Archon 45 schedule

This weekend is Archon 45, the midwest’s premier SFF convention!

I’ll be there during the daytime on Saturday and Sunday – no parties for me due to the lack of vaccine policy. But you can still find me on plenty of panels. Here’s my schedule!

Unimportant Details or Enhancing the Scene?

1 Oct 2022, Saturday 12:00 – 13:00, Salon 4 (Gateway Center)
A discussion about why background fluff and other trivialities matter in a game.
Dana Lockhart (M), Benjamin C. Kinney, Michales Joy

It Takes More Than a Hook to Reel In a Reader

1 Oct 2022, Saturday 14:00 – 15:00, Salon 2 (Gateway Center)
You’ve got a great idea and a killer opening sentence but you don’t know where to go with it. Is there a book in it or just a short story? Or maybe it’s not as clever as you first thought.
Cynthianna/ Celine Chatillon (M), Jack Snyder, Benjamin C. Kinney, Kathleen Collins

I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That, Dave: Machine Learning and AI in Space

2 Oct 2022, Sunday 10:00 – 11:00, Salon 1 (Gateway Center)
Computers becoming sentient has been both in the news and on the big screen. How realistic is that scenario? How could those developments actually be beneficial in the harsh environment of space?
Anastasa Yanchilinia (M), Benjamin C. Kinney, Daniel Van Hoesen

When to Finish Your Story

2 Oct 2022, Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, Salon 1 (Gateway Center)
Ever wonder what real scientists do? It’s not like in the movies (unfortunately).
Benjamin C. Kinney (M), Bob Perry, Daniel Van Hoesen

Chicon 8 Schedule

Here’s my schedule for ChiCon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention, in Chicago IL on September 1-5 2022!

Don’t forget, in addition to all this, you can also come see me lose a Hugo Award in the Best Semiprozine category.

“Table Talk” is the beverage-free version of the olde Kaffeklatch. Sign up for it and you can have a small-group face-to-face chat with me, about neuroscience or Escape Pod or any ol’ thing.

I hope to see some of you there!

Publication: A Start to Judgment

They think she can do anything. They're almost right. Her voice can destroy anyone but the two people who deserve it.My fantasy short story “A Start to Judgment” is free to read today in the Summer 2022 issue of Kaleidotrope!

Story content warnings: suicidal ideation, self-harm.

“A Start to Judgment” is a full-scale epic fantasy: preparation for the Final Battle against the malevolent god, the two-pronged waging of the Final Battle, and the face-to-face confrontation between hero and god. All packed into 1500 words (3-5 pages)!

Epic fantasy confrontation is a familiar trope. But how will it unfold differently if the Chosen One knows that her power comes from the very thing she is trying to overthrow?

Arsha plays the role expected of her, though she’s known for years how their rebellion will end. She thought she could endure one last survey of her knights and archers and footmen before the final battle, but the guilt still cracks her insides like a pickaxe. The free people of the world have placed their faith in her, the Chosen One. Tomorrow she’ll face the Flensed Lord and betray them all.

As always, support those fine websites that bring you so much free fiction!

Spoilery notes below the fold. Go read the story first, it won’t take you long!

Continue reading Publication: A Start to Judgment

Fourth Street Fantasy 2022 Roundup

A long week-and-a-half ago was 2022’s fabled Fourth Street Fantasy convention! Always one of my favorites, with its single-track programming allowing a deep and ever-growing conversation to thread through the entire weekend.

I know a lot of people couldn’t come this year, but I took notes! Specifically, livetweets. I find livetweets great for note-taking, in that they have all the freedom of a keyboard while also adding the “rapid interpretation and condensation” that makes note-taking an effective form of learning. So, ultimately I do these for myself – and you all get to enjoy the benefit!

For lists of panelists, see the first tweet in each thread, or the official Fourth Street 2022 Programming Page.

  1. Designing Worlds for Everyone
    • From airport scanners with only two body type defaults to facial recognition systems that can’t recognize BIPOC, unconscious—or conscious—design decisions from our world that treat people unequally seep into our fantasy worlds. Authors create fantastic worlds full of stairs wheelchair users can’t access or magic systems designed to erase disabilities. But there also exist magic writing systems that dyslexic users excel at and blind earthbenders who don’t have to overcome their disabilities in order to thrive. What are broad principles or specific ways of approaching world-building to include as many people in the fantasy as possible?
    • No livetweets, I was on this one!
  2. Join us in the Muck: The Value of Dark Escapism
    • Past 4th Streets have gushed over books like The Goblin Emperor and other approaches favoring communities coming together and triumphing over oppression, but what is the value of fantasy that is super Not That? Many of us at 4th Street also enjoy reading both TGE and stories with bleak outlooks on the world, and somehow these aesthetic—or thematic—preferences coexist. Let’s talk about why fantasies that share stylistic markers of nihilism and bloodgore can still be validating and empowering rather than depressing slogs. What does dark escapism have to say about heroism and living that we want to take with us?
    • https://twitter.com/benckinney/status/1537949053714976769
  3. Would You Want to Live Forever? Depictions of Immortality in Fantasy
    • In some stories, immortality is a curse, where a person is forced to continue on when everyone they love dies. Sometimes it’s a gift, with all the time in the world to develop the resources and interests a person cares about. In others it’s an ongoing choice made through concerted spiritual and physical effort. What does a story’s approach to immortality say about the story itself? Who do we immortalize, and why? How can we use and expand depictions of immortality in fantasy to create or deepen dimensions of our stories?
    • https://twitter.com/BenCKinney/status/1538168452275441665
  4. Modern Sensibility and “Progressive” Narratives
    • Fantasy writers often write characters who don’t, or logically would not, share modern sensibilities, but they are writing for readers who do. While we want our narratives to progress toward a conclusion, “progress” in our world is not always linear, particularly when it comes to people and cultures. Failure modes of attempting to walk this line abound, including characterizing premodern cultures as “primitive” or making the protagonist the lone ethical exception to prevailing attitudes. Let’s unpack how we balance contextualizing other understandings of the world in different times and places without excusing or validating oppressive behaviors and ways of thinking.
    • https://twitter.com/BenCKinney/status/1538189637834924033
  5. From a Different Point of View: Choosing Perspective
    • Some subgenres of fantasy have common market default points-of-view, but there are always exceptions and innovations, too. How do authors decide what POV—third or first, past or present, or something more experimental—to tell stories from? Let’s talk about unique applications of POV, how to weigh their merits, and how the narrative perspective can shape and influence a story.
    • https://twitter.com/BenCKinney/status/1538236141773676546
  6. What It Takes to Feed a City: Logistics of Agriculture in Fantasy
    • Despite the preponderance of farmboy chosen ones, actual farming to support the vast armies and civilizations of fantasy worlds tend to be in short supply. Let’s talk about the logistics of feeding entire worlds—from the space it takes, to how the food actually gets to the bulk of people before it spoils. Not every book needs to focus on agriculture when our heroes are off adventuring, but what are important or interesting aspects to consider that can complicate and enrich our stories?
    • https://twitter.com/BenCKinney/status/1538257940704018432
  7. Overthrow Systems, Not People: Accountability and Social Action in Fantasy
    • The great fantasy of overthrowing leaders and in so doing restoring peace is that all problems can stem from a single bad actor. In reality, our systems are deliberately constructed to defend against this, so no one is individually responsible for unethical conglomerates’ actions—they are borne out of policy, algorithms, and tradition as if by magic. But of course, it’s humans who construct those too. With the understanding that a single villain has the advantage of narrative simplicity, how can fantasy do better work at holding vaster fictional constructed institutions—governments, corporations, or even neighborhood community organizations—accountable, and challenging and changing them?
    • https://twitter.com/BenCKinney/status/1538280594119004160
  8. Conversations with Inanimate Objects: Personification in Fantasy
    • From talking swords to animated teapots to tribbles, humans will personify absolutely fucking anything. “Why are we like this” is a question probably outside the scope of any single panel, but let’s talk about how fantasy can use this technique to delight—or horrify—readers. In fantasy we have the power to actually bring our dead to a semblance of life and infuse inanimate objects with consciousness or take cursed artifacts on adventures and tuck them into bed. What are ways to be clever about personification, and what opportunity space have we missed?
    • No livetweets, I was on this one!
  9. The Flavor in the Details
    • Everyone loves being CaptainAmericaUnderstoodThatReference dot gif. On the other hand, it’s alienating to feel left out of the in-joke. How do we walk the line of background details that add extra flavor and resonance for some readers to appreciate without hanging critical story understanding on references not everyone will understand? How do we incorporate allusions to real-world events and memes without their feeling anachronistic? What makes these details worthwhile and not just cleverness at the expense of the story?
    • https://twitter.com/BenCKinney/status/1538538122333544450
  10. Ambiguous Narrative Stances
    • What kind of ambiguity serves a story, in endings and in narrative support? Raising complicated questions with no easy answers is all well and good; avoiding dealing with what they mean entirely is an abnegation of responsibility. We can’t control reader interpretations, and there can be power in letting readers fill in for themselves what goes, but when is failing to take an explicit stance a disservice to the reader, and how explicit is it important to be? Where is the line between an ambiguous ending that fails the reader by failing to take a stance, or that serves the reader in forcing them to think through implications to their logical conclusion and intentionally decide on their own reading?
    • https://twitter.com/BenCKinney/status/1538560270653702146
  11. “…But That’s Another Panel” bonus panel: Can You Trust the Archives? Imperfect Memory in Fantasy
    • Many fantasies treat ancient archives — or ancient immortals — as if the memory they contain is gospel. But we know there is no perfect recording system, not to mention transmission system: human memory is fallible even when differing accounts agree on events, written records are biased in perspective and rely on someone who can translate them “accurately,” and digital recordings can be corrupted or their technology rendered inaccessible. On the other hand, readers need something solid in a fantasy world to hold onto. How can fantasy incorporate this tension of needing archives but knowing they’re fallible in interesting ways? How does who can access the records shape the story? How would the story change if Leia’s message to Obi-Wan in A NEW HOPE was hacked and edited, or if the prophecy was embellished by a scribe who thought the original was boring?
    • No livetweets, I was asked to be on this one too, it was AWESOME

Reprint: Eight Reasons You Are Alone

My science fiction story “Eight Reasons You Are Alone” was reprinted today in Flash Fiction Online! If you missed it when it first appeared in Nature Futures last year, here’s your chance to read my dark little story about sitting with the consequences of what you’ve done. You’ll have plenty of time to think, when there’s nobody left to talk to.

Flash Fiction Online has made the piece free to read. But as always, consider subscribing to the websites & magazines that bring you the free short fiction you love!

1. Haste.
Ceres
Shipyard had enough emergency shuttles for almost everyone. But because of you, none of that mattered.

Short Story Sale: Driftwood

Sale announcement: my science fiction short story “Driftwood” will appear in Analog Science Fiction and Fact! This will be my fourth appearance in Analog, and will hit print sometime in the next 18 months.

Alien life may be unlike anything we know, difficult to spot, impossible to communicate with. But there are ways to detect its presence. But if you find those complex molecules once you’re already in orbit around a distant planet, what the hell do you do about it?

The drone’s telemetry scrolled up the side of my windowscreen, number after number building toward an answer, overlaid on the live view of Driftwood’s longest mountain range. One set of numbers blinked yellow, alongside an unfamiliar symbol. I paused the scroll. At the screen’s edge, my husband’s videocall continued in thumbnail, volume down low. I expanded the image to a size I could see. “I gotta run. Something’s going on with a geo drone.”

Short Story Sale: “Sufficiency”

Sale announcement: my science fiction short story “Sufficiency” will appear in Lightspeed Magazine! Publication date unknown, but sometime in the next 24 months.

A quiet little piece about needing to put down your living (plant) car. A little hopeful climate future, and a little bit of grappling with the American mythology of independence.

Jill wiped xylem from her gloves and closed her car’s leafy hood. She’d kept Snapdragon on the road for almost twenty years, and if the world would leave her alone, she could keep him alive for five more easy.

Story Sale: “Here at the Freezing End”

Sale announcement: my science fiction short story “Here at the Freezing End” will appear in Analog Science Fiction & Fact! Sometime in 2022 or 2023.

A short, dark tale. About triage, and the doomed rescuing the doomed, and salvaging what you can. Inspired in part by my time as a backcountry ski patroller in the Oregon Cascades, hauling toboggans over the snow for endless cold hours.

No rescue coming for the outpost. If the Federation still had starships of any kind, they were defending the homeworld four wormholes away. Bigger empires fought over its body now, the bones not yet cold in the ground.

Publication: A Living Planet

My short story “A Living Planet” came out today in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact! This is my long-awaited “Martian’s Husband” story, inspired by my time at home during my wife’s year on Mars.

The spacecraft Hawai’iloa has fallen silent, halfway to Mars. Ethan’s wife is up there, receding and unreachable. But he still has a boss to win over, a job to keep. There’s nothing glamorous about his spot on the mission control team of an uncrewed orbital-cleanup spacecraft, but Ethan needs that simplicity. It keeps his eyes on the solid Earth and everything that might keep him sane, instead of raised to the emptiness above.

He’s waiting for word from space. But the Hawai’iloa might not be the only thing up there trying to contact Earth.

Despite the Jan/Feb 2022 cover date, the issue is available now in bookstores and online, though subscriptions may take a few more weeks to reach your mailbox. You can subscribe to Analog in print or electronic, buy the current issue from Amazon, email Analog (customerservice @ pennypublications.com) to buy copies of individual issues, or find them in your local bookstore. Download a pdf of the story here.

An electronic version is available to SFWA members on the internal forum, or by direct request. The electronic version will go public here once the story leaves exclusivity in February 2022.

Story notes will appear are now up on the Astounding Analog Companion blog!

Story Sale: “A Start to Judgment”

Sale announcement: my epic fantasy short story “A Start to Judgment” will be appearing in Kaleidotrope! Sometime in 2022 or 2023.

I love this story. It’s got everything you need from epic fantasy: a doomed and self-blaming hero, the clash of armies, deep mythology, and a personal showdown with a malevolent god… all in 1500 words (~6 pages).

Everyone calls Arsha the Chosen One. But her power cannot dethrone the Flensed Lord, because her magic is a piece of His. When they come face to face, He will reclaim what He owns.

The truth wouldn’t save anyone. With or without her, He and His creatures will butcher the rebellion.

As long as she hides her fears, they can believe they’re dying for a purpose.

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