(1) BUMMER, MAN. Camestros Felapton studies a claim about sff readers in “The downbeat end”.
…So the dire warnings of what might happen if “cosy horror” got a foothold in the horror community was that horror would be assimilated by the evil forces who had already eaten science fiction. That spawned a new discussion which is best summed up by a tweet from a very notable sf&f editor:
@EllenDatlow “It’s sad (to me) that sf devolved to a state that readers can’t take unhappy/downbeat endings. While Fiction Editor at OMNI Magazine, I was known for publishing downbeat sf and most readers had no problem with it-because the stories were great.“
A major issue with these kinds of current-state-of-the-genre is they can become so nebulous. With the cozy horror arguments people ranged from film, tv, children’s media, classics, short fiction, long fiction and so on. However, I think it is fair to look at Datlow’s comment in terms of short fiction….
Camestros puts it to the test based on his opinions about the endings of recent Hugo-winning short stories.
(2) FANZINE SCHOLARSHIP. in “’Doc’ Weir Revisited”, Douglas A. Anderson corrects a scholarly statement he once made about the question of what was the first booklet published about Tolkien?
His original choice by ‘Doc’ Weir has proven to be only a manuscript. So now the real first is…?
Anderson wields such magical fanzine fan names as Bruce Pelz and Ted Johnstone in his search.
(3) WOMEN SHOW PINBALL WIZARDRY. “Belles & Chimes, a pinball league ‘run by women, for women,’ makes some noise in a pastime where women were once consigned largely to the display cases” says the New York Times in “Not Your Father’s Pinball Arcade. But Maybe Your Mother’s.”
When Rachel Karlic and her sister, Rebecca Hinsdale, were students at Western Michigan University, they sometimes played pinball with their friend Kate Porter in a 24-hour video rental store near campus. The store was called Video Hits Plus, with the Plus maybe referring to the basement attractions, which, in addition to the pinball machines, included an air hockey table and a pornographic video section.
After graduating, the three women went their separate ways, eventually reuniting in Chicago in 2011. This was around the time that pinball machines, after nearly dying out in the early 2000s from competition with home gaming consoles, started becoming more popular again.
It helped that new machines were more complex, with modern electronics and mechanical features like the motorized skyscraper on the 2021 Godzilla machine. The numbers of avid players grew, as did the number of competitions and tournaments. Many of these events were sanctioned by the International Flipper Pinball Association, which ranks players globally.
In Chicago, one of the hubs of pinball’s resurgence was a onetime record store in the Logan Square neighborhood. The back of the store housed a selection of pinball machines, and if you bought something, you could play the machines for free. In 2014, James Zespy, the owner of the store, transformed it into a pinball and arcade bar called Logan Arcade.
That’s where, in 2017, Ms. Karlic, Ms. Hinsdale, Ms. Porter and their friend Tavi Veraldi started the Chicago chapter of the Belles & Chimes. Founded in 2013 in Oakland, Calif., Belles & Chimes bills itself as “an international network of inclusive women’s pinball leagues run by women, for women.” The Chicago chapter has about 50 members and hosts two seasons of league play every year….
(4) PROBLEM SOLVED, UHH… [Item by Bill.] AI’s that train on copyrighted works seem to be a concern of many Filers.
Japan has solved that problem: “Japan Goes All In: Copyright Doesn’t Apply To AI Training” at Technomancers.ai.
In a surprising move, Japan’s government recently reaffirmed that it will not enforce copyrights on data used in AI training. The policy allows AI to use any data “regardless of whether it is for non-profit or commercial purposes, whether it is an act other than reproduction, or whether it is content obtained from illegal sites or otherwise.” Keiko Nagaoka, Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, confirmed the bold stance to local meeting, saying that Japan’s laws won’t protect copyrighted materials used in AI datasets.
English language coverage of the situation is sparse. It seems the Japanese government believes copyright worries, particularly those linked to anime and other visual media, have held back the nation’s progress in AI technology. In response, Japan is going all-in, opting for a no-copyright approach to remain competitive.
This news is part of Japan’s ambitious plan to become a leader in AI technology. Rapidus, a local tech firm known for its advanced 2nm chip technology, is stepping into the spotlight as a serious contender in the world of AI chips. With Taiwan’s political situation looking unstable, Japanese chip manufacturing could be a safer bet. Japan is also stepping up to help shape the global rules for AI systems within the G-7….
(5) STAN THE MAN. Yahoo! says “Stan Lee” is a fan-service documentary released by Disney+ that will drop on June 16. “’Stan Lee’ Review: A Tasty Documentary About the Visionary of Marvel Makes the Comics Look Better Than the Movies”.
There’s a moment in “Stan Lee,” David Gelb’s lively and illuminating documentary about the visionary of Marvel Comics, that’s momentous enough to give you a tingle. The year is 1961, and Lee, approaching 40, is burnt out on comics. It’s a form he has never taken all that seriously, even though he’s been working at it since 1939, when he started, at 17, as a gofer for Timely Comics. (Within two years he’d become the company’s editor, art director, and chief writer.) The comics he creates get so little respect that he tries to hide his profession when asked about it at cocktail parties.
In 1961, though, Lee receives a directive from Martin Goodman, the publisher of the company that’s about to be renamed Marvel. He is ordered to devise a team of superheroes that can compete with DC’s Justice League (who have become the fulcrum of the so-called Silver Age of Comics). Lee, weary of superheroes, is ready to quit the business. But his wife, the English-born beauty Joan Lee, suggests that he create the kind of characters he has always been talking about — a more realistic brand of comic-book figure, one that ordinary people could relate to.
With nothing to lose, he comes up with the Fantastic Four as a new breed of superhero: characters with a dash of angst and a host of ordinary problems — they bicker and nurse their anger and anxiety, they worry about things like paying the rent, and in the case of The Thing they have some serious self-esteem issues….
(6) CORMAC MCCARTHY (1933-2023). Cormac McCarthy died June 13 at the age of 89 reports NPR. While SFE argues for a couple of his earlier works having traits of horror, his one acknowledged sff novel is The Road, set in postapocalyptic America, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It also won Spain’s Premio Ignotus (2008), McCarthy’s only major sff award.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1966 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]
Our Beginning this time is that of Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17. Yes, it won a Nebula (along with Flowers for Algernon) and was nominated for a Hugo at NyCon 3 which was the year that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress won.
Delany intended to have Babel-17 originally published as a single volume with the “Empire Star” novella, but this did not happen until a reprint twelve years ago. That didn’t happen when it was published first by Ace Books fifty-seven years ago.
If you’re so inclined, Jo Walton did a rather good review of it over at Tor here.
And for our Beginning…
…Here is the hub of ambiguity.
Electric spectra splash across the street.
Equivocation knots the shadowed features
of boys who are not boys;
a quirk of darkness shrivels
a full mouth to senility
or pares it to a razor-edge, pours acid
across an amber cheek, fingers a crotch,
or smashes in the pelvic arch
and wells a dark clot oozing on a chest
dispelled with motion or a flare of light
that swells the lips and dribbles them with blood.
They say the hustlers paint their lips with blood.
They say the same crowd surges up the street
and surges down again, like driftwood borne
tidewise ashore and sucked away with backwash, only to slap into the sand again,
only to be jerked out and spun away.
Driftwood; the narrow hips, the liquid eyes,
the wideflung shoulders and the rough-cast hands, the gray-faced jackals kneeling to their prey.
The colors disappear at break of day
when stragglers toward the west riverdocks meet young sailors ambling shipward on the street…
—from Prism and Lens
IT’S A PORT CITY.
Here fumes rust the sky, the General thought. Industrial gases flushed the evening with oranges, salmons, purples with too much red. West, ascending and descending transports, shuttling cargoes to stellarcenters and satellites, lacerated the clouds. It’s a rotten poor city too, thought the General, turning the corner by the garbage-strewn curb.
Since the Invasion six ruinous embargoes for months apiece had strangled this city whose lifeline must pulse with interstellar commerce to survive. Sequestered, how could this city exist? Six times in twenty years he’d asked himself that. Answer? It couldn’t.
Panics, riots, burnings, twice cannibalism—
The General looked from the silhouetted loading-towers that jutted behind the rickety monorail to the grimy buildings. The streets were smaller here, cluttered with Transport workers, loaders, a few stellarmen in green uniforms, and the horde of pale, proper men and women who managed the intricate sprawl of customs operations. They are quiet now, intent on home or work, the General thought. Yet all these people have lived for two decades under the Invasion. They’ve starved during the embargoes, broken windows, looted, run screaming before firehoses, torn flesh from a corpse’s arm with decalcified teeth.
Who is this animal man? He asked himself the abstract question to blur the lines of memory. It was easier, being a general, to ask about the “animal man” than about the woman who had sat in the middle of the sidewalk during the last embargo holding her skeletal baby by one leg, or the three scrawny teenage girls who had attacked him on the street with razors (—she had hissed through brown teeth, the bar of metal glistening toward his chest, “Come here, Beefsteak! Come get me, Lunch meat…” He had used karate—) or the blind man who had walked up the avenue, screaming.
Pale and proper men and women now, who spoke softly, who always hesitated before they let an expression fix their faces, with pale, proper, patriotic ideas: work for victory over the Invaders; Alona Star and Kip Rhyak were great in “Stellar Holliday” but Ronald Quar was the best serious actor around. They listened to Hi Lite’s music (or did they listen, wondered the General, during those slow dances where no one touched). A position in Customs was a good secure job.
Working directly in Transport was probably more exciting and fun to watch in the movies; but really, such strange people—
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell, 80. My favorite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course, his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film, that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Remember the Will Smith starred Wild Wild West film? Here is the same premise with Jonah Hex instead.
- Born June 13, 1945 — Whitley Strieber, 78. I’ve decidedly mixed feelings about him. He’s written two rather good horror novels, The Wolfen which made a fantastic horror film and The Hunger. But I’m convinced that his book Communion about his encounter with aliens is an absolute crock.
- Born June 13, 1949 — Simon Callow, 74. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well, he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the latter. How are they? He was The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander.
- Born June 13, 1953 — Tim Allen, 70. Jason Nesmith in the beloved Galaxy Quest, winning a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. (What was running against it that year?) He actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in that film franchise.
- Born June 13, 1963 — Audrey Niffenegger, 60. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her. Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House.
- Born June 13, 1968 — Marcel Theroux, 55. Author of The Confessions of Mycroft Holmes: A Paper Chase, and his Strange Bodies novel won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. His Far North is a sf novel set in the Siberian taiga. Yes, that’s a novel I want to read.
- Born June 13, 1969 — Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, 54. She’s got the role of Irene Larra in El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time), a Spanish SF series which sounds fascinating but which I’ve not seen. Anyone here seen it? Not fond of captioning, but I’d put up with it to see this.
- Born June 13, 1981 — Chris Evans, 42. Captain America in the Marvel film franchise. He had an earlier role as the Human Torch in the non-MCU Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I think this makes him the only performer to play two major characters in either the DC or Marvel Universes.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater’s Oz pun is one of the worst ever. Oh, yes.
- Tom Gauld realizes brainstorming affects certain brains differently.
(10) ZOMBIE CHOW. Food & Wine makes sure we’re paying attention when “General Mills Adds ‘Carmella Creeper’ to Monster Cereal Lineup”.
…”Carmella Creeper is the long-lost cousin of Franken Berry as well as a zombie DJ with an edgy sound who is always the life of the party,” General Mills explains. “Complete with a fierce attitude and looks to match, Carmella is ready to shake things up at the Monsters’ haunted mansion with her limited-edition cereal featuring caramel-apple-flavored pieces with colored Monster marshmallows.”
That wasn’t the only scary cereal-related announcement of the week. General Mills added that all six Monsters will come together in a single box later this year with the debut of Monster Mash Remix cereal. Carmella Creeper will be joining Boo Berry, Count Chocula, Franken Berry, Fruit Brute, and Yummy Mummy in a limited-time marshmallow-filled cereal combo. (Yes, this is similar to the previous Monster Mash cereal that was released for the Monsters’ 50th anniversary in 2021 — but this time, Carmella has been invited to the Monster Party.)…
(11) THE DINO RHINO WITH THOROUGHBRED LEGS. “Svetz! Watch out fpr that rampaging prehistoric rhino!” “This Prehistoric Giant Rhino Was ‘Taller Than a Giraffe’” reports Smithsonian Magazine.
…The giant rhinoceros roamed Eurasia sometime between 20 million and 35 million years ago. The extinct behemoth stretched over 26 feet long and weighed almost as much as five elephants. Now, paleontologists have unearthed partial remains of a new species of giant rhino in China, according to a study published last week in the journal Communications Biology….
The prehistoric beast stood nearly 16 feet tall on four bony legs similar to giraffes and weighed between 11 to 20 metric tons, which is equivalent to about three to five African elephants, Science Alert reports. Based on the size of the skull, the rhino had a long thick neck, a deeper nasal cavity, and a short trunk similar to that of a modern-day tapir, reports the BBC. The vertebrae fossils suggest the new species had a more flexible neck than other species of giant rhinoceroses, the researchers explain in a statement.
Deng suggests that the rhino’s thin legs were great for running, and its head could reach the highest leaves from the treetops, Gizmodo reports….
(12) CATCHING THE WAVES ON LUNA. The Conversation believes “Building telescopes on the Moon could transform astronomy – and it’s becoming an achievable goal”.
…Several types of astronomy would benefit. The most obvious is radio astronomy, which can be conducted from the side of the Moon that always faces away from Earth – the far side.
The lunar far side is permanently shielded from the radio signals generated by humans on Earth. During the lunar night, it is also protected from the Sun. These characteristics make it probably the most “radio-quiet” location in the whole solar system as no other planet or moon has a side that permanently faces away from the Earth. It is therefore ideally suited for radio astronomy.
Radio waves are a form of electromagnetic energy – as are, for example, infrared, ultraviolet and visible-light waves. They are defined by having different wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Radio waves with wavelengths longer than about 15m are blocked by Earth’s ionoshere. But radio waves at these wavelengths reach the Moon’s surface unimpeded. For astronomy, this is the last unexplored region of the electromagnetic spectrum, and it is best studied from the lunar far side.
Observations of the cosmos at these wavelengths come under the umbrella of “low frequency radio astronomy”. These wavelengths are uniquely able to probe the structure of the early universe, especially the cosmic “dark ages” – an era before the first galaxies formed.
At that time, most of the matter in the universe, excluding the mysterious dark matter, was in the form of neutral hydrogen atoms. These emit and absorb radiation with a characteristic wavelength of 21cm. Radio astronomers have been using this property to study hydrogen clouds in our own galaxy – the Milky Way – since the 1950s.
Because the universe is constantly expanding, the 21cm signal generated by hydrogen in the early universe has been shifted to much longer wavelengths. As a result, hydrogen from the cosmic “dark ages” will appear to us with wavelengths greater than 10m. The lunar far side may be the only place where we can study this….
(13) SFF LIFE IN CHENGDU. “China’s Sci-Fi Hub |Why Sci-Fi Creators Keep Coming Here for Inspiration?” – a video interview with author Wanxiang Fengnian, winner of the Chinese Nebula Award. Subtitled in both English and Chinese.
Chengdu, despite being a geographical lowland in China, undoubtedly stands as the highland of Chinese science fiction. Countless Chinese science fiction writers have found their inspiration here. From a unique coffee shop, an area full of local lifestyle, to the largest natural history museum in Southwest China, the ubiquitous sci-fi scenes are like a string of keys to the door of the marvelous universe, attracting countless sci-fi fans. As a science fiction writer who has settled in Chengdu for many years, how does Wanxiang Fengnian draw inspiration here and perfectly combine reality and sci-fi creation?
(14) SUMMER CAMP. Turner Classic Movies helps viewers understand some of their fare this month with the help of sff: “What Is Camp? These Sci-Fi Movies Explain”.
This June, TCM is getting campy. In this episode of Film 101, we examine what the term “camp” means by looking at four sci-fi camp classics airing on TCM this month: Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), Queen of Outer Space (1958), Barbarella (1968), and The Apple (1980).
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Bill, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]