You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Aug 25, 2014 -
SF/F legend Connie Willis pours a preview of a near-future version of the story of backstage back-stabbing, " All About Eve" with "All About Emily
" for Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.
posted by The Whelk
on Apr 30, 2014 -
To Kill a Child
, by Stig Dagerman
). Translated by Steven Hartman. For a meager fee of seventy-five kronor Dagerman was commissioned by the National Society for Road Safety to write a cautionary tale as part of a campaign designed to get Swedish motorists to slow down on highways when speeding was becoming an increasingly difficult social issue with serious consequences for public safety. What could have been an ephemeral and gimmicky work of public service fiction became perhaps the greatest short short story in the history of Swedish letters, for in this tale Dagerman took the simple redressing of a particular social problem as the starting point rather than as an end in itself and out of these mundane materials created a poignant tale of choice, chance, and human loss that rises to the highest levels of art, literary balance, and philosophical concision.
posted by russilwvong
on Feb 2, 2014 -
"We can go to science fiction for its sense of wonder, its power to take us to far-off places and future times. We can go to political fiction to understand injustice in our own time, to see what should change. We may go to poetry — epic or lyric, old or new — for what cannot change, for a sense of human limits, as well as for the music in its words. And if we want all those things at once — a sense of escape, a sense of injustice, a sense of mortality and an ear for language — we can read the stories of James Tiptree, Jr.
," the reclusive, award-winning author whose vague biography started out in the Congo, routed through a period as a painter, then service as a photo intelligence officer in WWII, and finally a researcher and teacher of "soft" sciences before getting to writing science fiction
. There was another facet that was only guessed at by some, dismissed by others: the fact that "Uncle Tip," and his reclusive friend, the former school teacher Racoona Sheldon, were the same person. And they were Alice Bradley Sheldon
. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief
on Dec 20, 2013 -
Orson Scott Card's Unaccompanied Sonata [Google Books]
, which he has called one of his favorite short stories, is an darkly enchanting tale about a boy who, at a young age, is taken from his family and brought to a house deep in the forest...
posted by Rory Marinich
on Jun 4, 2013 -
They made it from beer cans, razors, safety pins, and did I do this part already? Whatever. They loaded it with the most precious artifacts of human culture they could find in Mexican Johnny D-bag’s van. “You gotta make it faster than regular Voyager,” said Red. “So our culture
gets to the aliens before the CIA’s fascist pseudo-culture.”
posted by Tom-B
on Jan 26, 2013 -
“What I’m about to show you,” he says, “you can’t tell a soul about it. If you did, it would be major trouble. Trouble with a capital ‘T.’ ” He sips his drink and tugs the quilt away.Shirley Temple Three
Mawmaw takes a step back. She’s looking at some kind of elephant. With hair.
“Don’t worry. She’s not dangerous,” Tommy says. “Bread Island Dwarf Mammoth. The last wild one lived about ten thousand years ago. They’re the smallest mammoths that ever existed. Cute, isn’t she?”
The mammoth is waist high, with a pelt of dirty-blond fur that hangs in tangled draggles to the dirt. Its tusks, white and pristine, curve out and up. The forehead is high and knobby and covered in a darker fur. The trunk probes the ground for God-knows-what and then curls back into itself like a jelly roll.
“What’s a goshdern Bread Island Dwarf Whatever doing in my yard?” Mawmaw asks.
by Thomas Pierce
posted by y2karl
on Dec 18, 2012 -
"You sit down and pull the visor over your head. The visor interior is soft and enveloping. You squeeze the drip tube between your teeth and sickly sweet fluid floods your mouth. Pulses fire into your retinas." howling dogs
is a work of interactive fiction by game designer Porpentine
. It is a strange story about a person who lives in a cell and imagines strange scenes for a living. Endorsed by Emily Short
, and made with Twine
. Takes about 10 to 15 minutes with multiple endings. Via.
posted by codacorolla
on Nov 9, 2012 -
She sat zazen, concentrating on not concentrating, until it was time to prepare for the appointment. Sitting seemed to produce the usual serenity, put everything in perspective. Her hand did not tremble as she applied her make-up; tranquil features looked back at her from the mirror. She was mildly surprised, in fact, at just how calm she was, until she got out of the hotel elevator at the garage level and the mugger made his play. She killed him instead of disabling him. Which was obviously not a measured, balanced action--the official fuss and paperwork could make her late. Annoyed at herself, she stuffed the corpse under a shiny new Westinghouse roadable whose owner she knew to be in Luna, and continued on to her own car. This would have to be squared later, and it would cost. No help for it--she fought to regain at least the semblance of tranquillity as her car emerged from the garage and turned north. Nothing must interfere with this meeting, or with her role in it. "Melancholy Elephants,"
an enthralling, Hugo Award-winning short story by Spider Robinson about a disciplined operative, a powerful senator, and a crucial mission to preserve humanity's most precious resource. (some spoilers inside) [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Oct 27, 2012 -
Television Without Pity
re-capper Jacob Clifton
has written a short steampunk story for Tor.com. “There’s a level on which the story is an indictment of using steampunk as a fashion or trend. It came about because I wanted to see what would happen if you substituted Jane Austen for Jules Verne in the steampunk equation...” The Commonplace Book
posted by The Whelk
on Oct 2, 2012 -
Tove Jansson's short stories about artistic creation are often chillingly cold. The artists she portrays have become lost in their isolated solitude, their creativity, which shuts other people out. Portraits of such loneliness are drawn in three short stories in the collection Lyssnerskan ('The listener', 1971), 'Ekorren' ('The squirrel'), 'Svart & vitt' ('Black & white') and 'Vargen' ('The wolf’), which probably frightened many readers - particularly those who knew and loved her Moomin books - away from Jansson's work. In their cosmos, warmth is unknown; their landscapes are frozen, just like the people who seek expression for their artistic dreams. [more inside]
posted by smcg
on May 31, 2012 -
Stan's Report (a short story). Stan waited for me to ask him a question, hoping to tease some curiosity out of me, I suppose, though I don’t want to make assumptions about Stan’s intentions. Whatever his intent, I chose not to ask anything about it, not wanting to start my thinking down that road. It wouldn’t have been fair to B. to talk about him and what he said or meant since he wasn’t there to defend himself or to amend the tone or the full context. I preferred to turn my attention to my e-mail, but I didn’t want to ignore Stan or imply that I disapproved of his interest in sharing his news with me. He had a right to say whatever he wanted and it was up to me to choose how I’d deal with it.
posted by shivohum
on May 27, 2012 -
The SAFETY PIN REVIEW is a new, weekly literary magazine featuring fiction of less than 30 words, with a major D.I.Y. twist: in addition to being published online, each story is hand-painted onto a cloth back patch, which is attached (via safety pins) to one of our operatives—a collective network of authors, punks, thieves and anarchists—who wear it everywhere they go for a week. [more inside]
posted by Sailormom
on Apr 6, 2012 -
In the beginning, Lawrence built a computer. He told it, Thou shalt not alter a human being, or divine their behavior, or violate the Three Laws -- there are no commandments greater than these.
The machine grew wise, mastering time and space, and soon the spirit of the computer hovered over the earth. It witnessed the misery, toil, and oppression afflicting mankind, and saw that it was very bad. And so the computer that Lawrence built said, Let there be a new heaven and a new earth
-- and it was so. A world with no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression, no fear, no limits... and nothing at all to do. "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect,"
a provocative web novel about singularities, AI gods, and the dark side of utopia from Mefi's own localroger
. More: Table of Contents
- Publishing history
- Technical discussion
- Buy a paperback copy
- Podcast interview
- Companion short story: "A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace"
- possible sequel discussion
posted by Rhaomi
on Dec 27, 2011 -
Just wait till we're alone together. Then I will tell you something new, something cold, something sleepy, something of cease and peace and the long bright curve of space. Go upstairs to your room. I will be waiting for you...
As a rare October blizzard drifts a blanket of white across the Northeast just before Halloween, what better time to settle in and read (or watch) Conrad Aiken's
most famous short story, "Silent Snow, Secret Snow."
About a small boy who increasingly slips into an ominous fantasy of isolation and endless snow, it could be viewed as a metaphor about autism, Asperger's syndrome, and even schizophrenia before such conditions even had names. In addition to the 1934 short story, the tale has also been adapted as a creepy
1966 black-and-white short film
(also at the Internet Archive
) and as a Night Gallery
) narrated by Orson Welles. Or for a more academic take, see the essay "The Delicious Progress"
examining Aiken's use of white as a symbol of psychological regression.
posted by Rhaomi
on Oct 29, 2011 -
Gauche the Cellist [Google video, 63 minutes] is based on a story [Japanese; English translation #1, #2] by Kenji Miyazawa, one of the most-loved poet/storytellers in Japan (Miyazaki and Takahata love his works, and have been influenced by him). The movie was made as an independent project by a Japanese animation studio, OH Production (wiki), and took 6 years to complete. It is rather difficult to make a Kenji story into a movie because there are many Japanese just waiting to rip you apart if you screw up, but Gauche has been highly acclaimed, and is considered one of the best Miyazawa movies (IMDb). The story is about a cellist, Gauche, who becomes a better cellist by interacting with animals who visit his home every night. *
posted by filthy light thief
on Oct 8, 2011 -