Your story “STET” is a Hugo Award finalist, and has an unusual structure (and great emotional power). Tell us about it, and how you came to write it.

“STET” is a story that explores human priorities, AI, responsive algorithms, and the trolley problem. It’s structured as a paragraph from a textbook about autonomous vehicles, with footnotes. The reader then gets to see the conversation that occurs between the author and the editor, revealing the author’s personal connection to the subject matter. I decided to write this story after a conversation with someone who couldn’t believe that an author of genre fiction could possibly have an interest in or understanding of literary fiction. That person’s vehement skepticism drove me to write a piece in the mode of one of my favorite stories, which is told through the footnotes on a paragraph from a textbook. I wanted to explore themes of human accountability for failures of machine morality, and discussing that within a single layer of story seemed impossible, so this format suited the concept perfectly. The story is also an examination of how people, women in particular, are expected to suppress emotions like grief for the sake of professional objectivity — which is itself already myth. On one level, this is a story about grief; on another level, it’s about a woman refusing to have her grief silenced.

— from an interview with Sarah Gailey in Locus, Sept 2019

Fannish Titles revisited

TransAtlantic Fan Fund Free Ebooks

Screen Shot 2019-09-25 at 1.45.50 pm

These are just some of the 45 titles currently available at the TAFF site. They are collections of fannish writing, copied and converted to epubs for the modern fan.
Some are there for historical interest, some trip reports and some are collections of fine writing which deserve (re-)discovery. All are free to download, though we strongly recommend that a donation is made to the TAFF fan fund coffers.

I heartily recommend the two Terry Carr Fandom Harvest collections, one of which is a reprint, the other a new collection, each full of his entertaining writing.

SPECULATIVE NONFICTION: a very, very incomplete bibliography.

Jeff Harris provides a list of SpecNonFic:

HG Wells, Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought  (coll of linked essays April-December 1901 Fortnightly Review; dated 1902 but 1901)

JD Bernal, The World, the Flesh and the Devil: An enquiry into the future of the three enemies of the rational soul (1929; 1969)

Michael Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy 1870-2033: An Essay on Education and Equality (1958)

IJ Good (ed), The Scientist Speculates: An anthology of partly-baked ideas (1962)

Arthur C Clarke, Profiles of the Future: Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962)

Stanislaw Lem, Summa Technologicae (1964, 1974: 2012)

Nigel Calder (ed), The World in 1984, volumes one and two (1965)

Dr A R Martin, Project Daedalus: JBIS Supplement (1978)

Ed Regis, The Great Chicken Mambo and the Transhuman Condition:Science slightly over the edge (1990)

Damien Broderick, The Spike: Accelerating into the Unimaginable Future (1997; 2n ed. 2001)

David E H Jones, The Further Inventions of Daedalus: A Compendium of Plausible Schemes (1999)

Stephen Baxter, The Science of Avatar (2012)

Conway, J., C. M. Kosemen, & D Naish, All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals. (Irregular Books, 2012)

Enrico Rodrigo, The Physics of Stargates: Parallel Universes, Time Travel, and the Enigma of Wormhole Physics (2010)

Lewis Dartnell, The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch (2014)

Charles Adler, Wizards, Aliens and Starships: Physics and Math in Science Fiction and Fantasy (2014)
Rutger Bregman, Utopia for Realists: And How We Can get There (2017

Crit mass Wed, Oct 2: Spec Non-Fic

Through the Looking Glass To See What is Reflected in the Magic Mirror: a guided tour to speculative non-fiction

Jeff Harris notes:
Speculation is a natural part of the human imagination. Science fiction thrives on it. But it is found across the sciences, philosophy, the social sciences, and other intellectual disciplines including the popular imagination. Some of these places will be visited. Certain locations will be avoided: the pseudosciences and other forms of pseudodoxy. This talk will look at the curious and quaint relationships between science-fiction and speculative nonfiction, and certainly not the literary conceits of the kind found at
Apologies for the title. It’s a twisty metaphor for our proposed trip into the conceptual realm.
As usual, 6:45 at Kappys, 22 Compton St, Adelaide for a 7pm start!

Atwood on the BBC

Following Kate’s talk last month about Margaret Atwood, good news! The BCC have re-broadcast their omnibus version of The Handmaid’s Tale, and are broadcasting The Testaments both in 15 minute episodes followed by two omnibus compilation episodes.
The URLs are:


Children of Ruin

ChildRuinChildren of Ruin follows Adrian Tchaikovsky’s extraordinary Children of Time, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke award. It is set in the same universe, with a new cast of characters and a thrilling new narrative.

It has been waiting through the ages.
Now it’s time . . .

Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time.

Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth.

But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.

And it’s been waiting for them.

William Gibson

I could see the near future from The Peripheral while driving through the little village of Topanga yesterday – I thought, ‘Ooh, it’s Flynneville.’ Flynneville on the coast. That future in The Peripheral owes a lot to my formative years in quite a small town in southwestern Virginia, adjacent to the bottom of West Virginia and to Tennessee. There’s a lot of childhood material in that thread for me. I’ve also kept track of the region over the decades, and I just extrapolated what’s happened there, like what’s happened to so many small American towns. It’s not just in the South, but there’s a lot of it there. It’s that dissonance between certain kinds of technology being present in places that haven’t moved forward in other ways. There are people in tiny, obscure places who know more about some particular kind of Chinese porcelain than most people in New York do. It’s like any knowledge is unevenly distributed now. You can have these complete otakus in some arcane field of collecting who live in a tiny town in Nebraska, and maybe have never left it, but they still wind up being the world amateur authority on some particular thing.

— William Gibson interview in Locus magazine

Crit Mass Sept 4th: The Handmaid’s Tale

Screen Shot 2019-09-02 at 2.53.23 pmKate Treloar notes:
For September’s meeting I will examine all things The Handmaid’s Tale – the original 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, Season 1 of the current television series, and the recently released graphic novel illustrated by Canadian artist Renee Nault. I will bring along a copy of the graphic novel to look at. Parallels with Atwood’s near-future dystopian world and real-world examples will also be explored.

Note: the sequel “The Testaments” is due out on 10 September, shortly after this Critical Mass session, for those who want even more Handmaid.

As usual, 6:45 at Kappy’s (22 Compton St, Adelaide) for a 7pm start!

John Crowley and Crows

Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr is a deliberately puzzling title. It’s about a crow who gets the name Dar Oakley through a series of adventures. He’s the first crow to ever have a name, and he claims to have invented names for crows. He’s born sometime in an apparently Celtic world – I never made this specific even to myself – about 2,000 years ago, sometime before the British invasion of Gaul. He was born into a realm where there were no people, because humans had not yet reached there. Very soon in his young years, when human populations start to come into the area, he is fascinated by them and by the kind of things they do – building fires, building houses, run­ning around on two legs, and above all having battles with one another. Killing, but not eating, other humans. The crows cannot figure that part out, but they also realize they’ve discovered a treasure they couldn’t have conceived of. There is wealth beyond the dreams of gluttony laid out before them after these battles, and the humans are glad to have them eating the bodies, as long as it’s the enemy dead. He, Dar Oakley, feels he caused this bounty.

“Dar Oakley now has a big connection with humans, and because of his curious nature, he makes friends with a young human girl. Through a procedure that I think was the only reasonable possible one, they become able to communicate.”

— excerpt from an interview with John Crowley, Lotus Jan 2018