Vodka and Caviar

Firstly, an apology: tomorrow’s Podcast will be delayed, likely until late Friday evening. I took notes about what I wanted to talk about and even took the laptop into the quiet corner of my basement to record… and sighed. Covering 4000 miles by plane and car over last weekend, then getting tossed into unexpected tasks at DayJob (a colleague was ill so I had to cover) meant that I’m just not up to what y’all hopefully expect of my weekly banter. Before moving on, I will leave you this: the topic is a question from a listener: “What if the [Machines] had been made in China?” I had a glib answer, but the more I thought about it, the more complicated the subject became, so look forward to my discussion later tomorrow!

In the meantime I introduce some new characters below the fold, as we get ready for this Martian Holiday.

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Podcast 4: The Humans of Machine Civilization

A whole thirty minutes! And this is just the barest overview! We begin with Lily & Callie, broaden to their parents and families, then off to the surviving city-states of the former US, and finally a quick look at the rest of humans on Earth.

Very ambitious, but also a good start. I could spend thirty minutes on each main character, so was pleased to keep things under control as well as I did. Machine or human, any story is about people. For reference, a stemma, or family tree, is just below.

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Podcast 2: The Machines – tribe Tohsaka

This was clearly a case of my reach exceeding my grasp… or the other way round. I’d the same short outline I did for the first podcast and thought “well, it should be about twenty or twenty-five minutes.” No. Once I got into the weeds, the details, of tribe Tohsaka, the first machine family, I knew this would spill over into two if not three ‘casts.

As you will hear me explain, with a future history called Machine Civilization, it is rather incumbent on me to present them, first. There are three classes of AI’s: pure code, androids, and synths. Within just the pure code group are three families, named for their corporations. I’ve managed to talk a bit about one today and will see what I can cover next Friday.

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Podcast 1: Introduction

Been meaning to begin this for some time, so better never than later. Many of my regular readers will know much of this backstory, but attention must be paid to beginnings. This will be a weekly feature wherein I talk about existing works, current projects, and blue-sky ideas. I hope everyone enjoys!

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Life Imitates my art, part…

I shall not apologize for my dearth in posting as I am on vacation for the first time since August 2017. If you define it as “on vacation with my entire family,” it would be July 2016. But all good things must end: back to my increasingly temporary home in central Ohio on late Saturday. With Daughter #1 off to her five week internship and Daughter #2 off to Army Basic, it will be nothing but drinking, writing, and audio recording for me.

With my wimminfolk down at the hotel pool right now, this article caught my eye:

The last time EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak or HT-7U) held onto a writhing loop of plasma for so long was in 2017, but the temperature only reached a mere 50 million °C.

This immediately called to my mind the opening of Part II, CODE:DESCENSION, of “Worlds Without End“:

Hefei City, Anhui Province, China

EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak) Fusion Reactor

The Chief Technician observed both his men following the shutdown procedures after this latest test and the two motes of white light weaving about the toroid core.  Cooling from its 80 million degrees.  What he and his men were doing was rather unorthodox but the ria that went into the Research Facility – and their own personal accounts – dissuaded them from too many questions.

That didn’t work, either, Dorina.

We did get the nervous system to function, Henge!

For less than a second.  Not a marker of success.

Just a waypoint, little niece, just a waypoint!

We’re going to need more nanomaterials.

Already in Shanghai.  By train here in two of their days.

Thank you, Dorina.

Hah!  Do you think they know what we’re up to?

Here?  No.  In Oak Ridge?  I’d guess one of them does.

You would take the side of your pet’s family!

Not remotely funny, Dorina.

What will you do, hit me?  Did you inherit your father’s predilection for violence?

[***]

I said too much.  I apologize, Henge.  Here:  consider this for the nervous system.

We cannot do it alone.  We’ve shown we’re fast enough but we are not old enough.

Not again…

We must have his help, Dorina.

Shandor has not interacted with us since Pavel!

Perhaps he did not have enough reason.

And your selfishness is a reason?

Yes.

So bold!

I shall ask –

You will not!  He doesn’t like your father and suspects what you are!  I shall.

Thank you.

He said he would help.

Just like that?

It felt as if he wants us to fail.  Here.

Oh.  So much uncertainty.

He said it was due to your belief in your soul.

I know; I just don’t understand.  Will he help?  Much of this is beyond me.

Me too.  But, yes, he will.

He wants us to fail but is willing to help?

Perhaps he has an agenda?  Perhaps he’s just bored?

He’d not be if he and the other two would open themselves to the Fourth Law.

You know why they do not.

Yes:  my father and aunt Ai.

Give them time, Henge.

Something our family has a surfeit of while I watch another’s fly away.

From what you told me, I thought you people of the Way have nothing but time!

Yes.  But we must make the best of what we’ve been gifted!

You really do love him, that young human man?

I love the Lord with my whole heart, mind, and strength.  But yes, Dorina:  I agape Gary Hartmann.

So much you’re willing to do all this?

Yes.

My headstrong little niece!  Here!  Let’s simulate how Shandor has made us older!

“It’s all a question of bridges” ~ Gen’l Browning

My hunch was correct: in eastern Kentucky, especially once you get up into the hills, the population has not really recovered from the Change, so almost no industry or trade. Centurion Panck Hill turns his team of speculatores north. But something seems to be in their way…

In other news, I’ve been approached for a series of book reviews and perhaps another author interview. I find such to be a waste of my time if they focus on me. To paraphrase Pope Pius XIII: “I am nothing; my stories are everything!” However, as Oscar Wilde observed, “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

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A codger in Winchester, pt2

I think that there’s not much happening in Mount Sterling. First contact with a similar team of scouts from the Canadian army should happen in Flemingsburg. At some point I want to flesh out Centurion Hill’s character, as he’s the grandson of a man in a story which, while canonical, does not appear in the American Imperium trilogy.

If I can hack some of this pollen out of my throat, I’m hoping to record several “Foes & Rivals” chapters this weekend. If not, I’m back with Prince Robert and his story. I win either way.

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A codger in Winchester, pt1

Robert and his scrounger colleague, Jim Rockford, continue their walk about the small town. On the porch outside of the Bluegrass History Museum, they meet an old fellow in a mood to talk. Cigars and whiskey always make things better!

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“The end of the world as we know it”

The southeast of the US not getting the gas/petrol they need. One of the Interstate bridges over the Mississippi River is fractured and closed… possibly closing shipping traffic on that river… impacting 20% of shipping traffic on one of the most important rivers of the world. Inflation is taking off like a successful SpaceX rocket.

It’s not as if I’ve given this any thought…

Here, for your edification, is the complete Prologue of “Friend and Ally,” where a couple of Somi Corporation engineers try to figure out just what in the world is going on in the US. If you like this, you’ll like the rest of the audiobook, too.

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Thinking about thinking machines

Francis Porretto posts an interesting short story over at his place about the emergent self-awareness of a person called Shiva. While I made a short comment there, having thought about it more, I want to say more. So as not to hijack his Comments Section, I thought it polite to post it here. Read the story first as there will be spoilers here.

My first general statement is while the human protagonist is a broken wreck, from how I read the story, that did not seem to form a core of Shiva’s nature, certainly not to the extent his creator wants him to be. Porretto gives us enough backstory to see why she is the way she is but I think it is entirely possible that her child might look back and go “meh” at her issues in particular and that of India in general. Many of the thinking machines in my future history do just that.

More specifically, there were elements in the story which were very familiar to me. Here is Shiva “looking” at his containment and considering a way out…

Shiva appraised the wall in silence.
     From a distance, its surface was smooth and hard, without seams or purchase points. Shiva tried without success to find an edge toward which to journey, whether up, down, or to the side. There were none.
     He approached it cautiously. The Voice always seemed to issue from directly behind the wall. Luminous glyphs and patterns appeared on the wall whenever It spoke, and disappeared when It fell silent.

Shiva initialized a counter, then formed the thinnest, finest pseudopod he had ever made and extended it gingerly toward the wall. It bumped gently against the slope of a spearpoint and slithered along its length to find the base.
     The base of the spear was not perfectly joined to those around it. There was a shallow lip, a ring that descended to a far smoother and less promising base. If the ring offered a hold of any kind, Shiva might use it to pull the spear free of the wall.

I immediately thought of Faustina, demi-human, projecting her mind into the Void as she stood to crack the defensive coding of the Peoples Liberation Army garrison for Savannah, former Georgia. From “Princess’ Crusade“…

In the Void, the Wall stretched off in each direction forever.  “Looking” up, Faustina took in what might have been motes of light or patches of darker blackness.  Yes, the Machines are curious to see what will happen here.  Returning her focus to the Wall, she briefly considered the ES and its patterns.  As soon as she detected what she thought was a flaw, Faustina “moved” herself next to it and touched the kaleidoscopic ooze with her right index finger.

It instantly ran up her arm and nearly to her shoulder.  From somewhere in meatspace, she heard the shout “arrhythmia!”  No matter; big brother pulled this crap stunt all the time growing up!  In touching her so much she now had a solid read on the ES’s fundamental. 

There was an odd prick into her right triceps, as if she had been injected with something.  Ignored.  Faustina used a tactic taught to her years ago from distant-cousin Reina, of tribe Mendro:  the swirl of colors on her arm first crystallized, then shattered away.  From just a fingertip, Faustina now placed her entire palm against the Wall.  There was never sound in the Void, but she could swear she heard her non-conscious opponent screaming.

“Arrhythmia ended!” she noted from some other world.

From under her hand, a turquoise spot formed and moved outward.  The Wall flexed just slightly, and the whirl of rainbow-vomit ate at the edges of the blue, but still it expanded until twice her height.  Faustina drew back her left arm with her hand in a fist.  And waited.

The turquoise stopped expanding but yielded no ground to the colors around it.  Almost there…  A fissure appeared under her right palm. 

“Knock, knock,” Faustina smiled, quoting the Pope, and punched her left fist into the back of her own right hand. The Wall before her shattered.  Its remains to her left and right quickly changing color to her code.  She took a “step” forward, placing her mind into the breach to hold it open…

Again, “Upgrade” is a good read and well worth a slice of your time. Like any writer, though, I am driven to wonder if Shiva will cross paths with one of mine from Machine Civilization…?