Monday 27 October 2014

Future Hoshi Prize Winner Could Be a Computer (or an Alien)

Photograph: Blutgruppe/Corbis courtesy The Guardian
Organizers of a Japanese award for science fiction, the Hoshi prize, say they will open up the award to a broader spectrum of competitors next year. The Guardian reports that the prize, which honors one of Japan's major science fiction writers, Shinichi Hoshi, will accept stories created by artificial intelligence, as well as from "other non-humans, such as space aliens and animals," provided they are written in Japanese.
Science fiction novelist Adam Roberts, when he first heard the news, thought it was "bonkers," but then decided that novels created by AI weren't that far-fetched given that many are written according to a very specific pattern. 
Roberts queries: "Do we need a human being to write Dan Brown novels? Might a computer even do a better job than a human there?”
The Guardian didn't comment on how animals and aliens would make their submissions. 
For the full text of the article, please click here. 

Monday 20 October 2014

Search for the Dead Yields An Empty Grave

A team of researchers led by a forensic anthropologist from the University of South Florida has been trying to determine the fate of boys who died in custody at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida. The researchers have found more than 50 sets of remains in the makeshift cemetery of unmarked graves on school property. The school operated for more than a century before finally being closed in 2011. Throughout the years, former students came forward with stories of physical abuse and murder at the facility.
The investigation took a particularly unusual turn when the team of researchers decided to exhume the remains of Thomas Curry, who died in 1925. He was one of at least seven boys who died under suspicious circumstances after escaping from the school. The Florida death certificate indicated Curry's skull had been crushed by an unknown source.

Historical records indicated that Curry was not buried on school property, but that his remains were sealed in a coffin and sent to his grandmother in Philadelphia for burial in a local cemetery. The lead researcher, Erin Kimmerle, obtained permission to exhume Curry's remains, which she hoped would be better preserved than those excavated to date in the school cemetery. However, when the grave was opened, there was no trace of Curry's body.

 According to the CBS news report, "[w]hat made it unusual was that there were none of the usual tell-tale signs that a body had ever been inside. There was no hair, bits of clothing or teeth, not even tooth enamel which was present among the much poorer preserved remains . . . excavated in Marianna."

To view the full text of the article, please click here.

And if you are interested in following-- from the beginning-- this four-part CBS Web series on the search for the dead from the Dozier school,  please click here.

Monday 13 October 2014

Halloween Haunts

Once again, the Horror Writers Association (HWA) is featuring a month of Halloween-themed blog posts under "Halloween Haunts" on the HWA Dark Whispers blog. The posts allow authors to share Halloween memories and stories and thoughts on writing horror.
  You can see the schedule of posts on the HWA Facebook page at

My blog post entitled "The Enduring Popularity of Vampires" will appear on October 15. Please check it out at the HWA blog site.  I am giving away three digital  copies of The Ghost Man.


Monday 6 October 2014

The Infinity Program: A Guest Post by Richard H. Hardy

We're pleased to participate in a Tribute Books mini blog tour for The Infinity Program by Richard H. Hardy.

We asked Mr. Hardy what challenges he faced in writing a novel that blends elements of the supernatural, romance, and the high-tech world.

Guest Post

The Infinity Program blends the Techno-Thriller and the Science Fiction genres. It also features a romance as well as a mainstream approach to both character and setting. My goal was to create an interesting mix that readers would find fresh and unique.

The unfolding romance of Jon Graeme and Lettie Olsen wasn’t planned from the beginning— it just happened as I wrote the book. It provides a subplot, a backdrop to the main action and opens windows into the inner lives of the characters. Their evolving relationship also serves as an interesting contrast to Harry Sale, the brilliant but isolated programming genius.

The blend of High-Tech with a fantastic alien technology presented its own unique challenges. In order to be true to the high-tech setting, I had to use some computer terminology. I used it sparingly and focused on building a narrative where the technicalities disappeared behind the story. With the alien technology, I used a different approach, emphasizing the fantastic and minimizing the explanations. More than anything, I wanted the reader to have fun.

My 26 years in the IT field gave me lots of raw material for office life in a high tech-company. I saw firsthand how stressful and demanding it can be. The Infinity Program gives the reader an inside view of this intense, quirky, and sometimes Dilbertesque environment. The IT setting provides the base for the reader to leap into the high-tech world of the future.

Our lives are such a mix of different elements. One day we do difficult things with ease, the next we trip up over the simple things; a day of joy is followed by a day of sadness; an act of kindness is followed by an act of selfishness; thoughtfulness is followed by a lack of attention. We never know quite what to expect. Mixing genres in fiction is a natural way to capture something of this heady blend. When it’s done well, it transcends genre and the book stands on its own.

Book Summary and Buy Links

Jon Graeme and Harry Sale are unlikely friends. Harry is a world-class programmer, but his abrasive personality alienates co-workers. In contrast, Jon is a handsome and easy-going technical writer, the low man on the IT totem pole.

Sharing a love of nature, the men set out together, planning to go their separate ways--Jon on a hike and Harry, fly fishing. Three days later, Jon arrives at the rendezvous point, but his friend is nowhere in sight. When Jon finds Harry unconscious on the floor of a cave, Harry claims to have been lying there the entire time. But he is neither cold nor hungry. What Jon doesn't know is that Harry fell into an underground cavern, where he came into contact with an alien quantum computer.

Back at work, Harry jettisons his regular tasks and concentrates exclusively on inventing new operating language to access the alien system. In the process he crashes his office's Super Computer and is fired. Jon convinces the company to give Harry a second chance, arguing that the system he has invented will make them millions.

Jon has no idea what havoc Harry is about to unleash.

Formats/Prices: $5.95 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Pages: 250
Release: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603819336

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Author's Biography

Richard H. Hardy was born in Glasgow, Scotland, during a week of relentless bombing raids just before the close of World War II. The day he was born an incendiary bomb fell on the church across the street from where he lived, so he is fond of saying that he entered the world with a big adrenaline rush.

His family later moved to England and then on to America.

After college Richard bounced through a series of temporary jobs as he traveled around the country, wanting nothing more than to write fiction. A job driving a library van allowed him free time to write several short stories and work on a novel.

He and his wife moved to New Hampshire, where he took an entry level job at a software company. He was soon promoted to the technical writing department and ended up producing over 500,000 words of online documentation. After a few years he was promoted to the programming department and ended up as the Senior EDI Programmer, creating EDI maps and writing UNIX scripts and troubleshooting on AIX systems throughout the U.S. and Canada.

After he retired, he started writing fiction again. The Infinity Program is his first published novel.

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