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January 2007

I've just created an NYRSF Index page

I created a page on this site to host the (rather large, cumberbersome) NYRSF index, carefully maintained by the marvelous Eugene Surowitz. What we have indexed is about 4.3 million words of science fiction criticism and reviews not on the web. (I need to go into the main NYRSF site and make a link to it.)

Continue reading "I've just created an NYRSF Index page" »

David Edding accidentally burns down his office

Fantasy writer David Eddings accidentally burned down his office while trying to flush out the gas tank of his old sports car. Poor David: Novelist accidentally burns down office

An acclaimed novelist lost his office in Carson City on Thursday when he threw a lit piece of paper into gasoline.

Fantasy writer David Eddings, 75, said he was using water to flush out the gas tank of his broken-down Excalibur sports car, when some fluid leaked. In a lapse of judgment he readily admitted, Eddings lit a piece of paper and threw into the puddle to test if it was still flammable. The answer came in an orange torrent. . . .

Eddings said his intention to was to prevent a fire - he was afraid to leave a tank full of gasoline in a car that had gone kaput - but instead he did the opposite.

"One word comes to mind," the renowned wordsmith said as he stood in a pajama shirt and slippers. "Dumb."

Just Played with Marquis Who's Who on the Web

I just played with Marquis Who's Who on the Web, the online Who's Who database. (You can get a free 1-week trial membership. It's pretty cool. I could spend many happy hours being nosy doing research in there. You can, for example, search by zip code and find out which famous people live near you.

I love my subscription, which I use a couple of times a day as a phone book and such. Marquis is in the process of putting all the bios from their many publications into one big, searchable database, and they're also including the historical books. So this is much better than having copies of the books. I haven't jumped yet, but I'm thinking about getting a subscription.

It's not perfect. It took me three tries to find my own listing. First Name = Kathryn, Last Name = Cramer didn't do it. A search by zip code didn't do it either, but did pick up my husband's listing (plus a long list of people around here I might want to get to know). But searching on Cramer by itself did the trick, picking up both my dad's listing and my own.

Also, one can now pay them an annual fee to put your own listing on the web if you want it to be publicly available to the ordinary Internet user. This seems to be a very new service, since a Google search of the site where these are hosted turned up only a few dozen entries; when I inquired about pricing, there was some confusion about how much it costs. But in these days when anyone can become your biographer whether they know anything about you or not, it looked to me like a useful service.

So I took the Which SF Writer Are You Quiz . . .

And it tells me that I'm Benford, which is interesting, because he's a good friend of ours and calls a lot  just to chat about life and the state of the world. Actually, in terms of personality quirks, I can see a certain resemblance between Benford and I, particularly in the department of a certain flavor of gamesmanship.

I am:

Gregory Benford

A master literary stylist who is also a working scientist.

Which science fiction writer are you?

When Benford took the quiz, it apparently told him he was Arthur C. Clarke. (Via Cory Doctorow, who just found out he's Robert Heinlein.)

Michael Moorcock on living among Americans

Another good quote I happened across today. British SF and fantasy writer Michael Moorcock on living among Americans from an interview by 3AM:

At present the people are so badly served by their media that I can't claim they have the government they deserve. . . . I like living amongst Americans. Yesterday, I went to a barbecue in a neighborhood fairly festooned with flags and 'United We Stand' stickers -- mostly firemen, cops, paramedics -- and found the company tolerant, curious and concerned -- but not belligerently aggressive, as the bellowing Bushites make the country appear.

Moorcock lives in Bastrop, Texas.

L. E. Modesitt on the Way Washington Works

I was reading an interview with fantasy and science fiction writer L. E. Modesitt, Jr. and came across a marvelously chilling passage about what he learned from his 17 years working in the belly of the beast that is Washington, DC:

. . . the way Washington works is not the way people really want to think of Washington working. For example, you see movies like No Way Out, you see all these Washington films—people are dying all over the place. In the whole time I worked in Washington, I don't know of a single death that was caused by somebody else. Washington doesn't work that way. Washington is too cruel to kill anybody outright. Now, the number of suicides—that's another question.

"Washington will take away your livelihood. I know people who cannot do what they once did because of Washington. They will alienate your family and your friends; they will destroy your life, and they will destroy your family, but they won't kill you. They leave that up to you.

During his time in DC, he was the Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the EPA, and also a staff director for a US Congressman.

The discussion was in the context of his novel The Green Progression, Modesitt's only commercial failure. I read it (maybe 10 years ago?) and thought it was a pretty good book.

(PS: If you hadn't guessed by now, we're working on anthology story notes here in Pleasantville.)

"I started reading my Bible and one day, the Lord opened my eyes . . ."

I think this particular piece of spam targets the psychotic/schizophrenic wing of fundamentalist Christianity. My favorite line is These couples were good Christians, they so dedicated to God but they had no child till they died.

Always trust someone you've never met who signs his letters "Yours in Christ"; he's certain to have your best interests at heart:

It is by the grace of God that I received Christ, knowing the truth and the truth has set me free. Having known the truth, I had no choice than to do what is lawful and right in the sight of God for eternal life and in the sight of man for witness of God’s mercy and glory upon my life. I have the pleasure to share my testimony with you, having seen your contact from the Internet. I am Barrister Morris Williams, the legal adviser to late Mr.and Mrs. Dan Emerson, a British couple that lived in my Country for 25years before they both died in the plane crash late last year. These couples were good Christians, they so dedicated to God but they had no child till they died. Throughout their stay in my country, they acquired a lot of properties like lands, house properties, etc.

As their legal adviser, before their death, the husband Mr. Dan Emerson instructed me to write his WILL. Because they had no child, they dedicated their wealth to God. According to the WILL, the properties have to be sold and the money be given out to a ministry for the work of God. As their legal adviser, all the documents for the properties were in my care. He gave me the authority to sell the properties and give out the fund to the Ministries for the work of God.

I sold all the properties after their death, as instructed by Mr. Dan Emerson before his death. And as matter of fact, after I sold all their properties, I realized more than $30,000,000.00 (Thirty million US dollars), and what supposed to be the percentage interest of my right legal fee was firstly deducted by me out of the total amount realized from the sold properties, this was base on the initial agreement between me and the owner of the properties before his death. Therefore the total amount left to be invested into God's work as instructed by the owner, is $30,000,000.00 (Thirty million US dollars) only. But Instead of giving the main fund out for the work of God as instructed by the owner, I converted the fund to myself with the intention of investing the fund abroad for my personal use.

I was afraid of putting the fund in the Bank, because I have to give account to the bank on how I got the money. I then packaged the fund in consignments and deposited the consignments with a security company. I did not want the management of the Security Company to know the content of the consignments; therefore I registered the content of the consignments as Gold Bars. Now, the security company believes that what I deposited with them was Gold Bars. I had an encounter with Christ when Pastor Benny Hinn was preaching on television concerning Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5:1-11, after hearing the word of God, I gave my life to Christ and became a born again Christian. As a born again Christian, I started reading my Bible and one day, the Lord opened my eyes to Ezekiel 33: 18 and 19 where the word of God says: "When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby". From the scripture, I discovered that the only way I could have peace in my life is to do what is lawful and right by giving out the fund as instructed for the work of God by the owner. I have asked God for forgiveness and I know that God has forgiven me. But I have to do what is lawful and right in the sight of God by giving out the fund to the chosen ministry for the purpose of God's work as instructed by the owner. After fasting and prayers, I asked God to make his choice and direct me to a honest Christian or the chosen ministry that deserves this fund by his Grace. I then came across your address on the Internet as I was browsing through a Christian site, and as a matter of fact, it is not only you or your ministry that I picked on the Christian site initially, but after my fervent prayer over it, then you were nominated to me through divine revelation from God, so this is how I received a divine revelation from the Lord, I got your contact address, and I then decided to contact you for the fund to be used wisely for things that will glorify the name of God.

I have notified the Security Company where I deposited the consignments that contained the fund, that I am moving the consignment abroad and the security company has since been waiting for my authority for the consignment to leave my country and move broad. So if you know that you will use this fund honestly and wisely for things that will glorify God's name, then do contact me back first through this email address: [redacted] for more details.

You should also forward to me your physical contact address were you will like the consignments delivered to you, your direct telephone and fax number for easy communication and to fax you the documents concerning the consignments.
Your prompt response will be highly appreciated.
Yours in Christ,
Barrister Morris Williams.

And always trust a conman who claims to have found Christ.

In Snakes in Suits, there's a lovely anecdote about a fundamentalist Christian DA who was frequently confronted by criminals who had found Christ. Her response? Congratulations. You're going to Heaven. But right now, you're going to jail!

A 4-year-old talks about death.

With Elizabeth the fairy on our screened porch in Pleasantville, September 2005.

My four year old daughter just gave a lovely little speech. We were talking about how her middle name, Constance, was her deceased grandmother's name and she said:

I figured out that when people die, they still live inside you. And you can talk to them because they live inside your body, so I can still talk to Nannie.

Wise child.

After her grandmother died in the fall of 2005, when we were leaving the funeral home following the funeral, she said:

I have an idea. Why don't we go to Disneyland and get daddy a new mother?

Luckily, when we took her to Disney last summer, she didn't remember to shop for a new grandmother.

Photo: Elizabeth with her grandmother, September 2005.

How to Write an Author Bio: A Tutorial for Wikipedians & Others

We write three kinds of author bios in this household:

  1. short story introductions for year's best collections (which have tight wordage constraints);
  2. longer author notes for our larger historical anthologies. (A complete set of our author bios from The Ascent of Wonder is available online.) These give more detail on the author and are also usually used to carry on the overall argument of the book.
  3. And the occasional longer biographical essay, which usually ends up in some form in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

Because of my recent experience with Wikipedian "editing," I am considering releasing the complete set of author bios from the anthologies of both David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer to the Internet under Creative Commons in order to raise the level of author bio discourse. (There is a certain amount of hard labor involved in this, and I haven't figures out how to do it yet. Suggestions welcome.)

Since our story notes usually go with a particular story, I'm going to skip the discussion of how to position the story in the note, and instead focus on what information needs to be assembled about the author.

Here are the basic pieces of info we collect before writing a note:

  • The author's correct name and any known pseudonyms
  • year of and place of birth and death (if deceased)
  • where the author lives and minor family details
  • the URL of the author's website. Failing that, the URL of the best tribute site. If the author has a blog, the URL of the blog.
  • A brief summary of the highlights of the authors career and life. This may or may not include a summary of awards.
  • An interesting quote from the author, usually taken from online interviews but sometimes elicited in correspondence. Do collect listings of interviews,  the more the better.
  • The author's three most recent books, with brief descriptions (I love Amazon as a source for this info!)
  • The author's three most important books or stories
  • Relationships to others in the field or other notable people (Greg Bear is married to Poul Anderson's daughter; Rudy Rucker is the great grand son of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; etc.)
  • The authors significance in terms of trends within the science fiction field (Bruce Sterling was the chief spokesman for the cyberpunk movement)
  • Other interesting aspects of an author's life. Other areas of achievement.
  • I suppose I should add "in the tradition of . . ." but that is such a tried cliche of flap copy that we usually leave it out.

Lists of authors' awards and complete bibliography are usually available elsewhere. Link to them. But if the usual sources are inaccurate, provide better info. And finally, cover good new writers and cover people no one knows much about.

The most important thing to understand about writing an author bio is that this is a form of literary characterization. Details that enhance the bio by making the author a more rounded character may be crucial even if not otherwise relevant.

Has Wikipedia Declared the Death of Print?

So, the story continues. . . .   After the initial shock of encountering what goes by the name of editing at Wikipedia, and formulating my plan to reinstate the SF author bios on ISFDB because the Wikipedia editors actively discourage those with expertise from contributing, I had some further discussions with this particular batch of Wikipedians concerning the nature of evidence acceptable as citation for Wikipedia.

I have a strong vested interest in there being a collecting of good sf writer bios out there, especially for obscure but talented writers. Professionally, I use such resources extensively, and in our recent round of  author bio writing for our two year's best volumes, David Hartwell and I found very little useful material in the Wikipedia bios because for the most part it was material we already had and didn't cover the people we really needed more info on. The only cases in which Wikipedia bios proved use useful were in cases like Gardner Dozois, whom we know very well but who declines to have a web page of his own. (Wikipedia's policies claim that they are not there to provide people with space for their personal web pages, but that was precisely where it was most useful.)

Wikipedia's algorithmic ideas of how to figure out if someone is notable enough for inclusions are also a significant impairment to its value as a biographic source. It is precisely bios of increasingly important but little known figures that are of the most value. We don't really need to read Wikipedia's bio of Stephen King when there are so many other, better biographical sketches of him out there. Certainly there needs to be gate-keeping involving vanity-published authors and such, and that would require skill and tact. But the Naomi Kritzers and M. Rickerts and Daryl Gregorys of the world are the biographical additions to such a collection that would be of most value. (Gregory is writing some breathtakingly good sf stories and David says has just sold a novel to Del Rey.)

Why this would be the state of affairs there became evident when I was told that if I wanted to write and edit as an "expert," that  Wikipedia was not the place for me.

If you want to edit as an "expert" there are other most suitable wikis such as Citizendium . . .

Examples of things that didn't fly:

  • Photographic evidence in support of a cited news article:

    Deciding that a persona is an alias for a person is original research. Yes, it may look like the same guy, it may sound like the same guy, but we can't rely on our own judgment to decide that it is the same guy.

    In the photos in question, insignias or logos of the organizations mentioned in the articles were clearly visible in the photos.

  • Criminal case citations, because they are not on the web from an official source.

  • Items on the web, but requiring registration.

  • My own claim as to my own paternity. (Web citation required, apparently. Does some reliable source out there publish birth certificates on the web???)

  • But most interestingly, published print sources not on the web were not acceptable according to my officious informants. Citations of myself and Patrick Nielsen Hayden as members of The Little Magazine editorial board were deemed to require citation. When we founded the The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1998, we sold The Little Magazine to SUNY Albany. There are a few mentions of the Little Magazine under 20+ year David Hartwell's ownership, but because of when we sold it, most of the references are to the SUNY Albany incarnation. I did find an online auction catalog listing me as one of The Little Magazine's editors, but that was pure luck.

So have the Wikipedian's declared the death of print? Or at least that print doesn't matter unless it's on the web? Disallowing print sources seems to me clear evidence that some kind of collective insanity has gripped the Wikipedian Hive Mind. What could it possibly be thinking?

UPDATE: Here's a new item. I was told that it was inappropriate to correct bibliographic errors replicted from ISFDB, since "verifiability", not "truth" was the point. I have pointed out the the title pages of actual books trump an ISFDB listing, something I'm sure ISFDB would agree with.

SF Site reviews The Space Opera Renaissance

We just got a terrific review of The Space Opera Renaissance from Stuart Carter at SF Site. It begins:

A confession: before reading The Space Opera Renaissance, I honestly thought that space opera came to be called space opera because "opera," in my blissfully uninformed opinion, was the equivalent of the Hollywood blockbuster from before they had Hollywood -- big, brash, wide screen entertainment full of fickle gods, exotic foreigners, passionate lovers and mighty warriors, all mashed up into stories of inspired, over-the-top mayhem and exhibitionism, and topped with bellowing divas howling like Hurricane Katrina in a ball gown. . . . Fortunately for me, David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer are here to try and set straight idiots such as myself, and kudos is due to them both that, for the most part, they serve as knowledgeable and engrossing guides to this once-derided area of the genre. I found their commentaries on each author to be invaluable to my enjoyment of each piece in this hefty anthology, whether I agreed 100 percent with their assessments or not . . .

My AmazonConnect Directory

After setting up my AmazonConnect page last night, I looked around to see who else had one. I did find the official directory, but it is a horrible, unusable thing which took me quite a while to skim through. So I've made my own AmazonConnect Directory and put it in my right sidebar for all to see.

Suggestions for additions welcome. If I didn't notice your name when skimming down the list of names in the official directory, it doesn't mean I don't love you.

Just Started an AmazonConnect Blog

I just started an AmazonConnect blog in order to organize imformation about our books for Amazon readers and book buyers. (The AmazonConnect program is a blogging system available to authors with books for sale on Amazon; they have 26 entries for me.)

The instructions say it may take up to 5 days for them to verify that I am who I say I am, the Kathryn Cramer with her name on the cover of these books. So I'm not sure if you'll be able to see the blog until then.

A long time ago, I tried to have a separate blog for news about my books, and I neglected it shamefully. Maybe I'll be more interesed in shameless selfpromotion this time around.

Art from Spam: Recommended Reading

The other night my husband and I spend way too much time chuckling over Spamusements: Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines! It's full of really inspired silliness. Some household favorites:

Prior CNN Headline: Prince Charles to Vacation in Steak on a Grill

Headline as revised on CNN this Morning: Prince Charles axes vacation in beef over carbon.
From the actual story:

Details of the prince's carbon footprint are scheduled to be published along with his annual office accounts later this year. The document will set out targets for the reduction of carbon emissions by his office and household.

Internet Predator Dupes Internet Predators:
The Biters Bit

NeilhroderickThis is a scary story, given what could have happened if this guy, Neil H. Rodreick II, had managed to get himself enrolled in school as a twelve-year-old (and may have happened previously). But the details -- Internet predator dupes Internet predators -- are rich in black humor. This really should be a movie:

A charter school alerted authorities to a 29-year-old sex offender who tried to enroll there, pretending he was just 12, in what sheriff's officials said Friday may have been an attempt to lure children into sexual abuse.

The Yavapai County sheriff's office also said Neil Havens Rodreick II conned two men he was living with and having sex with into believing he was a young boy. . . .

Stiffler and Robert James Snow, 43, "were very upset when the detectives told them they had been having a sexual relationship with a 29-year-old man and not a pre-teen boy," Quayle said. . . .

She said detectives learned in interviews with the men that Rodreick convinced Stiffler and Snow that he was a boy after they met him two years ago over the Internet. Rodreick apparently shaved his body hair and used makeup to keep up the guise.

RovertjamessnowLonniestifflerThese guys are the very definition of the British term poor sods. I wonder how much money Rodreick took these two idiots for under the pretext that he was jailbait. Why do stories like this always have their beginnings in a relationship that starts on the Internet? And is there anything more contemptible than a pair of failed child molesters?

Moninder Singh Pandher, Surendra Koli, & India's Grisly Child Murders

India's serial killer case seems to be emerging as a perfect storm of discrimination based on class and weath, police apathy and hostility toward the poor, the wrong two guys teaming up, and perhaps a few other factors. This resulted in a situation in which Moninder Singh Pandher and his servant Surendra Koli could systematically and methodically hunt and kill children and the occasional woman with complete impunity for several years, probably at least a rate of more than one a month. Koli went to work for Pandher in 2004. My esitmate is based only on remains actually found so far; a bunch of the many skulls don't seem to go with the bodies found so far. Pandher is emerging as India's own Gille de Rais.These guys were very well organized. From

In his confession before the police, Surendra allegedly said that Mohinder would often call prostitutes to his house. "I would also arrange domestic helps of the locality for my master. And when no one was available, Mohinder would ask me for small girls," he reportedly told the police.

Surendra allegedly said that many small children came to play in the open space near the water tank just behind the bungalow and he would lure them with chocolates and sweets. Surendra said Mohinder would rape these children. First the master, then he, Surendra allegedly told the police.

Then he would strangulate them, chop off the bodies into small pieces, and would dump the skulls and the belongings behind the house, and the rest of the body parts in the drain in front.

Police claimed that Surendra would often immerse the body in a drum of acid to prevent the stench from spreading. Noida SP Saimitra Yadav said: "Surendra had also killed two small boys who happened to be victims of mistaken identity. The two were very young and Surendra could not make out their gender by their appearance. But since they had been taken inside the house, they had to be killed. They were not sexually assaulted though."

This confession was elicited by "truth serum" (Sodium Pentathol). Apparently, the confession also involves claims of cannibalism. Surendra was Pandher's cook.

The Indian media is having a hard time coming to grips with the idea of psychopathy, attempting to reconcile Pandher's former classmates' claims that he seemed like a "wonderful chap" with the notion that he was a peophile and a serial child killer. Biographical details on Pandher are a bit sparse. But there are a few.

One of the most interesting to me is that Delhi's St. Stephen's College, from which Pandher has his college degree (Batch of 1974-77. History (Honours). Third Division) has some significant amnesia about the accused, an amnesia which seems to extend beyond what simple embarassment could explain.

While confirming that he studied at the college, officials at the principal’s office added: “He is a horrendous exception to college’s glorious tradition of grooming gentlemen out of students.”

Even students in the History batch of 1977 that had 45 students do not seem to know him. “I just cannot recall him. I’m sure there is some confusion. I know all my batchmates but cannot recollect this guy,” said Sandeep Dayal, who studied in the same batch and works in a travel agency.

Since the day Dayal read about Singh in the paper, he has been frantically calling up friends from his batch to check if they can recall him. “It was so shocking to read about him so I just called up my batchmates but like me, they too are clueless,” he added.

Singh is also missing from the college’s annual directories that list its alumni for years 1980, 1984, 2004 and 2006.

Professor Mohd Amim, who taught History at the college between 1949 and 1993, said: “It’s up to the students whether they want to list themselves with the college. As of now, there is no trace of him.”

His daddy was rich. Could he somehow have a degree from the college without having attended? Interesting. A guy who has problems in his fifties may have had some issues that interfered with his studies in college. But apparently, he's on record as having a degree.

Pandher inherited the family "transport business, which spreads across Delhi, Noida, Chandigarh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh."

Yesterday, the police for the first time took the media inside the Noida house where the children were raped and murdered. Journalists who visited the place say that Moninder Singh had a luxurious lifestyle and loved hunting and fine spirits.

Walls of Moninder's living room are decorated with huge photographs showing him with hunting gear and the prey. The house sports a mini-bar stocked with Indian and imported spirits.

Moninder Singh is said to be fond of Goldschlager, a spirit with flakes of gold floating in it. He also had Drambuie, Bardinet Curacao Blue and Gold Napoleon in his collection.

Also, there is an interesting history of deaths in the family:
His mother died when Moninder was eight. His uncle, who he was close to, was murdered in the 80s apparently over a business rivalry.
Hard to know what to make of this.

Both men are married. Pandher has been estranged from his wife Devinder Kaur for some time; they have a son who is a college student in Canada, Karandeep Singh, who is currently staying in India with his mother. Surendra is also married and has a three-year-old daughter.

One does not start up a meticulously orgazined system for child molestation and murder at this rate of "production" from scratch. Apparently, they had special techniques for decomposing bodies involving the use of an insecticide. This is something one works up to over a long period time. What exactly was Pandher doing when he was supposed to be going to collge those many years ago? Did the college make some deal that he would be allowed to attend as long as he didn't actually attend?

The Indian media needs to find out a good bit more about how Mr. Pandher has spent his time. And worse, if he can live like this, other people of his class can, too.

Wikipedia lists a few other Indian serial killers. The entry on Auto Shankar contains the telling passage:

During his trial Auto Shankar blamed cinema for "making a devil of him", but a month before his execution, he revealed to reporters a more sinister force. According to his account, he had kidnapped the girls for powerful state politicians, subsequently disposing of them after his patrons had raped them.
My belief is that Pandher and Koli have lived their lives as violent psychopaths, and that there is much investigation than needs to be done of their earlier lives. The Indian press has serveral stories about events in Pandher's life that might have lead him to this, but life as a psycho killer does not start at 50. Nonetheless, the deterioration of Pandher's marriage and other events may have countoured the course of his disease.

From Punjab News & Information:

Moninder Singh Pandher, the accused in Noida human remains case, had strained relations not only with his wife Davinder Kaur but also with his brother iqbal Singh. Pandher’s wife had reportedly separated from him two year ago, while his brother had severed all ties with him over a six-year-old property dispute dating back six years. According to information, Davinder Kaur severed ties with Pandher several years ago because of his relationship with another woman, but they patched up - only to separate again, two years back. . . . Expressing shock at the Noida revelations, iqbal said, “Moninder was always a trouble-maker but i never thought he would stoop so low.” iqbal said he didn’t know much about his brother because they had been living separately for the last six years. “i had even got a case registered against him because i feared for the safety of my family,” he said.
From The Psychiatric Times, a discussion of the progression of violence in several American psychopaths:
Social isolation, loneliness and associated emotional pain in psychopaths may precede violent criminal acts . . . . They believe that the whole world is against them, eventually becoming convinced that they deserve special privileges or rights to satisfy their desires. As psychopathic serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilson expressed, violent psychopaths ultimately reach a point of no return, where they feel they have cut through the last thin connection with the normal world. Subsequently their sadness and suffering increase, and their crimes become more and more bizarre . . . . Dahmer and Nilsen have stated that they killed simply for company . . . Dahmer tried to make zombies of his victims by injecting acid into their brains after he had numbed them with sleeping pills. He wanted complete control over his victims, but when that failed, he killed them.
But unlike Dahmer, Pandher seems to have had significant social connections which he almost certainly made use of while pursuing his bad habits. This bit, from The Telegraph in Calcutta, suggests where this story might be going:
Moninder Singh Pandher, the alleged mastermind of the horror at Nithari, has scalped an unexpected victim — the Congress party. At a time when Congressmen were busy chalking out strategies to corner CM Mulayam Singh Yadav over police inaction in the disappearance of children, skeletons came tumbling out of the Congress’s own cupboard. The killer has been widely reported to be a relative of a Congress MP from Punjab. The recent discovery of four more bodies of small children from a warehouse owned by Congressman, Jagmeet Singh Brar, in Punjab’s Muktsar has undoubtedly made matters worse. Brar’s supporters, however, claim that this was a dirty trick pulled on him by his long-term opponent, Amarinder Singh . . . .
So is the idea that the political parties have the bodies of young children stacked up somewhere like cordwood to be planted on their opponents when need be? That's quite a strange claim to make about the nature of Indian politics. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Pandher also had some kind of US connections, apparently in Los Angeles, From the Indian Express:

The police now suspect Moninder Singh Pandher, accused in the Noida serial killings case, may be part of an international child pornography racket. They have seized photographs of nude children from his D-5, Noida residence apart from pornographic literature, a laptop computer and a webcam.

The Indian Express has learnt that several photographs showing Moninder in the company of nude children were recovered from his house. SSP R K Singh Rathore, when contacted, said that the Noida police were in possession of these photographs and Moninder would be questioned about these.

Moninder visited Los Angeles, Switzerland, Dubai, Canada and China last October. While some photographs show Moninder watching a dance being performed by nude children, others show him in the company of some foreigners. Police say two of his family members accompanied him on the tour.

The children in the photographs are Indian. “These photographs, if true, could expose Moninder as till now the Noida police are banking on circumstantial evidence to get him convicted,” said Rathore.

One of the many questions that Noida police have requested forensic experts to ask Moninder is why he went abroad four times. Police suspect that Moninder provided pornographic videos made of children to clients abroad. Among the material recovered are photos that link Moninder to paedophilia.

So who were his US contacts? Where did he go and who did he visit in the US?

Home Editorial Assistant Wanted

Two years ago, we advertised on my blog for a home editorial assistant and had a nice guy named Carl come and help us for a while.

It is time for us to do this again.

David Hartwell and I are looking for an editorial assistant to help us with projects that we do out of the house (mostly anthologies). The position is in Pleasantville, New York. It includes room and board and a small amount of money and also editorial instruction. Also, minor amounts of childcare are also involved, usually when I'm home. Must be legal to work in the US; must drive.

If this opportunity appeals to you, email me at [email protected].

Why Did My New Sprint Phone Come with Preloaded?

I was playing with my new phone in the car the other day when we were driving home from a trip into Manhattan and I noticed a really odd item on the Messaging list. The menu goes like this:

  1. Send Message
  2. Text
  3. Picture Mail
  4. IM & Email
  5. Chat & Dating
  6. Voicemail
Dating? Dating? So, if I'm, like, lonely, my new phone will get dates for me? How futuristic. I followed the menu, and it turns out that Sprint seems to have some kind of joint venture with, an online dating service.

Meeting people through online dating services is one of the more dangerous things you can do on the Internet, in my humble opinion. Even if I were single, online dating is not something I would do. But I hear from those what have used them that they are crawling with married creeps on the make and con artists looking for their next mark who have 15 accounts spanning ten different services.

SO, when this phone wears out and I get my next one in two years, will there be a menu item offering me the opportunity to help get ten million dollars out of Nigeria? Sprint execs, what were you thinking?

UPDATE: Don't miss Aldra Robinson's hilarious Internet Dating: The Costco of Romance:

I decided to contact the hottest guy on my list. He was totally committed to finding a relationship. So committed, in fact, that he was moving to the other side of the continent in a few weeks. His commitment to commitment was so fierce, he wondered if I wouldn’t mind having some kinky sex, since one of the predetermined questions (step one in the contact process—you can’t just send an email. Eharmony controls every aspect of what is exchanged, including at times the very verbiage sent) hinted that we both might be into it.

Read the whole thing even if you would never consider using an online dating service.

(Via Exposing Online Predators and Cyberpaths.)

My Computer this Morning: Blue Screen on a PowerMac G5

Arg. And it's still like this after a clean reinstall of the system which did not fix the problem. I also tried many other things which have been of some use in addressing this problem in the past, none of which worked this time.

This computer is Tekserve bound, I think.

blue screen on a PowerMac G5

blue screen on a PowerMac G5

blue screen on a PowerMac G5

UPDATE: Tekserve quotes four business days for the repair; the were tremendously nice and the thing is still under warranty.

Um, and yes, that is Ganesh, the Elephant God riding a mouse, sitting atop my monitor. He is ostensibly the remover of obstacles, a good god to have sitting on a computer, I think.

Advanced Marketing Services in Chapter 11 Shortly After 3rd Exec Is Convicted in Fraud Case

Grinchbrand Just before the end of the year, Advanced Marketing Services (Pink Sheets: MKTS), a major book distributor (and owner of Publishers Group West), went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, taking with it a big chunk of US publishing's Christmas receipts. This household has been watching it closely, and this was something I didn't blog because I didn't want to spook anyone with half-baked info.

The New York Times finally got round to running a story on January 5th. Our Year's Best SF series is published by HarperCollins, so I pay particular attention to the line in the NYT piece:

“We’re exploring ways to keep working with them,” a spokeswoman for HarperCollins, Erin Crum, said.

Uuummm. Ooohhkaayy.

Of course everyone caught in this has one big question: Are we going to get paid?

But my bigger question, once I looked into the situation was not whether HarperCollins and a whole laundry list of publishers were going to be able to find a way to continue working with AMS, but rather why they were working with them in the first place.

The New York Times remarks, a little too tactfully:

Advanced Marketing Services’ financial difficulties were widely known in the industry, after an accounting scandal in 2003 resulted in the ouster of several senior managers.

Ouster? Ouster? Try criminal conviction! From the San Diego Union Tribune, dateline December 12, 2006: Former AMS exec sentenced to 3 years for role in fraud case

A federal judge yesterday sentenced the former vice president of advertising at Advanced Marketing Services to 36 months in prison for her role in falsifying earnings at the San Diego company.

Sandra Miller Christie pleaded guilty in 2005 to charges that she conspired with other former employees to defraud AMS clients and inflate the profitability of the company's advertising department. The scheme occurred from 1999 through 2003. . . . Two other former AMS employees were sentenced by Burns earlier this year.

So WHY OH WHY were so many publishers caught short using a company that has just had three employees criminally convicted of cooking the books? The NYT article suggests a possible reason:

The distributor has near-exclusive access to the discount retailers known as price clubs, including Costco and Sam’s Club.

In other words, the problem here is Monopoly Capitalism: there has been so much consolidation of the once-diverse distribution system that publishers are forced to use a distributor known to have major issues with cooking the books in order to reach significant portions of the market.

Hello? Department of Justice? Can we get some anti-trust litigation going here? (Well, at least the FBI is still interested!)

AMS has been in turmoil since 2003, when agents from the FBI raided its Sorrento Mesa headquarters.

Three former AMS executives were sentenced last year to prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges. The executives defrauded publishers of funds that were intended to market books, but retained to boost company revenues, according to federal indictments.

An investigation into the company’s operations remains open, federal prosecutors said.

In addition to the criminal probe, AMS hasn’t reported financial results for more than three years, and has yet to restate its financial results dating back to its 2003 fiscal year.

Publishers Weekly reports:

Several of the largest publishers feel betrayed by AMS—just days before the Chapter 11 filing, AMS had assured the major New York houses that everything was fine.

HypnotizePublishers Weekly relays Costco's advice on the current situation:

A Costco spokesperson said that until further notice, publishers should operate "on a business as usual basis."

Pay no attention to those men behind the curtain. You are growing sleepy, very sleepy. These are not the accountants you are looking for . . .

Meanwhile, Costco's profits are up:

Costco, the nation's largest wholesale club operator, said Thursday its first-quarter profit rose 10 percent and said it would take a second-quarter charge related to stock option grants.

For the quarter ending Nov. 26, net income totaled $236.9 million, or 51 cents per share, compared with $215.8 million, or 45 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue climbed 9 percent to $14.15 billion from $12.93 billion last year. . . . In October, Costco said an internal committee and independent experts reviewing the company's stock option grant practices found no evidence of fraud, but did find "imprecisions" related to certain grants.

The distributors are much bigger businesses than the publishers and the big box club stores are in turn much bigger businesses than the distributors.

Does ANYONE at Costco or Sam's Club care that they are and have been forcing the entire publishing industry to do business with crooks? It would appear that the answer is no: that's how Costco keeps its prices down.  Business as usual is business with crooks.

Meanwhile, perhaps the best we can hope for the Christmas publishing revenues is that they are having a nice holiday in the Cayman Islands.

Gmail on a Sprint Sanyo Katana?

stuckI just replaced my ailing cell phone with a Sanyo Katana.

I bought the phone, rather than just going for the free phone Radioshack was offering me, because I thought I'd be able to read email with it. I've tried the Gmail app, and while it starts up, it won't let me through the login sequence, saying my User ID and password don't match.

I've rooted around a bit on the web about this and found people using the phone with Sprint & Gmail and people who are having the same problem, but no troughleshooting instructions. Anyone know how to make this work with Gmail?

Or do I need to forward emails to a different system that the phone will talk to? (Maybe it would be a better idea to route new mail through Yahoo so I don't have my phone trying to download my archives from Gmail.) The simplest solution may be to foward to my SprintPCS email address when I need to read mail via cell phone.