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Editorial – March 2019: for once, even I can have a rant.

March 3, 2019 | By | Reply More

Living life in the Internet lane.

Don’t forget to leave your free will behind..

Hello everyone

A couple decades back, there was a TV advert series in the UK with a chap left in a white room with a mobile telephone and ordering everything on it, presumably on some level of unlimited funds to survive. Generally, he ordered in food, played games and company for a party, spread over the ads. We don’t see getting the wrong item to be returned or the length of time it takes to arrive or how it and they were passed into said room. One has to presume his toilet was hidden somewhere.

The imagery said ‘instant’ and we know that’s a fiction. A more believable thing would be showing the chap dying of thirst and hunger after 3 days waiting for his purchases to arrive as there was no next day delivery when these adverts were on TV. Adverting rarely matches reality. It’s always useful to remember when something in adverts appeals to you, it’s designed to do so without showing the pitfalls. It isn’t supposed to show true reality and let’s your imagination run wild or, in my case, look at what would really happen. They’re designed to capture a particular part of the population with an image. The bigger the population, the bigger the percentage. We all know how adverts work or at least I hope we do.

I suspect if the advert was re-done today, there would be little difference other than using one of those smartphone thingies which I’ve only heard of but never played with and more visuals using the Net and that some things will arrive faster if you pay for it. Of course, the chances are that you’ll also see a lot more clothes size changes and things being returned if you’re realistic.

Likewise, waiting for the price to drop so you get the best deal. If anything, our reality has changed somewhat because we now share similar experiences on the Internet to know what happens, regardless of who we are, what station in life and where we are in the world. Unless it was done as a bit of fun, which we like in our adverts in the UK, people are now far more aware of the difference between advertising and reality and can be more critical. It doesn’t always work out that way or people wouldn’t trust servers as to just fast their connection lines are.

Editorial – March 2019: for once, even I can have a rant.

Editorial – March 2019: for once, even I can have a rant.

Most of the adverts we see on-line, we recognise as such. I suspect, if you’re like me, you tend to see them as background noise and not pay much attention to them. Mind you, I don’t figure much in any of their templates. Those of you with particular medical problems like mine with type one diabetes will find the same applying to you. Become a minority interest is the best way to become immune to adverts as few cater to us in a big way. We aren’t their definition of ‘average’.

That doesn’t mean new models aren’t being developed for the Internet generation or that they don’t really know what a ‘normal’ or ‘average’ person is. What is worrying is that computer algorithms used to help your search engines to focus on what is thought to be your ‘tastes’ targets you for advertising as such as well. It doesn’t care if you’re a minority interest and just tests everything on you, especially if you show repeat behaviour.

It doesn’t make allowances for people like me where I put in so much random information when I’m doing SFC groundwork like locating various books and other kinds of covers and illustrations so rarely finds a match that would appeal to me. It runs out of ideas when I don’t give much of it a second look at its recommendations.

In many respects, I’m still not being analysed properly so outside of the algorithm protocols. For the rest of you, presuming you don’t throw it wobblies on a continual basis, your tastes are being re-enforced to the point that you don’t see any recommended choices beyond that. Your choices are actually getting limited not widened and controlled by what advertisers would sell to you unless you ignore it and seek out things you actually need. Then again, the algorithm will tend to repeat things. Just how many garden gates or light bulbs do you want in one year let alone a lifetime?

The way the search engine actually throws up things that you have to wonder how it makes particular connections and then realise the threads its making are built on less connected threads, especially when it sometimes includes presidents in any search if you look further down the images gallery. Don’t you ever wonder why this doesn’t affect its buying options? Then again, it doesn’t expect you to look further down the pages and just look at the top options and even accidentally press the advert options by mistake. You don’t really see the least choices that are furthest from where you first look. It’s learning people don’t do full proper inspections.

Whether we want to see such algorithms to challenge you by saying you liked this then you would also like this is also questionable because we have no idea how they can make some connections, especially when you see what the search engines throw up. Are we that complacent that we always want more of the same or something to challenge us from time to time. Either that or humans truly do have conservative tastes that they don’t want to change.

It did make me think further and wondered if people could truly live a life totally dependent on the Internet, even when we know delivery doesn’t match ordering speed. Not that I want to do it myself. After all, I don’t even do social media, mostly because looking at the number of hits SFC gets, I’m sure you see enough of me here anyway. Social media also sounds contradictory because it has the least physical contact. I thought I was insular but I’m made that way. Within a couple generations, assuming computer users still breed, it’ll be a normality that you rarely meet many people in person. It would make Isaac Asimov’s novel ‘The Naked Sun’ (1957) where people avoided social contact scaringly prophetic.

Shopping we all know about but over the past decade, we’re also seeing the odd cracks now where there are some things people prefer to buy in first person than on-line, missing the tactile experience. Think about some of your own choices that way. You can add into that mix the usually seen Internet limits where even ordering next day delivery doesn’t, let alone the right product or out of stock. You would really have to work a lot harder for serendipity to work for you unless you have an inkling for random searches checking some random memory.

You can also become a victim of search engine algorithms which are supposed to observe your interests and offer more of the same, even beyond shopping. However, even if you’re pretty liberal and always out to expand your knowledge and randomly look for anything, these same algorithms will stick to the same routines. In the long term, they work inversely and limit rather than expand your choices, especially if they keep repeating the same things. How often have you used the long river site and it suggests the same products that you’ve already previously bought? Algorithms aren’t perfect so why should we fully trust them?

Of course, to live a life off the Internet, it isn’t all about shopping. What about earning a living? Assuming most of you have heard or use the business connection website ‘Linked In’ as a form of old boy network that throws up jobs that are available. There’s a fair bet that there are a multitude of them so just treat this as an example. Assuming you got through all the job interviews purely by being popular and talented and got the job, would you really be urged to want to change jobs every 5 minutes when they offer something more appealing? Your CV will show just how fickle you are. How to make your head spin without being possessed and spewing green vomit.

Assuming there are enough jobs available, can you see someone starting the morning in one job and moving onto three or four more over the course of the day. With everyone else, but their bosses, doing that I doubt if there would be much continuity, well unless you’re in telephone sales or fraud. Then again, it’s all possible if you work from home and how’s your various bosses to know you’re doing multiple jobs.

The same also applies to changing utility companies where the promotions don’t point out you can’t change right away because of the contract terms. Advertising is never what it seems and most people don’t check the small print. It also assumes that you’ve got plenty of funds and never go into debt. I have a feeling in the long term we are going to see ever more complex algorithms build up computer images of what it thinks you are like. As my old General Semantics background always reminds, ‘the map is not the territory only a representation’ ergo maps of human choices need to be led by humans not by software. What are we if we submit our free will to a non-existence force? Hmmm…we appear to have a history of doing that, even one’s of our own creation.

A consequence of this is you’re going to get a limited version of the world and not even a complete picture and this is beyond what the various hosts will limit searches without telling you about it. If anything, without diverse sources of information, the world would be more of a distorted jigsaw with you only having a small part of it. Ultimately, we would become controlled by our technology and that’s before anyone adds some organic guidance in how you can be convinced, say, in voting for something. Remember last month’s editorial on the point I made about a simple repetition can convince you black is white. How to remove dissent in a generation and no one wiser how they got there.

Worse, you don’t even know the names of the companies and people who do it. Do you really want to be turned into such a soft touch by people you never see and just assume you know and trust their judgement? Get enough trust issues and we can live with some element of distrust and paranoia but better than being persuaded at a drop of a hat or the size of someone’s posterior.

When this is applied to which news feeds to trust, trends that if you followed would quickly become out-of-date, let alone for those inclined that way, celebrity gossip, is it any wonder people now want those running various servers on the Net to have proper verification of what is true than fabricated?

Should we discuss children and their own Internet usage? An upcoming generation that apparently appears to prefer line-feeds to television and ignoring newspapers completely. Mind you, its early days. Young humans are also inclined to be fickle and might even catch on to our nostalgic kick one day although no doubt with improved technology that would flash-feed for their reduced attention span. One can only hope there are some new kids who prefer to watch at a slower speed and question the way we do or should do things.

The heart of Science Fiction is to show such dangers and yet there is nary a word from that direction. Are we all getting truly complacent with our computer technology or fearful that it might be noticing us? This has nothing to do with being a technophobe but all about what we are so easily giving up free will to. Granted it might not be like Skynet but there are still dangers from the seemingly innocuous. More so when there’s no way of knowing how far we’ve come to being that way. It is robbing decision making at a fast rate. Am I the only one worrying about this?

It does make me wonder why no one’s spun a story on any of the extremes above. I can see some of you saying why haven’t I? Hmmm…I’m thinking about it but lacking some elements of personal experience I could get something wrong, although give me time to think of the right handle. Mind you, in SF, when has that stopped anyone? The other problem is would people find such futures appealing when life has moved on that there are no people left to remember the non-Internet days, let alone reading pages of even a short story.

That’s less than a century into the future, assuming climate change doesn’t get us first.

Is this type of digital world something you think would work and you would want to be part of?

Thank you, take care, good night and watch out for infiltrating robots. They aren’t always looking for Sarah Connor but the algorithms that have become a way of life.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info

A Zen thought: To think is to decide. To not think is to let someone do it for you.

What Qualities Does A Geek Have: What else but free will.

The Reveal: Is it just me or does everyone have a problem using their laptop to bring down a dropship from the orbiting spaceship?

Observation: In ‘Aliens’, when Newt is dragged underwater by the xenomorph where she awakes about an hour later in the resin nest. One could surmise shock contributed to staying unconscious for so long but unless the xenomorphs practice basic first aid resuscitation (although I doubt if mouth-to-mouth is possible), how did she avoid swallowing water?

For that you need to look at the epiglottis. It’s a skin flap in the throat that ensures your food heads towards your stomach and not your lungs. When you’re suddenly thrown into water, this flap will lock off both your oesophagus (foodpipe) and trachea (windpipe) to stop you taking on water.

 Observation: Considering that Skynet has nuclear powered Terminators, have you ever wondered why it didn’t just nuke the rest of mankind of existence? After all, it didn’t have to worry about CPU/memory damage when it detonated nuclear bombs originally, nor does it have to worry about radiation toxicity. That one I’m less sure about as it depends on how Skynet’s mobile computer equipment might suffer problems in intense radiation areas although what it would be looking for raises a different question. As an earlier article of mine pointed out, Skynet needs humans alive so they can use its temporal technology to ensure its own creation.

 Observation: The current talk of needing a joker on-board the Mars mission has more to do breaking tension than non-stop gags. Even so, the last kind of person you would want on board is a bully.

 Observation: Going back to 1958 or rather forward to the 23rd century in ‘Forbidden Planet’ that no one has ever speculated on what happened to Robbie The Robot when the C-57D returned to Earth. Presumably, the scientists would have liked to dissect the Krell robot but I suspect Robby would have offered his blueprints instead. He might even have made some of the harder parts.

 Observation: We often speculate whether there is other life in the galaxy and wonder whether this ‘other life’ in more advanced stages than us aren’t out there looking for it. Forgetting the restraints of distance, after a few examples, wouldn’t these aliens become satisfied and didn’t bother to go any look further. That’s not just an alien failing, look at how quickly humans lost interest in travelling to the Moon in a couple years. Maybe complacency is universal?

 Observation: Granted that the Newcomers or Tenctonese from ‘Alien Nation’ have probably got keener senses than humans, although George Francisco wore sunglasses, I did wonder if any of them wore contact lenses? Then I had a thought. Humans clean their non-disposable contacts in saline solution, which is essentially salt water, which is harmful to the Tenctonese. When the original film came out in 1988 and the TV series from 1989-1990, disposable contact lenses didn’t exist until 1995, so the Tenctonese never had any choice.

 Observation: Would it be fair to say that criminal vampires would be wanted dead and alive?

 Feeling Stressed: If your computer suddenly switches to Table Mode and your wallpaper is dulled and you can’t get rid of the apps filling the screen and you have no window size control, then you need to do the following:-

Select Settings – System.

Select Table Mode option 1 and turn it off or rather press the button again.

Reboot and everything should get back to normal.

Beats spending two hours finding out what happened and how to change it back.

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: 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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