NeuroThursday is back, picking up a reader’s dare: can I actually write “Harry Potter and the Principles of Neural Science?” It turns out I can! It’s about surprise and novelty in the brain!
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
NeuroThursday is back from its summer break to talk about “muscle memory” – that is, skill/procedural memory – and how you can improve it!
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!
List of all NeuroThursday episodes, in chronological order (oldest first).
- Neolithic Trephination
- Brain Energy Consumption
- The 10% Myth
- The Discoverer of Neurons
- Handedness Across History
- Left/Right Brained
- Mirror Neurons
- Brain Variability
- Hand Dominance
- Maps in the Brain
- The Arm’s Complexity
- Precognition and Evidence
- Sleep and its Deprivation
- Déjà Vu and memory
- Placebos and their Efficacy
- Artificial Neural Networks
- Marijuana Safety
- Power Poses
- Fluidity of Memory
- No Teleportation
- False Memories
- Phantom Limb Pain
- Muscle Memory in the Brain
- Harry Potter and the Principles of Neural Science (aka Novelty in the Brain)
- Harry Potter and the Theory of Neural Science (aka Philosophy of Neuroscience)
- Myths and Methods of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
- Power and Costs of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Saturday Night Palsy
If I’ve fallen behind on updating this list, click the NeuroThursday link under the “Categories” down on the right to see some recent episodes.
This week’s NeuroThursday is on a topic from my postdoctoral research in amputees: phantom limb pain. What is it, what causes it, and why is it so awful?
Story release day is upon us! I’m pleased to offer you all The Setting of the Sun, a short tale about the passage of time, in all its swiftness and languor.
It came out today in Compelling Science Fiction, a wonderful new pro magazine showcasing “plausible science fiction” – defined as SF that doesn’t break suspension of disbelief for scientists and engineers. (A term I find superior to the traditional “hard SF,” which is notoriously subjective and hard to define.)
This story is in competition for the Guinness record on “longest timeline-to-wordcount ratio,” as a 1300-word story that covers nine hundred million years of time.
A few additional notes below…
The first story I ever sold, “The Wind and the Spark,” is now available again! It’s part of the latest science fiction anthology from Digital Science Fiction. The original magazine has long since closed, so this is now the only place you can find my tale of steampunk technological mysteries, inspired by an obscure corner of historical neuroscience.
Available from Amazon right here!
Gentle reader, I present to you: a behind-the-scenes look into the Escape Pod editorial process!
The Escape Pod general submission queue has 6 kinds of response letters (4 tiers, plus a Reprint letter and two special cases). Because the exact wording may vary over time, I’m only reproducing the key phrases that identify each tier.
Tier 1: Associate Editors (slush readers) didn’t think it was a fit for Escape Pod.
– “We appreciate your interest in our magazine and wish you the best in finding a home for your story.”
Tier 2: Associate Editors liked it, but nevertheless they or the Assistant Editor didn’t quite think it would fit.
– “We enjoyed this story, but unfortunately, it’s not quite right for us.”
– “We wish you the best in finding this a good home and look forward to your next submission.”
Tier 3: The Assistant Editor (me) thought it could fit, but it didn’t make the Final Round cutoff.
– “We enjoyed reading it, and it was well-received among our staff. However, it’s not quite what we’re looking for right now, so we’ve decided to pass on this one.”
–”We wish you the best of luck in finding the right home for this one, and we look forward to reading more of your work in the future.”
Tier 4: Final Round from the Co-Editors.
– “While we enjoyed reading it, it’s not quite what we’re looking for right now, so we have decided to pass on this one.”
– “That said, your story was very well-received and reached the final round of consideration.”
– Signed by the Co-Editors (all other letters signed by Assistant Editor)
Reprints: Replaces any tier for reprint submissions.
– “We enjoyed reading this reprint, but unfortunately, it’s not quite right for us.”
Ineligible: For stories that don’t meet critical parts of our guidelines, usually by being too long or too short. No matter how well the story might fit otherwise, we can’t publish it.
–”Unfortunately, we cannot consider it because it does not meet our submission guidelines.”
Revise & Resubmit: Self-explanatory if you get one. Very rare; less frequent than acceptances.
The astute reader will notice I keep saying “a fit [for Escape Pod].” What does that mean?
WHAT MAKES A STORY FIT (OR NOT)
When we say a story doesn’t fit, it can be any combination of the following reasons:
- The story didn’t suit our personal tastes.
- We found problems with the story.
- We’ve seen too many stories like this.
- The prose would require too much editing.
- The story felt more like fantasy or horror than science fiction.
- The style wasn’t a good fit for audio.
This is fiction, not logic: subjective taste is our only true yardstick. We encourage everyone to keep trying no matter what flavor of rejection they receive! Many of our authors received several rejections of various types before we bought one of their stories, and many of our staff still receive rejections from other Escape Artists podcasts.
Rejection tier is not an estimate of quality. If you want to understand exactly what each tier means, you’ll have to follow…
THE PATH OF A STORY
When you submit to Escape Pod, your story goes into a single big queue. From there, any reader can grab a story and read it. Our hard-working Associate Editors (slush readers) do most of the work at this level. They read each story anonymously, which means they don’t see the submitter’s name or cover letter.1 They rate each story with a Yes, No, or Maybe, and leave some notes about how they reached their decision.
Soon thereafter, I view each story, along with its rating, notes, and cover letter.2 If the Associate Editor voted No, I send a Tier 1 or Tier 2 (or Reprint) rejection depending on their comments. If they voted Yes or a Maybe, I read the story fully. Depending on my opinion, I either send a Tier 2 (or Reprint) rejection, or put it in my Assistant Editor Pile.
We aim to get all stories to this point within 1 month of submission. Assuming we’re on schedule, if any story sticks around longer than a month, that’s probably a good sign.
I use the Assistant Editor Pile to regulate the flow up to the Co-Editors so they can safely drink from the firehose. They need to put a lot of attention and effort into each story, so I only want to send them a limited number per month. Every two weeks, I review the pile and choose my favorite few (usually ≈6). I pass those favorites up to the Co-Editors, and I send the author an email to let them know we’ve held their story for the Final Round. If I reject a story at this stage, it gets a Tier 3 letter.
After that, Final Round with Divya and Mur! If they reject a story, they’ll send a Tier 4 letter.
Some rejection letters may include personal comments in addition to the form text. Most personal notes are written by me based on Associate Editor input, but sometimes the Associates write up the a note for me to paste in. The presence (or absence) of a personal note does not reflect how well we thought a story would fit at Escape Pod. Generally, four factors influence this choice:
- Who on our staff read your story? (Are they someone more or less inclined to write personals?)
- Did we think a comment would help this story or your future stories?
- Was there something in your cover letter that affected our desire to provide feedback?
- How hurried was I while sending out rejection letters?
As you can see, there’s a lot of chance involved. We offer feedback when the stars align, but we’re not your critique group.
Reprint rejection letters almost never get personal notes, because the story has already achieved its final form.
So many possible exceptions!
We try to go through the main queue from oldest to newest, but there’s a lot of jitter. For example, if one of us downloads 10 stories to their Kindle, the next reader might come along ten minutes later and respond to the 11th story.
The workflow can vary if I or one of the Co-Editors plucks a story from the queue. That can skip a story straight to the Final Round selection, though this may or may not be faster than the usual route.
If a reprint submission gets a personal note or a regular Tier 1/2 rejection (instead of a Reprint rejection), don’t read anything into it. I’m sufficiently overtrained on the original-story workflow that sometimes I accidentally follow it for a reprint.
Special submission calls aren’t under my management. Artemis Rising generally follows a similar workflow, but has only two editorial levels, and tries to send more personal responses.
This is an explanation, not a contract! This process was developed from existing Escape Pod policies and my own ideas, it could change again someday. On the same note, the process had some major differences before I took over as Assistant Editor (May 2017); for example, Tier 3 is something I invented to ease my management.