While doing some work for his publisher, Jesse Browner discovered something odd about a book he published twelve years ago. One sentence – one he thought of at the time as mostly unremarkable – went viral after the book came out, eventually reaching over two thousand hits on Google. What was it like to find this out? At The Paris Review Daily, he writes about the experience. You could also read our interview with our own Mark O'Connell on viral celebrity and his e-book Epic Fail

“Cosima Herter is so embedded in the fabric and ideas of the show that colleagues call her ‘Real Cosima,’ to distinguish her from Cosima Niehaus, the clone character she inspired. Like the show’s characters, like so many of us in this culture that seeks to decode our genes in an effort to predict and guide our futures, Herter is interested in the meeting of science, genetics, and chance.” Maud Newton, Science, Chance and Emotion with the Real Cosima


The Buzz on Hiveworks: A New Resource for Webcomics Creators

For many aspiring cartoonists, the effort of launching, creating, and maintaining a webcomic is a solo undertaking. It’s a long process that, while a labor of love, can prove arduous, especially if those creators are trying to make an income off of their work. For a long time there was no formal support system for these creators, whose work would likely never get picked up by a major print publisher and whose readership and revenue were entirely dependent on internet notoriety.

However, the comics collective Hiveworks, founded in 2011, is vastly improving the experience for online comics creators. Branding themselves as a combination publisher and studio, Hiveworks is offering the support and mentorship necessary for turning webcomics into sustainable businesses. The group provides a wide array of services including web hosting, ad placement (which increases both readership and revenue), facilitating web stores, marketing and product design, and even participating in Kickstarters. The result is a vast and diverse collection of comics and creators who can focus on the quality of their work, rather than the confusing and often overwhelming task of marketing that work.

I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with professional illustrator and Hiveworks Co-CEO Isabelle Melançon, whose popular webcomic Namesake I recommended last year.  Here’s what she had to say about her work with the collective:

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via theabsolutemag (Facebook / Twitter)

Peg Plunkett was an 18th-century Dublin courtesan who decided one day to make some money by publishing a series of memoirs. Now, over two hundred years after Plunkett sketched out her life story, Professor Julie Peakman has rewritten all three volumes for a modern audience. In a piece for The New Statesman, Sarah Dunant reviews her edition of Plunkett’s oeuvre.

This is as close as Looking gets to introducing an oppositional queer politic, one that believes in articulating a queer identity as a challenge to both straight and gay normalcy. But with two words, the conversation is over before it begins. There’s no mention of the violence of gay powerbrokers in San Francisco, who are more than happy to push aside queer and trans youth, elders, HIV-positive people without money, homeless queers, drug addicts, disabled queers, people of color, migrants from smaller towns and other countries, and anyone else unable or unwilling to conform to narrow notions of white middle-class respectability. In fact, San Francisco is a textbook example of what happens when gay people become part of the power structure—they engineer the election of anti-poor pro-development candidates over and over and over again; they advise property owners on how to get rid of long-term tenants; they fight against the construction of a queer youth shelter because it might impact community property values; they arrest homeless queers for getting in the way of happy hour.
The Sunset Conundrum, or Why Tale of Tales Had It Coming

I gotta say, this whole Tale of Tales/Sunset thing is really cracking me up. The more I read, the harder I laugh.

For anyone not familiar, Sunset was a game being developed by Tale of Tales, a small-time developer who seems to specialize in the “Walking Simulator” style that everyone seems to have an opinion on nowadays. If you’d like more of an explanation, take a look at The Endless Forest. You literally play as a deer walking through the woods. No real plot, no chat function, just a deer in the woods.

I’m not even gonna start into the many, many problems I’ve got with Walking Sims like this. That’s for another post.

For now, I’ll start with Sunset. It, like every other game ToT has ever put out, is as minimal as it gets: you literally play as a housekeeper. Among the tasks given to you is removing icky things like a Sun Tzu book, straightening furniture, little things that most of us dread doing even in our own lives. So with that known, here’s my question:

Why the hell did anyone at ToT think an average gamer would want to play as a freaking housemaid?

I get the appeal of low-stress games. Interactive fiction has its place as a niche market, and I’m not saying they should be demonized as a genre. The issue I have is when a niche developer tries to punch upward with zero substance to back them up, only to openly attack the very people they expected to buy their game. These people you attack were never your demographic in the first place, so why are you so pissy?

Oh, wait. I know why. Because the massive shill campaign they launched to make the game succeed ended up exploding in their faces. Big Red Flag #1: they hired Leigh Alexander to draft them a PR campaign. That’s like asking Laci Green to write you a Youtube video about Spore and then getting mad when she tells you to make it all about the aggressive cellular patriarchy. What did they expect to happen? Mass sales? The Steam front page? The glory of being a supercool indie dev rockstar?

You know how that happens? You make games people actually wanna play. It’s not the gaming community’s fault you write for a niche market.

It gets better, though. Now they’re backpedaling and saying she was only involved with the writing process. If she only had a hand in the writing process, how did rock, Paper, Shotgun end up with a well-populated tag dedicated to Sunset? I mean, it’s not like RPS has a habit of taking money from friends to boost half-assed games… nah, not at all…

(On a totally unrelated note, how’s your ad revenue these days, RPS?)

Bonus round for anyone who still thinks ToT hasn’t chugged the Kool-Aid. It makes me sad to see potentially good developers go this far south. Maybe they’ll come back and write a playable game on their own power. In the meantime, someone get these people some ankle bracers. If they backpedal any harder they’re gonna end up breaking both ankles.

What if we dislike or despise or hate poems because they are – every single one of them – failures? The poet and critic Allen Grossman tells a story (there are many versions of the story) that goes like this: you’re moved to write a poem because of some transcendent impulse to get beyond the human, the historical, the finite. But as soon as you move from that impulse to the actual poem, the song of the infinite is compromised by the finitude of its terms. So the poem is always a record of failure.
—  Having kicked off his career with a book of poetry, it’s not surprising that Ben Lerner is interested in the late Johns Hopkins professor Allen Grossman, who theorized that people dislike poetry because poems are – by definition – failures. In a piece for the LRB, he runs through the implications of Grossman’s theory, touching on poets as disparate as Shakespeare and William McGonagall. Pair with Kate Angus on why Americans don’t buy poetry books.

Inside the Shop of the Last Great American Watchmaker

A $40 Casio G-Shock keeps more accurate time than a Breguet; a hot-pink Swatch a fourth-grader wears in the pool is more reliable than a watch that costs more than her home. When you think about it, there’s no reason for anyone to create in-house movements for an American watch. Murphy’s quixotic commitment to craftsmanship has no value to anyone but an equally idealistic buyer.

Lauren Collins on George Steinmetz’s aerial photography

The flying lawn chair is actually a motorized paraglider—a sail, a tank of gas, a propeller, and a seat. Steinmetz is the fuselage. He never flies for fun, but the apparatus has a back-yardish feel: picture a man with a leaf blower on his back, encircled by a metal hula hoop, dangling at altitudes of up to six thousand feet under a tomato-colored beach umbrella. The sail—paragliders call it a “wing,” because it’s cambered, like a bird’s—is connected from its trailing edge to hand controls by two sets of nylon-sheathed brake lines in fluorescent colors. (They look like Silly String.) Steinmetz uses the brake lines, which work the wing like flaps on an airplane, to steer.

Photograph by François Lagarde

I was in shock and stayed there a long time. We don’t tell each other the truth about dying, as a people. Not real dying. Real dying, regular and mundane dying, is so hard and so ugly that it becomes the worst thing of all: It’s grotesque. It’s undignified. No one ever told me the truth about it, not once. When it happened to my beloved, I lost my footing in more than one way. The tiled floor of life—morals, ethics, even laws—became a shifting and relative thing.
The Secret History of Women’s Soccer in Mexico and Its Unsung Heroine, La Pelé Vargas

Long before there was Abby Wambach or Maribel Domínguez, Alex Morgan, Charlyn Corral, or Marta, there was Alicia La Pelé Vargas.

For a fleeting moment, before FIFA recognized the existence of women’s soccer, the Mexican women’s national team was a world power. Organized by volunteers in the Mexican Association of Women’s Football (AMFF) and discouraged by the official FMF, the women went to the inaugural women’s championship in 1970 in Italy. Shocking everyone—including themselves—el Tri Femenil finished third. The following year, Mexico hosted the second women’s championship. Over 100,000 people packed into the Estadio Azteca to see the Mexico lose to Denmark 3-0 in the finals.

In this week’s issue, Daniel Zalewski profiles Lonni Sue Johnson, an artist with amnesia:

Her life is an endless series of jump cuts. In our age of pinging distractions, people often express a desire to “be present,” but Johnson belies such sentimentality. She is marooned in the present.

Photographs by Phillip Toledano