Monday, October 28, 2013

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Vol. 3, 4

The Fall issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone is out! You can purchase the issue for $3 (or subscribe for $10) at

Vol. 3, No. 4:Vol No. 4 — October 2013
Seeing C.M. Kornbluth as Gender-Egalitarian
  by Mark Rich
a tipping point
  by Gwynne Garfinkl
Grandmother Magma
Two Eleusinian Mysteries
Lud-in-the-Mist and
Paris: A Poem by Hope Mirrlees
 by Michael Swanwick

Big Mama Stories
by Eleanor Arnason
  reviewed by Andrea Hairston

We See a Different Frontier
edited by Fabio Fernandes
and Djibril al-Ayad
  reviewed by Cynthia Ward

Caution: Contains Small Parts
by Kirstyn McDermott
  reviewed by Kiini Ibura Salaam

She Walks in Darkness
by Evangeline Walton
  reviewed by Caren Gussoff

One Small Step
edited by Tehani Wessely
  reviewed by Karen Burnham

Sea Change

by S.M. Wheeler
  reviewed by Nisi Shawl

Featured Artist
Luisah Teish

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The XY Conspiracy by Lori Selke

I'm pleased to announce another new volume in the Conversation Pieces series-- #37, The XY Conspiracy, a novella by Lori Selke. Among the questions driving Jyn to undertake a long road trip is this one: Why are there no Women in Black? Why is it always Men in Black?

An Asian-American lesbian, Jyn makes her living stripping in clubs in San Francisco. But stripping is only her day job. Her true vocation is UFO hunting. One night, working at her day job, she sights a Man in Black and realizes he is stalking her.
But why would they be after me? Sure, I’d posted a few things on various message boards, and, like everyone else these days, I had a blog and a mailing list that I was supposed to send monthly newsletters to, except it was more like quarterly. My correspondents didn’t know about the day job, though. How had they found me? Why did they care?

Unless I was onto something? Unless I was right? My theories aren’t entirely orthodox within the UFO community, after all. Maybe I had accidentally stumbled on something a little too hot, a little too close to closely-held secrets that I’m not supposed to question.
Jyn’s “not entirely orthodox theories” involve the origins and history of the XY chromosomes. The next day, Jyn packs up her car and sets off on an extended road trip—part “serious UFO tourism” and part flight from the MIB—that takes her though a variety of western states, stripping in clubs and bars as she goes, drawn, inexorably, to New Mexico…

Aqueduct is selling The XY Conspiracy for $9 at We'll be releasing an ebook edition soon. And of course the book will soon be available in the usual places you can find our books.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spring in Geneva by Sylvia Kelso

I'm pleased to announce the release of a new volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series: Spring in Geneva, an original novella by Sylvia Kelso. (Sylvia, as you'll recall, has published with Aqueduct before-- as editor of the fourth volume of the WisCon Chronicles, and as author of Three Observations and a Dialogue: Round and about SF.)  In her new novella, Mary Shelley, a young banker's son, and William, an excessively tall man with a "lividly hued visage, watery eyes, and blackened lips within a straggling beard," pit their wits and derring-do against Lord Byron, master of steampunk technology, and his thuggish minions.
" beloved Percy’s ardor bore him to lengths I could not go. There were plans, between him and Byron, that I could not condone. I nerved myself to protest: you may conceive how difficult, against such visions, such intellects. When protest failed, I forced myself to act.” She took her hand quickly from my arm and drew out a handkerchief. I paced beside her, managing not to exceed my position as mere listener, until she recovered herself. “Then—I was forced to depart, in haste, and to choose between discovery, outcry, wrath—perhaps, retribution—and my child.”—from Spring in Geneva
“I loved it! By heaven, this woman can tell a story. I was entirely gripped, right from the hyacinths.”
—Caroline Stevermer, author of Sorcery and Cecilia
“The voice and character of Anton render it delightful; haven't seen that much earnest gallantry since Reepicheep. “
—Lois McMaster Bujold, author of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance 

Aqueduct is selling it for $9 at We'll be releasing an ebook edition soon. And of course the book will soon be available in the usual places you can find our books.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA SF and Fantasy Anthology

by Alisa Krasnostein

One of the best things small presses can do is to publish work that sits outside of “mainstream publishing” and to champion works that large corporations don’t consider. At Twelfth Planet Press we look to publish fresh, original, well-written work that seeks to interrogate, commentate, inspire or provoke thought. We look to provide opportunities and to advocate for fiction that might otherwise not be written or find a home and audience. Kaleidoscope ( is an anthology of diverse contemporary YA science fiction and fantasy stories. Our crowdfunding campaign ends in just a few days.

I became passionate about the idea of making Kaleidoscope after listening to an episode of the Outer Alliance Podcast. It was a panel discussion about the lack of QUILTBAG characters in YA dystopian novels (, and it made me want to publish more YA stories with underrepresented voices so young adult readers would see themselves reflected in the fiction they read. 

I’ve always been committed to publishing diverse material, and I was very interested to work with Julia Rios, who has been actively promoting diversity in our field for quite some time. She’s half-Mexican and bisexual, and the ideals of feminism and intersectionality are important to both of us. She was enthusiastic about the idea, and we set about collecting some wonderful stories.

At present we have five stories by Sofia Samatar, Vylar Kaftan, Ken Liu, Jim Hines, and Sean Williams. They are beautiful, fun, heartbreaking, and adventurous, and their protagonists are neurodiverse, people of color, mentally ill, and part of the QUILTBAG. These stories are strong anchors, but the anthology is still in its nascent stages. We have much material still to come, and we are hoping to see many great stories in our open submissions call (

We're not limiting this book to authors who have already established themselves in the field. We're reaching out to anyone anywhere who might have a story to share. We want to see protagonists who are not the mainstream default (straight, white, cisgendered, able-bodied, neurotypical) character. We want to delight in their adventures, be awed by their magic, and geek out over their tech. 

If you're a writer, or know someone else who is, spread the word about our call. If you're a reader, like us, and if you want to see these stories for yourself, please back Kaleidoscope today! (

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Social learning in non-human animals

Received wisdom  assumes that most non-human animals are almost entirely instinctual in their behaviors (except, of course, when humans deliberately train them either through stimulus-response mechanisms). This assumption underlies the fantasy that should human culture result in the extinction of most mammal and avian species, all humans need do to restore them is find a way to use extant genetic materials to bring these species back to life-- presumably just as they were. (I.e., that DNA=the magic blueprint for replication.)

Lately, though, I've been noticing reports (particularly in Science) suggesting that education plays a role in birds' and mammals' behaviors. Crows, of course, have come in for a lot of attention over the last decade (though I suspect that even before scientists began to study crows' intelligence most of us already knew from personal observation that crows share information about particular humans with other crows, sometimes, disconcertingly, over a period of years). In the August 30 issue of Science, though, researchers are now reporting that whooping cranes bred in captivity have to be taught migratory performance. Here is the abstract of the report:
Successful bird migration can depend on individual learning, social learning, and innate navigation programs. Using 8 years of data on migrating whooping cranes, we were able to partition genetic and socially learned aspects of migration. Specifically, we analyzed data from a reintroduced population wherein all birds were capitve bread and artificially trained by ultralight aircraft on their first lifemtime migrations. For subsequent migrations, in which birds fly individually or in groups but without ultralight escort, we found evidence of long-term social learning, but no effect of genetic relatedness on migratory performance. Social learning from older birds reduced deviations from a straight-line path, with 7 years of experience yielding a 38% improvement in migratory accuracy.
The authors note more generally that in some bird species, "innate programs alone are not sufficient, and experiential learning is critical to successful navigation, as adult animals often have markedly better navigational capabilities than juveniles. Information transfer from more experienced individuals to inexperienced ones can be essntial to navigational success, especially for species that travel in groups. Current hypotheses, richly supported by theoretical studies, posit that social learning, coupled with interindividual coordination of movements, is esential to successful migration and the maintenance of group structure."

Whooping cranes, of course, are being bred in captivity because they are an endangered species. There is much to learn, also, from other species whose social structure is being altered by human impacts. The September 20 issue of Science, interestingly, has a focus on recent changes in the behavior of species subject to hunting. Some cougar behavior, for instance, has changed in Washington State because in the 1990s, the state, under pressure from livestock owners, extended the hunting season on cougars and increased the number of cougars a hunter was allowed to take while also decreasing the cost of a hunting license. Cougar deaths have skyrocketed in Washington state--along with "complaints about problem animals." What has now become clear is that cougar society and therefore behavior is changing as a result:
[Wildlife] managers hadn't considered what happens to cougar society with such a high mortality rate. "A stable cougar society has senior, adult males," who patrol large territories and protect the kittens of several females, [WSU wildlife ecologist Robert] Wielgus explains. When a male dies, incoming younger males will fight over his territory, and kill kittens in order to bring the females into estrus again, as his team will report in Biological Conservation in November.
When the researchers looked at the cougar population of the Selkirk Mountains in eastern Washington, where lion complaints had increased, they discovered that most of the older male cats had been replaced by adolescent males. Because of the threat from these infanticidal young males, many of the female lions there had also moved to higher elevations with their cubs, Wielgus's team discovered. "The females moved to areas they would normally never use, where they eat prey they normally wouldn't eat, including the highly endangered mountain caribou," Wielgus says. The younger males also attacked livestock. "They're the ones that haven't learned to avoid people and so get into trouble."
The article also discusses alterations in bear and wolf behavior. It's all fascinating and thought-provoking. Nurture and education is nature, and not some artificial additive outside of it. When will it become common sense to see that nature vs. nurture is a false dichotomy? I'd love to see more sf writers getting that one right.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

US Culture vs Women & Girls doing Science

The New York Times Sunday Magazine has an article by Eileen Pollack on the problems faced by women in science. Here's the opening paragraph:
Last summer, researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were significantly more willing to offer the man a job. If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s. Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts.
Interestingly, Pollack reports that before she met Meg Urry, a Yale astrophysicist, in 2010, Urry
predicted that the female students in her department would recognize the struggles she and I had faced but that their support system protected them from the same kind of self-doubt. For instance, under the direction of Bonnie Fleming, the second woman to gain tenure in the physics department at Yale, the students sponsor a semiregular Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at Yale. Beyond that, Urry suggested that with so many women studying physics at Yale, and so many of them at the top of their class, the faculty couldn’t help recognizing that their abilities didn’t differ from the men’s. When I mentioned that a tea was being held that afternoon so I could interview female students interested in science and gender, Urry said she would try to attend.
Judith Krauss, the professor who was hosting the tea (she is the former dean of nursing and now master of Silliman College, where I lived as an undergraduate), warned me that very few students would be interested enough to show up. When 80 young women (and three curious men) crowded into the room, Krauss and I were stunned. By the time Urry hurried in, she was lucky to find a seat.
The students clamored to share their stories....
Their stories included treatment from instructors that one would have supposed long gone from the college classroom. Pollack confirms that conditions at Yale are not anomalous:
In the two years that followed, I heard similar accounts echoed among young women in Michigan, upstate New York and Connecticut. I was dismayed to find that the cultural and psychological factors that I experienced in the ’70s not only persist but also seem all the more pernicious in a society in which women are told that nothing is preventing them from succeeding in any field. If anything, the pressures to be conventionally feminine seem even more intense now than when I was young.
For proof of the stereotypes that continue to shape American attitudes about science, and about women in science in particular, you need only watch an episode of the popular television show “The Big Bang Theory,” about a group of awkward but endearing male Caltech physicists and their neighbor, Penny, an attractive blonde who has moved to L.A. to make it as an actress. Although two of the scientists on the show are women, one, Bernadette, speaks in a voice so shrill it could shatter a test tube. When she was working her way toward a Ph.D. in microbiology, rather than working in a lab, as any real doctoral student would do, she waitressed with Penny. Mayim Bialik, the actress who plays Amy, a neurobiologist who becomes semiromantically involved with the childlike but brilliant physicist Sheldon, really does have a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is in no way the hideously dumpy woman she is presented as on the show. “The Big Bang Theory” is a sitcom, of course, and therefore every character is a caricature, but what remotely normal young person would want to enter a field populated by misfits like Sheldon, Howard and Raj? And what remotely normal young woman would want to imagine herself as dowdy, socially clueless Amy rather than as stylish, bouncy, math-and-science-illiterate Penny?
Although Americans take for granted that scientists are geeks, in other cultures a gift for math is often seen as demonstrating that a person is intuitive and creative. In 2008, the American Mathematical Society published data from a number of prestigious international competitions in an effort to track standout performers. The American competitors were almost always the children of immigrants, and very rarely female. For example, between 1959 and 2008, Bulgaria sent 21 girls to the International Mathematical Olympiad, while the U.S., from 1974, when it first entered the competition, to 2008, sent only 3; no woman even made the American team until 1998. According to the study’s authors, native-born American students of both sexes steer clear of math clubs and competitions because “only Asians and nerds” would voluntarily do math. “In other words, it is deemed uncool within the social context of U.S.A. middle and high schools to do mathematics for fun; doing so can lead to social ostracism. Consequently, gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers.”
The study’s findings apply equally in science. Urry told me that at the space telescope institute where she used to work, the women from Italy and France “dress very well, what Americans would call revealing. You’ll see a Frenchwoman in a short skirt and fishnets; that’s normal for them. The men in those countries seem able to keep someone’s sexual identity separate from her scientific identity. American men can’t seem to appreciate a woman as a woman and as a scientist; it’s one or the other.”
That the disparity between men and women’s representation in science and math arises from culture rather than genetics seems beyond dispute.
Do go read the entire article. After looking at entry-level problems and their cultural context, Pollack goes on to examine the discrimination-- much of it based on unconscious bias-- that qualified and successful women in science in the US continue to face.