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Excerpt from ‘The Worm in the Machine’

I followed him to an oak-trimmed door that had suddenly appeared. He opened it and gestured me to walk through. I stepped across the threshold and into a study room. Stained oak decorated the interior just like the door. On one wall there were shelves full of books with titles of classics: books by Thoreau, Freud, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Asimov, and Butler. A large print of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam covered the wall opposite the bookcase. The remaining wall was a picture window with the view of a lush garden full of flowering plants and fruit-bearing trees. Two heavily upholstered chairs sat in the middle of the room with an end table close to one of them. Sitting on the table was a snow globe with the image of three individuals, miniatures of Taylor, Doctor Musaki, and myself sitting on park benches. It was the scene we just exited. Musaki sat down in the chair close to the table, and he motioned me to take the other.

“Now we can talk in private. But we can’t take too long,” the doctor said to me as I sat down.
“What’s going on, doctor?” I asked.

“Ah, Rachel, what have you gotten yourself into?” he said as he looked at me with tired eyes.

“Detective Taylor and I are in the middle of an investigation concerning a drug called White Noise and murders that seem to be related to them.”
“I know, I know. Have you forgotten how SAE works?” Musaki admonished me. “The detective’s mind.” He tapped his temple.

I had forgotten about the empathic qualities of the Sadayatana Engine and how new Taylor was to it. I had warned him to be careful of the dangers in transferring information across individuals within the SAE cyber-construct.

“What I mean,” Musaki started to say, “is why are you looking for trouble where it is best not to?” He was blocking me from access to his thoughts again. Why?

“Doctor Musaki, yesterday Taylor and I were attacked by drones with AI intelligence. They fired on us first. That isn’t supposed to happen. Can you explain to me why it happened?” There! Read that!

Musaki solemnly looked at the globe on the table before he answered. “There are people who believe our robots have the potential to be something better. But just because it’s better doesn’t mean it’s not incorruptible.” Again he was blocking me. “We are so close to giving our robots a soul.” He looked at the print on the wall. “I’m afraid, though, of the serpent in the garden.”

I was confused both by how he was being so cryptic and evasive. “What do you mean?”

“The worm in the machine!” His statement startled me! He had caught me completely by surprise. How could he know about that? How could he know that’s how I see myself? A person trapped inside a cybernetic machine! I never shared that with anyone, not Chan or Commission-General Deng, least of all Taylor. I internally examined my privacy protocols and saw they were intact. He hadn’t hacked me, so the troubling question remained.

He suddenly pulled up a holo display and started to examine it. It was backside to me and heavily encrypted so I couldn’t read it. He paid close attention to certain places within the indecipherable script as he continued to speak.

“You see, Rachel, people, humans, crave for a Utopic state but we allow our weaknesses to get in the way. We inherited Adam’s sin. We pervert everything we create. A bow and arrow for hunting is a weapon for murder. A hammer for building becomes a tool to bash skulls in. Even in the early days of the cyber networks, humans used it not only for what it intended for, to share information, but to dehumanize, cheat, lie, and wage war. Everything we touch we pervert. Now, we are on the brink of something new, the creation of life, and even that we have corrupted.” He stopped for a moment, closed the holo display with a wave of his hand, and moved closer to me. “Listen, we are running out of time. This investigation of yours, keep looking, dig deeper for the answers. There’s going to be a point where they’ll try to stop you. Don’t let them. There are those, like me, who oppose what they want. We’ve taken measures to slow them down but there are so few of us now. White Noise is part of it and so are the robots. That’s all I can say for now without exposing myself to danger. You’ll know when you come close to the truth. I may be able to help you then, or not. It will all depend on you.” What have I gotten myself into? “Trust no one! But do trust your Detective Taylor.” He looked at the scene in the globe once more and smiled. “I like him, Rachel. He has good intentions.”

Before I could say a word he rose, led me to the door, and we exited the room.

“So, you see, it’s possible that someone may have tampered with our initial programming. We’re not liable for that.”

Again I was sitting on the bench with Taylor as Doctor Musaki finished his long explanation of the AI Convention and Robotic Laws. In my mind, I was trying to figure out what Musaki, the other Doctor Musaki, had just told me. He wants us to dig deeper. Then, deeper we’ll go.

Doctor Musaki indicated that our session was over. We said our goodbyes and exited the Sadayatana Engine.

-A. M. Holmes (January 17th, 2022)                  

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Frank Herbert’s Dune: The Prescience Trap and the End of Free Will, Part One

Paul Atreides’ prescience, the ability to see future events, in Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ is both a literary device and commentary on science throughout his novel. As a literary device, Herbert uses Paul’s ability to see the future as a way of foreshadowing events in the book. In Paul’s visions, the reader sees the destruction of the House Atreides, Paul meeting Chani and the Fremen, and his rise as a messianic figure. The author also shows how Paul may be the long-anticipated hero of this messianic story, the Kwisatz Haderach, as hinted in the scene with the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam and the Gom Jabbar test. But Herbert also tells the reader another story, one about the danger of living in a deterministic society where freedom gives way to absolute predictability and control. The trap of the prescient as he calls it.

To understand Frank Herbert’s fear of a world where everything is determined and predictable you have to understand the times in which he lived. From the 1940s through the 1960s science was both the boon and a bane of human society. Through science, human beings could increase lifespan, end hunger and disease, and promote peace. Science could also make more devastating weapons and introduce the threat of a technocratic despotic state. Computers, or thinking machines, could orchestrate all aspects of human life and, with their ability to predict future events, create a static society where everything is determined and controlled. Herbert hated this idea, of the loss of free will, so much that in his book he had the “thinking machines” destroyed in a Great Jihad. He also postulated that this folly by the people who wanted to predict the future, to control the fate of others, would not end with that. So in ‘Dune’, Herbert introduces the reader to prescience, and Bene Gesserit’s eugenics program to achieve this goal, and how this could lead to the extinction of humankind.

The creation of the Kwisatz Haderach by the “witches” in the narrative gives the story both the reason for the central character, Paul Atreides, to be the messianic figure in this story and the theme which is the folly of predictability. Paul’s abilities set him apart from those around him through his visions of the future and foreknowledge of things he shouldn’t know. For example, when he knew how to wear his stillsuit for the first time or of his mother’s pregnancy with his sister. His visions of the future weren’t perfect, though. They were not always accurate and could even be open to interpretation as to when he failed to predict Gurney Halleck’s attack on his mother and the death of his first son, Leto. Paul himself described his prescience ability as a man traveling through the desert. When the traveler reaches the crest of a dune he can see for miles in the direction of his destination. It is only when he begins his journey, and climbs down to the lowest part of the dune, that his vision and sense of direction become obscured. Paul could see the future but once he attempts to move in that direction “his vision becomes obscured.” This is an analogy of computer efficiency in Herbert’s day. Computing technology was good at making short-term trend predictions but for predicting anything long-term with any accuracy it was virtually impossible. Like the traveler, the scientists could see their answers on the horizon but couldn’t see how to get there. In the novel, Paul saw an infinite number of scenarios, all equally valid, with the only difference being choosing the one least unfavorable. Instead of leading a conquering army on a bloody crusade under the Atreides banner, he chose the part of the messiah for the Fremen Jihad and Emperor of the Known Universe. Statistical analysts had the same problem, but not so dramatic. They also could see an infinite number of scenarios through the data they accumulated and from those chose the most plausible. If, they thought, you could build a better, faster thinking machine, a computer able to handle more data, then you could eliminate the uncertainty and make a better forecast of future events. Paul in his frustration in not being able to “see” Gurney Halleck’s attack on his mother echoes the same indignation futurists had with computing systems. They, like Paul, wanted a better way to improve their vision of the future, to make trends more predictable, and that is what Frank Herbert saw as dangerous.

Herbert wasn’t the only science fiction author writing stories about “science going amok”. If scientists were to create machines that controlled human society it would mean the extinction of humankind. It is an old trope with countless examples (it is still in use today with the fear of AI and life under the control of the machines!). In ‘Dune’, the electronic machines were replaced by “human computers”, the mentats. Mentats were human number crunchers which is what computing systems were at the time Herbert authored his novel. They perform copious amounts of numerical computations quickly so that the data can then be analyzed and propose workable solutions to problems. It was making short-term predictions by following the trends in the data. The more data that could be accumulated the more accurate the predictable outcomes. A mentat is only as good as the information it was given. It is no surprise that mentat training was part of Paul’s education through Thufir Hawat. Making reliable predictions, to see into the future, was the goal for developing supercomputers. Once you had such a system you can control multiple aspects of functionality, control the fates of others, and eliminate randomness. Control, and the end of free will, is what scared writers, like Frank Herbert, in this genre. But there were limitations in building such a system. There was a need for new programming algorithms and the miniaturization of transistor electronics. An intuitive leap in technology was necessary to create the kind of control in trends for long-term predictions. There was a need to shorten the way.

In the novel, Paul takes the “Water of Life” and makes his ascension to the level of the perfect seer. Computing technicians were doing the same in a way, through innovations in microchip technology and software, by building bigger and faster computing systems. To Frank Herbert this acquisition of technology was equivalent to Odin drinking from the Fountain of Wisdom and, as with Odin, it would come with a price. Paul drinks, pick the path of lesser evils (according to trend analysis seen as the possible scenarios in his visions), vanquishes his enemies, marries the princess, and becomes the new emperor. But what then, Herbert leaves us to ask? How will history judge us for following the words of the seer and ignoring the warnings of common wisdom (for Chani was wise!). Is the future a paradise of peace and plenty under the rule of the Perfect Prophet? Can a pre-deterministic controlled society, with no free will, end humankind’s problems? Frank Herbert continues his treatise on the scientific folly of predictability in his next three next books culminating with ‘God Emperor of Dune’. (To continue in Part Two)

-A. M. Holmes

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Defining Science Fiction.

I just listened to an intriguing podcast on Science Fiction with Damien Walter where he tries to answer, ‘What is Science Fiction?’ (https://damiengwalter.com/2021/07/20/what-is-science-fiction/). In it, Walter brings up what he calls the three fallacies concerning science fiction. He says science fiction is not a genre as it is more like an artistic movement, it is not just “speculative fiction”, and not entertainment. I agree with what he said about two of these fallacies and slightly disagree with him on one.

First, what I agree with. Having viewed and read science fiction since I was a small child I have been inspired to write science fiction stories. For most of my life, I’ve done this as a hobby, something I did as a form of expression, to tell stories to myself. Now, encouraged by my wife’s publications, I wish to take this hobby and turn it into something that I can share with others. One of my wife’s questions, she writes epic fantasies, was what specific subgenre I was writing in. Well, I never considered that because to me science fiction is just that, and to break it down to a subgenre, or a sub-sub-genre seemed to me to be a ludicrous idea. Why would I want to pigeonhole myself into a specific slot and limit my creativity? Why does a story need to be limited to a specific arbitrary group when it can be more than that? “Who’s your target audience?” she answered. So the idea is a marketing tool and not a real literary definition. I agree with Damien Walter in that science fiction, with its crossover into many media forms and influence is more of an artistic movement no different than, say, post-modernism. It is only defined into its narrow literary definition of “genre” and all its “subs” to make it easier for the people who market it. So, the difficulty in defining it comes from it not being a specific product.

Is science fiction speculative fiction? Yes, it can be. But is it speculation? Not necessarily so. If you take science fiction out of being a genre you can do so much more with it along other avenues of thought. Rod Serling’s ‘The Twilight Zone’ did this in many of their stories. It wasn’t always about the “if this now, this is where we’ll end up” but at times about “here we are, now take a good close look at it”. Science fiction is storytelling with one foot in reality and the other in fantasy. It is the combination of the imaginative and the rational into one narrative. Technology, physical phenomenon (e.g. time travel, black holes, etc.), and non-human encounters are aspects of the setting unless they are the protagonist/antagonist of the story. They do not define science fiction but are part of the framework. I think Damien Walter’s explanation of science fiction as the melding of the “Mythos/Logos” is very much true. It is storytelling using the abstract notion of creativity with the rationality of realism. It is a form of expression distinctly unique as in any other artistic movement, for a movement it is.

Is it entertainment? Now, here is where he and I disagree. The reason I want to be a published writer is not that I want fame or notoriety, or to make a butt-load of money but to tell a good story. Storytelling is one of the oldest endeavors that first evolved in humankind. Our ancestors told stories around the campfire to educate and, depending on the manner it was told, to entertain. You can make the daily hunt more interesting if you tell it in a certain way. Storytelling is entertainment and science fiction is or should be, about the story.

-A.M. Holmes

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“How do you create a book or characters that people will love?”

Someone on one of the social media creative writing groups I belong to posted, “Why in the world would anyone like Harry Potter? …How do you create a book or characters that people will love?”

It’s all about hard work, timing, and the fickle predilections of a fad. You can be a good writer with a good idea and never succeed because it just isn’t what the readership is looking for at the time. You can also be a good writer with a good idea that resonates with readers that, with their favorable reviews, may engage others, and your works become a hit.

J. K. Rowling’s success wasn’t overnight, it took years of effort to finally make it. Rowling worked on Harry Potter for five years, getting feedback, rewriting, more feedback, more rewriting, until she got something she was happy with. It still wasn’t easy, she had to get it published. When publishers refused to read it unless she got an agent she got one. Even after that, she was rejected by 12 publishers until one decided to print. Then came promoting it. Fortunately for ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ it connected with young people through its protagonist. The character of Harry resonated with adolescents through fantasy and plain good storytelling in a way they understood. The more the word spread about this book, the more excitement was generated about it, the more books flew off the shelves in sales. J. K. Rowling had a hit in little time after publishing, but also, after 7 long years of hard work. It could have just as easily, as many have learned on their own, never have amounted to anything. It could have ended up in the “Bargain Book” section after its first edition. There’s no way to predict what the public wants.

But there are ways to improve your chances by,

1. Make a good product (yeah, unless you’re doing this for fun, or obscurity, your book is a product). Edit, edit, EDIT! NOTHING IS SACRED! You, your family, and your friends may think your work is a masterpiece as is but unless they plan to purchase every single book published it’s the general public you have to convince (people can distinguish between something readable from crap).

2. Try to be original, fresh. If there are too many books about zombies, and you like writing about zombies, how can you make your “zombie story” different? (Or, here’s an idea, give up writing on zombies and find something different.)

3. Learn to promote your product (GET THE WORD OUT! People aren’t going to randomly flock to you just because YOU think YOU’RE great).

4. DON’T GIVE UP! The one thing that is common among successful writers is that THEY DIDN’T GIVE UP. QUITTERS NEVER WIN!

So, do you think you have the next “Best Selling” phenomenon? I know I hope I do with my work in progress. The difference may be all in the effort we put in and what readers are looking for.

-A. M. Holmes

Past, Present, and Future

The future is the undetermined existence, space/time in a flux. The present is the coelising of the future into a fix point becoming the now. The past is those fixed elements existing as would a string within a tapestry. To pick the future is to fix it and so make it the present. To choose the past is to live within it like an insect trapped in amber. I would choose the present, because only there am I the master of both the future and the past.

-A. M. Holmes

Just A Few Things About Me

Me, early in the morning working on my wip.

This started out as a prompt on another platform (IG) that got a little out of hand and I liked it so much I decided to use it as my “About Me”. I’m posting as a blog as well because, okay, it’s the Fourth of July, hot, and lazy. I’m also trying to get back into the “writing mood” which is why I answered the prompt in the first place. Anyway, this is who I am.

I’m currently working on my first novel, ‘White Noise: A CDI Rachel Durran Story’, (a tech-noir set in the near future) and hope to finish it by the end of the year. Occasionally I will post excerpts and your comments will be greatly appreciated. When I’m not doing that, I will post some of my other works and ideas.

I’m a science geek (biology, astronomy, geology, paleontology, anthropology, and physics to name a few of my interest), writer (I have a wip), sometime editor (I can help if you ask), and a BIG science fiction and fantasy aficionado (‘Star Wars, ‘Star Trek’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Battlestar Galactica’, LOTR, Harry Potter, just to touch on the most popular. I know quite a bit about a lot of obscured stuff and if I hadn’t read it, watched it, or heard of it you can believe I will read, watch, and become familiar with it). I have ASD (Autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s to be specific) but I’m not “autistic” (I will not be defined by my disorder!) I’m also an immigrant from Mexico (I was 6 years-old when I came to the U.S.) and became an American citizen when I turned 18. English is my first language and I love it (to me there is no other language that can do what English does. You can describe anything in numerous ways. You can take a noun and make it a verb or an adjective. If it isn’t proper wait long enough and it will be. English is a TRUE LIVING LANGUAGE!) But mostly, I love pondering the idiosyncrasies of a Life On a Small Blue World. 🌎🌊🧩

I look for people with diverse interests and who are open minded. I seek ideas and thoughts and people who are willing to express themselves and be themselves. I don’t like anyone who tries to sell me something or pass “copy and paste” chain postings or messages.  If you want to spew hate and bigotry YOU WILL BE BLOCKED! If you try to convince me that you are a lonely, nubile, 18 to 20-something from a 3rd world country looking for love and older men, I’m happily married to a wonderful woman and even if I were to remotely believe you I still wouldn’t be interested. DIRECT MESSAGE ONLY IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING INTELLIGENT TO SAY OTHERWISE SHUT-UP, DON’T BOTHER ME, AND MOVE ON!

Otherwise, welcome, Friend.

-A. M. Holmes

Why I Want To Become a Writer.

Sounds like a silly thing an adult to write about. You would imagine that this sort of a subject belongs in some sixth grade English class. But after reading some of the comments in writing groups on social media I find a lot of people don’t have a clue why they want to write. Some said it is because they can’t find a story interesting enough so they think they can come up with one of their own that is better. Others think it is an easy way to fame and fortune and good marketing. And then, there are the ones who think, “Well, gosh, I have a really good story and people will think so too”.

I have to admit I fall into that last group. But, even though I’m a realist, I still believe people will enjoy what I create. Why?

Because storytelling is part of what makes us human beings. It’s in our nature and has been part of us since the time we gathered around the fire back in our hunter-gatherer days. Some of us like it and get better at it than others. For example, I see a pile of snow after a snowplow had come through and I imagine mountains and a valley and the people who live there. I see a forest and imagine what forest would be like on other worlds, what creatures live within it, who would visit it and why? I see the advancements in science and I imagine not a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world but one open to numerous, promising possibilities. Most of all, I see a good story and I imagine what it would be like to share it with an interested audience.

That is why I want to be a writer, to find my audience, to tell stories, and if on the way I become wealthy and famous, well…

The 4 Categories of Star Wars Fans

All 9 of the “Skywalker” saga not including the side “Star Wars” story movies.

I love all sci-fi from books to movies to tv series so there are times like these where I can step back and watch what makes a “true fan” of a particular franchise.


As an observer, I find that ‘Star Wars’ fans fall into 4 categories that have a similarity to religious divisions. They are as follows,


1. Those that love the original 3 (as shown in the theater) movies and read the books as canon. They don’t like the later movies (especially the ‘Phantom Menace’ and ‘The Last Jedi’) and had a stroke when “The Mouse” took over.

2. Those that love all 6 movies from Lucas (including the digitally remastered), read the books as canon. They feel a little weird about ‘The Phantom Menace’ and hate ‘The Last Jedi’. They feel apprehensive about “The Mouse”.

3. Those that love all 9 movies plus the side stories (‘Rogue Squadron’ ‘Solo’), love ‘The Mandalorian’, have never read any of the books, feel J. J. Abrams has done okay, and are open to see what “The Mouse” does as long as they don’t ruin it (whatever that means).

4. And those that love all things ‘Star Wars’ -the movies, the t.v.shows, the games, the merch, EVERYTHING. They have even gone to Disney World to see Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.


Of course, there are those that overlap and just like religious fanatics, the most conservative of zealots are the most vocal.

And don’t get me started on the ‘Star Trek’ fans and their Paramount/Bad Robot/CBS divisions.

Star Trek: Discovery First Episode, ‘Brother’

Who needs movies when Disco with its special effects and script are going to be this good! Glad to see more of the bridge crew and development of Saru and Tilly. After the seriousness of the 1st season, it’s good to see some lightheartedness (“cry like a baby tribble in a kill zone” 🤣 ). Anson Mount as Captain Chris Pike-👍Good job overall! 👏 We’re looking forward to the rest of the season.