Archives for posts with tag: Eye Candy

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The Artificial Intelligence Storybundle
Curated by Lisa Mason

Artificial Intelligence—A.I. When computers become conscious. Self-aware. Genuinely as intelligent as human beings. Will A.I. benefit humanity? Or become our greatest enemy?

In the March, 2017 Scientific American, Gary Marcus, a professor of neural science at New York University, joins futurist Ray Kerzweil, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and others in concluding that the Singularity—that moment when A.I. truly exists—has not yet arrived. Will not arrive until the future.

That hasn’t stopped science fiction writers from tackling difficult questions about A.I., speculating about the future, and asking what if? In the most entertaining way! You must check out these amazing books from authors—bestselling, award-winning, as well as popular indies—in the A.I. Storybundle.

In New York Times Bestselling Walter Jon Williams’ Aristoi, an elite class holds dominion over a glittering interstellar culture with virtual reality, genetic engineering, faster-than-light travel, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, telepathic links with computers, and more. But murder threatens to rip that world apart. In award-winning Linda Nagata’s The Bohr Maker, a powerful, illicit device known as the Bohr Maker, a microscopic factory full of self-replicating machines programmed to transform a human host into a genius-level nanotech engineer. In Nagata’s Limit of Vision, biotechnologists enhance their own cognitive abilities and the experiment goes terribly wrong. In Locus Hardcover Bestsellers Arachne and Cyberweb, Lisa Mason follows telelinker Carly Quester as she confronts an A.I. therapist and finds herself entangled in the machinations of powerful A.I. sengines who want to destroy humanity. In Rewired, editors John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly present stories about A.I. and the future by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Jonathan Lethem, and twelve others. In Queen City Jazz, award-winning Kathleen Ann Goonan’s teenage heroine Verity journeys to the technologically superior but dangerously insane “enlivened” city of Cincinnati. In Glass Houses: Avatars Dance, acclaimed Laura J. Mixon takes us to a dystopian Manhattan of the next century where Ruby and her Golem, six hundred pounds of vaguely human-shaped, remote-operated power, run into serious trouble. In Eye Candy, popular indie author Ryan Schneider takes us next to Los Angeles of 2047 where a roboticist famous for his books on the inner workings of artificially-intelligent beings finds himself on a blind date with a beautiful robopsychologist named Candy. Trouble! And award-winning editor Samuel Peralta offers thirteen stories by new bestselling authors addressing the Singularity and A.I. in The A.I. Chronicles Anthology.

As always at Storybundle.com, you the reader name your price—whatever you feel the books are worth. You may designate a portion of the proceeds to go to a charity. For the AI Storybundle, that’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (“SFWA”). SFWA champions writers’ rights, sponsors the Nebula Award for excellence in science fiction, and promotes numerous literacy groups.

The basic bundle (minimum $ 5 to purchase, more if you feel the books are worth more) includes:

  • 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 including stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Jonathan Lethem, and twelve others
  • Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan

To complete your bundle, beat the bonus price of $15 and you’ll receive another five amazing books:

  • Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider
  • Glass Houses by Laura Mixon
  • Cyberweb by Lisa Mason
  • Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata
  • The A.I. Chronicles Anthology edited by Samuel Peralta including stories by David Simpson, Julie Czerneda, and eleven others

So there you have it! Download your own bundle with award-winning, best-selling, and indie speculations about A.I. and the far future. The Artificial Intelligence Storybundle is both historic and unique, an excellent addition to your elibrary providing world-class reading right now, through the summer, and beyond.

–Lisa Mason, Curator

The A.I. Storybundle is available only from March 29 to April 20, 2017 and only via Storybundle. The bundle is easy to read on computers, smartphones, and tablets, as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books.

When the bundle is gone, it’s gone. Download yours today!

It’s super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $ 5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of thrilling titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their list. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. The A.I. Storybundle forwards your donations to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
  • Receive bonus books to complete your bundle. When you beat our bonus price of $ 15, you’re not just getting five books, you’re getting ten!

The A.I. Storybundle ENDS TODAY 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! When it’s gone, it’s gone….

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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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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.

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only for eight 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 at https://storybundle.com/ai

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Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider
Chapter 1
Why Did the Robot Cross the Road?

“Are you sure she’s going to be okay?”

“Stop asking me that.” Rory slapped the big yellow crosswalk button again. Behind them, the Pacific Ocean stretched to the horizon, wide and blue.

At the end of the Santa Monica Sport Fishing pier, the giant Ferris wheel revolved under the California sun.

A bullet-nosed monorail train whooshed by on its silver electromagnet track perched on spidery stilts above the street.

“What if she’s not ready?” Tim asked. “Candy’s going to be. . . . I don’t know what she’s going to be, but she’s going to hate our guts, that’s for sure.”

“She’s not going to hate us; she’s our friend. We’ve been friends since college, remember? Besides, I’m not sure Candy is capable of hatred.” Rory pressed the big yellow button, hard this time.

A flatbed truck drove slowly down the street. On the back of it stood a tall electronic marquee. The marquee displayed a stocky, balding man wearing tinted eyeglasses.

Tim pointed. “There goes Grossman. Again.”

“Robots made in China and Japan are stealing jobs from hardworking Americans,” Grossman thundered.” The truck drove down the street.

“God, that guy is everywhere,” said Rory.

“He’s serious about being President.”

The truck drove down the street.

“What were we talking about?” Tim asked. “Oh yeah. Are you sure she’s going to be okay?”

“No, damnit, I’m not sure. But so what? She’s gotta get out there sometime.” Rory slapped the big yellow crosswalk button half a dozen times more. “Does this thing even work? It’s 2047, for God’s sake. We’ve got orbital hotels but we can’t design a friggin’ crosswalk computer that works. There are no cars coming yet we have to stand here like robots incapable of determining for ourselves when it’s safe to cross the street.” Rory noticed a silver, skinny robot standing next to him with a case of beer in its hands, waiting to cross the street. “No offense.”

The robot’s balloon-shaped head swiveled toward Rory on its skinny post of a neck. “No offense taken, of course, sir.” Its electronic voice sounded happy and cheerful.

“Instead, we have to wait for the computer to tell us when we can cross,” said Rory. “And what are you looking at?”

A second robot stood nearby, grimy and with a significant dent on one side of its head. One of its glowing red eyes was missing. It held a square flap of brown cardboard scrawled with black ink: Will work for electricity. Or beer. God bless. A long, black leash stretched from a collar around the robot’s neck to the wrist of a filthy man lying flat on his back in a patch of nearby grass, fast asleep.

“I’m not looking at anything, sir,” replied the robot. “Could you spare some change?”

“Fuck you,” said Rory. “Fuck him, too.” Rory thrust his chin at the sleeping man.

“Yes, sir,” said the robot.

“Dude, calm down,” said Tim.

“No, goddamnit. I’m pissed off now. I think I can determine for myself when it’s safe to cross the street. I neither need nor want a damn machine telling me what I can or can’t do and when I can or can’t do it. Maybe Grossman is right. Screw this nanny-state bullshit. You know what, to hell with it, I’m crossing.”

“You’d better not. They’ll fine you.”

“Like hell.”

“See those little white cameras on top of each streetlight?” Tim pointed. “This entire intersection is covered. If you cross, they’ll see you. You’ll get a citation in your inbox. Five-hundred-and-forty dollars.”

“Five-hundred-and-forty dollars for jaywalking? Are you sure?”

“Dead sure. You know that new guy who started in the Bio-Plastics Division last week? Skin specialist?”

“Larry? Yeah. Good guy. Graduated Cal Tech.”

“Larry told me all about how he crossed the street on a red light because he ate some bad Japanese food. He ordered Teriyaki Chicken for lunch, but he said it wasn’t like any chicken he’d ever seen before. It was little round nuggets of weird, dark meat.

“Anyway, he wasn’t even through with lunch and already things were gurgling around down there. By the time they were paying the bill, he was having uncontrollable flatulence. And not cute little girl-farts, either. These were the long, hot, steamy ones that smell like death warmed over.

“Ten minutes later, he’s standing on this very corner. He doesn’t want to cross the street because he knows the cameras will see him and he’ll get a fine. But he doesn’t want to shit his pants, either. Plus, he and his fiancée were having dinner with her parents that evening right after work and he wasn’t going to have time to go home and change or to freshen up.

“So, finally, when it was safe to cross the street, even though the crosswalk computer said not to, he runs across the street and into Positronic Pizza and Pub. But you have to get a token from the robot cashier in order to get into the bathrooms, because of all the homeless people who like to bathe in there. And there was a huge long line for the cashier. By the time he was first in line, the robie tells him the bathrooms are for paying customers only, so he orders a soda and hands over his debit card, but the robie says it’s a ten-dollar-minimum order for all non-cash transactions. But Larry doesn’t have enough cash because he just spent it on the Teriyaki cat at the Japanese place. So he orders a pizza, even though he just had what he thought was lunch, which was probably some little girl’s tabby. He spends twenty-seven bucks on the pizza, gets the token, and goes to the bathroom. But there’s somebody in there; the door’s locked. So he waits, and he waits, and he waits. And a few minutes later, he shits himself.”

“He shit himself?”

“Completely. Larry told me there was nothing he could do. He said he was standing there clenching as hard as he could. He was sweating, breathing heavy. But it was no use. It was like a bowling ball of shit rolled out of his ass and exploded in his underwear. There was nothing he could do.”

Tim caught the robot holding the beer looking at him. The robot looked away.

“So what about dinner with his fiancée and her parents?” Rory asked.

“He made it. But he had to take the rest of the day off so he could go straight home from Positronic to shower and change. He said that when he got home, he tossed his pants and underwear into the incinerator. And he had to have a new driver’s seat installed in his car, which was a brand new Jag, by the way, one he’d only had three weeks. He said the Teriyaki cat stained the seat, because he went with the Icelandic White cloth, whereas if he’d gone with the Icelandic White leather, the stain wouldn’t have set in like it did. At least, that’s what they told him at the dealership. So he told them to put in a whole new seat, which was seventeen-hundred bucks. Plus, right there in his inbox was the jaywalking fine for another five-hundred-and-forty bucks. A real nice photo of him illegally crossing the street. He’s a pretty smart guy, so he does the math and between the citation, the new driver’s seat, the pizza, the cost of his poopy pants he had to incinerate, which were a gift from his fiancée, by the way, plus the cost of the Teriyaki cat, he figures he spent about twenty-six-hundred bucks.”

“Damn.”

“The best part is, he helped design the new-generation facial recognition software they’re using in the cameras up there on those traffic lights. He basically got himself busted.

“So, if you jaywalk, they’ll see you, too. Five-hundred-and-forty bucks, guaranteed.”

“So if he designed it, he can pay the fine for me.”

“Good luck with that.”

Tim caught the robot holding the beer looking at him. The robot looked away.

The crosswalk signal LEDs flicked to green. The electronic voice ordered pedestrians to “Cross now . . . Cross now . . . Cross now.”

The robot with the beer crossed the street.

The robot with the collar around its neck remained standing on the sidewalk.

Rory and Tim proceeded into the street.

“So who’s Candy going on the date with?” Tim asked.

“I don’t know,” said Rory, “some guy. She said she met him on the Internet.”

“She met him on the Internet? Do you think that’s a good idea?”

“It’s her decision.”

“What if he’s a murderer or a human trafficker, and he kidnaps her and takes her to another country and sells her as a sex slave?” The robot carrying the beer turned its silver head and looked at Tim. “I wasn’t speaking to you,” said Tim. The robot looked away.

“She said he seems like a nice guy,” said Rory.

“What if he’s not?”

“Relax. She’s an accomplished psychologist. She can handle it.”

“She’s a robopsychologist. The robot brain and the human mind are nothing alike.”

“Hey, watch this. I bet I can freeze out that robie.”

“Don’t do that,” said Tim.

“Hey! Robot!”

Mid-way across the street, the robot carrying the beer turned its head toward them.

“Is that beer you’re carrying to be delivered to your master?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you know beer is unhealthy for humans? Alcohol is harmful. By delivering that beer to your master, you will be harming him. Remember: robots aren’t allowed to injure humans.”

The robot stopped walking and stood in the crosswalk. It began to take a step forward, then stopped. It tried yet again, but stopped. Its red eyes angled down to the beer in its hands, then up to Rory, then to the dozens of humans crossing the street and strolling among the storefronts and sidewalk cafes. The robot shuddered for a moment and became still. The red glow faded from its eyes, and its silver mechanical body sagged. It stood motionless in the crosswalk, a little more than halfway across the street, the case of beer still in its hands.

Tim said, “You killed it.” He and Rory gained the sidewalk, peering behind at the inert robot.

“Relax, it’s insured. The lazy bastard who owns it will be able to buy a newer model.”

“For a roboticist, you’re a vindictive son of a bitch.”

“Can’t help it,” said Rory. “If we don’t keep robots in their place, they’ll take over the friggin’ world.”

“You know, that thing almost surely has a recorder in it.”

“Nah, look at it. It’s a low-end model, at least ten years old. They didn’t come with separate recorders back then. When its positronic relays went bye-bye, so did its recordings.”

“How do you know it didn’t have recordings from birthday parties or weddings? Or childbirths? Those things are irreplaceable.”

“True. But anyone stupid enough to not back up their data deserves to lose it.”

Tim gave one last glance toward the robot. “Are we going to leave it there in the middle of the street?”

“Of course.”

“Think it’ll get a ticket for jaywalking?”

“No,” Rory laughed, “but the registered owner will. Five hundred-and-forty bucks.”

“That’s an expensive case of beer.”

“Serves him right for not getting off his fat ass to go buy it himself.”

“So, what about Candy?” Tim asked.

“If it makes you feel better, we’ll call her after the date, to make sure she hasn’t been kidnapped or sold as a sex slave. Hey, why did the robot cross the road?”

“Why?”

“To rescue the slow and inferior human on the other side, thereby obeying the first law of robotics.”

Visit Ryan at http://www.authorryanschneider.com/p/eye-candy.html and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RyanLSchneider

The A.I. Storybundle is live but only ten 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 only at https://storybundle.com/ai

Eye Candy Cover Final

Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider

In a near-future Los Angeles of 2047, roboticist Danny Olivaw finds himself on a blind date with a beautiful robopsychologist named Candy. But the next day, strange things begin to happen. Confronted with an unbearable truth, Danny soon begins a downward spiral in search for the woman he loves. Little does he know what fate has in store for them. Brilliantly conceived and executed with delicate precision, Eye Candy is a complex, endearing tale for mature readers that’s as fast-paced and uplifting as it is fun.

Candy Calvin has it all. She’s a respected robopsychologist who specializes in the care and feeding of robots, particularly those belonging to Los Angeles’ wealthy elite. Her best friend Susannah helps Candy run her practice. The only thing Candy is missing is someone special with whom she can share her life. Until one day, on a whim, she visits an online dating site. She soon finds a profile she likes: ROBOSTUD2047. They agree to meet for dinner. But when Candy lays eyes on him, she gets more than she bargained for, including a trip into orbit, a midnight ride in a ViperJet, and a revelation that rattles her to her core.
Danny Olivaw is a reknown roboticist famous for his books on the inner workings of artificially-intelligent beings. When he’s not writing, he flies his jet and hobnobs with celebrities and movie stars. His roommate Floyd is a screenwriter and actor who convinces Danny to try online dating.

EYECANDYPh.D. immediately catches Danny’s eye. They agree to meet at Chateaux Pizza and before Danny can get over the statuesque beauty before him, she’s sampling his bruschetta and tasting his wine. Danny knows instantly that he’s head over heels for Candy. But things aren’t always what they seem, and Danny soon finds himself in a downward spiral in his quest to reunite with Candy.
Packed with action, comedy, romance, and an ensemble of lovable characters, EYE CANDY is an uplifting roller coaster ride in the time of robots.

Ryan Schneider is a husband, aspiring father, writer, and full-time novelist.
Ryan writes in many genres, including Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Mainstream Fiction. He is the author of five novels, a collection of short stories, and a dozen screenplays.
Ryan earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of the Pacific, and advanced degrees in Screenwriting and Independent Producing at UCLA. He has worked as a newspaper staff writer and film critic, as well as co-host of a weekly radio show.
Ryan is also a commercially-licensed pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings. He lives in Palm Springs, CA with his wife Taliya, a Guinness World Record-holding singer/songwriter and recording artist. Taliya received a Guinness World Record in 2005 for recording her original song “Flower Child” in 15 languages. She is currently in the studio, mastering a brand new acoustic album.

Visit Ryan at http://www.authorryanschneider.com/p/eye-candy.html and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RyanLSchneider

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only 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

Just past dawn a dead man came floating down the river. The current carried him under the old river-straddling warehouse, where he fetched up against one of the fluff booms Arif had strung between the rotting pilings. Phousita found him when she came to gather the night’s harvest of fluff. He floated facedown. His head had wedged under the fluff boom; his long black hair swayed like a silk veil in the current.

Phousita glanced nervously overhead. The trapdoor that opened onto the main floor of the abandoned warehouse hung open. She debated with herself a moment. It would be so easy to slip into the water, ease the dead man’s body off the boom and guide him back into the current before Arif discovered he was here. She would never have to worry about who he might have been or what bitter spirits still haunted his flesh. Let someone else farther down the river have him!

But her conscience wouldn’t let her do it. Even in the dusky light under the river warehouse she could tell he’d been a wealthy man. Such fine clothes! And he might have money on him, jewels. The clan was hungry. She glanced again at the trapdoor. “Sumiati,” she called softly.

The termite-eaten floorboards creaked, then Sumiati peered through the door. She had an empty bucket in her hands, ready to pass it to Phousita. “So fast today! Did you fill the first bucket already? It’s about time our catch improved!” Her dark eyes widened when she saw the body. She sucked in a little breath of surprise. “Phousita, he’s still got his clothes! Hold him! Don’t let the current take tuan away. I’ll come down. Look how beautiful his robe is. Oh, do you think we’re the first to find him?” She put the bucket down, then turned to climb through the trapdoor, moving awkwardly as she bent over her pregnant belly. She hung for a moment from the insulated wire rope, looking like some rare, ripe fruit. Then she dropped gracefully to the narrow metal plank that Arif had lashed between the pilings. It shivered under the impact.

Phousita reached out a hand to steady her. Sumiati was a small woman, but even beside her, Phousita was tiny. She stood no taller than a petite child of seven or eight, though she was nearly twenty-five years old. Despite her size, her body was that of a woman: slender and beautifully proportioned, endowed with ample breasts and rounded hips, but on a scale that seemed unnaturally small. With her pretty round face, her dark eyes, and her thick black hair carefully coiled at the nape of her neck, she might have been a diminutive spirit out of some forgotten mythology.

Her unusual appearance had once attracted many clients after-hours in the business district. But she’d promised Arif she wouldn’t venture down there anymore. She was hungrier these days. The clothes from this dead man would buy a large quantity of rice.

And yet she hesitated. Easy wealth was so often cursed with misfortune. “I don’t like finding the tuan here,” she told Sumiati, instinctively using the traditional honorific. “There’s no telling what evil influences tuan carries with him. Let’s work quickly, then I’ll shove him back into the river.”

Sumiati looked suddenly concerned. “Maybe we should call Arif.”

“No!” Sumiati jerked at the sharp tone of Phousita’s voice. Phousita hunched her shoulders; she looked across at the dead man. “No,” she said more gently. “No need to wake Arif. We can do it.” Pulling the close-fitting skirt of her sarong up above her knees, she eased herself into the water until her tiny feet touched the clean gravel that cushioned the river’s concrete bed. The current swirled in cool streams around her waist, gradually soaking her faded blue breastcloth. She reached back to help Sumiati down, then grabbed the empty fluff bucket and started wading toward the dead man, one hand on the fluff boom for balance.

Arif had constructed the boom shortly after he’d moved the clan into the abandoned warehouse. He’d gathered rare old plastic bottles, the kind that didn’t disintegrate in only a few weeks. He’d cut them in half and then lashed them to a plank stripped from the warehouse. They floated half-submerged in the water and when the fluff came floating down the river they trapped it, like huge hands grasping at the feast. The system had worked well for many months. It would still work, if only there were more fluff in the river . . . or fewer hungry people. Her gaze scanned the thin line of brown foam bobbing against the boom. A dismal catch. Not enough there to feed three people and there were thirty-nine empty bellies in the clan. Forty, counting Sumiati’s soon-to-be-born. Phousita tried not to think about it.

Fierce rays of yellow light lanced under the river house as the sun leapt up over the city. Phousita touched the dead man’s head. Bright white flecks of bone and torn pink flesh could be seen through his black hair. The back of his skull had been caved in by a blow. The current still washed dilute puffs of blood from the wound. He must have been only minutes in the water. She lifted his head carefully by the long hair. His face was pale, nondescript European. His eyes were closed. A single kanji glowed in soft, luminescent red on his cheek. She couldn’t read it. “Look, tuan was robbed,” she said, pointing at the torn lobes of his ears where earrings must have been. Sumiati peered over her shoulder.

Out of principle Phousita touched his neck, checked for a pulse. It was a ceremony the Chinese doctor insisted upon, even when the patient was obviously dead. Perhaps it helped ease the frightened spirit still trapped within the body. Sumiati looked on, a worried pout on her lips until Phousita shook her head. Sumiati smiled.

“Even if tuan was robbed, he still has his clothes,” she said. “Maybe the thieves overlooked something.” She quickly checked his pockets, but found nothing. Phousita worked at the fastenings on his robe. In minutes they had the body stripped. Phousita stepped back in relief.

Sumiati’s eyes glowed as she held the fluff bucket stuffed full of fine clothing. “Push him off the boom,” she urged. “Let’s hurry. We have to take these to temple market. It’s a long walk, but we’ll get the best price there. We can take some water to sell too. And then we can buy rice. Enough for everyone to eat until their stomachs complain! And clothes. Henri and Maman need new clothes. And medicines, of course. You’ll know the ones to buy. And the Chinese doctor is always glad to see you.”

Phousita smiled at Sumiati’s nervous chatter. The dead man had indeed brought them good fortune. And now she could send him on his way. She reached for the dead man’s arm. Twisted it gently, to ease him off the boom. Hurry now. In a moment he would be gone.

“Phousita!”

Her hands jerked back in guilty surprise. She looked up as Arif dropped through the trapdoor. He landed on the metal plank. His slim, hard body—clothed only in worn shorts—was poised in a fighter’s stance. Arif was always fighting, she thought bitterly. And he’d do anything, anything at all to survive.

He stared at her, cruel violet eyes so out of place amongst the swollen, exaggerated features of his laughing, yellow, bioluminescent joker’s face. Sumiati, blind to his moods, started to bubble forth in her good-natured way with the tale of their find, but Arif cut her off with a gesture. “Phousita,” he growled softly. “What are you doing?”

Phousita glanced at the nude body of the dead man. Without his clothes he seemed a pale, ghostly thing. “Take the basket up, Sumiati,” she said softly. “Arif will help me now.”

Sumiati nodded, confused. Arif helped her out of the river and onto the plank, then stepped back, out of her way. She climbed the rope. “Close the door behind you,” he said. He still stared at Phousita. In the harsh shadows under the warehouse, his ogre-ugly face glowed brilliant yellow with its own generated light.

By his own admission Arif had been a wicked child. His mother had sold him to a sorcerer who poisoned him with a spell that exposed his sins upon his face. With his ridiculously elongated nose and chin, his cheeks as round and full as overripe guavas, and his glowing yellow complexion, he resembled one of the comical servants of the wayang theater. Except his eyes.

His gaze flickered upward as the corrugated metal door closed with a creak. Soft footsteps moved off across the warehouse floor. When Sumiati was out of earshot, Arif spoke: “He’s food, Phousita.” He walked to the end of the plank. “Why would you throw away food?”

Suddenly Arif dove, slicing like a sunbeam through the water, his thick black hair, tied up in a short ponytail, trailing behind him. He surfaced next to Phousita, startling her with an explosion of bubbles. He threw his swollen yellow head back and laughed, then hugged her tiny figure quickly, his arms encircling her waist. “Don’t be afraid, Phousita,” he crooned. “The old witch filled your head with all kinds of lies. It’s just a body. Tuan’s spirit is gone.”

Phousita was trembling. She sank into Arif’s arms while the cool river water rushed past. “You don’t know what kind of man he was,” she whispered.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It matters if we take his body into ours.”

“Not his body. Only the fluff that grows from it. You helped me plant them before. You ate the fluff.”

She laid her head against his chest. He’d dismissed her reluctance then too. “Sutedjo and Piet were part of our clan,” she said. “We knew them; they would wish us no harm. But this man is a stranger; we don’t know what evil he’s done.”

“It’s gone with him.”

“His spirit clings to the body.”

But Arif’s patience had eroded. “Spirit rides in the head and his head’s smashed in,” he snapped. “Stupid country girl, he’s gone!” He ducked under the water. A moment later, he surfaced on the other side of the boom. Grabbing the dead man’s wrists, he twisted the body roughly off the boom. “I wish you’d never met that old witch! She chased your brains away. You want to be a sorceress like her? Fah! She was just a stupid old hill woman. I’m glad she’s dead. I wish I could have planted her too!”

Phousita slapped the water. “Stop it, Arif. Stop it! You pretend you know so much. You don’t know! You hear rumors on the street and you think they’re true. Shiny new magic. But even the new sorcerers don’t know everything. Arif!”

He wasn’t listening. He’d turned his back on her, hauling the dead man up the river. She took a deep breath and ducked awkwardly under the boom. Fear filled her as water swirled past her face. Then she burst to the surface, gasping and splashing for air. She didn’t know how to swim. Arif had promised to teach her. Oh, why did she get angry? It did no good. Arif only wanted the best for her, for everyone in the clan. It hurt him when she let her doubt show.

“Arif.” She caught up with him; helped him drag the body against the current. They reached the edge of the river house. Arif stopped. Phousita glanced down through the clear water to the gravel beneath her feet. Scattered there she could still see the remnants of Sutedjo’s bones, bright white slivers that hadn’t yet turned to fluff. She glanced up. Arif studied her with violet eyes. “It wasn’t the old witch who cured you, Phousita. It was the Chinese doctor. The old magic is dead.”

He ducked under the water, hauling one leg of the dead man with him. Phousita used her tiny body as an anchor to keep the corpse from drifting downstream while Arif secured the man’s foot to a mooring stone on the bottom. He surfaced, took the other leg, hauled that down too.

Over the next few days the body would slowly dissolve into a rich harvest of fluff that would float to the surface and gather downstream against the fluff boom. The clan would never know the reason for their good fortune. They’d attribute the abundant harvest to luck.

Fluff hadn’t existed when the old woman was alive. That was only a few years ago. Phousita could remember it easily. She’d been perhaps twenty-one, still trapped in a child’s body. The river had been a stinking sewer then, a deadly thread of water draining the city’s filth. When the fluff first started collecting on the river’s banks, they’d paid no attention to it, assuming it was just a new kind of pollution. Then Arif had seen the rats eating it. . . .

Now the river ran clear. The water was clean, drinkable, though the city’s filth still washed into it with every rain.

Arif surfaced again, took the dead man’s right arm. “Help push him under,” he said gruffly. Phousita nodded. Arif stretched the arm of the corpse beyond its head, then reached underwater for the mooring stone. He found it, and glanced over his shoulder at Phousita. “Now.” She placed her palms flat against the cold, slippery chest and leaned hard, forcing the body under.

Something gave way beneath her right hand. She could hear it more than feel it, a sharp metal snick! The chest opened like a blinking eye. A golden needle shot out of the black orifice, to bury itself in Phousita’s breast. She reared back in horror, swiping at the spot of blood just above her breastcloth that marked the point where the needle had disappeared. She stumbled through the water. Her chest was on fire. She could hear herself bleating like a terrified child: “Unh! unh! unh!”

The corpse twisted in the current, the shoulders rolled. She saw a little white tear in the dead white chest before the corpse turned facedown again. Her gaze shifted to Arif. The horror in his eyes must have echoed her own. Help me. She tried to say it, but her mouth had gone dry. Her tongue grew puffy and swollen as the needle’s poison spread through her system. The bubbling song of the river seemed to rise in volume, building like a wall around her before it collapsed into a chaotic buzz. Her vision blurred. She could see Arif reaching for her. But the current was swifter. Her eyes closed as its cold hands caressed her face and swirled through her hair.

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

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only 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. Stock up your ereader for the Spring only at https://storybundle.com/ai

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The Artificial Intelligence Storybundle
Curated by Lisa Mason

Artificial Intelligence—A.I. When computer technology becomes conscious. Self-aware. Genuinely as intelligent as human beings. Will A.I. benefit us? Or become our greatest enemy? Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking told the BBC, “Full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

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So there you have it! Stock up your ereader for the Spring and beyond with award-winning, best-selling, and indie speculations about A.I. and our future. The Artificial Intelligence Storybundle is historic and unique, provocative and diverse, an excellent addition to your elibrary providing world-class reading for the Spring, through the Summer, and beyond.

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StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

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The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only 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 for the Spring only at https://storybundle.com/ai