Monthly Archives: February 2009

Science Fiction Writers on Twitter

alien_fish_memorial_day_2008Since I had an epic geek FAIL earlier today, thinking I’d found Orson Scott Card on Twitter*, I felt like I needed to make up for my mistake in some small way.

The best approach to that sort of thing, in my experience, is to try harder. Do better due diligence. Look deeper. Have some fun — after all, this is science fiction, where space opera, phasers, nanites and scantily-clad aliens that somehow manage to show up in luscious female humanoid form are the norm.

(Yes, I know that’s precisely the sort of thing that make high-minded literary critics dismiss the genre. As serious fans know, however, there’s much more to be found than the cliched pulp covers might imply.)

If anyone finds more, please do add them in the comments. I’m absolutely certain I missed many wonderful authors and will add more as we go.

Cory Doctorow (@Doctorow) may be the most public science fiction writer on Twitter, given that he’s part of BoingBoing. Cory has earned a well-deserved reputation for his science fiction which you can find and often download from

William Gibson (@GreatDismal) joined Twitter after I posted this, on April 1st. No matter — and no April Fools! Given that he’s one of my favorite science fiction writers, I went ahead and added him to the top of the list. He defines cybernoir. (A fan has reserved @WilliamGibson for him but he hasn’t moved there). You can read what he thinks of twittering at his blog on

Bruce Sterling (@bruces) alas, protects his tweets. You can read him at Wired at his Beyond the Beyond blog, where he keeps an eye on the spread of spime. That’s much better than spam, if you’re wondering. It’s an “imaginary object that is still speculative.” [Watch spime on Twitter]

Neal Stephenson (Neal Stephenson), author of Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle, Anathem, REAMDE and more. He didn’t tweet much for the first three years on Twitter but has sped up in recent months.

Greg Bear (@Greg_Bear) has written over 30 books, including Darwin’s Radio and Forge of God, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Neil Gaiman (@NeilHimself) has won oodles of awards and written many wonderful books, including The Sandman comic series, Stardust, American Gods and Coraline. Gaiman is currently enjoying well-deserved attention as the film-adaptation of Coraline spins 3D marvels on the silver screen.

CJ Cherryh (@CJCherryh) has written more than 60 books since the mid-1970s, including two Hugo Award-winning novels.

David Brin (@DavidBrin1) has picked up nearly every honor a scifi author can be awarded and turned out some marvelous fiction in the process. The Uplift trilogy is excellent but Earth and Kiln People may be my favorite novels by Brin. (Sadly, The Postman did not convert well to film.)

Neal Stephenson (@NealStephenson) is one of my favorite authors, period. As I update this post, I’m downloading Reamde. While I didn’t find the mammoth Baroque Cycle to be Stephenson at his best, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon and Anathem stand as some of my favorite books of the past decade. Stephenson’s account (which appears to be managed by a third party) hasn’t tweeted since January 2011. “Don’t worry… I won’t actually be using this, except possibly to make the occasional announcement” was his first tweet.

Margaret Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) is the author of The Handmaiden’s TaleOryx and Crake and many other works of poetry and prose that extend well beyond the science fiction genre.

Charles Stross (@cstross) is the author of several of my favorite science fiction books ever, including Halting State, Glasshouse and Accelerando, along with the excellent Merchant Princes series. He joined Twitter in September of 2011.

Elizabeth Moon (@emoontx) is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Speed of Dark and and many other excellent space-based sagas.

John Scalzi (@Scalzi) may get the nod, after Cory, for most prolific blogger. (I’m happy to be proven wrong — Stross is after him. See below). Scalzi has written Old Man’s War, Agent to the Stars, The Ghost Brigade, The Android’s Dream, The Last Colony, and Zoe’s Tale.

Jonathan Carroll (@JSCarroll) has veered into fantasy, horror and even romance but I think he belongs here. Editorial discretion.

J. G. Ballard wrote Crash, Empire of the Sun & The Atrocity Exhibition. Given that more tweets came from @JG_Ballard after he passed away in April 2009, however, it’s probably safe to assume it wasn’t really him. The account has been closed but you can still find traces of users referring to him and his work with a search for @JG_Ballard on Twitter.

Scott Edelman (@ScottEdeleman) is a Stoker Award-nominated writer and Hugo Award-nominated editor of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Mike Resnick (@resnickmike) — Via commenter Catherine Jefferson: Resnick is “the author of “Santiago”, “Paradise”, and a bunch of space-based shoot-em-ups and some amazingly lovely stories set in alternate Africas. Also the editor of a number of excellent anthologies.”

Alexander Irvine ( @AlexIrvine) has written Buyout, The Narrows, The Life of Riley, One King, One Soldier, A Scattering of Jade, along with many other shorter works.

Steven Gould (@steviechuckles) wrote Jumper, Wildside, Greenwar (with Laura J. Mixon), Helm, Blind Waves, Reflex, and Jumper: Griffin’s Story, which are all evidently much better than the recent film turned out to be.

Jay Lake (@Jay_Lake) has written four novels, including Mainspring, Green, Madness of Flowers and Death of a Starship and 240 short stories.

Gregory Frost (@gregory_frost) recently published Shadowbridge. He’s also written Fitcher’s Brides and Attack of the Jazz Giants.

Eileen Gunn (@eileen_gunn) writes terrific scifi for Eclipse One, Wired, Hayakawa’s Sf Magazine, Nature, Asimov’s Magazine and is the publisher and editor of The Infinite Matrix.

I found Tim Pratt (@TimPratt) was new to me but his work shows he’s bonafide. Check out Tropism, his online journal, or the rest of his bibliography.

Joe Hill (@Joe_Hill) updates from somewhere around New England. He’s the author of Heart-Shaped Box, 20th Century Ghosts, and Locke & Key

David Marusek ( @DavidMarusek) recently published his second scifi book, Mind Over Ship, the sequel to Counting Heads.

William Shunn (@shunn) has published a series of novellas, novelettes and short stories.

Michael Marshall Smith (@ememess) is the author of The Straw Men, Only Forward, Spares, The Servants, The Intruders and Bad Things.

Paul Cornell (@Paul_Cornell) wrote Something More and British Summertime but is far and away best known for his work on Doctor Who fiction and as the creator of Bernice Summerfield.

Paulo Bacigalupi (@PaoloPacigalupi) wrote The Drowned Cities, Shipbreaker and an excellent novel entitled “The Windup Girl.”

Who’s (still) on my wish list?

Stephen King. Terry Pratchett, though his Alzheimer’s might preclude it. George R.R. Martin – it would be glorious to watch him interact with the 59,000+ @GameOfThrones fans who have already started following @GeorgeRRMartin on Twitter.

Of course, if they join Twitter and find it alluring, they might end up writing less. Wishing they join may be a dangerous whimsy. Even so, here’s hoping.

*Postscript:: Orson Scott Card,the author of Ender’s Game and dozens of other novels, did eventually join Twitter at @OrsonScottCard, although only tweets signed -OSC come from the author himself.

Disclaimer: I didn’t try to list any of the Twitter serials that have been going online of late. I aimed for authors who have published work that Isaac Asimov would reasonably recognize as science fiction writer in something resembling a book or journal. Quaint and terribly retro, but there it is. We’ll never be able to follow Heinlein, Asimov, and Verne on Twitter, sadly.

Disclaimer 2: I didn’t realize that the talented and lovely Felicia Day (@FeliciaDay) had gathered and posted a list of Twitter authors until I was finishing my final edit to this post. On the one hand, I’m smiling that someone else saw a need to list something other than tech, marketing, government or PR accounts. On the other, she did an excellent job finding people. Fortunately, I had only missed one on her SF list (@matociquala) so I imagine this is still worth publishing. I noticed she’s been reading Tim Pratt’s work. Cool.

Disclaimer 3: This was a fun project that distracted me from being rather ill. If I’d noticed that Thaumatrope had created a dandy Web-based form that authors or editors of science fiction, fantasy or horror could add themselves to at, perhaps I wouldn’t have created this page. But then, of course, I might not have enjoyed finding and  the tweets of all of the fine authors listed above — and that would be a shame. If you are such an author, please do go add yourself to the Greententacles list.

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Unofficial Poll: Greatest rock guitarist ever?

I had some fun creating a Twitter poll tonight using

After I asked who the “Greatest rock guitarist ever?” was on the way home and received 10 great replies, I used #alexasks and Twtpoll to try to turn those answers into a quick quiz.

I’ll wait for a bit and then ask on Facebook, where I expect more friends might contribute.

It’s an apologetic homage to #andyasks, where HBS professor Andy asks his followers a different interesting question every day. Mine was impromptu but satisfying.

Here’s the result.

My answer? Like Peter Townshend at Rolling Stone I gotta go with Hendrix.

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Shadow, at least, is glad to see the country ‘going greyhound’

As I looked over the Sunday New York Times today, surveying the economic carnage of the past week, assessing the different perspectives on the stimulus legislation and examining the state of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one particular story jumped out at me: What’s Your New Plan B?

Why? Simple — the Jaguar and Greyhound graphic at the top of the article.

Buy Jaguar or Go Greyhound? (by Ji Li at the New York Times)

Buy Jaguar or Go Greyhound? (by Ji Li at the New York Times)

The metaphor has particular resonance with me because of my own hound, Shadow, who has been a faithful companion for almost seven years.

Shadow in the creek

Shadow in the creek

I never expected to have a greyhound growing up; we had a wonderful Basset hound/border collie cross, a Great Dane, a Doberman and a Labrador, each of which set a particular standard for both canine excellence and outrageous behavior.

I’m glad he and I found each other at the Animal Rescue League in the South End in the spring of 2002.

If you’re looking for a dog, I hope you’ll consider a greyhound — they’re quiet, loving, biddable and the fastest couch potatoes you’ll ever find.

(Photo courtesy S. Josselyn)

(Photo courtesy S. Josselyn)

All things considered, I’d prefer the conditions that are forcing my fellow citizens and me to tighten our belts change, and quickly.

If, in the near term, that means that more of us adopt the greyhounds that need a new home instead of a pure bred, I’ll call that a silver lining.

Or, perhaps, a grey one.

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On WBUR, social media and tweetups

I’ve now been to two tweetups at WBUR, my local NPR news station. I’ve enjoyed each immensely, meeting new people, enjoying deep discussions about the place of social media in public radio and how the delivering the news is changing.

I’d meant to write both experiences up but had necessarily pushed that effort down the list of priorities. Earlier today, I noticed that Chris Brogan had posted about the WBUR tweetup on his blog and had mentioned me. Once I was at the post, I found myself writing a long comment. Chris decided to make the comment its own post, Alex Howard on Public Radio, and published it.

Needless to say, I was surprised and deeply complimented. I’d been thinking about how social media and public radio might relate since the last tweetup; this response reflected many of those musings. Thanks for giving those thoughts a platform, Chris.


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What’s the value of Stumbleupon?

stumbleupon2A new online friend, Dave Atkins, asked recently what the value of Stumblupon was. “Who has time to randomly browse web for interesting things?” I’ve been thinking of that too. After all, there are dozens of social bookmarks or social news submission networks around the Web. You can see the best — or at least the most popular — over at Digg, delicious, Reddit, Yahoo! Buzz, Truemors, Newsvine, Metafilter, Slashdot — all the usual suspects plus many of the world’s top blogs and newspapers.

When I saw what Marshall Kirkpatrick had written StumbleUpon Hits 7 Million Users, Quietly 50% Bigger Than Twitter” at ReadWriteWeb, however, clarity of utility of the service came quickly. Here’s how he put it:

What’s got a button to push, knows how to make money while changing the world and is read all over? StumbleUpon! The social discovery network [is] like Pandora for webpages and videos.”

Needless to say, that got my attention. Twitter’s business model is one of the great speculative exercises of our time — well, at least in the hothouse garden of the social media world. Mark D. Drapeau‘s thoughts on Twitter’s vision offer considerable insight concerning the possibilities for the popular microblogging service. As Marshall notes, however, Stumbleupon has several things going for it that Twitter does not quite enjoy, at least to date.

  1. Stumbleupon has its own Firefox plugin and Toolbar. While there are many addons that allow you to add a Twitter bookmarklet to your browser, to date Twitter does not provide one itself. Small potatoes compared to the next three.
  2. Stumble upon is a social discovery service. As Marshall wrote, it’s ‘like Pandora for websites and videos.” This resonates with me on a fundamental level. I’ve chosen who I follow on Twitter carefully; my network brings me news I care about constantly, especially when I ask questions about specific subjects. Stumbleupon, however, adds an algorithm and 7 million other clickers to the challenge of finding more content for me. That’s incredibly powerful. I adore Pandora — and my stations continue to get better at tuning music to my interests. So if the parallel holds true, there’s every reason to keep “stumbling” while I “tweet” away.
  3. Stumbleupon is profitable. According to Marshall, “Advertisers pay a few pennies to have their pages inserted into the Stumble streams of relevant users and those ads are silently voted on just like any other page. Silicon Alley Insider estimates the company was making $10 million each year as of this Fall.” If Twitter monetizes the realtime search at, maybe they’ll get there too.
  4. Stumbleupon delivers massive amounts of traffic. I can vouch for that. When tweeted about my last post, Online J.R.R.Tolkien Translators and Font Converters, I earned a few dozen clicks and a retweet or two from friends like Shava. When one of those people Stumbled the post, however, I immediately began receiving a river of visitors to the blog (relative to normal traffic, anyway).

In sum, that’s all powerful. And it’s all occurred without much notice. So here’s my answer to Dave’s question: Stumbleupon has some power when one person uses it to bookmark sites and explore the Web that way. Like delicious or Twitter, however, the service shines when all of those clicks are analyzed and used to rate content on the Web. We’re all deluged with increasing amounts of information online; the websites that matter to me are the ones that help me make sense of it all. I haven’t been using Stumbleupon at all in 2009. I suspect Marshall’s post may change that. Who knows? Maybe I’ll stumble across you. You can find digiphile on Stumbleupon here.

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