If she didn’t want to be naked on the Internet, why was she photographed with her clothes on?

If you thought deepfakes were bad, here’s something worse: Washington Post reports that users of a new onlne service “can anonymously submit a photo of a clothed woman and receive an altered version with the clothing removed. The AI technology, trained on large databases of actual nude photographs, can generate fakes with seemingly lifelike accuracy, matching skin tone and swapping in breasts and genitalia where clothes once were. The women’s faces remain clearly visible, and no labels are appended to the images to mark them as fake. Some of the original images show girls younger than 18.”

Before you ask no, the AI can’t do the same with men. It’s only set up to declothe women and will give male images female body parts. The article says that’s partly because AI research is male dominated so they don’t have any women working on projects like this who can say “What the hell are you thinking?” But I also think misogyny plays a part: “The bot’s administrator, speaking in Russian, told The Post in a private chat on Monday that they didn’t take responsibility for how requesters used the software, which they argued was freely available, anyway. ‘If a person wants to poison another, he’ll do this without us, and he’ll be the one responsible for his actions,’ the administrator wrote.” A)This is not poison or a gun or a car, something that’s freely available; B)what they are doing with this service is exactly what it’s designed to do — strip women naked.

The administrator also resorted to that old Undead Sexist Cliche, why was she wearing those clothes? “A girl who puts a photo in a swimsuit on the Internet for everyone to see — for what purpose does (she do) this?” Hmm, possibly because she was at the beach and she wanted to share the event with her friends? And even if she posted because she likes how sexy she looks, so what? This does not translate into “since she likes to look sexy, therefore it’s acceptable to faked naked photos of her,” any more than it’s an excuse for rape.

To their credit some AI researchers have called out this kind of shit. One developer took down an app they’d made with similar capabilities because the potential for abuse was too high. Other people, however, adopt the kind of laissez-faire attitude of the administrator — hey, this is cool tech, who cares what happens with it in the real world?

My opinion of such people is not high.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

It’s still the month of Halloween, so why not more scary covers?

William Teason gives us a weird cover for Shirley Jackson’s tale of madness.Matt Fox contributes a Weird Tales cover.As does Margaret Brundage — And A.R. Tilburne. Jules de Grandin was the most popular series in Weird Tales though he’s largely forgotten now.Then we have a sword-and-sorcery cover by Steranko —And a Powers cover for a tale of terror—And Doc Savage facing the Squeaking Goblin.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under cover art

“We really like your story” followed by “but …”

So my latest rejection, for No One Can Slay Her, said a lot of nice things about the atmosphere, the magic, the characters, some of the 1950s period detail. But … there was a lot they didn’t like (though happily they didn’t find any flaws in the mystery plot, something I’d worried about). Mostly matters of taste — the details they disliked I think work for the story — but it still added up to a no.

Which is fair enough; actually more than fair, because taking the time to write a detailed critique is quite generous of them (I know the editor. They have a lot of demands on their time). But still it’s frustrating, like one I got a couple of months ago for The Schloss and the Switchblade (really liked the story but no room for it in the upcoming issues). Even when they like my work, there’s a but. And no sale.

Of course, pretty much every story I’ve ever written has gone through at least a half-dozen markets, often much more, before someone accepts it. Sometimes after rewriting based on feedback. Sometimes with no changes. So I’m not discouraged. On the other hand, pretty much every story I’ve ever written has gone through at least a half-dozen markets, even though the eventual acceptance means it’s good enough to get published. Why, oh why can’t I find the right market earlier?

It’s particularly frustrating this year where my only sales have been reprints. I’m seriously considering that when I finish with Questionable Minds and Undead Sexist Cliches I just take everything that isn’t sold and put them into a short story book with some of my published works. As I do a lot of historical fantasy, I could call it Magic and History — okay, I should call it something better than that but you get the idea. We have No One Can Slay Her from the 1950s, Glory That Was and Impossible Things Before Breakfast from the 1970s, Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates in the 1980s, plus published work from the 1930s, 1950s, 1960s, early 21st century and one from the 1600s.

The downside is that my self-published books don’t make me much money. The best sales have come from when I visited cons and handsold them and god knows when I’ll get to do that again. Short fiction is hardly a lucrative field but the money from magazine/anthology sales is usually better than self-publishing them. Then again, it’s also a great deal of time researching markets, submitting, researching and submitting again … at least I’d be done with that and the stories would be published, available for reading.

Well it’ll be a while before my current projects are done, so I’ll see how I feel by then. And until that point, I’ll keep submitting.

And I’ll close with a photo of Wisp sitting on top of the heated cat-house we bought for her, somewhat blurred by sunlight on the back window.

#SFWApro.

3 Comments

Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Writing

Thom Tillis and more!

It’s perfectly possible NC Sen. Thom “Trump Toady” Tillis will win re-election. But I loathe the man and his policies so much I donated to his opponent, and I never donate to politicians. While I realize this won’t be of interest to non-NCers, this is my blog, so I’m going to vent.

He’s backed accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court and the possibly more repellent Steven Minashi for a lower federal appointment.

He wants to punish local jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with ICE.

He complains that Obamacare is partisan because Republicans didn’t vote for it, but doesn’t apply that standard to, say, appointing Kavanaugh with no Democratic support. And while he talks about how he wants to offer better alternatives to Obamacare, he supports worse alternatives.

He talks tough sometimes, then folds and kisses Trump’s butt.

Tillis claimed the Republicans massive tax-reform bill was targeted to ordinary Americans when it really benefits rich guys like himself.

And he specifically distinguishes between black residents of this state and the traditional population of North Carolina.

Of course, Raleigh-Durham is a sea of blue in a very red state, so I won’t bet money on the outcome. But I would love to see Tillis go down hard. Or for that matter, soft.

Now, other news:

Monica Hesse at the Washington Post says (correctly) that feminists are not obligated to support anti-gay, anti-abortion Amy Coney Barrett. Republicans meanwhile pretend she can’t possibly believe those things or want to abolish the Affordable Care Act — she’s such a nice person! Jim Obergefell (yes of the Obergefell gay marriage decision) says yes she can.

Republicans are already having fits at the prospect of Democrats increasing the number of Supreme Court justices. But nine justices isn’t an absolute mandate, as witness when they thought Clinton would win, they intended to allow her zero nominations. At this point that would mean a six-member Supreme Court.

And Barrett refuses to commit herself and say whether Trump can postpone the election (answer: no, not legally). She’s also unclear whether voter intimidation is legal. Democrat Mark Udall saw Barrett (or an equivalent right-winger) coming several years ago, but he got mocked for it.

Corporations celebrating gay rights makes right-wing snowflake Rod Dreher cry.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah thinks we should give up democracy for liberty, peace and prosperity. Vox looks at the history of Republican distaste for democracy and where “a republic, not a democracy” came from.

Trump whines that all his enemies should be locked up. And that Trump and Biden had Seal Team Six executed to hide that Bin laden lives!

Right-wing radicals plotted to kidnap the Democratic Governor of Michigan.

QAnon is destroying families.

Trump’s trashing the economy now, so how bad will it get if he loses? Of course it’ll still be better than what he’d do with a second term. But as Paul Campos says, the fact even Bill Barr is backing away from the crazy man is a hopeful sign. Plenty of Republicans are still hoping to cheat, though (“We need to stop those [mail-in] ballots from going out, and I want the lawyers here to tell us what to do.”). Others insist that liberals are unfairly demonizing a great man! Or imagining an alternate timeline in which Trump is competent. Or that God wants us to shut up and obey his chosen leader (pay no attention to those prophets who confronted Saul, David and other Chosen Ones and told them when they were screwing up).

538 looks at why the political divides have become so vast.

To end on an upbeat note, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn political party/fascist organization has been outlawed with 18 former lawmakers convicted for the organization’s crimes.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Magic, more magic and then the end: books read

LORE OF THE WITCH WORLD is a collection of short stories from various anthologies so they’re almost all stand-alones; “Sword of Unbelief”brings back Elys and Jervon from Spell of the Witch World and “Toads of Grimmerdale” got a sequel written especially for this volume. The character dynamic is familiar from earlier Witch World books (outcast woman paired up with not-quite-as-outcast man) and the stories are enjoyable, more so for being slightly outside the core story arcs. That makes the Witch World a place where anyone can have amazing adventures, not just the Tregarths or Kerovan (of Crystal Gryphon). Good if you’re into Norton.

MAGIC BY THE LAKE brings back the family from Edward Eager’s Half Magic, now vacationing at a lakeside cottage with their new stepfather when they accidentally make a wish that turns the entire lake to magic. Before long they’re dealing with pirates, mermaids, teenage Romeos, the Forty Thieves and hungry cannibals (unpleasantly racist characters, but watching them see through the kids’ efforts to impress them with modern technology is pretty funny). This was even more in the style of E. Nesbit than the previous book, with the grumpy turtle assisting the kids very much in the mold of Nesbit’s magical mentors. Rereading these is proving a good decision.

THE MIGHTY SWORDSMEN was a 1970 anthology of sword and sorcery ranging from very good (one of John Brunner’s Traveler in Black tales and Robert E. Howard’s “Beyond the Black River,”) to the mediocre, in the form of a non-Howard Conan yarn  by Bjorn Nyberg and one of Lin Carter’s Thongor stories. While it wouldn’t have bothered me at the time, the heroes are all men and the cast mostly so; the women who do get noticeable roles are smothered by sexism (why is the hot girl penetrating a forbidden castle to find her brother foolish while Thongor doing the same from curiosity is heroid?).

WORLD OF TROUBLE: The Last Policeman Book III follows Countdown City to wrap up Ben Winters’ trilogy. At the end of the last book, Hank had settled in with his new girlfriend to spend the end of the world in comfort. Now, though, he heads out to find his missing sister: has her secret organization found a way to avert the asteroid impact after all? If not, just what are they up to? It turns out things have not being going well to Nora, pushing Hank back into cop mode. With only a few days to the impact though, can he get to the bottom of things? A downbeat but satisfactory finish.

#SFWApro. Cover by Michael Whelan, all rights to image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reading

Suspicion and Doom: movies viewed

When I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s SUSPICION (1941) in college, I found the ending frustrating and unsatisfying to the point the whole movie fell apart. Rewatching, I see I was right about the end (spoilers will follow) but the film up to that point is very good. Joan Fontaine plays Lina, the spinsterish daughter of a wealthy family (I’m impressed she’s able to come off quite different from her Rebecca spinster — smarter and more confident, though just as frustrated with her current role in life) who meets, falls for and marries the charming Johnnie (Cary Grant).  Only after the wedding does Lina learn the downside: Johnnie’s a spendthrift who optimistically thought she had money enough to support them.

Johnnie doesn’t run out when he’s wrong, but he can’t stop spending money they don’t have, gambles compulsively and steals from his employer, lying to her all the while. Then Lina develops a suspicion that he’s found a solution: murder her for a life insurance payoff. She doesn’t want to believe it but after Johnnie’s best friend Nigel Bruce dies before reclaiming the money he loaned Johnnie for a failed investment scheme …

The original plot would have followed the novel Before the Fact: Lina lets Johnnie poison her but then he unwittingly mails a letter to Lina’s mother spelling out what he’s done. Justice will be served. However suicide was banned by the Production Code and RKO’s production head freaked out about Grant as a villain, even trying to cut out all the scenes that made him look bad (the 100-minute movie ended up 55 minutes before RKO put the footage back in). So we get an ending in which it turns out everything was in Lina’s head; Johnnie’s actually going to take the “honorable way out” and poison himself. She convinces him, instead, to come home, face the music and start over.

I’m sure that ending could have been made workable, but here it’s an unsatisfying anticlimax. Even if Johnnie’s not a murderer, he’s been a really bad husband — lying, irresponsible, selfish — and the ending doesn’t convince me he’s really changed. That said, it’s great looking and well acted, with Fontaine snagging an Oscar for her role. “I think I’m falling in love with you and I don’t quite like it.”

SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY (2007) was in my queue even before I started Alien Visitors (which will include a chapter on alien superheroes), though it won’t get more than a passing mention. The first in a line of DC Universe animated films, producer Bruce Timm deliberately broke with the DCAU in voice casting and visual style; Adam Baldwin plays Superman, who wages the fight of his life — and death — against the near-unstoppable alien juggernaut Doomsday, much to Lex Luthor’s horror (“Something I’ve dreamed of for years was taken away from me by an intergalactic soccer hooligan!”). After creating a Superman clone to serve as his proxy, Luthor feels better, but then the clone starts to develop ideas of its own … Some of the visuals didn’t work for me but overall very good; the fate of Toyman is a genuine shock. Anne Heche plays Lois, James Marsters voices Luthor and DCAU veteran Cree Summers plays Lex’s sidekick Mercy Graves.  “At least I get to kill Superman after all.”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

Another productive week, woot!

So far my recalibration effort has proven successful. Not perfect, but overall much more productive.

I finished Chapter Nine of Undead Sexist Cliches and the afterword which means … holy crap, I have completed this draft. It doesn’t seem quite real to say so. I still have to check footnotes; read the manuscript aloud one final time; and index. But that’s more like mopping up than writing. This will be a cool milestone once it registers that I’ve actually done it.

I got several chapters done on Questionable Minds, but not as many as I hoped. And man, 90,000 words is a lot to proof-read! Still, the journey of a thousand miles and so on …

I didn’t get much writing done on Alien Visitors but I watched some movies and TV for the book, and began breaking down the listed movies into the various categories. The Alien Invasion chapter has a really insane long list, of course (even given most of them will be just noted at the end), while other chapters are a lot lighter. I’ve no idea what to do about that yet; as I’m focusing on only one movie a chapter, maybe it doesn’t really matter. I also read a fair amount of a book on the history of UFOs that’s turning out to be quite good.

I also got my Leaf articles done, and did an over-the-phone tryout for a radio drama (no pay, but it should be fun).

Oh and Trixie’s rehab appointment shows she’s mostly in good shape. Her surgery is holding up but there’s a slight deterioration in her knee, so we need to reduce her jumping and running up stairs for a couple of months. And she’s now over 10 pounds, which is too heavy; it’s easy to forget but because she’s so small, a little treat can add up to a significant number of calories. But she can still take good long walks so that will help get some of the weight off, I hope.

Hard to believe she was a tiny five-pound dog back when we first met my little angel.

#SFWApro.

2 Comments

Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Pets and other animals

Other animals like the bird who showed up on our corner lot to check out some recent roadkill. He dragged a squished squirrel into our yard and snacked on it. Regrettably the photo doesn’t show quite how awesome he looked IRL.

Next Wisp. This week she not only came and sat beside me on the couch, she went to sleep with her head tucked slightly under my leg. I think she likes me.Then there’s the puppers. Plushie went to a rehab place to check out his knee problems. They say it’s not his knee as much as a problem with his groin muscles and recommended various steps we could take. Some of them we’ve seen used before, such as a laser treatment of the injured area. Others were more dubious about such as “dry needling” — it would be a lot of pricking and leave Plushie very sore and he doesn’t cope well with that sort of thing. So probably not. Whatever we decide on will be pricey, but look at that face — he’s totally worth it.

So is Trixie, who’s going in this afternoon to see if rehab could benefit her any (she still has a slight weakness in her legs). Regrettably they couldn’t take both dogs at once as it’s an intensive process.

#SFWApro. Images are mine.

1 Comment

Filed under The Dog Ate My Homework

The religious right is always wrong about homosexuality.

They’ve been proven wrong, time and again.

Quite possibly they’re not wrong to think the Barrett nomination to the Supreme Court will enable them to overturn the Obergefell gay marriage decision. But everything else? They’re full of it.

They used to claim they opposed homosexuality because gay people were promiscuous sluts and have you seen the disgusting things they do at gay pride parades? Now we know they’re just as disgusted by the sight of a same-sex couple in formal wear pledging eternal love to each other.

They predicted gay marriage would somehow destroy straight marriage. Gay marriage has been legal in some states since 2003, and straight marriage still exists.

They predicted their churches would be forced to perform gay marriages and that preachers who called gay sex a sin would be jailed. Hasn’t happened in the past 17 years.

Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist Conference has complained that when the right-wing loses it’s because the moral side of the debate has been ignored. He’s wrong: gay rights is the moral side.

The right routinely claims they have a first amendment right to call gays disgusting perverts and pedophiles. They don’t think anyone has a first amendment right to criticize them for it. Any more than they respect the religious freedom of those whose faith says gay rights are good.

As the link in the first paragraph notes, the religious right has always claimed the real issue was that gay marriage shouldn’t be imposed by judges. But they complain just as much when legislatures pass gay marriage. And I guarantee that if the Roberts Court ever ruled that no state had the right to allow gay marriage, the religious right would celebrate without one peep about states’ rights.

Their homophobia is a minority, but that’s part of what makes them so angry. They really do believe they’re holier than us and not getting respected for it, seeing the world ignore their wishes, is making them more vicious than ever.

I look forward to the day their hate is largely toothless but we’re not there yet.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Diana Prince Years: Wonder Woman vs. tyranny and tragedy

Welcome back to my on-going look at the white pantsuit era of late Silver Age Wonder Woman. Following Diana’s trip to China, Sekowsky’s last seven issues were all over the map: horror, sword-and-sandal adventure, a Prisoner of Zenda knockoff as well as stories in the styles he’d already established, with Diana defending her neighborhood and dealing with international intrigue. If Sekowsky wanted to show the series could do more than just spy stuff, he succeeded.

Detour in Wonder Woman#190 launches a three issue sword-and-sandal tale, though #191 was actually a reprint with a few new pages added as a framing sequence (Diana’s companion asks who she is and how she came to be, so she recaps the transition from Amazon to Ordinary Woman). Diana goes to visit Paradise Island in its otherworldly home again, but a dimensional storm blows her and her guide Leda off-course, landing them in the world of Chalandor. The local queen’s forces capture Diana for the arena — she doesn’t go down easily, of course — and she ends up thrown in a dungeon with the barbarian prince Ranagor. Diana, however, has some of the spy gadgets she acquired during one of her previous adventures and busts her chains using a button that conceals a powerful acid. She and Ranagor escape … but their getaway path just leads the to the arena. The queen unleashes her nastiest beast, the reptilian gnarth, but Diana finds a way to beat it, then she and Ranagor bust out.

The duo find Ranagor’s father’s army, which lays siege to the queen’s Castle Skull. It goes badly for the besiegers until Diana mixes up some gunpowder to make small rockets and even then the fortress is able to hold out. After a duel with the queen fails to resolve things (the queen cuts and runs rather than admit defeat), Diana hits on the idea of blowing up the castle gates with a whole lot of gunpowder (shouldn’t that have been an obvious option?) and the fortress falls. Leda shows up with the Amazons, too late to help but they do provide Diana a way home. It’s a mixed bag. “Hey, I know how to make gunpowder” is a resolution I’ve seen in god knows how many adventure tales of heroes trapped in lost cities and the adventure as a whole is too stock to work for me. Sekowsky’s art, however, is great and the story shows off Diana’s formidable abilities at their best. This time out, she doesn’t need a man, not even I Ching, to do the heavy lifting.

Angela brings Diana back to her current neighborhood. When Tony Petrucci disappears, packing his gun, his Mom reveals to Diana that three years earlier Tony’s sister Angela went into a coma after someone spiked the food at a party with “funny seasoning.” Eddie Dean, Tony’s buddy from ‘nam was at the party and Tony accuses him of being the culprit, given his history of practical jokes that went wrong. Eddie denies it, pointing out he got sick from the stuff himself. Mrs. Petrucci explains that Tony has never given up searching for the person responsible; his increased frustration has led to him lashing out and beating up the local homeless population simply as a convenient target. Now he’s found a fresh lead and his mother is terrified, with good reason obviously, that he’s going to cross a line.

Diana investigates which immediately generates blowback. Hoods try to scare her off; when she slaps them around, they tell her a local lowlife named Runty Sneed hired them. Diana finds Runty dead, but pretends he gave her a dying message, figuring that will bring the bad guys after her again. Sure enough, there’s another hit, which gives her the clue she needs: Eddie’s behind it. She arrives at his upscale apartment to learn Tony’s already figured it out and has dragged Eddie up into the girders of the under-construction skyscraper next door.  She climbs up after them to find Eddie has a slight edge in the fight, but not once Diana shows up. After she decks Eddie, Tony wants to finish him off but Diana disables him temporarily, then the cops show.

It’s almost a great story of revenge and redemption, but not quite. For one thing the plot is confused: Eddie’s simultaneously a stupid practical joker — he tried to spice up the food with hot sauce, unaware the bottle he found was the maid’s container for cleaning fluid — and a drug dealer who thought getting the guests high would help him find a new batch of customers. That second reveal comes out of nowhere, and I imagine the autopsies would have established “drug overdose” was the cause of death three years earlier if that had been the case. Similarly, Tony pegged Eddie as the culprit because he’d pulled a joke like that once before and because Tony figured out Eddie’s lifestyle was financed by drugs. Its like Sekowsky considered two explanations and went with both of them.

And then at the end, we have a too-convenient happy wrap-up when it turns out Angela’s doctor has finally brought her out of the coma, and not only that he wants to marry her. Much as I enjoy a good eucatastrophe, this one was a little too miraculous.

#SFWApro. Covers by Sekowsky, all rights remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading, Wonder Woman