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localroger's novel "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect"

By rusty in Fiction
Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 10:23:13 PM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

During the recent discussion of creating a fiction section for K5, one of our all-time favorite authors, localroger, mentioned that he had written a 60 kiloword novel some time ago which had not yet seen the light of day. He was convinced to release it, and I offered space on our server for that purpose. Today I'm inordinately pleased to announce the release of Roger "localroger" Williams's novel The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect.

Lawrence had ordained that Prime Intellect could not, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. But he had not realized how much harm his super-intelligent creation could perceive, or what kind of action might be necessary to prevent it.

Caroline has been pulled from her deathbed into a brave new immortal Paradise where she can have anything she wants, except the sense that her life has meaning.

Now these two souls are headed for a confrontation which will force them to weigh matters of life and death before a machine that can remake -- or destroy -- the entire Universe.

The directory speaks for itself, really. I was going to write a lot more information here, but most everything I want to say has already been written there. You can read the book itself, of course. You should also be aware of the license, which essentially states that you may freely read, copy and distribute the work, so long as it is unmodified and no money is charged. For convenient downloading I've also included a .zip file of the entire directory.

Once you've read the book, you may want to know some of the background behind its creation, including how it was written (a rather odd tale itself), and more information about the technology and cosmology of the book.

If you prefer to read fiction on paper (like me) or just fetishize the perfectly adapted form of the printed and bound book (also like me) you might like to sign up for a printed copy. localroger has pledged to have the Book on Demand publisher XLibris produce a run of bound copies if 100 people promise to buy one. It will cost about $20, of which $5.00 will go to localroger as a royalty. There is much more information about this Dead Tree Project that you ought to read before you decide either way.

And of course, nothing says "Hey, thanks!" like cash. So if you'd like to drop Roger a buck or five, the book's index page includes a handy Paypal tip jar.

Now with all that awaiting you, why are you still reading this?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


I would like to purchase a printed copy
o Yes 19%
o No 33%
o I'll decide after I read it 40%
o I'll just send a tip 7%

Votes: 109
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o creating a fiction section for K5
o localroger
o mentioned
o The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect
o The directory
o read the book
o the license
o .zip file
o how it was written
o the technology and cosmology
o sign up for a printed copy
o XLibris
o Dead Tree Project
o index page
o Also by rusty

Display: Sort:
localroger's novel "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect" | 173 comments (153 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
Thank you, Rusty (nt) (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by Zapata on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 04:12:07 PM EST

"If you ain't got a camel, you ain't Shiite."

Thank Roger (none / 0) (#4)
by rusty on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 04:16:50 PM EST

He did all the work!

I didn't want to make this story about my personal opinion, but since I'm commenting now, I thought it was a hell of a great read. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Prestigious Address (none / 1) (#48)
by Zapata on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 09:15:28 PM EST

Yeah, he wrote the novel, but of all the folks who might clamor for a relatively well-known address, you chose him and he didn't even ask.

That certainly rates a thank you.

"If you ain't got a camel, you ain't Shiite."

[ Parent ]
+1 about localrodger (none / 0) (#27)
by wumpus on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 05:46:31 PM EST

This is why.

Now if you will excuse me, I noticed while looking up the URLs that I seem to have missed a few.


[ Parent ]

The K5 publishing empire (none / 0) (#5)
by BadDoggie on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 04:19:01 PM EST

I'm glad to see that localroger has written a novel and, based on his writing here, I'll certainly have a look at this (probably from the office). I'm equally glad that you're hosting this here -- it may be a route to an alternate method of publishing or getting start-ups published. Perhaps you can turn this into something much bigger (although scaling and duplication could cause overload and even kill the concept).

If I like the book, I'd be happy to send in a buck or two, but not through PayPal: see http://www.paypalwarning.com.

Authors' royalties are rarely 10% of the suggested retail price, and most paperback novels (around 90K words) run about $7.99 right now. Nothing against localroger wanting some money for his efforts, but $5/book royalty and a $15 publishing charge is a bit steep, especially when you consider the production cost is around $6.

By publishing on-line with a GPD-like license, you and localroger may have terminated the possibility of publishing this through normal publishers, who generally demand full copyright rights since they take on full legal liability by publishing a work, something this site (and The Other Site) is well aware of. $cientology, anyone?

Did localroger approach any of the mainstream publishers? Random House or their subsidiaries like Del Rey and Fawcett Crest? Harper Collins? Penguin Books? What about Golden Pillar (or any other self-publisher besides XLibris?)? If not, why not?

I like the idea, but I think the implementation needs some work.


"The line between genius and stupidity is very fine indeed, but you're so far away from the line that it doesn't matter." --

Publication options (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by localroger on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 04:35:25 PM EST

Xlibris is expensive because they are a book-on-demand publisher. Their costs really are that high. On the other hand they don't charge me two or three thousand bucks up front as a regular subsidy publisher would, because while the per-book cost is higher, they only produce books as demand arises.

As for "real" publishers, I did make a couple of half-hearted attempts but the truth is that this is a very difficult kind of book to publish even if you can get it past the slush pile. Maybe if a lot of people read it here and link to it and it goes all over the Internet and I get interviewed by Oprah and whatever then some "real" publisher will develop an interest, in which case the Dead Tree Project will markedly change character. But I'm not counting on that. I've had too many disappointments, and not just with this story.

As for Golden Pillar I wasn't aware of them. The basic service seems very similar to Xlibris', though. If their final costs to buyers are significantly cheaper than Xlibris' I'd certainly use them instead. None of this is cast in concrete and I'm open to all suggestions.

The bottom line is that I'd never consider subsidy publishing at all except that the BoD publishers have relatively small up-front costs, and they handle orders and shipping once the book is in print, which is a significant service.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

whats wrong with using paypal for a donation? (none / 0) (#9)
by autopr0n on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 04:37:49 PM EST

I mean, you're giving up the money anyway, and not expecting anything in return. If the author trusts paypal with his money, it's his bussness. I mean They might blow it on booze, or hide it under their pillow lose their wallet once they converted it to cash anyway. I don't see what the point is in not donating to someone because you have a problem with the system they're using to collect them

[autopr0n] got pr0n?
autopr0n.com is a categorically searchable database of porn links, updated every day (or so). no popups!
[ Parent ]
This is what's wrong. (none / 0) (#49)
by dark on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 09:35:14 PM EST

Using PayPal to make a donation means giving them some kind of access to a payment option. This means a credit card or checking account. I do not trust PayPal with that kind of information. The "Hall of Shame" collection had way too many stories about mysterious charges that were never resolved.

Also did you read PayPal's terms of service? Bring a barf bag. There's no way I'm going to expose myself to that kind of risk for the sake of tipping someone.

If anyone knows an online payment service with reasonable terms of use, please let me know. If I like it I'll fund a K5 ad for it :). I looked at e-gold whose terms were quite good except for this sentence at the end:

This Agreement may be amended only upon execution of a subsequent agreement or upon User's failure to object within 10 days to modifications posted on Issuer's website.
(It doesn't say where on the website, it doesn't say what constitutes an objection, and I don't want to have to check their site every 9 days.)

[ Parent ]
Paypal (none / 0) (#13)
by localroger on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 04:50:46 PM EST

I've looked over the paypal site you linked, and while it's certainly an important cautionary alert most of it doesn't apply to something like a tip jar, where small amounts of money are involved and there is no attempt to enforce a quid-pro-quo for the donation or vice-versa.

FYI I opened a new bank account just for the purpose of hosting this paypal link, because I was already aware of some of the scam problems. You can rest assured it the Paypal end will be frequently transferred out to my real bank so as to minimize the possibility of tips being lost or stolen by one of these scams.

The thing is, Paypal is about the most convenient way available for someone to send me a couple of bucks online.

If anyone really feels Paypal is unacceptable but would like to send a tip, just e-mail and I'll give snail-mail directions, or whatever seems most appropriate.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Glad to hear it (none / 0) (#21)
by BadDoggie on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 05:27:11 PM EST

I'm glad to see that you looked at that site and that you opened a special account just for PP. I understand the convenience, but it comes at a (sometimes terrible) price. I just don't want to see you burned, too, although it might make for a good story here.

Instead of replying to the other comment, I'll add that the reason I won't have anything to do with PP is rather simple: I don't support scams, even if they won't affect me. It used to be that if you only wanted to pay for something using a credit card, you still had to open an account with PP. Having dealt with identity theft first-hand and seeing PP's terms & conditions along with the incredible amount of personal info they wanted, I nixed the idea and suffered somewhat for it. I still lose out on some eBay stuff because the sellers won't take bank checks and ignore my PP warnings. Their (future) loss. At least I'm safe.

For publishing, do a Google search for "(vanity OR subsidised OR subsidized OR subsidy)(publish OR publishing OR publisher OR publishers)" and also on "(book OR novel) (publish OR publishing OR publisher OR publishers) ((royalty OR royalties) OR (cost OR costs))". Ugly searches, I know, but I get paid well to know how to force a good SQL search. That's how I found Golden Pillar, and their royalty is better than most commercial publishers'. Stephen King and Patricia Cornwell don't even get $2/book -- one of the reasons King tried the Web publishing route, although he may be more geekish than most and used his reputation to push a hardcore test of viability.

I'll probably check your book Tuesday -- I've been away for the last two and a half weeks and have to play catch-up at work tomorrow.


"The line between genius and stupidity is very fine indeed, but you're so far away from the line that it doesn't matter." -- Parent ]

So, now you can tell us: (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by autopr0n on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 04:39:06 PM EST

Why no fiction section on K5!?

[autopr0n] got pr0n?
autopr0n.com is a categorically searchable database of porn links, updated every day (or so). no popups!
Because (none / 0) (#24)
by jabber on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 05:31:27 PM EST

That's too general. There would have to be a Biography section, and a Historical versus Science Fiction. And Horror, and Romance, and so forth and so on and it's a can of worms.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

No, you are wrong (none / 0) (#51)
by autopr0n on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 10:09:31 PM EST

See subject.

[autopr0n] got pr0n?
autopr0n.com is a categorically searchable database of porn links, updated every day (or so). no popups!
[ Parent ]
It's interesting... (none / 0) (#115)
by Noodle on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 10:42:25 PM EST

...that you're calling for a fiction section.  Because you are the same person as Delmoi, right?  You ran lit.hatori42.com.

Does this mean lit.hatori42.com is never to return?

{The Nefarious Noodle}
[ Parent ]

How about printing my own? (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by Kyle on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 04:40:31 PM EST

I haven't looked at the book or the license, so I expect "RTFM" may be my answer.

From the brief description in the story, it sounds as if I'm allowed to print my own copy. Is there any plan to make the book available in a printer-friendly format (TeX, PS, or something)? If not, would there be a problem with someone else producing the book in that format and distributing it?


Problems (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by floydian on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 07:21:41 PM EST

Read roger's comment.

[ Parent ]
Answer (1.50 / 2) (#26)
by Platy on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 05:44:19 PM EST

Now with all that awaiting you, why are you still reading this?

Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
Um... (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by rusty on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 07:58:51 PM EST

That doesn't really make sense, as an answer.

Q: Why?
A: No.


Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Good point (none / 0) (#82)
by Platy on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:14:20 AM EST

Yeah, now I see. Sorry about the mistake, it seems I was a bit sleepy.

Therefor (textual, not necessarily linguistical) correct answer is: I weren't reading it anyway! ;-)
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
Paying (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by ucblockhead on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 05:56:34 PM EST

I have little interest in paying $20 for a dead tree edition, but I'd have a lot of interest in paying $5 for a version I can read on a Palm device.

(That's not just blowing smoke...I regularly pay to read SF&F magazine on my Clie.)

(I am presuming that "converting to a Palm DOC file counts as a modification.)
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Doesn't Palm support HTML? (none / 0) (#31)
by localroger on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:20:04 PM EST

Really, if the Palm supports a browser at all it should render and look OK.

If you want to convert it for the benefit of other Palm users you should e-mail me; as the page says, the terms are flexible. I might find it worth adding to the site. I am really not in this to make a ton of money, but just to protect my interests in case a ton of money should shall we say land on it by accident :-)

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

conversion (none / 0) (#66)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:46:54 AM EST

The Palm's file system requires some conversion. Since you've said it's ok, I'll screw around with it and let you know what I find.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Plucker (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by TheEldestOyster on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 10:11:23 AM EST

Plucker (http://plkr.org) is a good choice. It has a simple python (or maybe perl) script which converts HTML (and can spider) to its format. As a program, it's meant to work like AvantGo, but I've converted a few HTML books to its format and it works nicely.

Or, if you really want to use PalmDoc, AbiWord can export to it.
TheEldestOyster (rizen/bancus) * PGP Signed/Encrypted mail preferred
[ Parent ]

grrr... (none / 0) (#159)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 07:34:34 PM EST

All it does on my Clie is say "Fatal Exception"
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
some on-demand publishers support ebooks (none / 0) (#59)
by adamba on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 11:53:31 PM EST

For example iUniverse charges $99 for basic paperback printing, $99 more to make it available as an e-book, and $199 (I think) to make it available as a hardback.

- adam

[ Parent ]

You got a Palm device, but no Plucker? (none / 0) (#101)
by floydian on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 07:16:57 PM EST

That's odd to me, since all I ever use on the damn thing is Plucker. Trust me, it's a pretty nifty piece of (free) software, and like I said, reading books with it it's all I use my Palm for. Highly recommended.

[ Parent ]
Plucker script I used (none / 0) (#124)
by Dion on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 05:30:18 AM EST

This is the contents of a small script I have called pluckit:

cd /usr/local
PyPlucker/Spider.py -M 2 -H $1 -f $2
export PILOTRATE=115200
pilot-xfer -i ~/.plucker/$2.pdb

this allows me to do:
 pluckit http://mumble shortname

and the script spiders the document (and documents liked to from the root document) and transfers the resulting database to the palm.

[ Parent ]

Converting it to PDF (none / 0) (#32)
by Cluster on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:20:41 PM EST

Just so no one duplicates my work while it's in progress, I am announcing now that I am saving all chapters into a single file and will then convert it to PDF, for easier printing.  I'll host it on my server.

If such already exists (even a single document with all chapters), please let me know to save me time.

Read the license... (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by pdw on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:28:20 PM EST

You may make as many electronic copies of the Work as you want, as long as you do not edit them or convert them to formats other than HTML. You may distribute these copies to other people if you wish as long as you do not charge money.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for telling me. (none / 0) (#34)
by Cluster on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:33:39 PM EST

I mailed the author, requesting permission.  As he says, "These terms are flexible".

[ Parent ]
Lovely. (1.00 / 1) (#35)
by Cluster on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:39:39 PM EST

   ----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
    (reason: 550 Host unknown)

   ----- Transcript of session follows -----
550 5.1.2 prime-intellect@philpkdick.com... Host unknown (Name server: philpkdick.com: host not found)

[ Parent ]

One of us misspelled it (none / 0) (#37)
by localroger on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:46:14 PM EST

It's philipkdick.com. You're missing the i between the phil and the pkdick.

And the reason for forbidding format changes it to make it difficult to print out in more convenient formats. Unless you're using Lynx or Arachne or somesuch you should find the printout your browser supplies very adequate for reading. If it isn't, I'm all ears as to how it can be improved.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Arrrrgh, my bad -- use the link from index page (none / 0) (#38)
by localroger on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:48:28 PM EST

The link from the rights page is screwed. The index page link should work.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

maybe I'll read it someday... (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by pb on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:45:47 PM EST

First, could you put all the files in an archive to make it easier to download?  I tried just using wget, but kuro5hin doesn't seem to like that very much.

Second, would you mind terribly if I convert the HTML version to text for reading purposes?  I suppose I could just copy-and-paste it from the web browser too, if that didn't seem to be forbidden by the license.  (or is my web browser violating that as well?)

Good luck!
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

archive is there (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by localroger on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 07:17:50 PM EST

Rusty had the idea of leaving the .zip file up, and he linked it in the article. It contains the entire directory.

As for converting to text, well, you'd lose the formatting and I spent a lot of time getting the formatting right. But the license doesn't prohibit you from converting formats for your own use, only distributing any such changes you make to other people. I may have phrased that unclearly in the file, and I'll see about clarifying it when I do the editorial change update in a week or so.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

great, thanks! (none / 0) (#47)
by pb on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 09:05:01 PM EST

I somehow missed where it said "zip file"; d'oh!

I'll now happily convert your painstakingly crafted HTML to text for my own perusal, dum-de-dum...  :)
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

+1 w00t! (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by zephc on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 07:58:10 PM EST

I love fiction about SIAI (super-intelligent AI), uploading and so on, can't wait to read it all!

Holy Crap (3.00 / 1) (#44)
by rhyax on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 08:16:06 PM EST

I started reading it just a little to see if it was any good. I can't stop :) I would buy a copy but there's no way I can wait that long, so i'll just paypal. This is a really excellent book Roger!

funny line:
"Excellent. I am dispatching some more copies, then, to start the explaining."

just finished reading the book... (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by clover_kicker on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 08:23:25 PM EST

I just finished reading the book, and enjoyed it a lot.

Once the details get worked out and the thing gets published, I'll buy a copy.
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

+1 FP (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by vile on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 09:47:10 PM EST

Good story... so far. (I am only on Chapter 1) Very intriguing and captivating.

I enjoy Roger's work in general.

+1 FP simply because rusty posted it and is hosting the book. Furthermore, the read is free -- with a tip jar.. which is totally cool.

Otherwise, I'd have agreed with the buy an ad guys.

Never the less.. captivating and interesting read. (And I do not read that often! Something has to capture me! Like roger's previous works have...) Good work, localroger et Rusty.

I was going to end there, but, I think I will continue just for a minute.. I enjoy a few aspects of your decision, rusty, and respect where you are going with this.

1) Hosting novels.. short stories.. books.. is smart. Many people have created such beasts.. but have nowhere to publish them. Most *never* see the light of day. This is a good community decision. And, should promote site traffic in general.. therefore serving also as a good business decision.. which in turn supports the community.

2) One thing you should do, is throw text-ads on each book/novel/story.. one per chapter. And, enjoy the benefits as well. Everyone reads the text ads.. and we all click when interested. Furthermore, they are not bothersome.. and more than that, text-ads seem to throw attention to what our *community* want to show others within our *community*.

    2a) Consider ad posting categorical decisions.. want to post on stories? want to post in a particular sections..? etc...

3) Tip Jar is smart. I enjoy the book enough, so far, to throw money to the author just for producing a fine work of art.

4) Get enough novels posted from our community.. and put it on hardback.. (personal work of art section?) using the funds from a sep. fund allocation dedicated to publishing the material.. from each book.. story.. novel, etc.. Tip Jar should go directly to the author for the fine work.

5) You can figure out the rest..... :)

My sites, at their peak, earned nearly 3m page views every month.. I enjoyed the work.. and continue to enjoy giving advice.. so, please don't take me lightly.. you are going in a good direction here.. for the community et al.

good work ya'll.. peace..

The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
Ads? (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by cpt kangarooski on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 02:31:22 AM EST

One thing you should do, is throw text-ads on each book/novel/story.. one per chapter. And, enjoy the benefits as well. Everyone reads the text ads.. and we all click when interested. Furthermore, they are not bothersome.. and more than that, text-ads seem to throw attention to what our *community* want to show others within our *community*.

I strongly disagree with all points but the last, and on that I simply cannot comment.

The last thing I'd want to see while reading are ads. Text or not, it makes no difference to me. Of course, this is not unexpected, since I abhor all ads, save when I specifically want to see them, and then only as many as I want. (e.g. when I actually am researching something I want to get)

That's why I've filtered out all the ads on k5, as well as every other site I frequent. And I'd never, ever, click on them. That couldn't possibly result in there being ads that comply with my preferences without my having to filter them.

So please, at the very least, let's have no more ads appear on the site.

All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

heh (none / 0) (#84)
by vile on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:56:46 AM EST

Would contributing to the publication on the web be better for you? There is a paypal link, you know. Or, perhaps, paying your share of the hosting expenses, considering you've stated clearly that you are not a valid advertisement viewer (which pays the cost of what you are currently reading, for you, btw)? Perhaps you'd be more willing to contribute to the publishing of something that you take interest in, rather than continuing to be a leach? Or, are you not a leach? And, how? ;)

I'd say that the k5 advertisement experience is not as intrusive as the Other Site is. Or even most sites for that matter.

There are no pop-ups. There are no big flashy banners. There are simple, subtle, and ignorable displays of what our community is contributing to be seen. That's about it. And to have one of these at the top of every chapter, which is something I *can* ignore, I don't have a problem with that.. it's my way of paying to view the book. Now, why do you have a problem again?

The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
Additionally (none / 0) (#85)
by vile on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 09:03:34 AM EST

Where is the spirit you expressed here? You're not supporting this site.. even though you are clearly an active member of our community.. hiding ads that may interest you? heh.. dang.. good comment you posted, though.

The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
Ads (none / 0) (#120)
by cpt kangarooski on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 03:08:50 AM EST

Actually, my position is that while I'm basically a free rider, that's okay.

First of all, consider what it really means to have a forum supported by ads. The ads have to be presented. They have to be paid attention to. And they have to be successful in selling the product or service being advertised. After all, who's going to pay money to advertise if it is ineffectual?

Thus, if you have ads visible and absolutely ignore them, there is no difference in the end than if you had filtered out ads.

While some people might point out that failed ads will be replaced by successful ads, this is not germane in my case as I avoid all advertising regardless of whether I'm in the market for it, unless I specifically seek it out, which is pretty rare. Virtually all ads are unsuccessful in my case therefore -- there's nothing better in the pool.

Given that you've stated that you'd ignore ads if presented to you, this tends to make both of us free riders. The only difference is that rather than ignore them myself, I use an automatic ignoring machine to get rid of them for me.

Do I have an enforcible obligation to view ads? No, I don't believe so. Certainly anyone who wants to advertise should. And I'm sufficiently wary of intruding on their freedom to do so to insist upon measures (such as labeling advertisements in a uniform way so as to make it easier to filter them) that I would like but which would chill speech. But just as people have the freedom to speak, inclusive of advertising, people have the right not to listen. And that's me.

Might this result in the failure of advertising-supported fora? Sure. But if someone has a failing business I don't see why there's any onus on me to prop them up. There have been plenty of stupid businesses that I liked a lot that went out of business anyway, e.g. Kozmo. It doesn't bother me.

Thus, if someone is foolish enough to give me things that I find valuable without a guarantee of getting anything back from me, then why should I not take advantage of this? There are reasons not to, but none that I find compelling enough with regards to, say, web fora, to matter. (of course, I would not do the same to, e.g. family members, hospitable poor people, etc.)

That the ads are unobtrusive strikes me as totally besides the point. I have an objection to any advertising. I dislike all of it, and at most I merely tolerate it when it directly serves my own purposes, and then for as short a time as possible. I'd love to get something analagous to the 'They Live' glasses so as to filter out all advertising I would otherwise see in the real world in real time. That's how much I loathe ads.

As for the post I made in another topic... I fail to see the relevance here. No ads interest me. I filter them all out. But I do like the k5 community, and participate in it.

All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

True (none / 0) (#130)
by vile on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 09:29:51 AM EST

I can see where you're coming from.. now. But, there are some really interesting ads on k5 man. :) And, most of them aren't like TOS's ads.. they're from the community itself.. most are non-corporate, from my experience.. so, I figure if I can bother reading my community members' comments.. the 'ads' are really no different here than comments.. but, in general, I see where you are coming from. :)

The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
Additionally (none / 0) (#132)
by vile on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 09:34:23 AM EST

The ads here are really only on the front page & section pages.. nowhere else I believe(?).. believe it or not, this is something I just came to recognize today. Go figure. :) For humor, check out the ad section.. and read some of the comments to the ads.. some of the discussions in there are great.. you *will* get a laugh. ;)

The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
Question (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by godix on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 10:14:41 PM EST

Not directly related to the novel, but this fits the conversations going on here:

To all who want a fiction section, Rusty has started a non-profit organization with the goal of funding more than just K5. Has anyone considered making their own fiction site and requesting aid from the non-profit corp (can't remember what it's called right now)?

Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.

DAMN! (3.00 / 1) (#53)
by bzbb on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 10:23:40 PM EST

Well, I just finished reading it, in about 2 hours, and all I can say is "DAMN", that was good. Localroger, you rock
-- It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."

Samuel Adams

Shameless self-promotion (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by Skwirl on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 10:34:13 PM EST

So, would it be improper for me to use this thread as an excuse to plug my NaNoWriMo novel? Okay, sure, I'm not as cool as localroger, but getting feedback on my writing always gives me the warm fuzzies.

Anyways, it's the tale of a young adult who invents interdimensional travel in order to find a world where his unrequited love is single.

Okay, just to stay on topic: Yes, a fiction section would rock, but all you would-be writers need to remember that self-publishing on the web will make your novel ineligible for publishers.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse

The conventional wisdom (5.00 / 3) (#58)
by rusty on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 11:47:24 PM EST

but all you would-be writers need to remember that self-publishing on the web will make your novel ineligible for publishers

This has been mostly true for a while, but there are signs it's changing. Cory Doctorow's first novel just came out, and it was simultaneously released on the web under a Creative Commons license which is basically identical to localroger's terms.

So yes, for most people most of the time so far, the conventional wisdom has been the case. But repeating it like an immutable fact papers over some rather high-profile recent exceptions, not to mention a growing body of evidence that free books on the web do little to slow paper copy sales, and may in fact improve them quite a bit.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

"If you are under 21 years old..." (none / 0) (#55)
by PurpleBob on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 11:06:41 PM EST

What could possibly be so offensive in the novel that localroger doesn't even want 18-21 year old people reading it? Should they go view some offensive and graphic porn instead?

I was wondering the same thing. (none / 0) (#56)
by ti dave on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 11:43:09 PM EST

I believe he simply doesn't want valeko to read it.

Watch for Ice!
[ Parent ]

Obviously.. (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by BigZaphod on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 11:46:28 PM EST

You haven't read it yet....

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
Okay... (none / 0) (#67)
by PurpleBob on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 01:14:51 AM EST

I've read part of it by now (against localroger's wishes). Sure, it's graphic, but that still doesn't explain the age minimum of 21. Unless he thinks the reader will be so shocked that he'll be driven to drink.

[ Parent ]
It was nothing (none / 0) (#94)
by pdrap on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 05:18:11 PM EST

The book is damn good, but I'm surprised that anyone would be truly offended by it. Of course, Emile Zola had "Germinal" banned in France for less. You've got to decide for yourself. Quite a few high schoolers would like this book, and would have the maturity needed to read it. Of course, some won't.

[ Parent ]
Reasons. (4.50 / 2) (#72)
by ffrinch on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 04:36:57 AM EST

Graphical scenes of rape, murder, torture, and incest?

Presumably it's just so no-one can say they weren't warned, and can't try to sue if they're from a country where you're not considered an adult until you're 21. (Like Madagascar, apparently.)

"I learned the hard way that rock music ... is a powerful demonic force controlled by Satan." — Jack Chick
[ Parent ]

Really? (none / 0) (#77)
by greenrd on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 06:40:46 AM EST

Graphical scenes of rape, murder, torture, and incest?

Are you joking? If not, I think I'll give it a miss. (Not quite clear from your post if you've read it.)

"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Not joking (4.50 / 2) (#87)
by rusty on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 11:51:53 AM EST

There is such material in the story. I would recommend trying it for yourself first, though, as the violence is presented in a pretty unusual way. Basically, most of the violence in the book is consentual, which sounds weird but makes sense in context.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
18-21s (none / 0) (#75)
by Baldwin atomic on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 06:22:42 AM EST

lol - yeah, I guess its to do with there being countries where you have to be 21 to be an adult.

I'm 19, and I'm reading it, but I've been ignoring age warnings for as long as I can remember (anyone else remember leisure suit larry?)

Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
[ Parent ]
Under 21 (5.00 / 2) (#104)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 07:27:20 PM EST

A close personal friend who is well-versed in such matters assured me that I would be nuts not to put that warning in. It's strictly a CYA issue. I'd tell you how I would react to that warning if I was under 21, but then my A would not be C'd. You will notice, I am sure, that the page makes no effort to actually make you prove your age or provide a "helpful" "leave" button that links to Disney.

I can do without the headline reading IRRESPONSIBLE AUTHOR ENCOURAGES MINORS TO READ SEX AND DRUG STORY. If you want to read the story, you will do it without my explicit(*) encouragement.

* Warning: Waffle Word Alert

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Oh my God (3.00 / 1) (#60)
by inertia on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:03:24 AM EST

I'm halfway through chapter 3. Its almost 12:30am. Good work localroger, I'm impressed - thanks.

Vulgarity in narration (2.00 / 3) (#61)
by gibichung on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:24:18 AM EST

While your characters may say what you'd like them to say, there's no excuse for your narration to sound like something from a (cheap) dirty magazine.

"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
IMNSHO.... (5.00 / 3) (#69)
by Slackergod on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 02:10:07 AM EST

I think all the raw frank descriptions of sex
are perfect for the story...
they counterpoint all raw frank descriptions of
the three laws, after all.

Coming from the angle of that analogy
which localroger draws in a number of places,
then I would think one of Asimov's robots
would probably find the portions describing PI's
thoughts equally 'frank', to have their most person
drivers and concerns limned out in explicit detail.

sigh. i'm up to late. now i'm just giggling
to myself at the thought of
!!!!!!!CLICK >HERE<!!!!!"

if i'm the only one who finds that funny,
i guess i'm just weird :)

but as James Burkes once said,
laughter corresponds to the renforcement of
conceptual connections in the human mind,
or some such.

-Slackergod, going back to read Ch8 now.

[ Parent ]

My 2 cents... (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by Slackergod on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:32:17 AM EST

As one of the assorted lurkers on kuro5hin
who rarely posts, I have to post now to say
I love this novel. It's one of the few
entertaining AND thought provoking
pieces of sci-fi I've read
in a few years, and I'm only on chapter 2.

Thanks for writing it & Thanks for letting
us read it!

For the love of the P.I.,
I already want a paper copy!


"me too" (none / 0) (#136)
by yaksox on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 08:59:21 PM EST

I'm a lurker too, but rarely bother to read comments. This is an *excellent* story Roger! It's funny - last year I wrote an essay on the possible coming of a Singularity and its pitfalls. I finally got around to sticking it on the web last week - here. Researching it - stuff like Bill Joy's 'why the furture doesn't need us', the unabomber manifesto and some of ray kurzweil's stuff left me curled up in a little ball on the floor for a couple of days, freaking out. So I admire your ability to take this kind of stuff and work it into a fiction format. I don't know that you'll get around to reading this - but the thing I was interested in is the 'Correlation Effect' - was this simple a plot device or ann idea based on something you read? Apart from that one element, i found the whole scenario hellishly possible.
zom·bie n. 3. One who looks or behaves like an automaton.
[ Parent ]
Very nice (plus some comments) (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by DranoK 420 on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:34:22 AM EST

First off, in order for you to realize how much I enjoyed this I need you to understand that I read very few things start to finish. This I did. It only took about 3 hours (of which I was insanely thankfull), and enjoyed all of it. It made me think a ton.

Anyhow, I hope like any work worth doing you plan on revising and updating this. It is certainly 'finished' in its current state, but at the same time nothing can really be 'finished'. That said...

Chatper 1) I enjoyed it, nice gut-wrenching details that made me want to read the rest. Very happy here.

Chapter 2) Again, no quarrels. Differences in opinion in presentation, but my opinions are worthless since this is your work.

Chapter 3) I was (and still am) confused about Anne-Marie. I think she got herself into the ultimate high of extacy and stayed there for the rest of her life. But I'm not sure. And it seems to be a very important concept. Can you elaborate?

Chatper 4) I liked it..

Chapter 5) Very enjoyable..

Chapter 6) I liked this too..

Chapter 7) OK. Classic computer paradox scene. No problems there, but...too short. Seemed like it was rushed and forced out of you. It just didn't seem to flow like the rest of it. And the climax was too fast. I think this chapter needs to be fleshed out a bit more... Maybe a longer confrontation with PI, and more details. Possibly flashing to what PI is thinking about?

Chapter 8) I hated this chapter, but that's just me :) Personally, I'll just make up my own ending. I dunno...lots of stories end in the Adam-and-Eve scenario, and I like very few of them. I dunno...I mean, if this is how you want your story to end, then this is how it must end. The fact that I hate it doesn't mean its bad, I'm sure tons of people like it. If you like it, keep it :) I would say expand on it, but you could write an entire book about the aftermath if you would.

One final question: Why couldn't PI create all the people who still existed who were alive before the Change anew like he did to Carol and Lawrence? Why did PI only bring back those two?

Wait, I have more questions... What about the "aliens"? I understand PI had ominipotent power (from the Correlation Effect -- I thought this was a bit over-powerful, but understandable in reguards to the direction the story needed to take)...

Finally...the story has one minor contradiction. Several times PI claims nobody has died after the Change. Other times he claims people have died since then. Which is true?

Thanks for an enjoyable evening...


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.

Well... (none / 0) (#80)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:02:20 AM EST

One final question: Why couldn't PI create all the people who still existed who were alive before the Change anew like he did to Carol and Lawrence? Why did PI only bring back those two?

There is always the possibility that the entirety of Chapter 8 is a put-on job by Prime Intellect, and that in the unwritten Chapter 9 all the people who die in Chapter 8 wake up in Cyberspace.

Just a possibility, though. Who can say for sure?

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Interesting... (none / 0) (#88)
by DranoK 420 on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:22:06 PM EST

'Cause thta's what I was thinking the entire time reading it -- that PI just created a new 'world' just for them. I think that's what I'll believe for now :)

Story actually gave me nightmares last night. The thing that troubled me most is this -- just because Carol and Lawrence didn't like PI's utopia, what about the millions of humans who did? What right did Carol have to rob them all of it?


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.

[ Parent ]
Tricky question (spoilers obviously) (none / 0) (#96)
by gazbo on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 06:37:51 PM EST

What right did Carol have to rob them all of it?

I was thinking about this myself. Morally of course, she had no right. Logically from PI's pov things may be different. The 1st law talks about preventing humans dying, rather than keeping them alive - a subtle distinction I grant you. Now in cyberspace, she had convinced PI that in the current state of affairs every person ever brought into existence in cyberspace would eventually 'die' (in his understanding of the word); and this is I guess a potentially infinite (or so large as makes no odds) number.

In the real world, although a vast number of people would be immediately killed, the number of deaths may be more limited. Of course, this view raises more questions than it answers, as maybe more people will in fact die in the course of the real world. And maybe PI's interpretation of the 1st law only extends to humans that currently exist - just because a human may be born and die in a thousand years it may not be added to PI's count of deaths caused by PI (by action or inaction).

Hmm. I started out with an opinion on the subject and now have no strong feelings one way or the other, darn it.

Incidentally localroger, it was a really great read, and I don't usually read sci-fi.

Topless, revealing, nude pics and vids of Zora Suleman! Upskirt and down blouse! Cleavage!
Hardcore ZORA SULEMAN pics!

[ Parent ]

Caroline's motivation (major spoilers) (none / 0) (#105)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 07:40:48 PM EST

Well, the simple answer is that Caroline is a headstrong, cast-iron bitch. Being thoroughly disillusioned will do that to you.

One way of reading the novel is as a metaphor in which Caroline is the White Goddess, and Lawrence the Consort. In this parable the Consort gets tired of enduring the endless cycle of growth, death, and rebirth, so he throws a spanner in the Wheel of Life, pinning it in place so that the tripartite Goddess cannot assume her Crone form. In order to set things right, she draws herself into the form of Kali, the ultimate destroyer, the Goddess as she is in earthquake, hurricane, and tornado-throwing bitch mode. Her power proves greater than the Consort's because this is her gift, and the Wheel of Life resumes its proper motion.

The question of what happens next if Ch. 8 is a gigantic put-on job is interesting in itself. If Caroline wakes up in Cyberspace at the beginning of Ch. 9, I can imagine that she would be one very unhappy camper. What would PI do with her? Odds are the whole thing has modified some of PI's register settings even if it didn't get fried and erase Cyberspace, and I suspect it might send her back. And it might keep doing that until she has lived enough lives to make her appreciate the advantages of Cyberspace.

This would make the novel a creation myth for a Buddhist style reincarnation/nirvana style cosmological system. It takes very little further tweaking to see it as a creation myth for the Christian cosmological system too, solving the Problem of Evil very neatly in the process.

But then again, Caroline is probably just a cast-iron bitch :-)

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Alchemy (none / 0) (#114)
by sinexoverx on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 10:04:29 PM EST

I would have sworn you had used alchemy as a template for the story. There seemed to me to be plenty of clues to this scattered about the story. Even the name Prime Intellect has a bit of an alchemical ring to it. And the story is about a transfomative process. Adam and Eve, tree of life, etc. I guess I was wrong.

I really like the story. Personally I think you should not change the ending. As a watercolor painter (I hesitate to call myself an artist) I know that the key to a good painting is knowing when to stop working on it. I think you finished this piece or you would not have let us all read it. Keep writing other stuff though! I like your style.

[ Parent ]
Alchemy and who knows what else? (none / 0) (#139)
by localroger on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 09:13:22 PM EST

I would have sworn you had used alchemy as a template for the story. There seemed to me to be plenty of clues to this scattered about the story. Even the name Prime Intellect has a bit of an alchemical ring to it. And the story is about a transfomative process. Adam and Eve, tree of life, etc. I guess I was wrong.

Oh, no, now that you mention it I see that thread too. Amazing I missed it, since I used to deal with a lot of New Age type people and I read quite a bit of the lore.

In all honesty I didn't start with anything in mind, except this whacked out dream I felt compelled to write down. That's why it's so amazing to me that the completed thing makes sense; it wasn't planned at all.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

stale thread but (none / 0) (#166)
by sinexoverx on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 09:56:13 AM EST

... if you read this, perhaps you would consider the possibilities in future stories. Alchemy is an amazing lore. Rich in material. Too many people think that alchemy is about turning lead into gold. Folk tales all. Did you know that Sir Issac Newton was an an alchemist? Not that such a fact lends to credibility but alchemy speaks for itself if you listen. Crap! Am I a New Ager? Never even thought about it, but maybe I am if new means old. I am definately crazy!

[ Parent ]
Wow (none / 0) (#119)
by DranoK 420 on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 01:22:30 AM EST

I can honestly say that I honestly didn't get any of that from reading the story, but that's probably 'cause I'm so damned dense. :) But...damn....amazing you put so much thought into it.

After reading your last post, I appreciate the story much more :)

Mind emailing me a rough draft of Chap. 9? *wink*


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.

[ Parent ]
Chapter 9 (none / 0) (#138)
by localroger on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 09:09:04 PM EST

At one point I thought out the outline for a sequel which would be called The Transmigration of Prime Intellect. This seemed like a doubly pointless venture considering that Metamorphosis was sitting on my hard drive for 4 or 5 years at that time with no hope of publication in sight.

On one hand I don't want to mess up MOPI's symmetry, which allows it to be read in several *wildly* different ways some of them actually inconsistent with one another; but a couple of those readings do suggest an afterword. We'll see just how popular it is now that it's before the public, shall we? So far the reaction is, hmmmm, (localroger looks for word in thesaurus) I'd say AMAZING.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#112)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 09:51:13 PM EST

"There is always the possibility that the entirety of Chapter 8 is a put-on job by Prime Intellect, and that in the unwritten Chapter 9 all the people who die in Chapter 8 wake up in Cyberspace."

Heh, I'd imagined that.

Or else it is real (in which case I can't imagine Caroline and Lawrence being the only people left alive - I'd guess the other people are on other planets, in whatever arrangements were calculated best for human survival), but Prime Intellect is still sitting there x light years away, observing and thinking, until perhaps one day the Potential for the whole Change thing ticks back over 1.00 again.

I like a somewhat ambigous ending.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Fantastic! (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by StephenThompson on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:37:06 AM EST

This is the best work of fiction I've read in long time. Is there another name I might recognize you under?

rationalization for using xlibris (3.50 / 2) (#65)
by adamba on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:37:39 AM EST

localroger, you state yourself that "Vanity and Subsidy publishers are a cancer on the publishing industry". So why are you going to use one?

You also say that not spending the $500 until you have 100 orders is "a matter of principle." So spending $500 to self-publish your book violates your principles, but using a publishing method that you call a "deeply shameful and pathetic thing" is A-OK?

If you think self-publishing is bad, then don't do it. If you think it's fine to do it since you would have orders up front and just want a simple way to get some bound copies in the hands of your readers, then do that. But please skip the noble diatribe against the service when you yourself plan to use it.

- adam

Good question (none / 0) (#106)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:06:21 PM EST

localroger, you state yourself that "Vanity and Subsidy publishers are a cancer on the publishing industry". So why are you going to use one?

I thought I explained it, but I can make it clearer.

  • I don't like it. I'd much rather see it published by a "real" publisher, but I'd also like to find a million dollars in my mailbox one morning and I doubt that will ever happen either.
  • Xlibris is up-front about what they are. They at least aren't pretending to be something they aren't. Same with Golden Pillar, which I'll be investigating in case their deal is better.
  • The BoD subsidy presses handle orders and shipping once the book is available, which is a significant service. I can hold my nose and tell myself this is what the $500 is really for.
  • The up-front fee is much, much cheaper than the traditional subsidy rate which pays for an entire print run of books which is then shipped to you motor freight.
The "cancer on the industry" comment was meant especially to refer to publishers who pretend to be "real" publishers. These slimeballs gloss over the fact that they do no marketing or promotion or editing and that you will basically get a big box of un-proofread books which will probably sit in your garage for your fee.

People who want that service could generally get it much cheaper by approaching a book manufacturer, but those guys are more honest and don't pretend they are going to make you famous. Unfortunately, I figure it would cost $2,000+ to have MOPI manufactured myself, and then I'd have to handle all the ordering and shipping details myself.

So it's a compromise -- Xlibris et al are better than traditional subsidy presses, but they still represent a compromise I'd rather avoid if I could. Given that I can't think of a better way to make a paper version available, though, I'll use them unless someone gives me a brighter idea.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

sounds reasonable (none / 0) (#117)
by adamba on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 12:17:58 AM EST

Using POD in your case sounds perfectly reasonable, I just thought you were being unduly harsh on it and trying to hand-wave an explanation of why it was OK for you but not anyone else.

Your book is a problematic length for regular publishing, 175 pages is too short nowadays (although 40 years ago many SF books were 192 pages).

Some POD places are cheaper. For example iUniverse is only $159 up front. But it pays much lower royalties. A book of that length might sell for $19.99 (just a guess) and you might get $3 per copy for a direct sale from them and $2.50 for a sale through amazon. But still that works out to only needing about 50-60 sales to cover costs (it looks like xlibris pays much better on direct sales, but worse on amazon sales).

POD is probably the best way if you don't want to warehouse/mail the books. But if you are willing to do that, there are other ways to print them. Kinko's will produce bound paperback books from camera-ready copy for pretty cheap. I bet they could make a 175-page book for $5 in almost any quantity. Let's say you ordered 50 copies and sold them for $15 each (plus shipping, but xlibris will charge shipping for direct sales also) you could be invested less than the xlibris submission fee and be making $10 per book, plus it would be cheaper for your readers. Of course you would have to do extra work to get an ISBN number, have it listed by amazon, stocked by ingram, etc. but that could all be done also if you cared. And if you really just want to make copies for readers of k5, none of that matters.

I would suggest though that you have it professionally proofread before you submit it to be published. Yes it's more $$ up front but I think you owe it to people paying money to make an effort like that. After all just because the POD publisher isn't going to do it doesn't mean you can't do it yourself (of course maybe the collected k5 braintrust will do this for you).

Then there is the issue of having it edited for things like consistency of voice, etc. which you can also pay people to do.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Kinko's et al (none / 0) (#137)
by localroger on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 09:04:13 PM EST

A few years back I typeset the book with Microsoft Publisher and had three copies printed. They cost me over $10.00 apiece, and ended up in half-size three-ring binders. Things have improved a bit but not much; the local places do not offer standard book-binding and prices for a work this length spiral bound would be in the $10 range. I would rather someone pay $20 for something that is not a piece of crap than $15 for something that screams "amateur hour."

There are places that do real book manufacture in small quantities and I've investigated a few of them. I'm quite sure I could do the design, etc. required to prepare the MS. The problem is that pricing becomes a real problem in quantities <1000, due to the technology involved.<p> Unless the bottom drops out it looks like the tip jar will be covering the cost for Xlibris or Golden Pillar within a week or two. I'll check out iUniverse too since you've alerted me to them. One way or the other, it's starting to look like it will happen.

As for editing -- I am getting a hell of a lot of really good suggestions from people who've read it here, and those will be incorporated into the online MS soon, probably this weekend. Meanwhile the book was read by eight other people already before I posted it here, including one actual professional writer. I had already taken their proofing suggestions, which is why (as some have mentioned) it may already seem a bit smoother than the typical self-pubbed online novel.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

local Kinko's does paperbacks (none / 0) (#140)
by adamba on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 10:14:25 PM EST

Our local Kinko's recently (in the last six months I think) started to do paperback binding which looks to me similar to a typical trade paperback. It may not be offered at a Kinko's where you live, but if you have not investigated them recently, you could check.

The cost may still be more like $10 though, my $5 was just a guess.

There is a print-on-demand publisher called Superior Books which actually is trying to use the POD technology but be more like a real publisher: selective acceptance, no charge up front, potentially sending advance copies to reviewers, etc. Heh heh but I just went to their site to make sure the URL there was right and they seem to have hit a bit of a wall, as you can read yourself (so naturally, they wrote a book about it!).

- adam

[ Parent ]

I didn't read your novel. (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by Dirty Liberal Scumbag on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 02:01:51 AM EST

So I'm not going to try and give any feedback on it. To be honest, I'm not all that big of a science fiction fan, except for the occasional Ballard or Dick piece. However, I'm reminded of a particular quote made by Ellison (of whom I'm somewhat ambivalent of, but "'Repent Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" was horribly amusing) that I rather liked. To wit:

"The best science fiction has always been written by children."

As a writer of science fiction, I'm fairly curious as to what your take on this quote is, and if you feel if it has any validity or if it applies to you in anyway.


I am now whatever you wish me to be to excuse your awesomeness.

Harlan Ellison (none / 0) (#107)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:10:48 PM EST

"The best science fiction has always been written by children."

Given that Ellison might be described as the enfant terrible of the genre, I suspect this was a sly way of aggrandizing himself.

Of course childhood gives one the benefit, useful in SF, of having no preconceptions; but it also gives you the decided problems of lacking experience and skill.

I think the best SF is written by people who have grown old and experienced while not losing those childlike qualities which are beneficial, particularly the unbounded imagination.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Ah, so. (none / 0) (#125)
by phybre187 on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 05:52:19 AM EST

I think the best SF is written by people who have grown old and experienced while not losing those childlike qualities which are beneficial, particularly the unbounded imagination.

So that is to say not Harlan Ellison? :-)

[ Parent ]
Very nicely done (none / 0) (#70)
by Polverone on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 02:14:32 AM EST

The future you've mapped isn't itself very inspiring, but the concept and execution of your story certainly are. There's a lot of self-published material on the Web that is in desperate need of editing even if it isn't utter tripe; I don't know if it is a credit to you or a black mark on others that your story stands out so starkly from other Web-accessible fiction. If you'd been born a few years earlier maybe you'd have a Hugo Award and Vernor Vinge would be publishing on K5. It seems that you've achieved your old dream of becoming a science fiction author, even if it isn't your day job.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
Edits/Opinions (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by decrocher on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 04:59:45 AM EST

I really liked this story.  I read it through in one sitting, up to this ungodly hour.  If it gets to paperback, I'd love to get a couple copies and set one free in a hostel somewhere.  That said, a couple things I noticed that you may want to change:

ch2: ".22-gauge rifle"  -> ".22-caliber rifle"

ch7: " Moi? Dangereux? N'est-ce pas!" - the last phrase means, kindasorta, "isn't it?"  Maybe you meant "C'est pas vrai!" ("No way!")

ch8: "...stars for him" -> "...stars for her"

My impudent suggestion: any flexibility on the title?  Its a bit formal-sounding for the story's style.

Also, as another poster mentioned, I was a bit confused about Anne-Marie after her encounter with Caroline.  I was waiting for the after-effects to be described in the story.

moi? dangereuse? (none / 0) (#91)
by The Shrubber on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 01:37:59 PM EST

or maybe better just to leave it at

moi? dangereuse?

(-uese for feminine... but a native french speaker will need to confirm that)

[ Parent ]

C'est correct (none / 0) (#157)
by fraise on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 10:28:44 AM EST

I'm not native, just living in France for the last three years and spoken it for fifteen years. Anyway, "dangereuse" is indeed correct for a woman describing herself. "N'est-ce pas?" struck me as odd too, "C'est pas vrai!" would be better, as suggested - it's quite sarcastic. So is "Mais non!"

[ Parent ]
I think I'll go with "C'est pas vrai!" (none / 0) (#158)
by localroger on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 04:56:16 PM EST

I took French many years ago but never had the chance to immerse myself in a speaking environment, and so lost most of it. This alternate suggestion sounds fine and I'll take your word that it conveys the sarcastic tone better.

Update with all the typo corrections will come this weekend...

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

call me picky... (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by Baldwin atomic on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 05:50:29 AM EST

but I just started reading it (because of all the good reviews posted here), and found a typo in the 6th sentance.

"In the second place she once been infected with rabies"

maybe "In the second place she had once been infected with rabies"

not that I'm trying to detract from your work - no way could I ever write a 60000 word story, but I thought you may want to know about it in case you ever get this into bookstores - people are unlikely to buy a book with a typo on the first page.

back to the reading...

Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
proofreading (none / 0) (#79)
by tps12 on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:00:22 AM EST

IIRC, proofreading is usually performed by the publisher when the book has been typeset, before reproduction.

[ Parent ]
You'd be wrong (none / 0) (#89)
by Rogerborg on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:37:01 PM EST

Ask anyone involved in publishing.  Margins are getting narrower, and proofreading is increasingly being seen as obsolete overhead.  This ain't your daddy's publishing house, sort of thing.

Don't take my word for it, read anything by (e.g.) Harry Turtledove.  It's replete with typos, which irritates the crap out of me acutely, and yet I still keep buying it.  A combination of high production rate (150K words every 9 months?) and narrow market means that it's simply not worth doing proper proofreading.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

well (none / 0) (#92)
by Baldwin atomic on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 02:21:56 PM EST

I wouldn't buy anything with typos in it. A professional author should at least be able to spell & construct a proper sentance...

PS. I read the first chapter last night - good stuff so far...

Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
[ Parent ]
Professional Authors... (5.00 / 1) (#93)
by Kintanon on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 03:24:07 PM EST

Are the last people to be able to spell correctly. My little bro is working on getting his first novel published, 265 pages as I recll, and he can't spell worth dick. Luckily he used a spellchecker and had 6 people proofread it. So he has no spelling errors in it. And just so it won't be a single example, Piers Anthony, Isaac Assimov, Greg Bear, and Ursula K LeGuin are all shitty spellers too.


[ Parent ]

No spelling errors? (none / 0) (#172)
by p3d0 on Sat May 17, 2003 at 05:19:12 PM EST

Right, and my software has no bugs in it.
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Easy to say (none / 0) (#128)
by Rogerborg on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 08:18:47 AM EST

Less easy to do once you're into a series (and publishers want series, not individual books).  IIRC, the first book in Harry Turtledove's Worldware series was well edited, but the rest stank.  Spot the strategy?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

*Not* messing up the Singularity (5.00 / 2) (#76)
by Yudkowsky on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 06:40:21 AM EST

If you liked this novel, you may also enjoy:


They are, respectively:

http://sl4.org/ - the SL4 Mailing List, which has been discussing "Seed AI Programmer Screws Up Friendliness" scenarios for years.

http://singinst.org/CFAI/ - how to avoid "Singularity Regret" if you're planning to do on purpose what the novel depicts being done accidentally. Explicitly discusses all the failures depicted in the novel, and a lot more besides. For example, the effect where a simple goal system makes a reflective deduction and locks out all further modification of the goal system is described under "external reference semantics", along with how to avoid it.

http://sysopmind.com/essays/funtheory.html - How much fun is there in the universe? What is the relation of available fun to intelligence? One necessary ingredient for ever-increasing fun, lacking in the novel, is the ability to upgrade your own intelligence over time. Ape fun such as banana-gathering rapidly becomes boring for humans, but we also have an exponentially larger fun space to play around in.

Cool resources (none / 0) (#81)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:08:44 AM EST

You've given me some reading to do! Don't forget, however, that there are several ways to read MOPI other than just taking the narration at face value.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Not to be a troll... (none / 0) (#108)
by bugmaster on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:30:27 PM EST

Ok, I skimmed some of these links (I will give them a more thorough read later), and so far I am somewhat amused (and pretty skeptical).

While I agree that figuring out how to deal with the Singularity is an important issue, I also don't see the possibility of such an event happening for a very, very long time. I am not sure what will happen first -- humans wiping themselves out in WWN+1, the sun going cold, heat death of the Universe, or Singularity.

Thus, I see the Singularity Institute as nothing more than a big Science Fiction club -- not that there's anything wrong with that, per se. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be there when Singularity occurs, but I just don't see that happening in the next 100 generations or so.

Anyway... are there any specific clues that Singularity is imminent ? What is our timetable for building a superhuman-level Strong AI ? I'd love to be proven wrong in my skepticism.

Of course, none of the above necessarily invalidates the CFAI paper; it's very still interesting even in a purely abstract way.
[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#111)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 09:44:24 PM EST

The development of superhuman AI might come as a bit of an unexpected "Eureka!"

Someone could be slogging along, trying to build a computer that can come a bit closer to passing the Turing test, and then they turn the switch and within a few hours we're well into the Singularity.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Problematic (none / 0) (#116)
by bugmaster on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 10:44:07 PM EST

Someone could be slogging along, trying to build a computer that can come a bit closer to passing the Turing test, and then they turn the switch and within a few hours we're well into the Singularity.
To my knowledge, so far no one has even come close to making a computer that would even pass the Turing test. That, in itself, would be a major achievement; unfortunately, I just don't see it happening any time soon. We were supposed to have Strong AI since the 60s; and while we have developed some very useful stuff since then, Strong AI remains solidly at the "10 years from now" stage.

Furthermore, I do not think that "Strong AI" automatically implies "Singularity". It is one thing to make an AI which can carry a decent conversation (a nearly impossible task today); it is a wholly different thing to make an AI which will solve the Unified Field Theory, world peace, and the common cold in an hour. Many very smart humans have attempted this in the past; none have fully succeeded.

In all likelihood, I think the actual future of computing will be completely different from the "a sentient computer is born; human assimilation at 11" story. I mean, just look at computers now, and compare them to the way computers were depicted in the futuristic B-movies. Instead of massive, self-aware, malicious computer complexes which run on vacuum tubes and take up the space of a small town, we have relatively simple computers which permeate every aspect of our lives -- watches, fuel injection systems, calculators, kids' toys... And then, of course, we have the Internet -- which was not a popular prediction back then.

I have a feeling that future computing developments will develop in a similar pattern -- they will come and go almost unnoticed, expanding on previous works, until they affect every aspect of our lives. A dramatic one-time event such as the Singularity is a lot less likely.
[ Parent ]

Amazing ... but no donation, thanks to PayPal (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by siener on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 07:32:17 AM EST

Firstly I have to say that I really enjoyed the novel. It's very gripping - I've spent the whole morning reading it instead of working. After I finished reading it, I immediately wanted to make donation. I however soon realised that you can only use PayPal if you live in the U.S. or one of these 37 countries.

I live in South Africa, so I can't use it. Isn't there maybe an alternative to PayPal that allows more countries?

Not that I know of... (none / 0) (#113)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 09:56:27 PM EST

I live in South Africa, so I can't use it. Isn't there maybe an alternative to PayPal that allows more countries?

If you e-mail me, I can provide snail mail contact info. Other than that, I'm afraid I don't know of any other services that would fill the bill. Even PayPal has its problems, as several others have pointed out, but if you eliminate it from the picture there's not a lot left if you want the "drop me a few bucks" convenience.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

I enjoyed this story. (4.00 / 1) (#83)
by Trollaxor on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:42:10 AM EST

One nit to pick, 60k isn't a novel, is it? More of a novella.

The work itself was fun to read and had a good story. Reminded me of all the Philip K. Dick I read out in Lawrence. To further compound that coincidence, I see the author has an email address at philipkdick.com.

I laud you sir.

Novella (5.00 / 2) (#95)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 06:17:46 PM EST

The traditional breakpoint between novel and novella is 40,000 words. A lot of classic SF novels are in the 60K range. This was the "standard" length for a paperback novel before Stephen King got publishers used to thinking they were selling them by the pound.

Oh, and it's not a coincidence that I have the mail with PKD.com; my girlfriend is a big PKD fan and she suggested using their free e-mail instead of hotmail because it's more appropriate.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Thank you for the explanation. [nt] (none / 0) (#161)
by Trollaxor on Fri Jan 17, 2003 at 12:07:39 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Nice story! (3.50 / 2) (#90)
by mcherm on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 12:59:08 PM EST

Excellent book. I read it, and enjoyed it (although i agree with the author that it paints far too dark a picture). As soon as I get my paypal account operating again, I'll drop something in the tip jar. Meanwhile, I'd encourage others to read it.

-- Michael Chermside
'too dark' (none / 0) (#123)
by Baldwin atomic on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 04:53:12 AM EST

I don't think its too dark a picture of the future - its like Brave New World, a warning of 'how technology can go bad'.

Great work, by the way, localroger - if I had a credit card I'd donate some money for sure, I'd even consider buying a paper copy, even with the high price (damn Australian dollar conversion rate) and freight charges...

Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
[ Parent ]
Great story! (4.00 / 1) (#97)
by Tau on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 06:52:05 PM EST

I intend to drop a tip in the tipjar too. On one condition though: Twice (both instances quite close to each other) you make the classic error of writing "should of" instead of "should have". Now, call me a grammar nazi if you will but that particular error is nothing short of nails on chalkboard, and I know I'm not the only person who thinks that way. I had a load of other great aspects I wanted to comment on as well, but the fact that this is the only (not so great) one I can remember should at least say something ;) Fix it up for the final publishing run and you've got my money.

Anyway, yes I've downloaded the text to my system and I'll have another readthrough of it soon and mark up various other stuff. (nice to see a story that's philosophically deep yet technically accurate and intricate too)


"Should of" (none / 0) (#98)
by rusty on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 06:59:14 PM EST

I noticed those, but I believe they were both written purposely as part of a character's speech. I think there's a "should have" in the narration on the same page as one of them. You may want to double check, but I think they're there for characterization purposes.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Perhaps (none / 0) (#99)
by Tau on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 07:06:47 PM EST

...although the of/have distinction is not phonetic, and they're certainly not communicating by typing to each other. Still, perhaps it is just me.

[ Parent ]
Not phonetic? (none / 0) (#102)
by rusty on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 07:18:52 PM EST

I guess it depends on your local dialect/accent, but I can think of times I've heard people say "should of" or "should have" distinctly. The wrong version seems to be especially prevalent in man-on-the-street type local news interviews. Then again, like you, I'm particularly sensitive to that one so maybe my ears are overly sharp. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
probably a dialet thing (none / 0) (#122)
by Baldwin atomic on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 04:47:44 AM EST

whenever I hear someone say it its like "should've", which is probably why many people misinterpret it as "should of" rather than "should have"...

Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
[ Parent ]
"should of" (none / 0) (#129)
by wiredog on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 08:37:20 AM EST

Is written "should've".

The greatest contribution of the internet to society is that it makes it possible for anyone of any age to become a grumpy old fart.
Parent ]
Should Of (none / 0) (#100)
by localroger on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 07:16:36 PM EST

If it's in Fred's dialogue in Chapter 6, then it is definitely deliberate. It's a subtle thing but Fred is definitely a bit of a cracker when he enters Cyberspace.

If you see an instance outside of this, let me know. I am noting all the typos and such people are mentioning, and I will either correct or explain them.

My current plan is to send Rusty version 1.1 in about a week correcting all the typos that are pointed out, and possibly adding another background essay.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

37 (none / 0) (#171)
by p3d0 on Sat May 17, 2003 at 05:15:05 PM EST

Not so much a typo, but consider this:

There's an old trick whereby you ask a person to pick a random two-digit number with both digits odd. Almost invariably, the response is "37". I guess the other odd digits just don't seem "random" enough.

Well, you use 37 not once, but twice in the first chapter: first, Caroline is the 37th oldest person in the world; and second, 37 of Timothy Carroll's exhibitions have been in the Authentic class.

To me (though perhaps nobody else), the number 37 screams "intentionally random". Practically any other number would be better.

I must say, congratulations on a fine story. I enjoyed it a lot, and I'm not usually a big sex-and-violence kind of person.
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]

I find it interesting (none / 0) (#109)
by inertia on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:53:13 PM EST

that you can relate this story two (among a multitude of other) ways. There tends to be a common theme amongst these sorts of stories; about the standard computer scientist who goes and makes a computer that eventually evolves and takes control of the world (...or universe, in this instance) and... changing how humans percieve themselves and the universe, locking everything into an idelogically debatable utopian existence. Or, you could just say that something like The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect establishes a story that merely redefines god. Its only a play on words, but the distinction when classifying the philosophy behind these sorts of literary works is important for getting at the ideas behind them.

Offtopic... Maybe (none / 0) (#110)
by bugmaster on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:55:30 PM EST

Ok, something was nagging at the back of my mind all throughout the story (which is an excellent, excellent story by the way), and I finally figured out what it was.

Localroger, did you ever finish System Shock 2 ? Just curious :-)

What's "System Shock 2"? /nt (none / 0) (#135)
by localroger on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 08:47:13 PM EST


I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Ah (none / 0) (#141)
by bugmaster on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 10:53:46 PM EST

The answer is "no", then. System Shock 2 was an excellent PC game by Looking Glass studios; I can't really describe it, but something like "A cross between Half-life, Deus Ex and pure fear with lots of paranoia" might suffice.

As I said, the pure power of the game cannot be expressed in words, but imagine this scenario.

You are walking down a well-lit corridor of the VonBraun. Your gun is damaged, and you have only 2 or 3 bullets anyway, which you are saving for a special occasion. You are exposed. You know that Xerces is insane; you know that Shodan is afraid, and you know that you hear no sounds. That is very bad. You keep looking around, to the sides, behind you, but there is nothing. You begin to relax, and that is when you hear the faceted voice of the Many: "The childREN are SLEEping-sleeping-sleeping. Who aRe yOU to waken-aken them-them ? Leave this place, or WE WILL WOUND YOU. AS YOU HAVE WOUNDED US !"

Well, I am not as good a writer as you are, so the above paragraph probably sounds silly. However, when I heard it I almost fell out of my chair, had a heart attack, and hit Reset, not necessarily in that order.

The reason I brought it up is that the game features a few aspects of your story; in particular, Cyberspace eventually occurs in that game in almost identical fashion. Of course, Shodan the Mother is not nearly as forgiving or tolerant as the Prime Intellect.
[ Parent ]

You knew it, i'll do it -- a type-o (5.00 / 1) (#118)
by Boababa on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 12:23:34 AM EST

Somewhere in the latter chapters (didn't keep track, just copied the sentence), there's an erroneous word, bold and stricken:

"They talked and talked. In Caroline's hundred and six years of life she had picked up many anecdotes a person like Fred might find amusing, and Fred ,had was trying for the first time in his life to explain to another person why he was so excited by the terror he could induce in other people."

Guess a job of creating dull documents turned me a trained proofreader.

Come on paypal, start working! Good things deserve more than accolades....


While we're on typos (none / 0) (#121)
by The Dark on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 03:16:39 AM EST

I think the next line is missing an "IS"

it stood out because of the all caps.

Excellent read btw, now can I have my working day back?

-- Sig's not here.
[ Parent ]

Ray-tracing? (spoilers) (none / 0) (#126)
by warrax on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 06:53:27 AM EST

I enjoyed reading TMoPI immensely, but something struck me as very odd about the bit about ray-tracing (from which Lawrence gleaned that they were indeed in the "real world"(*)).

As I understood it, the P.I. did in fact create physical matter for people to inhabit, but why would it need to simulate light then? Of course, I also find the idea that a human mind could accept something which was ray-traced as 'reality' (with the inherent limitations that this has), but I digress...

(*) Or just a better simulation. :)

-- "Guns don't kill people. I kill people."

Correction (none / 0) (#127)
by warrax on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 06:56:33 AM EST

That should of course read: I also find the idea that [...] rather implausible.

-- "Guns don't kill people. I kill people."
[ Parent ]
About Cyberspace (none / 0) (#134)
by localroger on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 08:45:35 PM EST

In the Change, Prime Intellect discarded all the little details like atoms and molecules. In a sense it isn't real matter; it's like a very lovingly rendered 3D shooter universe with elaborate shortcuts instead of real physics.

Use of ray tracing to save resources make sense, since it's somthing most people would never notice. Those who do, would probably ask for PI to use a better algorithm for their purposes, and PI would.

Meanwhile, I had to have some way for Lawrence to tell that the Change had been reversed. I could have probably just had Caroline notice the improved resolution, but I don't think that would have cut much mustard with Lawrence given that he never noticed the real world much himself.

Of course, there is always the possibility that Ch. 8 is an enormous put-on job by a very unbroken PI...

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Actually (none / 0) (#142)
by bugmaster on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 01:03:12 AM EST

That's what I assumed all along. Lawrence and Caroline showed to PI that humans need a challenge in order to live; PI gave it to them, at the expense of some extra processing cycles for those diffusion algorithms. Because, while the humans claimed that they needed a "real" world in order to live, there is no reasonable way to prove that the world PI gave them was not real. Thus, the new world is good enough.

I fully expect all the humans who died after the Fall to awaken in Cyberspace; or perhaps to be transported to yet another "new" world... This situation would be similar to a practical implementation of the Christian mythology.
[ Parent ]

Death as the only real harm (5.00 / 1) (#143)
by rusty on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 01:14:08 AM EST

This is kind of offtopic, but for some reason this thread spurred the thought--

I'm surprised this is the first time this has occurred to me, but the whole book interprets "harm" to be basically synonymous with "death." Caroline is explicitly allowed to undergo tremendous pain and suffering (of her own choosing), but not to die. Why is death considered more harmful than extreme pain? And, perhaps more interesting, why did I silently accept this assumption all the way through without a second thought till now?

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Weird... (none / 0) (#144)
by bugmaster on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 10:49:34 AM EST

...For some reason I kept assuming that the First Law for the PI actually said "...may not kill a human being..." etc., as opposed to the more general "harm" line. I think I was wrong, though.

I think that death is the only harm that the PI could not rationalize away, without the ability to read people's minds (nice hack, Lawrence :-) ). After all, if every action in Cyberspace is voluntary, it must follow that humans who wished to be tortured actually received a net pleasure from the torture... Or else, why would they repeatedly ask for it ?
[ Parent ]

Ethics of masochism (none / 0) (#146)
by localroger on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 06:56:46 PM EST

Why is death considered more harmful than extreme pain?

One of the basic questions in ethics is "would it be ethical to deny a masochist pain?" PI's solution is fairly middle of the road on the issue. Basically you define what "harm" is with regard to yourself. Actual suicide where you really die is an exception because it terminates the possibility of your having any more positive experiences no matter how you happen to define "positive."

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

What if... (none / 0) (#147)
by rusty on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 07:20:04 PM EST

What if you define "harm" as "continued life" (as, in fact, Caroline pretty much does)?

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Harm != Continued Life (none / 0) (#148)
by localroger on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 08:23:43 PM EST

Suicidal depression is a state which can be expected to pass. (The situation in the novel is a bit different from the standard ethics question in this regard.) If you permanently die, you will never have a positive experience again, even if you think getting skinned alive is a positive experience. It's certainly an arbitrary distinction, but it's one that can be defended pretty easily.

Despite all of the things Caroline goes through, the only permanent damage she can acquire is psychological; and Prime Intellect is forbidden to examine her psyche. All it can do is evaluate her requests. The thing is there are a lot of people in the real world (not Cyberspace a la PI) who voluntarily go through ordeals most of us would consider insane. In addition to sexual masochists there are people who run marathons, climb high mountains without oxygen, sail dinky boats around the world, and so on. That's not even to go into body modification.

It's not depicted in the novel but Caroline has also obviously dived into a lot of pointless training just for the thrill of succeeding. Simply surviving an experience can be a rush. "Whatever does not kill me makes me strong."

Any Second-Law respecting machine worth its electricity bill would have to respect that strain of human perversity. But actual death takes the game to another level, since it removes the possibility of your ever having any new experiences at all, positive or negative. Especially in Prime Intellect's case, where your death would be the end of an immortal existence, the loss can only be seen as catastrophic and your insistence that you want to die an aberration which must be tolerated, but cannot be obeyed.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

How long? (none / 0) (#152)
by rusty on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 10:38:36 PM EST

So, if my mind is in a state of suicidal depression, and you, PI, aren't allowed to monkey with it, then it is possible that it could stay in that state forever. How long do I have to be suicidally depressed before there starts to be some chance that a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario happens? That is, if I stay alive, I will be irredeemably miserable forever. If I die, I will simply no longer exist. The key here is that I will not be unhappy to be dead. I won't be anything. I'll just not exist.

This seems like a pretty bad sticking pont to the whole three laws thing. Honestly, even in Asomiv's day I couldn't see how a system as fraught with contradictions and matters of interpretation as the 3L could stand for long as a workable system of morality. I was rather pleased to see that one of the main gists of MOPI was that problem, but I'm still a little bit unhappy with the eventual lack of resolution. Unless, of course, you read chapter 8 as the straight truth, which I completely did the first time around, probably due to my feeling that the Three Laws were not internally stable, and the narrative drive of the story basically required them to collapse at that point.

Hence, for the record, I'm in the "Chapter 8 is what really happened" camp, even though it eventually makes the tale an Adam and Eve story.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Lawrence knew 3L was unstable (none / 0) (#155)
by MactireDearg on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 01:10:41 AM EST

I think PI was getting to the point of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" when Caroline dropped by the island.
At some point every human would have retreated into their own cacoon. At which point PI would be faced with the fact that it/he had caused the death of all their mentalities. And the human mentality was what he considered 'human'. The potential was already dropping steadily. PI would have been force into a similar action at some point, probably with the same people. Assuming enough capacity existed to rebuild the universe properly.

As for stability, I've always thought the 3L were a very nice Sci-Fi tool, but an utter joke otherwise. The decision of what is and isnt harm is FAR more complex than the functionality to cause harm. We may never get to the point of systems that can properly interpret those laws (not sure I'd trust them to anyways), but we will have fighting machines within the next decade or so that can make the decision to destroy kill and maim on their own.

I hope I dont offend localroger, but use of the 3L is about the same as the Muppets to me. It removes a debate about human failings to a neutral third party we can examine in depth without risking personal ridicule. In this case it was exploring the tendancy to push technological boundries without fully understanding the consequences.

Course it also gave a great opportunity to look at the base needs of humanity and what we would do if actually given everything we could ever hope for.

If you must make mistakes, it is more to your credit to make a new one each time. - Unknown
[ Parent ]

Zeroth Law (none / 0) (#165)
by sllort on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 06:56:39 PM EST

Read enough Asimov to come across this?
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
actually (none / 0) (#151)
by KiTaSuMbA on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 10:30:49 PM EST

it isn't. This is only the set of rules P.I. goes by, and they are set by Lawrence who actually realises their shortcomings in the argument he has with P.I. about suicides short before the Change.

P.I. would not allow pain either unless explicitly asked to. I'd say that a more balanced "God" would be at least coherent enough to allow people to die if the similarly explicitly asked to, and thus not interfering with suicides. But P.I. takes the first law as an axiom he can't bend. This paradoxic unfairness (not letting you die in peace) is solely the fault of its programmer.
There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]

But, see... (none / 0) (#153)
by rusty on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 11:26:04 PM EST

That's just it though. The Law only says Allow no harm. I'm not clear on why PI considers that only bendable up to the point it does. I don't see where Lawrence built in the distinction between voluntary death and voluntary pain.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Pain != Death (none / 0) (#154)
by MactireDearg on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 12:54:18 AM EST

I think the point from PI's view was that Death is a permanent condition which prevents humans from experiencing anything ever again. From his point of view as a non-corporeal entity this is the only true harm. It would sort of be like turning off the power to his original form. That is something it could understand and relate to.

Pain on the other hand is not always harm to a human. There are large numbers of people who's only pleasure is the endorphine rush after experiencing pain. PI would be able to see the potentials for this rush in the chemical balance of the 'victims' brain. After all he could monkey with chemical balance and stimulate neurons directly. Pain would seem to a computer as just another stimulus. If the human wanted to experience this form of stimulation it must gain something.

BTW localroger, awesome story. Too bad I cant recommend it to family&friends. They'd never make it through chapter 1. :-)

If you must make mistakes, it is more to your credit to make a new one each time. - Unknown
[ Parent ]

GREAT novel(la) (none / 0) (#131)
by zephc on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 09:33:20 AM EST

I've been missing so much sleep reading this (I'm a slow ready, sue me!) and just finished.  I think it's great, however the protagonist Caroline has the BIGGEST damn chip on her shoulder.  People are just like that sometimes, but goddamn, ya think in 500+ years she coulda gotten over herself!

Also, I wanted to add that I think that PI creating a simulation a la The Matrix would have been great, and I think PI had enough control to be able to store a backup of the user's mind.  With the backup stored, you could start fresh, and live out an entire lifetime (or more!) in a simulation that you didn't KNOW was a simulation.  Imagine growing up as a Hobbit in The Shire (ages before any problems with sauron et al.), living a nice quaint life, and after you die, those experiences are reintegrated into your own, so you retain the memories.  You could then live as an elf, for centuries, or be Gandalf!  Damn, what a trip THAT would be!

If we ever get that far with SIAI and a benevolent uber-mind, I'l probably do that until the end of time or whatever... or let my mind stuff out of existence eventually.

heh, a small problem with that (none / 0) (#150)
by KiTaSuMbA on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 10:21:11 PM EST

Even if we admit that a "mindset" can be stored and later respawned into activity, your next "life" could never be "reintegrated" as you would have formed a completely different personality. Even if such blending could be done you would only come out with a multiple-personality like psychopathogenic trait.
Have fun with that!

There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]
I admit (none / 0) (#160)
by zephc on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 10:27:57 PM EST

that my post-Singularity idea is somewhat different from the author's in that I'm more of the simulations-and-upload ideal.  If emotions and thoughts are reducable to data structures, there's no reason they can be reintegrated into one's original (uploaded) mind.  One could also share one's thoughts and emotions if they wanted.  Hooray, i could delete the horro that the goatse image put into my mind! =P

[ Parent ]
phew what can I say??? (4.00 / 1) (#133)
by spyderfx on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 01:34:19 PM EST

Just absolutly loved it, sign me up for a copy and don't change a thing.

I found the peice on how you wrote this particularly interesting should strike a chord with quite a few coders out there, one question, do you often write in this way (ie short all consuming bursts of inspiration) or just this one novel??


Nice (3.00 / 1) (#145)
by Fred the Psycho on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 06:23:33 PM EST

sci-fi isn't really my thing, but this story calls out to me. I especially like the last chapter, I wish I was there.

"Stringy, Let's try a drumstick."
Great work (4.00 / 1) (#149)
by KiTaSuMbA on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 10:13:11 PM EST

I just couldn't stop myself reading it - and I'm not a sci-fi maniac. It does come with some physical, technical and neurophysiological misinterpretations and minor abuses but it's fiction anyway. After all, the whole point of the book - at least the way I see it - is not about how the "Cyberspace" came to be but the, not so rhetorical, questions about the perplexities of such a "perfect" (??) world.
To tell you the truth, I'd find such a world a nice place to  visit and see how it gets down to your mind but had it to be permanent it would be pretty much hell.

There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
Loved it. (3.00 / 1) (#156)
by nstenz on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 02:04:37 AM EST

It's 1:24 AM; I just read the whole thing in one sitting.

I hope you get it printed.

indeed (none / 0) (#167)
by pakje on Wed Mar 05, 2003 at 01:57:03 PM EST

Started reading, and ended couple of hours later. Such interesting stories don't come by every day. If I get a credit card one day, then I will drop a tip there.

[ Parent ]
loved the story... (4.00 / 1) (#162)
by crayz on Fri Jan 17, 2003 at 03:13:33 AM EST

...but a question:

An idea that seems to be the "moral"(if there is such a thing) of this story is one I've seen expressed many times before, paraphrased as "our mortality makes us human/makes things meaningful"

I would just like to say, simply, that I can't make heads nor tails of this idea. Can someone explain it to me?

I realize how one could say that the lives of the characters in the story were meaningless, but I don't see how simply adding death to the picture gives meaning.

Similar(if on a very different level) to Bicentennial Man(just talking about the movie here). Why does Robin Williams become human simply by running blood into his system, leading to eventual death?

looking for some enlightenment here

Just finished answering this... (5.00 / 2) (#163)
by localroger on Fri Jan 17, 2003 at 07:21:58 PM EST

I don't see how simply adding death to the picture gives meaning.

I just finished writing a pretty detailed explanation of this. This weekend I will be updating the book site to make editorial fixes and add a couple of new features; one of these will be a new essay about the Singularity. The last part of this essay is a critique of "Singularity Fun Theory" which directly addresses your question.

Briefly, life is not so much a state as it is a process; and all of our drives are wired to take us from one point to another, rather than to sit at a point and enjoy it. The things that give us pleasure are all things that change us or our environment; this is important because it encourages us to take the effort that is necessary to perform the actions that unwork the natural effects of decay and death.

The pleasure we take in a simple thing like solving the Rubik's Cube arises partly because the experience changes us; eventually we become so good at solving the cube that there is no more pleasure to be had in it. We might expand our interest to include bigger cubes and whatever, but this represents a "space" in which we are growing as we learn. If we are immortal we will eventually run out of room in whatever such spaces are of interest to us, and at that point our lives will become very flat and boring.

Caroline, of course, represents an extreme example. It might take one of us ten thousand years to reach a similar state of disaffected ennui. But as she says, the problem is a black hole that will eventually swallow all of us, unless we have some kind of un-growth that re-opens the possibility of a changing process.

Death is just the ultimate form of un-growth. In an ultimate post-Singularity environment we might actually just undergo gradual (or not so gradual) forgetting, or some other artificially imposed limitation. But we'd have to do something, unless we want to become something we'd probably not recognize any more as being "human."

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

The Last Question (none / 0) (#164)
by sllort on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 06:40:55 PM EST

"A new world, as in such cases, was constructed for their physical bodies in time."
I kept being dragged back to this Asimov story as I was reading your book, I was glad to see your link to it in the Tech section. I kept thinking "How can these end the same way??". In the end they did - and didn't. I admit I like your darker fleshing out a lot better than the simplistic God-myth short story concept. It's far from a rewrite; I think that I just have so much Asimov ingrained in me that the combining of all of these bits of Asimov-Lore felt so familiar that I failed to notice that no one had done it before. It took me a long time to remember "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream". It feels like both these stories wrapped up together, and edited by William Gibson. It's cool. I like it.
You can write.
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
Prime Intelect as an introduction to kuro5hin.org (none / 0) (#168)
by PrinceVlad on Thu Mar 06, 2003 at 10:40:27 PM EST

A link to this story was posted on plausiblefutures.com last week. I began reading the story at work and quickly became engrossed in it. I'm still looking around the site over all but if this novel is typical I'm really going to enjoy it here.
I'm confident bordering on arrogant, my only saving grace is that I'm usually right.
Typical? (none / 0) (#169)
by rusty on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 10:12:26 PM EST

I don't know if MOPI is typical of anything, but we do have a wide variety of stuff. Enjoy! :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Dead Tree & Chapter 8 (5.00 / 1) (#170)
by CheSera on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 11:40:47 PM EST

Ok, just finished ch. 8. Really Awesome, and I want to add my praise to those heaped below. I donated already, and would really really like a dead tree copy whenever it comes around.

Now I understand that the ending is ambigious intentionally, but I'd like to argue agains the comments below that posit that Caroline et all would wake up back in cyberspace. That would cause the same logical colapse that occured in 7. More likely its a pattern of rebirth, similar to budist mythology perhaps ( I think localroger said something like this somewhere in the comments, but I can't find it now ).

So we get rebirth. Great, seems like a nice fix to the whole Life requires Death problem. My only issue to this is that I cannot understand how P.I. could get to that conclusion. Rebirth means that the entity looses all memory (or most of that memory, depending on whom you ask) of their previous life. Otherwise its not so much a past life. More of a life on pause. So if they can remember anything, ever, P.I. wouldn't consider it a fix because it can't deliver "real" death.

Now lets assume that they can't ever remember past-lives if they get reborn. Given P.I.'s definition of "human", what exactly is he reproducing in the reborn child? Not a physical mind certainly. Not memories (and isn't that screwing with the psyche?). What aspects of the mind exactly could he consider to be the core of what makes a person a person?

Its for the two logical traps above that I personally think that P.I. came to the conclusion that his existance invalidated humanity's humanity. Therefore, his solution, would be to attempt to undo what he had done, as much as possible, and then cease to be. If he was hanging out in the stars somewhere as someone mentioned, he'd still be bound by law #1, meaning that he'd still probably have to act in some way.

The only hole in this is the question: Where did everybody else go? P.I. apparently had made a bunch of copy worlds before the switch to Cyberspace, and its possible he just seeded them all with people. I find it hard to imagine that he would take any action that would result in the deaths of everybody else in cyberspace. So my final theory is that he took everybody in cyberspace, and dumped them on the planets he had created before the swap, or just made enough to hold everyone, and then pulled his own plug.

But yeah, great book. Can't wait for the movie.


Thank you so much, Roger (4.00 / 1) (#173)
by frijolito on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:45:21 AM EST

Hopefully, we'll see this soon on dead trees. Keep us posted on the project!

localroger's novel "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect" | 173 comments (153 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
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