Digest 3

Several items in this digest are a few days old, but some are quite current, too.

  • You should read this entire New Yorker commentary on illegal immigration:

    [Illegal immigration apprehension numbers along the Arizona border] are sharply down, according to the Border Patrol — by more than sixty per cent since 2000 […] Illegal immigration, although hard to measure, has clearly been declining. […]

    The problem of illegal immigration isn’t a matter of violent criminals storming the walls of our peaceful towns and cities. It’s a matter of what to do about the estimated eleven million unauthorized residents who are already here. The mass-deportation fantasies of some restrictionists notwithstanding, the great majority of “illegals” are here to stay. That is a good thing, since they are, for a start, essential to large sectors of the economy, beginning with the food supply — the Department of Labor calculates that more than half the crop pickers in the United States are undocumented. National business leaders have no illusions about these basic facts of economic life.

    There are reasons to be uneasy about illegal immigration. In some industries, dirt-poor newcomers lower wages. State and local budgets suffer when workers are paid under the table. The fact that people lack legal status is itself disturbing. […] Yet anti-immigrant backlashes don’t always track closely with actual immigration. They track with unemployment, popular anxiety, and a fear of displacement by strangers. They depend on woeful narratives of national decline, of which there is lately no shortage. Scaremongering works. […]

    Projections show white Americans becoming a USA demographic minority in the 2040s. Anyone got an idea what, with present voting trends, that’d do to current Republicans? I think that has a lot to do with the rightwing’s anti-illegal immigration position.

  • At Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow mentions a £1,000-prize fiction-writing contest that insisted, for the alleged betterment of humankind, that contestants handwrite their entries and avoid science fiction. Nobody entered the contest.

  • INCEPTION’s tangled plot conflicts Nancy Kress:

    INCEPTION is, in microcosm, the state of much current [science fiction]. It is so complex and self-referential that much time is spent figuring out what is happening, rather than inhabiting what is happening. Is this good or bad? I guess that depends why you like stories. […] If you want them to be reflections of human experience, then INCEPTION is still good but not as good as it could have been […] judging from the enthusiastic audience reaction last night, puzzles are what is wanted. People applauded at the end.

    Kate and I haven’t seen it yet. Despite Roger Ebert and William Gibson complimenting the movie — those two would make a great movie-reviewing duo — we might not get around to seeing this one at all. And, I have to say that right now I’m really enjoying the Kress novel Beggars in Spain.

  • The NYT praises health reform implementation thus far.

  • The Washington Post publishes its two-year project exposing the Top Secret America surveillance and intelligence industry. In case you’ve forgotten about it, here’s the Fourth Amendment:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  • Literary agent Nathan Bransford with his top 10 myths about our eBook future.

  • Sleepwalking woman on Ambien sends emails about her dreams — Discover Magazine can haz it, or the protagonist from INCEPTION can, I guess.

  • New interview with Ted Chiang, spear-famed writer of quite brainy science fiction:

    I started submitting stories for publication when I was about 15, but it was many years before I sold anything. I don’t make my living writing science fiction so in that sense I’m still not a pro. Writing for publication was always my goal, but making a living writing science fiction wasn’t. […]

    Science fiction is very well suited to asking philosophical questions; questions about the nature of reality, what it means to be human, how do we know the things that we think we know. When philosophers propose thought experiments as a way of analyzing certain questions, their thought experiments often sound a lot like science fiction.

    Buy his short story collection!

  • My Clarion West ’08 classmate Carlton Mellick III and the rest of the Bizarro writer army make The Guardian and Boing Boing. Carlton was a fun guy, extremely talented, and extremely sincere in a way that was still informed — not dewy-eyed.

  • A Boing Boing post discusses The Bechdel Test, a few quick questions that help evaluate the representation of women in any movie.

  • At GalleyCat, novelist Bret Easton Ellis says writers will make more money due to eBooks, not less, in part because of the decreased costs of producton allowing for higher royalties.



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