Archive for the ‘Rudy’s Blog’ Category

Finishing TEEP

I’ve been in a bloodlust writing frenzy for the last couple of months, writing all day almost every day, pushing and pushing to finish off my novel Teep that I’ve been working on for two years. It’s pretty much done now. Today’s post is excerpts of my writing journals from the last three weeks, along with a bunch of photos that have piled up. As usual, the connections between word and image are purely in the zone of surreal synchonicity.

February 2-4, 2021. 8½.
I want to add a little more to Chapter 8, bringing it closer to half the length of a chapter. So I name this writing journal entry after the cool Fellini movie 8½ — although I admit it would be more logical to call it 7½ , given that I’m working on a short chapter that follows seven long chapters. Here’s some scenes I’m adding.

Molly and Kayla plan to ride that sports thudhumper to San Lorenzo to fetch baby Daia and some of Kayla’s stuff. But at this point it’s a little boring to have yet another car ride in the mountains.

So skip the ride, and go through Hilbert Space instead. Molly knows how. Renormalize. Potentially a big, bomb-drop-level, plot-changing event, but I want to damp that down a bit. For now, Anselm and Molly are the only two who can do it. And let’s say Maurice can hop as well. You have to spend a lot of time in teepspace to get the hang of it. So at the end of the novel, teleportation is on the horizon, but only for people who are almost like gods.


In San Lorenzo, someone is about to kidnap baby Daia, or has already done so. Molly has to teleport to catch them, and she blasts them. The kidnapper is a rep for a Top Party backer who imagines Carson is still alive, and wants to set the Skyhive gigworkers back to attacking Gee.

The kidnapper is Jerr Boom. Perfect. And now the scene comes to me like I’m taking dictation or overhearing a conversation. Used it almost as is it is here in the first take.

“You can’t be here, Jerr,” says Kaya. “My Bunter X bit off your head and chewed you up.”
“Ever heard of clones?” goes Jerr Boom.
“What about Tweaky Bird?” I [Molly] say.
“Ever heard of copying a psidot?”
“Give me the baby,” I say to Jerr Boom.
“This where the bargaining begins,” says Jerr. “I know what you want. But do you know what I want?”

“Zoom Meeting” acrylic on canvas, December, 2020, 24” x 18”. Click for a larger version of the painting. About the extent of my social life, lately! For more info see my paintings page.

In the morning Leeta shows up. She and Kayla make peace. Gee, Anselm, Mary and Leeta free all the digital soul lifeboxes from big-money servers and make them into indie autonomous “halo lifeboxes.” A flock of halo disks swooping around like a flock of seagulls. They’ll perch in trees. The Magic Forest. The characters do a happy grand finale dance beneath the trees. I did this at the end of Frek and the Elixir, too.

Pairs: Molly and Liv, Gee and Mary, Kayla and Phil. Plus Maurice, Anselm, and Leeta, in no particular order. All is calm, the tension is gone. We don’t explicitly announce our long day’s victories in the media, but the rumors filter out. No more Top Party to worry about. And no more Treadle legacy. None of that is coming back. We’re on a better path.

February 4-5, 2021. Grateful. It’s (Almost) Done.
I’ve been writing some really funny and elegant stuff these last few weeks. To my fond eye, each page is like a tray of gems. It makes the long labor of rolling the heavy stone uphill worthwhile, and it’s been about two years It’s work, being a writer. So glad to have made my way into in the heights again.

About three years ago Sylvia and I went hiking in the Sierras with some people our age, or younger, and we were loafing along at the end of line, but even so making our way up a really spectacular slope, with giant boulders and peaks beyond, and my heart leapt up.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get to do this again,” I told Sylvia. “ I thought it was over.” (What with my age, and my heart, and my legs.)

That’s how the writing feels this month. And I really don’t know if I’ll ever get this high into the hills again. This could be it. Every year: words harder to remember, less energy, more need for naps, oh-fuck-it-ism. But I’m glad right now, and grateful.

Teep is done, now, on Friday, Feb 5, 2021, 5:08 pm. At least that’s what I’m saying right now. Huge push over the last few days. Writing constantly, with little effort. Truth be told, there’s still a bit more to do.

February 8, 2021. In San Francisco
Sylvia’s birthday. We came up to SF for two nights, stayed at the old Campton Place hotel, now with Taj added to the front of the name, almost empty, due to the plague, and they upgraded us to a really nice corner room on the 15th floor, overlooking Union Square, with a wood floor and two windows. Isabel was in town, and we had a few joyous family meals with her and with Rudy Jr.’s family of five, eating outside in the cold. I wore a lot of layers.

This morning at dawn I dreamed I was rewriting the last pages of Teep…the dream went on for a very long time, maybe an hour, and I kept revising the rewrite, moving things around, gloating over it’s high quality. I’ve been writing so much that I really do dream about revising, with my keyboard, the whole thing. I haven’t been on the laptop the last three days, a nice break. We’re driving home via coastal Route 1 today, should be fun.

About all I can remember about the dream of the expanded ending is that it involved a wise older man—perhaps it was me—or perhaps my character Anselm who is indeed underutilized in the current ending. I’ll print out the last chapter and look things over tonight or tomorrow.

February 9-17, 2021. Fix the Ending.
Feb 12, 2021
I rewrote the ending pages three or four times by now, and, will do more. The prob is that I want to be done, so I was shorting on those last scenes, not wanting to visualize them, or complicate them, or work out consequences thereof. “Leave that to the next guy.” The next guy being nobody, or the reader’s imagination, or (barely possible) a future me who writes a sequel to Teep.

Looking back at some years-old writing notes last week, I came upon a passage where I talked about how I do not in fact normally write sequels, and I end the book like a musician who brings the final song to a frenzy, with fierce feedback and all the amps dialed up to 11, and he lays down his reverberant guitar on an amp and walks off stage as the feedback (which I called “feebdack” in Hacker and the Ants) pulses and rolls.

Should I quit now and maybe later add an afterword “In Place of A Sequel.” Don’t do that, you doddering slacker! Finish it all now.

Feb 13, 2021.
Did maybe the final take on the ending. I had an issue about how the lifeboxes port themselves into halos; it needs to autonomous and autocatalytic and sustainable, that is, it can’t depend of some external agent doing the port for the lifeboxes. The lifeboxes need to be a self-perpetuating ecosystem of their own, with no need for active human supervision.

So to get ready for that I needed to go back and redo Mary’s first-ever port from lifebox to halo. And the kicker I thought of is that—the system become more and more and more self-perpetuating because the existing halos help the old lifeboxes do their port.

I have not yet explicitly resolved the issue of how new users with no lifebox at all will get into the system. I need at least to say something in passing on this. Can be as simple as existing halos simply recruiting humans to get a halo. Yes, do that, allow the halos to subdivide to reproduce.

Feb 14, 2021.
Another full day of work on Teep—“really” fixing the ending, or almost. Will reread tomorrow. Writing the ending of a novel is hard because I tend to rush it on first second third or fourth version as I’m so eager to be done. Can’t slow down and actually think it out till about fifth or seventh (or whatever-th) try.

Feb 15, 2021.
I’m inclined to stonewall and stick with the belief that teep won’t work without psidots. The brain-psidot architecture. Psidot teep came first. And lifebox immortality builds on psidot teep.

“The Finn Junker lifebox-psidot-body architecture is here to stay,” says Gee. “The psidot provides a human body with ultraweak wireless. Crystal-clear, long-distance, data transfer. It’s an essential interface between organic bodies and teepspace. You use your psidot to teep with people, to share chemical mood-templates, to upload your memories into your lifebox, and to let your lifebox instruct your body. But—”
“What if I zap you with a trillion volt shock?” interrupts Mary, annoyed by Gee’s endless jabber.

I am pushing the idea that the halo lifeboxes become an independent life form that is symbiotic with us.

So then, as a final step, I could say that, by way of promoting our partnership, the halo lifeboxes themselves begin culturing and distributing the psidots. Like ants who farm edible fungus in their nests. Love it.

Might work some of that in today while I mark up and type in yesterday’s ending’s printout. Still here typing in bed. My butt hurts, I’ve been doing this every day for (feels like) months.

Also I’m doing more work on revising my passages about the port from lifeboxes on servers to the indie, autonomous halo lifebox. A new race a-borning.

Feb 17, 2021.
I more or less really, really, finished it , and mailed copies to Marc Laidlaw, John Silbersack, John Walker, and to my writer friend who edited Big Echo ezine, calls himself Robert Penner or William Squirrel, depending.

Drove to Carmel yesterday with Sylvia, a nice day off. At home in the evening, I dropped the DOC into InDesign, exported as an EPUB, converted into a MOBI with Kindle Previewer, and emailed that to my Kindle via Amazon. Read the last chapter on my Kindle last night, lying on the couch with my Kindle, highlighting problems with touches of my finger. Fun to see it in a “commercial” format.

The next day I scrolled through my highlighted sections on the Kindle, spotting the highlights, and typing fixes into the text on my desktop, and fully rewriting the last page or two. Printed that last bit just now, and if it’s okay, I’m done. Again.

Go outside, Rudy. Fix the sprinklers.
No, wait, finish fixing the ending a few more times.
And that’s what I did.

February 19, 2021. Mary Segue.
Marc Laidlaw read the book pretty quickly. I know it’s borderline vain of me, but I’ll copy two of his nice remarks here. I need all the encouragement I can get at this early stage. The way my career has been going—I had to self publish my previous novel Return to the Hollow Earth, although the novel before that, Million Mile Road Trip, came out in a very nice edition from Night Shade who are, however, looking maybe a little iffy in these tough times, well, Kickstarter + self-publication is at this point very much a possible fate for Teep! Marc:

This is some of your best stuff, it just flows wonderfully, the characters are great—especially Anselm. He’s a wonderful mouthpiece for quirky observations. It’s cool, especially having seen the separate pieces of these over the past couple years, to see the way you’ve put them together and developed something larger out of them.

And he liked how quickly the book moves. He posted a nice tweet about this when he was done reading it.;

TEEP is a thing of absolutely breakneck pace, high energy throughout. It feels like it was written in one sustained breath, though I know he’s been working on it for a couple years, breathing periodically. Hope it finds a home.

Marc had some suggestions that will require another full week of work on Teep. And yet again, I want to “really, really, really” fix the ending, or almost.

February 22-23, 2021. Mary Segue. Walker Weighs In.
I need something at the start of Chap 4, just something simple, a scene sketching out the year and a half passage of time between Jan, 2061 and April, 2062. Mary’s past.

One thing to depict is the gradual return of the Top Party as a force. Mary’s somewhat apolitical, but she could overhear talk about this. The Treadlers were decisively defeated in January, 2061, but they’ve been machinating for a year and a half and are coming back in April, 2062.

Setting that aside, the high point of the segue scene at the start of “Mary Mary” is the decisive concert, when Mary and Kayla are performing at the Pot O’ Gold and Gee gets the notion that Mary might be able to port herself to a halo lifebox. It’s not necessarily the case that Mary’s talent is unique. It’s enough that she’s a good, self-expressive singer, and that Gee sees her in person. At present that scene happens off stage, and with Gee perhaps even seeing the show online instead of in person, and, as Marc pointed out, it needs to be live in the book.

Who else plays with Mary and Kayla, by the way? Think of them as a bluegrass quartet. We have fiddle (Kayla) and mandolin (Mary), and could use bass (Dick Cheeks), and banjo (Joe Moon).

The voice thing—Gee can hold forth on that a bit. It’s a move I’ve used before, having a voice express a soul. In fact I already have a bit of that in the earlier sections of Teep, don’t I? And I think I did it at the end of Postsingular.

Now John Walker sent me a great set of conceptual comments on the “rubber science” and a long list of specific proofing corrections. I typed in the corrections today, and I’m working on the comments.

Teep & Psidot Bandwidth.
The teep and psidot bandwith problem….yes the way out would seem to be something along the lines of the dark matter (dark energy? quintessence?) or the Hilbert space channel, like how in Spaceland I used a 4D channel. I went for the Big Lie and wrote this:

“At the risk of boring the shit out of you, I’ll say a word about ultraweak wireless. It’s quite distinct from the wireless signals that were used for old-school smart phones. The giggle is that ultraweak wireless is in fact much stronger. It’s not a standard electromagnetic-wave-type signal at all. Ultraweak wireless uses new physics. It wriggles out of our workaday four-dimensional spacetime continuum, out into the raw Hilbert space of quantum mechanics, and wings through those dark caverns, free as a bird, unfettered by such mundane niggling factors such as distance or signal power. You teep someone via ultraweak wireless, and, baby, you’re there. And even so feeble an organ as a human brain as the oomph to pull it off.”

Treadle Disease Propagation Speed.
John made the point that at first it was hard to give Anselm the Treadle Disease; Loftus had to inoculate him with a thorn. And then suddenly a day or two later, almost everyone in the US has it. To me this fits with the insane upward rush of the Corona virus. But for it to be this fast, you need a tweak.
I went for sleek, wriggly, hyperactive viruses. They are in contact with Top Party labs via their bristle antennae, and those guys are crunching and improving the design.

How Utila the Giant Amoeba Flies.
John says that if I’m saying it’s levitation, then the chunks should levitate too. Use membrane-enclosed “balloons” of hydrogen, created quickly and discarded casually. Created by photocatalytic water splitting, a type of artificial photosynthesis that produces hydrogen from water and light—currently a dream, but a future biotech reality. Carried out by our tweaked amoeba. 100 hydrogen balloons of 8 ft diameter can lift 2,000 pounds. So one balloon can lift 20 pounds. So a humanoid 80 pound kritter chunk of the flying amoeba would need four or five balloons. And we can et about 25 of these guys out of the amoeba for attacking the Top Party raiders, akin to the Jan 6, 2021, Capitol mob.

The juice was a big thing to me when I started the novel—at one point I was calling it Juicy Ghosts—and then I demoted that to a chapter title, and then forget to keep pushing on “juice” later on, but supposedly a lifebox needs it to be hip. So you’d wonder how, for instance, Molly’s raw teepspace lifebox was makin’ it. John also points out that any Skyhive lifebox ought to be able to draw in juice from the living server dough. And Gee’s guest lifeboxes could draw “elan vital” from the redwood server tree. I want no for Skyhive, and yes for the redwood. Can I use the phrase “elan vital?” doing the job. Run some jive about it being holistic ensemble quantum state function?

Renormalization Is Too Powerful.
If everyone learns to renormalize (teleport and more), they greedily or angrily destroy the world in short order. Limit the power to rare god-like figures like Molly and Anselm. I had this issue at the end of Realware, and in that case, a think called the alla, and there I ended up suspending the allas’ power.

What is a Halo Lifebox?
What the hell is it made of? I initially wanted to say quintessence, then for some reason backed off, seemed like too much extra BS to feed the reader. So I said charged ions, but I forgot to say they’re in some odd quantum-computing linkage. That ought to do the trick. Play the effin’ quantum card. Like the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in Monopoly.

What Shape Is the Scrooge Cubic Acre?

I finished writing my novel Teep this week. Now I’m going to the beach or lying around at home reading Uncle Scrooge comics. And I’ve invented a math puzzle, described in this post, and solved by Bob Hearn on February 21, 2021. Some may term this post fanatical and unreadable but, hey, there’s some nice illos anyway! And don’t worry too much about the details of the math. Just let it soak in through your skin.

The Scrooge Cubic Acre

Uncle Scrooge’s money bin is approximately a cube that’s 100 feet on each edge, making a volume of a 1,000,000 cubic feet, as a million is a hundred cubed.

Scrooge frequently says it holds three cubic acres. Therefore a cubic acre must be a third of a million cubic feet, that is about 333,333 cubic feet. Call this quantity the Scrooge cubic acre.

The mystery is this. Nobody except Uncle Scrooge has ever talked about “cubic acres.” The unit has no defined meaning. An acre is in fact a measure of area and not volume. Specifically, it’s 43,560 square feet.

I propose that we define the Scrooge Cubic Acre to be a 3D geometrical solid with these two properties:

I. Its volume is a third of a million square feet.
II. Its surface area is an acre.

What might the a Scrooge Cubic Acre look like? Let’s explore some options.

A Spherical Cubic Acre?

Let’s look at a sphere whose surface area is an acre.

In terms of radius R, the surface area S of a sphere is 4 pi R^2.
Conversely, R is the square root of S / 4 pi.
[Note that pi is our old friend 3.141, and we can round 4 pi to 12.6.]

So if S is an acre, that is, 43,560 sq. ft., then r is about 59 feet.
The volume V of a sphere with radius Rr is 4/3 pi R^3.
So a sphere whose surface area is an acre will have a volume of 851,247 cu. ft.

But this much too big to match the desired Scrooge Cubic Acre volume of 333,333 cu. ft.

A Cubical Cubic Acre?

Let’s whittle down the volume-holding ability of our “cubic acre” shape from sphere to cube. Let’s check out the volume of a cube whose surface area is an acre.

In terms of edge length E, the surface area S of a cube is 6 x E^2. Conversely E is the square root of (S / 6).

So if S is an acre, then E is about 85 feet, and the volume e is 85^3, or 620,724 cubic feet. This is almost twice as big as the targeted Scrooge Cubic Acre volume of 333,333 cubic feet.

What would happen if we didn’t include the base of the cube surface in its surface area? E would be the square root of (S/5), which would be even bigger, so the volume would be even bigger, so that’s no good.

Pyramid Cubic Acre

We’ll drop down to a still less voluminous shape for our Scrooge Cubic Acre. We’ll use—of course!—a square-based pyramid, a classic shape, sometimes seen in Scrooge’s adventures.

Note that there is no standard height for a square-based pyramid. So we can in fact diddle with this, and end up with the volume and surface area we want.

We have a pyramid of a surface area S and volume V.
For the pyramid’s dimensions we can specify the square base’s edge as E. And, when convenient, we can write SE for the semiedge E/2.
The altitude A of the pyramid is the height of the peak above the base.
The slant height H of the pyramid is the shortest length up along one face of the pyramid to the summit.

Background facts:
SE^2 + A^2 = H^2 by the Pythagorean theorem.
A pyramid’s volume of 1/3 is its base area times its altitude.
The surface area is the base square plus the four isosceles face-triangles.
A triangle’s area is 1/2 times base times height.

For a Scrooge Cubic Acre pyramid we have a Volume equation and a Surface Equation. Plus a H Replacement equation that let’s us replace H by a formula in A and E.

(Volume)  V = 1/3 x E^2 x A.  And we require V to be 333,000 cu. ft.
(Surface)  S = E^2 + 2 x E x H. And we require X to be 43,650 sq. ft.
(H Replacement) H^2 = 0.25 E^2 + A^2
(A Replacement) A^2 = H^2 – 0.25 E^2

Do we include the base square of the pyramid in the surface area or not? Better to include it, as our goal is to get a smaller volume for a given area.

So fine, we have a range of “pyramid cubic acre” shapes. There are many pyramids with the desired volume of a third of a million cubic feet. We only need to find the one with a one-acre surface area. We can shift among them, by changing the the ratio between A and E.

For simplicity, let’s start with the kind of pyramid you get if you dissect a cube into six square pyramids who touch at their tips at the hidden center of the cube. In this dissected cube pyramid,” A is E/2 or what we also call SE.

For this proposed cubic acre pyramid:
V = 1/3 x E^2 x E/2 = 1/6 E^3.
E = cube root of 6 V
H = sqrt (SE^2 + SE^2) = sqrt(2)*SE

If the size of V is to be that of a Scrooge Cubic Acre, that is, 333,333 cu ft, then E would be the cube root of 6 x V, which crunches out to 125 ft, which seems like a nice, reasonable size. And the A would be half of that, or 62.5 feet. And the slant height H would be sqrt(2) times that, or 88 ft.

Is the surface area of this dissected pyramid cubic acre in any way close to that of an actual acre of 43,560 sqrt ft? Well, let’s check. It’s 37,656 sq. ft.

Getting there!

Now you need to tweak it a little. You want to get a bit more surface area out of that same volume. This means making the pyramid be flatter, more spread out, but without changing its volume. You we can do this by pushing down on its apex, thus reducing the altitude and increasing the edge length and thinking of the volume inside an an incompressible fluid.

Exercises for the Reader

(1) What are the precise E and A values that work?

(2) Does their ratio bear any relationship to the Golden Proportion?

Answers and Comments

(Solution to 1) To solve for the valued of E and A, use the H Replacement equation to remove H from the Surface equation. Then use the Volume equation solve for A in terms of E. Then remove A from the Surface equation by substituting the equivalent formula in E. And you end up with a quartic equation in E. I got stuck on that, but then Bob Hearn stepped in.

The quartic has only E^4 and E^2 in it, so, Hearn points out, it can be thought of as quadratic formula in E^2, and you can solve for E^2 with the usual quadratic formula. Upshot? Hearn tells us that E = 139.3383263, A = 51.50606676. Or, rounding off, it’s close to a 139 foot edge and an altitude of 51 feet. A nice reasonable pyramid with a volume of a third of a million cubic feet and a surface are of an acre!

(Cryptic Addendum by Hearn) What is boils down to is E²S² – 2E⁴S = 36V²

(Comment on 2) And no, it bears no relation to the golden proportion…no real reason it should.

(Gratuitous off topi comment) Should a cubic acre be thought of as a six-dimensional polytope? [No. What do you think I am? A science fiction writer?]

(Further step). How about making the Scrooge Cubic acre be a flattish cone instead of a square pyramid. What would be the radius R and the altitude A?

Interview: How to Be a Cult Underground Writer

In November, 2020, the awesome SF and horror writer Cody Goodfellow interviewed me for the punk. funkadelic, and visually stunning online zine Forbidden Futures. And now I’m running the interview as a blog post. Photos are from around Santa Cruz and Los Gatos, with the cool art ones mostly from the Box Shop art space in San Francisco. And hats off to those artists.

If you want to read more interviews with me I have a full “All the Interviews” on my writing page…and it includes 440 questions with answers.

Q 1. You work was part of the original cyberpunk movement, and you use many c-punk tropes, but your outlook and philosophy seem anomalous. The freaky, witty chracters in your Ware Tetralogy rebut any stale notion that cyberpunk is be a Genre of Things. I worry that our society is resisting any grand psychic leap forward—and that they’d prefer for cyberspace be a digital mall. How do we change the channel and revive c-punk’s revolutionary promise?

A1. Yes, I never do quite fit in, even when I’m with a band of outcasts! Each of the original cyberpunks was different, and so it remains. I definitely relate to the point you’re making. There’s a worry that the golden promise of cyberspace, that is, the happy Tomorrow of internet and AI—there’s a worry that it’s been coopted by the Pig, the Man, spyware, big biz, the data miners, and the spammers. One fears the frontier has been tamed and made ordinary. But that might not be true.

As a writer, your one power over the world is to depict realties that are in line with the way things should be. Or realities that reflect the way things really are. Even though these truer realties may not be widely recognized. I like to depict smart, empathetic characters doing wild and crazy things. There are plenty of people like this—I meet them all the time in my variously intersecting circles of mathematicians, writers, hackers, hipsters, computer people, and artists. But you don’t necessarily see these people in many of the books and movies and videos out there.

If you write about the world as you feel it should be, or like it secretly is, you encourage disaffected readers to hang in there, to stay strong, to be themselves, and keep on the path to the hoped-for Tomorrow.

Q 2. One distinctive feature in your work is the glee that permeates even your more pessimistic stories. So much SF takes itself too seriously—unless it’s marketed as farce or satire. How important is it that your work amuse you?

A 2. Good question. I’m constitutionally inclined to pepper everything I write with jokes, wordplay, satire, surreal surprises, oddball characters, crazy dialog, and meta humor. Even when I’m dead serious. I always think of a famous letter from Galileo to his fellow astronomer Kepler. “My dear Kepler … what shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry?” He was writing about some problems with pigheaded burghers. Sure you can cry, but maybe it’s nobler to laugh? Or, maybe even better, it’s good to laugh and to cry. That’s an accurate depiction of life, right?

I also appreciate your distinction between being gleeful and writing farce. I don’t want my work to veer mere silliness, with my elbow thudding into your ribs. I respect SF too much for that. And I think things are more deeply funny when they’re sad and serious at the core.

Q 3 Your take on artificial life and AI stands out from other treatments. You resist viewing robots, biots, or software agents as cold, drab entities determined to crush or to exploit us. Instead you endow your robo critters with humor and soul, setting your work apart from other SF—with the exception of the divine and supernal Futurama. Like, why shouldn’t robots be cooler, funnier, and more playful than humans! Might it be that the capacity to rebel and to joke are true hallmarks of artificial intelligence?

A 3. Well, erudite and well-spoken as you are, Cody, you’re almost answering your own questions while you ask them. I learned how to write about robots from my boyhood hero and eventual mentor Robert Sheckley. Such a wonderful man, such a great genius. He had it down from the start: Write about robots as if they’re people! That’s all it takes. And since they aren’t really people, you can make their personalities and dialog entertainingly quirky and bizarre.

Where does Hollywood get that thing of having AI minds be, like, stiff dull faces on screens who talk in Brit monotones and write in ALL CAPS? This is a complete failure of the imagination. Maybe film makers settle for AI characters like that because they’re frightened by the thought of truly intelligent robots and computer minds—and the fear makes them freeze up? Or maybe they want to preemptively belittle these artificial beings who might, god forbid, be superior to them?

Or maybe Hollywood’s AI characters generally suck because normals have an anti-intellectual hatred for anything involving math, CS, or science.  They look at a robot, and they want to say, “Sure you’re good at math, bit-brain, but I can pee in the yard. And I can dream about a cow!” But our cyberpunk  robot might answer, like, “I am peeing a super-coolant onto you right now. Once you are frozen solid, I will use Hilbert space quantum operators to transform you into the very cow of whom you dreamed. And thy name shall be Elsie Evermore.”

(Quilt by Sylvia Rucker.  Her quilt page.)

Q 4. I’ve heard veteran SF writers express befuddlement over finding themselves in a future that renders their early dreams quaint. I think of Gibson abandoning cyberpunk to write “future is now” technothrillers, and Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. Is it harder to peer into the future as one grows older?

A 4. I think I’m finding it easier. When I was younger, there was a certain default space-opera future that SF was supposed to be about. And cyberpunk was about breaking out of that. Fuck the Space Navy! Misfits doing crazy shit, that’s where it’s at.

And Gibson is still doing that very well. His Peripheral and Agency are so colloquial that they look easy. But they’re primo, out-there SF. For me, Bill will always be royalty, up there with Burroughs, Pynchon, and Borges.

Over the years, I’ve gotten past being jealous of Bill’s success. I mean, he’s a friend, and also he deserves the sales. In reality, I’ve done pretty well too. Better than I expected as a raw youth. I used to nurse that less-than-famous writer’s dream of future veneration—a dream that’s like believing in Heaven, or Santa Claus. I’ve let that dream go. Even if it happened, what good would it do me when I’m dead?

I’m just glad I can still write at all, here and now—and be read. And if I get a real publisher with a real advance that’s great. And if not, I’ve learned how to do a Kickstarter to get some money for the book, and how to self-pub paperback and ebook editions. I don’t know if everyone realizes that you can actually do that for free. It took me awhile to figure it out. I call my imprint Transreal Books. So either way, I get my books out there. I won’t shut up.

Back to your question. For me, stuff like space-travel feels used up. Unless you were to do the space travel in a car instead of in a spaceship—like I did in my recent Million Mile Road Trip. But there’s so much that’s untouched. Biotech has endless possibilities, and there’s ubiquitous physical computation, and the hylozoic notion that everything is alive. See my pair of novels Postsingular and Hylozoic for more about that.

And I keep wanting to write about that totally new thing that we know someone is going to discover in the next hundred years, and I keep not quite getting there, but by dint of making the effort to think that hard, I’m finding new stuff. Not actual “true scientific theories,” but fun ideas like new kinds of wind-up toys. The store is big.

For decades I read Scientific American to keep an eye on what’s new. But sadly they’ve turned to shit—small fonts and articles about—gak—sociology and political policy and economics? As if. Nowadays it’s enough to keep a loose eye on Twitter, and see the wonders trundling past—like a holiday parade that never ends. Grab hold of anything you see—and tweak it a little bit, and make it your own. Connect it in some way to your actual personal life—that’s the move I call transrealism. And go a little meta—that’s a trickier tactic I’m always trying to master—flip your idea up a level, and into something having to do with states of consciousness, or with the nature of language, or with the meaning of dreams. Go further out. There’s still so much. We’re just getting started.

(Isabel Rucker with her recent octopus mural at the Box Shop art space in SF.)

Q 5. What is your modus operandi for describing the indescribable? Whether or not you’ve ever actually spelled this out, my impression is that the weirder the subject matter gets, the plainer and more transparent you like your prose to be.

A 5. Back in 1982, in Lynchburg, Virginia, we had a good friend named Mary Molyneux who was pretending to graduate from college, even though really she hadn’t. It was a goof. Mary and her husband David Abrams had a graduation party and they asked me to give a talk. I spoke on “The Central Teachings of Mysticism.” You can find a free browsing edition online

In my talk, I said the Central Teachings are: (a) All is One, (b) The One is Unknowable, and (c) The One is Right Here.

The secret of life is shouted in the street. You grasp it as an instant big aha. But if you try and analyze it, you bog down. So when you write about it, the simpler and quicker the description, the better. Short words hit hard.

As an SF writer, I come up against this issue over and over again. I want to treat my readers to something like a come-shot or a titanic fireworks display when a character gets to some unprecedented new level. I’ll offer them a giant fractal, a brain flash, sudden obliteration, a paradox, a fugue state, a song, a wave of emotion, or a burst of heartfelt love—I’ve used them all. I’m anxious when I need to put on an event like this, but I’m also glad. It’s something to do.

(Isabel’s octopus again.  Small copies for sale!)

A complicating factor here is that, since The One is Unknowable, I can’t predict what kind of weird scene is going to come down when my character does something like, say, merge with the meta mind of the entire web. Or step outside of spacetime. Or become a shoelace. But I have to frikkin write something! So, I don’t know, I space out and let my fingers to the talking. Fold in some odd object that I saw that day, a piece of dream I had the night before, a treasured old emotion, and a random surreal construct. It doesn’t matter. Use any old thing, several of them at once. Surrealism tells us that everything fits, always. All is One. And you’re not in control.

And no, as I’ve said before, I’m not on drugs when I write like this. I haven’t used anything for more than twenty years. But even so, I’m high. On the natch. I didn’t use to realize it, but I’ve always been high, and I always will be. The One is Right Here.

Q 6. I chanced to see a photo of one of your copy-edited typescript pages—it was a print-out overlaid with a flurry of bewildering scrawls. I’d like to hear how this chaotic process works.

A 6. That’s been my work flow or over thirty-five years. Write a few pages on my computer, print them out, mark them up with a pen, type in the changes and write a little more—then repeat.

I do the computer work in a trance, seeing the scenes like I’m awake in a dream, getting deeply into the minds of my characters and into the rhythms of their speech. When I’m in this zone, I’m not at all thinking about my day-to-day problems.. I like that a lot—forgetting myself. That’s one of the reasons I like to write. It’s a way to be blank and high.

Having typed for a few hours, I print what I have, two-sided on a few pages of paper, fold the sheaf in four, put it in my pocket, go somewhere like a café or, in these plague times, to the woods or to a bench in a park. Get out the sheaf and start marking it up with a pen. I like to use a Pilot P-700 Gel pen with a fine 0.7 tip—I’ve been using them for maybe twenty years, I buy boxes of twelve at a time.

My handwriting isn’t very legible, and I’m not even trying all that hard to make it legible, when I’m copy editing, because if I don’t wait too long, I’m going to be able to remember what the edit was. The marks are maybe a little like graphic prompts. But if I really strain, usually I can decipher them, and if I can’t—well then I make up something that’s probably similar. It’s me, either way.

Anyway, after I do the marking up, then I find up my laptop, if I can, and sit on a couch with my marked up sheaf, typing in the changes. Or maybe I sit or stand at my desk—I have a motorized Geek Desk with adjustable height. In the process of typing in the corrections, rather than precisely copying the notes, I might revise a passage extemporaneously, sometimes adding new stuff, and sometimes jumping to other spots in the manuscript to make things match.

All of this takes awhile, but there’s not a huge rush. When I finish a novel, I’ll just have to spend a blank, uneasy year writing occasional stories and waiting to start another novel. If there is another. Usually, before I start another novel, I have to get to a psychological point where I truly, deeply, believe I’ll never write again. I give up, and I accept that I never really was a writer at all. I was faking it for all those years. And now it’s over. And then, and only then, the Muse stops by. And she’s like, “So you admit you can’t do it alone? About time. Let’s get started.”

I should mention that a nice thing about my work cycle is that if I save a marked-up print-out for the next day, then the process of typing in the corrections in the morning might get me going on the actual writing again. As any writer knows, a big part of the process is avoiding writing. What did we do before email and the internet? I seem to recall taking walks. Anyway, anything that nudges me back into the manuscript is of use.

When things are going really, really well—which is at most ten or twenty days a year—I don’t bother with the print-outs and the mark-up. I just open up the file on my computer and begin revising and adding new things— as fast as I can, jumping around almost at random, writing in different spots as the spirit moves me, like a sped-up stop-action construction worker—because I have so many things that I want to say, and so many scenes I want to see happen. On these days, I’m like a Donald Duck who’s found a treasure chest in a cave, and he’s dragged the chest out to the beach, and he’s letting the gems stream through his fingers. Wak!

That’s another of the reasons I write. To get a few days like that.

Q 7. How about your celebrity-cloned meat products notion from Freeware? Is that your intellectual property? The idea stuck with me, and I did a horror comic on the subject a while back.

A 7. Yeah, Wendy Meat. She’s the wife of the Software stoner-hero Sta-Hi, who’s now evolved into Senator Stahn Mooney. The tank-grown meat product is Wendy’s sideline. Big billboard of her by the beach in Santa Cruz, displaying her haunch. They’re all together in my omnibus, the Ware Tetralogy. By the way it looks like I’m once again going to sell a movie/TV option on the series so it may yet hit the screens before I die. We’ll see.

Last week on Twitter, it said the black rapper who supported Trump, he wants to sell salami with meat grown from his DNA. A lotta good eatin’ in thar, my friend.

Don’t blame the future on me! I just work here

(Another work by Isabel Rucker.  A “Swiss knife” for writing, crafted to my interests. Infinity, cellular auomata cone shells, saucers, robots, the Mandelbrot set, A Square of Flatland, and a Zhabotinsky scroll.)

Q 8. What’s your next novel?

A 8. It’s called Teep, for telepathy. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile and I started the actual writing early in 2019, with a story or chapter called “Juicy Ghost,” which I went on to revise a couple of times. By now I’m six chapters and seventy-five thousand words into Teep, and I think I’ll finish early in 2021. I think I only need one more chapter, but with these things I never know. It’s always up to the Muse..

Teep is about near-future commercial telepathy, digital immortality, politics, and computation as part of nature. I don’t have the energy to describe the plot in detail here. This interview is already rather self-indulgently long. For now, I’ll just point you to a version of the “Juicy Ghost” chapter that I posted on my blog, the month before the 2020 Presidential election. I was hoping it might make a difference. And, who knows, maybe it did.

An odd thing is that, while I’ve been working on Teep over the last two years, I’ve been dealing with the possibility that the current President might win a second term. In Teep, to transrealize it over the edge, a very similar type of President is about to be inaugurated for a third term.

And now, here in January, 2021, in the real world, the man we’re talking about didn’t win a second term at all. So Teep is suddenly a bit like a historical novel—rather than being the frantic call to arms that it was. Personally I’m very glad for this turn of events—that is, I’m glad for the reduction of my daily life’s stress and horror.

Along those lines, to make the synchronicity weirder, for the last month I’ve been working on a final chapter of the book that in some ways echoes the Capitol riot.

There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief, as Bob Dylan puts it in his song. All Along the Watchtower. Jimi recorded a great version too. Somehow that song, or its vibe, relates to the my yet unkown climax to Teep, altough I’m not sure how, not yet. For now that line is a augury, passed to me by the Muse. I need to listen to the song a few times this week, maybe twenty times.

The cold wind by the watchtower.  The chords of Doom.  Ploughmen dig my herbs. You and I have been through that, and such is not our fate. We must not speak falsely now, the hour is getting late.  That dread, End Times feeling I got on Jan 6, seeing what Kevin D. Williamson later called  “the studio audience form Hee-Haw” looting the Capitol.

Will my news-contaminated Teep work as a contemporary SF novel? I think it will—in fact I think it’ll be more fun to read not. It’s be the cautionary tale of a narrow escape—with tastes of the unrelenting nightmare reality that peeked out to stare us in the face. If our country hadn’t righted itself in time, my novel would sting too much to be enjoyable to read.  If the people in the book won, we want to have won too.

Bill Gibson went through a variant of of this flipflop when he wrote Agency, expecting Hillary to win in 2016, and then she didn’t—and he needed to change his thinking about his novel in certain ways. Fortunately for me, the evil President was in fact already ousted in Teep, so the book fits snugly with our happy post-election world. Things are turning out better than I expected.

Thanks for the great questions, Cody, and good luck with your cool work! Thanks also to Mike Dubisch and Dan Ringquist at Forbidden Futures!

Working on TEEP

Today’s text is taken from my ongoing writing notes for my novel Teep. To “teep” is to communicate via telepathy. The photos are either from around Los Gatos and Santa Cruz this fall, or they’re from Denmark and Norway, back in 2009.

Teep is set about forty years from now. This is analogous to how my novel Software was set forty years from when it came out in 1980, that is, it was set in 2020. Don’t let 2020 pass without you having read the Wares!

Sept 29, 2020.

I’m at that point of working on Teep that I once heard my mentor Robert Sheckley call the “black point” of writing a novel. You’re lost. At sea. You can’t see the shore you started from, nor the shore you wish to reach. I think I say this at some (black) point in my novel notes each time.

Today I went to the real ocean, walking on Panther Beach north of Santa Cruz with my old pal Jon Pearce. Off and on, I thought a about my Teep plans. The tech has to get a lot simpler.

Step back. When I started using the phrase “juicy ghost” two or three years ago, I was thinking about how to remedy an ordinary dumb AI program that lacks, if you will, soul, or the inner White Light, or a numinous sense of the I Am. Every living organism has these things. If we can pass that feeling to a dull robotic AI data ghost of a person, then we can make it be a juicy ghost.

My reasons for proposing this trope are simple. We humans like to feel that we’re better than AI programs, and that we still will be even if the programs can beat us at chess. We like to suppose (correctly or not) that AIs without that inner Self cannot in fact write as well as us or create art that’s as good as we make.

So what exact quality of mine is my bio-teep-hacker hero Gee Willikers going to feed to my lifebox to make it have Soul? Introspection time. I feel aglow from my two hours on the beach. Full of White Light. What is that feeling, though? How could it be conveyed to an AI in the cloud? Let’s type out a stream of consciousness rap:

Sitting here at a table on the sidewalk in front of Zoccoli’s in Santa Cruz after two hours on Panther Beach, I know exactly what the feeling is. The Om. The mirrorball inward reflection of my Self. The cool breeze on my bare legs, the murmur of voices, music practice sounds from an upper story of painted brick building behind me, the sun heavy on the asphalt street, the sour green light through the leaves and through the red cafe umbrella. The specks of not-very-good chocolate in my teeth. The slight wheeze in my chest. The Here, the Now. The radically contingent nature of life.

October 4, 2020

I’m rereading Phil Dick’s novel, A Scanner Darkly once again. It’s such a masterpiece, and I almost think a lot of the critics didn’t notice that, because it’s so language-with-a-flat-tire and low-brow, and academic critics are so achingly straight.

It’s not necessarily the best idea for me to reading the novel just now, as it bleeds over into what I’m writing. I keep wanting to use Phil’s expressions slushed, gunjy, and like that, and I am in fact doing that, but, oh well, it’s fine.

Scanner has a thing about the drug-damaged left brain, and thoughts leaking over from the right brain, and the person feels like the thoughts from another person or from an alien…so great. I’d like to see something like this could happen to one my characters in Teep.

“Are you getting any cross-chatter?” one of the deputies asked [PKD’s character Bob Arctor] suddenly.

“What?” he said uncertainly.

“Between hemispheres. If there’s damage to the left hemisphere, where the linguistic skills are normally located, then sometimes the right hemisphere will fill in to the best of its ability.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Not that I’m aware of.

”“Thoughts not your own. As if another person or mind were thinking. But different from the way you would think. Even foreign words that you don’t know. That it’s learned from peripheral perception sometime during your lifetime.”

My favorite scene of all is Arctor’s freakout, on a freeway, after he nearly dies because someone (probably Barris) has fucked up his car under the hood so that his accelerator sticks at full speed.

He felt, in his head, loud voices singing: terrible music, as if the reality around him had gone sour. Everything now—the fast-moving cars, the two men, his own car with its hood up, the smell of smog, the bright, hot light of midday—it all had a rancid quality, as if, throughout, his world had putrefied, rather than anything else. … The smell of Barris still smiling overpowered Bob Arctor, and he heaved onto the dashboard of his own car. A thousand little voices tinkled up, shining at him, and the smell receded finally. A thousand little voices crying out their strangeness; he did not understand them, but at least he could see, and the smell was going away. He trembled, and reached for his handkerchief from his pocket.

Been there! But when I’m there I always remember that Phil Dick bit, and I can kind of laugh at the situation a little bit. Like, wow, this is really well done.

October 27, 2020

I’m writing some deeply funny/sad stuff on the new Chapter 6: “Carson Pflug.” In the end, its often the best when I give up on planning or thinking and just start writing. Fabulating, making things up, writing to amuse myself. I took off from a start line that the Muse handed me. “People say I’m an asshole, but I’m not.”

I’m writing a lot of dialog. I love dialog; the word count just piles up. Might want to fill in a few more visuals and interruptions for these passages. Phenomenal progress today;

November 4 – December 20, 2020.

I printed out the first six chapters I’ve written on Teep. And then, over the next five weeks, I cycled between marking up pages by hand and typing the changes in. I figure that once I get the first six chapters all tidy, with the plot all clear—then I’ll be in a good position to write the final chapter and be done with the book.

The revising was a lot of work. I had about twenty hand-corrections a page, and nearly 200 pages, so it meant about 4,000 corrections. I tried not to think about that number. I told myself to take my time and enjoy it. To knead the dough. But by the end, the process was a ruthless treadmill.

Here are some notes from that five-week period.

Normally I’d take a sheaf of papers down to the cafe and sit there marking them up. But now, thanks to Covid, I can’t do that. Sometimes I sit on park benches, if it’s not too cold. One day I took my slim folder-with-sheaf-of-papers-inside up into the woods on the hills. Nice to be outside while working—it was a beautiful sunny fall day—though a little sad and even pathetic not to be seeing the day, but just slaving away. Eventually my butt got tired from sitting on the ground and I had to stop anyway.

The revision process is astoundingly slow. I have to think about everything so much, and to fix so many things. I’m having to do a lot of rewriting, to make things work. Making the rubber science more uniform and internally consistent.

One of the big scenes in Teep involves the assassination of an evil U.S. President named Ross Treadle—who has connived himself into a third term in office.. With the first-term end of our own President Donald Trump’s reign now on the horizon, my novel has a different feel than it did when I started writing it nearly two years ago.

Now it’s more like alternate history instead of like frantic, fearful prophecy. Fine with me! I think it’ll go down better this way with the readers—that is, I think it has more mass appeal if Trump/Treadle really has been thrown out. If he was still in, the sting of my story would be too great.

I have this wetware propaganda thing in Teep; it’s called Treadle Disease. It’s like a virus—which kind of overlaps with our Covid plague—except Treadle Disease has the effect of— making you want to vote for Treadle. The pseudo explanation of the disease. has to do with so-called gossip molecules, which are attached to our neurons, like waving pennants or tails or flagellae.

My character Molly eradicates Treadle Disease by teeping a quantum-level cleaner tornado to each of the sextillion Treadle Disease gossip molecules in people’s bodies across the world. That’s my painting of her above. While envisioning this mass-spamming-type teep scene, I was listening to the Clash play “I Fought The Law.” I think of the thought-beams as being like the part where the guitarist does this “stratocast” thing of playing the same ostinato riff six times in a row, over and over. The drums in this song are amazing too.

Something bad happens to Molly later on, when she’s helping to destroy Treadle’s lifebox in teepspace—which is my 21st Century name for cyberspace. The thing that attacks her is called Coggy, he’s a teepspace mind who looks like a big wad of gears, or like a stupid-ass giant Transformer robot. Molly has a different teepspace mind on her side, this one is female, and she’s named Metatron and she looks like a 1940s B-29 bomber, and maybe she has a painting on her fuselage showing a crocodile in a pinup pose. Surrealism forever!

Each time I finish revising a chapter and I get to a new chapter, I see the clean blank manuscript print-out pages, and I think, well, there won’t be many corrections in this section. But there are.

My superhacker hipster hero Gee Willikers was going to be guilty of mass killing because he collapsed the Washington Monument onto a crowd of demonstrators. To save the day, I now have him teep to all the people on the ground near the Monument, give them instructions on which way to run.

I was working on the revisions at a table on the street outside the Fleur de Cacao cafe in Los Gatos—we were allowed to have table service for like five days over the last ten months—and I was elated. It felt really cool to be writing SF so skintight close to the real world, that is, so close to the election and the Covid.

And then I thought of Thomas Pynchon’s remark (twice) in Gravity’s Rainbow about someone writing “words. . .only delta-t from the things they stand for.” Like, what you’re writing is a lambent glow overlay upon your somatic life at that very moment. Thinking about this inspired me buy the now-available Kindle edition of Gravity’s Rainbow, and I’m browsing it for an hour almost every day. Getting away from working and from doom scrolling. I like section 4: The Counterforce the best. So many great raps.

Typing in the changes of my manuscript is dull, but at the same time it’s fun. Relishing my craft. My body gets tired from the keyboarding.

At one point, I wiped out my day’s updated file by copying yesterday’s file on top of it. Six hours of work gone. I unaccountably ignored a warning sign on the screen. Fatigue I guess. I’ve really been pushing hard and it’s taking forever. Maybe I’m getting too senile to manage my documents.

I didn’t have the heart to tell Sylvia when I lost that file—but she kind of noticed my dejection. “You’re working really hard on this revision, aren’t you?”

Yes, I am. Too hard. I woke up at 2:30 am and couldn’t stop fretting about putting the corrections back in. So I got up and did it and then it was 4:30 am and I went back to bed.

The next day I set up two additional methods for automatic file backup.

Happy news from the real world. We got a nice, fresh, and very dark-green Xmas tree today. We’ve never gotten one so long before Christmas (still ten days off), normally we’d consider that a bit uncool, like overly eager, but this year we’re dying for any scrap of glitter or fun. I begged Sylvia to let me put on colored lights this year, though she prefers white. In theory we each get our pick on alternate years, but it’s always debatable. I’m looking at the light from the colored bulbs in the corner of the living room now. Almost as good as being drunk and stoned.

Well, Chapter 5: “Astral Body” took more work to revise than the previous ones. It had more rubber science problems than the earlier chapters. By the time I was done, I’d tried out three or four different ways of making Mary’s astral body.

I happened to notice, or to remember, the fact that I’ve been using some of the the Teep tropes for forty years—ever since I started up the Wares around 1980. This phenomenon of writing about something you think is a new idea, but actually you wrote about it before, it’s called cryptomnesia.

The situation in Teep is that for immortality: (1) You save your brain info to a lifebox in the cloud; (2) You get a physical clone body that has a perfectly usable (but blank) brain (3) You put an organic “psidot” onto the clone to act as a modem/controller connecting your lifebox and your clone. I’ve been talking about this idea for years. Here’s a talk on Digital Immortality I gave in 2019 in Miami, Florida, to a cryptocurrency group called IOHK. One of my more unusual gigs.

Looking back to the dawn of time, writing Software in 1979 they flash-loaded personality software directly onto a kind of android. So why not flash-download lifebox software directly onto a clone’s brain without a psidot or an astral body involved? But for immortality, you’d want to be saving and updating that software somewhere in advance that is, in a lifebox. (Although in Software, some robots extracted the software by eating the guy’s brain.)

In Wetware I had a happy cloak (basically a psidot brain modem with a lifebox stored inside it) that holds Wendy Mooney’s mind, and it settles onto a clone of her body and runs her clone, so she’s pretty much the same Wendy. I like that.

I’m having my character Mary package up her lifebox + psidot together inside an ionized plasma called her astral body. It has some quantum wireless so it doesn’t have to glued to her, it can just be somewhere nearby. With Gee’s help Mary creates her astral body in a single epic flash. Having her do it gives her extra agency. Her astral body looks like—a halo!

Probably my current focus on forms of immortality has to do with the fact that I’m 74 years old, and I worry about dying. Though, if you look at my novel Software, you can see I’ve been worrying about death for quite a long time. Like, since I was about 16, as I describe in my Beat scroll-novel, All the Visions. Here’s a podcast of me reading the bit where I realize I’m going to die.

Note that I don’t want to write about actual traditional ghosts in Teep. I did that in White Light. It worked there, but I want Teep to be more like a semi-plausible book about near-future career opportunities. Commercial telepathy. Commercial digital immortality.

I might also mix in another of my perennial obsessions, that is, hylozoism, that is, the concept that everything is alive. See my novel Hylozoic. I might allow a human astral body to use odd things as a body. Like an animal or plant or maybe even a rock, or a cataract in a stream. Not sure that would be an interesting way to go. “Then they were all embodied as swaying branches on the trees. The End.”

Finished off the revisions of Chaps 1-6 yesterday, with a nice rewrite of the closing scene of Chapter 6: Carson Pflug, written from Carson’s point of view. A taxi van driven by a Latino’s lifebox (he’s dead and this gig work pays the monthly storage fee for his lifebox) has just dumped Carson and Carson’s co-conspirator Jerr Boom at a spot in the woods which is targeted to be bombed by a so-called flappy, which is something like a living drone. The literal meaning of “pendejo” is “a pubic hair,” and it’s used to mean something like “idiot.”

“Adios, pendejos!” goes Bernardo, and he’s off down the hill, moving at a lightning clip, nimble as a deer in a thicket.

I see a redwood above us against the evening sky. Jerr makes as if to run away, but it’s too late. We’re out of time. I sigh, and relax at last.

The forest smells good. The world is beautiful. A dark shape approaches, her wings cutting the air. The flappy. She drops her first bomb.

Onward to Chapter Seven! Eventually….

Speaking of shop talk, SF/Horror author Cody Goodfellow did a long email interview with me, mostly me talking about writing, and it’s in the zine Forbidden Futures.

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