Friendship is Optimal
is not a "My Little Pony" fanfic, but a SF story that starts with a procedurally-generated MLP MMO, and crescendos to what could very well be the Best Possible Outcome if self-optimizing algorithms are given /almost/ the right goals.
Some readers are horrified by the implications; some want to move into "Equestria Online" anyway. Whichever camp you fall in, you'll never forget the phrase "satisfy human values through friendship and ponies".
posted by DataPacRat
on Nov 28, 2012 -
More than most literary phenomena, names in fiction seem very straightforward until you start to think about them. The simple question, ‘why does a name sound right?’ leads to a whole range of questions. Are there rules about how names are given to characters? Do naming practices differ in different periods? Are they specific to particular genres? Do different authors use names in entirely different ways? There are also anxieties to address: is discussion of names in fiction snagged in a feedback loop, in which we think James Bond is such a good name for a spy because that’s what we know it to be?
posted by Chrysostom
on Nov 16, 2012 -
... [Thomas] Ligotti's stories tend to have a profound emotional impact. His vision is exceedingly dark, and it is possible for his stories to infect the reader with a mild-to-severe case of depression. It is even possible for them to effect a change in the reader's self-perception and view of the universe. This warning is not meant to be sensationalistic, nor is it meant to turn new readers away. It is simply a statement of fact based upon the experiences of actual readers. Ligotti writes about the darkest of themes with an amazing power, and he means what he says. Often his stories seem to communicate a message below their surface, a sort of subliminal statement that should not rightly be able to traverse the barrier of verbal language.
- Matt Cardin (previously) [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen
on Nov 15, 2012 -
"The word reclaim came up more than once to describe the rising tide. It is a revealing word, more narrative than simply descriptive: it hints at some larger backstory, some plot twist in a longer saga about our claims and the water’s counterclaims to the earth.… This story was already ancient when it was adapted for the biblical text—which is to say, it records a very old fear. Like all old fears, it has the uncanny feel of a vivid memory. It may be a memory of an actual flood in an actual Sumerian city, Shurrupal, ca 2800 B.C.E. In fact, it may be even older than that."
posted by the mad poster!
on Nov 13, 2012 -
A small piece of Truman Capote’s famously unfinished novel Answered Prayers has come to light. The six-page story, “Yachts and Things,” found among Capote’s papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library, is published in the December issue of Vanity Fair, out now in New York and nationally next week. The story will be available online in mid-November. [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen
on Nov 1, 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 -
wrote some of the best ghost stories of the last fifty years. He also edited one of the finest genre anthology series of his time: The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories
. Between 1964 and 1972, he curated eight volumes of horror fiction without repeating an author, favoring always the subtle, the psychological, the poetic, the rare, the neglected. 59 of his selections can be found online. [more inside]
posted by Iridic
on Oct 25, 2012 -
First Draft of the Revolution
is a browser-based, interactive, epistolary story, where the process of letter writing is used to explore aspects of character and plot that might otherwise remain hidden. Plus, lashings of classism and magical references.
posted by Sparx
on Oct 10, 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 -
In 2005, the Discovery Channel aired Alien Worlds
, a fictional documentary based on Wayne Douglas Barlowe's graphic novel, Expedition: Being an Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV
." Depicting mankind's first robotic mission to an extrasolar planet that could support life, the show drew from NASA's Origins Program
, the NASA/JPL PlanetQuest Mission
, and ESA's Darwin Project
. It was primarily presented through CGI, but included interviews from a variety of NASA scientists and other experts, including Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, John Craig Venter and Jack Horner. Oh, and George Lucas, too. Official site
. Previously on MeFi. [more inside]
posted by zarq
on Sep 21, 2012 -
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again
, by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, went on sale 75 years ago today. The first printing, by Allen & Unwin, was for 1,500 copies (which now fetch a premium at auction
); the first reviewer, the son of the publisher, was paid a shilling
. Through a contorted publishing history, exact or even approximate sales figures are unknown; "over a hundred million" is often quoted
. [more inside]
posted by Wordshore
on Sep 21, 2012 -
In 2005, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks produced a 6 episode miniseries that spanned the period of expansion of the United States into the American West, from 1825 to 1890. Through fictional and historical characters, the series used two primary symbols--the wagon wheel and the Lakota medicine wheel -- to join the story of two families: one Native American, one White settlers, as they witnessed many of the 19th century's pivotal historical milestones. The award-winning Into The West
can now be seen in its entirety on YouTube
. [more inside]
posted by zarq
on Sep 20, 2012 -
"To aid the national security community in imagining contemporary threats, the Australian Security Research Centre (ASRC) is organising Australia’s Security Nightmares: The National Security Short Story Competition
. The competition aims to produce a set of short stories that will contribute to a better conception of possible future threats and help defence, intelligence services, emergency managers, health agencies and other public, private and non-government organisations to be better prepared." (via
posted by vidur
on Sep 12, 2012 -
When publishing goes wrong.
Mandy DeGeit was a first time author submitting to a horror anthology by Undead Press
. The contract included a line that they had the right to edit the story -- standard operating procedure. But when she got a copy of the book, they'd drastically changed the story: "They turned a non-gendered character into a boy, they named the best friend, they created a memory for the main character about animal abuse. They added a suggestion of rape at the end…" [more inside]
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me
on Sep 3, 2012 -
What I wrote was unquestionably fiction — was fantasy. Among Others has magic and fairies. But I was writing fantasy about a science fiction reader who had a lot of the same things happen to her that happened to me. It’s set at the end of 1979 and the beginning of 1980, and it’s about a fifteen year old just when I was fifteen, and from a family like mine and in the time and place and context where I was. I was using a lot of my own experience and memories. But this is Mori, not me, and she lives in a world where magic is real.
Jo Walton, who as editor for tor.com revisisted the Hugos 1953-2000
, now has one of her own, taking home the 2012 Best Novel Award
for Among Others
. Other winners include Kij Johnson
for her Novella The Man who Bridged the Mist
(excerpt) and io9 regular Charlie Jane Anders
for her novellete Six Months, Three Days
. The Best Graphic Story award went to the webcomic Digger
by Ursula Vernon
. E Lily Yu took home the Bets New Writer award (technically not a Hugo) and was also nominated for her short story The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees
. A couple of TV shows you have heard of also got awards. Links to many of the nominated stories here
posted by Artw
on Sep 3, 2012 -
James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime is one of those very rare novels that seems not so much to have been written as discovered. At its heart is a love story, an encounter, that transforms its relatively ordinary protagonists into beings around whom the entire cosmos shapes itself. The love story is delicate and ephemeral, put together out of bits and pieces, like a bird's nest. The vulnerable lovers tremble, in the most mundane circumstances, on the edge of catastrophe. Simply the way one of them moves across the room to meet the other seems miraculous and hazardous. Were they to become aware of themselves everything would be lost. But there is no danger of that. Oblivious, they tiptoe on a precipice. They do not and cannot know that their innocence cloaks them in a kind of divinity and infallibility. Actions and attitudes we expect to bring them down don't. They do things that seem so perfect, so poignant, without knowing they are doing anything at all. They arc beautifully across our path, and then vanish.
- Michael Doliner (previously) [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen
on Jul 31, 2012 -
ChiZine Publications (CZP)
is an independent Toronto-based book publisher that is single-handedly changing the face of genre fiction in Canada. Though CZP was founded just four years ago and put out just twelve books per year, they are responsible for four of the six nominees for the the 2012 Best Novel Prix Aurora
(Canada's highest honour in genre fiction). CZP grew out of the self-styled "dark fiction" 'zine The Chiaroscuro
which has been publishing free genre fiction online since 1997. Their most recent release is David Nickle's tale of cold war psionic operatives gone rogue, Rasputin's Bastards
posted by 256
on Jul 19, 2012 -
"Explosive sex with Mr Rochester," anyone? A publisher
decides to add more sex to Jane Eyre
and other classics.
posted by anothermug
on Jul 18, 2012 -
A liquor store in Amsterdam. A veteran in Bagdad. A family in Rome. A WWII veterans memorial in Berlin. A house in Oxford. Edouard Levé
photographed towns in the United States that shared names with famous cities. He photographed fully-clothed actors reenacting scenes from rugby
[nsfw]. He also wrote some novels, influenced by Oulipo
, describes his life in 120 pages of unordered vignettes and brief, declarative sentences—"The girl whom I loved the most left me. [...] I am uneasy in rooms with small windows." and so on
. His fourth novel, Suicide,
is a one-sided conversation between an anonymous narrator ("I") and his friend ("you"), who committed suicide twenty years ago. It's a painfully intimate meditation on the act and its fallout on its own merits—"Your life was hypothesis. Those who die old are made of the past. Thinking of them, one thinks of what they have done. Thinking of you, one thinks of what you could have become. You were, and you will remain, made up of possibilities."
—but few will read Suicide
unburdened with the knowledge that Edouard Levé killed himself several days after completing it, at the age of 47. [more inside]
posted by spanishbombs
on Jul 7, 2012 -