Friday Snack Pack 1.5

Short snack tonight, one of those “Open the fridge and peek at a couple of covered dishes that have sat there so long you are no longer sure what they had been, but they don’t smell bad yet” things…  It’s late, the bulb blew a month or two back, and it all looks suspiciously edible, but not.

Served up for the evening, we have:

  1. Dinner (and writing) music
  2. A huge bag of candy, or it it well-done steak (Oh, no!  Spoiler alert!)
  3. Succulent deserts for Zombies….

1. Inspirations from the inspired

A lot of people I know use music to help inspire their creative efforts.  I know several people who DJ part-time, several others who are musicians in their own rights (including one hobbyist at the didgeridoo)…  The rest, myself included, have extensive collections of music.

When I say I have an extensive collection, I would have to compare it closer to a field of wildflowers than a manicured garden.

More This

More like this

And Less This

And less like this

Not only do I have far more MP3s, .WMAs and such than I know how to sort, I also still have LPs, and two (only one marginally functional) turntables to play them on.  I have cassette tapes and CDs scattered about the house, some with music that can’t be easily replaced because I have yet to find it elsewhere.  Not so much because the songs were necessarily rare, but because in high school, I never bothered to label songs I taped from random sources.  I’m still looking for a source of a tape I copied for my French teacher in 10th grade called “Made in Paris”, a compilation LP of which I’ve only found one of the songs online: this one.  I love listening to that tape and hope I will find the rest of those songs someday. (Update:  in a fit of procrastination, I found another one by Kas Product.

What inspired me to write about music tonight?  This post by Natasha Guadalupe and this equally lovely piece by the Symphony of Science made my head spin.  For a while, all I could do was stare and daydream.  Lights, color, passion…  and our world in its glory.   I almost felt as if I were watching fractals.  I like fractals.

What about music however?  How does it inspire us?  I wish I knew.  I know that certain sounds tend to evoke memories.  I tend to listen to two kinds of music when I write: music I know so very well I cannot even hear it, but I feel it surrounding me, or music in a foreign language that I know only vaguely or not at all.  Instrumentals can do well, but I tend to be fussier about them.

But music becomes an essence of many of my characters.  Atyr is a dancer in defiance of her upbringing.  Alanii and the twins, Valistii and Valichii, are dancers because of theirs, and the twins are musicians as well.  Valistii uses the dance to become a killer.  In some earlier versions of Courting the Swan Song, Atyr and her half-sister used their songs to destroy the world, a lullaby with a forever sleep.

All I know is that music has power, and I find it is often the fuel that fires my creativity.  It’s not surprising to note that on days I can’t listen to music, I can’t write more than nonsense.

2. The Witch Who Made Adjustments

This delightful novella written by Vera Nazarian is living proof that the best things in life can be free.  Not-quite reminiscent of Mary Poppins but sharing echos, The Witch Who Made Adjustments reminds us, gently, with humor and generosity of the value of being kind to others.  Not that the intention of the piece is to drill us with a lesson.  It’s very clear that Vera Nazarian’s primary goal is to entertain us, but like all writers of classic tradition, there is a moral for those who want it.   A moral…or is that morsel?  In truth, the story was sweet, and buoyant, and eloquent.  Something to not start reading if you need to put down your Kindle before you finish.

3. BRAAAAINNNNS!

I would say it all started with this video that my husband sent me about understanding some of the techniques scientists are using to understand the brain, how it works and why they feel this research is necessary.  It actually started, as so many such ideas that stew in my mind do, with a very old, half-forgotten discussion on the rec.arts.sf.composition newsgroup in 1998 about creating virtual worlds and virtual humans to live in them.  And, if you watch the video, I’m sure you’ll understand why it brought up this discussion.  Neuroscience has begun to create its own artificial nerve tissue and is building up to creating “simulated brains“; in other fields people are trying to achieve artificial intelligence using programming languages and learning processes.

At the moment, to do either of these things, we need a huge amount of processing power, electricity, physical electronics, and even human power.  We also need a lot of money and the ability to create virtual process after virtual process over and over and over again, because as both Henry Markram and David Eagleman noted in the ForaTV video, success, while not so much a problem of too many possibilities as once thought, will still depend on a luc of trial and error and luck.

And so, it’s extra interesting that I should have been deterred toward this direction this week when so many online protests occurred against the Congressional bills SOPA and PIPA.  Because in a society where we are patented parts of the human genome, and we’ve copyrighted the written characters of our stories, and created End User License Agreements (EULAs t)hat allow companies to have rights to your works, how we approach rights and property will decide all these futures.  Take this blog piece from the Microsoft Technet pages about the costs of licensing “virtual machines” (which is basically running a computer on a computer) for companies.   The costs are astronomical anyway, and as one commenter noted, the VMWare program has more features and useability, which means, that it will still be attractive to companies who want and need the best virtual reality to work in.  But, because of these fees (and here we go with the idea of the rights of software distributors who are pushing for these high fees being little different from actions of the Motion Picture or the Recording Association Industries of America), at least in my opinion)…  those fees could keep a new consciousness from being “born”.  Worse yet, if someone were to “pirate” the software that allowed a potentially sentient simulation to “come to life”, would demanding that the creator be fined and the process that had been created be either shut down  or “reclaimed” equate to murder or lawful imprisonment of an innocent?

I think about these things…  It’s scares me sometimes.  But I think about them because, even if it hasn’t happened, it potentially could…  Because I write speculative fiction, and who knows?

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