(1) SFPA POETRY CONTEST DEADLINE APPROACHING. Poets have until August 31 to submit entries to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s 2023 Speculative Poetry Contest. The contest is open to all poets, including non-SFPA-members. Prizes will be awarded for best unpublished poem in three categories:
- Dwarf (poems 1–10 lines [prose poems 0–100 words])
- Short (11–49 lines [prose poems 101–499 words])
- Long (50 lines and more [prose 500 words and up])
Line count does not include title or stanza breaks. All sub-genres of speculative poetry are allowed in any form.
Prizes in each category (Dwarf, Short, Long) will be $150 First Prize, $75 Second Prize, $25 Third Prize. Publication on the SFPA website for first through third places. There is an entry fee of $3 per poem.
The contest judge is Michael Arnzen, who holds four Bram Stoker Awards and an International Horror Guild Award. He has been teaching as a Professor of English in the MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University since 1999, and has work forthcoming in Weird Tales, Writing Poetry in the Dark and more. He also is a past Secretary/Treasurer of the SFPA.
The contest chair is R. Thursday (they/them), a writer, educator, historian, and all-around nerd. They placed second in the 2021 Rhysling Award for Short Poems, and the 2022 Bacopa Formal Verse Contest. Their work has been published in Vulture Bones, The Poet’s Haven, Crow and Quill, Eye to the Telescope, Sheepshead Review, Luna Station Quarterly, Book of Matches, and many other fine journals.
Entries are read blind. Unpublished poems only. Author retains rights, except that first through third place winners will be published on the SPFA website. Full guidelines here.
(2) WARREN LAPINE MEDICAL UPDATE. Sff publisher and editor Warren Lapine suffered a cardiac event on August 7. His partner Angela Kessler has started a GoFundMe to pay for substantial costs not covered by insurance: “Help Warren Recover”.
As you may have heard my husband, Warren Lapine, had a cardiac event on August 7th that caused his heart to stop. CPR was started immediately by a friend and he was then airlifted to Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he was stabilized. He underwent a number of tests that failed to turn up a reason for his heart stoppage, and therefore an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) was implanted to make sure he doesn’t die if this happens again. Since the doctors and tests were unable to determine why Warren’s heart stopped, there will be lots of follow up anointments and tests, all of which will have to be paid for somehow….
(3) READING OUT LOUD TO KIDS. “Most parents want more time reading to young children, study shows” reports the Guardian.
The study, commissioned by the children’s publisher Ladybird and run by Censuswide, found that 33% of parents with children under five wished they had more confidence to read with their child. Reading out loud and doing character voices were cited as reasons for doubting their confidence.
Of the more than 1,000 parents surveyed, three-quarters said that they wished they had more time for shared reading. The study, conducted between late June and early July this year, also found that 77% of parents who read with their children do so before bedtime – between 6pm and 8pm – with low levels of joint reading reported at other times of the day.
(4) BLOCH’S COMICS. The Robert Bloch Official Website has added a new section on Comics, detailing Bloch works adapted to comics and graphic novels.
“A Song of Pain and Sorrow!”
Appears in Heroes Against Hunger #1 (DC Comics); May 1986. A benefit book, with proceeds going toward hunger relief in Africa. 24 writer-artist teams collaborated, with each taking 2 facing pages (Bloch: pp. 18-19.)
(5) DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS. “Stepping Into Raymond Chandler’s Shoes Showed Me the Power of Fiction” – a guest essay by Denise Mina in the New York Times.
“The Second Murderer” is the first Philip Marlowe book written by a woman. Me.
Marlowe is, of course, the most famous creation of Raymond Chandler, perhaps the most famous of American crime novelists. Reading Chandler was always a guilty pleasure of mine, his vision of 1930s Los Angeles unfolding vividly for me all the way in cold and rainy Glasgow. On the one hand, there is his glorious writing, his blue-collar heroes and the occasional profound observations about the human experience. But there’s also his liberal use of racial slurs, his portrayal of people of color and homosexuals as grotesque caricatures and the fact that his work is suffused with misogyny. It takes a strong stomach to read a story in which a woman needs a slap to calm her down.
Crime fiction was, and is, anti-feminist. That’s why I chose to write it in the first place…
…Surrounded by maps and books and printouts of shabbily framed screen shots, I transported myself from cold and rainy Glasgow to a late September heat wave in 1939 in Chandler’s Los Angeles. I tried to retain his wonderful, playful language but update his values. My Marlowe novel features something few Chandler novels ever did: women with inner lives and ambitions that go beyond getting a boyfriend. In my version of Chandler’s 1930s Los Angeles, there’s a rich Hispanic community and a vibrant gay subculture. That’s my prerogative.
Some might accuse me of shoehorning my politics into a canonical series — but the work is already politicized, no shoehorn required. As the literary theorist Stanley Fish argued, there is no such thing as point-of-viewlessness. In all cultures, through all time, the status quo is profoundly political. It simply masquerades as neutral…
(6) SF IN BAWLMUR. [Item by Michael J. Walsh.] The Baltimore Banner, an online Baltimore “newspaper”, ran an article “New to Baltimore? Check out these books.” And one of the books is by local SF author Sarah Pinsker:
‘We Are Satellites’ by Sarah Pinsker
A story about how technology can divide families, written by an award-winning science fiction author based in Baltimore.
Reader review: “I recommend We are Satellites by local Sarah Pinsker. The book is set in the near future, but interwoven in the story are the locations like the aquarium.” — Emanuel
(7) TURN THESE LEAVES. “What to read this autumn: 2023’s biggest new books” – the Guardian’s recommendations include these works of genre interest.
In Julia (Granta, Oct), Sandra Newman opens out the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four by looking at that novel’s events from a female point of view. From Julia’s life in a women’s dormitory through her affair with Winston Smith and torture by the Thought Police, on to a meeting with Big Brother himself, it’s a fascinating reflection on totalitarianism as refracted through Orwell’s times and our own…
Uncovered Terry Pratchett
A Stroke of the Pen (Doubleday, Oct) assembles early short stories by the late Discworld creator, written under a pseudonym for newspapers in the 70s and 80s and only discovered after superfans combed through the archives. Expect comic fantastical fragments riffing on everything from cave people to Father Christmas….
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 27, 1922 — Frank Kelly Freas. I’ve no idea where I first encountered his unique style on a cover of a SF book, but I quickly spotted it everywhere. ISFDB says his first published artwork was the cover of Weird Tales for November 1950. He had a fifty-year run on Astounding Science Fiction from October 1953 according to ISFDB and through its change to the Analog name — amazing. Yes, he won ten Pro Artist Hugos plus one Retro-Hugo, an impressive feat by anyone. There several decent portfolios of his work. (Died 2005.)
- Born August 27, 1929 — Ira Levin. Author of Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil. All of which became films with The Stepford Wives being made twice as well having three television sequels which is definitely overkill I’d say. I’ve seen the first Stepford Wives film but not the latter version. Rosemary’s Baby would also be made into a two-part, four-hour miniseries. He got a Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2007.)
- Born August 27, 1945 — Edward Bryant. His only novel was Phoenix Without Ashes which was co-authored with Harlan Ellison and was an adaptation of Ellison’s pilot script for The Starlost. He won two Nebulas for his short stories “Stone”and “giANTS”, which also were nominated for the Hugo, as was his novelette “The Thermals of August”. I’m personally familiar his short fiction in the Wild Cards anthologies. Phoenix Without Ashes and all of his short stories are available in digital form. (Died 2017.)
- Born August 27, 1952 — Darrell Schweitzer, 71. Writer, editor, and critic. For his writing, I’d recommend Awaiting Strange Gods: Weird and Lovecraftian Fictions and Tom O’Bedlam’s Night Out and Other Strange Excursions. The Robert E. Howard Reader he did is quite excellent as is The Thomas Ligotti Reader.
- Born August 27, 1957 — Richard Kadrey, 66. I’m admittedly way behind on the Sandman Slim series having only read the first five books. The series concluded a few years back with King Bullet. I also enjoyed Metrophage: A Romance of the Future and I’ve still got The Grand Dark on my interested to be read list.
- Born August 27, 1965 — Kevin Standlee, 58. He attended his first con in 1984, L.A. Con II. Later he co-chaired the 2002 Worldcon, ConJosé, in San José. One source says he made and participated in amateur Doctor Who films in the late 1980s. I wonder if he played Doctor Who? And I wonder if we can see these films?
(9) DO HOBBITS LOVE IT? Chapters Tea offers “Second Breakfast” (sound familiar?)
Small batch hand blended English breakfast tea with a touch of Merry’s gold petals (fortunately they do not glitter.) Perfect for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, and afternoon tea. Enter our fan drawn rendition of the realm of hobbits where friendship, nature, and the simple pleasures of life come first. Inspired by, but not affiliated with, our favorite series with a ring.
(10) ASTRONOMER’S SWEEPING IMAGINATION. Maria Popova introduces readers to “Stunning Celestial Art from the 1750 Astronomy Book That First Described the Spiral Shape of the Milky Way and Dared Imagine the Existence of Other Galaxies” at The Marginalian.
…In 1750, Wright self-published his visionary and verbosely titled book An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, Founded upon the Laws of Nature, and Solving by Mathematical Principles the General Phaenomena of the Visible Creation, and Particularly the Via Lactea (public domain). With his keen aesthetic sensibility — he was also an architect and garden designer — he commissioned “the best masters” to illustrate his theories in thirty-some scrumptious plates populated by comets, planets, and other celestial splendors observed and conjectured….
(11) FILE FOREVER. “WordPress’ 100 Year Plan: Putting A Price On Your Legacy” by Ernie at Tedium.
… And so, when I see the news that WordPress parent Automattic has announced that it is going to charge $38,000 to keep your website online for 100 years, something they call the “100 Year Plan,” I immediately am compelled to do the math on that equation. And even though that is a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people, it breaks down to just over $30 a month—which, honestly, is about the price it costs to purchase solid web hosting these days….
…But if WordPress is going to charge $38,000 for this service, they should do things to make it valuable as a public resource. They should promote this content! From what we know of history, people often find success after their passing, and sometimes, stories resurface with just a little spark. If it leads to a licensing deal, it could help support both estates of those who have passed and maybe even those who don’t have $38,000 but deserve a home in this archive. Automattic should consider just offering this service to important cultural figures for free as a way to help broaden interest in the endeavor.
But more importantly, they should hire people to professionally curate this content, promote it, and offer strategies for people to research it. I think a guarantee that you’re going to have your content online for a long time is great. But what I think would be even better is a guarantee that efforts will be made to ensure it can still find an audience over time….
Hell, Automattic’s Jetpack can’t even effectively promote the material being published this very day. Do not give them a dime!
(12) QUIZ FOR AI. Science asks, “If AI becomes conscious, how will we know?” It will tell us, right? (But what if it lies!)
In 2021, Google engineer Blake Lemoine made headlines—and got himself fired—when he claimed that LaMDA, the chatbot he’d been testing, was sentient. Artificial intelligence (AI) systems, especially so-called large language models such as LaMDA and ChatGPT, can certainly seem conscious. But they’re trained on vast amounts of text to imitate human responses. So how can we really know?
Now, a group of 19 computer scientists, neuroscientists, and philosophers has come up with an approach: not a single definitive test, but a lengthy checklist of attributes that, together, could suggest but not prove an AI is conscious. In a 120-page discussion paper posted as a preprint this week, the researchers draw on theories of human consciousness to propose 14 criteria, and then apply them to existing AI architectures, including the type of model that powers ChatGPT.
None is likely to be conscious, they conclude. But the work offers a framework for evaluating increasingly humanlike AIs, says co-author Robert Long of the San Francisco–based nonprofit Center for AI Safety. “We’re introducing a systematic methodology previously lacking.”…
(13) MEDIA DEATH CULT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid, over at YouTube’s Media Death Cult is having a quick 8-minute look at The Death Of Grass (also known as No Blade Of Grass) by John Christopher filmed on location in a… errrr… grassy field… “The Death Of Grass – The Birth of Barbarism”.
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The American Museum of Natural History illustrates “Human Population Through Time (Updated for 2023)”.
It took most of human history for our population to reach 1 billion—and just over 200 years to reach 8 billion. But growth has begun slowing, as women have fewer babies on average. When will our global population peak? And how can we minimize our impact on Earth’s resources, even as we approach 10 billion?
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Michael J. Walsh, Steven French, 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 Bill.]