Making Conversation: 59 lively and delightful essays from Teresa Nielsen Hayden
It's been more than 20 years since the publication of Making Book, Teresa Nielsen Hayden's collection of essays, mostly drawn from the pre-online days of fanzines and letters columns; this year, in honor of Teresa's stint as Fan Guest of Honor at Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, NESFA Press has published a second volume: Making Conversation, a collection of essays drawn from the online world on subjects as varied as moderation and trolling, cooking, hamster-rearing, fanfic, narcolepsy, the engineering marvels of the IBM Selectric, and more.
In all, Making Conversation contains 59 essays, ranging in length from a few paragraphs to several pages. Some started out as posts on Making Light, the rollicking and essential blog that she founded and co-edits with several others (including her husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who was her co-guest of honor at the Worldcon); some were comments on others' posts; some are even old forum posts carefully saved from Genie, the national dial-up BBS where the science fiction industry found one of its most intense conversational homes.
As the title implies, much of Making Conversation is about discourse itself: how people talk and what happens when they do. Some of the sharpest observations concern online moderation (Teresa was a long-serving Boing Boing moderator), but others are more general, about how it comes to pass that some people get on so very poorly in online forums, and what can be done to nurture those who are shouted down in those situations.
But the "conversation" part of the book is at most a third of it -- the rest is a rather glorious miscellanea that highlights Teresa's eclectic interests, lively prose style, and keen observations about social phenomena. Whether she's examining how a convention volunteer's running gag about being "Punch Bowl Czar" can, in the wrong hands, turn into a destructive whirlwind that shatters a close-knit community; or explaining, with hilarious economy, what it's like to trick a hamster that likes to fling itself at the door of its cage by quietly undoing the latch, so that it ends up literally hanging by its teeth as its escape attempt succeeds beyond its wildest, furriest dreams, Teresa is keen-eyed, sharp-witted and thoughtful.
Making Conversation picks up exactly where Making Book left off, like running into a friend you haven't seen in years and finding that you can seamlessly continue the jokes, debates, and weighty conversations that made their friendship such a joy.
Making Conversation [Teresa Nielsen Hayden/NESFA Press]
Studio North was commissioned to refit an old elevator shaft in a converted warehouse loft in Calgary; they built a tall, narrow library with climbable shelves whose hand- and foot-holds retract into the shelving.
Libretaxi is an open source project that lets anyone become a rideshare driver in less than a minute; it has more than 20,000 users worldwide, and is maintained by Roman Pushkin, who started the project in December 2016 and is now planning to quit his job and work on it full time.
Mister Alphabet is an action-figure designed to cleverly bend and contort into every letter of the Latin alphabet; the website is long on trademark warnings and arty Instagram photos, but short on details, like, “Is this an object of commerce?” and “If so, where does one buy it?” (via Kottke)
What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]
You know the drill. You go to the dentist and they ask you how often you floss. You lie through your teeth and say, “every day!” (Bonus points if you have some cilantro or chives stuck in your gums from lunch). You don’t want to keep up the charade any longer, but rubbing that tiny strand […]
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has done outstanding work packing a fully capable desktop computer into a package the size of a deck cards—especially one that only costs $35. But if you already have a working laptop, why should you care? Oh, how much you have to learn. Besides operating well as a compact digital media hub, […]