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Published: "The Seed"

At least partially because I was planning my previous post on God, Spirtuality, and the Singularity, I decided to dust off an old short story I had laying around and submit it to HardSF.net. They accepted it pretty quickly and it is already up on their website.

Why that particular story? It is basically my long answer to the questions in the Speculist survey I mentioned in the other blog post. I originally wrote the story more than fifteen years ago, and updated it earlier this year in order to submit it to a couple of markets (where it did exactly as well as it did fifteen years ago). However, given the subject at hand, I thought it better to put the story up somewhere where it could be read now, than continue down through my list of more illustrious markets.

The story is called "The Seed". It tackles the question of faith and the Singularity head on, from the viewpoint of someone who doesn't understand what is really happening. It uses a somewhat problematic mixed present time/flashback structure to tell a complicated tale of a father and his prodigal son. It uses a lot of symbolism, both overt and cryptic. It assumes the reader understands the Singularity, nanotechnology, genetics, cloning, neurology, intelligence enhancement, and many other advanced technologies because it uses them without explanation (and often without even naming them). It isn't the best thing I have ever written, but it is one of my favorites.

If I haven't scared you off yet, you can read "The Seed" here. If you do read it, please comment here or on the HardSF.net forums...

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
mcjulie
Jun. 9th, 2006 04:08 pm (UTC)
Hey, Jack!
I read The Seed a while ago -- I think you'd given it to Paul to read -- so I actually have some fairly mature comments to make.

I don't "believe" in the Singularity -- transhumans, extropians, any of that weirdo techno-optimist jive. Your story doesn't require believing in the Singularity to believe in the world of the story, which is good.

The seed at the heart of the story is a powerful image, and structuring the conflict around a father/son relationship really works. However, the story overall has a kind of didactic feel. Some points are overstated and too abstract. It feels like you're unfairly pushing the reader to feel a certain way about the events of the story.

Upon re-reading it, I think that one of the biggest reasons for this didactic feel is that the minister father doesn't fully sell. His statements about God and his objections to "playing God" feel artificial -- almost strawman-y.

Another problem: your flashbacks have some powerful imagery (the fresh cyberjack scar, the remote unit of the child attending his mother's funeral) which is buried under wordy and mostly irrelevant expository passages. The flashbacks really need to be structured around those strong images -- tell the story through concrete actions and imagery and conversations, not through narrative exposition.

(And not conversations that are indistinguishable from narrative exposition, either... the curse of hard SF... )

Well, that's my two cents, which, through inflation, is probably worth at least a quarter by now.




jackwilliambell
Jun. 9th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Hey, Jack!
I certainly agree about the narrative exposition problem.

Making the father seem real was difficult for me; I had a hard time putting myself in his head (even though he was the viewpoint character) because I don't really believe what he believes. And yeah, he does make straman arguments sometimes. That was his purpose really, it is just that I didn't do as good a job as I would have liked in writing him. As an experiment in 'writing the other', the father doesn't work very well. I have newer stories which do much better in that department.

As I say, it is an old story and not my best. But I do like the philosophical ground it covers. I probably won't be re-writing "The Seed" again; I've got too many new things I would rather expend my meager energies on...
mcjulie
Jun. 12th, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Hey, Jack!
I have this theory about workshopping.

I don't think workshopping can ever improve the current story -- only the next story.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 13th, 2006 12:38 am (UTC)
Re: Hey, Jack!
You're making some weird assumptions about Nature. What is it? dead dumb matter, colliding particles in the void? or self-organizing concretized subjectivity? Or m o r e ? As in the teleological fray? Some clarity is to be had at www.starlarvae.org. singularity yields to dualularity.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 16th, 2006 07:09 am (UTC)
I've revamped HardSF.net, and the link to "The Seed" can now be found here:

http://www.hardsf.net/?mode=9&id=7
jackwilliambell
Jun. 16th, 2006 08:22 am (UTC)
Link fixed.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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