Open letter to Government of Canada against new online harms rules

Dear members of the Canadian government’s “Digital Citizen Initiative,”
I am writing to express my alarm and disapproval over the proposed “online harms rules” legislation that the Canadian government now proposes—a combination, it seems, of the worst, most rights-violating regulations adopted in other jurisdictions, many of which aren’t exactly known as bastions of democracy and expressive freedoms.
Your proposed legislation’s combination of
* prohibitions of broad and poorly defined speech categories;
* disproportionate penalties for insufficient blocking; and
* requirement of rapid compliance without time for adequate assessment or counter-notifications
all guarantee that the major tech firms, on which the onus of your proposed regulations falls, will block all kinds of legitimate speech — and will disproportionately affect marginalized and minorities to persons and communities, as has been shown where such rules have been implemented elsewhere. (See @doctorow’s analysis and that by U Ottawa professor Michael Geist.) Online harms rules have proven a human rights disaster in other jurisdictions; France’s rules were recently ruled as unconstitutional.
I urge you to take this whole proposal either back to the proverbial drawing board—or entirely off the table. The Canadian government surely has bigger and more urgent priorities then over-regulating and preferentially censoring citizens’ constitutional expressive rights and freedoms.
Sincerely
– Mark A. McCutcheon
Professor, Literary Studies
Chair, Centre for Humanities
Athabasca University

[PS: Have your say—contact the Government of Canada’s “Digital Citizen Initiative” to tell them what you think of the new online harms rules legislation.]

Review of The Expanse TV series

with apology for an erratum

A new review of The Expanse TV series, co-written by SFF writer Heather Clitheroe and yours truly, is out today in the SFRA Review.

The Expanse may ruin other space opera for you…It’s worth it.”

And then the Expanse creators shared a very kind shout-out about the piece…making today this fan’s best ever May the 4th.

An unlooked-for kindness that an astute reader promptly rendered ironic by observing (to my mortification) that I’d misrepresented an Indigenous actor’s identity:

In working to correct this error, I’m reminded how attentive, sensitive readers like this speak to the calibre of the series and its capacity to generate and (mayhaps) organize such ardent community.

Forthcoming articles and reviews

I’m excited to announce a bunch of newly written (and co-written) articles and reviews have been accepted for publication and are forthcoming soon:

  • McCutcheon, Mark A. “Reading poetry and its paratexts for evidence of fair dealing.” Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne, in press.
  • —-. “Paratextual and ‘sampladelic’ techniques for ‘committing centonism’ in contemporary poetry published in Canada.” Cento-Texts in the Making: Aesthetics and Poetics of Cento-Techniques from Homer to Zong!, edited by Manuel Baumbach, Bochumer Altertumswissenschaftliches Colloquium series, in press.
  • —. “Frankenstein meets the FAANG five: figures of monstrous technology in digital media discourse.” Beyond Modern Science: Essays on Frankenstein and STEAM for Charles E. Robinson, edited by Robin Hammerman. Delaware UP, in press.
  • Clitheroe, Heather and Mark A. McCutcheon. Review of The Expanse [TV series]. SFRA Review, in press.
  • McCutcheon, Mark A. Review of The Monster Theory Reader, edited by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, U of Minnesota P, 2020. Extrapolation, in press.

“This Machine Chills Copyright Bots”: a #DJmix coda to #FairDealingWeek

A mad mash of Billie Eilish, Deadmau5, Lil Jon, Carly Rae Jepsen, Armand Van Helden, Public Enemy, Young Galaxy et al:

The general idea here’s a thick mix–2-4 tracks playing at most times* (all in the key of Gm/Bb)–seeking to scramble copyright bots’ capacity to discern properties; and in the process to share a genre-bent (#twotone) music mix for use in your socials that hopefully won’t get taken down by copyright bots. Which are just the worst judges of #fairuse and #fairdealing. (If you do use this mix but find your socials take it down, I’d welcome a comment about it.)
What CV Dazzle is to face recognition tech, a mix like this wants to be to automated copyright enforcement. And a coda to #fairdealingweek.
(* except the intermezzo with Sasha’s “Xpander”)

This mix, btw, began as an improvised #ValentinesDay jam for my basement #rollerskating fam…which I add to reflect how critique proceeds as a labour of love.

Downloadable-file version: TBA. Here’s the full track list:

“Alien is the thing that made me want to write the books”: Ty Franck

Alien is the thing that made me want to write the books and the screenplays for the show,” says Ty Franck—half of the authorial team known by their nom de plume, James S.A. Corey—on the 16 Dec. 2020 episode of The Expanse Aftershow. Talking with Thomas Jane, director of season 5’s third episode, “Mother”, and Wes Chatham, Franck expounds:

“The movie Alien is the single largest influence on The Expanse. I saw that movie when I was, like, I think ten or eleven, and it never left my mind…so, the two characters in Alien that are what The Expanse is, is Parker and Brett. Two guys in jumpsuits walking around fixing pipes on a spaceship, and they’re treating it like a job. They’re not starfleet, they’re not admirals, they’re not like Klingons. They’re a couple of guys with pipe wrenches fixing stuff and complaining they don’t get as much money as everybody else…those guys, those two guys are the foundation of The Expanse.”

As a scholar of science fiction’s representations of labour, I find Franck’s reflection a helpful specification of the source material for The Expanse’s refreshingly sympathetic depictions of organized labour. I find three particular things striking about his words here:

  • It’s a clear, co-authorial assertion of labour and working-class perspective as an oppositional premise (“they’re not…”), and thus as both an aesthetic and an ethos;
  • It’s an open acknowledgment of intertextual influence and (unlicensed) adaptation, and so it models transformative fair use (as does a lot of SF, to be fair); and
  • In the process of explaining Alien’s influence, Franck also names—inadvertently, perhaps, but suggestively—two other SF classics, viz., “foundation” and “the thing.”

10 of the best books I read in 2020

In chronological order (of when I read them):

  1. Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year
  2. James S.A. Corey, The Expanse (series)
  3. Ursula K. Leguin, The Lathe of Heaven
  4. Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
  5. Natalee Caple, Love in the Chthulucene (Cthulhucene)
  6. Shirley Jackson, Novels & Stories
  7. Dionne Brand, Luce Ostinata / Tenacious Light
  8. Joshua Whitehead, Full-Metal Indigiqueer
  9. Jeffrey Weinstock, ed., The Monster Theory Reader
  10. Philip Pullman, The Book Of Dust (series)

“Ravel” by Mary Dalton (a cento from Hooking, 2013)

This weekend I’m giving a talk at the Interdisciplinary Workshop on the Technique of Cento Texts, hosted by the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. The poem I’ll be discussing as a case study is “Ravel” by Mary Dalton, from her book of centos, Hooking (Véhicule P, 2013). I’m sharing an annotated copy of that poem here so other delegates can read it, since it is hard enough to find in Canada, never mind elsewhere. (I’m sharing this copy under educational fair dealing auspices, and will delete it from this post after the weekend.)

Ol’ Dirty Cohen and The Wu Tang Wang Chung Clan

Recently, a colleague accidentally referred to Wang Chung as the Wu Tang Clan, and to Leonard Cohen as Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Most took this as a good joke. I took it as a DJ challenge. Here’s an hour-long mix in which Cohen duets with ODB and Wang Chung jams with the Wu Tang Clan.
You do two-tone your way, I’ll do mine.

Downloadable mp3 version

Track list:


Link

New post at my other blog: “On fielding a press inquiry about how pop culture depicts the oil industry”

English professors don’t often get press inquiries, but a writer for EnergyWire, an oil business-facing news service, contacted me last week to ask what I think of the video for Justin Bieber’s new song “Holy.”…

A Shoegaze Abecedarius: new music mix & tracklist

An A-to-Z of my shoegaze faves, from Asobi Seksu to Zoon.
Because shoegaze is an August 2020 mood.
Complete tracklist below.