Tag Archives: computer programming

Heartworm by J.J. Roth

This is the next short story in the Event Horizon 2017 collection of short stories highlighting authors who are eligible for the 2017 Campbell award for best new writer.

Published: June, 2015 in Nature

Genre: science fiction

Setting: near future, a random college

Summary: Short version: Peter creates a computer worm to unlock the software protecting Zora’s emotions Continue reading

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The End of All Things by John Scalzi

This is the sixth book in the Old Man’s War series that I’m trying to finish up this year.

Published: 2015

Genre: military science fiction

Length: 380 pages

Setting: various location in the Galaxy, far future, soon after the events of The Human Division Continue reading

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Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

I happened to see this graphic novel at the library and picked it up. I’m trying to encourage Miss Adventure to enjoy computer coding more, and I thought a graphic novel about it might help.

Published: 2015

Genre: middle grade graphic novel

Length: 88 pages

Setting: Stately Academy, present day Continue reading

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The Bug by Ellen Ullman

I needed a U author for my Alphabet Reading Challenge. I didn’t have any U authors on my To Read lists, so it was down to “peruse the library shelves for something that looks interesting”. This sounded like a computer thriller and something different from what I’ve been reading lately, so I tried it.

Published: 2003

Genre: fiction

Length: 348 pages

Font: Adobe Garamond

Setting: it felt like California, definitely in the mid 1980s Continue reading

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The Machine Starts by Greg Bear

Welcome back! I hope all my American friends had a lovely Thanksgiving. My family went up to my parents’ house and I got to see my sister and brother and the kids got to play with cousins. The weather was a bit cold and rainy, but the kids still went out to play football. Fun was had all around! And now, back to book reviews. Or, since it’s Monday, a short story review. I’m back to reviewing a story from Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, this one by Greg Bear. He’s written quite a few science fiction books, and won lots of awards, but I haven’t had the pleasure of reading anything by him yet.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: near future American city

Summary: The narrator works for a company trying to develop the first working quantum computer. They’ve had two failed attempts, but are hopeful the latest, bigger version will function correctly. The chief of the project decides to try something different and consider what they thought to be errors to instead by off-phase echoes between the braided qubits. Incorporating them into the programming makes the quantum computer work, but it also brings about an unintended consequence. Copies of the people on the project keep showing up from alternate dimensions in the multiverse, and those two copies disappear if they see each other. The story finishes with our narrator driving away, looking for a place no other copy of his will also look to be in.

Final thoughts: I wasn’t as impressed with this story. For one thing, the technical jargon got pretty thick when the project managers talked about the quantum computer. Quantum mechanics definitely makes my head hurt. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t compelling enough for me to forgive the jargon. I didn’t really understand what the narrator’s role in the company was. He mentioned several times that he wasn’t as smart as everyone else (in fact, that’s how the story started, which kind of put me off from the narrator from the start), and seemed to be around just to keep people happy. Then we have the problem of multiple copies of yourself appearing in the world and no one does anything about it. Everyone just goes on as if life were fine. How do you even know which copy is the original? And what happens if the original and a copy see each other? Do they both disappear, or does the world’s original get to stay? The narrator seemed to think both disappear. He at least tried to react to the copies, but only by running away. It probably didn’t help I’m reading a novel about computer programming at the same time, so I’m computered out at the moment.

Title comes from: They started up the quantum computer and finally got it to work in this story.

 

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Hello, Hello by Seanan McGuire

Since I finished all the short stories in Rayguns over Texas, I wanted a new book of short stories. It’s not that I’m running out of authors from the 2014 Campbellian Anthology, but I liked switching back and forth. Luckily, I had another book of short stories waiting for me on my Kindle – Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft. (As I’m posting this, the book is still free to download to a Kindle or Kindle app.) The basic premise of the anthology is a group of science fiction writers were brought to Microsoft’s Research Labs and shown some of the cutting edge technology they were working on. The writers were then encouraged to incorporate some of that technology into short stories.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: near future, an unnamed city

Summary: Angie is a computational linguist, which has come in pretty handy in programming her sister, Tasha’s, computer system. Tasha is deaf, and Angie and her lab have created a software system that is able to translate speech into sign language and vice versa. It’s a learning system, so it can learn new languages and add them to its system just through conversation. One day, they receive a call from Tasha’s house that’s a bit odd. It had a generic avatar and the avatar just keeps repeating “Hello”. That’s standard protocol for learning a new language. Angie’s kids enjoy talking to the avatar, but Angie is wondering who it is. Eventually, we learn the avatar is representing a crow (Tasha is a bird rehabilitator) and the program has learned how to take its sounds and motions and turn them into English.

Final thoughts: Oh, wouldn’t that be awesome if it were true! The story ends with a demonstration to researchers, who immediately start to think about which species they want to put in front of the camera. It’s a modern-day Dr. Doolittle, and I want to be able to talk to the animals too. While the technology is beyond what we are currently capable of, it certainly is within the realm of possibility.

A couple of notes on the story. I figured out the big reveal as soon as the family went to Tasha’s house and saw the crow sitting by the computer. I spent the rest of the story waiting to see when the characters would figure out who the unknown avatar was. It didn’t ruin the story, just made it a bit predictable. As a bonus, the story was about a lesbian couple. The first time I saw “my wife” in the story, I had to go back and check the gender of the narrator. Yes, the narrator was a she like I thought. It wasn’t a big deal – just another characteristic to flesh out the narrator, which is how it should be.

Title comes from: When the computer language program is trying to learn a new language, the avatar repeats “Hello” often, which is what happened when the bird started using the program.

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