The Soldiers’ Pocket Books

Nicholas C. Rossis

Even though pamphlets and softcover books have been available in Europe since the 16th century, US readers looked down on them until well into the 20th century. As a recent Atlas Obscura post by Cara Giaimo explains, without a mass-market distribution model in place, it was difficult to make money selling inexpensive books.

Although certain brands succeeded by partnering with department stores, individual booksellers preferred to stock their shops with sturdier, better-looking hardbacks, for which they could charge higher prices. Even those who were trying to change the public’s mind bought into this prejudice: one paperback series, Modern Age Books, disguised its offerings as hardcovers, adding dust jackets and protective cardboard sleeves. They, too, couldn’t hack it in the market, and the company folded in the 1940s.

Wartime Reading

Armed Services Editions | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Soldiers in Virginia wrangle with hardcover books donated through the VBC. Image via Atlas Obscura.

Then, war came. In September of…

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Putting Archaeology to Work in Fantasy Fiction

By Alter S. Reiss

“Getting the archaeology right” doesn’t actually matter that much when it comes to fantasy. The fact is, when it comes to secondary worlds, a lot of the absolutely basic assumptions don’t make any sense. Why are there people in this world, whose history—whose natural history—is so different from ours? If dragons and elder gods and all that were around for hundreds of thousands of years, why are the horses and carrots and stews and pie in that world exactly the same as ours?

Once you’re willing to swallow that horses are the same despite gryphon-related predation pressures, why strain at faceted diamonds a few centuries too early?

Even if something is set in an actual time and place, the sort of mistakes that archaeologists notice don’t matter that much. Writing about anything—mainly horses and guns, but really, anything—will upset people who know the subject well, but there are very few works that fail artistically because they annoyed experts.

Read the full article at Tor.com.

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Scientists Are Rewriting the History of Photosynthesis

By Jordana Cepelewicz

RESEARCHERS HAVE CAUGHT their best glimpse yet into the origins of photosynthesis, one of nature’s most momentous innovations. By taking near-atomic, high-resolution X-ray images of proteins from primitive bacteria, investigators at Arizona State University and Pennsylvania State University have extrapolated what the earliest version of photosynthesis might have looked like nearly 3.5 billion years ago. If they are right, their findings could rewrite the evolutionary history of the process that life uses to convert sunlight into chemical energy.

Read the full article at Wired.

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Poisons in SF & Fantasy

This article is part of the Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy blog series. Each week, we tackle one of the scientific or technological concepts pervasive in sci-fi (space travel, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, etc.) with input from an expert.

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About the Expert

Since getting her Ph.D. in Toxicology in 2015, Megan Cartwright Chaudhuri has worked as a freelance medical writer and editor. Her science non-fiction has appeared in Slate and Visionlearning, while her science fiction has appeared in AnalogCrossed Genres, and the forthcoming Futuristica Volume 1. Megan lives near Seattle with one husband and two cats.

Read the full article at Dan Koboldt.

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Writing SFF Horses: Notes on Breeds and Riding

By Judith Tarr

Every so often when I put up an article in this series on SFF Equines, the commenters give me all kinds of ideas for new articles. And they ask great questions. Last time was no exception.

This batch of questions centers around a couple of common themes, namely horse breeds and riding. I’ll take the shortest one first, and then circle out from there.

Before I begin, I (who suck mightily at tooting my own horn) should disclose that I have written an ebook that answers most of these questions in greater depth, and offers a primer on horses in general. It’s called Writing Horses: The Fine Art of Getting It Right, and it’s available from most ebook outlets. There’s even an audiobook. (The link goes to the publisher’s website.)

Still, we all know it’s a lot easier to read specific answers to one’s specific questions. Also, a lot more fun.

Read the full article at Tor.com.

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