Fun news – HUMANITY 2.0 (which currently tops several Bestseller lists on amazon) is on sale for $2.99. I’m told the price reverts back to normal tomorrow.
Also, CHASING SHADOWS is out! This book has been a long time in coming. David Brin approached me about writing a story for it way back in… 2015? I think it was 2015. So I wrote this awesome story about a deep space native returning to earth for the first time – and I do mean awesome; it does some really intriguing exploration of floater vs. grounder society – and THEN I had to wait almost two years for the Behemoth That Is Publishing to put it in print.
(Now, of course, I will have to wait even longer before sharing the origin story of this manuscript. Because it was on its way to literary stalemate until an insightful comment on Writing Excuses turned the whole thing around. Someone nudge me on this in six months or so.)
“Recollection” is now live at Escape Pod!
This story originally appeared in Carbide-Tipped Pens, an anthology edited by Eric Choi and Ben Bova, published by TOR books. It explores the emotional chaos that might result if dementia could be halted – but not reversed.
Trendane Sparks did the narration and I understand he’s quite good. Audio and text versions are available at no charge thanks to the generous funders of the magazine.
The October edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact is now available on Amazon.
This issue includes my story “Angles of Incidence”, in which a famed Xenoarchaeologist gets ripped from her studies to negotiate a colonial dispute between obnoxious human settlers and their alien hosts. (The story also involves mysteriously glowing statues, an ancient entity who speaks an indecipherable language, and some quite literal head-chomping.)
Astute readers will recognize the protagonist from A Starscape Slightly Askew. Happily, it is not necessary to read the earlier story in order to understand the new one. In fact, Angles of Incidence is the chronologically earlier of the two.
This is my first publication with Analog and I’m thrilled to be appearing in such a prestigious magazine. Hopefully this initial appearance will be followed by many more.
I’m pleased to announce that my story “Nexus” will be appearing in HUMANITY 2.0, an anthology scheduled for release in October 2016.
Alex Schvartsman, the anthology’s editor, describes it as a collection of “stories that examine how achieving interstellar flight changes humanity itself. Will we choose to upload our minds into a singularity? Enhance ourselves with alien DNA? Will our bodies remain the same, but our culture and societal norms change considerably to accommodate for effects of time dilation, or become subsumed by the more advanced alien societies? What will it mean to be human in such a future?”
The complete table of contents, including stories by Ken Liu, Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, and Robert J. Sawyer, is available at SF Signal.
My friend Megan Grey has a new book out! The title story is one of the most significant publications in speculative fiction last year. In fact, it was nearly nominated for the Hugo before voters realized that it was technically in the January 2015 Issue of Fireside even though the story released in December.
(Which means it’s eligible THIS year.)
Despite a new job, a return to grad school, and top secret family-related developments which have nothing at all to do with writing, I am delighted to be returning to the Life, the Universe, and Everything symposium at the Provo Marriott Hotel this year. Happy schedule details follow:
Discovering David Brin
Thursday, Feb. 11 at 9:00 AM
From “The Postman” to Brin’s nonfiction “Freedom of Speech”, and McGannon Communication Award winning “The Transparent Society”. Hugely influential, Brin is a 2010 fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. In other words, he’s too cool for you not to drop everything and go hear all about him. Right now.
Moderator: Eric Swedin
Panelists: Robert Defendi, Nancy Fulda, Scott R. Parkin, Howard Tayler
Religion in Science Fiction
Thursday, Feb. 11 at 10:00 AM
Discussion of the ways religion has been expressed in science fiction, and ways it might be explored in a setting that focuses on what is sometimes considered its antithesis: science.
Moderator: Jonathan Ryan
Panelists: Stacy Whitman, Scott R. Parkin, Nancy Fulda
The Culture of Immortality
Saturday, Feb. 13 at 5PM
This panel has no official description on the LTUE web site. Perhaps because the title says it all?
Moderator: Nancy Fulda
Panelists: James Ganiere, Danny Potter, Jonathan Ryan, Lynette White, Lindzee Armstrong
I hope to see many old and new friends at the symposium. However, because I’m likely to be popping in and out (Life. It happens.) the only way to be sure of catching me is if you swing by before or after one of my panels. Or by like, emailing me and pre-arranging lunch. I’m open to stuff like that.
Happy Halloween! This year I decided to give my readers a gift while sneakily also advertising the children’s book I wrote under my new pseudonym. I’m sure no one will notice that the decorative border is actually a link to a line of entertaining chapter books. Nope. Uh-uh.
The Half-life of Chocolate, reprinted below, originally appeared with Fae Publishing in 2011. Since the period of exclusivity long ago expired, I present it to the internet in the spirit of awesome halloweenishness.
by Nancy Fulda
“Who’s been eating my chocolate?”
Felipe Delgado stormed into the kitchen and waved a package of ChocoSquares over his head. Manuel glanced up from his comic book. Father lowered his spectacles. Grandma kept clattering in the cupboards, cradling an impressive stack of serving bowls in her left arm. “Felipe, we go through this every single weekend,” she said, bending over to reach the drawer beneath the oven. “If you don’t want people to eat your junk food, put it in your room.”
“I did. This morning there were nine squares left in this package, and now there are only seven. So which of you is eating it?”
Manuel flipped a brightly colored comics page. “Felipe, you’re the only person I know who’s geeky enough to count his ChocoSquares.”
“Hey, I pay good money for these!” Felipe pulled one of the embossed squares from the package. “This,” he said, caressing its beveled edges, “is quality chocolate. Nothing like that cheap, waxy stuff you guys are always gobbling.” He tossed the bag onto the table for emphasis. “And I am tired of the whole family eating ChocoSquares on my paycheck!”
Manuel snagged a tortilla chip from the serving bowl at the edge of the table. “Move out then. You’re old enough.”
Grandma slapped Manuel’s hand. “Those are for the fiesta tonight. They put few enough chips in these packages, you know.” The last few words came out in a grunt as grandma struggled to open a second bag of chips. Her bony fingers tugged at the plastic two, three, four times before it snapped open and sent a spray of chips across the counter.
“Cheating swine,” she muttered as Felipe helped her gather the chips into a ceramic dish. “There’s nothing but air in those packages. These product marketers, these food companies… they’re nothing but crooks and swindlers!”
Father chimed in with his usual counterpoint: “It’s a waste of packaging and a detriment to the environment, that’s what. If they’d stuff those bags the way they ought to be stuffed, the garbage bill in this household would go down by twenty percent.”
Felipe retrieved his ChocoSquares from the table. “Really, Dad, I think that’s stretching the numbers a bit.”
“Maybe,” Father said. He set his coffee mug down with an imperious thump. “But I’ll be hanged if I let that garbage company wrangle one more cent out of me. Just wait until you see what I’m unveiling at Manuel’s fiesta.”
Felipe snatched his ChocoSquares and sidled out of the kitchen before he got cornered listening to Father jabber about yet another Grand New Technological Marvel. Halfway up the stairs he rattled the package, glanced inside, and felt his face pull into a frown. The number of squares had gone from seven to six.
“Cheer up, Felipe,” Grandma’s voice echoed up from the kitchen. “I bought plenty of ChocoSquares for the fiesta tonight.”
Felipe decided that strategic reconnaissance was required.
He hovered near the kitchen until Grandma opened the first package of ChocoSquares. (The patented EasyTear Freshness Seal gave her arthritic fingers no trouble.)
“I’ll take those out for you,” he said, and snatched the bowl from the counter as soon as the last ChocoSquare clinked against its ceramic edge. He carried it to the patio and set it on the most visible of the brightly decorated picnic tables. Paper lanterns shaped like jack-o-lanterns hung from strings overhead; Grandma’s way of celebrating Halloween and Manuel’s birthday in a single stroke.
“Check this out, Felipe,” Father said. With a flourish, he tore the shrink-wrap from a stack of paper plates.
Felipe watched his Father spread the plates across the table. “Uh, what am I supposed to be looking at?”
“Bio-degradable, thermo-plastic plates!”
Felipe stared blankly.
“When exposed to anaerobic bacteria, it degrades into compact, harmless materials.”
“So your solution to your garbage bill is to bury your junk in the backyard?”
“Just wait,” Father said. Felipe shrugged and went to help Grandma light the paper lanterns.
True to his plan, Felipe watched the table with the ChocoSquares all evening. If one of his family members had a fetish for ChocoSquares, Felipe reasoned, the guilty party would not be able to stay away from that bowl. And he—or she—would also eat a statistically significant number of them: more than the other guests, certainly.
He watched the bowl from the corner of his eye while greeting a stream of brightly costumed relatives. He watched it as Manuel—perched like a king on the comfiest of the wicker chairs, complete with one leg dangling over the armrest—opened his birthday gifts. He watched it as Father pulled out what looked like a dry-yeast packet and explained that it contained genetically modified anaerobic bacteria keyed to the starch component of the disposable dishware.
Then the unthinkable happened. Manuel picked up the serving bowl and yelled, “Grandma! We need more ChocoSquares!”
Felipe sprinted across the lawn and snatched the bowl from Manuel’s fingers. “That can’t be right,” he said, loudly enough to swivel heads in his direction. But the bowl was indeed empty.
Felipe checked the notes he’d been keeping on the back of his hand. “A fresh package of ChocoSquares contains thirty-five chocolates. You’ve eaten five,” he said, pointing to Manuel, “Grandma’s eaten two, Father’s eaten four, and other guests have eaten—” he paused for a quick tally— “Seventeen. That’s a total of twenty-eight. There should be seven left.”
Felipe found himself the object of several incredulous stares.
“You. Are. Weird,” Manuel said, and headed towards a new table. Felipe stood in a pocket of silence, the empty bowl clutched in both hands. It didn’t add up. He’d watched the ChocoSquares the entire time. They couldn’t be gone. There was no way for anyone to have eaten them.
At the other end of the picnic table, Father sprinkled his anaerobic bacteria packet onto a pile of used plates and was rewarded with a chorus of jubilant squeals from the children clustered nearby.
“Move over, I can’t see.”
Father was clearly pleased to have attracted so much attention. “It’s not gone,” he said. “It’s just been broken down into its basic components, courtesy of these little babies here.” He waved the bacteria packet for emphasis. “Accelerated biodegradation. It’s the latest trend in waste management.”
The adults in the crowd seemed more difficult to impress than the children.
“Is that stuff legal?” Aunt Lisi asked.
Cousin Fernando brushed at his pants. “What keeps it from munching the table? Or us?”
“Relax. The bacteria won’t eat anything except the resins they’ve been gene-spliced for. They’re non-reproductive and they have limited movement capacity, so there’s no chance of them multiplying beyond control.”
Aunt Yselda sniffed so disdainfully that her spectacles jiggled. “It’s probably toxic,” she declared. “These product marketers are always rushing new science onto the public before it’s been properly tested. We’ll all have warts tomorrow from eating off those infernal plates.”
Father was getting annoyed. “The material’s derived from corn starch. Perfectly harmless, and so are the decomposed compounds. You could practically eat this stuff.”
He sprinkled more bacteria powder. Another plate vanished to an accompanying crescendo of ‘Ah’s.
You could practically eat this stuff…
A pit opened at the bottom of Felipe’s stomach. Five seconds later he was back in the kitchen, squinting at the empty ChocoSquares package on the counter.
“Are you still obsessing about your junk food?” Manuel asked as he crossed the kitchen on his way to the bathroom. “I swear, man, I’m not the one who’s eating it. Maybe it’s gremlins.”
Felipe ignored him and kept examining the package. Not to his surprise, but much to his dismay, he saw that the EasyTear Freshness Seal included a hidden sub-compartment that ruptured when the seal was broken. If the bag was held erect, the contents of the compartment would drop directly onto the chocolate inside it.
“I had no idea these things were so popular,” Grandma said as she trundled toward the patio with a fresh bowl of ChocoSquares. “I think I’ll run buy some more. They vanish like hot cakes.”
Felipe opened the last pack of ChocoSquares. Sure enough, a fine brown powder dropped from the hidden compartment and settled onto the chocolate. Biting his lip in anxiety, Felipe ripped the package all the way open and spread the ChocoSquares across a white table cloth. He crossed his arms on the table, rested his chin on his hands, and waited. Manuel gave him an odd look on the way back from the bathroom.
After ten minutes, one of the ChocoSquares vanished. It happened in the space of a second: the embossed chocolate steamed, bubbled, and faded away with a barely audible hiss. Felipe’s hand struck the table with a thump loud enough to rattle the shutters. “I knew it!”
He ran to the patio, snatched the garbage-eating bacteria packet out of his Father’s hand, and compared it to the ingredients listing of the ChocoSquares package. Sure enough, slipped in between the glucose and the emulgator was a corn starch derivative called ‘anaerobic product XII-A’.
Felipe stared at the packages held side-by-side in his hands, appalled by the conniving schemes of commercial manufacturers.
The mechanism was so simple it was almost beautiful. The waxy coating on the chocolate squares inhibited the bacteria for a randomized time period. When the bacteria finally broke through, accelerated biodegradation made the chocolate seem to evaporate into thin air. If the manufacturers had done their job well, the reaction would also only take place at temperatures that indicated the chocolate was not currently being held in someone’s hand.
“So much work,” Felipe muttered, “just to scam people out of a few squares of chocolate. Do they really think they can make money that way?”
Grandmother swept through the kitchen with her car keys in hand. “I’m off to buy more ChocoSquares, darling. Is there anything else you want me to pick up?”
Father’s voice floated in from the patio. “I need more socks! I can never find a matched pair in my drawer!”
Grandma huffed. “Really. I swear, I only ever put matched sets in the washing machine. I wonder how they always manage to vanish before they get to the drier.”
Felipe’s stomach lurched. “Let me see the package for your laundry detergent.”
I’ve been flitting around the internet lately. Below, a list of blog posts. If you miss hearing from me, you can go read them.
Humor as a Plot Adhesive – SFWA.org
What to expect when you start an internet kerfluffle – SFWA.org
Writing for Kids – David Walton’s web site
Interview with Sherrida Pope – Darusha Wehm’s blog
When Kids Get Older – Spencer Ellsworth’s blog
Also, my longtime writerly acquaintance Beth Cato is releasing a novella set in the same world as her Clockword Dagger series. Published by Harper Voyager Impuse, Wings of Sorrow and Bone is about a girl, some gremlins, and a plot involving Arena game Warriors.
The pre-order is $0.99. Seriously, one dollar. That’s a lot of awesome fiction for really not very much money.
So approximately three weeks ago (I know because I checked the timestamp on the concept art) I got this horrible urge to write a children’s book. I was supposed working on novel outlines. (Have I mentioned that I sometimes have trouble focusing?)
So I made cover mock-ups and got my kids to tell me which ones they liked, and asked my daughter what she thought would happen if a little speckled owl decided to go Trick-or-Treating.
Her answer was that his cat friend who belonged to a girl named Lisa who lived in the house next door would help him out. (Obviously.) This was exactly the story prompt I needed to turn my vague ideas into a concrete narrative. So during the day I wrote novel chapters, and at night before bed I propped up my pillow and snuggled under the covers and wrote about shy little screech owls who fall into candy bowls.
No, because everybody said a chapter book needs interior art. Fine, ok, so I did interior art.
And at this point the entire project had taken far more time than I’d budgeted and had also turned out way cuter than I’d expected and so instead of this quickie little fun family project that I slap up on kindle and forget about, I find myself formatting and reformatting the stupid PDF files so we can make a print copy too, and by now I’m so invested in the dang thing that my stupid writer brain insists that we should promote it and by the way there really ought to be a sequel because the cat deserves a story of her own and…
So that was probably way too many details. But, yeah. Itty bitty easy reader. Five chapters, medium vocabulary, happy ending. This is what my subconscious does when I’m trying to avoid writing.
This collection has been out in paperback and on kindle for over a year, so I suppose one could consider it outdated. But one would only make such considerations if one wasn’t familiar with Joe Zieja’s incredible voice talent. Joe’s subtle narration brought a life to the stories – and in some cases, a new level of meaning – that isn’t present in the text-only version. I’m extremely pleased that he was able to narrate my work.
This book is exclusive to Audible. I understand they’re in the habit of offering a free trial membership for those who haven’t quite decided if audio books are their thing. They have listening apps for smartphones, tablets, kindles, or those old-fashioned computer thingies, and Audible members who continue beyond the trial period are eligible for one free book each month.
So, you know… if you want to listen to some awesomely mindbending fiction, but don’t want to spend any money on it, sign up for a free trial and listen to Dead Men Don’t Cry.