Prompt: Brain Scans

Happy Friday!

I find myself often being prompted to write based on a news or newsish story I read. I thought I’d try posting those on Fridays and see if people like it.

Prompt: Brain Scans

Article: Could brain scans determine guilt? from a great podcast that I really enjoy Quirks and Quarks. (The transcript has been included and more information.)

Questions:

What happens if we start to really come to have a solid handle scientifically on who people who will commit crimes are? Who is recidivists? What the trends are? We are a very long way out from being exact. But we might be closer to knowing that someone’s brain has a tendency to quickly anger, to behave impulsively. We might know which brains are more antiauthoritarian, which are more likely to resist, to fight back.

Do we treat people differently? Do we treat? Do we jail? Do we protect people? Do we decide that it doesn’t matter what your intent was? Do we decide that’s all that matters?

What questions come to your mind when you read this? What futures do you see?

S1.49 A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

 

A Chance Encounter by Jennifer Deese

Jennifer Deese first officially joined the writing world and became a published author in 2013 with her inaugural novella, The Orchid Keeper. Miss Deese is fond of writing shorter stories versus full sized novels. Her first book will eventually be the prequel novella to a series of short books called The Osipian Chronicles. From childhood her mother has foster her imagination and love of reading…which Deese sees as the roots of her love for writing, especially fantasy. As a lover of nature it is not surprising that it tends to play a part in many of her writings. A mother and a Nana, Jennifer Deese looks forward to spending time with her loved ones. She resides in Pennsylvania with her two dogs and boyfriend James and his son.

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A Chance Encounter
“The woman flashed a welcoming smile, waving as if they were old friends.”

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Monthly Review

Something I want to try to do more or be more transparent, or consistent about is …reviews. So my monthly review.

January

I wanted to try to get some stuff cleaned up, get back into writing more, and get sorted out what my next audiobook project was.

I did do more writing. I’ve been writing/rewriting/editing one of my Smoke Jumper novellas. It is actually going ok. Not perfect, but pretty well. I’m fading in and out on working on it, but I’m getting back into it. In a flash of rage I also wrote a flash fiction which is a phone call from the dystopian future to the present. Take the Call! (And make your own!)

Stuff cleaned up…eh. Not quite so good. I had delays here and there. Stress. Hiding. Too much news. Not enough news. Evenings writing to senators (thanks Amy and Al!) Then blog explosion. Then continued dealing with blog explosion. So basically? Excuses. I will buckle down on this again.

Next audiobook project. No. Frustratingly no. I’m holding out on picking up a project and waiting for the anthology pieces I’ve committed to to come in. I don’t want to be in the middle of something big and get those in. Plus I had 2 weekends that weren’t going to be good for recording. I do have a plan for the next few weekends on what I’ll be doing behind the mic (PODCAST! WOO! 600 Second Saga episodes!).  But I still need to check in with people about other projects.

Other? Politics. News. End of the world. I keep bringing myself back to we are as humanity making progress, if we keep pulling toward the future we will keep making progress. Progress like longer life spans, fewer people dying in wars and murders, better health, better quality of life, etc. We are going the right direction, we just all need to keep moving toward the future which is awesome. Future good.

February

Clean up. I need to clean up my files. Now I need to clean up the website and the back-end structure. I need to clean up some stuff at home. Clean space, visually, physically, and digitally helps a lot. And things are hard so I need all the help pieces I can get.

Reach out to authors. Hi authors! If you’ve considered writing for 600 Second Saga, please do! Please contact me! Please ask questions, I’m happy to answer them. I don’t want anyone to hesitate because they think they can’t do it. I’m getting better (and growing well) reaching listeners but I still can do better, and want to do better reaching out to authors. So, you may see some of that coming up.

I’m also working on creating images to go with each of the podcast episodes. (And I’ll be trying to feature some of the highlights from season one with images too.) More visuals. Also to help me think more about doing a better job of getting onto “paper” what’s in my head as far as visuals go.

Write more! As usual, keep the momentum and build on it. Really dig into Stranded and hopefully finish it up, but even if I don’t, don’t stop working on it. I also plan to shift around when I do things to give myself the best time for writing rather than the best time for other things that don’t require my best brain. Restructuring time will be very good for writing and for helping keep my brain space clean too.

What is your review policy? When do you review what you do?

How can I help?

I wrote earlier this week about writing for my niece. The second piece of this is something I’ve been struggling with for a while.

Why me?

I created a podcast. (You might have heard of it, 600 Second Saga.) This makes me a gatekeeper of sorts. Not a super fancy gate wearing gatekeepers (that’s what real gatekeepers do right? wear gates?) but one nonetheless.

I read a lot of other submission guidelines along the way to creating mine. Some of them said something about accepting or soliciting work for underrepresented groups. A few called out specific populations. Some didn’t. I thought, only a monster wouldn’t want that. Only a person who is a garbage person would need to even say that. Of course, I want a range of experiences and stories.

Not a monster

And then Trump got elected. On a wave of people who think that it is more important to have false change and loud shouting than to disavow actual Nazis. So…here we are today. I would like everyone who reads my blog, listens to the podcast, or reads my books to just know, of course, I’m not a monster. Just like the day after the election at work, even though I didn’t talk about it at all before directly, everyone knew how I felt. Because when someone needed to say, hey it’s not cool that we only have white dudes as avatars, that was me. When someone had to say it’s not ok to say that word/thing/etc it was usually me. And eventually, they just stopped saying them (around me at least). Because they just knew that about me.

I wish everyone here knew that I wasn’t a monster. And I wish that everyone felt free to say, hey! Not ok! Every time I said something out of line (if I do, please do, I try hard, but I screw up often).

So here I am. Saying I am not a monster. I do, of course, want work from underrepresented groups. Especially groups that are going to be feeling the pain the worst in the next few years. I want to help lift your voices. I want to do what I can. And that is the absolute bare minimum that any decent person should be doing.

I want work that is about being who you are. I want work that edges on political. (Not that I haven’t already got that, just wait for the inauguration day episode, which was written and recorded before election day.) I want work that doesn’t file off your edges.

I don’t get demographics on authors, but I know for a while I had more authors outside the US (this is the easiest demographic for me to keep track of, though I’m not 100%, but if your email is clearly outside the US I have a hint) than from inside, which is a good component. But I want to keep doing better.

My offer

What I think I can do is make this tiny little offer. If you think your voice isn’t welcomed, isn’t heard, and isn’t represented and you are struggling and aren’t sure if your story is a fit, or is ready, or you want feedback? Let me know. As long as it meets the other guidelines (link at the top but basically, ~1K, no swearing, sff) reference this post in your email, and I’ll do what I can to help, make suggestions, etc.

S1.41 String-Driven Thing

String-Driven Thing by Vaughan Stanger

String-Driven Thing was originally published in Nature Futures.

Formerly an astronomer and more recently a research project manager in the aerospace and defense industry, Vaughan Stanger now writes SF and fantasy fiction for a living. His stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex, Postscripts, Nature Futures and Interzone, amongst other noted magazines and anthologies. Like most writers, he’s working on a novel—and has been for many years. He also loves cats, thus further conforming to the cliché. Plus he’s still holding out for that holiday on the Moon he was promised in the dim and distant past. You can follow his writing adventures at http://www.vaughanstanger.com or @VaughanStanger.

Read more in Sons of Earth

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S1.40 Kathy’s Dream

Kathy’s Dream by Mileva Anastasiadou.

Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, living and working in Athens, Greece. Her work can be found in Ofi press magazine, Infective Ink, the Molotov Cocktail, Foliate Oak, HFC journal, Down in the Dirt, Minus paper, Massacre, Pendora, Maudlin house, Menacing Hedge, Scarlet Leaf Review, Nebula Rift, Idler, Litterateur online and soon in Midnight Circus, AntipodeanSF, Big Echo:Critical SF, the Ham, Blood and Thunder:Musings on the Art of Medicine, Hindered Souls, Sick Lit, the Potomac, Front Porch Review, Jellyfish Review and the Fear of Monkeys.
Visit Mileva on Facebook

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Flash Fiction Main Characters

I read something a while ago that has been bubbling around in the back of my brain. I’ve read a lot about flash fiction and I’ve read a lot of flash fiction. I read something that said the person who wrote it assumed all flash fiction main characters were stand-ins for the authors.

I was stunned and confused. Was this person reading the same flash fiction I was?

I’ve read flash fiction with characters that have more depth than some of the epic novels I’ve read.

Writing flash fiction can feel like a way to just dash something off quickly. But great flash fiction evokes a lot of things in just a tiny little space. You are basically creating a world from white space.

I will say that I far prefer flash that is sci-fi and fantasy because it opens the world wide. The contemporary flash I’ve read does feel a little different, so maybe the person who thinks that all flash fiction main characters are author stand-ins.

lightning flash
Flash!

Finding a way to develop a world with brush strokes that all draw your eye far beyond the edges of the canvas is the magic of flash fiction.

Thinking specifically about those main characters and how I build them.

Main Characters

Sometimes they are characters from larger stories. (An Axe is a great example of this in my work since I’ve been working on putting some more polish on the novella about that character.) Those stories are often small bites, more information of the character, side stories that didn’t belong in the book. I love doing these, they are fun, they let me explore other sides of a primary character. They give that character the chance to show other sides of themselves.

Side Characters

I don’t often run between a ton of POVs. My novels tend toward a single POV. Doing a flash fiction lets me explore what other characters are seeing. I often write these just as I’m doing planning work for the novels, I’ll write a handful of these for each of the characters to see what I’m thinking about them, most of these never make it past my drive, but sometimes I’ll really like one and clean it up well enough to send it off into the world. A Meditation was very much that. Jana was a character who was sort of a mash of things and I had done a couple of scenes with her separately. This flash came out of that. It was significantly rewritten, but it was partly about me learning who Jana was in the first round, and showing a little more of her in the final.

Somewhere else

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I will often find bits of inspiration, a situation, a story, a news article. I’ll pause and let this play around in my head until I’ve got characters and situation developed. Most of the time this sort of dies on the vine. But sometimes these become stories.

But…

Thinking back to writing my first stories, I’ve sort of always been a shorter fiction writer. At least I don’t recall a time I was a tome writer. So, I’m sure there was a time when I was doing a lot of that. I hope these days I don’t do that nearly so much. I think of parts of myself in some characters. But some are clearly someone else. The Thing About the Future? That’s a mash of a handful of people I know plus a few stereo types carved into an actual character. On Fire? That’s a few characters from books and a few heartbreaking true stories I read all mashed together and then carved and molded. But Relics? Yeah, there are shades of me in there I suppose. Discovery? Not really, but I had a couple of people I know in mind, if you take this from that person and this from that person and yeah that person hates science (don’t ask me, I don’t get it) but that part.

So maybe sometimes there is shades of the author, but I think that good flash fiction is like all other fiction. Sometimes there will be shades of an author just like there are shades of people they know or celebrities or the personality test they took for a character. It is always a mash, carved and molded to be a unique character.

PS…

I’ve read flash fiction that doesn’t have people/aliens/monsters/ghosts as characters at all. Environment only. Or beautiful descriptions of ships. Or processes. I  suppose you would argue that the author as the person who decides what to show you is the main character. But then you’re really saying that the author is always the main character in a way that is sort of no longer worth talking about. You literally can’t create anything without being the main character in that way. So it doesn’t really seem relevant. So sometimes there is no main character.

This all makes me want to read more flash fiction though.

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The Perfect Mattress

A flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig. Two subgenres mashed up. Mine? Fairytale and parallel words. Sort of the princess and the pea across the worlds. Sometimes you really, really just want a good night’s rest.

I’ve been working on the studio so I did a quick round of audio for this story to test it out. (Check out the podcast for lots more audio!)

The Perfect Mattress

I woke up from another rotten night’s sleep and peeled apart the layers of reality. None of them looked all that different. They usually didn’t. The ones that changed everything slipped away from me pretty quick. I found one where it seemed like I’d gotten an extra few minutes of sleep and slipped into that reality.

I let the layers slip back into place and stretched. The mattress was fine, it was my fourth in the last year. I’d gotten really good at making sure the mattresses I selected had trial periods and good return policies.

In fact, I was pretty sure today was a day for returns. My phone reminder popped up. Sure enough. I could return this mattress today and go mattress shopping this afternoon. A new place, The King Of Mattresses had opened up, I figured I’d check it out.

One of the other versions of me might use the ability to jump to parallel worlds to win the lottery or grab power or become a celebrity. I just wanted a good night’s rest.

***

The King Of Mattresses went all out on their theme. The cement on the walk up to the door of the store was painted red and textured to look like a carpet. The pillars outside the standard strip mall were painted up to look like round towers.

Inside the store, I glanced around and peered through the options. An old man with a crown walked toward me, a girl and her mom bounced on a bed, an empty store, I picked the reality with the cute guy and a crown.

“I am the Prince of Mattresses, welcome to my castle.” He bowed in an obviously preplanned maneuver to keep the crown on his head. He winked and waved his arm around. “How can I assist you fair lady?”

“Nice speech.” I grinned. At least looking for mattresses here could be fun. “I need a mattress. One with a good return policy and a guaranteed good nights sleep.” Some places got suspicious when I said that, I was much better off just saying it up front. Good stores took it as a challenge. I hoped the prince would take it as a challenge.

“We can find you a mattress, have a guarantee and a return policy. What have you already tried?” He took and took a step toward me. He even smelled sexy. I definitely picked the right reality.

“Everything up to and including hammocks. Not good. Only room for one.”

He waved to a nearby bed. “Start here and tell me what you think.”

I flopped on the bed. It felt like I flopped onto the cement red carpet out front. “Too hard.” He offered me a hand up and I stood. He raised his eyebrows at me and then stepped away and pointed to another. I might as well have flopped through a bag of cotton candy. “No. Ugh. Way too soft.”

After eight flops I was tired. The prince had shown me the priciest model, the high-techiest model, the model absolutely everyone loved.

“I’m usually better at this. Usually, I can get it right in three tries.” He frowned and walked over to one near the back. He sat on the edge of it and I sat next to him.

“Don’t worry. It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve never really gotten a good night’s rest.” I shrugged and flopped back. “This one feels like it has a boulder under it.” I shifted uncomfortably.

He seemed frustrated and got up and came over, waving me to stand. He hoisted the mattress up, clearly determined to prove I was a crazy person. I sighed. And then something golden glinted under the bed. I reached past him and grabbed it. “Not a boulder, but I doubt it belongs there.” It was an old-fashioned pocket watch.

He grabbed it from me. “Wait…please, wait here, this…” He nearly ran to the backroom, not even stopping when his crown flew off. I picked up the crown and set it on the bed next to me and flopped back down on it.

It wasn’t nearly so bad without the watch underneath it. It was actually quite nice. I glanced through my options. Most of them seemed about the same. I closed my eyes for just a moment.

***

I woke to a hand shaking my shoulder. An old man with glistening eyes. I sat up confused. Out of habit, I looked through the options of reality. In some, I was still asleep. I considered slipping into one of those. In one the prince was smugly asking me out. I decided to find out what the old man wanted.

“You found the pocket watch.” His voice was shakey. I sat up on the bed and he sat beside me. “It was my grandfather’s and I thought I’d lost it. I had lost it. It means everything to me.” He took my hands in his. I noticed the prince, hands shoved into his pockets and with a sort of sad smile on his face watching us.

“We have had so many people come through here, looking at mattresses, buying them, cleaning them. No one until you. You are truly a princess to have felt the watch, this I will never forget this moment. Anything. You can have anything, any mattress, anything. You’ve done an amazing thing today.” A couple tears fell down his face and he turned the pocket watch over and over. He finally stood and walked away, stopping to pat the younger man on the shoulder.

“My grandfather’s been looking for it since we opened. I swear I looked under every single mattress. That was really a miracle.” The young prince sat down close.

“This one. I think I take this one.” I laid back and he laid next to me. “I still get a guarantee though right?”

have a sleep on the perfect mattress
have a sleep on the perfect mattress

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An Axe

It is Friday and that means another challenge from Chuck Wendig. This time it was a knock on the door. Never one to follow directions I went for a crash into a door. An axe. A couple peregrine falcons. A bear. And a fire.

trees and cliff
Trees on a cliff in the Rockies

An Axe

The impact on the solid pine door reverberated through the house.

Faye was out of bed and running to the front door in a heartbeat. She flung open the door and stared down at her half boy, half falcon son. His wings twitched and stretched out as they tried to shift to arms.

He croaked out the worst word. “Fire.”

She shifted in a moment. She couldn’t stay. He would be ok. He had to be.

“The gulch.”

Her husband came out of the bedroom.

She dove off the edge of the porch and spread her wings. He would stay, he would raise the alarm, he would take care of Jacob.

Faye angled toward an updraft. The gulch. There were always fires in the mountains, but fire could go from small and local to drawing unwanted attention quickly.

She spotted the orange lick of flame and pulled her wings in. Faye aimed for the fire and let her instincts take over. Her speed increased.