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.
“The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” by Matthew Kressel is a science fiction story about a dying writer who is trying to finish one final novel on the distant planet he settles on for his demise. His encounter with a young girl triggers a last burst of creativity.
My wife and I were on vacation last year in Barbados, and we were both powering through Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. The book’s subject matter made me ponder the transience of things, how we take so much for granted. It struck me too that the activity we call “reading for pleasure” might have a finite lifetime in human history. What would happen, for example, if we could get stories fed directly into our brains? Would we have need for the literature of words anymore if we could experience stories first-hand? “The Last Novelist” describes such a potential future, many centuries from now, when books are to the people of the future like clay tablets with cuneiform, odd and obsolete.
While on that same vacation, there was a small dead lizard in the back-yard porch being eaten by ants. At first I was disgusted by its leather carcass, and I pushed it off to the side with my shoe. But day after day, I watched the ants work, and by the third day I was severely impressed by how thoroughly they had dissected the animal, how efficient nature was. Nothing dead is every really gone, it’s just changed.
Anyway, that’s how the dead lizard made it into the story. 😉
The story’s cover art is by the amazing Scott Bakal.
I’m excited to be participating in a panel called “From T-1000 to Hal 9000: How Realistic Are Sci-Fi’s Robots?” at the 10th annual BRITE Conference held at the Columbia Business School. The panel will be held on March 6th from 11:10am-12:00pm. The official panelists are: Dan Abella, Director of the New York Sci-fi Film Festival and Philip K. Dick Film Festival, Matt Kressel (yours truly), Nebula-award nominated sci-fi author, Peter Asaro, PhD and Assistant Professor at the New School, and Mike Massimino, former NASA astronaut. The panel will be moderated by Christopher Mahon.
From T-1000 to Hal 9000: How Realistic Are Sci-Fi’s Robots?
Sentient robots have been a classic science fiction trope for decades, and with the popularity of works like Her, Ex Machina, and Westworld, they’re not going away anytime soon. In this panel, artificial intelligence and pop culture experts discuss famous depictions of sentient AI and their respective levels of scientific plausibility. Is Samantha from Her the logical extension of Siri and Google Home? Do we need to preemptively afford artificially intelligent robots “human” rights in order to avoid the enslavement of sentient beings? If we ever build a robot that can approximate emotion like Hal 9000 or Ava from Ex Machina, would we ever be sure that they are *feeling* emotion rather than simulating it? Join us for a discussion of all of the most fascinating questions (and most entertaining pieces of fiction) about the burgeoning growth of artificial intelligence.
ABOUT THE BRITE CONFERENCE:
Now in its 10th year, BRITE ’17 (March 6-7, Columbia Business School, NYC) will bring together 500-600 executives, entrepreneurs, academics, and students to discuss the future of business, technology, media, and society. Participants at BRITE come to learn about how innovative ideas are changing society and the ways that brands are built and maintained. Current confirmed speakers for BRITE ’17 include: Maryam Banikarim (CMO, Hyatt), Dana Anderson (CMO, Mondelez), Jonathan Becher (CDO, SAP), Raj Subramaniam (EVP, FedEx), Andrew Kassoy (Co-Founder, B Lab) and Chris Welty (Senior Researcher, Google).
Over at Tor.com I participate in a discussion about “The best and worst aspects of Cyberpunk,” with authors Madeline Ashby, Stephen Graham Jones, Cat Rambo, Nisi Shawl and Alyssa Wong. Which of course is just an excuse for me to pepper my answer with covert Blade Runner references. Here’s the lede:
Cyberpunk. It’s about cybernetics, neuroscience, nanotech, and transhumanism—and much more than that. The upcoming anthology from Hex Publishers, Cyber World, looks at how the technological changes we all face have inspired new stories to address our fears, hopes, dreams, and desires. All this as Homo sapiens evolves—or not—into its next incarnation.
Some of the most talented science fiction writers of today contributed to Cyber World, which presents diverse tales of humanity’s tomorrow. Today six of those authors answer the question “What are the best and worst aspects of cyberpunk, as either a reader or a writer?” Read their answers and tell us your own thoughts in the comments!
You can read the full article here.