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Geeky temporary tatts: TATTONOMY


Harry sez, "Tattoos are the best form of self expression, but let's face it, some of us don't want to get something permanent on our skin that we might regret for the rest of our lives. That's where TATTONOMY comes in. They've created temporary tattoos with geeky designs that you will never regret having. You put them on with water, they stay on for a few days and then you wave goodbye to your geeky design."

Harry's the CPU Wars guy -- a good egg.

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Michael Lewis's "Flash Boys": lifting the rock on crooked high-speed trading

Michael Lewis is the best finance writer in the business (see my reviews of The Big Short and Liar's Poker), a gifted storyteller with a firm grasp of his subject and real insider access and insight. He's got a new book out, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, which tells the story of the high-speed traders who turned the stock markets into (more of) a rigged game, and how the big incumbent banks fought back. The New York Times Magazine has adapted a long excerpt from the book and it's thrilling, shining a light on what New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called "insider trading 2.0."

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Expiration Day: YA coming of age novel about robots and the end of the human race


Expiration Day is William Campbell Powell's debut YA novel, and it's an exciting start. The novel is set in a world in which human fertility has collapsed, taking the birth-rate virtually to zero, sparking riots and even a limited nuclear war as the human race realizes that it may be in its last days. Order is restored, but at the price of basic civil liberties. There's a little bit of Orwell (a heavily surveilled and censored Internet); but mostly, it's all about the Huxley. The major locus of control is a line of robotic children -- all but indistinguishable from flesh-and-bloods, even to themselves -- who are sold to desperate couples as surrogates for the children they can't have, calming the existential panic and creating a surface veneer of normalcy.

Expiration Day takes the form of a private diary of Tania, an 11 year old vicar's daughter in a small village outside of London. Tania's father's parishioners have found religion, searching for meaning in their dying world. He is counsellor and father-figure to them, though the family is still relatively poor. Tania is a young girl growing up in the midst of a new, catastrophic normal, the only normal she's ever known, and she's happy enough in it. But them she discovers that she, too, is a robot, and has to come to grips with the fact that her "parents" have been lying to her all her life. What's more, the fact that she's a robot means that she won't live past 18: all robots are property of a private corporation, and are merely leased to their "parents," and are recalled around their 18th birthday, turned into scrap.

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Hand-painted Haunted Mansion stretching portraits coasters on Italian marble


Etsy seller Breakeble Designs used to offer these hand-painted Italian marble coasters that depicted the stretching portraits from the Haunted Mansions from Disneyland/Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland. Alas, Breakeble Designs is on holiday, with no word of when or if the coasters will return. They'd make handsome decorative wall-tiles as well as coasters.

Haunted Mansion Stretching Portrait Italian Marble Coasters (via The Haunted Mansion)

Disney's Nine Old Men: box-set of flipbooks

In January 2013, Disney Animation Studios released a box-set of nine flip books that pay tribute to the "Nine Old Men" of Disney animation -- artists who pioneered the animation techniques that define the field even today. I only just found out about these today -- they're amazing. Each book shows the animation as line-art, really capturing the character and movement the animators imbued their creations with. This video does a good job of showing off the books. The box also includes a short explanatory book, but this isn't really about reading material -- the value is all in having the cel-by-cel line art to marvel upon.

Walt Disney Animation Studios The Archive Series Walt Disney's Nine Old Men: The Flipbooks

Lockstep: Karl Schroeder's first YA novel is a triumph of weird science, deep politics, and ultimate adventure


As I've written before, Karl Schroeder is one of the sharpest, canniest thinkers about technology and science fiction I know. In the nearly 30 years I've know him, he's introduced me to fractals, free software, Unix, listservers, SGML, augmented reality, the Singularity, and a host of other ideas -- generally 5-10 years before I heard about these ideas from anyone else. What's more, he's a dynamite novelist with a finely controlled sense of character and plot to go with all those Big Ideas.

Now he's written his first young adult novel, Lockstep, and it is a triumph.

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Exclusive excerpt: first three chapters of "The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza"

Yesterday, I reviewed James Kolchaka's new graphic novel for kids, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, which made my six year old daughter laugh until she cried (I liked it too).

Today, I'm delighted to bring you the first three chapters of Glorkian Warrior, an exclusive courtesy of publishers FirstSecond.

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James Kochalka's "The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza"


I have never heard my daughter laugh as loud or as long as she did when I read her James Kochalka new kids' graphic novel, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza. My six year old literally howled with laughter as I read this to her at bedtime, and kicked her legs in the air, and thumped the pillow -- tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks. After reading this to her twice at bedtime, I had to declare a moratorium on further bedtime reads because it wound her up too much to sleep.

I loved it too. The Glorkian Warrior is a dopey, destiny-seeking superhero who finds himself on a quest when he intercepts a wrong-number pizza-order and decides to deliver the leftover pizza in his fridge. His straight-man is his wisecracking, laser-zapping sentient backpack, which helps him fight off a giant mecha-suited doofus named Gonk, a mysterious pizza-snatching saucer-craft, and a magic robot in an impenetrable fortress.

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Ifixit's MacGyver toolkit


Ifixit is celebrating MacGyver's birthday with an Action Hero Toolkit in a Altos-tin-sized-tin. It includes a bobby pin, a match, a rubber band, bubble gum, a birthday candle, a paper clip (natch), a shoelace, a 1 cent stamp and duct-tape. $6.

Action Hero Toolkit (Thanks, Jeff!)

Blobfish plush


Thinkgeek bills their $40 Blobfish Plush as a "Grumpy Cat of the sea." While its true that the "world's ugliest animal" is actually pretty unremarkable looking when it is compressed by the awesome high-pressure environment of the sea, there's no denying that it looks like a newspaper caricature of a sad, downtrodden shlub when brought to the surface, which makes it the perfect gift...for that someone special in your life.

Blobfish Plush

Polygon-art Star Wars character cushion-covers

On Etsy, The Retro Inc sells a nice line of custom-sized cushion slips screened with polygon art renderings of Star Wars characters. They range from $34-$42 depending on size.

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Exclusive excerpt: chapter 3 of Mur Lafferty's "Ghost Train to New Orleans" [Urban fantasy]


[Ed: Mur Lafferty's 2013 debut novel Shambling Guide to New York City was an outstanding work of urban fantasy and contributed to Mur's winning a much-deserved John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 2013 Hugo Awards. Now, Mur's back with a sequel, Ghost Train to New Orleans, and she and her publishers, Orbit, were kind enough to give us an exclusive excerpt from the novel, along with Mur's introduction, below. -Cory]

Chapter 3 of Ghost Train to New Orleans has our hero, Zoë, and her writers aboard a ghost bullet train to write a travel book for monsters. Zoë and another human have just discovered the train is about to experience an old fashioned train robbery with cowboys and horses and everything. 

I love these cowboys. This is an example of the "iceberg" of fiction - you will see one scene with these cowboys and learn only a little about them. But I had to come up with why these cowboys wore business attire underneath their cowboy clothes, why they are so bad at their jobs, and how they died to become ghosts anyway. Their whole story doesn't appear in the book, but I know these people. I really want to tell their backstory in an upcoming short.

Ghosts are an interesting creature to use in urban fantasy. They always seem to have their own creation myth; if everyone who died turned into a ghost, there would be billions of ghosts wandering around the world, which would make them not so much scary, but an annoyance. If only some people turned into ghosts, who and why? And if vampire and zombie undead existed, why did the person's spirit leave the body instead of turning the proper undead? 

I got my inspiration from Gail Carriger's Soulless, where vampires sometimes fail in their attempts to turn humans. In Gail's world, the human dies. In mine, I decided, if a vampire os zombie fails, a ghost is created instead. Since vampires seem to have more fun than ghosts, and ghosts are failed vampires (or, in some cases, zombies) this makes the ghosts decidedly bitter as a whole. In the world of the Shambling Guides, ghosts are insubstantial all the time, and can do little with the physical world unless they possess a human, which is very difficult to do unless the human is weakened or willing. Ghosts love the ghost train, though, since that's where they can take physical form. The job market for work aboard the ghost train is highly competitive. 

As for New Orleans, I'd wanted to return there since I got my initial inspiration for the book in 2005 when I wrote an RPG supplement for a charity gaming book to benefit the Red Cross after Katrina. In my supplement, a zombie continued her job as a tour guide even after she had died because she loved her home so much. I took my first expansion of this idea to New York, but I'm excited to return this idea to New Orleans and her jazz and parties and beignets. 

Ghost Train to New Orleans

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Afterlife with Archie: Archie comics go zombie


Afterlife with Archie is exactly what it sounds like: a series of comics in which Archie Andrews, Jughead, and the lovable gang are trapped in a horrific zombie apocalypse. It's more than a gag, too: it's got tight, tense storylines, genuine horror and real pathos. I just read issue four and was surprised by how moving and scary it is, and I also appreciated the EC-style horror mini-story at the end.

The singles are already selling at a frustrating markup on Amazon, so I think you're better off pre-ordering the $13 collection that comes out on May 13.

Exclusive: Chapter 1 of Hugh AD Spencer's "Extreme Dentistry"


I'm extremely pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from Hugh AD Spencer's debut novel Extreme Dentistry. I've known Hugh for more than 20 years now, and he's always been one of the most consistently funny and snappy writers of my acquaintance. Hugh's novel comes from the indie press Brain Lag, and we're grateful to them for permission to publish chapter one, after the jump. Here's a little more about the book:

The solution to your shape-shifting vampire problem is obvious: Dentists with faith. Aurora Award nominated author Hugh A.D. Spencer weaves a bizarre tale of sarcasm, Mormonism, death and oral hygiene that spans from Singapore to Germany to Missouri and Toronto. Extreme Dentistry explores love and loss, terrible bosses, difficulties in getting good babysitters, and those seedy centers of monstrous human and inactivity both human and inhuman -- shopping malls.

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Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam, out in the USA today


Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam, the 40th Discworld novel, comes out in the US today. I reviewed it back in November for the UK release; here's what I had to say then: it's a tremendous synthesis of everything that makes Pratchett one of the world's most delightful writers. It's a curious thing: a fantasy novel about modernity and reactionaries, a synthesis of technological optimism and a curious sort of romantic mysticism.

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