(1) ART IMITATING ART? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spot on? Several years ago Paleofuture uncovered a 1923 cartoon that “predicted” art would be machine generated in 2023. See the cartoon at the link. At that time (2014), columnist Matt Novak noted that the drawing part was more or less solved, but the idea generation part wasn’t. In the intervening years after this find, that idea generation bit has been attacked—enter machine learning.
One has to wonder, though, what an AI trained on only this sort of “predictive” art would crank out.
(2) SELF-REPORTING COVID. Arisia 2023, held in Boston over the January 13-16 weekend, has posted a “COVID19 Positive List” where people can report if they tested positive or contracted Covid after the convention. So far there are eight listings.
(3) THE IMMORTAL DAVID CROSBY. Famed rock performer David Crosby died January 18. In “David Crosby’s Cosmic Americana”, The Atlantic’s Jason Heller tells how the late musician’s obsession with science fiction shaped his legacy. (The article is paywalled.)
“Science fiction was so expansive and it was so unlimited,” Crosby told Neil deGrasse Tyson on the latter’s StarTalk podcast in 2016. “Anything could happen, and that was just rich to me. And I lusted after it.” His obsession with space exploration, emerging musical technology, and the literature of the fantastic forged a kind of future-folk.
Now that you’ve discovered the singer’s sf fandom, read Arthur Cover telling Facebook followers a funny story about Crosby’s visit to Dangerous Visions Bookstore.
(4) THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BAD PUBLICITY? The Conversation theorizes about “How Edgar Allan Poe became the darling of the maligned and misunderstood”.
… The obituary writer, who turned out to be Poe’s sometime friend and constant rival Rufus W. Griswold, claimed that the deceased had “few or no friends” and proceeded with a general character assassination built on exaggerations and half-truths.
Strange as it seems, Griswold was also Poe’s literary executor, and he expanded the obituary into a biographical essay that accompanied Poe’s collected works. If this was a marketing ploy, it worked. The friends that Griswold claimed Poe lacked rose to his defense, and journalists spent decades debating who the man really was…
Griswold’s defamatory portrait, along with the grim subject matter of Poe’s stories and poems, still influences the way readers perceive him. But it has also produced a sustained reaction or counterimage of Poe as a tragic hero, a tortured, misunderstood artist who was too good – or, at any rate, too cool – for his world.
While translating Poe’s works into French in the 1850s and 1860s, the French poet Charles Baudelaire promoted his hero as a kind of countercultural visionary, out of step with a moralistic, materialistic America. Baudelaire’s Poe valued beauty over truth in his poetry and, in his fiction, saw through the self-improvement pieties that were popular at the time to reveal “the natural wickedness of man.” Poe struck a chord with European writers, and as his international stature rose in the late 19th century, literary critics in the U.S. wrung their hands over his lack of appreciation “at home.”…
(5) PERSONQUINS. Grady Hendrix curates “The Best Killer Dolls and Puppets in Books” for CrimeReads.
Literature is so full of evil dolls and puppets that it’s probably best to assume that any doll or puppet you encounter in a book is up to no good. Maybe they’re having sex with your girlfriend, maybe they’re trying to drive you insane, whatever their method, remember that we are not the same species and your first response should always be to throw it in the fire. Read these books at your own peril (not recommended) but if you want to avoid the trauma, I’ve done you the favor of reading them myself and compiling a list of the dolls and puppets you should go out of your way to avoid….
(6) ENDANGERED DARLINGS. Open Culture revisits “Stephen King’s 20 Rules for Writers”.
…Below, we bring you King’s top twenty rules from On Writing. About half of these relate directly to revision. The other half cover the intangibles—attitude, discipline, work habits. A number of these suggestions reliably pop up in every writer’s guide. But quite a few of them were born of Stephen King’s many decades of trial and error and—writes the Barnes & Noble book blog—“over 350 million copies” sold, “like them or loathe them.”
1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” …
(7) MEMORY LANE.
2003 — [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram
So let’s talk about whisky. Well, in a minute we will. So the book about whisky is by Iain Banks who when he wrote science fiction used Iain M. Banks. I absolutely adored the Culture series with the first, Consider Phlebas, and the last, The Hydrogen Sonata, being my favorites. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the rest of the novels and short stories set there.
But Banks had a great love, other than his wife of course, in his life: whisky. So being someone who regularly and quite successfully pitched ideas about books that he wanted to write, he decided to pitch to his editor as he says “a book about one of the hardest of hard liquors and for all this let’s be mature, I just drink it for the taste not the effect, honest, Two units a day only stuff… it is, basically, a legal, exclusive, relatively expensive but very pleasant way of getting out of your head.”
Having thereby convinced his editor it was a brilliant idea, he bought a sports car with part of the advance and as one must do this in style as he notes in Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram, packed his bags and headed north to Scotland.
And here’s the quote that he started the book off with:
‘Banksie, hi. What you up to?’
‘Well, I’m going to be writing a book about whisky.’
‘I’m going to be writing a book about whisky. I’ve been, umm, you know, commissioned. To write a book about it. About whisky. Malt whisky, actually.’
‘You’re writing a book about whisky?’
‘Yeah. It means I have to go all over Scotland, driving mostly, but taking other types of transport–ferries, planes, trains, that sort of thing–visiting distilleries and tasting malt whisky. With expenses, obviously.’
‘You serious?’ ‘Course I’m serious!’
‘… Do you need any help with this?’
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 21, 1922 — Telly Savalas. Best remembered as Kojak on that long running series. He appeared in Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as Count Valerino De Fanzini in two episodes. Oh, and he was on the Twilight Zone as Erich Streator in the stellar “Living Doll” episode. (Died 1994.)
- Born January 21, 1923 — Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the Hearth, The Tomorrow People, Gunner Cade, and Outpost Mars, the last two with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote many short stories, of which twenty-six are collected in Homecalling and Other Stories: The Complete Solo Short SF of Judith Merril (NESFA Press). She was an editor as well. From 1956-1966 she edited a series of volumes of the year’s best sf. Her collection England Swings SF (1968) helped draw attention to the New Wave. Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. (Died 1997.)
- Born January 21, 1925 — Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name but a few of them. (Died 1993.)
- Born January 21, 1938 — Wolfman Jack. Here because I spotted him showing up twice in Battlestar Galactica 1980 presumably as himself if I trust IMDb as it doesn’t list a character for him. He does have genre character roles having been in the Swamp Thing and Wonder Women series plus two horror films, Motel Hell and The Midnight Hour. (Died 1995.)
- Born January 21, 1939 — Walter C. DeBill, Jr., 84. Author of horror and SF short stories and a contributor to the Cthulhu Mythos. Author of the Observers of the Unknown series about a Lovecraftian occult detective which is collected is two volumes, The Horror from Yith and The Changeling. They don’t appear to be in print currently.
- Born January 21, 1956 — Geena Davis, 67. Best remembered genre wise I’d say for being in Beetlejuice but she also appeared in Earth Girls Are Easy and Transylvania 6-5000. She’s done some one-offs on series including Knight Rider, Fantasy Island and The Exorcist. Yes, they turned The Exorcist into a series.
- Born January 21, 1956 — Diana Pavlac Glyer, 67. Author whose work centers on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. She teaches in the Honors College at Azusa Pacific University in California. She has two excellent works out now, The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community and Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Close to Home has a funny Kong gag.
(10) EXPANDED EXPANSE. “The Expanse: Dragon Tooth Comic Picks Up Where the TV Series Left Off” – IGN has a preview.
The Expanse fans definitely know what it’s like to be left wanting. Even though the critically acclaimed TV series was saved from cancellation and went on to enjoy another three seasons on Prime Video, many have bemoaned the fact that Amazon didn’t keep the story going even longer. But there is a silver lining. The show’s story is continuing on in a new form thanks to BOOM! Studios.
IGN can exclusively reveal the first details about The Expanse: Dragon Tooth, a new 12-issue limited series set after the show’s final season….
… Dragon Tooth is set after the events of the show’s finale, meaning it’ll reveal the fates of many characters and answer some of the lingering questions not addressed in Season 6. Interestingly, the comic also seems aimed directly at fans of the novels, as it’s set in the lengthy time gap separating Book 6, Babylon’s Ashes, and Book 7, Persepolis Rising….
(11) TOTALLY LEGIT. The Unemployed Philosophers Guild Star Trek Dilithium Crystal Breath Mints cost a mere $5.95. The container alone should be worth the price, right?
- Whether you’re meeting Mudd’s Women or transporting the Federation ambassador to Eminiar VII, these genuine pink peppermint Dilithium Crystals keep your breath fusion-fresh.
- Officially Licensed by CBS Consumer Products.
- Contains 1 tin of sugarfree breathmints. No aspertame. Kosher, sugarless and gluten free.
(12) GREEN COMET AND HAM. MSN.com says, “We could be the last humans to see the green comet passing Earth for the first time since the Ice Age. Here’s how, where, and when to watch it.”
We could be the last humans to ever see the green comet hurtling past Earth from the outer reaches of the solar system in late January and early February.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF), or Comet ZTF for short — the name astronomers gave this space snowball after the Zwicky Transient Facility discovered it in March — hasn’t been in our cosmic neighborhood since the last Ice Age.
Researchers calculated that the icy ball of gas, dust, and rock orbits the sun roughly ever 50,000 years, which means that Neanderthals were still walking the Earth and humans had just migrated out of Africa for the first time when the comet last whizzed by….
Why the comet is green
The comet has a “greenish coma, short broad dust tail, and long faint ion tail,” according to NASA.
Dicarbon is common in comets, but it’s not usually found in their tails.
That’s why the coma — the haze surrounding the ball of frozen gas, dust, and rock at the center of a comet — is glowing green, while the tail remains white.
(13) MORE COLORS OUT OF SPACE. Open Culture invites readers to “Behold Colorful Geologic Maps of Mars Released by The United States Geological Survey”. (The USGS source post is here.)
The USGS Astrogeology Science Center has recently released a series of colorful and intricately-detailed maps of Mars. These colorful maps, notes USGS, “provide highly detailed views of the [plantet’s] surface and allow scientists to investigate complex geologic relationships both on and beneath the surface. These types of maps are useful for both planning for and then conducting landed missions.”….
(14) HIGH MILEAGE. From the May 2022 “Findings” column of Harper’s Magazine (page 96):
…The brains of the elderly exhibit lesions resulting from a lifetime of wear and tear and may also be cluttered with accumulated knowledge….
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George is on hand (both hands, actually) for ScreenRant’s “Wednesday Pitch Meeting”.
”So if you’re at this school you need some kind of powers.”
“Wait, does Wednesday have a power?”
“She does, yeah, she started having these psychic Visions but they’re a secret.”
“If her powers are secret how’d they know to let her in?”
“Hey, shut up!”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Tom Becker, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]