The A-Train, EPH, and AI make up the alphabet soup that is today’s Scroll.
(1) An effort to get sf writers on postage stamps fizzled a couple of years ago. A new effort to might wind up putting a fanzine editor on a stamp – albeit for reasons entirely unrelated to fandom. See NPR’s report “Willis Conover, The Voice Of Jazz Behind The Iron Curtain”
Willis Conover at a 1970s Lunacon. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.
Willis Conover, who died in 1996, could pack concert halls for jazz shows behind the Iron Curtain. But he wasn’t a household name in his own country because by law, the Voice of America cannot broadcast to the United States. This week, Doug Ramsey, who writes about jazz for The Wall Street Journal, reported that a campaign to persuade the Postal Services Stamp Advisory Committee to put Willis Conover on a U.S. postage stamp now has thousands of signatures. It would send the face of the voice who brought the light of hot jazz into the darkest places of the Cold War around the world again.
Andrew Porter explains the fannish connection:
Before Willis Conover was the voice of American jazz to the world behind the Iron Curtain, he was a science fiction fan and reader. Although he left the field for wider seas, he came back to SF in the 1970s, reviving his earlier fanzine Science-Fantasy Correspondent in 1975, and resumed attending science fiction conventions. He should be honored for his work with the VoA. Like Rog Ebert, who honed his writing skills in the fanzines he wrote for before he started college and eventually became a film reviewer, Conover’s heart belonged to science fiction and fantasy first.
And Bill Burns said,
When I worked at BBC Overseas Services (1968-71) we relayed the VoA signal, picked up on shortwave at Caversham, sent by landline to Bush House in London, then to the BBC’s shortwave transmitters. Music programmes such as Jazz Hour didn’t really sound very good after this treatment, so the VoA would ship us tapes of each show which we would insert into the outgoing stream instead of the received signal. I didn’t know it when I was at the BBC, but I saw Conover a few years later at a Philcon and discovered that he had published a fanzine in the 1930s and was a correspondent of HP Lovecraft.
Jim Freund, whose program “Hour of the Wolf” is heard on WBAI-FM, met some of these folks through Conover.
I worked with Mr. Conover quite a few times in the early 70s. I was introduced to him by Hans Stefan Santesson, who was a frequent guest on ‘Hour of the Wolf.’ Mr. Conover would give me a call at the station and ask if I’d be free and could book a studio for a given time, and would then show up with surviving members of the Lovecraft Circle. I clearly recall his bringing along Manly Wade Wellman, and most dramatically, Sonia Greene, who was married to Lovecraft (if not living with him most of their years.) This was not long before her death in 1971.
In my wisdom, I tried to make Mr. Conover take the lead in these interviews — he was a true radio professional with a fabulous voice, and knew far more about American and early horror than I ever could. I got the impression he didn’t want to make too much of a public thing of his name on WBAI — I think the political views of the VoA and Pacifica Radio were not very compatible. So I took the lead, but usually with a briefing by him and/or Hans beforehand.
He gave me a recorded reading he’d made of ‘The Willows’ by Algernon Blackwood, recorded for an airline for passengers to listen to in-flight. We were never sure of the rights to broadcast this, but we did so anyhow. (Safe in those days — especially at 5:00 AM.)
(2) If you’re not the kind of collector who insists on pristine copies of your trading cards, you might end up with a very entertaining autograph someday —
If you ever plan to approach Mark Hamill for an autograph, make sure you have a Star Wars baseball card handy. As it turns out, the man otherwise known as Luke Skywalker has made an artform out of prefacing his John Hancock with hilarious captions on vintage collectible cards.
(3) Patrick May has done another set of calculations in “E Pluribus Hugo vs Slates” using historic vote data from the 1984 Hugos to show the impact of the proposed rules change.
E Pluribus Hugo vs Slates
With the EPH algorithm, the results in the Novel category in 1984 would have been:
- Startide Rising: 105 ¼ points, 136 ballots
- The Robots of Dawn: 52 ¾ points, 75 ballots
- Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern: 41 ¾ points, 54 ballots
- Tea with the Black Dragon: 40 1/6 points, 55 ballots
- Millennium: 33 5/6 points, 52 ballots
This is the same result as under the existing rules.
With 43 slate ballots (10% of the number cast) added, the result would have been identical to the actual 1984 result.
With 85 slate ballots (20% of the number cast) added, one slate work would make the list, bumping off “Millennium”. This is quite different from the current rules where only “Startide Rising” would remain out of non-slate works.
With 128 slate ballots (30% of the number cast) added, two slate works would make the list, bumping off “Millennium” and “Tea with the Black Dragon”. Again this is quite different from the current rules where the only non-slate work remaining would be “Startide Rising”.
Even with 170 slate ballots (40% of the number cast) added, both “Startide Rising” and “The Robots of Dawn” would remain on the nomination list under the EPH rules. Under the current rules, slate works would sweep the category.
(4) NASA Totally Found an Alien Crab on Mars and Didn’t Tell Anybody – debunker Robbie Gonzalez has the story and close-up photos at io9!
UFO Sightings Daily reports it also spotted in this photo “another animal close to this crab, as well as a broken stone building.”
(5)The Daily Dot asked seven scholars what might happen when superintelligence bumps into religion. There are also questions like whether AI counts as being alive —
The singularity is a hypothesized time in the future, approximately 2045, when the capabilities of non-living electronic machines will supersede human capabilities. Undismissable contemporary thinkers like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Ray Kurzweil warn us that it will change everything. Hawking likens it to receiving a message from aliens announcing their arrival in “a few decades,” saying this is “more or less” what’s happening with artificial intelligence software….
How “alive” would a superintelligence be?
Mike McHargue, host of the Ask Science Mike podcast: We think nothing of wiping out bacteria by the millions when we wash our hands, and most people don’t hesitate to slap the fly buzzing around their heads. But dogs? Dolphins? Apes? We see some reflection of awareness in their eyes, and mark them as greater peers among life. What’s fascinating about machine intelligence is we are presented with some level of consciousness that is not associated with biological life. We’ve already built robots with similar intelligence and conscious awareness as an earthworm, and we’ve modeled neural network as complex as insects and possibly reptiles.
As computer technology advances, there’s a real possibility of something that is highly intelligent but not “alive” in any traditional sense.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mark, Patrick May and John King Tarpinian for some of the stories. Title credit to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R .]