Play it now: Loss

How long can you hold onto something good? Is all pleasure fleeting? Is this a comic element of being alive, or a tragic one?

A treadmill for Slinky toys, for your infinite Slinky-torturing pleasure


It's a powerful metaphor for something or other, from the good folks at, with build notes for your own Slinky-torturing pleasure. (via JWZ)

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Memento Mori: the beautiful ways we have kept the dead among the living

Art historian Paul Koudounaris travelled the world, visiting 30 countries to document the practices—ancient to modern, solemn to joyous—by which human remains are displayed. From good luck charms to genocide memorials, his gorgeous art book Memento Mori collects the finds.

Play it now: I FIND MYSELF [________]


This is a game about things on a table. I'm not even sure what I find so lovable about it—the time I went to put a cassette in its player and bluntly knocked the player clean out the window, maybe. And how, after that, I decided to throw everything out the window.

A coffee cup tumbles onto the floor, spilling its contents. The culprit: The piece of donut I was trying to dunk. I'll never know what would have happened if I had successfully dunked it; after all, I'm nothing but a disembodied hand that can be raised and lowered slightly. Maybe the very idea that I can dunk is an existential delusion.

I love the artwork; it reminds me a little bit of Torahhorse's Donut County, a flat, appealing approach to color that in my mind makes a good palette against which to consider materialism. And the moment I finally did pinch a cassette tape, get it into the small, flat player on the tabletop and a piquant tune filled the room, I felt I found myself.

I FIND MYSELF [________], by Lovely Rev, is available to download for free or for a suggested donation. Read the rest

Existential risks: RPGs versus real life

In 2012, Jim Henley got tongue cancer, but it was the good kind -- his odds are like making a save-against-death throw on a D8 and needing to beat a one. Read the rest

Drowning in Problems: Notch's surprisingly moving text game

Notch, the celebrated creator of Minecraft, has a new, existential webgame: Drowning in Problems. It's a pretty damned great example of telling stories with interactivity, and how the medium can evoke emotion without resorting to the clumsy trickery of narrative. It takes about ten minutes to play through, and by the time I was done, I felt like I'd gone through a journey that made me thoughtful and reflective about the very meaning of life. (via Mefi) Read the rest

One Soul: 18 interwoven lives in a graphic novel that pushes the boundaries

Ray Fawkes's One Soul is a moving, challenging and ambitious graphic novel that attempts -- with great success -- to do something genuinely new with the comics form, telling a story that literally could not be told in any other way. Each two-page spread in One Soul is split into 18 panels, and each of those panels tells the life story, from conception to death (and beyond) of a different person, in a different time and place.

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This is How You Die: the sequel to Machine of Death

David Malki ! writes, "After poring over 2,000 story submissions, commissioning dozens of illustrations, and waiting ever-so-eagerly, we're so pleased that the sequel to Machine of Death is out now! It's called THIS IS HOW YOU DIE and it's published by Grand Central. We've put a 90-page free PDF preview on our site, and we also made a really cool short film to introduce people to the MOD concept."

Machine of Death is part of the current Humble Ebook Bundle, which closes in about a day -- that is, you've got a day to name your price for Machine of Death, along with books like Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, Wil Wheaton's Just a Geek, Louis McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor, XKCD Vol 0, Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, my novel Little Brother, Holly Black's Poison Eaters, and Neil Gaiman's Signal to Noise -- a seriously kick-ass deal.

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What is death?

What a treat! The BBC Radio 4 science show The Infinite Monkey Cage has started its new season, and the first episode is a corker, asking whether a strawberry is dead, and what is death, anyway? Podcast feed, MP3 Read the rest

Mouldering city built of bread is a metaphor for Earth without humans

Swedish artist Johanna Mårtensson created this installation depicting a cityscape made of bread in 2009, and photographed it as it decayed, creating a series of pictures representing the destiny of all human folly come the day that we make ourselves extinct and vanish from the face of the Earth:

I was inspired by an article about how well the earth would do without us. Within 500 years all buildings would be half fallen or fallen, perfect homes for animals and plants. The forrest would soon grow in cities. After hand buildings as well as pollutions would be taken care of by bacterias and micro-organisms. An ufo that came here in a couple of of hundred thousand years would not see many signs of that a gang of primates ones thought that they where the lords of the planet.

Decor Photoinstallation by Johanna Mårtensson (via Crazy Abalone) Read the rest

Patrick "Electric Sheep" Farley returns with a new webcomic: Steve & Steve

Stefan Jones sez, "Web comic master Patrick "Electric Sheep" Farley switches styles with frightening ease. The First Word, an enigmatic story about australopithecine, was done in lovely photorealistic CGI. His new work, Steve and Steve, is sharp line art with sepia-tones. It's about . . . Steve and Steve. Jobs and Wozniak, BSing about evolution, witchcraft, and the cold war under the skeleton of a ruined geodesic dome. I hope he can keep this one going."

Steve & Steve | Prelude: Electric Funeral (Thanks, Stefan!) Read the rest

Boyett's Mortality Bridge, now in paperback

Steven Boyett is one of my favorite authors (and has been for decades, since I was wowed by his debut novel Ariel). I reviewed his latest, Mortality Bridge , back in November, when it came out in a limited-edition hardcover. The book's out as an (admittedly pricey) print-on-demand paperback and ebook now. It is worth every penny.

Superficially, Mortality Bridge is a very different novel from Boyett's earlier work, an existential horror novel about a man who goes to hell to rescue his lover, but like Boyett's best work, Mortality Bridge is a gutwrenching novel about loss and redemption, deserved guilt and betrayal, with an antihero whose quest is at once the stuff of cracking adventure stories and a tragic tale of facing up to one's own cowardice and weakness.

Niko is the antihero in question. Once a junkie rock-star who'd hit bottom, Niko signed a deal with the devil that rocketed him back to stardom, got him clean of his addictions, and brought back Jemma, the love of his life, whom he'd chased away with his doping and mercurial temper. What Niko didn't spot in the fine print of his diabolical deal was that his "chattels" were also forfeit to Hell, and now that Jemma has given him her heart, it has become his chattel, and so when Jemma begins a slow, agonizing death from cancer, Niko realizes that he has damned her along with himself.

Niko -- who has already been lost and redeemed once -- can't bear to let this come to pass.

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Forming: dirty Gnostic creation-myth comic of high and lavish weirdness

Forming is Jesse Moynihan's ultra-weird graphic novel about the creation of the universe, filled with cursing, inexplicable violence, grotesque sexual acts, and primitive and strange illustrations. Set in the "Third Age of Total Bullshit," the story tells the tale of powerful aliens who visit Earth in the time of giants, set up camp in Atlantis, and enslave the indigenous giants to mine rare minerals for the galactic empire. These aliens are also involved with Noah, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Lucifer and the Archangel Michael, and a cast of personages more obscure and weird than any book of the apocrypha.

To understand Forming (assuming "understand" is the correct verb here), picture some lost Gnostic text translated by Jay (of Jay and Silent Bob) at his cussin-est, under commission by a delusional would-be cult-founder who cut his teeth on the work of Fletcher Hanks and who really liked drawings of weiners and boobies.

Moynihan walks a fine line between "weird" and "incomprehensible" and between "clever" and "dumb," and manages to stay on the right side of it through almost every one of these bizarre, demented panels. I can't say that I've ever read anything quite like this (though it did call to mind the weirder bits of The Incal). I'm glad I did.

Forming is published by London's NOBROW, whose books are fantastically well-made, beautifully cloth-bound and printed on high-quality, sustainably produced paper (they also publish the much-more-kid-friendly Hilda comics). It's a quality product.

Forming (Amazon)

Forming (Nobrow) Read the rest

Otzi the Iceman and life after death

In Science Ink, Carl Zimmer's new book collecting photos of cool science tattoos and the stories behind them, there's a photo of a guy who got tattoos to match those found on Otzi, aka The Iceman, who died more than 5,000 years ago in the Italian Alps.

Mike Goldstein, the guy who got the tattoo, said the series of 10 simple lines arranged in groups of four, three, and three served to remind him that you don't have to be incredibly important during your lifetime in order to be important. "It reminds me that I can live however I want," he says in the book. "I don't have to work in an office or wear a tie, as are the expectations of our culture. I can walk across the Alps and die in a swamp, and that's OK."

I was reminded of that quote today, while reading my news stream. There's no evidence that Otzi was a particularly important figure to his culture. But here we are, thousands of years later, still debating the minutia of how he died. Emily Sohn writes about new Otzi research for Discover News: analyses have revealed that a deep cut likely led to heavy bleeding in the man's eye. In the cold, high-altitude conditions where he was found, that kind of injury would have been tough to recover from.

The official opinion remains that an arrow in his left shoulder was the cause of death for Ötzi. But the new study raises the possibility -- for some, at least -- that he fell over after being shot by an arrow.

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Great Moments in Pedantry: The odds of your existence

What are the odds that you, as an individual, exist? Pretty good, you'd guess, since you're sitting right here reading this. But, in an abstract sense, the chances that you exist are really rather slim. In fact, once you see the full infographic, put together by futurist and designer Sofya Yampolsky of, I'm sure you'll be much more skeptical of your existence.

The infographic is based on this post by Dr. Ali Binazir.

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Free public service games for young people about sweatshops and death

My wife Alice quit her day job (commissioning public service games for the UK's Channel 4) in January to do a start-up, but some of the games she got underway are still coming out. Two new ones that are of particular interest are Sweatshop, a tower defense game that "highlights the abject horror and terrible exploitation of sweatshop factories – and the most dangerous enemy in the game is your own impulse to succeed"; and The End, a game about death, existentialism, and the afterlife, released into the increasingly atheist population of young Britain. All free, of course! Read the rest