In Other Worlds: SF and the Human ImaginationIn Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a neat little collection of Margaret Atwood’s history in the field of science fiction. It’s split into three parts:

1) Her thoughts on science (speculative?) fiction and the persistent problem of defining the genre; thoughts on how science fiction is a continuation of much older, mythological sorts of fiction; commentaries on her early life in rural Canada, what made her move into the field and inspired her to write the novels that marked her career.

2) Reviews, articles and talks she’s written and given over the years on seminal works and writers such as The Island of Dr Moreau and H. G. Wells, Nineteen Eighty-four, Animal Farm and George Orwell, Brave New World and Aldous Huxley, She and H. Rider Haggard, The Birthday of the World and Ursula K. Le Guin (her name is seriously pronounced “gwin”?) and others.

3) A selection of her own short stories, some of which I remembered from reading Bones and Murder some weeks ago.

Listening to this wise old lady speak of her long life and pose difficult questions about SF in general was very pleasing for the mind. I also found it quite revealing, and I’m hardly versed in her work. If you are more familiar with it than I, you know what to do.

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Two vids and two talks, all broadly on cryptography, freedom of information and mass surveillance, all excellent—and I don’t usually even like rap.

Especially the talks though, they’re on a different level completely, truly ground-breaking stuff. Haunted By Data you can either read or watch on Youtube, What Happens Next Will Amaze You is only in transcript form.

Juice Media vids

Talks by Maciej Cegłowski

Haunted By Data

Strata+Hadoop World, New York City, October 2015. [video] (20 mins)

Re-imagining data as radioactive waste we don’t know how to safely store. Nixon in your data center. Eroom’s Law as an example of how data-driven thinking can make things worse for an entire industry. A plea to stop gratuitously collecting data and start treating it as the trade-off it is.

What Happens Next Will Amaze You

FREMTIDENS INTERNET, Copenhagen, Denmark, September 2015.

A talk about the corporate side of our culture of total surveillance. The odd story of how advertisers destoyed our online privacy and then found themselves swindled by robots. Six fixes that I think could restore Internet privacy. Capitalists who act like central planners, and an industry that insists on changing the world without even being able to change San Francisco.




Review: Making History

Making HistoryMaking History by Stephen Fry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“I don’t know why I find it intensely erotic to stand naked before an open fridge, but I do. Maybe it’s something to do with the expectation of a hunger soon to be satisfied, maybe it’s that the spill of light on my body makes me feel like a professional stripper. Maybe something weird happened to me when I was young. It is an alarming feeling, mind, because all those assembled food-stuffs put ideas in your head you’re on the rise. Stories of what you can do with the unsalted butter on ripe melons or raw liver, they crowd your head as the blood begins to rush.
“I spotted a big slab of Red Leicester and pulled off a piece with my hands. I stood there chewing for some time, buzzing with happiness.
“Thas was when the idea came to me, full born.
“The force of it made me gape. A mashed pellet of bread fell from my open mouth and at once the blood flew upwards to the brain where it was needed, leaving my twitching excitement below with nothing to do but shrink back like a started snail.”

No wonder this man can write so eloquently and wittily about penises. It’s a great thing it’s not just them he can write like that about.

Stephen Fry is some sort of homo universalis: a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci, only much funnier. He’s an actor, a humourist, a TV show preseneter, a walking encyclopedia, an activists for gay rights, a linguist… an intellectual all around. I had no idea he was a writer on top of all that but it comes as no real shock. One can’t resist but nod silently, in contemplation and agreement to Mitchell & Webb’s “who doesn’t want to be like Stephen Fry?”.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that the book I had picked from Politeia, just because it had “Stephen Fry” and “History” written with large playful letters on the cover where it also had a picture of a cat, had to do with WWII and alternate history. I was thrilled! It’s been some time since I last read a 500-page book in less than 10 days. It was a good page-turner, not too memorable or original, but for a lover of good alternate history and for one that wouldn’t turn down well-written science fiction, it was rather good.

I know that the best part of such stories, at least for me, is finding out the little details of the “fictional” worlds that have branched out differently. Therefore, I shall not disclose anything but what’s necessary to whet your appetite: if Hitler had never been born, how can we be sure that the evil he was responsible for would have been equally prevented? Would Rock & Roll have ever been born? Would Orwell live to write 1984? What would the computers look like in 1996 — the year the book was written? Stephen Fry in his signature cerebral style includes real historical tidbits on many personalities of the past as well as science and cultural background that make the thing more believeable. It seems only right that a man with a broad range of interests such as himself would be the perfect candidate to write such a demanding genre as alternate history.

I’ll roll this review up leaving you with this: at one point of the book, the protagonist decides that the format of a novel is not enough to convey the action; the book promptly switches to telling the story by means of being a film script, only to switch back when the heavy action’s suddenly over:“I fade from Hollywood screenplay format to dull old, straight old prose because that’s how it felt. That’s how it always feels in the end.


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Review: 1984 : Ο μεγάλος αδελφός

1984 : Ο μεγάλος αδελφός
1984 : Ο μεγάλος αδελφός by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree

I always loved how, in the book, pop prolefeed songs are manufactured by computers; no human creativity is needed. I involuntarily recall this tidbit whenever I listen to the newest radio hit these days.

I originally read Nineteen Eighty-Four (the original title, though understandably usually shortened to 1984) in Greek a few years back. 10 days or so ago I felt a need to return to it in English and did so in audio book format, read by Simon Prebble.

They say that Brave New World describes our world much better than 1984 does, that the blissful ignorance is much more prominent in our society than 1984’s “boot stamping the human face”. I’ve always held at heart that our own dystopia in the making is the neat blend of the two: the blissfully ignorant sex, drugs and genetically determined human strata, go hand in hand with a government that is in love with power and has merely chosen this more subdued but no less effective way to prolong its ever-lasting dominion.

In this world, wars never end; the enemy is unbeatable and ever-present. Bombs go off randomly every now and again just to allow your mind to come in terms with this fact. Telescreens follow the population everywhere. Nowadays people even take little telescreens with them and have feelings of withdrawal if they are ever separated from them. Those who control the present control the past, and those who do so, do it very, very well. So well, in fact, that public opinion can be swayed one way or another in a matter of weeks or even days — so little do people actually remember, so easily do they forget. Relativism is used as the end-all be-all argument to support that might is right following sickening twists of logic: that there is no nature “out there”, thus truth is dictated by the government and the government only. A similar argument hides behind the saying “who wants to ban fascist groups is against freedom of speech and a fascist themselves!” The encouragement of doublethink, of which the above is but an example, ultimately has people holding two contradicting beliefs at the same time: “I’m not a racist, but everybody knows that our race is more advanced” or “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”. In a similar vain, the government body that is responsible for hitting people and quenching peaceful protests is named “Ministry of Citizen Protection” and the one which makes sure that everyone starves is called “Ministry of Development”, releasing false figures to mask the facts and manipulate the masses. They are allowed to do so; there are no real laws, since the judiciary body is also controlled by the government. What about the proles where the hope for revolution lies? They’re either too busy surviving to actually think for themselves or they’re blindly consuming the “prolefeed” the party is providing them with, including of course their own propaganda.

…oh, sorry about that. I got carried away there and started describing our own living, breathing 2012.

This is definitely one of the masterpieces of the 20th century and is one of absolute favourites. It stands as a beaming symbol of the totalitarian societies of the past and of political oppression, violence, propaganda, hunger for power etc. Orwell’s vision was so ironically vivid, realistic and reverberated with so many that his name has even come through this book to stand for a whole arrangement of things that smack of real-world totalitarianism. Even if he did write it for a different world than what exists more than half a century later, it’s evident that when it comes to human societies, old loves die hard; whether it is totalitarian socialism/communism or hardcore neo-liberal capitalism, it makes little difference. The essence, displays Orwell masterfully, remains the same. Reading 1984, especially for a second time, I got the same feeling Winston, the protagonist, gets from reading a certain book in the book itself: that he had always known about these things and that he was grateful that he had found someone who could articulate them for him.

Parts of 1984 are extreme, I’ll admit. Part Three is a punch in the gut every time. I just wanted to lie in a fetal position in the corner of my room after first reading it. It is that hopeless, that horrible. I can’t believe that states like Oceania et al. could be set up and maintain themselves on force, pain and hatred alone; call it conscience, call it a belief that people are basically good, I just can’t see such a place existing. It’s too evil to exist! That said, I can’t think of a way that such a regime, if already having been set up properly, could fall, either. Not to mention that in many ways, our own world and reality is full of unnecessary evil. Who’s to say if it’s within the bounds of possibility for the next logical step in this progression of evil and imbalance to be taken?

This nightmarish inevitability hidden within, the terror of the idea that if someone really wanted to create IngSoc and Oceania, they could, is what plays with my mind and I believe with every reader’s mind. We might, like Winston, think that such a world is just a work of dystopian fantasy; if we look around us carefully, we just might realise that the absoluteness of the pain, the torture and the future being described as “a boot stamping on a human face forever” might not be such absurd ideas after all.

The owner of the boot is creating his shoelaces made of hatred and fear as we speak. What if we could create our own artificial shortage of shoelaces?

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Είναι όντως οι μπάτσοι τα γουρούνια;

Το γνωστό σύνθημα (δεν χρειάζεται σε -όνοι να τελειώνει, μπάτσοι-γουρούνια δολοφόνοι) μου φαίνεται εδώ και καιρό κάπως άκυρο. Βασικά, απο τότε που διάβασα την Φάρμα των Ζώων, του George Orwell. Το βιβλίο, όπως μπορεί ή και όχι να ξέρετε, είναι μία ευθύς αλληγορία στην Οκτωβριανή Επανάσταση και στο τι επακολούθησε, μέχρι τον Στάλιν: τα ζώα της φάρμας, καθοδηγούμενα απο τα γουρούνια, πατάσσουν την κακιά εξουσία των ανθρώπων για μία αυτοδιαχειριζόμενη φάρμα, απο τα ζώα για τα ζώα! Μόνο που σύντομα, τα γουρούνια γίνονται χειρότεροι απο τους ανθρώπους…

Τα γουρούνια ΔΕΝ είναι οι μπάτσοι. Τα γουρούνια είναι οι άνθρωποι οι όποιοι ελέγχουν τους μπάτσους σαν μαριονέτες. Και πέρσι, που ένας μπάτσος πυροβόλησε τον Αλέξη Γρηγορόπουλο, αυτό δεν ήταν κίνηση γουρουνιού, αλλά ηλιθιότητα του μπάτσου… Δεν φταίει η δημοκρατία, ή το σύστημα, για τον τυχαίο ανθρώπινο παράγοντα ο οποίος μπορεί να πονοκεφαλιάσει τα γουρούνια και να δώσει ακόμα περισσότερη τροφή σε όσους στρέφουν τα πυρά τους προς αυτούς και ΟΧΙ στα γουρούνια.

Στην Φάρμα των Ζώων, τα σκυλιά είναι αυτά τα οποία προστατεύουν τα γουρούνια, θα μπορούσαμε να πούμε ότι οι μπάτσοι είναι τα σκυλιά. Τα ίδια όμως είναι εκπαιδεύμενα για να κάνουν ακριβώς αυτό. Ποιό είναι το παράπτωμα τους; Απο την άλλη, ποιός είναι ο καλύτερος τρόπος να στοχεύσεις τα πραγματικά γουρούνια, τα οποία πλέον δεν ήταν όσο εμφανή όσο ήταν ο Στάλιν; Είναι οι μεγαλοεπιχειρηματίες, οι μεγαλομέτοχοι, οι άνθρωποι που ελέγχουν τα μέσα… Άνθρωποι αφανείς, οι οποίοι κάνουν ακόμα και τους τάχα πολιτικούς “ηγέτες” ό,τι θέλουν πίσω απο τα παρασκήνια.

Οι μπάτσοι δεν είναι παρα το χέρι, το εκτελεστικό όργανο της εξουσίας… Είναι εκεί για να μισούμε αυτούς και όχι την πραγματική εξουσία. Ποιά όμως είναι, εν τέλει, η πραγματική εξουσία;



I’m reading a book written by a spectacularly honest frenchman titled “How to talk about books you haven’t read”. In this book, among many other things, he says that a lot of authors refer to books they might have skimmed through or even not read at all. He uses a system within his own book that puts a certain tag next to each book he refers to, ranging from. He also uses a rating system from ++ to — to express his opinion on the particular book.

In detail, ++ is extremely positive opinion, + is positive opinion. – and — are negative and extremely negative opinions respectively. I think this system is perfect for sharing your disposition to something without having to use a 1-10 or 1-100 system. I hate it when people ask me to rate a girl, game, movie, or just about anything from 1 to 10. What’s a 1? Even more importantly, what’s a 10? Can you rate anything with a 10 without having any doubts about whether anything will surpass it, ever? Everything in life is experiences, including all the above, and experiences are rating-proof! By the way, before any of you say it: Yes, since the YRS (Yummers Rating System) is a 1-10 deal, I have concluded that it too is incomplete and needs revision.

I like the ++ to – – so much that I’ll use just it to describe what’s going on in my life at the moment by how much I like it!


Paradox Interactive. These guys are one of the best studio/publisher around. I’m seriously hooked with Europa Universalis III and Victoria. Hearts of Iron looks like a thing to check out soon (what am I saying, I already own two copies! I’m not going into detail with that, I want to forget…)

CouchSurfing. I just hosted an Italian guy, his name is Duan. 2 nights it was. I had almost forgot how nice and cozy hosting makes you feel, especially when it’s people you’d easily make friends with but will probably never appearin your life again.

SPACED!! After Hot Fuzz and Dawn of the Dead (I mean, um, a couple of years before those), comes Spaced. It’s awesome, pure awesome, and I recommend it to anyone who has a thing for cleverly stupid humour. Anger, Pain, Fear, Aggression…

Jose Saramago. This guy is quickly, and I mean quickly, becoming my favourite writer. Period. I couldn’t resist and gave ~100 euros to get 5 of his books together (along with the book I mentioned first and 1984). Which brings me to…

1984, by George Orwell. It shocked me. A masterpiece of 20th century literature. I may write something on it one day…


Soon I’ll be translating and subbing eco films, and not for free! I am excited for what may be my first paid job.

The Balkans, by Mark Mazower. An excellent read on the real side of “European Turkey”.

I’m entering a Guitar Hero contest. Yay?!

I’m learning Japanese… And want to learn Turkish. I want to communicate with the world! Is it normal that I’m only learning the languages of the… “bad guys” (plus german)?

We dressed up as vampires with Alex. It had been so long since I had done something like that…

In January we made a little cut-out animation for uni. It’s not completely ready yet so don’t expect to have a look if you haven’t already! 😛 It did turn out well though…

My money is running low much faster than would be desirable, even if we eat everyday at the Uni with Mario!

I still think I have no certain purpose or goals. That I’m not really good at anything but only mediocre in lots of things. Same applies to everything. Is this good or bad in the end?

Nationalistic idiots annoy me.

Pop songs that use Beethoven’s 9th also annoy me.

Waking up early to catch those pesky morning lectures is always a problem… So it is now!

No time for everyone that I would like to have more of in my life… You know who you are.

– –

Keeping my house clean is a nightmare.

Rain and cold. Cold and rain. And no central heating This pretty much sums up 2009’s weather up till now. And for the past week, it’s extreme rain and cold. Where’s summer? Where’s the sun?! I seriously don’t believe I’m uttering these words…

Every time it rains, my second room gets flooded. Argh! How can people be so stupid they mess up a balcony this much?

I hate the announcements in the ships. All of them. Lissos, Mytilini especially. I want to kick the (taped) announcers to death. Yes, that’s how much I hate them.