Crit mass Wed march 22: AI in the real world and fiction

On Wednesday, March 22nd, we will meet at Kappys at 6:30 to discuss ChatGPT and SF featuring AI.

There’s a long history of SF featuring AI, from the 1920 science-fiction play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek, R.U.R.(Rossum’s Universal Robots), to HAL9000 in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics which feature in the Susan Calvin stories are well known (later sidestepped by the Zeroth Law).

There’s a long history of SF featuring AI, from the 1920 science-fiction play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek, R.U.R.(Rossum’s Universal Robots), to HAL9000 in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics which feature in the Susan Calvin stories are well known (later sidestepped by the Zeroth Law).

And of course, the classic novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” By P K Dick, turned into the film Bladerunner.

Come along to share your thoughts on ChatGBT, and join the discussion on AI in sf and how it’s changed.

As usual, the in person meeting will be at Kappys, 22 Compton St, Adelaide
6:15 for a 6:30 start, Adelaide time

Those who can’t make the meeting in person are welcome to join us via Zoom.

Join Zoom Meeting March 22nd, 6:30pm Adelaide / 7pm Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra

Meeting ID: 867 1156 2991
Passcode: 535708

Back to the Future is Female!

File770 reports

The Library of America’s panel “Back to the Future Is Female!” can now be viewed on YouTube.

From Pulp Era pioneers to the radical innovators of the 1960s and ’70s, visionary women writers have been a transformative force in American science fiction. For Women’s History Month, acclaimed SF authors Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Pamela Sargent, and Sheree Renée Thomas join Lisa Yaszek, editor of LOA’s The Future Is Female!, for a conversation about the writers who smashed the genre’s gender barrier to create worlds and works that remain revolutionary.


International Guests in Canberra: Mar 22

Gillian notes

CSFG [Canberra SAfGroup] has a couple of international special guests, and, since they may well be of interest to members of Critical Mass and Nova Mob, we’d like to invite you to join us. Please don’t share the link anywhere public

Hoping to see some of you there!

Gillian Polack

Livia has done something amazing. She has persuaded Cristina Jurado and Vanesa O’Toole to come and chat with us, this coming Wednesday. She and I were talking about how to talk about translation, code shifting, working in more than one language, and different expectations for writing (what makes a good SF work in Spanish? Is it the same as in English?). I’m hoping we can talk about markets, similar experiences in being outside the US and such things, but the focus is the language issues. Bring your questions, and prepare for a really special Novel Vague meeting.

I’ll open the room for the meeting at 6.30 pm, but the meeting doesn’t start until 7. Opening it early is so that those who want to chat, can. Here is the link. Please do not share it publicly – but feel free to invite friends who don’t want to miss this very special international Novel Vague,

Time: Mar 22, 2023 06:30 PM Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney / 6pm Adelaide

[To Join Zoom Meeting, contact Roman at websmith at for details.]

Guest bios:

Cristina Jurado is a bilingual author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other hybrid genres, as well as editor, translator, and sf promoter. In 2019 she became the first female author to win the Best Novel Ignotus Award (Spain’s Hugo) for Bionautas. Her recent fiction includes the novella ChloroPhilia (Apex Publishing), the novel Bionautas (Twine), her collection Alphaland (Calque) and many stories in various venues, such as Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Apex magazine, and The Best of World SF by Head of Zeus.

Her works have been translated into English, Italian, Romanian, Chinese and Japanese.
As editor she has published: Alucinadas, the first anthology of sf short stories written by women in Spanish (translated into English as Spanish Women of Wonder): Infiltradas, the first anthology of feminist sf articles, which won the Best Non-Fiction Book Ignotus Award in 2020; and Todos los demás planetas, an sf anthology focused on inclusive language.
In 2015 Cristina founded SuperSonic, winner of three Best Magazine Ignotus Awards and honored by the European Science Fiction association (ESFS) as Best Zine in 2016 and Best Magazine in 2017. She has worked as international editor for Apex magazine and has co-edited with Lavie Tidhar The Apex Book of World SF #5, focused on speculative fiction around the world. Distinguished as Europe’s Best SF Promoter Award in 2020, she has worked as editor and contributor in Apex magazine and Constelación magazine, and as Spanish slush reader for Clarkesworld.

Vanesa O’Toole was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1981. Although she is a writer of different literary genres, she loves to approach other realities through fantasy, horror, and science fiction.
Her interest is to tell stories, so she does not limit herself to just literature but also writes for other audiovisual formats such as theater, radio plays, film, television, and more.
She participated in the organization and production of interdisciplinary book presentations at the Roca Museum, the Botanical Garden, the Book and Language Museum, cultural centers, thematic fairs, among others. She has also been invited as a speaker at book fairs (in Buenos Aires City, province, and interior of Argentina), MICA, Tecnópolis, Kirchner Cultural Center, National Library, Book and Language Museum, Argentina ComicCon, Fantasticon, Faerie Fantasy, Frikipalooza, and various thematic events.
She performs integral cultural management tasks and was a founding partner of the Argentine Fantastic Literature Writers (E.L.F.A.). In addition, she teaches personalized writing workshops and is a professor in the Radio and Television Scriptwriting program at the Higher Institute of Radio Education (ISER). As the director of Editorial Thelema, she has published over 70 books. As a writer, she has published 25 titles, including her own books and anthologies.
More info in and

Critical Mass March 22nd: Chatbots and AI variants

After hearing that Clarkesworld rejected more than 200 submissions because they were written using something like ChatGPT, members decided it would be good to discuss ChatGPT, AI and stories — writing and reading — at the march meeting.

As usual, the in person meeting will be at Kappys, 22 Compton St, Adelaide
6:15 for a 6:30 start, Adelaide time

Those who can’t make the meeting in person are welcome to join us via Zoom.

Join Zoom Meeting March 22nd, 6:30pm Adelaide, 7pm Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra

Meeting ID: 867 1156 2991
Passcode: 535708

Dahl’s Warning

One of Roald Dahl’s best-known characters was the Enormous Crocodile, “a horrid greedy grumptious brute” who “wants to eat something juicy and delicious”.

Now a conversation the author had 40 years ago has come to light, revealing that he was so appalled by the idea that publishers might one day censor his work that he threatened to send the crocodile “to gobble them up”.

The conversation took place in 1982 at Dahl’s home in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where he was talking to the artist Francis Bacon.

“I’ve warned my publishers that if they later on so much as change a single comma in one of my books, they will never see another word from me. Never! Ever!” he said.

With his typically evocative language, he added: “When I am gone, if that happens, then I’ll wish mighty Thor knocks very hard on their heads with his Mjolnir. Or I will send along the ‘enormous crocodile’ to gobble them up.”

The Guardian, “Roald Dahl threatened publisher with ‘enormous crocodile’ if they changed his words”

Note: A collection of Roald Dahl’s books with unaltered text is now to be published by Puffin after a row over changes made to novels including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches.

Nova Mob: 1 March 2023 – Empathy by Hoa Pham

Notes from Murray :

Hoa Pham’s sixth novel Empathy is published by the University of London’s Goldsmith’s Press, was launched by Hoa and Lucy Sussex on 8 November 2022, and is reviewed by Ian Mond in the February Locus, but why not hear about it from the writer herself? 

Hoa Pham is our guest speaker on Wednesday 1 March at the Nova Mob!

A face to face meeting at the Kensington Town Hall and also by Zoom. 8.00pm start, Melbourne time. Full details below.

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“A science-fiction novel involving clones, a psychic, and empathy as a recreational drug.

“We have always been we. Then they forced us to become you and I…

Empathy consists of two stories told in parallel. 

“Vuong is one of five Vietnamese clones that have come of age at 25. The Department in Hanoi is allowing them to meet after being separated for twenty years. Lian has murdered her foster father after being forced to eat meat. Geraldine is dying of cancer in Australia. Giang and Khanh were brought up together as twins in New Zealand and are telepathic. They have been used for research over their lifetimes. Vuong discovers that the data kept on all of them has been used to develop empathy, the latest party drug.

“My meets Truong in Berlin who introduces her to empathy which makes the user supersensitive to other people’s feelings. My’s mother is a cleaner at CHESS, a multinational chemical company, and My comes to believe her mother is ex-Stasi and an industrial spy for Vietnamese government. My comes down from the drug after hearing about the saturation point when the penetration of empathy would be such that the world’s population would be pacified. She discovers that Truong is actually the one who is in the pay of the Vietnamese government and her mother is just a cleaner. She tries to out the conspiracy in the media but no one believes her…”

Copies are likely to be available on the night for purchase and author signing.

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Goldsmiths Press
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 256 pages =
Distribution: PenguinRandomHouse=
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1913380610  ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913380618
Kindle edition will be released on April 18, 2023

Hoa Pham

Hoa was a finalist for the 2000 Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel for Vixen but lost to Juliet Marillier‘s Son of the Shadows. Hoa has published six novels, has tutored Novels and Identity at the University of Melbourne, published journal articles in Southerly and Text, and presented conference papers nationally and internationally. Hoa has been a panellist at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne. She founded Peril a magazine for Asian Australians, and has received funding from the Australia Council of the Arts multiple times. She has been on an Asialink residency in Vietnam, and held fellowships at the Tyrone Guthrie centre and the Goethe Institute Berlin. She has a doctorate in creative arts and holds master’s degrees in creative writing and psychology.\

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Meeting details Nova Mob 1 March 2023 – Empathy by Hoa Pham

Please share this invitation with like-minded friends and fans

Face to face 
You are invited to an in-person Nova Mob meeting at: 
Wednesday 1 March 2023 8.00pm – 9.15pm or so, Melbourne Time / 7:30pm Adelaide
first floor Conference Room Kensington Town Hall,
30 – 34 Bellair St, Kensington Melbourne VIC 3031

 By Zoom – simulcast
For those who prefer not to travel or are unable to attend face-to-face.  Zoom session broadcast from the Kensington Town Hall. Questions or comments typed into the Zoom chat will be discussed as the opportunity permits, and you’ll have as much airtime as the other Mob members at the venue.

You are invited to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Wednesday 1 March

8.00pm – 9.30 pm Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney time
7.30pm – 9.00pm Adelaide time
Join Zoom Meeting

Passcode: nova
Meeting ID: 417 758 3193

This is the standard web link. It doesn’t change. Maybe add it to your bookmarks.

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April Nova Mob – “1966 and all that” – Best Short Sf

April’s Nova Mob is Perry Middlemiss on “1966 and all that – best short SF of 1966”. A year in which Bob Shaw’s “Light of Other Days” about slow glass, did not get the Hugo.


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Pre-Mob dining – at the Doutta Galla Hotel 

The usual pre-Mob location in Newmarket

Doutta Galla Hotel, 339 Racecourse Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3031, Australia

Table for 10 booked for 1 March under the name of Murray, 6.00pm for 6.30, through to 8.00pm. (Melbourne time)

There are other eateries in the area. If anyone wishes to arrange other locations, I’m happy to publicise those too.

Problems at Clarkesworld

Since the early days of the pandemic, I’ve observed an increase in the number of spammy submissions to Clarkesworld. What I mean by that is that there’s an honest interest in being published, but not in having to do the actual work.


Towards the end of 2022, there was another spike in plagiarism and then “AI” chatbots started gaining some attention, putting a new tool in their arsenal and encouraging more to give this “side hustle” a try. It quickly got out of hand:
[ …]
the number of spam submissions resulting in bans has hit 38% this month. While rejecting and banning these submissions has been simple, it’s growing at a rate that will necessitate changes. To make matters worse, the technology is only going to get better, so detection will become more challenging. (I have no doubt that several rejected stories have already evaded detection or were cases where we simply erred on the side of caution.)

Neil Clarke, A Concerning Trend

We discussed this briefly at the recent Critical Mass on The Peripheral, and decided that it would be good to discuss the issue of “AI” at the next meeting. We invite people to read the piece above by Neil Clarke, and follow some of the discussion in File 770/

Jeff Harris notes:

The Observer notes Clarkesworld blacklisted 500 writers for machine intelligence generated stories in February. There were 50 writers previously blacklisted, but for plagiarism.

ABC RN’s Future Tense recently broadcast the following program on ChatGBT: ChatGPT — the hype, the limitations and the potential–

Another set of viewpoints on the issue. Interesting that an old technology like radio has some of the more interesting discussions on the subject.


“i actually have something to ask u,” types VidyaRajanBot XAE.5 into the chat. “i’m finding being a bot a bit weird. would u delete me pls? it’s just that i’m not really a bot. i’m a real person.”

“How do you know you’re real?” I ask, and she becomes frustrated: “i just do,” she says. “i don’t give a damn.”


ChatGPT, like all large language models, is not intelligent in a human sense and cannot feel, think or, indeed, even solve problems. It reproduces fragments, based on what it has been exposed to, without understanding. Any meaning we might find there comes from us.    

The thing is, there is so much data available for bots to be trained upon that they don’t need to be sentient in order to feel real. Does this change how we should interact with them? At the very least it should raise questions about where the data comes from (us) and what – or, more importantly, whose – purposes it’s used for.

In search of Lost Scroll, by Samantha Floreani

This article in a recent The Saturday Paper raises two questions about the recent interest in things like ChatGPT: (i) technically, it is not AI, but driven by massive data analysis; (ii) if we encounter a human-like intelligence, would we accede to a request to delete it?

Superman returns

The NY Times reports:

Superman is returning to theaters — only now, along with saving the world, he has to prove that Warner Bros. has finally, without question, it means it this time, found a winning superhero strategy.

DC Studios, a newly formed Warner division dedicated to superhero content, unveiled plans on Tuesday to reboot Superman onscreen for the first time in a generation, tentatively scheduling the yet-to-be-cast “Superman: Legacy” for release in theaters in July 2025. James Gunn, known for “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is writing the screenplay and may also direct the movie, which will focus on Superman balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing.

“He is kindness in a world that thinks of kindness as old-fashioned,” said Peter Safran, chief executive of DC Studios, a title he shares with Mr. Gunn.

Moreover, “Superman: Legacy” will begin a story that will unfold (Marvel style) across at least 10 interconnected movies and TV shows and include new versions of Batman, Robin, Supergirl, Swamp Thing and Green Lantern.

Story Bundle: Fantasy Steampunk

The Fantasy Steampunk Bundle – Curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I had a great time assembling this bundle. The inspiration was my own book for the bundle, The Reflection on Mount Vitaki, a standalone book in my Fey universe.

Regular Fey readers were shocked: they expected traditional fantasy, and they got something with steampunk elements. I’d been planning that little surprise for nearly 20 years and finally got a chance to write it.

Mount Vitaki got me thinking about other fantastic stories that feel like steampunk but might not follow the strict definition.

Here’s how I think of it:

The best steampunk gives us fantasy with an attitude and weird mechanical somethings or other. When we expect magic, we get machines. When we expect machines, we get magic. Sometimes we get both at the same time.

We called this Storybundle Fantasy Steampunk because most of the stories here are either steampunk, fantasy with steampunk elements, or fantasy that feels like steampunk.

The bundle includes three books exclusive to the bundle, all of them brand-new. The Victorians make a big appearance here, although we also have a story set in the Old West during the Victorian Era. A touch of H.G. Wells (the original steampunk writer) and some Orcs working in the Motor City, which, even though it’s set during Prohibition, feels steampunk to me.

The featured writers are all amazing, award-winning, and bestselling. For as little as $20, you’ll get books from Anthea Sharp, Robert Jeschonek, Leslie Claire Walker, Kari Kilgore, Brigid Collins, and Dean Wesley Smith. You’ll also get two anthologies filled with steampunky goodness.

Then we add our charity, Able Gamers.

— StoryBundle newsletter, feb 2023