Speech Police: vital, critical look at the drive to force Big Tech to control who may speak and what they may say

David Kaye (previously) has served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression since 2014 -- a critical half-decade in the evolution of free speech both online and offline; in Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet a new, short book from Columbia Special Reports, Kaye provides a snapshot of the global state of play for expression, as governments, platforms, and activists act out of a mix of both noble and corrupt motives to control online discourse. Read the rest

Magical Women: a new anthology of feminist science fiction by women from India

Factor Daily's Gautham Shenoy (who reviewed the Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction) reviews Magical Women, a new Indian feminist science fiction anthology edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan. Read the rest

The Reality Bubble: how humanity's collective blindspots render us incapable of seeing danger until it's too late (and what to do about it)

Ziya Tong is a veteran science reporter who spent years hosting Discovery's flagship science program, Daily Planet: it's the sort of job that gives you a very broad, interdisciplinary view of the sciences, and it shows in her debut book, The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World, a tour of ten ways in which our senses, our society, and our political system leads us to systematically misunderstand the world, to our deadly detriment. Read the rest

Lent: Jo Walton's new novel is Dante's Groundhog Day

I love Hugo and Nebula-Award winner Jo Walton's science fiction and fantasy novels (previously) and that's why it was such a treat to inaugurate my new gig as an LA Times book reviewer with a review of her latest novel, Lent, a fictionalized retelling of the live of Savonarola, who reformed the Florentine church in the 1490s, opposing a corrupt Pope, who martyred him (except in Walton's book, and unbeknownst to Savonarola himself, Savonarola is a demon who is sent back to Hell when he is martyred, then returned to 1492 Florence to start over again). Read the rest

Luna: Moon Rising, in which Ian McDonald brings the trilogy to an astounding, intricate, exciting and satisfying climax

Back in 2015, the incomparable Ian McDonald (previously) published Luna: New Moon, a kind of cross between Dallas and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, with warring clans scheme and fighting on a libertopian lunar colony where the only law is private contracts and you're charged for the very air you breathe; McDonald raised the stakes to impossible heights with the 2017 sequel Luna: Wolf Moon, and now, with the final volume, Luna: Moon Rising, McDonald proves that he despite the wild gyrations of his massive cast of characters and their intricate schemes, he never lost control. Read the rest

Review: American Standard 735125-400.020 Toilet Tank Lid

Functional yet curiously suspect

"A Fire Story": a moving, beautiful memoir of the Calistoga wildfire in comics form

In 2017, cartoonist Brian Fies lost his northern California home in the Calistoga wildfires; in the days after, working with the cheap art supplies he was able to get from a surviving big box store, he drew A Fire Story, a strip about how he and his wife barely managed to escape their home ahead of the blaze, and about life after everything you own (and everything your neighbors own) is reduced to ash and slag. The strip went viral, and in the months after, Fies adapted it into a deeply moving, beautiful book. Read the rest

Review: Graco TrueCoat 360 airless paint sprayer

Jobs done, quickly and messily

The Intercept's top security expert reviews Helm, a standalone home email server that keeps your comms out of Big Tech's data-centers

Last October, a startup called Helm announced a $500, plug-and-play home email server that was designed to be a secure, decentralized, privacy-oriented alternative to using one of Big Tech's email systems like Gmail, an option that was potentially even more robust than using email from a privacy-oriented provider like Riseup or Protonmail because your metadata would not be stored anywhere except in your home. Read the rest

How to Do Nothing: Jenny Odell's case for resisting "The Attention Economy"

Artist and writer Jenny Odell (previously) is justifiably beloved for her pieces and installations that make us consider the economics and meanings of garbage, weird markets, and other 21st century plagues; in her first book, How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, Odell draws on art criticism, indigenous practices, "Deep Listening," anti-capitalist theory, and psychology to make the case that the internal chaos we feel is no accident: it's the result of someone's business-model, and until we reject "productivity" in favor of contemplation and deliberation, it will only get worse. Read the rest

Gollancz has published its first anthology of South Asian Science Fiction

South Asia is a hotbed of brilliant science fiction writing, as well as writings in all the related genres capture by the Bengali word "kalpabigyan (encompassing literature that is "science-dependent," "science-based," "science mystery" and "science"), and there have been many brilliant anthologies of science fiction from the region; the latest entry to the field is Gollancz's new Book of South Asian Science Fiction, edited by Tarun K. Saint, the subject of a fascinating review by Gautham Shenoy in Factor Daily. Read the rest

The People's Republic of Walmart: how late-stage capitalism gives way to early-stage fully automated luxury communism

Science writer Leigh Phillips's 2016 book Austerity Ecology and the Collapse-Porn Addicts was one of the most important, angry and inspiring books I read that year, a passionate argument for a high-tech just and sustainable world that celebrated materialism and comfort, rather than calling for a return to a world of three billion people scratching potatoes in the dirt; so when Phillips sent me a manuscript for his new book, The People's Republic of Walmart: How the World's Biggest Corporations are Laying the Foundation for Socialism last year, I dropped everything and read it, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Read the rest

Tim Maughan's Infinite Detail: a debut sf novel about counterculture, resistance, and the post-internet apocalypse

Tim Maughan has long been one of the most promising up-and-coming, avante garde UK science fiction writers, whose post-cyberpunk short fiction mixed radical politics with a love of graffiti and a postmodern filmmaker's eye: now, with his debut novel Infinite Detail, Maughan shows that he has what it takes to work at longer lengths, and can sustain a first-rate adventure story that grabs and never lets go, without sacrificing the political and technological insights that give his work depth that will stay with you long after the book is done. Read the rest

Man-Eaters: Handmaid's Tale meets Cat People in a comic where girls turn into man-eating were-panthers when they get their periods

Man-Eaters Volume 1 collects the first four issues of the Image comic by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk (and friends) and it's insanely great: the premise is that America's patriarchy has been given a huge boost by a mutant strait of toxoplasmosis that is benign for most carriers, but turns adolescent girls into unstoppable were-panthers that crave human flesh when they get their first periods. Read the rest

What do reverse cyborgs want? A review of David Marusek's Glassing the Orgachine

In First Contact, Book 1 of David Marusek’s (previously) science fiction series Upon This Rock, an alien being crash lands in a remote corner of Alaska, not far from a family-cult of preppers for the end times, and the alien exploits the beliefs of the family patriarch by posing as an angel sent to earth to initiate the final conflict. Rooted deeply in contemporary Alaskan landscape and culture, the novel is funny and painful, part satire and part serious exploration of a particularly unfortunate instance of first contact. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, leaving many questions unanswered. Read the rest

Jeff "Sweet Tooth" Lemire's new horror comic Gideon Falls is spooky af

Jeff Lemire can do weird-spooky (see, e.g., his Twilight Zonish graphic novel Underwater Welder) and he can do gripping (see his amazing, post-apocalyptic Sweet Tooth), but in his newest graphic novel from Image Comics, Gideon Falls, he shows that he can do spooky-verging-on-terrifying, with a tale of supernatural mystery that combines avant-garde graphic treatments with outstanding writing to create a genuine tale of terror. Read the rest

Review: What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch is free this month from the Epic store. I downloaded it last night and couldn't stop playing until I was done. It's a detailed, polished walking simulator that clocks in at 3 hours, so tightly orchestrated it feels like a genuinely interactive movie.

It centers on Edith, a high schooler and the last surviving child of a family "cursed" by generations of tragedy. After her mother's death, she inherits the cosy yet unsettling manse she grew up in and sets out to uncover the family's secrets. She wants to know why so many Finches died young and why her mother didn't want the stories told.

It's obvious from the outset that something is deeply wrong with the family even as it is clearly a family full of love. The wrongness hovers at the margins of reason. It's reflected in the house, normal at the ground level but an alarming mass of ramshackle additions up top. Surely that would be dangerous, you ask yourself.

Some of the family death vignettes really got under my skin. They're all elaborated in the telling to the point of magic realism and beyond, but when you sit and think about what happened they unravel to mundane parenting failures, one after another after another. The elaborations thereby become part of the problem. But now I'm in danger of spoiling the game's secrets.

Edith Finch maintains a tension between modern gothic mystery and the suggestion of a damaged family that mythologizes its subtly self-destructive currents. Read the rest

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