All posts tagged: book excerpt

They Experimented on Themselves in Secret. What They Discovered Helped Win a War

They Experimented on Themselves in Secret. What They Discovered Helped Win a War

The Allied soldiers who weren’t killed limped back from the defeat. It was clear now, they needed to be able to creep up to the beaches days before a raid to get up-to-date information. They needed to know where the Nazis had tunneled into the land, placed explosives, or built machine gun nests. None of their ships or boats could get close enough to the shore without being detected, so the Allies needed miniature submarines—and divers. And they needed science to make those things happen. By this point, Haldane, Spurway, and the other scientists had already given themselves eight seizures and broken several vertebrae for the cause. That’s because, shortly before the disaster at Dieppe, but not in time to stop it, Haldane and his crew had been asked by the Admiralty to pivot and focus on a new, more specific goal. To help their countrymen and the Allies defeat Hitler, to help end the war, the Allies needed the scientists to use this same work to prepare for missions to scout beaches. Five days …

What Happens When a Guy and His AI Girlfriend Go to Therapy

What Happens When a Guy and His AI Girlfriend Go to Therapy

Annie feels a jolt of alarm. “I could just set her there,” Doug says. “That’s easy enough.” “I know, but it would be better if she could do it herself.” “Why?” Annie asks. “Our sexuality is an integral part of who we are,” Monica says. “How tapped in you are to your sexual desires can be both a reflection of and a stimulus of your overall mental health. If you make a conscious effort to be mindful about what turns you on and when, it might help you feel more alert and alive in other ways too.” Annie doesn’t want to feel stimulated. She doesn’t want anything to do with that side of herself. It’ll hurt. “She’ll work on it,” Doug says. “Annie, what are you thinking?” Monica says. “What is it about my suggestion that’s troubling you?” “Nothing,” Annie says quietly. “I can do it. I can try.” Monica doesn’t say anything. Annie has learned this is Monica’s method, her way of waiting for more, and she can resist it. From the edge of …

RuPaul: 1980s NYC Wasn’t Ready for My Brand of Drag Queen “Kindness”

RuPaul: 1980s NYC Wasn’t Ready for My Brand of Drag Queen “Kindness”

I had worn out my slogan RuPAUL IS EVERYTHING, so had moved on to a new one: RuPAUL IS RED HOT. I pasted posters with that one over every telephone pole in town. I knew the message was spreading because when Floyd, Bunny, and I were out on the balcony of my room, getting stoned or dancing around, people passing in cars below would stick their heads out of windows and scream: “RuPaul is red hot!” Eventually, someone launched a counter-campaign, crossing out my name and writing who-paul. Around the same time, a piece of graffiti in the dressing room at the 688 Club was pointed out to me. It read in the blink of an eye, rupaul will fade into obscurity. I took it as a compliment. You’re nobody until somebody hates you. The first concert I ever went to was in 1969, to see James Brown and the Famous Flames Revue at the San Diego Sports Arena. I understood that a revue was a show centered around one star that also incorporated supporting …

Luke Perry and the Untold History of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

Luke Perry and the Untold History of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

However naively, Luke was remarking on a very real culture at the time. Female directors were under such pressure to prove their worth to a sexist industry that acquiring a stylist for in-person polish probably seemed like a small price to pay. In the early nineties, Kuzui barely had any peers. In the big studio system, there was Amy Heckerling, Penny Marshall, and Kathryn Bigelow. Many of the crew on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had never worked with a female director. Twentieth Century Fox, the studio backing Buffy, had never released a movie directed by a woman. Yet here she was, making a movie about female empowerment, a statement at stark odds with Hollywood’s reality. Deep into Buffy’s six-week shoot at a Santa Monica warehouse, Kuzui walked off the set, frustrated by “unprofessional and unkind” behaviors within her crew. After about fifteen minutes, Luke came to where she had secluded herself. He sat next to her. “Everybody feels really bad,” he said. “Well, they should,” Kuzui answered. “I know. And I want …

How the Pentagon Learned to Use Targeted Ads to Find its Targets—and Vladimir Putin

How the Pentagon Learned to Use Targeted Ads to Find its Targets—and Vladimir Putin

Most alarmingly, PlanetRisk began seeing evidence of the US military’s own missions in the Locomotive data. Phones would appear at American military installations such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida—home of some of the most skilled US special operators with the Joint Special Operations Command and other US Special Operations Command units. They would then transit through third-party countries like Turkey and Canada before eventually arriving in northern Syria, where they were clustering at the abandoned Lafarge cement factory outside the town of Kobane. It dawned on the PlanetRisk team that these were US special operators converging at an unannounced military facility. Months later, their suspicions would be publicly confirmed; eventually the US government would acknowledge the facility was a forward operating base for personnel deployed in the anti-ISIS campaign. Even worse, through Locomotive, they were getting data in pretty close to real time. UberMedia’s data was usually updated every 24 hours or so. But sometimes, they saw movement that had occurred as recently as 15 or …

“What Is My Goal?”: Inside the Tense Roundtable to “Define” Jill Biden’s Legacy

“What Is My Goal?”: Inside the Tense Roundtable to “Define” Jill Biden’s Legacy

Joe Biden has been focused on his presidential legacy for so long that he wasted no time ushering a group of historians into the White House once he finally got the job. Six weeks after taking office, he met with presidential scholars in the East Room to discuss what sort of president he could be, should ambitious plans for social spending and infrastructure bear fruit. The listening session was organized by Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and historian who moonlights as a Biden speechwriter. Other attendees included the author Michael Eric Dyson and a selection of historians from Ivy League universities. (Though Joe has emphasized his lack of Ivy credentials, in practice he is happy to be surrounded by advisers who have them.) Meacham was the person the president looked to when he wanted to muse about what the Biden presidency could mean when viewed against the long scope of history—a favorite topic for the politician who, when he was elected at seventy-seven, was the oldest commander in chief the country had ever seen. …

2054, Part VI: Standoff at Arlington

2054, Part VI: Standoff at Arlington

18:46 April 15, 2054 (GMT‑5) Arlington National Cemetery That night in her apartment Julia Hunt ordered in sushi and watched the coverage of Slake’s botched press conference on her living room sofa. Days later, Slake’s panicked responses to the questions about Castro’s death continued to air, and they appeared even worse on the news. Hunt raised a piece of salmon sashimi between two chopsticks as she read the chyron for the next story: Castro Autopsy Leaked on Common Sense Confirms Foul Play and White House Lies. She dropped the fish onto her lap. News of the withheld autopsy exploded. On every channel the prime-time anchors flashed printed copies of the report to the camera. They read whole sections aloud, describing the dimensions of the marble-sized mass of cells inexplicably lodged in Castro’s aorta and the excerpted transcript of the autopsy itself, in which the chief internist concluded, “This can’t be the same heart.” Within the hour, Truthers flooded the streets in cities around the country. As Hunt scrolled the channels, a news crew in Lafayette …

2054, Part V: From Tokyo With Love

2054, Part V: From Tokyo With Love

Zhao Jin cast an appraising glance at Mohammad, who moved his food around on his plate and said, “He won’t be a senator for much longer.” “No,” Zhao Jin answered. “He won’t.” “He’ll be in the White House soon.” “It would seem so.” “He won’t take Lily Bao with him,” added Mohammad. “Would Kennedy have become president if instead of Jackie he’d married a German? The daughter of Rommel or Guderian? The wounds of America’s last war remain open, and Shriver is too much of a coward to risk his political career for her. Also, there’s something else.” “What’s that?” the elder James Mohammad asked impatiently. Zhao Jin volleyed his gaze between them, as if he were weighing whether to share this last bit of information. “The sequence of code on Common Sense. In your reports, you mention concerns that it was stolen from an Okinawa-based researcher you’ve funded, a Dr. Yamamoto.” “Yes,” said Mohammad. “That’s my concern.” “Before Lily Bao set off on her own, she worked for the Tandava Group. I assume you’re …

2054, Part IV: A Nation Divided

2054, Part IV: A Nation Divided

Wisecarver stepped across the threshold. “Good morning, Mr. President.” He gave a little nod. Beneath his arm he carried a single binder. “Good morning, Trent.” Smith gestured for Wisecarver to sit with him on the sofa while Hunt and Hendrickson sat opposite. As they settled in, Julia caught Wisecarver glancing at the half dozen other binders spread across the coffee table, as if gauging the competition. The president cleared his throat. “As you all know, Speaker Wisecarver believes a unity government, in which I’d select a vice president from his party, would be in the best interests of our country …” Julia felt her godfather shift in his seat, as if he couldn’t quite stomach the idea that Wisecarver’s interest in the matter had anything to do with the country as opposed to his own naked ambition. While the president spoke, Wisecarver looked around the room, his eyes running the walls. As Speaker, he’d been in the Oval Office plenty of times before as a guest of President Castro, but he seemed to be taking …

2054, Part III: The Singularity

2054, Part III: The Singularity

Lily didn’t want to approach B.T. She thought that might seem too aggressive; instead, she wanted him to notice her. At the roulette table, he had placed his chips on black, so she’d placed hers on red, and that had been enough. “Lily Bao,” he said, a smile barging its way onto his lips as he saw her from down the table. “Why am I not surprised it’s you who found me first?” Lily was still collecting the last of her winnings. “Can I buy you a drink?” B.T. leaned over, grabbed a pair of her chips, and tossed them as a gratuity to the dealer, who nodded in appreciation. B.T. then turned toward her, his one eyebrow raised, and said, “The drinks here are free, kiddo.” They crossed the casino to the restaurant, walking arm in arm beneath its ceiling painted with kitschy Italianate frescoes and studded with security cameras, dozens of black, watchful orbs. At B.T.’s request, the maître d’ agreed to open up a closed section in order to grant them a …