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Writers Beware!

BoingBoing recently broke this story, which is something anyone who is interested in genre fiction needs to take interest in. A University of Florida graduate student wrote a horror story on his LiveJournal which got the interest of the university police. They have been harassing him for his fingerprints and DNA so they can try to match him to other murders. The unstoppable force that is Cory Doctorow got involved, calling and investigating, with the police quite unwilling to discuss the situation, although they chose to use Doctorow’s interest in the situation as more ammo with which to threaten the student. There is no case. There are no charges. And yet they won’t lay off this guy.

Writing is not a crime. Writing about bad things is not a crime. Being an unpublished writer, writing about bad things, is not a crime. (Notice no one going after big time authors.)

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In other news. SciFi Wire reports that Dabel Brothers Productions will start adapting some popular SFF novels to graphic novels. If they do it half as well as Mike Carey and Glenn Fabry are depicting Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, look to see some good stuff. The first three titles up will be Orson Scott Card’s Red Prophet and Wyrms and Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake book, Guilty Pleasures.

[EDIT- these are not the first titles, these are the first of a new batch. They’ve been doing this with other titles already. Thanks for the comment, John!]

Comments (12)

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  1. Well, those aren’t the *first* three titles DB Pro will be adapting–they’re just the first of their new batch of titles. They’ve already adapted several others–George RR Martin’s The Hedge Knight, and The Wood Boy by Raymond Feist, for example.

  2. anon says:

    “Snowspinner”/Phil Sandifer is no innocent, this is simply bad karma coming back to bite him in the ass…
    It’s all very easy to go “look at this guy he’s been abused by the authorities he’s standing up against the Man!” – but when you know what he’s like you wouldn’t. He *is* The Man on Wikipedia, and is responsible for a hell of a lot of corruption and nastiness there.

    [[Wikipedia:Arbitration_Committee_Elections_January_2006/Vote/Snowspinner#Oppose]]:
    “Hot tempered, abuses administration powers”
    “A POV warrior who abuses admin powers”
    “block-happy.”
    “Constant problems with incivility”
    “Confrontational, has a piling-on mentality and is arbitrary and unjust in the use of his admin authority.”
    “Arrogant and disrespectful.”
    “No confidence in this editors ability to check his ego at the Wiki door”
    “His recent behaviour is an abomination.”
    “Frankly, he should be banned completely…”

    [[Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Snowspinner_3]]

  3. Mur says:

    You know, anon, being a complete jerk is also not a crime. And if it were, it is not the crime for whicht they are trying to investigate him.

    Look at the larger picture. This sets a precedent – if someone doesn’t like something you write, they can call the police???

    If someone I dislike greatly was being wrongfully persecuted, I’d like to think that I would still stand up for his rights.

  4. Someone didn’t like what Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, and shot him. I’d rather it were the police.

  5. Elizabeth Moon says:

    If a random nutcase or a political opponent doesn’t like your work and shoots you, at least it will be investigated as a murder. Your reputation will be intact; your legacy will be unsullied.

    If the police go after you, not only might they shoot you, but it won’t be investigated as a murder (“He was resisting arrest” seems to work in Texas.) They can make your life miserable, taking up hours of your time, ruining your reputation, and this can go on for years. With bad luck on your part, you’ll find yourself indicted for crimes you didn’t commit, convicted because of rules that allow prosecutors to conceal evidence that would exonerate you, and stuck in prison for the rest of your life.

    So the person who informs the police that someone should be investigated because the informant doesn’t like him or doesn’t like his writing causes a lot of damage (the investigation alone causes damage.) That person is, in my view, exhibiting his/her own signs of psychological problems…that’s malicious behavior, and malicious behavior reveals hostility, and hostility can escalate. If someone of the same opinions as Anonymous really did “tip off” the campus police just to make trouble for Mr. Sandifer, that person is far more dangerous (and deserves to be outed.)

    Bad situation either way. But the real issue here is the myth–widely believed and quite wrong–that fiction isn’t really fiction: that writers have done in reality, or might do in reality, everything they write about…so someone who writes about voyeurism or murder is suspected of voyeurism or murder.

    That myth contributes to the pressure to erode freedom of expression, not least by scaring some writers away from writing without regard to opinion, and some publishers away from publishing “controversial” material. The fear of such harrassment is something each writer has to resist, if freedom is to mean anything at all.

  6. Samuel Tinianow says:

    I really don’t see any room for debate on any side of the issue (Mur put it best: there is no case). However, if there’s anything resembling a petition calling for the resignation of the officers involved, you can bet I’d like to find it. Thought Police are something that should never be seen outside of science fiction, especially in an academic setting.

  7. Simon says:

    I’d find it a lot easier to jump on this freedom of speech bandwagon if the story wasn’t so godawful bad… At least when Oscar Wilde was on trial we were defending one of the great wits of the English language. This man’s just a bit crap.

  8. Linda says:

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    Most commonly attributed to Voltaire, but came from Steven Tallentyre originally.

    The story may be shit, but it’s his right to write crap. You don’t HAVE to read it, unless like me, you’re doing so out of a sick fascination with how goofy it can get – same reason i read Stephen King, and HE didn’t commit the horrible murders in HIS books any more than this dumbass killed people.

  9. Mike says:

    Blog Anonymously!

  10. “Blog anonymously” is, to me, not the solution. In fact, it gives more power to those who would suppress free expression. What kind of world will we have if we are compelled to hide our identities because we fear persecution over what we’ve written?

    I say, blog with your full, given name… especially if what you write may be offensive to the powers that be.

    And as far as the attitude that it’s somehow less offensive when “bad” writing (or expression) is persectuted… well, let’s remember what Niechtze said about staring into the abyss.

  11. dedenf says:

    things like this in my country(indonesia) happen sometimes, even it’s not a cop who do that, but the person who self-claimed person as the telematic and internet expert, his name is roy suryo, he always accussing the blogger is who ruin the internet world, he believe that blogger doesn’t have any valid data. even he report a blogger to the cop just because he(blooger) write about the prove of the photo manipulation one of indonesian celebrity.
    enda and priyadi wrote about that fact too.
    after all roy suryo is dislike the blog/blogger and always attack blogger one way and another.