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Sample Chapters

Here are the first three chapters of Less Than a Person and More Than a Dog.

LTP Excerpt

11 Comments leave one →
  1. intothefutureonanordinarybicycle permalink
    May 10, 2009 11:20 pm

    Your novel-in-progress is really great, please keep going. I love your inclusion of Alex the parrot (animal intelligence is fascinating in general). I only have two reservations. One: Keller is the most interesting character (maybe that’s intentional?). Two: all the time-specific references, such as slashdot, Vampire Weekend, etc. I get a boner for Hemingway, so any reference that won’t make sense in fifty years seems anathema to me, but I can see reasons for including them, especially in a work like this. What’s your thought process there?

    • ooutland permalink*
      May 11, 2009 3:38 am

      Thanks for the comment – If Keller-now-Alex is a fascinating character, I’m glad, but of course in the end I want the people to be as interesting as the technology. Christopher is a cipher so far, out of necessity, and Caroline is maybe so far just another unhappy person. Please stick with it, there are many characters to be introduced, albeit not until part two of the book, when Alex becomes a commercial product out in the world. Yeah, the “now” references are deliberate – I want to make the case that the AI I’m creating is theoretically possible today, and when we get to part two, not more than a couple years in the future, I want to fold Alex into our existing technofanboy culture, as well as work him into the current debate on open source and “free culture.” I’m definitely going to be writing at a faster clip now that I have an audience out there, stay tuned 🙂

  2. May 11, 2009 7:47 am

    GREAT STUFF!

    I’m not a literary critic, but I am a fairly avid reader. There may be minor holes in the story… I don’t know. But – I’m fascinated! This feels like a page turner of a sort to me. I’m anxiously awaiting further developments.

    No suggestions here – I just want to give a “thumbs up” and tell you to keep going (by all means) I’ll be waiting.

    -Bob-

  3. exhaustedphoenix permalink
    May 11, 2009 10:43 am

    I’m getting hooked, Double O. My thoughts: Certainly AI is really very, very interesting stuff – but I must say that the human characters really have just as much potential as Alex. Please don’t let them fall into more of a platform for advancing the AI. Both Caroline and Christopher are interesting in their own right. They are decidedly (defiantly) human in the ever-expanding automated world around them and yet they have found a fascination with AI amid their exhaustion in that world. It is poetic rather than ironic. They hate that humans are becoming more like robots, so they want to advance robots to become more human. An unexpected increased understanding of their humanity (and those around them) gained from the least-human character could be a very cool and beautiful thing. 🙂 Just a thought. Keep it up! I look forward to seeing where this goes!

    • ooutland permalink*
      May 11, 2009 12:12 pm

      Thanks, I like what you said about C&C being “defiantly human” – Caroline’s quest really is a quest for connection, and there are a lot more human characters coming in the later part of the story. It’s a lot of fun writing the AI, but yes, I am trying to be mindful of not letting the hoomans become “platforms” for the AI discussion (“Gee, Mr. Peabody, tell me more!”) Thanks for your comment!

  4. pinkpony permalink
    May 11, 2009 2:54 pm

    I’m really enjoying your book so far. I find the topic of AI fascinating and Caroline is very real and her workplace reminds me of my own. I read the first two chapters friday and spent all weekend thinking about it. I was very pleased to see a new chapter when I checked today. Keep it up I can’t wait to read more!

  5. Potter permalink
    May 13, 2009 8:30 am

    Really promising start.

    I can relate to Carolyn’s attitude about her de-humanizing work, her jealousy of her sister’s success and ability to achieve this success by conforming to norms, and really like the contrast with Carolyn’s helping to humanize a computer. In my humble opinion, however, she’s a little one dimensional so far, a little too much impulse and not enough reflection, by which I mean if she’s as smart as she is where is her own self-awareness?

    Do not agree Keller is most interesting character, just the most mysterious so far, as we do not know what motivations he has programmed into him, so each statement is an experiment. While this is true of human conversations as well, we have been socialized so that our topics and conversations keep things with certain bounds. So the dichotomy of humans act like robots much of the time/ machine needs to be taught to act like a person is fascinating.

    One senses that Carolyn’s interactions with Alex will help to break her out of her rut, and I look forward to the next installment.

    • ooutland permalink*
      May 13, 2009 9:03 am

      Thanks for your very perceptive feedback – yes, Caroline is more impulse than reflection right now, but that is deliberate – she is on the run from feelings and memories, and unbinding and exposing those will be the work of part one (the hard part, to be honest, as it’s requiring me to confront my own anti-social behavior and emotional-social terrors). And yes, Alex is in a way a “bridge” to connecting with people, since he’s a safe “friend” – he can’t hurt her feelings since he doesn’t have any of his own, won’t pass judgment and won’t criticize (in the malevolent sense).

  6. ed engelmann permalink
    May 20, 2009 8:14 am

    good idea. You need more detail in terms of geographical location–I assume it someplace in the Silicon Valley but you need to add various references to make it more real. Right now the story is kind of airless.

    • ooutland permalink*
      May 22, 2009 4:58 am

      Thanks for the comment; I needed a couple days to think about it. I’m deliberately avoiding giving the story a “sense of place” because it obligates me to fill in the details – it’s *not* in Silicon Valley, I can say for sure, but if I were to say it *was* in Seattle, or Portland, or wherever, the laws of fiction require me to fill in the blanks – which may be what you’re looking for, may be why it feels “airless” without that. So then I would have to create landscapes and coffee shops and restaurants and climates which, to be honest, I don’t know about because I haven’t lived in those places. So what I’m going to add, in the second draft of the first chapter, is something along these lines:

      The Three Initial Corporation’s satellite office was located in a blue town in a red state, one of those Alamos of secular humanism in a sea of God’s Warriors, which come about sometimes in outdoor-paradise-adjacent communities when large companies with sophisticated work forces are offered interesting tax situations to put some or all of their business there.

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