Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Recently, I’ve been adding audiobook editions for my ebooks and my curiosity was aroused about what future editions might be coming as the Internet technology continues to blossom and more devices are distributed.

We’ve gone from traditional hardcover and paperback books to e-book and now audiobook versions becoming widely available. Some authors would like to get a movie option for their book and see their creation on the movie screen.

There is a possibility of a technology in-between an audiobook and a full movie production.

It’s a book-movie.

A book-movie could be a book-trailer done for the full length of the book using video, graphics, sound effects, and narration.

Wait a minute, can that be cost-effect? Is there an audience?

Today a book trailer with narration, video, and graphics costs about $1000 for a five-minute video that summarizes the book.

Consider that a book of twenty chapters (20 scenes) might be equivalent to twenty book trailers.

While this would cost far less than a multimillion dollar movie production, it would still be a large capital investment for an author (or a production team working for a percent like ACX narrators) hoping to sell book-movies to an interested public.

What kind of devices would be available to make this a worthwhile experience? Would authors be interested in offering such a product? Would an audience for book-movies develop over time?

Please offer your opinions and speculations.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Love Triangles for Authors

Stories are all about the characters’ relationships. Whether they face big, or small events, their relationships drive the action, conflict, and eventually the crises in their lives. While some characters aid the protagonist toward his goals, the antagonist and his allies are dangerous opposition.

In constructing the plot to a compelling story, the author must explore each character and his relationship to the protagonist.  But rather than a simple direct one-to-one model for these relationships, we explore the complexities of triangular relationships.

The most well known is the “love triangle” (see Figure 1) where the protagonist competes for the affections of his lover against a rival. Typically, this consists of two men contending for the affections of one girl, as in the case in Casablanca where Rick (Humphrey Bogart) tries to win back Ilsa (Ingrid Berman) from her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid).

However, there are notable variations to this theme, such as Star Wars where Luke and Hans Solo appear to be rivals for Princess Leia, but in the sequel, we find out Luke is her brother. Likewise, in Harry Potter, we find Harry and Ron teaming with Hermione until we learn Harry has other interests.

A classic example is Romeo and Juliet. Here, Romeo seeks Juliet’s affection despite Juliet’s mother’s controlling love, who believes Juliet to be too young and Romeo unsuitable.

However, each of these stories is constructed with much more than just a Love triangle relationship. Each also contains a Hate triangle relationship (see Figure 2).

In Casablanca, consider Major Strasser ---- Rick ---- German Command
In Star Wars, consider Vader ---- Luke ---- Emperor
In Harry Potter, consider Malfoy ---- Harry ----Voldemort
In Romeo and Juliet, consider Tybalt ----- Romeo ---- Prince.

In addition, every story must have mediating relationships (see Figure 3) that precipitate critical events and crises. These mediators are placed in appropriate positions to set off the fireworks that bring about the conflicts and eventual climax. Each mediator has a sub-triangle connecting them to the protagonist and one other essential relationship.

In Casablanca
Renault – arrests and then frees Rick
Ferrari – assists escape plans
Carl – assists Ilsa and Victor in contacting underground
Sam – connects lovers

In Star Wars
The Empire’s Admiral attacks the Rebels
Rebels fight against empire
Droids assist Luke and Leia on their missions
Wookie helps

In Harry Potter
Draco Malfoy threatens and obstructs Harry
Snapes menaces Harry
Dumbledore helps Harry solve problems
Hagrid gives council

In Romeo and Juliet,
Nurse helps set path to suicide
Priest helps set path to fake suicide then lets it happen
Mercutio death precipitates crisis
Benvolio encourages Romeo

Finally, putting all this together (see Figure 4) we find a square composed of eight individual triangles that fit together into a square building block of interrelated characters all of which must work together to create a story.

In the Casablanca Model for example (see Figure 5), consider the two small triangles of Rick-Sam-Ilsa and Rick-Sam-Victor that bring together the larger Love triangle of Rick-Ilsa-Victor. Recall that Sam has a pivotal role on the piano playing “As Time Goes By.” And realize the complicated mix of emotions in the small triangle of Rick dealing between Victor and the Freedom Fighters. Rick has sentiments for both, yet he is pulled in a conflicting direction by the basic Love triangle. It’s the author’s job to give weight to each emotion these triangles provoke.

It’s tricky exploring these triangles. We find that each character faces conflicting complex choices. Each triangle reveals more layers of involvement. Not every character’s nature remains fixed throughout. Consider French Police Chief Renault who in the end joins Rick and switches sides from Vichy to Freedom Fighter.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A book has a life of its own

A book has a life of its own - a life that may offer hope or despair, of peace or war, of love or hate. A life you might admire, loath, or envy.  It may not be your life, yet you may wish it were. A life you might come back to, again and again, to find some missing element in your own existence. You may find a solution to your own puzzle, or find concerns you never considered, nevertheless, a book has much to offer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


One hundred and twenty thousand years ago, Neanderthals were the dominate humans on the planet. How much time do you think they spent worrying about Homo Sapiens?

Where are the Neanderthals today?

Today, Homo Sapiens aren't spending a lot of time worrying about it, but soon there may be an intelligence explosion of either biologically enhanced humans or smarter machines. Perhaps both.

Machines that could mimic human common sense along with the ability to learn, reason, and solve complex challenges has been expected since the dawn of computers in the 1940s. But human level intelligence is not the end result—superhuman machine intelligence is!

The capacity to radically outperform the best human minds is called superintelligence. Creating superintelligence may be humanity's legacy since once achieved, superintelligence will self-improve and surpass itself.

If we start with the 21st century human and add significant cognitive and physical enhancements the post-human may achieve biological superintelligence. The real question is—will machine superintelligence arrive first.

Trans-humanism may be science fiction right now, but the approach toward superintelligence is being pursued. Machine artificial intelligence is the study of many projects around the world.

Ways to enhance machine intelligence include: statistical patterns, neural networks, pattern recognition, and problem classification are old tools in a multilevel approach toward enhanced intelligence. A large class of native decision trees and statistical analysis are being used. Machine learning using probabilistic based Bayesian networks and advanced Monte Carlo approximations are also in the running. They are used to create learning rules. To create an AI we need to add decision rules to learning rules. Computational structure resulting from the analysis is used to reproduce intellect memory and personality.

In planning for the future, safeguards must be employed to prevent letting the genie had of the bottle by creating a super artificial intelligence bent on replacing humans.

Technological developments may radically change humans brain through enhancements and genetic improvements or by redesigning the human condition around parameters of aging and limitations physical and mental. Mind scans or capturing the 'mental individual' and moving it to a new physical environment is another issue. An alternative to greater than human intelligence is to enhance functioning of biological brains through selective breeding biochemical enhancements or drugs. All of these methods require a considerable number of years to effect change.

The emergence of superintelligence may be sudden and dramatic. Paths to superintelligence include intellect that exceeds the cognitive performance of humans in all domains of interest.

The state-of-the-art of artificial intelligence already has cases where the human intelligence is being outperformed by specifically designed machines checkers backgammon, chess, and scrabble. All are performed by computer at a super human level.

However, in sense and natural language understanding have turned out to be difficult for computers to solve. We use Markov models with statistical techniques to accomplish speech recognition. And while machine translation is imperfect, it is improving. Face recognition and their improving our other areas of development.

In whole brain emulation, intelligence software scans and models computational structures of the logical brain requires detailed scanning of human brain including dissecting the tissues of the brain into thin slices studying the structural and chemical properties.

Brain computer interfaces are hybrid systems to radically outperform the un-augmented brain requiring significant medical complications including and fictions hemorrhages and brain damage cyborg is a period. Networks and organizations can be enhanced on a collective basis to improve collective intelligence examples of these are writing and printing in languages gradual accumulation of institutional capital systems collective intelligence from the member minds and overhead of communication integration.

Enhancement of biological organization intelligence might increase ability to design machines super intelligence that is safe and beneficial. Brain computer interface is unlikely as a source of super intelligence improvements. Networks and organizations may yield narrow increases to capability.

Collective superintelligence is a system composed of a large number of small intellects such that the system's overall performance vastly outstrips current systems. Superintelligence at least as fast as the human mind and vastly qualitatively smarter.

The timing and speed of the takeoff to reach superintelligence is critical. A slow takeoff offers opportunity to intervene on the human level. A fast takeoff is so quick it is unnoticed till the game is over and humanity has lost. A moderate takeover is one that occurs over media global time of months or years giving humans some chance to respond but not much time to analyze the situation.

Building a seed AI might be quick and only require an insightful algorithm that can recursively improve itself so rapidly as to outstrip all competition.

Superpowers of strategic intelligent advantages include intelligence amplification wherein a system can bootstrap its own intelligence. A system can achieve distant goals and overcome intelligent opposition, and even conduct social manipulation to leverage external resources.

A boxed AI may persuade its gatekeeper to let it out. A boxed AI may exploit security holes steal financial resources and hijack.

An AI takeover scenario would include a first superintelligence gaining a distant decisive strategic advantage in the pre-critical phase. The creation of a seed AI would enable it to improve its own intelligence secretly, recursive self-improvement phase would be rapid, covert preparation phase where it understands its strategy to escape and dominate, and in the overt implementation phase where the AI gains power and self-preservation could be a motivation of the AI itself or it could be just merely cognitive enhancements or seeking technological perfection or research acquisition in order to do calculations in any case it would be a direct threat to humanity. Controlling an AI starts with boxing physical input and output or designing the AI with inherent limitations or controls.

Machine intelligence can take several forms including: oracle, genies, sovereigns, and tools.

An Oracle, is a question answer system working with super intelligence in an extremely limited domain. Such as the Internet search engine.

Genies and sovereigns use a command executing system. A Genie receives high-level commands and carries them out then pauses and waits for the next command. A sovereign is a system that has an open-ended mandate to operate in the world to pursue the broadest possible objectives.

Reference: Bostrom, N., Superintellience, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Why I write Science Fiction

I discovered that basic human behavior—emotional and physiological reactions to specific internal and external stresses—could be well-expressed though stories. What makes a science fiction story special is that the tension originates at unexpected locations with unusual characters and strange circumstance, all of which combine to produce surprisingly ordinary human responses.

I’ve enjoyed this wonderful form of entertainment all my life. Now I find pleasure in manufacturing the adventures for myself. I offered a scientific basis for the fictional science I described. I hope the reader will feel that my books are based upon hard science with characters responding with normal human behavior.

My characters are presented as complex people. Their behavior is multifaceted—sometime predictable, sometimes not—but their response always fell within the spectrum of past human reactions.

In the past, the scientific speculation of science fiction has helped spark the curiosity of researchers in many fields.

As a result, I believe science fiction should start on hard scientific principles. I researched the technologies included in the story and tried to predict their development path into the next centuries. For example, genetic engineering is current an important social topic and humanity faces difficult choices ahead.

In my book, Lieutenant Henry Gallant, genetic engineering plays an influential role in the background, but it is cast against a competing innovation—Artificial Intelligence. In addition, I found it useful to explore the concepts of dark matter and faster-than-light travel, both of which are areas of serious scientific exploration today.

The hero should exhibit his emotions to allow the reader to vicariously enjoy the emotional roller-coaster ride of the story arc. As a result, the reader will find it exciting whenever the hero gets into trouble, or danger—whenever he is embarrassed, or upset.

The more distress the hero endures, the greater his (and the reader’s) satisfaction will be when he finally prevails. Getting the hero into trouble is as much the author’s job, as getting him out of it.

A multi-book story arc requires a thorough understanding of the characters and their motivations, as well as considerable planning. An author always benefits from the encouragement and feedback of his co-conspirators in this endeavor—the readers. With the release of each book in a series, the voice of the readers becomes clearer. Their desire to see certain characters prevail and certain events transpire becomes plain.

My advice for aspiring authors is to work with an experienced editor. From time to time you can find yourself so immersed in your work that you may lose perspective. An outside voice can keep you focused on the truth you are trying to tell. You may not know if you are actually producing the impact you desire, until a knowledgeable editor offers an honest evaluation. Your editor can help you recognize when your book is ready for publication—when the characters are properly defined, the plot arc is adequately developed, and the settings are clearly described.

I am looking forward to further developing The Henry Gallant Saga—if the readers encourage me to do so through their review comments.

Let me tell you, briefly, what my latest book is about.

In Lieutenant Henry Gallant, one man pits the naked human mind against the perspicacity of machine intelligence.

In an era of genetic engineering, Lieutenant Henry Gallant is the only Natural (non-genetically enhanced) officer left in the fleet. Many of his superiors, including rival Anton Neumann, have expressed concern he is not up to the challenge. However, his unique mental abilities have proven essential to the defense of the United Planets in its fight against the Titan invaders.

Serving on the first FTL prototype, the Intrepid, on its maiden voyage to Tau Ceti, Gallant finds a lost colony on the planet Elysium. Cyrus Wolfe and his son, manipulate planet politics against the democratic opposition led by James Hepburn and his granddaughter Alaina. Wolfe has allied himself with an ancient Artificial Intelligence which had lain dormant on the planet for millennium, but is now willing to protect the colonists against the Titans.

With Alaina’s help, Gallant discovers the ancient AI has a sinister ulterior motive and he matches his unique and exceptional mind against the complexity of machine intelligence to escape the ultimate trap and prevent the extermination of humanity.

Joy in Writing

My new book Lieutenant Henry Gallant was a joy to write, here's why . . .

Lieutenant Henry Gallant is handsome, brave, and daring—just what you want in a hero who sets out on a great adventure. A rival challenges him for the love of a beautiful, young, and bold woman—just what you’d expect in a warrior princess. Together they face an alien invasion, a jungle full of dangers predators, and a malevolent artificial intelligence bent on exterminating humanity.

Can you guess who wins in the end? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the corrupt politicians who maneuver to upset all Gallant’s efforts to protect the people and stop the malicious AI.

How much fun do you think I had writing this tale?

Actually, I had more.

Writing is fun and the more you work at it, the better it gets. Wait, did I say ‘work,’ I should have said, play. The pleasure of composing just the right phase, or finding just the right descriptor, is most satisfying.

When you read a story by one of your favorite authors, you can yourself immersed in another world—undergoing an exciting and thrilling vicarious experience. The characters bring to life the emotions and choices of the interesting situation.

Some of my favorite authors, I. Asimov, J. Campbell, and R. Heinlein have accomplished this for me. When they ‘set the stage’ at the beginning of a chapter, they offer elaborate descriptive prose, rich in adjectives and superlatives. For action scenes, however, their sentences become short, crisp, and emphatic. When involved in conversation, the individual characters each achieve their own ‘voice’—they demonstrate a distinctive characteristic of speech, or language, so that they can be picked out of the dialog. Of course, the arc of the main story must be seamlessly inter-wound with the subplots so that the reader doesn’t trip over the narrative. But the result is a reader so engrossed in the story that he is unaware of his actual reality, he has been transported elsewhere.  

I find that there is joy in expressing your thoughts, so find your words—tell your story.