A week into the Trump Administration, dystopian books top charts

The BBC's Brian Wheeler reports that Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell's classic tale of a fake news editor at a popular British tabloid, has sold out only days into the new administration of President Donald Trump. (It's the #1 book at Amazon, with only used copies in stock; the company promises new Prime-shipped paperbacks in a week. The Blu-Ray of the John Hurt movie's sold out too.)

In the top five is It Can't Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis's classic cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, which predicts the "chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press."

Also flying high is Aldous Huxley's 1935 novel Brave New World, which imagined a insidiously totalitarian future where prescription medications, relentless entertainment and consumerist excess make violent repression unnecessary, where "slaves ... do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude."

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 sneaks back into the top 50, right behind Trump: The Art of the Deal, a ghostwritten autobiography rumored to have never been read by its ostensible author.

The most dystopian book in the bestseller lists, though, was not included in the BBC's roundup: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, by personal development consultant Mark Manson, who has cracked the art of standing out in the crowded self-help genre: "Fuck positivity. Let’s be honest, shit is fucked and we have to live with it." Read the rest

Kindred: a powerful graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's slavery masterpiece

Octavia Butler is a name to conjure with: the first African-American woman to rise to prominence in science fiction, Butler's fiction inspired generations of writers by mixing rousing adventure stories with nuanced, razor-sharp parables about race and gender in America; she was the first science fiction writer to be awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant, and her sudden and untimely death left a hole in the hearts of her readers, proteges and admirers.

A revelatory book of photographs taken by visually impaired people

The Blind Photographer is surprising and fascinating. These photos taken by visually impaired photographers, accompanied by a bit of text explaining the photographers’ working processes and inspirations, forced me to rethink the nature of photography:

Is it a strictly visual medium, or should sound, feel, and taste also be represented somehow? (The book’s images of fruit, musicians, and skin show how photography can be more multi-sensory.)

Why do photos conventionally have to be symmetrical and in focus? (Fuzzy and off-center photos can evoke a mood just as well as sharp ones.)

Are shadows just as interesting as objects? (Photographer Alberto Loranca writes, “I can distinguish light and shadow and I pay a great deal of attention to light in order to take pictures; I calculate the amount of light needed using trigonometry.”)

These ideas might be obvious to art historians and photographers themselves, but to a lay person there’s a lot to gain from The Blind Photographer’s implication that everything is worthy of being photographed, no matter how mundane or odd. I may just be photographing a person’s feet, rather than gravitating toward their face, in the future.

The Blind Photographer by Julian Rothenstein (Editor), Candia McWilliam (Introduction) Princeton Architectural Press 2016, 213 pages, 9.0 x 1.0 x 12.0 inches, Hardcover $24 Buy on Amazon Read the rest

Researchers discover hundreds of thousands of unsuspected, Star Wars-themed twitterbots hiding in plain sight

Twitter is a great place for bots. Botherders like Shardcore produce amazing, politics, artistic bots that mine Twitter, inject useful information into Twitter, or just frolic on Twitter, making it a better place. Twitterbots produce entries in imaginary grimoires, conduct sociological research, produce virtual model railroads, alert the public when governments try to make bad news disappear, and much, much more. Read the rest

Rep. John Lewis' civil rights comic trilogy still at #1. Thanks Trump!

After dismissing civil rights icon John Lewis as "all talk," Donald Trump catapulted Lewis' March trilogy comic on the civil rights movement back to the best-seller charts, where it has stayed all month. This week, it won four American Library Association Awards. Read the rest

The Abominable Mr Seabrook: a sympathetic biography of an unsympathetic, forgotten literary legend

William Seabrook was once one of America's foremost literary stars; now he is all but forgotten. Seabrook travelled the world, writing a series of (decreasingly sympathetic) accounts of indigenous people and their culture, outselling the literary giants he kept company with, and who pretended not to mind the women he paid to let him tie them up and keep around his home. In The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, graphic novelist Joe Ollman presents an unflinching look at Seabrook, his literary accomplishments and failures, his terrible self-destructiveness, and the awful spiral that took him from the heights of American letters to an ignominious suicide after his discharge from a psychiatric facility.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections

If you were one of the lucky Del Toro fans who got to see the At Home With Monsters show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this year I hope you found the photo-mural of his house on the way out and took a selfie there — it looks like YOU are right there inside Bleak House, Del Toro’s home of monsters! (see my pic above). Seeing that show was about as close as any of us will ever be to getting inside to see his collection. If you missed the show, then this book is the next best thing.

Any fan of horror, sci-fi, and Del Toro films like Hellboy, will love this handsome book designed to go along with the museum show. The legendary film director’s collection of original art, movie props and extraordinarily realistic life-size figures is truly amazing. His appetite is omnivorous and wide-ranging from low- to high-brow and everything in between: William Blake etchings, pulp novels and comic books, Japanese woodblock prints, Simpsons vinyl collectibles, Phillip Guston paintings to Todd Browning Freaks stills, and much, much, MUCH, more. Also included, are pages directly from Del Toro’s own notebook with sketches and notes for his films, including Pan’s Labyrinth and Blade.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections by Guillermo del Toro (Author), Guy Davis (Illustrator), & 3 more Insight Editions 2016, 152 pages, 8.0 x 0.8 x 10.0 inches, Hardcover $20 Buy one on Amazon Read the rest

The best young adult literature from 1967

For the past couple of years, I've been making the case, at HILOBROW and in the UNBORED books I've co-authored, that the Sixties (1964–1973, according to my non-calendrical schema) were a golden age for YA and YYA adventures.

In no particular order, here's my list of the Best YA and YYA Lit of 1967. Happy 50th anniversary! Read the rest

10 reasons why Fletcher Hanks kicks ass

Fletcher Hanks comics are incredibly violent, incredibly stupid, and incredibly beautiful. His first published work appeared in 1939, only months after the first Superman story ran, and his last work appeared in 1941. Then he disappeared. All 53 of his batshit crazy tales have been reprinted in “Turn Loose Our Death Rays And Kill Them All!: The Complete Works Of Fletcher Hanks.” They are likely to pop your eyes, blow your mind, and leave you speechless. Shortly before his death, Kurt Vonnegut wrote that, “The recovery of these treasures is in itself a major work of art.”

How to organize a volunteer-based, radical new form of American politics

Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything is a book by Bernie Sanders advisor Becky Bond and netroots pioneer Zack Exley. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling on dieselpunk, alternate history, fascism and the current political moment

In November, Bruce Sterling published "Pirate Utopia," a dieselpunk novella set in the real, historical, bizarre moment in which the city of Fiume became an autonomous region run by artists and revolutionaries, whose philosophies ran the gamut from fascism to anarcho-syndicalism to socialism. Read the rest

William Peter Blatty, creator of The Exorcist, RIP

Writer and director William Peter Blatty, creator of The Exorcist, has died at age 89. Batty is best known for writing the story of poor, possessed Regan and her demonic resident Captain Howdy. He won an academy award for writing the screenplay for The Exorcist film in 1973.

(Variety)

Here is Blatty on The Tonight Show, January 17, 1974, talking about the surprisingly polarizing response to his classic novel of occult horror:

Tweet from William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist:

Read the rest

Revealing the cover and first excerpt of Autonomous, Annalee Newitz's long-awaited debut novel

We've followed Annalee Newitz's career here for more than a decade, from her science writing fellowship to her work as an EFF staffer to her founding of IO9 and her move to Ars Technica and the 2013 publication of her first book, nonfiction guidance on surviving the end of the world and rebooting civilization: now, I'm pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from Autonomous, her debut novel, which Tor will publish in September 2017, along with the first look at her cover, designed by the incomparable Will Staehle. As her editor, Liz Gorinsky, notes, "Autonomous takes an action-packed chase narrative and adds Annalee's well-honed insight into issues of AI autonomy, pharmaceutical piracy, and maker culture to make a book that's accessible, entertaining, and ridiculously smart." I'm three quarters of the way through an early copy, and I heartily agree.

A book about London's gorgeous, brutalist architecture includes dainty DIY papercraft models to make yourself

Brutal London: Construct Your Own Concrete Capital tells the stories of nine of London's greatest brutalist structures (with an intro by Norman Foster!), including the Barbican Estate, Robin Hood Gardens, Balfron Tower and the National Theatre -- and includes pull-out papercraft models of these buildings for you to assemble and display. Read the rest

Penguin Galaxy: a boxed set of six science fiction greats, introduced by Neil Gaiman

Last October, Penguin released its Galaxy boxed set, a $133 set of six hardcover reprints of some of science fiction's most canonical titles: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin; Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein; 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke; Dune by Frank Herbert; The Once and Future King by TH White; and Neuromancer, by William Gibson.

Four Futures: using science fiction to challenge late stage capitalism and Thatcher's "no alternative"

Margaret Thatcher's 1979 declaration that "there is no alternative" to neoliberal capitalism is more than a rallying cry: it's a straitjacket on our imaginations, constraining our ability to imagine what kinds of other worlds we might live in. But in science fiction, alternatives to market economies abound (and a surprising number of them are awarded prestigious awards by the Libertarian Futurist Society!), and it is through these tales that sociologist Peter Frase asks us to think through four different ways things could go, in a slim, sprightly book called Four Futures -- a book that assures us that there is no more business as usual, and an alternative must be found.

Unfuck Your Habitat: compassionate cleaning advice, even for people terrified by Marie Kondo

Ever since I found the Unfuck Your Habitat Tumblr, I've been addicted to its brand of frank, compassionate, sweary advice for people who want to be organized but don't know where to start. Now, unfucker-in-chief Rachel Hoffman has distilled the UFyH philosophy into a brilliant, breezy book that is a must-read for people who are terrified by Marie Kondo but intrigued by being able to see their floors again: Unf*ck Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your Mess. Read the rest

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