Food Scientists & Stinkbugs

By The Editors

A stinkbug. From  4-H Club insect manual  (1940)

A stinkbug. From 4-H Club insect manual (1940)

Automata’s next story launches March 13th, and boy, this one’s fun: prehistory goes amok! In the meantime, we’ve assembled a few links to some of the more interesting pieces out there on subjects we find insighful/relevant/horrifying.

Over at, Stephen Graham Jones (our first contributor!) writes about books that take their time to get going. Like, really take their time: “But just because you’ve dreamed up something catchy and permanent for a first line, don’t think that buys you license to gear down and grind down into a lot of boring stuff for forty or fifty pages.” Shrink that down to four or five paragraphs and it applies equally well to short stories. In other words, get going as soon as you can—which is probably sooner than you think.

Buzzfeed is turning into a serious journalistic enterprise these days, much to our surprise. We’re thankful for that, though also puzzled? Doesn’t Buzzfeed do lists like “Ten Shakespeare Characters with Better Hair than You?” Anyway, this piece by Stephanie M. Lee investigating Brian Wansink, the head of Cornell’s food psychology research unit (you didn’t know that was a thing? Neither did we) is well worth the read. You’ve probably heard about the replication crisis by now; this story takes a deep dive into one scientist’s methods and practices and raises many questions along the way. Questions that we think maybe someone might want to write fiction about and then send our way? Just a thought…

Marvel’s box office world domination continues with Black Panther’s well-deserved success, but it’s hard to be edgy when you’re top dog. At Vox, Todd VanDerWerff takes a moment to reflect back on Marvel’s uneasy history of kinda almost criticizing the U.S. but then not. But then also kinda. It’s an insightful piece, and sheds some light on the tricky balance Marvel tries to maintain in its movies, except when it goes all gonzo and makes something like Thor: Ragnarok.

Finally, nonfiction from Kathryn Schulz that might inspire a few horror writers out there. The title says it all: “When Twenty-Six Thousand Stinkbugs Invade Your Home.” That’s a story we’d like to see here at Automata, except, you know, The New Yorker just published it, and it’s real, so that’s… terrifying. The ecological changes wrought by humans are profound, and frequently weirder than we imagine. It’s not just the melting ice and rising oceans and unseasonal snow. It’s also invasive species and destroyed habitats and 26,000 stink bugs in your living room. Great, now we’re terrified AND depressed.

See you next week for some untimely reading!