Story by me in Gallery of Curiosities issue #1

I am very pleased to announce my story “Bright and Falling, Like an Avenging Angel” is currently available in Gallery of Curiosities issue #1!

What to say about this story?

It’s an alt-history, steampunk (ethanol-punk?) Civil War / Lovecraft mashup in epistolary format. So if Civil War-era mechs battling tentacle beasts from space is something that sounds like it will appeal to you, 1) you should check this out, and 2) you’re my kind of person.

I admit that I have not yet read this issue due to the holidays, but I am really, really excited to. As a huge fan of The Drabblecast, who is still mourning its loss a full year later, Gallery of Curiosities seems fit to fill the Drabblecast-shaped hole in my heart.

The story should eventually be available in audio, but if you can’t wait, the issue is available for purchase now for an extremely modest price (the price of a 1977 movie ticket!).

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New Story by Me (and a GORGEOUS book!)

I am delighted to announce that my story “Spooks” is now available in the Agents & Spies anthology from Flame Tree Press.

I ask you, have you ever seen a more beautiful book in your life?

It occurs to me that I have never been in hardback before, and it is absolutely delightful.

As I am reading through, I am reminded how much I used to enjoy these kinds of gothic crime / detective stories. I went through a huge Sherlock Holmes phase around middle school, and read anything that I could get my hands on. In fact, it occurs to me as I read the other stories in this book, that this has actually influenced my writing more than I realized. Even though I don’t write this kind of fiction (aside from a single unpublished, thinly veiled Sherlock Holmes fanfic story), and rest assured, my story in the book is decidedly science fiction, I do maintain a certain fondness for the clever wrapping up of all the loose ends in the final act. My stories nearly always involve plucky heros surviving by their wits, using clues carefully threaded through the narrative to overcome overwhelming odds. If those aren’t hallmarks of Agent & Spy stories, I don’t know what is.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is IN. THE. BOOK. with me??? Yeah, no big deal. Just him and me and a guy named Rudyard Kipling. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Maybe you’ve heard of US??

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This life, man. Sometimes it is just too much.

Free Audio Fiction by Me: “Copy Machine” on Toasted Cake!

I am very pleased to announce my story “Copy Machine” is now available in audio on the podcast Toasted Cake.

Tina is the perfect narrator for this story. I have always believed this story was *perfect* for Toasted Cake, so much so that I had to wait through a TWO YEAR HIATUS at my shot to send it in.

TOTALLY WORTH IT!

Toasted Cake is one of my all time favorite podcasts. IN FACT, I actually wrote Tina a fan letter five years ago:

But anyway, I just wanted to say that I love weird fiction and my favorite magazine is the drabblecast. But toasted cake is like the photo-negative of the drabblecast. It’s like all the weirdness without all the darkness (or maybe quite as much darkness?). Don’t get me wrong, I like the darkness, but I guess I never really realized how much I like the more poetic, light-hearted side of weird fiction too until I had it all assembled for me.

Specifically, one of the smattering of episodes I listened to was episode 24: Zing Zou Zou. This story has really been haunting me since I listened to it. The funny thing is, I think that if I had read that story I wouldn’t have liked it. But your reading (and singing!) really made the story. I think that one really is better out loud (I can see why it would work as a play). Which is a long way of saying, you don’t podcast in vain!

Anyway, fan letter.

I never miss an episode of Toasted Cake, which is not hard because the episodes are so short! Go give my story a listen; it will take less than 10 minutes.

 

Free Fiction by Me – Random Play All and the League of Awesome

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I am delighted to announce that my story “Random Play All and the League of Awesome” is now available in audio on the Cast of Wonders podcast!

To quote myself from a different blog post:

I can not overstate how much I love trivial superpowers. As anyone who knew me growing up could tell you, I’ve always loved super heroes. From dressing up as one as a kid (or, er, as an adult), to collecting comic books, to apparel, movies, and video games, to the absolutely embarrassing number of times I’ve listened to Dr. Horrible.

But I never liked the idea of guys like Superman or Thor. I don’t want an unstoppable goody-two shoes. Show me a guy who doesn’t have it so easy. Show me a guy with just a *little* bit of power, and the wit and courage to use that little bit at just the right moment to make a *huge* difference.

This is one of my all time favorite stories, and I’m so glad it is available for free (it has appeared twice before previously in “paper book” form).

Go give it a listen!

Let it be known

The top search term to reach my blog in the past 365 days is “butt“.

 

And it’s not even close.

 

(We’re talking by a factor of 5 here)

MIRI Intelligence in Fiction prize winner!

I am excited to announce that I am one of the winners of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute “Intelligence in Fiction” prize!

The prize is given to:

…people who write thoughtful and compelling stories about artificial general intelligenceintelligence amplification, or the AI alignment problem. We’re looking to appreciate and publicize authors who help readers understand intelligence in the sense of general problem-solving ability, as opposed to thinking of intelligence as a parlor trick for memorizing digits of pi, and who help readers intuit that non-human minds can have all sorts of different non-human preferences while still possessing instrumental intelligence.

And the best part is, you can read my winning story, “Human in the Loop” for free!

I wrote this story while I was working on code related to autonomous vehicles. Technically, a lot of the problems are eminently solvable. But what about the ethical problems?

If an automated vehicle had a crash, say, and someone dies, who is responsible? The “driver” who was behind the wheel at the time? The manufacturer who perhaps installed faulty software? The regulatory agency who allowed these vehicles on the road? The software developer who wrote the algorithm? What about in the case of emergent behavior; actions that were not explicitly programmed by anybody but instead emerged organically from an artificial neural network?

I was also frustrated by misunderstandings related to what exactly neural networks are (“My CPU is a neural-net processor; a learning computer.”), and wanted to set the record straight on that.

I am very happy that the people at MIRI enjoyed this one (and that my science was sufficiently rigorous!). It’s so great to find such a perfect audience for a piece of fiction, and this is about as perfect of a fit as you can get.

Condo, no more

As of this morning, we are no longer the owners of our condo!!

To some degree, it is bittersweet to sell your first house. So many memories over the last 10 years, not the least of which was the birth of our children. All three slept in that bedroom! I think of Christmas mornings, family gatherings, birthdays…

As the last few weeks have wound down, every time I had to go over to the condo, it was very emotional. Would this be the last time I was ever there? There is so much muscle memory involved: turning the car from the alley to the parking space, the proper way to turn the key in the lock, which wall the light switch is on. It all felt deeply personal.

On the other hand, these last few months have been fairly stressful: having the first offer fall through, watching the savings account go down and down, waiting not-so-patiently for an offer, waiting for some disaster and to have everything fall apart (which happened with the first offer we got, and made us extremely paranoid after).

At this point I feel nothing but relief that it’s all over!

We’ve been in the new house for long enough that we are “moved in”, and each day puts the condo farther and farther in the rearview mirror. And of course, the new house is just about the most amazing place I could ever imagine living in. Still, there is always some part of me that is sad when a chapter of my life closes.

Onward, to new chapters!