Science fiction's Islamic roots


From Ibn Tufail's 12th century Hayy Ibn Yaqzan to Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain's 1905 feminist masterpiece Sultana's Dream, the Islamic world produced some of the earliest proto-sf, which IO9's Charlie Jane Anders rounds up in an excellent post.

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The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics

The astonishingly prolific author/scientist Clifford Pickover (see the review of his Book of Black for a list of some of his other books) is a math enthusiast with a talent for ferreting out fascinating anecdotes about math, and writing them in a way that inspires wonder.

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William Gibson reads Neuromancer

It's from the original audio edition of his seminal 1984 novel, which is sadly no longer available, though it's easy enough to find bootlegs online.

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Madeline Ashby's Hieroglyph story: "By the Time We Get To Arizona"


The Hieroglyph anthology was created by Neal Stephenson, challenging sf writers to imagine futures where ambitious technological projects improved the human condition.

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Amazon vs Hachette is nothing: just WAIT for the audiobook wars!


In my latest Locus column, Audible, Comixology, Amazon, and Doctorow’s First Law, I unpick the technological forces at work in the fight between Amazon and Hachette, one of the "big five" publishers, whose books have not been normally available through Amazon for months now, as the publisher and the bookseller go to war over the terms on which Amazon will sell books in the future.

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The Memory of an Elephant – A beautifully illustrated multi-layered picture book for all ages

This beautifully illustrated picture book takes more than one read to take in all of the delightfully layered pages. At its first level, it tells a sweet story about an old elephant named Marcel who has almost forgotten his birthday, until thoughtful friends and his own reminiscence about his colorful past spark his memory. But the book doesn’t end where the story ends. Inserted into most pages are “index cards” marked with an elephant symbol that have interesting elephant facts, such as listing the differences between Asian and African elephants, describing how they communicate over long distances, and giving us figures on how much they weigh, eat, and sleep.

As if jumping from story to elephant facts weren’t enough, the book is also saturated with yet another layer: miniature encyclopedias on certain topics mentioned in the story. For instance, when Marcel is reminiscing about his days at sea, we get a page of “On the Sea” related word entries. We learn about clipper sailboats, longships, a nautical mile, and more. While sitting with Memory, my attention span was constantly challenged by these fun extras that kept beckoning me away. I finally gave in and read all of the sidebars first, and then eventually went back and read the actual story from beginning to end. Unlike some children’s books, which are ready to be recycled after the first read, this is an illustrated book for all ages that has real staying power.

The Memory of an Elephant, by Sophie Strady (author) and Jean-François Martin (illustrator)

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

Steven Gould's "Exo," a Jumper novel by way of Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel"

Steven Gould’s 1993 YA novel Jumper was a spectacular success (even if the film “adaptation” stank on ice), and each of the (all-too-infrequent) sequels have raised both the stakes and the bar for a must-read series. But with Exo, published today, Gould takes his game into orbit — literally.

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Starred review in Kirkus for INFORMATION DOESN'T WANT TO BE FREE, Cory's next book


My next book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, comes out in November, but the reviews have just started to come in. Kirkus gave it a stellar review. Many thanks to @neilhimself and @amandapalmer for their wonderful introductions!

In his best-selling novel Ready Player One, Ernest Cline predicted that decades from now, Doctorow (Homeland, 2013, etc.) should share the presidency of the Internet with actor Wil Wheaton. Consider this manifesto to be Doctorow’s qualifications for the job.

The author provides a guide to the operation of the Internet that not only makes sense, but is also written for general readers. Using straightforward language and clear analogies, Doctorow breaks down the complex issues and tangled arguments surrounding technology, commerce, copyright, intellectual property, crowd funding, privacy and value—not to mention the tricky situation of becoming “Internet Famous.” Following a characteristically thoughtful introduction by novelist Neil Gaiman, rock star Amanda Palmer offers a blunt summary of today’s world: “We are a new generation of artists, makers, supporters, and consumers who believe that the old system through which we exchanged content and money is dead. Not dying: dead.” So the primary thesis of the book becomes a question of, where do we go from here? Identifying the Web’s constituents as creators, investors, intermediaries and audiences is just the first smart move. Doctorow also files his forthright, tactically savvy arguments under three “laws,” the most important of which has been well-broadcast: “Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and won’t give you the key, that lock isn’t there for your benefit.”

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Kickstarting Chris Locke's book of post-it note portraits

Christopher Locke (modern fossils, TSA confiscation sculptures, adult coloring book) sez, "I want to hand-draw a few hundred portraits on Post-It Notes, then compile them into a book, so I'm asking people to buy the portraits in order to fund the project: $25 gets you hand-drawn likeness of yourself, arriving in the mail and suitable for framing. The process will help me in teaching middle-schoolers about dedication to long-term projects."

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Genesis – photo book that acts like a time machine taking you back to the beginning of the planet

I own about 250 photo books. Currently, Genesis is my favorite. It presents hundreds of stunning black and white photos of uninhabited or tribally inhabited regions of the planet made in the last decade by the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado. The whole monster book acts like a time machine taking you back to the beginning of the planet, in some ancient era when humans lived with less materials, or even before humans, when the elements were in charge. The images radiate the primeval, the monumental, the eternal. Because it takes months of living in very primitive conditions for each picture, such a view of the few remaining truly tribal and wild areas will unlikely ever be seen again. This is another way this book shifts time. Gorgeously reproduced by Taschen, the book is a timeless wonder.

Genesis by Sebastiao Salgado (photographer) and Lelia Wanick Salgado (author)

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

Smart critical essays on the women of Terry Pratchett


This long-running series of essays by Australian fantasy author Tansy Rayner Roberts combine real affection for Pratchett's marvellous Discworld books with sharp critical insights on the portrayal of women in fantasy; historically, one of the more problematic genres for the portrayal of women.

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In the Interests of Safety: using evidence to beat back security theater

“Health and Safety” is the all-purpose excuse for any stupid, bureaucratic, humiliating rubbish that officialdom wants to shove down our throats. In the Interests of Safety, from Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon, is the antidote: an expert dismantling of bad risk-analysis and a call-to-arms to do something about it, fighting superstition and silliness with evidence.

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WET – the 1970s magazine that pioneered new wave design

In 1976, WET magazine was launched in Venice, California by a young architecture school grad named Leonard Koren. During its 34-issue, five-year run, WET invented and refined a California new wave design aesthetic that spun modern graphic design in a new direction.

In his retrospective book Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, Koren writes that he had “no skills in writing, editing, designing, art direction, advertising sales, publishing, or business generally” when he launched the magazine, “but didn’t consider this an impediment.” (This sounds like Carla and I when we started bOING bOING as a zine in 1988.)

Koren he was right. WET was innovative, playful, surprising, rule-breaking, and only occasionally about gourmet bathing. In this anecdote-filled retrospective, Koren describes the gestation, evolution, and demise of his little-known, yet powerfully influential magazine.

Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, by Leonard Koren

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

Nate Anderson's "The Internet Police" -- now in paperback

I reviewed it when it was released in August 2013, calling it "brisk, eminently readable, and important history of the relationship between law, law enforcement, and the net, and as you'd expect, it's excellent" ($13 for the paperback)

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A horror novel that looks like an IKEA catalog

Horrorstör is a classic old-fashioned haunted house story — set in a big box Swedish furniture superstore. Appropriately, the book itself is designed like an IKEA catalog.

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