Menu Close

Parsec: A Community

For over three decades, Parsec has been the premier speculative fiction organization in Pittsburgh. It’s been granted 501c3 charitable status because of the broad educational component and the high number of volunteer hours. The Parsec mission is “to promote awareness of the richness of speculative fiction as literature, art and music; further general education in the sciences and arts, support contributions–both scientific and artistic–to society.”

  • Confluence is the annual, three-day, science fiction conference in late July.
  • Alpha, the SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers is a twelve-day, residential workshop for teenagers 14 to 19 years old at UPG.
  • The CMU student club Partners in Speculative Fiction co-hosts a lecture series with Parsec. Local and national authors share the stage for the public to enjoy free writing workshops and talks several times a year.
  • The meeting group hosts free, open monthly club activities.
  • Annually, the small press Parsec Ink publishes the Triangulation series and runs the Parsec Short Story Contest, a no-fee, genre contest with cash prizes ($200, $100, $50).

But Parsec is more than the sum of its parts, it’s a community. I’ve seen members meet and marry, help each other through rough medical issues, find each other jobs, new friends and living quarters, help with moves, co-author and critique each other’s work, jointly celebrate and mourn, grow up and grow old together.

Opportunities have been created for people to use this system we’ve built, and Triangulation is a prime example, since it was designed to rotate editorship among local writers as a learning experience. This year nearly twenty students joined the editorial team as slush readers. They were given access to the submissions system Submittable and could read stories as they came in, rank and comment on them. They quickly learned something that’s hard to believe until one experiences it firsthand. Most stories submitted anywhere are awful. What a boost that was to their self-esteem. They saw the same mistakes over and over. It’s hard to create those kinds of teachable moments. We had lively discussions about story technique and they learned quickly what not to do in their own writing. Of course, many of the hundreds of submissions were brilliant and those were analyzed, too. The students saw our procedures and contracts, how we raised the funds necessary and pulled together art, design, layout and advertising material. SFWA gave us a grant for this teaching experience. These students also will be sent copies of the anthology and run release parties in their areas, the full experience.

The 2019 theme was suggested by a CMU Metro21 grant to study light pollution in Pittsburgh. The phrase “Dark Skies” to astronomers is a way to put a positive spin on light pollution, which is the excessive artificial light at night that inhibits observation of stars. Light pollution can have serious environmental consequences for human health and wildlife, and wastes billions of dollars a year. 99 percent of the people in Europe and the US can’t experience a natural sky where they live because of skyglow, which is easily preventable, education being key. Shield lights so they don’t shine up into the sky, use lower wattage, lower temperature bulbs, set timers, dimmers or motion sensors or just turn the lights off when they aren’t needed.

Dark skies are what we should be seeing, skies full of stars. Triangulation has always benefited from authors interpreting the theme in whatever way they want, using artistic license to its fullest. Therefore, the stories are all thoughtful, creative interpretations of the theme. The hope is that this issue will spark interest in seeing dark skies, encourage authors to incorporate more realistic, scientific scenarios into their fiction and “storify” important issues to create a deep, lasting reader experience. 

In this vein, Isaac Payne (former Alpha students and editorial assistant on the Dark Skies issue) will be editing the 2020 edition of Triangulation on the theme Extinction. His Kickstarter is up now to pay the authors 3 cents a word, a decent sum for a small press anthology. Won’t you consider helping? Deadline, Saturday, November 30th.

It takes a community.

Speculative Fiction Lecture Series with Writing Workshop

Saturday, April 6, 2019
10-12:00 Workshop by YA author Megan Lynch

Feminism in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writer’s Workshop: Learn about the evolution of feminism in genre fiction, begin to analyze stories through a feminist lens, and start to weave your perspective on gender issues into stories of your own. Bring a notebook and pen.

1:00 pm Lecture by Connecticut fantasy author Tochi Onyebuchi


“The untranslatable & deeply felt pain-joy of sincerely, ceaselessly loving something (Star Wars, Firefly, Blade Runner, so many more) that uses the aesthetics, the language, the empty shell of your culture while tossing aside the ppl (& your humanity alongside it).”  

Partners in Speculative Fiction and Parsec are sponsoring this daylong event.

Book signing with both authors immediately afterward.

All events take place in the Studio Room of the Cohon University Center at Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave. Free parking in the East Campus Garage, next to the University Center.  

Please join us for this free, public event. 

 Megan Lynch

Unregistered (Children of the Uprising, Volume 1)


Unafraid (Children of the Uprising, Volume 2)


Undone (Children of the Uprising, Volume 3)


Tochi Onyebuchi

Beasts Made of Night (Volume 1) (Hardcover)



Crown of Thunder (Volume 2) (Hardcover)


Triangulation needs more light pollution stories

Theme:  Triangulation: Dark Skies is a celebration of the natural beauty of the night sky. We’re into our third month, and we have seen an amazing array of speculative tales featuring skies full of stars. We’ve roamed the universe far and wide, but we need stories that explore the issue of light pollution more directly. Show us what it might mean for a sentient race to lose the ability to peer out into other worlds. If you need inspiration, head to the site of our partner organization, the International Dark-Sky Association, a group dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of light pollution. Also, check out Duotrope’s interview with our editor

Neal Stephenson Lecture

Neal Stephenson comes to Pittsburgh with the sequel to his blockbuster techno-thriller Readme.

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell is a wildly inventive and entertaining science fiction thriller—Paradise Lost by way of Philip K. Dick—that unfolds in the near future, in parallel worlds.

When: Monday, June 17, 2019 at 7 p.m.
Where: Carnegie Library Lecture Hall; 4400 Forbes Ave, Pgh PA 15213

A book signing will follow the lecture. A selection of backlist titles and the author’s current book will be available for sale from Classic Lines.

Tickets are available at Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures. Price includes a hardcover copy of Fall; or, Dodge in Hell.

Parsec Short Story Contest

The 23rd Annual PARSEC SF/Fantasy/Horror Short Story Contest opened for submissions on January 1, 2019. The theme this year is NOIR. This can be conveyed in the setting, plot, characters, dialogue…the only limit is your imagination. Submit here:

Closes April 15, maximum 3500 words.  No entry fee. 

Parsec Holiday Party

The Parsec Holiday Party will be this Saturday, December 8, 2018 from 4pm-10pm at Greg’s house [2966 Voelkel Avenue, Dormont PA 15216].

So come one and come all, to enjoy fine conversation and games, look over the books, and taste the food. (People usually bring a dish or snack to share.)

Voelkel Avenue is parallel to the Red Line trolley. If you take that, get off at Potomac, walk away from Molly’s Pizza and the gas station, then turn right onto Voelkel. 2966 is at the far end of the block, near Hillsdale Ave. Look for the 10 foot dragon wearing a Santa hat.

Dark Skies in Pittsburgh & Triangulation

A new and unique outreach initiative will be a partnership with local literary non-profit Parsec. Aiming to facilitate the cultural shift through storytelling, the upcoming edition of Parsec’s annual fiction anthology Triangulation will consist of short stories centered around the theme Dark Skies.

Excerpts from the Tartan (CMU paper):

Roughly half of the stars visible in the 1990s can no longer be seen in Pittsburgh’s night sky. The stars aren’t going anywhere — so why can’t we see the Milky Way? Light pollution — the presence of artificial light that interferes with the natural darkness of nighttime — is on the rise in Pittsburgh.

…Stephen Quick of the School of Architecture’s Remaking Cities Institute and Diane Turnshek of the physics department will lead a project using quadcopter drones to create a high-resolution light pollution map of Pittsburgh, as the city seeks to evaluate the light pollution impact of new street lamps. In addition to the International Dark Sky Association, Quick and Turnshek will be working with the City of Pittsburgh and the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh to implement the project and raise awareness for issues of light pollution within the city. …

Aiming to facilitate the cultural shift through storytelling, the upcoming edition of Parsec’s annual fiction anthology Triangulation will consist of short stories centered around the theme Dark Skies. Additional information about dark sky initiatives in Pittsburgh can be found at and


Writing workshop, book signing and lecture

Lara Elena Donnelly

Date: Saturday, September 8

1:00 – 3:00 pm:  Writing Workshop
3:00 – 4:00 pm:  Book Signing
4:00 – 5:00 pm:  Author Talk

Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

McConomy Auditorium
University Center

Campus map: Map
Free parking in the East Campus Garage next to the University Center.
(Push button for ticket and use it when you leave, no charge on weekends.)

The Partners in Speculative Fiction student club and Parsec will sponsor NY fantasy author Lara Elena Donnelly (Amberlough, Armistice), hosting a two-hour, genre writing workshop for the public from 1 – 3 pm, a book signing from 3 – 4 pm, then one more author talk from 4 – 5 pm. Amberlough is a 1920’s European burlesque spy novel, a politically charged thriller and a love story between two very different kinds of men. Ms. Donnelly is a graduate of Clarion and Alpha, the SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers and currently resides in Harlem, in a tower named after Ella Fitzgerald.

Two Alpha book signings

On Sunday, July 29, 2018 and Wednesday, August 1, 2018 at the Greensburg Barnes & Noble, there will be two Alpha book signings:

Mary Robinette Kowal

[The Calculating Stars, the Fated Sky, Tor Books 7.3.18]

Date: Sunday, July 29, 2018
Time: 2:00 – 4:00 pm

Book synopsis: A meteor decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space”

Link to store event: Mary Robinette Kowal

Maggie Stiefvater

[Scorpio Races]

N.K. Jemisin

[[The Stone Sky, The Killing Moon, The Shadowed Sun]

Date: Wednesday, Aug 1, 2018
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm

Link to store event: Maggie Stiefvater & N.K. Jemisin


Greensburg Barnes & Noble
5155 Route 30
Greensburg, PA 15601

Also reading will be staff and students from Alpha, the SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers.


Speculative Fiction Lecture

With authors Jill Yeomans and Michael A. Arnzen


Facebook event page: Facebook Event Page

Date: Thursday, May 31, 2018
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Location: 7316 Wean Hall, CMU, 5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Free parking in the East Campus Garage

Sponsored by the CMU student club, Partners in Speculative Fiction

Free, no registration necessary, open to the public.

Michael A. Arnzen is a horror author and writer of the Bram Stoker Award-winning novel, Grave Markings. He won his second Bram Stoker Award for his newsletter and his third for his poetry collection, Freakcidents. He currently holds four Bram Stoker Awards and an International Horror Guild Award for his disturbing (and often funny) fiction, poetry and literary experiments. He has been teaching as a Professor of English in the MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University since 1999.

Jill Yeomans earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, where she received the prestigious Arthur Miller Award for Fiction in the Avery Hopwood Awards. She was a children’s book editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers—working with authors including Stephenie Meyer, Jerry Pinkney, and Patrick Carman—before embarking on a writing career. She has ghostwritten nearly a dozen books for teens and adults and co-wrote the bestselling Witch & Wizard series with James Patterson. Under the pseudonym Devon Hughes, she wrote Unnaturals, a middle grade fantasy series, for HarperCollins. She also co-owns White Whale, an independent bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.