(1) AI IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR CONTENT THEFT. Malcolm F. Cross wryly begins his email with this link, “I’m sooooort of pleased to announce that discovering another theft of my work inspired me to do a little art project. The theft in question was having some of my work added to the training data for a commercially used AI, and the result was this twitter thread.” The 26-tweet thread starts here. Excerpts follow:
(2) “PEOPLE’S JOKER” NEWS. Variety updated to its report about “’People’s Joker,’ Queer Movie Set in Batman Universe, Pulled From TIFF” with a statement by the filmmaker Vera Drew.
…In a statement shared with Variety on Wednesday evening, Drew promised that “everyone is going to get the chance to see this film.”
“I don’t respond well to bullying or pressure from faceless institutions,” said Drew. “It only emboldens me and what I was saying with this film. We’re looking for buyers and distribution partners who will protect us and make this film accessible to trans people and their families everywhere.”
Drew hinted at potential discord around the movie on Tuesday, ahead of her world premiere, posting a cryptic tweet: “I have no clue how today goes and my team wants me to say nothing of course so I’ll stay vague…but whatever happens in the next few hours, I want you to know…if you’ve been waiting and aching to watch our movie, ur going to get to soon. Stay tuned and stay with me. Need ur help.”…
Just before the movie rolled, The Globe and Mail reported that a title card was displayed stating that the film was protected under “fair use” laws.
“This film is a parody and is at present time completely unauthorized by DC Comics, Warner Brothers or anyone claiming ownership of the trademarks therein (eg. ‘Joker,’ ‘Batman, etc.),” read the title card. “Aside from licensed stock, all video and graphics featured in the film are original materials, often recreations of iconic comic book movie set pieces created by Vera Drew and a team of over 100 independent artists and filmmakers on three separate continents during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Any copyright or trademark infringement was not done intentionally. After consulting with counsel, the director believes in good faith that use of these names and characters in a autobiographical context of her personal coming-out story is protected by Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows ‘fair use’ for purposes such as a relevant criticism, social commentary or education.”
(3) NBA LONGLISTS. The 2022 National Book Awards Longlist for Fiction announced today by the National Book Foundation includes two works of genre interest, a novel and a story collection.
(4) GROAN ABOUT. Dave Hook takes us inside another panel he participated in at the Worldcon in “Titus Groan and Chicon 8”.
…I found out that Chicon 8 (the 80th World Science Fiction Convention) would have a “Titus Groan” panel for their 1946 Project. The 1946 Project was their plan to celebrate 1946 and all things speculative fiction with panel discussions instead of doing a 1947 Retro Hugo.
I applied to be on the panel, telling the Programming Team with substantial fannish enthusiasm how great “Titus Groan” was, how I was prepared to answer the question of whether it was genre or not, and what I was prepared to do to get ready for a panel.
For unknown reasons, they selected me for the panel and made me the moderator. I did not have a problem with this; I thought I could do a great job. I had never been on any SF convention panels before. I thought I could do all of that, but I redoubled my preparations….
(5) RECALLING CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN. “The Worlds of Middle-Earth: The Millions Interviews Richard Ovenden and Catherine McIlwaine”. Their book includes essays by Maxime H. Pascal; Priscilla Tolkien; Vincent Ferré; Verlyn Flieger; John Garth; Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull; Carl F. Hostetter; Stuart D. Lee; Tom Shippey; and Brian Sibley.
In The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher Tolkien, Richard Ovenden, who serves as Bodley’s Librarian, the senior Executive position of the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, and Catherine McIlwaine, the Tolkien Archivist at the Bodleian Libraries, have assembled a remarkable anthology about Christopher, who died in 2020….
Lenny Picker: What personal memories of Christopher Tolkien are your most vivid?
Richard Ovenden: I had the good fortune of visiting him at least once a year for about 10 years. Staying in the house, having long conversations. He looked quite like his father. I never knew J.R.R. Tolkien, but Christopher’s memory of Oxford really was quite profound. He was born there, grew up there, and lived there for many decades. But his memory of it is really kind of frozen in about the middle of the 1970s, when the family moved to France. And so having a conversation with Christopher about Oxford was like having one about the Oxford of when J.R.R. Tolkien was still alive. So it seemed to me almost like you were talking to J.R.R. Tolkien. And because he had this immense knowledge of his father’s work and his mentality, there was that sort of connection. Christopher also had a very great sense of humor—a very, very dry sense of humor. And he was a very funny human being. He also was a great reader; he loved reading fiction, Victorian fiction, in particular, Dickens, Trollope, were a great source of pleasure for him. So he was a very literary person, not just in his own field of scholarship.
(6) WHO SHOULD WIN FAN HUGOS? In the Hugo Book Club Blog’s post “The Gordian Knot of Fan Vs. Pro” they’re inclined to think the knot is just fine the way it is and that the current WSFS rules get the balance right.
…Just three years [sic] after the Scithers constitution was introduced [in 1963], Jack Gaughan showed just how unclear the existing language could be, winning both the fan artist and professional artist Hugo Awards in a single  evening. There was an outcry over this — why have two separate categories if the same body of work could win both? A clause was quickly added to the constitution to prevent this from happening again, but the language did not seek to clarify what was Fan and what was Pro, rather stating that “Anyone whose name appears on the final ballot for a given year under the professional artist category will not be eligible for the fan artist award for that year.”
Over the years, this question has resurfaced fairly regularly. Questions were raised over John Scalzi winning best fan writer in the same year that his novel The Last Colony was on the ballot. Two years later there was some slight grumbling about Fred Pohl — at that time one of only 25 authors to have won three professional prose Hugos — winning for best fan writer.
So in this context, a well-intentioned but problematic proposal (“An Aristotelian Solution to Fan vs Pro”) brought forward to this year’s business meeting provided an attempt to parse out this question….
(7) BROOKLYN SFFF. The Brooklyn SciFi Film Festival returns for its third season October 3-9 presenting 200 independent SciFi films from around the world.
This year’s festival will feature online and in-person events including an evening of Japanese SciFi hosted at Stuart Cinema Cafe on Tuesday October 4th from 7:00 to 9:00 and selected screenings and recognition on Saturday October 8th from 6:00 to 9:00 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Downtown Brooklyn. All films streaming online at BrooklynSciFiFilmFest.com starting October 3rd. Official Selections.
(8) SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM. Literary Hub introduces viewers to a 1982 BBC video about a writer at work: “Roald Dahl’s writing routine involved a shed, a sleeping bag, and cigarettes.”
In 1982, Frank Delaney of the BBC visited Roald Dahl at home for a long conversation that meandered from children’s literature to 18th-century furniture and making orange marmalade. During that visit, Dahl gave Delaney a glimpse at his writing routine, which consisted, at the time, of four hours a day spent in a writing shed on his property.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1963 – [By Cat Eldridge.]
There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: There is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits. — opening narration.
Fifty-nine years ago this evening on ABC, The Outer Limits series premiered, created and executive produced by Leslie Stevens who had done nothing of a genre nature before. It was directed by far too many to note here. Steven’s would later do Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
In the unaired pilot, it was called Please Stand By, but ABC rejected that title, so the producers renamed it.
Two episodes, “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier”, were written by Harlan Ellison. Clifford Simak wrote “The Duplicate Man” episode. David Duncan penned “The Human Factor”. Eando Binder gets credit for the “I, Robot” episode.
“Demon with a Glass Hand” won a Writers’ Guild Award. Later, Ellison’s “Soldier” script would allow him to sue Cameron over his Terminator script and win rather nicely.
Season One combined science fiction and horror, while Season two was shifted focus to being more about what they called hard science fiction stories, dropping the “scary monster” theme of Season One. The network thought the monster were the villains of the week.
The original series lasted a mere forty-nine episodes. The second iteration, which started in 1995, would last much longer, going an amazing one hundred and fifty-two episodes.
It was very popular in the ratings the first season but was competing against Jackie Gleason in the second season and that got it cancelled halfway through. As I noted, it had a second life thirty years on which was quite successful. Variety reported last year that an Outer Limits reboot was in development at a premium cable network though they declined to say which network.
Neat piece of trivia: The “ion storm” from “The Mutant” episode here which was a projector beam shining through a container containing glitter in liquid suspension became the transporter effect in the Trek series. Also, the process used to make pointed ears for David McCallum in “The Sixth Finger” episode here was used to make Spock’s ears, and The black mask from “The Duplicate Man” episode here was used by Dr. Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”.
It’s streaming on Pluto. Pluto? Huh?
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 16, 1914 — William Bernard Ready. Can I include an individual for just one work? Well given it’s my Birthday list, of course. It’s the 1968 work, The Tolkien Relation: A Personal Inquiry, Ready foresaw the cultural value of Tolkien’s writings and, while at Marquette University, he managed to purchase a large selection of original literary manuscripts by Tolkien in 1956-57, including manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. (Died 1981.)
- Born September 16, 1927 — Peter Falk. His best remembered genre role is in The Princess Bride as the Grandfather who narrates the story. (The person who replaced the late Falk in the full cast reading of The Princess Bride for the Wisconsin Democratic fundraiser, Director Rob Reiner, wasn’t nearly as good as he was in that role.) He also plays Ramos Clemente in “The Mirror,” an episode of The Twilight Zone. And he’s Reverend Theo Kerr in the 2001 version of The Lost World. (Died 2011.)
- Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis. You’ll remember her best as Altaira “Alta” Morbius on Forbidden Planet. She also appeared twice in The Twilight Zone (“The After Hours” and “Jess-Belle”). She also appeared in multiple episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She’d even appear twice in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and played several roles on Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2011.)
- Born September 16, 1932 — Karen Anderson. She co-wrote two series with her husband, Poul Anderson, King of Ys and The Last Viking, and created the delightful The Unicorn Trade collection with him. Fancyclopedia has her extensive fannish history thisaway, and Mike has her obituary here. (Died 2018.)
- Born September 16, 1952 — Lisa Tuttle, 70. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute,” which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include Catwitch, The Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection.Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross. Her collection, The Dead Hours of the Night was nominated for a Stoker last year — impressive!
- Born September 16, 1954 — Howard Weinstein, 68. At age 19, he was the youngest person to ever write a Trek script, selling “The Pirates of Orion” for use in the animated series. Though it would be his only script, he would go on to write quite a few Trek novels — thirteen are listed currently at the usual suspects — and comics. He gets a thanks credit in Star Trek: The Voyage Home. He wrote a script, “The Sky Above, the Mudd Below”, for the fanfic affair Star Trek: New Voyages, but it never got made. And it won’t given that there’s a comic book series already made with its plot. Paramount wasn’t at all pleased. To quote Zevon, “Send lawyers, gun and money / the shit has hit the fan.”
- Born September 16, 1955 — Amanda Hemingway, 67. British author of fantasy novels who’s best known for the Fern Capel series written under the Jan Siegel name — it’s most excellent. I’d also recommend The Sangreal Trilogy penned under her own name. Alas her superb website has gone offline. She is available from the usual suspects — curiously her Hemingway novels are much more costly than her Seigel novels are.
- Born September 16, 1960 — Mike Mignola, 62. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early on ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing “What If” story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories are quite excellent too. I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, and detest the reboot now that I’ve seen it, while the animated films are excellent.
(11) HEAR ABOUT “HUMAN EXCEPTIONALISM”. “Dean Koontz on His Vocation as an Author, Art and Meaning in Life, and Human Exceptionalism” in a downloadable interview at Humanize. (Note: I haven’t listened to it.)
In episode one of the second season of Humanize, Wesley J. Smith’s guest is the internationally famous novelist Dean Koontz. Dean and Wesley discuss how he came to be an author, how life is filled with meaning, his art, the importance of human exceptionalism, the problem with transhumanism, and how Dean uses humor to further his plots and character development. Dean recalls his upbringing in an impoverished household that did not have running water until he was 11, how a high school English teacher changed his life, and his love for the use of the English language. He and Wesley also discuss the beauty of the human/dog relationship and his philanthropic support for Canine Companions for Independence, a school that trains service dogs to help people with disabilities lead independent lives. Any reader of Dean Koontz and supporter of human exceptionalism will want to listen to this fascinating interview with one of America’s most successful and prolific authors…
(12) READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. The Atlantic wants to know “Why Do So Many Kids Need Glasses Now?”
…In the U.S., 42 percent of 12-to-54-year-olds were nearsighted in the early 2000s—the last time a national survey of myopia was conducted—up from a quarter in the 1970s. Though more recent large-scale surveys are not available, when I asked eye doctors around the U.S. if they were seeing more nearsighted kids, the answers were: “Absolutely.” “Yes.” “No question about it.”
In Europe as well, young adults are more likely to need glasses for distance vision than their parents or grandparents are now. Some of the lowest rates of myopia are in developing countries in Africa and South America. But where Asia was once seen as an outlier, it’s now considered a harbinger. If current trends continue, one study estimates, half of the world’s population will be myopic by 2050.
The consequences of this trend are more dire than a surge in bespectacled kids. Nearsighted eyes become prone to serious problems like glaucoma and retinal detachment in middle age, conditions that can in turn cause permanent blindness. The risks start small but rise exponentially with higher prescriptions. The younger myopia starts, the worse the outlook. In 2019, the American Academy of Ophthalmology convened a task force to recognize myopia as an urgent global-health problem. As Michael Repka, an ophthalmology professor at Johns Hopkins University and the AAO’s medical director for government affairs, told me, “You’re trying to head off an epidemic of blindness that’s decades down the road.”
The cause of this remarkable deterioration in our vision may seem obvious: You need only look around to see countless kids absorbed in phones and tablets and laptops. And you wouldn’t be the first to conclude that staring at something inches from your face is bad for distance vision. Four centuries ago, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler blamed his own poor eyesight, in part, on all the hours he spent studying. Historically, British doctors have found myopia to be much more common among Oxford students than among military recruits, and in “more rigorous” town schools than in rural ones. A late-19th-century ophthalmology handbook even suggested treating myopia with a change of air and avoidance of all work with the eyes—“a sea voyage if possible.”
(13) “IT FLOATS.” Ivory Soap floats on its own. Limestone blocks need a little help. “A Long-Lost Branch of the Nile Helped in Building Egypt’s Pyramids” according to the New York Times.
For 4,500 years, the pyramids of Giza have loomed over the western bank of the Nile River as a geometric mountain chain. The Great Pyramid, built to commemorate the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, the second king of Egypt’s fourth dynasty, covers 13 acres and stood more than 480 feet upon its completion around 2560 B.C. Remarkably, ancient architects somehow transported 2.3 million limestone and granite blocks, each weighing an average of more than two tons, across miles of desert from the banks of the Nile to the pyramid site on the Giza Plateau.
Hauling these stones over land would have been grueling. Scientists have long believed that utilizing a river or channel made the process possible, but today the Nile is miles away from the pyramids. On Monday, however, a team of researchers reported evidence that a lost arm of the Nile once cut through this stretch of desert, and would have greatly simplified transporting the giant slabs to the pyramid complex….
(14) EVOLVING ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Edward Vega of VOX looks at how the success of Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse has shown animators an alternative to the photo-realistic animation of Pixar: “How ‘Spider-Verse’ forced animation to evolve”.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Malcolm F. Cross, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]