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Links 1 through 10 of 634 by Chad Orzel tagged books

Not once in any Star Wars movie does someone pick up a book or newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or chapbook handmade by an aspiring Jawa poet. If something is read by someone in Star Wars, it’s almost certainly off of a screen (and even then, maybe being translated by a droid), and it’s definitely not for entertainment purposes. As early as the 1990s-era expanded Star Wars books and comic books, we’re introduced to ancient Jedi “texts” called holocrons, which are basically talking holographic video recordings. Just how long has the Star Wars universe been reliant on fancy technology to transfer information as opposed to the written word? Is it possible that a good number of people in Star Wars are completely illiterate?

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William Gibson’s Neuromancer is perhaps the closest thing to a Nostradamus that fiction has produced. And it feels like it’s getting truer every day. Think about that for a minute. Of all the realities in speculative fiction since the beginning, the ones that look most authentic in the here and now are the ones that remained more mundane — bound up in the struggles we have today posited a century hither. What does that say about science fiction’s success?

Science fiction as a genre requires one thing, and one thing only. It requires the story to engage with the future. Not merely be set in the future, or use some form of technology to accomplish a goal, rather it must engage with that future in way that is reflective of both now and then. If a story’s science fictional, or fantastic, elements can be removed and the story remains largely unchanged then it cannot be science fiction.

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It's extremely flattering to see _How to Teach Physics to Your Dog_ among such distinguished company.

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The book is greatly beloved by some. My copy has essays by Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle praising it to the skies. For myself, I enjoyed it, with reservations. It’s a fun book, but I couldn’t help but feel that Myers bit off more than he could chew — or, perhaps, that the idea was setting up greater expectations (as it were) than he or anybody could fulfill. Still, the book did seem to me to be worth writing about, because whether or not it’s wholly successful in itself, it raises a host of interesting questions about the nature of fictional characters, and how they work, and how we read them, and how these things may change in time.

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It was not until quite recently, however, that I noticed that Pinkwater is actually a capital-S Surrealist, by which I mean that he is intentionally and with forethought following the artistic and literary principles established by André Breton and his circle in Paris in the 1920s as part of the Surrealist movement, and that he is alluding in his body of work to the Surrealists and their intellectual ideas.

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A pure functioning meritocracy would produce a society with growing inequality, but that inequality would come along with a correlated increase in social mobility. As the educational system and business world got better and better at finding inherent merit wherever it lay, you would see the bright kids of the poor boosted to the upper echelons of society, with the untalented progeny of the best and brightest relegated to the bottom of the social pyramid where they belong.

But the Iron Law of Meritocracy makes a different prediction: that societies ordered around the meritocratic ideal will produce inequality without the attendant mobility. Indeed, over time, a society will become more unequal and less mobile as those who ascend its heights create means of preserving and defending their privilege and find ways to pass it on across generations. And this, as it turns out, is a pretty spot-on description of the trajectory of the American economy since the mid-1970s.

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I understand that people want to be published - I really do. But to equate a self-published project in any way with a professionally edited and published work is to do a tremendous disservice to those who have passed the quality-control process. 

All of this said, I have expressed support for ebooks in the past, and I'll do so again. They're not my cup of tea - I don't like reading on a screen. But many people do - and it's our job as a going business concern to give people the products they want to buy. That DOESN'T mean, however, that we should sell products for less than the market would bear - that would be sheer foolishness. It's going to take a while for all of this dust to settle, so stay tuned.

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[Web-based authoring] tools would not be of much effect if we didn’t have companies that supported online media retailing. But beyond the mere selling of books, what is most notable about web-based media companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft is that they are not simply creating sophisticated recommendation engines and robust consumer marketplaces; rather, they are aggregating a vast array of web-based services into online super-nodes that encourage user participation and focus. Their opportunity is not restricted to content discovery and support for commercial transactions; it is enabling the kinds of things that the web makes possible: connecting people with each other, and to the things they care about.

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Your regular update from the publishing apocalypse. Which turns out not to be all that apocalyptic just yet...

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We’ve got a solution: The Science Friday Book Club. You’ll never have to host at your house, the book will have something do to with science, and no one will know if you don’t read it.
 
We’ll choose one book a month, give you some time to read it, and then talk about it on the air. Help us develop our reading list. What book do you want us to tackle? Send your suggestions to bookclub@sciencefriday.com and stay tuned. We’ll announce our first book in June.

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