Il Était Une Fois …

Top 10 most translated authors in the world as of January 2006, according to UNESCO’s “Index Translationum”:

  1. Walt Disney Productions
  2. Agatha Christie
  3. Jules Verne
  4. Vladimir Lenin
  5. Enid Blyton
  6. Barbara Cartland
  7. William Shakespeare
  8. Danielle Steele
  9. Hans Christian Andersen
  10. Stephen King

Each has been translated more than 1,500 times.

“Lamps Lighted by Currents Passed Through the Human Body”

Mark Twain in the laboratory of his friend, inventor Nikola Tesla, where in 1894 Twain briefly became a human light bulb:

In Fig. 13 a most curious and weird phenomenon is illustrated. A few years ago electricians would have considered it quite remarkable, if indeed they do not now. The observer holds a loop of bare wire in his hands. The currents induced in the loop by means of the “resonating” coil over which it is held, traverse the body of the observer, and at the same time, as they pass between his bare hands, they bring two or three lamps held there to bright incandescence. Strange as it may seem, these currents, of a voltage one or two hundred times as high as that employed in electrocution, do not inconvenience the experimenter in the slightest. The extremely high tension of the currents which Mr. Clemens is seen receiving prevents them from doing any harm to him.

— T.C. Martin, “Tesla’s Oscillator and Other Inventions,” Century Magazine, April 1895

Love Before Baseball

Did 12th-century chaplain Andreas Capellanus have a time machine? His treatise The Art of Courtly Love sounds surprisingly familiar:

Throughout all the ages, there have been only four degrees in love:
The first consists in arousing hope;
The second in offering kisses;
The third in the enjoyment of intimate embraces;
The fourth in the abandonment of the entire person.

Atlanta Nights

In 2004, when vanity press PublishAmerica disdained science fiction and claimed to be a “traditional publisher,” the SF community decided to teach it a lesson. Dozens of authors collaborated on Atlanta Nights, a deliberate attempt to create the worst novel possible:

She went to the door, her hips swaying like palm trees in a Hawaiian hurricane.

Bruce lied there in the bed, trying to recover his memory. All he could remember was the screeching of tires’, like a steam engine gone crazy, and then there was just all that pain. Hell on wheels, that’s what it was, yeses.


On wheels.

PublishAmerica took the bait, accepting the manuscript that December. When the authors revealed the hoax, the company retracted its acceptance, but the point was made. “The world is full of bad books written by amateurs,” wrote reviewer Teresa Nielsen Hayden. “Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts.”

Library Hotel

New York’s Library Hotel has 10 floors, each decorated according to a major category in the Dewey Decimal System. Each room has its own subcategory or genre, including appropriate books and art. Rooms:

  • Third Floor: Social Sciences. 300.006 Law, 300.005 Money, 300.004 World Culture, 300.003 Economics, 300.002 Political Science, 300.001 Communication
  • Fourth Floor: Language. 400.006 Ancient Language, 400.005 Middle Eastern Language, 400.004 Asian Language, 400.003 Germanic Language, 400.002 Romance Language, 400.001 Slavic Language
  • Fifth Floor: Math and Science. 500.006 Astronomy, 500.005 Dinosaurs, 500.004 Botany, 500.003 Zoology, 500.002 Geology, 500.001 Mathematics
  • Sixth Floor: Technology. 600.006 Health & Beauty, 600.005 Computers, 600.004 Medicine, 600.003 Management, 600.002 Manufacturing, 600.001 Advertising
  • Seventh Floor: The Arts. 700.006 Fashion Design, 700.005 Music, 700.004 Photography, 700.003 Performing Arts, 700.002 Paintings, 700.001 Architecture
  • Eighth Floor: Literature. 800.006 Mystery, 800.005 Fairy Tales, 800.004 Dramatic Literature, 800.003 Poetry, 800.002 Classic Fiction, 800.001 Erotic Literature
  • Ninth Floor: History. 900.006 Biography, 900.005 Geography & Travel, 900.004 Asian History, 900.003 Oceanography, 900.002 Ancient History, 900.001 20th Century History
  • Tenth Floor: General Knowledge. 1000.006 New Media, 1000.005 Journalism, 1000.004 Museums, 1000.003 Encyclopedic Works, 1000.002 Almanacs, 1000.001 Libraries
  • Eleventh Floor: Philosophy. 1100.006 Love, 1100.005 Paranormal, 1100.004 Psychology, 1100.003 Philosophy, 1100.002 Ethics, 1100.001 Logic
  • Twelfth Floor: Religion. 1200.006 Ancient Religion (Mythology), 1200.005 Native American Religion, 1200.004 Germanic Religion, 1200.003 New Age, 1200.002 African Religion, 1200.001 Eastern Religion


“She is now in the vile embrace of the Apollo of the evening. Her head rests upon his shoulder, her face is upturned to his, her bare arm is almost around his neck, her partly nude swelling breast heaves tumultuously against his, face to face they whirl on, his limbs interwoven with hers, his strong right arm around her yielding form, he presses her to him until every curve in the contour of her body thrills with the amorous contact. Her eyes look into his, but she sees nothing; the soft music fills the room, but she hears it not; he bends her body to and fro, but she knows it not; his hot breath, tainted with strong drink, is on her hair and cheek, his lips almost touch her forehead, yet she does not shrink; his eyes, gleaming with a fierce, intolerable lust, gloat over her, yet she does not quail. She is filled with the rapture of sin in its intensity; her spirit is[Pg 16] inflamed with passion and lust is gratified in thought. With a last low wail the music ceases, and the dance for the night is ended, but not the evil work of the night.”

From the Ball-Room to Hell by T.A. Faulkner, Ex-Dancing Master, Formerly Proprietor of the Los Angeles Dancing Academy and Ex-President of Dancing Masters’ Association of the Pacific Coast, 1892


George Bernard Shaw is the only person who has won both a Nobel Prize and an Academy Award.

He won the Nobel in 1925 and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1938 (for Pygmalion).

“I can forgive Alfred Nobel for having invented dynamite,” he once said, “but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.”

Neighborhood Watch

“Dryden and Otway lived opposite to each other in Queen-street. Otway coming one night from the tavern, chalked upon Dryden’s door, Here lives John Dryden, he is a wit. Dryden knew his hand writing, and next day chalked on Otway’s door, Here lives Tom Otway, he is oppo-site.”

Essex Register, 1802, quoted in The Olden Time Series, Vol. 6: Literary Curiosities: Gleanings Chiefly from Old Newspapers of Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, 1886