The sexy medical researcher in this bestselling 1991 romance novel was based on Anthony Fauci

Journalist and novelist Sally Quinn's bestselling 1991 novel of romance and intrigue, Happy Endings, is about fictional presidential widow Sadie Grey who falls for a sexy medical researcher working for the National Institutes of Health on a new AIDS treatment. Yes, the alluring government scientist with the "low, melodious, sexy, almost hypnotic” voice, as Quinn described the character, is none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci. From Benjamin Wofford's article in Washingtonian:

Part searing romance, part roman à clef, “Happy Endings” made the bestseller list during a year when HIV-related deaths were then the highest ever recorded in the United States. By then, Fauci was the government scientist best known for combatting the virus’s spread as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It was around this time that Quinn first encountered the real-life Fauci, at a Washington function where the two were paired as dinner partners. With his tie askew and from behind enormous glasses, Fauci left an impression of earnest brilliance, enough to inspire the main character of Quinn’s upcoming novel.

“I just fell in love with him,” Quinn told me recently, recalling their evening together. “Usually those dinners, you make polite conversation, and that’s it. But we had this intense conversation, personal conversation. I though, ‘Wow, this guy is amazing.'” [...] “He was so different from most Washington people, because he’s so self-effacing. He’s not in it for the glory or the name recognition,” Quinn recalled. She decided to have Grey “fall in love with this doctor who does this amazing work, and doesn’t get a lot of publicity.”

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Read the first 10 chapters of my serialized Comic-con satire novel

In the early 2010s, I wrote a play called True Believers that was kind of a send-up and a love letter to comic-con culture. The play had a full production in Boston in 2012 (closing on the weekend of San Diego Comic-Con, when they first announced the Guardians of the Galaxy, which totally ruined the meta-level "I Am Groot" gag in the script), as well as staged readings at fringe festivals across the country, from New York to Chicago to Valdez, Alaska.

I later tried to turn that script into a novel. It was an interesting writing experience — trying to adapt your own work across mediums, from one that's explicitly external to one that's largely internal is a weird challenge, to say the least — and ultimately, nothing really came of the manuscript.

But now that we're all quarantine, and now that comic books themselves have also been quarantined for the foreseeable future, I've decided to serialize it on Medium, broken down into digestible chunks. The first 10 chapters are out now, and they each take (by Medium's calculations) about 4-9 minutes to read. I'll be adding new chapters every day through the end of the month. If you're looking for some nerdy laughs and nostalgia, it could be a delightful way to pass the time right now.

Here's a fuller synopsis of the story, in case you're not convinced:

It's the weekend of the big annual comic book convention, and Chad Mailer is a young professional comic book writer who hit his career peak five years ago with a series that he never actually finished, and he now wishes to re-ignite his career.

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A free short story about Irish history to read while you're quarantined over St. Patrick's Day

I wrote An Baile na mBan: a story of mothers, monsters, and war a few years ago for an anthology called Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. Originally published by Crossed Genres Publishing, the anthology focused on sci-fi/fantasy stories of adolescent protagonists from historically marginalized communities from before the 1920s. This story was loosely inspired by the tragic discovery of a mass grave at an Irish nunnery for single mothers, and thus involves pretty much all of the horrible things that might relate to that:

Set during the Irish War of Independence, An Baile na mBan tells the story of 16-year-old Caoimhe, a Traveller girl who has been paying off her debts to the Catholic Church by working at the nunnery that took her in while she was with child—and by stealing their supplies and selling them on streets. When one of her black market customers takes an interest in Aisling, the young Protestant girl who recently arrived at the home, he offers Caoimhe a chance to reunite with her daughter in exchange for a favor. But the club-footed man isn't all that he seems, and neither are his plans for Aisling's child. Or his stake in the war that rages through the land.

In case you aren't familiar with Travellers, they're a distinct ethnic group in Ireland, with their own language and culture that goes back hundreds of years. Unfortunately, they still deal with a lot of discrimination today, because the ladder of oppression is always ugly and complicated. Read the rest

Amazon PR accidentally confirms the existence of a fictional dystopian Amazon technology

The New York Times has been publishing a series of "Op-Eds From The Future," giving fiction writers a chance to imagine our hellish circumstances to come. Read the rest

Get 35 free audio books from Tor's new horror imprint

Renowned sci-fi and fantasy publisher Tor just launched a new book imprint called Nightfire, focusing on new horror fiction. And to celebrate, they're giving away 35 free short horror stories as audiobooks. The list includes stories by Alyssa Wong, Chuck Wendig, China Miéville, Carmen Maria Machado, and more.

The only catch is that the stories are only available through the GooglePlay Store, or through Google Assistant commands. This is only really a minor inconvenience if you (like me) are not an Android user—but also if you're like me, it's totally worth it.

Come Join Us By The Fire: 35 Short Horror Tales From Nightfire Books Read the rest

A highly scientific fictional approach to ranking musical artists using math

The Internet is always finding arbitrary new ways to compile ranked lists of musicians and their songs. Sure, the content mill demands it, as seen on Pitchfork, AV Club, Ranker, and so many other sites that have built their reputations on such systems. But it's our fault, too— we, the music-loving audience that we are, so eager to compare our preferences to others. No list is ever quite right; even our own personal Definitive Musical Rankings may change over time. Perhaps that's why we consuming new music lists every year, in hopes of finding that one true objective arbiter of our sonic truth.

That search ends today. Because David Steffen has finally found the answer, in his delightful new piece of epistemological fiction about the Horowitz Method, a metrics-based approach to ranking musical groups:

But what mathematical measure? If we were talking about comparing one song with another, it might be easier, for the music itself is inherently mathematical–meter, tempo, time, number of notes, pitches. But a single musical group could have any number of songs, and the number could grow every day—what particular songs would one use to judge a group? Their newest? The whole body of their work? And some bands release songs so regularly that any conclusion drawn would have to be re-examined very frequently. And that’s not even to speak about what particular measure to use which, we know from personal experience, becomes a dispute of its own.

No, if we are going to compare musical groups and expect a somewhat stable outcome, we must not compare their songs, we must compare traits of the group themselves.

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This new fiction anthology is punk as f*ck

A Punk Rock Future is a brand new fiction anthology featuring 25 speculative sci-fi and fantasy writers smashing the State in whatever fantastical futuristic form that it might take. Editor Steve Zisson (not to be confused with Steve Zissou) was smart enough to realize that a good short story is already like a punk song—fast, effective, and brutally DIY, with a fistful of meaning that explodes in your face with pure undistilled emotion. It only made sense to slam the two together.

The anthology features a setlist of writers with all the scene cred you need, including Nebula Award-winner Sarah Pinkser, who just released her debut novel about an illegal underground music scene; Margaret Killjoy, whose book The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion was nominated for a Shirley Jackson award; and Marie Vibbert, who has published some forty-plus short stories and also attended the Clarion Writer's Workshop with me (where BoingBoing's own Cory Doctorow was our instructor).

We might be trapped in the dystopian cyberpunk hellhole of a future we were promised is children, but another world is possible. So check out A Punk Rock Future, or there's no future for you. Read the rest

Flash fiction: Monologue by an unnamed mage

Cassandra Khaw's shockingly good 3-page short story Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end takes a genre and an archetype and distills from them a perfect moment that embodies and exceeds both.

Uncanny Magazine:

That they dragged us back, bound in brambles and bronze, that they made us choose between being separated or being part of the vanguard against the apocalypse, all that is of no importance. That we laughed at their ultimatum, that we said yes, that we held hands as they told us we probably wouldn’t come back, that is what matters.

What matters is that I love you and that I will always love you, and I won’t let them have you, even if I have to husk myself of all that I am and splinter the universe again. You’re mine and I am yours, and what are gods to people who have seen the continents fold up like paper planes?

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On the role of truth and philosophy in fantastic fiction

Fantasy and science fiction author and political activist Steven Brust (previously) was this year's Guest of Honor at Philcon, an excellent Philadelphia-area science fiction (I have also had the privilege to be Philcon's GoH, and it's a great con); his guest of honor speech is entitled Truth as a Vehicle for Enhancing Fiction, Fiction as a Vehicle for Discovering Truth, and he's posted a transcript to his blog. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling on architecture, design, science fiction, futurism and involuntary parks

In 1918, there was plenty of speculation about 2018; in 2018, no one is talking about 2118. Bruce Sterling discusses the relationship of industrial design to science fiction; the New Aesthetic and Turinese architecture; and many other subjects with Benjamin Bratton. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Stet, a gorgeous, intricate, tiny story of sociopathic automotive vehicles

Sarah Gailey's micro-short-story STET is a beautiful piece of innovative storytelling that perfectly blends the three ingredients for a perfect piece of science fiction: sharply observed technological speculation that reflects on our present moment; a narrative arc for characters we sympathize with; and a sting in the tail that will stay with you long after the story's been read. Read the rest

Why Edgar Allan Poe's work is still so damn good and creepy

Edgar Allan Poe scholar Scott Peeples explains the black magic of Poe's work nearly 170 years after he died. From TED-Ed:

The prisoner strapped under a descending pendulum blade. A raven who refuses to leave the narrator’s chamber. A beating heart buried under the floorboards. Poe’s macabre and innovative stories of gothic horror have left a timeless mark on literature. But just what is it that makes Edgar Allan Poe one of the greatest American authors? Scott Peeples investigates.

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Support Rudy Rucker's Kickstarter for his new book "Return to the Hollow Earth"

Cyberpunk fiction pioneer and old-school bOING bOING pal Rudy Rucker has just finished "Return to the Hollow Earth," the sequel to his fantastic 1990 novel The Hollow Earth, a wonderful and rollicking adventure story filled with weird science, curious creatures, and Edgar Allan Poe. Rudy is publishing the new novel himself along with a revised third edition of the original book and the book-length Notes for Return to the Hollow Earth. Get in on the freaky scene by supporting Return To The Hollow Earth on Kickstarter!

In The Hollow Earth, we meet our narrator Mason Reynolds, a seventeen-year-old youth from 1850. He leaves his father's Virginia farm with the black Otha, befriends the dissolute Edgar Allan Poe, and falls through a thousand-mile-deep hole in Antarctica. Within the Hollow Earth Mason woos and wins Seela, who lives upon a giant flower.

At the core of the Hollow Earth they find the sky-surfing tribe known as the black gods. Nearby are a cluster of great sea cucumbers, who are known as the woomo. Otha stays at the core. Mason, Seela, and Poe make their way out through the crust and back to Earth. Due to their time in the strong light of the woomo, their skins are now black. At the end it seems as if Poe dies. This third edition of The Hollow Earth is lightly revised so as to fit with the sequel.

Return to the Hollow Earth is once again in the steampunk mode, with young Mason as our narrator.

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Ursula K. Le Guin on vinyl! "Music and Poetry of the Kesh"

Ursula K. Le Guin's "Always Coming Home" (1985) is a combination novel and anthropological study of the Kesh, a culture that "might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California." Early editions of the book included a cassette of faux "field recordings," indigenous songs, and other audio of the Kesh. Now, the good people at Freedom to Spend are bringing the Kesh experience to vinyl in a lovely limited edition that includes an LP containing the audio of the original cassette, "a deluxe spot printed jacket with illustrations from Always Coming Home, a facsimile of the original lyric sheet, liner notes by Moe Bowstern, multi-format digital download code and a limited edition bookmark letterpressed by Stumptown Printers in Portland, OR." From Freedom to Spend:

For Music and Poetry of the Kesh, the words and lyrics are attributed to Le Guin as composed by Barton, an Oregon-based musician, composer and Buchla synthesist (the two worked together previously on public radio projects). But the cassette notes credit the sounds and voices to the world of the Kesh, making origins ambiguous. For instance, “The River Song” description reads, “The prominent rhythm instrument is the doubure binga, a set of nine brass bowls struck with cloth-covered wooden mallets, here played by Ready...”

The songs of Kesh are joyful, soothing and meditative, while the instrumental works drift far past the imaginary lands. “Heron Dance” is an uplifting first track, featuring a Wéosai Medoud Teyahi (made from a deer or lamb thigh bone with a cattail reed) and the great Houmbúta (used for theatre and ceremony).

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Anthology of science fiction by the Clarion Class of 2012, to benefit the Clarion Foundation

The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop is the oldest workshop in the field, run by a nonprofit (I volunteer on its board), and much-loved by its many grads; the Clarion Class of 2012 (who call themselves "The Awkward Robots") periodically release volumes of their fiction to benefit the nonprofit foundation and pay forward to future classes (previously). Read the rest

Top science fiction writers imagine a flight that accidentally jumps to the year 2037

XPrize and ANA present a series of short stories "of the passengers from Flight 008, imagined by the world’s top science fiction storytellers, as they discover a future transformed by exponential technologies."

At 4:58am on June 28th, 2017, the passengers on board ANA Flight 008, en route from Tokyo to San Francisco, are cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet, approximately 1,500 nautical miles off the West Coast of the United States. A small bump, otherwise noted as a barely perceptible bout of turbulence, passes Flight 008 through a temporary wrinkle in the local region of space-time. What these passengers will soon find out as they descend into SFO is that the wrinkle has transported them 20 years in the future, and the year is now 2037.

Writers in the anthology: Gregory Benford, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Brenda Cooper, Bruce Sterling, Hannu Rajaniemi, James Smythe, Nancy Kress, Daniel H. Wilson, Hugh Howey, James Morrow, Chen Qiufan, Madeline Ashby, Margaret Atwood, Karl Schroeder, Paolo Bacigalupi, Mike Resnick, Sheila Finch, Matt Hill, Charlie Jane Anders, Lee Konstantinou, Kevin J. Anderson, Eileen Gunn, and Charles Yu.

They are inviting the public to write a story based on this scenario. Winner gets $10,000 and a trip for two to Tokyo. Read the rest

Brilliant short story about being trapped in an infinite IKEA

The SCP Foundation features unsettling horror and SF stories, all posed as the technical reports of a secret international consortium whose job is to secure, contain and protect the public from all manner of weird threats, from unnatural beasties to sentient buildings. Written in the dry language of officialdom, they're the perfect short fiction for the internet-era and often extremely clever. I think this one about being trapped in an infinite IKEA, by Mortos, is my favorite yet.

Description: SCP-3008 is a large retail unit previously owned by and branded as IKEA, a popular furniture retail chain. A person entering SCP-3008 through the main entrance and then passing out of sight of the doors will find themselves translocated to SCP-3008-1. This displacement will typically go unnoticed as no change will occur from the perspective of the victim; they will generally not become aware until they try and return to the entrance.

SCP-3008-1 is a space resembling the inside of an IKEA furniture store, extending far beyond the limits of what could physically be contained within the dimensions of the retail unit. Current measurements indicate an area of at least 10km2 with no visible external terminators detected in any direction. Inconclusive results from the use of laser rangefinders has lead to the speculation that the space may be infinite.

SCP-3008-1 is inhabited by an unknown number of civilians trapped within prior to containment. Gathered data suggests they have formed a rudimentary civilisation within SCP-3008-1, including the construction of settlements and fortifications for the purpose of defending against SCP-3008-2.

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