(1) ROAD TRIP. Connie Willis told her Facebook readers all about attending the 2023 Jack Williamson Lectureship in mid-April:
…This year’s guest of honor was Arkady Martine, and she brought her wife, Vivian Shaw, with her, so we got two guests for one. They were great, and so were the panels, which the Lectureship features. I especially loved the one on Artificial Intelligence, which focused on the new dangers and possibilities of ChatGPT, and one on worldbuilding. I also loved Cordelia’s lecture on a very out-of-the-ordinary experience she had while working at the Santa Clara County Crime lab. Unlike the usual investigation of shoeprints, surveillance tapes, cell phones, etc., she suddenly found herself in a convoy with a SWAT team in L.A., driving a coworker’s car without the lights on in an attempt to arrest a bunch of human traffickers….
(2) SAWYER GETS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. Robert J. Sawyer was presented with the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award at the Writers and Illustrators of the Future award banquet in LA on April 28. In his acceptance speech Sawyer describes career decisions where he followed his heart in ironic terms as if they had been mistakes. But they weren’t mistakes, were they.
…Many writers do media tie-ins or work in other people’s universes. My first agent tried to steer me in that direction, too, getting me a three-book contract in the STAR WARS universe. But I bailed out; I just couldn’t bring myself to play in somebody else’s sandbox.
And then I screwed up AGAIN: my second novel was called FAR-SEER, and, at its end, I gave the protagonist, a talking dinosaur named Afsan, a heroic death scene. Well, when I sent the manuscript to my agent, he said I was nuts for killing the main character: “Rob, baby,” he said — that’s how agents talk — “Rob, baby, this could be an ongoing series, and, if not a cash cow, then certainly a monetary Megalosaurus!”
So, Afsan got a reprieve and I forced out two more books about the lovable lizard. But, as before, I just couldn’t stand it; at the end of the third book, I took the same escape route Charlton Heston did from the PLANET OF THE APES sequels: I destroyed the entire planet!…
(3) BEM IN A FLASH. Cora Buhlert has had a flash story called “Bug-eyed Monsters and the Women Who Love Them” published at Way Station, a brand-new space opera magazine, which she says doesn’t have an actual issue out yet.
Captain Crash Martigan of the rocket scout squad was on patrol, protecting New Pluto City and its inhabitants from bug-eyed monsters.
Of course, bug-eyed monsters wasn’t their real name. No, the creatures had a long and official Latinate name that no one could remember nor pronounce. So the colonists took to calling them bug-eyed monsters, because that’s what they looked like….
(4) IS ANALOG USEFUL AGAIN? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Back in the day (the 1970s when I was an Electrical Engineering student at the University of Alabama), I had occasion to build a special-purpose hybrid analog/digital computer. The only reason for its existence was so high school students visiting us as prospective UA engineering students could play tic-tac-toe and see EE at work. It was used one day, then stripped down for parts. The very idea of a programmable analog component gets my EE juices flowing a little bit, though it’s certainly nowhere enough to entice me out of retirement. There have always been problems for which analog computation was perfectly suited. But, as the article below notes, building those damn things is no joke, and every time the problem changes, the design changes. Or, perhaps, the tense should be changed to, well, “changed.“ This could become a very exciting field going forward. “The Unbelievable Zombie Comeback of Analog Computing” in WIRED.
When old tech dies, it usually stays dead. No one expects rotary phones or adding machines to come crawling back from oblivion. Floppy diskettes, VHS tapes, cathode-ray tubes—they shall rest in peace. Likewise, we won’t see old analog computers in data centers anytime soon. They were monstrous beasts: difficult to program, expensive to maintain, and limited in accuracy.
Or so I thought. Then I came across this confounding statement:
Bringing back analog computers in much more advanced forms than their historic ancestors will change the world of computing drastically and forever.
I found the prediction in the preface of a handsome illustrated book titled, simply, Analog Computing. Reissued in 2022, it was written by the German mathematician Bernd Ulmann—who seemed very serious indeed.
I’ve been writing about future tech since before WIRED existed and have written six books explaining electronics. I used to develop my own software, and some of my friends design hardware. I’d never heard anyone say anything about analog, so why would Ulmann imagine that this very dead paradigm could be resurrected? And with such far-reaching and permanent consequences?
I felt compelled to investigate further….
(5) HOWARD DAYS. Ken Lizzi shares a report and several photos of the Robert E. Howard Days, which took place in April this year: “Howard Days 2023. Plus Savage Journal Entry 41.”
I made the Hajj, the Pilgrimage, to Cross Plains, Texas this weekend to visit the Robert E. Howard museum. Not coincidentally, it was also the weekend of the 2023 edition of Howard Days. I am, to be blunt, tired. It is only a five hour drive from Casa Lizzi, which is why I had no excuse to put off the visit. Still, on top of non-stop activity and limited sleep, that drive back proved less pleasant than the lovely drive out: putting a Gulf Coast thunder storm behind me Thursday morning as I wended my way north and west deep into the heart of Texas, into cattle and old oil boom country to the AirBnB I shared with Bryan Murphy and Deuce Richardson….
(6) APPENDIX N. The good folks at Goodman Games continue their articles on SFF authors listed in Appendix N:
Ngo Vinh-Hoi profiles Jack Williamson: “Adventures in Fiction: Jack Williamson”.
In the storied list of Appendix N authors, there is one name that encapsulates nearly the entire course of modern American science fiction and fantasy: Jack Williamson. John Stewart Williamson was born on April 29th, 1908 in an adobe hut in what was then still the Arizona Territory. Seeking to better themselves, the Williamson family travelled by horse-drawn covered wagon to New Mexico in 1915, where Williamson recalled that they “homesteaded in Eastern New Mexico in 1916 after the good land had been claimed. We were living below the poverty line, struggling for survival.”
This isolated, hardscrabble existence continued throughout Williamson’s entire youth, but his imagination and inquisitive mind helped him to endure….
Jeff Goad profiles Fletcher Pratt: “Adventures in Fiction: Fletcher Pratt”.
The Appendix N is a list of prolific authors of science fiction and fantasy. But Fletcher Pratt is not one of them, at least not in comparison to most of the authors on the list. He primarily wrote historical nonfiction about the Civil War, Napoleon, naval history, rockets, and World War II. So why is Fletcher Pratt listed in the Appendix N and why does he have the coveted “et al” listed after The Blue Star?
Well, digging a bit deeper into his writings and his career, it is no surprise that Gary Gygax was smitten with this fellow….
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1999 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Our Beginning this Scroll comes courtesy of Richard Wadholm. Green Tea was a novella first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in the October-November 1999 issue. It was shortlisted for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.
Wadholm, a Clarion graduate, had a very brief visit in our corner of things writing one novel, Astronomy, and six stories. None are available at the usual suspects.
He was, interestingly enough, a contributing writer, to Synapse, the Electronic Music Magazine which published in the Seventies.
And now for our Beginning…
Friend Beltran, this moment has weighed on me for the past six days. At last we meet.
Will you take tea with me? Not to worry, I am not here to poison you with tainted tea. Not from a beautiful service like this, certainly. This tea kettle is pewter, yes? And the brew pot— terra cotta, in the manner of the great smuggling mandarins of the Blanco Grande? Quite so. I must beg your indulgence for its use. I was very thirsty; I have come a long way to see you.
Perhaps my name escapes you. That is the way in this profession we share. Say that I am your delivery man. Indeed, the item you procured at such dear cost is close to hand.
My fee? Whatever you arranged with the navigator Galvan will suffice. A cup of tea from this excellent terra cotta pot would do nicely. And, if you are not too pressed, the answer to a simple question?
Who was it for, the thing you birthed on our ship? Was it for the mercenaries on Michele D’avinet? Or for the Chinese smugglers who used the glare of D’avinet to hide their passing?
I suppose it doesn’t matter much either way. Whoever your treasure was intended for, they were someone’s enemy, but they were no enemy of Beltran Seynoso’s, yes? And we, the crew of the Hierophant, we were merely witnesses. Our only offense was that we could connect you with the destruction of a little star in the outer reaches of Orion.
I wronged you, my friend. You are indeed a man of pitiless resolve. Sitting here, making tea in your kitchen, in this rambling manse, on this pretty little moon of yours, I underestimated you. I pictured a dilettante, playing at a rough game.
That story you told our captain, that you represented an Anglo syndicate dealing in—what was it? April pork bellies? We took that for naivete. No one goes from trading in April pork bellies to dealing in ‘Tuesday morning perbladium. Not even the Anglos.
And then there was that improbable load you hired us to turn.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 30, 1913 — Jane Rice. Her first story “The Dream” was published in the July 1940 issue of Unknown. Amazingly, she’d publish ten stories there during the War. Her only novel Lucy remains lost due to somewhat mysterious circumstances. Much of her short stories are collected in The Idol of the Flies and Other Stories which is not available in digital form. (Died 2003.)
- Born April 30, 1920 — E. F. Bleiler. An editor, bibliographer and scholar of both sff and detective fiction. He’s responsible in the Forties for co-editing the Best SF Stories with T.E. Dikty. They later edited Best Science-Fiction Stories. He also did such valuable reference guides like The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. (Died 2010.)
- Born April 30, 1926 — Edmund Cooper. Pulpish writer of space opera not for the easily offended. His The Uncertain Midnight has an interesting take on androids but most of his work is frankly misogynistic. And he was quite prolific with over twenty-four novels and a dozen story collections. A lot of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.)
- Born April 30, 1934 — William Baird Searles. Author and critic. He‘s best remembered for his long-running review work for Asimov’s where he reviewed books, and Amazing Stories and F&SF where he did film and tv reviews. I’m not familiar with his writings but I’d be interested to know who here has read Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and Reader’s Guide to Fantasy which he did, as they might be useful to own. (Died 1993.)
- Born April 30, 1938 — Larry Niven, 85. One of my favorite authors to read, be it the Gil Hamilton the Arm stories, Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle (The Gripping Hand alas didn’t work for me at all), or the the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 and in turn by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I, “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading but did listen in preparing this Birthday — most excellent!) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976 which I admit surprised me.
- Born April 30, 1968 — Adam Stemple, 55. Son of Jane Yolen. One-time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tales, Pay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as engaging.
- Born April 30, 1973 — Naomi Novik, 50. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet read her Spinning Silver novel which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, so opinions are welcome.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal says this is what to do when a super villain is on the loose.
(10) WHAT’S ON THE WAY? John Shirley interviews Charles Stross about The Future in “Optimism Optimized & Pessimism Prodded” at Instant Future.
Q. Will the pace of change overwhelm us? I seem to perceive, behind many of your novels, a writer conflicted about technological advancement; not against it, certainly no luddite, but concerned about its nature. It would seem that we need that advancement—but we’ve failed to develop a protocol for advancing technology intelligently. For one thing, a technology that pollutes is only half-invented. This seems clear in the age of anthropogenic climate change. Should we slow the pace? Can we?
A: I think, going by the news headlines, the pace of change has *already* overwhelmed us. The Tofflers made this case fairly well in their book *Future Shock* back in the 1970s, and that was in a then-stable media environment that wasn’t polluted with memes generated by bad actors (eg. state level disinformation agencies) and chatbots (often just trying to sell something — Ivermectin as a cure for COVID19, for example).
One problem is that we’re nearing the crest of a sigmoid curve of accelerating advances in a new technological area — computing, networking, and information processing. It seems unlikely progress on miniaturization of semiconductors will proceed for many more generations (our densest integrated semiconductor circuits already have tracks and other features on the order of a hundred atoms wide: it’s hard to see how we can shrink mechanisms below the atomic scale). So, just as progress with steam locomotion had tapered off by the 1920s after a brisk acceleration from roughly 1790 through 1870, and aviation surged from the original Wright Flyer and its contemporaries around 1900 to the SR-71 and Boeing 747 by the early 1970s but subsequently stopped getting bigger or faster, we’re approaching an era of consolidation and very slow incremental gains in our IT. People are now exploring the possible ways of monetizing the technologies we’ve acquired over the past few decades, rather than making qualitative breakthroughs. I first saw a virtual reality headset and interface in use at a conference in the early 1990s; the fact that Apple are apparently bringing one to market this summer, and Meta (aka Facebook) sank billions — evidently fruitlessly — into trying to commercialize VR over the past few years, should be a huge warning flag that some technologies just don’t seem to be as useful as people expected.
(11) UPHEAVAL IN THE SIXTIES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At Galactic Journey I was talking about some of the 1968 unrest in (West) Germany as well as the 1968 Oberhausen Short Film Festival, where George Lucas won an award for the original short film version of THX-1138 4EB. Also present at the festival was a very young Werner Herzog, which is interesting since Herzog claimed not to be familiar with Star Wars or Lucas, when he guest-starred in The Mandalorian. Of course, Herzog might just have forgotten meeting at a festival Lucas 55 years ago. Oh yes, and there also was a scandal at that festival surrounding a short film with a very upstanding cast member. “[April 14, 1968] In Unquiet Times: The Frankfurt Arson Attacks, the Shooting of Rudi Dutschke and Electronic Labyrinth THX-1138 4EB” at Galactic Journey.
…With West Germany burning and all the terrible things happening here and elsewhere in the world, it’s easy to forget that there are bright spots as well. One of those bright spots is the 14th West German Short Film Days in Oberhausen….
(12) SURVIVING THE RUNWAY. “Louis Vuitton collaborates with the director of Squid Game in a bid to woo South Korea’s elite” – Yahoo! has the story.
…The event was dreamed up by Ghesquière and Hwang Dong-hyuk, the director of the hit Netflix series, Squid Game, in which contestants compete in a series of children’s games and are murdered if they lose. He could hardly have found a more effective way of winnowing out weaklings than this runway. HoYeon Jung, a Korean actress who opened the show, took it in her stride. She was probably used to tough conditions having starred in Squid Game….
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Paul Di Filippo, Lise Andreasen, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]