Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bring on the AI

I'm currently working on my new project... uh, okay, that's a pretty formal opening for you all.

Anywho. Traditionally, when I'm writing about a vessel cruising through space in the future, I've held to the whole pilot, co-pilot, navigator, etc model.

Recently I was perusing Popular Science and caught an article about AI coming to the fighter planes near you. Well, not you you. Unless you're a fighter pilot, then it's you you. Oh, hell, you know what I mean.

These AI copilots will assist with positioning, navigation, timing, and automated communications. They will even land the things on aircraft carriers, kind of like today's auto-parking vehicles.

I don't know why I didn't think of this advancement before. I'll admit, my crystal globe does lean towards future healthcare advancements. Blame my day gig for the oversight.

This helps me streamline my character story, because it's heavy in the non-vessel characters but I originally still needed the bodies and didn't just want them to be plastic behind-the-scene people ("no name people" or Red Shirts as we often slate them).

The only question I have to figure out now is if I want the AI to have a personality. I'm kind of wanting to. It'll lean more KITT, not HAL if I do.

The whole AI integration into our society really is intriguing. It's not happening in a blatant way like the Robot Foundation series, but in smaller ways that are slowing leaking into our society in rudimentary ways. It's more AI DOS, but with the capability to then slowly advance in intelligence and intent as adoption and reliance increases.

It's exciting to watch... as long as I'm dead if and when the switch is ticked when AI wants to rule the planet or galaxy, whichever point we've reached by then.

I see the benefit of some AI in our society, but I'll admit, I do worry a little. It's like when they start putting calculators in school. Yes, it freed our brain to learn more advanced mathematics... but how many of us rely on calculators now for the most basic mathematics? And how much advanced mathematics do we even use in everyday life. Engineers, physicists and whatnot excluded from this question.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lost art of conversation, or just eye contact?



How could the great sc-fi writers of the 60s and 70s (and even the 80s) have known how prevalant cell phone and social networking would become? They sorely underestimated the digital age, that's for sure...

Okay, wait, let's not go into an indirect, fact heavy commentary about this. Let me explain my thoughts with a story.

"Welcome to Story Time, with your host, AR Norris."

A friend and I stood in line at Starbucks, waiting to order our coffee. While we talked my eyes did a cursory scan of the room, and saw a sea of scalps. Blonde, red, burgundy, brunette... heck even one a medium shade of green.

People in line or waiting for their drink orders, groups at tables, couples at the cooshy chairs. Almost everyone had eyes to screen. I pointed this out to my friend and we began "the discussion" about how cellphones and social networking have ruined society.

Yet, as we nagged the topic to death, two teenagers waiting for their drinks caught my attention. One giggled and the other elbow jabbed in return. Watching them, I had a moment of clarity (of sorts).

They both leaned against the counter facing out away from each other. Both of their heads were bent down over their cellphones and fingers typed furiously. But they didn't type at the same time. One would type. The other would laugh, chuckle or smile then type. The first would then facially and/or physically respond before typing. They didn't once look, or share these reactions or expressions with each other.

They were having a conversation same as my friend and I, but nonverbally and without eye contact. My friend reached the order counter and I took another, closer, scan of the room with my new eyes. 

The couple sat doing something similar as the teenagers but by their occasional hot glances and gooey grins it was a more romantic conversation. The group of friends at the table were doing a more complex version and occasionally sharing their screen with the person beside or across from them.

Maybe cell phone and social networking isn't killing our ability to be socially connected, but rather killing the art of face-to-face dialogue.

The digital age may be transforming the way we communicate with each other, not ending it.

Now, I don't know what this means for the future of humanity. It is too early to tell and too new a change to judge in my book.

I do know that we're reaching a tipping point where we'll either continue down this path towards a less direct mode of human interaction, or future generations will turn away and seek the more direct form of human connection.

We've seen both happen to various cultural and social precedants. One example is the children from the 80s and 90s who grew up in the work, work, work, era... becoming the "Latch Key Kids". They felt it, and the absence of family and values behind it. Because of this, as they've grown they've leaned back towards the quality of life over the quantity of life.

With this, though, our technical gadgets continue to change our everyday lives. We haven't pushed back yet. I think it's because it's still too early in the evolution. We haven't hit that proverbial fork in the road.

The scary part for me, who grew up in the pre cell phone/social networking era, is... what will the world at the fork in the road look like?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Just a thought (or two)

I was reading an article this morning about what makes -- or doesn't make -- someone a writer. I love these articles for the most part because it's like a moment of "Writers Unite!"

It was well written and the points were spot on to the traditional stereotypes of a writer from a writer's perspective. I laughed and snorted as the weaknesses and strengths were called out.

Yet, by the time I'd finished I felt oddly disturbed. I couldn't pinpoint it other than this general feeling of shame and discouragement. The feeling was so profound, I was almost embarrased someone would find out I'd read it.

The root cause didn't become clear until I read a post on Facebook later in the morning. A long time friend of mine was calling out a journalist who was basically skinny shaming some music artist for needing a size 0000 or something or another. My friend pretty much summed it up as ridiculous that no matter what body size or type you are, there's going to be individuals out there who will try to shame you into feeling bad about who and/or what you are...

And then it hit me.

This article about writers I'd read earlier in the morning was a shaming of sorts. It basically stated that if you didn't fit these "prestigous" characteristics, you weren't a "real" writer (whatever that means).

Since I hadn't made the cut in their eyes, I believe on the characteristic about not liking a certain part of the writing process, I somehow wasn't a real writer.

I call bullshit. (Sorry to my profanity shy friends.)

So what if a writer thinks about writing more than they actually write? Or they truly hate the editing phase but still do it because it's important to the writing process?

How does that make them any less of a writer? Yes, they probably won't ever earn a full living off it, but who cares? Is that all that writing is about? (No, not in my opinion at least.)

If they get the same amount of joy from the idea and their little bit of writing as those who spend every free moment putting finger to key board, or pen to paper, then that is still an added joy and value to their life.

When did we as the writing community become the judge on quality and value in someone else's life?

It was a slap in the face. It felt the same to me as if somehow the weekend painter was suddenly stripped of their artist title just because they weren't painting 40 or 50 hours a week or earning a living off of it.

Can't we just enjoy the community of writers, where no matter your style, dedication or ambition we all enjoy writing on some level or another?

Friday, July 4, 2014

New love affair

*Sigh* I'm beginning a new love affair. It's so beautiful and perfect and shiny.

There's no arguments or maddening formatting, structure, or fact to get in the way of my creative juice. There's no tantrums from the characters.

No, no, my characters are whispering and passing mental notes to me, urging me to outline and create their universe. They're excited to jump in and follow my outline and promise to behave "the whole time".

I know, I know. It won't last. My antagonist already has a diva glint in her eye. My antagonist has chosen a profession I know little to nothing about other than what I've seen in the Indiana Jones movies. That alone will grow into a bitch of a research/detail editing process as Indiana, thought a badass by right, is not really good at his job.

But for now, yes, for now I'm in bliss. I'm in writing heaven and enjoying every wonderful, enjoyable moment.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Catching Up - Branching Out

It appears that my blog has become my intermittent journal more than a vehicle of something or another.

At first I was distressed by this, but I've decided to roll with it. We all need things from different aspects of our lives and "it is what it is," as they say. One day this blog will again become more of a proactive writing and science blog but today is not that day. No, today is another journal day.

*Cracks knuckles* (mentally because I hate to in real life)

With IIA #3 Case of the Brotherhood released and the final draft of IIA #4 Case of the Rebellion Army completed, I have three months to polish it to perfection. I was going to dive right in with the polisher, editor checklist and a thesaurus, but thought, "Hey, I have 3 months. Let's have it sit and percolate a couple weeks."

I'm picking at it. A chapter or 2 here, a chapter or 2 there but mostly I'm reading. Not just books, but my beloved science sites, SF sites, and writing sites. The story I slated for myself after Rebellion Army disintegrated, replaced by an idea that's been sitting with me for years.

I've wanted to tackle it, but there never seemed to be enough time. It's going to require a lot of research to lay it out correctly. And with deadlines, contracts, and tight timelines, whose had that kind of time in recent years?

Well, now I have that time. Want to hear about it? Of course you do, why else would you be reading this?

The character is a galactic archaeologist or anthropologist - haven't decided yet - contracted with the government. She lost her husband a couple years previous and is on the tail end of putting her emotions and heart back together. She's called to a case on the outer reaches of the galaxy, to assess a mysterious site unearthed by a terraforming expedition.

There's still a lot to flesh and mold, but that's the main blob of the idea. It's kind of like clay. You smack a clump of it on a pottery wheel and start the spinner. Then you slowly and carefully shape it into something beautiful.

Well, Will Robinson, that's my entry for today from the inner reaches of A.R.'s mind. Out like trout for now.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Old Friends

This last week has been nice. I stepped back from my editing a bit and really focused on reading. Reading, reading, reading. I read a brand new book, and hated it so much I didn't even finish it. You all know how rare that is for me. So at that point I turned to a few old friends.

It was exactly what I needed.

1984 and then all three books in the Shadow Chronicles. I read 1984 from my Kindle, which seemed fitting. It was great reading a story that focused a majority of the story on the main character's internal thoughts and reflections. After the last click of that, I ran my hands along my book shelves feeling and looking for inspiration.

It came when my finger rubbed against the rough, well worn spine of Shadow Moon. That led me along Elora's journey spanning through Shadow Dawn and ending at the last page of Shadow Star. These 3 books are some of my long standing books that I've carried with me, chosen over many other precious items during one of our many,  many moves in our unstable past.

Now I'm recharged, inspired to write something that may one day cause the same reaction as mine to my favorite works. My characters now have an understanding of my expectations of them. They're lofty, high standards. Hopefully we can live up to them.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Up for Air

Wow, that is all I can say.

It's writing like this current WIP that draws the passion of the craft out in me. I don't know what it was, but I was very thankful for it. With the last torturous book I started to worry that the joy of writing might be dwindling.

Glad to know that wasn't the case.

This new story in the Interstellar Intelligence Agency series has been a blast. The storyline line has kept me intrigued. The characters have behaved themselves (for the most part). And the subplots fit like a perfect puzzle to the main story arch.

It's almost scary. It's almost scary on many levels.

(Yes, I had to repeat that sentence for writerly effect... just go with it.)

Let me explain The story almost going too well, which, hello, means a great fall potentially down the road. Then, on a whole other level, after this manuscript is submitted I will for the first time in many years be without a contract.

Since 2010 I've been working from deadline to deadline. I've had the vision of the books I've wanted to do lined up in a nice little order to hit one by one. This latest book will be my 10th publication in 4 years.

4 Years!

I know there are many authors out there who just "pfft'd", but for me that's a lot. That's 2-3 books a year. That's a lot of friggin characters filtering in and out of my head in a short timespan.

Yes, I have a whole folder of brainstorming ideas. And yes, I have the next story in mind.

However, this story is a little (okay lot) outside of the box of my genre. I'm going to go further into the speculative fiction realm than I ever imagined I would. I'm ready to stretch my comfort zone a bit, which will take more time than usual.