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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Free Jim's Mine [short story]

Read Tananarive Due’s‘s tale of a pregnant woman escaping slavery in 1830s Georgia. Introduced by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, it’s from The Long Hidden, a new anthology of historical fiction.

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RIP, H.R. Giger, 1940-2014

The famous Swiss surrealist leaves behind some of the twentieth century’s most impressive and startling artwork. Here are our favorite biomechanical wonders.

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MK Wren's Shadow of the Swan

Enjoy the second part of MK Wren’s new ebook, offered exclusively by Boing Boing

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San Francisco police beat up and detain Good Samaritans who call 911 and perform first aid on accident victim


Peretz Partensky and her his friend had just had a dinner at a restaurant in San Francisco's SOMA district when they happened on an injured woman who had fallen off her bicycle. They called 911 and performed first aid while they waited for emergency services. When the police got there, they beat up Partensky's friend and detained him, and when Partensky objected, they cuffed, brutalized and arrested him. Injured and in an holding cell, she asked to see a doctor, and the SFPD deputies on duty at the jail stripped him naked and threw him in solitary confinement and marked him as a candidate for psychiatric evaluation.

Partensky complained to the SF Office of Citizen Complaints, documenting him plight in eye-watering detail (Partensky works for a company that supplies software to the restaurant on whose doorstep the entire incident took place, and they were happy to hand him CCTV footage of the incident). The entire procedure then went dark, because in San Francisco, you aren't allowed to know what happens to police officers who beat you up, thanks to the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights.

One of the officers who harassed, beat, and wrongfully arrested Partensky, Paramjit Kaur, is already the subject of a civil rights suit. The other SFPD personnel who attacked and arrested the Good Samaritans are Officers Gerrans and Andreott.

For Partensky, the take-away message is clear: if you see someone who needs medical assistance, don't call 911, because the police might come and beat you up. Instead, help that person get to the hospital in a taxi.

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Classic British sci-fi show Blake's 7 returns ... to Xbox

Blake's 7, the classic BBC science fiction show, is coming back.

A Microsoft-funded reprise of the 1978-1981 series is headed to the Xbox Live service, according to The Financial Times (paywall), replacing earlier plans to revive the show on the SyFy channel. SyFy's choice of director, Martin Campbell, will still helm the new production.

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Save the Castro's Theater's mighty Wurlitzer!


A reader writes, "The Mighty Wurlizter at San Francisco's Castro Theatre is in danger of being sold. There is an attempt being made to purchase the Wulitzer and upgrade some needed elements. The organ at the Castro is a beloved San Francisco treasure, it would be a pity to lose it!"

Amen. This is one of San Francisco's great, underappreciated attractions, along with the Musee Mechanique and Alcatraz. It needs saving.

Join Us in Preserving a San Francisco Musical Tradition

Cory's last night in San Francisco tonight!

Tonight's my last night in San Francisco on my Homeland tour. I'll be at Borderlands books at 7PM. Tomorrow I'll be at the Leonardo in Salt Lake City; and on Sunday I'll be at Changing Hands in Tempe, AZ. Come on down (and thanks to everyone who came by the Booksmith last night!). Cory

US naval analyst on science fiction space warfare

NewImageForeign Policy magazine interviewed naval analyst Chris Weuve, a former US Naval War College research professor, about space warfare in science fiction.

Has sci-fi affected the way that our navies conduct warfare?

CW: This is a question that I occasionally think about. Many people point to the development of the shipboard Combat Information Center in World War II as being inspired by E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman novels from the 1940s. Smith realized that with hundreds of ships over huge expanses, the mere act of coordinating them was problematic. I think there is a synergistic effect. I also know a number of naval officers who have admitted to me that the reason they joined the Navy was because Starfleet Command wasn't hiring.

"Aircraft Carriers in Space" (Thanks, Todd Lappin!)

Lord of the Rings: The Orcs' side of the story, told in LEGO

[Video Link] A short LEGO parody telling the Orcs' side of the story from Lord of the Rings, Directed and Animated by Kevin Ulrich.

Snarky (but accurate) Prometheus review

Henry Rothwell has an epically long, epically snarky review of Prometheus, entertainingly and engagingly written. Its fundamental point is that science fiction films are visually consistent, not logically consistent (the opposite of science fiction novels, which is why I'm a pain in the ass to take to sf movies). Rothwell gets there by pretty humorous means.

The first duty of the captain is, naturally, to decorate the Christmas tree. Because it’s Christmas apparently. Charlize Theron reminds him that there is a mission briefing. He informs her that he has yet to have breakfast. He’s been asleep for two years, and decides to decorate a Christmas tree (while smoking a cigar in a closed environment) before he has breakfast. We realise that the crew selection procedure was yet another casualty of the cuts required to ensure that they had a sodding big spaceship (SBS from here on in).

At the breakfast table a rather nice biologist (played by Raef Spall, son of Timothy) introduces himself to a grumpy geologist, who is very rude. Later on, he confirms he’s the geologist, by shouting “I’m a geologist, I fucking love rocks!” as if that was the most pressing point that needed explaining. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The current point that needs explaining is the implication that these two crew members have managed to make it this far without actually meeting each other, and are plainly incompatible. It seems that at least one part of the crew selection procedure took the form of a raffle at an arsehole convention.

Prometheus: an archaeological perspective (sort of).

Ray Bradbury at NASA JPL, 1971, reading his poem "If Only We Had Taller Been" (video)

[Video Link] A beautiful video from NASA JPL honoring Ray Bradbury, who died Tuesday, June 5 2012 at 91.

Through the years, Ray Bradbury attended several major space mission events at JPL/Caltech. On Nov. 12, 1971, on the eve of Mariner 9 going into orbit at Mars, Bradbury took part in a symposium at Caltech with Arthur C. Clarke, journalist Walter Sullivan, and scientists Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray. In this excerpt, Bradbury reads his poem, "If Only We Had Taller Been."

(Thanks, Stephanie L. Smith)

Historical novel tells the story of San Francisco's profit-sharing madam and the cops who betrayed her

Hank Chapot sez, "You've published two links to my research about the 1937 police corruption scandals in San Francisco, November and February, 'the long lost Atherton Report.' After all the research, I wrote a novel. 'Bordello Politique'. Its an e-book available in most formats on most sites. Dolly Fine was the first profit sharing madam, she enrolled her girls in Social Security. She was wiretapped, raided and dragged before the Atherton grand jury. First woman in California indicted for contributing to the delinquency of (8) minors."

When Dolly’s elegant brothels are raided without warning, she is outraged. Her houses are raided, her girls are jailed, her money is stolen, and she’s dragged before a grand jury to testify against the cops she’s been bribing for years. As if that isn’t bad enough, she loses her immunity when her bail bondsman/crime boss buddy is named the “fountainhead of corruption” in an expensive, incendiary civil investigation called the Atherton Report. The good citizens of San Francisco command the mayor and the police commission to crack down on gambling, good-time girls and crooked cops, and Dolly is left high and dry. She tries to save herself but can’t count on anyone—can the city really come clean? Bordello Politique is a true crime story from a city searching for its center between the Great Depression and the World’s Fair.

Bordello Politique (Thanks, Hank!)

Wild skyscraper designs awarded

Zhi Zheng, Hongchuan Zhao and Dongbai Song from China won Evolo magazine's 2012 Skyscraper design competition. My favorite, however, is the runner-up (above) which crawls up the side of the Yunnan mountains. Designed by Yiteng Shen, Nanjue Wang, Ji Xia and Zihan Wang, it has the advantage of being neither outrageously science fictional nor horrible: consider the third place winner, a concept design for kilometer-high landfill silos.

Fantasy maps are awesome

Victoria Johnson revisits the maps we "wandered into" as kids:

If I ruled the world, or at least a publishing company, all books would contain as much supplementary information as possible. Nonfiction, fiction—doesn't matter. Every work would have an appendix filled with diagrams, background information, digressions and anecdata. And of course, maps.

I did not accept that I was a map nerd until the day I caught myself scoffing at geological implausibilities in a map in a pulp fantasy novel. An excellent coffee-table compendium is J.B. Post's Atlas of Fantasy, but the itch may be scratched immediately with Google and TVTropes' entry on Fantasy World Maps. Artist Jon Roberts specializes in making them. Mapblogger Jonathan Crowe has an overview of resources for following suit.

Pictured above is fantasy epic Elfquest's world of Abode, a personal fave, and refreshingly geologically plausible until you start thinking about biomes.

Previously: Wondrous, detailed map of the history of science fiction and Maps.