“A novel is a trek home from the desert, sometimes a journey you wish you had never started. Exhausting and humbling, just occasionally wonderful. But a short story can come from a deeper part of the cave.” Jane Gardam on why she prefers writing short stories instead of novels in The Guardian. Pair with Lisa Peet’s essay on Gardam’s organically grown characters.
The unwritten rules of steampunk declare that in every steampunk story, the Hindenburg never caught fire, the world never lost its desire for blimp travel and the skies are dotted with hot air balloons and zeppelins. As it happens, this element of the genre stems from old utopian narratives, many of which depicted a future of widespread balloon travel. At Salon, Kyle Minor reviews the audiobook of a new history of the hot air balloon, written by Richard Holmes, that shows how the rise of air travel changed the world’s imaginative territory.
Here’s a book that’s sure to be included in our second-half installment of our Most Anticipated books: Zadie Smith’s NW, which traces the lives of several people who make it out of one of Northwest London’s housing estates. The promotional copy calls it a “delicate, devastating novel of encounters.”
On the occasion of the publication of his novel The Madonnas of Echo Park, Brando Skyhorse writes about the decades-long path that got him there and the rules for writing that he devised. (Thanks, Steve)
Looks like our robot overlord is going to be a 13-year-old boy: the Turing Test has been passed for the first time by a bot simulating a preteen, making history for artificial intelligence research and teenagers alike. “Our main idea was that he can claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn’t know everything,” researchers explained.