A more aptly named book I cannot imagine.
The Sci-Fi channel just announced a six episode miniseries based on Neal Stephenson’s book, The Diamond Age.
Diamond Age, based on Neal Stephenson’s best-selling novel The Diamond Age: Or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, is a six-hour miniseries from Clooney and fellow executive producer Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Productions.
Hopefully they won’t screw this up.
Link to Sci-Fi’s announcement.
R.A. Wilson has died.
Check it out – a new release of all the contents of MAD magazine plus tons of extras (including some great artist interviews) – all for $49.99 – Cheap! The best part is the whole thing is a series of linked PDFs that don’t appear to be limited in their ability to print or make copies of on your local drive.
Includes everything from October 1952 through December 2005. One thing I didn’t realize is that they used to accept advertising – way before they bowed to financial pressures and started including it in recent years. Weird.
Link to Amazon’s page for it.
Over on Salon there is an interview (account or ad-watching required) with Richard Dawkins, author of the classic book The Selfish Gene. Among other things, he explains why America is slipping back into the Dark Ages – an idea with which I strongly agree. Check this out:
Still, so many people resist believing in evolution. Where does the resistance come from?
It comes, I’m sorry to say, from religion. And from bad religion. You won’t find any opposition to the idea of evolution among sophisticated, educated theologians. It comes from an exceedingly retarded, primitive version of religion, which unfortunately is at present undergoing an epidemic in the United States. Not in Europe, not in Britain, but in the United States.
China MiÃ©ville has had some great books in the past: Perdido Street Station was very good, and his imagination and ability to create whole consistent worlds where his stories take place is unbelievable. However, this new book in this New Crobuzon universe leaves something to be desired. The story just seems to limp along, held up by the non-stop creation of new and weird sights the characters encounter. This gets really tiring after a while. It’s just page after page of “Gee! Lookee there!” type stuff that’s of little value to the reader or the plot.
He is also holding on to his ridiculous thesaurus fetish. In his previous books, you’d occasionally come across a word dropped casually into a sentence that would send you scrambling toward the dictionary. Not necessarily a bad thing, but they were used in contexts that made them seem out of place – like he discovered the word one day and purposefully created a situation where he could insert it into the story. I thought that he’d grow out of that. But unfortunately, it continues and just drags the book further into the toilet.
The plot centers around a group of characters seeking out the “Iron Council,” a rogue people with a locomotive that continually travels on a set of rails that are constantly pulled up and put down. It is a great premise, but most of the book is taken up by tedious travelogues of the various protagonists, again filled in by random encounters with the fantastic. This is mind-numbing stuff. By the “climax” of the novel, you’ve given up caring about the characters involved, the cause they are pushing, or what their motivations are. It just becomes a race to the end of the book so you can shelve it and move on to something else.
Kevin Kelly has released a PDF version of his 2003 real-book Cool Tools. Cool Tools is the spiritual kin of The Whole Earth Catalog. They are very similar, except that Cool Tools has more or less kept up with the times. So what he’s done is dumped the entire text – with color pictures – out into a nicely formatted PDF book. It’s yours for $3.50.
This is the scale plastic stock and model parts catalog used by architects, scratchbuild modelers, railroad hobbyists and other miniature makers. They have EVERYTHING at various mini scales: I-beams, T-beams, Hbeams, tubing, tiny plumbing fittings, stone and brick-patterned sheets, plastic sheet stock in every size, color and thickness. The next time you watch a sci-fi film and see a far-away shot of, say a mining colony on a lonely asteroid, youâ€™re probably actually looking at a big chunk of the Plastruct product line. Their website is abominable; get their paper catalog.
The cool thing is it used this new (well, at least to me) service from payloadz.com that seamlessly integrates with paypal.com. Click a link, send some money, and a unique download location is served up for you. Pretty cool stuff for small run things like this.
The whole thing is put up under a Creative Commons license, which allows you to more-or-less give it away for free, but I chipped in the tree-fitty. Well worth it.
Over in Salon, they have an article about H.P. Lovecraft, and a new release of some of his work that somehow helps vindicate him as a writer. I recently went back and re-read some of the stuff that I devoured when I was eleven or twelve. Back then I can remember scaring myself half to death reading some of those stories in the dark with just a small reading lamp – staying up way too late. Now they just seem like a lot of books I read when I was young – a little silly. I still like the overwhelming feeling of helplessness that is expressed by so many of his characters; how the evil things were just completely outside our reality and didn’t care one bit for the puny humans. But still, the stories just weren’t that wonderful looking back on them. Great stuff for scaring the crap out of kids though.
But having to vindicate him as a writer is a bit of a stretch – I think that some of the stuff written about how his pantheon of gods was a grand metaphor for our interaction with the mindless forces of the universe are stretching it a bit. I think his writing can stand on it’s own as a self-contained consistent world where man wasn’t the center of the universe. Not everything has to be profound to be readable.