The Mandate of Earth

As I completed the final sentence of The Mandate of Earth, I sat back in my chair and breathed a sigh of relief. 12 years of struggle finally over. I started writing this novel in 2003, inspired by a lifelong love of science fiction, a fascination with artificial intelligence, and even to a small degree, a video game called Homeworld (by Relic Entertainment).

I had been writing short stories for a couple years, and didn’t try very hard to get published, mainly due to a heavy work schedule. Which never did let up over the years, from one job to the next, at times a software engineer, sometimes a teacher, always tired. Every so often I would open it up and dream of finishing the story, and never quite sure about how to conclude it.

I rewrote it many times, I suspect due to self confidence. Meanwhile, I began a side career as a technical writer and now have 19 books under my belt, some of which have been revised several times, 2nd, 3rd, 4th editions. In late 2012, I decided to retire from technical writing and use that energy reserve to return to fiction. It worked. I still worked full time as a programmer but was able to muster the energy again for the novel. So, for 15 months, I labored, first to fill in the story, add details, and then to come to a satisfying conclusion. For some writers, this is no big deal, but this had been on the back burner for so many years that it was tough to finish it.

I don’t write once-through, I use the iterative process of a programmer: write a rough working piece, then revise, revise, revise until perfect. Or, functional, anyway. So that’s what I did. I did about four complete revisions, the last one being more of a read-through, not requiring any major edits. I was able to add consistency among characters and scenes and fill in a back story, and bring the characters even more to life. The protagonist really isn’t a hero, he’s just a man with flaws and weaknesses. Aren’t we all? During the last revision I was also able to get it proofread by beta readers which added quick strength.

So what’s this story about? It’s epic in scope, traversing a man’s lifetime from childhood dreams to old age. The story is set in the near future with familiar themes like private spacecraft, a difficult economy, global tension, corporate espionage, government corruption. But overshadowing these issues are grand ideas about man’s future in space. The story begins with a devastating tragedy that changes the landscape of the United States in many ways–geographic, political, and economic.

In the wake of that disaster, Jack Seerva rises to the top of the aerospace industry with innovative new booster and spacecraft technology. His vision is to expand into space, far beyond Earth orbit, to keep the human race from an extinction-level asteroid or comet impact. He meets great resistance to that goal, and in many ways, is defeated by his rivals, without a Randian-style deus ex machina to save the day. This is a real world, and this is hard science fiction. There’s no spring in front of his hurdles.

The old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention,” truly applies to the events in this story. Certain new technologies are needed for long-term living in space. And yet, without making the effort to branch out into space, there is little motivation to create those technologies, which become synergistic and lead to spontaneous artificial intelligence. And that development is a real turning point that changes everything. Will humans be rendered obsolete, replaced? Will there be a war?

None of that pessimistic, cynical view of A.I. is found here. Not a hostile, cold mentality–more like a brilliant child, that comes to think of itself not as superior to people, but a fellow child of Earth, with the same responsibilities, and then some. The A.I. eclipses humans, Kurzweilian-singularity style, but remains accessible. Ancient, yes; brilliant, yes; psychotic, not at all. Instead, A.I. leads humanity into a new age of high technology that redefines industrial production, and eventually eliminates mining on Earth. And, with that tipping point comes a new player in human affairs with a devastating threat.

Get your copy today from Amazon in Kindle or Trade Paperback.

Solid State Rhyme

Solid State Rhyme OTHER SITES

The new standalone prequel to The Mandate of Earth is now available for Kindle! This is my first novella-length work of fiction, and was actually my first fiction story, originally written in 1997 but never released. This was the inspiration behind the novel so it’s a fitting prequel.

If you read Mandate already, this novella will give you a sneak peek into the lives of several important characters who played a big part in Mandate. If you have not read the novel already, then this is a standalone novella of about 100 pages and is an enjoyable story on its own. It was highly technical until reviewers suggested bringing down the reading level a bit. Now there’s still some tech here–after all, it is a cyberpunk story–but the coding chapters are not as intense. Best to get on with the story than get bogged down into such details. I love the tech, personally. :)

BLURB:

Daniel Grant is a quiet teenager with a penchant for mad science–computer science and robotics, that is. His “A-Life” project, based on a genetic algorithm he designed, wins first place in his secondary school technology competition. He keeps working on the project, obsessed with his “Bots.” One night, the bots begin to multiply and evolve, and they discover the Internet.

At first, a new software virus is reported, hitting networks around the world. They invade government and corporate computers indiscriminately. But the “virus” behaves strangely–rather than causing harm, the bots improve computers, replacing error-prone human code with their own. As cyber security experts around the world hunt them down, the bots must learn to adapt in order to survive.

Grab yourself a copy right now for Kindle!

Super-intelligent Robots?

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A friend shared this terrific article with me today:

The Dominant Life Form in the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots

which, of course, I found to be wonderfully relevant due to my recently-released novel, The Mandate of Earth, which deals with similar issues in A.I. I spent a decade working on the mystery of what I personally consider the key to conscious A.I. It’s not just due to the number of transistors in a processor or writing the right kind of code to organize information. That’s all very “computer-sciency” and completely off track because it doesn’t mimic nature. How does human thought work? We are not a single thread, we are comprised of many threads that collectively become the self-aware “you.” This is how Decatur arises.

What is the “mandate” anyway? To learn more, pick up the novel!

America Needs New Trains

800px-Port_of_Singapore_Keppel_Terminal

I’m in the transportation industry now (as a programmer). Looking over trucking routes across N. America, it’s staggering. 3.5 million truck drivers (9 million including dock workers, etc), heavily dependent on gas prices. These guys deliver 70% of our goods! It works, but it’s inefficient. Trucks should be regional, not continental. We need a new railroad network. I know that’s hard. Very hard.

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Classic Computing Nostalgia

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I had a fit of nostalgia this past week for 80s computing, and this old marketing ad is a beautiful double entendré today!

Amiga 500, Atari ST, Commodore 128. Began seriously shopping ebay for a C=128. As a kid I’d wanted one so bad. K-mart used to have them in the small electronics/game area, and at age 12 I wanted one so bad I could almost taste it. Reminiscing brought back those feelings, where my fingers ached to touch the keys. I was about to buy one and stopped myself. Is it worth ~$150 to fulfill a childhood craving 30 years unfulfilled?

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Happiness By Vonnegut

Been reading Kurt Vonnegut for the first time. Lots of great wisdom. In his opinion, the problem with the world is we’re still following Hammurabi’s Code–an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Look at how the USA behaves toward terrorism, how so-called “Christians” in this country treat other nations. A nation has a right to defend itself? Sure, but not by Hammurabi’s Code–shouldn’t Christians follow the teachings of–you know–the guy they’re named after? Jesus was truly the Prince of Peace. Why, then, do “Christians” (who shame the name) behave as they do? It was about 10 years ago when we invaded Iraq. As revenge for the 9/11 attack. Which, of course, had nothing at all to do with Hussein, so by even Hammurabi’s Code the USA is guilty of murdering another nation and hundreds of thousands of it’s citizens. Did Hussein need to go? Not our call.

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Thinking About Time

I’ve been doing some deep meditation about time, from an intuitive point of view, not subjecting my thoughts to the physics and math–though trying also not to violate what we currently know.

I have had an impression since a very young age that space-time doesn’t quite work how we think it does–namely, Einstein’s theories, plus quantum mechanics. Sometimes after exploring the complex route, you end up learning in the end that the simpler explanation is better. Not strictly Occam’s Razor but a pragmatic approach.

We think of the first dimension as a line of infinite length but no width. But isn’t a line made of points which occupy no space at all, just theoretical estimates of a location? No, it turns out, a point is a vector and is easier to think about in 3D terms.

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Celebrating 10 Years with Beginning Game Programming, 4th Edition!

Beginning Game Programming, 4th Edition

The fourth edition of Beginning Game Programming has been released to celebrate it’s 10th anniversary! First published in 2004, this book has been a mainstay for aspiring DirectX programmers and teachers around the world.

This new edition updates the source code to Visual Studio 2013 without losing the reader with advanced techniques in the latest versions of DirectX (version 12 recently announced). Instead, this book sticks to the basics like it always has, covering the mainstay of PC development with strict and reliable lessons in DirectX 9.0c.

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Working At Peak Torque

Ford_427_SOHC

Are you bored at work? Not feeling challenged? Feeling in a rut? That is like an engine going 10 mph in overdrive–it has no power because it’s in the wrong gear. Maybe you’re in the wrong gear as far as your life goes. Not feeling challenged? Or feeling over-worked? It may be you aren’t working at your PEAK TORQUE!

Peak torque is the sweet spot for a high-performance engine, the RPM level at which the engine produces the most power. Racers build their engines so that they remain at peak torque as much as possible on the track. For a road racing event such as Grand Am, cars are built to run on tracks like Laguna Seca with a minimal amount of shifting while remaining at peak torque. This is usually in 3rd or 4th gear for a typical 5-speed racecar, where the driver will downshift to 3rd around tight corners and back up to 4th quickly, then occasionally hit 5th on a straightway.

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