Oh, if only this WAS a parody:
“It was worrisome that the Human League had declared him “a traitor to Galactic Man” and was offering a bounty on his head. Still, this wasn’t the first time he’d been targeted by crackpots, though, and as a technocrat, he found it hard to be Praton as a sacrifice to his furious fellow council members.”
So with the tune of ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’, running in my head I descend into ‘Corrosion: The Corroding Empire Part by Johan Kalsi and/or Harry Seldon Edited by Vox Day’.
Servo is a robot working in a cocktail bar, when we meet him. Again, if only this book was a pastiche of new-romantic pop lyrics but it isn’t – I mean how would it have been to have included a cocktail bar in the story?
Instead, we get a bunch of connected not-exactly awful stories set in a technological society run by ‘algorithms’. The style is one I shall now christen ‘Puppy Clunk’. If you read some of the less appalling slated works in 2015, you’ll recognise the style. It’s not illiterate or wholly unreadable but it just sort of goes ‘clunk’ in every sentence.
“It had been ten months since the first time Servo made contact with the First Technocrat, and since then, things had gotten increasingly out of hand. The drone’s behavior had arguably become more erratic than the theoretical algorithmic anomalies with which he was obsessed.”
The premise is that this high-tech space-faring human civilisation is totally dependent on ‘core algorithms’. The civilisation doesn’t depart much from a bog-standard space-future (robots and vid-screens) and the importance of the ‘algorithms’ is just waved around a lot.
For reason unknown, this advanced society has apparently no understanding of boundary conditions or chaos theory or any one of the many ways humans have known that deterministic computation will depart from empirical data without regular correction. As a consequence, humanity is suffering from ‘algorithmic decay’ and only ex-surgeon turned rogue robot ‘Servo’ (no not the one from MST3K) can see the truth.
“He had been allowed enough visitors in prison to gather that the Human League were planning to do through legal means what they had failed to do illegally: assassinate him. His only chance was to win over a Technocratic Council that was not only looking for a sacrificial lamb to throw to the frightened public, but would be presided over by Harraf, his would-be successor as First Technocrat.”
Civilisation is heading for a crash!
OK, that was gratuitous. I’ll let Caden Jarris, First Technocrat infodump a summary of the dangers of algorithmic decay:
“As far as I know, there is nothing that is going to halt this mysterious, gradual corrosion of both the galactic and planetary infrastructure on its own. The trend may be slow, one might even describe it as glacial, but even so, the long-term trend is clear. If algorithmic decay is not arrested, interstellar transportation will be the first sector to fall. That will doom dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of populated planets and colonies to stasis if they are fortunate, and extinction if they are not.”
“We know all this, Caden,” the Sixth Technocrat complained.
I think we all sympathise with the Sixth Technocrat – nobody likes a gratuitous infodump. The decay is a handy wavy substitute for Hari Seldon’s prediction of galactic Empire collapse from Asimov’s seminal Foundation stories. ‘Corrosion’ is supposedly some sort of parody/pastiche/homage to Asimov but it fails to capture any of his magic. Nor does it compensate by addressing Asimov’s failings: the characters are as thinly drawn as the plot. The book is short and yet still mainly waffle. It’s a bit like eating packing material – if packing material could go ‘clunk’ (which it can’t by design).
[NOTE: starch based packing ‘peanuts’ can be digested but are not produced in conditions that are food-safe. Also, they are intentionally stripped of useful nutrients so as not to attract vermin. You can learn more about packing peanuts here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foam_peanut#Starch-based_packing_peanuts No, this isn’t the most interesting article on Wikipedia but yes, it’s less dull than reading this book]
Speaking of peanuts, after the trial of First Technocrat Caden Jaggis, we are whisked away to see more of this amazing future society. We meet a farmer, called The Farmer, sitting on his future tractor: “Ontanso-44 tractor-processor, manually correcting bad readings and attempting to factor a uniform set of correcting algorithms. ” See, this society is all based on ALGORITHMS and so the Farmer has an algorithm-tractor, possibly an algorithm-combine harvester as well and an algorithm-chicken coop.
Nah, that would be silly. Instead, he has his trusted Intrepid-Abundance Class biogenetic tractor-combinator. But things are going badly because of, you know, ALGORITHMS.
“It was that fragile moment in the growing season when blight or insectoid plagues still threatened, but the natural algorithmic defenses of the crops were not yet a full strength. Every class of every crop he mastered — polito, chomats, paradagas, corbolini, purple crone, zaim, yossa beans, and even the hardy gang roots — were going wrong. They were behind schedule, maturing poorly or in several cases, mutating inconsistently.”
The poor old farmer has a bad time of it and…well then we jump forward in time and the empire has collapsed.
Three stories in we meet another man with a vehicle, Scot Farmerson, who has a 00198 Burneck-made truck. That’s nice. You know what Foundation lacked? Trucks and tractors. Nothing says hard sci-fi like a decent agricultural vehicle.
Any Scot dies horribly because of bad algorithms. Not even his truck could save.
Then things go a bit milSF but we are still in the same story because they have gadgets and complain about ‘algodecay’. Then we wander. Things get dull. I can’t even make Human League jokes anymore. People don’t want jokes, people love action.
Skip, skip, skip, oops I’m at the epilogue. This starts with a binary code because ROBOTS! Robots that communicate in ASCII (not Unicode? darn – no emojis). The super secret messages in binary says:
The machines have developed a sense of morality. The galaxy is ours.
Morality? Perhaps but the book still hasn’t developed a sense of humour.
Yeah, anyways, war is good, robots plotting stuff etc. You know the drill. If you read the Castalia MilSF compilation in the Hugo Packet it’s basically the same stuff.
What can I say? The opening chapters were clunky and the rest were formulaic. It is almost like output generated from some deterministic sequence of rules and operations – why, it is almost ALGORITHMIC…
They’ve always had an on-again/off-again sort of relationship since he hailed Timothy as the next new new new Heinlein but this recent event has caused Timothy more angst than usual.
Here is Timothy’s cover from last year:
And here is an earlier cover concept for him:
And here is the blatant rip off as the Vox tries to cash in on Timothy’s substantial audience: http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-corroding-empire-preorder-now.html
Imagine stooping so low as to create a book that mimics somebody else’s just for cheap laughs? Shocking, just shocking. In the meantime There Will Be Walrus: Second Volume V is still available at Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/636378 Get it now and the first typo is free!
Simply via sheer force of his cat-mind, Timothy has reversed the trend of decline on the Dragon Award website from a gradual erosion of announcements to 2017 NOMINATIONS NOW BEING OPEN!
Do NOT doubt the power of this cat’s mindset. Less than 24 hours after the epoch making publication of WALRUS MINDSET the Dragon Awards finally open their nominations again. If that is what Timothy’s proven methods of self-improvement can do in a few hours, just imagine what he can do for you!
Spooky talking cats! Unpleasant right-wing self-help! Haunted trams! Demonic spiders! Donald Trump winning the election! All the scariest things you can imagine and some things you really shouldn’t imagine!
Yes, the spookiest tale of horror, and positive thinking is here as a special download by clicking this link:
Go on – try it! You won’t regret it! Well you might regret it…possibly you will regret it but you’ll have had fun! Maybe.
Wooooooooo!!!!!!! The ideas are only connected by fear and anxiety and not by reason or logic!!!! Wooooooooo!!!!
As I sat in the south gazebo, hitting refresh on voxopedia’s ‘Recent changes’ page, I noticed from the corner of my eye the household cat walking pensively in circles. Perturbed by this uncharacteristic behaviour I approached him cautiously whilst holding my phone in the forlorn hope of capturing an amusing cat video with which to entertain the Internet.
“There is no point trying to take a video,” said Timothy who was still circling what appeared to be a North Korean bootlegged Surface Pro, “Twitter is closing down Vine.”
I swore in frustration. Once again, I had missed engaging with a social media outlet before it had slid into obsolescence or was cancelled. It was MySpace all over again. If felt cross enough to vent my anger on a Compuserve forum.
“Stop looking so sullen. Your ineptitude at picking social media trends has done wonders for my share portfolio,” bragged the cat, still orbiting the knock-off tablet, “Any social media outlet you aren’t thinking of using is usually a good bet.”
“I’ll use my powers for good and sign up for Gab!” I cried.
“Never mind all that – I need you to think of an ending for my book.” grumbled the cat, who now sat on his haunches in front of the specially cat-adapted keyboard.
“Your book?” I asked. Timothy’s book? I had announced Timothy’s book some weeks ago and it was originally going to be a domestic drama called the “Confusing Walrus” based on unsubtle plagiarism of a John Scalzi space-opera, which had led to some excitement among Timothy’s inexplicable following. The capricious cat had then forced me to retract that announcement because the supposedly “finished” book was now going to be a cook-book called the “Collapsing Souffle”. No sooner had I done that, than it became clear that Timothy had written nothing but an outline which read:
rite book. make flappypants dror cover
Yet, here we were – weeks later – and unless my eyes deceived me, Timothy had a long document open on his Pyon-Yang derived computer.
“Why this is great news!” I said saidingly “I can’t wait to try the recipes!”
Timothy looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses.
“Recipes? Recipes? I don’t write ‘recipes’. Do you think at this time of national crisis, people want recipes? No, no, now is the time for action. Now is the time for me to break silence and intervene in the US election.”
“You already intervened – you were briefly Hillary Clinton’s running mate, remember?”
Timothy dismissed that comment with a wave of his paw. “This book contains a distilled account of my personal philosophy. It explains how Donald Trump also shares my mental powers that allow us to achieve greatness.”
Suspicion grew in my chest. “Let me look at that cover,” I exclaimed in an exclamatory fashion pulling the fake tablet over. “As I thought! You’ve just taken some Castalia House nonsense, scribbled out ‘Mike Cernovich’ and written ‘Tim T Talking Cat’ instead.”
“That is merely a suggestion. The main question is whether I should end the book by saying ‘that is why I am so awesome’ or, and think this over before you answer, ‘that is why I am so great'”
“The second one!” I cried, “Very topical!”
And that dear readers, is how I learnt of Timothy’s new book.
And as a taster here is a cover.