(1) 2023 NASFIC. Pemmi-Con, the 2023 NASFiC, has posted Progress Report 1, a free download.
This Progress Report includes information about programming, our venues, exhibits, accessibility, NASFiC site selection, how to check and confirm your membership level, and a brief Q&A about Winnipeg with our Co-Chair, Linda Ross-Mansfield. Are you a book lover? We feature an article about used book and music stores in Winnipeg. And more.
(2) SFF FOR PEDESTRIANS. [Item by Dale Arnold.] The Baltimore Science Fiction Society successfully deployed a Little Free Library in front of our building at 3310 East Baltimore Street on March 25. The library features a two-compartment design with the lower one for children’s books and the upper for YA+ books. Books will be suitable SF and fantasy duplicates donated to our library (our holdings are over 17,000 titles inside the building) and other children’s books donated specifically to assist in improving reading skills in a fun way. The design of this library fits to the odd available location available at our building and criteria specified by our friends in Baltimore City Government. (And still look like a typical little library as much as possible.)
(3) WILL THE WGA STRIKE? The New York Times investigates “Why There Is Talk of a Writers’ Strike in Hollywood”.
What are the writers’ complaints?
Every three years, the writers’ union negotiates a contract with the major studios that establishes pay minimums and addresses matters such as health care and residuals (a type of royalty), which are paid out based on a maze of formulas.
And though there has been a boom in television production in recent years (known within the industry as “Peak TV”), the W.G.A. said that the median weekly pay for a writer-producer had declined 4 percent over the last decade.
Because of streaming, the former network norms of 22, 24 or even 26 episodes per season have mostly disappeared. Many series are now eight to 12 episodes long. At the same time, episodes are taking longer to produce, so series writers who are paid per episode often make less while working more. Some showrunners are likewise making less despite working longer hours.
“The streaming model has created an environment where there’s been enormous downward pressure on writer income across the board,” David Goodman, a co-chair of the guild negotiating committee, said in an interview.
Screenwriters have been hurt by a decline in theatrical releases and the collapse of the DVD market, union leaders said.
Between 2012 and 2021, the number of films rated annually by the Motion Picture Association fell by 31 percent. Streaming services picked up some slack, but companies like Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns HBO Max, have been cutting back on film production to reduce costs amid slowing subscriber growth….
(4) AI SINCE 1956. “Throughline’ examines artificial intelligence — and these days AI is everywhere” at NPR.
…ABDELFATAH: Keep in mind, at this point, computers were so big, they took up whole rooms, made tons of noise and had vacuum tubes for data input.
DICK: You know, the most disturbing part of the history of AI for me comes from the fact that these men who were working in artificial intelligence looked at those massive, noisy, hot mainframe computers and saw themselves in it.
ARABLOUEI: One proposed measure of machine intelligence was something called the Turing test, named for its creator, British mathematician Alan Turing.
ABDELFATAH: The way it works is a computer and a human being are put in separate rooms. A judge asks each of them questions without seeing either.
DICK: And then the judge, of course, is meant to be able to figure out whether the machine is the human or the human is the human. And what I have always found so shocking about the Turing test is that it reduces intelligence to telling a convincing lie, to putting on the performance of being something that you’re not…
(5) ROBOTS AT WORK. NPR profiles “The role robots play in getting your online orders to you”.
…Robots are key to helping Amazon sort and send 5 billion packages a year.
At Amazon Air, the company’s global air hub at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, hundreds of self-charging electric robots that look like small scooters go whizzing across a giant concrete floor. As they work to fill your orders, some speed up and others slow down because they all don’t have the same priority.
Director of Operations Adrian Melendez explains how the “drives” know where to go on this robotics sortation floor.
“They primarily use the square stickers on the floor we call ‘fiducials.’ And so the drive unit has a sensor on the bottom of it that reads these fiducials as it makes its way across the floor. And it knows exactly where it needs to speed up and slow down,” he says.
Even a year ago at all its facilities, the company had a half-million drives and more than a dozen types of robots. In Boston, it’s testing a robot called Sparrow. It’s the first Amazon robot that can sort different shapes and sizes. Some worry it might replace people. Melendez says don’t worry about that.
“Robotics can never replace people,” Melendez says. “The robots are really good at algorithms or following a set path. People are problem-solvers and that’s what we want to keep our folks doing.”…
(6) NPR CUTBACKS. And after we link to two items from NPR, what thanks do they get? “NPR Cuts 10% of Staff and Halts Production of 4 Podcasts” – and the New York Times assesses the damage.
…Although production is stopping, she added, “we’re not using the word ‘canceling,’ as the work may continue in other forms.”
“Invisibilia,” a podcast about the invisible forces that guide human behavior, began in January 2015, around the beginning of the podcast boom. It quickly reached No. 1 on Apple Podcasts, and its episodes were streamed or downloaded more than 10 million times in four weeks.
NPR will also halt production of “Everyone & Their Mom,” a comedy spinoff of the company’s weekend news quiz show, “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”
“How to say goodbye to a show that you’ve made for 6 years?” Gregory Warner, the host of the show, said on Twitter. “I’ll be trying to figure that out.”
“Louder Than a Riot,” a music podcast, will also cease production after its current, second season. The show explores marginalization in hip-hop and how misogynoir — the combined racism and misogyny against Black women — is embedded in culture….
(7) FLATIRON AUCTIONED. A building once known as home to Tor Books has a new owner:“Empty for years, NYC’s famous Flatiron Building — and its weird narrow passages — may get a fresh start with $190M sale”.
The Flatiron Building is one of New York City’s most recognizable structures, and it now has a new owner after a public auction on Wednesday.
In an auction ordered by the New York Supreme Court, investor Jacob Garlick outbid the building’s current owners and other big names in real estate to secure the Manhattan landmark for $190 million, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
Dozens of onlookers gathered in Lower Manhattan to watch the historic building go on the block with an opening bid of $50 million. It went for nearly four times that to Garlick following a 45-minute bidding war.
“It’s been (a) lifelong dream of mine since I’m 14 years old. I’ve worked every day of my life to be in this position,” Garlick, managing partner at firm Abraham Trust, told NY1. “We are honored to be a steward of this historic building, and it will be our life’s mission to preserve its integrity forever.”…
(8) SHATNER IS PEEVED. “Elon Musk Ruffles William Shatner’s Feathers (And He Has Some Words)” – and The Street will tell you what those words are.
…Before Musk purchased Twitter, the blue check was free and was given to prominent politicians, businesses, journalists and personalities.
Now, the blue badge costs $7.99 per month. But those users who previously had the blue checkmark accompanying their accounts, before Twitter started charging for it, were allowed to keep it for a grace period.
That grace period is over as of April 1, when all legacy checkmarks will disappear.
“Hey @elonmusk, what’s this about blue checks going away unless we pay Twitter? I’ve been here for 15 years giving my time and witty thoughts all for bupkis,” tweeted Shatner. “Now you’re telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free? What is this — the Colombia Records and Tape Club?”
(9) MUSIC OF THE FEARS. American Songwriter introduces readers to “5 Songs You Didn’t Know Credit Edgar Allan Poe”.
…Long after his mysterious death at 40 in 1849, the legend, myths and mystery of Poe and his works continue to get reinterpreted and adapted in film, television, stage, books, and other forms of media.
Poe’s words have also been transmitted through music, with many of his poems and stories credited in more contemporary songs….
Here’s number two on the list:
2. “Ol’ Evil Eye,” Insane Clown Posse (1995)
Written by Edgar Allan Poe, Mike E. Clark and Insane Clown Posse
“Ol’ Evil Eye” is an Insane Clown Posse (ICP) retelling of Poe’s more horrid 1843 short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Released on the group’s third album, Riddle Box, the track features ICP’s studio vocalist and guitarist Legz Diamond reading an excerpt of the Poe classic.
I ring the doorbell, the door creeps open
And there it was starin’ and scopin’
The man’s left eye, red, big, and drippin’
I was trippin’. “Ahh, seeya!”
I ran home. I couldn’t stop thinking
About his eyeball winking and blinking
And it looked not a damn thing like the other. Ugh!
Shoulda wore a patch on the motherfucker
It hypnotized me, mesmerized me
Traumatized, paralyzed, terrorized me
Creepers, where’d you get that ball?
And tell me how it even fits in your skull
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1933 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
I’m fairly eclectic in my reading — I like equally fantasies, science fiction of all sorts and a wide range of mysteries, mostly I’ll admit mostly done though the Forties. And this is why the Beginning this Scroll is from Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Velvet Claws which was published by William Morrow and Company in 1933.
It’s the first of his Perry Mason mysteries which will eventually number eighty two plus four short stories. Many of you will have seen the simply extraordinary Perry Mason series that started in the Fifties which starred Raymond Burr. (I’m watching it right now.) Yes, I know there’s a new HBO Max series but I’ve no interest in seeing it. The Perry Mason series ran for two hundred snd seventy one episodes plus thirty movies.
I like the Beginning has Perry exhibiting some of the traits of the classic private investigators.
And now our Beginning…
AUTUMN SUN BEAT against the window.
Perry Mason sat at the big desk. There was about him the attitude of one who is waiting. His face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board. That face seldom changed expression. Only the eyes changed expression. He gave the impression of being a thinker and a fighter, a man who could work with infinite patience to jockey an adversary into just the right position, and then finish him with one terrific punch. And now our Beginning…
Book cases, filled with leather-backed books, lined the walls of the room. A big safe was in one corner. There were two chairs, in addition to the swivel chair which Perry Mason occupied. The office held an atmosphere of plain, rugged efficiency, as though it had absorbed something of the personality of the man who occupied it.
The door to the outer office opened, and Della Street, his secretary, eased her way into the room and closed the door behind her.
“A woman,” she said, “who claims to be a Mrs. Eva Griffin.”
Perry Mason looked at the girl with level eyes.
“And you don’t think she is?” he asked. She shook her head. “
“She looks phony to me,” she said. “
“I’ve looked up the Griffins in the telephone book. And there isn’t any Griffin who has an address like the one she gave. I looked in the City Directory, and got the same result. There are a lot of Griffins, but I don’t find any Eva Griffin. And I don’t find any at her address.”
“What was the address?” asked Mason.
“2271 Grove Street,” she said.
Perry Mason made a notation on a slip of paper.
“I’ll see her,” he said.
“Okay,” said Della Street. “I just wanted you to know that she looks phony to me.”
Della Street was slim of figure, steady of eye; a young woman of approximately twenty-seven, who gave the impression of watching life with keenly appreciative eyes and seeing far below the surface.
She remained standing in the doorway eyeing Perry Mason with quiet insistence. “I wish,” she said, “that you’d find out who she really is before we do anything for her.”
“A hunch?” asked Perry Mason.
“You might call it that,” she said, smiling.
Perry Mason nodded. His face had not changed expression. Only his eyes had become warily watchful.
“All right, send her in, and I’ll take a look at her myself.”
Della Street closed the door as she went out, keeping a hand on the knob, however. Within a few seconds, the knob turned, the door opened, and a woman walked into the room with an air of easy assurance.
She was in her early thirties, or perhaps, her late twenties—well groomed, and giving an appearance of being exceedingly well cared for. She flashed a swiftly appraising glance about the office before she looked at the man seated behind the desk.
“Come in and sit down,” said Perry Mason.
She looked at him then, and there was a faint expression of annoyance upon her face. It was as though she expected men to get up when she came into the room, and to treat her with a deferential recognition of her sex and her position.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 27, 1892 — Thorne Smith. A writer of humorous supernatural fantasy. He is best remembered for the two Topper novels — a comic fantasy fiction mix of plentiful drink, many ghosts and sex. Not necessarily in that order. The original editions of the Topper novels complete with their erotic illustrations are available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1934.)
- Born March 27, 1901 — Carl Barks. Cartoonist, writer, and illustrator. He is best known for his work in Disney comic books, as the writer and artist of the first Donald Duck stories and as the creator of Scrooge McDuck. He wrote The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck. He was one of the three inaugural inductees of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 2000.)
- Born March 27, 1942 — Michael York, 81. I remember him in the Babylon 5 episode “A Late Delivery from Avalon” as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what in his genre list really impresses you?
- Born March 27, 1949 — John Hertz, 74. Winner of the Big Heart Award, presented at the 2003 Worldcon. He’s quite active in the fanzine world publishing the Vanamonde fanzine. Four collections of his fanwriting have been published, West of the Moon, Dancing and Joking, On My Sleeve, and Neither Complete nor Conclusive. He‘s been nominated for the Hugo for Best Fan Writer three times.
- Born March 27, 1952 — Dana Stabenow, 71. Though better known for her superb Kate Shugak detective series of which the first, the Edgar Award-winning A Cold Day for Murder is a Meredith moment right now, she does have genre work to her credit in the excellent Star Svensdotter space series, and the latter is available at the usual digital suspects.
- Born March 27, 1953 — Patricia Wrede, 70. She is a founding member of The Scribblies, along with Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust and Nate Bucklin. Not to be confused with the Pre-Joycean Fellowship which overlaps in membership. Outside of her work for the the Liavek shared-world anthology created and edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, there are several series she has running including Lyra (Shadow Magic), Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate (co-written with Caroline Stevermer). She’s also written the novelizations of several Star Wars films including Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones in what are listed as ‘Jr. Novelizations’.
- Born March 27, 1969 — Pauley Perrette, 54. Though she’s best known for playing Abby Sciuto on NCIS, a role she walked away from under odd circumstances, she does have some genre roles. She was Ramona in The Singularity Is Near, a film based off Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Next up is the most excellent Superman vs. The Elite in which she voices Lois Lane. Let’s see… she had a recurring role on Special Unit 2 as Alice Cramer.
- Born March 27, 1971 — Nathan Fillion, 52. Certainly best known for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly ‘verse. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor. In his case, I’d say most of it. He portrayed Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: Doom, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh, and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb. Anyone watch him in the Castle series? Opinions please.
(12) MAIL FROM JRRT. Two recently discovered “Tolkien letters shine new light on writer’s life and work” at The National Archives. The first page of one of the letters can be read in an image at the link.
Two handwritten letters penned by JRR Tolkien have been discovered for the first time, almost 50 years after the death of the Lord of the Rings author.
The previously unrecorded documents were unearthed by a volunteer working at The National Archives in Kew ahead of Tolkien Reading Day on March 25.
Written in 1945, shortly after Tolkien’s appointment as Professor of English Language and Literature at Merton College, Oxford, the letters are part of an exchange with the British Council about funding for his research into early English languages….
(13) ABOUT THOSE PERSONAL APPEARANCES. After a certain point Bob Kane paid other artists to do the work. Which brings up a question. “Batman: How Did Bob Kane Fake Doing ‘Spur of the Moment’ Drawings?” CBR.com knows the answer. You’ll find it at the link.
…However, that certainly did bring up a major problem for Kane. It was one thing to take credit for other artists’ work, but what happens when you have to demonstrate that you can draw yourself? It’s certainly a bit of a pickle, especially since Kane was such a lover of publicity that he WANTED to do as many public appearances as possible. Well, as it turned out, he solved his problem with a little help from Joe Giella (who was inking “Kane” on the Batman titles at the time, and also ghost penciling and inking the Batman comic strip under Kane’s byline)….
(14) DEATH ON BOARD. “Scare Me Once? Great Game. Scare Me Twice? Great Remake.” The New York Times studies the return of “Isaac Clarke” and what is needed to make successful new versions of vintage video games.
Die-hard fans wanted the floating spaceship of their nightmares, one stocked with mutilated zombies, improvised blowtorches and zero-gravity spectacles. The fictional engineer Isaac Clarke navigated this ramshackle vessel in Dead Space, the popular survival horror video game from 2008 that spawned two sequels.
But when developers at Motive Studios, a division of Electronic Arts based in Montreal, revisited the original for a planned remake nearly 15 years later, something was amiss.
What players remembered as terrifying seemed almost campy by modern standards because of technological advancements to graphics and artificial intelligence that have made gaming more immersive. The developers realized they would need to start from scratch, dismantling the spaceship, redesigning the zombies — known as necromorphs — and constructing new story lines.
“We don’t necessarily want to recreate the game as it was, but like you remember it,” said the remake’s creative director, Roman Campos-Oriola, who previously worked on the Ghost Recon franchise. “That often means breaking stuff, which has a ripple effect.”…
(15) HAWKEYE ACTOR RECOVERING. Jeremy Renner is making progress: “Jeremy Renner Walks in New Video of His Snow Plow Accident Recovery, Actor Uses Anti-Gravity Treadmill”.
… The “Hawkeye” star posted a video to his Instagram story in which he walks with the assistance of an anti-gravity treadmill. Renner confirms in the video that he is doing all of “the walking motion” himself, with the anti-gravity treadmill taking off a percentage of his body weight as his legs slowly recover.
The actor captioned the post: “Now is the time for my body to rest and recover from my will.”…
(16) BEADS OF MOISTURE. From the Guardian: “Glass beads on moon’s surface may hold billions of tonnes of water, scientists say”.
…Anand and a team of Chinese scientists analysed fine glass beads from lunar soil samples returned to Earth in December 2020 by the Chinese Chang’e-5 mission. The beads, which measure less than a millimetre across, form when meteoroids slam into the moon and send up showers of molten droplets. These then solidify and become mixed into the moon dust.
Tests on the glass particles revealed that together they contain substantial quantities of water, amounting to between 300m and 270bn tonnes across the entire moon’s surface.
“This is going to open up new avenues which many of us have been thinking about,” said Anand. “If you can extract the water and concentrate it in significant quantities, it’s up to you how you utilise it.”
Hints that the moon might not be an entirely arid wasteland have emerged from previous missions. In the 1990s, Nasa’s Clementine orbiter found evidence for frozen water in deep, steep-sided craters near the moon’s poles. In 2009, India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft spotted what appeared to be a thin layer of water bound up in the surface layer of moon dust.
The latest research, published in Nature Geoscience, points to fine glass beads as the source of that surface water. Unlike frozen water lurking in permanently shaded craters, this should be far easier to extract by humans or robots working on the moon.
“It’s not that you can shake the material and water starts dripping out, but there’s evidence that when the temperature of this material goes above 100C, it will start to come out and can be harvested,” Anand said….
(17) KEEPING THE ART IN ARTESIAN. This water is closer to home, and leans towards fantasy rather than science fiction. “Elven Spring Magic Water”.
(18) ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK. ScienceAlert breaks the news: “Nope, Stonehenge Isn’t an Ancient Calendar After All, Scientists Say”.
… As dawn breaks on summer solstice and the Sun boldly climbs above the Heel Stone that lies northeast of the circle, shining its rays directly into the heart of Stonehenge, it’s hard to deny that the monument was designed with the turning-point of the seasons in mind.
To a number of scholars, there’s more to Stonehenge’s design than a symbolic reverence for the changing lengths of days. It’s a timekeeper of some detail, a ‘Neolithic computer‘ even, tasked with dividing up the year around less significant events.
Last year, Bournemouth University archaeologist Tim Darvill published his claim that the monument operated as some kind of ‘perpetual calendar’, one based on a solar year equivalent to 365.25 days.
Now, Polytechnic University of Milan mathematician Giulio Magli and astronomer Juan Antonio Belmonte from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, Spain, have countered Darvill’s claim, stating it is based on “a series of forced interpretations, numerology, and unsupported analogies with other cultures”….
(19) HIS SHIP COMES IN. Artist Rick Sternbach shared on Facebook how touched he was to have his name added to canon via Star Trek: Picard.
I’ll say one other thing that should be somewhat obvious; my thanks to everyone involved with Picard for making the USS Sternbach a canon thing. I absolutely appreciate it. When I pressed for the name Bussard to be attached to the matter collectors in Star Trek, and it was accepted, Bob Bussard– *Dr. Robert W. Bussard*, whom I had the pleasure of talking with and learning from as far back as 1983, thanked me for the inclusion. I know how it feels. Onward.
We’re filming the final climax to the next installment of Space Command Forgiveness, the epic Sci-Fi adventure created by Marc Zicree.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Murray Moore, Michael J. Walsh, Dale Arnold, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]