ConFusion 2015, Panel 6: Current State of Short Fiction

[This post is part of a series which collects and expands upon notes taken during panel discussions at the January 2015 ConFusion science fiction convention in Dearborn, Michigan. The index page, which links to the other posts in the series, is here.]

Panelists included Scott H. Andrews, Ron Collins, Elizabeth Shack and moderator Catherine Shaffer.

As I complete this post, on Easter Sunday 2015, more than two months after the fact, I find myself thinking back on the panel itself. So much laughter and goodwill, and people – editors, writers, and publishers – who have worked their fingers to the bone, but still have such extraordinary optimism and generosity for people in the community of genre fiction. Scott Andrews, in particular was a treasure trove of information. It helps that he is the publisher (and editor-in-chief) of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Here are my notes. Less narrative form, more of a raw info-dump.

* Who is publishing, reading, and writing?
** Galaxy’s Edge
** Uncanny Magazine
** Bastion Science Fiction Magazine
** Fireside Fiction
** Lackington’s
** The Dark

* Early issues are where you find your audience and pool of writers. This means that for publishers, the first few issues of a journal are where you determine what will be submitted going forward.

** Terraform
** Urban Fantasy
** SubmissionGrinder

* Professional rate for genre fiction authors is $0.06/word

* ClarkesworldNeal Clarke is a GENIUS at marketing. He has made his enterprise so successful that it can no longer be considered a semiprozine.

* Flash Fiction (1000 words or less) is becoming more viable,thanks to on-line/digital publishing

* Podcasts/audiobooks of short stories are very popular. This in itself makes the shorter forms more commercially viable, particularly for venues which are comfortable releasing works online.

* Who’s writing short fiction?
** Seth Dickinson
** Gregory Norman Bossert
** Cat Rambo
** Helen Marshall
** K J Parker
** Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
** Alex Dally MacFarlane
** Tamara Vardomskaya
** Laura Pearlman

* Trends for 2014 – 2015
** fewer zombie stories
** More humor in Flash Fiction

* For any question “Is anyone publishing X?”, the answer is YES. BUT: Can you find the publisher willing to publish X?

* Novellas are becoming a viable length again, thanks to digital publishing.

* “Making a living” in short fiction? Difficult. Very difficult.

* Readers of old media sometimes resist converting to new media. People want their analog. This is why many of the classic magazines are still viable.

* Rejectomancy – divining the underlying message in a rejection letter (explanation here).

And that’s about it for this panel. More to come in the weeks ahead.

ConFusion 2015, Panel 5: Researching the Imaginary

[This post is part of a series which collects and expands upon notes taken during panel discussions at the January 2015 ConFusion science fiction convention in Dearborn, Michigan. The index page, which links to the other posts in the series, is here.]

Panelists: Sarah Gibbons, Jen Talley, Michael DeLuca, Brigid Collins, Courtney Allison Moulton

(I tried to find a link to information about Sarah Gibbons, but I can find no information about her online anywhere)

This panel focused on how to research things that don’t necessarily exist. Research is a vital part of writing a story. Even if it is the flightiest of unicorn- and dragon- laden high fantasy, it is important that it be internally consistent and that the narrative flow logically from event to event. And if the story contains “real world” elements, these should be as realistic as possible within the narrative framework.

The panelists agreed that the research value of the internet is huge, but that separating the signal from the noise can be difficult. Two resources which came up immediately were the Michigan Electronic Library and Project Gutenberg.

Wikipedia is the 900 pound gorilla in the room, but because of its open nature it is not so useful as a primary source. But thanks to the “related links” section at the bottom of each page, it can serve as gateway to primary sources. Given the open nature of the internet as a whole it is also important to double-check the primary source against an additional (non-Wikipedia) source.

Here are my thoughts on some specific points the panelists brought up.

Translations reflect the times in which they are translated. Languages evolve over time. Words that were common in the 1700s are long out of use now. New words are added to the Oxford English Dictionary every year. Social values change, words take on new meanings and lose old ones. On a meta- level, the text of a translation can provide useful information about the era in which it was translated. The 1885 translation of Crime and Punishment will convey different information than the 1992 translation. (Corollary: translations also mirror the parent societies of the language into which they are translated. A French translation and a Hindi translation of the same source will not yield the same outcomes.)

The value of observational research is huge. Research is not the same as experience. It is one thing to read about New Orleans; it is another entirely to visit it. Observing the thing you intend to write about will give you the ten thousand little details which may not have made it into another person’s notes. These details can take a story from the abstract to the immediate. I’m not reading about people in the French Quarter, I’m sitting in the Cafe du Monde watching pigeons fight over the crumbs of a discarded beignet, while the humidity makes a sunny day smell like rain. This leads to the next point:

The rationale of research is verisimilitude and plausibility. Does the story seem real, and does it feel like it could actually happen? Are things internally consistent? Does one event lead logically to the next? Do my theories about future nanotechnology lead logically from the current pool of scientific information? Even if you can’t precisely research something because it simply does not exist, you can come arbitrarily close. For example, you may not ever get a chance to eat dragon meat, but you can find iguana and alligator on the menu at some restaurants. Now you can describe a meal made of reptile. This emphasizes…

There is no such thing as too much research. The more detail you add, the more you immerse your readers in your story. Breadth and depth are equally important. Even if you are writing a short story which takes place over ten minutes in a barber shop, placing that shop in a particular place and time grounds it and makes it more accessible. Visit a barber shop like the one in your story. Get a haircut. Talk to people. Hang out for a couple of hours. Explore the neighborhood. What does it smell like? Who are the regulars?

Have I answered the question I set out to ask? You can abandon research at any point, but it isn’t really complete until you can answer this question with an unambiguous “yes”.

As a writer, showing your work can be a fun thing for readers. This goes over and above the “acknowledgements” section at the beginning or end of a book. As a reader, I love seeing the work that inspired and informed the book I am reading. Peter Watts is the first who springs to mind, with his novel Blindsight. He has an extensive bibliography, both in the book and on his website. He even put together an in-universe presentation explaining some of the science!

 

ConFusion 2015, Panel 4: Staying Sane While Sluicing Through Slush

Notes from the “Staying Sane While Sluicing Through Slush” panel at ConFusion 2015.

This was a brilliant panel, and set the tone for me for what I picked through the rest of the ‘con. The panelists were delightful, and absolute founts of good information. In particular, Scott Andrews, who runs Beneath Ceaseless Skies, had several good stories about the industry (as well as a bone or two to pick). Since Caffeinated Press is up and running, and the submissions are starting to trickle in, the information in this panel was invaluable.

Panelists: Ferret Steinmetz, Christine Purcell, Justin Howe, Scott Andrews

* “Slushing” refers to the first read through the backlog of unsolicited submissions (the “slush pile“). This is a sort of gatekeeper position. If the slusher says NAY, it is quite unlikely that the submission will be seen by anyone else. Slushers need to be aware of this.

* Slushers are human beings. It must be acknowledged that the mental/emotional state of this person can influence whether or not a submission is accepted or not. It is on the Slusher to be aware of his/her internal state, and make choices accordingly.

* Slushing is hard work.

* Slushing is a definable skill. It that skill is the ability to do a quick read of the first portion of a manuscript and determine if it is a good fit for the publisher. One can become more efficient with practice. Also keep this in mind when reviewing submissions. It is okay for slushers, as bandwidth permits, to ask for a second opinion.

* Rejections should be personalized. This is helpful for the writer, and may keep doors open for better submissions as the writers’ skills improve.

* Only a small portion of a slush pile will actually be bad. The great majority will be competent, but not better than competent. But there are usually a few gems.

* It is important for EVERYONE at the publisher to occasionally read through the slush pile. This way everyone can stay current on the kind of work that is being submitted. Which leads to…

* Slush piles tend to mirror real-world events. Example: terrible snowstorm paralyzes New York. Two weeks later, a sudden flurry of submitted stories in which man-eating reindeer rampage through New York while it is paralyzed by a terrible snowstorm.

* Respect the writer, no matter their talent. They put forth the effort to write and publish the story. We owe it to them to at least consider it, no matter if this is the fiftieth awful thing this year. #51 might be magnificent.

* It’s okay for editors to talk among themselves about what they receive in the slush pile, but mention no specifics to outsiders. It’s okay to say “Why, yes! I am a first reader!”, but not what you have read. Word gets around. If writers stop trusting your editors, soon you will have no more submissions.

* Start each read optimistically. Assume that it will be an amazing story. Try not to get jaded. If you read a dozen crap stories in a row and are in a Stomp On Their Dreams mindset, take a break.

* STAND BY YOUR GUIDELINES. If you get submissions which do not fall within them, they should be rejected out of hand. Example: submitting a children’s story to Strange Aeons Press.

* Corollary to the preceding: The submission button should be at the very bottom of the guidelines page. Make authors have to read, or at least scroll through, every guideline before they can upload their stuff. Beware of query letters which start with something like “I know your guidelines say you only accept steampunk, but I have this unicorn story…”

* The cutoff for minimum standards for publish-ability varies from physical to digital. There is more leeway for digital because you don’t have to pay for shelf space. This is both and good and a bad thing. Lowers the signal-to-noise ration, but increases volume overall.

* Slushing can be a good learning tool for writers because you get to read so much bad writing. Some of those mistakes might be ones you also make, but seeing them objectively can give you tools to fix your own work.

* Slushing can give insights into upcoming trends, e.g. steampunk, urban fantasy, etc. These trends have to come from somewhere.

Here is the first ConFusion 2015 post, which links to the other articles in the series.

ConFusion 2015, Panel 3: Books You Read as a Kid that Screwed You Up for Years

This was a fun panel, and at times a little disturbing. It was mostly the panelists and audience throwing titles back and forth and cringing appropriately. The titles included Flowers in the Attic, a number of Piers Anthony books, Stephen King, Ayn Rand, Anne Rice, and the Twilight novels, among many others.

The reasons for “messed up” ranged from nightmares, to skewed views of sexuality, to upended views of parent-child relationships, to unrealistic expectations about reality itself. Piers Anthony and Stephen King were mentioned about as much as everyone else put together. Straight-up horror novels weren’t mentioned nearly as often as fantasy and non-genre novels; maybe because the horror novels tend to be more straightforward.

It was also interesting to track which novels affected people of different generations. Piers Anthony for older readers. The Twilight novels for younger readers. Stephen King and Anne Rice for everybody. And didn’t it just make me feel old to hear adults talking about how the Twilight novels messed them up “as kids”.

So here is my list of books which messed me up, and why:

* Anthonology, by Piers Anthony. This one had some of the weirdest, most disturbing stories I have ever read. “In the Barn”. “Up Schist Creek”. “On the Uses of Torture”, etc. For a bored farm kid at the trailing edge of puberty, this was perhaps not a wise decision.

* Alien novelization by Alan Dean Foster. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have read this when I was twelve. I didn’t see the movie until I was in college, so my imagination ran rampant. Nightmares and sleep deprivation followed for a long, long time.

* Jaws by Peter Benchley. See the entry for Alien. I was probably eleven. We had a pool. I had an aunt who lived on a lake. Needless to say, I was conflicted.

* The Shining by Stephen King. Read it when I was, oh, thirteen or so. Every other Stephen King book or short story I read before college can go in this entry, too. The lady-in-the-bathtub scene was so much worse in the book.

* The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. This is an odd one. It wasn’t the books themselves that knocked me off-kilter, so much as the character of Raistlin. There are some personalities that teenagers shouldn’t use as role models.

I’m sure there are many others that a talented psychologist could uncover.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

ConFusion 2015, Panel 2: Science vs. Fiction

John Scalzi interviewed Dr. Cynthia Chestek about the state of human/machine neural interfaces.

This was a fun panel. I had heard of Scalzi’s legendary moderating style, and here he did not disappoint. He laid out the rules right up front and whenever someone from the audience tried to speak out of turn, he pounced!

The content of the panel was mostly Dr. Chestek talking about her work in the field of neural interfaces. In particular, implanting extremely fine wires in human brains to allow them to control machines or prostheses. Some random points from the talk

* The wires are very fine, on the order of 8 microns in diameter. For comparison, a human hair is between 40 and 50 microns in diameter. The wires need to be so thin so that they can match up with individual neurons, and thus receive discrete signals. Dr. Chestek said they slide into brain tissue “like butter”.

* The bit rate across one of these wires is very slow – in the neighborhood of four bits a second. This rate is per wire, though, so the more wires attached to a brain, the more information can be gathered. The down side is that for and significant amount of resolution and control, you need to have, at minimum, hundreds of wires.

* The advantage of using individual wires attached to neurons as opposed to, say, a mesh laid across the surface of the brain to pick up electrical signals is this: Given the complexity and density of the brain, it is extremely difficult to target the exact neurons producing the electrical signals. Direct contact is much more precise than close proximity.

* Also, the contents of the brain are not rigid. The brain itself is quite soft. It has “plasticity”. Neurons move around; not a lot, granted, but when your work is measured in microns any movement at all is huge. This increases the difficulty of mass-producing an implant by several orders of magnitude.

* Dr. Chestek was very firm on the point of “prosthetics, NOT augmentation”. For her this is an ethical point. Her work is meant to allow people to regain abilities they have lost through illness or injury. It is not meant to be used for powered battle exoskeletons or the like. Not that it ultimately couldn’t be used for such.

* One of the first uses might well be simple telepresence. Given the (relative) ubiquity of wireless broadband and cellular signals, a person confined to a bed could control a communication system of some kind in another room, or another building, or indeed almost anywhere on the planet. The more fidelity and the more senses engaged, the more bandwidth becomes an issue – not just in getting the signal from point A to point B, but in the amount of control a (for instance) completely paralyzed person has over the interface itself.

* John Scalzi’s latest book Lock In addresses some of these issues. Also, it’s a great read!

* I asked what the advantages were of inserting electrodes directly in the brain, instead of at the ends of the nerves in amputees. Dr. Chestek said she would be addresing these issues at another panel. Unfortunately I did not attend that panel.

That’s all I have for this panel. Click here for the introductory article of this series, as well as links to the other articles.

ConFusion 2015, Panel 1: What About Peaceful Societies?

The moderator for this panel was Kameron Hurley. Panelists included Annalee Flower Horne, Saladin Ahmed, James Frederick Leach, and Steven Erickson.

“What is a peaceful society?” “Is it possible to write an engaging story about a peaceful society?” “Where do we find the conflict necessary for a good story when we write about peace?” These are some of the questions the panelists addressed during this, the first talk I attended at ConFusion 2015. It turned out to be quite a complicated topic. It also underscored the point that THESE PANELS NEED TO BE RECORDED!

These are some points brought up by the authors, roughly in order from my notes. Interspersed are my thoughts on the subjects mixed with what I remember of the conversations.

S.E. Peace as a survival mechanism

This was an interesting take on the question. Peaceful societies would necessarily be more robust than those which are continually in conflict. Though conflict can drive progress, that presupposes the not-necessarily-accurate idea that progress is objectively good or necessary. Note that this doesn’t necessarily equate peace with passivity. And it is contextual. A society which is internally peaceful may have arrived at this state through extreme violence. Which brings us to…

S.A. Peace is the quieter moments of empire. In “peaceful” times, what violence is being ignored?

The example here was the Clinton years, when America was prosperous and we were not involved in any particularly large wars. For the U.S., it was a peaceful time. For everyone else, not so much. And in that time there was extreme violence worldwide. Crime here in America, wars and battles and massacres all over the globe. We had just finished an excursion to the Middle East and were not far away from doing it again.

A.F.H. positive and negative peace

There is the peaceful community which is often represented in fiction as idyllic, utopian, often populated by hippie analogs. And there is the totalitarian regime where dissent is not tolerated, but society is peaceful. Another way to look at it: Did the people choose peace, or was peace chosen for them?

J.F.L. Can any society be peaceful? Also, Conflict vs. violence

The answer here was left open, as it was too big a question to give the necessary attention to in an hour-long panel. As with so many other points in this panel, a large part of the answer came down to the scale at which the question was asked, and the lower boundary for “peace”. A household may be peaceful, but it is located in a crime-ridden neighborhood. That neighborhood may be in a quiet, prosperous city. That city might be in the middle of a country that is at war with its neighbors. So depending on the spatial and temporal boundaries of “society” the answer here was “maybe?”

K.H. Is the default state of humanity one of violence?

Wow, what a depressing thought. A couple of ideas got tossed back and forth, talking about specific cultures, going all the way back to the Neanderthals. But we quickly realized that…

S.E. We have no basis for comparison.

We have not (yet) been able to observe another civilization as advanced (?) as ours. We have only humanity as the yardstick by which to measure humanity. We have committed a tremendous amount of violence against ourselves over the last couple hundred thousand years, yet in aggregate the percentage of people in violent conflict at any given moment is quite small.

S.E. We haven’t reached a post-scarcity state.

Another interesting idea from Steven Erickson. As long as resources are scarce, there will be conflict. The only post-scarcity society in SF that comes to mind is the Federation in Star Trek. Of course few of the civilizations they encounter are post-scarcity, and this may drive some of the in-universe interactions. Assuming territory expansion is a driving force, no civilization in the universe ultimately lives in a post-scarcity

S.A. Not enough dystopian literature deals with scarcity. Thus a lot of S.F. conflict feels trite or trivial

This is a very good point. Retrieving a stolen amulet or seeking revenge for a courtly slight may make a good story on the face of it, but it feels like, well, there are other ways to resolve the issue. If your people are starving and desperate to the point that invading your neighbors is an improvement over the statis quo, that makes the story feel real. For instance, in a plurality of kung fu movies from the 70s, the first fight starts with the line “Hey. You lookin; at me?” That’s a mighty small base on which to build a compelling story.

S.A. Why doesn’t Fantasy address scarcity?

I wracked my brains for a long time after this comment. I can’t think of any fantasy novels which deal with scarcity on a societal scale as a major plot point. Sure, half of all fantasy novels start out with $character, who is a starving beggar in $city, discovering his or her true identity. But once $plot_hook kicks in, there is no more talk of scarcity or resource management.

K.H. Discovering society through story, rather than story through society

The idea here was that authors generally seem to do a large amount of world-building, then go into the world to find the story. Hurley’s idea was that it is equally valid, and often preferable, to come up with a story and see what kind of society would coalesce around that story. For writing about peaceful societies, it is difficult to imagine a peaceful society, because there are so few around which are larger than e.g. an Amish village.

J.F.L. Coming of age as conflict. Fragmentary frames of reference.

Put this another way, it is possible to outgrow a peaceful society. The problem with any ostensibly utopian community is that it is made up of people who are constantly changing and evolving. What was the ideal situation one day may not seem so on the next. And peace/lack of conflict may exist in a temporary bubble in the middle of turbulent times.

A.F.H. “War is the price of peace” is ingrained into the American mythos

This ties back to Saladin Ahmed’s remark about peace being the quiet moments of empire, and could be said to lay behind it.

A.F.H. Conflict is contextual. The more alike we are, the more the small differences matter to us.

This is demonstrated every time a stable population is disrupted by infighting. Also because people are human. No matter how small or homogeneous the population, they seem to inevitably divide into “us” and “them”.

—–

And this is the (unsurprisingly short, considering the topic) list of books which were mentioned by the panelists:

Dan AbrahamA Shadow in Summer from the Long Price Quartet
Molly GlossThe Dazzle of Day
John Knowles – A Separate Peace
Paul Park – Starbridge Chronicles
Kim Stanley RobinsonPacific Edge

 

ConFusion 2015, Panel 11: Post-Colonial Science Fiction

Panelists included moderator Tobias Buckell, Karen Lord, Steven Erickson, Robert Jackson Bennett, and Leah Bobet.

– Are we doomed to forever colonize?

– dispensing with colonization runs against the grain of the species

– society continues to evolve, so our colonizations will evolve too

– space colonization is essentially a do-or-die situation. Only necessary in the direst circumstances.

– stories don’t necessarily have to create new things – they can eliminate old things

– colonization can be a result of flight; c.f. large waves of refugees.

– colonization in service of a common myth (“manifest destiny”)

– colonization can happen at a variety of resolutions

– colonization at the memetic level – someone else tells your story in their voice.

[FIRST NATIONS SPECULATIVE FICTION]

– China Mieville’s Embassytown

– propaganda becomes myth

[A FIRE UPON THE DEEP]

– positive colonization? Coexistence? Star Trek?

[IAN BANKS CULTURE NOVELS]

– Look at how colonization shifts the balance of power

– We don’t colonize places that we don’t want.

ConFusion 2015, Panel 10: Interstellar Economies

Panelists included Ted Chiang, Karen Lord, Aaron Thul, and moderator John Scalzi.

How would an interstellar economy work?

– trade is limited by transport speed

– current sci fi tendency is to simply scale up international economies

– micro-economies will exist forever

– economies of scale don’t work so well at interstellar scales.

– non economy-based desires – food, fetishes, etc – could drive interstellar trade

– economic asymmetries

– interstellar economics is difficult to make plausible and rational

– or maybe it’s just an allegory

– value-add makes such economies feasible

– economies have historical inertia

– status is more important than possessions.

– asymmetries drive economies

Mary Doria RussellThe Sparrow

ConFusion 2015

This past weekend I attended the ConFusion science fiction convention in Dearborn, Michigan, just outside of Detroit. I have not been to a con in thirteen years; the last one was ConFusion 2002, when Heather Alexander was the musical guest of honor.

I attended this year for two reasons. First as a great big science fiction geek, and second as a representative of Caffeinated Press. My plan was to track down some successful authors and ask them what they looked for in a publisher, and any stories, good or bad, they cared to share about their publishing experiences. As it turns out, famous authors at a science fiction convention are a much-sought-after commodity, so that plan kind of fell flat.

I arrived at the Dearborn Doubletree Hilton just after 3:00 on Friday. I checked into my hotel room, changed my shirt, and wandered down to the main lobby. A large group of science fiction and fantasy authors were sitting around a table eating chocolate cake and taking photos of each other eating chocolate cake. I recognized Jim C. Hines from a talk he gave at the local Thank God It’s Over party at the end of NaNoWriMo, back at the beginning of December. I introduced myself and we talked for a minute, but I quickly realized I was interrupting something, so I left the cake and explored some of the convention rooms.

Things hadn’t officially started yet and the only action was in the gaming areas. People were setting up for Dungeons and Dragons (5th edition), several different card games, and a number of board games I didn’t recognize. Of course I haven’t played board games (other than The Settlers of Catan) in many years, so this was not surprising.

As 5:00 pm approached more and more people filed into the hotel, and finally it was time for the first round of panels. I went to one called “What About Peaceful Societies?”, which explored the notion of nonviolent science fiction books. There aren’t many out there. One of the panelists was a Quaker. After the panel I spoke with her and her husband. I said that I thought it was unusual to see Quakers at a science fiction convention, and they said that all the Quakers they know are big fans. That never would have occurred to me.

I went to a couple of more panels, then hit the bar for dinner and a beer. I struck up a conversation with some folks, one of who turned out to be Michael Elliott, author of Descent Into Redemption. This conversation, along with about a dozen similar over the course of the weekend, made me realize that practically every attendee was a writer to some degree. Several had been published – some by traditional publishers, and many had self-published through Amazon or Smash Words or one of an ever-increasing number of similar platforms. So I shifted my focus. I would leave the bigger-name authors alone and talk to people who were still forging their way.

I have to admit here that, as an as-yet-unpublished writer myself, there was an element of self-interest to these conversations.

On the way out of the bar I happened across John Scalzi and his wife eating dinner with some folks. I introduced myself and he was polite but glared quite ferociously, so I quickly excused myself. I later learned that interrupting authors at meals and such is Frowned Upon by the convention staff. Noted. Won’t happen again.

The whole weekend went this way. I attended thirteen panels, each of which will be discussed here in a separate blog post. I talked briefly with several of the more established authors – Karen Lord, Tobias BuckellSaladin Ahmed, Steven Erikson, and Wesley Chu, among others.

Saturday evening, again in the bar, I struck up a conversation with a couple who were not in the hotel for the convention. They had arrived during the costume contest. That was an interesting conversation. I explained what was going on, and pointed out some of the famous people who were literally within arm’s reach.”You see that guy? He’s had several books on the NYT best sellers list. The woman over there? Won half a dozen awards. And him? He’s published about thirty books.”

Afterwards, on the way to my room, I ran into Dr. Philip Kaldon browsing through a pile of old issues of Locus Magazine. We ended up having a forty-five minute conversation about the ins and outs, the ups and downs, of getting into publishing, and getting published. He was a superb source of information and ideas, and extremely friendly. And he’s a West Michigan local!

ConFusion 2015 was a great experience. I learned a lot about writing, editing, and publishing, and came away inspired to get Caffeinated Press up and running and maybe look at publishing some of my own work.

Here are the notes I took for each of the panels.

  1. What About Peaceful Societies?
  2. Science vs. Fiction
  3. Books You Read as a Kid That Screwed You Up for Years
  4. Sluicing Through Slush
  5. Researching the Imaginary
  6. The Current State of Short Fiction