Radicalized by Cory Doctorow

This bloke is rapidly turning into one of favourite storytellers. There was the weirdly excellent Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and the strangely optimistic (depending on your politics) The Lost Cause.

Radicalized is a collection of four short stories, all based around an individual who falls foul of a malevolent “system” in present day America:


Unauthorized Bread – a refugee learns how to hack her toaster so she use it to make toast with unapproved (i.e cheaper) bread. Harmless enough? The toaster’s manufacturer doesn’t think so …

Model Minority – a superhero tries to help the black victim of a police assault (STOP RESISTING! STOP RESISTING!), and soon finds that trying to fight systemic racism means you’re not a superhero anymore; you’re an enemy of the state.

Radicalized – tired of being denied treatment for their cancer-stricken relatives, an online community extract murderous retribution from their health insurers.

The Masque of the Red Death – a multimillionaire tries to see out an economic apocalypse inside a fort, along with thirty or so “like-minded” people.

Yup, four short-stories, each one a treat, even if your politics don’t necessarily line up with the author’s. Having said that though, I think it’s fair to say that it would probably appeal more to those who lean slightly to the left.

Each story is well-crafted, thought-provoking, and edged with a thin layer of dark humour. The author occasionally jumps ahead and gives the reader a heads-up on an event yet to come, which isn’t a favourite literary trick of mine. Still, it doesn’t happen too often, so I’m not going to harp on about it.

Of the four stories, I think Radicalized, really got me thinking: you really can push people too far …

Vellum: a list of wants without the tantrum

I have a strange relationship with Vellum. It’s one of the most expensive apps I own (or rather license), and it’s the app that I probably use the least. And yet it’s one of the few apps I wouldn’t be without, because when I do get round to using it, it saves be a bucketload of time and churns out professional quality results without me pulling out what little hair I have.

So for the uninitiated, Vellum is sort of like a word-processor … though not really. You can load a file (.docx, .rtf) into it, or type your book straight in, and Vellum will churn out beautifully formatted ePubs for a handful of mobile platforms such as Apple Books, Amazon Kindle, along with PDFs that be dropped into CreateSpace or Ingram Spark.

Yes, I know that I can do the same thing in Word and Scrivener, but even Scrivener can’t deliver such a clean, well-dressed output without some fiddling afterwards. Vellum will space out your text to make sure all the pages are balanced without leaving those niggling single lines on a page before skipping off to the next chapter.

I’m not a believer in the one-stop-shop kind of an app, but Vellum is so easy to use and so well thought out, I find myself wondering what would it need so I could use it more.

So here’s is my list of wants for Vellum, based on nothing more than my own sense of entitlement (there’s a lot of it about after all).

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