• "There’s a general principle of book reviewing, set out originally by, I believe, Cyril Connolly. He advised reviewers that they should write for the reader when reviewing a book they like, but if they dislike it they should address the author instead. This creates a distinction between a public recommendation, which pleases the author and possibly makes readers interested, and a more personal discourse intended for the author, but which is likely to be discouraging and disappointing… Well then, Mr Wallace, what are we to say to each other in this semi-public place?" Oh boy. Christopher Priest really hated this book (and his argument seems reasonable, to be honest.)
  • Sixty years earlier, a precursor to Warren Ellis' _Lich House_. The terrors of the future are not those we have – the Cold War still looming large. But the depiction of the future is, whilst regimented and picket-fence-utopian… also charming. The childrens' bedroom, in particular, made me smile and want to visit; not nod knowingly at the cleverness. When we write stories about the future, it's important they're still stories.
  • "Here are ‘the obsolete industrial plants; the inadequacy of unchanged transport systems and overstrained power supplies … the shift of power from industrial capital to international finance capital’ and so on. Here is the self-consciously world-historical Lowry, showing us Britain mired in its past, and perhaps the future of China. But here and there is the old local Lowry, whose people cannot see beyond the foreground terraces to the dystopian prospect, and so seem to manage, to cope, even to enjoy themselves, on their own tight patch. People stop to chat or just to stand about; kids play; dogs and babies get taken for walks; women wear bright vermilion, the happy colour of the summer of 2013, and apparently of 1950 too. It’s hard to say this without sounding as folksy as Brian and Michael, and perhaps that’s exactly what it is, but right now what I most admire and enjoy about Lowry is the interest he shows, without any apparent agenda, in what people do. I have no idea why that should be so moving." Wonderful article from this fortnight's LRB about the Lowry retrospective at Tate Britain.
  • "Coming up with a word like neuromancer is something that would earn you a really fine vacation if you worked in an ad agency. It was a kind of booby-trapped portmanteau that contained considerable potential for cognitive dissonance, that pleasurable buzz of feeling slightly unsettled." There is so, so much in this interview, that quoting it feels somewhat futile. It's a really lovely thing piece, that goes far beyond cyberpunk, and delves deep into Gibson's writing and history. There are at least five meaty quotes I wanted to yank; it's worth reading and rereading.
  • An excellent post by Priest on lists, and canons, and why you sometimes share your own. Also, strikingly, so much of this is the sf I have grown to love as an adult – the Le Guin, the Pohl, the Dick, and especially the Roberts. You make the list to stop it becoming sacred.
  • "A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

    I reached out to Mom's creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. "Rawrr-sa," it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers."

    Ken Liu's "The Paper Menagerie" is just a lovely short story. Sad, deft, minimal, very much worth your time. Might have had a little sniffle.

  • "That's when we realized how big this was, and that we'd need outside help. We enlisted people to go to stops, measure traffic and count people getting off and on and we hired bike messengers to see where the buses went. The cyclists used Field Papers to transcribe the various routes and what they found out, which we recompiled back into a database of trips, stops, companies and frequency. At a rough estimate, these shuttles transport about 40% of the amount of passengers Caltrain moves each day." This is brilliant.