Archives for category: Ryan Schneider

The Garden of Abracadabra Cover Final

Here is Ryan’s link, which will take you to his excellent website: http://authorryanschneider.blogspot.co.il/2015/11/author-spotlight-philip-k-dick-award.html

RS: Is there really such a thing as “Abracadabra” and what does it mean?
LM:
Yes, there is. “Abracadabra” is a real magical spell formulated by Cabbalist magicians two thousand years ago. Originally invoked to cure mortal diseases, the spell has since been employed as the enabling word to cause the result of a magical operation. The spell can only be used to create good results, never evil (see E.A. Wallis Budge, Lewis Spence, and others) and is so powerful everyone in the world has heard of the word.

RS: Tell us about your book, The Garden of Abracadabra.
LM:
At her mother’s urgent deathbed plea, Abby Teller enrolls at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic. To support herself through school, she signs on as the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra, a mysterious, magical apartment building on campus.
She discovers that all of her tenants are some stripe of supernatural entity—witches, shapeshifters, vampires, and wizards—and that each apartment is a fairyland or hell.
On her first day in Berkeley, she stumbles upon a supernatural multiple murder scene. One of the victims is a man she picked up hitchhiking the day before.
etween three men—Daniel Stern, her ex-fiance who wants her back, Jack Kovac, an enigmatic FBI agent who is also a magician, and Prince Lastor, her mysterious and sexy tenant in the penthouse apartment who may be a suspect.
Abby will discover the first secrets of an ancient and ongoing war between humanity and the demonic realms, uncover mysteries of her own troubled past, and learn that the lessons of Real Magic may spell the difference between her own life or death.
A reader on Goodreads wrote, “So refreshing! This is Stephanie Plum in the world of Harry Potter.”

RS: How would you categorize The Garden of Abracadabra?
LM:
The book, the first of a trilogy, possibly a series, is squarely within the subgenre of Urban Fantasy. I love this subgenre, which falls within Fantasy and first became recognized about ten years ago.
What is Urban Fantasy? It’s that rich blend of fantasy tropes (magic and magicians, witches, wizards, vampires, shapeshifters, demons) in a contemporary setting, often an urban area (as opposed to the rural, medieval settings of high fantasy), and mystery tropes (detective work, murder and crime, police procedural), spiced up with dicey romance, troublesome relationship issues, and wit and whimsy interspersed with the murder and mayhem.

RS: Are there books you’ve read that influenced your interest in Urban Fantasy?
LM:
Oh, yes! Books I adored when I first began to read as a child have shaped my love of Urban Fantasy. Supernatural people in a real-world setting and wise articulate animals in all four volumes of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins (such beautiful and humorous writing, a true sense of wonder, and wonderful pen-and-ink illustrations). Myths and Enchantment Tales adapted by Margaret Evans Price and illustrated by Evelyn Urbanowich (illustrated Greek and Roman myths). Then there was the Giant Golden Book of Dogs, Cats, and Horses (61 short illustrated stories, a Newberry Award winner). Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books (my edition has dazzling pastel illustrations). Who could have missed Charlotte’s Web (a rare book dealer in New York is selling the edition I own for $3,000! I wouldn’t part with mine). I took all of these books (lovingly wrapped in plastic) with me to college in Ann Arbor and lugged them all the way to California where they sit on my bookshelf to this day.

RS: Did anything in particular inspire you?
LM:
Yes! Like every author on the verge of a special, big new project, I well remember that transcendent moment of first inspiration for The Garden of Abracadabra.
Often inspiration springs from something quotidian, mundane. You’re in the shower. Or shopping for groceries. Or going for a jog.
Or, in this instance, searching for a parking place in Berkeley.
Berkeley is a small historic university town across the Bay from San Francisco. The town is so crowded now, searching for a parking place on the street is something of a quixotic quest.
As Tom and I cruised through unfamiliar neighborhoods looking for that elusive space, we passed by a spectacular 1920s Mediterranean apartment building and were both instantly struck by its beauty. But more than that, the place had a powerful vibe or atmosphere. It was downright spooky!
The idea sprang instantly: what if you were the superintendent of a building like that and discovered that every tenant was some stripe of supernatural being and every apartment was a portal to a fantasy world? To a fairyland or a hell? I knew I had my book!

RS: So, okay, you had a magical apartment building and a super. What then?
LM:
Well, I had a high-concept setting and a heroine, but I didn’t think that was enough. I didn’t want a fantasy knock-off of an old TV situation comedy, “One Day at a Time,” with witches.
I wanted more plot, more tension, more strength to the heroine.
I don’t like slacker characters. Abby Teller is a vital, lively, witty woman and she needed an excellent reason for signing on for a mundane job like that.
Well, of course! She’s going back to college to learn Real Magic. She needs a job with flexible hours and a lot of independence. And she must learn to master her power to save her life.

RS: Is Abby’s life in danger? And what is Real Magic?
LM: Abby Teller
must learn Real Magic to defend herself against the Horde, gangster-sorcerers who murdered her father when she was a child of eight. It turns out that she’ll use techniques of Real Magic to deal with all of the supernatural people and entities at the Garden of Abracadabra.
She applies to and is accepted by the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts.
In Volume 1, she learns the First and Second Fundamentals of Real Magic. As research I consulted several volumes in my own library, including Real Magic by R.E.I. Bonewits, Natural Magic by David Carroll, Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians by Magus Incognito, and The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies & Magic by Migene Gonzalez-Wippler among many others.
The First Fundamental of Real Magic is “Knowledge is Power” and, as a corollary, “Know Thyself.” The great philosopher and teacher Pythagoras coined that adage 2,500 years ago, but it still rings true today, especially in this age of media up to your eyeballs.
“Know Thyself.” Think for yourself. Question authority. Investigate and research issues, then exercise your own judgment and will. Only then may you practice Real Magic in the real world.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Yet how many people allow themselves to be whipsawed by the media? Not to mention by other people?
Abby Teller applies the First Fundamental of Real Magic to come to grips with her feelings about her mother’s wasting illness and recent death. Her grief and guilt seriously compromise her ability to master her power.

RS: You have a lot of detail about the apartment building. Is that based on the mysterious building you glimpsed in Berkeley?
LM: Partially, and also on The Garden of Allah. This was a Mediterranean apartment complex with bungalows and a pool in Hollywood. Sheilah Graham wrote a memoir about the place, which was inhabited by famous actors of the 1940s like Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, and Greta Garbo, usually before they attained their fame, and also by the New Yorker crowd of writers, like Dorothy Parker, John O’Hara, and Robert Benchley, who came to Hollywood to write screenplays. Sheilah and her lover, F. Scott Fitzgerald, also spent a great deal of time there.
I loved the idea of an apartment building inhabited not by famous actors and writers, but by all sorts of supernatural people and entities!
As you would expect of a crowd of professional exhibitionists living in close quarters, the Hollywood denizens of the Garden of Allah were infamous for their shenanigans. Several scenes from Marx brothers’ movies were based on incidents that took place there: people hiding in closets, people charging through doors into someone’s bedroom. Various scenes in “A Day At the Races” or “Horse Feathers” were inspired by life at the Garden of Allah.
So, too, the Garden of Abracadabra is “the biggest, coolest party place in Berkeley.” I take the reader to several of the parties that supernatural entities throw!

RS: Is the Garden of Allah still around?
LM:
No, urban development in Los Angeles moved on after the war years. The Garden of Allah fell into disrepair and was leveled in the 1960s. A strip mall and parking lot were built over the grave of the beautiful Mediterranean apartment complex.
Joni Mitchell’s delightful ditty, Big Yellow Taxi, is about the demise of the Garden of Allah. The song goes, “Don’t it always seem to go; you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved Paradise, put up a parking lot.”
I never knew that, did you? I read about the connection recently in an article in The Hollywood Reporter. I’ve received that trade journal for free ever since I sold my Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” to Universal Studios. I don’t know who comp’ed me! It’s pretty funny. Every year I receive an email from THR begging me to renew my free subscription!
The Garden of Abracadabra was built in Berkeley in 1850 during the California Gold Rush. This beautiful Mediterranean building won’t be demolished any time soon!

RS: You mention that Abby Teller is “torn between three men.” She sounds like she’s rather busy!
LM:
Abby is searching for true love. When we first meet her, she’s just broken up with her fiancé of three years. Daniel Stern has no magical power the way Abby does, and Abby’s mother pleaded with her to leave him. Daniel can’t protect her from the Horde and he may even turn against her one day. Their relationship has been floundering, anyway. So Abby returns her engagement ring, but not without misgivings.
Now that she’s free, she immediately attracts the attention of three very different men of magic: first, the sorcerer-hitchhiker Brand, second, the enigmatic magician-FBI agent Jack Kovac, and third, the mysterious, alluring Prince Lastor, a tenant in the penthouse who may be a suspect in the supernatural murders.
Abby is also searching for her own identity. Every person with magical power whom she meets when she arrives in Berkeley is shocked when she introduces herself. Why? Because, they tell her, Abby Teller is legendary and Abby Teller is dead.
Of course, Abby isn’t dead, she’s very much alive, living a private life and taking care of her dying mother in Buckeye Heights until the mother’s recent death.
Why does everyone in the World of Magic believe this strange story? And how did they learn of it?
The answers to these questions drive Abby’s quest to discover her true identity as a woman of power destined to fight evil magic.
Central to Abby’s development as a woman of power is her confrontation with and resolution of mysteries of her past, especially the mystery of her father’s death. And why did her mother contract an incurable wasting illness, requiring Abby’s care for years, beginning when she was a young teen?
Stop me before I give away any more plot spoilers! People need to read the book!

RS: Okay! And you say The Garden of Abracadabra is just the first book of a series?
LM:
Yes, I’ve been working on Volume 2, The Labyrinth of Illusions, for some years now and have a third in mind. I’m structuring the first three books on a plot arc that should be resolved by Volume 3, The Shadows of Illyria.
Depending on how wide a readership the three books receive, I may then proceed with another set of three books. But we’ll see!
Breaking News: The Garden of Abracadabra is NOW IN PRINT! ORDER YOURS directly from the Printer at https://www.createspace.com/7675783 or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1978148291/
Charlaine Harris ended the Sooki Stackhouse (True Blood) books with twelve books (I think). Same for Kim Harrison and the Rachel Morgan books. Jim Butcher, on the other hand, is still going strong with the Dresden Files after twenty-plus books. Same for Laurell K. Hamilton and her Anita Blake books. Both of those authors have expanded their original premise—a supernatural detective—beyond strict Urban Fantasy, with Butcher incorporating high fantasy tropes into the mix and Hamilton resorting more and more to porn.
Career-wise, I think an author will do well to develop a series, or at least a trilogy, for a concept that fits into a recognized genre like Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, or Science Fiction. The trick, though, is keep the momentum going.

As for me, I’m publishing stories. In 2015, I published two well-received stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, “Teardrop” in the May-June 2015 issue and “Tomorrow Is A Lovely Day,” in the November-December 2015 issue. These were both chosen by Gordon Van Gelder. I published “Anything For You,” in the September-October 2016 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. This story was chosen by the new editor, C.C. Finlay. “Riddle” has been published in the September-October 2017 68th anniversary issue of F&SF, and “Aurelia,” will be published in the January-February 2018 issue. “Dangerous” will appear in Welcome to Dystopia, an anthology to be published by OR Books in early 2018.
I’ve published ten novels, including Summer of Love, a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book, The Gilded Age, a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, and thirty stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. My Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright as a feature film to Universal Studios. I’m currently developing a new high-concept Science Fiction world.

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
AND NOW IN PRINT! ORDER YOURS directly from the Printer at https://www.createspace.com/7675783 or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1978148291/

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The Ai Chronicles Cover Final

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
Synopses of Stories in the Anthology

The Syntax of Consciousness by Pavarti K. Tyler
With one small implanted device, you will experience complete sensory integration with all the information available on the global net. Say goodbye to VI Fees and holo-displays. It is now all available in the blink of an eye. Enter the next lottery wave to receive your free InGen Corp Jiminy Implant. “Jiminy: The little voice in the back of your head.”

Piece of Cake by Patrice Fitzgerald
Rule by A.I. is a fact of life for those under the thumb of the Federal United. There will be a certain amount of exercise every day. Citizens will be on time. Appropriate mates will be identified from amongst candidates with suitable genetic traits… and a proper weight will be maintained. But sometimes you’ve just got to go off the reservation.

Restore by Susan Kaye Quinn
What if Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics were replaced by a single emotion—unconditional love? Restorative Human Medical Care Unit 7435, sentience level fifty, wants to heal the human master it loves, but Unit 7435 finds there is a price to be paid for love… and for failing in its primary mission.

Narai by E.E. Giorgi
When artificial intelligence takes over the family practice where he works, Dr. Peter Sawyer struggles to accept his new role as a mere supervisor instead of a clinician. With the aid of psychotherapy, he slowly adjusts to his new routine, until the sudden death of an anorexic patient makes him question everything, even his own life.

Left Foot on a Blind Man by Julie E. Czerneda
Replacing failing body parts with non-biological equivalents isn’t new. Wooden legs and teeth have been found in corpses thousands of years old. What is? How smart they are. “Left Foot on a Blind Man” is a cautionary tale about making such replacements too smart for our own good.

Sub-Human: Nash’s Equilibrium by David Simpson
Craig Emilson, a young doctor, is sucked into military service at the outbreak of World War III. Enlisting to become a Special Forces suborbital paratrooper, Craig is selected to take part in the most important mission in American military history—a sortie into enemy territory to eliminate the world’s first strong Artificial Intelligence.

Auto by Angela Cavanaugh
Auto was the most advanced A.I. ever created.  But when he learned about his backups, he began to wonder what exactly the self in self-aware might mean.  When he fears for his existence, he escapes into the internet.  And an intelligence built to learn, combined with a nearly endless amount of information, is a dangerous combination.

Eve’s Awakening by Logan Thomas Snyder
An overworked, under-appreciated technician seizes the opportunity presented by an FBI raid on his company to steal corporate property. What he discovers is like nothing he could have imagined—an artificial intelligence that may not even be the first of its kind in existence. Meanwhile, the A.I. known as Eve is concerned only with finding her “parents,” a quest that will alter the lives of everyone who comes into contact with her—for better or for worse.

Maker by Sam Best
Decades after the birth and abandonment of artificial intelligence, a reclusive inventor comes face to face with an evolved form of his creation. The world as he knew it is changed as a direct result of his tinkering. Yet with the arrival of his creation, the inventor learns there is hope to correct his past mistakes, if he is brave enough to try…

Vendetta by Chrystalla Thoma
Plagued by dreams of the distant sea, Imogen wakes up one morning to find a Controller asking questions—questions about the dreams she’s not supposed to have. Curious to know more, she eavesdrops on their conversation, and what she hears isn’t reassuring. It appears that her memory has been tampered with, that she has tech implanted in her body—that is, more tech than the average human—and even worse, she’s not even her parents’ daughter. The implanted tech, however, might be her most immediate problem. Under the Tech Directive, exceeding a certain percentage of tech in one’s body can mean on-the-spot termination. The only person Imogen can trust to share this information with is her friend, Edil. But Edil, with his scar and unexplained head injury, may be hiding secrets of his own—secrets not so different from the ones about to transform Imogen’s life.

The Turing Cube by Alex Albrinck
Our lives are turning into a series of 0’s and 1’s, masses of data available to those with the technological know-how to access, assess, and exploit it. And while corporations and governments work to protect sensitive information, no digital information is ever truly safe. Jack Milton lost more than money to just such an exploit; he lost his pride. He’s decided to take matters into his own hands, root out the perpetrators, and bring them to justice, regardless of the personal and professional risks. But he may find that something more valuable than money can be lost.

Darkly Cries the Digital by A.K. Meek
In the Deep South, modern-day technology blends with eternal superstition for a family that suffers a tragic loss; the death of their ten-year old son. And now, driven by grief, unable to accept the whirlwind circumstance outside of his control, a business executive makes a fateful decision that severs what remains of his already-broken family.

The End by Peter Cawdron
With the death of his grandmother, Professor Joe Browne has had to face his own mortality. Joe doesn’t want to admit there’s an end coming, and yet he knows that just as he turns the final page in a book, one day death will bring his life to a close, or will it? Could life be uploaded into a computer? To answer that question, Professor Browne needs to first understand if a computer could ever develop an artificial intelligence of its own.

Created by award-winning author Samuel Peralta, and edited by some of the most-respected editors in the genre, The Future Chronicles is the #1 bestselling anthology series that brings together work from visionary new voices and from the grandmasters of modern speculative fiction. Visit Sam Peralta at http://www.samuelperalta.com

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only TWO 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 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.  When it’s gone, it’s gone!

The Ai Chronicles Cover Final

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

AllCoversLarge.AI.2

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