Strange Science: Unidentified Flying Drones?

Western Nebraska and Eastern Colorado have been beset by large drones that fly at night. And no one seems to know where they’ve come from.

The drones, with wingspans of up to 6 feet, were first spotted around Christmas. They fly in formation, and attempts to find out where the drones go when they finish their flight have thus far been unsuccessful. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has gotten involved to help local law enforcement figure out what’s going on, but even that has had no results.

You can read more about this in the New York Times and the most recent update we could locate at Yahoo! Finance. We’ll be keeping an eye on this story to see if there are any more developments!

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MSJ Editors at Foolscap

Mad Scientist Journal‘s editors will be attending Foolscap in Seattle this weekend, February 7-9.

Co-editor Dawn Vogel will be on a panel about Publishing in the Digital Age on Friday evening. On Saturday, she’ll be interviewing Foolscap Guest of Honor Cherie Priest about her writing and other topics! Both Jeremy and Dawn will also be around to attend other panels and events!

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Review of The Key of Astrea

The Key of Astrea by Nicholas Marson (Maple and Pine, 2019) is a young adult adventure novel with elements of fantasy and science fiction blended together. With some characters that you want to root for, and others that you will love to hate, Marson has a firm grasp on writing compelling characters thrown into circumstances outside of their own control.

Jenny Tripper is a teenage girl with more than her fair share of things in her life she’d like to change. She doesn’t anticipate these things changing any time soon, so when a surprise birthday present turns out to be far more than it appears, she’s dragged into a whole other world filled with aliens, spaceships, and gates that connect the worlds. Along the way, there are ghosts and magical items, and new friends all learning to master their innate abilities so they can save an enslaved alien species.

While much of the book is told from Jenny’s perspective, some chapters are instead from the perspective of Jack Spriggan, an adult mechanic and pilot who is unwittingly swept into the larger plot of the novel. By alternating between the perspectives, Marson is able to reveal details that would otherwise be lost in the background if the novel was told from only Jenny’s perspective.

Fans of sci-fi books and shows that sometimes include a bit of a mystical or magical element will likely enjoy The Key of Astrea. The action is fast paced, and readers may even find themselves holding their breath as they fret over the outcome of Jenny’s adventures!

Content notes: The novel’s plot involves a surprising on-page death of a pet, as well as human deaths from cancer and violence. Additionally, the main character is Romani, and occasionally refers to herself and others using the widely known slur that has been and still is in popular usage related to this people. Some of the depictions of mental illness may also be problematic for some readers. Other elements may be troubling to other readers, but these aspects in particular caught my attention.

The author provided us with a free copy of this book in exchange for review consideration.

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Awesome Finds: Valor Volume 3

Back in January 2018, we talked about Valor volume 2, which was funding on Kickstarter at that time. Volume 3, the final book in this comics anthology trilogy, is already funded on Kickstarter. But if “adapted, re-imagined, or invented fairy tales” for all ages sounds like your thing, you should check out the Kickstarter, through which you can get your hands on all three volumes of the trilogy and more!

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Fiction: The Edge of Gravity

An essay by Ellan Vannin, as provided by Arnout Brokking
Art by Luke Spooner

On the day of the race I arrive at the track early, the area already filled with frantic activity.

Down by the kraals, the animal handlers scurry about with oils and ointments and make last minute adjustments to saddle straps and hackamores.

A long line of spectators has begun the trek up the mountain pass in search of a good spot. From down below in camp, I can see them climbing the rocks like one gargantuan snake.

The riders are gathered in the medical tent for examination. All but one. Martin Grimsby is nowhere to be found. If he is not here within the hour, he will not be allowed to start.

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Strange Science: Australian Birds of Prey and Fire

Australian ornithologists have found evidence that birds of prey sometimes use fire to drive their prey out of hiding.

Aboriginal Australians have stories of birds carrying fire, which modern witnesses have now corroborated. “Black kites (Milvus migrans), whistling kites (Haliastur sphenurus) and brown falcons (Falco berigora) all regularly congregate near the edges of bushfires, taking advantage of an exodus of small lizards, mammals, birds and insects–but it appears that some may have learnt not only to use fire to their advantage, but also to control it.” The birds find a branch or other vegetation that is partially on fire and carry it to another area, where they attempt to set a patch on fire to draw out prey when the fire itself is not doing that work, or when they want the prey in a different area.

You can read more about this phenomenon here!

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Other Evolution Stories

If you enjoyed Monday’s story about a species evolving, check out these other stories!

“Reproductive Strategy in a New Giant Carnivorous Ostracod” by Rebecca Siân Pyne (genetic adaptations of a species in which there are no males) (available in MSJ Winter 2018)

“A Taste of Empty” by Dorian Graves (human evolution into something more) (available in MSJ Winter 2015)

“Sweet Sand Fleas” by Steve Zisson (communication with whales through evolution) (available in MSJ Spring 2014)

“Its Terrible White Horn” by Ian Rose (bringing unicorns back into the world) (available in MSJ Spring 2014)

“The Natural History of Carnivorism in Unicorns” by Torrey Podmajersky (a study of prehistoric unicorns) (available in MSJ Spring 2012)



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Alumni on Preliminary Stoker Ballot!

Three MSJ alumni have netted a total of four slots on the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Award!

For short fiction, two of our alumni made the list:

Kiste, Gwendolyn – “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” (Nightmare Magazine, Nov. 2019, Issue 86)

White, Gordon B. – “Birds of Passage” (Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles) (Chthonic Matter)

Gwendolyn Kiste also received a slot for short non-fiction, with Magic, Madness, and Women Who Creep: The Power of Individuality in the Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Vastarien: A Literary Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 1).

And finally, in the poetry collection category, Deborah L. Davitt received a slot for her collection, The Gates of Never (Finishing Line Press).

While this is only the preliminary list, we’re still proud of our alumni for this honor! Here’s hoping to see their names again when the final ballot comes out!

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That Man Behind the Curtain – December 2019

Photo of a snow covered sidewalk.

Snowy fun in Seattle!

December involved the publishing of our final quarterly and shipping it out to relevant parties. Here’s a look at the numbers.

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Fiction: Canis ignis

An essay by Derek Bradley, as provided by Cory Swanson
Art by Leigh Legler

At first, the wolves were shot. People didn’t want to come into the park and see the majestic herbivores chased to their demise by hungry predators. So they were eradicated.

Unchecked, the deer and elk tore the hell out of the ecosystem. So many hungry mouths to feed, they yanked the vegetation up by the roots. There were floods and mudslides, with nothing to hold them back.

The humans, never a part of this environment in the first place, decided to bring the wolves back. The wolves brought back the vegetation, and the landscape flourished again.

That’s how I viewed myself as a ranger at Yellowstone National Park. Humans had royally screwed this place up in so many ways. How do we as people enjoy a place like this without destroying it?

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