Pluralistic: 17 Mar 2020

Today's links

  1. The Masque of the Red Death and Punch Brothers Punch: My latest podcast is Poe/Twain bathos crossover.
  2. Fill in your census online: Otherwise you and people you care about literally won't count.
  3. Naomi Klein: this disaster has no room for disaster capitalism: It's our moment to seize.
  4. Scalzi's canceled bookstore: Support your local indie bookseller, especially now.
  5. My Twitter account was suspended: I got in trouble for putting trolls on a list called "Colossal Assholes."
  6. Talking digital writing careers with the Writing Excuses podcast: Covering a lot of ground in 15 minutes.
  7. A new anxiety podcast from Nightvale's Joseph Fink: Proud to be in the debut episode.
  8. Patent trolls try to shut down covid testing: Monkey-selfies, Theranos, Softbank – it's a garbage matrioshke!
  9. How to live with your kids: "Working and Learning from Home with Young Children."
  10. Brave files GDPR complaint against Google: Sharing data between Google services is a no-no.
  11. This day in history: 2005, 2015, 2019
  12. Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming appearances, current reading

The Masque of the Red Death and Punch Brothers Punch (permalink)

My last podcast featured the Macmillan audiobook of my novella “The Masque of the Red Death."

For this week's podcast, I decided to read Poe’s original 1842 story, “The Masque of the Red Death. It’s some next-level gothic stuff. Neil Gaiman is right: Poe must be read aloud!

As a chaser, I close this week’s podcast with a reading of Twain’s classic, gothic, comedic “Literary Nightmare,” better known as “Punch, Brothers, Punch,” easily the best story ever written about an earworm.

Warning: earworms.

The two pieces work incredibly well together, making a bathetic cocktail!

Here's where to get the podcast:

Direct MP3 link:

Here's the RSS for my podcasts:

Fill in your census online (permalink)

Guess what's happening on April 1, whether or not the nation is on virus lockdown? The 2020 edition of the decennial census, arguably the most consequential administrative task in the US government.

You don't have to wait until April 1. Here's that URL again. Whether or not you've gotten a census card with a code, you can and should fill it in.

From danah boyd: "Everyone who lives in the US (regardless of nationality or visa status) is required to fill this out. Children under 5 are often forgotten. Same with long-term house guests. Immigrants, black men, and indigenous communities are often undercounted too. If you want to make sure that your community gets its fair share of funding and political power, make sure to get everyone in your community to fill this out. The more people missing, the more you lose out."

If digital isn't your thing, call:

English 844-330-2020
Español 844-468-2020
普通话 844-391-2020
粤语 844-398-2020
tiếng Việt 844-461-2020
한국어 844-392-2020
pусский 844-417-2020
Tagalog 844-478-2020
Polish 844-479-2020
Français 844-494-2020
Kreyòl Ayisyen 844-477-2020
Português 844-474-2020
日本語 844-460-2020

If you're reading this, you're on a device that can be used to fill it out.

Naomi Klein: this disaster has no room for disaster capitalism (permalink)

In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein coined "disaster capitalism" to describe how, during a crisis, "ideas lying around" about how to enrich the few and take away our rights come to the fore.

In this short doc, she applies the theory to coronavirus.

The shock doctrine is well underway: privatizing social security, closing borders, maybe canceling elections.

But as Klein points out, disasters don't always precipitate oligarchy. The Great Depression catalyzed the New Deal and transformative change.

This is moment to seize. We have "ideas lying around" that are better than exploitation and oligarchy: ideas like a $15 minimum wage, an inclusive government, evidence-based policy free from corporate influence, Medicare for All, and, most of all, the Green New Deal.

Scalzi's canceled bookstore (permalink)

John Scalzi has had to cancel his tour for for The Last Emperox, a book in The Collapsing Empire series. It was the right call for him (and Tor Books to make).

Even though it was the right call, it comes at a cost – to John, to Tor, and, especially, to the indie bookstores that rely on author events to keep the lights on. That's why John has urged his readers to "Keep your pre-order at your local bookstore, or make that pre-order at your local bookstore. Your local bookstore needs you right now."

He also suggests that you consider ordering a signed limited edition hardcover from Subterranean:

And John will be going into his local indie to sign books for mail order for so long as it's permitted:

Indie booksellers aren't the most endangered or hardest-hit among those who will be devastated by the virus, by official incompetence and indifference, and by monopolism and corruption, but they will still be VERY endangered and VERY hard-hit. They need your support.

My Twitter account was suspended (permalink)

My Twitter account is back!

Here's what happened:

I woke up yesterday morning and discovered that my account was locked. There was no explanation, either in the app, the site or my email for this. I contacted everyone I knew at Twitter, and everyone who knew anyone at Twitter. At 830AM Pacific – about 5h after the suspension – I got an email from support – saying I'd been suspended for having a list to which I add trolls called "colossal assholes."

I'm not sure that this qualifies as a ToS violation (I gave up reporting trolls who called me much worse, because Twitter inevitably replied that these epithets were not prohibited), but it's super-weird that they suspended me without warning or explanation. Also weird: I could not rename the list while suspended, only delete it (I tried to rename it "thoroughly unpleasant individuals").

Weirder: "Colossal assholes" got me suspended, but not its companion list, "Toe-faced shitweasels"

Thanks to everyone who contacted Twitter on my behalf, and for the Twitter folks who lit a fire to get that suspension explanation email sent my way.

All of my followers were deleted. Twitter tells me they'll reappear over 24h or so, but more than 100k are still missing. If you're interested in seeing my future tweets, please double-check that you're subscribed.

Also, in response to Twitter's sensitivity about "colossal assholes" as a listname, I've renamed and expanded my lists.

  • Potent emetics
  • Tissue-thin bad faith
  • Foolish timewasters
  • Beneath contempt
  • Odious nonsense-spewers
  • Confederate gravy-eaters
  • Toe-faced stenchweasels
  • Hilariously inept lackwits
  • Probably bots
  • Thick as two short planks
  • Raving conspiracists
  • Sociopath climate deniers
  • Dim bulb centrists
  • Inept MAGA trolls
  • Red scare bedwetters

Talking digital writing careers with the Writing Excuses podcast (permalink)

Back when cruise ships were a thing, I went out on the Writing Excuses Cruise as an instructor with Mary Robinette Kowal and friends. While there, we recorded an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast.

In a mere 25 minutes, we pack in a lot of material: how to break into the field, what a publisher's job is, how "digital is different," self-promotion, not being an unlikable weirdo when you're self-promoting, technology's role in shaping artistic success, and more.

Here's an MP3:

And here's the RSS to subscribe to the podcast:

A new anxiety podcast from Nightvale's Joseph Fink (permalink)

Our Plague Year is a new podcast from Joseph Fink of Welcome to Nightvale fame. It features short spoken-word essays about this extraordinary, scary, uncertain time.

The debut installment just went live and I was proud to contribute a piece to it, "Don't Look for the Helpers," which PM Press will be publishing in text form shortly.

Also in this episode: "Social Distances" by Nisi Shawl.

MP3 here:

Patent trolls try to shut down covid testing (permalink)

It's nearly impossible to sum up all the terrible in this story about a patent troll who is attacking America's ability to make and distribute coronovirus test-kits.

Labrador Diagnostics LLC is a patent troll (💩) that bought two of Theranos's patents (💩💩). They're a shell company spun up by Fortress Investment Group, Softbank's (💩💩💩) giant patent troll (💩💩💩💩). They're suing Biofire, a company that actually makes things (as opposed to Labrador, which only makes lawsuits). Which things are Biofire making? Covid-19 tests (💩💩💩💩💩).

They're represented by Irell & Manella, a lawfirm that previously claimed to represent a monkey. No, really. (💩💩💩💩💩💩)

It's inception-level terrible, a grifty shit burrito encased in a shit-flour tortilla, wrapped in a layer of shit-foil, and served in a go-bag of shitty, shitty, shit.

This is the kind of shit-matrioshke that could wipe out our species.

How to live with your kids (permalink)

I'm really impressed with Erin Kissane's "Working and Learning from Home with Young Children" – an important sanity check for anyone ramping up a new way of relating to our kids.

"Don’t be Captain Homeschool on day one" is definitely a lesson we've already learned the hard way, and I'm excited to try out its antidote, "Rhythms > schedules":

"A simple rhythm is resilient, so when something goes sideways, recovery is much simpler."

Also impressed by the accompanying "rhythm chart" (something something "rhythm method" something something "parenting").

"Hold a morning household meeting" is something we're definitely doing, albeit awkwardly because we're taking advantage of the school break to let our kid do the sleeping in she never gets to do otherwise, so we're already up and about by the time she's ready for this.

Also impressed by the recco for the Raising Free People podcast, for unschoolers, free schoolers, Adlerians and democratic parents.

Brave files GDPR complaint against Google (permalink)

It's long been obvious that US Big Tech companies are unserious about their GDPR compliance, taking cosmetic, pro-forma measures that don't really engage with the substance of the rules (those rules demand nothing less than a top-to-bottom industry restructure).

EU regulators have been slow to punish them for this, but the GDRP affords standing to many private actors to demand action for noncompliance, which is how it is that Brave has filed GDPR action against Google.

The complaint's substance is that Google is collecting data through its many products, divisions and services and merging that data on the back-end, which the GDPR expressly prohibits without meaningful, opt-in consent (and you can't deny service those who don't consent).

Brave published a study that analyzed Google's communications with users, partners, regulators and customers and showed that these are effectively an admission of the kind of "data-tying" that the GDPR bans.

I continue to use Brave and Firefox as my daily-driver browsers; I'm impressed with the quality of both, and how much better they make the web.

This action by Brave might trigger the kind of reckoning that the GDPR was meant to provoke — at long last.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago ETECH Notes: Life Hacks Live! (Danny O'Brien and Merlin Mann)

#15yrago Sterling and Steffen's SXSW keynote

#5yrsago The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie

#1yrago China's "pawn shops" have loaned $43B, mostly secured by real-estate

#1yrago Chinese enthusiasts are serving global Thinkpad fans by making modern motherboards that fit in classic chassis from the Golden Age of the Thinkpad

#1yrago Majority of London's newly built luxury flats are unsold, raising the spectre of "posh ghost towers"

#1yrago Myspace lost all the music its users uploaded between 2003 and 2015

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Kottke (, Slashdot (

Currently writing: I've just finished rewrites on a short story, "The Canadian Miracle," for MIT Tech Review. It's a story set in the world of my next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. I've also just completed "Baby Twitter," a piece of design fiction also set in The Lost Cause's prehistory, for a British think-tank. I'm getting geared up to start work on the novel next.

Currently reading: Just started Lauren Beukes's forthcoming Afterland: it's Y the Last Man plus plus, and two chapters in, it's amazeballs. Last month, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs"; it's a magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I'm getting really into Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley." I just loaded Matt Stoller's "Goliath" onto my underwater MP3 player and I'm listening to it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: The Masque of the Red Death and Punch Brothers Punch

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

(we're having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden:

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