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Well, no, they aren’t just stories. If you count the number of pages in which Crichtonian characters rail against technological overreach, it soon becomes clear that tales like Jurassic Park and Prey and Westworld are propaganda. Nothing wrong with that! Dire warnings are important. It is possible to make awful mistakes, as we charge into the future. Another dyspeptic grouch — Dr. Jared Diamond — scared sense into millions with Collapse. George Orwell and others showed — the highest form of science fiction is the self-preventing prophecy. But there is a difference between a useful cautionary tale and cookie-cutter dystopias. The latter do not offer useful warnings, only cliches. David Brin

The depressed writer is a stock character, like the ditzy cheerleader or the slick salesman. It’s something we believe almost without thinking about it, in part because that pathetic figure so frequently appears in books and movies, and because we can point to historical examples of artists plagued by mental illness. John Berryman leapt from a bridge. Virginia Woolf walked into a river. David Foster Wallace, a fairly new addition to this sad list, hung himself. We mull the meaning of their deaths, divine clues from the works they left behind. Madness and the Muse

This has led to a bizarre paradox: The Creationist with an iPhone or respectively the Anti-Vaxxer in a Prius. Utilizing science and all its comforts and advances, while being selectively skeptical about what science actually has to offer. Using technology to deny science takes some skilled compartmentalizing. It’s saying you have faith in science enough to post cat gifs on Facebook but not enough for science to contradict your convictions. There was a time when we thought the Information Superhighway would make everyone more informed, better educated. Instead its enabled the misinformed to find places to permanently nestle in confirmation bias. Misery loves company—as does ignorance. Tina Dupuy

Rarely has such a lively book been written that is ultimately so much about death. Reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction”

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