War, Famine, Conquest, Death, and a Puppy make up today’s Scroll.
(1) The headline reads “Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking Want to Save the World From Killer Robots” – more euphemistically called autonomous weapons.
Along with 1,000 other signatories, Musk and Hawking signed their names to an open letter that will be presented this week at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group,” the letter says. “We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity. There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.”
(2) Margaret Atwood, in her article about climate change on Medium, senses perception of change is accelerating.
It’s interesting to look back on what I wrote about oil in 2009, and to reflect on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years. Much of what most people took for granted back then is no longer universally accepted, including the idea that we could just go on and on the way we were living then, with no consequences. There was already some alarm back then, but those voicing it were seen as extreme. Now their concerns have moved to the center of the conversation. Here are some of the main worries.
Planet Earth—the Goldilocks planet we’ve taken for granted, neither too hot or too cold, neither too wet or too dry, with fertile soils that accumulated for millennia before we started to farm them –- that planet is altering. The shift towards the warmer end of the thermometer that was once predicted to happen much later, when the generations now alive had had lots of fun and made lots of money and gobbled up lots of resources and burned lots of fossil fuels and then died, are happening much sooner than anticipated back then. In fact, they’re happening now.
One of the many topics she covers is the use of didactic fiction to awaken students to environmental problems.
Could cli-fi be a way of educating young people about the dangers that face them, and helping them to think through the problems and divine solutions? Or will it become just another part of the “entertainment business”? Time will tell. But if Barry Lord is right, the outbreak of such fictions is in part a response to the transition now taking place—from the consumer values of oil to the stewardship values of renewables. The material world should no longer be treated as a bottomless cornucopia of use-and-toss endlessly replaceable mounds of “stuff”: supplies are limited, and must be conserved and treasured.
(3) Of course, what people usually learn from entertainment is how to have a good time. Consider how that cautionary tale, The Blob,has inspired this party —
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania — one of the filming locations for “The Blob” — hosts an annual Blobfest. One of the highlights for participants is reenacting the famous scene when moviegoers run screaming from the town’s Colonial Theatre.
(4) However, there are some fans who do conserve and treasure their stuff, like Allen Lewis, who recently donated his large sf collection:
The University of Iowa has struck gold. Not the kind that lies in the federal reserve, but one of paper in a Sioux Falls man’s basement. After 20 years of collecting, he is donating his one-of-a-kind collection of 17,500 books worth an estimated three quarters of a million dollars.
(5) And the University of Iowa makes good use of the material, for example, its project to digitize the Hevelin fanzine collection:
Now, the pulps and passion projects alike will be getting properly preserved and digitized so they can be made accessible to readers and researchers the world over. The library’s digitization efforts are led by Digital Project Librarian Laura Hampton. She’s just a few weeks into the first leg of the project, digitizing some 10,000 titles from the collection of Rusty Hevelin, a collector and genre aficionado whose collection came to the library in 2012. You can follow along with Hampton’s work on the Hevelin Collection tumblr.
“These fanzines paint an almost outrageously clear picture of early fandom,” said Hampton. “If you read through every single fanzine in our collection, you would have a pretty solid idea of all the goings-on that shaped early fandom—the major players, the dramas, the developments and changes, and who instigated and opposed them. There is an incredible cultural history here that cannot be replicated.”
(6) The DC17 Worldcon bid has Storified a series of tweets highlighting reasons for vote for their bid.
It absolutely is an All-Star committee.
(7) JT in Germany has posted his picks in the Best Related Works category, and Antonelli’s Letters from Gardner ranked at the top of his personal scorecard.
Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli — 3 of 5 This is the one I was most interested in, as it’s about the actual mechanics of writing. It’s a series of short stories, starting as he’s trying to break into publishing short science fiction, and follows his career. Each of the stories is paired with an intro and follow-up about the changes the stories went through, including his interactions with famed editor Gardner Dozois. Unfortunately, the included sample was only just getting into the interesting part of his correspondence. It was good enough that I’ll be buying it soon enough.
(8) Another successful crowdfunding effort is bringing out Lovecraft: The Blasphemously Large First Issue, a new comic that portrays H.P. Lovecraft as “a modern-day, kick-ass action hero & alchemist.”
Writer Craig Engler is thrilled to report the copies have arrived from the printers and will be going out to donors.
(9) Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria is due out August 4. The biography of Helen “Joy” Davidman. Katie Noah’s review appears in Shelf Awareness (scroll down).
While she clearly admires her subject, Santamaria acknowledges Joy’s failings: her tendency to exaggeration and even lying; the spending sprees she could rarely afford; her troubled relationship with her parents and brother. Joy’s marriage to Bill also receives an even-handed treatment. Bill was undoubtedly an alcoholic who struggled to maintain a stable family life, but Santamaria clearly outlines the part Joy played in the failure of their marriage.
Frustrated by professional and personal setbacks, Joy uprooted her life–and that of her two young sons–to travel to England in 1952. She had struck up a flourishing correspondence with Lewis, and she set out to woo her literary lion. Santamaria chronicles the difficulties of Joy’s life in England and Lewis’s reaction to her arrival, but admits that, in the end, they did fall deeply in love. As Joy’s health began to fail, her relationship with Lewis flourished, and their last few years together were blissful.
(10) When Syfy isn’t busy feeding celebrities to sharks, they produce episodic sci-fi shows like the new Wynonna Earp project.
This classic by Beau Smith which was brought to us by IDW Publishing is being given a 13 episode first season run and stars Melanie Scrofano (‘RoboCop‘,’Saw VI’) in the lead role! She’ll be playing the great granddaughter of Wyatt Earp and works for The Monster Squad. Following in his infamous footsteps, she works with the US Marshals, only in a secret department that tracks down fiends that are just a bit more sinister than your regular criminal.
(11) They’re also readying an adaptation of Clarke’s Childhood’s End — here’s the supertrailer shown at Comic-Con
[Thanks to Mark, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Linda Lewis, John King Tarpinian and David K.M. Klaus. Title credit to Brian Z.]