Underground Reading: On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
The Weeks that Were

Friday Five: 15 Insidious Internet Distractions

Friday FivePeople definitely procrastinated in the Dark Ages, that time before the Blessed Light of the Webbernet reached out to touch our heads and our hearts. But how? Computer Solitaire, you answer confidently. But what about the time before computers? Doodling and experiments with negative afterimages, we assume. All day. Every day.


Fortunately for us, the days of competitive eyebrow-plucking are past. Today we glory in that fountain of inumerable indulgences, that garden of Earthly delights, that endless and eternally-available labyrinth of distraction and absorption: the internet.  Join us after the jump in discussing our favorite time-wasting sites, and tip us off about the ones we missed!


I'll begin with the mother of them all, Wikipedia.  My love of trivia is insatiable; Wikipedia is my go-to site for entry-level interest in everything. But Wikipedia is equal parts time-suck and frustration-inducer. The writing can be incomprehensible, the content is often lifted wholesale from other webpages, and any effort to clean up spelling and grammar is met with snarls and hissing from the psychopaths who have appointed themselves god-king-moderators of particular pages. Word to the wise: do not fuck with the Firefly-related entries, no matter aggravatingly “its” and “it’s” are confused in the article.

Teacup_KittensI like movies.  And I like knowing how movies are made.  The trivia pages on IMDB are a time-wasting goldmine.

Speaking of trivia goldmines: Snopes. Not only does it explode urban legends, it also serves as a convenient way of annoying those do-gooding relatives who insist on forwarding emails warning young women of the dangers of going home with men they meet in bars. (They'll inevitably wake up in a bathtub full of ice, their ovaries surgically removed because they've just been harvested for that rarest of delicacies - human caviar.) Hey, Aunt Em - that particular email hoax has existed since 1997!

There are so many pretty things in the world, and so many 18 – 24-year-olds uploading photos of them, one after the other. Tumblr is such a lovely long meaningless thoughtless endless stream of silent movie stills and tattoo designs and octopus photos and pictures of kittens in teacups. It’s like having someone reach into my skull and massage my brain: there, there, little winkly thing.  There, there.

Project Gutenberg.  So many books. So little time.

I should add Gmail as an honorable mention.  EVERYONE PLEASE EMAIL ME STUFF ALL THE TIME KTHXBYE


Fantasy Faction: I love the forums! (A phrase that I haven't uttered since 1998). The discussions range from "Are you out of the closet as a fantasy fan?" to "The Stand: Abridged or Uncut?". The crowd's good too - authors, super-fans and open-minded genre newcomers, plus many of my favorite internet sparring partners. Sales pitch aside, I have to limit my visits, else I'll lose an hour writing a detailed response to "GRRM's sluggardly pace". 

Tired_kittenWonkette: After the last election, I got a bit bored (too hopeful to concentrate), but with the next one looming, Wonkette is back in my daily feed. They update about 75 times a day, meaning that whenever I "need" a break, there's a new piece of political snark from the homeland.

Munseys: The site - boasting 20,000 out of print books - is appallingly organised. But that's what makes good procrastination. I'll pick a category and click through every book alphabetically - before I know it, two hours have gone by and my Kindle is full of cra... pulpy goodness.

Fantasy Football: Probably my favorite type of fantasy. There's actually nothing duller than listening to someone brag about their fantasy team, so I won't go into it now. Regardless, our league's draft is coming up, and I've got a lot of research to do. 

Abebooks: I think I use this like Anne uses Wikipedia. I'll think of something, look up the author. Check out all their books, compare the price to retail sites.  Drop one in my basket, but I should check the rest from the same seller - save on shipping. Wait, did I remember the sequel? Start over, see if someone's uploaded a new Robert Chambers, ooh, I never did find a proof of The Scar and... good lord, is that a signed Silverberg for a tenner? Six hours and sixty quid later, I can get back to work.


I read Cracked.com a lot, especially when I really should be doing something else. It makes me laugh, obviously, but it’s also strangely informative. And I choose to believe that everything it tells me is true.

Cute-kittenI’m addicted to American political blogs, but Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish is my favourite. He’s reactive and reflective, passionate and self-critical and when I disagree with him – which I quite often do – it makes me analyse my own beliefs rather than reflexively defend them

The Escapist is the best general games site out there. The features are thoughtful, the news is current and more than just a regurgitation of press releases and, most importantly, it’s the home of Zero Punctuation’s games reviews. I would like to marry Zero Punctuation’s games reviews.

The History of Rome is a weekly podcast about, you know. It’s brilliant – concise, fun and filled with good facts. I could listen to that guy’s voice reading pretty much anything, and he’s talking about my favourite subject on earth.

Topless Robot is my new geek guilty pleasure. There’s lots of games and film stuff here, and also Fan Fiction Friday, in which he trawls the net for some of the most astonishing works out there – by astonishing, I of course mean appalling – and then annotates them for us. They make me cry with a combination of laughter and horror.