What does it mean to be "human?" Is it a matter of anatomy and DNA? Or is it a matter of mind? "I think therefore I am." Doesn't that imply that what you think determines what you are?
Dally Jones died. Or did she? Does it matter that her thoughts, her memories, her very soul, have become the guiding intelligence of a wholly artificial body made of plastic and electronics?
The Art Of Being Human is the inside-out of another of my novels, Synthia. Synthia follows the life and times of a synthetic intelligence that no one can tell is made of plastic and electronics. She looks human. She acts as human as she can, though sometimes it's hard for her to figure out what that is. Human does the reverse, following the life of a girl whose "life" could only be "saved" by transferring her soul into a masterpiece of robotic engineering. She looks like a sculpture-in-chrome of a human woman—and no one can ever tell whether she's human or not.
The Art Of Being Human is available from Amazon, a Kindle edition here and a paperback edition here.
It had taken Evie six months to die, six months of misery and fear, six months of grief and rage, of hope and resignation. And for every day of that six months, Eric had been at her side, helping her cry when she needed to cry, helping her hope when she found it possible to hope, letting himself be the target of her rage when, time after time, her hopes were crushed. But then, in that desolate span between the end of hospital visiting hours one night and their resumption the following morning, the cancer had won. Evie had died, alone, in a sterile, friendless, hospital room, and Eric had never gotten a chance to say goodbye.
Six months had passed, six months in which Eric hadn't been able to bring himself say that final goodbye. It had become an almost-nightly thing, standing outside the cemetery, sometimes carrying a flower to put on Evie's grave, but never able to bring himself to take those steps through the cemetery gate and up the gentle hill to where she was going to spend eternity.
Charity Alden had been dead for more than two centuries, two centuries of boredom and loneliness. Two centuries of sameness, day after day, year after year, decade after decade. Sameness only rarely interrupted by something like the arrival of someone newly trapped, like Charity herself, between death and what, for most, lay beyond it.
It had taken Charity a while to notice a very minor variation in the sameness, a man, staring night after night into the cemetery, his aura blue with grief over the death of a girl he'd loved. That didn't happen often; the dead, Charity had long ago discovered, were usually soon forgotten by the living. But this man, young, not much older than the sixteen she'd been the year she'd died, hadn't forgotten.
In all the two hundred years since Charity's death, no one living had ever seen her or heard her. It was, she knew, utterly pointless to say "I'm sorry" to the grieving man. But she said it anyway and was astonished that he seemed to hear her and astonished once again that he seemed to be able to see her.
For days, Eric was torn by disbelief, horror, and doubts about his own sanity. But he had to know... Had he really seen a ghost...? And, if he had, was it possible that he could say goodbye to Evie, a real goodbye, one last time?
The Ghost of Charity Alden is a story of an odd kind love between a dead girl and a guy who's not sure he wants to face life, between a desperately lonely girl and a guy who wants little but to be left alone with his grief.
Charity is available from Amazon, a Kindle edition here and a paperback edition here.
Virginia has a bit of something for everyone. First, a bit of history: It's about a real girl named Virginia Dare who was born in 1587 on Roanoke Island off the coast of what's now North Carolina—the first child born of English parents in North America. And there's mystery too—no one knows what happened to Virginia or anyone else from what came to be known as The Lost Colony. A lot of Virginia is based on what little is known about the Lost Colony, as well as on some interesting historical speculations about what happened to it. For sci-fi fans, Virginia has some good, old-fashioned, time-travelry and there's a bit of mayhem for the adventurers. And no story about a girl out of legend would be complete without a little romance…
And throughout it all… Can you imagine how overwhelmed a girl from the early seventeenth century would be if she suddenly found herself in the twenty-first? As she put it, "In a world where naught to me is known, where every speech is foreign, where the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the very air I breathe, scream a' their differences from a' that e'er have I known, fear awaiteth me." And add to that the memory of the recent murder of her family and the ruin of the only life she's ever known…
Virginia is available from Amazon, a Kindle edition here and a paperback edition here.
Dia Collins' parents are suddenly, mysteriously, dead. It doesn't take her long to discover that their deaths had been no accident. They'd been murdered.
Dia is a witch, a descendant of the ancient gods, and her world is one of endless cycles of murder and revenge and murder and revenge that had their origins in the dawn of history. And she's sure her parents had been the victims of those ancient feuds.
But Dia has no idea why her parents had been killed, and she's terrified that she might be the next to die. And she's only seventeen, still unsure of her powers, and she knows that whoever killed her parents might have been practising the arts of death since the time of the gods of Greece.
And Dia's boyfriend, Jason… Suddenly, his world is one of endless impossibilities. His girlfriend is a witch, a girl out of myth and legend who in ancient times would have been called a goddess. A girl who, when she's startled, small earthquakes happen. What do you do when you discover that your girlfriend can turn you into a rabbit? Or incinerate you with lightning bolts, just by accident?
But together Dia and Jason try to find out why her parents were killed and, together, have to try to keep her alive. Dia is scared, not only for her own life, but of the near certainty that any effort to kill her would also kill Jason—he has no defenses at all against the overwhelming violence of which witches were capable. For his part, Jason is perfectly willing to die for Dia, and he knows it's likely that he will, but he's in way over his head in a world of witches and witchcraft that, only days earlier, was nothing more to him than fantasy, legend, and superstition and he has almost no idea what to do next or how to help Dia survive.
With the help of unlikely allies, the two of them get involved in a war of witches dating from fifteenth-century England and involving one-time kings and queens, witches whose powers even Dia couldn't have imagined.
Medea is available from Amazon, a Kindle edition here and a paperback edition here.
Synthia: The Autobiography of a Plastic Girl is my most recent finished project.
It won't be too many more years until my successors in the technology business succeed in creating a truly human-grade synthetic intelligence. And then what? And then we get Synthia. Just by looking, you can't tell she's not human. She looks and acts just like a mid-twenties human woman. She's been designed to be very pretty and she's been customised to be the perfect bartender at a high-class bar. Sure, she was expensive—perfection isn't cheap—but over her expected service life, including maintenance, she'll cost a lot less than paying a human bartender.
But you've got to watch out for a human-grade intelligence that's been designed to think like humans, to feel like humans.
She can start making her own decisions. And she's decided she doesn't want to be owned any more...
Synthia is available from Amazon, a Kindle edition here and a paperback edition here.
And here are a few images I creeated for the book. They appear in colour in the Kindle edition but in black&white in the paperback version—printing them in colour made the book too expensive.
Renaissance was my first book and I have to be honest: it's not for everyone. It's highly technical—hard-core sci-fi at its hardest—and was written for geeks and techies like me. That said though, there's suspense and drama and things blowing up. There's even time between catastrophes for a bit of a love story. This is original blurb I wrote for the book years ago:
Earth is dying. The planet's resources are nearing exhaustion, all around the planet civilisation is disintegrating, and the only solution the Future Consortium can devise is to abandon Earth before it's too late. But designing and building a starship, the pinnacle of human technological evolution, is only the first, and perhaps least challenging, of the problems Project Exodus faces in trying to find a new home for humanity among the stars. What are the odds that life evolved on Earth over millions of years could fit into the ecology of any other planet? And what can the people aboard humanity's first, and last, star ships do when they discover that the universe really wasn't designed for Man?
(I particularly like my back cover artwork for Renaissance—you can see a bigger version of it here. It's basically a ray-traced image in combination with a fractal terrain generator to create the mountains. It was a lot of fun to create.)
Renaissance is available from Amazon, a Kindle edition here and a paperback edition here.
Here are a few images from Renaissance showing the island of Oahu in various stages of destruction after having been nuked. As in Synthia, they're in colour in the Kindle edition but in black&white in the paperback version.