These are amazingly beautiful. I have to post the hippocampus out of loyalty, but I think my favorite as a painting is the crab stomatogastric ganglion. (Dunn has a PhD in neuroscience from Penn!)
I am still trying to get my head around the implications that the British government’s equivalent of the NSA probably holds the world’s largest collection of pornographic videos, that the stash is probably contaminated with seriously illegal material, and their own personnel can in principle be charged and convicted of a strict liability offence if they try to do their job. It does, however, suggest to me that the savvy Al Qaida conspirators [yes, I know this is a contradiction in terms] of the next decade will hold their covert meetings in the nude, on Yahoo! video chat, while furiously masturbating.
– Charles Stross, “Rule 34, meet Kafka“
Yesterday I did a little bit of field work for THE EIGHTH KING at the Princeton University art museum, which has an amazing collection of (among other things) Chinese art:
I really enjoyed Joanna Penn’s recent interview with Ashleigh Gardner of WattPad–enough, actually, that I set up an account and started to check out the service. The tl;dr for people who don’t listen to Joanna’s podcast: WattPad is a social network set up around serializing fiction, which makes it a little like a mashup of Facebook and blogging. If Ashleigh is to be believed, it’s growing like kudzu and has a kind of shockingly favorable reader:writer ratio (about 9:1). You can’t charge anyone for the read, so you have to figure out how you’re going to convert readers to sales on your e-publishing platform(s) of choice, but the line from reading free fiction to buying fiction is a lot clearer than the line from, say, following someone on Twitter. That makes it a viable option for making a series starter permanently free, and so it all seems pretty interesting.
I’d say they do the core things right. The story interface on the mobile app is readable–if you don’t care about the social aspect of it, you can pretty much pretend you’re in your Kindle app. It’s not so great on the PC, which is just to say it’s cluttered in the way you’d expect from a social network. But who reads on their computer anyway? The problem with the mobile app is that some basic things are hard; e.g., there’s no way back to the home screen, so if you’ve just binge-searched a bunch of authors, you have to go back through them (or maybe quit the app?) if you want to do anything except search. I imagine these problems will get sanded down in time.
One thing that’s really surprised me: I’ve generally been underwhelmed by the quality of self-published fiction on the major e-publishing platforms. In my highly subjective judgment and not compendious experience, well-respected authors who are making a living at it seem to be hovering around the 50th percentile of quality relative to traditionally published work. (I haven’t read Joanna’s work. It’s also worth noting that I tend to start with the first book in a series, written almost by definition when the author is least experienced. So some of the people I sniff at might be quite skilled now.) Anyway, I’ve already found a couple of titles on WattPad whose prose really seems to be a cut above–and I’m not talking about Cory Doctorow or Margaret Atwood or people you’ve heard of (Brandon Sanderson is also on the site, offering WARBREAKER for free). I haven’t gotten deeply enough into either one to see if the stories work at higher levels, but solid writing at the sentence level is not something I’m used to in self-publishing, and I’m glad to find it so easily. And free!
So anyway. I’ll probably put something short up, just to see what happens. You know, in my copious free time.
My co-creator, Mike LaRiccia, has put our 2008 comic, SATORI, on Comixology for $1.99. Since he mentioned this to me, I’ve just joined Comixology—I can’t say much about the PC version of the app, since it seems my information hasn’t cross-pollinated from the mobile app to the website, but the mobile reader is beautiful and there are a ton of issue #1s of great comics for free. So, even if you don’t want to read SATORI, and even—especially!—if you don’t like reading comics, I would strongly recommend joining Comixology and perusing the free issues. Here, I’ll even help you out with a few pointers:
- SAGA: Fantasy space opera family drama. Seriously, do not even consider clicking away from this post before you download it.
- THE WALKING DEAD: The state of the art in zombie survival horror; inspiration for the AMC show of the same name.
- BONE: Reasonably funny screwball comedy, evolving over the course of 1000 pages or so into beautifully drawn and written (yet still funny) epic fantasy.
- PLANETARY: A superhero team of fantastic archaeologists, striving to keep the world strange.
- RASL: Dimension-warping soap opera slash conspiracy thriller slash love letter to Nikola Tesla.
- WANTED: The logical, horrible extension of superhero power fantasies; inspiration for the really pretty different James McAvoy/Angelina Jolie movie of the same name.
Do you remember the girls on the slave boat, up on the lake? When I think about what I have done, I think of the plan they sculpted from whispers out on the dark water. The slavers had bought the police, of course, and the girls themselves were part of the currency; but that meant the girls could whisper to the police as they did to one another, and if the police learned something valuable enough, they might do a favor even for a slave. We listened to them so long that we grew parched and drank muddy water from the lake shore, and watched the kiss they shared, and then crept back to camp, and a few weeks later the Dwarf Island sting was all over the papers and the entire Shore Force was bathing in gold and glory.
I like to think the wit and bravery of those whispering girls bought their freedom. But, even more than that, I like to think that freedom went to the dimmer, more timid children, who could not buy it but were owed it anyway.
To me, this explains what I have done. More likely, the turns of mind that bring someone so sharply up against her trade and country are not so cleanly drawn. But I am satisfied.
(From the story in progress, tentatively titled “Continents of Summer, Firmaments of Sun”)