Delia Sherman's delightful The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen
is the sequel to her equally excellent Changeling
, the beginning of a series of books of modern fairytales set in a "New York Between," a parallel New York in which the folkloric traditions of many lands combine to make a place that's as wonderful, familiar and strange as the fairytale woods of the Grimms would have been to the people to originally told those
Magic Mirror continues the education of Neef, the Changeling of Central Park, the last wild place in New York, ruled by the Green Lady, the older Genius in the five boroughs. Neef, a human girl kidnapped as an infant and raised to be a diplomat and hero for Central Park, needs to formalize her training, and so her fairy godmother sends her to changeling school, Miss Van Loon's School for Mortal Changelings.
What follows puts Hogwarts to shame, combining the anarchic charm of Ronald Searles' dark and hilarious St Trinian's cartoons with a deep and thorough knowledge of folklore, a wonderful sense of humor and bottomless imagination.
Neef is thrown together with the outcast Changelings from the Lower East Side and the theater district, pitched against the elf-obsessed willowy Changelings of the rich neighborhoods, and while she tries to do her best to hew to the 600 rules of Miss Van Loon's, she can't help but find herself on a quest to avert a war between Central Park and the Harbor Folk, not to mention sworn by oath to conjure Bloody Mary on Hallowe'en.
Every bit as witty and engrossing as Changeling, Magic Mirror is a strong second volume in a series I'm very much looking forward to following for years to come.
The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen
The Nightmare Machine is an MIT project to use machine learning image-processing to make imagery for Hallowe’en.
The Stormtrooper Decanter is on back-order, but you can pre-order one from the next batch for £22 — it’s based on Andrew Ainsworth’s original movie helmet moulds from 1976, and will provide endless opportunities to point to lowball glasses and say things like “aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper drink?” (via Bonnie Burton)
Yahoo has released a machine-learning model called open_nsfw that is designed to distinguish not-safe-for-work images from worksafe ones. By tweaking the model and combining it with places-CNN, MIT’s scene-recognition model, Gabriel Goh created a bunch of machine-generated scenes that score high for both models — things that aren’t porn, but look porny.
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