(1) SHORT FICTION MARKET COPING WITH SPAM PROBLEM. Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld bemoans “A Concerning Trend”, the growing rate of spam story submissions. He says regular and spam submissions are both up, but the spam is way up.
…Towards the end of 2022, there was another spike in plagiarism and then “AI” chatbots started gaining some attention, putting a new tool in their arsenal and encouraging more to give this “side hustle” a try. It quickly got out of hand…
…What I can say is that the number of spam submissions resulting in bans has hit 38% this month. While rejecting and banning these submissions has been simple, it’s growing at a rate that will necessitate changes. To make matters worse, the technology is only going to get better, so detection will become more challenging. (I have no doubt that several rejected stories have already evaded detection or were cases where we simply erred on the side of caution.)…
(2) WELCOME ABOARD. On February 16 The View will reunite the cast of ST:TNG: “Whoopi Goldberg hosts Star Trek Next Generation reunion on The View” at EW.
Whoopi Goldberg‘s love for Star Trek: The Next Generation is written in the stars. The Oscar-winning actress held an epic cast reunion for the beloved sci-fi series on The View — and EW has an exclusive first look at the talk show’s transformation for the stellar event.
Airing on Thursday’s episode of the ABC talk show as a special pre-recorded edition, the reunion features Goldberg reprising the role of Guinan — whom she played on The Next Generation between 1988 and 1993 — to welcome her Star Trek franchise costars Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (William Riker), Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher), and Michael Dorn (Worf) to the set….
(3) VISITING TOLKIEN’S REVOLVER. Tim Bolton is making a fannish pilgrimage: “In the Footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien – the revolver at the Imperial War Museum North” at The Green Book of the White Downs.
The first trip, as a “Tolkien Randír” (pilgrim1), on what I hope to be a year-long (and more?) tour of Tolkien-related sites isn’t in fact a place Tolkien visited, but a place where one of the objects associated with his life has ended up….
The Imperial War Museum is free entry. There is a café, shop and toilets on ground floor. The main exhibition space is on level one, where the Tolkien object is. Level one is accessible by a stairwell and also lifts. You can see the Imperial War Museum North floor plans here.
The Tolkien object, the Webley .455 Mark 6 (VI military) revolver, is located on Level One in the World War One section. I’ve marked its location with a Gandalf Rune below.….
(4) RAQUEL WELCH OBITUARY. Actress Raquel Welch died today at the age of 82. In addition to her iconic roles in One Million Years B.C. and Fantastic Voyage, her genre resume includes TV appearances in episodes of Bewitched, Mork & Mindy, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. (And you can talk among yourselves about whether the Richard Lester-directed Musketeers movies, or The Magic Christian, are genre, too.) Late File 770 columnist James H. Burns’ 2015 tribute to her is worth reading: “Raquel Welch: Still ‘The Fair One’”
(5) JEFF VLAMING OBITUARY. TV writer and producer Jeff Vlaming hdied January 30 at age 63. Deadline lists some of his many genre credits:
…With his first credits in the early 1990s — Lucky Luke, Northern Exposure, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., among others — Vlaming established his sci-fi bona fides with his mid-’90s work on Weird Science and, beginning in its third season in 1995, Fox’s The X-Files.
After X-Files, Vlaming wrote for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the TV adaptation of Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Xena: Warrior Princess, Sheena, NCIS, Numb3rs, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Teen Wolf, Hannibal, Outcast, The 100 and, most recently, Debris in 2021…
(6) MEMORY LANE.
1987 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Possibly the one of the greatest space opera series ever done was Iain M. Banks’ Culture series. The Culture series comprises nine novels and one short story collection. The first, the one which our Beginning appropriately comes from, Consider Phlebas, was published first thirty-plus years ago in the UK by McMillian.
(Though calling it space opera really doesn’t do it full justice, does it? So one of the greatest SF series ever?)
I will offer up no spoilers here on the very sane grounds that it is highly likely that some Filers here may not yet have read this stellar series. All I’ll say is that Consider Phlebas is one my two favorite works in this series with the other being, somewhat wistfully, its final novel, The Hydrogen Sonata.
And now our Beginning of both the novel and that series.
The ship didn’t even have a name. It had no human crew because the factory craft which constructed it had been evacuated long ago. It had no life-support or accommodation units for the same reason. It had no class number or fleet designation because it was a mongrel made from bits and pieces of different types of warcraft; and it didn’t have a name because the factory craft had no time left for such niceties.
The dockyard threw the ship together as best it could from its depleted stock of components, even though most of the weapon, power and sensory systems were either faulty, superseded or due for overhaul. The factory vessel knew that its own destruction was inevitable, but there was just a chance that its last creation might have the speed and the luck to escape.
The one perfect, priceless component the factory craft did have was the vastly powerful—though still raw and untrained—Mind around which it had constructed the rest of the ship. If it could get the Mind to safety, the factory vessel thought it would have done well. Nevertheless, there was another reason—the real reason—the dockyard mother didn’t give its warship child a name; it thought there was something else it lacked: hope.
The ship left the construction bay of the factory craft with most of its fitting-out still to be done. Accelerating hard, its course a four dimensional spiral through a blizzard of stars where it knew that only danger waited, it powered into hyperspace on spent engines from an overhauled craft of one class, watched its birthplace disappear astern with battle-damaged sensors from a second, and tested outdated weapon units cannibalized from yet another. Inside its warship body, in narrow, unlit, unheated, hard-vacuum spaces, constructor drones struggled to install or complete sensors, displacers, field generators, shield disruptors, laserfields, plasma chambers, warhead magazines, maneuvering units, repair systems and the thousands of other major and minor components required to make a functional warship.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 15, 1883 — Sax Rohmer. Though doubtless best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu, I’ll also single out his Salute to Bazarada and Other Stories as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor did a story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” whose lead villain looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu did. (Died 1959.)
- Born February 15, 1907 — Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Sixties Batman series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
- Born February 15, 1916 — Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
- Born February 15, 1939 — Jo Clayton. Best remembered for the Diadem universe saga which I’m reasonably sure spanned twenty novels before it wrapped up. Damned good reading there. Actually all of her fiction in my opinion is well worth reading. Her only award is the Phoenix Award given annually to a Lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom. Pretty much everything of hers is at the usual suspects. (Died 1998.)
- Born February 15, 1945 — Jack Dann, 78. Dreaming Down-Under which he co-edited with Janeen Webb is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction. It won a Ditmar Award and was the first Australian fiction book ever to win the World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. As for his novels, I’m fond of High Steel written with Jack C. Haldeman II, and The Man Who Melted. He’s not that well-stocked digitally speaking though Dreaming Down-Under is available at the usual suspects.
- Born February 15, 1945 — Douglas Hofstadter, 78. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, he wrote “The Tale of Happiton“, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker-edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder.
- Born February 15, 1948 — Art Spiegelman, 75. Obviously best known for his graphic novel Maus which retells The Holocaust using mice as the character. What you might not know is there is an annotated version called MetaMaus as well that he did which adds amazing levels of complexity to his story. We reviewed it at Green Man and you can read that review here.
- Born February 15, 1958 — Cat Eldridge, 65. He’s the publisher of Green Man. He’s retconned into Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen as an ethnomusicologist in exchange for finding her a rare volume of fairy tales. He is very fond of space operas and classic mysteries equally. And obviously he does the Birthdays and currently the Beginnings here at File 770. And yes, he not only gifts dark chocolate but really likes it.
(8) TINTIN MVP. The Guardian sees a record broken when the hammer comes down: “Tintin drawing by Hergé sells at auction for record £1.9m”.
An artwork by Tintin creator Hergé has set the world record for the most valuable original black and white drawing by the artist after selling at auction for more than €2m.
The drawing, Tintin in America – created in 1942 – was used for the colour edition of the Belgian cartoonist’s 1946 book of the same name.
The book is the third instalment in Hergé’s The Adventures Of Tintin series about the young Belgian reporter and his dog Snowy.
It features the pair as they travel to the US, where Tintin reports on organised crime in Chicago.
At the sale on Friday, organised by French auction house Artcurial, the black and white drawing sold for €2,158,000 (£1.9m).
(9) IRRESISTABLE SERIES. [Item by rcade.] Even though I’m neck-deep in SPSFC 2 reading, I had to take a break and read the sequel to Rebecca Crunden’s A Touch of Death. It’s another well-written story that’s less dependent on the love-hate thing that Nate and Catherine had going in book one. “Review: Rebecca Crunden’s A History of Madness” at Workbench.
… A History of Madness picks up right where the last book left off for Nate and Catherine, two members of the upper class who threw away lives of easy affluence within the King’s inner circle because they could endure no more tyranny. Actually, only one of them did that with full intent (Nate) and the other was more of an accidental revolutionary (Catherine).
Without spoiling the ending of book one, I’ll say that it left Nate and Catherine in serious doubt of living to see book two….
(10) BACK TO THE TITANIC. AP News reports “Rare video of Titanic wreckage to be released today”.
The sheer size of the vessel and the shoes were what struck Robert Ballard when he descended to the wreckage of the RMS Titanic in 1986, the year after he and his crew from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution helped find the ocean liner that struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic in 1912.
“The first thing I saw coming out of the gloom at 30 feet was this wall, this giant wall of riveted steel that rose over 100 and some feet above us,” he said in an interview from Connecticut on Wednesday, the same day the WHOI released on 80 minutes of never before publicly seen underwater video of the expedition to the wreckage.
“I never looked down at the Titanic. I looked up at the Titanic. Nothing was small,” he said.
See the video “When Alvin visited the wreck of the Titanic” here.
(11) TODAY’S COCKY LAW ENFORCEMENT NEWS. “Faleena Hopkins: Romance author who trademarked word ‘cocky’ goes missing after police chase” according to The Independent.
A romance novelist who engaged police in a car chase in in Grand Teton National Park at the end of January has been reported missing by friends and family.
Faleena Hopkins, 52, is currently listed on the WyomingDivision of Criminal Investigations Missing Persons page. A friend told the Jackson Hole News & Guild last Friday that Ms Hopkins had been missing for 10 days.
Ms Hopkins was confronted by police on January 27 when National Park Service officers say they saw her parked in the road at a junction in the park. Ms Hopkins then fled from the officers in her vehicle, leading them on a 24-mile long chase that ended with officers used spike strips to puncture her tires.
The novelist, who made headlines in 2018 when she successfully trademarked the word “cocky,” is scheduled to appear in federal court on charges related to her conduct in the national park on the morning of Feburary 28. She is facing charges of stopping or parking on the roadway, speeding, and fleeing from the police….
(12) SCARY FAST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An SFnal ghost story, The Hauntening, on BBC Radio 4.
Travel through the bad gateway in this modern ghost story as writer and performer Tom Neenan discovers what horrors lurk in our apps and gadgets. In this episode a taxi app offers some unexpected destinations.
Modern technology is terrifying. The average smartphone carries out 3.36 billion instructions per second. The average person can only carry out one instruction in that time. Stop and think about that for a second. Sorry, that’s two instructions; you won’t be able to do that.
But what if modern technology was… literally terrifying? What if there really was a ghost in the machine?
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, rcade, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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.]