writing when reading is old

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by bzipitidoo, Jan 28, 2017.

  1. bzipitidoo

    bzipitidoo Regular Member

    Greetings everyone.

    Stumbled over this website today while doing a little SF writing for fun. I was merely looking for some memory joggers for a top ten list I wanted to put in the story. No, I am not a serious author (yet?), no published works of fiction, no long manuscripts buried on my computer, though I do have a few published research papers.

    Was an SF fan when I was a kid, then switched to fantasy after reading a howler full of bad science. Got tired of fantasy in college and gradually moved back. But, I am a tightwad, and the price hikes of paperbacks drove me away. $2 was how much a paperback cost in 1980, but by 1990 it was $5 and kept right on going until plateauing for a while around $7 to $8. I tried switching to the used bookstore, but found them unreliable. Not only might they not have a particular book, they might not have any of a major author's books. So I quit. You don't hike prices faster than inflation and think some people won't notice, and react. With the rise of the Internet, there was plenty of other entertainment. I hear that makes me a "lapsed Catholic".

    So if I can't get good SF at what I feel is a fair price, then why not make up my own? Try to tackle the issues that the mainstream is ducking. What issues, you may ask?

    Even now, 25 years after the Internet took off, people are still figuring out what it means. Sadly, even most SF authors don't seem to get it. Embarrassing, really. That's the number one issue I have with SF. So many of you perceive self-interest in pretending that copyright is good and fair, and unconsciously or consciously write that bias into your stories. I hear Doctorow maybe gets it. I haven't taken the time to read anything of his. I trolled the authors at GenCon a couple of years ago, on the issue of copyright, and was disappointed but not surprised to find them all staunch supporters of copyright. I did not seek out their guest of honor, Mercedes Lackey, but quite unintentionally bumped into her at the end. I was wearing my Pirate Bay t-shirt, and she asked if I really understood the publishing industry. Well, yes and no. I decided to humbly say that perhaps I didn't understand it completely, and she went into a explanation of how writing involves editing, proofreading, printing, and that all costs money, and concluded that anyone who criticizes copyright without understand that is an idiot. Woo!

    My next major beef with SF these days is Time Travel. I'm sick of it. It's overused, and it's cheap. More on that another time, must close, no time left.
  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Hi @bzipitidoo, and welcome to the forum.
    Well, do you believe in the right to property? It's a foundational doctrine promulgated by the Leveller movement during the English Civil War and the basis for the transition from an agrarian, serf-like society to an emerging, technological, free-market society that underlay western progress beyond subsistence living for the layman. So, pretty fundamental, and entrenched in the psychology of a free society that considers the fruit of one's labour (or the result from one's act of creation) to rightfully belong to the individual who has put in the effort or done the creating. It allowed a vibrant, more wealthy community to form in place of the previous master-serf relationship in the highly stratified societies of Europe.

    Isn't copyright just an extension of that right to property to intangible, intellectual works. But copyright is usually in effect for limited time periods because of factors such as the lifespan of the creator of whichever content you're talking about.

    Not sure what you mean by "unconsciously or consciously write that bias into your stories."
    Not read Doctorow yet, but definitely intend to get around to him
    I'm also not a huge fan of time travel stories. Not so much because I've read bad stories (to tell you the truth, I usually avoid them automatically unless specifically recommended), but because I can't stand time travel paradoxes. But, I'd like to make more of an effort to read some of the more noteworthy time travel stories at some point.
    Definitely that the internet has changed the seemingly inviolable copyright dynamic. That's both a good and bad thing. It doesn't bother me personally if it affects multi-million/-billion companies, but it's certainly detrimental to individual content creators, especially as they're starting out. But in my opinion, content piracy can't be stopped. It's going to happen once the means are available, no matter the court rulings. People will find a way. And content creators have to understand and deal with this reality. Some musicians and authors already are. I've come across some who make their content available on a pay-what-you-want basis. Or at least ask that if you really did like it, then at least contribute some minimum to show your support so that they can continue creating.
  3. bzipitidoo

    bzipitidoo Regular Member

    > Well, do you believe in the right to property?

    Certainly. But I do not believe in copyright, nor patents. It'll take some explaining. And surely you've heard this reasoning before? Well, here goes.

    The root of the whole problem is a seductive, plausible seeming simplification that is, however, wrong. That simplification is the conflation of the material with the immaterial. A printed book is a material good. The words in that book are not. To call someone a thief for copying a song, movie, book, or idea is to align with the propaganda that copying is stealing. Copying is not stealing. Copying is copying. Maybe it's wrong, immoral, unfair, and all that, but it is not stealing, any more than vandalism, speeding, insulting the king, or a whole host of other actions are stealing.

    > Isn't copyright just an extension of that right to property to intangible, intellectual works

    No! That is the simplification I'm talking about. Seductive, plausible, but wrong. Copyright is exactly what its name says, the right to make copies. It worked okay, not great, but merely okay, so long as copying was somewhat difficult. Now however, copying is in the hands of the masses. Since the arrival of commodity priced storage of stunning capacity, and the Internet, copying is so easy anyone can do it. The Gutenberg Press was a revolutionary advance, perhaps the biggest of the past millennium until the very end. The Internet is bigger.

    > content piracy can't be stopped. ... And content creators have to understand and deal with this reality.

    Yes. That is a big reason, but not the prime reason to abolish copyright. That's the kind of resigned attitude the more intelligent among content creators have adopted. The more confused ones have joined the propaganda campaign wholeheartedly. You are being ridiculous, and are apparently unaware of it. You are acting like a brainwashed former high ranking slave who was set above the other slaves and wishes the Confederacy had won the Civil War, trying to argue that slavery has its good points and is still useful and shouldn't have been completely eradicated. You should want copyright abolished. Why? Because copying is a natural right. Government efforts to restrict, control, regulate, and tax copying are artificial, in vain, and most of all, are actually tyranny. And very costly tyranny at that. Time and time again, content producers have tried to push other organizations into doing their dirty work of policing for them, for instance trying to tell colleges that they have to stop their students from committing piracy. And for what? Who gets hurt? Is it a crime against McDonalds to buy ground beef and burger buns from a grocery store, make your own burgers?

    Our public libraries should be allowed to go completely digital. Imagine what that would mean. Thousands of local libraries could dump their very limited print collections and save big time on the costs of storing all that. One terabyte hard drive can hold as much information as an entire wall of books. Put that space to other uses. There would be no more having to tell patrons they can't borrow a particular work because all the copies are checked out, no more need to have multiple copies outside of backup purposes. No more need for interlibrary loans. No more late fines. No more having to travel to and from the library to check out and return books. And most of all, the material would be oh so much, much more searchable! Can't remember in what book some quote was? No problem, just search online.

    The prime objection is of course that this will destroy art. How can authors make money without copyright? That question is too often asked in a sarcastic manner, as if it is self-evident that artists will starve without copyright. Propaganda, again. Copyright is not the fairest, best, one and only, God given, holy way to reward and encourage artists to create art. It is merely one way to do it, and a rather poor way at that. I do want authors to be able to make a living from writing. I do not agree with copyright as the means. But I am often attacked as if I hate authors and want them all to starve, under the implication that copyright is the only way to do it.

    You may not appreciate just how much copyright has warped artistic expression. For example, the Star Trek episode, I Mudd has a bit of dialog where it is revealed that on a particular planet, the penalty for violating copyrights and patents is death. Yeah, Hollywood wishes! That one is obvious. Would it surprise you to learn that the Silmarillion is seriously warped and perhaps fatally flawed by this narrow vision of property? It's not just a few lines, no. This inexplicable inability to copy is central to the whole plot of the Silmarillion. Morgoth stealing the Silmarils would be no big deal if Feanor could make more. But for some reason, he just can't. Why? Didn't he keep notes? One could reach for reasons like that perhaps the materials Feanor used are extremely rare and difficult to obtain. But then, why can't Yavanna just grow more trees to replace the 2 that Morgoth destroyed? Because Tolkien says so. Because it makes the loss more dramatic and tragic. Well, that's fantasy for you. Lot more fantasies than that one treat information entirely too mystically, as undiscoverable by mere mortals, easily lost, and the most precious remembered and taught only by gods. That wrong thinking has contaminated the public imagination and done immense and largely unappreciated damage.

    > make their content available on a pay-what-you-want basis.

    Yes. What looks to be the best ways to pay for art is in a word, patronage. Patronage is not a new idea, it's been around for centuries. Patronage was what gave us classical music. Patronage, not copyright. Of course the usual objection is that patronage was only practiced by rich nobles. Yes, but now with the Internet we can do patronage so much better. It is far easier now for a large group of people to pool money for art. We call it crowdfunding. It's not perfect. But it is a whole lot better than copyright. There is also the model used by broadcasters, ad revenue. Product placement. Endorsements are another possibility. We should get busy building up these new systems. Expanding and improving them. Forget trying to save copyright. It can't be saved. Nor should we want it saved even if we could.
  4. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Lots for me to mull over before I can respond. You've thought about this before, whereas I'm coming from a position that's taken copyright protection for granted.

    I do have one pressing question, though. How come you didn't go the full monty and add the "da" to your name?
  5. bzipitidoo

    bzipitidoo Regular Member

    In the near 20 years I've been using that handle, you're the first to ask anything about it. I actually didn't know about Disney's Song of the South when I made it up. Disney used that tune in quite a few other places, and that's where I heard it. The altered spelling is intentional, to keep it distinctive.

    I was doing some research on the data compression method used in a program the author called bzip. bzip faded into obscurity thanks to extreme patent fear. No one would touch it because the author had used arithmetic compression which was patented in the early 1980s. Didn't matter if the patent holders acted friendly, any patent holders can be bought out, and all their assurances rendered null and void at a stroke. There's been a long debate whether software should even be patentable. You can't patent math, you can only patent machinery. But where does software lie on that, is it more like math or more like a machine? He sidestepped the whole issue, writing bzip2 in which he replaced the arithmetic compression with the slightly inferior Huffman compression which dates to 1952, and that satisfied the community that no one would be sued for using it. During my work, I thoroughly examined the bzip2 source code, and found and told the author about a few inefficiencies, most of which he fixed. bzip2 was a big hit, and it's a tiny bit faster thanks to my very small contributions. So, stopping at "doo" rhymes better with "two".
  6. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Really? That's the first thing I thought of when I saw your choice of username. I just couldn't understand the initial 'b' but your anecdote makes that clear now!

    Also, since you say you gradually moved back to science fiction, what are some of the novels you've enjoyed or rated highly?
  7. bzipitidoo

    bzipitidoo Regular Member

    Most of the stuff I've read is 20 plus years old. I like nearly everything Roger Zelazny wrote. Asimov's Foundation of course. Recently read Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep and The Children of the Sky. Now reading A Deepness in the Sky. I found Hyperion moving and good, but did not like the sequels. Am almost caught up with Niven's Ringworld series. The Mote in God's Eye was a Malthusean fear fest which I nevertheless found quite good. Found Brin's Uplift series enjoyable. Wolfe's Book of the New Sun was excellent.

    Basically, I've been making super conservative choices, sticking with the awards winners of the biggest series of big name authors I like, so as not to waste time and money on turkeys. That formula however has not been entirely satisfactory in finding books I enjoy.
  8. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    A Deepness in the Sky is great. And I also liked all the sequels to Hyperion. Have you read any Alastair Reynolds?
  9. bzipitidoo

    bzipitidoo Regular Member

    Hadn't even heard of Reynolds, or at least, I don't recall ever seeing any of his books in the SF/Fantasy aisle. Checking Wikipedia, I see he's a British author specializing in hard SF. Might be why I haven't seen any of his books in the US. I have the impression that about half the published fiction crosses the pond. Or, he made his debut around 2000, shortly after I dropped out, and that's why I missed him.
  10. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Well, his books are mostly space opera, but they have a good hard SF edge to them. You really should try reading him. He's really very good. A little dense, though, particularly in one or two of his earliest novels.
  11. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Well-Known Member

    On another note - why not join a library?
  12. bzipitidoo

    bzipitidoo Regular Member

    Good point. It's strange how I forget about the public library, though I champion the concept and want to see them really take hold of current technology and put the private bookstore out of business. I even have a current library card.

    As a teen, I got used to thinking of public libraries as stodgy, dated places where everything was at least 5 years old. The place to get current fiction was the private bookstore. It's an unthinking reflex to turn first to them. Even the Internet is still like that for me sometimes. I need a plumber, chiropractor, dentist, auto mechanic, etc., and unthinkingly reach for the Yellow Pages. "Let your fingers do the walking..." Then afterwards I wonder how I could have forgotten about the Internet.
  13. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Well-Known Member

    Yes this precisely, but not necessarily in a good or bad way, it seems to change from good to bad at various times in its early history.

    one of many contributing factors to the civil war was the argument of the right to intellectual property.

    So by name if you look up first copyright it says 1790. This isn't true. (Partly because Google assumes country of origin, but let's look beyond a Google search) This is essentially the model we use today as the first Act dealing with this in the current United States government. But we did a series of these in question 1783, shortly after becoming a confederacy, the law had no way of be being enforced, and 5 of the 13 states already had copyright laws. Enacted by people who were using them to "protect" there own intellectual properties.

    But it's older than that. One of the (again numerous) reasons for cessesstion from England was that the Statute of Ann ( or copyright act of 1710) (which dealt with for the first time government regulating copyrights rather than third parties) did not protect any rights for those living in the colonies. The colonies wanted the same protections from the law English men enjoyed.

    Before 1710, there were battles and riots over intellectual property. The copyright was done entirely through private businesses, in fact the law from 1662 was exploited enough that one company essentially help the monopoly on printing and intellectual property in the UK, this law also handed down a duty for this company , censorship. Their duty was to censor everything that passed through their company. This is why the Statute of Ann was passed, and after it the corrupt monopoly collapsed.

    But it still goes back further, some earlier laws were in place in the 1640s and one passed in 1637 By the Star chamber, these were some of the weapons Charles used against parliament before and during the English Civil War and in part why the argument of property was based. These are not called copyright laws they are earlier forms and ancestors of copyright laws, and they only had one goal. Censorship. These laws (not technically laws but I forget the word used) were used to root out and censor treasonous writings under the pretense of paying for the write to publish. I'm sure it goes back further, but I know not of these.

    So the right to intellectual property was in fact (part of) what Cromwell and them were fighting for. They were in fact fighting against the censorship based copyright laws, and for the protection based copyright laws in the form of Statute of Ann. As well (in part) what Americans were fighting for in the revolutionary war.

    I have more to say both in favor and condemning. I also will need time with this beautiful and lengthy conversation before posting in response, I will stick to impressions and historical facts until then.
  14. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Well-Known Member

    You mentioned public libraries going full digital earlier, the one where I grew up essentially has.

    So I loved the library, I lived near one of the largest regional library systems in the United states (over 20 locations in many counties) Some of the auxiliaries weren't as impressive, serving as a community meeting place more than anything, but you had daily book runs between them so if they had it anywhere else you could get it tomorrow.

    My local was massive, with huge ominous book shelves tall enough that a 5 foot person needed a stool to get to the top shelf. In a room the size of a basketball court plus bleachers. With two more that for events, lecture halls, AV rooms, study nooks, and two classrooms.

    The headquarters location was just as big...just books.

    (Down an old narrow iron spiral staircase in the middle of a room with several bookcases was the Virginia antique section. Wall to wall with old Virginian books, unavailable in digital, often only known copies. It was there I found that the opinion in virginia in various historian accounts, was that the first battle of the civil war was not bull run (battle of manassas to a virginian) but occurred either east of richmond or east of fredericksburg depending on which account you are reading.)

    I loved these book locations, I could find what I'm looking for and pull out every single book on that topic by proximity filing system. Or just wander around and look at random books until you find a good one.

    They changed it. The location near my house is largely digital, they increased the space used for community and events taking up what was the whole fiction section, reference, children, audio, movies, newsprint, magazine.

    Only the non fiction section remains book filled (now it's all the sections). But with double space between the aisles, only 3 shelves tall, every book has a full front facing (no spines out). Only new stuff.
    If they happen to have something youre interested in...it's already been checked out since there's no choice anymore, everyone is checking out the same thing.
    they have a large digital library, you can rent whatever you want, no late fees. Your file expires after a certain time, but you can renew infinitely. Still only a certain number out at a time.

    I hate it. I have a hard time reading a screen too long, they never have what I want, but I still remember when I could read anything I wanted too.

    It's not the loss of art I am complaining about, it's the loss of being able to read anything I wanted, the loss of being able to do a research project with only trip to the library, the loss of choice and variety. The fear that this might just be an ugly censorship practice.
  15. bzipitidoo

    bzipitidoo Regular Member

    I've looked a little into the history of copyright. As I understand it, from the 1500s on, copyright was mightily championed by the church, partly in response to the invention of the millennium, the Gutenberg press. The Catholic Church was interested in keeping Bibles pure and correct, to put it kindly. Less kind is to note that like modern day propagandists, the church was highly interested in maintaining their monopoly on information and Ultimate Truth. They gambled, perhaps had no choice but to gamble, even going so far as to fund astronomies, that astronomical research would merely confirm what they thought they already knew. Of course it didn't work out that the Earth was the center of the universe as they hoped and expected, and they treated the world to such barbaric spectacles as their persecution of Galileo. Strong copyright (proto-copyright) empowered them to stop the printing of Bibles they didn't approve. Just translating the Bible to a vulgar common language could be a serious offense. One of their worst acts was the persecution of William Tynsdale. He announced that he would put scripture in the hands of the masses, which evidently was highly provocative in those days. They burned his English translations of the Bible, which was a bit much for the faithful to swallow, and finally burned Tynsdale himself at the stake in 1536. Thanks to mass printing, they could not eradicate every last copy of Tynsdale's works, so the book burning was also a failure on that front, serving more as a protest move. Copyright played only a bit part in that, with the church leaning more on their religious authority and accusations of heresy. Their heavy handed treatment backfired, of course. Ironic today that the Bible is one of the major examples of a work that is not and should not be copyrightable. The King James Bible is heavily based on Tynsdale's work.

    And so it remains today that copyright is entirely too useful for the suppression of knowledge and learning. Control of knowledge, for rent seeking purposes, or for manipulation of public opinion, is the real agenda of many of the pro-copyright forces, many of whom don't give a crap about artists. It's all about power. The public has invested power in copyright, by believing in and respecting it. The powerful throw a few scraps to artists, to keep them on board, and to be useful as propaganda tools. DMCA takedowns are notorious for being abused to stop people from spreading knowledge on how to repair products, how to modify them for other purposes, and to quash critical and negative reviews, and parodies. Even more ridiculous is slapping copyrights on the laws themselves, to extract revenue from those who wish to inform themselves on what the laws actually say. And what possible reason is there to accept the restrictions of copyright on material we use to teach our children? Only so that a few publishers can extract revenue from the public education system, in return for bad service such as refusing to correct mistakes in a timely manner. Monopolism is another reason I feel that copyright has to go. However temporary and limited, copyrights are still monopolies. I have yet to hear of a monopoly that is good.

    Technology is a double edged sword. You fear that technology will enable even greater control and censorship than copyright already provides? Is that a rational fear? The evidence suggests the opposite. Technology has put copying in the hands of the masses, and that has made censorship far harder to do.

    > you can rent whatever you want, no late fees

    Yes, one of the arguments I use to support the idea of public libraries goiong all digital.

    > Your file expires after a certain time, but you can renew infinitely

    Idiocies of that sort are why our thinking needs revising. What is the point of making a file "expire", especially if you can just renew immediately? It's a heck of a lot more work to program computers with the means to enforce such a purely artificial restriction, deliberately making them worse tools, as if we don't have enough work to do fixing real bugs.

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