One of the things I always admired about Alice Sheldon (she usually wrote as James Tiptree Jr) was her genius for writing short stories. It always saddened me that she seemed unable to apply that same talent to writing novels. Her longer form stories never quite had the same sparkle that shone in her short stories. I used to wonder how that could be. I can't help feeling that my novels are something of a disappointment, but I'm very pleased with some of my short stories like this one, Dragon. Perhaps I'm just not meant to write longer form stories.
One of my favorite writers, Janet Evanovich, wrote eleven novels before she finally sold one so I promised myself that I'd try to write that many before making final judgement.
In the meantime I'll still write short stories. I have plenty of ideas. Hopefully I'll never run short on them.
Doubtless I'll make further revisions in the near future, and probably stumble across some terrible bloopers. If you find them for me I'll gratefully immortalise your name in the text.
Read and/or download it for free here:
You have four choices:
- read it online as a single page
- read it online as a page per chapter
- download it as a single zipped page
- download it as an epub ebook for your phone or ebook reader.
The story is, surprise, surprise, about different kinds of companionship (family members, friends, lovers, human-human, human-AI, human-dog, AI-dog) in a near future where AIs are fairly common. I examined a bunch of ideas that interest me. I hope they don't bore everyone else.
AIs are, of course, Artificial Intelligences. They are the minds inside robots and androids, and in some cases don't have bodies.
There are probably lots of problems with it. If you let me know of any that you find I'll be very grateful. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think, even if you can't make your way through it all 83 pages.
Other formats of the same video (most are larger filesize) can be selected at:
The documentary uses two scales to test whether a society tends toward openness or despotism: Respect, and Power. Whether these properties are held by ordinary people or are denied them, then this is a guide to the state of the society.
There are two more tests that give an idea of whether a society is moving towards or away from despotism: Economic Distribution, and Information. If these are evenly spread and accessible to all in society then its future looks bright, but if these things are weighted heavily toward a few then it is moving dangerously toward despotism.
Here is a button:
This has bothered me for some time and I have seen no easy way around it. I've often gloomily wondered if time was up for western civilisation and we need to fall to make way for more vibrant societies. But I don't like that idea because it would hurt many people. There should be some ways to set rules for society that change the way things work. If they are carefully aimed then they could go a long way toward fixing many of society's greatest ills.
Here is an attempt. Please tell me what you think.
Violating any of these rules would mark an individual as unfit to hold public office and unable to properly serve society, requiring them to be dismissed from office.
Certain people and groups who benefit from positions of power and influence in private industry may have some of these rules applied to them too if they misuse that power and influence to the detriment of larger society.
All companies and corporations should be bound by the first 6 rules as they are not human and must not be allowed to damage society.
- They must not promote hatred against any group, nor use their position to disadvantage any group. 1(see notes below)
- They must not mislead the public through lies of commission or omission.
- Discussions and debate must be conducted rationally, and answers to legitimate questions must be promptly and clearly given. Failure to answer a legitimate question clearly must be considered a lie of omission. Calling people names, shouting at people, evasion, clouding the issue, obfuscating, and using tricks of emotional persuasion in lieu of logic can not be tolerated in people entrusted with great power. They are techniques for people who are not comfortable with the truth, so unsuitable for those in public office.
- Secrets can not be tolerated. Secrecy always invites corruption. Transparency is the only way to prove dealings are honest. Dishonesty and corruption must be made incompatible with positions of power. 2(see notes below)
- They must not misappropriate or steal money from the public purse for themselves, their family, or friends. This also applies to goods such as materials, services, or contracts.
- They must not accept bribes of money, or favours, or promises of them, in return for actions.
---- the items below apply only to people in public office ----
- They may not receive gifts, donations, or promise of employment from companies or organisations. All donations must be from individuals only. All donations, no matter how small, must be registered in a public list (amount and donor) easily available electronically for easy monitoring to avoid the risk of bribery. It should be clear that anyone objecting to this has bribes to hide.
- During and for a period of 10 years after their term of public office they must not accept any position for money or favours with any private company or non-government organisation. Accepting such returns should be penalised by imprisonment (fining such abusers is no deterrent). 3(see notes below)
- They must demonstrate more than a current high-school level of understanding of broad fields of science and history. Modern society depends deeply upon science. Any position of power requires a broad understanding of the sciences. History is important because those who don't understand it are doomed to repeat its mistakes. A high level of knowledge is needed because in today's world ignorance can do far too much damage when coupled with great power. We require a certain level of competence when someone gets behind the wheel of a car or airplane; so it should be for steering a nation.
- They may not use, for themselves or their family, private transport, private education, or private health care where public alternatives exist. To hold public office requires that they have that intimate understanding of public systems that only comes with their regular use. Any public official who is insulated from public services can not possibly understand them or that large part of society that depends upon them.
- Due to its dangerously divisive nature, religion must not be any part of public office. If religious views are held, they have no place in public and must be kept absolutely private. History shows religion can too easily be used to deceive and to rationalise actions that disadvantage members of other religions and those who have no need for religion. A person in public office must be capable of fairly representing all of society, and one who loudly proclaims their religion is clearly unable to do that.
1 [Rule 1] It is sadly predictable that it will be argued that using tax and the law to remove some excessive wealth and power from some individuals and groups "disadvantages" them. This twists the intent of rule 1. History shows that it is necessary to properly tax the wealthy and remove excessive power from those who misuse it in order to prevent disadvantage to large parts of society. Those taxes actually benefit the wealthy. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr put it, "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."
2 [Rule 4] This refers to secrets held by those in power. Individuals are entitled to personal secrets, but groups and companies are not -- they are not people. Secrets are widely assumed to be necessary in some circumstances. I have never heard a logical argument for why this could be so. Some activities might only be possible through the use of secrecy, but those activities are almost never in the best interests of society. Those few that might actually help society (I've never heard of any) can be safely relinquished because of the great risk of corruption they always bring with them. Open Source programming has shown clearly that removing secrecy actually increases safety and security. The cult of secrecy is based upon an outdated and dangerous misconception.
3 [Rule 8] This is to prevent the common practice of a public figure making decisions to benefit a group during office and then being rewarded after public life by receiving a lucrative job with them. This is simple bribery and corrupts every level of public office. It must be stopped. It is unfortunate that there will be cases where an ex-official wants to work honestly for a company where they can deliver genuine insight and expertise, but this must be renounced in order to prevent a massive form of corruption continuing unabated. Ex-officials are already well rewarded financially and there are plenty of pro-bono activities that would benefit society.
What a wonderful service Murdoch and his cronies are doing for Australia and the world. Even children who watch Spiderman know "with great power comes great responsibility". The only thing I wonder is when (not if) he and his lackeys will be sued into bankruptcy and hopefully imprisoned for their nasty efforts. It's taking longer than I expected, but I figure it's bound to happen sooner or later. I will be cheering when it does, someone so intent on wrecking the world for short-term profit needs to lose every vestige of that power so misused.
To get the 44% discount you must use the coupon code: SS140201 when ordering.
The sale ends Tuesday 7th January 11:59pm Eastern Time USA (I'm pretty bad at working out time zones, but I think that's mid-afternoon Wednesday for us in Eastern Oz). Hmmm... that's more than 3 days... odd. Oh. Working days. They're not counting the weekend.
I just spent about an hour browsing the microscope, solar panel, robotics, and various other sections. There are a few things there I'd love to buy if I had more spare money. [sigh]
It is like a house. The exterior wall is smooth, with the battens on the inside. The interior of the house has this reversed, with the smooth walls inside and the battens hidden behind them inside the walls.
I think it's good sense to keep the uncomfortable seams away from your body. Why do people put up with seams pressing against them? Maybe they don't find them as uncomfortable as I do.
I hope those others of you who attempted NaNo this year achieved more than I did. NaNo is really valuable and I'm very grateful for the push it helps me give myself.
Right now I'm off to bed.
Nighty night all.
Get it from Adafruit when it becomes available soon.
They'll even email you when it's in if you want.
Adafruit has the most wonderfully geeky stuff -- nerd paradise. [sigh]
Not quite sure how to do the next chapter. If it gets too difficult to write I guess it can be dropped and just get on with the one after. It isn't necessary, but it would round out a part of the story that feels like it needs it. Well, we'll see won't we. Wish me luck.
Let me know what you think of this chapter please.
Cory Doctorow will be in Melbourne next week to do a series of events with the Center for Youth Literature of the State Library of Victoria. He's doing four events:
- The science of fiction - Friday 22 November 2013, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
- Creative versus Commons - Saturday 23 November 2013, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
- Digital fiction masterclass - Sunday 24 November 2013, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
- Future fiction with teens - Monday 25 November 2013, 10:00am - 12:00pm
(Booking is essential.)
After months of work processing the images they are now available for download at http://ciclops.org where it is currently the main-page story.
More description and links to the image pages:
The annotated image is especially interesting.
(Unfortunately you can't simply download the images. You need to go to each image's page and save the picture from there, although one advantage of this is that it gives you a chance to give some small feedback by rating the image.)
Our lonely blue dot
The Cassini team also took some special high-resolution images of just Earth. Just try feeling that any "-isms" or that any puffed-up celebrities or politicians are important while looking at this image.
This one is much shorter than the others. I didn't even make my writing target of 2,000 words written for the day because I spent a lot of the day doing research. The main character of this chapter is someone who loves playing computer games, but after talking to my nephew, Dan, who knows an incredible amount about this stuff, I came to realise just how totally out of my depth I was. I don't play any games at all and I found it really difficult to put myself in the headspace of someone who does. So I concentrated on what I do know -- the building of 3D virtual worlds for those who do use them for gaming. I just hope the result isn't flat-out boring for you.
Please let me know what you think.
Once again this chapter is quite a bit shorter than I'd expected. I'll definitely be finishing NaNoWriMo by writing a bunch of short stories after Companions is finished.
I really do need to push myself to write regularly. Thank goodness for NaNoWriMo. It's a nice trick for getting me used to sitting down and disciplining myself -- something I've never been good at.
So... on with the 3rd chapter. This one will be hard. I added it in fairly late, after all the others were sketched out, and I have only the vaguest notion of how to write it because I don't play games in the usual sense. [gulp] For me learning is the most fun I can have. What other people call games I just find stressful and pointless. Well, I'll just have to spend some time in another person's mindset for a chapter. :)
It is quite a lot shorter than I'd expected, which is a bit of a worry. At this rate the whole novel will come in at way less than my projected length. But that's okay really... I can finish NaNoWriMo writing some of the gazillion other short story ideas I have.
You can always find my story page at:
Let me know what you think. I have absolutely no idea what the result is like. It feels okay to me, but I'm too close to it to really know.