“The Parched Lands” is now available for free at Smashwords

The Parched Lands, my short story that was first published in 2013 in Issue 7 of Crossed Genres Magazine, is now available for free from Smashwords, as well as other ebook retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and the Apple iBook Store. Retailers besides Smashwords may take several days to index the story.

(Kindle Users: I no longer distribute on Amazon. However, you can still read my books! Buy from Smashwords, and you will be able to download the book in .mobi format. You will need to move the .mobi file to your Kindle (via USB), or you can read it via the Kindle Reader mobile or desktop apps.)

Amanthi is a teenage student in a not-so-distant future school system of hyper-testing and top-down control. In this world, creativity is a liability — but Amanthi is not deterred from dreaming. My short story, “The Parched Lands”, delves into the tangled issues of race, tracking, high-stakes testing, and creativity starvation that run through America’s public school systems.

 

Sci-Fi Story Elements That Really Hook Me!

For well over a year now, I’ve been spinning my wheels on a sequel to Red Soil Through Our Fingers. Despite the well-known writing advice that the first draft will be crap and you just have to power through it, somehow the three drafts I’ve started and scrapped so far seemed to have more wrong than merely being ordinary first-draft crap. Something really fundamental felt like it was missing.

So I finally took a break from trying to write the fourth do-over and decided to just freewrite about what I love in the sci-fi novels that I read. I analyzed my very favorite speculative fiction novels for common threads, and tried to distill them into individual motifs. The results were enlightening, and subsequent work has helped me re-plan and restructure the work-in-progress to better align with the elements of speculative fiction that I find exciting.

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My RavenCon Schedule

I’ll be at RavenCon 2018 next weekend (April 20-22)!

The Con of Opportunity returns to Williamsburg, Virginia with over 300 hours of programming in one action-packed weekend! Gaming, panels, signings, kids’ programming, workshops, readings, vendors, authors, artists, tournaments, costuming, anime, movies, concerts, books, books, and more books!

My panel schedule is below:

Ask a Scientist: Kids Edition – Saturday, April 21 • 1:00pm – 1:55pm – Room G. Those curious scientific questions we’ve always wondered about but have never been able to ask a scientist, until today!
(Robert V. Aldrich*, Les Carter, Richard Groller, N.A. Ratnayake)

2001: A Space Odyssey: 50 Years – Saturday, April 21 • 4:00pm – 4:55pm – Room E. A discussion of the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and how it stands up to today.
(Jennifer R. Povey, N.A. Ratnayake, Chris Shrewsbury, John C. Wright*)

Reading: Chris A Jackson and N.A. Ratnayake – Saturday, April 21 • 8:00pm – 8:55pm – Room 4. (I will probably read from unpublished work, either from one of the two novels I have in progress or a short story that is currently in submission circulation.)

If you can’t make any of these panels, you can also find me wandering the con. I’ll be live tweeting (@quantumcowboy) and tooting (@quantumcowboy@wandering.shop) throughout the weekend. I’ll also have the remaining few promo USB drives containing Red Soil Through our Fingers plus my two published short stories.

VVEV: Reflections on the Collection (No Spoilers)

I’ve been posting a review/response to each of the five sections of Visions, Ventures, and Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, which is available for free from Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination thanks to a grant from NASA. In this post, I’ll switch gears to some concluding thoughts about VVEV as a whole.

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Response to VVEV: Section V – Concluding Thoughts

VVEV is illustrated by by Maciej Rebisz.

This is Part 5 of a six-part response to Visions, Ventures, and Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, which is available for free from Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination thanks to a grant from NASA. I say “response” and not “review” because I intend to engage with the ideas presented from my own point of view.

Section V of VVEV is entitled Concluding Thoughts, and contains three essays:

  • The Luxury Problem: Space Exploration in the “Emergency Century, Kim Stanley Robinson, in conversation with James Bell
  • The Practical Economics of Space, Clark A. Miller
  • High Hedonistic and Low Fatalistic, Linda T. Elkins-Tanton

This blog post contains spoilers!

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Response to VVEV: Section IV – Exoplanets

VVEV is illustrated by by Maciej Rebisz.

This is Part 4 of a six-part response to Visions, Ventures, and Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, which is available for free from Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination thanks to a grant from NASA. I say “response” and not “review” because I intend to engage with the ideas presented from my own point of view.

Section IV of VVEV is entitled Exoplanets, and contains one short story and two essays:

  • Shikasta, by Vandana Singh
  • The New Science of Astrobiology, by Sara Imari Walker
  • Negotiating the Values of Space Exploration, by Emma Frow

This blog post contains spoilers!

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Response to VVEV: Section III – Asteroids

VVEV is illustrated by Maciej Rebisz

This is Part 3 of a six-part response to Visions, Ventures, and Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, which is available for free from Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination thanks to a grant from NASA. I say “response” and not “review” because I intend to engage with the ideas presented from my own point of view.

Section III of VVEV is entitled Asteroids, and contains two short stories and two essays:

  • The Use of Things, by Ramez Naam
  • Toward Asteroid Exploration, by Roland Lehoucq
  • Night Shift, by Eileen Gunn
  • Rethinking Risk, by Andrew D. Maynard

This blog post contains spoilers!

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Response to VVEV: Section II – Mars

VVEV is illustrated by Maciej Rebis

This is Part 2 of a six-part response to Visions, Ventures, and Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, which is available for free from Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination thanks to a grant from NASA. I say “response” and not “review” because I intend to engage with the ideas presented from my own point of view.

Section II of VVEV is entitled Mars, and contains two short stories and two essays:

  • The Baker of Mars, by Karl Schroeder
  • Exploration Fact and Exploration Fiction, by Lawrence Dritsas
  • Death on Mars, by Madeline Ashby
  • Life on Mars?, by Steve Ruff

This blog post contains spoilers!

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Review of “The Swerve” by Stephen Greenblatt

The Swerve: How the World Became ModernThe Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On the surface, it is the story of Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th century Italian scholar who uncovers one of the last remaining manuscripts of Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things. The meta-story is really about the power of ideas to survive the fall of empire, the dark ages that come after, and re-emerge as the seeds of enlightenment. The narrative is engaging and coherent, and I left both inspired by humanism but also regretting how much knowledge must have been destroyed over the centuries by the forces of superstition and dogma.

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Review of “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough

The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first audiobook! I chose a topic of which I had prior knowledge, but I was surprised how many new things I learned from McCullough’s account of the Wright brothers’ journey to making the world’s first controlled, powered flight in an airplane. Like all good historical nonfiction, the account interweaves the individual human level with the big picture. McCullough shows the personal lives of the Wright family as well as the broader technological and political implications and context of their work.

I especially enjoy that the book is also a fine counter to the myth that genius is the product of natural talents and sudden epiphany. McCullough shows the childhood influences the brothers had to encourage tinkering and creativity, and details at length the decades of thought, experimentation, innovation, and perseverance through failure, injury, and ridicule that were necessary to arrive at their world-changing achievements. The book is as much a testament to the personal qualities and character of the whole Wright family as it is an account of their technological contribution to history.

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