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photo 2015-03-08 01:32
The Heroine Next Door - Zeena Nackerdien
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer - Siddhartha Mukherjee
Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited - Vladimir Nabokov,Stefan Rudnicki
Men Without Women - Ernest Hemingway
Of Warriors, Lovers and Prophets: Unusual Stories from South Africa's Past - Max du Preez

Hi everyone!

I am so excited that my first book is finally in print.
My earliest memories of growing up involve sitting next to my father, as he drove a green truck filled with chattering children, to a Muslim primary school located in the whites-only neighborhood of Paarl. This prosperous South African tourist attraction and home of the Afrikaans Language monument can trace its roots of its name (Afrikaans for "pearl ') back to the description given by a Dutch colonist, Abraham Gabemma, when he saw a granite rock on one of its mountains gleaming after a rain storm. Three years later, in 1660, different Dutch settlers would give a street the same name after the oysters found in a New York river. Little did I know, as I watched my father teach overflowing classes of children the three R's (reading, writing, and arithmetic) and I learned about nature from my mother (an avid gardener), that I would one day find myself in New York City.
Had I been the meticulous diarist of my later years, the stories of analyzing geraniums for signs of viral infections and probing the plump, yellow flesh of loquats in a tree (while hiding from my mother for some long-forgotten transgression), would be chronicled in glowing detail and cross-referenced with comments from my brothers. Instead, in my incarnation as a writer and given the vagaries of lost memories, I chose to write a work of fiction that is inspired by people and events that I have had the privilege to witness over the years. Because I am South African by birth, "The Heroine Next Door," has a strong regional flavor, focusing on the pre-and post-apartheid era, before transitioning to the USA and Europe, and the impact of path-breaking infectious and non -communicable disease research on the lives of people in Africa. However, the core identity and relationship issues that the main character, Leila, struggles with are ones that resonate with me and hopefully with the readers. With that in mind, I plan on continuing to write about relationships, sometimes in the idiom of the religion in which I was raised, Islam, and to creatively meditate about my other great loves, including history, news (I am a news junkie) , education for all, and science.
Source: heroinenextdoor.com
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text 2013-12-06 03:37
My books are now in the library of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society!

I also want to thank the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (founded in 1934, whose members included a young Ray Bradbury), for adding my books to their permanent collection! :) This is an incredible honour to be part of this historical club's longtime passion in science fiction and fantasy.


You can read more about LASFS on their wikipedia entry:



Now I know why they asked me if The Dark Victorian series (and the Elle Black Penny Dreads) were YA, they've a Book List of YA recommendations at their site (I said 'no', my books are not---that I know of :-p). The LASFS library is:

"The LASFS has a large lending library of science fiction, fantasy and genre-related nonfiction books. Housed in the 4SJ building, it consists of more than 20,000 volumes. The library takes quite a lot of work to maintain and more than a few librarians. The librarian is Warren Johnson, assisted by Darnell Coleman and a cadre of able volunteers. Library work parties are held regularly, and members are encouraged to participate in keeping our collection up-to-date and in good order.

One of the things that makes the LASFS unique is that every book and publication in its library and every video in its video collection is available to any member to borrow, even those that are rare and unusual. The LASFS is firmly committed to this type of open access."

Go and borrow The Dark Victorian: RISEN and BONES, and SUNDARK: An Elle Black Penny Dread, today! :D


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text 2013-10-01 08:30
Approaching Literary Science Writing

I am under a science-related department from a local university and I never touched any literary science writing besides Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. In fact, the book was recommended by a local book club, none of my classmates or professors did. Rather recommending literary science books, people around me recommend boring textbooks. Not even a glimpse of literary writing can be seen from those expensive thick-bound books, except old editions.


Throw those textbooks (not literally).


One day, I did few clicks online and saw that there are literary science awards garnered for authors and their works. I am happy that I saw my only beloved science book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the 2004 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.  I did more clicks and found out that this award was started since 1988. So old that I was shocked that I never heard of it since the day I first remembered my oldest memory (the day I first sucked my mom’s breast, talking Murakami).


"The Royal Society Winton Prize celebrates outstanding popular science books from around the world. This prestigious prize is open to authors of science books written for a non-specialist audience."


This year, like National Book Award, announced their first ever longlisted science books qualified for the award. (I think longlist is currently trending.) The longlist composed of promising works from different researchers, scientists and academe around the world written for general readers. I am happy that the prize just announced their shortlist last September 25, 2013.


(above, from left to right) Bird Sense by Tim Birkhead, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson, Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life by Enrico Coen, (below, from left to right) The Particle at the End of the Universe by Sean Carroll, Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory by Charles Fernyhough, and Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts


So far, I’m hoping that Caspar Henderson’s The Book of Barely Imagined Beings will win this year’s Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. I’m sure those cute little critters will win the judges’ hearts.


Don’t forget this year’s winner of PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow, and another literary science writing award to watch out. I’m pretty sure that I will spend more money this time. Those are loads of great books and I’m kicking for more science stuff.

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review 2013-07-12 00:00
The Impact of Science on Society - Bertrand Russell Here Bertrand Russell sets himself the task of analyzing the effects of science on society in addition to trying to extrapolate whatever trends he was seeing or thought was seeing into the future. The book is composed of many lectures that Russell delivered, almost all taking place after World War II.

I believe this it is a very intelligent and thoughtful book by a great mind, not to mention the first rate ironic musing of Russell that gave me many heartfelt laughs. Science, very obviously, is a tool that can be used for different purposes, good or bad in differing degrees. What Russell tries mostly is to give a value-free analysis of the impact of science on society coupled with his vision of a future in which humans would have grasped the effects of science more seriously and tried to harness them for the benefit of the whole world, or else perish. This lead Russell (like many other known scientists of his era) to the idea of world government that will have the power to enforce peace on all nations. For this reason, we have a very interesting discussion about the possible balance between liberties and the rule of law, which I believe adherents of Liberalism would very much enjoy. However, amusingly, enthusiasts of conspiracy theory actually believe that Russell was in on a conspiracy to establish a world oligarchy a la Orwell's "1984". I said amusingly because I can't help to think about the footwork you need to believe such a thing about the man.

Having said all this, I couldn't help to think of Russell as naive in some pages, especially when he tries to speculate about the future, though I am obviously affected by the hindsight bias. All in all, this was a very enjoyable read.
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review 2012-10-02 00:00
The Impact of Science on Society - Bertrand Russell Having finally read this book, I must say that I am at a loss to explain why so many people hate it. It's pretty much what it says on the box: Russell considers the impact of science on society, and, unsurprisingly, argues that that impact has had both positive and negative aspects. Perhaps critics are reacting to the tone, which, as usual with Russell, is disengaged and ironic; this despite the fact that he believes that what he is saying is desperately important to our continued survival, as a civilization and possibly as a species.

On the positive side of the balance sheet, Russell has two main items. First, and I think most importantly to him, he argues that a scientific world-view, based on observation and logic, is better than one based on revelation and authority. Russell is a philosopher who passionately loves Truth as an abstract virtue. He prefers a system in which people strive to discover Truth ahead of one in which they believe what authority figures (kings, priests, politicians) tell them to believe. Second, he makes the obvious point that technology developed through science, in particular modern medicine, has vastly decreased human suffering over the last few hundred years.

On the negative side, Russell pulls no punches when he describes how science can, and very often is, used as a tool of oppression. The more advanced technology becomes, the more it tends to concentrate power in the hands of a small elite. He makes reasonable projections about where this trend is likely to lead, and comes up with dismaying conclusions. Unless we can become less selfish, and develop a way to formulate and actually implement responsible global goals, we may not survive very much longer. Some people interpret this as arguing for the installation of a scientific world dictatorship, but I do not think the text supports that reading. Russell is simply saying that, if we don't get our act together and stop putting narrow partisan interests first, we are likely to destroy the planet. He explicitly says that he thinks the most likely outcome is that we will be unable to deviate from our current course, and that we will consequently choose death. Developments since the time of writing do not obviously invalidate his line of reasoning.

As already noted, Russell likes to be ironic, and it seems to me that some people are not properly appreciating this. Please read the following key passage and decide for yourself what you think Russell's opinions are concerning the indoctrination of citizens by their governments:
I think the subject which will be of most important politically is mass psychology. Mass psychology is, scientifically speaking, not a very advanced study, and so far its professors have not been in universities: they have been advertisers, politicians, and, above all, dictators. This study is immensely useful to practical men, whether they wish to become rich or to acquire the government. It is, of course, as a science, founded upon individual psychology, but hitherto it has employed rule-of-thumb methods which were based on a kind of intuitive common sense. Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of modern methods of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called "education". Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the press, the cinema and the radio play an increasing part.

What is essential in mass psychology is the art of persuasion. If you compare a speech of Hitler's with a speech of (say) Edmund Burke, you will see what strides have been made in the art since the eighteenth century. What went wrong formerly was that people had read in books that man is a rational animal, and framed their arguments on this hypothesis. We now know that limelight and a brass band do more to persuade than can be done by the most elegant train of syllogisms. It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment.

This subject will make great strides when it is taken up by scientists under a scientific dictatorship. Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black, but no one believed him. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at. First, that the influence of home is obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of ten. Third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective. Fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to display a morbid taste for eccentricity. But I anticipate. It is for future scientists to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black, and how much less it would cost to make them believe it is dark grey.

Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populance will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen. As yet there is only one country which has succeeded in creating this politician's paradise.
Russell's book is short and still very topical. If you want to read it, there is an online version here.
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