Friday, April 14, 2006

First, Gag The Reporters...

...then gag the novelists:

Feds Cool Launch of Enviro Novel
Fri, April 14, 2006

OTTAWA -- A scientist with Environment Canada was ordered not to launch his global warming-themed novel yesterday as the Conservative government was quietly axing a number of Kyoto programs.

Ordered not to launch a novel? Since when does our government get to order its citizens not to take part in a completely legal activity? Does this not come under the department of "restraint of trade?"

The bizarre sequence of events provided an ironic end-note to the week in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced his first piece of legislation - aimed at improving accountability and transparency in government.

Not doing so well at this, are we, Stevie?

Publisher Elizabeth Margaris said that Mark Tushingham, whose day job is as an Environment Canada scientist, was ordered not to appear at the National Press Club to give a speech yesterday discussing his science fiction story Hotter Than Hell (scroll down), about global warming in the not-too-distant future.

The book, by th' way, was published last November, before the election, so Stevie and cronies were not able to stop its actual release to the public. They seem to be doing their damnedest, though, to muzzle him and keep him from talking about the environmental science (which is his area of expertise) on which the novel is based. That's novel. As in fiction.

"He got a directive from the department, cautioning him not to come to this meeting," said Margaris of DreamCatcher Publishers.

Yeah, well someone in the department has more nerve than I'd want in a toothache!

The novel imagines a world where global warming has made parts of the world too hot to live in, prompting a war between Canada and the U.S. over water resources.

Okay, be honest -- has this thought not crossed anyone's mind in the last ten or so years? I know it has crossed mine -- I can't help it; the little news items keep popping up about the world's shortage of potable water, usually coupled with a quote from an American source saying that the United States is not woried, because Canada has all the water they'll ever need...

"Due process for this event was not followed and that's why it was cancelled," said Ryan Sparrow, a spokesman for Environment Minister Rona Ambrose.

That's panic talk for "oh, shit, he's gonna give the game away if we don't stop him!" It's also bullshit. "Due process" my ass -- someone over at the ministry is up to something, and they don't want us mere citizens finding out about it and asking questions -- even if the source of information is a science fiction novel!

Oh, and don't forget -- Tushingham was going to be appearing at the National Press Club. Our government is officially at war with the National Press Club. I wonder -- if he ignored the warnings, and appeared anyway, would he be charged with treason?

Me? I'd be inclined to award him a medal and draft him as the new leader of any political party...

(H/T Dawg)

NOTE: Other bloggers are following this story.

And...Rick Mercer interviewed a certain Environment Minister who didn't want to tap a sugar maple tree because she didn't want to hurt the tree -- catch her comment about the five-minute mark: "Hey, I never said I had integrity..." (H/T Boing Boing)


Anonymous Ian Scott said...

This "ordering not to launch a novel" stuff is bizarre. I could understand possibly not publishing a non-fiction book on certain matters while in the employ of someone for some content - but a novel?


Sunday, April 16, 2006 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Candace said...

You guys are forgetting something that private industry wouldn't. I CANNOT speak for the company I work for without prior approval. Period. End of story (or end of job).

This guy has every right to launch his novel without talking about his day job. As soon as his position with the gov't is mentioned, they have the right to muzzle.

If the fact that he is employed by the gov't is required to sell the novel, then the novel must be not so good IMHO.

See Kathy Reichs novels & sales for reference. She is also an employee of both Quebec & US gov'ts but that isn't used to sell her novels (yes, it's mentioned in her biography, but as proof of her knowledge of the subject matter - while the same argument MIGHT be made for this guy, I don't know that "researcher for the gov't" sells quite as well as "forensic anthropologist" so good luck to him on that). They sell because they are a good read.

Back to my main point. IF he is using his position as a leaping-off point to sell his novel, then the gov't has every right to step in & shut him up. If, on the other hand, his position is a sidebar, that's a different story.

The onus is on him & his publisher to prove the gov't has it wrong, not the other way around IMHO.

Sunday, April 16, 2006 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Candace: Nobody is forgeting anything. Private industry could not do anything about the book, either. It's FICTION.

Tushingham is a scientist, and his specialty is climactic change and global warming (climatologist), as well as environmental sustainability. It wouldn't matter if he were in private industry or government -- this is his area of expertise, and he has every right to write FICTION about what he knows. He also has a right to promote his FICTION with his publisher.

If he were writing and promoting his political views, I might agree with you.

Face it, Candace -- fearless leader is not so fearless if he feels he has to shut everyone up. Stevie's weak spots are showing rather early -- he's afraid that the public will get some information that he does not approve of our having.

And it doesn't seem to matter that this particular bit of information, much like The Da Vinci Code, is FICTION. Stevie does not want the Canadian public to be able to speculate on it, especially considering what he just did to Canada's promise to reduce environmental damage.

I had high hopes for Harper's government. But when they show their fear this early, and this strongly, I start getting ready for the next election.

Monday, April 17, 2006 9:37:00 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

Chimera, you are wrong about private industry being able to do nothing about FICTION.

If I wrote a novel, and used my current position in the advertising for the launch or the novel, the company I work for would have the right to either vet what I say OR fire my ass. Period.

I signed an agreement stating quite clearly that I DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEAK FOR THE COMPANY WITHOUT APPROVAL. Period. End of story.

Using the company's name means speaking for them, either directly or indirectly. Back to Kathy Reichs - she doesn't belittle either Quebec or her American employers - all employees are diligent (although the protagonist doesn't necessarily get along with them). She hasn't offended anyone.

"Our scientist" on the other hand has written a novel involving the dangers of ignoring some environmental issue or other, while claiming/confirming he is employed by a federal gov't (any federal gov't - the implication is pretty clear (mind you, I haven't read the novel, so maybe the Canadian gov't comes to the rescue?).

That's the equivalent of me saying "I wrote a novel about the dangers of excessive exercise" and btw, I'm a trainer at Curves.

Curves has EVERY right to tell me to either (a) stfu or (b) remove my affiliation from any & all publicity about my novel [and if their employmeht agmt is a good one, they could probably fire my ass regardless].

From various arguments I've been involved with over this issue, I think it's another "beer & popcorn" moment where private industry meets gov't. Expectations from private industry are pretty clear, and usually spelled out. Apparently (according to Balbulican at StageLeft) gov't research is published immediately & therefore fair game for anyone. That doesn't, however (IMHO), mean that the gov't is fair game, so my argument should still hold water.

But hey, that's just my not-so-humble opinion. And I'm no employment lawyer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 1:47:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Candace, if you signed an agreement with the company for which you work, then you are bound by that agreement. I have not signed any such agreement, so the company for which I work can't do anything about my writing fiction about the type of work I do (whether I mention the company by name or not, but I probably wouldn't do that).

And even if you mentioned a company by name, in fiction, that does not translate to your speaking for that company. If you were to write a novel about a trainer who discovers that over-training is dangerous (true, in some instances), but you don't mention your company by name, can they still shut you up and have your book pulled off the market?

In this country, that's restraint of trade. Illegal.

"...while claiming/confirming he is employed by a federal gov't..."

No "claiming" about it -- he does work for the federal government. He was not, however, representing that government when he wrote and published the novel.

And where is he supposed to say he works? Jacket blurbs always include a bio. Would you have the publisher lie about it? Nowhere, though, did anyone claim that he was representing Environment Canada in his scheduled appearance at the Press Club -- he was going to be representing himself!

You've had no way of knowing this until now, but I'm acquainted with several published authors, and I count some of them as pretty good friends. All of them either work, or have worked, for companies in the field for which they write their fiction. Not one of them has been hassled, harrassed, muzzled, or threatened with the loss of their jobs when their books were published. Not even the RCMP member who writes "true crime fiction," or the Vancouver police officer who writes not fiction, but "how-tos."

This particular instance is a badly mismanaged over-reaction, plain and simple. Harper is micro-managing, and that is a sign of either insecurity or fear. Either way, it's not good.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Psychols said...

Last I heard, employment by the federal government does not trump the right to free speech. Ths vague "due process" term smells bad.

Monday, April 24, 2006 11:50:00 PM  

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