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.

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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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New story by me! “Ten Things Sunil and I Forgot to Prepare for, When Preparing for the Apocalypse”

I have a new story out in issue 51 of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show!

(Yes, that Orson Scott Card)

I am very, very proud of this story, and I really think you’re going to like it.

This title should come as NO surprise to readers of this blog. The zombie apocalypse is something I’ve spent plenty of time dissecting around here. I’m not sure what it is about the apocalyptic scenario exactly, but I never get tired of it.

Making plans, surviving on your wits, doing what you have to do…except plans never survive contact, now do they? The best laid zombie apocalypse plans would most likely fall apart before things even began (I’m forced to admit, even mine).

But what happens if your plan is *totally* wrong? Like, your plan might be great for surviving zombies, but what if when the apocalypse comes it ends up not being zombies at all?

Maybe it turns out you don’t know as much as you thought you did.

Unfortunately, you have to subscribe to read the whole story, but you can read an excerpt here.

My story “The Lesser of Two Evils” to appear in UFO 5

I am VERY excited to announce my story “The Lesser of Two Evils” will be appearing in the Unidentified Funny Objects 5 anthology from UFO Publishing.

The UFO series is a yearly anthology of humorous science fiction and fantasy. In addition to my story, the 5th installment  will include stories by David Gerrold, Mike Resnick, Gini Koch, Jody Lynn Nye, Tim Pratt, Esther Friesner, Shaenon K. Garrity, and Laura Resnick.

I don’t normally write specifically to target anthologies, but I write something every year for UFO. Several of those stories have gone on to sell elsewhere, but not to UFO. I like to think of myself as a humorous writer, so the more I got rejected, the more determined I was to get in. Like, “Okay, you think you can write funny stuff? Well, prove it, beat out everybody’s funniest stuff.”

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

I’m so excited for you guys to read this one. I think my story is hilarious (is there a Giant Ego anthology? Because I’d totally be in it.), and I know Alex does a great job with these anthologies, start to finish.

Link when it is available to purchase.

“Her Path Lay Forward” to appear on Cast of Wonders

I am pleased to announce my story “Her Path Lay Forward” will be appearing on an upcoming episode of Cast of Wonders, the “speculative fiction podcast for young adults”.

This story features a very unusual dragon slayer, who is nonetheless pretty bad-ass. It also features characters named after basically every person in my family, a fact that I am seriously reconsidering now that it is actually going to be produced! So, uh…sorry if I used your name.

You may remember that my story “Downsizing Pluto” previously appeared on Cast of Wonders way back in 2013.

Details on the episode when it goes live, of course.

“O What Freedom, This Great Steel Cage” now available from Analog

My flash story, “O What Freedom, This Great Steel Cage” is in the May issue of Analog, on sale at fine newsstands now.

I want to point out Ian Creasey‘s name on the cover there. This is significant to me personally because years ago, I used to subscribe to a couple of magazines, including Asimov’s. Alas, I had to stop subscribing when I realized that I just wasn’t keeping up with my subscriptions. That stack of unread magazines has sat by my bed ever since, and the one on the top of the stack is the August 2010 issue of Asimov’s.

For SIX YEARS I have stared at the cover of that magazine, the contents seeping into my brain by osmosis as I slept. SIX YEARS of staring at those names, including (you guessed it) Ian Creasey.

I have since met Ian online, so naturally I sent him this picture of me snuggling with my August 2010 Asimov’s:

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Very happy to be once again appearing in such a prestigious magazine, and to be sharing a table of contents with Ian.