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The Birth of Venus

February 15, 2009

Behold!  Chapter two, at long last (nearly three months since the first, but I did have the excuse of major surgery for a good deal of that).  I’m pleased with it.  I think I’ve found a viable way of introducing technical material (what’s a chatbot, what’s it for, what’s the history of AI) without dragging down the story with a bunch of awkward “Gee, Mr. Peabody!” explanatory dialogue or, just as bad, a bunch of science dudes and obligatory science dudette at a conference table (scenes at conference tables being, in my worldview, the Place of Execution when it comes to a novel’s flow) asking, “now tell me again how the frizzymajimjam enables the folding of quantum wormbulas which will enable us to kill Hitler?”

The great thing about the Internet, when it comes to technical fiction today, is that it allows me to leave out a ton of information.  If the reader is really interested, she can find that Salon.com article on Hugh Loebner which I mention in the chapter easily enough, and then look more into Minsky or Weitzenbaum without me having to load down the narrative with “but, Professor, Weitzenbaum says…” because the reader doesn’t have the access to the material.  Twenty years ago, yeah, you probably did have to have the f’in conference table scene to get the science and history filled in for the reader; now you don’t – you can liberate the reader who already knows the material to move along, and the one who doesn’t who’s curious can Google it.  The trick is to put in just enough that you get the sense of what’s going on without having to look outside the narrative, even if it’s not enough to completely explain what’s going on.

The footnotes you see are probably not going to make the final-final cut, but they’re useful to me now, and to anyone who might question Alex’s viability as a construct.  My intent with Alex is to make sure he’s possible, not just some HAL I pulled out of my PARC.  And I like him so far as a character – just a sprinkling of personality so far, but that seems reasonable to me – only after significant interaction with people can he form a “persona.” 

So, a few days of silence – travel all day tomorrow and work early on Tuesday.  My likelihood of getting any serious reading done, honestly, is looowww for the next week.  But I’ll try to get some internetting in and at least get a paragraph or two out each day on some item of interest, if possible.  If not, well, enjoy chapter two.

Thanks,

O.

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