Beneath the Sign of the Bear

by wjw on June 22, 2017

Toolbox650I’ve been spending the week at the 10th Anniversary Taos Toolbox, the workshop for writers of science fiction and fantasy.  Here’s a photo of us beneath the bear, including fellow instructor Nancy Kress and special guest George RR Martin.

I realized too late that I should have got a photo of us all lying dead at George’s feet, and titled it “The Red Workshop.”

We’ve had nearly a week of critique, and below you may find some of the highlights, diligently collected by Nancy:

* How do corporate wizards that don’t have to dress for the office actually dress?”
* “A basic rule of even alternate universes is that ghosts can’t have children.”
* “Have the mother make a staff out of the imp-doorknocker.”

” “Coming from an organization where people delight in throwing others under the bus, I liked this story.”
* “The ‘as-you-know-Bob’ dialogue even starts with ‘as you know.'”
* “If there are swordwriters, I want to see them write something with their swords.”
* “I want to apologize because this critique is going to suck.”

* “She got off too easy for eating the child.”
* “This could be cool, if I knew what was going on.”
“If she had proper self-control, she wouldn’t be blue.” (Color, not mood)
* “We’ve got prehistoric parasites living in people’s brains, and volunteers are going ‘Yes!’?”
*How does dodging bullets qualify you as a good bride?”
“I admired the multi-purposing of the rabbits.”‘
* “If editors are trolls, are publishers dragons?”

* “That kiss was so deep that what she should respond is, ‘Why are you licking my tonsils?””
* “I don’t understand why he isn’t sure it’s her–she’s the only were-tiger on the plane.”
* “I liked the opening 67-word sentence because I’m German and we don’t mind long sentences.”
* “I didn’t realize he was injecting her with venom. I just thought he was a really bad kisser.”
* “Why are people heart-flopping?”
* “But you’re Canadian–you’re accustomed to governments that make intelligent decisions!”
* “The dead grandmother should be digging the ditch.”


by wjw on June 18, 2017

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

It’s Father’s Day in the States, so I thought I’d offer a brief salute to my dad.  I’ve written about him in more detail elsewhere, but it never hurts to remind myself and the world in general that he was kind, supportive, smart, loving, and did his bit to thrash Hitler.

I chose to live a life that was filled with chaos and uncertainty, and he was the solid, supportive presence in my world that allowed me to take the chances I took and fly as far from the nest as I did.

Rest in peace.


Angel Trees

by wjw on June 15, 2017

NEWANGEL650For those of you who prefer your reading matter to be printed on dead trees instead of touch screens, I’ve got a great deal for you!

A brand-new trade paperback of my novel Angel Station is now available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  The book is pleasantly sized at 6×9 inches, with the highly readable text printed on cream paper, and all bound inside a glossy cover.  It should make a handsome addition to your bookshelf, and costs a mere $14.99.

[NOTE: The Barnes & Noble page currently reads “out of stock,” but that just means they haven’t printed any yet.  That should happen any second now, and then you’ll be able to order your copy.  UPDATE: the book is now in stock.]

I’m publishing these myself through services that Amazon and B&N are now making available to authors, and I’ll be re-issuing other works as time goes on.  The B&N editions may even end up at your local bookstore!  (You could, of course, make that happen by ordering a copy from your local B&N.)

And by the way, would any of you pay the extra for a hardback with a dust jacket?  I don’t know what the “extra” would be, but I could make inquiries.


I Am Writing My Name

by wjw on June 15, 2017

I am writing my name.  I am writing my name.  I am writing my name.  I am writing my name.  I am writing my name.  I am writing my name.  I am writing my name.  I am writing my name.

Over and over again.  Over and over again.  Over and over again.  Over and over again.  Over and over again.

. . . well, you get the picture, I’m sure.

This morning the UPS van pulled up with a package containing 700 (or maybe a thousand) signature sheets for the limited-edition, signed hardback of The Book of Swords, a new anthology with a new Ice and fire story by George R.R. Martin, and incidentally a non-Ice and Fire story by me, and non-Ice and Fire stories by other writers including Robin Hobb, CJ Cherryh, Kate Elliott, and Daniel Abraham.

The signed limited edition will be by Subterranean Press, by the way, but it isn’t yet on their website.  So if you want signage, watch this place for an announcement.

The timing, I must say, could have been better.  I’m off to Taos Toolbox on Saturday, and that means I’ve got plenty to do between now and then without writing my name over and over and over and over . . .

So I’ve spent much of the day in front of the TV, signing while I watched Amazon’s new epic six-episode documentary about the Grateful Dead, which was good because I didn’t have to watch it, all I had to do was listen.  What I was actually watching was my signature deteriorating from one page to the next, and it isn’t that legible a signature to begin with.  I sign checks and contracts with it, and that’s about it, because I learned to type when I was 10, and from that point on I typed everything, and maybe the last document I wrote in longhand was an exam in grad school, and that was a lot of decades ago.

It’s not my real legal signature anyway, it’s a special signature I developed because I could write it quickly in the event that someone dropped 1000 signature sheets on my doorstep with a short deadline.  Though I have to say it’s useful having my legal signature not be the one that everyone has access to.

So I signed until I was so clawed and cramped that I could no longer generate even a half-legible signature, and now I’m typing, which is what I do well, and when I’m done here I’ll type a lot more on Praxis VI and then go back to signing again, assuming that I can un-cramp my fingers.

Accomplishment.  This is how it’s done, cramp by cramp.

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Insufficiently Anonymized

by wjw on June 14, 2017

infographic_analyzing1300Via Chairman Bruce, a brief survey of what the corporate oligarchy knows about me, you, and everyone else.

Facebook can recognize your emotions from your keyboard typing patterns.  They can work out your religion, your sexual orientation, and whether you use controlled substances with what they claim is a fair degree of accuracy.

And they can make mistakes.  A few months ago, I viewed on Amazon a science fiction novel by a gay author, and suddenly Amazon was offering me gay erotica, gay-themed films, and gay-themed calendars.  (I had thought that Amazon maintained a Great Wall between erotica and other forms of literature, but apparently not in the case of LGBT fiction.)

So far, so amusing, but there are gay people who are in the closet for damned good reasons, for instance to avoid being murdered by the religious crazies who infest their small, close-minded community, or to avoid imprisonment on behalf of the bare-chested judoka who runs the country.  If all those people have to do is look at a person’s Amazon page, or buy some insufficiently-anonymized data from Amazon or Facebook or Oracle, then the closet begins to look a lot more like a prison cell.

…such methods are already used to sort, categorize, label, assess, rate, and rank people not only for marketing purposes, but also for making decisions in highly consequential areas such as finance, insurance, and healthcare, among others.

They can calculate your creditworthiness without access to your actual financial transactions (which means any credit score generated in such a way is just an educated guess, not necessarily related to reality at all).  If a logarithm decides that your lifestyle is cardiac-unhealthy, or if you’re likely to get cancer, your insurance will go up.  (Hint: everyone gets cancer, assuming you live long enough, and particularly if you’re male and own a prostate.)

For example, the large insurer Aviva, in cooperation with the consulting firm Deloitte, has predicted individual health risks, such as for diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and depression, for 60,000 insurance applicants based on consumer datatraditionally used for marketing that it had purchased from a data broker.

The consulting firm McKinsey has helped predict the hospital costs of patients based on consumer data for a “large US payor” in healthcare. Using information about demographics, family structure, purchases, car ownership, and other data, McKinsey stated that such “insights can help identify key patient subgroups before high-cost episodes occur”.

The health analytics company GNS Healthcare also calculates individual health risks for patients from a wide range of data such as genomics, medical records, lab data, mobile health devices, and consumer behavior. The company partners with insurers such as Aetna, provides a score that identifies “people likely to participate in interventions”, and offers to predict the progression of illnesses and intervention outcomes. According to an industry report, the company “ranks patients by how much return on investment” the insurer can expect if it targets them with particular interventions.

But how do they know about your health?  Your data’s supposed to be anonymized, right?

Data companies often remove names from their extensive profiles and use hashing to convert email addresses and phone numbers into alphanumeric codes such as “e907c95ef289”. This allows them to claim on their websites and in their privacy policies that they only collect, share, and use “anonymized” or “de-identified” consumer data.

However, because most companies use the same deterministic processes to calculate these unique codes, they should be understood as pseudonyms that are, in fact, much more suitable for identifying consumers across the digital world than real names.

infographic_acxiomoracle1300And they know your politics, or think they do.  (I once commented on the site of a conservative who posted on Facebook, and was then inundated by offers from every wackadoodle right-wing nutjob with an internet connection.  No, I do not want to join your crusade against the Muslim Lizard People, thank you.)

(And of course the Muslim Lizard Crusade might not have been a real thing, but a phony movement designed to discredit conservatives.  Though it more often works the other way— many of the really intolerant, obnoxious Berniebros in the last election were conservatives trying to discredit the candidate they thought posed the greatest threat.)

The original purpose of this sort of data collection was to make it easier to sell you stuff that you might want, but now it’s beyond all that.  We used to worry about governments doing this sort of thing, but it turns out governments are pretty bad at it, and in any case the government is only interested in the people they’re interested in.

In 1999, Lawrence Lessig famously predicted that left to itself, cyberspace will become a perfect tool of control shaped primarily by the “invisible hand” of the market. He suggested that we could “build, or architect, or code cyberspace to protect values that we believe are fundamental, or we can build, or architect, or code cyberspace to allow those values to disappear”. Today, the latter has nearly been made reality by the billions of dollars in venture capital poured into funding business models based on the unscrupulous mass exploitation of data. The shortfall of privacy regulation in the US and the absence of its enforcement in Europe has actively impeded the emergence of other kinds of digital innovation, that is, of practices, technologies, and business models that preserve freedom, democracy, social justice, and human dignity.

So far internet commerce is all about building monopolies.  Anything about democracy and human dignity in that?



Above Average

June 9, 2017

Tonight I was at the karate school as part of a judging panel, wherein I did my best to confusticate and bamboozle two candidates for fourth degree black belt.  (I failed.)  They were quite magnificent, and after a four-hour test were both still on their feet. But the experience reminded me of the following: Q: […]

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June 6, 2017

When I recently looked at the ebook version of Voice of the Whirlwind, I discovered that the order of two of the later chapters had been reversed in the latest update, which was January 2016.  (Flipping the order of chapter is, alas, all too easy with the software I’m using.  Up till now I’ve always caught […]

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Surfin’ Suomolainen

June 5, 2017

Continuing my exploration of the byways of Finnish culture . . . One of the less overlooked aspects of Finnish musical culture consists of their excellent surf bands, which have attracted fans throughout the world.  Here’s the best known Finnish surf band, Laika and the Cosmonauts, who have attracted praise from no less an authority […]

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June 1, 2017

Today was the first absolute success with cooking sous vide, as I brewed up a rack of ribs with the master recipe that Paul posted. I created a spice rub with garlic powder, sea salt, Indonesian white pepper, onion powder, smoked paprika, and chipotle.  (The latter two intended not only to add flavor to the […]

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Psycho (Covered)

May 31, 2017

Here’s another addition to this week’s series of unlikely cover songs. This is by the Bobs, who also recorded a lot of original material, for all that there’s nothing on Youtube but the cover songs. (Note: the Bobs are difficult to track down even with Google, which would rather reveal Bob’s Burgers (the New Mexico […]

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