Author Archives: John P. Murphy

About John P. Murphy

Just this guy, y'know? I'm an engineer and writer living in New England. My research background is in robotics and computer security; my writing is primarily science fiction and mystery.

My Boskone Schedule

Is it really less than a month until Boskone 52? Yes, yes it is. And I’ll be very busy at it this year with four panels and a reading. My final schedule is below, and I think it will be a lot of fun: I’ll have enough time to read one of my favorite works, I’ll be on a panel that Ken Liu and I proposed, and I get to geek out about Welcome to Night Vale, one of my favorite podcasts!

Reading: John Murphy

Friday 20:00 – 20:25, Independence (Westin)

I’ll be reading one of my short stories. I’ve got a leisurely 25 minutes to do it in, and I think I have Just the Thing.

The Future of Forensics (Moderating)

Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

Advances in science and technology are driving the future of forensics. How will these changes affect the future of crime prevention and detection? What crimes committed today or yesterday might be solved in the future, and how might it be done? What relationship do these advances have to the future of crime fiction? And how do we keep it feeling “real” without wandering into science fantasy?

What’s Up with Welcome to Night Vale?

Saturday 12:00 – 12:50, Galleria-Discussion Group (Westin)

Welcome to Night Vale is supposedly a “radio show” bringing news and advertisements from a small town in the desert Southwest where some very strange things happen. What is it about this cult-hit podcast that has captured fans’ attention? Panelists dish on the origins of the show, some of the juicier episodes, and the fan community that has sprung up around this popular series.

Constructive Criticism for Revising Novel-Length Work

Saturday 15:00 – 15:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Both getting and giving constructive criticism can be a challenge when going through the revision process, particularly for longer works. As a writer: how do you know what to ask of a potential critic, and how do you provide feedback on the success of the critique? As a critic: how do you identify and communicate issues or problems to the author? How do you keep track of plot threads, identify themes, and figure out what questions need to be asked? Also, how should writer and critic approach a series?

Social Implications of New Technologies

Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Harbor III (Westin)

What unexpected places may today’s tech take us tomorrow? How will we live with 3-D printing? Driverless cars? Robots that quit the factory’s floor and start sweeping ours? Handheld everythings? What gadgets will change our lives for good (or ill), and how? And what if those robots get minds of their own?

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Posted by on 23 January, 2015 in Conventions


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Arisia Wrap-up

I got back from Arisia last night, and I just wanted to say that I had a great time. I was initially disappointed to only get two panels, but those two were a lot of fun, and it gave me a lot of time and flexibility to hang out with some folks I haven’t seen in ages and to be properly introduced to a few new friends.

I had a good time from start to finish, but the highlight was definitely the gender-swapped performance of the Star Trek TOS episode Space Seed by the Post-Meridian Radio Players. It was superbly done and my hat is off to these performers.

My panels themselves went well, thanks to the excellent moderation by Shira Lipkin and James Cambias. Not an easy task, but they made their respective panels a delight.

My one major lesson, though, at least for me: make sure to register and set aside the time far enough ahead to get a room in the conference hotel. Boston in January can be a tad cold, and even though the overflow hotel wasn’t even a ten minute walk it was still on the miserable side. (Second note: Yes, Boston is warmer than New Hampshire, but I should still bring a hat and scarf.)

So, thanks everyone who came to my panels or took the time to say hi! All told, I had a great weekend, and I’m already looking forward to next year!

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Posted by on 19 January, 2015 in Writing


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Arisia 2015 schedule

Arisia is just next weekend! I’m really looking forward to it, since I had a ton of fun last year. I’ve got a lighter schedule this year, and will be around from Friday to Sunday afternoon.

Here are my panels if you’re thinking of coming to say hi:

Saturday at 4:00pm:
True Detective — Media, Panel — 1hr 15min — Marina 2 (2E)
The first season of HBO’s True Detective grafted a tinge of the supernatural onto its hardboiled story structure, and managed to create a nationwide frenzy over the works of Robert Chambers. We’ll talk about the way the show played with genre tropes, and talk more generally about the show’s structure, characters, and fascinating visual elements.
Morgan Crooks, Shira Lipkin (m), Megan S. Markland, John P. Murphy, Steve Sawicki

Sunday at 2:30pm:
Story Autopsy — Writing, Panel — 1hr 15min — Alcott (3W)
Our group of panelists takes a few well-known works of genre fiction and picks them apart to show you how they work, why they work, and in some cases point out the parts that don’t work at all. If you don’t like spoilers this is probably not the panel for you.
M. L. Brennan, James L. Cambias (m), Thom Dunn, John P. Murphy, Ian Randal Strock

If you have something you’d like me to sign, it’s probably easiest to catch me after my panels — Arisia is a big, busy con and it’s hard to find people in the crowd.


Posted by on 11 January, 2015 in Writing


2014 in the Rearview Mirror

This year feels like it’s both flown by and dragged on forever. Life for me has been interesting and complicated.

The biggest change this year was that I went from working in an office most days to working at home; at the same time I went from sitting at a desk all day to using a treadmill desk. While I’m still at the same job, I’m doing very different things now. I started the year primarily doing research, and am now involved in a number of different aspects of development, support, and even sales.

Like all big changes, this has been both good and bad and just strange. On the one hand, on a day to day level I’m quite a bit more isolated; on the other hand I talk to people all over the world by phone, and occasionally travel. The pace has also picked up a lot, with the last few months being extremely busy to the point that I’ve basically gotten nothing else done. (Add to that a two-week cold with laryngitis and a wisdom tooth extraction, BTW)

This has been a good year for my fiction, though, reaping what I sowed in past years. The big news, of course, is the publication of my novella Claudius Rex in the Alembical 3 anthology from Paper Golem Press. (Links in sidebar) I also had a number of short stories come out this year:

In addition to that, a story I wrote in blind collaboration with five other authors (Crowd Control) came out in Perihelion.

Finally, I self-published the first of a planned series of short SF mysteries, Death in a Tin Can.

On the side, I attended Arisia for the first time this past year (and had a blast) and was interviewed about my fiction for the Sci Fi Saturday Night podcast.

Of course, that’s all reaping the rewards of past years’ writing. It’s a bit like farming: you plant in one season, and the results bear fruit down the road. It never entirely makes sense to just look at one year in isolation. Having been so busy this year means that next year is likely to be a bit slower. I sold many of the sellable stories I had, and didn’t replenish the stock as quickly. This is not to say that I got nothing done. I finished a novel, A Death in Deep Space, and am in the process of shopping that around. I selected the short mysteries to edit and package to self-publish. I polished a novella that’s been ready to send out again for a while. And I made an audio sale that hasn’t come out yet. All in all, I’m hopeful for a good 2015.

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Posted by on 1 January, 2015 in Writing


Upcoming Events

My 2015 is starting to shape up — January and February, anyway. My schedules at those conventions haven’t been finalized yet (I’ll post them when they are) but I wanted to give a heads-up to anyone possibly attending those cons who might like to say hi or get a book signed.

I’ll be at Arisia 2015 from January 16th through 19th.

I’ll be at Boskone 52 from February 13th through 15th.

The other reason I wanted to post early is that there is the possibility that I might have a reading slot, and I wanted to ask: is there any story of mine you’d particularly like to hear read, or think might work well out loud? I’m tempted to read something unpublishable, but the story I have in mind a) might be a tad long, and b) requires a range of atrocious English accents.

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Posted by on 29 December, 2014 in Writing


Looking For Free Holiday Reading?

Being driven a little batty by the incessant holiday music? Need to take a little time away with a fun read? This weekend, my SF/mystery novelette Death in a Tin Can will be free for Amazon Kindle. Enjoy!

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Posted by on 19 December, 2014 in Writing


Death of the PI? Hardly

The New York Times Magazine has a story this weekend about the death of the private investigator at the hands of the internet and modern technology. It’s an interesting read, but on balance wrong. My comment there got a little lengthy, so I’m putting it here instead.

First, I do pretty well writing near-future PI stories. The secret is, the fictional private eye has never been all that realistic: he or she’s always been a crystallization of the times, doing things the hard and painful way when more effective ways exist. The key to the success of the PI in the public imagination is the nature of those more effective ways, and public doubt in them. They are always process-based and institution-based: “go to the cops”, usually, but “go to Google” works just as well. Nero Wolfe himself frequently told prospective clients that the police were a more viable (and less expensive) alternative — but always managed to get clients anyway.

Why do people go to the PI who does things the hard way? Because the more effective way relies on institutions that are (or are perceived to be) corrupt or incompetent or otherwise unable to help: they don’t always do what they say they’ll do, either because they can’t or they won’t. The PI represents integrity and honesty for those people who don’t trust the institutions.

Early PIs were always an alternative to the authorities of the time, generally the police (and sometimes, later, the FBI or CIA or what have you). The police are an institution, just as Google is today. That’s not a surprising thing to say anymore. But it’s worth remembering that the police are also a technology (police detectives are barely two hundred years old) and went through exactly the same “Gee whiz!” technology adoption curve as Internet search or GPS. Pick up a copy of Michael Sims’s excellent collection of Victorian-era detective fiction, The Dead Witness. Readers and authors of the time treated this new-fangled person of the police detective the same way as any new technology: first it was a novelty just to read about them, then they started to get their customary forms as people became comfortable… and then it became more interesting to wonder if they were quite as good a thing as they were cracked up to be. They became progressively less god-like: less omniscient, less omnipotent, and eventually (especially on the American side) decidedly less omni-benevolent.

And that’s where the PI came in, reacting in stages to each failing. Heck, you can even see the specific reactions, starting with the emergence of the “bumbling” police detective in comparison to the scientific private investigator, and getting into noir PIs dealing with police corruption.

We are now with respect to Google and our other tech helpers, where Victorian era readers were with respect to police detectives: these are shiny new institutions with sterling reputations for efficiency that we’re just now beginning to distrust a little. We’re kinda doing it in the reverse order: doubting intentions before we doubt efficacy. But either way, this seems to me the ideal time for a new Sam Spade to set up shop.


Posted by on 15 November, 2014 in Mystery, Writing


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