Tag: liminaluniverse

Imaginary Worlds Podcast!

Eric Molinsky of the Imaginary Worlds Podcast, did a fabulous episode on Neurodivergent Futures in science fiction. The podcast includes interviews with Ada Hoffman, Nick Walker, Quinn Dexter, and me. Fun conversation about autistic representation and neurodiversity frames in science fiction fandom and content–plus an actor reading from Hoshi! Transcript available.

LISTEN / READ

New Novel Resonance Released!

I’ve wanted to share the story that starts in Resonance for over 20 years, and here it is. I’m excited, and hopeful, and terrified–which is all weirdly in alignment with the book’s exploration of the edge of hope and fear. Perhaps I’ve summoned an élan of my own. I love these characters and their weird story of neurodivergent experience and alien influence, and I hope you do too. Many thanks to Autonomous Press for their support of neurodivergent/queer authors and stories.

Outrageous and acclaimed, 26th-century musician Caran Watts depends on two secrets to stay alive: a dangerous drug that hides his illegal neurodivergence and an alien species whose vulnerable existence he has sworn to protect. But when he arrives in the Galilean system to tour his latest work, those secrets are hijacked by a powerful force to advance a genocidal plot. As fear infects Jupiter’s moons, Caran must choose whether to keep hiding or risk both his own life and the aliens in hope of a better future.

Current ways to read:

Resonance Themes & Motivations

I have a new book coming out in March 2022 called Resonance. It’s a literary science fiction novel set in the same world as Hoshi. It’s about what lives on the edge of hope and fear and the transformative power of art.

The groundwork for this novel (and the one that follows it–indeed all the Liminal Universe world-building) began more than 20 years ago. The first appearance of the book’s central characters—the human Caran Watts and the alien Muse–is time-stamped 2002 in my exploratory writings. It’s not a stretch to say most of my motivation to hone my lit-craft has been to be able to tell this story.

The back-of-the-book text goes like so:

Outrageous and acclaimed, 26th-century musician Caran Watts depends on two secrets to stay alive: a dangerous drug that hides his illegal neurodivergence and an alien species whose vulnerable existence he has sworn to protect. But when he arrives in the Galilean system to tour his latest work, those secrets are hijacked by a powerful force to advance a genocidal plot. As fear infects Jupiter’s moons, Caran must choose whether to keep hiding or risk both his own life and the aliens in hope of a better future.

I created the Liminal Universe because I was interested in paradigm shifts and social change. What does it take to move large populations to more equitable behavior? What makes some individuals focal points of those shifts? And, what if the paradigms themselves–or the ideas that comprise them–were sentient and we could talk to them? Would they change if we asked them to? Or would they push back?

From these what-ifs, the living ideas that are the élan vitals–like Muse–and the Operator rights movement–fueled, in part, by Mx. Watts–tumbled out.

I also wrote this novel because I was interested in a science fiction story that centers art. It’s usually strategy, or science, or politics, or some clever scheme. I love all of that, but for those of us who might have been saved by a paintbrush or a song, art deserves some room.

And lastly, I wrote this story because all of us neurodivergent, queer, traumatized, beautiful, struggling and imperfect, perfectly perfect, marvelous and marginalized hero/ines deserve to see ourselves on the page. Not shiny and oversimplified, not as inspiration porn, not as objects of pity or sad stakes. But as the complex and real people we are, making the best choices we can and creating wonder in a world that doesn’t make it easy, or straight-forward, to survive.

I love this world, this story, and these characters, and I hope you do too.

Athletic male dancing, leaving trails of colors and shapes behind in his movement.

Why “Liminal Universe”

In the category of, “things that make perfect sense in my brain but no one else’s,” is likely why I call the world where Hoshi and many of my other stories are set the “Liminal Universe.” Here’s the missing info.

liminal | ‘limǝnl |
adjective
1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process
2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold
from Latin limen ‘threshold’

-Oxford American Dictionary

I started developing this universe over 20 years ago. At the time I was extremely interested in the concept of liminality. Okay, so I’m still extremely interested in the concept of liminality. The first novel I wrote in the world was named Liminal. It takes place about 50 years before the upcoming Resonance (55ish years before Hoshi). I still haven’t managed a draft of it I’m happy with, but hope to eventually as it’s the start of the cycle that Resonance and its companion book Revolution complete.

So how does this ‘verse connect with liminality?

Subliminal vs. supraliminal and thresholds of sensation – This is all about the élans, the aliens, the sensation of someone “walking over your grave” and humanity’s fascination with ghosts on the radio. The world of the aliens and the human world are largely subliminal to each other–outside each others’ ability to perceive–but that does not mean unconnected.

Social liminality – The Operators / nauta occupy a liminal position in society, being both valuable and marginalized. As someone who has always existed in liminal spaces, I tend to write about sectors that don’t fit into social norms, that occupy intersectional positions, or that have large amounts of fluidity, such as communities of individuals who are artists, exiles, or illegal.

The liminality of the Mem – The metaverse-cyberspace-virtual world of the Mem is as inherently liminal as our internet. I mean, really, what the heck is this thing? Is it real? Is it a collective dream? A bunch of zeros and ones or the place where we meet and live?

Literal thresholds between dimensional spaces – Although my SF is grounded in real complexity science and social science, I am not a physicist. So my handwavy way of managing space travel is to throw in some thresholds LOL. The places where space farers transition between realspace and dimensionspace are called, officially, Liminalities. For example, “The Stella-Maru crossed the Saturn Liminality from dimspace into the Sol system.”

Paradigmatic transitions and initial stages of first contact – One of the main reasons why I invented this ‘verse was to explore the transitional stages of paradigm shifts. What makes an entire population change its mind about something or see things in a new way? Also, these stories take place in the initial stage of negotiation and understanding between the humans and élans when outcomes still could go in any direction.

New Song / New Post: It’s the End of the World

Wow the past year was hard; I’m guessing for you too. Even though that meant most of my social media falling by the wayside, I did keep working behind the screens, and have some exciting things to share in the new year.

So happy Solstice season! Here’s a new song. Many thanks to Mr. Alphabet for vocals and City of Troy for visualization. I hope you enjoy it!

I wrote this song accident a few years ago. I was struggling with a scene a novel that required it. After months of failing to get the poetry right from any narrative distance, I closed my eyes, and plunked myself inside of the character, inside of the scene, performing the song. Not only did the lyrics resolve but all of the music too. So technically it’s not my song, it’s my character’s song, but I wrote it, because I wrote my character. Wot!? IT IS WEIRD LOL

Here it is on SoundCloud / audio-only if you’re not keen on video.

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!

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