Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Neil Gaiman tells us why books matter: When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you…


I Know How You’re Feeling, I Read Chekhov

Reading Chekhov for a few minutes makes you better at decoding what other people are feeling. But spending the same amount of time with a potboiler by Danielle Steel does not have the same effect, scientists reported Thursday. [...] Albert Wendland, director of a master’s program in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University, said, “Frankly, I agree with the study.” Dr. Wendland said that “reading sensitive and lengthy explorations…


Making Interactive Fiction Mainstream: Readers

Jon Ingold describes the gamelike storytelling philosophy of Inklewriter. (I’ll be teaching a “Digital Narrative” creative writing class in J-Term, so I’m on the lookout for resources.) Our stories tend not be about “choosing what happens” – if readers wanted to control a story, they could write one of their own! Instead, the idea is to place readers in a conversation with the narrative: they suggest something, and the story…


A Brief Tour of the Digital Delights of the Folger Shakespeare Library

But luckily for you, one does not need to go to the Folger Library in DC to see these pieces of history; they live online as well. And, in some cases, online they are even more enchanting. Take, for example, the Wenceslaus Hollar map. In person, it’s lovely, but online, it’s amazing. Go ahead and click, and then zoom, zoom, zoom way in and appreciate its details. You can’t see…


The ‘Little Free Library’ arrives in the D.C. area

The “Little Free Library” concept started four years ago in the Midwest, when an entrepreneur named Todd Bol watched his neighbors gobble up books placed outside his home. Back then, he dreamed that 2,500 similar libraries would be constructed by 2014. He was naive. There are already more than 10,000. In the District, the first recorded little library belongs to Vahab. He built it in January, thinking it might be…

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Intimations of Mortality

Plato, Montaigne, Pascal—those were the major figures in the philosophical pantheon of my student days. But concurrently, in my literature classes, I came to be moved by poems such as John Donne’s defiant sonnet “Death Be Not Proud,” which concludes on the paradoxically triumphant note that, for the dead, death shall be no more, that death shall die. I was later even more moved—no doubt because of the association with…


Can the multiverse explain human history?

Where did this idea of parallel universes come from? Science fiction is an obvious source: in the 1960s, Captain Kirk met his ‘other self’ in a Star Trek episode called ‘Mirror, Mirror’, while Philip K Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle (1963) imagined an alternate world in which the US was a Nazi puppet state. Since then, the idea has become mainstream, providing the image of forking paths…