Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Author
The Coming AI Wave and Job Retraining

At Asilomar, they looked at the real US economy, the real reasons for the “hollowing out” of the middle class. The problem isn’t immigration—far from it. The problem isn’t offshoring or taxes or regulation. It’s technology.” — Cade Metz,

AI is going to replace far more jobs in the US (and elsewhere) than outsourcing labor ever did, and unless we prepare for that now, we’re going to have another economic collapse when millions of unskilled/low-skilled workers are replaced by software. One solution is the UBI, universal basic income, which will never fly in the US in the current climate. A more practical solution is retraining. You can’t just replace jobs with machines. You replace jobs with AI and then you retrain the people whose jobs have been obsoleted. But who pays? The corporations using AI won’t want to foot the bill. The whole reason they are replacing people with AI is to save money. It will be left up to the government then, at state and federal levels, to step up. But with a GOP majority intent on reducing government size and spending, this likely won’t get done. So in the end you will have another great wave of US unemployment and possible economic collapse that could have been prevented by simple worker retraining programs.

Forget the Baby Boomers. (Sorry, I love you, but you guys still use AOL). To my Gen-X and Millennial-aged friends: let’s craft a better plan for the next decade, because AI is coming faster than any of us are prepared for.


“The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” sold to

Tor.comI’m supremely happy to announce that Ellen Datlow has bought my story “The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” for I’ve been a fan of and its regular fiction since its debut, and it’s awesome that my work will appear there. The story concerns a novelist from the far future in a world where few people read anymore, and instead have stories projected into their minds. The story will be published March 15, 2017.

30-Second Sci-Fi Book Review on “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”

Here’s 30-Second Sci-Fi Book Review giving my Nebula-nominated story “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” their “highest recommendation.” In case you want to watch, the review of my story starts at 3:24. (I love that they use the Chinese cover art for my story.) 

36 Days of Judaic Myth: Day 24, The Golem of Prague

To celebrate the October 13th release of my forthcoming debut novel, King of Shards, I will be featuring one new blog entry a day about a different Judaic myth for 36 days. Today’s entry is on The Golem of Prague. 

Day 24: The Golem of Prague

The Golem of Prague from the 1920 film

The Golem of Prague from the 1920 film

In late 16th century Prague, Jews suffered often from the blood libel, the false accusation that they used the blood of Christian children for the Passover unleavened bread. Because of this false accusation, there were many pogroms, or murderous attacks against the Jewish communities. Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel worried for his community night and day. He prayed to God how he might protect his people. In his dream, he learned how to construct a golem out of clay, a creation that would defend the Jews of Prague from harm.

On the 20th day of the month of Adar in the year 5340 (1580 in the new calendar), he went down to the Vltava river with his student and his son-in-law and there performed the ritual to make a man out of clay. They walked around the clay figure seven times, while reciting secret verses he had learned in his dream. He placed in its mouth a piece of paper upon which was written a shem, one of the secret holy names of God. When he did this, the golem glowed and came to life, opening his eyes. They dressed him to look like a poor man, and Rabbi Loew instructed him that he must obey all his commands. The golem could not speak, and so he named the golem Joseph, who they sometimes called Yossele. The golem could make himself invisible and summon the spirits of the dead. 

And so when the locals came to attack the Jews of Prague, the golem fought them off with great strength. And for many weeks, the pogroms ceased. Rabbi Loew was pleased. He knew he could use his creation to protect the Jewish community any day of the week. But never on the Sabbath, for that is the holy day of rest, when all work is forbidden. Before the Sabbath, Rabbi Loew would remove the shem from the golem’s mouth to deactivate him, and Yossele would collapse into a lifeless body until Sabbath ended and Rabbi Loew could return the shem to Yossele’s mouth. But one Sabbath, Rabbi Loew forgot to remove the shem. The golem thus broke the Sabbath laws and because he was animated through divine magic, he became an abomination. He thrashed about on a violent rampage and hurt and killed many people, both Jews and Christians, before Rabbi Loew was able to remove the shem from his mouth. The golem collapsed, but the damage was done. Rabbi Loew decided the risk was too great.

He placed the golem in the attic genizah, or storage location, of the Old New Synagogue in Prague and hoped he’d never need to use its dreaded power again. Yossele’s body still remains there today. It is said that children who enter the attic of the synagogue fall into a deep sleep and cannot be awakened until taken back down, and that adults who are brave enough to venture up into the attic are overcome with great terror, and feel the need to leave the place and never speak of it again.

The Myth’s Origins

Golem movie poster (1920)

Golem movie poster (1920)

The word golem comes from Psalm 139 and means an “unshaped form,” which refers to the human creature as being unfinished in God’s eyes. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” In the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 38b, Adam, the first human, is described as being a golem until God breathes life into him. In the Middle Ages, the Sefer Yetzirah, or Book of Formation, a Kabbalistic text, was studied for the secret to create a golem. But the earliest known account of how to create a golem is found in Sodei Razayya, a book by Eleazar ben Judah of Worms of the late 12th and early 13th century.

Most of the modern versions of the myth of the Golem of Prague come from the Niflaot Maharal, a book published in 1909 by Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg. Maharal was another name for Rabbi Loew, and Rosenberg’s book summarized many of the written and oral tales of the golem. Another famous version of the myth comes from The Brothers Grimm in their 1808 book Journal for Hermits. Their version of the tale describes not a “shem,” or strip of paper with God’s holy name written upon it, but the word emet, אמת, “truth” in Hebrew, inscribed on the golem’s forehead. Wipe away the first letter aleph, א, and the word becomes “dead”, met מת, thus killing the creature. 

The late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (who some Hasidic Jews believe was the promised Messiah) asked his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef, what he’d seen when he ventured up into the attic of the Old New Synagogue in Prague, where the golem supposedly is stored. Rabbi Yosef, however, would not speak of it. But his daughter recounts that her father told her he saw the “form of a man wrapped up and covered. The body was lying on its side.”

Many Hasidic Jews still believe that Rabbi Judah Loew did in fact create a golem, though there is no evidence of a creature in the still extant Old New Synagogue.

There are a trilogy of German silent films exploring the myth beginning with The Golem (1915), followed by The Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917), and finally The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920). 

Some Thoughts on the Myth

It is perhaps the most well known of the Jewish myths, the story of the golem, especially Rabbi Loew’s one of Prague. The story predates Shelly’s Frankenstein by hundreds of years, and Shelly’s dark tale follows a similar narrative structure. A man creates a living being from lifeless material and animates it back to life. The being begins under the control of his master, but because of a various moral lapses on the part of his creator, the master loses control of his creation. The creation, frustrated, angry, alone, goes on a violent rampage. It’s interesting to note that in versions of the golem tale, as in the Frankenstein story, the monster falls in love, only to be scorned.

In Shelly’s work, the Rabbi’s magic has transformed into Dr. Frankenstein’s science, but the plot is the same. And we have a similar narratives happening in today’s tales. There are those who believe in the Singularity, the supposed point at which machine “intelligence” will surpass human intelligence and thus accelerate magnitudes beyond what we can understand or control. And in many of these tales, this Singularity doesn’t always have our best interests at heart. In other words, it might destroy us, or keep us as its pet. Stanley Kubrick’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey share similar themes. Hal 9000 is a golem, a being created by humans who eventually grows beyond his servitude to violently rebel against his creator. Even Star Trek’s Data is a type of golem, evolving beyond his inanimate form, seeking freedom from his bondage as a “robot.” This theme is echoed again and again in modern times. The replicants in Blade Runner, the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. All golems. All seek to break free of the limitations their creator placed upon them.

In the older stories, the golem is subdued. In the more modern ones, the golem destroys its master. So if in our modern stories, our golems eventually rebel against their creator, then what about the notion that we are God’s creations? If we are God’s “golems,” what does that say about humanity in that in our recent stories the golems rebel against, seek to surpass, and oftentimes destroy their masters? This to me, I think, suggests a growing trend of dissatisfaction toward traditional belief systems and their cumbersome rules and laws. That these golems in our tales are often seen as evil (though sometimes they are presented as just supremely misguided) suggests that we are not quite comfortable with our rebellion against God. 


Tomorrow’s Myth: Sheol, the Underworld


Review of “Cameron Rhyder’s Legs”

This morning I found this nice mini review of “Cameron Rhyder’s Legs,” my story which appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine​ back in November:

“What a strange time travel/alternate reality story. A rock concert is the ultimate battleground in a war to preserve True Time. In this battle technology so advanced is used to instantly occupy and control minds. Warriors from the future try to change the outcome of the concert by manipulating small details of the lives of people in the concert hall. Sound confusing? Well, it kind of is but the author does a great job of keeping the story from spinning out if control. It’s disorienting enough to make you feel like you’ve had one too many drinks before you started reading.This was definitely strange and fun.”

Recently I was asked what my favorite short story was that I had written, and I said, “Cameron Rhyder’s Legs.” It’s nice to see others enjoying it as much as I did writing it.

We Really Don’t Need Blade Runner 2
Do we really need more dystopia?

Do we really need more dystopia?

As someone who’s seen Blade Runner over a 100 times, who has given talks on the film, and has given private screenings for friends in which I (a) add trivia and commentary and (b) occasionally recite lines from memory at their request, I’m disappointed I didn’t get asked to participate in this speculative plotting for Blade Runner 2. So here goes my take:

Don’t make the film.

Yes, that’s right. I said it. While I love visiting the Blade Runner universe, and it’s my favorite film of all time, the film itself is a product of 80s cyberpunk verve and retro noir pessimism with a little apocalypse thrown in for fun. In Blade Runner they don’t have flat screen TVs and it’s four years in our future. The world in Blade Runner is a polluted, corrupt, disintegrating mess, and all the wealthy have jumped ship for (supposedly) happier pastures off world. Likely, they’re just destroying another planet.

And all this is disgusting. I don’t mean the film itself, but the world humanity has brought about. A lot of science fiction serves as a warning: “Look, if you’re not careful, this may come about.” For decades the Blade Runner Hades landscape (the opening scene of smog-choked, smoldering Los Angeles) and the neon-lit, rainy, overcrowded streets, have been the default vision of the future. The landscape was specifically named after the Greek version of hell. It’s only now, after some 35 years, (with a few bright exceptions) that visions of the future have turned at last away from the dystopian darkness envisioned in films like Blade Runner into optimistic visions of the future. Do we really need to head back into darkness again?

Blade Runner 2 shouldn’t be made because (a) the film doesn’t need to be improved upon or expanded because it’s a complete and perfect object and (b) what the world needs now is not more dystopian, bleak visions of the future, but positive, bright, optimistic ones. Instead of destroying people’s spirit by positing a bleak future for humankind, let’s lift people up, inspire, and encourage them to greater things.

It’s a movie that doesn’t need to and probably shouldn’t be made.



“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” nominated for a Nebula Award

Nebula AwardsI’m excited to announce that my story “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” which was published in May 2014 in Clarkesworld Magazine has just been nominated for a Nebula Award in the category of Best Short Story! This is my second nomination for my fiction and it’s still just as exciting as the first time.

You can read the story here. And you can download a podcast here. The story is also available here in various ebook formats.

It’s an honor to have my story included in the same category with such talents as Aliette de Bodard, Eugie Foster, Usman T. Malik, Sarah Pinsker, Ursula Vernon, and Alyssa Wong. And what incredible stories they all are. Wow.

“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” began as some of my stories often do, with a sudden inspiration just before bed. I scrambled to write down the first sentence, which popped into my mind fully formed and remained unchanged despite several edits of the story. “As the Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye wandered the galaxy harvesting dead stars, they liked to talk.” I was struck with this vision of these two cosmic garbage truck drivers, one of them a little ignorant, overly loquacious, but ultimately sensitive, wandering around a dead galaxy and speaking about the good ol’ days when things were thriving. I also had this vision of a human, encoded in an ancient artifact, who would be discovered by these aliens eons after humanity had gone extinct. The story pretty much followed from these two premises.

Spoiler warning: plot elements follow below.

Getting Beth’s character right was important to me. I began with a strong woman, obstinate about protecting her children from the harsh truth of her impending death. Beth is also gay, and in the world that she and her wife Sloan inhabit, which might be just a few short decades from now, being gay, straight, trans — any sexual orientation — is naturally accepted. Hence why my story normalizes it. As Beth is incarnated each time, her thoughts go back to her loved ones: her children, Yrma and Bella, and her wife Sloan, and also the lovely snow-covered pines beside her glass house in Denver, Colorado. In other words, she is the root connecting back to Earth.

But Beth is also something more. She uses the All-Seeing Eye’s strength, the Eye’s insatiable curiosity, against her. The original Beth from Earth, encoded in the artifact, is discovered by a future alien civilization and used as a Trojan horse to destroy the Eye. Beth not only survives because Sloan, rather than let her wither away and die, decided to encode her wife, but Beth also saves the entire galaxy. I also hinted at the end that within the Eye’s vast knowledge lies the long-forgotten histories of many thousands of sentient races. Perhaps one day soon they might live again.

I enjoy writing about deep time, these vast cosmic timespans and speculative futures beyond humanity’s reach, and so “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” was one hell of a fun story to write. I’m honored and flattered that it was chosen as a Nebula Nominee, and I wish good luck to and congratulate my fellow nominees!