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.
Incredibly Interesting Authors: RSS | iTunes | Download this episode Read the rest
and the famed author discuss building worlds, the legitimacy of authority, and the future.
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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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Jim Mickle carves out a niche as an art-house horror upstart.
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 Read the rest
Despite appearances to the contrary, sinister things are happening behind the squeaky-clean facade of Barrington, Colorado.
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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."
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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.
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.
If only her fiancé, now husband, had known that before he compiled a spreadsheet of every woman he had slept with before meeting Eisenberg, a list she discovered by accident and couldn't resist examining, and which listed her as the latest entry with the unfortunate label comedienne in the cell next to her name. She was furious. But Jonathan is a remarkable man, and, in one of the best parts of her new memoir, manages to explain himself credibly. (Spoiler: She marries him.)
Eisenberg is a professional comedian, thank you very much. She tours, she hosts the NPR quiz show Ask Me Another (with the Internet's Jonathan Coulton as the regular musical sidekick), and recently came out with a memoir: Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy. You can hear a half-hour conversation she and I had about the book, her life, and her husband's beautiful, piercing eyes in the podcast in this post.
It's a Bildungsroman, like many memoirs, dealing largely with the period from when she came of age and sexual maturity as a teenager through moves from her hometown of Calgary to Toronto and then New York, and her shift from IT support to full-time funny lady.
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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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
An interview with the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.
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.
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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.
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:
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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).
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. Read the rest
Interview with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.