November 30th, 2014
Neil Gaiman Reads "Bad Neil Gaiman" Stories. Be sure to stick around for the last story (which Gaiman declares to be his favourite.)
[Via The Millions]
Neil Gaiman Reads "Bad Neil Gaiman" Stories. Be sure to stick around for the last story (which Gaiman declares to be his favourite.)
[Via The Millions]
Paul Ford's One Day, I Will Die on Mars:
I am living a nightmare before lunchtime. First, the sofa delivery people gave me a window of 7 AM to 7 PM, so I'm a prisoner in my own apartment. Second, worse, I am out of cat food, and in consequence my beloved companion Squee has, under the duress of feline starvation, started a brutal ankle-biting campaign. I do not blame him. For Squee, bless his tortoiseshell heart, is a Cat Most Special with Issues of Digestion, and, to maintain his sleek coat and sterling disposition, must only ever eat cat food of great expense, and I am out of it. Simple, you say! Just buy some food! But I cannot leave this abode for fear of missing the sofa. Also: The very smallest bag of said food is a full eighteen ounces too heavy for micro-delivery, which means hand-delivery on a major surge day. And so I have to spend All The Money to get cat food hand-Ubered or risk not obtaining my sofa. My ankles are suffering, friends. I look forward to the healing balm of your supportive replies.
I am Uber. I searched along the many predefined vertices within my system and I found the exact cat food at many warehouses within the New York City area. I knew my node of destination and many potential nodes of departure; I needed now to find an optimal revenue path. […]
I didn't take her voice for myself. I want to set the record straight on that, right up front. People got a lot of crazy notions in their heads, the way the story got around, and that was one of them.
I'm not saying I never did an evil deed – anyone who says they haven't is lying through their teeth – but I didn't take her voice for myself. I didn't need it. I've got a perfectly fine voice, thank you, trained by whale divas, and it's mine. […]
Robin Sloan contemplates The Moby-Dick variations:
Where does one novel end and another one begin?
Courtesy of Jo Walton, Joyful and Triumphant (St Zenobius and the Aliens):
It's a bit of a cliche, but the first thing I thought when I came to Heaven was that I didn't expect aliens. It's a cliche because it's the first thing we all think — aliens are a surprise. And what a delightful surprise! Welcome, everyone, whatever your planet of origin. Joy to you! Heaven welcomes you. My name is Zenobius, and I am from Earth. Earth is a perfectly ordinary planet. We had a perfectly standard Incarnation. If we're known for anything it's our rather splendid Renaissance, which I'm proud to say has been artistically quite influential, but although that happened in my own city of Florence I can't take any credit for it because it happened centuries after my death and I didn't really participate. […]
[Via Making Light / Particles]
A Twitter bug report pivots into a spooky little science fiction story:
Subject: Twitter API returning results that do not respect arrow of time.
This will take some explaining.
It started as an afternoon hacking project with your Twitter API. […]
Location Murder rate Midsomer County (assuming its population equivalent to Oxfordshire, where it's filmed) 32 per million (average of 2.6 murders an episode, eight episodes a year – so 21 people murdered each year). So Midsomer's crime rate equivalent to Chile or Turkey) Oxfordshire 10 per million Honduras (world's highest murder rate) 910 per million Cabot Cove (setting for CBS's Murder, She Wrote – pop: 3,500) 1,490 per million
Granted she always managed to find some poor devil to take the fall, but you don't end up in the vicinity of so many murders by coincidence.
Seriously, the article makes some good points about how little murder as depicted on TV resembles the crime in real life.
Courtesy of Maureen Dowd: President Obama seeks post-debate tips from a master…
The lights from the presidential motorcade illuminate a New Hampshire farmhouse at night in the sprawling New England landscape. JED BARTLET steps out onto his porch as the motorcade slows to a stop.
BARTLET They told you to make sure you didn't seem condescending, right? They told you, "First, do no harm," and in your case that means don't appear condescending, and you bought it. 'Cause for the American right, condescension is the worst crime you can commit.
OBAMA What's your suggestion?
BARTLET Appear condescending. Now it comes naturally to me -
OBAMA I know.
BARTLET It's a gift, but I'm likable and you're likable enough. Thirty straight months of job growth – blown off. G.M. showing record profits – unmentioned. "Governor, would you still let Detroit go bankrupt as you urged us to do four years ago?" – unasked. […]
BARTLET [… That] was quite a display of hard-nosed, fiscal conservatism when he slashed one one-hundredth of 1 percent from the federal budget by canceling "Sesame Street" and "Downton Abbey." I think we're halfway home. Mr. President, your prep for the next debate need not consist of anything more than learning to pronounce three words: "Governor, you're lying." Let's replay some of Wednesday night's more jaw-dropping visits to the Land Where Facts Go to Die. "I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of a scale you're talking about."
OBAMA The Tax Policy Center analysis of your proposal for a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut in all federal income tax rates, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, the estate tax and other reductions, says it would be a $5 trillion tax cut.
BARTLET In other words …
OBAMA You're lying, Governor. […]
[Via The Morning News]
Every age gets the Holmes it deserves.
[Via Making Light (Particles)]
The following paper was posted to the usenet newsgroup, rec.arts.sf.written, by a person posting under the name "Sea Wasp". The circumstances whereby he acquired a copy of the paper were not related. The matter is under investigation by They Who Shall Not Be Named.
(the following is a transcript of a paper presented by Eukonidor at the Fifth Age Conference on Arisia to the delegation from Middle-Earth)
THE SYMMETRY of CORRUPTION:
An Examination of the History of
the One Ring subsequent to the
"War of the Ring", and the
Implications Thereof for the
Future of Civilization
As is well known, at the conclusion of the Third Age of Middle-Earth, the One Ruling Ring fell into the Cracks of Doom and was destroyed, obliterating the works directly tied to the One and undoing the Dark Lord Sauron entirely.
Unfortunately, that which is "well-known" can often be incorrect. Subsequent events of a disquieting nature demonstrate all too conclusively that in point of fact not only was the One not destroyed, but it was also taken up by a being more than capable of utilizing it for its own purposes. […]
While I was checking my archives to see if I'd linked to this already, I came across a post from almost exactly nine years ago about alternate versions of The Lord of the Rings that's worth a look if this is your sort of thing.1 Be sure to read the comments, which added another couple of links to still more worthwhile material.
Soon after joining the Breakfast Club, Claire realised there was more to life than pearl earrings and skiing trips to Colorado. Where was the reward in having life delivered to you on a silver platter?
Enter John Bender. While Bender had started off as simply a grab for attention from her quibbling parents, it soon became apparent that he was much more than that. Reforming John Bender would become Claire's personal Fix-Her-Upper, the challenge that would bring fulfilment to her otherwise vacuous life. And she loved him for it.
Despite initial misgivings about Bender, Claire's conservative parents came round to the young man, admiring his 'organic entrepreneurial spirit' and it wasn't long before the couple was happily married. Claire studied PR and encouraged John to enrol in a community college course in business studies. When he wavered with his software design idea, she pushed him forward.
She was also successful in her own right. Upon graduating, she entered into a big-name PR firm and managed several big accounts during the early '90s, including for Sega, Pepsi Max, and Janet Jackson. She voted Clinton in '92, purely out of respect for his rapport with the common man, but swung right in 2000, under the influence of her husband's anti-tax, small government crusade.
By 2008, Claire's talent for PR had started to get noticed by the right people in Washington. When she received a call to help out a struggling Hilary Clinton in the race against Obama to secure the Democratic nomination, Claire couldn't refuse. That fall she came up with her best idea yet – the infamous 'red phone' ad.
Despite Clinton's failed run at the presidency, Claire stayed in Washington and it wasn't long before she had made the seamless transition from Clinton to the other side of politics, recruited by the Koch brothers to work on strategies for undermining the Obama administration in the lead-up to 2012.
The focus of the site seems to be on characters from US and Australian TV, which leaves something of a gap in the market. What would Detective Inspector Jack Regan have made of members of the Met being bussed up to the Yorkshire coalfields to put striking miners in their place? Would Tom Good, having presumably ended the 1970s as a classic wooly Liberal, have ended up in the Green Party, or been seduced by New Labour? Would Alan B'Stard still be a Tory?1
For any bookmarking site, the fan subculture is valuable because it makes such heavy and creative use of tagging, and because they are great collaborators. I can't think of a better way to stress-test a site then to get people filling it with Inception fanfic. You will get thoughtful, carefully-formatted bug reports; and if you actually fix something someone might knit you a sweater. And please witness the 50 page spec, complete with code samples, table of contents, summary, tutorial, and flawless formatting, the community produced in about two days after I asked them in a single tweet what features they would want to see in Pinboard*. These people do not waste time.
* See also: this.
Courtesy of McSweeney's: P.G. Wodehouse's American Psycho…
The affair of the inferior business card is one which casts rather a gloom over the otherwise illustrious annals of Bateman family history. The fault, if it comes to that, was entirely that of Paul Owen, and the solution was, as ever, down to Jean, the finest secretary for which a man could wish. […]
[…] Almost by accident he had stumbled into doing custom sprites for homebrew games. He was popular. He started to expand his skills, staying up all night turning a blue panel into a weathered sci-fi ship wall. His vivid imagination was an asset, not something that needed to be controlled.
Two friends of his, people he worked with on other games started a company almost absent-mindedly. It was senior year of High School and he was nearly expelled for absenteeism. His mom died, car crash, and his Dad retreated into his model trains in the basement, remote as the moon. On the day he was supposed to go to Prom, the three teenagers released their little exploration/adventure game: Sled.
It wasn't a hit. It was a phenomenon.
He didn't go to college. What was the point when he was pulling in more then his dad with job offers ankle-deep. The other guys dealt with the business end, incorporating and buying office save. Kablooey! Games was the first independent game company to make the cover of Forbes Magazine. […]
Diss capital: Karl Marx, in London for a book signing, stumbles off the Eurostar and straight into an interview with Paul Mason at a café in King's Cross.
I've prepared this whole historical decompression briefing for him: the match girls' strike, the petrol engine, cinema, Lenin, the Warsaw Pact, the John Betjeman statue. But he stops me short: "I know, I know all about it. You think we don't have Wikipedia up there?"
"You see everything?"
"Better than you! We see it without sensuous historical experience. It's like watching a slow-motion car crash. Just wait till you get there: it will restore your faith in the objective forces of history."
Novelist Blake Morrison on the cost of quoting lyrics:
I still have the invoices. For one line of "Jumpin' Jack Flash": Â£500. For one line of Oasis's "Wonderwall": Â£535. For one line of "When I'm Sixty-four": Â£735. For two lines of "I Shot the Sheriff" (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): Â£1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael's "Fastlove" came in under Â£200. Plus VAT. Total cost: Â£4,401.75. A typical advance for a literary novel by a first-time author would barely meet the cost.
The really sad thing about this article is the way Morrison pivots from bemoaning the price he was charged for quoting a few words of a song lyric in his novel to his conclusion that because some people supposedly argue that authors should publish their work online free of charge "I mustn't begrudge the Bob Marley estate."
The real point isn't that the only alternative to the current intellectual property regime is a world where nobody can get paid for creative work, but rather that under the current arrangements some rights-holders1 are just taking the piss and deserve all the scorn and derision they get.
SPECWEAPS CLASSIFICATION SAPPHIRE VORPAL JULIET POTUS EYES ONLY NSA/CANTRIP REF TAG JXJFF44890-SDKJA88-UUTDD8-1MMQOSU CODE GROUP NOVEMBER
XXX XXX XXX
Mr. President, this briefing is for your eyes only and must, as per Executive Order PEI-43Y (Secret) be read within twenty-four (24) hours of your assuming the office of President of the United States of America.
This is a familiarization briefing intended to acquaint you with the current balance of Archean power between the several parties of the Dresden/Yalta accords.
HISTORICAL INTRO FOLLOWS:
This briefing assumes you have read Document WEAPS-D/Y-MISK-112 (Miskatonic University Journal of Natural Sciences, 4Q 1927: "Some thoughts on the potential of harnessing Shoggoth plasmids in a controlled system," Dyer, Danforth, et al). […]
In 1929, representatives of the major powers met at Dresden, Germany to discuss the potential for misuse of various Great Old Ones specimens then known to exist around the planet. Subjects LAKE/1 through LAKE/8 were unavailable for study. The Soviet Army admitted to the discovery and charting of subject BALTIC/ALPHA discovered amongst ruins on the Baltic seabed. The British government described various finds in the Palestine and Arabian deserts. It was agreed at this time that any and all weaponization of these specimens (SIERRA PAPA) or any technology derived from them (KILO TANGO) was expressly forbidden under the terms of the Dresden Accords until and unless all signing powers agreed at a later date to nullify the treaty. The signatory powers to those accords were: The United States, Great Britain on behalf of the Commonwealth, The Soviet Union, Weimar Germany, Imperial Japan, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Argentina and Chile.
Wait until you get to the story revealing the real reason Nixon went to China.
2. You are under contract to your master for three wishes. Your master decides to use his/her last wish to wish for more wishes. How do you respond?
Candidate B: Here's the one thing the public knows about being a genie: You make…wishes…happen. Yeah, OK, there's more to it – subtle gradations of the Necroid Plane and speaking the language of fire – but no one gives a flying wank. Now, I ask myself: How badly do I want to serve? If you want a reputation as a closer, you make it look like you shit wishes, pardon my French. It's about optics. You can't will an extra wish into being? You go out and make it happen with your two hands and your sweat. Your master wants his own personal flying dragon? You find a giant albatross, slap on some metallic paint, and saddle her up. Not big enough to ride? Get five albatrosses, stitch them together, and you got your master a dragon with five heads. ABGW. Always Be Granting Wishes.
While I'm on the subject of adaptations: should the Harry Potter books have been adapted for TV?
In the wake of Watchmen finally making it to the big screen, Wired wonders which comics and books are genuinely 'Unfilmable'?
I really don't understand why they think that Grant Morrison's The Invisibles will turn up on TV one day. Too long, too weird. Then there's that whole 'The Mayan Calendar ends in 2012 and so does this story' angle: wouldn't it feel a bit silly to show that story in 2013?1