Category Archives: Blog

Love in the Time of Coronavirus: Thank You for Your Sacrifice

I think this infographic gives some perspective on the current crisis and illustrates the choice before us: we get to choose how bad this pandemic becomes.

Infographic depicting the deadliest pandemics in human history in comparison to COVID-19

I did a history of epidemiology course as part of my history of science MA–it was the history of how medicine has learned to track, control, and prevent the spread of disease. We talked about some of these earlier epidemics and it was scary stuff. The best that medicine had to offer in each era was essentially useless in the face of these diseases. People dropping dead in the millions and no one could explain how or why, or what to do about it.

But, unlike them, this COVID-19 outbreak is the first pandemic that we as a species have the power to control and minimize.

Think of that! No generation of humans has ever been able to say the same thing. No generation before us has had the technical and scientific knowledge to identify and combat a plague in such swift fashion, nor the instantaneous communication and coordination abilities that we have to institute meaningful quarantine and isolation on a global scale.

We were alerted to this plague early. Our experience fighting SARS, that could-have-been-pandemic, helped us. We know what it is that we’re up against. We know how it spreads and how we can avoid it. We’re already trialling vaccines and antiviral drug therapies within THREE MONTHS of this thing first appearing. No other generation before us could say any of that about the pestilences that from time to time appeared, like a rider on a pale horse, and cut down great swaths of people.

I know that being cooped up for weeks or months sucks (I’m here with three little kids, believe me, I GET IT). But you’ll notice that right now COVID-19 is a little speck on that graphic, less than a pinhead in comparison to past pandemics. The sacrifices you make now by isolating and social distancing, by working from home and following the advice of medical experts–all those little things are what will help keep that tiny speck from becoming one of those giant, catastrophic blobs we see depicted in other eras for other pandemics.

Thank you for your sacrifice.

Now, go wash your hands

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Show Notes for Episode 20 – A Most Painful Ordeal (1892)

My Son, and Stanley, and Me (c. 2013):

Helen Mirren Reads ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

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Show Notes for Episode 19 – Order of the Flaming Sword (1891-1892)

Here’s the neon sign that Tesla had designed in honour of Lord Kelvin (whose real name was William Thomson). Imagine it…in colour 🙂

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FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: “The Waxing Disquiet” for Best Short Fiction in 2018 Aurora Awards

It’s that time of year again: speculative fiction award season!

Calling all Canadians: Aurora Award nominations–the top Canadian prize in speculative fiction–are now open (until May 26), and if you’d like to support me then I hope you’ll consider nominating “The Waxing Disquiet” from me and co-author Tony Pi, eligible for Best Short Fiction. You can read it here for free until nominations close.

And if you’re not Canadian, well, feel free to read it anyway! Tony and I are quite proud of our beeswax-and-candle-punk tale 🙂

“The Waxing Disquiet” originally appeared in Deep Magic (June 2017).

– S.

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Edison’s “WARNING!” Pamphlet

Oops! For some reason this didn’t post with the latest episode of the podcast. Sorry about that…

As promised, here’s what Edison’s “longest and most splenetic howl of corporate outrage” looked like.

All caps, naturally.


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Tesla’s First AC Motor (Strasbourg 1883)

For some reason, I can’t get the image of Tesla’s first AC motor (his “marvelous simplicity”) to post in the show notes for this week’s episode. So here it is in a post of its own, instead.

– S.

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First Review of “The Waxing Disquiet” (And It’s a Good One!)

Thanks to my co-author Tony Pi for the head’s-up about the first review of our story “The Waxing Disquiet,” which appeared last month in Deep Magic.

The Waxing Quiet, by Tony Pi & Stephen Kotowych in Deep Magic. “He retreated to the calculation antechamber, where the tallylooms worked unceasingly. Click-clack went the wooden hooks, tying knots in the coarse hemp twine, the knot-history of their answers.” Fate and faith are at the center of this story, set in a society where a complex loom is used to determine which decisions are the right ones: for the society as a whole, and for individuals. The loom itself is a breathtaking piece of imagined technology, and I love the way the organization of the society uses concepts and terminology from bees and bee-keeping. A uniquely imagined world, and I’ll be thinking about that loom for a while…

Thanks to Maria Haskins for the shout-out–we’re glad she liked the story!

– S.

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“The Waxing Disquiet” Available Now!

18879898_1349788011771685_4624014453232649535_oThe June 2017 issue of Deep Magic–which includes “The Waxing Disquiet” by Tony Pi and me–is available now! Here’s the epic table of contents for Deep Magic’s 1-year anniversary issue!

– Short story “The Black Irix” by the legendary Terry Brooks
– Short story “Metamorphistry” by Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Jeff Wheeler
– Short story “The Waxing Disquiet” by Tony Pi & Stephen Kotowych
– Short story “Bad Dog” by Patrice Sarath (Gordath Wood)
– Short story “Dreams of a Radiant Sentry” by Christen Anne Kelley
– Article “Rock Your World in 5 Easy Steps”, by Sara B. Larson, Author
– Article “The Problems with Publishing Contracts”, by David Vandagriff, lawyer specializing in the literary industry
– Interview with Matthew Bialer, agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates
– Book Excerpt by Wall Street Journal Bestselling author, Charlie N. Holmberg, “The Fifth Doll”
– Book Excerpt by bestselling author Carrie Anne Noble, “The Gold-Son”

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Sale! “The Waxing Disquiet” to Deep Magic

Very pleased to announce that “The Waxing Disquiet”, a collaboration with Tony Pi, has sold to Deep Magic. It should appear in that magazine’s June issue.

This is the first collaboration for Tony and I, though we’ve known each other for more than ten years, including belonging to The Stop-Watch Gang writer’s group.


“The Waxing Disquiet” is set in a low-metal civilization built around hive-pyramids, bee-keeping, and the candle-and-waterworks-powered tallyloom computers that direct and order the society.

It was a lot of fun writing collaboratively with Tony. We both really loved this world, and I hope its one we can return to again soon.

And as it happens, Tony was able to arrange for a class of University of Toronto mechanical engineers to use the tallyloom idea as the basis for their year-end projects. Several teams actually built tallying machines that used only wood, water, wax, and weights to operate. It was very cool to see something you wrote about come to life like that!

– S.

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We’ve Made Our Own Deflector Shields for the Earth

Usually when you hear about unintended consequences they’re bad ones–here’s a good one for a change!

A pair of NASA space probes have detected an artificial bubble around Earth that forms when radio communications from the ground interact with high-energy radiation particles in space, the agency announced this week. The bubble forms a protective barrier around Earth, shielding the planet from potentially dangerous space weather, like solar flares and other ejections from the sun.

This bubble is caused by human use of very-low frequency (VLF) radio waves. The observations suggest that the VLF waves can push radiation particles away, since the Van Allen belts (naturally occurring bands of charged particles that surround the Earth) are much further from Earth now than in the 1960s, when we sent fewer VLF transmissions.

Mankind: mucking up the cosmos since 1957! ™

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