Pixel Scroll 12/12/19 You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Time Lord

(1) MONSTER PRICE. Bernie Wrightson’s original wrap-around cover artwork for Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sold at auction today for $1 million dollars. The catalog description at the link claims —

…It can also easily be said that the 1983 Marvel publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein is arguably the finest illustrated book of the second half of the 20th century. Originally written in 1818, the novel was later painstakingly illustrated over the course of nearly a decade by pen and ink master Bernie Wrightson. We are proud to offer here, what we consider the finest fantasy ink drawing of the 20th century, if not of all time….

(2) UNCERTAIN FUTURE. Editor Alex Shvartsman’s foreword in Future Science Fiction Digest issue 5 explains why it contains only about 20% of the wordage of previous issues – the launch funding from its Chinese partner has run out.

As Future SF enters its second year, we do so without a safety net.

Our first year’s run was sponsored by the Future Affairs Administration. Together we were able to publish a considerable amount of excellent international fiction, and we thank FAA for their help and support as the magazine launched and found its footing. While FAA is still considering their options regarding any future partnerships with us, at this moment they’re not affiliated with the magazine.

So, what does it mean for Future SF going forward? We aren’t going away, but we have to considerably scale back until we secure alternate funding, or follow the path of many other e-zines in our field and slowly build up a subscription and patron base.

I’m currently talking to the FAA, as well as to a couple of other companies, to see if we can work out another sponsorship or partnership. But even if that proves successful, it is a temporary solution. Only a substantial base of subscribers can ensure stable funding in the long term….

(3) IN TIMES THAT CAME. The Bookseller points to a realm of publishing where change is happening almost quicker than it can be predicted: “Voicing a revolution”.

“Voice tech” will be the next revolution. It’s hard to imagine in today’s text- and screen-based society, but voice recognition apps such as search, device control, shopping and social media will replace screens. It’s already here: only five years after inception, half of citizens in the developed world (47%) owns a smart speaker. How odd we were, the next generation will think, for our incessant tapping on little screens. Wearable tech such as Amazon’s Echo Loop (a small ring enabling you to whisper demands into your palm, and cup your ear for Alexa’s answer) gives a glimpse of the shape our future, with virtual assistants always at our disposal. No need to pull out your phone, even for a phone call. Audiobooks will be a beneficiary of the new generation of voice apps as spheres of our lives transition and we get used to the ease and convenience of voice, and brands have to offer aligned products. Audiobooks are part of the fabric of a healthier technology on the go, where screens play a small role. 

Every book published will be available as an audiobook. AI-driven Text-to-Speech apps for audiobook production will leap forward. The AI narrator could be a sampled actor, or a “designer voice” to match the book or brand….

(4) DOUBLE YOUR READING PLEASURE. Cora Buhlert suggests great holiday gifts for the sff readers of 1964 at Galactic Journey: “[December 11, 1964] December GalactoscopE”.

Personally, I think that books are the best gifts. And so I gave myself Margaret St. Clair’s latest, when I spotted it in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore, since I enjoyed last year’s Sign of the Labrys a lot. Even better, this book is an Ace Double, which means I get two new tales for the price of one. Or rather, I get six, because one half is a collection of five short stories.

First on her list —

Message from the Eocene by Margaret St. Clair (Ace Double M-105)….

 (5) FOR 10 YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry find nine books worthy of listing as the best of the past 10 years – plus six honorable mentions: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Best of the Decade”. First up —

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear (2012): Elizabeth Bear is something of a chameleon of a writer. Whether it is near future cyberpunk thrillers, urban fantasy, alternate historical vampire fiction, espionage, space opera, steampunk, a Criminal Minds meets the X-Files mashup, or epic fantasy – Bear can write it all.

Eschewing the trappings of the stereotypical European setting, Range of Ghosts is silk road epic fantasy – meaning that the novel has a more Mongolian flavor and has an entirely different cultural grounding than what is so often considered “traditional epic fantasy”. Bear pulls no punches in delivering a full realized and top notch epic with rich characterization and incredible worldbuilding. The magic and religion and battles of Range of Ghosts is handled with a deft touch and the best thing is that all of this is set up for something far larger. Range of Ghosts is Elizabeth Bear at the height of her considerable powers. (G’s Review) (Joe)

(6) THOSE OLD FAMILIAR HAUNTS. Emily Littlejohn, in “The Elements of the Haunted House: A Primer” on CrimeReads, says that haunted house mysteries work if they’re in the right place and have ghosts who are appealing but who didn’t die too young or too old.

…Of course, not all ghost stories feature a malevolent spirit intent on wreaking havoc on the living; there are some lovely novels that feature ghosts that are sad rather than mad, more unsettled than vengeful. Those books can be enjoyed in the bright light of day, perhaps with a nice sandwich and a glass of lemonade. But if you like your haunted houses a bit darker, a little less safe, read on for this writer’s perspective.

If I were to write a haunted house novel, I know where I would start: the setting. The canon practically demands a stately manor from the pages of a historical register or an architectural study, all turrets and gables and perhaps a few strange windows that seem a little too much like eyes. Long hallways, flickering light from an early electric bulb or a candle, rooms with furniture shrouded in sheets . . . and nooks, so many nooks, to hide in.

(7) ANCIENT ART. “44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting The History Of Art”NPR says they know because they analyzed the calcite “popcorn” on a pig. (Say that three times fast.)

Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the history of the origins of art.

Until recently, the long-held story was that humans started painting in caves in Europe. For example, art from the Chauvet Cave in France is dated as old as 37,000 years.

But several years ago, a group of scientists started dating cave paintings in Indonesia — and found that they are thousands of years older.

“They are at least 40,000 years old, which was a very, very surprising discovery,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Australia’s Griffith University. He and his colleagues used a technique called uranium-series analysis to determine the paintings’ age. The oldest figurative painting in those analyses was a striking image of a wild cow.

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi — but Brumm adds that “it was assumed they couldn’t be that old.”

Since that big reveal, Brumm’s team — which he led with archaeologists Maxime Aubert and Adhi Agus Oktaviana — has been searching for more art in these caves. In 2017, they found something breathtaking — the massive hunting scene, stretching across about 16 feet of a cave wall. And after testing it, they say it’s the oldest known figurative art attributed to early modern humans. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

The BBC adds details: “Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave is 44,000 years old”.

The Indonesian drawing is not the oldest in the world. Last year, scientists said they found “humanity’s oldest drawing” on a fragment of rock in South Africa, dated at 73,000 years old.

…It may not be the oldest drawing, but researchers say it could be the oldest story ever found.

“Previously, rock art found in European sites dated to around 14,000 to 21,000 years old were considered to be the world’s oldest clearly narrative artworks,” said the paper in Nature.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 12, 2014 Bill The Galactic Hero premiered. Directed by Cox and a lot of friends, it likewise had a cast that was rather large. Yes it’s based on Harrison’s novel. Cox got the rights just after Repo Man came out. Costing just over a hundred thousand to produce, it got generally positive reviews and currently is not available anywhere for viewing. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1893 Edward G. Robinson. His very last film was Soylent Green in which was he was Sol Roth. He shortly before that played Abraham Goldman in “The Messiah on Mott Street” on Night Gallery, and he shows up uncredited as himself in the “Batman’s Satisfaction” episode of Batman. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 75. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she worked for three decades until recently. She received a Hugo for Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by Howard.  He is possibly best-known for his creation of Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 12, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 70. Yes he shows up as Dr. Black on Who in an Eleventh Doctor story, “ Vincent and the Doctor”. He’d make a fine Doctor, I’d say. He’s done a lot of other genre performances from the well-known Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to the blink and he’s gone as he was as the ENT Doc in Curse of the Pink Panther.
  • Born December 12, 1961 Sarah Sutton, 58. She’s best known for her role as Nyssa who was a Companion to both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  She reprised the role of Nyssa in the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time, and of course in the Big Finish audio dramas. She’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 12, 1966 Hiromi Goto, 53. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Kappa Child. She followed that with two more SFF novels, The Water of Possibility and Half World, though it’s been a decade since the latter came out. Systems Fail, the 2014 WisCon Guest of Honor publication, highlighted her work and that of .K. Jemisin. Hopeful Monsters, her collection of early genre short fiction, is the only such work available digitally from her.
  • Born December 12, 1970 Jennifer Connelly, 49. Her first genre outing wasn’t as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth, but rather in the decidedly more low-budget Italian horror film Phenomena.  She goes to be in The Rocketeer as Jenny Blake, and Dark City as Emma Murdoch / Anna, both great roles for her. I’m giving a pass to the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still which she was involved in and not saying anything about it. Alita: Battle Angel in which she’s Dr. Chiren scores decently with audiences. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 43. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine Affliction, Bone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which if you’ve not tried it you should, and I’d recommend Little Gods as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 12, 1981 C.S. E. Cooney, 38. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Sea King’s Second Bride” and a World Fantasy Award for her Bone Swans collection. She has what appears to be a very short novel out, Desdemona and the Deep, published by Tor.com. The latter and her collection are available digitally on Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WATCHMEN. In the LA Times, Lorraine Ali and Robert Lloyd dissent from praise the show has generally received: “Commentary: More manipulative than meaningful, ‘Watchmen’ has a ‘Lost’ problem”.

LLOYD: Lorraine, you steal thoughts from my head. (Are you Dr. Manhattan?) Yes, “Lost” is what I thought of too, though the apparent randomness of a polar bear on a tropical island was much more interesting than when they got around to an explanation. There’s an effective trickery when it comes to coincidence — they’re always spooky on some level — and “Lost” got a lot of mileage from repeating the same essentially meaningless sequences of numbers all over the damn place. (Fans spent an enormous amount of time puzzling the show out, even as, fundamentally, there was no puzzle.) In “Watchmen” it’s clocks and eggs and such, and a narrative that leans heavily on dark secrets and (not always) amazing reveals for its dramatic effects: X is the Y of Z!

It works on some primal level, yet it still feels more manipulative than meaningful to me. “Watchmen” is a lot tighter than “Lost” was, though; the circular systems have been obviously worked through in advance, where “Lost” was a festival of retconning.

(12) SEEKING TOMORROW. Steven Cave says, “The Futurium needs a bolder vision to show that we, technology and nature are one,” in his Nature review, “Lost in the house of tomorrow: Berlin’s newest museum”.

Thirty years ago, the future became passé. When the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989 and the communist regimes that hid behind it collapsed, political scientist Francis Fukuyama called the event “the end of history”. But he also cast it as the finale of the future: the end of imagining how things might be different. The utopian visions driving both communism and fascism had been discredited and defeated. They were to be replaced by an eternal ‘now’ that, in Fukuyama’s words, saw “Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.

… Overall, the Futurium succeeds best as a showcase for the shiniest aspects of the present. In this way, it resembles other tech-engagement centres, such as Science Gallery Dublin and its six sister venues around the world, or Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. But it claims to be something more: a place for co-imagining alternative futures. To succeed, it will need to be bolder. Even though the Berlin landscape is dotted with monuments to failed ideologies, such as the Stasi Museum, history did not end when the wall fell. To imagine new futures, this museum must free itself from the conceptual frameworks of the past.

(13) STARBEGOTTEN. The Parker Probe’s investigation of the Sun takes scientists “A step closer to the Sun’s secrets”.

Although the Sun is quite near to us compared with other stars, it has always kept intriguing and fundamental scientific secrets from us. For instance, we still don’t know how the solar corona — the Sun’s outermost atmosphere — maintains temperatures in excess of one million kelvin, whereas the visible surface has temperatures of just below 6,000?K 

(14) AN OLD SELFIE. “Stonehenge 1875 family photo may be earliest at monument” – see that and many more photos shot at the ancient monument.

An 1875 photograph of a family dressed in finery enjoying a day out at Stonehenge may be the earliest such snap taken at the monument.

English Heritage asked people to send in their pictures to mark 100 years of public ownership of the stones.

After sifting through more than 1,000 images historians said they believed the photograph of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh was the oldest.

It will be part of a new exhibition of personal photos titled Your Stonehenge.

…The exhibition shows how photography has changed – illustrated by “the way that people pose” and how “their faces have got closer to the camera until they are taking a picture of themselves more than they are of Stonehenge”, said Ms Greaney.

(15) WAY DOWN YONDER. Lots of juicy detail in BBC’s report — “Denman Glacier: Deepest point on land found in Antarctica”.

The deepest point on continental Earth has been identified in East Antarctica, under Denman Glacier.

This ice-filled canyon reaches 3.5km (11,500ft) below sea level. Only the great ocean trenches go deeper.

The discovery is illustrated in a new map of the White Continent that reveals the shape of the bedrock under the ice sheet in unprecedented detail.

Its features will be critical to our understanding of how the polar south might change in the future.

It shows, for example, previously unrecognised ridges that will impede the retreat of melting glaciers in a warming world; and, alternatively, a number of smooth, sloping terrains that could accelerate withdrawals.

“This is undoubtedly the most accurate portrait yet of what lies beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet,” said Dr Mathieu Morlighem, who’s worked on the project for six years.

(16) STEAL ME. Plagiarism Today tells how artists are “Battling the Copyright-Infringing T-Shirt Bots”.

…The exploit was actually very simple. Many of these unethical shops use automated bots to scour Twitter and other social media looking for users saying they want a particular image on the t-shirt and then they simply grab the image and produce the t-shirt, site unseen.

The artists exploited this by basically poisoning the well. They created artwork that no reasonable person would want on a shirt sold on their store and convinced the bots to do exactly that.

(17) OPENING A GOOD VINTAGE. Joe Sherry does a fine retrospective of this Connie Willis book at Nerds of a Feather: “The Hugo Initiative: Doomsday Book (1993, Best Novel)”. It tied for the Hugo, but Joe, by not saying which of the two books was really the best, avoids the mistake Your Good Host once made that launched a thousand ships Jo Walton into orbit. Sherry’s conclusion is:

…The thing about Doomsday Book is that it works. It is a masterful piece of storytelling that perhaps shouldn’t work as well as it does almost three decades later. It’s good enough that I want to read Fire Watch and the other three Oxford Time Travel novels sooner rather than later(though perhaps not specifically for The Hugo Initiative). The novel is a softer form of science fiction that uses time travel in a way that makes sense. No paradoxes, there is risk, and maybe don’t visit a time and place with bubonic plague. And really, who doesn’t want to read a novel where the protagonist is surrounded by bubonic plague and renders as much aid as she can?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Vacation on Vimeo, Andrey Kasay looks at vacations that went out of control.

(19) VIDEO OF SOME OTHER DAY. The Mandalorian CHiPs intro. Think of Ponch and Jon long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Houndog” Dern.]

46 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/12/19 You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Time Lord

  1. Neat video for mechanism geeks: a company has developed a custom box-maker which avoids the waste (seen with Amazon et al) of putting something small in a standard box with a lot of room.

    Edit: first!

  2. (18) VIDEO OF THE DAY.

    I don’t know what substance he’s using, but it seems unfair that he’s not sharing with the rest of us.

  3. (3) Erasing the disabled: not everyone can hear – or speak – to use that “wonderful” technology.

  4. 3) As P.J. Evans said, a lot of people cannot use this technology or may simply feel more comfortable using something else. Personally, I hate voice recognition and would much rather type. I’m not an audio person either and tend to tune out.

    4) Thanks for the link, Mike. Though Gideon reviewed a bunch of books, too, he just got the bad ones.

    12) I don’t recall having heard about this and I regularly watch the sort of cultural programmes where new museums are discussed. Though it isn’t as if Berlin doesn’t have plenty of museums already.

  5. 3) Not using. Too slow and inefficient, drives me up the walls.

    6) Reading a haunted house story now, My House of Horrors, placed in a haunted house, i.e the kind designed to scare paying customers. Works extremely well as it by design has all those mentioned elements and a very good explanation for them. And making it even scarier when elements appear that shouldn’t be there.

  6. I really hope that automated voices don’t replace narrated audiobooks entirely, although I suppose it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have the tech out there for indie books whose authors can’t afford a proper narrator, or works where the publisher hasn’t got around to it. There’s quite a bit more to the narration job than just producing words and sounds, but more access for visually impaired folks isn’t a bad thing, so long as it doesn’t become the only or primary way it’s done, even when there’s budget available for a narrator.

    I can’t always speak – sometimes the joints in my throat don’t stay all a-piece – so voice activated tech holds little interest for me. Besides, there’s rather too much spyware tucked away in most of those devices for my liking. Bad enough I stay on Facebook for mostly-housebound reasons without inviting more of it into my home.

  7. For me, The Expanse will have to wait for tomorrow, as I’m up past my bedtime anyway. My late Thursday night streaming is just For All Mankind, which I’ve been enjoying immensely – and the last reel of tonight’s really ratcheted up the tension, leading into the season finale next week.

    And hopefully I’ll be up early enough in the morning to watch The Mandalorian before work. My TV viewing life is getting weird.

    3) Voice-activated anything is the last thing I want. And far too many of the businesses I call the support numbers for just love it, grr.

  8. 3) Also, might be a good idea to read a bit about NSA:s PRISM-program for surveilllance of internet traffic. Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google Facebook, YouTube, Skype and Apple are all partners. Facebook even named the program for listening in to audio and sending it out to contractors “Prism”.

    I kind of prefer not to install spying devices for NSA in my home. If they want to place bugs here, they will have to install them themselves. This article from Bloomberg is interesting:

    “Amazon was capturing every voice command in the cloud and relying on data associates like her to train the system. Slatis first figured she’d been listening to paid testers who’d volunteered their vocal patterns in exchange for a few bucks. She realized that couldn’t be.

    The recordings she and her co-workers were listening to were often intense, awkward, or intensely awkward. Lonely sounding people confessing intimate secrets and fears: a boy expressing a desire to rape; men hitting on Alexa like a crude version of Joaquin Phoenix in Her. And as the transcription program grew along with Alexa’s popularity, so did the private information revealed in the recordings. Other contractors recall hearing kids share their home address and phone number, a man trying to order sex toys, a dinner party guest wondering aloud whether Amazon was snooping on them at that very instant. “There’s no frickin’ way they knew they were being listened to,” Slatis says. “These people didn’t agree to this.” She quit in 2016.”

  9. 3) Forget spyware- do you really want everyone else in your house and office to listen to all your web interactions? Can you imagine the scene where all 20 people on the bus try talking to their phone rather than typing? There is a reason I almost never use Siri and it’s the technology that’s lacking, it’s just not practical.

  10. RE: Narration in audiobooks. As Jesse of SFF Audio told me–I might be a good podcaster, but I’d make and do make a terrible audiobook narrator. It’s a real, seperate skill

  11. @bookworm1398 Can you imagine the scene where all 20 people on the bus try talking to their phone rather than typing?

    It occurs to me that both voice control and audiobooks are products of a society where most people with money spend a lot of time driving. I was surprised to see the author of that piece is from the UK.

    (I’m also fascinated by the aside about “a healthier technology, where screens play a small role”… though in some ways not as much as I am by the blithe prediction that libraries will be the new bread and circuses.)

  12. (17) It’s a long time since I read it, but I seem to remember The Doomsday Book having horrible English English vs. American English problems – ones that would jump out of the page and poke me in the eye.

    By which I mean English people (and if I recall, English academics at Oxford!) speaking a mishmash of American English and P.G. Wodehouse.

  13. 3) I’ve never liked verbal alerts from machines – and talking to them? That’s worse. Stack it with the actual computing doing the voice recognition being offsite “in the cloud,” well, its a non-starter for me. I’d go so far as to call it a bad idea. Oddly, even though I’ve never discussed it, I’ve never seen any of those gadgets in my folks’ or sister’s place.
    No Alexa, Hey Google or Siri in my house. I like my smart phone half lobotomized, and my TVs dumb.
    Now to go read the Bloomberg article and get either outraged or afraid.

  14. Meredith Moment(s):

    The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is on sale at Amazon US for $1.99.

    The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow is also on sale at Amazon US for $2.99. I don’t know if either are on sale elsewhere at present.

    3) SIGH Voice recognition most likely wouldn’t work for me, particularly if I’m tired, as my speech is somewhat slurred. Of course, touch screens are equally a problem, as I tend to double touch things with great frequency, because my “dexterity” leaves much to be desired even on good days.

    This glorious future is leaving me behind. I guess it’s a blessing of sorts that I’m old now.

  15. I for one welcome our new voice-activated overlords.

    All I really want is an e-reader for my wife Hilde that can turn pages with voice commands. Hilde’s hands have been wrecked by 50 years of rheumatoid arthritis, to the point she can’t turn pages on a printed book any more, and tremors make touch screens unusable as well. She listens to audiobooks now, but the selection (especially for older books) is still a lot scantier than for ebooks. You’d think someone would have developed a hands-off e-reader or app by now, but apparently not. Very frustrating.

  16. (3) IN TIMES THAT CAME.

    I’ve always been skeptical of this sort of thing, and I’ve always kept Siri turned off on my phone (also Facetime — yech!).

    BUT —

    Just last week I got an Echo Show 5 for a sort of sideways reason: my dad asked me to buy him a video doorbell because he is mostly bedridden right now, and the Ring brand doorbell was being sold with an Echo Show 5 at a deeply discounted price for the Thanksgiving sales, but Dad didn’t want the Echo — so I decided to keep it and play with it.

    And I gotta say I’m kind of having fun with it so far. I’ve mostly only used it to create a no-alarm-necessary wake-up routine (weather announcement followed by the day’s calendar breakdown followed by NPR News Now) and a similar go-to-bed routine, along with a few daily reminders. I have to admit it is nice to not have to turn off an alarm or stop what I’m doing if I want to hear the news for a few minutes, or whatever. So my resistance is wavering a bit. But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever feel comfortable telling it my life’s story!

    Also, Meredith Moment:

    The Dragon Republic, book 2 of Kuang’s Poppy War series, is currently available for $2.99 at Amazon US and possibly elsewhere.

  17. (9) I was certain I’d seen Karl Edward Wagner listed here recently and, sure enough, he was named in the December 4 Pixel Scroll as born on December 4th!

    My own personal memory of him is that I don’t think I ever saw him (at convrntions, those were the only places I knew him from) when he wasn’t (a) laughing and (b) holding a drink in his hand.

  18. @Bruce Arthurs: it may not be useful and it may be overkill, but I have a gizmo with foot pedals that bluetooths to my iPad to scroll pages. (It’s intended for musicians who use their tablets for their sheet music, so they can turn pages while performing.)

    @Contrarius: I finally discovered a use case for Facetime. When I’m on the phone with a friend of mine, I can use it to show her what my cats are doing.

  19. @Patrick —

    @Contrarius: I finally discovered a use case for Facetime. When I’m on the phone with a friend of mine, I can use it to show her what my cats are doing.

    The true raison d’etre for Facetime!

  20. Danny Aiello has died at the age of 86. Genre-adjacent roles in Hudson Hawk and Jacob’s Ladder.

  21. Meredith Audible.com Moment: Audible.com is having a large sale, supposedly everything. Audiobook prices and sale prices vary, of course, so pay attention to whether it really makes sense to buy something during this sale.

    Example: Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey is $9.44 (50% off). I checked a couple of YA (I KNOW!) titles I was interested in they they were 50% off and thus around $7.50.

    The only one I bought so far in the sale was The Fold by Peter Clines, which I liked a lot and want to re-read-via-audio. It was $7.48 (I think 70% off?), roughly half what credits cost me. So looking at not-super-recent books may be a way to find the best sales; I’m guessing older titles are discounted more. ETA: But I’m considering a few other audiobooks; the sale goes on through the 19th.

    Anyway, FYI!

  22. Speaking (ahem) of audiobooks, I just finished Paul Cornell’s The Lights Go Out in Lychford and wow, what a great novella! Emma Newman was amazing as narrator, as I expected. I especially loved how she did Judith.

    One point almost made me want to cry, maybe just because things were building up emotionally in various ways throughout the book and I didn’t expect (rot13) Nhghza gb gel gb fnpevsvpr ure shgher ybir (/rot13). Other scenes were affecting as well, but for some reason that one hit me very hard in the feels.

    I’m underwhelmed at yet another end-of-the-book scene that felt like it should just be the first scene in the next book. (I thought this was the last Lychford book till I got to this final scene.) I may be wrong, but ISTM Cornell started doing that last time??? I’d forgotten he’d done that before, actually, but I believe he did, but not every installment, methinks. (My memory bites, granted.) I mean a cliffhanger’s okay, but this just didn’t feel like that. To me, it didn’t add anything to this book; it just felt like “hey I’m writing another one, here’s the first scene.” Probably just me.

    Regardless, this is a wonderful series and I recommend it (and the audiobooks)! 😀

  23. @Kendall —

    Meredith Audible.com Moment: Audible.com is having a large sale, supposedly everything. Audiobook prices and sale prices vary, of course, so pay attention to whether it really makes sense to buy something during this sale.

    I usually don’t get much at these 50% off sales, because even at 50-70% discount usually the books still cost more than what I pay for a credit, or very close to it (on my plan credits are $9.56 each).

    This time I did get the first four books in the Guild Codex series by an author named Annette Marie, which are currently under $7 each. It’s a new UF series, starting with Three Mages and a Margarita, and it looks like it might be fun. They’re getting good reviews, so we’ll see. If anyone has tried them, let me know what you think!

  24. WRT to voice menus and such: My mom had cancer of the larynx, so she had her voicebox removed. The adaptive technology she used to speak did not work well for voice recognition.

    Yet another example of not thinking through ableist assumptions.

  25. Not into audiobooks myself. When I’m driving, I find music much less distracting, and the idea of listening while driving is pretty much the only reason the idea ever seemed even vaguely appealing to me.

    As for voice recognition, not only are there all the privacy concerns, but it doesn’t mix with loud rock-n-roll all that well. (Something that’s also true of audiobooks.) 🙂

  26. @xtifr —

    Not into audiobooks myself. When I’m driving, I find music much less distracting, and the idea of listening while driving is pretty much the only reason the idea ever seemed even vaguely appealing to me.

    It’s true that some folks just aren’t aurally inclined, but audiobooks are great for letting each minute of your day do double duty. Instead of just driving, or just shopping, or just gardening, or just washing the dishes, or just cleaning the house, or whatever, I can do any of those things AND listen to a book at the same time. It’s like time travel without Hermione’s fancy watch or any of those pesky paradoxes!

  27. I listen to “Great Courses” while driving and enjoy doing so, but I don’t think I’d enjoy listening to long-form fiction that way. When I’m reading and go off into a reverie because of something the story has reminded me of, the reading naturally stops, but for some reason the audiobook just keeps going even when I’m momentarily not paying attention (this happens during the Great Courses lectures too, but I can go back a few minutes and relisten – but (and this is just me), it would irritate me to have that happen while listening to a story (I think).

  28. Heck, I have tinnitis, and I can’t always pick up words when there’s a lot of background noise. It’s why I’m not interested in audiobooks. (It can be handy for dealing with spam phone calls, though.)

  29. As Bruce Arthurs’ and Meredith’s comments show, the best solution would be to have multiple options, so everybody can use the one that works best for them. But one size fits all never is a good idea.

    As for voice recognition, even in cases where it would be useful like the hands-free voice command systems in cars don’t work particularly well. My parents’ phone number has a lot of zeros and nines, two numbers which sound similar in German. And when I want to call them from my car, I often have to repeat the number four or five times, until the system gets it right or I give up in frustration and just pull over to call them the old-fashioned way.

    Also, have we already forgotten the voice recognition subtitle disaster at Dublin WorldCon or were we too busy reading Bored of the Rings and Cream of Thrones?

  30. Yup, needs are many and varied (and occasionally mutually exclusive) and the more options you have, the more people it works for.

    I’m mostly dubious about the quality of auto-anything, really. Auto captioning is generally dreadful, auto reading is going to struggle with the sorts of made up words you get in science fiction and fantasy and with mood/inflection/acting, voice control still struggles with a lot of accents… I think it might make for a stop-gap where the better alternatives don’t work, but it won’t be perfect by any means.

  31. @PJ —

    Heck, I have tinnitis, and I can’t always pick up words when there’s a lot of background noise.

    Hmmmm. I’ve had tinnitus for years, and I don’t have any trouble hearing audio narration….

  32. @Contrarius

    I think we’ve covered that different people have different needs. That’s true even for people with similar health issues.

  33. I was just reading about a time-travel show on Netflix, called El ministerio del tiempo. It’s from Spain. From the review:

    The premise is that, centuries ago, a Spanish Rabbi discovered a series of shifting doors to different eras and created a “Book of Doors” detailing them all. He gives this precious secret book to Queen Isabella. From this, a secret Ministry was developed, it’s mission being to safeguard history from being changed by outside parties. The future is not included in this time travel and the doors are limited to Spanish territory — but there is still plenty of opportunity for all kinds of disasters — and yes, paradoxes, too.

    Much of the past depicted in the show isn’t good and it isn’t pretty — including but not limited to the terrible colonial brutality toward indigenous people, the Inquisition, war through the ages, and even the Spanish flu. But the mandate of the Ministry is to preserve history as it happened, not to fix things or to make Spain come out on top when, historically, it did not. The Armada still sinks, colonies still get their independence in due course. And life goes on.

  34. My lone use case for audio books is for long car trips. My wife and I are already discussing what we’re going to listen to at Christmas. We listened to The Testaments over Canadian Thanksgiving.

    Voice activated controls? Ugh. I used to set Siri off accidentally all the time, and I couldn’t get the damn thing to work consistently when I tried to use it in the car. So I used parental controls to stop her from annoying me.

    Fortunately newer versions of IOS make it easier to configure Siri so you don’t activate it accidentally.

  35. No voice controls for me. No Siri, Alexa, Hey Google. But I can easily see voice controls being a Godsend for many.

    Having issues with being coherent right now. Maybe later.

  36. @Kendall – Lychford:
    Paul Cornell stated on Twitter that “The Lights Go Out In Lychford” is the penultimate novella.

    Edit: Found it again.

  37. @Bruce Arthur, I don’t know if this is helpful or just hlepy, but the Kobo Libra has actual physical buttons (in addition to the standard touch screen) to turn pages. If the buttons are too small for your wife to manage, perhaps it would be possible to rig some sort of adapter for her? That’s something that’s not possible with touch screen page turns but might be with a physical button.

  38. Completely aside from the spyware issues (which are hard to set aside at the moment), more different ways of interfacing with technology is a good thing. The bad thing is locking everyone into a single type of interface. We need input/output modes that work for people with hearing issues, with speech issues, with vision issues, with dexterity issues, with all manner of cognitive issues.

    I have chosen to avoid AI speech input/output modes for my own personal reasons, but I would never dump on anyone for wanting them because that’s what works for them (or simply due to personal preference). Fix the spyware problems with speech input AND fix the spyware problems with text input (because they exist) AND fix the spyware problems with non-text manual input (like tracking mouse-hovers). The spyware modes for speech input are different but not unique.

  39. My 80-year-old mother-in-law uses Siri extensively; she has severe tremors in her hands.

    I will never tell her my reservations about letting spyware into her house and life. I will never show her alarming news stories about it. It’s made her life easier, and so I will keep my tongue between my teeth.

    Cassy

  40. I use Siri and Goggle every day. Without them, I couldn’t function. I’ve virtually no sense of time, so I use them to remind me I’ve got wash in, when I’ve got an appointment and so forth. God I’ve had Siri tell me what day of the week it is as I’ve a tendency to believe it’s some day other than what it is (today oddly started out as next Tuesday and then insisted it was yesterday).

    Someday I’ll be using Siri for diction as well given my neurological problems. I’m not really concerned about spyware issues on Siri and hope a Google gets smart about fixing theirs.

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