Fantasy/SciFi

A hilarious new Harry Potter chapter was written by a predictive keyboard

13 December 2017

From Mashable:

There’s a new Harry Potter chapter that was written using a predictive keyboard trained on the Harry Potter series. Let’s just say we’re glad it’s not canon.

. . . .

The team over at Botnik Studios, a community of creatives concocting weird project including the Predictive Writer, gave the world access to a predictive keyboard trained on all seven Harry Potter books. Botnik used those algorithmically constructed sentences to write a new chapter in the Harry Potter saga, and the results, including the name of the new book, are equally insane and hilarious.

. . . .

Within roughly three full pages of the new book titled Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash, Ron begins eating Hermione’s family, two Death Eaters kiss, Harry blinds himself, Hermione sticks a Death Eater’s face in mud, and Harry falls down a staircase for several months.

Here are some highlights of the chapter, dubbed “The Handsome One”:

“Magic: it was something that Harry Potter thought was very good.”

“Ron was going to be spiders. He just was.”

“The pig of Hufflepuff pulsed like a large bullfrog. Dumbledore smiled at it, and placed his hand on its head: ‘You are Hagrid now.'”

“Ron was standing there and doing a kind of frenzied tap dance. He saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione’s family.”

. . . .

The Predictive Writer takes chunks of text and examines it to find patterns in sentences, and then produces suggestions for how a sentence should continue based on what words came before it, similar to how some smartphone keyboards make suggestions based on what you type.

Link to the rest at Mashable

Gork

4 December 2017

From Bomb:

Alex Gilvarry  How did you go from writing Dear Mr. President, a book of short stories about war veterans, to Gork, the Teenage Dragon, a coming of age love story about a dragon who attends a military academy in outer space?

Gabe Hudson  There’s a tiny shelf of mind-bending writers that I feel a connection with, including Franz Kafka, Lewis Carroll, Philip K. Dick, Douglas Adams, and Kurt Vonnegut. Their weird imaginative prowess and potent truth-telling feel like they came at great risk to their psychic well-being. For a long time now I’ve felt a calling to produce work in that mode. And I very deliberately set out to do that with Gork.

AG  So why a dragon? And why a dragon in outer space?

GH  I’m drawn to monster myths and my writing is a way to unearth the humanity therein. I’d say that both dragons and Marines have reputations imbued with monster mythology. In the case of the Marines, it’s self-perpetuated, part of the culture. When I was in the Marines, we called ourselves devil-dogs and sang old songs filled with battlefield lore.

In the Western narrative tradition, I’ve long felt there was an accepted bigotry toward dragons. Dragons either play the role of monsters or servant-buddies where they fly around with some dumb human on their back. It’s been the great narrative pile-on. Even all these schmucks talking about how they loved Dungeons & Dragons as kids and how it taught them to “imagine,” were playing a game where dragons literally cannot be a “player character.” What they’re saying is they learned how to band together as a group and decree that this entity who looks different than they do can only be a monster – the killing of which is something to be celebrated. From Gary Gygax, the creator of that game, to J.R.R. Tolkien, there’s this procession of white guys who’ve made a fortune from composing narratives where the red dragon is portrayed as some sort of depraved savage.

So I thought: considering the thousands of dragons that have appeared in western narratives, why has there never once been a tale told from the dragon’s perspective? For one very clear reason: a paucity of empathy. With Gork, I wanted to flip the script. Let the dragons tell their side of the story for once. And lo, it turns out dragons are a great deal more complex and evolved than anyone would’ve ever imagined.

Link to the rest at Bomb

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Theory: The Prime Universe Doesn’t Exist

19 November 2017

From Inverse:

In science fiction, sometimes a cliffhanger can take place on an actual cliff, like the ending of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Other times, like the mid-season finale of Star Trek: Discovery, the cliffhanger drops a starship into a parallel universe.

If the USS Discovery is now in the Mirror Universe, as some fans have posited, then an interesting question presents itself: Which universe did the Discovery and its crew originate from?

Most fans would tell you that Discovery is supposedly set in the “Prime” Star Trektimeline, but what does that mean? And does the Prime Universe even exist?

. . . .

In 2009, director J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman made a brilliant or terrible decision, depending on who you ask. Instead of being forced to follow the chronology of the original Star Trek series, they created a splinter universe formed by the invasion of a time-traveling angry Romulan named Nero. Of every reboot that ever rebooted, 2009’s Star Trek is the slyest, acting as, technically, both a sequel and a remake at the same time. And in terms of fully fleshed out parallel universes within Star Trek, Abrams’ resulting “Kelvin Universe” is most prominent.

In an attempt to qualify this there’s even a moment in 2009’s Trek where Spock (Zachary Quinto) says, almost directly to the camera, “Nero’s presence has altered the flow of history, thereby creating a new chain of events that cannot be anticipated by either party…whatever our lives might have been…our destinies have changed.”

Link to the rest at Inverse

PG says a parallel universe could explain so much about recent events.

Philip Pullman Returns to His Fantasy World

12 October 2017

From New York Times Magazine:

On one of my first meetings with Philip Pullman, he led me to the crenelated tower of Exeter College, in Oxford, and pointed out the room he lived in as a student. More than 50 feet up from the ground was a tiny attic window. To visit friends living in rooms on the adjacent staircase — accessible only at ground level — Pullman, a tall, sturdy man with a head like a boulder, would clamber out his window, shimmy along a gutter and propel himself through a window into a bathroom. From where we were standing, the feat looked unlikely, and unwise. Pullman was self-deprecating. “It was less precarious than it seems because it’s actually quite a large gutter, and it’s quite deep,” he said. “And I was drunk. So.”

Oxford has always been an incubator for fantasists: Lewis Carroll dreamed up “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” here. J.R.R. Tolkien (“The Lord of the Rings”) and his friend C.S. Lewis (“The Chronicles of Narnia”) met weekly at a pub down the road to discuss their books. Pullman has followed in their wake: 30 years after his tipsy progress along the gutter, he returned to his rooftop on the page. “Lyra barged open the door, dragged her rickety chair to the window, flung wide the casement, and scrambled out,” he wrote in the first volume of his epic trilogy, “His Dark Materials.” “The room I gave to Lyra,” Pullman said, looking up, “was the room I had myself.”

Lyra Silvertongue, Lyra Belacqua, but really just Lyra: one of those characters in literature — Pip, Emma, Lolita — who is on first-name terms with her public. Pullman has written 35 books, mostly for children and young adults, but Lyra stands foremost among his protagonists, a plucky scamp of mysterious origins who lives among Oxford academics and is accompanied through life, like almost everyone in the universe of “His Dark Materials,” by her dæmon, a shape-shifting animal self.

Over the three books — 1995’s “Northern Lights” (published in the United States under the title “The Golden Compass”), 1997’s “The Subtle Knife” and 2000’s “The Amber Spyglass” — Lyra embarks on a multiverse-crossing quest that starts as an attempt to find a missing friend and becomes a battle against the dark forces of a totalitarian religious government, the Magisterium. They can be read as pure adventure, escapade after escapade, but they’re also a philosophical exploration of what it means to be alive, and an inverted reading of Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” (In Pullman’s version, original sin is cause for celebration.)

. . . .

 The books have been published in more than 40 languages, sold nearly 18 million copies and spawned a radio play, a two-part National Theater production, a Hollywood movie and a new BBC adaptation. In 2002, they achieved the presumed impossible and outsold Harry Potter in Britain. And now, after 17 years, Lyra is back. “La Belle Sauvage,” the first volume of Pullman’s next trilogy, “The Book of Dust,” will be published on Oct. 19.

Link to the rest at New York Times Magazine

Electric Dreams

10 October 2017

If Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams Goes on for Years, We Could See the Same Story Adapted Over Again

7 October 2017

From i09:

Amazon already has a Philip K. Dick show in its adaptation of Man in the High Castle, which is headed into its third season. But Amazon also has an anthology series based on Dick’s work coming up, called Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. And the executive producers feel like they could adapt the same story more than one time over the years.

In a press even after the panel, executive producer David Kanter said that they sent out packets of short stories to the writers they were approaching, and that everyone pretty much naturally gravitated to different ones, finding things they wanted to focus on. “At some point in the future, should we be so lucky to continue on, some of the stories could be retold,” Kanter said. “Some could be re-adapted by different people and they would be amazing to see from the point of view of how writers and directors work to do that. To take the same source material and have, five years from now, season one’s ‘Human Is’ and season five’s ‘Human Is.’”

Link to the rest at i09

Annihilation

28 September 2017

Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novel.

Harry Potter’s History of Magic

16 September 2017

From the BBC:

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the British Library exhibition Harry Potter A History of Magic unveils rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from their collection, capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories. Exploring the subjects studied at Hogwarts, the exhibition includes original drafts and drawings lent by J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter illustrator Jim Kay from their personal archives, going on display for the first time.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic is to be shown on BBC Two and will follow the exhibition in the run up to its opening at the British Library, as the ancient texts, artefacts and artwork are put on display. Harry Potter: A History Of Magic includes an interview with J.K. Rowling talking about some of the personal items she has donated to the exhibition whilst readings from famous fans playfully recreate some of the best loved spells, potions and magical moments from the series, exploring the origins of the world of Hogwarts, from basilisks through to broomsticks.

Link to the rest at the BBC

A Neural Network Wrote the Next ‘Game of Thrones’ Book Because George R.R. Martin Hasn’t

3 September 2017

From Motherboard:

Minutes after the epic finale of the seventh season of Game of Thrones, fans of the show were already dismayed to hear that the final, six-episode season of the series isn’t set to air until spring 2019.

For readers of the A Song of Ice and Fire novel series on which the TV show is based, disappointment stemming from that estimated wait time is laughable. The fifth novel in seven-novel series, A Dance with Dragons, was published in 2011 and author George R.R. Martin has been laboring over the The Winds of Winter since, with no release date in sight. With no new source material, producers of the TV series have been forced to move the story forward themselves since late season 6.

Tired of the wait and armed with technology far beyond the grand maesters of Oldtown, full-stack software engineer Zack Thoutt is training a recurrent neural network (RNN) to predict the events of the unfinished sixth novel. Read the first chapter of the book here.

“I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones, the books and the show,” said Thoutt, who had just completed a Udacity course on artificial intelligence and deep learning and used what he learned to do the project. “I had worked with RNNs a bit in that class and thought I’d give working with the books a shot.”

. . . .

“It is trying to write a new book. A perfect model would take everything that has happened in the books into account and not write about characters being alive when they died two books ago,” Thoutt said. “The reality, though, is that the model isn’t good enough to do that. If the model were that good authors might be in trouble. The model is striving to be a new book and to take everything into account, but it makes a lot of mistakes because the technology to train a perfect text generator that can remember complex plots over millions of words doesn’t exist yet.”

. . . .

“I start each chapter by giving it a prime word, which I always used as a character name, and tell it how many words after that to generate,” Thoutt said. ” I wanted to do chapters for specific characters like in the books, so I always used one of the character names as the prime word … there is no editing other than supplying the network that first prime word.”

George R.R. Martin isn’t going to be calling for writing tips anytime soon, but Thoutt’s network is able to write mostly readable sentences and is packed with some serious twists.

Link to the rest at Motherboard

PG predicts AI-written books will be common within two years.

He doesn’t know if they will be very good, but it will be interesting to watch the technology develop.

PG also predicts that AI-written books won’t put good human authors out of business.

How sci-fi from China became a global proposition

23 August 2017
Comments Off on How sci-fi from China became a global proposition

From The Bookseller:

For the best part of a century, the science-fiction Silk Road was one-way: manufactured in the West and shipped to China. But inside China an SF revolution was brewing. At its vanguard was one extraordinary work which took a decade to make its way to the West. But when it did, Mark Zuckerberg selected it for his Facebook Reading Club, Barack Obama blurbed it, SF readers propelled it to win the Best Novel Hugo award – a first for translated fiction. It’s been a New York Times bestseller, spent 11 weeks on Germany’s Der Speigel bestseller list, and sold over 100,000 copies for Head of Zeus in the UK. The book is Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem.

Initially serialised in Chinese magazine Science Fiction World in 2006, its triumphant arrival in the West nine or so years later may be the crowning achievement of an extraordinary flowering of Chinese SF, but it is by no means the end of the story. I suspect it is only the beginning.

Chinese SF was in the doldrums as Liu wrote the first volume of his Three-Body trilogy. He didn’t feel China was ready for the more hardcore elements of his SF imagination, so he was careful to base the first two instalments in a world he felt readers would recognise. The final instalment stretched the boundaries – it was truly the book he wanted to write – and both Liu and his publisher worried it was a non-commercial indulgence. But it made the series.

China’s online community loved Three-Body. Fans composed songs, created fake trailers for the movie they hoped for, and wrote fan fiction. Baoshu’s Three-Body X, a “side-quel” to Liu’s books, started appearing online within a week of the final volume’s publication and, with Liu’s blessing, was itself traditionally published.

. . . .

Ken Liu was born in China, emigrated to the US at 11, went to Harvard, and has written 120 short stories and an epic “silkpunk” fantasy series, picking up Hugo, Arthur C Clarke and Nebula awards on the way. He became a translator and, almost predictably for a man with so many SF awards in his trophy case, added a Best Novel Hugo to it for his translation of The Three-Body Problem.

Li Yun’s initiative found the trilogy 12 (and counting) international publishers, and has led to Li launching Cepride, a literary agency dedicated to bringing not just the best of Chinese SF, but the best of Chinese genre fiction to the rest of the world. Agencies that once sold rights West to East are increasingly representing Chinese authors – Hao Jingfang is repped by Andrew Nurnberg Associates.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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