Filling in the Gaps: Time Itself

This week’s #NeuroThursday concludes our arc (for now) on how the brain creates your perceptual experience by filling in the gaps with lies and guesswork – all the way down to the very core of your experience!




Toward Lands Uncharted

Now that the Kindle version is out, it’s time to crow about my latest publication: Toward Lands Uncharted, my fantasy story about a spy and diplomat who must try and protect her conquered nation from the capricious power of imperial border-magic.

It’s available in the Mind Candy anthology, the first publication from the small publisher Myriad Paradigm. I warn you, the cover art is… lacking. But new art is coming down the pipeline, so consider this a collector’s edition! And the story lineup is the same no matter what, full of great early-career professional writers like myself.

This story began in a writing exercise for Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive workshop in summer 2016. My core idea was the Censor of Maps: someone who changes maps, and in doing so, rewrites the nations beneath. Not so fictional at all, since it’s inspired by the Sykes-Picot agreement, where an imperial power made a single callous decision that builds and destroys nations. (Hardly the only instance of such a thing.) But need a speculative/magical element in my historical fiction, so I made the political into the literal: a magic that erases nations, places, and peoples.

I very nearly named this story “Sic Hunt Draconis:” here be dragons. The unknown spaces, the fears and possibilities we write into the uncharted spaces of our lives. But it would’ve been a terrible bait-and-switch to use that title in a story with no actual dragons!

Filling in the Gaps: Optical Illusions

This week, NeuroThursday continues into the weirdness of our visual system, with a demonstration of how our brain fills in the gaps to make us think we see so much more than we really do.

I’m testing out a new Twitter thread-archiving service. Here it is unrolled via Threadreader…

And here’s the original on Twitter:

Peripheral and Color Vision

Today, NeuroThursday picked up on an offhand remark from last week, and dove from there into an explanation of human vision – especially color vision and peripheral vision.

Thread Reader version:

Original twitter thread:

Fan Writer Eligibility: Neuroscience in 2017

If you’ve been enjoying all my work to bring neuroscience to the SFF author and fan community, consider: all this stuff makes me eligible for the Best Fan Writer Hugo award!

Here’s all of my public-audience neuroscience writing1 published in 2017:

1. The Evolved Brain in Clarkesworld
2. Tools and Problems of Human Neuroscience at the File 770 blog
3. Right Hand, Human Brain: The Mysteries of Handedness at
4-34. Thirty-one neuroscience essays via my #NeuroThursday Twitter feature.2 A few highlights:

[Edit: #1 and #3 appeared in professional magazines, and therefore technically may not create eligibility for Best Fan Writer. So, focus on NeuroThursday – but you can still be aware of my whole body of work!]

I hope these pieces have contributed to your knowledge, entertainment, and awesomeness! If it has, consider nominating me for Best Fan Writer. But make sure you also nominate more deserving people like Alasdair Stewart and Sarah Gailey.

On the fiction side I’m in my second year of eligibility for the John. W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, with 7 original short stories and a lot of editorial work in 2016-2017. Check out the summary here!

The Story that Never Was

I hit a writer milestone yesterday, though a sad one it is. You see, about a month ago, I had another short story accepted at a professional SFF magazine! I was just waiting on the contract to make it official, and then tell you all about my delightful Fairy Gentrification story. The eldritch diner with the portal between worlds was torn down for condos years ago – but there’s one last fairy chevalier stranded in this world, seeking out the owners’ son.

But, alas, it is not to be. Because the magazine has died, with my story in its casket.

It’s a unique frustration, especially since this story has tried so far and long to find a home. On what may be its last shot at professional publication, it succeeded – only to get rug, floor, and foundations pulled out from under it. From failure, to victory, to failure again after so long. Rejection never feels good, which makes this a brand new kind of unpleasantness because it wasn’t a rejection. And yet: no story.

At least with a rejection, I know some part of the failure was mine. I can take responsibility, determine causality, try to learn from it and do better next time. But there’s not much I can do to prevent a magazine from folding under me.

Alas. I’ll sell other stories, though maybe never this one. Perhaps the right anthology will open up someday. Until then, the portal shall remain buried beneath the condominiums of the Lower East Side.

The Choke: Skill, Action, and Attention

NeuroThursday has been scarce lately, but I haven’t lost the rhythm: this week we look at what happens when you “choke,” and how you can fail so badly at precisely the thing you normally do best!

Thread Reader version:

Original on Twitter:

Where the Anchor Lies

February is upon us, and with it, the publication of my short story Where the Anchor Lies at Beneath Ceaseless Skies! The long anticipated Sentient Battleship Graveyard Propagandist Love Story.

This is a piece of science fantasy, right on the strange and fuzzy borderline between genres. It’s a secondary world, and all of the mechanisms are fantastic/magical, but their implementation and culture feels quite modern. It’s definitely a “sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology” situation.

A few more thoughts and discussion below. No major spoilers, but let’s be careful anyways, yes?

Continue reading

Social & Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology Notes (2016)

As part of Storify’s shutdown, I now want to use my website to archive important Twitter threads. So here are some awesome threads from the first Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology (SoCIA) conference. These are incomplete, and sometimes abbreviated, but there’s still a lot of fascinating science, philosophy, and theory in here!

If you think these topics look awesome, keep an eye out for SoCIA 2018 this coming April!

“Is talking to aliens like talking to your cats?”, Sara Waller

“Cosmic complexity,” Kelly Smith

“Impossible Friendships: human-alien relationships,” Jonathan Trerise

“The role of worldview in predicting societal impact of discovering ET life,” Connie Bertka

“Anthropocentrism, exoplanets, and the cosmic perspective,” Neil Manson

“The life bias in planetary protection,” Jim Schwartz

Keynote: “Homo Astronauticus: cultural implications of space colonization,” Sheyna Gifford

“Astrobiology research & policy dilemmas in public decision making,” Margaret Race

“Astrobiology education via interactive alien construction,” Randall Hayes

“Astrobiology, ET, and ETI: science & speculation,” Linda Billings

“Replicator Theory: testing evolutionary theories of life,” Lucas Mix

“Toward a Family Resemblance definition of life,” Erik Persson

“Extending the Idea of Wilderness Beyond Earth,” Alan Johnson.

“Human life and ethics in outer space,” Koji Tachibana

“Astrobiology and the precautionary principle,” Mark Lupisella

“Convergences in the ethics of space exploration,” Brian Green

“Ethical obligations between us and extraterrestrial life,” Adam Potthast