(1) HOW PROZINES ARE COPING WITH SUBMISSIONS PRODUCED BY AI. The Dark, edited by Sean Wallace, is another sff publication being sent a lot of AI-written stories. They’ve adopted a policy in response:
Meanwhile, Matthew Kressel, designer of the Moksha Submissions System used by many sff publications, told Facebook readers today he will “soon be releasing a set of tools for Moksha to allow editors to easily filter AI-generated submissions. Yes, it relies on author affirmation that the work is wholly their own, but to affirm otherwise would be plagiarism. Gotta start somewhere.”
(2) STATEMENTS FROM AUTHORS ORGANIZATIONS. In the UK, the Society of Authors discusses the challenges of “Protecting copyright and creative careers in the face of new technology” in its statement on “Artificial Intelligence” which begins —
Whatever your area of work, whether you are an academic, an illustrator, a poet, a scriptwriter or a translator (to name a few), AI systems are being trained on existing copyright-protected works (input) and these same systems are being used to generate works ‘in the style of’ those existing works (output).
The AI development race is opaque, unfettered and unregulated, and driven primarily by the profit motives of large corporations, despite some likely adverse impacts. The ethical and moral ramifications of these AI systems are complex, and the legal ramifications are not limited to the infringement of copyright’s economic rights, but may include infringement of an author’s moral rights of attribution and integrity and right to object to false attribution; infringement of data protection laws; invasions of privacy; and acts of passing off.
And these aren’t issues for a hypothetical future….
And in the U.S., The Authors Guild discusses the problem in its advocacy article about “Artificial Intelligence”.
Artificial intelligence machines capable of generating literary and artistic works and performing other fantastical tasks that were once “science fiction” are at our doorstep. Today, commercial AI programs can already write articles, compose music, and render images in response to text prompts, and their ability to do these tasks is improving at a rapid clip. A wide assortment of tools to help writers write are commercially available today and show great potential to expedite and improve many writers’ output. At the same time, once AI is writing good books on its own (which is not so far off), it threatens to crowd the market for human authored books.
AI-generated literary and artistic works, even in their most impressive form, are essentially mimicry of human expressive works. AI generative technologies (i.e, AI machines that are used to generate output) are “trained” on mass amounts of pre-existing works (e.g., text, images, recorded music), where the copied works are broken down to their components and rules and their patterns deciphered. The consumer facing AI machines available to date have been trained on works copied by internet crawlers without licenses or permission.
While AI-generated works might look or sound like human-created works, they lack human intelligence and feeling. AI cannot feel, think, or empathize. It lacks the essential human faculties that move the arts forward. Nevertheless, the speed at which AI can create artistic and literary works to compete with human-authored works poses a significant threat to both the economic and cultural value of the latter.
We are confronting serious policy issues about the future of creativity: Do we want humans or AI creating our literature and other arts?…
(3) SUDOWRITE ADVOCATE WILL DROP TWITTER. S. B. Divya, whose promotion of Sudowrite’s “Story Engine” on Twitter met with much criticism, announced yesterday that she will be leaving the platform.
(4) MEDICAL UPDATE. “YouTube star Hank Green reveals Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis” reports Deseret News. Green has also written sff novels.
YouTuber and author Hank Green announced that he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in a YouTube video last week.
In the video, Green recounted his diagnosis, saying it all started when “I noticed my lymph nodes were big.” After consulting with his doctor, getting an ultrasound and undergoing a biopsy, Green was given a diagnosis. According to Green, it was “good news, bad news.”
“One, it’s cancer. It’s called lymphoma. It’s cancer of the lymphatic system. And good news, it’s something called Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Green said. “It’s one of the most treatable cancers. It responds very well to treatment. The goal is cure. The treatment to get there is fairly well-known, if unpleasant.”…
(5) FAIR USE CASE. “After the Warhol Decision, Another Major Copyright Case Looms” – the New York Times briefed readers about a fair use decision and whether it will affect forthcoming litigation.
…Last week, the Supreme Court resolved a major copyright dispute involving a Warhol that many experts thought would have a spillover effect on other cases, including a pair involving Prince that are currently playing themselves out in federal court in New York.
But in the end, the court’s Warhol decision appeared to be fairly narrow, the experts said, as the justices did not so much weigh in on how much of another work an artist can copy, but ruled instead on what sort of use such a work can be put to.
Warhol, who died in 1987, had created a series of silk-screen portraits of the rock star Prince that were based on a photograph of the musician taken by Lynn Goldsmith. One of the silk-screens was licensed by his estate to Condé Nast in 2016 to illustrate the cover of a special issue about the musician’s legacy.
When Goldsmith sued, asserting her copyright had been infringed, the Warhol estate argued that it was entitled to the so-called fair-use defense. The estate’s lawyers suggested that Warhol’s treatment of the image, which was colored, cropped and shaded in certain places, had been “transformative,” a term the courts have adopted to define just how much change the appropriating artist must bring to the underlying work to pass muster.
Many thought the latest Supreme Court decision might more clearly delineate what qualifies a work as transformative. But the justices chose instead to focus on how the Warhol portrait had been used, namely to illustrate an article about the musician. The court found that such a use was not distinct enough from the “purpose and character” of Goldsmith’s photo, which had been licensed to Vanity Fair years earlier to help illustrate an article about [the musician] Prince….
… Brian Sexton, a lawyer for [artist] Richard Prince, said the Supreme Court, in its Warhol decision, “went to great pains” to make clear that its findings were “limited to a single licensing dispute.”
“As Richard Prince makes individual paintings and does not license his works, the holding in Warhol is clearly inapplicable to his New Portraits litigation,” he said….
(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER FELLOWSHIP AWARDED. Dr. Lois Rosson is the winner of the second Octavia E. Butler Fellowship, which will support her work at the Huntington in Pasadena, CA. “Introducing the 2023–24 Huntington Fellows”.
Among the incoming cohort of fellows is Lois Rosson, winner of the Octavia E. Butler Fellowship. She received her Ph.D. from the history department of the University of California, Berkeley, in 2022 and took up a Berggruen Institute Fellowship at USC’s Center for Science, Technology, and Public Life the same year. Rosson is a historian of science, focusing on visual representations of the space environment. Her work has been supported by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, NASA’s Ames Research Center, and The Huntington, where she was awarded a short-term fellowship in 2020.
As the second Butler Fellow at The Huntington, Rosson will develop her first book project, which explores why visual tropes that associated outer space with Western frontier expansion persisted into the late 20th century. At no point in this history, she argues, was the framing of space landscapes as topographies ideologically continuous with American Manifest Destiny an obvious or inevitable outcome. How then, she asks, did this perception become so dominant?
Rosson proposes two conceptual alternatives to depictions of space as a landscape couched in colonialist narrative. The first centers on Afrofuturist representations of outer space as a realm to which inhabitants of Earth can hypothetically flee—as opposed to landscapes characterized by prospective settlement or colonial resource extraction. The second compares representations of Latinx farm workers in midcentury California with visions of the labor-free space colonies developed by NASA at the time.
Rosson plans to spend her time principally working with The Huntington’s Octavia E. Butler Papers. Butler’s literary vision of space as a place of asylum, Rosson writes, is one of the most widely read of the 20th century. In Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower, the protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina, frustrated with life in dystopian California, compares Mars—“cold, empty, almost airless, dead”—to heaven. In Olamina’s view, the Martian landscape is not an especially inviting one, but it offers the prospect of escaping a planet characterized by degraded human life and violent climate catastrophe. At The Huntington, Rosson will focus on Butler’s ideas about how life in space should be organized as well as her upbringing in Pasadena and proximity to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Along with representations of space as a realm of noncorporate diaspora, Rosson explores the centrality of agricultural production to the large-scale space station designs that emerged in the 1970s and ’80s. While illustrations of these space stations depicted fully populated colonies set against the pastoral landscapes of fully engineered agricultural systems, the labor required to maintain these environments is never depicted. Rosson plans to compare depictions of agricultural production in space with the idealized versions circulated in 20th-century American print culture, which erased most traces of human labor. She argues that images of California citrus and vegetable farming—like those illustrated on lithographed labels held in The Huntington’s Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History—function as visual precursors to the inert versions eventually depicted in illustrations of futuristic space stations in the early 1970s, a time when the rights of immigrant farm workers became increasingly visible in the United States.
(7) LOOKING BACK. Sam Reader embarks on a story-by-story commentary on a milestone David G. Hartwell anthology. “Dissecting The Dark Descent: Stephen King’s ‘The Reach,’ and Why Reading Order Matters” at Tor.com.
In 1987, editor David G. Hartwell embarked on a massive undertaking.
Through conversations, panels, and a variety of correspondence, he came to realize the horror genre was at something of a turning point. A lot of horror writers and critics, when they cited their influences and favorite works, tended to favor short stories over longer forms of horror. In fact, a lot of the works that drove horror history appeared to be short stories. After much thought, he compiled what he felt was a definitive work on shorter horror at the crossroads of the genre; The way forward being paved by novels, the previous history built upon the foundation of short stories. It was meant as an all-encompassing paean to dark fiction, to discuss and outline Hartwell’s own thoughts and definitions of the genre.
The result was a huge tome titled The Dark Descent, as much a historical and critical work of horror as it was an attempt to codify and collect the best specimens of short horror stories. It’s award-winning, weighty in both content and size, and looms large in the collections of horror fans old and new.
That was thirty-six years ago. In the years since The Dark Descent landed with an almighty boom upon our bookshelves, horror has in fact changed quite a bit….
(8) GOING, GOING. Jake Thornton reacts to the bad news in “’My Movie Is Being Removed From Disney+ Or Why Streaming Sucks’” at AllYourScreens.com. The Princess will be taken down May 26.
…Now, as you may have already gathered from the title of this post, I have some rather disheartening news to share. The movie that my dear friend Ben and I co-wrote, The Princess, is being removed from popular streaming platforms such as Hulu and Disney+. A decision made in the pursuit of cost-saving measures….
… Here is an article from Variety that provides further insight into this unfortunate development.
To be completely honest, Ben and I are both profoundly saddened by this turn of events. As Ben aptly expressed in his recent tweet, “After 25 years in LA, I finally had a movie that I’m proud of. Now, it could vanish forever…”
And indeed, that is the harsh reality we are faced with. Ben and I have dedicated countless hours to this industry, tirelessly honing our skills as writers. For 15 years, we have toiled together, overcoming numerous obstacles in the pursuit of our dreams. Finally, in 2014, our hard work paid off, and we broke into the industry. Yet, it took an additional seven long years before one of our projects was brought to life. The Princess was that project. Finally! We had achieved something remarkable—an offering for the world to experience. A piece of work that I could proudly share with my future grandchildren. Something to present to those who ever questioned my abilities as a screenwriter, proving that I had indeed left a mark on the world.
However, in an effort to cut costs, Disney has chosen to withdraw The Princess, along with several other films and shows, from their streaming services. This is reminiscent of a similar situation last year when David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, removed a multitude of shows from HBO Max and even decided against releasing Batgirl to reduce expenses.
Now, both the creative team behind The Princess and ourselves find ourselves among the victims of such decisions….
(9) FEELS MAGICAL. “Vietnam’s Eighth Wonder in ‘A Crack in the Mountain’: Watch First Clip” – Variety tells about the new documentary. The movie is being released in the UK and Ireland on May 26.
…Deep in the jungle of central Vietnam lies an underground kingdom. Hang Son Doong, which translates as ‘mountain river cave’ is the largest cave passage in the world and a place of beauty. Located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, the cave entrance was first discovered in 1990 by a local farmer. But it wasn’t explored until 2009 when a British expedition team rigged ropes and descended.
Often described as the eighth wonder of the world, Son Doong has its own lake, jungle and a unique weather system, and remained undisturbed for millions of years. However, in 2014, Son Doong’s future was thrown into doubt when plans were announced to build a cable car into the cave. With many arguing that this would destroy the cave’s delicate eco-system and the local community divided over the benefits this development would bring, the film follows those caught up in the unfolding events….
(10) MEMORY LANE.
2005 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Joe Hill’s the son of Stephen King. I’ve met him several times, and yes he looks like his father. He’s every bit as friendly and charming as his father is in person. Lovely family they are.
Our Beginning is that of “Voluntary Committal” which was published by Subterranean Press eighteen years ago.
I don’t know who I’m writing this for, can’t say who I expect to read it. Not the police, anyway. I don’t know what happened to my brother, and I can’t tell them where he is. Nothing I could put down here would help them find him.
And anyway, this isn’t really about his disappearance… although it does concern a missing person, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the two things had anything to do with each other. I have never told anyone what I know about Edward Prior, who left school one October day in 1977, and never arrived home for chili and baked potatoes with Mom. For a long time, the first year or two after he vanished, I didn’t want to think about my friend Eddie. I would do anything not to think about him. If I passed some people talking about him in the halls of my high school—I heard he stole his momma’s weed and some money and ran away to fuckin California!—I’d fix my eyes on some point in the distance and pretend I was deaf. And if someone actually approached and asked me straight out what I thought had happened to him—now and then someone would, since we were known compañeros—I’d set my face into a rigid blank and shrug. “I almost think I care sometimes,” I said.
Later, I didn’t think about Eddie out of studiously formed habit. If anything happened by chance to remind me of him—if I saw a boy who looked like him, or read something in the news about a missing teen—I would instantly begin to think of something else, hardly aware I was even doing it.
In the last three weeks, though, ever since my little brother Morris went missing, I find myself thinking about Ed Prior more and more; can’t seem, through any effort of will, to turn thoughts of him aside. The urge to talk to someone about what I know is really almost more than I can bear. But this isn’t a story for the police. Believe me, it wouldn’t do them any good, and it might do myself a fair amount of bad. I can’t tell them where to look for Edward Prior any more than I can tell them where to look for Morris—can’t tell what I don’t know—but if I were to share this story with a detective, I think I might be asked some harsh questions, and some people (Eddie’s mother, for example, still alive and on her third marriage) would be put through a lot of unnecessary emotional strain.
And it’s just possible I could wind up with a one-way ticket to the same place where my brother spent the last two years of his life: the Wellbrook Progressive Mental Health Center. My brother was there voluntarily, but Wellbrook includes a wing just for people who had to be committed. Morris was part of the clinic’s work program, pushed a mop for them four days out of the week, and on Friday mornings he went into the Governor’s Wing, as it’s known, to wash their shit off the walls. And their blood.
Was I just talking about Morris in the past tense? I guess I was. I don’t hope anymore that the phone will ring, and it will be Betty Millhauser from Wellbrook, her voice rushed and winded, telling me they’ve found him in a homeless shelter somewhere, and they’re bringing him back. I don’t think anyone will be calling to tell me they found him floating in the Charles, either. I don’t think anyone will be calling at all, except maybe to say nothing is known. Which could almost be the epitaph on Morris’s grave. And maybe I have to admit that I’m writing this, not to show it to anyone, but because I can’t help myself, and a blank page is the only safe audience for this story I can imagine.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 23, 1909 — Robert Thomas Maitland Scott Jr., 1909 – 1945. Son in a father-and-son writing team who created The Spider, a pulp character who was clearly a rip-off of The Shadow. They wrote only the first two Spider novels before it was written by various house authors though it’s disputed if Scott Jt. had an uncredited role because the SF element in the series clearly reflect his tastes. He would die in a motor vehicle while on active duty with Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. (Died 1945.)
- Born May 23, 1921 — James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in Flight? A Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek novels. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name, that of Arthur Merlyn. (Died 1975.)
- Born May 23, 1933 — Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.)
- Born May 23, 1935 — Susan Cooper, 88. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Her Scottish castle set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and is just plain fun. I’d also recommend her Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent. The Grey King, part of The Dark is Risk series, won a Newbery, and she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention.
- Born May 23, 1942 — Zalman King. OK he’s best known for The Red Shoe Diaries which are decidedly not genre and indeed are soft core erotica but even that isn’t quite true as some of the episodes were definitely genre such as “The Forbidden Zone” set in a future where things are very different, and “Banished” which deals with an Angel now in mortal form all on Earth. I’m betting there’s more fantasy elements but I need to go through sixty episodes to confirm that. Denise Crosby appeared in two episodes of the Red Shoe Dairies playing the different characters, Lynn ‘Mona’ McCabe in “The Psychiatrist” and Officer Lynn ‘Mona’ McCabe in “You Have the Right to Remain Silent”. Zalman himself played Nick in “The Lost Ones” episode on The Land of The Giants and earlier was The Man with The Beard in the Munsters episode of “Far Out Munsters”. His final genre acting gig was on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Gregory Haymish in “The Cap and Gown Affair”. (Died 2012.)
- Born May 23, 1967 — Sean Williams, 56. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects.
- Born May 23, 1986 — Ryan Coogler, 37. Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also directed. He directed Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Producer, Space Jam 2, producer of the Wankanda series on Disney+. Black Panther was a Hugo finalist at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon, the year that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won.
(12) ‘BLOOM COUNTY’ – A BETTER FAREWELL. When the Bloom County comic originally closed its run in 1989 Mark Roth-Whitworth thought he could improve on the way it ended. “For something different: a Bloom County end”.
A long time ago, a comic strip ended: Bloom County. A lot of us were unhappy, but I also thought that there could have been a better ending… so I wrote one.
Star Date 93350.09 Captain’s Log of the Starchair Enterpoop, Helmsman and now commanding officer Binkley recording.
It seems that our long mission has come to an end. Apparently, we have been successful….
(13) CYBERWARFARE. [Item by Francis Hamit.] This one should interest military SF fans and gamers. “The Cyber Crucible: Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Development of Modern Warfare” at Army University Press.
This is a reprint of Chapter 9 from Perceptions Are Reality: Historical Case Studies of Information Operations in Large-Scale Combat Operations, part of The Large-Scale Combat Operations Series.
…In February 2013, General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff (comparable to the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), published an article titled “The Value of Science is in the Foresight,” in the weekly Russian trade paper Military-Industrial Kurier. In it, Gerasimov suggested that the “very ‘rules of war’ have changed,” and that in many cases, nonmilitary means have exceeded the power and force of weapons in their ability to effect change on the international stage.2 Gerasimov argues that new technologies have reduced gaps between traditional forces and their command and control, though also noting that “frontal engagements of large formations of forces at the strategic and operational level are gradually becoming a thing of the past.”3 The future, Gerasimov suggests, lies in “contactless actions”—made through cyber or other electronic means—being used as the main means of military or intelligence goals. This belief—that traditional military interactions are giving way to newer and subjectively more effective indirect interactions via computers and electronics—has been dubbed by some as the Gerasimov Doctrine…..
(14) MIGHTY MUSCLES. “The Best Hercules Movies”. Is there such a thing? Fans who read Ranker think so.
Over the years, there have been many memorable movies about Hercules that have captivated audiences worldwide. Some examples include the groundbreaking 1958 Italian film Hercules, starring bodybuilder Steve Reeves; Disney’s beloved animated feature Hercules (1997), which boasts an unforgettable soundtrack; and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s action-packed performance in Hercules (2014). Each film offers its own unique perspective on the life and legend of one of Greece’s most iconic heroes, with stunning visuals, thrilling action sequences, and engaging storytelling.
Now it’s your turn to let us know which Hercules movies stand out as the best among this legendary lineup. We invite you to vote on your favorite films featuring this mighty mythical hero. Together we’ll determine which movies truly capture the essence of Hercules’ strength, wisdom, and enduring popularity across generations. So grab your lion-skin cloak and club – it’s time to dive into the world of Hercules like never before.
Number one on the list is actually a sequel:
Hercules Unchained (1959)
In this timeless sequel, we’re treated to the unstoppable Steve Reeves as he takes on the role of Hercules, flexing his muscles and captivating audiences with his charm. With a gripping storyline that has him breaking free from an evil queen’s clutches, it’s no wonder this film became a hit, making Reeves a household name and cementing his status as a beloved hero in cinematic history.
(15) NEW ESTIMATE AS TO HOW OLD ARE SATURN’S RINGS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There are two main, competing hypotheses: (1) They are ancient and either formed with Saturn or during the late veneer, or… (2) They are young and formed since then. Now data has been analysed from the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) on the Cassini spacecraft, which began orbiting Saturn in July 2004 until end of mission in September 2017. Continuous bombardment by non-icy micro-meteoroids from beyond the Saturnian system is a source non-icy material in Saturn’s rings. Knowing that rate of micro-meteor accumulation in the rings and knowing how much is the non-icy component to the rings, it is possible to estimate the age of the rings. Using CDA data European and US based astronomers estimate that the rings’ age is between around 100 million and 400 million years: hypothesis ‘2’. This estimate chimes in with a previous one using a different method. (See Kempf, S. et al. (2023) “Micrometeoroid infall onto Saturn’s rings constrains their age to no more than a few hundred million years”. Science Advances, vol. 9 (19), eadf8537.)
(16) TIMEY WIMEY. Vice’s article “Black Holes Might Really Be Giant Structures Made of Spacetime, Physicists Propose” seemed a lot easier to understand when I imagined David Tennant reading it to me.
Black holes might really be strange defects in spacetime called topological stars that are generated by hidden cosmic dimensions, reports a new study.
Topological stars are completely hypothetical and only exist as mathematical constructions at this point. However, they have the potential to probe perplexing paradoxes of the cosmos, including the true nature of black holes and the mind-boggling ideas raised by string theory, a framework that attempts to reconcile seemingly contradictory physical laws into a unified theory.
String theory proposes that particles in the universe are actually vibrating strings tethered to many extra dimensions that are imperceptible to us. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) have worked for years to envision the objects and phenomena that might exist in such a universe, including topological stars, or topological solitons, which are bubbles of nothing that form in the fabric of spacetime.
Now, the team has used simulations to show that topological solitons would appear “remarkably similar to black holes in apparent size and scattering properties, while being smooth and horizonless,” according to a recent study published in Physical Review D. In other words, the hypothetical objects would look almost exactly like black holes from our perspective, raising the tantalizing possibility that they may actually lurk in our universe.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jeffrey Smith, Francis Hamit, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon D.]
“Take two Pixels and Scroll me in the morning.”
(11) “When the Dark comes arising, the Six will turn it back” (I won’t recite the whole poem (or the other one) but I memorized them in 1976 or so – and so did my wife, so clearly we’re well matched).
(11) Blish also wrote Doctor Mirabilis, a historical novel based on the life of the 13th century monk Roger Bacon. Meticulously researched and obviously a labor of love. Bacon is sometimes credited with inventing the scientific method, making this genre-adjacent, perhaps? Then there’s Black Easter, a grim and possibly Cold War-influenced vision of the apocalypse (Good Omens it is not — Blish was a serious Catholic). None of these seem to be in print now.
Finally, I remember being greatly impressed by “There Shall Be No Darkness”, his werewolf story, when I read it in some anthology some fifty years ago. Haven’t seen a copy of it since, don’t know what I would think now.
(1-3) My generic statement: chatbots are being used by people who can’t write, or can’t bother to sit and type, instead of them walking up to a writer and saying “I’ve got this great story ([insert stupid, hackneyed theme], if you’ll write it, and we’ll share….”
(8) Why I buy on DVD and CD things I want to listen to again (and to support the artists). Just like I want epub, so I can back up fiction in case the ereader falls in the toilet. Give me one reason that I should believe that, say, Jeff Bezos will not cut out books from the Big River in five years? When I click, it says “purchase”. It does not say “rent”.
(11) Birthdays – I like Cities in Flight. These days, you forget how much industry was in cities back then, before it got shipped to sweatshops elsewhere in the world.
And… not sure why you put my ending to Bloom County under birthdays, but very glad you enjoyed it, Mike.
mark: #^!$% I forgot to give your Bloom County item a number. Which I now have.
Otherwise, if I have a comics section it follows the birthdays, and if I have comics news that’s also where I tend to put it.
7) I desperately wish that The Dark Descent was available as an eBook — it’s an outstanding anthology, but kind of unwieldy in print form.
11) Most of those Star Trek listings for James Blish are the adaptations he wrote of the original series episodes, which were short story length, then grouped together 9 or 10 at a time and published in the series of Star Trek Logs. Those books were my first real introduction to Star Trek — I knew it existed and had seen a couple episodes when visiting my grandparents in California, but none of the local stations were syndicating it, so I had to settle for obsessively rereading the books. (Which also had some pretty impressive cover art, as I recall.)
For James Blish’s birthday, I’m just going to cut and paste my correction to @Cat from File 770 on May 23, 2021.
“ Blish only wrote one Trek novel, Spock Must Die, not 90. There were 12 paperback volumes of TOS episodes turned into short stories, with some assistance from his wife late in the run. ISFDB seems to have a translation entry for each of the episode stories. “
(( edited to note Joe H responded simultaneously ))
(12) It’s a bit dusty in here
I remember the hilarious and faaanish “To Oz” skit at the 1974 British Eastercon (Tynecon), held in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Jim Blish played the Wizard, and Anne McCaffrey was the Wicked Witch. Rob Holdstock was the Tin Fansman. Arthur “½r” Cruttenden was the Lion, his wife Wendy Ellis was Dorothy, Ina Shorrock was the Good Witch, Brian Hampton was the Scarecrow, Judy Blish and Andrew Stephenson were miscellaneous characters, and Pete Weston was the Oz-ian (or Ozimov-ian) soldier. Gosh, nearly 50 years ago–and so many of them have gone to the Great Consuite in the Sky.
@Jim Janney: I also was greatly impressed by Blish’s “There Shall Be No Darkness”, which I read about equally long ago. From ISFDB, it appears I read it in the anthology Zacherly’s Vulture Stew, published in 1960, from which I also distinctly remember Boucher’s “They Bite”.
(11). I didn’t know there was a race on, with just one winner – but, anyway, Blish’s legacy is great, a great author. And some things you have to write to put dinner on the table, just ask (no, I know) Alan Dean Foster…
As William Atheling, jr he was also an interesting critic of the genre at a time when nobody, beside, perhaps, Kingsley Amis, bothered with the juvenile space stuff.
And you have to remember that our beloved genre has not produced that many really good authors, storytellers you can recommend to any literate reader, especially from the time when teenagers wrote for teenagers.
Ignorance is by James Blish
(Its not, but Im in dad joke mood now)
(12) Bloom County had a resurgence on Facebook when Berke Breathed decided to draw it again in July of 2015. I saved every image until October 2018. I don’t remember if that’s when he quit or I just decided not to save them anymore, but I still have them all. He apparently released them as a book at some point.
Jim Janney: A Case of Conscience, Doctor Mirabilis, Black Easter and The Day After Judgment are all available indivicually in electric form from Amazon UK. Collectively they are often referred to as the After Such Knowledge series and have been published as an omnibus edition.
Jim Janney on May 23, 2023 at 8:16 pm said: “(11) […] Then there’s Black Easter, a grim and possibly Cold War-influenced vision of the apocalypse (Good Omens it is not — Blish was a serious Catholic).”
William Atheling Jr, who as a pseudonym of James Blish ought to know, wrote in The Issue at Hand: “Blish is a professed agnostic”.
11) I’m quite fond of Blish’s short story Surface Tension.
13) Interesting. In 1929, Captain Basil Liddel-Hart wrote a book on strategy that would be retitled in its 2nd edition as Strategy: The Indirect Approach, which was very well received in military circles.
It references Sun Tzu and discusses the leverage one can achieve indirectly. Simplified, don’t engage in frontal assaults when you can destroy your enemy’s logistical base instead. Lot more detail, of course.
The article mentioned sounds like an update to these concepts, but the basic idea goes back to Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
@Sam Long: Arthur “½r” Cruttenden is still with us, or was when I took my 2020 TAFF trip in 2022. Delightful fellow to talk to.
@David Langford: an excellent point, I stand corrected.
#13 has aged very poorly, I think. Compare the Gerasimov Doctrine of 2013, with the Gerasimov Doctrine of 2023. The new version is conspicuously short on those contactless indirect operations by cyber and other electronic means, and the two thousand main battle tanks turned to scrap metal suggest that “traditional military interactions” are still a decisively important thing.
(1) Has any statement like this been out by the genre writing organizations?
Also, if I see one more bro responding to one of these posts with something akin to “LOL, they’re an SF magazine, how dare they ban AI, snicker snicker…” I’m going to crawl through my computer screen and pop out into their homes like Samara from “The Ring.”
And bro, I’ll bet your fancy AI couldn’t have written this post without stealing it — because it doesn’t have the imagination or creativity.
(3) Sigh. I’m not a fan of dogpiling. And obviously, death threats are wrong and terrible. But … people asking legitimate questions does not count as dogpiling. People expressing their disappointment and dismay does not count as dogpiling.
Also, if you keep defending your position when legitimate criticism comes up, people are going to keep responding. That might be why the conversation kept going and became uncomfortable.
(7) Older anthologies are a pain to reprint because of rights issues. I’ve bought Kindle editions of some anthologies that had to leave out some stories because older contracts didn’t negotiate for ebook rights.
(11) Thank you for the entry on Scott, Jr. Much of the writing about The Spider concentrates on the later stories by Norvell Page but not so much on the creation. (Page wrote nearly 100 of the stories! No wonder he had to take time off for his mental health at one point.)
Has anyone said that what’s important is the merit of the story, not whether the author is carbon based? Or that stealing other people’s ideas is nothing new, science fiction has always been about that? What are we going to do if in a year or two or five the AI stories are generally better?
Editing to add: wasn’t snickering
Brian Z: Wow, the goalposts are dancing all over the field here. In the first place, interacting with pre-existing sff ideas is what is called a literary conversation. That has nothing to do with the present issue, which is about taking people’s texts without pay and training a program to homogenize and generate it as other texts.
I will say in solidarity that selfishly adding schock to a slushpile in the vain and ridiculous hope of a quick buck is dumb and offensive to people in the industry who already have enough problems.
And if someone were training a program to steal and homogenize and regenerate other people’s works, I’d agree with you. The transformer model is a black box and nobody knows what they are doing or how.
What got me thinking on a different track was what Yudkowsky said in Time:
And just to be honest, from the perspective of a reader, if even a nonconcscious AI manages to generate a story that is interesting or worthwhile to read, I’d like to read it.
(By the way, following along at home on my phone without my glasses I’d sloppily managed not to read Anne Marble’s comment above until after I’d posted, but I suppose I am less certain than her about what writers’ organizations’ stances should be on a topic that is suddenly developing as rapidly as this one.)
Tina Turner just passed; of genre interest for her role as Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
@jayn: I am sorry to hear that. She was an inspiration.
@Brian Z: And if someone were training a program to steal and homogenize and regenerate other people’s works, I’d agree with you.
That’s exactly what they are doing. Just because Yudkowsky wants to believe ridiculous nonsense about LLMs doesn’t mean anyone has to pay any attention to him.
@PhilRM “That’s exactly what they are doing.”
Maybe that’s true about today’s AI writers — I don’t know. But the day is coming where it won’t be true, or AI’s will do it so well that the output is indistinguishable from the writings of people. And the rules that are established today (in response to badly-written AI fiction) need to be useful for when AI fiction is well written.
Right now, Clarkesworld is receiving a huge volume of works that are easily recognized as terrible; the rules that the magazine has set up amount to “if you’ve sent us a recognizably artificial work, we’ll ignore any further works from you.” Should an AI start writing works indistinguishable from human works (even bad human works), the current Clarkesworld rules won’t interfere.
@Andrew (not Werdna): …the rules that the magazine has set up amount to “if you’ve sent us a recognizably artificial work, we’ll ignore any further works from you.”
That’s not the way I would interpret it: the Clarkesworld statement (taken from the Submissions page here) is: We will not consider any submissions written, developed, or assisted by these tools. Attempting to submit these works may result in being banned from submitting works in the future.
There’s nothing about it being recognizably artificial, although to date that hasn’t been remotely an issue because they’re so easily identified. If you managed to write a non-terrible story using, say, ChatGP, and were honest enough to admit in your submission to Clarkesworld that it was AI-generated, it would still be rejected under that rule.
@Brian Z et al
It would help if people stopped calling these large language models “AI” and “artificial intelligence” because they’re literally not. They’re machine learning tools and enormous algorithms. My iPhone has predictive text, which suggests the next word in what I’m typing based on a huge database of how people use words in sentences, and sometimes gets so accurate that I can type nearly a full sentence just tapping the word shown, without even suggesting which word with the first letter. It also has access to my location so when I send a message to my son every time I leave the grocery store so he can help me bring the groceries inside when I get home, eventually just typing the L in “Leaving Fred Meyer” gives me the whole phrase in the predictive text bar. It’s been trained that when I type L from that location, I’m almost always using that phrase. Now train a much more powerful computer with a much more complicated algorithm on a much larger database, and the interaction is much more human-like, but it’s not intelligence. That database is also full of copyrighted content that the creators never gave permission to use for training. And this doesn’t even get into the fact that queries for information from them often produce inaccurate results. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have usefulness, but attributing intelligence to them is way off base.
@PhilRM: You’re right – I oversimplified. Thanks.
@ArbysMom: “Auto-complete on steroids” is a snarky but not inaccurate description of LLMs.
@PhilRM: “Auto-complete on steroids” is a snarky but not inaccurate description of LLMs.
LOL thanks. It bothers me that people call it AI because that term tends to lead certain people to thinking of sentience, and taking over like Skynet. I think LLMs can be useful, but they can also be harmful because of how some people use them (like most everything else). Inaccurate search results are one thing, but recently in the news, a teacher failed half of his class for using LLMs for cheating (which then held up their graduation diplomas), but he based it on asking an LLM if they’d cheated, which besides being unethical, is also very hypocritical.
10) “Voluntary Committal” is my favorite Joe Hill story. And Hill is indeed a nice guy. I’ve been to two live readings by him–one of which featured him and his father reading bits from each other’s stories.
In honor of Tina Turner: “We Don’t Need Another Pixel (Thunderscroll)”. RIP.
Nina says “Voluntary Committal” is my favorite Joe Hill story. And Hill is indeed a nice guy. I’ve been to two live readings by him–one of which featured him and his father reading bits from each other’s stories.
Conservatives here in Maine regularly rip into the senior King because he’s liberal and therefore cannot be a nice individual. This is the man who for decades paid for the entire Little League system in the Bangor area.
It has been kosher to publicly acknowledge one’s extensive use of search engines since at least Gibson’s 2002 Pattern Recognition. Is there a working author left alive who doesn’t do it? (And the LLMs are already writing our search results.) People who say this isn’t a good tool for writers haven’t thought it all the way through.
I guess I am a sort of Luddite at heart but also remember when even thinking about how your robot could maintain aerodynamic stability while exploring an exoplanet required checking out more books than you could physically carry.
And yes, I meant what if the AI output a few years in the future might become worthy of publication, not today. I just wonder if next year’s human-computer teams will leave the AI writing “alone” in the dust. We have reason to suspect so, but I don’t think we know.
“Autocomplete on steroids” is not a good description of an AI that passes the bar exam at a higher rate than average people, I should think.
“because he’s liberal and therefore cannot be a nice individual.” — I suspect that this is more a projection of your opinion, rather than a description of any real conservatives.
Nobody should be listening to Big Yud on anything, especially AI.
@Brian Z: It has been kosher to publicly acknowledge one’s extensive use of search engines since at least Gibson’s 2002 Pattern Recognition. Is there a working author left alive who doesn’t do it? (And the LLMs are already writing our search results.) People who say this isn’t a good tool for writers haven’t thought it all the way through.
I guess I am a sort of Luddite at heart but also remember when even thinking about how your robot could maintain aerodynamic stability while exploring an exoplanet required checking out more books than you could physically carry.
None of which has any bearing on the topic under discussion, but of course, you know that: this is just your customary sealioning.
@bill: That mostly demonstrates how much memorization and rote learning is involved in the bar exam. One half of it is multiple choice questions, and the essay half is tightly constrained: grading isn’t based on originality of reasoning and prose, it’s based on application of existing precedent to a presented set of facts. Given the explosion of online-prep courses in the past twenty years, I’m sure that vast quantities of this stuff has been scraped off the web.
@PhilRM — Here are some sample questions and answers from the “Multistate Essay Examination,” the essay part of the bar exam that the AI in question answered; and the “Multistate Performance Test,” the document-writing part of the bar exam. Sites like these were, as you suggest, no doubt used as input for the AI.
Any answer to these test question that gets a good grade goes far beyond “autocorrect”, or even “autocorrect on steroids.” As the test points out, a good responsive answer requires the AI to identify and separate relevant facts from irrelevant ones; figure out applicable principles of law; apply those principles to the facts at hand; consider the ethics of the situation in addition to law; and communicate the results effectively.
While there is only a finite amount of law to be tested on, exam writers are able to concoct new fact scenarios for new exam questions. The AI test-taker then has to do more than “steal and homogenize and regenerate other people’s works.”
@bill: … a good responsive answer requires the AI to identify and separate relevant facts from irrelevant ones; figure out applicable principles of law; apply those principles to the facts at hand; consider the ethics of the situation in addition to law;
Except the LLM is not doing any of those: it is not “figuring out”, it is not “applying principles”, and it is not “considering the ethics of the situation”. That’s ridiculously anthropomorphic language being used to describe the performance of an algorithm that is constructing statistically-weighted strings of text. It may be an algorithm with billions of parameters, but it is still an algorithm.
@PhilRM, true, it’s not ‘figuring out’ etc. Nevertheless, Bill has at least convinced me of what he set out to do: establish that ChatGTP is something other than ‘autocomplete on steroids’.
An interesting proposal regarding LLMs, etc.
@PhilRM — The terms I used are anthropomorphic only if you insist that only people can do these things. If you think of them in terms of the end results of [black box processes], as I did, “figure out”, etc., there’s nothing wrong with them.
In other words, if competent essay written by an AI is functionally indistinguishable from a competent essay written by a person (and they are, given that the grades are similar), then it is not inappropriate to use the same terms to describe how they were generated, especially since the phrases used are being used colloquially, and not in any hyper-precise technical sense.
At some point, “thinking” is as good a term as any to describe what an AI does. You and I can reasonably disagree if any given current AI does this, but when AIs advance far enough (HAL-9000? Siri? Mike in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? Star Trek’s Data?), they will.
Well, I’d say more concern trolling, the concern being that markets and writers’ organizations are starting, or being pressured to start, to stigmatize/ban authors over this. Transformers are powerful tools and everyone will use them, as they should.
I’m not sure it matters whether you label it intelligence or not. (Other than to underscore Big Yud’s reminder that we’re playing with fire.)
A lawyer is facing sanctions when his chapgpt aided brief made up citations
@Andrew (not Werdna)–I love this bit:
ChatGPT hallucinations turn up frequently in accounts of people asking the bots for a few paragraphs of factual write-up about themselves. Not being aware of this, and not checking the cites in Westlaw or Lexis, or in actual casebooks, is reckless at best.
“Checking” by asking the bot if they’re real is beyond reckless.
These chatbots are not “thinking.” They are remixing and regurgitating blocks of text that match the format and style of the bodies of text they were “trained” on. That they can pass bar exams simply shows how structured bar exams are, plus a certain amount of luck.
They don’t possess any of the substantive features that make an individual capable of practicing law–including such basics as “don’t make up citations.” It’s a bot; it doesn’t have any concepts at all. True and false are just more text.
Calling these “AI” is completely false and misleading.
You can find the docs for this case here:
The entries are 25 (the one by ChtGPT) through 33.