Welcome to Infomancy

Welcome to Infomancy.net, the website of haikuist and author Stewart C Baker.

You can read free reprinted and original fiction and poetry right here online.

If you’d like to browse around my published fiction and poetry (much of which is already free to read on external sites), check the relevant links in the menu to see a list of each.

Get in touch: Facebook | Twitter | E-mail

My story “Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast” reviewed

I’ve spotted a couple of reviews out there on the Interwebs for my story “Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast” in the November issue of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. I know you’re not supposed to read the things, but I’m a glutton for self-abnegation and never could resist.

Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews has some kind things to say about the story.

There is a great sense something terrible has happened, and that in some ways it takes being in such a situation to give advice on it. That this list is both a manual for others and its own successful exit broadcast. That it follows its own advice, though it slips a bit, as anyone would. That it keeps the pain just under the surface, slipping only momentarily up to show in the quiver of a lip, the hesitation in a word. It’s a gripping story, a very, very short story, and a fine read.

I’ll drink to that! Or I would, if I drank.

Alas and alack, David Wesley Hill of Tangent Online was less than impressed, and reads the story as being about someone who is “concerned about looking good while dying horribly”—not quite what I had in mind with this story, although I suppose it’s a fairly accurate surface level summary.

David does make a good point about this being an implausible set of instructions, but such is the nature of the piece’s second-person conceit. Somewhat more baffling to me is that he spends the rest of the review talking about the authentic smell of burning and/or rancid meat. As he says, “Details count, particularly in a story of 200 words.” And sure, I’ll agree with that. And sure maybe I should have deleted “rancid.” (I will admit that it’s mostly there for rhythm.) All the same, this aspect of David’s review still seems a little over the top to me.

Ah well. You can’t please everybody, right? I think that’s especially true for such a short piece as this one.

“Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast” is odd, short, and free to read at Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

I like flash fiction. I also like space ships (albeit ones without puppies involved).

So it pleases me to combine the two in my latest publication, “Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast,” which is now live in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination‘s November/December issue.

It’s super short–about 200 words total–and has some pretty spiffy art to go with it. Go give it a read if you have a spare moment or two. And enjoy!

My Dicksian story “Fugue in a Minor Key” free to read at Galaxy’s Edge

What would you do if everything you thought was real was ripped away, and you were young again? And what would you do if everything you thought you real was what you wanted back again?

These are the two core questions asked in my story “Fugue in a Minor Key,” which is in the November issue of Galaxy’s Edge.

The story puts us in the head of Katja Maczyk, a young university student who has to answer both when two lab technicians tell her that her husband, her daughter, and her career as an internationally-renowned pianist was all part of a simulation. Katja struggles to cope with what she’s told is reality, and with the help of a newly-budding romance with one of the lab techs starts to think she might just be able to do so. That’s when the hallucinations start up . . .

I call the story “Dicksian” because I was very consciously trying for an overall plot that wouldn’t have been amiss in the works of Phillip K. Dick. I’ve always enjoyed the way his stories played with reality, and found the results fascinating.

Here’s a short excerpt of my story which gets across the feel of the thing:

What they do is sit me in a folding chair in a white-walled room with a single fluorescent bulb on the ceiling. Two techs in white (one short and female, one skinny and male) sit there and tell me this is real, that I was never a world-famous concert pianist, never married and never mourned my husband, and never never never had a daughter.

As such, the skinny one says, it is impossible for her to be in any danger.

Is she in danger? I ask.


But I don’t let him finish. If she’s all right, I say, I’d like to see her.

Ma’am, the skinny one repeats. You can’t see her. She isn’t real.

Are you the police?

No, the short one says. We’ve been through this before.

We are experimental psychologists, the skinny one says, and you have spent the past eight minutes immersed in a holistic simulation designed to test the human mind’s response to stress.

I know dialogue without quotation marks is a big stumbling block for a lot of people, but in this case I would argue that it plays a big role in adding to the actual feel of the story and its what-is-real core. In the snippet above, for example, “We’ve been through this before.” could be either something the psychologist says, OR something from the viewpoint character.

Anyway, I’m really pleased overall with how the story turned out, and am glad it found a good home.

Go give the rest a read! It’s free until January, and after that available only in the print edition.

My quantum physics haiku (yes, really) made the EQUS competition shortlist

I recently entered one of the mini-contests for the Quantum Shorts competition (where my story “How to Configure Your Quantum Disambiguator” is still in the flash fiction contest and eagerly awaiting your vote, if I haven’t said that five billion times already) with a haiku that was supposed to “describe the wonder of quantum physics in 17 syllables through haiku.”

Most people would probably look at that and say: Whaaaat?

For me, the reaction was closer to: YEEESSSSSSSS, ALL THE QUANTUM PHYSICS HAIKU

It’s like they sat down and tried to decide on a contest that would appeal as much to me as possible. Haiku? Check. Nerdy quantum physics references? Check.

So I gave it a go with the following three haiku (accompanied here by notes on the quantum stuff):

Haiku 1

tunneling effect—
dad finally understands
her situation

The quantum tunneling effect describes a “phenomenon where a particle tunnels through a barrier that it classically could not surmount.” (Quoth Wikipedia.)

This illustration by Jean-Christophe Benoist, which shows electrons “tunneling” through a solid barrier, serves as a good way of seeing what this actually means:
An electron wavepacket directed at a potential barrier.  By Jean-Christophe Benoist.

Haiku 2

superposition . . .
the cat chases/does not chase
the tangle of string

This one is a nod to the famous Shcroedinger’s Cat thought experiment, which deals with quantum superposition (put simply, the way multiple contradictory quantum states all theoretically exist until someone observes them). The word “tangle” is a pun on entanglement, the word used to describe this state of superposition.

Haiku 3

wave function collapse—
the last cherry blossom lands
as she says I do

Wave function collapse is what happens when something in superposition “appears to reduce to a single eigenstate” when observed. Basically, to return to Schroedinger’s Cat, it’s what happens when you open the box and see that the cat is either alive or dead.

Yesterday they announced the winner, and while it isn’t me, haiku #3 above (“wave function collapse”) did land me on the “highly commended” shortlist.

I’m especially happy that this was the haiku they chose for it, since it was my favourite of the bunch.

Come check out my story “How to Configure Your Quantum Disambiguator” in the Quantum Shorts competition

…which sadly is not a competition involving clothes that have the fly open and closed until you think to check.

But it is a pretty neat flash fiction competition. I’ve entered my story “How to Configure Your Quantum Disambiguator” in the lists, so go give it a (re-)read and a vote if you like it. The story appeared earlier this year (February) in Nature, and is in part an ode to Ren and Stimpy. So if nothing else, that ought to make it worth reading, right?

Looking for a writing activity in November? Come run the @WYRMsGauntlet !

If anyone out there in the wide world of Internet is looking for some kind of motivational writing thing to do in November that isn’t a novel, and/or would like a chance at $150, why not come join me over at Wyrm’s Gauntlet?

What exactly is that, you ask? The long version is available at the link above.

Here’s the short version:

WYRM’s Gauntlet is 4 rounds of writing or reviewing challenges, organized in a tournament style. Only 8 entrants move on to the second round, 5 to the third, and just 3 to the final round. Anyone who lasts to the finalist round earns a nice cash prize.

The challenges are things like “write a story” or “review this,” and all entries are submitted via a private web-form, so you don’t lose any rights to your work.

I’m already registered under the moniker of Flintonlaubakersmith. (Last year, as the less-gloriously-named s_c_baker, I won second place. I also, of more note to me personally, wrote the first draft of a story I cannot yet name because it won first place in Writers of the Future recently.)

If all this sounds like fun to you, go read through the Wyrms’ Gauntlet guidelines and sign up to be a “Gauntleteer.” The first round starts October 12th, but you can join any time before its deadline of October 26th.

Story sale! “The Plumes of Enceladus” to Abyss & Apex

Thrilled to announce that I have sold “The Plumes of Enceladus,” a roughly 7,000-word science fiction story, to Abyss & Apex. It is by far the “hardest” story of mine to see publication to date. Most of my skiffy is much squishier…

This one was originally written for the Baen Memorial contest back in February of 2013(!), and has lived a long and varied submission life since then, including an “almost” from Giganotosaurus and Future Fire’s Accessing the Future anthology. It’s been through a number of revisions for clarity and scientific accuracy, and I’m very pleased with where it ended up.

The story follows two pilots, Andry (who is disabled) and Jim, as they race to Enceladus to harvest water from its cryovolcanic plumes. They start the race as bitter rivals, but distance from Earth and isolation from the rest of humanities can have a surprisingly mollifying effect. You’ll have to read it to find out the rest.

Anyway, the publication date is October of 2016, by which time I will probably have forgotten I sold the thing. All the same, I’ll post a link when it’s out!

Want to appear in a story I write? Now’s your chance!

“Tuckerization,” for anyone not familiar with the term, is the practice of including real people in fiction as a sort of in-joke, either using their real name, an obvious parody of it, or just similar interests/quirks.

For anyone who’d like to appear this way in one of my stories, I’m offering Tuckerization as a backer reward on the ongoing Plasma Frequency Kickstarter. For $20, you’ll not only get written into a story, you’ll also get a year’s e-subscription to the magazine.

If you’re not familiar with Plasma Frequency, you can read through their back issues, which include two weird little flash pieces by yours truly:
Some Salient Details about Your Former Lives

After the Ascension

Out today: an Interview and an Anthology

Actually, both of these things were out yesterday. But today is the new yesterday! Or it will be tomorrow. So: close enough.

The first thing is an interview with me in the Polk County Itemizer-Observer (my local newspaper) about my win in Writers of the Future. I was happy that the journalist agreed to interview me by e-mail, as I do not do well speaking extemporaneously, and probably as a result gave him way too much text to fit into an article. Still, it’s neat to see myself in print this way. Or electronic print, at least: http://www.polkio.com/news/2015/sep/30/writer-future/

The second thing is a shiny, hardcover print anthology my story “Behind the First Years” is in. The release date for that was some time between September 28th and yesterday (I got conflicting information), and if you’d like a copy you can order it here: http://amzn.to/1ieyQ5z (If you’d like a taste of the anthology, you can listen to an audio version of my story on StarShipSofa.)

My stories are now on AnthologyBuilder (which is having a sale!)

I just recently learned of a website called AnthologyBuilder. It’s basically a way to select whatever available stories you want from your favourite authors and bundle them all together into a fancy printed anthology.

Sounds like a neat concept to me, so I added some stories:

  • Behind the First Years
  • How to Configure your Quantum Disambiguator
  • Selections from the Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things
  • Oubliette
  • Raising Words

If you like any of those and would like to read them in a shiny print-on-demand anthology together with stories by other authors, you can see my author listing at AnthologyBuilder.

Also, if it is something you want to do, now’s a great time to do it, because from now until September 25th, anthologies are 15% off.

(And, of course, “Behind the First Years” is coming out soon in the Science Fiction Short Stories anthology by Flame Tree Publishing alongside work by new and classic writers. So that’s an option too!)