Feminist SF, really?

Feminist SFMainstream science fiction has been pretty terrible at populating its worlds with anyone other than straight white dudes, Devon Maloney writes at The Cut.Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and others wrote almost exclusively about their demographic. Onscreen science fiction, from Star Wars and Back to the Future to War of the Worlds and Blade Runner, is little different.But sci-fi history actually has featured ahead-of-its-time, female-identifying authors and creators who have challenged conventional notions of race, gender, and sexuality head-on for centuries. Here is a rundown of 25 of the most feminist moments in sci-fi history:
Lt StarbuckStarbuck Gets Gender-Swapped (2004): The original 1978 Battlestar Galactica series portrayed Lieutenant Starbuck as a womanizing, cigar-smoking rogue, but the 2004 reimagining of Starbuck as an incredibly flawed, adaptive, and brilliant woman made the character unforgettable.

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Women Who Conquered the Comics World

As both a comics creator and historian, Trina Robbins is particularly interested in the unknown history of female cartoonists, Lisa Hix writes for Collectors Weekly. Robbins has published a Fantagraphics book called Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists, 1896-2013.

The subject is particularly relevant right now, given that new comic-book-based movies are hitting the big screen every few months, yet not a single one has revolved around a female hero. But Marvel has taken bold steps by making a Pakistani American teen the new Ms. Marvel, in a comic-book series written by a woman, and turning Thor into a woman in its upcoming revamp of the series.
msmarvelIn the new “Ms. Marvel” series—created by two women, editor Sana Amanat and writer G. Willow Wilson, and one man, artist Adrian Alphona—the heroine is Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager living in New Jersey. (Via Marvel.wikia.com)

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10 Great Books Based on Other Great Books

Literature is a never-ending, overlapping, sometimes circular conversation — between writers, between readers, between books themselves, Emily Temple writes in Flavorwire.

There are some novels that are better if you have a little bit of background going in — and sometimes that background is nothing more or less than another great novel.

Here are a few books you should pair the way you would a fine wine with an excellent cheese — each enhancing the other and making for a very satisfying evening.
Madame BovaryBefore reading: Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
You should read: Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
Flaubert first read Don Quixote when he was 11 years old. He wrote a letter to a friend that he had decided to become a novelist: “I’ve already got some ideas for my first books. I’ll write about Cardenio, about Dorotea, and one about Ill-Advised Curiosity.” Of course, anyone who has read Cervantes knows just what little Gus is talking about. There are many parallels in the two books — one of the most interesting is Emma Bovary herself.“Emma embodies, in one person, the conflict between idealism and pragmatism that Cervantes divides between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.”

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35 Things To Do With All Those Books

Many of these ideas are utterly bizarre, but I do like this staircase library.
Staircase libarybuddingbibliophiles.com

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THIS ‘n THAT

12 Awesome Things at the Library, e.g.:

You can stream stuff for free. Using your library card, you can check out a service called Hoopla. Using Hoopla, you can stream movies and TV shows without spending a dime. It’s not as stable as Netflix or Hulu but if you can stand the bugs you can watch some pretty good stuff for free.

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Quote of the Day

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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Alma Alexander
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Famous Last Words

 

Tolkien Grave   Many years ago, I went to visit the grave of J. R. R. Tolkien in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford. It took some finding in amogst the sea of Polish dead in the Catholic part of the cemetery, but I did find it and stood before the gravestone of the man who gave us the greatest fantasy of all time, and his wife.It had just their names and the dates and then, underneath each name, one word. “Beren”, under his, “Luthien”, under hers.His great immortal love story – or mortal love story, if you want to see it that way – Luthien the Elven Princess who gave up her immortality to be with her love, the mortal Beren, so that they both could die – because she did not want to live forever without him.

Just those names. And a whole love story – in real life – is told. Without another word.

I stood by the gravestone in silence for a moment because I could think of nothing to think except “thank you”. And in the stillness of the air between the graves a touch of a a breeze stirred the leaves on the trees, the lightest of touches on my hair, the faintest of whispers, as though the Professor was saying, “You’re welcome…”

At Flavorwire, Emily Temple has selected 15 other epitaphs of famous authors — from the tongue-in-cheek to the ponderously serious, from the knightly to the poetic, and even one that doubles as a grave robber’s curse.
Charles Bukowski[Image via]

“Don’t try.”  Not as depressing as it seems:Charles Bukowski explained the phrase in a 1963 letter: “Somebody … asked me: ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: ‘not’ to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.”

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11 Great New York Moments From Books

New York City is unlike any other place in the world. Love it or hate it (or both, as the case may be), the people, places, and even smells are totally one of a kind, Leah Butterfield writes in Bustle.

The books on this list were written at various times throughout the city’s history, but they all contain those quintessential, only-in-NYC moments that make New Yorkers feel all mushy and sentimental.
Here is New YorkE.B. White ponders the three types of New York in Here is New York: The entirety of this short book is devoted to New York City as E.B. White experienced it in the summer of 1948. Many of his ruminations still ring true, like his claim that there are “roughly three New Yorks”: New York for the born-and-raised folks, the commuter’s New York, and New York for those who were born elsewhere and came to the city “in quest of something.” White found the third one to be the most important, crediting the spirit and passion of outsiders with the city’s major achievements and productivity.

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10 Lessons from Real-Life Revolutions that Fictional Dystopias Ignore

Dystopias are glorified just as much as utopias are, and they are just as unlikely to be monolithic. The world is built of alternating bricks that consists of both. And the truth is, uncomfortable though that may be, that every single thing can be seen as one or the other. It depends on your point of view.

In io9, Esther Inglis-Arkell offers 10 lessons from real-life rebellions against repressive regimes that she wishes the creators of fictional dystopias would pay attention to.

Take #7 for example:
Two Downtrodden Groups Will Usually Be Fighting Each Other
Civil warIn the American Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy had conscription but exceptions to both were contingent upon wealth. Those on the Union side could pay to keep from joining the army. Confederate men were excused as long as they owned a certain number of slaves. Wealth was, then as now, tied to political power, meaning that the wealthy people had steered the course to war in the first place.  As the saying at the time goes, the Civil War was “a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.”

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THIS ‘n THAT

Whereabouts? Each of us has acquired a new line in our celestial address, Michael Quinion writes in his delightful newsletter World Wide Words.

As every school kid knows, our address is:
Name, Street, City, Country, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, Universe

Now insert between Milky Way and Universe  – Laniakea.

Brent Tully and his colleagues at the University of Hawaii have given this name to the supercluster of about 100,000 galaxies to which our own galaxy, the Milky Way, belongs. The team took the name from the Hawaiian words lani, heaven, and akea, spacious or immeasurable.”

Read the newsletter

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Smells take us back in time

The smell of new unsharpened pencils takes me back to my grandfather’s desk, where he kept a box of them in a drawer. He was a teacher for four decades and more and a writer for longer than that. Pencils were a part of all that he was – that smell of virgin lead, full of promise and of future memories as yet unborn. The pencil before it was thrust into the sharpener and formed into a point that could make marks on paper. The smell… of POTENTIAL.

I keep a box of my grandfather’s unsharpened pencils on my own desk.

I remember the smell of a particular kind of glue. Not every kind, but the kind that came in plastic pots which had a plastic “pocket” on the inside where a tiny plastic spatula lived which you used to scrape up the glue from the pot and shovel it onto crepe paper and put together the kind of sloppy messy joyful senseless projects we did in kindergarten. That glue, and crepe paper. Particularly red crinkly crepe paper. Two distinct smells – and I’m five again, messing about in a room with child-sized benches and blunt scissors and the laughter of small children.

Lilacs. And hyacinths. And my grandmother walks beside me once again.

The first tickle of frost in the air that tells you that summer is really over, fall is here and winter is coming.

And horrible smells. The smell of tar, which makes my throat close up at the back and my breath choke in my throat. The slightly sweet rotten smell of a long-term sickroom. That bile-inducing moment when you’re cleaning up your cat’s little present before someone else steps in it and the smell reminds you of what it feels  like to feel nauseous.

The path to our thoughts and our memories so often leads straight through our noses..
Smell(Copyright: Science Photo Library)

Smell is the oldest sense, having its origins in the rudimentary senses for chemicals in air and water – senses that even bacteria have, Tom Stafford says at the BBC. Before sight or hearing, before even touch, creatures evolved to respond to chemicals around them.

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Quote of the Day

Never laugh at live dragons.” ~  J.R.R. Tolkien

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Alma Alexander
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Are we the enemy?

We are living in a science fiction novel.

Is our species evolving into a new superorganism taking over Earth? Gaia Vince thinks so. At BBC.com he makes the provocative argument that humanity is completely transforming life on our planet.
HomniVince argues that our species, Homo sapiens, is evolving into a superorganism he calls Homo omnis, or ‘Homni’ that is in some ways equivalent to a slime mold monster.
Slime moldDo we behave like slime moulds, individuals coming together to have a much more powerful influence on the planet? (Science Photo Library)

Only time will tell if we will be a benign caretaker, or a monster that destroys life and with it ourselves. The odds aren’t good.

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Castles you can spend the night in

From dungeons and haunted turrets, to four-poster beds and glorious spas, a stay in a British castle is a magical and mysterious experience. As the original owners pass away or find it itoo expensive to maintain their ancestral homes, more and more beautiful castles are opening their doors to guests,  Britain Magazine says.
Ruthin CastleRuthin Castle, Denbighshire: The Wales retreat surrounded by a vast estate was built in the late 13th century for King Edward by Dafydd ap Gruffydd. Dafydd went on to become the Prince of Wales, before being hung, drawn and quartered for treason. Ruthin Castle has been transformed into a luxurious hotel.

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I went to school at Hogwarts castle myself

Well, Bodelwyddan Castle in Wales, actually. I don’t know whose idea it was to stick a girls’ boarding school into a haunted castle, but it was inspired.
Bodel Castle AutumnI spent a year in that school. Yes it had at least one resident ghost. It had exposed beams, old fireplaces, stone walls, mullioned windows, cobbled yards, battlements, ivied walls. All of it.
castle ghostAn interior shot complete with ghost. Well, not a ghost, of course, just some student, teacher, visitor or … hmmm?

I lived in a storybook castle for a year. for all that it was a BOARDING SCHOOL They had *pink stuff* for lunch sometimes. I don’t to this day know what it was but it tasted foul and I don’t eat anything pink to this day.

It’s a luxury hotel now.

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8 Authors Whose Biggest Successes Came After The Age of 50

When you read lists like “the top 25 writers under 25”, or find out that Stephen King published three of his major novels before the age of 30, it can feel like the time to write the next great novel has already passed, Rincey Abraham writes at Book Riot.

However, there is no age limit for when a novel can be published.  These authors’ major works were all published when they were in their 50s or later.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House in the Big Woods, the first of Wilder’s Little House books, was originally published in 1932 when Wilder was 65 and the final book was published when she was 76.

 

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War and Peace

War and Peace in 186 words

For those who don’t quite have time to get through all 561,093 words of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece, Boyd Tonkin has produced a wonderfully abridged version for The Independent.

There will be a quiz.

 

 

Read the abridged version

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A Dare: Go Forth and Re-Read Your Favorite Books From Childhood

There are adults who actively, sometimes exclusively, read YA fiction, Syreeta Barlow writes in Book Riot, as if it’s a fattening indulgence that cannot be denied.

Reread childhood booksBut I think certain children’s and young adult fiction should be required re-reading after your Nth birthday. Your perspective will completely change. Trust me. Revisit Catcher in the Rye after you’ve had your quarter-life crisis, and suddenly, your teenage drama feels like it played out in some Marvel multiverse where you remained forever seventeen and nothing was as important as other people’s opinions of you. When you can reflect on your adolescence without self-pity or undeserved veneration, you may be closer to discovering your true self in the words that spoke to you as a child.

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THIS ‘n THAT

Ursula K. Le Guin to Receive NBF Lifetime Achievement Award

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La Jaguarina: Queen of the Sword
La Jaguarina, Queen of SwordsIn April 1896, Rejected Princesses reports, hardened veteran US Sergeant Charles Walsh was hit so hard in a round of equestrian fencing that his opponent’s sword was permanently bent backwards in a U shape. His opponent? A woman who later retired only because she ran out of people to fight.

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Quote of the Day

The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” ~ Bertrand Russell

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Alma Alexander
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In 100 years…

Writing for the future

Margaret Atwood has just been named as the first contributor to an astonishing new public artwork, The Future Library project, Alison Flood reports at The Guardian.

The project began quietly with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees just outside Oslo. Every year until 2114 one writer will be invited to contribute a new text to the collection, and in 2114 the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed – and, finally, read.
Margaret AtwoodMargaret Atwood with artist Katie Paterson near where the Future Library trees will be planted. Photograph: Bjørvika Utviklingay

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QUIZ: What children’s book character are you?
The Last SamuraiThey taught us to love adventure, the New York Public Library says. They taught us to yearn for the stars, how to be strong, and what it means to have compassion.

We might be all grown up, but the characters from our favorite children’s books will stay with us forever.

Me? I’m the girl from Charlotte’s Web:  “You’re Charlotte! Practical and compassionate, you are sure to build friendships wherever you go. While you have many talents and you’re known for being clever, your primary joy is helping the people close to you.”

Which one are you most like?

Take the Quiz

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Famous Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary

Reflections on the value of recording our inner lives from Woolf, Thoreau, Sontag, Emerson, Nin, Plath, selected by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings.
Oscar WildeOscar Wilde, a man of strong opinions and even stronger passions, exercised his characteristic wit in The Importance of Being Earnest

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

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50 Essential Cult Novels

Just what is a cult novel? Emily Temple asks at Flavorwire. Well, she says, like so many literary terms, the edges blur whenever you try to look right at them, but in the end, you sort of know one when you read one. You can decide whether they are “essential.”

For example:
Masters of AtlantisMasters of Atlantis, Charles Portis — Now here’s a triple-whammy: a cult novel by a decidedly cult author that is also about a cult. Doesn’t get any better than that. Portis saw a little uptick in popularity after the adaptation of True Grit hit the big screens, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not enough. This is probably the most hilarious book that you’ve never read, and it’s not even his best one.
Kindred, Octavia ButlerKindred, Octavia Butler — Why is Octavia Butler still such a cult author? I couldn’t tell you. At least the cult seems to be slowly growing — that’s what happens when everyone who picks up one of her books falls totally in love with her.

48 to go

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THIS ‘n THAT

Sweden is running out of garbage

The country recycles or reuses an incredible 99 percent of its waste, the Intelligent Optimist reports.. It has become so good at managing waste, they now have to import garbage from the UK, Italy, Norway and Ireland to feed the country’s waste-to-energy plants.

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Dreadnoughtus may be the biggest dinosaur ever
DreadnoughtusRead the article

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The healing power of dogs
Healer dogsFrom their presence at healing temples in the ancient world to their work as service animals, dogs can cure what ails humans. – Photo by Fotolia/Tifonimages

Dogs can not only be used to find drugs or find missing people, they can detect cancer. with up to 98 percent accuracy.

Read the article

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Book wisdom:If trouble comes when you least expect it then maybe the thing to do is to always expect it.” ~ The Road, Cormac McCarthy

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Alma Alexander
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A character tells me off

It started last night.

He turned up in my dream, Chalky, the protagonist of my current WIP. He’s nineteen years old, pushing twenty. He’s a kid who has had a helluva twisted childhood (of course he did, he’s one of my characters) and he’s never really been a ‘kid’, he’s cocky, and he’s vulnerable, and he’s a wretched little know-it-all, and there he was, sitting on the side of my bed, kicking his heels on the bed frame.

“You’re doing it wrong,” he said.

“Oh, what now?”

“That scene, The new material. You’re *rushing* it. I have to know certain things but you haven’t given me time to learn them.”

“Am not rushing it. I need to…”

He interrupts me. “It’s nothing but a synopsis,”

Dammit, he’s right. I’m unpacking the the scene in my head. There are four pages worth of material behind a single paragraph there. I growl.

“What if you…”

“Shut UP,” I snap. “Did I ask you for advice?”

He shrugs, “Just thought I’d point it out. And another thing.”

“What?”

“You need to figure it out.”

“Figure WHAT out?”

“What I want. What my motivation is.”

“Now you go all Galaxy Quest on me?”

“But I”m not a rock,” he points out helpfully.

I growl again. I seem to be doing a lot of growling. But I”m still kind of asleep. At this point stuff happens (cat sticks nose in my ear) and I come wide awake, and he’s gone, of course, with just that smarmy voice left: ‘You’re doing it wrong.’

That voice stays in my head like a gnat. I barely choke down breakfast. Then I take a cup of coffee down to the computer thinking that maybe it might help me clarify things.

He’s RIGHT the little sod. It IS a synopsis. I had to have him visit me in my dream to tell me I’m screwing up the book??? That’s just *rude*.

Whatever. I go back to the beginning of the problem.

Then I discover that isn’t the beginning of the problem, and go further back. Then something else falls down in a heap and mocks me. I take a large swallow of coffee, crack my knuckles over the keyboard, and hit “delete”. This scene needs to die.

I start again from the beginning. A different beginning.

This time there’s… something. There’s a note of truth in it (yes this is a story about Were-creatures. Yes, every word of it is ‘true’. Why do you ask?) I keep typing, scowling at the scene. The dialogue comes down the riverbed of story like somebody just blew up a dam upstream. Yeah, Chalky, I saw the fuse string dangling from your pocket.

But this water is clean. it is clear. it is deep.

I keep scowling. If there’s something I always resent it’s when my characters refuse to cooperate with me until I finally agree to cooperating with them, and withhold their participation in my story until this is accomplished.

I mean, I can write scenes for them. I can write dialogue for them. They’ll say it because I said they must say it. But they will say it without inflection, without passion, without any kind of feeling, and they’ll sound like robots until such time as I grit my teeth and let them say what they want how they want. And then all of a sudden they’re frigging Shakespeare and everything they say sings. I hate it when my characters are better writers than I am.

I really hate it.

Particularly when they haunt my sleep to tell me so.

I lift my hands from the keyboard. The coffee’s long gone and the light is different outside. It’s a beautiful scene.

He’s sitting there on the edge of my desk, kicking his heels against the side and smirking.

“Didn’t I tell you so?” he says.

“I want to SLEEP tonight,” I snarl.

He grins. “You did well. I might let you.”

The Were Chronicles

 

The Were Chronicles

by Alma Alexander

 

 

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Alma Alexander
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Can you read a novel a day?

46 short novelsIf you could read one a day…well, it would be an interesting challenge anyhow.

Daniel Dalton of BuzzFeed made the picks.
Tuck EverlastingTuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: The beloved fable about immortality will outlive us all.

Read the article

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8 Forthcoming Films Adapted From Classic Novels

It’s often thought that if a good book makes it into the right hands, Short List says, then it will make a good film — or a good TV show.

Since the dawn of cinema, thousands of books have been adapted to screen to varying degrees of success. While Twilight and more recently Divergent may spring to mind, we take a look at the pre-2005 – and even pre-1805 in some cases – classic novels that are being adapted for the big screen within the next two years.

The Price of SaltThe Price Of Salt: Also known as Carol (which the film will also be named after), the novel – written by Patricia Highsmith – tells the story of a down-and-out department store worker who falls in love with a married older woman. Published in 1952, the book rose to notoriety due to the lesbian relationship of its protagonists, Therese (to be played by Rooney Mara) and the titular Carol (Cate Blanchett). But will we see all the salacious details adapted on screen? Time will tell.

MacbethMacbeth: Another year, another Shakespeare adaptation. The titular role is being taken on by Michael Fassbender. It features a largely British cast including David Thewlis, Sean Harris and David Hayman, in addition to France’s national treasure Marion Cotillard playing the menacing Lady Macbeth.  This is shaping up to be one of the classic Shakespeare adaptations.

Read the article

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The top 10 novels about childbirth

Childbirth and early parenthood are common and utterly life-changing experiences, novelist Bethan Roberts writes in The Guardian.

They are rich in narrative opportunities, offering a journey full of conflict, joy, struggle and pain, both physical and emotional. Yet they are rarely the subject of fiction. When I was in the throes of pregnancy and early motherhood, I felt really angry about … the fact that, for the first time in my life, fiction seemed to have let me down….where were the novels that could tell me how it actually was?

A few notable exceptions to fiction’s natal taboo.

We Need to Talk About KevinWe Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver: Shriver’s novel is the most sensational book on my list, perhaps, but it’s also blackly hilarious and ultimately moving. We follow Eva, bright, brittle, lost, as she relates her journey from successful businesswoman to vilified mother-of-a-monster via a series of chillingly realistic (and recognizable) parenting “challenges” with her son. Some women were incensed that Shriver, not a mother herself, could write such a novel. Personally I think this is one of the bravest and most honest books about parenting that I have encountered.

 

Read the article

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10 of the Worst Jobs in Literature

Why not indulge in a little literature, Emily Temple  suggests at Flavorwire, particularly literature that reminds you just how good you have it when you are in the office? After Here you’ll find ten of the absolute worst jobs ever committed to fiction.
Solaris

 

Stanislaw LemSolaris: Scientist on Solaris Station: Scientist is a pretty cool job. But just wait until you’re trapped on a space station being tormented by an alien sea who, every day, sends a clone of someone you’ve loved that won’t leave you alone until you kill it. And then it just comes back the next day.

 

 

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The Weirdest Thing You Never Knew About Your Home State

Todd Van Luling selects the strangest thing from every state for The Huffington Post. For example:
House arrest catIn 2006, a tomcat named Lewis was put on house arrest after attacking an Avon representative selling products in the Connecticut town of Fairfield. Lewis’ owner, Ruth Cisero, claimed that her cat only attacked because he was under a lot of stress from being tormented by egg- and water-throwing neighbors. A judge ruled in 2008 that Lewis was safe and free to once again roam the streets of Fairfield.
 Kansas pancakeFlat as a pancake Kansas: It’s not just a popular idiom. The state was proven to be flatter when scientists bought a pancake from an IHOP and tested the topography against the flatness of the state. They measured “perfect flatness” on a scale of 1 with the IHOP pancake testing as 0.957 and Kansas scoring a 0.997.

Darth Vader gargoyleTo raise money for construction on the National Cathedral’s west towers during the 1980s, a contest was held for children to submit “gargoyle” designs to add to the construction plans. Christopher Rader won third place with his Darth Vader design, and the Sith Lord was added to the building.

 

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

The One Word Only Women See In Their Performance Reviews

At Fast Company, Kathleen Davis reports that there’s one adjective that’s never used to criticize men, yet it shows up at an alarming rate in women’s performance reviews.

Can you guess what that word is?

Read the article

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Quote of the Day (thanks to Mike Toot)

Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it. ~ Russel Lynes

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Alma Alexander
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Not Safe For School

50 great books you’ll never read in school

It’s that time of the year when reading for pleasure will give way to burning through that syllabus, Emily Temple writes at Flavorwire. She selects some great books you’ll (probably) never read in high school, but should still read.

For example:
Infinite JestInfinite Jest, David Foster Wallace: Well, for one thing, it’s way too long to assign. And it’s complicated. And full of drugs. And probably impossible to teach. It’s best to read this book by taking three months off from everything else, which is just not possible in a traditional school. That said, it’s worth every minute it takes you to get through it.
Ooga-BoogaOoga-Booga, Frederick Seidel: Deliciously dirty and gleefully gauche poems from the “Laureate of the Louche.” It’s really a shame this isn’t taught in more high schools — I can’t think of anything more likely to get teenage boys into poetry.

Read the article

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Speaking of school…

25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School  

To the delight or dismay of millions, the school season is beginning in many countries. But in some parts of the world, school can be a hard-won luxury. Many children have to take the most incredible and unimaginable routes in order to receive the education that some of us may take for granted. This list compiled by Julija K at Bored Panda shows some of the most astonishing, from a 5-hour journey into the mountains on a 1ft wide path, to crossing a broken suspension bridge, to ….

Kids flying 800m on a steel cable 400m above The Rio Negro River, Colombia
400m Above a riverImage credits: Christoph Otto

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Speaking of dangerous…

Five things to do before you’re ready to be a writer

Before you can write about life, at least adequately, you have to have lived it. And I don’t mean vicariously on Facebook.  What you must do:

1) DO SOMETHING DANGEROUS. Know what an adrenaline surge REALLY feels like. You cannot possibly write about one without that visceral knowledge. Three of my young, female friends and I once climbed down from Table Mountain in Cape Town, on foot, in the dark, sliding down scree slopes and falling into the switchback roads. Foolish? Dangerous? Yes, but exhilarating. (We were very young and, of course, invincible.)

2)….

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Knock down a wall, find a city

A man renovating his home discovered a tunnel… to a massive underground city

In 1963, a man in the Nevşehir Province of Turkey knocked down a wall of his home. Behind it, he found a mysterious room that led to an intricate tunnel system with additional cave-like rooms. What he had discovered was the ancient Derinkuyu underground city in Turkey.
Derinkuyu mapThe underground city is neither the largest nor oldest, but its 18 stories make it the deepest. The city was most likely used as a giant bunker to protect its inhabitants from either war or natural disaster.

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50-year missing Willy Wonka chapter discovered

In the Daily Mail, Jim Norton reveals the grisly end of two greedy boys who disappear in fudge cutting room in Roald Dahl’s most famous book was published.
Willy WonkaIn the missing section from the 1961 draft, mysterious confectioner Willy Wonka took children who won a tour of his factory to the Vanilla Fudge Room – only for the passage to be cut from the published version.

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THIS ‘n THAT

At Slashdot, destinyland writes that even though the newest book from the geeky cartoonist behind XKCD hasn’t been released yet, it’s already become one of Amazon’s best-selling books. Thanks to a hefty pre-order discount, one blogger notes that it’s appeared on Amazon’s list of hardcover best-sellers since the book was first announced in March, and this weekend it remains in the top 10. Randall Munroe recently announced personal appearances beginning this week throughout the U.S. two weeks ago he was also awarded the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.

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Books & Beer

McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, N.C., is hosting a Books & Beer event series to celebrate North Carolina authors and provide an informal space for writers and book lovers to enjoy a good read over local craft beer at Fearrington Village’s Roost beer garden. The “informal and intimate literary event” series launches September 11 and will run for six weeks.

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Oldest library Could close

For more than two centuries, the Darby Free Library has remained both a vital part of its community as well as a historical landmark. Built in 1743 in Darby, Pa. by Quakers, it remains the oldest public library in the nation. But a financial crisis has left it in danger of shutting down by the end of the year.

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Quote of the Day

We’ve all heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.”   — Robert Wilensky

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Alma Alexander
My books

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The REAL Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the PraiirieThe TV incarnation of the Ingalls family in The Little House on the Prairie. Photo: Rex Features

Rejected by publishers when it was written in the 30s, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography unveils the experiences that informed her children’s books, Alison Flood writes in The Guardian.

Laura Ingalls WilderPioneer Girl, the story of her childhood, was rejected by editors in 1930. It contains stories omitted from her novels, tales that Wilder herself felt “would not be appropriate” for children, such as her family’s sojourn in the town of Burr Oak, where she once saw a man became so drunk that, when he lit a cigar, the whiskey fumes on his breath ignited and killed him instantly. In another recollection, a shopkeeper drags his wife around by her hair, pours kerosene on the floor of his house, and sets their bedroom on fire.

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Village Books’ Dee Robinson to Retire

The co-owner of my favorite bookstore, Village Books in Bellingham WA, is retiring.

Dee Robinson“It’s been a great job for 34 years,” Dee wrote on Facebook. “On to whatever awaits, starting with a pile of books!”

Chuck Robinson, her husband and co-owner, said, Dee “wants to eat bon bons and read all of those books she’s been stacking up.”

The Robinsons founded Village Books in 1980 and built it into one of the country’s great independent bookstores, one that’s been a leader in showing how indies can be creative and thrive.

 

 

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11 Things You Learn Your First Month As A Bookseller

Every new job has a learning curve, Buzzfeed reports, but not every job also expects you to instantly absorb the entire scope of the history of literature along with all the hot new releases and hidden gems — but bookselling does.

Here are 11 things Heather and Mackenzie learned in their first month at PorterSquareBooks.
Bookseller triumphNothing beats the feeling of sheer triumph that comes from locating the correct book based only on the information it has a blue cover and the word everything in the title.

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Tiny Humans Lost In The Majesty Of Nature

I cry when i see big trees. I whimper at perfect mountains. I breathe in the rhythm of the waves breaking when i stand with my feet in the surf at the edge fo an ocean.

I love this world of ours. It is beautiful beyond belief. And fragile. So fragile. And we are doing our damndest to wreck it by human hand.

It makes me heartsick because if there is a real God out there… these are the places he loves and lives in. The wilderness. The grandeur. The beauty. There is no human-build cathedral ever made – and I say this having been in some of the loveliest of those – that holds a candle to offering up a prayer in the shadow of a redwood tree.
Mansfield, Victoria, AustraliaMansfield, Victoria, Australia | Image by Alex Wise

Bored Panda has gathered some stunning photographs showing just how small we can seem when eclipsed by the powerful wonder of nature.
IcelandIceland | Image by Max Rive

See the other photos

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25 Brilliant Tiny Homes

At Distractify, Jake Heppner suggests one way we can do what we can try to save some of the majesty of nature by living small.

These micro houses prove that there is a certain beauty in finding a low-impact solution for you and your family. Bigger isn’t always better. Fans of the tiny home movement swear by it: when we simplify our lives and live “smaller” big savings – and improvements to the overall quality of your life – are possible.”
Hobbit HouseHobbit House, Dymitr Malxew
Simon Dale spent $5,000 to turn a plot of land in the woods into a hobbit home. It boasts a number of eco-friendly attributes, which include: scrap wood for flooring, lime plaster (instead of cement) for the walls, bales of straw on dry-stone walling, a compost toilet, solar panels for power, and a supply of water acquired through a nearby spring.

Read the article

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Library without books
Florida Polytechnic UniversityExterior of Florida Polytechnic University’s Innovation, Science and Technology building

A fully digital library is among the futuristic features of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida, Letitia Stein writes for Reuters.

“It’s a boldly relevant decision to go forward without books,” said Kathryn Miller, director of libraries. Students can access more than 135,000 ebooks on their choice of reader, tablet or laptop.

Read the article

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Quote of the Day

There is only one type of story in the world — your story.” ~ Ray Bradbury

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Alma Alexander
My books

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You rejected WHAT!?!

Evan Hoovler has selected for Blastr examples of a number of unfortunate publishing decisions.

The poster child for misguided rejections is Harry Potter. Author J.K. Rowling received rejection letters for the first book in the series from a dozen publishers before the eight-year-old daughter of the chairman for the relatively small Bloomsbury Press took to the story so much that she begged her father to publish it. The rest is history — the series has sold close to half a billion copies.

But there are a lot of other bad decisions. e.g.

Time Travelers WifeThe Time Traveler’s Wife: The 2003 novel about a man with chronological impairment was rejected by 25 publishing companies. Author Audrey Niffenegger finally sent the manuscript, unsolicited, to a small San Francisco publisher. It took off from there, selling millions of copies and inspiring a hit film.

 

Read the article

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British Prison Book Ban

Justice ministers have defended their push to prevent prisoners in England and Wales from having family and friends send them books. They argue that prisoners can earn the right to buy books through the prison’s book selling program, The Guardian reports.

Writers have called the move barbaric.

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Describing whitesHeben Nigatu of Buzzfeed welcomes us to the mocha-chocolate-coffee-bean-exotic-butterscotch-caramel-cinnamon-cafe-au-lait side of town.

e.g. He traced his fingers along her supple, cauliflower skin.

Beauty, eye of beholder, what. Reminds me of that priceless moment from “The Gods Must Be Crazy” when the Bushman describes the blonde blue-eyed heroine – perfectly earnestly and to him perfectly truthfully – as looking like something you might find if you turned over a rock.

More descriptions of whites

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35 Most Amazing Roads In The World

There are few things more invigorating than exploring a new road alongside a beautiful landscape, Ali Lawrence writes at Lifehack.

To be perfectly honest, some of these roads don’t really have much to recommend them except that THEY SEEM TO GO ON FOREVER – which fact would make it dangerous for me to drive them because it would just put me to sleep.

But some of those roads that look like someone has dropped a tangled ribbon on a mountainside… YOW. *That* would keep you awake all right. Possibly for a week after you’ve left the road behind, as you come down from a life-threatening adrenaline high.
Stelvio Pass, ItalyStelvio Pass, Italy

Be that as it may. That Chapman’s Peak Drive thing? I have been there. Driven on it. A lot of times. It was the site of one of my South African Adventures.
Chapmans-Peak-Drive-South-AfricaChapman’s Peak Drive, South Africa

There’s a gorgeous restaurant which you get to via that road. I once went to a wedding reception with my then-boyfriend. It was a beautiful nigh when we began the drive home,  big full moon, wild ocean on our left full of sparkling moonlight, a totally romantic setting. So when the car sputtered to a stop at some point and we sat there on the narrow shoulder of that spectacular road, you might have thought that the boyfriend was just taking advantage of the moonlight and the romance.

“If you tell me the tank is empty,” I said, “i am not going to believe you.”

He just looked at me, smiled, and gave a small shrug.

“Er. Yeah. The tank is empty.”

The road is amazing. You should go see it. Just bring a full tank of gas for the ride.

Oh, BTW, we eventually flagged down a van full of happy hippy types, and they gave us a lift to the nearest police station… from where I phoned my parents, and we all somehow staggered home. But I still remember that exchange on the roadside in the moonlight.

See the rest of the amazing roads.

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You’re probably using the wrong dictionary

NoahJames Somers steers you to the right one and explains why it’s necessary.

For example, he examines: …the fine differences in meaning between words in the penumbra of “flash”:

 … Flashing differs from exploding or disploding in not being accompanied with a loud report. To glisten, or glister, is to shine with a soft and fitful luster, as eyes suffused with tears, or flowers wet with dew.

Did you see that last clause? “To shine with a soft and fitful luster, as eyes suffused with tears, or flowers wet with dew.” I’m not sure why you won’t find writing like that in dictionaries these days, but you won’t. Here is the modern equivalent of that sentence in the latest edition of the Merriam-Webster: “glisten applies to the soft sparkle from a wet or oily surface <glistening wet sidewalk>.”

Who decided that the American public couldn’t handle “a soft and fitful luster”? I can’t help but think something has been lost. “A soft sparkle from a wet or oily surface” doesn’t just sound worse, it actually describes the phenomenon with less precision. In particular it misses the shimmeriness, the micro movement and action, “the fitful luster,” of, for example, an eye full of tears — which is by the way far more intense and interesting an image than “a wet sidewalk.”

It’s as if someone decided that dictionaries these days had to sound like they were written by a Xerox machine, not a person, certainly not a person with a poet’s ear, a man capable of high and mighty English, who set out to write the secular American equivalent of the King James Bible and pulled it off.

Read the article

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Postcards to Authors

“A little project to say thank you to authors for making good books.” ~ George Dunkley
CaliforniiaEdan Lepucki is the author of California

See the others

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Quote of the Day

I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun at it. Ignore the authors who say ‘Oh my God, what work…’ The hell with that. It is not work. If it’s work, stop it and do something else…..I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me my joy.” ~ Ray Bradbury, 2001.

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Alma Alexander
My books

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