Pixel Scroll 12/12/22 Pixels Roasting On An Open Scroll

(1) USA TODAY BESTSELLER LIST MISSING. The USA Today Bestseller List is going “on hiatus” because USA Today/Gannett laid off the long-time employee who created the list on her own every week. A Publishers Lunch report explains:

As part of significant layoffs at USA Today and Gannett, approximately 200 newsroom employees were let go at the beginning of December, including longtime editor of the USA Today Best-Selling Books list Mary Cadden. She produced the list since 2007. 

Kathleen Schmidt  explains the many reasons the USA Today list is valued by indie and romance authors. Thread starts here.

Some writers say they trust the USA Today list more than the NYT and other bestseller lists because it’s based on real sales numbers. USA Today publisher Gannett says there will be an update after the beginning of the year.

(2) WORKING ARTISTS PREFERRED. At Whatever, John Scalzi has changed his personal policy on using AI-generated art, and comments on its appearance on a book cover from a major publisher: “An Update On My Thoughts on AI-Generated Art”.

Tor, which is the publisher of my novels, is being called out for using AI-generated art on a book cover; it appears that they got it from a stock art house. Getting graphic elements from stock art to modify on covers is a common enough practice — including on my own most recent novel cover — but the fact stock art houses are now stocking up on AI-generated art (which they then sell, undercutting creators) is, to put it mildly, not great. It’s possible Tor didn’t know (or didn’t pay attention to) the fact the stock art was AI-generated, but that doesn’t make it better, it kind of makes it worse.

So, two things here:

1. I’ll be emphasizing to Tor (and other publishers) that I expect my covers to have art that is 100% human-derived, even if stock art elements are used;

2. For now I’m done with AI art in public settings. As much fun as it has been to play with, the fact it’s already migrating onto “Big Five” covers is troubling, and I think it’s more important to stand with and support visual artists than it is to show off things I’ve generated through prompts on social media….

(3) CHINA’S NEW AI-MEDIA POLICY. Meanwhile, Ars Technica is reporting China has instituted new regulations requiring AI-produced media be clearly identified. The regulations cover AI-generated images, video, audio/voice, and text. They are said to be intended to promote AI-generated art while simultaneously preventing deception by requiring watermarks and forbidding their removal: “China bans AI-generated media without watermarks”.

China’s Cyberspace Administration recently issued regulations prohibiting the creation of AI-generated media without clear labels, such as watermarks—among other policies—reports The Register. The new rules come as part of China’s evolving response to the generative AI trend that has swept the tech world in 2022, and they will take effect on January 10, 2023.

In China, the Cyberspace Administration oversees the regulation, oversight, and censorship of the Internet. Under the new regulations, the administration will keep a closer eye on what it calls “deep synthesis” technology….

Under the regulations, new deep synthesis products will be subject to a security assessment from the government. Each product must be found in compliance with the regulations before it can be released. Also, the administration particularly emphasizes the requirement for obvious “marks” (such as watermarks) that denote AI-generated content…

(4) DIAGRAM PRIZE. The Bookseller announced that the 2022 Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year was won by RuPedagogies of Realness: Essays on Teaching and Learning with RuPaul’s Drag Race, edited by Lindsay Bryde & Tommy Mayberry, claiming 39% of the popular vote. Finishing in second place: What Nudism Exposes: An Unconventional History of Postwar Canada. And in third place, Jane Austen and the Buddha: Teachers of Enlightenment.  

(5) HARPERCOLLINS STRIKER INTERVIEW. “Fresh Off the Picket Line with Rachel Kambury” is a free episode of the Creating a Print Run podcast on Laura Zats and Erik Hane’s Patreon.

This week we were lucky enough to have HarperCollins associate editor Rachel Kambury on the show, and we talked to her all about her union’s strike, what about their working conditions led them to this historic moment, and how the industry might change in light of this watershed moment in publishing-worker solidarity. We thought it was important for folks to hear directly from the HarperCollins workers, and we’re very grateful for Rachel joining us to talk about her experience firsthand.

(6) DEEP DIVE INTO HUNGARIAN SFF. Here’s an English-language article about “Hungarian Speculative Fiction: Forceful, Vicious, Viscous” by Austin Wagner at Hungarian Literature Online. It covers genre history in Hungary from pre-WWII to the present.

…As for a few writers whose names you should know who haven’t yet popped up, László Sepsi and Attila Veres are two I would highlight. You can see an excerpt from Sepsi’s novel Termőtestek (Fruiting Bodieshere, shortlisted for the 2022 Péter Zsoldos award, and Attila Veres published a new book this year, A valóság helyreállítása (The Restoration of Reality), a horror novel—rarer in Hungary than other spec fic sub-genres—that shares the name of his 2021 Zsoldos award-winning short story. Even more importantly for the non-Hungarians out there, Veres’ collection of horror short stories, The Black Maybe: Liminal Tales, is now available from Valancourt Books in Luca Karafiáth’s translation. Or if you’re looking for something that straddles the traditional line between genre fiction and “high” literature, you could look to Imre Bartók’s trilogy Virágba borult világvége (The Blossoming End of the World)—though be wary as to what you should expect, as Sándor Szélesi cautions in this extensive essay on spec fic—or any of the absurd, Hungarofuturist work of Márió Z. Nemes….

The Skulls in the Stars blog also gives a strong recommendation to Attila Veres in its review of his short story collection: “The Black Maybe, by Attila Veres”.

I first encountered the work of Attila Veres in the first volume of The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories, which came out in late 2020. The series, now on volume 2, collects the best works of foreign horror authors from around the world, and brings their works together for an English speaking audience, often for the first time. The collection is fantastic all the way through, but the story of Hungarian author Attila Veres stood out to me as “one of the most impressively horrific and nasty things I’ve ever read.” Evidently many people agreed, because Valancourt Books has published the first English edition of the short stories of Attila Veres, The Black Maybe….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

2001 [By Cat Eldridge.]

Tonight for this Scroll we have a statue of another writer, the man who created Sherlock Holmes and other equally interesting characters such as Professor Challenger and humorous stories about the Napoleonic soldier Brigadier Gerard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1909 Doyle moved to Crowborough where he lived until his death in 1931. He built Windlesham Manor, a large house in which he wrote more novels. He was buried in his garden, but his wife had his remains moved into the family vault in 1935.

This bronze full-length statue of Arthur Conan Doyle is located on the corner of Beacon Road and London Road in Crowborough. 

The Conan Doyle Statue Trust was set up to raise funds for this Statue and with the financial help from the Town Council and other various donations, the statue now stands at Cloke’s Comer. 

Their Patron, Mrs. Georgina Doyle unveiled the Statue on April 14, 2001.

It was created by local sculptor David Cornell who is now eighty-seven and who had quite amazing artistic life.

The inscription on the front of its stone plinth reads: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Resident of Crowborough, 1907 – 193

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 78. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books. She retired from Ace in 2014. 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, 1949 Bill Nighy, 73. He’s got a very, very long genre association staring with being an unnamed ENT physician in Curse of the Pink Panther. He was Martin Barton in The Phantom of the Opera, Edward Gardner in Fairy Tale: A True Story, Viktor In Underworld and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Philip in Shaun of the Dead, a hilarious Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a quite unrecognizable-as-him Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Rufus Scrimgeour In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1… I’m stopping right before this get really long. Fortunately his television genre credits may be limited to an uncredited appearance in the “Vincent and the Doctor” episode of Dr. Who as Dr. Black.
  • Born December 12, 1956 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 writers such as Mercedes 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 after falling on harsh circumstances. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty-five years ago, “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”. (Died 2012,)
  • Born December 12, 1966 Hiromi Goto, 56. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Kappa Child. She followed that with two more SFF novels, The Water of Possibility and Half WorldSystems Fail, the 2014 WisCon Guest of Honor publication, highlighted her work and that of N.K. Jemisin. Hopeful Monsters, her collection of early genre short fiction, is the only such work available digitally from her. Shadow Life, her graphic novel which may or not be genre, came out last year. 
  • Born December 12, 1970 Jennifer Connelly, 52. 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, 46. 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 AfflictionBone 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. His latest is the Twilight Imperium space opera series.
  • Born December 12, 1981 C.S. E. Cooney, 41. 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. 

(9) EVOLUTION OF THE WRITING WORKSHOP. The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is promoting “Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop,” a new online educational program begun in 2022. The deadline to apply is March 13, 2023. More information about the workshop is available here.

YPO provides an intensive, one-on-one workshop experience, customized for each individual student. The program combines the renowned Odyssey lectures by top authors and editors, deep practice, expert feedback, and extensive mentorship with Odyssey director Jeanne Cavelos.

YPO was designed with the flexibility to make it possible for a wider range of writers to attend. The customized nature of the program also allows it to be much more effective in helping writers improve. Students are able to choose their own pace, taking the workshop over 6 weeks, 12 weeks, or 18 weeks; choose which writing topics they study and in what order; repeat a topic to delve deeper into content; and design individual assignments to address their writing weaknesses and build on their strengths.

For the twelve students admitted in 2023, six scholarships are available, including the Fresh Voices scholarship for an outstanding writer of color, and the Walter and Kattie Metcalf Singing Spider Scholarship for a fantasy novelist who shows great skill and promise.

(10) BRACE YOURSELF. “US scientists reach long-awaited nuclear fusion breakthrough, source says”: CNN reports there will be an official announcement on Tuesday.

For the first time ever, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain, a source familiar with the project confirmed to CNN.

The US Department of Energy is expected to officially announce the breakthrough Tuesday.

The result of the experiment would be a massive step in a decadeslong quest to unleash an infinite source of clean energy that could help end dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers for decades have attempted to recreate nuclear fusion – replicating the fusion that powers the sun.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will make an announcement Tuesday on a “major scientific breakthrough,” the department announced Sunday. The breakthrough was first reported by the Financial Times….

(11) SEASON’S READINGS. Publishing Perspectives tells about project to bring a set of rare books online: “Digitizing Its ‘Christmas Books’: Cambridge University Press”.

…These are not Christmas books in the sense of titles themed on Christmas. They’re called the press’ Christmas books because they were given to industry associates and customers at Christmas, in no small part as promotional pieces.

In most cases, only some 100 copies were made of a single title, and all of them were given away to “friends in printing and publishing.”

This meant that Cambridge University Press itself didn’t have a complete set of these rare editions, the last of which was produced in 1973. Starting in 2014, the press has been working to pull together a complete set of its own, drawing on “a mixture of donations and detective work.”…

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Martin Short and Steve Martin in Saturday Night Live’s grotesquely funny “A Christmas Carol”. (Maybe I shouldn’t have given up on them in the middle of the opening monologue?)

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Bence Pintér, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

18 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/12/22 Pixels Roasting On An Open Scroll

  1. I didn’t know Doyle had written anything other than Holmes, got to look up the books.

    Just finished reading Galaxias by Baxter. I don’t know if first contact is in fashion, or I’m just coincidentally seeing a lot of it, but I’m enjoying it. I liked the Big Idea and concept in this book. Didn’t care for the ending

  2. Doyle also wrote the Round the Fire stories, all of which I believe ran in The Strand. He considered all of them to be of the supernatural bent but ISFDB only lists seven of the seventeen that way. The collection of them, Round the Fire Stories, is available from the usual suspects for a mere three dollars and ninety nine cents.

  3. Doyle wrote the earliest body-swap story I know of The Great Keinplatz Experiment.

  4. Also born today: Karl Edward Wagner, author of the Kane novels & short stories and some truly outstanding horror stories; taken from us far too soon.

  5. 8) On Josepha Sherman. She was so cool and friendly a person.

    We had a long standing thing at cons where the first time we spotted each other, we would point at each other and call out ‘You’. We had been doing that for so long as a running gag that it’s origins had been lost in the dim recesses of our memories. It was so much fun to see her at cons, and I greatly miss her warmth and friendship.

  6. 2) Did Asimov teach us nothing? I for one am appalled at the prejudice and discrimination being shown to our virtual brothers and sisters, and by a prominent SF author no less – somebody who surely ought to know better!

  7. (7) He really was that professor. And the stories are, as usual, best on paper: https://www.amazon.com/Round-Stories-Arthur-Conan-Doyle/dp/0877018839

    (2). Could we have a break from John Scalzi, perhaps? There are many authors out there way more interesting to read, friend or no friend.

    Subscriber notifications or not – we know when to look for our daily dose of the great and only File 770. Couldn’t live without it, so…

    Keep ’em coming, we love ’em.

  8. Andrew (not Werdna): “Doyle wrote the earliest body-swap story I know of The Great Keinplatz Experiment.” — F. Anstey’s comic fantasy Vice Versâ was a few years earlier, in 1882.

  9. C.S.E. Cooney also has another, much longer (700 p.) book out this year, Saint Death’s Daughter. It sounds lovely, got great blurbs, I’ve put it on my TBR e-pile, but I don’t have the concentration to tackle anything big right now. Has anyone else read it yet? Thoughts?

  10. (1) I used to buy the USA Today on Thursday just to get their bestseller list. In more recent years, it has been a great way to track the real sales of indie ebooks (which the other lists often refuse to include).

    @ Jan-Erik Zandersson
    I dunno, I found this one interesting. Until I read his post about this, I didn’t know Tor had used AI-generated art on a book cover. And AI art is a very timely topic right now.

  11. I find Scalzi always interesting as an individual and his novels are generally among some of the best SF being done. Not groundbreaking by any means. But good popcorn reading none-the-less which is always a good thing to have around.

  12. Meredith moment:
    The Complete Malafrena, by Le Guin, the Library of America edition, as an e-book, $1.99 at Kobo.

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