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Cory Doctorow, Aaron Swartz and Homeland

doctorowCory Doctorow‘s article on Tor/Forge echoes the remarks he’s been making on his soon to conclude book tour in support of Homeland.

I think it’s great that he’s focusing so much on what happened with Aaron Swartz, and also talking about the issues of depression and suicide, though I could wish that there was enough time on his tour to also talk more about the book, which is great, but also a slightly different proposition from Little Brother, the book for which it is ostensibly a sequel.

Homeland seems to take place earlier in time/history, and in an world very much more like our own than Little Brother, which was a cool, near-future dystopian reflection on trends in technology and the “war against terrorism.”

Homeland reads much more like one of Cory’s (excellent) articles or op ed pieces than did Little Brother – or any of his other fiction. It practically feels like non-fiction, and that’s both good and bad. It isn’t as satisfying a read, purely as a novel, as Little Brother, For the Win or Pirate Cinema. On the other hand, it’s extremely satisfying and effective as a political and social intervention. I want to go out and find Joe Noss and work on his campaign. I’m much more attentive to Alameda County’s attempt to buy drones than I might have been. I’ve been thinking about the issues it raises.

That’s great: Cory knows what he is talking about, and the issues that he is addressing are vital ones. But I still wanted a bit more fiction than I got. And along those lines, I certainly feel like the tween girl in the audience for Cory’s reading at The Booksmith on Haight Street last week: is there going to be a sequel to Pirate Cinema? I love Cory’s articles, op ed pieces, and his activism. I also love his novels. We were lucky over the past year to get three novels from Cory in pretty rapid succession: Pirate Cinema, Rapture of the Nerds, and Homeland. And based on his remarks about what he’s working on, we might continue to see something like that output in the future.

Filed under: Literature, Tech, ,

A Conversation with Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross

Wow – two of my favorite science fiction and technology writers in conversation…

Filed under: Literature,

World Book Night

What a terrific idea: on one night, people around the world go around giving books to strangers:

Become a Giver for World Book Night 2012 | DIESEL, A Bookstore.

World Book Night 2012!  The idea is that on one night, throughout America, 1 million books will be given away by hand by tens of thousands of people.  Authors and publishers have enthusiastically agreed to print over 30 thousand copies of 30 different titles, to be delivered to pick-up locations throughout the country — mostly independent bookstores and libraries.  Individual readers will sign up to be Givers who agree to hand deliver 20 copies of a title of their choice to strangers in locations outside of their homes, their bookstores, and their libraries.  It may be a park, a prison, a school, a hospital, an intersection, an airplane, a bus.

The first World Book Night was held in the UK last year, and the idea obviously really caught on:  this year it is being held in the UK, Ireland and the United States.  The goal is to have 50,000 people hand out 20 copies of a book – for a total of one million books given away in the one evening.

The process is simple: you sign up with your personal details, and pick the three books you would most like to hand out from the list of available titles, then say a bit about who you want to give them to and why you want to give out those books.  The teams behind World Book Night will select (somehow) from among the applicants, hopefully so as to maximize the spread of books.  Books will be delivered to local bookstores for pick-up by the selected applicants.

I picked as my three choices (in order) The Book Thief, The Hunger Games and Housekeeping with the goal of distributing these to street kids and young people in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood.  The Book Thief was just too obvious a title for a free book program to pass up – but fortunately it’s also a great read.

Go, sign up, pick your own top titles to give to strangers.  It could be the beginning of all sorts of things – a friendship, someone’s love of literature, a social movement…

Filed under: Literature, ,

Conversation with Sir Terry Pratchett

“I’m fascinated by the way folklore is entwined with truth in people’s lives”
— Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett in conversation with Jacqueline Simpson:

Sir Terry Pratchett and Dr Jacqueline Simpson met many years ago at a book signing in Worthing and have since worked together as co-authors. Jacqueline is a member of the Folklore Editorial Board and is also on the Committee of The Folklore Society, of which Sir Terry is a lifetime member.

On 26th August 2010 at the Annual Discworld Convention in Birmingham, Sir Terry and Jacqueline sat down to record a discussion on the topic of folklore and its significance to them…

A three part podcast is available on the website for the journal Folklore, as well as an excerpt of the conversation and also a transcript of the discussion which contains links to related articles.

Filed under: Literature, , , ,

20 Classic Opening Lines In Books

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” ANNA KARENINA (1877), Leo Tolstoy  (via 20 Classic Opening Lines In Books |

I don’t know if I necessarily agree with all of Entertainment Weekly‘s picks for classics, but who could argue with that opening from Anna Karenina?

What opening lines would you pick as your “twenty best/favorite opening lines”? Conversely, what are the opening lines of your twenty favorite books? What’s the opening line of the book(s) you’re reading right now? Mine is:

“Inchmale hailed a cab for her, the kind that had always been black, when she’d first known this city.”

Interesting to think about what we know from first lines, from this first line. That we are—probably—in London (with those big black taxis), but what else? A certain tone perhaps—wistful maybe, somewhat detached and observant. Hard for me to be sure now what might be just in that line, as opposed to what I know from all the subsequent lines I’ve read.

It might be interesting to collect the opening lines of my books – the ones I’ve read, that I own, the ones I love. Even the ones I’ve lost—the collected opening lines like the ghost of my former library.

What would I do with a collection of opening lines? I can imagine alphabetizing my books not by author or by title but by those first lines, as is done in the index of collections of poetry. Or creating some kind of taxonomy of opening lines and using that as an organizing principle… An exercise in collectorship, connoisseurship, like Rob Fleming organizing his record collection by the order in which he bought them.

Not the Rob Fleming who is a Canadian politician, nor the other one who is an architect. The one from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.  I googled the name and those other ones came up first. How many of you are there on Google? How many of you are like you? One of me lived in the same small town I used to live in. Another worked with Macintosh computers, like me, here in the Bay Area, like me. My doppleganger, but younger. A younger me. I should call him up and warn him about the rocky years ahead.

Filed under: Autobiography, Literature

Lord of the Rings Re-Read on

Lord of the Rings Re-Read: is delighted to present Kate Nepveu’s re-read of the entirety of The Lord of the Rings. In addition to re-reading the books themselves, Ms. Nepveu also sometimes examines critical essays on the subject of Tolkien, which appear at certain points in the re-read… (via

I missed this when it started – back in February of 2009. Kate is now well into the final volume, The Return of the King. I’m thinking I might try catching up, hopefully getting even well before the conclusion.  The last few times I’ve read The Lord of the Rings, I’ve tended to stop before the Hobbits return to the Shire. I always found the ending too sad.  But maybe with company…

Filed under: Literature, , ,

What I Read Today: “Silver Linings”

I’ve downloaded and read a dozen short stories from over the last week. My favorites so far have probably been the two by Charles Stross, whose “Laundry” series (eg, this) and novel Halting State I really, really like. But this one was great, by an author whose name I’ve seen around a lot lately but had never read before.

Silver Linings by Tim Pratt and Thom Tenery.

Cloudmining is a rough business at the best of times, mostly because everyone on the ground wants to kill you, but I had more particular problems…

(via / Science fiction and fantasy.)

Filed under: Literature, What I Read Today,

More Sequential Art and Sci Fi from

My Grandmother’s House – by Cassandra Diaz.

(via / Science fiction and fantasy.)

Filed under: Literature, Pop Culture,

They told us that the future would be better than this.

A Softer World
By Emily Horne and Joey Comeau

As part of its original sequential art offerings, each month will be bringing you a new A Softer World strip, by the inimitable Joey Comeau and Emily Horne.

There are years worth of classic strips here, but these are ours. For a look at the previous A Softer World run on, please go here.

Copyright © 2010 by Emily Horne and Joey Comeau

(via / Science fiction and fantasy.)

Filed under: Literature, Pop Culture,

Longing, we say

It would never have occurred to me to get a line from a poem like this as a tattoo – I  was leaning more towards a stylized turkey vulture – but this woman was not the only one who had the idea, at least according to the comments in flickr.

The poem from which this line comes, “Meditation at Lagunitas,” is by Robert Hass, a professor at UC Berkeley and former Poet Laureate of the United States. It originally appeared in Praise (1979) – which is my favorite book of poetry, not least because of this poem:

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

Filed under: Literature,



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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.


What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.



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