A Massive Amount of Iconic Works Will Enter the Public Domain on New Year’s Eve – by Sarah Emerson – 27 Dec 2018

Why the copyright terms on a goldmine of works from 1923 are about to expire.

Felix the Cat. Image: Wikimedia Commons

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, movies, songs, and books created in the United States in 1923—even beloved cartoons such as Felix the Cat—will be eligible for anyone to adapt, repurpose, or distribute as they please.

A 20-year freeze on copyright expirations has prevented a cache of 1923 works from entering the public domain, including Paramount Pictures’ The Ten Commandments, Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim, and novels by Aldous Huxley.

Such a massive release of iconic works is unprecedented, experts say—especially in the digital age, as the last big dump predated Google.

“There is certainly great value in effectively restarting the public domain, but the mistake was having extended the term of protection for already created works in the first place,” Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, told Motherboard.

For this we can thank a 1998 rule known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, famously lobbied for by the Walt Disney Company as a means to extend copyright protections. It was believed that Disney hoped to lengthen the copyright of the 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie, which marked the debut of a certain Mr. Mouse.

Named for Congressman Bono who who’d sponsored similar legislation in the past, and pejoratively dubbed the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, the new rules modified an existing law, hitting the brakes on copyright terms for already protected works.

The Act lengthened copyrights of corporate “works made for hire” to 95 years (from 75 years) from their first publication, or 120 years from their creation—thus delaying Mickey Mouse’s earliest entrance into the public domain until 2024; and it also granted copyright coverage to works published on or after January 1, 1978, to “life of the author plus 70 years.”

The terms for works published in 1923 were retroactively amended, and have remained copywritten for 95 years.

Compared to Canada, Japan, and New Zealand, America’s copyright laws are in ways more limited, and the decision to gatekeep entire eras of history has been characterized as enormously harmful to society, Motherboard has previously reported.

The end of the “dark ages” of copyright terms could usher in a Renaissance of creativity.

“Stuff from our distant past reappears when copyright goes away,” Christopher Sprigman, a law professor at New York University, told Motherboard.

“[Disney] had things like early Mickey Mouse cartoons that they may ideally want to stay in copyright forever. But that isn’t good for creativity,” Sprigman added.

In 2013, Paul Heald, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, conducted a survey of books for sale on Amazon. He found that more books were for sale from the 1880s than the 1990s.

When most works enter the public domain, the public collectively owns them. Such freedom let screenwriters adapt Jane Austen’s Emma into the movie Clueless; allowed Disney to rework the grisly Brothers Grimm stories into G-rated fairy tales; and gave us dozens of horror films based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Public domain was partly responsible for the internet you’re using, and permits Wikipedia editors to use photos of famous people on their Wikipages. It’s how books become translated into multiple languages, and how researchers can share their scientific findings.

“The public domain of course is the default for creativity and innovation,” Jessica Silbey, co-director of Northeastern University’s Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity, told Motherboard.

“Most people create and invent without expectation of exclusivity that IP law provides,” Silbey added. “Before there was IP, and outside of formal IP systems, there is and was plenty of creativity and innovation. “

Yet copyright rules are complex, and exceptions exist. The terms for thousands of works published between 1923 and 1963 weren’t renewed as according to the law, and consequently lapsed into public domain. Sometimes authors will intentionally dedicate works to the public domain. Other times, a collection of works may be protected by copyright, even though the individual works themselves are not.

What’s certain is that works spanning the Great Depression, the Fifties, and the Computer Age will finally be released yearly over the coming decades—opening a floodgate of free and public knowledge, and perhaps kickstarting an exciting revolution of creative ingenuity.

“Celebrating the return of a yearly expansion of the public domain is the appropriate response,” Sibley said.”



UCLA Releases First National Study of Labor Conditions in Nail Salon Industry – Immigrants and Low Wages – 17 Dec 2018

The nail salon industry is expected to grow at almost twice the rate of other U.S. industries in the next decade, and report authors make recommendations for key stakeholders: ensure quality jobs and labor protections for nail salon workers…
cover of report sjowing nail polish flowing

Key issues, trends, and areas of oversight in the multibillion dollar nail salon industry are highlighted in Nail Files: A Study of Nail Salon Workers and Industry in the United States. This report is the first to examine the nail salon industry nationally with a focus on labor conditions.

Among other discoveries, the report finds:

  • 78% of nail salon employees are low-wage workers. This is more than double the national rate of 33% for all industries.
  • Nail salon workers experience challenging work conditions and labor enforcement issues. Misclassification as independent contractors is also a key concern.
  • Nail salons are primarily owned and staffed by immigrants and refugees. The majority of salons are small mom-and-pop businesses with 68% having fewer than 5 employees. The labor force is predominantly Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Nepali, Tibetan, and Latinx, with 81% women and 79% foreign-born.

The nail salon industry is expected to grow at almost twice the rate of other U.S. industries in the next decade, and report authors make recommendations for key stakeholders: ensure quality jobs and labor protections for nail salon workers; guarantee workplace protections and their enforcement; support high-road businesses and good employers; and assure health and safety of nail salon workers.

This report was produced in partnership with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.


Nail salons in the United States are a booming multi-billion dollar industry. Due to immigrant and refugee labor and changes in technology, the nail salon industry grew from a high-end, luxury service to an affordable service available to low- and middle-income clients. Nail salons include their predominantly Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Nepali, Tibetan, and Latinx immigrant and refugee labor force. These immigrant and refugee communities have not only created economic niches that are unique to the industry but also developed health, labor, and community organizing initiatives that advocate for quality and safe jobs. They continue to shape the parameters of beauty service work, but they are also a key facet of today’s service economy, subject to its market forces and labor issues.
While there have been some studies focusing on health and safety conditions in salons, few have explored labor conditions. The UCLA Labor Center launched this study in collaboration with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative to gain a deeper understanding of the nail salon industry through existing literature, policy reports, worker stories and government and other relevant data sources. This is the first report to look at the industry nationally through a labor lens. The report focus on three primary areas: workers, industry, and oversight.

Worker Profile

National data sources estimate there are between 126,300 and 212,519 nail salon workers though this is most likely an undercount. State board data suggests that government sources only account for 33% of certified nail salon workers in California and 47% in New York. Nonetheless, national data do provide a useful profile of workers. The following are key data and issues related to nail salon workers:
Nail salon workers have strong participation in the labor workforce.
Most are in the labor force (92%) and the industry has low unemployment (3%). The majority (72%) work full-time and year-round (81%).
Self-employment rates are high for nail salon workers.
30% are self-employed which can include independent contractors, sole proprietors, or members of a partnerships. This rate is three times higher than the national average.
The majority of nail salon workers earn low wages.
Nearly 8 in 10 workers earn low wages, defined as 2/3 of the median full-time wage. This rate is significantly higher than the national rate of 33% for all workers.
The industry continues to employ a largely immigrant and female workforce.
The industry is predominantly women (81%) and foreign-born (79%), comprised largely of Vietnamese workers. Nearly half of those born abroad have low English proficiency.
Most nail salon workers support family members.
A third are heads of households and almost two-thirds have at least one child.
The industry faces challenging working conditions.
Small sample studies and investigative reporting have found that wage issues in the industry include low wages, being paid a flat, rather than hourly rate, minimum wage and overtime violations, and harassment and surveillance.
Misclassification is a key concern in the sector.
The industry has a high rate of self-employed workers which includes independent contractors. Some workers may be legitimate independent contractors, but there are concerns that many manicurists are purposely misclassified to avoid
labor laws and protections.
Nail salon workers are at risk for many different short- and long-term occupational health conditions.
Nail salon workers are exposed to hazardous ingredients and materials present in products and salons and are likely to experience work-related ergonomic body pain.

Industry Profile

According to the County Business Patterns, there are an estimated 23,745 nail salons in the United States.
Similar to the worker estimates, the number of salons may also be an undercount, as some salons may be
unregistered. The following are some key industry trends in the sector:
Most salons are small mom-and-pop operations.
The industry is dominated by small salons with 9 out of 10 salons having fewer than 10 employees.
Nail salons are a growing and vibrant industry.
Total revenue for nail salons in 2015 reached $4.4 billion, up 15% from the previous year. Over the next decade, employment in the industry is expected to grow by 13%.

New developments in cosmetics, fashion, and nail polish technology have set the pace for trends in the nail salon industry.

Nail trends include nail art, gel polish, and dip systems while salon cosmetics ingredients are moving towards more “natural” products. Also, the nail salon industry has been trying to attract male-identifying customers.
Social media and digital technology has also affected salons. Nail art is one of the top five most tagged items on both Pinterest and Instagram. Also, Yelp contributes to salons’ customer engagement and management.
The gig economy creates on-demand, app-based manicure services. These salons allow customers to order manicures or pedicures through a cell phone app. The manicurist meets customers where they are, though some workers will only go to workplaces or corporate events.
New and large chains are entering the market. Nail salons have traditionally been mom-and-pop operations, but the sector is seeing some large chains enter the market and/or expand.  Industry Oversight and Enforcement In the United States, the nail salon workplace is governed by federal and state regulatory bodies, legislation,and other rules; county and local policies and programs; and state and federal court decisions.

The following is an overview of some of key areas of oversight and challenges:

Various federal and state agencies oversee labor conditions but face challenges in enforcing labor rights.

Challenges include investigations that are complaint-driven rather than investigator-driven,and are filed against owners whom cannot pay judgments. Additionally, workers and employers have a lack of understanding of labor laws, misinformation, a mistrust of investigators, and a lack of employer record keeping.
There are also continuing challenges in ensuring safe and healthy conditions in nail salons.
Federal agencies can conduct more research on the environmental effects of chemicals found in nail salon products and push for more legislation, such as those to control toxins that are released into the air. Training about workplace hazards and safety information is inaccessible and many workers are not trained in safe chemical handling.
There are many programs in local jurisdictions, with volunteer or elected staff, designed to improve work conditions in nail salons.
Programs like the Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Programs (HNSRP) provide a plan to ensure healthy workplaces including safer nail polishes and products, ventilation, and staff training. Programs may also recognize green business practices in salons and introduce green solutions and alternatives.
State legislation and policies have provided improvements in areas such as language rights, labor protections, health and safety protections, and industry standards.
Some examples include ensuring agencies increase staff, provide materials/forms and licensing in languages other
than English relevant to working populations, provide workers’ rights education for owners and workers, and require cosmetics manufacturers to report chemicals found in their products that are known carcinogens or reproductive toxicants to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
Nail salon advocacy over the past decade has helped to improve working conditions and provide healthier workplaces.
Many of the efforts to improve nail salon conditions mentioned here have resulted from worker-led, community organizing and advocacy. Two examples include the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative (Collaborative) and the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition (NYHNSC), and such efforts are bourgeoning across the United States.


Nail salons are a thriving and growing industry shaped by immigrant entrepreneurship and industry
innovation. As the industry expands, we must continue to ensure safe and quality jobs for the workforce.
The following are recommendations for key stakeholders to ensure labor protections and standards as well
as to continue to advance policies and practices that create environmentally safe and healthy salons for
workers, employers and consumers alike.

1. Ensure quality jobs and labor protections for nail salon workers.

Agencies need to safeguard worker wages and benefits, address issues of misclassification, mandate safety, health, and workers’ rights training for employers and address language barriers in materials.
Policy makers should expand worker protections and policies that improve job quality, remove barriers to licensing and address gaps in government data.
Advocates should develop a continuing education program and curriculum that provides workers with the skills to advance.
Employers must create pathways for workers to increase their skill sets and provide opportunities for wage increases.
Researchers should provide technical guidance on future research efforts.

2. Guarantee enforcement of workplace protection.

Agencies must support workers’ rights through culturally appropriate worker education, addressing barriers to filing claims, creating model agreements and educational materials for independent contractors to use, and funding community partnerships that are better able to build trust with workers to provide necessary information.
Advocates must center workers by giving them decision-making power, ensuring that organizing initiatives represent the needs of workers, creating multi-stakeholder collaborations and learning best practices from other campaigns, industries, and regions.
Researchers must conduct further studies to better understand working conditions, labor issues, enforcement efforts, and other needs of the sector, particularly experiences not captured in public government data sets.

3. Support high-road businesses and good employers.

Agencies should support salon businesses by creating programs on how to run financially and environmentally sustainable and just businesses, educating nail salon consumers on why it is important to pay a fair price for nail services, creating public campaigns that educate customers about nail salon fair and healthy working conditions and safer beauty product alternatives.
Employers should meet with other high-road employers in the sector to share best practices and business models.

4. Assure health and safety of nail salon workers.

Agencies should expand healthy nail salon practices that are culturally and linguistically appropriate, raise awareness about safer products and practices, provide health and safety trainings, conduct outreach to workers, run health and safety awareness campaigns, provide informational materials to reduce worker exposure, and use worker health outcomes as indicators of safety, instead of possibly outdated exposure limits.
Policy makers should address the impact of harmful products by allocating and requiring cosmetic manufacturers and distributors to conduct further studies, requiring proper labels on products that may be hazardous and making products safe by ending the use of harmful ingredients. They should also provide access to healthcare for workers who are particularly vulnerable to health issues in the industry.
Advocates should continue to engage workers on health and safety issues and best practices through participatory and peer-to-peer programs.
Employers should participate in healthy nail salon programs that include guidelines on and support in the creation of a healthier workplace.
Researchers should continue to conduct and expand research on the cumulative effects of chemicals and exposures on worker health and continue to conduct and expand research on green chemistry to reduce the use of hazardous substances in products and ultimately improve the health and safety of consumers and workers.

Manufacturing Consent: Der Spiegel star reporter Claas Relotius fabricated stories for years – by Keith J. Kelly (NY Post ) 20 Dec 2018

Claas Relotius

The German weekly Der Spiegel, one of the top-selling publications in Europe, is reeling from a scandal that revealed that a star reporter has reportedly faked stories for years.

Many of the faked stories written by Claas Relotius were centered in the United States or in the Middle East.

So far, Der Spiegel editors said Wednesday, they had found that Relotius “made up stories and invented protagonists” in at least 14 of the 60 stories examined so far. But they said the investigation is only beginning. The editors said they were “astounded and sad” by the discovery, which they called “a low point in Der Spiegel’s 70-year history.”

And so far none of the other outlets that ran Relotius’ work over the years have checked in. He had freelanced for Der Spiegel for years before joining full-time a year ago.

The German journalists’ union said it was the biggest fraud scandal in journalism since the “Hitler diaries” published by Stern magazine in Germany and Newsweek in the US in 1983.

It was reminiscent of past scandals in the US including the Jayson Blair snafu at the New York Times, the Stephen Glass scandal at the New Republic and the revoked Pulitzer Prize won by Janet Cooke at the Washington Post.

In one article that came under intense scrutiny, Relotius spent three weeks living in Fergus Falls, Minn., in early 2017, purportedly to try to explain why voters in a typical Midwest town came to support Donald Trump for president. But an article in Medium.com by Fergus Falls residents Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn found that many characters and anecdotes were fake.

“What kind of institutional breakdown led to the supposedly world-class Der Spiegel fact-checking team completely dropping the ball on this one?” they asked after it emerged that Relotius had been forced to resign.

The Der Spiegel editors originally said he “distorts reality” in the piece entitled “In a Small Town.”

Among the many falsehoods Anderson and Krohn found, there is no sign in the town that reads, “Mexicans Keep Out.”

The Clint Eastwood film “American Sniper,” which Relotius claimed had been playing to sell-out crowds for two straight years in the local cinema, had not played there since February 2015.

In one anecdote, he claims a town administrator carried a Beretta pistol on the job, had never seen the ocean and had never been with a woman.

The Fergus Falls writers produced a photo of that same administrator on a vacation trip to the ocean with his longtime live-in girlfriend. The administrator said he owned no Beretta and never carried a weapon at work.

Another picture in the disputed article shows a man described as a “coal plant worker.” In reality, the picture is of a United Parcel Service worker who once ran the local gym. In another, Relotius has a picture of a Mexican woman whom he claimed owned a Mexican restaurant and suffered from kidney disease. In reality, she was a waitress in the restaurant owned by her sister- in-law but was never interviewed.

In another instance, he describes locals watching the Super Bowl — at a pizza place that wasn’t open on the day of the game.

In another instance, he said a local diner had windows facing the coal power plant — when in reality the diner was underground with no windows.

Der Spiegel said it was another one of its reporters, Juan Moreno, who co-authored a piece entitled “Hunters Border” with Relotius in November on a pro-Trump vigilante group said to be involved in hunting down illegal immigrants on the Arizona-Mexico border, who alerted it to sourcing problems. Moreno told editors he had been suspicious of the sourcing on the story all along and on a subsequent trip to the US, he contacted two of the subjects quoted extensively in the article by Relotius.

Both of the subjects said they had never spoken to Relotius.

In an apology to readers, Der Spiegel acknowledged, “For three to four weeks, Moreno went through hell because colleagues and those senior to him did not want to believe his accusations at first.”

It said that Relotius rebuffed the accusations at first “until there came a point when that didn’t work anymore, until he finally couldn’t sleep anymore, haunted by the fear of being discovered.”

As recently as this month, Relotius won Germany’s Reporter of the Year award for a story about a young Syrian boy in which much of the sourcing has now been deemed suspect.

In 2014, he was named CNN’s Journalist of the Year for an article that appeared in a Swiss magazine.

Among other stories that Der Spiegel discovered fabricated was an article in which he claimed to interview the parents of Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who decided to kneel during the playing of the US national anthem before games to protest police brutality.

In his confession, according to the magazine, Relotius said, “I am sick and I need to get help.”

“It wasn’t because of the next big thing,” he was quoted as saying. “It was fear of failing. My pressure to not be able to fail got even bigger the more successful I became.”



Claas Relotius 2

(Editors note)

Yet, there was a method to his ‘madness.’  Relotius wasn’t just making random ‘mistakes’ in his ‘reporting.’  Relotius was feeding a narrative.  In the reporting from Syria Relotius was backing the US, EU and Saudi Arabia’s opposition to the Syrian secular government.  Relotius was supporting the insurgent Islamic ‘rebels’ and Al Qaeda types fighting alongside of the Islamic State.  In the US Relotius was backing the Liberal establishment media narrative that white working class Americans oppose mass immigration for illogical racist reasons.  In the Ukraine conflict Relotius dressed up the fascistic Ukrainian street fighters as innocent democracy protesters facing Soviet made tanks.  Relotius picked a side in every conflict and he did so to back the main stream narrative.   He never made ‘mistakes’ that went against the main idea the media was pushing to manufacture consent. 

With the skill of a fiction writer who knows what his audience wants invented interviews, created malevolent characters, described years long theatrical performances in public that never happened, and described public billboard advertising that simply did not exist in the real world.  But his ‘editors’ never noticed?  Why?  Because they see their job as manufacturing consent for the narrative they push as job number one.  Checking facts is done only to the extent that it must be to maintain some credibility. 

From Syria to Ukraine to the US border with Mexico Relotius was repeating establishment media propaganda with a single minded devotion that was not bogged down in verifiable ‘facts.’  Relotius won awards, and even won an award after his absurd Mexican vacation reporting was being exposed.  Relotius was a top propagandist for the Ministry of Media Truth, until he wasn’t.  Darn those pesky ‘fact  checkers.’  So what if there really isn’t a billboard in a small American town that says “Mexicans Keep Out!”  The image is so chillingly stark that readers flock to a story reporting the billboard.  The political movement created by the reporting and support for cause of immigrants rights is more important than the mundane truth to reporter/activists like Relotius.  But surely he did not become an establishment media fiction writing activist because of ‘pressure’ or mental failings.  Relotius just doesn’t like getting caught. 

“I am sick and I need to get help.” wrote Relotius.  Is that the answer for someone who is devoted to the Right Wingers in Ukraine, supports the armed Islamic ‘rebels’ in Syria, and opposes Americans who support Trump?  Is holding any of these political positions and using the news media to advance them a ‘sickness?’  Relotius is still writing fiction. 


Some science fiction and fantasy books of 2018 – by Andrew Liptak – 21 Dec 2018

Stories about interstellar colonization, magical civilizations, and alternate space races

Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

If there was any bright point in the year, it was that 2018 also brought with it a bumper crop of fantastic science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels that served as an oasis to examine the world around us, or to escape for brighter pastures.

The best books of this year told stories of interstellar colonization, of fantastic magical civilizations, optimistic alternate worlds, and devastating potential futures. They brought us fantastic characters who sought to find their places in the vivid and fantastic worlds they inhabited.

Here are our favorite science fiction and fantasy reads of 2018.

Image: Crown Books

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett is one of those authors who attracts a huge amount of acclaim for his books, and after reading Foundryside, I can see why. It’s an epic, breathtaking novel that’s as much cyberpunk as it is fantasy. We follow a desperate thief named Sancia Grado, who is hired to steal a mysterious box from a warehouse. Sancia has a special ability — she can sense magic imbued in objects, which makes her job easier in a world where magic is everywhere.

Bennett lays out a fantastic story ladened with fantastic characters, but it’s his take on magic that stands out here. It’s treated a bit like computer code, and in this world, people use it for everything: to strengthen city walls, to provide city lights, and imbue weapons with greater powers. Sancia stumbles on a plot to use this power to utterly remake the world, providing a chilling commentary on the lengths that people and corporations will go to ensure that they remain in power.

Image: Tor Books

Semiosis by Sue Burke

A long-standing trope in science fiction is that moment when humanity first meets life from somewhere else in the universe. That’s the focus of Sue Burke’s debut novel, Semiosis, which recognizes that alien life likely won’t take the form of a bumpy-headed alien, but something that we might not recognize as intelligent at first blush.

Such is the case here: a spaceship departs from Earth with the mission to build a utopian civilization on a new world. But when the colonists crash-land on a planet named Pax, their focus becomes surviving among the planet’s hostile plant-life. Burke’s novel jumps from generation to generation, following the colonists and their descendants as they realize that not only are they not alone, but that co-existence is a difficult proposition.

Image: Harper Voyager

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

One of the more delightful science fiction worlds to hit bookshelves in recent years is Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers “trilogy” — a series of books set in the same world, but which otherwise stand alone. The latest is Record of a Spaceborn Few, which follows the descendants of the last flotilla of starships to depart Earth, who have clung to their way of life aboard the aging fleet.

Chamber’s novel is a beautiful look at a community that is grappling with impending change. It opens with the destruction of one member of the fleet and follows the paths of several characters — parents, newcomers, alien researchers, and others — who work to make their way through life. At its core, the book takes an optimistic view of the importance of traditions and one’s way of life, but the equal importance of bending to change with circumstance.

The Armored Saint and The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole

Myke Cole started his career with his Control Point trilogy — a military fantasy series in which magic appears in the real world. His latest foray is a grim jump over to epic fantasy with The Armored Saint and The Queen of Crows, the first installments of a trilogy that are pointed tales on the dangers of fascism.

The first novel introduces readers to a villager named Heloise who witnesses the brutality of the tyrannical Order, which nominally protects the world from wizards with the power to summon horrific demons. Heloise takes a stand against the order and brings destruction to her home, and in the next installment, becomes the figurehead of a growing movement to oppose and topple the Order. The concluding volume will be out next year.

The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

What if the stakes of the space race were higher? In the opening chapters of Mary Robinette Kowal’s latest two novels, an asteroid lands just off the US Eastern Seaboard and threatens to drastically change the climate. To save humanity, the US and partner countries embark on an ambitious plan to colonize the Solar System.

In the midst of this is a WASP pilot named Elma York, who has the skills and ambition to assist with the effort. In the first novel, she faces systemic sexism and racism as she works to break into the astronaut corps as they set their sights on the Moon. In the second, she joins the first mission to Mars, and contends with not only the challenges of spaceflight, but the attitudes and biases of her crew. These two books are the first steps into a vivid, exciting world, and fortunately, there’s more to come.

Image: Harper Collins

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

R.F. Kuang’s debut novel The Poppy War is the promising opening salvo for an upcoming military fantasy trilogy inspired in part by the atrocities that occurred during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It follows a bright young woman named Rin who earns admission into the Nikara Empire’s elite military academy, Sinegard, an escape from servitude in her impoverished province.

Once she arrives at the school, however, she finds that the road before her will be difficult: she contends not only with her classmates’ racism and a challenging course load at the school, but the onset of a brutal and horrific war. As she enters the fight, she learns that power comes at a horrific cost.

Image: Orbit Books

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

Earlier this year, N.K. Jemisin become the first author — ever — to earn three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel for her phenomenal Broken Earth trilogy. While we wait for her next novel, she’s brought together a collection of her short fiction, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?

Each story in this collection simmers with a righteous fury at the state of the world. Her characters often find themselves at the end of systematic injustice, and her stories, a mix of cyberpunk, epic and urban fantasy, hard science fiction, and more, critique modern life.

In “The City, Born Great,” a young man comes to terms with his status as the manifestation of New York City, while in “Red Dirt Witch” a mother faces down a powerful creature that represents white supremacy, and is forced to contend with the sacrifices that she and her family must make to ensure that they have a future. For fans of her Broken Earth trilogy, there’s also “Stone Hunger,” in which a girl will stop at nothing to hunt down a man who destroyed her life. The rest of the collection’s stories are just as fantastic and timely.

Image: Arsenal Pulp

The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai

Set in the distant future, humanity survives on a planet wrecked by climate change and plagues in Larissa Lai’s latest novel The Tiger Flu, which follows a community of cloned women who are battling for their very survival waged by illness and economics.

Lai’s story follows two women: Kirilow, a doctor of Grist Village whose lover Peristrophe dies of a new strain of flu. Peristrophe was vitally important to their community — she could regrow her limbs and organs, and following her death, Kirilow sets out to Salt Water City to try to find someone to replace her. There, she meets Kora, a woman living in the city who might be able to save her community, but who resists leaving her family behind. Lai’s story is an intriguing post-apocalyptic novel, one rife with biotech and the remnants of the world from before.

Image: Tor Books

Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu

Cixin Liu is best known for his fantastic Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy — Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End — which begin in the 1970s and run all the way to the heat death of the universe. In his latest novel, Liu explores how obsession can lead to dark and dangerous places.

The book follows a young man named Chen who witnesses the death of his parents in a freak accident — they’re incinerated by a ball lightning strike. The incident leads him down a path to study the phenomenon, leading him across the world. Along the way, he meets an obsessive army weapons engineer named Lin Yun, who wants to harness the power of ball lightning into a new weapon. Liu approaches the story with the same interest in physics and technology as his other books, and highlights the dangers that power and technology can bring.

Image: Saga Press

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse made a splash earlier this year when she won the 2018 Hugo and Nebula Awards for her short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience TM.” Her debut novel Trail of Lightning is a dazzling urban fantasy that puts indigenous culture front and center and sets up an incredible world.

The book follows a Native American woman named Maggie Hoskie in Dinétah, the traditional homeland of the Navajo tribe. Protected from the chaos of climate change and war by massive, magical walls, she’s one of a small group of people who have exhibited magical powers and finds work as a monster hunter. When a magical construct snatches a young child from a village, she realizes that there’s a powerful force that threatens her community, and is pulled into the struggle to stop it before they’re wiped out.

Image: Columbia University Press

The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First-Century Chinese Science Fiction edited by Mingwei Song and Theodore Huters

Cixin Liu might be one of the best-known Chinese science fiction authors, but there’s a growing effort to bring more fiction from the country to the West. Wellesley College professor Mingwei Song and UCLA professor emeritus Theodore Huters have assembled a fascinating anthology of some of the contemporary stories coming out of China today.

Those include established authors like Cixin Liu, but also newcomers like Chen Qiufan, Xia Jia, Bao Shu, and others, telling stories about alternate realities, other societies, and potential futures for the ascendant nation. The stories range from interstellar wars, messages from a long-dead human race, as well as AI, robotics, and cybernetics. The stories represent just a slice of China’s science fiction community, but it’s an engrossing window into a fascinating body of work.

Image: Penguin Random House

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Time travel is a tricky proposition — science fiction has endlessly explored the possibilities and consequences of changing the past or future, and Tom Sweterlitsch’s book is a complicated take on the trope.

Sweterlitsch opens in the 20th-century with a time-traveling NCIS agent named Shannon Moss who is tasked with investigating a particularly gruesome murder. Moss jumps back and forth in time to try to unmask the killer, exploring different timelines and suspects. It’s a vivid, complicated story that blends crime fiction with cosmic horror that doesn’t release you until the last page is turned.

Image: Saga Press

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Comedy in science fiction is often a tricky thing to accomplish — it’s hard to live up to the likes of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. But Catherynne M. Valente accomplished that and more with her novel Space Opera.

“Space opera” is the catch-all term for the type of science fiction novels set in big galactic empires or following starships as they work their way across space. Valente turned it into an excellent pun after a conversation about Eurovision. The book follows a washed-up glam rocker named Decibel who is brought on to represent Earth in a Megagalactic Grand Prix — an interstellar music competition that will judge whether or not Earth can join the greater galactic civilization. It’s side-splittingly witty and wonderfully written, with almost every line in the novel telling a story of its own.

Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ first Murderbot novella, All Systems Red, came out last year, and was a huge hit — eventually earning the 2018 Nebula and Hugo Awards for its category. This year saw the rest of the series hit bookshelves, continuing the story of the grumpy-but-good-hearted security android that calls itself Murderbot.

Each story roughly stands on its own, but they make up a larger story in Wells’ universe, following Murderbot as it bounces from planet to planet and tries to figure out its purpose in the universe. Along the way, it finds itself helping people caught up in conflicts against the domineering mega corporations that rule the space lanes, and ultimately helps to take down one that’s been gunning for its friends. While this series has wrapped, Wired just published a new Murderbot short story, and Wells is hard at work on a new novel about the character.

Honorable mentions:

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi; Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece by Michael Benson; The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander; The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark;

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss; Points of Impact by Marko Kloos; The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States: A Speculative Novel by Jeffrey Lewis; War Cry by Brian McClellan; Time Was by Ian McDonald; Severance by Ling Ma; Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci;

Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee; Star Wars: Last Shot by Daniel José Older; Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira; Bandwidth / Borderless by Eliot Peper; Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson; Head On and The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi; Vengeful by V.E. Schwab; The Book of M by Peng Shepherd;

The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith; Mutiny at Vesta by R.E. Stearns; Rosewater by Tade Thompson; Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar; Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas; Side Life by Steve Toutonghi; The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay; On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden; The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts; and The Descent of Monsters by JY Yang.

Archive  https://archive.is/lV2lf

Graphic Canon of Literary Comics: From Virginia Woolf to James Joyce, Visual Artists Take on The Classics – By Maria Popova

Ulysses in six panels, Colette in pen and ink, Yeats in watercolor, and other literary springboards for art.


In 2012, The Graphic Canon, Vol. 2 Russ Kick’s fantastic compendium of literary art and comics from Lewis Carroll to the Brontë Sisters by way of Darwin — came in as one of the year’s best graphic novels and graphic nonfiction. Now, Kick is back with the final installment in his trilogy: The Graphic Canon, Vol. 3: From Heart of Darkness to Hemingway to Infinite Jest (public library), a magnificent 560-page tome offering artful takes on classics published after 1899 by such beloved authors as Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, James Joyce, Edna St. Vincent Millay, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and T. S. Eliot.

Among the 84 contributing artists are longtime favorites like Matt Kish, whose Moby-Dick illustrations remain indispensable, Molly Crabapple, who illustrated Salvador Dali’s manifesto in a Brain Pickings Artist Series collaboration and visualized the power of introverts, and the great R. Crumb, who brought comics to album covers and memorably illustrated Bukowski. Their remarkable range — from the minimalist to the elaborate, the rugged to the dreamy — infuses these classics with new dimensions of celebratory love and appreciation.

‘The Voyage Out’ by Virginia Woolf, illustrated by Caroline Picard
‘The Voyage Out’ by Virginia Woolf, illustrated by Caroline Picard
‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad, illustrated by Matt Kish
‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad, illustrated by Matt Kish

In the introduction, Kick writes of the project’s ethos, all three volumes of which were edited simultaneously and thus bear the same editorial sensibility:

I asked the artists to stay true to the literary works as far as plot, characters, and text, but visually they had free reign. Any style, any media, any approach. Spare. Dense. Lush. Fragmented. Seamless. Experimental. Old school. Monochrome. Saturated. Pen and ink. Markers. Digital. Silk-screened. Painted. Sequential art. Full-page illustrations. Unusual hybrids of words and images. Images without words. And, in one case, words without images.

‘The Dreaming of the Bones’ by W. B. Yeats, illustrated by Lauren Weinstein
‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’ by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Jenny Tondera
‘Colette’ by Cherí, illustrated by Molly Crabapple

At the heart of the project is the recognition that literary classics have always inspired visual art. Kick adds:

The Canon was always meant as an art project, part of the ages-old tradition of visual artists using classic works of literature as their springboard. It was also conceived as a celebration of literature, a way to present dramatic new takes on the greatest stories ever told. It turned into a lot more — a survey of Western literature (with some Asian and indigenous works represented), an encyclopedia of ways to merge images and text, a showcase of some of the best (and often underexposed comics artists and illustrators. And a kicky examination of love, sex, death, violence, revolution, money, drugs, religion, family, (non)conformity, longing, transcendence, and other aspects of the human condition that literature and art have always wrestled with.

‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce, illustrated by David Lasky
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D. H. Lawrence, illustrated by Lisa Brown
‘Nausea’ by Jean-Paul Sartre, illustrated by R. Crumb
‘Nausea’ by Jean-Paul Sartre, illustrated by R. Crumb
‘Naked Lunch’ by William S. Burroughs, illustrated by Emelie Ostergren

Given my undying love for Anaïs Nin’s diaries and letters, which have been the subject of several Brain Pickings Artist Series original collaborations, I was particularly delighted to find this contribution by Mardou:

Anaïs Nin’s diaries, illustrated by Mardou

The Graphic Canon, Vol. 3 was preceded by the equally fantastic The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1: From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons and The Graphic Canon, Vol. 2: From “Kubla Khan” to the Bronte Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Every Page of Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ Illustrated by Self-Taught Artist Matt Kish

Two years after his infinitely wonderful illustrations for every page of Moby-Dick, which ranked among the best art and design books of 2011, self-taught Ohio-based artist Matt Kish returns with an equally exquisite edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (public library). With one haunting acrylic-paint-and-ink illustration for every page, Kish — whose artwork was included in the excellent compendium The Graphic Canon, Vol. 3 — reinvigorates the Conrad classic and its timeless themes of race, gender, power, privilege, and the dualities of the human soul.

In the introduction, Kish contrasts his two projects:

Every illustrator, no matter what the project, is confronted with choices. In considering how to approach Heart of Darkness, I had to make a lot of choices, and they were never simple. What struck me while illustrating Moby-Dick was just how vast Melville’s novel seemed. It’s an enormous book that, to paraphrase Whitman, contains multitudes. It contradicts itself in style and tone in gloriously messy ways and it’s strong enough to carry the visions of dozens of artists. . . . With Melville, there is room.

Conrad is something entirely different, particularly when it comes to Heart of Darkness. There is a terrifying feeling of claustrophobia and a crushing singularity of purpose to the story. It’s almost as if the deeper one reads, the further down a tunnel one is dragged, all other options and paths dwindling and disappearing, until nothing is left but that awful and brutal encounter with Kurtz and the numbing horror of his ideas. Where Moby-Dick roams far and wide across both land and sea, Heart of Darkness moves in one direction only, and that is downward.

While it never could have been an easy task to take a well-known piece of literature and breathe some different kind of life into it with pictures, the inexorable downward pull of this black hole of a story — this bullet to the head — made demands that I couldn’t have imagined.

And yet Kish met those demands head-on, with equal parts creative bravery and respect for Conrad’s sensibility, all the while drawing us into that black hole with irresistible magnetism.

Complement Kish’s Heart of Darkness with his Moby-Dick, then explore other graphic artists’ interpretations of literary classics.


1913 ‘Sons and Lovers’ D. H. Lawrence – Esteemed Classic Novel – Decent 2003 Movie

I was looking through the classic audio books that were offered on the music service Spotify.   I saw ‘Sons and Lovers’ by D. H. Lawrence and remembered that the 1913 semi-autobiographical novel was considered one of the best of the 20th century and in the top 100 list.  So, I gave the first chapter a listen.  The audio rendition of the 1913 novel was well done and I liked the voice of the person reading the professionally produced reading.  So, I looked up the work and found the Project Gutenberg text – http://www.gutenberg.org/files/217/217-h/217-h.htm and also a free Libravox version – https://librivox.org/sons-and-lovers-version-2-by-d-h-lawrence/ for anyone who doesn’t have Spotify, or myself if I’m on a different device and want access to the story.  I do hunger for stories. 

I saw that there were a number of movie and television series made based on the work. I look it up on Youtube and found a very good version from the UK’s ITV in 2003.  Three hours long in two parts, but a real chance to see what the England looked like for some people circa 1910.  The movie also has a chance to show how people dressed, and what the insides of the houses of lower class people looked like.  A visual chance to look at a long gone time.