Curious Fictions

I want to tell you about a brand new fiction website, Curious Fictions.

Curious Fictions is a story-aggregator site with the goal of helping readers find the stories that they want to read. Have a writer you like? (::cough, cough::) Quickly find all of their stories, regardless of genre whatever magazines they’ve published those stories in. You can search by keywords, genre, magazine, or author and then get an estimate about how long it will take to read the story (i.e. is this a 3 minute read or a 15 minute read?)

Curious Fictions operates on a “pay what you want” model. You set up your credit card when you create an account, but I promise you never have to pay if you don’t want to. But if you read a story by someone you like (::COUGH, COUGH::), you can toss them as little (or as much!) as you want.

Obvs you’re reading this here, so you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I have a few stories up. One thing I like about this site is that it lets me put up stories that were previously unavailable online, so you guys can read them!

Let me know what you guys think, and if you like the site I will put up more stories.

OH HEY LOOK AT THAT? Who is this week’s featured story?

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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.

BASFF 2017 Notable Story!

I am very pleased to announce that my story, “O What Freedom, This Great Steel Cage” has made the list of Notable Stories in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017!

It’s not EXACTLY the same as being chosen as one of the year’s best, but it does mean the editors thought that my story was one of the best 40 science fiction stories produced in 2016.

In fact, as I am writing this, I am realizing that my story is the only story from Analog that made the list. I…literally cannot even process that. It makes my knees weak.

Holy.

Cow.

Free Fiction by me: “Ten Things Sunil and I Forgot to Prepare for, When Preparing for the Apocalypse”

Good news everybody! My story “Ten Things Sunil and I Forgot to Prepare for, When Preparing for the Apocalypse” had previously appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show, but you could only read it if you paid for a subscription.

However!

For a limited time only, the issue, including my story, is free to read online! If you missed this one the first time around, don’t miss it. Act now, supplies are limited*


* Must be a legal resident of a participating country. Must be in possession of eyes and the ability to read. Shane Halbach is not liable for any injuries caused by the awesomeness of this story. Ask your doctor if reading awesome free fiction is right for you.

Free Fiction by me – The Wizard of 63rd Street on Podcastle

I am very pleased to announce my story, “The Wizard of 63rd Street” is now available on the audio-fiction magazine, Podcastle.

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This story is intensely personal to me, and I poured a lot more of myself into this one than I usually do. This is the story I was writing so hard that I missed my train stop (at 63rd of course) and went all the way to 115th.

From the show notes:

This story is set in my neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where gang signs and gun violence are a part of life. The people and streets in this story are, unfortunately, very vivid to me. I wish there were real life wizards who could paint a mural and make the problems go away. Barring that, I wish there were easy solutions that could unravel the thorny knot of generations of systematic discrimination and poverty, education and politics.

In the end, though, I went with an optimistic ending, even though it’s hard sometimes to feel optimistic. I don’t have wizard powers like Russell, but if my writing has any power at all to influence the universe, I would like to use it for the people trapped in tough circumstances who don’t have the privilege to escape like I do.

New story in this month’s Analog!

I am happy to announce my story “Alexander’s Theory of Special Relativity”is available in the current (March/April) issue of Analog.

I wrote this story just before Alex was born, so you can see that I had the name on my mind. 🙂 This is my third (third!) appearance in Analog, which is something I still can’t believe.

This story is about time travel, but mostly it’s about how sometimes people in a relationship change at different rates, and how sometimes they’re not quite in the same inertial frame of reference.

This story is not available online, but the double issue can be purchased at many fine bookstores and newsstands around the country.

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Free Fiction – Her Path Lay Forward on Cast of Wonders

I almost missed this one, since it came out on Christmas day as a special Christmas episode! I am very pleased to present my story “Her Path Lay Forward” in the PREMIER young adult, audio fiction magazine, Cast of Wonders.

My story is the second story in the episode, starting around minute 14 (although I don’t recommend you skip my friend Dave‘s story in the first half, of course!)

Here is the “story behind the story” for Her Path Lay Forward:

My children were looking at the scorecard of the excellent game Dixit, and they were debating about the character facing down the dragon in the picture.

I overheard their discussion: “I think it’s an old woman,” said my daughter. “No,” said my son, “it must be a boy. An old woman can’t fight a dragon.”

An old woman can too fight a dragon! In fact the more I thought about it, the more I thought an old woman was the PERFECT person to fight a dragon.

Specifically my grandmother Agnes is one of the strongest, most capable people I have ever met, and no matter how difficult a task she has been faced with in her life, she always does what needs done.