I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now. I’ve started a new sci-fi story I’ve entitled The Sthencist. It will take place in the future and for about 2/3rds of the way through it will seem like an interesting (but not a spectacular) Mundane Science Fiction story.
I play the Ogre in the sun
Battles in the unreal Wastes
Tracks upon the injured Earth
Men lost at bootless, useless tasks
Desperate in their race
To halt the Great Machine
Before it plows their graves
Shells fired true at noon
Scream and then erupt
Melting steel and flesh
Can any still be saved?
A flash and searing light
Mushroom clouds rise
High in Death –
Men are vaporized, but
Shielded from the shock
The Ogre shakes it off
The Ogre lumbers on,
All else is crushed like dust
Reduced to crumbled rock
In what can men now trust?
In what do they take stock?
Replacements rush the line
Their missiles roar in flight
The battle rages gold and red
Until the fall of night,
The ruins smolder long
The slag it runs like blood
The dark is still and cold
Men buried in the mud
No movement shows on scopes
No sound is heard to churn
The ground no longer shakes
No giant Beast comes forth
There is no steam or quake,
The moon spies no Mighty Monster
Neath the clouds of man-made smoke
As it runs the sky in haste –
It seems as if there’s Victory
That doom has been revoked
Yet come the dawn
Come the morning’s rise
Men in dread do hear
The distant turning wheel and clank
Of scored and tempered metal
Once more in motion on the Earth,
They feel the tremors, re-sight the Beast
As it lumbers on uncaring
Atomic piles of superheated waste
A mind of carbon frozen cold
An alloyed soul of silicates
That knows no mercy, rest, or wear
That shed no tears for corpses piled
Higher than its mighty head
With its massive maw of cannon red
And unblinking Cyclopean Eye
That watches all and sees all things
Far and wide
Except, of course, for what it does…
An Ogre plays beneath the burning sun
Battles rage in fresh ruined wastes
Tracks marred hard upon the dying Earth
Men lost in their hellish tasks
Desperate in their race
To kill the Great Machine
Before it plows their countless graves
Yet come the dusk before the dawn
Come the night before the fight
The monster knows not, cares not
Asks not, hears not the wounded
Cries and screams of men
For the Ogre has no doubt
It dreams no dream
Except the dream of what it does –
War unchecked, and winning that
The End of All,
Himself as well
To die alone
Beneath a burning sun Unneeded anymore…
Ogre is actually based on the old Keith Laumer series Bolo. Some of my favorite sci-fi tales to read when I was a kid. I recommend both the game and the books.
Today I played a particularly superb scenario that I had also written for myself. It was a “Total War Scenario.”
By the end of the scenario the human forces had been completely annihilated and the Ogre could not move having also been almost entirely destroyed.
I’ve decided to call it my War Unchecked Scenario. Or the End-All scenario.
Rarely have I fought or devised a wargames scenario that resulted in such almost perfect annihilation of both sides.
After ruminating on what it implied for a little while I wrote the poem above, The End of All.
I was surprised at how well the poem came out, especially since it was based upon nothing more than a wargames scenario. And it has been very well received and critiqued by my family, friends, and the followers of my poetry and writings. Then again I always try and envision any wargame (or role play game, or real life training scenario) as realistically in my head as possibly in order to execute it properly and to see what real life lessons might be learned.
So this poem will go into my file for Espionage and Military and Survival Poetry. Later I will seek to have it published. You are welcome to make your own comments on it as well.
A lot of my buddies have military and law enforcement backgrounds.
Because of that one of my friends brought this article to my attention and a few of us discussed it since it is of more than passing interest to many of us.
It gave me an idea for a new science fiction short story about the same subject matter which I’m going to call Jihadology. (For the Jihad of Technology.)
I going to completely avoid the whole Terminator and tech gone rogue approach though of modern sci-fi and rather take a particular variation on the Keith Laumer BOLO theme, though there will be nothing about BOLOs or other such machines in the story. Those stories though were as under-rated and prophetic as was Laumer himself.
Anyway I want to avoid the whole world ending, unrealistic bullcrap kind of story (both from the scientific and military standpoints) and focus more on a very tight interpretation of what might actually happen if technologies such as those listed or projected in the article below were employed against an alien species in the future.
What would be both the operational and eventual ramifications, good and bad, of such technologies,and how could such technologies get out of hand or evolve beyond specified tasks and design parameters to become something completely new in function and focus?
I’ve already got the first few paragraphs to a page written which is based loosely upon this observation I made about what the article implied:
“I’m not saying there are any easy answers, there aren’t when it comes to technology, but technology can at least potentially do two related and diametrically opposed things at once: make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger for himself, and secondly make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger of understanding the danger others are in.
And if you can just remove the operator altogether, and just set the tech free to do as it is programmed, well then, there ya go…”
If the stories work well then I’ll add them to my overall science fiction universe of The Curae and The Frontiersmen.
By the way, as a sort of pop-culture primer on the very early stages of these developments (though they are at least a decade old now as far as wide-scale operations go) I recommend the film, Good Kill.
Anyway here is the very interesting and good article that spurred all of this. Any ideas of your own about these subjects? Feel free to comment. If your ideas and observations are good and interesting I might even adapt them in some way and incorporate them into the short story series.
Czech writer Karel Čapek’s1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which famously introduced the word robot to the world, begins with synthetic humans—the robots from the title—toiling in factories to produce low-cost goods. It ends with those same robots killing off the human race. Thus was born an enduring plot line in science fiction: robots spiraling out of control and turning into unstoppable killing machines. Twentieth-century literature and film would go on to bring us many more examples of robots wreaking havoc on the world, with Hollywood notably turning the theme into blockbuster franchises like The Matrix, Transformers, and The Terminator.
Lately, fears of fiction turning to fact have been stoked by a confluence of developments, including important advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, along with the widespread use of combat drones and ground robotsin Iraq and Afghanistan. The world’s most powerful militaries are now developing ever more intelligent weapons, with varying degrees of autonomy and lethality. The vast majority will, in the near term, be remotely controlled by human operators, who will be “in the loop” to pull the trigger. But it’s likely, and some say inevitable, that future AI-powered weapons will eventually be able to operate with complete autonomy, leading to a watershed moment in the history of warfare: For the first time, a collection of microchips and software will decide whether a human being lives or dies.
Not surprisingly, the threat of “killer robots,” as they’ve been dubbed, has triggered an impassioned debate. The poles of the debate are represented by those who fear that robotic weapons could start a world war and destroy civilization and others who argue that these weapons are essentially a new class of precision-guided munitions that will reduce, not increase, casualties. In December, more than a hundred countries are expected to discuss the issue as part of a United Nations disarmament meeting in Geneva.
Last year, the debate made news after a group of leading researchers in artificial intelligence called for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” In an open letter presented at a major AI conference, the group argued that these weapons would lead to a “global AI arms race” and be used for “assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”
The three added that “autonomous weapons are potentially weapons of mass destruction. While some nations might not choose to use them for such purposes, other nations and certainly terrorists might find them irresistible.”
It’s hard to argue that a new arms race culminating in the creation of intelligent, autonomous, and highly mobile killing machines would well serve humanity’s best interests. And yet, regardless of the argument, the AI arms race is already under way.
Autonomous weapons have existed for decades, though the relatively few that are out there have been used almost exclusively for defensive purposes. One example is the Phalanx, a computer-controlled, radar-guided gun system installed on many U.S. Navy ships that can automatically detect, track, evaluate, and fire at incoming missiles and aircraft that it judges to be a threat. When it’s in fully autonomous mode, no human intervention is necessary.
More recently, military suppliers have developed what may be considered the first offensive autonomous weapons.Israel Aerospace Industries’ Harpy andHarop drones are designed to home in on the radio emissions of enemy air-defense systems and destroy them by crashing into them. The companysays the drones “have been sold extensively worldwide.”
In South Korea, DoDAAM Systems, a defense contractor, has developed a sentry robot called theSuper aEgis II. Equipped with a machine gun, it uses computer vision to autonomously detect and fire at human targets out to a range of 3 kilometers. South Korea’s military has reportedly conducted tests with these armed robots in the demilitarized zone along its border with North Korea. DoDAAM says it has sold more than 30 units to other governments, including several in the Middle East.
Today, such highly autonomous systems are vastly outnumbered by robotic weapons such as drones, which are under the control of human operators almost all of the time, especially when firing at targets. But some analysts believe that as warfare evolves in coming years, weapons will have higher and higher degrees of autonomy.
“War will be very different, and automation will play a role where speed is key,” says Peter W. Singer, a robotic warfare expert at New America, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C. He predicts that in future combat scenarios—like a dogfight between drones or an encounter between a robotic boat and an enemy submarine—weapons that offer a split-second advantage will make all the difference. “It might be a high-intensity straight-on conflict when there’s no time for humans to be in the loop, because it’s going to play out in a matter of seconds.”
The U.S. military has detailed some of its plans for this new kind of war in aroad map [pdf] for unmanned systems, but its intentions on weaponizing such systems are vague. During a Washington Post forum this past March, U.S. deputy secretary of defense Robert Work, whose job is in part making sure that the Pentagon is keeping up with the latest technologies, stressed the need to invest in AI and robotics. The increasing presence of autonomous systems on the battlefield “is inexorable,” he declared.
Asked about autonomous weapons, Work insisted that the U.S. military “will not delegate lethal authority to a machine to make a decision.” But when pressed on the issue, he added that if confronted by a “competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are…we’ll have to make decisions on how we can best compete. It’s not something that we’ve fully figured out, but we spend a lot of time thinking about it.”
Russia and China are following a similar strategyof developing unmanned combat systems for land, sea, and air that are weaponized but, at least for now, rely on human operators. Russia’sPlatform-M is a small remote-controlled robot equipped with a Kalashnikov rifle and grenade launchers, a type of system similar to the United States’ Talon SWORDS, a ground robot that can carry an M16 and other weapons (it was tested by the U.S. Army in Iraq). Russia has also built a larger unmanned vehicle, the Uran-9, armed with a 30-millimeter cannon and antitank guided missiles. And last year, the Russians demonstrated a humanoid military robot to a seemingly nonplussed Vladimir Putin. (In video released after the demonstration, the robot is shown riding an ATV at a speed only slightly faster than a child on a tricycle.)
China’s growing robotic arsenal includes numerous attack and reconnaissance drones. The CH-4 is a long-endurance unmanned aircraft that resembles the Predator used by the U.S. military. The Divine Eagle is a high-altitude drone designed to hunt stealth bombers. China has also publicly displayed a few machine-gun-equipped robots, similar to Platform-M and Talon SWORDS, at military trade shows.
The three countries’ approaches to robotic weapons, introducing increasing automation while emphasizing a continuing role for humans, suggest a major challenge to the banning of fully autonomous weapons: A ban on fully autonomous weapons would not necessarily apply to weapons that are nearly autonomous. So militaries could conceivably develop robotic weapons that have a human in the loop, with the option of enabling full autonomy at a moment’s notice in software. “It’s going to be hard to put an arms-control agreement in place for robotics,” concludes Wendell Wallach, an expert on ethics and technology at Yale University. “The difference between an autonomous weapons system and nonautonomous may be just a difference of a line of code,” he said at a recent conference.
In motion pictures, robots often gain extraordinary levels of autonomy, even sentience, seemingly out of nowhere, and humans are caught by surprise. Here in the real world, though, and despite the recent excitement about advances in machine learning, progress in robot autonomy has been gradual. Autonomous weapons would be expected to evolve in a similar way.
“A lot of times when people hear ‘autonomous weapons,’ they envision the Terminator and they are, like, ‘What have we done?,’ ” says Paul Scharre, who directs a future-of-warfare program at the Center for a New American Security, a policy research group in Washington, D.C. “But that seems like probably the last way that militaries want to employ autonomous weapons.” Much more likely, he adds, will be robotic weapons that target not people but military objects like radars, tanks, ships, submarines, or aircraft.
The challenge of target identification—determining whether or not what you’re looking at is a hostile enemy target—is one of the most critical for AI weapons. Moving targets like aircraft and missiles have a trajectory that can be tracked and used to help decide whether to shoot them down. That’s how the Phalanx autonomous gun on board U.S. Navy ships operates, and also how Israel’s “Iron Dome” antirocket interceptor system works. But when you’re targeting people, the indicators are much more subtle. Even under ideal conditions, object- and scene-recognition tasks that are routine for people can be extremely difficult for robots.
A computer can identify a human figure without much trouble, even if that human is moving furtively. But it’s very hard for an algorithm to understand what people are doing, and what their body language and facial expressions suggest about their intent. Is that person lifting a rifle or a rake? Is that person carrying a bomb or an infant?
Scharre argues that robotic weapons attempting to do their own targeting would wither in the face of too many challenges. He says that devising war-fighting tactics and technologies in which humans and robots collaborate [pdf] will remain the best approach for safety, legal, and ethical reasons. “Militaries could invest in very advanced robotics and automation and still keep a person in the loop for targeting decisions, as a fail-safe,” he says. “Because humans are better at being flexible and adaptable to new situations that maybe we didn’t program for, especially in war when there’s an adversary trying to defeat your systems and trick them and hack them.”
It’s not surprising, then, that DoDAAM, the South Korean maker of sentry robots, imposed restrictions on their lethal autonomy. As currently configured, the robots will not fire until a human confirms the target and commands the turret to shoot. “Our original version had an auto-firing system,” a DoDAAM engineer told the BBC last year. “But all of our customers asked for safeguards to be implemented…. They were concerned the gun might make a mistake.”
For other experts, the only way to ensure that autonomous weapons won’t make deadly mistakes, especially involving civilians, is to deliberately program these weapons accordingly. “If we are foolish enough to continue to kill each other in the battlefield, and if more and more authority is going to be turned over to these machines, can we at least ensure that they are doing it ethically?” says Ronald C. Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech.
Arkin argues that autonomous weapons, just like human soldiers, should have to follow the rules of engagement as well as the laws of war, includinginternational humanitarian laws that seek to protect civilians and limit the amount of force and types of weapons that are allowed. That means we should program them with some kind of moral reasoning to help them navigate different situations and fundamentally distinguish right from wrong. They will need to have, embodied deep in their software, some sort of ethical compass.
For the past decade, Arkin has been working on such a compass. Using mathematical and logic tools from the field of machine ethics, he began translating the highly conceptual laws of war and rules of engagement into variables and operations that computers can understand. For example, one variable specified how confident the ethical controller was that a target was an enemy. Another was a Boolean variable that was either true or false: lethal force was either permitted or prohibited. Eventually, Arkin arrived at a set of algorithms, and using computer simulations and very simplified combat scenarios—an unmanned aircraft engaging a group of people in an open field, for example—he was able to test his methodology.
Arkin acknowledges that the project, which was funded by the U.S. military, was a proof of concept, not an actual control-system implementation. Nevertheless, he believes the results showed that combat robots not only could follow the same rules that humans have to follow but also that they could do better. For example, the robots could use lethal force with more restraint than could human fighters, returning fire only when shot at first. Or, if civilians are nearby, they could completely hold their fire, even if that means being destroyed. Robots also don’t suffer from stress, frustration, anger, or fear, all of which can lead to impaired judgment in humans. So in theory, at least, robot soldiers could outperform human ones, who often and sometimes unavoidably make mistakes in the heat of battle.
“And the net effect of that could be a saving of human lives, especially the innocent that are trapped in the battle space,” Arkin says. “And if these robots can do that, to me there’s a driving moral imperative to use them.”
The U.N. has been holdingdiscussions on lethal autonomous robots for close to five years, but its member countries have been unable to draw up an agreement. In 2013,Christof Heyns, a U.N. special rapporteur for human rights, wrote an influential report noting that the world’s nations had a rare opportunity to discuss the risks of autonomous weapons before such weapons were already fully developed. Today, after participating in several U.N. meetings, Heyns says that “if I look back, to some extent I’m encouraged, but if I look forward, then I think we’re going to have a problem unless we start acting much faster.”
This coming December, the U.N.’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will hold a five-year review conference, and the topic of lethal autonomous robots will be on the agenda. However, it’s unlikely that a ban will be approved at that meeting. Such a decision would require the consensus of all participating countries, and these still have fundamental disagreements on how to deal with the broad spectrum of autonomous weapons expected to emerge in the future.
In the end, the “killer robots” debate seems to be more about us humans than about robots. Autonomous weapons will be like any technology, at least at first: They could be deployed carefully and judiciously, or chaotically and disastrously. Human beings will have to take the credit or the blame. So the question, “Are autonomous combat robots a good idea?” probably isn’t the best one. A better one is, “Do we trust ourselves enough to trust robots with our lives?”
This article appears in the June 2016 print issue as “When Robots Decide to Kill.”
Well, they might very well convince me anyway. Since I was a kid I’ve wanted to be an astronaut and I’m more than ready to blow this rock. Too many damned backwards, insane, and evil people populating Earth at the moment.
Of course I reckon to some extent it’s always been that way, and maybe we’d just take our twisted bullshit with us. But at least it’d be a chance at a fresh start…
Okay, poster. You make a compelling argument—sign us up!
True, there will be obstacles: For one, the Martian corps that these recruitment posters from Kennedy Space Center are attempting to enlist us in does not exist. Also, as of yet, no human has ever stepped foot on the surface of the red planet, much less worked some kind of shadowy night-watch position, that (rather terrifyingly) appears to require the constant use of a space harpoon.
But, no matter! The can-do spirit of these WWI- and WWII-influenced posters has already inspired us. We will be teachers, and welders, and farmers, and satellite technicians, and guards against the Martian night-octopuses that presumably overrun its lunar plains. Just let us know when those enlistment rolls open up.
Full resolutions, suitable for printing on your own, are also publicly availableright here.
I finally have the ultimate titles for my set of mythic/high-fantasy novels. They shall be called Kal-Kithariune(Or, The Fall of Kitharia). Originally the series was to be called The Other World but I was never really pleased with that. It was only a preliminary and place-holder title anyway.
The Kal-Kithariune shall link back to another myth/history or time epoch called the Kol-Kithariad(or the Rebirth or the Establishment of Kitharia). I have not really decided if the Kithariad will refer to a period of time 300 years prior to the Kithariune (when Kitharia undergoes a Rebirth or Renaissance) or to a period 3000 years prior when Kitharia is first established and founded.
Ideally I’d like to work it out so that the Kithariad refers to the Rebirth of Kitharia, 300 years before its Fall, but realistically I’m having real trouble making that fit and so it may have to refer to the Founding. It may be better to use the Founding as the other reference point anyway, to contrast the Genesis with the Armageddon and End. But I’d prefer the Rebirth. Though that might be impossible.
Kitharia is a both an analogy and a metaphor for America. And all of the Eldeven lands for the West even though the events take place in what would in our world be The Orient (near our Real World Samarkand).
The individual novels in the series will be entitled:
The Basilegate (The Emperor’s Legate) The Caerkara (The Expeditionary Force) The Wyrding Road The Other World (or perhaps Lurial and Iÿarlðma)
The novels will be a tetralogy. Now that I finally have all of the titles, know the plots and endings of all four books, have the languages developed, many of the poems and songs written, some of the maps and illustrations drawn, have hundreds of entries in my Plot Machine and thousands of notes, and about 200 pages of the each of the first two books written I suspect I can complete the entire tetralogy in under 2 years.
This is by far the very most complicated thing I have ever constructed (to date), at least as far as writing goes and that includes a couple of epic poems I’ve written. I first conceived it in 2007 as a single book and I’m sure I have thousands and thousands of hours sunk into it since then. Despite my other workloads.
Eventually I plan to write a set of children’s short stories connected to it and to at least plan out or begin the Kithariad though that will likely have to be passed on to others.
Before I start either of those though I just want to complete the Kithariune and then move on to my other novels, such as my sci-fi series The Curae (which will be every bit as big as the Kithariune), my detective novels, and my Frontiers novels, such as The Regulator and the Lettermen. And I want to complete my literary novels such as Modern Man and The Cache of Saint Andrew. Plus I want to finish my epic poem America. And I want to write some scripts. Not just TV scripts but movie scripts. So once I finish the Kithariune it may be a long while before I return to myth and fantasy, such as after my “retirement” (though I don’t plan to ever really retire).
I have however learned much by writing the Kithariune. I now know exactly how to plot out both long, complex novels and series, and much simpler single books. So the learning and research and study period was worth it alone in that respect. And it should both add to the richness of the Kithariune and to all of the other novels I write thereafter.
AN ACCOUNTING SO FAR AND A BIT OF ADVICE FOR NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH
My Word Count output for the first day of NaNoWriMo 2015 and my novel The Old Man was 2373 words plus (I lost count after that because I wrote another scene right before bed). Today, since it is raining so hard and I can’t go help my daughter look for a new car, I plan to have an output of 3000 or more words.
I have also been using the Writing Tools I received in my NNWM writing packet along with my own Tools.
This morning I wrote what I thought was a superb introduction and set of first lines for the science-fiction part of the novel. But I still have a lot of work to do today.
Rather than in order or in linear or chronological progression I seem to be writing the book out in independent scene-sections as they occur to me. Which I’m assuming my mind will knit together in proper order later on.
I am very much enjoying working “sans editing” or by avoiding the editing altogether process as I go. This has made the writing process itself much, much easier. And this may be a better and faster way for me to write in the future, though it takes some mental effort on my part for me to get used to. Old habits die hard.
Also I am not typing anything myself but rather producing the manuscript in long-hand at my kitchen table or in bed. The way I used to write as a kid. Before I got my first typewriter in High School or my first personal computer. I very much recommend this (recently rediscovered) method. It not only produces a superior thought and plot flow, it is much more psychically comfortable than typing or dictating at my computer or office chair, both of which I detest.
Plus as I go back to hand-writing I am once again becoming very quick at it.
Tomorrow I plan to conduct a test to see how quick I am at both methods, composing at my computer, and at hand writing. I suspect I am faster at hand-writing. Certainly I enjoy it more and it is far easier to write in that way.
I’ve cleared my entire calendar for November in order to write my novel for National Novel Writing Month. Aside from some type of emergency, and I don’t anticipate one (though you never really do, do ya?), writing my novel will be my chief priority this month.
So my blogging and other social media efforts will likely lag as a result. So will every other non-essential pursuit as the novel will be my Essential Activity for November. Fortunately I anticipate a very quiet month which will allow me the opportunity to write completely without distraction.
I’ve decided to go with THE OLD MAN as my chosen novel.
I intend to produce between 1500 and 5000 words per day, depending upon the day and the way the story proceeds and progresses. I already have much of the plot, all of the sections, and a few of the scenes sketched out.
Because of my broken wrist I will be writing the novel out in long hand on long notepads and my daughter will be typing it for me. I begin as soon as I’ve had breakfast and I walk Sam (my Great Dane) as it’s been raining this morning and prevented an earlier walk.
Congratulations to all of those pursuing writing their novel this month.
Due to a recent internet conversation on constructs I’ve decided to write a new series of short stories to add to my science fiction universe that will involve androids, drones, and robots whose primary function and programming is to provide protection to clients or organizations. Or even to protect specific areas/locales/geographic points.
These “danger droids” are designed to “sense danger” and respond by warning away potential threats. If the warnings or interferences fail, or are repeatedly ignored, then the Danger Droids are designed to respond in a defense pattern of three escalating steps: Disable, Cripple, and eventually, to Kill (or DCK).
If disable fails then crippling is applied and if the threat continues thereafter then the Danger Droid will kill the threat.
The story will center around the activities and experiences of these danger droids and how others attempt to overcome and thwart them and how the droids themselves adapt to these new threats and methods of attack.
Another set of stories, running parallel to those concerning the Danger Droids will involve the so-called “Murder Machines.” These are simply machines designed to exploit security lapses or human/target weaknesses and destroy/murder specific targets without being traceable. However if the machines are somehow located and trapped they are also designed to destroy themselves so as to make it very difficult to analyze and track evidence regarding who actually employed the “murder machine.”
In some ways the murder machines will be the exact opposites of, (although none of the machines or droids are actually alive) and the mechanical Nemeses of, the Danger Droids.
So much so that eventually people begin using the Danger Droids in an attempt to thwart and even anticipate the Murder Machines, destroying them before they can strike.
Of course in the stories these devices will not be called Danger Droids or Murder Machines, those are dumb and simple-minded appellations. Although they may, from time to time, be referred to Danger Droids and Murder Machines in a colloquial or slang fashion. No, I will devise basic and appropriate scientific terminology for these artefacts as my science fiction universe tends to be “hard and mundane science” in nature, and these stories will be no different.
Had a great idea for a science-fiction short story while walking with my Great Dane Sam through the woods this afternoon.
The story involves Human Beings encountering an alien species while exploring deep space and the encounter (which initially seems innocuous enough) almost immediately leads to conflict and eventual war. At first it seems obvious that humans have the advantage as our technology seems to be far in advance of that possessed by the alien species.
But quickly it becomes apparent that the alien species seems to adapt amazingly fast. Every time humans use a new weapon or weapon’s system against them they immediately start to innovate and counter with the result being that within a matter of a mere few weeks, and sometimes in just a few days, they can produce either a defensive system that basically greatly mitigates or even nullifies human technology, or they develop a superior offensive system based on what they analyze and reverse-engineer of our weapon systems.
In under six months they turn the tide of the conflict and start to defeat humans.
After that human technological systems and weapon systems are quickly attrited or degraded to the point that humans have to begin to rely upon older and older systems and technologies (outdated and outmoded and scavenged systems) just to survive or to continue to resist.
The opposite effect occurs with the aliens however – their technology continues to make astronomical leaps forward in a very short period of time and within a year the defeat and possible eradication of human beings seems a very real probability. The last hope for the humans seems to be the discovery of a form of third party alien technology but eventually it is realized it is too advanced for humans to properly understand and utilize and that even if they could understand and properly employ it any real help the third party device might provide will come too late.
Human defeat therefore seems assured until, that is, the aliens create a technological leap forward so advanced that the totally unexpected happens. I’m going to call the story the Qoutien’s Point. *
I’m also going to integrate this short story into my larger science fiction milieu/universe.
* Quotien’s Point – a future scientific/technological term named for that point at which everything that has come before changes so radically that everything to follow is thereafter forever unrecognizable.
Had an interesting idea for a sci-fi story today about a lone operative who has some rather interesting partners. His gear.
The story is about a guy whose nickname and codename is Hun. He operates behind enemy lines in the future. In the future the military becomes ever more and more sophisticated to the point that one man is equivalent to a platoon of soldiers today, and soldiering is no longer soldiering as we think of it but, “problem reduction.” The military has mostly evolved into something almost entirely different in nature.
Hun’s weapon is a “soft weapon” (an idea I picked up from Larry Niven) and an Artificial Intelligence (which humans think they created, but did they?) with far more capabilities than merely weapon functions. His uniform was grown, partially from his own DNA, partially from animal DNA, and is partially nanotechnology derived from his weapon’s AI. It’s also a “soft uniform.” And he has been treated with microfilaments (to small to see) that grow and entwine all along the hairs of his head and body which allow him to use his hairs as both interfaces and a partially organic ubiquitous data and computing system.
Hun has a mascot and companion, which is composed of reshapeable nanotechnology which is also his multi-tool.
And lastly he carries within his body an “Injectable Code” which allows him to directly communicate with all of his gear and equipment via direct neural link (teleneuraltransmission, or TNT), although the code is partially organic and partially alien matter and will break down over time and be digested by the body making it eventually useless (he must be reinjected and the injection must be recalibrated from time to time).
The IC also allows him to do other things he could not ordinarily do, when it comes to information gathering and storage and manipulation.
Anyway, Hun really, really enjoys his work, but slowly over time he has noticed degradation in his natural physical and mental capabilities and suspects the Injectable Code, that it may be altering him genetically, and has also begun to notice that his gear acts weirdly, leading him to one of four conclusions; 1. the IC may also be degrading his gear as well as him, 2. his gear already knows about the IC and is working with it (and maybe his superiors) despite knowledge it may harm or kill him, 3. his gear suspects the IC and is trying to compensate or in some way counteract the effects of the IC, or 4. maybe something else and entirely different is really going on.
I got the idea while hiking through the woods with Sam, near the Dragon’s Den, and noticing blight on trees and the way their growth patterns were being twisted out of their natural shape, and the areas of softness and rot along the trunks and bark. So I thought to myself, what if people had this kind of blight, how would they get it and what would it do and how would you fight it?
I think this is going to be a very fun and interesting story to write. And I’ll add it (the idea, technology, etc.) into the general background of my science fiction Curae Universe.
I’ve been having to spend a lot of time on the internet this past weekend, yesterday, and today (time I would have rather spent doing other things, but this was necessary) rearranging the work on my literary blog so as to make it easier for agents, publishers, business partners, investors, etc. to locate my work in a single locale.
I did have my stuff scattered about on various “categories” on my blog(s) but that was apparently making it hard for agents and others to review my stuff. So on each blog I created a new category entitled: MY WRITINGS AND WORK
Now anyone can find anything I have created, written, or posted on my blogsites with a single click. This should be much, much more efficient and useful.
But it has been hard work to go back through all of my old posts, locate my work, and collate it into a single on-line collection.
So it has taken days (literally) of search, edit, and reorganize. But I’m halfway done with Wyrdwend, my literary blog, and as of now my new category/collection contains 88 pieces of my work. Including such things as my short stories, poetry, children’s stories, children’s books, songs, invention sketches, business articles, criticisms, scripts, graphic novels, essays, novel extracts, game designs, etc.
Whatever I have so far put up.
I figure when I finally finish with my archives by the end of the week the category/collection/link will contain about 160 or so pieces of original work.
Once that is done I’ll do the same for all of my other blogs, including Launch Port, Tome and Tomb, and the Missal.
Tonight, while readying my Work for tomorrow I had an interesting idea for a science-fiction short story.
I’m going to call the story, “Breakpoint.”
It sounds like it might be a military sci-fi tale, or maybe a sci-fi espionage story, but it actually has to do with human longevity.
The story will be a sort of reverse Logan’s Run story (I don’t know how many of you are old enough to remember Logan’s Run), in a very loose way. Although it will have an altogether different point and moral.
In the future, for a very peculiar reason, it is discovered that if people over a given age undergo a certain taxing process then they will either die prematurely as a result, or they will reach their Breakpoint, and survive, and by so doing their lifespans will increase exponentially.
That’s all I’m going to describe until I write the story.
So for now I’m gonna go walk Sam and then make out my sketch notes for the story and go to bed.
“Herbert created what was, in 1965, the most complex backdrop of politics, economics, religion, science, philosophy, and culture to inform an [science fiction] novel to date,” wrote Tomas M. Wagner for SFReviews.net.
“Suarez’s riveting debut would be a perfect gift for a favorite computer geek or anyone who appreciates thrills, chills and cyber suspense… A final twist that runs counter to expectations will leave readers anxiously awaiting the promised sequel,” writes Publisher’s Weekly.
“Avogardo Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears” by William Hertling
“An alarming and jaw-dropping tale about how something as innocuous as email can subvert an entire organization. I found myself reading with a sense of awe, and read it way too late into the night,” writes author Gene Kim.
“Who could be better qualified than the author of the highly successful Cosmos to turn the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, and humankind’s first contact with it, into imaginative reality?” according to Publisher’s Weekly.
“Intense is the word for Ender’s Game. Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses — and then training them in the arts of war,” according to the Amazon.com review.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adam
“You’ll never read funnier science fiction; Adams is a master of intelligent satire, barbed wit, and comedic dialogue. The Hitchhiker’s Guide is rich in comedic detail and thought-provoking situations and stands up to multiple reads,” according to the Amazon.com review.
“…the novel is not much interested in character and plot. Instead it is dedicated to creating the feeling of a transformed reality, where a new vocabulary is required to describe how perception itself has been changed by computers,” writes John Mullan in The Guardian.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider’s Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale. This is not an advertiser sponsored post and we operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suffice it to say that over the holidays (in my spare time between Thanksgiving and Christmas) I made basic, and sometimes quite complicated, plot and character sketches of the Tributary Tales I wish to write.
Below is the new and expanded list of the Tributary Tales I will write and the titles for each story. I’ll post plot and character sketches and the stories themselves as I write them. I’ve made good progress on Tôl Karuţha and on My Battered Heart already, with the second being a graphic novel script, not a short story. The Godzilla story, Rising Son, will actually be a film script not a short story. But most all of the others will be short stories or short novellas.
I will work on these stories and scripts in my spare time, they will not interfere with my business, novel, or non-fiction work.
So, here is my list of entitled Tributary Tales:
THE TRIBUTARY TALES
Tales of the Fictional (or partially fictional) and Mythical Characters that had the most influence on me growing up or that in later life most appealed to me
Aeneas – The Flight from Knossos Batman – My Battered Heart Beowulf – The Good King Comes But Once Cole and Hitch – The Ravine Near Ridgewater Conan – The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha Daredevil – Black and Blood Red Doc Savage – Savage Is as Savage Does Galahad – Galahad and the Golden Stag Godzilla – Rising Son: The Eternal Ocean is my Womb Hephaestus – The Forging of the Titan’s Chain Horatio Hornblower – The Jib’s Complaint Jack Aubrey – The American Problem John Carter – The City Never Seen John Galt – Free is a Four Letter Word Kirk and Spock (Star Trekoriginal series) – The Battleship Remission Lone Ranger – The Cold Wind at Sunrise
Lovecraftian – The Secret Grave of Harrow Hill
Merlin – The Bones of Old Stone Nathaniel Bumppo (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook – Blood Feather Orpheus – No Music May Soothe, or perhaps, Tears of Iron Parsifal – The Sorcerer’s Swan Philip Marlowe – The Crooked Dane Robin the Hood – The Fletcher and the Fulmen Roland – The Menhir and the Moor Sherlock Holmes – The Case of the 12 Septembers Siegfried – The Rhine-Wine (of the Black Elf) Solomon Kane – With Evil Intent Spenser – High Roll Her Taliesin (Taliesin Ben Beirdd) – Sweetly Sang yet RarelyVentured Tarzan – The Ruins of Khumbar and the Slave Girl Túrin Tarambar – The Piercing of Melkor’s Doom
In the past couple of days I’ve had two excellent ideas for science fiction stories/possible novels/novel technology components.
1. Last night, while soaking in a hot bath, I had a great idea for a science fiction story involving a planetary kinetic kill weapon employed by an alien species. I haven’t worked out all of the details yet but the weapon is so effective because it is first projected at the planetary (or planetoid or moon, etc.) target as a near massless object at near light speeds and only within reaching a certain distance from its target does it decelerate rapidly regaining its original mass.
At this “transformational point,” or “weaponizing kenesis point” (kenesis being a term incorporating both kinetic energy and genesis or transformation point) the near massless projection becomes massive again (reabsorbing its original mass which it had been projecting ahead of itself as a gravitational anomaly) and it slows by conversion to about half its original speed, but because it transforms near the target and is still traveling at such tremendous velocity (which increases as it moves into the gravitational field of the target) it is almost impossible to defend against.
The only way to detect it is in energy form as a near massless projection and as a gravitational anomaly traveling in a tightly constricted area immediately preceding the projection. But neither of those would be able to be detected by the target until the projection reconverts to a massive state near/at the target site.
To detect it you would have to both understand what you are perceiving and it would have to pass through or by an early detection system, such as a DEW Line. In effect it would be a secret or stealthy planet killer and kinetic kill weapon which could be projected from almost any direction/angle against a target and unless detected by a pre-existed warming system it would literally impact against a target before the target was even aware of its’ presence.
Needless to say this weapon would be terrifying to anyone against whom it is employed and extremely difficult to successfully defend against.
I have a couple of ideas about how others might defend against such an attack but I’m only just now sketching them out.
I also have an idea of how the weapon itself might work, but that is all entirely theoretical of course.
2. This afternoon, while walking through our woods with my children and my dog Sam I had another idea for a piece of very advanced technology. What the device would do is disrupt the gravitational field around smaller volume massive objects, like White Dwarf stars, Pulsars, Neutron Stars, etc. causing the gravitational fields they produce to rapidly oscillate and fluctuate.
The point of such a device is to create fluctuations so intense that many of the higher level energies (x-rays, microwaves, etc.) and exotic particles being produced or ejected or radiated or compressed by the lower order observational event horizons in and around such objects can be freed for practical use. The same or a secondary device is then used to harvest, contain, and utilize these gathered energies, including the associated gravitational waves produced by the initial fluctuations.
At this point I’m calling this device the Inversis. Or that is what humans will call it. It is basically a very advanced exotic energy and particle harvester that operates by creating intense gravitational fluctuations in massive stellar bodies.
Theoretically the same device could be used to create temporary fluctuations in the outer gravitational field (near the outer edge of the event horizon) of a black hole as well.
In real life such a device would require so much energy to operate, even when concentrated upon a relatively small area of the overall target that I cannot in all reality say that it would actually produce and harvest more energy than it consumed.
But at this point it is only a sci-fi story idea anyway. So I don’t have to worry about real energy costs or anything like that right now.
At this point I plan to incorporate both of these ideas as working models for technologies to be included in my Curae series of science fiction novels.
In any case it has been a nice weekend for good ideas.
Woke up with a superb idea for an invention this morning. I’m going to post it here because frankly I have no idea of how to build it at this point and it may be several decades before it can be properly developed (if ever) given current technological limits. Nevertheless I really, really, really wish that I could build it. Right now. The idea was extremely exciting to me.
It’s called a displacement lathe. Also known as a Vaultex Lathe – Vaultex being the proprietary name – and I must have been dreaming about the lathe and the company that makes it having already been built, right before waking.
The lathe operates by removing matter at any internal point within an object (for purposes of illustration let’s say the very center point of any object) but in this case without touching any other point on the object. That is to say that you could hollow out the center of the object without touching the surface or any of the intervening matter on the object or in any way damaging any of the other matter in/on or along the object. You would simply hollow out the internal matter to create a cavity or space within the object without touching any other point of/on the object.
Such a lathe would obviously take almost Star Trek like matter transportational qualities but the technique in this case is called displacement. Since you are displacing the matter in question to create shaped and hollowed areas internal to an object of any size or shape you wish. The lather would work on matter of almost any density or molecular configuration.
But the lathe far better than that for it also has a reverse or “constructive function” which allows the operator of the lathe to construct objects or even complex machines in the “hollow points” created by it. These new and “Internal Placements” can be built up simultaneously atom by atom from the existing material as the new space is being created, or such IPs can simply be built up at a later date by the injection/reinjection of new matter into the hollow space previously created. For the device can also re-hollow and then reconstruct new internal placements over and over again, as needed.
The implications and possible applications of having such a lathe are so obvious and so infinite there is no need for me to belabor that point any with an explanation. I’ve even thought or how it might be weaponized and employed as a machine of sabotage.
As I said I really, really, really want to build this device right now, but I know of no technology or means that would allow such a machine to actually function. My dream (whenever I have technological dreams of devices too complex to currently build I suspect it is the result of the fact that my old man was a tool and die maker and an inventor), or whatever it was, only gave me the function, not an idea for the method or means of construction. So for now it must remain just a sort of technological science-fiction concept (for my writings) until I can figure out a way to make it function.
One more thing before bed. After I finish my Conan story, and probably sometime this Winter, I will write a Lovecraftian-type story. Something else I’ve long wanted to do but never got around to actually writing. It will not be Cthulhulian in nature (as that is usually thought of) so much as more like At the Mountains of Madness (one of my two favorite Lovecraftian stories), but rather than being set in modern times I am more likely to set it either in the distant future (sci-fi horror) or the ancient past (fantastical horror or even historically based horror).
I don’t have a real plot yet but I do have a couple of ideas to work off of.
Are you a fan of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness? Chances are, if you’re reading this site, you are so when we heard Titan Books is releasing the anthology The Madness of Cthulhu, which was inspired by the tale, we thought you’d want to learn more about it.
The book, which will be available October 7th, is edited by S. T. Joshi, a leading authority on Lovecraft, with an introduction by multiple Bram Stoker Award winner Jonathan Maberry.
Joshi also edited the definitive restored editions of the author’s works, and his biography H. P. Lovecraft: A Life won the 1996 Bram Stoker Award for best non-fiction…
In the past three days I have written four poems (Three Strangers, Fall Is Not a Season, two untitled as yet), five songs (Waking in the Grave, I Took My Guns, A Hoard Did I Encounter, I’d Really Like to Know, one untitled so far), part of a new sci-fi short story (Proximal), dialogue for my novel (There is a Road), an essay, several aphorisms, 20 or so measures of music, made several blog and message board posts, started a couple of papers, outlined a new Ebook (The Trainable Man), sketched out part of a map, and wrote up part of an invention draft.
That’s a pretty good clip even for me.
For some reason I’ve just been hot over the past few days. You get that way sometimes.
The University of California, San Diego’s Nanofabrication Cleanroom Facility (Nano3) is the first institution to obtain a novel FEI Scios dual-beam microscope, with an adaptation for use at cryogenic temperatures. The new microscope will enable research among a highly diverse user base, ranging from materials science to structural and molecular biology.
I’ve been writing a series of sci-fi short stories about this very subject called “Tales of the Frontiersmen.” It’s about individuals sent in the explore alien worlds by themselves.
One of the devices some of these individuals carry with them are H.O.R.S.E.S. which are similar to these devices but are entirely collapsible and can be worn until expanded. I got the idea while studying some of the new robot designs (both standard and micro in size) friends of mine are working on at MIT. But the idea then occurred to me, well, what if you could make them collapsible and the working robotic components nano-sized (nano-machines) and the superstructure of room temperature exotic and extremely light super-conductive materials? So I began to develop my idea of the H.O.R.S.E.S. (Plus I had just went to hear the Cowboy Poet– who lives near me and I like a lot, and I’ve always loved horses.)
When expanded they can be ridden (like a real horse), they are computerized and possess a limited AI, and they contain a hollow internal section or sections that can be used to store gear and supplies. When fully expanded they are the size of a real horse or slightly larger. So they are much more advanced than these robots but the idea is basically the same. So this article naturally caught my attention.
The Tales of the Frontiersmen happen to be set in my larger sci-fi universe, support it, and are supplemental to it, and eventually I’ll collect all of those stories into a single book of short stories to fill and flesh out my larger sci-fi milieu.
I’ll also be posting some of the stories about the Frontiersmen here on this site.
Last week in Hawaii, a squad of U.S. Marines brought a robot deep into the jungle. The Legged Support System (LS3) robot walks on four legs, carries 400 pounds, and shambles its way over rough terrain, like a mechanical mule in a future war. It’s all part of the Advanced Warfighting Experiment, and if the Marine Corps thinks the tests went well, future invasions may come with robotic horses doing some heavy lifting.
The whole experiment is a subset of a larger multinational military exercise. Dubbed RIMPAC (for Rim of the Pacific, not to be confused with the Guillermo del Toro robots-versus-monsters movie), the exercise is held by the U.S. Navy and includes participants from 22 nations, with 55 ships, 200 aircraft, and 25,000 people. It also includes three LS3 robots.
Marines typically carry between 100 and 135 pounds of gear, which includes not just weapons and ammunition but also water and food. While it’s important for troops to carry food with them when operating far from base, they don’t need to have their lunch physically on their person at all times. That’s where the Legged Support System comes in. Major Christopher Orlowski, program manager of the LS3 program for DARPA, told Popular Science that the program’s greatest success is “meeting the requirements, demonstrating an unmanned legged system than can carry upwards of 350, 400 pounds of gear, and demonstrating it effectively. In this case, DARPA set out a goal and it was able to meet that goal…”