Magpie Monday

Here are some shiny things that caught my eye recently:

♦ Belgian artist Stéphane Halleux creates wonderful, whimsical sculptures, vaguely Steampunkish in design. He started working first in animation, but now creates his sculptures full time. If you speak French, please to enjoy this video profile of Halleux. Below is the charming Monsieur Hublot (I love his coat), and if you like him you’ll enjoy this animation test for a short movie featuring M. Hublot. Via.

Monsieur Hublot by Stéphane Halleux

♦ The Reading Spot.

Virginia Woolf reads.

Enjoy some fine prose selections:

Song of the Vikings (excerpt) by Nancy Marie Brown at (for you mythology fans out there)

Wild Things, illustration by Allen Williams

Wild Things by Alyx Dellamonica at

London Falling (excerpt) by Paul Cornell at

Russell Hinson added chapter seven—The Known Universe—to his ongoing novel, Edward & Amelia vs The Vampire King

My Mother’s Shadow by Henry Lu at Daily Science Fiction

Just Today by Nina Kiriki Hoffman at Daily Science Fiction

Red at the End of the World by Lynda E. Rucker at Daily Science Fiction

The Tides by Ken Liu at Daily Science Fiction. Bonus Liu: at io9, you can read Paper Menagerie, which has won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award—the first work of fiction to do so!

Ansa and the Lost Thing by Sophie Wereley at Daily Science Fiction

Flax-golden tales: Be Happy for No Reason by Erin Morgenstern

Once a month, io9 features a story from the current issue of Lightspeed. This month’s story is Searching for Slave Leia by Sandra McDonald.

Bound Man by Mary Robinette Kowal at (via)

This past week AlphaBooks, an alphabetical tumblr exploration of fictional characters curated by Ben Towle, moved to the Y’s. Next week I shall be quite sad to see the Z’s. I enjoyed the illustrations for Y is for Yorick (of Hamlet) by Sam Wolk and Y is for Yagharek (of Perdido Street Station) by Andrew Neal. But my favorite is Leah Palmer Preiss‘s Y is for You, from Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Obviously, you know I like Preiss’s work, but I have a deep affection for If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, which I read long, long ago.

♦ The Book Nook.

Last Tuesday was the birthday of one of my favorite authors, Michael Cunningham. I love this picture of him. Via.

Joe Queenan wrote about his 6, 128 favorite books over at The Wall Street Journal. Here’s a teaser:

Fifty-five years later, with at least 6,128 books under my belt, I still organize my daily life—such as it is—around reading. As a result, decades go by without my windows getting washed.

At The Paris Review, John Lingan writes about book shopping with Michael Dirda, “the best-read man in America.” Via.

A boy sits amid the ruins of a London bookshop following an air raid

BookRiot has the first part of a Beginner’s Guide to Identifying First Editions.

Make deceptive dust covers for your paperback books. Via.

I love that USC’s Doheny Library found a unique use for their unused card catalog drawers (via):

The card catalog drawers at Doheny Library haven’t had cards in them for years. They are built into the wall of a charming alcove off to the left of the circulation desk. Removing them would not necessarily be difficult, but the aesthetics of the little space they occupy is quite enjoyable and older alumni love to regale us with tales of how they spent hours there transcribing titles, call numbers, etc.

Rather than remove the drawers, we have instituted a new use: fundraising. Enter the Top Drawer Society. Donors who contribute $10,000 at one time or over four years and are honored with an engraved plaque placed on one of the drawers. Simple enough. But what we did not expect was that donors would use these drawers to leave secret gifts to their children/grandchildren/etc. who are currently attending USC. So this past month, we added locks and keys to all the drawers and hence begins what I hope will be a long and cherished tradition of gift giving down and across generations of library patrons.

♦ She Blinded Me … with Science!

Carl Sagan’s birthday was on Friday, as I know Cameron knows, and folks celebrated: io9 had a round-up of their favorite Sagan posts, and introduced the Cosmos Rewatch, beginning at the beginning with the first episode, The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean.

NASA GSFC:Michael Benson:Kinetikon Pictures. (c) All Rights Reserved

Astronomy: A gallery of photographs from across our solar system.

Aliette de Bodard on common myths about science.

Biology: These medical illustrations look like scenes from another world.

Neuroscience: Do men and women experience orgasms differently (spoiler alert: yes); Our brains can make fast decisions, and accurate decisions—but not at the same time; When blind people hallucinate.

Psychology: Finally: Medical proof that math makes your head hurt?

Medicine: New study confirms worst fears about why kids are getting fat.

Biochemistry: Why mosquitoes bite some people and not others (I’ve always said mosquitoes love my sweet blood).

Botany: What makes leaves change color in the fall?

Meteorology: Why winter storms are suddenly getting named.

Physics: How the death of one tiny particle could end the universe.

Fairy-wren by Katarina Christenson

Zoology: For Molly, the biggest myth about polar bear fur (and the weirdest truth); The year’s best wildlife photos show nature at its cruelest—and most tender; Fairy-wren chicks taught secret passwords to thwart cuckoo birds (I’m fascinated by cuckoos, so this article was of particular interest); Chemistry can induce parthenogenesis (“virgin births”) in animals.

Cryptozoology: A review of Matt Kaplan’s Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters (via Elizabeth Hand on Facebook).

Seriality: The scientist who came up with a wave theory for coincidences.

Prosthetics: Check out this video of Nigel Ackland demonstrating his bebionic v3 prosthetic hand. The link also has another video worth watching, and you can find out more about the hand here. Amazing!

♦ The Horns of Elfland.

The fantastic Idris Elba directed and starred in the new music video from Mumford and Sons—pretty darn cool. Via my friend Marnie Dresser!

Also, because I love the song and because the winter landscapes soothe me, here’s Enya’s “Aniron” (truly a voice of Elfland):

♦ Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah.

Autumn weather is the start of a serious comfort food season, and I know you want to know how to make better mac ‘n’ cheese. That’s a good recipe for classing up the old favorite. However, some of the best homemade macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had has been Martha Stewart’s recipe for perfect macaroni and cheese. Trust me.

Check out The Secret Lives of Kitchen Spices. Who knew? I like the idea of spices having secret lives.

Here’s something pretty delicious and pretty darn fascinating, too: elaborate foodscapes created and photographed by Carl Warner (his art includes other things, too). His conception of 2001: A Space Odyssey, made out of bread and chocolate, looks mighty tasty, no? Click to embiggen. Via.

2001: A Space Odyssey by Carl Warner

And check out this cool steampunk teapot by Richard Symons, which you can buy in his Etsy shop (via):


♦ Viewers’ Paradise.

Buffy stuff: You can’t go wrong with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you certainly don’t want to miss these brand-spanking-new unique episode sites: first, from my friends Cameron Cook and Hannah Jarrett comes Did Someone Say Hellmouth?, “small stories about the small lives of background characters” in various episodes of Buffy. Excellent stuff! Second, Waffle Meringue Productions has a Limerick Episode Guide, wherein the episodes are recapped as, you guessed it, limericks (see an example below). Via. And don’t forget venerable Better Than Visiting by Andrew, Taylor, and Thomas, who bring you snappy & snarky recaps of Buffy and Angel (and 24?).

Please to enjoy the official trailer for Jimmy’s End,

a 30-minute short film by Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen) and Mitch Jenkins. Judging from this trailer, it’s going to be gloriously weird. The full thing will be out on Nov 25. The production company notes, “Notably the films are Moore’s first work written specifically for the screen and made with his ongoing creative involvement and blessing.”

Woo hoo! The rumors are true: Locke & Key will be a movie trilogy! Also, Guillermo del Toro is in talks for a Justice League Dark movie!

Holy crap, the stuff of my nightmares! The interwebs are ablaze with the trailer for World War Z, starring Brad Pitt and the magnificent Mireille Enos. I am officially freaked out by zombie swarms.

For something completely different, check out LitReactor’s list of the 10 best film adaptations of classic novels.

♦ The Ninth Art.

Dark Horse put together a nice timeline of the top ten events in the life of Hellboy. The pdf looks broken, but just click on it and you’ll see the timeline. Via.

Check out these fun Wonder Woman collages made from old comics over at Straitened Circumstances.

Dr. Light is the latest post in Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Where the Wonder Women Are series.

Speaking of wonder women, Marvel’s stepping up their game with an all-female title, The Fearless Defenders (by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney), featuring Valkyrie and Misty Knight. I’ll definitely be picking up the collected volumes of this series! Via and via.

The Super-Team Family blog had two fantastic mash-ups last week. I’m sure you thought I’d share the Swamp Thing vs. Doctor Strange cover, and I almost did (do click through to see it, though; it’s a lot of fun), but instead I opted for Hawkman vs. Doc Savage. Why? Because I don’t think Doc Savage gets enough love anymore (I wax nostalgic about Savage here).

The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe REDUXE Edition also left me with a difficult choice of what to share. I really loved William  Hodge‘s take on Deathbird, whose original look never inspired a lot of dread. But once you see Hodge’s fierce warrior, you will be afraid. But I just can’t resist Roderick Constance’s take on Black King, who looks even fiercer than Hodge’s Deathbird (and very dapper, as well).

 The Postman Always Rings Twice.

So many good letters this week I wanted to share! As you may remember, I’m in love with Letters of Note, a website that attempts “to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos.” (Imagine my delight at learning that a book will be published!) The first letter that got me was an exchange between a 10-year-old and President Obama about “how to respond to those who saw [same-sex marriage] as ‘gross and weird'”—terribly endearing. Next is a letter from William James to his daughter at school. And linked from that letter was one by William’s brother, Henry, to a depressed friend with excellent advice.

But my favorite letter of the week was the letter Cat Mihos wrote to her boss and friend Neil Gaiman on the occasion of his birthday (November 10th). Surely it’s the most wonderful and heartbreaking birthday letter I’ve ever read. Who could ask for a better gift? (This letter was a good excuse to use the image of Gaiman above—a magpie with a Neil, by euclase).

The Writers’ Desk.

Rachelle Gardner offers 13 etiquette tips because manners matter. She also has advice about writing a one-sentence summary (logline, hook, one-sentence pitch) for your book.

Chuck Wendig sings the Battle Song of the Storyteller.

Full Stop’s Teaching in the Margins series continues with Seth Abramson.

My friend Will Ludwigsen has a great post on teaching writing, The Surprising Power of Giving at Shit. Here’s a sample to whet your appetite (now go read it!): “In fact, the longer I teach and write, the more I think that all of the storytelling mechanics we teach like characterization, dialogue, and point of view are virtually useless except for autopsy. If your story is truly alive, nobody will notice if those things aren’t exactly “right.” If your story is dead, they can’t save it.”

LitReactor lists 8 words to seek and destroy in your writing. I’m not a big fan of etched-in-stone rules lists, but these words can bog down a story.

Another interesting FAQ response from Warren Ellis, this time about writing dialogue.

Theodora Goss had an interesting post about Talent and Discipline last week that struck me. The image below is what prompted the post, and her take is essentially the same as mine: talent isn’t really cheap, and it’s a shame that some people would have you believe it. Don’t get me wrong: you’re not going to get very far as a writer without some kind of discipline. Go read the post!

While you’re at it, you should also read Goss’s post Finding the Time, which hit home for me pretty squarely in the chest. We’re both teachers and seem to have the same problem and temperament. To wit:

But the problem with teaching is that it takes the same kind of creative mental energy as writing. So by the end of the day, my brain is already tired, and of course that’s when I write. I know some people write in the morning, but I can’t do that. I can’t write knowing that I will need to stop in order to get dressed, or eat breakfast, or go off to teach. I have to sit down at my computer knowing that I have as much time as I need, that if I need to stay up later to finish something, I can. And writing is tiring: I can’t go and teach afterward.

That’s definitely true for me, too. Must be something in the air, as my MFA buddy Kevin St. Jarre also posted about writing and time with Writing Ain’t Like Raking the Lawn.

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