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What future for writers in Scotland after the independence referendum?
September 1, 2014 | 10:25 am

BveOVUxCEAAT4NDOne of the highlight debates of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, "Writing the Future: Being a Writer After the Referendum," hinged on the question of what the actual results of the independence referendum vote - whether Yes or No - might be for writers in Scotland. The panel brought together writers, publishers, and cultural policy professionals, from both sides of the Yes/No divide. "The Society of Authors only sponsors one event in a book festival in the UK [annually], and this is that one event," as Lin Anderson, author and chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland, said in her...

John Ruskin: Pedant or pioneer?
August 30, 2014 | 12:32 pm

John Ruskin (1890-1900), art critic, amateur artist, social thinker, and brilliant literary stylist, was one of those titans of Victorian industry that make modern creative figures seem feeble dilettantes in comparison, dominating aesthetic, social, and political commentary in the English-speaking world and beyond for most of his life, not least through his enduring and superb writing. He also has a less appealing reputation as an elephantine pedant, the man sued by James McNeill Whistler for libel after accusing him of "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face," the man castigated by Vernon Lee (Violet Paget) for his "obscure,...

xkcd explains why texting is good for writing skills
August 29, 2014 | 7:18 am

Origin 8292014 70958 AM.bmpRandall Munroe, Hugo-winning webcomic artist of xkcd, has hit the nail on the head with another keen observation about our mobile lifestyle. The xkcd character Cueball is not surprised when his friend observes that SMS texting is actually good for spelling and grammar. Practice, he explains in the rest of the strip, makes perfect. (The text does contain an F-bomb, but it’s an F-bomb that was dropped by James Joyce.) Be sure and pay attention to the alt-text that comes up when you mouse over the comic. In an odd juxtaposition, this came just a few minutes after I...

Jonathan Falla on writing in Scotland and Scottish nationalism
August 26, 2014 | 1:13 pm

Jonathan Falla is an English writer long resident in Scotland, and treasurer of the Society of Authors in Scotland (SoAiS). The views that follow, however, represent his personal perspective on writing in Scotland and the Scottish nationalism/independence debate....

James Clerk Maxwell: Scot, physicist, mathematician … and poet
August 25, 2014 | 1:51 pm

While at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I'd like to pay tribute to one of the city's many great intellectual sons: James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79), the titanic Victorian scientist whose work was described by Albert Einstein as the "most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton." His genius touched pure mathematics, electromagnetics, optics (color theory), kinetic theory and thermodynamics, astronomy (the rings of Saturn), and many other disciplines. And he was also a poet....

A conversation with Jeff VanderMeer, on writers’ roles and modern publishing
August 22, 2014 | 10:25 am

IMG_20140820_152413At the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014, I was lucky to be able to catch up with Jeff VanderMeer, multiple award-winning and hugely productive speculative fiction and fantasy writer, editor and anthologist, whose latest literary outing is the Southern Reach trilogy. These are a few excerpts from our conversation, with more to follow. TeleRead: Do you think that modern speculative writers tend towards a Victorian level of industriousness? Jeff VanderMeer: When I started out I just had this idea in my head that a writer did all these things. It didn't become a strategy until later: it was just that I was writing,...

Happy birthday Howard Phillips Lovecraft
August 21, 2014 | 10:25 am

lovecraft Cthulhu plushieAugust 20th marked the birth in 1890 of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, owner of his very own adjective ("Lovecraftian") and easily the most influential figure in horror and dark fiction writing of the 20th century. All of which would have come as a surprise to the mild and retiring New Englander who was safely in his grave before feeling the slightest whiff of fame - and controversy. In his 124th year, we already have a petition to the World Fantasy Award to "Make Octavia Butler the WFA Statue Instead of Lovecraft," on the grounds that HPL was "an avowed racist and...

11 Publishing Shakers to follow, besides us
August 13, 2014 | 8:28 pm

shakerI’ll admit this is blowing my own horn a little, but today I was alerted to an article on The Independent Publishing Magazine listing “The 12 Publishing Shakers You Should Be Following.” After a bit of puzzlement—are the Shakers even still around, and didn’t they make furniture rather than publish?—I noticed that our very own Paul St. John Mackintosh comes in at number one on the list. (And they happen to mention a certain other TeleRead writer in the comments after that…) Another TeleRead-related writer, Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, came in at #7. While posting about it...

GenCon is this weekend; are you coming?
August 11, 2014 | 5:56 pm

20140508_171116_HDRGenCon is coming up this weekend, at the Indianapolis Convention Center (that kind of flat building at right, visible between those two red towers) here in scenic Indianapolis. Are any of our readers planning on attending? It would be cool to have the chance to meet some of you! I’m highly excited about it; this is the first time I’ll be attending as a resident rather than an out-of-towner. I can bicycle home at the end of the day rather than having to drive a rental car down to my brother’s house. I’m probably going to be around Thursday and...

Alfred Korzybski shows how words make your world
August 9, 2014 | 12:25 pm

Thanks to Andrei Burke for reminding me of the very fascinating thought of the Polish-American philosopher Alfred Korzybski, who was one of the key advocates of the dictum that words create the world - in other words, languages and the conceptual systems associated with them are so important in structuring what we experience as reality, that they essentially create our worlds. In his celebrated short explanation on video, available here, he demonstrates his view that the world as we see it is not an illusion - as some idealist philosophers or Buddhist thinkers maintain - but an abstraction, several orders...

Henry Williamson hut gets listed status to delight Tarka the Otter fans
July 31, 2014 | 2:22 pm

British naturalist and author Henry Williamson penned one of the best-loved animal tales in English literature with his Tarka the Otter (1927). And following the recent news over the status of William Blake's cottage, it's interesting to note that the small hut in Devon that Williamson built with the proceeds of Tarka the Otter has just been given Grade II listed conservation status by English Heritage, making it one of the smallest buildings ever to receive this recognition. Born a suburban Londoner, Williamson fought in World War 1, an experience which disgusted him, and after his return to civilian life, moved...

Build a better business … with Stephen King?
July 26, 2014 | 12:25 pm

king.jpgBusiness Insider, that bastion of cultural and intellectual values, has just pulled together "22 Lessons From Stephen King On How To Be A Great Writer," for its Strategy section, more usually associated with juicy topics like "9 Traits Of Highly Promotable Employees" and "How To Reduce Stress Without Even Leaving Your Desk." Culled from King's celebrated primer On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft , the "valuable insights" are packaged as the insider tips that "earn him an estimated $17 million a year." Of course, in any list like this, it's always possible to pick out stuff to quibble with. Actually,...