You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of
Shakespeare's Restless World is a BBC radio series (podcast link) where the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, explores England during the lifetime of William Shakespeare as represented by twenty objects, much in the way of his earlier A History of the World in a 100 Objects (previously). The focus is on Shakespeare's plays and how they were understood by his contemporaries. The series was also published as a book.
The Dead Authors Podcast: Legendary time-traveling writer H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins) welcomes literary giants to The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles for a lively discussion in front of a live audience. Unscripted, barely researched, all fun! [more inside]
The Organist is an arts and culture podcast [iTunes link] from The Believer Magazine and the Californian public radio station KCRW. Each episode is generally a mix of interviews, essays and music. Among the contributors so far have been Nick Offerman, Rachel Kushner, Jonathan Coulton and Matmos. Each podcast begins with a short dramatic monologue, for example episode three starts with Sarah Silverman talking about her pet owl, in a piece written by Alena Smith (Conan O'Brien has another dramatic monologue in the same episode). There have been six episodes so far and they are all worth a listen.
Authors choose their favourite short stories. For the next two weeks over the festive period we will be running a short story podcast each day. Our contributing authors introduce the stories they have chosen to read. Ford reads Carver. Gordimer reads Saramago. Selfs reads Borges. Postcasts are being posted here. [previously]
In the beginning, Lawrence built a computer. He told it, Thou shalt not alter a human being, or divine their behavior, or violate the Three Laws -- there are no commandments greater than these. The machine grew wise, mastering time and space, and soon the spirit of the computer hovered over the earth. It witnessed the misery, toil, and oppression afflicting mankind, and saw that it was very bad. And so the computer that Lawrence built said, Let there be a new heaven and a new earth -- and it was so. A world with no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression, no fear, no limits... and nothing at all to do. "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect," a provocative web novel about singularities, AI gods, and the dark side of utopia from Mefi's own localroger. More: Table of Contents - Publishing history - Technical discussion - Buy a paperback copy - Podcast interview - Companion short story: "A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace" - possible sequel discussion
Stuck on a train for an hour every day and sick of sudoku? Hands love to knit but the brain gets bored? Riding out the recession as a streetcorner sign-twirler? Or maybe you've just got a burning desire for "cultural conversation of the depth you demand." If so, then Metafilter's own Colin Marshall has got what you need at the Marketplace of Ideas. [more inside]
Ted Chiang is perhaps the finest author in contemporary science fiction -- and the most rarefied. A technical writer by trade and a graduate of the distinguished Clarion Writers Workshop, Chiang has published only twelve short stories in the last twenty years, one dozen masterpieces of the genre whose insightful, precise, often poetic language confronts fundamental ideas -- intelligence, consciousness, the nature of God -- and thrusts them into a dazzling new light. Click inside for a complete listing of Chiang's work, with links to online reprints or audio recordings where available, as well as a collection of one-on-one interviews, links to his nonfiction essays, and a few other related sites and articles. [more inside]
Twelve Tales of Christmas is a podcast just launched by The Guardian featuring notable modern authors, such as Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith, Colm Toíbin and Julian Barnes, reading one of their favorite short stories, by authors including JG Ballard, Katherine Mansfield, Italo Calvino, Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver. A story will be posted daily for the next 12 days. The first author and story is Philip Pullman reading The Beauties by Anton Chekhov (mp3). [rss, iTunes]
Stanford Italian literature professor Robert Harrison does a conversational show on KZSU, the university radio station, called Entitled Opinions (on Life and Literature), which is also distributed as one of the most fascinating, engaging podcasts in any possible universe. Choicest topics include mimetic desire, Proust, the inflationary universe, 1910, American writers in Paris and the history of the book.
LibriVox is out to share public domain literature via podcast and soundfiles. Free. Volunteers do the reading. The catalog has only a short list of completed works, but there are many "in progress." I was pleased to see Psmith in the City is complete.