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2024 July Parsec meeting

Our speaker this month is the Confluence 2024 Featured Artist, Christine Hutson!

Seen through the proper lens, the natural world is a truly horrifying place. Earth is teeming with frightening, unexpected, occasionally gruesome, but invariably beautiful organisms. Many of Chris’s creatures begin here. Boundless fascination with the freakishly mundane provides a constant stream of inspiration for her fantastical illustrations. A broad base of knowledge from fields as diverse as anthropology, mythology, biology, religion, and ancient manuscript illustration further guides her hand. Likewise, a degree of medical training has furnished her with a keen eye for anatomy. This lends her work stunning detail when applied to bones, horns, teeth, wings, the odd tentacle here and there, and (as you’ll often see staring back at you) eyeballs. Many eyeballs. You will not be able to miss them. The result is a lavish cabinet of curiosities bloated with the fruits of a delightfully dark imagination.

Chris lives in Pittsburgh where she worked for years as a trained tattoo artist, and as a passionate artisan in the lofty world of tea. She has also worked as an archaeologist, and a professional calligrapher for a variety of clients including the National Baseball Hall of Fame. She currently teaches botanical art for the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.

In 2024, Christine Hutson is the Featured Artist at the Confluence Conference, held July 26, 27 & 28 at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel. Christine will talk about her experience creating the artwork for the program book, badges, and T-shirt, as well as her own freelance illustration and graphic art business and career.

You can visit her Facebook page at  

2024 June Monthly Parsec Meeting

Date: Saturday, June 15th, 2024
Time: 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Place: IN PERSON at the Squirrel Hill Carnegie Library
Zoom option is available. [Register for the Zoom meeting]

Author Elizabeth Eve King (E.E. King) is our guest!

Elizabeth Eve King, aka E.E. King, is an award-winning painter, performer, writer, and naturalist. She’ll do anything that won’t pay the bills, especially if it involves animals. Ray Bradbury called Elizabeth’s stories, “marvelously inventive, wildly funny, and deeply thought-provoking.”

E.E. King has been published in over 100 magazines and anthologies, including Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Short Edition, and Flametree.  Her novels include Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife: All you need to know to choose the right heaven, and several story collections. Her short story The Lost Village appeared in DreamForge in 2023.

Author Elizabeth Eve King's (E.E. King) Book, Gods and monsters

Her art has been collected internationally.  Elizabeth has painted murals in California, Mexico, Spain, and Italy, and shown her paintings at the LA Contemporary Museum of Art. 

Elizabeth also co-hosts The Long-Lost Friends Show on Metastellar YouTube and spends summers doing bird rescue and winters planting coral.

Elizabeth will talk with us about her new novel “Gods and Monsters,” being serialized at Metastellar Magazine.  

We’ll learn about the novel, Metastellar magazine, and E.E, King’s readings of each chapter on YouTube

Master Book Page

E. E. King and Metastellar editor Sophie Gorjance interview

2024 May Monthly Parsec Meeting

Our Program: An Interactive Discussion on A.I. and Large Language Models. Facilitated by Scot Noel.

A.I. and especially Large Language Models have broken into the public consciousness over the last couple of years. Some absolutely hate them as apocalyptic, while others tout them as the greatest thing since the harnessing of fire. Saying that the truth is somewhere in between, while likely true, can obscure the level at which LLMs are indeed highly disruptive, world-wide technological shift.

We’ll take a look at benefits, issues, and the future of A.I. and Large Language models, from medicine to the military, from baked in bias to accelerated research, and how everything from the computer chip industry to the power grid is already being transformed by a technology that is only getting started.

This meeting is designed not as a presentation, but a series of interactive questions where attendees are encouraged to express their own experience, hopes, fears, and feelings about A.I. Let’s engage with humility, courtesy, curiosity, and most importantly a willingness to hear one another’s points of view.

Some A.I. Benefits:

  • Adaptive Personalized Learning (ex: personalized reading and math instruction for K-8 students)
  • Improved Translation Software (ex: aiding in language translation in scientific publishing)
  • Accelerated Industrial Research (ex: finding sustainable replacements for lithium in batteries)
  • LLMs in Medicine (ex: prediction of cancer metastasis and devising clinical treatment responses.)

Some A.I. Issues:

  • Copyright and Creative Concerns (ex: the uncertain future of content creation and graphic design)
  • The A.I. Cold War (ex: the Loyal Wingman autonomous jet fighter squadron escorts)
  • Bias in Large Language Models (ex: training models have biases and stereotypes baked in.)
  • Model Collapse  (ex: degrading results through A.I.’s own “success” and model pollution by “resisters.” )

Some Changes That Might Go Either Way:

  • Macrochips (ex: the Cerebras WSE-3 chips features 4 million transistors and 900,000 cores.)
  • Power Grid (ex: A.I. is restructuring the power grid, power hungry and energy efficient.)
  • A.I. is a Platform Shift (i.e. a change in the dominant layer that applications are built on.)
  • Just getting started (ex: ChatGPT 5 better reasoning, improved accuracy and video support.)

If you missed the March Parsec meeting with guest speaker and 2024 Confluence guest of honor, Richard Kadrey, you can now watch it on our YouTube channel!

2024 April Monthly Meeting

Parsec, Pittsburgh’s premier Science Fiction & Fantasy Organization meets
on Saturday, April 20, 2024 via ZOOM.
Social start time 12:30pm ET
Meeting start time 1:00pm ET

Our guest this month is John J. Ventre, a former multi state Director for the Mutual UFO
Network (MUFON), actor, and author of “They Are Us: The Time Travel False Flag.”

John Ventre was a 10-year multi-State Director for the Mutual UFO Network. It was John’s research into end time prophecy and cultures that got him interested in UFOs in 1996. He is an occasional columnist for many different UFO magazines.
John is the retired PA-WV-VA State Security and Public Affairs Director for UPS. He was a candidate for PA Governor in 2022. John has made numerous televised appearances, including the Anderson Cooper show in 2012, 33 episodes on 7 TV series including 20 episodes on History Channels “Hangar 1”, 116 episodes on PCTV21’s “UFOs over Pittsburgh” and YouTube’s “String Theory of the Unexplained”. He has had 5 movie roles and lectured at numerous UFO conferences including the Wizard World Comicon and MUFON Symposium. John is conference coordinator for 42 PA UFO Conferences and has managed the 2014 & 2018 MUFON Symposium. He is the author of 10 books on 5 topics and gives 20 different PPT conference lectures.

Fear, The Future, and Perception Bias

By Scot Noel

Imagine if you will, today’s world without automobiles. Or rather, a world in which news of their invention has only recently hit the public consciousness.

The media is filled with visions of a future where individuals and families can travel independently, free of transit schedules and crowded buses and trains. Robust rovers are promised that will get you and your family to secluded beaches and mountain hideaways. Tourism will explode. Teenagers can already feel the keys in their hands and look forward to date night taking on whole new possibilities!

But would these heralded symbols of freedom ever find acceptance in a world where the Internet and its doom scrollers enthusiastically predict the end of civilization? No doubt the obvious insanity of the auto would be trolled at every opportunity.

  • Gasoline is flammable! Every emergency room will be filled with burn victims.
  • You’ll have to bury tanks of toxic fuel on every street corner to keep these things going. Without experts to handle the pumping, people would spill gas everywhere.
  • In the US alone, crash deaths might rise to 40,000 to 50,000 fatalities per year. The cost to the economy in injuries, death, and property damage will bankrupt the country!
  • It’s not possible to build enough roads for all these things, and if it were, people would constantly be getting lost. There would have to be signs, and road lights, and traffic control systems. It would bankrupt every state, the US, the world!
  • To keep people safe, you’d have to strap them down, explode air cushions in front of during collisions, and there’s no way to make an automobile safe for young children to ride in!
  • What are you going to do with the worn-out ones? Imagine the wastelands of metal; the endless storage yards of old auto junk; the unsightly graveyards of rusting metal. Not in my backyard!

You get the idea. And I didn’t even go into the enormous health and environmental impact of leaded gasoline. Ethyl, as it was commonly known, was highly dangerous due to its toxic effects on human health and the environment. Tetraethyl lead, the additive used to improve engine performance for over three quarters of a century, caused a range of serious health issues, including neurological and cognitive damage, especially in children, as well as cardiovascular and kidney problems in adults. Its widespread use contributed to environmental pollution, including air, water, and food. It raised lead levels in the atmosphere to dangerous levels, leading to widespread public health concerns.

Yet, in our real world, we not only accepted these risks, problems, and disadvantages, we developed entire industries around mitigating them. Because once automobiles made their way into the culture, nay, into civilization itself, there was no way they were going to be banned, even at the risk of our own lives.

In fact, learning to drive and getting your own vehicle became a rite of passage into adulthood.

I know this social pressure firsthand. As a bookish nerd, I made it all the way through college without getting my driver’s license. (While I’m nowhere near as smart as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, there are parallels.)

When I got my physical for a learner’s permit at the age of 22, the doctor looked at me a little incredulously and asked “so, what the hell’s wrong with you?” Owning and driving cars was not only normalized, but it had also become conventional and expected behavior, regardless of all dangers.

Risk Perception Bias

Humans are bad at evaluating risk. In fact, the average person is pretty darned delusional about it. We tend to see that which is new or which has changed as risky and accept that which we encounter every day as either safe or of minimal consequence to our wellbeing.

Our brains are wired so that familiarity breeds complacency. The more we’re exposed to something, the less we perceive it as dangerous. This leads to an underestimation of everyday risks, while at the same time we vastly overestimate risks when the new and unfamiliar comes our way. This is especially true when we perceive that there is nothing we can do and forces beyond our control are moving us in directions we cannot forestall.

This perceptual bias skews our ability to rationally evaluate the dangers inherent in hurtling down highways in metal boxes powered by superheated explosions. The irony? We buckle up, turn the key, and merge onto the freeway without a second thought, all while fretting over threats which are statistically rarer or even occupy the status of theoretical future events.

(Yes, in our history there was early moral panic about the advent of automobiles, including the effect on the well-being of horses, the economic downturn due to the loss of the carriage industry, and that excessive noise would cause widespread nervous disorders.)

Should We Live in Existential Dread of the Future?

Climate change is here today. Artificial Intelligence and robotic systems are changing everyday life as I write this. We live in a world of gene-editing, nuclear power, genetically modified food, and programmable vaccines.

How much should we be living in fear over these things? After all, something is bound to go wrong and affect the lives of billions of humans!

Or, when it comes down to it, will we get past these new developments the way we got past leaded gasoline and “Unsafe (to drive) at Any Speed”?

Facing fear, dread, and existential threats requires a balanced perspective. Much like society adapted to the cultural and civilizational changes represented by automobiles, we have the capacity for resilience and innovation in all things.

The real challenges of today—environmental, technological, political—are formidable, yet history shows we can navigate perilous waters. Awareness, preparedness, and action are key, not succumbing to paralyzing dread and nihilistic daydreams.

Collaborative efforts, scientific and industrial advancements, and global initiatives offer paths forward, demonstrating our ability to tackle and mitigate existential risks, as we adapt and overcome on our way to a livable future.

AI May Help!

One of our fears, the coming of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), may turn out to be one of our best opportunities for distinguishing between unreasonable fears and real risks, as well as developing the tools and approaches to keep us safe.

AGI, by its nature, could enhance our ability to analyze vast datasets and complex systems, providing insights to help distinguish real risks from exaggerated fears.

It could offer predictive models to help us see the consequences of our actions and policies, thereby guiding us toward safer, more informed decisions.

Furthermore, AGI could assist in designing advanced safety protocols, emergency response strategies, and in mitigating the effects of climate change, pandemics, and other global challenges. Thus, while the coming reality of AGI introduces new considerations, it also holds the potential to become an invaluable ally in securing a safer future.

And that would be a far different vision than the awakening of Skynet and the arrival of the Terminator.

After all, in the world of the automobiles, the fatality rate per distance driven has only decreased, falling dramatically from the 1960s to present day. Restraint systems, crashworthiness, active safety features, and advanced driver assistance all contribute to a level of vehicle safety unknown to previous generations.

Today there are over 100 vehicles on this year’s Top Safety picks Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awards! You can drive safely! And hopefully, while maintaining a little caution, you can also welcome the future with open arms.


Reference Links for Further Study:
A Moment in Time: Highway Safety Breakthrough
How the World Eliminated Lead from Gasoline
Why are Humans Bad at Calculating Risk
Risk Perception and Decision making
How Artificial Intelligence Can Inform Decision Making
How AI could power the climate breakthrough the world

2024 March Monthly Meeting

This month our Confluence Topics meeting will be held at the Mt.Lebanon Public Library (16 Castle Shannon Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228) in Meeting Room A (lower level).
The room opens at 12:30. The meeting starts at 1:00pm.
A Zoom option will be available for those that cannot make it in-person

Joining us in person will be Confluence 2024 Guest of Honor, Richard KadreyRichard is a novelist, freelance writer, and photographer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

At the March meeting, Parsec traditionally holds a brainstorming session for the Confluence Conference held July 26-28, 2024. We’ll be discussing various panel topics for consideration.
Richard will introduce us to his works, career, and writing, and do a reading from one of his books, perhaps the Sandman Slim series or The Dead Take the A Train. He will also participate in our Confluence panel topics discussion.

Richard Kadrey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim supernatural noir series. Sandman Slim was included in Amazon’s “100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime,” and is in development as a feature film.

“The Dead Take the A Train” is his latest release! Bestselling authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey have teamed up to deliver a dark new story with magic, monsters, and mayhem, perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill.

Some of Kadrey’s other books include King Bullet, The Grand Dark, Butcher Bird, and The Dead Take the A Train (with Cassandra Khaw). He’s written for film and comics, including Heavy Metal, Lucifer, and Hellblazer. Kadrey also makes music with his band, A Demon in Fun City.

To Register for the Zoom meeting, visit:

Coming in April . . .

 Our guest will be John Ventre of the Mutual UFO Network.

Five Cool Ways Humans Go Extinct

By Scot Noel

At least eight human species have gone extinct before us: Homo habilis, erectus, heidelbergensis, neanderthalensis, rhodesiensis, floresiensis, luzonensis, naledi, and the Denisovans. When will it be our turn?

Modern humans, that is “Homo sapiens” seems to have been around for about 315,000 years, with some of the oldest remains uncovered in 2017 in Morocco. Meanwhile, our cousin species, the Neanderthals, have been found to have existed for about 350,000 years.

So, as a mammal and a human species, natural evidence suggests we have somewhere between 35,000 and 685,000 years to go!

Of course, we have big brains and big bombs, and you might not be mistaken to think that, when it comes to Homo sapiens, all previous rules are out the window. Unlike every other species on Earth, even our extinct cousins, I’m pretty sure we get to pick our own fate. Let’s take a look at 5 possible extinctions, ones that aren’t quite the end of everything.

On December 8, 2023 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the world’s first CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing therapy. The treatment, called Casgevy, targets sickle cell disease by helping patients produce healthy hemoglobin. Another gene editing therapy for children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy was approved earlier in the year.

If you’re reading this, you probably have a basic idea of CRISPR genome editing technology. It is a method for altering the DNA of organisms in a precise and targeted manner. It uses a system originally found in bacteria, which includes a molecule called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) and a protein like Cas9.

This system can be programmed to find a specific sequence in an organism’s DNA and then cut the DNA at that precise spot, allowing scientists to add, remove, or replace genetic material, thus enabling precise genetic modifications.

To make a new species, the changes would have to be heritable. Are they? I think the answer is — they are if they are designed to be so, and sometimes even if they’re not.

Non-heritable CRISPR editing involves making genetic changes that are isolated to certain tissues and are not passed down to future generations. I think most of the current work in CRISPR is being done in this area. But controversy on heritable changes extends worldwide.

In some countries, germline gene editing is banned, in others it is not so tightly regulated.

As the science of human genetic modification advances, there will be both forces pushing for “designer babies,” those with selected traits, such as gender, appearance, intelligence, or disease resistance, and the simple elimination of suffering in babies diagnosed with debilitating genetic defects.

Given time, and remember — these technologies will advance and extend for many centuries and millennia to come — both intended and unintended genetic changes may spread and compile over time until the species we are today is extinct and Homo Novus supplants us.

There are a variety of ways in which humans are becoming more artificial and cybernetic. Simple mechanical enhancements include things like pacemakers, dental and cochlear implants, insulin pumps, and artificial lenses.

Today, some humans have had their lives improved with advanced prosthetic limbs, medical exoskeletons, and deep brain stimulators. The near future should offer artificial pancreas systems, synthetic trachea, and lab grown organs.

Going from the big to the small, medical nanotechnology (the manipulation of materials at the scale of nanometers (one-billionth of a meter) is also progressing.

Microscopic materials and devices are used to deliver drugs directly to diseased cells, or to improve the sensitivity and precision of diagnostic imaging, like in MRIs. Nanomaterials can mimic the structure of biological tissues, making them useful in regenerative medicine. This includes developing new therapies for repairing damaged tissues and organs, potentially revolutionizing the treatment of various diseases and injuries.

In a future where nanotechnology continues to advance, humans could integrate nanobots into their bodies to enhance their abilities, repair damage, fight diseases, and possibly even halt aging.

These nanobots could eventually become so integrated with human biology that they would alter the human organism at a fundamental level, leading to a form of life that is a blend of organic and machine. This new form of existence would be characterized by a seamless integration of biological and nanotechnological components, potentially leading to abilities and forms of consciousness far beyond what is currently possible for humans.

While none of these medical or network upgrades would directly cause extinction, I can see where they would create a last common ancestor scenario. Over time, upgraded humans and organic humans might split into two distinct civilizations, with the upgraded species having the best chance at long-term survival.

While you may not be packing your bags to move to asteroid 16 Psyche any time soon, it seems pretty certain that in the centuries ahead humans will be setting up hearth and home far from the green fields of Earth.

It’s more than Mars. Humans may well settle the Moon, the clouds of Venus, the interior of asteroids, giant rotating habitats called O’Neill Cylinders, and perhaps eventually build a Dyson Sphere around the sun. As they do this, and as generation after generation build on early footholds away from Earth, humans may have some evolving to do.

In some places, our skin and eyes might evolve or be medically altered to withstand different radiation levels and atmospheric conditions. Lower gravity could lead to taller, more slender human physiques over generations, with less muscle and bone density. Prolonged life in controlled environments could lead to weakened immune systems, as exposure to varied pathogens would be limited. Without natural light, circadian rhythms and vision could adapt uniquely.

The end result might be humans who could never comfortably return to Earth, or even adapt from one space borne environment to another easily. And as those populations increase, the fate of today’s original, ground-bound humans might be sealed. Ultimately, space will be where the opportunities are, and the populations of true Earthers are likely to dwindle over time.

Another path to extinction is the possibility of humans simply becoming post-biological.

“The Singularity,” as envisioned by futurist Ray Kurzweil, is a transformative event anticipated to occur when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence and humans merge fundamentally with their own technology.

Kurzweil’s vision of the Singularity is underpinned by the Law of Accelerating Returns, which looks at technological progress, especially computing, as something that grows exponentially. This growth is not linear but accelerates as we build more advanced tools, which in turn facilitate even faster progress.

According to Kurzweil, once artificial intelligence reaches a point of human-like cognitive abilities, it will quickly surpass human intelligence due to its ability to self-improve at an unprecedented rate.

As these technologies accelerate, Kurzweil envisions a future where we enhance our bodies and minds with technology, leading to augmented abilities and prolonged lifespans. This could mean embedding nanobots in our brains to directly interface with computers or using advanced biotechnology to eradicate diseases and aging.

Another scenario offers the possible obsolescence of human biology. If machine intelligence offers greater efficiency, durability, and capabilities than organic brains, there might be a shift away from biological existence. Either humans could gradually merge with machines, or machine intelligence could simply outpace and replace biological forms, relegating humans to a lesser role or even leading to extinction.

For Homo sapiens, extinction might not be a cataclysmic event but a gradual evolution into something new – a post-human existence. This new form of existence could offer unimaginable benefits, such as eradication of disease, elimination of physical and mental limitations, and even immortality. However, it also poses significant risks, including loss of control over our destiny and the possibility of creating a superintelligent entity that doesn’t align with human values and ethics.

What do I think is the most likely of these to happen? That’s easy: everything, everywhere, all at once, including things we can’t and won’t see coming.

I think the future of Homo sapiens is one of extraordinary transformation. The integration of genetic modification, cybernetics, and nanotechnology, along with adaptation to diverse solar system environments, and Ray Kurzweil’s vision of The Singularity, will not be a singular event, but a multifaceted evolution, occurring simultaneously and in an interconnected manner.

The advances in CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies have opened the door to eradicating genetic diseases, enhancing physical and cognitive abilities, and even extending human lifespan. These capabilities are not just theoretical but are progressively becoming practical realities. As our understanding of the human genome deepens, we are likely to witness a deliberate, self-directed evolution of our species.

Simultaneously, the field of cybernetics and nanotechnology is advancing at an unprecedented pace. The integration of technology into the human body, through cybernetic implants and nanoscale devices, will enhance our physical and cognitive abilities. These technologies will not just be for repairing or replacing lost functions but will be used to augment our existing capabilities, blurring the lines between human and machine.

Furthermore, the concept of a telepathic human network, facilitated by advanced neural interfaces, is rapidly transitioning from science fiction to potential reality. Projects like Elon Musk’s Neuralink are indicative of a future where human thoughts and experiences can be shared instantaneously, creating a new form of communication and collective intelligence.

Adaptation to various environments in the solar system is another frontier. With the current pace of space exploration and colonization efforts, it’s conceivable that humans will modify themselves to better suit extraterrestrial habitats, be it on Mars, the Moon, or immense space habitats that will themselves be independent city states. This adaptation might include physiological changes to withstand different gravitational forces, radiation levels, and atmospheres.

Finally, we have Ray Kurzweil’s vision of The Singularity – where artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence and humans merge with their advancing technologies. As AI integrates with human cognition, it will not only augment our intellectual abilities but also potentially lead us to question the very essence of what it means to be human.

In conclusion, these advancements are not isolated phenomena but are interlinked components of a broader evolutionary trajectory. They represent a collective leap towards a future where humanity transcends its biological limitations. It’s a scenario where everything changes, everywhere, all at once, redefining our species in ways we are just beginning to comprehend.


Reference Links for Further Study:

2024 Feb Monthly Meeting

This meeting will be entirely on Zoom! No in-person meeting!
Saturday Feb 17, 2024
Zoom meeting will open at 12:30 for social time. Meeting starts at 1:00pm (ET)

Our guest this month is SFF Poet Herb Kauderer!

Herb is an associate professor of English at Hilbert College near Buffalo, NY. He holds a PhD in Popular Literature from the University at Buffalo (2018), an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College (2007), and five other college degrees. He is the author of four books and fifteen chapbooks of poetry.

Herb will introduce us to his writing, his involvement with the Society for Creative Anachronism, and share some of his genre poetry with us. (Following Herb’s presentation and Q&A, we will set aside time for members who have brought their own poems to share them with us. Parsec’s own resident poet Mary Soon Lee has also been invited to read one or two of her works.)

As the featured poet in SCIFAIKUEST #55 for February 2017 Herb had 28 poems and an interview in the issue. That is longer than many chapbooks. He was featured again in SCIFAIKUEST #87 for February 2021 and contributed 29 poems, an interview, and an essay. Herb’s book THE SNOWSTORM OF ’14: POEMS FROM THE FRONT LINES (2016) recounts the experience of living at the epicenter of two of the worst snowstorms in the lower 48 states.

Following Herb’s presentation, we will have time for attendees to share some of their own poetry with the group.

Watch for a post coming soon about the March meeting! We have Confluence Guest of Honor, Richard Kadrey attending in-person for the Confluence Panel Topics, Monthly Meeting at the Mt. Lebanon Library. The library is located at 16 Castle Shannon Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228.
Come meet Richard in-person. Put your thinking caps on and help plan the panel topics for Confluence 2024!

2024 Short Story Contest

The 2024 Parsec Short Story Contest is now open! Submissions will be accepted until March 31, 2024.

The theme for 2024 is A.I. Mythology

Whatever our feelings on AI, we can’t escape the fact that it’s here and that its influence is growing. This prompt invites the writers to imagine what sorts of mythology might be developed in response to the growth, as well as what sort of mythology AIs might write about themselves.

Please note: Even though the theme is AI, we do not wish to see stories written by AI! We trust those of you who choose to submit to honor this request!

This is a Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror contest. We want to emphasize that any sort of “artificially created intelligence” qualifies for the story theme–it doesn’t strictly need to be through technological advancement! (Hex from Discworld comes to mind, or the Archive from the Dresden Files. Both artificial constructs are born from magic rather than tech!)

Eligibility: The contest is open to non-professional writers– those who have not met eligibility requirements for SFWA or equivalent. Broad strokes, if you have earned more than $1000 through selling your writing, you are ineligible to participate.

Previous first-place winners and current contest coordinators are ineligible to enter.  

Visit the Short Story Contest page for Full Submission Requirements

January 2024 Monthly Meeting

The Parsec monthly meeting has a Venue change for the Saturday January 20th meeting! Please be aware that the Jan meeting will be held at the Mt.Lebanon Public Library (16 Castle Shannon Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228) in Meeting Room A (lower level).
The room opens at 12:30. The meeting starts at 1:00pm.

Our guest is Sarena Ulibarri, a writer and publisher of Solarpunk fiction. Solarpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that envisions a future where humanity has successfully integrated with nature and developed sustainable ways of living. It emphasizes renewable energy, particularly solar power, and features highly aesthetic, eco-friendly technology and architecture. Solarpunk narratives often focus on community, environmentalism, and ingenuity in solving ecological challenges, presenting an optimistic, solution-oriented view of the future that contrasts with the dystopian themes common in other science fiction genres.

Sarena Ulibarri lives, writes, and plants trees in the American Southwest. She is the author of two novellas: Another Life, available now from Stelliform Press, and Steel Tree, out in December from Android Press.

Her short stories have appeared in Lightspeed, DreamForge, GigaNotoSaurus, Solarpunk Magazine, and elsewhere. She serves as a story reviewer for Grist’s Imagine 2200 climate fiction contest and has curated several solarpunk anthologies under World Weaver Press.

Sarena won the 2023 Utopia Award for her nonfiction article “Horror And Hope In Climate Fiction” in Strange Horizons. The article can be found online.

You can follow Sarena on Instagram @sarenaulibarriauthor

If you cannot attend in person, a Zoom option is available.

In February, the Parsec Meeting will be ZOOM only!

Our Guest will be Herb Kauderer, a frequent Confluence attendee.
Our theme for Feb is science fiction and fantasy poetry.

Attendees of the Feb meeting are welcome to bring their own poems to read. It’s always fun to hear the variety of poetry that the SF/F/H community has written.