Science, Fiction, and points in between
Bruce Sterling's New Manifesto
Bruce Sterling has launched a new ''technocultural art movement'' called Viridian in a manifesto with a target date of January 3, 2000. From an item in today's Salon online magazine: ''Greenhouse warming, says Sterling, is undeniable to all save fools and fat cats, but previous "green" environmental attempts to change the world have failed. Sterling's answer is to concoct a new esthetic -- one that values healthy design, eschews 20th century-style waste and flourishes through distributed, collective, networked development.'' The full Manifesto of January 3, 2000 is available at the Bruce Sterling Online Index.
(Tue 27 Oct 98)
Ian McEwan has won this year's Booker Prize, the most prestigious literary award in Britain, for his novel Amsterdam. (The link is to the UK edition; the book has not yet been published in the US.) Several of McEwan's previous works are of crossover appeal to SF, fantasy, and horror readers, including his novels The Cement Garden and The Child in Time and a 1989 collection, In Between the Sheets. His most recent novel published in the US is Enduring Love.
(Tue 27 Oct 98)
Writing for Hollywood
A study released Monday reveals that writing jobs in Hollywood are increasingly going to young, white, male writers. In 1997 over 70% of TV and film writers under age 30 had jobs, while less than 33% of those over age 50 had been employed. And while there have been gains in employment of women and minorities over the past 15 years, these gains have been very slight.
(Here's the report on the Writers Guild of America site. This link to the Los Angeles Times article about it should work for a while. )
(Tue 27 Oct 98)
According to this Publishers Weekly article major publishers including Bertelsmann, HarperCollins, Penguin Putnam, Simon & Schuster, and Time Warner Books have joined forces with Microsoft to support development of an open standard for the format and delivery of electronic files for eBooks. The standard will be based on the HTML and XML format languages used for web pages, and will support both conventional PCs and the new eBooks just coming onto market.
Meanwhile, Peanut Press, a content provider for PalmPilots, went 'live' yesterday, October 26th. Users can download titles directly from the website, including Greg Bear's Slant, David Farland's The Runelords, and several novels by Robert Silverberg.
(Tue 27 Oct 98)
Physical confirmation of the fifth dimension may be just around the corner, according to this article in New Scientist.
(Tue 27 Oct 98)
Allah Is Good. Technology Is Bad. Visit Our Web Site reads the headline of this New York Times article the radical Islamic sect Taliban, whose religious police confiscate and destroy televisions, playing cards, and computers, and then throw their owners in jail -- and which runs a website, Taliban Online, to promote its views.
(Tue 27 Oct 98)
Jonathan Lethem is doing movie reviews for Salon.
Douglas R. Hofstadter writes about changing social attitudes toward science and the increasing gullibility of the general public about paranormal phenomena like ESP, UFOs, etc., in this article from Science magazine. He contrasts the approach to paranormal themes in a current Goosebumps book by R. L. Stine with the debunking approach of an (unnamed but fondly remembered) juvenile fantasy from the 1960s.
A special issue of Civilization magazine, guest edited by Jaron Lanier, includes Stewart Brand on the Digital Dark Age, Kathy Brew on ''feelies'', Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge disputing E. O. Wilson, a review by Ursula K. Le Guin, pieces about cyberdolls and miracles, and more. (All pieces are online.)
(Fri 23 Oct 98)
Salon, Oct. 21st: Greg Costikyan responds to an Oct. 8th article that proclaimed ''immersive reality'' games like Myst and Riven a dead end, impressive to critics but uninteresting to die-hard gamers. (Myst was on Entertainment Weekly's list of 100 all-time best works of science fiction.)
Also, 21st Log notes that Paramount is helping fund the SETI@Home project, to the tune of $50,000, and will promote the project on its Star Trek website.
Salon Dear Mr. Blue is Garrison Keillor's advice column about love and writing.
(Wed 21 Oct 98)
Salon: An article by Robert Glatzer on how to read movie credits: the difference between ''and'' and ''&''; what gaffers and best boys are (''Don't mistake odd titles for lack of skill. These are lifelong professionals who do extremely difficult jobs quickly and with very few mistakes; millions of dollars -- and sometimes the safety of actors and other crew members -- ride on how well they work. They apprentice for years before they get to take responsibility for a sizable production.'').
Salon: An article by James Poniewozik about writing on the web; is there any difference from writing offline? Maybe there was for a while, but the trend has been for websites to ape the print media they sought to replace. After all, ''there's never been any better way to flatter webpreneurs than to say they oughtta be in print.''
Slate: Culturebox [accessible by subscribers only] considers why publishers are afraid of hard numbers. Soundscan, the company that tracks music sales, has created a similar system for books, Bookscan, but publishers aren't interested. Reasons: big chains are doing it already; editors don't want it revealed how few copies of their serious (pet) projects actually sell.
The New York Times: The National Book Awards finalists have been released. They include Tom Wolfe's new novel, A Man in Full, that won't be in stores until November 10th. (The judges read candidates over the summer, some in galleys.) Also this CNN article, but it doesn't include finalists in all categories.
(Fri 16 Oct 98)
Half the Best Are SF?
Modern Library has officially closed its Readers' Poll for best English-language novels published since 1900 and posted the final tally on its website. Almost half -- 46 by Locus Online's count -- of the titles on the Readers' 100 Best list are SF, fantasy, or horror, including 7 of the top 10, with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged in first position.
The Readers' Poll was instituted in the wake of criticism of Modern Library's own 100 Best list (on the same website), assembled by a board of authors, historians, and critics. Of the ten titles on the board's list that were SF or fabulist, only seven made the readers' poll (omitting works by Nabokov, Doctorow, and Rushdie).
The top 10 titles on the Readers' Poll include 4 titles by Ayn Rand and 3 titles by L. Ron Hubbard (the other three in the top 10 are by Tolkien, Harper Lee, and George Orwell). When initial tallying of the Readers' Poll suggested repeated voting by constituencies for particular authors, Modern Library implemented a registration procedure intended to discourage such stuffing of the ballot box; the procedure does not seem to have made much difference.
Robert A. Heinlein has a remarkable 7 titles on the list (ranking from 15th place to 88th), but Charles de Lint has the record for most titles by any author, with 8, ranking from 36th place to 96th. Ayn Rand and William Faulkner have 4 titles each; L. Ron Hubbard and Nevil Shute have 3 each; James Joyce, John Irving, John Fowles, Robertson Davies, Cormac McCarthy, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, George Orwell, Thomas Pynchon, and Ray Bradbury, 2 each.
(Wed 14 Oct 98)
Online Publication and Promotion
Short stories for commuters
Ayn Rand land
Big switches (Marvin Minsky)
Fateful dates (Y2K)
100 best novels -- update