Category: Writing & Art

Posts related to my creative writing and multimedia art projects, including books, characters, experiments, and process.

Mac Carroll Multiverse Novel Notebook

This is a brief flip-through of the traveler’s notebook I keep for stories in the Mac Carroll multiverse.

Tools I use:

Inserts are for:

  1. Working things out which gets set aside when filled;
  2. Each novel as it develops that gives a longer-term reference for that particular book’s details;
  3. A world bible intended for permanent reference for things like maps, timelines, character details, technology, world-rules, etc.
  4. (Sometimes, but not pictured here, an insert for administrative and marketing type tasks related to stories or books in the world.)

You can read a story in this universe in the anthology Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime from Autonomous Press.

Hearts & Tails: Spacetime and Mathematics

FIRST LAW OF THE REACHABLE NOWS: No alternate versions of a person may be in eye-line of each other within the same now, or both will suffer immediate death by fire.

My novella “Hearts and Tails” in Spoon Knife 4: Spacetime is set in a soft-SF multiverse where WWI never ended, it just kind of petered out into a devastated landscape and a chemical-weapons cold war. There are 90’s tropes galore: magic, bio-engineered mutant powers, impossible psi-ops, and neon-glow cyberspace–depending which of four reachable nows one falls into. And maths. There are maths!!!

Okay, so I really love mathematics. I know this is mostly an unpopular opinion–Or not! Maybe you may share my love!

Macintosh Carroll, the central character of these stories shares my love. He is a maths savant with color-number synaesthesia.

Red-orange-blue-and-black
a place where four four-dimensional world-lines line up creating a single now, a point shared by four spaces, four-D space-time four four four four times four sixteen blue blue blue blue like the bluest blue that ever was–

Mac stops writing and closes his eyes, the numbers washing him like seas. They are beautiful to him, beautiful and terrifying.

Mathematics–loosely, softly anyway–is how I keep the multiverse of the stories self-consistent and believable.

A formal system in mathematics is an engine for creating truths. It consists of axioms (accepted truths), rules (specified behaviors), and theorems (less obvious truths). New truths can be created by applying rules to axioms and/or theorems, so from a little bit of logic whole universes are made. Logical consistency is what builds a formal system, no matter how outlandish its axioms.

In the case of the Mac Carroll Multiverse, there’s a space-time phenomenon that lines up four realities at a single point. Some individuals can slip between the realities at that point. The axioms include the dynamics of the slip, many of the facts of our world circa 1991, plus unique world-facts such the Ottoman Empire dropping a chemical bomb on Germany because, after 40 years, they want out of the Axis. The rules are called The Laws of the Reachable Nows, and are recorded in a book shared by multiverse travelers. From those axioms and rules, the rest of the mulitverse follows.

But because I love disrupting stereotypes as much as I love maths, Mac’s also a shifty low-life punk with a belligerent attitude who is embarrassed by just how deeply he loves maths, and hides it behind a lot of attitude. Cuz nerdiness is punk rock too <3

In Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime. Autonomous Press, Amazon, or ask your local bookstore.

New Book Excerpt & Interview on All The Things

I’ll write more–maybe too much–about this as time goes on but here is the very first post squeeeee. I am too excited/terrified. Terricided? Excitified? I am a weirdo. HERE ARE ALL THE THINGS

1. The wonderful folks at Wordgathering interviewed me about disability fiction, Hoshi, my next book in Hoshi’s world, and other cool stuff! Read my interview!

2. They also published an except from said next book in Hoshi’s world! Read the excerpt!

3. Oh, yeah, there is a next book in that world and here is a preview of its cover

Black background. Jupiter and the four Galilean moos are across the top. Beneath them are rainbow waves above a slender male dancer who is keeling in a single spotlight. Sparks come from his hands and arms. At the bottom, the book title is "Resonance" and the author is "Dora M Raymaker"

TERRICITEIFIED and so many thanks to Wordgathering for being awesome!

Read all their stuff!

More to come!

Hearts & Tails: Source and Memory

My twenties were belligerent. A few decades of living in fear will result in belligerency, apparently. They were also creative, beautiful, and engaged in the 1990’s post-punk industrial world of queered-up vampires, feminist philosophies, anarchist role models, cyberpunk promises, and aggro-rage mixed-media music, poetry, performance, fuck-this-shit manifestos. This photo of me says, “Fuck you buster, I’ve got a bad-ass custom-built dream-computer, boom box, no gender, and a bad attitude, and I’m not afraid to Rage-Art, so don’t even think about stopping me.”

slightly scowling white person in their 20's with shoulder-length frizzy hair and a white shirt and black vest playing solitaire on a chunky CRT monitor with a boom box, printer, and beige computer tower in the background

My twenties were about danger and anger, but also about community, and the protective factors that come of sharing cultural space. As we got older, we spread into a diaspora. We calmed down enough to get Real Jobs(TM)–which then ate our lives. Shit happened, and not much can be done about that, but I think we’re the poorer for it.

The Mac Carroll multiverse, where my Spoon Knife 4 novella “Hearts and Tails” is set, is my call-back to my twenties. Everyone’s angry and hungry, but they’re also a tight creative community.

There’s “the epic industrial act Recyclr…They’ve got a killer chemical synth, more vacuum amps than can fit on The Parlor’s stage, and Mikal can do more with a fiddle bow and the literal trash people throw at him for a challenge than should be possible outside of actual magic.”

There’s Mac’s best friend Florence…”He and Anais are working up a new performance piece called ‘Nerves.’ Anais calls it ‘a post-modern tribute to nihilism in the age of mutually assured chemical annihilation,’ but Florence describes it as, ‘a multi-media bit on fuck the system, plus we get the audience drunk!'”

There’s Mac’s fierce love of his friends, that he has a hard time expressing in any way that doesn’t come across as just belligerent. “Maybe Flo will want to go out, burn off some of his rage with me on the dance floor. Maybe then he’ll tell me what happened to his eye so I can make the motherfuckers pay.”

Outsiders drawn inside to build our own community, fearing the vulnerability it creates even as we desperately craved it.

The Mac Carroll Multiverse is smaller and more personal than the Liminal Universe where Hoshi is set. Being an alternate 1991, it’s got a lot more of our world to it, and, for reasons associated with the space-time phenomena that creates a multiverse at its heart, all of its stories take place within the confines of a single city. It’s SF/F, sure, cuz I’m not a memoirist, but it’s my 1991 too. My twenties. My community that I wouldn’t be alive today without <3

“Hearts and Tails” is available in Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime. Autonomous Press, Amazon, or ask your local bookstore.

Mathpunk Novella “Hearts and Tails” in Spoon Knife 4

Exciting fiction news! My short mathpunk novella “Hearts and Tails” will be appearing in this year’s anthology Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Space-time

The story takes place in an alternate 1991 where there are no computers, but there just might be magic, as well as a space-time connection to alternate realities. Math! Magic! Synaestesia! Mean secret agents trying to keep our heroes down! Hooray!

The anthology will be coming out later this year from Autonomous Press 

Stories and Media in the Liminal Universe

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is set in the liminal universe. I call it the “liminal universe” after the first book I wrote about it, which may or may not ever see the light of day. Other stories, though, have seen the light of day, and here is the list so far if you want to play in the ‘verse:

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is my novel from Argawarga/Autonomous Press. Due to their unique neurology, only the enslaved Operator caste can program the quantum computers that run 26th century Red City. When three of the caste are ritually murdered, it’s up to private investigator Hoshi Archer—herself a recently liberated Operator—to help the police solve the case. Things get complicated when one of the victims turns out to be Hoshi’s ex-girlfriend, and power-hungry bureaucrats and old rivals stir up new problems. An immortal, amoral alien may even be involved. To unwind the plot to take over the city, Hoshi must decipher a deadly computer program and learn to communicate with the alien, before it’s too late for the next victim—and the city. Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

“Heat Seeking Entities” is a short story set about 30 years prior to Red City Circuit (around when Hoshi was born), and features a very young Caran Watts, who appears in passing in Hoshi in a bit of world history. That story is available in the Spoon Knife 3: Incursions anthology, from Autonomous Press. In the icy-dark of Ganymede’s slums two compromised thieves, both after the same prototype, shelter while law enforcement looks for them. As the troops invade their refuge, each must decide whether to betray for a better chance of individual success—or to risk an incursion into the other’s world and remain hidden. Order direct from Autonomous Press (free ebook with paperback), from Amazon, or ask your local bookstore to order it and carry it!

Pulped Free – I make a free web comic Pulped Free set in the liminal universe when I’m tired of words, and kind of at random. I’m still in “learner mode” with the medium–knowing how to draw and knowing how to write does not automatically make one know how to create graphic stories, heh. But it’s fun for me, and it’s there, and the web site has pages about world concepts that could be of interest by themselves. The comic occurs in the same time period as “Heat Seeking Entities” and, after some intro stuff and a bit more of Caran and his BFF Djen, follows a miserable band of space pirates on a space ship possessed by an unstable élan as they navigate damage and look for loot.

Resonance – Coming later, a new novel exploring the dynamics between hope and fear, set on Jupiter’s Galilean moons. This novel covers the events leading up to the world at the time of Hoshi.

 

 

Lastly, I joke (except it’s true, not a joke, sadly) that I make my own fan art. There are a number of random character drawings from the stories. Also, a little animation of the first few paragraphs from Red City Circuit.

Backstory: Revolutions 1 & 2 and a Post-post-apocalyptic Universe

I joke that the liminal universe, where Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is set, is a “post-post-apoclyptic” universe. But, seriously, it is! Earth dies, almost for good, and everything is awful, but then it (or at least humanity) recovers, and a few centuries pass and there’s space ships and interstellar colonization and everything is awesome. If you’re not an Operator. But, still!

In 2001, I wrote the scene where Earth is almost destroyed. A character stands, shocked, in the burning, ashy rubble of Eastern Metropolis, right about NYC. About three months later the towers came down and I was afraid for a time to write anything else. But I did, and as I developed “why the world is the way it is” I came to this:

When the collapse comes it is neither in a drama of disaster nor in a horror of technological error, but it comes none-the-less. It comes in a slow decline and a contraction of greed. It comes as the haves retreat into corporate campuses and the have-nots are left to starve and sick on the vast, infertile plains between. It comes as segregated corporate nation-states evolve around the remaining resources of revenged Earth, each holding a regional monopoly on quality of life. A network of trade and communication exists through the decaying satellites above, linking the isolated corporate nations, locking them interdependently. The dead fields are left to fallow.

In computing, materials technology stalls the advance of increased processing power, and Moore’s Law collapses. The focus becomes user interface design, and trying to solve the problem of direct brain-wave translation. Technological advances revolve around sustaining the campuses, and tending to the small populations they shelter. Comfort and coolness, and carefully-guarded corporate secrets. Endless refinement on inventions of yesterday.

But out in the dust and the heat, where food is scarce and potable water scarcer, necessity is the mother of invention. In the underground between the corporate islands innovation flourishes. So does a pirate network. Raids are few but effective. Life is hard and short, but it is creative. Art, music, and technology become weapons of subversion.

I’d set the date on that to around 2150, though I’m starting to worry, like the towers, we may end up there a whole lot sooner.

At any rate, there’s a Revolution. The Revolution–a near extinction-level event–imprinted deep cultural trauma, and moral and legal ethos were redefined. The trauma was the Operators’ fault, of course. But everything worked out in the end.

Fast-forward through the next 500 or so years like:

The computational power and creativity of the Operators, along with humanity’s desire to prevent slippage into a dark age, generates an enormous leap in technology. Automation and ubiquitous computing abounds; interstellar transportation becomes feasible; medical advances ensure a largely disease-free 150 year life-span. Culture develops to depend on these advances without acknowledging the slaves who make it possible–visible technology becomes taboo. A network of legal bindings and social programs develop to support the enslavement, training, and selective reproductive program of anyone with the k-mutation. Slaves breaking any law are executed without trial.

The government serves as an intermediary and standardizing/stabilizing unit between individual corporations, which continue to be the primary source of political and economic power. Several independent nations also develop. Inhabited space is divided into developmental classifications, with the Core Worlds of Earth, Luna, Mars, Europa, Ganymede, Cassiopia-Prime, and Emory, and many Emergent worlds, multiple Colonies, and additional resources provided by otherwise unappealing Industrial worlds. Humanity stabilizes and flourishes. The Mem–the concretization of information created by the programs and communications of the Operators and transversed by anything that signals in the EM–develops and matures.

However, humanity does not find any other entities capable of meta-intelligence or second-order emergence of instituions. It is determined that humanity is likely on the front edge of the evolution of meta-intelligence–possibly the first, and alone.

In 2521, the Operators rebel. It is Revolution Number Two.

And that–and the true story of what happened during the first Revolution, plus how humans met the aliens and what happened thereafter–is told in another novel.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Science in the Fiction: Quantum Computers, Encryption, and Synaesthetic Code Landscapes

At the height of my hacker years, I attended a Damien Conway talk on his Perl module quantum-superpositions. He described how quantum computers work, and exactly what the capacity to perform virtually infinite simultaneous calculations at once could mean for encryption. Nutshell: the best encryption we’ve got = LOL

Around this time, I was talking with a bunch of fellow hackers, and we were bitching about how we hate management interrupting us while coding.

“Yeah, the worst is when I have all my code landscapes lined up, and the colors in the right place, and I’m just about to start moving them around, and ka-pow! Some manager-type comes up behind me and I lose it all,” I moaned.

They, uh, stared blankly.

“You know how you see your code all around you, and you’re about to move it around? Like it’s all set up in your visual field?” Surely they understood?

Alas, this was the moment I discovered that no, not everyone sees their math in synaesthetic landscapes. Oops. The silver lining of which became: I can use the way I “see” (and feel, too) programming in stories, and everyone will think it’s fiction. Bwahaha

The brain-computers used by the Operators in my stories came from a union of these two events, plus research into why we don’t yet have large-scale quantum computers–which comes down to a problem with redundancy and signal degradation. The “nearly noiseless” substance tzaddium solves the redundancy issue. But the more interesting issue to me was the encryption issue, and that is solved by using synaesthetic landscapes for programming. Every Operator’s way of sensing code is unique, and irrationally creative. Thus, not predicable or repeatable via brute force methods from a Turing machine, no matter how many calculations it can make at once.

This is why only individuals with a specific neurological constitution can operate the quantum brain-computers: only they think in synaesthetic code landscapes.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Backstory: Operators and Civil Rights

When I first started building the world of Hoshi and the Red City Circuit around 2000, I was mostly interested in why our world shits on its artists, scientists, and creatives. Autism and computer science were behind the core concept of the Operators, but autism was less relevant to the civil rights themes I wanted to explore. I wasn’t yet thinking in disability rights terms.

I was radicalized (woke) in the gay rights movement (LGBTQ+) of the 1980’s. I drew chalk bodies on the steps of city hall with Act Up, marched in the (pretty scary, actually) parades, and feared for my life under personal death threats in the town next-over from where Charlie Howard was murdered. I am not cis-gender; I am not hetero-normative; I am not safe in large parts of my own country. I wanted to draw these experiences into story, maybe to connect with others who shared them, maybe as the endless exorcism that those of us with histories of trauma have to endlessly do.

Still, I struggled to write about Operator oppression. The stories lacked focus and clarity. Too subtle, too nuanced, somehow not tied enough to other world-concepts. Why, besides the obvious danger the Operator technology poses and the weirdness of the Operators, were they so hated? Why are those of us in queer bodies, of queer hearts and minds, so hated?

I can be slow to get the point. It wasn’t until I became aware of the disability rights movement around 2005, and that it was my movement too, that I realized that weirdness itself is the reason we are mocked, hated, murdered. Neurodivergent or queer, non-Christian or creative, different is bad in a world where animal reactions go largely unexamined. In theories of altruism, labeling and prejudice is an unconscious means for deciding if people will cooperate predictably or not. Human animals gravitate toward those the most like them. The rest are to be feared–perhaps even killed.

Operator rights gelled around disability rights, fueled by my initiation in gay rights, because in my fictional post-gender, post-sexuality, post-race, post-post-apocalyptic universe (perhaps when humanity is down to barely enough gene pool to survive, such distinctions may, for just enough years to redefine “other,” matter less) the vectors of oppression become ability and occupation. But I hope that readers will see these stories as being for everyone who lives in fear, who is denied opportunity, and who is breathing the yet-unresolved air of institutionalized oppression. And I hope, as Hoshi’s world eventually does, our world too bends toward justice.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Science in the Fiction: Autism, Neurodivergence, and Idioglossias

No, my characters are not explicitly Autistic. Yes, they are implicitly based on how some of us (myself included) experience autism, the intense world theory, and findings related to the associative nature of autistic intelligence (yes, I know “intelligence” is a troubling concept, but I’m not getting into it here). I invented K-syndrome, to be transparent, because I didn’t want to get into discussions about what autism is or isn’t, or how what I’ve written is not like so-and-so’s experience of autism–and anyway, this is speculative fiction, which means that I get to make stuff up to be convenient to the business of storytelling. In this case, that business was two-fold: 1) from a technological perspective, to meet the needs of the quantum brain computers used by the characters; 2) from a thematic perspective, as a device to explore real-world issues around disability and disability rights.

My characters are explicitly neurodivergent. A genetic difference causes them to perceive and interact with the world and themselves in a way that is not like how most people do. Autism is one of may kinds of neurodiversity. Medically-oriented people classify that diversity into diagnostic bins: autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, attention deficit disorder, learning disability, etc. There are strong arguments for the value of diverse minds in society–just like there are for the value of diverse critters in ecosystems.

From a technological perspective, the neurodivergent connection to the quantum brain computers lies how the characters process language, and their highly associative thinking. At the heart of the characters’ language “impairment” is an idioglossia – a language known to only one’s self. This is both what enables them to create strong encryption in quantum systems, and isolates them, even among their own kind. With respect to associative thought, wrangling complex mathematical structures requires a good deal of nonlinear, pattern-type thinking.

From a thematic perspective, just as in our world, there is a tension between the benefits of neurodivergent minds–“autistic super-powers,” perhaps–and the decency to value people simply as human beings, without need for them to have “powers” or some other thing that mainstream society values more than person-ness. There is a tension between the brilliance and wonder of our experience of the world, and our frustration as we butt up against the limitations of both functional impairment and a society and culture hostile to what we need to survive. And there is a tension between acknowledging what we do better than typical thinkers, and typical thinkers exploiting that–exploiting us–for their own gain. These tensions and oppressions are not fiction.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira 2020 Dora M Raymaker
Portland, Oregon