Publication: The Gentry

My short story, The Gentry, is live in the Summer 2020 issue of Kaleidotrope! Alongside 6 other excellent stories and five poems, you’ll find my tale of the diner with the portal between worlds… after the owners have retired, and condos have gone up in its place, and one last fairy chevalier is still stuck on Earth.

This story has gone through a long and twisty history – it once killed the professional magazine PerVisions. But the chevalier has made it back to New York at last.

Some notes and background on the story below the fold. Contains spoilers.

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Time Cookie Wars in Drabblecast

Time is cyclical, and so are the wars over the perfect snack. My story The Time Cookie Wars has appeared in Drabblecast, as part of its episode 426 Flash Trifecta! The episode’s theme is “Friends close, enemies closer,” which is a perfect fit for this story. Sometimes the enemy is very close indeed.

Whether this is your first time reading/hearing Time Cookie Wars, or you want to hear a wonderful new narration alongside a pair of fresh weird stories, go check it out!

If you want to learn more about the story’s inspiration, check out the author notes I posted alongside its first publication.

Story Sale: Weights and Measures

I’m delighted to announce that my short story Weights and Measures will be appearing in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly in November 2020!

This story takes place in the same world as my unpublished Conquistador Dragon Novel (and even shares a character with it). It’s a fantasy world where the only source of magic is gods and religion. Our main character, Prelate Agnella, is a banker-priestess of the globe-spanning Church of the Trader. For all the church’s flaws, theirs is the god of trade, exchange, and fairness. Sometimes, the only justice in this world is what they bring to it.

I’m so glad this story has found a home after its long journeys. It was a Writers of the Future finalist in 2017 (prior to the piece I withdrew in 2018), and was accepted by the ill-omened Spectacle Magazine, though the latter folded before publication (or payment). Now it’s going out into the world, with original art!

FenCon Postponed

In sad-but-necessary news, FenCon XVII has been postponed from 2020 to 2021.

If you were looking forward to my appearance as Science Guest of Honor (like I was), fear not: I plan to be there in Dallas/Fort Worth next year  (September 17-19 2021), alongside all the rest of the excellent GoH list!

Neuroscience for Writers: The Slides

Thank you to all the 80+ people who attended my “Neuroscience for Writers: The Evolved Brain” talk at Flights of Foundry! Lots of attendees asked for the slides, as did some of you out there who hadn’t been able to attend. So I’m happy to provide: you can download the slides here. I may take the slides offline in a week or two (i.e. early June 2020), but if so I’ll update this post.

Slides aren’t everything, of course. I like to hope that my ramblingcharming presence adds something beyond the mere powerpoint. I hope I’ll get the privilege to share the talk again at future conventions, online or in person. This was the 4th time I’ve given the “Neuroscience for Writers” talk, but no two deliveries are alike. Every year I update and improve it – and more importantly, share it with a new audience.

Flights of Foundry

Are you stuck at home this weekend and looking for the experience of a science fiction convention? Come on over to Flights of Foundry, an online convention for people interested in the speculative arts! It’s run by Dream Foundry, the world’s only organization dedicated to supporting early-career creators in the speculative genres. If you’re interested in speculative writing, art, game writing, or anything else, this weekend is your chance to come learn from the best! Guests of Honor include Ken Liu, Liz Gorinsky, Suzanne Walker, Grace Fong, Andrea Phillips, and more.

Registration will be open through the weekend, but if you want to get in the lottery for limited-entry sessions, deadline is tonight (Wednesday May 13). Registration cost is pay-what-you-can, with recommended donation of $30.

I love what Dream Foundry does, and I’ll be all over the convention. Here are the programming items I’ll be on: a kaffeeklatsch (hangout), a reading, a neuroscience talk, and two panels.

UPDATE: Sunday 1-3pm will be the Escape Artists Room Party. It’s open to everyone, so please come hang out with a bunch of staff from Escape Pod and all the Escape Artists podcasts!

Ben Kinney's Flights of Foundry schedule

All times are Central Daylight Time.

I hope to see you there!

 

Escape Pod Turns 15

Today is Escape Pod’s 15th birthday! That is approximately 2.5 entire internets. To celebrate, we have a whole host of announcements.

I’ve only been Escape Pod’s assistant editor for about 3 of those years, but it’s glorious and humbling to remember that is a mere 1/5th of the Pod’s lifespan. I’m proud to help helm ths ship ever onward, to the finest heights of science fiction. It’s been such a joy the last few years to get award recognition for our years of work bringing free, listener-supported science fiction stories and readings to the world.

If you want to give a birthday present to Escape Pod AND yourself, pre-order our upcoming print anthology! It’s got stories from Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal, John Scalzi, and more, including nine works of original fiction.

I’ve also heard tell that Escape Pod co-editor Mur Lafferty and publisher Alasdair Stuart are co-writing a new a new adventure for the Zombies, Run! app, coming out this August. Special offers will be available for Escape Artists fans and supporters!

2020 Hugo Award Finalist

So this happened. And by “this,” I mean Escape Pod receiving its second nomination as a Hugo Award finalist.

List of Best Semiprozine finalists in 2020 Hugo Awards

Thank you to all our listeners, readers, and supporters who make all this worth doing! And extra thanks to the rest of the Escape Pod crew. Divya and Mur, our incomparable co-pilots; Adam and Summer who assemble the pieces into magic, Tina and Alasdair whose smooth and sonorous voices help us guide the ship in every week, and most importantly the entire crew of Associate Editors who do the work day in and day out to keep stories read & the pod flying: Kay, Jen, Sandy, Darusha, Ryan, Premee, Kevin, Izzy, James, Phoebe, Jen, Shiv,1 and Karlo!

Writer Warning: Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat Reader

Last Updated March 12, 2020

If you’re an author out there submitting short stories, you should be aware of the things that the magazine Unfit and Unreal (via their portal Thinkerbeat Reader) are doing without your permission.

Here’s a screenshot from Feb 27 of the “honorable mentions” page where they publish the authors, titles, and ratings for some stories they’ve rejected.

Screenshot from Thinkerbeat Reader

I’ve edited the screenshot to only reveal the information of authors who’ve given me consent to share. I’m not providing links because there are dozens more authors on that page, who presumably never wanted this information publicized. Nothing in the website’s guidelines warns an author that their story may be publicly named & rated. In fact, their privacy policy states that they will not share your information with anyone.

(Yes, public. This page is visible to everyone, not only Thinkerbeat members.)

I tried yesterday to tell the editor that authors would see this practice as upsetting & predatory, so that he could quietly fix it. Unfortunately, he instead responded with a masterclass in professionalism.

Email containing only the words "Grow up."

Maybe some authors are willing to have their rejections named & rated. I certainly wouldn’t be, but that’s your choice to make. But it’s DEFINITELY not okay to share information about individual submissions without asking permission. None of the authors in my screenshot were aware of this until I told them.

If you’re considering submitting here, also keep in mind the Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat practice of requiring a subscription to submit – a subscription which costs money after the first three months.1

Thanks to David Steffen of the Submission Grinder for doing the initial legwork of spotting the problem.

Updates and Developments

Edit 2/27: Please don’t try to track down the full list of names-and-ratings. It contains about 75 rows, and every one of them contains information that the submitter didn’t plan to tell the whole internet. Let’s respect their privacy. If you want to know whether your story is listed, let me know and I’ll check my screenshot.

Paypal transfer, totaling $0.00 after feesEdits 2/28: Changes to the main post: Clarified that the ranking page is public. Clarified that they are violating their website privacy policy. Revised info on their payment scheme.

Rest assured that Writer Beware has been notified and is investigating.

Update 3/01: The editor sent me a Paypal transfer that totaled $0.00 after fees. Perhaps this is a petty way of reminding me that I didn’t pay? Or an attempt to verify my email address? Who knows? There’s no note with the transfer. I have refunded it, to make clear that I have no financial relationship of any kind with him.

Update 3/04: According to reports, they have removed story titles and ratings from the Honorable Mention page, changed the landing page to make clear that subscriptions will be required after 3 months (rather than hiding it in the website terms), and updated their privacy policy. However, their new privacy policy leaves much to be desired – it only says “will not sell your contact info.” This does not prevent them from giving your contact info, nor does it forbid the story title/ranking info from the original Honorable Mention page.

Update 3/12: The Science Fiction Writers of America have posted an official warning statement about Thinkerbeat and its magazines. Note that Daniel Scott White (the publisher of Thinkerbeat) also runs the online review magazine Phantaxis, according to Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware. Finally, Daniel Scott White continues to act like a jerk when people ask him to remove their stories.

Update 3/22: It looks like Thinkerbeat is now calling their rejections a “Thinkerbeat Award.” Not that they like your story enough to buy it, but they still want you to give them some free advertising by putting the image on their website. (A very Writers-Of-The-Future-like practice. Good to know that markets with a predatory approach to their writers are learning from each other. Sigh.)

Story Sale: Conference of the Birds

I am super-excited to announce my first short story sale of 2020: “Conference of the Birds” has sold to Analog Science Fiction, one of the oldest & awesomest science fiction magazines out there!

I can’t wait to introduce you all to Surveillance Hub, a hard-working node in the distributed neural network AI of an oppressive cyberpunk megacorp. Doing its job, tracking intellectual-property thieves, hoping for another round of reinforcement signals from the network’s uppermost levels.

Update: Publication is slated for the Jan/Feb 2021 issue, which will be available to purchase in Dec 2020.

No program-layer could predict what a human might do, but Surveillance Hub could see everything that mattered. Their bird-drones spread across the city, scattered on cables and rooftops and broadcast towers. Every camera hunted for Krina Viy, independent security contractor (AWOL from JoyCorp contact 5 hours).