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All round e-publishing genius Pablo Defendini sez,
Fireside Magazine is a multigenre fiction magazine. Our goal is twofold: to publish great storytelling and offer fair pay for writers and artists. We published three issues last year, each funded by its own Kickstarter. That wasn’t really a sustainable way to make a magazine, and we want to create more certainty for our readers and for the magazine.
So we came up with a new plan for Year Two: a monthly subscription website and ebook (epub and mobi). Each issue in Year Two will have two pieces of flash fiction (1,000 words or less), one short story, and one of 12 episodes of a serial fiction experiment by Chuck Wendig. Each issue will also have artwork by Galen Dara. The website is being rethought and is being designed responsively, which means it will adjust to display an optimum reading experience on screens of any size. We are aiming to provide a clean, simple way to read our stories without any clutter or distractions, just the words and the artwork. But in order to do all this work up front and pay the creators their fair share, we need to raise the money ahead of time, so it's back to Kickstarter!
Anne sneezed. She began to be afraid she was taking a cold in the head. How ghastly it would be to sniffle all through dinner under the eyes of Mrs. Andrew Dawson, nee Christine Stuart! A spot on her lip stung . . . probably a horrible cold-sore was coming on it. Did Juliet ever sneeze? Fancy Portia with chilblains! Or Argive Helen hiccoughing! Or Cleopatra with corns!
Yes, Anne of Green Gables, by the time she reached middle-age, had apparently joined the majority of adults who test positive for the virus herpes simplex type 1 — the cause of the painful, little mouth blisters known colloquially as "cold sores". Estimates vary when it comes to how many of us are HSV-1 carriers. A 2006 study found evidence of HSV-1 infection in 57.7 percent of American adults, ages 14 to 49.* Bryan Cullen, a virologist at Duke University, told me he's seen studies showing that closer to 70 percent of adults are infected — although only something like 1/3rd of those will ever get cold sores.
Don't judge Anne of Green Gables. Chances are good that you're in the same boat.
But why is this virus so common?
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Children's literature is about the wonder of discovering new worlds, the power of imagination, and the all the little triumphs and defeats that make up a life.
It's also an excellent place to find hypothetical questions that test the laws of physics.
For instance, presupposing that one could grow a peach to the size of a house, could one also really sail that peach across an ocean? And then, presupposing that one could harness the power of 501 seagulls, would that number of seagulls be sufficient to carry said peach through the air?
These are the questions posed in "James' Giant Peach Transport Across the Atlantic", a paper published last fall in the Journal of Physics Special Topics.
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My latest Locus column is "Where Characters Come From," and it advances a neurological theory for why fiction works, and where writers find their characters.
As a writer, I know that there’s a point in the writing when the engine of the story really seems to roar to life, and at that moment, the characters start feeling like real people. When you start working on a story, the characters are like finger-puppets, and putting words into their mouths is a bit embarrassing, like you’re sitting at your desk waggling your hands at one another and making them speak in funny, squeaky voices. But once those characters ‘‘catch,’’ they become people, and writing them feels more like you’re recounting something that happened than something you’re making up. This reality also extends to your autonomic nervous system, which will set your heart racing when your characters face danger, make you weepy at their tragedies, has you grinning foolishly at their victories.
In some ways, this is even weirder. For a writer to trick himself into feeling emotional rapport for the imaginary people he himself invented seems dangerous, akin to a dealer who starts dipping into the product. Where does this sense of reality – this physical, limbic reaction to inconsequential non-events – spring from?
He opened his wallet and took out his business card. It said “CEO.” He realized that was another lie, that he was never really the boss. Math was the boss, the math of a shrinking bank account. The math of expenses bigger than revenue. Math was always in charge. Whatever his business card said was meaningless. He picked up a pen and crossed out “CEO” scribbling over it “unemployed.”
Rudy Rucker has put every goddamned one of his mind-bendingly awesome short stories on his website for free. This includes collaborations with some of the best names in the field ("This huge collection includes collaborations with Bruce Sterling, Paul Di Filippo, Marc Laidlaw, John Shirley, Rudy Rucker Jr., Terry Bisson, and Eileen Gunn."). It's a good day on the Internet.
Scientific advising for science-fiction films is a really fascinating topic for me. It's a weird, weird world, where the goal is not necessarily extreme accuracy, but extreme believability. That can be a stress point for science, a field that is, generally, all about striving for accuracy. The scientists that help directors create believable worlds have to balance the goal of educating the public with the goal of entertaining same. That can be tough, and it leads some creative solutions—and little educational Easter Eggs buried in the background of blockbusters.
Take the work University of Minnesota physicist Jim Kakalios recently did for the new Spider-Man reboot. The film's creators asked him to invent a complicated-looking equation that, in the context of the story, would relate to cell regeneration and human mortality.
How do you invent a fictional equation? Start with a real one.
In this video, Kakalios explains where his imaginary equation came from, starting with the Gompertz Equation, a very real function that describes mortality rates and can be used to model tumor growth.
What will the future of artificial intelligence actually look like? We're getting some clues already from projects like Hiroshi Ishiguro's Geminoid series with its incredibly realistic bodies, writes my friend Dennis Cass at io9. But we're also seeing hints of what real-life androids won't be like.
In a post last week, Cass talks about some common fictional tropes that have shaped our expectations of androids, but probably won't be present in the real thing.
The android that finds humanity to be a deep, abiding mystery
We flatter ourselves: A machine could never understand jokes. Then IBM's Watson uses natural language processing to understand the punning intent behind Jeopardy! questions, and we're proven wrong. If anything, the android will see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, used the Xbox Kinect to analyze body language during student-teacher interactions to "mathematically uncover subtle movement patterns, many of which would not be noticed by the human eye." Psychologist Paul Ekman has discovered the "micro-expressions" the human face flashes during a lie-if facial recognition software can read it, then the android can know it.
Ultimately, as "big data" gets bigger we'll ask ourselves what we want our androids to share. Do we charge them with stopping us from making bad life decisions? Or do they help us maintain our innocence? Fiction has its Rikers, the wise humans who preside over the sentient machine, often with a whiff of bearded condescension. Maybe the android will be the one who wears the bemused smile.
A work of fiction doesn't have to be scientifically accurate. It just has to make sense. All it has to do is maintain an internal logic and consistency strong enough that you, the reader, aren't inadvertently thrown out of the world. If you're frequently frustrated by detail accuracy in fiction, that's likely your problem, not fiction's. Chill out. Breath deep. Smell the flowers. Experience some imagination and wonder.
I fully endorse all the sentiments outlined above. And yet. And yet. There are some fictional details that drive me crazy. Like the seasonal shifts in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, where winter and summer last for years—sometimes decades—and nobody knows exactly when the seasons will change. It's not that I feel a burning need to prove to Martin that this can't work. Instead, it makes me ravenously curious. I keep wondering whether, given what we know about astronomy, there's any way that this could actually work somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away.
A couple of weeks ago, io9's George Dvorsky put together a little round-up of five possible scientific explanations that would make Westeros' magical reality make more sense. I chatted about Dvorsky's list with Attila Kovacs, an actual astronomer who has a postdoc position at the California Institute of Technology. They've got differing perspectives on how unpredictable and ridiculously long seasons might work. Thanks to both these sources, I feel like I better understand our universe, and can read Martin more comfortably.
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I grew up reading Mickey Spillane novels and, years later, was lucky enough to get to know the man behind Mike Hammer. Mickey and I did a number of projects together -- co-editing anthologies, creating the comic book Mike Danger, plus my documentary, "Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane" (1999 -- available on the Criterion DVD/Blu-ray of the great film noir, Kiss Me Deadly).
About a week before his passing, Mickey called to ask a favor. He was very ill and knew it. He was working on what would be the last Mike Hammer novel, chronologically -- The Goliath Bone, Mike taking on terrorists in post-9/11 Manhattan.
Mickey had been working hard on Goliath Bone but was afraid he wouldn't have time to finish it. If need be, would I step in? Then a few days later, he asked his wife Jane to turn over any unfinished material from his several offices to me, saying, "Max will know what to do."
All told there were half a dozen substantial Hammer manuscripts among a wealth of unpublished, unfinished material. I began with Goliath Bone, and followed with a mid-'60s novel, The Big Bang, and a '70s one, Kiss Her Goodbye.
But the most exciting discovery was the earliest of the manuscripts, brittle, yellowed pages that I had initially set aside, thinking it was a draft of the published novel, The Twisted Thing (1966).
Reading the manuscript it became clear that -- apart from having some character names and the setting in common with Twisted Thing - this was a wholly different story. This was the second Mike Hammer novel, the sequel to the famous I, the Jury. The manuscript of Lady, Go Die! dated to about 1945, in fact two years before I, the Jury was published itself.
Buy Lady, Go Die! on AmazonRead an excerpt from Lady, Go Die!