Boing Boing 

A Conversation with John Cleese

Ethan Gilsdorf talks to the Monty Python’s Flying Circus alum about his career, his new autobiography, and his limbs.

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Reddit AMA now in app form

redama

Reddit launched its official Ask Me Anything mobile app for iOS and Android.

A horror novel that looks like an IKEA catalog

Horrorstör is a classic old-fashioned haunted house story — set in a big box Swedish furniture superstore. Appropriately, the book itself is designed like an IKEA catalog.

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Dan Kennedy, host of The Moth

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In the latest episode of the RiYL podcast, Brian Heater interviews the host of the long-running true-story live performance and podcast, The Moth.

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Peter Kuper, cartoonist

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In the latest episode of the RiYL podcast, Brian Heater interviews the author of multiple Kafka adaptations and a sketchbook diary chronicling his time in Mexico.

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Meet the man who remade Middle‑earth

Ethan Gilsdorf interviews John Howe, Tolkien Illustrator and Conceptual Designer of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Movie Trilogies

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The Atlantic's Olga Khazan (Gweek 147)

Our guest is The Atlantic associate editor Olga Khazan. We talk about cool smartphone apps, shin splint prevention, a groovy crime novel, and the best portable cell phone charger.

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The Setup interviews John McAfee

"My accessory tools are mostly extremely strong espresso and research chemicals from China that are classed as "Smart Drugs". They allow me to solve 2nd order partial differential equations in my head and to spontaneously create 4 dimensional images of software structures that I can mentally manipulate." Previously.

RiYL podcast 042: Hospitality's Amber Papini and Nathan Michel

Recommended if You Like is Boing Boing's weekly podcast of Brian Heater's cafe conversations with musicians, cartoonists, writers, and other creative types.

Come spend 45 minutes in the Red Hook living room shared by Hospitality's singer and percussionist a day after the launch of their sophomore record. The expectations are elevated this time out, after the healthy amount of buzz generated by the band's self-titled indie-pop debut. You wouldn't know it from outward appearances, however. All is calm in the Brooklyn band's apartment. Dinner is on the stove and Michel is halfway through Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. The tour, after all, is still a few months away.

RiYL: RSS | iTunes | Download episode | Listen on Stitcher

Incredibly Interesting Authors 006: Encyclopedia of Early Earth author Isabel Greenberg

Isabel Greenberg is a writer and illustrator who lives and works in North London. In her graphic novel The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, Greenberg combines art, mythology, and humor to tell a story of star-crossed love. It takes readers back to a time before history began, when another—now forgotten—civilization thrived. The people who roamed Early Earth were much like us: curious, emotional, funny, ambitious, and vulnerable. In this series of illustrated and linked tales, Greenberg chronicles the explorations of a young man as he paddles from his home in the North Pole to the South Pole in search of a missing piece of his soul. There, he meets his true love, but their romance is ill-fated. Early Earth's unusual and finicky polarity means the lovers can never touch.

Buy a copy of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth on Amazon.

Read Cory's review of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth.

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You can listen to Incredibly Interesting Authors and other Boing Boing podcasts on Swell, a cool streaming smartphone app. Visit swell.am to download the free app.

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Incredibly Interesting Authors 004: Greg Ross of Futility Closet

For nine years the popular website Futility Closet has collected arresting curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics. This book presents the best of them: pipe-smoking robots, clairvoyant pennies, zoo jailbreaks, literary cannibals, corned beef in space, revolving squirrels, disappearing Scottish lighthouse keepers, reincarnated pussycats, dueling Churchills, horse spectacles, onrushing molasses, and hundreds more. Plus the obscure words, odd inventions, puzzles and paradoxes that have made the website a quirky favorite with millions of readers -- hundreds of examples of the marvelous, the diverting, and the strange, now in a portable format to occupy your idle hours.

Here's my interview with Greg about his new book and his new career as a full-time curator of curiosities.

Buy a copy of the Futility Closet book on Amazon.

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A conversation with Terry Pratchett, author of The Carpet People

Cory Doctorow and the famed author discuss building worlds, the legitimacy of authority, and the future.

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Gweek 116: The policeman who turned into a flea


This episode is brought to you by HostGator, offering premium web hosting at low costs, and 24x7x365 phone, chat and email support. Use coupon code WEEK to get an extra 25% off and support Gweek!

In this episode of Gweek we talked with Toby Barlow, the author of the novel Sharp Teeth, which was notable for being an epic poem about werewolves in LA. We discussed his new novel, Babayaga, which takes place in 1959 Paris. It's got a CIA-funded literary magazine, weaponized LSD, a disenchanted American advertising executive, Russian witches, and a police detective who doesn't let the fact that he's been turned into a flea stop him from solving a gruesome murder case. We also discussed Slap Shot, an overlooked 1977 movie about a down-and-out hockey team starring Paul Newman, international mobile Internet cost-saving tips, the joy of playing Bridge with people in the same room, and how losing an iTunes password obliterated Toby's desire to listen to music.

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Interview with Jim Mickle, director of "We Are What We Are," a horror film in the guise of a serious drama

Jim Mickle carves out a niche as an art-house horror upstart.

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Mark's live Interview with MakerBot's Bre Pettis on Monday, 9/16

Join me this Monday for a MAKE Special Event: a live Google Hangout with Bre Pettis, co-founder of MakerBot, the 3D printer company. We will discuss the latest technologies being developed by MakerBot, including the new digitizer and more!

Mark's live Interview with MakerBot's Bre Pettis on Monday, 9/16 at 12:30pm ET

Interview with Mark H. Kruger, author of young adult thriller, Overpowered

Despite appearances to the contrary, sinister things are happening behind the squeaky-clean facade of Barrington, Colorado.

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Interview with author of "The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything... Fast" (plus excerpt)

Josh Kaufman is the author of the new book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything... Fast. I interviewed him about the art of rapid skill acquisition.

Do you find yourself staying interested in most of the things you start? If not, what has held your interest for many years?
I'm curious about many – often wildly different – things, so I like to explore new projects and skills as often as I can. I usually find something valuable enough in my early exploration to keep at it: I've been doing research on general business principles for over eight years now. My early interest in the web lead to my first career out of school, as well as my current work as an author / researcher / entrepreneur, which requires me to be a jack-of-all-trades. I just learned how to program in Ruby, so I'm coding quite a bit. I love the process of making something from nothing, and learning as I build.

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The real problem with Curtis White's The Science Delusion

So, here's a new writing nightmare. What do you do if, after your book is published, and the reviews start to come in, it slowly dawns on you that you've accidentally written the wrong book ... a book which you would not actually agree with?

That's how I felt after interviewing Curtis White, author of The Science Delusion — a book that has been widely reviewed as containing some good points, buried under a lot of angry rants and straw men. According to White, however, those reviews have all completely missed what he was trying to do and trying to say.

All the invective? White thought he was just being funny and satirical, like Jonathan Swift. The over-generalizing about what all scientists believe and what the culture of science is like? He thought it was clear that he just meant the subset of scientists who don't think there's any value other than entertainment in art, that philosophy is dead, and that culture has no affect on how we interpret science or what we do with it. The weird, pseudo-Deism? He thought he was explaining that science is part of culture, that the questions being asked and the way answers are interpreted are culturally bound and and we have to take that into account. The humanities triumphalism and points where he totally dismisses science and acts like he doesn't understand why somebody would find meaning in being curious about how the mind works? Not what he meant at all, apparently. He just wants to make the case for us needing both science and the humanities to properly understand the world. And White is deeply confused about why reviews of his book keep getting all of this wrong.

I recently had a chance to interview White — both live and in some email follow-up after the live event — and I've come to the conclusion that I can't properly review this book without including that information. There's just too big a gap, from my perspective, between how the book reads and what White wanted you to take away from it.

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Craig Thompson interviews French cartoonist Blutch - a Boing Boing exclusive

Craig Thompson, the award-winning graphic novelist who wrote and illustrated Blankets and Habibi, recently interviewed Blutch, the award-winning Alsatian novelist whose work influenced Thompson.

Later this month PictureBox is releasing Blutch's So Long, Silver Screen, "a series of interlocking short comics that combine scholarly movie history with ribald romanticism, and feature a motley cast of actors and characters, including Claudia Cardinale, Jean-Luc Godard, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Michel Piccoli, Tarzan and Luchino Visconti."

As much visual essay as graphic novel, a daydream and fantastic meditation on the other art of telling stories with images, So Long, Silver Screen is the finest work yet from an uncontested master of contemporary cartooning, as well as his first full-length work to be published in English. It is designed by famed cartoonist David Mazzucchelli.

Blutch has published over a dozen books since debuting in 1988 in the legendary avant-garde magazine Fluide Glacial: among his books are Mitchum, Peplum and Le Petit Christian, and his illustrations regularly appear in Les Inrockuptibles, Libération and The New Yorker.

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How Ophira Eisenberg slept her way to monogamy

Photo: Matt Bresler

Whatever you do, don’t call Ophira Eisenberg a comedienne. That’s an outdated, patronizing term from an era when men patted women on the head (or, unsolicited, on the ass) and called Amelia Earhart an aviatrix.

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Interview with Peter Clines, author of Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots

Peter Clines is the author of Ex-Heroes, a science fiction novel about super humans trying to save what remains of Los Angeles in a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland. Above, the cover for the Clines' upcoming follow-up novel: Ex-Patriots. Below, an interview with Clines about his love of Dr. Who. (Keep your eye out for 3 Doctor Who Novels coming out April 2: Plague of the Cybermen, Shroud of Sorrow, and The Dalek Generation.)

Originally published by a small, print-on-demand press without any publicity or marketing support and almost no physical distribution, Peter Clines’s brilliant novels, Ex-Heroes and the forthcoming Ex-Patriots -- which combine the best of the sci-fi, thriller, horror, and adventure fiction genres -- still managed to draw an incredible cult following. Now, Broadway is thrilled to introduce Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots to a whole new slew of fans with the release of these paperback originals. With two more novels to follow in the series, including Ex-Communication (July 9, 2013), Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots are sure to appeal to fans of such hits as Watchmen, World War Z, and Ready Player One.

How big of a role did Doctor Who play in your decision to become a writer?

It was a huge influence. I watched the show religiously as a kid, and even then I was aware that a good story could really help make up for cheap sets and rubber monsters (pay attention, SyFy!). I got chills from cliffhanger endings in “The Face of Evil” and “The Horror of Fang Rock.” Davros in “Genesis of the Daleks” was the first time I ever realized a character was evil. I always knew they were the bad guys out there, but Michael Wisher as Davros was just pure evil. And I loved the brilliant plot-twists that could be either scary or kind of sad and dramatic. Not to mention the fact that the whole show is about someone who gave up their life so they could try to make a difference.

It was just fantastic storytelling, and it made me want to tell stories that would get the same reactions from people.

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In defense of heroin users and sex workers: an interview with author of You Will Die

I interviewed Robert Arthur, author of a thought-provoking book about taboos, called You Will Die. (If his name sounds familiar, it could be because we've run a number of Rob's cartoons on Boing Boing, and they've proven to be popular.)

A book that vigorously defends heroin users and sex workers? In You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos Robert Arthur does that and more to demonstrate that taboos are not relics of primitive societies. America has its own ridiculous phobias and beliefs that cause tedium, suffering, and death. The government and the media use these taboos to lie and mislead. It is not a conspiracy, but by pushing panic for votes and viewers they thwart our pursuit of happiness.

You Will Die exposes the fallacies and the history behind our taboos on excrement, sex, drugs, and death. Arthur uses racy readability and rigorous documentation to raze sacred shrines of political correctness on the left and of conventional wisdom on the right. From the proper way to defecate to how to reach nirvana, anticipate the unexpected. It is not simply a novel exploration of sex and drugs, but also of individuality, liberty, and the meaning of life. You Will Die gives readers a new way of seeing their world and allows them to make a more informed choice about living an authentic life.

What made you write You Will Die?

Disillusionment. I grew up with the angst of believing I was a disgusting perverted heathen and after graduating from NYU Law in 2001 I began to research whether I was broken or if conventional wisdom was. The truth was out there but it was buried in boring academic texts, suppressed from the mainstream by puritanical censors on the right and politically-correct censors on the left. I wanted to make the truth easily accessible to the younger versions of me. I wanted them to realize that in these areas they aren't messed up. Our society is.

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The Turn of the Screw: James Watson on The Double Helix and his changing view of Rosalind Franklin

An interview with the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.

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Authors Marjorie M. Liu and Stephanie Chong interview each other

A Boing Boing exclusive: authors Stephanie Chong and Marjorie M. Liu interview each other!


Stephanie Chong (left) is author of the paranormal romance series The Company of Angels.

Marjorie M. Liu (right) is the New York Times bestselling author of the paranormal romance series Dirk & Steele, urban fantasy series Hunter Kiss, and is the writer for Marvel's Astonishing X-Men comics, including the infamous issue #51 featuring Marvel's first gay wedding.

Stephanie Chong: What parts of researching your books have personally interested you the most?

Marjorie M. Liu: I love to read all kinds of crazy non-fiction -- histories, science -- magazines, newspapers. I never know what’s going to inspire me, and once I’m inspired, I read like a maniac about that specific idea or topic. Research is the best, but it never stops.

I loved the international setting of Demoness. Did you do any personal travel for your research?

SC: I wrote about Venice from memory. I’ve been there three times, but the last time I went was seven years ago. I did a lot of research online. Venice is a small city, and memorable, so it was manageable.

My next book is set in France, and while I’ve spent a lot of time there, I did take a trip to Paris and Normandy specifically to map out the characters’ journey. It was a great excuse to take a vacation, and an interesting way to travel.

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Interview with cartoonist Joost Swarte

Bob Knetzger alerted me to a Comics Journal interview with Joost Swarte, who I mentioned last week because he has a new book called, Is That All There Is? Bob says: "Very interesting interview with Joost Swarte. Didn't know he studied industrial design and that he does lots more than comics… and that he coined the term clear line.'"

From David Peniston's introduction to the interview:

Where Le Corbusier is better known for his architecture than for his paintings, collages and drawings, Swarte has moved in the opposite direction, making a name for himself first as a cartoonist and illustrator and in more recent years branching into architectural work and stained-glass widows, even creating furniture and fonts. He has worked with architects on the design of the Toneelschuur Theater in Haarlem and is a major consultant and contributor to the design of the Herge Museum in Belgium. Swarte founded Stripdagen, a biennial international comics festival in Haarlem, in 1990 and has himself been the subject of many exhibitions, including the World Exposition of Joost Swarte, which has traveled throughout Europe. I had Swarte’s home phone number from my contact in Germany, a comics dealer named ebi wilke. So one Monday morning in February, I pick up the phone and place an international call to a number in the Netherlands — in Haarlem to be precise. I tell the woman who answers, “I’m looking for Joost Swarte,” and after a short pause, a low but confident, friendly, male voice, with a slight Dutch accent announces, “Joost Swarte.” (pronounced Yost Svarta). I come straight to the point: “Can I interview you? Would now be a good time?””

“You mean now, over the phone?“ he asks incredulously.

“Well, yes, I guess so …” So I get started. My first question stumps him and he doesn’t know what to say at first. He has to think about it for a while before he says anything and then he proceeds to answer my question in no less than 741 words. He is very articulate, well versed in art, architecture and the history of industrial design, as well as music and comics. And, I might add, he speaks fluent English.

The Joost Swarte Interview

Deconstructing Sandy

Yesterday, I got to have a great conversation on Minnesota Public Radio's The Daily Circuit. Host Tom Webber and I spent a good 45 minutes talking about Hurricane Sandy, climate change, and why it's so hard to talk about the connections between the two in an easily digestible, sound-bite format. In the meantime, he might have gotten some good sound bites out of me.

Gweek 073: Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn

Interview with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.

My guest this episode is Gillian Flynn, the New York Times Bestselling author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, and Dark Places. I had a terrific time talking to her about why she enjoys writing creepy books with twisted characters. It was interesting to learn that her father is a retired film professor who loves the work of David Lynch, because the teenagers in Dark Places reminded me of the kids in Twin Peaks.

Here's my review of Gone Girl.


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Goldilocks in space: Interview with Lee Billings about the hunt for aliens and habitable planets

Are we alone in the Universe? Last year, journalist Lee Billings wrote an excellent series of guest posts for BoingBoing about the quest to answer that question. One of those posts — Incredible Journey: Can we reach the stars without breaking the bank? — was recently reprinted in The Best Science Writing Online 2012.

As part of the publication of that anthology, journalist Steve Silberman interviewed Lee about space, the final frontier, and the voyages of starships (both the ones that already exist and the ones we imagine and hope for).

Silberman: Several times a year now, we hear about the discovery of a new exoplanet in the “Goldilocks zone” that could “potentially support life.” For example, soon after he helped discover Gliese 581g, astronomer Steven Vogt sparked a storm of media hype by claiming that “the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.” Even setting aside the fact that the excitement of discovering a planet in the habitable zone understandably seems to have gone to Vogt’s head at that press conference, why are such calculations of the probability of life harder to perform accurately than they seem?

Billings: The question of habitability is a second-order consideration when it comes to Gliese 581g, and that fact in itself reveals where so much of this uncertainty comes from. As of right now, the most interesting thing about the “discovery” of Gliese 581g is that not everyone is convinced the planet actually exists. That’s basically because this particular detection is very much indirect — the planet’s existence is being inferred from periodic meter-per-second shifts in the position of its host star. The period of that shift corresponds to the planet’s orbit as it whips from one side of the star to the other; the meter-per-second magnitude of the shift places a lower limit on the planet’s mass, but can’t pin down the mass exactly. So that’s all this detection gives you — an orbit and a minimum mass. That’s not a lot to go on in determining what a planet’s environment might actually be like, is it?

Read the full interview at Steve Silberman's Neurotribes blog

Buy the anthology The Best Science Writing Online 2012, featuring amazing stories from all around the Internets

What a dead fish can teach you about neuroscience and statistics

The methodology is straightforward. You take your subject and slide them into an fMRI machine, a humongous sleek, white ring, like a donut designed by Apple. Then you show the subject images of people engaging in social activities — shopping, talking, eating dinner. You flash 48 different photos in front of your subject's eyes, and ask them to figure out what emotions the people in the photos were probably feeling. All in all, it's a pretty basic neuroscience/psychology experiment. With one catch. The "subject" is a mature Atlantic salmon.

And it is dead.

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Making the Book Talismanic: An Interview with Robert Ansell

Robert Ansell is the Director of Fulgur Press, which has published the work of esoteric artists for 20 years.

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