(1) CALL FOR ACTION. Shepherd is looking for trans people to be supported by others refusing to participate in cons in states that are enacting these kinds of laws.
A Twitter discussion of the proposed Missouri law and link to its text is here.
(2) STILL “HALLUCINATES FACTS WITH GREAT CONFIDENCE”. “OpenAI Debuts GPT-4” and Publishers Weekly describes the claimed improvements.
OpenAI, the company behind GPT-3 and ChatGPT, today announced the release of GPT-4. This is a major upgrade to the amount of textual and image data that GPT relies on for its (mostly) uncannily accurate and verbose responses. OpenAI says that “GPT-4 is more reliable, creative, and able to handle much more nuanced instructions than GPT-3.5.”
The dataset is clearly larger than the earlier versions, though OpenAI is cagey as to the current size. The last version appeared to know little or nothing beyond early 2020; GPT-4 is trained with data up to September 2021.
GPT-4 is a so-called “multimodal large language model,” meaning it responds to both text and images. In the product demo, a picture of food in a fridge was used to generate recipes for the range of leftovers on display.
OpenAI readily admits that GPT-4 has the same limitations as previous GPT models and is not fully reliable—it “hallucinates” facts with great confidence. But the extensive data published on the product web page shows that the new version performs far better than its predecessors. OpenAI claims that GPT-4 is 82% less likely to respond to requests for content that isn’t currently allowed, and 60% less likely to make stuff up….
(3) PATTERSON QUIZZED ABOUT BAN. Martin County, Florida school district officials removed James Patterson’s YA series Maximum Ride from its elementary school library but is keeping it accessible for older students. The author’s reaction? “James Patterson: If Florida bans my books, ‘no kids under 12 should go to Marvel movies’” at MSN.com. The piece includes a Q&A.
You live nearby in Palm Beach County. Would you consider speaking directly to Martin County school board officials?
I almost went up there, and if the book had been totally banned, I would have.
But if I did speak to them, I’d say look, absolutely it’s important for you to keep your kids safe, and you should do a better job at that. If a book comes into your home with your child ask them, ‘What’s it about? Are you enjoying it? Oh, you’re having nightmares, let’s talk about it.’ But there are far scarier things on the internet than there are in libraries.
(4) A 451 DEMONSTRATION. “Worried about book banning, local faith group plans a public reading” of a Bradbury book, and it’s happening in Summerfield, Florida on March 18.
Amid a nationwide controversy over select books being banned, the Tri-County Unitarian Universalists in Summerfield will host a marathon public reading of the book “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury on Saturday, March 18. While not currently banned in Florida, the book has been the subject of restriction efforts in the past.
“We believe very strongly that it is important that people study what’s going on in the world and learn to think critically about everything,” Cindy Grossman of the TriUU said. “Bradbury believed that strongly when he wrote his book. It may be science fiction, but he was trying to warn people about this kind of censorship and how good it is for humanity to expose themselves to different literature.”…
(5) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES IS FIVE. Space Cowboy Books announced a special 5 year anniversary episode with stories from the pages of Shacklebound Books. The episode is available on all podcast players and at Podmatic: “Space Cowboy Books Presents: Simultaneous Times”.
Stories featured in this episode:
“This is the Genesis Ship Arkhaven” by Jonathan Ficke; with music by Fall Precauxions
“A Free Man” by Warren Benedetto; with music by Phog Masheeen
Theme music by Dain Luscombe
(6) SPIN DOCTORING. Radio Times says “Doctor Who bosses ‘planning UNIT spin-off with Jemma Redgrave’”.
This really is shaping up to be an exciting year for Doctor Who fans, as it’s been reported that the sci-fi series’s bosses are planning a brand new spin-off show with Jemma Redgrave at its helm, as head of scientific research Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.
It’s a role that Redgrave has played since 2012, but in this new Torchwood-style series based on UNIT — the Unified Intelligence Taskforce — she will reportedly be taking the lead.
The fictional military organisation has appeared in Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures but could very well be getting a proper offshoot of its own….
(7) IMAGINE 2200 OPENS. Submissions are now being taken for the third year of Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors, Grist’s annual short story contest “envisioning hopeful, equitable climate futures.”
Imagine 2200 challenges entrants to write stories that help envision the next 180 years of climate progress. Whether built on abundance or adaptation, reform or a new understanding of survival, the contest celebrates stories that provide flickers of hope, even joy, and serve as a springboard for exploring how fiction can help create a better reality.
Read more about this year’s contest and find out how to submit a story here.
The winning writer will be awarded $3,000, with the second- and third-place winners receiving $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Nine additional finalists will each receive $300.
All winners and finalists’ stories will be published in an immersive collection on Grist’s website.
Stories will be judged by a panel of literary experts, including acclaimed authors Paolo Bacigalupi, Nalo Hopkinson, and Sam J. Miller.
(7) HOW THEY WORK. “Sensitivity readers: what publishing’s most polarising role is really about” according to the Guardian.
… Sensitivity readers can become the implied “baddy” or “goody” (depending on where you stand) in such cases, their service seen as the reason that changes have been made. However, this view assumes that sensitivity readers have more power than they actually do, says Helen Gould, a sensitivity reader who advises on issues including race and mental health issues. “I’m never directly editing text,” she says. When asked to perform a sensitivity read, she will read it, annotate sections where she thinks specific changes could be made – for example, an author might have written an inaccurate description of how a Black hairstyle is achieved (“It’s amazing how much of the work I do is about Black hair!”) – and provide overall feedback. Authors and editors can then choose to accept her suggestions and implement changes, ignore them, or ask to discuss them further….
(8) IN SUPPERTIMES TO COME. Rae Mariz has a wonderful post about “Feeding Future Ancestors” at Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup.
…Which brings me back to our kitchen in Stockholm, with my twelve year old daughter and the responsibility I feel to show her the skills that will help her feed herself and her friends in the world they’ll be inheriting. There won’t be a recipe I can hand down to her with precise directions for how to recreate familiar flavors. The ingredients we’ve taken for granted as staples might not be available—either because she recrossed oceans, or because the industrialization of agriculture will have come to its inevitable end. How can I help her prepare for the future when I don’t even have the foresight to meal-prep a day in advance? I’m still working it out, doing what I can—in the kitchen, in my prose, on the streets—to contribute to a livable planet and a more caring culture. Kids eat what we give them.
The hard truth is that she’s probably already picked up on whatever I have to show her. I’ve certainly already fed her something that will horrify future ancestors when she reminisces about her childhood in whichever storytelling form arises to replace the internet….
(9) JOHN JAKES (1932-2023). Author John Jakes, best known for historical bestsellers like The Bastard and North And South, both adapted for television, died March 11 at the age of 90.
…Born on March 31, 1932, in Chicago, Jakes published his first short story at 18, earning $25, and would go on to author more than 80 books in his lifetime that sold more than 120 million copies worldwide….
With so many mainstream bestsellers to talk about, the fact that he wrote a lot of sff has been overlooked by the obituaries, the reason why Cora Buhlert has written an extended tribute here: “Remembering John Jakes (1932 -2023)”.
…What is only a footnote in all of the mainstream obituaries is that John Jakes was also an SFF writer as well as a writer of crime fiction, westerns and erotica long before he found success beyond imagination with historical sagas.
I certainly had no idea that John Jakes had written SFF before I came across his name in a review at Galactic Journey and thought, “Wait a minute, the North and South guy used to write SFF?” Turns out John Jakes did not just write SFF, he wrote a lot of it and was also one of the protagonists of the second sword and sorcery boom….
(10) ROLLY CRUMP (1930-2023). Influential Disney animator Rolly Crump died March 12. The LA Times tells how this Disney designer helped define Disneyland.
… Crump would go on to become one of the most important artists to work for Walt Disney Co.
It’s a Small World, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion are just a few of the projects Crump would contribute to once he joined Walt Disney Imagineering, known as WED Enterprises (for Walter Elias Disney) in 1959. With Imagineering, the division of the company that oversees Disney theme parks, Crump‘s designs would help define the look of Disneyland…
… Crump fought for Disneyland to retain a handcrafted quality. He was a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is artist who was offended at the suggestion that others would be offended by his critiques. Crump, for instance, enjoyed a close relationship with [Mary] Blair, the artist who designed the dolls for It’s a Small World and whose style informed the bulk of the interior of the attraction. An accomplished watercolorist and muralist, Blair, like Crump, was handpicked by Disney to transition out of animation and into theme park design.
Crump spoke to The Times in 2018 about, among many topics, the creation of It’s a Small World. Still an imposing, broad-shouldered figure in his then-late-80s, Crump was emphatic. “I had Mary’s sketches in a book and gave them to the model shop,” he said. “I said, ‘Whatever you design, make sure they look like these drawings.’ I was given the job of supervising It’s a Small World. I knew it was only going to work if everything looked like Mary Blair. As far as I was concerned, this is a Mary Blair ride. So off we went. The rest is history.”….
(11) MEMORY LANE.
1992 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Our Beginning is Rita Mae Brown’s Rest in Pieces: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery which was published by Bantam in hardcover thirty-one years ago.
The prefaces are always by Sneaky Pie who is also listed as the co-author of this series.
I’m going do a bit of a spoiler here and tell you the mysteries focus on a postmistress named Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen plus her tiger cat named Mrs. Murphy, a fat grey cat named Pewter and a corgi named Tee Tucker.
Her other series, the “Sister” Jane Mysteries, centers around no-kill fox hunting and has foxes, owls, cats, dogs and others I’ve probably forgotten as characters. Oh, and humans obviously.
I enjoy the ones that I’ve read quite a bit though I’ve by no mean read all thirty she’s done so far in this series.
And now the Beginning…
Here’s to catnip and champagne!
Thanks to you my mailbox overflows with letters, photos, mousie toys, and crunchy nibbles. Little did I think when I started the Mrs. Murphy series that there would be so many cats out there who are readers . . . a few humans, too.
Poor Mother, she’s trying not to be a grouch. She slaves over “important themes” disguised as comedy and I dash along with a mystery series and am a hit. This only goes to prove that most cats and some dogs realize that a lighthearted approach is always the best. Maybe in a few decades Mom will figure this out for herself.
The best news is that I was able to afford my own typewriter. I found a used IBM Selectric III so I don’t have to sneak into Mother’s office in the middle of the night. I even have my own office. Do you think I should hire Pewter as a secretary?
Again, thank you, cats out there, and the dogs, too. Take care of your humans. And as for you humans, well, a fresh salmon steak would be a wonderful treat for the cat in your life.
All Best, SNEAKY PIE
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 15, 1852 — Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (née Persse). Irish dramatist, folklorist, theatre manager. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she created the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre. She produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology. Gods and Fighting Men, all seven hundred pages strong, is the best look at her work. It’s available at all the usual digital sources. (Died 1932.)
- Born March 15, 1920 — Lawrence Sanders. Mystery writer who wrote several thrillers that according to ISFDB had genre elements, such as The Tomorrow File and The Passion of Molly T. Now I’ve not read them so I cannot comment how just on how obvious the genre elements are, but I assume it’s similar to what one finds in a Bond film. One of these novels btw is described on the dust jacket as an “erotic spine tingler”. Huh. (Died 1998.)
- Born March 15, 1924 — Walter Gotell. He’s remembered for being General Gogol, head of the KGB, in the Roger Moore Bond films as well as having played the role of Morzeny, in From Russia With Love, one of Connery’s Bond films. He also appeared as Gogol in The Living Daylights, Dalton’s first Bond film. I’m fairly sure that makes him the only actor to be a villain to three different Bonds. (Died 1997.)
- Born March 15, 1926 — Rosel George Brown. A talented life cut far too short by cancer. At Detention, she was nominated for the Hugo Award for best new author, but her career was ended when she died of lymphoma at the age of 41. She wrote some twenty stories between 1958 and 1964, with her novels being Sibyl Sue Blue, and its sequel, The Waters of Centaurus about a female detective, plus Earthblood, co-written with Keith Laumer. Sibyl Sue Blue is now available from the usual suspects. (Died 1967.)
- Born March 15, 1939 — Robert Nye. He did what the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy describes as “bawdy, scatological, richly told, sometimes anachronistic reworkings of the traditional material” with some of his works being Beowulf, Taliesin (which was the name of my last SJW cred), Faust, Merlin and Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. His Falstaff novel is considered the best take on that character. Some of his works are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2016.)
- Born March 15, 1943 — David Cronenberg, 80. Not a Director whose tastes are at all squeamish. His best films? I’d pick Videodrome, The Fly, Naked Lunch and The Dead Zone. Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which garnered a Bram Stoker Award nominated for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh, and he was in the film version of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
- Born March 15, 1946 — Chris Morris, 77. First genre writing was in the exemplary Thieves’ World shared universe, such as “What Women Do Best” with Janet Morris, and “Red Light, Love Light”. He’s also written in the Merovingen Nights, Heroes in Hell and Sacred Band of Stepsons saga series.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal begins with someone asking, what is the meaning of life?
(14) ‘WILLOW’ WHACKED. “‘Willow’ Canceled After One Season On Disney+” reports Deadline.
There will be no second season of Willow, Disney+’s live-action original series based on the 1988 fantasy film directed by Ron Howard. The news comes two months after the eight-episode first season of the show, which served as a sequel to the classic movie, ended its run on the streaming platform.
Willow, which picked up years after the events of the film, did not have the zeitgeist cultural impact of the original but was well received by critics, getting a 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. While the series won’t continue, Willow remains an important IP in the Lucasfilm library, so it might be revisited in the future….
(15) HOT ON THE TRAIL. “’Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Leak: Marvel Looks for Source” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story. And allow me to make the obvious joke – it must be a very small hole!
Marvel is closing in on the source of a leak of a script from Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania before the movie was released, and it intends to take legal action, a Disney company source tells The Hollywood Reporter.
A federal judge in California on Monday issued subpoenas to Reddit and Google directing them to identify the users who leaked the dialogue. The order came after the company moved for information on whoever posted then-unreleased dialogue from the film to the r/MarvelStudiosSpoilers subreddit.
Marvel is likely to pursue litigation against the person or group responsible for the leak. That could include a referral to prosecutors for criminal copyright infringement, among other charges….
(16) COLD STORAGE. Nerdist traces “The History of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude”, accompanied by many comics panels.
… Today, we think of Superman’s Fortress as an ice palace, far away from humanity in the Arctic. But originally, it was just a mountain cave where Clark stashed his belongings he didn’t have anywhere else to house. This “Secret Citadel” was located in a mountain range outside of Metropolis. It first appeared in Superman #17 in 1942, and it didn’t make many appearances. In those days, Superman’s Kryptonian heritage was more of an afterthought, a mere explanation for how he got his powers. The term “Fortress of Solitude” first appeared in Superman #58 1949, as Superman’s sanctuary located in “the polar wastes.” Interestingly, the name “Fortress of Solitude” actually predates Superman. The pulp adventurer Doc Savage had a Fortress of Solitude located in the frozen north, and DC Comics very liberally took the name and concept….
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]