Author Archives: bckinney

Story Sale: Toward Lands Uncharted

Contracts are signed, so I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, “Toward Lands Uncharted,” will appear in Mind Candy Volume 1, the inaugural anthology from Myriad Paradigm publishing!

This is a brand-new publisher, but they’re professional-rate, and they’ve got a great lineup for Volume 1. The anthology concept is right up my alley: intricacies and alterations of the mind, strange psychologies and mental oddities. The anthology is mostly science fiction, but my contribution is a fantasy story. I wrote the first draft during one of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive workshops, around the concept of an individual, or a power, known as the Censor of Maps.

In the real world, the drawing of borders like the Sykes-Picot line are often an exercise of blithe and terrible power. But what if that power went beyond the political, into reality itself?

Awards Eligibility 2017

So here we are, approaching the end of 2017. That means the Eye of Awards have fallen upon us all, with its bleak and terrifying gaze.

I sold five stories to professional markets this year, but three of them will be published in 2018, leaving me with only two pieces of flash for 2017:

  • The Setting of the Sun, in Compelling Science Fiction: a 1300-word piece encompassing nine hundred million years in the life of a Dyson swarm. Of my publications this year, this is the one I’d like to imagine as potentially award-worthy.
  • Cyborg Shark Battle (Season 4, O’ahu Frenzy), in the Cat’s Breakfast anthology: an 800-word satire about backstage politics in a remote-controlled-shark-combat reality TV show. Also it is the most neuroscientific thing I have yet published.

Also, this has been my second and final year of eligibility for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In the last two years I have:

  1. Published seven original short stories, six of them in professional magazines: Strange Horizons twice, PodCastle, Flash Fiction Online, Cat’s Breakfast anthology (Third Flatiron Press), and Compelling Science Fiction. Also one semi-pro story at Metaphorosis.
  2. Sold another three professional short stories (to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Mind Candy, and Diabolical Plots), but those won’t be out until next year.
  3. Served as the Assistant Editor of Escape Pod since May 2017. In this role, I decide which stories to pass up to our illustrious Co-Editors, write ~80% of the personal rejection letters1, and recruit & manage our amazing team of Associate Editors (first readers).
  4. Published nonfiction pieces about neuroscience in Clarkesworld, the File 770 blog, and Baen.com. I later expanded the Clarkesworld one into a solo presentation at the 2017 Nebula conference.
  5. Written thirty (and counting) Twitter essays about neuroscience via my NeuroThursday feature.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been a so-called “pro” for only two years. In that time I’ve accomplished a lot more that doesn’t fit on that list (written novel, edited novel, started querying novel, sold another couple short stories), but most important of all is the amazing community I’ve found: at workshops (well before I was doing anything “pro!”), conventions, online, and in person. So many new friends, mentors, and fellow-travelers out there, and I’m honored to know every one of you.

I’d love to conclude with some recommendations, since there are so many amazing writers out there, new and veteran, young and old. Unfortunately, he majority of my reading happens in the Escape Pod slush pile these days, so I don’t read nearly broadly enough. I look forward to reading your recommendations in the weeks and months (and years) to come!

Story Sale: Where the Anchor Lies

Delightful news! My short story “Where the Anchor Lies” has been bought by Beneath Ceaseless Skies for their 2018 Science Fantasy month!

BCS is one of my favorite online magazines, and I’ve been hoping for quite a long time to sell something there. This is a worthy tale, I think, and I hope you’ll all agree when the time comes. I refer to it as my Sentient Battleship Romance, but in truth it’s more of a Sentient Battleship Graveyard Love Story (Inspired By Kellyanne Conway).

I am confident it’ll be the best Sentient Battleship Graveyard Love Story (Inspired By Kellyanne Conway) you read in all of 2018!

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!