(1) CLARKESWORLD AGAIN DELUGED WITH AI MSS. Neil Clarke told Facebook readers today his magazine Clarkesworld has been inundated with another round of AI-produced submissions.
After a bit of a reprieve, we started getting hit hard with generated submissions/spam again this month. We’re approaching 300 for the month. This morning, I finally figured out where they were coming from. Took some effort to track down since the video (and its copycats) aren’t in English. Another make quick money scam, but this time targeting us specifically. The person behind it shows our website and even lingers around the “No ChatGPT” statements in the guidelines and submission form, before going to ChatGPT, generating, and submitting. He was previously banned for this, so he knows it won’t work. Have filed a complaint with YouTube, but I doubt they’ll do anything about it.
I’m not looking to start another round of the AI argument. It’s just our policy, like word count limits and genre restrictions.
I have upped our settings on my home-grown spam filter, so if you are submitting and use a proxy or VPN, you might find yourself with a slower response time.
(2) MEANWHILE, A CLARKESWORLD SUCCESS. Neil Clarke’s May Clarkesworld editorial says that when it comes to one of his sf-in-translation projects, “Something Went Mostly Right”.
…Finally, in early 2023, we were in a position to launch our pilot project. From January 15th through February 15th, we held our first open call for submissions written in Spanish, but never published in English.
The key element for this project was having a strong team that was well-aligned with our tastes and goals. I want to express my deepest gratitude to Nelly Geraldine Garcia-Rosas, Cristina Jurado, and Loreto ML for their time and work as part of the fiction team. They handled all of the first reading for the 1124 submissions we received, providing me with detailed summaries and personal assessments. From there, we narrowed the pile down to thirty-three works. Those endured a much more in-depth second round of consideration that ultimately led to the acceptance of eight stories that we will translate and publish over the course of next year.
In the interest of transparency, I want to explain how the second round evaluation process was carried out. Each of the thirty-three works was read by the entire team. In my case, that required the use of machine translation. These tools are horribly unreliable, but understanding that, I placed more emphasis on the reader’s description and team members’ individual feedback. Those bad translations often prompted me to ask more questions, which led to a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each story. Just as with our English language submissions, there were strong works that were ultimately rejected because they didn’t fit our publication. (If there was a trend among those, it might have been that they drifted a bit further into horror than I typically like.)…
(3) WINNIPEG NASFIC WILL RAISE MEMBERSHIP RATES. Pemmi-Con, the 15th North American Science Fiction Convention, announced that membership rates will increase May 15. Full details at the link.
The convention is happening July 20-23 at the Delta Hotels Winnipeg and the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.
(4) WAIT, ARE WALLACE AND GROMIT JEDI NOW? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Empire tells “How Aardman Took On Star Wars: The Making Of ‘I Am Your Mother’”.
Like all good Star Wars stories, it began with a vital transmission. Except, this one wasn’t from Princess Leia, nor was it delivered in the memory unit of an R2 droid.
It was, simply, a phone call to the offices of Aardman Animations – beamed from Skywalker Ranch, home of the legendary Lucasfilm, to the Bristol-based HQ of Britain’s most beloved animation studio, back in March 2021. It was, says Aardman’s Executive Creative Director Sarah Cox, “a mysterious call”. And like Leia’s message, it came with a mission: for the quintessentially British stop-motion studio behind Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run to create its very own short for animated anthology Star Wars: Visions, with an open remit for what that might entail. The possibilities were vast. But for the studio that once delivered a definitive answer on whether the moon is made of cheese (it is, as we now know, similar to Wensleydale) Cox had one big question: “Can we be funny?”
Comedy has rarely been at the forefront of Star Wars’ mind. Thankfully, pushing the boundaries of what Star Wars can be is Visions’ entire raison d’être. Volume 1, released in September 2021, was a thrilling visual and narrative experiment, letting seven Japanese anime studios loose on the iconography of the galaxy far, far away to interpret as they pleased – resulting in everything from black-and-white samurai showdowns, to vibrant rock band rhapsodies. For all the wildness, it remained rooted in the Japanese traditions that George Lucas drew from when first creating Star Wars – a cyclical cultural exchange. In Volume 2, streaming from today on Disney+, the series goes worldwide, featuring shorts from countries including India, Ireland, South Africa, Chile, France – and, yes, the UK. “I always framed it as, ‘Think of it like the Street Fighter map’,” laughs Lucasfilm’s James Waugh. “The cultural element of Volume 1 was so unique, that we felt that could happen in Volume 2 with multiple perspectives. There was an opportunity here to really showcase all of those incredible voices.”…
(5) BRUCE MCCALL (1935-2023.) Humorist and illustrator Bruce McCall died May 5. The New York Times obituary discussed his memorable satires.
Bruce McCall, whose satirical illustrations for National Lampoon and The New Yorker conjured up a plutocratic dream world of luxury zeppelin travel, indoor golf courses and cars like the Bulgemobile Airdreme, died on Friday in the Bronx. He was 87.
His wife, Polly McCall, said his death, at Calvary Hospital, was caused by Parkinson’s disease.
Borrowing from the advertising style seen in magazines like Life, Look and Collier’s in the 1930s and ’40s, Mr. McCall depicted a luminous fantasyland filled with airplanes, cars and luxury liners of his own creation. It was a world populated by carefree millionaires who expected caviar to be served in the stations of the fictional Fifth Avenue Subway and carwashes to spray their limousines with champagne…
…A wider audience knew Mr. McCall through the collections “Bruce McCall’s Zany Afternoons” (1982), “The Last Dream-o-Rama: The Cars Detroit Forgot to Build, 1950-1960” (2001), and “All Meat Looks Like South America: The World of Bruce McCall” (2003).
He was “our country’s greatest unacknowledged design visionary,” the critic and graphic designer Michael Bierut wrote in Design Observer in 2005, “the visual poet of American gigantism.”…
(6) MEMORY LANE.
2013 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Today’s Beginning is from Esther Friesner who has written a lot of fiction that I’ve read. Her humorous style of writing can be a bit much sometimes but I like it when I’m in the right mood.
She has won no Hugos but did garner two Nebulas for short stories, “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”. (The latter got her a Hugo nomination at L.A. Con III.) She also got a much deserved Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction.
I decided upon E. Godz which was co-written by Esther Friesner and Robert Asprin. It was published by Bean Books a decade ago. The cover was illustrated by Gary Ruddell.
This being Baen Books, it is not available from the usual suspects but only from Bean Books. Surely you’re not surprised, are you?
So here’s our Beginning. I think it’s quite interesting…
On a lovely spring morning in the hyperborean wilderness of Poughkeepsie, New York, Edwina Godz decided that she had better die. She did not make that decision lightly, but in exactly the manner that such a (literally) life-altering choice should, ought, and must be made. That is to say, after a nice cup of tea.
It wasn’t as if she was about to kill herself. Just die.
She reached the aforementioned decision almost by accident, while pondering the sorry state of her domestic situation and seeking a cure for the combination of headache, tummy trouble, and spiritual upheaval she always experienced every time she thought about her family. Under similar circumstances, most women would head right for the medicine cabinet, but Edwina Godz was a firm believer in the healing power of herbs. Better living through chemistry was all very well and good, yet when it came down to cases that involved the aches, pains, and collywobbles of day-to-day living, you couldn’t beat natural remedies with a stick.
Especially if the stick in question was a willow branch. Surprising how few people realized that good old reliable aspirin was derived from willow bark.
Edwina realized this, all right. In fact, she was a walking encyclopedia of herbal therapy lore. It was partly a hobby, partly a survival mechanism. You didn’t get to be the head of a multicultural conglomerate like E. Godz, Inc. without making a few very . . . creative enemies. When you grew your own medicines, you didn’t have to worry about the FDA falling down on the job when it came to safeguarding the purity of whatever remedy the ailment of the moment demanded. Perhaps it was a holdover from her chosen self-reliant life-style all the way back in the dinosaur days of the ’60s, but Edwina Godz was willing to live by the wisdom that if you wanted to live life to the fullest, without the pesky interference of the Man, you should definitely grow your own.
No question about it, Edwina had grown her own, and it didn’t stop at herbs for all occasions. However, at the moment, herbs were the subject under consideration.
Specifically: which one to take to fix Edwina’s present malaise? It wasn’t going to be an easy choice, not by a long shot. Peppermint tea was good for an upset tummy, though ginger was better, but valerian was calming and chamomile was the ticket if you were having trouble getting to sleep. Then again, green tea was rich in antioxidants, which were simply unsurpassed when it came to maintaining one’s overall health, and ginseng was a marvelous source of all sorts of energy, while gingko biloba—
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 7, 1912 — Clyde Beck. Fan and critic who wrote what Clute says in EoSF is the first work of criticism devoted to American SF: Hammer and Tongs which was published in 1937 by Futile Press. It was assembled from four essays and the reviews Beck wrote for The Science Fiction Critic, a fanzine by his brother Claire P. Beck with a newly written author’s preface by Clyde. He wrote four pieces of genre fiction between the Thirties and Fifties. None of what he wrote is in-print. (Died 1986.)
- Born May 7, 1918 — Walt Liebscher. His fanzine Chanticleer was a finalist for the 1946 Retro-Hugo; Harry Warner said “Liebscher did incredible things with typewriter art. He specialized in little faces with subtle expressions…. the contents page was frequently a dazzling display of inventive borders and separating lines.” His later pro writing was collected in Alien Carnival (1974). He was given the Big Heart, our highest service award, in 1981. (Died 1985.) (JJ)
- Born May 7, 1922 — Darren McGavin. Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have I seen it? I’ve lost count long, long ago. Yes, it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in the Tales of Tomorrow series as Bruce Calvin in “The Duplicates” episode. (Died 2006.)
- Born May 7, 1931 — Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate Freedom, The Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. He’s won the BFA, Nebula, Skylark, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards but to my surprise has never won a Hugo though he has been nominated quite a few times. He has been honored as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (Died 2019.)
- Born May 7, 1940 — Angela Carter. Another one taken far too young by the damn Reaper. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very, very adult in tone. And I’d also recommend The Curious Room as it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA-winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury, and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant and quite unsettling look at the theatre world. I’ve done several essays on her so far and no doubt will do more. A smattering of her works are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1992.)
- Born May 7, 1951 — John Fleck, 72. One of those performers the Trek casting staff really like as he’s appeared in Next Generation, Deep Space Nine in three different roles, Voyager and finally on Enterprise in the recurring role of Silik. And like so many Trek alumni, he shows up on The Orville.
- Born May 7, 1951 — Gary Westfahl, 72. SF reviewer for the LA Times, Internet Review of Science Fiction and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
(8) LAYOFFS AT IDW. “IDW to Slash Workforce by 39%, Delist from NYSE” reports Publishers Weekly.
IDW Media will lay off 39% of its staff and delist from the New York Stock Exchange in what the company called “cost-cutting measures” taken in “response to operational challenges.”
Among the staff affected by layoffs are the entire marketing and PR departments and half of the editorial department, including publisher Nachie Marsham, who has served in the role since September 2020. In all, 28 employees are being let go and IDW has budgeted $900,000 to cover severance costs.
IDW has also announced several changes to senior management in light of the staff reduction and NYSE delisting. CEO Allan Grafman will be replaced by Davidi Jonas, who most recently served as IDW’s chief strategy officer, and is the son of IDW chairman Howard Jonas. Grafman had served as CEO since August 2022. Additionally, CFO Brooke Feinstein has been let go, and Amber Huerta, previously senior v-p of people and organizational development, has been promoted to COO.
IDW operates in two groups—its publishing division, which publishes comic books and graphic novels and includes the Top Shelf imprint, and its entertainment division, which produces and distributes multimedia content based on the publishing group’s original book content….
(9) MAURICE HORN (1931-2022). Comics historian, author, editor and curator Maurice C. Horn passed away on December 30, 2022, at the age of 91. The Comics Journal profiles his achievements and controversies.
… The success of the encyclopedias gave Horn the financial stability and clout to write about other comics-related topics. Books such as Comics of the American West (Winchester Press, 1977), Women in the Comics (Chelsea House, 1977), Burne Hogarth’s The Golden Age of Tarzan, 1939-1942 (Chelsea House, 1977), and Sex in the Comics (Chelsea House, 1985) proved commercially successful enough to warrant multiple printings and new editions over the course of several decades, but none had the lasting impact of The World Encyclopedia of Comics. Marshall laments that too many of Horn’s later works “essentially were rehashes of his pioneering books, brought out in multi-volume editions to enhance library-sale profits, or justified by anniversaries of the business.”
100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, published by Gramercy in 1996, was Horn’s final major publication.Horn returned to his roots in 1996 with 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, an illustrated encyclopedia published by Gramercy in belated celebration of the centennial of the Yellow Kid. The 414-page volume, with its tighter focus, less-rushed publication schedule and dedicated team of writers and researchers who benefited from the nearly decades of comics scholarship that followed the publication of The World Encyclopedia of Comics, is considered by many historians to be Horn’s most accurate and comprehensive work….
(10) LOOKING AHEAD. At Instant Future, John Shirley interviews Rudy Rucker. “Flash Forward: An Interview with Rudy Rucker!”
Q. What do you think of the “science fiction future”, in re the fiction out there?
A. It seems about the same as ever, although way more diverse. And there’s more emphasis on social issues and the environment. Not as much wild science as I’d like to see, but that stuff is hard to invent. As ever, a good procedure is to glom onto some standard SF trope and work it into a transreal novel about your own life. Transreal? That’s a word I invented in 1983 to describe my process of writing SF novels in which characters are based either on me or on people I know. See my “Transrealist Manifesto.”
Transrealism is kind of a beatnik thing, writing novels about your own life. And of course Phil Dick and Kurt Vonnegut and Kim Stanley Robinson did it too…
(11) CHAT CHIMPANZEE. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week” is Charles Portis’ “The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth”.
In Portis’s final story, a local reporter investigates a billionaire-funded project in which armies of monkeys generate massive volumes of text to supersede the “old elitist notion of writing as some sort of algebra.”
. . . Is the musty old prophecy at last being fulfilled? We now have millions of monkeys pecking away more or less at random, day and night, on millions of personal computer keyboards. We have “word processors,” the Internet, e-mail, and “the information explosion.” Futurists at our leading universities tell us the day is at hand when, out of this maelstrom of words, a glorious literature must emerge, and indeed flourish.
So far, however, as of today, Tuesday, September 14, late afternoon, the tally still seems to be fixed at:
Shakespeare: 198, Monkeys: 0
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Just for fun, here’s Amaury Guichon sculpting a Stormtrooper helmet out of chocolate. Jennifer Hawthorne says, “His chocolate creations are amazing but this is the first time I’m aware of that he’s done something of the SFF genre. Maybe a campaign could be organized to request that he do the NCC-1701, or a chocolate Balrog!”
I have created this wearable chocolate helmet in preparation of May the 4th! It was a lot of fun crafting it without the use of any molds. What do you think of the final result?
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Paul Di Filippo, Jennifer Hawthorne, Murray Moore, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]