I’ve met my 30 Stories in 30 Days Challenge with two days to spare! In a couple of days, I’ll put up a blog on my thoughts about this year’s challenge, but for now, I’m going to take a day or two off to relax and fully get over this cold I’ve picked up. After that I’ll take care of a backlog of paperwork I have, some projects I need to do for two writing groups I’m in, get back to work on my novel None of Them Knew the Color of the Sky, work on driving up interest in my book The All-You-Can-Read Buffet that was just published a few weeks ago, and really start working on my next story collection, Political Pies which I hope to have out in October. Hmm. Maybe I should take two or three days off. 😀
Archive for April, 2012
It’s Tough Being a Writer
When Ron walked into his bedroom, his wife Carol was already in bed with her Nook. She glanced at him and asked, “What were you doing?”
“I was engaged in battle,” he replied. “My muse and I fought hand to hand across the Writer’s Block Wasteland and deep into the Forest of Ideas. In our struggle we climbed mountains of metaphors and sailed simile seas. It was an epic fight that left a river of ink spread across countless pages, and left me – for now – victorious.”
Without looking up from her Nook, Carol asked, “Did you take the trash out?”
The unmarked car with heavily tinted windows slipped through the guarded gate in the predawn darkness. Yet even at this early hour, protesters were already lining up, trying to snap photos of the “mothers” to post online. The car pulled into the parking garage of the Qiba Corporation and stopped in front of a bank of elevators where two security guards – one male and one female – stood.
Thomas Gillespie opened the back door and stepped out. “Morning,” he called to the guards.
“Good morning, Sir,” the woman replied. “I do have to double check your identity.”
“Of course.” Thomas stood up straight and waited while she – with her security pad – double checked his fingerprints, retina scan, and voice scan, as well as the various electronic fingerprints from his implants.
Satisfied Thomas was Thomas, she nodded to the other guard who turned and punched a code into the elevator which opened. The woman then waved Thomas into the elevator and told him, “Doctor Mayar will be waiting for you. Good day, Sir.”
“Thank you.” Thomas stepped into the elevator and the doors closed.
The elevator went up to the tenth floor and opened to a small lobby filled with potted plants and leather furniture. An older man sat in one of the chairs reading a holographic newspaper. When he saw Thomas he turned the paper off and stood. “Thomas,” he said, walking towards him with his hand out.
Thomas met him and shook his hand. “Doctor Mayar.”
“Please, I told you to call me Peter.”
Thomas smiled. “Peter, good morning.”
Peter groaned. “Yes. Sorry we have to do this so early; those damned protestors.”
“There were a few already here.”
Peter shook his head and began walking down a tiled hallway. “They make me so angry sometimes. Nobody is making them do anything, but they feel everyone should live as they do. It ….”
Peter stopped and sighed. Looking at Thomas he said, “Sorry. No more talk of protestors. This day is all about you and your newborn.”
They continued walking down the hallway and Thomas asked, “Have you downloaded it yet?”
“No, no. It’s still in the amniotic circuit. I know it’s just a simple download, but I feel new carriers should be there for the ‘birthing process.’” Peter shrugged. “Call me sentimental.”
They eventually reached a locked door where Peter had to enter a code. When the door opened, Peter waved Thomas in and said, “Welcome to the nursery.”
It was a small room with a couple of chairs and several tables loaded down with computer equipment. Peter walked over to one of the tables which held a squat box with numerous displays on it. Patting it, Peter said, “This is the amniotic circuit.” One of the displays read “27,” and pointing at it, Peter explained, “There are twenty-seven baby AIs in here, little more than the basic codes. Formless.” For a few seconds, Peter patted the box with clear affection.
He then he turned to Thomas and his tone became formal. “Now, I know you’ve already signed a hundred forms, taken countless tests and had a secondary port implanted, but I just want to run through everything one more time so you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.”
Thomas began to say something, but stopped himself. Nodding, he said, “Of course. Go ahead.”
“In a few minutes, I’ll download one of these baby AIs into an external drive. At this stage, it is barely sentient. It has no concept of the world. We’ll hook the drive into your neural net allowing it to see and hear everything you see and hear. For the next week, you are to take walks, listen to music, read, every peaceful thing you can think of to help it come to understand the world.
“After a week, you’ll come back and we’ll make some adjustments. These will allow the AI to speak directly to you. It will ask a lot of questions, and you are to answer as many of them as you can. For a month, you are to teach it all you can about the world and humans and everything. Basically, you will be a mother and your job will be to nurture the AI into a well-rounded, thoughtful, compassionate being. As I said, I know you’ve signed countless forms and you’ve taken countless tests, but are you certain you want to go through with this.”
Thomas smiled. “Yes.”
Peter returned the smile. “Good.” Opening a small compartment in the table he reached in and took out what looked like a standard external drive. He hooked it into a port then waved Thomas over. “Just give me a minute,” he said. He typed away at a keyboard and explained, “I’m isolating one of the AIs to be downloaded.”
A few seconds later, he asked, “Ready?”
Thomas nodded. “Yes.”
Peter hit the Enter key and a status bar appeared on a small screen and the light on the port flashed. A few seconds later, the display of the count changed to “26.”
Peter removed the drive and held it up to Thomas. “There you are,” he said, “your baby AI, ready to experience the world.”
Thomas smiled. “I can’t wait.”
Without have to be told, Thomas turned around. A few seconds later, he felt Peter inserting the drive into his secondary port at the base of his skull. Two ports was starting to become standard gear for those serious about backing up their thoughts. This made it easier for carriers to go unnoticed, useful when there were still those who thought AIs were an affront to nature.
“It’s in,” Peter said.
Thomas turned around and shook Peter’s offered hand.
“Congratulations,” Peter said. “You’re now the proud parent of a baby AI.”
Thomas fought the urge to touch the external drive. “I don’t feel any different.”
“Of course not. Right now it’s barely aware it exists. But next week, when we let it talk to you, you will be bombarded with questions. You’ll definitely know there’s something else in your head then.”
Thomas smiled. “I can’t wait.”
Can’t Hack It
When Sue returned home from work, she found her fiancé sitting on the couch with a glazed look on his face. She sat down next to him and asked, “Where are you?”
After a moment, he slowly replied, “I don’t know.” Shaking his head, he looked over at her and said, “I’ve told you about Rob from work, right?”
She nodded. “Yeah.”
“We were talking today and he told me he had watched this really stupid movie over the weekend, Trees of Death.”
“You know, the classic story of a scientist blending animal DNA with that of trees so they’d be more resilient to insects and diseases, only to have the trees – now able to run across the landscape – develop a taste for human blood.”
Sue laughed. “Oh, that classic story.”
“Is there any other?” Mike asked with a smirk. “But he told me how stupid it was and he said that I probably couldn’t write something that bad.”
“I don’t know about that.”
Mike glared at Sue who only replied with an innocent smile.
Mike sighed and said, “But I’ve been thinking about it, and I believe he might be right.”
“Well, I don’t know if you know this about me or not, but if I’m watching a movie and I see something that’s stupid, I have a hard time keeping quiet about it.”
Sue groaned. She then smiled and said, “Really? I never noticed.”
Mike pinched her arm. “Perhaps I should demonstrate. Let me go grab The Phantom Menace.”
“Nooo!” Mike had made to stand up, but Sue grabbed him and pulled him back to the couch. “I love you,” she told him, “but it does have limits.”
Mike laughed. “Now imagine me trying to write something like that? I would be cursing myself so much I wouldn’t be able to finish it.”
“Well, you’ll never know until you try,” Sue said with a grin.
After a moment’s thought, Mike asked, “Do you really want to see me try to write something bad, just to see me ranting and raving at myself?”
Patting his leg, Sue said, “Maybe it’s best to just assume you can’t hack it.”
“In more ways than one.” Mike grinned and kissed her forehead.
How Did They Get Our Number?
“There he is.”
Mario waved to his three friends sitting at an outside table of the Brew Haus. “Hey guys. Sorry I’m late, I had a hell of a time finding a parking spot.”
Jason replied, “Sure, sure. We were talking about the big tackle last night. What did you think?”
“Oh, it was a thing of beauty.”
Greg shook his head. “You’re just happy that it wasn’t-”
A piercing tone filled the air, causing everyone to clap their hands over their ears, although that didn’t help.
After a few seconds it stopped. Then what sounded like a computerized woman’s voice began speaking. “Greetings sentient beings of Planet 23411341234.978. I am,” what followed sounded like a slowed down version of a cat in a blender. The voice then continued, “I am broadcasting this message to the minds of all sentients on the planet. I represent this sector of the galaxy in the Galactic Congress. We have just become aware of your existence and welcome you to the community of planets. I’m sure you have many questions, and as your representative, I will work to answer them and help you in any way I can. We will be in touch with further information.”
For several seconds there was only silence. Mario looked at his friends. “Did you all-”
Before he could finish, there was another piercing tone. Then a different computerized female voice said, “Greetings sentient beings of Planet 23411341234.978. I am,” this time the following sound was an ear splitting screech. The voice went on with, “I am running to replace [cat in blender sound] as your representative. [Cat in blender sound] has repeatedly failed this sector of the galaxy by advocating war with the Andromeda Galaxy and fighting against the rights of,” then came what sounded like a drawn out fart. “The election,” the voice continued, “is only 8.7 of your years away, but I hope I can count on your support. I will be sending you additional information shortly.”
“This has to be some kind of joke,” Jason said.
“But who would-” Mario began, but he was cut off by another piercing tone.
A computerized male voice began, “Greetings sentient beings of Planet 23411341234.978. I am ….”
Swiveling around in his chair, Mike announced, “I need an idiot.”
His fiancée Sue lowered the book she was reading and replied, “You’ll want to choose your next words very carefully.”
Laughing, Mike stood and walked to the couch. He sat down next to her and explained, “I’m working on my, as yet, untitled story, and one of the characters is a bit of an idiot. But I’m having a hell of a time trying to write his dialogue. I either make him sound completely brain dead, or there’s a subtle joke in it; something he would never think of, it’s just my genius showing through.”
Sue coughed. Smiling, she said, “Sorry. You were saying.”
Mike nudged her with his elbow. “They say you’re supposed to listen to people’s conversations to hear how people really talk, but I’ve usually avoided idiots.”
Sue shrugged. “Listen to talk radio.”
Rubbing his chin, Mike said, “I think that’s more the brain dead area.”
“Well, I’m sure you could find tons of videos of idiots on YouTube.”
“Hmmm.” Mike thought for a moment.
Sue waited a bit, then added, “Of course, most of them are probably politicians.”
“What we need,” Mike finally said, “is an idiot app.”
“Hear me out,” Mike said. “What you’d have, is instead of a database filled with facts and correct information, you’d just have a smaller database filled with stupid stuff. You could type in the situation, like, they’re going to meet the Queen of England, what would an idiot say in this situation? And it pops back with ….”
Sue jammed her elbow into his ribs. “I will not,” she explained, “make a suggestion so you can joke that I’m your idiot app.”
Rubbing his side, Mike said, “Damn. I was hoping to trick you into that one.”
With a terrible Yogi Bear impersonation, Sue stated, “I’m smarter than your average idiot.”
“Are you saying you’re a higher class of idiot?”
Sue glared at him for a moment, then asked, “Who’s the bigger idiot, the person who will be sleeping in a nice comfy bed tonight, or the person sleeping on the couch?”
Mike rubbed her back and with a smile said, “You don’t need to sleep on the couch on my account.”
Sue’s glared hardened for a second, and then she grinned. Opening her book back up she said, “And here I thought you were having problems with an idiot’s dialogue.”
Connecting with the People
When the commercial break began, Carol left the living room and went into the bathroom. She took the towels out of the dryer and carried them back into the living room. As she began folding them, she half watched the commercials waiting for her show to return.
After the hyped up ad for kids’ cereal, there was a slick commercial for the latest smart phone followed by a cheesy one for a local car dealer. But the next commercial began with a man sitting in a chair before a light blue backdrop. He smiled and said, “Hello, I’m Mitch McCullers, and I’m running for the 7th District State Senate.”
Carol groaned. “Give me car dealership commercials any day,” she grumbled.
On the screen McCullers continued, “Recently, you may have seen the commercial by my opponent Representative Garnett where he asks if I can’t keep my house clean, what will I do to yours. This is apparently a reference to my sister Veronica’s fourteen year battle with drug addiction. Anyone with even the slightest trace of humanity knows that addiction is a terrible burden and not something that can be shrugged off overnight. If that were the case, then politicians could shrug off their addiction to lying and we’d all be the better for it. Now I’m sure if I dug around I could find a second cousin or something of Representative Garnett who’s been pulled over for DUI, but I won’t. Because every family has problems. Most are best solved privately with, for example, doctors and therapists. I don’t know of any family problems helped by them being dragged through the public square. Of course, these aren’t problems politicians should be working on. Representative Garnett may want to waste your time, but I don’t.
“To learn more about my positions on matters you care about, check out VoteMcCullersfor7th.com, and thank you.”
Her towels folded, Carol debated if she could put them away before her show came back on. She had just picked the basket up and turned to go when she heard the host of her show welcoming everyone back. Carol set the basket down and retuned to the couch. The towels could wait until the next commercial break.