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.)

Update 10/1/2020: Be aware that the magazine Longshot Island and associated Longshot Press are by the same publisher.

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). 

We live!

This website was down, or in various states of deshabille, for a week or two following my host’s server move. But I think I have everything back in order. If anything appears to be broken or missing, let me know!

FenCon Science Guest of Honor

Delighted to announce that I will be the Science Guest of Honor for FenCon XVII, September 19-21, 2020! Come on down to Dallas/Fort Worth, we’re gonna get science in your fiction and fiction in your science! I’ll be there with Adam-Troy Castro, Maurice Broaddus, and lots more awesome folks.

List of FenCon 2019 Guests of Honor

Archon 43 Schedule

My panel schedule for Archon 43 look super exciting this year – I hope you’ll come join me!

Science Fiction vs. Fantasy

5 Oct 2019, Saturday 12:00 – 13:00, Madison C & D (DoubleTree – Collinsville)
Usually lumped into one, but which one is actually more popular? Is it cyclical?
Joey Froehlich (M), Mrs. E Susan Baugh, The Tom Meserole, Rich Horton, Benjamin C. Kinney

Searching for Markets and Writing to Them

5 Oct 2019, Saturday 13:00 – 14:00, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
An explanation of how writers find markets, build up a pro career, get paid to write (even if it is just a bit).
Kasey Mackenzie (M), Benjamin C. Kinney, Elizabeth Donald, Thomas Carpenter, Brock J. Hanke

The Same ol’ Trope and Dance

5 Oct 2019, Saturday 17:00 – 18:00, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
Editors want the newest freshest story…right?
Meg Elison (M), Angie Fox, Ms Joy Ward, Benjamin C. Kinney, Daniel Abraham

When to Finish Your Story

6 Oct 2019, Sunday 12:00 – 13:00, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
How to stop before you ruin your story.
Kasey Mackenzie (M), Mr Mark Tiedemann, Benjamin C. Kinney, Ty Franck, Rich Horton

Myths and Legends

6 Oct 2019, Sunday 13:00 – 14:00, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
Why are we still drawn to stories and characters hundreds or thousands of years old?
Mr Thomas Stratman (M), Sela Carsen, Benjamin C. Kinney

Dublin Worldcon 2019 Schedule

Three weeks from today begins the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in Dublin, and I’ll be on programming!

Here’s where you can find me:

Escape Artists podcast – Live Recording

16 Aug 2019, Friday 13:00 – 13:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

Come learn more about free weekly podcast fiction! Join the Escape Artists for an audio fiction show presented by all four EA podcasts — Escape Pod, PseudoPod, PodCastle and Cast of Wonders. There’ll be a Q&A session, swag giveaways, all the latest news, and live readings.

Talk: Neuroscience for writers and readers: the evolved brain

16 Aug 2019, Friday 15:30 – 16:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)

The human brain and mind have been topics of fiction since time immemorial, but our stories don’t always keep up with the science. The classic science fictional frameworks of the last fifty years have produced a lot of great stories, but a better understanding of the brain can lead us to new stories and new ideas. How can we, as writers and readers, make sense of the most complex structure in the world?
This will be an updated version of the talk given at the 2017 Nebula Conference and 2018 Readercon.

Panel: What writers need to know: the brain and body

16 Aug 2019, Friday 18:00 – 18:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

This is the first of a two-part series of panels designed to help authors on science topics. Join our panel of experts who share the ins and outs about the brain and body. Let’s dive into what’s possible, impossible, and probable at some point in the future. How do you write about medical issues without a medical background? How much do you need to know and how much can you fake, and can a writer ensure that they are getting their body and brain science right?

Kaffeeklatsch: Benjamin C. Kinney

18 Aug 2019, Sunday 10:00 – 10:50, Level 3 Foyer (KK/LB) (CCD)

Did my Friday talk inspire any neuroscience questions? Here’s your chance to pin me down with caffeine and pick my brain!

Panel: Intelligent Others in SF

18 Aug 2019, Sunday 15:30 – 16:20, Stratocaster BC (Point Square Dublin)

The outsiders. Inhuman intelligences. What are they and what do they signify? Let’s explore the concept of aliens, mutants, cyborgs, artificial intelligences, and other cases in which sentience is different to our own. How difficult is it to write from the perspective of a non-human sentience? Will we inevitably insert some humanity into our inhuman creations and what does that make them?

Escape Taxonomy

Over the weekend, Escape Pod received one of the highest honors possible for a science fiction entity: someone named a species after us.Image and description of Zelomopha effugia

The newest member of the Escape Pod team, Zelomorpha effugia, is a Costa Rican parasitoid wasp. The taxonomic methods used to identify it (and the other newly-described species in this publication1) are new and perhaps controversial. But I, for one, welcome our scientific controversy overlords.

This delights me beyond words. Ever since I was a child reading Far Side cartoons, the idea of having a species named after something I’ve done was a dream beyond imagining.