Monthly Archives: August 2010

Short Story: Theoretical

Note: This story borrows the character of Doc Labyrinth from Philip K Dick’s fantastic short stories. For the real thing, check out “The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford” or “The Preserving Machine”.

“What is it, Doc?”

Doc Labyrinth furrowed his brow and tapped his desk pensively. “That’s the trouble! I can’t remember.”

Sighing, I pulled out a chair and sat down. My friend was brilliant — no question about it — but more than slightly scatterbrained. I’m still not sure exactly what sort of doctorate he has.

“How do you know there’s a problem if you can’t remember what it is?”

“Well, I know what the problem is, in the general sense. I just don’t have any specifics.” He paused with the momentary hesitation that precedes all of his technical explanations. “You are aware that I have been studying Taoist philosophy?”
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Short Story: Digital Afterlife

Note: This is strongly influenced by Dan Johnson‘s hundred-word stories, in terms of style, length, and subject matter.

I blame the school system.

It all started in high school. Primarily, it was those two fantastic Comp-Sci teachers, but if the school did more to help us socialize outside our age groups we wouldn’t be in this mess.

We were all friends together as frosh, and juniors, and well into our twenties. We were all twenty-six (or seven) when we finally got our hands on a big enough supercomputer, and by my thirtieth birthday we did it: Strong AI. Within a week, Something happened. We don’t know exactly what or when, but the next Wednesday Jason stumbled upon root access, and it became clear that we’d been seamlessly uploaded into a computer simulation.

Yeah, it’s all pretty Wachowski Brothers.

A bit of hacking showed conclusively that we weren’t aging anymore, which I thought an awful pity. I’ve always been curious about life, so why miss out on the latter two-thirds of it? There was some back-and-forth on this matter; some of us wanted eternal youth, but it had to be all or nothing. Nobody wants to be twenty years older than their high-school pals. That exchange led directly to the creation of the Levels. We would age, and die, and be reborn in an identical but separate simulation; and so on ad infinitum. We could look back at lower Levels with the right hack, but not ahead. This also solved the tricky matter of telling seven billion people they were computer programs: They were reborn as infants, with no memories of a prior world. We, however, always reincarnate at sixteen. As this world’s caretakers, we can’t afford to forget.

There was just one problem… a few of our younger friends found out the truth, and told their kids and grandkids. A bit got lost in translation. Within a millennium, we witnessed the emergence of a new religion on Level One Earth, with millions of zealous followers and the most insane metaphysical beliefs you’ve ever heard of.

Dramatic Happenings

So, I got back from camp a few days ago and saw this on the corner of my street:
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Music, Music, Music

Until this summer, I didn’t really own CDs; mostly, I bought and listened to music online.

In the last couple months I got a few as gifts, bought some used ones online or in record stores, and somehow ended up with over a dozen, as follows:

Rise Against:
Appeal to Reason
Siren Song of the Counter-Culture

Miles Davis:
Kind of Blue
In a Silent Way

Oscar Peterson and Count Basie:
Satch and Josh . . . . Again

McCoy Tyner:
Milestone Profiles [2 discs]

Bruce Springsteen:
The Essential Bruce Springsteen [3 discs]

Bob Marley:
One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley

The Specials:
Specials

The Clash:
London Calling

The Toasters:
Skaboom!
New York Fever
Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down

And, in no particular order, here are other bands I like:

The Beatles, The English Beat, The Selecter, Westbound Train, The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Ramones, Catch 22, Gimp, Streetlight Manifesto, Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, Billy Joel, REM, Cream, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Rancid, Desmond Dekker, The Mad Caddies, The Offspring, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Toots and the Maytals, The Skatalites, The Pietasters, The Planet Smashers, The Aquabats, The Cat Empire, Ленинград, and Sonny Rhodes (mainly for the Firefly theme). Also, the Rogue Traders because that one episode of Doctor Who was amazing.

Character Notes: The Subtle Zombie

I had an interesting idea a few days ago: a fully-intelligent zombie who looks and acts exactly like a living human. Picture a cross between Martin, Dexter, and Phineas Gage. I’ll call ’em “smart zombies” until I find a better name.

Shout-out: This is dedicated to Jack Summers.

I’ll turn this into an actual story at some point, but here are some rough notes: (WARNING: fairly graphic)

This version of the “zombie virus” is technically a type of sociopathy [think Dexter] caused by the removal of an entirely fictional part of the frontal lobes [think Gage]. The result is a weakened or absent sense of morality and a driving urge to consume brains — but only a very specific (and fictional) part of the frontal lobes. And so on.
Thus, the only physical difference between a smart zombie and a human is a major scar on the forehead, which can be easily hidden. There’s a lot of room for psychological drama here, because a freshly bitten zombie would, understandably, have reservations about lunching on somebody’s gray matter. In most cases, the constant hunger for braaaiiiiins would be too much, and the zombie would start planning its move [think Dexter or Martin]. Zombies with particularly strong moral compasses might become zombie-hunters instead.

The mechanism for zombie-creation may sound implausible, but it’s the only way I can find to reconcile “zombies eat brains” with “zombies with damaged brains die” and “zombies are created by zombie bites”. As far as I can tell, the classic horror-movie zombie can only spread by accident, with near-misses receiving bites to the extremities instead of the head.

That’s all I have for now; obviously, I am indebted to monster genius George Romero for both Martin and Night of the Living Dead.

Scribbles and Lies

Scribbles and Lies is the Livejournal blog of Dan Curtis Johnson, a comic book writer and programmer.

Every day, he posts something, and it’s always weird and usually vaguely science-fictiony. I can’t really be more specific than that, but the first post on his site gives an explanation of a sort.

That’s all I have to say, except that this is one of my favorite sites; if you see any unusual ultrashort stories on my blog, you know who to blame. Enjoy!

Pretty Fractalicious Wallpaper!

Here’s some pretty wallpaper I made using the random walk I showed off earlier!

Click to download your preferred resolution: (if I missed yours, let me know and I’ll make it!)

1024×768:

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Giant Flaming Chunks of Rock…

…hurtling through the air at unbelievable speeds.

I saw some Perseids tonight.

They were pretty.

Anhubris: Theological False Modesty

I don’t have time for a real post tonight, but here’s a quick thought: Hubris is badly underrated. People jump to “don’t play God” far too quickly, far too often.

In almost any situation where “hubris” is invoked, it shouldn’t be. For example:

“Don’t create life. Only God gets to; for Man to try is hubris.” Admittedly, creating life may be a bad idea for other reasons; for example, it would be a legal nightmare, and the ethics would be hell to sort out. But “hubris”?

The hubris argument here is often backed up with religious claims, which generally imply that there’s only room for one Creator, and it would be downright rude for us to try to put God out of business. Doesn’t God get credit for our work? We’ve been thanking him for artistic and scientific advances for millennia.

Other arguments claim that it would be improper, that we wouldn’t be knowing our place or our limitations. That one’s even less well-founded; it consists of applying hierarchical social norms to theology: “If every class of person has their social limitations, then so do humans as a species.”

There’s nothing noble about “knowing your place,” and there’s nothing immoral about pushing the boundaries of what is considered possible. As a culture, it would do us some good to throw out “Don’t Meddle” and replace it with “Proceed With Caution” — but above all, Proceed.

More Crazy People: Crank.net

Yes, I’m posting about Internutters again. Don’t worry, my blog isn’t about to become an Internet crank encyclopedia.

It doesn’t have to, because Crank Dot Net is out there.

I won’t go into too much detail; you can (and should) explore CDN’s full range of anthologized insanity on your own. Here’s just one example: the one, the only, the nuttiest site on the web…

Time Cube: If you haven’t heard of this one, beware: high-octane paranoia ahead. Cubic and Wisest Human Gene Ray uses the site to patiently and lucidly explain his revolutionary idea that… um… err…
Truth is, nobody knows exactly what he’s on about, despite the formidable wall of text he’s provided. This is unfortunate, in view of the $10,000 award that awaits anyone who can prove him wrong.

Excerpt:
Educators are lying bastards.
-1 x -1= +1 is WRONG, it is
academic stupidity and is evil.
The educated stupid should acknowledge
the natural antipodes of+1 x +1 = +1and
-1 x -1 = -1 exist as plus and minus values
of opposite creation – depicted by opposite
sexes and opposite hemispheres.

Obviously, Mr. Ray has lost his marbles.

On another note: don’t miss the hit sequel to Time Cube!