Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” is a novel about butterflies, about a messed up migration of monarchs which could lead to oblivion. It was a kick in the gut to read that book, to think about that possibility, to think about the final beat of a butterfly’s wing, to see that moment frozen in time. It’s terrifying.
And it’s happening. When I read that the monarch butterfly migration to Mexico is slowing from a flood to a trickle, I began to realize how bitterly bitterly close to reality Kingsolver’s fiction is, could be. That was no light reading, that was an apocalyptic warning.
Monarchs aren’t able to survive colds winters and migrate hundreds or thousands of miles to winter in warmer climates, most famously in a few a few acres in Mexico where they hibernate in fir trees. Very few acres. They used to stop in a 50-acre site. Last year, that had dwindled to less than 2 acres.
There are a number of reasons the population is crashing. One study has linked the monarch’s decline to Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide. (link below)
That connection is unproven, others say (link below), but loss of milkweed is a major factor and a massive replanting is needed to save the monarch.
There’s a new book out about how humans are causing the sixth great extinction in the history of our planet. What are we going to do when we wake up one day and realize that the richness of our biosphere exists only in memory?
Extinction is forever.
Whale of a tale of awe & wonder
Bryant Austin’s life was transformed by a literal tap on the shoulder from a whale, Richard Whittaker and Anne Veh write in the Daily Good.
Austin is an experimental multimedia artist whose lifelong passion has been exploring the possibility of connecting humanity with the greatest minds in the water. His drive comes from a deep desire to understand over five million years of evolving culture and communication in the largest brain ever to exist on Earth.
In a stunning interview, Austin shares stores of his extraordinary journey and mission to use photography to recreate the transcendent sensation one experiences floating an arm’s length away from the eye of an inquisitive whale. He explains how his experiences with whales have given him glimpses of the vastness of the cosmos, helping him to shift from his personal perspective of reality to a grander “earth perspective” of reality.
The diver and the blue whale
An image taken on 28 March 28, 2011 is the first ever to show a human and a whole blue whale in the same shot together, The Telegraph reports.
Many have battled hard to achieve the feat, but due to the size of the whales have only come up with shots showing divers and parts of the animals. Team members of Scubazoo – a British dive company based in Malaysia – spent 200 hours diving eight-hours-per-day for 25 days trawling the ocean around Sri Lanka in order to capture the scene.
Roger Munns, from Cornwall, was photographed by Jason Isley, from Essex, making contact with the giant of the seas at around 10 metres depth. Roger said:
’It was amazing. It was murky so we didn’t see the whale until the last minute, and it travelled so fast. The encounter only lasted about 45 seconds and then it was gone. But all those hours waiting were worth it.‘
It was just a joke, Isabel Allende says of her ‘mystery’
Allende, better known for magical realism, has angered the crime fiction community after admitting that “Ripper”, her first foray into mysteries, was written as “a joke” – and that she is “not a fan” of the genre, Alison Floodreports in The Guardian.
Readers took issue with Allende’s “snotty elitism”, and advising the author to “stick to what she knows [if she] sees the genre as being beneath her”. Sookie Stackhouse’s bestselling creator Charlaine Harris took Allende to task on her blog for comments which “translate … [as] I’m so amazingly ‘literary’ that condescending to write a genre novel is incredibly funny … I considered buying it. But having devoted my professional life to genre literature, I don’t think I will,” wrote Harris.
Quote of the Day
”Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” ~ Rita Mae Brown
Comments welcome. What do you think?
Can you read your way to psychological health? Britain is finding out, Leah Price reports in the Boston Globe.
What if a scientist were to discover a treatment that required minimal time and training to administer, and didn’t have the side effects of drugs? In 2003, a psychiatrist in Wales became convinced that he had. Dr. Neil Frude noticed that some patients, frustrated by year-long waits for treatment, were reading up on depression in the meantime. And of the more than 100,000 self-help books in print, a handful often seemed to work.
This June, a program was launched that’s allowing National Health Service doctors across England to act upon Frude’s insight. The twist is that the books are not just being recommended, they’re being prescribed.
Books Vs. Films:
Lovereading.co.uk has created an infographic called, ‘The Ultimate Showdown: Books Vs. Films,’ Dianna Dilworth reports on Galleycat, which explores the question, ‘Which is better the book or the movie?’
The graphic explores of reviews of both books and movies over the past two decades and compares the critical reception of both books and their movie adaptations to decide the winners.
25 million readers
An infographic shows the milestones for 2013. What was the most popular book? Most popular quote? How many pages were read?
How can you really help your favorite writer?
“Back in 2009, when my career as a novelist went into a nosedive,” Sarah Monette blogs, “somebody asked me what my readers could do to help.”
She didn’t really have an answer then, but five years later, she does and is offering it up “not merely on my own behalf, but so that you all, as readers, know how to help the career of any writer whose work you like. And, as it turns out, the answer is simple.:
There are three major things any reader can do to support a writer, she says:
She read her way around the world
British journalist Ann Morgan has accomplished a big goal as a reader, Dianna Dilworth reports in Galleycat, she read a book from every country around the world. That is 196 books from authors from Swaziland to Nicaragua.
She came to the decision after she realized that most of the books on her bookshelves were written by British and American authors. To help find titles from various places around the globe, she set up a blog called A Year of Reading the World and got many suggestions about good reads from readers and writers around the worlds.
Artist Creates illuminated copy of The Silmarillion
All of the initials, calligraphic pages and illumination were drawn by hand using a steel pen and indian ink as well as brushes and watercolour. Harff also created the goat leather binding himself, with some help from a professional bookbinder.
Quote of the Day
Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. ~ Saint-Exupery
ink-splotch asks: Can we talk about Susan’s fabulous adventures after Narnia?
The ones where she wears nylons and elegant blouses when she wants to, and short skirts and bright lipstick when she wants to, and hiking boots and tough jeans and big men’s plaid shirts when she feels like backpacking out into the mountains and remembering what it was to be lost in a world full of terrific beauty— I know her siblings say she stops talking about it, that Susan walks away from the memories of Narnia, but I don’t think she ever really forgot.
A lion told her to walk away, and she did. He forbade her magic, he forbade her her own kingdom, so she made her own. Susan Pevensie did not lose faith. She found it.
Kelly Barnhill on “Feminism, Anti-Feminism, and the Things That Mystify Me”
I wrote a post about a children’s movie with some pretty gross lady-hating themes, and I’ve managed to catch heck for it. There are people who are seriously mad at me for pointing out that the movie was, in addition to being a crappily-animated, source-text-destroying, dreckish disaster of a movie – it was also grossly antifeminist.
The most troubling statements are the ones that suggest that I, as a children’s author, have no right to call myself a feminist. … There is a special kind of venom for the feminism.
The curious thing for me, though, is the sense of ownership. I write children’s books. I tweet. I keep this blog. … I get notes from readers – both men and women – saying … please keep your feminism to yourself. “No one cares about your politics,” one woman wrote me. “The next time you want to air your grievances, just keep your yap shut.”
Apparently, for both children and children’s authors, silence is golden. Or maybe it’s not authors. Maybe it’s women. Maybe women saying things online makes us itchy. Or maybe women saying things at all.
How Educated Girls Could Save The World
For many, many girls around the globe education ia just a dream they must fight for every day, Melissa McGlensey reports on the Ms Blog.
And education is vital. Take child marriage, for example. Girls with secondary education are 6 times less likely to be married as children, and if all girls had a secondary education there would be two-thirds fewer child marriages. And in developing countries, the #1 cause of death for girls 15-19 is childbirth. Maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds if each mother completed primary education.
Recently, Ms. Blog sat down for a conversation with young rural women in South Africa who are part of a mentorship program for talented, disadvantaged youth. These young women were eloquent and enthusiastic testaments to the power of educating girls.
Zinzi: If I hadn’t joined Imagine Scholar, I think I would’ve been pregnant by now. I had bad friends and they would pressure me to do bad stuff and I would usually fall into their traps. I was really that dumb to believe them. (This program) made me view myself as a woman and say This is what I want to be. I took ownership of my life, became the independent woman I want to be and with that I can go places, because I’m me, I’m a woman and I believe that I can still be that leader that I want to be.
Oh, when did we stop looking up to the sky and dreaming about the future…?
The Loneliness of the Long-Abandoned Space Observatory
Space observatories are among some of the most magnificent buildings devoted entirely to science — because their windows look out on the universe, Vincze Miklós on io9. And their distinctive shape makes them into poignant ruins. Here are some observatories whose views onto space have been lost to time.
All The Things That Are Wrong With Your Screenplay In One Handy Infographic
Joe Berkowitz at Co.Create tells us about an anonymous professional scriptreader who read 300 screenplays for five different studios, all the while tracking the many recurring problems. The infographic he made with the collected data offers a glimpse at where screenwriting goes wrong.
Many of the actual issues they list on these slides are pretty much things that plague many, if not most of, beginner manuscripts of any ilk, not just screenplays as such.
Beginner writers often begin before the beginning (or too late after it) and don’t know when they’ve reached the end so they carry on writing long after their story is complete.
But all that… is after you get past the first slides. the ones showing the discrepancy between male and female WRITERS. And then the ones showing the discrepancy between male and female PROTAGONISTS. We have to start somewhere. Why not here? Write for humanity, not just the half of it with testosterone. We’ll all be better off.
I’ll go see it, gritting my teeth. I want to see the barrel escape brought to life. I want to see the dragon. But I am under no illusions that I will be seeing something called “The Hobbit”. Because that… that just isn’t there. Sigh.
The Hobbit, as written by Peter Jackson
In ‘The Desolation of Smaug’, Jackson leaves Tolkien behind, Andrew O’Hehir says in Salon.
“His middle chapter features Elvish girl-power, a love triangle and other made-up stuff. But it’s fun. Jackson has now departed so far from Tolkien’s “Hobbit” that the original work is still there, essentially untouched, for those weirdos who want it. In exchange we get a movie fueled by bunny-power, sparrow poop and Elfland’s original riot-grrl. Take it or leave it.”
When Salinger Spoke Out: A Rare 1959 Public Letter Against Life in Prison
Lost in all the controversy around J.D. Salinger this year, Nicolaus Mills writes at the Daily Beast, was the few times he chose to take a public stance as in this 1959 letter against life imprisonment without parole.
2013 has been a year that the late J. D. Salinger would have hated. With the highly publicized release of Shane Salerno’s documentary film, Salinger, a companion book by Salerno and David Shields, and three unpublished stories leaking, Salinger’s life has been subjected to the kind of scrutiny he did his best to avoid once he became a well-known author.
But Salinger did not always think it essential to keep his personal views to himself.
Quote of the Day
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” ~ Rumi
If you said ‘selfie’, forget it; Merriam-Webster says it is ‘science’
What makes a word the word of the year?” asks Arika Okrent in Mental Floss.
Last month, Oxford Dictionaries crowned “selfie” the word of the year because it was “judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.”
Merriam-Webster takes another approach, starting not with an assessment of the general cultural zeitgeist, but with a look at the number of look-ups on its online dictionary. This year, the word with the greatest increase in look-ups—176 percent—was science.
A couple of stories on Christmas gift giving. But first may I remind you that there’s no better gift than a book; you know that, right?
Mother Jones offers 7 Simple Tips for Guilt-Free Holiday Shopping
Your gifts don’t have to support horrific working conditions in distant garment factories, Dana Liebelson reminds us.
Last month, I reported on the “sumangali girls” in India, workers who are lured to textile factories on the promise that they will earn enough money for a dowry or higher education—but instead end up working long hours for little pay in exploitative conditions.
Since the story came out, many readers have asked how they can support fair labor with their purchases. Here are seven tips to keep in your pocket during your holiday shopping:
Then there are some tips from Naomi Kritze.
Gift Shopping for People You Hate: the Passive-Aggressive Shopping Guide
Those who used to follow my blog over on LiveJournal may remember that for several years now I’ve done a list of suggested gifts you could give to someone you didn’t like very much, but had to buy a gift for anyway. I’ve actually never run into this problem myself, but I know an awful lot of people who seem to have it, and as an unfailingly supportive and sympathetic friend, I wanted to be helpful.
There are a couple of principles that hold true every year.
1. Subtlety! If you want an open declaration of war, or if you want to insult them and have them KNOW they were insulted, that’s easy and you don’t need my help to come up with that one. You want them to feel totally disappointed, but like they still have to say “thank you, it’s lovely.”
And for the kids?
Top 10 comic books
Comic book creator Robin Etherington, author of Monkey Nuts: The Diamond Egg of Wonders, chose his top 10 graphic novels for the Guardian.
I’ve always liked making top ten lists. During my time here on planet earth I’ve happily categorised my favourite books, films, games, sports, foodstuffs, road kill, enemies, colours, credit cards, teeth and spam email, to name but a few. And to be honest they were all pretty easy (all except for movies, which I had to break into innumerable sub-divisions, from Thrillers Featuring Log Cabins to Comedies Featuring an Amusingly Small Dog).
But then we reach comics; my achilles heel. Where does one start? To pick just 10 titles from the oodles of awesomeness that fill the shelves of book stores and comic shops the world over, well, it seems a shame.”
World’s leading authors say state surveillance of personal data is theft
More than 500 of the world’s leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance.
In a story in the Guardian, Matthew Taylor and Nick Hopkins report that the authors warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.
The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people’s digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.
They have urged the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights that would enshrine the protection of civil rights in the internet age.
Authors speak out on spying
Quote of the Day
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” ~ -Eleanor Roosevelt
From heart-breaking love letters and heart-warming thank you cards, to notes veering on creepy.
Ann Patchett on the Post, in the Post
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, author and bookseller Ann Patchett offered a somewhat friendly if wary welcome to new Post owner Jeff Bezos…and ended with a bit of bookseller-to-bookseller advice:
“Since it’s safe to assume that Bezos is reading the Post thoroughly these days, let me offer a piece of advice that will benefit us both: Expand the book review offerings. Nothing beats newspaper reviews for selling books. And bookselling, after all, is one of the businesses we’re both in.”
5 Forgotten Grimm’s Fairy Tales
This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Brothers Grimm’s collection of household fairytales. While Jacob and his younger brother Wilhelm weren’t only interested in folklore — they published works on history, ethnography, lexicography, and law — it’s the fairytales that we remember them for, Mental Floss reports.
“For every Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White or Rapunzel, there are literally dozens of much more obscure and certainly more bizarre Grimm fairytales. Like the one about the Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage. What about these tales didn’t quite capture the imagination the way the others did?”
Top 10 descriptions of food in fiction
From Roald Dahl’s Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight to Enid Blyton’s magnificent picnics (with lashings of ginger beer), Guardian children’s fiction prize-longlisted author Katherine Rundell picks her favourite fictional foody descriptions”
Flavorwire offers a recommended books list with a twist.
“The Internet (this site not the least bit exempt) is fond of telling you which books you should read. Particularly, it seems, when you’re in your 20s. But now that you have enough of those lists to last you a lifetime, which books should you make sure to steer clear from in this most transitional and tender of decades? Well, here are a few to consider. Disclaimer: all of these (okay, most of these) are good books. They’re books you should read. Just not in your 20s.”
Example: The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski — “Look, your 20s are disturbing enough. No need to push it.”
When a librarian bans a book
Banned Books Week is a useful but usually timid affair. Libraries and bookstores put up displays of banned books from the past. There is mild interest for a day or two, and then it’s all forgotten for another year.
Librarian Scott DiMarco took a different approach. He put a notice on his Facebook wall that he had banned a book by a campus figure.
“The angry reaction from students, faculty, alumni, and other ‘interested parties,’ was immediate. A local newspaper reporter contacted Miller within 20 minutes of the posting. A Facebook protest page was created within a day and people from around the country were voicing their angry thoughts…”
Tip the Author
Yup. Do this thing. If you’re willing to leave a couple of bucks for the person who brings you a coffee in a diner, can you leave at least a review for an author whose work you’ve liked?
“In my other business, I frequently work for tips, or at least partly for tips. So I know that feeling of someone slipping a larger bill than anticipated in my hand and telling me ‘you did a great job, thank you!’ So how, you might ask, can you tip an author? … you can leave a review of their story.”
The Scale of the Universe 2
Zoom from the edge of the universe to the quantum foam of spacetime and learn about everything in between.
Sometimes the sex talk goes horribly wrong…
I’ve never had kids, so I have been spared this, although sometimes the characters in my novels do something similar to me.
“Let me start out by saying that as a marriage and family therapist, I highly encourage parents to have an open dialogue about sex and sexuality. My general philosophy (so as to not let this happen) is to let a child ask questions, and let them hear about important topics from you as opposed to their peers. Then, respond naturally without shame or embarrassment because this is a natural process and a natural conversation.
Apparently God likes jokes, because he gave me a child who pushes against that philosophy. Hard.”
“The opening scene of a book can make or break it. The opening is a hook that keeps you reading; it’s your introduction to the world the author has created. We’ve compiled the 10 best opening scenes in some of our favorite books…” e.g.:
“To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” — Deana Raybourn, ‘Silent in the Grave’
I’m partial to the opening line of ‘Gift of the Unmage’, the first book in my WORLDWEAVERS series which has just been reissued:
“You smell angry,” Aunt Zoe said as she walked in through the door, sniffing in Thea’s direction like a hound dog scenting prey.”
My husband in his role as my editor has definitely had an influence on me.
I just wrote the line: “something very much like sardonic amusement” – and I clearly heard his voice behind me saying “weasel word!”
He wasn’t behind me; he was in his own office on another floor.
Nevertheless, I said, “yes sir,” and erased “something very much like”. It was sardonic amusement, dammit. And I will state it categorically.
Problems Only Introverts Will Understand
#19. This! Oh, yes. THIS.
Most of the rest of it, too. But #19 nails it.
Highbrow Authors Who Gave Acting a Try
Truman Capote as Lionel Twain in Murder by Death (1976)…
Can you tell when authors are writing for kids?
As writers such as James Joyce, Jeanette Winterson and Salman Rushdie show, you’re never too big to write for children. But what happens to prose style when they get down with the kids?
Vadzim Khudabets has taken bits from over 50 sci-fi movies—some good (The Dark Knight, Sunshine), some bad (The Last Airbender, Prince of Persia), and a lot in-between—and made the trailer for Eterna, the most epic, apocalyptic, explode-y movie to never exist.
I am seldom reduced to one-word responses, but I am by this site. The
word is WOW!
Websites for book lovers
Readers, writers, publishers, editors, and everybody in between are tweeting, pinning, Facebooking and blogging about their favorite books.
The 25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers — (26, counting mine)
The NPR book club for young readers asked listeners for their favorite books for kids age 9-14. Several hundred titles were offered and a panel reduced that to 100 must-reads.
The final 100 has a little bit of everything: tales of trying to fit in, escaping to magical lands, facing prejudice, coming of age and fighting to survive. There are animal stories, pioneer sagas, science-fiction adventures and, of course, beloved classics.
There are thousands of abandoned big box stores sitting empty all over America, including hundreds of former Walmart stores. One of the Walmarts, however, has been reincarnated to a higher form — a library.
The store in McAllen, Texas, has been turned into a 124,500-square-foot public library, the largest single-floor public library in the United States.
7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding
“Worldbuilding is an essential part of any work of fiction. But especially for science fiction or fantasy, it’s the lifeblood of storytelling. But when worldbuilding fails, it can wreck your whole story, and leave your characters feeling pointless. Here are seven deadly sins of worldbuilding.” — Charlie Jane Anders
A flight simulator in the bedroom
Laurent Aigon, 40, from Lacanau in France, has spent the last five years collecting and buying components from around the world in order to put together a Boeing 737 flight simulator — in his son’s bedroom.
The answer is — ROMANCE.
“A whopping 81 percent of those surveyed listed romance as their favorite genre with mystery coming in a very distant second at almost 5 percent. According to the Romance Writers of America, romance was the top-performing category on the major bestseller lists in 2012.”
The Decline and Fall of the Book Cover
“Getting to design your own book cover is the sort of ultimately maddening power that probably shouldn’t be entrusted to vain mortals. It’s a little like getting to choose your own face…”
Having done a couple, I can’t argue with that — although the cover I did for my ‘Houses in Africa‘ has garnered some nice comments.
And speaking of covers… (NSFW)
“We … this … we just don’t know.”
Great Science Fiction Stories by Women
Women have been writing good science fiction since the beginnings of the genre but are too often underrepresented in ‘best’ lists.
“The list below contains 100 pieces of short fiction by women writers, published between 1927 and 2012. Each author appears only once.”