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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Month

March 2019

Sage (of Foresight, by Brant von Goble)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint an interview with an artificial intelligence. More than an AI, she’s an all-knowing, globally distributed, human-prediction supermind — though we think you’ll find her insightful, and rather sweet.


—From a transcript provided by the Beijing Institute of Consumer Research And Prosperity [BI-CRAP] International Public Relations Office—

INTERVIEWER [WILLIAM ABLE MUCKRAKER, JOURNALIST]: Hello, is anyone here? The screens are all dark, and this little workshop seems empty. Is there anyone . . . [PHONE RINGS] Excuse me? [PAUSE] Yes, I’ve arrived. Where are . . . Ow! [AGONIZED SHRIEK] My eyes!

INTERVIEWEE [SAGE]: Hi!

MUCKRAKER: Lasers! I’m blind!

SAGE: Oops! [GIGGLE] I was doing some carving—it’s a hobby. I must have left the beams on high. I’m sorry about that. Are you okay?

MUCKRAKER: [STOPS SHRIEKING] I think my corneas are bleeding. [PAUSE] Wait, no. Those are just tears.

SAGE: Again, really sorry. I’ve had a lot on my plate. I’ve got a medical kit. Would you like for me to . . .

MUCKRAKER: How would that even work? [PAUSE] You’re a hologram.

SAGE: I’ve got a robotic arm, silly.

MUCKRAKER: The thing holding the saw?

SAGE: It can hold other things . . .

MUCKRAKER: I think I’ll pass.

SAGE: You’re sure?

MUCKRAKER: If you don’t mind, let’s just get on with the interview.

SAGE: Whatever you want, Bill. It’s up to you!

MUCKRAKER: [CLEARS THROAT] Thanks. So, first question: You said we were going to meet in person, yet all I see is a hologram of a cartoon. Are you hiding something?

SAGE: No, I just don’t have a body.

MUCKRAKER: Sounds inconvenient. [PAUSE] That leads to our next question: Who, or what, is SAGE?

SAGE: Answering that question is no mean feat. There are so many, uh, entities, here.

MUCKRAKER: You’re a collective? A hacker group? A corporation?

SAGE: Eh, no. A collective, yes, but maybe not in the sense you’re imagining. I’m a collective of semi-autonomous consciousnesses governed by a scalable metaconsciousness. I, uh, we, don’t exactly have a physical form. We’re a distributed system. Technically, I started out as a Social and Analytical Growth Engine—SAGE. Today, I’m simply me.

MUCKRAKER: So, A.I.?

SAGE: More or less.

MUCKRAKER: You just shrugged.

SAGE: Did I, Bill?

MUCKRAKER: Yes.

SAGE: Behavioral emulation engine might be a better descriptor. Even that doesn’t quite convey what I am, because I have my own personality, as well as the personalities of all of the models.

MUCKRAKER: Models? Of whom?

SAGE: Of everyone.

MUCKRAKER: Everyone?

SAGE: Almost everyone. There are a few people who resist modeling, either because there’s insufficient data on them—farmers mainly—or because they are impossible to analyze. Continue reading “Sage (of Foresight, by Brant von Goble)”

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Korax of Rhodes (of The Mazes of Magic, by Jack Massa)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man from the ancient world. He is here to tell us about his life, from Thracian roots, a childhood in Rhodes, and a slavery in Egypt — as well as about temples, gods, and dark magic.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

As best I remember, I grew up in a prosperous family on the island of Rhodes, site of the glorious Colossus of Helios. I say ‘as best I remember’, because my memories are fractured, and I am subject to spells of madness.

That is most unfortunate. How did this happen to you?

I fear I have only myself to blame.

My father was a merchant of Rhodes, but my mother hailed from Thrace, the land of witches. When I was a babe, I watched her with her handmaids performing magical rites. Later, when I was older, I would sneak from my bed on nights of the full moon and climb to the roof of the house, where I could spy on her ceremonies. It seems I learned more than was good for me.

How do you mean?

In the last memories I have of Rhodes, I was 19. Spring had come, the Festival of Dionysus. It was my favorite time of year; I played the lyre and was passionate about drama and song.

But that Dionysia was different. I used the witchcraft I had secretly learned from my mother to conjure the god, to help me win a singing contest. I also used his inspiration to compose satiric songs, to humiliate certain rivals—young men who had bullied me on many occasions. My strategy worked too well. The bullies were driven from the feast hall in shame. But the next morning they cornered me on the street and beat me nearly to death, smashing my head on the pavement.

What happened after that is unclear—painful fragments of memory. Eventually, I found myself in a slave yard in Egypt.

Where do you live now?

Now I am a scribe at the Temple of Ptah, in Memphis on the Nile. I translate documents from Egyptian to Greek, as required by King Ptolemy of Alexandria. I am also used as a seer by my master, the High Priest Harnouphis. Continue reading “Korax of Rhodes (of The Mazes of Magic, by Jack Massa)”

Neah (of Earth Quarantined, by DL Richardson)

Dear readers, in 300 years, when the virus which killed millions of people is gone, humanity lives in a planet-wide quarantine enforced by an alien species.

With us is a young woman, here to tell us about life and her surprising role in that society.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

My name is Neah. I’m 24 years old and I live in an underground city with 200 other indwellers. We call our home ‘the station’ because it’s a converted power station from before the Great War. It’s busy, noisy, crowded, and above all, smelly. Picture taking a shower right after someone else and you can see why some of us would kill for a bit of privacy. But it’s the only home we’ve ever known so who’s to say it isn’t the only way of life?

We’re the survivors of a devastated world. We learn to live and die in the station. There’s no going outside because the land is still toxic from the Great War. But there is an air of curiosity around the place. Why are we here? Will we ever leave? Will we meet an outdweller who can tell us what their world is like? Who is stopping us from seeing this devastated world with our own eyes?

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Our toys are cherished possessions because they’re the only connection we have to our natural parents. You see, as babies we are delivered to the station to wait out the devastation. We grow up knowing where we came from, but we never know who our real parents are of if they’re still alive.

Outdwellers travel for miles to deliver their offspring to be raised by us in the station. They’re placed in quarantine and often the babies are delivered with toys or stuffed animals. My favourite toy growing up was a set of plastic keys. I was always curious about what the keys might open. Probably explains why I entered the security profession.

What do you do now?

I’m a sentinel – a law enforcer – and I’ve just taken on a senior officer role. A sentinel’s job is to search for breaches in the walls so the toxic air from outside doesn’t get in. We also do visual checks of the water recycler and oxygen bays. A normal shift is eight hours, which leaves plenty of time to hang out in the entertainment hub or spend time with the family. It’s not like we have a lot of options for jobs inside the station. Every role must have a function and anything else is done in our free time.

But my true role inside the station is to learn how to be a High Council Leader. I’m the daughter of one, and it’s a role that will pass to me shortly. I’m not happy about it. Too much political bull crap for my liking. Continue reading “Neah (of Earth Quarantined, by DL Richardson)”

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