Pixel Scroll 1/10/23 Scrolls Are Here, Scrolls Are Here, Life Is Pixels And Life Is Bheer

(1) SPEAK MEMORY. The Guardian wonders, “Death of the narrator? Apple unveils suite of AI-voiced audiobooks”.

Apple has quietly launched a catalogue of books narrated by artificial intelligence in a move that may mark the beginning of the end for human narrators. The strategy marks an attempt to upend the lucrative and fast-growing audiobook market – but it also promises to intensify scrutiny over allegations of Apple’s anti-competitive behaviour.

The popularity of the audiobook market has exploded in recent years, with technology companies scrambling to gain a foothold. Sales last year jumped 25%, bringing in more than $1.5bn. Industry insiders believe the global market could be worth more than $35bn by 2030.

… Before the launch, one Canadian literary agent told the Guardian she did not see the value from both a literary or customer perspective.

“Companies see the audiobooks market and that there’s money to be made. They want to make content. But that’s all it is. It’s not what customers want to listen to. There’s so much value in the narration and the storytelling,” said Carly Watters….

(2) KELLY LINK Q&A. At Publishers Weekly: “Flights of Fancy: PW Talks with Kelly Link”.

What can contemporary fiction inject into the fairy tale?

Maybe psychological depth. Fairy tales depend on what the reader brings to them. The difference between fairy tales and myth is that Disney hardened our idea of certain stories so that a particular version of them becomes so codified that it replaces other possibilities of how that story could exist. I don’t think it’s great to let those stories exist in one form. People are constantly retelling them, and I think you need the rigid, popular version everyone knows for the weirder versions to have any power….

(3) DEADLINE EXTENDED. L.A. County high school students now have until January 23, 2023 to submit their sff short stories to The Tomorrow Prize & The Green Feather Award.

The Omega Sci-Fi Awards invites Los Angeles County high school students to submit their short science fiction stories to The Tomorrow Prize. The Tomorrow Prize encourages young writers to use sci-fi to explore the diverse issues humanity wrestles with, spark creative solutions, and unite the worlds of art and science.

The Green Feather Award co-presented by the Nature Nexus Institute, highlights an environmentally focused sci-fi story. We are seeking stories that integrate creative solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises.

For more details please see submission guidelines.

Selected finalists will be chosen to have their stories read in their honor by celebrity guests during the May 2023 Culminating Event.

First, Second, and Third place Tomorrow Prize winners will receive $250, $150, and $100 USD cash prizes.

The First place Tomorrow Prize winner will be published in L.A. Parent Magazine.

The Green Feather Award is a special prize for an environmentally focused sci-fi story. The winner will receive $250 USD & online publication by the Nature Nexus Institute.

(4) IN THE BEGINNING? Whatever presents “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress” about the premise to Observer, the novel she’s co-written with Robert Lanza.

…On the one hand, could science support the idea that consciousness creates the universe?  On the other hand, wasn’t this just recycled philosophy 101 according to Irish philosopher George Berkeley, among others?…

(5) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. English-language prozine Interzone is being published in Poland by MYY Press.

(6) A GREEN MAN, BUT NOT A LITTLE ONE. MeTV remembers the time “Ted Cassidy helped Gene Roddenberry play a prank behind the scenes on Star Trek”. Here’s the first part of the story:

The first-season Star Trek episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” has a few memorable things that stand out. It gives us our second evil duplicate Kirk of the series, we get some backstory for Majel Barrett’s nurse Chapel… but arguably what sticks in the minds of fans the most is Ted Cassidy as ominous android Ruk.

At this time, Ted Cassidy was fresh off the ending of The Addams Family where he enjoyed a regular role as Lurch, the family butler. In his book Star Trek Memories, William Shatner talks about how Cassidy was cast as the seven-foot-tall, menacing android. Prior to filming, Star Trek‘s makeup artist, Freddie Phillips asked Cassidy to come in for a makeup test.

“Cassidy sat down in Phillips’ undersized makeup chair and allowed the artist to transform him from a smiling young actor to an evil, hulking monster,” Shatner writes. “First Freddie covered Ted’s head with a latex skinhead wig; then he applied a sort of greyish-green base coat over Cassidy’s entire face. Once all that was done, Phillips darkened the area around each of the actor’s eyes and employed a black grease pencil to sharpen the angles of Ted’s cheekbones, forehead and chin. The end result was quite frightening and really served to drain all the humanity from Cassidy’s face.”…

(7) BOOK KEEPING. “Floods, Fires and Humidity: How Climate Change Affects Book Preservation” in the New York Times.

…Both immediate and long-term strategies are needed to keep books secure in changing environments, experts say, but some threats are more insidious than wildfires or hurricanes.

Shifts in temperature and humidity from climate change can have large consequences. Archivists and conservators in Cincinnati, for example, are worried about big temperature swings in a single day. Humidity is on the rise in Southern California, where the climate is historically dry; most preservation systems in the area aren’t designed to manage precipitation.

“The higher the humidity, the higher the temperature, the quicker they will break down their organic materials,” said Holly Prochaska, the interim head of the Archives and Rare Books Library at the University of Cincinnati. “Leather will wet rot. Collagen fibers in vellum will tighten and shrink.”…

Institutions like U.C.L.A. are developing ways to combat humidity to work in tandem with their climate-controlled stacks and collections rooms. Now, because of climate change, Metzger thinks twice before loaning out materials, which can keep history and knowledge under lock and key.

“Books gain meaning by use — use is exhibit, use is research — and there’s a beauty in use,” Metzger said. “If we just isolate things and keep them in these little, perfectly controlled environments with guards around them, what is their meaning anymore?”

One solution is digitization — scanning pages and storing them online. The process is not only an answer to climate change; it also allows for documents to be easily accessible and shared, broadening a collection’s reach. Adding documents to a server or the cloud, though, presents its own set of obstacles, both practical and environmental.

(8) SYLVIA RUCKER (1943-2023). Sylvia Bogsch Rucker, Rudy Rucker’s wife, died January 6. He pays tribute to her in “Sylvia’s Life”.

…Her curiosity never ended, even in her final days she wanted to know the details of everyone’s lives. This special attention made everyone feel loved. Her loving, warm, beautiful spirit will be deeply missed by all….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1926 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Pooh and food

We shall talk about Pooh and food. Well actually I believe that A.E. Milne only had one food that his round little bear found interesting to the point of obsession and that was honey. Honey, often spelled Hunny by Pooh, is as you know the ever so sweet food made by bees. 

It’s easily the most important food in the Winnie-the-Pooh works, being loved by pooh bears, heffalumps and woozles and also enjoyed by rabbits and piglets. 

Pooh even called it smackerel , which is to say a snack of a small amount of honey. Indeed In the very first chapter, Pooh tells us, “the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it”.

And yes, actual bears do love honey. They’ll break open a tree to get at a wild hive inside a dead trunk eating the honey and bees alike. They particularly like the bee larvae. 

““When you wake up in the morning, Pooh” said piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.”

The illustration is from the 1926 first edition with the art by E.A. Shepherd.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 10, 1904 Ray Bolger. The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, the villainous Barnaby in Babes in Toyland, two appearances on Fantasy Island, andVector In “Greetings from Earth” on the Seventies version of Battlestar Galactica. He made a Dr. Pepper ad which you can see here. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 10, 1937 Elizabeth Anne Hull. She served as the President of the Science Fiction Research Association and editor of its newsletter. She was a member of the panel for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel since 1986. With her husband Frederik Pohl, Hull edited the Tales from the Planet Earth anthology. She was also the editor of the Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl anthology. She has co-authored three short stories with him, “Author Plus”, “The Middle Kingdom” and “Second Best Friend”. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 10, 1944 William Sanderson, 79. I remember him best as J. F. Sebastian, the possibly insane genetic designer working for Tyrell in Blade Runner, but he’s had a career obviously after that film including appearing as Skeets in The Rocketeer, voicing Dr. Karl Rossum on Batman: The Animated Series, playing the character Deuce on Babylon 5 (a series I’ve watched through at least three times), E. B. Farnum on Deadwood (ok, it’s not genre, but it’s Will and Emma’s favorite show so let’s let it slide) and Sheriff Bud Dearborne on True Blood
  • Born January 10, 1944 Jeffrey Catherine JonesShe was an artist providing more than a hundred and fifty covers for many different types of genre books through mid seventies including the Ace paperback editions of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series including Swords Against Death. Among her work was also Flash Gordon for Charlton Comics in the Sixties and the Conan Saga for Marvel Comics in the late Eighties.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born January 10, 1947 George Alec Effinger. I’ve read his Marîd Audran series at least twice as it’s an amazing series in both the characters and the setting. I never read the short stories set in this setting until Golden Gryphon Press sent me Budayeen Nights for Green Man to review.  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered any of his other works. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 10, 1959 Jeff Kaake, 64. He’s on the Birthday Honors list as he was Captain John Boon on the Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. That was a fun show! He was also Thomas Cole on Viper which lasted four seasons. And he showed up in the Stormageddon film (which sounds like the name a Filer would give to a beloved  SJW Cred) as well. 
  • Born January 10, 1959 Fran Walsh, 64. Partner of Peter Jackson, she has contributed to all of his films since the late Eighties when she started out as co-writer of Meet the Feebles, and as producer since The Fellowship of the Ring which won a Hugo. Need I note the next two films won Hugos as well? The Hobbit films did not win Hugos.  The first one was nominated at LoneStarCon 3 but lost out to The Avengers; the other two were not nominated.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TOTOPOTUS. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Miranda Parkin (@mparkinb) did this piece based on Season 2 of the HBO sci-fi comedy television series Avenue 5 (2020-):

(13) LOOK CLOSER. [Item by Jo Van.] Something tonight reminded me of the Deep Space Nine Documentary What We Left Behind, which I helped to crowd-fund back in 2017, and I was thinking, wait a minute, wasn’t there something about a posted acknowledgement of the contributors?

It took a foray into the Wayback Machine, but I found it… and there’s my name, down about where Sisko’s communicator would be.

(14) GAINING CREDENTIALS. Annalisa Barbieri tells the Guardian “What the love of cats taught me about myself”.

I never thought I’d kiss a cat. Or like them, or be in a room with them. Cats, to me, were evil and unpredictable. A classic projection, if ever I saw one, of fear manifesting as dislike. Intense fear. Intense dislike.

But then I became a mother and, as we all know, maternal love makes you do strange, selfless things occasionally. My children started asking for a cat. I said no, of course. My home was my safe place. No cats allowed. For some years they asked for a cat, on and off. Eventually, the “why we should get a cat” lists started getting toilet-roll long and I started thinking, maybe we can get a kitten. Kittens are cute. I started watching videos. Kittens were cute….

(15) BIG SIXTIES FINISH. Victoria Silverwolf wraps up a review of a famous anthology: “[January 10, 1968] Saving the Best For Last (Dangerous Visions, Part Three)” at Galactic Journey.

Welcome to the last of our three discussions about an anthology of original fantasy and science fiction that’s drawing a lot of attention. Love it or hate it, or maybe a little of both, it’s impossible to ignore….

(16) ALAS, POOR UNIVAC. Arturo Serrano brings us “Microreview [book]: Hamlet, Prince of Robots by M. Darusha Wehm” at Nerds of a Feather.

No longer the seat of Danish monarchy, Elsinore is now a corporation, a leading manufacturer of human-like robots. The murdered Hamlet senior was the Humanoid Artificial Mind (Learned Emotive Type), a model that represented a huge leap ahead in robotic innovation. Instead of a queen, Gertrude is a CEO, whose hopes for Elsinore’s bottom line now depend on the success of her latest creation, the Hamlet v.2. If the company doesn’t maintain dominance of the robot market, its (figurative) throne will be snatched by its main competitor, which is aggressively promoting a rival model, the Fortinbras. But one night, a portion of old code from Hamlet v.1 copies itself into the hard drive of Hamlet v.2, and a quest for revenge begins to take shape.

Everything’s better with robots, and a retelling of one of the biggest classics in the Western canon is a sure attention grabber….

(17) ON THE SHELF. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimeralso asked the Hamlet author for recommendations in “Six Books with M. Darusha Wehm”.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’ve had it on my shelf since it came out, but only just started The Book of Flora by Meg Elison. It’s the third and final book in the “Road to Nowhere” series, which starts with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. The whole series is an incredible, post-apocalyptic saga of the struggles of communities in dark times. I’ve loved the two previous books in the series, but while the books offer stories of human resilience, they are also harrowing to read, so I’ve had to space them out in my reading time…. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In case you missed the Sixties we offer “The Complete 14 Batman Window Cameos”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Jo Van, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

11 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/10/23 Scrolls Are Here, Scrolls Are Here, Life Is Pixels And Life Is Bheer

  1. (1) NetGalley has tried out AI narration for review versions of audiobooks–clearly stating that this wasn’t the narration that would be commercially released.

    I listened to a couple. They weren’t awful, but I wasn’t motivated to listen to any more, and can’t imagine paying for one.

  2. Life is bheer – ah, bheer, the sacred drink of Ghu (purple be His Name).
    1. But they want “content”, not stories, not art. “Content” is identical with laundry detergent, something to be stamped out in an assembly line, and perfectly reproducible. Silly and annoying artists and authors are just a waste of money….
    6. Condolences to Rudy. Been there, done that, did not want the t-shirt.
    Birthdays – George Alec Effinger – and he was a nice guy, and good company. I visited him and his then-lady in N’awlins in ’90, and egoboo! I went with him, a Famous Author, to pick up laundry from the dry cleaners.

  3. Number one — The problem with AI narration is that whether iIt is Alexa or Siri you can, or at least I can, tell it isn’t a human speaking as there is no tonal vsriance in the voice. It just doesn’t change across the entire narrative.

    And Siri is programmed to tell stories including some weird takes on the Grimm Brothers and the other fairy tales, so I’ve got a fairly long narrative to listen to and observe this.

  4. Lets not forget that William Sanderson also portrayed Larry of “My Name is Larry, this is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl” fame on “Newheart” which was so twisted that is has to at least be genre adjacent.

  5. It never ceases to amaze me how short-sighted people are about the AI narration issue. AI probably won’t be able to replicate a human performance anytime soon, but that’s missing the point. Fiction books are only one segment of what gets published every year. Think of all of the technical publications and nonfiction books that aren’t available in audio because it isn’t cost effective to hire a narrator. To say nothing of the millions of non-native English speakers who have no access to audio books, because again it isn’t cost effective to hire narrators in dozens of different languages. AI will open up access to audio for millions of people, including non-native speakers, the sight impaired, people with reading difficulties, ADHD, or just people who don’t have time to sit down and read a physical book.

  6. @ Chet Desmond.
    One of the podcasts I listen to is from the Economist, three articles from the magazine read aloud. Would be perfect for a AI narrator

  7. Thomas the Red on January 10, 2023 at 7:34 pm said:
    “Lets not forget that William Sanderson also portrayed Larry of “My Name is Larry, this is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl” fame on “Newheart” which was so twisted that is has to at least be genre adjacent.”

    You beat me to this. Of course it’s genre adjacent! We’ll, at least. 🙂

  8. I think that AI narration as an addition, not a replacement of current human narration is a good thing. I often have time to listen but not eye-read a book and used text-to-speech software in three different languages to listen to books. The non-AI software narration is rather weak, so a step up is a good thing even if I second the opinion above that it won’t replace human narrators any time soon

  9. I suppose the point with “AI narration” is that it’s meant to be better than the speech synthesis that already exists and that we have experienced in recent years.

    I don’t know how much better it is now, though, or how much better it may become in the short term future. There may be significant improvements, or there may not. (I wonder if having an AI identifying how a sentence is supposed to be read may give good results in general, but also cause more blatant mistakes.)

    Still, I doubt AI narration will cause significant upheaval of current audiobook market – but it may give improved screen readers for the visual impaired, and better access to audio of “narrow” texts that aren’t available as audio now.

  10. The “Death of the narrator” title, insinuating that AI narration will replace human narrators of audio fiction, strikes me as pure clickbait.

    When I did volunteer reading for the Audio Information Network of Colorado, the reason I was eventually asked to read the twice-weekly Employment Opportunity News – that is, an hour long show consisting of nothing but employment ads – it was because the service that automatically provided this show which the non-profit subsequently broadcast became unavailable to them.

    After my first week reading that show, I came to the conclusion that an hour of employment ads is a good use for AI narration. But fiction, not so much.

    (I read that show for years. I’m not sorry, it was necessary work, but that was not exactly the most fun I was having twice a week.)

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