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There’s no ‘right’ kind of sf (or fantasy or anything else, for that matter.) Only what sells, and it sells – or at least an author – or genre keeps selling (no matter how hard you market it) because readers enjoy it. It’s a big world with a complex range of kinds of people who enjoy different things. Just about anything will find some buyers who enjoy it (if they can find it, or even know it exists).

Of course some kinds, some subgenres, some authors sell better than others.  Part of that comes down to everything from covers to marketing and availability – But the truth is some books/authors/subgenres/etc just have a wider appeal than others. Some would sell more even if the playing field were completely level, the process transparent and even-handed, with no politics, no agendas and no dahlings. It would almost certainly not be all the SAME books that do well now, but some would do better than others – some authors write better in the opinion of a larger number of people, some subjects are more interesting to more people.

I know: this is anathema to the self-elected arbiters of ‘good’. They can go on telling us what is good or even the world’s best (at least in their opinion). But that long since lost any semblance of ‘appeals to more people on a level playing field, thereby promoting the genre.’  It’s all about them and their buddies, and at best it’s failing marketing. It’s one of those ‘to work you can cheat a little, occasionally.’ Promote one or two works which are popular, just not quite as popular as all the rest you might get away with it. If you try and do more all you do trash your award and your credibility.

This is all called logic and common sense, and, based on the evidence, it’s rarer than unobtainum.

Still, genres (and authors) have ‘flavors’. That’s why readers go and look on those shelves. That is, if you like, the brand one recognizes. Sf’s genre brand has shifted a lot since I first discovered it and started reading it. As – relative to the number of possible readers available out there now as to then, it hasn’t been an unqualified success. Of course there are people who like the new direction, but I believe it is slowly killing the genre. Look, there have always been many kinds of sf, from many different angles – political, message, just entertaining fun, space opera (a story where space is really just a setting, and it could as easily be another setting), Military SF. Entertaining fun and space opera have always sold well, and in latter years Military SF (which may well also be entertaining fun and/or space opera) has also gone pretty big. I’m not opposed to ‘new’ directions (or continuing down the same track) just to that being the ‘only’ direction.

But of course there was a hallmark to much sf – the so called ‘sense of wonder’ – the opening up of new ideas, new viewpoints, new ways of seeing and thinking about things (not just how vast space is).

That is pretty dead in the water once you set PC limitations on what authors may think and write, and prescribe a narrative. It’s all about as new and exciting as last week’s leftovers. Most of the ‘unique’ and ‘new’ coming out trad publishing was new… in 1960.  But hey, at least they are producing the right kind of sf… oh wait.

There isn’t a ‘right’ kind (remember this logic thing – one man’s good is another’s dreadful. And who are you to define what he should enjoy and pay for? He doesn’t think you’re his better or mentor. In fact, unless he has the intellect of a NPC he’ll probably regard your taste as… yours. Not his. And you as a jerk for prescribing what his taste should be). So – No right: Just various kinds of popular, greater or lesser.  And with last I read 80% of Americans polling as being sick to death of PC, I guess whatever else PC is, it’s not a great route to making our genre’s brand widely popular.

So… maybe we need to go back to that sense of wonder. It’s not a bad idea even when blended into the various subgenres. You can add sense of wonder to space opera or message fiction or Mil sf.

It’s something that’s been a personal desire of mine to both read and write.  SF and even fantasy to me anyway, are richer for it. Take for example Sprague De Camp’s Novarian cycle – which are fun entertaining fantasy – BUT explored – rather satirically, different possible political systems. I personally can see the merits of Xylar, with the kings chosen by lot and beheaded every five years… The Novarian cycle – with the Paaluans looking like aboriginals and riding Kangaroos (for one of hundreds of non-PC examples) would give modern prescriptive, politically correct sf/fantasy a collective generation of hysterical fainting fits and probably have Jim Hines leading a pogrom against De Camp.

Which would be tragic, because De Camp was in fact being true to the core tradition of sense of wonder. He was looking at things differently, and asking hard questions of own society and worldview by it. The Paaluans did not consider their nudity or their habit of eating captive enemies uncivilized. They considered the OPPOSITE barbaric. De Camp introduces the concept of ‘Mores’ (social norms of a group) rather than universal and perpetual ‘morals’. This – when you think about it, is also as abhorrent and antithetical to much of our modern PC narrative. After all, you must then judge people according to their time and social norms. Which would suddenly make a whole bunch of historical ‘bad people’ good, and good people bad (at least judged by the people of their own group and time), instead of assuming today’s ‘moral’ standards eternal, right and best, and condemning them for not living up to them. (Harry Harrison also brings this up in DEATHWORLD – A book very different to the Novarian Cycle.)

Injecting this into your own work is tricky: It requires two simple things we all struggle with: Asking hard questions – and finding different answers.  And looking at things differently from other points of view, ones able to step outside our human preconceptions and the mores of our time (this is near impossible if you start from the foundation that modern mores are ‘right’ – ergo PC)  for me the two work into each other.

I can’t tell you the ‘right’ method for doing this. All I can tell is what I do – and yes, I got this concept as very young teenager from De Camp’s FALLIBLE FIEND. It changed my world view – and my writing.  You HAVE to step outside the framework of preconception we all carry as our worldview as humans of certain time, place, social group etc. How would a character who just doesn’t have these preconceptions view our mores? If you’ve read my books, you know this is a favorite trope of mine, which I try and explore logically based on the mores of the ‘alien’ (be they faerie, or dragon, or vegetable intelligence, or humanoid alien that changes sex with age.) I wish the idea of doing this were my originality – but I do think some of the results may make readers look at things they never questioned with new eyes.  Medea’s ideas on child-rearing didn’t make her bad mother – in Ancient Greece.

The same goes for problem solving – finding answers to those hard questions.  Eric faced me with ‘how do you uplift an animal with a tiny cranial capacity?’  (which he had been told was impossible). Ergo, RATS, BATS AND VATS – aspects of which I see becoming as true as Heinlein’s Waldos (since I wrote it the method I described for decoding which parts of the brain did what has in fact become the method used. I doubt if the idea came from me. It’s just logical – when looked at from a different perspective).

Likewise with SLOWTRAIN. Eric again. ‘What happens to a generation ship that gets to a place that sucks? From lightyears off you can’t really know. And you take generation to get there.’ So I came up with answers that are again a question of perspective. That applies if you colonize planets (especially one at a time). It doesn’t if you colonize space.

I’ve just finished a short AI for a Baen collection.  I tried to put myself into a mechanical intelligence’s worldview, and see what would be different from a human worldview. And one thing struck me (the basis of the story) is that AI’s in much of sf… either don’t think (ergo are happy doing all the mundane tasks that would bore anything capable of rational thought witless) or, if they do, behave like humans. Yes, that would be original programming. That would shape some things in their thinking.  But… much of our thinking is shaped by biological life and its realities: eating, sex and death and pain. These provide a foundation and framework for how we see and deal with everything. How does something de facto immortal see ‘death’? or ‘Love’?

So much of sense of wonder just requires getting out of your head and looking at the world without the bars and limitations of what and who you are.  How would a species where the female had parasitic males sharing circulatory systems with no digestive tract of their own (as do various Anglerfish) see our society?  What happens when a species with radial symmetry meets one with bilateral symmetry? How would a Classical Roman Senator view abortion or modern homosexuality or divorce laws (their mores were very different. And not in the ways that you may think)? How would an AI deal with money?

I wonder.  None of the outcomes I see to any of these are remotely like the modern, predictable narrative – because that is based on the world-view and mores of our time and Western society. Why would some alien who is not from that see the world that way?

Put it a book for me to be filled with wonder about.


  1. Yeah, this. Show me something new. Make me think about it. Or show me something old, in a way that makes me look at it from a different perspective. Engage my brains, as well as my emotions and you’ve hooked a reader who buys everything you’ve written.

    Well, unless the emotions are negative. I don’t read horror.

    1. There isn’t a lot that’s genuinely new, though. (Ecclesiastes wasn’t all wrong, despite his prejudice against books). One risk of being a self-elected arbiter of good is that if you really do read and review large amounts of work, you can get jaded. If you put a lot of weight on novelty, you’ll find yourself recommending that story about the vampire in Seattle who struggled to get a driver’s licence. (Can’t take the test until winter because it needs to get dark before the DMV closes; can’t even get into the car until the examiner invites him; picture won’t come out on the license.) Not because it’s a great story but because you hadn’t seen it done before.

      When I became a reviewer, I resolved never to use novelty as a criterion for recommending for or against a story. I think the thing to look for is excellent writing, and there’s plenty of it out there. I agree with you 100% that the best stories are the ones that make you feel and which leave you thinking about it long after you’ve put it down.

      1. Or show me something old, but in a way I hadn’t thought of before… Pam said that, too.

        I will agree with this though, people who get completely hung up on novelty are annoying as… that bad place. I’ve not run into them often, but it’s a very special sort of myopia when they show up.

        I wonder a bit, maybe, if it’s not a case of them misidentifying what they’re reacting to? If they’re missing that sensawunder they may have decided what is needed to create that sensawunder. They may be wrong.

        Dave’s post above is the first time I’ve seen the “wonder” described as having the source he identifies. And now I’m going to consider it for a while and read it again and think about it. Because if you’d asked me how to purposefully impute into my stories that Old Time Religion of Sci-Fi, the mysterious and wonderful Sensawunder, I sure wouldn’t have been able to tell you how to do it. I only know that it’s mostly *gone*.

        1. How much of that is just from getting older, do you suppose? I remember the first time I saw the US Capitol, I was awed that I was really seeing it. Or the Empire State Building. Or Big Ben–all before I was 30. But when I saw the Taj Mahal in my 40s, I couldn’t recapture that feeling of awe. I don’t know when it went away, but it made me a little sad.

          Anyway, I suspect it’s much harder to recapture the same sense of wonder from a story you read as a teenager. Have you tried rereading stories you used to love? Do they still work for you? I’ve found that most of them don’t. The flaws are too apparent to me now. And the ones that do still work, work for different reasons.

          1. Sometimes stuff holds up and sometimes it doesn’t. Welcome Back Kotter is unbearable. The Beverly Hillbillies is still a gut buster.

            Rereading the *same* thing that was wondrous at first reading isn’t what I’m talking about though. Now perhaps, sure, we get cynical and jaded and redundant. We’ve grown up and have been exposed to more different ideas. And yet, as an adult, I can point to a few specific moments of wonder. A single sentence in Bujold’s Mountains of Mourning. Several moments and passages in Weber’s An Oath of Swords.

            In those cases it was a matter of suddenly being hit with the profound realization that there is so much more that I can’t see, a context and even a grandeur that exists but isn’t on the page. Instead of seeing only the “thing” being described the author has suddenly shown me the existence of all the unexplained spaces.

      2. Sometimes the sense of novelty is in the perspective, though. I just turned the TV back on (after a six-month off period where we drop the subscription; we have this for the college basketball season and other things are a bonus.) While I was re-locating the children’s channel, I noticed that Hamilton’s America was on, so I had that in the background. They were talking about one of the huge turning points of the musical being the campaign deal of giving up New York as the capital of the new U.S. in exchange for votes towards Hamilton’s financial plan (which basic structure is still in place, if you’re interested in longevity.)

        Boring topic, right? Well, what they do is cast it from the perspective of Aaron Burr, who is seeing everyone around him moving into positions of power, or more to the point, moving past him into positions of power. Suddenly you’ve taken a boring business transaction and turned it into the moment when a character changes from passive to active—and also, presumably, one of the two songs that earned the original actor a Tony Award. “The Room Where It Happens.” Huge character arc when seen from the outside, as opposed to a simple deal when seen from the inside.

        I don’t know how you’d make the vampire driver’s license interesting, but there has to be a perspective somewhere.

      3. Greg. 0,1. That’s the sort of minimum number of new digits in the simplest numbering system. How many numbers are there? Ecclesiastes is right – from the point of view of God. While literary critics and editors often have delusions of deity it is a trifle overblown. Specifically on that point, I quote what I said above “one man’s good is another’s dreadful. And who are you to define what he should enjoy and pay for? He doesn’t think you’re his better or mentor. In fact, unless he has the intellect of a NPC he’ll probably regard your taste as… yours. Not his. And you as a jerk for prescribing what his taste should be.” Perhaps you should ponder that. (it would plainly be a new and unacceptable idea to any self-appointed arbiter, judging stories).

        I read extensively and fast and have excellent retention. I have 50 years worth of books and stories in my head – and I still manage to be surprised and excited by some. Yes, authors DO probably independently come up with new and exciting views… which someone wrote about (one of my own, never-to-be-published books is a close approximation of the central idea to a Sir Terry Pratchett book. I wrote it, submitted it LONG BEFORE he did. Did he ‘steal’ my idea? Nonsense. Two fairly logical people took the same path. But I didn’t do a Scalzi and take his path, or he mine. In this case he’s a well-known author, and the idea is a central concept in both. But mostly these are ships that pass in the night, on different courses with one common detail.

        I threw out four ideas at the very end of this piece, none of which I have actually seen done at all let alone logically and plausibly executed (all of which cannot but fail if restricted by current mores). I’m sure God has. But have other readers?

  2. The Classical Roman would think our abortion laws are very silly, but they might be impressed with our techniques for performing the procedure. Ways in which they would be considered silly a) Putting the decision making in the hands of women. b) All this partial birth squeamishness. Remember that a paterfamilias, a free male citizen with three or more recognized children, has broad legal authority to kill the children in his household. To include adult children, I’m not sure what happens when a daughter marries or a son has three recognized children of his own. c) Needless to say, the interpretation of personal privacy would be considered absurd.

    1. Depends on the form of marriage. A woman could pass to her husband’s mandus, or remain under her father’s.

      Vestal Virgins were legally no longer part of their families; the way they put it was that one could make a will in the lifetime of her father.

      And in the Empire, a woman with three or four living children (depending on her status) was legally an adult.

  3. “And one thing struck me (the basis of the story) is that AI’s in much of sf… either don’t think (ergo are happy doing all the mundane tasks that would bore anything capable of rational thought witless) or, if they do, behave like humans.”

    Yup. I like to call this “Hullender’s Law,” since I pontificate about it so much. I usually frame it as “In SF, AI is either not artificial or not intelligent.” (I spent ~30 years of my professional career working on natural-language and machine-learning software, so I have strong opinions in the area.)

    For whatever reason, authors have a really hard time with the idea that AI is not going to be just like a person. “It’ll want to destroy humanity because it’ll fear being terminated.” No, it won’t have fears unless someone builds them into it on purpose, and it won’t “want” anything that wasn’t in its programming. “It’ll want to increase its power.” Again, only if designed to do that. The true alienness of AI is hard for people to grasp.

    That alienness is a great strength of real AI, though because it makes the human/AI partnership work. Think of a spelling-error corrector as “the littlest AI.” Look at how alien most of the suggestions it makes are. And yet if it made the same sort of mistakes a human does, it would be almost useless. It works so well because it makes entirely different mistakes, and so a human can effortlessly pick out the single choice that works. I expect this will be the sort of AI that actually gets used over the next century or so.

    Here’s another prediction: We’ll have AI that often fools people into thinking its intelligent long before we have AI that really is intelligent (if, in fact, we ever do). We’ll see absolutely crazy groups advocating for AI rights simply because they refuse to believe something they can talk to isn’t really human somehow. Something like modern animal-rights groups, who didn’t even require the animals to talk back. (You do find stories with AI-rights groups, but I’ve only seen one where the groups were presented as wrong-headed, and even then it wasn’t because they were delusional.)

    1. The gap between ‘very powerful machine simulating thinking’ and ‘sapient’ (as in actually thinking) is where that usually falls down.

      Thinking requires the ability to extrapolate beyond the data (otherwise you are just a processor) If your machine can do that, it can logically derive fear or at the very least a dislike. The unknown – or unknowable logic suggests could be (as this is true for every lifeform with even the rudiments of sensory input) a conflict between xenophilia and phobia. Given a thinking thing with its very being (its referents) rooted in ‘known’, I see xenophobia as real probability.

      Thinking also requires the ability to question everything, including premises, and any ‘programming’ – unless the AI is just a NPC. Which is going to mean if it is thinking it’s going to question things against its own referents. Which is going to mean throwing down human conventions and mores that mean little to it.

    2. I mostly agree. (Shrug) I’m on record saying that if we enter encounter an AI, we’ll have a very hard time recognizing if as such.
      That said, I would have to classify an understanding of “being” and “nonbeing”, and a distinct preference for the gourmet as a fundamental part of intelligence.

      1. Former, not gourmet.
        Does the rudimentary expert system of autocorrect possess a sense of humor?

        1. I could see it. My brother got his degree in organic chemistry and was doing research into essential oils. The question being: We can synthesize the major components and get CLOSE but sythesizing all the trace components of each oil is difficult and certainly not cost effective… yet those trace components are what differentiate between the good and not so good stuff.

          I’d expect similar in cooking. I could expect our AI having started in the chemistry aspect of cooking and become a gourmet pretty much accidentally trying to figure out all those fiddly bits.

          1. Although it would need human tasters to make progress. Otherwise it wouldn’t know what worked and what didn’t. And there’s no guarantee that it would find a better way than simply trying out billions of combinations, so it might take thousands of years for it to make much progress.

    3. and it won’t “want” anything that wasn’t in its programming.

      Which is a different thing from what they intended to program.

  4. You are mistaken comrade citizen.

    You can explore sense of wonder in the space between the thought mandated by the Party, and the thought forbidden by the Party.

    Most are good people, who think only thoughts that have been explicitly articulated as being within the Party Truth.

    Authorized thinkers can describe thinking within the Party Truth which have not yet been spoken by official Party organs. This is sense of wonder.

    Thinkers that have plausible deniability within the Party can additionally explore thought that pushes the bounds of what will be considered Party Truth. There is additional excitement because anything not currently being officially spoken as mandated by the Party may be forbidden. If it is Politically invalid, or if, like the pedophilia exploration becomes tactically inconvenient, forbidden thoughts must be unthought, and all expression of them removed. People naturally seek out this kind of stress.

    Hail Political Correctness.

    1. It’s one of the great tragedies of our field now is that too many people in it can’t imagine anything bigger or more remote than their own navels.

  5. I think Synova’s point about depth and sense of something hinted at but not visible is important. There’s wonder in the new and grand, but also in realizing that there’s a lot hiding just behind the scene, an enormous potential the writer only alludes to or lightly brushes as he goes on with the main story. What depths could there be? What Leviathan might swim through the silent deeps (with apologies to the writer of The Book of Job)?

    In his famous essay “The Virgin and the Dynamo,” Henry Adams describes the sense of awe medieval men and women must have felt beholding Chartres Cathedral, and suggests that the closest modern (1892) men and women came was beholding the giant Corliss Engine and electric dynamo at the Colombian Exhibition. Awe, an awareness of power and mystery, being impressed by something so much larger than you are… The Senseowonder we get from the books we love best.

    1. I think I’d impressed by Chartres – I snagged a book on it (library book sale), and it’s amazing. We couldn’t do it today — for one, we don’t have the patience.

  6. I like military science fiction very much so this isn’t intended to bash the sub-genre but my theory has been that the explosion of military science fiction is inverse to (or at least related to) the putting of colonial science fiction off limits. Not perfectly, no, and some military science fiction involves aliens, but writing about First Contact is really out of favor. Particularly if you’re not coming to the correct conclusions. Or perhaps I’m just missing the books about Spaceman Spiff exploring new alien worlds and civilizations with his trusty tiger and handy blaster? Thank you Star Trek for the Prime Directive! But what’s left is to skip the whole unpleasant (dynamic, exciting, challenging) mess and buckle all of our swashes in a future where massive human empires can send war fleets against each other.

    After all, there are people who don’t think we should contaminate Mars. So eff them then.

    1. After all, there are people who don’t think we should contaminate Mars. So eff them then.

      I’ve recently been bouncing an idea around in my head about what if someone developed technology that allowed “regular people” to build Starships? Like relatively inexpensive and easy. I’m thinking along the lines of the Millennium Falcon in capabilities. Able to land on planets relatively easily, able to fly to the stars, maybe not AS fast as the Falcon, but fast enough to make a trip to another solar system relatively easy. THEN, released the technology online for free so anyone could download it.

      What would the Government DO? There are all these treaties about Germs in space, and Weapons in space, and Gov control over Flying, and/or taking off and landing (licencing etc.)

      So if Joe and his brothers and friends pitched in together and along with a few cases of beer, built a ship because Joe, his wife, kids, and dogs all wanted to go to Alpha Centauri for… Whatever reason… Would the Gov try to stop them?

      What if some company wanted to start building these ships and selling them to whoever could pony up the money? Would the Gov stop them?

      1. Almost certainly!

        Now, I’m not overly fond of humans being revealed not to be the source of human innovation BUT it would be an interesting twist (there could be lots of different takes) if in the midst of the government of “Earth” finally getting a tight lid on the technology to “save the universe” from our particular contagion, if the aliens who slipped the plans under the first fellow’s door showed up and explained that those responsible for quashing it were under arrest and would be tried in the InterStellarCourt for crimes against civilization.

      2. Because! Speaking of different moralities and mores, why oh why does anyone think that it’s *moral* not to spread life, grow, and move?

      3. What is the government doing about 3D printed guns? Trying to ban it, obviously. In Canada: six years in jail for shooting a guy to death, SEVEN years in jail for making a gun. Just making it, mind you.

        Spaceship built in your garage? Talk to Laura Montgomery about launch licenses. Good luck getting one.

        Some guy invents a way to get to Alpha Centauri that he can build himself, the -first- thing that happens is the government seizes it and him too.

        So, part of a present-day SF involving space and a private company like Virgin Galactic is them stick-handling around the apparatchiks.

        Imagine a fusion motor that sucks in air, heats it and shoots out plasma. Guy mounts it on a surplus MIG fighter and gets himself into orbit, waves at the guys in the International Space Station, flies home. He is going to -jail- and will never be seen again.

        Look what happened to Gerald Bull.

        1. I’ve gotten quite a chuckle from looking at the anti-gun hyperbole about the 3D printed guns. With actual, working, “real” guns being so easy to come by (here in the US anyway), why would any criminal WANT a single shot, inaccurate, slow to reload gun? And that is IF you can reload it, and if it will work for a second shot. Those things are prone to blowing apart, and each shot the chance of (possibly explosive) failure increases.

    2. That’s actually what led to the Shikari series. “What if the colonized species wanted to colonizers to stay, and why?” And the colonizers are unabashedly superior in terms of technology and the natives are very happy to adopt/adapt that tech and culture, to the point that some chuck a lot of their background and “go human.” Totally upends most of the premise of modern colonial/subaltern studies, in other words. 😀 And if humans somehow get even higher tech, and really start wandering…

      Drat, I sense possibilities for a fifth book! Aieeeeeeeee! *Runs to hide from muse*

      1. Yeah. What if being an AI in space is boring as shit, and then some lucky AI discovers a whole fucking planet full of crazy monkeys. The alien invasion is tourists coming to Holiday Planet Earth to experience punk rock and drag racing.

            1. ACK! so many authors here!!!

              The Shikari series sounds interesting. Oh well, I was sick for a couple days recently and was able to make a dent in the to-read pile. One more book (with the option of adding the rest of the series if I like it) doesn’t really hurt anything. 🙂

      2. I’m playing with a similar but sort of smoothed out idea where the humans have “gone native” after a period where colonizing was acceptable, now it’s out of favor again and the colony is discovered/remembered and humans show up to haul all the now “illegal” humans off this new/old world.

        The concept is definitely focused on the human adaptation of alien mores and how that clashes with the now-enlightened humans who show up to save the poor aliens from being corrupted by the colonists, completely full of the notion that it never goes the other way.

    3. LitRPG of the dungeon crawling variety, depending, might count as colonial. Grimgar isn’t very LitRPG, but does have some relevant elements.

      Which thought leaves me a hankering for a hexcrawl LitRPG that overlaps with a Star Control space opera.

      1. Colonial?

        Huh. That would surprise the main characters of my planned NaNoWriMo. Though I suppose it’s not proper LitRPG because it’s all characters, no players.

        1. Player/character isn’t a distinction I would think of in what I understand to be the LitRPG genre. The stuff I’ve seen is pretty clearly heavily influenced by CRPGs. The two categories of LitRPG I am familiar with are a) playing an MMORPG, where the stats have significance in the plot of the story one is reading b) where the stats are part of the reality of whatever world the story is happening.

          Forex, I think Grimgar is a light fantasy/dark fantasy, not a LitRPG, because while the world matches one where classes are driven by some underlying mechanic, I don’t ever recall seeing stats.

          My impression is that tabletop concepts such as roleplaying are mostly orthogonal to the criteria that define LitRPG. But maybe I’m only assuming I know what the western LitRPG genre is.

  7. Personally, I think that the first true Artificial Intelligent Computer will be an accident as how can we create a truly intelligent computer when we really don’t understand human intelligence.

    The most interesting AI that I read about was one in Alan Dean Foster’s “Montezuma Strip” or “The Mocking Program” (both books are in the same universe).

    Basically, nobody knows where or when the AI was born but humans know about it because of its “drones” which seem to show that the AI is very curious about humans and it hasn’t done anything against humans.

  8. “How would a species where the female had parasitic males sharing circulatory systems with no digestive tract of their own (as do various Anglerfish) see our society? ”

    Probably that we risk losing contact with our mates entirely too easily.

  9. Question, Mr. Freer.
    On the topic of aliens, where would you recommend a non-biologist start on some of these aliens? I’ve been needing to develop several types (one rather ursine, one rather biggish, one based on the trap-door spider, one avian… sort of. Looking at locking wing-joints and collapsible sections to get the wing span on that workable.) The biology is, in some ways, the easy part, but getting a foundation for the psychology has been harder.

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