ChildrenOfArkadiaI read Children of Arkadia, by Darusha Wehm, over the weekend. This was a fascinating book. The setting is a classic of science fiction: a bunch of idealistic settlers embark on creating an idealized society in a space station colony. There are two unique twists: the artificial general intelligences that accompany them have, in theory, equal rights and free will as the humans. There are no antagonists: no one is out to sabotage society, there’s no evil villain. Just circumstances.

Darusha does an excellent job exploring some of the obvious and not-so-obvious conflicts that emerge. Can an all-knowing, super intelligence AI ever really be on equal footing with humans? How does work get done in a post-scarcity economy? Can even the best-intentioned people armed with powerful and helpful technology ever create a true utopia?

Children of Arkadia manages to explore all this and give us interesting and diverse characters in a compact, fun to read story. Recommended.


My editor is working on Kill Process right now. I’ll receive the marked up manuscript next week and will process all the changes and comments before turning it over to my proofreader. They’ll work on it for about a week, then return it to me, and I’ll process all those corrections. Then the book goes out for formatting to two different people: one for ebook and one for print. When they’re done, everything gets proofed one last time, and if it all looks good, I’ll fulfill Patreon awards to backers.

After that, I’ll upload files to the various vendors, and a week or so after that, the books are live and available for sale. While all that’s happening, there will also be final tweaks to the covers, coordination with the audiobook narrators, and more.

Even as close to the end as this, it’s still hard to predict whenever Kill Process will be available. Do I get a file back right at the start of a long weekend when I can be completely focused on it? Or do I receive it as I’m entering a long stretch with my kids and my day job? It’s hard to say.

If things go well and there are no major issues, I hope to fulfill Patreon rewards by late May, and have the book for sale by mid-June. I’d like the audiobook to be available by July. If I can get anything out earlier, I will.

Here’s a look at the covers for Kill Process. The black and red cover will be the regular edition, available for sale through all the usual outlets. The hooded-hacker cover will be a signed, limited edition available to Patreon backers.


Trade paperback and ebook cover


Signed, limited-edition cover


Here’s the working description for Kill Process:

By day, Angie, a twenty-year veteran of the tech industry, is a data analyst at Tomo, the world’s largest social networking company; by night, she exploits her database access to profile domestic abusers and kill the worst of them. She can’t change her own traumatic past, but she can save other women.

But when Tomo introduces a deceptive new product that preys on users’ fears to drive up its own revenue, Angie sees Tomo for what it really is–another evil abuser. Using her coding and hacking expertise, she decides to destroy Tomo by building a new social network that is completely distributed, compartmentalized, and unstoppable. If she succeeds, it will be the end of all centralized power in the Internet.

But how can an anti-social, one-armed programmer with too many dark secrets succeed when the world’s largest tech company is out to crush her and a no-name government black ops agency sets a psychopath to look into her growing digital footprint?

Mark Zuckerberg wrote about how he plans to personally work on artificial intelligence in the next year. It’s a nice article that lays out the landscape of AI developments. But he ends with a statement that misrepresents the relevance of Moore’s Law to future AI development. He wrote (with my added bold for emphasis):

Since no one understands how general unsupervised learning actually works, we’re quite a ways off from building the general AIs you see in movies. Some people claim this is just a matter of getting more computing power — and that as Moore’s law continues and computing becomes cheaper we’ll naturally have AIs that surpass human intelligence. This is incorrect. We fundamentally do not understand how general learning works. This is an unsolved problem — maybe the most important problem of this century or even millennium. Until we solve this problem, throwing all the machine power in the world at it cannot create an AI that can do everything a person can.

I don’t believe anyone knowledge about AI argues that Moore’s Law is going to spontaneously create AI. I’ll give Mark the benefit of the doubt, and assume he was trying to be succinct. But it’s important to understand exactly why Moore’s Law is important to AI.

We don’t understand how general unsupervised learning works, nor do we understand how much of human intelligence works. But we do have working examples in the form of human brains. We do not today have the computer parts necessary to simulate a human brain. The best brain simulations by the largest supercomputing clusters have been able to approximate 1% of the brain at 1/10,000th of the normal cognitive speeds. In other words, current computer processors are 1,000,000 times too slow to simulate a human brain.

The Wright Brothers succeeded in making the first controlled, powered, and sustained heavier-than-air human flight not because of some massive breakthrough in the principles of aerodynamics (which were well understood at the time), but because engines were growing more powerful, and powered flight was feasible for the first time around the point at which they were working. They made some breakthroughs in aircraft controls, but even if the Wright Brothers had never flown, someone else would have within a period of a few years. It was breakthroughs in engine technology, specifically, the power-to-weight ratio, that enabled powered flight around the turn of the century.

AI proponents who talk about Moore’s Law are not saying AI will spontaneously erupt from nowhere, but that increasing computing processing power will make AI possible, in the same way that more powerful engines made flight possible.

Those same AI proponents who believe in the significance of Moore’s Law can be subdivided into two categories. One group argues we’ll never understand intelligence fully. Our best hope of creating it is with a brute force biological simulation. In other words, recreate the human brain structure, and tweak it to make it better or faster. The second group argues we may invent our own techniques for implementing intelligence (just as we implemented our own approach to flight that differs from birds), but the underlying computational needs will be roughly equal: certainly, we won’t be able to do it when we’re a million times deficient in processing power.

Moore’s Law gives us an important cadence to the progress in AI development. When naysayers argue AI can’t be created, they’re looking at historical progress in AI, which is a bit like looking at powered flight prior to 1850: pretty laughable. The rate of AI progress will increase as computer processing speeds approach that of the human brain. When other groups argue we should already have AI, they’re being hopelessly optimistic about our ability to recreate intelligence a million times more efficiently than nature was able to evolve.

The increasing speed of computer processors as predicted by Moore’s Law, and the crossover point where processing power aligns with the complexity of the human brain tells us a great deal about the timing of when we’ll see advanced AI on par with human intelligence.

In my day job as a software developer, we’ve recently resurrected a two year old project and started using it again. I’m fairly proud of the application because when we developed it, we really took the time to do everything right. The REST interfaces are logical and consistent, there is good object oriented design, great test coverage, a full set of integration tests that can also perform load testing, and it’s scalable and fault tolerant.

When we first built it, we had only a small team of developers, but we also ensured that we automated everything, tested everything, and kept everything DRY and efficient, so that even though the team was small, we were able to accomplish a lot.

When we resurrected the project, we weren’t sure how many people would be working on it or for how long. In our rush to demo something to management, we abandoned our principles of “do it right” and settled for “get something done fast”. But a few weeks later, we were mired in a morass, unable to reliably get a dev stack working, or get two new components reliably integrated, or even to have repeatable results of any kind. Pressure was mounting as we were overdue to demo to management.

Finally I came into work this past Tuesday (with the big demo scheduled for the next day). I’d completely had it with the ongoing game of whack-a-mole that we were playing with new bugs cropping up. I decided that I wouldn’t try to fix any bugs at all. Instead, I would spend the day DRYing up our error handling code so that all errors were captured and logged in a consistent way. I didn’t even care about whether we made the demo or not, I was just so sick of how we were working.

A couple of hours later, the error handling code was vastly improved with just a little work, and suddenly all of the errors we were facing were abundantly obvious and easy to trace back to their origin within a few minutes. I was able to fix those errors before we left for the day, and we were back on track to deliver our demo to management on Wednesday.

It was a great reminder that even when you think you’ve just got a couple of short term deliverables, maybe with pressure to get them done fast, that it’s almost always faster to do it the right way than to take shortcuts.

It turns out that Abraham Lincoln didn’t utter the famous quote about spending four of six hours sharpening an ax. That turns out to be from an anonymous woodsman, and the unit of measurement is minutes, not hours. But the general concept goes back about 150 years.

A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.”


The Turing Exception, book four in the Singularity series, is now available from Audible and iTunes. Narrated by Jane Cramer, this unabridged audio version of The Turing Exception completes the Singularity series.

In the year 2043, humans and AI coexist in a precarious balance of power enforced by a rigid caste reputation system designed to ensure that only those AI who are trustworthy and contribute to human society increase in power.

Everything changes when a runaway nanotech event leads to the destruction of Miami. In the grim aftermath, a powerful underground collective known as XOR concludes that AI can no longer coexist with humanity.

AI pioneers Catherine Matthews, Leon Tsarev, and Mike Williams believe that mere months are left before XOR starts an extermination war. Can they find a solution before time runs out?

I hope you enjoy it!

Google announced a new analytical AI that analyzes emails to determine their content, then proposes a list of short likely replies for the user to pick from. It’s not exactly ELOPe, but definitely getting closer all the time.



Hertling_AVOGADRO_CORP_EbookAvogadro Corp, book one of my Singularity series about artificial intelligence, is on sale for 99 cents in the US from all retailers. Similar sale prices apply in UK, Canada, and India. This is for the ebook, obviously.

If you know someone who might enjoy the book that Wired called “chilling and compelling” and Brad Feld called “a tremendous book that every single person needs to read”, please let them know! Here are US links to the major online retailers where it is already on sale:

These will take effect on November 1st:

It’s on sale through November 7th, 2015.


Many people have been asked about The Turing Exception audiobook, which I thought would be available in the fall. Production is underway now and most of the book has been recorded by the narrator. There’s just a bit left to do, part of which is waiting on me to rewrite some sections that weren’t working well in audio. Note to self: don’t use tables of data in a novel in the future. 🙂

I don’t have an exact date, but I think the audiobook is likely to be available in November.

This summer has been busy and chaotic, including moving. (I’m still in Portland.) That’s made it difficult to write, and I’ve gotten almost nothing done since the beginning of summer. But in the last two weeks, in part due to my writing group resuming our biweekly meetings, I’ve started to make progress again. I’m still working on the data analyst novel, and I’ll have more to share about the story as I get closer to finishing it. My original plan was to have finished by winter, but it’s looking more like springtime now.

If you’re in Portland, I’ll be at the Poets and Writers Live event on Saturday, October 17th. I’ll also be at OryCon, November 20th-22nd.

This was the first Worldcon I attended. For those who have no idea what Worldcon is, it’s a science fiction and fantasy convention that roughly 50% professional conference for writers, artists, and creators, and 50% fan celebration of speculative fiction and geek culture.

One key part of Worldcon is the Hugo awards, which are fan-selected awards for novels, short stories, dramatic presentations, magazines, podcasts, and numerous fan roles. They have long been speculative fiction’s highest honor.

Since I’d never been to Worldcon before, I knew very little of the history behind the awards, or really grokked the significance of them. They were mostly a tool that I used as a reader to help me find good books to read.

Actually being in attendance at the awards was a really amazing, emotional experience. As I’ve gotten to meet people in the spec fiction community over the last two years, I knew many of those who received awards. It was just amazing to see these people get recognized for their contributions. Not only is the award itself an aspiration dream for most of those in the community, it’s obviously very validating for their creative contributions.

There was a huge amount of controversy surrounding the Hugos this year that stemmed from a small percentage of Hugo voters who wanted to push conservative values and conspired to manipulate the nomination process in some categories. Fortunately, the voting process includes an option to choose “no award”, and the voters overwhelming selected no award for those categories where the nomination had been compromised. This was satisfying, but the manipulation still hurt many folks: authors whose eligible work didn’t make the final cut because it was pushed out by the rigged nominations, authors who withdrew to protest the manipulations, and the community at large, who had to suffer with months of stress and conflict because of the actions of a few.

George RR Martin threw a party after the Hugo Awards, and gave out awards of his own creation to those people he thought had been unfairly treated by the whole fiasco. One friend said that meant even more to her than winning the Hugo would have.

All in all, it was an amazing and beautiful experience, including learning about history of Worldcon and the passion and love of the community that surrounds it, seeing the recognition of people and their contributions, and getting to watch friends achieve their dreams. I’m grateful to have gotten this close up viewpoint.

What New Pros Need to Know
Caren Gussoff – Moderator
Wesley Chu
Wendy S. Delmater
Rhiannon Held
Lezli Robyn
Note: This is a panel that would have benefitted strongly from the additional perspective of a self-published author. Lots of things brought up are true for both self and trad pubbed authors, but some are different.
  • Intros
    • RH: Was with Tor, now self-publishing 4th book in series, becoming hybrid author. Day job as historical.
    • LR: short story author first, now writing first novel
    • WC: I wrote novels with Angry Robot and Tor. I’m full-time.
    • WD: 25% of what we publish is new authors, 43% women. Helped launch many careers.
  • WD: You grow your career in stages. You’ve never “made it”. Just keep writing.
  • WC: It never gets easier. You think it’s going to be easier once you get your agent, or your first deal. But the pressure just keeps building. Average first-time novelist mades $5,000 in their first year.
  • LR: You can master the art of the short story, and sell them, and realize you can’t make a living off short stories. So then you have to learn a whole new set of skills to go long-form.
  • RH: On the down side: The publisher doesn’t invest much time into a given book. If it doesn’t sell, they just move on, instead of giving it more time to succeed. On the up side: Poor sales doesn’t mean having to use a new pen name. You can keep writing and submit new books under your same name.
  • WC: Let’s talk about what’s in your control.
  • RH: Learn coping skills so that the emotional toll doesn’t wear you down and defeat. I might not be bankrolling big financial rewards, but I am getting confidence from good reviews, etc.
    • good reviews give you a boost that lasts only 10 minutes.
    • bad reviews are downers that last and last.
  • CG: Reviews and feedback are a comment on a work, not your value as a person. You need to separate your career from your person.
  • WD: It takes a lot of discipline for the first few years, because you have to do two jobs: be a writer and have a day job, and be a parent, etc.
  • WC: You work that day job until you just can’t do it anymore. There are some writers who get that first six-figure deal and think that they’re going to quit their day job, and then the stress arrives: they’re writing to eat. And that’s a tough place to be creative.
  • LR: Learn when you are creative, and protect that creative bubble. e.g. I do creative work in the morning before the day job, then do a bit of editing after work, which is more routine. But I am too tired at night to do creative work.
  • WC: Practice your readings. 90% of writers can’t read for shit. They get up, and bore their fans to death. You will do a reading at some point in your career. Edit your piece ahead of time to take out anything that won’t read well. And then practice and make it a performance.
  • RH: The commonly held wisdom is not to read reviews of your work. But I do. I can always imagine a worse review than what is actually written.
    • CG: Whether you decide to read them or not depends on whether you can be emotionally resilient enough to keep working on the next book.
    • WC: You will read the reviews, regardless of the advice. At some point, you will burn out of reading your reviews.
    • RH: My perspective is that reviews are a private conversation that, through a quirk of the internet, we can eavesdrop on. If you heard a private conversation through an open door, you wouldn’t bust in and interrupt the conversation. People say all sorts of things, including many that aren’t true, in private conversations, and we don’t get to interrupt and correct those conversations. So just treat reviews like that.
  • WC: Author Central on Amazon shows bookscan data, and makes that available to every author. But it can vastly underestimate the real numbers. The bookscan sales data is usually 30% of my actual POS numbers.
  • WC: A writer has several revenue streams. I will make the least amount of money from my hardcover sales. Film options, audio, translations. Keep this in mind. Your agent can offer you a lot of ability to tap into these revenue streams.
  • CG: Contracts are complicated. If you don’t have an agent, you need at least to have a good IP lawyer.
  • WC: Don’t sell your books. Sell yourself. Don’t be an asshole.
  • WD: Everybody knows everyone else in this field, so be nice to people.
  • CG: Write excellent stuff.
  • RH: Play to your strength. If you like being on panels, do that. If you like to be in a bar, do that. If you like to tweet, do that every day.