Horizon — Consciousness Explorers: Inside a Transhuman

Today I have a guest post from author and editor extraordinaire, Keith Stevenson. His new novel, Horizon, is out now. Take it away Keith.

Keith Stevenson
Keith Stevenson

I’d like to thank Alan for giving over some space on his blog for the Horizon Blog Tour.

Horizon is my debut science fiction novel published by Voyager Impulse. It’s an SF thriller centred on a deep space exploration mission that goes very wrong, with repercussions for the future of all life on Earth.

One of the most interesting themes in science fiction, and one of the most exciting advances happening in medical research today, is how humans will become augmented through interfacing with technology.

In the real world, there are amazing advances that enable paraplegics to control the environment around them. In 2012 in the UK, a woman had an aspirin-sized array of electrodes implanted in her brain which picked up signals from neurons in her motor cortex enabling her to control a robotic arm. In sci-fi movies, humans interfacing with technology has brought about a variety of dystopian scenarios from (the now somewhat laughable) Saturn 3, to (the now very laughable) Lawnmower Man, as well as the Matrix movies and the more recent Transcendance.

One of the best books about the future development of humanity is Damien Broderick’s The Last Mortal Generation. It explores not only how the life of our physical body can be extended, but also how technology might free the mind from its time-limited physical form. The mind is the key to so much — our emotions and sense of self. What would it be like to transplant your mind outside of its fleshy architecture into the elegant symmetry of a computer? Would you feel any different if your brain was replaced neuron by neuron by ‘silicon brain cells’? Would you lose your humanity? What about extending the reach of your mind resting within its physical confines by hooking it up to a wider cognitive network that’s faster, richer, and electronic?

eCOV_Horizon_C2D2In Horizon, Systems Specialist Bren Thurgood is among the first couple of generations of transhumans: people who accept an implant that allows them to interface with computerised and artificial intelligence systems. It makes her very good at what she does, and she’s an indispensable member of the crew. However even though I’m an optimist, I find it hard to imagine a future where humanity doesn’t attack what’s different in society. And given the current controversy about metadata and government snooping, I think the reasons behind a widespread mistrust of transhumans are compounded. They are ‘creatures of the internet’, able to breach firewalls and hack sensitive systems as easily as breathing. As a result, ‘chipheads’ are the target of racist — or maybe that should be ‘specist’ — intolerance from the ‘norms’.

I think the most interesting aspect of interfacing directly with the electronic world, the world of data and numbers, is how our minds would interpret and present that augmented reality to us. We’re not digital, we’re analogue, which means — perhaps — we’ll take a figurative rather than literal approach to the datastream. Bren explains it best:

Lex pressed the patches to her temples and flicked the monitor into life. He picked up a metallic wand. ‘You shouldn’t feel any discomfort. I’m just going to send a range of harmonics through the soft tissue and see what the sensors pick up.’ He touched her chin and turned her head to the left. The wand hummed in his hand. ‘What’s it like anyway, the link?’

Bren snorted and a smile spread across her face. ‘You don’t know how many times I’ve been asked that.’

‘Then you should have a good answer.’

She turned towards him and he gently turned her head back into position. ‘A lot of people can’t get used to it. There’s the increased cognitive capacity, of course. You’re totally aware — of everything. When you’re linked, you can instantly understand concepts, complex equations, programming, the works. You access information, formulate solutions, in the blink of an eye. But the perception change can really get to you. Some things you encounter are actual representations, like when I saw Phillips in the ring. Some things you can template and construct yourself. But every now and then something will come at you that’s totally figurative. Like the interface has tapped into your subconscious imagery and selected something that embodies completely what you’re experiencing intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. It can freak you out if you’re not used to it.’

‘Like that package ticking?’

‘Yeah, but that’s a simple example.’

‘Look to the right, please,’ Lex said and swapped the wand to his other hand.

‘Anyway, it’s helped me become more than I ever could be. But Harris and people like him will never understand. And they’ll never trust what they don’t understand.’

No matter how augmented they become, I believe transhumans will retain their own human and individual ways of looking at the world. It may have to work that way to prevent their brains from overloading. It’s a fascinating concept to think about, and it almost makes me wish all this was a reality right now.


Follow the Horizon Blog Tour

3 November — Extract of Horizon — Voyager blog http://www.voyageronline.com.au/

4 November — Character Building: Meet the Crew — Trent Jamieson’s blog http://www.trentjamieson.com/

5 November — Welcome to Magellan: Inside the Ship — Darkmatter http://www.darkmatterzine.com/

6 November — Futureshock: Charting the History of Tomorrow — Lee Battersby’s blog http://battersblog.blogspot.com.au/

7 November — Engage: Tinkering With a Quantum Drive — Joanne Anderton’s blog http://joanneanderton.com/wordpress/

10 November — Stormy Weather: Facing Down Climate Change — Ben Peek’s blog http://benpeek.livejournal.com/

11 November — Time Travel: Relatively Speaking — Rjurik Davidson’s blog http://rjurik.com/

12 November — Consciousness Explorers: Inside a Transhuman — Alan Baxter’s blog http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/

13 November — From the Ground Up: Building a Planet — Sean Wright’s blog http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/

14 November — Life Persists: Finding the Extremophile — Greig Beck’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greig-Beck-Author/101428386583764

17 November — Interview — Marianne De Pierres’ blog http://www.mariannedepierres.com/

Keith Stevenson is a science fiction author, editor, publisher and reviewer. His debut novel Horizon is available as an ebook via http://www.harpercollins.com.au/books/Horizon-Keith-Stevenson/?isbn=9781460704653

 His blog is at http://keithstevensonwriter.blogspot.com.


Dark Trinity book bundle only $4.99

Here’s a good Halloween treat. I know, it’s more like Xmas than Halloween, but who cares. Halloween is far better than Xmas anyway. Out now is an ebook bundle called Dark Trinity. It contains the books Prophecy by J.F.Penn, Burnt Offerings by Michael Lister and Dark Rite by David Wood and myself. All for just $4.99. That’s a whole lot of reading for a fiver.

But it’s for a limited time, so get it while you can from here. Click on the image below for more information about the deal and the three books included. Enjoy!

ad for Dark Trinity


Free and signed Halloween reads

So that most awesome of festivals, Halloween, is fast approaching. I plan to start a new tradition this year, that I picked up from author Willie Miekle. Willie posted on Facebook how he always writes a ghost story by hand in a notebook every Halloween. Brilliant! I’ll be doing that from now on too. But it’s also the time for All Hallow’s Read, which is something Neil Gaiman started a few years ago.

Suspended In Dusk
Suspended In Dusk

So what is All Hallow’s Read? Well, it’s a new Halloween tradition where during the week of Halloween, or on the night itself, you give someone a scary book. So here I’ll be giving you a scary book. A new anthology has just come out, called Suspended In Dusk. It contains 19 excellent horror stories, including one by myself, with an introduction by Jack Ketchum, all superbly edited together by Simon Dewar. The print edition should be coming out any time now, but the ebook is out already. And until October 31st, you can get it for free from Smashwords. Here’s the page to get it, and then use the coupon code DA68M at the checkout to change the price to $0.00. Happy Halloween!

And talking about scary books, you know the first Alex Caine book, Bound, is pretty scary, right? You can buy that in all bookstores, free shipping from fishpond.com.au, it’s still only $20 on booktopia.com.au. Lots of city stores have signed copies in stock. It’s also only $1.99 in ebook, from all the usual outlets.

However, if you want a signed copy directly from me, that’s no problem. They’re only $20 plus postage. Email me at alan [at] warriorscribe.com and tell me where you are and I’ll let you know the postage. I can send those signed copies anywhere in the world, even though the books are currently only officially available in Australia and New Zealand. A signed copy of Bound? What a great gift for Halloween, or Christmas, or just because you’re a great person and you buy books as gifts. You rock.

Meanwhile, grab that free anthology while you can. It really is a good collection of scary stories.


I’m going to be doing a signing and Q&A at Kiama Library

The ongoing Bound train continues to roll and next month I’ve got a hometown appearance. I’ll be at Kiama Library talking about the Alex Caine Series and answering questions and all that stuff. Here are the relevant details:

6pm Tuesday 18th November

Bookings essential – call (02) 4233 1133

7 Railway Parade,
Kiama NSW 2533

Email: library@kiama.nsw.gov.au

Copies of Bound will be available for purchase and signing, or if you already have a copy, bring it along if you’d like it signed.

So if you’re a local like me, or near enough to get to the lovely harbour town of Kiama, do come along. Might I suggest you arrive early and have some fantastic fish and chips for dinner down at the harbour, before walking around the library for 6pm. You know, I might even do it that way myself. Look forward to seeing you there.

Click the image below for a bigger version:



Goodreads Giveaway – a signed copy of BOUND

I’m having a giveaway over at Goodreads. I’m such a fan of everything that site does – it’s a great community for readers. If you’re not on Goodreads, I suggest you check it out – you can catalogue your own book collection, rate and review stuff you read, see what other people think of the stuff you love and hate and so on. There are discussion forums, bookclubs and all kinds of other stuff. And, regularly, people give books away, like I’m doing now. All you have to do to be in the running for a signed paperback copy of BOUND is click this link and then click the Enter To Win button. That’s it. If you’re anywhere in Australia or New Zealand, you’re eligible to enter.

While you’re there, feel free to add BOUND, OBSIDIAN and ABDUCTION to your library by clicking the big green Want To Read button. If you click on the book titles in this post, you’ll get taken directly to each book’s Goodreads page. Have and go and please share this giveaway. Good luck!