Posted by Bruce Schneier

A new feature in Apple's new iPhone operating system -- iOS 11 -- will allow users to quickly disable Touch ID.

A new setting, designed to automate emergency services calls, lets iPhone users tap the power button quickly five times to call 911. This doesn't automatically dial the emergency services by default, but it brings up the option to and also temporarily disables Touch ID until you enter a passcode.

This is useful in situations where the police cannot compel you to divulge your password, but can compel you to press your finger on the reader.

Posted by Heather Greene

TWH –  The Times of India reports that “Shanti Devi, a resident of Thethai Andag village, was [killed Tuesday night] on suspicion of practising witchcraft.” 11 assailants reportedly beat her to death and later set her body on fire “to wipe out all evidences connecting them with the crime.”

Kalinga TV offers a similar report. “In yet another superstition-related crime, a man hacked his aunt to death suspecting her to be practicing sorcery before dumping her body on the banks of a river in Thakursahi village.”

The Ghana Web reports that a 63-year-old man has recently come forward to claim that his blindness was caused by his own mother selling his soul so that she could possess witchcraft abilities.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. reports that a militia, made up of mostly children, executed at least 79 people. Survivors of the attacks reportedly told journalists that this militia, called Kamuina Nsapu, has magical powers that make them invincible.

[Courtesy Under the Same Sun]

These witchcraft-related reports are published daily. They demonstrate not only the extreme level of violence attached to witchcraft-related abuse, but also the deeply-embedded cultural beliefs and fears surrounding magic, “sorcery,” and witchcraft.

While horrifying in their number and in their presented detail, the readily-available articles only share the stories making news. Experts agree that many witchcraft-related incidents go completely unnoticed and unreported. As a result, the statistics on witchcraft-related violence are unreliable. Nobody knows just has bad it is.

Although the published reports do regularly populate the international news media, this human rights crisis has gotten very little attention on the international political scene. To date, most of the work has been done by private organizations, such as the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) and Under the Same Sun.

Or it is being handled by local governments, such as in the creation and enforcement of anti-witchcraft accusation laws. Over the past ten years, an increasing number of countries have, in fact, instituted such laws, including Papua New Guinea, India, South Africa, Tanzania, and others.

In 2018, Liberia will play host to a new U.N. human rights office that will reportedly help the country’s government better address, in part, the “accusations of witchcraft and ritualistic killings.”

While these organizations, individuals, and governments appear to making some headway in an effort to stem the tide of abuse, the crisis has yet to be touched on the collective international level.

Until now.

The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold, for the very first time, a special two day workshop on witchcraft-related human rights violations.

As stated on the U.N. site, “[The workshop] will bring together U.N. experts, academics and members of civil society to discuss the violence associated with such beliefs and practices and groups that are particularly vulnerable. It will highlight the various manifestations of witchcraft beliefs and practice, including accusations, stigma, and ritual killings, before looking to identify good practice in combating such practices.”

Human Rights Council, Geneva 2013 [U.S. Mission Geneva/Eric Bridiers].

The “experts workshop” is being held in Geneva, Switzerland Sept. 21-22 in conjunction with International Peace Day. It has been organized by Mr. Ikponwosa Ero, the independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Ms. Ikponwosa Ero; Gary Foxcroft, Director of the Witchcraft and Human Rights Network (WHRIN); and Dr Charlotte Baker, Lancaster University.

In a concept note about the upcoming landmark event, the organizing committee statement explains, “Beliefs and practices related to witchcraft vary considerably between different countries and even within ethnicities in the same country. There is overall limited understanding of beliefs in witchcraft, how it may be practised in some cultures, and why.”

The first day includes two morning panel discussions on the overall concept and definition of witchcraft within various cultural settings. It also includes two afternoon panels on the harmful nature and scope of accusations around the globe and how this violence impacts daily lives in “civil society.”

The second day has three panels that focus specifically on the regions that are most affected by the problem: Africa, Asia and Pacific, and Europe. A second panel is devoted to examining witchcraft-related killings, including the discussion of government involvement and legal processes.

In the final panel of the second day, “faith-based organizations” take the stage to address this situation from their perspective. As of now, the panel includes members of the Catholic and Lutheran churches, several academics, and a humanist. Other panelists have yet to be announced.

As written, the upcoming two-day workshop makes little reference to modern Witchcraft as would be commonly understood by much of the Wild Hunt readership. While that point is notable, the Pagan world, as it relates to Witchcraft, was not ignored.

Damon Leff, director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance, was invited personally by WHRIN’s Gary Foxcroft to be a civil society expert panel speaker. However, due to personal obligations, Leff was unable to accept.

“Although SAPRA regrets that it will not be able to accept an invitation” Leff told The Wild Hunt, “we trust that the discussions and collaborations between U.N. special rapporteurs, academics, and members of civil society organisations dealing with witchcraft accusations in various African countries, will produce not only a shared understanding of the belief systems and mechanisms that lead to violent witchcraft accusations in Africa and elsewhere, but also offer shared solutions to these.”

How the new two-day workshop will lead to global and local change or action with regard to the witchcraft-related human rights crisis is unknown, but both attendees and those watching are hopeful that with this new level of awareness will come stronger and lasting solutions.

Leff, who has been speaking out against such violence in his own country for years, said, “The Witchcraft and Human Rights Expert Workshop is indeed an historic event.”

“Well done to WHRIN for organising [it].”

 

Editorial Note: The term witchcraft is used with a lower-case in this article to refer to trending abuses and accusations that are typically and completely unrelated to any spiritual or Craft practice. It is capitalized only when referring to modern practice as a recognizable religion, spiritual path, identifier, and Craft.

([syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed Aug. 20th, 2017 01:25 am)

Posted by John Scalzi

A small piece of security information for you: Whatever (was well as the whole Scalzi.com) site, now operates using https, for extra added security. Mind you, as this site does very little in the way of transactions or anything security-critical, this may not be a big deal to anyone. On the other hand, Google sent me a note recently noting that unless I switched over to https, they’d start blasting “INSECURE” in the URL field of the Chrome browser, so, fine. Now it’s secure. Enjoy the securiosity! No, that’s not a real word. Even so.


Posted by Crystal Blanton

The turbulent nature of the current times have been weighing heavily on many people’s minds. Throughout our interconnected communities we have heard many people talk about struggling with the chaos and uncertainty present in our socio-political climate, and with the challenges of maintaining emotional and physical well-being. Social media sites are full of revolving comments about needing a mental health break as well as expressions of being overwhelmed.

The most recent reports from Charlottesville and North Korea seem to have increased what appears to be a sense of hopelessness, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, and depressive symptoms associated with concern over the state of America and the world.

[Pixabay]

While frustration, anger, sadness, and fear are not new emotions experienced when there is a change in the socio-political climate, this now appears to be a trend associated with this distinct time in history and the increasing divisive nature of change happening in numerous arenas of our society.

Steven Stosney, PhD discusses the increase in stress experienced by people seeking mental health support in the Trump presidency era in his article “How to Cope With Trump Anxiety.” He states,”Our current environment, amplified by 24-hour news outlets and social media, has created a level of stress, nervousness, and resentment that has intruded into many people’s lives and intimate relationships, the likes of which I’ve not seen in nearly 30 years of clinical work.”

In his work, Stosney cites a Care Dash survey examining the anxiety in the age of Trump, which was first published in April 2017. Some of the key findings in the report, titled “Nervous Nation: An Inside Look at America’s Anxiety in the Age of Trump,” include:

  • Nearly three-fourths (71%) of people 18-44 are at least somewhat anxious because of the November election results.
  • Half (50%) of Americans are looking for ways to cope with the negative political environment.
  • Over one-third (39%) of Americans are avoiding social media to reduce their anxiety around the political comments.

I found some of the data to be very reflective of how many people are relating to the world today.

In analyzing my own experiences and insights around what I need this year, I have decided to take a step back from social media and community circles as a means of self preservation, and to seek asylum from the chaos of society. The intensity of everything has meant seeking solitude and trying to find some peace in my isolation.

I have found that others within the Pagan community have mentioned similar coping strategies to restore a sense of personal balance and serenity. Considering the discussions of burnout to expressions of being overwhelmed that result in a “social media” break, it is quite evident that the umbrella of Neo-Paganism and polytheists are individually and collectively feeling the stress of our current societal over-culture. And like with many spiritual or religious people, extreme stress can push people toward or away from routines, practices, and spiritual activities.

Best practices in mental health modalities reinforce the importance of protective factors to balance and maintain mental health wellness during times of increased stress. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) website define risk and protective factors in the following ways

Risk factors are characteristics at the biological, psychological, family, community, or cultural level that precede and are associated with a higher likelihood of negative outcomes. Protective factors are characteristics associated with a lower likelihood of negative outcomes or that reduce a risk factor’s impact. Protective factors may be seen as positive countering events.

While protective factors may vary in addressing different types and levels of stressors, we know that it is important to continue the discussions associated with supporting positive outcomes in our individual and collective approaches to managing our needs.

It is also important to note that protective factors for many people include professional, therapeutic support to address clinical needs surrounding mental health. No single discussion or introduction of protective factors negate the need for professional services.

Spirituality, community, and religious activity are some of the most used protective factors in society. We often hear people refer to the power of prayer in times of distress and using that as a means of divine connection toword hope, purpose, and support.

Within the modern Pagan and polytheist communities there are often shared sentiments that involve personal devotional work, ritual workings, ancestor reverence, and prayer-like activities. We have also seen many people inside and outside of the Pagan community engage in activism as a means to engage in solution focused actions, another common and useful protective factor.

The article”Spirituality and Stress Relief: Make the Connection,” found on the Mayo Clinic website, lists the following as potential benefits of spiritual connectivity as a means of “stress relief and overall mental health.”

  • Feel a sense of purpose. Cultivating your spirituality may help uncover what’s most meaningful in your life. By clarifying what’s most important, you can focus less on the unimportant things and eliminate stress.
  • Connect to the world. The more you feel you have a purpose in the world, the less solitary you may feel — even when you’re alone. This can lead to a valuable inner peace during difficult times.
  • Release control. When you feel part of a greater whole, you may realize that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in life. You can share the burden of tough times as well as the joys of life’s blessings with those around you.
  • Expand your support network. Whether you find spirituality in a church, mosque or synagogue, in your family, or in nature walks with a friend, this sharing of spiritual expression can help build relationships.
  • Lead a healthier life. People who consider themselves spiritual may be better able to cope with stress and may experience health benefits.

The current climate and ongoing stress induced cycle of newsworthy events leads us to question what we are doing to increase our sense of well being. How are we engaging in activities that promote safe spaces and spiritual asylum from the continuous challenges of coping in today’s world?

Most of us are aware of some of the common techniques to support stress reduction and balance in one’s life. We commonly hear about mindfulness techniques, meditation, exercise, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and prayer. I spoke about some of these coping strategies in a previous Wild Hunt article on Coping with Community.

[Courtesy of Pixabay]

While many of those same techniques continue to be useful, what are some of the unique ways that we look for spiritual comfort in these times?

Because we are such a diverse collection of communities and of individual practitioners following many different paths, this particular conversation could expand into a myriad of directions and methods. I reached out to a three different people within our interconnected communities to engage them in a discussion regarding their own methods of addressing the need for comfort, balance and spiritual connection during these times.

Yvonne Conway, High Priestess and co-founder of United Pagans of Color, shared with me some of her own personal practice in connecting to a sense of comfort in these stressful times.

I will begin a mediation that starts with visualizing my own heart beating and sending forth radiating energy of love. I feel it surround me completely. From there I begin to visualize people in my most inner circle of connection such as my husband and family. The cats too! One at a time I visualize surrounding them in the same love that radiates from my heart.

Then I will expand my circle of individuals to others I’m friends with. One by one I will picture them surrounded in love. I’ll move further out to those I’m acquainted with. Then those I’ve just barely met in passing. Eventually I expand out to those I’ve never actually met, but perhaps passed on my way somewhere. Then further still to those I’ve never crossed paths with… essentially ensconcing every human in love. I continue with every animal, plant, insect, any and all living creatures. I do my best to visualize as much and as many being surrounded in my love. Once I feel I’ve expanded that radiating love to everyone I sit with it for a bit, or a while, depends on how I’m feeling, until I feel a deep resounding joy. Once I reach that point I begin the process to awaken.

This meditation can take me about half an hour to an hour depending on how I’m feeling as I’m going through it.

Courtney Weber, Author and Priestess, shared with me some of her most present thoughts about how she is working toward comfort despite most recent events that invoke anger, sadness and fear.

Today I felt angry. My hands shook all day even though I smiled. I hugged a seasoned warrior activist woman, herself exhausted. We both were, but she more than me. I snapped at the wrong people, even though for the right reasons. I distracted myself with stupid memes. I found myself more in my thoughts than in my world and I realized it when I saw I’d scanned and emailed myself a blank sheet of paper—absolutely nothing written on it, but I thought it was important.

I stopped. I closed my eyes. I asked myself, “What can I do right now?” I can’t undo the pain that’s been done to all others by the people in charge. I can’t re-freeze the glaciers or bring dead lions back to life or stop bullets shot at raised hands or wave my hands and watch Nazi evaporate. But there must be something I can do. I asked myself, “What can I do, right now?”

I can be kind to others…even when it would be easier to ignore them. I can read to a child…or take the time to thoroughly, thoughtfully, and honestly answer their questions. I can do something nice for a loved one…and expect nothing in return but respect. I can refuse to despair…just for today.

Today, I can do. And tomorrow, I will do tomorrow. But today, I will do today.

Shauna Aura Knight, Author and Artist, described her process of personal support by engaging herself in her art.

I paint to keep my mind-squirrels at bay. It reduces my anxiety. But what really inspires me is when someone uses one of my paintings for devotional work and tell me about how it helped them. I have one guy who bought one of my phoenix paintings, and he has fibro and often has flares where he can’t leave the house, but he uses one of my paintings to keep himself inspired when things get bad. The painting piece itself is a spiritual act for me, but then the person actually working with the art then circles back and is what brings me hope.

Utilizing methods of engagement that directly connect with our spiritual or religious core can be a useful strategy as we move into the what feels like an uncertain future of change and challenge. I have noticed that my own ability to connect with certain aspects of my practice have been hampered by my sincere lack of connection, resulting in a dusty justice altar and abandoned spiritual routines.

[Pixabay]

With the continued looming social and political unrest, it is a perfect time to re-evaluate what activities increase a sense of grounding and awareness. It is also an opportunity for each of us to really invest in our own health and wellness by focusing on decreasing stress and increasing activities that reinforce spiritual, religious, or magical practices.

Here are a couple of ideas to consider in moving forward with increasing spiritually enhanced, stress reducing protective factors.

  • Mindfulness activities have proven to be useful in increasing positive relief to current stress from internal and external triggers. The ability to participate in mindful breathing, nature walks, meditation, coloring, or painting can have great physical benefits of connecting with your body. It also supports positive connections with our inner core and increases personal insightfulness.
  • Daily routine that supports connection with spiritual or religious practices. Mantas, daily prayers, ceremonial candle lighting to release stress from the day, ancestral honoring, focused energy work or protection workings can all be ways that this can be a productive means of connectivity. As with many protective factors, this isn’t just about big rituals that take a lot of energy or planning but more about the small routines we incorporate that create consistent and ongoing connection.
  • Spend some extra time in nature. Schedule time to take walks, go for a hike, put your feet in the sand, and smell the fresh air. Time in the sun releases much needed pent up energy and increases much needed Vitamin D in our bodies. It is also an opportunity to ground and connect with the Gods while in the elements.

If there was ever a time in my generation where individual and societal pressure is at it’s highest, this might be it. It is a specific act of honoring the Gods or engaging our individual beliefs, when we take care of ourselves and care for our needs. I personally find that to be one of the most religiously important magical rituals we could perform.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Posted by Bruce Schneier

Watch a brittle star catch a squid, and then lose it to another brittle star.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

([syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed Aug. 18th, 2017 08:44 pm)

Posted by John Scalzi

A very fine collection of new books and ARCs arrived to the Scalzi Compound in the last week, and here’s what they are! See anything you’d like on your own shelves? Tell us all in the comments.


([syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed Aug. 18th, 2017 07:14 pm)

Posted by Bruce Schneier

I have successfully gotten the fake LinkedIn account in my name deleted. To prevent someone from doing this again, I signed up for LinkedIn. This is my first -- and only -- post on that account:

My Only LinkedIn Post (Yes, Really)

Welcome to my LinkedIn page. It looks empty because I'm never here. I don't log in, I never post anything, and I won't read any notes or comments you leave on this site. Nor will I accept any invitations or click on any "connect" links. I'm sure LinkedIn is a nice place; I just don't have the time.

If you're looking for me, visit my webpage at www.schneier.com. There you'll find my blog, and just about everything I've written. My e-mail address is schneier@schneier.com, if you want to talk to me personally.

I mirror my blog on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/bruce.schneier/) and my Twitter feed (@schneierblog), but I don't visit those, either.

Now I hear that LinkedIn is e-mailing people on my behalf, suggesting that they friend, follow, connect, or whatever they do there with me. I assure you that I have nothing to do with any of those e-mails, nor do I care what anyone does in response.

Posted by Heather Greene

UPDATE (Aug. 19, 2017 12:48 ET):  Andres Guerrero has been found. He is now in a local hospital’s ICU. Tanya Johnson is with him. No other information is being released. We will have a full report on the story as soon as we learn more.

*   *   *

MINNEAPOLIS —  Andres Guerrero, age 17, disappeared early Thursday morning in north Minneapolis. Guerrero was last seen on Broadway Ave. at 1 a.m. wearing a black shirt and black shorts. After news of his disappearance spread, the local Pagan community and beyond have quickly responded with support in an effort to find him.

Andres Guerrero [courtesy].

Guerrero was born Jan. 20, 2000 to Tanya Johnson, a local Minneapolis Pagan who is known well in this community, sometimes labeled “Paganistan,” and regularly attended Summerland Spirit Festival.

Johnson said that her son loved animals, designer clothes, music and comedy shows. He also attended several Pagan festivals with her.

The night of Aug. 16, Guerrero left his home alone, headed to reportedly his friend’s house. But he was last seen at 1 a.m Aug. 17.  Johnson said that she realized that he was missing around 7:30 a.m. the next morning.

The family is still unclear about other details regarding the time prior to his disappearance.  However, they did say that, without a doubt, this is “not a runaway case.”

What is being reported is that, at some point after 1 a.m., Guerrero’s debit card was stolen and possibly his phone as well. According to the family and local police, the debit card has been used twice by a person who is not Guerrero. ATM surveillance cameras have reportedly provided that information.

In the city of Minneapolis, missing child reports are handled by the special crimes division. The Wild Hunt did reach out to the department for any possible updates on the case, but officials did not respond in time for publication.

Along with the police investigation, the local community has been out canvassing the area where Guerrero was last seen. Led by Johnson’s close friends and members of the Pagan community, the searches began as early as 10 p.m. Aug. 17, less than two hours after Johnson made her public announcement.

The search parties have been passing out fliers to local businesses and talking with residents in order to gain information on his possible whereabouts. The searches have continued into Friday, but no information has been found.

For people who are unable help with the search, the family is asking for assistance with supplies to support that effort, including food items and water for search party members, and for money to help pay for gas and for printing flyers. Monetary donations can be sent to Johnson’s PayPal address. She has said that all “unused money will be returned.”

A new Facebook page, Find Andres, has been created to help the efforts, and the family is asking for users to share the page and the information widely in hopes of finding Andres.

When asked what else the collective Pagan community can do to help, Johnson said, “Say a prayer to your gods. Send light and love. Light a candle. Send Reiki. Talk to your ancestors. Every type of help is deeply appreciated. Raise up all the helpers and give them strength.”

We will continue to follow this story, and we will update you as news comes in.

[This article was updated from the original at 3:15 p.m with more details about the missing teen.]

Posted by Bruce Schneier

There is an unpatchable vulnerability that affects most modern cars. It's buried in the Controller Area Network (CAN):

Researchers say this flaw is not a vulnerability in the classic meaning of the word. This is because the flaw is more of a CAN standard design choice that makes it unpatchable.

Patching the issue means changing how the CAN standard works at its lowest levels. Researchers say car manufacturers can only mitigate the vulnerability via specific network countermeasures, but cannot eliminate it entirely.

Details on how the attack works are here:

The CAN messages, including errors, are called "frames." Our attack focuses on how CAN handles errors. Errors arise when a device reads values that do not correspond to the original expected value on a frame. When a device detects such an event, it writes an error message onto the CAN bus in order to "recall" the errant frame and notify the other devices to entirely ignore the recalled frame. This mishap is very common and is usually due to natural causes, a transient malfunction, or simply by too many systems and modules trying to send frames through the CAN at the same time.

If a device sends out too many errors, then­ -- as CAN standards dictate -- ­it goes into a so-called Bus Off state, where it is cut off from the CAN and prevented from reading and/or writing any data onto the CAN. This feature is helpful in isolating clearly malfunctioning devices and stops them from triggering the other modules/systems on the CAN.

This is the exact feature that our attack abuses. Our attack triggers this particular feature by inducing enough errors such that a targeted device or system on the CAN is made to go into the Bus Off state, and thus rendered inert/inoperable. This, in turn, can drastically affect the car's performance to the point that it becomes dangerous and even fatal, especially when essential systems like the airbag system or the antilock braking system are deactivated. All it takes is a specially-crafted attack device, introduced to the car's CAN through local access, and the reuse of frames already circulating in the CAN rather than injecting new ones (as previous attacks in this manner have done).

Slashdot thread.

Posted by Dodie Graham McKay

HOLSTEIN, Ont. – As the festival season starts to wind down for the year, organizers of the premiere edition of Occulticon are ramping up to deliver an event that is being billed as “a convention for all things curious, all things occult.”

This new addition to the festival and convention circuit will be held at the Pagan owned and operated Mythwood Campground and Private Retreat from September 8 – 10.

Mythwood Campground is located an hour north of Toronto in Southern Ontario, a region of Canada that already supports a multitude of Pagan, Heathen and Witchcraft related festivals and events. From May until September, the area sees at least one large public gathering and sometimes more each weekend.

Occulticon organizers are promising a unique event and are taking a distinctly different approach to how this new addition to the scene will be presented.

Adam Simpson, the Creative Director and webmaster for Occulticon, outlined the main difference.

“Occulticon isn’t a Pagan event. It will include Pagan elements, but we’re casting a much wider net. We’re hoping to attract visitors from many diverse belief systems, as well as those simply curious about experiences outside of the spectrum of the everyday. We’ve spread the word throughout Ontario, as well as New York and Michigan.”

A detailed schedule will be released closer to the date, but organizers are promising that visitors can expect presentations and lectures on a wide range of topics such as parapsychology, secret societies, ghosts, magick, Witchcraft, astrology, tarot, psychic training, a seance live music performances and more.

In addition to the programming, there will also be vending, a psychic expo and a chance to watch blacksmiths at work creating magical tools.

Rounding out the program will be opportunities to participate in ritual and ceremony.

Frater Archeus will host a High Magick Ceremony during which participants can experience the traditional rites of a practicing ceremonial lodge and initiatory society.

Witchdoctor Utu along with members of the Dragon Ritual Drummers and friends will be consecrating a new permanent altar on Mythwood land with a voodoo ceremony for Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman and the spirits of the Underground Railroad.

A Sara Kali ceremony led by John Corvus, called “Taking the Cloth” will celebrate the continuation of one’s lifelong dedication to be the magical link of their community.

Addressing this diversity, Simpson said, “Although the convention is non-denominational, it will have an impact on the Ontario Pagan community. This is an opportunity for knowledgeable Pagans to share their thoughts and experiences with a much wider audience.”

“Occulticon will be a gateway for newcomers interested in Paganism, but not knowing where to start.”

The mandate of Occulticon is to support the pursuit of knowledge, history, and ancient religions, with an interest in exploring the mysteries of the universe in a way that supports diversity and respectful intellectual exchange. Courteous discussion of how differing philosophies can bring people together is encouraged.

Occulticon Executive Director Khaman Mythwood [Courtesy]

The original idea for Occulticon came from Khaman Mythwood, one of the owners of the campground. He now serves as the executive director of the event. His personal desire to share the mysteries and hidden aspects of occult practice motivated him to share his vision with the wider world:

“Our patrons at Occulticon can expect to experience something rare and usually unseen to the general public. Experts on the occult from around the world will be sharing their knowledge through lectures and presentations. They will take an academic approach to reveal secrets and hidden knowledge to those who truly seek to better understand the mysteries of life.”

The diverse lineup consists of more than two dozen guest speakers, not only from the local area, but from around the world as well.

Local talent such as Ecstatic Ritualist and the events Master of Ceremonies, Jim Findley, psychotherapist, storyteller and pagan chaplain, Brian Walsh, Romani Wayfairer and Divination practitioner, John Corvus and Witchdoctor Utu of the Dragon Ritual Drummers are but a few of the faces that have been long time contributors to the local communities and events in the area.

Master of Ceremonies and Ecstatic Ritualist, Jim Findley [Courtesy]

International guests include Ian Corrigan, former Archdruid of the ADF who will be traveling from the United States to speak about Archaic Goetia and the Grimoire Revival. Tata Manuel Congo, a well-known ethnologist, occultist and educator, will be making the long trip from Italy to speak about Italian Witchcraft.

The onsite talent coordinator Pamela Fletcher is a well-known and respected priestess and longtime organizer. She has been previously involved with Kaleidoscope Gathering and Gaia Gathering, as well as many other events.

Of this new endeavour, Fletcher remarked, “Occulticon, like some other larger Pagan events, is going to be extremely inclusionary and will have a very broad appeal across many spiritual paths and walks of life. The speakers will be presenting unique and diverse information that anyone, no matter how long they have been on their spiritual journey, will find interesting.”

In addition to the academic-style presentations, world-class entertainment is also being planned including traditional Celtic storyteller Brian Walsh, fiddler Ben Deschamps of the Heather Dale band, and and a special Scottish Bagpipe presentation. It will also include a psychic fair and vendors’ market.”

Mythwood added, “We are proud to host Witchdoctor Utu and the amazing Dragon Ritual Drummers, voted Canada’s number one Pagan hand drumming group.”

Occulticon 2018 is already being considered, and plans are in the works for the next edition.

“We are very excited for the future of Occulticon. It gives us the opportunity to learn and share our knowledge of the occult in a safe open environment with respected Elders and occult experts,” explained Mythwood.

“We already have some amazing things lined up for next year that we just couldn’t fit in the schedule for 2017.”

Simpson’s passion for showcasing his home community and public service is apparent. He said, “It’s time for the Ontario Pagan community to show the greater world what we have to offer. Occulticon is a step in that direction.”

“For newcomers who are interested in Paganism, we can help point them to any number of places where they may be able to find the answers they’re seeking. For veteran members of the Pagan community, Occulticon is an opportunity to learn outside of our traditional milieus. There will be new faces, and you’ll get to see a different side of those you already know and love.”

([syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed Aug. 17th, 2017 01:08 pm)

Posted by Heather Greene

Letter from the editor

There are times when journalists and editors have to tackle subjects that are difficult, complicated, and even deeply contrary to their own personal world view. We go in anyway, because that is our mission and our purpose. We go in anyway, because that is our personal and professional directive, similar to a doctor or nurse that cures the sick no matter who they might be.

It is what we do.

While The Wild Hunt was once a successful news blog, it has developed into a recognized news agency with a small team of dedicated and professional news writers who work by the ethical standards expected of objective journalism and who have a passion for their work as members of our collective communities.

We do our best within our resources to go the full distance, even if that means setting aside personal feelings or going into uncharted territory, in order to get as close to the center of a very difficult and even painful story.

Reporting on Charlottesville was one of these times. The process was not easy for both me as editor and for Cara Schulz as the writer.

Personally speaking as a woman of Jewish heritage, I found that the weekend events triggered my own family-based traumas, and I had a difficult time keeping my “ear to the ground,” so to speak, in order to support Cara in her work. Seeing the swastika and hearing the antisemitic rhetoric chanted over and over was terrifying, recalling the many warnings I had heard as a child.

To echo the words of Jonathan Korman, do I have time to let the bread rise?

But I am also a professional journalist and an editor. As such, it is my belief that in order to empower our readership, especially in times of crisis, and to serve a greater purpose in our collective communities and our world, I must set that aside my own fears to bring you the highest quality, ethically-based reporting as my news team can accomplish.

We will not waiver in this mission. For us, it is not only a job but a passion, a spiritual calling, a service, and a craft.

I want to personally thank every one of our readers for visiting us daily, for supporting our wholly independent efforts, and for sharing our articles.

May we find peace and unity in the beauty of our differences.

Heather Greene
Managing Editor
The Wild Hunt

Posted by John Scalzi

The world we live in is not always peaceful… and maybe sometimes we kind of like it that way, whether we like to admit that or not. Author Anna Smith Spark has thoughts on the act of violence, and how it animates the story of her novel The Broken Knives.

ANNA SMITH SPARK:

The Court of Broken Knives is a novel about violence.

When I started writing the book, I didn’t have a plot or a world or a cast of characters in mind. What I had was a scene.

A desert.

A group of men.

Violence.

I’ve always been fascinated by violence: How one might respond to the opportunity for violence. What doing violence might feel like.  And that’s what The Court of Broken Knives ultimately became about.

I was brought up reading the great myths and legends, the old stories of heroes. The Iliad. The Eddas. Beowulf. Gilgamesh. The Tain. I loved these stories. Read and reread them, immersed myself in them, told myself stories set in their worlds. But what I came back to, as I got older, was the realisation that for so many of these stories we are not reading about good versus evil. We are not reading high fantasy, the last desperate stand where evil is vanquished and the Dark Lord is overthrown. We are reading about violence for its own sake. The act of winning, of killing one’s opponent and glorying in one’s triumph, is the victory. The hero is ‘good’ because he wins.

And yes, ‘he’. These are acts of masculine violence. More women have perhaps fought in battle than we realise, yes, granted. But, historically, organised violence has been the domain of men. Armies and battle hosts have been male places. Places from which women have been excluded. And that in itself is worth thinking on.

Let’s look for a moment on the Iliad. The Iliad was written down over two and a half thousand years ago. It was composed perhaps three thousand years ago. It is the first and greatest masterpiece of European literature, the foundation stone of western culture. It is a book entirely and totally about war. A very large number of people die in the Iliad. Graphically, horribly, and without even the consolation of heaven awaiting them. The whole reason for the war is shown to be futile.

But war is also the whole basis of the Iliad’s society. The leader of the Trojans is called Hector. He’s spent ten years killing Greeks for the sake of a woman who ran off with his little brother. He’s seen most of his brothers die, and his wife’s entire family die, and he knows, deep down inside, that he’s going to die himself. In one of the most moving scenes in the poem, he says farewell to his wife and child before going out to battle, and he knows and we know and they know that he’s not going to come back from it. And this is what he says:

When [their child is grown and] comes home from battle wearing the bloody gear

Of the mortal enemy he has killed in war-

A joy to his mother’s heart.

(Homer, Iliad, trans. Robert Fagles, Penguin, 1990, book 6, lines 568-574)

Coming home from battle still bloody with his enemies’ innards. That’s the greatest joy a woman can want for her children. That’s what makes you absolutely the top chap.

The Iliad is not a celebration of war. But is not a rejection of war, either. It makes one terrible, horrifying, entirely obvious point:

Winning at war feels great. And that’s a strange and exhilarating experience to write about—particularly someone who has not ever fought.

Reading about war is enjoyable. Writing about war is immensely enjoyable. And I strongly suspect, from everything I’ve ever studied about history, that actually doing war is even more enjoyable than reading or writing or watching it. Warfare has been pretty much a constant of human history, and those who are good at it have generally occupied the top social and sexual desirability spot. Some war is morally justified.  Most war is not. We’ve always known that. Right back to the Iliad. And yet we do it. We have always done it. We probably always will.

We do it because winning at war feels great. I wanted my characters to have the same feelings as Hector: to understand simultaneously that war is bloody and horrible, but also glorious and exciting and fun.

I do not say this because I think war is a good thing. It is a terrible thing. A horrifying thing. A thing of utter shame and grief.

But I say it because it is a true thing, and a thing that I wanted people to remember in The Court of Broken Knives.

—-

The Broken Knives: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.


Posted by Bruce Schneier

The US Supreme Court is deciding a case that will establish whether the police need a warrant to access cell phone location data. This week I signed on to an amicus brief from a wide array of security technologists outlining the technical arguments as why the answer should be yes. Susan Landau summarized our arguments.

A bunch of tech companies also submitted a brief.

Posted by Cara Schulz

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Vir. – It began with online organizing among nationalist groups to protest the removal of a Confederate statue from a local park. It ended with street battles, three people dead, and an unknown number injured.

While most Pagans watched the events on the news or through live streams, there were Pagans and Heathens present at the weekend riots.They were protesters who lined the streets around the park, and they also participated in the Unite the Right rally as members of the self-described “alt-right.” And one well-known Pagan even helped organize the rally and was scheduled to speak.

Augustus Invictus, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2015, was scheduled to speak at the rally. Mr. Invictus has been criticized in the past for seeming to openly advocate violence, eugenics, and for participating in animal sacrifice.

Although the planned rally itself was shut down before anyone could speak, Invictus claimed the event was a success.

Invictus and the other rally organizers say the purpose of the event had less to do with protesting the removal of a statue from a park and more to do with uniting various nationalist groups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says normally groups such as 14/88, Traditionalist Workers Party, the National Socialist Movement, the KKK, Aryan Nation, and the League of the South are more apt to fight each other than to work together.

That changed with Unite the Right. The groups came together for the rally, and Invictus says the violence that they claim to have experienced as being directed toward them has united these rivals against a common enemy.

History teacher and adjunct professor Ryan Denison agrees with the SPLC that the goal was to bring these groups together. In an interview, Denison told The Wild Hunt, “[The organizers] definitely wanted to unite far-right groups that usually don’t mix or, at worse, fight each other. That was their stated goal. It also seems to be to create conflict and chaos in order to recruit.”

Denison, who is a member of the Troth, Heathens of Atlanta, and Red Earth Grove ADF, believes they chose Charlottesville because the rally leaders believe that the South is an area more sympathetic to their message than other regions.

However, Lonnie Murray, a Pagan elected official who works in Charlottesville, told The Wild Hunt that Charlottesville is not a typical southern city.

Murray says, “We have a long history of progressive politics; however, like many Southern cities we still haven’t fully come to terms with the lingering consequences of slavery and segregation.”

Firsthand accounts

Pagan Jennifer Lewis heard about the rally through social media and local television coverage. Lewis works in Charlottesville caring for persons with mental illness.

She decided to attend the rally as a protester because she “wanted to show [her] opposition to everything [the rallying groups] stand for.”

Lewis says, “I am an activist for the protection of our environment, women’s reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights. There was no way I was not going to go and stand up against them targeting my friends, neighbors and loved ones.”

She believes the “alt-right” are a tiny segment of the population and believes it is important to show how little influence they have.

Freda Wood, a Wiccan from Richmond, says that she has become more politically active recently. She heard about the rally through a YouTube channel, and decided to attend the protest in order to “stand up for what’s right.”

Wood says the gods don’t discriminate and people shouldn’t either.

On the other side, Kevin C is a Heathen from southern New England who attended the rally as security for an “alt-right video crew.” He is also a member of the Traditionalist Workers Party and says it’s “great that Pagans and Heathens are supporting their people and traditions” through involvement in Unite the Right.

Rachel Summers, a Teutonic Heathen, traveled from Atlanta to participate in Unite the Right as a medic. She believes white history and culture are “being erased due to false crimes and an implanted but unearned white guilt.”

While they had different reasons for attending and were on different sides, the four people interviewed all agreed on one aspect of the event. They were all critical of the how the police handled the escalating violence.

As was the ACLU of Virginia.

It is not clear who gave the stand down order to police, but Kevin C says police stood right next to people who were being beaten, and they did nothing to intervene.

Lewis says, “I was shocked that the police were behind two barricades and some a block or more away. It was much different from the KKK rally in July where the police had the two sides barricaded from one another. This time, they barricaded us, the two sides, in and [the police] on the outside.”

Police initially set up barricades around the park, where the rally was to take place, to keep the “alt-right” and the protesters separated. However, the rally participants had to walk through the protesters to get into the park.

“As we left the parking garage we could see the road in front of us was blocked by protesters. They were throwing bleach bombs as we walked by,” describes Kevin C.

“Once we got into the park, the police had the entire area around the statue blocked off, so we had to walk all the way around to get to the area where the speakers would talk. While we were walking we were being maced and had things thrown at us.”

Lewis says she witnessed extreme, unprovoked violence from both sides.”I heard unimaginable slurs from the Nazi side, I was chanting Black Lives Matter and a older man got so mad and started yelling at me, calling me a whore and how my dad should have taught me better.”

She also noted that it was hard to tell who was on what side, and it made her suspicious of everyone around her.

“It was like walking into an Orwellian hate minute that lasted several hours,” relates Rachel Summer. She said rocks and other objects were thrown at them by the crowd while they were attempting to walking to the park. She also treated some of her group after they were sprayed with pepper spray.

Freda Wood says she was with protesters marching down Market Street alongside anarchists. “As we got closer to Emancipation Park, we were greeted by a roar and surrounded by heavily armed self-proclaimed militia on both sides of the street. They were stoic, staring straight ahead, holding their rifles. I felt exposed and vulnerable.”

Ms. Wood says she traded insults with rally participants in the park, but felt trapped in by the press of the crowd, so she moved back toward an intersection where she and her group met more rally attendees.

“They barreled through the barricades. There were fist fights. Pepper spray, mace, colored smoke bombs and paint balloons were deployed. The street medics were treating the injured.”

Lewis says it was a sad day for the city of Charlottesville and for America. “It was really difficult to see the various Nazi and white supremacy groups just march down the street and into the park, like they were invading our city.”

It was at this point that police declared the rally an unlawful assembly and shut it down. Then, the police formed a line on one side of the park and pushed the rally participants into the streets.

The two sides, which up until that point had only traded minor blows, were now forced into direct contact with one another. Local police, state troopers, and National Guard stood behind the barricades. That’s when fighting increased and was strung out over several miles surrounding the park.

Kevin C says when the order to clear the park came, he grabbed the person he was assigned to protect and headed out of the park.

“The police blocked the only safe exit out of the park and pushed us into the protesters. We saw 100 to 150 Red Block marching up the street toward us. Luckily I got my person out before the commies arrived.”

Wood, thinking she was now outside of the main action, unexpectedly found herself right back in the middle of it. “Suddenly, someone said ‘look!’ Hundreds of guys in their white polo shirts and khaki pants started walking down the street toward us. They were being paraded between two lines of counter protesters down the street to get them far away from the park.”

Kevin C says he was part of the group that exited with alt-right speaker Richard Spencer. Neither Kevin or Wood knew it, but they were about to confront one another.

Wood remembers that group walking by. “We taunted them. We saw Richard Spencer be rushed through the crowd by his people. He looked disheveled and frightened.”

Summers was with a different group, exiting the park. “We were marched back through hostile protesters for two miles or more and again, no police protection despite our permit. I have the uneasy feeling that the city’s leadership wanted things to escalate.”

Wood describes the scene as a “war zone” and “complete chaos.”

As ProPublica reported, state police and National Guardsmen mostly stood aside and watched as the violence get worse.

Summers looks back at events and is unhappy with the media portrayal of the rally as racist. “Allegations of white supremacy are everywhere, but there were very few people there who explicitly supported that. Most were trying to stop the erasure of history and the infringement on our Constitution and Bill of Rights. This was not about racism.”

Reflecting back, Wood says that she’s profoundly changed by her experiences in Charlottesville, “I have a more determined fierceness now. My state was invaded by terrorists, and attacked one of our tribe, left us with mental scars.”

“I may be extra grouchy or sullen, and I will not apologize for it,” she adds. “You hurt my family. I’m pissed!” She also says she is dealing with survivor’s guilt.

Minority Pagans react

While the events of the day deeply impacted those Pagans who live in the city and who attended the rally and protest, many other Pagans across the country were also deeply affected as news spread of Saturday’s events.

Pagans of color and Jewish Pagans listened to “alt-right” rally participants chanting  phrases like “White Lives Matter” and “Jews won’t replace me,” while KKK and Nazi symbols were openly displayed and celebrated.

Dianne Daniels, a Connecticut-based Witch and Unitarian Universalist Pagan said, “The events of Charlottesville hurt me to my very soul. The thought that someone could intentionally drive their car into another car to force the vehicles to injure and in this case kill another human being…the unrepentant anger and vitriol being aimed at those who were marching in support of their principles is unconscionable and unnecessary.”

Along with being a seminary student and member of the Temple of Witchcraft, Daniels is also the president of the NAACP Norwich chapter. She attended a rally Sunday to support “those fighting against hate in Charlottesville.”

“One of my favorite tenets of my [UU] faith is that everyone has worth and dignity. Though I find it very hard to imagine the worth and dignity of people who scream hateful slogans and threaten other beloved human beings with injury and death because they disagree with them on philosophy, I still try.”

Daniels went on to say that she does not “deign to speak for all African-Americans, all women, or all Unitarian Universalist Pagans,” but she encourages everyone to “raise their voices and speak their truth, especially if it is not denigrating others.”

When asked what she is doing to cope with the news, Daniels said, “I have been spending more time in prayer and sending healing, positive energy to the communities that are faced with these incidents and the rise of hate groups coming into their communities. I believe that energy can be directed, and I would encourage all who believe that energy has an effect to direct positive energy toward those who have to respond to these incidents. Keep those first responders and law enforcement officers who are doing their jobs safe and whole.”

Jonathan Korman, a Jewish Pagan from the Bay Area, said the events reminded him of a Jewish ritual story. It’s about the act of eating matzoh as a way to remind them that when it’s time to run, you shouldn’t wait long enough for the bread to rise.

“I think all American Jews, whether consciously or not, read the news asking themselves if it means that they don’t have time for the bread to rise.”

“Despite this I am letting the bread that will nourish me and my community rise, because several years ago I swore an oath to another god, the Morrígan, that I would fight fascism in my nation,” Korman added. “As is so often true of the important oaths, I did not know the implications of what I swore.”

He closed is comment with “Hold fast. Love the gods and each other. And fuck fascism.” His full statement can be found here.

Rippling effect

Pagans and Heathens around the country have been taking part in protests and demonstrations since the violence ended. Well-known Pagans, such as Starhawk, are writing about the event and Pagan organizations are putting out official statements. Here are a few: ADFCherry Hill SeminarySolar Cross Temple, Circle Sanctuary, and The Troth.

Author and speaker Bryan Wilton says that, due to Saturday’s rally and protest, his speaking events are now being targeted as “alt-right” events.

Mr. Wilton believes that individual activists and Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR) called the venue, demanding that his event be cancelled. Wilton says people are carelessly throwing around the label “alt-right.”

Wilton told The Wild Hunt that he doesn’t identify as “alt-right,” although he has friends who do and were at the rally.

“I’m not having an alt-right event, everyone is welcome at my event.” He says the event is not political and relates to material from his books.

When asked about Wilton’s claims, HUAR admin Ryan Smith says that the organization is responding in support of local activists who feel “the white nationalist group supporting, promoting, and attending the event are a clear and present danger to the safety of their communities.”

Smith adds, “Many, such as the Proud Boys, have a proven history of violence and local residents are fearful this will be used as a recruiting platform by such groups.” He noted that hate crimes can follow such events, as was the case in Charlottesville.

Wilton says that he does support the right of the “alt-right” to speak freely. However, he also spoke against the weekend’s violence, “We have three people dead and that is unacceptable.”

Going forward

The ripple effects stemming from the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville has not subsided. More rallies and demonstrations are planned on both sides, as the country comes to terms with what was just witnessed and where it will lead.

Looking forward, Dianne Daniels notes, “My NAACP members will be hearing from me specifically on this issue (beyond my postings on social media) on Thursday when we have our monthly meeting. I’m going to do a special statement before the meeting starts, and incorporate the situation into the prayer we normally do to open our meetings. I have a statement from our current national interim president/CEO regarding the events that I will read.

“I’m encouraging people to be careful of watching the news – so much triggering information,” she adds. “And I refuse to repost things (like the video of the car striking people) that could be triggering.”

Looking at Saturday’s event through a lens of history, Ryan Denison adds, “I always think that liberty and freedom are on a precipice and we must always be on guard. By being good citizens and good to each other. Hitler and the Nazis rose to power not in a night, but slowly over a number of years. Much like boiling live crabs, just turn the heat up slow.”

“My best advice is to stay vigilant and call out hate, call out lies, call it out to the light,” he says, “As I quoted Edmund Burke earlier today on social media, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ “

Posted by John Scalzi

I have a piece in the Los Angeles Times today about the difficulty of writing science fiction in today’s world, and no, it’s not just because one has to wonder if the world is going to be here tomorrow. Here’s the link. Enjoy!


([syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed Aug. 16th, 2017 02:18 pm)

Posted by John Scalzi

I’ve eaten Stella Parks‘ desserts, and, oh, man, they are so good. So I’m delighted to give her space today to let her tell you about her debut cookbook BraveTart, which examines and celebrates a branch of America’s culinary tradition Parks thinks is overlooked and underappreciated. Is she right? Read on.

STELLA PARKS:

When people hear that I’m a classically trained pastry chef or that I work at a place called Serious Eats, most everyone will ask how I got my start. I can’t help but imagine they want to hear about a magical summer in France or else how I learned to bake at my mother’s side. Maybe they want me to say that I always loved Julia Child, or that I saved up my allowance to buy my first croissant. Trouble is, it didn’t happen that way at all.

I grew up in suburban Kentucky, my summers spent with Puddin’ Pops on the porch, my winters passed one mug of Swiss Miss at a time. I loved the tongue-scorching sweetness of a McDonald’s apple pie from the drive-thru window and the muffled scrape of a plastic spoon against the bottom of a chocolate pudding cup (the tinfoil lid curled back and licked clean, natch). At the supermarket, I learned the heft to a tube of cookie dough, the lightness in a bag of marshmallows, and the rattle of rainbow sprinkles in a plastic jar. That’s how I got my start—somewhere between the milk-logged squish of an Oreo and the snap of a Crunch bar.

Sure, it sounds a little trashy compared to that whole Proust thing with madeleines and tea, but I find those bites are just as transportive, little triggers that send me flying back through time. Chances are, if you grew up in America, you’ve got some memories like that as well. Maybe it’s the a dollop of Cool Whip on pumpkin pie, the sticky fingered bliss of an ice cream sandwich, or that familiar slab of birthday cake on the conference room table. Those shared experiences, however mundane, connect us across most every demographic.

It’s a common phenomenon, but a culinary tradition we pay little respect—we call it junk food. Truth is, mass produced snacks have a lineage as respectable as any other. Animal crackers, vanilla wafers, and Fig Newtons all date back to the 1800s, and even newcomers like Rice Krispies Treats, Reese’s Cups, and Milky Way bars are nearly a hundred years old. For anyone raised in America and alive today, these sweets have always been a familiar part of life. Yet they’re not really ours; industrial formulas are subject to change or even cancellation outright (RIP, Coke Zero; adios, Magic Middles).

So when I set out to write a cookbook about American desserts, I knew I couldn’t leave the “junk food” behind. It had damn well earned a place at the table—right alongside “proper” American desserts like devil’s food cake, chocolate chip cookies, and apple pie. With that mandate in mind, I spent nearly six years writing, researching, and developing recipes for everything from Snickers to snickerdoodles. In the end, I don’t think of it as a cookbook so much as a culinary time capsule, stuffed full of recipes, vintage images, history, and photography to tell the story of American desserts as a whole.

—-

BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author on Serious Eats, Twitter, and Instagram, or on tour.


Posted by Terence P Ward

TWH –An recently discovered case of the sharing copyrighted Pagan books via a Facebook group highlights the seriousness of this problem in the digital age. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Pagan-themed books were discovered to be hosted through The Wiccan Circle.

While the group’s owner is now removing those copies, he is not only unapologetic, but has made it clear that he will find other means to share the books. He believes that it his right, because he purchased them in the first place. In response, many group members are expressing outrage, not over the sharing, but over it been stopped.

The Wiccan Circle group is owned by Lord Thrullas, who also has at least two other Facebook profiles found here and here. When confronted by Elysia Gallo, senior acquisitions editor for Llewellyn Worldwide, Thrullas defended the uploads by comparing it to lending physical books to friends.

The long list of files, which also included spells, were largely uploaded by him personally. He confirmed with The Wild Hunt that his intention was to help the group’s members, and that he did purchase the items himself.

“A complete stranger on Facebook sent me a message about this group, as she was very concerned,” Gallo said when reached for comment. “When I told our copyright infringement person about the group, she said it was on her radar, as other people have reported it as well.”

Gallo joined the group herself, and was quite transparent about her reason by posting: “I am looking for illegal copies of books posted without permission of the publisher so they can all be reported to Facebook.”

There are protocols for getting illegal copies removed from a web site which are laid out in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but the process is cumbersome, particularly on Facebook and other content platforms.

According to Gallo, “You have to submit a report to their DCMA agent, and you have to list each title individually, which can take hours if not days for a group that has well over 2,000 PDFs to scroll through (especially as you can’t do a regular scroll, but a ‘facebook scroll’ – where it only loads, I don’t know, 20-40 titles, and when you get to the bottom you have to hit ‘more’ to continue).”

Thrullas replied to Gallo, “Then stop downloading Copyrighted[sic] information and pics from the internet.”

In something of a victory lap, he removed Gallo from the group and deleted her post, but posted an announcement of what he’d done, and why. The comment thread which ensued was largely supportive.

However, several Pagan authors who had joined for that purpose tried to explain their point of view. They were also removed and the thread deleted, but screen shots document the exchange.

“There are a lot more groups doing it then just mind[sic],” Thrullas said, “so make sure you look at all the groups.”

It is clear that this activity is a widespread problem. “Think of it as a hydra,” Gallo said. “You chop off one head, another one springs up to take its place.”

“Just like illegal downloads of music and movies, it can never be fully eradicated from the internet, although as a society we can hope to get better at it,” Gallo continued. “Some people have no respect for creative work, despite having other free outlets to legally obtain this content,” such as public libraries.

Exactly how much money is denied authors by such activities is less clear because much of it is simply unknown.

Moon Books publicist Nimue Brown used the same simile to explain the problem. “I’ve had plenty of occasions of getting illegal copies taken down,” she wrote, “but it often feels like cutting heads off a hydra, in no small part because the Pagans doing it have some very odd attitudes. I’ve been told we should be glad people are bothering to read us, that they’re doing us a favour – it’s exposure (exposure is something people die of).”

Brown continued on, saying: “I’ve been told they are entitled to share books – some people can’t grasp that there’s a world of difference between passing a book round a few friends, and giving it to thousands of people. It’s really frustrating. Authors who challenge over this can expect abuse, harassment, and a total failure of understanding from the people involved in it.”

In this particular case, the group owner likened it to a lending library or trading books. Gallo addressed that in a blog post from 2012, in which she wrote:

Um, except for the fact that the library bought a copy of the book, or your friend bought a copy of the book. (Even libraries that now do digital lending.) And that they have a finite number of copies (physical or digital) that they are able to lend out at any given time – not a file that can be downloaded over and over again in the blink of an eye by complete strangers all over the world.

Some group members were less than full-throated in their support of illegal copies being available for sharing. One wrote, “I like to hope that people can have their own opinions, and as [Thrullas] said, don’t download if you don’t agree.”

Just as these violations are common online, the mindset that simply not breaking the relevant laws and international treaties is the ethical alternative is regularly used as a defense, together with “it’s all over the internet anyway,” which Gallo also addressing in 2012, saying:

There are tons of free resources on the internet – ones that are given freely by their creators. (Perhaps because they have ad revenue they can rely on. Perhaps they just do it out of the goodness of their heart.) So why do people even feel the need to download whole books in the first place? By wanting to download a book more than you want to read a website or blog . . . you are admitting that it has a certain value that is greater than what you can browse for free. The sum is greater than its parts. So please, pay for it.

Another sentiment expressed by some members of The Wiccan Circle is that if it were illegal, it would not be happening on Facebook.

Gallo said that their DCMA agent requires a link to a valid copy of the book and the illegal one on Facebook, and each file must be reportedly separately, an extremely time-consuming process that can only be undertaken by someone who is already a group member.

Author Kerri Hope chimed in on that point, saying to other members, “Facebook doesn’t enforce copyright law for this kind of stuff. The courts do. I just found this group, but seriously? Isn’t this a Wiccan group? Harm none? I’m floored.”

Hope later said to this reporter, “I don’t know how anyone could do that and call themselves Wiccan. If Pagans are willing to treat other Pagans that badly, well it’s just baffling. Doesn’t give me much hope.”

Thrullas commented during the exchange, saying: “Im[sic] the founder of this group, people can take [it or] leave it as is. I have enough going on from my recent post then[sic] pety stuff.”

This is certainly true. A post he shared to the group indicated that his mother is in her final days of life, and less than a year ago he and his partner lost their home to fire, which killed six cats and injured two dogs.

Despite the impression he makes in these copyright exchanges, Thrullas, who identifies as a Norse Wiccan, is an active volunteer and teacher in his local and online Pagan communities, and did sign the Pagan community environmental statement. His store, the Sage Emporium, does not presently have any books listed for sale on its site.

One group member characterized Thrullas as a “really good person” who “perhaps . . . didn’t know the particulars of the publishers’ and authors’ copyright laws” and might have reacted differently had he been approached privately.

Thrullas stuck to his position that purchasing the books gives him right to distribute them for free.

After the group owner began deleting the illegal copies, he simultaneously made clear that he would find another way to distribute his digital library, to the cheers of many group members.

“I cant[sic] put them back up on FB but Ido have the vast library and more posted somewhere trust me on that.”

To the end, he laid blame on those reporting the files, rather than ignorance of the law. At least one group member appeared ready to lay a curse on those doing the reporting.

Author Lupa published a post titled “When You Steal a Book From an Author,” in response to this particular issue. However, she is also well aware that it’s not at all rare:

They’re saying they are above the law. Sorry, but there is no way to legally justify sharing the entire book without permission. Fair use applies to a few hundred words, that’s it. ‘Educational use’ is only within certain educational establishments, and again is piece and part, not the whole damned thing. Sharing a bunch of PDFs to random strangers on Facebook? Sorry, your educational defense doesn’t work.

Lupa additionally suggested that the copyright notice in all books might have provided a clue, as it reserves the right to reproduce to those who have obtained permission to do so.

In her own blog post on the issue, Brown wrote:

I realise that most people don’t know copyright law, and it is easy to be persuaded that it’s ok to have something you want. There are a lot of people out there spouting all kinds of crap about why giving away other people’s ebooks is ok. It isn’t ok to give other people’s ebooks away, simply. However, anyone can make a mistake. Anyone can pick up a book because it sounded legit. . . . If you’ve made a mistake and taken something you shouldn’t have had, you can fix this by rebalancing things. Buy another book from the same author. Buy a hard copy for yourself. Stick something in their donations pot or Patreon.

One group member, upon learning that the group as a whole had been reported and the files were being removed, suggested it might be the result of anti-Pagan conspiracy.

It was not. It was the result of Pagan publishers and authors such as Gallo and others who reported the group.

“If we want to deal with the issue of Pagan books being pirated,” said Brown, “I think we have to tackle it as a cultural issue, not a practical one. And really, if you believe in any kind of magic, or energy, or power, or underpinning logic to the universe, why would you feel safe and comfortable learning your magic from a stolen book? How can that not have consequences? Whatever path you follow, whatever you believe, there are consequences.”

Posted by Bruce Schneier

One of the common ways to hack a computer is to mess with its input data. That is, if you can feed the computer data that it interprets -- or misinterprets -- in a particular way, you can trick the computer into doing things that it wasn't intended to do. This is basically what a buffer overflow attack is: the data input overflows a buffer and ends up being executed by the computer process.

Well, some researchers did this with a computer that processes DNA, and they encoded their malware in the DNA strands themselves:

To make the malware, the team translated a simple computer command into a short stretch of 176 DNA letters, denoted as A, G, C, and T. After ordering copies of the DNA from a vendor for $89, they fed the strands to a sequencing machine, which read off the gene letters, storing them as binary digits, 0s and 1s.

Erlich says the attack took advantage of a spill-over effect, when data that exceeds a storage buffer can be interpreted as a computer command. In this case, the command contacted a server controlled by Kohno's team, from which they took control of a computer in their lab they were using to analyze the DNA file.

News articles. Research paper.

([syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed Aug. 15th, 2017 11:42 am)

Posted by John Scalzi

There’s the saying that “those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it,” but in order to learn your history, sometimes you have to dig deeper — much deeper — than what is commonly known. This is a fact that has relevance for author Beth Cato and her latest novel Call of Fire.

BETH CATO:

I love that historical fiction can be entertaining and educational at the same time. When I began to research prior to writing Breath of Earth, the first novel in this series, I was genuinely excited to delve deeper into turn-of-the-20th-century California history. My books feature a 1906 America that is allied with Japan to form the Unified Pacific, a world power in the midst of conquering China as part of its goal to dominate mainland Asian. I bought a number of books on Chinese immigration and experiences in America in that era.

As my research continued for my second book, the newly-released Call of Fire, I found that I dreaded reading more on the subject. I’ve been a history geek since I was a kid and I went into this with the knowledge that Chinese immigrants had been treated poorly, but I had no real comprehension of the horrific abuses they endured.

This wasn’t just about far-off California history anymore, either. This was about my hometown, the place I was born.

Like many other San Joaquin Valley cities, my hometown of Hanford was founded by the railroad in the late 19th century. Chinese men did much of the hard labor to lay the tracks and blast their way through mountains to connect the state with the larger continent. Centrally-located Hanford had one of the largest Chinese communities in the valley. These days, the city is proud of what remains of its China Alley. There’s a lovely tea room there, as well as a preserved Taoist Temple with a gift shop. The Moon Festival each October is a big draw.

When I was a kid, though, I was puzzled that Hanford still had its China Alley but other nearby cities–even larger ones like Visalia and Fresno–did not. My mom told me something like, “They were probably torn down over the years.” That made sense to me. Hanford’s China Alley has some decrepit buildings, too, and it’s only been in recent years that other parts have been lovingly restored to become a year-round attractions.

During my research, though, I finally found the real answer to my childhood question. The other Chinatowns weren’t simply torn down. In the 1880s and 1890s, they were firebombed and the surviving Chinese were run out of town. There were even race riots in vineyards near Fresno.

Hanford still managed to retain some of its Chinese population, but that didn’t mean all was well during that period. I found mention of an editorial from my hometown paper in 1893 that admonished young white women of the county to improve their kitchen skills so that they would not hire Chinese cooks.

I called up my mom. “Did you know about all of this?” She did not. I called up my grandma. Same answer.

That’s when I became angry.

What the Chinese had endured had been erased from local history. Men were murdered. Families terrorized. Livelihoods destroyed. Then the butchery and abuses they endured were forgotten.

When I write about these kinds of racist incidents in my books, I imagine many readers will think that the stuff is pure fiction, all part of the elevated drama of my alternate history. That’s exactly why I include an author’s note in each book along with an extensive bibliography (which I also have on my website at BethCato.com). I want readers to know about the ‘Dog Tag Law’ that required Chinese immigrants to carry an identity card, America’s first internal passport, starting in 1892. I want them to know what happened in Tacoma, Washington, and Honolulu, Hawaii.

I hope people enjoy my books Breath of Earth and Call of Fire, but I also want readers to learn, as I have, that our beloved hometowns may possess dark secrets that need to see the light. We can’t undo the crimes of the past, but we can learn. We can remember.

—-

Call of Fire: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.


Posted by The Wild Hunt

Covenant of the GoddessONTARIO, Calif. — Covenant of the Goddess members elected a new First Officer Saturday. Canu, who has been a member for 25 years, will be moving into the position Nov. 1, along with the newly-elected board. Canu said,”My goals include drawing on CoG’s deep combined experience to: support our local councils’ and solitary members’ needs and goals, such as intrafaith interaction with the broader Pagan community; review our membership processes and barriers to joining the Covenant; support our interfaith work and plan for the periodic costs of interfaith representation at the Parliament of the World’s Religions and North American Interfaith Network events; and engage all of our members to make CoG more focused on, and communicative about, what we have to give directly, like community events, philanthropy, and networking.”

He added that, generally speaking, he wants “our Wiccan and Witchcraft communities [to] know that CoG supports them, their work, and their exercise of religious rights.” He thanked the efforts of the past board, which has been headed up by First Officer Jack Prewett. Canu said, “I’ll step into some big shoes on November 1st, and I hope to build on the efforts of those that have been caretaking CoG for many years.”

The new board was elected at CoG’s annual business meeting, Grand Council, that is held during the Merry Meet event. Joining Canu will be Circe as National Second Officer, Morgana as Recorder, Janine as National Public Information Officer, Stachia Ravensdottir as Publications Officer, Thea as National Membership Officer, Amber K as National Communications Officer, Manny Tejeda-Moreno as National Pursewarden.

Next year’s Merry Meet and Grand Council will be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

 *    *    *

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Catland Books hosted a hexing event Friday evening, which was aimed at President Donald Trump and “his cohorts.” Catland reader Dakota Bracciale organized the event and was allowed to use store’s space. When explaining the ritual, Bracciale reportedly told the dozen attendees: “Moral questions come up. ‘Oh God, I’ve heard cursing is so bad.’ Well, hexing someone because they’ve wronged you is very simple. It’s what laws are based on. It’s punitive, that’s what it is.”

This was not the first hexing ritual of its kind held in the metaphysical store or beyond. The hexing trend continues on, as it has since Trump first announced his bid for the presidency. As for hex events held at Catland, Bracciale has a mason jar filled with tiny crumbled papers “holding curses” from past similar ceremonies. Friday’s attendees were invited to add to the jar.

Part of the proceeds raised by the event were donated to Planned Parenthood. Catland says that number totaled $78. In a Facebook post, Catland Books also advertises: “Join us for next month’s hex, and help us continue to make a difference!”

Although Caltand spokesperson did tell The Wild Hunt that the event was not run by the store owners, they are holding classes on magical activism to explore “the world of occult political resistance.”

 *    *    *

TWH — Concerns about Pagans violating copyright protections of Pagan books have resurfaced in a big way, with thousands of volumes being uploaded by the owner of one popular Facebook group. Authors and publisher’s agents who knew that no such permission had been granted have tried to get the files removed, and after several days those attempts appear to have been successful, to the disappointment of some group members.

Tomorrow we will have coverage of how copyright laws are used and ignored in the digital age, including interviews with author Lupa Greenwolf, Nimue Brown of Moon Books, and Llewellyn’s Elysia Gallo. Included will be common misconceptions about what’s acceptable to share over the internet, and what it takes to get an illegal copy of a book or other work of art removed from a site.

Coming up this week we will have reactions and reports concerning the weekend’s violent actions in Charlottesville.

In other news:

  • New Jersey-based priestess Deborah Lipp was featured on Beyond Reality Radio Aug. 7. The show is hosted by Jason Hawes, who is co-founder of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) and by JV Johnson, a paranormal investigator and publisher. They talk to Lipp about the practice of modern Witchcraft and “what it means to be a Witch.”
  • Catland Books, mentioned above, is hosting a lecture series by the New York City-based Satanic Temple. The next class, to be held Aug. 25, is called “Satanic Feminism, Rebellion, Identities.” Proceeds from this event will go to the Satanic Temple’s Religious Reproductive Rights campaign.
  • Feminist historian Max Dashu has published an essay that explores the “pornification of goddess figures.” She begins by saying, “For some time I’ve been thinking that something needs to be said about the the toxic femininity scripts creeping into ‘Goddess’ imagery, mass-media contamination, and all in the name of women’s empowerment. These posed, stilted, playmate-like ‘goddesses’ sticking their breasts out and pouting like lipstick models are all over the net.”
  • Pagan Pride season is upon us, and will run through November. Twin Cities Pagan Pride Day, which will be held in September, is celebrating its 20th year. This year’s event will include the sharing of memories from past years, and cake. Organizers also note that they will be hosting “Murphey’s Midnight Rounders farewell concert, as they prepare to embark on new musical projects.”
  • And, Mercury is once again retrograde.
([syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed Aug. 14th, 2017 01:46 pm)

Posted by John Scalzi

Because I thought about it this weekend while Krissy was away:

Take Our Poll

My answer: I stay on the same side of the bed. I’m not entirely sure why, except out of habit. I’ve never really thought about it until now.

You?


([syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed Aug. 14th, 2017 11:03 am)

Posted by Bruce Schneier

This video purports to be a bank robbery in Kiev. He first threatens a teller, who basically ignores him because she's behind bullet-proof glass. But then the robber threatens one of her co-workers, who is on his side of the glass. Interesting example of a security system failing for an unexpected reason.

The video is weird, though. The robber seems very unsure of himself, and never really points the gun at anyone or even holds it properly.

Posted by John Scalzi

These shots were taken roughly fifteen minutes apart from each other. 

We in Ohio certainly don’t lack for variety in our sunsets, do we.

Oh, and just for fun, here’s an old-timey, vaguely creepy sunset take:

Yup, that’ll do.


Posted by Heather Greene

TAMPA, Fla. — Outback Steakhouse became the focus of the latest social media meme craze when a Twitter user suggested that the Tampa-based restaurant chain was connected to the Illuminati and had occult leanings. The claim was backed up by a series of map images demonstrating how the chain’s locations around the country always form pentagrams.

[Twitter: @eastmyaesthetics.]

The initial tweet, dated July 27, resulted in a firestorm of speculation as can only manifest in a social media environment. Users began creating their own pentagram maps with responses such as ,”Hold the damn phone,” “I’m scared,” “What is going on here?,” and “Illuminati Confirmed.”

Most of those memes do appear to have been created tongue-in-cheek, some more obviously than others. In some of the more farcical ones, people used steakhouse locations to draw demons, crosses, the Eye of Providence, genitalia, Pac-Man, cats, turtles, and more.

Some people discovered messages spelled out by connecting the steakhouse dots. One user in São Paulo demonstrated that the city’s local Outback Steakhouse locations indeed spelled the word Satan.

Another user responded, “Who knew when they said ‘a taste from down under’, they meant hell.”

The Outback occult-based conspiracy theory spilled out into other social media venues, eventually making international headlines. Mashable writes, “Conspiracy theory suggests that Outback Steakhouse is the center of a satanic cult.” HuffPost wrote, “Outback Steakhouse At The Center Of Bizarre Conspiracy Theory.”

Users even began tweeting directly at the company, asking for an explanation.

While the entire episode is largely being brushed off as fun and games, any Pagan or occult practitioner who lived through the 1980s and ’90s might find it less than humorous. During those two decades, the nationwide Satanic Panic created a cultural environment that allowed for similar accusations and theories to fester and spread, even in the absence of social media.

California’s infamous McMartin preschool case, which is often cited as marking the beginning of the moral panic, began with local accusations of occult practice. The fear spread across the country and well beyond the school environments. Anyone or anything could become the center of an occult-based conspiracy theory. It is not insignificant to note that the first film version of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible (1996) was released during this time.

Satanic or occult influence was found everywhere, specifically in children’s fare. As we previously noted, Pokemon was the focus of one was such conspiracy theory. The Harry Potter book series, which is now celebrating its 20th anniversary, was also the focus of such claims at one point in time.

Organizations like Covenant of the Goddess, Lady Liberty League, the Witches League for Public Awareness and others were formed to combat the negative perceptions that came with such claims.

Although the famous McMartin trial ended in 1990 and the FBI denounced the idea of widespread Satanic abuse in 1994, the residual cultural effects of the panic lasted into the early 2000s.

While that is all now a part of history, many in the Pagan community have not forgotten the experience and how it touched them personally. To this day, modern occult-based practices are still looked on with fear and trepidation, as demonstrated in the rising reports of Witchcraft in Nottinghamshire, and the practices are also often used as examples of misbehavior, as is suggested by the reports on the 2017 Dyleski hearing.

Independent of any grandiose moral panic, conspiracy theories are not new to the internet age and are not going away any time soon. Occult-based theories abound in history, entertainment, and contemporary politics. Children and teenagers love the mystery and simultaneous fear rush that goes along with ghost stories and the legend trip experience.

Devil’s Tour in Alpine, N.J. [Scaramouch/Flickr].

People look for underlying meaning, connections, and narratives in places where there may or may not be. This is human nature. The unknown worlds, speculation, and the shadow side of living are sources of both fear and attraction.

For example, in the music industry, both backward masking, which is a recording technique, and backmasking, which is a technological coincidence, have both been labeled as being Satanic influences. The messages that come out of the reversal of the sound are considered spiritually dangerous. When playing the song Help by the Beatles, a hidden message can be heard: “Now he uses marijuana.”

Historical sites, graveyards, and old buildings are attractive locations for teenagers to engage with similar narratives. In Alpine, N.J., there is an old stone tower that is said to be an inverted cross built by the Satanist who owned the surrounding land. The blood of his sacrificed victims stained the floors of the locked tower gates. If you drove around the tower backwards, you could hear Satan’s spirit speak. It is the perfect place for a legend trip.

More recently, in 2016, Taylor Swift was accused of being a Satanic leader due to her striking resemblance to Zeena, the daughter of Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey. Social media users went wild with that suggestion, as they have done with the recent Outback frenzy.

Most Americans are aware of the large number of occult-based conspiracy theories that circle around the city Washington D.C. and the often-cited connections made between politics and Illuminati influence.

While much of these episodes and speculation is limited to fun and games, there is still a real possibility of that occult-based or Satanic-based conspiracy theories can lead to moral panics if the environment is right, as history has proven. Such panics, regardless of how large the can get, do have a direct and negative affect on Pagan communities and occult practitioners who get caught in the panic’s net.

The recent Outback Steakhouse Twitter craze ended a few days after it began and largely seen as a joke.

Since that social media meme outbreak, there have been secondary theories suggesting that Outback itself was behind the frenzy in the first place. Those theorists have suggested that it was a simply a backhanded advertising effort.

While the company has not responded to that particular claim, it did have something to say to the original Twitter user who started the entire episode:

An Outback spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the tweet, but would not comment further.

Posted by John Scalzi

Denouncing Nazis and the KKK and violent white supremacists by those names should not be a difficult thing for a president to do, particularly when those groups are the instigators and proximate cause of violence in an American city, and one of their number has rammed his car through a group of counter-protestors, killing one and injuring dozens more. This is a moral gimme — something so obvious and clear and easy that a president should almost not get credit for it, any more than he should get credit for putting on pants before he goes to have a press conference.

And yet this president — our president, the current President of the United States — couldn’t manage it. The best he could manage was to fumble through a condemnation of “many sides,” as if those protesting the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists had equal culpability for the events of the day. He couldn’t manage this moral gimme, and when his apparatchiks were given an opportunity to take a mulligan on it, they doubled down instead.

This was a spectacular failure of leadership, the moral equivalent not only of missing a putt with the ball on the lip of the cup, but of taking out your favorite driver and whacking that ball far into the woods. Our president literally could not bring himself to say that Nazis and the KKK and violent white supremacists are bad. He sorely wants you to believe he implied it. But he couldn’t say it.

To be clear, when it was announced the president would address the press about Charlottesville, I wasn’t expecting much from him. He’s not a man to expect much from, in terms of presidential gravitas. But the moral bar here was so low it was on the ground, and he tripped over it anyway.

And because he did, no one — and certainly not the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists, who were hoping for the wink and nod that they got here — believes the president actually thinks there’s a problem with the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists. If he finally does get around to admitting that they are bad, he’ll do it in the same truculent, forced way that he used when he was forced to admit that yeah, sure, maybe Obama was born in the United States after all. An admission that makes it clear it’s being compelled rather than volunteered. The Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists will understand what that means, too.

Our president, simply put, is a profound moral shambles. He’s a racist and sexist himself, he’s populated his administration with Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists, and is pursuing policies, from immigration to voting rights, that make white nationalists really very happy. We shouldn’t be surprised someone like him can’t pass from his lips the names of the hate groups that visited Charlottesville, but we can still be disappointed, and very very angry about it. I hate that my baseline expectation for the moral behavior of the President of the United States is “failure,” but here we are, and yesterday, as with previous 200-some days of this administration, gives no indication that this baseline expectation is unfounded.

And more than that. White supremacy is evil. Nazism is evil. The racism and hate we saw in Charlottesville yesterday is evil. The domestic terrorism that happened there yesterday — a man, motivated by racial hate, mowing down innocents — is evil. And none of what happened yesterday just happened. It happened because the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists felt emboldened. They felt emboldened because they believe that one of their own is in the White House, or at least, feel like he’s surrounded himself with enough of their own (or enough fellow travelers) that it’s all the same from a practical point of view. They believe their time has come round at last, and they believe no one is going to stop them, because one of their own has his hand on the levers of power.

When evil believes you are one of their own, and you have the opportunity to denounce it, and call it out by name, what should you do? And what should we believe of you, if you do not? What should we believe of you, if you do not, and you are President of the United States?

My president won’t call out evil by its given name. He can. But he won’t. I know what I think that means for him. I also know what I think it means for the United States. And I know what it means for me. My president won’t call out evil for what it is, but I can do better. And so can you. And so can everybody else. Our country can be better than it is now, and better than the president it has.


Posted by Heather Greene

TWH — Both the United Kingdom and United States are well known to have thriving Pagan, Heathen, and polytheists communities in one form or another. A few of the most commonly found Pagan religious practices, such as Druidry and Wicca, can locate their origins in one or both of those two cultures.

Furthermore, for those people living within those two countries, it is often fellow community members and co-religionists who are most commonly given voice in the mainstream press, at local events, and even within the Pagan media sphere.

This reality can make it difficult to see beyond one’s own national borders into other cultures where Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists may thrive.

[Pixabay.]

Over the years, The Wild Hunt has gone in search of such practices beyond the U.K. and the U.S., asking how ritual, belief, and community differ within those other societies.

While that effort continues on, the work to-date has proven informative and inspiring to many, as it demonstrates the expansive nature of the global Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities.

Today we look back on a few of those reports to see where we’ve gone (listed in no specific order):

Witchcraft in India: A Conversation with Ipsita Roy Chakraverti

The Philippines: looking beyond Haiyan

Finding Kindred Spirits in Costa Rica

Emerging Mexico Heathen community launches magazine

Paganism in Israel: where modern meets the ancient

Pagan Federation International helps flood victims in Serbia

Paganism in Poland

Modern Paganism in Thailand

A look at Paganism in South Africa

The twilight of secularism in Turkey?

New Italian Pagan organization begins work for legal recognition

What do the Kremlin’s new religious laws mean for Pagans?

Paganism in France: an emerging culture

A Brazil federal ruling states Candomblé and Umbanda are not religions

Outside of those articles and the many other similar reports, The Wild Hunt includes weekly news stories from our Canadian and U.K.-based journalists.

For example, Dodie Graham McKay recently reported that the Canadian witchcraft law was closer to being stricken from Canadian criminal code. In May, Liz Williams reported on the celebration honoring the life of British occultist Florence Farr.

We also currently have two international columnists, who are part of a newly relaunched “Around the World” monthly column. Lyonel Perabo explores the religious experience found in Norway from his home north of the Arctic Circle. The latest article for his column “Visions from Ice” is titled The Dance of the Arctic Fairy.

From the other side of the globe, Josephine Winter has recently joined the team to share stories from the Pagan experience in Australia. Her first Wild Hunt column explored the growing interest in Druidry within her country.

We have also worked with a number of guest writers to feature international voices. South African Pagan Damon Leff collaborated on an article concerning the practice of Witchcraft in his country. In 2016, Christina Engela gave readers a look into South Africa’s vampire community.

We will continue to build on the international monthly column, welcome guest writers, and find other ways to explore the Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist experience around the globe.

How do people integrate Pagan practice, Heathenry, or polytheism into their lived cultural experience? How do they blend their unique cultural experience with a religious practice that is sometimes feared or misunderstood at best? What can we learn from each other, and how can we grow as a global movement, if one exists? Do these connections across our expansive world make us stronger as a collective community and improve our religious experience as individuals?

It is through the voices we allow to be heard here that we hope to learn answers to these and other questions.

([syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed Aug. 12th, 2017 04:12 pm)

Posted by John Scalzi

To begin, for informational purposes, the list of 2017 Hugo winners, the document of how the voting went, and the document of what and who got nominated and what just missed the ballot.

Got it? Okay!

1. I’m both super pleased with the list of winners and even more pleased that the ballot could have fallen differently and that in nearly all cases I still would have been happy. There was so much great work and so many great people celebrated this year that it was almost impossible to go wrong (there were a couple of troll attempts in there too, but they were never really a factor in the actual finalist voting. I’ll talk more about that in a bit).

2. I discovered that The Dispatcher was number seven in terms of the nomination tally for the Novella category, a category with six finalist spots. How do I feel about that? Pretty darn good. The Dispatcher was in audio form for the entire nomination period, which is not the usual format for works considered for the Hugo ballot. So I think it’s pretty cool it got close. Also, you know. It was a finalist for the Locus and three separate Audie awards (winning the Best Original Work category), so it was certainly honored enough. And I happen to think that all the finalists in the Hugo category were excellent. No complaints!

3. And, why yes, women won in nearly every category. Good for them. Their work certainly deserved it.

4. This was the first year nominations for the finalist ballot were run through the “E Pluribus Hugo” process, a complicated procedure involving fractional votes that aimed specifically to blunt the effect of “slating,” i.e., jackholes trying to swamp the ballot via lockstep nominations. It’s also the first year of “5/6,” in which people could nominate five people/works in each category but six people/works were on the final ballot — again, to minimize the effects of slating.

And how did it work? For the purposes of defeating slating — pretty well! To the extent that the jackholes who have been slating work for the last few years were able to get on the ballot at all, they were confined to one finalist out of six. All those jerkhole-related finalists were dealt with appropriately in the voting — most appearing below “no award” (i.e., we’d rather not give an award than have it given to this finalist). The signal-to-noise ratio of the Hugo ballot was much closer to the mean this year than it’s been in the last few, and that’s a good thing.

Which is not to say EPH in particular doesn’t have its issues — there were people/works this year that would have gotten on the ballot under the old system that missed out in this one (not The Dispatcher, I note, which would have been in the #7 position in either system). And I think some people noted that the jerkhole movement was muted this year in any event, so factoring for it might not even have been necessary — there was a motion at the WSFS business meeting to have EPS lifted next year.

My own thinking on this is that it was muted because the jerkholes knew the Hugos were that much harder to game, and given the scope of the slating nonsense — which lingered over four years of Hugo voting — maybe dropping anti-slating measures after just a year is a little precipitate. It does appear that others agreed with me on that, since the motion to suspend it for next year failed. Good.

5. Speaking of the jackholes, I did like that when when voting process sorted everything down, the chief jackhole got outvoted by “no award” in his category by a ratio of about 12:1. That seems about right to me. Aaaaand that’s all the mental energy I’m expending on that dude.

6. Overall, a very fine year for the Hugos. Congratulations to all! Let’s do this again next year.


Posted by John Scalzi

This morning on Twitter:

It’s comedy!

But yeah, seriously though, those Nazis and KKK and other assholes congealing themselves in Charlottesville today to marinate in their bigotry can go fuck themselves.

Also, if you feel like donating to Charlottesville-area groups who fight this nonsense and/or represent people these shitbirds hate, here’s a helpful Twitter thread for you, with links.


Posted by Bruce Schneier

Details on how a squid's eye corrects for underwater distortion:

Spherical lenses, like the squids', usually can't focus the incoming light to one point as it passes through the curved surface, which causes an unclear image. The only way to correct this is by bending each ray of light differently as it falls on each location of the lens's surface. S-crystallin, the main protein in squid lenses, evolved the ability to do this by behaving as patchy colloids­ -- small molecules that have spots of molecular glue that they use to stick together in clusters.

Research paper.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Posted by Bruce Schneier

I seem to have a LinkedIn account.

This comes as a surprise, since I don't have a LinkedIn account, and have never logged in to LinkedIn.

Does anyone have any contacts into the company? I would like to report this fraudulent account, and possibly get control of it. I'm not on LinkedIn, but the best defense against this is probably to create a real account.

([syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed Aug. 11th, 2017 06:29 pm)

Posted by John Scalzi

The weekend’s rolling in, so here are some new and upcoming books to get excited about. What do you like here? Tell all in the comments!


([syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed Aug. 11th, 2017 06:00 pm)

Posted by Eric O. Scott

In June of 1981, Israel bombed a not-quite-active nuclear power plant in the suburbs of Baghdad, Iraq. This was the second time in a year that the power plant faced attack from the air: Iran struck at the end of Sept., 1980, in a mission the name of which dripped with warrior-poet self-mythologizing: “Operation Scorch Sword.” That mission damaged the reactor, but the technicians were able to repair the damage. The Israeli strike, on the other hand — this one code-named “Operation Opera” — managed to disable the facility for good, though perhaps Iraq might have resurrected the project again were it not enmeshed in the Iraq-Iran War that dominated the country’s attention throughout the 1980s.

Detail of the nose of Israeli Air Force F-16A 253, flown in Operation Opera, as indicated by the green triangle marking. [Photo by Oren Rozen, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 license.]

At the time, Operation Opera drew nearly universal condemnation from the international community. The Iraqi nuclear reactor would not have been powerful enough to make materials for nuclear weapons, and the deal to provide the reactors, the fuel to power them, and much of the technical knowledge and workforce to install and operate them, had been brokered not by some infamous rogue power, but by France. Even Margaret Thatcher called the Israeli attack unjustifiable, “a grave breach of international law.” The United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution condemning Israel’s actions, though the United States prevented any concrete punishments, save for a two-month delay in delivery of a set of F-16s.

Today, a look through the academic writing on Operation Opera reveals mostly bloodless analysis of the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the attack on curtailing Iraq’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.[1] The question seems to have become less about the moral or legal question — was it defensible for Israel to launch a preemptive strike against Iraq, especially given the latter’s apparent compliance with international standards — and more about whether or not the strike “accomplished its mission” of deterring a nuclear weapons program. (On this, the findings are at best mixed: Iraq’s response to having its collaborative effort with France and the International Atomic Energy Commission bombed was to begin a secret program the following year.) Perhaps this should be unsurprising; any writing about Iraq in the 1980s must be read in the shadow of the Iraq War, in which the United States carried out a much more thorough preemptive attack than Operation Opera.

My interest in Operation Opera — or more precisely, in the reactor that was its target — is the result of a peculiar line of research I’ve been conducting into the history of my coven. As I have written about previously, my coven traces itself back to an English man named Deryck Alldrit and his American wife, Carrie, who lived in the St. Louis area during the late 1970s. I have been fascinated by Deryck for years, due in large part, I’m sure, to his absence: he and Carrie left the United States (and their coven) behind in 1978 for the Middle East, where Deryck, a civil engineer, worked on projects in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and, yes, the nuclear reactor in Baghdad.

Deryck and Carrie’s years in the Middle East remain one of the more ambiguous periods of their lives for me. I have, for example, never managed to find a definite record of Deryck’s employment during the time; my knowledge of his work on the reactor comes mostly from the tales his friends, now my elders in the tradition, tell from his old letters, mailed with United Nations postage stamps.

I have no idea what Deryck might have done on the project: it seems like a strange position for him to be in, given that the reactor was a joint Iraq-France venture and Deryck was a citizen of neither of those countries. Perhaps he consulted for the International Atomic Energy Commission in some capacity; I have not been able to verify that either way. The most my elders knew was that Deryck said he worked for a U.N. “development program,” but none of the U.N. subdivisions that would fit that name would seem to have had any interest in Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Still, I don’t doubt he was there: one of the tall tales my elders tell me is that in one of Deryck’s letters he said he had to “get the hell out” of Iraq on short notice when the Iraq-Iran War broke out in 1980. Operation Scorch Sword would take place within a week of the war’s declaration.

There is an eerie poetry to some of the details of the Iraqi reactor and Deryck’s work on it. The name of the reactor, for instance, was Tammuz to the Iraqis, named for the month Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party came to power, and thereby indirectly named for the Babylonian god. But the French name, and the name that most of the literature on Operation Opera has used since, is Osirak: a portmanteau of “Iraq” and the name of the reactor model, Osiris. The Baghdad nuclear plant held two reactors, the main Osirak model and a smaller companion reactor, its model name being Isis.

The goddess Isis holding an ankh from her temple at Philae, Aswan, Egypt [Anna Carotti, public domain].

That two witches should come to the Middle East to work on reactors named for Pagan gods strikes me as an odd enough synchronicity. What unsettles me more is one of the first stories I ever heard about Deryck and Carrie, years before I began researching them in earnest, was the story of Carrie’s grave: she died of a brain tumor while they lived in the Middle East, and was buried in a British cemetery in Baghdad. Inlaid in her tombstone on a basalt-black stone is a thin white ankh. The legend has always been that they got away with something — “You couldn’t put a cross or a Star of David on a grave in an Iraqi cemetery,” my elders said, “but nobody thought anything of an ankh” — but after reading more about Osiris and Isis, Osirak and Tammuz, I wonder. Carrie died only three months before Operation Scorch Sword, when Deryck had to leave Iraq, as far as I know, for good.

Carrie’s ankh, a symbol of life, life continuing even after life is gone, sits heavily on my mind today, when the news is awash in new rounds of nuclear terror. The United States president has threatened “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea, which has in turn openly suggested the possibility of a strike against Guam. To read some analyses, these are the outcomes of a reasoned process, a nuclear logic being taken to its conclusions. Perhaps, as with Operation Opera, we will someday read academic papers that scrutinize these events in terms of their operational effectiveness without questioning their moral consequences, should we be lucky to live that long.

[1] See, for example, Braut-Hegghammer, Målfrid, “Revisiting Osirak,” International Security, 36.1, 2011, 101-132.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Posted by Bruce Schneier

Researchers found that they could confuse the road sign detection algorithms of self-driving cars by adding stickers to the signs on the road. They could, for example, cause a car to think that a stop sign is a 45 mph speed limit sign. The changes are subtle, though -- look at the photo from the article.

Research paper:

"Robust Physical-World Attacks on Machine Learning Models," by Ivan Evtimov, Kevin Eykholt, Earlence Fernandes, Tadayoshi Kohno, Bo Li, Atul Prakash, Amir Rahmati, and Dawn Song:

Abstract: Deep neural network-based classifiers are known to be vulnerable to adversarial examples that can fool them into misclassifying their input through the addition of small-magnitude perturbations. However, recent studies have demonstrated that such adversarial examples are not very effective in the physical world--they either completely fail to cause misclassification or only work in restricted cases where a relatively complex image is perturbed and printed on paper. In this paper we propose a new attack algorithm--Robust Physical Perturbations (RP2)-- that generates perturbations by taking images under different conditions into account. Our algorithm can create spatially-constrained perturbations that mimic vandalism or art to reduce the likelihood of detection by a casual observer. We show that adversarial examples generated by RP2 achieve high success rates under various conditions for real road sign recognition by using an evaluation methodology that captures physical world conditions. We physically realized and evaluated two attacks, one that causes a Stop sign to be misclassified as a Speed Limit sign in 100% of the testing conditions, and one that causes a Right Turn sign to be misclassified as either a Stop or Added Lane sign in 100% of the testing conditions.

Posted by Liz Williams

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, Eng — An unusual upswing in the number of complaints made to the police in one area of Nottinghamshire is concerning both local and national Pagans.

Ashfield North saw 87 calls referring to Witches in 2016, and 38 in the previous year. These figures – released to the Nottingham Evening Post as part of police statistics under a freedom of information request – is extremely high compared to other parts of the country, and the reason for it remains unclear.

Local experts in the paranormal have suggested that some of these complaints relate to Witchcraft carried out in the past, but local Pagans are becoming concerned that the ordinary practices found in modern Pagan paths are also being reported as sinister.

Ashley Mortimer, director of the Nottingham Pagan Network, said, “Thirty eight reports out of 44 [paranormal incidents in Ashfield North] says more to me about the level of reporting than necessarily about the level of witchcraft activity.”

“I think people’s understanding of Witchcraft is misconstrued and has been for centuries,” Mortimer told a local reporter. “We’ve actually had a bad press for a long time.”

In that same interview, Mortimer explained to the mainstream press that “Witchcraft is a modern-day interpretation of ancient Pagan beliefs. […] It’s about believing in nature, and having the divine imminent in nature, personified and recognised as a lunar goddess and a solar god. But witchcraft is only one small part of modern-day Paganism. If you were to see someone don’t be alarmed – we’re quite happy to explain to people. But I don’t like them being seen as sinister, because it isn’t sinister.”

Mortimer also noted that Pagans are “the sixth biggest faith group in Nottinghamshire, as per the 2011 census.”

In a conversation with The Wild Hunt, Mortimer said that he thinks the complaints might be the work of one ‘serial reporter’ but that the released figures contain no specific information on what the substance of the calls to police might be.

One clue might lie in claims made by the Ashfield-based paranormal magazine Haunted. It states that its paranormal team has encountered “several potential incidents” of “Witchcraft” in the area, and at one point felt surrounded by “not very nice people.”

In an article for that magazine, James Pykett, part of the Haunted LIVE paranormal investigation team and owner of the Facebook page Haunted Nottinghamshire was quoted as saying, “It’s no surprise to be honest, we investigate all over Nottinghamshire and as most of the boys are from this area, locations are easily accessible in Ashfield and we have had lots of paranormal activity.

“As for Witchcraft, let’s just say that I can easily understand why there has been 87 reports of Witchcraft in Ashfield North.”

He did not elaborate any further. However, Jason Wall, also part of the paranormal team, added: “Recently we were on the Teversal Trail, and it felt like we were being watched, we picked up a lot of female names and it felt like we were being circled.”

However, it would seem that this was a matter of psychic impression rather than the presence of living people.

Nottingham has been in the news before in connection with complaints made against Paganism, notably an episode of ‘Satanic Panic’ in 1988, which saw a number of children taken into care from a city estate after multi-generational incest and abuse.

However, the police concluded that there was no evidence of Satanism or indeed Witchcraft being involved in that enquiry, but this was disputed by social services.The children concerned spoke of a number of structures, including underground rooms beneath churches, being the scene of Satanic ceremonies. None were found..

In 1989, the Nottingham Police/Social Services Joint Enquiry Team (JET) concluded in a report:

We had not found any physical corroborative evidence in the Broxtowe case and no longer believed the children’s diaries substantiated the claim of Satanic abuse. In our view they reflected other influences and were open to alternative interpretations. Our research indicated that nobody else [in other countries] had found corroborative physical evidence either.

All the evidence for its existence appears to be based upon disturbed children and adults claiming involvement during interviews by social workers, psychiatrists, and Church Ministers who already themselves believed in its existence. It seemed possible that Satanic abuse only existed in the minds of people who wanted or needed to believe in it.

There is no evidence that the complaints today and the episode in 1988 are connected, but local Pagans hope that the recent sharp rise in the complaints being made to the police are not a resurgence of the mindset that led to the 1988 allegations.

A spokesperson for the Nottinghamshire police recently noted: “We are very busy dealing with genuine calls for service and receiving calls about paranormal activity, UFOs and witches may delay our ability to pick up the phone to someone in real need of help.”

Posted by Bruce Schneier

For once, the real story isn't as bad as it seems. A researcher has figured out how to install malware onto an Echo that causes it to stream audio back to a remote controller, but:

The technique requires gaining physical access to the target Echo, and it works only on devices sold before 2017. But there's no software fix for older units, Barnes warns, and the attack can be performed without leaving any sign of hardware intrusion.

The way to implement this attack is by intercepting the Echo before it arrives at the target location. But if you can do that, there are a lot of other things you can do. So while this is a vulnerability that needs to be fixed -- and seems to have inadvertently been fixed -- it's not a cause for alarm.

Posted by John Scalzi

I note this particular tweet (which, if for some reason you can’t see it, is here), not just because it amuses the crap out of me, although it does, but it because it’s an example of a phenomenon that I think might be unique to Twitter — namely, because of the way Twitter formats pictures and retweets on its service, much of the time (if not most of the time) you’ll see a punchline or a snarky reply before you read the set-up or instigating comment.

And because it does, it changes a lot about the dynamic of the humor, and often in interesting ways. It’s like the Jeopardy version humor. Of course, some people just change things around so their comment is the set-up and the picture or previous comment is the punchline. But when they don’t, I almost feel like it creates a new kind of joke.

I could be overthinking this. Tell me if I am.


Posted by John Scalzi

First, read this, from Andrew Liptak at the Verge, and make sure you stick around for the M. Night Shyamalan-like twist at the ending, featuring a shocking statement from me!

Also, here is the Dragon Awards’ own statement, re: Alison Littlewood departing from the ballot.

Read them? Okay, then let’s get to the questions.

So, wait, you were going to withdraw from the Dragon Awards but now you’re not?

Yup, that’s basically right.

Why did you change your mind?

Mostly because the administrators asked if I would reconsider.

How did that conversation go?

Me: I’d like to withdraw.

Them: We’d like you to stay. Please?

Me: No.

Them: What if we say, pretty please?

Me: No.

Them: What if we say, pretty please with sugar on top?

Me: Oh, fine.

More seriously, and as noted in the statement I gave to the Verge, the folks at the Dragon Awards suggested they were willing to put in some work to listen and learn, and the honoring of Ms. Littlewood’s withdrawal request and their commitment to rethink aspects of their process was a good first step. Enough that I was willing to reconsider withdrawing from the ballot.

But what about the dudes ginning up the whole “culture war” angle? You said you just couldn’t even with those dudes.

They’re still there and they’re still tiresome, and I’m not really looking forward to that nonsense, but, you know what, fuck it. Here’s the deal: Did you enjoy reading my book? Enough to vote for it over the other works in my particular category? Groovy. Then vote for it. Otherwise, don’t vote for it, please. Repeat with every other work in my category, and so on in the other categories. This is not actually complicated.

(Incidentally, and in case it’s not clear, please don’t paint every other finalist with the “I’m just here for the culture war” brush. I don’t. You can tell which ones are around to gin up a culture war. They’re pretty obvious about it.)

I JUST THINK YOU’RE HELLA INDECISIVE, SCALZI

Seems reasonable and I accept your judgment.

I still have issues with the Dragon Awards.

That’s fair. They’re new and still figuring this out, which is not an excuse but is an explanation. In my discussions with the folks running them, my sense is that they really do want to make the awards something that is viable and useful (and fun) for fans of the genre. They have a lot of work to do (this is, I suspect, in the nature of awards in general). Hopefully they’ll get there. As I noted, some of the steps they’re taking now indicate to me they want to get it right. Your mileage may vary. In the meantime, with this as with anything, you’re perfectly within your rights to have issues and criticism. Fire away.

So are you going to the awards ceremony now?

Nope, I’m still counter-scheduled in Washington DC that weekend.

What if I was going to vote for you but you said not to and I voted for something else?

I mean, that’s on me, isn’t it? So that’s fine. If you voted for something you enjoyed, that’s good enough. I’m okay with other people winning awards I am also up for. I’ve won my fair share over time. It’s nice to win, but it’s nice to see other people win, too. I’ll be no worse off. And then someone else has to worry about how to ship a trophy home. That stuff adds up.

If I wanted to vote, how do I do that?

Here’s the link to register. Anyone with an email address is eligible. And here is the full, updated ballot.

I gotta warn you, I might not vote for you.

Well, you know. I still have to read some of the finalists in my category. If I like them better, I might not vote for me.


([syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed Aug. 10th, 2017 01:50 pm)

Posted by John Scalzi

It is sometimes said that someone is a person of their time — which may make you wonder what might happen to that person in different times, and what those times would do that person. Kathe Koja might, anyway, and it’s one of the reasons her novel Christopher Wild exists.

KATHE KOJA:

Come over here. There’s someone I want you to meet.

He’s a London guy, but he’s been around the block, he knows a lot of people and a lot of people know him. They say he’s a scholar and a poet, they say he’s a spy, they say he likes guys; he says he likes guys, and likes smoking, and thinks religion is all about control, not love, among other free-thinking opinions. Some people—most famously a dude named Dick who ratted him out to the authorities—suggested that the “mouth of so dangerous a [man] should be stopped.” And the authorities agreed, and had him killed.

But he was, he is, a writer. And so his work kept on speaking in tandem with that brief, steep, outrageous life—as I write this, this guy, this Christopher Marlowe, this Kit, is studied in universities around the world, his plays of turbulent men with violent ideas are produced and debated and relished, and he’s stealing the show in a show called Will.  

There are more than a few Marlowe biographies and novels: you may have met him there. Anthony Burgess’ gorgeously written A Dead Man in Deptford was my own introduction to Kit, and the life pointed to the work—I’d heard of Faustus, that soul-selling literal daredevil, but the other plays (like Edward II and Tamburlaine) were ravishingly new to me. And the poems, sexy, erudite, unforgettable poems . . . I thought, who is this guy! I thought, oh god this guy. I thought, I have to write about him too.

And so my newest novel, Christopher Wild.

But befitting its subject who loved to challenge, this book was such a challenge that I was bewildered how to even begin. I don’t write about real people, I write fiction that works to make characters seem real. And no one is ever going to write a better, more beautiful bio novel than Burgess. So how could I reincarnate this man?—whose voice I was crazy in love with, and whose life has resonance not only with his own time but every era where power seeks to throttle truth, and fear sits side by side with stifling caution; which is to say, every era . . . And most of all, first and last of all, he’s a writer, a gloriously original and badass writer, how could I do him full justice on the page? All I had was doubt, and a giant pile of notes and research reading.

But I wanted to hang out with Marlowe.

So I took the leap, I plunged: I planned the structure of the novel then threw that structure totally away, I found a new way, I found that the way to show his contemporaneity was to place him in places where silence shouted loudest, where danger was deepest for a man who can’t keep his mouth shut, ever: places like his own grimly glamorous Elizabethan world, then a tense and humid McCarthyesque mid-20th century, then a darkening future just slightly past our own horizon, where punishing surveillance is the 24/7 norm.

The voice that flowered in those ages, and my pages, was a confident one, a fierce and passionate one, one that I followed every bit as much as I led: I knew him better then, I learned as we went on. Is it the book I expected I’d be writing? Not at all. But that’s what it’s like when you hang with a bold new friend, he takes you places you didn’t imagine you’d go.

Which is why I opened up the process to early supporters, who received a monthly email with research notes and cool or silly factoids (Kit Harington plays Faustus! Sniff a Marlowe perfume!), along with excerpts from the novel in progress—another thing I’d never done before, or contemplated doing.

And then all the writing was done, and Marlowe was ready, again, for his close-up, he was climbing into a big-finned yellow Buick, he was heading up the crusty subway stairs, he was striding down a slick and cobbled alley where life and death murmur together, telling eternity’s everyday secrets; he was here again, with us again, because he’s never left . . . If you’ve met him already, lucky you (and why the hell didn’t you tell me sooner?). But if you haven’t, oh then please grab a seat, get a drink, let me introduce you and we can all go wild.

—-

Christopher Wild: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Roadswell Editions

Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.


Posted by Cara Schulz

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – One week ago, police performed a welfare check at the Towne Square condominiums in Windsor Oaks. Inside they found two people dead. One of the persons was Jaime Johnson, who had recently moved to Virginia, but was planning to move back to Minnesota.

Police say she was killed by her ex-boyfriend, who then killed himself. The murder suicide was estimated to have taken place three to five days prior to discovery.

Jaime Johnson [credit: Alexis Scheddel]

According to her cousin, Amanda Penman-Krohn, Ms. Johnson met her ex-boyfriend several years ago on a trip to Canada. The two stayed in touch, and Ms. Johnson eventually moved from Minnesota to Virginia in August 2016, where he lived. The two then moved in together.

In June the couple split up, but remained living together as roommates. By July, Johnson decided to move back to her long-time home of Minnesota. Her move date was scheduled for September 1.

Ms. Penman-Krohn says that, although the couple had problems, she wasn’t aware of any domestic abuse happening. “At no point did she ever express the relationship was abusive in anyway to me. In the beginning she had shared to a friend that he had started being mean to her, but she was pretty good about telling him to knock it off.”

“She had mentioned he was never very outgoing socially and could come off emotionally distant,” explains Penman-Krohn, “I don’t think she ever saw this coming though. The only person who has come forward stating that Jaime had stated [her ex-boyfriend] was unhappy with her moving was her Lender for the house she was buying.”

Penman-Krohn says Johnson was looking forward to moving back to Minnesota, “She was really struggling finding a sense of ‘home’ in Virginia.”

“It was eating away at her and she would message me constantly for the last 5 months about how she needed change.”

In her Facebook announcement that she would be moving, Jaime wrote, “I’m finally planting my feet right at home and it’s going to be amazing.”

The last time her cousin saw her in person was in March at Paganicon, a Pagan conference held annually in Minneapolis.

Amanda Penman-Krohn and Jaime Johnson [Courtesy]

Although Penman-Krohn says she is heartbroken by the death of her cousin, she adds Jaime’s ex-boyfriend wasn’t a monster, “So understand how hard this is for me to say, her ex was not an absolute monster. What he did was unforgivable and horrific, but it all boils down to the fact that he was too scared of his inner demons to ever seek help.”

“I truly believe that if he had sought help, both of them would be alive today.”

In public posts and in comments made in the Jaime Johnson Memorial Group, friends and family are sharing memories of Ms. Johnson:

“She was the first to arrive for my patrons only party at [Pantheacon]. Told me she was still so nervous hanging out with teachers and authors who had guided her. She was reffing me and Daimler specifically but it held for the whole [conference] I think. I gave her a hug and told her she was a friend there not a student. She settled a bit after that and we had such a lovely time, great to open the con with her that way.” – Lora O’Brien, mentor

“I know the bravest and sweetest, girl. She flew across the country to San Jose, CA to hang out with a bunch of people she knew online. She was nervous and didn’t know us in person but she did it anyway. I fell instantly in love with this girl in her awesome hats and she became part of our tribe right away. […] Rest is Power and Peace Jaime Johnson. Having you in my tribe, even for a short time was an honor and a gift.” – Vyviane Armstrong, friend.

“Jaime was my friend. We met online in a group dedicated to fairy folklore, and in person this year at Pantheacon. She was always an amazingly cheerful person and I loved her sense of humor and courage. We had bonded online over shared Brian Froud tattoos, a similar aesthetic, and our mutual love of fairylore, and in person we talked about more mundane things, like travel, anxiety, and moving. This past June she attended the Morrigan’s Call Retreat and we were cabinmates, after her original cabin assignment fell through. Sharing space and time with her was amazing and fun, because that’s who Jaime was. She was witty, and dry, and kind and the sort of person who anyone was lucky to know …” – Morgan Daimler, friend.

“I am heartbroken…Jaime was my friend and one of my students at one time. If anyone I know could be said to be full of life, it was Jaime.  Smart, funny, generous, sweet, creative…I was so looking forward to having her back in the Twin Cities area again.  Devastated.” – Veronica Cummer, mentor

“My best memory of Jaime was seeing The Crucible with her at the Guthrie. She wanted to go somewhere for dinner beforehand, but she ended up deciding otherwise at the last minute. Because of that, however, we both got there really early, so we had a great time conversing, […] Usually, it takes a lot of work getting together with friends. Both people are busy. There are all sorts of things. The other thing is, for me, a lot of the time, there are those moments of not being able to think of something to talk about or getting bored. I don’t remember that happening at all this time.” – Robin Rayfield, friend.

*  *  *

Penman-Krohn had her own story to share about her cousin, “Jaime has always been a person who wanted to help and understand others. There is a woman we both knew who was a drug addict. The girl brought destruction everywhere she went. One day that girl begged Jaime to take her away from her boyfriend who she felt was emotionally abusing her. Even though Jaime knew the girl spelled trouble she took her for a ride and brought her out this wooded park with trails and a creek.

“They walked around and Jaime had listened to the girl. I think she wasn’t used to being heard since everyone brushed her off as an addict. But Jaime gave her a chance to truly clear her mind and open her heart. I think it meant a lot to the girl who was struggling. I admired Jaime for that. I know I wouldn’t have given this woman a moment of my time, but Jaime gave her a whole day. She was practically a stranger to Jaime.”

Jaime Johnson is survived by her daughter, Mariah, and grandson, Zackary. Ms. Johnson’s cat, Orion, is being held by animal control. Penman-Krohn is making arrangements to foster the cat temporarily, until a permanent home can be found.

A memorial altar is being constructed at Eye of Horus in Minneapolis, and artist Shauna Aura Knight has donated one of her paintings, previously admired by Jaime, for that altar.

A traditional memorial will be held in Cannon Falls, Minnesota toward the end of August ,and a memorial that is more in line with Jaime’s own spiritual beliefs will be held October 14.

What is remembered, lives.

Posted by John Scalzi

I’m well-known for being an aficionado of Coke Zero — so much so that I was once given my own weight in the beverage by a science fiction convention —  so when Coca-Cola announced it was taking the drink off the market in place of a new, reformulated drink called “Coke Zero Sugar” it was generally thought that my reaction would be to rend garments and howl about apocalyptic seals being broken. I didn’t do any of these, but of course I was curious as to what the new stuff was like.

Well, as it happens, Coca-Cola was kind enough to ship me a couple of bottles of the stuff so I could try it out before it generally hits the market where I live. I tried it two different ways: First Coke Zero Sugar by itself, and then in a sip-by-sip comparison with regular (and soon to be departed) Coke Zero.

When I tried it by itself: I couldn’t really perceive much of a difference between it and my sense memory of Coke Zero with the first couple of swallows. It tasted enough like Coke Zero that my immediate concern (“oh god it’s gonna suck and I will have to wander the desert forever because that will be my life now”) was immediately dismissed. I’m gonna survive the switchover, folks.

After a couple more swallows it seemed to me there were two noticeable differences: It’s not as immediately acidic, and it seems a bit less carbonated. I suspect both of these possibly contribute to the “more like standard Coca-Cola” taste that the company suggests this has over regular Coke Zero. It’s a mouthfeel thing, simulating what you would get with sugar in the liquid; anyone who drinks no-sugar soda and then drinks one with sugar notes the latter feels a little syrupy. Coke Zero Sugar feels a little more like fully leaded Coke than Coke Zero.

This mouthfeel and “less acidic, less carbonated” thing was definitely more noticeable when I was alternating drinks between the two. As a Coke Zero drinker I’m used to the zingier attack of the standard stuff, and would say that overall Coke Zero Sugar is basically a slightly muted version, zing-wise, of the previous iteration.

But, as noted, when I tasted the Coke Zero Sugar in isolation I was not really finding too much difference between the two, and when I did figure out the difference, I didn’t find it objectionable or disappointing. It’s good! It’s fine! I like it! And I suspect that as the old stuff is phased out and the new stuff comes in, I’ll make the switch and continue happily with my life. The only note I would make to myself is a practical one: Coke Zero Sugar should be drunk ice cold because it seems like it goes flatter quicker, which I suspect is down to the apparent less carbonation.

(Oh, one other difference — the aftertaste. How is it different? I can’t really quantify it except to say it is. It’s not bad. It’s just there, like it is with most drinks with artificial sweeteners.)

Coca-Cola wants to suggest that Coke Zero Sugar’s taste is improved, but I think that’s a subjective judgment. I think of it as being a little different, but not so much so that I need to worry about it. Coca-Cola also says it’s more in line with standard Coke’s flavor profile, which it might be, but in my opinion Coke Zero was close enough on this score that this is a case of “why go for the A+ when you’re already getting the A.” I suspect that it’s really down to Coke wanting to accentuate the “no sugar” aspect and needing to fiddle with the formula slightly to justify the repackaging and overall marketing budget. And if that’s somewhere near the case, well, I guess, okay? Mysterious are the ways of large corporations.

But overall: Hey, Coke Zero Sugar is pretty good. I’d say it’s Coke Zero with a subtle nose job: Different, maybe better depending on your personal taste, still largely recognizable for what it is. Which works for me.


Posted by Bruce Schneier

Richard Ledgett -- a former Deputy Director of the NSA -- argues against the US government disclosing all vulnerabilities:

Proponents argue that this would allow patches to be developed, which in turn would help ensure that networks are secure. On its face, this argument might seem to make sense -- but it is a gross oversimplification of the problem, one that not only would not have the desired effect but that also would be dangerous.

Actually, he doesn't make that argument at all. He basically says that security is a lot more complicated than finding and disclosing vulnerabilities -- something I don't think anyone disagrees with. His conclusion:

Malicious software like WannaCry and Petya is a scourge in our digital lives, and we need to take concerted action to protect ourselves. That action must be grounded in an accurate understanding of how the vulnerability ecosystem works. Software vendors need to continue working to build better software and to provide patching support for software deployed in critical infrastructure. Customers need to budget and plan for upgrades as part of the going-in cost of IT, or for compensatory measures when upgrades are impossible. Those who discover vulnerabilities need to responsibly disclose them or, if they are retained for national security purposes, adequately safeguard them. And the partnership of intelligence, law enforcement and industry needs to work together to identify and disrupt actors who use these vulnerabilities for their criminal and destructive ends. No single set of actions will solve the problem; we must work together to protect ourselves. As for blame, we should place it where it really lies: on the criminals who intentionally and maliciously assembled this destructive ransomware and released it on the world.

I don't think anyone would argue with any of that, either. The question is whether the US government should prioritize attack over defense, and security over surveillance. Disclosing, especially in a world where the secrecy of zero-day vulnerabilities is so fragile, greatly improves the security of our critical systems.

Posted by John Scalzi

Thanks to a dumbass president wetting himself about North Korea and trying to hide it with bluster.

Bear in mind I think we’re almost certainly likely to be fine and everyone will climb down from their current state of rhetorical stupidity. On the other hand, having a dumbass for a president is already tiring.

On the other hand: Kate Bush is awesome. Yay, Kate!


Posted by Terence P Ward

UNITED STATES –In less than two weeks, the shadow of the moon will cross the United States from coast to coast during the most significant total solar eclipse to touch the country in nearly a century. The 70-mile-wide path of totality will run from Oregon to South Carolina, touching 14 states and allowing the curious to witness an eclipse that will last about two minutes.

No one in any other country will be able to see the eclipse in totality, earning it the nickname of “Great American Eclipse.” Pagans, among the millions of people planning on traveling to see this astronomical event, may view it with a mix of mystical reverence and scientific admiration.

Map of eclipse path [Wikipedia]

Viewing of this uncommon event may be better in western states, as the chance for clear skies is higher, but it’s likely most of the curious will travel to the closest possible spot and hope for the best. According to data compiled at greatamericaneclipse.com, nearly 90 million Americans live within a day’s drive of the event, and as many as 7.4 million people will travel to view the eclipse.

It’s likely too late to find a hotel room or campground reservation nearby any longer, as this eclipse has a number of factors boosting interest: it transits much of the country, takes place before school opens in many locales (and some schools will be closed specially), and social-media hype is raising awareness of the event.

Holli Emore lives in South Carolina, which is where people from the East Coast mostly plan to view the eclipse. Her hometown of Columbia could have its population briefly triple.

“It’s a big deal,” Emore said. “Around here, all of the hotels are sold out.” That’s why she’s glad travel is not necessary for her, saying that it “really feels like it’s an honor that I get to be right here; [there are] people from all around the world here, but I get to go to my back deck and watch it.”

Driving three or four hours is what Kirk Thomas intends to do to see it in Oregon. “I have a friend who has a friend, and this friend has got land in the line” of the eclipse, he said.

While the chances of cloudy skies are lower in his state, Thomas has a plan in case the weather is uncooperative: “Laugh sorrowfully.”

Warnings not to look at the sun, even during an eclipse, are not hyperbole. During a 2005 partial eclipse, an English schoolboy was blinded in one eye because he looked directly at it, rather than using a pinhole camera or eclipse glasses.

Even eclipse selfies can be dangerous.

A safer, and more convenient, option might be to watch as the eclipse is streamed live on the NASA web site. While technically interesting, witnesses of past eclipses often say that the experience is indescribable; emotional outbursts are not uncommon.

Being there also affords the opportunity to observe animal behavior, as well as the stars.

Emore is fascinated by the notion that hiding one star can reveal others. It’s a rare moment when what is normally hidden and what’s in plain sight switch places.

“I’m reflecting on what it means when hidden things get revealed, once in a lifetime. I’m still pondering it.”

The question of the stars is looked at astrologically by Diotima Mantineia. In the chart, she sees fire and transformation. “We’ll have plenty of inspiration to work with, but some of us may get carried away with enthusiasm — or anger. Both are very much in the air,” Mantineia said, as “is transformation, and it will help to keep in mind that sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a transformative event, things can get pretty scary.”

That same fire can be a source of courage or fearlessness, she said.

“Politically, we can expect some major firestorms. The interactions of this eclipse chart with Donald Trump’s natal chart are stunning, and, when cast for the USA, the chart suggests tremendous legal and religious dramas on a national level,” Mantineia continued.

“The chart of this eclipse will be in effect for many months to come (think of it as a tide, not a single event). How it affects each of us personally will depend on our individual natal charts, but the fiery energy will be a bit part of the zeitgeist for awhile, so stay aware and keep the cauldron fired up, as a teacher of mine was fond of saying.”

Rev. Selena Fox also intends to watch the event. “Eclipses are great opportunities for deepening our understanding of science and the cycles of nature,” Fox said.

“[They] also can be powerful occasions for transformation rituals and for celebrating nature’s wonders with other humans.”

Ritually, some Pagans may choose to let the viewing stand alone as the awe-inspiring event it’s expected to be. Emore did not share that she intends any religious work, and Thomas explicitly said he is not. That doesn’t mean that the esoteric properties of the eclipse will be ignored, however.

Tara Nelson said in a Southern Illinoisan interview, “The male and female energies associated with the sun and moon are powerful symbols to experience. With the total solar eclipse it will be easy to connect [to] and witness how the balance of the sun and moon, male and female energies are around us every day.”

According to an eclipse magic essay posted on Pagan Path, this one being in the waning year might make it ideal for “to rid yourself of unwanted energies, bad habits, unhealthy patterns of thinking and acting, negativity, and other baneful things in your life. You can work with both the new moon energy, and the waning year energy, in addition to the energy of the eclipse.”

Path of the eclipse [Wikipedia]

Nelson appeared to be on the same page, saying in her interview that for viewers the eclipse will be “a powerful time to look at their lives and allow for the energy of lightness to darkness and the return to lightness again to be used as an opportunity to decide what aspects of their lives are no longer welcome.”

For those unwilling or unable to make the journey, the Pagan Path essay does include assurances that it’s possible to work with the eclipse magically at a distance. That might be all the easier since it will be possible to have the event stream live from any handy screen.

The eclipse will become total at 10:15 local time at the Oregon coast, and travel swiftly across the country to leave American soil at 2:39 Eastern time in South Carolina. Check local listings or this site for details.

Posted by Bruce Schneier

Interesting story about Uber drivers who have figured out how to game the company's algorithms to cause surge pricing:

According to the study. drivers manipulate Uber's algorithm by logging out of the app at the same time, making it think that there is a shortage of cars.

[...]

The study said drivers have been coordinating forced surge pricing, after interviews with drivers in London and New York, and research on online forums such as Uberpeople.net. In a post on the website for drivers, seen by the researchers, one person said: "Guys, stay logged off until surge. Less supply high demand = surge."

.

Passengers, of course, have long had tricks to avoid surge pricing.

I expect to see more of this sort of thing as algorithms become more prominent in our lives.

Posted by The Wild Hunt

VIRGINIA BEACH, Vir. — It is being reported that 37-year-old Jaime Johnson was killed Aug. 2 in her home on Sutter Street in Virginia Beach. There is currently a police investigation underway, but officials have not yet released any specific details about the case.

Originally from Minnesota, Jaime was well-known across the American Pagan community. She was a member of Morrigu’s Daughters, which is part of the larger Tuatha de Morrigan group, a tribe of Morrigan devotees who attend the Morrigan’s Call retreat each year.

Vyviane Armstrong was in the process of helping Johnson plan a retreat to Ireland for 2018. Armstrong said, “Jaime was a brave, kind and beautiful soul. Like so many others I fell in love instantly upon meeting her. I am heartbroken at our loss.”

According to official reports, the local police “responded to the [Sutter Street home] regarding a request to check on the welfare of the occupants. Upon arrival officers located an adult female and an adult male, deceased.” The murder is currently being “investigated as a homicide/suicide, domestic in nature.” Family and friends are reporting that the adult male was Johnson’s boyfriend, and that the couple lived in the home for only a few months.

We will have more on this story in the coming days.

  *    *    *

MINNEAPOLIS —  Lewellyn Worldwide has a new acquisitions editor. A former editor of Circle Magazine and Pagan Spirit Gathering organizer, Florence Edwards-Miller has joined the team at the Minnesota-based publishing house. Edwards-Miller said, “Pagans have often been described as a ‘people of the library,’ rather than a ‘people of the book.’ Llewellyn Worldwide has done really amazing things for our Pagan community, particularly in the past several years.”

Edwards-Miller will be joining current and longtime acquisitions editor Elysia Gallo. “I’m extremely excited that they’re interested in expanding their offerings for our community and truly honored to be asked to help,” said Edwards-Miller. “I think that Llewellyn recognizes that our spiritual community is growing and becoming more diverse, and I’m looking forward to being a part of producing books that will meet our needs.”

  *    *    *

CALIFORNIA — The Coru Cathubodua, a priesthood dedicated to the Morrigan, announced that the organization has become an incorporated church in the state of California. Communication chief Patrick Garretson wrote, “This Lughnasadh was a big stepping stone for our priesthood. In addition to bringing on a new Coru dedicant priest [Barbara Cormack] and establishing the Hearth with two new members [Addy Street and Leah Samhain], we are also happy to announce that as of August 1, we have taken the first step towards being a 501(c)(3).”

The organization  has been working toward becoming a church and eventually earning full tax-exempt status for quite sometime. Garretson told The Wild Hunt, “This will help us serve a broader membership base, receive tax-deductible donations, and have a legal structure and protections to help facilitate the growth of our order.”  The organizations leaders “foresee broadening [their] presence to communities outside the Bay Area in time and being able to offer more clergy services to the Morrigan devotees and other Celtic polytheists.”  They want to build a lasting tradition and community.

Garretson said, “Establishing our church status and broadening membership will enable us to do that.” While there are still many steps to take before earning tax-exempt status, he said that the “timing of this official change seems fitting. Hail Lugh!”

In other news

  • Many in the U.S. Pagan community continue to offer support to the Grimassis, who lost their home in a fire in July. The organizers of the Magickal Marketplace teamed up with A Sacred Place, both based in New Hampshire, and held a benefit concert Aug. 5 to help raise money for the couple. Performers included Jenna Greene Band and Myschyffe Managed, as well as the Mike OJ the Magician. Raven Grimassi has since offered thanks, saying “I feel very grateful for the support and blessings of this great community.” He also praised the organizers, adding: “There is something greater here. It’s the fact that in our community we have people who uplift others in times of hardship. We have people who step outside of their own lives to make a positive difference in the lives of others. We have selfless light-bearers.”
  • The Foundation for Shamanic Studies has just released a new film titled The Way of the Shaman: The Work of Michael and Sandra Harner. “The movie honors and celebrates the Harners’ pioneering work in the history and development of core shamanism. It is a […] look at the people behind the evolution of a groundbreaking spiritual healing methodology that honors and builds upon the ancient knowledge of the world’s shamans.” The movie is free to watch online.
  • Covenant of the Goddess kicks off its annual Merry Meet event Aug. 10 beginning with a full-day leadership institute. This year’s theme is With Visions of the Past and Memories of the Future. The organization invites “all Witches to participate.” CoG’s annual business meeting grand council begins the next day, Aug. 11, and continues through Aug 13. This year, Merry Meet is being held in Ontario, Calif.
  • Another Pagan organization, the Temple of Witchcraft, is getting ready to host its annual event TempleFest. The four-day festival, which is now in its eighth year, will be held at the “beautiful Sargent Center in Hancock, New Hampshire.” This year’s special guest is Ivo Dominguez, Jr. TempleFest will be held from Aug 17-21.
  • Aug. 21 is getting nearer, bringing with it a full solar eclipse. Pagan around the country are planning rituals and meditations on that day. Are you planning something religious or spiritual during this time? Let us know.

Posted by John Scalzi

Update, 8/10/17: I’ve decided to stay on the ballot. Here’s the reasoning.

The other day I announced The Collapsing Empire was a finalist for the Dragon Award in the Best Science Fiction novel category, which was neat. Today, I notified the Dragon Award administrators and let them know I was withdrawing The Collapsing Empire from consideration for the award.

The reason is simple: Some other finalists are trying to use the book and me as a prop, to advance a manufactured “us vs. them” vote-pumping narrative based on ideology or whatever. And I just… can’t. I don’t have the interest and I’m on a deadline, and this bullshit is even more stale and stupid now than it was the several other times it was attempted recently, with regard to genre awards.

My plan was to ignore it, but on further reflection (and further evidence that this nonsense was going to continue through the finalist voting period), I decided this was the better course. To the extent this bullshit manufactured narrative is centered on me, well, now it’s not, as far as these awards are concerned. I’m delighted to be able to chop it off at the knees by removing myself from consideration. I wish the progenitors of this narrative luck; now they will have to compete with the other finalists on the basis of the quality of their work instead. They’re going to need all the help they can get with that.

(Mind you, what I expect is the “us vs. them” folks to try to shift their target to someone else. Because that’s the only trick they know, bless their hearts.)

To be clear, the problem is not with the Dragon Awards or their administrators, the latter of whom have been unfailingly gracious in my communications with them. I wish them all the best with their awards. I encourage people to vote for the awards and for the finalists whose stories move them.

And once more thanks to the folks who nominated The Collapsing Empire for the Dragon Award. I do appreciate the nomination, and the novel making the finalist list. You all made me happy.


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