William Gibson talks writing-craft

Here's a really meaty, interesting interview with William Gibson, talking about his new novel -- but also talking about what makes narrative tick, why inserting artifacts into the story makes books better, what happens when characters go rogue, and whether there's such a thing as good fashion.
Someone said that if a fourteen-year-old boy writes a novel, it's got to be set in a post-apocalyptic world, because a fourteen-year-old boy doesn't know anything about how the world works (laughs). But if you smash the shit out of it, it's easy to depict, and he can do a rather convincing job of depicting how people would behave in it.

I think I was in somewhat that position when I began to write. I didn't have the confidence to depict more complex emotional characterization. Some people have unkindly assumed that this is characteristic of much genre SF and fantasy anyway. So it could have something to do with science fiction having been my native literary culture. But as I've gone along, with quite a bit of effort, I think I've been able to widen that bandwidth a little.

Milgrim is a good example. But Milgrim was a strange character for me in terms of his arrival. It's unusual for me to be able to remember the advent of a character, because I think that they often arrive when I'm not actually writing. I'll be doing something else, and somehow the beginning of a character will be there, and because I'm not writing I don't take note of it.

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Shell Research: as delicious as rocks slathered in crude

For reasons I am at a loss to explain, someone at Shell Research once believed that their mission could be made attractive to the public if it was summarized in this advert featuring a slimy petroleum salad.

Shell Research Read the rest

Mattel introduces new Journalism Barbie

Barbie® I Can Be...™ News Anchor Doll, just $12.99, available this holiday season. They're not kidding about the choking hazard, either.

(via Amanda Hess, thanks SB!) Read the rest

Narco news: Santa Muerte, Blog Del Narco on the radio, a torture house discovered

Above and below, photographs by National Geographic photographer Saul Schwarz, from Alma Guillermoprieto's story about the phenomenon of Santa Muerte in Mexico.

A BB feature about Blog Del Narco by fellow Boing Boing guestblogger Raul Gutierrez was the subject of a segment on the brand-new KPCC radio show hosted by Madeleine Brand (former host of NPR's "Day to Day," to which one Boinger also contributed).

You can listen to Brand's interview with Gutierrez here (or: direct MP3 link).

Also of note, related to both Los Angeles radio journalism and the drug cartels in Mexico: Warren Olney's "To the Point" program on KCRW devoted the entire show today to all things narco, and about the "¿Que Quieren De Nosotros?" editorial mentioned here earlier this week. Details on the show here: "Another High Water Mark for Drug Violence in Mexico" (or, direct MP3 link here.)

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Goofy futurist lumber-company ad from 1979

Though the actual text of this Sept, 1979 Scientific American advert for the Champion International Corporation is pretty tepid, the illustration and headline, "The Future is coming. Are you ready?" are pure goofy futurist gold.

The Future is coming. Are you ready? (Sep, 1979) Read the rest

Where Wookies come from

A heavily sourced essay about the origins of Chewbacca? Yes, please.

Chewbacca didn't spring fully formed from George Lucas' head, writes Michael Heilemann. Instead, Chewie's essential Chewiness is built up from a mish-mash of ideas and references, apparently starting with one, Ralph Wookie, a Texan friend of Terry McGovern, a voice actor who worked on Lucas' 1970 film THX 1138.

Chewie went through several visual iterations, and the final inspiration for what we know today as the Chewbacca Look seems to have been copied from an illustration of a George R.R. Martin story. The key change: Ralph McQuarrie removed the breasts.

Ralph McQuarrie: "George also gave me a drawing he liked from a 1930s illustrator of science fiction that showed a big, apelike, furry beast with a row of female breasts down its chest. So I took the breasts off and added a bandolier and ammunition and weapons, and changed its face so it looked somewhat more like the final character, and I left it at that."

As is obvious from the following side-by-side comparison, the illustration McQuarrie is referring to wasn't decades old, but months, being none other than this one by Dune legend John Schoenherr, from the July 1975 issue of Analog.

The point of this essay, though, is not an expose, but rather an in-depth look at how creation works. Bits and pieces come together to form a whole. New ideas have always had inspiration in other people's ideas, which had inspiration in others'. It looks like Chewbacca wouldn't have existed as we know him without John Schoenherr's unintentional contribution to the process, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Read the rest

Raising money for a Jeremy Bastian CURSED PIRATE GIRL collection

Zack sez ,"Jeremy Bastian -- who did that huge Little Nemo piece I sent you a few weeks ago -- is doing a fundraiser through Kickstarter to help put out a collected edition of his comic CURSED PIRATE GIRL using environmentally-conscious materials in the US. Different pledges are good for everything from an exclusive set of CURSED PIRATE GIRL buttons to a full signing event with 100 copies of the book. They have already raised nearly three times the initial amount they were looking for, but still need more to pull this off."

Cursed Pirate Girl: "Our Generation's Alice in Wonderland" Jeremy Bastian comic book (Thanks, Zack!) Read the rest

Christian anti-transhumanist manifesto

Here's a Christian manifesto on combating the siren song of transhumanism; it isn't for nothing that Ken MacLeod calls the Singularity the "rapture of the nerds," it really represents a kind of secular, techno-transcendentalism. It's not just reactionary hand-wringing, either; there's some meaty questions about bioethics, a transhuman divide between the rich and the poor; gene patents, and the rights of uplifted organisms:
Where biotechnology is ultimately headed includes not only redefining what it means to be human, but redefining subsequent human rights as well. For instance, Dr. James Hughes, whom I have debated on his syndicated Changesurfer Radio show, wants transgenic chimps and great apes uplifted genetically so that they achieve "personhood." The underlying goal behind this theory would be to establish that basic cognitive aptitude should equal "personhood" and that this "cognitive standard" and not "human-ness" should be the key to constitutional protections and privileges. Among other things, this would lead to nonhuman "persons" and "nonperson" humans, unhinging the existing argument behind intrinsic sanctity of human life and paving the way for such things as harvesting organs from people like Terry Schiavo whenever the loss of cognitive ability equals the dispossession of "personhood." These would be the first victims of transhumanism, according to Prof. Francis Fukuyama, concerning who does or does not qualify as fully human and is thus represented by the founding concept that "all men are created equal." Most would argue that any human fits this bill, but women and blacks were not included in these rights in 1776 when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
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Stickering London's Barclay's bicycles

In London, the short-hire bikes that recently appeared on corners around the city are sponsored by Barclay's Bank, which, like most giant banks, is riddled with pure evil in the form of arms, oil, and other sleazy investments. London's merry pranksters are at pains to point this out, using the time-honored medium of funny stickers.

Invasion of the Boris Bikes (Thanks, Alan!) Warning stickers for the Daily Mail US Gov't torture playlist stickers City fights illegal gig posters with CANCELLED stickers Read the rest

Urinals sort your pee by alcohol content

Spotted in the toilets of a restaurant next to the Burgerhaus Sonne Eduard-Schmidt-Saal in Alsbach, Germany on last night's tour stop: these urinals spoof the ubiquitous German recycling-bins with labels reading BEER, WINE, NON-ALCOHOLIC, and OTHER, under the heading PLEASE HELP US SEPARATE.

I'm on tour here in Germany until Wednesday, then it's off to Amsterdam for PICNIC and the Bits Of Freedom event.

Urinals that sort wee by alcohol content, Darmstadt, Germany It's not a urinal, is it? Overflowing urinal cascade Gentleman mistakes urinal and urinal cake for sink and soap ... Urinal targets and other helpful nudges Cute elephant urinal cleaning robot That's not a mouth-shaped urinal, it's a *travesty* Privacy urinals Read the rest

Long-running web series relaunches

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has up a story about "Something to be Desired," which was one of the longest-running web-video shows on the net. Creator and director Justin Kownacki moved to Baltimore last year, bringing the show to an end after seven years. He now plans to relaunch the show under a new name, "Baristas," according to the Gazette. The modest Kickstarter project set up to fund it shows just how inexpensive it is, these days, to make moving pictures. Read the rest

Joe Haldeman on writing without distraction

Mitch Wagner sez, "I talked with legendary science fiction author Joe Haldeman for the Copper Robot Podcast about why he writes with a fountain pen in bound books in a room lit by oil lamps, to create stories that explore advanced, future technology. Joe is a Hugo- and Nebula-award winner, author of 'The Forever War' and the recent 'Marsbound' and 'Starbound.'"
"There's something special about writing by hand, writing with a fountain pen, and there's something special about writing into a book, to take a blank book and turn it into an actual book. I guess there's a sort of superstitious or mystical aspect to it," Haldeman said. "I like the physical action of writing down by hand, and I don't just use it for writing my fiction. I carry a notebook and write down things to do, and I write out thoughts and stuff like that."

He added, "I think it goes way back to when I was a teenager, and I guess it's just a habit of thought that you either have or don't have. If I had had a thing like an iPad when I was a kid, then I never would have gotten into the habit of writing things down by hand."

Science fiction writer Joe Haldeman discusses unplugging to create Ridley Scott to adapt Haldeman's Forever War Joe Haldeman's excellent online diary Photos of science fiction writers' nests Read the rest

Reading Playboy to the blind

Taping for the Blind is a Texas non-profit that does exactly what it says—turning printed material that isn't available in audio book format into custom-made tapes and CDs. They also do audio descriptions of live events, like the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and various theater performances. Volunteers read and describe publications by request, and one of the publications requested turns out to be Playboy. NPR interviewed Suzi Hanks, a radio DJ who took over Playboy duty after the guy who used to read it got married, and his wife asked him to stop.

Hanks reads the articles ... and describes the pictures. But that latter task is more than just titillatingly talking about tits.

"Basically I'm their eyes. All I'm doing is providing accessibility to what's there on the page," she says. "I don't have to try to be sexy when I'm describing the pictures. I'm just a woman reading it, and it comes out sexy whether I want it to or not."

It's more than just body parts, she says. "That would get boring. You're painting a picture. She's conveying something through her eyes, through her facial expressions."

Hanks will look for details in the photos like nautical sheets on the bed, or make observations like, "interestingly enough, in the centerfold, it looks as if the tattoos have been airbrushed out. The tattoos are gone."

Almost as interesting to me is the fact that Taping for the Blind has its own radio station that you can pick up in the greater Houston area. Read the rest

William Gibson and me, live on stage in London, Oct 4

I'm delighted to announce that I'll be interviewing William Gibson, live and on stage for London's Intelligence^2 event on Oct 4. Bill and I always have great conversations, and this one should be a lot of fun, since I've been bugging his old friends for interesting conversational veins that go beyond the usual. Plus there's the fact that his latest novel, Zero History, kicked eleven kinds of ass (I hope that we will be able to enumerate all eleven of them, but I'll settle for one or two). Hope to see you there!

William Gibson on 'Zero History' Read the rest

Terry Pratchett makes his own magic sword with meteoric iron

Having been knighted by the Queen, Sir Terry Pratchett decided he needed a sword, so he made one. He mined the ore from a field near his house, chucked in a bunch of meteoric ore ("thunderbolt iron, you see -- highly magical, you've got to chuck that stuff in whether you believe in it or not") and then got a local blacksmith to help him fashion a silver-chased blade out of it. Then he hid it away, because he was worried that England's knife-crime-maddened coppers would come over to his house and confiscate it.
With help from his friend Jake Keen -- an expert on ancient metal-making techniques -- the author dug up 81kg of ore and smelted it in the grounds of his house, using a makeshift kiln built from clay and hay and fuelled with damp sheep manure...

He said: "It annoys me that knights aren't allowed to carry their swords. That would be knife crime."

Terry Pratchett creates a sword with meteorites (Thanks, Eric!)

(Image: Terry Pratchett, Powell's, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from firepile's photostream) Pratchett's Discworld: a reading-order guide Match it For Pratchett! Raising £500000 for Alzheimer's research ... Terry Pratchett: Doctor Who isn't science fiction Terry Pratchett has rare, early-onset Alzheimer's Terry Pratchett's "Making Money" -- economic comedy Terry Pratchett gets a knighthood Terry Pratchett fan-afghan -- the Pratchgan Pratchett donates $1 million to Alzheimer's research Read the rest

Journal of a 6 year old's 3-year whaling ship voyage in 1868

In October, 1868, 6-year-old Laura Jernegan and her family set sail on a three-year whaling voyage. Laura kept a journal of the voyage, which has now been scanned and posted. It's sweet and sad and lovely.

Laura Jernegan: Girl on a Whaleship (via IZ Reloaded) Stealthy anti-whaling powerboat Anne Frank's complete diary on display for the first time - Boing ... Secret Diary of a Specialist in Developmental Neurotoxicology and ... Bob Harris' photo diary of a trip to the North Korea border ... Diary of a UK journalist being hassled by goons at the Bilderberg ... Read the rest

Vintage Rootes automotive ads in Russian and English

LiveJournal Vintage Ads group member valaamov_osel scanned this 1961 Rootes automotive booklet that is inexplicably in both some Cyrillic language (I'm assuming Russian) and English. It's dozens of pages of pure vintage auto-ad gold, especially the heavy goods/passenger vehicles with names like "Gamecock" and "Avenger."

Rootes ad. 1961. Read the rest

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