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The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer

Reluctant cartoonist Sydney Padua tips us off early in The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer that her graphic novel/history book is probably neither. Instead, she says, it is what she imagines a comic called The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer would look like if it existed, which, for the record, it does. This fuzziness with obvious facts such as authorship and the words one is reading on a page are what give the document that bears Padua’s name one of its many irresistible charms. For Padua, the actual story of the relationship between Lord Bryon’s only legitimate daughter, Ada Lovelace, whose facility with numbers rivaled her father’s gift for words, and Charles Babbage, whose 1837 Analytical Engine is considered the world’s first computer, is only a sturdy armature for several richly illustrated what-might-have-been yarns—embellishments, I hasten to add, that only someone with a love for the truth could have conjured.

For example, we “learn” that on June 5, 1833, while still a teenager, Lovelace met the older Babbage at one of the famous parties he liked to give at his mansion on 1 Dorset Street in London. Now, I’m not sure how much of that last sentence is 100 percent true, but we do know they met, and that Lovelace did eventually translate an 1840 lecture Babbage gave in Turin about his Analytical Engine from its Italian transcription to English, adding copious footnotes of her own that sketched out the if-then statements and other forms of rudimentary programming one would need to know to drive Babbage’s machine, which was never built except in model form.

Later in the book, Lovelace and Babbage demonstrate another of Babbage’s inventions, a mechanical calculator (steam-powered in Padua’s imagination) known as a difference engine, for Queen Victoria. We also encounter a spurious Babbage machine called the New Patent Mechanical Writer, lifted from an 1844, tongue-in-cheek letter he wrote to Punch—in Padua’s book, this imaginary device has its way with a George Eliot novel. Then, after a chapter in which Ada struggles to get her arms around the concept of imaginary quantities, which sends her spiraling into an Alice-in-Wonderland world of judgmental footnotes and juries of Jacquard-loom punch cards, several appendices explain, among other things, how those punch cards work, and how they led to the 80-column IBM punch cards of 1955. In a word, all this makes for fantastic reading, and that is the truth. – Ben Marks

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer
by Sydney Padua
2015, 230 pages, 7.3 x 10.3 x 1.1 inches
$15 Buy one on Amazon

Escaping the Maze, the "world's most challenging puzzle"


In 1985, Christopher Manson wrote and illustrated a book called Maze.  It really is a beautiful and unique piece of work.

Manson actually said that this book isn't really a book at all, but rather a building in the shape of a book. Intriguing, right?

Upon first glance, the gauntlet is thrown at the reader—“Solve The World’s Most Challenging Puzzle”—and believe me, the challenge is a lulu.


Each lovely page represents one room of a house that the player must navigate through to the center and back…in just 16 steps. Each numbered door on a page is a portal and some rooms lead to infinite loops while others will lead to dead-ends. Along the way, the reader is also challenged to discover an answer to a meta-puzzle.


The idea of a book acting as a labyrinth is a very cool one, and when it was originally published in 1985, a $10,000 prize was offered to the reader who could solve it the quickest. In 1988, 12 winners were chosen and they split the prize.


Since its publication, this book has spawned podcasts, clue websites and countless gallons of tears. I was fascinated with this book, but when I first got my copy, I succumbed to online message boards to help get me through it. It is absolutely ridiculous, the amount of work that people have gone through to solve this puzzle in different ways. My hat is off to them, but I just wish that I could look at Maze again with fresh eyes.


And now is your chance to journey into the maze. To help you out, I offer to you some spoilers...not that I'd use them or anything.

Maze: Solve the World's Most Challenging Puzzle [Amazon]

Unknown See Michael, a passionate collector of artifacts and designer of unique puzzles, at Boing Boing's three-day extravaganza, the Weekend of Wonder, running Sept. 18-20. A weekend of workshops, tech demons and wild performances, there'll be plenty of fun surprises!

Kickstarting a volume of feminist bicycle zombie science fiction

Elly writes, "We're running a Kickstarter to try to give the feminist-bicycle-scifi-about-zombies genre a big leg up."

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The People vs Disneyland: tracing the impact of lawsuits on themepark design

The People V. Disneyland: How Lawsuits & Lawyers Transformed the Magic is the latest from David Koenig, who wrote the excellent Mouse Tales books of true confessions from Disneyland staffers.

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Archie vs Sharknado worth a giggle


The kids of Riverdale have to take on a Sharknado: a storm that unites Betty and Veronica like never before and leaves Moose realizing that Reggie isn't that bad of guy.

The comic's special effects are more convincing than the movie's, I'll give it that.

Archie vs. Sharknado [Archie Comics] Shark04

Dörfler by Jeremy Baum is a hallucinogen in print

Two worlds, a futuristic dystopian city, and a dense, dreamy forest realm with a mysterious stone temple in it. Two reoccurring sigils, an eye inside of a 7-pointed star and a square inside of a square. And three women who seem to leak in and out of each other's dreams. This is the ponderous world of Jeremy Baum's debut graphic novel, Dörfler. You don't so much read this book (the narrative is quite sparse) as dream along to it. I read it once, had no idea what had just happened (in a delightfully disorienting kind of way), read it again, and still had no clearer idea of the point. But whatever Jeremy Baum is selling, I bought it. This is a very lovely and compelling piece that rewards repeated visits without ever completely resolving itself. Like Luke Ramsey's Intelligent Sentient?, this book is a hallucinogen in print. It is obviously meant as a kind of graphical meditation on time, memory, dream states, erotic revelry, and the mysteries of consciousness.

Baum doesn't so much tell a linear tale as frantically point (through the artwork and dream logic narrative) into the dark corners of his world, towards things that seem wildly important but ultimately defy tidy explanation. David Lynch's Eraserhead came to mind several times while floating through Jeremy Baum's dreamtime. Peter Chung's Æon Flux is even closer in both structure and intent to Dörfler. Like that wonderfully avant garde animated series, nearly every frame here seems to ooze equal amounts of sinister intent, dark eroticism, and high weirdness.

Baum's obsessively detailed artwork is distinctly his own, achieved using pen and ink with meticulous marker shading and washes. The majority of the drawings are black and shades of gray with spare pops of a color, often blue. Or the red of spilled blood. Baum's influences are a dizzying array of Möebius/Heavy Metal, D&D artwork, bombastic teen notebook art, fairy tales, Tarot and occult symbolism, pin-up and erotic art, and much more. All of the women in Dörfler look somewhat similar, and inexplicably, they all have big bunny teeth. And inside the forest dream world, everyone has elf ears.

So, why the name Dörfler? No idea. The main character's name is Nola. Like everything thing else in this book, the title seems to point to some deeper meaning that the book is unconcerned in delivering. Sometimes, it's best to just let a dream have its way with you.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

by Jeremy Baum
2015, 104 pages, 8.3 x 12.3 x 0.7 inches
$17 Buy one on Amazon

RIP, EL Doctorow

The author of spectacular novels (my favorite is Book of Daniel, which crosses a fictionalized life of Abbie Hoffman with a fictionalized account of the Rosenbergs) and outstanding critical essays (I still can't get The Creators out of my mind) was 84 (no relation).

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The World Burns: a prepper blogger survives the apocalypse

In The World Burns, the folks best suited to surviving an apocalypse will be bloggers? Oy vey.

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Ed "Big Daddy" Roth: His Life, Times, Cars and Art

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Just the mention of his name triggers a reaction. In 1965 after seeing Roth’s wild customized hot rods, Tom Wolfe spontaneously wrote an Esquire article about him in a new, wigged-out and crazy writing style, New Journalism: "There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy-Kolored (Thphhhhhh!) Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (Rahghhh!) Around the Bend (Brummmmmmmmmmmmmmm)…" Crazy, man! Although Rat Fink's creator died in 2001, Ed Roth lives on in the hearts and minds of a generation.

There have been a number of books written about Ed Roth, including Confessions of a Rat Fink, which he wrote himself completely in beatnik jive, but I think this book by Pat Ganahl is the best by far. You'll DROOL over the great color photos of all the cars, along with a bolt-by-bolt run down on the construction and components. And they’re all there, from Roth’s modest early '32 Ford hot rods to his later insanely asymmetrical, metal-flaked, bubble-topped show cars, to motorcycles and dragsters. It’s baroque “rolling sculpture,” baby!

Your eyes will BUG OUT over the photos from Roth's own collection of family pics, candid in-progress at-the-shop snapshots and posed publicity stills. Who else could pull off wearing a top hat and tails, or a chromed Nazi helmet, or film director’s beret, or overalls with a lumpy felt Rat Fink hillbilly hat – and always with a crazy smile?

You’ll go WILD reading the real story of working with Revell on the weirdo and custom car models, including interviews with his staff. There’s plenty from artist and Juxtapoz-creator Robert Williams, an early Roth collaborator who did the art for the T- Shirts and print ads. Custom cars and vehicles, models and toys, comics, T-shirts, decals, skateboards, trashcans – with his just-make-it approach, what didn’t Roth create?

And there are lots of great anecdotes on Roth's life. Although he was quite intimidating and took no crap from anyone (and faced down many a Hell’s Angel biker!), Roth was known to be generous, kind-hearted, and he even taught Sunday school in the Mormon Church. No FLIES on him! I think every Roth fan and fink will like this crazy book. Or as Ed Roth said: “Can ya’ dig it?” – Robert Knetzger

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth: His Life, Times, Cars and Art
by Pat Ganahl
2003, 192 pages, 10.5 x 10.5 x 0.8 inches
$28 Buy one on Amazon

Name your price sf bundle with Rucker, Apex World SF and more!

Jamie from Vodo writes, "There's a new sci-fi bundle available over at VODO: Oodles of speculative goodness including the Rudy Rucker Ware tetralogy, 3 Volumes of the Apex Book of World Sci Fi, movie Haphead and more -- you choose what to pay!"

Armada, by Ernest Cline: a joyous, rollicking read

A sponsored review of Ernest Cline's much anticipated ArmadaRead the rest

Book review: Neal Stephenson's “Seveneves” has too little humanity in the characters

Stephenson’s new novel doesn’t generate the kind of excitement for the future that we’ve come to expect from the author of Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Anathem.Read the rest

Little Library: miniature book-charms for necklaces, bracelets and earrings

From Abigail in Sterling, Scotland: tiny, adorable, books you wear: The Hobbit, The Little Prince, Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, Sherlock Holmes, The Fault in Our Stars, Alice in Wonderland, and any other book you desire.

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Gorgeous Taschen book: Art of Burning Man

NK Guy writes, "I've spent the past 16 years photographing the spectacular art of the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. And this book is the culmination of those years - 65,000 photos boiled down to a single volume representing the perfect day on the playa."

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The Dead Mountaineer's Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn: One More Last Rite for the Detective Genre (Neversink)

From Russia's masters of science fiction comes a manorhouse murder mystery parody that puts Clue to shame. The Dead Mountaineer's Inn is every bit as clever, and queer, a novel as I've come to expect from the brothers Strugatsky.

Visiting a remote ski chalet, Inspector Glebsky just wants to relax and unwind. In the manner of an Agatha Christie novel, the Strugatsky's characters are introduced and shortly events unfurl. Everyone is trapped at the chalet and there is a dead body. Well, it is probably a dead body, and it is probably human, but the more Glebsky investigates the less he really knows.

Roadside Picnic is one of my favorite science fiction novels. It is absolutely wonderful on so many levels, I'd wondered if other works by the Strugatsky's could possibly impress me as much. While The Dead Mountaineer's Inn may not leave you pondering the crushing irrelevance of humanity, is fantastic and will not disappoint.

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn: One More Last Rite for the Detective Genre (Neversink)

WAS: a new edition of Geoff Ryman's World Fantasy-nominated Oz novel

The novel tore my heart out in 1992: a contrafactual memoir of L Frank Baum; a desperately poor girl called Dorothy Gael from Manhattan, KS; and a makeup artist on the set of the classic MGM film.

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Who Censored Roger Rabbit?

Who Censored Roger Rabbit?

I've always enjoyed Gary Wolf's Who Censored Roger Rabbit? far more than the movie adaption. Dark and gritty, this noir fantasy is a thriller!

As usual, the book is much better than the movie. Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is a surreal film noir story, that fans of Chandler and Hammet will appreciate, albeit with toons as major characters. Not written for a Disney audience, and certainly clumsy in spots, (like plot resolution,) this story is far, far more entertaining. You'll see a lot of parallels to the film, but the more adult approach and theme fit the genre so much better. I can no longer view ToonTown in the same light.

Eddie, Roger, Jessica and all your favorite Who Framed Roger Rabbit? characters are here, but darker and more interesting. If you enjoyed the movie, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is a must read.

Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf via Amazon