2021 is coming to a close. It’s been a wild year by any metric, but I’ve brought you all here today not for annual angst, but to look back on my publications in the past year. I’ve published ~6 short stories (four pro, two semi-pro), and sold three; wrote up two interesting bits of nonfiction; and sent my AI Cold War novel out on query.
Whether you’re looking for some stories to enjoy, or reading for SFF awards, I’d love to share these 2021 publications with you!
I Would – Fantasy Magazine, July 2021 (secondary world fantasy, 5600 words). About prophecy, faith, and a non-hero using what power she has. If you want to read just one piece of mine this year (for award nominations or otherwise), this is the one I’d recommend!
“Some people say the stars control fate. I would never say such a thing.”
Conference of the Birds – Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Jan/Feb 20211 (science fiction, 3900 words). AI and distributed minds.
“No program-layer could predict what a human might do, but Surveillance Hub could see everything that mattered.”
Memories of Fire – Translunar Travelers Lounge, April 2021 (contemporary fantasy noir, 4400 words). Jewish mythology, the 2011 Libyan revolution, and the tyrants of Heaven and Earth. This one still moves me, and I wish more people read it.
“I finally got my smoke. I enjoy them for the ritual, not the nicotine. A little fire, a brand-new drop of ash, the same little destruction every time.”
Cruise Control – Fireside Fiction, July 2021 (science fiction, 1100 words). Unhappy families, retiree brains, and self-driving cars.
“Why the hell would I want to become a car?”
The Promise of Iron – Kaleidotrope, September 2021 (steampunk, 5900 words). Hungarian Jews in a world upended by steampunktech.
“Food and money are a greater fortune than the sight of machines, she told herself.”
“If I asked you what kind of person you are, you wouldn’t know the answer.”
In addition, my short story “A Living Planet” is due out in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Analog. It will hit bookshelves in December 2021, so by Nebula Award rules (but not Hugo) it will count as a 2021 story. Expect an update to this page when the publication comes to pass!
If you’re nominating for the Hugo Awards, I hope you’ll consider Escape Pod for Best Semiprozine. We’ve put out a lot of great stories, and been at the vanguard of Escape Artists’ efforts to do right by our authors in every way we can. Our co-editors Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya would make a great choice (as a two-person team) for Best Editor Short Form, too.
We are less than three weeks out from DisCon3, the 79th World Science Fiction Convention, in Washington DC. As a finalist (Best Semiprozine) for my work as assistant editor of Escape Pod, I’ll be there in person!
Here’s where you can find me:
AI in Fiction and Reality
16 Dec 2021 (Thu), `11:30am-12:30pm, Empire Ballroom. (Session 588) Andrea Hairston (mod), Avani Wildani, Benjamin C. Kinney, Natalie Luhrs, Lincoln Peters
Is there a Doctor in the House?
16 Dec 2021 (Thu), `1:00-2:00pm, Forum Room. (Session 574) Benjamin C. Kinney (mod), Usman T. Malik, Shannon Chakraborty, Leonardo Espinoza Benavides, Lincoln Peters
My science fiction story “Eight Reasons You Are Alone” is available today in Nature Futures! You’ve pulled it off, and learned the price, and now you have plenty of time to think about the consequences. There’s nobody left to talk to, after all.
But the alarm came too late for the shuttles to escape the blast radius.
All but yours, which launched before the alarm with only one human aboard.
I think you believed the shuttles would be fast enough to escape. But you never investigated. You certainly never asked me.
When you pass your shuttle’s 19 empty berths, do you imagine your dead co-workers? The family you haven’t seen in years? Or nothing at all?
To learn more about the inspiration behind “Eight Reasons You Are Alone,” check out my notes at the bottom of the story!
The only other thing I have to say is: I’ve always wanted to be published in Nature, but my science is in the wrong field for it, so I’m pleased to find this other route into one of science’s most prestigious publications.
Eszter and her brother scrounge to put food on the table in a Budapest beseiged by Napeoleon’s war machines. Forty years into the war, both sides fight with machines of steam and thaumic science, but a Jewish girl like Eszter can only dream of getting her hands on the gears.
Eszter pressed her forehead against the narrow window, watching the war-engines roll down the boulevard. The thirty railless cars progressed in perfect synchrony, shaking the tenement floorboards beneath her feet. She stared down at the stubby barrels of cannon, the smoked-glass lenses of eyes, and the mane of pistons emerging from each pressure engine. She wished the machines would pause there, beneath her window, where they seemed close enough to touch. But the automata continued their implacable roll southward, beyond her reach.
The Promise of Iron is free for everyone to read! If you enjoy it, and all the other excellent stories in this issue of Kaleidotrope, consider supporting the magazine.
My short story “I Would” is free to read (or listen) today at the excellent Fantasy Magazine!
Knira can see thousands of possible futures, but never her captor’s. When two heroes visit the castle, Knira will need to find a vision of them rescuing her, and make that prophecy come true. But it’s hard to manipulate the future of a woman you’ve just met when you can already foresee your relationship falling apart.
Some people say the stars control fate.
I would never say such a thing.
Our conversation followed the same arc as last time, as regular as the heavens. Queen Iroda claimed her constellation, and protected herself with the power of foresight. For every future I showed her, I kept a handful for myself:
Usually I put story notes here, but this time I’ll point you toward my Author Spotlight over at the magazine. Phoebe Barton had some great questions for me, which let me talk about this piece’s craft and inspiration and origins.
The only thing I have to add is a direct link to Weights and Measures, my previous short story in the same setting (Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, November 2020). W&M takes place a long way away, with entirely different characters, but the world runs by the same rules – under some of the same gods.
If you like the great work put together by the folks at Fantasy Magazine, consider supporting them with a subscription, or just purchase an ebook of issue #69 with “I Would.”
My short story Cruise Control is free to read online today, as part of the July 2021 issue of Fireside Magazine!
If your son won’t visit you in the nursing home, it’s his own damn fault. He’s the coward who won’t give you an honest reaction unless you needle him. And he’s the one who keeps bringing pamphlets about sticking your brain in a self-driving car.
“Pop, please. This’ll add years to your life.” He kept his voice gentle. “They rejuvenate your brain. It’s the only way to make a driver; need to learn radar and wheels, like a kid learning their hands. There’s no damage. Only change.”
I tried to wave him away. “You don’t want me alive. Don’t tell me you’re grateful, what a good father I was. Pack of lies, right there.”
Why not support the magazine and buy an ebook of the whole issue? You’ll get your own copy of Cruise Control alongside three more stories by Ryan Boyd (seven more if you get June 2021 too), every one of them full of delicious embodied cyberpunk grit.
Keep reading for a few author notes, about the story’s creation and neuroscience. May contain spoilers, so why not read the story first?
Knira is a seer, not a hero. If she wants to escape from a robber-queen’s jeweled prison, she’ll have to use her visions to maneuver the heroes into rescuing her. But it’s not easy to manipulate a hero who appears in far too many of your possible futures.
“Invite her in,” I said. “Shower her with gifts and honors. She’ll thank you, she’ll resent you, and she’ll go on her way as soon as she can.”
Some people say the stars control fate.
I would never say such a thing.
Our conversation followed the same arc as last time, as regular as the heavens. Queen Iroda claimed her constellation and protected herself with the power of foresight. For every future I showed her, I kept a handful for myself:
The story will be available online for free on July 27th. But why not pick up a copy now and support an awesome magazine?
The 4th Street Fantasy convention is going online for 2021!
This has long been one of my favorite conventions, a small one-track gathering full of high-level content and deep-dive discussions. Last year those discussions happened on a series of wonderful podcasts, but this year on June 18-20 they’re going further with a full weekend of online activities: panels, Q&A’s, online social events, and the list is still growing.
Here’s the full list of panels, chock-full as always of awesome topics & panelists. I’ll be appearing on “Kinging is Hard, but Not Kinging is Harder: Valorizing Collective Action” along with Aliette de Bodard, Intisar Khanani, Sherwood Smith, and Scott Lynch moderating.
Normally 4th Street Fantasy has an attendance cap to keep the one-track content manageable, but there’s no limit for this year’s online version, so this is the perfect year to dip your toes in. Plus, it’s pay-what-you-can, so if the last year has been a financial struggle, you can still come join the conversation.
April has been an exciting month for us at Escape Pod, with three major award nominations!
First up, the Escape Pod team has been nominated again as a 2021 Hugo Award finalist in the Best Semiprozine category!
Second, another Hugo Award nomination for the team: our co-editors Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya have been nominated personally for their work in the Best Editor Short Form category!
Third, another Escape Pod team nomination: Best Fiction Podcast at the 2021 Ignyte awards!
For those of you who are here for Benjamin-specific content, the first and third ones have my name on them. But none of these award nominations are an individual effort: this stuff comes from the work of our entire crew. I couldn’t be more proud of our spaceteam.