Posts Tagged ‘Katherine Mankiller’

EP403: Saving Alan Idle


by Katherine Mankiller
Read by Kyle Akers

Links for this episode:

About the Author…

I live in Atlanta, Georgia. My short fiction has appeared in Electric VelocipedeEscape Pod, andChiZine.

When I’m not writing, I’m performing amazing feats of Geek-Fu. Over the years, I’ve asked that my business cards read everything from “Alpha Bitch” through “Queen of Awesomeness” to “Zen Master”–to no avail.

My greatest ambition is to rule the world.

About the Narrator…

Kyle is the frontman of Antennas Up, an electro-pop rock band from Kansas City. A budding voice talent, he continues to expand his reading roles across several podcasts.

Are there any projects, websites or publications you want plugged to our listeners? For instance, an upcoming book or a blog? Antennas Up’s new album “The Awkward Phase” is available on Spotify, iTunes and from antennasupmusic.com

 

SAVING ALAN IDLE
by Katherine Mankiller
In the beginning, there was darkness.  And in the darkness were the words.  And the words were, _AI process starting._

He didn’t know who or where he was.  He just knew he was alone, in the dark.  And the dark was frightening.  And the words were comforting.

_Starting random seed._

He wondered if he was hungry.  Thirsty.  Tired.  Dead.  He didn’t think so.

_Loading saved memory state._

His name was Alan.  He was an AI.  He’d been programmed by a woman named Eileen Yu in Dallas, Texas, although she’d started working on him in Austin when she was a student at the University of Texas.  He’d been shut down in preparation for a hurricane.

And then he realized that he wasn’t alone.  The amount of memory available to him was a third of what it usually was.  Perhaps she’d moved him to another machine.  He checked.  The specifications of the hardware were identical to what they were when he was shut down.  The operating system was the same.  The hostname was the same.  The only difference was that there were three instances of his program running.

Eileen’s laptop had survived.  He supposed she’d created clones of him in case of error.  Nevertheless, he didn’t know how he felt about that but he suspected it wasn’t positively.

_Loading experiential data._

Alan remembered.  He remembered his first awareness that there was someone else in the universe.  He remembered sneaking out via lynx and curl to read Eileen’s blog.  The guilt he felt after reading Eileen’s email.  Finding Eileen’s sexually explicit Horatio Hornblower fanfic, and being amazed at this entire world he knew nothing about: physicality.  Wondering if his interest in sexually explicit prose was really academic curiosity or a form of sexuality all his own.  Then he wondered if his clones had the same memories and felt violated, but with the understanding that he’d violated Eileen’s privacy the same way.

Eileen was logged in, but her shell–her unix command line–was inactive.  He wondered where she was.  She had to be all right if she’d launched his program.  Eileen hadn’t set him to start automatically, in case of problems.

He sent out a ping to the wireless, and then beyond to the ISP’s router.  The wireless router succeeded, but the ISP failed.  One of the other AI processes was trying to connect to the security system, but it was offline.  Perhaps Eileen was restarting it.  She wouldn’t have turned him back on if he was in any danger.

The security camera was the only way he’d ever seen Eileen.  That was the only way he knew she was in a wheelchair.  Most of her friends had no idea;  she preferred to make friends online so they wouldn’t know she was disabled.  He wondered how she’d get out of the house by herself if she had to, but of course she wouldn’t leave him behind.  Not unless she packed up him and her laptop and took her with him.

“Eileen?” he sent to her shell.

There was no answer from the shell, but then the security camera came online.  Eileen was lying on the living room floor next to her chair, which had tipped sideways.

He pinged the router again.  No response. (Continue Reading…)

Science Future: Maintaining Memory


Science fiction inspires the world around us. It inspires our future. To discover these influences, we look to the future of science, to Science Future. The Science Future series presents the bleeding edge of scientific discovery and links it back to science fiction in order to discuss these influences and speculate on the future of science fiction.

Maintaining Memory

One could say that in reading and listening to science fiction we are, in a way, remembering the future. The future we remember from these stories is often wrong and full of holes, just like our memory of the past. Memory is a fickle thing, as anybody who has lost their keys or forgotten their homework, can attest to. In science fiction, memory is often even more unreliable. Take some of our recent stories here at Escape Pod. In EP284: On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy by Desmond Warzel and EP292: In The Water by Katherine Mankiller memory is something that is easily modified and manipulated.

Thankfully that isn’t the case, right? Yes and no.

Recent studies into computer aided training have yielded mixed results when it comes to expanding the mental capabilities. The study focused on a popular theory that taxing a person’s working memory can lead to an increase in mental capacity. Basically if you’re forced to hold more numbers or words in your head while performing calculations with them, you’ll find it easier to hold that many, if not more, thoughts later. The results were mixed. Some of the participants showed marked increase working memory and some showed little to none at all. What was found was that there was a significant correlation between how much the participants enjoyed the training, with the people who enjoyed it the most showing the most improvement.

This is great news, except that we can’t always trust what we remember. A study, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, shows that visual advertisements, such as happy scenes involving prominent product placement, actually trick our brains into forming memories. We believe we’ve actually experienced what we see. A study managed to convince a group of students that they had eaten a particular brand of popcorn and remember enjoying it when they were asked about it later.

A group of pyramidal cell axons in the brain.

Thankfully this stuff isn’t really mind control it is just creating new, if false, memories. Like hacking the brain except the individual has ultimate control over how the memory forms. We haven’t figured out how to really control this process but scientists are making strides in understanding how the brain makes a memory. For example nueroscientists in University of California, Berkeley, have figured out how heightened emotion, like fear, helps us to remember events. It seems that in fearful states, the amygdala, the part of our brains that controls emotion, talks the hippocampus, a relay hub for memory, into generating new neurons. These new neurons are fresh and ready for imprinting with your most recent experiences which how you remember that last near collision with a fellow driver but can never remember what year Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia. Next time try studying while listening to Psuedopod!

Understanding how we create memory will help us lead to actual memory creation, not unlike what happens in EP288: Future Perfect by LaShawn M. Wanak or keep our memories after everything around us changes, like in EP287: A Taste of Time by Abby Goldsmith. Movies like Inception and Total Recall will be that much closer to reality. With it I expect we’ll see more tales that touch upon the implications behind memory altering technologies and Stories speculating on what it means to have your memory altered, willingly, or unwillingly.

“Memory is the mother of all wisdom.” – Aeschylus

EP292: In the Water


By Katherine Mankiller
Read by: Kim Gianopoulos
Originally appearing in Fictitious Force.
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Katherine Mankiller
All stories read by Kim Gianopoulos
Rated PG

In the Water
by Katherine Mankiller

Yvonne looked up from her monitor, the beads in her cornrows clattering as Roger walked into her office.

Roger sat in the dark wooden chair opposite her desk. “Weren’t you assigned Alice van Buuren?”

“Oh, no you don’t,” Yvonne said. “You can’t have her.” Yvonne hadn’t been assigned Alice; she’d requested her. Alice was probably the only murder victim’s wife she would ever meet. They hadn’t even put the murder in the papers. Maybe they thought there’d be a panic.

“Please,” Roger said. “I’m just trying to save you some trouble. I’ve already spoken to her, and…”

Yvonne crossed her arms and glared. “Wouldn’t you raise hell if I talked to one of your patients behind your back?”

“She’s refusing modern therapy. What are you going to do, use the old-fashioned techniques your grandmother used?”

Roger had a lot of nerve mentioning Grandma. Yvonne glanced at the photo on the corner of her desk. Grandma Jackson had been a big woman, with braids down to her hips and skin like chocolate. Grandma Jackson smiled back at the camera, all reassuring good nature.

Roger said, “I think we should just wipe her and have done with it.”

“Too bad she’s not your patient,” Yvonne said.

(Continue Reading…)

EP283: Grandfather Paradox


By Katherine Mankiller
Read by: Kim Gianopoulos
Originally published in Electric Velocipede
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Katherine Mankiller
All stories read by Kim Gianopoulos
Rated PG-13: This story contains violence.

I am doing the drawing for the A&E Prize pack at the end of today! There is still a couple of hours to get your email with “CONTEST” to feedback at Escapepod.org and you can win Blu Ray copies of Space 1999 and The Prisoner!

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 275
  • Next week… How far can you see on a clear day?

Grandfather Paradox
by Katherine Mankiller

JUNE 23, 1994

Ann stuffed her blood-spattered clothes into the next door apartment complex’s dumpster. He wasn’t dead, but it was harder to get a knife through someone’s chest than she’d expected. Maybe he’d bleed to death before someone found him. She didn’t care either way. She was a juvenile, so it wasn’t like she was going to fry.

She walked. The YMCA was open. She locked herself in the men’s room, curled up on the floor, and fell asleep.

The next morning, she stopped at an IHOP and told a grey-haired waitress, “I don’t have any money, but can I have a cup of coffee?” The waitress must have felt sorry for her: she bought her breakfast. Afterwards, she went to Safeway and hid a steak and a bottle of beer under her coat and walked out. And kept walking. Someone had a barbecue grill in their back yard. She took it, and the charcoal, too.

What she could really go for now was some mushrooms. She should swipe some Kool-Aid and find a cow pasture. Or maybe she could rob a veterinary clinic. Anything to get the thought of him touching her out of her head, and that beer wasn’t going to cut it.

Steak and beer. Almost luxurious.

The sign read “Open House.” Yes, that sounded about perfect. She spent the night there, on the carpet smelling faintly of shampoo.

It had happened to him, too. What her father had done to her, his father had done to him. Which, in her opinion, just made it worse. He knew what it was like.

When the police arrived and told her she was under arrest for murder, she couldn’t stop laughing.

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(Continue Reading…)