The Blot: correspondence between Jonathan Lethem and Laurence A. Rickels about Philip K Dick

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A Gambler's Anatomy is the latest novel from Copyfighting certified genius Jonathan Lethem (previously) -- a book about an international backgammon hustler who believes he is psychic -- and who sports a huge tumor growing from his face. Read the rest

Let's Split! is an atlas of separatism, national identity, and fringe geopolitical movements

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Let’s Split! causes me no end of joy and pain. It is my favorite Nietzsche quote come to life. (“Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.”) It is also a 636-page atlas of separatism, national identity, fringe geopolitical movements, and a baleful cry from oppressed minority populations.

The book is put together with the obsessive care of an eccentric Victorian explorer documenting each step of his journey through uncharted lands, never stopping to discern between the observed real and the observed surreal. But Roth is no Victorian. He’s an anthropologist who’s worked with indigenous peoples in Canada and Alaska for governmental recognition and rights. Let’s Split! began life in 2011 as a blog that Roth maintains titled Springtime of Nations. (Full disclosure: by some trick in the time/space continuum, author Roth lives just a few miles from me and we have friends in common. I found this out after I discovered his blog and book.)

Conceptually, the idea of a nation-state is relatively new in the spectrum of development of human societies. People were once few on the earth and tended toward the homogeneity of tribal affiliation. As populations grew, coalitions, hegemony, and politics took shape both psychologically and politically.

Organized by continent, Let’s Split! leaves no territory behind. (Though Roth rightfully excludes "cybernations" and the giggling masses of "micronations" invented by bored teenagers declaring their basement lairs sovereign territory no longer oppressed by the evil overlords, Mom & Dad.) Included with each entry are pictures of the flags, potential population, geographic size, and finally, its likelihood for autonomy. Read the rest

Everything Belongs to the Future: a tale of pharmadystopian, immortal gerontocrats

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Laurie Penny's first science fiction book, Everything Belongs to the Future, is available to the public as of today: if you've followed her work, you're probably expecting something scathing, feminist, woke, and smart as hell, and you won't be disappointed -- but you're going to get a lot more, besides.

Rysa Walker's new novel, 'The Delphi Effect'

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Rysa Walker's Chronos Files series is some of the best time travel science fiction I've read in a long time. Her new novel The Delphi Effect deals with the paranormal, and does not disappoint!

The Delphi Effect introduces Anna Morgan, a young woman who has been bounced around foster care and psychiatric institutions for most of her life. Anna can talk to ghosts. Naturally, she runs into a spectre connected to some pretty big secrets and gets embroiled in some tumultuous cloak and dagger shenanigans. Good thing teenagers are well equipped to deal in these situations.

The plot is fun, but with Rysa Walker it is the characters and world building that are so immersive and fantastic. You immediately believe in what is going on, and everything feels natural. You care about these characters, you want to see bad things happen to the bad people, and you cheer on the good regardless how flawed and immature. Teenagers.

Walker writes books that are hard to put down.

The Delphi Effect by Rysa Walker via Amazon Read the rest

Japanese Tattoos – Full of traditional and modern designs, characters and history in this photo-heavy book

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My skin doesn’t have a single tattoo, but I am touched by the art in tattoos, particularly traditional ones. The Japanese have a long and deep affinity for skin paintings, and have devised a complex iconography for them. The Japanese were early to pioneer color in tattoos, and gave high regard for the full body tattoo, treating the whole torso as a canvas. They even went recursive, sometimes inking a large character that sported a full-body tattoo within the tattoo. This book is chock full of classic themes, characters, and designs, with plenty of notes on the historical significance of tattoo culture. Of course it’s great inspiration for modern tattoos, but also for any other visual art.

Japanese Tattoos: History, Culture, Design by Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny Tuttle Publishing 2016, 160 pages, 7.5 x 10 x 0.7 inches (softcover) $11 Buy a copy on Amazon

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RIP, science fiction author MK Wren

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MK Wren was the pen-name of Martha Kay Renfroe, whose novels we featured in 2014. Martha died at age 78 last August, but I've only just found out. She was 78. Read the rest

The Attention Merchants: a deep dive into the origins of the surveillance economy

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Tim Wu is a multiple threat: the originator of the term "net neutrality"; a copyfighting lawyer who cares about creator's rights; a fair use theorist; Zephyr Teachout's running mate in the NY gubernatorial race; an anti-monopolist who joined the NY Attorney General and used open source to catch Time Warner in the act; a lifelong deep nerd who was outraged by the persecution of Aaron Swartz, and the author of one of the seminal books on telcoms policy and human rights.

Now, he's back with his best book yet: The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, an erudite, energizing, outraging, funny and thorough history of one of humanity's core undertakings -- getting other people to care about stuff that matters to you.

New book explores abandoned asylums

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Photographer Matt Van der Velde traveled the U.S. to document his upcoming book Abandoned Asylums. Most of the locations featured are still in fairly pristine states because entry is restricted by the private or governmental owners of the properties. Read the rest

The Dungeoneers are back!

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Jeffery Russell's The Dungeoneers:Blackfrog Island brings back some of the funniest fantasy I've read!

When you need someone to fetch a missing prize from a deep, dank, dark dungeon you call the Dungeoneers. The gang of steel nerved dwarves and their odd-ball accompaniment are back, this time headed to Blackfrog Island! Pirates, the high seas, and zombie rats await our team of deep-dungeon-explorers as they attempt to brave a mysterious island from which no one returns.

I really enjoyed Russell's first installment as well.

The Dungeoneers: Blackfog Island via Amazon Read the rest

Kickstarting a steampunk anthology focused on "characters that are disabled or aneurotypical"

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Steven writes, "The team (full disclosure: that includes me) that created the award-winning multicultural steampunk anthology 'Steampunk World' are now crowdfunding another steampunk anthology - this time with a focus on characters that are disabled or aneurotypical." Read the rest

Jon Ronson's new e-book on Donald Trump and Alex Jones

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Jon Ronson is my favorite author of book about charismatic charlatans, dangerous lunatics, and interesting weirdos. So I am eager to read his brand new Kindle Single, The Elephant in the Room: A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the “Alt-Right”

The e-book is $1.99, or you can read it for free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber (I am and I love it). Try Kindle Unlimited with 30-Day Free Trial

From the bestselling author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Them, and The Psycopath Test, comes Jon Ronson’s new Kindle Single – a shocking and entertaining unveiling of the people behind Donald Trump’s candidacy, The Elephant in the Room: A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the ‘Alt-Right,’ (a Kindle Single, on sale today). Over the summer, Ronson travels to the Republican National Convention, where he reunites with an old acquaintance -- the influential provocateur and conspiracy talk-show host Alex Jones -- who draws him into one of the most bizarre presidential campaigns in American history. From the private Winnebago where conspiracy theorists and fear mongers discuss key campaign decisions, to encounters with the notorious political operative Roger Stone, Ronson’s journey into Trump’s world introduces us to a who’s who of the campaign machine, and discovers what makes them tick—and what ticks them off.

Whimsical, hilarious and often downright terrifying, The Elephant in the Room captures a defining moment in our time as only Jon Ronson could see it.

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Cheap Novelties – RAW's Julius Knipl, real estate photographer, finally finds a suitable home

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Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay by Ben Katchor Drawn and Quarterly 2016, 112 pages, 8.8 x 10.9 x 0.7 inches (hardcover) $23 Buy a copy on Amazon

Like a lot of bourgeois bohemians in the 1990s, I was a huge fan of the RAW comics anthologies which, among other incredible discoveries, introduced me to the work of Ben Katchor. One might not think that a comic strip about urban architecture, culture, city development and decay, real estate photography, memory, and loss would make very compelling comics, but then you probably haven’t met Katchor’s beloved comic strip character, Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer.

Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay, a collection of Katchor’s Knipl strips, was originally published in 1991 by RAW/Penguin as a cheap paperback. Twenty-five years later and Drawn & Quarterly finally gives Katchor and Knipl their due in a lovely hardbound, landscape edition of the original RAW strips.

If you’ve ever stared in wonder at the decades-old, sun-bleached product boxes inside of the display window of the only original hardware store left in town, or smelled an old typewriter repair shop, or purused gag gifts and tricks in a magic shop that’s been in the same city location for generations, then you’ll understand some of the lost urban culture that Cheap Novelties so deftly and melancholically evokes. As Julius Knipl is called out on building photography assignements, we see these vanishing haunts through his lens, momenents before they leave the city landscape forever, and we hear Knipl’s thoughts on the loss, reflections on his own rather homely life, and urban trivia – all rendered in a very confident and characterful hand in ink-and-gray marker washes. Read the rest

The odd pleasures of reading Proust on a mobile phone

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Author Clive Thompson once wrote an essay about the experience of reading War and Peace on his iPhone. On his blog, he writes about how Sarah Boxer read Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, all 1.2-million words.

From Boxer's essay:

Soon you will see that the smallness of your cellphone (my screen was about two by three inches) and the length of Proust’s sentences are not the shocking mismatch you might think. Your cellphone screen is like a tiny glass-bottomed boat moving slowly over a vast and glowing ocean of words in the night. There is no shore. There is nothing beyond the words in front of you. It’s a voyage for one in the nighttime. Pure romance.

In a curious way, I think reading Proust on your cellphone brings out the fathomless something in the novel that Shattuck calls “the most oceanic—and the least read” of 20th-century classics. It makes you feel like Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo in his submarine, which is just right.

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Morbid Curiosities – A dark and delightful glimpse into 18 macabre collections

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and the Bizarre by Paul Gambino Laurence King Publishing 2016, 160 pages, 7 x 9.8 x 1 inches (hardcover) $22 Buy a copy on Amazon

Dark and delightful, artistic and unusual, Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and the Bizarre is a glimpse into 18 fascinating collections of oddities. But more than that, it is also a collection of the collectors themselves. Author Paul Gambino’s familiarity with these traders of the macabre has granted him access to their greatest finds and most beloved possessions and in turn into their psyches as well.

We are talking about the types of things that most of us don’t encounter grouped together outside of museums: Jars of diseased organs and the owner’s own placenta; shelves of human skulls of various shapes and histories; exhumed items; masks; ephemera; the letters and art of serial killers; antique wax anatomical dummies; shrunken heads and mummies; parts of deformed people and animals; vintage prosthetic devices; poisons; Ouija boards and séance contraptions; a hangman’s record book and tape measure...and the list goes on.

Gambino presents the collections to us succinctly, with great visuals and a thoughtful introduction. And in doing so, he also presents to us a look at the folks who champion these items, who go to the ends of the earth to acquire them, who save them from garbage bins and bonfires, and who display them lovingly, beautifully, as objet d’art.

Their collections are every bit as ghoulish as you would imagine, but the collectors themselves are a variety of folks with regular lives. Read the rest

Super Powereds by Drew Hayes

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Super hero junior college? Drew Hayes has another fantastic series in Super Powereds, adding his humor and irony to the genre!

Landers is pretty much your average college, except they have a special course program for people with super powers. This year five new students are joining the special program, hoping to train up from "powered" to "super" without hurting themselves, or anyone else.

Hayes' Fred the Vampire Accountant stories are some my favorites this year. He does a wonderful job playing around in this genre, and I'm eager to read the second book in the series.

Super Powereds: Year 1 by Drew Hayes via Amazon Read the rest

Rudy Rucker reissues five of his classic books as $12 paperbacks and $2 DRM-free ebooks

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Science fiction writer/hacker/mathematician Rudy Rucker (previously, a Gold Star Happy Mutant if ever there was one, has reissued five of his classic titles with new forematter and his own paintings on the covers, priced to move at $12 for paperbacks and $2 for DRM-free ebooks: Saucer Wisdom ("brilliantly funny, prescient, and as fully engaging as a coffee-fueled late-night conversation with a slightly manic genius"); Spacetime Donuts ("A plugged-in rebel becomes the incredible shrinking man"); The Sex Sphere ("An alien named Babs and her crew take the form of disembodied sex organs that attach to human hosts"); The Secret of Life ("A coming-of-age science fiction novel, blending realism and the fantastic in a transreal style"); and White Light ("A hipster math prof's journey to Abosolute Infinity...and back"). Read the rest

Ghosts: Raina Telgemeier's upbeat tale of death, assimilation and cystic fibrosis

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YA graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier is a force of nature; her Babysitters Club graphic novels are witty and smart and snappy; her standalone graphic novels are even better, but her latest, Ghosts, is her best to date: an improbably upbeat story about death, assimilation and cystic fibrosis.

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