Mansplaining Lolita


Rebecca Solnit's brilliant, scathing critique of Esquire's "The 80 Best Books Every Man Should Read" (a list with 79 male authors in it) earned her a mailbag full of mansplaining letters in which dudes explained to an eminent, brilliant author how to read a book. Read the rest

Borges's widow threatens remixer with prison

Argentina's crazy copyright laws provide for prison sentences for "intellectual property fraud" -- in this case, rewriting a Borges short story in Borgesian fashion and publishing it in a super-limited underground press edition of 300. Read the rest

Doctoral dissertation in graphic novel form


Columbia University awarded a doctorate in education to Nick Sousanis for Unflattening, a graphic novel about the relationship between words and pictures in literature. Read the rest

If Hemingway (and Shakespeare, and co) were coders

Fat XXX's "If Hemingway wrote JavaScript" is a great piece of imaginative writing, speculating about the coding styles that various literary titans (Shakespeare, Hemingway, Dickens, Breton and more) would have employed:

function theSeriesOfFIBONACCI(theSize) {

  //a CALCKULATION in two acts.   //employ'ng the humourous logick of JAVA-SCRIPTE

  //Dramatis Personae   var theResult; //an ARRAY to contain THE NUMBERS   var theCounter; //a NUMBER, serv'nt to the FOR LOOP

  //ACT I: in which a ZERO is added for INITIATION

  //[ENTER: theResult]

  //Upon the noble list bestow a zero   var theResult = [0];

  //ACT II: a LOOP in which the final TWO NUMBERS are QUEREED and SUMM'D

  //[ENTER: theCounter]

  //Commence at one and venture o'er the numbers   for (theCounter = 1; theCounter < theSize; theCounter++) {     //By divination set adjoining members     theResult[theCounter] = (theResult[theCounter-1]||1) + theResult[Math.max(0, theCounter-2)];   }

  //'Tis done, and here's the answer.   return theResult;

  //[Exuent] }

If Hemingway wrote JavaScript (via Wired) Read the rest

Classic SF of the 1950s: beautiful books introduced by Gibson, Gaiman, Reed, Willis, Straub and others

The Library of America is publishing a two volume treasure of science fiction next September 27, in which great contemporary science fiction writers introduce classics of the field from the 1950s. The handsome, slipcased edition includes:

Volume 1: 1953–1956 * Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants * Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human * Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow * Richard Matheson, The Shrinking Man

Volume 2: 1956–1958 * Robert Heinlein, Double Star * Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination * James Blish, A Case of Conscience * Algis Budrys, Who? * Fritz Leiber, The Big Time

The LOA site for the books has the essays and other supplementary material, including work by William Gibson (writing about "The Stars My Destination"), Neil Gaiman (on "The Big Time"), Kit Reed (on "More Than Human") and Connie Willis (on "Double Star") as well as pieces by Tim Powers, James Morrow, and Peter Straub.

American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950's Read the rest

Bacigalupi: cyberpunk saved sf

Paolo Bacigalupi (whose books have been reviewed here in the past) writes in Wired about the way that cyberpunk saved science fiction:

For me as a kid, reading cyberpunk was like seeing the world for the first time. Gibson’s Neuromancer wasn’t just stylistically stunning; it felt like the template for a future that we were actively building. I remember reading Sterling’s Islands in the Net and suddenly understanding the disruptive potential of technology once it got out into the street.

Cyberpunk felt urgent. It wasn’t the future 15 minutes out—it was the future sideswiping you and leaving you in a full-body cast as it passed by.

And what's coming next:

I work in a literary genre that thrives at uncertainty points, when questions about our future are unanswered. Even though post-9/11 America is as corporate-dominated as any cyberpunk could have anticipated, it’s also national-security-obsessed. We seem to be building toward a sort of public-private partnership of free-market totalitarianism that never felt like it was on the road map.

How Cyberpunk Saved Sci-Fi Read the rest

Tempo: transformative, difficult look at advanced decision-making theory

As I've noted here before, Venkatesh Rao is a thought-provoking, profound thinker, and I always welcome his long, fascinating blog posts. When he sent me a copy of his slim book, Tempo, I was very excited to see it turn up in my mailbox.

Tempo is Rao's attempt to formalize many years of study into human decision-making. Rao spent two years as a Cornell post-doc doing USAF-funded research on "mixed-initiative command and control models," part of the research on decision-making that includes such classics as Chet Richards's Certain to Win. Rao taught a course on decision-making theory at Cornell that included many of his theories, metaphors and advancements on the subject, and he reports that students found the course entertaining, but disjointed -- a "grab bag" of ideas. Tempo is meant to turn that grab-bag into an orderly, systematic argument explaining Rao's overall view of how and why we decide stuff, how we can change the way others behave, and how to look at the history and future of humanity's individual and collective decisions. Heavy stuff, in other words.

Rao does not entirely succeed in making an orderly argument out of his grab bag. My relationship with Tempo was tumultuous. It's heavy going, abstract, and makes difficult (for me) to follow leaps from one subject to the next. I would normally read 150 pages of academic text in a day or two, but after two days with Tempo, I was still only 40 or so pages in. Read the rest