(1) BOTS LOVE FILE 770. The Washington Post invited readers to “See the websites that make AI bots like ChatGPT sound so smart”. They analyzed one of the large data sets that may be used in training AI, and also have made it publicly searchable. Their stats show File 770 is a leading contributor to the cause of educating AI, ranked 3,445th. Uh, yay?
…Tech companies have grown secretive about what they feed the AI. So The Washington Post set out to analyze one of these data sets to fully reveal the types of proprietary, personal, and often offensive websites that go into an AI’s training data.
To look inside this black box, we analyzed Google’s C4 data set, a massive snapshot of the contents of 15 million websites that have been used to instruct some high-profile English-language AIs, called large language models, including Google’s T5 and Facebook’s LLaMA. (OpenAI does not disclose what datasets it uses to train the models backing its popular chatbot, ChatGPT)…
Is your website training AI?
A web crawl may sound like a copy of the entire internet, but it’s just a snapshot, capturing content from a sampling of webpages at a particular moment in time. C4 began as a scrape performed in April 2019by the nonprofit CommonCrawl, a popular resource for AI models. CommonCrawl told The Post that it tries to prioritize the most important and reputable sites, but does not try to avoid licensed or copyrighted content….
We then ranked the remaining 10 million websites based on how many “tokens” appeared from each in the data set. Tokens are small bits of text used to process disorganized information — typically a word or phrase.
As shown in the rather scrofulous screencap below, file770.com is ranked 3,445th with 2.5 million tokens, which is 0.002% of the tokens in the set examined by the Washington Post.
(2) HUGO VOTING DEADLINE APPROACHES. 2023 Hugo nominations are closing on April 30, at 23:59 Hawaiian Time. Eligible voters can access the ballot here.
(3) AUTHOR ASKS SCHOLASTIC TO “BE BRAVER”. “Kelly Yang Speaks Up Against Scholastic Censorship” at The Mary Sue.
… One of the 663 authors and counting who signed an open letter to Scholastic’s Education Solutions Division is author Kelly Yang. She is one of many best-selling Scholastic authors horrified by this response to accelerating fascism. In a vulnerable video, Yang shared her thoughts about these actions. She also broke down what it feels like to be targeted by this censorship and bigotry. Sometimes, in person….
However, Yang correctly insists that they have to push past this. She says in the video:
“As one of your top authors, I’m asking you to have more courage. You cannot be quietly self-censoring. Whatever pressure you may be facing, know that your authors are facing even more pressure. And we’re still out here writing these books. Risking our lives. Bleeding to make you millions. Trying to write the books for the next generation that will hopefully improve the world.”
She continued discussing the importance of representation and capturing the moment children live in.
“Let me tell you, it’s not easy. I am not a giant corporation. I am an individual. Every day people attack me personally. They write me emails, they come into my comments and my DMs. I had a guy show up at an event and whisper in my ear how much he loves seeing my books get banned. And yet, everyday I keep going. You know why? Because I am brave.
“Despite getting paid pennies on the dollar, we authors are brave. The librarians—they are brave. The educators—they are brave. I need you to be braver.
“You cannot choose which books to include in your Fairs and Clubs for kids nationwide and edit lines out because you’re scared of DeSantis. If you want to carry Maggie’s book, you gotta carry all of her book. If you want to carry Kelly Yang, you’ve gotta carry all of Kelly Yang—not some stripped-down version.
“I need you to not cave to political pressure and be on the right side of history. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because you can afford it with your 90% market share of the school distribution channel. If you’re going to be deciding children’s book for the entire nation, your taste have to reflect the entire nation. And because I know it’s what Dick Robinson would have wanted.
“I love you Scholastic. You’ve done a lot of good for a lot of kids, but how you play you next move will determine how you’re remembered. The world is watching. I am watching. I hope you do the right thing.”
(4) NOT JUST ANY USED BOOKS. Plenty of sff among AbeBooks “Most expensive sales from January to March 2023”. Two Harry Potter books lead the list, with the biggest sale being a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for $85,620. Further down is a PKD first edition.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick – $17,195
A true first edition with an unrestored original dust jacket
One of the most famous novels by Philip K. Dick, this book was the basis for the movie Blade Runner. This copy of a true first edition is special because of the condition of the book and the dust jacket and its vibrant, unfaded colors.
The novel is about a bounty hunter who tracks tracks down escaped androids in a post-apocalyptic future. This book belongs to our list of 50 must-read science fiction books.
Recently, another copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was sold. That book came with an original letter, typed and signed by the author, along with a humorous self-review of another of his own novels, The Divine Invasion.
(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share crispy spinach with Sheree Renée Thomas in Episode 196 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Over on Facebook, someone in the group devoted to Capclave — a con where I’ve harvested many conversations for you — mentioned Thomas was scheduled to speak at Maryland’s Rockville Memorial Library. When I checked the details and saw the venue was only a 90-minute drive away, I reached out to see whether she’d have time in her schedule to grab lunch — and luckily she did. So early the same day as her presentation titled “Afrofuturism & Diversity in Sci-Fi,” I scooped her up from her hotel and took her over to Commonwealth Indian Restaurant, where I’ve had many wonderful meals. Here’s how the event organizers described Thomas and her career —
New York Times bestselling, two-time World Fantasy Award-winning author and editor Sheree Renée Thomas has been a 2022 Hugo Award Finalist, and her collection, Nine Bar Blues, is a Locus, Igynte, and World Fantasy Finalist. She edited the groundbreaking Dark Matter anthologies that introduced a century of Black speculative fiction, including W.E.B. Du Bois’s science fiction stories. Thomas wrote Marvel’s Black Panther: Panther’s Rage novel (October 2022), adapted from the legendary comics, collaborated with Janelle Monáe on The Memory Librarian, and is the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949 and Obsidian, founded in 1975. In 2022 she co-curated Carnegie Hall’s historic, citywide Afrofuturism Festival.
We discussed how to prevent being an editor interfere with being a writer (and vice versa), the way a serendipitous encounter with Octavia Butler’s Kindred caused her to take her own writing more seriously and a copy of Black Enterprise magazine spurred her to move to New York, how her family’s relationship with Isaac Hayes nourished her creative dreams, the advice she gives young writers about the difference between the fantasy and reality of a writer’s life, how realizing the books she thought were out there weren’t launched her editing career, the rewards and challenges of taking over as editor for a 75-year old magazine, why she reads cover letters last, and much more.
(6) FANFIC AUTHOR SUES TOLKIEN AND AMAZON. Is he delusional or does he have a case? “Lord of the Rings Fanfic Writer Sues Amazon, Tolkien Estate For $250M” – Kotaku has the story.
Some guy is currently suing Tolkien and Amazon to the tune of $250 million. That alone takes serious bravery. But what’s notable about this lawsuit is the reason he’s suing: Copyright infringement over his Lord of the Rings fanfic. Specifically, he’s arguing that Amazon lifted elements of his fan-fiction for its own Tolkien adaptation TV series, The Rings of Power.
Demetrious Polychron wrote a book, a work of fan-fiction set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, called The Fellowship of the King, which he copyrighted in 2017 and which later were published and made available for sale, including on Amazon. According to PC Gamer, Polychron sent a letter to the Tolkien Estate asking for a manuscript review. That’s right: This man asked J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson Simon to sign off on his fanfic. Unsurprisingly, he did not get a response.
In September of 2022, the month that Polychron published The Fellowship of the King, Amazon also began airing its extremely expensive Lord of the Rings spin-off series, The Rings of Power. …Now, Polychron is arguing that the Amazon TV show lifts elements from his novel.
According to RadarOnline, which has seen documents pertaining to the suit, Polychron alleges that characters and storylines he created for his book “compose as much as one-half of the 8-episode series,” and that in some cases the show “copied exact language” from his book. [Also, “In other instances, Defendants copied images that match the book cover and descriptions as created in the book as authored by Polychron,” the suit read.]
However, the claims seem spurious. For instance, the lawsuit purportedly points to the fact that both his book and the show feature a hobbit named Elanor, with the Elanor in his book being the daughter of Samwise Gamgee, while the Elanor featured in The Rings of Power is a Harfoot. Images purporting to be the lawsuit circulating online include a host of other circumstantial connections or similarities to back up Polychron’s argument that the writers of Rings of Power lifted ideas from his fanfic for their own story.
… While no one believes that Polychron will win against the Tolkien Estate, there are concerns that the lawsuit might negatively impact the legality of fanworks in general. Hopefully, fanfic writers will be fine as long as they’re not trying to extort Tolkien’s grandson.
(6) MEMORY LANE.
2015 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
So let’s have a conversation about Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall which was published by PS Publishing eight years ago.
There’s some spoilers here so skip to the Beginning if you’d rather not hear them.
A British folk band are told by their manager to record their new album, so they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with let us say an interesting past. There they hope to create the album that will make their reputation.
The novel, a short one at that, is told entirely in a series of interviews decades later by the surviving musicians, along with their friends, lovers and the band’s manager by a documentary filmmaker who gets them to talk about something that happened when they were there. (No, I’m not going to say what happened.) Should they be believed? Maybe, maybe not. What is the truth after all those years have passed anyways?
I think it’s a brilliant way to approach this story.
I’ll say no more and direct you now to the Beginning…
“I was the one who found the house. A friend of my sister-in-law knew the owners; they were living in Barcelona that summer and the place was to let. Not cheaply, either. But I knew how badly everyone needed to get away after the whole horrible situation with Arianna, and this seemed as good a bolt-hole as any. These days the new owners have had to put up a fence to keep away the curious. Everyone knows what the place looks like because of the album cover, and now you can just Google the name and get directions down to the last millimeter.
But back then, Wylding Hall was a mere dot on the ordnance survey map. You couldn’t have found it with a compass. Most people go there now because of what happened while the band was living there and recording that first album. We have some ideas about what actually went on, of course, but the fans, they can only speculate. Which is always good for business.
Mostly, it’s the music, of course. Twenty years ago, there was that millennium survey where Wylding Hall topped out at Number Seven, ahead of Definitely Maybe, which shocked everybody except for me. Then “Oaken Ashes” got used in that advert for, what was it? Some mobile company. So now there’s the great Windhollow Faire backlash.
And inexplicable—even better, inexplicable and terrible—things are always good for the music business, right? Cynical but true.
“Apart from when I drove out in the mobile unit and we laid down those rough tracks, I was only there a few times. You know, check in and see how the rehearsal process was going, make sure everyone’s instruments were in one piece, and they were getting their vitamins. And there’s no point now in keeping anything off the record, right? We all knew what was going on down there, which in those days was mostly hash and acid.
And of course, everyone was so young. Julian was eighteen. So was Will. Ashton and Jon were, what? Nineteen, maybe twenty. Lesley had just turned seventeen. I was the elder statesman at all of twenty-three.
“Ah, those were golden days. You’re going to say I’m tearing up here in front of the camera, aren’t you? I don’t give a fuck. They were golden boys and girls, that was a golden summer, and we had the Summer King.
And we all know what happens to the Summer King. That girl from the album cover, she’d be the only one knows what really went on. But we can’t ask her, can we?
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 21, 1933 — Jim Harmon. During the Fifties and Sixties, he wrote more than fifty short stories and novelettes for Amazing Stories, Future Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, If, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and other magazines. Most of his fiction was collected in Harmon’s Galaxy. EoSF says he has one genre novel, The Contested Earth, whereas ISFDB lists two more, Sex Burns Like Fire and The Man Who Made Maniacs. He’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
- Born April 21, 1939 — John Bangsund. Australian fan most active from the Sixties through the Eighties. He was instrumental with Andrew Porter in Australia’s winning the 1975 Aussiecon bid, and he was Toastmaster at the Hugo Award ceremony at that con. His fanzine, Australian Science Fiction Review is credited with reviving Australian Fandom in the Sixties. And he’s the instigator of the term Muphry’s law which states that “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.” (Died 2020.)
- Born April 21, 1947 — Iggy Pop, 76. Here solely as on Deep Space Nine in an episode loosely upon The Magnificent Seven film that was entitled “The Magnificent Ferengi”, he played a vorta called Yelgrun.
- Born April 21, 1947 — Allan Asherman, 76. Official historian for D.C., he’s also written scripts for Tarzan during the Gooden Age. A Trekker of note, he wrote The Star Trek Compendium, The Star Trek Interview Bookand The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
- Born April 21, 1954 — James Morrison, 69. Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius ‘T.C.’ McQueen on the short-lived but much loved Space: Above and Beyond series. Starship Troopers without the politics. He’s got a lot of one-off genre appearances including recently showing up as an Air Force General in Captain Marvel, guesting on the Orville series and being Warden Dwight Murphy on Twin Peaks.
- Born April 21, 1965 — Fiona Kelleghan, 58. Author of the critical anthology The Savage Humanists in which she identifies a secular, satiric literary movement within the genre. She also did Mike Resnick: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide to His Work. A work in still progress, according to the Wikipedia, is Alfred Bester, Grand Master: An Annotated Bibliography.
- Born April 21, 1971 — Michael Turner. Comics artist known for his work on a Tombraider / Witchblade one-off, the Superman/Batman story involving Supergirl, his own Soulfire, and various covers for DC Comics and Marvel Comics. He would die of bone cancer and A Tribute to Michael Turner with writings from people who knew him would feature a cover done by Alex Ross would be released to cover his medical expenses. (Died 2008.)
- Born April 21, 1980 — Hadley Fraser, 43. His first video acting role was as Gareth in the superb Tenth Doctor story, “Army of Ghosts”. He’d later be Chris in The Lost Tribe, a horror film, and play Viscount Raoul de Chagny in The Phantom of The Opera, as well as being being Tarzan’s father in The Legend of Tarzan. And though not even genre adjacent, I’m legally obligated to point out that he showed up as a British military escort in the recent production of Murder on the Orient Express.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Lio takes no chances where robots are concerned.
(9) MISSY RETURNS IN TITAN COMICS’ DOCTOR WHO: DOOM’S DAY. Titan comics will launch a two-issue Doctor Who comic series on July 5 as part of the multi-platform story Doom’s Day. The comic will feature fan-favorite character Missy on the trail of new character Doom, who makes her comic book debut.
Doom’s Day is a standalone transmedia series across multiple platforms and will allow Doctor Who fans to follow Doom, the Universe’s greatest assassin, as she travels through all of time and space in pursuit of the Doctor to save her from her ever-approaching Death. She only has 24 hours and a vortex manipulator to save herself before her fate is sealed forever.
Available in comic stores and on digital devices at release, Titan’s Doctor Who: Doom’s Day #1 comic is an adventure starring Doom in her comic book debut – using her vortex manipulator, she’ll do anything to find the tempestuous time traveller, the Doctor, including cavorting with the maleficent MISSY. Every hour a new adventure, every hour closer to death…
Doctor Who: Doom’s Day #1 is written by Eisner-nominated Jody Houser (Stranger Things, Star Wars, Spider-Man) with art by Roberta Ingranata (Witchblade). The comic debuts with two covers for fans to collect: from celebrated artist Pasquale Qualano, and a photo cover variant.
(10) FIRST LEAF ON THE TREE. Heritage Auctions has an extensive “Star Trek Trading Card Collector’s Guide” which begins by discussing the 1967 Leaf Card set.
…. The first Star Trek trading cards were produced 1967, released one year after the series debuted. These were manufactured and distributed by Leaf Brands Division, WR Grace & Co of Chicago. This was a limited-scale run with sources saying it had a small geographical distribution within the Ohio and Illinois areas. The trading cards didn’t get too far before there were controversies on whether Leaf had licenses to distribute Star Trek cards in the first place. As soon as the licensing problems came to light, all cards that hadn’t been distributed were destroyed and all others were recalled if they had not been sold yet. In the set, there were 72 base cards. They had black and white pictures on the front. The pictures were randomly chosen from episodes and, in some cases, taken from behind the scenes or from publicity shots. The text on the back typically didn’t match up to the picture on the front and were written haphazardly. These cards were printed on layered card stock and measured at 2 ?” x 3 7/16”. The popularity grew, and with this new craze came many unauthorized reprints.
Dan Kremer Imports in Europe reprinted the 1967 Leaf cards without any rights to do so. They were considered counterfeit and were of terrible quality. Most of these are easily recognizable due to the blurry picture quality, and the pictures were cropped from the original, so the outer edges of the images are missing. Also, the cut on the card was not precise and was slightly smaller than the original. The cards were printed on non-gloss-coated single-layer card stock.
1981 Reprint is easily recognized by the mark on the back stating “1981 Reprint” where the “Leaf Brands” was originally. These were also printed on a very bright white stock of paper. The images are very crisp, and the cut is precise, with the cards being the exact size of the originals. There are 2 versions of these reprints. One of the versions has a red toned print of Kirk & Spock on the backs, while the other version has a black and white print of Kirk & Spock on the backs.
Though they were unauthorized reprints, these cards are still sought after by some as being part of history….
(11) JEOPARDY! David Goldfarb has the play-by-play from the Neal Stephenson item on Jeopardy!
Category: Modern Words
Neal Stephenson coined this word in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”; it was later shortened by a company to become its new name
Returning champion Devin Loman: “What is powder?”
Emma Hill Kepron tried: “What is uber?”
Sam Claussen’s response: “What is avalanche?”
(12) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES. “SpaceX’s Starship Kicked Up a Dust Cloud, Leaving Texans With a Mess” according to the New York Times.
As the most powerful rocket ever built blasted from its launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas, on Thursday, the liftoff rocked the earth and kicked up a billowing cloud of dust and debris, shaking homes and raining down brown grime for miles.
In Port Isabel, a city about six miles northwest where at least one window shattered, residents were alarmed.
“It was truly terrifying,” said Sharon Almaguer, who, at the time of the launch, was at home with her 80-year-old mother. During previous launches, Ms. Almaguer said she had experienced some shaking inside the brick house, but “this was on a completely different level.”
Meanwhile, SpaceX’s Starship exploded minutes after liftoff and before reaching orbit. Near the launch site, the residents of Port Isabel, known for its towering lighthouse and less than 10 miles from the border with Mexico, were left to deal with the mess.
Virtually everywhere in the city “ended up with a covering of a rather thick, granular, sand grain that just landed on everything,” Valerie Bates, a Port Isabel spokeswoman, said in an interview. Images posted to social media showed residents’ cars covered in brown debris.
A window shattered at a fitness gym, its owner, Luis Alanis, said. Mr. Alanis, who was at home at the time of the launch, said he felt “rumbling, kind of like a mini earthquake.” He estimated that the window would cost about $300 to fix.
Closer to the launch site, large pieces of debris were recorded flying through the air and smashing into an unoccupied car. Louis Balderas, the founder of LabPadre, which films SpaceX’s launches, said that while it was common to see some debris, smoke and dust, the impact of Thursday’s liftoff was unlike anything he had ever seen….
(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isaac Arthur analyzes the possibility of “Life on Giant Moons”.
We often contemplate life on alien planets, but might giant moons orbiting distant immense worlds be a better candidate for where extraterrestrial life might be found?
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Kathy Sullivan, David Goldfarb, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lou.]