Writing Science Fiction

h/t Tom Gauld



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Kitsch is King Even In NYC

Diehard Harry Potter fans will undoubtedly love the new Wizarding World-themed coffee shop just opened in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. Cleverly named Steamy Hallows, the kitschy  cafe boasts a whole range of over the top decor, including floating candles to mimic the Great Hall at Hogwarts, bubbling cauldrons, broomsticks hanging from the ceiling, mandrakes, and quotes from the Harry Potter book series.

The menu features drinks with pun inspired names such as Basic Witch (a sea-salt-topped latte with a caramel drizzle) and Love Potion #9 3/4 (a coffee drink with espresso, mocha syrup, rose water, and a sprinkle of red sugar on top). And of course there’s a Butterbeer beverage, but the version at Steamy Hallows is topped with a dash of edible gold glitter.

Steamy Hallows is located at 514 East 6th Street in Manhattan, although the door says 514 3/4 . Probably not a destination for serious coffee fiends like me, but Harry Potter fans may be tempted.

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Little Free Bogskab

Leave to the Danes to create a wonderful little free library and situated it on the waterfront in a popular public park. The Bryggens Bogskab (bogskab means book case) is the brainchild of two book -loving residents of the Islands Brygge neighborhood. Constructed of recycled lumber, the tiny library can be found in central Copenhagen at Njalsgade near the Havneparken.

The Bryggens Bogskab, which was installed in 2017,is maintained by local volunteers. Book borrowers are asked to take no more than three books at a time and to replace any books that they keep.


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Just Another Lazy Caturday


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Never Underestimate The Hanseatic League

This recently discovered map of London from 1572 was created by the engraver Frans Hogenburg. Commissioned by the free-wheeling capitalists of the Hanseatic League,it provides a fascinating aerial view of the rapidly growing capital city. It shows that there was a large settlement north of the River Thames, but south of it was sparsely populated. The colorful map depicts many boats weaving their way down the river, which could only be crossed by the solitary Old London Bridge. Recognizable landmarks include the Tower of London, the Charterhouse Monastery and the old St Paul’s Cathedral, while Westminster is marked as ‘West Mester’. In a nod to a bygone age, bear baiting is shown in Southwark, and there are drawings of Queen Elizabeth figures around the map’s edges. The map is a rare example of an early printed map of London.




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Get Get Shorty

Here at TBTP World HQ we are big fans of The Folio Society’s beautifully executed reissues of literary classics and popular modern novels. They have a knack for putting together a stunning package and commissioning the right illustrator for each edition. As well as being fans of Folio publications, we are big time evangelists for just about anything written by the late, great Elmore Leonard.

The new Folio Society edition of Leonard’s much loved satirical crime novel Get Shorty is another hit. The publishing house was spot-on when they chose author Dennis Lehane to craft an original introduction for the book and selected illustrator Gary Kelley for the art. Here’s an bit of Lehane’s introduction:

A murder, a plane crash, a random mugging that wasn’t actually random, a heist that implodes, a child gone missing—these are staple inciting incidents of a lot of crime fiction. The event that clearly lights the match that leads to a race against time to stop the conspiracy, solve the homicide, get out of town before the net closes in, or find the child.

Here’s how Get Shorty starts: the mobster Ray ‘Bones’ Barboni ‘borrows’ the leather jacket of a loan shark (and diehard movie geek) named Ernesto ‘Chili’ Palmer. Chili retrieves the jacket by punching Ray in the face which leads, a dozen years later, to (stay with me) Chili investigating the faked death of a Miami dry cleaner, which brings Chili to Las Vegas not long before he shows up in the study of a B-movie Hollywood actress named Karen Flores to threaten a deadbeat producer, Harry Zimm, who leads him into the movie business, where he attempts to leave loan-sharking behind and become a producer—along with Harry and Karen—of the film Mr Lovejoy.

That, my friends, is an Elmore Leonard beginning. Where other novels zig, Leonard’s zag. Plot is not a series of bricks built upon bricks to erect a formidable edifice but a loose collection of steps one or two primary characters take down a path that crosses another path that leads to a building with a room where more people are gathered. When one of those characters goes out the back door and down a fire escape, the original character follows and enters an alley which leads to another path which winds further away from that first path, which nobody remembers anyway because it’s, like, ten paths back. In other words, Elmore Leonard’s plots feel less like plots and more like life.

Get Shorty gets so much right about Hollywood: the endless jockeying for status that afflicts everyone from studio heads to parking valets; the heartless consequences of aging in a town that adulates youth; the feeling that everyone has a script in their head, ready to pitch. (Not long after I moved out here, I ran into a nun who, seconds after she found out what I do for a living, pitched me her movie idea.) But Get Shorty gets nothing as right as it does the childlike love most of the people in the movie business have for movies themselves. You can’t successfully satirize something unless some part of you loves what you’re satirizing, and Leonard— at the time of Get Shorty’s writing, a victim of a fresh string of odious film adaptations—somehow retained his love of movies. Most of his books are peppered with references to cinema, as the characters try to find the line where their movie-influenced personas meet their true selves. But if the persona has been in play long enough, who’s to say the person is more real? In Leonard’s view, maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe we are all creatures of ceaseless reinvention. It’s not only an acceptable way of comporting oneself, it might be our cultural birthright. To be born in a celluloid age is to be born with one’s myths arrayed all around one, as easy to touch as one’s own skin (which the myths often become). Chili Palmer, the loan shark on a journey to reinvent himself as a film producer, is as much an Everyman for today’s world as Walter Mitty was for his.


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A unique perspective for NYC visitors

Visitors to New York City sometimes find themselves overwhelmed by the crowds and hustle. A good way for tourists to get a break is to spend some time on NYC’s waterways and waterfront. This can be accomplished by using the city’s ferries to get around, by taking an old school sightseeing cruise around Manhattan Island, or even a trip across the harbor on the wonderful iconic Staten Island Ferry. But more adventurous visitors can take advantage of a unique and free way to get a new view on the city by kayaking on the East River.

Since 2010, the Brooklyn Bridge Boathouse Park has been offering free kayaks to all comers three days a week. Just show up—no reservations are taken—and they will provide everything you need. The free watercraft are available on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Check the website for more details. The best way to get there is via public transit:


Subway: 4/5 to Borough Hall, A/C to High Street, F to York Street, or 2/3 to Clark Street stations
Bus: the nearest buses are the B25, B61, B63, B67
NYC Ferry: East River route to Dumbo or South Brooklyn Route to Atlantic Ave/Pier 6



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Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse is located in Brooklyn NY, between Piers 1 & 2, a few blocks south of the Brooklyn Bridge (look for their floating dock near the rollerskating rink)

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Island Reading

Residents of the tiny Greek island of Kimolos, located in the southwest of the Cyclades island group, have installed free lending libraries at all the major beaches of the island to make tourists’ visits even more enjoyable.

The little free libraries, made in the shape of dories, and painted in hues of blue and white, will be lending books printed in Greek, English and other languages this summer.

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Words and Music

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts has evolved from the humble  Worthy Farm Pop Festival in 1970 headlined by T-Rex and attended by around 1,500 people, to a renowned cultural phenomena—one of the biggest festivals in the world.

Over the decades, it has seen performances from The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Radiohead, Neil Young, Björk, David Bowie, Coldplay, and Paul McCartney. Each year, Glastonbury attracts more than 100,000 music lovers.

To mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of Glastonbury in 2020, Michael Eavis and daughter Emily (who has co-organised the festival since 2000) are releasing their first official book, Glastonbury 50. A statement from Emily on the festival website reads:

“It’s been a total joy to look back through piles of old photo albums and scrapbooks and to reflect upon what it meant at the time, and the incredible evolution of the event. I hope people who’ve been over the years will be able to reminisce and get a flavour of the rich history of Glastonbury through five amazing decades.”

The book, to be published on October 31, 2019 by Trapeze books, will also feature contributions from an impressive roster of previous performers including Adele, Jay-Z, Chris Martin, and many more artists.

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La Sagesse

La Sagesse (1940-1941). Tamara de Lempicka (Polish, 1898-1980). Oil on panel.

La Sagesse, or “Wisdom,” takes its inspiration from the Old Masters, all the while exuding Lempicka’s signature style. The layout and type of figure in this painting bring to mind work by the Flemish painter Quentin Metsys. Lempicka’s ability to seamlessly blend a brashly contemporary look with historical models marked her distinctive style from the outset of her career.

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