Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book #2 Outline & Chapters - "The Roster"

The journey to build book #2 has started.  We have decided to give it the working title of "The Roster".  At the end of "Inflection Point", millions of people have been infected by a machine virus.  Depending on who is feeding the software controls to that virus, it is either benign, beneficial or fatal...

Here is the premise to "The Roster":

As the year 2020 comes to an end, the world is recovering from a global terrorist attack.  Many thousands are dead, world superpowers are rebuilding the ranks of government, and tens of millions are infected with a dormant super-virus.

This virus is a man-made, machine infestation inside the human body.  It binds with the human host and is inextricably woven into a person's biology.  There is no separating a victim from the infestation.  The only hope is that the software which runs inside the victim is beneficial not harmful.


The UN security council has established a governing body to protect these people by tightly governing the list of infected world citizens.  Access to and manipulation of the list offers a near-God like power over those afflicted by the virus.  Control over people's health, their attitudes, their buying decisions, their voting decisions, even the next breath they take...


Despite the best of intentions and diligent security precautions, segments of the list get into the wrong hands.  Mafia, big business, and bad government prove to be very resourceful in overcoming the carefully planned safeguards to the list.  A government operative sees the early warning signs, and despite his sense of duty and obligation to mission he steals the list.  He steals it to hide it from the world, encrypting it and all copies that surface in any digital device with a powerful software lock.


The government operative goes deep into hiding, but he has the whole world after him.  In his desperation to keep the list safe, he injects the key to unlocking the list into a child.  An innocent, unknown child who should never know or been known after the operative disappears...but the prize is too grand, the list too important to be lost.

We hope to finish the first manuscript by October 2010.  As we develop more concepts and story ideas we will add several more posts to the blog...

Until next time,

Joe

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Literary Awards Won in May

Hi Friends and Fans, we are excited to share some news. Inflection Point has been recognized by two literary awards this month :-)...

First, the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group awarded Inflection Point Finalist in the Action/Adventure category.

We also received a Finalist award in the Popular Fiction category ...by The Arizona Book Publishing Association.

We are very excited about these honors. Thanks to all of you for supporting us in this journey.



Friday, April 16, 2010

Book #2

Hi Friends and Fans, we are going to start the second story in the next month.

In this one we are looking to explore the impact of the technology on a troubled teen, Maggie's hunt for Garuda, and an energy war between the USA and China.

Escalation is the theme. Escalating consequences of the technology on humanity, escalating world troubles as oil is depleted, and the escalating threats for the main characters.

We will share ideas at the blog as we go...we would love to hear from you :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The backstory of Yazz

One of our favorite characters, even though he has played a relatively minor role in the story so far in the story, is Robbie Yazzie – “Yazz” to his friends. Yazz is a former colleague of Roy’s and probably equal to him in creative intelligence. He was there for the creation of CHORUS, Roy’s computer array that solves problems with lightning speed. But something happened to him, something that drove him away from Roy and his ambitions.


Robbie is a deeply spiritual character, and he is influenced by his indigenous roots. When he was young, his parents moved him from the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona to Flagstaff and then to Phoenix. His parents were torn when he seemed to lose touch with the roots of his people and follow his interests in computers and technology. While he was away at college, he and his family experienced a rift that seemed impossible to heal at the time. He went his own way. While in graduate school studying distributed artificial intelligence systems, he met and became a colleague of Roy. For some time, Yazz worked closely with Roy to develop the technology that would make all the other advances in the book possible. It wasn't long before Roy began to share with Yazz his desire to remake humanity.


When Roy started to follow his plans for changing everything he saw as a flaw in the human race, Yazz fled to the wilderness. He saw the threat in Roy’s designs. For more than two years, Yazz spent time with his people, reconnecting with his roots and with the experiences of the larger indigenous culture from which he had been separated. He had several visions during this time of a coming plague - but not a plague of the natural sort. He envisioned a plague which came from his own designs, a plague created by the uniting of man and machine.


While on the reservation, Yazz had been fairly insulated from the economic collapses of the greater economy. But he felt the need to return, to do what he could to combat the danger that was being created by his old friend, Roy. He returned to the mainstream American society, which had been devastated by the recent crashes of excess oil. But he only returned to the fringe. From there, he built a careful and trusted network of hacktivists who understood the danger that was coming, and had the ability to fight it.


Yazz became the unofficial spiritual leader of this anarchic group of technology rebels.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inside the Character Roy Walsh

As a number of readers finish the story, we are regularly getting asked questions about where we came up with the ideas for various characters. One question that is often asked is "why" the characters have certain behaviors and motivations.

That got us thinking that it would be fun to write a few brief posts on the blog about the characters. Provide some inside thinking that we had as we developed them, maybe provide some back story that we didn't have time or space to put in the book, and provide some more color to the characters (hopefully your favorite one :-)).

What we won't do is spoil the plot or give away the moments of tension or realization in the story so don't worry about that ;).

In thinking about who to start with first, we decided on Roy Walsh. He is a pivotal character. One who is central to the background of the overall story, the catalyst for the conflict, and one of the characters that some people think is a bad guy and others describe as a good guy misunderstood. Either way, he was a fun character to write and is the source of many of the moral and ethical dilemmas in the plot.

In terms of the basics on Roy Walsh, he is a brilliant scientist who developed two revolutionary pieces of technology. The first is a computer system called CHORUS. CHORUS is an array of semi-intelligent super computers that enabled Roy's team to develop the second set of revolutionary technology. CHORUS helped Roy and his team run experiments and laboratory tests at a record pace. CHORUS worked in tandem with Roy's engineers to rapidly determine the structure, ingredients, manufacturing processes and software to realize a whole new breed of computing.

The result of Roy and his team's collaboration with CHORUS was the creation of man-made atoms. Microscopic / nanoscopic computers that depending on the software they were running could act as incredible sensors, sources of energy, and as a new and highly efficient set of weapons. Roy and CHORUS also discovered how to merge these machines with human biology. They discovered a way to use these artificial atoms to enhance our bodies to be free from the ill effects of poison, disease, and many forms of injury (like gun shot wounds, etc.).

Roy's brilliance and determination created an amazing technology. One so radical, that his business partners and the established government feared it. He reached a point that despite all the promises that the technology offered, to Roy's amazement, rational and powerful people insisted that he stop what he was doing. Stop advancing the work that he started. Re-direct it to more practical concerns such as dealing with the energy crisis.

What would you do? If you had the ability to save people from cancer or from being the victim of random acts of violence yet the existing institutions of business and government said "stop", how far would you be willing to go?

This is the essence of the character Roy Walsh. He is a brilliant man, who believes he has found the technology to remove frailty from the human condition. To eradicate the pain, suffering and death associated with disease and malice. Yet, the established power structure which governs society is not embracing what he has to offer. What also fuels Roy is the state of affairs in the setting of the story. War, poverty and conflict are common place...the country has seen prolonged recession, and wide spread individual suffering. He finds himself constrained by social institutions which are no longer lifting people up, but as the story begins, from Roy's point of view those in power are now holding people down.

The fundamental moral / ethical questions raised in the book by the character Roy Walsh are:
  • If you have the ability to change the human condition should you? And if you should, how far should you go to realize that change?
  • Is sacrificing a few just cause to save millions?
  • Should we really be eradicating disease from the human condition?
  • Knowing that all technology not only comes with positive consequences, but always comes with simultaneous negative consequences, are we better off in Roy's world than in the one we have today?
That's enough for now on Roy Walsh. He was a fun character to write and we hope you enjoyed reading about his optimistic, somewhat naive, and quirky ways.

We would love to hear what you think about Roy Walsh and what you would do if you had invented the technology he did...how far would you be willing to go...?

Happy reading,

Joe

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A prosthetic memory?

In a recent blog, Charles Stross mentioned the idea of a "prosthetic memory". The idea blew my mind. If you read my post from a couple weeks ago, you know I believe the future advancements will have tremendous impact on how we think (and how well). I posited that, through wearable technologies, such as goggles and mind-readers (really!), we could access the internet via devices such as the iPhone, or a Google droid for all you open-sourcers out there.

In a fairly recent conversation, my co-author Joe, talked to me about some amazing research done with prosthetics and the control of those prosthetics using neural sensors. Let's say a person is using a prosthetic arm. The could learn to manipulate that arm (flex it, extend it, make a grip) using other parts of their bodies. For example, a flex of the left toe could send the message to the prosthetic to make a fist. Now here's the kicker. After a few months, it seems that people don't even realize they are flexing the toe anymore. The brain has rewired itself in a way that is similar to stroke victims who have re-taught themselves to walk or talk again.

You know this from experience. When you reach over to your right and move the mouse around, you don't think about the mouse or your hand, unless the mouse isn't working. As long as it works, you're only thinking about the pointer on the screen. It's rather amazing.

But what does this have to do with the technology-making-us-smarter discussion? Imagine using the mind-reading google option often enough that you no longer think of this as an act separate from your own thought. Without the actual bio-technical integration, you would start to become part meat, part machine. "Googling" information would become synonymous for thinking.

But what if we became completely reliant on our prosthetic memory? How dull would we be without our Google-enhanced meat brain? How poorly would we think when left to our own meager head?

And God forbid the wifi goes down...

I'd love to know if this both excites and terrifies you as much as it does me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The art of a book title

I am often asked how we arrived at the title, "Inflection Point". It is a good question, one deserving of a lasting written response in our blog :-).

The reality is coming up with the title was one of the hardest parts of the process in creating the book. We talked about it on an off during the development and nothing good came up, so we put it off until nearly the end of manuscript creation. What I came to realize is that it was not until the very end that we had a genuine understanding of the story themes; and only at that point was creating a title realistically possible.

As you have probably already read at the book web site or in the first few pages of the actual book, that the words "inflection point" often refer to a term used in mathematics. The term describes a point on a line where the line is radically changing direction (either going up or down). Andy Grove popularized a corporate and historical use of the term ... something that represents a dramatic change that drives us to think and act differently.

While doing endless Google searches and drawing up all kinds of lists of possible names for the book, the concept of dramatic change; one in which you think and act very differently than you did before was perfect. A perfect description of the theme of the story and how we felt after exhaustively researching the subjects in the story and writing it.

As you are probably aware from the book's description, reviews and title this story is about how the next major wave of technology will change society and human kind in fundamental ways. Some predict the next evolution of humanity as we infuse silicon and software with our biology; shedding historical limitations of the human condition. It is hard to think of a more drastic change...

Also, there is the belief held by numerous technology experts (a very notable one is Ray Kurzweil) that the rate of change in technology is accelerating exponentially. That what used to take 2 years to advance a piece of technology a decade ago can be done in about a year now and 5 years from now can be advanced in 6 months. Being deep in the high tech industry myself for the last two decades I can definitely attest to the truth of this belief. Part of this thinking is that at some point in the next decade or two we are going to reach a point when the acceleration becomes so fast that it will spike (like a curve going straight up). At that point in history you will wake up each day expecting that it will be very different than the day before. Whereas today we all wake up expecting today to be more or less like yesterday. However, when we reach the knee of the technology acceleration curve, you will live and work in virtual worlds, silicon and software will be infused with your biology, you will be able to acquire knowledge, skills, and memories dynamically over the Internet and live varied existences through multiple avatars simultaneously.

The setting of Inflection Point is right at that moment in history, right before the technology acceleration goes straight up. One day Oliver Harcourt wakes up thinking his life is on one path, and then is pulled into a train of events that shatter his existence, and fundamentally alter his biology.

As we have shared in previous blog posts, although this story is fiction, the technology basis for it is not. The advancement of forms of technology in the story is inevitable and it will be upon us in a decade or so. The purpose of the book and of it's title is to assist you (the reader) in realizing this dramatic change before it happens. As writers our hope, our goal, is that you will experience an individual Inflection Point once you are done enjoying the book...

Did you? We would love to hear about it...

Happy reading,

Joe