My short story, “The Words That Maketh Murder”1 will appear in a future podcast of Tales to Terrify. The story is about haunted train yards, drones, the MTA, and black magic.
1 Yes, it’s named after a PJ Harvey song.
When the original Blade Runner film was released in 1982 to mediocre box-office sales and lukewarm reviews, few could predict the film would have such a lasting legacy. For nearly three decades, the film’s neon-saturated, overcrowded, rain-swept dystopia served as the default backdrop for dozens, if not hundreds of science-fiction films. Even the Star Wars prequels borrowed (or ripped-off) the film’s noirish cyberdream vision for some of its urban landscapes. But more so than its look, Blade Runner’s themes have survived long past its inception date…
I’m happy to announce that I’ve just sold a new story. “Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?” will appear in a future issue of Nightmare magazine. This will be my second story in Nightmare.
It’s about ghosts, car accidents, family, and human nesting behaviors.
I recently heard a few writers griping about how predictors of artificial intelligence have it all wrong, that those who warn of impending doom from our soon-to-be AI “overlords” are Chicken Littles. I think that’s a dangerous philosophy to have. When the world’s top computer scientists suggest that we will have artificial general intelligence on par with a human being in as little as two decades, I think it makes sense to consider the negative consequences of what that might mean *now* and not when it arrives. Because by then it will be too late.
Yes, AI promises to bring a great many positive things into the world. Automation, combined with a universal income, would free us up to do all the things we wish we could do but never get to, because we are constantly struggling to stay afloat financially. AI could bring about a new golden age. But it could bring about a dark age too, if we aren’t careful. These prognosticators who are warning against AI are like the climatologists who say that if we don’t drastically reduce our CO2 pollution, things are going to get bad for us real soon. Except AI could be far worse in terms of people affected, since our entire world is dependent on networked technology (as the recent hurricanes have made clear.)
A friend of mine posted on social media recently about the fact that if we don’t curb our CO2 emissions, the world in 2100 will be an ugly place to live. He quoted a CNN article which said:
If we surpass that mark, it has been estimated by scientists that life on our planet will change as we know it. Rising seas, mass extinctions, super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes, decreased crops and fresh water and the melting of the Arctic are expected.
The impact on human health would be profound. Rising temperatures and shifts in weather would lead to reduced air quality, food and water contamination, more infections carried by mosquitoes and ticks and stress on mental health, according to a recent report from the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health.
In response to this post, a commenter said: “This drives home the point that it’s about saving ourselves not the planet.”
I responded, “Well, that’s a profoundly lovely message to leave to the next generation.”
Look, optimism is hard. It’s much easier to be a cynic, because that means you bear no responsibility. “Hey, there’s nothing I can do, so why not have fun while I’m here? YOLO, and all that.” It’s much, much harder to say, “There are a lot of huge problems affecting the world now. A lot of them seem intractable. But unless we do something, nothing will change. Maybe I can’t change everything. But maybe I can do one small thing. It may amount to nothing. It might not make a difference. But it also just might. And if ten, a hundred, a thousand people do something small, then that’s not such a small thing anymore.”
Cynicism is lazy. It’s the moral equivalent of not taking out the garbage, letting the dishes fester in the sink. Optimism is work. It means we have to be vigilant of not just our thoughts, but our deeds. It means we have to use our minds to dream up new ways of doing things that might be better and be open to trying those things, even if they fail.
So here’s some advice. Don’t be a cynic. It’s ugly, like a pile of overflowing garbage in the trash can and festering dishes in the sink. Just because problems are hard shouldn’t mean we don’t do anything to address them.
I received some nice reviews of “Love Engine Optimization” recently:
“Very good and scary character study and warning. Ends with a nice chill.”
And Strange Shuttle says:
“Despite having a wholly unlikable protagonist (then again, isn’t that the point?), this story really worked for me. Kressel clearly knows his tech, and he employs precise language in this tale of manipulated love. The hacker v. hacker subplot adds just the right amount conflict leading up to the fallout in the end. If you like near-future science fiction, “Love Engine Optimization” is a must read.”
You can read the story here.
Mercurio D. Rivera informs me that my story “Love Engine Optimization” got a nice write-up in Locus from Rich Horton: “[The story has] a timely central notion: a way of using deep data (with realtime help) to attract romantic partners. The question, of course, is how “real” such a romance would be. Kressel makes the story work by focusing on the character and drives of the protagonist, with an honest and dark twist of the knife at the end.” Here’s the story if you want to check it out.