Pub Rants

We Interrupt This Daily Blog to Bring You Two News Flashes

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STATUS: Dashing out to meetings soon. I did plan a write up my most recent notes but two headlines pre-empted my intention. These are too good to pass up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TRAIN IN VAIN by Clash

The first story is just brilliant. From the Washington Post:

DHS Enlists Sci-Fi Writers to Imagine Future Dangers
The line between what’s real and what’s not is thin and shifting, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has decided to explore both sides. Boldly going where few government bureaucracies have gone before, the agency is enlisting the expertise of science fiction writers.

The second story clearly illustrates that the “pen” is mightier than the sword. Never underestimate the fury of book lovers or the power of the internet to enact change. Power to the People! A wrong has been righted.

The Philippines 2009 Book Blockade

Earlier this month (
Shelf Awareness, May 4, 2009), Hemley had written about “The Great Book Blockade of 2009,” (also seen in McSweeny’s) in which customs officials in the Philippines began requiring that duty be paid on all incoming books.

Hemley reported that, “Within a day or two of my story going online, bloggers all over the Philippines had caught it and were reproducing and commenting upon it, and hundreds and then thousands of book lovers were voicing their outrage. . . . Soon, the story hit the mainstream media in the Philippines when Manuel Quezon III wrote a column for the Philippine Inquirer, also titled ‘The Great Book Blockade of 2009.’

Now the story had gone beyond the blogosphere and other media started picking it up.” Finding himself “more or less at the center of this controversy,” Hemley was even contacted by a U.S. Embassy official “who told me that if there’s one lesson he had learned from this it’s that ‘we have greatly underestimated the power and reach of the internet as an organizational tool in the Philippines.'”

Hemley added, “As I write this, I’ve just heard from a friend that President Arroyo has lifted the book blockade, that effective immediately, there will be no taxes on imported books. Together, Filipino book lovers have performed what I consider a miracle in less than a month’s time.”

14 Responses

  1. Kathleen Dante said:

    My first thought on reading the second story was to wonder how many copies of Twilight that importer was bringing in. The term “commercial quantity” comes to mind. Back in college, I was charged duties on ex-library books I bought in the States and brought home to the Philippines because they were considered “commercial quantity” even though I only had one copy per title. Second, even the Philippine post office charges an import duty on books. I had to pay a 5% import duty, 12% VAT (value added tax) plus assorted fees on my author copies that were sent by media mail. You can bet the next shipment by media mail got rejected.

  2. Eika said:

    That first article was in my weekend paper. It’s already cut out, and I’m trying to find a place of glory for it on the wall.

    The second one… *shakes head*

  3. ORION said:

    I think it’s great…creativity and imagination have always taken a back seat to knowledge and all three are important…
    I remember as an excuse for 9-11 I kept hearing “but we couldn’t IMAGINE that would happen…” and all I could think was maybe we needed someone who could imagine…

  4. TKA said:

    Maybe someone at Homeland Security saw the same program I did about the amazing accuracy with which Jules Verne and H. G. Wells imagined future technology. Good for them for having the sense to look to less conventional places for help.

    And yay for good imaginations!

  5. therese said:

    Story #1 – cool, use some brains before brawn. 🙂

    Story #2 – WAY COOL!
    “… Together, Filipino book lovers have performed what I consider a miracle in less than a month’s time.”

    Let there be more!

  6. Haste yee back ;-) said:

    Security people have gone to Hollywood writers since B.D. Cooper hijacked a plane demanding
    $250 then parachuting from the plane.

    Cooper got the idea from Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

    Haste yee back 😉

  7. Torsten Adair said:

    “Their job? Think of nightmare scenarios and crippling terrorist attacks so the government can safeguard against them. But what happens when the think tank folds, and the attacks start to happen?”

    Crashing an airliner into the U.S. Capitol? Tom Clancy, “Debt of Honor” How many Pentagon employees read that book, but did not consider the possibility? In 1945, a plane crashes into the tallest building in New York City, killing 14, but it is soon forgotten…

  8. writtenwyrdd said:

    I believe that after 9/11 the government enlisted writers to get together and figure out possible targets and attacks. So this isn’t new. But it is smart, I’d say!

  9. Deborah Pfeiffer said:

    Just piggybacking on the first story in your post…on Craig Ferguson Monday night (5/25), PW Singer was on flogging his book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the
    21st Century. Among other tidbits he mentioned from his book was that some divisions of the military were hiring sci-fi writers to come up with robotic ideas, and that some writings had already been tapped for ideas (e.g., Terminator techno ideas were inspiration for robotics already being used out in the field). Sounds cool to be one of the ones tapped, on one hand, but then again, would it put a writer/writers into an Oppenheimer-like position? Thanks for the post!
    Here’s a link to the book:
    and to Craig Ferguson’s site, to watch the interview (5/25 episode, not yet posted, but should soon be):

  10. Jen P said:

    It’s also interesting that so many of the writers have scientific / relevant / PhD credentials – so they’re qualified to comment. I love the interaction and mutual respect.

    ‘..writers help managers think more broadly about projects, especially about potential reactions and unintended consequences.
    “They have a different way of looking at things,” Dietrich said.’

    On the flip side, can we expect to see any future forms of authority or state intervention reflected in reality from Minority Report or A Handmaid’s Tale?

  11. David Dittell said:


    The sci-fi authors being brought in reminds me of when, after 9/11, they brought in (I believe) Scott Frank, Charlie Kaufman, David Fincher, and others from Hollywood to theorize what else could happen.