Boing Boing 

RIP, Jay Lake


The first time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was after the 2006 Los Angeles World Science Fiction convention; I was invited to a dinner with a bunch of other Campbell Award winners from years gone by. It was the year John Scalzi won the award, and I want to say it was me, him, Jay and Elizabeth Bear, though these dinners do blend together and I may be missing a name.

The last time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was last July, at the San Diego Comic Con, where Jay was in a wheelchair, and when I asked him how he was, he said he was dying, and that he wasn't going to last more than about six months. He was frank about this, and seemed to have made some peace with it. His daughter, the other people around him, we all knew he was dying. He didn't let us get maudlin. But every conversation I had with him meant something, because I had gotten to know Jay by then, and to know what a fantastic person and what a fantastic writer he was. I made a conscious effort to fix every interaction in my mind. I hugged him goodbye when I left. He was still a bear of a man, but unmistakably frail.

Jay died today.

He'd had cancer for years, and had been brave about it, and had fought. He even beat it for a while. Not long ago, though, it became clear that he was going to lose. Every time I saw Jay thereafter, he was the model of a person who was looking death in its snake-eyed gaze and not allowing the fear to paralyze him.

But I think he was afraid, and his loss -- like the loss of every single person who is taken by cancer -- represents a loss to us all. Not just because he was a prolific, imaginative and talented writer. Not just because he was a devoted father and a very good friend. Not even because he was a good man. He was every one of those things.

But we lost something today when Jay died, because every person who dies of a mindless, terrible, awful disease like cancer costs our species something.

Good-bye Jay. You are missed already.

From the official announcement:

If you want to make a contribution in Jay’s name, please make it to:
Clayton Memorial Medical Fund
c/o OSFCI
P.O. Box 5703
Portland, Oregon 97228

See also:

* John Scalzi

* Tor.com

Clarion SF/F writeathon: write, sponsor writers, help a new generation

Once again, it's time for the Clarion Writers Workshop writeathon - we need writers and sponsors to help fund the Clarion Workshop, the respected, long-running science fiction writers' bootcamp. A writeathon is just what is sounds like: a fundraiser where writers ask their friends to sponsor their writing. I'm writing 1,000 words a day, five days a week, on UTOPIA (working tile), a novel for adults: you can sponsor me here. (Disclosure: I'm proud to volunteer as a board member for the 501(c)3 nonprofit Clarion Foundation)

You should try the 1913 Webster's, seriously


James Somers thinks you should switch to the Websters 1913 dictionary, and he cites John McPhee's composition method of looking up synonyms for problematic words as the key to his peerless prose style. Somers makes a great case for the romance of historical dictionaries, but for my money (literally -- I spent a fortune on this one), the hands-down best reference for synonyms and historical language reference is the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, whose magnificence cannot be overstated.

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Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts

Ellen Kushner writes, "The editors of Interfictions Online are happy to announce the birth of the journal's latest issue, the third in the past twelve months of the trailblazing journal of the weird, the interstitial, and the uncategorizable. Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts is published online by the Interstitial Arts Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit devoted to giving border-crossing artists, academics, critics and the general public a forum and a focus to discuss and create works of art that defy categories and confound boundaries.

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240 Writers Guild of America members sign pro-Net Neutrality letter to the FCC

Robbo sez, "The WGA (Writers Guild of America West) has stepped into the fray over the FCC's proposed non-Net Neutrality rules with over 240 members (show runners, creators & writers alike) signing a letter urging FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to protect a free and open internet and not let it become like cable television. While the larger tech companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Mozilla and others have also publicly expressed their concerns over FCC proposals to create a two-tiered approach to Internet access there has been little if any outcry from any major players in the Hollywood industry - until now."

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Authors Alliance: new pro-fair use writers' group


The major US writers' group, the Authors Guild, claims to represent all writers when it sues over library book-scanning and other fair uses; a new group, the Authors Alliance, has been launched by leading copyright expert Pam Samuelson to represent the authors who like fair use, users' rights, and who reject censorship and surveillance. I'm a proud founding member, along with Jonathan Lethem, Katie Hafner and Kevin Kelly.

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Kickstarting Storium: turn writing into a multiplayer game

Mur Lafferty sez, "This week, Storium launched its Kickstarter and reached funding ($25000) in the first day. Storium is a web-based online game that you play with friends. It works by turning writing into a multiplayer game."

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New Disruptors 65: Made from Scratch with Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin

Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin founded Scratch Magazine, a born-digital publication that tells writers what they're worth and how the publishing industry sausage-making factory actually works. Jane has an extensive background as an editor, and may be best known for her decade at Writer's Digest. Manjula is a freelance writer, whose work has appeared widely in places like Modern Farmer, San Francisco Weekly, and our own The Magazine, in which she wrote about musician and producer John Vanderslice.

The New Disruptors: RSS | iTunes | Download this episode | Listen on Stitcher

This episode is sponsored by:

Media Temple: Web hosting for artists, designers, and Web developers since 1998. World-class support available 24x7 through phone and chat—and even Twitter. Sign up with coupon code "tnd" to get 25% off your first month of hosting.

TypeEngine: From the passionate indie publisher to the multi-publication agency, TypeEngine is the beautifully simple publishing platform to deliver your works digitally. Publish long-form content, photos, and rich media.

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Cold Equations and Moral Hazard: science fiction considered harmful to the future

My latest Locus column is "Cold Equations and Moral Hazard", an essay about the way that our narratives about the future can pave the way for bad people to create, and benefit from, disasters. "If being in a lifeboat gives you the power to make everyone else shut the hell up and listen (or else), then wouldn’t it be awfully convenient if our ship were to go down?"

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Talking diversity in comics with John Ridley, writer of 12 Years a Slave


Zack Smith writes, "I recently got to talk to John Ridley, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 12 YEARS A SLAVE, about his past writing superhero comics and cartoons including JUSTICE LEAGUE and THE AUTHORITY. Ridley had a number of smart things to say on such topics as the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Humnan Torch, working with the late Dwayne McDuffie on the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie 'Starcrossed' and his own experiences working in the comics industry. Though he's obviously gone on to big things, Ridley still has a great deal of passion for comics and the people who create them."

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Learn to write with William S Burroughs

In 1979, William S Burroughs delivered a series of lectures on creative writing (though he insisted that he was teaching creative reading -- that is, analyzing the writing process by reading, because everyone can be taught to read, but only some will be able to write) at Naropa University. Three of these lectures, running to over four hours, are up on Youtube, covering writing exercises, Brion Gysin, Aleister Crowley, science fiction, General Semantics, and cut-ups. These are excellent listening, and are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivs-NonCommerical (as is the rest of the Naropa collection.)

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The periodic table of storytelling

Using TVTropes as a base of information, this incredible chart organizes story structure, archetypes, plot devices and more into a structure similar to the periodic table of elements. It's an incredibly cool project that puts the actually really useful storytelling knowledge of TVTropes into a more-teachable form.

Flash fiction contest judged by Kim Stanley Robinson and Gates McFadden


Stephanie sez, "At the national radio program To the Best of Our Knowledge, we've joined with Mars Trilogy author Kim Stanley Robinson and Star Trek: The Next Generation's Gates McFadden for a national science fiction writing contest. Robinson chooses the winners; McFadden and her Los Angeles-based theater company dramatizes them for the radio. The contest ends March 1; the top three entries will air on TTBOOK in April."

3 Minute Futures - Flash Fiction Contest (Thanks, Stephanie!)

(Image: CoolB and Gates McFadden, CoolB/Wikimedia Commons, GFDL; Kim Stanley Robinson at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, Szymon Sokół/Wikimedia Commons, GFDL)

The Gap: animation of Ira Glass's inspirational rant about overcoming fear of creative suckage

Robbo writes, "Daniel Frohlocke has made a wonderful short film based on David Shiyang Lius' interview with Ira Glass, where the gap between one's taste and one's skills is observed and examined. It's a lovely visual representation of the gnawing conundrum that eats at the heart of every artist."

THE GAP by Ira Glass (Thanks, Robbo)

Writer Naomi Novik explains copyright to Congress

Naomi Novik isn't just a talented author (she won the John W Campbell Award for best new writer in 2007 on the strength of her fabulous Temeraire novels, which retell the Napoleonic wars with dragons providing air-support!), she's also a profound thinker on the questions of reuse, remixing, intellectual freedom and copyright.

Last week she gave testimony (PDF) to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet that described the way that creators rely on their ability to remix in order to create new and original works.

One thing I love about Novik is her intellectual honesty and her willingness to cut through the self-serving, romantic mythology of the wholly original creator, and to both acknowledge and celebrate the fact that her originality comes about by taking the works that others created before her and adapting them through her own artistic process, "Original work, work that stands alone, doesn't just pop up out of nowhere. It is at the end of a natural spectrum of transformation."

I also appreciated her strong arguments as licensing as a substitute for robust fair use: "On the purely practical level, the vast majority of remix artists doing non-commercial work simply don't have any of the resources to get a license — not money, not time, not access."

Novik's testimony is admirably summarized by Dr Matthew Rimmer in this Techdirt post. Rimmer is a global expert in fair use and copyright, and he highlights many of the most salient features of Novik's testimony.

I would like to publicly express my gratitude on behalf of writers everywhere to Naomi Novik for standing up for a fair deal for creators and audiences in Congress.

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Announcing the instructors for the 2014 Clarion Writers' Workshop


The Clarion Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego has announced its lineup of instructors for the 2014 session, and it's pretty spectacular: this year's writer-instructors are Gregory Frost, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne Valente, N.K. Jemisin, Ann VanderMeer, and Jeff VanderMeer.

Clarion is a six-week, intensive boot-camp for science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction writers. It counts among its graduates some of the very greatest writers in the field, from Octavia Butler to Bruce Sterling, as well as Lucius Sheppard, Kathe Koja, Nalo Hopkinson, Eileen Gunn, James Patrick Kelly, Ted Chiang, Tim Pratt, Tobias Buckell, and many others.

I'm an alumnus myself, as well as a frequent instructor and a member of the volunteer board of the Clarion Foundation, the nonprofit 501(c)3 that oversees the workshop. Clarion isn't the only way to become a better writer and to learn about the industry and how to earn a living in it, but it is absolutely one of the best. My own experience in 1992 was life-changing for me, and has left me committed to the workshop for life.

Applications close on March 1, 2014.

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Writers Guild of America tells US government that copyright shouldn't trump free expression

The Writers Guild of America submitted an exemplary set of comments to the U.S. Government's Internet Policy Task Force green paper on the future of American copyright. The WGA calls for balance in copyright law, and stresses that censorship, surveillance and chilling of critical speech have no place in copyright policy. It's amazing to see artists' groups taking a stand for free expression when it comes to copyright -- far too often, arts groups are staunch free speech defenders except when it comes to unproven accusations of copyright infringement, which they hold to be sufficient grounds for arbitrary censorship.

But artists who think the issue through know that communications policies like copyright can't do their job if they compromise free expression. Artists have a wide variety of business-models and commercial opportunities, but if you're making art in a way that requires total surveillance and arbitrary censorship, you're doing art wrong.

Torrentfreak summarizes the best of the WGA submission. It's an important read: it shows that the entertainment industry's regulatory agenda doesn't serve the creators they employ (and exploit).

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Podcast: Cheap writing tricks

Here's a reading of my latest Locus column, Cheap Writing Tricks, which discusses the mysterious business of why stories are satisfying, and how to make them so:

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Dr. V's suicide and journalistic ethics

Last week, Caleb Hannan wrote an article about a clever new golf club and its inventor, Dr. Essay Vanderbilt. Starting out as a profile, it briefly covers the scientific claims behind the design and Dr. V's eccentricities and pretensions. We learn, ultimately, that Dr. V defrauded investors, though none of those quoted seem terribly bothered about it. We also learn that she was a trans person. Finally, at the end, we learn she killed herself, shortly after Hannan notified her of her imminent outing in the press.

Initially achieving some praise, Hannan's story was soon criticized. Critics noticed how anxiously and quietly V's suicide was footnoted away, and how Hannan weaved discussion of her trans status into discussion of her fraudulent business activity.

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Why fiction works

In my latest Locus column, "Cheap Writing Tricks," I ruminate on what makes fiction work -- why we perceive stories as stories, why we care about characters, and how the construction of stories interacts with the human mind (and why How to Win Friends and Influence People is a great writing tool).

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Free houses for writers


Writeahouse is a Detroit-based charity that trains people in carpentry and related trades by having them renovate houses, then gives the houses to writers (novelists, journalists, poets), encouraging them to relocate to Detroit. Applications open in spring 2014. Writers are given a house that is 80 percent renovated, and are responsible for finishing the work and paying insurance and taxes. After two years, they are given the deed to the house, with the stipulation that if they sell the house within five years, Writeahouse gets the right to buy it back at an independently appraised value.

WRITEAHOUSE.ORG (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Writers against mass surveillance


A group of writers from around the world, including Nobel laureates, have signed onto a petition calling on the world's governments to limit online surveillance. I was honored to be asked to be among the initial signatories, in good company with the likes of Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Martin Amis, Günter Grass, Pico Ayer, Will Self, Irvine Welsh, Jeanette Winterson, Lionel Shriver, Paul Auster, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Lethem, and many, many others. The petition is now open for your signature in support of a set of simple, important core principles:

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Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide 2013

Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!


Electronic Frontier Foundation
Could there be a year that's more relevant to the EFF? As Edward Snowden has made abundantly clear, there is a titantic, historic battle underway to determine whether the Internet is there to liberate us or to enslave us. EFF's on the right side of history, and I figure giving them all I can afford is a cheap hedge against the NSA's version of the future. —CD



Creative Commons
CC continues to make a difference -- this year, they released the 4.0 version of their flexible licenses, a major milestone. More than anyone else, CC has reframed the way we talk about creativity and copyright in the Internet era, providing practical, easy-to-use tools to make it possible for creators and audiences to work together in a shared mission of creating and enjoying culture.—CD

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Samuel R Delany named a science fiction Grand Master


The incredible, incomparable Samuel R Delany has been named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. It's hard to imagine a writer more deserving. You should really read his whole canon, but if I had to pick just one, it'd be Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand, an extraordinary book even among his extraordinary body of work.

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Weird Tales seeking Tesla fiction!

Wt361 cover Starting tomorrow, the current incarnation of Weird Tales magazine is opening up to fiction submissions. They're looking specifically for stories that fit the theme of two upcoming issues: "Ice" and Nikola Tesla, "devoted to strange takes on the inventor who loved pigeons and intercontinental wireless transmission. These stories should have Nicola Tesla as a character, or at least a presence." Weird Tales: Opening to Fiction Subs! And New Submissions Editor! (Thanks, Dave Gill!)

Cory coming to Melbourne next week for four events

I'm heading to Melbourne, Australia next week to do a series of events with the Center for Youth Literature of the State Library of Victoria. I'm doing four events: The science of fiction, Creative versus Commons, Digital fiction masterclass, and Future fiction with teens. I hope you'll come out to them!

Sf writers on writing, for Nanowrimo

Nina writes, "In honor of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, five acclaimed science fiction writers deconstruct their creative process and tell us what motivates them to write."

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A conversation with Terry Pratchett, author of The Carpet People

Cory Doctorow and the famed author discuss building worlds, the legitimacy of authority, and the future.Read the rest

Charlie Stross on spooks: paranoid, fumbling, all-powerful

Charlie Stross, who's written a rather wonderful series of spy novels disguised as fat fantasy novels, has a fabulous riff on the surrealism of spies, who are often incompetent, paranoid nutcases, vested with terrifyingly limitless power.

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Microsoft Word considered harmful

Charlie Stross really, really hates Microsoft Word. So much so that he's written a 1600-word essay laying out the case for Word as a great destroyer of creativity, an agent of anticompetitive economic destruction, and an enemy of all that's decent and right in the world. It's actually a pretty convincing argument.

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