…Now, you might not think that’s a big deal, because who is reading those types of clickbait articles anyway? But there used to be a human writer churning out those things. And now that writer is just a little bit more financially insecure and scrambling to find another gig to replace it.
But stick around, because it gets worse. It is one miniscule step from A.I. writing that sort of content to then writing an article for a magazine or a newspaper. And indeed, I know of magazines and newspapers whose owners are already looking into this possibility. As one person at a fairly decent-sized outlet told me, “From a cost-cutting perspective, it costs as much to pay an editor to look over a machine’s writing as it does to have them look over a human’s writing. But the difference is we don’t have to pay the human who wrote it. Just the editor. It’s a game-changer.”
That’s not the only place you’re reading A.I. generated content. I personally know of three companies that now use A.I. to write their posts for LinkedIn and Facebook. And because that sort of content is usually dry as a Saltine cracker anyway, it’s impossible to tell that a machine wrote it rather than a human….
(2) FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE. Meanwhile, Camestros Felapton finds services are being developed to detect AI-generated text, and uses his own writing to evaluate the results delivered by one of them in “The robot arms race”.
… With the text-generating services, the need to detect the role of these services in academic contexts has become an immediate issue. How does a teacher know that an essay is written by a student or by some GPT-fuelled website?
New online services intended to detect machine-learning generated text are appearing. I tried this one https://gptzero.me/…
(3) THE GUNN SF CENTER’S BOOK CLUB. For the month of January, the Center has chosen Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award. Join them on Friday, January 27 at Noon (Central Time). Register for the virtual meeting here.
Set in an underwater society built in the horror of the slave trade, the mermaids of this story must rely on their collective memories of the past in order to reimagine their futures. This novel, inspired by a rap song of the same name, is sure to captivate folks interested in the forthcoming live-action The Little Mermaid and other fantastical tales.
On upcoming Avatar sequels and what exactly makes a good sequel
The shooting scripts are all written. We’ve already fully captured and fully photographed movie three. So, it’s essentially in post-production.
We’ve done the first act of Movie four, and all we have to do is, you know, kind of add water, so to speak.
The audience want some degree of familiarity. They want to be grounded in that which they liked from the first film. And some sequels change too much. The trick is to find ways to make it pleasantly surprising, unexpected. You know, I feel like I was able to do that with a completely unexpected direction.
(5) MEMORY LANE.
1960 — [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] An excerpt from Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham
As you know by now, you know that I have an inordinate fondness for all thing things Seuss. Indeed in my bedroom on the nightstand sits Horton, Cat in the Hat and The Fish in His Teapot.
I have also watched the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas so many times that I’m sure I’ve memorized the entire delightful affair.
I thoroughly despised the twenty minutes I saw of the Jim Carey fronted How the Grinch Stole Christmas crap. But I am told that I should check out the newer Grinch animated film in which Benedict Cumberbatch voiced The Grinch. Any opinions here concerning it?
Did you know that on the twentieth of September 1991 following Geisel’s death earlier that week, Jesse Jackson read an excerpt of Green Eggs and Ham on Saturday Night Live? Well he did. And here it is.
Now let’s have the pleasure of an excerpt from it.
Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham.
Would you like them here or there? I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse? I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 16, 1887 — John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
Born January 16, 1903 — Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage. Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death. (Died 1955.)
Born January 16, 1905 — Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of Kilsona, The Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus the wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
Born January 16, 1943 — Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
Born January 16, 1948 — John Carpenter, 75. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York. His gems include the Halloween franchise, The Thing, Starman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia Experiment, Ghosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to have done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
Born January 16, 1970 — Garth Ennis, 53 . Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties.
Born January 16, 1974 — Kate Moss, 49. Yes she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
Born January 16, 1976 — Eva Habermann, 47. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.
(8) THE HELICON SOCIETY. The 2023 “Helicon Awards” were announced January 14. It’s time again for Richard Paolinelli to give awards to people he publishes through his Tuscany Bay Books imprint, such as his fellow Scrappy-Doo Declan Finn, which now has a distribution deal with Baen, plus a couple of real bestselling sff writers he hopes will pay him attention.
Paolinelli and Finn still relentlessly advertise their Dragon Awards Finalist status, from the first years when the Puppies cornered the market, but they have solved the subsequent problem with the Dragon Awards being voted to other people by starting an award where – the public doesn’t have a vote!
(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Linoleum comes to theaters February 24.
Cameron Edwin (Jim Gaffigan), the host of a failing children’s science TV show called “Above & Beyond”, has always had aspirations of being an astronaut. After a mysterious space-race era satellite coincidentally falls from space and lands in his backyard, his midlife crisis manifests in a plan to rebuild the machine into his dream rocket. As his relationship with his wife (Rhea Seehorn) and daughter (Katelyn Nacon) start to strain, surreal events begin unfolding around him — a doppelgänger moving into the house next door, a car falling from the sky, and an unusual teenage boy forging a friendship with him. He slowly starts to piece these events together to ultimately reveal that there’s more to his life story than he once thought.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
…Confirmed via a synopsis provided to TheOneRing.net, Amazon Studios revealed that the series—currently filming in New Zealand with a cast that seems about as large as the population of a small country on top of that—is indeed set in the Second Age, “thousands” of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The show will concern itself with characters “both familiar and new” as they reckon with the fact that the Dark Lord Sauron has returned to cast shadow and flame across Middle-earth.
Wardman Hotel Owner LLC, an affiliate of Pacific Life Insurance Co., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has ended its management contract with Marriott International.
The 1,152-room Wardman Park, one of the largest hotels in D.C., opened in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Pacific Life permanently closed the hotel just before filing for bankruptcy protection, and is seeking to sell the property, which could clear the way for the property’s redevelopment.
The Chapter 11 petition was filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.
Marriott and Pacific Life have been locked in legal disputes since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the hotel’s temporary closure in March 2020.
…The owner’s bankruptcy filing Monday came the same day that neighboring historic hotel the Omni Shoreham reopened.
The DisCon III committee hasn’t posted a response to the latest development, but last October they did address their plans for an alternative to the Wardman Park if needed. The chairs wrote in the convention’s newsletter [PDF file]:
As you can imagine, we have uncertainty related to the Coronavirus but planning and activities continue. The status of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is unclear. Litigation between the owners was filed 2 September and settled at the end of September. At the start of October, Marriott filed a lawsuit against one of the entities that owns the hotel. What a mess! The hotel itself does not have an official statement at this time, and we are in close touch. Our Facilities team does have the room blocks for both the Marriott and the Omni Shoreham set up, and our current plan is to release those in January 2021.
Nuclear explosives can be used to address many urgent issues: a shortage of mildly radioactive harbours, for example, or the problem of having too many wealthy, industrialized nations not populated by survivors who envy the dead. The most pressing issue—the need for a fast, affordable space drive—wasn’t solved until the late 1950s. Theodore B. Taylor and others proposed that the Bomb could be used to facilitate rapid space travel across the Solar System. Thus, Project Orion was born….
… Players and scholars attribute the game’s resurgent popularity not only to the longueurs of the pandemic, but also to its reemergence in pop culture — on the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” whose main characters play D&D in a basement; on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”; or via the host of celebrities who display their love for the game online.
Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, isn’t surprised by the game’s reanimated popularity. Revenue was up 35% in 2020 compared with 2019, the seventh consecutive year of growth, she said.
Many newcomers purchase starter kits packed with character sheets, a rule book, a set of dice and a story line. New dungeon masters may buy a foldable screen to hide their rolls and anything else they’d like to keep from the player-characters. Once the introductory journey ends, players pore through other adventure books for sale — or conjure an original odyssey.
“The first few days of news [of the virus] coming out globally, at the top of every hour all the alarms were going off at the company,” said Dean Bigbee, director of operations for Roll20, an online tabletop gaming platform. “The amount of new account requests were so high that the systems thought that we were under a denial-of-service attack. But they were legitimate. They were accounts from Italy, and then France, following the paths of lockdowns across the world.”
Here are some interviews given by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton. They range from artsy film magazines to the cheapest of fanzines. My favorite is the audio clip from Youtube when Leigh and Ed were the guests of honor at the 1964 (PacifiCon) WorldCon. It is somehow revealing to hear what their voices sounded like and to glean a little of their personalities beyond the printed page….
Last January, it was mistakenly announced that B-movie legend and 1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain had passed away. The announcement was quickly retracted – but in a sad twist of fate, friends and family are confirming that Strain has passed away almost one year to the day after that erroneous report. She was 58 years old.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1991 — Thirty years ago at Chicon V, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s The Vor Game as published by Baen Books wins the Hugo for Best Novel. Runners-ups were David Brin‘s Earth, Dan Simmons’ The Fall of Hyperion, Michael P. Kube-McDowell’s The Quiet Pools and Greag Bear’s Queen of Angels. It would nominated for the HOMer as well. A portion of this novel had appeared in the February 1990 issue of Analog magazine in slightly different form as the “Weatherman” story.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born January 13, 1893 – Clark Ashton Smith. Poetry, prose, graphic art, sculpture. One novel, two hundred thirty shorter stories, seven hundred poems; a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors; five dozen posthumous collections. Pillar of Weird Tales with Howard and Lovecraft. “I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.” (Died 1961) [JH]
Born January 13, 1933 – Ron Goulart, age 88. Eighty novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories. Book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Venture. Comic-book stories and prose about The Phantom; scripts for Marvel. Inkpot Award. Detective fiction, including half a dozen books featuring Groucho Marx. Nonfiction, e.g. The Great Comic Book Artists, Comic Book Encyclopedia. [JH]
Born January 13, 1937 – George Barr, age 84. Decades-long career as a fanartist; here is a cover for Amra; here is one for Trumpet; two Hugos as Best Fanartist; Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXVI, at MidAmeriCon the 34th Worldcon. Also developed a career as a pro. Here is The Dying Earth. Here is the Sep 86 Amazing. Here is Adventures in Unhistory. Artist GoH at ConAdian the 52nd Worldcon. Fifty illustrated limericks for Weird Tales. Fan and pro, two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors. Artbook Upon the Winds of Yesterday. [JH]
Born January 13, 1938 — Charlie Brill, 83. His best remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes, he’ll show in the DS9 episode that repurposed this episode to great effect. He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer Space, The MunstersToday, Sliders, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE)
Born January 13, 1945 — Joy Chant, 76. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of Red Moon and Black Mountain, The Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes. Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends. I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone actually read it? (CE)
Born January 13, 1957 – Claudia Emerson. Five poems for us in Son and Foe. Eight collections. Poetry editor for Greensboro Review. Pulitzer Prize. Acad. Amer. Poets Prize. Poet Laureate of Virginia. Elected to Fellowship of Southern Writers. Donald Justice Award. (Died 2014) [JH]
Born January 13, 1960 — Mark Chadbourn, 61. I’ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice but they make for very entertaining reading. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well. (CE)
Born January 13, 1968 — Ken Scholes, 53. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, is The Psalms of Isaak. His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “The Wings We Dare Aspire” for METAtropolis: Green Space. (CE)
Born January 13, 1972 — Una McCormack, 49. She’s the author of The Baba Yaga and The Star of the Sea, two novels in the delightful Weird Space series. She’s also written myriad Trek novels including a Discovery novel, The Way to the Stars, and the first Picard novel, The Last Best Hope. She’s also a writer of Who novels having five so far, plus writing for Big Finish Productions. (CE)
Born January 13, 1979 – Bree Despain, age 42. Six novels, a couple of shorter stories. Took a semester off college to write and direct plays for inner-city teens. Felt she wasn’t special enough to be a writer, decided to study law. Hit by a pickup truck. Thought it out again. First book sold on 6th anniversary of collision. [JH]
Born January 13, 1980 — Beth Cato, 41. Her first series, the Clockwork Dagger sequence beginning with The Clockwork Dagger novel is most excellent popcorn literature. She’s fine a considerable amount of excellent short fiction which has been mostly collected in Deep Roots and Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. Her website features a number of quite tasty cake recipes including Browned Butter Coffee Bundt Cake. Really I kid you not. (CE)
Born January 13, 1981 – Ieva Melgave, age 40. Her “Siren’s Song” has been translated from Latvian into English. Interviewed (in English) in Vector 281. [JH]
(10) ALIENS OMNIBUS. Marvel invites fans to jump on the Aliens Omnibus when the volumes arrive in April and August.
The classic comic book tales set in the iconic—and terrifying—world of the Alien franchise are being collected in brand-new hardcover collection starting in April with Aliens Omnibus Volume 1. And in August, fans of the iconic franchise can enjoy even more of these thrilling comic book stories with Aliens: The Original Years Omnibus Vol. 2.
A rogue scientist’s genetic experiments create a horrific new alien king! A ragtag unit of Colonial Marines battles a xenomorph infestation on a space station — and the survivors face a pack of bizarre hybrids! An investigator must solve a murder on a deep-space alien-research station! But what dread music will a deranged composer make with an alien’s screams? And can a synthetic xenomorph rebel against its sadistic creator? Plus: Flash back to an alien attack in the 1950s! And witness the fate of England as aliens overrun the Earth! This rare collection includes: Aliens: Rogue #1-4, Aliens: Colonial Marines #1-10, Aliens: Labyrinth #1-4, Aliens: Salvation, Aliens: Music Of The Spears #1-4 and Aliens: Stronghold #1-4 — plus material from Dark Horse Comics #3-5, #11-13 And #15-19; Previews (1993) #1-12; Previews (1994) #1; and Aliens Magazine (1992) #9-20.
The permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command will be located at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.
According to a statement from the Secretary of the Air Force, Huntsville was confirmed as the preferred location for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters.
The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters. The decision was based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.
Listeners meet Tarisai as a lonely younger girl growing up with a distant mother, and we feel her astonishment when she’s brought to the palace in Aristar and meets the prince — and discovers her new friend is the person her mother cursed her to kill. This vibrant and multilayered fantasy audiobook comes to life with Joniece’s evocative narration.
“You watch her save the world… and that was really cool, to be inside of a story of a young woman that got to stand in her truth and in her power. You watch a princess mature into a queen.”—Narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Adventurer! This Glen Cook Bundle presents novels by fantasy and science fiction author Glen Cook from Night Shade Books. Best known for his Black Company dark military fantasies, Cook has also written the eight-book Dread Empire epic fantasy series, the Starfishers and Darkwar trilogies, and many free-standing novels. This all-new fiction offer gives you nearly two dozen Glen Cook novels in both ePub and Kindle ebook formats for an unbeatable bargain price.
For just US$7.95 you get all five titles in our Glen Cook Sampler (retail value $69) as DRM-free ePub and Kindle ebooks
… And if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.97, you’ll level up and also get our entire Complete Collection with eight more titles…
(14) ON SECOND THOUGHT. He’s a busy man, you know.
(15) HELICONIA WINTER. Richard Paolinelli handed out the 2021 Helicon Awards [Internet archive link] yesterday, some to bestselling sff writers, two to L. Jagi Lamplighter and Declan Finn, but if you want to know what’s really on Richard’s mind look at this entry on the list:
John W. Campbell Diversity in SF/F Award – J.K. Rowling
Paolinelli also presented awards named for Melvil Dewey and Laura Ingalls Wilder, which he created after their names were removed from two American Library Association awards in recent years.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Cyberpunk 2077” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Cyberpunk 2077 is “the most anticipated release since Cup And Ball 2″ and that it lets gamers wallow in a world which is “not cool, not fun, and everything’s broken.”
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
RadioTimes.com understands that a plan is in the works to air a standalone Doctor Who special some time before series 12 hits screens, possibly in a festive slot like this year’s New Year’s Day Special or the Christmas specials that were released every year prior (from 2005 onwards).
However, it’s also possible that the proposed episode will bypass the festive period altogether, airing in a less competitive slot to give the Tardis team their best reintroduction this winter, and avoiding the usual holiday themes favoured by previous Doctor Who specials.
(2) ORDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE. Just as French fries are merely
a delivery vehicle for ketchup, File 770 exists to publicize where Scott
Edelman goes to eat lunch. In Episode 99 of Eating the Fantastic, the
meal is served at the Sagebrush Cantina in the company of comics
legend Gerry Conway.
My first meal of the Nebula Awards weekend was with comics legend Gerry Conway, who I’ve known for at least 48 years, since 1971 — when I was a comics fan of 16, and he was 19, and yet already a comics pro with credits on Phantom Stranger, Ka-Zar, and Daredevil. Our paths back then crossed in the basement of the Times Square branch of Nathan’s (which, alas, no longer exists) where the late Phil Seuling had organized a standalone dealers room without any convention programming dubbed Nathan’s Con, which was a test run for his future Second Sunday mini-cons.
Gerry and I have a lot of history in those 48 years, including his time as Marvel’s editor-in-chief when I worked in the Bullpen — though his tenure was only six weeks long, two of those weeks my honeymoon — a tenure you’ll hear us talk about during the meal which follows. He’s the creator of The Punisher, Power Girl, and Firestorm, and wrote a lengthy and at one point controversial run on Spider-Man. But he’s also worked on such TV series as Matlock, Jake and the Fatman, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Law & Order, and many others.
At Gerry’s recommendation, our meal took place at the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas, California, where I invite you to take a seat and eavesdrop on our longest conversation in 40 years.
We discussed how the comics business has always been dying and what keeps saving it, why if he were in charge he’d shut down Marvel Comics for six months, what it’s like (and how it’s different) being both the youngest and oldest writer ever to script Spider-Man, the novel mistake he made during his summer at the Clarion Writers Workshop, why he’s lived a life in comics rather than science fiction, what caused Harlan Ellison to write an offensive letter to his mother, the one bad experience he ever had being edited in comics (it had to do with the Justice League), the convoluted way Superman vs. Spider-Man resulted in him writing for TV’s Father Dowling Mysteries, how exasperation caused him to quit his role as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief (while I was out of the Bullpen on my honeymoon), how he’d have been treated if he’d killed off Gwen Stacy in today’s social media world, and much, much more.
…I think accessibility to the works remains one of the biggest obstacles to this category working effectively, although the proposal makes substantial efforts to address this.
My other concern is the multiple vectors against which we’d need to judge works in this category. The proposal gives numerous examples of other game awards but I’m struck by the many ways game awards split their own categories….
(4) KOTLER’S PICKS. Paul Weimer hosts “6 Books with Steve Kotler” at Nerds of a
Feather. I’m in the middle of reading the author’s latest —
6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?
My latest book is Last Tango in Cyberspace. It’s a novel that follows a protagonist named Lion Zorn. He’s an empathy tracker or em-tracker, a new kind of human with a much deeper ability to feel empathy than most. His talent lets him track cultural trends into the future, a form of empathetic prognostication, and a useful skill to certain kind of company. But when Arctic Pharmaceuticals hires him to em-track rumors of a new and extremely potent psychedelic—with potential medical uses—he ends up enmeshed in a world of startup religions, environmental terrorists and overlapping global conspiracies. It’s a thriller about the ramifications of accelerating technology, the evolution of empathy, and the hidden costs of consciousness-expansion. And it’s awesome because, well, it’s just a ton of mind-blowing fun.
…History is a fairy tale true to its telling. Lafcadio Hearn’s lives are a fairy tale true in various tellings, primarily his own, then those of his correspondents, and with greater uncertainty, those of his biographers. Hearn changed, as if magically, from one person into another, from a Greek islander into a British student, from a penniless London street ragamuffin into a respected American newspaper writer, from a journalist into a novelist, and, most astonishingly, from a stateless Western man into a loyal Japanese citizen. His sheer number of guises make him a creature of legend. Yet this life, as recorded both by himself and by others, grows more mysterious the more one examines it, for it is like the Japanese story of the Buddhist monk Kwashin Koji, in “Impressions of Japan,” who owned a painting so detailed it flowed with life. A samurai chieftain saw it and wanted to buy it, but the monk wouldn’t sell it, so the chieftain had him followed and murdered. But when the painting was brought to the chieftain and unrolled, there was nothing on it; it was blank. Hearn reported this story told to him by a Japanese monk to illustrate some aspect of the Buddhist doctrine of karma, but he might as well have been speaking about himself as Koji: the more “literary” the renderings of the original story, the less fresh and vivid it becomes, until it might literally disappear, like that legendary painting.
Simon Stålenhag’s paintings are a strange, irresistible mix of mundane scenes from the Swedish countryside and haunting scenarios involving abandoned robots, mysterious machinery and even dinosaurs.
They are the product of his childhood memories — growing up in suburban Stockholm and painting landscapes and wildlife — and his adulthood appreciation for sci-fi.
“I try to make art for my 12-year-old self,” he said in a phone interview. “I want to make stuff that would make my younger self see it and go, ‘I’m not supposed to look at this because it’s for adults, but I really want to anyway.'”
Earlier this year the Internal Revenue Service officially recognized the Satanic Temple as a church, meaning it has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
According to the church’s website, the Satanic Temple’s mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”
Yet perhaps because the group describes itself as a “nontheistic religious organization” and maintains an openness about taking political stances, the IRS decision has brought some controversy.
According to an article on Rewire.News, a pro-life petition online states, “This egregious decision runs counter to everything America stands for,” and a Catholic commentator argued that without God or a literal Satan, there is no “real religion.”
A letter to the editor from a self-identified atheist began:
I’m fine with the ruling, based on the finding that the Temple’s attributes — unique tenets, regular congregations and religious services — meet the IRS guidelines for a tax-exempt religious organization, i.e., a church. Neither God, gods nor Satan are required to be a “real religion” under these guidelines, contrary to the commentator quoted in this month’s question.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 5, 1904 — Milburn Stone. Though you no doubt know him as Doc on Gunsmoke, he did have several genre roles including a German Sargent in The Invisible Agent, Captain Vickery in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, Mr. Moore in The Spider Woman Strikes Back and Capt. Roth in Invaders from Mars. (Died 1980.)
Born July 5, 1929 — Katherine Helmond. Among her roles was Mrs Ogre in Time Bandits and Mrs. Ida Lowry in Brazil. Now I’ll bet you can tell her scene in the latter… (Died 2019.)
Born July 5, 1941 — Garry Kilworth, 78. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, won the World Fantasy Award. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work?
Born July 5, 1948 — Nancy Springer, 71. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos.
Born July 5, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 62. She’s best known for collaborating with Asprin on the MythAdventures series Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well.
Born July 5, 1963 — Alma Alexander, 56. Author of three SF series including the Changer of Days which is rather good. I’m including her here for her AbductiCon novel which is is set in a Con and involves both what goes on at that Con and the aliens that are involved.
Born July 5, 1964 — Ronald Moore, 55. He‘s best known for his work on various Star Trek series, on the Battlestar Galactica reboot and on the Outlander series.
Born July 5, 1972 — Nia Roberts, 47. She appeared in two two Doctor Who episodes during the time of the Eleventh Doctor, “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. But it’s an earlier role that gets her a Birthday citation just because it sounds so damn cool: Rowan Latimer in the “Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom” episode of the Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible whichspoofed shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.
Look at every regular issue cover from the comic book days of 1952 to the present day! Issue contents included!
(10) COUNTING FANS AT WORLDCONS. The latest round of Hugo
statistics led to a discussion on the SMOFs list about other Worldcon stats,
where Rene Walling reminded readers about his compilations, published by James
Gunn’sAd Astra earlier in this decade:
Sweeping statements and generalizations are often made about the membership of early World Science Fiction Conventions (WSFC, or Worldcon) such as “only the same people came back every year” or “the attendance was all male.” Yet rarely is more than anecdotal evidence given to support these statements. The goal of this report is to provide some hard data on the membership of early Worldcons so that such statements can be based on more than anecdotal evidence.
…The number of members listed over the entire 1961-1980 time span totals 33,279 for the WSFC sources, which represents 81.66% of the total from the Long List (40,752). The total number of individual members is 17,136.
(11) IS BEST SERIES WORKING? At Nerds of a Feather, Joe
Sherry precedes his discussion of the nominees in “Reading the Hugos: Series” with some meta
comments about the category.
This is worth mentioning now because 2019 is the third year of the Best Series category and the second appearance of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series because McGuire has published two additional novels (The Brightest Fell, Night and Silence) as well as some short fiction set in that universe. I wouldn’t be shocked to see McGuire’s InCryptid make a second appearance next year, and I also expect to see The Expanse to have its own second crack at the ballot, though with The Expanse I hope readers wait one more year for the ninth (and final?) volume to be published so that The Expanse can be considered as a completed work.
I’m curious what this says about the long term future and health of the category if we see some of the same series make repeat appearances. Of course, we can (and do) say the same thing about a number of “down the ballot” categories like Fanzine (we do appreciate being on the ballot for the third year in a row!), Semiprozine, and the Editor categories.
We have two episodes of The Good Place, and I won’t complain about that either, because this is a popular vote and the show clearly has its fans…. I’m still not among them. It seems to me that The Good Place is still trying to be several things at once, and is failing at all of them, and since the things it’s trying to be include “funny” and “though-provoking”, the result isn’t good.
(13) HELICON AWARDS. Richard Paolinelli celebrated the
Fourth of July by announcing the ten inaugural
winners of the Helicon Awards on his YouTube channel. Sad
Puppy Declan Finn won the Best Horror Novel category, which is probably more
informative about where these awards are coming from than that Brandon
Sanderson and Timothy Zahn also won.
The 2019 Helicon Awards celebrates the best literary works of 2018 in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Military Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Alternate History, Media Tie-In, Horror and Anthology (SF/F/H).
presentation Paolinelli keeps using the pronouns “we” and “our” without shedding
very much light on who besides himself is behind these awards. The slides for
the winners bear the logo of his Science
Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild, opened last year with the ambition of
rivalling SFWA. The Science
Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild closed group on Facebook is listed as
having 275 members – you can’t see the content without joining, but FB displays
a stat that it’s had 6 posts in the last 30 days. The SFFCGuild Twitter account hasn’t been
active since February 2018.
Paolinelli’s blog claims sponsorship of the awards, but in the video he says not only won’t winners be receiving a trophy, he hasn’t even designed a certificate for them, though he might do that in a few weeks.
In addition to the
10 Helicon Awards, Paolinelli named “three individual honorees for the Mevil
Dewey Innovation Award, Laura Ingalls Wilder Best New Author Award and the
Frank Herbert Lifetime Achievement Award.”
So far as the first two awards are concerned, it’s likely that what did most to persuade Paolinelli to give them those names was the decision by two organizations this past year to drop the names from existing awards – in Wilder’s case (see Pixel Scroll 6/25/18 item #5), the US Association for Library Service to Children said it was “over racist views and language,” while the American Library Association dropped Dewey (see Pixel Scroll 6/27/19 Item #13) citing “a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment.”
What is a full night’s sleep?! I haven’t had one of those in a long time. I run Sleepy Burrow Wombat Sanctuary in Australia, which is the largest wombat sanctuary in the world. I’m up every three hours to do round-the-clock feedings for the baby wombats that have recently come into our care. Their first nights with us are always the most critical time where their survival is the most at risk. If being up all night is what it takes to pull them through, I will do it. Don’t feel too bad for me though. I wouldn’t trade the life I have for anything in the world. I have a wonderful family I built with the most supportive husband, who is my partner both in life and rescue. I’m a mother to two perfect daughters, a dog, and a house full of the cutest wombats you can imagine. As a family unit we have rescued over 1,300 wombats.
That main character, it will not surprise you to hear, is David Mogo, Godhunter. David lives in a version of Lagos which has been subjected to the Falling: a war which has caused thousands of Orisha to rain down on the city and take up residence. A half-god himself, David was abandoned by his mother and raised by a foster-father who also happens to be a wizard, wielding magical talents which David’s divinity keeps him from using in the same way. Instead, when we meet David he’s trying to throw himself into a bounty hunting existence with as much amoral abandon as possible, taking on a job from far more shady wizard Ajala for “roof money” while trying to suppress the sense that he should be acting with slightly more principle.
Police and security forces around the world are testing out automated facial recognition systems as a way of identifying criminals and terrorists. But how accurate is the technology and how easily could it and the artificial intelligence (AI) it is powered by – become tools of oppression?
Imagine a suspected terrorist setting off on a suicide mission in a densely populated city centre. If he sets off the bomb, hundreds could die or be critically injured.
CCTV scanning faces in the crowd picks him up and automatically compares his features to photos on a database of known terrorists or “persons of interest” to the security services.
The system raises an alarm and rapid deployment anti-terrorist forces are despatched to the scene where they “neutralise” the suspect before he can trigger the explosives. Hundreds of lives are saved. Technology saves the day.
But what if the facial recognition (FR) tech was wrong? It wasn’t a terrorist, just someone unlucky enough to look similar. An innocent life would have been summarily snuffed out because we put too much faith in a fallible system.
What if that innocent person had been you?
This is just one of the ethical dilemmas posed by FR and the artificial intelligence underpinning it.
Training machines to “see” – to recognise and differentiate between objects and faces – is notoriously difficult. Computer vision, as it is sometimes called – not so long ago was struggling to tell the difference between a muffin and a chihuahua – a litmus test of this technology.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]