The first thing you ve got to understand about the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is that it isn t. Like the Holy Roman Empire, which in Voltaire s phrase was neither holy, Roman nor an empire, SFWA is not an organization of science fiction and fantasy writers. While some of the leading SF and Fantasy writers belong, the vast majority of the members are people who barely meet SFWA s extremely lax publication requirements. They are not professional SF or Fantasy writers in any meaningful sense of the term and many of them haven t published a word of either science fiction or fantasy in years.Secondly, there are plenty of Science Fiction writers that do really understand this issue quite well. In addition Rick Cook, whom I recommended in my last post, another example of a Science Function writer who has penned a very cogent series of articles about copyright, science fiction, and the business issues of being a SFF writer is Eric Flint. I strongly recommend his series, “Salvos Against Big Brother”,which includes a back-to-the basics examination of copyright quoting and reprinting two speeches by British Parliamentarian Thomas McCauley in 1841. Definitely worth a read, and again a demonstration that there exists Science Fiction authors that aren’t stuck in the dark ages; few (at least it is to be hoped) are like Dr. Hendrix. Eric Flint is also a senior editor for Baen Books (read more about the founder, Jim Baen here). Baen makes all of its titles available in e-book form without DRM, and many of its authors have agreed to make their books available completely free of charge. Eric Flint does so for all or most of his books shortly after they are published in mass-market paperback form; others only make a few of their books available, typically the first or second books in a series (in the hopes you will buy the rest of their books) — a wise strategy, as he explains in one of his Salvos Against Big Brother columns. More importantly, I strongly believe that if we enjoy an artist’s works, we should support the artist. That’s why I’ve directly reached out and given money to musicians, authors, and Debian release engineers. (Yes, that last was controversial, but to me and personal ethics, it’s all of the same piece.) Is patronage the right way to support musicians? Well, it’s one way, and I’ve always been fond of the “distributed patronage” model where we use the Internet to allow a large number of people to each contribute to support an artist’s work. The Big Meow is a good example how it might work. (By the way, to people who are wondering what is happening with The Big Meow — I have very recently pinged Diane, and she’s working on it. Between health and family emergencies, the last 12 months have thrown a lot of delays into her writing schedule.) Are there other models other than patronage that might work? Well, there is the traditional one — just buying the author’s books. But what if we don’t want a dead-tree copy and just want to be able to read it on our Irex Iliad, and the book wasn’t published by Baen Books, or one of the few enlightened publishers who make non-DRM’d eBooks available? That’s a harder question. Personally, I don’t find “Copyright Theft” immoral per se. Illegal, yes, but immoral only if I haven’t done something to materially support the author. If I’ve purchased a new copy of a book, and the eBook version isn’t available via legal means, I don’t believe it is immoral to download it from a site like scribd so I can read it on my laptop. Of course, that brings up other questions, such as what if the book is out of print (because the publisher don’t think it’s commercially viable to reissue the books), the author is dead, and the widow needs money? Lots of hard questions, and no good answers…. But in any case, I think it is the right thing to do to support those authors we care about as we can, and boyotting all SFF books isn’t necessarily appropriate or helpful.
Last night I called Ubunteros nearby Manila for the Edgy Eft (belated) release party at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at Greenbelt 3. Little did I know that there will be a lot of folks coming from the just-concluded FOSS@work workshop joining in the fun, thanks to Yolynne Medina and Eric Pareja. Diane Gonzales and I got to the venue first, then followed by the FOSS@Work folks. Dominique Cimafranca, Migs Paraz, Ranulf Goss, Jopes Gallardo, and Joel Bryan Juliano were there too, and all in all we were easily the noisiest group in the coffee shop, seemingly occupying the entirety of the place. I originally planned to move the group to have dinner somewhere, but along the way everybody seemed to forgot dinner and we quite engaged in talking to everyone else. It was terrific. The 2 boxes of Edgy ,K,Ed Ubuntu CDs I brought were easily given away to everyone; we even had them exchanged and autographed (naks!) reminiscent of what Ealden and I did last February when Mark came here. As a finale, we had a group photo of everyone with their CDs; Dominique remarks that in his informal’ study, more and more women prefer Ubuntu (and I sure do think he’ll be blogging more about this soon. Needless to say, the above photo doesn’t do great justice to what happened last night; it came from my elric which I didn’t get use much as a camera since I too was happily chatting away. That said, I expect RJ Ian will be posting his photos from his brand-spanking-new Kodak camera to the Ubuntu-PH site once he gets back to Mindanao with Yolynne and company. I also think the FOSS@Work folks also have their own photosite or wiki to post more photos, which we’ll be seeing sooner. Jerome Gotangco and Ealden Esca an, the guys whom we all owe Ubuntu-PH to, were unfortunately unable to attend last night, as Jerome was off to Cebu to participate in the ICT congress there, while Ealden was quite busy at work. Hopefully they (as well as last night’s attendees!) can attend the next Release Party for 7.04 (aka Feisty Fawn,) and hopefully it will be just as fun, and be more meaningful if more Ubuntu-PH folks get involved in its development! Update: Yolynne and RJ just posted pics fresh from their arrival to home. Expect more pics later, nicely tagged too…