Inevitability of Dystopia? Finding Sci-Fi Inspiration in the Stark Irony of Orwell versus Huxley.

If you want to build plausible dystopian fictional worlds, a useful habit may be to step away from social media for a few days at a time.

The old debate seems never-ending: was Orwell right, or will Huxley’s vision become reality? One answer is “yes”. It’s a question of timing.

Nation-states have attempted to control citizens since the beginning of centrally governed societies, but brute force inspires resistance. After World War II, mass psychological manipulation (the “pleasure principle”) delivered mainly via television became manifest in a phenomenon called “consumerism”. Here we trace a path from the birth of the Web to our present-day predicament.

Circa 1994, the World Wide Web arrived. Advertising morphed into banner ads, popup windows, and marketers’ new mantra: “information wants to be free“. What was once a resource for hackers and scientists became a tool for consumerism. Thus was born the Silicon Valley hype machine.

In the late 2000s, network effects shifted the Huxleyan engine into a higher gear. Facebook became omnipresent. Google became a monopoly. Social norms began to shift. At first people complained about oversharing and TMI. Soon everyone was playing the Internet popularity game, as Facebook surfaced relatives you wouldn’t bother to call and peers you barely remembered. Tumblr spurred GIF collecting as form of a mainstream meme culture; Twitter was for ranting at sympathetic strangers.

Silicon Valley’s confidence game hides in plain sight: free = surveillance. Every tweet and conversation is recorded, saved, bundled, sold.

“Building an internet where we didn’t have to pay for anything, because our attention was going to be the commodity that was traded, is one of the most destructive and shortsighted decisions that we could have made.” – Ethan Zuckerman

Social networks are broken. This man wants to fix them.

Circa 2011, another shift occurred. Web 2.0 meant that modern web pages became “asynchronous” — they send and receive data without needing you to refresh the page. This also means they can run programs and collect data without your knowledge or intervention.

Soon after his passing, Steve Jobs’ mythical legacy began. A generation of kids’ parents — and crucially, young girls — became convinced that they needed iPhones. By 2015, seventy-three percent of teens had access to a smartphone. Where young girls run, young boys follow; an entire generation of teenagers has been indocrinated into living through social media.

At the same time, nation-states commenced cyberwar.

In 2013, Edward Snowden released a cataclysmic cache of documents about government surveillance. Yet Facebook, Google and Twitter grew apace.

Between 2013 and 2016, government contractors and research-based firms like Strategic Communication Laboratories Group and Cambridge Analytica quietly amassed information on millions of Americans, mainly via Facebook and Internet advertising data.

The presidential campaign that led to victory in 2016 openly engaged in an information operation named Project Alamo. It wasn’t a political campaign as much as marketing and persuasion on a national scale. The campaign’s themes were emotional pushbuttons of the advertising industry: fear, greed, and narcissism. Invading our screens primarily through social media for the first time in history, we all witnessed a new evolution of the pleasure principle, designed to appeal solely to a specific demographic niche. Issues themselves were a sideshow. Every tweet and headline further polarised, multiplied and amplified the opinions of millions, yet rarely ever changed minds.

Orwell creeps back in: Project Alamo was well-known for using Facebook advertising to engage in several voter suppression attempts, mainly profiling and targeting young white liberals, young women, and African-Americans.

Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans.

Inside the Trump Bunker, With Days to Go

Side note: the same groups that designed the Brexit campaign were also key architects of the winning 2016 American digital strategy.

2018: the current U.S. president has attempted several nationwide Muslim bans, and is using all possible means to deport Mexican-Americans. The current Department of Justice has decriminalised hate groups, oversees a boom in the private prison industry, threatens and harasses African-Americans, and menaces immigrants under the rhetorical pretenses of “law and order”, “pacifying gang violence” and “cracking down on drugs”.

From Day One of Trump’s campaign, he pushed heavily for a crackdown on undocumented immigration, and once in office, Trump ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ramp up its enforcement efforts.

For years, ICE has outsourced the bulk of its detention operations to the private sector.

Last year (2016), then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson followed the Justice Department’s footsteps by asking his department to look at its own use of private prisons. What resulted was a sweeping assessment of their use and an accounting that showed some 65% of people ICE detained were kept in for-profit facilities.

Private prison industry sees boon under Trump administration

The current occupier of the American White House is a known sexual predator, as are several members of his administration. He spent the entire 2016 campaign gaslighting and attempting gender-based shame tactics against his female opponent, using Twitter as his megaphone. “Facebook and Twitter were the reason we won this thing… Twitter for Mr. Trump. And Facebook for fundraising” said Trump’s digital director, Brad Parscale.

He is also in perpetual re-election mode. In addition to wielding personal social media data of over 240 million Americans, the former reality star and real-estate vulture bilionaire presently has powers of quasi-state media, immigration authorities, technologically sophisticated hate groups, police and military force at his disposal.

If you’re not white, male, Christian, and a sympathizer to Dictator 45 — now is the time to delete your Facebook account; cease using social media as a personal diary.

This is for all women, non-conservatives, Jews, African- and Asian-Americans, Latinos, and LGBT people.

Those with Native ancestry already know not to trust any American government or anyone who operates in its name. The same is true for Middle Eastern and South Americans. The future of U.S. and U.K. may in some ways be their alternative history.

Look a little way down the road and write the story before it happens.

Orwell and Huxley have now joined hands.

Huxley was right, and Orwell was right, in that order; but they’ve joined hands now, and the old dystopian vision is just the beginning.

Recent events involving AltSciFi — an informal group of artists and techies building an independent sci-fi zine project — show how old arguments about “Orwell verus Huxley” no longer even ask the right questions. It’s no longer rebellious artists versus the authorities, or the people versus The Government.

It’s now artists versus artists, and “the people” versus anything that isn’t a massive corporate brand.

This internalisation and weaponisation of opinion arises due to a noxous blend of narcissism, carelessness and gullibility that can be considered the dark triad of social media. Here our scope tightens from the international level to the scale of small groups, private individuals and independent artists.

Hostility to Self-Published Work, and Gratitude for Empty “Success”

Over the past three years, and especially this past year or so, you may have seen prototypes for an indie sci-fi project posted on Reddit.

It’s fascinating to see how essentially any self-published or independent work is downvoted and/or trolled, whereas Hollywood press releases are happily posted and received hundreds (or thousands) of upvotes.

Every now and then, someone comes to Reddit to thank “you guys” (as women are clearly nonexistent on Reddit) for helping them get reviews or sales on Amazon. But no one ever posts actual numbers. It’s almost like Reddit is a self-confirming echo chamber where you go for attention — then go back “thanking” people in order to get a second round of attention. The best echo chamber is a hollow one, as are most “success stories” posted there.

Irrelevance: How Frustrated Artists Become Copyright Cannibals

In the “attention economy” of social media, artists have fallen prey to two dynamics: the idea of “staying relevant”, and the urge to become mobs of pseudo-legalistic copyright trolls.

“Relevance” is a quasi-marketing term that describes artists’ obsession for keeping “top of mind” awareness in others. Do people think of you when they see pretty-yet-redundant Blade Runner 2049 fan art? Do they remember your username when you post cute new anime sketches on Twitter, or remind them about your painfully earnest Youtube art tutorials and struggling Patreon account?

In reality, “relevance” is meaningless for independent artists. It’s a marketing metric for celebrities and giant corporations that saturate multiple media (TV, radio, etc.) to gain “mindshare” using million-dollar ad campaigns.

On the Internet, we’ve been indoctrinated to become complicit in two parts of a confidence game: 1. Everything should be free; and 2. Attention is as good as payment.

1. In a capitalist world, nothing is free. “Information wants to be free” ultimately means the only people who make money are the biggest corporations that can survive with razor-thin profit margins. In other words, Amazon/Google/Apple/Facebook/Twitter create a de facto cartel that controls practically all consumer information flows across the planet. And literally any government or group that wants your personal data can easily buy it. Big Brother and Big Friend are now one and the same.

2. Attention doesn’t pay for bread on your table and a roof over your head. Artists live in a trap of their own creation: they react blindly against the idea of “working for exposure”, and then burn thousands of hours playing the social media game in order to stay “relevant” (in other words, throwing away time and effort in exchange for “exposure”).

The Dark Triad of Social Media: Narcissism, Carelessness, Gullibility

The “best” narcissists cultivate a carefully designed persona and use emotionally manipulative tactics to mobilise their followers. Rather than corruption and suppression from outside, this is corrosion and repression from within. Struggling artists frustrated by their own irrelevance can thereby “win” at social media by acting like copyright trolls; they “protect” their gullible flock against independent projects designed by artists, to help artists. This happened recently to the AltSciFi project.

Here’s the short version. See if you can spot the pattern:

Narcissism

“If there’s an opportunity to look good, get attention, to appear attractive and to gather followers, it’s going to draw narcissists,” Campbell says, “whether it’s politics, media or social media.”

One malevolent egomaniac didn’t like that her artwork was re-posted on Twitter with attribution, rather than retweeted as she preferred (her original tweet contained perhaps-racist wording that was probably unintentional). Instead of asking for a retweet, she tried to send a mob of her Twitter followers; that was denied by blocking her and anyone who tried to pile on in her “defense”.

So she waited for months until another artist on Twitter found our project, and thus was born a slander campaign about “stealing art” that nearly destroyed the project — before it was ever marketed or promoted to the public (outside of requests for feedback on Reddit).

The entire slander campaign centred on three or four pages on a Github test site that had functioning PayPal links — out of at least twelve pages. On Github (a site for web development and programming projects). That few outside of Reddit had probably ever seen. And we have no inventory to sell. We exist to help artists sell their work; that’s explicitly how our site is designed.

We even had a few links out of hundreds of Tumblr posts, and most of those didn’t even work yet. If you clicked on them, they literally didn’t work. The project has a few paying subscribers from Reddit (“thanks guys!”), but the project won’t be “profitable” for at least a few years based on subscription revenue.

We’re an informal group of artists and techies, obviously not some nefarious “art stealing” operation. But the very fine people of Twitter and Facebook ran a lovely slander campaign anyway, like a bunch of overcaffeinated, malignant tweens cosplaying a proper group of grown-up copyright trolls.

Carelessness

Everyone involved knew GitS2017 was an exercise in exclusion. Early special effects work was tested to make Scarlett Johannson look “Asian.”

The entire backstory of the main character, whose name is 草薙素子, was changed so that the original Japanese character was murdered and brain harvested to make a plausible excuse for the white actress’ “non-racial cyborg body”.

It sounds like a joke, right? Like someone decided 1920s Charlie Chan didn’t go far enough. It’s the 21st century. Add robots.

The main excuse racists made for Ghost in the Shell 2017 was “Japanese people like it” — intentionally ignoring Asian-Americans who are directly affected by Hollywood racism and exclusion.

Those few Japanese who said they liked GitS2017 were likely engaging in a form of politeness called “tatemae”, separation of acceptable public opinion and true private sentiment.

Until recently, a goal of AltSciFi was to amass artists and fans to fund and produce an independent, authentic Ghost in the Shell film. You can find several blog entries on AltSciFi WordPress that describe various scenarios in which we can make this happen.

In 2017, Hollywood released a bastardisation of Ghost in the Shell’s source material that whitewashed the main protagonist, who is Japanese. Perhaps in a moment of foreshadow, it was dismaying to see many artists on Twitter praising the 2017 film’s visuals while ignoring its blatant racism.

It was particularly harrowing to see one artist’s work on the film in particular. That artist will not be directly mentioned here; needless to say, their name will forever be attached to the $110 million Hollywood disaster that is now a hallmark in the Asian-American fight against racism.

Art and politics are intertwined. Asian-Americans made it clear that Ghost in the Shell 2017 was racist and wrong from the start. The artists involved turned a blind eye, and in doing so, chose racism. Now, which artists spread false social-media rumours about AltSciFi and made threats? Surprise! That Ghost in the Shell 2017 concept artist was one. Mister Moral Outrage.

The other artist, who began the Twitter rage-mob, has a beautiful and unique illustrative style (this is a mild overstatement: her approach combines loud colours, fashion sketches and video-game character design). Unfortunately, that style includes painting dark brown skin on anime characters who have stereotypically white features, and clothing them in Japanese-style kimono.

A pattern emerges. Yes, you’re right: the pattern is problematic source material that appropriates Asian imagery without regard for the culture itself.

The mob-starter’s excuse when confronted for believing and spreading false rumours was: “it’s your job to contact me. It’s not my job to check facts.”

Remember the malevolent egomaniac from a few paragraphs ago, the one spreading toxic gossp? Well, the easiest way to end a gossip campaign is to look for facts before making any conclusions. Instead, the gossip grew with each repetition, hardened and ossified into a bona fide art-stealing conspiracy theory.

So, no, darling, it’s always your job to check facts, known as “basic adult critical thinking.” Likewise, it’s always an artist’s job to research and talk to people of the ethnicities whom the artist wants to portray.

Gullibility

The combination of narcissism and carelessness is turned into a weapon by the average person’s gullibility. In the first incident, the sign of a toxic narcissist was the failed attempt to unleash a Twitter mob, followed by months spent licking a wounded ego while waiting for another opportunity. The telltale sign of a second narcissist was the willingness to immediately feign “abuse” (as you can read about here) when she obviously and embarrassingly didn’t even know what the terms mean. Her malleable and gullible Twitter followers were thus transformed into a mindless horde. It really is that easy for a narcissist to do — and far easier than focusing on creating great art that anyone actually wants to pay you for.

Now, one of her unfortunate followers even filed a spurious DMCA takedown notice, thereby exposing herself by lying in a publicly posted, legally binding document. That is the true dark side of this scenario and many similar ones: the malevolent egomaniac and toxic narcissist keep their hands clean, and their gullible social media “friend” (or sympathetic stranger) is placed in an unfortunate and precarious position.

This situation clarifies the reality that the AltSciFi project isn’t about social media popularity, indie artists’ profit margins or even a particular aesthetic (and definitely not Twitter-level anime art).

AltSciFi isn’t about “inclusion.” It’s about using science fiction to imagine a future where human beings are no longer excluded by racism, homophobia, religious hatred or xenophobic violence. And one in which egomaniacal narcissism, tribalistic gullibility and weaponised carelessness are no longer seen as a viable alternative to basic critical thinking.

All humans are human. Art is political. So is science fiction. And so is AltSciFi.

Information wants to be free, but…

The lesson in all this is that the core purposes of the Web have been inverted. “Information wants to be free” said Stewart Brand famously, but now, a handful of companies control practically all expression on the World Wide Web. Artists are now playing copyright troll against other artists. Fans are now either mouthpieces for giant entertainment companies, and/or gladly hand away their privacy and personal data to surveillance programs disguised as advertising. Meanwhile, everyone is desperately distracted by panhandling for Likes, Retweets, Reblogs and Upvotes.

This is the inevitability of dystopia, and it’s happening right now.

If you want to write plausible near-future fiction, here is a great place to start. Orwell and Huxley could never have imagined a reality in which the civilian population would so thoroughly internalise their own oppression and regurgitate it as entertainment.

Now ask yourself what role you play, and what you intend to do about it.

“Information wants to be free,” said Stewart Brand.

“…but your time should not,” replied Steve Wozniak.

Hologram Steve Jobs steps from the shadows of the afterlife to address throngs of fans and journalists at CES 2020. Faded blue jeans and black turtleneck appear as real as the whispered revolution that has obsessed the imaginations of all who eagerly await the fulfillment of their dreams.

You’ve seen the demo.” The inimitable voice of Hologram Jobs easily commands the world’s undivided attention, ghostly pale hand gesturing to a giant projection screen playing silently in the background. “Now, we’re bringing sci-fi to reality.”

A hush falls over the voices and minds of all who strain to hear each syllable in the standing room-only congregation.

The presentation is brief. Hologram Jobs has taken on the full strength of a messiah in post-corporeal form, looming over the audience, conjuring futuristic illusions in the auditorium’s resonant space. “The future begins now,” Jobs concludes, triumphantly holding the iPhone Air aloft. Its activated backlight leaves the crowd awash in pure white illumination as the holographic apparition dims in return to the enlightenment of nothingness.

Steve Wozniak rolls out on his Segway and stands in the front row, gathering the faithful. “My new iPhone Air is insanely great!” Woz proclaims, tugging the transparent rectangular slab from a worn-out old jeans pocket. Tapping ice-blue buttons, sliding fingertips across the slippery-smooth surface, the phone comes alive under the ancient wizard’s touch. “Jony says we’re going for holography in the iPhone 11s, and Tim wants to put them in your contact lenses.”

The enthralled crowd breathes in unison: “Revolutionary.” Online orders for the iPhone Air break all sales records.

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AltSciFi DMCA Response: 2018-01-18 Github DMCA Takedown Notice for altscifi.github.io

We are an informal group of artists and technologists online who collectively go by AltSciFi.

This message is long. It is easy to repeat unsubstantiated rumours and lies mistaken as facts. It takes substantially longer to write explanations that adequately refute those assumptions and misstatements. This blog post addresses specific mischaracterisations and unfounded claims as clearly and thoroughly as possible.

The DMCA request was a result of a mistake (not a misidentification). The content has already been removed, and the artist will be blacklisted from this project unless she requests to be included from this point onward.

The incident here seems to be an honest mistake by the artist based on incorrect information, rather than purposeful misuse of Github’s DMCA system due to bad faith or malicious intent.

The worst comes first:

This part in particular, quoted verbatim from the original DMCA request, is simply a paragraph of lies based on slanderous rumours that began on Twitter and circulated via social media sites like Tumblr and Facebook:

Other artists have also commented that [AltSciFi] has taken their work and is selling these works as prints on this website – while I cannot obviously file a DMCA takedown on their behalf, you should also be aware [AltSciFi] is trying to make money off prints as well.

This is a blatant falsehood. Again, it was probably an honest mistake, but the lie is now on public display. This blog post is a response to it.

The lie quoted above began as a petty whisper campaign on Twitter after a completely unrelated disagreement with an uninvolved individual that ended months ago. As such issues tend to become a form of entertainment for some people on social media, the petty whispered lies aroused an exaggerated response of tribalistic rage among a small group of heavy Twitter users. It quickly snowballed into the culmination that is this DMCA complaint.

At no point in time did anyone contact AltSciFi for clarification. The typical excuse was “it’s not my job to contact you! You have to contact me!”

Yes, when the project is officially ready for the public, AltSciFi will make a reasonable attempt to contact all artists.

And no, if the intention of a person who feels wronged is to bully or slander others based on unsubstantiated rumours, it is always necessary to contact the potential target for clarification first.

What began as a misunderstanding based on false rumours became a Twitter slander campaign. It then transformed into a face-saving attempt at rage-filled bluster after contradictory facts emerged, and finally resulted in a full-blown mindless Internet gang attempting to destroy a project by artists, designed to help artists.

Yes, it is always your job to hear both sides of a story. There are no exceptions, especially when the only “facts” you have are rage-filled rumours (ones that ultimately turned out to be mistaken assumptions and lies in this case).

You can read more about how events unfolded in three blog entries on the topic. The blog entries were written as an attempt to clarify and counteract the bullying and slander as it was happening in realtime, over the course of more than a week. Hopefully anyone who stumbles upon this series of blog posts will read more and decide for themselves:

1. The real reason why most indie artists are starving: overcoming (and preventing) community drama as AltSciFi evolves.

2. How Artists Starve, Part 2: Lessons to Draw From Ongoing Drama

3. AltSciFi Drama, Part III: How Distorted Language Transforms False Rumours into Bullying and Harassment

The so-called “offending material” was contained on one page, not several pages.

The DMCA notice incorrectly inflates the apparent number of pages by citing several regions (called “anchor tags”) on a single page. The mistake is understandable, but it still makes the allegations of “illegal (for-profit) use of work” unnecessarily inflated, on top of being false in the first place.

The artist is right to reserve permission for use of her work. That’s not in dispute here.

Here are the relevant facts that no one bothered to find out:

– the AltSciFi project began several years ago as a hobby for finding inspiration and sharing with others online. Over time, it became an idea for helping artists using the principles of the open web, and as an alternative to intrusive advertising models prevalent on most websites today. The concepts and designs for the site, and the project itself, have changed over time. What you might dig up online from seven months or three years ago likely does not represent the project today.

– the site, as of 2018.02.06, is not yet complete, and has never spent funds toward marketing or promotion to the public as a completed business or professional entity. AltSciFi has always been an informal project by artists, for artists and fans, and will continue this way for the forseeable future.

– of those few artists and fans who were asked for feedback during development of this project, all pre-subscriptions were offered on the basis that the project is incomplete. Subscriptions help defray the hundreds of hours of skilled work necessary to build this project thus far, and toward expenses necessary to officially launch. Pre-subscriptions were always received as a vote of confidence and investment in an idea — not “profit from a business.”

– What exists at Github, as of 2018.02.06, is a test site for web development only. Artists’ pages were not listed on the first page of search results using the DuckDuckGo search engine (a popular privacy-oriented search engine), as the site was not optimised or intended to be found by search engines. Search engine optimisation and visibility are questions that will wait until the site is complete.

– we will contact artists when the project is complete. This project is not a typical approach that fits as “weblog” or “store” or “artist management”. From past experience, having visible examples to show artists tends to be easier to understand — with explanation as well — rather than using description or example alone. This is why our test/development site exists on Github in the first place, and why it’s important to communicate rather than blindly assume.

The Github site contains three or four pages with functioning PayPal links. Those links were for testing purposes only. AltSciFi was not “selling these works as prints on this website” for the following reasons:

1. AltSciFi does not maintain inventory of any kind. After we officially open, our system will enable artists’ existing sites to connect to our site, or we will help them open their own store elsewhere. This is literally the entire purpose of our “store” concept, as reflected in its structure and design.

Again, we literally can’t sell anything because we have no inventory to sell.

AltSciFi has never, and does not currently have, any interest in dealing directly with anyone’s inventory, and will not for the foreseeable future.

2. AltSciFi has not officially launched yet. A miniscule number of people have ever seen the site. If you look at the source code, the site is clearly not optimised for search engines. And if we were “selling” anything, we certainly would not keep an incomplete store website hidden away in a corner of Github where practically no one would find it on their own.

3. Of all the galleries on the site, only a few pages had any links at all. This is because they were used for testing purposes only. If we were “selling” anything, we would have created functioning links for all pages, not an apparently random few. Nor would we try to sell images copy-and-pasted from Instagram or anywhere else on the web.

Our intentional obscurity, current in-development status, and lack of printing-quality images, makes notions of “selling art” logically nonsensical and empirically unsupportable. It simply doesn’t make sense. We are not selling artists’ work without their permission, because that violates our core philosophy and more importantly, we quite intentionally have nothing to sell (ironically, this decision was made in part to help avoid entanglements about who sold what to whom).

If you were an artist or writer, ask yourself:

Would you spend years creating a project designed to help independent artists, only to throw it all away by trying to sell low-quality prints from an incomplete, hard-to-find website without the artist’s consent?

It’s mind-boggling that anyone could believe that, even for a moment.

Rumours, lies and misplaced rage are very, very powerful things, especially in combination.

Again, the incident here seems to be an honest mistake by the artist based on incorrect information, rather than purposeful misuse of Github’s DMCA system due to bad faith or malicious intent. This blog post seeks only to clarify and correct the rumours and lies on which the artist unfortunately based her DMCA notice. Now that you know the other side of the story, you can make up your own mind.

AltSciFi Drama, Part III: How Distorted Language Transforms False Rumours into Bullying and Harassment

Since the social media harassment campaign against AltSciFi began, one hurdle facing this project has become increasingly clear.

(The storm seems to have mostly passed now. These three blog entries serve as documentation and a guide for the future. 1 2 3)

Artists are just people. Like any group of humans online, many artists suffer from weak or absent critical thinking skills. This often combines with high fluency (loves Twitter) and low reading comprehension (rarely reads anything longer than an tweet). The problem only grows when narcissism and cynical “positive thinking” are added to a tribalistic mentality. This results in a babbling pseudo-logic such as “we special good artists against all the mean bad people who steal our art and make us poor victims get really mad.”

And yes, in this case, the behaviour involved was as petty and childish as it sounds.

This entire episode of cyberbullying began due to a false rumour about AltSciFi “stealing art.” The rumour was repeated and gathered steam the more people talked about it, spreading across various social media sites.

No One Asked A Single Question

The most frightening aspect is that, throughout the entire course of bullying and harassment, not one single person thought to ask, “wait — is this true or not? It might be a good idea to directly contact the people being harassed. Maybe there’s another side of the story.”

No one questioned the rumour. No one looked for evidence. Not a single person. Everyone fell for the lie, and hundreds of people thoughtlessly repeated it.

That’s pretty scary, especially in the age of social media where an entire ecosystem is designed around passing emotionally charged information among peers at dizzyingly high speed.

Textual Harassment By “Visual Thinkers”

Visual artists might not like to read. There’s a reason why they’re not writers, after all.

That’s written half-jokingly, but many people believe the false pop psychology concept of learning styles. No matter how naively true it may feel, the idea of a “built-in learning style” or sensory modality isn’t real (dyslexia is an obvious exception). Learning styles are a myth, one step less credible than the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and your “emotional intelligence quotient.”

There’s no such thing as a visual learner; you probably just need to read more. But for most adults, it’s too late. If you believe a falsehood and it’s repeated enough times, it eventually becomes true and real to you. In that sense, false rumours and discredited urban myths work in much the same way.

Artists have no excuse for spreading misinformation and engaging in harassment due to poor reading skills, or “I’m an artist; I don’t need to read. I’ll just ask my art friends on Twitter for their opinions.”

Under the Spell of Distorted Language

During the worst of the cyberbullying campaign, three language patterns stood out. They remain memorable for their ability to preclude and defeat basic critical thinking. These tactics were highly effective in ensuring that the harassment exploded exponentially and lingered for days, rather than being extinguished and forgotten within hours.

Pattern 1.

“If you had done y, I would have done z. But you didn’t, so I’m going to keep doing x.”

“If you had contacted me before creating your website (which was in fact a test version of the site that was never marketed or promoted to the public), I would have thought it was a great idea and helped you promote it (although promotion wasn’t even an issue yet, since the site was an incomplete test version, not for public consumption).

But you didn’t contact me (although there was no reason to do so, since the site hadn’t launched yet), so I’m going to continue slandering you using rumours and false accusations (because I need to save face after making a fool of myself in front of thousands of people on social media; I can never apologise because my ego commands me to be right at all times).

Notice how item “x” can be any arbitrary action that didn’t take place. This pattern is nothing more than rationalisation for continuing to do more of the same, while appearing to have been open-minded in a past that never happened at all. This also called arguing a counterfactual, one of many arguments better known as bullshit.

Pattern 2.

“Regardless of everything you’ve said, written and shown that you’re doing the opposite of x, I just know you’re doing x.”

“Even though you’ve written two extremely detailed blog entries documenting the events that took place, and have shown that you’re not stealing artists’ work, I just know you’re stealing artists work.”

Hopefully, the denial at work here is obvious to see. If someone demonstrates that they’re not standing on one leg, it obviously doesn’t mean they’re standing on one leg. It’s a self-contradictory statement; the statement eats itself if you pay attention to the pattern. This was probably the most popular pattern, and it’s also pure bullshit.

Pattern 3.

The fact that you defend yourself by saying and demonstrating that you’re not doing x only makes it more obvious that you’re doing x.

“If you say and show that you’re a group of artists who are trying to help other artists, the more you say and show that it’s true only makes it more obvious that you’re actually an evil middleman corporation stealing from artists.”

Instead of just re-asserting the wrong argument as in Pattern 2, this tortured syntax creates an imaginary cause-effect line between the two statements. “The more evidence you show me that the sky isn’t blue, that only convinces me more that the sky is blue.” This is a word game in which a person can say that any evidence against x actually is itself undeniable proof of x.

What’s the word for this one? It starts with a “b”.

These are all real language patterns that appeared as they’re shown here. The problem is that AltSciFi is doing something different; words are necessary to explain how this project works. There needs to be some way to communicate to artists, many of whom have weak critical thinking skills, high fluency and low reading comprehension. There’s no easy answer, but we’ll see. Maybe the average artist online is more capable of independent thought than many have recently shown themselves to be; hopefully that’s the case. The success of this project might depend on it.

What Did Ursula K. Le Guin Really Think About Dystopian Science Fiction?

Disdain seemed to overtake the voice of Ursula K. Le Guin in the passage quoted below about her life and work. The article by Zoe Carpenter suggests that Le Guin was disenchanted, or perhaps even bored, by the mere idea of dystopia.

For someone preoccupied with humanity’s ability to destroy itself and the rest of the natural world, Le Guin is notably disinterested in dystopias. Frankly, they bore her. “I think they’re just ground out,” she told me. “They’re just the latest way to write sci-fi novels. Don’t readers ever get tired of being told that the world is coming to a nasty, ugly end and only a very few people will survive, by luck and by violence?” Nor does Le Guin think much of the kind of shallow moralism used to justify invasions and torture. She has written through plenty of dark territory, but with an eye fixed on the constant stars of kindness and bravery.

Ursula Le Guin Has Stopped Writing Fiction—but We Need Her More Than Ever

This take on dystopia seems to completely miss the purpose of that story world. Is it possible Le Guin thought so little of dystopian stories as to dismiss the entire subgenre completely?

Dystopia isn’t necessarily a “fad” or “shallow moralism.” Some writers will jump on nearly any shiny new literary bandwagon, but Le Guin isn’t likely to have stereotyped an entire subgenre of science fiction just because she couldn’t imagine new stories to be told using that approach.

Based on the quote alone, Le Guin says that dystopia itself is “ground out” and “just the latest way to write sci-fi novels.” Dystopia is as old as science fiction itself, and is an integral part of the genre. Trends and fads don’t render an entire subgenre obsolete.

The quotation overgeneralises in a puzzling way. Anyone can write whatever they want, but it’s strange that Le Guin seemed to dismiss dystopias completely in the quoted passage. If she had focused specifically on superficial ways of writing dystopian fiction, the quote would have made more sense.

Dystopia, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is

1 : an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives

2 literature : anti-utopia · writing a dystopia

—dystopian \-pē-ən\ adjective

The definition of dystopian is not “and it all comes to a nasty, ugly end, and only a few people will survive, by luck and violence.” Dystopia is a state of society and/or the physical world, not an event in the story itself (‘a nasty, ugly end’). That’s what’s odd about the Le Guin quote. It doesn’t make sense.

Given that Le Guin was one of the most well-regarded figures in science fiction and fantasy, it’s not likely that she spoke carelessly. So what did Ursula K. Le Guin actually mean?

Two quotations might clarify her perspective. For Le Guin, the oppositions that create dystopia (and utopia) are gendered. Yang is male, and yin is female.

Le Guin’s approach is informed by Taoism, where opposing forces are interdependent.

She elaborates in No Time to Spare: “Yang is male, bright, dry, hard, active, penetrating. Yin is female, dark, wet, easy, receptive, containing. Yang is control, yin acceptance. They are great and equal powers; neither can exist alone, and each is always in process of becoming the other.” For Le Guin, there’s an overabundance of yang in American culture—one that’s reflected in its science fiction. She says, “Many contemporary dystopias provide such a great opportunity to wallow in gratuitous cruelty and mindless violence. Yin is for losers.” So much, then, for the philosophical cautionary tale.

Ursula K. Le Guin, the sci-fi giant, takes on dystopia and social injustice

In this passage, Le Guin doesn’t dismiss dystopia itself. Her rejection is of an opportunistic use of cruelty and violence. The excess of yang (male) destructive “penetration” energy overwhelms and drowns out the “receptive” yin (female) energy.

That’s a decent start, but does Le Guin offer any thoughts for how to escape the endless cycle of dystopian yang in science fiction — and perhaps in society itself?

Definitive elaboration on the question naturally comes the celebrated author’s unabridged thinking, expounded upon in the completed essay as published in a 2017 collection, NO TIME TO SPARE: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin.

The essay is titled, “We keep writing dystopias instead of envisioning a better world—maybe what we need is balance“. Le Guin continues with the Taoist metaphor of yin and yang, ending on a perhaps-hopeful note (emphasis added):

Through psychological and political control, these dystopias have achieved a nondynamic stasis that allows no change. The balance is immovable: one side up, the other down. Everything is yang forever.

Where is the yin dystopia? Is it perhaps in post-holocaust stories and horror fiction with its shambling herds of zombies, the increasingly popular visions of social breakdown, total loss of control — chaos and old night?

Yang perceives yin only as negative, inferior, bad, and yang has always been given the last word. But there is no last word.

At present we seem only to write dystopias. Perhaps in order to be able to write a utopia we need to think yinly. I tried to write one in Always Coming Home. Did I succeed?

Is a yin utopia a contradiction in terms, since all the familiar utopias rely on control to make them work, and yin does not control? Yet it is a great power. How does it work?

I can only guess. My guess is that the kind of thinking we are, at last, beginning to do about how to change the goals of human domination and unlimited growth to those of human adaptability and long-term survival is a shift from yang to yin, and so involves acceptance of impermanence and imperfection, a patience with uncertainty and the makeshift, a friendship with water, darkness, and the earth.

Ursula K. Le Guin wasn’t just “bored” by dystopia. She wanted sci-fi creators to use it as a radical agent for change. Although Le Guin is no longer among us, her energetic words can continue to reveal new alternatives, undiscovered elsewheres that science fiction might describe in hopes that society might follow, before it’s too late.

Fixing Reddit for Women and Diverse Science Fiction Fans (and everyone else)

Reddit has been broken for a long, long time. The situation only becomes clearer as the site grows and tries half-heartedly to repair itself. The problem may be embedded in the structure of how Reddit works.

What Reddit rather sadly depicts is that the idea of a broad, open, public space for discussion is likely impossible to create. Reddit, and by extension, a lot of the early web, is often thought of as a kind of a prelapsarian state before Facebook, Twitter, and those darn social justice warriors ruined everything.

Trouble is, saying that freedom came first gets things backwards: idealized states of purity from the past always conceal the power relations that enabled them. Reddit’s free speech, enacted, is mainly a home for young, naïve, and mostly white men to talk in the abstract about equality and philosophy without having to confront their biases.

Reddit Will Always Be a Home for Hatred and Harassment

The only other options seem to be Voat, which is basically 4Chan + Reddit, and Raddle, which is the political opposite of Voat.

So there’s no real alternative right now for people who just want to talk about sci-fi. Reddit seems structurally broken and its creators are unable or unwilling to repair it in meaningful ways.

Those problems haven’t gone away.

What Nithyanand came to realize was that Reddit represents an important part of the story about the spread of misinformation across social media platforms. While it may seem that Reddit forums are insular, the site punches above its weight in influence on the internet, said Brian Solis, an analyst focusing on social media at research firm Altimeter. It’s the fifth most popular website in the US, according to analytics firm Alexa, with more than 250 million users.

“It is where a lot of information starts and spreads,” Solis said.

Reddit was a misinformation hotspot in 2016 election, study says

Since the existing Reddit seems irretrievably broken…

…what if we create a new Reddit that works for everyone?

(In case you don’t use Reddit, a “subreddit” is a community created and run by its members on the Reddit website.)

Here are four key issues that Reddit refuses to fix.

1. Blocking doesn’t work properly.

At present, blocking a user doesn’t prevent them from seeing your posts and comments. It only prevents you from seeing theirs. That amounts to a blocking function that “empowers” you to become completely deaf when other people are talking behind your back on Reddit.

In other words, the blocking function is at least 50% useless.

2. Reddit won’t help if you’re being harassed.

If you’ve ever been harassed on Reddit and asked the site moderators for help, you probably experienced this yourself. In one recent case, Reddit’s “help and support” team openly admitted that they prioritise gaining new users rather than helping existing ones. They got rid of their “probation” period for new users where you had to answer a Captcha for a week or so. Combined with an API that allows you to automatically reply to other users’ posts and comments, Reddit “empowers” its users to stalk and harass each other across the entire site.

And as you know, subreddit moderators are often not technically skilled enough, or just are too apathetic, to deal with the issue on a subreddit-by-subreddit basis.

3. There’s no reliable way to discover new subreddits you might like.

Aside from relying on useful sidebar listings like you’ll find on a few pages, there’s no reliable way to find other subreddits you might like. If you contact users directly, Reddit will delete your subreddit and your account for “spamming”. That’s a big part of the reason why there are so few successful new subreddits. The discovery mechanism is pitifully inadequate.

4. The “dudebro” culture.

Have you noticed that everyone on Reddit refers to each other as “dude” or “bro”? That’s a problem.

You see a woman on the street, or in class, or at work. Do you automatically walk up to her and say “hey dude” or “what’s poppin’, bro”? Cutesy answers aside, no, you don’t, any more than a woman would walk up to you and say, “what’s up, sis?”

Reddit doesn’t have a woman problem. It has a dudebro problem. Reddit’s official statistics say otherwise, but in everyday use, there are practically no women here. Or the women are hiding their gender for fear of being harassed, which actual women will often tell you is the case.

The same is true for LGBT people and essentially any ethnicity or culture that isn’t the majority Internet demographic in North America (i.e. white and middle class or above). You don’t notice because diverse voices don’t bother to come here.

In other words, Reddit sucks if you’re not a white, straight, dude (or bro, or dudebro). Compare Reddit to the diversity you find on Twitter, for example. Things are strangely plain-vanilla here on Reddit, and everyone misses out because of it.

So what do you think? Would you join a version of Reddit that sucked less in these four key ways? The code for “old Reddit” (from 2017) is open-source and freely available for anyone. So we can make this real if we decide to go ahead and do it. Add a comment with your thoughts if you want to help, contribute, or sign up. And if you want to take this idea and create your own project, go for it.

What is AltSciFi now? Primer and invitation, 2018 January

This project aims to be a small group of independent sci-fi artists and writers, and fans who want to support their work. Our ultimate goal is to finance indie sci-fi films, created only for fans and artists who love science fiction.

The project has been in development for a few years.

Background: we’re only weeks away from officially opening to the public. An artist found a prototype page on our web development site and thought we were selling their work. The page had working PayPal links — only for testing the payment system — but we don’t have anything to sell, so no one could buy anything yet. We literally have to connect to artists to sell anything, because that’s the whole purpose of the project.

Naturally, instead of talking to us, the artist sent a Twitter mob to slander a project she knows nothing about, because mobs of outrage are just what people do on Twitter for entertainment.

So as you read the “introduction” letter below, keep in mind, if you were writing this, the recipient might have heard false claims and slander about you on Facebook or Twitter.

The key point is that no one actually knows what we’re about, because this project is intentionally different from what already exists.

Our project will feel like it immerses you in a small world of mainly hard sci-fi and cyberpunk, to connect fans with artists who love that specific style and aesthetic. We have a traditional site, experimental web magazine, “online PDF” reader site, free email newsletter, bi-weekly mini-zine, and four store sites to support the artists directly by buying their art.

Oh, and we also have a new “sci-fi library” initiative to collect and archive science fiction of past and present. That’s still in early stages, though.

You can see that this project is a small world unto itself. Our main topics are:

  • future science
  • surveillance
  • (ethical) hacking
  • Net neutrality and the open web, and why it matters
  • increasing corporate domination of everyday life (and what can be done about it)
  • fashion and style, and
  • an “18+” section for the parts that people will actually pay to see. :)

We can support concept art, webcomics, manga, short films, short stories, novellas, and excerpts of novels that readers can pay for.

You’ve probably seen updates about our progress over the past year or so. Now we’re almost ready to start telling artists, so what do you think of the letter below?

P.S. If you want to know when we officially start up, we’ll add you to the list. And if you’re an artist, writer, filmmaker or other kind of creator, feel free to get in touch as well.

Sample Letter to Artists about the AltSciFi Project

> Hi [name],
>
> Your art is great. We’re an informal group of sci-fi artists
> and writers who support other indie artists and writers.
> We’re just creators, not some giant brand or corporation.
> Your art is featured on our site. Have a look:
>
> [link to artist page]
>
> Our project does not run advertising. Ads on sites
> like Facebook are free because they track people and sell
> everyone’s personal data. We don’t do that. This project has
> a small base of subscribers to help pay the costs
> of running this project. Our ultimate goal is to commission
> new stories and art, and the dream is to finance indie films.
>
> This project is designed to stay as informal as possible;
> to help artists and writers escape from dependency on sites
> like Amazon; and to use the open Web to make it easy to
> find great art and artists like you.
>
> Beyond that, our core values are anti-racism, anti-sexism,
> anti-misogyny, and anti-surveillance. We protest
> police brutality, militarisation, and nuclear war.
> This project embraces sexual diversity and supports
> universal human rights. (We want to help prevent dystopian
> sci-fi from becoming real, and teach why privacy matters.)
>
> If you want, you can sell your works through our website as well.
> We don’t have any art to sell, so we can’t sell anything ourselves.
> That’s a completely separate process we can discuss later.
>
> If for any reason you want us to remove your work,
> reply to this message and it will be removed as soon as
> possible (usually within a day or two).
>
> We always want to find great artists who do unique work
> like yours. If you have other art you’d like to see
> featured here, reply with a link and we’ll discuss further.
>
> Thanks,
>
> —

How Artists Starve, Part 2: Lessons to Draw From Ongoing Drama

The previous post has become unexpectedly popular. Issues addressed there are ongoing.

As in that post, the privacy of all involved is preserved here. No personally identifying details are included here or anywhere else. AltSciFi protects your privacy, and will continue to do so.

Unfortunate aspects of the situation aside, this is a fascinating example of how social media accelerates and distorts issues that could otherwise have been resolved quickly and simply.

Over the past two days, Twitter has revealed a pattern that’s worth keeping in mind moving forward. Read the previous post first if you haven’t already.

A snowball becomes an avalanche. AltSciFi is a bystander at this point, marveling at how strange all this has become. This is how artists destroy each other. No wonder nothing ever changes as corporations take over our lives. They don’t need to force us to work for them. We’re too busy fighting amongst ourselves to do anything worthwhile at all.

The Vicious Filter Bubble

You’ve probably heard of the “filter bubble” effect, where users of sites like Facebook and Twitter cocoon themselves inside opinions that agree with their existing beliefs.

This also applies to disagreements, but in even more amplified form. Here’s the scenario:

One user with a large social media following (in this case, Artist B) hears a rumour from someone she likes. The rumour — in this case, a wrong one concocted by someone looking to spread gossip — was “someone is stealing your art”. Instead of asking the target of the rumour (in this case, AltSciFi) “is it true?”, Artist B decided to crowdsource for more opinions.

On a social network like Twitter, typical gossip quickly becomes a campaign of cyberbullying, as followers “take sides” to “protect” their friend. Note that AltSciFi doesn’t play this game — we’re not part of the Artist Twitter clique, so the bullying was one-sided from the start. What’s fascinating is how the bullies convinced each other that they were just an unusually massive, loud and assertive group of victims.

Bullies in an Echo Chamber

No one looked further for facts by asking the target of the gossip, because within minutes, an echo chamber emerged. Everyone began entertaining themselves with the juicy tea of the day. That’s the whole purpose of social media for most people: to use others as a form of free entertainment. In this case, artists were doing to each other what Twitter “fans” usually do to artists (i.e. demand entertainment for free), only in a more blatantly malicious way.

The real problem arises when people try to use social media to transact business with each other.

As we see in this ongoing situation, Artist B could have sent email saying “AltSciFi, please take down my work” or in a more cool-headed moment, “I found this site. What’s going on here?” Instead, Twitter was used, leading to a predictable pile-on of the mindless herd seeking rage as entertainment. Even worse, as the bullying intensified, legitimate voices asking AltSciFi for clarification went unheard amid the noise. The purpose of these blog entries is to at least have some way to counter the louder narrative. But of course, gossip-seekers and angry mobs aren’t exactly known for their reading comprehension.

There’s a second dynamic at play which is more important.

The second aspect here is the misuse of language, and its effects.

To Weaponise a Group, Convince Them That They Are Victims

If you follow AltSciFi, you’ve recently read about how easily individuals and groups can be misled into doing the wrong thing when they feel threatened.

What’s the easiest way to create and weaponise a group?

Convince them that they are victims, and demonise the evil “other”.

AltSciFi was targeted by Gamergate a few years ago. The dynamic was identical to what’s happening now. The roving horde showed up and started talking trash for whatever reason, probably something related to their hatred of women in videogames. But the strangest part of it was that they — about fifteen or twenty howling at once — consistently repeated how AltSciFi was impinging on their “freedom of speech”.

They came to bully AltSciFi, yet the gang was genuinely convinced that the target of their bullying was the aggressor.

It was amazing.

Gaslighting, Shaming, and Victim-Blaming

The same situation is happening how. Artist B incited a Twitter mob to harass AltSciFi, all the while whining about being “gaslighted”, “shamed” and “victim-blamed”.

Gaslighting

is an emotional abuse tactic where Person B tells Person A that they’re “crazy” in order to undermine their self-confidence. At no point in time has anyone done that here. It’s bizarre to assume that anyone who disagrees with you automatically thinks you’re crazy.

Shaming

is the weaponising of a crowd to enforce social norms by isolating and applying group pressure against the targeted individual. AltSciFi has never retweeted or mentioned anyone directly during this entire drama.

The only people who know about this situation are those on Artist B’s side, because Artist B brought out the horde. It’s quite likely that most of AltSciFi’s followers don’t know or care about Artist Twitter, just as Artist Twitter doesn’t know about Hacker Twitter (the other half of our audience).

Victim-blaming

requires a victim. Taking the posture of a victim does not make you one, and the misunderstanding in this case could have been resolved before that posture seemed necessary to anyone. But that’s not how things happened here. The mistake made by AltSciFi here could have been resolved in a way that was useful for everyone. How frustrating that years of work have been reduced to a rage-fueled trash fire by people who couldn’t be bothered to send an email before releasing the hounds.

(The whole point of the store site is that it has no inventory — we have to collaborate with artists in order to sell anything. What’s online is a prototype, not a finished store. The whole bit about “stealing art” is a bullshit soundbyte repeated ad nauseam based an a complete lack of anything resembling facts beyond surface assumptions.)

Connect a lie to a person’s values, and anything will become a fact if you repeat it often enough. And so here we are. Gossip becomes viral bullshit, and viral bullshit becomes sanctified fact.

It Ended Before It Began

By the time the conversation began, it was already an argument, like a circle of elementary-school children on the playground goading two kids in the middle to fight each other. The circle prevents Kid A from leaving, as the circle is friendly with Kid B. What happens? It’s not even a fight, fair or otherwise: it’s an episode of violent bullying.

If you’ve ever experienced this in real life, you know this all too well. It’s happening between adults right now, bleeding out from Twitter as you read these words.

So why does this blog post sound so calm and detached?

Mainly because it’s impossible to control other people. There is no way to de-escalate situations like this, even if you apologise for honest mistakes (to an already-suspicious person, there are no “honest mistakes”) and deal with the issue quickly (there is no such thing as “quickly enough”).

For most people, their emotions rule their lives, and it has nothing to do with gender.

The Only Thing to Fear

Humans are primarily emotional animals. The strongest emotion is fear. If you can convince a person to be afraid — then connect them with others who are similarly persuaded — you can weaponise them against nearly any target. Even their own allies. Fellow citizens in their own country. Friends. Neighbors. Random strangers. People of a different sexuality, culture, economic background or ethnicity.

Read the previous paragraph again and ask yourself when this tactic has been used to influence you, because it definitely has been. The question is “were you aware it was happening?”

This is just how humans operate. It’s unfortunate, because once a person has been persuaded emotionally, very little can be done to change their perspective. Thinking ends. Reacting begins. Snowballs naturally roll downhill.

In this specific situation, this drama interrupted other work in progress yesterday, so the completion of that work came first.

Now, Artist B’s complaint has been dealt with, as will anyone else (privately via email, not publicly on Twitter). This is the professional way to deal with situations as they arise. Social media is not the place for professional communication or dispute resolution.

In any case, it’s a fascinating example of how this type of situation unfolds, isn’t it?

Suspicion and Trust

If you study the lives of successful people, you’ll see that this type of problem is inevitable. Either intentionally or inadvertently, others will try to destroy anything new, because it is unknown, and therefore seen with fear and suspicion. You don’t need “evolutionary psychology” to know this is true.

Examples:

– electric car makers versus the oil industry.
– indie music labels versus the majors.
– people who defend the rights of women and minorities, versus those who yearn for a return to a misogynist, sexist and racist past.

With the addition of social media, situations like this one can lead to people using misplaced rage and self-validation to justify acting against their own best interests — jumping to conclusions and weaponising entire groups in pointless tribal warfare.

We’ve seen how this has transformed politics and society since 2016. The ways that social media have changed communication on a smaller scale are equally important, and in this case, troubling.

AltSciFi is designed to help artists, and it is artists who are trying to destroy AltSciFi.
Isn’t it ironic? :)

And yes, sad as well. But this is life. You have to roll with it, preferably with a sense of humour. There’s no other choice. The horde’s next tactic is to howl, “it took too long to fix it! You’re still the devil!”

Well, okay then. That doesn’t change AltSciFi’s purpose, which is to help artists. Your feedback is still welcome if our purposes align.

Choice

So what to do from here? Unfortunately, not much can be done, aside from responding promptly to reasonable suggestions and professional requests, and ignoring the rest.

This blog entry ends with a question: from the beginning of this drama, had you already made up your mind? (Hint: the answer is probably “yes”.) Really, it’s not truly answerable. We all rationalise our decisions immediately after the fact; everyone is 100% right in their own minds. Rightness is feeling, not fact.

These blog entries are not intended to change anyone’s mind. Hopefully, at least you’ll think before joining a social media mob next time. In the worst-case scenario, it could be too late for AltSciFi, but good enough if it helps you as an individual and as an artist.

P.S. The two main thinking-related issues here are called self-confirmation bias and the consistency principle. Look them up and read more if you want, especially if you intend to deal with groups of people, and even if you just want to better understand yourself.