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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Discussion Dept. Vol 3: Military SF + Politics and Publishing Privileges the West

I've decided to rename the Complaint Dept. feature to Discussion Dept.  Why?  Because half the time I'm not really complaining about anything, and it seems silly to label something so negatively when really all I'm trying to do is open a bunch of topics to discussion.  So, from now on, this feature will be knowing as Discussion Dept., to which I hope you all will contribute.

The two discussion points begin below:

Discussion #1 -- Political:  What does it mean?
Jason Sanford recently had a column posted at SF Signal about the political controversy associated with Military SF.  Some of what he talks about is old news, but if you're unfamiliar with Military SF and its history, the article is well worth reading.

What I'm curious about, however, is Aliette de Bodard's response to Sanford's use of the term "political":

I’ve seen it before, to refer to diverse other things, such as people’s positions on QUILTBAG relationships, abortion, women’s rights… The thing is, for me, those are not political problems. My position on war and abortion isn’t politics: it’s a matter of pure ethics, of how I put things in the context of my personal morals, rather than where my chosen political party stands on the issue (in fact, if anything, it would be a matter of where my religion stands on the issue).
I certainly see where Aliette is coming from, but I take issue with the separation of ethics from politics.  It seems to me -- and perhaps this comes from living in the U.S., which she sees as the central (or partial) problem for defining "politics" -- that you can't separate, in most cases, the political from the ethical.  At least, not in a democracy.  The government is constantly trying to solve or address ethical problems, which is precisely why we associate ethical problems with political motivations.  We can argue over whether it is unethical to turn ethical problems into political talking points (i.e., things people say to get elected), but that doesn't mean we can separate the two.  Things like healthcare, civil rights, and so on are ethical issues, but they are only dealt with on ethical grounds within the political sphere.  You do not have civil rights without government, for example; without the government creating, voting in, and enforcing laws, offering "civil rights" to the public is like offering little more than lip-service to the ethical quandary.

What do you think?

Discussion #2 -- The West Loves Itself (in Publishing)
This is less a complaint/rant than me saying "you need to read what Charles Tan has to say about how publishing and access to 'written' material is disproportionately geared towards Western audiences."  Tan has written about these topics before (read his blog), but his latest discussion has a great section on ebooks and why it is so difficult for people outside of the West (i.e., the Philippines, etc.) to participate in the literary community.  The kinds of things we get pissed off about in the West -- hidden costs, low wages, etc. -- are things Tan just has to deal with because that's the way things are.

A quote:
Even if the author and publisher wanted to sell me books, they can't, unless it's an App. Because Apple won't allow it. At least not without the workaround of obtaining a valid US billing address, credit card, and using prepaid iTunes cards to make purchases. 
But readers should rejoice right? I mean previously, only the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, and Canada had access to Books. Last week, Apple opened it to 26 new countries in Europe. The world has an estimated 196 countries.  
Amazon has different kind of problems. As a consumer, I have to deal with the ambiguous $1.99 international Whispernet surcharge (you're still paying it if you download it from your computer). Granted, this doesn't apply to each and every country outside of the US (Australia isn't affected by this anymore for example), but it's there.
Go read the article here.

I know some of my readers are not from the U.S.  As such, I am curious about your ability to access print and electronic books.  Is it expensive for you?  Difficult?  Let me know in the comments.

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