A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[LINK] “Healthy Words”

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Alec Ash’s post at the London Review of Books‘ blog about the popularity of science fiction in China touches upon something I’d last mentioned in 2007 in relation to Robert Sawyer’s popularity in that country.

In 1902 Lu Xun translated Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon into Chinese from the Japanese edition. Science fiction, he wrote in the preface, was ‘as rare as unicorn horns, which shows in a way the intellectual poverty of our time’. Not any more. The Three-Body Trilogy by Liu Cixin has sold 500,000 copies in China since the first volume was published in 2006 (it will come out in English in the autumn). Liu, an engineer, is one of the so-called ‘three generals’ of contemporary Chinese science fiction, along with Wang Jinkang and Han Song.

‘Sci fi,’ Han says, ‘can express a lot that can’t be expressed in other literature.’ His most recent collection of stories, High Speed Rail, begins with a train crash that recalls the politically sensitive rail collision in Wenzhou in July 2011. In an earlier novella, Taiwan Drifts, Taiwan has broken free from its moorings and is on a literal collision course with the mainland. Unsurprisingly, much of Han’s work isn’t published in the People’s Republic.

or is The Fat Years (2009) by Chan Koonchung. Set in 2013, it depicts an ‘age of Chinese ascendancy’ following a massive global financial crash. But the month-long crackdown that launched the golden era is missing from the population’s collective memory, and the water supply is probably spiked with a drug to keep everyone mildly euphoric. ‘The people fear chaos more than they fear dictatorship,’ a high-ranking Party official says.

But not being published in China doesn’t mean not being read. A lot of ‘unpublished’ sci fi is freely available online, and censors are engaged in a permanent game of cat-and-mouse with allusive writers and readers alert to disguised meanings. ‘For a long time,’ Chan told me, ‘Chinese intellectuals used history as a fable to talk about the present. Now, the newer generation is using science fiction to write about the present.’ (There are a few venerable precedents: Cat Country by Lao She was published in 1932; an English translation came out last year. It’s set in a Martian civilisation of cat-like people addicted to ‘reverie leaves’, oppressed by both physically stronger foreigners and the architects of ‘Everybody Shareskyism’.)

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2014 at 3:00 am

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO wonders, in the aftermath of companies confiscating bicycles parked on city property, if Toronto should clearly mark off public and private space on its streets.
  • Centauri Dreams studies news that the Stardust probe may have captured bits of the interstellar medium.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports that sun-like Alpha Centauri A and B can both support planets in stable Earth-like orbits.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the impact of changing patterns of snowfall on Arctic ice.
  • Eastern Approaches studies Balkan volunteers in wars abroad, both that of Albanians in the Middle East and of Serbs for Russia in Ukraine.
  • Far Outliers looks at Japan’s farmer-soldiers on the late 19th century Hokkaido frontier.
  • Spacing Toronto favourably reviews the new psychogeography-themed book Unruly Places.
  • Understanding Society points to the massive success of a comparative statistical analysis of historical Eurasian populations.
  • Window on Eurasia links to a photo essay of an empty post-Olympics Sochi.
  • Writing Through the Fog’s Cheri Lucas Rowlands argues that modern social media hinders memoir writing, by making it too easy to publish quickly.
  • Wonkman points out that the problem with subtle homoeroticism in modern popular culture is that, well, it doesn’t need to be subtle any more. What needs to be hidden?

[LINK] “Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds”

Alison Flood’s article in The Guardian about the apparent issues associated with reading ereaders resonated with me, as it did with people around the world. I generally prefer reading from books to reading online, having noticed the same comprehension and retention issues in my own reading.

I wonder what the consequences will be in the future, when so much more reading material is only going to be online. Will ereaders technology advance enough?

The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month and set to be published as a paper, gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters and settings.

Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University, a lead researcher on the study, thought academics might “find differences in the immersion facilitated by the device, in emotional responses” to the story. Her predictions were based on an earlier study comparing reading an upsetting short story on paper and on iPad. “In this study, we found that paper readers did report higher on measures having to do with empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than iPad readers,” said Mangen.

But instead, the performance was largely similar, except when it came to the timing of events in the story. “The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order.”

The researchers suggest that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does”.

“When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,” said Mangen. “You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual … [The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 22, 2014 at 8:14 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO lists five classic Toronto signs at risk of disappearing.
  • Centauri Dreams discusses plans for really, really big telescope arrays.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that young star HD 169142 appears to be forming both a brown dwarf and its own planetary system.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the use of a laser by the US Navy to accelerate a projectile to speeds of one thousand kilometres a second.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel reports on the last major uprising of the Ainu against the Japanese, in 1789.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a report from some American homophobes claiming that lesbians, owing to their left-wing ideological commitments, are a big threat than gay men.
  • Language Log examines a sign blending Mandarin and Cantonese.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a news report suggesting readers absorb less from online reading than they do from paper.
  • Peter Rukavina maps his travels over the summer.
  • Spacing Toronto notes concerns over the cost of the high-speed rail connection to Pearson airport.
  • Torontoist notes Rob Ford’s newest conflict of interest allegations.
  • Towleroad talks about Luxembourg’s openly gay prime minister, set to marry his partner.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes problems regarding the protection of eagles and religious freedom issues regarding holding eagle feathers for religious reasons.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on claims by activists that Russia must federalize or disintegrate.

[ISL] “Independent book store turns the page”

The Charlottetown Guardian‘s Dave Stewart reports that Charlottetown independent book store Bookmark (official site, Yelp), along with its satellite store in Halifax, will survive. After the death of the small chain’s owner in 2013, Bookmark went up for sale. It has since been bought by a pair of investors who seem committed to Bookmark’s history as an excellent indie bookstore. Here’s hoping!

Dan MacDonald has started another chapter in a business legacy that began in Charlottetown 42 years ago.

MacDonald and his wife Marlene recently purchased one of the few remaining independent book stores in Atlantic Canada.

Bookmark Inc. was founded in Charlottetown in 1972 and has been at its present location in the Confederation Court Mall since 1980. The business expanded into Nova Scotia in 1989, opening a location on Spring Garden Road in Halifax.

“Books are a passion of mine,” Dan MacDonald tells The Guardian. “I’m very excited about it. Owning a book store is something I’ve thought about for the last 10 to 15 years.”

Dan and Marlene purchased the Bookmark from the estate of Rodney Jones, the store’s long-time owner who died more than a year ago.

Gary MacLeod, president of Bookmark Inc., said Jones’ daughters, Tarra Drevet and Charla Jones, wanted to ensure that the stores would have continued success in both Charlottetown and Halifax “with a new owner who would have the vision to continue operating both locations with the same passion that Rodney had”.

His daughters issued a statement to the media through the MRSB Group, which handled the sale.

“We are so proud of the business which our father established and built over the last 40 years,” Drevet and Jones said. “We believe that Dan and Marlene will be able to maintain and grow the business based upon the successful framework established by our father.”

No changes are planned at either location and all staff have been retained.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 19, 2014 at 2:18 am

[BLOG] Some Canada-related links

  • James Bow celebrates his fourth published novel.
  • blogTO celebrates WiFi in Bay station and shares old pictures of the Junction.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle examines the question of what caused new pollution in Lake Erie.
  • Spacing Toronto examines again the controversy over a billboard apparently unauthorized at Bathuest and Davenport.
  • Torontoist links to a project mapping specific songs to specific places on the map of Toronto, observes after Cheri DiNovo turmoil in the post-election Ontario NDP, and notes Dr. Barnardo’s Home Children as well as the complex life of possibly-lesbian Mazo de la Roche.
  • Transit Toronto’s James Bow approves of Steve Munro’s post suggesting that underfunding and neglect will soon cause serious harm to the TTC and its riders.

[LINK] “What Is a Fringe Festival Anyway?”

Mooney on Theatre editor Wayne Leung reshared today, on the first day of the Toronto Fringe Festival, a a Huffington Post article he wrote last year explaining just what it is about.

I’ll be covering some Fringe shows this year for this publication again, starting tonight in fact. I quite look forward to the experience again.

It costs a lot of money to produce and promote a show and because making theatre is so cost-prohibitive only a handful of professional and established not-for-profit theatre companies can afford to mount shows.

Fringe festivals are all about providing an accessible avenue for independent theatre artists to produce and perform their work in front of an audience. The Fringe is really the essence of theatre; virtually anybody can submit a show to the Fringe and the festivals place no limits on content so shows can be bold, raw and uncensored.

While the Fringe theatre movement started in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, still home to the world’s largest fringe festival, the first Canadian fringe festival was founded in Edmonton in 1982. Since then the movement has spread across the continent and the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals currently boasts 23 member festivals across Canada and the United States.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 2, 2014 at 10:11 pm

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