A Borg's Eye View

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Title: A Borg's Eye View
Creator: Laura Trise Basta-Sandler
Date(s): May 1995
Medium: print
Topic: the internet, fandom, free speech
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A Borg's Eye View is an essay by Laura Trise Basta-Sandler. It was printed in Face Forward #2 in May 1995.

The essay's topics focus on the internet, communication, free speech, fandom, and the dangers of publishing online, and censorship.


The debate raged hot and heavy. The Internet was alive with controversy. The poised question was controversial, and arguments were coming in from all over the world.

The issue?

Was a pork chop from the replicator kosher or not?

After several hundred responses, the question was still not decided.

I read some of the answers, scrolled through others, added my own opinion and then... sat back in amazement.

What has the Internet. AOL. Prodigy, done to Star Trek?? To X Files?? To... any fandom?

An Internet Board based on photos of Patrick Stewart in his bath robe...? X-rated fantasies about Data, much less dirty limericks regarding Brent Spinner?

Incontestably, the means of communication of any fandom has changed with the advent of 'cyberspace'.

Science fiction writer's forums abound. Stories, novels, articles pile up waiting for critiques. Star Trek fiction proliferates.

I publish nothing of my fiction on the Internet, and don't intend to. Copyright issues aside, danger awaits from unexpected sources.

In Ann Arbor, a really dumb student writes a horrific rape/murder fantasy about a classmate and distributes it on the Net. He becomes Public Enemy Number One to the Feds as our government uses his fantasies as an excuse to try and censor and control what goes out on the Internet.

This circumstance could have happened to me twenty odd years ago. I was at the Clarion Science Fiction Writer's Forum. We were assigned by one of the noted author/lecturers to write a short story identifying our most horrific fantasy regarding the opposite sex. It was darkly humorous, and clearly an 'adult' subject and by mutual agreement with the other women in the class (we were college kids, after all), we decided to name the hapless victim in our stories "Harlan." It was the name of a real person. It was also an inside joke. What I did to "Harlan" in. "The Slings and Eros..." was violent. If I had published that story in today's climate, I would have been equally guilty as that schlub from U of M. I knew my 'victim.' I used his real name-amusement aside, I doubt if the government would have laughed. The thought is sobering.

The great freedom we have with the Internet is also a basis for one of the most enormous threats to our liberty that has occurred since the McCarthy era. I listened to Senator Ted Kennedy rail against encrypted Internet, E-Mail messages that the Feds can't decode. The Oklahoma bombing will be used by the government for decades to as an excuse to restrict our freedom and our right to privacy. Our government wants specific programming chips in our phones to allow them to lap into our conversations (after due process, of course), at any time. They want this ability standardized with our phones. I fear for us.

All governments have not prepared for the information explosion of the Internet.

Anybody can connect with anywhere in the world. No longer are computers for nerds or dysfunctional.
Of course I abhor the sleaze, but once restrictions are in place, then, as a free society, we are peering down a very slippery slope.

I can only hope the FreeNet will stand firm and say that not one set of criteria regarding censorship will be allowed.

The Internet is the most fundamental use of freedom of speech this country-the world has ever possessed... raw thoughts... chats with lesbians, SCA members and gardening freaks; SF fans and people interested in nuts and bolts and moths. It is the ability to communicate, in a totally neutral status with anybody~anywhere.

If we, as a people, allow someone else to tell us what we can say... what we can do-monitor our communications... we have lost a fundamental freedom... the freedom of the press... and I doubt any specious argument that use of the Internet is not 'publishing.'

It is... the fourth medium.