(1) PRESIDENT’S DAY WEEKEND. Get ready for Boskone 60, coming February 17-19, 2023 in Boston – and via the internet. The convention’s guests are Nalo Hopkinson – Guest of Honor; Victo Ngai – Official Artist; Tui T. Sutherland – Special Guest; and Dave Clement – Musical Guest. Full information at the link.
Boskone 60 will be held in person at The Westin Boston Seaport District hotel, 425 Summer Street, Boston, MA. You can also attend in person at our incredible 3-day convention, starting in the afternoon on Friday, February 17, 2023, at 2:00 pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and running through Sunday, February 19. We are also planning to make a portion of our programming available for virtual members and virtual program participants.
You can experience Boskone virtually for only $24.60!
(2) MEDICAL STRUGGLE. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Kelly Barnhill, winner of the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, is marking one year since she missed a step, hit her head, fell down a flight of stairs, and was unconscious for 15 minutes.Recovery from concussion is slow; as a result, she says, writing fiction is not currently possible. Thread starts here. Some excerpts:
(3) AI YI YI. Alyssa Shotwell brings readers up to date about why “Tor Faces Major Backlash for AI Art for Upcoming Novel From Bestselling Author” in The Mary Sue.
…The comments accusing Tor of using AI art in Christopher Paolini‘s follow-up to To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, Fractal Noise, came as early as November (when the cover was revealed), but it wasn’t until December when more people realized what happened. Around December 9, pressure had built up, and those concerned demanded an answer from Tor and Paolini. On December 15, Tor released this statement on their social media:
“Tor Books designed the cover for Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini. During the process of creating this cover, we licensed an image from a reputable stock house. We were not aware that the image may have been created by AI. Our in-house designer used the licensed image to create the cover, which was presented to Christopher for approval. Due to production constraints, we have decided to move ahead with our current cover. Tor Publishing Group has championed creators in the SFF community since our founding and will continue to do so.”
At first glance, it’s easy to take at least the first part of this as truth. As far back as September, stock websites and individuals began to host AI art for licensing purposes. Since then, it’s only grown, with Adobe Stock and the portfolio site Artstation catering to AI art. Shutterstock even inked a deal with AI generators in October. Between the sites hosting the images and the companies (like Tor) using them, there are no guidelines for even labeling AI art. It’s being mixed in with human-made art. The AI image created (from stolen images) for the base of Fractal Noise is not even labeled as AI created on Shutterstock.
… Tor knew they would continue to get backlash because, in that tweet, they turned off replies. Most of the people talking about it are retweets, and the conversation continues in those replies….
… Paolini has given mixed responses to the whole situation and has been tweeting (and replying) a lot. He spoke about the value of an artist in the book illustration process and how he’s always shared fan art of his works. Paolini commissioned work from artists and illustrated many elements of his Inheritance Saga (Eragon, etc.), including the map of Alagaësia. He also stated that this AI art situation is not ideal. Most other comments from the author remain neutral.
This is disappointing, as a reader of his books and as an artist, not to see him take a stronger stance on this, at least in a professional setting….
(4) CRICHTON, POURNELLE, AND BENFORD IN 2005. Camestros Felapton resumes following strands of right-wing and reactionary thought within science fiction in a new series “Contrarian Cli-Fi” about sff writers who took a contrarian view of climate change. The latest chapter, “Contrarian Cli-Fi 0.07: Aftermath 2005”, makes a real effort at fairness, it seemed to me, at a time when the internet gives no cookies for such efforts.
…A great deal about science communication had changed over the intervening time between Fallen Angels and State of Fear. Whereas in past decades science magazines and hybrid sci-fi/science magazines like Analog or OMNI were a key part of science communication to a broader audience of people interested but not experts in science, in the 2000s science blogging was a growing channel between actual scientists and the public.
Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear also helped spur actual climate scientists to counter Crichton’s views (and doubts about global warming more generally) directly on the web. One of the most interesting exchanges in the wake of State of Fear was, unsurprisingly, on Pournelle’s own blog in 2005.
I’ve cast Pournelle as a right-wing ideologue pushing the contrarian view on climate change but he also manifestly had a genuine interest in climate science. He absolutely wanted to understand the scientific debate if only to refute it on its own terms. In the wake of the State of Fear discussion about global warming and global cooling would be a major topic on his blog. In part that debate was fuelled by reactions to Crichton’s novel in science and science fiction communities.
One obvious overlap between State of Fear, scientists and science fiction writers was author and physicist Gregory Benford. In a 2003 speech by Crichton that presaged the sceptical position of his novel, Crichton had quoted a paper by a panel that included Benford published in Science: …
…Benford responded in a column in the San Diego Tribune published in 2005 taking apart many of Crichton’s claims and misleading statements. Benford unequivocally stated that Crichton was getting his science wrong, relying on secondary sources and misunderstanding those sources….
(5) TRYING TO PREDICT THE PRESENT. “Bezos appears to lose interest in the Washington Post as its tech ambitions wither” reports Semafor.
Earlier this month, Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan and a handful of executives traveled to Seattle for a budget meeting with owner Jeff Bezos. The paper’s executive editor Sally Buzbee was not in attendance, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.
Turmoil back in Washington, DC has followed. Ryan abruptly announced a round of layoffs. Buzbee appeared to distance herself from her publisher. The Post and Buzbee did not respond to requests for comment.
And employees and observers of the Post alike were left wondering what Bezos is doing with the publication….
(6) AMAZON CURBED IN EU ACTION. A European Union press release announced the final “commitments” made by Amazon to avoid further enforcement action, including fines. “Antitrust: Commission accepts commitments by Amazon barring it from using marketplace seller data, and ensuring equal access to Buy Box and Prime”.
…To address the Commission’s competition concerns in relation to both investigations, Amazon initially offered the following commitments:
– To address the data use concern, Amazon proposed to commit:
- not to use non-public data relating to, or derived from, the independent sellers’ activities on its marketplace, for its retail business. This applies to both Amazon’s automated tools and employees that could cross-use the data from Amazon Marketplace, for retail decisions;
- not to use such data for the purposes of selling branded goods as well as its private label products.
– To address the Buy Box concern, Amazon proposed to commit to:
- treat all sellers equally when ranking the offers for the purposes of the selection of the Buy Box winner;
- display a second competing offer to the Buy Box winner if there is a second offer from a different seller that is sufficiently differentiated from the first one on price and/or delivery. Both offers will display the same descriptive information and provide the same purchasing experience.
– To address the Prime concerns Amazon proposed to commit to:
- set non-discriminatory conditions and criteria for the qualification of marketplace sellers and offers to Prime;
- allow Prime sellers to freely choose any carrier for their logistics and delivery services and negotiate terms directly with the carrier of their choice;
- not use any information obtained through Prime about the terms and performance of third-party carriers, for its own logistics services.
Between 14 July 2022 and 9 September 2022, the Commission market tested Amazon’s commitments and consulted all interested third parties to verify whether they would remove its competition concerns. In light of the outcome of this market test, Amazon amended the initial proposal and committed to:
- Improve the presentation of the second competing Buy Box offer by making it more prominent and to include a review mechanism in case the presentation is not attracting adequate consumer attention;
- Increase the transparency and early information flows to sellers and carriers about the commitments and their newly acquired rights, enabling, amongst others, early switching of sellers to independent carriers;
- Lay out the means for independent carriers to directly contact their Amazon customers, in line with data-protection rules, enabling them to provide equivalent delivery services to those offered by Amazon;
- Improve carrier data protection from use by Amazon’s competing logistics services, in particular concerning cargo profile information;
- Increase the powers of the monitoring trustee by introducing further notification obligations;
- Introduce a centralised complaint mechanism, open to all sellers and carriers in case of suspected non-compliance with the commitments.
- Increase to seven years, instead of the initially proposed five years, the duration of the commitments relating to Prime and the second competing Buy Box offer.
The Commission found that Amazon’s final commitments will ensure that Amazon does not use marketplace seller data for its own retail operations and that it grants non-discriminatory access to Buy Box and Prime.
(7) HENRY MORRISON OBIT. Literary agent Henry Morrison died November 2 at the age of 86. The Publishers Weekly noted his sff connections.
…Morrison struck out on his own before he turned 30.
For the next 55 years, characters and storylines in the books and films whose rights Morrison sold became household American names, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and David Morrell’s Rambo among them. A particularly prolific agent in the crime and thriller genres, other authors in the space Morrison represented included Brian Garfield, Dean Koontz, Eric van Lustbader, Matt Scudder, and Donald E. Westlake. He also represented the science fiction writers Samuel R. Delany (one of his earliest clients) and Roger Zelazny. His well-rewarded midlist writers won multiple Edgars and served as Mystery Writers of America presidents, Grandmasters, and International ThrillerMasters….
(8) MEMORY LANE.
2014 — [By Cat Eldridge.] Frankenstein in Geneva
Tonight’s creature is one that y’all will now very well, that of Frankenstein’s monster, though almost everyone now calls it Frankenstein. Philistines.
While the writer was English, the story was written and takes place in Geneva, Switzerland where this statue is placed in the spot where it goes on a rampage and kills his creator’s brother.
KLAT, a Geneva artist collective, so there was no individual sculptor listed for this work, created this nearly eight-foot-tall cast bronze sculpture. “Franc” as they call him, is dressed in ragged clothes, which represents not the character from the novel, but “the figure of the vagrant or the marginal”. With his hunchback, his scars including those of face and hooded sweatshirt and old jeans cut at the knees, it is not at all in keeping with Shelley’s original description of the monster in her novel, but more in line with the modern interpretation of a zombie-like creature.
The statue was unveiled in May 2014, and is part of the collection of the Contemporary Art Fund of the City of Geneva. That unveiling was — shall we say? — quite electrifying?
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 20, 1838 – Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
- Born December 20, 1925 — Nicole Maurey. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can’t find proof anywhere else that it is… (Died 2016.)
- Born December 20, 1943 — Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger Man, The Avengers, The Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
- Born December 20, 1951 — Kate Atkinson, 71. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on usual suspects.
- Born December 20, 1952 — Jenny Agutter, 70. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fave films which is Darkman and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.
- Born December 20, 1960 — Nalo Hopkinson, 62. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out the Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.
- Born December 20, 1970 — Nicole de Boer, 52. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine, and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. Well maybe not the latter I’ll admit. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond Reality, Forever Knight, TekWar, Outer Limits, Poltergeist: The Legacy, Psi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian?
- Born December 20, 1984 — Ilean Almaguer, 38. Here for her role as Illa on the most excellent Counterpart series. If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it. To my knowledge, none of many the Spanish-language Mexican telenovelas she appeared in had the slightest genre element.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
(11) TUNE IN. The BBC World Service is airing a production of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising”.
A young boy’s time-travelling fight against ancient evil. When the Dark comes rising, who will hold it back? This dramatisation of Susan Cooper’s cult novel is a magical journey into the supernatural.
There currently are three episodes available with 26 to come.
(12) IRON MAN BACK TO THE PRESS. Gene Wolfe said in his 1985 Worldcon guest of honor speech that the difference between a professional publisher and a fanzine publisher is that if a fanzine sells out, the editor will print more. So what are we to make of Marvel’s enthusiastic announcement that Iron Man #1 is getting a second printing?
This past Wednesday, fans witnessed the beginning of an all-new era for Tony Stark in Invincible Iron Man #1! Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Juan Frigeri have taken over the armored Avenger’s adventures and didn’t pull any punches in their explosive first issue, which sold out and will return in February with a second printing!
Invincible Iron #1 will receive two new second printing covers, both of which celebrate the character’s iconic legacy by showcasing the many armors Tony has suited up in over the years: A brand-new piece by superstar artist Mark Bagley and definitive Iron Man artist Bob Layton’s showstopping connecting piece in all its glory.
Invincible Iron Man #1 ended with Tony Stark hitting rock bottom, having lost it all: his wealth…his fame…his friends. But don’t count Stark out just yet. In upcoming issues, Stark will navigate his new status in the Marvel Universe in surprising ways. Readers will see Iron Man court new allies, embrace bold solutions, and make startling moves that will affect his relationships with the Avengers and mutantkind. Is he building towards a brighter future or will he be the architect of further destruction?
(13) OH SNAP! SNAP! [Item by Daniel Dern.] If (movie version) Thanos sang or hummed along to the Addams Family theme song, would that quantumize 2x 50% or 50% of 50%?
(14) SOMETHING TO READ. Ted Gioia posted his picks for “The Best Online Essays & Articles of 2022”.
…Most of these are longform essays on music, arts, and culture—because those are matters I think about (and worry about) every day. But I don’t impose any arbitrary limits here. If the article is good enough, I include it, no matter what the subject….
First on the list – “A few things to know before stealing my 914” by Norman Garrett,
Welcome to my Porsche 914. I imagine that at this point (having found the door unlocked) your intention is to steal my car. Don’t be encouraged by this; the tumblers sheared off in 1978. I would have locked it up if I could, so don’t think you’re too clever or that I’m too lazy. However, now that you’re in the car, there are a few things you’re going to need to know. First, the battery is disconnected, so slide-hammering my ignition switch is not your first step. I leave the battery disconnected, not to foil hoodlums such as yourself, but because there is a mysterious current drain from the 40-year-old German wiring harness that I can’t locate and/or fix….
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Honest Game Trailers: The Game Awards” sends up an awards show which finds it impossible to live up to its pretentions, saying it’s “an award show that wants to be taken as seriously as the Oscars except that every single year something absolutely ridiculous happens.” Mistakes were made, birds were flipped.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Todd Mason, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]