This is an archived newsletter from Robin Sloan.

Week 15, a wayward planet whacked

Tunic, ca. 7th century Moche-Wari (Peru)

Tunic, ca. 7th century Moche-Wari (Peru)

In the middle of this month, I’m traveling to Japan, where I’ll stay for a little over two weeks; thus, no print offering in April, and no emails on the 21st or 28th, or on May 5th.

This week, I set up my sewing machine and did a couple of projects. First, I made some long-needed modifications to the DIY carry-on bag that I’ve used for a couple of years now. Here it is:

Trusty companion

My previous bag was extremely non-DIY, made by the company Filson, and while it was sturdy and beautiful, it was also HEAVY. All those snaps and buckles and leather tabs—all that heritage—weighed like fifteen pounds before I’d loaded in a single sock!

So, I designed my own, jointly ripping off the SDR Traveller and Outlier’s Ultrahigh Duffle. Like those two, my bag is made from Dyneema, a material that feels more like paper than fabric; it’s extremely tough and preposterously light. It starts shiny, then takes on a crackly patina. I love it.

This kind of duffle-adjacent carry-on is definitely not for everybody, but it has improved my travel situation a lot and—many of you know this already—it’s very satisfying to tote around an object you made yourself, unique in the universe. (Also, I used Fidlock snaps, and… just listen to this.)

Anyway, after traveling with this bag for a while, I’d identified some problems, so I added: a waterproof zipper; some new snaps; and, most importantly, a padded strap, made from dense foam. Previously, the strap was just plain nylon webbing, and often it would curl up and cut into my shoulder.

The second project was a little waist bag—

Some call it... a fanny pack

—which was easier-than-expected to sew, but/and I’m not quite satisfied with its design, so immediately after finishing it, I sat down to sketch a new one—

Precision engineering

—which I’m going to try to make today!

My final assessment of the novel Tentacle, written by Rita Indiana, translated by Achy Obejas: Fantastic. This book is (a) short, (b) translated, and (c) about time travel; the trifecta. It has things to say about the culture of modern art, and a deep, telescoping view of history, and some real plot twists, and and and!

In the book’s future, a character purchases a very expensive injection that will change their gender, and the sequence of paragraphs depicting the process—which happens very quickly—are among the best I’ve maybe ever read… depicting… anything. The whole book is super next-level sci-fi but it carries it so lightly; like, who, me?

It’s one of the good ones, is what I’m saying.

March’s print offering began arriving in mailboxes this week. Here’s my Database with Susan’s cat:

Cats like zines

And Hunter’s dog:

Dogs like zines

Or is that multiple dogs? I’m… actually not sure.

When he was introduced, the Incredible Hulk was intended to be gray, but printing errors meant he kept coming out green.

So, they decided to just go with green.

MCD has published the only book-related playlist that has ever been good, a pirate radio broadcast assembled by Tim Maughan for his novel Infinite Detail. We listened to it twice through in the media lab last week.

I wrote a blurb for Infinite Detail:

Looping and layered, disruptive and deeply linked―Tim Maughan’s unsparing tale of the internet’s end is a paper internet unto itself. The native 21st-century novel is coming into view; it looks like Infinite Detail.

Belt Buckle with a Griffin, ca. 6th century, Frankish

Belt Buckle with a Griffin, ca. 6th century, Frankish

I loved this article for its dramatization of the day the dinosaurs died—a second-by-second recounting of some very intense events.

The thing about the past is: IT WAS ALL REAL. It was all there, just as complex and detailed as the world that surrounds you. It’s basically impossible to hold that in your head. You just have to be reminded of it, again and again:

There are logjams of wood, fish pressed against cypress-­tree root bundles, tree trunks smeared with amber.

Reading the dinosaur piece made me go back and re-read Rebecca Boyle’s terrific story from a year ago about Earth’s early days. It’s dizzying in the same way, with the additional benefit of being delightfully written:

Not long after Earth coalesced, a wayward planet whacked into it with incredible force, possibly vaporizing Earth anew and forming the moon.


I’m mildly obsessed with a specific kind of artist on streaming platforms like Spotify who offer just a handful of tracks—with no sense of albums or even a “career,” necessarily—but/and at least one of those tracks has blown up, been added to thousands of playlists, recommended by Spotify’s algorithms, played millions of times around the world.

An example is the song “Janet” by M. T. Hadley, which is—all meta considerations aside—just a really beautiful piece of work. It was published on its own in 2016 and has been played over two million times. There have been no songs since.

To ground this a little, “Janet” has become a part of our like, “household culture” here in Oakland. It’s on a key late-night drive playlist, so I’ve listened to this strange, lovely, orphan song dozens of times cruising through the darkness on I-80 or I-5.

What a thing.

I worry, sometimes, about these emails getting too linky. Personally, I find the “bundle of interesting links!” newsletters pretty monotonous; there’s a sense of, is this all it’s gonna be, forever?

On the other hand: links are interesting!

So, just know that I’m keeping an eye on the balance. And of course, this newsletter has an expiration date—it will run for the duration of this year—so no, this is not all it’s gonna be, forever!

Pair of Gauntlets, ca. 1585, Italian

Pair of Gauntlets, ca. 1585, Italian

I’m off to sew!


April 2019, Oakland

This website uses the typeface Albertus Nova, an update by Toshi Omagari of Berthold Wolpe’s classic, and GT America, designed by Noël Leu with Seb McLauchlan.

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