Tag Archive for science fiction

I Loved My Visit to Black Mirror’s San Junipero

Black Mirror San Junipero episode

Black Mirror: San Junipero hit all of my (and Finn’s) sweet spots!

I think part of the positive reactions might be due to the fact that Black Mirror is pretty consistently bleak, but reality right now is practically a Black Mirror episode, so an episode that was (possibly) hopeful was such a nice gift.

And yes, the concept’s been well covered, so I understand why some may feel that viewer’s reactions to that concept are overblown, but many viewers may not be deeply read in scifi, so their “mind blown” reactions are understandable and a perfectly good thing.

I am fine if people discover, say, robots through Star Trek or Westworld without going back to read Asimov first (or at all) if Asimov doesn’t appeal to them (and no I’m not saying San Junipero is about robots).

We each have limited time to read and consume media, I don’t think it makes someone less of a genre fan or their love of or reaction to something less valid if they only have experience with recently produced media and not the foundational classics or the past century of fiction.

Yes, knowing the whole history of robot fiction might enrich one’s experience of a new robot story — or at least allow one say clever literary things like “this story was in dialogue with the works of Obscure Author, exploring the metaphor of so and so.”

But it also might not. And in the end, I love the possible conversations a story like this might spark among a group of friends around a table (in between Instagramming whatever artisanal fare they are eating, of course).


My Upcoming Readings and Signings – Not Just for Writers of the Future

The point of my readings and signings will not truly be to sell copies of Writers of the Future volume 30 (although that is encouraged), but to celebrate our love of the genre together.

All questions will be answered, many laughs will be had, and many words shared.

And I understand that many folks may have already bought the anthology by the time of the reading, possibly in e-form, or maybe don’t want the anthology for some strange unknowable reason (possibly involving alien probing and the suppression of human emotion through nano technology). If so, bring your copy, or buy something else! I’ll have Other Stuff to sign freely for you if you do.

Let’s share in a celebration of speculative fiction, and support other authors and the bookstore as well (ideally through sale of the anthology which does so much to support new writers, and is also of course a handy way to understand the market if you wish to submit to them; but if you buy any book, that is a good thing in my, er, book).

Perhaps you were wanting to buy awesome fiction from other local authors like: Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts; or The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova; or Hild by Nicola Griffith; or Requiem by Ken Scholes; or The Thousand Names by Django Wexler; or the latest Greywalker Novel by Kat Richardson; or The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper; or Reflected by Rhiannon Held; or Copper Head by Tina Connolly; or The Book of Joby by Mark Ferrari.

Or you wanted to pick up some mind-expanding goodness, like: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor; or Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie; or Authority by Jeff Vandermeer; or 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami; or Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson; or We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, or Cory Doctorow’s latest, Homeland.

Or grab the latest (or first) book in a series you are interested in, be it the Dresden Files or Game of Thrones or Divergent.

Perhaps you prefer the comic stylings of Jim C Hines, John Scalzi, or Terry Pratchett, or the magic realism of Charles de Lint?

Or heck, come in and place pre-orders on books like: Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell; or The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson; or Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake; or Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka.

But again, of course, the hope is to sell many copies of Writers of the Future Volume 30, officially called by The Critic** “The besterest volume ever.”

Hope to see you there, with (some) book or eReader or receipt in hand*.

*No purchase required to participate as a viewer. Mileage estimated based on in-city reading. See book dealer for additional details.
**That’s me. I’m The Critic. I may be biased, but I’m also completely biased.

See my Schedule page for details on upcoming readings/signings/Q&As.


Reddit “Ask Me Anything” for Writers of the Future

Want to know what goes on at the Writers and Illustrators of the Future workshop, what the awards ceremony was like, advice on how to succeed as a writer or illustrator, or my favorite flavor of milkshake?

On May 13th the writer and illustrator winners of this past year will be coming together to answer these and any other questions.  This giant question-and-answer period will take the form of an AMA (ask me anything) on the Reddit fantasy forum.

The AMA will be posted here on May 13th: http://www.reddit.com/r/fantasy/

Those participating in the AMA are:

Megan E. O’Keefe (Writer Winner and the AMA organizer) : Website | Twitter | Facebook

Randy Henderson (Writer Winner): Website Twitter

Anaea Lay (Writer Winner): Website Twitter 

Bernardo Mota (Illustrator Winner): Website Facebook

Shauna O’Meara (Writer Winner): Website

Trevor Smith (Illustrator Winner): Website Twitter Facebook

Terry Madden (Writer Winner): Website Twitter Facebook

C. Stuart Hardwick (Writer Winner): Website Twitter Facebook

Cassandre Bolan (Illustrator Winner): Website Twitter Facebook

Liz Colter (Writer Winner): Website Twitter

Oleg Kazantsev (Writer Winner): Facebook

Sarah Webb (Illustrator Winner): Tumblr Portfolio Facebook

Michael Talbot (Illustrator Winner): Facebook YouTube

Paul Eckheart (Writer Winner): Website Twitter Facebook

Leena Likitalo (Writer Winner): Website 

Kirbi Fagan (Illustrator Winner): Website Facebook

Vincent Coviello (Illustrator Winner): Tumblr


Prometheus Produce

/Begin Transmission/ So, I followed clues left in several newspaper ads and found my way to Prometheus Produce, hoping to discover the origin of the amazing deal.  Signs at the entrance advised that I use standard bagging precautions, but being a pseudo-scientist I knew that to truly understand something, you have to look at it really really close and, if at all possible, touch it.  What could go wrong? /End Transmission/

Prometheus Produce


“Surviving the eBookalypse” Live on Escape Pod

Escape PodMy story “Surviving the eBookalypse”, a satire about the future for books and their authors, is now live on Escape Pod: http://escapepod.org/2012/01/19/ep328-surviving-the-ebookalypse/

I wrote this story during Clarion West, partly as a response to a doom and gloom speech I heard on the future of the publishing industry. But folks like Mary Robinette Kowal and Cory Doctorow reaffirm my belief that we who create or consume the fiction, we have power to affect the course of things.  eBooks are really not so different from paperbacks if we push for the right to truly own what we purchase.  Books as objects can return to being lovingly crafted pieces of art, to be collected and displayed proudly in order to impress your date/guests.  Er, I mean, to show your love of the written word.  And in the end, all of us time-conscious readers will still want someone to filter out the good from the ocean of crap for us and will pay a little extra for that service.  Sparkly vampires aside.  So I believe the future of the written word remains bright.  And if I’m wrong, I will happily accept patronage offers.


Interesting note: the recorded pod cast is actually from an earlier version of the story, and the online text is from the updated version, which I see as a happy accident because A) I went back and forth over the beginning and am still not sure which I like better (though the printed version is tighter), and B) it is a record I think of how my writing (or at least editing) improved over the time between versions.  Although the very beginning of the story is the main difference, there are also a number of small differences that demonstrate opportunities to eliminate unneeded words and poor sentence structures.  The story synchs up pretty quickly (once Andre enters the library) so if you listen and follow along with the text, you’ll spot the differences.

Thank you to Roberto Suarez for his podcast reading.

Cheers, and I hope you enjoy it.


2020 Visions Available for Pre-Order, with Bonus!

The anthology 2020 Visions, in which my story “A Shelter for Living Things” appears, is now

2020 Visions Color Proof

Color Proof of Cover by artist Jonathon Fowler

available for pre-order at a special price (in the US).

Plus if you pre-order, you get a year’s subscription to M-Brane SF Magazine.

The Anthology is edited by Rick Novy and features stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, Sheila Finch, Jason Ridler, Ernest Hogan, David Lee Summers, Jeff Spock, Emily Devenport, Cat Rambo, Jack Mangan, David Boop, Spencer German Ellsworth, Gareth L Powell, Alethea Kontis, Alex Wilson, and David Gerrold.



Is it Science Fiction or Science Fantasy?

My definitive answer to which the world shall henceforth adhere is now up at Fantasy Magazine:



Hey, I Thought Our Contract Said No More Crop Circles?

Well, I fear we at Q.U. are about to lose our exclusive vending deal with visiting aliens.

You see, our Crypto-Culinary Arts staff long ago realized why aliens really visit Earth. 

Banana Cream Pie.

It’s quite obvious when you think about it. 

Everyone who has traveled inter-dimensionally or via quantum wormholes knows that any food you take with you tends to come out tasting a bit funny.  I think it has to do with the data compression, or perhaps the matter-to-energy-to-matter conversion process. 

The guys in the Q.U. Physics Department explained it as: (t/m) = (Wormhole Metric. (see footnote)

Or in layman’s terms, all inanimate organic material comes out with a taste and a texture not unlike Twinkies used to sponge the sweat from beneath oversized man-breasts. 

And while most people like Twinkies (and some are fond of man-breasts), I imagine it gets old after a while to eat nothing but.

Further, aliens are horribly unimaginative and unskilled when it comes to creating tasty dishes.  I think it has to do with their lack of noses.  Or perhaps they lost the necessary genes during a cloning glitch. 

The point is, aliens decided to create sources of food at their destination points rather than bring the food with them.

Thus, the aliens nurtured our ape ancestors on along the evolutionary path as being the most likely to produce desirable foods (we already enjoyed bananas, you see, and the aliens saw the incredible potential in the fruit, and to a lesser extent in us). 

And so, here we are, created specifically to invent new flavor experiences for our alien visitors.  Q.U. being one of the few institutions aware of the above facts, and having established a relationship with the alien overlords who rule 3 out of the 10 leading world governments, we have had a pretty exclusive deal to provide pies to the visiting aliens.

We have, of course, been aware of their attempts to bypass us for some time.  Their sad attempts to discover the secrets of making whipped cream have led to countless cow mutilations. 

But now, apparently, they are getting serious about opening up to competing vendors.  Hence, their “want ad” for pie, as illustrated below (taken from the Daily Mail site), which was recently left as a crop circle in the U.K.

Crop Circle Diagram 

(Footnote: In the provided physics formula, “t” is the Twinkienessence of the material in question, and “m” is the probability of man-breast sweat appearing spontaneously on Schrödinger’s brow were you to leave him trapped in a shielded box with a deadly gas pellet and one pissed-off cat.  The rest is a traversable wormhole metric. (duh)).


Your Assignment:

Share any particular requests you believe aliens have made for foodstuffs, or your thoughts on crop circles, or wormhole travel.  Or for that matter, a good banana cream pie recipe.


Memo: Escaped Monkey Alert!

Dear Q.U. Faculty and Students:

I’m afraid a group of monkeys has escaped from the Q.U. psychology lab, released by well-meaning but misguided animal rights activists. 


WARNING: These monkeys have been infected with “all the rage.”


If they bite anyone, I fear a plague of trend zombies may spread out of control, destroying the civilized world in as little as 28 days.


And before the news agencies start digging, let me just say up front that yes, this has happened before.  The Macarena.  Post-Grunge Goatees.  Baggy Pants with Boxers Showing.  Boy bands. Beanie Babies. Reality Television. Suspender shorts. Half-Shirts.  Giant sunglasses.  Mullets. Muffin tops.  Emo.  All started by past escapes of the trend monkeys.


So you can see what is at stake here.


Being that Q.U. is the preeminent source of fantasy and science fiction knowledge, it is no surprise that the trend monkeys have created a few zombies in the genre audience as well. 


One monkey got loose in our creative writing department, and spawned the trend of romance novels featuring brooding, conflicted vampires and/or snarky, tough women with dark powers and darker pasts.  Another monkey got loose in our history department and created a gaggle of steampunk costumers (not the good kind).  And we won’t even talk about black trenchcoats.


Your Assignment: Help us track the Trend Monkeys by reporting any trend-zombie sightings.  Any particularly annoying, ridiculous, or shallow trends you spot may be the clue that leads us to these creatures.  Extra credit if the trends are genre-related.


PS – approach with caution.  They fling poo.


Is Our Nation Safe from Terrorist Trolls?

Open Letter from the Q.U. Creative Writing Department
as scribed by Randall Scott Henderson

On behalf of fantasy writers everywhere, can I just say how offended I am that the Department of Homeland Security is ignoring us?

That’s right, you heard me correctly. I actually complained about being ignored by the Department of Homeland Security.


Because, they, and other government agencies, have been bringing in “hard” science fiction writers to help them imagine “what if” scenarios and solutions for terrorist attacks and disasters.

The SIGMA group, in fact, was started years ago by Arlan Andrews specifically to advise government officials, and includes Jerry Pournelle, Greg Bear, Sage Walker and Larry Niven.

Okay, yeah, a smart bunch, granted. Heck, most members have at least one technical doctorate degree. So don’t get me wrong, I’m glad at least that these government agencies have good taste in sci-fi authors.

But while we may be ready in actuality for the Andromeda Strain (as seen in the recently released mini-series), I’m pretty certain our government is completely unprepared for, say, attack by evil fairies.

That is because most truly hard-core science fiction writers would never publicly admit belief in magic or magical creatures, and certainly not advise the government on their dangers. They sadly repress such beliefs, only letting them out in furtive 3am posts to questionable fantasy websites under the anonymity of online aliases, constantly afraid their spouse or children will walk in on them and catch them in the lie of their double life.

You know who you are.

But I digress.

Luckily, I’ve never had to be asked for advice in order to happily give it. So DHS, if you are reading this (and I know you are, since Skynet has alerted you to this article), here’s some free advice for ya. 

Do Not Negotiate With Terra-ists
Kudos on creating the whole “alien” mythology around the Roswell goblin invasion. 

For some reason, it’s so much easier for folks to believe those squat gray little creatures were from space than to believe they were a small horde of foul subterranean creatures. Understandable in the 1940’s and ’50’s, when people thought Amazon women might live on the moon — but it’s a bit surprising today, in spite of your clever propaganda films like the forthcoming X-Files flick.

Yeah, I’ll bet you want us to believe.

I mean, surely you’ve had some writers from the “Mundane Science Fiction” movement tell you all the obstacles to intergalactic travel?

But I happen to know for a fact that the Roswell grays were summoned forth from the bowels of a magical realm by Mrs. Beatrice Beauregard of 25038 Wilshire Lane, Roswell, New Mexico, who in a fit of drinking and black magic (never a good mix) conjured them to rid her of her deadbeat husband, Ed.

Now, I hear there are factions pushing for us to release the goblin prisoners from Area 51 and negotiate a friendly trade agreement with their world under the premise that capitalism will transform them into friends (and now that we’re nearing our saturation point for Walmarts, McDonalds and Starbucks in Earth’s own third-world countries), but I really must advise against it.

Unlike in our world, where “evil” is the guy we sold arms to last year but will buy oil from next year (when gas reaches $7 a gallon, and oil execs become the official fourth branch of government), in fantasy realms evil is frequently, well, evil. It cannot be negotiated with, unless by negotiate you mean complete submission and enslavement of the human race.

Role-Playing Recruitment Techniques
WotC (codename “Wizards of the Coast”) just released their version 4.0 Dungeons & Dragons rules this past weekend (and thus, of course, an entirely new set of books).

It is a poorly kept secret that “WotC” is really a front for the UN’s “World Organization for Trans-reality Combat,” and that their buyout of TSR and subsequent, repeated revisions to the D&D game rules is all a means of finding and recruiting a legion of experts on battling monsters and mages — just in case real mages and monsters invade. You know, kind of a Last Starfighter deal.

But it would be nice if the US government had its own similar program.

Might I suggest co-opting Shadowrun? Given its futuristic urban setting, you will have the advantage of easily incorporating all your cyber-samurais and hacker strike-teams (as suggested by the sci-fi writers) with the magical attack and defense squads you should begin to form based on advice from fantasy writers.

Also, while we’re discussing recruitment, be sure to search the White House (translation: king’s castle) kitchen and cleaning staff for a neglected orphan child (preferably with a foster-sibling in the military) – pretty much guaranteed that he or she will turn out to be a hero of critical importance in the coming magic wars.

Creating Supersoldiers that Don’t Suck (or Bite)
I’m sure the sci-fi writers have given you all sorts of nifty ideas for creating supersoldiers.

Cybernetic enhancements. Wetware. Genetic manipulation. Prozac. Fine suggestions, and it looks like you’ve adopted at least two of ‘em.

But just know that such preparations will barely be adequate to prepare human men and women to battle, say, rabid dwarves.

Oh yeah, and those real life “Iron Man” exoskeletons that the sci-fi guys told you to build? Well, just make sure they have flame-throwers to take out the frost demons, ice elementals, and, of course, the abominable snowmen.

But most importantly, please halt your attempts to enhance soldiers by using the blood from captured werewolves and vampires. Seriously. That will only end in pain and disaster for everyone involved. Much like watching Full Eclipse.

Expand Port Security to include Portal Security
No, I’m not talking about wormholes or inter-dimensional gateways – the science fiction guys already prepped you on those. I’m talking portals to magical lands and alternate histories.

I know you probably don’t consider portals much of a danger. The Pentagon has doubtless given a low threat assessment to a bunch of guys running around with swords and bows. And the covert arm of the DEA (a secretive group indeed) has probably classified fairy dust as non-lethal and non-addictive.

But trust me, you haven’t seen the real evil in these realms. Throwing a cheap padlock on the wardrobe or a blanket over the mirror ain’t gonna stop the real monsters if they decide to come through the portal inside it.

On the Other Hand
Not that such preparations will do much good, I suppose. I mean, you should see how things fall apart around here if it snows an inch – and winter happens every year. I’d hate to see state and local officials attempt to implement an official “Snow Giant Attack” disaster plan.

Your surest protection is to be prepared to defend your own self and family against magical menaces. For example, the “Zombie Survival Guide” would be extremely handy in case of Necromancer invasion.

There are also those who would argue that our government isn’t doing such a great or ethical job using the technology it already has (though I’d never say so on an open phone line), and sci-fi authors like the SIGMA group should think carefully about how their suggested solutions might actually be used.

Still, while it is true our government has always had a fondness for fiction writers (with titles like “press secretary,” “speech writer,” and “administration fixer of scientific papers on global warming,”), I’m just glad the government is willing to listen to writers of quality speculative fiction as well.

Because, after all, spec-fic writers are the smartest people on Earth – and in 73 of the 97 magical realms Earth links to.

Your Assignment
Any thoughts on the above?

What advice do you believe a fantasy writer would or should give the government?

And for bonus points, discuss any issues, ethical or otherwise, that you see with speculative fiction writers sharing their vastly superior imaginative capabilities with The Man (aka doomsday scenarios and dystopic future realizations anyone?).