Friday News: Hong Kong publisher returns, 50 Shades book fort, what it’s like in space, and robot writers
Missing Hong Kong bookseller Lee Po returns home from mainland China after disappearing last December – Missing for upward of five months, Cheung Chi-ping, Lui Por, and, most recently, Lee Po, have returned to Hong Kong. Upon his return, Po asked Hong Kong police to end their investigation into his disappearance, claiming that he went willingly to the mainland. Of course, he also claims he will never “run a bookstore business” again, too:
“I will never publish and sell those books that make things up. The freedom of publication and of speech does not mean that people can make things up,” he was quoted as saying. “Like I have said earlier, there are still people doing this business in Hong Kong. I hope they won’t do it any more.”
He said he had sneaked into the mainland because he wanted to settle matters with his companies. Now that three of his associates had been released on bail, he said, his efforts had not been in vain. He met the three on Wednesday to talk about what to do with the companies, he revealed.
Lee went on to say that during his time across the border, he had witnessed the prosperity of the country and felt proud to be Chinese. He added that Hong Kong was still his home and he would never leave the city to settle elsewhere. – South China Morning Post
Charity shop begs women not to return used copies of Fifty Shades of Grey – This. Is. The Best (make sure you check out the photos).
An Oxfam bookshop in Swansea is inundated with so many copies of the erotic novel – ‘literally hundreds’ – that they’ve started begging women to stop bringing them in.
The shop now has so many copies of the book, they’ve built a fort out of them. – Metro
WILL THE NEXT J.K. ROWLING BE A ROBOT? – Four of the fourteen hundred competitors this year for Japan’s Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award were computers. While none of their entries won the competition, one “hybrid work” made it past the first round, at least:
According to Hitoshi Matsubara, the professor who led the team of researchers and robots responsible for the successful cyborg entry, humans performed about 80% of the work for the hybrid novels. As The Japan News explains, researchers came up with the story’s major parameters, like its plot and the gender of its characters. They then harvested words and phrases from a (human-written) novel and compiled them into an extensive archive. Using this archive, the computer created sentences and assembled them into a story based on the humans’ outline. – Electric Literature
What’s It Like in Space? Ariel Waldman Has the Answers – A short but kind of fun interview with Ariel Waldman, “a member of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program, which nurtures radical, sci-fi-esque ideas to enhance and transform future space missions.” She has also written What’s It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who’ve Been There. Among the more offbeat questions:
What does space smell like? Burnt almond cookies. Seriously! At least, that was what one astronaut reported after sniffing the inside of an air lock. In fact, no one can quite agree on what space smells like. Others have said everything from welding fumes to “wet clothes after rolling in snow.”
What’s the most useful item a person can bring into space?
A towel, of course! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy got it right. Turns out being in space means a lot of bodily fluid management. – Smithsonian Magazine