Saturday Storytime: A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide

Continuing this week with Nebula award nominees, it’s always fun when the nominated stories that were previously subscription-only become more widely available. This one, from writer and singer Sarah Pinsker, seems to have been the first. Let’s hope the rest come out.

In the mirror, he saw his gaunt face, his narrowed shoulder, the sleeve. His left arm, with its jagged love letter. On the right side, he saw road. A trick of the mind. A glitch in the software. Shoulder, road. He knew it was all there: the pincer hand, the metal bones, the wire sinew. He opened and closed the hand. It was still there, but it was gone at the same time.

He scooped grain for the horses with his road hand, ran his left over their shaggy winter coats. He oiled machinery with his road hand. Tossed hay bales and bags of grain with both arms working together. Worked on his truck in the garage.  Other trucks made their slow way down a snowy highway in Colorado that was attached to him by wire, by electrode, by artificial pathways that had somehow found their way from his brain to his heart. He lay down on his frozen driveway, arms at his sides, and felt the trucks rumble through.

 

#

 

The thaw came late to both of Andy’s places, the farm and the highway. He had hoped the bustle of spring might bring relief, but instead he felt even more divided.

He tried to explain the feeling to Susan over a beer on her tiny screen porch. She had moved back to town while he was in the hospital, rented a tiny apartment on top of the tattoo parlor.  A big-bellied stove took up most of the porch, letting her wear tank tops even this early in the season. Her arms were timelines, a progression of someone else’s skill; her own progression must be on other arms, back in Vancouver. She had gone right after high school, to apprentice herself to some tattoo bigshot. Andy couldn’t figure out why she had returned, but here she was, back again.

The sleeves of his jacket hid his own arms. Not that he was hiding anything.  He held the beer in his left hand now only because his right hand dreamed of asphalt and tumbleweeds. He didn’t want to bother it.

“Maybe it’s recycled,” Susan said. “Maybe it used to belong to some Colorado rancher.”

Andy shook his head. “It isn’t in the past, and it isn’t a person on the road.”

“The software, then? Maybe that’s the recycled part, and the chip was meant for one of those new smart roads near Toronto, the ones that drive your car for you.”

“Maybe.” He drained the beer, then dropped the can to the porch and crushed it with the heel of his workboot. He traced his scars with his fingertips: first the scalp, then across and down his chest, where metal joined to flesh.

“Are you going to tell anybody else?” Susan asked.

He listened to the crickets, the undertones of frog. He knew Susan was hearing those, too. He didn’t think she heard the road thrumming in his arm. “Nah. Not for now.”

Keep reading.

“As the Board Turns”, 2015 MN Atheists Board on Atheists Talk

Stop me if you have heard this one before.  “If atheists don’t believe in anything, why do they organize and talk about nothing?”  Far from being a Seinfeldian sideshow, the Minnesota Atheists are a very active group. We are very much involved in the community; volunteering for various worthy causes, having fun with fellow atheists, meeting and speaking and watching and listening and just generally enjoying each other’s company.  With so much activity, we need to have a board of directors to make decisions and generate ideas as well as revenue.  Each year we elect a new and fresh board and on this episode we talk to members of the board so that people know who is representing them.

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Family Matters: How Geek Communities Turn Dysfunctional

“My people!”

If you’ve ever followed Twitter as your friends walked into a conference or convention, you’ve seen this. Someone sees a fellow cosplayer, a T–shirt from their favorite obscure fandom, 201–level discussions of issues that are ignored in mass media, or even the simple lack of the background nonsense they deal with everywhere else, and they are home. They’ve found their people.

“Our baby!”

A software startup, a magazine, a political campaign, an event, or an organization—there is nothing quite like seeing all your hard work and sacrifice build something new. Creation is a heady thing that only becomes more intoxicating when shared. When you create together, you don’t have to wait for the final product to exult. You can celebrate each accomplishment, each step of realized potential, as your baby comes to be. [Read more…]

Mock the Movie: Uncredited Cameo Edition

Your Mock the Movie crew is indulging themselves on two fronts this month. First, we’re taking on a classic film with a decent script, good actors, and stat- of-the-art (for 1954) special effects. Then, while we’re doing that, we’ll also be playing Spot the Nimoy, because we can.

That’s right, we’re watching Them!, that granddaddy of nuclear paranoia monster films. Don’t worry, though. There’s still plenty to mock even in a decent film. We’ve got this.

This one is available at the Internet Archive. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye

This is an excellent time to dive back into story blogging, not to mention reading. The Nebula Award nominees were very recently announced, and I have some catching up to do. The only one I’ve read so far is Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives”, which I shared at the time.

This story is by Matthew Kressel, who is having a good stretch writing-wise, having also recently sold a trilogy.

The next Beth began with the same questions, but the Eye avoided telling her too much. And when the Beth asked about the stars, the Eye replied with a question for her.

“My planet?” the Beth said. “It’s called Dirt. You’ve never heard of it? Where did you find me?” The Beth gazed into the impenetrable black.

The Meeker was envious. He had been born on an airless moon that orbited the Great Corpus every thousand years and spent the rest of his life in this Bulb. [Read more…]

“Nature’s God”, Matthew Stewart on Atheists Talk

A couple of centuries of national pride and the gentle glow that history casts on winners have given today’s U.S. citizens a rather staid view of the radicals and revolutionaries who built a country from former colonies. Not only did they wage treasonous war against their king, but many of the crafters of our constitution were religious radicals. There were Quakers and Methodists and Christians who rejected the authority of the Bible.

There were also deists among the people who shaped our government. In his recent book, Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic, philosopher Matthew Stewart tells their story. He traces the strains of deism in Enlightenment thinking and shows how it shaped our country.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Signs You Might Be Constitutionally Unsuited to Running a Kickstarter

Friends of mine run Uncanny Magazine, which raised its first year of operational costs via Kickstarter. Having sold them an essay for the issue that comes out this upcoming Tuesday, I had a chance to preview the whole issue. It’s glorious. You’ll want to read it. It’s full of stories, poems, and essays with what I’ll call, with no cynicism or irony, “heart”.

For all that, the sentiment that resonated with me the most strongly came from the editors themselves. Halfway through their fully funded first year, they used their editorial to talk about funding a second. They offer subscriptions, and they’re looking into other funding methods as well. (Use them if you want to help good people fund good speculative writing and theory.) What they don’t want to do is run a second Kickstarter.

“We would prefer not to run another Kickstarter. Although Caitlin loves dressing up and everybody loves Space Unicorn swag, Kickstarters are exhausting”, they say. Having just finished a Kickstarter last week, I agree with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll probably do another Kickstarter. [Read more…]

The Secular Women Work Kickstarter by the Numbers

We funded this afternoon at 4 p.m. CST. Now we just have to put on this conference we convinced people to invest in. Here’s how we did it:

  • Number of backers: 172
  • Total raised: $13,743
  • Lowest pledge: $1
  • Highest pledge: $1,000
  • Average pledge: $79.90
  • Biggest day: $3,339
  • Number of tickets sold: 66
  • Number of advertisers: 7
  • Number of t-shirts sold: ~45
  • Number of Surly-Ramics sold: ~40
  • Numbers of hours of sleep lost by the organizers: We lost track somewhere around week three.

But we did it. We’re going to have a conference.

Have You Signed Up for Secular Women Work?

The Secular Women Work logo with three inter-meshed gears.You’re nearly out of chances. The Kickstarter ends this Thursday. Right now, it’s only 51% funded, and if we don’t fund the Kickstarter, we won’t have a conference. If we do fund, but you haven’t bought your ticket through the Kickstarter, the price will go up.

Haven’t quite made up your mind to attend the conference? Then it’s time to catch up on the reasons you should.

  • Don’t just listen to us organizers. There are plenty of people out there who want to tell you why you should come to Secular Women Work.
  • Our speakers have done amazing things, and they demonstrate that you can come to activist work through many paths and interests. Check out our interviews with them. Mandisa Thomas wants to provide community and other support for the people much secular activism leaves behind. Lauren Lane has spent the last several years demonstrating that she’s not only capable of riding the tiger, but she can steer the beast as well. Desiree Schell figured out at an early age that she wasn’t okay with the world being fundamentally unfair, and she can tell you what she’s done to fix that.
  • We’re not rushing to fill our slate of workshops, because we want your input on what we should offer, but we’ve set up a few we think are important. The Ada Initiative will help you stop impostor syndrome from getting in your way when you want to get things done. Jessica Kirsner of the Secular Student Alliance will help you develop a fundraising plan for your project. A local professional photographer will provide you with a headshot for free as part of our media training.


We have a lot happening already, and we’re excited to bring you more. We just have to know that you’re excited to come. So get your ticket before the Kickstarter ends this Thurdsay, February 19.

Mock the Movie: Deadly Duplicate Edition

Once upon a time, someone, or several someones, told us we had to do a Jeff Speakman movie. They suggested The Perfect Weapon as peak Speakman. The only problem was that we’d already done Miami Connection. I won’t say we won’t repeat bad, because zombie movies, but even we have our limits.

So we found one better (worse): Deadly Outbreak. No, not Outbreak, but the film made the next year to cash in on the popularity of the still-not-very-good epidemic movie by adding terrorists and martial arts. Really, there are endless variations on bad.

This one is available on YouTube. [Read more…]