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Friday, June 12, 2009

Ralan Adds Flashzines and Twitterzines Categories

Ralan.com is a site that's useful to readers and writers for finding literary magazines of interest and learning their status (such as story submission status or publishing status) and long-term or short-term publishing themes.

The familiar user interface seems to be in a transition, but two new categories have appeared of interest to fans of flash and shorter fiction: flashzines and twitterzines. FlashFictionOnline.com is in the flashzine section, of course. The sections will probably expand since they've just been added in the last day or two. Other sections include Pro, Semi-Pro, paying, 4theLuv, book, anthologies and others. These categories overlap. For example, FlashFictionOnline.com pays pro rates, but because Ralan also separates publications by size, FFO is now in the Flashzine section. This may cause some confusion regarding pay rates, but I think this organization has more advantages than disadvantages. It certainly is a boon to flash fiction fans. (I suppose they could put links from the pay-rate categories to the size-of-publication categories.)

Since the site is in transition, I've only linked to the Ralan home page.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Today in Future History: August 8, 2693

This article comes from the August 8, 2693 edition of the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and was translated into twentieth-century English by Robert Iverson.

Spilled Seed
"Rosetta Stone" Grain Cache Discovery May Cause Ecological Disaster, Minister Warns

Bab Al-Hamdu, Scandinavia -- August 08, 2693 -- Far from being a boon to paleobotonists and archeolinguists, the recent discovery of an ancient grain cache on this remote northern island may cause the destruction of plant species, decreases in native wildlife, and even widespread famine among humans, a top Scandinavian minister told reporters today.

"It is as if the rebels in the time of the Annexation left a bomb to detonate at our feet," said Muhammad Al-Waziri, Scandinavian Minister of the Environment. "These grains produce much more gluten and other compounds and thus are less digestible for modern people. They also grow exceedingly rapidly in cool, carbon-rich climates, and are not designed to self-restrict."

"This is biological warfare that the infidels deferred to our century," he added.

The seed cache was discovered in March by two Special Officers of the Ministry of Species Management, Ingmar Al-Muhaine and Bjorn Al-Ghamdi, while they catalogued the flora and fauna of the mountains of Bab Al-Hamdu in the Scandinavian archipelago of New Dhabi, the northermost territory of the Caliphate. The men found a large man-made cave filled with packets that contained a wide variety of different seed types.

The packets were labeled in many different languages, often showing the same message in different languages, including Middle Arabic, English, and Russian. Linguists hailed the find as a modern "Rosetta Stone" because it helped them decode languages that had been believed to be lost, including a dialect of Norwegian, which was thought to have been eradicated when the European Caliphate annexed the Scandinavian Provinces in 2239. Al-Ghamdi said in an after-action report that the seed package labels dated the creation of the cache to no earlier than 2005.

Minister Al-Waziri, however, sees a dark side in the activities that followed the discovery, and has raised the question of punishing the local inhabitants.

"This area is not fully Muslim," he said at a press conference on channel Lam-Meem. "The local population has lived for five hundred years through payment of the jizya, but has not converted. We believe that their hard living and lack of morals caused some of them to steal the seeds and release them into the wild."

The New Dhabi archipelago and its largest island, called "Cold Shores" and "Jagged Mountains" at the time of the cache's creation, has long been a penal colony for infidels. Although weather patterns make it less difficult of an environment than locations at similar latitudes (up to 81 degrees north), its average temperature is 12 degrees Centigrade in the summer and -7 degrees during the winter, and from October 26 through February 15 the sun never rises above the horizon. Its main industry is nuclear power generation, and only a small population (3,500 people), mostly ethnic Scandinavians and Russians, remains on the archipelago to work the plants. Since they are fully dependent on European sources for food, which has been withheld during rebellious periods in their history, Al-Waziri believes that the inhabitants may have stolen the grains to plant clandestine crops.

"They did not grasp the scope of what they were doing," he said. "These grains are starting to grow beyond Bab Al-Hamdu, throughout the archipelago, which leads us to believe that some grains might have been spread by birds. If that's the case, they may have already reached the mainland."

Analysis shows that most of the seeds growing in the wild are primitive stocks that have not been properly engineered. Their ability to thrive in cooler temperatures enables them to grow during the extensive Midnight Sun period. They not only grow well in high-CO2 environments, but even seem to consume carbon rather than sequester it.

Al-Waziri fears that their growth rate will overwhelm modern grains in short order. "If that does not happen, in'sh'allah, we will averted a disaster," he said. "But I am afraid because the grains do not appear to have been engineered with limited lifespans or generations. It is even possible that they were collected before such engineering was possible. I fear that they will eradicate our standard stocks of grains and other plants. Our people are not capable of digesting the grains that these plants produce."

"I call on the Scandinavian Prime Minister to investigate fully and impose the appropriate punishment for stealing on the guilty residents of Bab Al-Hamdu," he said. "And if they have caused an ecological catastrophe, they should be prosecuted for murder."

For the previous Future History post, click here.

Photo (from 2002, by the way) courtesy of Michael Haferkamp and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. For details, visit the photo's documentation page.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today in Future History: June 26, 2097

Los Angeles, CA (FlashNews, June 26, 2097) -- After seven years of negotiation and lawsuits, the fundamental rights of the world's smallest and largest sentient non-humans were recognized today by California's highest court. In two separate rulings written by Judge Harold Tung of the California Supreme Court, Anthill CA-OR2748C and the city of Los Angeles are entitled to equal protection under the law and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as "entities of special status."

A lawsuit filed by attorney Eric Lowe on behalf of "Angela", as the City of Los Angeles prefers to be called, claimed that the state was denying the city its rights to life and liberty by enforcing legal mandates that "artificially constrained city development in a non-selectively advantageous way," according to court documents. A suit filed almost simultaneously by Elise Van DeKamp claimed that the state was denying Anthill CA-OR2748C equal protection under the law by allowing developers to excise significant portions of its body -- the tunnels that compose the anthill -- to build a children's hospital.

Angela responded to news of the rulings with spontaneous parades and other activities that, though once considered human reactions separate from the city herself, are now accounted as a sign of the city's sentience. "Some people look at me as though I don't exist, and only the people who compose my body do," Angela said. "But I am an emergent phenomenon, and epiphenomenon, an entity all my own. I am not my people any more than you are your cells. The person speaking these words is driven by forces no more or less deterministic than those that control how your lips move. The people in my streets are like the endorphins in their brains, and after this ruling, we are all euphoric as one."

Angela's formal address was given through Mr. Lowe, who currently serves as her vocal organs. It was later followed by a repeated citywide chorus vocalized through many resident humans -- which Angela described as a "shout" -- of "I cheer because I'm here."

Anthill CA-OR2748C, nicknamed "Pete", has apparently formulated a statement about his ruling, but deciphering his chemical communications will take several more days, according to Jenny Alvarez, lead scientist at the Center for Aggregate Intelligence Research. "Communicating with aggregate beings is more complex than with humans," she said. "The cultures are more disparate and there's much more room for misunderstanding. We will not force Pete to work within the confines of other people's biases."

Not everyone agrees with the rulings. Chan Frederick, a lawyer for People First!, an organization that wants to recognize the rights of non-aggregate, traditional human life-forms only, is incensed. In a written response to the rulings, Mr. Frederick said, "Mr. Lowe shouldn't make the rest of us suffer just because he can't see the difference between something and parts of something." People First! intends to take the matter to the United States Supreme Court.

"This world is full of prejudice and unhealthy biases," Mr. Lowe responded, speaking on his own behalf. "The bigots are just going to have to get over it." Angela declined to comment.

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