Pluralistic: 19 Nov 2020

Today's links

Cyberpunk and Post-Cyberpunk (permalink)

Today on the Attack Surface Lectures (a series of 8 panels exploring themes from the third Little Brother book, hosted by Tor Books and 8 indie bookstores): Cyberpunk & Post-Cyberpunk with Christopher Brown and Bruce Sterling, which Anderson's hosted on Oct 19.

You can watch it without Youtube's surveillance courtesy of the Internet Archive:

Or get the audio as an MP3:

Earlier instalments in the series:

I. Politics and Protest (with Eva Galperin and Ron Deibert, hosted by The Strand):

II. Cross-Media Sci-Fi (with Amber Benson and John Rogers, hosted by the Brookline Booksmith):

III. Race, surveillance and tech (Meredith Whittaker and Malkia Devich-Cyril, hosted by The Booksmith):

Here's a master post with all the media as it is goes live:

And you can also get this as it's posted on my podcast feed – search for "Cory Doctorow podcast" in your podcatcher or use the RSS:

Disney stiffs writer (permalink)

Alan Dean Foster is an sf legend – a writer who produced a shelf of original novels but also made a reputation novelizing movies and TV from Star Wars to Aliens, turning out books that transcended quickie adaptations, becoming beloved bestsellers in their own right.

Disney now owns a bunch of these books, thanks to their acquisitions of Lucas and Fox, and these books continue to sell briskly. Disney not only isn't paying Foster any royalties for these books – they're refusing to even issue him royalty statements.

Disney has blackholed Foster's agents and lawyers, and also the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA); to the extent that they have communicated with him, they have espoused a radical (jaw dropping) copyright theory.

This is Disney's theory: When they bought Lucas and Fox, they acquired the copyright licenses that enabled them to sell the Foster's books – but not the liability, the legal obligation to pay him for his books.

As SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal says, this theory could absolutely upend the nature of copyright itself. Any publisher that wanted to go on making money from an author without paying them could simply sell the rights to a sister company, which then denies any obligations.

Foster brought his case to SFWA's grievance committee – a group that has worked on my behalf in the past, extracting a fee from a multinational publisher that commissioned and accepted a story from me but then offered an odious and unacceptable contract they refused to amend.

Usually griefcom work happens in the background: a SFWA member goes to griefcom, griefcom goes to the publisher, the publisher settles. This is the first time in more than a decade that SFWA has gone public with a complaint.

To be fair, Disney did offer to meet with Foster, but demanded that he sign an NDA prior to any negotiation. This is Not Normal. Sometimes the OUTCOME of a negotiation is confidential, but you don't go into a negotiation under NDA.

Disney appears to be taking a page from the cartoonish villain Scooter Braun, who refused to meet with Taylor Swift about buying back the rights to her masters without an NDA.

Foster's case is a gross injustice. He has cancer and his wife is ill. He wrote these books, Disney bought them. They're making money from them. They owe him money. Period.

But beyond the individual injustice being visited upon Foster, Kowal and SFWA worry that this represents a suite of new, corporate anti-writer tactics: flipping assets without liabilities, refusing to talk about it without an NDA.

You can follow Foster's case with the #DisneyMustPay hashtag. If you're a writer facing similar tactics (even if you're not a SFWA member), they're seeking your story, via this form:

Tyson execs bet on covid spread in unsafe plant (permalink)

Remember last April, when US meatpacking giants like Tyson were the epicenter of runaway superspreader events that slaughtered the poor, precarious, racialized workers who toiled under brutal and unsafe conditions?

One of the hardest-hit was Tyson's Waterloo, IA plant (the largest meat packing plant in America), where workers were denied PPE, forced to work without social distancing, and where more than 1,000 of them contracted covid. Many died.

One of the dead is Isidro Fernandez. In a wrongful death suit, his lawyers revealed details of Tyson's abuse of its workers that shock the conscience, like the fact that manager Tom Hart ran a betting pool on how many workers would contract covid.

The suit also claims senior manager John Casey told supervisors that they were required to report for work even if they had symptoms, calling covid a "glorified flu." He forced a supervisor to cancel a testing appointment, saying "We all have symptoms – you have a job to do."

A worker who was so sick he vomited on the line was ordered back to work the next day.

As conditions in the plant deteriorated, Tyson managers stopped visiting the floor altogether in a bid to protect themselves. Instead, they delegated to inexperienced supervisors.

They also told workers they would only be eligible for a $500 "thank you bonus" if they reported for every shift they were scheduled to work, regardless of whether they were sick and contagious.

All of this was justified – by Tyson and its enablers in the GOP – as a necessary, regrettable part of keeping America fed during the lockdown. But Tyson's breakneck meat-packing wasn't primarily domestic: they were serving the Chinese market.

Chinese meat-packers had largely been mothballed to spare workers from the virus; as a result, the company was able to increase its exports to China by 600% during Q1-2020.

But this isn't the story that Tyson's execs told Governor Kim Reynolds when they lobbied for exemptions from liability for the employees they maimed and murdered during the same period – they claimed it was all patriotic zeal to feed America.

The case has moved to federal court, thanks to Trump's invocation of the Defense Production Act, which ordered Tyson to stay open during the lockdown.

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago TSA confiscates heavily-armed soldiers’ nail-clippers

#5yrsago Manhattan DA calls for backdoors in all mobile operating systems

#1yrago Coop’s tribute to Randotti Skulls, from the golden age of Haunted Mansion merchandise

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: JWZ (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 513 words (85767 total).

Currently reading: The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson

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When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla