(1) HAPPY MOOMIN EASTER!
(2) AI AND RELIGION. The Guardian poses a question to a rabbi, a Muslim scholar, and a digital religions professor: “Are chatbots changing the face of religion? Three faith leaders on grappling with AI”.
….HadithGPT, for instance, uses hadiths or the narrations of the sayings and life of the Prophet Muhammad to answer questions about Islam. Its responses come with a disclaimer: the answers are AI-generated and may not be accurate, it says. “Islam is passed down from heart to heart and it is important to learn and consult real Islamic scholars for more accurate information.”
Even with this disclaimer, an average person may not have access to an actual scholar they can consult, making it easier to rely exclusively on Sheikh Google or services like HadithGPT, Turk says. The source material is also missing a lot of context typically considered when answering Islamic questions, he added. That includes the human layer of analysis of the hadiths and consideration of other texts such as the Qur’an, as well as scholarly opinions and Islamic jurisprudence. Different schools of thought also give weight to different customs and traditions, he said.
“The hadith are silent on a lot of questions that are more contemporary in nature, Turk said. “It’s much more complicated than just what do the hadiths say in a black and white fashion.”
In other faiths like Buddhism, many practitioners are less text and more practice-centric, making the religion “uniquely situated to shrug” the proliferation of chatbots off, according to the Rev Angel Kyodo Williams, Roshi a Zen Buddhist priest in California.
“There’s a practice centricity that takes all of the text and sets them aside and says, it doesn’t matter how much you read, doesn’t matter what you get out of a chatbot,” Williams said. “That’s not the answer. The answer is in your life: do you feel the truth of those words that you speak? And if you don’t, that’s really the only measure.”…
(3) WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL. Some well-known genre figures will be part of The PEN America World Voices Festival, to be held May 10-13. The event will be led by festival chair Ayad Akhtar and guest chairs Marlon James and Ottessa Moshfegh. Ta-Nehisi Coates will deliver the Arthur Miller lecture which will be livestreamed. Speakers include John Irving, Roxane Gay, Reza Aslan, Min Jin Lee, Sarah Polley, Amor Towles, Padma Lakshmi, Masha Gessen, Jelani Cobb, Ben Okri, Han Kang, Imani Perry and so many more. The festival takes place on May 10-13 both in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Los Angeles with selected events available online.
(4) A MODEST PROPOSAL. SF2 Concatenation tweeted a link to an advance post of its forthcoming seasonal edition’s news page editorial, and they’d love for you to click through and read the whole thing. Here’s the teaser:
With the Worldcon coming to Britain for the first time in roughly a decade, the mainly British-based SF2 Concatenation has a possible suggestion for the committee’s choice of special Hugo Award category.
What special Hugo Award category for the 2024 Glasgow Worldcon? In addition to the set Hugo Award categories, such as Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, Best Short Story, Best Novel etc., each year that year’s committee organising the Worldcon gets the right to choose a category of their own. Past such Hugo categories have included things like Best Game or Best Art Book. Not all committee-proposed special categories in the past garnered sufficient nomination interest for them to appear on the Hugo Short-List ballot. So really the trick is to come up with a special category that will engage with Hugo Award voters (Worldcon Attending registrants).
Here we have an idea…
(5) IT CAUGHT ON IN A FLASH. Space Cowboy Books will host a “Flash Science Fiction Night Online Event” on Tuesday April 25 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.
Online Flash Science Fiction Reading. Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings (1000 words or less) with authors Susan Rukeyser, Todd Sullivan, and Tara Campbell. Flash Science Fiction Night’s run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.
(6) WHERE’S MY FAINTING CLOTH? Literary Hub names “13 Adaptations Better Than the Books They’re Based On”. Station Eleven and American Gods are on the list! Is this blasphemy? (Are they right?)
Most of the time, when a beloved book is adapted into a film, or even into a television show, a form with a little more elbow room, shall we say, the magic doesn’t quite translate. Which isn’t to say the adaptations aren’t themselves good—it’s just that the books are usually better. Even very very good adaptations, like The Talented Mr. Ripley, can often only manage to be second fiddle to their source material.
But not always. Sometimes the movie really is better than the book. Below, the Lit Hub staff will argue the case for 13 adaptations which (in our humble/expert/individual opinions) manage to eclipse the books they’re based on. Add your own—or tell us why we’re wrong—in the comments….
(7) SPOIL SPORTS. Meanwhile, CBR.com harps on these “Facts Sci-Fi Movies Always Get Wrong”.
Sci-fi movies take scientific ideas and theories and make them fun, and in some cases even drive innovation. However, many sci-fi concepts are also flawed from the start. Indeed, many of the genre’s favorite tropes simply don’t comport with what scientists know about the universe….
5. Explosions in Space
Many science fiction movies feature battles between ultra-fast starfighters and enormous starships, with the requisite explosions fans have come to expect. Star Wars was the first franchise to prominently feature deep-space explosions, introducing the trope to its millions of fans.
However, this kind of fiery explosion is impossible outside of an oxygen-rich atmosphere (via Science ABC). It’s satisfying when an evil space station explodes, signaling a dramatic victory for the heroes, and spaceships should carry a substantial amount of oxygen for their air-breathing crew. However, most of the exploding starships fans have learned to accept over the years look nothing like actual explosions in a vacuum. If an exploding ship was moving at high speed, the explosion itself would continue to move at the same speed, and without gravity or friction, it would be much larger than the contained blasts viewers associate with violent deep space justice.
(8) MEMORY LANE.
2006 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Now let’s talk about two volumes of stories that are among the best ones ever done. Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden, and that is where this Beginning is from, and The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice are some of most delightfully female centered tales that pass the Bechdel test continuously.
Bantam Spectra published The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden seventeen years ago as lavishly illustrated by Michael Kaluta who of course would illustrate In the Cities of Coin and Spice too. It would win both an Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award as well as being nominated for a World Fantasy Award.
Observing Valente riffing off the much older A Thousand and One Nights with Scheherazade is a sheer delight. Not saying anything explicit about them, they are connected but they are such that they stand on their own rather well too.
Though they are available as digital publications, I recommend purchasing the two trade paper editions. They make most excellent reading. Really they do.
Oh and you can hear SJ Tucker’s take on the girl in the garden in this song which is up on Green Man.
And now we meet the girl in the garden.
ONCE THERE WAS A CHILD WHOSE FACE WAS LIKE THE NEW MOON SHINING on cypress trees and the feathers of waterbirds. She was a strange child, full of secrets. She would sit alone in the great Palace Garden on winter nights, pressing her hands into the snow and watching it melt under her heat. She wore a crown of garlic greens and wisteria; she drank from the silver fountains studded with lapis; she ate cold pears under a canopy of pines on rainy afternoons.
Now this child had a strange and wonderful birthmark, in that her eyelids and the flesh around her eyes were stained a deep indigo-black, like ink pooled in china pots. It gave her the mysterious, taciturn look of an owl on ivory rafters, or a raccoon drinking from the swift-flowing river. It colored her eyes such that when she was grown she would never have to smoke her eyelashes with kohl.
For this mark she was feared, and from her earliest days, the girl was abandoned to wander the Garden around the many-towered Palace. Her parents regarded her with trepidation and terror, wondering if her deformity reflected poorly on their virtue. The other nobles firmly believed she was a demon, sent to destroy the glittering court. Their children, who often roamed the Garden like a flock of wild geese, kept away from her, lest she curse them with her terrible powers. The Sultan could not decide—after all, if she were a demon, it would not do to offend her infernal kin by doing away with her like so much cut grass. In the end, all preferred that she simply remain silent and far away, so that none would have to confront the dilemma.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 9, 1911 — George O. Smith. His early prolific writings on Astounding Science Fiction in the 1940s which ended when Campbell’s wife left him for Smith whom she married. Later stories were on Thrilling Wonder Stories, Galaxy, Super Science Stories and Fantastic to name but four such outlets. He was given First Fandom Hall of Fame Award just before he passed on. Interestingly his novels are available from the usual digital sources but his short stories are not. (Died 1981.)
- Born April 9, 1913 — George F. Lowther. He was writer, producer, director in the earliest days of radio and television. He wrote scripts for both Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. (Died 1975.)
- Born April 9, 1937 — Marty Krofft, 86. Along with with Sid, a Canadian sibling team of television creators and puppeteers. Through Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, they have made numerous series including the superb H.R. Pufnstuf which I still remember fondly all these years later not to forget Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Land of the Lost and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
- Born April 9, 1949 — Stephen Hickman, born 1949, aged seventy four years. Illustrator who has done over three hundred and fifty genre covers such as Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer and Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. His most widely known effort is his space fantasy postage stamps done for the U.S. Postal Service which won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at ConAndian in 1994. (Died 2021.)
- Born April 9, 1954 — Dennis Quaid, 68. I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role (but as always I stand by to be cheerfully corrected if I’m wrong) was in Dreamscape as Alex Gardner followed immediately by the superb role of Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine followed by completing a trifecta with Innerspace and the character of Lt. Tuck Pendleton. And then there’s the sweet film of Dragonheart and him as Bowen. Anyone hear of The Day After Tomorrow in which he was Jack Hall? I hadn’t a clue about it.
- Born April 9, 1972 — Neve McIntosh, 51. During time of the Eleventh Doctor, she played Alaya and Restac, two Silurian reptilian sisters who have been disturbed under the earth, one captured by humans and the other demanding vengeance. Her second appearance on Doctor Who is Madame Vastra in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Also a Silurian, she’s a Victorian crime fighter. She’s back in the 2012 Christmas special, and in the episodes “The Crimson Horror” and “The Name of the Doctor”. She’s Madame Vastra, who along with her wife, Jenny Flint, and Strax, a former Sontaran warrior, who together form an private investigator team. Big Finish gave them their own line of audio adventures which I really should listen to soon.
- Born April 9, 1990 — Kristen Stewart, 33. She first shows up in our area of interest in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas as a Ring Toss Girl (ok, it wasn’t that bad a film). Zathura: A Space Adventure based off the Chris Van Allsburg book has her playing Lisa Budwing. Jumper based off the Stephen Gould novel of the same name had her in a minor role as Sophie. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend Snow White and the Huntsman which has her in the title role of Snow White. It’s a really great popcorn film. Finally she’s got a gig in The Twilight Saga franchise as Bella Cullen.
(10) FRANK ARNOLD REMEMBERED. Rob Hansen made a discovery that prompted him to remind readers that the first free ebook he put together for the TAFF site was The Frank Arnold Papers in 2017.
I edited this together from Frank’s papers, which had been passed to me after being saved from consignment to a dumpster 30 years earlier and had been gathering dust in my cellar ever since. Though Frank was a minor writer this was reasonably well received and I even had several requests from chums for the apocrypha, the material I hadn’t included in that volume. Needless to say, THE FRANK ARNOLD PAPERS is as close to an autobiography as we’re ever going to see.
Hansen says he’s now discovered there’s also a biography, a long article by Dave Rowe in Outworlds #65 beginning on page 13. It includes details of Frank’s life that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.
He was the last regular link with the original London Circle. He was the keeper of the visitors’ book. He was a methuselahic Peter Pan, a pint-sized Mister Micawber. Practically everyone who had passed through The Globe’s and The One Tun’s portals on each months first Thursday night had known him and his radiantly pert smile, yet to quote Arthur 0. Clarke he was also “the most invisible person I ever met!” and Ted (E.C.) Tubb recalled “he was a very lonely person who was unable to allow people into his private world. In other words a typical fan of his time—as are many of his generation.” The number who knew him ‘at home’ could be counted on the fingers of two hands. To visit him there was like stepping into a living time-capsule. Time had ended in the fifties…
(11) BACK ON THE SHELF. “Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 2 Is Officially… Probably Not Happening” reports Yahoo!
… Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy shared some disappointing news regarding the future of Obi-Wan Kenobi at Saturday’s Star Wars Celebration in London.
Season 2 of the Disney+ series starring Ewan McGregor “is not an active development,” Kennedy told our sister site Variety, before adding, “But I never say never, because there’s always the possibility. That show was so well-received and [director] Deborah Chow did such a spectacular job. Ewan McGregor really wants to do another….
(12) STORMY WEATHER. “NASA Reveals What Made an Entire Starlink Satellite Fleet Go Down” at Inverse.
On March 23, sky observers marveled at a gorgeous display of northern and southern lights. It was a reminder that when our Sun gets active, it can spark a phenomenon called “space weather.” Aurorae are among the most benign effects of this phenomenon.
At the other end of the space weather spectrum are solar storms that can knock out satellites. The folks at Starlink found that out the hard way in February 2022. On January 29 that year, the Sun belched out a class M 1.1 flare and related coronal mass ejection. Material from the Sun traveled out on the solar wind and arrived at Earth a few days later. On February 3, Starlink launched a group of 49 satellites to an altitude only 130 miles above Earth’s surface. They didn’t last long, and now solar physicists know why….
(13) OOPS. “Magnets wipe memories from meteorites” in Science. “Researchers sound alarm over damage caused by popular meteorite-hunting technique.”
In 2011, nomads roaming the western Sahara encountered precious time capsules from Mars: coal-black chunks of a meteorite, strewn across the dunes. “Black Beauty,” as the parent body came to be known, captivated scientists and collectors because it contained crystals that formed on Mars more than 4.4 billion years ago, making it older than any native rock on Earth. Jérôme Gattacceca, a paleo-magnetist at the European Centre for Research and Teaching in Environmental Geo-sciences, hoped it might harbor a secret message, imprinted by the now-defunct martian magnetic field—which is thought to have helped the planet sustain an atmosphere, water, and possibly even life. But when Gattacceca obtained a piece of Black Beauty and tried to decode its magnetic inscription, he found its memory had been wiped—Men in Black style—and replaced by a stronger signal. He instantly knew the culprit. Somewhere along its journey from Moroccan desert to street dealers to laboratory, the rock had been touched by strong hand magnets, a widely used technique for identifying meteorites.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cliff, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]