Machinations and Mesmerism: Tales Inspired by E. T. A. Hoffman

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My story “Spinollio” was just published in the anthology Machinations and Mesmerism: Tales Inspired by E. T. A. Hoffman. For those who don’t know, E. T. A. Hoffman was a writer, artist, and musician who is probably best known for writing The Nutcracker and Mouse King. He also wrote the first detective story and some consider him to have started the Romantic movement. My favorite stories of his are “The Sandman” (a creepy horror story featuring an automaton and eyeballs) and “New Year’s Eve” (featuring a man without a reflection meeting a man without a shadow). He wrote romance, horror, and humor and wrote for both adults and children.

“Spinollio” is a pastiche I did of various Hoffman stories. I included some of his humor and some of his horror. I tried my best to write it in his voice, although I’ve only read his work in translation, so I guess I’m imitating the translator’s style and word choice as much as Hoffman’s. Like Hoffman’s stories, it takes place in a time where men always wore swords at their side, women regularly used snuff, and things like wigs, duels, and fainting were all the rage. Be sure to check it out!

Bluescreen by Dan Wells

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I don’t usually read Young Adult, but I really liked this one. (As an aside, I’ve often wondered what makes a particular book YA and I’ve come across many different answers over the years. Some people would say that what distinguishes YA from other genres is that there’s less swearing, sex, and violence, however I don’t think this is it since many YA stories actually contain above-average swearing, sex, and violence. Some say the only thing that makes a story YA is if the main character is a young adult, but many sections of the Game of Thrones series are told from a young adult perspective and it’s not considered YA. Also, the Hobbit and other stories are considered YA even though they’re not told from a young adult’s perspective. Continue reading

Asimov’s May/June 2019

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The good thing about having a subscription to a print magazine is it encourages me to actually read it. I always mean to read internet-based magazines, but I often never get around to them. The problem with podcasts is I’m always falling behind the most recent episode. It’s especially hard to keep up to date with podcasts that have extensive back catalogs. I have a greater incentive to read a print magazine, though, because I’ve already paid for it, so not reading it would be wasting money.

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The Complete Colony Saga by Michaelbrent Collings

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“They were half-pinned under an SUV that was burning brightly, sending black puffs of smoke into the air like an old West smoke signal, like it was humanity’s last chance to ask for help.”

At the beginning of this series, almost half of the world’s population suddenly turn into zombies and start killing the other half, so there’s lots of gore. In fact, this is likely the most gruesome book I’ve ever read. Right off the bat, we smell “the pungent odor of bowels that had been purged in fear and death” and see a zombie “kneeling over a young girl, yanking loops of entrails out of her stomach.” Despite all the gore, the author is initially squeamish when it comes to swear words, although the cussing does increase as the series goes on. Continue reading

The Literary Hatchet Issue #23

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My story “Suckling Reflex” was just published in The Literary Hatchet Issue #23 which you can read for free online (it will also be available on Amazon in a few days). Don’t you just love the cover? I think it has a kind of Alice in Wonder feel to it. Anyway, since this is a flash fiction story, saying almost anything about it would get into spoiler territory, but I’ll just say that it’s about a mother with a newborn baby who’s a bit unusual in some way. Feel free to let me know what you think of the story in the comments.

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 5 of 5

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This book covers many other things such as free energy, homunculus theory, vitalism, dualism, and pyramid schemes. An important take-away from the chapter on quantum woo is that quantum effects don’t apply to anything much bigger than an atom, so don’t believe anyone who tells you quantum effects apply to your day-to-day life. The chapter on N Rays demonstrates that intelligent people aren’t more likely to be good at critical thinking, just better at coming up with rationalizations. Continue reading

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 4 of 5

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Data mining is sifting through large amounts of data looking for anything that stands out, even if it happened by chance. Astrologers are often guilty of this, using one study to claim people born under certain signs are more accident prone. However, a single study doesn’t prove anything until it’s replicated. A followup study actually demonstrated that people born under different signs are more likely to have car accidents. Continue reading

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 3 of 5

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Cognitive biases are flaws in how our brain processes information and heuristics are mental shortcuts which are not always true. For example, we’re more likely to buy something that costs $19.99 rather than $20.00 due to our leftmost digit bias. Handedness bias makes right-handed people prefer the item on the right (and left-handed people the item on the left) when two similar items are presented. An example of framing bias is that we prefer something with a 90 percent survival rate over something with a 10 percent death rate, even though these are both the same. We also take bigger risks to avoid negative outcomes than to achieve positive outcomes. Continue reading

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 2 of 5

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People will usually accept new information as long as it doesn’t conflict with an emotional belief that’s part of their identity. When this is challenged, they engage in motivated reasoning, defending their belief illogically and dismissing inconvenient facts. It’s triggered by cognitive dissonance, psychological discomfort which occurs when two ideas conflict. It’s human nature, but we can try to avoid it by not getting emotionally attached to factual beliefs that might turn out to be wrong. Continue reading