Friday, February 6, 2015


I love the pun in the headline of this story about a recent study that shows petro-diplomacy has been at the heart of almost every aggressive action taken by any nation state over the last hundred years: "Crude Conspiracy Theories Could Be Right". Actually, the research presented in the article shows that said title is actually overly conservative in its appraisal of the situation! It begins:
Researchers have for the first time provided strong evidence for what conspiracy theorists have long thought – oil is often the reason for interfering in another country’s war.
Throughout recent history, countries which need oil have found reasons to interfere in countries with a good supply of it and, the researchers argue, this could help explain the US interest in ISIS in northern Iraq.
Researchers from the Universities of Warwick, Portsmouth, and Essex modelled the decision-making process of third-party countries in interfering in civil wars and examined their economic motives.
They found that the decision to interfere was dominated by the interveners’ need for oil over and above historical, geographical or ethnic ties.
The rest of this short article is well worth checking out. 

2. In our neverending quest to bring you an excellent piece of short fiction with every one of these "suggested reading lists", today the DDD gang brings you a spooky masterpiece by one of the 20th century's early masters of the form: Conan creator Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons From Hell"! I know, I know... that title! But it's actually a fantastic story, which you can read, totally free of charge and without any special software, at this link. The story begins:
Griswell awoke suddenly, every nerve tingling with a premonition of imminent peril. He stared about wildly, unable at first to remember where he was, or what he was doing there. Moonlight filtered in through the dusty windows, and the great empty room with its lofty ceiling and gaping black fireplace was spectral and unfamiliar. Then as he emerged from the clinging cobwebs of his recent sleep, he remembered where he was and how he came to be there. He twisted his head and stared at his companion, sleeping on the floor near him. John Branner was but a vaguely bulking shape in the darkness that the moon scarcely grayed.
And it only gets better from there!

3. Ever get the feeling that Apocalyptic, "end of the world" fiction isn't packing the same punch nowadays that it used to? Well, turns out you're not the only one, as evinced by this Public Books article, titled "What's the Matter With Dystopia?", which begins: 
Dystopia is flourishing. In the process, it is becoming routine and losing its political power.
If current fiction is to be believed, postapocalyptic wastelands will in the not too distant future be as common as parking lots, deadly plagues as widespread as the flu, and cannibalism no more unusual than a visit to McDonald’s. Dozens of writers have delved into the genre over the last decade, from newcomers such as Edan Lepucki (California, 2014) to old hands like Cormac McCarthy (The Road, 2006). Young adult novels in the genre abound, from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy (2008–2010) and Veronica Roth’s Divergent series (2011–2013) to Lydia Millet’s Pills and Starships (2014). The scenarios stretch from hurricanes that devastate New York City, as in Nathaniel Rich’s eerily prescient Odds Against Tomorrow (2013), to global infestations of genetically engineered species that drive humankind to the edge of starvation, as in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009). The fall season of 2014 added a host of new offerings in the genre, including David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Michael Faber’s Book of Strange New Things, and Howard Jacobson’s J
Dystopia as a literary genre by and large developed in the 20th century, in the shadow of world wars, totalitarianisms, genocides, and looming threats of nuclear war and environmental crisis—with a few earlier exceptions such as Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville’s Le dernier homme (1805) and Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826). Over much of the 20th century, it functioned as a powerful tool of political criticism, from E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (1909), Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924), and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972), and Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976).
There's a bit more of a history lesson cum booklist recommendations, but author Ursula Heise gets to the meat of her argument - "If there's one thing that stands out about the deluge of dystopias over the last decade, it is their untiring attention to routines of everyday life" - before too long. It's a good read. Enjoy!

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