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

Sale – Nature Physics – “Love and Relativity”

I’ll be appearing a second time in Nature‘s pages—this time in their Physics magazine. Hooray!

This story is told in the form of an annotated bibliography. It’s more serious by far than my previous Nature sale, and deals with several types of love (love lost and love gained) as well as special relativity, the Fermi paradox, and… Well, I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll stop there.

It’s also set in India, so hopefully I didn’t screw anything up too much on that front. (My apologies in advance if I did!)

Anyway, just a quick post to announce the sale. I’ll be sure to put up a link when it’s available—although I have no word yet on when that may be.

Read Annie Bellet’s Hugo-nominated “Goodnight Stars” online—free!

Sad Puppy controversy aside, this time of year is always great for getting a chance to read good, free fiction. Plenty of editors and authors make their nominated work more accessible in the run-up to voting, so that everyone who wants to read it can.

As an example of which, John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey just made Annie Bellet’s Hugo-nominated short story “Goodnight Stars” available on the Apocalypse Triptych website free of charge. The story appeared in Adams’ and Howey’s “The End is Now,” the second volume in the anthology series.

This is my first time reading the story (I don’t have much of a budget for buying fiction, unfortunately), but it’s easy to see why it’s on the ballot. The characters are well-sketched, multi-layered, and sympathetic, the pacing is excellent, and the ending packs an emotional whammy.

So if you like apocalyptic stories, go give this one a read. (Even if you don’t like them, go give this one a read. It may change your mind.)

Update 4/15:
Annie has withdrawn her story from the ballot. Here’s why:

am withdrawing because this has become about something very different than great science fiction. I find my story, and by extension myself, stuck in a game of political dodge ball, where I’m both a conscripted player and also a ball. (Wrap your head around that analogy, if you can, ha!) All joy that might have come from this nomination has been co-opted, ruined, or sapped away. This is not about celebrating good writing anymore, and I don’t want to be a part of what it has become.

I am not a ball. I do not want to be a player. This is not what my writing is about. This is not why I write. I believe in a compassionate, diverse, and inclusive world. I try to write my own take on human experiences and relationships, and present my fiction as entertainingly and honestly as I can.

Original Fiction: “Some Salient Details About Your Former Lives” at Plasma Frequency

I somehow didn’t spot this one when it came out, but I have a piece of flash fiction up in January/February’s Plasma Frequency Magazine.

The story, “Some Salient Details About Your Former Lives,” is very loosely inspired by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the character of Agrajag, that hapless multi-mortal being whom Arthur Dent inadvertently kills thousands of times.

Of course, my story isn’t much like Hitchhiker’s Guide. It’s more of a fantasy than anything, and while it does deal with a similar set-up, it shakes things down in a very different way.

Go give it a read over at Plasma Frequency and let me know what you think!

Some Salient Details About your Former Lives, by Stewart C Baker

“Raising Words” now available as a free podcast at @MedusPod

My story “Raising Words,” from the July 2014 issue of Penumbra, has been reprinted as a free podcast over at MedusPod.

It’s a story set in an approximation of Yamato Japan (around the late 600s), and features the legendary warrior Yamato Takeru, shape-changing boar-god-things, and other weirdness. Go check it out!

This is my first time being podcast(ed?), as I’m generally a much more text-based person. I hope you enjoy, in any case!

Listen to Raising Words at MedusPod.

Magazine Review: F&SF, March/April 2015

Author friend Henry Lien was kind enough to send me a copy of the March/April 2015 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the first edited by C.C. Finlay with his “official full-time editor” hat on.

Heretic Cheap-ass that I am, I think this is the first F&SF I’ve actually sat down and read all the way through. It’s certainly the first I’ve ever owned a copy of. (My reading history with Asimov’s is similar, and my reading history with Analog is non-existent.)

Anyway, it’s good!

I haven’t had a chance to dig into the novella and novelettes yet, but of the short stories it contains, here are a few I particularly enjoyed:

“A User’s Guide to Increments of Time,” by Kat Howard – Two people with similar (but very different) time-stopping abilities engage in a disastrous relationship. Gorgeous prose and a satisfying resolution made this one stand out.

“Bilingual,” by Henry Lien – A story about the practice of dolphin drive hunting (note: explicit photographs of animal slaughter in that link), told in the form of a Twitter feed and two letters. I had a bit of a believability issue with the linguistics at work here in the creation of a “dolphin meme” that could be used to warn dolphins away from Taiji (and presumably other places where the practice of dolphin drive hunting is still legal and practiced), although it appears that dolphins can and do use echolocation “snapshots” to discuss dangerous places, but otherwise this is a very compelling tale. The character voice is excellent (although if you hate Twitter and Internet shorthand it will probably drive you crazy), and for a story told entirely in 144-character snippets, there’s a clear sense of action and character. A memorable read.

“La Héron,” by Charlotte Ashley – A fun Dumasian romp, complete with unlikely nuns, duels-a-plenty, and fairy lords. Lush setting details and good action, plus two female characters who kick ass. Hooray!

“Things Worth Knowing,” by Jay O’Connell – A story about the possible future of militarily-standardized education. I started out not thinking I would like this (teacher has a gun and a Taser-like club), but it’s a well-developed setting with a sympathetic (if at times a tad too nostalgic) character, and the overall plot works for me. There’s even a little bit of intersectionality at work! I think the story will resonate particularly well for those involved with teaching in some way or another. My only real complaint is that the ending makes me want more stories set in this world.

Five reprints now available on Quarter Reads

Do you like stories? Do you like quarters? Do you like reading? Do you like reprints? Do you like five?! (Fnord)

Wait, wait, wait. Where was I going with this…?

Ah, right. I have five new reprints (does that even make sense?) available over on Quarter Reads as of right now. Here are links to each, and where they first appeared:

If any of those sound like they’d be up your alley, go give them a browse!

Why Sad Puppies makes me angry

So, Sad Puppies. Sad Puppies makes me angry.

And just to be clear, what I take to be objectionable about the whole thing—what pisses me off almost to the point of incoherence—is not (for the most part) the authors who are on the list. And I frankly could not care less about whether Sad Puppies “gamed” the Hugos (because that is basically how the Hugos work).

What makes me so angry about all this is the argument that people interested in social justice—and who put it in their fiction either explicitly or just by dealing with topics that are other-than-male, other-than-white, other-than-straight—are “ruining” the genre, and that if you speak up on behalf of actual social justice and equality, you are essentially shouted down and called a Nazi (the perpetual comparison of Feminisms and other social justice movements to murdering millions of people always baffles and angers me. In fact, it is not a matter of ‘cultural Leninism’ to strive for equality. It is not ‘authoritarian’ or ‘fascist’ to suggest that, hey, maybe we should give traditionally underprivileged groups some kind of fair treatment. There is, in fact, a difference between actual discrimination and the mere loss of privilege.).

What makes me angry is the co-opting of social justice language (“We’re being shut out by the political/cultural elite!”) to make what is basically an argument that marginalizes anything other than the “default,” and which paints the “old way of doing things” or whatever as a magical place full of butterflies, rainbows, and happiness for everybody everywhere forever, which is now ruined because minorities are whiny. (Another news flash: that’s only true if you happened to be a straight white man.)

What makes me angry, in short, is the rhetoric of inclusion being used to say “All those people of colour and other minorities who got on the Hugo slate? They’re only there because of left-wing politics, and not because they earned it.”

Because, make no mistake, that IS the Sad Puppies platform:

Likewise, we’ve seen the Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters.

This argument is—among other things—incredibly disrespectful to anyone who happens to be other than straight, white, and male and who has also placed on the Hugo ballot in previous years. Ann Leckie? Totally just there because politics. N.K. Jemisin? Politics rears its ugly head again—she clearly couldn’t have been on there otherwise. I mean, gosh, nobody even reads the things those people write, so how else could they be there?!

It’s a toxic, noxious, disrespectful argument. And I’m not going to pretend I don’t have an issue with that being the basis on which a platform is built, because I do—even though I have a few friends on the slate who I think genuinely do deserve more recognition for their work.

Anyway, for the majority of the people who are on the current Hugo ballot, my message is: Congratulations. I’m happy for you—honestly, I am. If you’re there because you’re an awesome writer, that’s a fantastic achievement, and you shouldn’t let the political bullshit pushed by the Sad Puppies crowd get you down.

For the few who are there purely because those with like-minded politics voted you in, well … I think it’s going to be pretty obvious whenever a voter opens up your work.

And Sad Puppies’ central argument that politics is ruining science fiction? Fuck that bullshit.

If you want a link that talks about this in a more calm and reasoned manner (of which I am totally incapable), here:

  • A Detailed Explanation – A very long post, which breaks down the Sad Puppies platform and rhetoric piece by piece and makes (in my view) very compelling arguments against it. Summary excerpt: “I think SF has always had ideology behind it; and that there’s no appreciable increase in ideology in recent Hugo novels; and that it’s better to read a text ideologically than not, because ideology is always there; and that, in the end, the current ideology Torgersen finds in SF is more important to me personally and to the culture at large than past ideology.”

And other good reads on it all:

I made the James White Award longlist

While I didn’t win anything, or even make the shortlist, I was pleased to see that my longish short story, “The View from Driftwise Spindle,” made the recently-announced longlist for the James White Award.

The James White Award, for those who aren’t familiar, is a contest for new authors of SFF which includes a monetary prize and publication in Interzone. There were about 255 entries this year, and only 30 stories on the longlist—which means I was at least in something like the top 10%.

Congratulations to those who made the top five, and to the winner, Mack Leonard, who was just announced today!

Reprint: “Selections from the Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things” at Sockdolager

I’m very pleased to announce (a little belatedly) that my post-apocalyptic structuralist/meta-fictional folk tale story, “Selections from the Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things,” is now available online for the first time over at The Sockdolager.

This story was first published in The Next Review‘s January 2014 issue, and I’m glad it’s getting wider exposure. It’s one of my favourites!

If you’re not familiar with the Aarne-Thompson Index, it’s a book which collects brief summaries of various folk and fairy tales and classifies them according to their subject matter.

My story basically does the same thing, but with stories that haven’t yet been told, but which conceivably might be after some sort of world-shattering apocalypse. I had a lot of fun writing it, and hope you enjoy reading it as well.

So give it a read over at The Sockdolager (if you’re so inclined) and let me know what you think of it.

Original Essay: “Fishing for Bashos: Interpretive Communities and Haiku in English” at Modern Haiku

I’m very excited to announce the publication of this scholarly essay, which is based on a presentation I gave at Haiku North America last year.

In short, the essay tackles translation, Stanley Fish’s idea of Interpretive Communities, and

I had a blast doing the presentation and writing the essay. Who knew literary criticism could be so fun?! (Okay, maybe I’m just a nerd.)

What makes it doubly exciting is that the whole essay is available to read for free(!) on the Modern Haiku website as a PDF: Fishing for Bashos: Interpretive Communities and Haiku in English.

Give it a read, and I’d love to hear what anyone thinks about it, either here in the comments or via e-mail.