Meaningful Knowledge and Dopamine

NeuroThursday takes a hiatus from its hiatus this week! Read on through to see how a recent article about dopamine in beliefs can get us thinking about what’s meaningful, and what we do with the meaning we detect in our lives.

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TIIWTRLN – Cover, ToC, and Preorder

Check out this awesome cover for “The Internet is Where the Robots Live Now,” the upcoming anthology with my Brave Little ToasterMining AI story – now available for preorder!

Anthology cover

“The Internet Is Where The Robots Live Now” cover image

We are headed for convergence. The separation between mind and matter, robot and man, the artificial and the sublime is becoming less every day. Will we crash into extinction or wake to a future beyond our current comprehension? Join some of the brightest voices in science fiction today as they tell twenty unique stories exploring the thinning space between mind and machine.

Preorder your copy today! Contains original short stories from myself and nineteen other excellent authors including Vajra Chandrasekera, Maria Haskins, Premee Mohammed, and Aimee Ogden.

Archon 42 Schedule

We’re less than a month away from Archon, the midwest’s most excellent fan-run science fiction & fantasy convention! If you want to find me, here’s my schedule:

Author Reading with Benjamin Philip, Van Plexico, and Daniel Yezbik
Saturday 10:00 – 11:00, Illini A (Gateway Center)
Benjamin C. Kinney, Van Plexico, Prof Daniel Yezbick

Does Science Fiction Still Give Us Hope?
Saturday 12:00 – 13:00, Lasalle (Gateway Center)
Cynthianna/ Celine Chatillon (M), Christine Amsden, Charlie Jane Anders, Mr Mark Tiedemann, Benjamin C. Kinney
Science Fiction has shown us the greatness we could strive for in the future. Is it still capable of that or are we too jaded?

Editing: Behind the Scenes
Saturday 13:00 – 14:00, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
Cynthianna/ Celine Chatillon (M), Benjamin C. Kinney, Prof Daniel Yezbick, Ms Joy Ward , Edward Stasheff
A chance for new authors to understand what happens to stories after they’re submitted.

Religion and its Place in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Saturday 15:00 – 16:00, Madison C & D (DoubleTree – Collinsville)
Setsu Uzume (M), David Benem, Benjamin C. Kinney, Ms Judi Cook
Plenty of our favorite worlds have their own religion, or have a mix of real world religions. How do they stem from what we know in the real world?

Understanding Non-Human Point of View
Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
Kathryn Sullivan (M), Kasey Mackenzie, Benjamin C. Kinney, Mr Mark Tiedemann
Characters don’t always have to be human. Discuss how to effectively create a POV for an animals or other non-human character.

I’m going to have a busy Saturday midday, but your presence and enjoyment shall carry me through!

Anthology: Diabolical Plots Year Four

Earlier this month it was available for preorder, but now it’s live: you can get the Diabolical Plots Year Four anthology at your favorite ebook retailer!

Diabolical Plots Year 4 cover

For those of you who missed it last time, here’s a teaser:

I showed up early for work, as always. The airport’s underbelly was the ugliest place in Boston, but I would’ve spent every hour there if I could get away with it. Among the hurried machines and distant reek-sweet jet fuel, I had everything I needed. A purpose, a paycheck, a place to hide; and most of all, a land of function without beauty, where nothing would tempt me to invest it with holiness and life.

This is one of the stories to appear in the anthology before it comes free online at Diabolical Plots. You could sit tight for another couple of months… but why wait, when you can get it as part of such a delightful anthology?

I’ll release some more author notes about the story when the free version comes out, but here are two spoiler-free tidbits:

  1. In early drafts, the beach had bioluminescent jellyfish, an explicit homage to the Martha’s Vineyard jellies familiar to alumni of Viable Paradise. Alas, their metaphorical value was too flimsy to survive edits. Nevertheless, you can blame Robert Dawson for the writing prompt.
  2. In early drafts, the statuette was a rocket ship rather than a motorcycle. Specifically/implicitly, it was somebody’s Hugo award. I cut that for excess self-indulgence.

Preorder: Diabolical Plots Year Four

My latest story, “The Hammer’s Prayer,” will be coming out very soon in the Diabolical Plots Year Four anthology. Just look at this gorgeous cover! With my name amidst a whole bunch of other amazing writers!

Diabolical Plots Year 4 cover

If you want to support Diabolical Plots, you can preorder the anthology today via the link above. If you want to help out, consider preordering it today. Sales beget algorithms beget sales, so if you’re thinking of picking it up, preorder is best.

And now, a teaser for my tale, of a golem cursed or blessed with a contagious animation:

I showed up early for work, as always. The airport’s underbelly was the ugliest place in Boston, but I would’ve spent every hour there if I could get away with it. Among the hurried machines and distant reek-sweet jet fuel, I had everything I needed. A purpose, a paycheck, a place to hide; and most of all, a land of function without beauty, where nothing would tempt me to invest it with holiness and life.

If you want to keep reading, get yourself a copy of that anthology!

Story Sale: The Seeds We Plant

I’m delighted to announce that my short story “The Seeds We Plant” will appear in Compelling Science Fiction – specifically, in their kickstarter bonus issue! If you go back that kickstarter, you’ll not only get an awesome print edition of their anthology (containing a reprint of my Sentient Dyson Swarm story and 26 more tales), you’ll also get to read a brand-new story by me, full of classic science fictional Person Vs. Environment challenges and emotional-control cybernetic implants!

Story Sale: Elegy of Carbon

I’m pleased to announce that my little science fiction epic “Elegy of Carbon” will appear in The Internet Is Where The Robots Live Now, the inaugural anthology from Paper Dog Books. It’s an anthology about the future of human-robot interactions, and my story takes that out to a space-opera future.

The story’s unofficial subtitle is “The Brave Little ToasterMining AI.”

The anthology is due out in late September, so hopefull I’ll tell you all more about it in a month or two!

Worldcon 76 Schedule

Barely a week until Worldcon 76 in San Jose California!

I’m on a bunch of programming, so there are lots of ways & places you can come watch me shoot my mouth off – whether on my own as a writer and neuroscientist, or as a member of the Hugo-finalist Escape Pod team!

Ethical Responsibilities to Alien Life
Friday 8/17, 3-4pm, 210B
Benjamin C. Kinney (M), Gonzalo Munevar, Guy Consolmagno, Eric Schwitzgebel, Ina Roy-Faderman
Extraterrestrial life could be anything from microbes to “advanced” intelligence. How would different forms of life fit into our ethical systems? What responsibilities – or opportunities – do we have when encountering the alien?

Escape Pod – Live at Worldcon
Saturday 8/18, 10-11:30am, 210DH
Alasdair Stuart (M), SB Divya, Marguerite Kenner, Benjamin C. Kinney, Norm Sherman, Setsu Uzume, Mur Lafferty
Come watch us do a live recording of Escape Pod! We’re still brewing up our nefarious/amazing spaceplans, but I promise you a showcase of Escape Pod’s talent from top to bottom.

Alien Minds: What is Possible, and What Can We Do with Them?
Saturday 8/18, 2-3pm, 210A
Benjamin C. Kinney (M), Eric Schwitzgebel, Gonzalo Munevar, Ina Roy-Faderman, SL Huang
Given the different paths that evolution can take, there is no reason to think that extraterrestrial intelligence would look or work like ours. Human intelligence is thought to have developed from evolutionary pressures around deception and detecting deception in troupes of primate. How different would intelligence be if it evolved from other ecological niches? Are there universal constants that define or constrain the nature of intelligence? Can we communicate with something truly alien?

Judaism and the Roots of Science Fiction
Sunday 8/19, 3-4pm, 210A
Rani Graff (M), Benjamin C. Kinney, Moshe Feder, Navah Wolfe, Elana Gomel
The Hugos are named after Jewish inventor Hugo Gernsback, who coined the term “science fiction” and Judiasm has had a big influence on the genre before and since. Jewish stories frequently explore diaspora, almost featuring it as a character or trait with space being the natural extension of that idea in everything from Star Trek to Space Balls. The ultimate displacement, if you will, but this time deliberately, purposefully, to seek out new life, etc. How does diaspora shape fiction? What is the state of Israeli SFF compared to Jewish SFF in the US?

Hugo Reception & Ceremony
Sunday 8/19, 6:30–??
Time to lose to some of the Best Semiprozine category’s excellent competition!

Readercon 2018 schedule

Next weekend I’ll be a guest at Readercon in Quincy, MA. My first time back to my home territory for convention purposes! Here’s where to find me:

Reading (with José Pablo Iriarte)
Friday 11:30am-12:00pm, Salon B
Joe Iriarte and I are sharing a reading slot. Come listen to our awesome projects! I will probably read something about my favorite baby artificial intelligence, but no promises. I only promise awesomeness.

Understanding Neuroscience
Friday 1-2pm, Salon C
“The human brain may be the most complex structure in the universe, but that won’t stop us from learning, thinking, and writing about it. How can we dive into something so impenetrable, and extract stories that are coherent, plausible, and free from the cliches of the past fifty years?”
• This solo presentation is an updated version of the talk I gave at the 2017 Nebula Conference, so if you missed it there, now’s your time!

Lethe and Mnemosyne: Memory as Plot Device
Saturday 1-2pm, Salon 6.
Tamara Vardomskaya, Elizabeth Bear, Yves Meynar, LJ Cohen, Benjamin C. Kinney
“Authors use amnesia and other types of lost and regained memory to reveal information to the reader as it’s revealed to or remembered by the protagonist. How does this type of narrative function? How does it change if a person’s memory can be stored externally, warped, or erased through technology or magic? This panel will explore works that make use of memory and examine its connections to other stories of what’s lost and found.”

Viable Paradise Alumni Dinner
Saturday Evening
If you’re a member of the Viable Paradise community, I’ll see you there!

Speculative Fiction in Audio: What’s Working and Why
Sunday 12-1pm, Salon C
Victoria Sandbrook, Benjamin C. Kinney, John Chu, Heath Miller, James Patrick Kelly
In 2017, 60 million people tuned in to podcasts, and episodes of Welcome to Night Vale had already been downloaded over 170 million times. Audiobook sales are skyrocketing. Podcast production value and diversity in formats and voices are improving daily. This panel will discuss the radio dramas, short story podcasts, serials, audiobooks, and other listenable forms of speculative fiction, and how they’re influencing storytelling.

Kaffeeklatsch
Sunday 2-3pm, Seven Masts
Want to talk to me about neuroscience, Escape Pod, or anything else? Let’s get a coffee and nurse our hypothetical hangovers together!

Motion Illusions and Adaptation

I don’t care if it’s Tuesday! Linear time bends to my whim, and we have a NeuroThursday on the ubiquitous “motion aftereffect” illusion, and the cellular properties that cause it!

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