Posted on

What a Scary Little Mask You Have There. I Hope it Comes Off in the Morning

We don’t actually celebrate Halloween here in Greece. But, in a clear case of culture seepage from Hollywood, we do have Halloween parties!

Tap to accept the mask

Even though we don’t actually have a festival of the dead, the roots of such celebrations are from the ancient Anthesteria, which was a 3-day festival honouring Dionysos. On the third day, the Feast of Pots, cooked meat and fruit were left outside for the souls of the dead. No one dared touched them, they weren’t for the living. And when the day ended, they called out loud for the spirits to begone, that the Anthesteria was over.

In modern times, the only thing close to trick or treating is kids going for Christmas Carols. And we dress up in our Carnival, or Mardi Gras, which is another Dionysian leftover. People dress up in either silly or scary costumes during that celebration.

So yeah, we don’t actually have Halloween but there has been cultural cross-pollination, and we do have scary events and parties on October 31st. Any excuse for a party, really.

But the trick or treating is left to the ghosts.

Here’s a short story set in the God Complex Universe. It takes place on Halloween night, at a party, in Athens.

Wear the mask. It will come off in the morning

When a young man from a village comes to the big city to study, he finds himself overwhelmed by the urban lifestyle. But will he manage to blend in by going to a Halloween party, when his crush asks him to help decorate the place, when the abandoned villa becomes all too spooky for him and when the illusory masks everyone wears seem to never come off?

Get Spooky on Amazon US Get Spooky on Amazon UK

Advertisements
Posted on

Summer Of 2016 Is The Time We Went Full Cyberpunk

People said this picture summed up the events of this week perfectly.

agazeuswnzaiynvrxrzi
It would be funny if it wasn’t so bad.

I say it marked an entire era.

The pure irony behind it is staggering. This is:

  1. A grainy, smartphone shot
  2. Uploaded on Twitter (A massive equalizing communication tool)
  3. Of someone playing an augmented reality game (Pokemon Go)
  4. In front of a line of riot police
  5. Because a person was killed by the police while a woman streamed the whole thing on Facebook Live
  6. And because a police drone was deliberately used to blow up and kill another alleged offender during a standoff.

I mean, if someone had written that story in a novel somewhere, they’d have called it far-fetched. And this is real, it’s happening now.

Notice I didn’t say “a black man” on point 5. I said a person. Because that person was killed in front of a woman and a small child, and that just shouldn’t happen. But the dialogue on this is enormous, I don’t want to touch on that.

Yes, this photo is a chapter-break in our history. We have a full-scale dystopia posing as utopia, civil rights violated, technology both liberating and influencing ourselves, our minds, our decisions.

I worked a bit on a couple of news channels, and have a unique perspective on what things mass media want to show or not. I can’t actually write examples, but trust me on this: The media shows what it wants to. But you already knew that, deep down.

Also, with technologies like Live-U (multi carrier video broadcast from a mobile unit through any and all available cellphone companies) and Youtube, and Twitter and every person carrying a computer in his pocket, media has become more instantaneous. If the shot is there, the news channels will want it. A news crew carries top-of-the-line equipment worth easily 60-70 thousand euros, but if a kid on his iPhone got a better shot of the news-story, the news channel will broadcast the latter. Doesn’t matter if it’s shaky, doesn’t matter if it’s grainy, dark, out of focus. It will play, because it is valuable as news.

One day we had some faulty equipment and in our frenzy, we joked about having the weather guy just live-stream through Skype.

Then we got the go ahead, and we just put him through just like that. Fingers crossed and praying the line won’t drop.

And if you don’t care what we do in tiny little Greece, here’s the same event in USA. “Twitter’s Periscope Becomes a Lifeline for Democrats After Republicans Turn Off C-SPAN.”

But it’s not just news. Our lives, what we care about, the events we like are getting online right now. Periscope and Facebook are becoming our allies (now that’s ironic) in world events. Facebook’s safety check feature worked despite Turkey’s blackout, and band Radiohead is helping fans live-stream their concerts.

There is no conclusion to this post. Read the linked articles and make up your own.

Posted on

Cyberpunk Week On Tor

Tor Publishing is running a cyberpunk week on their site. The very first post, It’s Not Fiction, It’s Our Lives, really struck a chord with me.

dzf
Artist’s rendering of the famous Ghost In The Shell opening. (Marek Okon)

A few decades ago the “cyberpunk” genre was purely fiction. Now, it is a reality that humanity struggles to navigate on a daily basis. Bodyhacking, information networks, megacorps
 these concepts, borne from fiction, now shape our lives in very serious ways. And just as reality grows from forward-looking stories, so too does new fiction grow in response to the present day. What is a cyberpunk, or even “post-cyberpunk,” story when that is the world you live in?

That is prevalent in all our works, the idea that the future is now. Many of the things we do daily were considered science-fiction not so long ago. Access to information, anytime, anywhere? Real-time translation with augmented reality? Body-tracking, disposable drones, restaurant recommendations via an accurate algorithm? They’re all here, it’s not even shocking anymore.

In our exploration, three important aspects of cyberpunk become apparent:

  • Administration: Much of cyberpunk fiction drew inspiration from corporate structures that were only just beginning to solidify in the late 20th century, and what those stories extrapolated out towards isn’t too different from what we experience now in the early 21st century. Cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk fiction is uniquely suited to exploring the intricacies of the systems that govern us, whether those systems are controlled by corporations, governments, or the people themselves. Information is the currency of cyberpunk, and increasingly the currency of the present day. How can we use it to make something better? How should we use it?
  • Identity: Information technology is on the cusp of merging the biological and the mechanical into one seamless being, but what then does that being become? What is a person who can exist outside their body? Is there a purpose to gender and race classification? Especially when we are capable of creating programming that can think for itself, and does not require a gender or race? We live in an age where a person can fine-tune their appearance to a degree never before experienced, and cyberpunk fiction is at the forefront of imagining how a humanity consisting entirely of self-fashioned people works.
  • Culture and Commerce: We tell stories, regardless of form or circumstance, so what stories are told by those living in our world; a world imagined by cyberpunk fiction? What appeals to us?

Tor’s first point is really spot on (hell, fleek even). Google made it’s billion dollar empire on information alone. If you were to write that twenty years ago, you’d be called excessive. Things don’t work like that. Governments can’t be asking their citizens to vote on every little thing via their mobiles and laptops. Or maybe, in Estonia’s case, they can.

The second point is well explored in science fiction, but I don’t like the political American debate on gender classification. Excuse me, but yes there is a biological reason for gender classification, it’s silly to presume otherwise. On race I agree, we’re all one species. Regarding the appearance, yes, I believe from the data points of body modification up till now, that it will become extreme. I truly believe that there will be people addicted to modifying their bodies, not cosmetically, like they do now, but with technology, horns, extra limbs and more unimaginable things.

Commerce seems to be the king. If something sells, the people behind it are willing to bend laws to their will, ignore morals, slave children to factories, fire family-men and replace them with robots, trademark common everyday words. There is literally no limit. Culture is slowly becoming one sloshy gray goo, with Asians celebrating Christmas (just because they like the holiday), American culture invading every other one with Hollywood and (apparently) superhero movies now. India is a strong counterpoint in this, spreading it’s culture all over the world but in a different light, it’s more of the same.

Anyway, this post isn’t meant to be a manifesto. These are just observations on the current state of things, plus some wishful thinking. Cause it’s not all bad. I recently had a conversation with some people of the earlier generation, and they claim that despite the Greek crisis here, we are still living relatively nice compared to the past. People didn’t used to have employee rights, air-conditioning or even shoes to wear.

There are medicines now for diseases that used to kill thousands. My father keeps a box of the pills that could have saved my grandfather on his desk. Just a stupid, tiny silly pill that if it had existed 50 years ago, my grandfather wouldn’t have to endure a lifetime of sickness and surgeries.

People can re-educate themselves in an open university if they like or through online courses. We have access to most of the books ever written with Project Gutenberg, and for the daily stuff, we have every shop we need just a short walk away. Mostly. Our cars are reliable, our homes are comfortable and travel is becoming faster and faster.

Corporations are making things nicer, easier and cheaper for us. But just because it helps with their sales.

You can follow Tor’s articles on Cyberpunk Week here.

Posted on

What Is Cyberpunk Anyway?

I’ve happily stumbled upon this article on what Cyberpunk is and what will be. Which I will happily cannibalize for a few quotes on this post.

Cyberpunk does allow you to say a story of, perhaps Celebrity Singers and Biker Amazons 🙂 (credit Petri Rahkola)

It gets a bit academic, and I think the subject doesn’t need that much analysis but I like some of the points. I’ve even had a realization:

A kitsch self-parody

For all its outward cynicism, cyberpunk is often wilfully naive; conspiracies are unravelled, the lone maverick is redeemed, the lone aberration at the head of the system is taken out and all is well again. For all its gritty imagery, this dissonantly contradicts reality. Indeed it is questionable whether cyberpunk is an entirely dystopian genre. For the oligarch-villains occupying the luxury penthouses and boardrooms in which boss battles occur, this is utopia. The ubiquity of scaffolding in the genre’s platform games suggests there is even a building boom. It is a great time to be an engineer. Even for the average citizen, perhaps things aren’t that bad; there are plenty of exotic street-food outlets and sports to enjoy (you can follow the blood and chrome progress of Brutal Deluxe in the Bitmap Brothers’ 2007 Speedball series). Escape to off-world colonies, as we are told repeatedly by advertising neo-blimps, is an option for the rich and genetically sound. Some of the tyrannies are fairly relative. In X-Kaliber 2097 (1994), the reign of the warlord Raptor means “there are no more jobs to go to,” echoing the current fear that automation might render us all unemployable. “Well,” we might say, “thank god for that.” Even when the apocalypse beckons or has already happened (the release of the planet-decimating biochemical Lucifer-Alpha in 1988’s Snatcher, for example), it is survivable.

I like that. Yes, deep down cyberpunk is wish fulfillment, does have a happy ending, the corporations do lose. Vices are plentiful, humanity has far-out options for life extension and survival, heroes are cool and larger-than-life.

My kind of cyberpunk is rather light. All the tropes are there, but they are a backdrop to character and plot. Mega corporations crush people and effectively become worshiped, but we see the casual interactions and the family issues. Not the sweeping socio-economic ones, which frankly, would make a boring read.

 

Following the maxim of its baptist William Gibson that “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed,” cyberpunk has always been a scrapyard, with pieces of what is to come scattered through the past and present. Indeed, its saving grace is that it recognizes, as other futurology often fails to, that the future will be a collage and it will be considerably older than the present.

That scrapyard is what I try to put in my own stories. A bit of Greek mythology, a bit of plausible technology, a narrative that draws you in, and some action to keep it exciting. Because, make no mistake, violence is at the cybernetic heart of cyberpunk.

 

The fear and power of plugging in and losing our humanity in the process, continually evident in cyberpunk, is again not new; we find precedents in Descartes’ Demon and Plato’s Cave. There is also a certain guilty pleasure in immersing yourself in a videogame world that warns you of the dangers of immersing yourself in videogame worlds. The early game Interphase (1989), by The Assembly Line, deftly equates virtual reality with dream-space, a crossover we will no doubt increasingly see with advances in VR, AI and augmented reality. At that time such developments seemed the stuff of dreams, but they are incrementally becoming more real. In Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs (2014), the hacking abilities of the lead character Aiden Pearce suggest that the human brain, the city and cyberspace are now interwoven networks. To accumulate great power in the latter two is to potentially wield power over the first.

My main issue with VR is that one. I too have been brought up with Neuromancer, and Matrix more recently (yes I said recently, shuddup), but I don’t think VR is what we thought it would become in those days. I firmly believe, that instead of diving inside the computer world, we will superimpose the digital word over the physical one. A Shared Augmented Reality, giving us information and allowing us to interact with the digital equivalent of the physical objects. In my works, I call it the veil, a shared overlay of public data. For example, when people look at you with SAR glasses or maybe someday contact lenses, they’ll see your public facebook and twitter profile, all available for interaction.

Anyway, the God Complex takes place in a cyberpunk world, with a few metaphysical elements and a lot of Greek lore. The latest work and the first published novel is “The Girl Who Twisted Fate’s Arm,” and you can find it on Amazon:

the-girl-who-twisted-fate's-arm-rc2

When the daughter of Greece’s premier singer fails to sing as expected, she finds out about a biker group of women. But will she manage to find the elusive Orosa, the bikers’ motovlogger, when all she has to go on are random street-sightings of criminal behaviour, when her family is opposed to her following this path and when her dad’s employer wants to keep her as she was for marketing purposes?

Do you want to know what’s next for the voiceless Aura? Do you wanna meet the Amazons? Then read this coming of age story in a world where fate is quite literal.

Read through the page on our site for descriptions and other places where it’s available.

 

Posted on

Come and Meet the Muse

The Muse is here

Crying Over Spilt Light is now available on Amazon! Go to the book page for purchase links.

Crying Over Spilt Light Novella eBook
What If You Could Hire Your Own Personal Muse?

This one has been a long time coming. Inspired a few years ago by a sci-fi short story, this idea was rolling around my head for quite a while.

The basic premise is that of an android muse, helping a scientist figure out the thing that he was working on.

Many ideas came and went about the scientist’s actual project, but something clicked in place when I read about Maxwell’s light knots. I already wanted to have something to do with lasers (lasers are cool) and I needed a theory that would be Nobel prize worthy, possibly with unlimited potential. This idea, that light could be formed into lattices to be contained on a special-made computer chip, turning light into a quantum computer was too amazing to give up.

And alas, there was a really cool problem to go along with it!

Crystallized light had two inherent problems, one being leaking and two, due to quantum effects, being destroyed by the very act of observation. I don’t know of course if the real problem is at all solvable, but for my novella, it is. Yanni, the physicist is working on a solution to keep the light contained on its lattice.

Years pass with no end in sight, until he is dealt an ultimatum by the review board of his funding (Deimokritos is the National Centre of Scientific Research) and he needs to figure out the solution to his proof fast. Yanni is only 30 years old, but he has convinced himself that unless he manages to make a breakthrough before his birthday, he will never do so. 30 years old might seem too young but in academic age it borders on going senile. The mind simply cannot work at the same capacity it did, especially regarding theoretical physics and advanced mathematics. It is well known that academic brilliance takes a downturn after 25. Yanni, living in this institution used to be one of the young brilliant minds to mock the elders and is frightened by seeing himself turn into one.

His idea is that it is possible to use Maxwell’s light knots to solve the leaking light problem from light crystals, enabling quantum computing with previously unimaginable computing speeds. It is all years ahead of course, but it is easy to imagine a tech company willing to kill for such a breakthrough.

Render of a possible light knot based on Maxwell’s equations.

Where does the Muse fit into all of this?

Well, the muse is an android specially created to aid the inspiration of her charge. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just explain this with broad strokes: She is an android, a fantasy come true, the Muse and the wife and the companion who knows what to say, when to say it, who lets you work uninterrupted, who tends to your needs and eliminates all distractions.

Her form was dictated by common sci-fi imagery of gynoids, but her pose (and this is something I am quite happy discovering) comes from the following classic painting:

Luigi Cherubini and the Muse of Lyric Poetry
Luigi Cherubini and the Muse of Lyric Poetry

It is simply amazing to realize that every concept, every combination, every single slice of life you can possibly think of has already been visualized in classic art.

It is hard to discuss about anything more without spoiling the book, so I’ll just leave it at that and hope it piques your interest. It is available on Amazon.

Do you want to get emailed as soon as we have something new, to get free stories and to see cool stuff as we release them? Then click the button below and join the Mythographers:

I Want to Be a Mythographer

Posted on

Get the first peek into the god complex universe!

We have put up our first book in the god complex series for free on Amazon.

What happens when a corporation gets a god complex?
What happens when a corporation gets a god complex?

You can get the Kindle book for free by clicking this link below: (PROMOTION ENDED)

How to 3D print a god (God Complex Short Stories Book 1)

After you read it please leave a review on the Amazon book page!

The free giveaway will last until the 29th of September.

You can learn about these specials beforehand by joining the TopSecret list.