I’ve been asked what inspired Accidental Intelligence, and I wanted to talk about it in a blog post. I’ve also been asked about why I wrote it, so let’s tackle both of those things.
This story started with a short I wrote on a writing date. The short was about a military unit sent to apprehend the leader of a rebellion. At the end of that story the unit leader acquired a data cube. And I had to know what was on it. I mean, I had to know. That thought wouldn’t leave me. I had planned on leaving this story behind as I went to write the next, but I had to know.
That set me on the path to learning how he could find out what was on this data cube. His problem was that he was soldiering in a world with pervasive surveillance conducted by AIs. His is a world where every computer, every reading device, could well be—and probably is—monitored by the state. And since he shouldn’t have taken this data cube in the first place, getting caught could result in being court-martialed. Or worse. All hail the total surveillance state!
Mason Truman, private eye, the military guy’s cousin, was born from that scenario. He ultimately became my main protagonist, and I’ve come to love him. For those following along at home, I’ve rewritten that original short many times. It now lives as the prologue to the book in a very different form from the original short.
What Inspired Mason’s World
My world building was mostly me thinking about how I think things could actually go politically and technologically. But there were certainly some authors that played a bigger role in that thinking.
Accidental Intelligence is set in the year 2139, and my biggest influence has to be Larry Niven’s Known Space universe (and A World Out Of Time, which wasn’t set in Known Space). I pilfered many an idea from Niven (slidewalks and monofilament cables chief among them). His ideas always made sense to me, and many of them made it into my writing. A lot of Mason’s world, however, were simply things that made a logical sense to me in the context of future tech.
Dan Simmons’ storytelling—especially The Hyperion Cantos—also figures prominently in my writing efforts. The way that he sucks you in by never explaining anything—something I spent a couple of years figuring out—is such an inspiration. I find his writing to be incredibly immersive, and it’s how I aspire to write. Please note that I am not saying I’ve achieved that sort of thing. Yet. But he’s a primary inspiration for Accidental Intelligence in terms of writing style.
Certainly a lot of cyberpunk has also influenced me, but I consider Accidental Intelligence to be more of a post-cyberpunk world. In Mason’s time, the true cyberpunk world is sort of passé, something from back in the 80s (the 2080s), particularly with physical augmentations. My thinking on that is the Omninet will leave such things behind. When you can be anything in a world just as real as the real world, living in a simulation you can adjust at will should quickly trump the need for most people to run around with servos and bionic eyes.
Or, as Mason put it when meeting a couple of cyborg throwbacks, “complete with tubes, wires, exoskeletal enhancements, and gratuitous lasers running amok like a plumbing supply store had vomited all over them.”
Accidental Intelligence’s Timeline
SciFi writers and futurists are often accused of overestimating the near future and underestimating the more distant future. Or, the opposite. I’ve seen a gillion iterations of such thoughts. I am sure I have committed all of those sins with my futurism. I’m sure I have over and underestimated the near and middle-future, by a lot.
Mason’s version of the future is complicated by the “Upheaval,” a point in time during the middle of this century where terrorist attacks and general societal turmoil effectively slowed down a lot of new technological changes. Then again, the emergence of sentient AIs radically improved…some things. These are all themes I’ll explore in Mason’s three book arc (Tales from the Quantum Vault), but the reality is that tech currently moves really fast. 😅
Let me know if you have any questions about Mason’s world. No guarantees that I can answer, but I’d love to hear from you.