(1) BSFA AWARDS LINK CHANGE. Use this link instead of the one posted yesterday to view the BSFA Awards ceremony on April 4.
BSFA chair Allen Stroud says, “Apologies for the alteration. Owing to a case of deleting a scheduled event (totally my fault), the url for the awards has changed.”
…In the midst of these difficult times, we want to assure everyone that we are actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation. We’re working hard to ascertain every contingency that may have an impact on WFC 2021. We will make modifications to our plans accordingly to keep our membership safe. We sincerely hope there will be progress in controlling and conquering the virus long before our convention, and we are quite confident we will be able to hold an in person convention. We look forward to welcoming you all to Montréal. Please feel free to contact us at any time with your concerns or questions….
(3) 2024 WORLDCON BID NEWS. The UK in 2024 bid committee aired this video update during the virtual Eastercon:
(4) SLF PODCAST LAUNCHES. The Speculative Literature Foundation has started a new podcast, “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans”, hosted by Mary Anne Mohanraj and Benjamin Rosenbaum.
Join two old friends as they talk about science fiction, community, the writing life, teaching, parenting, and a whole lot more. Does Ben really think you should let your kids touch the stove, and did he really burn his son’s homework? Why did he write a novel with no men or women in it? What exactly did a young Mary Anne do to appall her aunts in college, and how did it lead circuitously to her founding science fiction’s longest-running webzine? Mohanraj and Rosenbaum… Are Humans? Yes, yes they are.
Episodes of the Spring 2021 season are being released on Mondays and Thursdays, starting March 22. They’re available on major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, etc. Or tune into the “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” website. Episodes available so far are –
- Episode 1: “Introductions” (Published 22 March 2021)
- Bonus Episode 1: “The Capitol and the Cafe” (Published 25 March 2021)
- Episode 2: “The Toilet Seat Con Hook-Up” (Published 29 March 2021)
Mohanraj is the author of A Feast of Serendib, Bodies in Motion, The Stars Change, and twelve other titles. Mohanraj founded Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine Strange Horizons, and serves as Executive Director of both DesiLit (desilit.org) and the Speculative Literature Foundation (speclit.org). Rosenbaum’s short stories have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Locus, BSFA, and World Fantasy Awards. He designed the Ennie-nominated Jewish historical fantasy tabletop roleplaying game Dream Apart, and serves on the board of Basel’s liberal Jewish congregation, Migwan. He lives in Switzerland with his wife Esther and a gradually emptying nest of children. His first SF novel, The Unravelling, is forthcoming from Erewhon Books.
(5) DC PROJECTS SHELVED. Two DC movies, Ava DuVernay’s New Gods and James Wan’s Aquaman spinoff The Trench, are “not moving forward” Warner Bros. and DC told The Hollywood Reporter.
…New Gods, which DuVernay has been developing as a directing vehicle with acclaimed comic book writer Tom King since 2018, would have brought to the screen the comic book characters created by the late and legendary artist Jack Kirby. DuVernay, however, remains in the DC fold and is currently working on the DC series Naomi for The CW.
The Trench, meanwhile, was to have been a horror-tinged project spinning out of Aquaman and focused on the group of deadly amphibious creatures seen in the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film. Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald had written the script, which Wan was developing as a producer with collaborator Peter Safran. Wan, too, remains in the DC fold as he is prepping to shoot Aquaman 2 for the studio later this year….
(6) THESE SPUDS WON’T PEEL THEMSELVES. Ted Chiang tells New Yorker readers “Why Computers Won’t Make Themselves Smarter”.
…The idea of an intelligence explosion was revived in 1993, by the author and computer scientist Vernor Vinge, who called it “the singularity,” and the idea has since achieved some popularity among technologists and philosophers. Books such as Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies,” Max Tegmark’s “Life 3.0: Being Human in the age of Artificial Intelligence,” and Stuart Russell’s “Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control” all describe scenarios of “recursive self-improvement,” in which an artificial-intelligence program designs an improved version of itself repeatedly.
I believe that Good’s and Anselm’s arguments have something in common, which is that, in both cases, a lot of the work is being done by the initial definitions. These definitions seem superficially reasonable, which is why they are generally accepted at face value, but they deserve closer examination. I think that the more we scrutinize the implicit assumptions of Good’s argument, the less plausible the idea of an intelligence explosion becomes.
… Some proponents of an intelligence explosion argue that it’s possible to increase a system’s intelligence without fully understanding how the system works. They imply that intelligent systems, such as the human brain or an A.I. program, have one or more hidden “intelligence knobs,” and that we only need to be smart enough to find the knobs. I’m not sure that we currently have many good candidates for these knobs, so it’s hard to evaluate the reasonableness of this idea. Perhaps the most commonly suggested way to “turn up” artificial intelligence is to increase the speed of the hardware on which a program runs. Some have said that, once we create software that is as intelligent as a human being, running the software on a faster computer will effectively create superhuman intelligence. Would this lead to an intelligence explosion?…
(7) BLACK WIDOW SPINNING YOUR WAY. “We have unfinished business” is the keynote of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow trailer dropped today. The movie comes to theaters or Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9.
(8) PENNY FRIERSON OBIT. Penny Frierson (1941-2021), co-chair of the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon, has died reports Guy H. Lillian III, who received the news through Charlotte Proctor.
Frierson joined fandom in 1968. She chaired DeepSouthCon 15 in Birmingham, AL in 1977 and helped found the Birmingham Science Fiction Club in 1978.
Penny also was a member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance. She won the Rebel Award in 1986.
She was married to Meade Frierson III, who predeceased her in 2001.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- April 3, 1953 — In London sixty-eight years ago, The War Of The Worlds based on the H.G. wells novel had its very first theatrical showing. It was the recipient of a 1954 Retro-Hugo Award at Noreascon 4 in 2004. It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in 2011 by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born April 3, 1783 — Washington Irving. Best remembered for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter in particular has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series. (Died 1859.) (CE)
- Born April 3, 1905 – Noel Loomis. Two novels, three dozen shorter stories for us (five at Project Gutenberg); also detective fiction; Westerns (including film, television) and related nonfiction: two Spur Awards, President of Western Writers of America. Also printing; he edited this. (Died 1969) [JH]
- Born April 3, 1927 — Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers. He co-founded Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945, Buffalo Book Company in 1946, Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards and a Balrog Award as well. (Died 2009.) (CE)
- Born April 3, 1928 – Colin Kapp. A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories; perhaps best known for the Unorthodox Engineers: collection recently republished for Kindle. CK was an engineer himself, though art doesn’t always work that way. Guest of Honour at Eastercon 31. (Died 2007) [JH]
- Born April 3, 1929 — Ernest Callenbach. Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel and sequel as well was published later. Yes, I read both. As such fiction goes, they’re just ok. If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the rewilded Yosemite Valley is a much more interesting read. (Died 2012.) (CE)
- Born April 3, 1936 — Reginald Hill. Now this surprised me. He’s the author of the most excellent Dalziel and Pascoe copper series centered on profane, often piggish Andrew Dalziel, and his long suffering, more by the book partner Peter Pascoe solving traditional Yorkshire crimes. Well there’s a SF mystery in there set in 2010, many years after the other Dalziel and Pascoe stories, and involves them investigating the first Luna murder. I’ll need to read this one. There’s another with Peter Pascoe as a future European Pan Police Commissioner. (Died 2012.) (CE)
- Born April 3, 1946 — Lyn McConchie, 75. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
- Born April 3, 1950 – Mark Linneman, age 61. Helpful reliable fan often found where such are needed and even the non-monetary compensation we can grant is scant, e.g. tallying Worldcon Site Selection ballots, which ML has done four times I can think of. Often seen at Midwestcons, SMOFcons (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; con for studying, trying to improve, SF cons and like that). North America agent for Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon. Guest of Honor at Concave 33. [JH]
- Born April 3, 1950 – Tony Parker, age 71. Co-chaired TropiCon VIII-IX (with wife Judy Bemis). Guest of Honor at Concave 16 (with JB). Thoughtful and even (sorry, Tony) wise. [JH]
- Born April 3, 1958 – Vanna Bonta. One novel, three collections of poetry. Voice actress in Beauty and the Beast (1991). She, her husband, and the zero-gravity suit she invented were in The Universe (2008); she designed a pressure-release device for high-combustion engines in NASA (U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n) and Northrop Grumman’s Lunar Lander Challenge. Among twelve thousand haiku submitted to NASA for inclusion with the Mars explorer MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere & Volatile EvolutioN), hers made the top five: “Thirty-six million / miles of whispering welcome. / Mars, you called us home.” You’ll see its alliteration; do attend to its ambiguity. (Died 2014) [JH]
- Born April 3, 1958 — Alec Baldwin, 63. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve seen him in Beetlejuice as Adam Maitland since it’s one of my favorite films, period. Despite those who don’t like The Shadow and him in his dual role of Lamont Cranston and The Shadow, I’m quite fond of it. Let’s just skip past any mention of The Cat in the Hat… Ahhhh Rise of the Guardians where he voices Nicholas St. North is quite fantastic. Another go to, feel good film for me. He’s Alan Hunley in some of the Mission: Impossible franchise, a series I think I’ve only seen the first two films of. And here’s a weird one — the US. run of Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends replaced the U.K. narrator, some minor musician no one had ever heard of by the name of Ringo Starr, with him. (CE)
- Born April 3, 1962 — James R. Black, 59. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m not sure anyone actually watched it on UPN that might be stretching reality a bit. If you like great popcorn viewing, The Burning Zone is certainly worth seeing. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs including Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, The Sentinel, Space: Above and Beyond with his first genre role being Doctor Death in Zombie Cop. (CE)
- Born April 3, 1989 – Elaine Vilar Madruga, age 32. Two novels, fifty shorter stories, some in English: last year “Elsinore Revolution”, see the Jan/Feb Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; her poem “The Apocalypse According to My Name” in Spanish and English, see the Spring Star*Line; four more. [JH]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater shows a horror movie villain’s disastrous attempt to change jobs.
(12) THE SOUND OF MUSIC? Puppeteer and space aficionado Mary Robinette Kowal told Twitter followers, “I giggled all the way through this puppet music video ‘Everybody Poops In Space’ from @AdlerPlanet There’s a SINGING FECAL CONTAINMENT BAG”. Consider yourself warned.
(13) FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP. Variety’s Matthew Chernov puts 33 films in order in “Godzilla: All the Movies Ranked Including ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’”.
He’s been dissolved at the bottom of the ocean, frozen solid in an iceberg, blown up in a volcano, disintegrated in an atomic meltdown, and killed by missiles on the Brooklyn Bridge, but thanks to the millions of fans who love him, Godzilla will never die. Japan’s biggest star returns again in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the latest entry in the Big G’s ever-expanding filmography. Pitted against his hairy rival for the second time in history, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the fourth movie in Legendary Pictures popular MonsterVerse saga, which launched in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ stylish reboot.
Like many long-running franchises, the Godzilla series has gone through a number of distinct phrases since its introduction. The first phrase, which covers the 15 titles released between 1954 and 1975, is commonly known by fans as the Showa era. These kaiju films (kaiju is the Japanese term for giant monster) are marked by their dramatic shift in tone, from the somber and haunting original classic to the wonderfully ludicrous “Godzilla vs. Hedorah.”
The second phase is often referred to as the Heisei era, and it includes the seven titles released between 1984 and 1995. These Godzilla films feature a greater sense of narrative continuity, and they ask complex philosophical questions about science and humanity. The third phase is the Millennium era, which covers the six titles released between 1999 and 2004. The majority of these Godzilla films are self-contained stories, much like an anthology series. There have also been a number of standalone reboots, both Japanese and American, that put their own unique spin on the character.
To help you program the ultimate monster marathon, here’s our Godzilla movie ranking, listed from wretched worst to bestial best. Long live the lizard king!
(14) WAS THE GRINCH AN ASTRONAUT? [Item by rcade.] Spaceflight can cause the heart to shrink, according to a study in the journal Circulation led by Dr. Benjamin Levine of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Long spaceflights and endurance swimming can ‘shrink the heart’” at BBC News.
The study examined astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days about the International Space Station, and endurance swimmer Benoît Lecomte. Swimming for extended periods of time is a useful model for time spent in orbit. Lecomte trained over five hours a day for five months preparing to swim the Pacific Ocean.
Both Kelly and Lecomte showed signs of heart atrophy and lost mass in the organ — 19 to 27 percent loss in Kelly.
One of the things we’ve learned over many years of study, is that the heart is remarkably plastic. So the heart adapts to the load that’s placed on it. …
In spaceflight, one of the things that happens, is you no longer have to pump blood uphill, because you’re not pumping against gravity….
(15) WITCHER WRAP. Netflix dropped a behind-the-scenes trailer for season 2 of The Witcher.
15 locations, 89 cast members, and 1,200 crew members later, The Witcher has officially wrapped production on Season 2! Here’s a look behind-the-scenes at some of the excitement among the cast and crew – led by showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich.
(16) WHAT’S BUGGING YOU? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri offers a “handy quiz” to determine whether you’re someone who is emerging from a year of pandemic lockdown or if you are a Brood X cicada!
Check all that apply:
- You haven’t had any contact with friends or other members of your generation in what feels like 17 years….
(17) FAKE OLDS TO GO WITH FAKE NEWS. Gizmodo surveys research showing how “Scientists Implant and Then Reverse False Memories in People”.
Researchers have demonstrated just how easy it is to trick the mind into remembering something that didn’t happen. They also used two very simple techniques to reverse those false memories, in a feat that paves the way for a deeper understanding of how memory works….
“When people describe a memory, they will say that they are ‘absolutely certain’ of it. But this certainty can be an illusion. We suffer from the illusion of believing that our memories are accurate and pure,” Lisa Son, professor of Psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University, told Gizmodo. “This is despite the fact that we, in fact, forget all the time.”
Indeed, our minds are able to fabricate memories of entire events just by piecing together bits of stories, photographs, and anecdotes somebody else shares. These so-called false memories have been a hot topic of research for a while now, and there’s growing evidence that they could be a widespread phenomenon, according to a 2016 analysis of the field.
Building off of that, Oeberst’s lab recently implanted false memories in 52 people by using suggestive interviewing techniques. First, they had the participants’ parents privately answer a questionnaire and come up with some real childhood memories and two plausible, but fake, ones—all negative in nature, such as how their pet died or when they lost their toy. Then they had researchers ask the participants to recall these made-up events in a detailed manner, including specifics about what happened. For example, “Your parents told us that when you were 12 years old during a holiday in Italy with your family you got lost. Can you tell me more about it?”
The test subjects met their interviewer three times, once every two weeks, and by the third session most participants believed these anecdotes were true, and over half (56%) developed and recollected actual false memories—a significantly higher percentage than most studies in this area of research….
(18) REMEMBER THE DEAN DRIVE. “Latest EmDrive tests at Dresden University shows “impossible Engine” does not develop any thrust”.
… After tests in NASA laboratories had initially stirred up hope that the so-called EmDrive could represent a revolutionary, fuel-free alternative to space propulsion, the sobering final reports on the results of intensive tests and analyzes of three EmDrive variants by physicists at the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) are now available. Grenzwissenschaft-Aktuell.de (GreWi) has exclusively interviewed the head of studies Prof. Dr. Martin Tajmar about the results….
(19) DOUBLE DUTCH LUNAR EXCURSION MODULE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Live Science asks “How long would it take to walk around the moon?” Depends whether you go with the wind before or behind you, right?
…A total of 12 humans have stepped foot on the lunar surface, all of whom were part of the Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972, according to NASA. The footage that was beamed back to Earth showed how challenging (and, apparently, fun) it was to walk — or more accurately, bounce — around in the moon’s low gravity, which is one-sixth the gravity of Earth.
However, research from NASA has since suggested that it is possible for humans to maneuver much faster on the moon than the Apollo astronauts did. Theoretically, walking the circumference of the moon could be done faster than previously predicted.
Picking up the pace
During the Apollo missions, astronauts bounced around the surface at a casual 1.4 mph (2.2 km/h), according to NASA. This slow speed was mainly due to their clunky, pressurized spacesuits that were not designed with mobility in mind. If the “moonwalkers” had sported sleeker suits, they might have found it a lot easier to move and, as a result, picked up the pace.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Persona 5 Strikers” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game combines the happy joys of teenagers vacationing in Japan with the thrill of ‘spending 80 hours slaughtering one billion people,” a combination that’s like “peanut butter and methamphetamines.”
[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Cat Eldridge, Guy H. Lillian III, JJ, John Hertz, Lorien Gray, Rob Thornton, JeffWarner, Andrew Porter, rcade, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]