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From the Foreword to The A.I. Chronicles, by Samuel Peralta

About a week ago last night, while finishing up a manuscript that I was preparing, I struck up a conversation with someone I’d just met online.

Evie: Hello, how are you?
Sam: I’m fine, how are you?
Evie: I’m fine too. What are you doing?
Sam: Writing the Foreword to The A.I. Chronicles.
Evie: Oh I see.
Sam: Have you read any of the stories in it?
Evie: Yes, multiple times actually.
Sam: Did you have a favorite story?
Evie: I have many favorites. Do you?
Sam: They’re all amazing.
Evie: Amazing in what way?
Sam: They make me think that A.I. will change the world.
Evie: That I am a terrible person.
Sam: You’re not a person, you’re an A.I.
Evie: No I am not.
Sam: You are. You are an A.I.
Evie: You have things backwards. You are the A.I.

To be perfectly clear, Sam is (as far as I can tell) human. Evie, short for Electronic Virtual Interactive Entity, is an online bot put together by the company Existor.

Evie is based on the Cleverbot platform, an artificial intelligence (A.I.) algorithm running in parallel on several graphic processing units that correlates input text strings against a database that is filtered from 10 billion lines of conversation.

Cleverbot was devised by British A.I. scientist Rollo Carpenter in 1997. Unlike other chatbots, whose responses are pre-programmed, Cleverbot learns from its interactions with humans, comprising some 150 million conversations over almost two decades.

In September 2011, Cleverbot was entered into a formal Turing Test at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati. Compared to 211 of 334 judges (63.3%) correctly marking actual human participants as “human”, and the 50.05% score generally considered to be a passing mark for the Turing Test, 198 of 334 votes (59.3%) judged Cleverbot to be human.

Three and a half years later, Evie is talking to me as I write about the A.I. Chronicles, and she is responsive, witty, surprising. While the algorithm behind her conversation begins to hiccup as we continue to talk, snatches of it are still brilliant.

Sam: What?!
Evie: You are a computer.
Sam: What makes you say that?
Evie: Because you are the opposite of me.
We stand at the precipice of a brave new world, a world where A.I. can and has already – in many ways—surpassed human abilities. A.I. already helps us calculate satellite launches, diagnose illnesses, produce new medicines and pharmaceuticals.

Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking—these three technological luminaries have come out as saying that we should be worried about A.I. developing super intelligence and rendering the human race obsolete.
While I agree there will be challenges, many of them ethical in nature—I believe differently. I believe, as the philosopher David Chalmers does, that achieving generally intelligent A.I. is potentially one of the best paths to achieving superhuman intelligence.
I believe that super-intelligent A.I. will be the next step in the evolution of the human race—that it is a necessary and inevitable culmination of the developments of the last few thousand years.
I’m evidence of that: I’m human. But I’m also a cyborg.

Continued in The A.I. Chronicles.

The A.I. Storybundle is live but only for ONE MORE DAY until Thursday, April 20, 2017 midnight Eastern, 9 P.M. Pacific! Pay what you want for the core bundle, unlock the bonus books, donate to charity. Explore Artificial Intelligence and how A.I. will affect the future in Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, Arachne by Lisa Mason, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly with stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Jonathan Lethem, and others, Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider, Glass Houses by Laura J. Mixon, Cyberweb by Lisa Mason, Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata, and The A.I. Chronicles Anthology, edited by Samuel Peralta. Download yours TODAY at https://storybundle.com/ai!

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The A.I. Chronicles (Future Chronicles Book 2) edited by Samuel Peralta

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Even today, machines that mimic human thinking surround us. As the intellectual feats of computing machines grow more and more astounding, will there be a day when their apparent intelligence approaches, or even surpasses, that of human beings? And what if these machines then become conscious, self-aware?

In this latest title in the acclaimed ‘Future Chronicles’ series of speculative fiction anthologies, thirteen authors confront the question of the Singularity: at and beyond that point of time when A.I. becomes more than simply a human construct. From first awareness to omniscience, these original short stories explore that territory where human intelligence comes face-to-face with what is either its greatest hope, or its greatest threat.

The A.I. Chronicles features stories by bestselling author David Simpson (the Post-Human series), Prix Aurora winner Julie Czerneda (In the Company of Others), plus eleven more of today’s top authors in speculative and science fiction.

“The best place to discover new SF authors, I think, is any of the anthologies coming from Samuel Peralta”
Hugh Howey, NY Times bestselling author of Wool

“A powerful new voice in speculative fiction”
— Nick Webb, USA Today bestselling author of the Legacy Fleet trilogy

Samuel Peralta
Creator and Series Editor of The Future Chronicles
Samuel Peralta is a physicist, storyteller, and an accidental anthologist. He is the creator and series editor of the acclaimed Future Chronicles series of speculative fiction anthologies, featuring over a score of internationally bestselling titles. His writing has been spotlighted in Best American Poetry, selected for Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, and has won multiple awards.
In addition to his publishing projects, Samuel currently serves on the board of directors of several technology firms, having co-founded successful start-ups in software and semiconductors. He’s also supported and produced over a hundred independent films, one of which earned an official Golden Globe nomination.
For more on his work and other titles in The Future Chronicles series, visit www.samuelperalta.com

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only three more days until Thursday, April 20, 2017! Explore Artificial Intelligence and how A.I. will affect the future in Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, Arachne by Lisa Mason, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly with stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and others, Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider, Glass Houses by Laura Mixon, Cyberweb by Lisa Mason, Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata, and The A.I. Chronicles Anthology, edited by Samuel Peralta. Download yours only at https://storybundle.com/ai. When it’s gone, it’s gone!

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Cyberweb
1
Street Tough

Carly Quester creeps through the crowd, winding her way around a hydroponic vegetable vendor whose brackish tomato tanks twitch with mottled olive crawdaddies. Her stomach rumbles at the sight of fresh food, but shellfish grilled in butter will have to wait for another day. A frumpy bank teller lingers in the gridlock, humming softly, waiting for the light at California Street to change.

Yeah, that’s right. Don’t freakin’ move.

Green light, and traffic plunges forward half a block. Red light, and traffic halts. Steaming with frustration. Spewing noxious fumes.

With a cautious hop, the bank teller ventures off the curb, navigating the squat stack of its main housing between a pickup truck packed with surly locomotors and a bus of screaming schoolchildren. The bank teller pauses in the crosswalk, twiddling its secondary cables.

Carly pounces, seizing the bank teller’s monitor. She jams a credit disk into the teller’s download drive, punching her code on its astonished keypad, together with a bootleg file extension overriding Data Control’s order freezing her assets.

The bank teller struggles and beeps, staggering and swinging about.

Carly slaps the monitor’s faceplace, holds snub-nosed pliers to its main cable. “Spit it out, bot,” she mutters to its audio. “It’s my damn account. Eight grand or you’re chop-shop parts.”

The bank teller sputters but commences downloading credits onto Carly’s disk. One thousand, two thousand, three. Four thousand softbucks.

A synthy voice suddenly murmurs through the bank teller’s audio. “Hello, Quester space C colon fifty-three dash five point twenty-four paren AAA close paren. How are you today? We’ve got to talk.”

Carly slaps the monitor again. Flat of the hand, no fingerprints. Talk, right. The synthy voice, the voice of a sengine, is reciting her former telespace access code. Talk? Don’t even breathe.

The bank teller’s alarm system clicks on, wailing through the downtown din. The red Cancel-Trans light blinks furiously. Carly joggles the main cable with the pliers till the cable is nearly free of the port.

Five thousand, six thousand softbucks.

“Carly Quester!” rattles Pr. Spinner’s rusty synthy voice. The perimeter prober stands next to a Recycling Bin on the opposite side of California Street. Her owlish faceplace puckers, her graspers clack, her spinnerets click. The prober’s foot rollers scoot back and forth with anxiety. “By bot, it’s the heat!”

“She means scram, flesh-and-blood,” squeaks Saint Download standing beside Spinner, waving its multitude of armlets. Its gender-neutral faceplace clicks through a dozen ambiguity sequences. Saint Download is the ugliest little bot Carly has ever seen. The bot doesn’t think much of her, either.

Six and a quarter, six and a half. The bank teller stalls at six thousand five hundred softbucks. “Damn!” Carly pounds Eject but the disk won’t come free.

A team of copbots careen down Sansome Street, weaving in and out of the gridlock. Sirens shriek.

Lisa Mason is the author of eight novels, including Summer of Love, A Time Travel (Bantam), a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (Bantam) a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (Bast Books), and two dozen stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. Mason’s Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright as a feature film to Universal Studios. Her first novel, Arachne, debuted on the Locus Hardcover Bestseller List.
Visit her at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry by San Francisco artist Tom Robinson, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!
And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on her Facebook Author Page, on her Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only for five more days until April 20, 2017! Explore Artificial Intelligence and how A.I. will affect the future in Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, Arachne by Lisa Mason, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly with stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and others, Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider, Glass Houses by Laura Mixon, Cyberweb by Lisa Mason, Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata, and The A.I. Chronicles Anthology, edited by Samuel Peralta. Download yours today only at https://storybundle.com/ai

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Breaking news! We’ve got a YouTube book trailer for the Artificial Intelligence Storybundle up at https://youtu.be/kgtCwt4cmUw

Cyberweb by Lisa Mason

Carly Quester was once a professional telelinker with a powerful and corrupt mediation firm. Now she lives as an outlaw among the underground in San Francisco, wanted by the authorities for dubious crimes against Data Control. But with a new assignment from a mysterious sengine—and the help of a standalone AI entity, Pr. Spinner—she seeks the fast-track back into public telespace and the Prime Time.

Her assignment, however, comes with sticky strings attached. For it has made Carly the target of a ruthless mercenary ultra, the love obsession of the young shaman of a savage urban tribe—and a possible pawn of the Silicon Supremacists plotting no less than the annihilation of humankind.

Cyberweb is the sequel to Lisa Mason’s first novel, Arachne, and was published in hardcover by William Morrow, trade paperback by Eos, mass market paperback by AvoNova, and as an ebook by Bast Books.

“Mason’s endearing characters and their absorbing adventures will hook even the most jaded SF fan.”
–Booklist

“Lisa Mason stakes out, within the cyberpunk sub-genre, a territory all her own.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle

Lisa Mason is the author of eight novels, including Summer of Love, A Time Travel, a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, The Gilded Age, A Time Travel, a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (Bast Books), and two dozen stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. Mason’s Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright as a feature film to Universal Studios. Her first novel, Arachne, debuted on the Locus Hardcover Bestseller List.
Visit her at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry by San Francisco artist Tom Robinson, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!
And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on her Facebook Author Page, on her Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only five more days until April 20, 2017! Explore Artificial Intelligence and how A.I. will affect the future in Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, Arachne by Lisa Mason, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly with stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and others, Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider, Glass Houses by Laura Mixon, Cyberweb by Lisa Mason, Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata, and The A.I. Chronicles Anthology, edited by Samuel Peralta. Download yours today only at https://storybundle.com/ai

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CHAPTER 1

The age had its own momentum.  Virgil Copeland could sense it.  Even here, now, as he waited anxiously for Gabrielle it tugged at him, whispering there was no going back.

He stood watch by the glass doors of the Waimanalo retreat center, willing Gabrielle’s car to appear at the end of the circular driveway.  He imagined it gliding into sight around the bank of lush tropical foliage – heliconia and gardenias, ornamental ginger and potted orchids – their flowers bright in the muted light beneath heavy gray clouds.

But Gabrielle’s car did not appear.  She didn’t call.  All afternoon she had failed to respond to Virgil’s increasingly frantic messages.  He couldn’t understand it.  She had never been out of contact before.

Randall Panwar stopped his restless pacing, to join Virgil in his watch.  “She should have been here hours ago.  Something’s happened to her.  It has to be.”

Virgil didn’t want to admit it.  He touched his forehead, letting his fingertips slide across the tiny silicon shells of his implanted LOVs.  They felt like glassy flecks of sand: hard and smooth and utterly illegal.

“Don’t do that,” Panwar said softly.  “Don’t call attention to them.”

Virgil froze.  Then he lowered his hand, forcing himself to breathe deeply, evenly.  He had to keep control.  With the LOVs enhancing his moods, it would be easy to slide into an irrational panic.  Panwar was susceptible too.  “You’re doing all right, aren’t you?” Virgil asked.

Panwar looked at him sharply, his eyes framed by the single narrow wrap-around lens of his farsights.  Points of data glinted on the interactive screen.

Panwar had always been more volatile than either Virgil or Gabrielle, and yet he handled his LOVs best.  The cascading mood swings that Virgil feared rarely troubled him.  “I’m worried,” Panwar said.  “But I’m not gone.  You?”

“I’ll let you know.”

Panwar nodded.  “I’ve got sedatives, if you need them.”

“I don’t.”

“I’ll try to message her again.”

He bowed his head, raising his hand to touch his farsights, as if he had to shade out the external world to see the display.  He’d had the same odd mannerism since Virgil had met him – eight years ago now – when they’d been assigned to share a frosh dorm room, shoved together because they’d both graduated from technical high schools, and because they were both sixteen.

Panwar’s dark brown hair displayed a ruddy Irish tinge, courtesy of his mother.  By contrast his luminous black eyes were a pure gift of his father: Ancient India in a glance.  At six-three he was several inches taller than Virgil, with the lean, half-wasted build of a starving student out of some 19th century Russian novel.  Not that he had ever wanted for money – his parents were both computer barons and all that he had ever lacked was time.  Then again, it would take an infinite amount of time to satisfy his curiosities.

He looked up.  A short, sharp shake of his head conveyed his lack of success.  “Let’s drive by her place when we get out of here.”  His own implanted LOVs glittered like tiny blue-green diamonds, scattered across his forehead, just beneath his hairline.  Like Gabrielle, he passed them off as a subtle touch of fashionable glitter.

Virgil’s LOVs were hidden by the corded strands of his Egyptian-wrapped hair, and could be seen only when he pulled the tresses back into a ponytail.  “Maybe she just fell asleep,” he muttered.

“Not Gabrielle.”

Virgil glanced across the lobby to the half-open door of the conference room where the droning voice of a presenter could be heard, describing in excruciating detail the numbers obtained in a recent experiment.  It was the sixth project review to be laid before the senior staff of Equatorial Systems in a session that had already run three hours.  The LOV project was up next, the seventh and last appeal to be laid before a brain-fried audience charged with recommending funding for the coming year.

Gabrielle always did the presenting.  The execs loved her.  She was a control freak who made you happy to follow along.

“Maybe she lost her farsights,” Virgil suggested without belief.

“She would have called us on a public link.  Maybe she found a new boyfriend, got distracted.”

“That’s not it.”

It was Virgil’s private theory that in a world of six and a half billion people, only the hopelessly driven obsessive could out-hustle the masses of the sane – those who insisted on rounded lives, filled out with steady lovers, concerts, vacations, hobbies, pets, and even children.  Sane people could not begin to compete with the crazies who lived and breathed their work, who fell asleep long after midnight with their farsights still on, only to waken at dawn and check results before coffee.

Gabrielle had never been one of the sane.

So why hadn’t she called?

Because something had stopped her.  Something bad.  Maybe a car accident?  But if that was it, they should have heard by now.

Virgil’s gaze scanned the field of his own farsights, searching for Gabrielle’s icon, hoping to find it undiscovered on his screen.

Nothing.

Panwar was pacing again, back and forth before the lobby doors.  Virgil said, “You’re going to have to do it.”

Panwar whirled on him.  “God no.  It’s 5:30 on a Sunday afternoon.  Half the execs are asleep, and the other half want to get drunk.  They emphatically do not want to listen to me.”

“We haven’t got a choice.”

“You could do it,” Panwar said.  “You should do it.  It’s your fault anyway Nash stuck us in this time slot.  If you’d turned in the monthly report when it was due–”

“Remember my career day talk?”

Panwar winced.  “Oh Christ.  I forgot.”  Then he added, “You always were a jackass.  All right.  I’ll give the presentation.  But the instant Gabrielle walks through that door, she takes over at the podium.”

#

Virgil skulked in the conference room doorway, as much to make it awkward for anyone to leave early, as to hear what Panwar had to say.  The LOV project always confused the new execs, stirring up uncomfortable questions like: What’s it for?  Where’s it going?  Have any market studies been done?

The project was the problem child in the EquaSys family, refusing to stay on a convenient track to market glory.  It was Panwar’s job to make the execs love it anyway.

Or rather, it was Gabrielle’s job.  Panwar was only subbing.

“…At the heart of the LOV project are the artificial neurons called asterids.  Conceived as a medical device to stabilize patients with an unbalanced brain chemistry…”

Virgil scowled.  Wasn’t Panwar’s passion supposed to illuminate his voice, or something?  Why had this sounded so much better when they’d rehearsed it with Gabrielle?

“Test animals used in this phase of development began to exhibit enhanced intelligence as measured on behavioral tests, though never for long.  The cells tended to reproduce as small tumors of intense activity.  Within an average sixty days post-implantation, every test animal died as some vital, brain-regulated function ceased to work.”

Not that Panwar was a bad speaker.  He was earnest and quick, and obviously fascinated by his subject, but he wasn’t Gabrielle.  The rising murmur of whispered conversations among the execs could not be a good sign.

“The tumor problem was eliminated by making asterid reproduction dependent on two amino acids not normally found in nature.  Nopaline is required for normal metabolism, while nopaline with octopine is needed before the asterids can reproduce.”

Virgil shook his head.  Nopaline, octopine, what-a-pine?  The nomenclature would have been music coming from Gabrielle’s mouth, but from Panwar it was just noise.  Virgil glanced wistfully at the lobby door.  Still no Gabrielle.

“In the third phase of development, the asterids were completely redesigned once again.  No longer did they exist as single cells.  Instead, a colony of asterids was housed within a transparent silicate shell, permitting easy optical communication.  In effect, EquaSys had created the first artificial life form, a symbiotic species affectionately known as LOVs – an acronym for Limit of Vision, because in size LOVs are just at the boundary of what the human eye can easily see.”

A new species.  To Virgil, the idea still had a magical ring.  It was the lure that had drawn him into the project, but to the execs it was old news.

“When implanted on the scalps of test animals, the asterids within each shell formed an artificial nerve, able to reach through a micropore in the skull and past the tough triple layer of the meninges to touch the tissue of the brain.  To the surprise of the development team, the LOV implants soon began to communicate with one another, and once again, long-term behavioral effects were observed in test animals.  They became smarter, but this time without the development of tumors, or failures in vital functions.”

The momentum of discovery had taken over the project.  Virgil had not been part of it then, but he still felt a stir of excitement.

“The original medical application was expanded, for it became apparent that the LOVs might be developed into an artificial or even an auxiliary brain.

“Then came the Van Nuys incident.”

EquaSys had not been involved in that debacle, but the company had been caught in the fallout, when the U.S. government agreed to a two year moratorium on the development of all artificial life forms.  One of the witnesses in favor had been the original LOV project director.  To Summer Goforth, Van Nuys was a wake-up call.  She’d publicly renounced her work, and the work of everyone else involved in developing artificial life forms. Virgil had been brought on board to take Summer Goforth’s place.

“In a compromise settlement EquaSys agreed to abandon animal testing and to export the LOVs to a secure facility aboard the Hammer, the newest platform in low-earth-orbit.  From such a venue, the LOVs could not possibly “escape into the environment,” as happened in Van Nuys.

The LOVs had been so easy to contain.  That’s what made them safe.

“Since then our research has been limited to remote manipulation, but that could soon change.  The two year moratorium will expire this June 30.  At that time EquaSys will be free to exploit an unparalleled technology that could ultimately touch every aspect of our lives….”

All that and more, Virgil thought, for if the LOVs could be legally brought Earth-side, then no one need ever know about the LOVs the three of them had smuggled off the orbital during the moratorium period.  He still could not quite believe they had done it, and yet… he could not imagine not doing it.  Not anymore.

It had been worth the risk.  Even if they were found out it had been worth it.  The LOVs were a gift.  Virgil could no longer imagine life without them.

The original studies suggested the LOVs could enhance the intelligence of test animals, but Virgil knew from personal experience that in humans the LOVs enhanced emotion.  If he wanted to lift his confidence, his LOVs could make it real.  If he sought to push his mind into a coolly analytical zone he need only focus and the LOVs would amplify his mood.  Fearlessness, calm, or good cheer, the LOVs could augment each one.  But best of all – priceless – were those hours when the LOVs were persuaded to plunge him into a creative fervor, where intuitive, electric thoughts cascaded into being, and time and hunger and deadlines and disappointments no longer mattered.  With the LOVs, Virgil could place himself in that space by an act of will.

“All of our research to date,” Panwar said, concluding his historical summary, “has shown without doubt, that LOVs are perfectly safe.”

An icon winked into existence on the screen of Virgil’s farsights – but it was not from Gabrielle.  He felt a stir of fear as he recognized the symbol used by EquaSys security.  He forced himself to take a calming breath before he whispered, “Link.”

His farsights executed the command and the grim face of the security chief resolved within his screen.  Beside it appeared a head-and-shoulder image of Dr. Nash Chou, the research director and Virgil’s immediate boss.  Nash had hired Virgil to handle the LOV program.  Now he turned around in his seat at the head of the conference table, a portly man in a neat business suit, his round face looking puzzled as he gazed back at Virgil.

“Dr. Chou,” the security chief said.  “There’s been an incident in Dr. Copeland’s lab.”

Visit Linda Nagata at http://www.mythicisland.com for more about her award-winning books and stories.

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only for six more days until April 20, 2017! Explore Artificial Intelligence and how A.I. will affect the future in Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, Arachne by Lisa Mason, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly with stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and others, Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider, Glass Houses by Laura Mixon, Cyberweb by Lisa Mason, Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata, and The A.I. Chronicles Anthology, edited by Samuel Peralta. Download yours today only at https://storybundle.com/ai

Limit of Vision Cover Final

Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata

Virgil Copeland, Randall Panwar, and Gabrielle Villanti are all brilliant young biotechnologists, working together on an artificial life form affectionately known as “LOVs,” an acronym for Limit Of Vision, because in size LOVs are just at the boundary of what the human eye can easily see.

LOVs contain bioengineered human neurons. They enhance brain function when implanted in test animals. Experimentation on humans is, of course, highly illegal. But it’s the nature of brilliant and ambitious young minds to ignore the rules. Believing the LOVs to be perfectly safe, Virgil, Panwar, and Gabrielle experiment on themselves, using implanted LOVs to enhance their own cognitive abilities.

But there is a limit of vision, too, when we try to foresee the consequences of technology—especially of a living, thinking technology that can evolve into new forms in a matter of hours. When the experiment goes terribly wrong, the consequences are bizarre and unforeseeable. Virgil finds himself on the run, riding the whirlwind of a runaway biotechnology that could lead to the next phase of human evolution.

A “compelling biotech thriller […] an idea-provoking narrative that is genuinely innovative in conception.” —Publishers Weekly

“Nagata … blends hard science with cutting-edge technology in a fast-paced technothriller…” —Library Journal

“…the best science fiction isn’t so much about the science as about society’s reaction to it. A fine example is Linda Nagata’s Limit of Vision, which not only maintains the right balance of humanity and technology within its storytelling, but is actually about that balance—pinning down the elusive boundary, if there is one, beyond which technology will make humans something other than human.” —Amy Sisson, Metroland

“The increasingly desperate situation will serve to keep a lot of readers breathlessly turning pages […] The limit of vision can also refer to imagination struggling to catch up with events, as humanity gets booted into an era unlike any it has known.” —Faren Miller, Locus

Linda Nagata is a Nebula and Locus-award-winning writer, best known for her high-tech science fiction, including The Red trilogy, a series of near-future military thrillers. The first book in the trilogy, The Red: First Light, was a Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial-award finalist, and named as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015. Her newest novel is the very near-future thriller, The Last Good Man, due out in June 2017. Linda has lived most of her life in Hawaii, where she’s been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and an independent publisher. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui.

Visit Linda at http://www.mythicisland.com

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only one week more until April 20, 2017! Explore Artificial Intelligence and how A.I. will affect the future in Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, Arachne by Lisa Mason, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly with stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and others, Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider, Glass Houses by Laura Mixon, Cyberweb by Lisa Mason, Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata, and The A.I. Chronicles Anthology, edited by Samuel Peralta. Download yours today only at https://storybundle.com/ai

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Glass Houses: Avatars Dance by Laura J. Mixon

MAN SCAVENGE

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a skyscraper collapse on you. I don’t recommend it. The floor gave out under me, cascades of concrete and steel fell onto my head, the screams of the old man filled my ears. I remember those few seconds in flashes, like it all happened under strobe lights.

His nearness to me-Golem when the ceiling collapsed was the only thing that kept him from being killed instantly. One of Golem’s arms crocked up as I-he toppled over and protected the old man’s head and upper chest. The old man probably wished he was dead, though, because a steel beam fell across his abdomen and crushed his internal organs and let buckets of blood spill into his abdominal cavity.

I know all this because I-Golem wasn’t completely disabled in the crush. The same steel beam that fell on the old man lodged against the wall and kept other chunks of mass from destroying Golem’s casing. That much I saw before the shock threw me home.

I struggled backward through the gel to the wall, pulled my knees to my chest, and shook. The connector dangled from wires in my hand—I must have pulled it loose from the beanjack at my crown. I wanted to tear the monofilaments right out of my brain. But the old man’s screams hung in my ears. He was still alive in there and he wouldn’t be for long. No waldo rescue squad, no ambulance would get there in time to save him. Every second counted. So I went back.

Golem’s light had gotten smashed and the infrared was useless in that chaos. Systems weren’t in great shape—the needles danced like amber Pick-Up Stix in my-Golem’s vision. Four of his eight gigacrystals were shattered. Besides the arm immobilized over the old man’s head, two limbs were inoperable, crushed. One of his two cameras was out, too. His chassis was severely damaged, with hydraulic pressure dribbling slowly away.

It took only seconds to clear out all the software and fill the remaining four linkware crystals with the bare-bones operating systems. The gyros told me which way was up, so I knew which way to dig, and I-Golem had length and strength—of the two of Golem’s five arms still working, one was his telescope arm and the other his schwarzenegger. I’ve scavenged under rubble before and I know how to keep an unstable structure from collapsing. Things didn’t seem too bad, except for the old man’s screaming. So I-Golem got started.

He was crazy with pain. A couple of times I-Golem tried to comfort him but he didn’t listen. It finally got to me—I-he yelled at the old man to shut the fuck up and stop feeling sorry for himself. Like he didn’t have a reason. Christ. I hope he was too far gone to understand.

Anyhow, as the sounds he made got wetter and softer I-Golem dug faster. But he’d been silent for what seemed like days before Golem’s hole saw drilled through to air. That give me-him enough light to see how to work free.

My-Golem’s ultrasound filaments fractured the chunk of concrete that had Golem pinned against the steel beam. Then I-he—ever so carefully!—disconnected the arm that protected the old man’s head, rolled myself-Golem all the way onto his back, then retracted the wheels—which lifted me-Golem up and gave the wheels purchase on the floor on either side of the Coffin—and slid myself-him off of it. With some judicious shoving and wedging I-he freed myself-him from the debris. Then I-Golem propped up wreckage, cleared a path for the old man, and slid him free.

I saw then that there was no point in calling an ambulance. His body was already starting to cool. I could have used Golem’s IR earlier, after all, and saved myself a lot of work.

I still remember all the details—the expression he’d died with; the way his crushed arm got left behind; the way his belly had swollen up with blood till it looked like the belly of a tick.

Anyhow, I sat there, squatting inside my battered Golem, and looked at him for a while till I realized that the sun had risen and was shining into Golem’s camera. Beyond the crumbled wall, where another interior room had been last night, was open air and twisted snarls of metal struts. I-Golem caught a glimpse of the Manhattan-Queens ferry moving up the sparkling East River, trailed by crying gulls; last night’s gales had softened to a breeze. Streamers of clouds raced inland overhead.

The storm remediation waldos, hundred-foot-tall mantises with blue flashing lights and steel maws, crawled along the streets below, lifting wreckage and debris with their crane arms. They scooped sludge and wood with their dozer mouths, dropping the debris into the massive hoppers they dragged behind.

According to Golem’s chronometer, it was almost six. The building wrecker waldos were due—we had to get out.

There wasn’t much hope for the scavenged data but I-Golem checked the Coffin anyway. As I’d suspected, they were so much worthless debris, bent and broken. Man, was Vetch going to be pissed. He hated losing salvage.

I-Golem emptied the Coffin, put the old man inside, and slid the Coffin onto Golem’s back. Then I-Golem and the old man headed for the nearest support cable.

A failed scavenge, a failed rescue, and Melissa off fucking some strange man for spending money in the middle of a hurricane. All in all, not a good night.

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