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 ?apek penned a play titled R.U.R., a cautionary tale about technology's potential to dehumanize. Read the rest

    Public library receipt shows how much money you saved by borrowing instead of buying books

    Reddit user penguinska9 posted that their library "keeps track of how much you save by not buying books and borrowing instead" and shows the dollar amount on the receipt when you check out a book. Genius! I don't know how common this practice is but the following is from a Wichita Public Library posting from last year:

    “While libraries offer tremendous benefits to their communities, sometimes the benefits are more abstract or require long term studies to show the value of their programs,” said Jennifer Lane, communication manager, Wichita Public Library. “Including this information is a way to easily quantify one of the ways the Library is a value to its users...."

    So far this year, the highest dollar amount saved by a customer's account is $64,734.12. And the highest dollar amount saved by a customer's account since this feature was implemented is $196,076.21.

    Read the rest

    Science fiction and the law: beyond mere courtroom drama

    Christopher Brown is a lawyer and science fiction writer; his debut, 2017's Tropic of Kansas, was an outstanding novel of authoritarianism and resistance, and his next book, Rule of Capture (out on Monday, watch for my review!) is a legal thriller about disaster capitalism, climate catastrophe, and hard-fought political change. Read the rest

    Eastern Blocks: photographs of the brutalist towers of the former USSR

    Zupagrafika's new book Eastern Blocks (subtitle: "Concrete Landscapes of the Former Eastern Bloc") collects more than 100 beautiful photos of the brutalist towers of ex-Soviet nations, "‘Sleeping districts’ of Moscow, Plattenbauten of East Berlin, modernist estates of Warsaw, Kyiv`s Brezhnevki." Read the rest

    Paul Di Filippo on Radicalized: "Upton-Sinclairish muckraking, and Dickensian-Hugonian ashcan realism"

    I was incredibly gratified and excited to read Paul Di Filippo's Locus review of my latest book, Radicalized; Di Filippo is a superb writer, one of the original, Mirrorshades cyberpunks, and he is a superb and insightful literary critic, so when I read his superlative-laden review of my book today, it was an absolute thrill (I haven't been this excited about a review since Bruce Sterling reviewed Walkaway). Read the rest

    Edward Snowden's memoir, "Permanent Record," will go on sale on Sept 17

    The whistleblower Edward Snowden announced today that he has written a memoir, Permanent Record, which will go on sale worldwide in more than 20 languages on September 17. Read the rest

    Data-mining reveals that 80% of books published 1924-63 never had their copyrights renewed and are now in the public domain

    This January, we celebrated the Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain, as the onerous terms of the hateful Sonny Bono Copyright Act finally developed a leak, putting all works produced in 1923 into the public domain, with more to follow every year -- 1924 goes PD in 2020, and then 1925, etc. Read the rest

    Houstonites! Come see Hank Green and me in conversation tonight!

    Hank Green and I are doing a double act tonight, July 31, as part of the tour for the paperback of his debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It's a ticketed event (admission includes a copy of Hank's book), and we're presenting at 7PM at Spring Forest Middle School in association with Blue Willow Bookshop. Hope to see you there! Read the rest

    Zero Sum Game: action-packed sf thriller about a ninja hero whose superpower is her incredible math ability

    SL Huang got a degree in math from MIT, then became a martial artist, stuntwoman and weapons expert; her debut novel, Zero Sum Game, features an ass-kicking action hero called Cas Russell, who combines all of Huang's areas of expertise: Russell is a ninja-grade assassination/extraction contractor whose incredible math skills let her calculate the precise angles needed to shoot the bolts out of an armored window as she leaps towards it from an adjacent roof; to time a kick so that it breaks her opponent's jaw without breaking his neck, or to trace back the path of a sniper's bullet with eerie accuracy and return fire. Read the rest

    A true crime book for every US state

    If you appreciate the true crime genre, this New York Times feature is a fantastic checklist of books to read. Tina Jordan and Ross MacDonald selected one true crime book to represent each of the fifty United States. I live in California and really enjoyed Jeffrey Toobin's “American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst." But even having grown up in Ohio, I hadn't heard of the heinous crimes of Billy Mulligan who “became the first person in this country’s history to be declared not guilty by reason of insanity on the grounds of a psychiatric diagnosis of ‘multiple personality.’” Here are a few more from the article that I've now added to my reading list:

    Utah

    Mikal Gilmore, “Shot in the Heart”

    “A compelling volume that traces the sad, violent history of the Gilmore family and shows, in its author’s words, ‘how its webwork of dark secrets and failed hopes helped create the legacy that, in part, became my brother’s impetus to murder.’”

    Louisiana

    Ethan Brown, “Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?”

    The women — “all prostitutes and drug addicts, which made them vulnerable and defenseless, expendable in a jurisdiction that’s centrally positioned along the route of the Gulf Coast drug trade” — were killed between 2005 and 2009.

    Oklahoma

    David Grann, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI”

    “Grann’s book, about how dozens of members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s were shot, poisoned or blown to bits by rapacious whites who coveted the oil under their land, is close to impeccable.

    Read the rest

    Crowdfunding a picture book about resisting surveillance

    Murray Hunter writes, "I'm a digital rights activist in South Africa - I've written and illustrated a silly, subversive kid's book about the Big Data industry, and a squiggly, wiggly robot sent out to track and profile all the babies. It's not an 'eat your vegetables' kind of book: all I wanted to do was tell a story that could delight young kids (ages 3-5) while also inviting them to imagine for the first time a secret and hidden world of data collection. I don't think it's been done yet, and - well, why not? I've just launched a crowdfunding campaign to publish it in hardcover and thought it might pique the interest of a few happy mutants. Read the rest

    Author hid funny messages on the copyright page of his book

    When my first couple novels came out, I lobbied to add some kind of notation about "fair use" and "limitations and exceptions to copyright" on the copyright notice page and was told not even to try because legal would never allow even the slightest variance from the boilerplate; apparently Steve Stack is better connected than I am, because his book 21st Century Dodos, has a copyright notice that is full of whimsy and gags, as Rebecca discovered and documented. Read the rest

    Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy returns to the screen in new Hulu series

    The classic TV series cannot be topped, but is very old, whereas the movie is quite new, but can surely be topped. So let's hope that the new Hulu reboot of Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy offers the best of both worlds.

    For those few who might be unfamiliar with this classic of geekdom, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tells the tale of Earth’s destruction so that aliens can build a space highway. It centers on a Brit named Arthur Dent and his best friend Ford Prefect, who is writing the travel guide of the title.

    The series was first conceived as a radio show on the BBC back in 1978. Since then, Adams turned the idea into a set of novels that became many fans’ first exposure to his comedic stylings. This Hulu project isn’t the first time Hitchhiker’s Guide has received a visual treatment. The original novel was released as a feature film starring Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, and Stephen Fry in 2005. It was also made into a TV series in the UK in the 1980s, and recently the original radio cast reunited for a new radio dramatization.

    I feel about Hitchhiker's Guide the way I feel about another Douglas Adams masterwork, The Meaning of Liff. I love it, but it's a statue in the pantheon, so maybe I'm just nostalgic about the idea of it and what it represents. It's coupled to a long-ago moment of the British comic imagination: tantalizingly close to modern frequencies but, in truth, another universe. Read the rest

    Because Internet: the new linguistics of informal English

    Conversational language is not the same as formal language: chatter over the dinner table does not follow the same rules as a speech from a podium. Informal language follows its own fluid, fast-moving rules, and most of what we know about historic informal language has been gleaned from written fragments, like old letters and diaries -- but now, the internet has produced a wealth of linguistic data on informal language, which is explored in Canadian linguist Gretchen McCulloch's new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. Read the rest

    J Michael Straczynski's "Becoming Superman": a memoir of horrific abuse, war crimes, perseverance, trauma, triumph and doing what's right

    J Michael Straczynski (previously) is known for many things: creating Babylon 5, spectacular runs on flagship comics from Spiderman to Superman, incredibly innovative and weird kids' TV shows like The Real Ghostbusters, and megahits like Sense8; in the industry he's known as a writing machine, the kind of guy who can write and produce 22 hours of TV in a single season, and he's also known as a mensch, whose online outreach to fans during the Babylon 5 years set the bar for how creators and audiences can work together to convince studios to take real chances. But in JMS's new memoir, Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood, we get a look at a real-life history that is by turns horrific and terrifying, and a first-person account of superhuman perseverance and commitment to the right thing that, incredibly, leads to triumph Read the rest

    The snail cosmology of medieval manuscripts

    We're no strangers to the delights of the rude drawings that monks doodled in the margins of medieval manuscripts around here (1, 2, 3), but University of Bonn medievialist Erik Wade's epic Twitter thread on the astonishing variety of snail-doodles is genuinely next-level. Read the rest

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