I read this neat little novelette a few weeks back, and figured its merits deserve a shout-out.
Prisoner 721 is, simply put, about a restless inmate who takes it upon himself to teach his prison’s artificial intelligence system how to analyze and interpret visual art.
My favorite thing about this story – what I think makes it – is that it’s told in first-person from the perspective of the AI itself. Exploring the internalization of a ‘mind’ like this is always a fascinating exercise in thought, and Lowry does a great job of conveying the machine point of view in a unique, believable manner (the “X% chance of Y” trope may be a bit overused, but it has its pulp charm).
The setting, primarily regarding the AI’s role and regulations, is well thought-out, so the scenario evolves in a natural way that doesn’t require sacrificing consistency or technical plausibility for the sake of the plot (a definite plus for any science fiction piece).
It’s a clever, quick, worthwhile read, and you can download it for free on Smashwords, as well as most major eBook retailers. Check it out!
And take a closer look at that cover – how cool is that?
The first draft of The Amber Ring is completed, and at 98 pages, I find myself with an intended short story that became a novelette that’s now closer to a novella.
As I work on putting together a presentable second draft for test reading, I thought I would share a short little scene to give a brief glimpse at its protagonist, twelve-year-old Maya Corona.
As Maya half-attentively filled out the answers to her math test, she found her eyes drifting toward the clock above Ms. Patch’s desk, subconsciously counting down the minutes, as she often did, until the tedium of the school day was over.
Her wandering eyes also noticed Braden Thomas, who sat at the desk to her right, surreptitiously sneaking a glance at her paper in regular intervals. She contemplated calling him out, or even writing down the wrong answers on purpose, but then decided to just let him cheat. If he could get through school without bothering to learn anything for himself, he would be one less person to pose any real competition for an eventual job, which people were always saying was hard to get these days.
As she shifted to give him a better view of her exam, she felt something grind against her leg. It was Sofia’s ring; she had left it in her pocket.
Her mind went unwillingly to the previous night. It had been strange to see Cam again. To think of him without Sofia. His charismatic pluck replaced with that crestfallen timidity. Maya wanted to leave the Fairwoods behind her, and had expected them not to not think twice about returning the favor. Her involvement had been limited to the occasional tag-along with her sister, and she had never done anything of importance there. She had been clear on where she stood, though, hadn’t she? Would they leave her alone, now?
“Two minutes,” Ms. Patch droned.
At the edge of her vision Maya saw Braden gripping his pencil tightly, throwing nervous glances her way. Quickly, to his obvious relief, she scribbled down the remaining answers to the test.
At the age of ten, Sofia Corona saved the Fairwoods from the malevolent grasp of the Cedar Witch and her goblin army.
Two years later, she drowned unceremoniously in the lake behind her Oregon home.
In the months following the Heroine’s death, when the Fairwoods face a resurgence of goblin attacks, they are forced to turn to Sofia’s cynical twin sister, Maya, for help. But despite an earnest plea from her sister’s faithful gryphon companion, Maya wants nothing more to do with the enchanted land. The request continues to plague her mind, however, and she can’t help but wonder if doing this one last favor will give her the closure she needs to accept her sister’s death and move on with her life.
Such is the premise to my side-project novelette, The Amber Ring, a sort of semi-satirical dark fairytale. I’m just about done with the first draft, and was curious if the concept would appeal to anyone reading this. So – interest piqued? Let me know!