Ben Marcus' reality is only slightly askew from our own

Notes from the Fog author Ben Marcus on Elon Musk, the weird existential joys of the reality TV show Castaways, and whether we will eat in the future.

  • A grow lamp for humans?
  • A mist that puts you in the right mood for mourning the victims of terrorism?
  • How realism and postmodernism fell in love and had babies.
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Why reading fiction is as important now as ever

Novels open us to the nuances of being human.

  • "Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth," wrote Albert Camus. It remains an important social and political tool.
  • Reading fiction has been shown to increase empathy and understanding.
  • In the Instagram age, novels are still a necessary form of communication.
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As fact and fiction blur, America’s finally ready for Polish author Olga Tokarczuk

Man Booker prize winners Olga Tokarczuk and her translator Jennifer Croft on maps that lead nowhere, plasticized anatomies, and humor across national borders.

  • Our fragmented times demand a new kind of novel.
  • Here, Olga talks humor across the world...
  • ... and maps that lead us nowhere.
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Fact vs. Fiction: How Facts Are Made, and Who Decides What's True

What information can we trust? Truth isn't black and white, so here are three requirements every fact should meet.

The chances are good that you've used Wikipedia to define or discover something in the last week, if not 24 hours. It's currently the 5th most-visited website in the world. The English-language Wikipedia averages 800 new articles per day — but 1,000 articles are deleted per day, the site's own statistics page reports. That fluctuation is probably partly the result of mischievous users, but it is also an important demonstration of Wikipedia's quest for knowledge in motion. "As the world's consensus changes about what is reliable, verifiable information, the information for us will change too," says Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. Maher is careful to delineate between truth and knowledge. Wikipedia isn't a jury for truth, it's a repository for information that must be three things: neutral, verifiable, and determined with consensus. So how do we know what information to trust, in an age that is flooded with access, data, and breaking news? Through explaining how Wikipedia editors work and the painstaking detail and debate that goes into building an article, Maher offers a guide to separating fiction from fact, which can be applied more broadly to help us assess the quality of information in other forums.

Minority Book Report: How Reading Grows Our Empathy

What's it like to be a minority in America? To find out, read a book written by one.

Fiction is so much more than a vehicle for entertainment. Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang believes "own-voice" stories, told by people from within those communities, have immense power to show us the world through the eyes and mind of a different cultural group. It can also make our real-world interactions with people who are different to us so much richer, through empathy. "In my personal experience it seems like reading those stories ultimately emphasizes the common humanity that we all have," he says. "I think that’s how your empathy grows." Of course, with minority stories has come much debate surrounding how they're presented, and who is behind it. What is cultural appropriation, and do we even know what's being appropriated? Can just anyone tell a minority story? Listen to Yang dissect this topic through the lens of his own experience — and find out why he's been boycotting the blockbuster film The Last Airbender since 2010 (still going strong). Gene Luen Yang's most recent book is Paths & Portals.

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