First Lines: Gwendy’s Button Box

Stephen King had a story he didn’t know how to finish. Richard Chizmar — owner of Cemetery Dance Publications, who have published quite a few deluxe editions of King’s books, and a editor and writer as well — offered to take a crack at it:

We were emailing in early January and he mentioned offhandedly a story he’d started some time over the summer, and he just couldn’t finish it […] As I often do, if he mentions a new story, I always say, ‘Well hey, send it to me if you want. I’d love to read it.’ I didn’t expect anything to come of it. But the next evening a file titled Gwendy showed up, and the body of the email read: ‘Do whatever you want with it.’

Et voila, as they say in France: Gwendy’s Button Box.

The story is a relative lightweight in King’s oeuvre: a man in a dark suit (his initials? R.F., natch.) gives twelve year old Gwendy a box with mysterious buttons—can she be trusted to use its powers responsibly? The novella is only a hundred-twenty-something pages long, and not a whole lot happens. This is perhaps why, while promoting the book, such a big deal was made of the novella’s setting. You see, apart from some minor appearances, the town of Castle Rock had been left alone since 1991’s Needful Things. It’s a nice touch, but it doesn’t make the book anything more than mostly harmless.

Book read
Stephen King and Richard Chizmar — Gwendy’s Button Box
First line
There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs.

Introducing Link Text and Location Copier, My First Firefox Add-on

Link Text and Location Copier, my first Firefox add-on, has officially been published. It allows you to easily copy the text and URL of a link (or the page title and URL) from the context menu. Right click a link, select the appropriate formatting (plain text, HTML, Markdown or BB Code) and paste it wherever you like. Who needs social widgets if you got an add-on like this?

I made this add-on because one of my favorite and most used add-ons, CoLT, will stop working with the release of Firefox 57 on November 14. In that version, support for XPCOM-based add-ons will be completely removed, in favor of WebExtentions, a new(ish) cross-browser system. Basically, WebExtentions are bunch of Javascript that may use privileged APIs, all zipped up.

So I thought, “It’s all javascript, so how hard can it be?”, cracked open a text-editor, and lo-and-behold, some hours later I had a working version. I githubbed the code, submitted the add-on for review, and before I even saw the approval e-mail or got the change to announce it to the world, there was already a five star review and a bug report waiting for me.

(Full disclosure: I tested the add-on in the Developer Edition of Firefox. So I was quite surprised that the text of the link always returns ‘undefined’ in the current stable release, Firefox 55. As it turns out, the contextMenu.OnClickData.linkText property was added in Firefox 56. #oops)

I have got two more things left on the roadmap: internationalization (translations), and customization (add your own formats). After that, I might even see if I can get it to work in all other browsers that use WebExtentions (Chrome, Opera, Edge).

Install Link Text and Location Copier from
Report bugs on GitHub. Feature and pull requests are also appreciated.

First Lines: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

In my write-up of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I said that, if done right, I could totally get behind the upcoming five-part Harry Potter-prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie-franchise, as it (supposedly) expands the Harry Potter-universe, while leaving The Boy Who Lived the hell alone.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the movie) did just that: set in the 1920s, we follow Newt Scamander (wizard, magical zoologist, author) through New York, where he has to recapture the Fantastic Beasts that escaped from his magical suitcase. With subplots setting up something much bigger and darker that will have to be resolved in the next four installments. Just a few mentions of Hogwarts and Dumbledore, but that is it.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay, J.K. Rowling’s first screenplay, is the original screenplay of the movie in book form. (“Well, duh!”) It is perfectly readable, and from what I remember, pretty close to the movie. Would I have preferred a proper novelization instead of a screenplay? I dunno. (Will we get one? Perhaps, once the series has played out.) I do know it was good fun.

Book read
J.K. Rowling — Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay
First line

A large, isolated, derelict chateau emerges from the darkness.

First Lines: The Simarillion

If it hadn’t been for my “thou shalt not put any books by authors of whom you have already read any work on thy list” rule, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Simarillion would most certainly have made my list of 40 books to read before my 40th birthday. It has that certain je ne sais quois, that mythical do-not-read-it-is-boring thing going on.

The Simarillion sets up the mythology of Middle Earth in five parts. Therefore, you do not get lots of character development or plot, but a huge smothering of backstory to The Lord of the Rings:

  1. Ainulindalë (“The Music of the Ainur”), in which we learn that in the beginning there was nothing, and in the nothing there was Eru, who is also called Ilúvatar, who first created the Ainur, and who through song created Eä, the “world that is.” It’s Tolkien’s creation myth.
  2. Valaquenta (“Account of the Valar”), the second part, gives a description of the Valar and Maiar, the supernatural powers in Eä.
  3. Quenta Silmarillion (“The History of the Simarils”), is the meat of the book. Set before and during the First Age, it a bloody chronicle of the rise and fall of Melkor.
  4. Akallabêth (“The Downfall of Númenor”), relates the history of Númenor and its people, which takes place in the Second Age. It also tells of its doom, brought about by Sauron and the pride of men.
  5. The final part, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, is a primer of how the events in The Lord of the Rings came to be.

Despite the nearly biblical tone used and the names — Oh! My! Freakin! God!, the names. ALL THE NAMES. All the names, all the time. It is rare for one character to have just one name. They have a name, and then they do a thing, and they get called something else based on that thing they did, and then there is an elvish way to say that name, but being the son of such and such they have the name of their fathers as well, and several other besides. One of the appendices is register of names, and by the Holy Mother of All Things Bright and Shiny, do you need it. — I found The Simarillion a quite enjoyable read.

But fear not! I do not think that you absolutely need to read it, unless you are one of those persons who is like super deep into stuff and needs to know like every bit of canon and lore there is to get maximum enjoyment of the thing you are perusing (i.e., you are a super-nerd). Sure, you might then not know where Sauron came from, or why pointy-eared elf-boy spoke with awe of a Balrog of Morgoth, or why Aragorn is so awesome, but like I said, unless you are really into stuff like that and cannot take things for granted, you might not give a damn anyway.

Or you could just watch a video explaining most of the book in four minutes:

Book read
J.R.R. Tolkien — The Silmarilion
First line
There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made.