404 Words is Accepting Short Stories for Publication Until September 1st!

booksSo I was on the writing subreddit and I found a link to something called 404 Words which all short story writers should start paying attention to, especially if you are looking to get published with the possibility of winning $200.00 USD.

You can find out who they are on their About Us page, but more importantly, click the next link to find out about their contest.

They are accepting fiction story submissions until September 1st (I know, not much time left). All accepted stories will be published on their site, and the author of the top submission wins $200.00.

The contest is international so anyone in the world can enter, however all stories must be submitted in English.

The other trick is all submissions must have a word count of no more than (you guessed it) 404 words including the title. Click the link I provided above for the rest of the details.

I just thought I’d throw this out there in case any authors visiting my blog have a short fiction story 404 words or less ready, or you can put one together very quickly (actually, they’ll accept up to 3 submissions per person).

Just spreading the love. I submitted one story already and I’ve got five more days to decide if I want to write one or two more.

Cheers, and if you submit a story or stories to them, good luck.

Why I Wrote My First Children’s Story for My Grandson

reading

Image: boomerhighway.org

I published The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us yesterday but not any sort of explanation about where the story came from or why I wrote it (except on Facebook and Google+).

I consider it one of my best efforts but it doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of love so far. Probably one of the reasons is that it’s over 5700 words long, basically a short story or a book chapter. Who’s got the time, right?

This story is different. It’s personally important to me. I’ve invested a lot of emotion in it. I wrote it for my seven-year-old grandson.

He’s really imaginative and every time I see him, he wants to play our “game”. Our game is a talking game. He assigns us both roles and then we make up an adventure. In our current game, I am “Grandpa” (no surprise there) and he is my pet “Honey Dragon”.

Actually, the term “pet” is a bit of a misnomer since the dragon is supposed to be thousands of years old and know all kinds of arcane magical spells.

Our game scenarios are highly derivative. He pulls a lot of his ideas from “Harry Potter” and I pull mine from all kinds of comic books, science fiction stories, TV shows, and films.

I’ve tried to write a story for him before, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. However, our current series of adventures spawned an idea, a story about a boy and his dragon.

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The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us

dragonThe First Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosian Dragon

The old man found the dragon in the middle of the field behind his house. It’s not everyday you find a mythical being lying in the tall, wet grass while going for a stroll. Last night there had been a terrible thunderstorm, common in Southwestern Idaho during late summer. Had the storm somehow brought this dragon?

“Oh my! What are you?” Grandpa James wasn’t used to fantastical happenings. He lived a quiet life with his son and grandchildren a few miles outside of town. They were all at home still asleep. Grandpa almost always took his walks early on Summer mornings before it got hot.

The dragon said something. It definitely sounded like words, sort of whispered, but totally incomprehensible. It seemed to be beckoning.

“You poor thing. Your wing is broken.”

Having never met a dragon before, Grandpa wasn’t sure how close to get. He wanted to help the creature, but would it bite?

“Me no hurt.”

Those were the first words it said Grandpa could understand.

“You won’t hurt me?”

The dragon nodded.

“I want to help you. Can I pick you up?”

The dragon seemed to smile but exposing what looked like hundreds of needle thin teeth gave Grandpa pause.

Summoning his courage, he gingerly approached the formerly mythical creature. It was about the size of a large cocker spaniel or a small collie. Grandpa carefully avoided touching the broken wing and managed to get his arms around it.

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Tattoo

khan

Behind the scenes of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

If you like science fiction and/or are a Star Trek fan, you’ve probably seen the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982) a time or two. In the movie, the late Ricardo Montalban reprised his role as Khan Noonien Singh which he first played in the original Star Trek series episode Space Seed (1967). I must admit that “Wrath of Khan” is one of my two favorite Star Trek films, the other being Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).

Some of you may know that Montalban also played the lead in a television show popular in the 1970s and early ’80s called Fantasy Island. Montalban portrayed the mysterious Mr. Roarke who had a diminutive assistant called Tattoo, who was played by Hervé Villechaize. Villechaize’s most famous line from the series is “The plane, the plane” (you had to be there).

I found a behind-the-scenes photo from “Wrath of Kahn” on a Facebook group called Science Fiction Cult Classics. It depicts Montalban as Kahn laughing at some inflated figure with Villechaize’s face on it, placed on the set as a gag.

This probably won’t be funny to anyone who didn’t see the television show and the film back in the day, but I thought I’d share anyway.

I’m Going To Be Published on “Theme of Absence”

infinity

Image: numbersleuth.org/

Have a look at the site Theme of Absence. As it says on the main page, it’s an “Online Magazine of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction (the lack of an Oxford comma just kills me).

Anyway, the site administrator is Jason Bougger, and along with Betty Rocksteady, and Tim Bougger, they accept previously unpublished submissions of flash fiction and short stories. Here’s a link to their Submission Guidelines.

The reason I bring all this up is that one of my submissions has been accepted and will be published on Friday, September 23rd.

I’ve been published quite a few times before, but those were all technical books, self-study guides, and textbooks.

On September 23rd, one of my fiction pieces will be published online for the very first time (apart from my own blog, of course).

I’m pretty excited.

Jason also offered to do an author interview with me and I said “yes,” so that’ll appear on Theme of Absence the same day as my flash fiction (just a hair under 1,000 words) story.

It’s nothing that I’ve published on my site, so you don’t get a preview.

You don’t have to wait a whole month. Visit Theme of Absence right now and read some of the other stories they’ve published. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite author.

An AI Sexbot That Can Love You Back

terminator

Actress Summer Glau as a Terminator in the show The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Well this is kind of creepy.

About a month ago, I wrote a story about a man who’d found The Perfect Woman, but as it turns out, she’s an artificial intelligence in an android body.

Now I find out that on a Reddit AMA (ask me anything), Matt McMullen, CEO of RealDoll said they are building an AI product that will be connected to either a robotic doll or experienced in a virtual reality environment. The result is not to fool the customer into thinking their sex doll is human, but to make the experience a bit more “real”.

No, the doll will not love you back, but it might be able to simulate something like it.

“We are designing the AI to be fun and engaging, more than focusing on whether it can fool you into thinking it’s a person,” he said.

He later added, when someone asked if dolls will ever love us back: “I hope that we can at least simulate that,” McMullen responded. “That’s the goal.”

-Kirstie McCrum
“Sex doll makers ‘putting finishing touches’ to artificial intelligence app so they can love you back”
Mirror.co.uk

I thought I was only kidding, but this is for real.

So how long will it be before such a product is on the market. According to Tech.Mic.com it could be as soon as the end of 2017.

This again brings up the concern of how smart sex dolls may increase human alienation.

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The Machines Are Hacking The Machines

AI hack duel

Spectators at an AI hacking duel
DARPA

I just read a story at New Scientist called Autonomous AI guards to stalk the internet fighting hackers. Apparently, earlier this month at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, with a $4 million prize hanging in the balance, different Artificial Intelligences were set up to hack each other while defending themselves from their opponent’s hacking attempts.

I know, right? The machines are hacking each other.

This has a good side and a bad side in the real world. The good side is you can configure an AI to look for vulnerabilities in your own system, patching them as they’re found. The bad side is that malicious players can set up their own AIs as autonomous hackers, scanning the web looking for vulnerable systems and exploiting them when discovered.

The New Scientist article ends with the somewhat humorous and ominous paragraph:

In a talk at Black Hat, Devost (Matt Devost of cybersecurity firm FusionX in Washington DC) joked that the competition heralded the launch of Skynet, the malevolent AI in the Terminator films. “Everyone laughed,” he says. “The humans were applauding their own demise!”

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Another Update on My Proposed SciFi Novel

questor

Mike Ferrell as Jerry Robinson on the set of Gene Roddenberry’s “The Questor Tapes” (1974)

They are still in various stages of drafts, but I’ve got eight out of twelve chapters in Word docs. They still need a lot of work, but the basic story is there. I had to add what I thought of as an “experimental” short story as a chapter. I did it to add to the word count at first, but as it turns out, when I changed the chapter around a bit, it fits the flow of the rest of the book quite well, and introduces greater controversy regarding the relationship between human and synthetic beings.

I feel like I shouldn’t give away any more excerpts, at least for the present. I don’t want to publish so much of the novel here on my blog that there won’t be any interest in it when I finally get it published (boy, am I optimistic).

As I mentioned, there are twelve planned chapters plus an epilogue which either ties everything together or leaves one really big question unanswered…or both.

Remember, this is a novel that incorporates religious and spiritual imagery, it is not Christian or Jewish science fiction, so not all chapters will have the same emphasis on Biblical understanding from a synthetic intelligence’s viewpoint as the first few.

I do promise that the final chapter and epilogue do return to those issues in a very big way and the novel wouldn’t be complete without resolving them within my two synthetic prototypes as well as within their creator.

I’m having a lot of fun here, but so far it’s chapter by chapter, and as I add elements in later chapters, I’m going to have to go back and revise earlier ones for the sake of continuity. If this all comes together as I hope, I think it will be a very good story.

I can only hope that others will agree.

Transformation by Vision

“I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope.”

-Stanley Elkin

Image: sciencealert.com

Image: sciencealert.com

His traveling companions gently deposited the Pharisee at the edge of a sleeping mat in a small, rented room just off of Straight street in Damascus. This wasn’t how they’d imagined entering the city, nor was Sha’ul the man with whom they had traveled from Jerusalem. Only hours ago, he was a fiery zealot (though not literally associated with the Zealots), breathing murderous threats against the disciples of a Rav named Yeshua, who had died and supposedly been resurrected, vowing their imprisonment or destruction for (supposedly) speaking against the Temple and the Torah.

Sha’ul’s once penetrating gaze had dimmed, and wide-open but unseeing eyes had become dulled in the aftermath of the blazing light that bathed their party on the road approaching this city, and a voice only Sha’ul could clearly hear had spoken to him of things astounding and forbidden.

“We will take our leave of you now, my Master,” Simeon nearly whispered to the once vital but now strangely shrunken, frail Pharisee. “We need to secure our own rooms.” Sha’ul seemed deaf as well as blind for he did not respond. “We’ll bring back food.”

Without turning toward the speaking man, Sha’ul faintly nodded his assent as if he could still see the unknown vision from the road. Simeon and his two cohorts quickly escaped the oppressive presence of the now sightless and helpless minister of justice against the religious sect they’d learned was called “The Way.” Their once proud mission was reduced to ashes.

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The Fifth Chapter of the Book of Jonah

jonah's kikayonNow it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was grieved.

And he prayed to the Lord and said, “Please, O Lord, was this not my contention while I was still on my land? For this reason I had hastened to flee to Tarshish, for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, with much kindness, and relenting of evil.

And now, O Lord, take now my soul from me, for my death is better than my life.” And the Lord said: Are you deeply grieved?

And Jonah had gone out of the city, and had stationed himself on the east of the city, and there he made himself a hut and sat under it in the shade until he would see what would happen in the city.

Now the Lord God appointed a kikayon, and it grew up over Jonah to be shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort, and Jonah was overjoyed with the kikayon.

Now God appointed a worm at the rise of dawn on the morrow, and the worm attacked the kikayon, and it withered.

Now it came to pass when the sun shone, that God appointed a stilling east wind, and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, and he fainted, and he begged to die, and he said, “My death is better than my life.”

And God said to Jonah; Are you very grieved about the kikayon? And he said, “I am very grieved even to death.”

And the Lord said: You took pity on the kikayon, for which you did not toil nor did you make it grow, which one night came into being and the next night perished.

Now should I not take pity on Nineveh, the great city, in which there are many more than one hundred twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and many beasts as well?

-from Jonah chapter 4

Chapter 5

And Jonah replied to the Lord, “Did the kikayon sin against you and against your people Israel as did the people of Nineveh? Their sin was very great and yet you forgave them and they live. What did the kikayon do to live one day and then die?”

And God said to Jonah; “Consider the words of my servant Job: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Are you greater than my servant Job who suffered severely at the hands of the Satan and yet did not lose his trust in Me?”

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