INTERVIEW: Nicole Feldringer, author of “Outliers”

Nicole Feldringer, author of “Outliers,” discusses the background of her story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What a fun way to combine crowd-sourced science and gaming! Did any real-life “research by volunteers” inspire this story?

I was inspired by climateprediction.net and its predecessor, SETI@home, which both use the concept of volunteer computing. In the case of climateprediction.net, large ensembles of state-of-the-art climate models are run on the donated idle time of personal computers. I’m not involved in the project, but from my perspective it’s been a grand success scientifically and also captured public imagination in a profound way.

Accomplishing those simultaneous goals is ideal in crowd-sourced research.

Of course, distributed computing was just baby steps. I later learned of Foldit, an online puzzle video game about protein folding developed at the University of Washington. Apparently protein structure prediction is a big challenge in molecular biology and medicine, and humans are good at pattern matching, even to the point of outperforming computer algorithms. It took Foldit gamers 3 weeks to decode an AIDS protein that stumped researchers for 15 years! That’s when I started imagining what gamification of climate prediction might look like.

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INTERVIEW: Marguerite K. Bennett, author of “Stats”

Marguerite K. Bennett, author of “Stats,” discusses the background of her story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

Joey fucking Connor’s exaggerated characteristics make it easier to see him suffer, to see evil get its comeuppance, to even find the humor in some of the situations, but the irony is that this rests on a lack of empathy, the very thing he is condemned for. Do the evil abdicate any right to empathy?

In a way, it’s an evil story. We read the opinions and actions of a nasty, petty man; we take nasty, petty enjoyment in his punishment. We tokenize the oppressed to experience the suffering created by tokenizing the oppressed. It’s a mean, sticky cycle, and attempting to break it means becoming an antagonist—all your misbegotten attempts at doing good made as vulgar and offensive as those of the person you loathe. It’s the denial of empathy on both large and intimate scales. It was uncomfortable to write, and, I hope, uncomfortable to read.

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INTERVIEW: Holly Black, author of “1Up”

Holly Black, author of “1Up,” discusses the background of her story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What was the spark for “1UP”?

I wanted someone to have left a puzzle in a game for friends to solve—friends who had only known one another online before. That’s such an interesting personal dynamic.

My gaming background is primarily in role-playing games and then games that imitate role-playing, so I am always interested in the way people who get together to play games can be really, really different from one another and yet become super tight by virtue of having a shared love of making up stories together.

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INTERVIEW: Yoon Ha Lee, author of “Gamer’s End”

Yoon Ha Lee, author of “Gamer’s End,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

How did “Gamer’s End” come about? Is the title a play on ENDER’S GAME?

I originally wrote it to submit to a special issue of a zine. I was hard up for an idea, but I’d been thinking about John Kessel’s critique of Ender’s Game, “Creating the Innocent Killer: Ender’s Game, Intention, and Morality” I’m not sure I agree with Kessel on all points, but his essay is definite food for thought. Ender’s Game was the sf novel that made me decide that I wanted to write science fiction, back in high school—before then, I’d primarily been interested in writing fantasy—so when I had an idea based on some of Kessel’s critique, I thought I might as well have a go. Maybe the title was overkill, but I wanted to acknowledge my debt to a story that has meant a lot to me.

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INTERVIEW: Jessica Barber, author of “Coma Kings”

Jessica Barber, author of “Coma Kings,” discusses the background of her story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What was the seed for “Coma Kings”?

I’m an electrical engineer, and I occasionally work building hardware for neuroscience labs, so on a day-to-day basis I spend a reasonable amount of time discussing and thinking about brain-machine interfaces. One day a co-worker and I were having a conversation about what we were jokingly referring to as “brain DJs,” the idea being that you’d take, say, EEG recordings of somebody who was in a deep meditative state (or tripping, or whatever), and then induce somebody else to match their “brain waves” using magnetic stimulation (or flashing lights, or whatever). Super fun at parties! So “Coma Kings” sprung from that sort of idea of collaborative hallucination.

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INTERVIEW: Daniel H. Wilson, author of “God Mode”

Daniel H. Wilson, author of “God Mode,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

Can you talk about the challenges of balancing the revelations of what might be happening? (It was so well done.)

Thank you! For a little while I considered making the story about Alzheimer’s and the deterioration of reality from within that perspective, but I dismissed that as too depressing and not sci-fi enough. Ultimately, pacing out the revelations was just a matter of figuring out the twist at the end so that I could build up to it. The short story itself appears within the context of an anthology about video games, so I knew the reader’s mind would jump to conclusions about that—and knowing that helped me throw a few red herrings along the way so that I could hopefully provide a good surprise at the end.

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INTERVIEW: Charles Yu, author of “NPC”

Charles Yu, author of “NPC,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

Perhaps because of the way we’re placed into the universe—riding this protagonist’s confused consciousness—this story moved seamlessly for me. What was the process of writing it like?

That’s a good way to put it—I was very much going for the feeling of being placed into a universe. And that’s how it got written, too—I just sort of dropped into the matrix a little bit. Which is not at all my typical experience. Usually I really struggle with beginnings. Maybe it’s because I’ve logged so many hours in video game worlds, but this felt natural. More natural than when I try to do it with a real live human consciousness. I’m a little bit afraid to think too hard about what this might say about my writing in general.

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INTERVIEW: Austin Grossman, author of “The Fresh Prince of Gamma World”

Austin Grossman, author of “The Fresh Prince of Gamma World,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

This story begins with the metafiction that these are fragments of an actual game. What led to that decision? Were you thinking of any actual games when writing this?

There so many lost or obscure games, digital ephemera, and sometimes they leave behind iconic images or phrases that stick in your head. The early Infocom games had bursts of really vivid prose that, at the time I played them, generated these overwhelmingly powerful images. Of course playing as a lonely teenager late at night it felt like they were my whole world, or at least a world I’d cross over to if I could. And of course Gamma World was a real game, and I never forgot the cover of the first edition rule-set:  I always wanted to know the story behind it, and of course there wasn’t one so I had to tell it myself.

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INTERVIEW: Andy Weir, author of “Twarrior”

Andy Weir, author of “Twarrior,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

The online entity known as Twarrior started out as a tool for playing the BBS door game Trade Wars. What made you choose this type of gaming and the game Trade Wars in particular?

I wanted it to be an entity that had been around throughout the rise of modern computing. So it had to be something initially programmed quite a while ago. A billion seconds is about 31 years, so that worked out well for the start of the story. Programmers often throw huge values in for things they consider boundless.

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INTERVIEW: Rhianna Pratchett, author of “Creation Screen”

Rhianna Pratchett, author of “Creation Screen,” discusses the background of her story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

How did “Creation Screen” come about?

A lot of it springs from my time playing World of Warcraft which ran from the beta of the original game right up until Mists of Pandaria. Pandas just didn’t do it for me. I also have a lot of creative love for perspective shifting. One of my other short stories is a haunted house ghost story from the perspective of the house.

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