William Gibson talks about scrapping and rewriting a novel after the 2016 Trump election

Agency is the sequel to William Gibson's tour-de-force 2014 novel "The Peripheral"; as previously discussed, Gibson had to scrap large sections of the novel and rewrite it after Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election. Agency is out later this month (I have a review pending for publication date) and Gibson has conducted a long interview with Sam Leith about the process by which the book came to be -- and almost wasn't. Read the rest

Boris the Babybot: a picture book about resisting surveillance

Privacy activst Murray Hunter's picture book Boris the Babybot tells the story of Boris, a robot whose job it is track all the babies and send their likenesses and preferences back to the factory so that its owners can make money by deciding who's a good baby and who's a bad baby. Read the rest

The Monsters Know What They're Doing: an RPG sourcebook for DMs who want to imbue monsters with deep, smart tactics

For years, Keith Ammann has maintained his blog, The Monsters Know What They're Doing, in which he carefully laid out the logical tactics that the monsters of Dungeons and Dragons would use in combat, based on their alignment, stats, and habitats, creating sophisticated advice for Dungeon Masters hoping to move their combat encounters from rote stab-stab-kill affairs into distinctive, memorable strategy-and-tactics affairs that created not just variety and challenges for players, but also depth and verisimilitude. Now, Ammann's work has been collected in the first of two planned volumes: The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters is one of the most interesting, thoughtful, smart RPG sourcebooks I've ever read.

How to read long, difficult books

Berkeley economics prof (and former Clinton deputy Treasury secretary) J Bradford DeLong (previously) has written a guide for reading "long, difficult books," in response to Andy Matuschak's "rant" Why Books Don't Work. Read the rest

Documentation Gathering, Sanitization, and Storage: an excerpt from "A Public Service"

[Yesterday, we published my review of Tim Schwartz's new guide for whistleblowers, A Public Service: Whistleblowing, Disclosure and Anonymity; today, I'm delighted to include this generous excerpt from Schwartz's book. Schwartz is an activist whom I've had the pleasure of working with and I'm delighted to help him get this book into the hands of the people who need to read it. -Cory]

Collection As you collect documents and bring new information to light, be aware that you are in an escalating digital arms race. There will always be new ways that data forensics can identify you, or uncover information based on data that you inadvertently leave in your files, or data that is retained in logs noting who has accessed what files on what network. Recently it was discovered that noise from electrical grids can be used to quite accurately pinpoint when, and potentially where, an audio recording was made. The best way to win this war—or at least to avoid becoming collateral damage—is to work outside the standard methods and find partners who have experience. Read the rest

A Public Service: a comprehensive, comprehensible guide to leaking documents to journalists and public service groups without getting caught

In A Public Service, activist/trainer Tim Schwartz presents the clearest-ever guide to securely blowing the whistle, explaining how to exfiltrate sensitive information from a corrupt employer -- ranging from governments to private firms -- and get it into the hands of a journalist or public interest group in a way that maximizes your chances of making a difference (and minimizes your chances of getting caught).

Radicalized makes the CBC's annual Canada Reads longlist

The Canadian Broadcasting Coporation's annual Canada Reads prize is one of Canada's top literary prizes, ranking with the Governor General's prize for prestige and reach; it begins early in January with the announcement of a longlist of 15 recommended books, and then these are whittled down to a shortlist of five books later in the month. Over the months that follow, each of the shortlisted books is championed by a Canadian celebrity in a series of events across the country, with the grand prize winner being announced in late March after a televised debate among the five books' "champions." Read the rest

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, RIP

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of the iconic Generation X memoir "Prozac Nation" (1994), died today of metastatic breast cancer. She was 52. Wurtzel was also the author of Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women (1999) and More, Now, Again (2002), about her stimulant addiction. Several years ago, she wrote in the New York Times about the BRCA genetic mutation that can result in breast cancer and her own treatment for the disease. From today's New York Times obituary:

Writing about her final illness was a natural choice for Ms. Wurtzel, who had for a quarter-century scrutinized her life in relentless detail, becoming a hero to some, especially to many women of her generation and younger, but also drawing scorn. “Prozac Nation,” her first book, published when she was 27, was unvarnished in its accounts of her student days at Harvard, her drug use, her extensive sex life and more...

The book became a cultural reference point and part of a new wave of confessional writing.

“Lizzie’s literary genius rests not just in her acres of quotable one-liners,” (Wurtzel's lifelong friend, author David) Samuels said by email, “but in her invention of what was really a new form, which has more or less replaced literary fiction — the memoir by a young person no one has ever heard of before. It was a form that Lizzie fashioned in her own image, because she always needed to be both the character and the author.”

photo: detail of Prozac Nation book cover Read the rest

After more than a decade, Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg's YA classics The PLAIN Janes are back!

[I adored Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg's YA graphic novels The PLAIN Janes and Janes in Love, which were the defining titles for the late, lamented Minx imprint from DC comics. A decade later, the creators have gotten the rights back and there's a new edition Little, Brown. We're honored to have an exclusive transcript of Cecil and Jim in conversation, discussing the origins of Plain Janes. Make no mistake: this reissue is amazing news, and Plain James is an underappreciated monster of a classic, finally getting another day in the spotlight. If you haven't read it, consider yourself lucky, because you're about to get another chance. -Cory]

Radicalized is one of the LA Public Library's books of the year!

It's not just the CBC and the Wall Street Journal -- I was delighted to see this morning that Radicalized, my 2019 book of four science fiction novellas made the LA Public Library's list of the top books of 2019! "As always his writing is sharp and clear, covering the absurdities that surround and infiltrate our lives, and predicts new ones waiting for us just around the corner. A compelling, thought provoking, macabre funny read." Read the rest

A profile of Cliff "Cuckoo's Egg" Stoll, a pioneering "hacker hunter"

Cliff Stoll (previously) is a computing legend: his 1989 book The Cuckoo's Egg tells the story of how he was drafted to help run Lawrence Berkeley Lab's computers (he was a physicist who knew a lot about Unix systems), and then discovered a $0.75 billing discrepancy that set him on the trail of East German hackers working for the Soviet Union, using his servers as a staging point to infiltrate US military networks. Read the rest

Radicalized is one of the Wall Street Journal's top sf books of 2019!

Radicalized, my collection of four novellas, is one of the Wall Street Journal's picks for best sf books of 2019! My thanks to Tom Shippey, who listed it alongside of David Walton's Three Laws Lethal, Daniel Suarez's Delta-v, Erin Craig's House of Salt and Sorrows and Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Mother! Read the rest

The weird history of magical ways to protect your home

Last month, I posted about "witch bottles" -- containers of curious items like human teeth, fish hooks, glass shards, and undetermined liquid -- sometimes found in chimneys or inside walls of old buildings where they were placed to ward off evil spells, spirits, and curses. Turns out that there's a new book -- "Magical House Protection: the Archaeology of Counter-Witchcraft" by Brian Hoggard -- all about the strange history of witch bottles and other kinds of occult home protection! From John Rimmer's post about the text over at Magonia Review of Books:

We are all familiar with the practice of hanging up horse-shoes as a ‘good-luck’ token, although there is some disagreement as to whether the points of the shoe should be pointing up or down. My grandmother insisted that if the points were turned down, “the luck would all run out”.

Lots of people hang up a horseshoe, but maybe we would be less inclined to bury a dead cat under our threshold, or place a bottle full of urine and nail clippings up our chimney, or nail horses skulls underneath the floorboards? These are just some of the objects which have been used for centuries to offer some sort of ‘magical protection’ to houses and other properties.

In the past magic and witchcraft was not a topic for discussion between believers and sceptics, it was just an ordinary part of everyday life, and taking precautions to divert its power was seen as no more remarkable than taking an umbrella with you on a wet day to protect you from the rain.

Read the rest

The New Yorker's profile of William Gibson: "Droll, chilled out, and scarily articulate"

I first met Bill Gibson in 1999 when I was profiling him for the Globe and Mail as part of a review of his book "All Tomorrow's Parties." Since then, we've become friends and colleagues, and I genuinely treasure every chance I get to sit down with him, because he's both fantastically clever and incredibly nice. Read the rest

Radicalized is one of the CBC's best books of 2019!

Well this is pretty great! Radicalized, my book of four novellas, is one of the CBC's picks for best Canadian fiction of 2019. It's in pretty outstanding company, too, including Margaret Atwood's The Testaments. Read the rest

Boing Boing's 28 favorite books in 2019

Here's 28 of our favorites from the last year – not all of them published in the last year, mind you – from fairy-tales to furious politics and everything in between, including the furious fairy-tale politics getting between everything. The links here include Amazon Affiliate codes; this helps us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world's greatest neurozine.

1: Arcade Game Typography

Toshi Omagari and Leo Field's book offers a definitive view in print of the clean, colorful pixelated fonts of arcade games from the 1970s to the 1990s. It's full of gorgeous-looking full-color spreads (with grids!) -- both a beautiful item and a formal tour of a distinctive artform. Hit games (such as Super Sprint, Pac-Man, After Burner, Marble Madness and Shinobi) are represented, but the best part is the technology of pixel type, whose colorful details make sure this is unlike any other typography book. — Rob

Arcade Game Typography [Read Only Memory]

Arcade Game Typography [Amazon]

2: The Testaments

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results. "A story of hope, resistance, complicity and rage, it's been worth the wait." — Cory

The Testaments [Amazon]

3: Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms

John Hodgman's book-length memoir of his dwindling privilege after his TV career petered out is both hilarious and deadly serious, as much an indictment of elitism as it is a frank hymn to the pleasures of it — Cory

Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms [Amazon]

4: The Comic Book Story of Video Games goes deep

an entertaining full-color book about the roots of video games. Read the rest

List of popular books people started reading and then abandoned

When I was younger, I would feel so badly about abandoning a book that didn't grab me, I'd force myself to slog through it until the bitter end. Then I realized that there are only so many books I'll have time to read in my lifetime so it's better to make each one count. If I'm not consistently pulled into the pages, I drop the book and crack another one. Of course there are exceptions, but it mostly means that I've enjoyed nearly all the books I've finished reading in recent years. Related, here is Goodreads' list of the most popular books users of the service have abandoned.

(via Kottke) Read the rest

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