Lost Walt Whitman Novel Disovered

February 22nd, 2017

I posted last year about a grad student who discovered a hitherto unknown long article by Walt Whitman. Now he’s done it again, discovering an even more significant lost work, a novel.

Zachary Turpin was propped up in bed with his laptop in May, his wife and newborn son sleeping beside him, when he made a discovery that stands to rock the literary world.
There on his screen, he saw a small ad in an 1852 newspaper. The ad promised “A Rich Revelation:” A six-installment piece of fiction called “Life and Adventures of Jack Engle” was coming soon to the Sunday Dispatch, a three-penny weekly published in Manhattan.
The short novel, like the newspaper that published it, was all but lost to the ages. But the author, Turpin believed, was Walt Whitman, one of America’s best-known and most beloved poets.
Now, Turpin, a 33-year-old doctoral candidate in English at the University of Houston, has found the novel itself – a discovery that upends what previously was believed about the 19th-century poet’s early career. Published anonymously as a serial in 1852, “Life and Adventures of Jack Engle” reveals much about Whitman’s early life and work that the poet later tried to hide.

2016 Nebula Award Nominees Announced

February 21st, 2017

SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) has announced the nominees for the 2016 Nebula Awards. They’ll be awarded at the Nebula Conference in Pittsburgh over the May 18th weekend. These awards are voted on by SFWA members, in other words, authors. Many of the stories are available online if you want to check them out. These are the best novel nominees.

Pictures of Northern Ontario

February 20th, 2017

I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie and part of me has never left; there’s something about the landscape that just feels right and I don’t find it here in Southern Ontario. I came across a Flickr photostream by twurdeman that has some of the best pictures of the Sault and Northern Ontario that I’ve seen. Do have a look – you won’t regret it.

2017 World Press Photo Contest winners

February 15th, 2017

The winners of the 2016 World Press Photo Contest have been announced. As always, there’s some striking photography here – some of it beautiful, some of it inspiring, and some of it depressing.  The Atlantic has a selection of some of the winners, which might be easier to view than the official contest site.I am hardly surprised at the choice for overall winner – a photo of the assassin of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, on December 19, 2016.

Turkish assassination

The travelling exhibition usually comes to Brookfield Place sometime later in the year. It’s not on the exhibition schedule yet, but if I find out the dates I’ll let you know.

Saving Government Data

February 14th, 2017

Data has been disappearing from government websites, after the Trump administration took power. A group of coders has been trying to save that data, backing it up to the Internet archive, and creating tools that will monitor sites for changes.

ON SATURDAY MORNING, the white stone buildings on UC Berkeley’s campus radiated with unfiltered sunshine. The sky was blue, the campanile was chiming. But instead of enjoying the beautiful day, 200 adults had willingly sardined themselves into a fluorescent-lit room in the bowels of Doe Library to rescue federal climate data.

Like similar groups across the country—in more than 20 cities—they believe that the Trump administration might want to disappear this data down a memory hole. So these hackers, scientists, and students are collecting it to save outside government servers.

But now they’re going even further. Groups like DataRefugeand the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which organized the Berkeley hackathon to collect data from NASA’s earth sciences programs and the Department of Energy, are doing more than archiving. Diehard coders are building robust systems to monitor ongoing changes to government websites. And they’re keeping track of what’s already been removed—because yes, the pruning has already begun.

Some Articles about Science Fiction

February 13th, 2017

Here are some recent articles about science fiction that I thought worth sharing here:

  • Why Frank Kelly Freas was possibly the greatest science fiction artist who ever lived: I wouldn’t argue with that at all. I discovered Freas’ art when I started reading the science fiction magazines in the mid 1960s; he was a regular in Analog. He was a guest at a couple of science fiction conventions that I attended and I was lucky enough to get some of his prints signed although I could never afford one of his paintings. When I was working at James Lorimer publishers, I managed to get them to use one of his paintings as a book cover (the one of the Saturn V blasting out of the Earth-egg).  Kelly wrote me that he didn’t agree with the thesis of the book (I think it was called Misguided Missiles, but he wasn’t going to turn down $200 for use of the painting, and it did make a striking cover). If you’re not familiar with his work, do check out this article; you’re in for a treat.
  • Sliding toward Fascism in Jo Walton’s Counter History: I’ve posted here before about Jo Walton’s excellent alternate history trilogy in which England becomes a Fascist state instead of defeating Germany in World War II. In this article, Bob Douglas looks at Walton’s trilogy and compares it to C. J. Sansom’s alternate history thriller, Dominion, which shares a similar setting. I’m reading Dominion now and it’s very good, if a bit grim. I would have liked to have seen Ian R. MacLeod’s The Summer Isles included in the comparison – I think it’s the best novel to deal with the theme of English fascism.
  • What Will Sink Our Generation Ships? The Death of Wonder:  Christopher Mari, author of Ocean of Storms, responds to Kim Stanley Robinson’s argument that we will never have star travel because we are too closely tied to the Earth’s environment, which is too complex to replicate on a starship or a colony. ‘While I agree wholeheartedly that we should invest in maintaining our home, I also recognize that this sobering damper on the speculative imagination is also dangerous. Focusing only on what is known, what can be seen and observed, when we are incredibly limited in what we can see and observe, breeds complacency. Cutting off a doorway, a possibility, is a rejection of innovation. There is no greater threat to progress than the phrase, “That’s impossible.”’
  • Climate science and climate fiction – where data intersects with art: Cat Sparks looks at a particularly relevant subgenre of SF – climate fiction. “Climate fiction highlights the hard-impacting economic and interpersonal realities of climate change. It encourages us to understand that climate change is a problem we have brought upon ourselves and that changes to our economic and energy systems are required if we are to survive it. Climate fiction straddles genre boundaries: science fiction, utopia, dystopia, fantasy, thriller, romance, mimetic fiction, nature writing, and the literary, from fast-paced thrillers, to inward looking present day narratives.”