The “Emergency Mode” Every Smartphone Should Have

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Most phones already come equipped with an Airplane Mode for flights, a Do Not Disturb mode for watching movies or ignoring people, and a Low Power mode for when your battery is about to die. But what happens when you’re in an emergency? Read the rest

Like monsters? You'll love the Guillermo Del Toro exhibit at LA County Museum

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I was unprepared for the magnitude and quality of stuff on display at LACMA's exhibition of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro's monster memorabilia collection. This just might have been the best museum exhibition I've seen. Read the rest

Nightwork: the extraordinary, exuberant history of rulebreaking at MIT

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MIT has a complicated relationship with disobedience. On the one hand, the university has spent more than a century cultivating and celebrating a "hacker culture" that involves huge, ambitious, thoughtful and delightful pranks undertaken with the tacit approval of the university. On the other hand -- well, on the other hand: Star Simpson, Bunnie Huang, and Aaron Swartz. In Nightwork, first published in 2003 and updated in 2011, MIT Historian T. F. Peterson explores this contradictory relationship and celebrates the very best, while suggesting a path for getting rid of the very worst.

Chelsea Manning, on facing life in solitary after attempting suicide

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Last week, the ACLU announced that Chelsea Manning had been charged with a series of bizarre sounding "administrative offenses" involving her recent attempt to take her own life.

These latest examples of abuse and neglect are, frankly, just what Chelsea has come to expect, as she has been systematically mistreated by the U.S. government ever since she was first taken into custody in 2010, including long stretches of solitary confinement, which the UN considers to be a form of torture.

The new Lumberjanes book is sweet and badass, with a hell of a monster

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Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three -- collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success -- turned the series' reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.

100 years of Dada: today is the centenary of Hugo Ball's Dada Manifesto

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Dada is a new tendency in art. One can tell this from the fact that until now nobody knew anything about it, and tomorrow everyone in Zurich will be talking about it. Dada comes from the dictionary. it is terribly simple. In French it means “hobby horse.” In German it means “good-by,” “Get off my back,” “Be seeing you sometime.” In Romanian: “Yes, indeed, you are right, that’s it. But of course, yes, definitely, right.” And so forth.

Sex Criminals Volume Three: in which a dirty caper story becomes something much, much more

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The first two volumes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's Sex Criminals were a dirty romp: a pair of lovers who discover that they can stop time at the moment of orgasm start robbing banks to save a local library from demolition, and run into a posse of other time-stopping fuckers who are set against them. But in volume three, Three the Hard Way, the story transcends the sex and the jokes to take a hard, wet look at what humans do when we do sex.

Benjamin Frisch's "Fun Family": good old American narcissism

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We're happy to offer this excerpt from cartoonist Benjamin Frisch's graphic novel debut, The Fun Family, "a subversive look at the underbelly of the All-American family through the prism of Family Circus-esque Sunday morning comic strips -- a surreal deconstruction of modern parenting, childhood nostalgia, and good old American narcissism."

Augmented Reality is a Massively Multiplayer Online world

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I’ve said this before, but in the wake of the viral success of Pokémon GO, it needs to be said again. Augmented reality is just a virtual world, an MMO, a MUD even, with all of the same design issues, plus a few new ones.

Saga Volume 6: Proof that awesome, weird, sexy space-opera can be produced to a schedule

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Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples' comic Saga blew the lid off comics when they started publishing it with the creator-friendly folks at Image, producing two graphic novels' worth of material in as many years; but then there was the long drought while we waited for book three (spoiler: worth the wait), and since then, they've hit a driving, relentless annual schedule, culminating in the publication, last week, of Volume 6, which is all that we've come to love from the series and then some.

Jughead: Zdarsky's reboot is funny, fannish, and freaky

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For the past couple years, the "new, hipster" Archie has been pushing the envelope on what can be done within the confines of an old, beloved (and outdated) media brand: there was Kevin Keller, a gay character; Jughead coming out as asexual; a seriously scary zombie story; Sharknado spinoffs; a breast cancer storyline; even a guest appearance by Jaime "Love and Rockets" Hernandez: but Chip "Sex Criminals" Zdarsky's run on Jughead, illustrated by Erica Henderson and just collected in a trade paperback shows just how much fun the new normal of Archie can be!

Happy Chilcot Day (A Fairy Story)

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Fantasy author Charlie "Oversight/Paradox" Fletcher says, "I wrote this as a Christmas story for my friends and family in 2010, seven years after the Iraq War began, eighteen months after the Chilcot Inquiry into it was announced. Six years further on Chilcot has finally reported. Because of that, and prompted by last week’s incredibly moving WW1/Battle of the Somme living memorial in the UK , it seems like a good time to share it again."

NASA's Juno is about to reach Jupiter after a 5-year journey. I visited JPL before the big show.

Artist concept of Juno near Jupiter. [NASA]
Read the rest

Tactical Awareness: 100 100-word stories about the uneasy sense of living in the Uncanny Valley

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TACTICAL AWARENESS is a collection of one hundred SF short stories, each of them one hundred words long.

Brexit, by a Serbian "fake Briton"

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I am a fake Briton: in elementary and high school, for twelve years of my education, I attended offshored British schools.

Arthur C. Clarke and his vision of world government

Alastair Reynolds (l) and Stephen Baxter (r)

As I write, the aftermath of Brexit is being felt around the world -- Britain’s historic exit marking an end to the forty-year membership of the European Union. It’s ironic that this should coincide with the launch of The Medusa Chronicles, because the EU, a voluntary nation-states, is a kind of regional prototype of a world government of the kind which we feature in Chronicles, and which featured prominently in Arthur C Clarke’s own thinking, and his writing. Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds The Medusa Chronicles is available from Amazon.

A world government is there in the background of A Meeting with Medusa, the 1971 novella which we took as our starting point. By the 2080s, we’re told, humanity enjoys a "secure and prosperous global society." When Howard Falcon plans his mission to Jupiter it is under the sponsorship of a directorate of "Long Range Planning" and a "Bureau of Astronautics." We extended this model in our sequel - even though our utopian world government ultimately crumbles under the pressure of an existential war. Clarke, however, had been writing of world governments at least as far back as books like The Deep Range (1957).

A future world government was a common assumption in post-Second World War SF, presumably inspired by the multinational institutions that emerged after that war – the UN, the EU. Their purpose was to prevent a war between countries armed with atomic weapons, and to manage such challenges as poverty on a wider scale than the nation-state. Read the rest

America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake

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Why would Alcott Smith, at the time nearly seventy, affable and supposedly of sound mind, a blue-eyed veterinarian with a whittled-down woodman’s frame and lupine stamina, abruptly change his plans (and clothes) for a quiet Memorial Day dinner with his companion, Lou-Anne, and drive from his home in New Hampshire to New York State, north along the western rim of a wild lake, to a cabin on a corrugated dirt lane called Porcupine Hollow? Inside the cabin fifteen men quaffed beer, while outside a twenty-five- inch rattlesnake with a mouth full of porcupine quills idled in a homemade rabbit hutch. It was the snake that had interrupted Smith’s holiday dinner. Excerpted from Ted Levin's America's Snake. Available from Amazon.

Because of a cascade of consequences there aren’t many left in the Northeast: timber rattlesnakes are classified as a threatened species in New York and an endangered species everywhere in New England except Maine and Rhode Island where they’re already extinct. They could be gone from New Hampshire before the next presidential primary. Among the cognoscenti it’s speculated whether timber rattlesnakes ever lived in Quebec; they definitely did in Ontario, where rattlesnakes inhabited the sedimentary shelves of the Niagara Gorge but eventually died off like so many failed honeymoons consummated in the vicinity of the falls.

That rattlesnakes still survive in the Northeast may come as a big surprise to you, but that they have such an impassioned advocate might come as an even bigger surprise. Actually, rattlesnakes have more than a few advocates, both the affiliated and the unaffiliated, and as is so often the case, this is a source of emotional and political misunderstandings, turf battles and bruised egos. Read the rest

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