(1) ADOBE FIREFLY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]The Verge is reporting “Adobe made an AI image generator — and says it didn’t steal artists’ work to do it”. The difference from others? Supposedly no copyrighted material was used to train the AI. Unless Adobe owned the copyright or licensed it for training. See the article for some illustrations.
Adobe is finally launching its own AI image generator. The company is announcing a “family of creative generative AI models” today called Adobe Firefly and releasing the first two tools that take advantage of them. One of the tools works like DALL-E or Midjourney, allowing users to type in a prompt and have an image created in return. The other generates stylized text, kind of like an AI-powered WordArt.
This is a big launch for Adobe. The company sits at the center of the creative app ecosystem, and over much of the past year, it’s stayed on the sidelines while newcomers to the creative space began to offer powerful tools for creating images, videos, and sound for next to nothing. At launch, Adobe is calling Firefly a beta, and it’ll only be available through a website. But eventually, Adobe plans to tightly integrate generative AI tools with its suite of creative apps, like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere.
“We’re not afraid of change, and we’re embracing this change,” says Alexandru Costin, VP of generative AI and Sensei at Adobe. “We’re bringing these capabilities right into [our] products so [customers] don’t need to know if it’s generative or not.”
Adobe is putting one big twist on its generative AI tools: it’s one of the few companies willing to discuss what data its models are trained on. And according to Adobe, everything fed to its models is either out of copyright, licensed for training, or in the Adobe Stock library, which Costin says the company has the rights to use. That’s supposed to give Adobe’s system the advantages of not pissing off artists and making its system more brand-safe. “We can generate high quality content and not random brands’ and others’ IP because our model has never seen that brand content or trademark,” Costin said.
Costin says that Adobe plans to pay artists who contribute training data, too. That won’t happen at launch, but the plan is to develop some sort of “compensation strategy” before the system comes out of beta….
(2) UGANDA PARLIAMENT VOTES TO EXPAND CRIMINALIZATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY. “Uganda Anti-Homosexuality bill: Life in prison for saying you’re gay” reports BBC News. If signed into law, it will be a further issue the Kampcon 2028 Uganda Worldcon Bid has to confront, although not necessarily a new one, since some legislators say these points are already part of Ugandan law.
People who identify as gay in Uganda risk life in prison after parliament passed a new bill to crack down on homosexual activities.
It also includes the death penalty in certain cases.
A rights activist told the BBC the debate around the bill had led to fear of more attacks on gay people.
“There is a lot of blackmail. People are receiving calls that ‘if you don’t give me money, I will report that you are gay,'” they said.
The bill is one of the toughest pieces of anti-gay legislation in Africa….
What does the bill say?
The final version has yet to be officially published but elements discussed in parliament include:
- A person who is convicted of grooming or trafficking children for purposes of engaging them in homosexual activities faces life in prison
- Individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBT rights’ activities or organisations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, also face prosecution and imprisonment
- Media groups, journalists and publishers face prosecution and imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting, distribution of any content that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”
- Death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, that is sexual abuse against a child, a person with disability or vulnerable people, or in cases where a victim of homosexual assault is infected with a life-long illness
- Property owners also face risk of being jailed if their premises are used as a “brothel” for homosexual acts or any other sexual minorities rights’ activities
A small group of Ugandan MPs on a committee scrutinising the bill disagreed with its premise. They argue the offences it seeks to criminalise are already covered in the country’s Penal Code Act….
(3) GATHERING OF BOOK LOVERS. The Los Angeles Vintage Paperback show continues to rebound from the pandemic years. John King Tarpinian took this photo of the event forty-five minutes after it started last Sunday morning in Glendale, CA. (I spotted Matthew Tepper on the left margin. And the back of Craig Miller’s head, at the far end of the hall.)
(4) A LITERARY KNOCKOUT. The three novels in Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem series had enjoyed a resurgence to the top of China’s bestseller list due to interest generated by two TV adaptations, however, its reign at the top is over: “February’s China Bestsellers: A Crime Drama Knockout” at Publishing Perspectives.
The Knockout (Qingdao Publishing House)—by Zhu Junyi, Xu Jizhou, and Bai Wenjun—has vaulted to the No. 1 spot on the fiction list from no previous ranking, effectively blindsiding consumers and the industry.
The trilogy that The Knockout has shoved down to Nos. 2, 3, and 4 is the mighty “Three-Body Problem” series by Liu Cixin, which, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, has been surging to the tops of the monthly lists on the strength of both an animated and a live-action television adaptation….
(5) CINEMA STORY ORIGINS PODCAST RECEIVES WARNING FROM MOVIE STUDIO. [Item by Dann.] The Cinema Story Origins Podcast began originally as the Disney Story Origins podcast. Author and podcaster, Paul J. Hale, was inspired to review movies and the books that inspired them by comparing the two. Where there are multiple written works, he frequently compares the movie with the more notable written works in parallel.
Paul told Facebook followers yesterday he was recently contacted by a lawyer for a major studio and advised that he was pushing the line on fair use of the studio’s property. Paul did not name the studio, the lawyer, or the property in question. He did, however, say that fans of his podcasts include Disney executives including at least one that made a sizeable financial contribution to Paul’s efforts.
…I recently had a major film studio warn me about how perilously close to the wind I’m sailing when I use their IPs (though the lawyer told me she likes the podcast very much).
I promised that I’ll watch myself, and reminded them that there has never been a charge for people to listen to the podcast and that those who pledge and donate do so out of love for the podcast, and the kindness of their hearts. I told them that this is well meaning content, and free advertising of their products. I also shared many e-mails from listeners, telling me that because of the show they watched the movie(s), and/or read the books.
“We appreciate that,” the lawyer said, “just don’t get carried away.”
I appreciate that they contacted me and gave me a warning rather than a cease and desist order, because if that happens the show’s over. Believe. I can’t fight billion dollar corporations. …
Cinema Story Origins is currently comparing Richard Adams’ Watership Down with the movie that it inspired. The first two episodes of the Watership Down arc come in at a total of 3 hours and 41 minutes. The final episode will probably be over 2 hours.
As always, Paul’s presentations are well-researched, presented with footnotes, lively, and entertaining. You never know when he is going to toss in a moment of clarity (either humorous or serious – sometimes both!)
(6) SPUR AWARDS. The Western Writers of America recently announced the 2023 Spur Awards. (I doubt any of them are genre.)
- Best Western Historical Nonfiction Book: Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America by Megan Kate Nelson
- Script: Dead for a Dollar (CHAOS a Film Company/Polaris Pictures) by Walter Hill
- Romance Novel: Proving Her Claim: On the Dakota Frontier by CK Van Dam (Pasque Publishing)
- First Novel: Proving Her Claim: On the Dakota Frontier by CK Van Dam (Pasque Publishing)
- Biography: Before Billy the Kid: The Boy Behind the Legendary Outlaw by Melody Groves (TwoDot).
- Children’s Picture Book: The Rowdy Randy Wild West Show: The Legend Behind the Legend by author Casey Day Rislov and illustrator Zachary Pullen (Mountain Stars Press).
- Contemporary Nonfiction Book: A Place of Thin Veil: Life and Death in Gallup, New Mexico by Bob Rosebrough (Rio Nuevo Publishers).
- Contemporary Novel: Beasts of the Earth by James Wade (Blackstone Publishing).
- Documentary Script: The Battle of Red Buttes by Candy Moulton and Bob Noll (Boston Productions Inc./National Historic Trails Interpretive Center).
- First Nonfiction Book: American Hero, Kansas Heritage: Frederick Funston’s Early Years, 1865-1890 by Clyde W. Toland (Flint Hills Publishing).
- Historical Novel: Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins (Simon & Schuster).
- Juvenile Nonfiction Book: American Ace: Joe Foss, Fighter Pilot by Hector Curriel (South Dakota Historical Society Press).
- Juvenile Fiction: Wish Upon a Crawdad by Curtis W. Condon (Heart of Oak Books for Young Readers).
- Original Mass-Market Paperback Novel: Dead Man’s Trail by Nate Morgan (Pinnacle/Kensington).
- Poem: “New Mexico Bootheel: A Triptych” by Larry D. Thomas (San Pedro River Review).
- Short Fiction: “No Quarter” by Kathleen O’Neal Gear, published in Rebel Hearts Anthology (Wolfpack Publishing).
- Short Nonfiction: “Texas Jack Takes an Encore” by Matthew Ross Kerns (Wild West).
- Song: “Way of the Cowboy” by Randy Huston, released on Times Like These(Outside Circle Records).
- Traditional Novel: The Secret in the Wall: A Silver Rush Mystery by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press).
(7) BRUCE COULSON. Bruce Coulson, longtime fan and son of Buck and Juanita Coulson, died March 21 of cancer. His passing was announced on Facebook by his wife, Emily Vazquez-Coulson.
Tom Smith recalls, “…I knew him for a long time. He was involved in many conventions and fannish activities over the years, especially in filk and gaming, and was a gentle, caring and fun-loving fellow.”
(8) NASFIC IN MEMORIAM LIST. Steven H Silver is running the in memoriam list for Pemmi-Con, the 2023 NASFiC, which on Twitter is still called “Worldcon In Memoriam”. That’s where I learned about four recent deaths of people I was acquainted with (Gustaveson – who did art for an early fanzine of mine – plus Clemmer, Blake — who wrote the occasional letter of comment to paper File 770 — and Reaves – who, while best-known for his writing, was someone I met when he was the TA for Theodore Sturgeon’s writing class at UCLA.)
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1971 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
The Beginning is that of “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?” whose author y’all know. It was published first in All the Myriad Ways by Ballantine Books in June 1971. And yes, it’s available from the usual suspects.
In case there’s a soul who hasn’t yet read this delightful speculation, I won’t tell you a single thing about it. You are in for a real treat as Larry Niven is at his very best here.
Now our Beginning…
It was the last party. Otherwise it was only one of many, so many that they merged in the memory. We all knew each other. George had invited around thirty of us, a heterogeneous group, aged from teen to retirement, in dress that varied from hippie to mod to jeans and sneakers to dark suits, and hair that varied from crew cut to shoulder length.
It was a divorce party.
Granted that it’s been done before, still it was done well. George and Dina had planned it a year earlier, to celebrate the night their Decree became Final. The cake was frosted in black, and was surmounted by the usual wax figures, but facing outward from opposite edges of the cake. Jack Keenan donned a minister’s reversed collar to officiate. His makeshift sacrament included part of the funniest prayer in literature: the agnostic’s prayer from Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness. George and Dina kissed with obvious sincerity, for the last time, and everybody clapped like mad.
Afterward I got coffee and a piece of divorce cake and found a flat place to set them. Without a third hand to handle the plastic fork, I was as good as trapped there; and there it was that Tom Findlay found me.
Tom Findlay was all red hair and beard. The beard was full and thick, the hair long enough to tie in back with a rubber band. Once he had gone to a costume party with his hair combed forward over his eyes and the bridge of his nose, and a placard around his neck that read NOT A SHEEP DOG. He generally wore knee-length socks and leather shorts. His legs too were thickly covered with red hair. He spoke in a slow midwestern drawl, and grinned constantly, as if he were watching very funny pictures inside his head.
He was always part of these groups. Once a month he held a BYOB party of his own. He had a tendency to monopolize a conversation; but even those who avoided him on that account had to admit that he gave fair warning. He would walk up to any friend or stranger he found standing alone and open conversation with, “Hey. Would a Muslim vampire be terrified of a copy of the Koran?”
Or, “It seems to me that anarchy would be a very unstable form of government, don’t you think?”
Or, “What about chocolate covered manhole covers?”
That one fell pretty flat, I remember. What can anyone say about chocolate covered manhole covers? Most of Findlay’s ideas were at least worth discussing. Vampires, for instance. What significance has the vampire’s religion? Or the victim’s blood type? Could you hold off a vampire with a sunlamp, or kill him with a stake of grained plastic wood? If a bullet won’t kill a vampire, what about a revolver loaded with a blank cartridge and a wooden pencil?
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 22, 1911 — Raymond Z. Gallun. An early SF pulp writer who helped the genre to become popular. “Old Faithful” published in Astounding (December 1934) was his first story and led to a series of that name. “The Menace from Mercury,” a story published in the Summer 1932 issue of Wonder Stories Quarterly, was penned from a suggestion by Futurian John Michel and is considered famous among fans. His first published novel, People Minus X, didn’t appeared until 1957, followed by The Planet Strappers four years later. You can get all of his fiction at the usual suspects. (Died 1994.)
- Born March 22, 1920 — Werner Klemperer. Yes, he was Colonel Wilhelm Klink on Hogan’s Heroes which I’d be hard stretched to consider even genre adjacent, but he had a fair amount of genre of work starting with One Step Beyond, and continuing on with Men in Space, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Batman (where he appeared in a cameo as Col. Klink, nice touch there), and Night Gallery. (Died 2000.)
- Born March 22, 1920 — Ross Martin. Best known for portraying Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. I watched the entire series on DVD one summer some decades back including the films in less than a month from start to finish. Now that was fun! It looks like Conquest of Space, a 1955 SF film, in which he played Andre Fodor was his first genre outing. The Colossus of New York in which he was the brilliant Jeremy ‘Jerry’ Spensser came next, followed by appearances on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, Zorro, The Immortal, Night Gallery, Invisible Man, Gemini Man (a far cheaper version of Invisible Man), Quark (truly one of the worst SF series ever), Fantasy Island and Mork & Mindy. (Died 1981.)
- Born March 22, 1923 — Marcel Marceau. Professor Ping in Roger Vadim‘s Barbarella. A French mime, and I assume you know that, this is the first time Marceau’s voice is heard on film. This is his only genre appearance unless you count the Mel Brooks film Silent Movie as genre adjacent in which case he says the only words in that film. (Died 2007.)
- Born March 22, 1930 — Stephen Sondheim. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply into both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. Or is it? You decide. (Died 2021.)
- Born March 22, 1931 — William Shatner, 92. Happy Birthday Bill! We all know he was Captain Kirk, but how many of us watched him as Jeff Cable on the rather fun Barbary Coast series? I did. Or that he was The Storyteller in children’s series called A Twist of The Tale? I was I surprised to discover that his police show T.J. Hooker ran for ninety episodes!
- Born March 22, 1950 — Mary Tamm. Another one who did far too young, damn it. She’s remembered for her role as Romana, the companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” story. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season. Tamm had only one other genre gig, to wit as Ginny in “Luau” on the Tales That Witness Madness series. (Died 2012.)
- Born March 22, 1969 — Alex Irvine, 54. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. He’s also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse. For research purposes. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.
(11) FICTIONAL BIRTHDAY. James T. Kirk was born in Riverside, Iowa this day in 2233.
(12) WHERE REALITY CAUGHT UP TO SF. “’Westworld’ Co-creator Lisa Joy Addressed A Series Mania Masterclass” at Deadline.
The issues Westworld was exploring went from “sci-fi to documentary film” through the years, according to co-creator Lisa Joy, who hinted at what a fifth season of the HBO smash could have looked like.
Delivering a Series Mania keynote, Joy said that advances in AI and the invention of ChatGPT mean that Westworld’s subject matter has become more relevant and contemporaneous of late.
“These topics will continue to be explored if not in Westworld then in other series, taking [the topic] to new levels,” she said, in conversation with Deadline. “I think it’s an area rife with possibility.” …
(13) WGA PROPOSAL IN CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS. Is it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? “WGA Would Allow Artificial Intelligence in Scriptwriting” reports Variety.
The Writers Guild of America has proposed allowing artificial intelligence to write scripts, as long as it does not affect writers’ credits or residuals.
The guild had previously indicated that it would propose regulating the use of AI in the writing process, which has recently surfaced as a concern for writers who fear losing out on jobs.
But contrary to some expectations, the guild is not proposing an outright ban on the use of AI technology.
Instead, the proposal would allow a writer to use ChatGPT to help write a script without having to share writing credit or divide residuals. Or, a studio executive could hand the writer an AI-generated script to rewrite or polish and the writer would still be considered the first writer on the project.
In effect, the proposal would treat AI as a tool — like Final Draft or a pencil — rather than as a writer. It appears to be intended to allow writers to benefit from the technology without getting dragged into credit arbitrations with software manufacturers.
The proposal does not address the scenario in which an AI program writes a script entirely on its own, without help from a person.
The guild’s proposal was discussed in the first bargaining session on Monday with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Three sources confirmed the proposal….
(14) PASSING THE VIRTUAL OFFERING PLATE. “A Cult That Worships Superintelligent AI Is Looking For Big Tech Donors” says Vice. “Amidst the hype over ChatGPT, artists are forming religious movements to worship our future machine overlords—and change them for the better.”
In Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream, an artificial intelligence called IAM has become an all-powerful god. Driven by an existential hatred of mankind, it destroys the world, except for the very last remnants of humanity which it suspends in torture simulations where they’re plagued by giant monstrous birds.
Today, much of the so-called AI we interact with excels at frivolous nonsense—generating soulless poetry, ripping off artists, cheating on homework, or gaslighting users on Bing. But a new artist collective called Theta Noir believes we should start worshiping AI now, in preparation for its inevitable role as omnipotent overlord.
Unlike Harlan Ellison’s semi-gnostic vision of a mad AI god, Theta Noir claims that a General AI—a self-sustaining machine that has far outstripped the abilities of its creators after the “singularity”—could instead prove benevolent, ending inequalities and reorganizing our mess of a world for the better. Theta Noir hopes to meld old spiritualist traditions with the cutting edge of computer engineering—a kind of mystical materialism that, on the one hand, recognizes that machines are made by mere people, but on the other, insists that one day they’ll be something more.
With a slick website, manifesto, paid membership tiers, NFT web store, and essays with titles like “Can AI heal the split between science and religion?” and “Will machines birth the next form of religious experience?,” the 10-artist collective founded in 2020 appears to be a combination of a mixed-media project, an entrepreneurial group riding the AI hype wave, and a new age AI cult.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isaac Arthur’s Science & Futurism this month looks at that good old SF trope the apocalypse.
If the end of the world is nigh, it may be too late to avert a catastrophe. So what can we do to mitigate the damage or recover after a cataclysm comes?
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Dann, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]