Pixel Scroll 5/30/24 Scrollfiler Park Is Melting In The Dark, All The Sweet, Green Pixels Flowing Down

(1) THE STEPS LEADING TO RWA’S CHAPTER 11. Her Hands, My Hands today published a thorough roundup about the causes of Romance Writers of America’s evaporating membership: “RWA goes bankrupt; it’s not DEI, it’s the bigotry and racism.”

If you are new here: at the end of 2019, the then-second-largest-in-the-world professional writers organization, shot itself in the eye due to the baked-in racism of the people at the top. Within three months, the membership had dropped to a third of what it was, and many of those leaving predicted at the time that the annual conference venue contracts for the following years would bankrupt the organization.

Even though COVID so-called lockdowns postponed it for a bit, RWA has finally filed for Chapter 11–predictably, it’s blaming one woman of color for that….

…So yes, a professional trade organization founded by women, with a membership made up disproportionately of women, was the second largest of its kind in the world, and for a couple of decades at least. The most likely reason RWA grew so big was the incredible misogyny of the industry: genre romance authors and aspiring writers had nowhere else to go for advocacy or support. The most renowned publishers and authors have always been quick to distance themselves from genre romance and its readers, even as they benefit from marketing to them; from the “we don’t publish that shlock” to “I don’t write that” sneer.

…Why, you may ask, am I going on about the membership numbers drop after the ‘nice’ white ladies shat the RWA bed? Because of this:

Because they want to claim that it was Courtney Milan talking about racism, and the ‘woke’ push for DEI that led them to file for bankruptcy (Bloomberg link; also see footnote 7)…

(2) STATHOPOULOS IS 2024 ARCHIBALD PRIZE FINALIST. Professional artist Nick Stathopoulos, a ten-time Ditmar winner for his genre work, has just been named an Archibald Prize finalist for the ninth time.

The Archibald Prize is awarded annually to the best portrait, “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia”.

The story behind Nick’s entry, titled “The last picture show”, is explained in the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ introduction to the piece.

Nick Stathopoulos was a finalist in the 2008 Archibald Prize with an irreverent portrait of distinguished film critic David Stratton fast asleep in a cinema.

Sixteen years later, Stathopoulos decided to undertake a smaller, intimate, more serious work, choosing again to paint the now-retired Stratton in monochrome, but retaining the deep red of his cardigan – a cinematic device used to dramatic effect in the 1993 film Schindler’s list. The title of the painting references Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film The last picture show.

The sitting for this portrait proved to be a happy one. ‘It was a bright, crisp Blue Mountains day, and we sat on David’s back porch talking movies (what else?) as I sketched in the final details. It also happened to be his wedding anniversary, and his wife Susie was keen to point out that she had knitted the red cardigan 40 years ago,’ says Stathopoulos.

An Archibald finalist on eight previous occasions, Stathopoulos won the People’s Choice in 2016 with a portrait of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut.

(3) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Publishers Weekly celebrates bookseller Don Blyly, owner of the reopened Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s: “The Uncles in Minneapolis Celebrate 50 Years of Bookselling Perseverance”.

…Even though the Uncles are now located on a side street, instead of a major thoroughfare, Blyly maintains that one reason sales are up is that “we see primarily people who are interested in what we’re selling,” rather than “people walking in who could not even figure out it was a bookstore; they came in to cause problems or to use the restroom.” There is also a lot of cross-pollination among the different bookstores’ customer bases. “A lot of people who are into sci-fi and fantasy and a lot of other things automatically go to both stores when they are in the neighborhood,” Blyly said. “And we’re selling a lot more kids books than in the old location; there are more families here. Two things I’m not happy about: it takes me longer to get here from my home, and there’s no good Chinese carryout nearby. Other than that, everything else is better.”

The new location of Uncle Hugo’s in 2022.

(4) NEW ARGUMENT TO UNDERMINE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CHARGE. “Nvidia denies pirate e-book sites are ‘shadow libraries’ to shut down lawsuit” at Ars Technica. However, Ars Technica can’t explain that terminology, or how not being a shadow library helps the defendants.

Some of the most infamous so-called shadow libraries have increasingly faced legal pressure to either stop pirating books or risk being shut down or driven to the dark web. Among the biggest targets are Z-Library, which the US Department of Justice has charged with criminal copyright infringement, and Library Genesis (Libgen), which was sued by textbook publishers last fall for allegedly distributing digital copies of copyrighted works “on a massive scale in willful violation” of copyright laws.

But now these shadow libraries and others accused of spurning copyrights have seemingly found an unlikely defender in Nvidia, the AI chipmaker among those profiting most from the recent AI boom.

Nvidia seemed to defend the shadow libraries as a valid source of information online when responding to a lawsuit from book authors over the list of data repositories that were scraped to create the Books3 dataset used to train Nvidia’s AI platform NeMo.

That list includes some of the most “notorious” shadow libraries—Bibliotik, Z-Library (Z-Lib), Libgen, Sci-Hub, and Anna’s Archive, authors argued. However, Nvidia hopes to invalidate authors’ copyright claims partly by denying that any of these controversial websites should even be considered shadow libraries.

“Nvidia denies the characterization of the listed data repositories as ‘shadow libraries’ and denies that hosting data in or distributing data from the data repositories necessarily violates the US Copyright Act,” Nvidia’s court filing said.

The chipmaker did not go into further detail to define what counts as a shadow library or what potentially absolves these controversial sites from key copyright concerns raised by various ongoing lawsuits. Instead, Nvidia kept its response brief while also curtly disputing authors’ petition for class-action status and defending its AI training methods as fair use.

“Nvidia denies that it has improperly used or copied the alleged works,” the court filing said, arguing that “training is a highly transformative process that may include adjusting numerical parameters including ‘weights,’ and that outputs of an LLM may be based, at least in part, on such ‘weights.'”…

(5) BALTICON SUNDAY SHORT SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL (BSSSFFF) 2024. [Report by lance ozko.] Audience scores were from 0 to 5, with sum of values divided by number of votes. 

  • Best of Show. A retrospective screening of “Troll Bridge” from a short story by Terry Pratchett won Best of Show, edging out the George RR Martin production of Howard Waldrop’s “Night of The Cooters”. GRRM provided a new introduction to Howard Waldrop’s work, mentioning 4 films currently. 
  • Best Animated Film went to “Triskelion”, a Stop Motion Celtic Fable from Belgium by Jessica Raes.

Noteworthy were: 

  • “Siren” a comedy from Estonia with a Mermaid. Directed by Katariina Škurinski.
  • “Splinter” a Twilight Zoneish Episode filmed during the Hollywood Strike. Directed by Marc Bernardin.
  • “Falling Forward into an Unknown and Dangerous Future”  based on a verbatim  transcript of an A.I. conversation. Directed by  Mike Ambs.

Several selections were withdrawn between Balticon 57 and 58, as the festival windows did not coincide with Balticon.  Overall 1,010 films were considered. 

Coming last was a Horror Alien Abduction.  Next year we will lean into comedies. Another Howard Waldrop short film “Mary Margaret Road Grader”  is penciled in for 2025. 

(6) MOANA 2 TEASER TRAILER. Entertainment Weekly says “’Moana 2′ trailer reunites Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson”.

…The trailer showcases the now-older Moana reuniting with Maui on a mission to reconnect her people “across the entire ocean,” she says, meeting all sorts of oceanic creatures and obstacles along the way….

(7) COLUMBIA RELIC. “Astronaut’s diary found among fallen Columbia space shuttle debris added to National Library of Israel”Space.com has the story.

The handwritten journal pages of Israel’s first astronaut have been added to the country’s national library in Jerusalem, more than 20 years after they were found among the debris from the NASA tragedy that claimed his life.

Ilan Ramon wrote most of the diary while he was in orbit aboard the space shuttle Columbia, serving as an STS-107 payload specialist on the winged spacecraft’s last, ill-fated flight. The found pages document Ramon’s day-to-day life in space, from his hygiene routine to the research he performed on behalf of NASA and his home nation.

Also included were his notes on the Jewish practices that he was to demonstrate from high above Earth.

“Identified among the restored pages was the Friday night blessing over wine, with Ramon’s annotations. Apparently aware he was to broadcast the ‘Kiddush’ live from space, Ramon wanted to make sure he did not forget a single word,” read a release issued by the National Library of Israel on Wednesday (May 29).

(8) NEW SEASON OF UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Variety introduces “’Umbrella Academy’ Season 4 Trailer: The Hargreeves’ Final Countdown”.

Netflix has released the teaser trailer for the fourth and final season of its superhero series “The Umbrella Academy.” The footage, set to the tune of Europe’s 1986 song “The Final Countdown,” sees the Hargreeves siblings stepping out of their regular lives, prepping to band together one last time.

Based on the graphic novel series written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá, the beloved series follows a family of adopted siblings with superpowers working to prevent the end of the world….

(9) DIGITAL HANDSELLING? The New York Times studies “How a Self-Published Book, ‘The Shadow Work Journal,’ Became a Best Seller”. (Note: this is a non-genre, nonfiction book.)  Link bypasses NYT paywall.

…The real creator of “The Shadow Work Journal” is Keila Shaheen, a 25-year-old writer from Texas with a background in marketing who self-published the book in 2021, and has since been crowned “the self-help queen of TikTok.”

After the journal blew up on TikTok, Shaheen went on to sell more than a million copies. Most of those — nearly 700,000 copies — were sold through the TikTok shop, and were marketed relentlessly by passionate influencers like Glay, who earn a 15 percent commission on each sale from Zenfulnote, Shaheen’s company.

Shaheen’s unusual path to bestsellerdom shows how radically book marketing and sales have been changed by TikTok. Over the past few years, publishers have frantically rushed to harness the power of the platform as viral videos and reviews by influencers have propelled sales for blockbuster authors like Colleen Hoover, Emily Henry and Sarah J. Maas.

But Shaheen is perhaps the first self-published nonfiction author to break out in a big way on the platform, a feat she accomplished by fully harnessing its potential not just for marketing, but for direct sales.

…“To think that she achieved a million copies sold in the United States alone, without a publisher, without any international expansion, without brick and mortar support, it breaks all the rules of what makes a best seller,” said Albert Lee, a literary agent with United Talent Agency, which represents Shaheen….

(10) MEDICAL UPDATE. MaryAnn Harris, wife of Charles de Lint, has been hospitalized since 2021 after contracting Powassan virus, an extremely rare tick-bourne illness. She has been dependent on a ventilator to breathe, and paralyzed except for a toe. Julie Bartel organized a Gofundme “de Lint Recovery Fund”. And the May 23 update begins by detailing further medical problems leading to a sad status report:

…However, all of this has taken a toll and MaryAnn is quite weak. As a result, her treatment has shifted since she returned to SVH, with a new focus on quality of life rather than full recovery. The palliative care team has been brought in, and there have been numerous conversations with MaryAnn about what comes next, and about concentrating on helping her feel comfortable and pain free.

Yesterday she had a desat that was bad enough that she is now on full oxygen again. Afterwards Dr. Kirby and one of the excellent palliative care doctors, Dr. Nick, explained just how fragile MaryAnn is and that her lungs may no longer be able to function adequately. They reiterated the need to focus on comfort and on keeping her as stable as possible and that’s what is happening now.

A very sad and difficult message to hear, but Lynn and Charles are confident the staff at SVH are doing all that they can to care for MaryAnn as well as possible.

We thought you all should know. Please keep MaryAnn in your thoughts, as she and Charles navigate the road ahead. As always, your love and support are a shining light during dark times.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

May 30, 1922 Hal Clement. (Died 2003.)   

By Paul Weimer. If hard science and physics could be considered “characters” in science fiction, Hal Clement is certainly the person who was able to make them so. Mission of Gravity is the premier look at this, giving an extremely weird and strange, and yet possible high gravity world. Do the characters he populates this world with work as individual characters? Not really, but what you read Clement for is the puzzles and the logic behind the hard science that makes a high gravity-distorted world like Mesklin (the planet of Mission of Gravity) possible in the first place. 

Hal Clement at ConFiction (1990). Photo by Frank Olynyk. From Fanac.org site.

Another novel in this vein that doesn’t get much play or notice, but I ironically read before Mission of Gravity, is The Nitrogen Fix. In this book, Earth’s atmosphere has changed, radically, with the free nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere having combined into a toxic and unbreathable mix of nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and water. Did the aliens who have come to Earth change and terraform Earth for their own purposes? In the end, the transformation of Earth’s atmosphere is a puzzle that is solved, and makes sense, with a big heaping sense of irony to it all. 

Although shared worlds are not a big thing anymore, back in the 1980’s, they were all the rage. I didn’t mention it back when I wrote on Ellison (way too much to write about him) but even Harlan Ellison did a shared world, Medea. His shared planet had a bunch of writers very interested in building a realistic planet and solar system. Clement not only provided an essay on worldbuilding the astrophysics of  Medea in the book, but also contributed a story. 

Once again, hard science as a character in Clement’s work. That’s what it means to me. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNOBTAINABLE TIMEPIECE. Hamilton Watch put together a prop watch for Dune: Part Two. You can’t buy that one. At the link they have a couple of items you can buy which echo some of its design ideas.

Collaborating with Prop Master Doug Harlocker, Hamilton Watch assisted in bringing this uniquely hardwearing Fremen device to the big screen in “Dune: Part Two”.

While the “Desert Watch” is only available on Arrakis, the creative influence behind it was too strong not to bring into our own world.

(14) OUT, OUT, DANGED SPOT. Space.com says “That giant sunspot that supercharged auroras on Earth? It’s back and may amp up the northern lights with June solar storms.”

…The first hint of AR 13697’s sunspots came into view late on May 27, with the full region visible end of May 28. Making an entrance worthy of its earlier reputation, the active region produced an X2.9 solar flare. Despite triggering fewer large flares from the sun’s backside, Monday’s X-class solar flare asserts that the region is still capable of producing these more noteworthy events. 

The active region will continue to rotate across the sun over the next two weeks, providing a view of any solar flares from the region during this window. The light from any solar flares in this window will reach Earth, with the potential to produce short-term radio blackouts. These are temporary disruptions to radio-wave propagation on the sun-facing side of Earth, lasting only an hour or so. 

As we experienced in mid-May 2024, some flares may also trigger the eruption of a CME. Unlike flares, CMEs are directional, and their potential impact on Earth relies heavily on the location of its source on the sun. For a CME to have the best odds of reaching Earth, it would need to erupt from the slight right of the sun’s center. AR 13697 will reach this location of optimum Earth connection around June 4-6, around one full solar rotation (27 days) since the mid-May solar flares. Eruptions close to this window will have the best odds of producing a geomagnetic storm and enhanced aurora display here on Earth….

(15) BIG GULP. “SpaceX fuels Starship megarocket again to prep for test flight” at Space.com. Sounds like a lot.

SpaceX has fueled up its Starship megarocket again, ramping up preparations for the huge vehicle’s upcoming test flight.

The operation, known as a wet dress rehearsal (WDR), occurred on Tuesday (May 28) at SpaceX‘s Starbase site in South Texas. The company pumped huge quantities of liquid oxygen and liquid methane into Starship‘s first and second stages, which are known, respectively, as Super Heavy and Starship (or just “Ship” for short).

“Starship and Super Heavy loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant in a rehearsal ahead of Flight 4. Launch is targeted as early as June 5, pending regulatory approval,” SpaceX said today (May 29) in an X post, which also shared photos of the procedure….

(16) MINECRAFT GETS SERIES. “’Minecraft’ Animated Series in the Works at Netflix” reports Variety.

Netflix is developing an animated series based on the wildly popular sandbox video game “Minecraft.” The streamer will produce the project alongside Mojang Studios, the Swedish developer of the game.

Plot details are not yet known, but according to Netflix, the series “will feature an original story with new characters, showing the world of ‘Minecraft’ in a new light.”…

[Thanks to Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Lance Oszko, Jim Janney, Ingvar Mattson, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]


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13 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/30/24 Scrollfiler Park Is Melting In The Dark, All The Sweet, Green Pixels Flowing Down

  1. (3) This is all good to hear.
    (4) “They’re not shadow libraries, they’re just data stores”.
    (5) Note that one of the stars of Troll Bridge is our late BSFS member, Marty Gear.
    (10) None of that makes me happy. Best of luck to both of them.
    Birthday: Hal Clement… and, as Harry Stubbs, a fan, and a lovely man. A lot of us felt he was like an older uncle. Then there was the con who had Hal Clement as the GOH… and Harry Stubbs as the fan GOH.
    (14) No big deal. There will be clouds and rain for the entire time, at least around here.
    (15) While we’re at it, ULA is going to try to launch the Starliner Sat.

  2. @mark–Harry was also an astronomical artist, under the name George Richard, and was also that same con’s Guest Artist.

  3. 3) Right on, Uncles Edgar and Hugo! Online presence? Website?

    4) Insidious! Copyright infringement by any other name is STILL copyright infringement!

    7) Columbia diary…..poignant. I still remember the solitary helmet on the grass.

  4. (1) Geeze, are they still trying to blame Courtney!? Isn’t that basically what got them into trouble in the first place? 🙂

    (8) While Umbrella Academy can be a bit silly at times, I was very pleased with how they handled Elliot Page coming out as a man by simply having his character on the show do the same. There are so many much worse things they could have done!

    (11) He may not have been a particularly complex or deep character, but I really liked Barlennan, the protagonist of Clement’s Mission of Gravity. He was, at least, charming. I will admit that none of Clement’s other characters ever really stuck with me, but for whatever reason, Barlennan did.

  5. (11) The first Clement novel I read was The Nitrogen Fix and I had the pleasant of talking with Hal many times at cons (I have a picture of my then-toddler son with Hal, too). A wonderful writer and a wonderful person.

  6. Hal/Harry was a great guy. I spent a wonderful afternoon with him at a long gone Philcon.

    I’m going to disagree with the idea that his characters didn’t really work as characters. Yes, the science played a big part in his stories, but Barlennan was a fully realized character (Mission of Gravity/Star Light – originally published in Analog with a great Freas cover) and so was the young protagonist/alien of Needle The Hunter and Robert Kinnaird.

  7. The RWA has shot itself in the foot more than once since the Courtney Milan episode… most recently (to my recollection) with its acceptance of AI-generated material. I’m sure romance novelists are just straining at the leash to join a professional organization that thinks they can be replaced by LLMs.

    It’s almost as if people don’t want to join an organization that no longer represents them or their values. Weird, that.

  8. @Steve Wright
    IIRC one of the RWA chapters was putting on a whole seminar about using AI to write romances. Just what romance writers needed — another reason for journalists to quip that the plots were all the same. Then, RWA shut down commenting on the posts because they couldn’t cope with the criticism. (What did they expect?)

    They did finally “apologize” and shut down the seminar. But as usual, they are like that character in cartoons who tries to sneak around, puts his foot in a metal pail, and walks around going Clang! Clang! Clang! for a whlie.

  9. Harry: my late ex used to talk about one of the first cons she went to, she and another (then) young woman were working the party (con suite?), and got to talking to this older man about what sf they liked. He asked how they liked Hal Clement, and they waxed eloquent. After he left, they found out that was him.

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