Ebook under way

Regular followers of this blog will know that I intend to spend the rest of this year editing my old short stories for inclusion in a compiled ebook that I’m hoping to have ready to go on sale at Amazon by the end of the year. It will contain mostly re-edited older material but I expect it will also have some newer stuff too.

A couple of nights ago, I started editing Herrenvolk. Having read through it twice, I’m actually very happy with the content of the story and made only superficial changes to the plot. Continue reading

Character Feature: Gene Hunt

Welcome to the first edition of a new feature for this blog where I focus on my favourite characters and discuss why I feel they are incredible creations.

Warning: There may be spoilers in the following article

Gene: “They reckon you’ve got concussion but I couldn’t give a tart’s furry cup if half your brains are falling out… don’t ever waltz into my kingdom acting king of the jungle.”

Sam: “Who the hell are you?”

Gene: “Gene Hunt – your DCI and it’s 1973. Almost dinner time. I’m having hoops!”

Sam Tyler and Alex Drake may have been the stars of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes respectively but it was their DCI Gene Hunt that stole both shows. In a television world saturated with crime dramas and the modern police methods of forensic science, interview techniques and psychological profiling, he is a throwback to another time. Continue reading

Book Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Two hundred years from now we’ve run out of fossil fuels (mostly – some countries are still scrapping over the last few remaining lumps of coal), global warming has raised the world’s ocean levels and Thailand is a world superpower that has a complex system of pumps stopping the land from flooding. Foodstuffs are plagued with genetic diseases, pests and bio-engineered rot the result of destructive genetic modifications. The world is powered by giant springs used to store energy which are turned by GMed mammoth-type livestock called Megadonts. Multinational businesses called “Calorie Companies” who use genetic engineering and bioterrorism to maintain their power now rule the world. Governments are mere puppets for their global plans to maintain the status quo of huge profits and a tightly controlled market. This is a world in which the free market fundamentalists have won and humanity seems to lurch from crisis to crisis.
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“Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”

Following on from yesterday’s reblog of a brief discussion I posted last year on negative potrayals of A.I. in fiction, I thought I would go into greater depth of the most consciously anti-A.I. society ever committed to the written word. Religious dictats are as prevalent in this world as strictures against Muslims and Jews eating bacon are today, arguably even more enforced. That is the world of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

The original story tantalises us with quotes like the one above portraying a fanatical negativity toward computing. Any new technology is evaluated for whether it is a “thinking machine”. If it has no artificial intelligence, it is permitted yet if it is demonstrated to be able to “think” like a real person, it has broken the strict rules and will be destroyed. Continue reading

“Yes, now there is a God” – Post a Day #185


I am re-blogging this post from last year in honour of the anniversary of Alan Turing’s birth.

Originally posted on Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink:

Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind. – First Commandment in the Orange Catholic Bible (Dune)

Fascinating post a day that I’m going to use to discuss the fear of computers, more specifically artificial intelligence and the inherent dangers as expressed in science fiction.

The line in the title comes from a short story entitled Answer written by Frederic Brown in 1954. The protagonist switches on a computer and declares that he will ask his machine the only question that no machine had thus far been able to answer. The question is, of course, “is there a God?” and the machine replies with the line above. This is neither the most memorable nor the first instance of the danger of “thinking machines” in science fiction but it is the most chilling.

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Farewell Liz Shaw – Caroline John aged 71

Former Doctor Who actress Caroline John has died at the age of 71. Her funeral took place yesterday.

Liz Shaw in Inferno
image: tardis.wikia.com

Unlike many of those she followed, and several who followed her, Caroline John’s character Liz Shaw was a brilliant scientist working with UNIT. Many will remember her as the first Doctor Who companion of the feminist age, as a brilliant scientist who didn’t just stand around screaming “DOCTOOOOOR!!!!” and flashing some cleavage. She was calm and collected, willing to learn from the Doctor and could have a cutting tongue when necessary (in a frustrated exchange she refers to her role as “somebody who passes The Doctor test tubes and tells him how great he is”). Recruited by Lethbridge-Stewart shortly after the Doctor’s second regeneration and while he was still missing in Spearhead from Space, she was tasked with investigating threats from space against humanity, but largely felt redundant when comparing The Doctor’s vast knowledge of the universe. Continue reading

Writing the seasons: Summer

Picnics – what summers are for!


Summer is the pinnacle of the life of the seasons. I love the warmth that (should) be everywhere. In southern England the sun rises something like 4am and by 5am it is usually already warm. If you are ever awake at this time, I can recommend going for a walk and listening to the silence. Similarly at night, gone 10pm it is usually still quite light and the warmth is everywhere. It is a happy season, birds sing all day and night. Sit in the garden in the evenings and you can hear the fluttering of bats as they feast on the veritable banquest of midges and other insects. In England, we have become used to having mixed weather. Typically, summer rain is warm and disperses a very pleasant smell.

Have you noticed the atmosphere of summer? Everything glows. Everything is full of life. Optimism is everywhere. So how do we write what summer feels like? Continue reading

Arc 1.2 Review

The theme of this, the second volume of the Arcfinity ezine, is about the future of humanity, subtitled Post human conditions. Intriguing concept to deal with how humans will change in relation to technological advances of the future. I mentioned in my “first impressions” post that I had not heard of most of the contributors so this was a whole new ball game for me.

This volume is just as slick and professionally made. The only difference from volume 1.1 is that it has more images. It also has far more links which, if like me you have the basic Kindle, you will not be able to follow. This is unfortunate and will give a better experience if you have a tablet such as an ipad. For a magazine dedicated to Futurism, it is a shame that these things were not taken into account.

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Book Review: The Incredible Human Journey by Dr Alice Roberts

You can’t help but like Dr Alice Roberts. Though best known as a co-presenter on the BBC series Coast, she has been involved in a number of other TV projects of which this was the most noteworthy. We appreciate her for the passion for her subject, her infectious smile and childlike excitement as well as a reluctant sex symbol for men who like nerdy, intelligent women with an inner child for anthropology. It must be noted that she is no mere eye candy or real life Dana Scully, but an accomplished academic, a qualified Medical Doctor and much respected contributor to engaging the public in science.

The book is written atypically for a popular science book, like a travelogue. Roberts wants us to take an interest in the people, the places and the journey she takes before she imparts her knowledge of genetics and human migration. Because of this the prose is colourful and engaging. The only other book I can think of written in this style is Jared Diamond’s Collapse: Why Complex Societies Choose to Fail or Survive. It worked well for that book too.

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