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.
My near-future cyber-hacking seduction story “Love Engine Optimization” is now out at Lightspeed Magazine.
I came up with the idea of “Love Engine Optimization” after reading a blog post from Hugh Howey where he suggests that privacy is obsolete. The common refrain I hear from people who don’t understand internet privacy is this: “If you do nothing wrong, what do you have to hide?”
That’s an absurd concept if you think about it for half a second. Especially now with all these cloud-connected devices that record everything from our heart rates to our locations to the number of hours we sleep. Add to that our detailed psychological profiles that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google and others gather on us, and you have a pretty clear picture of what makes a human being tick.
I wanted to tell a story of someone who uses this data to manipulate another, in this case, to seduce them. (Data that anti-privacy advocates think should be in the public domain.) I wanted to show what such a bad actor might do with such information. I wrote this story last spring, long before the revelations that Russia might have done this very thing in the most recent U.S. elections. To me, it seems clear that we are offering up our personal data by the terabyte into the cloud, and yet we are not clearly thinking through the ramifications of giving all this personal data away. “Love Engine Optimization” is a horror story, then, encased in a near-future science fictional shell.
If you read the story, please consider writing an online review (good or bad) and/or sharing a link to the story on social media. I can never state enough how much that helps.
In an experiment in self-publishing, I’ve released my short story “One Spring in Cherryville” across several digital e-book markets.
“One Spring in Cherryville” chronicles the adventures of Mitch and his friends who live in a tumble-down rust-belt American town, with little prospects for their future, when they discover a treasure hidden in the basement of an old factory. But there is more to uncover in Cherryville, a dark past that just might change all their lives forever.
I’ve also been working on a new novel, a YA thriller about AI and the Singularity. In the past I’ve spoken a lot about my boredom with dystopian fiction. We’ve seen a glut of dystopian stories these past few decades (and I’ve written my fair share). And so I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is and write an optimistic SF novel. This is not to say there is no conflict. No, there will be a lot of conflict. (The future of the planet is at stake.) But the ultimate message will be a hopeful and optimistic one. I can’t say more without spoiling it.
As for my short fiction, I have one story coming out in December called “In Memory of a Summer’s Day.” That will appear in Ellen Datlow’s Mad Hatters and March Hares, an anthology with stories based on the characters from Alice in Wonderland. I envision Wonderland as a kind of dilapidated theme park, where visitors take Disney-like tours through the famous scenes. Except there is something rotten at its very core.
Right now I have three short stories out with editors. “The Words That Maketh Murder” is about a former military drone engineer who begins hearing strange sounds at a train yard where she lives. “The Marsh of Camarina” is about AI, job replacement, and universal basic income. And “The Walk to Distant Suns,” which I co-wrote with Mercurio D. Rivera is about a woman who works as an engineer for a wormhole that allows people to migrate to another star system. I am also writing a ghost story.
So what about you? What are you working on? I would love to hear from you guys, to see what exciting things you’ve been up to.
My internet privacy story “Love Engine Optimization” is out in this month’s Lightspeed. You can buy the issue now or wait until June 27th and read it for free. Looks like lots of good fiction here from Vandana Singh, Elizabeth Bear, Carlos Hernandez, plus non fiction from Amal El-Mohtar, Carrie Vaughn, and lots of others. Check it out!
A little hint on the theme of my story: when we talk of internet privacy, we usually assume the actors are large players: corporations, governments, and large criminal enterprises exploiting software flaws and human gullibility for profit. But we know from Snowden and WikiLeaks the actors can be small as well. What could one person do with full access to another’s data that a large body could not?
You can read “Love Engine Optimization” now if you buy the issue, or you can read it for free on June 27th!
Tangent Online reviews my story “The Last Novelist” and says,
Matthew Kressel writes a hauntingly sweet and tragic story in “The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard).” Reuth, the last novelist in the universe, is dying and comes to the distant planet of Ardabaab to finish his novel. He befriends a local girl who is intrigued by the foreign art skill he demonstrates, and she becomes his apprentice. The story revolves around the relationship of these two characters, exploring the passion and the often unappreciated talent of an artist. The speculative elements remain in the background, allowing this to be a quiet and subtle character study. I found it to be one of those great tales that knows just when to be verbose, and knows just when to step back and let the characters shine.
They also review stories by Theodora Goss, A.C. Wise, Julianna Baggot and Max Gladstone. You can read all the reviews here.
This is a story of longing and of looking back. Of decline—in health, in life. And of finding something at the end of life that is unexpected but wonderful….It’s an inspiring and elegant story and a great read!
They also review plenty of others, including Theodora Goss, Alyssa Wong, Bo Bolander, Catherynne Valente, Maria Dahvana Headley, and more.
If you attended the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading back in November with John Langan and yours truly, you might remember the story I read called “In Memory of a Summer’s Day.” That story will appear in an Alice in Wonderland-themed anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. The anthology includes stories by Seanan McGuire, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, Kaaron Warren, Jeffrey Ford, Richard Bowes, Jane Yolan, Andy Duncan, and lots more. The full table of contents is below, but first I wanted to talk a little bit about the origin of my story.
When Ellen asked me to send her an Alice-themed story, I first had to go back and reread the books to re-familiarize myself with the material. But I kind of already knew what I had in mind. I envisioned a kind of haggard, jaded tour-guide who leads a group of clueless tourists, Disney-style, through Wonderland’s oddities. But unbeknownst to the tourists, Wonderland is crumbling. And it’s not the whimsical, fantastical realm everyone’s been led to believe, but something far more sinister. I got my idea from an exhibit I visited with some friends in Manhattan at the Morgan Library & Museum called “Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland.” What struck me was, well, how pervy Lewis Caroll was. His obsession with the real Alice (Ms. Alice Pleasance Liddell), penning love letters to her, taking photographs of her in her underwear, when she was many years his junior and not even close to consensual age, just came off as vile. And here were were, a century and a half later, so enamored with the tale and all its variants, ignoring its uncomfortable source. It seemed to me that its very seed was corrupt. This idea led me to my story, “In Memory of a Summer’s Day.”
Mad Hatters and March Hares, edited by Ellen Datlow, comes out December 5, 2017. Details follow:
Here is what you can expect from Mad Hatters and March Hares: “An all original anthology of stories inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. ‘Alice’ has been read, enjoyed, and savored by generations of children and adults since its publication. It’s hallucinogenic, weird, imaginative and full of wordplay, mathematical puzzles, and political and social satire.”
Mad Hatters and March Hares will features stories that are inspired by the strange events and characters that appear in Wonderland.
Table of Contents
- “A Comfort, One Way” by Genevieve Valentine
- “Alis” by Stephen Graham Jones
- “All the King’s Men” by Jeffrey Ford
- “Conjoined” by Jane Yolen
- “Eating the Alice Cake” by Kaaron Warren
- “Gentle Alice” by Kris Dikeman
- “In Memory of a Summer’s Day” by Matthew Kressel
- “Lily-White & The Thief of Lesser Night” by C.S.E. Cooney
- “Mercury” by Priya Sharma
- “Moon, Memory, Muchness” by Katherine Vaz
- “My Own Invention” by Delia Sherman
- “Run, Rabbit” by Angela Slatter
- “Run, Rabbit, Run” by Jane Yolen
- “Sentence Like a Saturday” by Seanan McGuire
- “Some Kind of Wonderland” by Richard Bowes
- “The Flame After the Candle” by Catherynne M. Valente
- “The Queen of Hats” by Ysabeau Wilce
- “Worrity, Worrity” by Andy Duncan
The anthology features a cover by the legendary Dave McKean, whose Folio Society edition of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods recently went on sale.
Mad Hatters and March Hares will be released on December 5, 2017.
“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.