BOOKS AND BLURBS
WHO A novel of the near future
by Karen A. Wyle
Have they changed their minds? Or have their minds been changed?
Death is no longer the end. Those who prepare, and can afford it, may have their memories and personalities digitally preserved. The digitally stored population can interact with the world of the living, remaining part of their loved ones’ lives. They can even vote.
But digital information has its vulnerabilities.
After the young and vital Thea dies and is stored, her devoted husband Max starts to wonder about changes in her preoccupations and politics. Are they simply the result of the new company she keeps? Or has she been altered without her knowledge and against her will?
And if Thea is no longer herself, what can they do?
*How did the concept of this book develop?
I’ve been aware of the concept of digital survival after corporeal death since reading Frederick Pohl’s Heechee Saga, if not before. Following all the public discussion of hacking computer files, I eventually thought of the possibility that digital personalities and memories could be hacked.
This is definitely a scary thought! I’ve read some of Ray Kurzweil’s writings along this line. Cool, but scary.
*Tell us about the main character, Thea.
Thea is a tough and assertive young woman. She’s very creative but also analytical. In the latter respect, she takes after her mother, though the two of them disagree on politics. (Thea leans libertarian.) I wouldn’t call her a romantic, though she is deeply in love with her husband Max. She has a big appetite for experience and sensation.
She sounds like someone I’d like to meet! Thea is also a nice name 🙂
*What is the setting like in WHO?
There are two basic settings: the “real” or corporeal world, and the digital environment LiveAfter provides its clients. The latter lacks variety and interest, though this may be corrected eventually. I tried to create a contrast between the vivid sensory detail of our world and the digital alternative.
I believe settings matter a lot in stories to cement the reader and deepen the storyline. This one sounds marvelous!
*Tell us about the technology employed in your book.
Clients are given a liquid filled with nanoparticles that travel throughout the nervous system. They are then put through very detailed scans that rely on the nanoparticles to map neural pathways and connections. That data is used to create virtual files of the client’s personality and memories. After the initial baseline data collection, clients can come in for subsequent scans to update their files.
It’s amazing what they’re able to do with nanoparticles. What will they come up next!
*Can you tell us something about WHO that we wouldn’t know by reading the book?
You wouldn’t know about a disgusting slob of a hacker who figured in the story until fairly late in the revision process.
You might not realize how much I didn’t already know, and had to learn, about federal court procedure in general and class actions in particular.
You might not know how much of the plot I made up as I went along. I’m what some writers call a “pantser,” meaning I fly by the seat of my pants – at the rough draft stage at least — rather than planning ahead in detail.
Learning is always a good thing, eh? That’s one thing I like about reading and being a writer—You get to learn all manner of things.
*What did you learn from researching the technology?
One of my beta readers, who’s an expert on software and related technologies, educated me about what machine-generated code would look like and how it would differ from code a human would write. He also shared with me a few basics about subroutines.
Wow. I didn’t know machine generate codes at all. That’s amazing.
*Do you think there’s a futuristic possibility of digitizing memories and personalities?
Assuming no catastrophic descent into a pre-technological era, I’d call it (pun intended) a virtual certainty.
Yikes! Digitizing memories or personalities definitely hard to fathom at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised when we get there!
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