Studies of Changing Words

I know, I haven’t completed a “Weird Science in the News” post in a very long while. However, I have continued to collect links to science-related articles. Two of these I wanted to share today.

The New York Times’ article “Your Brain on Fiction” is a two-page opinion piece that discusses the neuroscience of fiction. In summary, researchers are finding that fiction expands upon the real-life experiences of its readers.  Confirmation is nice, isn’t it?

In “Color-coded text reveals the foreign origins of your words” on i09, you can see how words from various places have formed into modern versions of the English language. My favorite part of this article is where it mentions Kinde’s future Website. His analytical program could really help when writing historically based fantasy and historical fiction. Maybe when it’s available, some of us will spend less time looking up the origin on every suspect word for such stories.

Further Reading

Papers from The Mar Lab

“What are the origins of the English Language?” answered by Merriam-Webster

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Publishing News: Steel, Apple, and Leviathan

In my previous post, I put up a few links that I wanted to be able to find again and that might interest others. This is another link-heavy post–but so much better!

Cover of Carrie Vaughn's SteelThat’s because I remembered you might not yet have heard of Carrie Vaughn’s Steel, officially released in hardcover this week.

The first chapter of this young adult novel about a modern-day fencer who is magicked to an 18th-century pirate ship is available on Carrie’s newly re-designed Website. Take a look!

By the way, who else thinks this is one of the best covers of the season? Artist Larry Rostant used common elements of fantasy covers–a glowing sword and a partially-obscured face of a beautiful young woman–but also covered the girl in appropriate clothing of deep colors that accentuate the gorgeous sword and showed her holding the sword accurately. It makes the fencing geek within me want to dance…

Also released this month was the paperback version of Carrie’s first standalone novel, Discord’s Apple. Her first young adult novel, Voices of Dragons, will be released in paperback any time now.

Let’s move on to the short story world!

Eric James Stone‘s religious/science fiction “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” has been nominated for the Nebula Award. You may read the entire novelette online for free until March 31.

I first read this story in the September 2010 Analog Science Fiction and Fact (thank you, Eric!) and was not surprised at its nomination. The primary conflict between differing spiritual views and science was resolved, as much as was possible, in a beautifully dramatic moment.

Links: Starships and Striped Critters

What do space travel and striped mammals have to do with each other? They’re both awesome, of course!

Raccoon-like Animals

Everyone knows what a raccoon (Procyon lotor) is, right? Here are couple of similar animals that aren’t as well known.

Raccoon dog タヌキ Nyctereutes procyonoides


These canines that are known as tanuki in Japan are mentioned in various anime, but until a few weeks ago, I thought they were entirely fictional. Cute, aren’t they?

Closer to (my) home…

Ring-tailed Cat / Miner’s Cat (Bassariscus astutus)


My family once encountered a ring-tailed cat alongside a rural street when I was a teenager. We studied it for several, surreal minutes while it considered us from a tree limb. We had no idea what it was. I remember digging for weeks until learning these relatives to the raccoon are a rarely-seen native (to Oregon).

Space Travel

Someone shared a link on the Hatrack River forums to a comparison Website of Starship Dimensions. If you’re  a fan of any science fiction shows set in space, then trust me that you will enjoy this site. Don’t overlook the horizontal scrollbar.

What good are starships without destination stars? Topics in Astronomy, by Harry Foundalis includes a comparison of actual star sizes, temperature classification, and their estimated proximity to us. This site requires more brainpower and a difficult trick with the eyes to appreciate fully.

HD Video Comparing Star Sizes

WOTF – Catchup for 2010 Q4 and Personal Struggle for 2011 Q2

Contest Administrator Joni Lebaqui posted the list of Q4 Semifinalists on the Writers of the Future blog last month. A week later, Yahoo News! announced the Q4 winners:

1st Place – Patrick O’Sullivan from Virginia
2nd Place – Jeffrey Lyman from New York
3rd Place – Adam Perin from Virginia

That’s right; Patrick O’Sullivan took first place! Congratulations to the three winners, and again to the others who placed. May all the finalists, semifinalists, and HMs quickly find a home for their entries.

Looking forward…

Critiques of my current draft for the 2011 Q2 contest have me flummoxed. My intention is for readers to dislike the story’s concluding situation, and that didn’t come across well–readers simply dislike the way the conclusion is written. Several people suggested that I add action to make the ending more inevitable and thereby increase satisfaction; however, there’s little room in the story for action that’s external. Adding introspection rarely helps in my drafts, so what can I do?

Too bad I’m out of decision-making time if I’d like to keep to my critique group’s schedule.

Even More News of WotF Q4

It’s not over yet!

Because this was the first quarter in which I entered a story, I’m paying closer attention to the results. Yes, the gatekeeping judge rejected my entry; however, a few more Hatrackers managed to please her.

  • Jennifer Campbell-Hicks of Colorado
  • Tom Carpenter of Missouri
  • Frank Dutkiewicz of Michigan
  • Richard Ware of Maine

Their names are up on the just-released list of Honorable Mentions for 2010 Q4 on the Writers of the Future blog.

For whatever reason, no one has published the list of Semifinalists yet. Maybe that will happen before we find out how Nick Tchan and Patrick O’Sullivan fare in the selection of winners.

More News of WotF Q4

My letter arrived in the mail yesterday.

For readers who don’t know, each Writers of the Future entrant who isn’t flat-out rejected is either an Honorable Mention, Semifinalist, Finalist, or Winner.

All winning stories are published in the year’s anthology. Some finalists are also published. Semifinalists receive a critique from the Coordinating Judge, KD Wentworth. Those who receive honorable mentions (an estimated 5 to 15 percent of entrants) get the satisfaction of knowing they impressed Ms. Wentworth.

So, how did I do? Not very well. For my first entry into the contest, I received a rejection.

The story I’m working on now for the Second Quarter (Q2) of 2011 will likely be rejected, because it breaks several writing guidelines. Perhaps I’ll see my name on a list for Q3.

Another Hatracker is on the list of Finalists! I didn’t recognize Patrick O’Sullivan of Virginia the other day, but I wish him the best of luck.

News of WotF Q4

The list of finalists for the Fourth Quarter (2010) of the Writers the Future contest was published today on a press release site. Included in the list: Nick Tchan of New South Wales, Australia!

Way to go, Nick!

It’s nice to see a name I recognize. With luck, he’ll be one of the three winners.

Three other members of the Hatrack River Writers Workshop have won recently: Ben Mann of West Australia in Q2 and in 2009, Brad R. Torgerson and Adam Colston. You can read Brad’s “Exanastasis” and Adam’s “Not in the Flesh” in the Writers of the Future Vol XXVI. (Coincidentally, Adam couldn’t physically attend the awards ceremony…)

Back to Q4. How did I do? Don’t know; possibly a disqualification. I’ll talk more about this when I hear again from the contest director.

In the meantime, keep on eye out on the WotF blog. The lists of semi-finalists and entrants who received an honorable mention might go up at any moment.