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Dont Worry, This Authors Got Our Dystopia All Figured Out

About a decade ago, the author Alexander Weinstein suffered an unexpectedly affecting loss: His computer died, taking with it years of his creative work. “I was deeply upset,” says the 39-year-old writer and instructor. “Around the same time, a lot of my students were getting iPhones, and talking about how much they loved themsaying that, if they lost anything, please dont let it be their iPhones. I got the sense that we were all starting to forge this very deep emotional connection with technology.”

Weinstein’s response came in the form of a short story, “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” which is now the first entry in his future-shocked, surprisingly moving, thoroughly excellent new speculative-fiction collection, Children of the New World. “Yang”which, like many of the pieces in the book, takes place between 2o to 30 years in the futurefollows a young middle-class couple whose aloof robot-son has suddenly gone on the fritz (they know something’s wrong when, one morning over breakfast, Yang repeatedly bangs his head into his Cheerios). Their relationship with the mechanical kid had always been a bit clinical, almost perfunctory: “He came to us fully programmed,” notes the narrator-dad, “[and] there wasn’t a baseball game, pizza slice, bicycle ride, or movie I couldn’t introduce to him.” But when faced with the option of tossing him into the scrap heap, the loss is almost too much to bear; for a robot, Yang had become awfully life-like. Eventually, they bury him in the backyard, but stick his voicebox in the living room, just to hear him talk.

Children of the New World is full of tales like thisdeeply empathetic, sneakily funny, and clearly concerned about the ever-fuzzing line between our minds, our hearts, and our gadgets; it’s a little bit Kafka, and a little bit Kaufman. And even though the future Children imagines is occasionally pushed to the brink of bleaknessWeinstein wrote it over the last decade, a period that saw such disasters as the BP oil spill and the Flint water crisisthe book is hardly a collection of tsk-tsking, glum parables. Instead, it roots for its characters, and its readers, by presenting a dystopia that’s perhaps inevitable, yet also conquerable.

 


Jessica Spilos

“These are warning stories that say, ‘Please, lets not head into this future’even though, in many ways, we seem to be going there already,” says Weinstein, who lives in Michigan, and who serves as director of the Marthas Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. “That said, my hope is that they carry the hopefulness of humanity. A lot of my characters are good people trying to discover what it means to be human.”

The Future of Monkind

One of the reasons Children of the New World is so unsettling is because the yet-to-be society it envisions feels dangerously close to our ownespecially when it comes the book’s made-up technology. Like the all-too-human A.I. in Spike Jonze’s 2013 drama Her, or the subconscious-spelunking devices in Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 sci-fi thrillerStrange Days, the gizmos in Children, and their various applications, feel just a few generations or iterations away from what we already have. In “Fall Line,” a former skiing champ, felled by a brutal injury, recounts the years he spent broadcasting first-person footage of nearly every moment of his day, from the slopes to the bedroom, via a contact-lens camera. “Children of the New World,” meanwhile, deals with parents who immerse themselves in a virtual-reality world where their children exist solely as digital creationsand who must decide whether or not to “delete” the kids after a virus tears through their cyber-constructed world. And “Moshka” follows a likably naive world-traveler who seeks out a synthetic form of enlightenment; he finds it in a run-down back-room joint in Nepal, where he’s seated in an old beauty salon chair, and hooked up to a consciousness-altering device powered by “gutted laptops, stray mice, and a cluster of computer towers interconnected by cables.”

It’s already an extension of where we’re headed, since the rewards system that Pokmon Go works on tells us that we should always be on: ‘Even if you go for a walk in the woods, make sure you have your phone, because there might be a Pokmon out there.’ That replacement of the natural world with the wireless online, streamlined world is what I’m talking about in these stories.Alexander Weinstein

That mix of high- and low-tech gives Children an extra layer of plausibility; even when the stories tilt toward absurdity, they feel grounded in some sort of reality, no matter how far-off. But while Weinstein notes that he’s on his iPhone just as frequently as the rest of us, he’s not a hardware-savvy futurist. “I dont do a lot of research,” he says. “Really, the research comes from my own failings at using technology. Ill notice the awkward mistakes Im making on my phone, and that will lead to me thinking, ‘Ah, maybe some kind of implant would make this easier.’ And my friends know that I write these stories, so they send me horrifying news links about new skin-grafts, or putting eye-screens in contact lenses, and those will often give me new ideas.”

And, for a book about the ease with which we give ourselves over to such technologies, the release of Children is especially well-timed: Earlier this summer, Weinstein watched as millions of people around immersed themselves in the world in Pokmon Go, with some players getting so wrapped up in the game, they wound up falling down ditches or crashing their car into a tree.

“It was wild,” says Weinstein. “All of a sudden, you had these metaphors for zombiehood, with whole streets full of people wandering around, looking at their phone. It’s already an extension of where we’re headed, since the rewards system that Pokmon works on tells us that we should always be on: ‘Even if you go for a walk in the woods, make sure you have your phone, because there might be a Pokmon out there.’ That replacement of the natural world with the wireless online, streamlined world is what I’m talking about in these stories.”

A New Hope

One of the closing entries of Children of the New World is the jarring “Rocket Night,” a four-and-a-half-page, almost giddily dark account of an annual elementary-school event in which students, parents, and teachers place the least-popular kid in a rocket, and then blast him or her into space. The story’s notable not only for its casual, almost comically banal portrayal of group-think gone awryits length and leeriness make it a clear descendent of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”but also because it’s one of the few stories in Children in which people turn against each other, and in which mood and setting shift from dystopic to nearly post-apocyalptic. For the most part,Weinstein’s characters are either trying to redefine, or even reclaim, their humanity, despite having nearly surrendered to technology. The skier in “Fall Line” eventually takes to the mountains again; the grieving couple in “Children of the New World” join a support group for other parents who’ve suffered loss in the virtual world. The men and women of Children may remain beholden to their contraptions, but they’re increasingly dependent on each other, as well.

“They all want to create community or family connections again,” Weinstein says. “In that way, I don’t think the book is dystopian as much as it is hopeful. Kindness, love, and compassion are still very necessary components in what it means to be human.” And, in a book like this, they’re also reminders that, no matter how crazy or terrifying the future might be, at least we’ll stare it down together.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2016/09/dont-worry-authors-got-dystopia-figured/

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How ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ betrays Hermione’s legacy

Emma Watson in character as Hermione Granger

Image: warner brothers

Whether you loved Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or wanted to stab it with a basilisk fang, it’s obvious right off the bat the tale is not really J.K. Rowling’s. It says so right on the cover. Playwright Jack Thorne was the man primarily entrusted with showing us a glimpse into Harry Potters future. Instead, by deflating and devaluing every female character, he blasted Harry 70 years into the past.

Reading Cursed Child casts the complexity and diversity of Rowlings original characters into high relief. Jo gave us brainy women, sporty women, delusional women, motherly women, women who only talked about Nargles, women who were also ghosts the list goes on. They all seemed real, not because Rowling was trying to jam a message down our throats, but because she gave us a full world and women, you know, happen to be an equal part of it. As the pages of Cursed Child flip by, however, these full, complete women we know so well start to fade. They become two-dimensional shadows of their former selves who only store feelings or opinions that help to facilitate our male heroes (Harry Potter and his second son Albus) emotional journey. Their strong voices become whispers. Hermione Granger would never stand for this shit.

Perhaps thats why Thorne cast Reducto on her character. Right away, we learn that our frizzy-haired, buck-toothed, original DGAF boss bitch grows up to be the Minister of Magic. Thorne then shows her spending the majority of her time having to remind people that shes the Minister of Friggin Magic. Her male peers ignore her voice and disregard her authority in every interaction. We meet the modern Hermione while she is nudging Harry to do the bare minimum of his work responsibilities (shes been carrying his ass since Year 1 at Hogwarts), and it is not until she reminds him that shes his boss and the longstandingMinister of Magic that he begrudgingly agrees to do his job.

Later, Harry and Draco Malfoy usurp a meeting Hermione calls, interrupting and speaking over the Minister of Magic in her office. Again, we have to watch Our Lady Granger remind the men in her life, Hey, hi, Im the LEADER OF YOUR PEOPLE. She holds the highest ranking government office and still she has to ask for respect. The issue is not whether or not this would happen in the real world (ask Hillary in November), its that weve never seen casual sexism like this before in the Harry Potter world. Thorne certainly wasnt stepping on Hermiones words purposely; he was probably just focusing on moving along Harrys plotline. But the carelessness with which he treated the depiction of a woman in power makes clear the biggest problem with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: we can tell its written by a man when we shouldnt feel the writers presence at all. The magical world we adore has suddenly been filtered through a particularly narrow male perspective and unfortunately hes just getting started.

The result of all this is Harry Potter and the Male Gaze: A parade of irresponsible depictions of flat women who had their souls Dementors Kissed right out of them.

Nothing feels more offensive to Hermiones legacy than an alternate reality (Cursed Child is all about time travel gone wrong) in which Hermione does not become Minister of Magic, but instead a malicious, shrew-like, even frizzier-haired Defense Against the Darks Arts teacher at Hogwarts. And it’s all because she didnt marry Ron. While partners are wonderful support unicorns who can challenge you to follow your dreams and be a better person, the implication that a woman owes her success to her husband is a tired and insulting trope that deserves to die in a fiery blaze of Avada Kedavra.

Hermione was so ambitious at 13 that she and Dumbledore broke wizarding laws so she could take more classes. No amount of pining could stop this hard-working witch from achieving her dreams. If only Thorne had stopped to think about his female characters for a second, he would have realized how deeply offensive this scenario is. It is demeaning to imply that Hermione needs Ron to be likable (see also: every rom-com about a neurotic professional woman) or more attractive (see also: every rom-com ever). It’s damaging and disappointing to undermine her earned professional accomplishments when she is a role model to so many.

Unfortunately, Thorne didn’t just ruin Hermione. Ginny, the bold and independent Quidditch lover has, as Harrys wife, been reduced to a human shruggie. Oh, Harrys making profoundly damaging parenting decisions without even thinking to consult me? \_()_/ Minerva McGonagall, the woman who held Hogwarts to the last, is suddenly cowed and intimidated by Harry Potters mid-temper tantrum threats. The Hogwarts Express Witch is comically inept and Hermiones daughter Rose is a boring stereotype of a popular teenage girl.

The sole new female character, Delphi, is a twenty-something who spends her time flirting with the moody 14-year-old Albus. Even when you get to the end of the script and understand her motives, the flirting feels more like Thorne bringing his inner emotional teens sexy dream to life than making a necessary plot choice. The result of all this is Harry Potter and the Male Gaze: A parade of irresponsible depictions of flat women who had their souls Dementors Kissed right out of them.

These are not the characters Rowling gave us. Jo gave us women who mattered, who had voices even when they disagreed with men. Thorne gave us women with meek words whose personalities changed and disappeared and betrayed past growth to facilitate Harrys plotline at key moments, women who had been whittled down from their complexities to their conveniences. Thats more than just lazy writing; its disrespectful to the franchise and complicit in the real life, centuries-old epidemic of damaging underrepresentation. Cursed Child isnt worthy of the Harry Potter name. The women characters we’ve known for nearly 20 years would have some choice words for Thornes negligently sexist fanfiction words like Incendio. Expulso. And Shut. It. Down.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/17/harry-potter-cursed-child-female-characters/

Ever wonder “How to get my book reviewed”?

reading books
Book Reading/Image Source: Pixabay

So you’ve published your book. Its been edited and published, and now you’re trying to figure out how to get to your potential readers. While starting your marketing campaign usually happens well before your book is finished, getting your first reviews can’t begin until your book is done or in a final draft status.

Many stores won’t carry a small press or self-published book that doesn’t have reviews from a recognizable publication. So how do you get someone to pay attention to your book among all of the hundreds, if not thousands, of books they see every month?

City Book Review, publishers of the San Francisco Book Review, Manhattan Book Review and Kids’ BookBuzz all have programs to help you. Kids BookBuzz is only for kids, tweens and young adult books, but the other two will take almost any book you have (including children’s stories).

So how do you get your book reviewed by the San Francisco Book Review?

If your book is within 90 days of the publications date, you can submit it for general review (at no cost). The closer you are to the 90 days, the less of a chance it will have to be reviewed, but you can still begin there. The SFBR gets more than 1000 books a month, and only reviews 300 or less, so your chances of getting your book reviewed in this way is less than 33%. But you can give it a try and see if it gets reviewed.

General Submission Guidelineshttp://www.sanfranciscobookreview.com/submission-guidelines/general-submission/

If your book is more than 90 days past its publication date, or you really want to have it reviewed and don’t want to just hope it’ll get picked up through the general review, you can go through the Sponsored Review program. While there is some controversy about paying for a review, SFBR is a respected publication like Kirkus or Foreward Reviews and doesn’t provide vanity reviews for payment. You can expect the same level of professionalism from their standard reviews. And they don’t mark sponsored reviews any different than the other reviews.

Get My Book Reviewed from the San Francisco Book Reviewhttp://sanfranciscobookreview.com/submission-guidelines/sponsored-review/

Get My Book Reviewed from the San Francisco Book Review

There are a lot of different options for getting your book reviewed, mostly around how long it takes to get your review back, and if you want more than one or an interview as well.

  • Standard Reviews Take 8-10 weeks for turnaround from the time they receive your book Start at
  • Expedited Reviews Take 3-5 weeks for turnaround from the time they receive your book Start at
  • Get more than one review for the same book you’ll get a discount on the normal cost of 2 or 3 reviews. Reviews range in price from $150 to $299.
  • Getting a podcast interview for Audible Authors to promote yourself and your book, and you can add an interview to a review package at a discount.

And if you really like your review, you can have it posted on the other publication’s website for $99, or get a new review from a different reviewer. Both can help with your marketing and search engine optimization.

So how do you get your book reviewed by the Manhattan Book Review?

The Manhattan Book Review uses the same format for the San Francisco Book Review. Different audience, so if you’re an East Coast author, you might be more interested in having the credit from MBR over SFBR. Personal taste is the only difference between the two for reviews. If you are a local SF or Manhattan author, they will also flag that in your review.

General Review Submission Guidelines for the Manhattan Book Reviewhttp://manhattanbookreview.com/get-my-book-reviewed/general-submission/

Sponsored Review Submission Guidelines for the Manhattan Book Reviewhttp://manhattanbookreview.com/get-my-book-reviewed/sponsored-reviews/

So how do you get your book reviewed by Kids’ BookBuzz?

First thing, all of the reviews for Kids’ BookBuzz are done by kids. They are select age appropriate books, but the kids read them and write the reviews themselves. The younger kids have some help from their parents, but the words are all theirs. Don’t expect any easy reviews either. These kids see a lot of books, so they know good books when they read them.

General Submission Guidelines for Kids’ BookBuzzhttp://kidsbookbuzz.com/get-my-book-reviewed-by-a-kid/general-submission/

Sponsored Review Submission Guidelines for Kids’ BookBuzzhttp://kidsbookbuzz.com/get-my-book-reviewed-by-a-kid/sponsored-reviews/

‘People are hungry for real bookstores’: Judy Blume on why US indie booksellers are growing

At 78, the multimillion-selling author has begun a new career, opening her own bookshop and joining a business sector thats flourishing again in the US

She might be a beloved and bestselling author of classic childrens books from Forever to Blubber, but Judy Blume says she wakes up every day and I look to the sky, and I say, whoevers up there, I thank you for not having to write today.

Blume doesnt have to write because, at 78, she has embarked on a new career: shes an independent bookseller. Together with her husband, George Cooper, she has opened a small, nonprofit bookshop in Key West, Florida, where shes working almost every day. And shes loving it. She had planned to take a gap year after she finished writing and promoting her last novel, In the Unlikely Event. I was going to relax and read and have this whole time with no pressure. And then bingo the chance comes along to open a bookshop, and there you go. I guess I like that in my life To learn something new like this, at 78, makes it all the more exciting.

Blume and Cooper had been urging Mitchell Kaplan, founder of independent book chain Books & Books, to open a bookshop in Key West for years. He told them that if they could find a space, he would partner with them. They found a corner store, part of a large deco building , and with help from Kaplan and his team, Books & Books @ the Studios of Key West opened in February.

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A very satisfying experience … Judy Blume behind the tills at Books & Books @ Key West. Photograph: Penguin Random House

Weve done better than anyone, including Mitch, thought we could do, says Blume, down the line from Florida. It has been a very satisfying experience Writing In the Unlikely Event took five years it was very long and difficult and complicated. This is just a great change for me, and I am enjoying it so much.

Customers, she says, sometimes recognise her an author who has sold more than 80m books around the world and theyre completely taken aback, especially if Im sitting there dusting the shelves. Im pretty good at recommendations Im good in the kids department for sure. I read all the picture books when they come in. And I can lead people to what they want, although Ive not read as many of our books as some of our volunteers [the store has two paid employees, as well as Cooper, Blume and a series of volunteers]. Im trying really hard to keep up. Its like Christmas every day, working here.

Business for independent bookstores in America in general, is going well, Blume believes. I just think people are so hungry for a real bookstore again. So many people live in places where there isnt one Its not just us doing well. A lot of independent booksellers are.

The figures back her up. At BookExpo America last week, the American Booksellers Association announced that for the seventh year in a row, its bookstore membership has gone up, to 1,775 members operating in 2,311 locations, up from 1,401 members operating in 1,651 locations in 2009. The lions share of these are independents, says the ABA: in 2015, sales for independent booksellers were up just over 10%, and are remaining strong in 2016. In the UK by contrast, the Booksellers Association recorded 894 independent bookshops in 2015, a decrease of 3% from 2014. A decade ago, there were more than 1,500.

Independent bookselling in the US is continuing not just to grow, but to thrive, says ABA chief executive Oren Teicher, who attributes the growth to various factors: the localism movement, which is exploding, and we are benefiting from that; booksellers getting smarter at using technology; publishers increasing acknowledgment that customers discover books in bricks and mortar locations [so] our colleagues in publishing have figured out that they need bricks and mortar stores as much as we need their books; and the growing role of the bookseller as curator, in a world flooded with new titles.

The resurgence of print has also helped, says Teicher. A recent report in the UK revealed that in 2015, sales of printed books were up by 0.4% to 2.76bn, while ebook sales fell for the first time in the seven years the Publishers Association has tracked them, down 1.6% to 554m in 2015. In the US, the Association of American Publishers reported last month that while overall sales for consumer books were up 0.8% to $7.2bn (4.9bn) in 2015, ebook sales declined, down 9.5% in adult books and 43.3% in children and young adult titles.

Five years ago in the American book business, there was a widespread panic that somehow digital reading was going to replace physical books and they would be a relic of some other time and place. Fast forward to today, and I think digital reading has levelled off and calmed down slightly. Its going to be a piece of our business, but print books arent going away. Were living in a hybrid world, says Teicher.

Added together, these ingredients make the recipe for our success, says Teicher. But there is still a very modest margin in books, and people have to work really hard. We have significant challenges before us, clouds on the horizon that could interfere with our success.

These range from pressure on wages and rents, he says, to the 1,000lb gorilla the continued growth of online shopping. But independents are extraordinarily resilient, he says. If I had a penny for every time weve been counted out, Id be a pretty rich guy today.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/20/people-are-hungry-for-real-bookstores-judy-blume-on-why-us-indie-booksellers-are-thriving

15+ Reading Nooks Perfect For When You Need To Escape This World

Although some people claim that they can read anywhere, anytime, we all know that a comfortable, well lit, soft spot is ideal. On a blanket in a park is one such perfect spot; on dry, spongy moss, under a tree, is another good location. But what happens if you’re a city dweller (or not even!), and outdoor reading spots are at a premium?

Bored Panda has collected this list of reading nooks for you, those indoor bookworms that maybe like to read outside, but who also need a comfortable place inside to get the pages turning. Which reading nook looks most comfortable to you? Vote, or submit a picture of your own reading nook below! (h/t)

 

#1 Cozy Reading Nook

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Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/cozy-reading-nooks-book-corner/