Jul 01

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Final Horizon Approaches

Final Horizon original coverFinal Horizon has an unusual history. I had an idea for a space horror novel that I tentatively called Butterflies, a particularly and intentionally deceptive name. But I never wrote it because I didn’t see the point. Just another monster story. Just another alien planet.  It didn’t really have anything to say other than as satire on the state of Hollywood movie making these days: lots of action, void of content.

Then, as I’m a decent graphic artist, I thought I’d offer services as a cover designer. In the process, I threw together some example covers of novels that didn’t exist, and the one I show here is one of them. I picked the title Final Horizon because it sounded cool, and used an image of a girl I licensed from CanStockPhoto because it looked cool. The subtitle also meant nothing in particular, just a phrase to draw attention. Nothing fancy. After all, it was an example cover.

What happened next was an act of surrealism that is impossible to explain. I was just looking at the cover and there came one of those epiphanous moments when all of reality comes to a focus.  It all fit together. Butterflies, genetic engineering (two different ways), quantum computing, quantum reality, mind amplification, child abuse, all wrapped up in an elegant commentary on ruthless capitalism and unchecked political and military power. And like a tidy bow on top, the Singularity.

Not a singularity of the black hole variety, but one of the technological variety. Wikipedia defines a technological singularity as “the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence (ASI) will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.”  Indeed, the intelligence in Final Horizon is artificial, and it is super. But what if it comes with supermorality?  As the subtitle suggests, it’s not what people are expecting.

It takes place in the future (the best place for science fiction), mid-22nd century.  By then, we have succeeded in interfacing human minds to quantum computers, but with some unanticipated and unexplained phenomena accompanying it. Hyperpilots route starships safely through treacherous hypertunnels, linkers connect to other computers as an extension of their own minds, and scanners project their consciousness even to distant star systems. (Shhhh! There are more talents that the NSA, CIA, and Pentagon don’t like you knowing about.) And no one understands how any of that actually works. Then there is the unbelievable, half secret, nearly legendary, and completely mysterious story of Bucky and Katrina. The system works well, but it has three big caveats:

1. Unless you want to take off the top of a person’s skull to plant a couple of hundred wires in the brain and get substandard results for all your work, you have to use kids before they reach puberty. Kids can interface to PAIN helmets. Unexpected results.

2. Because there are few naturally born children who can pull it off and fewer parents who will let them, and because the interval between being trained and reaching puberty is only a year or two, you need to engineer formula kids whose biological and mental ages you can freeze when they’re at their peak. Unexpected results.

3. Because human society becomes completely dependent on formula kids, you make them docile and subservient, and because they are docile and subservient, they don’t cause trouble when you treat them like trash. They also lack the inconvenience of parents. Unexpected results.

In Final Horizon, natural-born Andrew Post and formula kid Macie 7 are chosen for a mission to a distant world where people mysteriously die. But it’s not until they reach their destination and find the butterflies that all hell breaks loose.

Hell that changes everything.

It’s a good story.  If I ever have a chance for a Hugo or Nebula award, this is it. It took a while for the plot details to come together, but they finally have, and it’s all of a thriller, a brain-twister, and a tear-jerker in one. I’m only nearing the end of the first draft, alas, so it’ll be a while before you’ll see the finished product.

The cover might change.

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