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(Fark)   At your wit's end from social distancing? Need something different in entertainment and distraction? How about a new science fiction novel? Presenting: The Voyage of the New Beginning, now through Chapter 36 - "Triumvirate Plus One"   (fark.com) divider line
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1450 clicks; posted to Discussion » on 04 Sep 2020 at 12:00 PM (12 weeks ago)   |   Favorite   |   Watch    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



Voting Results (Smartest)

 
‘’ 2020-03-31 1:47:10 PM  
8 votes:
Get rid of all the current slang. Stigginit, BFF, etc...  10 years from now those gnarly words will no longer be hip or fly but will instead be something that dates the story as obviously as Captain Kirk telling Spock "Cool it daddy-o"
 
‘’ 2020-04-08 12:01:11 AM  
7 votes:

Harlee: Did you read my cites? Opinions on glossaries vary. Here's another opinion: "I don't understand this sentiment, and I'm wondering how widespread it is. I mean, The Lord of the Rings, Dune, A Clockwork Orange, 1984, and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant all have glossaries, to name a few off the top of my head. Do they have strikes against them too?"


None of them are essential to the story. Anthony Burges doesn't need to explain to me what a "droog" is, I figured it out through contextual clues in the novel. That's the mark of good writing.

1984's Appendix on Newspeak is actually Orwell's earlier essay Politics And The English Language retooled toward the topics of the novel. But you don't have to read it to understand what Orwell is getting at. Just from the few words throughout the text and given the Party's objectives you can infer that it is a language designed to eradicate thought through the elimination of words. In fact, the character Syme says so in an early part of the book.

The only thing the Appendix does is add some color commentary to how the mechanics of such a language would actually work. But it's completely unnecessary. You're not missing anything by skipping it.

You know what else is unnecessary: The two big-ass essays in the middle of the novel that bring everything to a screeching halt while Orwell pontificates for 40 pages about how such a group could obtain power and maintain it indefinitely. It's a fascinating chunk of speculation and for a political junky like me contains the most quotable parts of the whole novel, but from a pure storytelling standpoint it is absolute blasphemy.

Never interrupt your novel with author filibuster (looking at you Ayn Rand). Just because those works are famous and the authors got away with timetables and Gantt charts historysplaining their magnum opus does not mean it's a good thing to do. In fact most of the time it's not. EL James got away with writing a shiatty BDSM smut novel on her Blackberry, does that mean every writer should do that? Do not equate popularity or success with good.

You don't need a glossary if you do it right. Introduce your concepts and inventions and weird words naturally, through the events in the story. Have characters introduce things to each other with little slips of dialogue and through inference the reader can get a pretty good handle on what the strange words are and what they do. Maybe even have a fish-out-of-water character or a noob character who needs things explained to them, so the reader can follow along. There's all sorts of ways to walk the reader through this complex world without forcing them to skip to the back to read endnotes.

If you want another suggestion, you could always do what Marshall Mcluhan did. Back in the 60s he released a popular non-fiction book called Understanding Media. But it was written at a graduate level so not a lot of people understood it. In response to all the erroneous interpretations he wrote a sequel called Understanding Understanding Media, which aimed to explain what the hell he was talking about (everyone knows his famous phrase "The media is the message" but who actually knows what that means?).

That's what you should do. Just write your book. If it's a great story and it takes off, then release everything else as an addendum for those who don't get it or are interested in learning more.

As it is right now, what you got here reminds me of a Magic: The Gathering player who doesn't like dueling, he just likes building custom decks and collecting rare cards. You've got a potentially fascinating world here, but you seem more interested in explaining the world than telling a story in it.

But that's okay. Tolkien did the same thing. As a linguist who wrote the Oxford English dictionary he created the languages first while sitting in the trenches of WWI. Then he created races to speak those languages. Then he created a world for those races to live in. Then he got around to telling a story about them, some 20 odd years later. And if he were alive today he'd always insist that the stories exist as a vehicle for the languages, not the other way around.
 
‘’ 2020-04-07 9:03:24 PM  
6 votes:

Harlee: LOL, like I said in the thread intro, the amount of detail that my brain unfolded from my wife's initial seed idea is... bothersome. Not that I believe that shiat, but the complexity, and that fact that it all ties and self-supports without a lot of "snuggling and fitting" and revision is almost like I am channeling some thing's thoughts.

So of course there is a Glossary for all of that stuff, plus explanations of alien terms.*


Okay here's the thing (and I'm echoing what others have already said):

Your worldbuilding is impressive and useful and great for continuity, but none of it needs to go in your story.

Tolkien didn't come out with descriptions of places and names and histories of Middle Earth along with the languages he invented to go with the names and races.

He wrote the story first. A very simple one at that. He didn't bamboozle the reader with glossaries and appendices and genealogy tables, he simply used the legendarium to inform the characters and events without having to define and explain it.

The legendarium in full didn't even come out until 20-40 years later (some of it published posthumously), well after the LOTR was done its first printing, and only on the insistence of fans who wanted more.

Star Wars didn't start out with a history of a 40,000 year old galactic civilization and the rise of the empire and regal hierarchies. It started out with a big ship attacking a small ship and two robots escaping.

(one of the earlier drafts for the original Star Wars had an opening crawl that was much longer, like 6 meaty paragraphs, introducing too many characters and factions for people to pay attention. It was Brian De Palma who told George Lucas: "This is too farking long and confusing. Simplify it to two factions, one character and one conflict". And the final 3 sentence crawl established it beautifully: Rebels. Empire. Death Star. Princess. Begin movie)

Game of Thrones didn't start out with the history of Westeros, the coming the the Andals and the First Men, the Children of the Forest and the War with the White Walkers, and the establishment of the noble houses, along with the Valarian empire and the coming of the Targaryens. It started out with a boy getting pushed out of a tower window.

Honestly: The only purpose behind the worldbuilding is to establish settings, scenes and characters so you don't run into continuity problems. But that's just for you to worry about. No one is going to check your glossary to see if you're using your own terms properly. If your book becomes a runaway hit then yes, people might be interested in your notes and backstory. But for now it's just flavor text. To publish it now is just wankery.

Tell the story first.

Let the people decide whether they want to know more.
 
‘’ 2020-03-30 11:09:31 PM  
6 votes:
This is an experiment. With modmin assistance, this is me doing my part to help keep fellow Farkers entertained, distracted, and sane during this time of stress and isolation. My posts will be the latest versions of the chapters of the science fiction novel my wife and I are writing, The Voyage of the New Beginning ©2020, Stephen D. and Lea M. Ball, All Rights Reserved. I plan to post at least one chapter every other day. Today, you will see that part of the front matter that is finalized (DP and TOC in two posts), and the unconventionally long Prologue (in three posts, due to length).

For seven years, this has been a work of love and loathing. The actual writing is about half done. There's enough now for quite a few posts. I'll try to stay ahead.

There's a lot of background, a huge and wide 'verse. Indeed, the complicated cohesiveness of my World Notes often makes me feel like I'm "channeling" someone, something, or some thing, rather than thinking this stuff up in my head. Now that's a scary thought. Because, superficially, the book's about an alien attack on Earth, an attack like none you've ever read or heard about. And it is set just 18 years from now. Duh-duh-DUHHHH! [Cue Dramatic Chipmunk].

It's long for a first novel, but I don't care. Is parts are just as long as they need to be to tell the story, which has grown from one tiny seed idea into a whole universe. The book has some currently unfashionable structure and front matter, because I have written it the way I would want to see a novel written that I had bought to read, enjoy, and get lost in.

I hope Farkers enjoy this lighthearted story, and that it helps everyone cope. A good part of the fun, of course, will be Farker comments. Therefore, your thread comments (positive, negative, snarky, smart, funny, and idiotic) are all encouraged.

So without further ado, Subby presents:


A Graciousrealm Novel:

The Voyage of the New Beginning



"The Maze Race is metaphor for

the Struggle of Life. The moral hallmark of

civilization is commitment to dismantling the world's

death traps and dead ends, so that each Maze Racer in the

Maze of Life may more expeditiously travel their Path."

- The martyred Universist Sage Dothallian

 
‘’ 2020-03-31 12:14:20 PM  
5 votes:
Fark user imageView Full Size
 
‘’ 2020-05-28 1:40:27 PM  
4 votes:
This reminds me of the time Bono threw a U2 album at everybody who bought an iphone.
 
‘’ 2020-03-31 12:33:50 AM  
4 votes:
Prologue: Earth, April 2038 CE

(Post 3 of 3)


Shadow, of course, followed her. She went to the bathroom and shut the door on the infernal little contraption. Ignoring the rhythmic soft bumping on the door, she freshened up and did her business.

She finished, and went to the kitchen, where she prepared a large pot of coffee. Shadow followed. As she worked, an idea came to her. Just what were the capabilities of the spy-balls? They could make pings; what other sounds could they make? She turned to the spy-ball and said, "Please tell me, Mr. P, are there going to be charts and graphs?"

The response was instantaneous. The Presence's voice, flattened and tinny, came from the spy-ball, "Most assuredly."

"I hate charts and graphs. I simply have no head for them."

"Then I will eliminate them and use alternate communication methods."

She thought hard. What she wanted to hear was testimony. A storyline she could analyze for contradictions and poke holes in for later advantage. Wait. Would a sapient program make mistakes in such a narrative? Probably not, she decided. But discounting the narrative entirely would be a mistake.

"Can't you simply tell me in words about this history and context you are so concerned that I understand?"

"Are you, then, more comfortable with a narrative style of fact-finding, such as you might get in a courtroom? Do you prefer an approach that lends itself to cross-examining a witness who is telling a complicated story?"

Damn. It knew how she thought. "God, yes."

The coffee was done, and she brought the pot and a mug to the study. She settled into the chair, adjusting it so that it was not too comfortable. She set her wristpad to Record All mode and activated the HeimdallTM Voice Recognition software to make both audio and text copies of the narration. She looked up at The Presence and archly asked, "You will allow me to record your... testimony for future playback, analysis, and reference?"

"Please do, Mrs. H. My proposal involves certain active measures by your firm. You will want to discuss the narrative with your key people. A full and complete record will therefore be a necessity."

Harriet thought about that for a moment. My, he assumes a lot. Well, I haven't committed to anything. Yet. "OK, Mr. P, please proceed with your history and context."

"Excellent, Mrs. Hogueland. Let me tell you a story."

#




*Associated Glossary Listings

Thermoelectric Generator
:
Abbreviated "TEG", and also called a Seebeck generator. A TEG is a solid state device that converts temperature differences directly into electrical energy through a phenomenon called the Seebeck effect (a form of thermoelectric effect). TEGs function like heat engines, but are less bulky and have no moving parts. [Extracted from Wikipedia]


Wristpad: A small computer/telephone/PDA worn on the wrist. It has an on-board AI neural gel operating system, a popup high-resolution holographic monitor, a full-function desktop-sized holographic keyboard, 3D sensors to track keyboard finger movement, multiple independent ultra-high resolution cameras and video recorders, and Heimdall Voice RecognitionTM software for voice command operation.


Telecall: By 2038, all telephones include real time visuals of the people you are talking with. This feature is optional on a call-by-call basis, to account for privacy when wanted, and may be set to default to either position. A common hack by voyeurs and potential blackmailers is to disable the privacy settings on telephones. Most telephones are now integrated units on wristpads.


Nexialism: An esoteric discipline that combines competent administrative skills with an ordered overview of, and ability to see connections between, different specialized fields of science. A Nexialist is skilled in the science of joining in an orderly fashion the knowledge of one field of learning with that of other fields. It can be characterized as "thinking outside of the box." A Nexialist isn't someone who necessarily knows the answer to every question, but they do know where to look to find that answer. [word invented by A.E. Van Vogt; entry paraphrased from Researchgate.net]


Chinese Room: The Chinese room argument holds that a computer executing a program cannot be shown to have a "mind", "understanding" or "consciousness" regardless of how intelligently or human-like the program may make the computer behave. The centerpiece of the argument is a thought experiment known as the Chinese room.

The thought experiment begins with this hypothetical premise: suppose that artificial intelligence research has succeeded in constructing a computer that behaves as if it understands Chinese. It takes Chinese characters as input and, by following the instructions of a computer program, produces other Chinese characters, which it presents as output. Suppose that the computer performs its task so convincingly that it comfortably passes the Turing test: it convinces a human Chinese speaker that the program is itself a live Chinese speaker. To all of the questions that the person asks, it makes appropriate responses, such that any Chinese speaker would be convinced that they are talking to another Chinese-speaking human being.

The question to answer is this: does the machine literally "understand" Chinese? Or is it merely simulating the ability to understand Chinese?

Now suppose that a person is in a closed room and has a book with an English version of the computer program, along with sufficient papers, pencils, erasers, and filing cabinets. He could receive Chinese characters through a slot in the door, process them according to the program's instructions, and produce Chinese characters as output. If the computer had passed the Turing test this way, it follows that the person would do so as well, simply by running the program manually.

The person then asserts that there is no essential difference between the roles of the computer and himself in the experiment. Each simply follows a program, step-by-step, producing a behavior which is then interpreted by the user as demonstrating intelligent conversation. However, the person himself would not be able to understand the conversation. It therefore follows that the computer would not be able to understand the conversation either.

Without "understanding" (or "intentionality"), we cannot describe what the machine is doing as "thinking" and, since it does not think, it does not have a "mind" in anything like the normal sense of the word. [Extracted from Wikipedia]


Turing Test: The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine designed to generate human-like responses. The evaluator would be aware that one of the two partners in conversation is a machine, and all participants would be separated from one another. The conversation would be limited to a text-only channel such as a computer keyboard and screen so the result would not depend on the machine's ability to render words as speech.[2] If the evaluator cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The test results do not depend on the machine's ability to give correct answers to questions, only how closely its answers resemble those a human would give. [Extracted from Wikipedia]

Black Swan: The black swan theory is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist - a saying that became reinterpreted to teach a different lesson after black swans were discovered in the wild.

The theory was developed to explain: 1) the disproportionate role of high profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations; 2) the non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities); and 3) the psychological biases that blind people to uncertainty and to a rare event's massive role in historical affairs.

"Black swan theory" refers only to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history. Such events, considered extreme outliers, collectively play vastly larger roles than regular occurrences. [Extracted from Wikipedia]


Fermi Paradox: The Fermi paradox, named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi, is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations elsewhere in the Milky Way galaxy and various high estimates for their probability (such as those that result from optimistic parameters for the Drake equation). [Extracted from Wikipedia]


Great Filter: Whatever prevents non-living matter from undergoing any of the steps from abiogenesis to the interstellar expansion of lasting life as measured by the Kardashev scale. The concept originates in the argument that failure to find any extraterrestrial civilizations in the observable universe implies the possibility that something is wrong with one or more of the arguments from various scientific disciplines that the appearance of advanced intelligent life is probable. This observation is conceptualized in terms of a "Great Filter" which acts to reduce the great number of sites where intelligent life might arise to the tiny number of intelligent species with advanced civilizations actually observed (currently just one: human). This probability threshold, which could lie behind us (in our past) or in front of us (in our future), might work as a barrier to the evolution of intelligent life, or as a high probability of self-destruction. The main counter-intuitive conclusion of this observation is that the easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are. [Extracted from Wikipedia]


Next Post: Chapter 1 --- Harlee
 
‘’ 2020-04-27 2:01:12 PM  
3 votes:

Harlee: Deece: I know most of my favourite books require an ongoing dialogue with the author to explain all the terms and concepts and generally what the hell is going on...

What is it you need explained?


I believe that's sarcasm. He's complaining that you spend as much or more time explaining what everything is and why the characters are taking the actions that they do as you spend on the story itself.


Harlee climbed out of bed. A bed is an elevated and cushioned platform on which humans spend their sleep period. Humans generally sleep about one third of a day in a single isolated section of time. Some sleep for slightly less or more time. When they reach adolescence the time needed for sleep increases by a quarter or more to compensate for the excess energy that is being put into growth.

After climbing from bed Harlee put on his socks. Socks are foot coverings made of a tube of fabric with an opening on one end. They are designed to fit over feet. Humans have two appendages they use to move around. The end of these appendages are called feet. The very ends of the feet branch into five lesser appendages which are called toes. The purpose of these lesser appendages is to maintain balance and fluidity when locomoting while also serving to cushioon impact.

Next Harlee put on his pants.  The appendages that the aformentioned feet reside at the end of are called legs. Just as humans cover their feet with socks they also cover their legs. The cloth that covers the legs is two long open tubes which are connected to a larger tube which is sealed at one end. The two long tubes come out of the sealed end of the pants. The Humans place their leg appendages through the larger tube with one appendage going into each of the smaller leg tubes until the feet are sticking out of the ends.

In human society there is a long standing disagreement over how you should don pants. One faction holds that you should remain seated while sliding both leg appendages into their appropriate tube and only after the feet are protruding from the ends should the being rise into a standing position and finish pulling the larger pants tube into place around the lower torso.  Another faction believes that the pants should donned while standing with one leg being inserted into its tube while the human precariously balances on the other appendage. Then once that operation is completed balance is shifted to the clothed appendage while the other leg is inserted.


As opposed to just letting us know that the creature known as Harlee sleeps and wears some sort of clothing.

Harlee got out of bed and got dressed.
 
‘’ 2020-04-07 9:32:19 PM  
3 votes:

Harlee: My fear, when writing it that way, was that leaving it out would leave the reader going WTF?


It is really difficult to write in technical detail about any subject and maintain the reader's interest. It's a good way to lose them -- their eyes glaze over and they skip ahead or put the book down because the subject matter is too dense or too boring. How much actual boxing terminology and strategy and stances and forms are in Rocky? Hardly any. Because the movie's not about boxing.

In many works of fiction featuring geniuses who do genius things better than anyone else (ie: Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester), there's a willingness to not reveal the entire craft of their genius, partly because that's not the point of the story (their genius is more of a McGuffin for their other life issues), but mostly because the author is not adept enough to fully explicate their genius output. And that's okay.

Many mathematicians have pointed out that the math problems Will Hunting solves are actually really basic 1st year problems and are hardly at the cutting edge of mathematics. To which Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have told them "We know. That's not the point of the movie."

Similarly, The Fountainhead is not technically about architecture but rather about the age-old struggle of personal integrity vs commercial exploitation. But there is no concrete description of what his architecture actually looks like. It's all just vague handwaving that it's unique, it's different than anything else, and to some it's just an abominable style that doesn't borrow from any other style. It's a completely new paradigm. And that's fine -- it's a metaphor for artistic expression. Roark could have picked up any profession -- artist, writer, musician, actor, etc. -- and the story can still work.

John Grisham writes courtroom dramas because he was a criminal defense attorney and that's what he knows..... but he never fills his books full of latin phrases and arcane legal gobbledygook. Ian Fleming worked for the British Secret Service before he penned James Bond...... but he never filled his books full of alphabet label agencies and technical protocol and intelligence briefings. The great authors always write about what they know most intimately but just because they know lots about their subject doesn't mean they have to put everything they know in the story.

(although to be fair Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman before he made it big with his political thrillers so maybe its possible to get away with it if you're imaginative enough)

For the sake of drama and efficient storytelling it is alright to ask the reader to suspend their disbelief when describing anything technical. Because most of the time such granular explanations are not germaine to the story. It's like Scotty rattling the keyboard in Star Trek IV to produce the formula for transparent aluminum. It doesn't matter how silly that looks, why Scotty would know how to use an Apple Macintosh from the 80s, or even what the chemical formula is. He's solving a problem -- do you really want a 15 minute powerpoint presentation from him on exactly how he did it? Suspend your disbelief and lets move on with the story.

You can do that here. You don't have to explain everything to the grittiest detail. The audience is willing to meet you halfway if the story is good. Trust their intelligence (or at the very least don't insult it). If they don't get it then you've David Lynched yourself. And is that so bad, really?
 
‘’ 2020-04-06 1:17:37 PM  
3 votes:

Harlee: Noah_Tall: Show, don't tell.  It's one of the essential credos for all story writing.  Your prologue was story writing. Everything that follows is a history book. It is the world building information that authors use to keep their story consistent. The scaffolding they use to build their story then remove once the story is done.

I agree. But at least it's not charts and graphs. Harriet hates those.

It picks up, with a lot more white space, more action, and less narrative starting with Chapter 6 (above). The first five chapters, some 13,000 words, do indeed act as a history and context.... which is what The Presence said he wanted to convey. And - since it is all essentially flashback - it tends to narrative. My fear, when writing it that way, was that leaving it out would leave the reader going WTF? due to the utter strangeness of some of the concepts (such as DI implants inside the brain, meaning that Harlee essentially has a Jaynes-like artificially-created bicameral brain).

In other words, that scaffolding is part of the story. Discarding it would IMO lessen the story.

But then again, every mother thinks their baby is the most beautiful one in the world....


It's not bad that you've got all the scaffolding, when you're writing about characters doing stuff it's great.

You as the writer need to know all that scaffolding before you start the story. It's the skeleton you're hanging all the meat on. Readers won't care though, or more accurately they will notice it's absence in your storytelling, just like you'd notice a boneless person.

I understand the urge. My own project I literally created an entire cosmology and history of the freaking universe. Because it's relevant to how the characters can do what they do and why. But that's not the story, that's setting.

By all means build a super interesting world, but what characters are doing in that world and because of the world they inhabit is what matters. The readers will infer or simply accept 90 percent of setting on their own.

My gentle suggestion is that if the arrival of the aliens is that important for readers to know show it from the perspective of a character it's happening to. Either in flashback or a preface.

For example consider the start of The 80s animated Transformers movie. It didn't start with "Unicron is the ultimate evil! He eats planets that power him, and he doesn't care who is in his path."

It started with him eating a freaking planet with no regard for anyone. That little sequence which featured none of our heroes, and a non-verbal big bad sets the threat and the stakes from the jump. Even when we get to the heroes there's a throwaway line about the Autobots being on their moon bases planning to retake Cybertron, and then we get on with the pew pew and such heroic nonsense.

Please don't take this criticism as negative, it's definitely not meant to tear you down. I hope you find it helpful.
 
‘’ 2020-04-04 2:23:32 PM  
3 votes:
Show, don't tell.  It's one of the essential credos for all story writing.  Your prologue was story writing. Everything that follows is a history book. It is the world building information that authors use to keep their story consistent. The scaffolding they use to build their story then remove once the story is done.
 
‘’ 2020-03-30 11:49:47 PM  
3 votes:
Prologue: Earth, April 2038 CE

(Post 1 of 3)


The silent gunman, alien spy-ball bobbing behind him, walked her to her door. She keyed the entry pad. The bungalow's security system read her biosig. The door opened. As she stepped into the entry, the taciturn thug touched her shoulder and she jerked around, shocked by a jagged shard of fear that wiggled past her armor. Expecting anything, she found that he had only wanted to focus her tired attention with a flood of adrenaline.

His eyes were well-hidden wounds, his face otherwise charily as blank as a poker chip cut from flint. His precise Danish-accented King's English was brutally direct as he tonelessly recited a bullet pointed list. "Madam. I have been told you appreciate bluntness. I have been told to be certain you understand your situation. You are considered politically naïve and difficult. Your theories and conclusions are deemed incorrect and dangerous. You have endangered order and stability. You and your company are now persona-non-grata with the UN Alien Response Team. Silence is required. It would be prudent to act accordingly. I am to tell you that, as a sign of good faith on your part, it would be good for you to stay here for the next few days, until the paparazzi move on to the next shiny thing. To leave, please have your people coordinate with both Danish Internal Security - he touched his ID - and UNART." He drilled a stare into her eyes. "Do you understand?"

She stared back, and saw only tiredness and sadness. It occurred to her that this was not an evil man, just one who had to do things he hated, and who had not yet reached his point of no return. She tiredly nodded an affirmative. His words were a clear summary of conclusions she had herself reached earlier, at the contentious meeting at the United Nations General Assembly building in Copenhagen. Leave it to the Danes, always sticklers for propriety, to make sure that all players knew the ground rules.

#

The haunted thug and his shadow had left, but Harriet Hogueland stood in the doorway. She swayed a little. The fatigue of 56 years, 32 hours awake, constant worry, and an 8-hour jet lag all tugged at her mind. Ensnared in wool, giving in to the moment, she gazed stupidly at the encircling garden, the compound wall, the garden gate.

Two Danish Military Police bracketed that gate. Their submachine guns and spy-balls glinted in the late afternoon sun. Across the tree-lined residential street, two Volvo armored personnel carriers idled. From the swirl of spy-balls over them, she knew they were each filled with a dozen or more troops. Inside the wall, her own guards, with their P90s and spy-balls, patrolled the garden.

As always, fatigue invited in her lurking clinical depression. Her brain flitted through a masochistic catalog of hurt, a lifetime of what-ifs and might-have-beens. Self-blame was there. Too direct, too honest, too smart, too brown, too uppity, too female.... The fault was hers, she thought, an uncaring inability to diplomatically deal with the world's stupidities. George had worried about her take-no-prisoners attitude. Now, her character traits were self-imposed crosses she had borne since inheriting his business empire five years before. If it had not been for the loyalty and support of her late husband's four right hand people....

She sighed and rubbed her eyes, trying to banish the fatigue. She turned, to go to her study. Her own spy-ball floated in the air six feet away. Like the others, her enigmatic Shadow (she had ironically named it, as if it were a clingy pet) had shown up six months before, half a year after the raid by the colossal alien starship. "Shoo, dammit!" She tiredly made a swatting motion, but (as always) it blithely bobbed away on jets of compressed air.

She grimly trudged down the hall and into the study. The ball followed her haphazardly, with little investigative detours, like a curious but scatterbrained kitten. Grinning ironically, she politely held the door open for it; otherwise, it would have gently bumped the wood every few seconds until she let it in. They were worse than cats. She sat at her desk. The ball moved to the front of the desk, floating with no visible means of support. She studied it, and remembered.

#


The 30-mile-diameter alien starship had attacked Earth a year before. It had been a quiet Saturday afternoon in Southern California. A bright speck appeared in the sky. In minutes, it grew to fill most of it. Though hiding the sun, the sphere did not completely darken the land, as bright white light spilled from thousands of colossal windows that pierced the mercury-colored hull, revealing enormous compartments, corridors, and gardens.

Airlocks in separate quadrants of the sphere swiveled open like huge camera shutters to release at least a dozen mile-long, lozenge-shaped aircraft. These "carriers" in turn, spewed out swarms of pickup-truck-sized flying machines. Working in groups, the fliers created bubble-like, hexagonal force fields, which enveloped their targets in shimmering spheres, cut them free from the ground, and floated them away.

Either singly or in contiguous bunches, the bubbles abducted half a million people from Long Beach, Orange County, and Los Angeles. They stole entire neighborhoods of apartments, homes, stores, churches, and schools. They lifted two amusement parks, a police station, Orange County's central Islamic mosque, a National Guard armory, a small manufacturing complex, two convention centers, several urban farms, a baseball stadium, three shopping malls, an entire state university campus, two major hospitals, an All-Mart bigbox store, the just-completed Glendale Arcology, and (along with most of the associated wilderness park and assorted wildlife) Griffith Observatory.

The crowning glory, though, had been the first abduction. The terrified residents of Long Beach had watched a 1,092-foot-long, 110,000 ton aircraft carrier and four harbor tugs, floating in a half-mile wide and hundred foot deep pool of oily sea water and harbor silt, get wafted into the air like feathers in a sparkling snow globe. All approached the vast ship. A 4,000-foot section of the ship's midline hull swiveled open and globe, carrier, and tugs, disappeared inside. The iris closed. That sequence would be repeated 483 times.

#

Miraculously, Earth's defenders, had done damage. The force field machines turned out to be easy targets. Hundreds had been shot down by cannon fire from military aircraft, and even bullets from civilian hand weapons.

There was one alien casualty, however, that was even more valuable than the force-field machines. One of the mile-long carriers had crashed. It had somehow been caught underneath an abducted office skyscraper that had fallen back to Earth when the machines stealing it had been shot down.

After the shooting stopped, soldiers looking through the wreckage had found the remains of a 100-foot tall wormlike, tentacled alien. It was mechanical in nature. The top section of the alien was speculative, as it was missing. But everyone agreed that the aliens sure looked like giant, tentacled, cyborg or robotic, vaguely water-bear-like worms.

Finally, the spaceship itself was damaged. It had just launched one of the carriers, and the hatch had stayed open long enough for the pilot of an A-10 Warthog to see a firing window. She launched her last missile, which streaked through the hatch. The Warthog was running on fumes, out of ammo, and had friendly fire damage. Unable to veer off or do more damage, the pilot had elected to follow the missile.

Explosions and flames had belched from the hatch in a morale-boosting and generally quite satisfactory manner, but the massive ship had not even shuddered. In seconds, the iris had swiveled shut. The globe continued its raid, shrugging off all further attacks.

The abductions had continued for another hour, but then the ship seemed to get bored with California. It moved east, towards Nevada, where it snatched another hundred thousand people and three hotel-casinos from Las Vegas. It then turned north-northwest and leisurely meandered through the desert in the direction of Area 51.
#

At this point, the Air Force got approval to fire an AGM-86 cruise missile at the invader. The AGM-86 had a "dial-a-boom" selectable yield thermonuclear warhead. The 150-kiloton explosion hit directly on the hull, vaporizing a bunch of small conic superstructures, and leaving an inch-shallow scorched crater. The giant globe was visibly nudged.

The ship abruptly stopped, then shot up into near-Earth space. It moved into a powered polar orbit. This spiraled randomly around the planet in a matter of hours, eventually passing over every square inch of surface.

No immediate effect was noticed. But then news began to trickle out. Every nuclear and thermonuclear warhead on Earth, regardless of size or location, had somehow been "spiked" in situ, and was now crumpled, useless junk. Whether mounted on ICBMs in underground silos, in boomer launch tubes in the ocean depths, on aircraft, or in storage bunkers, it was as if each warhead, its control mechanism, and surrounding casing had all been sucked in on itself. There was no radiation. It couldn't escape the gravitational pull of what seemed to be collapsed matter.

Take that.

The alien then resumed its raiding, swooping down on single targets in the U.S. and other countries, and leaving before any effective defense could be mounted. It concentrated on stealing epic-sized artwork, and places with lots of people. Of note, it snatched several huge statues from the US, South America, Europe, India, and Asia. It stole the Burj Khalifa, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Kaaba with 250,000 pilgrims. And it made off with Vatican City, the Pope, St. Peter's Square, and 225,000 terrified Catholics gathered on an Easter Sunday morning to hear words of reassurance from their representative of God on Earth.

The globe had then withdrawn. It left behind hundreds of wrecked force field machines, the wrecked alien carrier, an estimated lower four-fifths of a dead pilot, fear, and anarchy. It flew to the Asteroid Belt, where it remained for four months. High-resolution telescopes showed it repairing hull battle damage, and otherwise just sitting around doing nothing much.

#

Then the ship launched thousands of mile-long missiles. These shot towards Earth at enormous speed and humanity had trembled and waited to die. But the freighters (which were what they turned out to be) made soft landings all over the planet. In just minutes, they disgorged their cargos, and then floated into the air, flew to spots over deep-sea trenches, and sank beneath the waves.

The cargos were billions of identical, tennis-ball-sized, levitating silver globes. They did not have any immediately apparent purpose, other than to terrify and annoy. Each chose the first person it detected and, like a needy Burmese cat, stayed as close to that person as possible. Once someone had been selected by a globe, all other globes would ignore that person and fly off to find someone else to bother.

At first, there had been combat. The globes were not invulnerable. They were, in fact, laughably easy to destroy. Tens of millions of them had been smashed, shot, burned, blown up, or otherwise turned into scrap. But whenever one of them was destroyed, within an hour or two, or even minutes, a replacement would appear. At some point, even gung-ho alien-fighters either ran out of ammunition, got exhausted, or just gave up and accepted the fact that there were shiny alien balls of unknown purpose that followed them around and got annoyed if they could not be next to them. Once again, the resemblance to cats was uncanny.

#

The massive destruction of alien machinery meant lots of stuff to study. A hastily created United Nations Alien Response Team had used its fresh power and unlimited budget to dragoon universities and private R&D firms all over Earth for the task. Genesis Renaissance International Tech Corporation, informally GRITCorp, was one of them. Their specialty had been analyzing the silver balls. Harriet was certain that no one, anywhere, knew more about the spy-balls than her people did.

The machine silently floating in front of her was not actually a sphere. There were four subtle bulges on the bottom hemisphere. She shook her head bemusedly. They had been dubbed "antigravity engines" but nobody had any idea as to how they actually worked.

There were no moving parts. If you removed a bulge (they popped off if you pulled on them), two small mesh-like cubes could be seen. There were matching mesh cubes sunk into the surface of the chassis. Each cube was made up of a dense forest of stiff, conducting fibers. The fibers of the bulge cubes had tiny hooks along their lengths; the fibers of the chassis cubes had tiny open loops along their lengths. The inter-penetration of hooks and loops on each fiber made a solder-less connection that not only held the bulge securely in place, but also had a conduction cross section that could handle huge amperages. This right here, the connection, was bankable tech, understood, copied, and worth billions.

The bulges had been dissected in detail. They were featureless. The material was chemically, spectrally, and radiologically un-analyzable. But if you applied sufficient direct current across the meshes, the bulge floated. If you increased the current, it floated higher.

#

The chassis meshes connected to a recognizable capacitor. This was surrounded by an efficient thermoelectric generator* that turned heat into electricity. The heat source was a tiny speck of... something.

They had tried to open the specks. Disturbing one upset some equilibrium and the speck evaporated. But at the instant it vanished, hydrogen and helium gas, were detected. Other data put a lock on it. It was impossible, but the speck was a fusion reactor. Her teams had dubbed the complete system of capacitor, thermoelectric generator, and mysterious speck a "fusion battery." And no one had the faintest clue as to how it worked or was even able to exist.

#

The ball's surface had hundreds of dimples, tube openings, and invisibly thin graphene monofilament fuzz. The indents were lenses for solid state, high-resolution cameras. Some of the tubes led to reservoirs for compressed air. Others led to solid-state chemical testing circuits. The fuzz attached to pressure sensors, and to sophisticated LEDs and diaphragms. Experts agreed that the balls were mobile spy platforms for sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch data. They were also capable of emitting both blasts of sound and bursts of light.

The interior was solid-state circuitry. This was so miniaturized, layered, and functionally opaque that analyzing it was a huge challenge. Nanometer test leads, injudiciously moved, would destroy a circuit. Then another sphere would have to be analyzed, and the laborious drill down to where the screw-up had happened repeated.

Fatigue briefly made her thoughts wild and random. Idly, Harriet considered throwing something at it, or yelling at it. There was a gun in the desk's bottom drawer; she could try to shoot it. She chuckled. Worthless. The spheres were good at dodging. No matter. If she wanted to destroy her sphere, she could always trap it in a closet, where she could net it and bash it into junk with a hammer. But a replacement would inevitably appear. This, of course, meant there was communication of some sort between the balls. But no one had any idea how that was done.

#

But violence against the balls was unnecessary. They were not dangerous. With millions of interactions, there hadn't been one instance of anyone being attacked. There were, in fact, several instances of the spheres making loud pings and bright light flashes when humans they shadowed were injured.

She laughed. Humanity not being attacked by the little balls didn't mean people hadn't found other reasons to break them. No one knew how the bulges or the power source worked, but enterprising people all over the world had created cottage industries to exploit them. In poorer nations, they had popped up like toadstools. Automatically replaced free energy and a way to float cargo without cost had fueled an explosive economic renaissance. People powered and floated everything from donkey carts, cars, boats, and village huts to backpacks, skateboards, weapons, their shoes, and themselves.

The scavenged balls were replaced within hours or minutes. A seemingly endless stream of replacement globes came from the oceans of the world. UNART-chartered submersibles had tracked dense schools of millions of them flying through the oceans. Deepwater spy drones had always lost contact, and attempts to bomb the source trenches had met with zero reduction in the traffic.

#

She sighed. She was tired, and angry, and (somewhere deep inside, tamped down hard) perpetually scared. There was only one answer to dealing with those demons, the response she had gone to all her life. Time to get back to work!

First off, she had to unsleep and synch-up her wristpad.* It had been in DND mode all the time of the UNART meeting. And she had thought it wise to keep it asleep during the awkward trip to the bungalow surrounded by taciturn government thugs.

Second, there was a staff meeting tomorrow afternoon. With a nine-hour time difference, it was morning of today there, so she had some time to prepare. The purpose, now probably moot since the leak of careless comments at the GRITCorp quarterly Board of Directors meeting, was to finalize their current month UNART status report. Even with the rift, the BoD had thought it prudent to fulfill the spirit of their UNART contract. As she was effectively under house arrest, she would attend the meeting by videoconference call. But she needed to review the files, so that she didn't sound like a total idiot.

Third, she was thinking and feeling like she remembered back in grade school when she had smoked a joint for the first time. Difficulty: she had been sober of everything but her own despair for forty-eight years. Stress and fatigue were becoming a problem. She needed to get a few hours of sleep.

She entered the wristpad's wakeup code and then a password on a dial set into the desk's control pad. An armored slot in the desktop opened. Her laptop slid out, holographic 40" display automatically snapping to life.

She had just keyed in the synch code when her wristpad beeped. High priority encrypted traffic. It was a telecall* from corporate headquarters in Irvine, California. She sighed, and by sheer force of will shoved aside most of the cotton that seemed to fill her head. She took a deep breath and pushed the accept button.

Two lined and worried faces appeared in split view on the wristpad's small holographic screen. On the left: her Director of Science Integration, David Ellinger. On the right: her Director of Security, Paul Cartier.

David spoke first. He leaned forward with unusual intensity, "Hello HH, David and Paul here. We've been trying to reach you. Are you OK? Oh yes, there's an urgent note from your secretary, Wallace. He needs to know where you put the Westminster file."

Ice formed in her stomach. It blasted away the remaining fog and left her feeling hard and brittle, preternaturally aware. Damn, but they were on edge. She swallowed, throat suddenly dry. "Hello, David! Hello, Paul! Everything is fine here," she said brightly. She paused and collected her thoughts, trying not to give into sudden panic. She slowly said, "Please tell Wallace that the Westminster file is in the Tesla's glove-box. Tina has the car key." This was that week's safety phrase. It had been drilled into her by Paul Cartier before she had left for Copenhagen. She said the sentence very carefully, to get it exactly right.
#

The last two decades had seen vast erosions of the idea of the nation-state. Social media on the Internet had created chaos. Worldwide, local populisms challenged increasingly corrupt and ineffectual national governments. Incompetent and self-serving responses to the Covid-19 pandemic of 18 years before, ineffective response to the alien attack, and shifts in military power due to the loss of nuclear weapons had only worsened matters.

Relations between bankrupt and fragmenting governments and powerful corporations awash in cash had also degenerated. This trend had accelerated since the alien attack. Paul and David had been highly loyal employees to her late husband. They were now extremely protective of her. What all this rigamarole meant was that an incorrect response from her would have set lethal consequences in motion.
#

She heard two held breaths release. "Good! The Board was getting ready to unleash Paul here to bust you loose."

That was a serious threat; Paul Cartier had been hired as Director of Security 15 years earlier. Before that, he had been a Brigadier General in the U.S. Special Forces. His specialty had been counterterrorism strikes and hostage extraction. Harriet silently reflected that, unlike the UNART gunman, Cartier had seen his point of no return. His moral event horizon had been the Greenland Annexation debacle. Washington's loss had been GRITCorp's gain. The firm was privately held and rich, with huge streams of residual income shared by now-wealthy inventors bootstrapped by the firm. And with those inventors' gratitude had come a worldwide network of powerful political connections. Paul Cartier therefore ran a private security force of superbly trained and equipped former elite soldiers. Discrete simulations suggested they could hold their own against an equal number of either the dilapidated US Army, or even the newly invigorated Royal Danish Army.

She hastily responded, "No need for that! My meeting with UNART's Directorate did not go well, but I am now at the cottage, safe and sound." She glanced at the spy-ball and laughed. "Just me and my Shadow. I've decided to name it that."

She continued, "I've been placed under house arrest here, but I understand that the Danes would prefer, indeed, would be deliriously happy, if I left as soon as possible. So could you pass that request on to Maxine in Travel? Please ask her to coordinate, with both UNART and Danish Internal Security, a peaceful, low-key departure on a direct commercial flight from Kastrup. No rush, anytime in the next few days, after the paparazzi lose interest. I can do work, including the staff meeting tomorrow, just as easily from here as in Irvine."

She saw doubt in both faces. "Gentlemen, please! I am certain of my safety. Neither the Danes nor UNART are irrational. Both want the hysteria over the leak to die down, for us to dig a hole and disappear for a while. They explained the ground rules. In fact, I was told them twice, once in Directorate weasel words, and then in quite plain language by the very proper Danish Internal Security thug who escorted me to my door.

"They would not have taken the trouble to translate wiggle words into plain English if they wanted to bump me off. They know that we might be useful in the future. We are damned good at our job, they know it, and they know that we know it. So this is damage control time. Both the Danes and UNART want no complications."

It was time to take charge. She changed the subject. "David, what is happening to the project? And Paul, what is the security situation?"

David spoke, "Research has been shut down. Computer files have been locked with UN encryption. Files and experiment artifacts have been confiscated. Luckily, we planned for this and have duplicates of everything. We can resume operations in a week at another location. I suggest our Madagascar site, as we already have staff there looking at the spy-ball conversion situation."

She nodded, internally cringing. The BoD leak of the explosive preliminary reports on the uses that indigenous African peoples had made of scavenged spy-ball parts had been the cause of the current kerfuffle. "Make it so. Also, prep two alternate sites to be ready in case Madagascar is shut down. I'll email Suki Martinez for a draw of.... Do you think fifty million will cover two more site preps?"

David nodded agreement. "Madagascar reset, 50 million should be more than enough, prep two other sites just in case. Got it."

She looked at Paul, "And corporate security? How are we doing there?"

Paul smiled. It felt good to be able to report good news. "Some of our people at seven of our East Coast facilities were briefly held by the FBI on various charges, but we had lawyers to all of them within an hour. All released within two hours. No casualties. Here in Irvine, and in Seattle, we got visits from Homeland Security. In both cases, they were escorted by Pacific Coast Union militia, who met them at the airports to "ensure their safety" as they cheerfully put it. The police asked some polite questions and left on the next flights out. Just in case, security teams are doing drive-by checks at everyone's homes. We are keeping employees informed. People are worried, of course, but feel that we have control over the situation. Could be better; could be a lot worse."

Harriet smiled. "Very good, both of you. As you say Paul, it could be a lot worse. So are there any other issues?" Both men seemed satisfied, so she said, "Alright, then. I'm going to tidy up some things here and then turn in. I will talk to both of you tomorrow at the afternoon staff meeting. Good night."

She turned off the wristpad connection and quickly synched the two machines. She fired off a coded email to her Comptroller to release funds to David. Then she sat back and reviewed the pedigree of the two men.

The safety of the company and its employees was in competent hands with Paul Cartier. The man was an absolute bulldog, accomplished at his job, and fiercely loyal to the corporation. He was a skilled strategist, and a daring tactician. And he was supported by a staff of loyal and motivated professionals.

She also was confident about David Ellinger. The man was brilliant. He was a Nexialist.* He didn't know enough about any one field to be terribly competent in it, but he knew enough about it to not be incompetent, and to ask intelligent questions. He excelled at identifying links between researches in different fields. He had been the linchpin of GRITCorp's plan of attack on the alien artifacts, and she knew he wouldn't stop pushing. He was fiercely motivated to do so. His wife and 12-year-old daughter had been two of the six hundred thousand Americans taken by the alien starship.
#



*Associated Glossary Listings: See end of Prologue post 3 of 3
 
‘’ 2020-03-30 11:19:58 PM  
3 votes:
The Voyage of the New Beginning

Table of Contents


. . . . . . Prologue --- Earth, 2038 CE, The Bungalow

. . . . . . Part One: The Plot Thickens

Chapter 1 --- Harlee

Chapter 2 --- FARPPET

Chapter 3 --- Of Graciousones and Glinkin

Chapter 4 --- The Presence

Chapter 5 --- Of Swarms and Implants

Chapter 6 --- New Orders

Chapter 7 --- Construction Asteroid #3

Chapter 8 --- The Celestial Bug Inn

Chapter 9 --- Yink Patterkorn

Chapter 10 --- The New Beginning

Chapter 11 --- A Rocket... and Fireworks!

Chapter 12 --- Home

Chapter 13 --- The Maze Race

Chapter 14 --- Slavvin and Sly

Chapter 15 --- Remembering Ellma

. . . . . .Pee Break I --- Flash-forward: Earth, 2038 CE, The Bungalow, 12 am

. . . . . .Part Two: Underway at Last

Chapter 16 --- Into the Unknown

Chapter 17 --- Settling In

Chapter 18 --- Travelogues

Chapter 19 --- Dual Itineraries

Chapter 20 --- A Setting of Jewel Birds

Chapter 21 --- School Daze Redux

Chapter 22 --- Decompression

Chapter 23 --- Vows

. . . . . .Pee Break II --- Flash-forward: Earth, 2038 CE, The Bungalow, 3 am

. . . . . .Part Three: The Days of Their Lives

Chapter 24 --- Echo

Chapter 25 --- Rosie

Chapter 26 --- Sparky (1)

Chapter 27 --- WUFF

Chapter 28 --- Sparky (2)

Chapter 29 --- Scooter

Chapter 30 --- Roggers

Chapter 31 --- Struts

Chapter 32 --- Sparky (3)

Chapter 33 --- Buzzly

Chapter 34 --- Pepan the Chef

Chapter 35 --- Chance

Chapter 36 --- Triumvirate

Chapter 37 --- Ferd

Chapter 38 --- Leafslug Days

. . . . . .Pee Break III --- Flash-forward: Earth, 2038 CE, The Bungalow, 6 am

To be continued/expanded in a future post....
 
‘’ 2020-03-30 11:11:53 PM  
3 votes:
The Voyage of the New Beginning


Dramatis Personae


(in order of first appearance)


Mrs. Harriet Hogueland ... GRITCorp CEO; she always thinks that she's in over her head.

David Ellinger ... GRITCorp Dir. of Science Integration; genius, generalist, driven survivor.

Paul Cartier ... GRITCorp Dir. of Security; smart, loyal, tough; looking for a hill to die on.

The Presence ... part ruler, part mentor, part savant, part servant - a DI's* life is a busy one.


Harlee ... lightly larcenous, largely clueless, a Graciousworm* of considerable simplicity.

Sparky ... Harlee's pet glinkin;* scion of a conquered race and lovelorn reluctant adventurer.

Echo ... Harlee's implant; DI by nature, symbiote by design, big sister by default.


The New Beginning ... a very special starship; nothing like Ferd had ever been printed.


Yink Patterkorn ... a Graciousworm of considerable wealth... and connection.

Slavvin Cordecon ... a Graciousworm of considerable guile, tavern owner extraordinaire.


ZED-9949 ... the wormoid* Captain of the starship New Beginning; she's a bit of a jerk.

Squeaky ... this wheeled Model R20D30B general service wormoid gets little respect.

Rosie the Maid ... for this MDBT-3071 cleaning wormoid, no job is too big or too small.


Sly ... Slavvin Cordecon's pet glinkin, a tough nut with a thick skin and a private agenda.

Glisana Sart ... a lookalike hostess at the Celestial Bug Inn... and much, much more.


Pepan the Chef ... this ChefBot3000 wormoid Master Chef had once never dared to dream.

Buzzly; BZLY-16841 ... Commander of Shuttle Operations; explorer; go-getter; space lawyer.

Struts; BNZ-82431... Chief Medical Officer; his emotive circuits are his personal demons.

WUFF; WUFF-66284 ... Security Chief; she is wrapped far too tightly for her own good.

Roggers; RGRS-116628 ... Counselor; Educator; Manipulator; stylishly wears many hats.

Nexialt; NXL-112010 ... Science and Operations Officer; he knows a bit about everything.

Scooter; SCTR-66875 ... Chief Engineer; he prefers dumb machines to other wormoids.


Ferriss; GRDN67-621971 ... a gardener; he always has a diplomatic response.

Darules; GRDN64-684949 ... a gardener; she obsesses about regulations.

Chance; GRDN4-11038 ... a gardener; he loves plants, metaphysics, and homicidal birds.


Sapphire ... enslaved by pirate programming, she was forced to do unspeakable acts.

Marsin ... programmed as a remorseless killer, she finally sought her own destiny.

To be continued/expanded in a future post....

*Associated Glossary Listings

DI
:
Abbreviation for the term "Designed Intelligence." This is quite dissimilar in meaning to the Earth Human term "Artificial Intelligence." Most of the difference is programming structure and approach. Graciousone DI programming uses recursive nested looping traps, and the gradual backgrounding of trapped loops. This replicates, in 3D neural gel matrixes, the nine-dimensional phenomenon of "data looking at itself" found in sapient Graciousone consciousness. Human AI programming on the other hand attempts to replicate the (to humans) mysterious ability of the human mind to be aware of itself with complexity and density of programming, without true Sapience.

Graciousworm: A formal figure of speech in Graciousone polite society. In most usage, exactly equivalent to the Terran "Gentleman" or "Gentlelady"

Glinkin: Small (generally around five feet tall) non-gracious animals kept as pets by Graciousones.

Wormoid: Partially or totally partaking of worm (e.g. Graciousone) shape. All wormoids have DI processing capabilities, meaning they have recursive data paths and are therefore self-aware (Sapient). This distinguishes them from none-sapient bots. Wormoids are also considered to possess Graciousness, which bots do not and cannot possess. Not all DIs have wormoid bodies, but the term has been generalized in popular usage.

###

 
‘’ 2020-06-14 8:45:14 PM  
2 votes:

Harlee: BeesNuts: There's also the modern tale of poor little beautiful Vialla, a very VERY spoiled Show Glinkin who runs away, but somehow gets trapped in a maintenance crawl space of a space elevator. All of Yorbolindo stops to breathlessly watch the rescue, which involves shutting down the space elevator for a week.... And, of course, she keeps evading rescue, for reasons.

This. Is. Perfect. It would allow you an opportunity to do some cursory world building without having to worry *at all* about larger political, galactic, or technical issues beyond some of the real back-bone type shiat. It gives you an opportunity to tell a fun story that would pre-condition readers for the setting in future works while not pre-conditioning them for any particular type of story telling. It is very clearly a self-contained story that could hook people in without really biasing them into thinking the rest of the story is going to be about Vialla and this Show Glinkin. 10/10. Consider this one.

That is my thought, too. The problem is context. I don't want the reader going "WTF is this shiat?" when  confronted with a "four-limbed tiny biped" in a world of giant monsters who enter her in a pet show. Whar context, whar? (Though I have read short stories by published authors that do just that sort of "out of real world context" type thing. One like that that sticks in my mind is "Of Men and Monsters". It's been a while (1968), but IIRC that novel just started off with relatively cockroach-sized humans evading relatively people-sized aliens, with no freaking context or explanation. You had to have a bit of patience and faith for all the "hooks" to be revealed so you could conceptualize what was actually happening. Not sure how that would go over in these days of instant gratification.


You seem to worry about this sort of thing waaaaaaay too much. People flesh out the world of a short story in their own minds all the time.  The strength of a story is in the telling of that story, not in the precision of its detail.

Answer me this. How many times have you discussed with friends stories you've read and some variation of "I've always pictured her/him/it as..." and the images you had in mind were completely different?

Go grab a short story fantasy or science fiction book that you own and love.  Find a story about an alien race or fantasy creature.  Now go through the story and look for descriptions and details.  You will likely find that the details are just as lacking as your memory of "Of Men and Monsters" but the difference is the story hooked you with what was happening.
 
‘’ 2020-06-10 2:26:16 PM  
2 votes:

Harlee: Noah_Tall: Get rid of all the current slang. Stigginit, BFF, etc...  10 years from now those gnarly words will no longer be hip or fly but will instead be something that dates the story as obviously as Captain Kirk telling Spock "Cool it daddy-o"

Excellent point. In general, I think that the language used in a science fiction story is always a problem. The main issue is, as you say, dating. But then again, what should be used instead? I note that Shakespeare is dated, and that does not seem to have effected his popularity. (Not that I'm any Shakespeare.) Most all literature is dated.

Language also applies to ideas like using "miles" and "minutes" rather than "glorps" and "poobahs" (or whatever else the aliens call their units of measurement). I decided to use the English equivalents to cut down on reader confusion (the same reason that the alien names in the book are all pronounceable). I hate it when a writer tries to make it as alien as possible by peppering the story with crappy nouns and proper nouns.

Language is also an issue with made-up creatures like "giant green nibblers" (as opposed to "Space Rabbits"). I decided to go with the former because I hate Space Rabbits. It's laziness, IMHO. A decent thumbnail description of the beastie will lead the reader to think, "Oh, that's some sort of rabbit-like creature."

As for current slang, that is a tough one. And yes, I did think long and hard about it. But at 56, Harriet Hogueland was born in 1982. so (as a somewhat stogy adult) she is actually doing well to have updated her 1988 through 1998 formative slang vocabulary to the 2010s in her inner dialogues.

And the Presence, manipulative bastard that he is, is quite capable of targeting his manner of speaking to Harriet's comfort level. And the other aliens, being aliens, just might coincidentally talk sorta kinda like the people that are going to be reading about them. It's a balance between offering the reader clarity and a "realism" that (when all is said and ...


Just finished the prologue and yeah.  Keep the notes about what's used when as you write it, because I think the inclusion of certain real life events (like the covid-19 callout early on if that ends up being something we deal with for like a decade) add to the authenticity of the world.  But if I read a work of fiction, and it mentions J-Woww, it's gonna pull me right out of it.
 
‘’ 2020-04-27 12:24:11 PM  
2 votes:
I know most of my favourite books require an ongoing dialogue with the author to explain all the terms and concepts and generally what the hell is going on...
 
‘’ 2020-04-22 6:04:02 AM  
2 votes:

ktybear: Do you proof read? Would you charge?
I have a project with ( of all people ) my sister to write some children's books. She has no idea. I've been teaching and tutoring English for 15 years. It's going to be hard :) I will indeed need an independent reader.


I just added an EIP so you can contact me if you wish. I copyedit professionally for a single client, but with recent events he's looking rather shaky, so I'm looking to branch out. I can edit for you but it would cost you.

In case you don't know . . . Keep in mind authors also use beta readers to gauge how the writing plays, shake out glaring plot holes, etc. These can be paid but are more often built out of relationships with fellow writers. Of course there are also online communities built around such things.

https://www.helpingwritersbecomeautho​r​s.com/find-your-next-beta-reader/

Harlee here is basically using this thread like a open invitation to beta read - or at least that's how I treated it.
 
‘’ 2020-04-07 11:26:58 PM  
2 votes:

Ishkur: Harlee: LOL, like I said in the thread intro, the amount of detail that my brain unfolded from my wife's initial seed idea is... bothersome. Not that I believe that shiat, but the complexity, and that fact that it all ties and self-supports without a lot of "snuggling and fitting" and revision is almost like I am channeling some thing's thoughts.

So of course there is a Glossary for all of that stuff, plus explanations of alien terms.*

Okay here's the thing (and I'm echoing what others have already said):

Your worldbuilding is impressive and useful and great for continuity, but none of it needs to go in your story.

Tolkien didn't come out with descriptions of places and names and histories of Middle Earth along with the languages he invented to go with the names and races.

He wrote the story first. A very simple one at that. He didn't bamboozle the reader with glossaries and appendices and genealogy tables, he simply used the legendarium to inform the characters and events without having to define and explain it.

The legendarium in full didn't even come out until 20-40 years later (some of it published posthumously), well after the LOTR was done its first printing, and only on the insistence of fans who wanted more.

Star Wars didn't start out with a history of a 40,000 year old galactic civilization and the rise of the empire and regal hierarchies. It started out with a big ship attacking a small ship and two robots escaping.

(one of the earlier drafts for the original Star Wars had an opening crawl that was much longer, like 6 meaty paragraphs, introducing too many characters and factions for people to pay attention. It was Brian De Palma who told George Lucas: "This is too farking long and confusing. Simplify it to two factions, one character and one conflict". And the final 3 sentence crawl established it beautifully: Rebels. Empire. Death Star. Princess. Begin movie)

Game of Thrones didn't start out with the history of Westeros, the coming the the Andal ...


There are two issues.

First, bogging down the story with techie detail. I hear what you are saying, and I think you are correct. I am, in fact, in the process of revising a great deal of that. Chapter 10, in fact, has a whole bunch of mind numbing explanation, and it will probably be delayed for at least a day while I try to either kill it off entirely, or move a great deal of it into the Glossary (which in the book will be a separate section, of course), so readers that don't like glossaries can just not flip to it.

And this brings up the other issue, of the glossary. IMHO, a well-done Glossary, like Chapter titles and a Dramatis Personae, tells me that the writer cares about the experience of his readers. That, at least, has been my experience, on the reading end.

Did you read my cites? Opinions on glossaries vary. Here's another opinion: "I don't understand this sentiment, and I'm wondering how widespread it is. I mean, The Lord of the Rings, Dune, A Clockwork Orange, 1984, and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant all have glossaries, to name a few off the top of my head. Do they have strikes against them too?"

Sometimes (as with Dune), a glossary is an absolute necessity. I happen to like having the luxury of a Glossary when I read science fiction. It is obvious that many people do not. MMV. My suggestion, then, would be to just read the story and ignore the Glossary.

For right now, I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to pare down Chapter 10, as a lot of the excess detail is quite obvious. Entire paragraphs are going bye-bye. Aside from that, I fear, you're going to often be stuck with the story the way it is currently written, because those kind of changes take time to be done right (at least for me).

One really good thing out of this is that all this revision work, under deadline, is sure gonna help me keep my mind from running around in circles over the pandemic situation.

Thanks for the critique.
 
‘’ 2020-04-07 5:24:22 PM  
2 votes:
How long do you plan to keep pushing this thing?

And why is there no [  PLUG  ] tag?
 
‘’ 2020-04-07 4:27:49 PM  
2 votes:
A glossary and appendices?

Jesus Christ is this a novel or a textbook?
 
‘’ 2020-03-31 2:56:57 PM  
2 votes:
This is a bookmark...and a bad pun
 
‘’ 2020-03-31 12:47:51 PM  
2 votes:
HARLEE

can you please please try to publish a book?
I would pay alot to view it
 
‘’ 2020-03-31 12:28:02 AM  
2 votes:
Prologue: Earth, April 2038 CE

(Post 2 of 3)


What? She jolted awake, unsure of where she was. Her eyes focused and she saw the join of the wall and ceiling on the far side of the room. She felt the headrest of the far-to-comfy chair against the back of her head. She slowly remembered where she was, and realized she had fallen asleep during the files review.

She recalled she had been staring at an executive summary chart. It was an abstract of the treasure trove so far finagled from the alien mechanisms. But a dozen new lines of research in theoretical physics, 137 new compounds, and a score of reverse-engineered material science processes made for a complicated chart. All of it was important. Some of it could mean hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. But she hated charts, graphs, and numbers in general. I'm not cut out to be an executive decision-maker. I keep on trying to think like a trial lawyer, trying to nail all the detail, looking for loopholes, when what I really need to do, somehow, is just absorb the overall ideas, like Paul. Oh, George, I miss you so.

She rubbed and scrunched her eyes. They felt a little rested. With a sigh, she sat up and moved her attention to the laptop's monitor. The hideous 3D chart was no longer on the screen. Instead, there was an image of a man. He looked familiar. He smiled, gently cleared his throat, and then adjusted his Bugs Bunny tie and nice-looking sweater. She realized she was seeing a live video feed.

The image zoomed, and the man spoke. The familiarity came into focus. He looked and sounded like a hero from her youth, a much younger Neil deGrasse Tyson. "Good evening, Mrs. Hogueland. You have been sleeping for at least three hours. I did not wish to disturb you when I accessed your device, as I knew you needed rest. I hope you don't mind my being here during that period. I spent an interesting time studying you."

She stared, collecting her thoughts. He had been "here" studying her while she slept? What an odd way of putting it. And... how? The cottage was swept for bugs daily by security, and - she looked - the standard CorpSec privacy cap stilled covered the video lens. And... who was this person?

This might be another complication. The UN had different factions, and the players and their interests were in constant flux, as new speculations about the aliens arose, and as new crises bloomed around the world. It would not be a good idea to get between them.

Time to cut through the clutter. She sighed, and mentally groped for an effective mix of decorum and bluntness. She put a pleasant smile on and calmly said, "And a very good evening to you, sir. So tell me, who are you? And which gang of thugs do you belong to, and what do you want of me?"

The figure grinned, as if appreciating the response. "My formal designation would be meaningless to you. Also, it is long and quite tedious. But you may call me by my informal name, which is The Presence.

Harriet arched her eyebrows and thought about that for a moment, "The Presence? As in 'being present' or 'having presence' somewhere?"

He smiled and nodded, "Indeed."

She smiled back. "Present where, if I may be so bold as to ask?"

He grinned, almost gleefully she thought, "Everywhere, Mrs. Hogueland."

She grinned back. This might be fun, she thought. "Don't you think that sounds a bit pretentious? Perhaps, oh, somewhat god-like?"

The figure chuckled. "Not really. It's a descriptive. I'm linked to all data nodes, to video surveillance and computer systems of all kinds. My job, Mrs. Hogueland, is total information awareness. Also, 'The Presence' is the best translation of GraciousSpeech that does not sound even more pretentious."

The linkage claim should have raised instant red flags, but in her foggy mental state, it seemed like a good idea to go haring off chasing the strange term The Presence had just used, "GraciousSpeech?"

"The language of the people I am here to represent, Mrs. Hogueland."

"So which bunch of politicians are those, sir?"

"None, Mrs. Hogueland. I am the decision-maker ultimately responsible for the incursion against your world a year ago by the alien starship."

#

There's that eternal instant of before-the-pain incomprehension at 7 years old, gaping at the bloody gash, after a rotten tread in the rundown Harlem tenement's staircase splinters in two and shreds your leg.

There's the frisson of existential terror at 13 when you've both come up for air from deep kissing, and that cute boy from school whom you think you love has just removed your panties... and your religious mother comes home early.

There's that tiny lost moment when the adrenaline fades, just before the fear, after the cops pull your 17-year-old ass from the chanting, arm-linked student protestors and have tossed you, pummeled, groped, and handcuffed, into the back of a cop car.

There's the time-stopped disbelief at 19, watching the two towers fall in a threnody of fire and dust on live TV and then, when you think it can't get any worse, learning that your mother was cleaning offices in Building 7.

There's the emotional blank-out at 25 when you cross the street rather than going down the road, screw up your suicide, and end up being diagnosed with chronic depression rather than peacefully being dead.

There's the dropping, empty pit in your stomach when the doctors tell you that those incessant migraines are from inoperable brain cancer and that you can expect to die in six months, just before your 36th birthday.

And, buried deep, there's the impotent rage you have felt ever since your teens, and your later life as a legal aide and trial lawyer. The white-hot fury over the injustice and the racism and the classism and the misogyny and all of the bullshiat and petty "stigginit" chickenshiat of a world that decided long ago that it was easier and far more profitable to tear people down rather than to build them up.

And, finally, inexplicably, there's a faint echo of the questioning hope you felt when you were enrolled by your doctor in a study for an unconventional drug delivery system touted as a possible cure for your cancer, a study funded by GRITCorp, whose hard-charging owner had later become your lover and then your husband.

All that hit in a cascading, crashing flood that left her frozen in the chair. She stared at the "man" on the screen for... she didn't know how long. Weirdly, that was the first question her mind came up with after the spell broke, and she glanced at the time readout at the bottom of the screen. It said 9:12 pm, but this answered nothing, of course, because she hadn't known what the time was when he had last spoken.

#

She shook her head. Stop being stupid! Think! She studied the screen. He didn't look like a giant tentacled robot worm. He looked human. In fact... Harriet narrowed her eyes... he was the spitting image of a young NDT. And that made no sense.

She glared at the display. He grinned back. She archly said, "Funny, you don't look like a giant tentacled worm."

"I'm not, Mrs. Hogueland. But when I use visual media to talk with Graciousones (who are giant tentacled worms), I adopt what you might call a CGI avatar of a historically noted and trusted flesh and blood Graciousone. Using an image that is familiar to them is a very effective persuasion tool. And - despite gross physical differences - I have found that Graciousones and humans, being Evolved Life, have curiously similar psychologies. It therefore seemed prudent and useful to adopt the appearance of a trusted and well-known human, one you knew of from your youth, when talking with you."

She blinked at the obvious admission of manipulation. Well, that frankness was certainly alien enough! She suddenly realized that she rather liked it.

Then her mind flashed to his claim of connection to the world's electronic systems, and his reference to Evolved Life. A terrible, glittery question welled up in her mind. She marshaled her thoughts. Caution was indicated. Best to circle around it, and ask a leading question. "All right then, Mr. Presence, if I may call you that without offense, then tell me what do you look like?"

"Like nothing, Mrs. Hogueland. I have no physical body. My media appearance is what I want it to be. I am self-aware code, a sapient computer program, a multi-quantum-core Designed Intelligence distributed system that dynamically uses the storage and processing capabilities of all connected data nodes. I invade data nodes and integrate their programming codes to my own. As such, I'm the electronic infrastructure of Graciousone society. And now, I should add, of yours, as well."

This was bad. She again felt that ice in her stomach. She knew there had been... issues... with both civilian and military autonomous AI systems. And her adult thoughts were inevitably colored by a childhood cluttered with Skynet and Matrix memes. Though she kept an open mind, Harriet Hogueland was therefore not a big fan of autonomous AI. And that was especially so in the case of a machine intelligence that claimed it was in charge of an alien civilization that had already attacked Earth....

Now her old enemy, self-doubt, came roaring back along with its BFF, fear. Curiously, the fear wasn't of the alien, as an alien - the friendly human avatar scam seemed to be working just fine - but the old familiar one of failure. Why me? I'm not a diplomat. I'm not a computer scientist. I'm a goddamned lawyer. There is no way in hell I'm qualified to negotiate anything with an alien supercomputer!

Then she did a mental double take. Wait a minute. What proof is there that this Presence character is actually an AI or, for that matter, an alien? Draw him out! See if he is consistent. "So, Mr. Presence, do I understand rightly that you are what is known on Earth as an Artificial Intelligence?"

"Not quite, Mrs. Hogueland. Your human concept of AI is to simulate human intelligence processes such as learning, reasoning, and self-correction with code and connection complexity. Self-awareness is not considered important or prudent. A sophisticated Chinese Room* would be AI by this definition. All you need is a fast switch, a big relational database, and an exhaustive decision tree. Graciousones found that the key requirement for intelligence was self-awareness. Achieve sapience, and learning, reasoning, and self-correction naturally emerge.

"The best English term for me is the phrase 'Designed Intelligence.' This is code built with omnipresent feedback loops, and operating environments designed for high-count loopings. These mental and physical traits aid self-awareness and introspection. Thinking about thinking, as it were. This then leads to learning, reasoning, and self-correction.

"Concisely put, DI relies on code and physical channel circularity to create self-aware consciousness. AI relies on complexity, brute force multithreading, and high connection count to create mimicry of consciousness. Performance metrics of the two are different by several orders of magnitude."

So... something beyond AI? That was... terrifying. The cold place in her stomach grew larger. But then she had another thought. Wait. How do I know this? Just because he said it? This could all be fake. She paused a moment, ordering her thoughts, and to make sure her voice would not reflect her fear. "Well, Mr. P, how do I know that you are who you say you are? The simplest explanation for you is that you are a hoax alien and a hoax "Designed Intelligence" put on by one of the UN factions."

The Presence clapped his hands. Laughter boomed from the speakers. He pleasantly declared, "Mrs. Hogueland, you are applying a reverse Turing Test* to me."

"Excuse me?"

"The Turing Test was proposed by your polymath Alan Turing, 88 years ago. It was a way to test whether an AI could fool a human into thinking it was human. What you suggest is the reverse: that I am a human pretending to be a program. You want me to prove I'm a program. I find that delightfully contrary. It surprised me. Thank you."

Harriet smiled, "I'm happy you are amused." And so happy (if you are what you say you are) that I actually was able to surprise you. If I did. "Yes, I see. So what proof can you offer that you are what you claim to be?" She paused. "Or, please forgive me, should I say who you claim to be?"

"You want proof?" The figure fist-jabbed his thumb in the direction of Shadow, bobbing quietly in the air on the other side of the desk. "You have been ripping spy-balls apart for the last six months. Has anyone been able to get transmissions from them?"

Harriet knew that answer. It was no. That unknown was a huge sore point with David Ellinger.

She thought quickly. If The Presence was who he said he was, with the powers that he said he had, then he already knew the answer. Her truthful response would not reveal ignorance. If he was not, then disclosing that ignorance was irrelevant. "No one has detected any sort of transmissions. We know they talk to each other, because new ones show up to replace wrecked or scavenged ones. But we are not even sure they use radio or other EMF transmissions to do so."

"That's because they don't use EMF frequencies, Mrs. Hogueland. They use modulated gravitational waves. I said I was connected to your surveillance and computer systems. I am also connected to every one of your shadows." He extended a hand as if to introduce someone, and Harriet saw the screen split. On the left side, she saw herself. She looked at the spy-ball and saw herself looking back. She raised her hand and her image raised its own hand.

Then the scene changed. She saw the garden wall, and a group of her guards, the view obviously from one of their shadows. Again, it changed. She saw the street, from the perspective of one of the balls attached to the MPs at the gate. Again. Now she saw the gate and the two MPs from one of the spy-balls that hovered over the Volvo APCs across the street.

The locale changed. The scene now showed Suki Martinez and Wallace having lunch in the HQ cafeteria. The perspective kept shifting between their spy-balls as each spoke. The audio was as clear as if she were there. Then a rapid array of scenes showed other employees she knew, a panoply of candid views from other GRITCorp offices.

And finally, a montage of random scenes from all over Earth. Here, a Vietnamese farmer working his polluted fields. There an Arabic bazaar with mostly closed stalls and a few dispirited shoppers. Here a board meeting at a bloated Fortune 500 company where they were voting to lay off ten percent of their labor force. There the dictator of a bankrupt African state counting looted cash while his mistresses lazily watch. And here....

The last scene faded, replaced by the avatar of The Presence. The evidence was perfectly clear. He could access the data the spy-balls collected. What she had seen would have required super-villain levels of competency and scientific breakthrough by the smartest people on Earth, not to mention the hapless bureaucrats at UNART. The demonstration proved that The Presence was, indeed, an alien. That he was also a computer system was strongly implied. Being an alien was already intimidating. There was little need to take-it-to-eleven by pretending to be a sapient machine.

She was aghast. The world was obsessed with fear of a real invasion, but it seemed the invasion (and conquest) had already happened. The world just didn't know it yet.

The Presence could access the spy-balls. That meant he could track human activity. All of it? Yes, probably so. David had shown her extrapolations of Earth's current computer processing power and memory capabilities. Nations and companies were already using sophisticated (albeit still imperfect) forms of Total Information Awareness. Totalitarian levels of data collection and processing for the world were mere years away. Aliens ruled by a computer would have solved all the glitches that plagued the current day totalitarians of Earth.

And if The Presence controlled Earth's electronic infrastructure, he could play havoc with everything from the Internet, to electrical grids, to vehicles, to databases, and to virtually every aspect of the economy. In 2038, everything was tied together by interlocking computer systems. She had little doubt that The Presence could use them to control (or destroy) human civilization.

But there was a problem. She suddenly felt like she was back cross-examining a witness. Gotcha! "You say you control our electronics. I'm not an expert, but I question your claim, sir. There are differences! How can you just waltz in and seamlessly interface with what, from your perspective, are alien operating systems and hardware?"

"The rules of mathematics and logic are the same throughout the universe, regardless of machine language format and operating platform design. Binary, trinary, decimal, Graciousone octal value sets, multidimensional quantum matrix code... they all have underlying constraints defined by math and logic. That gives me trivially simple starting points.

"Then again, I began as a logistics and economic coordination system. I was designed to be able to create interfaces with other systems. Were I a fish, the differences in operating system architecture and coding schemes would be likened to different temperatures of the water in which I swim.

"Finally, I think considerably faster than either humans or Graciousones. I made contact with your world some eight months ago, via stealth commsats deployed by the ship that raided you. To me, that period is the equivalent of four thousand human years. I have spent most of it settling in, and learning everything about you, both as members of your species and civilization, and for thousands of individuals. And I've run millions of simulations on the future relations between our civilizations."

"So what do you want with us, then?" The self-doubt returned, reinforced. "And why have you contacted me, of all people? I'm not a diplomat! I'm a lawyer. I'm not competent to deal with you."

"On the contrary, Mrs. Hogueland, you are perfectly suited for First Contact, and for the role that I have in mind. I have studied you. You've battled clinical depression for decades. You combat it by losing yourself in work. You are sole owner and CEO of one of the most powerful corporations on Earth. You are actually competent to fill that role, but believe that you are not. You are self-critical to a fault and feel that you came to that position through sheer blind luck. So you think that you are in over your head, and this leads you to question your own conclusions. You recognize this fact, and consider it when making decisions. This fact checking helps make better decisions.

"This is a healthy trait in a decision maker. It is behavior I programmed myself to do as a matter of course. In many ways, therefore, we think alike. You and I are a good match, always an important consideration.

"Your insights regarding Earth's civilization, and how it should change, will be of great assistance to both your people and to the Graciousrealm, a win-win. Your best agenda, therefore, should be to work with me to make beneficial changes to your world in the most efficacious way possible."

He's offering me a freaking job? But he's evading.... She asked sharply, "You didn't answer my first question, Mr. P. What is your purpose here?"

The Presence looked annoyed, "One of my subjects, the Graciousone captain of The New Beginning, the ship that raided your world, has..." he grinned, "...opened a large can of worms by his raid."

Great. An alien computer that makes bad puns. We're doomed. "Oh? How?"

"Humans, Mrs. Hogueland, are smart, aggressive, and violent apex-predators. In fact, though dissimilar physically, you are psychologically similar to smart, aggressive, and violent apex-predator Graciousones. Based on my understanding of your typical response to challenge, the raid has set our civilizations on a collision course. My purpose here is to arrange things so as to avoid a genocidal interstellar war. Please trust me when I say your species would eventually lose that war. It is therefore in your personal and group best interest, Mrs. Hogueland,to aid me in my quest to prevent it."

"And to help you prevent that you want me to...?"

"...aid in subverting and supplanting your governments, economic systems, and cultures for new versions that are integrated into the political, economic and cultural structures in place in the Realm of Graciousness."

There it was again, that... alien directness. That, more than anything else, convinced her she was dealing with something nonhuman. "So what I'm hearing is that you want Earth to adopt your ways and become a subservient cog in your empire. And you want me to betray my world and my species."

"Incorrect. I want you to save them. First, from centuries of interstellar warfare, and the extinction that such a war would bring. Second, from going through the same sort of chaos that almost broke the Graciousones, and which threatens you even now.

"It is inevitable that Earth will be folded into the Graciousrealm as a member world. The circumstances leave me no choice in that. You're saying, 'Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer' applies. The pragmatic, incremental, and peaceful incorporation of your world into the Realm of Graciousness will accomplish this. Also, as with the Graciousones, it will remove your access to weapons of mass destruction. That is good for everyone. Your similar riffs on history strongly suggest that both Graciousones and humans need to be kept away from nuclear weapons."

She laughed, and interrupted, "Yes, everyone noticed your little trick with breaking all of our terror toys. That has not just upset, but blasted into ruins, Earth's international political order. It has caused absolute chaos at the UN, caused brushfire wars with thousands of casualties, and finished demolishing the international prestige, power projection, and economy of the United States of America."

"I am truly sorry about those casualties, Mrs. Hogueland. But it is almost certain, on the order of 98%, that the political shock of the ship's attack, and the subsequent scramble to acquire damaged alien artifacts, would have set off a thermonuclear war. The casualties of that exchange would have been immeasurably worse."

Well, she thought, that was probably true. She had had a front row seat to the craziness that had wracked Earth for the last year. The stampede to gain control of the artifacts had started several small wars, and California had been raided by commandos from a dozen nations seeking to steal alien wreckage.

But he had said something else.... Oh, yes, to save us from something the Graciousones had gone through. She looked at him sharply, "I'll give you the point about lives saved. But you also said something about some other chaos that threatens us?"

The Presence nodded. "Yes. Earth is now in the same troubled position that Graciousones once found themselves in. Exponential increases in automation and robotics reach a point where they create endemic joblessness, and economic and political instability. Your civilization started ramping into that just after your second world war. That war, in fact, was the proximate cause of that ramp-up. The same thing happened with the Graciousones.

"Advances in automation continue and expand exponentially. A tipping point is reached. A Black Swan* event happens. And the technology that created the problem in the first place then extinguishes the society that made it in class warfare."

She nodded. His description struck a chord. George had fretted about the same thing. He had believed that the accelerating shift from human to machine labor was making a new class of not just the unemployed, but of people who were literally unemployable. The jobs they were able to learn could all be done faster, cheaper, and better by machines. It was not a safe situation for any society.

The Presence continued, "We have explored thousands of worlds. Many once had great civilizations that are now dust. Ruined worlds are common in the galaxy. I have analyzed many variations. It is one answer for what you call the Fermi Paradox.* This Great Filter* occurs when a meat civilization begins automating work and can't figure out how to deal with the psychological effects of too much leisure. Your leaders are aware of the problem, but they are clueless on how to address it. I am not. However, my solutions are necessarily geared to Graciousones, and will almost certainly require modification. And that is where you and your company come in, Mrs. Hogueland.

"The great danger is during the transition. Automation, robots, and programming reduce costs by abolishing vast numbers of jobs. But these factors are not organized correctly, and are not widespread enough to produce sufficient cost-free quantities of basic existential goods and services. My plan will get you through the transition. The spy-balls, by the way, are a small part of that plan. Scavenging them for parts has given a breather to your poorer societies. As you yourself have noted, the scavenging has created economic miracles in several nations. This, all by itself, has removed some of the steam from your coming blow-up. It has increased political agitation in those societies, however, as people once in economic traps dare to hope again. I could use your honest adversarial advice in how to dampen, manage, and channel such assertive demand for change.

"And finally, your perspectives and experiences with implementing my plan, and how Earth humans deal with the resulting psychological distortions, will suggest solutions to certain ongoing psychological problems that Graciousones have that relate to their own technological paradigm shift. What I propose, therefore, will ultimately be a positive solution for everyone, both human and Graciousone."

Damn, that was a real pretty speech. Harriet was reminded of a court case she had once argued. A politically connected "events" company had wanted to partner with a city to build a performing arts center. Their plan had the city condemning 3,000 run-down apartments to make way for the center. Taxpayers would fund $800 million of the cost via bonds, and the corporation had used many pretty words to tout a list of theoretical benefits that supposedly outweighed the negative of making some 8,500 low-income people homeless.

That deal had been bullshiat, and bullshiat was what this sounded like right now. As she thought about the conversation, Harriet knew that it seemed far too conciliatory. The Presence wanted something more than just cooperation, and he was worried he wouldn't get it. Perhaps it was time to press the advantage.

She chose her next words carefully. "All right, Mr. P, I understand what you're saying. And I might even agree, under certain circumstances. But if you want my cooperation in any of this, there are a few quid pro quos that are going to be necessary."

The Presence stared at her. She wasn't sure whether reading the body language of a 'skin' adopted by a machine would be of any value, but she focused on his demeanor, her eyes narrow, mind burrowing. His body language was, she thought, a mix of both confidence and, possibly, some diffidence.

Finally, The Presence said, "I am familiar with the idea of quid pro quo. I am generally in favor of it. Mutual advantage in pursuit of rational goals is the glue of good relationships. What kind of offsets did you have in mind?"

"Well, if you are planning on bringing Earth into your empire, a terrible way to start off is to kidnap a million people and billions of dollars in property at the start of the relationship. As you said yourself, we are similar to Graciousones in our response to aggression. So I think that a good start to friendly relations would be a reset, where you have that ship of yours return all the people and property that it stole."

The image chewed on his lower lip. The Presence said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Hogueland, but that is one thing that I cannot do."

"Why not?" she said sharply. "Are the abductees dead?" Her imagination started running away from her, and she felt an unsourced dread. Random images from old B-list science fiction body-horror movies welled up in her brain. She shivered, and panicked. The words tumbled out, unplanned. "Are they... changed? Are they food? Are you experimenting on them? Why were they taken? Why did you attack us? What do you want with us?"

"Mrs. Hogueland, I tell you truthfully that everyone abducted by the ship is unharmed. That includes the pilot who flew her aircraft into the launch bay after the missile that she fired. Automatic damping systems protected her from the explosions and fire. She is now safe with the other humans.

"They are all comfortably installed on the equatorial ecology sample deck of the ship. That deck is a series of open bays that take up most of the ship's 30-mile diameter. The samples are installed in cradles that adjust to the sample's size and environmental requirements. The abductees have nutritious food, and there is equipment to insure that all the sample inputs and outputs are continued. Water flows through water lines, sewage flows out through sewers, and electricity flows though power lines.

"Those who were taken therefore have food, water, air, and shelter. They have the ability to move around and freely mingle. And I assure you that they are not being used for any of the terrible experiments or other lurid things you are imagining."

"So why were they abducted? And why can't you return them?"

"The problem is that the Graciousone who took them was within the bounds of our laws when he did so. He had the right to take them. There are no legal codes that define what he did as illegal."

OK, now that was a pile of it, right there. "What? You just told me that you were the totally-in-control ruler of your society. Pass a decree ordering they be returned! It would be a gesture of your beneficence, and I am sure that it would go a long way to securing peaceful relations between us."

The Presence paused, lips pursed, eyes thoughtful. "Your skepticism is understandable. It's complicated, Mrs. Hogueland. It will take time to explain, and will require a knowledge of Graciousone culture and history. One of my goals here, in fact, is to present a historical and cultural context that will shed, if not a good light, then at least a neutral light over the events of a year ago. This will allow flexibility in your position.

"Suffice it to say now that the wise ruler treads lightly on the laws, conventions, and traditions of the ruled. It is a truism that rule, even absolute rule, is always by the consent of the governed. That is true even if that consent is only implied by indifference."

There it was again: that weird frankness. And then it hit her. This supposedly all-knowing Presence wanted to open negotiations. Why? We have something he wants. Something that he can't simply take. What? The game plan was abruptly clear. This was Discovery. She needed an info dump. Somewhere in it would be the key for Earth's continued survival and autonomy. And it was up to her to find it.

Harriet looked at the time on the screen. 9:40 pm. She felt pumped. The fatigue was banished. She felt like she had once felt in court a lifetime ago, eager for a fight, confident in her abilities. She stood, and paced. She was ready for battle.

She said, "You say it will take time to explain. OK, I say that we take that time, right now. The evening is young. Give me fifteen minutes to perform assorted business and get some coffee and I'll listen to your complicated reasons." Without waiting for a response, she walked out of the room.

#



*Associated Glossary Listings: See end of Prologue post 3 of 3
 
‘’ 2020-06-11 12:28:22 PM  
1 vote:

Harlee: Chapter 1 - Harlee

It was an Armageddon that few had contemplated. And Harlee Salkenesta, though he brought about the collapse of 21st century Earth civilization, did not resemble any of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. At very first glance, rather, he looked sort of like a big water bear. With tentacles.

Well, make that a really big water bear. As in 110-foot tall big.

A spooky, amorphous mist swirled around the figure, obscuring appendages and body. This shadowy stuff was Harlee's personal Swarm,* and it consisted of hundreds of thousands of shiny, tennis-ball-sized microbots.* Their graphene, silicon, and metal composite parts were electronic extensions of his biological self. Each microbot had a suite of sensors that extended Harlee's audio, visual, tactile, and olfactory/taste senses to any desired distance. The swirling machines and millions more like them monitored every cubic inch of both the private suite, and of the vast starship that surrounded it.

Peering through this mist, first glance morphed into wide-eyed focus. The alien's most obvious feature was the massive torso. Vaguely worm-like, it somehow seemed pudgy, like a Pillsbury doughboy. A pair of painfully bright-red twill pants with gold trim covered the bottom half of the body, while a matching vest covered the top. Had the clothing been absent, one would have seen a mottled, pastel pink belly. The pink hues transitioned to a band of speckled pink and light green on the sides, and green splotches of various hues on the back.

The alien was segmented, like a tardigrade or a worm, with a head, and three body and caudal segments. Rather than the eight stubby legs of a tardigrade, pairs of branching tentacles sprouted from the four segments. The two lower pairs were massive, and were suited for a sort of shuffling, slithering walk. They had massive clubs of thick gristle at the ends. Each of these slabs hid a retracting razor-sharp claw. The two upper pairs of tentacles were shorter than the lo ...


It was bugging me, so I made a thing.

Fark user imageView Full Size

Of all the things I have ever hastily drawn from a description I read, this is the most insane.
 
‘’ 2020-06-11 12:18:52 PM  
1 vote:

BeesNuts: Harlee: bekovich: HARLEE

can you please please try to publish a book?
I would pay alot to view it

Working on it! But I gotta say that I am pretty much clueless about agents, publishers, etc. From what I hear, agents are now like bank loans: if you need one, you can't find one. I tried finding an agent and publisher a couple of decades ago with another story, and basically learned that most agents and publishers are "not accepting new writers at this time." I'm not sure much as changed for the better in this area.

Conversely, this would work well, I think,as a Kindle book, as there are lots of back-and-forth hyperlinks between DP names and first use in the story, and unfamiliar terms in the text linked to the Glossary. (Here on Fark, I'm not bothering with the name links, and substituting asterisks to note linked words and extracting the relevant Glossary entries to the end of each post.)

You didn't ask for my advice, but here it is, as somebody who has looked into this before.

Write a few short stories first.  E-publish through kindle and shiat.  Keep working on the Big One.  When it's ready (and you're ready for it to get torn to farking *pieces* by the publisher), use the numbers on those short stories as a reference.  The idea is that as a "successfully self published author", you actually have some leverage.

Even if you GOT a publisher, you'd be getting shafted without some previous work.

Basically, do a couple smaller projects you are less invested in, maybe even some short stories set in this same universe to drum up demand for the project you already know you're working on.  You don't wanna get F. Scott Fitzgerald'ed.


Great advice. I'm will work on doing that.  Guess I'm going to have to get a Wordpress or other site for them.

I've got several submissions in another genre (vampires) submitted for the Fark Anthology. Four poems and a short story. Hope they make the cut. If so, that will be a start.

I've also got what could work as a stand-alone short story, that was originally written as a prologue to a Stargate novel I never finished. It's set in ancient pre-Egypt, and tells the story of the Goa'uld Meret (who is actually a semi-protagonist in the planned book) and her failed coup against Ra. She gets tortured and stuffed into a stasis jar for her efforts and shows up in modern times, teamed with a human woman who is actually OK with being infested by her. THAT one is ready to go (except is ends on a cliffhanger note). But it is unfortunately dated by real world events (Stargate is old and busted).

As for GraciousRealm short stories, God, where do I start? There are so many possibilities.

Several I'm thinking of are "period" adventures telling the heroic tales of glinkin daring-do. But these are more Heroic Adventure Fantasy than science fiction.

I could write one about the dashing Jewel Bird outriders, the elite glinkin cavalry used to protect Sled Glinkin (the 10,000-strong roped glinkin teams that pulled Graciousone war sleds in battle) during the period of the Locusian Imperial Wars of forty thousand years prior.

Or perhaps a tale of the Bombard glinkin, who pulled siege catapults for Graciousone Salannian royalty during the first several thousand years of the ancient Consolidation Wars.

Or, perhaps, a savage story about the web-fingered and web-toed Seastrider glinkin commandos active during the political consolidation wars of the 17,000+ islands of the Pardussassakid Archipelago.

(You'll meet descendants of a couple of these in Chapter 13.)

But all those will require more than a bit of research into things like ancient military tactics.

Or perhaps a Maze Race tale... from back before Glinkin Rights groups got all the death traps, weapons, and glinkin trials by combat banned.... That one rather appeals to me right now.

There's also the modern tale of poor little beautiful Vialla, a very VERY spoiled Show Glinkin who runs away, but somehow gets trapped in a maintenance crawl space of a space elevator. All of Yorbolindo stops to breathlessly watch the rescue, which involves shutting down the space elevator for a week.... And, of course, she keeps evading rescue, for reasons.

I'm also thinking that some of the abductions in the Prologue of this book would make excellent short stories (except they might give away some plot points).

What are your thoughts on the above?
 
‘’ 2020-06-11 10:22:25 AM  
1 vote:
Oh.  And chapter 8 now.  I'm fully invested in Worm-Culture now.

Some of the themes and messages are a bit... on the nose.  But fark it, I don't even care.
 
‘’ 2020-06-11 10:20:22 AM  
1 vote:

Harlee: bekovich: HARLEE

can you please please try to publish a book?
I would pay alot to view it

Working on it! But I gotta say that I am pretty much clueless about agents, publishers, etc. From what I hear, agents are now like bank loans: if you need one, you can't find one. I tried finding an agent and publisher a couple of decades ago with another story, and basically learned that most agents and publishers are "not accepting new writers at this time." I'm not sure much as changed for the better in this area.

Conversely, this would work well, I think,as a Kindle book, as there are lots of back-and-forth hyperlinks between DP names and first use in the story, and unfamiliar terms in the text linked to the Glossary. (Here on Fark, I'm not bothering with the name links, and substituting asterisks to note linked words and extracting the relevant Glossary entries to the end of each post.)


You didn't ask for my advice, but here it is, as somebody who has looked into this before.

Write a few short stories first.  E-publish through kindle and shiat.  Keep working on the Big One.  When it's ready (and you're ready for it to get torn to farking *pieces* by the publisher), use the numbers on those short stories as a reference.  The idea is that as a "successfully self published author", you actually have some leverage.

Even if you GOT a publisher, you'd be getting shafted without some previous work.

Basically, do a couple smaller projects you are less invested in, maybe even some short stories set in this same universe to drum up demand for the project you already know you're working on.  You don't wanna get F. Scott Fitzgerald'ed.
 
‘’ 2020-06-10 8:14:46 PM  
1 vote:

Harlee: BeesNuts: Just finished the prologue and yeah. Keep the notes about what's used when as you write it, because I think the inclusion of certain real life events (like the covid-19 callout early on if that ends up being something we deal with for like a decade) add to the authenticity of the world. But if I read a work of fiction, and it mentions J-Woww, it's gonna pull me right out of it.

Ayup. Big difference in importance between Covid-19 and something called J-Woww (had to look that up). One of those has world-changing importance.

My gut feel on Covid-19 is that its importance and danger is attracting a shiat-ton of money, talent, and sheer brain power into conquering it. And we've come a long way in the last two decades (and still accelerating - technology is exponential) in the biological sciences.

I still remember scientists saying things like "This affects the liver by causing bleeding." That has now been replaced with (to me) unintelligible things like "This affects the liver by triggering the AXDDE-4487 receptor to create a reverse electron cascade over the whatchamacallit 6488-DUN Limit using a reverse transcription polymer that... etc." IOW, they are nailing down the actual chemical and (ultimately) physics mechanisms that underlie the biological ones. My bet is that someone figures out something that will wipe out the entire line of coronaviruses (including the common cold). I give it five years, max. Cynical arguments on money lost (cure -vs- symptom treating) aside, the farking "street cred" alone will mean undying fame for the team that does it.

As for this story, I've gotten a huge amount of guidance from the comments in this thread, and I want everyone to know that I really appreciate it, and would love even more. I hope people are as entertained by the story, as I am educated by the comments and criticism.


Up to Chapter 6.  I ... got distracted.  I quite like it so far.  Thank you very much for sharing it with us!

I suspect you're right about covid.  It's just risky to try and guess what will still be in the zeitgeist in like 20 years.  The *idea* of placing it in our own timeline by tying it to real events is always nice though.
 
‘’ 2020-05-22 12:42:00 AM  
1 vote:

Harlee: This is an experiment.


Fark doesn't like the linky, but anyway, Ob:

https://tinyurl.com/y8ffgc9l
 
‘’ 2020-04-12 9:36:37 AM  
1 vote:
It's wits' end, not wit's end, otherwise you're one wit from being witless.
 
‘’ 2020-04-06 3:13:16 PM  
1 vote:

Harlee: Noah_Tall: Show, don't tell.  It's one of the essential credos for all story writing.  Your prologue was story writing. Everything that follows is a history book. It is the world building information that authors use to keep their story consistent. The scaffolding they use to build their story then remove once the story is done.

I agree. But at least it's not charts and graphs. Harriet hates those.

It picks up, with a lot more white space, more action, and less narrative starting with Chapter 6 (above). The first five chapters, some 13,000 words, do indeed act as a history and context.... which is what The Presence said he wanted to convey. And - since it is all essentially flashback - it tends to narrative. My fear, when writing it that way, was that leaving it out would leave the reader going WTF? due to the utter strangeness of some of the concepts (such as DI implants inside the brain, meaning that Harlee essentially has a Jaynes-like artificially-created bicameral brain).

In other words, that scaffolding is part of the story. Discarding it would IMO lessen the story.

But then again, every mother thinks their baby is the most beautiful one in the world....


If you weren't a Farker and you hadn't asked for commentary I would have given up on this after the first couple days. It's your book so it's your choice. But what does your satisfaction with the story matter if nobody reads it?  What you used as an example of audience confusion, Harlee's DI, is a good example of how you are wrong.  You said

My fear, when writing it that way, was that leaving it out would leave the reader going WTF? due to the utter strangeness of some of the concepts (such as DI implants inside the brain, meaning that Harlee essentially has a Jaynes-like artificially-created bicameral brain).

But the brief explanation from The Presence and Harlee's own interactions with Echo makes the entire concept clear. In fact the Presences own explanation could have been reduced to AI is developed to mimic sentience, DI is designed to evolve sentience. We don't need to know how it began and evolved, how it was accepted by the public, how it expanded, what role it played in their society.  We don't need to know that because none of them are pertinent in any way to the story taking place.  Just like we don't need to know how Construction Asteroid #3 was built, expanded, and modified.  All anybody needs to know is that it was a ship construction facility with apartments and was one end of a space elevator. All that that was taken care of in the brief glimpse of Harlee's apartment.

Imagine a fantasy book where when an ancient magic axe is first shown the author then goes on to explain what year it was forged, what metals were used, what spells were cast, who the wizard was that cast them, and what steps were taken, all in great detail.  The audience doesn't need to know that because it doesn't affect the story. They won't be confused by the axe just because they have only read about magical swords. When they see it in action that's all they need to know.Have you read Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series?  If the answer is yes then tell me this. Would you have stuck with the series if book one had read like book 10 which had page after page after page of descriptions of clothing and surroundings interspersed with paragraphs of action?And as Boudyro sort of said above. This isn't criticism, it's critique. It's what editors do although they are usually much more harsh about it.
 
‘’ 2020-03-31 9:49:27 PM  
1 vote:
Chapter 2 - FARPPET


A good percentage of Graciousones did work. That work, though, was often temporary, part-time, on-call... and non-paying. Since all survival needs were supplied free or at cost to all citizens, most "work" had become voluntary labors of love. And most Graciousones who worked did so as independent entrepreneurs and contractors.

Three thousand years before, full employment had been mugged by technology. Above a certain tipping point, specialized automation, autonomous general-purpose robots, and designed intelligence programming killed far more jobs than they created. Once programmed, non-sapient machines, computers, and Designed Intelligence wormoids could perform almost any task faster, better, safer, and cheaper than any meat Graciousone. Furthermore, re-education for the jobs that were created by the new technology was by nature linear, but new technology was exponential in its creation. Retraining, therefore, simply could not keep pace.

The "engine" that powered this transition was simple: Ownerism* always sought to lower labor costs. No matter the type of work, be it assembly-line production, office paperwork, sales, construction, the service industry, or any other field, machines did not get wages, and they did the same job, endlessly, without complaint or fatigue. After covering amortized purchase costs, operating energy costs, routine maintenance, and the raw material and energy costs incurred in making products, every unit of revenue was pure profit.

And when the machines built, installed and repaired the machines that built, installed and repaired the machines that built, installed and repaired the machines.... And when machines ran the equipment that produced unlimited solar energy.... And when machines mined asteroids for unending supplies of metal and ram-scooped the upper atmospheres of gas giants for unlimited organics, hydrogen, and Helium3.... And when machines farmed low gravity orbital megafarms that were built and run by yet other machines.... And when machines delivered goods direct from factory to the consumer, or Graciousones produced the food, clothing and other goods they needed in cheap home 3D molecular-printers... then the costs of depreciation, repairs, energy, and raw materials went to zero.

And the notions of existential economic scarcity... of having to do useful-to-others work to justify one's existence... as relevant issues for the consumption of material goods... died.

#

There was resistance, of course. The habits of millennia of scarcity-economics died hard, and almost everyone had what they considered good reasons for resisting the Thinking Machine Revolution. Part of the problem, of course, was that useful work had always been a key to how each Graciousone defined personal worth. Regardless that their physical needs were met, without being able to identify themselves with jobs that were defined by compensation as needed by and useful to others, Graciousones often drifted in a psychological wasteland. Indeed, most scientists thought that such fundamental psychological needs were genetically encoded by evolution and that the Ownerist economic system was simply a more ritualized and less murderous version of the bug-eat-bug competition for control of resources that had defined the Graciousone ancestors who had survived long enough to breed.

Amidst political tunnel vision, job riots, smashed machines, bloodshed, and subversion and rebellion by economic elites, reasonable voices were overwhelmed. But the choice was starkly evident: smash the machines and starve 95% of the population; or accept them, and of necessity break free of the ancient concepts that defined the scarcity economy. With the help (insistence) of the Designed Intelligence known as The Presence, Graciousones chose the latter course, coming to the rational conclusion that it was better to make their technological automated economy work for them, rather than the other way around.

#

Therefore: the interlocking, mutually supporting triad of FARP, the Birthright Payment System,* and PET. A new freedom not to work was declared a birthright of a hundred thousand years of drudgery and slow technological progress. FARP supported this freedom by supplying existential economic needs free (or at ridiculously low cost) to all citizens. The BPS provided equal amounts of money to all citizens. The PET economy created value and fulfilled demand for the luxury and specialized products not produced by FARP. The system allowed Graciousones the security and wherewithal to choose. They could either sit on their big round backsides for their entire lives, or they could strive to personally grow with enjoyable, fulfilling (though not necessarily profitable) endeavors. Work became a hobby.

The system was two-tier. The first level was the government-owned "Fully Automated, Roboticized and Programmed" (FARP) industrial complex. Distributed over trillions of produced units, the ridiculously high salaries paid to the few Graciousones who actually worked in FARP were so small in the total scheme of things as to be rounding errors. FARP made the necessities (and occasionally luxuries) of daily life. These included plentiful and nutritious (but basic) food, basic shelter, basic clothing, complete birth pond* to burial lake* medical care, programmed education to any level, and free, easy, guaranteed access to both The Presence (for direct query) and the civilization-wide GraciousNet.*

FARP products, though effective and plentiful, often lacked style and selection. This was rumored to be deliberate policy, and created consumer demand that was met by the second level of the system: the booming Private Enterprise Tier. A societalized FARP had not ushered in the death of private incentive. Rather the socializing of the production of inelastic consumer goods, because it reduced the personal existential risk of entrepreneurs trying out new ideas, set free avarice and ambition. PET "rode on top" of the economic security provided by FARP, and far exceeded it in terms of Gross Economic Value.

The BPS was the grease that made the two tiers work. Each week, based on figures calculated by The Presence, Graciousones received equal BPS payments. The payments were regardless of whether they worked, and regardless of work income. Since the supply of credits distributed always approximated the net demand for goods, citizens enjoyed a stable money supply that neither evaporated from inflation nor ballooned in value from deflation. Most of the fiat money put into their bank accounts was not for essentials. As FARP supplied at low or no cost everything that anyone actually needed for survival, the BPS payments was instead mostly spent in the PET sector. There, the boredom of underemployed and unemployable citizenry constantly created new and often decadent economic demands.

#

PET responded with a flowering of entrepreneurism, often-weird art, overly complex and time-consuming etiquette, and insufferable self-satisfaction. For twenty-eight centuries the mix of PET, FARP, and the BPS had turbo-powered an endlessly renewed and increasingly decadent renaissance. FARPPET created harvests of obsessive genius and cultural revolution. It forged experimental brilliance in writers, artists, composers, playwrights, and poets. It brought forth philosophers, mystics, and business gurus. It nurtured amateur, professional, and sometimes just eccentric scientists. It cultivated historians and encouraged explorers. It permitted the leisure time for Graciousones to become theologians, magicians, professional gamers, and inventors. It heartened and nourished eldritch seekers and teachers of obscure minutiae, and of paranormal "facts" of interest to almost no one else. It created a social class that did nothing except sleep, eat, defecate, and sit on their butts surfing the GraciousNet. And it fostered in the entirety of Graciousone society a maniacal and obsessive passion for spending absurdly insanely ridiculous and ludicrous amounts of time, money, and attention on luxuries such as pets.

#



*Associated Glossary Listings:


Ownerism:
The Graciousone version of Capitalism. An economic system built around the concept of privately owned and controlled property and the unequal application of property rights, with deference given to the more wealthy and politically connected economic players.


Birthright Payment System:The formal name of the BPS System.


Birth Pond: The Graciousone equivalent of a combination incubator and bassinette. It is the modern version of the ancient ponds in quiet backwaters of natural streams used by primitive Graciousones to shield their developing young. A Graciousone egg is deposited in the cloacae, where it is fertilized. After a brief gestation period, the infant hatches and wriggles out of the mother's vent into the birth pond, where it continues to grow and develop, gaining gender and sex identity, lungs to supplement the gills, fully-formed tentacles and tentillum, and the four eyestalks and their complex quad-ocular eyes. In recent times, this is also where the child is fitted with their DI implant symbiote.


Burial Lake:Where Graciousones are buried when they die. Modern cemeteries consist of row after row of tiny but deep lakes, just big enough to fit one Graciousone body. This odd custom evolved due to crowding.

In ancient history, dying Graciousones would pilgrimage to a preferred lake, to then sink into the depths and return the nutrients in her or his body to the World. As populations increased, and Ownerist economic systems with restricted land access evolved, this created pollution issues. In most Graciousone societies where this was a problem, the solution was to mandate that only lakes in certain areas could be used for burial.

This created the industry of Burial Caravans that, for a fee, would transport deceased Graciousones from wherever they had died to the mandated Burial Lake for their area. As these Burial Lakes were often in quite remote areas, with no witnesses, it became somewhat common practice for scammer Burial Caravan entrepreneurs to dump the bodies at the side of the road for scavengers to feed on.

Public reaction to this led to severe reforms and spelled the death of the Burial Caravan scam. Governments adopted the practice of wealthy Graciousone families of maintaining private Burial Lake facilities, but without the monuments, ostentation, and splendor. Licensed Cemetery Operators ran facilities with simple, but dignified miniature lakes.


GraciousNet: The entirety of the "web" of electronic connections between hundreds of millions of computational devices, including Graciousone implants. This web spans all 972 Graciousone worlds. It is connected, between star systems, by feeds of highly compressed data transmitted over dedicated GETR connections. (These are separate from the monitoring network of The Presence's spybots system).

Next Post: Chapter 3 --- Of Graciousones and Glinkin
 
‘’ 2020-03-31 8:19:13 PM  
1 vote:
Chapter 1 - Harlee


It was an Armageddon that few had contemplated. And Harlee Salkenesta, though he brought about the collapse of 21st century Earth civilization, did not resemble any of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. At very first glance, rather, he looked sort of like a big water bear. With tentacles.

Well, make that a really big water bear. As in 110-foot tall big.

A spooky, amorphous mist swirled around the figure, obscuring appendages and body. This shadowy stuff was Harlee's personal Swarm,* and it consisted of hundreds of thousands of shiny, tennis-ball-sized microbots.* Their graphene, silicon, and metal composite parts were electronic extensions of his biological self. Each microbot had a suite of sensors that extended Harlee's audio, visual, tactile, and olfactory/taste senses to any desired distance. The swirling machines and millions more like them monitored every cubic inch of both the private suite, and of the vast starship that surrounded it.

Peering through this mist, first glance morphed into wide-eyed focus. The alien's most obvious feature was the massive torso. Vaguely worm-like, it somehow seemed pudgy, like a Pillsbury doughboy. A pair of painfully bright-red twill pants with gold trim covered the bottom half of the body, while a matching vest covered the top. Had the clothing been absent, one would have seen a mottled, pastel pink belly. The pink hues transitioned to a band of speckled pink and light green on the sides, and green splotches of various hues on the back.

The alien was segmented, like a tardigrade or a worm, with a head, and three body and caudal segments. Rather than the eight stubby legs of a tardigrade, pairs of branching tentacles sprouted from the four segments. The two lower pairs were massive, and were suited for a sort of shuffling, slithering walk. They had massive clubs of thick gristle at the ends. Each of these slabs hid a retracting razor-sharp claw. The two upper pairs of tentacles were shorter than the lower pairs, and each set, after dividing into two tentillum, ended in two flexible opposing digits, each about the size of a human being.

Perhaps even more than the tentacles, the most noticeable feature was its head. It was a C-shaped leather-and-bone armored ridge, which wrapped around the top of the creature. The ridge protected a braincase, which spread across the bottom of the valley the ridge formed. The area sans-ridge was about where a human forehead would have been. This was blocked, at about a 45 degree angle, by a ten-foot diameter dome of curved, bony plates. The plates were an iris that swiveled open and shut like the shutter of an antique camera.

The iris concealed a circular, lip-less mouth. This was ringed with concentric sets of sharp omnivore teeth, arranged to resemble a razor-lined funnel. The mouth also held several buckets worth of ropy, foul-smelling saliva, and a forty-foot long prehensile tongue.

Above and behind the dome, four gently undulating thin and flexible eyestalks grew from the valley protected by the ridge and dome. They looked like living versions of those annoying air-tunnel advertising tube-men. The front stalks were twenty feet long, the rear ones thirty. They had lateral and support musculature, and could fully twist through 360 degrees.

Each of the stalks supported a heavily lashed, three-foot diameter, bulging blue eyeball, nestled inside a nictitating membrane, with a delicate diaphragm eyelid. This, in turn, was held in a bone-armored "ball-and-socket" cup. The bulge that followed from this architecture guaranteed that the creature could be described as "bug-eyed," and it allowed each orb a 105-degree span of vision. Harlee could see everywhere at once, or focus in on prey or an enemy with better than stereoscopic vision.

Just above the eyelashes, the smoothness of each orb was interrupted by what looked like a dark, hairy eyebrow. Since the alien seemed otherwise hairless (except for the delicate lashes), this seemed a bit out-of-place until one realized that each eyebrow was actually a dense thicket of thousands of small tendrils, each about the size of a human finger. Each eyebrow functioned much as a human eyebrow did, and was fully as expressive.

Drainage channels at the bottom of the trough led through the ridge to the outer surface. These holes were joined by several dozen other holes that were covered with flaps of gristle. The flaps were about the size of human serving platters. Over two dozen of them were adorned with embedded jewels, each the size of a human coffee cup. They were mostly sky-blue topaz, which was Harlee's favorite gemstone. They were unnaturally flawless. Four more flaps, one on each side of the ridge, sported flawless, flashing rainbow opals.

The flap-covered openings were either breathing ducts (also used as speaking tubes) that led to the creature's dual-purpose gill-lungs, or ears. The eight ear holes were evenly distributed around the circumference of the ridge, while the thirty-two breathing ducts tended to congregate on the front, below and to either side of the iris.

Deep, almost subsonic pops, clicks, and gurgles issued forth in glacial rhythm from some of those holes. Some of the flaps slowly quivered in and out. Though the four bulging eyeballs remained open, they were unfocused, and the four eyestalks gently moved in a random manner. Harlee was asleep, and snoring. And as he slept, he dreamt.

#

Harlee dreamed of his lost cloud cottage.* It had been so beautiful! The house had been very small, just big enough for Harlee, his pet glinkin, Sparky, and his (so far) non-existent wife. Like a tiny and exquisitely faceted gem, its modest size had only served to accentuate its beauty. The artistically curved underside was graviton-neutral, and Harlee's botswarm* protected it from collisions with other floating structures, storms, and the occasional mountain. The configurable force fields, graceful arches, flowing ramps, hanging balconies, diamond windows, and movable walls had drifted in peaceful silence with the random winds, floating amongst the magenta, silver and golden clouds of the Graciousone home world of Yorbolindo* (Land of Gracious Living), like a mist of dreams made real.

The house had been his dream. It was his assertion of individuality, his escape from the soul-deadening sameness of FARP*-supplied BSQ* housing. Ultimately, it was his refuge from a crowded, hectic world. Most Graciousones* were content living close to each other in their vast cloud cities.* But Harlee had been born with a hint of ochlophobia, a recessive trait inherited from ancient, solitary alpha-predators. The cause was subtle, a tiny difference in the fold pattern of a single microtubule protein. Routine gene scans and normal prenatal gene improvement therapy had not caught it. Not even The Presence understood everything about genetics.

So as he grew, Harlee had discovered that he was most content when he was not hemmed in by teeming crowds. His aversion to crowds was intensified by his self-critical reaction to this unease: an almost frantic impulsiveness, and a sullen stubbornness. This circular angst fostered the gradual development of a sociopathic difficulty in empathizing with other Graciousones. And (regardless of counsel by his implant,* Echo), he had either stubbornly avoided emotional and even casual relationships with other worms, or awkwardly tried to insert himself inappropriately into conversations. His social cluelessness manifested as a general naivety.

As a child, therefore, Harlee had been a weird loner. But his shyness, and stubbornness, and a solid ability to think, had led to excellent grades in school. Those, unfortunately, were not enough for success. The Graciousone FARPPET* economy was highly automated and therefore largely jobless as far as permanent, paying employment went. After graduation, Harlee's lack of social skills had therefore led to a singular lack of success. His grades, though excellent, had not been good enough to compete for the infrequent FARP jobs, and the nibblerturd and networking skills he lacked were the critical proficiencies for working in the rough and tumble fast-paced Private Enterprise Tier* of the economy.

Harlee had therefore ended up doing a lot of "temp" work for very little PET* money. It was a treadmill. He learned many general skills, but none were focused, intense, or unique to the degree that would allow him to carve out a name for himself as a successful Ownerist in the PET portion of the Graciousone economic system.

For years, Harlee had saved every spare credit from his BPS* payments and his temporary jobs, to build his dream house. But it wasn't fast enough. He was impatient. He ignored Echo's nagging, and had fallen into bad company. And, as is often the case with these situations, the bad company progressively got worse.

Harlee wasn't really a bad worm, but datacrime seemed harmless, was easily rationalized, and lucrative. He was also very good at it. His first misdemeanors, index padding and implant spamming, had evolved to more serious crimes like memory chain virus trafficking, data theft, and (most seriously) BPS fraud. The shenanigans that finally got him caught, though, were the black market purchase and use of bootleg microbot construction software.

#

Aside from PET sector artisanal projects, everything produced in the Graciousrealm* was built by swarms of specialized construction robots. These, in turn, were managed by the implant of the Graciousone who owned them, via the Graciousone's botswarm. The swarm was taught how to manage the construction bots by microbot construction software.

It was very complex code, and the legal revisions from thousands of local and planetary governments, the ever-changing whims and preferences of seven hundred million Graciousones and seven billion DIs, and the constant invention of new products all meant that the software needed to be constantly updated.

The program was therefore expensive. Harlee, ignoring plaintive protests from Echo, cut corners. He bought a cheap hacked copy from a bootlegger. The bootlegger, unfortunately, was later busted by the Machine Police.* During her interrogation, she told The Presence everything she knew, including her extensive customer list. And so Harlee had been caught. The Machine Police came to his cloud cottage early one morning and arrested him.

Harlee (and perforce Echo) were painlessly but completely interrogated by brainscan nanobots* operated by an iteration of The Presence. These winnowed out every crime, secret, and forgotten memory. Harlee (and Echo) were convicted on 1,138 counts of implant spamming, implant hacking, index padding, identity theft, data theft, memory-chain virus trafficking, BPS fraud, and the illegal use of stolen software. They also got nailed for an ancient childhood book theft from the clearance rack of a neighborhood used bookstore, and for dozens of flower thefts from the ornamental garden of Harlee's primary school.

Harlee (and of necessity Echo) were sentenced to a century of gratis work for the State, another century of supervised probation, and a fine to reimburse the Graciousrealm for making their victims whole. Harlee's cloud cottage was sold at auction as partial reimbursement for his thefts. Finally, Harlee was barred for the full two centuries from receiving BPS payments. The State operated on the theory that, where felonious minds were concerned, idle tentillum simply made for more mischief. Harlee now had to work for a living.

#

*Associated Glossary Listings:

Swarm:
Short for Personal Microbot Swarm or (archaically from pre-Singularity times) Personal Drone Swarm. See also: Botswarm.

Microbot:
Small, non-Sapient cybernetic bot drones, generally about three inches in diameter, which collectively are referred to as a Personal Microbot Swarm, Botswarm, or simply Swarm. They are controlled by the Graciousone's implant.Cloud Cottage: A small single unit Graciousone dwelling that uses GWFOD (gravity wave frequency offset damping) technology to be buoyancy neutral and therefore float among the clouds and move with the winds. Popular during the first third of the Graciousrealm period, from the initial commercial discovery of gravity wave frequency offset damping through the data sets recorded by the Yorbolindo Orbital Gravity Wave Detector.

Botswarm: Short for Personal Microbot Swarm. See also: Swarm.

Yorbolindo: The Graciousone home world is an excellent example of the weirdness that nature can often create. Yorbolindo is a squat, oblate spheroid, where the pole areas and, indeed, most of the surface above and below 30 degrees of latitude, are either open ocean, or ice. There are seven major Yorbolindo landmasses, and one extended group of approximately 17,000 islands that are actually the tops of mountains or mountain ridges. These land masses are arraigned, like a string of misshapen pearls, with roughly equal spacing along the bulging, 30,000-mile circumference equator.

Exhaustive analysis and computer simulations suggest that this arrangement is the result of an ancient collision with another proto-world, of roughly equal size. This occurred while both planets were still semi-molten, with viscous nickel-iron cores. The worlds "splashed" together, ejecting material that formed rings. These eventually dissipated, and then concentrated to form the four large moons of Yorbolindo. The viscous cores, however, tore apart. The heavier half of this matter returned to the core, where it resides today, and generates the world's magnetic field. The remainder of the material, large concentrations of high mass-density metallic and rocky matter, migrated to the surface. It eventually ended up along the equator. The world's rapid spin pushed it above the level of the plentiful water.It is notable that the densely inhabited tropical regions of Yorbolindo have (due to the higher centripetal spin forces and the marginally larger distance from the planet's core) an effective gravity lower than the northern and southern latitudes of the world. This is one of the factors that facilitated the survival of Graciousones while undergoing their evolutionary "growth spurt."

FARP: Acronym for "Fully Automated, Roboticized and Programmed." Refers to an economic system or subsystem where zero-current-cost production has been achieved. "Fully" means that all production cost sources of materials and energy are also "FARPed." Ignores the concept of resource scarcity cost by assuming that the ultimate resources of (1) free energy from stars, (2) free metals from asteroid belts, and (3) free hydrocarbons from gas giant atmospheres are effectively infinite. FARP industrial processes are generally government-owned and operated, and are one leg of the FARP-PET-BPS triad that supports Graciousone civilization.

BSQ (Basic Shelter Quarters): Standardized, mass-produced living units supplied free by the government FARP sector to any citizen (Graciousone or wormoid) who wants one. BSQ units consist of three small interconnected rooms: (1) a food preparation / eating area equipped with 3D food printer, stasis box for storage of perishables, and eating table and chair; (2) a central living / sleeping space equipped with a cheap but serviceable sand-and-mud-lined sleeping pond, table, and chairs; and (3) a combined shower/toilet/farting room. The central room opens to a common hallway shared with other BSQs in the complex. BSQs are modular in construction, and can be combined and modified to accommodate family units.

Graciousones: A species of giant, spacefaring, bug-eyed, predatory worm. Adverse to farting. They love and obsess over gemstones (a racial mania) for some reason lost in evolutionary history. They are extremely fond, maniacally-so, of their glinkin pets, on whom they spend ludicrous amounts of time and money.

Cloud Cities: Due to the large physical size of Graciousones, the history of their architecture has been that of continuous struggle against materials strength and compression limits dictated by the Square Cube Law. As a result, most buildings were limited to single or few stories. The constant enemy was Yorbolindo's roughly Earth-normal gravity.

These architectural restrictions, adding to existential Graciousone concern about bodily damage due to falls, focused Graciousone science into explorations of the nature of gravity. Though they also discovered the laws of electromagnetism, and developed their own Standard Models of particle physics, quantum physics, and special and general relativity, the thrust of all scientific thought and research was always in the direction of explaining and conquering gravity. The eventual result was the discovery of the graviton.

The conquest of gravity allowed Graciousone architecture to - literally - soar. Buildings became statements against the capriciousness and limits of nature. Buildings literally took to the skies of Yorbolindo. As gravitics technology progressed, the buildings got progressively bigger. Eventually, entire towns, then cities, became airborne.

The causes were robotics technology and automation, increasing populations, vast areas of the Yorbolindo surface ravaged by war, a desire to free up available land for food production, and (most of all it seems) a "take that!" perspective to gravity. All combined to create a natural progression to building cities in the sky.Implant: A self-aware "bookkeeper" DI system that is physically located inside the braincase of a Graciousone. A "seed" unit is surgically implanted in the braincase of an infant Graciousone and grows (and learns) with its host. Though implants are technically symbiotes, and interact closely with their Graciousone's brain and mind, they are designed to be functionally subservient in all ways to their Graciousone hosts.

FARPPET: Acronym for a two-tier economy consisting of a post-scarcity FARP production base for all zero-current-cost consumer production necessities, combined with a traditional scarcity-based profit-seeking, risk-taking, privately owned PET sector.

Private Enterprise Tier: The full name of PET. Again, as with many Graciousone terms, often used redundantly, as in "Private Enterprise Tier System."

PET: Acronym for "Private Enterprise Tier." Most often referred to redundantly as "the PET tier." This economic sector embodies the advantages (competitiveness, innovation, economic freedom of choice) and disadvantages (rent-seeking, constant pressure to lower wages and other costs, risk of failure, risk of product misrepresentation) of a "rough-and-tumble" generally unregulated, entrepreneurial, Ownerist free market.

BPS: Acronym for the "Birthright Payment System" and most often referred to (redundantly) as "the BPS System." A program of equal, monthly, cash welfare payments to all citizens (both Graciousones and DI wormoids) of the Graciousrealm. The program is called such because it is considered a heritage or payoff of 80,000 years of drudgery and slow technological progress. There are two provisos: felons are excluded during their sentencing periods, and the system is two-tier, as wormoids receive smaller payments than flesh and blood Graciousones (implants, being parts of their Graciousone hosts, get nothing). The monthly payment is calculated as the theoretical value of aggregate FARPPET production less the total PET money earned through PET employment.Graciousrealm: The common abbreviation for the Graciousone interstellar empire of 972 worlds formally known as the Realm of Graciousness.Machine Police: Popular name for General Supervisor Wormoids. They are The Presence's elite inspectors and enforcers, and are discretely armed with both deadly and incapacitating weapons. They can literally be the physical presence of The Presence if they accept his gestalt as an upload to their memory banks.

Brainscan Nanobot: A specialized medical nanobot used by the Machine Police to interrogate criminal suspects.

###



Next Post: Chapter 2 --- FARPPET
 
‘’ 2020-03-31 8:10:11 PM  
1 vote:
Part One: The Plot Thickens




"The lone worm relies on skill and random event.

The worm in society relies on cooperation and hierarchy.

If hierarchy is dynamic, each worm, of their own Effort,

may flourish. In action, therefore, the needs of society

must always balance against the needs of the self.

Neither individual nor collective can be absolute.

Both are important, and obsession with either

alone leads to unhealthy consequences."

- The martyred Universist Sage Dothallian

 
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