The Choke: Skill, Action, and Attention

NeuroThursday has been scarce lately, but I haven’t lost the rhythm: this week we look at what happens when you “choke,” and how you can fail so badly at precisely the thing you normally do best!

Thread Reader version:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/961785016790417408.html

Original on Twitter:

Where the Anchor Lies

February is upon us, and with it, the publication of my short story Where the Anchor Lies at Beneath Ceaseless Skies! The long anticipated Sentient Battleship Graveyard Propagandist Love Story.

This is a piece of science fantasy, right on the strange and fuzzy borderline between genres. It’s a secondary world, and all of the mechanisms are fantastic/magical, but their implementation and culture feels quite modern. It’s definitely a “sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology” situation.

A few more thoughts and discussion below. No major spoilers, but let’s be careful anyways, yes?

Continue reading

Social & Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology Notes (2016)

As part of Storify’s shutdown, I now want to use my website to archive important Twitter threads. So here are some awesome threads from the first Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology (SoCIA) conference. These are incomplete, and sometimes abbreviated, but there’s still a lot of fascinating science, philosophy, and theory in here!

If you think these topics look awesome, keep an eye out for SoCIA 2018 this coming April!

“Is talking to aliens like talking to your cats?”, Sara Waller

“Cosmic complexity,” Kelly Smith

“Impossible Friendships: human-alien relationships,” Jonathan Trerise

“The role of worldview in predicting societal impact of discovering ET life,” Connie Bertka

“Anthropocentrism, exoplanets, and the cosmic perspective,” Neil Manson

“The life bias in planetary protection,” Jim Schwartz

Keynote: “Homo Astronauticus: cultural implications of space colonization,” Sheyna Gifford

“Astrobiology research & policy dilemmas in public decision making,” Margaret Race

“Astrobiology education via interactive alien construction,” Randall Hayes

“Astrobiology, ET, and ETI: science & speculation,” Linda Billings

“Replicator Theory: testing evolutionary theories of life,” Lucas Mix

“Toward a Family Resemblance definition of life,” Erik Persson

“Extending the Idea of Wilderness Beyond Earth,” Alan Johnson.

“Human life and ethics in outer space,” Koji Tachibana

“Astrobiology and the precautionary principle,” Mark Lupisella

“Convergences in the ethics of space exploration,” Brian Green

“Ethical obligations between us and extraterrestrial life,” Adam Potthast

Pre-Publication: Where the Anchor Lies

So, technically the Sentient Battleship Graveyard Romance Propaganda story comes out next month… but if you want early access, you can read it right now by ordering the Beneath Ceaseless Skies Science-Fantasy Double Issue! You get a weird and hopefully-wonderful story from me, full of propagandist-generals and the grandeur of the past – and stories by the inestimable Yoon Ha Lee and Maurice Broadus, all for $1.99!

If your cashflow is weak, be not afraid – stay tuned here for announcements & story notes in mid-February when the online free version comes out!

ConFusion Appearances

Here’s my panel schedule at ConFusion in Novi Michigan, the weekend of January 28-21!

Saturday 11am, Isle Royale
Reading: Benjamin C. Kinney, Angus Watson, Marie Bilodeau

Come hear me read an excerpt from one of my short stories coming out in 2018! I haven’t yet decided which – could be “Spies and Border-Magic,” maybe “Dead Battleship Romance Politics,” or else perhaps “Fairies Gentrify Manhattan.”

Saturday 1pm, Saugatuck
SF and Philosophy: Exploring the Connections

Benjamin C. Kinney, Andrea J, Dyrk Ashton, Ken Schrader, Nathan Rockwood

SF has been called the literature of ideas, and the ideas explored in SF have become increasingly philosophical throughout the history of the genre. What are the most illuminating thought experiments in recent and classic SF? Which philosophical questions do they raise? And how are philosophers in today’s universities employing SF in their teaching and research?

Saturday 5pm, St. Clair
Autograph Session (5pm)

I don’t have any books to autograph, but I will have something to sign, if anyone wants to stop by and say hello! I won’t be too busy, so this could be a great place to find me and chat, about Escape Pod or anything else. Consider this my “office hours” – you’ll know where to find me for sure!

Sunday 2pm, Charlevoix
A Novel Look at the Short Story

Lucy A. Snyder, Jessi Cole Jackson, A. T. Greenblatt, Benjamin C. Kinney, Scott H. Andrews, Amal El-Mohtar

Short stories require a different approach to pacing , character , world-building , exposition , and plot than longer works. Let’s explore the tools we use to convey important information to the reader when we have a lot fewer words to do it with.
Unfortunately, I will probably miss this panel due to travel timing. But you should go anyways, it’s a great topic and an amazing set of panelist!

Solstice Detection (Slow Vision)

A special solstice edition of NeuroThursday this week: the eye’s special mechanism to detect the slow light changes of day and night, winter and spring.

Threadreader version:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/944026526890196992.html

Twitter thread:

Learning Styles

NeuroThursday is back in action with a discussion of learning styles in the classroom – particularly the now-classic split between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. How meaningful is the whole idea?

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 someone with the job or title 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

We have passed the end of 2017, into the beginning of 2018, and that means the Eye of Awards have fallen upon us all, with its bleak and terrifying gaze.

I sold five stories to professional markets in 2017, but three of them will be published in 2018, leaving me with only two pieces of new fiction 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.
  • 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
    • Reprint now available for online at Curious Fictions, or email me for a copy!

Also, 2017 was my second and final year of eligibility for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In my two years of eligibility 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 2018.
  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). I’ve also increased our editorial transparency to our process, with a writeup of our pipeline and rejection letters here.
  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-one Twitter essays (and more in 2018) about neuroscience via my NeuroThursday feature.
  6. Been recommended by Rich Horton for this here Campbell Award!

The nonfiction in #4-5 also makes me eligible for the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award. More thoughts and details on that here!

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” myself!), 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, the 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!

But speaking of Escape Pod, if you’re pondering Hugo nominations, may I suggest our fine podcast for Best Semiprozine? Remember that our editorial turnover happened in early 2017, so this year make sure to list Norm Sherman as well as Divya Breed & Mur Lafferty as editors.