"Cocky" romance novelist embarks on a second career as a trademark troll: will romance writing fall from grace?

Over the past 20 years, the world has become a lot more cognizant of the risks of unbalanced copyright, as what was once a way to help creators gain leverage over publishers, studios and labels became a rubric for mass surveillance, unaccountable censorship and monopolism. Read the rest

Beautiful chart shows how the English alphabet evolved

Matt Baker from UsefulCharts.com made a detailed poster and video of how the English alphabet evolved over the last 4,000 years, but his elegant and colorful topline is the simplest iteration of the process: Read the rest

Little Brother is 10 years old today: I reveal the secret of writing future-proof science fiction

It's been ten years since the publication of my bestselling novel Little Brother; though the novel was written more than a decade ago, and though it deals with networked computers and mobile devices, it remains relevant, widely read, and widely cited even today. Read the rest

Romance writers sought for library residency at my former Toronto workplace

I was a teenaged page at the North York Central Library in suburban Toronto, working in the Business and Urban Affairs section, shelving books, taping together newspapers while we waited for their microfilm versions to arrive, and fiddling around with the newly installed (and poorly documented) computerised catalogue/lending system -- I worked there with many other would-be writers, like Nalo Hopkinson, who was a public service clerk a few floors down. Read the rest

A science fiction writing workshop lexicon

The "Turkey City Lexicon" is a widely used -- if controversial -- set of critiquing terms for use in science fiction writing workshops, created by Lewis Shiner and Bruce Sterling for use in the Turkey City Writing Workshop; Sterling describes SF workshops as being "like a bad rock band" in that a workshop "can be set up in any vacant garage by any group of spotty enthusiasts with nothing better to occupy their time. No one has a copyright on talent, desire, or enthusiasm." Read the rest

Ars Technica is hiring a senior writer

Are you "an experienced writer who loves to help readers understand new technology and innovative ideas—and why they matter?" Ars Technica is hiring. Read the rest

Amazing Tales: a storytelling game with dice for kids and grownups

Tim Harford (previously) turned me on to Martin Lloyd's Amazing Tales, a storytelling RPG designed to be played between a grownup games-master and one or more kids. Read the rest

RIP Kate Wilhelm, science fiction great and co-founder of the Clarion Workshop

Kate Wilhelm, author of many of science fiction's seminal books and stories (e.g. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang), would have been a titan in the field if she had only written; but Wilhelm's prodigious authorly accomplishments are matched by her influence on the generations of writers trained in the Clarion Workshops, which she co-founded with Robin Scott Wilson and her husband Damon Knight. Read the rest

Kids struggling to hold pencils thanks to too much tech

Parents who load their tablets and smartphones up with fun educational apps for their kids to play with may actually be doing them more harm than good. According to The Guardian, spending too much time tapping and swiping away at touchscreens is leaving the muscles in many children's hands too weak to hold a pencil.

In the article, Sally Payne, a pediatric occupational therapist, explains that the nature of play has changed over the past decade. Instead of giving kids things to play with that build up their hand muscles, such as building blocks, or toys that need to be pushed or pulled along, parents have been handing them tablets and smartphones. Because of this, by the time they're old enough to go to school, many children lack the hand strength and fine motor control required to correctly hold a pencil and write. In order to correct the problem, some parents are going so far as to send their kids to pediatric occupational therapists, like Payne:

Six-year-old Patrick has been having weekly sessions with an occupational therapist for six months to help him develop the necessary strength in his index finger to hold a pencil in the correct, tripod grip.

His mother, Laura, blames herself: “In retrospect, I see that I gave Patrick technology to play with, to the virtual exclusion of the more traditional toys. When he got to school, they contacted me with their concerns: he was gripping his pencil like cavemen held sticks. He just couldn’t hold it in any other way and so couldn’t learn to write because he couldn’t move the pencil with any accuracy.

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The myth of the "genius creator" requires that we ignore the people they build on, or insist they don't matter

The wonderful Copy Me project (previously) has revealed the first installment in its new three-part series on The Creativity Delusion, which takes aim at the "myth of genius," which picks a small subsection of creators, scientists and entrepreneurs and declares them to be "original" by ignoring all the work they plundered to create their own and erasing all the creators whose shoulders they stand upon. Read the rest

Charlie Stross on the sorry state of science fictional worldbuilding

Charlie Stross explains that he's more-or-less stopped reading science fiction, no longer capable of stomaching the paper-thin worldbuilding that refuses to contemplate the profound ways in which technology changes human relations and motivations. Read the rest

The Awl bids farewell

Alex Balk: The Awl, 2009-2018.

The surprise shouldn’t be that The Awl didn’t last, it should be that it lasted as long as it did. And now it’s dead. The archives will remain up, but I hope they degrade in the way everything on the Internet does and that eventually they sink into the vast sea of undiscoverable content so that a decade from now one of you can look at a young person who is ignoring you while she stares at her phone and say, “You can’t find it anymore, but the most amazing thing on the Internet was The Awl. It’s impossible to believe something that incredible existed.” And since everything will have disappeared no one will be able to dispute it. If we wait around long enough our legacy will be legend. We’ll secretly know the truth, but it won’t make any difference then, will it?

Thank you, in advance, for lying about how amazing we were. And thank you, right now, for your attention. You will never know how much it meant.

Now that we all know that the internet dissolves everything, not just bad things, perhaps it never deserved The Awl in the first place. The Awl implies a web that was never really lost because it never existed or could exist, a (wonderfully) conservative vision of the medium's potential to not be what it is. Yet for nearly ten years they proved that things implicit, things never really lost, things hoped for, the unrepressed sublime, can still be. Read the rest

Superb science fiction story in the form of a list of failed attempts to stave off climate extinction

Debbie Urbanski's story "An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried" for Motherboard takes the improbable form of a list of failed strategies for coping with the incipient, climate-driven uninhabitability of the Earth, and it works beautifully. Read the rest

Support Internet visionary Howard Rheingold's Patreon

Boing Boing pal Howard Rheingold is an Internet culture visionary. In fact, he was probably the first Internet culture visionary. Since 1984, he's written about the intersection of technology, consciousness and media in foresight-filled books like Tools for Thought (1985), Virtual Reality (1991), The Virtual Community (1993), Smart Mobs (2002), Net Smart (2012), and researched the power of cooperation with Institute for the Future. Howard's paintings and sculptures are deeply psychedelic, beautiful, and weird. Howard's work has had a massive impact on my life since I first went online in the 1980s and I feel fortunate to call him my friend. Now, Howard has launched a Patreon to support his continued efforts to change minds and move culture.

As Howard once said, "Openness and participation are antidotes to surveillance and control."

Support Howard Rheingold on Patreon.

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Alphasmart modded with mechanical keys

The Alphasmart ($30 on Amazon, but also ebay) is a low-end gadget much-loved by writers for its simplicity and enforced focus on the task at hand: writing. But among the many limitations is its cheap rubber-dome keyboard, the stuff of nightmares for serious typists. Enter Lazy Dog on the geekhack forums, who replaced his with a proper clicky 'board, all hacked into the original case.

I designed the PCB in KiCAD. This was my first time using KiCAD or any EDA software. I found it surprisingly straightforward and accessible, but also like most open-source software, possibly designed for use by aliens. ... After carefully connecting the flex cables, screwing it all together, and placing the keycaps, I finally had a fully working machine! It produces predictably loud tock tock tock noises, and is an enormous improvement over the previous keys.

What a beautiful monster. Read the rest

How to hand letter like an architect

I'm the son of a physician and inherited his poor penmanship. I wish I had the invaluable but dying life skill demonstrated in this video. (via Uncrate)

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Uncanny Japan: a podcast highlighting "all that is weird from old Japan"

Thersa Matsuura was born and raised in the USA but spent the past 25 years -- more than half her life -- living in a small Japanese fishing village with her husband and son. Read the rest

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