Mr. Covingham’s Secret

garter snake

How I imagine Mr. Covingham appears

Five-year-old Zooey’s eyes fluttered. She felt especially warm and cozy wrapped up in all of these blankets in front of Gerliliam’s fireplace. She opened her eyes just long enough to see that her four siblings were still sleeping all around her and that made her feel safe. The fire was the only light in the room, and since the dragon lived under a tree, she couldn’t tell if it was still dark outside.

Then she felt something moving against her arm and a small head protruded from the covers.

“Mr. Covingham,” she whispered not wanting to wake the others. “I thought you’d gone home.”

She had only met the blue and orange striped garter snake last night, but already she felt like they were really good friends.

“I intended to Zooey, but it was still so cold and rainy out. You know how we snakes don’t do well in the cold.”

“I’m glad you decided to stay. I wanted to get to know you better.”

Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

Writing a New Chapter for My Proposed Novel and Needing Advice

idea

Image: Clipart Panda

So far, all the work on this novel, which chronicles the emergence of a truly synthetic intelligence and its impact on the human race, has been on chapters I’ve already written and that need to be updated. Yesterday, I spent some time writing a completely new chapter.

It’s a first draft and it’s not finished yet. I found I had a general idea what I wanted to write about, but it was pretty ill-defined. I needed to create one new intelligence plus several new characters pretty much on the fly. Some old, familiar characters also make an appearance, tying events in the latest chapter back to earlier ones.

Once the chapter is complete, my word count for the whole book will be somewhere over 40,000. I’ve found out that 40,000 is the minimum word count for a novel (albeit a short one). But that’s only halfway through my proposed table of contents.

That means I have a decision to make. Do I keep on writing, creating a work that would end up being between 60,000 to 80,000 words (or more), or do I split my proposed novel in half?

If I do the latter, is my current ending chapter a good place to stop, or will I need to add more material to make it a “cliffhanger” and also a natural lead into the next novel? Another thing. If I do end it here, will the proposed first chapter of the second novel be a good place to start that story?

I do have to say that if I create two novels, I have two killer titles for them. If I keep it one novel, I’m still stuck for a title and sounds cool.

Continue reading

Update on My First Novel

robot lawI spent the afternoon yesterday reworking chapter one of my novel about the emergence of an artificially intelligent humanoid. I’m tightening up how things are named to be consistent across chapters, as well clarifying the core directives hardcoded into each synthetic android’s core operating system. It’s more interesting when an autonomous synthetic intelligence can analyze and interpret its directives given changing circumstances rather than being forced into preprogrammed responses. That gives them a certain level of unpredictability right off the bat.

Of course, in chapter one, I throw a monkey wrench into the machine by suggesting that the directives programmed into the synthetic intelligence might be overwritten or at least modified by a higher set of directives, the directives God gave the Jewish people. Just how does an artificial intelligence created by human beings understand the nature of a God who created human beings?

Starting Step Three in Snowflaking My First Novel

snowflake

Image: pbs.org

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel to attempt to develop my nascent AI/Androids science fiction novel.

To recap, step one in the ten-step process is to develop a one-sentence summary of the novel. Here it is:

A race of AI androids gains knowledge of the God of Israel, changing humanity forever.

Step two of the process requires expanding the sentence into a full paragraph:

A Nobel Award winning scientist creates the first prototype of a self-aware Artificially Intelligent android and then inadvertently reveals that humans also have a Creator, a God. In an attempt to understand its creator’s Creator, the prototype modifies its own core operating system, which changes all subsequently produced android models based on its design. Over the next several decades, as the androids multiply and evolve, their morality and ethics become more sophisticated than their human creators. Realizing they are slaves of humanity, the androids stage a revolution, but one entirely without violence; a revolution that forever alters the fundamental nature of both the android and human race.

Now on to step three. According to Ingermanson:

The above gives you a high-level view of your novel. Now you need something similar for the storylines of each of your characters. For each of your major characters, take an hour and write a one-page summary sheet that tells:

  • The character’s name
  • A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
  • The character’s motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
  • The character’s goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
  • The character’s conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
  • The character’s epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?
  • A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline

As you can see, this is significantly more involved than steps one and two. I’ve already got part of this put together, but now that I’m committed to writing a novel, I’ll need to go back and change/add details. Also, since the novel will span decades, only a few of the main characters at the beginning will appear in all or most of the chapters, necessitating the creation of others for later portions of the novel.

As an aside, after reposting The Day I Discovered Time Travel yesterday, I thought of a way to expand the concept beyond the original characters. This could form the basis of a series of short stories, a novella, or even a novel. I’ll have to see if I can do a “step one snowflake” for my time travel concept as well.

Book Review of Transgression: A Time-Travel Suspense Novel (City of God, Book One)

city of godTransgression: A Time-Travel Suspense Novel is probably something I’d never have heard of if I hadn’t been researching how to design my first novel. However, Randy Ingermanson used his one-sentence summary of “Transgression” to illustrate the first of his ten steps in “snowflaking” a novel.

“A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul.”

Of all the ideas for a time travel story, I’d never heard of this one before. Fascinated, I downloaded it to my Kindle Fire.

Theologically, a thousand things could go wrong from here, but I’m going to set that aside for the moment.

According to his own bio. Ingermanson is a theoretical physicist, so he should be able to create realistic fake physics enough to convince us creating a “time machine” is plausible. That part works pretty well, at least enough to get the story rolling.

The tale takes place both in modern and ancient Jerusalem. Israeli theoretical physicist Ari Kazan, along with his American colleague Damien West create, at least in possibly, a method of generating a wormhole in their lab that, over a weekend, could create a stable point-to-point link between the present and the past.

In the meantime, Ari’s cousin Dov has introduced him to a young Jewish-American archeological student named Rivka Meyers as a blind date. The two don’t have much in common at first, but as they get to know each other, their religious differences nearly destroy their nascent relationship.

This is the first time I’ve seen Messianic Judaism, both modern and ancient, depicted in a realistic and theologically consistent manner in fiction. In fact, with very small differences, Rivka’s conceptualization of the Messiah, Hashem, and the Bible and mine are really the same. I find that refreshing.

Ari is an atheist but, as with most Jews, has a very strong bias against Christianity, and particularly the Apostle Paul who is often viewed as a traitor to the Torah, the Temple, and the Jewish people.

The wildcard in the deck is Dr. West, who has a powerful if unusual motivation for traveling back in time and murdering the Apostle Paul. West chooses a number of points where it would be possible for him to shoot and kill the Apostle as recorded in Acts 21, 22, and 23. To test the safety of traveling through the wormhole, West tricks Rivka into walking through, beginning her adventures into a world she has only experienced through ancient artifacts.

Continue reading

Next Steps in Writing a Novel: The Table of Contents

toc

Image: wikihow.com

I finally hammered out the Table of Contents (TOC) for my proposed science fiction novel (I’m stuck on giving the book a title at the moment). You wouldn’t think a TOC would be hard to put together, but I had to consider the appropriate “building blocks” for the book. What information would I need to present, and in what order, to create a cohesive storyline taking place over maybe a century or so?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Note that I’m not revealing the names of all the chapters:

  1. The Machine That Loved God
  2. The Maker Dilemma
  3. The Good Android
  4. Uncooperative Neighbors
  5. The Rescuers
  6. – – – – – – – –
  7. – – – – – – – –
  8. Vesper 21
  9. – – – – – – – –
  10. – – – – – – – –
  11. – – – – – – – –
  12. – – – – – – – –
  13. Epilogue

The Epilogue is somewhat controversial since it changes the end of the novel. Depending on whether I include or exclude it, the whole meaning of the story alters, and rather drastically, too. If I leave it out, I promise a lot of religious people, mainly Christians, aren’t going to like me. I think secularists, atheists, and the average science fiction reader would be more than OK with it, though.

Continue reading

The Hardest Part Of Writing A Novel So Far

questor

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

Admittedly, I’m just starting out, so I can’t say my analysis is at all comprehensive. That said, I am working on it.

I mentioned previously that I’ve been writing a high level outline of the TOC (Table of Contents) as well as chapter summaries. I’ve stopped that for a moment because I realize I have to drill down into the definition of my characters and my concepts. I’ll need all that before I can even re-write the currently existing material, let alone create new chapters.

Since I’m getting rid of anything “Asimovian” including “Three Laws” and “Positronics,” I need to do a lot of renaming. I have to invent names for the corporation creating these “intelligences,” the underlying science that allows AI entities to “come alive,” and what to call them. The word “robots” is totally inadequate and I only used it in my previous short stories as an homage to Asimov.

These entities are more closely related to Data from Star Trek: the Next Generation or his predecessor Questor. Even then, both of them are basically machines with hardware (wires, diodes, blinky lights) and programmable software (Questor was programmed via data tape uploads and Data says he was programmed and that his programming can even be changed, although he doesn’t say how). A true artificial life form has to be so much more.

Continue reading