Wednesday, April 14, 2021

In the Spotlight: Charles Kowalski ~ Author of "Resident Alien"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Charles Kowalski on his short story, “Resident Alien.”

 

This story deals with a dark matter, even if not literal “Dark Matter.” The setting is a remote planet in the far future, but the inspiration came from a chain of events very much of this present world: the death of George Floyd, the ensuing demonstrations, and the responses that condemned the protests more harshly than the murder that ignited them. I wanted to shout to my fellow white people, “What would you do if it happened to you?” But I realized the most likely answer would be, “It wouldn’t.” For a white person to imagine how it feels to live as a displaced, formerly enslaved people, in a hostile environment that was still the only home we ever knew, with no way out, there was no real equivalent on earth.


So, I thought, we would have to go somewhere off Earth.

 

Thus was created the planet of Ogygia. (The name comes from one of the oldest imaginary places on record: the island where Calypso held Ulysses captive in the Odyssey). When SETI first discovered signs of civilization on an exoplanet, space agencies around the world collaborated to build an interstellar vessel for an international crew (later known as the “Great Eight”). Of course, it would be a one-way trip; even if the ship could return to Earth, Einsteinian time dilation would mean thousands of years would have passed in the interim.

 

When the Great Eight landed on Ogygia, they met a fate like the ancient Israelites in Egypt: They were welcomed as honored guests at first, but their fortunes changed with the rise of a new ruler who saw no use for them except as raw genetic material for mass-produced slaves, Brave New World-style. It’s been a constant battle for freedom and equality ever since. The story was my way of asking, “What if ALL humanity were in this struggle together?”

 

Another inspiration was the early criticism of Star Trek as too implausible even for science fiction. Warp-speed starships? Matter-energy transport? Sure, why not? Those fit comfortably within the conventions of the genre. But look at the crew of the Enterprise: Mixed genders? Mixed nationalities, including Russian? Mixed races, including black, white, Asian, even extraterrestrial? Come on--suspension of disbelief has its limits.

 

Science fiction has always done better at predicting changes in technology than in society. And yet, we didn’t even have to wait until the 23rd century for Star Trek’s predictions to come true. Earth may still be light-years away from the utopian society Gene Roddenberry envisioned, but sometimes, the human race can surprise itself.

 

Blurb:

 

The descendants of the first human interplanetary explorers struggle for freedom and equality on their new home planet.

 

Excerpt:

 

The line at the checkpoint wasn’t too long. At this hour, with everyone coming home from their jobs in downtown Zulon, traffic into the Baryo was heavier than out. This could mean I’d sail through easily, but it could also mean the police would have more time and attention to spare for each of us. Everything depended on who was on duty, what kind of mood they were in, and whether there had been a crime somewhere in Zulon that a human would be blamed for. But then, I repeat myself.

 

I shuffled along, avoiding eye contact with the officers on guard, until I reached the head of the line. The scanner hummed as I walked through the archway, toward the landing lot where Lhuara would be waiting for me.

 

A siren pierced my ears. The light turned red, the barrier came down in front of me, and a robotic voice blared from the speakers: “Report to Inspection Room One.”

 

Shito, I swore silently.


I passed through the side door, down the corridor, and into the inspection room. The harsh glare on the white walls made me squint, and I imagined it must be painful for an Ogygian, whose eyes were more sensitive to light than ours. But the unseen inspector probably didn’t mind, since there was a reflective tinted window between us.

 

Face me.” The voice over the speakers sounded male, but the electronic distortion made it hard to tell. “Hands up.”

 

I complied. A line of red light swept across my palms.

 

Do you speak Ogygian?” the voice asked.

 

Do you know any human who doesn’t, you idiot? I was born here, like my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. “Yes, sir.”


Charles Kowalski's contemporary thrillers, Mind Virus and The Devil's Son, have won prizes and nominations including the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Award, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, and the Adventure Writers Grandmaster Award. He is also the author of the Japan-themed historical fantasy Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts (Tokyo: Excalibur Books, 2019). When not writing, he teaches at the International Education Center at Tokai University, near Tokyo.




We also have some exciting anthology news! As we get closer and closer to the release date of Dark Matter: Artificial on May 4 (just three weeks away!), we're excited to announce our upcoming blog tour with guest posts and interviews by the authors on several writing blogs! Throughout the month of May we'll have blog stops that you can browse and read through to learn even more about the science fiction stories and writers that you've just started to learn about here. And it's always fun to go "on tour"!


On April 28 we'll post the exact dates and links, so you can check them out!



Also coming on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 . . . 


Next up on this blog will be Olga Godim, who shares her backstory for "Nano Pursuit."

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

In the Spotlight: Deniz Bevan ~ Author of "One to Another"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Deniz Bevan on her short story, “One to Another.”

Mine all started with a line from Neil Gaiman, which was to be the start of a fable: "Long ago, in the days when there were still fish in the oceans and cars on the roads, there lived a woman who was not afraid of governments…"

I kept thinking of the line and, oddly enough, I set the story in Montreal after I'd moved away from there. Sometimes when you look back, it's easier to see a place more objectively. I remembered the ice storm of 1998, and that's what led me to imagine The Snow, and to wonder how people might start rebuilding a community from the beginning—by making rules or telling stories?

The 1998 ice storm in Montreal.

And that's where the title came from: "One to Another" is a song on Tellin' Stories by The Charlatans.

I love writing short stories because they always seem to come all at once. A few hours of non-stop writing, and there it is! It's been a couple of years now since I had a fresh idea for one and, though I've done NaNoWriMo every year and written other pieces (especially during writers' houseparties onthelitforum.com!), I miss writing short pieces! I'm always eager for new prompts.


Blurb: 

What would you do if a storm destroyed the world and you had to rebuild from scratch? Would you be a leader—or oppose those who try to forge ahead? How might the survivors begin—by making rules or telling stories?

Excerpt:

Maja was walking on Sherbrooke Street when the storm started, carrying her sleeping baby against her in a linen sling. She raised her hand to cover his head, and a snowflake fell across her knuckles.

It turned orange, sizzled, and burned. She yelped and raised her knuckles to her mouth to suckle-soothe the pain. Yet a heat came off them, and she lowered her hand to her side. She didn’t want to burn her lips, too.

Another snowflake, dainty as crocheted lace, came floating down in front of her face.

It rested on the sidewalk, turned orange, and burned a hole in the paving. Not just on the surface, as it had with her hand; this time the flake bored down until a tidy pothole opened up in the sidewalk.

The snowfall grew thicker. Maja ran for the nearest shelter, wrapping both arms around her baby to keep from jostling him. She wedged her heels into the dirt right up against the trunk of an oak and looked up to ensure that the branches and leaves covered every part of her. As she shushed her baby back to sleep, in her peripheral vision she could see others running, flitting from one side of the street to the other under the pelting snow.

The oak seemed to shudder under the weight of the flakes as they piled up. Every few minutes a branch shivered and the snow, instead of dropping off in a clump, floated off like pollen, then settled elsewhere on the street. In a quarter of an hour, the sidewalk closest to her had become a freshly churned embankment. The road was eaten away.

A young man ran under her tree, arms over his face, and she tightened her hands around the curve of her baby’s body. The man hadn’t seen her, but must have registered her motion, for he skidded to a stop, gave her a wide-eyed glance, then scurried to the other side of the trunk.

Maja hoped her husband had found a tree as protective as hers.



Deniz Bevan has lived and worked in Turkey, and her non-fiction work, including travel articles, book reviews and personal essays, has most recently appeared in the trilingual (English, French, and Turkish) newspaper Bizim Anadolu. Her short story 'Where There's Life' was shortlisted for the Surrey (Canada) International Writers' Conference Storyteller's Award in 2013. Her contemporary romance, Summer Fire is out now with Carina Press. And there’s a playlist for that story, and many others, on her YouTube channel! And her Story Inspirations board on Pinterest features images of all her characters.

A firm believer in burning the candle at both ends, she is generally writing a new novel while editing another, and blogging about her reading and research adventures -- and sharing travel photos – weekly on her blog, The Girdle of Melian. Other days, she tries to stay off the web altogether, as she delves into the history, mystery, and romance of her characters’ lives.



Coming on Wednesday, April 14, 2021 . . . 

Next up will be Charles Kowalski, who shares his backstory for "Resident Alien."

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

In the Spotlight: Tara Tyler ~ Author of "Sentient"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Tara Tyler on her short story, “Sentient.”

I love writing sci-fi and fantasy--the possibilities of alternate realities are endless. So when I heard the topic for the IWSG contest, I dove right in! First I researched Dark Matter--it's very elusive and mysterious. I thought I could shape it into anything I wanted, and I even gave it a consciousness: SENTIENT. Then thinking about all the turmoil in the world, with everyone isolated and divided, my story fell right into place. I've jokingly thought several times that this would be the perfect time for an alien invasion! Extraterrestrial life would probably view us as petty and selfish and weak on the surface. But if they took a deeper look, they would see we have many redeeming qualities.

So I made Dark Matter a floating presence--the fabric of the universe that keeps everything in balance. Representative scouts choose opposite human specimens, and Fate plays a part too, creating fun twists and turns--you know how opposites attract! So how will earth measure up? Are we worthy of existence? Or are we throwing the universe off balance? 

Blurb: 

Sentient Dark Matter representatives Grav and Absi are sent to study a developing species: humans. They will collect evidence to determine whether earthlings pose a threat to the balance of the Universe or not. But when the Dark Matter scouts inhabit the lower life forms, they discover these pitiful creatures are more powerful than they seem. Their very existence could incite galactic chaos or instill harmony. Dark Matter has a big decision to make.


Excerpt:

“Grav, tell me again: if humans are so destructive, why aren’t we eliminating this planet?”

To provide a balanced report, Absi was chosen to accompany me on this trek down to Earth’s surface. I can attest opposites do not attract. My profound patience and peaceful demeanor will be challenged on this mission.

“If we destroy Earth, the universe would be sent reeling out of balance for centuries. We are looking for ways to preserve Earth and the stability of this galaxy without direct interference. Though humans can be volatile toward each other, they tend to balance each other out. They also like to explore but are oftentimes too inquisitive for their own good. As they venture into our domain of space and the cosmos, we must confirm their intentions. Purely routine, like every other evolving galaxy we observe.”

“What about Kristol? We destroyed them.”

“They destroyed themselves along with their warring sister planet Elko. Thus, the balance remained unchanged.”

“Riiiight.”



Tara Tyler 
has had a hand in everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After moving all over the US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her husband and one boy left in the nest. She has two novel series, Pop Travel (sci-fi detective thrillers) and Beast World (fantasy adventures), plus her UnPrincess novella series where the maidens save themselves. She's a commended blogger, contributed to several anthologies, and to fit in all these projects, she economizes her time, aka the Lazy Housewife--someday she might write a book on that... Make every day an adventure!


Coming on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 . . . 

Next up will be Deniz Bevan, who shares her backstory for "One to Another."

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

In the Spotlight: Steph Wolmarans ~ Author of "The Utten Mission"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Steph Wolmarans on her short story, “The Utten Mission.”

My story, "The Utten Mission," started as an exercise, but the original idea is quite a bit older. My writing really began in the form of journals about gardening, healthy choices, and herbology. I followed these up with a blog then got overwhelmed by life, the universe, and everything. After my son was born, I found I had a lot of sleepless nights and a disturbing case of depression. Reading speculative fiction helped a lot. And so did journaling about my thoughts. This was the start of my writing journal. I recorded ideas and dreams with the hope to one day conjure enough brainpower to make something magical happen. Being the questionable parent I am, I decided one year to keep my son in daycare a few days even though I was on summer vacation (teacher perk). I took one of my story seeds and wrote a whole novel! It was over 100K words and I was so proud of myself. Of course, it was rejected, because it was really not that good. But four years later, I picked up the idea, changed from first person to third person, renamed the characters and the planets, and let the new story take shape.

I wrote more than 250 pages last year then realized the idea was still not working. So, I stopped. Who were these people I was writing about? Why did they believe what they believed? Why did they not get along with one another?

I decided I needed to write about their ancestors so I could learn more about them. Around this time, I learned about the IWSG Anthology and its perfect theme! I looked into methods for writing short stories and decided to take advantage of the activity to better understand my characters. Even if it was not chosen, I would benefit from the creative process. I went through a few versions. Some were completely epistolary and one was first person narrative. In the end, I found a good combination and shared it with an online beta reading group for teachers. They provided some awesome feedback. More editing, deleting, rearranging, revising, then—STOP! Hitting that submit button was so scary, but I am over the moon with the results!

I am also happy to announce the first draft of the latest version of my novel (let’s call it version 3.4) was completed last week thanks to wonderful online communities like IWSG and a really awesome writing coach who refused to let me give up. I have a very long road ahead to finish revising and editing, but I have high hopes!

"Do or do not. There is no try." -Yoda

Blurb: 

Namiu is part of a crew returning to their homeworld after generations aboard a scientific mission transport. Unfortunately, he and his people failed to receive a warm welcome because they were all born with a genetic mutation altering their appearance and their minds. Now he has requested a hearing to plead for citizenship and to warn the others what is coming.

Excerpt:

A voice from the council interrupted. “So, we have confirmation that he is the grandchild of these former citizens?” Namiu wondered how much of the debate he tuned out. “Yes.” The councilman who asked the question looked closely at Namiu, studying his unique features—narrow face, eyes with pupils widening from tiny slits to large glowing orbs when the lights dimmed, and ears that angled up. Namiu stiffened but tried to remain composed; happy his distance made it impossible to feel the xenophobic hatred behind the man’s eyes.

“How is this possible then? Is this a condition? Is it curable?” another man asked. He also studied Namiu. The representative sighed and sent a quick note to Namiu saying, “He is too ignorant to understand the impact of his words,” and saying aloud, “Why don’t we skip ahead to the medical reports from the mission log? I'll display those next.” The screen scrolled past several documents and stopped.


Steph Wolmarans is an educator, mother, wife, gardener, beekeeper, and speculative fiction author. Steph has been creating galaxies since she visited Arrakis as a child. Now she envisions worlds, discovers new beings, and spends a lot of time exploring planet Earth with her husband and two small children.












Don't forget, print copies of Dark Matter: Artificial are available for preorder on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and from the publisher, Dancing Lemur Press! eBooks are also available. Release date is May 4, 2021. Two months left to go!

Coming on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 . . . 

Next up will be Tara Tyler, who shares her backstory for “Sentient.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

In the Spotlight: Kim Mannix ~ Author of "Rift"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Kim Mannix on her short story, “Rift.”

It’s difficult to remember exactly how the seeds of a story take hold, isn’t it? Or maybe that’s just the case for me. This one started about two years ago. I had the pleasure of being a part of a mentorship program where I worked with horror writer and filmmaker Susie Moloney in order to develop a collection of dark short fiction. Together, we picked at and sharpened some of my existing stories, but she also challenged me to create a few from scratch. So, I wrote a draft, and then another, but the story--"Rift"--mostly just sat there, lonely and incomplete. When the IWSG Dark Matter call came along, it served as good motivation to finish it.

My favourite kind of weird stories--whether they be literary, horror, dark fantasy or science-fiction--are those that are rooted in a believable sort of reality. I had a character in my mind of a woman who found herself alone and dealing with a certain amount of guilt about it, even though the circumstances were out of her control. Having had my own losses in life, I suppose part of it was drawn from personal experience, but what really made me want to write the story was the whole notion of, what if this isn’t the only world for us? What if there’s a place where another version of our life exists? I am by no means a scientist, but the idea of the multiverse is one of my favorite things to ponder. So I took my character, Lindy, and put her in a seemingly boring and normal setting, that still held the possibility for something extraordinary to develop. The wide open and isolated prairie, not unlike places I spent much of my childhood growing up in Saskatchewan, often find their way into my stories. I think all that expanse leaves a great deal of room for the imagination to run wild.

I was, and still am, surprised and pleased that Rift was selected to appear in the anthology. When I’m not writing for work, most of my creative writing time goes into poetry, but my heart--and writing aspirations--always come back to fun, creepy and weird short fiction. It’s so exciting to have my story in the company of such accomplished writers, and I can’t wait to hold this anthology in my hands!

Blurb:

One quiet morning, a grieving woman encounters a mystery that makes her question the path her life has taken, as well as everything she thought she knew about reality. How thin is the fabric between her world and the next?

Excerpt:

Lindy reached down and picked up a handful of stones from the edge of the pond. She tossed them one at a time, asking herself the same agonizing question she had so many times before. If the baby had lived would Matt still be here?

After the fifth toss, Lindy realized the rocks weren’t making any ripples in the still pond. Only the smallest splash, and then they’d sink. She threw a few more and watched, in confusion, as they did the same thing.

“You seeing this, Janeway? What is up with this day?”

The horse neighed back and started twitching her ears. Lindy heard, or rather felt, an odd rumble that seemed to move across the air. Janeway shifted back and forth and whinnied louder. The vibration continued, and Lindy grabbed the reins and pressed her palm to the horse’s neck.

“Shhhh, shhhh, it’s ok girl.”

The rumble stopped as suddenly as it started. Lindy looked over the fields, then up to the sky, trying to find the source. Thunder? It didn’t seem like that exactly. It felt closer and sharper. Like someone scraping heavy furniture across a floor. She kneeled on the dirt, and put her ear toward the ground, listening and waiting. For what, she didn’t know.


Kim Mannix
is a fiction writer, poet and journalist currently residing on Treaty 6 territory in Sherwood Park, Alberta. She has been published in several journals and anthologies in Canada and the U.S. and is a contributing editor of Watch Your Head, a climate crisis anthology. You can find her on Twitter (@KimMannix) usually posting about kids, cats, music and creepy things.











Coming on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 . . . 

Next up is Steph Wolmarans, who shares about her upcoming story, “The Utten Mission.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

In the Spotlight: C.D. Gallant-King ~ Author of "Space Folds and Broomsticks"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

C.D. Gallant-King on his short story, “Space Folds and Broomsticks.”

A few years ago I saw a call for submissions on an anthology of sci-fi retellings of classic fairy tales. Unfortunately I missed the deadline, but it sparked several story ideas that have been rattling around inside the ol’ brainpan for awhile. One of them was a version of Hansel and Gretel, something that I haven’t seen re-done as often as old standbys such as Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood (for examples, just search “Red Riding Hood + erotica” on Amazon). 

Of course, I didnt want to make it too much like the original--for one, I don’t think a story about parents dumping kids in the wilderness would go over as well today as it did back in the 1700s. Come to think of it, did anyone ever sympathize with the parents in that one? So instead, I combined the basic premise of the Grimm Brothers tale with another love of mine--military sci-fi, in the vein of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Wing Commander, and Battlestar: Galactica. And voila--the story grew from there.

Picture this--but with lasers and space ships.

Of course, I had to made it funny. I cant write anything without taking the piss out of it.

I have always maintained that genre fiction is inherently funny--the tropes required to write genre fiction are, because they are by definition over-used, ridiculous. Space cowboys, wizards in pointy hats, wars between ancient gods, even straight romance or mystery--it’s very hard to use these things and make a genuinely fresh and interesting story. It certainly takes far more writing skill than I have. So instead of trying, I usually just lean into the ludicrousness and have fun with it. It’s not to say my writing doesn’t have serious moments or tragedy, I still have to slip those in from time. In fact I find that those serious moments land even harder when bookended by comedy. It should be no surprise that my favourite authors are Kurt Vonnegut and Terry Pratchett, folks who wrote “genre” fiction but included a lot of serious topics in their satirical sci-fi and fantasy.

I’m not comparing myself to Vonnegut or Sir Terry. I’m not smart enough to write like Vonnegut and not British enough to write like Pratchett, but I do my best.

I hope you enjoy it.


Blurb: 

Sleahn and Treeg are the most incompetent recruits ever to step foot inside the Federacy’s training academy, but they can’t be due to their family’s political standing. Can their instructors get rid of them quietly by taking advantage of their young pilots’ own ineptitude?

Excerpt:

Commandant Jacob was the director of the Federacy training facility aboard the star carrier Schwarzwald. She was a career officer, a tall woman with a sharp nose who rather looked like one of those large flightless birds from that desert-covered outer colony planet. She achieved her position, like most highly-ranked officers and politicians in the United Federacy of Independent Star Systems, despite any outwardly visible signs of competency or qualifications.

She currently sat in the large hot tub in her quarters, sipping Norgothian whiskey from a dainty wine glass. Captain Sawx stood before her, feeling uncomfortable but desperately needing to have this conversation. He had spoken to commanding officers under worse conditions. In his younger days he had a Lieutenant who gave his morning briefings while sitting on the toilet.

Sawx, standing at attention in his perfectly pressed grey uniform and polished boots, did his level best to ignore the fact that his CO was in a compromising position.

“With all due respect regarding Ensigns Sleahn and Treeg--they are going to kill someone.”

She nodded solemnly. “We are soldiers, Captain. That is part of the job description.”

“Not to kill their own squad mates!”

“Ah yes, that would be irksome, wouldn’t it? Would really put a damper on the next round of team-building exercises.”


C.D. Gallant-King wrote his first story when he was five years old.  He had to make his baby-sitter look up how to spell "extra-terrestrial" in the dictionary. He now writes stories about un-heroic people doing generally hilarious things in horrifying worlds.

He's self-published three novels, Ten Thousand Days in 2015, Hell Comes to Hogtown in 2016, and Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space in 2020.

C.D. has also written ten novels you haven't read, because they're still locked in The Closet. The Closet is both a figurative and literal location - it is the space in his head where the stories are kept, but it's also an actual closet under the stairs in his basement where the stories are also kept. It's very meta.

He's a loving husband and proud father of two wonderful little kids.  He was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario. There was also a ten-year period in between where he tried to make a go of a career in Theatre in Toronto, but we don't talk about that.


Coming on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 . . . 

Next up is author Kim Mannix who shares the inspiration for her sci-fi short story, “Rift."

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In the Spotlight: Stephanie Espinoza Villamor ~ Author of "Artificial"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor on her short story, “Artificial.”

I’m beyond thrilled to be included in the IWSG anthology, and honored to have my story in both the title and cover art! While I’ve been writing in a variety of genres since I was a kid, this was my first official science fiction story. Don’t get me wrong, I love sci-fi. But I'm more familiar with children’s fiction, like contemporary middle grade and young adult fantasy. When I saw the genre announced for the IWSG annual anthology contest I thought, “I’m in over my head!” Still, I was committed to participating since I didn’t get a chance the year before--I was busy having a kid of my own! So each night while my son slept I brainstormed science fiction.

Being a librarian who saves everything, the first idea I came up with was an archive. I wanted to explore a future where smartphone data is saved and accessible for posterity—anyone can look up someone’s life and learn from the thousands of pictures stored on their phone. My original protagonist visited this public archive to solve a mystery using clues from such photos. The problem was, I couldn’t figure out who my protagonist was. I got stuck on the details of the mystery. I just couldn’t get “into” the story.

Then one night while Baby snoozed in my lap the idea hit me. What if, instead of an archive, phone data is saved into a person? I’d recently read my friend’s thesis about artificial intelligence and her analysis of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Measure of a Man” (about sentient android, Data). I’d also previously played the video game Detroit: Become Human, all about artificially intelligent androids. This type of sci-fi character intrigued me, and suddenly my story fell into place. Best of all, I was excited to tell the story from the AI’s perspective.

“Artificial” explores the purpose of artificial intelligence in society, our human connections, and what makes something “real.”

Teenager in between Star Trek cosplayers
A 17-year-old Stephanie with cosplayers at the
annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Blurb: 

Bryan’s role as an AI is to help Lina, not befriend her. But as his memories spark questions about the past, he finds himself growing closer to Lina in the present.

Excerpt:

There is nothing but dark. 

Then I’m awake in Lina’s living room. I recognize Lina’s apartment from the photos she uploaded to give me a memory. I recognize Lina because her photos come up the most in my mind. Every photo of her face has been tagged with her name, and my technology allows for instant recall from my data storage. I can’t read through all my data at once, but if I’m asked a question or put in a new situation, I can scan through the data to answer, act, or solve problems. That is what an AI is for.

This is what Lina tells me. She says artificial intelligence has come a long way. Her grandmother’s AI was a voice-activated computer that searched its data storage to answer questions. Her mother’s AI had a disembodied voice that could permeate the entire house and access the Internet in under .6 seconds. But I am the next level of smart home, designed to access stored data and online information while looking as welcoming as possible. I am not a cold, disembodied robot. I am a friend.

“So, that is my role,” I say slowly, hearing my own voice for the first time. It is warm, inviting, and almost familiar. “To be your friend.”

“Yes,” Lina says, then quickly shakes her head. “No. Um, that might sound weird to people. An AI is more like...a live-in personal assistant. God knows my life needs some assisting.”


Stephanie Espinoza Villamor is a librarian writer mom who lives with her husband and young son just outside Las Vegas. As a child she wrote her own books on dot matrix printer paper, and later started publishing in school magazines and newspapers. Ultimately, she earned a master's degree in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University, and now works as a college eLearning Librarian. She writes stories inspired by her supportive family and Hispanic heritage, especially for middle grade and young adult readers.







Don't forget that today--Wednesday, January 20--is IWSG Twitter Pitch Day! There's still time to get your tweets out. Complete and polished manuscripts can be pitched via Twitter, just leave room for genre, age, and hashtag: #IWSGPit. If your pitch gets a favorite/heart from a publisher or agent, you can check their submission guidelines and send them your requested query!

Speaking of Twitter, you may be seeing Tweets lately from Dancing Lemur Press promoting each of the stories in Dark Matter: Artificial. The ebook is already available for preorder on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble!


Coming on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 . . . 

Next up is C.D. Gallant-King, who shares his backstory for “Space Folds and Broomsticks,” about a pair of bumbling siblings in deep space....

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Meet the Authors of Dark Matter: Artificial

Greetings all! I'm excited to be taking over as blog coordinator from Louise (Fundy Blue), who did a fabulous job last year as coordinator for the Insecure Writer's Support Group anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost, available on Amazon and more!

We're starting off the new year and new IWSG anthology buzz with some brief introductions of the authors featured in Dark Matter: Artificial. Come meet the 10 authors showcasing their talents through young adult to adult science fiction stories on topics ranging from artificial intelligence and deep space to alternative realities and dark matter secrets.

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor - Artificial

Stephanie is a librarian writer mom who lives with her husband and young son just outside Las Vegas. As a child she wrote her own books on dot matrix printer paper, and now works as a college eLearning Librarian. She writes stories inspired by her supportive family and Hispanic heritage, especially for middle grade and young adult readers.

 



C.D. Gallant-King - Space Folds and Broomsticks 

C.D. Gallant-King wrote his first story when he was five years old. He had to make his babysitter look up how to spell "extra-terrestrial." He now writes stories about un-heroic people doing generally hilarious things in horrifying worlds. He's a loving husband and proud father of two wonderful kids. He was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario.


Kim Mannix - Rift 

Kim Mannix is a fiction writer, poet and journalist currently residing on Treaty 6 territory in Sherwood Park, Alberta. She has been published in several journals and anthologies in Canada and the U.S. and is a contributing editor of Watch Your Head, a climate crisis anthology. You can find her on Twitter, usually posting about kids, cats, music and creepy things.

 


Steph Wolmarans - The Utten Mission

Steph Wolmarans is an educator, mother, wife, gardener, beekeeper, and speculative fiction author. Steph has been creating galaxies since she visited Arrakis as a child. Now she envisions worlds, discovers new beings, and spends a lot of time exploring planet Earth with her husband and two small children.

 


Tara Tyler - Sentient

Tara Tyler has done everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After moving all over the US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her husband and one boy left in the nest. She has two novel series, Pop Travel (sci-fi detective thrillers) and Beast World (fantasy adventures), plus UnPrincess, a novella series where maidens save themselves.


Deniz Bevan - One to Another

Deniz Bevan has lived in Turkey, and her non-fiction work appeared in the trilingual newspaper Bizim Anadolu. Her short story was shortlisted for the Surrey (Canada) International Writers' Conference Storyteller's Award in 2013. Her contemporary romance, Summer Fire is out now with Carina Press.


 Charles Kowalski - Resident Alien

Charles Kowalski's contemporary thrillers, Mind Virus and The Devil's Son, have won prizes and nominations including the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Award, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, and the Adventure Writers Grandmaster Award. He is also the author of the Japan-themed historical fantasy Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts (Tokyo: Excalibur Books, 2019). When not writing, he teaches at the International Education Center at Tokai University, near Tokyo.

 

Olga Goldim - Nano Pursuit

Olga Godim is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Both her children have already flown the nest. As a journalist, Olga focuses on the local arts and culture scene. As a fiction writer, she prefers speculative fiction. In the past few years, her fantasy and science fiction short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies. Her book SQUIRREL OF MAGIC is a collection of urban fantasy short stories. In 2015, her fantasy novel EAGLE EN GARDE won EPIC eBook Award.

 

Elizabeth Mueller - Resurgence

Award-winning author Elizabeth Mueller lives deep in the heart Texas surrounded by everyone she loves—including the characters who don’t stop talking in her head. While she enjoys homeschooling her kidlets, she thrives as a full-time writer of any genre that captures her heart.

 



Mark Alpert - Vera’s Last Voyage

Mark Alpert is a bestselling author of 10 sci-fi novels. He first heard of dark matter studying astrophysics at Princeton University, and learned more working at Scientific American. His first novel, FINAL THEORY (Simon & Schuster, 2008), was published in 24 languages and optioned for film. His YA novel, THE SIX (Sourcebooks, 2015), was nominated for several awards. His latest novel is SAINT JOAN OF NEW YORK: A NOVEL ABOUT GOD AND STRING THEORY.


You can learn even more about each of us, and how to reach or follow us online, through the blog's author page for Dark Matter: Artificial.


Coming on Wednesday,  January 20, 2021 . . .
Each of the authors in Dark Matter: Artificial will be posting over the coming weeks about how their anthology stories came to be.

I'm excited to be the one to kick off this series! I'm author Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, and I couldn't be more honored to have my story, "Artificial," chosen for the anthology's title and cover as winner of the 2020 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest. I can't wait to preview it for you all!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Prepare for Ignition! "Dark Matter: Artificial" is about to Liftoff!

Happy New Year, Everyone!
 
And it is already happier than the last one.
I have great hope for the coming days, weeks, and months;
and I feel the weight of heavy black clouds lifting,
starting with the potential end of this tragic pandemic.

One of the exciting things on the horizon is the release
of the 2021 IWSG anthology on May 4th!




Congratulations to the ten talented IWSG members
whose stories are included in this anthology:

Artificial by Stephanie Espinoza Villamor
Space Folds and Broomsticks by CD Gallant-King
Rift by Kim Mannix
The Utten Mission by Steph Wolmarans
Sentient by Tara Tyler
One to Another by Deniz Bevan
Resident Alien by Charles Kowalski
Nano Pursuit by Olga Godim
Resurgence by Elizabeth Mueller
Vera’s Last Voyage by Mark Alpert


A thank you to our awesome publisher: 

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is fortunate to have L. Diane Wolfe
and Dancing Lemur Press to publish our sixth anthology.


This spunky dynamo and DLP published the first five anthologies

Here's a peek at what readers have to look forward to:

Dark Matter: Artificial
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Discover dark matter’s secrets…

What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets? 

Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Godim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan. 


Wikimedia:  "Dark matter is invisible. The effect of gravitational lensing
causes multiple images of the same galaxy. 
A ring of dark matter has been suggested to explain this.
In this image of galaxy cluster (CL0024+17) the dark matter is seen in blue."


Preliminary publication data:
Release date: May 4, 2021
Print ISBN 9781939844828 $14.95
EBook ISBN 9781939844835 $4.99
Science Fiction: Collections & Anthologies (FIC028040) / Space Exploration (FIC028130) / Genetic Engineering (FIC028110) 
186 pages



A huge thanks to our hardworking judges:
A panel of agents, authors, and editors handpicked ten tales that will take readers on a journey across time and space. 

Dan Koboldt, author and #SFFpit founder
Lynda R. Young, author
Colleen Oefelein, agent, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Damien Larkin, author
Ion Newcombe, editor and publisher
Julie Gwinn, agent, The Seymour Agency
David Powers King, author


A huge thanks to our Ninja Captain:
Without the vision and hard work of IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh,
none of this would be happening!  
He is one amazing and generous spirit!




What to read while you're waiting:
Let me recommend any and all of the first five IWSG anthologies.

        
                       2016                           2017                          2018                            2019

2020





Coming on Wednesday,  January 13, 2021 . . .
Our next post will introduce the talented authors of Dark Matter: Artificial.



Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 




Upcoming IWSG Events . . .
Ready to try your hand at a Twitter pitch? Then join us January 20, 2021 for #IWSGPit - https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-twitter-pitch.html 
And polish, polish, polish those pitches. Good luck!

For some excellent tips check out Alex J. Cavanaugh's post: