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R.F. Kuang creates an ingenious fantasy set up for Babel – fiendishly appealing to writers and lovers of books: set in nineteenth century Oxford, the industrial revolution in Britain is powered by words. Specifically, words inscribed onto silver bars and translated into other languages, the subtle differences in meaning between which, create magical dissonance that can be highly useful.Professor Playfair picked up the bar on the far right.“We’ve sold quite a few copies of this bar to fishermen. The Greek ‘karabos’ has a number of different meanings including ‘boat’, ‘crab’, or ‘beetle’. Where do you think the associations come from?”“Function?” Ramy ventured. “Were the boats used for catching crabs?”“Good try, but no.”“The shape,” Robin guessed. As he spoke it made more sense. “Think of a galley with rows of oars. They’d look like scuttling legs, wouldn’t they? Wait – scuttle, sculler …”“You’re getting carried away, Mr Swift. But you’re on...

Netflix's Selling Sunset: no genre loves burning fossil fuel more than reality TV All art dates eventually. We know that - and then the stuff that’s any good does come back into fashion (eventually). Check out drama’s from the 1930’s, and notice your wince as the protagonists light up, delivering lines between flamboyant puffing and ashing - and yes, I know they still smoke occasionally in modern movies but isn’t that usually to make some kind of statement? Recently, with the Apple TV series coming out, I re-read Asimov’s classic Foundation trilogy and had a pious chuckle over the line … “all the scientists and their wives were relocated to Terminus …” And so on - you know what I mean. Until we get all the way down to blackface, surely the cringiest and stinkiest outdated movie phenom of them all. Of course, it’s not that Asimov meant to be misogynistic, or Al Jolson racist (in...