Search Results for: fiction

Extreme Heat Is Here, and It’s Deadly

Longreads Pick

“For many, the present is already feeling pretty dystopian.” Arizona and regions across the U.S. are seeing record-high temperatures — and the heat will only intensify. At High Country News, Jessica Kutz reports that climate fiction, Indigenous architecture, and a robot named MaRTy are a few key things that can prepare us for a hotter future.

Published: Sep 1, 2020
Length: 25 minutes (6,440 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Futuristic cyborg learning about humans. This is entirely 3D generated. All book covers are fictional and made by contributor.
Photo: gremlin / Getty Images

Here are five standout pieces we read this week. You can always visit our editors’ picks or our Twitter feed to see what other recommendations you may have missed.

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1. Meet the Lobbyist Next Door

Benjamin Wofford | WIRED | July 14th, 2022 | 5,000 words

A business feature that doubles as a horror story, Benjamin Wofford’s chilling piece could be the premise for a Black Mirror episode. Wofford profiles Urban Legend, a tech startup that has built “the Exchange,” an interface connecting advertisers looking to promote political ideologies with influencers ready to peddle for a price. Urban Legend’s CEO, Ory Rinat, who previously worked in the Trump White House, and his colleagues like to talk about trust, authenticity, and empowerment, but as Wofford skillfully shows, there’s no heart to their business model — there’s only a black hole, a moral vacuum. The dread of it all crept up on me as I read, which is a testament to the writing. Now excuse me while I go scream into the abyss. —SD

2. The Great Fiction of AI

Josh Dzieza | The Verge | July 20th, 2022 | 5,091 words

Could artificial intelligence help you write your next novel? Josh Dzieza dives into the world of AI-assisted genre fiction, and how independent authors are experimenting with tools powered by GPT-3 to write stories faster. Dzieza recounts Kindle novelist Jennifer Lepp’s experience with one such tool, Sudowrite, which, at first, generates strange and hilarious output. Eventually, as Lepp learns how to control the software’s quirks, she gets results that are more promising. But they are unsettling, too: When Lepp gives a finished chapter to her husband to read, he isn’t able to distinguish between her voice and the machine’s. Dzieza also talks with authors who view AI as a welcome disruption to the field, such as Joanna Penn, who envisions a future where writers will be left behind if they don’t embrace the technology. This is a fascinating read that explores ethics, creativity, and authorship, and is a complement to the stories in our . I love the playful article design, too. —CLR

3. The Haves and the Have-Yachts

Evan Osnos | The New Yorker | July 18th, 2022 | 10,000 words

Inflation. Pandemic. Recession. Yet, since 2020,  — and the  has seen its aggregate worth balloon by nearly $4 trillion. What do you do with all that money? Easy. You spend it on reminding people, as one interviewee memorably relates in this piece, that “I am in a different fucking category than you.” In this case, that means multi-hundred-foot, multi-hundred-million-dollar superyachts, the world of which Evan Osnos excavates over (exactly) 10,000 deliciously arch words. These aren’t just phallic manifestations of mind-boggling wealth. With their onboard IMAX theaters and 50-person staffs, they’re manifestations of the one thing their owners want desperately but can’t quite attain on land: absolute sovereignty. But while you and I and the rest of the hoi polloi might be seen as “ineligible visitors” to this ionosphere of luxury, that doesn’t mean that you’re not in for one hell of a read. —

4. What Counts as Seeing

Alice Wong and Ed Yong | Orion Magazine | July 12th, 2022 | 3,948 words

Are you as excited as I am to see these names side by side? Here, Wong and Yong engage in a wonderful conversation that celebrates the strange and unpredictable in nature and fosters empathy for all creatures. They discuss Yong’s books, the incredible senses of other organisms, and, in turn, the limits of our understanding for how rich and diverse the natural world really is. (I love the bit where Yong compares his dog going on a walk to sniff and pee on things as the pup’s version of checking his social media for the day.) As you’d expect, their dialogue is delightful and accessible, thanks to Wong’s ability to open people’s eyes to experiences that are not their own and Yong’s knack for explaining scientific and biological concepts in plain language. What a treat to read. —

5. The 50 Greatest Fictional Deaths of All Time

Dan Kois (and Other Contributors) | Slate | July 20th, 2022 | 8,250 words

This list is so damn fun. Starting in 431 B.C. and progressing chronologically, it levels the cultural playing field, quoting passages from Beowulf and Macbeth while also reveling in the transgressive lyrics of “Goodbye Earl.” It reminded me of at least one brilliant cinematic death that I’d somehow forgotten — before using an inhaler, make sure it’s not a gun! — and made me tear up at its description of a groundbreaking storyline in Doonesbury. Like all the best GOAT lists, it also made me consider what I would include: one of the gruesome deaths in The Omen, Mr. Jingles’ demise and resurrection in The Green Mile, Alec’s murder in Tess of the D’Urbervilles (ooooh — or the raising of the black flag at the end!?). “We’ve made this list during a pandemic, as real-life death has stalked us all, more tangible than ever,” Dan Kois writes. “One of the many things art can do is to help us navigate the pitfalls of life, and there’s no deeper pitfall than the final one.” —SD

Signs of Life

Longreads Pick

This gorgeous essay by Raksha Vasudevan reflects on her time in Antakya, southern Turkey, as an aid worker leading a Syrian team of risk educators. The piece explores the experience of war from a distance, and the surreality of tragedy and trauma.

In those moments, looking at a life and landscape so alien from the one I inhabited, the distance to Syria felt enormous, almost too vast for my mind to grasp. The fact of physical proximity seemed absurd—not false per se, but something else, something in that grey zone between truth and fiction. It felt, perhaps, surreal.

Source: Hazlitt
Published: Jun 28, 2022
Length: 23 minutes (5,827 words)

Final Girl, Terrible Place

Longreads Pick

“I was expecting a handy theory. What I found was a way of seeing that would help me decode a script I’d been stuck in for much of my life.” Lesley Finn explores the concept of the “Final Girl” in horror films, and what it means to be a woman in America.

The Final Girl is full of agency, but it’s not hers to exercise. At the core she is passive because she is a character devised for male safety and pleasure. Am I still talking about the Final Girl of horror films? I don’t know. At some point the line blurs. At some point we begin talking about real women, real bodies. The Final Girl is fiction and yet her story, her script, bleeds into real female experience.

So how do we escape the script?

Source: Longreads
Published: Jul 5, 2022
Length: 30 minutes (7,517 words)

‘If an Animal Talks, I’m Sold’: An Interview with Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

A Midsummer Night's Dream. Illustration by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939). (Culture Club / Getty Images)

Alan Scherstuhl | Longreads | July 2019 | 19 minutes (5,080 words)

“Hic sunt dracones,” the 500 year-old Hunt-Lenox globe warns travelers off the coast of southeast Asia: Here be dragons. In the half millenium since that mysterious Euro-centric globe’s construction, dracones have evolved, in the popular imagination, from representatives of a dangerous, fantastical unknown to something like just another of the familiar beasts populating what we might call the Fantasy-Industrial Complex. Through big-budget TV and movies, video and pen-and-paper games, and hundreds of novels and short stories each year, fantasy rules like never before. Dragons reign over much of our pop-culture globe, not just one patch.

Diverse and often self-reflexive, today’s fantasy fiction varies wildly in quality and approach. Writers like N.K. Jemisin (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), Sofia Samatar (A Stranger in Olondria), Ann Leckie (The Raven Tower), Kameron Hurley (The Mirror Empire), Seth Dickinson (The Traitor Baru Cormorant), Marlon James (Black Leopard, Red Wolf), Steven Erikson (the Malazan Book of the Fallen series), and many more have in recent years spun dazzling, forward-thinking variations on a genre that has at times been accused of wallowing in repetitive stories, simplistic good-versus-evil conflicts, and an inherent conservatism.

Now, with the publication of The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (Vintage), anthologists Ann and Jeff Vandermeer (shes a Hugo Award-winning editor; hes the bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy; and together theyve edited The Big Book of Science Fiction, The Weird, and other collections) are declaring that fantasy has always been weird and wild, thoughtful and delightful. The Big Book covers a diverse array of fantasy fiction from the mid-nineteenth century through the end of World War II. It opens with a German fairy tale (Bettina von Armin’s “The Queens Son”) about a queen whose son, immediately upon sliding from the womb, is stolen by a she-bear; it closes, fittingly, with J.R.R. Tolkien, whose tale “Leaf by Niggle” concerns nothing less than an artist’s act of world-making. The almost 800 pages between these offer almost 90 stories from around the world, from the expected writers of fantasy (Fritz Lieber, Robert E. Howard, Lord Dunsany, L. Frank Baum), many unexpected fantasists (Zora Neal Hurston, E.M. Forester, W.E.B Du Bois, Edith Wharton), and a host of surprises from lesser-known writers. The Vandermeers approach is expansive. Half the stories in The Big Book are works in translation; fourteen have never before been published in English; few concern monster-slaying. Read more…

‘We Told You So’: Revisiting the Bleak, Pandemic-Filled World of 12 Monkeys, 25 Years Later

Bruce Willis as Cole, the time-traveling protagonist in 12 Monkeys. Universal Pictures.

Director Terry Gilliam’s 1995 science-fiction film, 12 Monkeys, presented a desolate future in which a virus exterminates most of the world’s population and forces survivors to live underground. James Cole, the movie’s protagonist and a prisoner in this subterranean civilization in 2035, is sent back in time — to the 1990s — to find the original virus and bring it back to scientists in the future to develop a cure.

In the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak, many people stuck at home during lockdown turned to movies about fictional pandemics, including Gilliam’s surreal, chilling vision, which was brought to life by its three big stars — Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, and Madeleine Stowe. And 25 years on, as producer Charles Roven tells Eric Ducker in The Ringer, the movie “holds up really well.”

In this complete history of the making of 12 Monkeys, Ducker talks with Gilliam, its screenwriters David and Janet Peoples, and others who worked on the film.

The movie Outbreak came out several months before 12 Monkeys, and journalist Richard Preston’s 1994 book The Hot Zone about lethal filoviruses was a national bestseller. Still, for most of the world’s population, a massive pandemic had not been a pressing concern since the Spanish Flu killed 50 million people between 1918 and 1920. Now there is a rising feeling that the next one won’t come a century from now. It could arrive much sooner and could be far worse. “I think the very first spoken words that aren’t voice-over in our show are, ‘It’s never been about if. It’s always been when,’” Matalas says. “When you start to really dissect that data, it’s terrifying. Right now we’re on the precipice of a vaccine, but are we truly ready for the next [pandemic]? I don’t think so.”

In 12 Monkeys, Railly has written a book called The Doomsday Syndrome and gives a lecture at a museum about madness and apocalyptic visions. She discusses the Cassandra complex, the idea taken from Greek legend about figures who know the future but whose warnings aren’t heeded, leading to what Railly describes as, “[T]he agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it.” In the 25 years since its release, 12 Monkeys is increasingly seen as a Cassandra of its own kind.

“We told you so,” Gilliam says.

Read the story

Passion Plan

Longreads Pick

“Despite any collateral damage, Nintendo and their peers will keep squeezing maximum profit from the biggest, most proselytized audiences they can assemble for however long they can. In practice, this is what ‘convergence culture’ looks like. Playing games that cite other games that can be frictionlessly purchased on devices you can take everywhere, and then also preordering the next console, indoctrinating your kids into the eleventh title in a franchise, writing fan fiction about the Ice Climbers, watching trailers, subscribing to Switch Online, talking up the properties with your friends on social media, and always eagerly waiting to be fed the next morsel, all to the benefit of a bottom line. The goal is brand extension on into infinity, a hegemony of Mario Brothers coin-sound effects.”

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Dec 9, 2021
Length: 11 minutes (2,835 words)

La Cancion de la Nena

Longreads Pick

“He sits on the edge of the bed to compose and work through songs, facing an amp, while I curl into his velvet-lined guitar case and listen…I have called up this memory so many times I feel the gauze of fiction starting to overlay its details. But it is a memory so dear, I reanimate it against the heaviness of the present—my father, full of promise and possibility, years before the shell he would become, now shut away in my childhood bedroom in the graying light of ever-closed blinds.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Jun 1, 2021
Length: 27 minutes (6,937 words)

Arundhati Roy: “Fiction is a Universe”

Arundhati Roy talks to a student during a 2016 march demaning the release of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University students who were arrested on sedition charges. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

In The Guardian, Tim Lewis curates an unconventional interview with Arundhati Roy: all the questions come from fans, famous and not. I particularly love her articulation of the ways in which all her writing, fiction and non-fiction, is political, in response to a question from writer Lionel Shriver about whether Roy worries that her activism detracts from her fiction.

I have always quarrelled with this word “activist”. I think it’s a very new word and I don’t know when it was born, but it was recently. I don’t want to have a second profession added to writing. Writing covers it. In the old days, writers were political creatures also, not all, but many. It was seen as our business to be writing about the world around us in different ways. So I don’t feel threatened or worried about that. For me, my fiction and my nonfiction are both political. The fiction is a universe, the nonfiction is an argument.

What I do worry about is the fact that writers have become so frightened of being political. The idea that writers are being reduced to creators of a product that is acceptable, that slips down your throat, which readers love and therefore can be bestsellers, that’s so dangerous. Today, for example in India, where majoritarianism is taking root – and by majoritarianism, I don’t just mean the government, I mean that individuals are being turned into micro-fascists by so many means. It is the mobs and vigilantes going and lynching people. So more than ever, the point of the writer is to be unpopular. The point of the writer is to say: “I denounce you even if I’m not in the majority.”

Read the interview

‘I’m a Big Fan of Writing To Find Out What You Don’t Know.’

Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!), oil on canvas, Henri Rousseau, 1891. (Imagno/Getty Images)

Adam Morgan | Longreads | November 2019 | 11 minutes (2,861 words)


The deceptively slim Reinhardt’s Garden, Mark Haber’s astonishing novella, is composed of a single paragraph, one that meanders across 150 pages and several hemispheres, from the ramparts of an oddly constructed German castle (it’s full of fake walls and trap doors) to a fictional jungle in Uruguay (Uruguay is, in actuality, a country of rolling hills called the Pampas). At the center of this web of fun-house geographies and architectures, lost in that fictional jungle in the year 1907, Croatian scholar and megalomaniac Jacov Reinhardt is searching for his lifelong obsession — not a city of gold or a fountain of youth, like in the doomed adventurers of Aguirre, the Wrath of God or The Lost City of Z, but a man: Emiliano Gomez Carasquilla, “a lost philosopher of melancholy” last seen somewhere in Colombia or Brazil. Melancholy, as Jacov’s long-suffering servant (and the book’s narrator) explains, is “not a feeling but a mood, not a color but a shade, not depression but not happiness either,” an elusive emotion Jacov has pursued to the ends of the earth. Read more…