- Deena Mohamed's 'Shubiek Lubiek': An English edition of a brilliant Egyptian alt history comic about a world where wishes are real.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2018, 2013
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Deena Mohamed's 'Shubiek Lubiek' (permalink)
Shubeik Lubeik, a trilogy of graphic novels by Deena Mohamed, took the Arab comics world by storm, winning Best Graphic Novel and Grand Prize at the Cairo Comix Festival; today, Pantheon Books releases a gorgeous hardcover omnibus English translation:
The world of Shubeik Lubeik is an intricate alternate history in which wishes are real, and must be refined from a kind of raw wish-stuff that has to be dug out of the earth.
Naturally, this has been an important element of geopolitics and colonization, especially since the wish-stuff is concentrated in the global south, particularly Egypt, the setting for our tale.
Though the underlying wish mechanism is metaphysical, Mohamed plays out her worldbuilding in a very science fictional way, constructing an intricate – and skillfully deployed – set of social consequences for a world where wishes are a fact of life.
Indeed, it's this science fictional trick of "in-clueing" (to use Jo Walton's excellent critical term) that makes Shubiek Lubeik such a cracking, cross-cultural read:
For though the three stories that make up the trilogy are intensely culturally situated in modern Egypt, they play out as universal, intricate human ethical dilemmas. Mohamed delivers the realistic – but unfamiliar to westerners – depiction of contemporary Egyptian life with the same smart, deft technique that she uses to paint in the rules of a world where wishes are real.
The framing device for the trilogy is the tale of three "first class" wishes: these are the most powerful wishes that civilians are allowed to use, the kind of thing you might use to cure cancer or reverse a crop-failure.
These first-class wishes are the near-exclusive purview of the rich and powerful and their use is tightly monitored and licensed. However, three of these wishes, of Italian origin, are, improbably, in the inventory of Shokry, a poor, pious kiosk owner in central Cairo.
Despite knock-down prices, no one wants to buy Shokry's wishes. Potential customers are put off by his desperate, hand-lettered sign advertising the wishes, combined with the implausibility of first-class wishes being offered for sale in a humble koisk.
But one of Shokry's regulars, a fiery old lady who buys her cigarettes from him each day, convinces him to let her nephew design a slick poster advertising the wishes, and the tale begins in earnest.
Every story of a wish is both a puzzle – how would you construct a wish so that it couldn't possibly backfire – and an ethical conundrum. That is what makes wish stories so delicious to read, whether it's Sheherezade's tales or O. Henry.
The engine of wish-fulfillment is a powerful one, capable of hauling behind it almost any kind of tale. Mohamed's three-act play blends class- and sectarian divides, gender relations, depression and resilience, and kindness and regret.
The first volume, Aziza, is about corruption, using a parable about elite wish-hoarding to tell a wrenching story about loss, love, hope and resilience. It's a gorgeous, deeply romantic love story, and because it's a wish story, there's a devilish twist.
The second volume, Nour, is about depression, privilege, coping, and gender (and, like Aziza, it's ultimately about resilience, too). There's some delicious worldbuilding here, and Nour herself is a great character, whose depression is mapped in a series of comedy charts worthy of Randall Munroe.
The conclusion, Shorky, opens the world up, showing us how wishes interact with theology, colonialism, the antiquities trade, and sectarian Egyptian politics. All three stories have wish-style surprises, but the surprises in this one are jaw-dropping. And while all the stories have a lot of broad comedy and great characterization, this one introduces a sprawling cast that is choreographed with absolute mastery.
It's easy to see why this book did so well in the Arab world. It's incredibly exciting to see it in English. Many of us have experienced Japanese comics, of course, and if you follow the brilliant publishing program of First Second, you've gotten some great French and Spanish comics. But this is the first graphic novel from the Arab world that I've had the pleasure of reading. It won't be the last.
Hey look at this (permalink)
- 2023 CES Worst in Show Awards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMYqdSSjfjo
modern day monopoly stickers https://www.tradstickydesign.com/product-page/capitalism-monopol-y-sticker-pack-4
Bad news for thousands of crypto investors: They don’t own their accounts (see https://pluralistic.net/2022/02/03/liquidation-preference/#we-live-in-a-society)
This day in history (permalink)
#5yrsago Publicly funded private school creates “poor kids’ playground” for kids whose parents wouldn’t contribute to new playground equipment https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jan/11/west-midlands-school-accused-of-segregating-children-in-playground
#5yrsago Federal appeals court blasts North Carolina’s unconstitutional, Republican gerrymandering, orders new districts by Jan 24 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/09/us/north-carolina-gerrymander.html
#5yrsago Private prison tortures asylum seeker who refused “voluntary” labor https://theintercept.com/2018/01/11/ice-detention-solitary-confinement/
#5yrsago Federal prosecutors say that Ohio man used MacOS malware that covertly operated cameras and mics and exfiltrated porn searches for 13 years https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/01/man-charged-in-malware-mystery-that-allegedly-spied-on-mac-users-for-13-years/
#5yrsago Adversarial examples: attack can imperceptibly alter any sound (or silence), embedding speech that only voice-assistants will hear https://arxiv.org/pdf/1801.01944.pdf
#5yrsago At long last, open video formats are triumphing https://robert.ocallahan.org/2018/01/the-fight-for-patent-unencumbered-media.html
#5yrsago Federal Appeals Court rules that violating a website’s Terms of Service is not a crime https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/01/ninth-circuit-doubles-down-violating-websites-terms-service-not-crime
#5yrsago Two years later, Google solves ‘racist algorithm’ problem by purging ‘gorilla’ label from image classifier https://www.wired.com/story/when-it-comes-to-gorillas-google-photos-remains-blind/
#5yrsago Seven years after attempting to rip off Ken “Popehat” White, fraudster gets 108-month federal prison sentence https://www.popehat.com/2018/01/11/anatomy-of-a-scam-the-end/
#5yrsago Missouri GOP governor accused of blackmailing married lover with nude pics. His colleagues already hate his guts. https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/11/politics/missouri-gov-eric-greitens-q-and-a/index.html
#10yrsago David Byrne and St Vincent concert video: Love This Giant https://www.npr.org/2013/01/09/168888064/david-byrne-st-vincent-in-concert
- Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 532 words (93455 words total)
The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. REVISIONS COMPLETE – AWAITING COPYEDIT
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. ON SUBMISSION
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. ON SUBMISSION
A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED
A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED
Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.
Latest podcast: Daddy-Daughter Podcast, 2022 Edition https://craphound.com/podcast/2022/12/12/daddy-daughter-podcast-2022-edition/
- Library Learning Experience/American Library Association (New Orleans), Jan 27-30
Chokepoint Capitalism: Can It Be Defeated? (UCL Faculty of Laws), Feb 1
Future of Arts, Culture & Technology, ACMI, (Melbourne), Feb 14
Australian Digital Alliance Copyright Forum (Canberra), Feb 17
Antitrust, Regulation and the Political Economy (Brussels), Mar 2
- The Majority Report with Sam Seder
- "Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023
This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.
Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.
How to get Pluralistic:
Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Medium (no ads, paywalled):
(Latest Medium column: "NYT: Binding Arbitration For Thee, But Not For Me" https://doctorow.medium.com/nyt-binding-arbitration-for-thee-but-not-for-me-654cdcd6646c)
Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla