Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘lit and tech’

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Robots Writing Novels?

So a monkey typing into infinity will eventually produce Shakespeare—or so the theory goes. Maybe robots would be faster? The New York Times recently discussed the phenomenon of robots writing books. After an encounter with a robo-writer called Lambert M. Surhone—literally a computer churning out titles like “Saltine Cracker” and “Pagan Kennedy” from pasted-together online text—author Pagan Kennedy (yes) was fascinated and preplexed: Could robots ever be trusted to write original novels, histories, scientific papers and sonnets? For years, artificial-intelligence experts have insisted that machines can succeed as authors. But would we humans ever want to read the robot-books? Mechanized […]


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I CAPTCHA the Castle

You probably know what a CAPTCHA is, even if you didn’t know its name. Those warped words that you sometimes have to type out? That’s a CAPTCHA. Websites use them to prevent spambots from posting (spam) comments. Humans can read CAPTCHAs very easily. Robots, not so much. But did you know that although CAPTCHAs seem like gibberish, they actually help preserve and create literature? Some CAPTCHAs actually help digitize books and magazines: the reCAPTCHA system uses scanned words from old books. Every time a user like you types in the word, it helps the system decipher old books. Explains the […]


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Fiction from the Spam box

Here’s my one tiny complaint about Gmail: it may be a little too good at filtering out the spam. I used to get tremendous joy (uh, no pun intended) out of the badly-phrased, ill-translated, nonsensical requests offering me “Turbines for your meat jet” or the opportunity to become a crude oil dealer. Thank goodness for the Spam Poetry Institute, which describes its mission thusly: The Spam Poetry Institute is an organization dedicated to collecting and preserving the fine literature created by the world’s spammers. Not only do these persistent individuals sell useful products like cable filters and international drivers’ licenses, […]


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Bookish Gift Idea #29: Smart Pen

Imagine this: you’re taking notes at a reading or a lecture, or while thinking aloud about your latest work-in-progress. Your pen records the lecture, and later, you can place the pen on the paper at any point in the notes and hear the lecture at that point. Doesn’t that sound like magic? Well, we live in magical times. Smartpens, as they’re called, are a reality and are available for around $100. The New York Times gives the lowdown on one, the LiveScribe Echo, and more have come to market lately as well. Plus, the pens and their programs can help […]


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Bookish Gift Idea #15: Portable laser keyboard

In case you doubted it: we live in the future. I think this dawned on me when I got a smartphone shortly after my son was born. Suddenly, despite having a babe (literally) in arms, I could still read my favorite blogs and newspapers. I could still get my email. I could even read books and spent an entire month working my way through the complete Sherlock Holmes—in fifteen-minute segments, during my son’s naps. But the one thing a smartphone isn’t very good for is actually writing. Sure, you can take notes or jot down a sentence when a great […]


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Written? Kitten!

We’ve talked before about ways to get yourself to write. There are tools to help minimize distractions, and even tools like Write or Die that dole out punishment if you don’t keep the words flowing. But what is all you need is some positive motivation? That’s where Written? Kitten! enters the picture. Written? Kitten! is a free web-based writing tool. And yeah, the punctuation there is correct. As you type, the site periodically rewards you with… wait for it… a picture of a cute kitten. You choose your level of feline reward—every 100, 200, 500, or 1000 words. Perfect for […]


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Bookish Gift Idea #1: Penguin Books iPhone Case

Gift-giving season is upon us–and this year, Fiction Writers Review comes to the rescue, offering a bookish gift (that’s not a book) every day in December. Protect and beautify your iPhone—and show your love of books—with this Penguin Books iPhone case. I love the slightly faded, antique look of the covers—such a contrast from the sleek, futuristic iPhone beneath. Available from society6.com. And check back every day in December for another bookish gift idea from FWR!


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Is your prose fit or flabby? (And–does it matter?)

Is your writing lean and trim? Or does it need to shed some flab? Recently, user Leigh posted on FWR’s Facebook wall about an interesting writing-analysis tool, WritersDiet. Intrigued, I clicked on over. WritersDiet is a free online tool that analyzes a sample of your text. Paste in any text you want, hit “Run the test,” and the site provides an overall “fitness” report and a bar graph showing your usage of verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, and it/this/that/there. Here’s how it scored a few different samples: 1. The opening paragraphs of a front-page story from the New York Times: The […]


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How to read a book–without reading

Back in high school, I had a book called How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening, which described itself as “A Collection of Literary Encapsulations” and contained classic works of literature in short, usually silly poems. For example, The Great Gatsby began thusly: Nick Carraway and Gatsby (Jay) Are next-door neighbors; every day The enigmatic Gatsby gazes Towards a distant green light (Daisy’s). Cute, right? But it seems some people took the book at face value, expecting to catch up on the Western canon in just a few hours. Says one review of the book on Goodreads: I had […]


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Is the typewriter dead, or just… retiring?

My sister’s favorite joke in college was this: Two penguins are in the bathtub, and one of them says, “Could you please pass the soap?” The other replies, “What do I look like, a typewriter?” Get it? Neither do I (even with Wikipedia’s help)–though it does make me laugh now, because it made her laugh so hard. Anyway, typewriters are, as they say, having a moment. When Anthropologie offers a USB typewriter that works with your iPad, you know something is afoot. But even more fascinating than the reemergence of physical typewriters themselves is the coverage typewriters–and the art of […]




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