Science Fiction

Briefly Noted Books, Movies, and More

We the Living lives, a lesson from the newspaper business, Cory Doctorow's Makers, and exposing Mexican injustice

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We the Living Lives

In 1942 Goffredo Alessandrini directed an unauthorized Italian film version of Ayn Rand's first novel, We the Living. Set during the Russian Revolution, the story has an uncompromising anti-communist message, but its characters are far more subtle, messy, and soapy than Rand's later avatars of Objectivism.

After the war, the movie—actually two movies, Noi Vivi and Addio Kira—was trapped in legal limbo, as Rand had never given permission for its creation or distribution. But in 1986, Rand having blessed the work before her 1982 death, the two parts were assembled into a single film true to the original novel.

We the Living is now available on DVD for the first time, thanks to Duncan Scott Productions. The picture, featuring the love triangle of independent Kira, bad boy Leo, and surprisingly sympathetic Communist Party official Andrei, captures a fleeting moment when the young Rand was still in thrall to Nietzsche and in mourning for her own Leo, left behind in her flight from Russia.—Katherine Mangu-Ward

I Love Local Commercials!

A Cuban gynecologist turned used car salesman snaps a rubber glove against his wrist before announcing that he's about to "liberate this Chevy Impala" from a lot in High Point, North Carolina. A salesman pitching repossessed manufactured homes in Alabama concedes his houses "are used" and "sometimes they have stains." "We cover that up," he promises, then dryly recalls the time "my wife's boyfriend broke my jaw with a fence post." 

It's all part of the charm of ilovelocalcommercials.com, a viral marketing campaign for MicroBilt, a company that sells information technology to small businesses. After selecting a project from their mountain of requests, the campaign's creative team flies out to shoot quirky, wry, brutally honest commercials for tight-budgeted businesses, most of them operating in the grittier niches of the economy. The resulting ads (all viewable on the website) are refreshing, sometimes hilarious celebrations of the wide range of needs and wants met by commerce and marketing.—Radley Balko

The Newspaper Apotheosized

In December a one-shot broadsheet "daily" called the San Francisco Panorama hit the streets. The paper was crammed with material guaranteed to make daily newspaper nostalgics swoon: a lavish comics section featuring the hippest cartoonists, a slick magazine section, more than 100 pages of book reviews, and long, serious investigative reporting on matters local, national, and international. The "newspaper" was in fact the newest issue of the playful and chameleonic literary journal McSweeney's.

The McSweeney's crew, spearheaded by the novelist/screenwriter Dave Eggers, live to execute and defend crazily elaborate efforts of print-based love. So they probably didn't intend the most obvious social lesson that Panorama suggests: that this sort of high-minded, carefully curated collection of material, planned for many months and starring big-name writers dedicated to the McSweeney's cause, would be an impossible business proposition as a daily.—Brian Doherty

Give It Away Now

The science fiction writer Cory Doctorow co-edits Boing Boing, one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. Each of the appealing characters in Makers (Tor), his new novel about a post-scarcity economy set in a near-future wasteland of strip mall shantytowns and Russian weight loss clinics, is a slice of Doctorow himself, from Suzanne, the journalist turned (wildly profitable) blogger, to Perry, the fanboy magnet, always-on-the-road guru, and keeper of an open source Wunderkammer housed in an abandoned Wal-Mart.

The book's eponymous "makers" are struggling to find new ways to make things rather than money, and Doctorow has followed the ideological line implicit in this novel to its logical conclusion: His publisher is offering the entire book for free, in 81 installments released Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at tor.com.—Katherine Mangu-Ward

Exposing Mexican Injustice

Antonio Zuñiga, a street vendor in Mexico City, spent three years in a Mexican prison for a murder he didn't commit. He'd still be one of the many Mexicans—probably thousands—rotting away in that country's notoriously dingy prisons were it not for the Australian filmmaker Geoffrey Smith and a married pair of attorneys, Roberto Hernandez and Layda Negrete, who turned Zuñiga's story into Presumed Guilty, a documentary winning raves on the festival circuit.—Radley Balko

NEXT: Sen. John Kerry: Full Steam Ahead on Carbon Rationing

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  1. I keep thinking I will download those We the Living clips, but I never do 🙁

    1. For some reason I read that as We the Living Chimps

  2. Antonio Zu?iga, a street vendor in Mexico City, spent three years in a Mexican prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

    Stephen J. Cannell series in the works?

  3. I love broadsheets. I could look at broads all day.

  4. wouldn’t the We the Living film been legal to release anyways under the Berne convention? my friend who introduced me to Ayn Rand bought a version of it that came on 2 VHS tapes.

  5. He’d still be one of the many Mexicans?probably thousands?rotting away in that country’s notoriously dingy prisons[…]

    How do you spell Deterrence?

    M-E-X-I-C-A-N P-R-I-S-O-N.

    1. Yes, I think I can see the similarity now.

      Deliverance: “Zeke, thus wun sho got a pretty mouth. Squeal like a pig!”

      Mexican prison: Comandante, thees one hab big mouth. Feed him to los pigs!”

      The two are practically identical, that’s a little spooky.

  6. Antonio Zu?iga, a street vendor in Mexico City, spent three years in a Mexican prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

    There’s an old joke in Mexico about the federal police:

    There was a worldwide search for the notorious thief “The Mouse”. Interpol, the FBI and the Mexican Federal Police were assigned to the search, so they could combine their advantages.

    Interpol made use of their world network of informants and databases. The FBI used the latest in information technology and traditional sleuthing for the search. But the Mexican Federal Police immediately called in a press conference, saying they captured the notorious thief, “The Mouse.”

    The Mexican Federal Police presented a savagely beaten and bruised elephant, who in the conference said “Yes, I confess: I am the mouse!”

    The Mexican Federal Police always gets their man!

    1. there was a TV show in the UK about the police in Karachi, Pakistan that was quite similar.

      The badly bruised suspects always seemed to make overnight confessions.

  7. In addition to Makers there are numerous free short stories and novels on the Tor.com website sign up and get email notification of new additions. Also Makers can be downloaded from Cory’s website:
    http://craphound.com/makers/download/
    Cory has many short stories, podcasts, novels for download or links to purchase as well as blog entries:
    http://craphound.com
    Highly recommended is his Prometheus Award winning novel Little Brother

  8. Couldn’t make the ilovelocalcommercials URL to work, but what you described sounded like a commercial I’d seen on You-Tube about Red House Black and White People Furniture the makers say it caused a racial stir. Probably shouldn’t let Michael Moore see the happy Cuban car salesman one, we’d hate to have put the man on suicide watch.

  9. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke.

  10. I think we all might be better off doing something productive like playing stickballs or acupuncturing our pets.

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