Feast your eyes on Handsome Jack and his new book

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If you don't know who Handsome Jack is, let me get you up to speed.  He is perhaps the most famous male model in the world - and has made the time to be a world class magician.  Read the rest

Marc Laidlaw's collected short fiction, for the first time, for $4 (DRM-free!)

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Cyberpunk pioneer and games-writing treasure Marc Laidlaw writes, "The latest and for now final addition to my Kindle collection is now live. I've never had a collection; I put this one, 400 Boys and 50 More, together myself. It contains basically all my short stories, novelettes and novellas from the last nearly 40 years (except for the Gorlen series)." Read the rest

Only What's Necessary – A whole lot of Peanuts and Schulz stuffed into one volume by Chip Kidd

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Only What's Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts by Chip Kidd (author) and Geoff Spear (photographer) Harry N. Abrams 2015, 304 pages, 12 x 9 x 1 inches $27 Buy a copy on Amazon

Here’s a quick list of everything to be found in Chip Kidd's Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts:

Intro by Jeff Kinney Foreword by Jean Schulz “Behind the Door” by Karen Johnson (Director of the Schulz Museum in California) Preface by Chip Kidd Brief biography of Sparky Schulz, including pictures of his first published drawing in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Photos & drawings of and from Schulz’s WWII Sketchbook Early cartoons Schulz drew for the Saturday Evening Post Schulz’s first printed comic strips (1947) Li’l Folks strips Peanuts strips Process of drawing Peanuts Rare, unfinished strips Subscriber promotions for newspaper editors Ads for Peanuts coloring books, viewmaster collections, color by numbers kits, candy bars, etc. Pictures of the Peanuts board game Vinyl dolls Covers from the first collections Advertisements featuring Peanuts characters Braille editions Correspondence with Harriet Glickman resulting in the creation of Franklin Unpublished watercolors & other art Intros and backstories for other characters (Spike, Woodstock) "The Last Strip" by Paige Braddock (Creative Director at the Schulz Studio in California)

There is, in other words, a whole lot of stuff packed into this one single volume of ephemera. And it’s a heck of a package. Heavy, glossy pages bring out the differences in color between hand-drawn strips and their pasted-on title cards as well as the fine printing notes scribbled in the margins. Read the rest

Down and Out in Purgatory by Tim Powers

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Tim Powers has mastered mingling our present with elements of the fantastic, creating stories so immersive and believable I'm always disappointed when they end. Down and Out in Purgatory is a new, incredible example.

Shasta DiMaio fell for the wrong guy, and it killed her. Her rejected lover Tom Holbrook still carries a torch, however. If Tom can't have Shasta he'll kill the man who took her heart, and her life, even if he's already dead.

Powers has focused on ghosts, and had them as major characters in other works, but this novella gives us a glimpse into their world! His purgatory is a spinning, wild place where we learn a bit more about what death really means. While the characters are fun, the real joy of this was the mechanics, and lore Powers shares about the afterlife. If you loved his Fault Lines trilogy, you won't be disappointed.

Down and Out In Purgatory by Tim Powers 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.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties – Neil Gaiman at his best

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How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neiman Gaiman (author), Gabriel Bá (illustrator), and Fábio Moon (illustrator) Dark Horse Books 2016, 64 pages, 6.9 x 10.5 x 0.4 inches $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman short story of the same name, originally published in his collection Fragile Things. As adaptations go, this one tells the story pretty exactly as it was done by Gaiman. Two teens named Enn and Vic go to a party with the intention of picking up girls. Vic is handsome and confident, while Enn is shy and awkward. Enn doesn’t know how to talk to girls, and this becomes the central problem of the story. His attempts to seem cool and desirable are both humorous and relatable to anybody who has ever tried talking to a potential love interest. As the night moves on, it becomes clear that something is amiss at this party, but exactly what is unknown to Enn, and a little ambiguous to the reader.

I really like this book. At first glance it might seem like an odd choice for a comic – the story doesn’t reach the heights of some of Gaiman’s other work, for example. But it’s short and sweet and so unique. The story is Gaiman at his best in terms of information release and character moments. You’re never completely ahead of the plot and it is so easy to sympathize with Enn’s awkwardness. Read the rest

Hugo Gernsback's introduction to the first issue of Amazing Stories, 1926

When Hugo "Award" Gernsback launched Volume 1, Number 1 of Amazing Stories in April, 1926, he created the first magazine in the world solely devoted to science fiction stories: on the magazine's editorial page, Gernsback laid out his vision for the genre. Read the rest

The Creative Architect – An iconic '50s creativity study finally comes to light in book form

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In 1958 and '59, an unprecedented study was conducted by the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley. The idea was to apply the latest psychological tests on the world’s most famous and accomplished architects to try and determine what makes them so creative and successful. In studying them, could some magical key to creativity be discovered?

Astoundingly, some 40 major architects volunteered, including Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, George Nelson, Louis Kahn, and A. Quincy Jones. The group spent three days being subjected to a battery of tests, sitting for interviews, even evaluating the creative and design prowess of each other. While the idea was to publish the results of the tests at the time, besides some news and fluff pieces about the study, and some superficial conclusions about the nature of the creative impulse that drove these design superstars, the full results of the study have remained unpublished until this impressive new release from Monacelli Press.

The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study is a lovely and thought-provoking time-capsule of a book. Through its numerous black and white photos and reprints of the research materials, correspondences between the subjects of the study and the psychologists, and news clippings of the day, the book paints a surprisingly evocative picture of this unique study and the era in which it was conducted. Reading the test results, in the architects’ own hands, and the evaluations of the researchers, is fascinating. Read the rest

Unseen photos of Ciro's Nightclub stars snapped by a cigarette girl and her best friend

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Ciro's Nightclub of the Stars by Andra D. Clarke and Regina Denton-Drew Arcadia Publishing 2015, 128 pages, 6.5 x 9.2 x 0.3 inches $22 Buy a copy on Amazon

In the 1940s and ‘50s, everyone who was anyone went to Ciro’s Nightclub on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. The famous and infamous came to dine, dance, and perform during its 15 plus years in business. Regina Drew was a Cigarette Girl and photographer at Ciro’s for eight years. Her best friend Nancy Caporal was the head photographer from 1940 to 1957. These women were part of the glitz, glamour and decadence of the Ciro’s era, and they seemed to love every minute of it.

Regina’s daughter, Andra Clarke, worked tirelessly to research and cull through both women’s photographic mementos. As tribute to what Regina called the “best job of my life,” Andra created Ciro’s Nightclub of the Stars, a compact coffee table book filled with photos and stories that capture the semi-private lives of Hollywood’s elite.

Most of the pictures in this book had previously not been seen by the public. Some of my favorite photos include Elizabeth Taylor dining with President Nixon and his daughters; Bing Crosby photographed with his sons; Ray Bolger (from “The Wizard of Oz”) joking around with Zero Mostel (from Fiddler on the Roof), Clark Gable chatting with (or to) a bevy of admirers, and Lucille Ball having drinks at a table with Peter Lawford, with no Desi in sight. Read the rest

Surprise revival in UK printed book sales, with ebooks dipping

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Ink on paper is a better product, at least for now, and it's showing at British tills. Sky UK's Lucy Cotter reports the first better year for print since 2007, and the worst one for ebooks since 2011.

Last year saw the first rise in sales since 2007, while digital book sales dropped for the first time since 2011.

Betsy Tobin, who runs the independent bookshop Ink@84 in Highbury, London, offers her customers a personalised service.

The bookshop offers coffee and alcohol and runs events and special author evenings.

Diversifying is part of her success but she says her customers also like buying in person rather than online.

They take pleasure from handling and owning books, she said.

I wonder if this has something to do with how well-run major UK bookstore chains are (small stores in high-traffic areas) compared to American ones (strip-mall big boxes, full of trashy ancillary merch and empty of foot traffic.) The literary retail culture there makes people want to drop in and fuss around with books, while the one here just means no-one is ever in a bookstore in the first place, so they just order stuff on Kindle. Read the rest

Knights of the Apocalypse, another Duck and Cover adventure

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The irreverent adventures continue! In Knights of the Apocalypse, Benjamin Wallace's former librarian is back and bumbling through the wreckage of civilization!

Jerry, Erica and their massive massif Chewy, have wound-up broken-down in the Kingdom of the Five Peaks. Southern Colorado's new ruler King Elias offers our post-apocalyptic nomadic warrior a chance to live, but there are always challenges. Cannibals, the power of steam, and a legion of knights all stand in their way. Watch Jerry mess it all up!

I've really enjoyed Wallace's Duck and Cover adventures. He takes some of the most fun tropes in post-apocalytpia and twists them on their side.

Knights of the Apocalypse (A Duck & Cover Adventure Post-Apocalyptic Series Book 2) via Amazon Read the rest

A new Bloom County collection of Trump-inspired reboot strips

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In the year since Berke Breathed came out of retirement to cover the 2016 election cycles with Opus, Bill, Milo and the gang, he's amassed enough material to fill a new 144-page collection: Bloom County Episode XI: A New Hope, which comes out in September. Read the rest

Jon Hunter is still at it in 'Hero at the Gates'

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Timothy Ellis' galaxy spanning space opera continues in Hero at the Gates! We're 9 damn books in and the central plot is finally about to get past its prelude!

I've really enjoyed this massive story. 9 novels ago Jon Hunter was a wet behind the ears kid on board his uncle's space trader. Now he's the Admiral of his own massive space flotilla, and ruler of several sections of space. The massive reveal about what the hell is going on, and what part Team Slinky Red Jumpsuits is going to play in it is near unavoidable, when our heroes set off in the exact opposite direction in this sometimes 2D universe.

The prize is tempting, but Jon can not miss the short window of time he's allowed to land on his home planet and consult the spiritual guys there who know all. How will it all work out? Gee... I'll have to start book 10.

Hero at the Gates (The Hunter Legacy Book 9) via Amazon Read the rest

Glass artist Dale Chihuly plays with fire and the audacity of beauty

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Chihuly on Fire by Henry Adams (author) and Dale Chihuly (artist) Chihuly Workshop 2016, 212 pages, 9.3 x 12.1 x 0.9 inches $40 Buy a copy on Amazon

For several decades now, art critics and casual admirers alike have talked about Dale Chihuly’s art in terms of its forms. Indeed, the artist himself organizes his work largely by their physical shapes, as does his latest self-published coffee-table book, Chihuly on Fire, whose chapter titles range from “Baskets” and “Sea Forms” to “Jerusalem Cylinders” and “Rotolo.” But thumbing the pages of this sumptuous, hardcover volume, and reading the biographical essay by art-history professor Henry Adams, one is struck by the importance of color to Chihuly’s work.

The shift to color began in 1981, when Chihuly and his team of gaffers and assistants produced the first of what would become known as the Macchia series. These often enormous vessels, whose sides were usually folded and deformed, featured solid-color interiors, lip wraps in contrasting hues, and thousands of “jimmies” of pure crushed colored glass, usually set against a background of white glass “clouds.”

Even in his early days, Chihuly’s ambitions for his chosen medium seemed larger than the modest network of glass-art galleries around the country would have the wherewithal to support. By the time his Macchia pieces came along, the so-called craft arts, of which glass art was but one, were allowed to be exuberant and even a bit zany, but they were ultimately expected to exhibit good table manners, to sit uncomplainingly at the kid’s table of the art world. Read the rest

Wherever you are on the the having guts scale, you can level up with Gutsy Girl

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The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure by Caroline Paul Bloomsbury USA 2016, 160 pages, 6.4 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

If ever there was a book I wished was around when I was little, it’s The Gutsy Girl. But I’m just as glad to have it in the world now. While I would have read it to pieces as a kid, it also gave grown-up me a powerful reminder: bravery and resilience are skills. Anyone can develop them.

The Gutsy Girl comprises author Caroline Paul’s stories of her own (mis)adventures, accompanied by short bios and quotes from other inspiring ladies, and helpful how-tos (make a compass outside, find the North Star, recognize animal tracks, etc.). All together, the book is everything it promises to be: escapades for your life of epic adventures.

Throughout the book, Paul models adventure through her own life, from racing a boat she made of milk cartons down a river as a young girl, to white-water rafting and working as a firefighter as an adult. And she shares what she’s learned along the way. While the lessons — about planning, communication, teamwork, knowing your limits and when to push them – and when not to — are valuable, I think the bigger idea is that all of her failures and triumphs are part of a learning process. With each new experience, Paul tests, hones, and ultimately grows her own bravery and resilience. Read the rest

Crowdfunding a second anthology of great UK sf magazine Holdfast

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Laurel writes, "Holdfast is an award-winning free online speculative fiction magazine that celebrates all things fantastic. We are trying to raise enough money to pay our writers and artists for their valuable work and also print a beautiful paperback. After a successful campaign for anthology #1 and winning the British Fantasy Society award for best magazine 2015 - we're hoping to create an even bigger and better anthology this time." Read the rest

Bookworm rugs

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The Bookworm Rug (100% woven polyester) come in 2' x 3' ($28), 3' x 5' ($58) and 4' x 6' ($79), and feature a selection of spines from some rather good books, including Iain Banks's debut "The Wasp Factory" some Virginia Woolf, Charles Bukowksi and Haruki Murakami. (via Bookshelf) Read the rest

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