artificial life

Cellular Automaton: Life Animation in “Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1”

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1


When I was 12 or so, I read about John Horton Conway’s cellular automaton Life in Scientific American. Back then (c. 1970) we had to painfully draw each generation on graph paper. The personal computer revolution made it possible for hobbyists and students to simulate large fields and thousands of generations easily, building self-replicating structures and Turing machines… Life could simulate life.

Later in my career, I wrote artificial life simulations similar to what is portrayed in Red Queen — these are an extension to simulation of creatures in a simulated environment. There is a progression as simulations get better and better — eventually the simulation of life in an environment can become as complex as the real world, which has led to current theories that the universe we live in may itself be some kind of simulation on an underlying substrate.

The video below is an amazing zoom from tiny gliders to glider guns to megastructures… and then to Life itself simulated by Life.

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1.

Review: The Sadist’s Bible by Nicole Cushing, at Tangent Online

The Sadist's Bible, by Nicole Cushing -- Amazon

The Sadist’s Bible, by Nicole Cushing — Amazon

Tangent Online has published my review of The Sadist’s Bible by Nicole Cushing. In summary:

Trigger warning: extreme lesbian sexual imagery, torture, blasphemy. Unlike traditional horror, her writing relies on explicit imagery; where a traditional horror writer would leave the disgusting details to the reader’s imagination, Cushing dwells on them, in the splatterpunk subgenre’s tradition…

If you like this sort of thing — sexual torture and mutilation, dwelling on the disgusting and profane — Cushing’s writing is powerful. But stories with no heart should come with warning labels.

Full review here.

New Review: “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

This review of Nemo’s World just turned up on Amazon, and since I’m a Facebook friend of the reviewer (who tries to read and review lots of work — that’s the extent of our relationship!), I’m copying here in case the Amazon algorithms strike again and erase it:

5.0 out of 5 stars
A wonderful book about SCIENCE MAGIC and how real people react. BUY IT NOW!
December 14, 2015
By Pat Patterson

This IS, by golly, a review of the second novel in the series, and it’s name is Nemo’s World. I say that, because somehow I convinced myself that it was Red Queen. No, you dope, Red Queen is the FIRST novel in the series, and you reviewed that in September. /end apology for being a dork/

This is a SCIENCE book about PEOPLE. It is not a ‘meanwhile, back at the asteroid’ book, which merely transmits Perils of Pauline into outer space. It is also not a ‘gee-whiz, look at the quasar explode!’ book, which only uses the people to discuss something esoteric. It is, instead, a well-written book about what real people do when they encounter technologies which have the capacity to free or to imprison or to destroy. The technology itself is ethically neutral; it is the character of the people that determines whether or not the outcome results in the maximal value of goodness in the universe or not. You know that bit about sufficiently advanced science being indistinguishable from magic? That could easily happen in this book if the author just used hand-wavium. However, a good bit of the first third or so of the book is given over to explaining just how all this works. So, take heart: you do NOT have to have advanced studies in physics to understand what’s going on in the book. And, if you really don’t care, just skip over the explanations like you did during the whaling parts in Moby Dick.

The characters are carried over mostly from Red Queen, with some new additions. In my humble opinion, however, they aren’t the SAME characters, because they change in light of new developments.

The principal technological applications are a result of discovering how to use the underlying structure of the universe (the substrate) as a source of computation and power. The two most significant applications are first the ability to create windows into other distant locations, and second the ability to create exact replications of physical objects. Thus, we have infinite or near infinite growing room, and infinite resources. In the world of intense government control described in the first book, this is an immediately destabilizing factor.

Okay, I want to shift to what I believe is the most interesting ethical question posed by the technology, which is the replications of human beings. Steve is the genius behind the discovery and development of the new technology. Whether or not it is required that his type of genius also be socially inept is not clear, but Steve is certainly found to be pretty far along on the Aspergers/autism scale. It’s actually quite a beneficial characteristic for him to have, at least in the early stages, since he hasn’t been talking to other people about what he has discovered, and also because he pretty much ignores everything around him in order to enjoy his work. And, to be greatly specific and intentionally offensive, he don’t seem to care for chicks. HA HA! As it happens, there is a certain young lady from the sub-continent of India who DOES care for him! And whether or not he notices, she acquires him by the provision of moving into his tent. I feel relatively certain that Steve had SOME input into the arrangement, but it is clear that Rasna is the active agent here, and it is a Good Thing. And, when you add a Good Thing to a Bad Thing, then you get a Some Thing!

Here’s the Bad Thing: There is so much essential development which must be handled immediately, and it can only be handled by Steve due to his brilliance and grasp of theory, that he simply can’t handle it all. It simply CAN’T all be done, yet it MUST be done, and it means that Steve doesn’t even have a chance to eat or sleep, much less explore his relationship with Rasna. So, he uses the replicator, and creates another Steve.

In public, they use the fiction that this is Steve’s twin brother Larry, just in from Viet Nam, who speaks very little English. It works, for the public.

But MY immediate question is this: since the Larry is the same as the Steve, does he not have equal standing? And specifically, what is relationship with Rasna? Sure, share the work; that presents only minor problems. But share the companion? Rasna reveals that she can’t tell them apart, but states that she doesn’t care, as long as it’s the original she’s sleeping with.

How does she know?

And what about the Larry/Steve’s position on the matter? He has been completely replicated, which means he emerged from the replicator with the same emotional set-up and memories of Rasna as Steve/Steve; isn’t denying him the pleasure of her association the ethical equivalence of denying Steve/Steve?

As I was reading this, I thought, Maybe this is a third application where Steve’s Asperger’s is going to be a benefit. Perhaps he really hasn’t bonded with Rasna at all, so emerging into being without the physical requirement to spend time and energy with her is going to be seen as a plus, and not a minus. Maybe you can replicate geniuses with Asperger’s at will, and never suffer any social complications.

But then it occurred to me: why not replicate Rasna, and call her something else, like Shakuntala, the warrior empress from the Drake/Flint Belisarius series, and pair her up with Larry/Steve?


BUT: Rasna does NOT have Asperger’s! And neither would Shakuntala/Rasna, and so what would be the likelihood that she would ALSO demand to be the only one to sleep with Steve/Steve?
He he.

Okay, Jeb Kinnison, how are you going to write your way out of THIS mess?

The small group who program the new technology recognize how much trouble it would cause to have human copies, so they write the programs for normal use to recognize and prevent copying of living things. Steve’s use is a one-off, with the alternative — opening up direct substrate programming to more programmers — viewed as too dangerous to allow. The plot in the next book requires restoration of a lot of backup copies of people, and so the issue will have to be faced. As with all powerful technologies, there are compelling reasons to use it, and real dangers as a result…

Rasna accepts Steve for who he is, and revels in taking care of him despite his limitations and absorption in his work — this has been a pattern for lots of great scientists, and many partnerships are founded on complementary personalities like theirs. You’re quite right that copies of Rasna would find it more difficult to accept the situation, and over the longer term, the copies of Steve may well deserve equal status and a Rasna-copy of their own, likely by moving to another planet to avoid confusion!

If you haven’t read the first in the series, Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1, it’s best to start there.

IndieReader Best of 2015: “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

Of the indie books they reviewed (thousands?), IndieReader selected Nemo’s World as one of the 56 best of the year 2015:

A group of idealistic scientists use gateway technology to save the United States in NEMO’S WORLD By Jeb Kinnison
The second installment in Jeb Kinnison’s The Substrate Wars series takes place in the near future where the US has become a one-party oligarchy opposed by a group of rebel scientists and humanity is poised to destroy itself in the name of “security.”

Here’s their review:

IR Verdict: Good science fiction is usually about humanity rather than deep space or death rays. NEMO’S WORLD is well-written science fiction that harkens back to the golden age of Heinlein and Asimov.

If you haven’t read the first in the series, it’s free until Friday: Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1.

30% off today: “Shrivers” Trade Paperback

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

I’m avoiding holiday shopping craziness by mostly buying from Amazon. Note the Black Friday special there — 30% off any printed book: “To use this promotion, you must enter HOLIDAY30 at checkout under the ‘Gift cards & promotional codes’ section to receive 30% off any ONE (1) book, with a maximum discount of $10.”

Gift idea: my latest, Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3, just came out.

First review: “…a real page turner… These are my favorite type of scifi stories, non stop action, twisting plot, space travel, technology and grand social implications. Every time one crisis is resolved another bigger one takes its place.”

The discount only applies to the trade paperback link. The Kindle version is here.

Tangent Online on: “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

New review in Tangent Online.

Running through all of the machinations and maneuverings, personal stories of love and loss, sacrifice and heroism—and of course treachery—is the ages-old story of a band of rebels fighting for freedom against almost insurmountable odds. Kinnison handles all of this with aplomb and a sure hand, making for an engaging, page-turning read.

Nemo’s World is the second book in the Substrate Wars series, which starts with Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1.

Review: “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

I missed this review of Nemo’s World when it came out on Goodreads, which I don’t pay a lot of attention to:

Kjirstin’s review Apr 08, 15
5 of 5 stars

After having escaped the immediate dangers of the last novel, the intrepid explorers and students turn their minds to how to use their new discovery — instantaneous travel to anywhere in the universe — to benefit the rest of mankind. But in order to make this possible, they need to defang the governments and ruling classes of the nations of Earth. So most of this story is about how they manage to maneuver politicians into realizing that their time is over. It was actually quite enjoyable having the recalcitrant US government being one of the last holdouts, absolutely SURE that they could somehow avoid the consequences and do things that would bring back the status quo ante.

I loved the idea of setting up colony planets and the gates to allow people to head there. (I have a soft spot for colonization and pioneering in my sci-fi in general.) It was such a hopeful vision — a way to move past the stagnant and ossified way of doing things and into something new with all sorts of potential. (As well as some musing over how to avoid the mistakes of the past, which we see as the first group of explorers have to set up a government for themselves.)

Great fun and a good addition to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next one when it comes out!

If you haven’t read the first in the series, Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1, it’s best to start there.

New Reviews: “Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1”

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

the first review is from Canada, the second from the US Amazon site.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Science Fiction in Heinlein’s Tradition, March 19 2015
By Eric A Weder – See all my reviews
Verified Purchase
Good to see a modern writer taking on the SJW types. Reading the author’s end notes confirms that he has the same sci-fi upbringing that I had. Really couldn’t ask for much more. I’ll be buying more from Kinnison.

4.0 out of 5 stars
A good work of science fiction and I enjoyed the read
By Kimball O’Hara April 28, 2015
Verified Purchase

Unfortunately, the political system described in Red Queen rings far too true and far too close for comfort…but apart from the dystopian future that is really a part of the dystopian present in a few years, the novel is a good work of science fiction and I enjoyed the read. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1.

Indiereader Review: “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World at Amazon.

I go to IndieReader for formal reviews, since I’ve discovered legacy reviewers like Kirkus apply ideological prejudice to their reviews — notably for Bad Boyfriends, where the reviewer downgraded the book because I mentioned the need for children raised with expectations of entitlement to adjust to reality to find a true partnership. IndieReader does a much better job of fairly reviewing indie and small publisher works.

NEMO’S WORLD is the second installment in Jeb Kinnison’s The Substrate Wars series. The action takes place in the near future where the United States has become a one-party oligarchy opposed by a group of rebel scientists and humanity is poised to destroy itself in the name of “security.” Fortunately, a group of idealistic scientists and engineers use their intelligence to address the damage and offer a true taste of freedom to humanity.

The scientists, primarily quantum physicists, possess breakthrough technology that allows them to travel across vast distances as well as monitor others remotely through their gateway technology. The superpowers, especially the USA and China, are trying to capture the technology and the leaders of the group so they can dominate the planet. Justin Smith, a rebel leader, becomes the face of the opposition and the Americans (as well as other powers) are trying desperately to capture him. Fortunately, the rebels used their gateway technology to escape to an earthlike planet 50 light years away. The chief scientist of the rebel group, Steve Duong, used the gateways to capture every nuclear warhead on the planet to warn the superpowers to stand down and negotiate a lasting peace for their populations. The war goes on as the US and China try to duplicate the technology and end the rebellion.

The science is accurate and is footnoted so the reader can delve into the actual science behind the plot. There is conflict in the plot, especially in raids from US Seals and Islamic terrorists but the resolution is tempered with justice. NEMO’S WORLD does not have the melodrama of a space opera or of bloody fanged aliens attempting to wipe out humanity. It is a thought-provoking plot where each scientific breakthrough is analyzed for its effect on humanity and even the forces opposing the rebels rationally sort out their plans to capture the technology. The action is set against a background of intelligent discourse ranging from the effects of the technology on third-world farmers to the noosphere, the realm of human thought, and how it is affected by artificial intelligence. Even the title, NEMO’s WORLD, is a translation from Latin meaning “nobody’s world”, a reference to the loss of hegemony by the world powers. This is the level of discourse in the novel from its first pages. The book leaves several topics open, like the possibility of alien contact and the development of AI, but these seem to be hooks to be used for later in the series.

Good science fiction is usually about humanity rather than deep space or death rays. NEMO’S WORLD is well-written science fiction that harkens back to the golden age of Heinlein and Asimov.


Review here.

If you haven’t read the first in the series, Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1, it’s best to start there.

New Review: “Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1”

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Excerpt from a long new review by book blogger Ashley Tomlinson:

I liked Justin, there’s nothing quite like a smart guy to wrap your arms around. I liked Samantha too, having a smart female character without making her look like a stereotypical nerd girl is always great. There were so many smart characters, I don’t think there was anyone at my level of intelligence –I guess I mean average.

Sometimes it felt less like a fiction book and more like I was watching these peoples lives before my eyes. Maybe it was more film like than fiction book but it really painted a picture for me.

I don’t think this book is for everyone but it’s definitely for people that enjoy science and physics. If you like books with very intelligent characters, so smart they can debate with Stephen Hawking, then you’ll love this book. This is only book one so there is a lot more to come from this series and from Jeb Kinnison.

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1.