Shiny Things

A roundup of the best of me and the web

Here are some of the best things on the web at the moment, but starting with some of the best new things from me on the web at the moment!

Quick Sci-Fi Roundup

As you know, I write regularly about science fiction and there happen to be three unmissable SF authors with books this fall. So I wrote / am writing about them.

(Please let me know if you hear of important, interesting SF books that are coming out, I hear of plenty but not all).

  • Mr. Data has a novel. Well, Brent Spiner does — “Fan Fiction” — and it’s actually quite good!

  • Neal Stephenson: My review of his “Termination Shock” is forthcoming. Tenterhooks!


If you are feeling curious about gender constructs after reading my piece about gender and pronouns this story by Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic is one of the more fascinating and heartbreaking stories about what that internet enables and breaks. Ursula K. Le Guin used science fiction to think about the possibilities of sentient ships, but further exploration seems threatened.

Talking With the Poet About Taxmen

For “Sources Journal,” published by the Shalom Hartman Institute, I interviewed Peter Cole. Usually an interview with an author is 30 or 45 minutes and then the journalist just discards most of it and just writes up an airy excerpt along the lines of “Quirky fact, what’s the new project about? what’s next?” This interview is nothing like that in process or product.

In the early summer Peter and I had a delightful and wide-ranging Zoom meeting that lasted two or three hours and produced a transcript of tens of thousands of words. We used that as a large boulder of marble to sculpt so that it best reflected Peter’s interests and most concisely explained how he engaged with them. So, instead of an airy excerpt, this is a densely worked and polished article that, I hope, represents Peter both fairly and substantively. And, perhaps still hidden from readers, is how deeply, in his work as a translator and author (and interviewee), he’s a collaborator.

Ion, Lie On, Zion

I weighed in about Sally Rooney’s decision not to allow Israeli publishers translate her most recent novel into Hebrew. But other publishers can do. Basically she’s a “useful idiot” and the people who are yelling at her online are “useful idiots” — you can read the nuance here. Maybe it’s not clear to me how social media isn’t, mostly, just a major distraction from getting important things done.

Three That I Wish I’d Written

Set your privacy now. If you haven’t been paranoid about your privacy settings, you should at least get practical about them now. The Washington Post had a comprehensive and clear guide on how to do that.

Don’t call them the Mormons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsored the 2014 “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign and the movie “Meet the Mormons” but, since 2018, has treated the word as if it’s a “victory for Satan.” Jana Riess at RNS wrote a fascinating piece about “The battle lines around the word ‘Mormon.’”

Treat beef like coal. The Economist had a provocative article about the climate crisis and how, staring at the butts of farting cows, we should treat beef like coal.

Dan’s Last Marathon — To Save the Earth!

I’m doing the NYC Marathon again, on November 7, 2021. The training for it is not particularly healthy so, though I may do some triathlons, I intend this to be my last marathon. BUT I’m doing it to raise money for the climate action organization, Dayenu (whose fiscal sponsors are the Social Good Fund).

  • GIVE! You can give here at my my Facebook fundraising page (they can be good when they want to be). If you don’t want to go to Facebook, you can go to Dayenu at and make a donation in my name. (On the page just under the blue money blocks there’s a box to click to make “your gift in honor or memory of someone.” Assuming I make it to the end of the marathon, you can make it in my honor, not memory!)

  • DON’T GIVE! If you have sponsored me recently, don't feel the need to give again. Just share my Facebook fundraising page or “like” the Dayenu Facebook page. My run is intended to raise the issues they are championing as much as to raise money.

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