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.

 

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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!

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?

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.