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Editorial – January 2019: Technology, the final button.

January 6, 2019 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone.

As you’re reading this editorial, then you know something about technology. Perhaps not an integral as, say, a programmer and hopefully not a hacker, but you do know a few things to make it work and not scare you. On occasions, you might not even need technical help but can sort out problems yourself. I suspect for many of you, the knowledge of a reboot is better than giving something a thump to make it work these days. I recently discovered that with my diabetic blood test meter when it says that a new cassette is faulty, that pulling it out and putting it back in sorted the problem out. Ergo, instincts win out over total trust in technology when it says something is faulty.

More Pulp

Technology is taking over the world and, if you go by MSN feeds, it’s replacing everything. I have to confess to being more than a little concerned and a little confused by this kind of news. Mostly because only a third of the population of the world use computer tech and just what are they going to do instead? Are they going to think the rest of the world has entered the Twilight Zone when no one and nothing responds to them anymore?

Are we going to insist that everyone is processed when they enter a technology-heightened nation? This doesn’t take into account the poor or those who can’t master computers. As my example above points out, you shouldn’t trust total reliability on technology but some commonsense is always helpful. Lose that capability and we are totally behoven to the machine and the worse aspect of Science Fiction would have won.

Unlike the typical SF examples, few if any added the commerce aspect. I think we should we be worried if we put all our reliance on specific hardware like smartphones and saving things to the Cloud. If you don’t pay your fees, no more access. Ergo, lost of identity and personal items. You will be owned by a company that even a government can’t control. A lot of people will become pariahs with no access to things associated with their identities.

Ideal worlds rarely work because they assume things never change. Utopias are boring places. When you consider how much the world is changing right now, I doubt if there’s going to be any single peak. If anything, we need a lot more diversity in technology, even if it’s for a statistical prevention of mechanical failure. It’s also going to destroy any natural talents. If you have an in-built natural compass, you’re going to have an automatic advantage against anyone who’s smartphone has broken down. What do you do when the Net is so busy any action is going to be stacked up waiting to go through? You must have seen for yourself how websites slow down when there are too many people wanting access. We’ve even seen it at SFC from time to time.

I often wonder at future SF realities that the self-justification that there is little computer-tech in personal use is because they realised the dangers of too much dependency on it was wrong. All right, so the early SF writers with no access to our current reality wouldn’t have known this but this would at least have predicted that this is not a healthy way to go had they known. Even so, it makes for an interesting retro-historical possibility than making their books out-of-date.

Too much reliance on technology is ultimately going to turn our society moronic or, at least, headless chickens when anything goes wrong. Look at what happened when one of the mobile phone networks broke down in 2018. Everyone tied into one system is asking for trouble. Even more so, in a few generations. In the world of the high-tech, it is the programmer or hacker that would be deified not the user. Even worse, we don’t even know who the programmers are that we are letting run our lives. Mind you, people are used to putting their trust in something that apparently doesn’t exist.

That’s only a small step for the minds of many. All we need is an egotist, a tyrant or someone with a homicidal bent and they could quietly wreck the world before anyone caught on. Hmm…they are already out there. A nuclear detonation would wipe out a lot of computer data in less than a swipe. As to software, until the last button is pressed to activate it, a computer program is just so much code. When you add Artificial Intelligence into the mix with its own intentions let alone confused conflicts, then we have bigger problems. An AI accepting that there is an after-life is less likely to worry about killing anyone in the here and now.

The worrying thing about all of this is that from the likes of HG Wells’ with ‘The Time Machine’ to a multitude of other SF authors and films, there have been warnings about pulling too much reliance into our technology than ourselves with dire consequences. As commented about the less reliance in future SF in computers could also have be seen as an unconscious forewarning to tread carefully. Although Science Fiction isn’t really there to predict the future, it can show the consequences of particular actions. Oddly, in modern SF, this has been superseded by just adventures with nary an undertone to look at these issues. SF authors really need to look at ourselves and societies more and question how we look at do things and where it could lead.

Obviously, I don’t want to put the clock back. It’s still safely on the mantelpiece. However, we need to see balanced arguments for and against any decision before making any significant technological choice. We must also have the ability to say we were wrong and have a recount when previous evidence is shown to be wrong.

My comments have nothing to do with being a luddite but more to do with the dangers of being totally reliant on technology to the exclusion of all else. When we don’t question that, then we are jumping into the abyss not knowing what is going to happen next and that is always very dangerous.

Thank you, take care, good night and don’t count your digital chickens, they might make a mistake and say you’re at fault.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info

A Zen thought: No one paints in custard anymore.

What Qualities Does A Geek Have: The ability to question when no one offers any answers because they clearly haven’t thought things through far enough.

The Reveal: The problem with going all digital is the loss of collateral. You have something you can trade or sell. With everything digital, there is nothing. Do we really want to be that minimalist or not have anything you can trade in?

With the likes of DVDs and blu-rays, you also have a lot of extras and audio commentaries which are not only an extra to educate but also of historical importance in the future. Don’t give them up too readily.

Observation: Be very careful of when you save files in any form of ‘Word’ as the originals are not dumped in the Recycle Bin, only into a back-up format, providing you’ve made sure it’s turned on. Although we often take it for granted that we continually make back-ups of all our important files, this is something that can be overlooked. Fortunately, when I nearly this last month, I had the sense to look for the WKP or back-up file (always useful to have your File Manager showing all files to pick it out) and saved some really valuable data. I then made a copy as the one to follow and a second one as a back-up. Don’t forget to regularly back-up your files.

Observation: Considering that every actor who’s played the Doctor starting with short hair has allowed their hair to grow with each season, will Jodie Whittaker follow the same trend?

Observation: I thought that there was some consistency with the TARDIS’ windows and then recently spotted in the Capaldi regeneration that they were whited-out in a particular order to spell a ‘T’ in each window.

Observation: Knowing you’re on the right website, especially for transactions, is something we rely on the Favourites menu option. If you want to add a bit more unseen security, don’t use a website’s home page as your entry point. Select another page that you’re familiar with that wouldn’t be a hacker’s choice. With places like the long river website, the second thing you’d select is their search engine and that can be accessed from anywhere.

Observation: I’ve been giving some thought to Kane’s inner cap in ‘Alien’ and its disappearance when his space helmet was removed. I think we’ve all assumed that Kane was actually wearing it securely on his head. However, if loose, then when the facehugger melted through the helmet and secured itself to Kane’s face, might have pushed it back into the helmet.

Feeling Stressed: Only another 12 months for a year to fly by. Use it wisely.

Missed opportunity:

            The real technical details for the geeks who want all the details. If you don’t, just send me a sample review.

            I’m always on the lookout for new writers, especially that rare breed called ‘reviewer’. Can’t get enough of them. Don’t feel because we are the top of the tree, that I don’t want new talent. I just want people who can write and improve with practice and a little coaching.

            What you have below are two choices. Send me a sample review and let me pass comment. The second choice is to read all the info below, just in case you want to understand more about the protocols.

            Some things are put in bold, not so much because they are any more important but more to add a little more emphasis. Welcome to my mind and be grateful you don’t have to live it in your ability to self-express.

            If you regularly read 50-100 pages of a book a day, then you might be reviewer material.

 

            If you aren’t seeing the types of book or authors here you would want to read, chances are that I don’t have any reviewers who do them. I’m stocking up on reviewers right now. The extended info is below but essentially, if you can write and breathe and make good observations, you stand a chance. If you make grammatical errors, then I have your back. Email me at: gfwillmetts at hotmail.com

NOTE: Although there are details below, please observe the bigger message elsewhere on site. I’m always recruiting reviewers and this is the time of year to recruit as the nights are shorter and so you might be sleeping less If you’re living in the UK, love books and feel a bit geeky then read the notes below. You have to love reading anyway. You might be what I’m looking for and I do train people up and it’s good for your writer’s CVs and books to feed your reading habit. As some of my team are discovering, they can also interview writers and write articles as well. You can do that without reviewing as well but reading and reviewing is a good discipline. We’re a good team to belong to.

Polls And Opinions: We did have them for a time but the new version was causing a mess in WordPress so until a new version that doesn’t cause conflicts comes around, we’ll have to do without them but please use the answer option at the end of any material to express comments because we do read them.

For the record: For the odd query I have about being linked to media contacts. I do not have either a personal twitter or facebook account. There’s enough of me here to not outstay my welcome. I’m also puzzled why some people see SFC as a blog site when we’re not. We were in this format long before blogs. It’s getting to the point that people can’t tell the difference between blog and butter.

Beware Of Virus Attacks: December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gfwillmetts at hotmail dot com I won’t bite, although that doesn’t preclude others. In fact, I’ll settle for any more willing reviewers who love to read. Did I say I was after reviewers?

NB: We do get digital books and if you live abroad and not in the UK, then this avenue could be open to you. I’m not putting it in as a link to avoid spam. Just copy and paste into your emails to contact me with my address noted in the paragraph above. I’m always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page articles and stories as well. Just because it’s sunny, doesn’t mean you’re going to read any less. We could do with some more fantasy readers right now! We could do with any of you interested in learning how to be reviewers period.

If you’ve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. It’s a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences and saying what they think.

For potential book reviewers in the UK, it’s a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you don’t think you’re up to scratch, you’ll discover why I’m the dutch uncle. Repeating this several times is for those who only scan and who don’t want to wind back up the page.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers: If you can express an opinion independently of others and aren’t likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

Zen for those who are scared by all the instructions below: Many of the instructions are things you should be doing automatically if you’re developing your writing skills. If you do them already then focus on the ones that you don’t get right. They are there to help you as much as me to get the best writing from you. If you think you’re 80% there then I’ll help you get the final 20%. Trust me, I’m an editor and I can get things right.

BOOK REVIEWS    – Don’t feel intimated by all the info below or linked to. If you’re any good as a writer, much of it should be second nature already. This is just the long hand version.

Do you love books? Do you like curling up and reading a book in preference to socialising, even on the Net? You might not even want to curl up, that’s only an option. Do you have a preference for fantasy, SF or horror? We really could do with some fantasy readers!!! Do you find it the greatest pastime you have next to being on your computer?

Are you very vocal about what you like and don’t like in what you read?

Would you like to share your thoughts with others about books?

Would you like an endless supply of books to do this with?

Do you live in the UK?

Can you spare an hour every day to read?

Do you think you can write about what you’ve read?

Are you finding the recession is hitting your book buying habit?

If you’ve been nodding your head up to this point then link in below and see if you have what it takes to be a reviewer at SFCrowsnest. If you have that special knack to read and write or want to develop said skill then the only way you’re going to find out is to take the plunge yourself rather than wait for others to do it first. Reading a lot of books is a requisite for any writer. Being able to say what makes them good or bad hones your own skills. Even if you’re just happy with reading with a little writing on the side then this might be for you. It’s got to be better than waiting for the sun to come out in this weird summer and now cold winter. It’s also amazing how much you can read in an hour a day.

If you’ve survived this far in the editorial, let me reiterate something from the website newsletter and the above editorial. As you can see from the main page, we have one of the biggest SF/fantasy/horror monthly reviews columns on the Net. Our success has increased the number of books that comes in and our policy is to read everything and give it a roadtest before giving a review so you have some idea of what you’re letting yourself in for. You want the bottom line about what you’re going to choose to read. That means we need people actually willing to read the book and tell others they’re opinion in reviews. For that, we’re always on the outlook for more reviewers.

Do you think you have what it takes to review a book? It’s a skill that can be easily mastered and we need a few more. If you love fantasy, we have more than enough to keep you busy for instance.

Apart from the ability to put words into sentences, you also need to know how to précis, do a little research on associated subjects and can express opinions constructively about the good and bad points about the books you read. We even let you choose from our pile of received books rather than foster something on you that you wouldn’t normally read. You’ll even get a little editorial help in how to write good copy and that can always lead to other things. I’m not as scary as I sound editorially and it’s better to do the test review and see how you fare than not attempt to see how well you did. I did say you have to love books and willing to read beyond your favourite authors, didn’t I?

If you like reading books in the genre and can average two or maybe three a month, can really think and show you can write a decent review and, most importantly, live in the British Isles (sorry, expense, time and distance travelled mostly prohibits elsewhere), then use the link below and see our requirements. We can’t pay you but writing a review has to be cheaper than buying a book and a good incentive to see if you have what it takes to develop your writing skills.

Do you think you’re up to writing a review? If you think you can, then you’re really going to think you’ve landed your hands in the biscuit tin. It won’t hurt to try and see if you have the right stuff by sending me a sample review to show me you can write. If you want an added incentive, it can also be good for your CV.

Look up the Review Guidelines by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_reviews.php”></a> with a press of a mouse button.

SHORT STORIES

We always have an interest in running short stories which can be anything from one to thirty or so pages long. We’re always willing to give short story writers a chance to be seen if they can withstand my scrutiny even if we can’t pay for their efforts, your material will be seen by a lot of people if it’s shown on the SFCrownest website. If you can get a short story written well then it’ll make it easier to move up to novel-length.

Look up the Short Stories Link by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse.

FLASH OR ONE-PAGE FICTION

We’ve also a teaching ground of one page stories, so check out the rules elsewhere on the website. It’s a lot tougher than it looks and far too easy to just write and write and hope something good comes out of it. What writing a one page story does is test your ability to control your word count and still tell a story in a concise way. This doesn’t mean we don’t accept stories of different lengths – a short story can be anything up to 30-40 pages long after all – but opens up the means for really short stories from ideas that don’t need as much space.

Flash fiction stories by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_flashfic.php”></a> with your mouse.

NOVEL-LENGTH SAMPLES

For those keeping track, I’m actually now caught up but don’t tell everyone as I’m undecided as to whether to keep looking at novel-length story samples, move over specifically to short stories – which we do anyway for the website – or get a couple of my own book projects completed. The latter, I still intend to do anyway and now actually working on but don’t let that put you off too much. If you want me to look over a sample, you can contact me through the links on this website.

Before you submit, study the next section below as it’s there to help you do some of the right things and reduce the number of times I’m repeating myself over silly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that you shouldn’t be making if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It makes editing a lot easier if any editor has less work pointing out poor English which you should have been sorted out in the first place and more focused on other areas of your work that deal with plot and the other serious elements of storywriting. As a writer, it is your command of the English language and its grammar that will show how serious you are about writing.

There might not be much of a wait unless I get a deluge, however those sending in ebook samples, please read the Guidelines by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse here or through the bottom line menu on the opening page of the SFC website.

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING BUT AFRAID TO ASK

General advice for those who want to become writers of any sort: There’s an old editorial adage: If you can’t aim for perfection why should an editor nurse-maid you to that state? Nominally, my job is to catch minor glitches not total mishaps. If you’re a writer, then you should understand the words, sentences and grammar of the job you’re supposed to be writing or are you considering it as mundane and boring as any other job to get right? Fall in love with making every sentence the best you’re ever written, read up and understand the rules of grammar. Put the time in researching any subject you’re using in the story. Be prepared to put a story away for a few weeks and go back to it for a self-edit until it’s as good as you can make it. Even I do that. You look good. I make you look better but you have to start off with good.

A lot of the time, errors will just stare you in the face when you didn’t see them the first time round. Once you know where your weaknesses are, they can be sorted out and allow you to move a little higher up the ladder towards making your material look its best and more importantly, getting your material seen by readers.

The link here will show you the Common Problems Link page and what I see mostly <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_commonprobs.php”></a>

with your mouse. It’s the smart writer who doesn’t get caught out with these.

Good luck.

Geoff

Category: Culture, World getting weirder

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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