(1) NEW VONDA MCINTYRE COLLECTION. Clarion West has announced that Little Sisters and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction by Clarion West founder and life-long supporter, Vonda N. McIntyre, will be released April 23, 2024 and is available for preorder now.
With story notes by Una McCormack, this collection spans the whole of McIntyre’s career, showing the broad range of her interests and her voice, taking us from bleak dystopian worlds on the verge of environmental collapse to baroque intergalactic civilizations populated by genetically modified humans; from cries for freedom to sharp-eyed satire to meditations on aging.
Published by Gold SF, an imprint of Goldsmiths Press dedicated to discovering and publishing new intersectional feminist science fiction, the collection captures McIntyre’s distinctive themes of gender and power dynamics, human and species diversity, and a pragmatic utopianism that emphasizes our mutual dependency.
Featuring previously uncollected stories from McIntyre’s earlier career, including her first published piece, “Breaking Point” (1970), as well as McIntyre’s last two vivid and provocative pieces, the award-nominated “Little Faces” (2005) and “Little Sisters” (2015). One story, “XYY,” was intended for The Last Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison, and we are pleased to present it here for the first time.
The ten stories in this collection include:
- Breaking Point
- Shadows, Moving
- A Story for Eilonwy
- Malheur Maar
- The Adventure of the Field Theorems
- Little Faces
- Little Sisters
Clarion West is also actively seeking a publisher for The Curve of the World, Vonda’s last manuscript. Direct inquiries about that work and Vonda’s other stories to Jennifer Goloboy with the Donald Maass Literary Agency.
(2) AND WHEN IT ENDS, NO ONE CATCHES IT. The Westercon business meeting held at last weekend’s Loscon voted “None of the Above” when asked to pick a 2025 site, for reasons explained in Kevin Standlee’s post “Westercon 77 Site Selection Detailed Results”. Then they authorized a Caretaker Committee of Kevin and Lisa Hayes to consider proposals that may be made to host the con.
No bids filed to host the 2025 West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon 77). Nineteen voting fees were paid to vote in the election at Westercon 75 (Loscon 49) In Los Angeles on November 24, 2023, and nineteen ballots were cast. The detailed results were reported to the Westercon 75 Business Meeting on November 25. As there were no filed bids, none of the write-in votes were for valid candidates, and consequently None of the Above won, referring the selection to the Business Meeting.
The Westercon 75 Business Meeting awarded Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Kevin Standlee and Lisa Hayes, with the understanding that this committee will entertain proposals from groups that want to host the 2025 Westercon and select from among them, then transferring the right host Westercon 77 to one of those groups. The Caretaker Committee will announce additional details on how they will proceed before the end of 2023.
(3) HOW DISCREET. Futurism uncovered that “Sports Illustrated Published Articles by Fake, AI-Generated Writers”.
…There was nothing in Drew Ortiz’s author biography at Sports Illustrated to suggest that he was anything other than human.
“Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature,” it read. “Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”
The only problem? Outside of Sports Illustrated, Drew Ortiz doesn’t seem to exist. He has no social media presence and no publishing history. And even more strangely, his profile photo on Sports Illustrated is for sale on a website that sells AI-generated headshots, where he’s described as “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.”
Ortiz isn’t the only AI-generated author published by Sports Illustrated, according to a person involved with the creation of the content who asked to be kept anonymous to protect them from professional repercussions.
“There’s a lot,” they told us of the fake authors. “I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist.”…
… After we reached out with questions to the magazine’s publisher, The Arena Group, all the AI-generated authors disappeared from Sports Illustrated‘s site without explanation.
Initially, our questions received no response. But after we published this story, an Arena Group spokesperson provided the following statement that blamed a contractor for the content…
A disclaimer has been added to the pages noting that “a 3rd party” created the content and that Sports Illustrated editorial staff were not involved.
However, the article includes examples of the same issue with The Arena Group’s other publications.
…Though Sports Illustrated‘s AI-generated authors and their articles disappeared after we asked about them, similar operations appear to be alive and well elsewhere in The Arena Group’s portfolio.
Take TheStreet, a financial publication cofounded by Jim Cramer in 1996 that The Arena Group bought for $16.5 million in 2019. Like at Sports Illustrated, we found authors at TheStreet with highly specific biographies detailing seemingly flesh-and-blood humans with specific areas of expertise — but with profile photos traceable to that same AI face website. And like at Sports Illustrated, these fake writers are periodically wiped from existence and their articles reattributed to new names, with no disclosure about the use of AI….
And there are further examples of other companies that have been detected running AI-generated content.
Deadline’s coverage of the Futurism news item includes the response from the Sports Illustrated Union: “Sports Illustrated Writers “Horrified” By Report About AI-Generated Stories”.
…Shortly after noon today, the Sports Illustrated Union, which bills itself as a the publication’s “united editorial staff” organized under the New Guild of New York, issued a response on social media….
(4) AI IMPACT ON PUBLISHING. Last night BBC Radio4’s Front Row general arts program took on “AI and publishing, terrible record covers, Fred D’Aguiar”.
Michael Connelly is one of several authors suing the tech company OpenAI for “theft” of his work. Nicola Solomon, outgoing Society of Authors CEO, and Sean Michaels, one of the first novelists to use AI, discuss the challenges and opportunities facing writers on the cusp of a new technological era.
(5) BANKS APPRECIATION. Eurogamer devotes an article to“Remembering Iain Banks: a prolific, terrific talent”.
…In 1996’s Excession, the fourth of Banks’s sci-fi novels set in the symbiotic human/machine intergalactic utopia of the Culture, artificial intelligence clever-clogs known as Minds entertain themselves by experimenting with the options sliders on virgin galaxies to analyse the pinballing ways in which they might evolve. This God Mode mucking about is interrupted when an inscrutable but all-powerful onyx sphere appears on the edge of Culture space. In interviews at the time Banks likened that plot development to the stomach-dropping sensation in Civilization of seeing a fleet of AI-controlled ironclad warships on the horizon when your fledgling society has barely mastered clay pots and raffia mats….
(6) A YEAR FROM NOW. Loscon 50 “Celebrating 50 Loscons” will be held next Thanksgiving Weekend at the LAX Hilton. Congratulations to the GoHs!
Guests of Honor
Writer: SPIDER ROBINSON
Musical Artist: KATHY MAR
Artist: DR. LAURA BRODIAN FREAS BERAHA
Ghost Artist: FRANK KELLY FREAS
Fan: GENNY DAZZO AND CRAIG MILLER
(7) NO CAPES ALLOWED. “Zack Snyder’s Cut: Filmmaker Talks Rebel Moon on Netflix, DC Movies” – a profile in the Hollywood Reporter.
…“It’s a compulsion,” Snyder admits on a balmy November day at his compound in the hills above Pasadena. He’s sitting in his home office, a modernist cube that also contains a screening room, an editing bay and a gym. Steps away is the pottery studio Snyder recently constructed on the property for his new hobby. Not far from that, near the pickleball court, is his family’s sprawling dwelling, a midcentury glass-and-concrete structure that bears more than a passing resemblance to Bruce Wayne’s house in Snyder’s 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Snyder’s compulsion to mold — and pull apart — has made him one of the most argued-about directors of the past couple of decades. To some, he was the savior of the DC superhero universe. To others, he was its destroyer. But his latest film, Rebel Moon, is something of a departure from his career trajectory up till now, a shift in genres, if not necessarily in tone or ambition, and perhaps a refreshing change of pace from the controversy magnets he was making in the 2010s. For one thing, his new film contains not a single comic book character for him to darkly reimagine. Instead, it’s a big-budget space epic about a group of outlaw rebels on a remote planetoid who battle an evil empire. Think Star Wars, only grittier, more violent, sexier and R-rated (at least in the negotiated director’s cut, but more on that later).
Ironically, Rebel Moon arrives on Netflix on Dec. 22, the very same date that Snyder’s former home, Warner Bros., will be releasing Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Snyder had nothing to do with that sequel, but technically it’s the final film in the so-called SnyderVerse, the constellation of DC comic book-inspired pictures — some of which Snyder directed, some of which he produced, most featuring actors he initially cast, like Henry Cavill in 2013’s Man of Steel, and Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa in the original 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — that all carry Snyder’s inimitable underglaze….
(8) THE SANDMAN. Variety shares a message from Neil Gaiman: “’The Sandman’ Season 2 Resumes Production, Neil Gaiman Pens Fan Letter”. Read Gaiman’s letter at the link.
The news comes on the 35th anniversary of the DC comic book series on which the show is based. Neil Gaiman, who wrote the comics and developed the TV series, celebrated the occasion with a letter to fans promising that “good things are coming.” Netflix also shared a new photo that shows Tom Sturridge, who plays Dream, and Mason Alexander Park, who plays Desire, on set….
(9) A WRITER WHO SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED. Rich Horton’s obituary of D.G. Compton is posted at Black Gate: “David Guy Compton, August 19, 1930 — November 10, 2023”.
… It was always clear that Compton was a major writer who never found a mass audience. And so he received two awards that were aimed at bringing deserved attention to neglected writers: the SFWA Author Emeritus in 2007, and the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2021….
(10) TAKING A BITE OUT OF COLLECTORS. The Wikipedia article on “Vampire killing kit” buries the lede, which I suppose is fitting to the subject, but gets there eventually.
The kit in the collection of the Royal Armouries contains a pocket pistol dating from around the middle of the 19th century, wooden stakes with a mallet, a crucifix, jars for holy water, soil and garlic, a rosary, and an 1851 Book of Common Prayer. The case has been assessed as dating to around 1920, although the full kit was likely assembled circa 1970 or later.…
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 29, — Madeleine L’Engle. (Died 2007.) I first encountered her not as a genre writer but through her more literary work in the form of her Katherine Forrester Vigneras series, A Small Rain and A Severed Wasp which tell the tale of a woman who’s a pianist, first in her teens and then when she’s in her seventies. Most decidedly worth reading.
Then came the Time Quintet of A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters. Truly extraordinary novels. I see that A Wrinkle in Time won a Newberry Award which it richly deserved.
I did not know until I was writing this up that there was a second series of four novels set a generation after these novels. Who’s read them?
There’s serious amounts of her writing that I’ve not touched upon as I’ve not read them, her in-depth Christian writings, her Children’s books, her non-fiction, her poetry and her more literature undertakings. Even a play was done by her.
I did see the 2003 four miniseries version of A Wrinkle in Time that Disney did and I share what L’Engle told Time: “I have glimpsed it. I expected it to be bad, and it is.” And we will not talk about the Disney 2018 A Wrinkle in Time film as polite company doesn’t do that.
She would receive a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal” shows Batman to the rescue.
(13) WHERE BEAR? THERE CASTLE. The New York Times finds that “With an Artist’s Help, Paddington Can Go Anywhere”. “For nearly 1,000 straight days, Jason Chou has inserted Paddington, the anthropomorphized bear, into absurd situations. He has no plans to stop.”
(14) VIRTUAL MONUMENTS. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] Reminds me of something from William Gibson – the “locational art” from “Spook Country”, “The Statue Wars Turn to Cyberspace” in The New Yorker.
…Brewster is a co-founder of the Kinfolk Foundation, an organization attempting to remake the city’s streetscape with an app. In 2017, Brewster was working at Google, and he was among the many local activists who tried and failed to persuade lawmakers to remove the towering statue of Christopher Columbus on Fifty-ninth Street. “We were, like, ‘All right, we lost that one,’ ” Brewster recalled. “So we started creating monuments.”
Each was fashioned not from bronze or marble but from bits and bytes in the cloud, visible only on screens using augmented reality. “You can build hundreds of digital monuments for the price of one physical one,” he said.
He believes that in a nation where there are ten times as many monuments honoring mermaids as honoring U.S. congresswomen, and where statues of Robert E. Lee outnumber those of Frederick Douglass, having more diverse monuments makes more sense….
… This week, without permission from the city’s bureaucrats, Kinfolk is placing four new statues around town. The installations were created in collaboration with the Black artists Hank Willis Thomas, Pamela Council, Derrick Adams, and Tourmaline. Thomas’s piece is a three-hundred-foot Afro pick in the East River, looming over the Brooklyn Bridge. Adams designed two huge statues representing Alma and Victor Hugo Green, who, in the nineteen-thirties, began publishing the “Green Book” travel guide, which identified businesses around the U.S. that welcomed Black customers. Tourmaline explained, of Kinfolk, “It’s kind of like Pokémon Go. You didn’t know it was there—until you did.”…
(15) DON’T LET THE SOUND OF YOUR OWN MEALS DRIVE YOU CRAZY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Scientist believe they have found a pattern of brain activity that helps explain misophonia—an abnormal reaction to sounds that may include anger, disgust, panic, and other strong emotions or physical reactions. Triggers may include eating sounds (chewing, slurping, smacking, etc.), repetitive clicking or tapping sounds (e.g., clock ticks), and more. “What is misophonia? Causes and why the sound of chewing angers some” at USA Today.
… Misophonia is a complex disorder that causes decreased tolerance to specific sounds or stimuli associated with those sounds. It was named and described for the first time in the early 2000s, yet a survey conducted earlier this year found that just 11% of people knew about it.
Noises such as chewing, slurping, sniffing and heavy breathing are common triggers, as well as clicking, tapping and other repetitive noises that come from objects like clocks and fans….
…“People without misophonia struggle to understand it because they also don’t like certain sounds, in the same way that people don’t understand ADHD because they relate to having trouble concentrating,” said Jane Gregory, a clinical psychologist with the University of Oxford who studies the disorder. “It’s not that people with misophonia don’t like the sound — it’s that their body is reacting as if that sound is somehow dangerous or harmful.”…
(16) BUGS, MISTER RICO! “Mars Needs Insects” according to the New York Times.
At first it was just one flower, but Emmanuel Mendoza, an undergraduate student at Texas A&M University, had worked hard to help it bloom. When this five-petaled thing burst forth from his English pea plant collection in late October, and then more flowers and even pea pods followed, he could also see, a little better, the future it might foretell on another world millions of miles from Earth.
These weren’t just any pea plants. Some were grown in soil meant to mimic Mars’s inhospitable regolith, the mixture of grainy, eroded rocks and minerals that covers the planet’s surface. To that simulated regolith, Mr. Mendoza had added fertilizer called frass — the waste left after black soldier fly larvae are finished eating and digesting. Essentially, bug manure.
The goal for Mr. Mendoza and his collaborators was to investigate whether frass and the bugs that created it might someday help astronauts grow food and manage waste on Mars. Black soldier fly larvae could consume astronauts’ organic waste and process it into frass, which could be used as fertilizer to coax plants out of alien soil. Humans could eat the plants, and even food made from the larvae, producing more waste for the cycle to continue.
While that might not ultimately be the way astronauts grow food on Mars, they will have to grow food. “We can’t take everything with us,” said Lisa Carnell, director for NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division.
But gardening doesn’t just require a plot of land, a bit of water, a beam of sunlight. It also requires very animate ingredients: the insects, like black soldier flies, and microorganisms that keep these ecological systems in working order. A trip to Mars for a long-term stay, then, won’t just involve humans. It will also involve creeping, crawling carry-ons most people don’t think about when they envision brave explorers stepping foot on new worlds….
(17) WHAT’S TO EAT ON SESAME STREET? “Nom Nom Nom. What’s the Deal With Cookie Monster’s Cookies?” Of course you want to know what’s in those things. And the New York Times has the answer.
…The recipe, roughly: Pancake mix, puffed rice, Grape-Nuts and instant coffee, with water in the mixture. The chocolate chips are made using hot glue sticks — essentially colored gobs of glue.
The cookies do not have oils, fats or sugars. Those would stain Cookie Monster. They’re edible, but barely.
“Kind of like a dog treat,” MacLean said in an interview.
Before MacLean reinvented the recipe in the 2000s, the creative team behind “Sesame Street” used versions of rice crackers and foams to make the cookies. The challenge was that the rice crackers would make more of a mess and get stuck in Cookie’s fur. And the foams didn’t look like cookies once they broke apart.
For a given episode, depending on the script, MacLean will bake, on average, two dozen cookies. There’s no oven large enough at Sesame’s New York workplace, so MacLean does almost everything at home….
(18) SPEED-READING CUNEIFORM. The Debrief tells readers “5000-Year-Old Tablets Can Now Be Decoded by Artificial Intelligence, New Research Reveals”.
… Using a novel AI process to decode ancient cuneiform tablets, they leveraged a sophisticated AI model based on the Region-based Convolutional Neural Network (R-CNN) architecture, a specialized system designed for object recognition. The study utilized a unique dataset consisting of 3D models of 1,977 cuneiform tablets, with detailed annotations of 21,000 cuneiform signs and 4,700 wedges.
The AI’s methodology entailed a two-part pipeline: initially, a sign detector, built on a RepPoints model with a ResNet18 backbone, identified cuneiform characters on the tablets. In simple terms, the RepPoints model combs through the ResNet18 collection of images connected to the Mesopotamian languages and then combines the patterns to ‘see’ the text. This step was crucial for locating the signs accurately. Subsequently, the wedge detector, using Point R-CNN with advanced features like Feature Pyramid Network (FPN) and RoI Align, classified and predicted the wedges’ positions, which forms the basis of the cuneiform script’s fundamental elements, allowing the AI, in effect, to ‘read.’…
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew (not Werdna), Lise Andreasen, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]