Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Darkness Within

I’m a nice guy. Really. All that conflict, torture, and mayhem that you read in my novels, well, that’s not really me. At least I don’t think so.

Let me explain, since you may not have heard of me. I write novels about the near-future, the next two or three decades. My first novel, PeaceMaker, published in 2004, looked at the destruction caused by a lethal computer virus augmented with artificial intelligence. Definitely not a namby-pamby virus that you catch with a standard anti-virus program. Nope, the PeaceMaker virus shut down computers across the globe, millions died from lack of power, water, health care, but I’m not writing a synopsis. You get the picture.

Unholy Domain, published April, 2008, examines the growing conflict between religion and science. You think things are hot between the pro-choice and pro-life activists, well that’s a weekend picnic compared to issues we will face when artificial intelligence and genetic engineering hit full stride.

My latest novel under development, Tomorrow’s Children, continues where Unholy Domain left off and then evaluates the integration of human and machine intelligence. My view of the future isn’t StarTrek. (I blogged about StarTrek a few months earlier.) It’s dark and complex, but not without hope.

Each of my novels starts with an assumption regarding the direction and pace of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, robotics and the like. Then I look at the major social issues and evaluate their direction and intensity. Overlay the technical and the cultural and you can pick out the hot spots. My novels grow in those spots.

Okay, so I start with an issue, one with at least two strong, conflicting beliefs. Actually, at this point the novel could be considered hard science fiction. Hard means based in reality, no magic, no pipe dreams. If I starting writing with this outline, I would create a novel that will make you think, but not cringe.

But the devil is in the details. Or maybe I have a bit of the devil in me, because as I lay out an outline, the conflict of ideas turns to violence. And not just any violence --- creative, gut-wrenching violence. Hand to hand conflict, rape, robots, torture, you name it. More thriller than scifi now.

I don’t know where this stuff comes from. I lead a normal life: married to a wonderful woman, three great kids, long-term friendships, satisfying career. I try and balance the darkness with a quirky sense of humor.

The reviews for Unholy Domain have been great (check Amazon), but they see the darkness of the story. Phrases like nightmare, damn scary book, alarming, frightening vision, dark and dangerous, bloody, threatening, and horrific pepper the reviews.

Who knows the source of all this darkness? Yeah, it’s from me, but it comes from some walled-off section of my mind that doesn’t connect to my real life. And never will.

Well, that’s about it. My wife Linda and I are going out to dinner tonight, a nice Italian place where the people know us by name. Should be a good time.

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