Seedship is a text-only game of interstellar exploration and settlement. You're the sentient AI of a generation ship containing 1000 humans fleeing a doomed Earth, and you must deal with threats in deep space and evaluate target worlds for suitability. There are always tradeoffs: a world with breathable air and charming wildlife may guarantee comfort, but without resources will end in a genteel return to the stone age. A barren world rich in minerals and alien ruins means advancing human technology and culture, but at the cost of being enslaved to whoever owns the water generation plants.
If the aim is to find the best world for mankind, the fun is found subjecting it to the most punishing hell planets the cosmos offers. When I came across this total nightmare, I knew we had found home:
Things didn't work out. Most colonists died and the rest descended to savagery.
I haven't found a perfect world, but the following one got me to 10,000 civilization points, which feels like the threshold for success:
Every compromise matters. Even with such a lush world, its ecological exhaustion (presumably thanks to whatever left the monumental ruins) resulted in a technological collapse described as "bronze-age cosmic enlightenment." If it were an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, we would most certainly be wearing textured earth tones.
Each combination is worth exploring, to find what sort of environments get you to theocracies or into endless war with natives. When I spotted the following world, I immediately thought "cyberpunk corporate dystopia!" and was not disappointed by the results:
Created by SF writer John Ayliff (Twitter, Patreon), it's incredibly addictive, and a great example of Twine's potential for offbeat games where generative elements combine with handwritten storytelling. Read the rest
In 2012, Kim Stanley Robinson published 2312
, imagining how the world and its neighbors might look in 300 years, loosely coupled with the seminal Red Mars
books, a futuristically pastoral novel about the way that technology can celebrate the glories of nature; in 2015, Robinson followed it up with Aurora
, the best book I read that year, which used 2312's futures to demolish the idea that we can treat space colonization (and other muscular technological projects) as Plan B for climate change -- a belief that is very comforting to those who don't or can't imagine transforming capitalism into a political system that doesn't demolish the planet. Now, with New York 2140
, Robinson starts to connect the dots between these different futures with a bold, exhilarating story of life in a permanent climate crisis, where most people come together in adversity, but where a small rump of greedy, powerful people get in their way.
Last December, I published my review of Andrew "bunnie" Huang's astoundingly great book The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware -- without realizing that the book's release had been delayed because the published decided to do some very fancy and cool stuff with the printing process.
Read the rest
It's been fifteen years since the first edition of educator Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabes
was published; now in its third edition
-- updated with current, timely material about social media and other fast-moving subjects, as well as reflections from girls who were raised on the techniques in the previous editions -- the book is a compassionate, aware, and intensely practical guide to navigating the toxic, gendered lives of young girls in a diverse, politicized world.
Back in 2015, cartoonist Robert Sikoryak started publishing single pages
from his upcoming graphic novel Terms and Conditions
, in which he would recount every word of the current Apple iTunes Terms and Conditions as a series of mashup pages from various comics old and new, in which Steve Jobsean characters stalked across the panels, declaiming the weird, stilted legalese that "everyone agrees to and no one reads."
"Your first doomsday machine is a malevolent, inscrutable wristwatch.”
The Please Don't Tell My Parents series
, by Richard Roberts, is a wonderful young adult series of novels about Penelope Akk and her two friends Claire and Ray. They are normal middle school kids just hoping their superpowers will kick in soon. Read the rest
Lauren McLaughlin is no stranger to hard-hitting, unflinching young adult novels: her debut, Cycler
(and its sequel, Re-Cycler
) was about a teenaged girl who turned into a boy for four days every month; Scored
was a class-conscious surveillance dystopia; now, in The Free
, McLaughlin sheds any fantastic or futuristic elements and mainlines a pure, angry, relentless and stripped-down story about a kid whose desperate circumstances become almost unbearable when he takes a fall for a car-theft and goes to juvenile prison.
It's been seven years
since we previewed Theft: A History of Music
, a comic book that explains the complicated history of music, borrowing, control and copyright, created by a dynamic duo of witty copyright law professors from Duke University as a followup to the greatest law-comic ever published
: the book was due out years ago, but the untimely and tragic death of illustrator Keith Aoki delayed it -- until today
When I reviewed Matt Ruff's incredible Lovecraft Country last February on its hardcover release dates, I wrote, "Ruff inverts the Lovecraft horror, which turned so often on "miscegenation" and the duty of advanced humans to trample those around them in their drive to recapture this lost wisdom (and humanity's lost grace). His Lovecraftian horror is the horror of the people whom the Lovecraftian heroes viewed as subhuman, expendable, a stain on the human race. By blending real history (such as the Tulsa riots) and Lovecraftian tropes, Ruff's characters shine as active protagonists in their own story who have lives, have dignity, and have indomitable spirit that they use to fight back against the power structure that Lovecraft lionized."
Read the rest
is a new dystopian science fiction YA graphic novel from Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro that tells the story of Angela Swiff, a teen who refuses to go along with the "Guarantee," a totalitarian philosophy that demands that everyone work, play and (especially) shop as quickly as is humanly possible.
Lenovo's Yoga Book is the most striking personal computer I've seen in years. More than the original iPhone, or Sony's X505, or the Messagepad, here's technology that seems a few years ahead of schedule. It's compact, attractive and thinner than anything else that might be called a laptop. Imagine two hinged pieces of black glass, one of which glows with the internet and the other with Okudagrams, and you have the Yoga Book. Read the rest
Readers of Boing Boing have joined me in chronicling the variegated science fiction career of Mur Lafferty
: novelist, podcast pioneer, editor -- today, she publishes her latest novel, a hard sf murder mystery called Six Wakes
, in which the crew of a generation ship awake in a blood-drenched shipboard cloning bay, in fresh bodies to replace their murdered selves floating in the alarming null-gee, memories restored to the backup they made just before launch, a quarter-century before.
William Seabrook was once one of America's foremost literary stars; now he is all but forgotten. Seabrook travelled the world, writing a series of (decreasingly sympathetic) accounts of indigenous people and their culture, outselling the literary giants he kept company with, and who pretended not to mind the women he paid to let him tie them up and keep around his home. In The Abominable Mr. Seabrook
, graphic novelist Joe Ollman presents an unflinching look at Seabrook, his literary accomplishments and failures, his terrible self-destructiveness, and the awful spiral that took him from the heights of American letters to an ignominious suicide after his discharge from a psychiatric facility.
Last October, Penguin released its Galaxy boxed set
, a $133 set of six hardcover reprints of some of science fiction's most canonical titles: The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K LeGuin; Stranger in a Strange Land
by Robert A Heinlein; 2001: A Space Odyssey
by Arthur C Clarke; Dune
by Frank Herbert; The Once and Future King
by TH White; and Neuromancer
, by William Gibson.
Margaret Thatcher's 1979 declaration that "there is no alternative" to neoliberal capitalism is more than a rallying cry: it's a straitjacket on our imaginations, constraining our ability to imagine what kinds of other worlds we might live in. But in science fiction, alternatives to market economies abound (and a surprising number of them are awarded prestigious awards by the Libertarian Futurist Society
!), and it is through these tales that sociologist Peter Frase asks us to think through four different ways things could go, in a slim, sprightly book called Four Futures
-- a book that assures us that there is no more business as usual, and an alternative must
Ever since I found
the Unfuck Your Habitat Tumblr
, I've been addicted to its brand of frank, compassionate, sweary advice for people who want to be organized but don't know where to start. Now, unfucker-in-chief Rachel Hoffman has distilled the UFyH philosophy into a brilliant, breezy book that is a must-read for people who are terrified by Marie Kondo
but intrigued by being able to see their floors again: Unf*ck Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your Mess
. Read the rest
I've been writing about genius hardware hackers Andrew "bunnie" Huang since 2003, when MIT hung him out to dry
over his book explaining how he hacked the original Xbox; the book
he wrote about that hack has become a significant engineering classic, and his own life has taken a thousand odd turns that we've chronicled here as he's founded companies, hacked hardware, become a China manufacturing guru, and sued the US government
over the anti-hacking provisions of the DMCA.