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

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.

Nova Mob 7 December Meeting: Chris Flynn “Here Be Leviathans”

An end-of-year bonus meeting with Chris Flynn – best-seller, raconteur, dinosaur voice, and (we knew all along!) keen SF reader and fan.

In June 2021 we met Chris over Zoom to hear about Mammoth, which turned into one of 2021’s best-sellers and resulted in Chris being hired by Museums Victoria as the voice of Horridus the Triceratops. Now it’s his short story collection “Here Be Leviathans” and as well as enjoying Chris’s company, there will be opportunity on the night to buy copies. Last time, Chris outed himself as a fan and fitted in well as a Mob member, so expect a fine night to complete the Mob’s year. The publicity material about Here Be Leviathans tells us:

A collection of funny, brilliant, boundary-pushing stories from the bestselling author of Mammoth.

A grizzly bear goes on the run after eating a teenager. A hotel room participates in an unlikely conception. A genetically altered platypus colony puts on an art show. A sabretooth tiger falls for the new addition to his theme park. An airline seat laments its last useful day. A Shakespearean monkey test pilot launches into space.

The stories in Here Be Leviathans take us from the storm drains under Las Vegas to the Alaskan wilderness; the rainforests of Queensland to the Chilean coastline. Narrated in Chris Flynn’s unique and hilarious style by animals, places, objects and even the (very) odd human, these short fictions push the boundaries of the form by examining human behavior from the perspective of the outsider. 

CHRIS FLYNN is the author of three novels, the most recent of which, Mammoth, was shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards and Russell Prize for Humour. His work has appeared in The AgeThe AustralianThe GuardianMcSweeney’sThe Paris Review and many other publications. He is Editor-in-Residence at Museums Victoria and the author of the Horridus the Triceratops series of picture books for children

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 7 December

8.00pm – 9.15pm or so, 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 passed through to Chris as the opportunity permits.

You are invited to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Wednesday 7 December

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.

💥 💥 💥

Ian Mond’s best books of genre not packaged as genre

Critical Mass Nov 23rd: Ikarie XB-1 screening

Polák’s pioneering and much-imitated feature IKARIE XB 1 is one of the cornerstones of contemporary sci-fi cinema. It predates Star Trek and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and was clearly an influence on both – and on almost every other science-fiction vehicle that followed.

Adapted from Stanislaw Lem’s novel The Magellanic Cloud , the film is set in 2163 and follows a mission deep into space in search of alien life. On their journey the crew confront the effects of a malignant dark star, the destructive legacy of the 20th century and, ultimately, the limits of their own sanity. IKARIE XB 1 is imbued with a seriousness, intelligence and attention to detail rarely seen in science-fiction cinema of the period.

From the DVD liner notes…

For our November meeting, we’ve decided to screen the black and white 1963 Czech film Ikarie XB 1, which won joint first prize at the first Trieste Science+Fiction film festival.
Warning: do not confuse this with the recut/trashed American release version, called Voyage to the End of the Universe

Critical Mass meets at Kappy’s
6:15 for a 6:30 start. Best seen in person, but we’re happy to talk about the film with zoom attendees
— zoom in after the film screening at 8pm Adelaide time:

Critical Mass
Time: Nov 23, 2022 8:00 pm Adelaide / 8:30 Melbourne

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 892 7567 5259
Passcode: CritMass

The Peripheral on TV

Gibson’s The Peripheral (2014) was a novel based around immersive virtual reality, which makes you feel like you’ve been transported to another place and even another person’s body. The book is set in 2032, in an age where it’s possible to move from one version of time to another. It’s not a kind of time travel, it’s a point in time where you can move backward, change the events of the past, and create two or more different branches of time. One might go on to become reality, and the other might disappear as a truncated “stub” of time.

Flynne Fisher (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), her Marine veteran brother, Burton (Jack Reynor), and their dying mother live in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2032. As their mother’s health deteriorates and the medical bills add up, Flynne and Burton make extra money playing simulations (Sims). When Burton is offered a chance to beta test a new Sim, it’s Flynne who ends up playing, pretending to be her brother.
The Sim takes place in London and it involves Flynne breaking into a corporation known as the Research Institute to steal a valuable secret. When the assignment goes badly wrong, Flynne begins to realize the Sim might be more real than she thinks.

Some of the strange additions to a future London in the Prime Video adaptation of the William Gibson novel The Peripheral.

The Arthur C Clarke Award

The annual Arthur C. Clarke Award is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year.The award judges are a voluntary body with members nominated by the award’s supporting organisations, currently the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation and the Sci-Fi-London film festival.

Award media partner: SFX Magazine


Deep Wheel Orcadia by Harry Josephine Giles – WINNER
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
A River Called Time by Courttia Newland
Wergen: The Alien Love War by Mercurio D. Rivera
Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley

The Animals in that Country – Laura Jean McKay – WINNER
The Infinite – Patience Agbabi
The Vanished Birds – Simon Jimenez
Vagabonds – Hao Jingfang
Edge of Heaven – R.B. Kelly
Chilling Effect  -  Valerie Valdes