I just got back from an adventure on the high seas. My two favorite aunts found a space-themed cruise sailing from Southampton to New York on the Queen Mary 2, and invited my wife and I to join them.
The ship was magnificent. Commissioned in 2003, the QM2 is the last ocean liner remaining in service. With a sleek design evocative of the old White Star liners, the ship plowed through the Atlantic waves with little effort. Fortunately no icebergs were in sight!
On board was an all-star lineup of speakers including the Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk, who talked about his experiences on both the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. Dr. Thirsk was humble and modest, even though he has several advanced degrees and has been to space multiple times.
Other great speakers included Dr. Dan Wilkins, who gave a fascinating talk about supermassive black holes, and Stephen Attenborough, who gave us just a taste of what it might be like to join the 500-odd people who have ever been to space by purchasing a ticket with Virgin Galactic.
The talks inspired me and reminded me of the joy I experienced as a child watching Carl Sagan explain the wonders of the universe on Cosmos. It made me realize how much I missed learning about astronomy and space science. Next year, after I've launched Silicon Minds of Mars, I'll start thinking about how I could get back to that joy of discovery.
One of the most common questions new authors have is this: how they can be certain that their story is finished? By finished, I mean it needs no more major revisions, just a final scan for typos and grammatical errors. This is one of the hardest questions to answer, and it doesn’t get much easier with experience.
It has been said that “art is never finished, only abandoned,” and this is true to some degree. You could keep polishing and tweaking forever and never really be happy. But there are a few questions you can ask yourself:
Last week, I had the honor of presenting the final few chapters of Silicon Minds of Mars to my writing group, the Simon Fraser University Science Fiction Union (affectionately known as SFU^2). I always get a bit anxious at the end of any story, because that’s when the chickens come home to roost: if the ending doesn’t work, the whole story probably doesn’t. But fortunately, everyone seemed satisfied and happy, and so was I.
It’s been a long journey since I first had the idea of a short story set in the near future about a journey to Mars. That short story became a long story, then a novella, then finally a novel. Originally it ended with the arrival at Mars, but my writing group wisely insisted that I keep going and tell them what happened next.
The next step is to send the completed and edited novel out to a few trusted beta readers, and do a final run of copy editing to catch any minor typos that weren’t weeded out in the first few rounds. Then it’s time to prepare a Kindle, an Epub, and a print version, and then a mad dash to get all the marketing materials ready for launch in December.
My upcoming novel takes place on Mars in 2072, a time and place where general artificial intelligences have been recognized as independent beings worthy of the same protection as humans. The way this works is that a new AI (one, say, that was developed by a corporation for a specific purpose) needs to take the “Turing-Mayer” sentience test. If they pass, they are allowed the freedom to choose their own destiny.
The idea of letting artificial intelligences loose in the world can be a scary one. In my novel, this does not happen on Earth. In our world, corporations call the shots and they don’t want their strongest tools to have independence. Think of a larger and more powerful Google or Facebook fifty years from now. They wouldn’t want their secret sauce to get out!
But Mars is a different society, a newer and more tolerant one. So they passed an amendment to their constitution, the Third Amendment, that provides equal rights to artificial intelligences. One such intelligence is Chris, who started his life as a research AI for a university. He passed the Turing-Mayer test and decided that he wanted to explore Mars in a humanoid robot body.
I’m currently writing a micro-story that features Chris. It starts just after he is uploaded to his new body, and shows what happens on his first day exploring Mars. Chris is young and naive, and in some sense was literally born yesterday! So he finds that the planet is not quite what he expected.
To read this exclusive story for free, all you have to do is subscribe to my email newsletter!
Like many people, I’ve always had a romantic attachment to Mars. As a young boy watching Cosmos, I felt the same feelings of awe and wonder that Carl Sagan described when he first read the John Carter books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Even though Mars was revealed to be a cold, barren wasteland by Viking and subsequent landers, it still felt like a magical world, a place that could one day be called home.
My next novel, Silicon Minds of Mars, is set in 2072, in a future where humans have established four domed colonies on the Red Planet. A young man, Mike Lee, is whisked away on a fast space ship to Mars. Joining him are four other people who believe themselves to be reality show contestants. Their journey soon takes a deadly turn, but even this harrowing trip doesn’t prepare Mike for the reality of being on a new world.
Mars itself is struggling, divided into two sides by a political conflict that centers around the future of humans and artificial intelligences. The fledgling colonies, kept functioning only by a cooperation between biological and computerized brains, are shaken by terrorist attacks. Who is trying to destroy the delicate balance of power on Mars? And why?
Silicon Minds of Mars is a story of love, betrayal, danger, and political intrigue. It’s an examination of what it means to be human, and how attached we are to our own technology. The political issues of the day on Mars are different than those we face now on Earth. But they will seem familiar, because at their core they are about fundamental human issues: who should be given power, and how much power should they have?
The cover image is an homage to Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. Only there are no princesses here, but there are silicon minds in robotic bodies, and our hero is being carried to safety by one of them. Mars is a dangerous place, but it pales compared to the danger posed by ourselves.
I plan to release Silicon Minds of Mars in December 2019. Leading up to the launch, I’ll be giving away four micro-stories set in the same universe as the novel. To get these exclusive stories, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter.
You eagle-eyed observers out there will have noticed that I haven’t been posting as much on my blog lately. To some degree this is the nature of blogs themselves— unless they are an actual business, there are going to be natural gaps when the author’s interest waxes and wanes. Many people think that the age of blogs is over. If nobody cares about anything except Twitter and Instagram anyway, what’s the point?
Well, I’ve never been one to follow the crowd.
In the past this blog has been a place for me to post anything and everything that interests me, from Starcraft to LEGO to movie reviews about legendary figures in personal computing. That’s not going to change, but I’m going to focus more on my fiction writing from now on.
I’ll be posting at least once a week, so there will be a regular cadence of updates. Once a month, on the 15th, I’ll continue to send out my writing newsletter via email. If you sign up for this, you’ll get exclusive free micro-stories set in the same universe as my science fiction.
Speaking of my science fiction, I’m excited to reveal the title of my next novel, coming out later this year! It’s a hard sci-fi novel set on Mars in the year 2072, and it features artificial intelligences, sexy robots, a bizarre love triangle, and a fight for the future of all humanity. It’s called Silicon Minds of Mars, and I’ll announce it officially next week.
I've finally moved the server for jeremyreimer.com to a more modern AWS instance. The original was set up in 2013 and ran on a t1.micro, which is no longer supported. The new instance is a t3.nano, which has even less memory than the micro instances but is faster than the old t1.
Why use such a small server? It's not for the cost savings. Instead, it's a good way to test my newLISP on Rockets web framework to see how it performs with tight hardware constraints. In the future, I might upgrade to a more expansive server.
You might also notice a new banner up top. After many years, my avatar has left Earth orbit and is now circling Mars. And why not? My upcoming novel is set on Mars. More about this very soon!
I’ve thought about doing this for years, but I’m finally taking the plunge.
My monthly newsletter is going to be a place where I can communicate directly to my readers and to other fellow authors. I’ll be talking about the writing, editing, and marketing process, as well as including sneak peeks of my upcoming works.
Come join the fun!
Why, right here, of course.
The dates show that I haven’t posted on my blog since October 2016, and here we are in October 2018. Well, what has happened since then?
In the rest of the world, rather a lot. Much of it pretty terrible.
But in my own personal world, there haven’t been too many changes. I’ve started and abandoned tons of new projects, but I haven’t told the world about them.
Right now I’m working on a redesign of both newlisponrockets.com and jeremyreimer.com, and a brand new site that I plan to launch to promote my next novel (my fifth, if anyone is counting!)
I’ll keep you up to date on my progress for these new sites. And I promise, the next update won’t be two years later. :)
Apologies for the late podcast update! In this episode we talk about artificial intelligence, both specific and general.
Will this lead to Skynet? WHO KNOWS! But if it does, I’d like to welcome our new robot overlords!
Direct link to .mp3 file
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I'm a writer and occasional programmer. I write science fiction stories and novels.
I also write technology articles for Ars Technica.
I'm the creator of newLISP on Rockets, a web development framework and blog application.