(1) CONTEST KERFUFFLE. The Self-Published Science Fiction Competition has announced that one of its judging teams – unnamed in their statement, but it’s Team EPIC – will no longer be participating.
Kris, who reviews on YouTube as A Fictional Escapist, and formerly at EPIC Indie, said they found something on EPIC’s “About” page that led them to leave the SPSFC’s Team EPIC. They gave this explanation on X.com. And followed with a screencap of the offending rules.
Team EPIC leader Matthew Olney published a statement on X.com:
Some of the exchanges have been taken down. Other parts can still be traced starting with this tweet by JCM Berne.
(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. [By Lisa Hertel.] I visited Erwin Strauss at Steere House in Providence, R.I. today. He is in good spirits and resting comfortably, and would love visitors, cards, or phone calls; he has his mobile. (Obviously use his real name when you are at reception or talking to the switchboard.) If he doesn’t answer the phone, try again later. He expects to be in Providence through mid-January.
(3) 400-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR AND SCIENTIST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s Front Row devotes its first third of the programme to Margaret Cavendish, the British scientist and SF author who was born 400 years ago and known for her novel The Blazing World (1666), which of course pre-dates Frankenstein 1818. In The Blazing World there is a parallel Earth which can be accessed via the North Pole as the barrier between the two Earths is weakest there….
Margaret Cavendish was born exactly 400 years ago, and her many achievements include writing The Blazing World, arguably the first ever sci-fi novel. Novelist Siri Hustvedt and biographer Francesca Peacock discuss the enduring legacy of this pioneering woman.
You can hear the programme here.
(4) PICKING UP THE BRUSH. “Dream of Talking to Vincent van Gogh? A.I. Tries to Resurrect the Artist.” The New York Times tells how it’s being done. Doesn’t seem quite as cheerful as in that Doctor Who episode.
…His paintings have featured in major museum exhibitions this year. Immersive theaters in cities like Miami and Milan bloom with projections of his swirling landscapes. His designs now appear on everything from sneakers to doormats, and a recent collaboration with the Pokémon gaming franchise was so popular that buyers stampeded at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, forcing it to suspend selling the trading cards in the gift shop.
But one of the boldest attempts at championing van Gogh’s legacy yet is at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, where a lifelike doppelgänger of the Dutch artist chats with visitors, offering insights into his own life and death (replete with machine-learning flubs).
“Bonjour Vincent,” intended to represent the painter’s humanity, was assembled by engineers using artificial intelligence to parse through some 900 letters that the artist wrote during the 1800s, as well as early biographies written about him. However the algorithm still needed some human guidance on how to answer the touchiest questions from visitors, who converse with van Gogh’s replica on a digital screen, through a microphone. The most popular one: Why did van Gogh kill himself? (The painter died in July 1890 after shooting himself in a wheat field near Auvers.)
Visitors can chat with the A.I. Vincent van Gogh through a microphone. In this video, A.I. van Gogh responds to questions about his paintings.Video via Jumbo Mana
Hundreds of visitors have asked that morbid question, museum officials said, explaining that the algorithm is constantly refining its answers, depending on how the question is phrased. A.I. developers have learned to gently steer the conversation on sensitive topics like suicide to messages of resilience.
“I would implore this: cling to life, for even in the bleakest of moments, there is always beauty and hope,” said the A.I. van Gogh during an interview.
The program has some less oblique responses. “Ah, my dear visitor, the topic of my suicide is a heavy burden to bear. In my darkest moments, I believed that ending my life was the only escape from the torment that plagued my mind,” van Gogh said in another moment, adding, “I saw no other way to find peace.”…
(5) LOCAL SFF WORKSHOP. The organization that hosts The Tomorrow Prize and the Green Feather Award will hold a workshop at a library in Pasadena (CA) next week.
My name is Valentina Gomez and I am very excited to introduce myself as the new Literary Arts Coordinator for the Omega Sci-Fi Project! I am reaching out to invite your participation in this season’s short science fiction story writing program, both through creative writing workshops and student story submissions.
Join our upcoming creative writing workshop at the Jefferson branch of the Pasadena Public Library on 12/19, catered to young creative writers and open to all ages! Please share with the high-school students in your life!
(6) YOU’LL KEEP HEARING THIS. Former Google and Apple executive Kim Scott asks “Will Books Survive Spotify?” in a New York Times opinion piece.
Spotify may have made it easier than ever for us to listen to an enormous trove of music, but it extracted so much money in doing so that it impoverished musicians. Now the company is turning its attention to books with a new offering. It will do the same thing to writers, whose audiobooks Spotify has begun streaming in a new and more damaging way.
We’ve read this story before. Tech platforms and their algorithms have a tendency to reward high-performing creators — the more users they get, the more likely they are to attract more. In Spotify’s case, that meant that in 2020, 90 percent of the royalties it paid out went to the top 0.8 percent of artists, according to an analysis by Rolling Stone.
That leaves the vast majority — including many within even that small group — struggling to earn a living. The promise of the business strategy laid out in the book “The Long Tail” was that a slew of niche creators would prosper on the internet. That has proved illusory for most content creators. It’s a winner-takes-all game; too often the tech platforms aggregating the content and the blockbusters win it all, starving the vast majority of creators. The result is a gradual deterioration of our culture, our understanding of ourselves and our collective memories.
This is why regulation is so crucial. Before writing books, I worked at Google, leading three large sales and operations teams and before that, I was a senior policy adviser at the Federal Communications Commission. What I learned is that today’s tech platforms are different from the kind of monopolies of an earlier era that inspired our regulatory framework. Their networks can have powerful positive or negative impacts. We don’t want to regulate away the value they can create, but the damage they can cause is devastating. We need a regulatory framework that can distinguish between them….
(7) DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF. The Hollywood Reporter cues up the “Civil War Trailer: Kirsten Dunst Stars in Politically Charged Movie”.
As the trailer reveals, Kirsten Dunst stars as a journalist living in a near future in which 19 states have seceded from the Union, with Western Forces (including California and Texas) and the Florida Alliance among those in the conflict. Meanwhile, the three-term President of the United States, played by Nick Offerman, has ordered air strikes on U.S. soil against these forces.
“Every time I survived a war zone, I thought I was sending a warning home: don’t do this,” Dunst’s character says as she attempts to reach Washington, even as forces close in on the city….
(8) MEMORY LANE.
[Written by Cat Eldridge from a selection by Mike Glyer.]
1962 — A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a work that I saw and read but once in both cases but is still inedible upon my mind’s eye.
The novel was published first by William Heinemann Ltd., in 1962 and I read in University in a literature class taught by professor who very obviously thought SF was cool as Le Guin and Bradbury were also included. I won’t say I like it but then I’m not into novels involving sexual violence. Very really not.
Now the film was fascinating the way encountering a cobra was — Stanley Kubrick captured the dangerous of the characters in the book all too well. Still didn’t want to see it again, like not encountering a cobra again, but it was worth seeing once.
So here’s our beginning.
What’s it going to be then, eh?
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, o my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels and Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg.Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I’m starting off the story with.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born December 13, 1954 — Emma Bull, 69. Damn, I can’t believe Emma Bull is sixty nine! My mind’s image of her is fixed upon her being the imperious sidhe queen in the War for the Oaks trailer shot way back in Will thinks 1994 according him just now in an email.
Her first novel. War for The Oaks was published in paperback by Ace Books thirty-six years ago. And then that publisher promptly tied up the rights so that it would be fourteen years before Tor Books could release another edition. Yeah Emma wasn’t happy.
It, along with Bone Dance which would be nominated for a Hugo at MagiCon, and Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands show, I believe, a remarkably great writer of genre fiction.
I’m pleased to say that I have personally signed copies of all of them. Two of them for Oaks, one not long after she broke both forearms at a Minneapolis RenFaire and another after they’d moved to Bisbee, Arizona and she’d healed up quite a bit.
(I absolutely love Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands love which is along with the two novel written by Wills are the only novel in Terri Windling’s Bordertown universe. I still, sort of spoiler alert, makes me sniff every time I read it.)
(Not to say I that I don’t love War for the Oaks and Bone Dance as I do. I cannot count how many times I’ve read each one of them.)
Now about that trailer. It was financed by Will at his own expense from money originally intended first and run first the governorship of Minnesota. Emma as I said is the sidhe Queen here and I know any of you that were active in Minnesota fandom back then will no doubt be able to tell me who many of the performers are here as Will tells me that many of them came from local fandom.
(I really do need to do an in-depth interview with him about this sometime.)
The music is by Flash Girls and Cats Laughing. Emma was in both, and some of the music the latter played is referred to in the novel as being played by Eddi and the Fey. (Cats Laughing didn’t form until after the novel.) Lorraine Garland, Gaiman’s administrative assistant at that time, was the other half of the Flash Girls.
Lorraine went to found another group, Folk Underground, whose tasteful black t-shirt of, one moment while I look, three skeleton musicians (violinist, guitarist, accordionist) in coffins I have twenty years in remarkably good shape.
Oh, the screenplay did later get published. It’s an interesting read.
So what else? There’s Liavek, a most excellent fantasy trade city akin to one Aspirin did. She and Will edited the many volumes of them on Ace with, and I think this a complete listing, Gene Wolfe, Steven Brust, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Emma Bull, Nancy Kress, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Megan Lindholm, Barry Longyear and Will Shetterly. Generally speaking, they’re all fine reading, lighter in tone that Thieves’ World is.
Finally there’s the Shadow Unit series which created by her and Elizabeth Bear. If you like X-Files, you’ll love this series as it’s obvious that both of them are deep lovers of that series and their FBI unit, the Anomalous Crimes Task Force, could well exist in the same universe.
Well there’s one more that reflect their deep love of the Deadwood video series, her Territory novel. This is certainly one of the more unique tellings of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the Clantons and what happened there. I particularly like the dialogue heron, some of the best I’ve seen anywhere.
And no, this doesn’t by any means cover everything as she wrote some truly great short fiction set in the Borderlands universe, not to mention the novel she wrote with Stephen Brust, Freedom & Necessity which I could write an entire essay on. Wait I did, didn’t I? She even did space opera of sorts in Falcon. And there’s a wonderful children’s book that she sent Green Man to review, The Princess and the Lord of Night.
(10) LOOKS GREEN TO HIM. For what it’s worth, someone is reporting “’Dune: Messiah’ Greenlit by Warner Bros, 2027 Release Date Eyed” says World of Reel.
…As for “Dune: Messiah,” the trilogy capper, we have an update on that project, and it seems to be picking up some major steam. At this point, its future making is turning into an inevitability. Here’s Jeff Sneider, via his newsletter:
“I’m already hearing rumblings that WB is so bullish on Villeneuve’s vision for Dune that ‘Part Three’ has already been greenlit with a 2027 release date in mind. WB sees Part Two as a home run, and internally, I’m hearing the studio is already projecting an opening north of $100 million. That may be optimistic, but given the trailer above, hardly out of the question….”
(11) ODD NOGGIN. [Item by Steven French.] Shirley this can’t be true?! (Sorry – channeling Airplane! there …) Gastro Obscura introduces readers to the “Head of the Egopantis”. “The head of a legendary creature allegedly killed during colonial times is now on display at a local restaurant.” Unlike Bigfoot and Nessie, this one supposedly has left remains.
… According to legend, the Egopantis was a mighty and terrifying creature that once roamed the woods behind the tavern instilling fear among the locals. One evening, a Captain named Nathaniel Smith spotted the creature wading through the Mulpus Brook and took aim with his musket. He fired mortally wounding the creature which charged across the brook before succumbing to its injuries. The colossal Egopantis had been felled with its head and the musket both on display ever since….
(12) IT’S A SMALL WORLD. “Researchers Develop Tiny Cute VR Goggles For Mice With Big Implications” at HotHardware. Daniel Dern quips, “Raptors seldom strafe passes/at meeces with VR glasses.”
Virtual reality can be an immersive way to play games, experience new environments, or consume and learn new content for anyone of any age. With that philosophy in mind, scientists have expanded the use cases of VR to rodents to enable new pathways and possibilities in neuroscience with tiny mouse-sized VR goggles that simulate environments better than ever before.
Earlier this week, researchers from Northwestern University published research outlining a new mouse VR goggle system called Miniature Rodent Stereo Illumination VR, or iMRSIV system….
(13) SUPERCONDENSATION. From 10 years ago, “Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short”.
From the creative minds of Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) and Bruce Timm (Superman: The Animated Series) and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, this short follows Superman through the years, from his first appearance on the cover of Action Comics #1 to Henry Cavill in this year’s Man of Steel…all in two minutes!
(14) NIHILISTIC ALIENS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur spent his monthly Sci-Fi Sunday looking at nihilistic aliens.
Many doubt whether existence has any purpose or meaning, but could entirely civilizations become nihilistic. Would this spell their doom? And if not, what would they be like?
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Ersatz Culture, Andrew Porter, Steven French, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]