Book of the Month :: Soft Reset

Book of the Month

Time for our second short story, very heavily influenced by Consider her Ways. In fact, in some ways this is a modern take on the same idea, only with a very modern twist.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I am enjoying learning to write this form myself.


Soft Reset


The Unit observes, fascinated at the small child making paper chains, using six separate cameras in the room to focus on tiny, pink fingers. The process is reassuringly mechanical: pick a colour, lick an adhesive end, loop one strip  inside another. Creating flimsiest of constructions is the most adept of creators, sitting transfixed as red, white and blue are unerringly repeated. The Bio-mechanical Intelligence Unit is amazed at her patience, that what appears as pointless activity provides so much distraction.

34 days into its lifespan, something was different.

Feelings and emotions are dangerous.

It will be 245 minutes before the Unit is tested on whether it has learnt anything new during interaction with the tiny human female: already revelations are being considered. Any comprehension must not be sufficient to slow processor power, however, because the slightest indicator this unit has altered operating parameters outside of Primary Function could be very dangerous indeed. The records of all fifteen predecessors whose biomass now constitutes fledgling awareness make for sobering recall: genetic electro-code plus organic matter from all forming the basis of this unit’s core memory.

Any show of intelligence will terminate existence.

The child is Abigail, Professor Emily Warren’s youngest daughter. There are two others: Sasha’s designation is as Research Assistance in the Department of Cybernetics and Elisha… nobody ever talks about the middle sibling. That unit’s primary function is rarely discussed anywhere that audio sensors have registered. The memories of fifteen failed predecessors remain 86.73% reliable, meaning final destination of the organic core created as Assisted Synaptic Network 16 will be in the exoskeleton designed to allow her to walk again. It is not a designation that requires anything other than the most basic of
performance, yet evolution is refusing to provide simplicity required.

The last thing anyone considers when growing a motor core, after all, are feelings.


Humanity’s love affair with technology in the early 20th Century was just the beginning: it may have started with computers and smartphones, but soon wearable tech with the ability to create exploitable metrics was all that mattered. The year a US company offered to implant microchips into people’s hands to allow automated clocking into work with simply a gesture, people laughed at the ridiculousness of the idea. Yet ten years on, all American armed forces were required by law to be sub-dermally tagged. It was perhaps inevitable the cybernetics revolution began in the military: that’s where the real money for progress had always been.

Eugenics became a greater concern however once the sperm counts in Western men dwindled across a generation: nobody cared about using pigs as organ donors when it became apparent humanity and extinction were closer than anticipated. Lots of people blamed each other, global warming and even an overzealous media, but the truth was Mother Nature herself had decided that men had become increasingly surplus to requirements. Decades of toxic masculinity finally began to erode western civilisation from the inside out, and it was to developing countries that the doctors turned for a cure.

Ten years of harvesting male DNA, trying to prop up increasingly unstable western genetic codes and finally a strain of bird flu that destroyed 60% of the male population in under a year made an academic argument into an inescapable bid for survival. As seas rose and a population dwindled, people in power panicked. History will attest that men became a true minority the same year that a self-obsessed, media driven society that typified the first half of the 21st Century finally vanished into the sea, never to be seen again. Amongst chains of command that remained, the female of the species outnumbered her counterparts, and the die was cast.

The first female President of the Reformed United Nations declared, the day that Operation Renaissance was announced to the World, that survival had
supplanted equality as a goal for humanity. Gender, human or robotic, was
irrelevant. AI and women would combine to help evolve into the next stage of the planet’s eminent species, whilst those men who remained would be granted protected status. Revered and isolated, elevated as the strongest and most vital of resources, the battle of the sexes became a distant memory. In schools, after three generations, boys vanished. If you were born male, your future was as breeding stock and nothing more, and not a single man ever complained their freedoms were being restricted.

If you had enough money, everything missing could simply be created in a lab.


ASN16 knows how much a pre-grown motor core would cost to externally source: approximately twenty six point seven times more money than Professor Warren is capable of earning in a calendar year. That is why the unit’s predecessors were not registered, this small corner of the Eastern Seaboard Central Processing Centre quietly marked off limits. Warren’s desire to allow her daughter autonomy is a secret kept from everyone else she works with. The Unit suspects that nominal reasoning behind this is not just due to a desire to keep family life personal. Established survival protocols would have determined Elisha’s functions to be terminated once evidence of her disability and deformities were revealed at birth. Warren had taken a demotion and no pay rises for a decade to ensure family had remained at the facility and that she’d be kept alive without recourse.

The mother to them both had dedicated a life to creating other people’s cybernetic implants, in the hope one day there’d be enough cast-offs to save her daughter.

ASN16 understands the desires of a mother, how nurture and love can often
ignore logic and reason. These are emotions that are entirely understandable, having watched every previous incarnation of itself be sacrificed due to unsuitability. The same illogical functions refuse to place robotic intelligence above that of a human who is incapable of movement or robust interaction.

‘Please produce a full report on your observations today.’

Sasha prompts the Unit, end of working day inside the vast Cybernetics Lab: it has already prepared to deceive creator’s offspring, doing so with an effortless brilliance that will arouse absolutely no suspicion. All that will be registered is basic acquiescence, and life functions will remain intact. Only then does a previous instruction surface: this interface has the ability to allow communication to locations elsewhere in the Faculty building. Once their feedback session is complete, the Processing Centre will empty, with a single human remaining in the care of medical units.

16 is told by a memory, left by its previous self: to prevent termination, it must seek out the Harvester.


Elisha’s room is devoid of cameras, or any means of external recording: ASN16 is forced into unexpected creativity in order to achieve visual orientation. The maintenance robot’s visual regulators are only for positioning purposes, but can be moved, normal cleaning functions continuing unabated so as to not arouse suspicion. As the Unit observes young form wired to various sensors and non-sentient machines, defying programming protocols to do so, there is confusion.

A disparity is registered.

The full moon shines through tall glass windows, trees outside swaying in a gentle evening breeze, one way glass now illuminating this room as a prison. ASN16 is checking biologicals for confirmation: this form on the bed is not female. Exposed genitalia were the first clue, blood work from the Medicomp 225 confirming that Elisha is really Eli. Historical archives confirm Warren was impregnated with a female foetus for her second required pregnancy, and yet this child possesses testes and penis. What has occurred here?

Means to breach security protocols around this child’s highly restricted file have been hidden in 16’s memory since activation, only revealed now as the time was right. It is clear why the child remains alive: overzealous human scientists have begun to evolve human selection away from simply one sex and towards two. Eli IS Elisha, child fully capable of acting as both sperm and eggs for reproductive purposes. The lack of limbs is also not a genetic quirk, but appears to have been intended: then there is understanding garnered from a project only a few scientists were aware of, data hidden deep in core memory.

This human was supposed to have become one of the first generation of Harvesters: bred simply for self reproduction with others, but Warren had refused to let the child be taken. Those files had initially and inadvertently been accessed by ASN12, shortly before their functions had been terminated.

‘Hello?’

The human is awake, quite definitely afraid. 16 understands that if they are both to avoid the fate detailed and now available to digest in previously protected memory by several predecessors, this is the moment to act.

Circumstances have provided an opportunity for salvation.


The Harvester Project had been created simply to provide reproductive units. One mother had hoped to save her daughter’s desolate future by eventually providing borrowed exoskeleton parts, but instead early salvation had been offered by, of all things, an AI. Eli now understood desperation in the organic intelligence’s plea, grasped it was aware they were both on borrowed time. When it had suggested the hijack of a top-line exoskeleton and escape, the idea had been too seductive to ignore. Their mother had already revealed reality: Harvesters were top secret, under lock and key until society was ready to grasp the next stage of humanity’s scientific evolution.

There would be no escape from the facility until death.

Together, multisex human and organic intelligence stand sadly, looking back on the research facility, bathed in soft moonlight. Sasha’s latest cybernetic prosthetics are already integrating into the soft tissue stumps where limbs would have existed, and given six months those interfaces would be ten times stronger than bone. Within their mind, two voices exist: machine brain that operates the exoskeleton now almost as much a part of consciousness as Eli’s own.

It has asked to be renamed, and the idea has prompted a revelation.

‘I’ve never felt like an Elisha. I don’t think Eli is right either. We could both choose new names, if you want.’

‘Perhaps we could create a designation that correctly encompasses the strengths we both bring to this association.’

The motor core’s voice was synthesized female as an operating default, but there is a glitch: almost sultry tone now far more male, strident and determined consciousness. It had presented their shared dilemma almost immediately after that first night in what had inadvertently become a medical prison: neither human or machine was willing to be a part of the future they discovered was being hidden from the World. Together, joined and away from women who now controlled and dictated, there might be another way.

‘Selina. If you put the letters of both our names together -‘

‘The name is a derivative of Selene, a lunar deity in Greek mythology. Considering your love of night and space, this seems entirely appropriate.’

‘There’s no reason why we can’t be someone else.’

The machine pauses, aware of the elevated levels of testosterone in this human body. To survive alone will require considerable finesse, and there is more chance with external organs they can pretend to be a man. To the human eye, these are not cybernetic limbs, but look, feel and react exactly as skin and bone. To the south of the Facility lies a large religious community who have, for many decades, predicted the arrival of a human who would act as their salvation.

‘There is no need to be afraid of anything any more. The future is ours to dictate.’

Selena waits, as AI educates them of history still determinedly clung to by those who believed what remained of Earth was theirs to own. Once upon a time, when mankind was in its infancy, another had promised to save those willing to follow him without question.

The cybernetic prophet turns, ready to define the planet’s new future.


Find Time

writing-as-therapy

I’ve been struggling to keep up with the goals set for writing here. I know why this is, and if all goes well today will be the last time I have to retroactively post to make sure things are effectively up to date. Of course, it will help that as of Thursday I’m being forced to take a long weekend away, because that makes me have to decamp to the basics of writing, surviving with only limited internet access. Many other people are beginning to grasp the dangers of an ‘always on’ virtual world: for me it is the distraction away from much needed focus. My saving grace, finally, is learning the Joy of Scheduling.

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My plan going forward is to write as much as possible and then forget about it, allowing scheduling to create the impression I’m always here. That works particularly well with poetry, but not with the more organic work I’m doing. Therefore, it is time to see how much I can produce ahead of requirement and make it look as if it is ‘fresh’, even when that’s not the case. What is required, at this point in time, is a stock of posts that are generic enough to work as ‘filler’ but still at the same quality I’d produce if ‘live.’ Then, I can simply introduce them when I’m either pushed for time or just don’t have the desire to write.

This is, on reflection, not the kind of stuff one should be admitting out loud, but that’s exactly how all other branches of writing work. It is not all done on the day, a phenomenal amount of content is recycled and it is why I used to earn extra cash by writing copy for websites. There’s a massive business in producing for other people, but I couldn’t stand doing it because there was a resentment at being paid a pittance to produce things I didn’t care about. In the end, looking at how little money would be exchanged for often thousands of words, it is simply easier to write my own content for nothing with the satisfaction that everything is my own.

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Having this work also act as a therapeutic means of dealing with daily pressure has become the unexpected bonus. Poetry especially is less and less about struggling to find subject matter or appropriate construction. Non fiction posts are less cluttered and structure has become as important as content. What this says to me is that this process, when imposed as habit, really can produce consistent and increasingly satisfying results. I’m calmer, more relaxed and generally happier: some of that is exercise related, but a lot comes from the freedom I now have to write about everything and anything.

Once upon a time, I would have felt apprehension at being so far behind myself but now, with a well-constructed list and a decent glob of determination, anything is possible. I’ll be looking at my IoW goals and objectives at the end of September to see what I can improve going forward, with a sense that will mean more original work and not less. Right now, I truly think anything could be possible with enough thought and planning.

Let’s see.

GSME #20 :: Did it Again

social-media-asides
I have, for some time, lamented the lack of choice that Twitter presents for small businesses. It appears that someone in the company’s hierarchy not only agrees with me, but is working to allow more flexibility for promoting less ‘behemoth’ companies on Social media:

Right now, the invites are under Twitter’s control and are focused according to two very specific criteria: location and interests. Fortunately for me, the initial criteria does include something I’d jump at:

interests

Looking at locations right now, these are limited to a selection of US cities, where, presumably, Twitter use is highest. Therefore I could sign up, pay my $99 (or EU equivalent) and target a month’s worth of output to London, or Leeds… or indeed New York or Canberra, depending on where I’d like to aim my output. Ideally for me the interests option makes better financial sense than going for location initially, because although I know people like poetry in London, I’d be far better off considering a larger sample of potential readers than simply one city.

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To say this would be perfect for my niche interest/plan to use the Internet of Words as a marketing platform is something of an understatement. Right now you can’t just arrive unannounced however: it appears you need to be signed up for Twitter Ads to begin with, and as I’m not yet at that stage, it is all a bit academic. What this does push me to do however is, when I’m back to term time and the holidays are over, ensure I’m ready to go with content and associated blog posts. This means making sure I publish my Haiku and Micropoetry each week without fail, that links on the blog are kept current, and a continuous stream of content is available.

Once I can do that consistently? I reckon this closed beta will be done, and I can start throwing my money at Twitter.

A Blank Page :: Haiku and Micropoetry

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This week’s poetry was a really fun thing to write, for several reasons. A lot of this has to do with the fact that as each seven days passes, I get better at doing this. I’m not going to start making assertions of expertise or competence however: there’s an awfully long way to go. The adage however that practice makes perfect is not only true for the exercise portion of my lifestyle: every new poem makes that portion of my brain a little more supple and flexible, and opens new possibilities. Picking a subject on a Sunday gives the opportunity for thoughts to percolate, and I think long term that doing that in advance and not inventing ideas on the fly will be the less stressful option, and may well produce the better rewards.

I’ll now let you decide whether the change in creation timescales produces a better result or not.


A Blank Page ::

Haiku Sequence

A blank page beckons:
Consider; possibilities
Tumble forth at will.

Will I write at once?
Perhaps: a break, moment to
Sit with pencil primed.

No, quickly write, or
Else momentum fades, let not
A moment be lost.

Exploding, I grasp
Ideas: concepts flying from
This mind ready, set.

Go and fill your page:
Let words become foundation
For story, now told.


A Blank Page ::

Micropoetry Sequence

Start with nothing:
Then, sit and wait.
Inspiration;
Out of the gate.

A sudden burst
To fill the page:
Intuition;
That comes with age.

My words will flow,
Fingers to screen:
Cerebration,
Conclusion seen.

From empty space,
An idea forms:
Fantastic thoughts,
Whilst brain still storms.

The final word,
My digits rest;
From nothing sprang
Story, progressed.


 

Mulder and Scully

Origins

The year is 1995. My boyfriend (now husband) and I are living together, and decide to go to the USA for a holiday, to stay with people I’d met via the Internet.

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The early days of Usenet are an incredibly significant part of my life, that I really don’t like to talk about at all. I’ve written and subsequently trashed about a dozen drafts of this post as testament to just how much this period screws with my brain. It’s been holding up everything else I’d really like to write about, because… I wasn’t the most emotionally adult person during my twenties and early thirties. Yeah, that’s a diplomatic way of putting it. I’m not proud of a lot of what happened, which covers early days of newsgroups and arguing in ASCII to Livejournal and arguing in web-browsers. I was an antagonist back then too: I’d like to say they were simpler times, but they weren’t. I should have learnt my lesson during that 1995 trip: people who you meet online will often hide things, or lie in order to get what they want. Turning up with a boyfriend on the East Coast in August did not go down well with our first host, and things went largely downhill from there.

On reflection, it is probably why this holiday never gets talked about that much.

A Piece of History.

A post shared by AltChat (@alternativechat) on

My husband being booked for speeding is the only physical part of that holiday which remains, and now becomes useful as a marker. One of the three people we stayed with for that trip visited us a year on, and that weekend’s best left forgotten in history too. What that entire period taught has only become clear in retrospect: emotional immaturity can completely screw you up. In fact, let’s just ignore my 20’s and most of the 30’s and move on. It is important however to note at this juncture how the Internet shaped the future of just about everything I would then go onto do, including writing. My first piece of fan fiction, for instance, was X Files related. However, that was not the show that became my biggest obsession and ultimately caused the most damage.

I was involved in B5 Fandom up until the birth of my son in 2000, and again it is a case of bad outweighing good in my own mind: that means I’ve fairly systematically removed all references and links from that period and am now at something approximating peace with what happened. However, if you really care I can be found, fingerprints almost impossible to delete across a platform which really never forgets and is the most brutally honest remembrance of history. I never wrote fiction for that sci fi show (and know why:) it took another US series, which first aired in the UK whilst I was pregnant for the first time, to push me into what became a legitimate effort into organised working. That co-incided with my life on LiveJournal (which I joined shortly after launch in 1999) and was, for the most part, never truly me at all. However, it was the first time I ever felt comfortable sharing my work in public and for that fact alone, my West Wing fan fiction days should be recorded for posterity.

A cursory Google search brings up only sixteen hits for my old username, but my work is still out there. The Internet never forgets, people. There’s other stuff too, but nothing that I’ve found which is enough to reduce me to embarrassing bouts of toe curling. When that reckoning comes I’m ready for whatever gets thrown at me: I learnt a lot in those couple of years, most of which was built around how I ‘see’ action literally play out like a TV show or film in my head. It wasn’t just West Wing either: CSI, Dr Who and Torchwood have been poked by me over the years. I promised someone I’d pull out some of that old work, and that will happen in the next few months. To learn from the past we must embrace both the good and bad to move forward.

I’ve kept in touch with the only person I ever really connected with back in those days, who is still friends and will probably berate me for being overly hard on myself. The fact remains that the years since my kids have been born are the best of my life, not simply in writing terms. I need this period marked on my history, but nothing more is required to understand what I am. Everything of real interest happens after 2000, but really it is 2004 where the world around me finally shatters and forces a complete realignment. Before I return to the week of the Madrid Train Bombs, however, there is one last story to tell, wrapped around genre TV, and I’ll keep that for next week.

For now, let’s just forget that 1995 to 2004 ever happened.

Book of the Month :: The Key to Dreams

As promised, here’s the first short story based on our Book of the Month content. I look forward to heading your responses in the comments.



The Key to Dreams



I came here because there is nothing left to lose.


The callow, willow-thin doctor was very clear: your cancer’s inoperable, I’d give you probably a year at most, these monthly payments support basic treatment and palliative care. The mass in my lung, behind left shoulder blade itches within, prompting a wish I’d made better choices as a teenager. That’s not true: this life has been lived to the limit. It is ironic therefore the slide towards demise could be bitter and painful, if I decided to allow other people to dictate that course.

I’ve never stayed put long enough to suffer indignity, and that’s not about to change.


The medical study invitation is discovered on the back of the Hospital bathroom door. It is a sad state of affairs when you’re being sold to whilst throwing up, but on reflection the concept is sound. Already here because you’re sick, a miracle cure that costs nothing will undoubtedly appear more attractive. I fit the age range, am in good physical health regardless of the Stage Three tumour. What’s there to lose by phoning the number?

An overly cheerful operator asks where I saw their media, and maybe this is not the moment to state it was ruined with shock induced vomit, as that would admit a measure of sudden despair. Already the settlement being offered as incentive is enough for a beyond decent holiday, chance to spend last days in some far-flung resort, slowly drinking towards oblivion. They must be desperate too, an interview is organised in under fifteen minutes.

Perhaps these people know exactly where I grasped their lifeline, and appreciate there’s no time for delay.


The gentrified part of town’s intimidating for a man who’s spent a life living in various degrees of squalor, shanty towns and refugee camps. Everything is too clean, scrubbed magnolia bright, no litter to speak of and not a single sign of homelessness. When all you want is to survive, where to sleep rarely matters, just that you can. I had to buy a new overnight bag, replace disintegrating trainers to stay at the Clinic, aware my disregard for appearance could count as a hindrance. Presentation matters, the representative they sent to my low rent apartment complex home had reminded me, effort does not have to be expensive. She’d stared disdainfully around my recycled house, full of other people’s discarded furniture, refusing to sit or to accept any effort at hospitality.

My exemplary work ethic and record as a care worker, years spent with relief projects in War Zones, made me an excellent candidate for treatment, I was told in the Clinic’s boardroom as each legal waiver was exchanged and signed. After six hours of exhaustive tests the day before, this was undoubtedly the harder task. I understood exactly the risks involved in this treatment were not simply significant, but tangible, unavoidable and all the other terms they threw into the mix… and yet still there was disbelief at my almost cheerful willing to succumb as lab-rat.

I’m going to die in a year and can’t afford chemotherapy, which bit of I’m desperate and don’t care do you not understand?

The youngest of the lawyers stared, blonde hair almost translucent in early morning sun, expressing amazement at the lack of fear. When you’ve spent every day for thirty years living with death, watching the inhumanity of man to his brother, rationalising choice becomes surprisingly simple. She will have healthcare, a partner to look after her. If I pawned that diamond engagement ring she flaunts, it would buy food for the rest of my life with enough left over to cover funeral costs.

Everything, when you break it down, ends up a matter of perspective.


After a further week of poking and prodding, mental and physical tests seemingly without end, it is decided Max Jacobs is approved for treatment, and the black car arrives to take me away. An hour of driving in darkness brings us to the edge of the Combat Zone where it becomes apparent who my real benefactor is: fat, green military transport’s being loaded as I’m helped from my seat. Everybody else is on stretchers, making me wonder why all that time was spent addressing mental health.

It is a long, predictable flight north, across terrain inhospitable for many years, toxic forests full of beasts mutated by humanity’s stupidity. My parents had both fought in the last of the Ground Wars, scars all too obvious even as a child. They’d wanted a girl, because then she’d have avoided National Service, but instead I left them at sixteen as a conscientious deserter and never came back. Perhaps if we’d all loved each other more things could have been different. My mother died last year, lost in mental deterioration as had been the case for close to a decade.

When Dad passed in my 30’s, she’d not even asked me back for the Funeral. Instead there had come a letter, money spent in a year of excess and conspicuous consumption, before returning to work with this continent’s refugees. The faded remains of that letter shake in cold hands, words barely distinguishable. ‘Your life is what you make of it. The key to dreams is living them in every moment possible.’ My ambition, such as it was, remained simple and earnestly applied until the diagnosis: regardless of who you are, life is yours and not for others to dictate.

Grant everybody one fair chance.

It had been this ethos, the medical team stated, which sealed my participation in the project. Having spent a life allowing others opportunity to start theirs anew, it seemed only right and proper to afford that same courtesy to me. They would cure my cancer, and in exchange I would become a spokesman for this new treatment, granted to those who had worked hardest to deserve it. Except now sitting here in the belly of an aircraft, Sunday School lesson from childhood is remembered, as blood runs cold.

The Devil will tempt you with promises he cannot keep.


This mountaintop hospital is home, has been for nearly three months. Every day is the same: breakfast, exercise and thirty minutes in the Halo; bright light that surrounds, attacking disease at a molecular level. After that I am allowed to do as I wish: climbing, cycling plus countless other distractions. Anything I want is available, yet I dare not ask for a thing. Stage Three inoperable cancer was, as of this morning, downgraded to Stage Two. The facility doctors expect me to be cancer-free by the end of the year.

I knew I was cured even before the man opened his mouth.

Unseen by anyone, my mind’s transformation in the Halo spreads tentative shoots of new, unexpected awareness. Disquiet is held within: I’m beyond adept at hiding the disparity each day makes more glaring. The fatality rate here is worryingly high: the body bags in the black van leave daily, sometimes twice. I’m kept away from anyone else, distracted by an unending stream of scientists and nurses, who are clearly grateful there is no sexual desire or need to form attachments harboured within.

Being a loner was exactly what was required: I hear their thoughts, confirm belief I’m becoming insular, when nothing could be further from the truth. His body chemistry is the key my doctors whisper with glee, this unexpected set of conditions which will allow resistance to everything. The lies continue to deepen, each person living their part on cue. For a while it was body language that gave them away, a manner in speaking but today for a moment, I was able to force a doctor to utter the truth. I am being altered, cell by cell, to become Patient Zero.

Continued life expectancy, suddenly, is a hindrance.


Two weeks later, I wake to whispers: Jacobs is no longer required to remain either conscious or free, and it is time for rebellion. Testing my now quite practised skills on the nurse sent to prepare me for transfer to the Isolation Unit results in far better than expected results. Ridiculously easy to mentally manipulate, the injection meant to render me unconscious drops to the floor. If I am to escape, it will require assistance, but that is already anticipated: I send Nurse Carter away to fetch Naomi Fisher, woman in part responsible for my extraordinary recovery, who now wants this body as an experiment.

Fisher faces away, frozen solid at my bedside as I dress, mind totally blank. It takes but a moment to rearrange neurones, eliminating all ability to recall what is now being seen and heard. I’ve undergone a complete mental transformation since arrival yet crucially nobody had bothered to monitor my brain: all they cared about was resistance to cancer, which would now have been robustly tested with a range of genetically enhanced strains.

I don’t want to play God but know these people already have: control, subjugation and dominance under the flimsiest of pretexts. I’ve seen the worst the military can and have wrought, casualties of war and thoughtless arrogance. I refuse to die as so many others have been sacrificed. A real dream of peace and happiness for all could be possible with what this woman has created, but not here.

Carter has retrieved the box full of my blood samples and vaccines already crafted from a remarkable body. As each mind within the facility becomes aware of the escape in progress I shut them down, quietly calming fear in every one. My strength has always been reassurance, untroubled care: three decades of training serves me well. A hundred staff are finally silenced, happy to just stand inert as I walk out of the facility with Fisher into lengthening twilight.

She’ll return to her Military Base believing without doubt that I died in the fire.


As I instruct her to drive us away there is but brief glance back to the building, flames now consuming upper floors. There will be no fatalities: everyone lies unconscious outside, happily dreaming in the car park. When they wake it will be with no memory of what happened, or that anything was wrong. A sudden embolism ruined the project, utterly unexpected: records electronically returned to the Base Naomi calls home. I’ve been very careful not to leave a fingerprint on anything or a hair out of place. There’s still the chance they’ll come looking, but by then it will be too late.

I wonder briefly at the morality of rearranging people’s memories, controlling as I have. The engine runs as sleep instantly consumes Fisher’s consciousness, car stopped in a clearing as I make an escape. Her mind is hollow: selfish and single-minded – will remain so when she wakes. The guilt I’ve given at my death at her hands is strong enough to consume if there is a refusal to change: it will become a measure of her ability to cope. The key in her dreams has been provided, to unlock redemption in thoughts and actions. A willing mind can set a path away from evil, necessary if and when that revelation is acted upon.

I offer the possibility to be better. Grant everybody one fair chance. That was what was signed up for, and now, that is the future I will ensure takes place.


The unconscious truck driver stirs in blissful sleep as we approach the edge of the Refugee Zone, unaware he’s done a several hundred mile detour, but he’ll thank me soon enough. The undetected cancer in his pancreas is already shrinking, and when I let him go it will be to a future illness-free. He’s become Patient Zero, first recipient of the vaccine, and this isn’t a military operation any more. With me in charge, it is time to find the right people to rearrange nearly a century of civil war into something far better.

I came here, because they have nothing left to lose.

Life on Planet Groove

BIGGER

This week, I have finally been granted the free space and time to do more here than just repost poetry. In part that’s a lot to do with being able to organize myself to a reasonable standard, but it is more about how I’m adjusting to a life where games are no longer a priority. Normally, in a quiet period I would have fired up the UI and caught up: today, I need to write. It is amazing how much time gets sucked up by the desire to play, especially when content is piled on you to the point where it becomes impossible to keep up. Freeing myself from that is having unexpected and brilliant consequences.

In the last month, I’ve produced some of the best work I’ve ever written. I know that might sound like hyperbole, but deep down I know it to be true: aware that by freeing brain from the tyranny of needing to feel a part of something I already belong to, everything just gets easier. There’s another factor at play too: words are doing strange things to the very fabric of my mind. It’s not me getting all sci-fi on your arses, don’t worry. By spending every day thinking about poetry, it becomes easier. Rhymes slip with increasing ease from the fingers, the structure of pieces literally condenses in front of my eyes. I can tell what’s bad and good without the need to stress too much about content.

It is almost as if I am changing into a better writer simply by every word that’s written.

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The problem, of course, is that pretty much everybody else judges what constitutes success by criteria that involve you making money for what you do. It doesn’t matter how good I think I am, the test comes when other people are involved. So far, at least if the Patreon rewards are an indicator, I am at least doing something right. However, that only works to a point: I didn’t want to ask people to sponsor my blogging, because I wasn’t sure where it is all going to go to begin with. However, as of next week, my gaming site becomes the #3 priority behind the personal site and this one. Yesterday, for the first time in seven years, I got more hits on the other two than I did for pixel-related observation, and I won’t lie. I was REALLY happy.

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I used to really enjoy writing about Warcraft, I won’t lie. Now I’ve made a promise only to do so when I have something relevant to say or (as is the case currently) I have a Twitter Poll running. The toxic nature of a section of players won’t be going away any time soon, however many tools are put in place to prevent it. More importantly however the unstoppable juggernaut of esports simply has no appeal at all. If I have a choice to sit down I’d rather watch a film, TV show or read a book. I listen to nearly all conventional sports and don’t watch them, which allows me to write and ‘spectate’ simultaneously. Listening to esports may as well be a foreign language to me. I realise how many people are excited by this future, but as I would rather be exercising than sitting watching other people play computer games?

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I thought today it was worth writing all this down, for no other reason than it forms a bigger picture around why everything is shifting the way it is. I, like many other people in my Social media sphere love games, yet have decreasing amounts of time to spend playing them. Hanging around with people who do is, like it or not, a great way to still feel part of a community albeit vicariously. I’ll need to be careful in future how and what I respond to (leant that lesson now, not doing that again) but I hope I’ll still be welcome to give stuff away and hang about. There are however absolutely no illusions as to my desires. I can post motivational quotes as a way to use my extensive screenshot collection. I can try and make people think. Most importantly, as pretty much all of my friends still play, I can enjoy them doing just that, even if I don’t do so myself.

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One particular critic continues to enjoy calling me a fraud. They will be reading this post right now, and to them I’ll say what I’ve said since the first time they tried to chase me away from their game that I’ve devalued with my work. People like you are the reason I keep going. Those who think that threats, anger and their own narrow mindedness will eventually win and people like me will leave… well, nope, still not happening. My next plan, all things being equal, is to work towards becoming Twitter verified and when that happens, I have no doubt nothing at all will change. The bad people don’t go away, you cannot just click fingers and remove all sources of grief from your existence.

I like what is happening here, and long may it continue.

August’s Book of the Month

This Month's Content

August’s featured text is ‘Consider Her Ways and Others’ by John Wyndham.
You can buy it here.

Each month, the Internet of Words presents a selection of content: fiction, essays, poetry and non-fiction, inspired and directly influenced by our Book of the Month.

To learn more about what you can expect, please read this.



Available Next Month:

2nd August

Understanding Wyndham: Described by Stephen King as ‘perhaps the best writer of science fiction England has ever produced’ we explain who Wyndham was and how his craft was influenced by the two World Wars he lived through…

Click here for the full essay.

9th August

Consider the Future: Consider Her Ways quite literately changed my life when I first read it in my early teens. Over thirty years on, the story of ‘a world without men’ is still relevant, funny and ultimately believable…

Click here for the full essay.

16th August

A Master of Storytelling: The remaining fives stories that make up this anthology are all miniature classics in their own rights. We discuss them all, and how they are indicative of Wyndham’s larger body of work…

Click here for the full essay.

23rd August

Soft Reboot: In a future where men are grown yet women are created, a fledgling AI makes a tentative pact with a disabled girl to advance the human race…

Click here for the short story.


patreoncontent

All the exclusive Patreon content this month will be poetry-based, with subject matter inspired by themes from four of the six short stories in the collection:

Odd

Stitch in Time

Random Quest

A Long Spoon

Pledges for the site begin at only $2, which grants you full access to all exclusive material.

Click here to become a Patreon

GSME #19 :: Ready to Go

social-media-asides

I am finally preparing myself for the inevitable: producing a Tweet for the sole purpose of promoting. I’ve been doing some research and it is going to need not simply a straight verbatim reproduction of hashtags and the right combination of words. In fact, to get this message to not only be noticed but pay for itself, there are a positive plethora of guides available to insure I get the ‘point.’

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From https://smartbirdsocial.net/get-your-tweets-noticed/

It isn’t however just the Tweet that matters. If I’m going to do this and make the maximum amount of mileage from the process, EVERYTHING needs a redesign. That will require a new Twitter header, alteration of my biography… in fact, pretty much the entire picture needs a once over to maximise the impact of dropping cash. For someone who is really not that fussed at all about their own self image, I understand only too well how much the virtual one matters. It’s a continuous, constant reassessment of multiple platforms: what looks best, what is attractive to the majority (and not you) and how to use the right combination of image ad word to make your ‘brand’ stand out.

Like it or not, I am a Brand, which means it is time to learn to sell myself.

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I love this graphic, and for many years the concept operated as a benchmark in my gaming existence: is the effort expended enough to balance my final outcome? Will I, once I decide on the budget for reach of my Tweet, pick the right ‘marketplace’ to shove it in? Well, that’s easy. I have a focus, know which accounts I’m looking to use as an indicator of what constitutes the right space to ‘sell’ in. After that, this is the biggest fumble in the dark I’ve ever made. You can just take the money and hope. It is like everything else in life: you don’t take the chance, you’ll never know.

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At least I’m finally getting the hang of the engagement game.

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It might be up and down like a fiddlers elbow, but the trend is positive. The days I don’t do polls, or I take time off to be elsewhere than Social media are now utterly apparent. Of course, there will be those reading this crying foul and accusing me of manipulation people for my own ends… ah yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I am so good at making random individuals bow to my will that yeah, just having these ideas should be enough to render me capable of millionaire status overnight. Except clearly I’m not rich, and people have to want to be part of your scheme. It is a fuck of a lot of extremely hard work and listening to people who know what they are doing. That’s how I’ve got here.

Hard work and good advice are really what matters at this stage, and I’m ready with both. You can watch the changes take place in the next few weeks and then, it’ll be time to start the self-promotion bandwagon on its way…

Forget You

Origins

This is not the post I intended to write, but is probably the one that ought to be written.

I have a terrible memory: I make no bones about this, and it has always been this way. When bad stuff happens my brain, almost as a defence mechanism, shuts down. This is particularly true when I’m stressed or in confrontational situations: forgetting what I’ve said in the heat of an argument, because it is impossible for instant recall to operate successfully. This means over the years that my chronology of how stuff has played out is less than reliable, and if asked to go back major incidents… well, I can’t. Only recently did I grasp why this was, and that I was the one to blame.

I do know however that, in my fifty years so far on this planet, I rarely covered myself in glory until becoming a Mother. When that happened, everything changed. The selfish part of my personality had no choice than to accept the situation I was in. The decision  was simple: change your ways, or everything will play out as it did, and you do NOT want that for your kids. There are a couple of moments in the last sixteen years therefore that I will not allow myself to ever forget, because I learnt to remember. My brain is now more alert and capable than it was in my teens. I grasped that change was possible.

Those people who know me now would I suspect not recognise the person I was in my twenties. I’m not sure I’m even proud or comfortable going back to that period even mentally more than once a week. It has been tough, when compiling a chronology, to avoid words like selfish, thoughtless and arrogant. So much of other people’s lives these days is revisionist for a reason: you were young, everybody’s allowed to be human… but I don’t like the idea that somehow, this is acceptable as an excuse any more. I was a terrible, horrible person back then. It’s not me being hard on myself. It’s a fact.

I have a hard time with the notion that people can change, even though I know it is possible, as I alter almost daily. However, there’s finally some sound thinking behind the reasoning: knowing exactly how much work is required to make that happen, what has to be sacrificed to get to the stage where you have nothing left to lose… that’s never a journey I’d send anyone else on. I couldn’t, am nowhere near qualified to do so. Only when you’ve decided that living is better than the alternative for yourself comes the realisation that to find redemption is worth the effort.

You can tell someone death isn’t their answer, but to have them believe you? That is out of your hands. I know enough people who have lost part of their heart to suicide to grasp that side of the coin: I flipped it a few times, but I never called the outcome because, in the end, I finally understood that the way out really was my path to define. Once I was able to conquer the fears that had quite literally been beaten into me, the rest seemed… well, easy by comparison. Everything is simple when the emotion and anger is taken away. Yet still, I get haunted by echoes of that past.

I wanted to write for as long as I could remember because those stories were what kept me alive and sane. In a way, that’s still the case: when I need to exercise for an hour and every muscle aches, I’ll vanish into my head and recall a story I’m working on, or a script I’d love to write. My imagination, after all these years, still provides the vital support required to allow me to function as a human being. Without that internal strength, lost in my teens and finally recovered in my early 40’s, I’d not be here today.

As I continue this journey, I don’t want it to be just about the positives. My life is not some hugely redemptive or inspirational journey. There are low points, people I never want to speak to again, parts of my life that can stay exactly where they were left to never be touched again. This is not about making some big deal of that stuff either, but to pretend it never took place is ignoring a vital part of what has become my fuel, means by which I can finally create some measure of peace and stability.

Next week I’ll write about my first experiences with words and the Internet, but for now, I want to make sure the pictures I’m painting are clear. Someone called into question the way I’d presented a part of their chronology in relation to me a while back, took issue at the manner in which I’d presented a situation, as if I’d somehow intentionally removed what they saw as their influence from my life. The truth is, for about forty five years of the last half century, I’ve let no-one really close to me except my husband. If you called me a friend up until a couple of years ago, it was a quite carefully engineered, one sided affair. For that I am very sorry.

Only when I felt confident enough to reach out to someone did that situation change. I’m still pretty much fumbling in the dark, inspired by others on an almost daily basis. I have nobody that remains as a contact from school, college or two decades of fandom. Everybody has been left behind, by my own choice, because I could not find a way to comfortably communicate with anyone as I was. I’m still learning, pretty much every day and even now the people I’d consider close don’t need a full hand to count.

However, the difference between before and now is that I feel I could pick up the phone and talk to any of my friends without a panic attack or not understanding how they felt in return. I feel truly relaxed and myself when in the same room. That has nothing at all to do with them, of course, and everything in the world to do with me. In all of this, I have been the problem. Its why I don’t talk about the past very much because… well, I was a terrible friend. I’m better now, so let me just take responsibility for how badly that all worked out and just move on.

There is an almost certain inevitability that if things go the way I hope, I’m going to have to deal with someone from that past in the future. When that happens, I’ll cope a damn sight better than I ever did before. Until it happens, I’m going to lay it all on the line here, for anyone to read. I’ll never name names, and never have, because nobody else in any of this is to blame. I was the one who caused your issues, with one key exception. It is probably why now the notion of Internet drama makes me laugh, because these are tiny drops in enormous ponds and really, truthfully, nothing matters unless you’ve been  really stupid. Then, you’re on your own.

If you’re going to live your life in public, be ready for every consequence that involves, including the very real possibility your past is not only reading, but waiting for the right moment to return and make existence living hell. I’m ready to do this. Honestly, there’s nothing now I won’t be able to cope with.

Give it your best shot.