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I've just updated my essay on asking about gender and titles with a note that you should never assume you can "work out" someone's gender from other information about them. I'd rather assumed this was obvious, but apparently it isn't. Oh, people.
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I used to reckon that I could distinguish at least moderately reliably between those kickstarter projects that were intended as jokes and those that were the absolutely serious effort of someone suffering badly from the Dunning-Kruger effect. The infamous potato salad fell pretty clearly into the first category, while the people who wanted to start a company selling a "computer security" device that amounted to a network cable with a switch wired into the middle were utterly out of their depth. There have always been some crossover cases - I imagine the endless stream of people who want the internet to buy them a high-end PC so that they can be the next big Youtube star contains examples of both types (as well as some people who've thrown it out as a "doesn't cost anything" effort), but I've never felt inclined to pay them any attention. (Nor has anyone else; I've never noticed one with a single backer.)

But there's one up at the moment that honestly could go either way. He wants to make an MMO, and has a target of a million Euros. So far, that's straightforward "hopeful idiot" territory; there are usually several such projects floating around at any given time. They don't get funded unless they're attached to the name of someone with a track record of actually making games that work. Generally, they've come up with their own generic (sorry, "fascinating and unique") fantasy or sci-fi universe to set it in, but not this guy. He wants to make an MMO strategy game that's some kind of sequel to the Westwood Dune 2 game. What do you mean, licences?

So now I'm curious, both as to whether he's serious or not (a million is peanuts in MMO development terms, even without IP licencing, but it's the sort of number that sounds big enough to appeal to people who don't know any better), but also as to whether the potentially-offended IP holders will hammer him into the ground or decide they don't need to because he's obviously never going to make a game anyway. (Given how easy-going the assorted Dune rights-holders notoriously aren't, it definitely wouldn't be my choice for a joke, which inclines the scales towards "clueless", but since there's no actual product maybe he feels safe?)
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Just in case any of my writing-oriented readers aren't already aware from other sources, I thought this might be worth providing some extra signal boost for.

Random House recently announced that they were starting up a whole bunch of e-book only imprints for various genres of fiction: Hydra (Scifi), Alibi (Mystery/crime), Flirt ("New Adult", apparently) and Loveswept (presumably Romance).

Contracts offered by these imprints have now started to surface, and if I had to describe them in one word, it would be "avoid". Other people, with more useful arms, have expressed themselves using greater numbers of words, however:

Writer Beware regards them as "second class contracts", while the words used by the SFWA include "outrageous", "egregious", and "exploitative". John Scalzi summarises them thus: THIS IS A HORRIBLE AWFUL TERRIBLE APPALLING DISGUSTING CONTRACT WHICH IS BAD AND NO WRITER SHOULD SIGN IT EVER. (His caps.)

The highlights include a total lack of advance payment, a terrifying rights grab (all primary and subsidiary rights for the life of copyright, with no meaningful reversion clause) and Hollywood-style accounting that puts a whole bunch of (specified and) unspecified costs you'd normally expect the publisher to cover from their share ahead of the author in getting paid.

As a related issue, people may be interested to know that the Society of Authors offers a contract advice service to members; if you've been offered a contract, the society will be more than happy to accept you as a member by email and check your contract immediately. (As it happens, this was the point in the publishing process at which I joined - I didn't have an agent, decent specialist lawyers are very expensive, and having your contract checked over thoroughly by someone who really knows the business inside-out is essential.)
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Why is it that so many surveys appear to be designed to not collect information? I don't even mean the ones that are obviously designed to lead to a specific set of answers so that the news business/political party/think-tank/NGO/whatever who commissioned it can say "see, everyone agrees with us". I mean the ones where the questions don't even make any sense.

For example... )
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In case anyone has missed the BBC's round-the-clock coverage of absolutely no articles at all, or the slightly better information in the papers (being this 'we support big media' piece in the Torygraph and this slightly better one in the Gruaniad), our beloved leaders have published a "Digital Economy Bill" as part of this year's legislative program.

The proposed law scares me, and not just me. It scares everyone who actually has an interest in constructing (rather than preventing) some kind of useful digital economy; it scares every serious creative worker who knows anything about the subject (I imagine the record companies will wheel out the usual collection of hugely rich tools who know nothing about computing to support the insanity, but...); if you know about it and it doesn't scare you, then it should. Why? I think I'll let Cory Doctorow at Boingboing express some of the problems:

It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the "three-strikes" rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial), as well as a plan to beat the hell out of the video-game industry with a new, even dumber rating system

In addition to which,
These changes will give the Secretary of State (Mandelson -- or his successor in the next government) the power to make "secondary legislation" (legislation that is passed without debate) - including creating new remedies for online infringements, the ability to "confer rights" for the purposes of protecting rightsholders and also the authority to impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement.

There's a good deal of additional discussion elsewhere (see, for example, Charlie Stross, Talk-Talk's understandably unhappy response to a proposed law requiring them to spend vast amounts of money spying on their customers for the benefit of another industry, and the thoughts of the Open Rights Group. [ETA: I'm pleased to see that at least one UK political party appear to have their communal head screwed on correctly about this; can't say I'm surprised which of the three main parties it is, either....]

Join the ORG, write to your MP, express to someone somewhere what a really bad idea this is. Either that, or move to Sweden.
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The Good: I haz Dreamwidth (as some will already have noticed). I do intend to get round to posting more both here and there, but...

The Bad: Ongoing armfail. Meh.

The Stupid: A charity shop I was in recently had a sign in their display case "1st edition Harry Potter hardback - only £25!". Well, all (presumably) true, but since it was HP6 (half-blood prince), and the initial UK hardback run for that was in the low millions of copies, I doubt you'd get £2.50 for it, never mind ten times as much.


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May 2017

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