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

Monday, August 31, 2009

World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards Winners

The World Fantasy Convention is in October 29-November 1, but the Lifetime Achievement Award winners have been announced. They are Jane Yolen and Ellen Asher.

Jane Hyatt Yolen:

From Wikipedia, mostly: Jane Hyatt Yolen (born February 11, 1939) is an American author and editor of almost 300 books. These include folklore, fantasy, science fiction, and children's books. She wrote the Nebula Award-winning "Sister Emily's Lightship" (short story) and Lost Girls (novelette), as well as Owl Moon and The Emperor and the Kite, Caldecott Medal winners, the Commander Toad series and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight.

From Jane Yolen's web site: She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century.

Ellen Asher:

From Wikipedia: Ellen Asher is an American science fiction editor. She was the editor in chief of the Science Fiction Book Club for thirty-four years, from February 8, 1973 through June 1, 2007....Prior to joining the Science Fiction Book Club, Asher was the science fiction editor for NAL, when it was a subsidiary of Times Mirror.

From Readercon: Jane Asher was the editor of the Science Fiction Book Club for thirty-four years and three months, thereby fulfilling her life's ambition of beating John W. Campbell's record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job. Now that she has retired, she amuses herself by sleeping late, meeting friends for lunch, and reading only books she actually enjoys....

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ten Myths of Science

This post is not about myths of science results, like: The Earth is (Flat, Round). It is about the process of science. This post may be interesting to SF readers and writers who wish to get the terminology straight, and is based on an article by William McComas at Bluffton University.

For example, in Myth 1:Hypotheses Become Theories Which Become Laws, the term hypothesis, though used fairly casually, has three common meanings, and therefore the usefulness of the word is ruined, as explained in Myth 2: A Hypothesis is an educated guess. Three terms suggested by the article writer to replace hypothesis are: generalizing hypotheses (tentative or trial laws), explanatory hypotheses (provisional theories), and predictions. Or, alternatively: speculative law, speculative theory, and predictions. With regards to the terms law and theory:

With evidence, generalizing hypotheses may become laws and speculative theories become theories, but under no circumstances do theories become laws.

Here is a list of the ten myths of science processes:

  • Myth 1: Hypotheses Become Theories Which Become Laws
  • Myth 2: A Hypothesis is an Educated Guess
  • Myth 3: A General and Universal Scientific Method Exists
  • Myth 4: Evidence Accumulated Carefully Will Result in Sure Knowledge
  • Myth 5: Science and its Methods Provide Absolute Proof
  • Myth 6: Science Is Procedural More Than Creative
  • Myth 7: Science and its Methods Can Answer All Questions.
  • Myth 8. Scientists are Particularly Objective
  • Myth 9: Experiments are the Principle Route to Scientific Knowledge
  • Myth 10: All Work in Science is Reviewed to Keep the Process Honest.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mystery/Detective Buffs: the Low State of Forensics

Whether you're a mystery/detective reader or writer, or interested in the criminal justice system, you may be interested in this. Popular Mechanics has a series of articles that generally decry the low state of forensics. In the first general article on the state of forensics ("CSI Myths: The Shaky Science Behind Forensics"), they give anecdotes about convicted persons who were cleared much later using DNA-matching techniques. In one case, a fireman who reported finding a murder victim later committed suicide when the case was reopened for DNA analysis. This fireman was a suspect that the Sheriff's Department had suppressed from official evidence. The wrongly accused man had been convicted on the basis of odontology and the matching of bite marks.

The problem is, forensics methods were developed over time by law enforcement people rather than scientists and were not given scientific scrutiny:

...Congress commissioned the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to examine the state of forensics in U.S. law enforcement. The result was a blistering report that came out this February, noting “serious deficiencies” in the nation’s forensic science system and advocating extensive reforms. It specifically noted that apart from DNA, there is not a single forensic discipline that has been proven “with a high degree of certainty” to be able to match a piece of evidence to a suspect.

In one study in the U.K., experienced finger print analysts were given samples from actual past criminal cases and were given the task of validating the original results. They weren't told that the cases were their own past cases. The results of the reexaminations were often inconsistent with the original results. (Data was also taken on whether knowledge of the result of the first examination affected the results of the second examination.)

In four related articles, Popular Mechanics takes aim at four pillars of criminal prosecution and police work: finger prints, ballistics, trace evidence, and biological evidence.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Greeks Have a Word for it: 'New' Literacy

We've heard it so often in the last few years: kids can't write any more. It may have been true. I remember seeing the most appalling writing from high school students. However, social networking, beginning with text mail, may have changed that.

According to a Wired story, researchers at Stanford University, led by Professor Andrea Lunsford, examined more than 14,000 samples of writing of college students, including academic writing, blogging, email and other forms of immediate communication and found that literacy had take a giant leap not seen ' since Greek civilization'. That's a weighty statement. The researchers attribute this to the large increase in the volume of writing now done by young people, primarily social networking. Prior to immediate forms of writing, people wrote infrequently. Another change is that this writing tends to be of the persuasive type, so the quality of the writing rises as the writers struggle to persuade their peers.

Here is the full article on the recent surge in literacy.

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Children's Books about War

Publishers Weekly has an article about how some publishers are treating war in children's books, including picture books. One of the main comments from the article seems to be this:

“I don't think you can change the truth of a story to make it have a happy ending if it doesn't have one, but I think that for a picture book audience it needs to have a narrative arc,” said Allyn Johnston, publisher of Beach Lane Books....“It's really the story of one girl and her devoted grandmother, and what she's doing to try to bring her granddaughter back into the world after this loss. But then, as much in the images as in the text, you get to see the wider situation of what's happening there.”

This may be applicable to other tough problem books as well. The article gives titles and brief synopses of about 20 fiction, non-fiction, graphic novel, picture and allegorical books related to war.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Science: an Inexact Science

Here are a couple of articles that invite hard science fiction stories, both from PhysOrg.com:

Orbital mechanics
: we're used to quantum physics and other edgy sciences to play badly and make us rewrite the textbooks. But the basics of orbital mechanics go back centuries. PhysOrg reports a Jupiter-like planet (but tens-time larger) with a one-earth day orbital period around its star (i.e., its year is one earth day) . It is very unlikely that we would see such a planet since it most likely would have spiraled into its star. We may see evidence that this is happening to the planet within a decade. Here is the story.

Thermodynamics: in another PhysOrg article, the second law states that entropy can only increase or stay the same, which leads to a paradox concerning the reversal of time. A new theory proposes that entropy can decrease, but it erases any evidence of its existence:

Entropy can decrease, according to a new proposal - but the process would destroy any evidence of its existence, and erase any memory an observer might have of it. It sounds like the plot to a weird sci-fi movie, but the idea has recently been suggested by theoretical physicist Lorenzo Maccone.

This makes it more than difficult for physicist to study it.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Fantasy Insinuating Itself into Science Fiction?

FFO went all the way to the end of the universe for a link to this story. This National Post has an interesting article that questions whether fantasy is over-taking science fiction. (Of course it is because of Harry Potter.) More interesting are the examples of fantasy intruding into science fiction (which I assume makes it science fantasy). In the new Star Trek movie, which I enjoyed quite a bit, the characters invoked time travel via red matter, an unexplained substance. I remember uttering a WTH when that substance was introduced so casually. The National Post writer refers to this as a magic substance, and therefore fantasy, but at the same time undermines his argument a bit implying it was an instance of bad writing in the screenplay. I think it was more the latter and could have been replaced with a Time Travel button in the command module. It was annoying but didn't ruin the film. The article is enjoyable. Go there to see the writer's (Philip Marchand's) interesting comments about Carl Sagan's dance with the devil in Contact.

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Twitter Growth Due to Teens?

According to a NYT article, Twitter's explosive growth did not occur in the expected demographic. Twitter offers a communication medium somewhat like text messaging. Teens' short-message communications revolve around their friends, which seems to be a home run for Twitter. But teens seem to prefer their text messaging over Twitter's broadcasting (multicasting, really) service. Twitter has found more traction, after the initial swarm of early adopters, for promotional reasons, including personal and business promotion. Similarly, adults were late adopters of Facebook-like social networks but now account for much of its recent growth. For a more complete picture of this, here is NYT's article on growth of social networks.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are You Good [checking email] At Multitasking?

Are you good at multitasking? Bad at it? If you're a reader, can you follow a novel while listening to the news or music, and thumping the brats? If you're a writer, can you write the next Great [American, Aussie, Brit,..., Ukrainian] Novel while posing at your real day job?

Stanford University begs to differ. Though unexpected, their test results show that people who consider themselves good multitaskers stink at it, while the more humble folk, who think they're rotten at it, excel by comparison. Here is Stanford University's report on multitasking research.

Their research left out poor souls like Yours Truly, who stink even at single-tasking.

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Funny Quotes from NPR

Some writers use interesting quotes as triggers for a story theme or story title. NPR (U.S.: National Public Radio), reports via their blog on a collection of quotes from If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People? by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. Here are a few quotes that NPR cited:

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other 10 percent a bad reputation.
— Henry Kissinger

A politician is a statesman who approaches every question with an open mouth.
— Adlai Stevenson

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.
— Oscar Ameringer

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Monday, August 24, 2009

More Visual Storytelling

About a week ago, we had a post about a sandpainter/storyteller from the Ukraine. She tells visual stories in front of live audiences using sandpainting, charcoal and similar materials. Publishers Weekly now has a post about the same artist with two sandpainting videos. That post has the same YouTube video as our previous post, but includes a new story as well. In addition, the PW post has a video of an amazing Aussie shadow puppeteer on the Letterman Show, doing a rendition of a Louis Armstrong song, "What a Wonderful World."

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Greatest Hoaxes in History

No moon-landing jokes. The Telegraph (UK) compiled photos and brief explanations of various hoaxes in history, including faerie corpses and (cough) the Taco Liberty Bell. I doubt these are the greatest by a long shot, but they have pictures.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ray Bradbury: We are the Martians

This article in The Smart Set, a Drexel University online magazine, paints a political picture of the U.S. space program beginning with President Kennedy's Rice Stadium speech to when we landed colonists on Mars, according to Ray Bradbury's vision from The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury's vision of space travel is the lens of the article. Bradbury feels that the romance of space travel is the ideal motivator, but which is quickly dashed by the realities. Will we find life on Mars? Bradbury was asked:

“We just don’t know. It doesn’t matter, because we’re going to become the Martians when we land there. When we explore and build communities, we become the Martians. That’s a wonderful destiny for all of us.”

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Sob Story: Why a Broken Heart Really Hurts

"Sob Story "

Brad Mondopecks took Marla Sobinski by her quivering shoulders. "I want ya. I need ya. Ain't no way I'm ever gonna love ya. But two outta three ain't bad, baby."

Marla's eyes welled up with tears. "My mu-opioid receptor genes really hurt, now."

"Baby, your social attachment system may have borrowed some of the mechanisms of your pain system to maintain social connections."

Marla looked up at Brad's square jaw, and socked it. "They still hurt anyway, you [censored]."

The End

Yes, your broken heart really does hurt. To find out the connection between physical pain and social pain, go to this The Telegraph (UK) article on social pain.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

333-Word Flash Fiction

The origin of 333-word short short fiction is unclear, but it may have come into existence because such a story would fit into three iPhone screens. Here is an iPhone app that will download up to 333-word stories from TripleQuick Fiction. The app includes a form for uploading submissions for publication. TripleQuick Fiction is associated with featherproof books, a Chicago-based indie print publisher. (This story by way of Publishers Weekly.)

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The Secret History of Science Fiction

A post of yesterday, Is Science Fiction Dead?, spoke to the difficulty of defining science fiction in a changing market place. SF Scope has a related post today about an anthology edited to explore the edges of science fiction. The anthology is called, The Secret History of Science Fiction, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel for Tachyon Publications. These stories are:

making the case for the convergence of mainstream fiction and literary sf.

SF Scope's article contains the complete table of contents for this anthology. The list of authors includes Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolf, Don DeLillo, one by each of the editors, and others.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is Science Fiction Dead?

Here is a thoughtful article about science fiction by Hugo Awards winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch, entitled, The Marketing Category is Dead! Long Live the Genre! The title tells it all. People are running away from the tainted genre of science fiction and buying or viewing something else entirely: science fiction dressed up in another wrapper. One of her examples was Time Traveler's Wife, a bestseller and now a movie. Rusch pointed out that critics of the book had to see a chiropractor after explaining why TTW was not a science fiction story. She gives other examples of books that defy simple classification in a tradition genre, since they are mashups of some combination of SF, romance, mystery, thriller or horror.

For the rest of the commentary, go The Internet Review of Science Fiction web site.

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SFWA Web Site Updated

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has vastly improved the appearance and usability of their website. The style and design is improved and more logically organized. They appear to be adding more industry news as well.

If you'd like to see the previous site for comparison, here is a link from archive.org's WayBack Machine, from March 2008.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

News News

News about the news:

RIP: Don Hewitt, creator of CBS's "60 Minutes" has died.

In a somewhat related story: Dan Rather is still suing "60 Minutes" over the contested document ("Memogate") that Rather used during then-President Bush's re-election campaign to question his military record : 2009 suit and 2007 suit.

RIP: Walter Cronkite (who Dan Rather replaced upon retirement) has died. Cronkite is often linked to Rather in terms of the legacy of CBS.

Here is a piece that shows the tension among these people, but keep in mind that this is about comments made by Rather's biographer, not the journalist, so you'll have to consider the potential bias (more than usual).

Unrelated, another news icon:
RIP: Robert Novak, cable news commentator and news columnist has died.

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WSFA Small Press Award Finalists

SF Awards Watch, SF Site and others have announced the finalists for the WSFS Small Press Award. Here is the premise of this award, according to the WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association) web site:

The award is open to works of imaginative literature (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) published in English for the first time in the previous calendar year. Furthermore, the Small Press Award is limited to works under 17,501 words in length that were published by a small press.

Here are the finalists:

  • “Drinking Problem,” by K.D. Wentworth, Seeds of Change
  • “Hard Rain at the Fortean Café,” by Lavie Tidhar, Aeon Speculative Fiction Magazine
  • “His Last Arrow,” by Christopher Sequeira, Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes
  • “Silent as Dust,” by James Maxey, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
  • “Spider the Artist,” by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Seeds of Change
  • “The Absence of Stars: Part 1,” by Greg Siewert, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
  • “The Toy Car,” by Luisa Maria Garcia Velasco, (translated from Spanish by Ian Watson) Aberrant Dreams

Small gripe: why is it that--across the board--the official awards sites are the last sites on the planet to post their own results (or are so efficient at hiding them that they might as well not post them)?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quantum Flux Causes Everything! (The Onion)

I thought it was funny when The Onion was bought by the Chinese [that issue], but now they're making fun of science fiction. They've gone too far! Blast 'em with quantum flux. What is quantum flux? It does everything and explains everything in this typical science fiction novel:

In Fournier's novel, the idea that particles of energy can appear suddenly out of nowhere is used to explain events that might otherwise seem random, such as how a starship achieves light speed despite the total destruction of its engines in battle, why a loyal first officer suddenly decides to spy on behalf of the aliens who murdered his family, and what became of the security captain whose Southern accent was getting annoying to work with.

Listen here, The Onion, I've invented something for my new novel that will blast you so far into another time and place you'll never get back: quantum acid reflux. You don't want to be on the wrong end of that.

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Wired's Top 5 Bets for Life in the Solar System

As they say, you can bet on anything. Here are Wired magazine's top 5 guesses about where life might be found in this solar system (yeah, other than Earth).

Their best guess is Saturn's moon Enceladus. Here is a separate Wired article about the possibility of life on Enceladus. According to this article, the smoking gun is:

Particles in a large plume of water vapor emanating from the surface suggest that the moon has an active ocean that circulates life-sustaining nutrients picked up from the rocky interior below.

Other choices include Europa, Mars, Titan and Io. (Yours Truly knows there's life on Mars or else why would there be so many short stories and novels about it?) See the first article for the reasoning behind the choices and some nice images.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Writer's Tool for Open Office

The good: Writer's Tools is an extension for Open Office that adds a basket full of eclectic tools to the Open Office Writer application (appearing on a new menu). The tools include web look up of words, Google translation of phrases, backup of current document via email, FTP, or Amazon S3, timing of writing sessions for billing or in case you just want to know how much time you're spending, notes and tasks stored in a database, and others. There are some features that aren't writing tasks, particularly, but are common among writers, such as a microblogging feature to send Identi.ca and Twitter messages. The extension is associated with Open Office, not the operating system, so it should work on Windows, Mac OS-X and Linux.

The bad: if you barely survive using your computer, this tool might not be right for you, mainly because of installation and configuration. At times, you'll need to find things most users don't have to worry about. For example, when you first use the word lookup feature, you'll be asked to give the full path to your default browser. This is the file directory and file name of the browser program (executable). The installation comes in a zip file, which includes a local web page for installation; don't fail to look at this. Links for help files are found near the bottom of the above link. Linux users may have to "translate" file paths for their distribution.

The Indifferent: depending on your attitude about free software, you may find this a blessing or a curse: there is an instruction manual on Lulu for Writer's Tools for a nominal fee. The software is a free download, so you can probably try it out without the manual before ordering the manual. Think of it as a tip to the software author.

Cryptozoology in the Mainstream

Loren Coleman, International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland, Maine, 2005. Photo: Joseph Citro, with permission.

In a recent issue of The New York Review of Ideas is a Q&A with Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist of 50 years. A cryptozoologist searches for and studies undiscovered and recently discovered species.

Yes, Yeti, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster all fall into the category of undiscovered-but-reported creatures. It was clear from the interview that this aspect of cryptozoology, to use his metaphor, is the "Brad Pitt" of cryptids, and is the reason his field has difficulty with acceptance (and why he can't have an interview where that topic does not arise, and why it took six months to convince the IRS that his field was real). But there is serious study in this border area of zoology; many new species are discovered every year, but if they're smaller than a Yeti, they get no news. (BTW, the Blogger spellchecker complains about cryptozoology, suggesting that I change it to cryptography, cryptology or cryptographer.)

Coleman's interests are in the "character actor" species, like the okapi (giraffe family with zebra-like stripes, found in 1901), the coelacanth (fish thought to be extinct for 65 million years, found in 1938), and even smaller critters that will never get a movie contract. It wasn't expressed this way in the interview, but the "window of fame" closes quickly after discovery of a new species, because by definition, once the creature is discovered, it is suddenly in the realm of zoology rather that cryptozoology.

Since cryptozoology has been at the heart of many speculative fiction stories, here is the interview with Loren Coleman, cryptozoologist, courtesy of Flash Fiction Online.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Storytelling Via Sandpainting

Here is an extraordinary talent at work telling a vivid story via sandpainting to a live audience. She is Kseniya Simonova, a contestant in a Ukrainian version of a "Got Talent" reality TV show. The link provides the background information and a link to a YouTube video of her performance. The sandpainting tells the story of Germany's defeat of the Ukraine in WWII. Turn on the sound because it is an important element of the story.

This video has had a lot of traction on the Internet, but if you haven't seen it, it's worth a look (several minutes).

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Pay for Online News? Gasp!

The news is full of news about the news business these days. The news "wires" are snippy about bloggers using their hard-earned news for free. Newspapers are trying to reinvent themselves with the reality that print ads are down and insufficient to support the paper, which is further eroded by their own online editions. This is complicated by the opinion by many or most that anything that's online should be free.

Rupert Murdoch of News Corp has the clout to be the first to start charging for online content. According to PR Week, he'll begin this experiment with premium news across the board of his various holdings, this following losing $3.4B last here. For more details, go here.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Do SF and Romance Mix? (The Time Traveler's Wife)

The best-selling first novel by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife, is now a movie. The screenplay was written by the writer of Ghost, which the reviewer uses to prove that romance and SF can be compatible. (I'd quibble that Ghost, an excellent movie, was clearly a fantasy rather than a SF story.) The reviewer also argues that TTTW is not SF since the time travel mechanism is given short shrift. I think this is true, but was a strength of the novel. The new author wisely did not get wrapped around the axle with physics; the story was self-sustaining without it. Nevertheless, the reviewer finds the screen adaptation worthy, but not perfect. Here is the review of The Time Traveler's Wife via Sci Fi Wire.

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Google Books Offers Creative Commons Publishing

Maybe it's time to go trunk diving for your unsaleable novels, collections, poetry or non-fiction titles. Google Books will now offer a Creative Commons License publishing option, according to the Inside Google Books blog. You can choose from a variety of Creative Commons licenses. You would sign up with Google as a partner (a free service) to promote your book. If you are a True Believer in this form of publishing, then you'd publish your best novels or other works this way rather than your trunk novels.

Of course, you can publish the book on your own under the same license; you'd use Google's service if you think that would increase readership of the book.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Neil Gaiman & Cory Doctorow: Giving Away Stuff Works

At SF/F publisher Tor's blog, Mur Lafferty briefly describes Neil Gaiman's and Cory Doctorow's WorldCon appearance where they share their experiences with giving away digital copies of their works as both a Nice Thing and a strategy for increasing sales. Neil Gaiman was the guest of honor at WorldCon. As noted previously on this blog, Doctorow is on the leading edge of digital rights philosophy and is well-known for sharing his work and seeing increased sales. Gaiman is now experimenting as well, and seeing positive results. (Being a Hugo/Nebula award winner might help, too.)

Here is the blog article on Gaiman and Doctorow at WorldCon.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Space vs. Earth Chess Match

A great drama is nearing a conclusion: the Space vs. Earth chess match. The honor of Earth is on the line. A terrible day it would be if Earth--who invented the game somewhere during the imperial quakes of the early middle ages--should lose to spacemen. Here's the situation: the International Space Station was invaded by an expatriate Earthling chess player, Greg Chamitoff, who has wrangled a chess game of honor with Earthling elementary school children. Earth's honor rests on children's shoulders because of this diabolical match. The only saving grace is that the children may select four candidate moves and let all of Earth vote on which to use. I pray Earth is using all of her supercomputers, networked together, to select the best of the four children's moves. (I'm not certain, but I think the ISS has only a Commodore 64 at its disposal.)

The spaceman's goons at NASA and the U.S. Chess federation set up this match. Here is NASA's announcement of the Earth vs. Space chess match. Here is the U.S. Chess Federation's reporting of the current tactical situation in the game. Here are the moves of the game. Yours Truly has some hope for Earth. She is up two pawns and it seems that her queen rook pawn's threat of promotion to a queen will force the spaceman's king away from defending his pawns from an overwhelming force of Earth's pawns.


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District 9 the Next Great SF Film?

What are the great science fiction movies of all times? Surely no two people who cared would completely agree, but the National Post (online) borrowed two opinions, the top 10 from one source and the top 100 from another. National Post feels that District 9 may belong in or near the top ten of all time, and bolster that opinion with other previewers. The top ten includes films such as Blade Runner, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Here is the National Post's article on District 9, due out this week. Here is more on the movie, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009 Chesley Awards for SF/F Artists

The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) has named the winners of the 2009 Chesley Awards. Here are a selection of the winners:

  • Best Cover Illustration - Hardcover: Donato Giancola for A Book of Wizards edited by Marvin Kaye (SFBC, April 2008)
  • Best Cover Illustration - Paperback: John Picacio for Fast Forward 2 edited by Lou Anders (Pyr, October 2008)
  • Best Cover Illustration - Magazine: Matts Minhagen for Clarkesworld (April 2008)
  • Best Interior Illustration: Donato Giancola for The Wraith by J. Robert Lennon (Playboy, 11/2008)
  • Best 3-D: Vincent Villafranca for Otherworldly Procession (Bronze)

You can see the winners in the other categories and all the nominees here. Unrelated to the award, is an artist gallery that seems to be in its fledgling stage, but has quite a few samples.

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We're Doomed...But Not For A While

The end is coming sooner than expected, in cosmological terms. So you very far-vision SF writers may have to trim your numbers, and you SF readers may chuckle inwardly at naive writers who haven't gotten the word, yet: the sun may be too luminous to support life in a mere half to a billion years. And to add insult to injury, neither the earth nor the sun are ideal for supporting life. Well!

Here's the story in Space Fellowship.

Monday, August 10, 2009

2009 Hugo Award Winners

The 2009 Hugo Awards winners are in. Here is the official, complete list of Hugo Award winners. Here is a selection of the winners:

  • Best Novel: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
  • Best Novella: “The Erdmann Nexus”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
  • Best Novelette: “Shoggoths in Bloom”, Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
  • Best Short Story: “Exhalation”, Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director (Pixar/Walt Disney)
  • Best Professional Artist: Donato Giancola
  • Best Semiprozine: Weird Tales, edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: David Anthony Durham

Here, you can see the details of the voting and nominations (PDFs).

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009 Sidewise and Prix Aurora Award Winners

SF Scope reports the 2009 winners for the Sidewise Awards for alternate history and the Prix Aurora Awards for Canadian science fiction and fantasy.

Here are the Sidewise nominees. The official site as not posted the winners, yet, but SF Scope has posted them here.

Similarly, SF Scope has posted the winners of the Prix Aurora Awards, here.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

New Scientist: Gravity and Storytelling

There is a sort of gravity in good storytelling that pulls a reader towards the conclusion, but this post is not about how gravity affects storytelling. It is about gravity and separately about storytelling.

Gravity is so much a part of science fiction...mostly how to sneak past it. Yes, Newtonian physics describes its effects adequately for practical uses, and quantum physics has a placeholder for it in the form of gravitons, but what is it? That still eludes physicists. New Scientist has easily understood, concise (about 300 words) articles on each of seven aspects of gravity: What is it? Why does it only pull? Why is it so weak? Why is it so fine-tuned (friendly towards life)? Why does life need it? Can we counter it? Will quantum theory ever explain it?

We've had quite a few posts on storytelling, including these: 1 2 3. Here are three from New Scientist, which mostly look at storytelling from an evolutionary perspective, storytelling ape (a.k.a. The Science of Discworld II: The Globe by Terry Pratchett), origins of storytelling, and storytelling shaping human minds.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Bumbling Future Archeologists

Here is an interesting article by Hugo-nominated Frank Westfahl at the Locus Online site about bumbling archeologists of the future in science fiction. Most of the stories about future archeologists, according to Westfahl, are humor pieces in which the archeologists misinterpret what they find. Interestingly, one of the first such stories is by Edgar Allan Poe. Westfahl reckoned Poe ended that short story abruptly because, as a master storyteller, he knew it was going nowhere. There were only about four long works about future archeology, all of them about gross misinterpretation of the past, and none of them very good. Westfahl examines each of them. Here is a quote from one of the reviews:

As one example of their faulty conclusions, the archaeologists assert that "The Weans were probably not at all a friendly or hospitable people" based solely on two pieces of evidence. First is New York City's Statue of Liberty, whose "one arm upraised" is interpreted as a sign of "a threatening attitude." Second is the discovery of an "inscription" reading "the dodgers were shut out."

For the rest of the article, go here.

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Social Networks/Real-Time Web: Solution Looking for a Problem

Media Bistro has an article about entrepreneurs and the "real-time web," the constant twittering, updating and general busyness on social networks. Since readers and writers are early adopters of these technologies, they might be interested in the attempts to make a buck from them. A graph in a sidebar in the article shows twitter.com traffic rising from about zero in February 2008 to 45 million visitors per month in June 2009.

Ron Conway anticipates making large investments in the real-time web:

He thinks there is at least $5 billion to be made on the real-time Web, from retailers providing instant discounts on Twitter to marketers targeting ads to people based on products or services they mention in tweets.

For the rest of the article, go here.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

iPhone App to Novel

Okay...there are many paths to a novel. Your own life. Your relatives' lives. Something you heard on a bus...no, a train. Something you read in a Harry Potter novel...no, bad idea.

Here's an iPhone app, a game called Soul Catcher, that was worked into a novel. According to Publishers Weekly, the iPhone app sold about 25,000 copies, and now it's a novel.

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Jim Baen's Universe Closing

Jim Baen's Universe is closing in April 2010, according to an article on their website. (Source: Ralan.com) This is a major loss for speculative fiction fans and writers. Here is JBU's announcement, written by Eric Flynt, General Editor of JBU and noted author, who recently suffered triple bypass surgery.

I noted on SF Scope that Farrago's Wainscot is closing, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Upcoming Speculative Fiction Movies

Here is the outlook for speculative fiction movies for August-September 2009.

Aug. 7

  • District 9: SF: space alien refugees on Earth have weapons we want. There's a DNA roadblock, though.

Aug. 14

  • Ponyo: Fantasy/Animated. Juvenile fish named Ponyo who wants to become a human girl. Previews were graphically stunning.
  • Time Traveler's Wife: SF: Man unpredictably goes back in time, aften meeting his wife when she was younger. (Based on a best seller.)

Aug. 28

  • The Final Destination: Horror: Premonitions of death by car crashes, of course, lead to actual deaths.
  • Halloween II: Take a wild guess.

Sept. 4

  • Gamers: SF/thriller: mind-control tech. in online games controls fate of death row citizens

Sept. 9

  • 9: fantasy/thriller/animated

Sept. 11

  • Sorority Row: horror: slasher

Sept. 18

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: SF/Paroday: Title says it all. Man turns water into food.
  • Pandorum: SF/horror: Space travelers awaken, not knowing who they are.
  • Splice: SF/Horror: splicing human and animal DNA together...shoulda known better.

Sept. 25

  • Surrogates: SF: humans in isolation, served by robotic surrogates. Based on a comic book series.

You can get more information on these movies here.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Virtual Worlds Not Just for Gaming

An article at PhysOrg describes some university astrophysicists' presence on Second Life for research collaboration, the Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics (MICA). Early participants include scientists from CIT, Drexel, MIT and Princeton and presently offer seminars and lectures, there, and have larger ambitions for collaborative research. While the social sciences may seem a better fit, MICA believes the improved mechanisms for visualization are a great advantage for physical scientists.

Speaking of the reluctance of the academic community to take virtual worlds seriously because of their association with gaming, Djorgovski said:

“This is incorrect; while these technologies got developed largely by the gaming industry, and there is certainly a lot of gaming going on, virtual worlds are something bigger: a general platform for all kinds of activities, ranging from entertainment to purely professional. Just like the Web itself.”

We've covered collaborative tools for writers and/or artists in the past, here at Flash News: Etherpad, Rate My Drawings, TiddlyWiki, and Whrrl. Virtual worlds seem like a potential for a roll-your-own collaborative tool for reading groups, writers and artists. (But don't forget to do some actual reading and writing.)

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2009 World Fantasy Awards Nominees

The World Fantasy Convention 2009 has announced the ballot for the 2009 World Fantasy Awards:

Best Novel

  • The House of the Stag, Kage Baker (Tor)
  • The Shadow Year, Jeffrey Ford (Morrow)
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury)
  • Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory (Del Rey)
  • Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin; Knopf)

Best Short Story

  • “Caverns of Mystery”, Kage Baker (Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy)
  • “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss”, Kij Johnson (Asimov’s 7/08)
  • “Pride and Prometheus”, John Kessel (F&SF 1/08)
  • “Our Man in the Sudan”, Sarah Pinborough (The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror Stories)
  • “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica”, Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld 5/08)

Additional award categories include Best Novella, Best Anthology, Best Collection, Best Artist, Special Award--Professional, Special Award--Non-Professional.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Vonda MacIntyre's Pitfalls of Writing SF and Fantasy

Most writers have run across these pitfalls of writing science fiction and fantasy, but it's good to get a reminder now and then. Vonda MacIntyre's descriptions of these (currently) seven pitfalls are short and to the point. They include neologisms (Garfff brought a carrytab of steaming hot javening with boosem and sweetum on the side), Extreme Capital Abuse, sort of using an almost approximate spoken thing rather than a sensible word, etc.

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Speculative Poetry

FFO doesn't do poetry, but here is a speculative poem from 3 Quarks Daily about swimming in space-time. We'll only quote a tiny bit since the poem is short:

...cumulous as the cloud of
dark hair I’d one day wear
I dove down and came up
swimming in space time....

3 Quarks Daily is an eclectic, fun and highly rated blog. Outlets of speculative poetry include Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, Asimov's and others. A good source for speculative poetry publications is the Science Fiction Poetry Association's award site for the 2009 Rysling winners for short poems.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

SFRevu.com Review of Flash Fiction Online

SFRevu's short fiction reviewer, Sam Tomaino, has reviewed the July 2009 issue of FFO, which should have this link after the August issue is published; otherwise, it is the current issue.

This issue had a theme of love. Sam had a favorable impression of the stories. This seemed to be his favorite:

T.C. Powell’s "Through the Window" is centered on Maggie, who is sitting with two friends, discussing the infidelities and other faults of men they’ve know. She is watching something outside and decides to take action. Not any genre content here, but a very good story!

Sam also reviews the latest editions of Abyss & Apex, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Asimov's Science Fiction, Interzone, Jupiter XXV: Erinome, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Space and Time, and Talebones.

In a recent post, we mentioned SFRevu's review of recent speculative fiction books.

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