Right Hand, Human Brain

My latest neuroscience essay, “Right Hand, Human Brain” is up today at the Baen website! This one uses science fiction and fantasy to guide a deep dive into my personal favorite bit of neuroscience, part of my current research topics: handedness, and how it arises in the brain.

Hand dominance is much more complex than most people realize. It’s built from asymmetries atop asymmetries, a stack of lateralized functions in the brain, independent from each other in varying degrees. To understand these, you need to get to the root of the human condition: how we move, how we talk.

The complexity of this answer is why I love studying handedness. It’s prosaic and universal, so ordinary that it can affect your every waking hour without you needing to notice or care. Yet for all its silent ubiquity, to understand handedness, you need to understand everything about the organization of the brain.

For following here to the website, I offer you a bonus bit of trivia: late in the essay when I discussed ways to alter handedness, I mention “all four lobes of the brain.” This is a lie.

The traditional, textbook image of the brain shows four lobes: frontal (motor and executive), parietal (touch and sensorimotor integration), occipital (basic vision), and temporal (hearing, complex vision, memory formation).

The modern conception of the brain shows at least five lobes, maybe six. I’m used to the 5-lobe version, where you find another one by unfolding the crevasse between the frontal and temporal lobes.1 On the inner walls of that space, you will find the insular lobe, which seems to play roles in emotion, homeostasis, and consciousness.

Some people count a “limbic lobe” as the sixth, but if lobes are going to be anything other than an arbitrary distinction, they need to be anatomically & spatially separate, which the limbic lobe isn’t (though it is functionally distinct).

Three Years

On this date in 2014, I finally revealed to my friends & family that I was a writer. I’d shrouded my hobby in secrecy while I worked for my first 2-3 years (I typed my first words in late 2011), because I didn’t want to be Mr. Working On A Screenplay In My Basement. But on October 11 2014, I had sold one semi-pro story (though it wouldn’t get published for another year). More importantly, I was en route to the Viable Paradise workshop, and I had to tell people why I was headed to Martha’s Vineyard for my vacation!

In the three years since Viable Paradise, I’ve had 8 short stories published (6 of them pro), with 4 more on the way. I’ve become the assistant editor of Escape Pod, where I manage an awesome team and help select stories that go out to thousands of listeners every week. I’ve joined amazing communities of writers, editors, fans, publishers, and mentors, all of whom are brilliant and incisive and empathetic in ways I strive every day to replicate.

It’s been a great journey so far, and I can’t wait to see what the next 3/30/60 years will bring!

Two Exciting Websites

I’ve run into two exciting new websites in the last week, both related to short stories of science fiction & fantasy. Perhaps some of you out there can enjoy, or even contribute to, one or both sites!

First up is Curious Fictions, a new online aggregator for short SFF fiction. It’s got a searchable database of stories that have all appeared in professional-quality markets, and the option for readers to pay as they go, tip-jar style. If you’re an author with qualifying stories, the setup process is as simple as can be – and if you’re a reader, perhaps you’ll find some new stories to love!

Second is SFFreviews.com, a new website for reviews of short SFF fiction. They’ve got a distributed model, where volunteers sign up to write short reviews of the stories at one favorite magazine. This could be a great place to learn about brand new stories (unlike the reprints at Curious Fictions), or if you want to share the love and expand the conversation, you could sign up to review one of the magazines they’re still looking to cover!

Archon panel schedule

I have my schedule for Archon 41! I’m participating in 3 panels, moderating a fourth one, plus a a reading. If you’re anywhere in the greater St. Louis area, come on down and say hello!

Space Colonies and Planetary Chauvinism

Saturday 9/30, 13:00 – 13:50, Great Rivers A (Gateway Center)

Should our major effort be settling on worlds or building inside out worlds in free space?  Can we do both?

Benjamin C. Kinney, Christine Nobbe (M), Bob Perry

The Mystery of H.P. Lovecraft

Saturday 9/30 15:00 – 15:50, Marquette B (Gateway Center)

Why do so many fans read and enjoy H. P. Lovecraft while others find faults in his writing?

Benjamin C. Kinney, Mr. Brian Katcher (M) , John Jacobs, Shawntelle Madison

Short-Story Podcasting for Writers, Readers, and Voice Actors

Sunday 10/1, 10:00 – 10:50, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)

Podcasts are a huge opportunity to publish and listen to short fiction, and engage with the fan community. They can also provide an avenue into audio book narration and voice acting. Join us to discuss the podcasts we love, how to build a recording setup, and the path to publication.

Benjamin C. Kinney, Setsu Uzume

Author Readings with Benjamin C. Kinney, Jim Pyre, and Jimmy D. Gillentine

Sunday 10/1 12:00 – 12:50, Cahokian (Gateway Center)

Benjamin C. Kinney, Jim Pyre, Jimmy D. Gillentine

Editing: Behind the Scenes

Sunday 10/1, 13:00 – 13:50, Marquette A (Gateway Center)

A chance for new authors to understand what happens to stories after they’re submitted.

Benjamin C. Kinney (M), Mr. Brian Katcher, Mr. Adrian Matthews, Rich Horton

Story Sale: The Hammer’s Prayer

Looks like I forgot to announce this in the Worldcon whirl: my short story “The Hammer’s Prayer” will be appearing in Diabolical Plots, the magazine that brings us all the almighty Submission Grinder!

I’m delighted to sell this story to one of the best new pro markets on the internet. I struggled long and hard with this tale: I had to set it aside for 4 months at one point so my subconscious could figure out how to produce an effective tale out of the theme and imagery rattling around in my head. But produce I did (with a lot of beta readers and revisions), and soon you all can read my tale of secret golems, contagious with the gift of animation.

Well, not soon. More like December 2018!