Pixel Scroll 6/17/23 Whoever Lives In Glass Pixels Should Not Throw Scrolls

(1) MEDICAL UPDATE. Ursula Vernon got a biopsy on a lump, and the results are unfortunate.

(2) MOVING WORDS. David Gerrold has opened a GoFundMe appeal to “Help Move David Gerrold’s Family To Vermont”. He offers a couple of free ebooks as an incentive to go to the link and read the whole thing.

…As many of you know, we’re planning to move to Vermont as soon as we can. It’s about the right schools for the kids, the right environment for Sean and Alyce’s health and work, and the right place for me to (eventually) retire. We have been working hard to get this house in shape, get all of our paperwork in order, and find a place that suits our specific needs.

…Right now, I’m the sole support of my family. I’m doing my best, but there’s a WGAW strike, so there are options that are on hold and if the past is any guide, will probably evaporate when the strike ends. Alyce has a toddler and a baby to take care of, so going back to work is out of the question for her. For various reasons, Sean has to rethink his career options, so he’s concentrating on being the best dad he can, and that’s fine with me too. Being a dad is good for him and good for the kids.

So right now, it’s all on me. I’ve got some resources, just not enough. So, I’m asking for a little help. Anything you can contribute will be greatly appreciated. It will get us where we need to be….

(3) THE GATES WE KEEP. Norman Spinrad’s latest “At Large SF” asks how to “Save The SF Magazines From AI, Amazon, And SFWA?” But is this a cure?

It is no secret that the three traditional ink and paper SF magazines, Asimov’s, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction, are in deep trouble, and perhaps not as obviously so are the main online SF magazines. All of them are overrun with AI created submissions and how what was once SFWA, a professional SF writers’ union in all but name, has become just as much a part of the problem, if not worse.

When the SFWA, of which I was one of the creators, if you wanted to be a full member, as I remember, you had to have published 3 stories in magazines accepted as professional, or one novel published by such a book publisher.

This more or less continued while I was three time president, and until fairly recently. In those days, there were no more that 1000 full members of SFWA, but rather rapidly it has now become bloated by about 2500 members of all sorts of memberships which you can join and remain as long as you pay for one the various levels of available membership. And you can also buy even more sorts of official SFWA stuff, a perfect fannish economic operation.

Back in the day, you could write “Member of SFWA” on the header of your submission as long as it was true, and it could mean some thing to an editor, and it might get your story read above the slush pile….

And SFWA membership now plays the same lucrative game. Now since anyone could email anything anywhere without having print it, put it into an envelope, and mail it into the slushpile, anyone can do likewise for free, and of late, you don’t have to really be human, to make the slushpiles even more enormous.

And to make matters worse, since sales in book stories or even drug stores have largely disappeared,, the magazines were forced to largely resort to online subscriptions, meaning Amazon, which has now stopped serving them.

What is more, the SF magazines have for some time become just about the last magazines containing any real short stories, and if they should disappear, so might the literary short story, period.

What can be done about this? It seems to me that the magazines are making a big mistake worrying about what to do about the AI submissions and trying find ways to filter them out of the slushpiles. The answer to that, of course, would be AI slush readers, which at least could be easily taught to recognize each other, if not to recognize the 10% of literary interest.

So what I propose is to look backwards instead of forward to the original SFWA. Call it simply the SF Society. It could be the top of the SFWA or it could be independent, it doesn’t matter. As the original SFWA, there is a membership requirement of say the same 3 published stories by the approved magazines or maybe books too, but with a difference.

If you are a member of the SFS you are entitled to say so on your submissions to any SFS approved publications. But the SFS does not approve the publishers, they approve themselves! They just understand that the SFS mark on a submission means that the writer is a member and they can read it atop of the slushpile, it’s not a requirement, it’s a service.

But where does that leave would-be writers who believe they have what it takes to join the SFS? Look backward. There have long been SF writing schools where you must not just pay but where you must send a story and have it be accepted by a literary board as sufficiently promising.

But SFS is not a school. It has its own literary approval board for the sufficiently promising writers. So who is on the approval board?

Look much further back to Plato’s REPUBLIC. Plato was skeptical of democracy, so he wrote what amounted to the very first skeptical fiction in the form of the non historical Atlantis, ruled by proper philosophers such as himself. And who had selected them? Philosophers who had already been approved by other such philosophizers and so far up the line.

Okay, this is not democracy, but we are not talking about selecting rulers. An SFS approval board could be self-elected SFS member volunteers. Or even magazine editors as well who might want to serve and were approved by the SFS approval board….

(4) TIDHAR Q&A. “Pulp Fiction: PW Talks with Lavie Tidhar” at Publishers Weekly.

An unlikely cast is pulled into the hunt for lost pulp classic Lode Stars in World Fantasy Award winner Tidhar’s metafictional sci-fi romp The Circumference of the World (Tachyon, Sept.).

What inspired this story?

It began so long ago it’s hard to say! The very early seeds for it were born on Vanua Lava in Vanuatu, back in 2007, where the first section of the book takes place. I became interested in the little-known story of the WWII Coastwatchers there and climbed to their hill fort, which is much as it appears in the novel. But that was just one strand; then I had to wait for the others to materialize.

And how did they?

The black holes came from a novelette I wrote that was also called “Lode Stars.” I ran into someone who told me they thought there was more to it, which haunted me because I realized they were right. The section about hapless book dealers in 2001 London was conceived of as a trip to a vanished past. All those bookshops are long gone, and I was trying to catch a bit of the soul of that world before it disappeared. Which, in a way, is the whole theme of the book: how much of what we are is what we remember and what happens if those memories are lost?…

(5) COSY DELENDA EST. Cora Buhlert does an impressively thorough roundup of the players and viewpoints represented in the recent social media flash about “cosy horror” in “Same Old Debate, New Clothes: The Cozy Horror Controversy”. She begins:

Sigh. It’s that time of the year again and we’re having the same old debate again whether some interlopers are trying to ruin the purity of the genre and gentrify it by writing and reading the wrong sort of books.

This time around, the focus is not Hopepunk or what a certain podcast termed Squeecore, but cozy horror, cozy fantasy’s spookier sibling.

The current debate seems to have been sparked by an episode of the Books in the Freezer podcast about cozy horror (which I haven’t listened to yet), which received some pushback on Twitter, and in particular by a recent article on The Mary Sue by Julia Glassman on the cozy horror phenomenon and the backlash against it. Though the term “cozy horror” isn’t new. Here is an article by Jose Cruz from Nightmare Magazine, a horror mag, about cozy horror from 2021 and I’m pretty sure Cruz didn’t invent the term either. The phenomenon is much older anyway. What is now called cozy horror goes back to the ghost stories of the nineteenth century. A genre that – as Jess Nevins pointed out on Twitter – has triggered criticism and backlash for almost two hundred years now. And the reason was that ghost stories were mostly read and written by women. So yup, it’s plain old misogyny….

And Cora ends:

… In short, it’s all depressingly familiar and I probably should have just ignored this latest flare-up of this ages old argument, but the whole cozy horror debate annoyed me enough to put in my two cents.

Cora’s conclusion reminds me of a favorite H. L. Mencken remark, that it is best to spend life sitting in the brewery drinking beer, but sometimes he couldn’t help but rush out and break a bottle over someone’s head.

(6) HWA PRIDE. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its thematic interviews in “A Point of Pride: Interview with Lee Mandelo”.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? 

Anything that provokes strong feeling, I’m into that—and horror, alongside erotica, devotes itself so well to powerful, bodily emotions. As a weird gay child of the ’90s, I was probably destined to love horror. There was such a huge boom in scary books, movies, and so on by LGBTQ+ artists going on during that decade. Unsurprising, given things like the HIV/AIDS epidemic, alongside government abandonment and surging social persecution through the late ’80s onward. I didn’t have that context as a kid, but I had the materials, and they left strong impressions on me! 

Looking back now, I feel like being drawn to horror—a place where stories about being an “outsider” and also experiencing extreme dread and fear could be made somehow safe to explore, in their own strange way—was only natural.


1978[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Vonda N. McIntyre is an author I’m well familiar with as I’ve read her Dreamsnake (we get our Beginning this Scroll), The Moon and the Sun and The King’s Daughter. Anyone read her Starfarers series? I’ve not but it looks potentially readable and certainly how she came to write it is a fascinating story indeed. 

Pocket Books decided to have her do novelizations of Star Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She created names for Trek characters that later became canon, including Hikaru Sulu, and Kirk’s mother Winona.

She’s won a number of Awards including one at Seacon ’79 for Dreamsnake which was also nominated for a Ditmar. She won a Nebula for Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand novelette (also nominated for a Hugo) and another one for her The Moon and The Stars novel. 

Another one I feel left us far too early though she had seven decades of life.  She died of metastatic pancreatic cancer. Damn.

Here’s our Beginning…

The little boy was frightened. Gently, Snake touched his hot forehead. Behind her, three adults stood close together, watching, suspicious, afraid to show their concern with more than narrow lines around their eyes. They feared Snake as much as they feared their only child’s death. In the dimness of the tent, the strange blue glow of the lantern gave no reassurance. 

The child watched with eyes so dark the pupils were not visible, so dull that Snake herself feared for his life. She stroked his hair. It was long, and very pale, dry and irregular for several inches near the scalp, a striking color against his dark skin. Had Snake been with these people months ago, she would have known the child was growing ill.

“Bring my case, please,” Snake said.

The child’s parents started at her soft voice. Perhaps they had expected the screech of a bright jay, or the hissing of a shining serpent. This was the first time Snake had spoken in their presence. She had only watched, when the three of them had come to observe her from a distance and whisper about her occupation and her youth; she had only listened, and then nodded, when finally they came to ask her help. Perhaps they had thought she was mute. 

The fair-haired younger man lifted her leather case. He held the satchel away from his body, leaning to hand it to her, breathing shallowly with nostrils flared against the faint smell of musk in the dry desert air. 

Snake had almost accustomed herself to the kind of uneasiness he showed; she had already seen it often.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 17, 1903 William Bogart. Yes, another one who wrote Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson, some with Lester Dent. Between 1949 and 1947, he or they wrote some fifteen Doc Savage novels in total. Some of them would get reprinted in the late Eighties in omnibuses that also included novels done with Lester Dent. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 17, 1927 Wally Wood. Comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics’ Mad magazine, Marvel’s Daredevil, and Topps’s landmark Mars Attacks set. He was the inaugural inductee into the comic book industry’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 17, 1931 Dean Ing. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets which I really liked and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. (Died 2020.)
  • Born June 17, 1941 William Lucking. Here because he played Renny in Doc Savage: Man of Bronze. (I know I’ve seen it, but I’ll be damn if I remember much about it.)  He’s also had one-offs in Mission: ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkThe American HeroThe QuestVoyagersX-FilesThe Lazarus ManMilleniumDeep Space Nine and Night Stalker. (Died 2021.)
  • Born June 17, 1953 Phyllis Weinberg, 70. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan Robert E. Weinberg (died 2016). They co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector, and she co-edited the Weinberg Tales with him, Doug Ellis and Robert T. Garcia. She, along with Nancy Ford and Tina L. Jens, wrote “The Many Faces of Chicago” essay that was that was in the 1996 WFC guide. The Weinbergs co-chaired the World Fantasy Convention In 1996.
  • Born June 17, 1982 Jodie Whittaker, 41. The Thirteenth Doctor who did three series plus several upcoming specials. She played Ffion Foxwell in the Black Mirror‘s “The Entire History of You”, and was Samantha Adams in Attack the Block, a horror SF film. I like her version of The Doctor a lot with David Tennant being my other favorite modern Doctor. 
  • Born June 17, 1982 Arthur Darvill, 41. Actor who’s has in my opinion had two great roles. The first was playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions. The second, and to my mind the more interesting of the two, was playing the time-traveler Rip Hunter in the Legends of Tomorrow, a Time Lord of sorts. (And yes, I know where the name came from.) He also played Seymour Krelborn in The Little Shop of Horrors at the Midlands Arts Centre, and Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe.  


(10) A DWAYNE MCDUFFIE CALL OUT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In the next-to-last and final episodes of the WB’s The Flash series, Chester (who, a season or so ago replaced Cisco as Team Flash’s science/tech nerd) (in Chester’s case, as a blerd), uttered, in moments of surprise/stress: “Sweet N.K. Jemisin!” and “Dazzling Dwayne McDuffie!”

The late Dwayne McDuffie wrote a lot of comics and an animated series, including, for DC, some Justice League, Batman, and others, see The DC Universe by Dwayne McDuffie  (I’m using HooplaDigital links; should be available in hardcopy from many libraries and comic/book stores, digitally presumably also from DC, probably ditto ComiXology and Libby.)

I know him best for co-founding Milestone Comics in the early 1990s which, per Wikipedia, “focused on underrepresented minorities in American comics”, including Static (also became an animated series), and my favorite, Icon, (see Icon Vol. 1: A Hero’s Welcome and Icon Vol. 2: The Mothership Connection.)

Milestone comics were published and distributed by DC, but were, at the time, in separate universes… which led to multi-part crossover, with, IIRC, one of my favorite cover gimmicks, namely little sticky-plastic decals of the characters (similar to Colorforms, but I don’t think that term’s been genericized) on a sealed-plastic bag (so I don’t think I opened that copy, I’d have to check my Milestone box…).

As of a few years ago, the Milestone Universe got shuffled/merged into DC main continuity, along with some character rebooting. (E.g., Virgil “Static” Hawkins, last I checked, was working at STAR Labs.)

(11) PICARD AND FRIENDS. Deadline has a superlative interview with the Picard cast: “’Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes”.

DEADLINE: Do you remember your first meeting with one another, way back in 1986?

JONATHAN FRAKES: I do remember the first time I met Patrick. We’d been called into the makeup trailer to meet the great king of makeup, Michael Westmore. Patrick and I introduced ourselves to one another, and we got right into a cricket versus baseball conversation that eventually led to him becoming a big LA Dodgers fan [laughs].

GATES McFADDEN: I was doing a play with Linda Hunt called The Matchmaker, down in La Jolla. Patrick came down to see it. We went out to dinner and it was all very exciting; we found we had a lot of mutual friends who were in the Royal Shakespeare Company. We talked all night. We both said, “I don’t know, I’m nervous about this whole thing…”

PATRICK STEWART: I remember people telling me not to worry about signing a six-year contract. They said, “You’ll be lucky to make it through the first season.” You cannot revive an iconic series, that’s what they told us. I was told, “Get a plane ticket, come over here, do the show, make some money for the first time in your life, and work on your tan, then you can go home.”

FRAKES: You have to remember, audiences were not ready for a bald English captain with a French name. And a Klingon on the bridge, and a blind guy driving. It was a very strange environment and people were skeptical to say the least. I didn’t know anything about Star Trek. Neither did Gates, or Brent [Spiner], or Patrick. I think [Michael] Dorn did, and I know your space son, Gates, Wil Wheaton did. But we had different tastes in television — in spite of the fact that my wife, the wonderful Genie Frakes, had a poster of Captain Kirk on her bedroom wall when she was a kid [laughs].

McFADDEN: Brent said the same, that we just didn’t know if this was a good idea.

Johnny, do you remember the first time I met you? We went to a costume fitting the day before a shoot, and I was so excited and intense about it all. It was a silly scene in a shopping mall. I said, “Can we rehearse? Can we go over the scene?” You looked at me and just said, “Sure.” After about three times, you were like, “I think we’ve got it.” It was a four-line scene [laughs]. But I’d never done anything like this; committed to a series like that.

STEWART: Of course, I found out eventually that I was also signing up for six years of Jonathan Frakes.

FRAKES: Hey, now [laughs].

(12) SFF STALWART. Linda Hamilton of Terminator, Resident Alien and Beauty and the Beast fame has been cast in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 5 reports Variety.

Stranger Things” Season 5 is adding Linda Hamilton to its cast. The announcement was made Saturday as part of Netflix’s annual Tudum event.

Exact details on the character Hamilton will be playing are being kept under wraps….

(13) BACK IN THE BLACK. On CBS Saturday Morning, “Black Mirror” Charlie Brooker discusses the show’s return.

“Black Mirror,” the science-fiction series, has released a new season after four years. Ahead of the release of the new episodes, “CBS Saturday Morning” sat down with Charlie Brooker, the creative mind behind the show. Jeff Glor reports.

(14) THE ENCELADUS FIZZ. “A ‘Soda Ocean’ on a Moon of Saturn Has All the Ingredients for Life” reports the New York Times.

Enceladus — the sixth-largest of Saturn’s 146 moons — has a liquid ocean with a rocky floor under its bright, white and frosty surface. Ice volcanoes spew frozen grains of material into space, generating one of the many rings circling the planet.

Now, a team of researchers has discovered that those icy grains contain phosphates. They found them using data from Cassini, a joint NASA-European orbiter that concluded its study of Saturn, its rings and moons in 2017. It is the first time phosphorus has been found in an ocean beyond Earth. The results, which add to the prospect that Enceladus is home to extraterrestrial life, were published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“We weren’t expecting this. We didn’t look for it,” said Frank Postberg, a planetary scientist at the Free University of Berlin who led the study. He described the realization that they had found phosphates (chemicals containing the element phosphorus) as a “tantalizing moment.”

With the discovery of phosphorus on the ocean world, scientists say they have now found all of the elements there that are essential to life as we know it. Phosphorus is a key ingredient in human bones and teeth, and scientists say it is the rarest bio-essential ingredient in the cosmos. Planetary researchers had previously detected the other five key elements on Enceladus: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur (the last of which has been tentatively detected).

(15) CAN’T FLY AWAY. Scientific American focuses on “The Mystery of Australia’s Paralyzed Parrots”.

…Cases of what is called lorikeet paralysis syndrome (LPS) have been increasing over the past decade, says veterinarian Claude Lacasse of the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital in the eastern Australian city of Brisbane. It is now considered one of Australia’s most significant wildlife diseases. But scientists are baffled as to what is causing it….

Native to Australia’s eastern seaboard, rainbow lorikeets dwell in forest and scrubland and in leafy coastal suburbs. They are the country’s most common backyard bird. The charismatic parrots typically drink the nectar of the fragrant blossoms of native trees and shrubs. But widespread habitat loss, heavy rains that damage blossoms and severe wildfires have increasingly driven lorikeets to other food sources, including fruit, seeds and, strangely, even meat. This increasing variety in their diet is one reason it’s so difficult to identify what’s making them sick….

To take on the mystery, Phalen and his team set up a citizen science project on iNaturalist, a social network for biodiversity observations, asking people in LPS hotspots to take photographs of wild lorikeets feeding on plants.

(16) DIGITAL AFTERLIVES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] What’s it all about? Search me.  Some say 42, but other may want more than a two digit answer (no raising of fingers here).  And then again, what happens next? Is there an afterlife? Gosh, I hope not.  Too much trouble with this one.  Besides, if there was an afterlife it must be awfully crowded by now. (Still, I suppose one benefit might be finally being able to meet aliens?) Anyway, this week Isaac Arthur ponders digital afterlives…

For as long as we have had history and likely before, people have contemplated a life after this one, but might we one day create artificial afterlives? And if so, will we create heavens or hells?

This last reminds me of an Iain Banks novel…

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Christopher Rowe, Danny Sichel, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Jones.]

44 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/17/23 Whoever Lives In Glass Pixels Should Not Throw Scrolls

  1. What is more, the SF magazines have for some time become just about the last magazines containing any real short stories, and if they should disappear, so might the literary short story, period.

    I subscribe to Analog, Asimov’s and F&SF and enjoy them, but I would not say that their demise would cause the “literary short story” to die out in the genre. Judging by the last decade in the Hugo Awards short fiction categories, the newsstand three are finding it hard to match the caliber of award nominees and winners that are coming out elsewhere, often from younger publications that have bigger reach online.

  2. (0) But glass-fronted CRT pixels are so last century….
    (1) I’m glad she’s dealing with it right up front. Had a nurse friend, a long, long time ago who told me about a friend of hers who, after major surgery, answered the hospital phone the next day, “Hello, One-Tit Wilson here!” (As opposed to a long-gone friend, who spent a couple years treating a lump in her breast with massive doses of Vitamin C and shooting .45 handguns….)
    (3) I’ll have to disagree with Norman. Full SFWA membership is still “you have to have made x dollars by selling your fiction. If he were suggesting that SFWA make full membership require one or two or three samples of your writing, I’d be ok with that (I had to submit a sample to get accepted to the Odyssey Online course I took.)
    (16) DIgital afterlives might not be all fun and games…. I’ve got a couple of stories (oddly enough, I just finished a major revision of one) where the theme is “Why you don’t want to be able to upload your mind”.

  3. 16) Amazon’s series Upload is an interesting look at life after digital acquisition.


  4. (1) Been there, done that, still here (and in remission for five years now). I treated it as an adventure in science and medicine. (PET scan: What’s the half-life on that (the agent)? Answer, from CRC Handbook: F-18: 110 minutes.)

  5. 1) Sending healing vibes to Ursula. And yes, cancer sucks.

    3) Seconding what rcade and mark said, there are dozens of SFF magazines out there, some paying pro-rate, some not. Even if the former Big Three print mags vanish, there’ll still be SFF short fiction and short fiction in general.

    Also, as mark pointed out, SFWA still has a threshold requiring that you have to have made a certain amount of money selling SFF. However, the rules have been updated to include self-published works, earnings via corwdfunding, income from game writing and also sales to magazines that don’t pay pro-rate. And that’s a good thing, because the market is different now than it was in 1965.

    Furthermore, the people who are spamming the various magazines with AI generated crap are not SFWA members. They’re people who are looking to make a quick buck and have fallen for some “make money with AI” scheme.

    What is more, eliminating snail mail submissions in favour of e-mail submissions has made submissions a lot more accessible to writers from outside the US. I started submitting before most mags took e-mail submissions and the postage, international reply coupons, etc… was really expensive. And the responses, if you got any at all, were often hostile, too. It’s no coincidence that we started seeing a lot more fiction by writers from Asia, Africa and Latin America once SFF mags switched to e-mail submissions. Because suddenly submissions had become a lot more accessible to these writers.

  6. 1) Best wishes to Ursula

    7) I wish she had written more books. We read an excerpt from Dreamsnake in school in sixth grade – when I came across the full book 20 years later I found I still remembered most of the excerpt in detail, it really made an impression.

  7. (1) Best wishes to Ursula Vernon. I can’t prove that an upbeat attitude helps, but it can’t hurt.

    (3) Is it very terrible of me to say that Spinrad is being a Cranky Old Guy? And that he is not gatekeeping in favor of quality, the way he thinks he is?

  8. 1) Hoping she caught it at the opposite end of the progression than my mother did. Hoping she has the opposite outcome.

    7) Yeah, speaking of which. When the time came that her time remaining was clearly measured in days, and those days would be utterly unbearable were she conscious [1], and the only thing left for me to do was essentially stand vigil, I came to the end of whatever I’d been reading and, for some absolutely unguessable reason, chose McIntyre’s novelization of TWoK to read next. Most people probably should not do that.

    (The book I read after that [2], I was in the waiting room of the funeral home when I got to the scene where the protagonist visits their own grave a few centuries after their death and finds out the funeral director massively cheated them on their monument. It was a very weird time in my life.)

    [1] Which is why I cannot abide people who demonize fentanyl.

    [2] ntrag bs gur vzcrevhz ol znep qbhoyr-h zvyyre

  9. (1) Best of luck and health to Ursula!

    (3) In addition to other commenter’s criticism of Spinrad, using automated systems to weed out chatbot-wrtten stories has the same problems of false positives as any other system like that: the traits they would look for could also be present in writings of non-neurotypical individuals or people whose first language isn’t English.

  10. Oleg X on June 17, 2023 at 11:17 pm said:

    (3) In addition to other commenter’s criticism of Spinrad, using automated systems to weed out chatbot-wrtten stories has the same problems of false positives as any other system like that: the traits they would look for could also be present in writings of non-neurotypical individuals or people whose first language isn’t English.

    False positives are an issue but I suspect it’s more likely to catch neurotypical people with English as the first language. Large Language Models tend towards the mean.

    I think story submissions are probably the safest place to use machine-learning to catch Large Language Model generated texts. Unlike academic essays, the negative consequences are smaller and I also strongly suspect that very few genuinely excellent stories would get flagged.

  11. (1) Best wishes to Ursula. (I belong to the “I hope you weren’t attached to that uterus” club myself.)

    (3) This is definitely an apples and oranges situation. Or maybe apples and Adam’s apples. (Apples and operas?) Like Cora said (Cora, you’re a genius), the people submitting AI-generated stories have no relationship to SFWA members, whether today’s members or those who got together at the Milford Conference in 1965.

    A lot of similar organizations have found ways to open to more writers, and I happen to think that’s a good thing. The problem isn’t the writers. It might be letting people know people the magazines are out there.

    (5) Once again, Cora, you’re a genius. I’ve watched the “cozy horror” debate unfold, and I want to beat some of the participants with a dripping wet pool noodle.

    There are people who think there is some outside force (readers) coming in and intruding on horror because those people want to read “cozy horror.” They think those readers are going to weaken or “gentrify” horror. As if existing fans can’t read more than one type of horror. As if fans who prefer less graphic horror don’t already exist.

    On top of all that, do they not want new fans to read horror? In some cases, maybe not — unless the fans start out reading the books they approve of.

    There have also been accusations of misogyny thrown about — for various reasons. For example, somebody suggested Shirley Jackson was cozy horror, and that’s sexist. Also, deities forbid you suggest women are associated with cozy horror.

    I’ve seen people imply that if you can’t read non-cozy horror, you’re a wuss. I know a woman who has treated everything from gunshot wounds to cancer and COVID patients — and she can’t endure horror. Clearly, she ain’t no “wuss.”

    Phew! Can you tell this debate has been possible me off? 😉

  12. The problem Clarkesworld and other publications are having isn’t an AI problem; it’s a troll problem. And I suspect that the fuss being made is serving as a challenge to those individuals.

    To my knowledge, there is no present software that can identify AI writing. I have tested some of it, and it has failed dismally, especially with false positives. I think AI (which, technically, is not “AI” at all, but machine learning—applied statistics) is a useful and interesting tool for writers. I’m especially dismayed by publications that have gone so far as to ban using AI even as prompts. Get a grip.

  13. (3) There are a whole lot of things wrong with Spinrad’s post, one in particular that stuck out was: “The answer to that, of course, would be AI slush readers, which at least could be easily taught to recognize each other, if not to recognize the 10% of literary interest.”

    Teaching AI tp recognize AI is the basic idea behind a GAN (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generative_adversarial_network) and the net result of this is generally an AI that is much better at evading detection.

    No, wait, here’s another thing: “while I was three time president, and until fairly recently. In those days, there were no more that 1000 full members of SFWA, but rather rapidly it has now become bloated by about 2500 members”

    Going by https://www.sfwa.org/about/current-officers/prior-sfwa-board-officers/ the last time Spinrad was SFWA president was 2001-2002, and the time before that 1980-1982 (and nothing prior to that; I would have characterized this as ‘two time’ but given the change in election cadence in the late 80s I won’t quibble further). ISFDB has 5761 records with a publication date of 1981, 7230 from 2001, and 36265 from 2021. Obviously one can’t assume all else being equal, but instead of asking ‘why is SFWA so big these days’ maybe Spinrad should be asking ‘why isn’t SFWA even bigger?’

  14. 1.) Wishing Ursula the best. I’ve known too damn many women with breast cancer, and had to talk one of my teaching colleagues who had gone through a hellish first round through her fears that the cancer had returned. It eventually did, but not that time. All the same, for a school as small as that one, there were sure a lot of adults who had experienced breast cancer.

    3.) Old man yelling at clouds…alas, that’s been Spinrad for a number of years now. I stopped following him on Facebook because he clearly wasn’t operating in the same decade that I am–I’m not even sure he’s in the same century, and that’s saying something given my own age.

    I’d also add that from all appearances, the literary SFF story is in better shape now than its non-SFF equivalents, at least from the proliferation of litmags that swear up and down they need to charge submissions fees in order to stay afloat.

    As for using AI to detect AI…that’s pretty much what current detection programs tend to be (albeit of differing complexity) and, well…they aren’t working very well.

  15. @Jake

    There are a whole lot of things wrong with Spinrad’s post, one in particular that stuck out was: “The answer to that, of course, would be AI slush readers, which at least could be easily taught to recognize each other, if not to recognize the 10% of literary interest.”

    Great point. Somebody recently suggested using AI to screen submissions to check for grammar, etc. And some fascinating tweets came out of this as people showed what AI would have done to various accepted classic opening paragraphs. It would not have recognized greatness. It would have corrected minor “non-errors” in, say, the opening paragraph of 1984. Thanks but no thanks.

    A lot of people swear by programs such as Grammarly. I use Grammarly to check for possible errors, but you have to be aware that it will make stupid errors because it is not really thinking. These tools are best in the hands of someone who already knows the grammar.

    Obviously one can’t assume all else being equal, but instead of asking ‘why is SFWA so big these days’ maybe Spinrad should be asking ‘why isn’t SFWA even bigger?

    Yup. Is it a good thing to have fewer members? I don’t think so. Is SFWA adding more members just to make money? Uhm, really?! :\

    Are people staying away because they are made to feel like outsiders even if they qualify? Because they’ve seen only the in-fighting and don’t know about the positives? Is it the cost? Are there too many people who don’t know they qualify? Or are there some who qualify but stay away because they have been led to believe the “puppyish” cries against SFWA?

    Also, many writers have said that SFWA (and similar organizations) would have helped them more before they qualified for membership. I’m not saying SFWA should do like RWA and accept everyone who calls themselves an aspiring writer and end up with something like 9,500+ members. That would be too messy. (And RWA has been messy of late.) But why not have some kind of “Supporting” membership option, like HWA?

  16. I got associate membership in SFWA recently – three sales at professional word-rate totaling more than $100 in toto. I hope I haven’t been bringing standards down…

  17. Mike Glyer says You’d be surprised at who’s still alive.

    As Mike can tell you, the Birthdays are constantly surprising us as to how many individuals in their late eighties and nineties are still around. We’ve even had several who were over a hundred years old.

  18. (1) Best wishes and a speedy return to health for Ursula.

    (3) What a load of drivel. The notion that the expansion of SFWA by a couple of thousand members over the past 20-30 years represents some kind of diminution of quality, rather than, you know, the expansion of the field, and that this represents some kind of money-making scheme on the part of SFWA… just wow.

    As for the idea that AI is going to solve the problem of the inundation of fiction markets by algorithmically-generated stories, Neil Clarke discusses here the continuing problems Clarkesworld is facing with LLM submissions. Here’s his description of the AI-detection tools they’ve tried: Despite their grand claims, we’ve found them to be stunningly unreliable, primitive, significantly overpriced, and easily outwitted by even the most basic of approaches. There are three or four that we use for manual spot-checks, but they often contradict one another in extreme ways.

    While I’m sure Spinrad can’t imagine anything going wrong with his proposal to establish an organization of the Bestest Science Fiction Writers Evah to decide who is worthy of being raised up from the Pile of Slush, I’ve read (more precisely, attempted to read) his most recent work of fiction, a novella that appeared in the January/February 2023 Asimov’s. It is literally a piece of Elon Musk fan fiction, (the protagonist is named Elon Tesla) and so boring and stupid that I noped out after the first few pages. Why Asimov’s thought it deserving of taking up 39 pages of the issue is completely inexplicable. It was thoroughly convincing on one point, however: no one should pay any attention to what Spinrad thinks is a good story.

  19. @rcade: For me it’s Asimov’s, F&SF, and Interzone, of which the latter is my favorite. (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it maintains the same level of quality under new editor Gareth Jelley as it did under Andy Cox; so far, so good.) And while there’s nothing in your comment that I disagree with, I think it should be pointed out that “bigger reach online” largely translates to “make all of their fiction available online for free”. (Although F&SF, in fact, seems to have basically disappeared from the web since the end of 2020.) And the skank in the scud pie is that most of the readers of online magazines don’t subscribe or donate. So part of the reason for the increased impact of online publications – and this in no way is intended to cast aspersions on their quality, many of them are first-rate, and the field is better for their existence – is simply that they offer venues for high-quality fiction that people can read without paying anything.

  20. @F.J. Bergmann: AI (which, technically, is not “AI” at all, but machine learning—applied statistics) is a useful and interesting tool for writers. I’m especially dismayed by publications that have gone so far as to ban using AI even as prompts. Get a grip.

    The problem, I think, (philosophical issues of what is or isn’t a legitimate writing tool aside) with anything other than a blanket ban on AI tools is that you’re then requiring the editorial staff to not only keep up with what will undoubtedly be a rapidly evolving field, but also to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a particular use is acceptable. They simply don’t have the time or the resources. In the post I linked above, Neil Clarke describes how they are barely keeping their heads above water with the flood of LLM-generated submissions Clarkesworld is receiving, and they are expecting it to become unsustainable.

  21. @Anne Marble: I think SFWA has a lot of great resources available for non-members that just haven’t made it onto people’s radar. (I don’t know if it’s because I was focusing on short fiction or because I’m That Sort of Nerd that I found stuff well before I qualified for membership.) I’d much rather see more outreach to make writers aware of what’s out there than encourage them to pay a “supporting” fee for…I dunno, forum access?

    @F. J. Bergmann: I agree, Clarkesworld and others are experiencing a trolling/DDoS problem. But I can’t see more specific submission guidelines as a problem. There are publications that want AI[1] subs, so authors that follow basic submission etiquette can direct their stories to those markets.

    1 – Yes, entirely the wrong term.

  22. 1) Let me join the rest in wishing good health to our favourite wombat.

    3) It is always a bad sign when a formerly forward-looking writer tells you the solution to a problem is to look backward.

    8)William Bogart wrote 15 novels between 1949 and 1947? It’s a rare talent who can work that way. Perhaps he inspired Spinrad . . .

  23. @Brian Z: “I thought Norman Spinrad was dead!”

    Common mistake, you were thinking of his career.

    (That comment might be uncalled for, if so Mike please delete with my apologies).

  24. (1) Joining others in wishing the best possible outcome to Ursula’s currently terrible situation. Cancer sucks, full stop.

    (3) I have nothing to say about Spinrad’s gatekeeping that others have not said before, so I’ll just add a hearty “hear here” to the idea that SFWA is the better for its expanded membership today, and that recognizing alternate paths to being a published author is not at all the same as lowering of standards.

    I particularly admire what Randall M said: “It is always a bad sign when a formerly forward-looking writer tells you the solution to a problem is to look backward.”

  25. Thanks, all! Just catching up—it’s been quite a week, but at least there’s now a treatment plan in place. I’m gonna live, just gonna be a gnarly few months. (I will be a bald wombat soon, but my husband points out that he watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture repeatedly in his youth, and not because of the acting.)

  26. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 6/21/23 How I Met My 900 Grandmothers | File 770

  27. @RedWombat – glad there’s a plan, and that the prognosis is so positive. Do you plan to rock the baldness as is, or take the opportunity to explore scarves and wigs, or change up as the mood takes you?

    (11-yo me went the scarf route until it got to be spring, at which point I got over my 11-yo embarrassment about the baldness. April, while relatively mild on the New Orleans heat scale, is still not a friendly time to wear more layers than you gotta.)

  28. I saw an opera last night in which there is a character who each year mourns the death of Greta Garbo, unaware that she is still alive.
    You probably all know the story, but it might be worth telling again: the editor who bought “Dreamsnake” (was it Dave Hartwell?) wanted to buy the book very much, but there was a committee sort of thing that had to approve it. He told them point blank it was a very sensitive Feminist novel, and he would not buy it if they were going to publish it with a cover depicting some big-breasted bimbo in a fur bikini with a giant snake draped around her. They assured him they would never do that.

    A couple months later he went past the art department, and there was a painting of a female in the fur bikini with a big snake. He asked: “What’s that for?” and they said: “Some thing called “Dreamsnake.”
    As to Fentanyl: we just lost our nephew to an overdose of it. The city of Santa Rosa has billboards all over warning of its dangers. The problem is not with the drug itself (or its more powerful derivatives), but its ready availability.

    I well remember the horror of several people dying of various things who were in monstrous pain, but who were prevented from getting what relief was possible because their doctors could not prescribe heroin: which also is addictive and which can kill from an overdose. Fentanyl has filled a gap in pain relief, particularly in terminal cases, and I know more than one medical professional who is very grateful to have it in the arsenal.

    But some genuinely bad people make it commonly, easily, available, and people have been ‘educated’ to believe that all drugs are equal, which is not the case: particularly young people, who are not even allowed to know the ‘Facts of Life’ in many places. –Knowledge, complete knowledge, is the only defense: ignorance, especially enforced ignorance, is always an enemy.

  29. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 9/11/23 Pixels Are A Scroll’s Best Friend - File 770

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