(1) MAINE PAPER INTERVIEWS LIADEN CREATORS. “Waterville authors’ marriage has stood the test of time – and deadlines”, in the Portland, ME Press-Herald.
In the days when they were trying to build their careers as science fiction writers, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller had multiple jobs to pay the bills, and a shared typewriter.
Lee remembers going off to work at the paper mill in Skowhegan during the day and leaving whatever she had written in the typewriter for Miller, so he could pick up where she left off when he came home from his overnight shift at a Cumberland Farms.
“We just left the paper in the typewriter for whoever was home to work on the book,” said Lee, 70. “We had a deadline to meet, it was a necessity.”
Some 35 years later, Lee and Miller still write science fiction novels together, but with the luxury of time and space. Both write full-time and each have their own writing office, at opposite ends of their ranch house in Waterville. Nowadays, they sometimes leave finished pages on the dining room table for the other to read over. They’ve collaborated on some 100 stories and books over the years, including 25 novels in the popular Liaden Universe series.
The most recent book in the series, “Salvage Right,” went on sale in July and debuted at No. 2 on book publishing industry data provider BookScan’s science fiction list. It was published by Baen Books and distributed by Simon & Schuster. Their first book came out in 1988, the year they moved to Maine from Baltimore. The couple has been married since 1980.
“They are two very intelligent, creative people playing off each other, and there’s a huge element of trust in the way they work. You can’t tell which ones Sharon took the lead on or which ones Steve did,” said Toni Weisskopf, the publisher at Baen Books. “There have been some husband-and-wife collaborations in science fiction, but for a couple to work together this long and for their marriage to remain successful is probably unique.”…
(2) CHENGDU WORLDCON TAKING APPLICATIONS FOR FAN TABLES. The Chengdu Worldcon (October 18-22) is now accepting requests from those who want to run Fan Tables. The deadline to apply is August 31 at 5:00 p.m. (Beijing Time). Detailed information is in the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon Exhibition Brochure. The contact email is [email protected].
…As one of the most important parts of a Worldcon, the exhibition is an excellent platform for global fannish groups to experience science fiction culture from various community and communicate and exchange science fiction ideas and perspectives. This year, we have set up an area of over 5,000 sqm exhibition space which composed with industries and fannish groups related to science fiction genre. You can find exhibitors featuring the content of science fiction lifestyle, arts, films, publishing, games, popular science and culture and tourism along with Fan Table, Dealer’s Room and the Future Worldcons. Now we are pleased to announce the open of application for the exhibition, however, due to the limited space and table, we have to approve the application in a manner of first come first get.
(3) ALL BRADBURY, ALL THE TIME. The Library of America interviewed Jonathan Eller, editor of The Illustrated Man, The October Country, Other Stories, which gathers two of Ray Bradbury’s celebrated collections and twenty-seven other stories. Eller is the author of the definitive, three-volume Ray Bradbury biography (Becoming Ray Bradbury, Ray Bradbury Unbound, Bradbury Beyond Apollo) and the general editor of the Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury and The New Bradbury Review. “Jonathan R. Eller on Ray Bradbury’s journey from the pulps to the slicks”.
Jonathan R. Eller: Throughout World War II, Ray Bradbury published in the genre pulps by way of his first New York agent, Julius Schwartz. His success with off-trail stories in the pages of Weird Tales came first, as he slowly developed a style to match his tales of strange children and eccentric supernatural creatures that bore little resemblance to the conventional vampires, ghosts, and werewolves usually featured in the supernatural pulps.
By 1945 he had found another reading audience through the crime fiction pulps, again creating unconventional characters who blurred the boundaries between rational, neurotic, and psychotic behavior. All along he had also been publishing in the science fiction magazines with limited success, hampered to some degree by an anxiety of influence and the virtual lack of any background in the sciences or technologies that stimulated many other writers in the field.
Nevertheless, Bradbury was already developing his own distinctive, metaphor-rich style, and genre mentors such as Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, and Henry Kuttner helped him discover his true strengths as a writer. Bradbury always believed that his subconscious was the key to original ideas, and by the mid-1940s he realized, on some level, that his strengths were not in imagining the experiences of others, but in telling stories that came from the emotional responses to life found in the mind of a child, and the mind of the adult that the child would become. These subjects he knew well….
(4) I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE. “Rod Serling Committed Plagiarism In The Twilight Zone – By Accident” – Slashfilm explains what they mean by that.
The pilot episode for Rod Serling’s seminal sci-fi TV series “The Twilight Zone” was called “Where Is Everybody?,” and it aired on October 2, 1959. It was directed by Robert Stevens and, like most episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” was written by Serling himself…
Bradbury was unambiguous when addressing Serling’s “inspiration.” He explained:
“The first program of ‘The Twilight Zone’ is based on a story from ‘The Martian Chronicles.’ He invited me to a screening with my friend Bill Nolan and the other boys in the gang, you know, and when we came out we all looked at each other and said, ‘God, that looks a little bit like a story from “The Martian Chronicles.”‘ I didn’t say anything because I was embarrassed. And a month or so later, Rod called me on the phone and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I said, ‘Tell you what?’ He said, ‘Well, my pilot script is based partially on a story of yours from “The Martian Chronicles?”‘”
It seemed that Serling didn’t know that Ray Bradbury had beaten him to a “lone soul wanders a human-free landscape” story by about nine years. Serling then told Bradbury that it took his wife, Carol, to point out the similarities to him. Luckily, she happened to be readying Bradbury’s book at the time. The author recalled:
“[Serling] said ‘I was in bed reading with my wife and Carol turned over, she was reading “The Martian Chronicles” and she said, “Rod, read this, it’s like your pilot.”‘ And he said, ‘My God, I realized that inadvertently I’d stolen part of your idea.'”
Luckily, Serling wanted to do the honorable thing, and give credit where credit was due; it seems that Rod didn’t want to rip off any ideas or claim credit for himself. He offered to pay Bradbury to appropriate amount to purchase the rights to his story. Bradbury refused, saying that the acknowledgment was enough, offering him vindication….
(5) SCOREBOARD, BABY! “Another judge agrees: AI-Created art isn’t copyrightable” reports Mashable.
…There has been a debate raging over whether or not work created by generative artificial intelligence can be copyrighted. Some judges have ruled no, of course not, that would be absurd; others have argued the opposite. On Friday, the computers took another L.
A federal judge ruled to uphold a finding from the U.S. Copyright Office that states that pieces of art that are created by AI are not protected by copyright law. As the Hollywood Reporter found, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who delivered the ruling, said copyright law hasn’t ever protected “works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand.”
Stephen Thaler, the chief executive of the neural network firm Imagination Engines, has been leading the charge in hopes of copywriting AI works, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In his lawsuit, he argued that AI should be acknowledged “as an author where it otherwise meets authorship criteria” and that works generated completely and solely by artificial intelligence should be protected by copyright law.
“In the absence of any human involvement in the creation of the work, the clear and straightforward answer is the one given by the Register: No,” Howell wrote, adding that copyright law “protects only works of human creation.”…
(6) GRABBING WITH BOTH ROBOTIC HANDS. [Item by Bill.] Meanwhile, Google wants Australian copyright (and presumably other countries as well) to explicitly allow AI/LLM systems to scrape copyrighted material as “fair use”. “Google Wants AI Scraping to Be ‘Fair Use.’ Will Courts Agree?” at Tom’s Hardware.
What do you think would happen if I tried this? I stroll into a bank and see a wad of cash within arm’s reach behind an unoccupied teller window. I grab the dough and start walking out the door with it when a police officer, very rudely, stops me. “I’m entitled to take this money,” I say. “Because nobody at the bank told me not to.”
If you think my defense is implausible, then you don’t work for Google. This week, the search giant said that it wants to change copyright laws so that it can grab any content it wants from the Internet, use it as training data for its AI products, and argue “fair use” if anyone objects to the plagiarism stew Google’s cooking up. Google’s figleaf to copyright holders: they’ll find a way to let you opt-out.
In a recent statement to the Australian government, which is considering new AI laws, Google wrote that it wants “copyright systems that enable appropriate and fair use of copyrighted content to enable the training of AI models in Australia on a broad and diverse range of data while supporting workable opt-outs for entities that prefer their data not to be trained in using AI systems.”…
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 20, 1883 — Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. (Died 1931.)
- Born August 20, 1890 — Howard P. Lovecraft. Virtually unknown during his lifetime, he was published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty. He’s regarded now as one of our most important authors of horror and weird fiction. He is not the originator of the term Cthulhu mythos, that honor goes to August Derleth. (Died 1937.)
- Born August 20, 1932 — Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors. It is noted that he enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
- Born August 20, 1943 — Sylvester McCoy, 80. The Seventh Doctor (my second favorite of the classic Who Doctors after Baker) and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go.
- Born August 20, 1951 — Greg Bear. Blood Music which won both a Nebula and a Hugo for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. (Died 2022.)
- Born August 20, 1961 — Greg Egan, 62. Australian writer who exists though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. I assume he wasn’t there given his stance against attending Worldcons?
- Born August 20, 1962 — Sophie Aldred, 61. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Shoe shows an alternative “next generation” idea.
- Tom Gauld finds a case of scholarly overkill.
(9) RUSSIAN MOON LANDER FAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Well, it looks like the anomaly in Luna 25’s orbit was of the “we attempted a negative altitude maneuver” type. “Luna-25 crashes into moon after orbit maneuver” at Space.com.
Russia’s Luna-25 mission ended in failure after crashing into the moon, space agency Roscosmos has announced.
A statement posted to the agency’s Telegram social media channel early Aug. 20 confirmed that an anomaly during an Aug. 19 maneuver to lower Luna-25’s orbit resulted in the spacecraft impacting the lunar surface.
The spacecraft was scheduled to attempt a soft lunar landing Aug. 21, near Boguslawsky crater, located approximately 70 degrees south latitude in the vicinity of the south polar region of the moon.
Roscosmos announced Aug. 19 that at 7:10 a.m. Eastern that day Luna-25 was instructed to fire its engines to send the spacecraft into a “pre-landing” orbit around the moon. The planned maneuver was anomalous, however.
“An emergency situation occurred on board the automatic station, which did not allow the maneuver to be performed with the specified parameters,” according to a translation of the Roscosmos statement.
The agency clarified Sunday that contact was lost with the spacecraft around 7:57 a.m. Eastern. Measures taken Aug. 19 and 20 to reestablish contact with Luna-25 were not successful, according to the Aug. 20 statement.
A preliminary analysis revealed that a deviation of the actual parameters of the impulse from those calculated resulted in the spacecraft colliding with the lunar surface, according to a machine translation of the statement….
(10) ICONIC ARCHITECTURE NO MORE. The Guardian listens to the “Outcry over loss of features on Bangkok’s landmark ‘robot building’”.
A Bangkok landmark known as the “robot building” has been stripped of its identity, heritage campaigners have said, as they called for the city’s distinctive architecture to preserved.
The building – in the form of a giant robot made up of stacks of cubes and inspired by the architect watching his son play with a toy – has loomed over one of Bangkok’s busiest commercial districts for decades. Its design included oversized bolts and antenna, and windows shaped like cartoonish eyes.
The building’s owner, the Thai arm of the Singaporean multinational United Overseas Bank (UOB), is renovating the structure, however, and its distinctive features have been altered or removed.
The building, which is mentioned in many guides of the city, was completed in 1986 and was previously the headquarters of Bank of Asia. The architect, Dr Sumet Jumsai na Ayudhya, who sought to reflect the computerisation of banking, wanted to create a building that was futuristic….
(11) WWII FLIGHT PHOTOS. The Guardian reports that the Historic England website has made available for the first time large numbers of photos indexed under “Baseball and Bombers: USAAF Reconnaissance Photography During the Second World War”.
The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) reconnaissance aircraft flew hundreds of sorties over England during the Second World War. The Historic England Archive holds a USAAF collection of over 20,000 photographs that records airfields, military bases, towns, and countryside in England between 1943 and 1944.
… The photographs also show incidental details, including Second World War anti-invasion defences. Traces of earlier times can also be seen, from prehistoric archaeological features to the remains of First World War camps. Others record busy townscapes or the relative tranquillity of the natural landscape and cloud formations….
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George convinces himself to make a sequel in “Meg 2: The Trench Pitch Meeting”.
Jason Statham fighting giant prehistoric sharks. That’s maybe the easiest pitch that’s ever been made, and first Meg movie made over half a billion dollars thanks to that awesome sounding premise. And when something makes half a billion dollars, you can bet we’re going to see some more of it. Meg 2: The Trench definitely raises some questions. Like why is this shark movie mostly about humans running around doing sketchy stuff? How did Jason Statham free dive at 25,000 feet? Wait, these movies are based on books? Where did that Kraken come from and why isn’t anyone talking about it? To answer all these questions, check out the pitch meeting that led to Meg 2: The Trench!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]