4th Street Fantasy 2021

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.

Register here for 4th Street Fantasy 2021!

Flights of Foundry Schedule 2021

Flights of Foundry is back on April 16-18! One of the first and best online conferences, back with another year of content for speculative fiction creators & their fans. Run by The Dream Foundry, the only organization devoted entirely to supporting early-career speculative creators (writers, artists, and more).

If you aren’t coming to Flights of Foundry, why not? Attendance is free with a recommended donation!

Here’s my panel schedule this year:

AI in the Real and Imagined Future
Saturday 4/17, 1-1:50 pm CDT (18:00-18:50 UTC)
Our understanding of AI and how intelligence works has come a long way since HAL’s fixation on the pod bay doors. Nowadays “AI” powers everything from what you see on social media to what happens when you make a phone call. Depictions of AI in media have and haven’t changed to accommodate this reality. What does AI mean for us in our everyday lives? How have our AI characters and motifs changed or evolved in response to that understanding? We’ll discuss all of this, and also take a look at where we’re heading and how these trends will continue with time and further development of the technology.

Panelists: Yudhanjaya Wijeratne (mod), Benjamin C. Kinney, Brahidaliz Martinez, Adrian Tchaikovsky, PJ Manney

The Unhelpful Legacy of Mad Scientists: Writing Scientists as Positive Role Models.
Sunday 4/18, 6-6:50 pm CDT (23:00-23:50 UTC)
The mad scientist archetype has a long history in science fiction and comic book media that we feel has had a damaging impact on public trust in scientists, as seen in rising climate denialism and anti-vaxxerism. In this panel, we will deconstruct the archetype down to its most damaging tropes, talk about the historical and philosophical context in which the mad scientist archetype fits into, and look at the gender bias in fictional depictions of scientists. We will also talk about craft suggestions and techniques to portray scientists in a more realistic and positive way.

Panelists: Sid Jain (mod), Octavia Cade, Arula Ratnakar, Benjamin C. Kinney

Capricon 41

With conventions still online for the foreseeable future, I’ll be attending a few cons I’ve always wanted to be part of: which means I’ll be on programming for Capricon 41, February 4-7 2021!

This should be a fantastic convention, with guests of honor Aliette de Bodard, Brandon O’Brien, John Jennings, Michi Trota, and Dr. Cacophonie Tamayo.

You can find me at a couple of panels & a reading.1 As always, I love talking about neuroscience and SFF, so come on by and join the conversation!

We’re all made of meat… until we’re not.

Thursday 2/4, 7-8pm Central, Willow
A panel on cyberpunk, cyber spies, and other cybernetic imaginaries.
Pablo Vazquez (mod), Benjamin C. Kinney, Casella Brookins, Will Frank

Science of worldbuilding

Saturday 2/6, 10-11am Central, Willow
Scientists talk about world building, and what it takes to get it right.
Pat Sayre McCoy (mod), Benjamin C. Kinney, PatrickJ, Barbara Bennett

Reading: Benjamin C. Kinney

Sunday 2/7, 12:30-1pm Central, Birch
Benjamin C. Kinney reads from “Conference of the Birds” (Analog, Jan/Feb 2021). It’s hard work being a mid-level node in an oppressive megacorp’s distributed neural network AI.

Star Trek and Optimistic SFF

UPDATE December 10: The recording is up on YouTube. Watch it here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdAGook8pnk&list=WL&index=14

Are you familiar with the Worldbuilders charity? They work to unite the geek community into a charity-supporting machine, and partner with global charities to make the world a better place.

Worldbuilders Twitch stream events Dec 2-4, 2020This month they’re running the Something To Look Forward To #S2LF2 twitch stream to raise donations for the charity Heifer International. And this Friday I’ll be lending my hand and brain to the cause. Friday December 4th at 11am Central Time, I’ll be on the Worldbuilders Twitch stream for the panel “Star Trek & Optimistic SFF” with Martha Wells, Dana Pellebon, Sarah Gulde, and special guest Anthony Rapp.

Well, I’m nervous! But I’m also super excited! I’m not a deep font of Star Trek lore, but it’s the SF I grew up on – not as a young child, but at the start of my adolescence, taking in the ethical exemplars and new worlds of TNG after dinner with my parents. And perhaps because of that, I have a lot to say and think about optimistic SFF.

Come on down to the twitch on Friday, then check out all the other events. If you can’t make it out to elevensies, the discussion will be up later on the Worldbuilders YouTube channel. Either way, if you can afford it, consider a donation to Heifer International to help create sustainable change in the world!

Story Hour

Last night I was one of the author guest on Story Hour 2020, alongside Craig Laurence Gidney. In the space of about 45 minutes, we each read a story that touched on themes of death, communication, and subjectivity – in very different ways. I managed to get through the Scientist Ghost story without choking up too badly!

If you’d like to attend these readings at your leisure, in the comfort of your home, you can watch the recording anytime.

Worldcon Schedule 2020

2020 Worldcon (CoNZealand) is just around the corner! They’ve had some scheduling and related issues, but it looks like most of those issues have gotten sorted out, through lots of behind-the-scenes help from the Hugo finalist crew and other volunteers. Here’s my final lineup!

This event belongs to Alasdair and Marguerite, co-owners of Escape Artists, but I’ll show up for sure to say hi to Escape Pod fans!

Brain-machine interfaces are currently in early clinical trials, and they’ve proven the ability to let a human brain control a robotic limb. Sometime in the coming years, this technology will move from the laboratory to the public. How might society respond to the option of becoming a cyborg, and the presence of cyborgs among us? Many factors will influence this, including media, fiction, aesthetics, and what kinds of organizations drive the rollout. What responses do we expect, and how will these  responses vary in different cultures and communities?

Panelists: Benjamin C. Kinney (M), SL Huang, SB Divya, Errick Nunnally

Coffee time for New Zealand’s timezone, beer for me in the US. Have any questions about Escape Pod, or want to discuss a bit of neuroscience for your fiction and/or curioisity? Come hang out!

Is corporate control of research and the drive for short-term profit crippling scientific innovation and basic research? Do established companies always feel threatened by new technology and lobby for legislation to restrict it?

Panelists: Benjamin C. Kinney (M), Raymond Sheh, Keith Kato, Diane Kelly

Human rights are a contentious issue – while many nations signed the UN Declaration on Human Rights, that consensus only formed because the Declaration doesn’t specify where rights come from. How can the definition and origin of “universal” rights grapple with the rise of general artificial intelligence? What rights are inherent to people made of small, sub-sentient devices scattered across an asteroid belt, or to algorithms of commercial origin? Will the AIs think we deserve rights, or will they resent slow meatbrained humans passing judgment on them?

Panelists: Dr. Hirotaka Osawa, L.J. Kendall, Barbara Howe, Mikko Rauhala (M), Benjamin C. Kinney

Thalience and sentience. Is there really a difference? How do we tease it out?

Panelists: Karl Schroeder (M), Benjamin C. Kinney, Eli K.P. William, SB Divya

Want to help me pick which of my stories to read? Poll forthcoming on twitter early next week!

Fourth Street Fantasy Podcasts

In-person conventions may be canceled this year, but the community has prepared all kinds of remote options for you to enjoy. Fourth Street Fantasy is one of my favorite conventions, known for its tight-knit community and high-level discussions. This year, 4th Street is bringing those discussions straight to you in four panels, presented in podcast form (with transcripts).

This year’s panels are:

  • “In Which We Consider the Role of Hospitality in Stories”
  • “The Fantasy Feast, or the Same Old Immediate Road Stew”
  • “This is Fine: Making Art While the World Burns”
  • “Systems of Communication”

I’m especially excited about that last one, because you can hear Yours Truly on it, in discussion with Django Wexler, John Appel, Arkady Martine, and Sherwood Smith!

2020 4th Street Programming – Podcast Edition

 

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

Update: Slides no longer available. Come catch me at another convention!

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!