Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Journalism vs. Blogging

Bernard Lunn is Chief Operating Officer at ReadWriteWeb, a highly rated blog*. In this blog article, he looks at the future of journalism, "Journalism 2.0," and its relationship to Web 2.o, particularly to blogging. FlashFictionOnline.com is a literary magazine frequented by writers and avid readers, so it is a safe bet that much of its readership is interested in blogs and blogging.

Here is the tension between bloggers and journalists:

However, the imperatives that come with running a real business tend to shift bloggers from the classic blog mode to something else. This has generated a lot of anguish among blog veterans who worry that blogging is "losing its soul." Journalists, on the other hand, face a starker, more existential threat as newspapers close shop.

Mr. Lunn gives many insights into blogging and journalism. Rather than summarize it all, I'll give his captions as teasers to the article:

  • Bloggers Becoming Journalists
  • Don't Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater
  • Begone, You Self-Interested Tech Cynics
  • Would Citizen Journalists Have Exposed Watergate?
  • Online Revenue Models for Quality Need to Evolve
  • Why Pay $2.50 to Buy a Copy of the Financial Times?
  • Monetizing Quality Online Is Harder

*Popularity of ReadWriteWeb at the time of posting, according to Technorati:
--16th by authority (number of links to ReadWriteWeb)
--23rd by number of fans

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We're Doomed: Virtual Lawyers

We're doomed, not by swine flu, but virtual lawyers. It's a sign of the Apocalypse. It seems some law firms are setting up shop in virtual worlds like Second Life to handle disputes like pirated virtual goods. Virtual money there translates to real money. So when an allegedly scuzzy citizen there sells pirated virtual goods owned by another, furniture in this case, actual money is lost. Some Second Lifers spend a fair amount of time and talent constructing objects for sale, and pay high rental fees for their virtual real estate.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner

FFO reported the short list for the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominees. Science Fiction Awards Watch has made an unconfirmed report (received by Twitter) that the winner is Ian R MacLeod for Song of Time (PS Publishing). Here is the website for the award. At the time of this posting they had not posted the official result. By their reckoning they have "...the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain."

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Oddities: Led Zep/ Cricket Plague, $62K Download

Led Zeppelin and the Plague of Crickets:

Do you like Led Zeppelin's music? Yes? Then have you noticed an absence of crickets in your area? Some towns in parts of the Great Basin of the US know that Mormon crickets don't care for Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones music. If they want to ravage these towns, they'll have to suffer a perimeter defense of loudspeakers blaring L. Z. and R. S. music. Perhaps they will go to areas of lower-hanging fruit and Mozart. I just had to look up Mormon Crickets, to find out the source of the name. By tradition, gulls saved early Mormon settlements from starvation by eating the swarming crickets.

The $62000 movie download:

You're traveling with the kiddies in Mexico and decide the darlings need some entertainment. You fire up your cellular data and download a movie, WALL-E. It takes about 98 minutes to download it. However you didn't consider the terms of your cellular data contract, particularly the roaming charges. You didn't opt-in for a roaming package, so later, you get a bill for $62000. Ouch. This sounds like one of those outrageous telephone charge scams, but it is only partially so, according to the article. The carrier at the endpoint dropped the charges down to $17000, which it claims were its costs from carriers upstream. Check your contract. (You might have expected this to be an illegal downloading story, but the article made no mention of the legality of the download.)


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Neuroenhancers: the Modern Prometheus?

FFO had an article related to transhumanism recently. According to Wikipedia transhumanism is:

...an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities. The movement regards aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death as unnecessary and undesirable. Transhumanists look to biotechnologies and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Dangers, as well as benefits, are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.

This is certainly the stuff of many SF stories. Now the New Yorker has an article, the Brain Gain, about folks who are using neuroenhancing drugs, not for medical treatment (such as ADD), but as cognitive enhancers:

...in recent years Adderall and Ritalin, another stimulant, have been adopted as cognitive enhancers: drugs that high-functioning, overcommitted people take to become higher-functioning and more overcommitted. (Such use is “off label,” meaning that it does not have the approval of either the drug’s manufacturer or the Food and Drug Administration.)

And the caption to a Newyorker cartoon:

Every era has its defining drug. Neuroenhancers are perfectly suited for our efficiency-obsessed, BlackBerry-equipped office culture.

If you're interested in this topic, the article has many anecdotes.

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Locus Awards Finalists

Here are novel and short story Locus Awards finalists. The rest may be found at the Locus S&F News site. The other categories include first novel, young adult novel, novela, novelette, magazine, publisher, anthology, collection, editor, artist, non-fiction/art book. The fantasy novelists seem wordier in their titles. I'm just sayin'....

Science Fiction Novel

  • Matter, Iain M. Banks (Orbit UK)
  • City at the End of Time, Greg Bear (Gollancz, Del Rey)
  • Marsbound, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson (Atlantic UK, Morrow)
  • Saturn's Children, Charles Stross (Orbit, Ace)

Fantasy Novel

  • The Shadow Year, Jeffrey Ford (Morrow)
  • Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt)
  • The Bell at Sealey Head, Patricia A. McKillip (Ace)
  • The Dragons of Babel, Michael Swanwick (Tor)
  • An Evil Guest, Gene Wolfe (Tor)

Short Story

  • "King Pelles the Sure", Peter S. Beagle (Strange Roads)
  • "Boojum", Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette (Fast Ships, Black Sails)
  • "Exhalation", Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • "The Kindness of Strangers", Nancy Kress (Fast Forward 2)
  • "After the Coup", John Scalzi (Tor.com 7/08)

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Death to Comic Sans

No, this is not a death-wish for some stand-up comedian. This is about a grassroots movement to bring the Comic Sans font (oh how I wish Blogger had that font) to an end. Why? you ask. Because it is inherently offensive to typographic artisans, apparently. Okay, I'll confess: I like Microsoft's Comic Sans typeface for captioning of photographs and funny bits. It was patterned after comic book lettering, so it was never meant for high art. I think the typeface hatemongers ought to take their meds.


J. G. Ballard, Novelist, RIP

Via NYT: Uber-dystopian novelist J. G. Ballard has died at the age of 78. He was known for his unapologetically severe stories on technology and society gone wrong and his stretching of the science fiction genre. He was also known for his abrasive/provocative/inflamatory stories often involving public figures. For example, his book that anticipated events like Princess Diana's death, "Crash," received this reaction from reviewer D. Keith Mano:

But at the time it was published, some reviewers, like D. Keith Mano, found it perverse. His review in The Times Book Review began: “ ‘Crash’ is, hands down, the most repulsive book I’ve yet to come across.” He continued: “ ‘Crash’ is well-written; credit given where due. But I could not, in conscience, recommend it.”

This Guardian UK article published Ballard's last story, about a man in a bad marriage who brought down the Tower of Pisa while his wife was atop it.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

2008 Nebula Awards Winners

The hand-wringing is over. Here are the winners of the 2008 Nebula Awards:

Best NovelPowers by Ursula K. Le Guin
Best Novella "The Spacetime Pool" by Catherine Asaro
Best Novelette "Pride and Prometheus" by John Kessel
Best Short Story "Trophy Wives" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Script WALL-E Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

The official web site is here, and includes additional winners and honorees. The nominees were named at FFO here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Raspberry Way Galaxy?

What does the Milky Way Galaxy taste like? Not milk. Raspberries, perhaps. While looking for life-indicating organic compounds (amino acids) in space, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy found ethyl formate instead, the chemical "responsible for the flavour of raspberries."

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Court to Internet Archive on Google Settlement: No

Brief update on this FFO story about the Internet Archive opposing Google's settlement on the use of orphaned works: nix. The judged refused to intervene, so Internet Archive may choose to do a friend-of-the-court (amicus) opinion.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Heinlein Prize: Science Fiction to Science Fact

SF Scope has a story about the Heinlein Prize Trust's award in its microgravity research competition to the University of Texas Health Science Center's Division of Nanomedicine. They will be granted a slot for their experimentation on co-sponsor SpaceX's Dragon low-earth orbiting spacecraft in its micro-gravity environment. The research time will also receive a $25000 prize and a trip to NASA for the launch.

The winning project is focused on the development of the science and technology for controlled, long-term drug release. This research, conducted in space, could yield important cancer treatments here on Earth.

For more information about the SpaceX Dragon, go here. SpaceX has some nice renderings of the craft in its proposed mission.

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Fast Track to Detecting Alien Life

Some NIST scientists think they have an simpler way of detecting extraterrestrial life remotely. They note that many molecules have a handedness called chirality. Like human hands, mirror images of chiral molecules can not superimpose. (Try to put a left glove on a right hand.)

A planet with no life would tend to have an even distribution of chiral molecules, detectable by its effect on light. A planet with life would change that balance since life replicates itself. Things containing molecules like amino acids and DNA create like-handed amino acids. The scientists think they could outfit space-borne telescopes to make this measurement.

Writing assignment: invent a chirality ray gun to make sure those aliens don't come here, say, on July 4th.

For a description of this by someone who understands it, go here.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Elements of Style Turns 50

What? You claim to be a writer, avid reader or student and don't have a Strunk and White's Elements of Style on your shelf? Shame. You can make up for your sin with a 50th anniversary edition.

Stand by please...I didn't have one on my shelf so I corrected that failure. Um, I'd like to redact what I said earlier, in view of my new acquisition:

What is it that you are saying? You claim to be a writer, avid reader or student, and yet you do not have a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style on your bookshelf? Shame on you. You can and may make amends for your sin with a fiftieth anniversary edition of the book.

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Google's "Sort of" Social Networking: My Profile

Google has made something of a play in social networking by providing a "google profile" feature. Their justification from the official Google blog is that everyone has searched for their name on Google and didn't always like what they found. The information could have been old (and possibly embarrassing) or associated with someone else with the same name.

The premise of the service is that you can start your official profile, so that it will be vetted...um, corrected.

Google would appreciate it if you considered this the top rung of your network of social networks; then everyone would go to Google for links to your Facebook, Myspace, et al accounts. Clever.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Online Access to Artifacts of World Culture

A U.S. Library of Congress-initiated and UN-sponsored project, the World Digital Library, seeks to provide access to artifacts of human culture from throughout the world. The LOC netted the first commercial supporter, Google, with its $3M donation.

...the World Digital Library would bring together online "rare and unique cultural materials held in U.S. and Western repositories with those of other great cultures such as those that lie beyond Europe and involve more than 1 billion people: Chinese East Asia, Indian South Asia and the worlds of Islam stretching from Indonesia through Central and West Asia to Africa."

At the World Digital Library site, you can click on a region and get a list of documents and view them. This seems a Good Thing in general. Many writers may find information and inspiration for stories there. In another article, it was pointed out that some of the items are copyrighted, according to the laws from where the item came...even if thousands of years old.

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Campbell Award Hopefuls

According to the official Campbell Award website:

The John W. Campbell Award is given to the best new science fiction or fantasy writer whose first work of science fiction or fantasy was published in a professional publication in the previous two years.

The Science Fiction Awards Watch website has links to interviews of the hopefuls conducted by the reigning Campbell Award winner, Mary Robinette Kowal (who's been on a roll this year, too [1 2]). The hopefuls are:

  • Aliette de Bodard
  • David Anthony Durham
  • Felix Gilman
  • Tony Pi
  • Gord Sellar

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

eBooks: Publishers Wonder, Where's the Money?

Many writers frustrated with having no agent or publisher nowadays contemplate the many alternatives available, such as print-on-demand (POD) self-publishing through LuLu and similar services, quasi-self-publishing through more actively involved POD publishers like iUniverse, and vanity publishers.

eBooks provide a new form of publishing that has a low cost of entry and technology that is not challenging. The cost and technology is accessible to individuals, and there are many fledgling eBook publishers to provide a more traditional publishing experience.

The traditional publishers have been trying figure out eBook publishing because they know they can't ignore it. Some of the top British publishers convened a conference on this matter during the London Book Fair, with the top question: where's the money in eBook publishing?

They worried about eBook readers, piracy ("...Scribd.com...“the YouTube of text”), and pricing. The article writer at PW,Lynn Andriani, concluded:

In the end, of course, no one solved the $64,000 question—yet the panel certainly provided plenty of food for thought for international publishers who are just dipping into the e-book market.

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Hawking Followup: Much Better

Despite the seeming gravity of yesterday's report of Stephen Hawking's health, he seems to be much improved now:

Professor Hawking is being kept in for observation at Addenbrooke's hospital this morning. He is comfortable and his family is looking forward to him making a full recovery.


Girls' Fault Boys Talk Bad?

In short, this British study shows that, particularly in primary school, the more girls there are in the classroom, the more poorly boys do in English class...by one-tenth of a grade for a moderately higher percentage of girls. The reasoning is speculated to be that boys are discouraged to see girls doing so well.

I would point out that to say there are more girls is equivalent to saying there are fewer boys. If you're guessing the cause, then one framework is as good as the other. According to the statistics, girls are stone-heartedly unaffected by the number of boys in the classroom. (I added the stone-heartedly for dramatic effect.) But, the article points out, strangely, that girls do better if there are some boys in the class who receive free school meals. (I didn't make that up.)

Is there a literary consequence to this? No. None. Nada.

Oh, wait, maybe the boys are so depressed at seeing girls excel that they aggressively seek ownership and control of publishing companies and thereby suppress women's publishing opportunities.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Million Writers Award (Flash Stories Sneaked In)

Here is an interesting and longish list of the best online short stories and magazines published in 2008. (Scroll down below what looks like the end of the article to see the nominees.)

This award is administered by storySouth, a respected literary magazine. The ten story finalists will be named in May.

The Status of Flash Fiction in the Award: The rules stated that the stories must be more than 1000 word long--which the editor knew would and had caused grumbling--so Flash Fiction Online had little chance of placing a story. However, a few flash stories from other publications sneaked in under the editor's nose, but he took the news philosophically:

...My first instinct was to kick out these stories. However, the simply [sic] truth is they are good stories, so what the hell, let's list them....

Here is his whole statement on this matter.

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Two on Physics: Stephen Hawking Very Ill & Your Quantum Mind

I. Professor Hawking Very Ill

Stephen Hawking is very ill according to CNN, BBC News and other news services. He is in a hospital in Cambridge, England, suffering from motor nueron disease. He is a professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at nearby Cambridge University.

Professor Hawking managed to appeal to a wide audience with his accessible trade books on physics, such as A Brief History of Time, while advancing the edge of theoretical physics.

II. Your Quantum Mind

It is not clear to me how abstract the author is being in the PhysOrg article when she says that quantum theory is perhaps a good model of human decision making. Using games, the researchers showed that humans often made less-than optimum decisions, even when a more likely option was clearly perceived.

In one example, people played a simple even-chance game. Afterwards, they were asked if they would play again to win $200 or lose $100. Their answer depended on the outcome of the previous game:

One-third of the participants were told that they had won the first game, one-third were told they had lost the first game, and the remaining one-third did not know the outcome of their first game. Most of the participants in the first two scenarios chose to play again (69% and 59%, respectively), while most of the participants in the third scenario chose not to (only 36% played again).

The article gave another example of a "defecting" game, where participants could guarantee a win through cooperation but either partner could defect. The outcome seemed to have more with giving the partner the benefit of the doubt than probability. Quantum theory is now gaining attention from cognition researchers where probability theory was only considered.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Internet Archive Opposes Google Settlement

Internet Archive has objected to the Google settlement on orphaned (out-of-copyright) works. They're specifically concerned that Google gets special protection that should be available to other content providers (such as the Internet Archive). In their letter, they are asking the Justice Department of the U.S. to intervene in the court case.

Internet Archive has several logs in the fire. They are best known, perhaps, for the "wayback machine," whereby you can look at the content of websites as they existed in the past. I listen to their newsgroup (a whopping 3 emails/year or so). They're also keenly interested in long-time archival methods of physical and digital content. They worry about digital media standards and physical storage media degradation. (Recently, NASA had to hire some specialists to recover early mission photos from an "ancient" storage tape format, using the only known tape drive of that kind; Internet Archive worries about such things.)

In the present matter, Internet Archive feels they deserve protection equal to that which they believe Google is getting unilaterally. Here is their letter to the Justice Department. They're going the Justice Department intervention route rather than joining a suite because they don't believe their specific interests are served in the present suit.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Five Star Literary Stories reviews "Strive to be Happy"

"Strive to be Happy" by David Tallerman is from our July 2008 issue. It's one of our Pushcart Prize nominees and a story that really worked for me -- one of the ones that has the most staying power in my flighty brain.

I'm honored that T.J. Forrester over at Five Star Literary Stories has accepted my nomination of it for a review. The reviewer is David Erlewine:
David Erlewine's stories appear or soon will in about 70 places, including Elimae, Ghoti, In Posse Review, Insolent Rudder, Keyhole (web), Literal Latte, Necessary Fiction (So New Media), Pank, Pedestal, and Word Riot. He lives near Annapolis and writes stories on the train and when his family sleeps. Visit him at his sad little blog.
We've been previously reviewed there with Stefanie Freele's James Brown is Alive and Doing Laundry in South Lake Tahoe; the reviewer in that case was Linera Lucas.


NASA Kicked Colbert in his Asymmetrical Seating System?

I've ignored this story for some time, but now it has concluded. NASA won't name the new International Space Station module after comedian Steve Colbert, the top choice in the unwise attempt to select a name through public voting. They had to go to the eighth entry in the grotesque list to find "Tranquility," after the Apollo 11 landing site, Sea of Tranquility:

  • GAIA
  • XENU

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spam Killing the Planet?

Everything has a carbon footprint these days. Now spam does. I've read before what enormous energy drains some of the data centers are with their gazillion computers running. If there is, say, one spam message per real message, then the data centers have to double their storage capacity. (Those are example figures only.) Spam has real and significant impact of the receiving end and costs the spammers little to nothing.

[As a sidebar, I'd be perfectly willing to pay a penny per email, if the spammers had to also. That would mean nothing to me but would break the economy of spam.]

Back to the story: McAfee commissioned a study, the outcome of which was that a spam message as a footprint of 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide. Not much, except that the report says that there are 62 trillion spam messages/year, and equates that total to the energy use of 2.4 million homes (33 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity) or 3.1 million cars (2 billion gallons of gasoline) . Here is the story and the actual report (PDF).

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I (strike that) We are an Ecosystem

We might not be amused, but we are not singular, according to Seed Magazine. We don't need to get all puffed up, though. We are full to the brim with critters. We are so profoundly filled with symbiotic bacteria that (who?) have jacked a ride with us that we are an ecosystem. A new area of medicine and biology has emerged to study the microbiome.

They are not simply random squatters, but organized communities that evolve with us and are passed down from generation to generation. Through research that has blurred the boundary between medical and environmental microbiology, we’re beginning to understand that because the human body constitutes their environment, these microbial communities have been forced to adapt to changes in our diets, health, and lifestyle choices. Yet they, in turn, are also part of our environments, and our bodies have adapted to them. Our dinner guests, it seems, have shaped the very path of human evolution.

Okay, get your Royals out and a brand new ribbon and start your stories. Here are some titles to get you started: We Are Not Alone, Aliens Within, The March of the Microbiome, Plan 9 from Inner Self, The Day My Spleen Stood Still, Close Encounters of the Bacterial Kind, Logan's Run to the Men's Room, Mary Shelley's Frankenmicrobiome, We Are Legend, Incredible Bacterial Hulk, Hellmicrobe, and my personal favorite, Soylent Green Bacteria.

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New Fantasy Award: Gemmell Award Finalists

The full name of this new fantasy award is the David Gemmell Legend Award. The award is given through public voting:

...to a work written in the 'spirit' of the late, great David Gemmell, a true Master of Heroic Fantasy.

The award ceremony is on June 19 in London. The short list is:

  • ABERCROMBIE, Joe – Last Argument of Kings (Gollancz/Pyr)
  • MARILLIER, Juliet – Heir to Sevenwaters (Tor UK)
  • SANDERSON, Brandon - The Hero of Ages (Tor US)
  • SAPKOWSKI, Andrzej - Blood of Elves (Gollancz)
  • WEEKS, Brent - The Way of Shadows (Orbit)
Here is the list of nominees.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Facebook Users: B- Students?

There is no need to mince words: Facebook-ers have lower grades than non-users, according to a survey of college students, in which the Facebook-users' GPA was 0.5 less (3.0 to 3.5 compared to 3.5-40) than non-users, and they studied about 66% less (1-5 hrs/week compare t0 11-15 hrs.

To me, it seems that the Facebook-users are more efficient studiers or better prepared. They sliced off 66% of the study time with only a 13% drop in GPA. That's great! (Small print: but forget medical school or a top B-School.)

That...does not necessarily mean that Facebook leads to less studying and worse grades -- the grades association could be caused by something else. However, it does raise more questions about how students spend their time outside class on activities such as Facebook, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities.

For more about this study, go here.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Twitter News: Worms and Twitterzines

On the positive side, Thaumatrope, a popular twitterzine has reopened for submissions:

We’re currently looking for stories for dates between September 14th and December 11th. We are also looking for serials for May through November.

On the negative side, the Twitter message service suffered some embarrassment [1 2] due to Easter weekend worms that sent unintended messages atwitter. Some of the comments on the first link are enlightening. All you had to do to become infected was to visit an infected user profile and you'd start spreading the infection. In theory, the problem has been patched.

For the geek-minded, the problem was poor coding practice that allowed URLs included in profile data to be displayed (non-escaped). Allegedly, the malicious new accounts that were the root of the infection were created by a rival service created by a 17-year-old.)

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British Science Fiction Association Awards

According to Locus, here are the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA.co.uk) awards for 2009:

  • Best Artwork: Cover of Subterfuge by Andy Bigwood
  • Best Non-Fiction: by Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn
  • Best Short Fiction: "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang
  • Best Novel: The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod

Here are the nominees from which these winners were chosen. At the time of publication of this blog article Locus had beaten the BSFA to the punch with this news. The BSFA should make their statement here in due course.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poor Lost Little Robot

An experiment: will strangers in New York City's Washington Square Park nudge a helpless little robot (a tweenbot) in the right direction along its way from one corner of the 10-acre park to the opposite corner? Possible potholes in this quest: potholes (of course), curbs, benches, trees, helpful but direction-challenged strangers, vandals, critters (including children), angry robot monkeys, etc. Kacie Kinzer's project web page includes a video of helpful strangers.

There must be a flash fiction story here. Get busy.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Whrrl: Real-Time Storytelling

Jeff Holden, former V.P. of Consumer Websites for Amazon.com has started a new company, Pelago, whose first product, Whrrl, is a sort of real-time storytelling service in the social-networking arena. In this article, James Turner of O'Reilly Radar interviews Mr. Holden about Whrrl. (If you don't know about O'Reilly's Zoo, then you're not a computer geek.)

A story in Whrrl has a beginning and story structure with multiple contributors who can inject photos and text. Here are some examples of its use, according to Jeff Holden:

What we're seeing right now is a lot of the families are using the product to share stories....Alison Sweeney, she's the host of the Biggest Loser and she was on Days of Our Lives for years...she visited the set of Days of Our Lives with her family. And so it's actually entitled, "Family Visits Days."...Melissa Pierce, who's a really very successful video blogger and just general blogger; she's done a number of very, very funny stories. She did one called "Lonely Bear" about this gummy bear lost in the world.

When asked to differentiate Whrrl from other social networking products, Holden said:

But one of the things about our product in terms of this gated communities question is that we actually let people have complete control over the privacy level, the level at which they want to broadcast. And they can control that separately in real-time and after the fact.

For a more complete representation of the interview, go here.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Top Ten Tweets

Mashable has a list of the top ten most extraordinary Twitter "tweet updates." Tweets are the 140-character messages of the Twitter service. My favorite is the gadget that allows messages from the womb, although these days, perhaps the job offer via a tweet would be most appreciated. You be the judge.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jane Austin + Zombies

It is an unlikely mashup, but "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is working for Quirk Books, which is more known for non-fiction titles. If having five daughters that need marrying off were not enough travail, the Bennet family must also fend off a zombie hoard. Not surprisingly, Quirk Books has had an influx of similar mashup proposals.

In this BBC online interview, author of the novel Seth Grahame-Smith told what reaction he received from the literary establishment:

I was expecting to be burned in effigy to be honest. So far the reaction has been mostly positive.

Most people have a great sense of humour about it, particularly the 'Jane-ites', who must prefer this to the 60th or 70th Mr Darcy's private thoughts collection that seems to come out every year.

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Design Contest for Hugo Award Logo

SF Scope has a fun post for illustrators. The World Science Fiction Society is holding a design contest for a logo specifically for the Hugo award. The details are here. The deadline for the entry is 31 May 2009. The winner will receive $500 and other goodies.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pushing the Genre Boundary Through the Award Process

Here is a SF Crowsnest interview of the Arthur C. Clark Award administrator, Tom Hunter. This award is the UK's main literary science fiction award.

One interesting note about this award was its inclusion of literary writers and publishing its long list of considered literary works. Tom Hunter had this to say about this idea:

It's certainly been suggested in the past that perhaps the award would do well to set a sort of best practise definition of what constitutes a science fictional work in order to aid the judges in their decision-making and serve as a public statement of intent.

Hunter went on to describe the Internet's role (particularly Web 2.0) in achieving this goal.

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UFO Prank or Area 51 Cover-Up

Some folks think that tying flares to balloons and sending them aloft of April 1 is a public nuisance. They claim that this was a UFO hoax and was responsible for many emergency 9-1-1 calls. But I think the public service punishment meted out to the pranksters was unjust. Here are the mitigating circumstances:

  • it happened in New Jersey. (No, please...just a joke to rile Jake, the editor-in-chief.)
  • the pranksters could have been under the control of aliens. (Prove it ain't so!)
  • this could have been a deep gambit by the Area 51 community to inoculate the public against events that might happen in Nevada in the near future. Do you fail to deny that this is not impossibly untrue?
  • I would say more that would stun you, but I'll have to wait until the black helicopters leave.

Keep your toes on the ground and your eyes looking upwards.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Legal Nightmares in Writing and the Visual Arts

Two slashdot articles about the Internet world to come wherein a designer is being sued for copyright infringement of his own works. It seems a miscreant copied his works on the Internet and posted them on a stock image site. The stock image service noticed the designer's site and is suing him...and....

A columnist for FoxNews was fired for reviewing [1 2 3] the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" from a partial copy of the movie leaked to the Internet.

It seems that there are clear analogs of these stories for writers.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Limited-Time: Read Nebula-Nominated Short Fiction

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has made available for a free reading the five stories it has published and are nominated for the Nebula Award. As soon as the finalists of the award are announced, F&SF will remove the links.

Here's a chance to see, easily and at no cost, what this magazine and the SF community in general value.

The stories include:

  • "Kaleidoscope" by K.D. Wentworth
  • "The Tomb Wife" by Gwyneth Jones
  • "Pride and Prometheus" by John Kessel
  • "Mars: A Traveler's Guide" by Ruth Nestvold
  • "If Angels Fight" by Richard Bowes
  • "The Political Prisoner" by Charles Coleman Finlay

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Top 5 "Malign-Posterior" Women in SF Movies

Here is a list of the top five malign-posterior (cough, bad-ass) females in SF movies, according to Jessica Martin at SF Crowsnest. The said women are the "five strongest, scariest, toughest women ever to fight their way across the screen." They include:

  • 5. Angelina Jolie in Wanted
  • 4. Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns
  • 3. Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • 2. Uma Thurman in Kill Bill
  • 1. Sigourney Weaver in Aliens

The article (with a much larger budget) includes a summary of the movies and females' (movie) parts therein.

Some of you probably are asking, what about Loretta King Hadler in Ed Wood Jr.'s Bride of the Monster? My answer is: I don't know. I'm just a bloggist.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Worrisome Geek News

Two stories to watch if you worry about what will happen to geeks who worry about stuff like this.

Google to buy Twitter? OMG.

IBM to buy Sun Microsystems? OMG.

Flash Fiction Online to buy Disney? Not.

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Clash of the Titans: Google vs. Guardian

The Guardian Media Group asked the British government to look into Google's use of online newspapers' content. They claim that Google is using the information for its own news service without paying for it.

I find this interesting because when Google first introduced its excellent news search tool a few years ago, I considered using it for aggregating a specific class of stories for a news service. However, I worried about Google's stern warnings against using their news summaries in other aggregations. (Scraping is is using scripts/software to grab HTML content from the web based on content filters.) In other words, do your own scraping; don't scrape what we scraped. They went after a few web sites, then.

It seems the present issue is the same, but higher up in the news food chain.

This story gives both a summary of the issue and counter-arguments against it, from one of The Guardian's rivals, Telegraph.co.uk. I'm not taking sides. I love both of these publications.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Changing Face of Children's Publishing

In this Publishers Weekly article, Rachel Deahl looks at HarperCollins' The Amanda Project. Lately, multimedia delivery to children has become a norm and perhaps a necessity for survival. The Amanda Project is an ambitious effort to press that idea forward:

And, whether the Amanda Project fails or succeeds, its existence speaks to the fast-changing face of children's publishing. Kids, more so than adults, are ready for books delivered on a multitude of platforms, willing to follow stories that begin in print and wend their way onto computer screens and various handheld devices. This makes for both an exciting and anxious moment in children's publishing, as longtime progenitors of print and ink tales are trying to figure out how to present content, and a reading experience, in a wholly different way.

The article gives some insight to the production model used. It is encouraging that they still believe that a project must begin with a proper story.

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Science Fiction/Science Fantasy

One fantasy for physicist and mathematicians is to work out the math to show that something is possible, mathematically, regardless of the practicality of it. Yes it can be done, at the cost of the GNP of Earth for the next 12000 years...and then the hard part starts.

Warp drives: yeah, Star Trek. This physicist thought he might have the numbers worked out. To use slashdot's summary:

...while relativity prevents faster-than-light travel relative to the fabric of spacetime, it places no restriction on the speed at which regions of spacetime may move relative to each other. So a small bubble of spacetime containing a spacecraft could travel faster than the speed of light, at least in principle.

But when quantum effects are considered, it falls apart. Dang.

And in a different but quasi-related slashdot article, a video simulation of what falling through a black hole would look like.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review from SFRevu

I always like Sam Tomaino's reviews of Flash Fiction Online, and he's done it again for March. He also reviews other short SF/F fiction, so be sure to check him out. Thanks, Sam!

While you're there, check out the SFRevu take on Graphic Classic Volume 6, which features "Bitter Bierce". We've featured Ambrose Bierce once here (John Mortonson's Funeral) and will do it again -- he has an incredible, dark, rich sense of humor. The Graphic Classic volume provides new takes on his work, illustrated settings of his stories, and excerpts from The Devil's Dictionary. That by itself makes it worth the read.

There's more great stuff over there, of course. Check them out.

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2009 Science Fiction Hall of Fame Inductees

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame has announced its inductees for 2009. Inductions will be held on June 27. The inductees are:

Connie Willis, who has won ten Hugos and six Nebulas. Willis most recently won a Hugo Award for All Seated on the Ground (August 2008). She most often explores the "soft" or social sciences, weaving technology into her stories only to prompt readers to question what impact it has on the world. She's also known for her comedy of manners style of writing.

Michael Whelan is a multiple-award-winning American artist of imaginative realism, specializing in science fiction and fantasy, before devoting all his work to his fine art career. His art has appeared on over 350 book and magazine covers, including many Stephen King novels, Del Rey editions of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series, and many others.

Viennese-born Frank Rudolph Paul (April 18, 1884 - June 29, 1963) was an illustrator of US pulp magazines in the science fiction field. Paul painted 38 covers for Amazing Stories from April 1926 to June 1929 and 7 for the Amazing Stories Annual and Quarterly, and accumulated many more credits.

Edward Ferman is an American science fiction and fantasy fiction editor and magazine publisher. He took over as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from his father in 1964 until selling it to Gordon Van Gelder in 2000. Ferman received the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor three years in a row, from 1981 through 1983.

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Save the Hugo Semiprozine Award?

Neil Clarke, publisher and editor of Clarkesworld Magazine has put up this interesting website/blog about the current rule change under consideration to eliminate the Semiprozine category from the Hugo Awards. Says Mr. Clarke:

This is a website born from an ongoing attempt to abolish the Best Semiprozine Hugo. In the course of trying to eliminate the category, some disparaging remarks have been made against semiprozines. By and large, I consider their statements about the worth and health of the semiprozine field uninformed. As such, I have invited (and continue to invite) the people involved with these publications to join me in providing content for this blog.

Our goal is to be both educational and informational. We’ll be featuring specific venues, providing current news, and offering some of our opinions on the state of the field as well as the Best Semiprozine Hugo.

At this link, the website lists some of the semiprozines (with links) that would be eliminated from consideration for Hugo awards. The web site will review the publications as a whole in time. Clearly, there are some fine publications in the list. I've reproduced the list below, minus the links. Mr. Clarke said that this list was compiled from 2007 and 2008 nominees for the Hugo.

  • Abyss & Apex
  • Ansible
  • Albedo One
  • Apex Magazine
  • Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
  • Baen’s Universe
  • Clarkesworld Magazine
  • Fantasy Magazine
  • Futurismic
  • Greatest Uncommon Denominator
  • HUB Magazine
  • Interzone
  • Internet Review of Science Fiction
  • Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet
  • Locus Magazine
  • Neo-Opsis
  • New York Review of Science Fiction
  • On Spec
  • Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
  • Postscripts
  • Shimmer
  • Strange Horizons
  • Talebones
  • Tales of the Unanticipated
  • Weird Tales
From Science Fiction Awards Watch (where I learned of this issue) is this description of the rule change (and other changes to the rules):

Removal of Semiprozine Category

A proposal to remove the Semiprozine Hugo was passed and forwarded to Montreal for ratification. The old qualification criteria from semiprozine are now used to define what is not eligible to be a fanzine. (We’ll post the actual wording later when we get official electronic copy). The vote was 40-28, and the issue continues to be hotly debated.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Guardian UK Nixes Ink, Says OMG to Tweets

In a huge move that will turn the newspaper industry upside down, UK's The Guardian will switch to a twitter-only publication, including its online archives that go back to 1831. For example, the story of the invasion of Poland that began WWII has been converted to:

"OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see tinyurl.com/b5x6e for more"

Now, I'm as telecommunicationally liberal as the next fellow, but I think that story deserves two tweets. You know, one tweet for Paris Hilton stories, two tweets (maybe three) for world wars. And their announcement was a bit hypocritical, since it was not a tweet. In fact, it was a grotesque 4286 characters, a ozone-destroying 31 tweets. OK, Guardian, get your act together.

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Final Chapter on the Wheel of Time Series

Tor Books will publish the final works in the Wheel of Time fantasy series, by late American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan. He died in 2007 of a rare blood disease.

Tor Books is proud to announce the November 3rd, 2009 on-sale date for The Gathering Storm, Book Twelve of The Wheel of Time and the first of three volumes that will make up A Memory of Light, the stunning conclusion to Robert Jordan’s beloved and bestselling fantasy series. A Memory of Light, partially written by Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson, will be released over a two-year period.

Universal Pictures acquired the movie rights to The Wheel of Time in August 2008, and currently plan to adapt The Eye of the World as the first movie.

The premise of the series is, according to Wikipedia: At the dawn of time, a deity known as the Creator forged the universe and the Wheel of Time, which spins the lives of men and women as its threads. The Wheel has seven spokes, each representing an age, and it is rotated by the One Power, which flows from the True Source.....

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