Welcome to your authentic Hugos experience.

A couple of years ago, I was at an Author Event listening to a Big Name Editor talk. Let’s refer to the editor as “You”, just to be confusing.

So. You are a big name SFF editor, who publishes well-known, well-regarded annual collections of the “best of” variety. You have won multiple Hugo and World Fantasy awards, to name just a few. You are, for the most part, visibly a member of some, but not all, of the most privileged groups in society.

What I remember most about You speaking is the way You mentioned, quite offhandedly, that You never do blind or slush submissions for anthologies any more. You feel You don’t “need” to, because You have been in the scene for decades and You know it and are an identified tastemaker. Instead, when You’re putting together an anthology, You approach the authors You want to include. They rarely say no. I mean, why would they? You’re You, after all.

Like I said, this was just one little throwaway comment in a bigger, much longer and far-reaching conversation. Yet every time I think about things like diversity in SFF, or inclusion, or slates or cliques or whatever the Outrage Du Jour happens to be… I think of You, and Your comment. Because, here’s the thing. Those authors You include? The ones You choose to represent as the “best of” Your industry? These authors are, almost exclusively, already well-established big names. They’re also almost exclusively like You, demographically speaking.

Incidentally, I don’t read Your anthologies. After all, they’re always filled with the same handful of authors writing the same handful of stories. And they just aren’t my thing.

Funny, I guess. The way that goes.

2018-08-22T08:41:32+00:0022nd August, 2018|Tags: books, hugo awards, publishing, sff|0 Comments

AMP still sucks tho.

This is the fundamental paradox presented by aggregation-based monopolies: by virtue of gaining users through the provision of a superior user experience, aggregators gain power over suppliers, which come onto the aggregator’s platforms on the aggregator’s terms, resulting in an even better experience for users, resulting in virtuous cycle. There is no better example than Google’s actions with AMP and Chrome ad-blocking: Google is quite explicitly dictating exactly how it is its suppliers will access its customers, and it is hard to argue that the experience is not significantly better because of it.

At the same time, what Google is doing seems nakedly uncompetitive — thus the paradox. The point of antitrust law — both the consumer-centric U.S. interpretation and the European competitor-centric one — is ultimately to protect consumer welfare. What happens when protecting consumer welfare requires acting uncompetitively?

Ben Thompson on the Aggregator Paradox.

See also: Amazon, Steam, et cetera.

For what it’s worth, I disagree with Thompson’s assertion that aggregators are, in fact, “protecting consumer welfare”. Google and Facebook aren’t “protecting consumer welfare” by normalizing deeply intrusive surveillance and the on-sell of personal data, for example, and Amazon isn’t doing it by, say, implicitly using its monopoly to prevent technological advances in ebook formats.1 I do agree that there’s a convenience factor with these platforms that, in many cases, can appear to users to represent a “better user experience”—DuckDuckGo’s search does kinda suck, ebooks really are a pain-in-the-ass to manage outside of Kindle (or iBooks, for that matter)—but I’d argue there are negative externalities with long-term effects that go beyond just “it’s easier” that Thompson is disregarding.

So, yanno. Tl;dr, it’s complicated.

  1. Honestly probably the least of its sins, but… well. Good enough for an example. ^
2018-05-22T09:00:54+00:0022nd August, 2018|Tags: tech|0 Comments

Digital preserve.

Video games are both an artform and a cultural artifact, which means there are various libraries out there that preserve them. So, yes. It really is someone’s job out there to collect every single game for the Fairchild Channel F and ensure they stay playable. So far so good.

Except… fast forward twenty-plus years, to the advent of online gaming. Of the sort that runs on proprietary tech held on private servers run by the game publisher. Who then shuts them down. And in this world of overreaching copyright (cough DMCA cough)… how do you preserve that? And, more importantly, as a third party, should you have a right to?

2018-03-14T07:34:03+00:0021st August, 2018|Tags: gaming, law, pop culture, tech, video games|0 Comments

First of all, this is the most awkward packaging for shipping one single book ever, so thanks for that, unnamed online bookstore.

And secondly: yaaassss beautiful shiny! It doesn’t photograph, but the book really does have a foil cover and it is very, very pretty. ⚡️

2018-08-22T08:07:11+00:0020th August, 2018|Tags: books|0 Comments

Our school didn’t teach sax.

Interesting look on the lasting legacy of Lisa Simpson, arguably the cartoon avatar of Millennial social justice angst, as well as Yeardley Smith, the woman behind the voice. [Content warning for some parts of the article, that deal with Smith’s disordered eating and self-image issues.]

One of the things that kind of stands out to me, as someone who grew up watching The Simpsons (when I first saw it I was nine, i.e. one year older than Lisa and one year younger than Bart) but who hasn’t seen a single episode since the 90s is that, well… I have seen almost all of the episodes referenced in the article. Take that as you will, I suppose.

2018-03-05T11:38:34+00:0019th August, 2018|Tags: culture, pop culture|2 Comments

The widespread conflation of private platforms and businesses with public (i.e. government) services and infrastructure is like the Original Sin of late-stage capitalism.

2018-08-22T07:51:37+00:0019th August, 2018|Tags: culture, politics|0 Comments

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” is the greatest modern adaptation of Lovecraftian Mythos. Discuss.

(Bonus credit: Tom Waits’ “Hell Broke Luce“.)

2018-08-17T21:18:58+00:0018th August, 2018|Tags: type: text|0 Comments

I weigh.

Most of the women I know wake up much earlier than men to get ready, and spend much of their time and money on complete nonsense like manicures and pedicures, hair treatments, and waxing. Women bleach their bumholes. THEY BLEACH THEIR BUMHOLES. This is how far we have gone with our pursuit of perfection, that we are no longer satisfied with the natural colour of an area almost nobody in the world will ever see. We have to be thin, but with big breasts and bottoms, gravity free, spotless, hairless, ageless, light skinned but always with a year round sun kissed glow; we must be fun and eat pizza and drink beer but also completely cellulite free and we must all have tiny noses and enormous eyes and lips but with skinny faces, but our skinny faces must never look gaunt and old.

And after all this, and after all the work we do, that we do as much of as men, ON SUBSTANTIALLY fewer calories than we probably need, we get judged more and paid less anyway.

[…] We spend our lives in pursuit of the approval of others when we don’t yet even really approve of ourselves.

Jameela Jamil weighs in.

Obvious content warning for Jamil’s post, which deals with weight and body image issues, and has an image of a pretty brutal1 self-portrait she did at age sixteen.

  1. Albeit pretty damn good. ^
2018-03-05T07:59:26+00:0018th August, 2018|Tags: culture, cw: dieting, cw: eating disorders|0 Comments

What if you didn’t?

I have a half-baked, three-quarters-joking theory of cryptocurrency, which is that it is a magical incarnation of a sort of male internet grievance. People — mostly men — sit around on Reddit complaining that they are underappreciated geniuses and that it is unfair that they have not been rewarded with vast wealth. They feel dispossessed and betrayed: They expected the modern world to reward computer literacy, but then they grew up to realize that the modern world, much like the old world, rewards mostly people skills and creativity and emotional intelligence. And then Bitcoin came along, and paranoid computer-literate people who spent a lot of time on the internet were the early adopters, and it became the world’s first economic system that allocates wealth basically for hanging around on Reddit. What [venture capitalist Alexia] Bonatsos describes is not an accident; cryptocurrency seems almost custom-designed as a way for the men to get all the wealth, again.

I know you are going to email me to complain about this theory, but what I want to propose here is: What if you didn’t?

Matt Levine on grievance.

2018-03-01T10:32:45+00:0017th August, 2018|Tags: cryptocurrency, culture, economics|0 Comments