(1) 2024 IS LAST YEAR KRESS AND WILLIAMS RUNNING TAOS TOOLBOX. Taos Toolbox, a two-week master class in writing science fiction and fantasy helmed by authors Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, is open for submissions.
And as part of the announcement Williams told Facebook readers, “This will be the last year that Nancy and I will be doing this. Taos Toolbox may continue under new management (it’s under discussion), but Nancy and I won’t be running things.”
This year’s Taos Toolobox workshop will take place June 2-15, 2024, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Special Guest for 2024 is the creator of The Expanse, James S.A. Corey, in reality the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank…
Special lecturers this year include Jeffe Kennedy, who currently holds the office of President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She’s been widely published and has special expertise in indiepub, and owns her own press.
The second special lecturer is Diana Rowland, who at various times been an Air Force pilot, a Las Vegas card dealer, a detective for a sheriff’s office in Louisiana, and a morgue assistant, occupations that contributed to writing her Demon and White Trash Zombie series.
(2) MISSING ROYALTIES. Authors are the hidden victims of the cyber-attack on the British Library, which has prevented them receiving an annual rights payment. The Guardian explains: “Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library”.
…In February 2023, those authors would have been paid thousands of pounds each from Public Lending Right (PLR) payments – money earned by writers, illustrators and translators each time a book is borrowed. But not this year.
Ongoing fallout from a massive cyber-attack means that PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.
Every time an author’s book is borrowed from a library, they get about 13p, capped at £6,600 a year. To authors like Osman and JK Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was also on last year’s top read list, this might be a drop in the ocean, but for many authors whose books are library favourites it is a different matter….
The British Library was hit by a cyber-attack at the end of October. At the time, its chief executive, Sir Roly Keating, said that access to even basic communication tools such as email was initially lost. “We took immediate action to isolate and protect our network but significant damage was already done.
“Having breached our systems, the attackers had destroyed their route of entry and much else besides, encrypting or deleting parts of our IT estate.”…
(3) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb was briefly hospitalized after suffering a mini-stroke on January 4. He told Facebook friends:
Well, there’s good news and bad news early in the new year. The bad news is, that while at needed physical therapy for my balance on Thursday afternoon, I began babbling unintelligibly. I knew what I wanted to say to my trainers but, when it physically left my lips, it became distorted beyond recognition, rather like mumbling incoherently in my sleep.
They called an ambulance and rushed me to nearby Nazareth Hospital where I spent the next twenty-four hours.
I continued complaining, while in the ambulance, that I simply wanted to go home but they drove me, instead, to the Emergency Room.
I began recovering once we reached the waiting hospital. However, to be on the safe side, they kept me overnight in a hospital room. I knew that I must have been returning to “normal,” however, when I began cracking jokes.
It appears that I must have suffered a “T.I.A,” or what’s called a “mini-stroke.” However, following that isolated assault on my sensory nerves, the seemingly isolated attack that apparently came out of nowhere somehow abated and I’ve recovered.
I had a single previous occurrence some eighteen months earlier on what was to have been my last night in Los Angeles. It’s frightening. I can tell you that. The wiring in your brain goes … you should excuse the expression … “haywire.”
I asked the doctors what I can do to keep this from happening again. They said “You’re doing it. You’re taking all the right medications. Just keep an eye out for trouble signs in future.”
What’s the good news, you may well ask?????????? Well, the simple answer is that I’m Home once more!!!!!!!!!! Unlike the esteemed Mr. Bond, I’m “shaken, yet stirred.” “Toto, We’re home …. We’re Home.”
(4) SFWA’S COPYRIGHT OFFICE RESPONSE. Following up SFWA’s October 30th comments to the Copyright Office, they had the opportunity to respond to some of the many other comments received. With over 9,000 responses, SFWA “focused on specific aspects of the conversation around fair use that we felt were not given due attention, as well as to raise concerns that are unique to our community.” Their 10-page response document can be downloaded from Regulations.gov at the link.
One topic SFWA discussed is the scraping of content that is offered free to readers by online sff magazines.
…SFWA acknowledges the problem of generative AI scraping pirated material published as copy-protected ebooks by professional publishers, but SFWA additionally has the unique position of representing many authors who have fought to make their work available for free for human readers. Over the last twenty years, many science fiction and fantasy authors of short fiction have embraced the open Internet, believing that it is good for society and for a flourishing culture that art be available to their fellow human beings regardless of ability to pay. That availability is not without cost; it is quite difficult to bring an online magazine to market, and being freely available has never meant abandoning the moral and legal rights of the authors, nor the obligation to enter into legal contracts to compensate authors for their work and spell out how it may and may not be used. But on balance, many writers and fans believe that freely sharing stories is a good thing that enriches us all.
The current content-scraping regime preys on that good-faith sharing of art as a connection between human minds and the hard work of building a common culture. The decision to publish creative work online to read and share for free is not guaranteed; it is a trade-off of many factors including piracy, audience, and the simple (albeit elusive) ability to make a living. In too many comments to enumerate here, individual authors have made clear that they regard the use of their work for training AI to be another important factor in that mix, and the ultimate effect on the short fiction marketplace and its role in our culture is far from certain. Bluntly, many authors do not want their work taken for this purpose, and that cannot be ignored.
“If my work is just going to get stolen, and if some company’s shareholders are going to get the benefit of my labor and skill without compensating me, I see no reason to continue sharing my work with the public — and a lot of other artists will make the same choice.” (N. K. Jemisin, COLC-2023-0006- 0521)
The developers of AI systems seem to believe that a green light to use scraped copyrighted work will result in a clear field for them to continue freeloading forever; we fear rather that it will result in large swathes of artistic work removed from the commons, locked behind paywalls and passwords to the detriment of all….
(5) AURORA AWARDS. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The Eligibility Lists for this year’s Aurora Awards are open. If you’re aware of any genre work produced by Canadians, submit it. (CSFFA membership required — $10 – to make an addition to the lists.)
(6) WESTERCON 2025 UP FOR ADOPTION. Kevin Standlee announced a “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2025 Westercon” at Westercon.org.
Because no bid filed to host Westercon 77, selection of the site of the 2025 Westercon devolved upon the 2023 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 75 (in conjunction with Loscon 49) in Los Angeles on November 25, 2023. The Westercon 75 Business Meeting voted to award Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Vice Chair Lisa Hayes with the understanding that they would attempt to select a site and committee to run Westercon 77 and transfer the convention to that committee.
Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75. There are no other restrictions other than the bid has to be for dates in calendar year 2025. All other restrictions in the Westercon Bylaws are suspended, per section 3.16 of the Westercon Bylaws.
To submit a bid to the 2025 Caretaker Committee to host Westercon 77, contact Kevin Standlee at [email protected], or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee. The Caretaker Committee asks that groups interested in hosting Westercon 77 contact them by the end of February 2024.
Should the Caretaker Committee be unable to make a determination for a site for Westercon 77 by Westercon 76 in Salt Lake City (July 4-7, 2024), and assuming that no bid files to host Westercon 77, the Caretaker Committee will ask the Business Meeting of Westercon 76 for additional guidance on how to handle Westercon Site Selection.
(7) MOVING FORWARD – AT OLD MAN SPEED. Tor.com notified those not reading Bluesky that “Netflix’s Adaptation of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War Is Still In The Works”.
We first found out that Netflix optioned the rights to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War over six years ago, back in December 2017. It’s not uncommon for things to get optioned but never get made (Old Man’s War, in fact, had been previously optioned by Paramount and Syfy without making it to the production stage), but it sounds like the Netflix movie adaptation is still moving forward.
Scalzi gave an update on the project over on Bluesky yesterday, where he said that work on it is “slowly but surely moving along.”…
(8) COPPOLA’S NEXT APOCALYPSE. Another long-awaited sff project finished filming last year and should actually get released sometime: “Francis Ford Coppola Says ‘Megalopolis’ Is Coming Soon” at Collider.
Francis Ford Coppola is renowned as the mastermind behind some of the greatest pieces of cinema in history but as all legends do, he refuses to rest on his laurels and he’s preparing to release his first film in over a decade with his self-funded star-studded sci-fi drama, Megalopolis. The film has been mired by a number of setbacks, but filming wrapped on the project back in March. And now, we won’t have much longer to wait for it to arrive, as Coppola revealed on the latest episode of The Accutron Show.
The film has an eye-watering array of talent attached, including Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, DB Sweeney, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman, Bailey Ives, Grace Vanderwaal, James Remar, and Giancarlo Esposito.
All that’s known so far about the film so far is that it has a futuristic setting and that it will revolve around the idea of humanity attempting to build some sort of utopian society in the wake of a natural disaster. Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess, and Coppola isn’t up for explaining more quite yet.
(9) WAS THIS THE BEST SF OF 2023? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Every January the SF2 Concatenation have an informal survey as to the best SF novels and films of the previous year. It is strictly informal and a bit of fun, enabling team members see what more than one of the others rate. The years have shown that this informal survey has form in that invariably some of the chosen works go on to be short-listed, and sometimes even win, major SF awards later in the year. SF² Concatenation have just advance-posted their selection for 2023 as part of the “Best Science Fiction of the Year Possibly?” post. Scroll down to see how previous years’ choices fared…
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 6, 1905 — Eric Frank Russell. (Died 1978.) So let’s talk about the British writer Eric Frank Russell. His first published piece of fiction was in the first issue of Tales of Wonder called “The Prr-r-eet” (1937). (Please don’t tell me it was about cats.) He also had a letter of comment in Astounding Stories that year. He wrote a lot of such comments down the years.
Just two years later, his first novel, Sinister Barrier, would be published as the cover story as the first issue of Unknown. His second novel, Dreadful Sanctuary, would be serialized in Astounding, Unknown’s sister periodical, in 1948.
At Clevention, “Allamagoosa” would win a Short Story Hugo. The Great Explosion novel garnered a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.
Now let’s note some reworkings he did as I like them a lot. Men, Martians and Machines published in 1955 is four related novellas of space adventures at their very best.
The 1956 Three to Conquer, nominated for a Hugo at NY Con II is a reworking of the earlier Call Him Dead magazine serial that deals with an alien telepath and very well at that. Finally Next of Kin, also known as The Space Willies, shows him being comic, something he does oh so well. It was a novella-length work in Astounding first.
And then there’s the Design for Great-Day novel which was written by Alan Dean Foster. It’s an expansion by him based off a 1953 short story of the same name by Russell. I’m pretty familiar with Foster has done but this isn’t ringing even the faintest of bells. Who’s read it?
He wrote an extraordinary amount of short stories, around seventy by my guess.
(My head trauma means numbers and I have at best a tenuous relationship. I once counted the turkeys left over after we distributed them at a food pantry I staffed pre-knee injury. Three times I counted. I got, if I remember correctly now, twelve, fifteen and eighteen birds. I had someone else do it.)
Short Stories Collection is the only one available at the usual suspects. He’s an author who needs a definitive short story collection done for him.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Free Range shows there are always lines.
- Edith Pritchett’s cartoon for the Guardian recalls how “I climbed the tube station steps and entered another dimension.” Steven French adds, “Of marginal genre interest but having walked up those steps, this made me laugh!”
(12) PIONEERING WOMAN COMICS ARTIST RETIRES. BoingBoing pays tribute as “Aquaman, Metamorpho, and Brenda Starr cartoonist Ramona Fradon retires”.
Famed cartoonist Ramona Fradon is retiring at the age of 97, according to a January 3 announcement from her comic art dealer Catskill Comics….
An extremely long run, indeed. Her comic book career started in 1950, and her career highlights include a 1959 revamp and long run on Aquaman, the co-creation of DC’s offbeat superhero Metamorpho with writer Bob Haney in 1965, a run on Super Friends in the 1970s, and the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter from 1980-1995.
She also was a pioneer, as one of the only women working in comics during the first decades of her career.
Cartoonist and curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco Andrew Farago wrote on BlueSky, “Ramona Fradon retires today at the age of 97, just a little shy of Al Jaffee’s retirement age of 99. Not sure if that means that cartooning keeps you young or if it just means that cartooning keeps you broke, but what a body of work she’s produced over the past eight decades!”…
(13) WHAT THEY WILL READ IN 2024. “’I want some light in my life’: eight writers make their new year reading resolutions “ – the Guardian’s collection of quotes includes a declaration from Sheena Patel.
‘I’m turning to sci-fi and dystopia’
I have a fascination with sci-fi that is purely theoretical. I often think about reading it but never make any attempt to go near such books because I am afraid of the imagination I will find there. Perhaps I haven’t felt I can really access the genre because sci-fi feels like what Black and Brown people can go through on a daily basis. We’re still in an age of empire, even though we are distracted from this knowledge.
I do love sci-fi films though. I had a true epiphany when I saw Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin at the cinema. It was so strange, the alien mixed with the mundane, documentary spliced with fantastical set pieces. Next year I think I will read the Michel Faber book from which the movie was adapted.
In 2024 I also want to tackle Frank Herbert’s Dune books. Earlier this year, I watched the film on my laptop maybe 50 times. At first, I hated it, but then I totally fell in love with it – the visual representation of different worlds opened my mind. Throat singing and nomadic desert tribes could be used as a mood board for the future, but this is already happening now in communities that are regarded as “primitive”. It is the future because it is eternal – such a beautiful thought.
We are fed so much dystopia that reading it in fiction feels hard – but, as the world burns, maybe it is a good idea to hear from artists about where we might be heading. So the other three titles I will try are classics: Octavia E Butler’s Kindred, Stanisław Lem’s Solaris and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. The present feels so bleak, and our vision of the future so foreshortened, it almost seems like tempting fate – but, without science fiction, how can we dream?
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel is published in paperback by Granta
(14) HOOFING IT TO MOUNT DOOM. They say “One does not simply walk into Mordor,” but apparently they exaggerated. The Conqueror Virtual Challenges is a thematic program to encourage you to exercise by walking, running, and biking, with solo variations costing from $49.95 to bundles costing $299.95 and up. This link takes you to All 8 LOTR Conqueror Virtual Challenges.
Follow Frodo and Aragorn on an epic journey across Middle-earth with the ULTIMATE THE LORD OF THE RINGS Virtual Challenge Series.
Walk, run or cycle all the way from The Shire to Mount Doom in an epic adventure with one goal – destroying the One Ring. Complete this unforgettable saga by following Aragorn into battle and restoring peace to Middle-earth.
(15) CITY OF HEROES. “11 years after this cult classic superhero MMO was shut down, the original publisher has given its blessing to the community’s custom servers” reports GamesRadar+.
Despite the shutdown of the beloved superhero MMO City of Heroes over a decade ago, fans have been keeping it alive for years with a variety of custom server efforts. Now, one of those projects has just gotten the blessing of the game’s original publisher and license holder, NCSoft.
City of Heroes: Homecoming made the surprising announcement earlier today that “Homecoming has been granted a license to operate a City of Heroes server and further develop the game – subject to conditions and limitations under the contract.” The Homecoming project will remain free and donation-funded, and while there are a few changes to how the project is being managed, it doesn’t look like players will see any meaningful differences in the game itself.
“NCSoft has always had (and will continue to have) the right to demand that Homecoming shuts down,” as the announcement notes. “This agreement provides a framework under which Homecoming can operate the game in a way that complies with NCSoft’s wishes in hopes of minimizing the chances of that happening. We’ve had a really positive and productive relationship with NCSoft for over four years now, so we do not anticipate there being any issues.”…
…The question mark that currently weighs over the license for Homecoming is what this means for other custom server projects, like City of Heroes Rebirth. Today’s announcement notes that “other servers are out of scope” for this license, and the devs say that “our hope is that our license will help us consolidate our userbase with City of Heroes fans from other servers.” There’s already a bit of fear in the community that other private servers might start to disappear following this news, but only time will tell what will happen on that front….
(16) RECORDS BROKEN. Gizmodo tells why “Doctor Who’s New Streaming Home Has Been a Huge Success” – that is, for viewers who can accesss the BBC platform.
To celebrate Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary last year, the BBC made a huge, unprecedented move: for the first time, almost the entirety of Doctor Who, from episodes from 1963 all the way up to the then-airing anniversary specials, would be made available to stream in the UK in one place, on the BBC’s own streaming platform iPlayer. And it turns out doing so has helped the BBC break streaming records over the festive period.
The corporation has announced that Doctor Who—and most specifically Doctor Who episodes from 2005 onwards—were streamed 10.01 million times over the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, helping the platform break a previous record for streamed content for the week between January 2 and January 8, 2023, with 177 million programs being streamed in total….
It’s hard to say just how that success has panned out internationally, however. The BBC’s new deal with Disney to stream Doctor Who on Disney+ everywhere but the UK and Ireland only covers new episodes from the 60th anniversary onwards—other contemporary and classic Doctor Who access is spread out on various platforms elsewhere, such as Britbox for classic Doctor Who and Max for post-2005 Doctor Who.
(17) MY BLUE HEAVEN(S). [Item by Mike Kennedy.] So you know how astronomers are always using false color images to show this detail or that detail or what something would look like if it was only in the visible spectrum or some such? well, those can leave lasting misimpression.
New images showing color-corrected true-color likenesses of Uranus and Neptune show the latter ice giant—rather than being a dark blue—is only slightly darker than the former. “True blue: Neptune only slightly deeper colour than Uranus, say Oxford scientists” in the Guardian.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Kevin Standlee, Kathy Sullivan, Danny Sichel, 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 Thomas the Red.]