Everyone: Worlds Without Walls

Tony C. Smith, of the venerable science fiction audio magazine StarShipSofa, is putting together a science fiction anthology in response to the rampant xenophobia we see in evidence across the world and especially in the form of American fascism. He has brought together writers from countries across the world for the anthology, including Ken Liu, Lavie Tidhar, Eve Shi, Rajan Khanna, Margrét Helgadóttir, Carmelo Rafala, Yasser Bahjatt, Jonathan Dotse, Swapna Kishore, J Y Yang, Dayo Ntwari, Fábio Fernandes and Luis G. Abbadie, and with an upcoming stretch goal Samuel R Delany will join them.

Tony has been able to reach the first funding goal and now is promoting a second anthology, Everyone: Worlds Covered In Blood, which will feature diverse horror writers.

I’ve long believed that science fiction is at its best when it shines a light on what is possible, and even more so when more voices are filtered through its lens. What this anthology —and District of Wonders as a whole— will do matters and means more than just having thoughtful, entertaining stories. These possibilities, terrible and hopeful, offer us insight into what is and will be happening around us.

Visit the Kickstarter at Everyone: Worlds Without Walls to learn more and back the project.

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Tony C. Smith here, coming to you from the northeast of England, on this here planet Earth we all call home.

And what times we are living in on this world of ours. You can see it here in the UK, and even more coming across from America, news of division and injustice based on the notion that there’s an “us” and a “them”, and that those differences mean that “they” must be driven out or shut out by walls. We’re seeing so much happening that at bottom seems to be fueled by fear, manipulation, and hate.

Ten years ago I started StarShipSofa – just a little show featuring great science fiction authors of the past. We started out featuring the classics – the big names that everyone knows. Even then in those humble days we knew we wanted to shine a light on diverse writers – Ursula K. LeGuin, James Tiptree Jr., Samuel R. Delany, and other luminaries who helped create the tapestry of science fiction as we know it today.

Ever since then, StarShipSofa has sought out and celebrated diverse writers and stories. That dedication to diversity has only grown stronger over the years, and we will keep working to do even better. On top of that, we’ve shone a light on the value of exploring and sharing knowledge – everything from science, culture, history, music, art and more – because truth is what inspires us, and makes us better citizens of the world.

And that’s what it’s about – our vision of a better world. Along with our sister podcasts Tales to Terrify and Far-Fetched Fables, I really believe we have brought that vision to life in the District of Wonders.

The District of Wonders is a world where we know that diversity makes us richer. It’s a world where there are no walls, no barriers, no guns, no hatred. The District of Wonders is a world that values equality, and seeks to recognize and welcome people of all backgrounds, religions, races, cultures, and expressions of humanity. It’s a world that values truth. Everyone has a story in the District of Wonders – and every story is important. Everyone is important.So what I’m asking now is that you join me in standing against injustice and discrimination in the way that the District of Wonders does best – by sharing stories.

If successful, this Kickstarter will fund an e-book anthology of stories that offer a greater representation of ALL the people of this beautiful rich world.

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Pirate Cinema

Cory Doctorow has long had a great sense of how to make things happening in the present work as exciting elements of near-future science fiction plots, whether it was 3D printing in Makers or virtual economies in For the Win. With Pirate Cinema he took on unethical copyright law, remix culture, piracy and pirate cinemas and created one of his most gripping and convincing novels.

The most important part of Pirate Cinema to me was the effective and sympathetic defence against draconian copyright laws. Cory depicts, in a very accessible way, how harmful strong copyright laws are to everyday people. When families can have every aspect of their lives negatively impacted by the mere accusation of breaking copyright, laws are not in the interest of the people they are intended to serve, and this story illustrates that masterfully.

Beyond the capable arguments for political stances, it’s a thrilling read that is in a league above much of what is marketed as young adult fiction. The characters are some of Cory’s most diverse and well rendered while the plot moves quickly and carries a lot of momentum up to the final pages. It’s a superb marriage of conviction and execution.

Pirate Cinema can be purchased in paper and ebook formats or as an audiobook. Like all of the other books Cory has published, it is available as a free ebook download.

Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In the dystopian near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; the punishment for being caught three times is that your entire household’s access to the internet is cut off for a year, with no appeal.

Trent’s too clever for that too happen. Except it does, and it nearly destroys his family. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London, where he slowly he learns the ways of staying alive on the streets. This brings him in touch with a demimonde of artists and activists who are trying to fight a new bill that will criminalize even more harmless internet creativity, making felons of millions of British citizens at a stroke.

Things look bad. Parliament is in power of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers-that-be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds….

The Lotus and the Artichoke

In September of 2012, I backed Justin P. Moore‘s The Lotus and the Artichoke cookbook on Kickstarter. I was excited by the potential of a vegan cookbook that focused on recipes found and adapted from countries across the world. I’ve had the ebook for a couple weeks and have been thrilled by the recipes, photographs and travel accounts.

The book contains recipes from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe, with many documented with mouth-watering photos. Some of the meals are small twists on common recipes, but there are many inventive and enticing new dishes I hadn’t encountered before.

The Lotus and the Artichoke – Vegan Recipes from World Adventures can be purchased in both ebook and paper formats. Justin also has many recipes available on the book’s website.

However you choose to define your diet and lifestyle, there’s something special for everyone who is turned on by delicious, gorgeous, compassionate, creative international cooking and nutrition.

Perhaps you are already an experienced expert with vegan and plant-based food, maybe you’re an aspiring vegan or mostly-vegetarian, a veg-loving omni, or getting into Meatless Mondays with your partner, family, or friends.

Maybe you aren’t concerned with labels – you just love amazing food and you dream of distant lands. The Lotus and the Artichoke isn’t set on perfectionism, purity, or politics. It’s about possibilities: This is a tribute to world flavor, an inspiration to spice up your life, and an open-minded invitation to join me on culinary adventures through world cuisines from around the world.

Discover delicious Indo-Chinese dishes (mostly unknown outside India; beloved among Indians and backpackers), incredible Indian feasts, Chinese and Southeast Asian treats and wonders, Italian, French, German and other exciting European vegan variations and converted classics. You’ll find super tasty African medleys from the North, West and East, All-American go-to greats and family favorites, seductive sweets from around the world, and a variety of super-charged salads.

Where the Concrete Desert Blooms

I lived in southern Ontario between 2009 and 2010. My experience with Hamilton was very brief, consisting of working a strange job there for only a couple days. It wasn’t long enough to establish a clear impression of the city.

I was thankful to discover Tings Chak‘s Where the Concrete Desert Blooms last month so that I could experience her account of life in the city. Tings explored activism, community, art, storytelling, and what it means to inhabit a city that is imperfect but full of potential. I feel similarly about my own home, Halifax, and could relate to many of the stories shared in the book.

The book collects personal, historical and imaginative stories about the city and Tings life before moving to it. The autobiographical elements give the book a lot of warmth; I felt more immersed in the stories than I expected to be and enjoyed the care taken to present each person in the stories.

I especially appreciated Tings’ exploration of the community activism she discovered and became a part of while living in the city. There is one segment of the book that was especially meaningful for me where Ting talks about the creative, playful activism she took part in. Both creativity and playfulness are traits I believe we should embrace in our approaches to social concerns and I was glad to see a direct and personal example of how that can be done.

Where the Concrete Desert Blooms can be purchased directly from Tings at her website. It’s available in both print and digital formats. There is also a listing of shops that sell the book.

The Guinea Pig Diaries

This week I read A.J. Jacob’s The Guinea Pig Diaries, an account of an experimental life. I appreciate Jacobs’ candour and playfulness with his subjects, which range in this book through honesty, outsourcing, fame, gender roles, rationality, unitasking and civility. The very personal accounts are funny, insightful and accessible. What I was most excited about throughout the book, however, was the experimentation.

I’ve been following the quantified self movement, lifehacking communities and other venues for personal experimentation for years, and have conducted my own experiments for nearly as long. Though Jacobs’ approach is different, I have a lot of respect for the way he has approached so many things he has written about. There is tremendous virtue in testing lifestyles.

On a mission to understand the mysteries of modern life – from love to work to fame – I became a human guinea pig. I immersed myself in a series of radical lifestyle experiments. I changed the way I thought, talked and looked. I followed old wisdom and new science. I saw the world from the eyes of a woman. I followed the wisdom of George Washington. I outsourced my life. I engaged, I’m afraid to say, in public nudity. (Not all at the same time).

These experiments wreaked havoc on my life, and drove both my wife and me to the brink of insanity, but also gave me fascinating insights.

Nomad Codes

During the past year I have been dipping into Erik DavisNomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica for pieces of brilliant writing on the most exciting, strange and baffling elements of culture. Erik has an incredible knack for exploring a huge range of topics and it’s always a pleasure to be exposed to his take on any subject. Nomad Codes is filled with delightfully insightful and eloquently expressed looks at disparate topics such as entheogens, Buddhism, weird fiction, eclectic music, Ufology, cults and pop culture.

Whether his subject is collage art or the “magickal realism” of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, transvestite Burmese spirit mediums or Ufology, tripster king Terence McKenna or dub maestro Lee Perry, Davis writes with keen yet skeptical sympathy, intellectual subtlety and wit, and unbridled curiosity. The common thread running through all these pieces is what Davis calls “modern esoterica,” which he describes in his preface as a “no-man’s-land located somewhere between anthropology and mystical pulp, between the zendo and the metal club, between cultural criticism and extraordinary experience, whether psychedelic, or yogic, or technological.” Such an ambiguous and startling landscape demands that the intrepid adventurer shed any territorial claims and go nomad. Davis wanders with sharp eyes and an open mind, which is why Peter Lamborn Wilson calls him “the best of all guides to modern American spirituality.

A sample from the book, “Sampling Paradise: Goa Trance“, is available through Reality Sandwich, where Erik is a contributor.

Craig Thompson’s Habibi

“Then, as you transition to adulthood, you realize you have some responsibility to the world. Stories, as you grow up, are more about actually confronting the real world. In that sense, the art does hold some sort of sacred role.” – Craig Thompson, from an article titled “Square fare: The design secrets behind Craig Thompson’s Habibi

Years ago I read Craig Thompson‘s Blankets and fell in love with his wonderful storytelling and magnificent drawings. I have returned to each of his books countless times and am always enchanted the by warmth he brings to the comics form.

Craig’s latest book, Habibi, took years to create and its more than 600 pages are clearly the work of a master; the art is often intricate, delicately balanced and breathtaking and the effort put into research and worldbuilding become clear in the incredible immersion this story offers. Just brushing the surface, this book is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever encountered.

It’s also incredibly ambitious in it’s field of concern. Habibi is a magnificent love story but it also looks unflinchingly at gender, sexuality, environmentalism, poverty, religion, racism, globalization, and exploitation with nuance and obvious care. This work has as much concern for global issues as it does for the intimate details of life and every part of the story is challenging both intellectually and emotionally.


Another of my favourite authors, Cory Doctorow, wrote glowingly about the book and mirrors my own sentiment about it.

“Habibi is an enormous and genre-busting graphic novel that blends Islamic mysticism, slave/liberation narratives and post-apocalyptic science fiction, creating a story that is erotic, grotesque, and profoundly moving.”

Habibi is told in a dreamlike, non-linear, dense style, with asides for swirling Islamic legends, the theory and practice of magic squares, the hidden meanings in Arabic calligraphy, jumping from time to time and place to place, giving the book a deep, mythic resonance. The tale is epic and often horrific, but so well told that it grips you right through it’s 670-odd pages.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this, and I expect I’ll be thinking about it for a long, long time.
– Cory Doctorow, “Habibi: graphic novel blends Islamic legend, science fiction dystopia, love and loss

Like Blankets, the book is receiving overwhelming and much-deserved critical praise. Other reviews can be found a the Habibi website and a fascinating interview is at “Craig Thompson—The Devil Made Me Draw It“.

Scott Pilgrim Volumes 4, 5 & 6

When i first wrote about the Scott Pilgrim series, I was warming up to it after the first half of its 6 books. Brian Lee O’Malley’s storytelling was greatly improved in these books, and his focus on relationships redeemed some of the sillier bits of the story.