Spurious Theories Feed

Matthew Blakstad on "Je suis Tay"

Je suis Tay

For the past few days the internet has revelled in the precipitous downfall of Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay. This software-generated teen was hyped by its creators for the intelligent algorithms that would make it progressively smarter, the more it chatted to human beings. Well, Tay certainly became more something – but it wasn’t smart. Within a few days, prompted by persistent needling from Twitter users, the bot began to produce anti-semitic and sexist rants. Then, for good measure, it started extolling the virtues of one Donald J Trump. Familiar stuff from human users of social media, but it was rather striking to see these views expressed by a robot.

SockpuppetA few days later, Tay returned, repatched and instructed to play nicely this time; but in a matter of hours, it had to be taken down yet again, having descended this time into a drug-fuelled meltdown.

 

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25 Superhero Films Just As Bad As Batman vs Superman

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Let's be clear, Batman vs Superman is not good.

It is too long, too ponderous and takes itself way too seriously. It has mediocre acting, macho ham-philosophy, a bad score and confusing action sequences. It is packed with 'easter eggs' that are largely meaningless, espouses terrible politics, devotes itself to building its own mythology, and is rife with visual decision-making that is, at best, suspect.

Which is to say, it is no worse than many, many other superhero movies. 

For controversy's sake, here are 25 recent-ish superhero films from the last 20 years that are just as bad - if not worse - than Batman vs Superman:

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What is Sword & Sorcery?

Flashing_SwordsFrom the introduction to Flashing Swords! (1973) an anthology of original Swords & Sorcery novelettes, edited by Carter:

We call a story Sword & Sorcery when it is an action tale, derived from the traditions of the pulp magazine adventure story, set in a land, age or world of the author's invention - a milieu in which magic actually works and the gods are real - a story, moreover, which pits a stalwart warrior in direct conflict with the forces of supernatural evil.

Carter goes on to say that, although the term was coined by Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard should get credit for founding the genre.

As with all genre generalisations, it is easier to think of exceptions than rules. But given this is from Carter, one of the editors/authors/canonisers at the heart of the movement, it is fair to take this at face value. This is the 'institutional' definition. That is, for what 'Sword & Sorcery' meant at the time. My challenge would be - does this still apply? And, even looking back, can we still apply this definition now to stories written then?

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KJ Parker's Two of Swords x The Easy Way Out

Two of SwordsFrom K.J. Parker's Two of Swords (Episode 9):

"You want to know a secret? Writing what you call good music is easy, piece of cake. You're writing for intelligent, educated people who are prepared to meet you halfway. It's the army songs and the romantic ballads that made me sweat blood."

"I don't believe you."

"Because they're simple and accessible? You don't know anything about writing music. Simple and accessible is the hardest thing there is. It's like designing a clock mechanism with only two moving parts. It's working with both hands tied behind your back. You're limited to a simple melodic line, which has to conform to strict form. You've got the voice and one instrument and that's it, no orchestra, no counterpoint, nothing.... And that's why I earn good money. Because I can give people what they want. Not just the smart ones. Everybody."

"All right," she said grudgingly. "If money is all that matters -"

"It's the only reliable way of keeping score," he said. "A thousand cultured folk will tell you they love your symphony, but can you believe them? But if a hundred thousand poor people decide they can afford two stuivers to hear you sing, that probably means you're actually getting something right."

----

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"I'm Through with Science Fiction" by Henry Hasse

I'm through

The editor of this magazine [Ray Bradbury], under the impression that I am still one of that queer tribe known as science-fiction fans, has asked me to write an article. I am no longer a science-fiction fan. I'm through! However, I have decided to do the article and explain with my chin leading just why I am through.

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The Nine-Tiered Table of Reality Crossovers

Amazing Spiderman 36

In each episode of the One Comic podcast, one of us will take a turn at doing a '3 and 1' - a list of the 3 best and 1 worst comics on a particular (generally thematically relevant) topic. In the latest episode, we poked and prodded at the controversial "Shoot" issue of Hellblazer. I was on tap for the 3 and 1, and wound up going slightly off-piste with the format.

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DGLA: And the winner is...

Axe

...and the moment we've all been waiting for. Let's pick the winner of my vote! After 12 blog posts, 10 book reviews and 6,000 pages of reading, I can now announce who won approximately 1/7,000th of a Gemmell Award!

Ok, granted, the voting closed on 17 July, but since the official winner won't be announced until Saturday, I have two days where my 1/7,000th can feel particularly meaningful. Plus, I've got a lot of rambling to do.

Let's get to it.

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Erin Lindsey on "Sex and Explosions Part Deux: Now with More Sex!"

Qué_valor!

About six months ago, I did a guest post over at SF Signal called “Sex and Explosions”, in which I observed that according to the Hollywood model, the essential ingredients of a blockbuster/bestseller are – spoiler! – sex and explosions. A great action romance, I argued, links a suspenseful plot and an engaging love story in a positive feedback loop: each influences the other, so that the romance shapes the action and vice versa. Ideally, these knock-on effects raise the stakes and increase the momentum of the story.

Catchy title notwithstanding, that post was really about romance and action, rather than sex and explosions per se. Needless to say, not all sex is romance, and explosions are but one way (albeit a particularly awesome way) of demonstrating action. Sex rears its… er, head… in many different guises, serving various masters. Explosions, meanwhile, are merely one subset of violence, and this too can be used to achieve a variety of aims. (Or at least, they should serve a purpose; all too often, sex and violence are simply tossed in as a matter of obligation.)

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"What if digital came first?"

SLNSW_12850_Womens_formal_gownsThis is a rather stream-of-thought abuse of the 'spurious theories' tag, but I wanted to lump a lot of ideas together in one place.

The main cause of this? A great talk at Digital Shoreditch from Chris Bishop, who asked a simple, but heady, question. What if digital came first?

The talk - available online here - is largely from a consumer, retail, digital mindset. Bishop points out that a lot of ecommerce attention has been wasted trying to create physical experiences online, rather than embracing digital's strengths. And, similarly, the reverse is true: stores are now trying to imitate websites. His conclusion is that, eventually, the two channels will find their complementary ways, and physical stores will become an asset again. (Harsh, but not entirely fair.)

Anyway, this got me thinking. In publishing, we have two physical-first avenues: the books and the stores. And they're both taking a beating. So what if... digital came first?

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