Notpetya: the incredible story of an escaped US cyberweapon, Russian state hackers, and Ukraine's cyberwar

Andy Greenberg (previously) is Wired's senior security reporter; he did amazing work covering Russian cyberwarfare in Ukraine, which he has expanded into a forthcoming book: Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers (I read it for a blurb and a review; it's excellent). Read the rest

Marc Davis in His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks

[[Imagineer Chris Merritt (previously) was the protege of the Disney legend Marc Davis, the character designer whose work defined the look of such classic attractions as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Merritt has written seminal books on southern California's themed attractions, including Knott's Berry Farm and Pacific Ocean Park.

[[His latest book, Marc Davis in His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks, is his magnum opus: a gorgeous, two-volume, slipcased set on the life, philosophy, reminisces, career, and designs of Marc Davis, incorporating many never-seen rarities from Davis's own collection, as well as the Disney archives. Chris was kind enough to supply us with this excerpt from Chapter Nine, which tells the backstory of my beloved Haunted Mansion, largely through transcribed, verbatim quotes from Davis himself. -Cory]] Read the rest

Take a trip with the Family Acid

I'm thrilled to report the release of The Family Acid: California, the book I published with Timothy Daly, my Ozma Records partner and co-producer of the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition. Limited to just 1,500 clothbound copies, it's a far-out photo album from a very unconventional family.

For more than 50 years, photographer Roger Steffens has explored the electric arteries of the counterculture, embracing mind-expanding experiences, deep social connection, and unadulterated fun at every turn. After serving in Vietnam at the end of the 1960s, Steffens immersed himself in California’s vibrant bohemia. Since then, with his wife Mary and children Kate and Devon, he has sought out the eccentric, the outlandish, and the transcendent. Just as often, it finds him, grinning, a camera in one hand and a joint in the other. Steffens took the spectacular snapshots in this new collection between 1968 and 2015 during his family's freewheeling adventures throughout the visionary state they call home.

Steffens is an intrepid explorer of the fringe but he’s also a family man. He met his wife Mary under a lunar eclipse in a pygmy forest in Mendocino, California while on LSD. Soon after, they conjured up a daughter, Kate, and son, Devon. Family vacations took the foursome up and down the West Coast, from the gritty glam of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to reggae festivals in Humboldt, fiery protests in Berkeley to the ancient redwoods of Big Sur and the wilds of Death Valley. Along the way, they’d rendezvous with likeminded freaks, artists, musicians, and writers, from Bob Marley and Timothy Leary to actor John Ritter and war photographer Tim Page, the inspiration for Dennis Hopper’s character in Apocalypse Now. Read the rest

To do in San Francisco on Sunday: RE/Search's V.Vale and Rudy Rucker at City Lights

For decades, Happy Mutants met one another and got seriously warped by the astounding books and other media of RE/Search Press (previously), now, after a long drought, RE/Search is publishing a new book, Underground Living (RE/Search #19), featuring the photos of V.Vale ("early Ramones shows, Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch, John Waters, Genesis P-Orridge, William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Kathy Acker, Survival Research Labs, and many more!"). The book launches this Sunday at San Francisco's legendary City Lights Books, where V.Vale will be in conversation with that happiest of mutants, the magnificent Rudy Rucker (previously). (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

"Who Said That?" is a fun quote quiz book

Who Said That? is a chunky 340-page book that tests your trivia knowledge on the origin of famous quotes. The quotes are arranged by topic (Love and Marriage, Work and Money, Politics and War, Aging, etc.) and are presented in different ways to keep things lively.

Sometimes you'll be asked to choose which person said a particular quote:

"History is made by active, determined minorities, not by the majority, which seldom has a clear and consistent idea of what it really wants."

A: Margaret Mead

B: Theodore Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber

C: Susan B Anthony

D: Maximilien Robespierre

Answer: B. This line occurs in the Unabomber’s infamous manifesto. Kaczynski’s brother read it in the newspaper, recognized his older siblings writing style, and tipped off the FBI, leading to Ted’s arrest.

Other times you'll be asked which quotes a person actually said:

John Lennon said only one of these quotes. But which is it?

A: "We thought we’d be really big in Liverpool."

B: "We're more popular than Jesus now."

C: "Everything is OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end."

D: "There was no play on words, we just didn’t know how to spell the word 'beetle.'"

Answer:B. Lennon’s "bigger-than-Jesus" comments in 1966 sparked outrage in America, leading to boycott and death threats. Lennon would remain controversial until his untimely 1980 death. "If there is such a thing as genius, I am one," he once said. "And if there isn’t, I don’t care."

There are a number of other question formats, too. Read the rest

Stanford University sexual assault survivor Chanel Miller to release memoir

Meet Chanel Miller, the woman who was Emily Doe in the trial of rapist Brock Turner, a man treated with absurd leniency by the courts.

The New York Times:

For four years, the woman whose Stanford University sexual assault case caused a public outcry, has been known only as “Emily Doe.” In her new memoir, “Know My Name,” which charts her life since then, she reveals her real name: Chanel Miller.

In 2016, Ms. Miller’s case made headlines after BuzzFeed published the statement she read at the sentencing hearing for Brock Turner, the Stanford student convicted of the assault.

Mr. Turner, then 20, was found guilty of three counts of felony sexual assault, for which the maximum sentence was 14 years. But the presiding judge, Aaron Persky, sentenced Mr. Turner to six months in county jail, of which he served three.

Here's an excerpt from the book's introduction:

Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways--there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing.

Read the rest

They told us DRM would give us more for less, but they lied

My latest Locus Magazine column is DRM Broke Its Promise, which recalls the days when digital rights management was pitched to us as a way to enable exciting new markets where we'd all save big by only buying the rights we needed (like the low-cost right to read a book for an hour-long plane ride), but instead (unsurprisingly) everything got more expensive and less capable. Read the rest

HOW TO: XKCD's Randall Munroe finds the humor in taking silly questions very, very seriously

One of my favorite genres of book is the popular engineering book, a rare breed that combines physics and engineering to establish the full range of ways to address a problem (for example, if you want to talk about whether solar can ever replace fossil fuels, it's useful to know how many photons penetrate the Earth's atmosphere every day); no one does this genre better (or funnier) than Randall Munroe, the creator of the wonderful XKCD webcomic, whose 2014 book, What If? combines Dear Abby with extreme physics ("How fast would a human have to run in order to be cut in half at the bellybutton by a cheese-cutting wire?"); now there's a companion volume, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems, which picks up where What If? left off. Read the rest

Rage Inside the Machine: an insightful, brilliant critique of AI's computer science, sociology, philosophy and economics

[I ran a review of this in June when the UK edition came out -- this review coincides with the US edition's publication]

Rob Smith is an eminent computer scientist and machine learning pioneer whose work on genetic algorithms has been influential in both industry and the academy; now, in his first book for a general audience, Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All, Smith expertly draws connections between AI, neoliberalism, human bias, eugenics and far-right populism, and shows how the biases of computer science and the corporate paymasters have distorted our whole society. Read the rest

The events that could kill us all (and how we might prevent them)

Science journalist Bryan Walsh visited scientists from a variety of disciplines, devoured the scientific literature, and identified the catastrophic events most likely to kill us all. The list is a greatest hits of doom, from climate change and asteroid impact to bioengineered pathogens and supervolcanoes, which he wrote about this week in the New York Times. Failing those, we always have nuclear war to worry about. But fret not (too much, anyway), Walsh's new book End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World not only presents “the disasters that could end the human story in midsentence," but also describes how scientists are trying to alleviate the risks. From a review in Science News:

To understand asteroids, he spends a night at Mount Lemmon Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., where astronomers are tracking space rocks that might intersect with Earth’s orbit. In theory, there are ways to deflect an incoming asteroid before it slams into Earth, such as trying to change the asteroid’s speed or approach. Walsh suggests that countries with space programs spend more on planetary defense and start practicing asteroid deflection. NASA and the European Space Agency have plans to do just that: In 2022, they intend to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid to try to alter its trajectory...

He also discusses more theoretical solutions that scientists have thought up, like how to cool magma beneath a supervolcano to prevent an eruption. Drilling nearly 10 kilometers into the belly of a supervolcano to inject cold water may not really be practical and could cost about $3.5 billion.

Read the rest

Anthropodermic bibliopegy: the grotesque history of books bound in human skin

On the Under the Knife show, Dr Lindsey Fitzharris elucidates the weird history of "anthropodermic bibliopegy," the weird practice of binding books in human skin, including the doctor who bound case histories in the skins of his dead patients, and the murderer who asked to have his biography bound in his skin and presented to the lawman who caught him after his execution. Other common ways to procure human skins for the practice included grave-robbing (Andrea wrote about the Burke and Hare editions back in 2016). (Thanks, Allen) Read the rest

How "meritocracy" went from a joke to a dogma, and destroyed the lives of everyone it touched

The term "meritocracy" was coined in Michael Young's satirical 1958 novel, "The Rise of Meritocracy," where it described a kind of self-delusion in which rich people convinced themselves that their wealth was evidence of their moral superiority; it's well-documented that a belief in meritocracy makes you act like an asshole, and also makes you incapable of considering how much of your good fortune is attributable to luck; now, in a new book, The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite, Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits documents how a belief in meritocracy also makes rich people totally miserable. Read the rest

Barack Obama's summer reading list

President Barack Obama opened his summer reading list post with encouragement to read or re-read Toni Morrison and then suggested ten other titles including the following:

• Sometimes difficult to swallow, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a necessary read, detailing the way Jim Crow and mass incarceration tore apart lives and wrought consequences that ripple into today.

• Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.

• Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women examines what happens to characters without important women in their lives; it'll move you and confuse you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers.

See the rest of President Obama's picks here.

image: President Barack Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia shop for books at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) Read the rest

The Folio Society is releasing a facsimile of Marvel Comics #1

The Folio Society's limited, slipcased editions (previously) are some of the most beautiful books being produced today; the company's $225 Marvel: The Golden Age 1939-1949 ships in late September, and includes a facsimile of the ultra-rare Marvel Comics #1, reproduced from one of the last surviving mint-condition 1939 copies. Read the rest

Rule of Capture: Inside the martial law tribunals that will come when climate deniers become climate looters and start rendering environmentalists for offshore torture

In 2017, science fiction author Christopher Brown burst on the scene with Tropic of Kansas, an apocalyptic pageturner about martial law in climate-wracked America; now, with his second novel, Rule of Capture, Brown turns everything up to 11 in a militarized, oil-saturated, uninhabitable Texas where private mercs, good ole boys, and climate looters have plans to deliver a stolen election to a hyper-authoritarian president. Read the rest

Barnes and Noble's new boss is James Daunt, who rescued the UK's Waterstones

James Daunt gave up a brief career in banking and opened a small, family-owned chain of London bookstores bearing the family name (the original store, in Marylebone High Street, is literally the most beautiful English-language bookstore I've ever set foot in); in 2011, he took over management of Waterstones, the UK's last, foundering bookstore chain, and effected a miraculous turnaround by devolving purchasing to the managers who knew local tastes best, ending the practice of soliciting "co-op" payments from publishers to order in and stock massive piles of their frontlist titles, most of which would end up being returned. Read the rest

The word "robot" originated in this 1921 Czech play

In 1920, Czech writer Karel Čapek penned a play titled R.U.R., a cautionary tale about technology's potential to dehumanize. Read the rest

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