Internet Paranoia

Here’s an odd case — I got a letter in the mail yesterday, an actual physical piece of paper with type on it and a pen-signed signature at the bottom. And no reference to an e-mail address or website!

Well, actually, that’s not why it’s odd. It’s odd because the writer is “shocked” to discover that he has found his name in the online version of the Locus Index to Science Fiction, attributing to him two pieces published in a small-press ‘zine in the early ’90s, and he is afraid these references in an online “computer database” will leave him open to “identity theft”, which he has already been victim to, as a result of which he is “desperately” trying to remove all mentions of his name on the Internet.

And he insists that his name be removed from the website.

So I Googled his name, and sure enough found it on another 8 or 10 websites, including Amazon, as a result of similar “literary indiscretions” (as he puts it) in various journals and anthologies. I wonder if he is contacting all those sites too.

I suppose I should write him a (snail mail) response, but needless to say, Locus has no intention of deleting references in our Index to the contents of published journals and magazines. (Even I were the compiler of the Locus Index of Science Fiction, which I’m not.)

On a similar note, on my trip last month I picked up Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur (Doubleday) in an airport bookshop. It was suitable airplane reading. It’s subtitled “how today’s internet is killing our culture”, and the general theme is that the interactivity of “Web 2.0″, with amateur bloggers and Wikipedia posters, is undermining the concept of truth in our culture, which he says is supposed to be determined by “experts”, academic or otherwise. To a small extent, he has a case: the popularity of free content on the web is, in fact, robbing traditional print newspapers of their circulation base. Book reviews in papers, for example, are shrinking. But the tone of the book is unrelieved alarm: oh my goodness, it’s the fall of Western civilization. This is not a book that cites the comparative errors rates of Wikipedia vs. Britannica. He resorts to anecdotes about folks addicted to Internet gambling, to implicitly condemn everything electronic. Sigh. I was surprised, in the week or two since, to see the book getting serious review coverage — The New York Times, even. There is always someone. Or two.

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