Eudaimonia – Micah Thomas

The Little Demons Inside by Micah Thomas

Eudaimonia: Having a good attendant or indwelling spirit.

The Eudaimonia books by Micah Thomas so far consist of a novel (The Little Demons Inside), and two collections of connected short stories (Evidence of Changes Volumes 1 and 2). The second novel (The Ghosts We Hide) is out in a couple of weeks. I binge-read the first three books back to back, and wanted to tell you all about them.

From the back cover of The Little Demons Inside:

This is not a love story, but there is love. This is not a horror story, but there are horrors. This is not a true story, but there is truth.

In 2017, something went wrong with the world. Or, at least, in 2017, everyone finally saw it. Henry needed to get off the streets to avoid the heat and volunteered for an experimental drug trial. The permanent side effects made his life dangerous and unpredictable.

Henry doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know his place. He’s a broken version of a wandering superhero. Then he meets Cassie. Their connection is brief and intense. These two lost souls are propelled together, apart, and together again in a mind-bending adventure that challenges them to face their demons.

Content Warning: This book contains vulgar language and depictions of violence and moral decay against humans, including but not limited to psychic possession and sexual acts under said possession.

We have long been obsessed with the idea that there are spaces, dimensions, or worlds beyond the physical. It is one of the things I repeatedly reference in my own fiction, and something I’ve been reading a lot about recently in terms of consciousness theories and psychedelic research reports. In the Eudaimonia series, Micah Thomas explores the possibilities of such spaces, and he does so beautifully. You see, not only do these stories have a strong socio-philosophical element, but they are also gripping, accessible and heartfelt: something that makes a book irresistible to me. Continue reading “Eudaimonia – Micah Thomas”

Telepathic AI, Neuronal Art and Squids, Everywhere!

Pierre Huyghe Image from The guardian

Technology in the Gap

This is the first in a little series of posts about the real-life developments in technology that led to the bizarre extrapolated versions in my new book, Mind in the Gap. In this one, I share some of my research on the possibilities of creating art directly from the brain.

Squids, Everywhere

SQUID is a real device used to detect minute changes in electromagnetic fields, including those in the brain. It stands for Superconducting Quantum Interference Device, and has been used in science fiction for years, most memorably in William Gibson’s novels as a way to read-out information stored in neural circuitry.

The current method for brain imaging, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), has limitations in that it is blind to detailed and direct neuronal activity. SQUID is one of the developments being investigated as a replacement for the future.

I used this idea in my story Frankie. I wanted to show such technology becoming so canonical and safe that it was used in a socio-commercial setting as opposed to only in medicine. I created an alternate reality where people no longer carry around mobile devices to interact with the world, but instead wear headpieces that continually read and output brain signals (and actually look like a squids!).

Telepathic AI

Scientists in a Kyoto laboratory have been working on a project that uses AI to analyse data collected during fMRI scans, and to interpret them into visual representations of what the individual was imagining at the time from a database of photographs. They call it Deep Image Reconstruction. Artist Pierre Huyghe worked with this recently by asking volunteers to imagine things he described, and then getting the AI to create a visual from their brain signals.

“If I tell you to think of an apple, the apple you think of will not be the same apple I think of,” he told The Guardian. It is one subjective impression (quale) informing another, which is then interpreted by an artificial intelligence. The resulting images are far from accurate according to those involved; they look nightmarish, fleshy and deformed (see the image above). They are uncanny: somehow recognisable to us but just strange enough that we know they can’t be real. You can read the whole article here.

I like to imagine these are the kind of images AI could think up independently in the future if we tried to simulate human perception. Would these grotesque mashed up images define us as a species in the mind of a robot? And I’m not even going to get into the possibilities of AI becoming capable of spontaneously reading our minds. I’ll save that for when I come to post about the horrors of my story One…

Painting with Thoughts

For several years we have been able use a brain-computer interface to command painting software: painting pictures with our thoughts, choosing colours and placement based on the way we focus our attention. It has been used to help people who don’t have use of their motor functions, and is hoped to even become an effective communication channel for people suffering locked-in syndrome.

Some say we can also use brain painting as a meditative therapy of sorts. If we ‘map’ our thought patterns and create a visual representation of what altering that would look like. It’s a bit like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with a visual aid and creative output, and I’d be very interested to see whether this is proven effective in the future.

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Do Androids Dream?

A type of AI called a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) has filters capable of abstracting out aspects of images in layers. This has been used in various experiments. For example, we know that CNN can produce new images that combine the ‘content’ of one existing image and the ‘style’ of another – think of the filters you have on your phone.

Google’s DeepDream uses a CNN to find and enhance patterns in images via algorithmic Pareidolia to produce psychedelic, over-processed images (pictured above) These experiments with neural nets are already evolving at pace. Artwork created by CNN is selling for thousands of dollars, and is informing the way virtual and augmented reality develops.

Frankie

In Frankie, I combined the general ‘output’ ideas of Deep Image Reconstruction, CNN and Brain Painting with the ‘input’ of advanced brain scans at neuronal level. I imagined a little piece of worn tech taking minute signals from the brain, that could output them instantly onto the surfaces around us to create a sort of communal psychedelic wonderland. I thought about what it could be like if certain skilled individuals were able to build the output images up in layers to create hologram-like objects for as long as concentration would allow. My nameless protagonist lives in a world where this is what memes have become.

Being a lover of psychology, I then began to wonder: what, then, might happen if the headpieces could take readings from the subconscious mind to show us things we didn’t realise we were thinking? It could tell us ‘You share an exciting chemistry with that person over there,’ or ‘you are harbouring deep-set doubts about this.’ And what if those thoughts in the subconscious weren’t intermittent, but ever-present in the background, and ever-growing? You’ll have to read Frankie to find out!

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If you’ve already read Mind in the Gap, have you seen the Connections and Easter Eggs page? People are starting to add their theories and findings, and I’d love you to join in. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check out the blurb or pick up a signed copy here. It’s also available as an ebook on Kindle or as a paperback from anywhere that sells books. Thank you!

New Reviews

I’m thrilled to tell you that Mind in the Gap has been getting some very positive early reviews! Here are a couple of excerpts from three fantastic book bloggers here on WordPress.

Alexandra Peel says:

“On a superficial level, one could read these as sci-fi stories. The author’s understanding of science terminology is clear, and so we experience Artificial Intelligence (A.I), quantum physics, immersive technology, black holes, futuristic drugs, and insect sized cameras. There’s a whole world of technology on this level.

On another level, it is about human connectedness, the unconscious mind and our place,, not only within the world of technology, but the world, nay, universe as a whole.”

You can read the whole review here, along with Alexandra’s thoughts on other books, writing, and life in general.

Gavin Jefferson says:

“The science fiction is strong throughout, and some of the ideas blew me away. Some are heart-warming, some are terrifying: one felt as if I were reading a long-lost Hayao Miyazaki story. C.R. Is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors.”

You can read the whole review here, along with Gavin’s other reviews, thoughts, and writing journal. I had the privilege of reading his forthcoming novel Almost Surely early too and I highly recommend checking that out. 

David from The Gallifreyan Buccaneer blog says:

“The stories are surreal, short, sharp shocks that transport you to possible futures and are full of bold visions.”

“Sure, it’s metaphysical and tackles some huge issues but it feels to me like a real labour of love. An outpouring of a very clever and very creative mind. It’s literally bursting with ideas and has left me questioning the nature of reality.”

You can read the full review here, along with many other great book recommendations.

Release Day – 23.09.18

It’s release day! 23rd September is not only Autumn Equinox but also a significant date for my characters, so I’m thrilled I could make it today. Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered, and to all my advance readers.

Mind in the Gap is now available as an ebook on Kindle and as a paperback from anywhere that sells books. You can also order a signed copy directly from me here.

These 14 connected stories have theories of consciousness melded together with visions of future technology, alternate realities, and as many rabbit holes as you choose to go down… Please check it out and help spread the word!

Mind in the Gap – The Stories

Mind in the Gap has the approval of my advance readers and is now up for pre-order! So, I thought now was a good time to share some more details on the stories in the book with you.

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1. The Predominator

For as long as he can remember, ZXXX84 has lived in an android city protected by a grand ethereal dome. He spends his days chasing targets set by the Triangle Council without ever understanding why, until one day he makes a discovery on the outside that points him in the direction of a greater truth.

2. Baily’s Beads

The biannual reality eclipse has come around again, and on his morning commute, Alex struggles to rationalise its existence.

3. Seek Assistance

A frustrated stock trader finds himself stuck in the London Underground system with only an irrational steering committee and his own compromised mind with which to plot an escape.

4. The Omega Paradigm

In a bizarre twist of medical advance and network design, the psyches of ordinary people are being split into components based on the theories of CG Jung. We follow Jason’s Anima as she tries to understand the purpose of it all, and attempts to make him whole again.

5. Mapmakers

Nav would do anything to escape the targeted advertising and constant live monitoring that is the norm of his time. So when he meets an ally on the bus to work who claims to have the means of taking him off-grid, he jumps at the chance. But can a trail of mind-altering ideas and coincidences lead him to a better life?

6. Spectres

During Meredith’s shift at the museum, shadows start to appear in the augmented reality app designed by her best friend. When she decides to track and collect them, she finds herself on a unique journey.

7. Winter Triangle

For the people of Origin, days can last entire lifetimes. They consider their lifestyle to be utopian, and traverse the many worlds encased in sound waves, to experience all that is on offer. But in accepting a special gift on zir 18th birthday, Shay takes on far more than ze bargained for and is forced to consider the question – who takes responsibility for crimes committed across realities?

8. One

Markus has worked for far too long. He really should have been home to meditate long ago. His brainwaves are in hi-beta and at their most visible to the angels, so he must do his best to mask his error and take cover from their ruthless, alien rules.

9. Chapel Perilous

An inventor is appalled that hippies should be allowed in the first class carriage. But in their own way, they manage to show him a whole new world that may well redirect the course of the future.

10. The Fold

Aaron makes the trip back down to Earth once every 12 weeks, but never before has he been so shaken by what he sees en route. The experience will not let him go, and follows him unsuspecting into his dreams, his private life and finally Blasar, a massive virtual reality entertainment warehouse.

11. Humanity 1.1.

A tiny imp of a man confronts Robyn on her drive home and attempts to explain what the biblical fall was really all about.

12. Frankie

In a world where every thought and emotion is externalised by a piece of worn tech, a meme artist is busy spotting consistencies and constructing little fixtures to hold on to. When things with his lover turn stale, the question arises whether the real community, the real love and the real beauty, is in stability and focus, or in sharing.

13. The Last Man

The City of Greater York is a ghost of the high-tech wonderland it once dreamed of becoming. Lab Technician Zane struggles through his daily routines in the hope that what small difference he can still make will be enough to raise what has been lost.

14. WTF?!

The story in the gaps. WTF?! is a fast and whimsical ride through the back streets of nowhere. M, who professes to be the outcast of a black hole, tries her best to answer every question her companion has about the nature of her reality, and presses him to make a difficult decision about his own.

I’ll leave you with a snippet from the lovely feedback I got from Paul Loughman, because he describes exactly what I was going for with this book. “It feels a times as though it’s a collection of short stories. But it isn’t. Every vignette is essential to the main point, which is so entertainingly and mind-bogglingly complex that the consistencies and connections between the stories (and the running dialogue between) make it an indivisible whole.”

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Mind in the Gap is available to pre-order on Kindle, or as a signed paperback from Orchid’s Lantern direct. Check it out, add it to your wish list, tell all your friends! And if you are a book blogger, please email orchidslantern@gmail.com to register your interest in a review copy.

Edit: I should point out that although the Amazon page states the paperback equivalent is 159 pages, it’s actually 250. This will be updated shortly.

The Test

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85% or higher: that’s all Kaley needed to gain the gold star emoji next to her name on all social media platforms. The effect would be immense; everyone wanted to associate with a star. The Corporations would be falling over themselves to advertise on her page, and the crowd-funding for her comic books would boom. She’d be able to eat proper food again; maybe even dine out! She’d be able to buy from exclusive shopping sites, access the expert forums and apply for plane tickets. All she had to do was prove she was authentic.

  “I hope you’ve prepared!” said the cynical voice of a beggar crouched outside the dramatic, mirror-clad tower that was the test centre. Prepared? She thought. How can you prepare for an authenticity test; either you are, or you aren’t?  Continue reading “The Test”

Toxic Duck Inc.

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My life was pretty peachy before I caught the virus. At least, that’s what they tell me.

My partner, Jaz, and I had managed to save up enough money to travel the world and stay comfortable. We lived in full colour then; climbing mountains, skiing down them, eating in fancy restaurants… And at night, just like everyone else, we would put those little squashy pads against our temples and plug into our phones to upload the memories of the day to the cloud. They say it not only preserves your special moments for ‘fully immersive enjoyment’ another day, but it also improves the efficiency of sleep, security, and peace of mind. Except I have no peace, not anymore.

One evening, after a few drinks in the famous old Tokyo Mixology Lab, Jaz and I got back to our hotel and plugged in. No way were we going to risk losing the memories of that day! Then an alert box appeared on my screen:

Free updates are available. Apply now for extra security?

And I hit ‘yes’. Continue reading “Toxic Duck Inc.”