New entry May 06
Critters is 25!
This November, Critters is 25 years old! Wow! Thanks so much to all of you, who've made it such a resounding success!
Books from Critters!
Check out Books by Critters for books by your fellow Critterfolk, as well as my list of recommended books for writers.
The Sigil TrilogyIf you're looking for an amazing, WOW! science fiction story, check out THE SIGIL TRILOGY. This is — literally — one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read.
Space Travel for SF Writers
Hot off the presses from ReAnimus Press! Space Travel - A Science Fiction Writer's Guide— An indispensible tool for all SF writers that explains the science you need to help you make your fiction plausible. (Also via Amazon)
I was interviewed live on public radio for Critters' birthday, for those who want to listen.
Free Web Sites
Free web sites for authors (and others) are available at www.nyx.net.
ReAnimus Acquires Advent!
ReAnimus Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of the legendary Advent Publishers! Advent is now a subsidiary of ReAnimus Press, and we will continue to publish Advent's titles under the Advent name. Advent was founded in 1956 by Earl Kemp and others, and has published the likes of James Blish, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, Damon Knight, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and many others. Advent's high quality titles have won and been finalists for several Hugo Awards, such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy and Heinlein's Children. Watch this space for ebook and print editions of all of Advent's current titles!
THE SIGIL TRILOGY: The universe is dying from within... "Great stuff... Really enjoyed it." — SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock
Announcing ReAnimus Press
If you're looking for great stuff to read from bestselling and award-winning authors—look no further! ReAnimus Press was founded by your very own Critter Captain. (And with a 12% Affiliate program.) [More]
From email@example.com Tue Sep 2 17:23:18 MDT 1997 Newsgroups: sff.workshop.critters Subject: Time to kill this newsgroup? I think it's time we all discussed the future of this newsgroup. Recent flame wars in here have led me to question whether a "Critters newsgroup" is such a good idea. I'm thinking of shutting it down. Here's where I'm coming from: - The primary function of Critters is as an e-mail based critique group. Not a social group. A newsgroup is not a _necessity_. - A secondary function of Critters, which _could_ be furthered by the newsgroup, is Networking: getting to know other writers/editors, especially pros; making friends, getting to know them, and them to know you. - Readers of a newsgroup called "sff.workshop.critters" naturally associate our behavior in here with our behavior as a critique group. Postings here, and their authors, are thus Ambassadors of Critters. - Guests have always been welcomed. However, a guest reading postings in the newsgroup cannot tell if someone is an active member of critters, a former member, or has never been a member. (FYI, about half the posters and postings, by my rough estimate, are from active critters; the other half are from inactive/former members and never-beens. Only a small percent of active critters ever post, and I doubt that a majority of critters even read the newsgroup.) Thus even acerbic guests reflect badly on "real" Critters. - The people in this newsgroup (critter members and not) are super-nice folks. Most of the time. It's the other tiny fraction of the time that's at issue. - I am aware of multiple pro authors who have judged Critters, the workshop, by critters, the newsgroup. Judged us poorly. And decided not to join as a direct result. Another case occurred just yesterday. - I am aware of other pro authors who say that the Critters newsgroup is not a place they want to be (for reasons like the above). The most recent -- of many examples -- is Liz Holliday, a pro writer and editor. - These incidents reflect poorly not only on Critters as a workshop, but on each member of Critters, as both individuals and writers. - In fact, some guests don't even realize there's an e-mail based workshop that is what Critters is really about. - I have witnessed numerous flames in the newsgroup where posters (active critters and not) treat each other with such discourtesy and contempt it makes me ashamed to have created the newsgroup. - I've tried various things to remedy this problem, to no avail. Such as: - Head in sand: Hoped people would learn from past mistakes and we'd sail smoothly. Buzz. - Education: Posting and saying folks ought to behave decently toward one another. Loud sound of nobody listenting. - Explaining away: Telling offended or unimpressed pros not to judge the workshop by the newsgroup. No results. - Selective rebuking: Tried taking people to task privately, selectively, tactfully, for being discourteous. Ignored or their empty shoes filled.. - Shock treatment: The y'all need to take a look at yourselves thread. Just caused more of the same (not unexpectedly). - Note that I'm not opposed to vigorous discussion. I love it. But debating _issues_ does not require being impolite. (If anyone wants to say "Yeah, it does, people are just prone to taking offense any time someone utters an opposing viewpoint or corrects a factual error," then I'd reply: We don't need that. Plenty of places on the net to sling mud. Visit talk.abortion, alt.flame, etc.) People don't have to agree, but in an Ambassadorial Newsgroup they need to remain courteous at all times when disagreeing. Given a choice between Yet Another Place To Debate Issues and keeping the critters newsgroup civil, I'd choose civility. - I see this as a problem on two grounds. Primarily: it's a detriment to the real purposes of Critters; I'm going to ensure the usefullness of the e-mail based workshop, at the expense of the newsgroup, if need be. Secondarily: because I personally feel strongly about the issue of people being disrespectful to others and the resulting problems. I can only shout into the wind about the latter, but I am responsible, as your Critter Captain, for the former. - I'm not even entirely opposed to knock-down-drag-out newsgroups. Sometimes folks just need to vent, and if everyone knows that they're in a hot zone, so be it. But "sff.workshop.critters" does not, by it's name, clue in your average reader that they're entering a war zone (and you must have it in the name else you risk pissing off folks you'd rather not annoy). It's not called sff.workshop.critters-n-flame-wars. Note that I've enjoyed my share of flamefests in other newsgroups over the years. Alt.flame, talk.abortion, other hot-button topics -- fine, I expect that sort of behavior there, and that's cool by me. Even in your average, random newsgroup, these things happen. But flamewars are an especially bad thing for the Critters newsgroup to harbor. (Unless you want Critters to be known as a bunch of flaming asses, which I do not, thank you very much.) - And just to be really clear about things, since I can imagine someone bringing this up: I am not doing this because I'm ticked off that people flamed me back for my postings in the newsgroup. I'm not ticked off about that. I hoped I might shock people into even a grudging courtesy; but I expected it would fail and that I'd get flamed in return. Hey, I'm a veteran of the net, and have run a 10,000 user ISP for over ten years; it's not inconceivable that I've been flamed more times than everyone here has ever posted flames, total! In just one instance, in the span of about a month, I was publicly flamed over a thousand times by a disgruntled Nyx user (in fact, years later, this guy is _STILL_ going on about it, so I hear :-). I've tangled with many of the most Infamous Flamers on the net. So, while I'm personally not a fan of flames, I'm not doing this out of any petty retribution because nobody listened to me or claptrap like that. I'm doing this because it's hurting Critters. Even the vast majority who're not posting here are being harmed. This bad, Kimosabe. So let's talk about solutions, because I'm not of a mind to let it continue the way it has been. Here are the solutions I see off the top of my head: 1) Frequent educational postings. I could post a weekly disclaimer sort of message ("hey, readers of this newsgroup, bear in mind that obnoxious postings (a) don't represent Critters as a whole or the workshop and (b) may not even be written by an active member") plus reminders to play nice with each other. Yeah, right. Next. 2) Moderation -- having a moderator who screens and approves each posting. Blech. I sure as heck don't have time for it, and it's a thankless job I wouldn't wish on anyone. Slows down posting times to hours at best, frequently days and weeks. Moderators don't last long, make frequent mistakes, have to deal with lots of crap. A lousy solution. 3) Enforce politeness via Retro-Moderation. That is, state in the newsgroup guidelines (which do exist, BTW; see faq.html on the Critters web page) that discourtesy simply and absolutely won't be tolerated. Give a few people authority to cancel any postings that they feel violate the edict. I'm sure folks will cry "censorship" and "freedom of speech" but I want to remind everyone that (a) those words only apply to governments denying speech; (b) we already tolerate moderated newsgroups and publications whose content is chosen by editors; and (c) there are gazillions of other places on the net to be as obnoxious as you want. On the downside, this only acts after the fact (though it has some preventive value, folks knowing their posts may be nuked). It requires people to do the work (which they'll be flamed for). It feels authoritarian; yech. It quite possibly will lead to those same people getting big heads, getting power hungry, abusing their power, etc. Quite a hassle. 4) Renaming the newsgroup. (I.e., removing the word "critters" from the name of the newsgroup, since that's what binds the two together.) The problems here are that if the newsgroup is not a critters newsgroup, then there's really no reason for it; folks could just as easily use any of the other 500ish sff.net newsgroups. The point was to have a place to be social, meet other critters. You also lose any sort of group identity vis-a-vis socializing. It would seem inappropriate to post Critter-specific messages to such a newsgroup. Yet if Critters treated it like a Critters-only newsgroup, others would get pretty ticked at the high and mighty attitude. If guests get the feeling that it's just a thinly veiled critters newsgroup, we'll still suffer from their negative perceptions. For it to work, there'd have to be significant non-critter-associated activity. Yog (Sff.net news admin) might not want a "general chat newsgroup", prefering folks fan out into the existing, more specific newsgroups. So, this is really pretty much the same as... 5) Remove the newsgroup. Sad, but gets the job done. I'd like to hear what y'all prefer. My personal preference is tied between 3 and 4 right now (with 4 leading to something like "sff.workshop.socializing" or "sff.workshop.bar-n-grill" if Yog is willing to grant such a thing (the former encouraging better behavior by it's more 'refined' name, the latter implying that fights are not unlikely); of course, I wouldn't be opposed to sff.flaming-asses, either, since it wouldn't have a Critters tie-in, except that the eponymous residents might be members of Critters). The reason I'm tied with 3 is that I feel sort of sad losing a critters-specific newsgroup, because most of you are really nice folks most of the time, and I secretly wish we could all Just Get Along. Alas, time has proven that the current scheme simply isn't working. I'm going to make a change. I'm extremely interested in your feedback, and will listen to it attentively, but this is one of those cases where I'll exert my authority as benevolent dictator and make the final decision that's in the best interests of Critters, the workshop.