Category Archives: Publications

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.1
    • Not available for free online, but if you don’t have the anthology, you can contact me directly or check the SFWA forums if you’re a member.

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 letters2, 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!

The Setting of the Sun

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…

Continue reading

Reprint: The Wind and the Spark

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!

Publication: Cyborg Shark Battle

Today’s the day, my friends: time to unleash Cyborg Shark Battle (Season 4, O’ahu Frenzy) upon the world!

The anthology Cat’s Breakfast is now available for purchase in ebook, and a trade paperback will be available from that same link in a few days.

I’m thrilled to be able to share this story with you all at last. It’s got ridiculous social rituals, backstabby social dynamics, reality TV, and brain-machine interfaces. In other words, a recounting of my time in graduate school, only with more reality TV and less-dangerous animals.

As silly as this story may sound, I actually consider it hard SF. It extrapolates modern trends and technologies into entirely plausible directions of new profit…

P.S. If you sign up for my mailing list soon, the June newsletter will contain a free teaser excerpt!

Reprint publication – Sweeter than Lead

My neo-Lovecraftian short story, “Sweeter than Lead,” is now up at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores!

Subscription required, but it’s only a few dollars a year – and all the stories there (mine included) come with original artwork! Money well spent, with the articles and stories that come out every week.

If you want to read more about the story, check out the notes that accompanied its original publication at PodCastle.

Event Horizon – now in print

Event Horizon 2017, the anthology of stories from this year’s Campbell Award-eligible authors, is now also available in print until July 15! This is another chance to read works by this year’s up-and-coming new writers of science fiction and fantasy. Moreover, this may be the first opportunity to find my words on actual physical paper, rather than web or ebook!

Volume 1 here, (contains my Scientist Ghost Story), Volume 2 here. I’m told the purchase price is at-cost for the publisher1, but if it feels too steep, the ebook remains free until July 15.

Event Horizon 2017 Anthology

The Event Horizon anthology has come out today, and is free for all to download until July 15!

This is the latest in a long line of Campbellian Anthologies, containing the works of over 75 people eligible for this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Everyone in here published their first professional piece of science fiction or fantasy in 2015 or 2016. I’m eligible myself, so you’ll find one of my stories in the anthology – though if you follow my blog, you’ve probably read the story already!

The award is selected by members of this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, with the finalists decided this week, and the winners in a few months. But anyone can read and enjoy nearly 400,000 words by this year’s most promising new writers!

Reprint publication: Meltwater

My short story Meltwater came out today at Escape Pod, the internet’s oldest and finest source of audio science fiction! Rajan Khanna gave it an absolutely lovely reading, the perfect balance of mellow and melancholy. If you read the story last year, go forth and listen to the new interpretation – and if you didn’t, now’s your chance to discover my first professional short story!

The Evolved Brain

My nonfiction neuroscience essay, “The Evolved Brain,” is up in the January issue of Clarkesworld!

I’d like to use this space for a bit of bonus content: the eleven links and footnotes I’d originally included. We decided to remove them during the editorial process, but if you want to see the sources for my claims, here they are for posterity:

  1. Dr. Marcus’ quote about what “No overarching theory of neuroscience could predict” comes from this New York Times editorial.
  2. For more details on the Information Processing (IP) model, this wikipedia page is a good place to start.
  3. The quotation “All models are wrong, but some models are useful” is generally attributed to George Box, in this book’s original 1978 edition. The variant “models have no truth value” comes from this 2013 article on Bayesian statistics.
  4. For “our decisions remain riddled with biases and errors” (and “sloppy and unreliable kludges”), I like to cite this wikipedia article. If you printed out that list of cognitive biases, it would stretch for 10.5 pages.
  5. “Moral uncertainty induces movement uncertainty” is reviewed in this article. It’s a more general phenomenon about cognitive states influencing action, but the more difficult yes/no judgment questions include ones like “is murder ever justified?” (See the “High-Level Decision Making” section, starting on page 4.)1
  6. “Conscious memory is an unreliable reconstruction” is a widely-known phenomenon, but there’s a good academic review here, and good wikipedia examples here (including the “see also” links at the bottom).
  7. The presence of separate systems for vision-for-perception and vision-for-action is a discovery of wikipedia-level magnitude.
  8. The way optical illusions separate vision-for-perception from vision-for-action was first confirmed here
  9. …and here is the specific example of the Ebbinghaus Illusion unaffected by vision-for-action. This is one of my all-time-favorite articles, because its main thrust is about the strange interaction between the two visual subsystems and handedness. But that’s a whole separate article.
  10. The role of the cerebellum in movement self-prediction has been understood since at least 1998.
  11. The Affordance Competition Hypothesis is best described in this 2010 review, but sadly not available for free anywhere online. The 2007 original article is available, but much less readable.
  12. If you want to watch those neurons following the ACH, those data originally come from this 2005 study, though you can find a lovely graphical summary in the article linked in #5, as well as the 2010 article in #11.

Finally, if you haven’t read the essay “The Brain is Not a Computer” (Aeon magazine, May 2016), I recommend it. I agree with its overall direction, and I think it makes a lot of good points, but it fails because it relies on a straw-man misunderstanding of the IP model, tied to the specifics of computer architecture. The internet is full of rebuttals, and largely fair ones. That’s why I wrote “The Evolved Brain” to show not why the IP model is wrong, but instead why it’s unhelpful, if your goal is to understand the human brain and experience.