Posts tagged sci-fi
Intelligence Everywhere

I was part of a talk about 'Sympathetic Machines' and the Internet of Things, together with my wife Sue, and John Aggs, at the User-Centred Design Conference 2015. The general theme of the talk was about three models of artificial intelligence that might link all our physical and digital things together in the near future. 

The concept behind the story was one of being able to forgive machines, and to let them into our personal space - mentally and physically. This model of AI would talk to you and react like a person, learning about you over time, but wouldn't try to appear more advanced than it actually is - perhaps presenting itself in a childlike manner, and thus being easily forgivable.

I'll blog more about it in my next post, but to set the stage, and the tone, here's the story that I wrote and read out at the conference.

Son of a Bit

Mike wound down the window, gagging slightly as the chill breeze brought in the smell of car fumes. The traffic was relentless, and in the back seat he could see Oliver’s judgmental eyes peering out from under the hood of his dinosaur onesie.

“Dad, we’re gonna be late.”

“Well, I can’t magic the traffic away.” Mike sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair. “Look, I don’t know what’s gone on here. Some sort of accident maybe. Bit?”

The eyes on the little bobble-head air freshener that sat on the dashboard lit up, and it looked up at Mike. “No, I don’t think so, sir,” it said. “Traffic is always like this here at this time.”

Mike stared at the little robot. “What?”

“I said, traffic is-“

“I heard what you said. Why the hell would you bring us this way, then?”

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056 - Danger Ahead

I listen to podcast 'Stuff You Should Know' and it's awesome. They've got hundreds of episodes up there, spanning years of material, and it's always something interesting. They've blogged about The Singularity before (and honestly, if you don't know what the Singularity is, check out that podcast!) On a recent show someone sent in an email suggesting that maybe the Singularity (the moment when AI becomes sentient and self-aware) had already happened. Well, that sounds like a perfectly creepy story idea, and I've shamelessly borrowed it and written it up as a 100 themes.

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Deep in Thought - Part 1

Writing ‘Deep In Thought’ went the usual way my mind works, which was ‘Here is a theme. How can I twist the meaning of the sentence to make it about something oblique?’ It’s by far not the first time I’ve done it. Playing with words is a favourite pastime of mine, and I’m always looking for anagrams, codes, Spoonerisms, hidden meanings and words-written-backwards (pretty much any time I see a name, like Mr Radnor, I’ll read it backwards in case it’s important. 99% of the time it’s not.)

Deep In Thought is one of those. It’s about someone deep in thoughts... someone else’s thoughts.

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We went to Denmark over New Year and it was amazing! We were guests of two of Sue's work friends, Mads and Mette, and while it was incredibly inspirational in all sorts of ways, I didn't get any writing done.

Travelling back gave me plenty of thinking time, though, and Sue had been asking why I didn't write any sci-fi. We've been reading The Player of Games by Iain M Banks, one of my favourite books, and the world he wrote was so vivid and full; something that I aspire to.

Anyway, I wrote this, set about twenty years into the future, thinking about one logical conclusion for the Google Glass tech available today. I'm really interested that Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror has basically got this concept in it, but I saw that after I wrote this. Nice to know I'm thinking along similar lines!

Unedited, about 1 hour, while an episode of Star Trek Deep Space 9 played (not the greatest writing environment but I'll take what I can!)

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Story 9: Cog519 Part 3


Merry Christmas! Here's part 3 of steampunk horror story 'Cog519', which is now available as a podcast!


The weeks that followed seemed to go in a blur. 519 learned everything that Nef put before him, quickly turning his hand to just about any skill that was needed and producing works that a contemporary master might have wept to see.


Without fail, every morning, 519 asked Nef if he had a name for him. Nef always replied with “Not today, 519; ask me tomorrow,” though more and more of late he had been wondering what impulse prevented him from giving 519 the name he desired.

Was it that Nef had long since given up self-correcting ‘him’ to ‘it’? Even Lot, on his twice-weekly tours of the research facilities, had occasionally slipped up. Choice of pronoun made 519 seem somehow human in a way that was still alien, and the two jarred. As if calling it ‘him’ was enough, and to give it a name would be too much, too close, too human.

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100 Themes 035 - Hold My Hand

A love story, this time, and taking the theme completely literally this time. I really enjoyed writing this one and it's something I'm sure I'll return to. I know a lot of things have been set on Mars but I tried for a slightly different idea here.

Edit: My wife (who has an excellent blog over here) has suggested I make a sequel to this, continue the story. It's swilled around in my head for a couple of weeks and I think I have a solution. It's going to be a bit of an homage but I think I can pull it off.

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100 Themes 028 - Sorrow

Another piece for the failed NaNo entry. Meela, as a character, stayed in, as did Richard from the previous Theme.


Meela stared out the window. The rain spattered against the pane, droplets combining to form rivulets that dribbled down over the windowsill and fell the twenty storeys to the ground. Her forehead rested against the cold glass, breath misting up a small circle.

“Why do you have to go?” she had cried.

“If we want a healthy child, I have to go.” He had been so careful to keep his expression warm, loving, despite her outburst. Damn him, he had always been so good at that.

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100 Themes 027 - Foreign

This was originally designed to be a taster piece for my NaNoWriMo 2011 work. Ultimately, I didn't like that and never completed it. It will definitely come here as a short piece, though; it deserves to be finished.

The setting is somewhat more sci-fi than most of my stuff, too; perhaps I tried too much change all at once. Anyway, here it is! This and the next few of the 100 Themes were for NaNo, but obviously with different focuses.

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The Grass is Always Greener

I've moved to this blog for my writing, as the previous one was focussed entirely on one project, whereas I've produced a lot more than that over the last year and a bit. So this blog will be dedicated to all my writing, and also for typing up things I've learned through writing.

To get things going, here's a short story that I'm trying to get published. It starts in a decidedly rural setting, but soon descends into a mix of sci-fi, mild horror and a keen thread of black comedy.

The Grass is Always Greener

It all began when Gerald Merryhew discovered that intelligent cows tasted better...

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