WHAT IF: Hermione made Harry and Ron do their own goddamned homework?

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Anyone who's paid close attention knows that the series should really be called "Hermoine Granger and the Repeated Rescue of the Lazy, Glory-Hogging Boys," but as usual, Mallory Ortberg (previously) brings it all home with some scathing and witty fanfic: Read the rest

WAS: a new edition of Geoff Ryman's World Fantasy-nominated Oz novel

The novel tore my heart out in 1992: a contrafactual memoir of L Frank Baum; a desperately poor girl called Dorothy Gael from Manhattan, KS; and a makeup artist on the set of the classic MGM film. Read the rest

Terry Pratchett's daughter says she will not write or authorize more Discworld books

Rhianna Pratchett's announced that The Shepherd's Crown will be the last Discworld novel, because "They are sacred to dad." Read the rest

Taxidermied teacup tauntaun made from antique ram's head

Rogue taxidermist Lupa writes, "This is my latest altered taxidermy piece: an antique Corsican ram taxidermy mount turned into the fluffier, cuddlier--and smaller--cousin of the Common Tauntaun, complete with information booklet ('The Tragic Treatise of the Teacup Tauntaun'). It's a piece I made for a Star Wars themed group show this May at an art gallery here in Portland." Read the rest

Writer Naomi Novik explains copyright to Congress

Naomi Novik isn't just a talented author (she won the John W Campbell Award for best new writer in 2007 on the strength of her fabulous Temeraire novels, which retell the Napoleonic wars with dragons providing air-support!), she's also a profound thinker on the questions of reuse, remixing, intellectual freedom and copyright.

Last week she gave testimony (PDF) to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet that described the way that creators rely on their ability to remix in order to create new and original works.

One thing I love about Novik is her intellectual honesty and her willingness to cut through the self-serving, romantic mythology of the wholly original creator, and to both acknowledge and celebrate the fact that her originality comes about by taking the works that others created before her and adapting them through her own artistic process, "Original work, work that stands alone, doesn't just pop up out of nowhere. It is at the end of a natural spectrum of transformation."

I also appreciated her strong arguments as licensing as a substitute for robust fair use: "On the purely practical level, the vast majority of remix artists doing non-commercial work simply don't have any of the resources to get a license — not money, not time, not access."

Novik's testimony is admirably summarized by Dr Matthew Rimmer in this Techdirt post. Rimmer is a global expert in fair use and copyright, and he highlights many of the most salient features of Novik's testimony. Read the rest

What the quadcopter was thinking when they used it to buzz a moose (a found fiction in a Boing Boing comment thread)

From the remarkable keyboard of allium, in the comment thread for this post:

"Rocky...is that you? My God, what did those Pottsylvanian bastards do to you?"

It was my own government that did this, I think in jagged letters ten feet tall. Of course after the cyborging I can only talk in Bluetooth, 802.11, and half a dozen classified military frequencies, and I left my loudspeaker module back at the base during my escape, so all Agent B hears are the chainsaw buzz of my rotors. He only knows it's me because the boys under Groom Lake painted a cartoon of...what I was...on my fuselage. As a joke. They thought it was hilarious.

So I yaw back and forth, hoping he'll interpret that as a "no".

Steam rises from B's nostrils as he tosses his massive, antlered head back. "When I see Fearless Leader again. I'm gonna pull a can of whoop-ass out of my hat!"

By the Great Acorn Above, he's dense. I dispense some eka-meth from my internal drug reservoirs to focus; two point eight seconds later I come to a decision and warm up the excimer.

"But wait a second...the Admiral told me you were dead! He spoke at your funeral! He..." B trails off as he sees words of fire appear vertically in the bark of the trees in front of him, one word per trunk. My targeting system is very precise - assassination tools generally are.


Two hours later and thirty miles to the west, B paws at a nondescript hillock of frozen earth to uncover the squirt transmitter we buried there after the Upsidasium Affair.

Read the rest

Fanfic inspired by the apocalyptic state of a ten-year-old Civilization II game

Lycerius's post on Reddit last week by caused enormous, worldwide interest as he revealed that he had been playing a single game of Civilization II for a decade, and that in that time, thousands of years had gone by, and the world had been nearly destroyed by centuries of war and rampant climate change ("a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation"). It was a detailed, apocalyptic vision of a world where war and unlimited resource exploitation leads to a long, possibly eternal dark ages for the unlucky survivors.

Redditors were so captivated by this nightmare world that they have begun to write short stories set in Lycerius's wasteland, little first-person narratives from the miserable simulated people caught in the meat-grinder.

IO9's George Dvorsky has rounded up some of the choicest morsels, but, as he points out, you really owe it to yourself to have a look at the whole thread.

It seemed like just another day in this never-ending war. The last few historians left (who needs history now, really) agree that it has been going on for at least 1500 years, but their estimates vary. Why does it matter, anyway. The leaders of the remaining superpowers are locked in this pointless struggle, with no breakthrough. I have no idea how the Vikings keep being so consistent over such a long time, but the Communists have had the same family (and principles) in power ever since the war began and over here in America we've hooked up our president to a computer so he could rule forever.

Read the rest

Russian fan-made fictional table of contents for a Harry Potter encyclopedia of feminism

Charles Tan sez, "Ekaterina Sedia translates a Russian fictional Table of Contents for Encyclopedia of Feminism According to Harry Potter."

The Practice of Female Separatism in Daily Life of Luna Lovegood Hermione Granger on Liberal Feminism Female Empowerment in Academia Through the Eyes of Minerva McGonagall Women in Politics: The Dilemma of Dolores Umbridge Women in the Military and Psychological Violence: The Case of Bellatrix Lestrange Consequences of Limiting Abortion Rights: The Tragedy of Lily Potter The Death Toll of Unpaid Labor: The Duel of Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange Replication of Violent Family Practices: Family Strategies of Nymphadora Tonks The Duality of Economic Strategies for Women: Narcissa Malfoy

Russian Language Harry Potter Fandom is Awesome (Thanks, Charles!) Read the rest

State of Adversarial Stylometry: can you change your prose-style?

Today at the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin (28C3), Sadia Afroz and Michael Brennan presented a talk called "Deceiving Authorship Detection," about research from Drexel College on "Adversarial Stylometry," the practice of identifying the authors of texts who don't want to be identified, and the process of evading detection. Stylometry has made great and well-publicized advances in recent years (and it made the news with scandals like "Gay Girl in Damascus"), but typically this has been against authors who have not taken active, computer-assisted countermeasures at disguising their distinctive "voice" in prose.

As part of the presentation, the Drexel Team released Anonymouth, a free/open tool that partially automates the process of evading authorship detection. The tool is still a rough alpha, and it requires human intervention to oversee the texts it produces, but it is still an exciting move in adversarial stylometry tools. Accompanying the release are large corpuses of test data of deceptive and non-deceptive texts.

Stylometry has been cited by knowledgeable critics as proof of the pointlessness of the Nym Wars: why argue for the right to be anonymous or pseudonymous on Google Plus or Facebook when stylometry will de-anonymize you anyway? I've been suspect of these critiques because they assume that only de-anonymizers will have access to computer-assisted tools, but as Anonymouth shows, there are many opportunities to use automation tools to improve anonymity.

Stylometry matters in many ways: its state of the art changes the balance of power between trolls and moderators, between dissidents and dictators, between employers and whistleblowers, between astroturfers and commenters, and between spammers and filters. Read the rest