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Posts by Josh Smith
Update on 6/1/2015:
Yikes. It’s been so long since I’ve had a free moment to think about Strange Future. What brought me back was an effort to clean up my web host and get things in order. Lots of old projects are either being removed entirely or “archived” in an effort to keep things clean and organized. Lots of memories are surfacing, and lots of projects I want to continue are coming back to light. So, what’s the long and short of things?
1) Strange Future’s sequel DOES exist and is about 65% written. The entire plot is in my head, and I know where I want to go with things.
2) Life has changed, and I don’t know that I’ll ever get to finish it. However, I’m still holding out hope! I’m not going to declare the project dead, but it’s definitely on life support…
The site is being left as is for archival purposes. If you’re curious as to what I’m up to otherwise, visit jfade.com for the latest.
Original post from May 2011 below:
Hello! Just a quick note to let you know what’s going on with Strange Future. I realize it’s been AGES since I’ve posted any content, and I don’t really use Twitter often enough to make it relevant… As of this moment, Strange Future is NOT dead. I’ve just been very busy with other projects, so I’ve not had a lot of time to work on the sequel.
This past November, I participated in NaNoWriMo, so that basically pushed Strange Future to the back burner. I “won”, and really enjoyed it. I feel really good about the story that I came up with, too, so I do intend on trying to do something more with it. I also started working full time, which has majorly cut back on the time I have for writing in general. Excuses aside, I miss writing, and I miss the characters I came up with for Strange Future.
I still intend on finishing up the Sequel this summer, hopefully for a fall release.
In the meantime, you can follow my exploits over at jfade.com – my personal blog. I’ve not talked much about my writing there, but do intend on doing so as I get back to it. That’s all I can tell you for now. I still get plenty of views on here, so I know there’s interest. I’d just like to thank you for that, and please, stay tuned for more–because there’s more to come!
Chicago Re-elects Davidson Posthumously
Residents say there was no other good alternative
Story by Loretta Sikes
Denizens of Chicago have once again re-elected Tom Davidson mayor, granting him his tenth consecutive term as mayor of the city. There’s only one problem: Davidson died two weeks before the election.
“Everyone knew he was dead,” Andrea Shooter said, her voice full of frustration. Andrea had been the only person to run against Davidson in the election, and when she died most people assumed it would be a landslide victory in her favor. But residents of Chicago had an unexpected trick up their sleeve. Despite the fact that Davidson had died, his name remained on the ballot.
“The ballots had already been printed, and since no other contestants made an effort to run after Davidson’s death, we decided to keep the existing ballots,” Carrol Dean, head of the election committee said in an interview. “We didn’t think having his name on there would have been a problem. After all, everyone knew he had died.” That didn’t stop residents from showing up to the city elections in droves, many of them casting their ballot in support of Davidson.
“Honestly, you know, Davidson was the best mayor we’ve ever had,” a long-time Chicago resident told one journalist stationed outside of one of many voting locations. “I just didn’t feel that anyone else was capable of doing the job.” The sentiment was apparently widespread: Davidson won by a 13 point margin.
“I just can’t understand it,” Shooter said. “I had a great plan, and I was going to do a great job.”
Normally, to combat situations where fictional people or historical figures are mistakenly elected via fill-in ballots, procedure dictates that the city council select a new mayor. The problem in this case is that Davidson, though dead, does still exist.
“His family had him cloned, and so he does not fit the definition of fictional person as defined in the city bylaws,” a city councilwoman said. “These bylaws were created before cloning was possible. We have no way to handle a situation like this.”
The fate of Chicago’s government remains in the air. While the current politicians argue over what to do, many citizens already have the same idea.
“If Davidson’s being cloned, then he can be mayor again, and we can take things right back to where they were,” one citizen said. Many citizens agree on this point, but when asked how a newborn would be able to administrate the city, most of them simply shrug. “Can’t do worse than anyone else.”
Think this is entirely too far-fetched? Think again.
Controversy Brews over Plan to Publicize Memories
History buffs applaud publishing memories of those deceased, privacy advocates cry foul
Story by Ned Dion
When the personal memory and DNA backup system was first released over fifty years ago, it was hailed as a great advancement, ensuring that people all over the world could be restored to their original condition if something were to ever happen to them. Unfortunately, the price tag meant that most people would never be able to take advantage of the devices, and as time went on, it became clear that there were some longevity issues with the standalone units.
“It’s what drove me to start my service,” Don Donaldson said, referring to the aforementioned problems. “I wanted to make memory backup affordable and reliable.” Donaldson’s service, dubbed MemorySpace, has been in business now for nearly fifteen years. MemorySpace’s services are run by two main components: the memory reader–a small, relatively inexpensive device that interfaces with the firetooth connection on your computer–and the MemorySpace portal. It was the inexpensive reader device that put MemorySpace on the map.
“We wanted to make sure that the device was not only inexpensive, but free to share,” Donaldson said, showing off one of the early models. The fact that anyone can use the reader to upload their memories to MemorySpace’s portal for free finally made memory backup feasible for, literally, everyone.
“One company even operated a ‘MemorySpace Booth’ for a while, letting anyone come in, pay a nominal fee, and upload their memories right then and there.” Donaldson said, pointing to pictures showcased in MemorySpace’s company museum. All that glitters, however, is not gold. At least that’s what privacy advocates are saying after recent revelations about MemorySpace’s policies.
Donaldson wouldn’t comment on any specific claim. He merely dismissed them as “ridiculous fear-mongering.” Still, his company recently announced that it would provide anthropologists and other social scientists at New York State University with a “select collection of aggregated, anonymized memories.”
“It was a truly unexpected, but extremely welcome move,” Professor Swath explained. “Our task is to study how changes in society affect each and every one of us. For instance, we’re extremely interested in how the general populace felt about major historical events when they happened. This will allow us to go beyond the history books and get to the heart of the matter.”
Donaldson assures the users of the service that the only memories that will be released will be from those who have already died, and that all names and exact locations will be removed from the memories. The one exception would be the names of famous people mentioned in the memories. Pangaeans for Privacy is not convinced.
“We got a hold of a sample of these so-called ‘anonymized memories’ and were able to narrow the owner down to one of three people. If we could do that without knowing the person represented by these memories, how easy will it be for someone who actually DID know them?” Masters said. Time will tell for sure, but MemorySpace is not backing down on its plans.
“We feel it’s extremely important to the study of history to have this type of information available,” Donaldson said. “We’re sure that our users will agree, and will continue to make use of the extremely valuable services we provide.”
So, in case you’re wondering what’s going on with the first book (since you’re visiting this site I’m assuming you’re at least somewhat interested, otherwise you wouldn’t be here) here’s the quick scoop:
Being Made Free at More Places:
Thanks to the awesome folks at Smashwords, the eBook version (which is free, as you all know) will soon be available for free at even more places. This includes Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Sony, and Amazon. (The current version that’s for sale there will be removed soon.) In addition to all these places, Smashwords just sent out an email notification that it will also soon be available on Apple’s iBookstore for the iPad at or close to launch day. You all might not think it’s that cool, but it’s awesome and pretty exciting. I’ll let you all know as soon as it’s up at each site.
A Few New Reviews:
Though I’ve been meaning to make a review page containing links to several reviews, I’ve not gotten around to it just yet. Meanwhile, the copy that’s up on Smashwords has gotten a couple of reviews I’d like to take the time to share:
Review from Mike Collins on March 13, 2010, 3/5 stars:
I liked it … quite a bit.
Some of the parallels between now and the future were quite funny … especially when they went to ‘International House’ and discovered the IHOP !
Review from Mark Jacobs on March 17, 2010, 4/5 stars:
A good, entertaining read; incorporating a universe of interesting ideas. It’s fascinating how the future is described in fiction depending on the author’s personal viewpoint, and their perception of who is deemed politically powerful at the time of writing. Although I realize most of this is satire, Josh has vividly drawn some aspects of a future world that is both believable and credible to even to an old Conservative like me. One minor note of criticism: I always cringe when I see a character in the future that is totally befuddled by events in the near or even distant past; i.e. Amazed that there was a time when there was no government control of reproduction (baby lottery). I think we should give future characters a little more credit. Good job, Josh! I hope to see more from you soon.
I’m not sure if either of you will get the chance to see it here or not, but let me put it here anyways: Thanks for the reviews guys, appreciate it!
The Podcast Version:
If you’ve subscribed to the Podcast version of the story on iTunes, you’ll note that it’s severely behind schedule. One of the mistakes I made was not following the advice of others to finish editing the ENTIRE podcast before posting it online. I was way too eager to get it out there, so went about halfway and then stopped. Lo and behold, life comes along and keeps me busy. That said, however, I’ve not given up on it and I’ve got two more chapters nearly done and ready to be uploaded. Look for them soon, within the next few days. More will follow. Live and learn, I guess…
So, that’s about it! You’re now pretty much caught up on everything that’s going on with Strange Future. I’ll keep you posted on any other new developments as they come along.
Woman Upset Over “Unauthorized Cloning”
Claims donating her husband’s body to science didn’t authorize them to clone him
Story by Marshall Grey, Op-Ed Writer
A local woman, exasperated and running out of other options, is bringing her story to the media, and it’s quite a story. Joann–Jo, as her friends call her–Willman is a sixty-one year old widow who has lived in this city her entire life. Don’t let her age fool you: she’s still as spry as she used to be, and is determined to fight this “sad circumstance” as long as she can. You see, a little over thirty years ago, Jo’s husband Rex passed away.
“He was always so into technology,” she said, looking at a picture of him forlornly. “He was a first adopter for everything.” It was true. Rex worked hard and saved his money so he could afford the latest and greatest offerings from the world of technology. As she showed me around her apartment on the upper east side, I spotted all sorts of devices that were top-of-the-line when released. Rex had collected several versions of different DNA and memory backup systems, both of the memory disk players put out during the studio wars of the 2170s, and a myriad of implant accessories. Rex’s love for technology didn’t stop there, however.
“He told me one day, you know, that his dream was for his body to be donated to science when he died so they could improve human-machine interfaces,” she told me with a distant look in her eyes. “I didn’t think anything of it at the time, because it seemed like something he would say.” Of course, it was always assumed that this would happen far off in the future, at the end of Rex’s golden years, but fate has a way of making fools of us all. Rex died at the age of 30 in a work-related accident. Jo made the tough decision to respect her husband’s wishes and donate his body to science. What she failed to do, however, was to place restrictions on what type of research Rex’s body could be used for.
“It never even occurred to me at the time,” she said, glaring at the wall over my shoulder. It was a tragic mistake. One thing led to another, and Rex was cloned for a research project. Once the project was complete, a local family adopted him and raised him as their own. The clone of Rex is now thirty years old, the exact same age Rex was when he died.
“I had no idea it would happen. One day, two years ago, I was at the grocery store and saw him–the clone I mean. I couldn’t believe it! I ran up to him and started babbling like a maniac, telling him he was my husband and what was he doing alive and…” she trailed off. “It was damned foolish of me.”
Once Rex’s clone realized who he had been, he filed a civil suit, demanding that Jo turn over his memory backup devices. The long court battle has stretched out for the past two years, but a verdict is set to be delivered tomorrow. Jo’s argument centered on the fact that she didn’t authorize cloning. Rex’s attorney–and attorneys representing the scientists that performed the cloning–say that she didn’t forbid it from happening, so they were within their rights to do so. Analysts suggest that the court will rule in Rex’s clone’s favor.
“Once I found out who I had been, I felt I needed to get those memories back. My life had been cut short, but science brought me back, and I feel very strongly that being cloned was something I would have wanted,” Rex told reporters outside the courthouse yesterday. Whether or not he is correct about that is anyone’s guess. Reading private memories stored in a memory backup unit is currently forbidden by law, and security measures within the units themselves only allow the owner–verified by DNA–to access the memories to begin with. Regardless, Jo isn’t buying it.
“I just want to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Scientists shouldn’t have the right to clone anyone unless the person and their family specifically authorize it.” Jo also wants to know if there are any other copies of her husband out there, but the scientists refuse to answer, citing the fact that much of their research is classified, and they wouldn’t be at liberty to say. When this article is published, she may very quickly find out.
“I wish I could take it all back!” she said, weeping, her head in her hands. Don’t we all, sometimes…
For this week’s Teaser Tuesday I bring you two paragraphs from a chapter that has a brief discussion on cloning (why, specifically, I will not reveal). This is only part of the narration from this section, and is part of my efforts to make more of the revelations about future life and tech come from the narrator and/or the character’s personal experiences rather than having Darin, Lyla or someone else explain things directly. Enjoy!
The major problem with clones is not so much the feelings of deja vu one experiences after encountering several of them in rapid succession, but rather in the semantics involved with keeping track of them. When the technology to clone first came into use, the scientists involved briefly experimented with numbering, lettering, even code-naming each clone to try and distinguish them from one another. This practice was quickly discovered to be rather ineffective due to the fact that as soon as the clones moved around the room, it was impossible to know which of them was ‘Alpha’ and which of them was ‘Beta’. It was rather disheartening for the scientists because the idea had seemed so good on paper, but in use was rather futile. This realization resulted in brief trials with name tags, but this too failed when the clones realized how much fun it was to distort the results of the experiments by switching name tags halfway through.
The labeling system caused just as much frustration for the clones. After all, it was rather disheartening to hear that Victoria M had gone off to a really great party and met a dashingly handsome young man while you, Victoria E, sat at home watching a sappy romance for the sixth time. Thus, most clones came to refer to themselves as if they were a single entity, causing the lines between which clone had done what to blur. Of course, with the technology to truly merge memories still based entirely in theory, the clones were left to merely revel in the delusion that they had all done really cool, awesome, and exciting things.
We’ve probably all seen it. The vintage, iconic images from the fifties and sixties showing the people of the future flying around using “rocket belts” “rocket packs” or “jet packs”, depending on when and who was talking about it. Take this snippet from a January 1969 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine:
“….the average commuter may, at last, have the long-awaited individual commuting vehicle that would whisk him from his front porch to his office entrance in minutes….”
Big claims, and sadly, ones that failed to come true… Until now:
The Martin Jetpack by New Zealand’s Martin Aircraft is the closest thing to bringing my childhood fantasies to life. If I place an order now and put down a 10 percent deposit, it could be mine in 12 months. The problem is coming up with the other 90 percent. No license is required to fly this in the U.S., though regulations may differ in other countries.
The jetpack itself is 5 feet tall and 5.5 feet wide and made of a carbon fiber composite with a pinch of Kevlar for the rotor. It uses regular gasoline and will travel a grand distance of 31.5 miles at a maximum speed of 63 mph, which should comfortably take you from home to office (and back) in a jiffy, and with a lot of noise.
Yes, you heard right, the jet pack has finally progressed from being a mere pipe dream to becoming a consumer-purchasable item. If you have $90,000 dollars, by next year, you could be flying around in your own personal jet pack.
How this impacts the technology of the future: While this type of technology is excessively cool, I don’t envision this being all that useful for most of us civilians. While it could have very specific purposes for certain jobs (imagine being a window washer and being able to use a jet pack instead of the rope and pulley system) by and large, it’s basically a toy. The eventual development of the hover technology in the stories will make turbine-driven devices such as the jet pack now for sale obsolete. With hovercars, hovertrains, and the PODS, transportation is pretty much covered, and any type of “hover pack” would be used solely for entertainment and leisure.
(Article thumbnail taken from the Martin Jetpack website.)
This is one of the last new features that I’ll be adding to the site for the time being: News from a Strange Future is a look into Vera’s scrapbook containing “clippings” that she printed from the News Portal. Enjoy!
New VR Movie Takes Bollywood by Storm
Opening of the sci-fi action movie Portal Chase sees strong gains at the Box Office
Story by Adelina Macey
The opening of the Virtual Reality flick Portal Chase took movie goers on the ride of a lifetime this weekend, but those in the theaters weren’t the only ones taken on an incredible journey. Bollywood insiders who had predicted the movie was “too big, too expensive, and too campy” were stunned as the movie exceeded all expectations, taking in nearly half a billion viewers in the first weekend.
“It’s simply amazing to see the reception that the movie has received,” explained Carl Conrad, Manager of Intellectual Property for Virtual Adventures Ltd., the company that produced the film. “VR movies have been slammed in the media, but public interest is clearly there,” he added.
This isn’t the first virtual reality film to be released, but it is the first one to do so well. Previous VR releases were either over budget, underperformed at the box office, or were poorly received by critics. Early polls taken after The Horsehead Nebula Wars, one of the first VR movies released, showed that audiences had mixed feelings about the new technology. Many complained of headaches or discomfort caused by the VR system.
VR movies have also met with a significant amount of controversy. Three years ago, the release of one VR movie resulted in the death of a man with a weak heart condition. According to the coroner, the movie–a horror/thriller mystery that simulated a murder in graphic detail–“literally scared the man to death.” The family has filed a lawsuit against the producers of the movie, and the case is still pending.
Since then, public interest in the technology has exploded. Movie-goers looking for a thrill are more willing to part with their money for such an experience, especially since it is something they cannot easily replicate at home.
“Memory chips containing our movies have long been the target of piracy,” Carl Conrad said. “Pirates have figured out how to easily copy and distribute illegitimate copies of movies that everyone has worked so hard to create. Protecting the content is an ongoing battle that we intend to continue to fight. One of those ways is the new VR system, which provides a unique way for audiences to experience movies that no pirate can replicate.”
Due to the runaway success of Portal Chase, Bollywood insiders say that VR movies will soon become the norm.