed.  I think the best lesson to be gleaned from all of this is that no field of endeavor ever simply grows and grows and grows.  The SF field is no exception and we’d all do well to remember – especially during times of growth – that there’s always a reckoning of some kind or another waiting around the bend.

To whit:  I’ve recently seen several companies offering “indie success!” that are clever re-workings of ye-olde vanity press scams, now targeting indie authors (or, to be more precise, wannabe indie authors);  I’ve even seen one that offers to analyze SEO stuff so you can target your book at internet search metrics…forget plot and characterization, all you need to do is repeat the same key words the proper number of times (especially in your title) and you’ll be the next publishing star.

Not to mention writing programs.  Oh, not that they’re turning out quality stuff – yet.  Not that they’ll ever be capable of producing a Dhalgren or a Dune, but:  the number of articles mentioning them has increased (which suggests more money going into researching and developing such, which means that there is at least some perceived market value in them) and they will probably be capable of churning out formulaic series tuned to specific reading interests not too far into the future.  (China just announced a news anchor AI;  not directly related, but another indiciation of how far such technologies have come;  AIs are now routinely used in a growing number of commercial applications that go far beyond data-mining number-crunching.)

I imagine a not-too-distant future in which AIs will pen genre series, created using data gathered from sales, reviews and critiques, Alexander Blade style, formulaic, trope-ridden pot-boilers of the kind that filled so many pulp pages, written well enough to appeal to a segment of readers who want a particular thing from their stories.  Its frightening enough to think of the speed with which such books could be written (and how cheap they’d be to produce), but I think the even scarier possibility is the idea that those books could just as easily be “tailored for the individual reader’s tastes”.

There’s an old programming expression:  GIGO.  It stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out.  Meaning that if your programming is for shit, your results will be as well.

But.  When it comes to writing, while Sturgeon did suggest that 90% of everything is crap, that never stopped the crap from selling, did it?

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